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Larry Summers: Goldman Sacked September 17, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Economic Crisis.
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GregPalast.com

Larry Summers:  Goldman Sacked

By Greg Palast for Vice Magazine
Monday, 16 September 2013

Joseph Stiglitz couldn’t believe his ears.  Here they were in the White House, with President Bill Clinton asking the chiefs of the US Treasury for guidance on the life and death of America’s economy, when the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers turns to his boss, Secretary Robert Rubin, and says, “What would Goldman think of that?”

Huh?

Then, at another meeting, Summers said it again:  What would Goldman think?

A shocked Stiglitz, then Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, told me he’d turned to Summers, and asked if Summers thought it appropriate to decide US economic policy based on “what Goldman thought.”  As opposed to say, the facts, or say, the needs of the American public, you know, all that stuff that we heard in Cabinet meetings on The West Wing.

Summers looked at Stiglitz like Stiglitz was some kind of naive fool who’d read too many civics books.

R.I.P. Larry Summers
On Sunday afternoon, facing a revolt by his own party’s senators, Obama dumped Larry as likely replacement for Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
Until news came that Summers’ torch had been snuffed, I was going to write another column about Larry, the Typhoid Mary of Economics.  (My first, in The Guardian, 15 years ago, warned that “Summers is, in fact, a colony of aliens sent to Earth to turn humans into a cheap source of protein.”)

But the fact that Obama even tried to shove Summers down the planet’s throat tells us more about Obama than Summers—and whom Obama works for.  Hint:  You aren’t one of them.

All these Cabinet discussions back in the 1990s requiring the blessing of Goldman Sachs revolved around the Rubin-Summers idea of ending regulation of the US banking system.  To free the US economy, Summers argued, all you’d have to do is allow commercial banks to bet government-guaranteed savings on new “derivatives products,” let banks sell high-risk sub-prime mortgage securities and cut their reserves against losses.

What could possibly go wrong?
Stiglitz, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, tried to tell them exactly what would go wrong.  But when he tried, he was replaced and exiled.
Summers did more than ask Rubin to channel the spirit of Goldman: Summers secretly called and met with Goldman’s new CEO at the time, Jon Corzine, to plan out the planet’s financial deregulation. I’m not guessing:  I have the confidential memo to Summers reminding him to call Corzine.

[For the complete story of that memo and a copy of it, read The Confidential Memo at the Heart of the Global Financial Crisis.]

Summers, as Treasury official, can call any banker he damn well pleases.  But not secretly.  And absolutely not to scheme over details of policies that could make a bank billions.  And Goldman did make billions on those plans.

Example:  Goldman and clients pocketed $4 billion on the collapse of “synthetic collateralized debt obligations”—flim-flam feathers sold to suckers and dimwits i.e. the bankers at RBS.  (See Did Fabrice Tourre Really Create The Global Financial Crisis?)

Goldman also cashed in big on the implosion of Greece’s debt via secret derivatives trades permitted by Summers’ decriminalization of such cross-border financial gaming.

The collapse of the euro-zone and the US mortgage market caused by Bankers Gone Wild was made possible only by Treasury Secretary Summers lobbying for the Commodities Futures Modernization Act which banned regulators from controlling the 100,000% increase in derivatives assets, especially super-risky “naked” credit-default swaps.

The CMFA was the financial equivalent of a fire department banning smoke alarms.

Summers took over the Treasury’s reins from Rubin who’d left to become director of a strange new financial behemoth:  The combine of Citibank with and an investment bank, Travelers. The new bank beast went bankrupt and required $50 billion in bail-out funds.  (Goldman did not require any bail-out funds–but took $10 billion anyway.)

Other banks-turned-casinos followed Citi into insolvency.  Most got bail-outs … and got Larry Summers–or, at least, Larry’s lips for “consulting” or for gold-plated speaking gigs.

Derivatives trader D.E. Shaw paid Summers $5 million for a couple of years of “part-time” work.  This added to payments from Citigroup, Goldman and other finance houses, raising the net worth of this once penurious professor to more than $31 million.

Foreclosure fills the Golden Sacks
When Summers left Treasury in 2000, The New York Times reports that a grateful Rubin got Summers the post of President of Harvard University—from which Summers was fired. He gambled away over half a billion dollars of the university’s endowment on those crazy derivatives he’d legalized.  (Given Summers’ almost pathological inability to understand finance, it was most odd that, while President of the university, he suggested that humans with vaginas aren’t very good with numbers.)

In 2009, Summers, Daddy of the Deregulation Disaster, returned to the Cabinet in triumph. Barack Obama crowned him “Economics Tsar,” allowing Summers to run the Treasury without having to be questioned by Congress in a formal confirmation hearing.

As Economics Tsar in Obama’s first term, did Summers redeem himself?

Not a chance.

In 2008, both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain called for using the $300 billion remaining in the “bail-out’ fund for a foreclosure-blocking program identical to the one Franklin Roosevelt had used to pull the US out of the Great Depression.  But Tsar Larry would have none of it, although banks had been given $400 billion from the same fund.

Indeed, on the advice of Summers and his wee assistant, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Obama spent only $7 billon of the $300 billion available to save US homeowners.

What would Goldman think? 
As noted, Goldman and clients pocketed billions as a result of Obama’s abandonment of 3.9 million families whose homes were repossessed during his first term.  While American homeowners were drowning, Tsar Summers torpedoed their lifeboat:  a plan to prevent foreclosures by forcing banks to write-off the overcharges in predatory sub-prime mortgages.  Notably, Summers’ action (and Obama’s inaction) saved Citibank billions.

Loan Shark Larry
The deregulation disaster machinery is not done with mangling Americans.  While not-for-profit credit unions, lenders of last resort for working people and the poor in the US, have been under legal and political attack, a new kind of banking operation has bubbled out of the minds of the grifters looking for a way to make loan-sharking legit.

One new outfit, for example, called “Lending Club,” has figured out a way to collect fees for arranging loans charging as much as 29%.  Lending Club claims it cannot and should not be regulated by the Federal Reserve or other banking police.  The recent addition to its Board of Directors:  Larry Summers.

If you want to know why Obama would choose such a grifter and gamer to head the Fed, you have to ask, Who picked Obama?  Ten years ago, Barry Obama was a nothing, a State Senator from the South Side of Chicago.

But then, he got lucky.  A local bank, Superior, was shut down by regulators for mortgage shenanigans ripping off Black folk.  The bank’s Chairwoman, Penny Pritzker was so angry at regulators, she decided to eliminate them:  and that required a new President.

The billionaires connected Obama to Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan, but most importantly to Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary, but most important, former CEO of Goldman Sachs and mentor of Larry Summers.  Without Rubin’s blessing and overwhelming fundraising power, Obama would still be arguing over zoning on Halsted Street.

Rubin picked Obama and Obama picks whom Rubin picks for him.

Because, in the end, Obama knows he must choose a Fed chief based on the answer to one question:  What would Goldman think?

Special thanks to expert Lori Wallach of Public Citizen without whom our investigation could not have begun.

For the complete story of the investigation of Larry Summers, the “End Game” memo and the finance crisis, see Palast’s highly acclaimed book Vultures’ Picnic.
Get a
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Greg Palast is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers, Billionaires & Ballot BanditsThe Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse.

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Why Barack Obama is the More Effective Evil March 26, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Newt Gingrich scares me.  Mitt Romney scares me.  Rick Santorum really scares me.  I find myself, despite my incredible disdain for Obama, worrying that he will not be re-elected.  And this scares me even more!

Wed, 03/21/2012 – 11:06 — Glen Ford

www.blackagendareport.com

l

Glen Ford at the Left Forum

No matter how much evil Barack Obama actually accomplishes during his presidency, people that call themselves leftists insist on dubbing him the Lesser Evil. Not only is Obama not given proper credit for out-evil-ing George Bush, domestically and internationally, but the First Black President is awarded positive grades for his intentions versus the presumed intentions of Republicans. As the author says, this “is psycho-babble, not analysis. No real Left would engage in it.”

 

BAR executive editor Glen Ford made the following presentation at the Left Forum, Pace University, New York City, March 17. On the panel were Gloria Mattera, Margaret Kimberley (BAR), Suren Moodliar, John Nichols, and Victor Wallis. The discussion was titled, The 2012 Elections: Lesser Evil or Left Alternative?

