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I think it is important that we continue to draw attention to Wikileaks and the fact that U.S. and Icelandic governments have been spying on their activities.

Why should we continue to draw attention to them? Because Wikileaks, a non-profit organization, provides the world with documents, videos, and other releases of information that demonstrate and show us the corrupt activities occurring around the world everyday by the very officials we are supposed to trust.

These same officials have incited violence and created terrorism where those things did not exist before. They intimidate and terrorize the poor to pilfer their resources, and hire mercenary armies to kill and maim the innocent. They use weapons of mass destruction. These “officials” are the true scum of the earth and they serve in the military, hold political office, and work in commercial businesses.

I will continue to support Wikileaks and I hope that you will too. The information that their group makes available to the world is important and helps in the crusade against injustice, at the very least.

So as Vice-Presiden Biden would say, “This is a big fucking deal” so jump off the apathy wagon and listen up. It’s time to spread the word about Wikileaks and let the world know that there are a couple of countries who are acting like big fat godfathers by sending their fucking “hit men” out to harass and threaten them.

EDITORIAL:U.S. must stop spying on WikiLeaks

Fri Mar 26 08:44:46 UTC 2010

Over the last few years, WikiLeaks has been the subject of hostile acts by security organizations. In the developing world, these range from the appalling assassination of two related human rights lawyers in Nairobi last March (an armed attack on my compound there in 2007 is still unattributed) to an unsuccessful mass attack by Chinese computers on our servers in Stockholm, after we published photos of murders in Tibet. In the West this has ranged from the overt, the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, threatening to prosecute us unless we removed a report on CIA activity in Kosovo, to the covert, to an ambush by a “James Bond” character in a Luxembourg car park, an event that ended with a mere “we think it would be in your interest to…”.

Developing world violence aside, we’ve become used to the level of security service interest in us and have established procedures to ignore that interest.

But the increase in surveillance activities this last month, in a time when we are barely publishing due to fundraising, are excessive. Some of the new interest is related to a film exposing a U.S. massacre we will release at the U.S. National Press Club on April 5.

The spying includes attempted covert following, photographing, filming and the overt detention & questioning of a WikiLeaks’ volunteer in Iceland on Monday night.

I, and others were in Iceland to advise Icelandic parliamentarians on the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a new package of laws designed to protect investigative journalists and internet services from spying and censorship. As such, the spying has an extra poignancy.

The possible triggers:

  • our ongoing work on a classified film revealing civilian casualties occurring under the command of the U.S, general, David Petraeus.
  • our release of a classified 32 page US intelligence report on how to fatally marginalize WikiLeaks (expose our sources, destroy our reputation for integrity, hack us).
  • our release of a classified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik reporting on contact between the U.S. and the U.K. over billions of euros in claimed loan guarantees.
  • pending releases related to the collapse of the Icelandic banks and Icelandic “oligarchs”.

We have discovered half a dozen attempts at covert surveillance in Reykjavik both by native English speakers and Icelanders. On the occasions where these individuals were approached, they ran away. One had marked police equipment and the license plates for another suspicious vehicle track back to the Icelandic private VIP bodyguard firm Terr. What does that mean? We don’t know. But as you will see, other events are clear.

U.S. sources told Icelandic state media’s deputy head of news, that the State Department was aggressively investigating a leak from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik. I was seen at a private U.S Embassy party at the Ambassador’s residence, late last year and it is known I had contact with Embassy staff, after.

On Thursday March 18, 2010, I took the 2.15 PM flight out of Reykjavik to Copenhagen–on the way to speak at the SKUP investigative journalism conference in Norway. After receiving a tip, we obtained airline records for the flight concerned. Two individuals, recorded as brandishing diplomatic credentials checked in for my flight at 12:03 and 12:06 under the name of “US State Department”. The two are not recorded as having any luggage.

Iceland doesn’t have a separate security service. It folds its intelligence function into its police forces, leading to an uneasy overlap of policing and intelligence functions and values.

On Monday 22, March, at approximately 8.30pm, a WikiLeaks volunteer, a minor, was detained by Icelandic police on a wholly insignificant matter. Police then took the opportunity to hold the youth over night, without charge–a highly unusual act in Iceland. The next day, during the course of interrogation, the volunteer was shown covert photos of me outside the Reykjavik restaurant “Icelandic Fish & Chips”, where a WikiLeaks production meeting took place on Wednesday March 17–the day before individuals operating under the name of the U.S. State Department boarded my flight to Copenhagen.

Our production meeting used a discreet, closed, backroom, because we were working on the analysis of a classified U.S. military video showing civilian kills by U.S. pilots. During the interrogation, a specific reference was made by police to the video—which could not have been understood from that day’s exterior surveillance alone. Another specific reference was made to “important”, but unnamed Icelandic figures. References were also made to the names of two senior journalists at the production meeting.

Who are the Icelandic security services loyal to in their values? The new government of April 2009, the old pro-Iraq war government of the Independence party, or perhaps to their personal relationships with peers from another country who have them on a permanent intelligence information drip?

Only a few years ago, Icelandic airspace was used for CIA rendition flights. Why did the CIA think that this was acceptable? In a classified U.S. profile on the former Icelandic Ambassador to the United States, obtained by WikiLeaks, the Ambassador is praised for helping to quell publicity of the CIA’s activities.

Often when a bold new government arises, bureaucratic institutions remain loyal to the old regime and it can take time to change the guard. Former regime loyalists must be discovered, dissuaded and removed. But for the security services, that first vital step, discovery, is awry. Congenitally scared of the light, such services hide their activities; if it is not known what security services are doing, then it is surely impossible to know who they are doing it for.

Our plans to release the video on April 5 proceed.

We have asked relevant authorities in the Unites States and Iceland to explain. If these countries are to be treated as legitimate states, they need to start obeying the rule of law. Now.

—Julian Assange (editor@wikileaks.org)

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From WOAI/San Antonio

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — In the California where Joe Stack started out as a fresh-from-college software engineer, fighting the tax man was, quite literally, a religion.

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, California was not just the center of the “silicon revolution.” The Golden State was also a teeming hive of anti-government activity, much of it aimed at the federal income tax code and the agency that enforced it — the Internal Revenue Service.

Tax protesters and self-styled patriots railed against exemptions granted to religious organizations, the Catholic Church in particular. They formed their own “churches” and invited others to join.

“It sounds like he went down that same path,” said Dennis Riness, who did time in federal prison for running a church-styled tax shelter. “And ran into the same brick wall.”

Riness and most others gave up the fight. It seems Joe Stack could not, unable to let go of his hatred for a system that he felt enslaved him. After two decades of financial setbacks and professional disappointments, facing an audit in a down economy, Stack decided to strike back.

In an angry letter that rambles on for 3,000 words, the 53-year-old Stack set out his grievances, attributing his failures to everything from the dot-com bust to the “911 nightmare.” He traced the beginnings of his problems with the government back 24 years and an obscure change in the Internal Revenue Code affecting software professionals.

