Goldman Sachs Mobilizes Rapid Smear Campaign Against Whistleblower

Today, Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith excoriated the investment bank in a New York Times op-ed, resigning due to the banks “toxic and destructive” culture, one in which the bank’s trading profits took precedence over its customers’ financial well-being. Goldman managers allegedly called customers “muppets,” and traders routinely asked how much was being made ripping off one customer or another.

Goldman has been quick to push back on Smith’s claims, portraying him as just a disgruntled employee. Some employees told Fox Business’ Charlie Gasparino that Smith doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he “never made more than $750,000 a year.”

And of course, the financial press has begun reporting anonymous attacks on Smith, quoting “people familiar with the matter” saying that Smith was angry with the size of his bonus and his lack of promotion:

AFL-CIO: Crack down on super PACs

The AFL-CIO, the largest organized labor group in the United States, wants an immediate crackdown on super PACs.

The union federation on Wednesday afternoon adopted a policy statement saying it supports the overturning of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

“The Citizens United ruling has opened the floodgates to massive spending by corporations and even more so by wealthy donors,” says the resolution adopted at AFL’s winter meeting in Orlando, Fla. “They are pouring money into our electoral system and threaten to drown out the voices of hard-working Americans. Common-sense restrictions on their spending are needed, along with robust disclosure of their contributions and expenditures—including their contributions to organizations engaged in electoral activity.”

Santorum Wants to Crack Down On Porn, No More Porn If Elected

From Santorums website:

America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography.  A wealth of research is now available demonstrating that pornography causes profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences. Addiction to pornography is now common for adults and even for some children. The average age of first exposure to hard-core, Internet pornography is now 11. Pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships. It contributes to misogyny and violence against women.  It is a contributing factor to prostitution and sex trafficking.

Every family must now be concerned about the harm from pornography. As a parent, I am concerned about the widespread distribution of illegal obscene pornography and its profound effects on our culture. 

For many decades, the American public has actively petitioned the United States Congress for laws prohibiting distribution of hard-core adult pornography.

The Fight Over Voter ID Laws Goes To The United Nations

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced it will appear before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva next week to seek support for its fight against voter identification laws enacted in U.S. states.

The civil rights organization says the laws are among several measures adopted by some states that violate the human and civil rights of minority voters by suppressing their participation in elections.

The NAACP and other groups also are fighting other election changes enacted by states, such as restrictions placed on third-party groups that register new voters and the reduction of early voting periods. Both measures traditionally have helped increase minority voter turnout.

The United Nations has no authority over American states, of course. And the international organization has often been pilloried by U.S. conservatives concerned about American deference to other nations.

But the NAACP is hoping to exert international pressure on states in the same way it did during the civil rights movement of the 1940s and 1950s, when the NAACP sought the U.N.'s support in combating Jim Crow laws and lynchings in the South.

Exclusive: secret Assad emails lift lid on life of leader's inner circle

Bashar al-Assad took advice from Iran on how to handle the uprising against his rule, according to a cache of what appear to be several thousand emails received and sent by the Syrian leader and his wife.

The Syrian leader was also briefed in detail about the presence of western journalists in the Baba Amr district of Homs and urged to "tighten the security grip" on the opposition-held city in November.

The revelations are contained in more than 3,000 documents that activists say are emails downloaded from private accounts belonging to Assad and his wife Asma.

The messages, which have been obtained by the Guardian, are said to have been intercepted by members of the opposition Supreme Council of the Revolution group between June and early February.

Goldman Sachs exec Greg Smith quits, saying environment at firm is 'toxic' UPDATED

In a very public and scathing resignation letter, Goldman Sachs executive director Greg Smith has called the atmosphere at the massive investment bank "as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it."

OFA calls on all Goldman clients to pull their money out and invest with a company who cares.

"Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs," wrote Smith, who was the head of the firm's U.S. equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in an Op-Ed in the New York Times on Wednesday titled "Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs."

Smith, who is based in London and has been with Goldman for 12 years, went on to describe what he says is a deteriorating culture at Goldman Sachs where clients are called "muppets" and their interests are given short shrift. 

"The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for," Smith wrote.

Progressives Mount Major Campaign to Intimidate Corporate Election Donors

Short of an outright ban of corporate money from elections, disclosure is perhaps the best antidote to the political influence of big business. Notably, since Super PACs disclose donor information, only one-half of one percent of all contributions to the most active Super PACs this campaign season came from publicly traded corporations, which are naturally sensitive to coming under attack for political activities.

Business interests instead prefer the type of electioneering practiced by nonprofits like the US Chamber of Commerce, which is planning a $50 million campaign to influence House and Senate races coast to coast this fall—and they won’t have to disclose where a single dollar came from.