He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks – just as he hired himself out to do.”

Power to the people!

Let me say from the very beginning that we at Black Agenda Report do not think that Barack Obama is the Lesser Evil. He is the more Effective Evil.

He has been more effective in Evil-Doing than Bush in terms of protecting the citadels of corporate power, and advancing the imperial agenda. He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks – just as he hired himself out to do.

That was always Wall Street’s expectation of Obama, and his promise to them. That’s why they gave him far more money in 2008 than they gave John McCain. They were buying Obama futures on the electoral political market – and they made out like bandits.

They invested in Obama to protect them from harm, as a hedge against the risk of systemic disaster caused by their own predations. And, it was a good bet, a good deal. It paid out in the tens of trillions of dollars.

If you believe that what Wall Street does is Evil, then Obama’s service to Wall Street is Evil, and there is nothing lesser about it.

They had vetted Obama, thoroughly, before he even set foot in the U.S. Senate in 2004.

He protected their interests, there, helping shield corporations from class action suits, and voting against caps on credit card Interest. He was their guy back then – and some of us were saying so, back then.

He was the bankers’ guy in the Democratic presidential primary race. Among the last three standing in 2008, it was Obama who opposed any moratorium on home foreclosures. John Edwards supported a mandatory moratorium and Hillary Clinton said she wanted a voluntary halt to foreclosures. But Barack Obama opposed any moratorium. Let it run its course, said candidate Obama. And, true to his word, he has let the foreclosures run their catastrophic course.

Only a few months later, when the crunch came and Finance Capital was in meltdown, who rescued Wall Street? Not George Bush. Bush tried, but he was spent, discredited, ineffective. NotJohn McCain. He was in a coma, coming unglued, totally ineffective.

Bush’s bailout failed on a Monday. By Friday, Obama had convinced enough Democrats in opposition to roll over – and the bailout passed, setting the stage for a new dispensation between the American State and Wall Street, in which a permanent pipeline of tens of trillions of dollars would flow directly into Wall Street accounts, via the Federal Reserve.

And Obama had not even been elected yet.

True to his word, he has let the foreclosures run their catastrophic course.”

Obama put Social Security and Medicaid and all Entitlements on the table, in mid-January. The Republicans had suffered resounding defeat. Nobody was pressuring Obama from the Right.

When the Right was on its ass, Obama stood up and spoke in their stead. There was no Evil Devil forcing him to put Entitlements on the chopping block. It was HIM. He was the Evil One – and it was not a Lesser Evil. It was a very Effective Evil, because the current Age of Austerity began on that day, in January, 2009.

And Obama had not even been sworn in as president, yet.

Who is the Effective Evil? I haven’t even gotten into his actual term as president, much less his expansion of the theaters of war, his unique assaults on International Law, and his massacre of Due Process of Law in the United States. But I want to pause right here, because piling up facts on Obama’s Most Effective Evils doesn’t seem to do any good if the prevailing conversation isn’t really about facts – but about intentions.

The prevailing assumption on the Left is that Obama has good intentions. He intends to the Right Thing – or, at least, he intends to do better than the Republicans intend to do. It’s all supposed to be about intentions. Let’s be clear: There is absolutely no factual basis to believe he intends to do anything other than the same thing he has already done, whether Democrats control Congress or not, which is to serve Wall Street’s most fundamental interests.

But, the whole idea of debating Obama’s intentions is ridiculous. It’s psycho-babble, not analysis. No real Left would engage in it.

I have no doubt that Newt Gingrich and Republicans in general have worse intentions for the future of my people – of Black people – than Michelle Obama’s husband does. But, that doesn’t matter. Black people are not going to roll over for whatever nightmarish Apocalypse the sick mind of Newt Gingrich would like to bring about. But, they have already rolled over for Obama’s economic Apocalypse in Black America. There was been very little resistance. Which is just another way of saying that Obama has successfully blunted any retribution by organized African America against the corporate powers that have devastated and destabilized Black America in ways that have little precedence in modern times.

When the Right was on its ass, Obama stood up and spoke in their stead.”

Obama has protected these Wall Streeters from what should be the most righteous wrath of Black folks. To take a riff from Shakespeare’s Othello, “Obama has done Wall Street a great service, and they know it.” He has proven to be fantastically effective at serving the Supremely Evil. Don’t you dare call him the Lesser.

He is the More Effective Evil because Black Folks – historically, the most progressive cohort in the United States – and Liberals, and even lots of folks that call themselves Marxists, let him get away murder! Yet, people still insist on calling him a Lesser Evil, while he drives a stake through Due Process of Law.

I have not spoken much about the second half of Obama’s first term in office. That is the period when the Left generally becomes disgusted with what they call his excessive “compromises” and “cave-ins” to Republicans. But that is a profoundly wrong reading of reality. Obama was simply continuing down his own Road to Austerity – the one he, himself, had initiated before even taking office. The only person caving in and compromising to the Republicans, was the Obama that many of YOU made up in your heads.

The real Obama was the initiator of this Austerity nightmare – a nightmare scripted on Wall Street, which provided the core of Obama’s policy team from the very beginning. That’s why Obama’s so-called Financial Reform was so diligent in making sure that Derivatives were virtually untouched.

The real Obama retained Bush’s Secretary of War, because he was determined to re-package the imperial enterprise and expand the scope and theaters of war.

He would dress up the war machine head-to-foot in a Chador of Humanitarianism, and march deep and deeper into Africa.

He would make merciless and totally unprovoked war against Libya – and then tell Congress there had been no war at all, and it was none of their business, anyway.

And he got away with it.

Now, that is the Most Effective Evil war mongering imaginable. Don’t you dare call him a Lesser Evil. Obama is Awesomely Evil.

The real Obama was the initiator of this Austerity nightmare.”

Obama has advanced the corporatization of the public schools beyond Bush’s wildest dreams, methodically constructing a national, parallel system of charter schools that, in practice, undermine and subvert the traditional public schools. In some places, they have replaced, or soon will replace, the public schools. The hedge funds and billionaires are ecstatic! The teachers unions then endorse their undertaker, foolishly believing he is the Lesser Evil.

So, what does the Left do in this election? The Left should do what it is supposed to do here in the Belly of the Beast at all times: disarm the Beast. This is their singular duty – not to advise the Beast, but to disarm it. At this time on the world historical clock, that means ripping the farcical “humanitarian” veil from the face of U.S. wars – and that face is Obama’s face.

No genuine anti-war activist can endorse the war-maker, Obama. If you want to resist actual imperial wars, you must fight Obama. Period. Anything else is to endorse or acquiesce in his wars.

You can attend the United National Anti-War Coalition conference in Stamford, Connecticut, next weekend, where you can meet with an array of organizations to begin a calendar of activities that will stretch past Election Day. You can join with UNAC in working to stop Obama from doing a repeat of Libya in Syria and Iran. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, then I have no advice for you, because the alternative is acquiescence to Obama’s cynical duplicities.

If the Green Party or any other party firmly opposes Obama’s humanitarian, Orwellian farce, then support them. If they don’t, then don’t lift a finger for them.

If you are going to fight for anything, you’ve got to fight for the right to fight. That means fighting for the rule of law. So, if you don’t plan to go underground or into exile anytime soon, you must fight the president who claims the right to imprison or kill any person, of any nationality, any place on Earth, for reasons known only to him. The man who excelled George Bush by shepherding preventive detention through Congress – Barack Obama, the More Effective Evil.

Fight him this election year. Fight him every year that he’s here.

Power to the People!

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Obama Sells Out Homeowners Again: Mortgage Settlement a Sad Joke February 23, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Economic Crisis, Housing/Homelessness.
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Published on Thursday, February 23, 2012 by Common Dreams

by  Ted Rall

Joe Nocera, the columnist currently challenging Tom Friedman for the title of Hackiest Militant Centrist Hack–it’s a tough job that just about everyone on The New York Times op-ed page has to do–loves the robo-signing settlement announced last week between the Obama Administration, 49 states and the five biggest mortgage banks. “Two cheers!” shouts Nocera.

