Trump's strategy as a president is to fuel the fears of Americans. The whole country suffers from the aggression and division. People are in need of hearing that decency and courage make sense again. ...more
By Michael Nevradakis for Truthout
In his career as an investigative journalist, economist, and bestselling author –Vultures’ Picnic, Billionaires and Ballot Bandits, The Best Democracy Money Can BuyÂ – Greg Palast has not been afraid to tackle some of the most powerful names in politics and finance.
From uncovering Katherine Harris’ purge of African-American voters from Florida’s voter rolls in the year 2000 to revealing the truth behind the “assistance” provided by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to ailing economies, Palast has not held back in revealing the corruption and criminal actions of the wealthy and powerful.
In a recent interview on Dialogos Radio, Palast turned his attention to Greece and to the austerity policies that have been imposed on the country by …more
For Vice Magazine
It wasn’t too difficult picking out the Fat Bastard in the crowd of Russian models, craven moochers and media mavens. Besides, Fat Bastard and I were both desperate for coffee and heading for the same empty urn.
(We’d both signed on for Kazakhstan’s annual Eurasia Media Forum, a kind of Burning Man festival for Eastern oilgarchs and their media camp followers.)
Now, it is my policy never to mention an interlocutor’s weight, nor question the legitimacy of their birth, given my own vulnerabilities. (A would-be groupie told me, “You could do a few sit-ups, you know.” Yes, I know.)
But this particular Fat Bastard is asking for it. I had tried to put the belly of this beast out of my thoughts, but I still had a New York Times story folded in my pocket that begins:
ATHENS â€“ As an elementary school principal, Leonidas Nikas is used to seeing children play, laugh and dream about the future. But recently he has seen something altogether different, something he thought was impossible in Greece: children picking through school trash cans for food; needy youngsters asking playmates for leftovers; and an 11-year-old boy, Pantelis Petrakis, bent over with hunger pains.
Fat Bastard â€“ or Theodoros Pangalos, thinks the little Greek kiddies should …more
ForÂ Vice Magazine
“Us”, in this conversation, are the Taliban. The SOB in question is Osama bin Laden.
The Taliban’s frustration was relayed to me by Yahya Maroofi, Counsellor to Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai â€“ Karzai’s Kissinger, if Kissinger had a soul.
The Silk Road nation of Kazakhstan is an excellent place to encounter the dervishes of the Great Game for control of the camel-and-pipeline routes of the Central Asian steppes. Here we can witness the diplomatic-military idiocies of new empires pathetically attempting to ignore the dried skeletons of the imperial forces that went before them.
Maroofi was spending the day in Kazakhstan’s capital on his way to little-noticed peace negotiations â€“ little noticed because neither Uncle Sam nor Great-Uncle Britain were invited. Attendance is limited to those frontline states that will be left holding the grenade when the US and UK pull out the pin with the removal of their troops in 2014. The lineup includes Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan (birthplace of the Boston Bombers) and the big new swinging dick on the block, Turkey, as well as Iran, the nation most feared and despised by the Taliban. The unannounced guests, of course, are the Taliban themselves.
I am moved to recount a bit of my lengthy talk with the Afghan minister after reading reams of meretricious bunkum about Afghanistan from the pens of US propaganda repeaters pretending to be reporters. My favourite is, “Hope Seen for Afghanistan After Coalition Leaves,” in the New York Times. To give us an expert view, two American reporters used their 20-column inches to take down the words of General Joseph F Dunford Jr, commander of all “international forces” in Afghanistan.
Dunford just arrived in Afghanistan for the first time about 12 weeks ago. He may not know a Tajik from a camel fart, …more
For Vice Magazine
For BBC Television,Â Palast met several times with HugoÂ ChÃ vez, who passed away today.
As a purgative for the crappola fed to Americans about Chavez, my foundation, The Palast Investigative Fund, is offering the film, The Assassination of Hugo Chavez, as aÂ FREE download. Based on my several meetings with Chavez, his kidnappers and his would-be assassins, filmed for BBC Television. DVDs also available.
Media may contact Palast at interviews (at) gregpalast.com.
Venezuelan President Chavez once asked me why the US elite wanted to kill him. My dear Hugo: It’s the oil. And it’s the Koch Brothers â€“ and it’s the ketchup.
