ആലപ്പുഴ മെഡിക്കല്‍ കോളജില്‍ പിഞ്ചുബാലന്റെ പല്ലുമാറിയെടുത്തു

October 25, 2011 at 5:41 am | Posted in BULLY | Leave a comment

അമ്പലപ്പുഴ: ആലപ്പുഴ മെഡിക്കല്‍ കോളജ്‌ ആശുപത്രിയില്‍ പിഞ്ചുബാലന്റെ കേടായ ഇടതുവശത്തെ പല്ലിനുപകരം വലതുവശത്തെ പല്ലെടുത്തു. ആലപ്പുഴ കനാല്‍ വാര്‍ഡ്‌ അനസ്‌ മന്‍സിലില്‍ ലാലി അബ്‌ദുള്‍ റഹ്‌മാന്റെ നാലരവയസുള്ള മകന്‍ മുഹമ്മദ്‌ റവൂഫിന്റെ പല്ലാണ്‌ മെഡിക്കല്‍ കോളജ്‌ ആശുപത്രിയില്‍ മാറിപ്പറിച്ചത്‌. മുഖത്ത്‌ ഇടതുവശത്ത്‌ നീരുണ്ടായതിനെ തുടര്‍ന്ന്‌ 21-ന്‌ കുട്ടിയെ മാതാപിതാക്കള്‍ ആശുപത്രിയിലെത്തിച്ച്‌ ഡോക്‌ടറെ കാണിച്ചിരുന്നു.

ഇടതുവശത്ത്‌ താഴെ രണ്ടാമത്തെ പല്ല്‌ കേടാണെന്നും ഇതെടുക്കാന്‍ തിങ്കളാഴ്‌ച ആശുപത്രിയില്‍ എത്തണമെന്നും ഡോക്‌ടര്‍ നിര്‍ദ്ദേശിച്ചു. ഇതനുസരിച്ച്‌ ഇന്നലെ രാവിലെ മാതാപിതാക്കള്‍ കുട്ടിയുമായി ഒ.പിയിലെത്തി. പല്ലെടുത്തതിനുശേഷവും കുട്ടി വേദനകൊണ്ട്‌ കരഞ്ഞപ്പോള്‍ മാതാപിതാക്കള്‍ പരിശോധിച്ചു. അപ്പോഴാണ്‌ കേടായ പല്ലിനുപകരം വലതുവശത്ത്‌ താഴെ രണ്ടാമത്തെ പല്ലാണ്‌ എടുത്തതെന്ന്‌ മനസിലായത്‌.

വേദനമൂലം കുട്ടിക്ക്‌ ആഹാരംപോലും കഴിക്കാന്‍ പറ്റാത്ത അവസ്‌ഥയാണെന്നു മാതാപിതാക്കള്‍ പറഞ്ഞു.

പല്ല്‌ മാറിപ്പറിച്ച സംഭവത്തെക്കുറിച്ച്‌ അന്വേഷണം നടത്തി കുറ്റകാര്‍ക്കെതിരെ നടപടിയെടുക്കണമെന്നാവശ്യപ്പെട്ട്‌ പിതാവ്‌ സൂപ്രണ്ടിന്‌ പരാതി നല്‍കി.

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നിര്‍മാണച്ചെലവ്‌ വെറും 4 രൂപ; കുപ്പിവെള്ളം വില്‍ക്കുന്നതു 16 രൂപയ്‌ക്ക്

October 25, 2011 at 5:39 am | Posted in BULLY | Leave a comment
 

കോട്ടയം: വിലക്കയറ്റം മൂലം പൊറുതിമുട്ടുന്ന മലയാളിക്ക്‌ ചുട്ടുപൊള്ളുന്ന വെയിലില്‍ പച്ചവെള്ളം കുടിക്കണമെങ്കിലും ഇനി വിയര്‍ക്കേണ്ടിവരും. പകര്‍ച്ചവ്യാധി ഭീഷണി നില നില്‍ക്കുന്ന സാഹചര്യം മുതലെടുത്ത്‌ കുടിവെള്ള നിര്‍മാണ കമ്പനികള്‍ വെള്ളത്തിന്റെ വില കൂട്ടി. ഇപ്പോള്‍ തന്നെ നിര്‍മാണച്ചെലവിന്റെ മൂന്നിരട്ടി വില ഈടാക്കി കൊള്ളലാഭം കൊയ്യുന്നതിനു പിന്നാലെയാണ്‌ ഇപ്പോഴത്തെ വില വര്‍ധന.

ലിറ്ററൊന്നിന്‌ ഒരുരൂപ മുതല്‍ മൂന്നുരൂപ വരെയാണ്‌ വര്‍ധിപ്പിച്ചത്‌. പകര്‍ച്ചവ്യാധി ഭീഷണി നിലനില്‍ക്കുന്നതിനാല്‍ ആളുകള്‍ കൂടുതലായി കുപ്പിവെള്ളം ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നതും, ശബരിമല തീര്‍ഥാടനകാലം അടുത്തു വരുന്നതും മുന്നില്‍ കണ്ടാണ്‌ വില വര്‍ധന. പന്ത്രണ്ടു രൂപമുതല്‍ പതിനാലു രൂപ വരെയായിരുന്ന കുടിവെള്ളത്തിനു ലിറ്ററിനു പതിനാറു രൂപവരെയാണ്‌ പുതുക്കിയ വില. ഐ.എസ്‌.എമാര്‍ക്കുള്ള എഴുപതു കുടിവെള്ള നിര്‍മാണ കമ്പനികളാണ്‌ ഇപ്പോള്‍ സംസ്‌ഥാനത്തുള്ളത്‌. ഇതില്‍ മുന്‍നിര കമ്പനികളെല്ലാം വിലവര്‍ധന നടപ്പിലാക്കിക്കഴിഞ്ഞു.

ഐ.എസ്‌.ഐ മാര്‍ക്കുള്ള കമ്പനികള്‍ അഞ്ചുഘട്ടങ്ങളിലായി വെള്ളം ശുദ്ധീകരിച്ചശേഷമാണ്‌ വിപണിയിലെത്തിക്കുന്നതെന്നാണ്‌ അവകാശവാദം. നിലവില്‍ ഒരു ലിറ്റര്‍ കുടിവെള്ളം ശുദ്ധീകരിച്ച്‌ കുപ്പിയിലാക്കുമ്പോള്‍ കമ്പനിക്കുണ്ടാകുന്ന ചെലവ്‌ മൂന്നു രൂപ മുതല്‍ നാലു രൂപ വരെ മാത്രമാണ്‌. ഇതു കടകളിലെത്തിക്കുമ്പോള്‍ അഞ്ചുരൂപ മുതല്‍ ആറുരൂപ വരെ ചെലവാകുന്നു. ഇതാണ്‌ പതിനാറു രൂപയ്‌ക്കു വരെ വിറ്റഴിക്കുന്നത്‌.

സാഹചര്യം മുതലെടുത്ത്‌ വ്യാജന്‍മാരും വിപണിയിലെത്തിയിട്ടുണ്ട്‌. മുന്‍നിര കമ്പനികളുടെ പേരില്‍ ചെറിയ മാറ്റങ്ങള്‍ വരുത്തിയാണ്‌ ഇത്തരം വ്യാജന്‍മാര്‍ വിപണിയിലെത്തിയിരിക്കുന്നത്‌. കുടിവെള്ളം വില്‍പ്പന നടത്തുമ്പോള്‍ എടുക്കേണ്ട യാതൊരു മുന്‍കരുതലും ഇവര്‍ സ്വീകരിക്കുന്നില്ല. കുടിവെള്ള കുപ്പിക്ക്‌ പുറത്ത്‌ നിര്‍മിക്കുന്ന കമ്പനിയുടെ മുഴുവന്‍ വിലാസവും വിലയും ഫോണ്‍ നമ്പരും രേഖപ്പെടുത്തണമെന്നാണ്‌ നിയമം. നിര്‍മിക്കുന്ന തീയതിമുതല്‍ ആറുമാസം വരെമാത്രമാണ്‌ ഇവ വിറ്റഴിക്കാവൂ എന്നും നിയമത്തില്‍ പറയുന്നു. എന്നാല്‍ പല കമ്പനികളും ഇത്‌ പാലിക്കാറില്ല.

മുതവഴി താഴികക്കുടം കവര്‍ച്ച :ഊരാണ്മക്കാരനും വാച്ചറുമടക്കം അഞ്ചുപേര്‍ അറസ്‌റ്റില്‍

October 25, 2011 at 5:36 am | Posted in BULLY | Leave a comment

ചെങ്ങന്നൂര്‍: മുതവഴി ശ്രീകുമാരമംഗലം സുബ്രഹ്‌മണ്യസ്വാമി ക്ഷേത്രത്തിലെ താഴികക്കുടത്തിന്റെ മകുടം കവര്‍ന്നതുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെട്ട്‌ അഞ്ചുപേര്‍ അറസ്‌റ്റില്‍.