Too busy to follow the news? Read Nocera. If he likes something, it’s probably stupid, evil, or both.

(Photo: CNN)

As penance for their sins–securitizing fraudulent mortgages, using forged deeds to foreclose on millions of Americans and oh, yeah, borking the entire world economy–Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have agreed to fork over $5 billion in cash. Under the terms of the new agreement they’re supposed to reduce the principal of loans to homeowners who are “underwater” on their mortgages–i.e. they owe more than their house is worth–by $17 billion.

Some homeowners will qualify for $3 billion in interest refinancing, something the banks have resisted since the ongoing depression began in late 2008.

What about those who got kicked out of their homes illegally? They split a pool of $1.5 billion. Sounds impressive. It’s not. Mark Zuckerberg is worth $45 billion.

“That probably nets out to less than $2,000 a person,” notes The Times. “There’s no doubt that the banks are happy with this deal. You would be, too, if your bill for lying to courts and end-running the law came to less than $2,000 per loan file.”

Readers will recall that I paid more than that for a speeding ticket. 68 in a 55. This is the latest sellout by a corrupt system that would rather line the pockets of felonious bankers than put them where they belong: prison.

Remember TARP, the initial bailout? Democrats and Republicans, George W. Bush and Barack Obama agreed to dole out $700 billion in public–plus $7.7 trillion funneled secretly through the Fed–to the big banks so they could “increase their lending in order to loosen credit markets,” in the words of Senator Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican.

Never happened.

Three years after TARP “tight home loan credit is affecting everything from home sales to household finances,” USA Today reported. “Many borrowers are struggling to qualify for loans to buy homes…Those who can get loans need higher credit scores and bigger down payments than they would have in recent years. They face more demands to prove their incomes, verify assets, show steady employment and explain things such as new credit cards and small bank account deposits. Even then, they may not qualify for the lowest interest rates.”

Financial experts aren’t surprised. TARP was a no-strings-attached deal devoid of any requirement that banks increase lending. You can hardly blame the bankers for taking advantage. They used the cash–money that might have been used to help distressed homeowners–to grow income on their overnight “float” and issue record raises to their CEOs.

Next came Obama’s “Home Affordable Modification Program” farce. Another toothless “voluntary” program, HAMP asked banks to do the same things they’ve just agreed to under the robo-signing settlement: allow homeowners who are struggling to refinance and possibly reduce their principals to reflect the collapse of housing prices in most markets.

Voluntary = worthless.

CNN reported on January 24th: “The HAMP program, which was designed to lower troubled borrowers’ mortgage rates to no more than 31% of their monthly income, ran into problems almost immediately. Many lenders lost documents, and many borrowers didn’t qualify. Three years later, it has helped a scant 910,000 homeowners–a far cry from the promised 4 million.”

Or the 15 million who needed help.

As usual, state-controlled media is too kind. Banks didn’t “lose” documents. They threw them away.

One hopes they recycled.

I wrote about my experience with HAMP: Chase Home Mortgage repeatedly asked for, received, confirmed receiving, then requested the same documents. They elevated the runaround to an art. My favorite part was how Chase wouldn’t respond to queries for a month, then request the bank statement for that month. They did this over and over. The final result: losing half my income “did not represent income loss.”

It’s simple math: in 67 percent of cases, banks make more money through foreclosure than working to keep families in their homes.

This time is different, claims the White House. “No more lost paperwork, no more excuses, no more runaround,” HUD secretary Shaun Donovan said February 9th. The new standards will “force the banks to clean up their acts.”

Don’t bet on it. The Administration promises “a robust enforcement mechanism”–i.e. an independent monitor. Such an agency, which would supervise the handling of million of distressed homeowners, won’t be able to handle the workload according to mortgage experts. Anyway, it’s not like there isn’t already a law. Law Professor Alan White of Valparaiso University notes: “Much of this [agreement] is restating obligations loan servicers already have.”

Finally, there’s the issue of fairness. “Underwater” is a scary, headline-grabbing word. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Tens of millions of homeowners have seen the value of their homes plummet since the housing crash. (The average home price fell from $270,000 in 2006 to $165,000 in 2011.) Those who are underwater tended not to have had much equity in their homes in the first place, having put down low downpayments. Why single them out for special assistance? Shouldn’t people who owned their homes free and clear and those who had significant equity at the beginning of crisis get as much help as those who lost less in the first place? What about renters? Why should people who were well-off enough to afford to buy a home get a payoff ahead of poor renters?

The biggest fairness issue of all, of course, is one of simple justice. If you steal someone’s house, you should go to jail. If your crimes are company policy, that company should be nationalized or forced out of business.

Your victim should get his or her house back, plus interest and penalties.

You shouldn’t pay less than a speeding ticket for stealing a house.

© 2012 Ted Rall

 

Ted Rall

Ted Rall is the author of the new books “Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?,” and “The Anti-American Manifesto” . His website is tedrall.com.

 

 

If Land Was Money October 28, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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Roger’s note: as with many articles that I post from progressive web sites, the readers’ comments are often as or more instructive than the article itself.
 
10.27.11 – 7:47 PM, www.commondreams.org

 

by Abby Zimet

If land was distributed like wealth in this country, here’s what we’d look like. Note: the 1% in that big chunk are about three million; there are 278 million of us jammed into the little strip – though as one commenter noted, at least we get Disney World.

23 Comments so far

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Posted by Reality In TN
Oct 27 2011 – 9:12pm

“as one commenter noted, at least we get Disney World.”

And that’s supposed to be a good thing?

Posted by pjd412
Oct 28 2011 – 9:54am

That is what Disney World and and it’s ilk are for. Bread and circuses for the masses.

Oh, for the days when a big purpose of amusement parks were to support public transit – they were owned by trolley lines and put at the outer end of the line to keep ridership up.

But I do see a subtle anti-south bias in the creator of this figure.

Posted by thorbeckes
Oct 27 2011 – 11:59pm

This is America..If you want to be the 1% or the 9% get off you butt and do it.

Posted by zuzu petals
Oct 28 2011 – 4:00am

that top 10% did not become that in a vacuum…it required the actual labor of the rest of us. this Ayn Randian notion that the only way to motivate the builders and industrialists and corporate heads is to let them become that rich and powerful is NONSENSE. People do what they are drawn and gifted to do. This world does not value those that empty our trash or deal with our waste or process and provide our food, but we would all be drowning in sewage and starving were it not for that labor…yet we would all have been able to lead happy lives without this or that widget maker who makes a popular toy for us to consume and who becomes wealthy in the process.
We need to re-evaluate what we collectively reward so that it makes some sort of sense.

Posted by considerthis
Oct 28 2011 – 9:29am

I can’t decide if you are sarcastic or delusional. Either way, I would bet the farm that you are not part of the 1% nor the 9%. Maybe I can decide, I pick delusional.

Posted by pjd412
Oct 28 2011 – 10:16am

However, if the buttom 90% are pushed into sufficient misery by the supposedly admirable “all-American” ambition and entrepeneurship of you top 10%ers, then at some point, the buttom 90% wil rise up, kill you, and bury you in a big mass grave.

This is not a threat, just a lesson from history.

Posted by Franciszek2
Oct 28 2011 – 11:46am

Yeah .. that’s the solution! Why don’t we all just become the 1%!

Posted by ED
Oct 28 2011 – 12:34am

“This is America..If you want to be the 1% or the 9% get off you butt and do it.”

Two problems:

1. Minor problem: “…get off you butt..”??? LEARN TO PROOFREAD!!!

2. Major problem: you are obviously one of the deluded who believe that being the 1% or 9% is an admirable goal, and that the 90% are merely lazy. Wake up to reality. Read Thirty Years of Unleashed Greed | Common Dreams http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/10/27-1

Posted by Goebbels sez
Oct 28 2011 – 1:55am

If this concept were translated to an actual map, the 90% wouldn’t get a clean slice that includes winter vacation destinations and gulf oil.

The distribution of property that would fall to these “have-nots” would be more accurately reflected by a map of the country’s “Indian” reservations, along with a toxic waste dump site or two.

