October 29, 2008

"The President, His Fellow Plaintiffs and Counsel Murray Norman Trachtenberg"

NEWS BULLETIN! Co-Defendant Pieuk caves in - offers MMF deal they can't refuse!

by Clare L. Pieuk

As originally posted on: CyberSmokeBlog.blogspot.com
May 16, 2006

Tansi/Good Day Folks:

Word has reached me David Chartrand is desperately looking for a way to end this turkey of a defamation lawsuit which has become an MMF public relations nightmare in the midst of an election! Therefore, to be Big about it, I've decided to help The President, his fellow Plaintiffs and Counsel Murray Norman Trachtenberg by making the following generous Offer To Settle which was surface mailed today.


Clare L. Pieuk


File No. CI 05-01-41955
Winnipeg Centre
(Expedited Action – Rule 20A)




- and -



2-371 Des Meurons Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R2H 2N6


Defendant Clare L. Pieuk offers to settle this action on the following terms and conditions:

1. Co-Defendant Pieuk shall pay to each Plaintiff the amount of $1.00 Canadian (one Loonie) with the exception of Mr. David N. Chartrand who will receive $2.00 Canadian (one Toonie) in recognition of his position as President, Manitoba Metis Federation. Such payment shall be by way of certified cheque or bank draft or lawyer’s trust cheque and shall be received by the Plaintiffs’ Counsel within 7 days of the acceptance of this Offer and in any event, no later than 12:01 on Friday May 26, 2006.

2. The Co-Defendant will provide an original signed letter of apology to Counsel for the Plaintiffs at the time the amount of $18.00 is paid.

3. The following apology/retraction letter will be posted on http://www.cybersmokeblog.blogspot.com for ten (10) calendar days:

There has been an exchange of opinions expressed by David Chartrand and his supporters, on one hand, and myself (and others) on the other in relation to Metis hunting rights and the role of the MMF. Some of these views have been expressed publicly through a number of media – websites, newspapers and public gatherings and meetings. A number of Metis, through various means, including letters to your website have expressed a level of discomfort with all of the "arguing" going on. Some of these opinions, on both sides, have bordered close to being personal attacks and possibly dafamatory – probably because both sides speak about issues close to their hearts and what they have been fighting for a longtime.

As some point there needs to be a re-examination of the process. I won’t repeat some of the comments made about me but I believe that some of them are undeserved and go beyond what is appropriate. As for my contributions – sure I disagree with and oppose the position of the MMF on how to further our people’s hunting, fishing, harvesting and other Section 35 constitutional rights. That is my right as an MMF member. If I do not agree with my politicians – I can express that along with my reasons. Similarly, the MMF and its President can be critical of any Metis Member or any lawyer’s opinion on how these issues should be handled.

For my part, I would like to say for the record that while I have my own personal views of handling these complicated issues arising from court decisions on harvesting rights, I respect our democratic system and rules for governance. I also respect our right to free speech and the fact that we can push through advocacy and through the courts if we feel this is the better way to make our points.

Once elected, the Board of Directors and the President have the mandate to act in the manner they believe is in the best interests of the Metis in Manitoba. Judging by the diverse comments on different websites, it is clear there are vast differences of opinion on what this may be. Some people have expressed to me the belief that my comments go too far. I want to make it clear that while I may have used strong language to make some of my points, I do not intend to suggest or insinuate that the MMF Inc. or its President are doing anything illegal or malicious. I also do not intend to cast any personal attacks about any person’s personal abilities, characteristics or their personal lives. I agree with one of your reader’s comments that the interests of the Metis Nation will not be promoted by any of us "going overboard" and commenting on things that go beyond the immediate issues we are giving our opinions about.

Lionel Chartrand
February 11, 2004

4. The Manitoba Metis Federation also post this apology on its website http://www.mmf.mb.ca for ten (10) calendar days.

5. The Plaintiffs agree to pay all Co-Defendant Pieuk's legal costs plus interest forthwith

6. Within 7 days from the receipt of the funds and documents referred to in paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 4, Counsel for the Plaintiffs will provide:

(a) A Release in a form mutually acceptable to the Plaintiffs, their Counsel and Co-Defendant Pieuk

(b) A Notice of Discontinuance without costs in a form mutually acceptable to the Plaintiffs, their Counsel and Co-Defendant Pieuk

THIS OFFER IS OPEN for acceptance until 12:01 a.m. Friday May 26, 2006 after which time it will expire.

DATED May 16, 2006.

2-371 Des Meurons Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R2H 2N6

Barristers, Solicitors & Notaries Public
710 – 491 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 2E4

Solicitor for the Plaintiffs

October 28, 2008

"The Industry" and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)


by Jim Hightower

As originally posted on: Jim Hightower
September 26, 2008

Be careful out there. The corporate powers are messing with us again.

Here comes Hershey, the iconic candy company that claims to be “committed to making the world’s best chocolate.” For example, such brands as Mr. Goodbar, Milk Duds, and Take Five brag right on the label that they’re “made with chocolate.” Only … they’re not.

Chocolate, as you probably know, is made of cocoa butter. It’s yummy stuff. But get out your magnifying glass to read the labels of the Hershey bars that claim to be “made with chocolate,” and you’ll find oils from palm kernels, soybeans, sunflower, and safflower listed – but no cocoa butter. None.

How can this be? Trying to find the logic of it will cause your brain to explode, but here is the essence of the deception. The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates candy contents, says flatly that cocoa butter is the required fat for chocolate. However – under pressure from most of the industry’s big players, the FDA allows the use of such tricky phrases as “made with chocolate,” “chocolately,” and “chocolate candy” to label products that actually have zero of the good stuff in them.

It is, in other words, a government-sanctioned consumer fraud. But the industry wants to deepen the fraud by getting FDA regulators to alter the very definition of chocolate so that it no longer mentions cocoa butter. It’d be like saying that wineries could eliminate grapes and still label their product “wine.” A spokesman for the big candy makers' lobbying group says that their attempt to pervert plain language is necessary in order to “modernize” FDA’s rules and “accommodate innovation.”

It's more like accommodating a blatant consumer rip-off. The good news is that independent chocolatiers and consumers are in rebellion against this sneaky push for non-chocolate chocolate. To learn what’s going on with your own favorite chocolates, check out http://www.candyblog.org.

“Chocolate Lovers Pained by Candy Changes,” http://abcnews.go.com/Business/IndustryInfo/story?id=5689239, September 2, 2008.

"The Rich"

Maybe the rich are the problem

by Linda McQuaig

As originally posted on: TheStar.com
October 21, 2008

John McCain clearly thought he'd found a winning issue last week when Barack Obama was caught on tape defending his plan to tax the rich and "spread the wealth around."

Gotcha! For days, the faltering Republican nominee relentlessly harangued Obama for saying such a thing, championing "Joe the Plumber," whose confrontation with Obama had provoked the remark.

Of course, many were surprised when Joe the Plumber turned out to be neither a real plumber nor a guy named Joe.

More surprising was the fact that – like the famous bridge in Alaska – McCain's attempt to vilify Obama for wanting to "spread the wealth around" ended up going nowhere.

For decades, conservatives have disparaged the notion of "spreading the wealth," relegating such economic populism to the margins of public debate. The vast pools of wealth at the top have been off-limits as a political issue – in the United States and Canada.

But a seismic shift could be underway. With the financial crisis exposing Wall Street's greedy and reckless behaviour, the public may be becoming less deferential to the super-rich. Last weekend, CNN ran a special on Wall Street called Fall of the Fat Cats – a damning take on the nation's financial elite that would have been inconceivable only a few months ago.

So far, the focus has been mostly on the misbehaviour of "fat cats," and the need, therefore, for tighter market regulations. But a more profound question lurks beneath the surface: Is extreme inequality itself part of the problem?

Some analysts are now arguing that the extreme concentration of wealth may have contributed to the crisis, just as a similarly extreme concentration of wealth in the 1920s contributed to the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.

In his classic The Great Crash 1929, the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith put "the bad distribution of income" – the top 5 per cent of the population received one-third of all income – at the top of his list of key factors causing the disaster.

James Livingston, a historian at Rutgers University, sees strong similarities between then and now.

Livingston points out that in the 1920s there was a massive shift in the distribution of income away from wages toward corporate profits. With consumer demand suppressed by the restraint on wages, corporations had little incentive to invest their hefty profits in expanding production. So they turned to financial speculation.

Since the 1980s, there's been a similar income shift away from wages toward profits. Livingston argues that, with consumer demand suppressed, George W. Bush's massive tax cuts for the rich "produced a new tidal wave of surplus capital with no place to go except real estate," fuelling the housing bubble.

This suggests extreme inequality itself may lead to financial speculation. If so, meaningful solutions may have to go beyond re-regulation, and include a return to higher taxes on the rich.

Of course, the rich – and their think-tanks and media outlets – would insist such measures will stifle economic growth. But in the years between the Great Depression and the 1980s, financial markets were tightly regulated – and the rich were highly taxed. Yet – and this is crucial – those early post-war decades were times of great prosperity and growth.

