Electromagnetism Disrupts Brain’s Moral Center–Proof of Mind Control Theory

Neuroscientists use magnetism to fool our moral compass

March 31, 2010 | 10:51 am

Neuroscientists have marched forward by many means in their understanding of how the brain and its component parts work. They have long studied people with injuries to certain parts of their brains and, by seeing how the behavior of those individuals changes, have inferred the role that the damaged part of the brain plays. In more recent years, functional magnetic resonance imaging and electro-encephalograms (those electrical wires you see attached to babies’ bald pates in pictures) have helped researchers divine the roles of certain brain regions by “seeing” blood flow or metabolic activity in those regions during certain tasks.

But there’s also a little known and somewhat low-tech gadget that can have surprising powers of revelation. It’s called transcranial magnetic stimulation, in which a small device that emits a powerful but narrow-spectrum magnetic charge is passed over a region of the brain. It won’t penetrate very far, but the result is that the cells in that region of the brain are briefly scrambled: For a few minutes, they go silent or misfire. (Neuroscientists have been known to have a bit of fun with this gadget.)

In the neuroscience lab of MIT researcher Rebecca Saxe, the role of the right temporoparietal junction — an area toward the back of your head, a couple of inches above your right ear — is an area of particular interest. This area has long been thought to play a role in how we interpret the actions and motives of the people around us — a largely-human talent called “theory of mind.”

In a recent study using transcranial magnetic stimulation, researchers in Saxe’s lab have found that the right temporoparietal junction — and our ability to infer other people’s thoughts and motives — may be important in how we make and act on moral and ethical judgments.

In a pair of experiments published in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, MIT researchers passed a transcranial magnetic stimulator over the right temporoparietal junction, in one case for 25 minutes while the study participants read a series of scenarios and decided how they should behave, and in the second experiment, briefly, while participants were asked to make a complex moral judgment. In both experiments, researchers set up the moral conundrums so that the participants could make a dangerous or immoral decision (such as driving drunk) but not have any moral consequences (such as an accident ensuing).

With their right temporoparietal junctions scrambled, participants seemed unable to recognize an action as wrong unless it led to harm — a moral judgment that virtually all could make easily when their brains were not being magnetically scrambled. It seems that when unable to infer the motives and actions of another, they had to rely only on outcomes to tell them if their own actions were ethical.

The implications for human behavior are potentially far-reaching: Unless we can understand what’s on other people’s minds, we may be hampered in understanding how best to live cooperatively (and ethically) with others. And then there’s a take-home message for each of us: If someone you know seems to behave without moral bearings, you might try looking for a transcranial magnetic stimulator hidden with the remote control in the folds of his or her couch. Or you might infer that his or her powers of “theory of mind” need a bit of exercise.

– Melissa Healy

Chechnyan Group Both Denies and Accepts Responsibility for Moscow Bombing–Reuter’s

[The inevitable contradictions are beginning to arise already, indicating a false flag attack to implicate known militant group.  This has CIA/Special Forces written all over it.  The idea is to force Putin into a heavy-handed campaign of vengeance, for all the world to see.  The vilification of Putin and Russia are necessary to justify the large-scale movement of American forces closer to Moscow.  SEE:  America’s “Islamists” Go Where Oilmen Fear to tread.]

Islamist group says not behind Moscow bombs

ISTANBUL
Wed Mar 31, 2010 9:52am EDT

(Reuters) – A militant Islamist separatist group led by a prominent Chechen rebel denied responsibility Wednesday for bombings that killed 39 people in two Moscow metro stations.

“We did not carry out the attack in Moscow, and we don’t know who did it,” Shemsettin Batukaev, a spokesman for the Caucasus Emirate organization, told Reuters by telephone in Turkey.

The spokesman said the group planned attacks on economic targets inside Russia, but not against civilians. Its leader, Doku Umarov, vowed last month to spread a Caucasian insurgency to Russian cities.