Posted by ngimbel
Oct 28 2011 – 8:24am

Just look at actual land distribution and the difference in access between wealthy neighborhoods, suburbs, etc. and the slums, ghettos and shantytowns (and of course, Reservations): the poor are dumped near toxic waste sights, industrial wastelands, isolated from public transport, quality groceries and schools.
What would be really interesting would be a map of land-ownership of the 10%, taking into account the de facto ownership of large farm plots by Monsanto given industrial farmers’ dependence on their seeds, pesticides, etc. This could be done on a local level as well, and I’m pretty sure it has been done to map the spread of gentrification in cities.

Posted by pjd412
Oct 28 2011 – 11:18am

…”the poor are dumped near toxic waste sights”…

Pardon the pet peeve, but it’s toxic waste _sites_. Why does the young internet generation always confuse “sight” with “site” but oddly, never “cite”. Is it becasue a site is something that is usually looked-at with the sense of sight? Wierd.

Posted by gardenernorcal
Oct 28 2011 – 9:09am

Land does equal money. That’s why we find ourselves with this foreclosure mess, and so many of us have lost our ownership in what little piece we thought we had a chance of owning. It’s clear it’s not the homes that have value or banks wouldn’t be foreclosing and razing the homes built on the land.

Posted by D Leatherman
Oct 28 2011 – 9:14am

In fact, as far as privately owned land is concerned, the proportions indicated (though not the locations) are just about true.

Posted by DC-CPH
Oct 28 2011 – 9:23am

“Florida… that’s America’s wang!”

- Homer Simpson

Posted by pjd412
Oct 28 2011 – 10:02am

Yeah, and Canada is quickly becoming just its jaunty hat!

Posted by pjd412
Oct 28 2011 – 10:10am

What is the point of that old car-parking elevator photo?

Off- topic to be sure, but loooks like a good idea (if cars are to be allowed downtown at all), as what destroys the viability of urban spaces is the wasted land dedicated to cars rather than plazas, parks, people and public transit. Hate to see that big counterweight come down on someone though.

Posted by shadre
Oct 28 2011 – 10:40am

I think the car thing shows where the levels of wealth are parking. The bottom car looks like the one belonging to a large, poor family on a farm near ours when I was growing up. The oldest boys, around my age, went to school barefoot. Cars farther up look like rich folks cars to me.

Posted by pjd412
Oct 28 2011 – 11:33am

Actually, the way the elevator works, the higher cars are just the ones that got downtown earlier in the morning. Except for the bottom-most one, they all look the same to me. The little ones are mostly 1930’s Model B Fords, I think. What are the bigger 7-window ones?

In those days, when a trolley could be caught to anywhere every few minutes for a few pennies, I assume only the richest status-conscious drove downtown.

Posted by Crowsnest
Oct 28 2011 – 10:15am

I fervently hope that a salient by-product of the occupations will soon be a vigorous examination of the issue whether the U.S. Constitution protects the 1% or the 99%. I think I know the answer. Given the fact that several of the articles of the constitution are either abused by the powerful and their handmaidens in the current Supreme Court or have become near meaningless in practice that is not a frivolous exercise if we demand, as we should, that the power of governments at all levels be limited as precisely as possible in our fundamental legislation. No more War Powers Acts. No more Patriot Acts. No more Business = a Person. We will therefore have very few supporters on the right whose mantra of limited government, with the exception of the Libertarian wing of the GOP, only means “limited spending” but not “limited power”. The demand for a Constitutional Convention is not all that ridiculous today when one considers the fact that representatives, presidents, and vice presidents have been and still are bought mostly by the 1%. That, in fact, is why they dread such a convention. What they do not seem to understand, and that includes our hapless president, is that the constitutional convention is already occurring in the streets of our nation. Fortunately that uprising completely ignores both major parties who do not want a constitutional convention because they know well that the ensuing competition on the political market will send them to the dustbin of history

Posted by shadre
Oct 28 2011 – 10:52am

You can bet the 1% wouldn’t just carve out one big chunk of land as the map shows. When they got through, the country would be as carved up as Texas was when DeLay got through carving it up. They’d carve around the entire coastlines, and all the areas where oil, gas, and uranium deposits were inland, and take the national parks for their individual estates.

Posted by Galenwainwright…
Oct 28 2011 – 11:16am

“When they got through, the country would be as carved up as Texas…”

No, the US would look like the West Bank and Gaza look today. Small pockets of unbelievable poverty, suffering and destitution, surrounded by walls, guard towers, and shitloads of uniformed thugs with guns.

Oh wait, that’s EXACTLY what you do have!!

Posted by pjd412
Oct 28 2011 – 11:53am

Actually, current day El-Salvador, Honduras, Guatamala, Nicaragua, or at very best, Colombia, are what the USA will look like in a couple more decades. Centers of urban liberaloid yuppie-investor wealth and consumerism (like modern day Bogota or the east side of Caracas) and grinding poverty in the countryside – like I’m already starting to see in small towns in Indiana and Illinois (Yeah, I know rural poverty is nothing new south of the Ohio River). USAn paramilitary death squads, organized from the ranks of the gun-crazy rednecks, will make the Colombian ones look tame.

And what is so depressing is how utterly failed the struggles of the 1980’s in those places were. With the US sponsored contras and reactionary governments, the people never had a chance. The history of the world through my lifetime has been one of the bad guys winning and winning.

Posted by GottaGetOffTheGrid
Oct 28 2011 – 11:23am

Well, land IS divided like wealth. Poor rent. rich own.
now the middle get for closed upon and become poor; the bank gets the land.

why do you think there was only a bailout of the banks and no bail out of the ARM holders? (there wasn’t even a moratorium on adjusting the rate up!). it was a land grab pure and simple (and a way to cash-in a bunch of CDS too, but I digress).

It’s Labor vs. Capital, Stupid October 7, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Labor, Socialism.
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Published on Friday, October 7, 2011 by On the Commons

Now that we’re in the streets, what are we asking for?

  by  David Morris

A few months ago Nassim Taleb, author of the Black Swan, an influential book about the crucial importance of unpredictable, unforeseen events on our financial system was asked whether the hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in Greece was a Black Swan event. He replied, “No. The real Black Swan event is that people are not rioting against the banks in London and New York.”

They are now. Not rioting perhaps but vigorously protesting. Occupy Wall Street is moving into its second month. Twenty thousand strong demonstrated in New York City this week. Similar demonstrations are spreading nationwide.

 

From 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of the increase in personal incomes went to one percent of the population. One percent of Americans now take in more than quarter of the nation’s income every year. (photo: Massachusetts Cop Block)

In the 1976 movie, Network, anchorman Howard Beale tells his viewers,

Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore. That is the message of the sit-ins by U.S. Uncut, the protests against Bank of America, the occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. to protest the war, Occupy Wall Street and the growing numbers of #Occupy demonstrations around the country.

We’re mad at the devastation wrought in the last four years by the toxic combination of unrestrained greed and concentrated wealth. Twelve to fifteen million families have received foreclosure notices. Seven to ten million more are unemployed. Median household income has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade while the poverty rate is at a 17-year high. The number of homeless in New York City rose to an all-time high last year—higher even than during the Great Depression—with a record 113,000 men, women, and children, many of them comprising whole families, retreating night after night to municipal shelters.

We’re mad at Wall Street for taking our money and giving nothing back. This Administration has given Wall Street nearly $10 trillion in various programs, from insuring money market accounts to the Fed’s buying of troubled assets to loaning money to banks at near-zero interest rates.

Wall Street has used the bailout to enrich themselves. In 2010, it handed out $149 billion in bonuses and compensation, near an all time high. But it did not pass that largesse down. While bank profits have risen 136 percent since the financial crisis bank lending has fallen by 9 percent.

We’re mad at the 1 percent of the country who make decisions that enrich themselves while impoverishing the rest of us. From 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of the increase in personal incomes went to one percent of the population. One percent of Americans now take in more than quarter of the nation’s income every year. In New York City, home to Wall Street, the top 1 percent took for themselves close to 44 percent of all income in New York during 2007 (the last year for which data is available). According to the Fiscal Policy Institute the wealth of this 1 percent derived almost entirely from the financial services sector. To qualify for inclusion on the 2011 Forbes list of the richest 400 Americans you need to be worth at least $1 billion. In 2009 those 400 had average incomes of $227 million.

