This explains so much, doesn’t it?

We’re doomed:

National Journal…asked a panel of Congressional and Political Insiders to rank, one-through-five, those columnists, bloggers, and television or radio commentators who most help to shape their own opinion or worldview.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman received more points than anyone else, with support from both Democrats and Republicans.

I should point out that this survey is three years old. That is not a sign that we are not doomed. It is a sign that we’ve been doomed for a while.


In today’s news from the surveillance state:

Former senior intelligence officials have created a detailed surveillance system more accurate than modern facial recognition technology — and have installed it across the US under the radar of most Americans, according to emails hacked by Anonymous.

Every few seconds, data picked up at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States are recorded digitally on the spot, then encrypted and instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database center at an undisclosed location to be aggregated with other intelligence.

It’s part of a program called TrapWire and it’s the brainchild of the Abraxas, a Northern Virginia company staffed with elite from America’s intelligence community. The employee roster at Arbaxas reads like a who’s who of agents once with the Pentagon, CIA and other government entities according to their public LinkedIn profiles, and the corporation’s ties are assumed to go deeper than even documented.

The details on Abraxas and, to an even greater extent TrapWire, are scarce, however, and not without reason. For a program touted as a tool to thwart terrorism and monitor activity meant to be under wraps, its understandable that Abraxas would want the program’s public presence to be relatively limited. But thanks to last year’s hack of the Strategic Forecasting intelligence agency, or Stratfor, all of that is quickly changing.

Hacktivists aligned with the loose-knit Anonymous collective took credit for hacking Stratfor on Christmas Eve, 2011, in turn collecting what they claimed to be more than five million emails from within the company. WikiLeaks began releasing those emails as the Global Intelligence Files (GIF) earlier this year and, of those, several discussing the implementing of TrapWire in public spaces across the country were circulated on the Web this week after security researcher Justin Ferguson brought attention to the matter. At the same time, however, WikiLeaks was relentlessly assaulted by a barrage of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, crippling the whistleblower site and its mirrors, significantly cutting short the number of people who would otherwise have unfettered access to the emails.

Student Union

Daniel Denvir in the Philadelphia City Paper:

It appears that the $2 billion William Penn Foundation will cut funding to the Philadelphia Student Union, which organizes young people throughout city public schools. And so PSU needs your support.

“For 17 years our foundation partners have helped pay the salaries of our hardworking staff and keep the computers on in our media lab,” according to aPSU fundraising appeal. “As the City Paper has reported recently a foundation that has been one of our largest funders for over 10 years will probably not renew our funding this Fall. We’ve known this for some time and have planned and fundraised accordingly. We have a little over a year to replace this funder.”

Last month, City Paper reported that William Penn is taking a new direction under president Jeremy Nowak: raising millions to fund a controversial and corporate-minded restructuring plan authored by theBoston Consulting Group; while cutting funds to community and youth organizers who are critical of privatization.

My previous education cover story, “Who’s Killing Philly Public Schools?,” related how PSU led the fight against privatization and the state takeover in 2001 and what that means for the District’s current crisis.

Tomorrow in Philadelphia, stand for workers rights


Big rally Saturday in Philadelphia, to begin to “change the conversation” to focus on the needs of working Americans. Read America’s Second Bill of Rights, which demands:

  • Full employment and a living wage.
  • Full participation in the political process.
  • A voice at work.
  • A quality education for all.
  • A secure and healthy future.

Saturday the Workers Stand for America campaign launches.

At the rally, participants will be encouraged to sign America’s Second Bill of Rights and then call on lawmakers of both parties to add their signatures of support. It will also be presented to delegates at both the Democratic and Republican conventions and to candidates this fall.

If you can’t make it, the event will streamed live Photos, updates and video from the event will appear in real-time on Facebook here. You can also follow on Twitter with the hash tag #ws4a. Updates will also be available on Pinterest here.

Click here to add your name to America’s Second Bill of Rights.

Event info and map is here:

11 a.m. Saturday, August 11, 2012
Eakins Oval
26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Click here for bus and transportation information.

America’s Second Bill of Rights:

We the People want to strengthen our nation, as a beacon of equality, economic opportunity and freedom for all. We hold these rights to be essential to our vision of America and believe that the principles contained therein should guide our government, business leaders, organizations and individuals in our common goal of a just and fair society.

The Right to Full Employment and a Living Wage:

All Americans willing and able to work have the right to safe, gainful employment at a fair and livable wage. We call on the public and private sectors to invest in America’s infrastructure and promote industrial development, maintaining job creation as a top policy priority.

The Right to Full Participation in the Electoral Process:

Recent initiatives to disenfranchise citizens seek to reduce the rolls of eligible voters and empower money instead of people. We believe these actions constitute an assault on our nation’s democracy and history of heroic struggle against voting restrictions based upon property ownership, religion, race and gender and call for reinforcing our fundamental right to vote.

The Right to a Voice at Work:

All workers have the right of freedom of association in the workplace, including the right to collectively bargain with their employer to improve wages, benefits and working conditions.

The Right to a Quality Education:

Education is a fundamental bedrock of our democracy, vital to America’s competitive position in the world and the principal means by which citizens empower themselves to participate in our nation’s economic and political systems. Quality, affordable education should be universally available from pre-kindergarten to college level, including an expanded use of apprenticeships and specialty skills training to prepare Americans for the workplace.

