Archive for category World
E-mail Leak of Alleged Bank of America Fraud
Posted by politeching in Politics, World on March 14, 2011
Deepsouthdoug at dailykos have published initial batch of Bank of America leaks that shows alleged fraud.
zerohedge blogged about the leak:
this appears to be a concerted effort from the ground up to hide foreclosure data from auditors and the Fed in order to obtain select preferential treatment in a variety of housing related axes, in many instances to accelerate foreclosures. As the whistleblower summarizes: “Balboa Insurance/Countrywide knowingly hiding foreclosure information from federal auditors during the federal takeovers of IndyMac Federal (a subsidiary of OneWest) and Aurora Loan Services (a subsidiary of Lehman Bros Holdings), falsifying loan documentation in order to proceed with foreclosures by fixing letter cycles in the system, reporting incorrect volumes to all of their lenders and to the federal auditors to avoid fines for falling behind on Loan Modifications, purposefully and knowingly adjusting premiums for REO insurance for their corporate clients while denying forebearances for individual borrowers, etc, etc, etc.
New Video Campaign Against WI Gov. Walker’s Supporter – Koch Brothers
Posted by politeching in Politics, World on March 12, 2011
Support for campaign against Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker is increasing after he forced a bill that would remove worker’s bargaining rights. It was seen as an attempt to eliminate worker’s union. Following that, campaigns were launched against the governor’s supporters and campaign contributors, such as Koch Brothers and M&I bank. Wisconsin have similar campaign contribution rule as Canada, where corporations are not allowed to make direct campaign contributions. But just like Canada, corporations could easily circumvent that law by having their executives, relatives and friends make contributions as an individual. Campaign donations are also tax deductible so I am sure those relatives and friends would not mind taking part. Election Canada explicitly prohibit such action. In M&I bank case, Huffington Post reports that:
Top executives at M&I Bank have long been boosters of Walker. M&I Chief Executive Dennis Kuester and his wife gave $20,000 to Walker in recent years. When you package individual and PAC contributions by employers, M&I is number one — at $57,000 dollars. The firm apparently uses a conduit to bundle much of its money to Walker.
The bank have been forced to quickly closed their door for the day:
… a group of firefighter and consumers stopped back in at the bank to make a few transactions. One by one they closed their accounts and withdrew their life savings, totaling approximately $190,000. After the last customer left, the bank quickly closed its doors, just in case the spontaneous “Move Your Money” moment caught fire.
I came across this campaign ad today. It outlines allegations of Koch Brothers “Buying Our Democracy”, by spending millions to fund the Tea Party, Walker and other campaigns. (h/t “Saskboy’s Abandoned Stuff” blog ).
Updated: Photo Diary of Wisconsin Rally @ DailyKos (h/t Kodiak54)
Bradley Manning Charged with ‘Aiding the Enemy’, A Death Penalty Offence
Posted by politeching in Politics, World on March 7, 2011
The U.S. government have charged Bradley Manning with “Aiding the Enemy”. A charge that is punishable by death. But in what could be an attempt to soften possible public outcry, the prosecutor have notified the defense that they won’t be seeking the death penalty. Slashdot quoted the charges being laid against Bradley Manning as:
…the Uniform Code of Military Justice, include wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, knowing that it will be accessed by the enemy, that US officials have asserted could put soldiers and civilians at risk.
Note the bolded phrase “knowing…”. Based on alleged chat log of Bradley Manning, there is no indication that he intended to help any enemy. He allegedly leaked a video that shows civilians being shot. Al Jazeera provided the whole video with commentary from Julian Assange and a military analyst. Here’s a quick recap of the video’s content. Warning: Some might find the event disturbing. The early part of the video shows Reuters reporter with a camera getting shot. The pilot thought that the camera was an RPG. There was a wounded person getting up with no weapon on hand. The pilot could be heard encouraging the wounded person to just pick up a weapon, seemingly eager to shoot at the person. Later part of the video shows the wounded being moved into a van. And the pilot eagerly asking to engage. The van turns out to have children in them. After being informed by the ground troops that childrens were shot, the pilot seems unrepentant and said that’s what you get for bringing children to the battle. Next day, the same helicopter saw an armed person going into a building. They then asked for permission to engage. The video also shows a civilian going into the building, and a pedestrian walking by. But they went ahead and blew up the building and most likely the pedestrian passing by.