“We are the 99%” is a fitting slogan for the new movements.

Labor vs. Capital

We know who the enemy is. The Michigan teachers recently released a video showing CEOs marching into classrooms and literally taking desks away from children, a visualization of the impact of a $1.8 billion reduction in corporate taxes coupled with a $1 billion cut in education funding the Republican legislature enacted. Six hundred pilots marched on Wall Street to protest the refusal of the CEOs of their airlines to bargain in good faith.

We are beginning to reframe the debate, shifting from a focus on deficits to the more fundamental issue: the relationship of labor and capital.

One indication of the new mood is the willingness of opinion leaders to use heretofore impermissible language to describe the crisis. One of the nation’s leading economists, Nouriel Roubini informs the Wall Street Journal, “Karl Marx had it right. At some point, Capitalism can destroy itself. You cannot keep on shifting income from labor to Capital without having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand.”

Another reflection of the new mood is the emergence of a new kind of folk hero. People like New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who last August rejected a proposed nationwide settlement that would have absolved the country’s biggest banks from future lawsuits in return for a paltry $20 billion. As Matt Tabbibi of Rolling Stone points out, “in 2008 alone, the state pension fund of Florida, all by itself, lost more than three times that amount ($62 billion) thanks in significant part to investments in these deadly MBS.” (mortgage-backed securities)

Mr. Schneiderman’s audacity led to his being kicked off the executive committee of state attorneys general in charge of the case. “Ever since,” the New York Times explains, “the four-member Correspondence Unit in Mr. Schneiderman’s office, in a building wedged between the New York Stock Exchange and the New York Federal Reserve Bank, has been dealing with a flood of mail. It is, by all accounts, a spontaneous and grass-roots eruption of thank-you notes.”

“I’m just doing my job,” says Schneiderman. “At heart, Americans are not cynical people. I think they want to believe that there’s one set of rules for everybody, that there are still good cops on the beat to keep things honest.”

Yes we do. Which makes us furious when Kathryn Wylde, the Fed Board member who ostensibly represents the public, tells the Times that Schneiderman should cease and desist his attacks on Wall Street. “It is of concern to the industry that instead of trying to facilitate resolving these issues, you seem to be throwing a wrench into it. Wall Street is our Main Street — love ’em or hate ’em. They are important and we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to support them unless they are doing something indefensible.”

Unless they are doing something indefensible?

The 2011 Academy Award for best documentary went to Inside Job, a searing indictment of Wall Street. Its director, Charles Ferguson told the audience, “Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.”

Seven hundred Wall Street protestors were arrested in a single day. They were disrupting traffic. The CEOs of Wall Street firms disrupted the lives of hundreds of millions.

Conservatives have been remarkably successful in persuading us that government is the enemy. The 99 percenters know that is true only inasmuch as the government is captured by the 1 percenters. We are angry at government, but what makes us more angry is that in this system you get the government you pay for and 99% of us are not doing any buying.

We’re mad at government, but we haven’t given up on governance, on the right to make the rules.

Last week the General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street adopted a declaration of principles that will inform the new rules.

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

From that declaration of principles a program will emerge. Conversations about the elements of that program have already begun. Grassroots driven fundamental change is not without precedent. We can look to the Arab spring. #Occupy Wall Street was self-consciously inspired by the occupation by Egyptians of Tahrir Square.

But we can also look to our own history. At the end of the 19th century a political movement arose to confront many of the same concerns that torment us: concentrated wealth, corporate power, the influence of money on democracy. The populist uprising led not only to the passage of state and national laws (e.g. anti trust legislation, minimum wage and maximum hour statutes) but several Constitutional amendments. In 1913 the 16th Amendment allowed an income tax; the 17th Amendment, ratified the same year required the direct election of Senators; the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, gave women the right to vote.

Five New Rules

The conversation about program will go on for months. To contribute to that conversation I offer five new rules: two of them Constitutional Amendments and three of them laws.

1. Corporations are not persons.

The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 gave blacks the constitutional right of citizenship: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

In 1886, in a case that had nothing to do with corporate personhood, the court clerk wrote a headnote to the case that contained these fateful sentences, “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”

Since the case itself never addressed the question these words did not comprise a legal precedent. Nevertheless, from then on the Supreme Court has considered the question settled. Some 65 years later Justice William O. Douglas observed, “the Santa Clara case becomes one of the most momentous of all our decisions. Corporations were now armed with constitutional prerogatives.” And they made the most of these new prerogatives.

The 14th Amendment, written to protect weak and largely defenseless ex-slaves, was mostly used to protect big and powerful corporations. Of the 150 cases based on the 14th amendment the Supreme Court heard between 1886 and 1896, 15 involved blacks and 135 involved business entities.

In the next 20 years, relying on the 1886 “precedent” the Supreme Court steadily expanded the number of Constitutional rights accorded to this new type of person. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) offers a partial list: in 1893 the Court accorded corporations the right of due process under the 5th Amendment. In 1906 it extended to them the protection against search and seizure in the 4th Amendment. In 1908 it extended to corporations the 6th Amendment right to a trial by jury.

By the 1940s Justice Felix Frankfurter could accurately declare, “Artificial or not, corporations have won more rights under law than people have– rights which government has protected with armed force.”

In early 2010 the Supreme Court gave corporations the right, as persons, to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

Does it need to be said that unlike a real person, a corporation lacks a conscience. It is guided neither by ethics nor morality but rather by laws that required its Boards to elevate the maximization of profits above all other concerns. Does it need to be said that if a person makes a decision that kills or maims people he will go to jail. If a CEO makes such a decision he, at worst, receives a golden parachute.

A wonderful sign at the Occupy Wall Street protest reads, “I won’t believe corporations are people until Texas executes one.”

We need a constitutional amendment consisting of four words. Corporations are not persons.

2. Money is not speech

In 1976 the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment. Today members of Congress now spend 25-40 percent of their time begging for money. Political scientist Thomas Ferguson observes, “Public opinion has only a weak and inconstant influence on policy. The political system is largely investor-driven, and runs on enormous quantities of money”.

When states or the federal government have tried to make elections fairer the Supreme Court says no. Vermont passed a law to cap campaign expenditures for state offices. The Court struck it down.

Congress tried to close a loophole in the campaign finance law that allowed billionaire candidates to spend an unlimited amount of their own money on their own campaigns. The Court struck down the law. Speaking for a 5-4 majority, Justice Samuel Alito told Congress that trying to “level electoral opportunities for candidates of different personal wealth” is not “a legitimate government objective.”

The Supreme Court rulings declaring money is speech and corporations are persons make for a lethal cocktail. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state senator and law professor at American university points out that Fortune l00 corporations had profits in 2008 totaling about $600 billion. If they spent only l percent of their profits on elections, a trivial sum to protect and foster their interests, the total comes to $6 billion. That is more money than was spent for and on behalf of all congressional and presidential candidates in 2008.

We need a Constitutional Amendment consisting of four words. Money is not speech.

3. Tax Financial Transactions

In 1936, John Maynard Keynes first proposed a financial transactions tax. “The introduction of a substantial Government transfer tax on all transactions might prove the most serviceable reform available, with a view to mitigating the predominance of speculation over enterprise in the United States.”

Economist Dean Baker suggests that a modest tax (0.25 percent) could easily raise more than $100 billion a year. “A small increase in trading costs would be a very manageable burden for those who are using financial markets to support productive economic activity. However, it would impose serious costs on those who see the financial markets as a casino in which they place their bets by the day, hour or minute.”

4. Tax all income as ordinary income

Billionaire Warren Buffett has commented on the unfairness of having a lower tax rate than his secretary. That is so because most of his income derives from dividends and capital gains taxed at half the rate as income from work. (I think it altogether fitting that economists use the term “unearned income” to describe this kind of income.)

In 2007 the 400 Americans with the highest income—nearly $345 million—were taxed at less than 17 percent, less than half the ordinary income tax rate of 35 percent because most of their income was derived from investments. If we were to require that all their income be taxed at the 1999 tax rate of 39.6% this alone would generate an additional $300 billion in revenue over the next 10 years.