പാണ്ടനാട്‌ മുതവഴി ചിത്രത്തൂര്‍ മഠത്തിലെ ശരത്‌കുമാര്‍ ഭട്ടതിരി (39), മുതവഴി കേളയില്‍ രഞ്‌ജിത്ത്‌ (28), തൃശൂര്‍ മാള നെയ്‌തികുടി മുകുന്ദപുരം വാവ വില്ലേജില്‍ ചാറക്കാട്ട്‌ ജോഷി (48), കൊയിലാണ്ടി തിക്കോടി വെള്ളാങ്കണ്ടി രാമചന്ദ്രന്‍ (രാമന്‍-41), കൊടുങ്ങല്ലൂര്‍ മേത്തല വില്ലേജില്‍ കടുക്കച്ചുവട്‌ ചാറക്കാട്ട്‌ അനീഷ്‌ (34) എന്നിവരാണ്‌ അറസ്‌റ്റിലായത്‌. മോഷണത്തിനു ഗൂഢാലോചന നടത്തിയതിനാണ്‌ അറസ്‌റ്റ്. മോഷ്‌ടാക്കള്‍ ഇപ്പോഴും ഒളിവിലാണ്‌.

മുതവഴി ക്ഷേത്രത്തിന്റെ ഊരാണ്മ അവകാശമുള്ള ചിത്രത്തൂര്‍ മഠത്തിലെ അംഗമാണു ശരത്‌കുമാര്‍ ഭട്ടതിരി. ക്ഷേത്രത്തിലെ വാച്ചറാണു രഞ്‌ജിത്ത്‌. ചാറക്കാട്ട്‌ ദേവസ്‌ഥാനം വിഷ്‌ണുമായ ക്ഷേത്രത്തിന്റെ ഉടമയും വെളിച്ചപ്പാടുമാണു ജോഷി. ജോഷിയുടെ സഹായിയാണു രാമന്‍. ഒരുവര്‍ഷമായി ജോഷിക്കൊപ്പമാണു താമസം. ജോഷിയുടെ ബന്ധു അനീഷാണു ക്ഷേത്രത്തിലെ രസീതുകള്‍ എഴുതുന്നത്‌. ഇവര്‍ മറ്റു ചിലരുമായി ചേര്‍ന്നു നടത്തിയ ഗൂഢാലോചനയുടെ ഫലമായാണു മകുടം അപഹരിച്ചത്‌.

മുതവഴി ക്ഷേത്രത്തിലെ താഴികക്കുടത്തില്‍ അമൂല്യലോഹമായ ഇറിഡിയത്തിന്റെ സാന്നിധ്യമുണ്ടെന്നു 2008-ല്‍ ഖ്യാതി പരന്നതോടെ അവകാശികള്‍ പലരായി. യഥാര്‍ഥ അവകാശികളായ ചിത്രത്തൂര്‍ മഠക്കാരെ കൂടാതെ കൊട്ടാരക്കര പുത്തൂരുള്ള ഊരുമഠക്കാരും രംഗത്തെത്തി.

ക്ഷേത്രത്തിന്‌ അവകാശികള്‍ കൂടിയതോടെ കാര്യങ്ങള്‍ സങ്കീര്‍ണമായി. താഴികക്കുടത്തില്‍ ഇറിഡിയമുണ്ടോയെന്നു പരിശോധിക്കാന്‍ ചിത്രത്തൂര്‍മഠം ഒരുലക്ഷം രൂപ കെട്ടിവച്ചപ്പോള്‍ അതിനു സ്‌റ്റേ നല്‍കിയത്‌ ഊരുമഠക്കാരാണ്‌. ഊരുമഠക്കാര്‍ പവര്‍ ഓഫ്‌ അറ്റോര്‍ണി നല്‍കിയത്‌ കൊടുങ്ങല്ലൂര്‍ മേത്തല തറയില്‍വീട്ടില്‍ പി.ആര്‍. സുരേഷിനാണ്‌. പിന്നീട്‌ സുരേഷിന്റെ സാന്നിധ്യത്തില്‍ ഇരുമഠക്കാരും ഒന്നിച്ചു. താഴികക്കുടം മോഷ്‌ടിച്ച്‌ ഇറിഡിയം കൈക്കലാക്കാനായിരുന്നു ഇത്‌. ഇതിനായി സുരേഷും ശരത്‌കുമാര്‍ ഭട്ടതിരിയും ജോഷിയും നിരവധി കൂടിക്കാഴ്‌ച നടത്തി.

ഏറ്റവും ഒടുവില്‍ ഒക്‌ടോബര്‍ 19-ന്‌ ഉച്ചയ്‌ക്ക് കുളനടയിലെ ഒരു ലോഡ്‌ജില്‍ ഇവര്‍ സന്ധിച്ചു. താഴികക്കുടത്തിന്‌ ഒരു ഇഞ്ച്‌ ‘പവര്‍’ ഉണ്ടെങ്കില്‍ 500 കോടി രൂപ വില വരുമെന്നാണ്‌ ഇവരുടെ കണക്കുകൂട്ടല്‍.

എട്ടിഞ്ചു പവര്‍ ഉണ്ടെന്നായിരുന്നു ഇവരുടെ ധാരണ. അങ്ങനെയെങ്കില്‍ 4,000 കോടി രൂപ വിലമതിക്കും. ശരത്‌ ഭട്ടതിരി ഒരുകോടി രൂപ അഡ്വാന്‍സ്‌ ചോദിച്ചു. വില പേശി 50 ലക്ഷവും പിന്നെ 20 ലക്ഷവുമായി താണു. താഴികക്കുടം ഇളക്കി പ്രത്യേക ഉപകരണത്തിന്റെ സഹായത്തോടെ പവര്‍ എടുത്ത്‌ അവിടെത്തന്നെ തിരികെവയ്‌ക്കുകയായിരുന്നു ലക്ഷ്യം.

17-നു രാത്രി ക്ഷേത്രം വാച്ചര്‍ രഞ്‌ജിത്ത്‌ പി.വി.സി. പൈപ്പില്‍ മുള കെട്ടി അറ്റത്തു പച്ചരി കിഴികെട്ടി താഴികക്കുടത്തിനടുത്തു കൊണ്ടുപോയി ആകര്‍ഷണശക്‌തി പരീക്ഷിച്ചിരുന്നു. എന്നാല്‍, ഇത്‌ ഉദ്ദേശിച്ച ഫലം കണ്ടില്ല. 29-നു രാത്രി 20 ലക്ഷം രൂപ അഡ്വാന്‍സുമായി ചെല്ലുമെന്നു പറഞ്ഞ കോഴിക്കോടുകാരന്‍ എത്തിയില്ല. 19-നു രാത്രി കവര്‍ന്ന താഴികക്കുടത്തിന്റെ മകുടം 22-നു വെളുപ്പിന്‌ ചിത്രത്തൂര്‍ മഠത്തിലെ ശക്‌തികുമാര ഭട്ടതിരിയുടെ പൂട്ടിയിട്ട ഗേറ്റിനകത്തു കുത്തിനിര്‍ത്തുകയായിരുന്നു.

മകുടം കോടതിയില്‍ ഹാജരാക്കി. കോടതിയുടെ അനുമതിയോടെ വിദഗ്‌ധപരിശോധന നടത്തും. അറസ്‌റ്റിലായ ജോഷി വെള്ളിമൂങ്ങ, നാഗമാണിക്യം, വൈരക്കല്ല്‌ തട്ടിപ്പുകേസുകളില്‍ മുമ്പ്‌ ഉള്‍പ്പെട്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്‌.

പ്രതികള്‍ക്കെതിരേ ക്ഷേത്രക്കവര്‍ച്ച, ഗൂഢാലോചന, സംഘംചേരല്‍ തുടങ്ങിയ വകുപ്പുകള്‍ പ്രകാരമാണു കേസ്‌. ഡിവൈ.എസ്‌.പി: എന്‍. നരേന്ദ്രബാബു, നര്‍ക്കോട്ടിക്‌ സെല്‍ ഡിവൈ.എസ്‌.പി: ഡി. മോഹന്‍, സി.ഐ: ആര്‍. ജോസ്‌, എസ്‌.ഐ: എന്‍.ജി. ശ്രീമോന്‍, എ.എസ്‌.ഐ. ചന്ദ്രബാബു, സീനിയര്‍ സിവില്‍ പോലീസ്‌ ഓഫീസര്‍ പ്രസന്നന്‍നായര്‍, സിവില്‍ പോലീസ്‌ ഓഫീസര്‍മാരായ അമിര്‍ഖാന്‍, രഞ്‌ജിത്ത്‌, അജിത്‌ എന്നിവരാണ്‌ അന്വേഷണസംഘത്തിലുള്ളത്‌.

http://mangalam.com/index.php?page=detail&nid=495528&lang=malayalam

How Bank of America Covered Up Fraud by Silencing Whistleblowers

October 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Posted in BULLY | Leave a comment

AlterNet

How Bank of America Covered Up Fraud by Silencing Whistleblowers

By Michael Hudson, IWatch News
Posted on October 13, 2011, Printed on October 14, 2011
http://www.alternet.org/story/152723/how_bank_of_america_covered_up_fraud_by_silencing_whistleblowers

 

In the summer of 2007, a team of corporate investigators sifted through mounds of paper pulled from shred bins at Countrywide Financial Corp. mortgage shops in and around Boston.