The Caucusus Emirate aims to create a pan-Caucasus, sharia-based state separate from Russia. Security analysts have named it as a potential suspect in Monday’s attacks, which Russian authorities have blamed on female suicide bombers with connections to the volatile North Caucasus region.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for Moscow’s worst bomb attack in six years.

“Of course we plan on attacking Russian economic targets, but our plans do not include attacks on people,” said Batukaev, who lives in Istanbul and acts as the group’s foreign representative.

He said he also did not know who was behind two bombings in Dagestan that killed 12 people Wednesday, but did not deny the possibility that his organization was involved.

The bombings highlight problems Russia has faced in trying to stem rising violence in the North Caucasus insurgency, which is likely to be at the heart of a 2012 presidential election.

FILLED WITH RAGE

The Kremlin had declared victory in its battle with Chechen separatists who fought two wars with Moscow. But violence has intensified over the past year in the neighboring republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia, where Islamist militancy overlaps with clan rivalries, criminal gangs and widespread poverty.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who gained popularity by crushing the second Chechen insurgency, said the culprits behind the bombings should be “scraped from the sewers.”

Batukaev, speaking by telephone, said the attacks could have been the work of individuals “filled with enough hatred.

“There are lots of Chechens who would happily have thrown an atom bomb into the subway. There are many people filled with enough rage out there who could have done this,” he said.

“But these people do not represent us,” he said.

The Chechen rebellion began in the 1990s as a largely ethnic nationalist movement. Russian officials say Islamic militants from outside Russia have joined the campaign, most after the secong war, giving it a fresh intensity.

Batukaev said there were a few foreigners fighting with the insurgents but his organization did not have ties to foreign Islamist groups, like al Qaeda, and relied on sympathizers at home for funding.

(Reporting by Thomas Grove, editing by Mark Trevelyan and Paul Taylor)

Chechen rebel says ordered Moscow attacks: website

MOSCOW
Wed Mar 31, 2010 1:09pm EDT

(Reuters) – Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in the Moscow metro that killed at least 39 people, according to a video posted on the unofficial Islamist rebel website on Wednesday.

Umarov, who styles himself as the “Emir of the Caucasus Emirate,” said in the video that he had personally ordered the attacks. He said attacks on Russia would continue.

“As you all know on March 29 in Moscow, two special operations were carried out to destroy the infidels and to sent a greeting to the FSB,” Umarov was shown saying in the four-and-a-half minute long video on [Islamic terrorist website, Kavkaz Center]

One of the metro stations bombed was just meters (yards) away from the headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the country’s main domestic security service.

“Both of these operations were carried out on my command and will not be the last,” Umarov was shown saying against the background of what looked like a wood.

He spoke heavily accented Russian and said that he was speaking on March 29.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Ludmila Danilova, editing by Robin Paxton)

9/11 Reconstruction: Mental Before Physical

9/11 Reconstruction: Mental Before Physical



A new survey of Americans reveals that 100 million people question or reject official story. A new investigation is needed.

by Joel S. Hirschhorn

(libertarian)

The failure to rebuild the World Trade Center site in Manhattan has received endless attention. But public anger about this failed reconstruction should not been seen so negatively. After all, mental reconstruction has also still not been successful and is surely more needed, with too many Americans still accepting the official government story about 9/11. This, despite a huge amount of compelling evidence that elements of the US government played some role, despite a very large, active 9/11 truth movement, and despite an impressive number of highly credible people demanding a new investigation as documented at patriotsquestion911.com.

In the recent Angus Reid Public Opinion survey of a representative national sample of American adults, 62 per cent of respondents disagree with the view that the “Sept. 11 incident was a big fabrication as a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan.” Far more Republicans disagree at 80 percent, compared to 66 percent of Independents and 55 percent of Democrats.

Consistent with this is that two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) agree with the government commission that investigated the events of Sept. 11, 2001, which concluded that an attack was carried out by 19 hijackers who were members of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, led by Osama bin Laden. Though 12 per cent of respondents reject the commission’s findings, one-in-five Americans (21 percent) are undecided. In particular, 35 percent of Independents and 34 percent of Democrats do not accept the official version, compared to just 20 percent of Republicans.