5. Declare a moratorium on foreclosures

Foreclosures hurt individuals, neighborhoods and the economy. Dumping millions of homes on the market depresses the overall value of all real estate, increases unemployment and disrupts lives and neighborhoods.

The most effective way to stop the tidal wave of foreclosures is through permanent, sustainable loan modifications that reduce homeowners’ mortgage principal and interest rates to market value. In a 2010 report, National Peoples Action proposed one strategy. “Across the country, some 11 million homeowners are $766 billion under water with their mortgages. Paid off over 30 years this means $73 billion a year needed to reset all underwater homeowners’ principals and interest rates would be about half of the $143 billion the top six banks alone are getting ready to pay in 2010 in bonuses and compensation. Even if the top six banks were to absorb the full cost of modifying all underwater mortgages in the country, they would still have $70 billion left for bonuses and compensation.”

The Wall Street occupiers have taken a stand against monied democracy and corporate power. We would do well to join them. Make your voices heard. And demand new rules that will honor the 99% and restore democracy to the nation.

<!–

–>

David Morris

David Morris is Vice President and director of the New Rules Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which is based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. focusing on local economic and social development.

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City October 5, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Environment, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Poverty, War.
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www.nationofchange.org

What follows is the first official, collective
statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park:

As we gather together in solidarity to express a
feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together.
We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the
world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality:
that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that
our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up
to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors;
that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but
corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the
Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined
by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place
profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality,
run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let
these facts be known.

 

  • They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite
    not having the original mortgage.
  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give
    Executives exorbitant bonuses.
  • They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based
    on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the
    farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of
    countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate
    for better pay and safer working conditions.
  • They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on
    education, which is itself a human right.
  • They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as
    leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
  • They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with
    none of the culpability or responsibility.
  • They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get
    them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
  • They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
  • They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the
    press.
  • They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives
    in pursuit of profit.
  • They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their
    policies have produced and continue to produce.
  • They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible
    for regulating them.
  • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on
    oil.
  • They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s
    lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned
    a substantial profit.
  • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping,
    and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
  • They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control
    of the media.
  • They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented
    with serious doubts about their guilt.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
  • They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians
    overseas.
  • They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive
    government ontracts.*

 

To the people of the world, We, the New York City
General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert
your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy
public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate
solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form
groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and
all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

NationofChange has been an unfiltered media
resource for the Occupy Wall Street movement even while the mainstream media has
ignored, censored, and undermined the progress of the people.

The Obama Dystopia May 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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Andrew Hughes

www.opednews.com, May 25, 2009

After 8 years of the Bush-Cheney nightmare during which we saw the wanton destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq, the cynical  negation of centuries of Law designed to protect the most basic human rights and a foreign policy worthy of Genghis Khan, there came along the “Great Black Hope” in the persona of Barack Obama. The collective world consciousness turned uncritically to what was presented as a new era for peace, change and trust in Government.

Never before had one witnessed such an accomplished use of manipulation, propaganda, deceptive imagery and public relations wizardry to sell the public a man who was to take the baton from Bush and run with it in the race to destroy the economy, the rights of the people and help birth a nation totally controlled by those who have always lurked in the shadows of power. “Change” was promised and was delivered in the form of a deepening of the already Dystopic  nightmare.

Promises were broken with no apology, the same creative legalese that infested the Bush administration, in the form of John Yoo and Alberto Gonzalez, was again used to deny justice to the inmates of Guantanamo, It was used to justify more torture, more destruction of the Constitution and more illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens.

The President that extended the hand of peace to the Muslim world has murdered hundreds of Pakistani men, women and children. The President who promised accountability in Government has filled his staff with lobbyists, banksters and warmongers. His Attorney General refuses to prosecute some of the worst war crimes committed in modern history and continues to give legal cover to criminals who tortured with impunity.

The country has been further bankrupted by the continuing theft of taxpayer money as the Wall St. campaign donors receive their quid pro quo. Obama has stood by idly as Bernancke states that the private Federal Reserve is not answerable to either Congress or the American public. The U.S. taxpayer is now on the hook for $14.3 Trillion and rising. Foreclosures and unemployment are mounting with no meaningful efforts by the administration to alleviate the symptoms, never mind the cause. The new image of America is one of tent cities, lengthening soup kitchen lines, sherrifs evicting countless thousands of young and old from their homes, once prosperous towns descending in to an eerie stillness and an increasingly disillusioned populace.

The “War on terrorism” has mutated in to a control grid for an increasingly aware population. The foundation for this had already been put in place by Bush with the Patriot Act, Patriot Act 2, Military commissions act and numerous executive orders that strangled what was left of Posse Comitatus and the Constitution.

Homeland Security now defines “Terrorists” as those who believe in the Constitution, the first, second and fourth amendments. Returning veterans are being targeted for a denial of their second amendment rights. A  “Terrorist Watchlist” of more than a million and rapidly growing, is being used as the basis for denying citizens the rights to travel and to work.

Obama is now mulling over the idea of indefinite detention without trial for U.S. citizens. This, from a teacher of the Constitution ! Bills are in congress to criminalize free speech on the Internet via the Cyberbullying Act which will make hurting somebody’s feelings a felony. Just as the Patriot Act morphed in to a mechanism to subdue the U.S. population, the Cyberbullying Act will be subverted to criminalize political free speech and any criticism of the Government.

“Cyberterrorism” is being used as a pretext to bring government regulation to the the last stronghold of unbiased information. Washington has realized that it’s getting harder to get away with their Fascist agenda and are moving to control the field. The populace are beginning to realize just what kind of “Change” Obama intended to deliver.

There has been growing resistance on a state level with several invoking their 9th and 10th Amendment rights in a valiant attempt to stop the Federal Vampire from draining the last drops of blood, the last vestiges of Freedom and Hope.

This is the Dystopic Nightmare that America finds itself in today and each day brings new assaults on Freedom and Sanity. The framework for total control of the citizenry, the economy and the media is being built upon in a relentless aggrandization of Govermental power. Obama sits atop his new Empire still smiling that sickeningly disingenuous smile surrounded by his seasoned courtiers who have worked for decades to hijack America and steer it towards this New World Order. 

 http://meltdown101.livejournal.com

An Irishman born in Dublin in 1959 now living in France for the last 8 years. I write on Economics and Politics.

Obama Preserves Entrenched Power, Sidesteps Racial Disparities May 12, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Economic Crisis, Race.
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wong side
 
 
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Barack Obama actually said it: a truncated form of the hackneyed rich man’s expression, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” The cliché was a fixture of trickle-down Reaganics and the Bush I and II permutations, as well as the Clinton deregulationathon. Now Obama employs it to justify his refusal to offer any programs to “address historical and emerging racial disparities.” The twisted logic goes something like this: “The deeper Blacks sink into the abyss, the more they are eligible for general assistance – therefore, the Obama plan already contains everything African Americans need as a group, and will be of more use to them than to more advantaged groups.” Thus, the nation’s first Black President turns the misery index on its head.

 

Obama deploys the same twisted logic as generations of white, corporate politicians.”
In his own clichéd words, President Obama reveals himself to be, at best, ambivalent on the need to confront historical and current racial disparities in the United States. Behind the awesome hype and intellectual façade lies your garden variety corporate-bought politician whose worldview is no deeper than the shallowest catchphrase in long-discredited American economic discourse: a rising tide lifts all boats.
Widely believed to have been coined by President John Kennedy in defense of his support for a pork barrel project, the platitude was quickly embraced by every corporate shill touting schemes to make the rich richer, while ignoring the specific plights of the poor and oppressed. President Ronald Reagan’s “trickle-down” economics was justified by the imagined hydraulics of rising tides, as were the Bush I and II permutations. Bill Clinton’s administration let loose a tsunami of speculative tidal forces that finally came crashing down on the entire planet, last year, submerging African Americans in the deepest recesses of the muck. The mad bankster behind that rising tide was Clinton’s then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, assisted by his protégé and successor, Larry Summers. The two are now the right lobes of Barack Obama’s economic brain, along with current Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, another Rubin mentee.
Obama is reluctant to even acknowledge the greatly disproportionate damage inflicted on African Americans in the current crisis.”
Obama displayed his corporate colors (and trite bent of mind) at his 100th day press conference, April 29, in response to a pointed question by BET reporter Andre Showell. The brief interchange, which came near the end of the session, reveals the coreObama, a man who is reluctant to even acknowledge the greatly disproportionate damage inflicted on African Americans in the current crisis, and who offers nothing whatsoever to address historical and emerging racial disparities. The question and response bear repeating, in full:

