the mass-level automated technological community marketed its brand to victory in a country desperate to be rid of George W Bush.John Pilger almost bends over backwards to make it easy to understand how the Obama brand was sold to an unwitting citizenry who were looking for a change from the disappointing (by those who thought he couldn't find Osama or kill all the suspicious people in the mideast) and embarrassing (everyone else) leadership of Cheney and Bush. The rest of us with our more definitive reasons don't really require John's explication, but it's still pretty good for a five-minute read. (Emphasis marks inserted - Ed.)
It is more than 100 days since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. The “Obama brand” has been named “Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008”, easily beating Apple computers. David Fenton of MoveOn.org describes Obama’s election campaign as “an institutionalised mass-level automated technological community organising that has never existed before and is a very, very powerful force”. Deploying the internet and a slogan plagiarised from the Latino union organiser César Chávez – “Sí, se puede!” or “Yes, we can” – the mass-level automated technological community marketed its brand to victory in a country desperate to be rid of George W Bush.
No one knew what the new brand actually stood for. So accomplished was the advertising (a record $75m was spent on television commercials alone) that many Americans actually believed Obama shared their opposition to Bush’s wars. In fact, he had repeatedly backed Bush’s warmongering and its congressional funding. Many Americans also believed he was the heir to Martin Luther King’s legacy of anti-colonialism. Yet if Obama had a theme at all, apart from the vacuous “Change you can believe in”, it was the renewal of America as a dominant, avaricious bully. “We will be the most powerful,” he often declared.
Perhaps the Obama brand’s most effective advertising was supplied free of charge by those journalists who, as courtiers of a rapacious system, promote shining knights. They depoliticised him, spinning his platitudinous speeches as “adroit literary creations, rich, like those Doric columns, with allusion...” (Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian). The San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford wrote: “Many spiritually advanced people I know... identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who... can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet.”
In his first 100 days, Obama has excused torture, opposed habeas corpus and demanded more secret government. He has kept Bush’s gulag intact and at least 17,000 prisoners beyond the reach of justice. On 24 April, his lawyers won an appeal that ruled Guantanamo Bay prisoners were not “persons”, and therefore had no right not to be tortured. His national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair, says he believes torture works. One of his senior US intelligence officials in Latin America is accused of covering up the torture of an American nun in Guatemala in 1989; another is a Pinochet apologist. As Daniel Ellsberg has pointed out, the US experienced a military coup under Bush, whose secretary of “defence”, Robert Gates, along with the same warmaking officials, has been retained by Obama.
All over the world, America’s violent assault on innocent people, directly or by agents, has been stepped up. During the recent massacre in Gaza, reports Seymour Hersh, “the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of ‘smart bombs’ and other hi-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel” and being used to slaughter mostly women and children. In Pakistan, the number of civilians killed by US missiles called drones has more than doubled since Obama took office.
In Afghanistan, the US “strategy” of killing Pashtun tribespeople (the “Taliban”) has been extended by Obama to give the Pentagon time to build a series of permanent bases right across the devastated country where, says Secretary Gates, the US military will remain indefinitely. Obama’s policy, one unchanged since the Cold War, is to intimidate Russia and China, now an imperial rival. He is proceeding with Bush’s provocation of placing missiles on Russia’s western border, justifying it as a counter to Iran, which he accuses, absurdly, of posing “a real threat” to Europe and the US. On 5 April in Prague, he made a speech reported as “anti-nuclear”. It was nothing of the kind. Under the Pentagon’s Reliable Replacement Warhead programme, the US is building new “tactical” nuclear weapons designed to blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional war.
Perhaps the biggest lie – the equivalent of smoking is good for you – is Obama’s announcement that the US is leaving Iraq, the country it has reduced to a river of blood. According to unabashed US army planners, as many as 70,000 troops will remain “for the next 15 to 20 years”. On 25 April, his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, alluded to this. It is not surprising that the polls are showing that a growing number of Americans believe they have been suckered – especially as the nation’s economy has been entrusted to the same fraudsters who destroyed it. Lawrence Summers, Obama’s principal economic adviser, is throwing $3 Trillion at the same banks that paid him more than $8m last year, including $135,000 for one speech. Change you can believe in.Read the rest of this devastating essay here.
If you want to try to track down why the MSM no longer actually reports the news (and hasn't for decades), you might want to read below. Yes, the chart is a little bit overwhelming (actually it's only the tentacles (everywhere) of the ownership that make for an overstimulated mental condition) but it's well worth the effort:
We know the corporate media to be our culture’s main source of news. Unfortunately though, our trustworthy media is completely controlled. Observe the graph below (sourced here) and note all this happened in just 20 years time. This chart details the corporations involved.
Did you know the Washington Post owns Newsweek? Or that the New York Times owns the Boston Globe? Believe it or not, getting the news “changed” to suit one’s preference isn’t that difficult. As this Saudi Prince and Rupert Murdoch know, all it requires is shares of a news agency and the owner’s phone number!I could run more of this "news" but the exposes are easily found by just searching online for them.
Karen Greenberg puts the finishing touch on why human rights and the movement for human rights are now "in the dust."
Paul The Man Krugman also finishes off the subject of banksters on the rise again with:
Sunday’s Times reporting that pay at investment banks, after dipping last year, is soaring again — right back up to 2007 levels.
Why is this disturbing? Let me count the ways.
First, there’s no longer any reason to believe that the wizards of Wall Street actually contribute anything positive to society, let alone enough to justify those humongous paychecks.
Remember that the gilded Wall Street of 2007 was a fairly new phenomenon. From the 1930s until around 1980 banking was a staid, rather boring business that paid no better, on average, than other industries, yet kept the economy’s wheels turning.
So why did some bankers suddenly begin making vast fortunes? It was, we were told, a reward for their creativity — for financial innovation. At this point, however, it’s hard to think of any major recent financial innovations that actually aided society, as opposed to being new, improved ways to blow bubbles, evade regulations and implement de facto Ponzi schemes.
Consider a recent speech by Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, in which he tried to defend financial innovation. His examples of “good” financial innovations were (1) credit cards — not exactly a new idea; (2) overdraft protection; and (3) subprime mortgages. (I am not making this up.) These were the things for which bankers got paid the big bucks?
Still, you might argue that we have a free-market economy, and it’s up to the private sector to decide how much its employees are worth. But this brings me to my second point: Wall Street is no longer, in any real sense, part of the private sector. It’s a ward of the state, every bit as dependent on government aid as recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a k a “welfare.”
I’m not just talking about the $600 billion or so already committed under the TARP. There are also the huge credit lines extended by the Federal Reserve; large-scale lending by Federal Home Loan Banks; the taxpayer-financed payoffs of A.I.G. contracts; the vast expansion of F.D.I.C. guarantees; and, more broadly, the implicit backing provided to every financial firm considered too big, or too strategic, to fail.
One can argue that it’s necessary to rescue Wall Street to protect the economy as a whole — and in fact I agree. But given all that taxpayer money on the line, financial firms should be acting like public utilities, not returning to the practices and paychecks of 2007.