Progressives have long argued for higher taxes on the wealthy – on grounds of fairness. But now, as the financial meltdown threatens to destroy the real economy, fairness may be secondary. Taxing the rich may boil down to a question of economic survival.

Linda McQuaig's column appears every other week. lmcquaig@sympatico.ca

October 26, 2008

"The Rich"

by Michael Moore

As originally posted on: The Huffington Post
October 1, 2008


The richest 400 Americans - that's right, just four hundred people - own MORE than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. 400 rich Americans have got more stashed away than half the entire country! Their combined net worth is $1.6 trillion. During the eight years of the Bush Administration, their wealth has increased by nearly $700 billion - the same amount that they are now demanding we give to them for the "bailout." Why don't they just spend the money they made under Bush to bail themselves out? They'd still have nearly a trillion dollars left over to spread amongst themselves!

Of course, they are not going to do that - at least not voluntarily. George W. Bush was handed a $127 billion surplus when Bill Clinton left office. Because that money was OUR money and not his, he did what the rich prefer to do - spend it and never look back. Now we have a $9.5 trillion debt. Why on earth would we even think of giving these robber barons any more of our money?

I would like to propose my own bailout plan. My suggestions, listed below, are predicated on the singular and simple belief that the rich must pull themselves up by their own platinum bootstraps. Sorry, fellows, but you drilled it into our heads one too many times: There... is... no... free... lunch. And thank you for encouraging us to hate people on welfare! So, there will be no handouts from us to you. The Senate, tonight, is going to try to rush their version of a "bailout" bill to a vote. They must be stopped. We did it on Monday with the House, and we can do it again today with the Senate.

It is clear, though, that we cannot simply keep protesting without proposing exactly what it is we think Congress should do. So, after consulting with a number of people smarter than Phil Gramm, here is my proposal, now known as "Mike's Rescue Plan." It has 10 simple, straightforward points. They are:

1. APPOINT A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR TO CRIMINALLY INDICT ANYONE ON WALL STREET WHO KNOWINGLY CONTRIBUTED TO THIS COLLAPSE. Before any new money is expended, Congress must commit, by resolution, to criminally prosecute anyone who had anything to do with the attempted sacking of our economy. This means that anyone who committed insider trading, securities fraud or any action that helped bring about this collapse must go to jail. This Congress must call for a Special Prosecutor who will vigorously go after everyone who created the mess, and anyone else who attempts to scam the public in the future.

2. THE RICH MUST PAY FOR THEIR OWN BAILOUT. They may have to live in 5 houses instead of 7. They may have to drive 9 cars instead of 13. The chef for their mini-terriers may have to be reassigned. But there is no way in hell, after forcing family incomes to go down more than $2,000 dollars during the Bush years, that working people and the middle class are going to fork over one dime to underwrite the next yacht purchase.

If they truly need the $700 billion they say they need, well, here is an easy way they can raise it:

a) Every couple who makes over a million dollars a year and every single taxpayer who makes over $500,000 a year will pay a 10% surcharge tax for five years. (It's the Senator Sanders plan. He's like Colonel Sanders, only he's out to fry the right chickens.) That means the rich will still be paying less income tax than when Carter was president. This will raise a total of $300 billion.

b) Like nearly every other democracy, charge a 0.25% tax on every stock transaction. This will raise more than $200 billion in a year.

c) Because every stockholder is a patriotic American, stockholders will forgo receiving a dividend check for one quarter and instead this money will go the treasury to help pay for the bailout.

d) 25% of major U.S. corporations currently pay NO federal income tax. Federal corporate tax revenues currently amount to 1.7% of the GDP compared to 5% in the 1950s. If we raise the corporate income tax back to the level of the 1950s, that gives us an extra $500 billion.

All of this combined should be enough to end the calamity. The rich will get to keep their mansions and their servants, and our United States government ("COUNTRY FIRST!") will have a little leftover to repair some roads, bridges and schools.

3. BAIL OUT THE PEOPLE LOSING THEIR HOMES, NOT THE PEOPLE WHO WILL BUILD AN EIGHTH HOME. There are 1.3 million homes in foreclosure right now. That is what is at the heart of this problem. So instead of giving the money to the banks as a gift, pay down each of these mortgages by $100,000. Force the banks to renegotiate the mortgage so the homeowner can pay on its current value. To insure that this help does no go to speculators and those who have tried to make money by flipping houses, this bailout is only for people's primary residence. And in return for the $100K paydown on the existing mortgage, the government gets to share in the holding of the mortgage so that it can get some of its money back. Thus, the total initial cost of fixing the mortgage crisis at its roots (instead of with the greedy lenders) is $150 billion, not $700 billion.

And let's set the record straight. People who have defaulted on their mortgages are not "bad risks." They are our fellow Americans, and all they wanted was what we all want and most of us still get: a home to call their own. But during the Bush years, millions of them lost the decent paying jobs they had. Six million fell into poverty. Seven million lost their health insurance. And every one of them saw their real wages go down by $2,000. Those who dare to look down on these Americans who got hit with one bad break after another should be ashamed. We are a better, stronger, safer and happier society when all of our citizens can afford to live in a home that they own.

4. IF YOUR BANK OR COMPANY GETS ANY OF OUR MONEY IN A "BAILOUT," THEN WE OWN YOU. Sorry, that's how it's done. If the bank gives me money so I can buy a house, the bank "owns" that house until I pay it all back - with interest. Same deal for Wall Street. Whatever money you need to stay afloat, if our government considers you a safe risk - and necessary for the good of the country - then you can get a loan, but we will own you. If you default, we will sell you. This is how the Swedish government did it and it worked.

5. ALL REGULATIONS MUST BE RESTORED. THE REAGAN REVOLUTION IS DEAD. This catastrophe happened because we let the fox have the keys to the henhouse. In 1999, Phil Gramm authored a bill to remove all the regulations that governed Wall Street and our banking system. The bill passed and Clinton signed it. Here's what Sen. Phil Gramm, McCain's chief economic advisor, said at the bill signing:

"In the 1930s ... it was believed that government was the answer. It was believed that stability and growth came from government overriding the functioning of free markets.

"We are here today to repeal [that] because we have learned that government is not the answer. We have learned that freedom and competition are the answers. We have learned that we promote economic growth and we promote stability by having competition and freedom.

"I am proud to be here because this is an important bill; it is a deregulatory bill. I believe that that is the wave of the future, and I am awfully proud to have been a part of making it a reality."

This bill must be repealed. Bill Clinton can help by leading the effort for the repeal of the Gramm bill and the reinstating of even tougher regulations regarding our financial institutions. And when they're done with that, they can restore the regulations for the airlines, the inspection of our food, the oil industry, OSHA, and every other entity that affects our daily lives. All oversight provisions for any "bailout" must have enforcement monies attached to them and criminal penalties for all offenders.

6. IF IT'S TOO BIG TO FAIL, THEN THAT MEANS IT'S TOO BIG TO EXIST. Allowing the creation of these mega-mergers and not enforcing the monopoly and anti-trust laws has allowed a number of financial institutions and corporations to become so large, the very thought of their collapse means an even bigger collapse across the entire economy. No one or two companies should have this kind of power. The so-called "economic Pearl Harbor" can't happen when you have hundreds - thousands - of institutions where people have their money. When you have a dozen auto companies, if one goes belly-up, we don't face a national disaster. If you have three separately-owned daily newspapers in your town, then one media company can't call all the shots (I know... What am I thinking?! Who reads a paper anymore? Sure glad all those mergers and buyouts left us with a strong and free press!). Laws must be enacted to prevent companies from being so large and dominant that with one slingshot to the eye, the giant falls and dies. And no institution should be allowed to set up money schemes that no one can understand. If you can't explain it in two sentences, you shouldn't be taking anyone's money.

7. NO EXECUTIVE SHOULD BE PAID MORE THAN 40 TIMES THEIR AVERAGE EMPLOYEE, AND NO EXECUTIVE SHOULD RECEIVE ANY KIND OF "PARACHUTE" OTHER THAN THE VERY GENEROUS SALARY HE OR SHE MADE WHILE WORKING FOR THE COMPANY. In 1980, the average American CEO made 45 times what their employees made. By 2003, they were making 254 times what their workers made. After 8 years of Bush, they now make over 400 times what their average employee makes. How this can happen at publicly held companies is beyond reason. In Britain, the average CEO makes 28 times what their average employee makes. In Japan, it's only 17 times! The last I heard, the CEO of Toyota was living the high life in Tokyo. How does he do it on so little money? Seriously, this is an outrage. We have created the mess we're in by letting the people at the top become bloated beyond belief with millions of dollars. This has to stop. Not only should no executive who receives help out of this mess profit from it, but any executive who was in charge of running his company into the ground should be fired before the company receives any help.