SHOWELL: “As the entire nation tries to climb out of this deep recession, in communities of color, the circumstances are far worse. The black unemployment rate, as you know, is in the double digits. And in New York City, for example, the black unemployment rate for men is near 50 percent.
My question to you tonight is given this unique and desperate circumstance, what specific policies can you point to that will target these communities and what’s the timetable for us to see tangible results?”
OBAMA: “Well, keep in mind that every step we’re taking is designed to help all people. But folks who are most vulnerable are most likely to be helped because they need the most help.
So when we passed the Recovery Act, for example, and we put in place provisions that would extend unemployment insurance or allow you to keep your health insurance even if you’ve lost your job, that probably disproportionately impacted those communities that had lost their jobs. And unfortunately, the African-American community and the Latino community are probably over represented in those ranks.
When we put in place additional dollars for community health centers to ensure that people are still getting the help that they need, or we expand health insurance to millions more children through the children’s health insurance program, again, those probably disproportionately impact African-American and Latino families simply because they’re the ones who are most vulnerable. They have got higher rates of uninsured in their communities.
My general approach is that if the economy is strong, that it will lift all boats….”
So my general approach is that if the economy is strong, that it will lift all boats as long as it is also supported by, for example, strategies around college affordability and job training, tax cuts for working families as opposed to the wealthiest that level the playing field and ensure bottom-up economic growth.
And I’m confident that that will help the African-American community live out the American dream at the same time that it’s helping communities all across the country.”
No Pretense of a Racial Policy
So confident is Obama that his personal Blackness is all that is required to offset horrific realities such as New York City’s nearly 50 percent Black male non-participation in the formal job market – statistics from 2003 that have certainly worsened in the current crisis – he offers not a single programmatic response. Obama is quick to point out that his plan is “is designed to help all people” – another way of saying there’s nothing in it to address the specific problems of people of color.
Obama claims there is no need for specific programs.”
He deploys the same twisted logic as generations of white, corporate politicians, who pointed to Black overrepresentation on welfare rolls as proof of the government’s deep concern for African Americans. In fact, concentrated levels of public assistance, food stamps and unemployment checks are elements of the misery index that, especially when dramatically skewed by race, cry out for specific programs and policies of remediation. Obama claims there is no need for specific programs because “folks who are most vulnerable are most likely to be helped because they need the most help.” Thus, he turns logic and language on their heads. The deeper Blacks sink into the abyss, the more they are eligible for general assistance – therefore, the Obama plan already contains everything African Americans need as a group, and will be of more use to them than to more advantaged groups. According to this line of reasoning, the worse things get, the more responsive the Obama plan is. There’s no need to deal directly with the underlying causes of disproportionate misery, such as institutional racism.
Presidential Denial
Obama is not even willing to fully acknowledge that Blacks and Browns have actually suffered disproportionately in the meltdown. In three successive sentences, he three times uses the word “probably” to describe what are solid facts. African Americans have not “probably” lost a disproportionate amount of jobs – Obama’s own Labor Department figures show that to be the case, on top of previously existing, horrendous rates of structural unemployment.
African American children are not “probably” over-represented among those lacking health insurance. They are, in fact, disproportionately uninsured. Obama belatedly corrects himself on this point, but his reflexive reluctance to give voice to the glaring racial disparities that are fundamental markers of American life, is deeply disturbing.
President Obama served definitive notice that he has no intention of tackling structural racism.”
Then Obama drops his inane line that a strong economy “will lift all boats,” with the caveat that it be “supported by…strategies around college affordability and job training, tax cuts for working families as opposed to the wealthiest that level the playing field and ensure bottom-up economic growth.” Nothing there to deal with specific Black problems, which means they will remain “intractable” – a word used to describe conditions that the powerful refuse to ameliorate.
In 240 words, President Obama served definitive notice – for those who still didn’t get it – that he has no intention of tackling structural racism. Ever. That is his “general approach,” which should be understood as his principled position. The only change in the racial status quo we can expect from Obama has already happened: the integration of the White House.
The Big (Fat Cat) Picture
President Obama is consistent – consistently conservative, in the broad sense of the word. He is no more interested in reshaping U.S. society’s basic economic contours, than its racial ones. His consuming project is to resurrect the finance capitalist class through formulas conjured up by the denizens of his right brain lobe, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Tim Geithner. Toward that end, something around $10 trillion of the national treasure has been committed. Every other project of domestic revitalization is subordinate, and ultimately expendable.
The Obama presidential bully pulpit is reserved for banking interests. As the Associated Press reported in the wake of Senate defeat of legislation that would have allowed hundreds of thousands of homeowners to escape foreclosure through bankruptcy – the “cram-down” bill dreaded by bankers – “Obama did little to pressure lawmakers” to support the measure, despite having endorsed the idea since campaign days. Moreover, “the bankruptcy option got only a tepid endorsement from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner,” who was busy trying to figure out how to take toxic securities off his banker friends’ books by providing public subsidies to private sharks that might be enticed to buy them. “As it became clear the bill would fail,” wrote the AP, “the administration did little to counter the aggressive lobbying by banks fighting the bill and focused its efforts instead on a more popular bill targeting credit card companies” – a very limited measure that is, as of this writing, in doubt.

The Obama presidential bully pulpit is reserved for banking interests.”

Obama insists that health care is one of his irreducible priorities. Yet he cuts supporters of single payer plans out of the loop to embrace congresspersons friendly to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, who will ultimately sabotage his own jury-rigged health scheme. New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer is already scuttling the boat, with an industry-written alternative to the Obama plan. The kiss-of-death proposal would require any “public” health insurance program to operate precisely as if it were a private insurance plan, effectively negating its reason for being.
The lessen settles in, slowly. President Barack Obama’s administration is not only “race-neutral” – it is essentially change-neutral, as well.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Subprime Prosecution Stops Foreclosures But Lets Goldman Sachs Off Hook May 12, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Economic Crisis, Housing/Homelessness.
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(Roger’s note: read this then tell me why the Bailout funds could not be used to help homeowners pay subprime mortgages so that the Attorney General could pursue criminal charges against Goldman Sachs for the sake of justice and future deterrence; instead of letting Goldman Sachs get away with breaking the law with impunity and buy their way out with the taxpayers dollars.  I am guessing that the Massachusetts AG is taking her cue from Barack Obama and his AG, Eric Holder, who would rather “reconcile” and “look forward” rather than comply with their oaths of office to defend and uphold the U.S. Constitution.)

Ryan Grim, www.huffingtonpost.com, May 12, 2009

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley won a victory against the Goldman Sachs Group Monday, forcing the financial firm to cut a $10 million check to the state and pony up $50 million to help around 700 homeowners pay subprime mortgages.

“Goldman Sachs is pleased to have resolved this matter,” says Michael DuVally, a Goldman spokesman, declining to comment further.

They were also pleased, no doubt, by the terms in the settlement that allowed Goldman to avoid admitting any wrongdoing. Letting Goldman off excuses what could have been criminal behavior, but it also brings relief to hundreds of homeowners and offers a roadmap to some sort of law-enforcement-driven solution where lawmakers have come up short.

Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said he wouldn’t “second guess” Coakley’s decision to settle short of criminal convictions. “I don’t know what other avenues she had available, but I will say this: Getting significant relief for 700 people is very important, both for them and for the economy. Now, that’s a legitimate consideration in getting it done more quickly than waiting for a couple years to go through the criminal procedure,” he tells the Huffington Post.

Rep. Bill Delahunt was a Massachusetts District Attorney for 23 years. He said balancing immediate justice for victims with bringing the white-collar criminals to justice can be difficult.

“You almost have to judge those on an ad hoc basis. There’s no formula,” he says in general, adding that he didn’t know enough about Coakley’s investigation to comment on her specific course of action.