Some might argue that the pilot needs to be given the benefit of the doubt, considering the tense situation they were in. However, the video does highlight a lax rule of engagement. There does not seem to be consideration for civilian casualty in an urban area.
There is still another video from Afghanistan supposedly showing civilian casualties. Wikileaks have not released that video yet. It took Wikileaks three months to decrypt the Iraq video, which the chat log said was never really encrypted. But the Afghanistan video was encrypted with AES-256 and a 14 characters password. It is said to show awful scene, albeit not as damning as the Iraq’s video.
There were no indication that Bradley Manning wanted to aid the Taliban or Al Qaeda. Instead, the chat log that is being attributed to Bradley shows a pained man whose conscience is giving him grief. The person in the chat expressed his intent as:
>…well, it was forwarded to WL
>and god knows what happens now
>hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms
>if not… than we’re doomed
>as a species
>i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens
>the reaction to the video gave me immense hope… CNN’s iReport was overwhelmed… Twitter exploded…
>people who saw, knew there was something wrong
>i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public
And on how he became disillusioned: When he saw Iraqi political critics of their Prime Minister being arrested. He was excited to report his findings to a U.S. officer that the detainees were innocent. But the officer asked him to shut up and find ways to help Iraqi police find more detainees.
i had always questioned the things worked, and investigated to find the truth… but that was a point where i was a *part* of something… i was actively involved in something that i was completely against…
When Lamo, the hacker, says he is a spy. He responded:
i couldn’t be a spy…spies dont post things up for the world to see
Wired magazine published the original log attributing it to Bradley Manning. The hacker that Bradley Manning confide in had worked with Wired magazine before.
It is not clear what enemy Bradley was allegedly aiding. But some people have speculated that U.S. might be planning to label Wikileaks’ Julian Assange as an Enemy. This will clearly be against the intent of a law meant to punish spies.
David House, a researcher at MIT is comparing Obama’s administration treatment of Bradley Manning to Nixon’s treatment of Daniel Ellsberg. According to House:
the “aiding the enemy” charge was similar to Richard Nixon’s heavy-handed treatment of Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Nixon called Ellsberg “the most dangerous man in America” and said he was “providing aid and comfort to the enemy”.
“Today we see the Obama administration continuing the legacy Nixon started by declaring whistleblowers as enemies of the state. It is a sad and dangerous day for transparency advocates everywhere,” House said.
Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers back in 1971. It revealed government’s cover-up in the Vietnam war. It is now considered as the leak that stopped the Vietnam war. The leak also lead Nixon to create the covert White House Unit called the “Plumbers”. They did various break-ins to find Ellsberg files, including Ellsberg’s Psychiatrist office. Nixon was trying to find something he could use to destroy Ellsberg. The “Plumber” went on to commit other crimes including the infamous Watergate break-in that ended Nixon’s presidency.
The Obama’s administration all out campaign against Wikileaks and Bradley Manning is evoking memory of Nixon’s desperate attempt to stop Ellsberg’s leak back then. At the height of the leak, Nixon was quoted as saying:
“We’ve got a countergovernment here and we’ve got to fight it. I don’t give a damn how it’s done. Do whatever has to be done to stop those leaks.… I don’t want to be told why it can’t be done.”
Prankcall Lands Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker in Possible Criminal Probe
Posted by politeching in Politics, World on February 24, 2011
Wisconsin Governor talked candidly to what he thought was David Koch on the other end of the phone. David Koch is a Libertarian and Conservative fundraiser. He is said to be linked to Tea Party. During the prank call, Governor Scott Walker claimed he thought of infiltrating the peaceful protesters with troublemakers. That comment have lead Madison Police Chief to seek clarification on exactly what plan of infiltration he was thinking of. The person on the other line was actually Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo Beast.