8. STRENGTHEN THE FDIC AND MAKE IT A MODEL FOR PROTECTING NOT ONLY PEOPLE'S SAVINGS, BUT ALSO THEIR PENSIONS AND THEIR HOMES. Obama was correct yesterday to propose expanding FDIC protection of people's savings in their banks to $250,000. But this same sort of government insurance must be given to our nation's pension funds. People should never have to worry about whether or not the money they've put away for their old age will be there. This will mean strict government oversight of companies who manage their employees' funds - or perhaps it means that the companies will have to turn over those funds and their management to the government. People's private retirement funds must also be protected, but perhaps it's time to consider not having one's retirement invested in the casino known as the stock market. Our government should have a solemn duty to guarantee that no one who grows old in this country has to worry about ending up destitute.

9. EVERYBODY NEEDS TO TAKE A DEEP BREATH, CALM DOWN, AND NOT LET FEAR RULE THE DAY. Turn off the TV! We are not in the Second Great Depression. The sky is not falling. Pundits and politicians are lying to us so fast and furious it's hard not to be affected by all the fear mongering. Even I, yesterday, wrote to you and repeated what I heard on the news, that the Dow had the biggest one day drop in its history. Well, that's true in terms of points, but its 7% drop came nowhere close to Black Monday in 1987 when the stock market in one day lost 23% of its value. In the '80s, 3,000 banks closed, but America didn't go out of business. These institutions have always had their ups and downs and eventually it works out. It has to, because the rich do not like their wealth being disrupted! They have a vested interest in calming things down and getting back into the Jacuzzi.

As crazy as things are right now, tens of thousands of people got a car loan this week. Thousands went to the bank and got a mortgage to buy a home. Students just back to college found banks more than happy to put them into hock for the next 15 years with a student loan. Life has gone on. Not a single person has lost any of their money if it's in a bank or a treasury note or a CD. And the most amazing thing is that the American public hasn't bought the scare campaign. The citizens didn't blink, and instead told Congress to take that bailout and shove it. THAT was impressive. Why didn't the population succumb to the fright-filled warnings from their president and his cronies? Well, you can only say 'Saddam has da bomb' so many times before the people realize you're a lying sack of shite. After eight long years, the nation is worn out and simply can't take it any longer.

10. CREATE A NATIONAL BANK, A "PEOPLE'S BANK." If we really are itching to print up a trillion dollars, instead of giving it to a few rich people, why don't we give it to ourselves? Now that we own Freddie and Fannie, why not set up a people's bank? One that can provide low-interest loans for all sorts of people who want to own a home, start a small business, go to school, come up with the cure for cancer or create the next great invention. And now that we own AIG, the country's largest insurance company, let's take the next step and provide health insurance for everyone. Medicare for all. It will save us so much money in the long run. And we won't be 12th on the life expectancy list. We'll be able to have a longer life, enjoying our government-protected pension, and living to see the day when the corporate criminals who caused so much misery are let out of prison so that we can help reacclimate them to civilian life - a life with one nice home and a gas-free car that was invented with help from the People's Bank.


Michael Moore

P.S. Call your Senators now. Here's a backup link in case we crash that site again. They are going to attempt their own version of the Looting of America tonight. And let your reps know if you agree with my 10-point plan.

October 25, 2008

The Conservative Party of Canada

Tory database draws ire of privacy experts

October 18, 2007

OTTAWA - The federal Conservative party's central database is set up to track the confidential concerns of individual constituents without their knowledge or consent, says a former Tory MP.

The issue spilled onto the floor of the House of Commons on Thursday when Garth Turner, the expelled Tory-turned-Liberal MP, accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of an "unethical invasion of Canadians' privacy.''

Privacy experts agree the practice is a clear breach of standard privacy ethics - but probably not the law, because federal political parties fall into a legislative grey area.

A recent mailing by the prime minister to some Jewish households, and households with Jewish-sounding names, highlighted the micro targeting that sophisticated modern databases now facilitate.

The Rosh Hashanah greeting from Harper prompted several recipients to complain to the federal privacy commissioner, who has begun a preliminary inquiry.

It's cast a light on the 21st century art of political communication that may make some Canadians uneasy.

Virtually all federal and provincial parties have computerized databases, but the federal Conservatives are the acknowledged leader in the field of data management and mining.

Their fundraising efforts, based on small donations by thousands of donors, are unparalleled in federal politics.

Both the federal Liberals and the NDP have separate databases for constituency work and voter tracking. Data does not migrate between the two.

But the Conservatives use a single clearing house for all data collection, storage, datamining, mailing lists, voter tracking and any other partisan use such information may serve.

Turner, the Liberal maverick who was elected as a Conservative in 2006 and subsequently turfed from the party, says every Conservative MP is required to use something called CIMS, an acronym for Constituent Information Management System.

CIMS is used not only to track voter allegiance in a given riding - something every political party attempts - but also a host of other data gathered in the course of an MP's constituency office duties.

"Any time a constituent is engaged with the member of Parliament, they get zapped into the database,'' Turner said in an interview. "It's unethical and it's a shocking misuse of data.

"Because once you cotton on to what's going on here, it's not good constituency work at all to allow that data to fall into any kind of hands. But the party is desperate to get more and more data in there because the primary use is fundraising. The secondary use is voter tracking to get out the vote.''

Logging constituent files in a central party database that may also be used as part of election planning, fundraising, advertising strategy and policy deliberation appears to be clearly offside, two nationally respected privacy experts told The Canadian Press.

"If somebody contacts their MP because they're having a problem with their CPP benefit or their military pension, they don't expect to end up on a mailing list for a political party,'' said David Fraser, a Halifax lawyer who specializes in privacy issues with the firm McInnes Cooper.

"If they are going to end up on a mailing list, I think there's an ethical obligation to inform them and give them the opportunity to opt out.''

Michael Geist, a law professor who serves as the Canada research chair of Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, agrees.

"When you're going to your local MP with a concern or a problem, there is a certain level of confidentiality,'' said Geist.

"The notion that it's simply a data point that gets used to characterize the particular constituent could have a bit of a chilling effect.''

Nonetheless, the Conservatives are likely within the letter of Canada's privacy laws, because they are neither a government agency nor considered a commercial operation.

Geist argues that political parties' fundraising efforts might make them liable under the commercial privacy law, known as PIPEDA, but Fraser says the legislation as written suggests otherwise.

"Generally, political parties aren't regulated with respect to how they collect, use and disclose personal information,'' said Fraser.

The Conservatives, who openly boasted about their state-of-the-art CIMS database after purchasing it in 2004, now refuse to discuss it.

"I will not talk about internal party databases,'' said party spokesman Ryan Sparrow. "I'm not disclosing what is in our database, who is in our database.''

When asked if Canadians can request to see their file on the CIMS database, Sparrow responded: "What would be their specific need to see?''

Asked a second time, Sparrow shut down the inquiry.

"I'm not going to help you with your story. It's internal party matters.''

The Liberal party says it voluntarily follows the principles of PIPEDA - including showing any individual who asks what is on their file - even though the act does not apply to political parties.

"We do not keep any information on individuals without their expressed consent,'' said Elizabeth Whiting, the party's communications director.

The NDP also said citizens are free to ask to see their file, although the party is not aware it has ever received such a request.

Fraser said political parties, regardless of the law, should follow the best-practice standards established by the Canadian Standards Association, upon which both federal privacy acts are based.

"Those best practices, which are almost universally recognized in most western democracies, would suggest that political parties should give notice, get consent and provide people access to their information,'' said Fraser.

"Whether or not they choose to do that would speak volumes to how they see themselves as responsible custodians of this personal information.''

October 24, 2008

The System

Indictment: Broadcom Ex-CEO Built Drug Warehouse

Indictment: Broadcom Co-Founder Had Narcotics Warehouse, Hired Prostitutes, Drugged Associates

by Gillian Flaccus

June 6, 2008

SANTA ANA, Calif. - Federal prosecutors may have charged Broadcom co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III in one of the largest stock-option backdating cases in U.S. history, but it was allegations that the billionaire drugged his business cohorts, hired prostitutes and maintained a drug warehouse that grabbed headlines.

A pair of indictments unsealed Thursday charge the 48-year-old with conspiracy and securities fraud in an alleged scheme to backdate stock options that ultimately forced Broadcom to write down $2.2 billion in profits last year. But prosecutors also detailed a litany of drug charges that apparently came as a surprise to Nicholas and his attorneys.

The charges threaten to ground a high-flying lifestyle that prosecutors say featured the former CEO jetting around the world in his two private planes, building a secret lair under his house and hiring strippers to party at a private warehouse stocked with cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy.

Defense attorney Gregory Craig said that Nicholas was innocent and would prevail.

"It's a kitchen-sink attack on Dr. Nicholas. They're trying to throw everything at him from eight years ago," Craig said.

At a court hearing, U.S. Magistrate Arthur Nakazato set Nicholas' bail at $3.3 million. He also ordered random weapons searches and drug tests by the government, home detention, electronic monitoring and the disabling of Nicholas' two private planes. Nicholas, in handcuffs and wearing gray slacks and a white shirt with no tie or belt, nodded vigorously when asked if he agreed to the conditions of release.