“Clearly, there’s a preference to pursue them criminally because I think that creates deterrence,” he says. “You know, it’s difficult to deter a kid who’s going to rob a 7-11 store for 25 bucks but for people who are purportedly educated, or at least sophisticated, who defraud others, they’re more susceptible to being deterred.”

But the most sophisticated they are, the more they can drag out a prosecution. By the time they’re found guilty, half the victims may be out on the street, their homes foreclosed.

“It’s not always a perfect world and you can’t always secure the perfect justice,” says Delahunt. “It would appear that our attorney general did some good work that resulted in a very significant sum of money for redress by their behavior.”

Frank agrees. “I can’t tell exactly what the considerations were, but I’m inclined to think the value of getting immediate relief for 700 people and saving their homes, yeah, I’d trade off a little for that,” he says.

Goldman Sachs was not accused of originating the subprime loans in question, but rather investigated for facilitating the process by buying them and bundling them into securities without regard to whether the borrowers would be able to pay them back — or whether the borrowers or originators had followed reasonable lending practices or filed the appropriate paperwork.

“We will continue to investigate the deceptive marketing of unfair loans and the companies that facilitated the sale of those loans to consumers in the Commonwealth,” Coakley said in a statement. (Coakley’s press office did not return a call.)

The state attorney general’s office has previously pulled in more than $75 million from settlements with UBS, Morgan Stanley, Citibank, and Merrill Lynch, all related to the financial crisis.

But the U.S. attorney general would have a hard time making a similar case nationally. Coakely relied on stricter rules on subprime lenders who make “unfair” loans under state law.

Congressional Democrats hope to give the federal government the power some states now have. Last week, the House passed anti-predatory lending legislation that Coakley helped Frank’s committee draft.

“What we do in our bill is to go beyond any set of state laws,” says Frank, citing a requirement that five percent of the loan portfolio be kept by the company that originates the loan. Having that amount of skin in the game, he hopes, will persuade a lender to take a loan seriously.

The bill is now, like much else, stalled in the Senate.

Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) says that subprime lending reform is a lesser priority because the credit freeze has inadvertently dried up the business.

“That’s true right now but we cannot count on that being true forever,” says Frank. “You couldn’t count on getting a non-predatory loan a little while ago and it is true that the freeze has helped some. That’s true in some other areas as well. There aren’t a lot of credit default swaps being written.”

But, says Frank, the financial industry won’t have forgotten how to write a bad loan once the market thaws.

“It is important to get laws on the books, because this de facto moratorium isn’t going to last forever,” he says.

Ryan Grim is the author of the forthcoming book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America

Banksters on the War Path: How Wall Street Is Fighting Back and Winning Their Fight for the Status Quo May 2, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
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by Danny Schechter

Dick Durbin knows his way around the Senate. He’s been there a long time, long enough to know how things really work. Over the years, the man from Illinois has come to realize that it’s not the elected officials who are in charge. Last week, he said it was the bankers “who run the place” acknowledging that Senators may be in office, but not necessarily in power.

Usually, the people who pull the strings stay in the background to avoid too much public exposure. They rely on lobbyists to do their bidding. They prefer to work in the shadows. They may back certain politicians, but coming from a world of credit default swaps as they do, they hedge their bets by putting money on all the horses.

They have so much influence because they have been reengineering the American economy for decades through “financialization,” a process by which banks and financial institutions gradually came to dominate economic and political decision-making. Kevin Phillips, a one time Reagan advisor and commentator, says our deepest problem is “the ascendancy of finance in national policymaking (as well as in the gross domestic product), and the complicity of politicians who really don’t want to talk about it.”

Curiously, despite the journalists like Bill Moyers and Arianna Huffington who have been blowing the whistle on the role of the “banksters” in our political life, criticizing the Republicans and Democrats who deregulated the financial system, this issue seems to float above the heads of most of the public, much of the press, and even the activist community more drawn to punishing the torture inflicted on a few by a former Administration than the economic duress being imposed on the majority of Americans by a minority of the super rich.

Demonstrators are still drawn more to the White House than the banks that have proliferated on every corner of the country.

Last week, a Zogby poll found that a majority of the public believes the press made things worse by reporting on the economic collapse. Not only is that blaming the messenger, it also overlooks the fact that much of the media was complicit in the crisis by not covering the forces that caused the collapse when it might have done some good.

Exacerbating the problem is that the Obama Administration has, in Robert Scheer’s words, enlisted “the very experts who helped trigger the crisis to try to fix it.”

“Obama,” he writes “seems depressingly reliant on the same-old, same old cast of self-serving house wreckers who act as if government exists for the sole benefit of corporations and executives.”

The team of Tim Geithner and Larry Summers has been carrying Wall Street’s water as Robert Rubin did before them. No wonder that Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder told the Street last February, “We’re not going to go on any witch hunts.”

That was before we learned that Wall Street forced US regulators to delay the release of stress test results for the country’s 19 biggest banks until next Thursday, because some of the lenders objected to government demands that they needed to raise more capital. They are trying to rig the results.

That was also before the public learned of the obscenely huge bonuses the firms benefiting from the TARP bailout were shelling out to their executives. That was before we saw how the bankers with help from Democrats, including new convert Arlen Specter, managed to kill a bill to help homeowners stop foreclosures.

“The Senate on Thursday rejected an effort to stave off home foreclosures by a vote of 51 to 45. It was an overwhelming defeat, with the bill’s backers falling 15 votes short — a quarter of the Democratic caucus — of the 60 needed to cut off debate and move to a final vote. Across the United States, the measure is estimated to have been able to prevent 1.69 million foreclosures and preserve $300 billion in home equity.”

Commented the Center for Responsible Lending, “Instead of defending ordinary Americans, the majority of Senators went with the banks. Yes, the same banks who have benefited so richly from the TARP bailout.”

There was one small victory with the House approving a bill to protect consumers from credit card abuses. It’s not clear if the Senate will pass it too. “It’s one step forward and one step backward,” said Travis Plunkett, of the Consumer Federation of America. “Congress is moving in fits and starts to re-regulate the financial services industry and the banking lobby still has tremendous clout.”

“Tremendous clout” is an understatement.

In this past week, we also saw how a few hedge funds undermined the attempt to save Chrysler from bankruptcy by holding out for more money even after the unions and big banks agreed to compromise to save jobs.

The President was furious but apparently powerless: “A group of investment firms and hedge funds decided to hold out for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout,” Obama said. “They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices, and they would have to make none. Some demanded twice the return that other lenders were getting.”

Explains the blog Naked Capitalism, “the banksters are eagerly, shamelessly, and openly harvesting their pound of flesh from financially stressed average taxpayers, and setting off a chain reaction in the auto industry which has the very real risk of creating even larger scale unemployment than the economy already faces. It’s reckless, utterly irresponsible, over-the-top greed.”

Will they be allowed to get away with it? A “captured” Congress is doing their bidding. There is no doubt that class antagonism is stewing, says the editor of the blog. He expressed a fear of a reaction that will go way beyond flag-wavng tea parties.

“… I am concerned this behavior is setting the stage for another sort of extra-legal measure: violence. I have been amazed at the vitriol directed at the banking classes. Suggestions for punishment have included the guillotine (frequent), hanging, pitchforks, even burning at the stake. Tar and feathering appears inadequate, and stoning hasn’t yet surfaced as an idea. And mind you, my readership is educated, older, typically well-off (even if less so than three years ago). The fuse has to be shorter where the suffering is more acute.”

One is reminded of the title of that movie, “There will be blood.” Rather than show contrition or compassion for its own victims, Wall Street is hoping to jack up its salaries and bonuses to pre-2007 levels. The men at the top are oblivious to the pain they helped cause. And so far, they’ve only occasionally been scolded by politicians that have mostly enabled, coddled, bankrolled, funded, rewarded, and genuflected to their power.

Wall Street’s behavior may be predictable, but how can we account for the silence of so many organizations that should be out there organizing the outrage that is building? Knock, Knock, Obama supporters, bloggers, trade unionists, out of work workers and fellow Americans. Will we fight back or roll over?

Pitchforks anyone?

Mediachannel’s News Dissector Danny Schechter is making a film about Wall Street based on his book Plunder (newsdissector.com/plunder). Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org 

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