Furthermore, paying vast sums to wheeler-dealers isn’t just outrageous; it’s dangerous. Why, after all, did bankers take such huge risks? Because success — or even the temporary appearance of success — offered such gigantic rewards: even executives who blew up their companies could and did walk away with hundreds of millions. Now we’re seeing similar rewards offered to people who can play their risky games with federal backing.
So what’s going on here? Why are paychecks heading for the stratosphere again? Claims that firms have to pay these salaries to retain their best people aren’t plausible: with employment in the financial sector plunging, where are those people going to go?
No, the real reason financial firms are paying big again is simply because they can. They’re making money again (although not as much as they claim), and why not? After all, they can borrow cheaply, thanks to all those federal guarantees, and lend at much higher rates. So it’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may be regulated.
Or maybe not. There’s a palpable sense in the financial press that the storm has passed: stocks are up, the economy’s nose-dive may be leveling off, and the Obama administration will probably let the bankers off with nothing more than a few stern speeches. Rightly or wrongly, the bankers seem to believe that a return to business as usual is just around the corner.
We can only hope that our leaders prove them wrong, and carry through with real reform. In 2008, overpaid bankers taking big risks with other people’s money brought the world economy to its knees. The last thing we need is to give them a chance to do it all over again.What is truly puzzling to me (and I'm not kidding) is how badly the citizenry of an economically demoralized (as well as truly demoralized) country still struggle to maintain the facade of normalcy.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Aaaahhh. So, Arlen Spectre now wants to be a Democrat? Brrrraaahhh. Now he's afraid of those mean Republicans (other mean Republicans) too?
I say "No." Not unless he promises to vote like one. Why should the Democrats save a Republican skin instead of replacing it with a real Democratic candidate? He's certainly not going to deliver that 60th vote on most of our progressive issues, like the confirmation of Dawn Johnson and Harold Koh at Justice. Right. He's on record as a "No" vote for most of what I care about. Look it up.
Richard Cook is not really meditating here. But he is worth a few moments of your time. This only reads like bad fiction if you haven't been paying close attention to the Rubin/Summers/Geithner chorus.
THE LEVEL OF PUBLIC IGNORANCE on the topic of the U.S. and world monetary system is astonishing. This is part of the plan, of course, because the monetary elite control not only the financial system but also the news media, the publishing industry, and the educational system. The blueprint for control was put together over a century ago by Cecil Rhodes and his friends, including British financier Nathan Rothschild, as documented by Professor Carroll Quigley.
During the 20th Century the power shifted to the U.S., with the Rockefellers playing the dominant role as they continue to do today. It is no accident that J.P. Morgan Chase—the Rockefeller family bank—dominates the U.S. derivatives market; nor that Exxon-Mobil, the Rockefellers’ oil company, is the most profitable corporation in history.
The basic plan was to place all of mankind in a state of permanent mental and emotional siege so that in the end we would trade all our liberties to the controllers in return for protection; even freedom of thought would be traded for physical safety. That plan is well advanced. The sheeple have been prepared for the final shearing.
Meanwhile, every attempt at real reform has been strangled in the cradle. Past voices for monetary sanity like those of Congressmen Louis McFadden and Jerry Voorhis were silenced. Starting in the 1970s, functionaries like Kissinger, Brzezinski, and Volcker carried out David Rockefeller’s plan to outsource manufacturing to China and eliminate the U.S. as the world’s greatest industrial democracy, replacing it with a financier oligarchy.
Barack Obama obviously works mainly for the financiers, as did Bill Clinton before him. The job of the Democrats is to keep the sheeple quiet by now and then implementing some “reforms”; the Republicans were a more blatant gang of looters.
During the 2008 election campaign, Ron Paul called for the end of the Federal Reserve, the bastion of financier control, but no one effectively organized the millions of people who responded to his call or had a viable plan to put in place.
With the financial crash of 2008-2009, the noose is tightening everywhere in the world. The International Monetary Fund is announcing, “The current global recession is likely to be ‘unusually long and severe, and the recovery sluggish.’” (BBC News, “IMF Sees Long and Severe Slowdown,” April 16, 2009.) In reality, as the IMF knows, it would be possible to put every nation in the world on the road to recovery by allowing them to prime the economic pump through sovereign control of their own monetary systems, with freedom to utilize their own natural resources.
The IMF announcement is in fact the start of a worldwide program of genocide similar to what was done to Russia in the 1990s, with crushing poverty, slashing of incomes, reduction of benefits for the poor and elderly, rising levels of disease and malnutrition, and reduction of life expectancy. We in the West will view the carnage with alarm from our own stripped-down economies but remain docile out of fear the same will be done to us.
Awareness of the hideous evil of the financiers’ plans to destroy the soul of humanity is growing. This is being accomplished through the internet and the work of a number of writers who understand what is at stake. I doubt this channel of expression will be available indefinitely. Already alternative websites are being isolated and marginalized. But the fight must be waged.
The one organization that has a program which is comprehensive and free from outside influence is the American Monetary Institute, which has drafted the American Monetary Act. If the Act is introduced in Congress, it will be imperative for it to be recognized and supported as the one chance to save our nation from the dark night that is threatening. But even progressive writers shrink from taking on the Monetary Power, with many of them putting forth the absurdity that all we need to do is reform the banking system.
The American Monetary Act has been in process since 2003. It may be found on the AMI website at: http://www.monetary.org/amacolorpamphlet.pdf. AMI will conduct a presentation on the Act on Capitol Hill, April 23, 2009, in Room 304 of the Cannon House Office Building. Presentations will take place at 10:00 AM and at 2:00 PM.
At the same time, groups of relatively conscious people can come together on their own to create refuges of sanity until the danger passes – over a period of years, decades, or even generations.
. . . Destruction of human consciousness is the real goal of the financiers and their minions. It is lies above all that do this. The financiers’ power is the biggest lie of all.
*The phrase “permanent siege” is from Thomas Pynchon’s novel Against the Day. Set at the end of the 19th Century, the novel describes the dynamics and strategy of the future totalitarian regimes of the approaching 20th century – i.e., a state of “permanent siege.”
Richard C. Cook is a retired federal analyst who writes today on economic, political, and spiritual matters. His books and videos are available through his website at www.richardccook.com. He recently released his six-part video series: Credit as a Public Utility: the Solution to the Economic Crisis.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
What Caused the Economic Crisis? What is So Powerful About the letters "C & D & S" & Whither Y-O-U & Bank of America NOW?
C D S.
Three little letters - which are the acronym for Credit Default Swaps.
In the hands of very dangerous, self-serving men.
CDS are like an insurance contract, where the purchaser buys "insurance" that a company won't go out of business from a seller. If the company stays in business, the purchaser pays premiums to the seller, but if the company goes belly up, the seller has to pay the face value of the CDS "policy".Yes, Warren Buffett said they were “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in 2003. And he would have known. He got as far away from those businesses as his investment steeds would carry him.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan - after being one of their biggest cheerleaders - now says they are dangerous.CDS's have been credited with bringing down Bear Stearns, AIG and other giant financial companies.