Nakazato said he was concerned that Nicholas' extreme wealth could allow him to flee at any moment. He indicated that Nicholas' current Newport Coast home, valued at $15 million to $18 million, would be no impediment to flight for "one of the wealthiest men in the world." Nakazato also said he was bothered by government allegations that Nicholas had threatened and hit a grand jury witness last year during an argument on a private jet.

"If you flee, I will detain you and I will order an arrest warrant and I'll have the marshals and the FBI going on a hunt for you," Nakazato said. "And when they bring you back, I'm not going to show much mercy."

An arraignment hearing was set for June 16. Nicholas did not enter a plea.

Also indicted on the stock-option backdating was Broadcom's former chief financial officer, William J. Ruehle. He was not charged with the drug violations.

Ruehle, 66, was released on $2.6 million bail and surrendered his passport, although he will be allowed to take three international trips that were already planned. He will also be arraigned on June 16.

Ruehle's attorney, Richard Marmaro, said in a statement, "Bill Ruehle is innocent of the charges in the indictment, and he looks forward to the opportunity to clear his good name in a court of law."

Nicholas, who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, co-founded Broadcom Corp. in 1991 with Henry Samueli. The company, which makes microchips for cell phones and broadband Internet devices, reported a strong first-quarter profit in April and forecast second-quarter sales of $1.08 billion to $1.13 billion, ahead of Wall Street expectations.

The 18-page indictment on drug charges alleges that Nicholas kept four properties in Orange County and Las Vegas, including a warehouse in Laguna Niguel, Calif., where he stashed and distributed cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy.

He later remodeled the warehouse with private rooms and furnished it with art and high-end electronics.

The court documents also claim Nicholas hired prostitutes and escorts for himself, his employees and customers and conspired to get illegal prescriptions for drugs such as Valium.

In 2001, Nicholas smoked so much marijuana during a flight on a private jet between Orange County and Las Vegas that the pilot had to put on an oxygen mask, the indictment states.

At a July 1999 Woodstock concert in Rome, N.Y., Nicholas gave a technology executive ecstasy without the executive's knowledge, the indictment states. Nicholas also allegedly spiked a technology executive's drink with ecstacy in New Orleans in early 2000.

Nicholas required his unnamed co-conspirators to provide detailed invoices for drugs they sold to him, and used code names such as "party favors" and "refreshments" to conceal what was being sold, prosecutors claimed.

The allegations recall two earlier civil lawsuits filed against Nicholas that accused him of rampant drug use and hiring prostitutes. One lawsuit was cited by prosecutors in a motion filed Thursday that sought to deny bail for Nicholas.

That suit was filed by Nicholas' former bodyguard and personal assistant, Kenji Kato. A second lawsuit was filed last year by a construction crew that claimed they were hired to build an underground lair for Nicholas where he could indulge in sex with prostitutes and drug use.

The workers claimed Nicholas failed to pay them millions of dollars and used intimidation and death threats to prevent them from leaving the project, which was kept secret from Nicholas' wife and city inspectors.

Nicholas faces a total of 21 counts in both indictments. The drug charges carry a maximum combined sentence of 20 years in prison. He could face up to 340 years in prison on the stock backdating charges.

Ruehle faces 21 counts in the stock options indictment, which accuses him of filing false statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, falsely certified financial reports and committed wire fraud. Ruehle could face up to 370 years if convicted of all counts.

Backdating stock options, which often are granted as hiring and retention incentives, is legal. Companies across the company have run into trouble when they failed to account for the true cost that the backdating created because omitting that cost sometimes inflated the companies' income.

Last month, securities regulators cited Nicholas, Samueli and Ruehle in a civil suit alleging they falsified the company's reported income. The SEC also cited Broadcom general counsel David Dull, but Dull and Samueli were not named in Thursday's criminal indictments.

Nicholas served as CEO and president from Broadcom's inception until he resigned in 2003. At the time, he said he stepped down to try to repair his relationship with his wife.

Nicholas' attorneys said in court Thursday that he has been at a $66,000-a-month Malibu drug rehabilitation center since April.

Ruehle joined the company in 1997 as vice president and chief financial officer and retired in 2006.

Samueli, Nicholas' one-time doctoral adviser, stepped down as chairman of the company's board of directors after the SEC action last month.

Shares rose 65 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $28.75 on Thursday, amid a general upswing in the stock market. Its 52-week trading range was between $16.38 and $43.07.

Florida State Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Aleman

The following decision has been edited in terms of its original formatting.

Supreme Court of Florida


No. SC07-198


[September 29, 2008]


In this case we review the determination by the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) that Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Judge Cheryl Aleman violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and its recommendation that Judge Aleman be publicly reprimanded and charged the costs of investigation and prosecution. For the reasons discussed below, we approve the JQC’s determination and recommendation.


The charges stem from Judge Aleman’s behavior in response to three motions to disqualify her made by Assistant Public Defenders Sandra Perlman and Bruce Raticoff on January 24, 2006, the second day of jury selection in State v. Braynen, a first-degree murder case.[1] On the morning of January 24, Perlman sought to disqualify Judge Aleman based on what Perlman perceived to be Judge Aleman’s aggressive and intimidating questioning of prospective jurors during voir dire the previous afternoon. Because the motion was oral, Perlman requested a reasonable amount of time to reduce the motion to writing as required by Rogers v. State, 630 So. 2d 513 (Fla. 1993).[2] Judge Aleman denied the request for additional time and immediately denied the motion on its merits.

The second motion to disqualify related to Judge Aleman’s allegedly preferential treatment of Assistant State Attorney Peter Holden. Judge Aleman had granted Holden a fifteen-minute delay in the start of the afternoon proceedings while denying a similar request from Perlman. When Perlman requested "at least an hour" to reduce this second oral motion to writing, Judge Aleman responded that the court would be in recess for five minutes. During this time, Judge Aleman conferred with another jurist, who suggested that defense counsel be given a pad of paper and a pen to prepare a written motion. When the proceeding resumed at 2:20 p.m., Judge Aleman did just that; she gave Perlman paper and pen and stated that, if defense counsel subsequently wished to substitute a typed motion, she would allow it. But rather than giving counsel an hour, Judge Aleman gave the defense attorneys fifteen minutes to transcribe the motion, stating that the court would adjourn until 2:35 p.m.

Intending to research and type the motion, Perlman and Raticoff left the courtroom to return to their office. In their haste, they ran past a number of prospective jurors who were sitting and standing in the hallway. At 2:42 p.m., when the proceeding reconvened, neither assistant public defender was in the courtroom. Judge Aleman took a recess until defense counsel returned.

By 2:48 p.m., Raticoff had returned, but Perlman had not. At that point, Judge Aleman mentioned the prospect of holding both public defenders in contempt:

The Court: The Court’s go[ing] to issue a rule to show cause, and we’ll hold this in abeyance until conclusion of the trial. The Court had [given] counsel 15 additional minutes to handwrite a motion, provided a paper and pen for counsel to do so, and when the Court returned back neither Defense Counsel was here, and now it’s 2:49 and we’re still missing one of defense counsel.

Again, good grounds for the rule to show cause is failure to abide by the Court’s order with respect, and we’ll hold that in abeyance until the concluding of the proceeding.

Mr. Raticoff: Judge, just so the record –

The Court: Directly to both Counsel, Mr. Raticoff and Ms. Perlman. And we’ll be in recess until Ms. Perlman arrives.

Upon returning to the courtroom at 2:57 p.m., Perlman inquired into the status of the contempt charge. There was some confusion as to whether Judge Aleman actually issued the order to show cause. At first, Judge Aleman suggested that she did not. Upon further inquiry by defense counsel, however, Judge Aleman indicated that she had, in fact, issued the order.

Raticoff then moved to withdraw from the case, citing the conflict between defending his client on one hand and defending himself on the other. In addition, Raticoff expressed his concern that he would not be able to represent Braynen effectively. Judge Aleman denied the motion, finding no reason to believe that the defendant had not received effective assistance of counsel. Judge Aleman eventually denied the second motion to disqualify, finding it legally insufficient.

Judge Aleman’s order to show cause triggered defense counsel’s third motion to disqualify. Again, Perlman requested a reasonable time to reduce the motion to writing, and again Judge Aleman granted fifteen minutes. When Perlman objected, reminding Judge Aleman that fifteen minutes was previously insufficient, Judge Aleman instead granted twelve minutes. Once again, Perlman objected, and Judge Aleman eventually gave defense counsel twenty-two minutes to prepare the written motion.

This time, when the court reconvened, both Public Defenders were present—but the motion was not. Afraid to violate the court’s order, Perlman had returned to the courtroom without finishing the motion and requested an additional five minutes to do so. Judge Aleman expressed her concern for the jurors who had been sitting in the hallway since 1:30 p.m., but agreed. When presented with this third motion, Judge Aleman denied it as well.

