Friday, December 30, 2011

Saudi Arabian State Terror

Despotism in Saudi Arabia

Despotism in Saudi Arabia

Written by
Stephen Lendman
Date: December 31, 2011
Subject: Police State
Saudi Arabian State Terror - Stephen Lendman
Annually, the State Department publishes human rights reports for over 190 countries. Its latest April 8, 2011 Saudi Arabia assessment discusses "significant human rights abuses and the inability of citizens to change its absolute monarchal rule. Abuses include:
• "torture and physical abuse;

• poor prison and detention center conditions;

• arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention;

• denial of fair and public trials and lack of due process in the judicial system;

• political prisoners;

• restrictions on civil liberties such as freedom of speech (including the Internet);

• assembly, association, movement, and severe restrictions on religious freedom; and

• corruption and lack of transparency."

Also mentioned were inequality and violence against women, human trafficking, no labor rights, discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect and ethnicity, and violations of children's rights.
Saudi's absolute monarchal rule is despotic, lawless and brutal. It's a police state practicing state terrorism internally and regionally. It's also Washington's main Middle East ally after Israel.
In early December, Amnesty International (AI) published a report on the kingdom titled, "Saudi Arabia: Repression in the Name of Security."

Largely unnoticed in the West like the State Department's April assessment, major media scoundrels suppressed its ugly findings.

AI quoted Khaled al-Johani addressing reporters in Riyadh on the March 11, 2011 "Day of Rage," saying:
"I am here to say we need democracy. We need freedom. We need to speak freely. We need no one to stop us from expressing our opinions."

Shortly afterward he was arrested and charged with "communicating with the foreign media." He's now held incommunicado in Saudi's notoriously repressive prison system.

On March 5, Press TV reported the arrest and detention of senior Saudi cleric Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer. At issue was his call for constitutional monarchal rule.

On March 23, Press TV reported 100 Shia protesters arrested after participating in anti-government demonstrations for political reforms and immediate political prisoner releases.

More recently on December 5, Press TV reported large anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province and another one on December 9 in Awamiyah, an Eastern Persian Gulf village.

Last April, Saudi's Interior Ministry said 5,831 people were arrested for being associated with a "deviant group," allegedly Al Qaeda. About 600 were sentenced. Another 600 awaited trials. Unsubstantiated terrorist related charges assures long, repressive prison terms.

A more recent high-profile case involved 16 men, including nine prominent reformists. They were sentenced to up to 30 years for allegedly trying to seize power by financing terrorism with laundered money. Their charges and trial had no legitimacy whatever. They were victimized for advocating political change and human rights.

AI said Saudi authorities "launched a new wave of repression in the name of security." Human rights protesters have been brutally oppressed. At the same time, a new anti-terror law exacerbates the absence of civil and human rights.

Last June, AI got a leaked copy. Provisions in it include:

• prosecuting peaceful dissent as terrorism and "harming the reputation of the state or its position;"

• a minimum of 10 years imprisonment for anyone questioning the integrity of the king or crown prince;

• authorities will have carte blanche power to detain alleged security suspects indefinitely without charge or trial; and

• terrorism's definition is expanded to include endangering "national unity" and/or questioning the integrity of the king or regime.

Overall, abusive practices will be legalized, including an anything goes policy of crushing dissent.
Saudi Arabia's Repressive Government

Saudi state power rests solely with the king and ruling Al Saud family. He especially wields absolute power to rule despotically. The nation's Constitution affords ordinary citizens and other residents no rights. Women are especially marginalized and denied.

The Constitution gives sole power to the ruling monarchy. Saudi Basic Law, adopted in 1992, declared the kingdom a monarchy ruled by the sons and grandsons of King Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. It also proclaimed Sharia (Islamic) law supreme.

Political parties and national elections are prohibited. Saudi kings appoint a Council of Ministers, including a prime minister, first and second deputies, 20 ministers, various advisors, and heads of major autonomous organizations.

Thirteen provinces comprise the kingdom. The ruling monarch appoints their governors. They're either princes or close royal family relatives. In 1993, ministers became subject to four-year term limitations. In 1997, a Consultative Council was expanded from 60 to 90 members.

Legislation is by Council of Ministers resolution, subject to royal approval. Democracy is a dirty word. Saudi's 27 million residents have no rights whatever. The media are severely constrained. Anyone dissenting is subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, including political critics, bloggers, academics, foreign nationals, and others.

On September 25, King Abdullah said women, beginning in 2015, will be allowed to run in municipal elections, and be appointed to the Shura Council monarchal advisory body.

Nonetheless, they're severely restricted. They can't travel, drive, engage in paid work or higher education. They also can't marry without male custodian permission.

Rage Bubbling Up Against the Regime
Perhaps mindful of other regional protests, Saudis have begun rallying publicly for change. They demand human rights be respected. They want social and political reforms, including free, open and fair elections. They also want political prisoners released.

In response, severe crackdowns followed. Hundreds of peaceful protesters were arrested and detained without trial. Others were charged with "vague security-related and other offenses. (AI) considers many of (them) prisoners of conscience, held solely for peacefully expressing their rights to freedom of expression and assembly."
In recent years, thousands have been detained on security grounds and remain imprisoned under horrific conditions. Victims include clerics, alleged Al Qaeda members, anyone with alleged connections or sympathies, and others suspected of anti-regime sentiment or its ties to Washington and other Western states.

Everyone arrested for security reasons faces torture and other forms of abuse. It's commonplace "because interrogators know that they can commit their crimes without fear of punishment."
Abuse is also encouraged by the "ready acceptance by courts of 'confessions' forced (from) detainees (by) beatings, electric shocks, and other forms of torture and ill-treatment."

Many detainees are untried. Others brought to court face grossly unfair proceedings, including secret ones with no right of appeal. Since established in October 2008, Saudi's Specialized Criminal Court hears them.

Victims are mostly human rights defenders, political reform activists, members of religious minorities, and many others guilty of no internationally recognized offense.

In the past, sporadic political violence occurred against state institutions, oil installations and Western nationals. Severe crackdowns followed. AI's report focused mainly on 2011 developments. Philip Luther, AI's Middle East/North Africa director said:

"Peaceful protesters and supporters of political reform in the country have been targeted for arrest in an attempt to stamp out the kinds of call for reform that have echoed across the region."
Many arrested are charged with "disrupting order." Some are forced to sign pledges to never again protest. In addition, they're forbidden to travel. Others face secret kangaroo proceedings. Those affected are guilty by accusation.

A Final Comment

Washington has close ties to despotic regional regimes, including Saudi Arabia. It uses them advantageously to advance its Greater Middle East project for unchallenged dominance.
Wars are waged to replace independent regimes with client ones. Saudi and other regional governments rule despotically. They're also US proxies when called on, including against Gaddafi's Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria.