Reverend Pat Robertson said,
“Hugo Chavez thinks we’re trying to assassinate him. I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.” …more
For Vice Magazine
George Bush told America he’d keep us safe from terrorists by having us take off our shoes at the airport.
Yesterday, Barack Obama again took the Oath of Office. And this Obama 2.0 is also going to save America from insane killers â€“ by limiting ammo clips to ten bullets instead of 30.
At a television press conference about the Newtown school massacre last Wednesday, a tearful President called this, “meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this”.
But, once again, we get to pretend that our presidents protect us and save us from what is murdering us and destroying us.
But The Great Assault Rifle Debate, like the War on Terror, is just another Weapon of Mass Distraction.
This is the second of Palast’s weekly columns for VICE â€“ beginning with a bang: a four-part series on Alex Jones, guns, Piers Morgan and Palast’s penis.Â If you read the full version of part 2 of these reports right now at Vice Magazine,
You get a bonus:Â a free download copy of Palast’s latest book, the bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.
In all fairness to Obama, he also called â€“ as Bush did â€“ for a massive increase in the number of FBI files kept on Americans. I feel safer already, don’t you?
Here’s the facts, ma’am: There are about 4.5 million assault rifles in American civilian hands. That’s around the same number as in tiny Switzerland (population: eight million). Tens of thousands of Swiss keep a 9mm Sig Sauer, like the one used by the Newtown killer. But we don’t see the Swiss sweeping dead kids out of their schoolyards.
The weapon of America’s deadliest mass killer, Timmy McVeigh, was fertiliser. Maybe we should ban bullshit, but that would shut down Washington and all five major TV networks.
At his assault-gun dog-and-pony show on Wednesday, Obama shed tears for the murdered victims, as well he should. But where are his tears for the victims of the MACT?
Let me explain. Last month, Obama bullied his own Environmental Protection Agency into watering down the “MACT” standards â€“ the limits on industrial boiler pollution.
Under this loosened “MACT” rule, industry will get to triple the hydrogen chloride and triple the particulate filth they may dump into the air. The White House crows that Obama’s bending over on this rule will save corporate polluters $1.5 billion (Â£945 million) a year. Yippee!
Last year, the White House proudly posted the statement of EPA’s Administrator Lisa Jackson that her proposed boiler pollution rules would help “prevent 17,000 premature deaths [and] 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms.”
At the same time, taxpayer-subsidized Delphi expanded its workforce in China to 25,000. Today, Delphi supplies GM and Chrysler parts from Mexico and China.
This week, Republican vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan arrived in Ohio to accuse the Obama administration of cutting the pensions of the Delphi non-union pensioners. In fact, says the UAWâ€™s King, it was the Singer-Romney group that simply refused to pay any pensions whatsoever to union and non-union workers alike.Â The companyâ€™s $6.2 billion pension obligation, says King, â€œwas dumped on the US government Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) which is limited by law â€” not by President Obama â€” in the sums it can pay retirees.â€
None of this surprises observers of Paul Singerâ€™s hedge fund, Elliott Management, which partnered with Ann Romney. …more
Unions, Good Government Groups to File Ethics Complaint Against Romney For Failing To Disclose His Big Auto Rescue Profit
Groups Urge Office of Government Ethics to Make Romney Disclose or Divest
WASHINGTON â€“ A coalition of community, labor and good-government organizations is calling on the U.S. Office of Government Ethics to investigate GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for noncompliance with the Ethics in Government Act and compel him to either disclose his investments or divest them.
â€œThe American people have a right to know about Gov. Romneyâ€™s potential conflicts of interest, such as the profits his family made from the auto rescue,â€ said UAW President Bob King. â€œItâ€™s time for Gov. Romney to disclose or divest.â€
In aÂ NationÂ magazine cover story, investigative reporter Greg Palast reported thatÂ the Romney family personally profitedÂ at least $15.3 million from the auto loans of 2009 through his investment in the Delphi Corp. auto parts company. Yet Romneyâ€™s June 1, 2012, Public Financial Disclosure Report to the Office of Government Ethics …more
by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., for EcoWatch
from the foreword toÂ Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
American democracy is under assault.