By intercepting the documents before they were sliced by the shredder, the investigators were able to uncover what they believed was evidence that branch employees had used scissors, tape and Wite-Out to create fake bank statements, inflated property appraisals and other phony paperwork. Inside the heaps of paper, for example, they found mock-ups that indicated to investigators that workers had, as a matter of routine, literally cut and pasted the address for one home onto an appraisal for a completely different piece of property.

Eileen Foster, the company’s new fraud investigations chief, had seen a lot of slippery behavior in her two-plus decades in the banking business. But she’d never seen anything like this.

“You’re looking at it and you’re going, Oh my God, how did it get to this point?” Foster recalls. “How do you get people to go to work every day and do these things and think it’s okay?”

More surprises followed. She began to get pushback, she claims, from company officials who were unhappy with the investigation.

One executive, Foster says, sent an email to dozens of workers in the Boston region, warning them the fraud unit was on the case and not to put anything in their emails or instant messages that might be used against them. Another, she says, called her and growled into the phone: “I’m g–d—ed sick and tired of these witch hunts.”

Her team was not allowed to interview a senior manager who oversaw the branches. Instead, she says, Countrywide’s Employee Relations Department did the interview and then let the manager’s boss vet the transcript before it was provided to Foster and the fraud unit.

In the end, dozens of employees were let go and six branches were shut down. But Foster worried some of the worst actors had escaped unscathed. She suspected, she says, that something wasn’t right with Countrywide’s culture — and that it was going to be rough going for her as she and her team dug into the methods used by Countrywide’s sales machine.

By early 2008, she claims, she’d concluded that many in Countrywide’s chain of command were working to cover up massive fraud within the company — outing and then firing whistleblowers who tried to report forgery and other misconduct. People who spoke up, she says, were “taken out.”

By the fall of 2008, she was out of a job too. Countrywide’s new owner, Bank of America Corp., told her it was firing her for “unprofessional conduct.”

Foster began a three-year battle to clear her name and establish that she and other employees had been punished for doing the right thing. Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor ruled that Bank of America had illegally fired her as payback for exposing fraud and retaliation against whistleblowers. It ordered the bank to reinstate her and pay her some $930,000.

Bank of America denies Foster’s allegations and stands behind its decision to fire her. Foster sees the ruling as a vindication of her decision to keep fighting.

“I don’t let people bully me, intimidate me and coerce me,” Foster told iWatch News during a series of interviews. “And it’s just not right that people don’t know what happened here and how it happened.”

‘Greedy people’

This is the story of Eileen Foster’s fight against the nation’s largest bank and what was once the nation’s largest mortgage lender. It is also the story of other former Countrywide workers who claim they, too, fought against a culture of corruption that protected fraudsters, abused borrowers and helped land Bank of America in a quagmire of legal and financial woes.

In government records and in interviews with iWatch News , 30 former employees charge that Countrywide executives encouraged or condoned fraud. The misconduct, they say, included falsified income documentation and other tactics that helped steer borrowers into bad mortgages.

Eighteen of these ex-employees, including Foster, claim they were demoted or fired for questioning fraud. They say sales managers, personnel executives and other company officials used intimidation and firings to silence whistleblowers.

A former loan-underwriting manager in northern California, for example, claimed Countrywide retaliated against her after she sent an email to the company’s founder and chief executive, Angelo Mozilo, about questionable lending practices. The ex-manager, Enid Thompson, warned Mozilo in March 2007 that “greedy unethical people” were pressuring workers to approve loans without regard for borrowers’ ability to pay, according to a lawsuit [3] in Contra Costa Superior Court.

Within 12 hours, Thompson claimed, Countrywide executives began a campaign of reprisal, reducing her duties and transferring staffers off her team. Corporate minions, she charged, ransacked her desk, broke her computer and removed her printer and personal things.

Soon after, she said, she was fired. Her lawsuit was resolved last year. The terms were not disclosed.

Bank of America officials deny Countrywide or Bank of America retaliated against Foster, Thompson or others who reported fraud. The bank says Foster’s firing was based only on her “management style.” It says it takes fraud seriously and never punishes workers who report wrongdoing up the corporate ladder.

When fraud happens, Bank of America spokesman Rick Simon says, “the lender is almost always a victim, even if the fraud is perpetrated by individual employees. Fraud is costly, so lenders necessarily invest heavily in both preventing and investigating it.”

When it uncovers fraud, Simon says, the bank takes “appropriate actions,” including firing the employees involved and cooperating with law-enforcement authorities in criminal investigations.

Mozilo’s attorney, David Siegel, told iWatch News it was “unlikely that Mr. Mozilo either would have had a direct role with, or would recall, specific employee grievances, and it would be inappropriate for him to comment on individual employment issues in any event.” Siegel added that “any implication that he ever would have tolerated much less condoned to any extent misconduct or fraudulent activity in loan production and underwriting … is utterly baseless.”

In

closed-door testimony a year ago, the ex-CEO defended his company, telling the federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that Countrywide “probably made more difference in society, in the integrity of our society, than any company in the history of America.”

Foster says that, in her experience, Mozilo urged managers to crack down on fraud. If he saw an email about a fraudster within the ranks, she says, he would hit “reply all” and type, “Track the bastard down and fire him.”

She says, though, that others within the company often screened his emails, and it’s likely Mozilo never saw Thompson’s email or many other messages about fraud.

“My sense is they kept things from Angelo,” she says.

‘An old matter’

When Bank of America announced in January 2008 that it was going to buy Countrywide at a fire-sale price, some analysts thought it was a great move, one that would leave the bank well positioned once the home-loan market recovered.

Almost three years later, defaults on loans originated by Countrywide have soared and Bank of America’s stock price has plunged as investors and government agencies have pursued mortgage-related claims totaling tens of billions of dollars.

Federal and state officials are pressing Bank of America and other big players to settle charges they used falsified documents to speed homeowners through foreclosure. Lawsuits filed on behalf of investors claim Countrywide lied about the quality of the pools of mortgages that the lender sold them during the home-loan boom.

Bank of America says issues related to Countrywide are old news. Last year a spokesman described fraud claims by state officials as “water under the bridge,” noting that the bank settled with dozens of states soon after buying Countrywide.

When federal officials announced Foster’s victory last week, Bank of America dismissed the case as “an old matter dating from 2008.”

Accounts from Foster and other former employees, however, put the bank in an uncomfortable position. These accounts, as well as lawsuits pushed by investors, borrowers and government agencies, raise questions about how diligently the bank has worked to clean up the mess caused by Countrywide — and whether the bank has tried to curtail its legal liability by papering over the history of corruption at its controversial acquisition.

In Foster’s case, the Labor Department notes [4]that two senior Bank of America officials — not former Countrywide executives — made the decision to fire her.

The agency says the investigations led by Foster found “widespread and pervasive fraud” that, Foster claimed, went beyond misconduct committed at the branch level and reached into Countrywide’s management ranks.

Foster told the agency that instead of defending the rights of honest employees, Countrywide’s employee relations unit sheltered fraudsters inside the company. According to the Labor Department, Foster believed Employee Relations “was engaged in the systematic cover-up of various types of fraud through terminating, harassing, and otherwise trying to silence employees who reported the underlying fraud and misconduct.”

In government records and in interviews with iWatch News , Foster describes other top-down misconduct:

  • She claims Countrywide’s management protected big loan producers who used fraud to put up big sales numbers. If they were caught, she says, they frequently avoided termination.
  • Foster claims Countrywide’s subprime lending division concealed from her the level of “suspicious activity reports.” This in turn reduced the number of fraud reports Countrywide gave to the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
  • Foster claims Countrywide failed to notify investors when it discovered fraud or other problems with loans that it had sold as the underlying assets in “mortgage-backed” securities. When she created a report designed to document these loans on a regular basis going forward, she says, she was “shut down” by company officials and told to stop doing the report.

In Foster’s view, Countrywide lost its way as it became a place where everyone was expected to bend to the will of salespeople driven by a whatever-it-takes ethos.