But were three little letters really the culprit for what brought us this worldwide financial crisis? Alexander Floum says what's dangerous about them is that they allow "the financial players to pretend that they had less risk, less stretched-too-thin leverage, and more stability then they really did."
And is this part of the debacle now in check?
Not exactly . . .
Credit default swaps continue to bring down large companies, partly because they make it less likely that the companies can restructure.
And one of the main reasons that banks have been hoarding the bailout money instead of lending to consumers it because of CDS. Wall Street firms and banks have been hoarding cash. As the Financial Times wrote on October 7th:
Banks are hoarding cash in expectation of pay-outs on up to $400bn (£230bn) of defaulted credit derivatives linked to Lehman Brothers and other institutions, according to analysts and -dealers.
. . . Massive positions are just starting to be unwound in the Credit Default Swaps market as tens of billions of dollars worth of these contracts are now getting settled in the aftermath of several high-profile flops.
Banks are hoarding cash in expectation of expected payouts on anywhere from $200 Billion to $1 Trillion – no one knows the amount, adding to volatility – for defaulted credit derivatives linked to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the government’s seizure of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government’s rescue of American International Group, and the failure of Washington Mutual.
And guess where most of the AIG bailout went? Yup - to corporations which bought CDS from AIG. $13 billion dollars worth of the bailout money paid to AIG went to Goldman Sachs for CDS contracts. $40 billion dollars worth of AIG's bailout money (and see this) went to foreign banks for CDS contracts. (Even AIG's former chief said that the government used AIG "to funnel money to other institutions, including foreign banks").
Unless something is done to change things, taxpayers may have to continue shelling out bailout money to keep bailing out CDS contract-holders.And have the regulators brought this situation under control so that it can't continue causing financial damage indefinitely?
Unfortunately, regulators have so far caved into lobbying pressure from those in the CDS industry, and have failed to take any decisive action to reign CDS in.In Newsweek we read (and if Newsweek says this without fear of retribution, how much power do you think these guys have solidified already?):
Major Wall Street players are digging in against fundamental changes. And while it clearly wants to install serious supervision, the Obama administration—along with other key authorities like the New York Fed—appears willing to stand back while Wall Street resurrects much of the ultracomplex global trading system that helped lead to the worst financial collapse since the Depression.
At issue is whether trading in credit default swaps and other derivatives—and the giant, too-big-to-fail firms that traded them—will be allowed to dominate the financial landscape again once the crisis passes. As things look now, that is likely to happen. And the firms may soon be recapitalized and have a lot more sway in Washington—all of it courtesy of their supporters in the Obama administration...
The financial industry isn't leaving anything to chance, however. One sign of a newly assertive Wall Street emerged recently when a bevy of bailed-out firms, including Citigroup, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, formed a new lobby calling itself the Coalition for Business Finance Reform. Its goal: to stand against heavy regulation of "over-the-counter" derivatives, in other words customized contracts that are traded off an exchange . . . .
Geithner's new rules would allow the over-the-counter market to boom again, orchestrated by global giants that will continue to be "too big to fail" (they may have to be rescued again someday, in other words). And most of it will still occur largely out of sight of regulated exchanges...
The old culture is reasserting itself with a vengeance. All of which runs up against the advice now being dispensed by many of the experts who were most prescient about the crash and its causes—the outsiders, in other words, as opposed to the insiders who are still running the show.So, three little very powerful letters (and their promulgators) still rule over a weak, unorganized and relatively out-of-financial-luck electorate. With this situation continuing unchecked, you can bet on a deepening economic crisis with recovery being put off many more years in the future for those at the bottom of the payout pyramid.
Thank you Mr. and Ms. Lobbyists (who must already live on secure, secret islands).
And speaking of those who don't worry about living among the taxpaying masses:
Bank of America 'forced to conceal' Merrill rescue facts
Pressure from Fed and Treasury chiefs to complete purchase of Merrill Lynch despite 'staggering' losses
. . . Ken Lewis's position at the helm of Bank of America looked increasingly uncertain on Thursday after it emerged he stopped short of pulling out of the deal to buy loss-making Merrill Lynch after Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson threatened to oust him and his entire board.
Mr Lewis BoA's chairman and chief executive, also knowingly hid the state of Merrill Lynch's "staggering" losses from shareholders at the behest of former Treasury Secretary Paulson and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.
The revelations were contained in a batch of BoA board minutes and testimony from Mr Lewis and Mr Paulson sent by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to the Securities and Exchange Commission and Congressional leaders Chris Dodd and Barney Frank.
Mr Cuomo, who released details of the exchanges yesterday, has been investigating BoA after Merrill paid $3.6bn (£2.45bn) of bonuses to its staff just days before the acquisition was completed on January 1.
He believes he has uncovered "facts that raise questions about the transparency" of the Treasury's $700bn bank bail-out programme "as well as about corporate governance and disclosure practices at Bank of America."
Investors have already expressed serious concern that BoA did not attempt to pull out of the merger with Merrill, given the investment bank racked up losses of $15.84bn in the fourth quarter of 2008. The loss required BoA to take on an extra $20bn of Treasury funding as well as an $118bn loan-loss guarantee.
The documents paint all three men in a bad light. Mr Lewis, though initially keen to pull out of the Merrill deal after revealing the extent of what he calls the "staggering amount of deterioration in its finances," claimed he caved in after being threatened by Mr Paulson on December 21, ten days before the sale was due to complete.
"That makes it simple. Let's deescalate," Mr Lewis told Mr Paulson, with reference to his original plan to invoke a Material Adverse Clause (MAC) to get out of the Merrill deal.
Mr Paulson later testified to Mr Cuomo that he only threatened Mr Lewis "at the request of Chairman Bernanke."
As part of his testimony, Mr Lewis claimed that he was told by the two men not to disclose that he had considered invoking the MAC, and admitted that over the short term BoA shareholders were being asked to shoulder some of the damage from the Merrill losses.
At a later board meeting, on December 30, the BoA board stressed it was not influenced by the threat of removal and that it was only going along with the government's requests because of "serious concerns regarding the status of the US financial services system" were it to pull out of the Merrill deal.
The disclosures will provide investors already seeking to oust Mr Lewis at next week's annual general meeting on April 29 extra ammunition.
A BoA spokesman said: "We believe we acted legally and appropriately with regard to the Merrill Lynch transaction."Dr. Michael Hudson informs us that "The Financial Barbarians" are already "at the Gate."
You are making a mistake if you don't click on the link above. Self defense you know.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Sorry, but what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions — not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws.
We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn’t about looking backward, it’s about looking forward — because it’s about reclaiming America’s soul.
Paul Krugman doesn't disappoint with his straightforward advice to U.S. citizens and their new President who seem to think that somehow the U.S. would be a better country (or perhaps it's a more easily manipulated Congress they have in mind) if we didn't enforce the laws against the obviously guilty Cheneyites (and their thousands of sycophants). (Emphasis marks have been added - Ed.)
“Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” So declared President Obama, after his commendable decision to release the legal memos that his predecessor used to justify torture. Some people in the political and media establishments have echoed his position. We need to look forward, not backward, they say. No prosecutions, please; no investigations; we’re just too busy.
And there are indeed immense challenges out there: an economic crisis, a health care crisis, an environmental crisis. Isn’t revisiting the abuses of the last eight years, no matter how bad they were, a luxury we can’t afford?
No, it isn’t, because America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for. “This government does not torture people,” declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it.
And the only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible.
What about the argument that investigating the Bush administration’s abuses will impede efforts to deal with the crises of today? Even if that were true — even if truth and justice came at a high price — that would arguably be a price we must pay: laws aren’t supposed to be enforced only when convenient.
. . . I don’t know about you, but I think America is capable of uncovering the truth and enforcing the law even while it goes about its other business.
Still, you might argue — and many do — that revisiting the abuses of the Bush years would undermine the political consensus the president needs to pursue his agenda.
But the answer to that is, what political consensus? There are still, alas, a significant number of people in our political life who stand on the side of the torturers. But these are the same people who have been relentless in their efforts to block President Obama’s attempt to deal with our economic crisis and will be equally relentless in their opposition when he endeavors to deal with health care and climate change. The president cannot lose their good will, because they never offered any.
That said, there are a lot of people in Washington who weren’t allied with the torturers but would nonetheless rather not revisit what happened in the Bush years.
Some of them probably just don’t want an ugly scene; my guess is that the president, who clearly prefers visions of uplift to confrontation, is in that group. But the ugliness is already there, and pretending it isn’t won’t make it go away.
Others, I suspect, would rather not revisit those years because they don’t want to be reminded of their own sins of omission.
For the fact is that officials in the Bush administration instituted torture as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt to extract “confessions” that would justify that war. And during the march to war, most of the political and media establishment looked the other way.
It’s hard, then, not to be cynical when some of the people who should have spoken out against what was happening, but didn’t, now declare that we should forget the whole era — for the sake of the country, of course.Oh boy, isn't it? Do you eagerly await Glenn Greenwald's every word like I do, hankering for the solid gold nuggets of truth he mines in the fields of obscuration?
Bush-defending opponents of investigations and prosecutions think they've discovered a trump card: the claim that Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller and Jane Harman were briefed on the torture programs and assented to them. The core assumption here - shared by most establishment pundits - is that the call for criminal investigations is nothing more than a partisan-driven desire to harm Republicans and Bush officials ("retribution"), and if they can show that some Democratic officials might be swept up in the inquiry, then, they assume, that will motivate investigation proponents to think twice.
Sorry, but what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions — not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws. We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn’t about looking backward, it’s about looking forward — because it’s about reclaiming America’s soul.
Those who make that argument are clearly projecting. They view everything in partisan and political terms - it's why virtually all media discussions are about what David Gregory calls "the politics of the torture debate" rather than the substantive issues surrounding these serious crimes - and they are thus incapable of understanding that not everyone is burdened by the same sad affliction that plagues them.
Most people who have spent the last several years (rather than the last several weeks) vehemently objecting to the Bush administration's rampant criminality have been well aware of, and quite vocal about, the pervasive complicity of many key Democrats in this criminality. Just to cite two examples, here is my December, 2007 post entitled "Democratic complicity in Bush's torture regime", and here is another from July, 2008, arguing that Democrats have blocked investigations into Bush crimes because of how it would implicate them; quoting The New Yorker's Jane Mayer as saying that "many of those who might ordinarily be counted on to lead the charge are themselves compromised"; and quoting Jonathan Turley as saying (on Keith Olbermann's program) that "the Democrats have been silently trying to kill any effort to hold anyone accountable because that list could very well include some of their own members."Everyone will pay the price for their actions. Suzan __________________
Friday, April 24, 2009
Paul Krugman's blog gives us a partial insight into the "Grand Unified Scandal."
From Jonathan Landay at McClatchy, one of the few reporters to get the story right during the march to war: The Bush administration put relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist. Such information would’ve provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. No evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and Saddam’s regime. The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush’s quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them. Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link. There’s a word for this: it’s evil.The "banality of evil" in their case in Hannah Arendt's words, but to me it's much more. The Republicans were in deep trouble going into the Congressional elections of 2002 as Wall Street crimes were being exposed, their privatization of Social Security was going nowhere and Bush's history of insider trading as well as his whole seedy background was outed. The lies leading up to the distraction that the "Iraq War" provided should be looked at as treason, which is a crime. Being called evil by the leftwing may be something they actually take a little bit of delight in. They love being evil to their "enemies." And then, of course, there's always going with the Ornery Bastard's view or Urantian Sojourn's (both of which I endorse). And I have to mention that Glen Greenwald is (once again) THE MAN. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
Three key rules of media behavior shape their discussions of "the 'torture' debate:"Right on! Suzan _____________________Karl Rove on torture prosecutions: It is now clear that the Obama White House didn't think before it tried to appease the hard left of the Democratic Party. Gloria Borger on Karl Rove: When Rove speaks, the political class pays attention - usually with good reason. Chuck Todd on Obama's concession that the DOJ decides whether to prosecute: There does seem to be a little bit of a reaction to how this was received on the left. . . frankly this feels like a political food fight now. . . . The hard left, the hard right, fighting over this in the blogosphere. Chris Matthews on the same topic: This whole torture debate is likely to tell us a lot about the kind of president Barack Obama intends to be. Will he buckle to the left, the netroots, and pursue an investigation into torture having said he didn't want to? Or will he go post-partisan and leave the past to the historians? David Gregory on what he calls (with scare quotes) "the politics of the 'torture' debate": What [Obama officials] got on their hands is a highly politicized and very partisan issue about the treatment of 9/11 prisoners. . . . At a time when the administration and the President will already be under scrutiny for being tough enough, is this a fight they really want to have? I would also point you to, if you haven't see this already, the Wall St. Journal Editorial Page today, which I think raises some really tough points about not only what signal you're sending to the rest of the world, but also to potential Terrorists out there, about just what it is that U.S. interrogators would do and not do, but also the point that's raised there is: did the Bush administration go out of its way to make sure they were adhering to the law and not crossing over that bridge when it came to getting into torture?