In one super-PAC alone, Karl Rove and the EnronÂ grifter Ed Gillespie, have assembled $200 million from big polluters and Wall Street moguls to buy the 2012 election.
Two of the Koch Brothers, Charles and David, pledged $130 million to elect candidates who favor unrestrainedÂ corporate profiteering.
The senators and congressmen they fund and elect areÂ not representing the United Statesâ€”they are representing Koch and its oil industry cronies, Big Pharma, and the Wall Street banksters currently mounting a hostile takeover of our government.
I have no problem characterizing these corporate-centric super-PACs as treasonous.Â We are now in a free fall toward old-fashioned oligarchy; noxious, thieving and tyrannical.
Hereâ€™s an easy way to spoil a vote: digitize it . . . then lose the digits.
Prestidigitation is the French-derived term for conjury, legerdemain, sleight-of-hand, presto-change-o hand-jive, disappearing trickery . . . or, in the language of Karl Rove, â€œHelping America Vote.â€
Following what the media called the â€œFlorida debacle,â€ the winners of the debacle agreed to â€œreformâ€ the voting system. So the Bush administration proposed and Congress passed the Help America Vote Act.
The best way to prevent voting reform is to pass a voting reform billâ€”especially if itâ€™s written by the folks that helped themselves to your vote in the first place.
The Help America Vote Act is not the most Orwellian named, satanic law ever passed by Congress, but it tries. To avoid ballots with hanging chads, the law simply does away with ballots, providing about $4 billion in subsidies for Direct Recording Equipment (DREs), …more
For The Mudflats.net
What the hell happened? Â Did Barack have a fight with Michelle? Â Was it nicotine withdrawal? Â Do really rich guys just scare you, Mr. Obama?
I mean Commander-in-Chief in the Class War. Â The war of the billionaires against the rest of us.
You were asked, â€œWhat is the role of government?â€
You seemed stumped. Â Lost.
Well, hereâ€™s three, Mr. President:
1. Issue Social Security checks. Checks for cash money. Â Not some bullshit voucher.
2. Save General Motors and Motor City.
3. Kill Osama.
Maybe you should have written those on your palm.
When Mr. PBS Bumblebrain asked you the difference between your views and Gov. Romneyâ€™s on Social Security, you said, â€œYou know, I suspect that, on Social Security, weâ€™ve got a somewhat similar position.â€
Really, Mr. President, REALLY? …more
We need you to join Operation PUSH, Rock the Vote, People for the American Way, League of United Latin American Citizens, Bobby Kennedy Jr., Thom Hartmann Show, Occupy.com and 150 other organizations. Â Add your group’s name to our book, website and film, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.
What do you do? Â Just hit ‘reply‘ and say “YES, add us.”
(Please respond by Monday, July 16.)
Then we’ll send you a letter to confirm how you’d like to be listed (example: Presente.org), with your website, public contact and other info about your group you’d like to share with concerned voters.
[Yes, individual supporters can join in: Â click here.]
In 2008, Bobby Kennedy and I wrote a voter protection comic book, Steal Back Your Vote. Over a quarter million copies were distributed to activists and in communities where voters are most vulnerable.
In 2012, we’re back, because they’re back: Â the vote rustlers, with their caging, purging, blocking, spoiling, vote-tossing ballot banditry.
And we need your group to add its name as an ACTION RESOURCE …more
A Book Review by Greg Palast, for FireDogLake.com
on Poisoned Legacy: the Human Cost of BP’s Rise to Power (St. Martin’s Press) by Mike Magner.
Here’s my bead on Magner’s book….
I almost fell off the barstool when I read that it was Bain Capital (Mitt Romney, former CEO), that told oil giant BP it was a good idea to cut costs. …more
Special for Buzzflash at Truthout
The Justice Department went big game hunting and bagged a teeny-weeny scapegoat. Â More like a scape-kid, really.
Today, Justice arrested former BP engineer Kurt Mix for destroying evidence in the Deepwater Horizon blow-out.
I once ran a Justice Department racketeering case and damned if I would have ‘cuffed some poor schmuck like Mixâ€“â€“especially when there’s hot, smoking guns showing greater crimes by BP higher ups.