The attitude, she says, was: “The rules don’t matter. Regulations don’t matter. It’s our game and we can play it the way we want.”

Bank of America declined to answer detailed questions about Foster’s allegations. Simon, the bank spokesman, told iWatch News “we are certain” that Foster’s claims “were properly and fully investigated by Countrywide and appropriate actions were taken.”

And not all former Countrywide workers say that fraud was condoned by management.

Frank San Pedro, who worked as a manager within the investigations unit from 2004 to 2008, told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission the company worked hard “to root out all the fraud that we could possibly find. We continued to get better and better at it.”

He said most of the fraud was “external” — outsiders trying to rip off the lender — and in-house sales staffers who tried to push through fraudulent loans “seldom got away with it.”

Gregory Lumsden, former head of Countrywide’s subprime division, Full Spectrum Lending, says there are thousands of ex-Countrywiders who can vouch for the company’s honesty. When bad actors were caught, he says, Countrywide took swift action.

“I don’t care if you’re Microsoft or you’re the Golf Channel or Dupont or MSNBC: companies are going to make some mistakes,” Lumsden told iWatch News. “What you hope is that companies will deal with employees that do wrong. That’s what we did.”

The American Dream

In February 2003, Countrywide’s founder and CEO, Angelo Mozilo, gave a lecture hosted by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies titled “The American Dream of Homeownership: From Cliché to Mission.”

Mozilo, the Bronx-born son of a butcher, had started Countrywide with a partner in 1969 and built it into a home-loan empire that was now on the verge of becoming the nation’s largest home lender.

But he saw trouble on the horizon. Before his audience of academics and business people, he complained that a “regulatory mania” was hurting Countrywide and other “reputable” mortgage lenders. Overreaching predatory lending laws, he said, were threatening shut the door to homeownership for hard-working low-income and minority families. Industry and citizenry needed to work together to

prevent government from strangling the mortgage market, he said.

It wasn’t, Mozilo added, that he was against cracking down on bad apples that took advantage of vulnerable borrowers.

“These lenders,” the CEO said, “deserve unwavering scrutiny and, when found guilty, an unforgiving punishment.”

Around the time Mozilo was giving his speech back east, one of his employees was finding what she later claimed to be evidence of serious fraud at Countrywide’s Roseville, Calif., branch.

Employees were falsifying loan applicants’ salaries in mortgage paperwork and forging their names on loan documents, according to a lawsuit [5] filed by Michele Brunelli, who was a loan processor and later a branch operations manager for Countrywide. In March 2003, Brunelli recalled, she used the company’s “ethics hotline” and lodged what she thought was a confidential complaint.

Immediately after, Brunelli claimed, her regional manager yelled at her for calling the hotline. Then, she said, her immediate supervisor called her in and reprimanded her for making the complaint.

“Not everyone’s hands are clean in this office,” the branch manager said, according to Brunelli. “Are you ready for that?”

Brunelli didn’t back down. She continued reporting evidence of fraud to the executives above her, her lawsuit said. They dismissed her concerns, she said, saying she was having “emotional outbursts” and accusing her of being “on a witch hunt.”

In court papers, the company flatly denied her allegations, accusing Brunelli of acting in “bad faith.” Her lawsuit was resolved in 2010.

Two other former Countrywide workers, Sabrina Arroyo and Linda Court, claimed they lost their jobs in 2004 after they complained supervisors were directing them to forge borrowers’ signatures on loan paperwork. After they informed Employee Relations about the forgeries, the company quickly fired them, they claimed.

“Corporate came in. We told them the story. We told them everything,” Arroyo told iWatch News. “They said don’t worry, whatever you say, you’re going to be covered. A month or so later, I was let go.”

Arroyo and Court sued [6]Countrywide in state court in Sacramento, but Countrywide won an order forcing the case into arbitration. They decided to drop their claim because the odds are stacked against workers in arbitration, their attorney, William Wright, said.

Some ex-employees say they went high up Countrywide’s chain of command to raise red flags about fraud. Mark Bonjean, a former operations unit manager in Arizona, complained to a divisional vice president, according to a lawsuit [7] in state court in Maricopa County. Within two hours of sending the VP an email about what he believed were violations of the state’s organized crime and fraud statutes, the suit said, he was placed on administrative leave. The next day, according to the lawsuit, he was fired.

Another ex-Countrywider, Shahima Shaheem, claimed she took her complaints to the very top. Like Enid Thompson before her, she said she wrote an email directly to Mozilo, the CEO, about fraud and retaliation. She never heard back from Mozilo, according to her lawsuit [8] in Contra Costa Superior Court. Instead, the suit said, she was subjected to a campaign of harassment by company executives and human-resources representatives that forced her to leave her job.

Shaheem’s case was settled out of court, her attorney said.

A Bank of America spokesman declined to respond to questions about allegations by Shaheem, Bonjean and other former Countrywide employees, noting that their claims “are related to situations and investigations that took place at Countrywide prior to Bank of America acquiring the company.”

‘Fund the loans’

Countrywide had been slower than many other mortgage lenders to fully embrace making subprime loans to borrowers with modest incomes or weak credit. By 2004, though, Countrywide had become a player in the market for subprime deals and many other nontraditional mortgages, including loans that didn’t require much documentation of borrowers’ income and assets.

These loans were part of the plan for meeting its CEO’s audacious goal of growing his company from a giant to a colossus. Mozilo had vowed that his company would double its share of the home-loan market to 30 percent by 2008.

Some former Countrywide employees say the pressure to push through more and more loans encouraged an anything-goes attitude. Questionable underwriting practices often helped risky loans sail through the lender’s loan-approval process, they say.

In one example, Countrywide approved a loan for a borrower whose application listed him as a dairy foreman earning $126,000 a year, according to a legal claim later filed by Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Co., a mortgage insurer. It turned out that the borrower actually milked cows at the dairy and earned $13,200 a year, the lawsuit alleged.

The borrower provided the correct information, but the lender booked the loan based on data that inflated his wages by more than 800 percent, the legal claim said.

In another instance, according to a former manager cited as a “confidential witness” in shareholders’ litigation [9]against the company, employees appeared to be involved in a “loan flipping” scheme, persuading borrowers to refinance again and again, giving them little new money, but piling on more fees and ratcheting up their debt. The witness recalled that when the scheme was pointed out to Lumsden, Countrywide’s subprime loan chief, the response from Lumsden was “short and sweet”: “Fund the loans.”

Such episodes weren’t uncommon, the witness said. In early 2004, he claimed, he discovered that Nick Markopoulos, a high-producing loan officer in Massachusetts, had cut and pasted information from the Internet to create a fake verification of employment for a loan applicant. Markopoulos left the company of his own accord, the witness said, but he was soon rehired as a branch manager.

The witness said he contacted a regional vice president to object to rehiring an employee with a history of fraud. But he said the regional VP — citing Markopoulos’s high productivity — overruled his objections.

Markopoulos couldn’t be reached for a response. Lumsden says he doesn’t recall any incident involving “loan flipping” allegations.

Brushed off

Eileen Foster knew little about Countrywide’s fraud problems when she took a job with the company in September 2005.

For Foster, the

move seemed like a natural progression. She’d accumulated 21 years’ experience in the banking business, starting out as a teller at Great Western Bank and working her way up to vice president for fraud prevention and investigation at First Bank Inc.

Countrywide brought her on as a first vice president and put her in charge of a high-priority project: An overhaul of how the company handled customer complaints.

The company’s systems for handling complaints, Foster recalls, were disjointed and ineffective. Various divisions had differing policies and there wasn’t much effort to ensure that complaints got addressed. Things had gotten so bad, she says, federal banking regulators ordered the company to do something about the problem. Foster’s task was to standardize the company’s procedures and ensure that people with complaints didn’t get brushed off.

As she set about fixing the problems, she says, she encountered things that gave her pause.

The company’s mortgage fraud investigation unit, Foster says, refused to share data about the complaints it received. Each time she requested the stats, she says, she hit a brick wall.

Foster says she also ran into a hitch when she began distributing a monthly report that broke down complaint data for each of the companies’ operating divisions.

Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, which collected borrowers’ payments each month, was the subject of complaints about its foreclosure practices and other issues. The volume of serious complaints involving the servicing unit topped 1,000 per month, dwarfing the number for other divisions.

This upset officials with the servicing unit, Foster recalls. The complaints weren’t “real complaints,” the servicing execs argued, and Foster was making the unit look bad by including them in her reports.

The upshot: Foster was ordered, she says, not to include many of the complaints about the servicing unit in her reports. She thought it was odd, she says, but she didn’t think it was evidence of a larger pattern. She figured it was mostly an exercise in backside-covering.