“It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants,” Stack wrote. “I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure (sic) nothing will change.”

He posted his manifesto on the Web site of his business last Thursday morning. A short time later, his house 20 minutes north of the Texas Capitol was ablaze. He was behind the controls of his single-engine Piper PA-28: “Going southbound, sir,” he radioed the airport tower. “Have a great day.”

Impact with the black-glass office building that houses offices of the IRS came moments later. Miraculously, the crash that consumed Stack killed only one other victim — Vernon Hunter, 68, a Vietnam veteran and father of six who worked for nearly 30 years at the IRS. Ken Hunter said if Stack had come in and talked to his father, he would have done his best to help.

“My dad didn’t write the tax law,” he said. “Nobody in that building wrote the tax law.”

But Stack wasn’t looking for help. Like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, he hoped his suicidal flight would become “a catalyst” for fundamental change, said JJ MacNab, who has studied tax protesters for a decade.

“McVeigh wasn’t willing to die,” said MacNab, a Maryland-based insurance analyst. “This guy was.”

___

There’s no doubt that Andrew Joseph Stack III had his share of misery.

He told his daughter he was an orphan at age 4, when both his parents died in an auto accident, and was separated from his two brothers and sister, spending at least part of his childhood in a Catholic orphanage.

Eventually, he and little brother Harry were shipped off to the Milton Hershey School, an institution for orphaned boys founded by the Pennsylvania chocolate magnate and his wife. In college, Stack went through stints during which he survived on peanut butter and bread — “or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge.”

Yet he also had advantages that others did not.

At Hershey, where he was known as Andy, Stack had it better than most of his schoolmates. Because he was in glee club and lived in one of the “musical homes,” he was exempt from working the morning milkings in the school dairy barns, said former classmate Mike Macchioni.

And, like all Hershey students, Stack would have left the school in 1974 with a suitcase filled with new clothes, $100 in cash and the promise of financial help for college, Macchioni said. He attended Harrisburg Area Community College from 1975-77 but did not graduate, said school spokesman Patrick M. Early.

Brilliant by all accounts, hot-tempered by some, Stack headed for California in the early 1980s to make his fortune in computers. It was then, he wrote, that he got his “introduction to the real American nightmare.”

In 1985, Stack incorporated Prowess Engineering Inc. in Corona, Calif. Papers list Stack as chief executive and financial officer, and wife first Ginger as secretary and co-director.

Around this time, the budding entrepreneur had developed some kind of beef with the IRS. According to his suicide letter, some friends introduced Stack to “a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions.”

In those days, they weren’t hard to find.

Groups such as Your Heritage Protection Association and the Church of Christ, led by disbarred attorney William Drexler, were holding forth to packed rooms, preaching the gospel of hard currency and the unconstitutionality of the tax code.

“We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the ‘best’, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business),” Stack wrote, “and then began to do exactly what the ‘big boys’ were doing (except that we weren’t steeling (sic) from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God).”

That passage rings familiar to Riness. In 1978, he and partner Michael S. McGinnis founded the tax-protest group “TEA, an Association of Twentieth Century Patriots” — which claimed up to 4,000 members. The pair joined up with the Universal Life Church in Modesto, Calif., and formed their own denomination, the Church of Universal Harmony, selling church charters for up to $1,500 apiece.

MacNab is convinced after reading his manifesto that Stack likely started his own “home church.” He wrote that he and his friends were very careful to “make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.”

“The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living,” Stack wrote.

Riness said that’s exactly what he was hoping to achieve with the Church of Universal Harmony: “I thought that the worst thing that would happen is that if we got so big and others got big, the code would change and they would take away tax breaks to churches,” he said.

Both men would learn that wasn’t the worst possible outcome.

According to Stack’s letter, this “little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0.” Riness lost more than just money. In 1986, he pleaded guilty in federal court to tax fraud. That October, he was sentenced to 13 months in prison, fined $5,000 and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service.

Something else happened in 1986 that would gnaw at Stack for the rest of his life. Section 1706 of the federal tax code was changed in a way that essentially forced technology consultants — designers, programmers, systems analysts or, like Stack, software engineers — to be classified as employees rather than as self-employed workers, depriving them of certain tax deductions.

“(T)hey could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave,” Stack wrote.

Stack dedicated himself to the “campaign against this atrocity.” By his own account, he spent nearly $5,000 and “at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time.”

Stack’s first documented run-in with revenue officials appears to have come in 1994, when he failed to file a state tax return. The California Franchise Tax Board eventually suspended Prowess in 2000.

In 1995, Stack started Software Systems Service Corp. in Lincoln, Calif. But that company, too, was suspended in 2004 because Stack failed to pay $1,153 in state taxes, board spokeswoman Denise Azimi said.

In March 1998, Ginger Stack filed for divorce. The following year, just two months after the divorce was finalized, she filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing IRS liabilities totaling nearly $126,000. Although much of that debt was from 1993, when the couple were still married, Joe Stack was not included in the filing.

Despite his financial ups and downs, Stack did well enough to indulge his interest in flying. He obtained his first pilot’s license in 1994 and had owned a costly Velocity Elite XL-RG plane in addition to the Piper.

But he complained that most of his business dried up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks — when “Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars” and “left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY!”

He decided to relocate to Texas, airplane mechanic Dave Page recalls, because he liked the Lone Star State’s “tax structure.”

___

Stack landed in Austin, the state’s capital city and a hotbed of technology companies. In 2003, he started a company called Embedded Art that he described as a “small independent software house, specializing in process control and automation.”

But Stack found Austin a place “with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done. I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work.”

Friends said they saw no signs of that simmering rage. A bass guitarist and an above-average keyboard player, Stack blended right into Austin’s rich music scene. He teamed up with other musicians to form Last Straw, a jazz-blues-rock ensemble. Lead singer Simone Wensink thinks Stack might even have been the one who came up with the band’s now-ironic name.

“I felt like totally safe with this man,” said Wensink, who once flew in Stack’s plane to New Mexico.

In May 2007, with nearly $225,000 in bank loans, Stack bought a two-story, 2,500-square-foot brick house in a tree-shaded Austin subdivision. Two months later, he married the former Sheryl Housh, a piano instructor with a daughter from a previous marriage.

His anger, however, continued to build. Court records indicate he was employed as recently as last year as a software engineer for DAC International, an Austin-based aerospace engineering, manufacturing and marketing firm. As part of a corporate bankruptcy filing, Stack submitted claims for $1,238 he said he was owed in back pay from March 2009 and accrued vacation time.

He claims to have started his letter “many months ago” as a kind of “therapy,” but reached a tipping point last week.

Police say Sheryl Stack took her 12-year-old daughter to a hotel Wednesday night following an argument with her husband. The family’s accountant confirmed Saturday that the Stacks were in the midst of an audit for reportedly failing to report income.