As a result, they're rewarded for partnering with Washington's worst crimes. Who said it didn't pay!
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.                                  

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China push to put astronaut on the moon

China push to put astronaut on the moon
News Link  •  China

12-30-2011  • 
While Chinese scientists have previously discussed the possibility of a manned lunar mission, a government white paper published on Thursday is the first public government document to enshrine it as a policy goal.
China will “conduct studies on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing”, the white paper said. Although a manned moon mission is still some time off – Chinese experts say after 2020 – the statement highlights Beijing’s soaring ambitions just five months after the US retired its space shuttle programme . “Chinese people are the same as people around the world,” Zhang Wei, an official with China’s National Space Administration, said at a briefing. “When looking up at the starry sky, we are full of longing and yearning for the vast universe.”
According to the white paper, which serves as a blueprint for the next five years, China will develop new satellites, accelerate efforts to build a space station and strengthen its research in space. Laying the foundation for a mission to the moon, the government also plans to launch unmanned lunar probes and make “new technological breakthroughs” in human space flights by 2016.

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Reported by Donna Hancock

Was It Worth It?

Was It Worth It?
News Link  •  Iraq

12-30-2011  • Vance 

Would you sacrifice your firstborn son to establish a democracy in country that had a dictatorship? How about giving up your son to effect a regime change? What about exchanging your son to end the oppression of minorities? How about trading your son in return for a country holding elections?

I don’t know of any American mother or father that would do such a thing. I wouldn’t give a finger from one of my sons to do any of these things. Some Americans, however, wouldn’t mind it if some other American’s son came back from some foreign war in a box with only a finger that was recognizable – just as long as it wasn’t their son. 

Now that the war in Iraq is officially over, I keep hearing from apologists for the war about how it was worth it. I keep hearing that because Saddam Hussein is gone, Iraq has a Constitution, Iraqis have freedom, and Iraq holds elections that all the death and destruction was worth it. "We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people," President Obama told the troops at Fort Bragg. "I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Of course, none of Panetta’s three sons died in Iraq.

Okay, suppose it’s all true – and then some. Suppose it’s even better than anyone could have imagined. What if Iraq is now a model democracy for the rest of the world? What if Iraq now has a constitution that rivals our own? What if there is now no more sectarian violence in Iraq? What if Iraq now has a free market? What if Iraq is now an American ally? What if Iraq is now a friend of Israel? What if Iraqis now have freedom of speech and freedom of religion? What if Iraq now respects the rights of women and minorities? What if all Iraqi children are now in school? What if Baghdad is really the best city on earth instead of the worst?
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Reported by Donna Hancock

The Compassion of Dr. Ron Paul...

To help air a broadcast version of this ad in early primary states, donate here **PLEASE DO NOT RE-UPLOAD** James Williams of Matagorda County, Texas recounts a touching true story. Living in a still prejudice Texas In 1972, his wife had a complication with her pregnancy. No doctors would care for her or deliver their bi-racial child. In fact one of the hospital nurses called the police on James. Dr. Ron Paul was notified and took her in, delivering their stillborn baby. Because of the compassion of Dr. Ron Paul, the Williams' never received a hospital bill for the delivery. Ron Paul views every human being as a unique individual, afforded the rights endowed by our creator and codified in the Bill of Rights.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The black community faced political losses in 2011

Looking Back

When I look at the economic indicators of unemployment, homeownership, and education, I can see that 2011 wasn't a good year for the African-American community.

The unemployment numbers for African Americans in South Carolina are at 20 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics data, significantly higher than the state's current rate of 9.9 percent and Charleston's rate of 7.8 percent.

Meanwhile state Sen. Robert Ford has said that the mortgage crisis has hit African Americans the hardest — and many in the black community would agree with him.

The graduation rates remain at a dismal 50 percent for African-American males. Failing schools produce unskilled workers, and that's not going to cut it in a 21st-century economy. Can we let another year go by without addressing the gap? Perhaps our leaders can help these students get the technology they are missing at home and, unfortunately, in many of their schools.

The political landscape wasn't better, as we lost political power in the City of Charleston as the result of continued gentrification and redistricting. The continued migration of African Americans from the peninsula results in the loss of federal resources available to low-income census tracts. This money is used to develop homeownership and job creation programs. African Americans also failed to seize city council seats in North Charleston, where there's a black majority. This was a missed opportunity to guide the city as it grapples with port expansion, rail access, and economic development issues.

Mayors Joseph P. Riley Jr. and Keith Summey were re-elected as expected and their black opposition rejected. Riley received at least 50 percent of the African-American vote in this year's election; that 50 percent represents the older generation of African Americans, which continues to see Joe as a symbolic bridge between Jim Crow and post-segregation politics. The other half represents a younger generation ill prepared to face new-world realities like a tough and competitive global economy. This group, justly or unjustly, blames Mayor Riley. It goes with being the incumbent, but he has one more term to change their minds.

Mayor Summey received an even greater share of the black vote in his re-election bid. The mayor of North Charleston has built up a strong reserve of social capital through community churches and civic leaders. Those who underestimate the power of social capital got crushed when Summey cashed it in on Election Day. He won decisively despite accusations of racial profiling and discrimination at the hands of the North Charleston Police Department. It did not bother voters that the mayor's position on rail access is not in their best interests. Mayor Summey will have to be responsive to the issues raised concerning the African-American community over the next four years, and if not, the community cannot wait until the next election to hold him accountable. Educate the voters now. Demand action now. Get prepared now.

Meanwhile, the election of Keith Waring to Charleston City Council is a very important development in the African-American community. First, Keith is the son of Louis Waring and literally and figuratively represents the passing of the leadership baton from one generation to the next. More importantly, however, is what Keith's election means for economic development in the African-American community. While this is Waring's first elected office, he has served as a de facto leader of black Charleston's business and professional class, which often seeks his advice on political matters. Waring has also served in a leadership capacity within the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. I believe all of this gives him the tools to develop effective economic policies that will help create a self-sustainable environment where minority-owned businesses can thrive. I believe he is also key to developing the necessary unity among council members representing underdeveloped communities. Waring will play a major role in helping Mayor Riley make substantial and long-lasting contributions to the African-American community during his final term in office.

Kirsten West Savali: Is Paula Patton a Black Trophy Wife?

By: Kirsten West Savali, Your Black World

If I were Paula Patton, I would be embarrassed.
In an exclusive interview with Essence Magazine, the Mission Impossible 4 actress’s husband of six years, Robin Thicke, managed to not only divulge intimate details of their sex life, but to paint his wife as nothing more than a hyper-sexual, replacement mommy-figure who introduced him to the world of Blackness.