“When we lost at the meeting, I was like, ‘OK, they want to just cover this up,’” Foster says. “But it wasn’t anything to the scale that I thought it would cause great harm.”

Only later — after she took over the mortgage fraud investigation unit — did she realize, she says, that cover ups were part of the culture of Countrywide, and that efforts to paper over problems had less to do with bureaucratic infighting and more to do with hiding something darker within the company’s culture.

“What I came to find out,” she says, “was that it was all by design.”

Bouquets and handbags

State law enforcers would later charge that Countrywide executives designed fraud into the lender’s systems as a way of boosting loan production. During the mortgage boom, critics say, Countrywide and other lenders didn’t worry about the quality of the loans they were making because they often sold the loans to Wall Street banks and investors. So long as borrowers made their first few payments, the investors were usually the ones who took the hit if homeowners couldn’t keep up with payments.

Countrywide treated borrowers, California’s attorney general later claimed, “as nothing more than the means for producing more loans,” manipulating them into signing up for loans with little regard for whether they could afford them.

Countrywide’s drive to boost loan production encouraged fraud, for example, on loans that required little or no documentation of borrowers’ finances, according to a lawsuit by the Illinois attorney general. One former employee, the suit said, estimated that borrowers’ incomes were exaggerated on 90 percent of the reduced-documentation loans sold out of his branch in Chicago.

One way that Countrywide booked loans was by paying generous fees to independent mortgage brokers who steered customers its way. Countrywide gave so little scrutiny to these deals that borrowers often ended up in loans that they couldn’t pay, the state of Illinois’ suit said.

In Chicago, the suit said, Countrywide’s business partners included a mortgage broker controlled by a five-time convicted felon. One Source Mortgage Inc.’s owner, Charles Mangold, had served time for weapons charges and other crimes, the suit said.

One Source received as much as $100,000 per month in fees from Countrywide, banking as much as $11,000 for each loan it steered to the lender. Mangold, in turn, showered a Countrywide branch manager and other employees with expensive gifts, including flowers and Coach handbags, the suit said.

Countrywide in turn funded a stream of loans arranged by One Source, the suit said, even as the broker misled borrowers about how much they’d be paying on their loans and falsified information on their loan applications. One borrower provided pay stubs and tax returns showing he earned no more than $48,000 per year, but One Source listed his income as twice that much, according to the suit.

Mangold couldn’t be reached for comment. His attorney said in 2007 that Mangold denied all of the state’s allegations against him.

Countrywide, the state’s suit said, kept up its partnership with One Source for more than three years. It didn’t end the relationship until the state sued One Source for fraud and slapped Countrywide with a subpoena seeking documents relating to the broker.

As questionable practices continued, Countrywide’s fraud investigation unit had trouble keeping up, according to Larry Forwood, who worked as a California-based fraud investigator for Countrywide in 2005 and 2006, before Foster took over the fraud unit. His personal caseload totaled as many as 100 cases at a time, many of them involving dozens or hundreds of loans each.

Some cases involved mortgage brokers or in-house staffers who pressured real-estate appraisers to inflate property values. The company maintained a “do not use” list of crooked appraisers who’d been caught falsifying home values, but the sales force often ignored the list and used these appraisers anyway, Forwood says.

Countrywide’s fraud investigation unit did have some successes during Forwood’s tenure. It shut down a branch in the Chicago area, he said, after a rash of quick-defaulting loans sparked a review that uncovered evidence of bogus appraisals and

forged signatures on loan paperwork. One manager, Forwood says, tried to rationalize the fraud, telling investigators: What was the big deal if, say, five out of every 30 loans was fraudulent?

When the unit shut down a branch in southern California after uncovering similar evidence of fraud, Forwood recalls, it got some pushback. It came all the way from the top, he says, via a phone call to the fraud unit from Mozilo.

“He got very upset,” Forwood says. “He basically got on the phone and said: ‘Next time you need to do that, clear it with me.’”

Mozilo’s attorney didn’t respond to questions from iWatch News about Forwood’s account.

For Part 2 of Eileen Foster’s story, go to iWatch News and read Mortgage industry tanks, fraud continues at Countrywide

 

Michael Hudson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, is a staff writer at the Center for Public Integrity (http://www.publicintegrity.org), a nonprofit journalist organization. He is the author of “<=””>” (2010, Times Books)

<=””>

© 2011 IWatch News All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/152723/

[w2]

AGAINST AMERICAN BANKS

October 14, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Posted in BULLY | Leave a comment

By Bryce Covert, New Deal 2.0
Posted on October 13, 2011, Printed on October 14, 2011
http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/679384/sorry%2C_banks%3A_you_have_no_%5C%22right%5C%22_to_fleece_customers_for_profit

It was just about a week ago that a strange fight broke out between President Obama and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, Occupy Wall Street rumbling in the background. Bank of America had just announced its plans to charge customers a $5 monthly fee on debit cards. Obama hit back, warning the bank that it doesn’t “have some inherent right just to, you know, get a certain amount of profit if your customers are being mistreated.” Moynihan retaliated, saying, “we have a right to make a profit.”

Which one is right? While the rest of Moynihan’s statement is true — “I have an inherent duty as a CEO of a publicly owned company to get a return for my shareholders” — there is no inherent right to make a profit. Companies start and fail all the time. That’s one of the functions that bankruptcy serves. While CEOs have a legally binding duty to shareholders to turn as much profit as they can, the rest of us aren’t on the hook to help them do it.

But as it turns out, we are helping Bank of America do it. BoA, it’s true, is in a tough financial position lately. Its stock is down 53 percent for the year and it posted a loss of more than $9.1 billion in July. What’s dragging it down? Much of it has to do with its acquisition of mortgage company Countrywide Financial and the legal challenges it faces related to mortgage lending. In its filing in April, the bank showed a loss of $2.4 billion in the consumer real estate business.

Card users, it turns out, are one of the bright spots. The poor earnings reported in April were partially offset by “strong earnings from the credit card business,” the New York Times reported. That unit saw income rise by 77 percent. And in fact the bank beat analysts’ forecasts in July, earning $3.1 billion, and part of its success story was a return to profitability for its credit card business after losing about $1.6 billion last year. The company attributed this in part to fewer delinquencies — in fact, charge offs fell by $1.2 billion from the previous quarter. Overall, in its latest SEC filing, it reported that net income from the Global Card Services unit — which includes both credit cards and deposits as of March — is up 110 percent for the first half of the year as compared to 2010, from $1.8 billion to $3.8 billion. It’s up even higher looking at just the latest quarter: 146 percent. While it did report losing about $300 million related to new regulations, or the CARD Act, it seems to have made a pretty small dent. As Moynihan put it when it released its first quarter earnings, “Our customer-focused strategy is working well.” Sure is.

Banks overall aren’t faring too terribly in the aftermath of a recession they caused. Banks insured by the FDIC reported a profit of $29 billion in May, an almost 70 percent increase from the same quarter in 2010. It was the seventh consecutive quarter of year-over-year industry earnings gains. In the second quarter, profits were up at most other large banks, including Goldman Sachs, which more than doubled its profits.

So what of the charge that a cap on debit card interchange fees makes the cards less economic, leading to the need for monthly card fees? Bank of America’s debit card business, after all, is nearly $3 billion, and now that charges on each card transaction will be capped to 24 cents, those profits will likely take a hit. But it may help to visit the history of debit cards to understand their “cost.” As Lloyd Constantine wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times:

Debit cards were developed by banks as a replacement for paper checks. When a consumer pays with a debit card instead of a check, the bank saves money. In the 1980s, Visa calculated the savings at 55 cents to $1.60 per check. The savings is much higher today… [P]urchases made with a debit card didn’t involve a loan from the bank, posed very little fraud risk and were extravagantly profitable to banks because they eliminated the costs of processing and clearing checks.

Constantine recounts the case that lead to a $3.4 billion settlement to stores in 1996 due to the practice of “deceiving stores and forcing them to accept overpriced debit transactions” while the bank was actually saving money. They also had to reduce their interchange fees to 42 cents. While Bank of America doesn’t have some legally protected right to reap profits from consumers, it does have the obligation to follow court rulings that find it is deceiving customers and retailers. It also has a legal obligation to follow new rules set out by the CARD Act and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau looking out for the interests of working Americans. It can’t even blame its financial struggles on us. Bank of America’s stock and profits may be depressed from an ill-fated acquisition, but money from our use of credit cards is helping to keep it afloat. If it wants to pad its profits, it’ll have to turn elsewhere.

CHILE GIRLS CAPTURE SCHOOL

October 11, 2011 at 4:36 am | Posted in BULLY | Leave a comment

Pressure grows as Chile student leader opens talks.

avaaz.org money matters, according to them

October 8, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Posted in BULLY | Leave a comment

Avaaz Expenses and Financial Information

While Avaaz is a global organization with staff and members across the world, we are currently incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)4 organization in the state of Delaware, USA. Under United States Federal law, Avaaz must conduct an annual independent audit of our finances. These audits have been conducted by Lutz and Carr, LLC (click to download their audit letter for fiscal years ending 12/31/08 & 12/31/09).