The next day, when Raticoff asked Judge Aleman to reconsider or vacate her order to show cause, Judge Aleman declined to hold a hearing on the matter, stating instead that "I believe everyone is entitled to due process." Ultimately, Judge Aleman never issued a written order to show cause, and the issue of contempt was never acted upon.

Based on these events, an Investigative Panel of the JQC charged Judge Aleman with violating Canons 1, 2A and 3B(4) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. A Hearing Panel of the JQC heard testimony from several witnesses, including Public Defenders Perlman and Raticoff, Assistant State Attorney Holden, and Judge Aleman. The JQC concluded that:

Judge Aleman’s conduct involving her denial of the motions for disqualifications [sic] without giving counsel a reasonable time to prepare the motions in writing and in threatening contempt by announcing entry of an order to show cause and then refusing to vacate the order to show cause constituted conduct which was arrogant, discourteous, and impatient to the lawyers appearing before her and others appearing in the Braynen case. . . . She acted in a manner that erodes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

More specifically, the JQC Hearing Panel found that Judge Aleman "did not give the Public Defender adequate time to prepare [the first] motion in writing before denying it," "it was . . . improper to have the lawyers in the case run up and down in front of the prospective jurors in order to avoid being held in contempt," "[t]he order to show cause which was never reduced to writing and which was never acted upon caused conflicts and further delays," the time limits imposed by Judge Aleman were "unreasonable under all of the circumstances," and "[f]orcing an attorney to prepare a handwritten motion for disqualification of a judge within 15 minutes or within 22 minutes was improper in the context of this first-degree murder case in which the death penalty was being sought."

As a result, the JQC Hearing Panel found by a two-thirds vote that Judge Aleman was guilty of misconduct and recommended that Judge Aleman be publicly reprimanded and charged the costs of the investigation.


Judge Aleman disputes the JQC’s findings, arguing: (a) the JQC’s findings are not supported by clear and convincing evidence; and (b) rather than requiring her to pay the costs of the investigation, the JQC should pay her costs because Judge Aleman was the prevailing party.[3] We conclude that each argument lacks merit.

A. Clear and Convincing Evidence

First, Judge Aleman argues that there is no clear and convincing evidence to support the JQC’s conclusion that her conduct was unreasonable or that she threatened the public defenders with contempt. To the contrary, we find that sufficient evidence supports the JQC’s conclusion in both respects.

The Florida Constitution vests this Court with the ultimate decision in determining what constitutes judicial misconduct. Specifically, article V, section 12(c)(1) provides that "[t]he supreme court may accept, reject, or modify in whole or in part the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the [judicial qualifications] commission and it may order that the justice or judge be subjected to appropriate discipline." In In re Graziano, 696 So. 2d 744, 753 (Fla. 1997), we described how we review the JQC’s findings of fact:

Before reporting findings of fact to this Court, the JQC must conclude that they are established by clear and convincing evidence. In re McAllister, 646 So. 2d 173, 177 (Fla. 1994). This Court must then review the findings and determine whether they meet this quantum of proof, a standard which requires more proof than a "preponderance of the evidence" but the less than "beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt." In re Davey, 645 So. 2d 398, 404 (Fla. 1994). If the findings meet this intermediate standard, then they are of persuasive force and are given great weight by this Court. See In re LaMotte, 341 So. 2d 513, 516 (Fla. 1977). This is so because the JQC is in a position to evaluate the testimony and evidence first-hand. See In re Crowell, 379 So. 2d 107 (Fla. 1979). However, the ultimate power and responsibility in making a determination rests with this Court. Id

Furthermore, this Court has "relied upon the clear and convincing evidence standard without distinguishing findings of fact from whether the facts as found warrant particular discipline." In re Henson, 913 So. 2d 579, 589 (Fla. 2005) (citing In re Kinsey, 842 So. 2d 77, 85 (Fla. 2003)).

Based on generally undisputed facts, the JQC concluded that Judge Aleman’s conduct violated Canons 1, 2A, and 3B(4) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.[4] Judge Aleman admits, and the Braynen transcript reflects, the facts upon which the JQC relied in making its decision.[5] Far from patient, dignified, or courteous, the JQC concluded that Judge Aleman’s undisputed conduct was "arrogant, discourteous, and impatient," as well as "[in]adequate," "improper," "unacceptable," and "unreasonable."

We find that clear and convincing evidence supports the JQC’s findings of fact as well as its conclusion that Judge Aleman violated Canons 1, 2A, and 3B(4). We agree with the JQC’s conclusion that, with respect to the time limitations, "forcing an attorney to prepare a handwritten motion for disqualification of a judge within 15 minutes or within 22 minutes was improper in the context of this first degree murder case in which the death penalty was being sought." This is true particularly in light of our decision in Rogers, which entitles counsel to a reasonable amount of time to prepare a written motion. By imposing unreasonably strict time limits, Judge Aleman forced defense counsel to decide between diligently representing their client and abiding by the court’s order. Such conduct is improper.

In addition, Judge Aleman’s use or threat to use her contempt power is even more unsettling. A judge’s power of contempt must be exercised with care. This Court has stated that:

[O]ne of the most important and essential powers of a court is the authority to protect itself against those who disregard its dignity and authority or disobey its orders. This authority is appropriately administered through a court’s power to punish by contempt. South Dade Farms, Inc. v. Peters, 88 So. 2d 891 (Fla. 1956). Nevertheless, although the power of contempt is an extremely important power for the judiciary, it is also a very awesome power and is one that should never be abused.

In re Perry, 641 So. 2d 366, 368 (Fla. 1994). A judge’s abuse of contempt powers has, on several occasions, resulted in discipline. See id. at 366-68 (reprimanding a judge for holding six defendants in contempt for driving away from courthouse with suspended licenses, for which one defendant spent twenty-six days in jail); see also In re Shea, 759 So. 2d 631, 632 (Fla. 2000) (imposing discipline for, among other things, entering an order to show cause after a litigant sent a letter to the Governor complaining of Judge Shea’s handling of a support case); In re Wright, 694 So. 2d 734, 735 (Fla. 1997) (reprimanding a judge for, among other things, threatening a prosecutor by stating "if you talk any more[,] it’s an Order that you don’t open your mouth anymore until I invite you to do so, and if you do I’m gonna hold you in contempt"); In re Muszynski, 471 So. 2d 1284, 1285 (Fla. 1985) (imposing discipline for demanding a police officer to lower the volume on his police radio while dining in a restaurant and, when the officer refused, directing him to appear in court to explain his "contemptuous conduct"); In re Crowell, 379 So. 2d 107, 108 (Fla. 1979) (removing a judge for abusing his contempt powers which demonstrated a "propensity to summarily adjudicate and incarcerate a citizen . . . without according to the accused a right to be heard or any opportunity to defend himself").

Here, after Judge Aleman announced her intention to issue an order to show cause, the prospect of defense counsel being held in contempt had a palpable impact on the proceeding. Perlman sought to disqualify Judge Aleman for the fifth time, and Raticoff moved to withdraw, citing the conflict between defending his client and defending himself. Raticoff later testified that the order to show cause had a "chilling effect" on his representation. The fear of being held in contempt, Raticoff recalled, limited his ability to zealously represent his client. In sum, Judge Aleman’s threat of contempt was unnecessary and harmful under the circumstances.

Accordingly, we approve the JQC’s findings of fact and its conclusion that Judge Aleman committed misconduct by imposing unreasonable time limits on counsel and then threatening counsel with contempt.

B. Discipline

Having approved the JQC’s conclusion that Judge Aleman committed misconduct, the final matter is the appropriate discipline. The JQC recommends that we issue a public reprimand of Judge Aleman and require her to pay the costs of the investigation and prosecution. We agree.

Judge Aleman does not challenge the propriety of a public reprimand, and we find it to be a suitable punishment considering the nature of her conduct. We have employed a public reprimand to sanction judges for similar misconduct. See Perry, 641 So. 2d at 366-368 (abuse of contempt powers and, to a lesser extent, the admonition of army recruiter for wearing his uniform in court); see also In re Schapiro, 845 So. 2d 170 (Fla. 2003) (intemperate courtroom behavior); In re Schwartz, 755 So. 2d 110 (Fla. 2000) (rude remarks during oral argument). And, because the JQC prevailed in the matter of whether Judge Aleman committed misconduct with respect to her actions in Braynen, we likewise order Judge Aleman to pay the cost of the JQC’s investigation and prosecution relating to that charge. See art. V, § 12(c)(2), Fla. Const.


For the reasons stated, we approve the JQC’s conclusion that Judge Aleman violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, and we approve the JQC’s recommendation that Judge Aleman be reprimanded and charged the cost of the investigation and prosecution relating to her conduct in State v. Braynen. In accordance with the policy announced in In re Frank, 753 So. 2d 1228, 1242 (Fla. 2000), we hereby command Judge Cheryl Aleman to appear before this Court for the administration of a public reprimand at a time to be established by the Clerk of this Court.

It is so ordered.