These figures translate to about 100 million Americans that question or find fault with the official 9/11 story, far from a trivial number and far too many to dismiss as conspiracy nuts and part of the lunatic fringe. This is the important message that merits public appreciation.

That the mainstream media refuses to acknowledge this kind of public sentiment reflects on their lack of courage to dig deep into the role of the government and face the truth. This behavior does nothing to improve American democracy and trust in government. True patriots must acknowledge that government through the terrible acts of some individuals can carry out hideous acts; there is a bipartisan history of this. Truth is the best way to stop such behavior.

Clearly, Republicans have blocked out the painful possibility that the Bush-Cheney administration played a role in 9/11. This may also explain why the large tea party movement that results from strong disillusionment with government does not embrace the 9/11 truth movement.

Here is my perspective: If far more Americans rejected or questioned the official government story and demanded a new investigation, we would get the mental reconstruction sorely needed to ensure that the government never again uses a false flag operation to advance a policy (wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) that would not otherwise receive public support, especially one that kills thousands of Americans, both civilians and soldiers.

That the reconstruction at ground zero in Manhattan has still not succeeded symbolizes that the wounds of 9/11 are not healed, which means that we still have some chance of demanding and discovering the full truth, regardless of how painful it is. The cost of a first-rate new investigation might be $50 million, far less than the billions of dollars to reconstruct the Manhattan site.

In the end, truth is more important than new buildings. Worse than a hole in the ground is a hole in our national soul. We need Congress to authorize and fund a new 9/11 investigation. The highly fragmented 9/11 truth movement must unite behind a political strategy to make this happen. The only reason to fear a new investigation is the likely unsettling finding that, indeed, the US government was a lot more than incompetent and negligent.

The Dangers of Democracy In a Land of Sheeple

The recent Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commissionpermits corporations to directly donate to political parties as well as run political advertisements. Yet more shocking than the Court’s blatant partisan split on the issue is the degree to which public anger about the decision has been bipartisan. From left-of-center to right-of-crazy, both liberal activists and tea party protesters are incensed with a decision they see as allowing even more corporate influence over Washington. Yet while many would like to see this decision overturned, the truth of the matter is that the legislative system in the United States is already corrupted by private interests, and the Court’s decision, while appalling, does not affect the incentive structure in place which undermines and stymies Congress on many of the nation’s most pressing issues.

Lobbyists and public action committees already exploit the need for members of Congress to fret about re-election almost the nanosecond they are elected. The amount of money pushed into politics already makes a mockery of the ‘one person, one vote’ contract implicit in a democratic system. Indeed, on key political issues of the day, the financial lobby is busy trying to prevent the establishment of an independent consumer protection agency, and the insurance industry spent roughly one million dollars a day on lobbyists and contributions to block the public option. From oil companies trying to prevent climate change policy to automakers buying up and destroying public transportation systems to pharmaceutical and food companies lobbying against FDA regulations to no-bid contracts for American companies in Iraq to mortgage lenders protecting their ‘loan shark’ profit margins, it is evident that while corporations are for profit, governments exist to remain distinctly in the service of the people.

Yet while the notion of corporations as legal persons has made me uneasy for as long as I have understood the concept, I admit I am humbled by the legal ramifications involved in denying corporations- and by the same token unions- rights of personhood. Instead of adopting a ‘reverse or uphold’ legal approach, it would treat the problem more substantially if we challenged the underlying incentive structure in place, limiting financial influence over public servants, raising the costs of social harm, and maintaining an adamant regulatory system.

One idea, which is not new, is to even the playing field by eradicating private financing of elections altogether, and instead maintaining a national fund for elections. Before images of a socialist march come to mind, this system is already practice in the United States, albeit piecemeal. If a candidate privately raises $5,000 in each of at least 20 states and agrees to spending limits, the government subsidizes a dollar for dollar “match”. Yet without an even playing field as witnessed in the 2008 election, candidates who take public money often fall far short of what their competitors can privately raise.