Madison Police chief said:
“I spent a good deal of time overnight thinking about Governor Walker’s response, during his news conference yesterday (Wednesday), to the suggestion that his administration ‘thought about’ planting troublemakers among those who are peacefully protesting his bill,” Wray said in a statement issued this morning. “I would like to hear more of an explanation from Governor Walker as to what exactly was being considered, and to what degree it was discussed by his cabinet members.
“I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers. Our department works hard dialoging with those who are exercising their First Amendment right, those from both sides of the issue, to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure they can demonstrate safely.
A Liberal Campaign Watchdog is also asking for a criminal probe against Walker for possible illegal fundraising activity. Responding to the question, from who he thought was his campaign supporter billionaire David Koch, on “Now what else could we do for you down there?” He respond:
The coming days and weeks and months ahead, particularly in some of these more swing areas, a lot of these guys are gonna need, they don’t necessarily need ads for them, but they’re gonna need a message out reinforcing why this was a good thing to do for the economy and a good thing to do for the state. So to the extent that that message is out over and over again, that’s obviously a good thing.
David Donnelly, national campaign director for the Public Campaign Action Fund claim that
“If Wisconsin law forbids coordination with political donors similar to federal law, Gov. Scott Walker is not just in political trouble, but in legal hot water,”
Libyan Fought With Hands and Won Against Gadhafi’s Forces
Posted by politeching in World on February 23, 2011
CBC reported that Libyan in eastern area of the country have fought Gaddafi’s “elite troops” with bare hands until they managed to grab some looted weapon later. The dictator’s forces then use helicopter gun ship and bombing from the air to attack the rebels. But the rebels eventually won and drove out Gadhafi’s forces.Whole area is now safely in oppositions control.
Libya’s Interior Minister have resigned and told CNN about 300 bare hands protesters being killed in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city. Soon after, Libya’s state TV reported that he have been kidnapped. The Guardian reported how the battle was won.
All day defecting troops and officers were lugging in thousands of pounds of ammunition to a courtyard inside the secret police headquarters on Bengazi’s waterfront. By the day’s end an arsenal that could easily supply an army brigade was piled up. There were plastic explosives, rockets, machine guns and even the anti-aircraft weapon that was used to mow down demonstrators as they assaulted the military base on Sunday. ……
This was a savage rampage on both sides, a blood and guts revolution, fuelled by decades of repression, neglect and rage. There has been nothing peaceful about it. …
Gaddafi’s reported use of mercenaries appears to have tipped the hand of many protesters and armed forces. “That is why we turned against the government,” said air force major Rajib Feytouni. “That and the fact that there was an order to use planes to attack the people.”
Pressuring Libya’s Dictator
Trying to influence an irrational dictator might be difficult. But international community should make them aware that there will be severe consequences to their actions and illustrate explicitly what those consequences will be.
Just to clarify my earlier post tonight, which compares U.S. reaction on Iraq to current Middle Eastern and Libya’s crisis. I am not proposing an Iraq-like invasion of Libya. I don’t believe that will alleviate the situation. I’ve pointed out Iraq to show how far U.S. was prepared to go back then. I’ve mentioned establishing a no-fly zone just as one possible consideration following reports of air strike against protesters. Emphasis should be made on threatening the Libyan leader with war crime charges and freezing of his assets. A strong statement backed by concrete steps of action to be taken should also be made against anyone giving order to shoot unarmed protesters. The person giving orders on the ground should have no doubt that international community is going to come after them if they participate in carrying out these atrocities.
Iraq Liberation vs M.E. & Libya’s “Concern” Statement
Why is it that invasion of Iraq to liberate them from a dictator is the right thing to do while Middle East pro-democracy protester only get “concern” statement from U.S.? If report coming from Libya is true, then there is a clear and present danger of civilians being massacred. Libyan pilot who flew to Malta, and is seeking asylum, claimed they were ordered to bomb the protesters. Several Libyan ambassadors have defected and their U.N. ambassador have called for establishing a no-fly zone over Libya. Al Jazeera is now reporting about air strikes and live shots being fired into the protesters. This is information U.S. intelligence can easily verify.