Patton, through no malicious—but still very purposeful—intent of her husband’s, was cast as the Black Trophy Wife, valued because she grants him an authenticity, an entree’ into the world of soul, funk and R&B that he would not have been granted otherwise. He maneuvers her from her rightful place at his side, and pushes her to the front of his agenda to seduce the Black community into accepting him as our own —that is, when his “mojo and swag” aren’t being occupied giving Patton “double-digit” orgasms.

He also reveals in the interview that she calls him ‘Daddy’ and he calls her ‘Mama’ because their respective parents didn’t play important roles in their lives, so they became each other’s replacement. For some reason, he doesn’t seem to realize that when compounded by race in a traumatized society his words are toxic. Their twisted dynamic is eerily reminiscent of a slave-owner/Mammie dichotomy and co-dependency—exacerbated by racial stereotypes—is neither attractive, nor romantic.

I enjoy Robin Thicke’s music, but I have no illusions that he will ever be Donny Hathaway or Marvin Gaye, or even Eric Benet or Rapheal Saadiq. Then again, neither does he, because according to him, his contemporaries are “Drizzy Drake and Chris Brown.” He doesn’t even take himself seriously.

Breaking News: Heavy D Cause of Death Revealed

The Los Angeles County Corner’s Office has finally released Heavy D‘s official cause of death.
After collapsing on November 9 in from his home,  the rapper-actor, born Dwight Arrington Myers, was rushed to the hospital where it was speculated that he died from pneumonia. That has now been ruled out and the cause of death is officially a pulmonary embolism — a blood clot in his lungs. Other factors that could have contributed to the “Overweight Lover’s” death, are a pre-existing heart disease and deep leg vein thrombosis.

The blood clot was “most likely formed during an extended airplane ride,” said county officials. Myers had just returned from Wales, England performing in a tribute concert to “The King of Pop,” Michael Jackson.

The beloved star was laid to rest in a star-studded ceremony in Mount Vernon, New York. Guests included Sean “Diddy” Combs, Mary J. Blige, and Rev. Al Sharpton, who joked that “James Brown made us black and proud, but Hev made us fat and proud.

Dr. Boyce: Taxation Without Representation – How the Child Support System Should Be Changed

dr boyce watkins discusses financial abortions and changing the 
child support system
by Dr. Boyce Watkins – Scholarship in Action

I was on 1380 WAOK in Atlanta for an interesting interview this morning.  The conversation revolved around child support payments and the “Financial Abortions” concept that my Senior Editor, Kirsten West-Savali, brought to my attention just a couple of months ago.  The conversation expanded to child support in general, and I can say that I am clearly concerned about deadbeat parents who choose not to support their kids.  I don’t care if he’s buying diapers and visiting your child every weekend; he should also be using a chunk of his paycheck to help you pay the bills related to taking care of that child.

Continue reading on The Boyce Blog

U.S. Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency guess at 2025 car sales


By Rick Manning

If Congress is seriously interested in finding people to cut perhaps they just need to look at those responsible for producing automobile company sales projections for the year 2025. That’s right, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation spent your tax dollars to make up sales projections for a model year that is thirteen years from now.

Of course, this should not be surprising for the EPA which regularly creates regulations based upon speculative global warming models that project weather patterns fifty to one hundred years in the future. So, automotive industry sales projections for the year 2025 must have seemed like legitimate economic analysis after dealing in the politically driven climate guessing world for the past few years.

Not shockingly, the analysis is based upon the automakers current line-up of vehicles and their dependence upon vehicles which are likely to no longer exist if the Transportation Department’s rule increasing the average gas mileage for a company’s fleet of vehicles to 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025 becomes the law of the land.

The projections were created as part of the CAFÉ standard rulemaking process, and Automotive News quotes Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive as indicting the guesswork on two fronts noting that the report relied upon 2008 sales data making it, “a bit dated, especially given all the changes in the automotive industry over the last few years.”
Get full story here.

11 Big Gov't Busts of '11: #2-Our National Finances

Video by Frank McCaffrey
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Scandal and insanity at Penn State, Durban and the IPCC

By Paul Driessen

In a repeat of Copenhagen, on the eve of the Durban climate change gabfest, someone released another horde of emails from alarmist climate researchers, including Dr. Michael Mann, whose infamous “hockey stick” was headlined in the 2001 IPCC report to justify the Kyoto agreement and demands that nations slash fossil fuel use and economic growth.

Meanwhile, back on Dr. Mann’s campus, Pennsylvania State University was confronting the sordid Jerry Sandusky affair. Sports Illustrated summarized the Augean Stables task in an article titled “Missteps at every turn: Efforts to clean up Penn State reveal how deep the institutional problems lie.”

As SI noted, a key judge in the case, Pennsylvania’s governor, Penn State’s new athletic director and even the attorney appointed to head up a “full and complete” internal investigation all have deep and longstanding ties to the university and/or its big-money football team. Noting these and other “blatant conflicts of interest,” the magazine quoted new PSU president Rodney Erickson as saying, “Penn State is committed to transparency to the fullest extent possible” [emphasis added] – in view of relevant financial, personal and other considerations, and special exemptions that Penn State enjoys from disclosure laws.

SI ended the article by asking, “Is Penn State cleaning house? Or simply rearranging the furniture?”

The same question applies to Dr. Mann. In the wake of Climategate 2009, Penn State hurriedly exonerated him and his department of any wrongdoing, as did NOAA and the National Science Foundation. The blatant whitewashes reflect the desperation of organizations intent on preserving their money train and perpetuating the Hollywood façade of manmade catastrophic climate change.
Get full story here.

GOP Elimination match round 2

By Rebecca DiFede
Gingrich, Bachmann, Romney and Santorum survived round one of Americans for Limited Government’s presidential brackets, and now you can vote for your favorite today!

It’s down to Gingrich, Bachmann, Romney and Santorum.

In the epic battle to win the title of GOP Presidential nominee, these four must face-off this week to see who will get ever closer to being the people’s choice.

Last week’s exclusive internet polling results are in and the final four in Americans for Limited Government’s exclusive NCAA-style Republican nominee bracket is down to Gingrich v. Bachmann and Romney v. Santorum match-ups.

Heading into the Iowa caucus, you get to vote on whether master debater Newt Gingrich or tea party fave Michelle Bachmann move into the finals. These media-frenzy favorites will go head-to-head in a fight that is sure to be a ruthless one. Both are constantly in the public eye and have landed more than a few unfavorable quips in the papers.

Both are constantly in the public eye and each has found themself at some time in the race as the alternative to Romney’s nomination leadership. Which one will make it to the finals?