We must alter elections from privately-funded popularity contests to publicly-financed issue-based contests open to all. This would transform the democratic system currently in place, where dollars are more powerful than votes and those who have the most money inevitably have the most influence. Prohibiting all private financing would additionally hamstring corporate influence without violating corporate free speech. Campaign finance reform would also engender greater transparency as ads run by corporations and unions would be based on the stances political parties or candidates take (for or against oil for example), and not on who has or hasn’t accepted undisclosed funds.

It would serve us well to examine an analogous example of where money corrupts politics. The ills that plague the oldest and the largest democracies in the world are not all that different, and the solution to help remedy them is surprisingly similar. India is known for being the world’s largest democracy and a ray of hope in a region blighted by political instability and military rule. But when I went to cover the largest elections in the world in April of 2009, pride in this democracy was the least of what I found.

Instead of the rosy picture of millions of people voting (418 million actually did), what I consistently encountered as I spoke with NGO leaders, academics, voters, journalists, ministers, and candidates was the increasing political influence and success of common criminals – thugs – in the elections. According to the Association for Democratic Reform, 28% of elected Indian MPs have criminal cases pending against them (more than one in five), while 14% have serious criminal indictments. More alarming is the fact that this number has increased by 31% since the 2004 elections.

It seems that those who have long lived beyond the reach of the law have figured out that if they manage to delay the adjudication of the cases against them in court (not very difficult in India for those who have money and power), and get elected in the interim, they can enjoy the fruits of parliamentary immunity. Indian election rules do not prevent those charged with criminal cases from standing for electoral offices, only those who have been convicted. Unscrupulous candidates use all the nefarious tools in their thuggish panoply, from bribery to extortion to intimidation to rioting and even murder and incitement of gang wars, to get the votes they need. For a village thug charged with a crime, the best thing he can do to free himself of accountability is to get elected. Along with the power of patronage that comes with vaunted ministry positions, an air of untouchability comes with electoral success (and not in the Hindu caste sense of the term, but rather Al Capone’s).

Historically, the term “thug” referred to a member of an organization of robbers and assassins in India who typically strangled their victims. Corporations are certainly not thugs in the literal sense: they are legal entities created by the State, endowed with rights of legal personhood, shielded from personal liability, and can exist in perpetuity. Armed with these benefits and shareholder funds, corporate executives and managers can generate wealth, which often does benefit society at large. Without these privileges, risk-averse individuals would not assume high levels of debt and risk bankruptcy to endeavor to make things. Thus, while the existence and life of a corporation is crucial to higher standards of living, their categorical incentive – self-interest, which maximizes profit for shareholders – can also do harm.

The near collapse of the global financial system at the hands of profit-maximizing investment bankers in 2008 illustrates this point well enough. Many concerned with avoiding another financial crisis argue that the root causes have not been addressed, and Wall Street continues to incentivize reckless risk. A lack of accountability and extremely close ties (some would say a revolving door) with Washington, conflicts of interest (such as the relationship between Goldman Sachs and Greece) and expectations of huge personal profits continue to endanger the world economic system.

One thing remains sad and true. Whether you are looking at the American Congress or the Indian Lok Sahba, reform falls into the hands of the very people who have incentives to stunt it. In other words, those who stand to gain from a corrupting system are the very ones who hold all the power to change it. Will we see campaign finance reform in our lifetime? The answer unfortunately lies with those who have the money: thug Parliamentarians in India and corporate entities in the United States. Can we trust them to regulate themselves as we naively did with respect to Wall Street?

