Credit Default: The Poison in the System

Credit Default Swaps; The poison in the system   
by Mike Whitney
In a little more than a decade, Credit Default Swaps (CDS) have ballooned into a multi-billion dollar industry which has changed the fundamental character of the financial system and increased systemic risk by many orders of magnitude. CDS, which were originally created to reduce potential losses from defaulting bonds, has turned into a cash cow for the big banks, generating mega-profits on, what amounts to, nothing more than legalized gambling.
In the case of insurance giant AIG, losses from CDS transactions has already cost the American people $150 billion, and yet their still has been no serious effort in Congress to ban them once and for all. Even worse, CDS is the root-cause of systemic risk which connects hundreds of financial institutions together in a lethal daisy-chain that threatens to crash the entire system if one of the main players goes under.

CDS contracts are not cleared on a centralized exchange nor are they government regulated. That means that no one really knows whether issuers of CDS can pay off potential claims or not. It's a Ponzi-insurance racket of the first order.
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Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Rainey Hopewell and Margot Johnston, Zoe Blunt, Janine Bandcroft May 25, 2009

This Week on GR
by C. L. Cook
This week: Victoria garden activists Rainey Hopewell and Margot Johnston of the Haultain Commons on neighbourhood cooperation for food growing and energy savings; Langford-based environmental activist, Zoe Blunt on Wild Earth and Victoria NO2010 organizing; and, Victoria Street Newz publisher and broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft brings us up to speed with local goings on.
Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Monday, 5-6pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, 104.3 cable, and on the internet at: He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:
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A Carbon-Free, Nuclear Free Earth

A Carbon-Free, Nuclear Free Earth
by Public Citizen
Public Citizen's energy program advocates for clean and sustainable energy.  We safeguard consumers from the impacts of electricity deregulation,  educate the public on the dangers of nuclear power while encouraging responsible nuclear waste management, and fight against environmental degradation by promoting clean energy alternative.

The Energy Program strives to provide energy activists and policy makers with the tools they need to advocate for and attain a reliable and sustainable energy future.

Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, by Dr. Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, serves as a viable proposal to move our energy sector away from the polluting and hazardous energy sources of the past by demonstrating the feasibility of eliminating our dependency on finite resources. 

View our video on Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free above

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Iraq: Relighting the Insurgent Fire

Provoking the Inevitable
by Dahr Jamail  | t r u t h o u t
On Monday, Iraqi government security forces arrested two prominent Sunni leaders in Iraq's volatile Diyala Province. One of them, Sheikh Riyadh al-Mujami, not coincidentally, is a prominent leader in the local Sahwa (Sons of Iraq), the 100,000-strong Sunni militia that was set up by the US military to quell attacks against occupation forces and launch an effort to battle al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Image by Mykeru
Both of those objectives were accomplished, but these efforts are being erased by ongoing missions by Iraqi government security forces, sometimes backed by the US military, to kill or capture both Sahwa leadership and fighters. The results of these attacks against the Sahwa are already evident in an escalation in violence that has taken two forms - a dramatic increase in spectacular attacks against Iraqi civilians and increasing attacks against occupation forces.
The Sahwa played a critical role in the reduction of overall violence in Iraq. When the US decided to pay off the resistance (to the tune of $300 per month per fighter) that was effectively shredding occupation forces from late 2003 until mid-2006, the number of US military personnel being killed began to decline, and has, until recently, continued to decline. The Sahwa were also effective in finding and eliminating al-Qaeda in Iraq, so the fact that we are now seeing a renewing of horrific attacks against the Shia should not come as a surprise as the Sahwa continue to leave their security posts around the country.
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Victoria Community TV Presents

Victoria Community TV presents: On Shaw TV
Face to Face with David Orchard ... Author, nationalist, organic farmer, and politician ... David Orchard has done it all and always in his own quiet and understated way.  Please join us as David discusses the issues of the day from climate change and nuclear power to the family farm, NAFTA and his career in politics. 
Saturday, May 23:  11 PM to 11:55 
Sunday, May 24:  9:30 PM to 10:25
Face to Face with John (Splitting the Sky) Boncore:  Meet the man who went to Calgary a few months ago to take on the important job of arresting war criminal George Bush who was there to speak to a gathering of business people.  Host Chris Cook does a great job of interviewing someone who is quite a man, and bringing out his story, which is very different from the Corporate Media's portrayal of him.  In fact we do have a duty to deal with war criminals, and John Boncore took this duty on for all the rest of us...
Saturday, May 23:  11 AM to 12 noon
Sunday, May 24:  3 PM to 4
Channel 11 in Victoria and on Saltspring Island
Channel 4 in Duncan and in the Cowichan Valley 

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Making Texas Glow: Radioactive Dump Gets Go-Ahead over Ogallala

RadWaste and Texas' Future
by Laray Polk
How do you get people to vote for radioactive waste to be dumped in Texas in close proximity to the Ogallala and Dockum aquifers? And how do you also get the same community to agree to bankroll the project's $75 million buildout costs? You sell it as a prosperity issue.  

The promise of future prosperity is more hopeful than discussing point-blank realities. Namely, that the source of prosperity is a dumpsite in west Texas, near the border of New Mexico, that has the potential for receiving varying grades of radioactive waste from 36 states. And the geographical area in question has three inherent properties that have scientists, engineers and activists worried: red clay, aquifers and high winds.