You decide.
Get full story here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ex-U.S. Atty. Accuses FBI and Prosecutors of Illegally Obtaining Documents and Lying About It

Former U.S. Atty. Roscoe C. Howard Jr.
By Allan Lengel

A former D.C. U.S. Attorney is accusing the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office of illegally obtaining documents in a major bank fraud trial in Brooklyn involving a Democratic fundraiser,  and then lying about it. He’s also accusing the government of allegedly introducing bogus documents that an FBI informant created.
Roscoe C. Howard Jr., the former U.S. Attorney, who is representing Democratic fundraiser Courtney Dupree, raised the allegations in a Dec. 21 letter filed in court and addressed to presiding U.S. District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto. Trial began Dec. 5 and the defense is presenting its case this week.

Howard, a D.C. lawyer with the firm Andrews Kurth,  who served as U.S. Attorney under President Bush, is asking that the Brooklyn  judge to suppress evidence illegally obtained.

The FBI in New York and the U.S. Attorney’s Office  in Brooklyn did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday morning  from for comment.

The allegations of wrongdoing have flown under the radar of the New York media, which has showed more interest in ex-Green Bay Packer running back Dorsey Levens testifying in trial as a character witness for Dupree.  Robert Holland, ex-CEO of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, also testified as a character witness.
At the heart of the case is the Long Island-, GDC Acquisitions,  a holding of company,  of which Dupree is the CEO. Dupree  is charged with grossly overstating the billings to fraudulently obtain a $21 million loan from Amalgamated Bank.

The case began to take form when an employee of GDC, Emilio Serrano, went to the FBI to complain about financial shenanigans. The FBI claims that Serrano came in hand with all the documents for the case.
Howard contends in his letter to the judge, that after Serrano’s  initial meeting with FBI agent Gavin Shea in May 2010, the agent directed him to collect more documents from the company. Howard contends that the since Serrano was then acting as an agent for the FBI, the FBI needed to obtain a search warrant after the initial meeting. No search warrant was obtained.

The FBI has contended that Serrano came with all the documents and did not collect anything after that first meeting.

Howard claims in the letter that the government is lying.

In fact, he writes that Serrano testified during cross examination that he collected documents after his first meeting with the FBI , an admission which “contradicts the government’s repeated representations to the Court and defense counsel that Serrano had obrained all the documents before he approached the FBI.”
“Further cross-examination (of Serrano) revealed that not only had Serrano taken documents from GDC after meeting with Agent Shea, he actually created false financial records, which the government has introduced at trial, in an effort to curry favor with the government,” Howard wrote.

Missing Girl Found Dead, Babysitter Charged in Case FBI Was Involved In

By Danny Fenster
A missing 9-year-old girl has been found dead, the Associated Press reports, and the girl’s babysitter was arrested on murder charges Monday night. The FBI had been helping in the search.

Aliahna Lemmon’s body was found in northeast Indiana, near her family’s mobile home park, investigators say. They aren’t releasing where exactly the remains were found, sheriff’s spokesman Cpl. Jeremy Tinkel told the AP.

The babysitter, Mike Plumadore, was taken into custody after being interviewed by police late Monday. The 39-year-old, who was watching Lemmon and her sisters’ at the time of the disappearance, faces a murder charge.

“He was a trusted family friend,” the girl’s step-grandfather, David Story, told the AP.
To read more click here.

Ron Paul goes big time

By Adam Bitely
Most recent polls indicate that Ron Paul is in the lead in Iowa. Other polls around the nation indicate a growing level of support. After years of being painted as a kooky Congressman from Texas, it seems that Ron Paul may have finally hit the mainstream.

Since late summer, GOP primary voters have flipped back and forth on who they deem the conservative choice against Mitt Romney. First it was Michele Bachmann. Then it was Rick Perry. And then it was Herman Cain. And then came Newt. And now Paul, it seems, is getting his shot at being the anti-Romney choice.

How far things have come since Paul was treated as the red-headed step-child of the GOP in 2008 when he was relegated to the back of the line and treated as some sort of radioactive creature that needed to be disposed of immediately.

All the while, he stayed true to the principles of limited government.
At no point in Paul’s recent rise has anyone had to point out that his positions are recently taken. Unlike Newt and Mitt, Ron Paul has been consistent with his platform. He has not had to explain why he changed his mind to oppose health care individual mandates or why we don’t need the government to enforce climate change policies. Paul has been a consistent opponent of anything that will increase the size of the federal government.
But here is where things will get as dicey as they can possibly get. If Paul wins in Iowa, he will have to fight for the life of his campaign as he heads on to the ensuing contests.

His Iowa victory will be belittled. Those in the media will claim that the Iowa results were meaningless. Keep that in mind as they try to mention who finished second behind Paul, as they will claim that the second place result will somehow have meaning…

Already, Republican and Conservative elites have come out and announced that if Paul wins Iowa, the results of the caucuses should be ignored. So much for democracy.
Whether you support him or not, at least Ron Paul has been a consistent candidate. And that consistency is helping him gain support.
Get full story here.

11 Big Gov't Busts of '11: #3-Solyndra

Video by Frank McCaffrey
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Congress Drops the Ball

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Thou shalt not question UN ‘experts’

By Kelvin Kemm
British Viscount Christopher Monckton of Brenchley parachuted with me into Durban, South Africa, to challenge UN climate crisis claims, attracting numerous journalists and onlookers. A 20-foot banner across our press conference table gave the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow further opportunities to present realistic perspectives on the science and economics of climate change.

CFACT played by the rules, obtained the necessary permits beforehand, and ensured that its message was heard throughout the seventeenth annual climate conference (COP-17). Greenpeace, on the other hand, got no permits before staging an Occupy Durban protest in the hallway outside the plenary session – and got kicked out of the conference.

Shortly thereafter, however, Lord Monckton and another CFACT representative were summarily (though temporarily) ejected from the Durban conference, for preposterous reasons that dramatize how thin-skinned and arrogant the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has become.

As a South African and delegate at the COP-17 conference, I witnessed more amazing and absurd exhibitions than one would find at a Believe It Or Not circus sideshow. Along with thousands of government delegates, scientists and journalists, we witnessed music and dance groups, Women for Climate Justice, the Alliance for Climate Protection, APEs (Artists Protect the Earth) and others pleading for “planetary salvation.”

It took a truly nimble mind, and abiding sense of humor, to appreciate their often competing messages. One large official poster proclaimed “More climate change means less water,” while the one next to it said “More climate change means more floods.”

A socialist group sloganeered “One planet living is the new aspiration.” I could only conclude that they were neo-Malthusians worried sick about speculative climate chaos and resource depletion – and promoting a roll-back of energy use and living standards, so that people can share “more equitably” in sustained poverty and misery, enforced by UN edicts.
Get full story here.