(By the way: can someone tell me what a "9/11 prisoner" is?; and is there anything less surprising than the fact that Gregory looks to The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page for guidance on such questions?) * * * * * For years, media stars ignored the fact that our Government was chronically breaking the law and systematically torturing detainees (look at this extremely detailed exposé by The Washington Post's Dana Priest and Barton Gellman from December, 2002 to get a sense for how much we've known about all of this and for how long we've known it). Now that the sheer criminality of this conduct, really for the first time, has exploded into mainstream political debates as a result of the OLC memos, media stars are forced to address it. Exactly as one would expect, they are closing ranks, demanding (as always) that their big powerful political-official-friends and their elite institutions not be subject to the dirty instruments that are meant only for the masses - things like the rule of law, investigations, prosecutions, and accountability when they abuse their power. The rules for how media stars behave are vividly evident as they finally take part in what they are calling The 'Torture' Debate. Here are three key rules for Beltway media behavior that, as always, are shaping what they say and do: (1) Any policy that Beltway elites dislike is demonized as coming from "the Left" or - in this case (following Karl Rove) - the "hard Left." Media stars recite that claim regardless of how widely accepted the belief is in American public opinion and regardless of whether there is anything "leftist" about the view in question. For years, withdrawing from Iraq was demonized as the view of the "left" even though large majorities of Americans favored it. Identically, roughly 40% of Americans favor criminal prosecutions for Bush officials -- even before release of the OLC memos - and large majorities favor investigations generally. The premise of those who advocate prosecutions is the definitively non-ideological view that political elites should be treated exactly like ordinary Americans when they break the law and commit serious crimes. Individuals such as Gen. Antonio Taguba, Gen. Barry McCaffrey and former CIA officer Robert Baer advocate investigations and/or prosecutions of Bush officials. But no matter: the Beltway opposes the idea, and it is therefore dismissed by media stars as coming from the "Hard Left." (2) Nobody is more opposed to transparency and disclosure of government secrets than establishment "journalists." Richard Cohen wrote of the Lewis Libby prosecution: "it is often best to keep the lights off." ABC News' Peggy Noonan said this week of torture investigations: "Some things in life need to be mysterious. Sometimes you need to just keep walking." The Washington Post's David Ignatius, condemning Obama for releasing the OLC memos, warned: "the country is fighting a war, and it needs to take care that the sunlight of exposure doesn't blind its shadow warriors." And the favorite mantra of media stars and Beltway mavens everywhere - Look Forward, Not Backwards - is nothing but a plea that extreme government crimes remain concealed and unexamined. This remains the single most notable and revealing fact of American political life: that (with some very important exceptions) those most devoted to maintaining and advocating government secrecy is our journalist class, of all people. It would be as if the leading proponents of cigarette smoking were physicians, or those most vocally touting the virtues of illiteracy were school teachers. Nothing proves the true function of these media stars as government spokespeople more than their eagerness to shield government actions from examination and demand that government criminality not be punished. (3) The single most sacred Beltway belief is that elites are exempt from the rule of law. Amidst all the talk about how prosecutions would destroy post-partisan harmony and whether torture "works," it is virtually impossible to find any media star discussions about the fact that torture is illegal and that those who order, authorize or engage in torture are committing felonies. That is because - other than for fun sex scandals and other Blagojevich-like sensationalistic acts - the overriding belief of the political class is that elites (such as themselves) have the right to break the law and not be held accountable. Amazingly, when it comes to crimes by ordinary Americans, being "tough on crime" is a virtually nonnegotiable prerequisite to being Serious, but when it comes to political officials who commit crimes in the exercise of their power, absolute leniency is the mandated belief upon pain of being dismissed as "shrill" and extremist. Can anyone find an establishment media pundit anywhere - just one - who is advocating that Bush officials who broke the law be held accountable under our laws? That view seems actively excluded from establishment media discussions. The OLC memos that were released last week reflect a deeply corrupted, criminal and morally depraved political class (see this video clip for a strangely affecting demonstration of that fact . . . ), but our media stars are a vital reason why that has happened. It cannot be overstated the extent to which they are nothing but appendages of, servants to, political power (as one Twitter commentator said today about this painfully vapid video from the painfully vapid David Gregory: when media stars say "my reporting," what they usually mean is: "this is what I was told to repeat"). These three media rules repeatedly shape how they talk about government actions, and these rules are particularly pronounced as the establishment media now is finally forced to discuss what to do about the fact that our highest political leaders repeatedly broke our most serious laws. * * * * * As a testament to the positive effect media criticisms can have, Columbia Journalism Review's Charles Kaiser has been tenaciously criticizing The New York Times for failing to challenge - and instead mindlessly adopting - the claim of Bush officials that torture "worked" by producing valuable intelligence. Yesterday, a NYT Editor told Kaiser that he agreed that more attention needed to be paid to this issue, and today, the NYT published a very potent Op-Ed from an FBI interrogator at Guantanamo who aggressively disputes the claim that torture "worked." . . . Jane Harman is so shrill and angry today. She sounds like some sort of unhinged leftist blogger. As The Washington Post's Dana Milbank so insightfully asked this week, what could any Democrat possibly have to be angry about? After all, they won. I wonder how long it's going to be before Harman joins the ACLU? What's that old saying - a "civil liberties extremist" is a former Bush-enabling, Surveillance State-defending Blue Dog who learns that their own personal conversations were intercepted by the same government that they demanded be vested with unchecked power?
Thursday, April 23, 2009
. . . the pamphlet looked like it had been laid out by a college student trying desperately to meet his professor's requirement for "20 pages, double-spaced" — unnecessarily huge graphs on almost every page, fonts jacked up to readable-for-the-legally-blind size, absurdly placed clip-art images (to wit: photo of cute child with broken arm, gratefully gazing at the caption "Provide Universal Access to Affordable Health Care"). While reporters flipped through the idiotic text, searching in vain for content, Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who had already made brief introductory remarks, stealthily slipped out of the room, leaving Boehner to the wolves.Matt Taibbi tells us that it's back to "The Class Clowns" for the Rethuglicans (who are devoid of any type of response to the worldwide devastation they have wreaked other than demanding more of the same to occur immediately, please, or else).
Once the masters of evil politics, Republicans have been reduced to half-assed buffoonery, providing comic relief for desperate times
Following the Republican Party of late has been a movingly depressing experience, sort of like watching Old Yeller die — if Old Yeller were a worm-infested feral bitch who spent the past eight years biting children at bus stops and shitting in neighborhood swimming pools. As a useful force in American politics, the Republicans have been dead for a while now. But in the seven months since Sarah Palin's nomination, they have taken on an intriguing new role: providing much-needed comic relief during dark times, serving as the unofficial rodeo clowns of the Financial Crisis Era.
If there were any doubts about the once-mighty party's hilarious new role in American society, they vanished in recent weeks, as the Republican leadership's attempt to stop the passage of Barack Obama's budget turned into one of the most half-assed public-relations campaigns in congressional history. Watching this amazingly amateurish performance by a party that not long ago was led by highly skilled and ruthless political assassins like Tom DeLay and Karl Rove was just the latest bummer in the spiraling American-decline story. Not only don't we make good cars or airplanes anymore — now our Republicans have apparently lost their touch for evil politics.
The comedy began in late March when, after weeks of sniping about the high spending in the president's budget, the Republicans — steered by House Minority Leader John Boehner, one of the few influential Republicans in Congress to survive the Bush era — called a press conference to release an 18-page "alternative budget." The document quickly entered Washington lore as one of the most preposterous things a politician has ever handed, with a straight face, to a reporter on the Hill. Intending to counter accusations by Democrats that Republicans had become a "Party of No," blindly opposing every Obama initiative without a real plan, Boehner sternly waved the thinnish "Republican Road to Recovery" pamphlet at reporters gathered at his presser.