On May 9, voters from Andrews County went to the booth to participate in a bond election, paid for by Waste Control Specialists (WCS), to decide whether or not their county will pay for such a dumpsite. 642 people voted affirmative and 639 against.   
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Obama Takes Up the Torture Mantle

Michael Ratner: It's outrageous to equate people who demand the rule of law with those who break it

Michael Ratner is President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York. He has taught at Yale Law School, lectured at Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild.
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Paler Shade of Green

A Paler Shade of Green
by Chris Genovali
Reflecting on the noise of the just concluded election in British Columbia, an amusing turn of phrase that appeared on the American political blog comes to mind: "Yea, Though I Walk Through the Valley of Dumb, I Shall Fear No Idiocy."
Green Crusader? Three-peat B.C. premier Gordon Campbell

The pithy title of a commentary on the truly bizarre reaction amongst the U.S. right-wing to the nascent presidency of Barack Obama, it seems more than appropriate as a summation for what has just occurred in B.C. According to the punditry and analysis by some media commentators and environmentalists, the B.C. Liberals' three-peat can be, in great part, attributed to support for their climate change policy, specifically the carbon tax.
The question is whether this particular post-mortem spin is due to the general facileness of election reporting or an inflated sense of influence endemic to certain activists or simply wishful thinking.

To paraphrase Cuba Gooding's character in "Jerry Maguire," show me the polling!
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Good Pol, Bad Pol: Making Policy Look Good?

Does Cheney Make Obama Look Good Enough?
by David Swanson
Dick Cheney could make anyone look decent, honorable, and law-abiding by comparison. But is the existence of someone worse, no matter how many hours our media monopoly gives him, enough to make Obama's decisions acceptable? Let's look at their pair of speeches given on Thursday in Washington, D.C., and depicted as a debate by the media.

President Obama began speaking at 10:28 a.m., 18 minutes late, and spoke until 35 minutes after Cheney's scheduled start, but Cheney delayed and began at 11:20. Obama had scheduled his own speech to coincide with Cheney's, no doubt to defend against some of Cheney's statements, but also probably because of the politically advantageous contrast with someone so very unpopular and someone always advocating greater illegality and abusiveness.

Obama began by talking about keeping Americans safe from an extremist ideology, 9-11, and al Qaeda (which he said, based on what I know not, was "actively plotting to attack us again"). He depicted war in Afghanistan and Pakistan as revenge: "taking the fight to the people who attacked us." But he said this standing in the National Archives in front of a Constitution that requires a declaration of war by Congress before launching a war against Pakistan or Afghanistan or anywhere else. Just as I had that thought, President Obama named the documents in the room (the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence, but not the Magna Carta which is usually there too). The words "CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" appeared behind the president as he spoke.
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Af-Pak and Away: War Spreading

Going for Broke: Six Ways the Af-Pak War Is Expanding
by Tom Engelhardt
Yes, Stanley McChrystal is the general from the dark side (and proud of it). So the recent sacking of Afghan commander General David McKiernan after less than a year in the field and McChrystal's appointment as the man to run the Afghan War seems to signal that the Obama administration is going for broke. It's heading straight into what, in the Vietnam era, was known as "the big muddy."
Tora Bora, Afghanistan - October 2001

General McChrystal comes from a world where killing by any means is the norm and a blanket of secrecy provides the necessary protection. For five years he commanded the Pentagon's super-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which, among other things, ran what Seymour Hersh has described as an "executive assassination wing" out of Vice President Cheney's office. (Cheney just returned the favor by giving the newly appointed general a ringing endorsement: "I think you'd be hard put to find anyone better than Stan McChrystal.")

McChrystal gained a certain renown when President Bush outed him as the man responsible for tracking down and eliminating al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The secret force of "manhunters" he commanded had its own secret detention and interrogation center near Baghdad, Camp Nama, where bad things happened regularly, and the unit there, Task Force 6-26, had its own slogan: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." Since some of the task force's men were, in the end, prosecuted, the bleeding evidently wasn't avoided.
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RBC Torch Dry Runs in Victoria

Practice Torch Run Confirmed  
by  No2010 Victoria
VICTORIA, COAST SALISH TERRITORIES, MAY 21, 2009The Royal Bank-sponsored “Olympic Torch Practice Run” was greeted at its first stop by a “Practice Protest” in downtown Victoria this morning.

A prototype of the Olympic Torch is visiting five Victoria RBC locations this week to “practice” for the Olympic Torch Relay, which will begin at Mile Zero in Victoria on October 30, 2009.  The “Olympic Torch Welcoming Committee” wielded banners, signs, and noisemakers to “practice” protesting the Olympic Torch relay.

“We’re here today because homeless people could be housed for a fraction of what the Torch Relay is costing taxpayers,” said spokesperson Zoe Blunt.  “We’re here because First Nations peoples’ land rights are still violated daily, social justice activists are facing increasing harassment and surveillance, and our children and grandchildren will still be paying for this extravagance years from now.”

Chief of Police Jamie Graham warned activists gathered inside the bank that they would be arrested if they “defaced” property after one person wrote “No Olympics on Stolen Land” on a banner made available for public signing. Other members of the “Olympic Torch Welcoming Committee” were expelled from the public celebrations inside RBC by Victoria police and private security guards for carrying anti-Olympic signs drawn on cardboard.
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Pliable Security Letters and the FBI

FBI's Use of National Security Letters Soar in 2008
by Tom Burghardt
The FBI's employment of Constitution-killing National Security Letters (NSLs) to nab the personal details of Americans without benefit of a court order soared in 2008. NSLs are written demands by the Bureau (call them self-authorized subpoenas) that compel internet service providers, credit card companies, banks and other financial institutions to turn over records about their customers.

In a letter to the Senate and House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees May 14, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said that the FBI issued 24,744 NSLs in 2008 compared to 16,804 the previous year. While less than the 49,000 letters issued by the Bureau in 2006, it still represents a dramatic rise in the use of these onerous warrants.

Under cover of counterterrorism or espionage investigations, the FBI can demand that communications records such as subscriber information, phone numbers, email addresses, web sites browsed or personal financial records can be seized and catalogued by Bureau snoops.
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