Sears, Kmart to Close 100-120 Stores

sears-kmart-store closings list 2012Sears Holdings Corporation, the tenth largest retailer by annual revenue in the US, announced Tuesday that it would close between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores because of poor holiday sales.
“Given our performance and the difficult economic environment, especially for big-ticket items, we intend to implement a series of actions to reduce on-going expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model,” chief executive Lou D’Ambrosio is quoted as saying by the AFP.
D’Ambrosio estimates the store closings will generate $140 to $170 million in cash in inventory sales and added that Sears expects to make even more money when it sells or subleases the properties.
 According to the Washington Post, same-store revenue fell 5.2 percent to date for the quarter at both Sears and Kmart stores.

 While Kmart’s declining sales were blamed on diminished layaways and a drop in clothing and consumer electronics sales, Sears’ cited lackluster consumer electronics and home appliance sales for their drop.

Though the company, which has more than 4,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada, would not reveal which Sears and Kmart locations would close or how many jobs would be cut as a result of the shut-downs, it did say the closings list would be posted at once it was completed.

Lakers fall to 0-2 after loss at Kings Marcus Thornton scored 12 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and the Sacramento Kings opened the season in grand fashion, beating the Los Angeles Lakers at home for the first time in more than three years, 100-91 on Monday night. Tyreke Evans added 20 points, John Salmons had 13 and DeMarcus Cousins had...    read full article

Friday, December 23, 2011

Breaking News: Kobe’s Wife Estimates that He Slept with Over 100 Women During Their Marriage

According to the National Enquirer, the real reason Vanessa is dissolving the marriage is that she suspected 33 year old Kobe was cheating on her and a private detective confirm her suspicions. “[Vanessa] estimated that he was averaging at least 10 affairs a year with different women over the course of their marriage and puts his number of conquests at 105,” a friend told the tabloid. “The lies and deceit hurt, of course, but racking up those kinds of numbers is mind-blowing and left her devastated. And when she discovered he was cheating during the recent NBA lockout, that was the final straw. her private detective caught him redhanded with incriminating photos.”

Not even former teammate Shaquille O’Neal had those kind of numbers. Tiger Woods, on the other hand, had Kobe beat. Vanessa is apparently telling friends she believes Kobe had a jumpoff in “every NBA city.”

One of his alleged jumpoffs, whom he was seeing since 2008, sat court side at games and openly flirted with Kobe. Vanessa was livid and reportedly told Kobe to dump the chic. Kobe allegedly was also having an affair with an 18-year-old Lakers cheerleader and they reportedly sexted intimated photos of one another.

That evidence is in Vanessa’s divorce lawyer’s possession, too. SMDH! When Vanessa confronted him about these two women, Kobe reportedly confessed and promised her he would change his ways and sought forgiveness by showering Vanessa with jewelry, cars and other expensive gifts.

But after Vanessa’s private investigator hit her with the incriminating photos, she decided it was time to bail and that’s when she filed for divorce. Kobe reportedly begged and pleaded for her to give him another shot, but Vanessa was tired of being humiliated, according to the friend. Now she’s going to walk away with half of his $300 million fortune because they had no prenup and California is a community property state. The divorce is pretty much finalized and Vanessa is gonna get her money.


Man Who Gagged/Bound His Daughter in Facebook Picture is Now in Jail

Andre Curry is in big trouble after these pictures appeared on his Facebook page.
Click to read

Mead Johnson stock down after Wal-Mart pulls baby formula

(AP) — Shares of Mead Johnson fell 10 percent Thursday after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pulled a batch of its infant formula from more than 3,000 stores when it learned about the death of a newborn.

There is no known link between the death and the formula and the government has not ordered a recall of any Enfamil, the brand of powdered formula that the child consumed. Glenview-based Mead Johnson makes Enfamil.

The retailer said Wednesday that preliminary tests indicate the newborn Missouri boy died from a rare bacterial infection, though Mead said its records showed the lot of formula from which the child was fed tested negative for the bacterium before it was shipped.

Wal-Mart said the formula, lot number ZP1K7G, was pulled "out of an abundance of caution."
Mead Johnson spokesman Christopher Perille said all the company's infant formula products are put through a battery of tests as they are produced, packaged and sealed.

Public health investigators seeking the source of 10-day-old Avery Cornett's infection will also look at environmental factors, such as the water used in preparing the powdered formula, and at anything else the baby might have ingested, Perille said.

Shares of Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. dropped $7.72 to close at $68.76. Over the past year, the stock has traded in a range of $55.12 to $76.91.

Putin’s time is running out: Russian protest leader (Reuters)

December 23, 20
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Up to 1 million Russians are ready to take to the streets to protest against a disputed election and Vladimir Putin’s “corrupt regime” is unlikely to hold on to power for more than two years, protest leader Alexei Navalny said on Friday.
Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who has emerged a leading light of the disparate opposition, said the public mood had turned against Russia’s paramount leader and large crowds would join a protest rally in Moscow on Saturday.

“I am absolutely sure that up to 1 million people are ready to take part in such rallies … I see the people’s mood,” Navalny told Reuters in an interview on the eve of the rally against alleged fraud in an election Putin’s party won on December 4.

“They stole about 1 million votes. And that’s only in Moscow. I think that these people are completely dissatisfied with what happened and are ready to defend their rights, including going out on to the streets,” he said by telephone.

The 35-year-old lawyer has become the voice of the opposition since protests began over the election, in which Putin’s United Russia won a slim majority in the lower house.
“I don’t think Putin’s regime of absolute power, which prevails in this country, will last for more than two years – that’s the maximum,” he said.

Navalny will address Saturday’s rally on Moscow’s Sakharov Avenue a few days after being released from jail after serving a 15-day sentence for obstruction of justice during one of the earlier protests.
He has gained a large following, particularly among young professionals and Internet users, by using his small shareholdings in various Russian companies to expose high-level corruption and to campaign for greater transparency.

The Internet has been vital for organizing protests in the country of more than 140 million, where state television is tightly controlled and has paid little attention to the biggest opposition rallies since Putin rose to power in 1999.

Opposition leaders have said they hope at least 50,000 people will attend Saturday’s rally in Moscow, which will also be addressed by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. More than 40,000 people have pledged online to show up.

“One meeting, another meeting. One day the people will go out on the street, and they will not return. There is only one scenario. We have to carry on until they meet our demands,” Navalny said.
The demands include annulling the election and holding a new one, registering opposition parties, dismissing the election commission head and freeing people the protesters consider political prisoners.
Calls by some opposition leaders for another demand to be added to the list – Putin’s resignation – have been resisted by some of the organizers who say the main aim of the demonstration is to demand an election rerun.