Recently-elected Indian Parliamentarians with criminal offences boastfully refer to themselves as baahubali, which literally translates as “muscle men” or gangsters. Characteristic of these legitimized ruffians is a general desire to amass vast amounts of wealth, use this wealth to attain power, capture more wealth with this newfound power, and so on. Isn’t this essentially the same motivation for maximizing profit? It doesn’t take much of stretch to see that profit maximization is not always innocuous, and without regulation can endanger human lives, the environment, and even jeopardize competition itself. AsRalph Nader has argued, “from pollution, medical negligence, procurement fraud, product defects, and financial fraud, to antitrust, public corruption, foreign bribery and occupational homicide, corporate crime is widely ignored by politicians – yet acutely felt by all Americans.” American corporations, especially those that operate abroad, such as United Fruit, Halliburton, Nike, Enron, Blackwater, Dow Chemical, Goldman Sachs, AIG, Arthur Andersen, Hollinger, and a host of others throw around massive amounts of wealth, bribe, intimidate, tamper with and bend laws to suit their interests, silence whistleblowers, engage in patronage, squeeze out competition, and instill fear in their workers so as to avoid rebellion from within. All of these behaviors can be learned from a baahubali handbook, if ever one was literate enough to write one.

We have for far too long allowed the incentive structure in the American political system to tilt toward private money. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that eventually those with the most money will carry the greatest influence, and those who depend on those large caches of cash will be beholden to the dictates of their cash cows. It reminds one of that proverbial parental slogan: ‘as long as you live under my roof, you will do as I say.’ Just as children must move out and make their own money to gain their independence, so too should Members of Congress move out of the ‘care’ of their financial supporters. In order to free our lawmakers from the need to accumulate vast resources and then repay those supporters in kind, we must institute a system which publicly funds the campaigns of those who are eligible. The goal here is to even the playing field, dissuade lawmakers from using their time in office to obtain fresh funds, and use that time instead to make and vote on laws – their actual jobs.

It was never the intention of the Founding Fathers that America’s lawmakers would be beholden to financiers, and it seems doubtful that they would allow corporations to take center stage in our political system. The private sector is adept at many things; financing political outcomes shouldn’t be one of them. Glenn Greenwald, in pointing out how little healthcare reform hurts private interests or insurance companies, emphasizes, “Corporate control of the Government is one of the most serious problems, if not the single most serious problem, the nation faces. Every future bill — from “financial reform” to energy bills to national security and surveillance legislation — is dominated by that central fact.” Yet the idea that financial and political power should rarely mingle is still considered radical today.

In his dissent to Citizens United, Justice John Paul Stevens asked why corporations, which are not members of society and cannot vote or run for office, should be allowed to crowd out those who do. What is the point of voting at all if members of Congress are more indebted to their financial base than to their electoral base? Corporations alone seem to have the amount of cash required to fund campaigns, and they often fund both parties in order to ensure that their views are represented in debate on any legislation that would affect them. In India, thugs behave in the same fashion. They meet in secret with other Parliamentarians, give and trade favors, and do this with the extra cash and muscle they acquire from their positions. It is a negative feedback loop built around rational responses to incentives.

America is a capitalist democracy, and if we endear ourselves to the notion of proper incentive structures as well as free and fair elections, we should demand both! What actually and ironically seems the most self-evident about corporate influence in politics is that it has the power to corrupt absolutely.

Iraq’s Baby Steps Toward Democracy

[I hope and pray that the author of the following piece is correct that this is truly the beginning of Iraq recovering some of what it was before we inflicted its mortal wound.  There are a lot of “ifs” that determine whether this is real hope or more delusion–the biggest “if” is–”if” American troops really leave.  The next “if” concerns Maliki and Allawi–”if” they work for America, or “if” they work for Iran.  If either of those loyalties hold, then neither of them work for the Iraqi people.  Time will tell, as in all things.]

Iraq’s Baby Steps Toward Democracy

By Adil E. Shamoo

Iraqi voters show inked fingers. CC license: Wikimedia

The Obama administration may finally get some good news. Iraq’s recent elections for parliament might actually result in a non-sectarian, pro-American government. This outcome would enable the Obama administration to fulfill its goal of removing all but 50,000 support troops by this August and drawn U.S. forces down to zero by the end of 2011.