“I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different,” Stack wrote. “I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”

___

Associated Press writers Jim Vertuno in Austin, Danny Robbins in Dallas, Juliet Williams in Sacramento, Calif., and Ian MacDougall in Oslo, Norway, contributed to this report.

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By Anthony Fenton

VANCOUVER, Canada, Feb 19, 2010 (IPS) – Critics are concerned that private military contractors are positioning themselves at the centre of an emerging “shock doctrine” for earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Next month, a prominent umbrella organisation for private military and logistic corporations, the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), is co-organising a “Haiti summit” which aims to bring together “leading officials” for “private consultations with attending contractors and investors” in Miami, Florida.

HAITI: Private Contractors ‘Like Vultures Coming to Grab the Loot’ – IPS ipsnews.net

Posted using ShareThis

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Joe Stack’s original website:

http://www.embeddedart.com

This website has been taken offline due to the sensitive nature of the events that transpired in Texas this morning and in compliance with a request from the FBI.

Regards,
T35 Hosting – http://www.T35.com

Joe Stack’s last message copied from Freethought and Rationalism Discussion Board

If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?” The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time. The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken. Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it. I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless… especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head. Exactly what is therapeutic about that I’m not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was “no taxation without representation”. I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood. These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a “crackpot”, traitor and worse.

While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.

And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!

How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system? Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand. Yet, it mercilessly “holds accountable” its victims, claiming that they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand. The law “requires” a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that’s not “duress” than what is. If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.

How did I get here?

My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early ‘80s. Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English. Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy. We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing (except that we weren’t steeling from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God). We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living. However, this is where I learned that there are two “interpretations” for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0. It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie. It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their “freedom”… and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.

Before even having to make a shaky recovery from the sting of the first lesson on what justice really means in this country (around 1984 after making my way through engineering school and still another five years of “paying my dues”), I felt I finally had to take a chance of launching my dream of becoming an independent engineer.

On the subjects of engineers and dreams of independence, I should digress somewhat to say that I’m sure that I inherited the fascination for creative problem solving from my father. I realized this at a very young age.

The significance of independence, however, came much later during my early years of college; at the age of 18 or 19 when I was living on my own as student in an apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My neighbor was an elderly retired woman (80+ seemed ancient to me at that age) who was the widowed wife of a retired steel worker. Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement. Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. All she had was social security to live on.

In retrospect, the situation was laughable because here I was living on peanut butter and bread (or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge) for months at a time. When I got to know this poor figure and heard her story I felt worse for her plight than for my own (I, after all, I thought I had everything to in front of me). I was genuinely appalled at one point, as we exchanged stories and commiserated with each other over our situations, when she in her grandmotherly fashion tried to convince me that I would be “healthier” eating cat food (like her) rather than trying to get all my substance from peanut butter and bread. I couldn’t quite go there, but the impression was made. I decided that I didn’t trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.

Return to the early ‘80s, and here I was off to a terrifying start as a ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ contract software engineer… and two years later, thanks to the fine backroom, midnight effort by the sleazy executives of Arthur Andersen (the very same folks who later brought us Enron and other such calamities) and an equally sleazy New York Senator (Patrick Moynihan), we saw the passage of 1986 tax reform act with its section 1706.

For you who are unfamiliar, here is the core text of the IRS Section 1706, defining the treatment of workers (such as contract engineers) for tax purposes. Visit this link for a conference committee report regarding the intended interpretation of Section 1706 and the relevant parts of Section 530, as amended. For information on how these laws affect technical services workers and their clients, read our discussion here.

SEC. 1706. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN TECHNICAL PERSONNEL.

(a) IN GENERAL – Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:

(d) EXCEPTION. – This section shall not apply in the case of an individual who pursuant to an arrangement between the taxpayer and another person, provides services for such other person as an engineer, designer, drafter, computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work.

(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. – The amendment made by this section shall apply to remuneration paid and services rendered after December 31, 1986.

Note:

· “another person” is the client in the traditional job-shop relationship.

· “taxpayer” is the recruiter, broker, agency, or job shop.

· “individual”, “employee”, or “worker” is you.

Admittedly, you need to read the treatment to understand what it is saying but it’s not very complicated. The bottom line is that they may as well have put my name right in the text of section (d). Moreover, they could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave. Twenty years later, I still can’t believe my eyes.

During 1987, I spent close to $5000 of my ‘pocket change’, and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time. I spent countless hours on the L.A. freeways driving to meetings and any and all of the disorganized professional groups who were attempting to mount a campaign against this atrocity. This, only to discover that our efforts were being easily derailed by a few moles from the brokers who were just beginning to enjoy the windfall from the new declaration of their “freedom”. Oh, and don’t forget, for all of the time I was spending on this, I was loosing income that I couldn’t bill clients.

After months of struggling it had clearly gotten to be a futile exercise. The best we could get for all of our trouble is a pronouncement from an IRS mouthpiece that they weren’t going to enforce that provision (read harass engineers and scientists). This immediately proved to be a lie, and the mere existence of the regulation began to have its impact on my bottom line; this, of course, was the intended effect.

Again, rewind my retirement plans back to 0 and shift them into idle. If I had any sense, I clearly should have left abandoned engineering and never looked back.

Instead I got busy working 100-hour workweeks. Then came the L.A. depression of the early 1990s. Our leaders decided that they didn’t need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that. The result was economic devastation in the region that rivaled the widely publicized Texas S&L fiasco. However, because the government caused it, no one gave a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to “shore up” their windfall. Again, I lost my retirement.

Years later, after weathering a divorce and the constant struggle trying to build some momentum with my business, I find myself once again beginning to finally pick up some speed. Then came the .COM bust and the 911 nightmare. Our leaders decided that all aircraft were grounded for what seemed like an eternity; and long after that, ‘special’ facilities like San Francisco were on security alert for months. This made access to my customers prohibitively expensive. Ironically, after what they had done the Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars … as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY! After these events, there went my business but not quite yet all of my retirement and savings.

By this time, I’m thinking that it might be good for a change. Bye to California, I’ll try Austin for a while. So I moved, only to find out that this is a place with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done. I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work. The rates are 1/3 of what I was earning before the crash, because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies in the area who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages… and this happens because the justice department is all on the take and doesn’t give a fuck about serving anyone or anything but themselves and their rich buddies.

To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA. This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income. I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn’t have any income there was no need. The sleazy government decided that they disagreed. But they didn’t notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out. Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.

So now we come to the present. After my experience with the CPA world, following the business crash I swore that I’d never enter another accountant’s office again. But here I am with a new marriage and a boatload of undocumented income, not to mention an expensive new business asset, a piano, which I had no idea how to handle. After considerable thought I decided that it would be irresponsible NOT to get professional help; a very big mistake.