But Navalny called on Russians to unite against Putin as soon as he was freed from jail early on Wednesday and his influence has risen since the protests began.

Navalny’s politics, which mix scorn for the ruling elite and rhetoric on illegal immigration, have gained traction with the middle class. But his chances of becoming a genuine threat to Putin’s tightly controlled political system could depend on whether he can mobilize large numbers of protesters.

Although his popularity has fallen, Putin is still widely seen as Russia’s most popular politician and is regarded as the ultimate arbiter by the clans which own swathes of the world’s biggest energy producer.
Even so, Navalny has increasingly pitted himself against Putin, who is almost certain to extend his 12-year rule by returning to the presidency in an election in March.

“I don’t think we need to demand the resignation of Putin. we only need to demand free elections … The country needs a decent, legitimate president,” he said.

Navalny has repeatedly said he is not afraid of reprisals for speaking out against what he has called a corrupt government, and he has warned that authorities have more to lose than protesters from a show of force.
“I think that they (the authorities) have simply realized a simple fact … it has become more and more obvious that they would lose very quickly, lose everything, if they met us with force. These people are not stupid,” he said.

(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, writing by Thomas Grove; editing by Timothy Heritage and Matthew Jones)

‘Obama’s Economic Humbug’

By Robert Romano
“This is nothing more than Obama’s economic humbug, just in time for the holidays,” remarked Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson in response to the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ downward revision of economic growth in the third quarter.

“First at 2.5 percent, then 2 percent, and now revised downward to an anemic 1.8 percent, the economy in the third quarter has once again fallen way short of the government’s rosy projections,” Wilson said.
That means the Bureau had “initially exaggerated the actual growth number by 38 percent,” which Wilson warned would have serious ramifications on the government’s projected revenues over the next decade.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has said that revenues will more than double the next decade, from their current level of $2.1 trillion to more than $4.8 trillion by 2021.

Much of that hinges on the robust growth that is projected. In 2011, OMB had said growth would top 3.1 percent. In 2012, it claims it will rise as high as 4 percent.

It will be very telling how OMB takes current economic data into account when it publishes its next budget in February. If it does, then it will likely show revenues growing by a much slower rate, and, particularly, that the debt growing much faster.

But, it being an election year in 2012, and in essence being a White House operation, in reality one should expect next year’s numbers to be as exaggerated as this year’s numbers.

Which tells the American people everything they need to know about what government statistics have become — they are nothing more than a propaganda tool to prop up elected administrations.
Get full story here.

11 Big Gov't Busts of '11: #4-The Super Committee

Video by Frank McCaffrey
Get permalink here.

State Legislatures Take on ‘Judicial Hellholes’ that Undermine Business

By Kevin Mooney

Some state legislatures are taking a stand against abusive litigation practices that drive up costs for consumers and discourage business, according to a new report from the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF). Even as it identified “judicial hellholes” where judges apply the law against defendants in a manner that is considered unfair and unbalanced, ATRF called attention to “points of light” throughout the country where state lawmakers are taking a stand against runaway litigation practices.

“State legislatures enacted nearly 50 civil justice reforms in 2011,” the report says. “These included comprehensive tort reform packages in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina, and more targeted reforms in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North and South Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.”
Some of these reforms include new measures that guard against the use of “junk science” in court and limiting liability to landowners in cases where those who are injured were trespassing. ATRF also highlighted encouraging court rulings in jurisdictions that are typically weighted against civil defendants.

Even so, the nation has a long way to go before abusive litigation practices are brought to heal as the report makes clear. The following areas have been identified as the top “judicial hellholes” for 2011: the states of California and West Virginia, along with local jurisdictions, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, South Florida, Madison and St. Claire Counties in Illinois, and New York City and Albany, New York.

Americans for Limited Government president Bill Wilson notes that, “job creation and investment in a state is often dictated by the litigation climate within that state. Simply put, those states which give the trial lawyers free rein to drum up nuisance law suits struggle to compete for business investment with those who have reasonable tort liability rules.”

Beyond the states and localities named as “judicial hellholes,” some other jurisdictions were named as being just on edge of falling off into the abyss.
Get full story here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Steelers' Hines Ward had a 'blast' with 'Dark Knight' role - USA TODAY

The latest trailer for The Dark Knight Rises is out, and (surprise!) Hines Ward is involved.
We did a little digging, and found out that other Pittsburgh Steelers greats including Ben Roethlisberger and ex-coach Bill Cowher are in the movie too.

Apparently they're on some XFL franken-team called the Gotham Rogues.

The scene — which was filmed at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field — features Ward running toward the endzone while the field explodes and gobbles up defenders behind him.

It looks pretty cool, but Hines Ward out-running an NFL-caliber defensive back at age 35 might be the most unrealistic plot point in the history of cinema.

Here's the trailer (the Ward bit comes at 1:18 or so):

Breaking News: Floyd Mayweather enters plea in 2 cases

floyd_mayweatherLAS VEGAS -- Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. plans to plead guilty to reduced misdemeanor charges in a plea deal resolving felony allegations that he battered his ex-girlfriend, court officials said Tuesday.

Mayweather, 34, will face $3,000 in fines and could be sentenced to between two days and 18 months in the Clark County jail after pleading Wednesday to one count of battery domestic violence and two harassment charges, said Tess Driver, an aide to Clark County District Attorney David Roger.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported the plea deal Tuesday.

It also includes an agreement for Mayweather to plead no contest next week to misdemeanor battery and pay a $1,000 fine for poking a 21-year-old homeowner association security guard in the face during a November 2010 argument about parking tickets on vehicles outside the boxer's home in an exclusive, suburban Las Vegas community. 

Roger and Mayweather's lawyers did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press.
Mayweather had been facing an evidence hearing Wednesday and a decision by Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa whether to send him to trial on felony grand larceny, coercion and robbery charges, and misdemeanor domestic battery and harassment counts involving ex-girlfriend Josie Harris.

He could have faced 34 years in state prison if he was convicted of all those charges.

The felony case stemmed from accusations that Mayweather hit and threatened his ex-girlfriend, stole her cell phone and threatened two of their children, then ages 10 and 9, during a September 2010 argument about the woman dating another man.

Mayweather, who uses the nickname "Money," was acquitted by a Las Vegas judge in October of other misdemeanor harassment charges alleging he threatened the lives of two other homeowner association security guards in another argument about parking tickets.

Mayweather is undefeated in the boxing ring, with a record of 42-0 with 26 knockouts.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

Payroll tax holiday blues

By Robert Romano
One can fault House Republicans for many things, but opposing an extension of the payroll tax cut and another extension of unemployment benefits is not one of them.