Last week, I released evidence we uncovered that BP top executives concealed evidence of a prior blow-out. Â Had they not covered up the 2008 blow-out in then Caspian Sea, then the Deepwater Horizon probably would not have blown out two years later in 2010. [Watch the film and read the stories.]
I urge you to read the affidavit of FBI agent Barbara O’Donnell which the government filed in arresting Mix. Â His crime is deleting texts from his phone indicating that the blown-out Macondo well was gushing over 15,000 barrels of oil a day, not 5,000 as BP told the public and government. Â If true, it’s a crime, destruction of evidence. Â But Mix is a minnow. Â What about the sharks? Â The texts were obviously sent to someone (named only “SUPERVISOR” by the FBI). Â If “Supervisor” knew, then undoubtedly so did BP managers higher up. Â Presumably, even CEO Tony Hayward would have gotten the message on his racing yacht.
SupportÂ The Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive!
Destruction of evidence is not nice, but concealment of evidence and fraud by corporate bigs, is the bigger crime. Â I hope, I assume, I demand that we find out what Supervisor’s supervisors knew and when they knew itâ€“â€“and didn’t tell us.
And far, far, far more important: Â when is the Justice Department going to go after the greater wrongdoing? Let’s begin with the cover-upÂ before the spill that the drilling methods used on the Deepwater Horizon had led to a blow-out nearly two years earlier.
Let’s face it: Â to go after the bigger crime means going after the entire industry. Â The earlier blow-out was concealed by BP as well as its partners Exxon and Chevron and, by the US State Department under Condoleezza Rice. Â [If you want to get that story, please check out Part II: Â BP Covered Up Prior Oil Spill at Ecowatch.org.]
One point in Mr. Mix’s defense. Â During my investigation of the Deepwater Horizon, I found that employees who provide evidence against BP find their careers floating face down in the Gulf.
BP and other oil companies punish troublemakers by writing “NRB” on their record. Â That means “Not Required Back”â€“â€“and the worker is banned from the offshore rigs. Â No doubt, Mr. Mix thought long and hard about what would happen to his career if his texts came to light. Â Not an excuse for crime, but it’s a fact. Â It’s the guys on top putting on this kind of pressure that should be doing the perp walk: Â the Big Bad BP Wolves, not their mixxed-up scapegoat.
Re-prints permitted with credit to Greg Palast
Greg Palast is the author of Vulturesâ€™ Picnic, which centers on his investigation of BP, bribery and corruption in the oil industry. Palast’s, reports can be seen on BBC-TV and Britainâ€™s Channel 4.
You can read Vultures’ Picnic, “Chapter 1: Goldfinger,” or download it, at no charge: click here.
Top funders made billions from US Treasury
[Thursday February 23] Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney called the federal governmentâ€™s 2009 bail-out of the auto industry, â€œnothing more than crony capitalism, Obama style… a reward for his big donors to his campaign.” In fact, the biggest rewards ÂÂâ€“ a windfall of more than two billion dollars care of US taxpayers ÂÂÂâ€“â€“ went to Romney’s two top contributors.
John Paulson of Paulson & Co and Paul Singer of Elliott International, known on Wall Street as â€œvultureâ€ investors, have each written checks for one million dollars to Restore Our Future, the Super PAC supporting Romneyâ€™s candidacy.
Gov. Romney last week asserted that the Obama Administrationâ€™s support for General Motors was a, â€œpayoff for the auto workers union.â€ However, union workers in GMâ€™s former auto parts division, Delphi, the unit taken over by Romneyâ€™s funders, did not fare so well. The speculators eliminated every single union job from the parts factories once manned by 25,200 UAW members.
The two hedge fund operators turned a breathtaking three-thousand percent profit on a relatively negligible investment by using hardball tactics against the US Treasury and their own employees.
Under the control of the speculators, Delphi, which had 45 plants in the US and Canada, is now reduced to just four factories with only 1,500 hourly workers, none of them UAW members, despite the union agreeing to cut contract wages by two thirds.