The resilient and courageous Iraqi people voted in higher percentages than the American electorate, with 62 percent of eligible voters going to the polls. This voter participation is a positive step toward a free, sovereign, and democratic Iraq. The future, however, will depend on the actions and attitudes of Iraqis, Americans and Iraq’s neighbors.

A New Parliament

The preliminary results for the 325 seats in parliament indicate that Ayad Allawi’s Iraqia Party has garnered 91 seats, while incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Party won 89 seats. The Kurds have perhaps lost the most from this election. The main Kurdish Alliance won 43 seats and thus have fewer seats than before. The new secular group, Goran (meaning “change”), has split the Kurdish alliance. Goran could play an important role in joining any secular coalition.

Before the election, the Justice and Accountability Commission (co-chaired by Ahmed Chalabi, a candidate for parliament in this election) barred over 100 candidates from running. Of these, 55 were from Allawi’s list, and he has protested vociferously. Yet, while both sides are claiming foul, UN senior envoy Ad Melkert contends that the irregularities in the Iraqi election aren’t widespread and won’t affect the overall outcome.

The threat of violence remains real in Iraq. Nearly 100,000 foreign troops and at least that many contractors currently occupy Iraq. Most democratic institutions are weak or nonexistent; sectarian security forces continue to exist. Iraq functions under a sectarian constitution imposed by the Americans early in the invasion. And yet there is room for hope in this election.

Iraqi voters, way ahead of their politicians, rejected both sectarianism and dividing Iraq under the guise of federalism. In this regard the religious parties, especially those with close ties to Iran, were the biggest losers. (One exception was the vote strength of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shiite Muslim movement, because of its anti-occupation and nationalistic message.) Maliki changed his previous stance, splitting from the religious coalitions to form a non-sectarian party, the State of Law Coalition. This time around, he aimed to appeal to the Iraqis’ abhorrence to sectarian violence. However, Maliki reserved his cordial relations with religious groups in case he needed them after the election.

U.S. Interference

Ambassador Christopher Hill and General Ray Odierno clearly interfered in the election in promoting pro-American candidates Maliki and Allawi. This effort achieved its goal, since the two groups will now control the government. But despite the interference from U.S. officials, Iraqis have made progress toward sovereignty and democracy, which can potentially become even stronger after the withdrawal of American troops. The removal of the anti-occupation card will erode support for al-Sadr and strengthen the messages of secular parties.

Allawi will be given the first chance to form the government. Together, the parties of Maliki and Allawi can form a stable and functional Iraqi government. This coalition will please the Americans. However, their personal animosity is a strong obstacle to forming such an alliance. Further complicating this coalition-building, the party of Al-Sadr won’t join Maliki, since he attacked and disarmed them in Basra at the behest of the Americans. Maliki’s party can form a coalition with smaller religious groups, but the resulting government will be weak. Moreover, Allawi and other non-sectarian groups would continue to undermine his authority. Both the weakened Kurdish Alliance and Goran will be the wild cards in this game of coalition-building.

The participation of Iraqis in their election and the enforcement of election laws by Iraq’s Independent High Election Commission are but two examples of small steps toward democracy. If a stable and functional government is formed, the Iraqi people will have another opportunity to sustain and cement their democracy. Central to this process will be the strengthening of civil society. Civil society is not new to Iraq. Hammurabi’s Code, the first written laws in human history, was instituted in Iraq nearly 2,200 years ago. Iraqi attempts to build a modern civil society must overcome the triple challenges of history, current sectarian strife, and ongoing American intervention. Respecting the Iraqis to go through their own process of democratic trial and error is all part of restoring the rule of law to the land of Hammurabi.

Adil E. Shamoo is a senior analyst at Foreign Policy In Focus. He is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and writes on matters of ethics and public policy. He can be reached at his blog.