Whether one agrees with the issue or not, the fact is, the House has already passed extensions of both of these items. At a cost of $180 billion, those extensions would last for the duration of calendar year 2012.

Yet, to read the headlines, and to listen to the White House’s talking points, House Republicans are intransigently opposed to the plan, and just want to stick it to the “middle class” on Christmas. How dare they!

“Obama Says Payroll Tax Cut Blocked by 'Faction' in House,” blared one headline. “House Republicans reject 2-month payroll tax cut,” declared another. “House rejects payroll tax cut, jobless benefits,” still another stated.

There’s only one problem. It’s just not true.
It’s a talking point. Not news. Not even remotely factual.
What is true is that the House and Senate have not yet agreed on the details of that legislation. While the House has passed a 12-month extension, the Senate has merely kicked the can down the road for 2 months.

Usually when that happens, as anyone who has passed a basic lesson on civics could tell you, there’s a conference committee, wherein the House and Senate will work out their differences. Heck, it’s even in the Constitution.

After all, the House is under no more obligation to pass the Senate version of the extension than the Senate is to pass the House version. Which is why the framers envisioned a conference committee.
And, that is exactly what the House has voted for.

By a vote of 229 to 193, the House voted in the affirmative on a “Motion to Go to Conference”. Not even on the Senate bill. It was declaring, in effect, that it has already voted on this piece of legislation, and that both houses now need to hash out their differences.
Get full story here.

11 Big Gov't Busts of '11: #5-The Fast and the Furious

Video by Frank McCaffrey
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How the Grinch Stole Health Care

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Choice Not Consensus: A Plea From a Less Important State

By David Bozeman

Most registered Republicans will not pick their party's presidential nominee this election. Because of a curious tradition in our electoral process, voters in a handful of small states will get to anoint a frontrunner early this winter.
Now, granted, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina don't always decide a presidential nominee, but we know the drill. Candidates all but live in these early states. Voters, particularly in Iowa and New Hampshire, are wooed and courted, and some are even known by name. These ordinary, unknown Americans resemble, for a fleeting moment, unlikely tie-breakers in an urgent moment of national deadlock.

In 2008, with no early GOP frontrunner, some of the talking heads were delighting in the prospect of a floor fight at the Republican National Convention to select a nominee (Romney, Rudy Guiliani and Mike Huckabee led, with John McCain rounding out the field). Of course, John McCain secured the nomination surprisingly early (March), thus by the time North Carolina's primary rolled around, no GOP contender had come to town or called my home or even run an ad. While that scenario is not a guaranteed repeat for 2012, it's not unlikely, either. Just ask voters in Indiana and West Virginia (also with primaries in early May).

Interestingly, the Gingrich campaign recently announced plans to launch a committee in North Carolina, with former state GOP chairman Tom Fetzer heading the effort. Party officials are enthused that North Carolina could matter after all. Yes, after all. Indeed, my vote might very well count.

8 Charged in Death of Fellow Soldier, US Army Says – New York Times

8 Charged in Death of Fellow Soldier, US Army Says
New York Times
Eight American soldiers were charged with manslaughter and an array of other crimes in connection with the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, a fellow soldier from New York whose body was found in October lying in a guard tower in southern Afghanistan, ...
8 US Army Soldiers Charged in Death of Fellow Serviceman in AfghanistanFox News
8 US troops charged in fellow soldier's deathCBS News
8 US soldiers charged in fellow soldier's deathThe Associated Press -TIME
all 568 news articles »

Kim Death May Intensify North Korea Debate in South’s Elections – BusinessWeek

Kim Death May Intensify North Korea Debate in South's Elections
By Patrick Harrington and Marie-France Han Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) — Kim Jong Il's death may intensify voter focus in South Korean presidential and legislative election campaigns on policy toward a nuclear-armed neighbor now undergoing its first political
Emperor Group Temporarily Halts North Korea Casino Operation on Kim DeathBloomberg
North Korea Opens Some Border CrossingsWall Street Journal
New North Korean leader issued military orders, South Korea saysCNN
AFP -Fox News -The Guardian
all 1,415 news articles »

Aaron Rodgers is 2011 AP Male Athlete of Year

 (AP) — Aaron Rodgers is the 2011 Male Athlete of the Year chosen by members of The Associated Press after his MVP performance in the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl victory in February and his stellar play during the team’s long unbeaten run this season.

Rodgers received 112 votes out of the 212 ballots submitted from U.S. news organizations that make up the AP’s membership. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander finished second with 50 votes, followed by tennis standout Novak Djokovic, Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton and NASCAR champion Tony Stewart.

Rodgers is one of three quarterbacks to receive the honor in the past five years. The New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees won last year and the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady won in 2007.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jon Corzine and the Romance with Risk

By now, I’ve read dozens of articles about Jon Corzine and the fall of MF Global. But I think this piece in Dealbook is a best all-around explainer about Jon Corzine and his appetite for risk:
[Jon Corzine] pushed through a $6.3 billion bet on European debt — a wager big enough to wipe out the firm five times over if it went bad — despite concerns from other executives and board members. And it is now clear that he personally lobbied regulators and auditors about the strategy.
His obsession with trading was apparent to MF Global insiders over his 19-month tenure. Mr. Corzine compulsively traded for the firm on his BlackBerry during meetings, sometimes dashing out to check on the markets. And unusually for a chief executive, he became a core member of the group that traded using the firm’s money. His profits and losses appeared on a separate line in documents with his initials: JSC.
This seems like a surprise, however:
He was a popular manager, former employees say. An avuncular presence with a beard and sweater vest, he had a knack for remembering names. Even in the firm’s final hours, they recall that Mr. Corzine never lost his temper. His work ethic also impressed colleagues. He often started his day with a five-mile run, landing in the office by 6 a.m. and was regularly the last person to leave the office.
But the most mind-boggling revelation is that MF Global, through Jon Corzine’s insistence, shied away from implementing a rigorous risk management system at the firm:
Yet soon after joining MF Global, Mr. Corzine torpedoed an effort to build a new risk system, a much-needed overhaul, according to former employees. (A person familiar with Mr. Corzine’s thinking said that he saw the need to upgrade, but that the system being proposed was “unduly expensive” and was focused in part on things the firm didn’t trade.)
Risk management is perhaps the most important function for a bank/financial firm. There is no too steep a price to pay for having a system of checks and balances that would have caught MF Global’s downward spiral and perhaps have done something about it. I need not even mention the lost customer deposits that is now at the core of the investigation following MF Global’s bankruptcy.

Is Jon Corzine “Too Big To Be Indicted”?

The ongoing saga to determine what may have happened at the critical points of demise within MF Global continues again today.

I once again encourage you to grab both a large popcorn and a barf bag while witnessing the House Financial Services Committee Hearing re: MF Global.