The Right to a Secure, Healthy Future:

Americans have the right to a baseline level of health care, unemployment insurance and retirement security, all of which have been badly eroded by the disruption of the social compact that served the nation well for decades. We call on government and private industry together to confront the issues of declining access to health care especially for children, weakening of unemployment coverage, and inadequate pension plans that undermine the ability of working men and women to retire in dignity, even as Social Security and Medicare are under strain and threatened with cutbacks.

Click to Download the “Bill of Rights”in Printable PDF format.

Pure as the driven snow

I sure would like to see the look on the faces of Matt Taibbi and Max Keiser when they hear this:

After a yearlong investigation, the Justice Department said Thursday that it won’t bring charges against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS +1.07% or any of its employees for financial fraud related to the mortgage crisis.

In a statement, the Justice Department said “the burden of proof” couldn’t be met to prosecute Goldman criminally based on claims made in an extensive report prepared by a U.S. Senate panel that investigated the financial crisis.

“Based on the law and evidence as they exist at this time, there is not a viable basis to bring a criminal prosecution with respect to Goldman Sachs or its employees in regard to the allegations set forth in the report,” the statement read.

The Justice Department reserved the right to bring charges in the future if new evidence emerges.

In a statement Thursday, Goldman said: “We are pleased that this matter is behind us.”

In April 2011, the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations published a scathing report on the financial crisis, highlighting Goldman as a culprit. Lawmakers accused the firm of breeding a greedy culture and running conflict-ridden businesses, and they said Goldman put its own interest ahead of clients.

Sen. Carl Levin, D., Mich., chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee, said Goldman executives lied to Congress about the firm’s bets against the housing market. The accusation triggered a Justice Department probe of possible perjury.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Levin’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The report concluded that even as securities firms flooded the market with securitized mortgages and advised clients to buy them, firms privately used words like “crap” and “flying pig” to describe the financial instruments. The department’s probe was launched when Goldman’s reputation already had been battered by civil-fraud charges filed against the New York company by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC accused Goldman of fraud related to a mortgage-bond deal called Abacus 2007-AC1.

Goldman was accused of failing to inform investors that hedge-fund firm Paulson & Co. had helped choose underlying securities in the deal and was betting against it.

Goldman agreed to pay $550 million to end the SEC’s civil-fraud suit. The company said marketing materials for the Abacus deal contained “incomplete information.”

Oh, and in other great news about the special protective bubble that surrounds the great vampire squid:

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has dropped an investigation into Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s role in selling $1.3 billion worth of subprime mortgage securities, the investment bank said in a regulatory filing on Thursday.

In February, Goldman received a so-called Wells notice from SEC staff related to disclosures in the deal’s offering documents. Such notices typically indicate the agency plans to take some kind of enforcement action, and gives firms a chance to respond.

On Monday, the SEC notified Goldman that the investigation had been closed and that it did not intend to recommend any enforcement action against the bank related to the offering, Goldman said in its quarterly 10-Q filing with the SEC.

The investment bank also lifted its estimate of “reasonably possible” legal losses to $3.4 billion from a previous estimate of $2.7 billion three months earlier. The estimate does not include potential losses from legal matters that are at an early stage or that are too difficult to predict.

Arranged marriage?

Since I haven’t seen Mitt Romney do anything yet that his consultants tell him to do, I’m guessing he’s not going to do this, either. I don’t think he wants to run with a glory-seeking lightning rod by his side (remember how well that worked for John McCain?) — but if he wants to roll the dice on the off chance that a majority of people actually want to exchange the security of Medicare for a 50% off Groupon, go for it!

WASHINGTON — Conservatives are increasing the pressure on Mitt Romney again.

That Mr. Romney has not yet named his vice-presidential nominee has created an opening for social and economic conservatives to pressure him publicly, and they have taken the opportunity to make an aggressive case for Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.

In rallying around Mr. Ryan, a champion of cutting government spending and reining in the costs of programs like Medicare and Medicaid, conservatives are calling for Mr. Romney to select someone who can push their fiscal agenda, but they also are setting the stage for a possible letdown on the right if Mr. Romney chooses someone else in his race against President Obama. A strongly worded Wall Street Journal editorial on Thursday urged Mr. Romney to pick Mr. Ryan, saying he “best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election.”

The editorial follows a fresh wave of public pressure from other conservative outlets for Mr. Romney to erase doubts about his commitment to conservative causes — an issue that has dogged Mr. Romney since his days campaigning as a liberal Republican for the Senate in Massachusetts.

“The conservative base of the party is so concerned about Obama and his approach to government that they are going to vote for Romney,” said John Brabender, who was Rick Santorum’s chief strategist during his nominating fight with Mr. Romney. “The question is, are they going to make 10 phone calls to their friends and relatives because they care so passionately? That’s going to be somewhat of a challenge.”

The Weekly Standard on Thursday urged Mr. Romney to embrace the conservative principles in Mr. Ryan’s budget — and Mr. Ryan himself as his pick for vice president — predicting that Democrats will attack him for going after entitlement programs anyway.

“Romney, and Republicans, will be running on the Romney-Ryan plan no matter what,” The Weekly Standard wrote. That view was echoed by Newt Gingrich, who lost a bid for the Republican nomination to Mr. Romney.

Hey, if master strategist Newt Gingrich says it’s a good idea, it’s a good idea! Just look at his track record. Uh, never mind.

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