Recommended Citation:

Adil E. Shamoo, “Iraq’s Baby Steps Toward Democracy” (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, March 30, 2010)

U.S. Rescue May Reach $23,000,000,000,000–a Number Too High to Comprehend

U.S. Rescue May Reach $23.7 Trillion, Barofsky Says

By Dawn Kopecki and Catherine Dodge

July 20 (Bloomberg) — U.S. taxpayers may be on the hook for as much as $23.7 trillion to bolster the economy and bail out financial companies, said Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The Treasury’s $700 billion bank-investment program represents a fraction of all federal support to resuscitate the U.S. financial system, including $6.8 trillion in aid offered by the Federal Reserve, Barofsky said in a report released today.

“TARP has evolved into a program of unprecedented scope, scale and complexity,” Barofsky said in testimony prepared for a hearing tomorrow before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said the U.S. has spent less than $2 trillion so far and that Barofsky’s estimates are flawed because they don’t take into account assets that back those programs or fees charged to recoup some costs shouldered by taxpayers.

“These estimates of potential exposures do not provide a useful framework for evaluating the potential cost of these programs,” Williams said. “This estimate includes programs at their hypothetical maximum size, and it was never likely that the programs would be maxed out at the same time.”

Barofsky’s estimates include $2.3 trillion in programs offered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., $7.4 trillion in TARP and other aid from the Treasury and $7.2 trillion in federal money for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, credit unions, Veterans Affairs and other federal programs.

Treasury’s Comment

Williams said the programs include escalating fee structures designed to make them “increasingly unattractive as financial markets normalize.” Dependence on these federal programs has begun to decline, as shown by $70 billion in TARP capital investments that has already been repaid, Williams said.

Barofsky offered criticism in a separate quarterly report of Treasury’s implementation of TARP, saying the department has “repeatedly failed to adopt recommendations” needed to provide transparency and fulfill the administration’s goal to implement TARP “with the highest degree of accountability.”

As a result, taxpayers don’t know how TARP recipients are using the money or the value of the investments, he said in the report.

‘Falling Short’

“This administration promised an ‘unprecedented level’ of accountability and oversight, but as this report reveals, they are falling far short of that promise,” Representative Darrell Issa of California, the top Republican on the oversight committee, said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent.”

The Treasury has spent $441 billion of TARP funds so far and has allocated $202.1 billion more for other spending, according to Barofsky. In the nine months since Congress authorized TARP, Treasury has created 12 programs involving funds that may reach almost $3 trillion, he said.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner should press banks for more information on how they use the more than $200 billion the government has pumped into U.S. financial institutions, Barofsky said in a separate report.

The inspector general surveyed 360 banks that have received TARP capital, including Bank of America Corp.JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. The responses, which the inspector general said it didn’t verify independently, showed that 83 percent of banks used TARP money for lending, while 43 percent used funds to add to their capital cushion and 31 percent made new investments.

Barofsky said the TARP inspector general’s office has 35 ongoing criminal and civil investigations that include suspected accounting, securities and mortgage fraud; insider trading; and tax investigations related to the abuse of TARP programs.

To contact the reporters on this story: Dawn Kopecki in Washington atdkopecki@bloomberg.netCatherine Dodge in Washington atCdodge1@bloomberg.net.

Terrorist vs. Terrorist

Terrorist vs. Terrorist

Bad-guy fratricide in AfPak

Ralph Peters

As an intelligence officer or journalist, you’ve got to know which sources you can trust. And a source who’s never let me down told me yesterday that the terrorist multinational based in Pakistan is coming apart.

According to this insider’s insider, the Pakistan-headquartered Afghan Taliban is furious at the Taliban’s Pakistani wing because its assaults on the Islamabad government triggered a stunning backlash.

Unleashed at last, Pakistan’s military launched a series of offensives aimed at smacking down the domestic Taliban. But those campaigns also crippled the Afghan Taliban’s freedom of action — and the murky Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) has been killing any Taliban leaders who resist its guidance. (As I’ve noted in past columns, Islamabad intends to dominate any Afghan peace deal.)