The US Internal Revenue Service requires Avaaz to declare and account for our expenditures in each of the following 3 categories: Management and General, Program (i.e. Campaigns), and Fundraising. These figures have been audited by Lutz and Carr, LLC.

Here are our expense breakdowns for fiscal years ending 5/31/07, 5/31/08, 12/31/08 and 12/31/09. (Please note that because we changed our fiscal year to coincide with the calendar year, the 12/31/08 statements reflect only 7 months: 6/1/08-12/31/08.)

Approximately 85% of funds donated to Avaaz go directly into Avaaz campaigning. The other 15% goes to important organizational needs like management, fundraising, legal advice, accounting support, and infrastructure – all of which are vital to effective campaigning. Note that these supporting services made up a higher percentage (25%) of funds spent in Avaaz’s first year of operations (year ending 5/31/07) due to the costs associated with establishing a global organization.

For complete 990 Forms that have been filed with the Internal Revenue Service, click for year ending 5/31/07, 5/31/08, 12/31/08, and 12/31/09.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/avaaz_expenses_and_financial_information
 
great intiatives…                                                                               

US$ 3 617 516 = 177.442292 million Indian rupees

They managed the Anna Hazare fun. What is avaaz.org?

October 8, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Posted in BULLY | Leave a comment

http://www.avaaz.org/en/about.php

About Us

Avaaz is a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere.

WHAT WE DO

Photo

A transnational community that is more democratic, and could be more effective, than the United Nations.
 — Suddeutsche Zeitung

Avaaz—meaning “voice” in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.

Avaaz empowers millions of people from all walks of life to take action on pressing global, regional and national issues, from corruption and poverty to conflict and climate change. Our model of internet organising allows thousands of individual efforts, however small, to be rapidly combined into a powerful collective force. (Read about results on the Highlights page.)

The Avaaz community campaigns in 14 languages, served by a core team on 4 continents and thousands of volunteers. We take action — signing petitions, funding media campaigns and direct actions, emailing, calling and lobbying governments, and organizing “offline” protests and events — to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform the decisions that affect us all.

 

The Avaaz Way: How We Work

From technology, new nimbleness and flexibility

Previous international citizens’ groups and social movements have had to build a constituency for each separate issue, year by year and country by country, in order to reach a scale that could make a difference.

Today, thanks to new technology and a rising ethic of global interdependence, that constraint no longer applies. Where other global civil society groups are composed of issue-specific networks of national chapters, each with its own staff, budget, and decision-making structure, Avaaz has a single, global team with a mandate to work on any issue of public concern–allowing campaigns of extraordinary nimbleness, flexibility, focus, and scale.

Avaaz’s online community can act like a megaphone to call attention to new issues; a lightning rod to channel broad public concern into a specific, targeted campaign; a fire truck to rush an effective response to a sudden, urgent emergency; and a stem cell that grows into whatever form of advocacy or work is best suited to meet an urgent need.

Avaaz’s priorities and power come from members

Each year, Avaaz sets overall priorities through all-member polls (See 2010 poll results here), and campaign ideas are polled and tested weekly to 10,000-member random samples—and only initiatives that find a strong response are taken to scale. Campaigns that do reach the full membership are then super-charged by, often, hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members taking part within days or even hours.

An ethic of servant leadership

Avaaz staff write email alerts to the Avaaz community the way that an aide briefs a president or prime minister: we have just a moment to convey the vital information the reader needs in order to decide whether to get involved, and the campaign hinges on that decision.

To make that moment of attention count, it’s the job of staff to find ways that a few minutes, multiplied across huge numbers of people, can make a genuine difference on something that matters. Staff work with partners and experts to develop effective, member-driven campaign strategies; summarize them through clear and compelling alerts; and, if the Avaaz membership chooses to proceed, makes sure that the campaign is carried through—delivering petitions and members’ messages, arranging member-funded ad campaigns, or whatever else is required.

In other words, Avaaz staff don’t set an agenda and try to convince members to go along with it. It’s closer to the opposite: staff listen to members and suggest actions they can take in order to affect the broader world. Small wonder, then, that many of our most successful campaigns are suggested first by Avaaz members themselves. And leadership is a critical part of member service: it takes vision and skill to find and communicate a way to build a better world.

We focus on tipping-point moments of crisis and opportunity

In the life of an issue or a cause, a moment sometimes arises when a decision must be made, and a massive, public outcry can suddenly make all the difference. Getting to that point can take years of painstaking work, usually behind the scenes, by dedicated people focusing on nothing else. But when the moment does come, and the sunlight of public attention floods in, the most crucial decisions go one way or another depending on leaders’ perceptions of the political consequences of each option. It is in these brief windows of tremendous crisis and opportunity that the Avaaz community often makes its mark.

In any country or on any issue, those moments might come only once or twice a year. But because Avaaz can work in all countries and on all issues, these moments can crop up several times in a week.

Our member-funded model keeps us independent and accountable

Because Avaaz is wholly member-funded, democratic accountability is in our DNA. No corporate sponsor or government backer can insist that Avaaz shift its priorities to suit some external agenda—we simply don’t accept funds from governments or corporations. (Read more about why it’s worth donating to Avaaz here, and chip in here.)

Instead of fragmenting, we grow—united by values

Movements, coalitions, and organizations often fracture over time into many smaller pieces—or spend more and more of their time trying to hold warring factions together. At Avaaz, we recognize that people of good will often disagree on specifics; instead of straining for consensus, each of us simply decides whether to participate in any particular campaign.

But underlying Avaaz campaigns is a set of values—the conviction that we are all human beings first, and privileged with responsibilities to each other, to future generations, and to the planet. The issues we work on are particular expressions of those commitments. And so, over and over, Avaaz finds the same thing: that people who join the community through a campaign on one issue go on to take action on another issue, and then another. This is a source of great hope: that our dreams rhyme, and that, together, we can build the bridge from the world we have to the world we all want.

America is Becoming a Cruel(er) Nation?

October 8, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Posted in BULLY | Leave a comment

Did You Know that America is Becoming a Cruel(er) Nation?

Blitzer pressed on: “But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?” Someone in the audience shouted, “Yeah!” And the crowd roared in approval. A characteristic that these exchanges have in common is cruelty. Cruelty is a close cousin to injustice, yet it is different. Injustice and its opposite, justice—perhaps the most commonly used standards for judging the health of the body politic—are political criteria par excellence, and apply above all to systems and their institutions.

Cruelty and its opposites, kindness, compassion and decency, are more personal. They are apolitical qualities that nevertheless have political consequences. A country’s sense of decency stands outside and above its politics, checking and setting limits on abuses. An unjust society must reform its laws and institutions. A cruel society must reform itself.

There have been many signs recently that the United States has been traveling down a steepening path of cruelty. It’s hard to say why such a thing is occurring, but it seems to have to do with a steadily growing faith in force as the solution to almost any problem, whether at home or abroad.

We are the little man behind the stove. We are the miner’s canary and the conscience of a nation. Double consciousness is a gift and a burden for we who are the Dark Princes and Dark Princesses of this new/old world. We who are “niggerized” understand existential terror. We are burdened by this insight; we are pained by this reality; we are empowered and made stronger for and by it.

We who are Other have a gifted insight into the nature of power and the meanness of humanity that those of the in-group, in bed with Whiteness, who embody it, swim in its ether, and breath it as lifeblood do not. Ironically, Whiteness practices cruelty with expert ease; its owner-practitioners feign ignorance and live in denial of said fact.

In the aftermath of the monster’s ball that has been the Tea Party GOP’s debates to this point, where they have ghoulishly cheered murder, bigotry, and death, some have experienced shocked and made to feel aghast. The discovery of Rick Perry’s “Niggerhead” was also greeted with surprise by some among the pundit classes and public at large. The Nation magazine picked up this thread with its essay “Cruel America.”

We who are the Other are not allowed such childish notions of feigned surprise at the meanness on display by the Right, the kleptocrats, and the Tea Party GOP. As I pointed out several weeks ago, the latter is a death cult; a mean spirited and cruel politics is their Eucharist. In all, for those Others who know power and have suffered under it, we are not allowed such naive, willful, and forced innocence. The stakes for us are simply too high to entertain the myopic worldview that is Whiteness and the white racial frame.

Jonathan Schell continues his musings on cruelty with:

We might also draw a connection between these abuses and the current direction of budgetary decisions, in which, as in the readiness to deny healthcare to the dying, a pitiless will to deprive suffering people of whatever aid they may be receiving is evident.