When we received the forms back I was very optimistic that they were in order. I had taken all of the years information to Bill Ross, and he came back with results very similar to what I was expecting. Except that he had neglected to include the contents of Sheryl’s unreported income; $12,700 worth of it. To make matters worse, Ross knew all along this was missing and I didn’t have a clue until he pointed it out in the middle of the audit. By that time it had become brutally evident that he was representing himself and not me.

This left me stuck in the middle of this disaster trying to defend transactions that have no relationship to anything tax-related (at least the tax-related transactions were poorly documented). Things I never knew anything about and things my wife had no clue would ever matter to anyone. The end result is… well, just look around.

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”. Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes… isn’t that a clever, tidy solution.

As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone. The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government. Nothing changes unless there is a body count (unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough). In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws.

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.

I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)

2/18/10

(Damn Joe, right during tax season! Now they’ll delay all our returns!

On the serious side, I certainly agree with a lot that Joe states in his message. Americans do need to wake up as things will only prove to get worse and worse.. It will take something writhing in ugliness on one’s doorstep before people start to realize that the “conspiracy theorists” were right about a lot of things all along.

It’s too bad Joe felt that there was no way out other than by flying a plane into the building. It’s sad – for everyone involved. RIP)

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Of course, you haven’t heard about this on our censored news stations or in any “paper”… As usual, our media focuses on situations far from “the homeland” instead of issues close to home and, hopefully, important to U.S. citizens. There are brethren in our country who are struggling through this winter and these last few storms have caused considerable damage to their homes and utilities. This is news that you SHOULD be hearing about but, unfortunately, it seems that our government (since they control the media) hopes this segment of our country, and its people, would just disappear…

Record Snowfalls Batter Indian Country

California Tribes Come to the Aid of Plains, Southwest Nations

New America Media, News Report, R.M. Arrieta, Posted: Feb 10, 2010 //

While all eyes were on Haiti after a devastating earthquake ravaged the country, another crisis was unfolding here in the midwest and southwest parts of the United States, where Native American tribes are getting hammered with unusually fierce weather.

Reservations across the northern plains, specifically in South Dakota and Nebraska, and in the Big Mountain region of Black Mesa in Arizona are fortifying themselves after enduring several weeks of snowstorms with little or no heat, water or food, and impassable roads.

In South Dakota, on the reservations of the Cheyenne River Sioux and Oglala Sioux on Pine Ridge, as well as the Omaha tribe in Nebraska, residents have been dealing with heavy ice storms since January 22. Since Sunday night, a wind chill advisory has been in place.

Among the hardest hit is the Cheyenne River Sioux, where the accumulation of ice brought down
3,000 power poles, broke water pipes and hampered efforts to get food and propane by blocking roads and creating unsafe driving conditions.

“It’s safe to say over 10,000 people and 4, 000 to 5,000 homes were affected. The power is back on but it’s very hard for people,” said tribal chairman Joseph Brings Plenty. “We’re dealing with the aftereffect of trying to get some lines going. The water tower there is frozen. We have to try to get that un-thawed, which might take another week or so.”

Local elder David Bald Eagle is settling in because “we’re snowed in again. There’s no transportation really. In our place the snowdrift is so high we can’t even get to the road. Luckily, we have a wood stove and wood. We don’t have water of course but we can always melt snow. The main water line to the tribe around Eagle Butte has been broken for two weeks. We’ve had no water since then.”

Throughout Indian Country, help has been coming from tribes who are financially stable to those with few resources. Among native nations, there exists a communications network that responds to situations that adversely impact the relatives of other tribes. This has been helped by such new technologies as the Internet, which are shrinking the distances between Native peoples.

“The moccasin telegraph has never been so strong. Even though we know that First Nations always had contact with one another, our communities, until very recently, were isolated by a certain regionalism, one that was perceived as much as it was physical, because, I think, in our collective mind we felt restricted by the reservation system,” explains statement on website CyberPowwow.net

Brings Plenty said had the tribe relied solely on help from the governor’s office they would have remained in dire straits. “We are probably better off trying to respond to these emergencies on our own,” he said. “We were a week into it and still dealing with the situation out here like it was the day after — but we were running out of resources and everything.” So Brings Plenty put out a call on the Internet for help throughout Indian Country. He got a quick response.

California Indians Send Help to the Great Plains

Tribes from as far away as California came forward. The San Manuel band of Serrano Mission Indians, through their special assistance fund, worked with the Red Cross to send help.

“It’s just overwhelming and very humbling to see that much care and concern. It was really good to see the human spirit being able to reach out and be supportive at this time,” said Plenty. “I think
you have less of a bureaucracy to deal with. I think that accounts in part, for the speed we are able to dispatch our resources and I think that’s a good thing,” said Jacob Coin, spokesperson for San Bernardino-based San Manuel band, who donated $220,000 to the midwest tribal communities struck
by the severe weather.

The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in California in Capay Valley, provided $100,000 to assist the Cheyenne River Sioux with disaster relief efforts.

“I think the tribe felt this was a situation that wasn’t very well known or well understood and hoped that by their actions they would be able to spread the word about the situation with the Cheyenne River Sioux and encourage other people to help if they possibly can,” said Brent Andrews, spokesman for the Wintun Nation.

“This is a time for our nation to come to the assistance of another tribe in desperate need. Our Tribal Council was deeply moved by the profound damage to the Cheyenne River Sioux people. We took immediate action,” said tribal chairman Marshall McKay in a statement. “

“We stand in kinship with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations in our commitment to help our… brothers and sisters out of this crisis.” stated chairman McKay.

The Archibald Bush Foundation provided two grants of $25,000 to match contributions made to emergency relief through The Native Americans in Philanthropy or South Dakota Community Foundation, with 100 percent reaching the tribe through support of GiveMN.org covering transaction fees.

The Oglala Sioux helped their brothers and sisters of the Cheyenne River, who were in even worse conditions than they were. The Oglala Sioux opened their health center on Pine Ridge and took in 35 dialysis patients from Cheyenne River. The Rosebud Sioux tribe sent road crews and water tankers to help out. The Navajo Nation, undergoing severe weather conditions of their own, dispatched a utility crew to restore electricity; the Santee Tribe sent drinking water; the Hochunk Nation sent in supplies.

Wal-Mart also provided emergency food and supplies, as did many other private individuals and corporations. Joe Kennedy from Citizen Energy, and Citco Energy Assistance from Venezuela, provided funds for heating oil.

Trans Canada sent down electricians to help with the shelters.

The South Dakota National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the South Dakota Department of Public Safety helped out with equipment and generators.

“They did everything that could possibly be done, and I know that the funding that some of the tribes sent us -– they’re not rich tribes, they’re struggling with and trying to make ends meet,” said Brings Plenty.

“We are part of a family of Indian Nations in this country and will be there in times of need,” said Chairman James Ramos. “When San Manuel hears calls from tribal nations for help, it hits close to home, and as Indian people, we are moved to respond.”

On Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux reservation, a state of emergency has been lifted but many residents still need help with foodstuffs and propane. The snow is melting but roads are extremely muddy and undriveable.

In the Southwest in Arizona in the communities of Big Mountain and Black Mesa, the same holds true where the snow has melted and extremely muddy roads are keeping some residents stranded.

Record Snow in the Southwest

George Howard with the National Weather Service branch in Flagstaff said, “The biggest problems have been getting food, water and medical care to those who may need it because they find the roads impassable due to large amounts of snowfall or even after the snow has melted, impassable roads due to the muddy and wet conditions because so many of the roadways on the Navajo nation and tribal lands are graded dirt.”

He said the winter storms have been unusually strong. “For instance here in Flagstaff our average annual, snowfall is 109 inches for a season. We’ve already had 107, and we still have two months of wintry season to go.

The San Manuel band also donated $50,000 each to the Hopi and Navajo Nations for emergency relief operations as they continue efforts to provide basic supplies. The Navajo reservation is 17 million acres and the Hopi reservation is 1.5 million acres. It is difficult to reach residents who live in the remote areas of these vast reservations in northern Arizona due to impassable roads because of the snow and mud.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as tribal, state and county offices responded to the crisis, as well as the National Guard, which dropped basic supplies to people living in remote parts of the reservations.

“This winter has brought difficulties and hardships on many of our people and communities on the Navajo reservation,” said Herman Shorty, chairman of the Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management.

San Manuel has always offered a helping hand to their Indian brothers and sisters in need.
“We have a long history of having helped other tribes when natural disasters befall them. About a year-and-a-half ago, when the Havasupai community at the bottom of the grand canyon in Arizona was flooded out by huge rains, and lost almost all of their economic resources which are tourism and river guides,” the band donated $1 million to fund an economic recovery plan,” said Jacob Coin,
spokesperson for the San Manuel tribe.

“When some of the Southern California tribes lost homes and other resources on their reservation to the wildfires of ‘06, and ‘07, the tribe was able to help restore some of the housing and economic support to those tribes,” he added.

Said Brings Plenty, “I’m just grateful to all of the individuals out there and on behalf of my people I want to say ‘Wopila Tanka’ for everything. It means ‘thank you greatly.’ ”

Related stories:

CNN Censors Dakotas Emergency; U.S. Scams Dollars for Relief

Storm Disaster for Sioux flies under compassion radar

Some still without power, water, after two weeks

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From AntiWar Radio

Scott Horton Interviews Ray McGovern

Scott Horton, January 14, 2010
Courtesty of The NewInternationalist http://www.newint.org/issue167/keynote.htm

Courtesy of New Internationalist

Ray McGovern, a retired CIA senior analyst, discusses a number of subjects to include: the ignorance of the American people; how American Imperialism is behind acts of terrorism and not that terrorists are “jealous” of our democracy; how journalists no longer report ‘real’ news; the terrorist organization that makes up the state of Israel and how the American Imperialist government is firmly in bed with their terrorist actions; the alteration of true history to suit the elitists; the skewing of “intelligence” reports; the use of the word “homeland” and its Nazi connections; how oil, resources, money, and power rules; and much more.

Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, has published a number of articles in the Consortium News and Antiwar.com.

Those in the know are already familiar with all these themes but it is always interesting to listen to new perspective.

MP3 interview here.

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Did you know that economists were using women’s fashion – outfits and make-up – to gauge the state of the economy?! And you thought these MBA-laden gurus pored over a zillion Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and spent many a long night in heavy debates in boardrooms! HA!

According to an article published in Australia, some economists have faith in the Skirt Length Theory and the Leading Lipstick Indicator as sound market indicators, as both tend to demonstrate the state of the economy. Who would have thunk it??

The Skirt Length Theory, as explained by Investopedia.com, is easy to understand: if skirts are short, the market is is going up; if they are long, the market is going down.

The same site explains the Leading Lipstick Indicator as a theory where consumers turn to “less expensive indulgences, such as lipstick, when she (or he) feels less than confident about the future. Therefore, lipstick sales tend to increase during times of economic uncertainty or a recession.” Supposedly, after the attacks of 9/11 sales of lipstick products doubled.

Another economic indicator is the Hot Waitress Economic Indicator.  Typically, it is propositioned, in a strong economy attractive people hold better paying jobs so are less likely to be found working in lower paying positions. However, in a weak economy, they are forced to look for other work and, thus, are found in lower paying positions such as waitressing.

But don’t feel left out of the economic equation, men! There is actually an economic fashion trend on the male side…

Behold – the Men’s Underwear Index!

Men, unlike women, view underwear as a necessity so sales on male underwear is typically steady and dependable. However, in bad economic times, sales for men’s underwear drops considerably and only picks up again when the economy improves.

Let us hope that 2010 brings shorter hemlines, pale, natural lips, ugly waitresses, and men with drawers of new underwear!