"The president said, 'We haven't seen a budget yet out of Republicans,'" Boehner croaked. "Well, it's not true, because here it is, Mr. President."
Except that "it" contained almost nothing inside. The actual text, which included no specifics or numbers at all, was full of wildly general phrases like "Republicans would fully fund our ongoing commitments overseas while devoting the entirety of any savings from reduced fighting to deficit reduction." As one observer put it, it was like an invasion plan that read, "Send ships, land troops, kill Germans."
Not only that, the pamphlet looked like it had been laid out by a college student trying desperately to meet his professor's requirement for "20 pages, double-spaced" — unnecessarily huge graphs on almost every page, fonts jacked up to readable-for-the-legally-blind size, absurdly placed clip-art images (to wit: photo of cute child with broken arm, gratefully gazing at the caption "Provide Universal Access to Affordable Health Care"). While reporters flipped through the idiotic text, searching in vain for content, Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who had already made brief introductory remarks, stealthily slipped out of the room, leaving Boehner to the wolves.
The onslaught started quickly. "There's no detail in here," grumbled one reporter.
"This is the blueprint for where we're going," Boehner barked. "Are you asking about some other document?"
Reporters stared at each other. "What about some numbers?" another asked.
Republicans, Boehner dithered, would provide details on the budget "next week."
Opposition politicians rushed on the air to rip the Republican nonbudget budget to shreds. The Democratic National Committee released an online ad that opened with a graphic: "This DNC ad is brought to you by the number zero. That's how many numbers are in the GOP's 'budget.'" Even White House press secretary Robert Gibbs got in on the act, lauding the document's depth. "It took me several minutes to read it," he quipped.Driftglass is equally as hot today and he's giving no quarter.
Cheney Regime Dead Enders are monsters and destroyers of worlds.And finally we get the in-depth reporting we've been awaiting from our old friend Robert Parry who illuminates exactly how effectively the torture program of the Bush League-Cheneyites
helped divert U.S. focus away from their al-Qaeda colleagues by providing tantalizing misinformation about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and dropping tidbits about Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who operated inside Iraq. The May 30, 2005, memo by Steven Bradbury, then acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, also appears to have exaggerated the value of intelligence extracted from detainee Abu Zubaydah through harsh interrogations – references that Bush administration defenders have cited as justification for abusive tactics, including the near-drowning of waterboarding.Suzan ____________________
Monday, April 20, 2009
The brilliant drifting glass has inserted the final (I hope) spike into the heart of the rightwing dracula that always returns with more lies to justify the unjustifiable. (I am a dreamer.)
Hayden really is the giggly, bloodless bureaucrat/butcher from Central Casting; alternately boasting that he himself banned that awful, awful technique of waterboarding...and then turning right around and allowed as how waterboarding wasn’t really torture, and may or may not even “shock conscience”, because that all "depended on the circumstances".
Of course, being that this was Fox News, the question that never got asked was this:
The rest of the brilliance can be found here.
[** DONATIONS NEEDED **
I usually don't mention the economic circumstances surrounding the provision and maintenance of this blog, but I need to ask any interested readers who aren't unemployed or poor themselves to consider making a donation to me in a time of dire need. I won't go into the personal details of what makes me ask this favor at this time, but please know that if it hadn't been for a very few readers making donations in the past two years since I've been writing about our trying economic times, I would not be here trying to shed some light on our current catastrophic predicament and provide a much-needed forum for discussion of it.
Thank you so much to the readers who have made donations to me in the past. Most months I am very lucky to receive more than one, but that's not so bad in that it has given me the hope that some day there may be more people who want to read this type of economic analysis and perhaps even add to the store of it in a place that welcomes all opinions. Yes, I am still unemployed although continuing to think positive thoughts as I apply for any job that comes into view.
Thank you for being out there, for all your emails and comments and understanding notes (and CD's and love letters, etc., no, seriously). I think my readers are my friends of consciousness and wouldn't know how to live my life today without them.
And now back to the regularly scheduled programming . . . .
John Dean redirects our focus to the latest campaign from the rightwing as they strive to further pervert the justice system (by refusing to bring any of Obama's nominees out of committee for a vote). You'd think the Dems hadn't approved any Bush nominees wouldn't you?
What has turning America into a torture nation done to our soul, our democracy and the foundational moral authority upon which our global leadership depends?Because, being Fox News, any questions of “morality” that don’t serve to advance the Republican agenda simply never come up.
But what really made me wish a mighty wish for temporary smiting powers, was one minute later, when Hayden was asked about Hugo Chavez and answered thusly and without a hint of irony:
"I’d watch for behavior, not rhetoric. The behavior of Chavez over the last few years has been downright reprehensible."
Really? Why? What makes Chavez’s behavior “downright reprehensible”?
Did he perhaps…torture people? Or did he merely “technique” them?
And doesn’t this kooky theory that countries actually pay attention to the behavior of other countries and should respond to each other according to behavior and not just rhetoric completely negate everything you just said about how the United State should expect the rest of the world to react to the fact that the Bush Administration tortured people -- in one case, waterboarding a prisoner 183 times in one month -- and then lied about it?
There is a high-stakes game for the future of the federal judiciary currently underway, albeit, at this time, still quietly being played out behind-the-scenes. Over a month ago, the New York Times revealed the then-imminent selection by the Obama Administration of "a small stream of nominees to the federal appeals courts" throughout the nation. The story even floated a few names of potential nominees. But little has happened since then.
Thus far, there has been no stream of nominees; indeed, barely a trickle. No one keeps score better than the Alliance for Justice, which reports three Obama nominees so far: Gerald Lynch for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Andre Davis for the Fourth Circuit, and David Hamilton for the Seventh Circuit.
The reason Obama's judicial nominees have not been streaming forth is that conservatives in the Senate are doing their best to dam that stream, literally and figuratively. To use the phrase coined by former Nixon speechwriter Bill Safire, the Obama Administration is being blocked by what can accurately be described as the new "nattering nabobs of negativism."
According to the coiner of the phrase, Safire, nattering is complaining; a nabob – taken from Urdu – is a self-important potentate; and negativism, of course, is habitual skepticism, the tendency to be pessimistic, seeing the world in the worst light possible. This outlook is very much the one possessed by the remarkably pompous contemporary conservative Republican leaders, particularly those in the Senate.
Well-known nabobs like John Boehner and Eric Cantor have led House Republicans to vote in-bloc against the stimulus legislation, and the half-dozen Republican nabobs serving as governors announced they would reject all or some of the federal stimulus money – until the citizens of their states turned on them.
Not as well-known are the nattering negative nabobs of the Senate, who have laid down a gauntlet to block President Obama's judicial appointees, before they even arrive in the Senate Judiciary Committee. These are Senators who are having trouble adjusting to the fact that there is no longer a Republican in the White House, and in no area is this truth more difficult for them to accept than with the prospective loss of conservative control, as well, of the federal judiciary. These are men like Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona – to mention but two of two dozen.