Will the committee members have the balls to drill down and address the critical questions as to who knew what and did what to violate the sanctity of segregated customer funds totaling a cool $1.2 billion at MF Global?

Will we be fed a line of questioning by committee members which fails to put Jon Corzine on the spot?
Might we witness a day not often seen in modern American history in which a once mighty financial and political titan is compelled to provide the truth? Will Jon Corzine be forced to confront the testimony provided earlier this week by Terrence Duffy, CEO of the CME.

Let’s help the committee members out and provide a line of questioning which they should pursue if they have any sense of rectitude and dignity. To this end, I welcome referencing BankThink’s Francine McKenna’s fabulous commentary, Hard Questions Lawmakers Should Ask at MF Global Hearing.
McKenna provides questions which the best prosecutors in the country would appreciate. She also provides a frame of reference for her questioning which can only be defined as enlightening.
Let’s navigate as Mckenna writes,
So if I were one of the lawmakers on the House panel, I’d ask the following questions on Thursday:
To Corzine and Abelow:
Did you pledge customer assets to obtain a last-minute line of credit from a private investor intended to hold the firm over until a sale was completed over the weekend?
Were those customer assets liquidated when MF Global filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 31? If so, which firm or individual lent money to MF Global using customer assets as collateral? Who authorized the movement of customer assets to a house account for this purpose?
Was the account inside or outside the U.S.? Which custodian enabled this illegal transfer of assets? Who in MF Global arranged this financing with the intention of repaying the loan and replacing the assets when a sale of the firm was completed?
Such an arrangement is not beyond the imagination. MF Global could have gotten the idea from firms it has done business with.
In August of 2007, the SEC used an emergency temporary restraining order to stop Illinois-based managed futures advisor Sentinel Management Group from continuing to loot customer accounts after declaring bankruptcy. Sentinel claimed to have $1.2 billion in assets under management prior to filing for Chapter 11 protection. Sentinel defrauded its clients by improperly commingling, misappropriating and leveraging those clients’ securities without their knowledge, the SEC said.
Sentinel transferred at least $460 million in securities from client investment accounts to a “house” account, the agency said. Sentinel also used securities from client accounts as collateral to obtain a $321 million line of credit as well as additional leveraged financing.
MF Global was a customer of Sentinel. According to the most recent annual report, Sentinel’s bankruptcy trustee sued MF Global to claw back a late withdrawal from Sentinel.
The Sentinel trustee also sued Bank of New York for enabling the commingling of customer assets with firm assets. MF Global also has a relationship with Bank of New York. The firm transferred UK customer assets to BNY in August. It did so after FINRA pushed MF Global to increase capital in its U.S. brokerage unit as a result of a $6.3 billion repo-to-maturity transaction backed by European sovereign debt. Taking the assets off MF Global’s U.S. brokerage firm books reduced regulatory capital requirements.
Did MF Global have sufficient internal controls over financial reporting given the breach of segregated funds that occurred subsequent to the Sarbanes-Oxley certifications signed for the fiscal year ended March 31 and the quarters ended June 30 and Sept. 30?
Were you and MF Global CFO Steenkamp being truthful with your auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, when you signed the Sarbanes-Oxley certifications and assured investors and regulators of the adequacy of internal controls over financial reporting?
To MF Global auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers:
Your firm certified that, “in our opinion, the Company maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of March 31, 2011.” Why did PwC allow MF Global financial statements to be issued (and used to back MF Global’s August bond issue) with a clean audit opinion?
No deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting or in controls over segregated assets were noted even though, given the breach of customer segregated funds and the reports of accounting and systems disarray, there were obviously serious ones present.
Why didn’t PwC issue a “going concern” qualification to the March 31 annual financial statements?
Given everything that’s been going badly inside and outside of MF Global, it sure looks like PwC could have raised doubts about the brokerage’s ability to survive the next 12 months, which is the threshold for issuing a “qualified” accounting opinion.
MF Global had lost money since its IPO in 2007. Structural problems – a low interest rate environment and lower trading volumes – apparently could not be fixed or, at least, not fixed on a timely basis to restore profitability under the primary business model. Free cash flow was severely negative in 2009 and 2011. The firm had embarked on a highly risky proprietary trading strategy to quickly restore profitability that added significant market and concentration risk.
To the CFTC, SEC, and FINRA:
Why did the agencies allow Corzine to serve as CEO and Chairman of MF Global and simultaneously a partner at Flowers’ firm J.C. Flowers?
Corzine’s loyalty seems to have been biased, in my opinion, towards recouping Flowers’ investment rather than protecting shareholders.
Did PwC identify any material inadequacies in MF Global’s controls over safeguarding customer assets in any of the required reports submitted to your agencies under the Commodity Exchange Act? Did your agencies follow up on those reports?
MF Global recently settled five class actions brought on behalf of purchasers of MF Global stock between the 2007 IPO and Feb. 28, 2008 regarding alleged misrepresentations and omissions related to risk management and monitoring practices and procedures.
PwC must review the procedures for safeguarding customer and firm assets in accordance with the Commodity Exchange Act on an annual basis. The annual audit, completed most recently for the fiscal year ended March 31, must include a review of a firm’s practices and procedures for computing the amounts that, by law, have to be set aside in clients’ accounts each day. MF Global also had to send regulators an annual supplemental report from PwC. The report would describe any material inadequacies existing since the date of the previous audit and any corrective action taken or proposed.
To James Kobak, Chief Counsel to James Giddens, bankruptcy trustee for MF Global Inc.:
Can you and Giddens continue to serve as bankruptcy trustee and counsel in light of the significant conflicts your law firm, Hughes Hubbard & Reed, has from your work with JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM) and PwC?
PwC is MF Global’s auditor and a creditor of MF Global. The audit firm is the auditor of HHR, Giddens’ law firm, and it is a client of the law firm. PwC is also auditor of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), MF Global’s largest creditor. JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) has also been a client of HHR. PwC in particular could have been tempted to use its significant knowledge of MF Global, its flaws and its sins, to help its viable clients, HHR and JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM), rather than MF Global shareholders.
Can we quickly get Francine McKenna appointed to the House Financial Services Committee or at the very least on the committee staff. I have more confidence in her than any sitting committee member.
I ask now for the sixth time, “Is Jon Corzine Too Big to Be Indicted”? (NYSE:V)]

What do you think?
Larry Doyle
Isn’t it time to  subscribe to all my work via e-mail, RSS feed, on Twitter or Facebook? Do your friends, family, and colleagues a favor and get them to do the same. Thanks!!

I have no affiliation or business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets, our economy, and our political realm so that meaningful investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

By Larry Doyle