GettyHeating up: Army Lt. Scott Doyle moving into position under insurgent fire on March 16 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. US forces will soon mount a major offensive in and around Kandahar city.

GETTY
Heating up: Army Lt. Scott Doyle moving into position under insurgent fire on March 16 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. US forces will soon mount a major offensive in and around Kandahar city.

Now Terrorist Mutt is blaming Terrorist Jeff.

The news gets even better. Both Taliban wings are mocking al Qaeda as a bunch of wimps unwilling to help with the fight. Under siege from drone attacks and special operators, al Qaeda has hunkered down — and is no longer paying the rent to which the Taliban are accustomed.

There’s more. Multiple reports tell of a “shootin’ war” between the Afghan Taliban and another brutal Afghan outfit, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb e-Islami mujaheddin (who’ve inched toward a deal with Afghan President Hamid Karzai). Meanwhile, the ruthless Haqqani faction — aligned with the Taliban — is supposedly squabbling with everybody.

You don’t have to keep all the players straight — just be glad they’re at each other’s throats. The US policy of killing our enemies and goading the Pakistanis to do the same is paying off.

But if things are going better within Pakistan’s Wild Northwest, our peace-and-love policies inside Afghanistan are in a muddle. Officers worry that Gen. Stan McChrystal’s ploy of warning the Taliban that we’re coming to take back Kandahar may backfire.

This “look out, here we come” approach is meant to convince the Taliban to fade away before we deploy, thus limiting casualties and property damage. But reports claim the Taliban’s doing just the opposite: stockpiling weapons and bombs throughout Kandahar.

Aware that we’re hyper-sensitive to blood and rubble, the Taliban may try to turn Kandahar into a slaughterhouse for civilians, a long struggle for our troops — and, ultimately, a wasteland. (Taliban strategists may have drawn a lesson from the First Battle of Fallujah in Iraq, which the insurgents lost in the city’s streets, but won — with the media’s help — at the political level.)

The upcoming Kandahar campaign’s also complicated by the perceived need to have Afghan forces play a greater role. While letting Afghans bleed for their own country is theoretically the right answer, the Afghan National Army isn’t ready.

If an Afghan battalion breaks down under fire, guess what the headline will be — no matter how well other aspects of the fight go (the iconic image of our crucial victory in Second Fallujah remains a Marine shooting a terrorist prisoner).

Precious to the Taliban, Kandahar is McChrystal’s all-or-nothing gamble. It may not have been wise to announce in advance that he’s betting the bank on the outcome.

It also would have been encouraging had our president, instead of checking the “Afghanistan box” with a six-hour night-time visit, spent just one full day in-country to see what our troops are doing. Obama logged four times as many hours in the air as he spent on the ground in Afghanistan.

Worse, Obama’s darkness-shrouded drive-by sent a counter-productive message to our enemies, allies and regional observers: The US president’s afraid to be on Afghan soil during daylight hours.

It’s irrelevant whether his after-dusk arrival and post-midnight departure had to do with security concerns or just scheduling issues. He looked furtive. And appearances trump all.

Reportedly, the president read Karzai the riot act about the destructive corruption and ineptitude of his government. Nothing will come of it. The Karzai regime’s too far gone. It isn’t afflicted with corruption — it’s built on it.

Obama then chowed down with local luminaries, gave rear-echelon troops a 20-minute pep talk (complete with photo op) on the safest base in Afghanistan, and faded back into the night. That wham-bam-thank-you-Bagram visit was a perfect measure of the president’s level of interest in a war to which he’s sending 30,000 more men and women in uniform.

The good news? We’re not only killing terrorists in Pakistan — they’re starting to kill each other. The bad news? Afghanistan isn’t a war. It’s a politically correct experiment — conducted with our troops — by an administration with higher priorities.

Ralph Peters’ new book is “Endless War: Middle-Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization.”