These men were part of the effort by all forty-one Republican members of the Senate to warn the new president that if he wanted to avoid a huge fight over the future of the federal judiciary, then he should start by re-nominating a number of Bush nominees who had not been confirmed before the Bush presidency ended. This unprecedented request was chutzpah on stilts.
Their letter to President Obama spelled out another demand: "[I]f we are not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from our state, the Republican Conference will be unable to support moving forward on that nominee" – a thinly-veiled threat of a filibuster on any Obama nominee who fails to meet the GOP standard. In short, if a GOP senator rejects a judicial nominee for a court with jurisdiction in his state, the entire Republican Conference has agreed to join that senator to hold up the nomination. (It takes sixty votes to prevent a filibuster, so if the Republican Conference remains together, it can block any Obama nominee from confirmation.) Clearly, Republicans plan to fight any effort to change the conservative ideological make-up of the federal judiciary.Read the rest here and don't stop organizing to fight this continuing ideologically driven campaign to revoke the last election.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Dire Wolf - Saint of Circumstance ** DONATIONS NEEDED **
I usually don't mention the economic circumstances surrounding the provision and maintenance of this blog, but today I'd like to ask any interested readers who aren't unemployed or poor themselves to consider making a donation to me in a time of dire need. I won't go into the personal details of what makes me ask this favor at this time, but please know that if it hadn't been for a very few readers making donations in the past two years since I've been writing about our trying economic times, I would not be here trying to shed some light on our current catastrophic predicament and provide a much-needed forum for discussion of it.
Thank you so much to the readers who have made donations to me in the past. Most months I am very lucky to receive more than one, but that's not so bad in that it has given me the hope that some day there may be more people who want to read this type of economic analysis and perhaps even add to the store of it in a place that welcomes all opinions. Yes, I am still unemployed although continuing to think positive thoughts as I apply for any job that comes into view.
Thank you for being out there, for all your emails and comments and understanding notes (and CD's and love letters, etc., no, seriously). I think my readers are my friends of consciousness and wouldn't know how to live my life today without them.
And now back to the regularly scheduled programming . . . .
Chris Dodd, past Democratic presidential candidate, dependable Democratic vote (well, for some Democrats) is in big trouble over his past political/economic history of donations and votes for entities that turn out to have reaped when he sowed (and then sowed back to him?). Of course, if everybody's involved (and the name Guiliani keeps popping up here too), who can want to punish one of the good guys? Or is he? Or maybe the question of the hour is: is anyone left who is?
And when you consider who his father was and the redemption he's been seeking (like Ahab for the white whale) for him for lo these many years . . . .
As Senator Chris Dodd fights for his political career, the embattled chairman of the powerful Senate banking committee is receiving his own economic rescue package from the finance industry. According to the five-term senator's latest campaign disclosures, filed earlier this week, the financial sector is flooding Dodd's campaign war chest with donations in advance of what is expected to be a tough reelection bout.
Dodd, who's had a rough year, can certainly use all the support he can get. Last summer, the news broke that he had received two sweetheart loans through subprime lender Countrywide's "V.I.P." program. And in March, Dodd first denied and then later admitted that he had inserted language into the economic stimulus bill that would allow AIG executives to keep their bonuses.
Amid accusations that he has grown too chummy with the industries he oversees as head of the banking committee, Dodd has seen challengers to his 2010 reelection crop up on his left and his right. Recent polls show him with a popularity rating of just 33 percent in Connecticut, losing in hypothetical matchups with three different Republicans. Political handicappers consider him the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent in the Senate; the GOP is raring to pick him off.
Despite his waning appeal in Connecticut, Dodd's fundraising effort picked up steam in the first three months of 2009. He raised just more than $1 million during the quarter, according to federal campaign disclosure records. Almost a third of that money—at least $299,000—came from banking and investment executives, financial industry trade groups, and finance-oriented political action committees (PACs). An additional $68,000 came from lobbyists, many with clients on Wall Street. And that doesn't count the formidable financial support Dodd has received from insurance and health care interests.
It's not unusual for the chairman of an influential committee to haul in loads of campaign cash from the businesses that are within his committee's jurisdiction. But with his future in the Senate in jeopardy, Dodd truly has to rely on his supporters in the industries he oversees, all while presiding over key components of the various financial bailouts currently under way. That is, he's pushing the envelope when it comes to Washington's pay-to-play routine.Wish you had been on that gravy train? It's shameful how many still wish it.
With all the consequences it has wrought.
Rich people. You gotta love 'em.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The very Rude Pundit has outdone himself and simultaneously done our homework for us by digesting most of the idiocy that now passes for the Obama team's brilliance at defusing leftover Bush/Cheney torture bad news, which must be swept out of the lot quickly, so it won't contaminate the new well-spoken, well-fed, much-appreciated denizens of in-the-know-ville.
Read it and weep (if you've got any tears left for the sad (very sad - and many dead) people and their relatives, who were swept up en masse as despicable terr'sts as large amounts of cash were passed to outreaching hands).
Almost comically legalistic, they repeat the phrase "you have informed us," so that there's a circle jerk of putting the blame elsewhere. Yes, the Justice Department approved shit, but it was based on what they were told, which, from the CIA's perspective, was that everything was hunky-fuckin'-dory and it all worked without harming anyone.Robert Parry, always the true journalist in his efforts to inform almost anyone who really wants to know of that which they don't really want to know, tells us that the "US News Media Fails America, Again." (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
S U R P R I S E !!!
The parameters set by this intimidated (or bought-off) news media, in turn, influence how far Washington politicians feel they can go on issues, like health-care reform or environmental initiatives, or how risky they believe it might be to pull back from George W. Bush’s “war on terror” policies. Democratic hesitancy on these matters then enflames the Left, which expresses its outrage through its own small media, reprising the old theme that there’s “not a dime’s worth of difference” between Democrats and Republicans – a reaction that further weakens chances for any meaningful reform.