The list of cuts, achieved or proposed, on the right-wing agenda is too long to recite, but recent examples include the astonishing obstruction of assistance to recent victims of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee unless other programs are cut; opposition to extending unemployment benefits; defeat of the Dream Act, which would give immigrant children a path to citizenship; opposition to spending for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) as well as Head Start, and so on.

It appears that no one is so unfortunate that he or she is exempt from spending cuts, while at the same time no one is so fortunate as to be ineligible for a tax cut. Budget decisions do not involve the death penalty, yet for many they are matters of life and death.

America is a cruel nation. She always has been. In many ways she remains so today. In the past America reveled in its meanness without apology, self-consciousness, or embarrassment. At present, many, the Right and conservatives especially so, are blinded by the glare of American exceptionalism and dreams of a shining city on a hill: these are natural reactions for a people who live in denial of America’s decline as an empire.

As flag waivers for the American tradition they are cruel too, but conservatives and the Right are able to find ways to make themselves into victims when the meanness of their politics are placed center stage and made transparent.

The echoes of history. Here is one account of American cruelty that speaks back to Rick Perry’s Niggerhead nostalgia, his sundown town halcyon dreams of youth, and the howling screams of the Tea Party GOP audience at the death of their fellow man.

****

Paris, Texas, Feb. 1, 1893.—Henry Smith, the negro ravisher of 4-year-old Myrtle Vance, has expiated in part his awful crime by death at the stake. Ever since the perpetration of his awful crime this city and the entire surrounding country has been in a wild frenzy of excitement. When the news came last night that he had been captured at Hope, Ark., that he had been identified by B. B. Sturgeon, James T. Hicks, and many other of the Paris searching party, the city was wild with joy over the apprehension of the brute. Hundreds of people poured into the city from the adjoining country and the word passed from lip to lip that the punishment of the fiend should fit the crime—that death by fire was the penalty Smith should pay for the most atrocious murder and terrible outrage in Texas history. Curious and sympathizing alike, they came on train and wagons, on horse, and on foot to see if the frail mind of a man could think of a way to sufficiently punish the perpetrator of so terrible a crime. Whisky shops were closed, unruly mobs were dispersed, schools were dismissed by a proclamation from the mayor, and everything was done in a business-like manner.

About 2 o’clock Friday a mass meeting was called at the courthouse and captains appointed to search for the child. She was found mangled beyond recognition, covered with leaves and brush as above mentioned. As soon as it was learned upon the recovery of the body that the crime was so atrocious the whole town turned out in the chase. The railroads put up bulletins offering free transportation to all who would join in the search. Posses went in every direction, and not a stone was left unturned. Smith was tracked to Detroit on foot, where he jumped on a freight train and left for his old home in Hempstead County, Arkansas. To this county he was tracked and yesterday captured at Clow, a flag station on the Arkansas & Louisiana railway about twenty miles north of Hope. Upon being questioned the fiend denied everything, but upon being stripped for examination his undergarments were seen to be spattered with blood and a part of his shirt was torn off. He was kept under heavy guard at Hope last night, and later on confessed the crime.

This morning he was brought through Texarkana, where 5,000 people awaited the train. . . . At that place speeches were made by prominent Paris citizens, who asked that the prisoner be not molested by Texarkana people, but that the guard be allowed to deliver him up to the outraged and indignant citizens of Paris. Along the road the train gathered strength from the various towns, the people crowded upon the platforms and tops of coaches anxious to see the lynching and the negro who was soon to be delivered to an infuriated mob.

Arriving here at 12 o’clock the train was met by a surging mass of humanity 10,000 strong. The negro was placed upon a carnival float in mockery of a king upon his throne, and, followed by an immense crowd, was escorted through the city so that all might see the most inhuman monster known in current history. The line of march was up Main street to the square, around the square down Clarksville street to Church street, thence to the open prairies about 300 yards from the Texas & Pacific depot. Here Smith was placed upon a scaffold, six feet square and ten feet high, securely bound, within the view of all beholders. Here the victim was tortured for fifty minutes by red-hot iron brands thrust against his quivering body. Commencing at the feet the brands were placed against him inch by inch until they were thrust against the face. Then, being apparently dead, kerosene was poured upon him, cottonseed hulls placed beneath him and set on fire. In less time than it takes to relate it, the tortured man was wafted beyond the grave to another fire, hotter and more terrible than the one just experienced.

Curiosity seekers have carried away already all that was left of the memorable event, even to pieces of charcoal. The cause of the crime was that Henry Vance when a deputy policeman, in the course of his duty was called to arrest Henry Smith for being drunk and disorderly. The Negro was unruly, and Vance was forced to use his club. The Negro swore vengeance, and several times assaulted Vance. In his greed for revenge, last Thursday, he grabbed up the little girl and committed the crime. The father is prostrated with grief and the mother now lies at death’s door, but she has lived to see the slayer of her innocent babe suffer the most horrible death that could be conceived.

Words to describe the awful torture inflicted upon Smith cannot be found. The Negro, for a long time after starting on the journey to Paris, did not realize his plight. At last when he was told that he must die by slow torture he begged for protection. His agony was awful. He pleaded and writhed in bodily and mental pain. Scarcely had the train reached Paris than this torture commenced. His clothes were torn off piecemeal and scattered in the crowd, people catching the shreds and putting them away as mementos. The child’s father, her brother, and two uncles then gathered about the Negro as he lay fastened to the torture platform and thrust hot irons into his quivering flesh. It was horrible—the man dying by slow torture in the midst of smoke from his own burning flesh. Every groan from the fiend, every contortion of his body was cheered by the thickly packed crowd of 10,000 persons. The mass of beings 600 yards in diameter, the scaffold being the center. After burning the feet and legs, the hot irons—plenty of fresh ones being at hand—were rolled up and down Smith’s stomach, back, and arms. Then the eyes were burned out and irons were thrust down his throat.

The men of the Vance family have wreaked vengeance, the crowd piled all kinds of combustible stuff around the scaffold, poured oil on it and set it afire. The Negro rolled and tossed out of the mass, only to be pushed back by the people nearest him. He tossed out again, and was roped and pulled back. Hundreds of people turned away, but the vast crowd still looked calmly on. People were here from every part of this section. They came from Dallas, Fort Worth, Sherman, Denison, Bonham, Texarkana, Fort Smith, Ark., and a party of fifteen came from Hempstead County, Arkansas, where he was captured. Every train that came in was loaded to its utmost capacity, and there were demands at many points for special trains to bring the people here to see the unparalleled punishment for an unparalleled crime. When the news of the burning went over the country like wildfire, at every country town anvils boomed forth the announcement.

Editor and founder of the blog : We Are Respectable Negroes which has been featured by the NY Times, the Utne Reader, and The Atlantic Monthly. Writing under a pseudonym, Chauncey DeVega’s essays on race, popular culture, and politics have appeared in various books, as well as on such sites as the Washington Post’s The Root and Popmatters.

A “Christian Nation” — Here’s What That Would Actually Look Like

October 8, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Posted in BULLY | Leave a comment

 

AlterNet

Conservatives Want America to be a “Christian Nation” — Here’s What That Would Actually Look Like

By Adam Lee, AlterNet
Posted on October 4, 2011, Printed on October 8, 2011
http://www.alternet.org/story/152564/conservatives_want_america_to_be_a_%22christian_nation%22_–_here%27s_what_that_would_actually_look_like

 

In a campaign speech in September, Rick Perry hit upon some familiar Republican themes. According to a Bloomberg Businessweek article:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, in an appeal to evangelical voters, said “Christian values” and not “a bunch of Washington politicians” should be the touchstone guiding how Americans conduct their lives. …

“America is going to be guided by some set of values,” Perry told a crowd of 13,000 students and faculty members yesterday at a sports arena on the school’s campus. “The question is going to be, ‘Whose values?'” He said it should be “those Christian values that this country was based upon.”

It’s worth calling attention to Perry’s obnoxious rhetorical ploy of using “Christian values” to refer only to his own very specific, right-wing set of beliefs — preemptive war, gay-bashing, tax cuts for the rich, creationism in schools, deregulating corporations, dismantling the social safety net, the standard Republican package — as if he owned or had the right to define all of Christianity. In reality, there’s such a huge diversity of opinion among self-professed Christians past and present that the term “Christian values” could mean almost anything.

Christians have been communists and socialists (including Francis Bellamy, the author of the Pledge of Allegiance); Christians have supported empire and dictatorship (including Mussolini, who made Catholicism the official state religion of fascist Italy). Christians have advocated positions across the political spectrum, from environmental preservation to environmental destruction, from pacifism to just war to open advocacy of genocide, from civil rights to segregation and slavery.