Original Proceeding – Judicial Qualifications Commission

Lansing C. Scriven of Lansing C. Scriven, P.A., Special Counsel, Tampa, Florida, Michael Louis Schneider, General Counsel, Tallahassee, Florida, and Marvin E. Barkin, Special Consulting Counsel, Tampa, Florida,

for Judicial Qualifications Commission , Petitioner

J. David Bogenshutz, of Bogenschutz, Dutko, and Kroll, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Perry W. Hodges, Jr. of Rogers, Morris and Ziegler, LLP, Fort Lauderdale, Florida,

for Respondent

[1] Prior to trial, defense counsel filed two motions to disqualify Judge Aleman. Perlman first moved to disqualify Judge Aleman because Ms. Perlman supported Judge Aleman’s opponent in the 2004 election. Judge Aleman denied the motion, and the Fourth District affirmed this ruling on appeal. See Braynen v. State, 895 So. 2d 1169 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005). The defense then sought review of the Fourth District’s decision in this Court and moved to stay the trial proceedings. Judge Aleman denied the motion to stay and instructed Ms. Perlman to prepare an order reflecting this ruling. When Ms. Perlman handed the proposed order to Judge Aleman, Judge Aleman ripped it up and wrote her own. This led to the second motion to disqualify, which Judge Aleman likewise denied. However, these first two motions to disqualify were not the basis for the JQC investigation.

[2] When a motion to disqualify a judge occurs "mid-trial or mid-hearing," the trial court must give counsel a "reasonable opportunity" to write and file the motion. Rogers, 630 So. 2d at 516.

[3] Judge Aleman also argues that the JQC does not have jurisdiction over her conduct in Braynen. We disagree. See art. V, § 12(a)(1), Fla. Const.

[4] Canon 1 provides, in pertinent part, that judges "should participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing high standards of conduct, and shall personally observe those standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved." Canon 2A provides that judges shall "respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." Canon 3B(4) provides that judges shall be "patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, and of staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control."

[5] Judge Aleman disputes one aspect of the JQC’s findings: that she threatened contempt by "announcing entry of an order to show cause and then refusing to vacate the order to show cause." Judge Aleman argues that she never actually entered a written order, but only stated her intention to do so at a later date, and thus there was no order to vacate. Indeed, the JQC’s findings are somewhat unclear on this point. In addition to the language quoted above, the JQC, in a section entitled "The Threat of Contempt," seemed to espouse Judge Aleman’s version of the events, stating: "The basis for the order to show cause which was never reduced to writing, was that the attorneys were late in returning with the written motion which they had been given 15 minutes to prepare." (emphasis provided). The difference, though, is largely semantic. The thrust of the JQC’s finding was that the specter of contempt loomed over the public defenders, and this remained true whether Judge Aleman entered a written order or merely stated an intention to do so.

October 23, 2008

The System

Anti-democratic nature of US capitalism is being exposed

Bretton Woods was the system of global financial management set up at the end of the second World War to ensure the interests of capital did not smother wider social concerns in post-war democracies. It was hated by the US neoliberals - the very people who created the banking crisis writes Noam Chomsky

by Noam Chomsky

As originally published in: The Irish Times
October 10, 2008

THE SIMULTANEOUS unfolding of the US presidential campaign and unravelling of the financial markets presents one of those occasions where the political and economic systems starkly reveal their nature.

Passion about the campaign may not be universally shared but almost everybody can feel the anxiety from the foreclosure of a million homes, and concerns about jobs, savings and healthcare at risk.

The initial Bush proposals to deal with the crisis so reeked of totalitarianism that they were quickly modified. Under intense lobbyist pressure, they were reshaped as "a clear win for the largest institutions in the system . . . a way of dumping assets without having to fail or close", as described by James Rickards, who negotiated the federal bailout for the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management in 1998, reminding us that we are treading familiar turf. The immediate origins of the current meltdown lie in the collapse of the housing bubble supervised by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, which sustained the struggling economy through the Bush years by debt-based consumer spending along with borrowing from abroad. But the roots are deeper. In part they lie in the triumph of financial liberalisation in the past 30 years - that is, freeing the markets as much as possible from government regulation.

These steps predictably increased the frequency and depth of severe reversals, which now threaten to bring about the worst crisis since the Great Depression.

Also predictably, the narrow sectors that reaped enormous profits from liberalisation are calling for massive state intervention to rescue collapsing financial institutions.

Such interventionism is a regular feature of state capitalism, though the scale today is unusual. A study by international economists Winfried Ruigrok and Rob van Tulder 15 years ago found that at least 20 companies in the Fortune 100 would not have survived if they had not been saved by their respective governments, and that many of the rest gained substantially by demanding that governments "socialise their losses," as in today's taxpayer-financed bailout. Such government intervention "has been the rule rather than the exception over the past two centuries", they conclude.

In a functioning democratic society, a political campaign would address such fundamental issues, looking into root causes and cures, and proposing the means by which people suffering the consequences can take effective control.

The financial market "underprices risk" and is "systematically inefficient", as economists John Eatwell and Lance Taylor wrote a decade ago, warning of the extreme dangers of financial liberalisation and reviewing the substantial costs already incurred - and proposing solutions, which have been ignored. One factor is failure to calculate the costs to those who do not participate in transactions. These "externalities" can be huge. Ignoring systemic risk leads to more risk-taking than would take place in an efficient economy, even by the narrowest measures.

The task of financial institutions is to take risks and, if well-managed, to ensure that potential losses to themselves will be covered. The emphasis is on "to themselves". Under state capitalist rules, it is not their business to consider the cost to others - the "externalities" of decent survival - if their practices lead to financial crisis, as they regularly do.

Financial liberalisation has effects well beyond the economy. It has long been understood that it is a powerful weapon against democracy. Free capital movement creates what some have called a "virtual parliament" of investors and lenders, who closely monitor government programmes and "vote" against them if they are considered irrational: for the benefit of people, rather than concentrated private power.

Investors and lenders can "vote" by capital flight, attacks on currencies and other devices offered by financial liberalisation. That is one reason why the Bretton Woods system established by the United States and Britain after the second World War instituted capital controls and regulated currencies.*

The Great Depression and the war had aroused powerful radical democratic currents, ranging from the anti-fascist resistance to working class organisation. These pressures made it necessary to permit social democratic policies. The Bretton Woods system was designed in part to create a space for government action responding to public will - for some measure of democracy.

John Maynard Keynes, the British negotiator, considered the most important achievement of Bretton Woods to be the establishment of the right of governments to restrict capital movement.

In dramatic contrast, in the neoliberal phase after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s, the US treasury now regards free capital mobility as a "fundamental right", unlike such alleged "rights" as those guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: health, education, decent employment, security and other rights that the Reagan and Bush administrations have dismissed as "letters to Santa Claus", "preposterous", mere "myths".

In earlier years, the public had not been much of a problem. The reasons are reviewed by Barry Eichengreen in his standard scholarly history of the international monetary system. He explains that in the 19th century, governments had not yet been "politicised by universal male suffrage and the rise of trade unionism and parliamentary labour parties". Therefore, the severe costs imposed by the virtual parliament could be transferred to the general population.

But with the radicalisation of the general public during the Great Depression and the anti-fascist war, that luxury was no longer available to private power and wealth. Hence in the Bretton Woods system, "limits on capital mobility substituted for limits on democracy as a source of insulation from market pressures".

The obvious corollary is that after the dismantling of the postwar system, democracy is restricted. It has therefore become necessary to control and marginalise the public in some fashion, processes particularly evident in the more business-run societies like the United States. The management of electoral extravaganzas by the public relations industry is one illustration.

"Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business," concluded America's leading 20th century social philosopher John Dewey, and will remain so as long as power resides in "business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda".

The United States effectively has a one-party system, the business party, with two factions, Republicans and Democrats. There are differences between them. In his study Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, Larry Bartels shows that during the past six decades "real incomes of middle-class families have grown twice as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans, while the real incomes of working-poor families have grown six times as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans".

Differences can be detected in the current election as well. Voters should consider them, but without illusions about the political parties, and with the recognition that consistently over the centuries, progressive legislation and social welfare have been won by popular struggles, not gifts from above.

Those struggles follow a cycle of success and setback. They must be waged every day, not just once every four years, always with the goal of creating a genuinely responsive democratic society, from the voting booth to the workplace.

* The Bretton Woods system of global financial management was created by 730 delegates from all 44 Allied second World War nations who attended a UN-hosted Monetary and Financial Conference at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods in New Hampshire in 1944.

Bretton Woods, which collapsed in 1971, was the system of rules, institutions, and procedures that regulated the international monetary system, under which were set up the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (now one of five institutions in the World Bank Group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which came into effect in 1945.

The chief feature of Bretton Woods was an obligation for each country to adopt a monetary policy that maintained the exchange rate of its currency within a fixed value.

The system collapsed when the US suspended convertibility from dollars to gold. This created the unique situation whereby the US dollar became the "reserve currency" for the other countries within Bretton Woods.