It wasnâ€™t supposed to be quite so bad. The Obama Administration and GM had arranged for a private equity investor to provide half a billion dollars in new capital for Delphi, but that would have cut the pay-out to Singer and Paulson. The speculators blocked the Obama-GM plan, taking the entire government bail-out hostage. Even the Wall Street Journalâ€™s Dealmaker column was outraged, accusing Paul Singer of treating the auto company, â€œlike a third world country.â€
But it worked. Singer and Paulson got what they demanded. Using US Treasury funds:
- GM agreed to pay off $1.1 billion of Delphiâ€™s debts,
- forgave $2.15 billion owed GM by Delphi (which had been spun off as an independent company)
- pumped $1.75 billion into Delphi operations, and
- took over four money-losing plants that the speculators didnâ€™t want.
If those plants had been closed, GM factories would have shut down cold for lack of parts.
Then there was the big one: The US government agreed to take over $6.2 billion in pension benefits due Delphi workers under US labor law.
Governor Romney, while opposing the bail-out of GM, accused Obama of eliminating the pensions of 21,000 non-union employees at Delphi. In fact, it was Romneyâ€™s funders who wiped out 100% of the pensions and health care accounts of Delphi salaried retireesÂÂ.
Paulson and Singer paid an average of about 67 cents a share for Delphi. In November, 2011, Paulson sold a chunk of his holdings for $22 a share. Paulsonâ€™s gain totals a billion and a half dollars ($1,499,499,000), and Singer gained nearly a billion ($899,751,000) â€“â€“ thirty-two times their investment.
One-hundred percent of this gain for the Paulson and Singer hedge funds is accounted for by taxpayer bail-out support.
But, unlike the government loans and worker concessions given to GM, the US Treasury and workers get nothing in return from Delphi.
From GM, the US Treasury got warrants for common stock (similar to options) that have already produced billions in profit.
And Delphi? Itâ€™s doing well for Paulson and Singer. GM and Chrysler, still in business by the grace of the US Treasury, remain Delphiâ€™s main customers, buying parts now made almost entirely in China and other cheap-labor nations.
And exactly who are Paulson and Singer?
Billionaire John Paulson became the first man in history to earn over $3 billion in a single year â€“â€“ not for his hedge fund, but for himself, personally. At the core of this huge payday was a 2007 scheme by which, via Goldman Sachs, he sold â€œinsuranceâ€ on subprime mortgage loans. According to a lawsuit filed by the Securities Exchange Commission, Goldman defrauded European banks by pretending that Paulson was investing in the insurance. In fact, Paulson was, secretly, the beneficiary of the insurance, reaping billions when the mortgage market collapsed.
Goldman paid half a billion dollars in civil fines for the fraud. While the SEC states that Paulson knowingly participated in the scheme, he was not fined and denies he defrauded the banks.
Multi-billionaire Singer is known as Wall Streetâ€™s toughest â€œvultureâ€ speculator. Vulture fund financial attacks on the worldâ€™s poorest nations have been effectively outlawed in much of Europe and excoriated by human rights groups, conduct Britainâ€™s former Prime Minister Gordon Brown described as, â€œmorally outrageous.â€
Greg Palast has been investigating vulture speculator Paul Singer for BBC Television Newsnight and Britainâ€™s Guardian for five years. The investigative reporter is author of Vulturesâ€™ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores and the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. For reports on Singer and vulture funds, go to www.GregPalast.com and www.VulturesPicnic.org.
The Pig in the XL Pipeline
Insider reveals concealed â€œerrorâ€
in pipeline safety equipment that could blow away the GOPâ€™s XL pipe dream
â€œThey threatened me. Last night I got a call andÂ they threatened me. If I talked.â€
â€œPig Man #2,â€ a pipeline industry insider, had a good reasonÂ to be afraid.Â Â He was about to blowÂ the whistle on a fraud, information that could blow away the XLÂ KeystoneÂ Pipeline project.
His information: The software for the crucial piece of pipelineÂ safety equipment, the â€œSmart PIG,â€ has a flaw known to the industry butÂ concealed from regulators.
The flaw allows cracks, leaks and corrosion to go undetected â€“ and that saves the industry billions of dollars in pipe replacements.Â Â But thereâ€™s a catch. Pipes withÂ cracks and leaks can explodeÂ â€“ and kill.
Federal law requires the oil and gas industry to run a PIG,Â a Pipeline Inspection Gauge, through big oil and gas pipelines.Â Â The robot porker, tethered to a GPS,Â beepsÂ and boops as it rolls through, electronically squealing when it finds dangers.
But whistleblowers told us …more