With that in mind, a coalition of public interest, labor and progressive groups announced today a major, fifty-state campaign to force disclosure by any means possible. 

Al Gore At SXSW 2012: 'Democracy Has Been Hacked'

In a wide-ranging talk about the Internet and government, Al Gore urged the techie crowd at South By Southwest to use digital tools to improve government.

The former vice president sat for a conversation with Napster co-founder and Web entrepreneur Sean Parker on Monday at SXSW in a flashy tete-a-tete that drew an audience of thousands at the Austin Convention Center and more viewers via a live stream.

"Our democracy has been hacked," said Gore, framing Washington gridlock and the effects of special interest money in digital terms.

To fix what he called a no-longer functional U.S. government, Gore urged the audience to begin a new "Occupy Democracy" movement. He pushed for the creation and implementation of digital tools and social media to "change the democratic conversation."

Gore talked of a "Wiki-democracy" of "digital flash mobs calling out the truth" and "a government square that holds people accountable."

Rebekah Brooks, Husband, And Four Others Arrested In New Phone Hacking Probe

British police made six arrests early Tuesday in the British media's phone hacking scandal, including Rebekah Brooks, the former top executive of Rupert Murdoch's News International, The Associated Press has learned.

Police did not identify those arrested, but a person who had been briefed on the details said Brooks and her husband, a prominent horse breeder and a friend of Prime Minister David Cameron, were arrested at their house.

The six people were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, police said in a statement. The charge is an indication that investigators may be focusing on a possible coverup of the scope of phone hacking.

The investigation stems from widespread wrongdoing at Rupert Murdoch's now-closed News of the World tabloid. The victims have ranged from celebrities and major politicians to the families of crime victims.

News International, which operates Murdoch's British newspapers, confirmed that its head of security, Mark Hanna, was also one of those arrested. A spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said she had no information about where he was arrested.

Wisconsin Voter ID Law Ruled Unconstitutional

A Wisconsin judge declared a state law requiring people to show photo ID in order to be allowed to vote unconstitutional on Monday, issuing a permanent injunction blocking the state from implementing the measure.

"Without question, where it exists, voter fraud corrupts elections and undermines our form of government," wrote Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess in his decision. "The legislature and governor may certainly take aggressive action to prevent its occurrence. But voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression. Indeed, they are two heads on the monster."

The decision comes less than a week after another judge temporarily halted the implementation of the voter ID law.

Wall Street Protesters Complain of Police Surveillance

On Nov. 17, Kira Moyer-Sims was near the Manhattan Bridge, buying coffee while three friends waited nearby in a car. More than a dozen blocks away, protesters gathered for an Occupy Wall Street“day of action,” which organizers had described as an attempt to block the streets around the New York Stock Exchange.

Then, Ms. Moyer-Sims said, about 30 police officers surrounded her and the people in the car.

All four were arrested, said Vik Pawar, a lawyer for Ms. Moyer-Sims and two of the others, and taken to a police facility in the East Village. He said officers strip-searched them and ignored their requests for a lawyer. The fourth person could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Moyer-Sims, 20, said members of the Police Department’s intelligence division asked about her personal history, her relationship with other protesters, the nature of Occupy Wall Street and plans for upcoming protests.

Ken Griffin, Billionaire Romney Backer, Says Super Rich Have 'An Insufficient Influence' On Politics

A billionaire backer of Mitt Romney said that the wealthy have "an insufficient influence" on politics and policy.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Ken Griffin, founder of the hedge fund Citadel was asked if he thought rich people had too great of an influence on politics.

"I think they actually have an insufficient influence," he responded. "Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet."

He also told the Tribune that he believes he should be able to donate an unlimited amount of money to Super PACs.

According to FEC filings, Griffin recently donated $100,000 to Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney Super PAC. He gave $2,500 to Romney personally, as well as to a slew of other Republican candidates and groups. His wife has also donated to Romney.

Hatch Weighs In on Tax Status of ‘Super PACs’

Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, joined the fight over the tax status of “Super PACS” on Friday, accusing Senate Democrats of a “politically motivated witch hunt” for their efforts to rein in tax-exempt political groups.

Mr. Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, was responding to a letter by seven Senate Democrats demanding that the Internal Revenue Service establish a clearer test limiting the politicking of 501(c)(4) groups like American Crossroads, a Republican group, and Priorities USA, a Democratic outfit. The letter, which still has not been sent, also requests stronger rules preventing corporate donors from deducting Super PAC contributions from their taxes, and it threatens legislative action if the I.R.S. fails to act.

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