Noam Chomsky is professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press. This article appeared first in the New York Times

October 22, 2008

"The Loquacious Senator"

Sheldon Alberts: Joe Biden does his best to make Sarah Palin look good

by Sheldon Alberts

As originally posted on: Full Comment
September 23, 2008

WASHINGTON • Senator Joe Biden was spinning folksy one-liners with CBS News anchor Katie Couric the other night when he offered this pearl of wisdom about how real leaders act during times of national crisis.

“When the stock market crashed (in 1929), Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.’ ”

It was a great sound bite except for two things – Herbert Hoover, not Roosevelt, was president at the time, and commercial television didn’t exist.

The good news for Biden was that hardly anyone noticed the historical error. The bad news? The blunder was overlooked only because the Democratic vice presidential candidate was busy doing damage control Tuesday over two bigger gaffes that have landed him in Barack Obama’s doghouse.

After weeks of being overshadowed in the U.S. media by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Obama’s running mate is suddenly making headline news for all the wrong reasons. First, he blasted his own campaign for running a “terrible” ad that claimed Republican presidential candidate John McCain did not know how to operate a computer or send email.

Then video surfaced of Biden telling an environmentalist voter in coal-rich Ohio – a vital battleground state – that there would be “no coal plants here in America” in an Obama administration.

McCain’s campaign made political hay out of both comments, using them to underscore Republican claims Obama is waging a dirty campaign and to cast him as out-of-touch with working-class voters in the American heartland.

“Barack Obama and Joe Biden must really think they can win this election without Ohio, because they're doing their best to lose it with stupid comments like these,” Bob Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said in a statement. “Keep talking, Joe.”

Biden’s slipups have underscored Democrats’ biggest concern about the loquacious senator – that his unscripted, freewheeling speaking style might lead to embarrassing distractions for a campaign with little room for political error.

In recent days, Biden has claimed it was the “patriotic” duty of wealthy Americans to pay higher taxes, urged a wheelchair-bound man to “stand up” at a Democratic rally, and suggested Hillary Clinton “might have been a better pick than me” as Obama’s running mate.

But many of those remarks were lost amid the media fascination with Palin.

Biden’s real trouble only began when CBS aired its feature interview with him on Monday.

Asked about an Obama campaign ad that mocked McCain for admitting he doesn’t use computers or email, Biden retorted: “I thought that was terrible, by the way.”

McCain’s campaign has said the Arizona senator has difficulty using computers because of injuries to his arms incurred during the Vietnam War. Pressed by Couric about why the ad was aired, Biden offered up more criticism of his own campaign: “I didn't know we did it, and if I had anything to do with it, we would have never done it.”

Biden backtracked within hours, protesting that he had never actually seen the ad and was “reacting merely to press reports.”

Potentially more damaging for Obama was Biden’s comments about coal. “No coal plants here in America,” Biden told woman in Ohio who had asked him if why the Obama campaign supported clean-coal technology.

“We’re not supporting clean coal,” he said.

“Build them, if they're going to build them, over there (in China). Make ’em clean because they're killing you.”

Biden got it wrong. Obama has vowed to “develop and deploy clean coal technology” as part of a plan to create “green jobs” in the U.S. Midwest.

The more Biden talks, the more Obama seems to be concerned. The Illinois senator on Tuesday publicly chastised his running mate for saying last week he did not believe insurance giant American International Group “should be bailed out by the federal government.” The comment undermined Obama, who had criticized McCain for saying the same thing.

“I think Joe should have waited, as well,” Obama said on NBC’s Today show.

The anxiety among Democrats about Biden is likely to grow as he prepares to debate Palin on Oct. 2 in St. Louis – the most important single event for both vice presidential candidates.

But even as Democrats fret over the challenges of debating a woman – especially amid Republican claims Palin has been subjected to sexism – Biden doesn’t sound worried.

“There are an awful lot of very, very accomplished women holding high public office that I debate,” he said during a recent campaign stop, “and we beat each other up every day.”

National Post

October 20, 2008

The System

Malaysian blogger jailed for 2 years

by Vijay Joshi

September 23, 2008

Malaysia jailed a prominent anti-government blogger for two years under a strict security law that can keep him in prison indefinitely for allegedly inciting racial tensions with his writings, a lawyer said today.

Online commentator Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin was already in police custody and was served a detention order last night under the Internal Security Act, said his lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar.

"He was taken this morning to Kamunting (Detention Center)," Malik said. "This is definitely a big blow to the idea of civil liberties, especially in a climate when everybody is asking for greater rights."

The order was signed by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, who has said Raja Petra's writings on Islam pose a threat to national security by creating racial tension.

The minister has the final word on how long a person stays in jail under the act, and courts can only review the procedure of the detention but not the detention itself.

Raja Petra has increasingly infuriated authorities by publishing numerous claims about alleged wrongdoings by government leaders on his popular site, Malaysia Today, which serves as his blog as well as a news portal. The government has denounced most of Raja Petra's allegations as lies.

Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The detention comes at a time when the government's popularity is at an all-time low and is riven with factional fighting and faces the threat of being ousted by the opposition.

"I don't think the government did itself any favors in attempting to regain popular confidence," Malik said.

Raja Petra was arrested Sept. 12 under the security act, which allows for an initial detention of two months for investigation, followed by a two-year jail period that can be renewed indefinitely.

He will be held at the Kamunting Detention Center in the central state of Perak. The center houses about 60 detainees held under the security law, most of whom are suspected Islamic extremists.

Raja Petra's arrest triggered widespread protests by civil society groups, lawyers and other online commentators. Along with Raja Petra, authorities also arrested an opposition lawmaker and a journalist on Sept. 12, but they were released subsequently.

Five ethnic Indian activists who organized a massive anti-government rally last year are also being held in Kamunting under the security law.

The law is a holdover from British colonial days, when it was used against communist insurgents. Independent Malaysia's postcolonial government has kept it in the statute books and has used it sparingly against political dissidents, ignoring calls from opposition groups and others to disband the law.

October 19, 2008

"The Establishment Elites"

"To Build One America, End the Game"

Address delivered by U.S. National Democratic Party Presidential Nomination Candidate John Edwards
Hanover, New Hampshire, U.S.A.
August 23, 2007

This election is unlike any we have faced before. The stakes are higher. And the challenges we face as a nation are greater than at any time in memory.

We as a nation must choose whether to do what America has always done in times like these - change direction and move boldly into the future for the sake of our children, if not for ourselves, or wander in the same stale direction we have traveled in our recent past.

The choice we must make is as important as it is clear.

It is a choice between looking back and looking forward.

A choice between the way we've always done it and the way we could do it if we dared.

A choice between corporate power and the power of democracy.

Between a corrupt and corroded system and a government that works for us again.

It is caution versus courage. Old versus new. Calculation versus principle.

It is the establishment elites versus the American people.

It is a choice between the failed compromises of the past and the bright possibilities of our future. Between resigning ourselves to Two Americas or fighting for the One America we all believe in.

As always, at these moments, the choice we make is not for us, but for our children and our great country. And this time, like no other time, the consequences for our children are truly profound.

Will we halt global warming, protect our environment and humanity from the cataclysmic consequences of inaction and leave our children a livable world rich in the resources that were left to us?

Will we prevail against terrorism by stopping those who would harm us and winning over the minds of those who have yet to take sides so that instead of an ever more dangerous and war-torn world, our children live in a nation that is safe, strong and once again viewed throughout the world as a truly moral leader?

Will corporate greed be all we value as we move further into the global economy, or will we put workers and families first, so that all jobs pay fair wages, every American has health care and corporate profits work for democracy and not the other way around?

Will we face our future as individuals, each of us asking, "What's in it for me?" Or will we return to the central value that makes our nation great? That we are all in this together and each of has a responsibility to the common good.

The choices we make will determine not just the quality of life our children will inherit, but the fate of the world we leave behind.

To succeed for our children where we have too often failed for ourselves, we must choose a new course. Those wedded to the policies of the 70s, 80s, or 90s are wedded to the past - ideas and policies that are tired, shop worn and obsolete. We will find no answers there.

But small thinking and outdated answers aren't the only problems with a vision for the future that is rooted in nostalgia. The trouble with nostalgia is that you tend to remember what you liked and forget what you didn't. It's not just that the answers of the past aren't up to the job today, it's that the system that produced them was corrupt - and still is. It's controlled by big corporations, the lobbyists they hire to protect their bottom line and the politicians who curry their favor and carry their water. And it's perpetuated by a media that too often fawns over the establishment, but fails to seriously cover the challenges we face or the solutions being proposed. This is the game of American politics and in this game, the interests of regular Americans don't stand a chance.

Real change starts with being honest - the system in Washington is rigged and our government is broken. It's rigged by greedy corporate powers to protect corporate profits. It's rigged by the very wealthy to ensure they become even wealthier. At the end of the day, it's rigged by all those who benefit from the established order of things. For them, more of the same means more money and more power. They'll do anything they can to keep things just the way they are - not for the country, but for themselves.

