In a little more than a decade, Credit Default Swaps (CDS) have ballooned into a multi-billion dollar industry which has changed the fundamental character of the financial system and increased systemic risk by many orders of magnitude. CDS, which were originally created to reduce potential losses from defaulting bonds, has turned into a cash cow for the big banks, generating mega-profits on, what amounts to, nothing more than legalized gambling. In the case of insurance giant AIG, losses from CDS transactions has already cost the American people $150 billion, and yet their still has been no serious effort in Congress to ban them once and for all. Even worse, CDS is the root-cause of systemic risk which connects hundreds of financial institutions together in a lethal daisy-chain that threatens to crash the entire system if one of the main players goes under.
I was on an airplane flying to Orange County from Sacramento to attend the al-Awda Conference; which is a Palestinian Right’s Conference. Al-Awda translates to “The Returning, “ when the Pilot voice filled the cabin to make an announcement that I think went unnoticed by most of my fellow passengers, but I heard it.
As the plane was on the approach to John Wayne airport, the Captain came on the intercom to remind us all to “remember our brave troops who have died for our freedom.” Even in this post 9-11 paranoid paradigm, if I wasn’t belted in for landing, I would have popped out of my seat at 13D and charged up to the cockpit to let the pilot know that my son was killed in Iraq and not one person anywhere in this world is one iota more free because he is dead.
1) Remarks by US Vice President Biden after meeting with Lebanese President Sleiman (22 May 2009)
2) Remarks by US Vice President Biden at the announcement of the U.S. shipment of equipment to the Lebanese Armed Forces (22 May 2009)
“We support your sovereignty, Mr. President. We support — admire your democratic process, and will do all in our power to help you enforce your democratic institutions. […]
That’s why it’s so important that the people of Lebanon participate in your democratic elections in June, Mr. President. […]
So I urge those who would think about standing with the spoilers of peace not to miss this opportunity to walk away from the spoilers.”
[US Vice President Joseph Biden, remarks after meeting with Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman, 22 May 2009] 
“[S]ince 2005, the United States has committed more than a half a billion dollars to provide [military] training and equipment […] [The] training programs, including the United States Special Forces, are part of a comprehensive U.S. military assistance effort with Lebanon. […]
The United States is committed to Lebanon. The United States is committed to Lebanon’s armed forces. The United States […] is absolutely committed to the sovereignty of the people of Lebanon and the government of Lebanon. And we are committed to playing a central role, to the extent you wish us to do so, in guaranteeing that sovereignty for a democratic Lebanon.”
[US Vice President Joseph Biden, remarks at the announcement of the U.S. shipment of equipment to the Lebanese Armed Forces, 22 May 2009] 
 Remarks by the US Vice President Biden after meeting with President Sleiman
Washington’s abuzz about health care, but why isn’t a single-payer plan an option on the table? Public Citizen’s Dr. Sidney Wolfe and Physicians for a National Health Program’s Dr. David Himmelstein on the political and logistical feasibility of health care reform.
Happy Days are here again. It’s as if the George W Bush years in Afghanistan had never left, with Washington still wallowing in an intelligence-free environment. A surge is coming to town – just like the one General David Petraeus engineered in Iraq. A Bush proconsul (Zalmay Khalilzad) wants to run the show – again. A hardliner (General Stanley McChrystal) is getting ready to terrorize any Pashtun in sight. A new mega-base is sprouting in the “desert of death” in the southern Afghan province of Helmand. And as in Bush time, no one’s talking pipeline, or the (invisible) greatest regional prize: Pakistani Balochistan.
Bush’s “global war on terror” (GWOT) may have been rebranded, under new management, “overseas contingency operation” (OCO). But history in Afghanistan continues to repeat itself as farce – or as an opium bad trip.
Human Rights Attorney Vince Warren: Obama’s “Preventive Detention” Plan Goes Beyond Bush Admin Policies
We get reaction to President Obama and Vice President Dick Cheney’s dueling speeches on torture from Vince Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Warren took part in a secret meeting Wednesday between Obama and several human rights groups. Warren says although he welcomes Obama’s willingness to hear critical views, he’s disappointed in Obama’s new support for preventive detention. [includes rush transcript]
At a time of corporate dominated media, a free and open Internet is democracy’s last chance to preserve our First Amendment rights without which all others are threatened. Activists call it Net Neutrality. Media scholar Robert McChesney says without it “the Internet would start to look like cable TV (with a) handful of massive companies (controlling) content” enough to have veto power over what’s allowed and what it costs. Progressive web sites and writers would be marginalized or suppressed, and content systematically filtered or banned.
Media reform activists have drawn a line in the sand. Net Neutrality must be defended at all costs. Preserving a viable, independent, free and open Internet (and the media overall) is essential to a functioning democracy, but the forces aligned against it are formidable, daunting, relentless, and reprehensible. Some past challenges suggest future ones ahead.
Censorship Attempts to Curtail Free Expression
The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”