Just because Britain have close business ties with Libya established during Tony Blairs time, and Petro-Canada paid Libya $1 billion for oil contracts, does not mean it should cause the Western Allies to be indecisive and twiddle their thumbs while pro-democracy protesters are being massacred. A no-fly zone should be considered if there is an immediate threat of massive deaths in the hands of what appears to be a vicious dictatorial regime.
U.S. should make it clear without ambiguity that Gaddafi will be responsible for war crime if he massacre his people. The slow elevation of concern statement to “deep concern”, “unacceptable” and “outrage” is not going to stop the bloodshed. U.S. have shown they are capable of establishing a no-fly zone in an attempt to overthrow a dictator in Iraq, so why is it different now? NATO waged “humanitarian war” in Kosovo. What needs to happen before international intervention in Libya would be justified? An urgent discussion of possible action should at least be considered apart from the “concern” statements.
Egypt Day 16 – Day of Civil Disobedience; Social Media Overhyped?
Posted by politeching in Politics, Technology, World on February 10, 2011
In another positive development for the pro-democracy group, thousands of workers across the country have gone on strike. They include newspaper workers and railway workers.Telecom workers are also said to be blocking some roads.
Vice President Soleiman, who is increasingly becoming the voice of the government and appears to be calling the shots, warned protesters that he would use “police tools” or there would be a coup if they don’t give up. Soleiman have previously talked about the protesters in condescending tone treating the youth protesters like kids saying he would ask their parents to take them home. In threatening them with police force and coup, he said he foresaw:
“the dark bats of the night emerging to terrorize the people” if the situation is not resolved.
Scattered military deployment have been reported. Another million man march is being called for Friday. It is being called “Friday of Martyrs”, touted as a massive funeral to honor those who have died.
In Kharga, al-Wadi al-Gadid province South of Cairo, protesters were voicing objection to the re-instatement of an officer they said is “authoritative”. Riot broke out and security services reportedly opened fire killing at least 3 and injuring about 100, lots of them with severe injuries.
In an embarrassing development for U.S. President Obama, report have came out about testy exchange of phone conversation with Saudi Arabia where Obama was told that he must support Mubarak and allow him to stay in power to oversee the transition. Saudi went on to say that if U.S. withdraw their aid then Saudi will bankroll Egypt. This conversation was held on January 29. Obama have repeatedly voiced support for an “orderly transition” and have not specifically called for Mubarak to step down.
Al Jazeera’s summary of the days events:
Social Media Hype?
The role of the social media have been discussed by various media a lot. Some have coined the term “Facebook revolution”. I think that is like calling some past revolution a TV revolution or radio revolution. Maybe we should not be overhyping and sensationalizing it too much. Instead focus on what the revolution is all about. Don’t get me wrong, social media is a great tool, one that would probably also be used for propaganda eventually (if it is not already being used). Instead of focusing on specific social media brand it is more important to focus on the infrastructure or internet backbone and make sure free flow of information continue and any new restrictive censorship law are quashed.
Instigator’s M.O.: Chaos During & After Revolution – Lessons from History
Posted by politeching in Egypt 2011, Politics, World on February 7, 2011
Having observed several revolutions unfold around the world throughout the years, there seems to be a constant trend. That is during and after a peaceful revolution or protest, there are always instigators who will sow chaos and violence to discredit the peaceful revolutionaries or protesters. A peaceful revolution is a potent weapon that could quickly shift public opinion and raise awareness. The best way to discredit them is if the public perceive them as just violent thugs who are just troublemakers. So the common modus operandi (M.O.) of these instigators is to foment violence and try to pit one group against the other.
Violence in the Midst of Revolution
Humans are easily manipulated into being divided along religious, cultural or ethnic & racial line. Incidence in some part of the world have shown that a simple rumour attributing a violence or killing of a person from one ethnicity or religion to another group could easily spark a riot and tit-for-tat retribution, quickly spiraling out of control. Egypt have seen its share of such kind of instigation with Christian church being bombed. Tunisia have incidence of Synagogue being bombed.