Politicians who care more about their careers than their constituents go along to get elected. They make easy promises to voters instead of challenging them to take responsibility for our country. And then they compromise even those promises to keep the lobbyists happy and the contributions coming.

Instead of serving the people and the nation, too many play the parlor game of Washington -- trading favors and campaign money, influencing votes and compromising legislation. It's a game that never ends, but every American knows - it's time to end the game.

And it's time for the Democratic Party - the party of the people - to end it.

The choice for our party could not be more clear. We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats, just swapping the Washington insiders of one party for the Washington insiders of the other.

The American people deserve to know that their presidency is not for sale, the Lincoln Bedroom is not for rent, and lobbyist money can no longer influence policy in the House or the Senate.

It's time to end the game. It's time to tell the big corporations and the lobbyists who have been running things for too long that their time is over. It's time to challenge politicians to put the American people's interests ahead of their own calculated political interests, to look the lobbyists in the eye and just say no.

And it's time for the American people to take responsibility for our government - for in our democracy it is truly ours. If we have come to mistrust and question it, it is because we were not vigilant against the forces that have taken it from us. That their game has played on for so long is the fault of each of us - ending the game and returning government of the people to the people is the responsibility of all of us.

But cleaning up Washington isn't enough. If we are going to meet the challenges we face and prevail over them, two principles must guide us - yes, we must end the Washington game, but we must also think as big as the challenges we face. Our ideas must be bold enough to succeed and our government must be free to enact them without compromising principle or sacrificing results.

One without the other isn't good enough. All the big ideas in the world won't make a difference if they have to go through this broken system that remains controlled by big business and their lobbyists. And if we fix the system, but aren't honest with the American people about the scope of our challenges and what's required of each of us to meet them, then we'll be left with the baby steps and incremental measures that are Washington's poor excuse for progress.

As Bobby Kennedy said, "If we fail to dare, if we do not try, the next generation will harvest the fruit of our indifference; a world we did not want, a world we did not choose, but a world we could have made better by caring more for the results of our labors."

But if we do both - if we have the courage to offer real change and the determination to change Washington - then we will be build the One America we dream of, where every man, woman and child is blessed with the same, great opportunity and held to the same, just rules.

For more than 20 years, Democrats have talked about universal health care. And for more than 20 years, we've gotten nowhere, because lobbyists for the big insurance companies, drug companies and HMOs spent millions to block real reform. Instead, they've grudgingly allowed incremental measures that do nothing but tinker around the edges - or worse, they've hijacked reform to improve their own bottom line. So today, more Americans go without health care than ever before. Instead of prescription drug reform that brought down the cost of drugs, the lobbyists for the big drug companies got us a prescription drug bill that boosts drug company profits but doesn't cut patient costs.

I have a bold plan to finally guarantee true universal health care for every single American and cut health care costs for everyone. My plan will require everyone - business, government and individuals - to contribute something to reach universal coverage. And I am honest about the cost: $90 to $120 billion a year, and I'll pay for it by repealing the Bush tax cuts for families above $200,000. If we end the game in Washington, we can finally have a health care system that treats the health of all our people with equal worth.

Dependence on foreign oil is smothering our economy and choking our environment. Everybody knows it - politicians from both parties have been calling for energy independence for 30 years. So what did the oilmen in the White House do? They handed the keys to the corridors of government over to the lobbyists for the big oil companies and let them literally write the energy bill. Now, gas prices are through the roof, carbon emissions are unchecked, and global warming is likely getting worse.

When I am president, we will cap greenhouse gas pollution and ratchet it down every year. We will avoid mistakes like nuclear power and liquid coal. We will invest in clean renewable energies generated in America and create a new era in efficient cars, made by union members here at home.

And look at our economic policies - from top to bottom, they're a twisted reflection of American values. Instead of expanding opportunity for all and preventing special privileges for any, they hoard opportunity and protect special privileges for the very few at the very top.

Trade policy is all about corporate profits for big multinationals and not at all about lifting workers' wages or creating American jobs. The tax code provides breaks for hedge fund managers - amazingly, even Democrats backed down from asking them to pay their fair share when Wall Street lobbyists put the pressure on. By the time a decade of corporate opposition to a minimal increase in the minimum wage is overcome, even its own supporters admit that the increase isn't enough - so another decade of corporate opposition begins anew, and workers lose again.

It's time we put our economy back in line with our values. Let's restore fairness to our tax code by insisting on a simple principle - nobody in the middle class should pay higher taxes on the money they make from hard work than the wealthiest pay on the money they make from their investments. Let's restore opportunity and responsibility to our trade policy by requiring that every new trade deal puts workers and wages first. Let's reward work by strengthening unions, raising the minimum wage, cutting taxes on working families and with a national commitment to end poverty within a generation.

And let's support our troops and end this war in Iraq. We should immediately withdraw 40-50,000 combat troops immediately and have the rest out in about a year. And when President Bush refuses to act, Congress should use its funding power to force him to act.

None of this will be easy, but all of it is possible.

I know. I've been doing it my entire life.

I am the son of Wallace and Bobbie Edwards. My father had to borrow $50 to bring me and my mother home from the hospital. I am here today because, like all the people my father worked with in the mill, my parents got up every day believing in the promise of America, and they worked hard - no matter what obstacles were thrown against them - to give me the chance for a better life.

That's the promise at the heart of the American Dream. What matters to our generation is of little consequence - in America what has always mattered most is the consequences for our children and their children after them. And no amount of power or money gives anyone the right to break that promise with our future.

I have stood with ordinary Americans at the most difficult times in their lives, when all the power of corporate America was arrayed against them. I have walked into courtrooms alone to face an army of corporate lawyers with all the money in the world. I have walked off the Senate elevator and been besieged by an army of corporate lobbyists. And I have beaten them over and over again.

But let me tell you one thing I have learned from my experience - you cannot deal with them on their terms. You cannot play by their rules, sit at their table, or give them a seat at yours. They will not give up their power - you have to take it from them.

We cannot triangulate our way to real change. We cannot compromise our way to real change. But we can lead to real change. And we can start today.

Nearly ten years ago, I made the decision that I would never take a dime from a Washington lobbyist - I wasn't going to work for them, and I didn't want their money.

Because in the courtroom, when you present your case to the jury, you can offer facts and evidence, you can argue your heart out - and I have - but the one thing you can't do, is pay the jury. We call that a bribe. But in Washington when an oil lobbyist gives money to office holders to influence our energy policy, they call it politics. That's exactly what's wrong with this system.

Money flies like lightning between corporations, lobbyists, and politicians. We need full public financing to reform the system once and for all. But we don't need to wait to reform our party. Two weeks ago, I called on all Democrats to reject contributions from federal lobbyists. To tell them - we know that you give money to influence politicians on behalf of your corporate clients. Well, we're not going to take it anymore. Your money's no good here.

I repeat that challenge today. Let's show America exactly whose side we're on. We can reform our party and truly be the party of the people. And we can expose for all time who the Republicans in Washington are really working for.

There are 60 lobbyists in Washington for every member of Congress. The big corporations don't need another president that looks out for them - they've got all the power they need. I want to be the people's president.

A few weeks, ago I met a man named James Lowe in Wise, Virginia. James spent the first fifty years of his life without a voice - literally without a voice - because he didn't have health care. All he needed was a simple operation to fix a cleft palate. That a man in the richest country in the world could go unable to speak for 50 years because he couldn't pay for a $3,000 operation is something that should outrage every American. We are better than that. America is better that that.

It's a stark reminder of our broken political system that leaves millions of Americans without a voice in their government - a government that is supposed to work for them.

But it doesn't have to be that way. And we can change it together.

We must think big and end the game.

It's not about being ready to grab the reigns of establishment Washington and stand on the side of corporate elites. If it is, there are plenty who will do a better job than me at protecting the status quo, and preserving the policies and politics of the past.

It's about being ready to lift our country up, reform our party, and remake our government in line with the values of our people. It's about real change and a new vision that meets the challenges of the future and inspires the American people to work together for the common good.

We're all angry at what George Bush has done to our country. But with courage and conviction, with an unblinking eye on the future we believe in and an unbending knee on the road to get there, not only can we undo the damage, we can transform the world. No matter what life has thrown at us, Elizabeth and I have always chosen to be optimistic about the future - and determined to make a difference as we strive toward it everyday.

I carry the promise of America in my heart, where my parents placed it. Because of them, I believe in people, hard work and the American Dream. I believe the future belongs to us if we only dare to seize it. And I believe to seize it, we must blaze a new path, firmly grounded in the values that first made America great. We must cast aside the established ways of Washington and replace them with the timeless values of the American people. We must end the game controlled by a privileged few and restore the promise that America owes to us all.

On that new path lies One America, where possibility is unbound and opportunity is the birthright of every American. Where the voices of the people are heard again in the halls of government, and government heeds their call. One America, where every individual takes responsibility for our common good, and the chance to reach one's God-given potential is every individual's common right.

I am the son of Wallace and Bobbie Edwards.

And I believe in the promise of America.