This broad range of opinion comes about because the Bible never mentions many of these issues, and addresses others in only vague or contradictory passages scattered throughout its individual books. This gives individual Christians wide latitude to find support in the text for virtually any political position you’d care to name.

However, there’s one area where there’s much less room for debate, and that’s the question of political organization. The Bible sets out a very clear picture of what its authors believed the ideal state would look like. Coincidentally, this is the same subject Rick Perry was speaking to: “those Christian values that this country was based upon.” We can compare this statement to the dictates of the Bible to see what it would mean to have a government based on “Christian values.” Then we’ll be in a better position to decide whether America has such a government.

According to the Old Testament of the Bible, after escaping Egypt and reaching the promised land, the twelve tribes of Israel were united into a single country under David and Solomon. After Solomon’s death, there was a rebellion, and the country split into two separate kingdoms, Israel and Judah, which lasted until the Assyrian empire destroyed Israel and carried its people off into exile. Both these kingdoms survived for several hundred years, and therefore there’s more than enough written history to tell what the Bible’s authors thought of as a good state or a bad state.

But right away, there’s a problem. The Bible never even mentions democracy — that concept was completely unknown to its authors. The system of government it enshrines is divine-right monarchy — and not just monarchy, but kingship. Under normal circumstances, the Bible is very clear that the throne passes only from father to son. (The sole exception was Athaliah, a queen of Judah who came to power in a bloody coup and whose reign lasted only six years.)

Even more to the point, the Bible’s ideal government is unequivocally a theocracy: a country where the church and the state are one, where there’s an official religion which all citizens are required to profess, and where law is made by the priests. There was no religious freedom in the ancient Israelite kingdoms: all people were required to worship the same god in the same officially approved ways, on pain of death. For instance, when Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai and finds the Israelites worshipping a golden calf, his immediate response is to order the butchering of everyone who participated in idolatry (Exodus 32:27). Many of Israel’s subsequent kings do likewise. The Bible goes so far as to say that, if pagan worshippers are discovered in any city, the entire city should be burned down and everyone who lives there should be killed (Deuteronomy 13:12-16).

The Bible also puts a high value on racial purity. The Israelites were the chosen people of God, and were instructed to keep themselves separate. Time and again, they were sternly warned against marrying people of another race, tribe or ethnicity. For instance, the Old Testament pronounces a perpetual curse on the neighboring Ammonite and Moabite tribes, saying that any person descended from either one, even down to the tenth generation, “shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:3). In one of the Old Testament’s most gruesome stories, a priest named Phinehas finds an Israelite man having sex with a Midianite woman, and impales them both on the same spear (Numbers 25:6-8). For doing this, he’s praised as a hero of faith, and God rewards him with “the covenant of an everlasting priesthood.” When the Israelites invade and conquer neighboring lands, God instructs them to massacre all the captives, including women, so that they’re not tempted to intermarry with them (Deuteronomy 7:2).

By the time of the New Testament, much of this had changed. Christians weren’t all of one ethnicity, nor did they have their own country. They were scattered throughout the powerful, militaristic Roman Empire, governed by absolute rulers who were brutally intolerant of dissent. In light of this, it’s little surprise that the New Testament teaches the virtue of submission to the authorities. It states unequivocally that earthly rulers, even when they act unjustly, are ordained to their position by God and that Christian believers should obey them without question — in fact, it states that those who resist are in peril of eternal damnation (Romans 13:1-2).

All these ideas, so clearly advocated in the Bible, are utterly contrary to what this nation stands for. The idea of divine-right kingship is what our founders successfully rebelled against in bringing forth this country. America is a democracy where the people choose their leaders, a constitutional republic where the powers of those leaders are strictly defined and limited by law. America is a multicultural, multiethnic nation founded on the idea of welcoming immigrants, the homeless and tempest-tossed of every land. Submission to the established authorities, of course, isn’t an American value: Americans have a long and colorful history of debate, protest, and civil disobedience, and the right to criticize our leaders is sanctified in the Constitution. And most of all, America is a secular nation with a separation of church and state. We have no official faith, no national church as many European countries still do.

But America’s Constitution is more than just a secular document; it’s literally godless. It doesn’t claim that the ideas it contains were the product of divine revelation. It states that governing power comes from the will of the people, not the commands of a deity. It doesn’t assert that God has specially blessed this nation or shown it special favor — in fact, it never mentions God at all. And it mentions religion in only two places, both of them negative mentions: in Article VI, which forbids any religious test for public office, and in the First Amendment, which forbids Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion.

If America’s founders had meant to establish a Christian nation, this is where they would have said so. But they said no such thing. And this leads into a historical fact that the religious right would dearly love to forget: the godlessness of the Constitution was a point of major controversy in the debate over ratification. When it was drafted, the fact that it made no explicit mention of God or Christianity wasn’t a minor oversight. It was a major, deliberate omission that was obvious to all. Religious language was omnipresent in other legal documents and charters of the day, including the ones that inspired the Constitution in the first place.

For example, the Constitution’s precursor, the Articles of Confederation, explicitly gives God the credit for making the state legislatures agree to it: “…it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union.”

Going back further, the 1620 Mayflower Compact, made by the Pilgrims just before their landing, begins, “In the name of God, amen” and describes the purpose of their voyage as “for the glory of God and advancements of the Christian faith.”

Another foundational legal document, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, was based on the political thinking of John Locke and may have been part of the inspiration for our own Bill of Rights. This document calls the U.K. “this Protestant kingdom,” states that “it hath pleased Almighty God to make [King William III] the glorious instrument of delivering this kingdom from popery” and declares that no Catholic will ever be allowed to hold the throne of the U.K.

And lastly, there’s the document at the root of the Western legal system, the Magna Carta. Like the others, it’s woven throughout with religious language: its preamble begins “Know that before God…” and states that it was created “to the honor of God” and “the exaltation of the holy church.”

In the light of these documents, it’s easy to see just how unique, unusual, even unprecedented the Constitution is. The United States of America was the first modern republic that was created on the foundation of reason, without seeking blessings from a god, without imploring divine assistance or invoking divine favor. And, as I said, this fact was not overlooked when the Constitution was being debated. Very much to the contrary, the religious right of the founding generation angrily attacked it, warning that ratifying this godless document as-is would spell doom for the nation.

For instance, at the Constitutional Convention, the delegate William Williams proposed that the Constitution’s preamble be modified to read: “We the people of the United States in a firm belief of the being and perfection of the one living and true God, the creator and supreme Governor of the World, in His universal providence and the authority of His laws… do ordain, etc”. A failed Virginia initiative attempted to change the wording of Article VI to say that “no other religious test shall ever be required than a belief in the one only true God, who is the rewarder of the good, and the punisher of the evil”. The Maryland delegate Luther Martin observed “there were some members so unfashionable as to think that… it would be at least decent to hold out some distinction between the professors of Christianity and downright infidelity or paganism.”

However, the Constitution’s defenders held firm, and all the attempts to Christianize it failed. And the religious right of the day bitterly lamented that failure. One anonymous anti-federalist wrote in a Boston newspaper that America was inviting the curse of 1 Samuel 15:23 – “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee.” In 1789, a group of Presbyterian elders wrote to George Washington to complain that the Constitution contained no reference to “the only true God and Jesus Christ, who he hath sent.” In 1811, Rev. Samuel Austin claimed that the Constitution’s “one capital defect” was that it was “entirely disconnected from Christianity.” In 1812, Rev. Timothy Dwight, grandson of the infamous preacher Jonathan Edwards, lamented that America had “offended Providence” by forming a Constitution “without any acknowledgement of God; without any recognition of His mercies to us, as a people, of His government, or even of His existence.”

What the religious right failed to achieve at the Constitutional Convention, they kept trying to do in the following decades. The National Reform Association, founded in 1863 by a group of clergy, proposed a constitutional amendment which would have changed the preamble to read, “We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler among the nations, His revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, they repeatedly brought this proposal before presidents and congresses, getting turned down each time. As recently as 1954, the National Association of Evangelicals was still trying to amend the Constitution with language such as, “This nation divinely recognizes the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of Nations, through whom are bestowed the blessings of Almighty God.”

Only within the last 50 or 60 years, now that they’ve finally accepted they have no realistic hope of changing it, has the religious right flip-flopped and started claiming that the Constitution meant to establish a Christian nation all along. This staggeringly dishonest, wholesale rewriting of history has become their stock in trade, to the point of having full-time propagandists who obscure historical fact and promote the Christian-nation myth. These falsehoods filter into the political mainstream, until we have absurdities like Rick Perry claiming that the United States, a secular and democratic republic, was based on the legal code of an ancient theocratic monarchy. We, as liberals and progressives, should know better than to accept this falsehood. We have every reason to speak out and uphold America’s proud history as a secular republic founded on reason and governed by the democratic will.

 © 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/152564/

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