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From AOL News

Vatican Looks for Signs of Alien Life

By ARIEL DAVID, AP

11/10/2009

Trial of GalileoVATICAN CITY (Nov. 10) – E.T. phone Rome. Four hundred years after it locked up Galileo for challenging the view that the Earth was the center of the universe, the Vatican has called in experts to study the possibility of extraterrestrial alien life and its implication for the Catholic Church.
“The questions of life’s origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration,” said the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, an astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory.
Funes, a Jesuit priest, presented the results Tuesday of a five-day conference that gathered astronomers, physicists, biologists and other experts to discuss the budding field of astrobiology — the study of the origin of life and its existence elsewhere in the cosmos.
Funes said the possibility of alien life raises “many philosophical and theological implications” but added that the gathering was mainly focused on the scientific perspective and how different disciplines can be used to explore the issue.
Chris Impey, an astronomy professor at the University of Arizona, said it was appropriate that the Vatican would host such a meeting.
“Both science and religion posit life as a special outcome of a vast and mostly inhospitable universe,” he told a news conference Tuesday. “There is a rich middle ground for dialogue between the practitioners of astrobiology and those who seek to understand the meaning of our existence in a biological universe.”
Thirty scientists, including non-Catholics, from the U.S., France, Britain, Switzerland, Italy and Chile attended the conference, called to explore among other issues “whether sentient life forms exist on other worlds.”
Funes set the stage for the conference a year ago when he discussed the possibility of alien life in an interview given prominence in the Vatican’s daily newspaper.
The Church of Rome’s views have shifted radically through the centuries since Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1600 for speculating, among other ideas, that other worlds could be inhabited.
Scientists have discovered hundreds of planets outside our solar system — including 32 new ones announced recently by the European Space Agency. Impey said the discovery of alien life may be only a few years away.
“If biology is not unique to the Earth, or life elsewhere differs bio-chemically from our version, or we ever make contact with an intelligent species in the vastness of space, the implications for our self-image will be profound,” he said.
This is not the first time the Vatican has explored the issue of extraterrestrials: In 2005, its observatory brought together top researchers in the field for similar discussions.
In the interview last year, Funes told Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that believing the universe may host aliens, even intelligent ones, does not contradict a faith in God.
“How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere?” Funes said in that interview.
“Just as there is a multitude of creatures on Earth, there could be other beings, even intelligent ones, created by God. This does not contradict our faith, because we cannot put limits on God’s creative freedom.”
Funes maintained that if intelligent beings were discovered, they would also be considered “part of creation.”
The Roman Catholic Church’s relationship with science has come a long way since Galileo was tried as a heretic in 1633 and forced to recant his finding that the Earth revolves around the sun. Church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.
Today top clergy, including Funes, openly endorse scientific ideas like the Big Bang theory as a reasonable explanation for the creation of the universe. The theory says the universe began billions of years ago in the explosion of a single, super-dense point that contained all matter.
Earlier this year, the Vatican also sponsored a conference on evolution to mark the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.”
The event snubbed proponents of alternative theories, like creationism and intelligent design, which see a higher being rather than the undirected process of natural selection behind the evolution of species.
Still, there are divisions on the issues within the Catholic Church and within other religions, with some favoring creationism or intelligent design that could make it difficult to accept the concept of alien life.
Working with scientists to explore fundamental questions that are of interest to religion is in line with the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI, who has made strengthening the relationship between faith and reason a key aspect of his papacy.
Recent popes have been working to overcome the accusation that the church was hostile to science — a reputation grounded in the Galileo affair.
In 1992, Pope John Paul II declared the ruling against the astronomer was an error resulting from “tragic mutual incomprehension.”
The Vatican Museums opened an exhibit last month marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first celestial observations.
Tommaso Maccacaro, president of Italy’s national institute of astrophysics, said at the exhibit’s Oct. 13 opening that astronomy has had a major impact on the way we perceive ourselves.
“It was astronomical observations that let us understand that Earth (and man) don’t have a privileged position or role in the universe,” he said. “I ask myself what tools will we use in the next 400 years, and I ask what revolutions of understanding they’ll bring about, like resolving the mystery of our apparent cosmic solitude.”
The Vatican Observatory has also been at the forefront of efforts to bridge the gap between religion and science. Its scientist-clerics have generated top-notch research and its meteorite collection is considered one of the world’s best.
The observatory, founded by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, is based in Castel Gandolfo, a lakeside town in the hills outside Rome where the pope has his summer residence. It also conducts research at an observatory at the University of Arizona, in Tucson.
Associated Press writers Victor L. Simpson and Alessandra Rizzo contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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This is big news and it could mean very bad things for us “little people.” Credit cards rates will skyrocket, along with other bank interest rates such as your mortgage. What’s next? With all the shootings and cries of “terrorism” it could be martial law. This bears watching and following in the news…

From Huffington Post

Ryan Grim

First Posted: 11- 5-09 05:59 PM   |   Updated: 11- 6-09 05:38 PM

bankAmid the ongoing financial regulation overhaul, the banking industry is hoping to pull off a quiet power grab that has eluded its grasp since the Great Depression, by stripping the independence of the board that sets financial accounting standards.

The move could effectively let banks set their own accounting standards in rough economic times.

Astonishingly, at a time when the public is crying out for greater regulation to limit excessive risk-taking by financial institutions, the banks are trying to get Congress to agree that the next time there’s a big downturn, they should have the ability to alter their accounting standards — essentially, fudge the numbers — so that the public and investors won’t be able to tell how insolvent they really are. By ignoring their declining asset values, they can avoid the standard requirement of raising more capital.

The mechanism is contained in an amendment set to be introduced in mid-November by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) that would move final authority over the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) from the Securities and Exchange Commission to a new body, a so-called “oversight” board, that would include the officials charged with managing systemic risks to the financial markets.

These regulators would have the authority to override FASB’s accounting guidelines by taking into account economic conditions.

The move is so radical that it has split corporate America. The bankers and members of Congress who support it have earned themselves an unlikely enemy: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A typical business or investor, after all, prefers honest, independent accounting, because they buy and sell real things based on real value.

Story continues below

//

“Washington isn’t thinking straight,” said Josh Rosner, managing director of Graham, Fischer & Co, a New York-based financial analyst who advises regulators and institutional investors. “Financial statements are for the benefit of investors.”

Indeed, allowing banks to alter accounting standards when they run into trouble is incentive to take more risk and, in essence, institutionalizes fraud. The regulators would now be under enormous political pressure — and sometimes under direct orders — to allow banks to remain in business long after they’ve become insolvent, in the hopes that things will turn around and they’ll grow again.

And rather than stabilize the system, removing accounting independence destabilizes it in the long run, as investors and other banks have little confidence in the veracity of financial statements.

Perlmutter told the Huffington Post that under his proposal, the FASB “would stay with the SEC, but in instances where an accounting procedure or a way it’s being implemented poses a threat to the financial system by exaggerating what’s going on — is pro-cyclical to a point that it, too, threatens the system — then the financial regulator, the systemic regulator, could look in to it.

“For virtually every situation you can think of, there’s no change, but [there would be a change] in the event that there’s a threat to the system, like the dysfunctional market we had from October through March, and that the accounting procedures just didn’t fit for a system where there was no market,” Perlmutter said.

Leslie Oliver, a spokeswoman for Perlmutter, said backers of the amendment haven’t been surprised at the opposition from certain sectors of corporate America.

“That’s understandable for a company that has tangible assets,” she said. Perlmutter said he has yet to hear directly from the Chamber.

That the banking industry finds itself in opposition to large sectors of the business community is evidence that a historic power struggle for control of the economy is underway.

The issue is stirring up the House Financial Services Committee. “It’s caused a great deal of controversy,” said committee chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Frank has yet to take a position, he said, waiting until Perlmutter finishes meeting with members of the committee. “I told him I would wait until he finishes his conversations,” Frank told HuffPost.

FASB is fighting to keep its independence. “The amendment that’s being considered represents a shift that threatens to fundamentally challenge the objectives of financial accounting and politicize the process and harm financial system,” said FASB spokesman Neal McGarity. “The mission of bank regulators is to ensure the safety and soundness of the banking system. We have a different mandate. That’s why this is of considerable concern.”

A powerful subcommittee chairman already opposes it. “I’m for keeping the independent FASB and I see no reason to change it,” Rep. Paul Kanjorski told HuffPost.

The Chamber joined with investors and auditors in opposing the Perlmutter amendment.

From a letter sent to top committee members by representatives of the Center For Audit Quality; the Chamber of Commerce; and the Council of Institutional Investors:

“By placing the FASB under the jurisdiction of a structure charged with managing systemic risks to the financial markets, accounting rules will be viewed though the narrow lens of a few large companies from specific industries, rather than considerate of the applicability of financial reporting policies to over 15,000 public companies. Such a narrow focus can skew standards such that it makes understanding of transactions that businesses engage in on a daily basis more difficult and undermine the confidence of investors. We believe that the SEC has been and continues to be best suited to provide the oversight of the FASB for such a broad and diverse economy.”