During the onset of Tahrir revolution, the violent thug M.O. almost succeeded with simultaneous violence breaking out on different protest sites across Egypt immediately following Mubarak’s speech. But fortunately this time, it did not work. The power of connected people giving instant update from the ground overwhelmed the attempts by the State to stage a scripted justification for violent crackdown. If it is not for technology that allows real-time update from large amount of people on the ground, we might have easily been fooled into thinking that protesters have resulted to violence. Hence they deserve what they get – a common excuse for being apathetic.
After Mubarak’s announcement of not running again, Voice of America immediately release news saying Egyptian’s were applauding Mubarak’s decision. BBC says people will likely accept this decision. But direct reporting from people on the ground indicate that is not the case. Imagine if few main stream media, who nowadays tend to recycle news from one source, simply repeated the false news. That would severely alter our public opinion and could have led us to think that things are winding down. And the remaining protesters are just hardliners and stubborn.
Mubarak’s attempts were well orchestrated. Simultaneous, widespread, all forms of violence from acid, stone and molotov cocktail being thrown, and sniper fire killing protesters. This would normally create panic and cause the protesters to disperse. The dispersal of crowd would have created the impression that the protest have dwindled following Mubarak’s convincing speech. Or at least that’s how the script was supposed to be. But what makes it different this time was the grassroots journalism – made possible by the new technology of the information age. This have created thousands to millions of independent eye witness disputing the lies, contradicting what the State and its allies / cronies are trying to propagate. There is also no shortage of hard evidence through thousands of cellphones equipped with video cameras.
This is not to say the technology is fool-proof. Some authoritarian in the future could use the technology to spread misinformation also. It won’t be surprising if some political parties in democratic institutions already do, through staffing their marketing and campaign facilities with people who post and spread their speaking points on various discussion forum on the web. As Nazi’s chief propagandist Joseph Goebbel have said:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
If Tunisia and Egypt ever get past the revolution stage and started forming their democracy, they should look into history again to see how groups with interest to see them fail could try to sabotage their gain. Same tactic could again be used. Bombing and sabotage to create sense of chaos and losing of control, including staged assassination. Violence to try to provoke ethnic and religious tension. This have been employed repeatedly in some new democracies. In one instance, sniper fired into protesters to blame it on the new government. It then create chaos and the new government popularity suffers. Coup is then staged pretending to be saviour of the people. Such tactic of violence to undermine government have been used repeatedly, it must have been on some authoritarian textbook somewhere.
The best counter for such tactic is to educate people not to fall into hate and retaliation so easily. Tunisia and Egypt offers such hope. The protesters in both countries consist of large number of educated youth who don’t easily fall for such manipulation. The determination of Egyptians to remain peaceful in the face of all sorts of violence directed against them ensure public opinion and world opinion / sympathy remain solidly behind them. Their reputation have not been tainted. That’s why when report of pipeline blast came out, suspicion did not fall on the protesters. Instead murmur start to spread that it might have been orchestrated by the government, to reinforce western government’s stereotype and fear that a post-Mubarak regime might fall into chaos. The government later came out and said it was an accident and not sabotage.
Remaining peaceful like Gandhi had done, and the Egyptian’s are doing now, ensure the line between the oppressed and the oppressor is not muddled. However, that is easier said than done. It takes extraordinary courage and willingness to sacrifice oneself to withstand such onslaught of severe violence, intimidation and threat to life.
The Egyptian’s revolution is still ongoing with a ruthless government unafraid to use force and commit murder, which are repeatedly being caught in video cameras from hand-held devices. A government that is ready for war of attrition while at the same time employing the State TV to sow fear and paranoia. The number of people who are still falling for the government propaganda shows that we still have some way to go to learn to think independently and to let rationale thought conquer fear, hatred and paranoia. We should learn not to simply take the word of a man in power or be blinded by personality worship without independent verification and giving the benefit of the doubt.
A quote from Sri Chinmoy Ghose remain relevant to this day:
When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will truly know peace.