The American Bankers Association stands on the other side. “A Systemic Risk Oversight Council could not possibly do its job if does not have oversight authority over accounting rulemaking,” top bank lobbyist Ed Yingling testified before the committee on October 29. “This is a major deficiency in the draft legislation. Accounting policies are increasingly and profoundly influencing financial policy and the basic structure of our financial system. Thus, accounting standards must now be part of any systemic risk calculation. To do anything less creates the potential to undermine any action taken to address a systemic risk. The Financial Accounting Standards Board should continue to function as it does today, but it should no longer report only to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC’s view is simply too narrow. Accounting policies contributed to the crisis, as has now been well documented, and yet the SEC is not charged with considering systemic and structural effects.”

Yingling said the ABA “strongly supported” the approach taken by Perlmutter. “We thank Representatives Perlmutter and [Frank] Lucas [R-Okla.] for their foresight and leadership on this critical issue.”

While the big banks would be pleased by the change, Frank said, the major push has come from community banks. Perlmutter said that his amendment was one of the community bankers’ highest priorities.

Community banks are a popular and powerful political force in Congress. They didn’t heavily trade the exotic products that nearly brought down the global economy; they received little in the way of bailout money; they don’t give multi-billion-dollar bonuses; they tend to take more responsibility for loans that they issue; and they’re generally respected members of the local community.

“Many members of the committee are supportive of community banks,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), one of the most progressive members of the committee and a subcommittee chair. “The big banks have been such an outrageous, scandalous story about how they operate and what they have done that we tend to want to support the community banks in whatever they ask us to do.”

Waters told HuffPost she supports Perlmutter’s amendment.

And winning the support of community bankers is in essence a necessary condition for Democrats who want to pass reform legislation through the Financial Services Committee. The Perlmutter amendment could be a way to win community banks over to the idea of a systemic regulator, a priority of the administration.

But working to loosen accounting rules could come back to hurt the Democratic Party: When the system goes down again, voters will want to know why.

When HuffPost asked Frank if Wall Street was pushing Perlmutter’s measure, he responded emphatically.

“You have this caricature in your heads. You literally don’t understand the way the world works,” he said. “It’s the community banks, the credit unions, who are driving this…Seriously, the community banks have the political clout here. Not the Wall Street banks.”

Frank said the ABA was likely pushing for the amendment to win favor with community banks in its rivalry with the Independent Community Bankers of America.

Perlmutter agreed. “It’s the community banks I’ve been working with. I’m not hearing it from the Wall Street guys,” he said.

While the ABA has traditionally been associated with large Wall Street banks, it also represents small banks and is attempting to expand its membership by signing up more community bankers.

It works well for the big banks when their interests are aligned with the little ones, as is the case here. When their interests are not aligned, the little banks often win. Community banks, for instance, won an exemption from examinations — though not the rules — related to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

The ICBA wants to use its clout and the distrust of the big banks to move Perlmutter’s amendment even further in their direction. “We’re not buying and selling all the time. We hold a lot of things for the long term…. So we’d like to build in some additional sensitivity to community banks so would like to make that more explicit,” Steve Verdier, an ICBA senior vice president, told HuffPost. “We’re going to get in touch with [Perlmutter] to see if there are more things that can be done to tweak it in our direction.”

Much of the debate around the amendment comes down to what is called the mark-to-market accounting requirement. Banks — both big and small — have long sought to avoid marking their assets down to market prices when those market prices are too low. Marking down the assets requires the bank to take a loss on its books, which then requires it to raise more capital by selling off assets at low prices. Banks claimed that in the fall, the market had frozen and that they couldn’t sell assets. Another way of putting it is that the market price was lower than they wanted to accept.

Regardless, forced selling at low prices creates a downward spiral that banks and the GOP blame for the financial crisis last fall. The GOP called for a study of the effect of mark-to-market accounting on the economic collapse as part of the bailout. That report found the accounting practice did not cause the collapse. Either way, the banks hope to avoid that cycle when the commercial real estate market collapses and they find themselves with bad loans again.

“It’s about easing the pressure to reduce the value of their assets in community banks, so they don’t have to raise more capital,” Frank said.

Asking accountants to change standards based on economic conditions could very well make their heads explode, however. It’s not their job, they say, to keep the system from collapsing. It’s their job to give honest numbers. If a company is bankrupt, it’s bankrupt.

“Accounting standards are not policy,” remarked one person involved in the fight.

But they have become policy. In the spring, Kanjorski’s subcommittee hauled the head of FASB in for a hearing and demanded the number-crunchers change their mark-to-market standards within three weeks or Congress would do it for them. FASB’s head pushed back during the hearing, saying that banks who called him asking for such a change were usually bankrupt fairly quickly.

“They practically dragged him into the hallway and beat him to death,” said Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), a committee member skeptical of the Perlmutter amendment.

Three weeks later, they eased their accounting rules. But it wasn’t simple for the banks. Even with the intense congressional pressure, the change only sneaked by by a single vote and created tension on a board accustomed to a freedom from politics. The Perlmutter amendment would make such a battle unnecessary for the banks.

“There are a lot of banks that are in a lot of trouble and have a lot of exposure to commercial real estate,” Miller said. “You can’t fix that with accounting.”

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) fought a lonely battle last spring to stave off the loosening of the accounting rules and opposes this more dramatic shift, as well. Banks may have good reason to want to overstate the value of their assets, he said, and it may work for a time. But an economy can’t be run indefinitely on imaginary numbers. “I enjoy reading fiction, but not in financial statements,” he said.

UPDATE: HuffPost obtained a copy of the amendment language that is circulating among lobbyists. Perlmutter’s spokeswoman confirmed its authenticity.

The amendment would empower the council overseeing FASB to “recommend to the SEC, either publicly or privately to take such action as is necessary, including but not limited to suspension, modification or elimination of such accounting principles, standards or procedures as they may apply to the stability of the financial system or the safety and soundness of financial companies, as a whole, for such duration as is reasonable and appropriate.”

If the SEC doesn’t follow the “recommendation,” according to section (c) of the amendment, the council can order it to do so.

In other words, for the sake of financial stability, bank regulators could secretly order the “elimination” of accounting standards.

SEC. 1103. PRUDENTIAL OVERSIGHT OF ACCOUNTING PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS THAT POSE SYSTEMIC RISKS.(a) IN GENERAL.–In the event that any member of the Council believes that an accounting principle, standard or procedure threatens the stability of the United States financial system or companies, as a whole, then the Council shall investigate and by a majority vote, determine whether any corrective action, emergency or otherwise, is necessary to prevent or mitigate any adverse effects from such principle, standard or procedure. In the event that the Council determines that corrective action is necessary then, the Council shall recommend to the SEC, either publicly or privately to take such action as is necessary, including but not limited to suspension, modification or elimination of such accounting principles, standards or procedures as they may apply to the stability of the financial system or the safety and soundness of financial companies, as a whole, for such duration as is reasonable and appropriate.

(b) ADOPTION OF COUNCIL RECOMMENDATIONS BY SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION.–the Securities and Exchange Commission shall ensure that the prudential standards recommended by the Council are implemented within 60 days of the Council’s recommendation or within such other time period specified by the Council.

(c) FAILURE TO ADOPT STANDARDS.–If the Securities and Exchange Commission fails to ensure that the prudential standards recommended by the Council are implemented within the time period specified in paragraph (b), the Council is authorized to direct that any recommendations issued pursuant to paragraph (a) be implemented for the purposes of generally accepted accounting principles.”

UPDATE II: The SEC and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants both oppose the amendment, as well. “Accounting should be about accounting, and not about anything else,” writes SEC chair Mary Schapiro in a letter to Frank sent Thursday.

From a letter from the AICPA:

It is our understanding that Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is considering language to amend the Financial Stability Improvement Act of 2009, which would undermine the independent accounting standard process as currently carried out by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) strongly opposes this amendment and any attempt that would serve to undermine the independence of accounting standard setting. The purpose of public company financial reporting is to provide investors with clear, objective, and transparent financial information. This helps investors make informed investment decisions. Any attempt to divert financial reporting from its primary investor-focused objectives to other policy objectives with regard to financial institutions damages investor protections.

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Right on, you go, dude! Keep on standing up for your rights! I’m proud that you did that! But sorry that you had to learn about the ignorance in this country in that manner. But, there are other jobs..

Home Depot is not the end all in building supply stores; there are plenty of other places that sell the same stuff – and at lower costs, like Lowes…

onenationFrom The Palm Beach Post TCoastTalk

October 23rd, 2009 by TCPalm.com

OKEECHOBEE — Trevor Keezer didn’t start working at The Home Depot to make a religious statement. He just wanted to earn money for college.

“I want to go to school to become a nurse,” said the 20-year-old Okeechobee resident.

Keezer says for 19 months, ever since he started working as a cashier at The Home Depot in Okeechobee, he’s worn a button with an American flag on it that reads: “One nation under God, indivisible.”

Keezer sees the quotation, taken from the pledge of allegiance, as his way of supporting American troops at war, and of expressing his Christian faith.

In December, his older brother Army Spc. Steven Keezer Jr., is scheduled to deploy to Iraq for his second tour of duty.

For more than a year, Keezer says none of his managers mentioned the button on his Home Depot apron, except one supervisor who commented she liked it.

“She actually wanted to wear it,” Keezer said.

Then, last month, when he started bringing his Bible to work, Keezer says his manager confronted him about the button.

“That’s when I was told it had to come off, or I would be sent home. So they sent me home for six straight days without pay. And then today they terminated me,” he said.

Craig Fishel, a spokesman for The Home Depot, said he could not comment on specific personnel issues, but added, “The company’s dress code policy states that we do not allow noncompany buttons, regardless of their message or content.”

Fishel says Home Depot has a “proud history” of supporting the military, and that it sanctions several of its own buttons for employees to wear, including one that reads: “United We Stand.”

Keezer said he preferred to wear his button because “you can’t have country without God. Every pin they showed me had no ‘God’ on it or anything.”

Fishel says the company gives employees several warnings when they violate the dress policy before terminating them.

But Keezer says, “It never crossed my mind to take off the button because I’m standing for something that’s bigger than I am. They kept telling me the severity of what you’re doing and I just let God be in control and went with His plan.”

Keezer says he was a model employee at Home Depot and he liked his job.

“I was cashier of the month and I’ve won six ‘Homer’ awards — that’s the highest award you can get at Home Depot.”

Keezer has the support of his family. “I’m so proud of him,” said his mother, Francine.

Local business owners are rallying to his cause, too.

Jim McCoin, owner of Cowboy’s Barbecue and Steak Co., said, “Amen. I am proud of him. If you can’t stand for what you believe in, then why be there.”

McCoin says he’d like to order some of the “One nation under God” buttons for the employees of his two local restaurants.

As for Keezer, he says he didn’t set out to make a religious statement, but now that he has, he believes he’s done the right thing.

“I want to be a voice for the rest of the Christians and for the citizens of this country to stand up for the country. You know, quit being told to sit down. Say what you want to say and don’t be afraid of the consequences,” he said.

_______________________________

Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, presented his take on how the Home Depot corporate office would respond to the situation at this link. Some do not find it amusing – you judge it for yourself.

One of the comments left at this column caught my eye and I repost it here:

By Lee

Oct 28, 2009 3:45 PM

I am a combat veteran and do believe in God. What I find interesting in any business is the fact that no one is told to shave his beard if he is a Sikh, no one is told to remove their shawl if they are female and muslim or a Yamilka if they are Jewish. But if you are a Christian you are not allowed to show in any form that you are a Christian. In fact it is frowned upon in corporate America. It seems odd that we do not allow Christians to show some form of their religion. Why are we always apologizing to people of other religions for being Christian? I am not a right wing fanatic nor a left wing fanatic. I am a former Marine and as most people know we tend to be a bit patriotic, sometimes to a fault. I will not apologize for that. We have a country that is out of control due to many reasons. This man being fired would not have happpened in the fifties, but he is today, is that progress in terms of tolerance? I am truly saddened when the moral fiber of the people in this country is so weak that it cannot tolerate one individual supporting his brother with a phrase from the pledge of alliegence of the United States. But I forget myself, Home Depot as well as Lowes and other companies are in business to make a profit not a statement. For example, Christmas is for our recognition of Christ’s birthday and all that it means to Christians and business is trying to change how we view that, along with other religions. It is not Happy Holidays to me, it is Merry Christmas. I am offended by any corporate policy that forces people in their business to say to me “Happy Holidays”. It is Christmas that is the holiday, nothing else on that date. Business make money off of that holiday and the least they can do is properly recognize it. I wonder how many people are subverting their own point of view for the sake of the almighty dollar at their job. We work on Sunday and that didn’t use to be. How many people of different religions get their religious day off each week to go and practice their religion. If you ask for it as a Christian, you might as well quit your job or expect to not be hired. Not so with other religions, corporate policy makers are afraid of other religions that stand up for themselves, not Christians. I hope that that Mr. Keezer is able to get a job that recognizes all that he stands for with wanting to support his brother going to combat. Reading a Bible at work is not offensive, not being allowed to read on is, that is how Hitler became so strong, by eliminating freedom and moral conscience. Welcome to the new world.   The New World Order, that is, Lee…

Link to Home Depot Boycott petition (though Nardelli is no longer CEO) http://www.petitiononline.com/hdsucks/petition.HTML

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