. . . Watching Glenn Beck of Fox News rant about “progressive fascism” – and muse about armed insurrection – or listening to mainstream pundits prattle on about Barack Obama as the “most polarizing President ever,” it is hard to escape the conclusion that today’s U.S. news media represents a danger to the Republic. By and large, the Washington press corps continues to function within a paradigm set in the 1980s, mostly bending to the American Right, especially to its perceived power to destroy mainstream journalistic careers and to grease the way toward lucrative jobs for those who play ball. The parameters set by this intimidated (or bought-off) news media, in turn, influence how far Washington politicians feel they can go on issues, like health-care reform or environmental initiatives, or how risky they believe it might be to pull back from George W. Bush’s “war on terror” policies. Democratic hesitancy on these matters then enflames the Left, which expresses its outrage through its own small media, reprising the old theme that there’s “not a dime’s worth of difference” between Democrats and Republicans – a reaction that further weakens chances for any meaningful reform. This vicious cycle has repeated itself again and again since the Reagan era, when the Right built up its intimidating media apparatus – a vertically integrated machine which now reaches from newspapers, magazines and books to radio, TV and the Internet. The Right accompanied its media apparatus with attack groups to go after troublesome mainstream journalists. Meanwhile, the American Left never took media seriously, putting what money it had mostly into “organizing” or into direct humanitarian giving. Underscoring the Left’s fecklessness about media, progressives have concentrated their relatively few media outlets in San Francisco, 3,000 miles away – and three hours behind – the news centers of Washington and New York. By contrast, the Right grasped the importance of “information warfare” in a modern media age and targeted its heaviest firepower on the frontlines of that war – mostly the political battlefields of Washington – thus magnifying the influence of right-wing ideas on policymakers. One consequence of this media imbalance is that Republicans feel they can pretty much say whatever they want – no matter how provocative or even crazy – while Democrats must be far more circumspect, knowing that any comment might be twisted into an effective attack point against them. So, while criticism of Republicans presidents – from Ronald Reagan to the two Bushes – had to be tempered for fear of counterattacks, almost anything could be said against a Democratic president, Bill Clinton or now Barack Obama, who is repeatedly labeled a “socialist” and, according to Beck, a “fascist” for pressuring hapless GM chief executive Rick Wagoner to resign. The Clinton Wars The smearing of President Clinton started during his first days in office as the right-wing news media and the mainstream press pursued, essentially in tandem, “scandals” such as his Whitewater real-estate deal, the Travel Office firings and salacious accusations from Arkansas state troopers. Through talk radio and mailed-out videos, the Right also disseminated accusations that Clinton was responsible for “murders” in Arkansas and Washington. These hateful suspicions about Clinton spread across the country, carried by the voices of Rush Limbaugh and G. Gordon Liddy as well as via videos hawked by Religious Right leader Jerry Falwell. While not accepting the “murder” tales, mainstream publications, like the Washington Post and the New York Times, often took the lead in pushing or exaggerating Clinton financial “scandals.” Facing these attacks, Clinton sought some safety by tacking to the Right, which prompted many on the American Left to turn on him. The stage was set for the Republican “revolution” of 1994, which put the GOP in charge of Congress. Only in the latter days of the Clinton administration, as the Republicans pushed for his ouster through impeachment, did a handful of small media outlets, including Consortiumnews.com and Salon.com, recast the war on Clinton as a new-age coup d’etat. Yet, despite the evidence of that, the major American news media mocked Hillary Clinton when she complained about a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” After Clinton survived impeachment, the national press corps transferred its hostility toward Vice President Al Gore in Campaign 2000, ridiculing him as a serial exaggerator and liar, even when that required twisting his words. [For details, see our book Neck Deep.] Then, when George W. Bush wrested the White House away from Gore with the help of five Republican partisans on the U.S. Supreme Court, the drumbeat of hostility toward the American President suddenly disappeared, replaced by a new consensus about the need for unity. The 9/11 attacks deepened that sentiment, putting Bush almost beyond the reach of normal criticism. Again, the right-wing media and the mainstream press moved almost in lockstep. The deferential tone toward Bush could be found not just on Fox News or right-wing talk radio, but in the Washington Post and (to a lesser degree) the New York Times – and on CNN and MSNBC. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s Matrix.”] To some foreigners, the U.S. news media’s early coverage of the Iraq War had the feel of what might be expected in a totalitarian state. “There have been times, living in America of late, when it seemed I was back in the Communist Moscow I left a dozen years ago,” wrote Rupert Cornwell in the London-based Independent. “Switch to cable TV and reporters breathlessly relay the latest wisdom from the usual unnamed ‘senior administration officials,’ keeping us on the straight and narrow. Everyone, it seems, is on-side and on-message. Just like it used to be when the hammer and sickle flew over the Kremlin.” [Independent, April 23, 2003] Bush’s Slide Bush skeptics were essentially not tolerated in most of the U.S. news media, and journalists who dared produce critical pieces could expect severe career consequences, such as the four CBS producers fired for a segment on how Bush skipped his National Guard duty, a true story that made the mistake of using some memos that had not been fully vetted. Only after real events intervened – especially the bloody insurgency in Iraq and the ghastly flooding of New Orleans – did the mainstream U.S. press corps begin to tolerate a more skeptical view of Bush. However, the news personalities who had come to dominate the industry by then had cut their teeth in an era of bashing Democrats (Clinton/Gore) and fawning over Republicans (Reagan and the two Bushes). With Barack Obama as President, these “news” personalities almost reflexively returned to the Clinton-Gore paradigm, feeling the freedom – indeed the pressure – to be tough on the White House. Though MSNBC does offer a few shows hosted by liberals and there are a few other liberal voices here and there, the national media remains weighted heavily to the right and center-right. For every Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow or Paul Krugman or Frank Rich, there are dozens of Larry Kudlows, Sean Hannitys, Bill O’Reillys, Joe Scarboroughs and Charles Krauthammers who take openly right-wing or neoconservative positions — or the likes of Lou Dobbs, John King and Wolf Blitzer, who reflect Republican-oriented or neocon views out of personal commitment or careerist caution. While the right-wing media denounces Obama as a “socialist” and Republican activists are organizing “tea parties” to protest taxes, the mainstream media continues to follow the old dynamic of framing political issues in ways most favorable to Republicans and least sympathetic to Democrats. On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, in an interview with Gen. Ray Odierno, host John King pushed a favorite media myth about President Bush’s successful “surge” in Iraq. King never mentioned that many factors in the declining Iraqi violence predated or were unrelated to Bush’s dispatch of additional troops, nor did King note the contradiction about Bush’s supposed “success” and Odierno’s warning that he may have to urge more delays in withdrawing U.S. troops. ‘Polarizing’ Obama The commentariat class also has continued to frame the Republican hatred of Obama as Obama’s fault, describing his “failure” to achieve a more bipartisan Washington or – in its latest formulation – calling Obama “the most polarizing President ever.” It might seem counterintuitive to call a President with approval ratings in the 60 percentiles “polarizing” – when that term was not applied to George W. Bush with his numbers half that of Obama’s. But this notion has arisen because Republicans have turned harshly against Obama, while Democrats and Independents have remained supportive. This gap of about 60 points between Democratic approval and Republican disapproval is called the largest in the modern era. (Bush presumably was less “polarizing” because his Republican numbers slumped along with his approval from Democrats and Independents.) What is rarely acknowledged is that the Republican Party has both shrunk in size and retreated toward its hard-line “base,” meaning that the “polarization gap” could simply reflect the fact that a smaller, more extreme Republican Party hates Obama, while other presidents faced a larger, more moderate opposition party. Rather, according to the Washington pundit class, this gap is Obama’s fault, much as he was blamed for “failing” to attract Republican votes for his stimulus bill and his budget. Rarely do the pundits lay the blame on the Republicans who have taken a position of near unanimous opposition to Obama, much as they did toward Clinton 16 years ago. Instead of seeing a pattern – that Republicans may hope to torpedo Obama’s presidency and reclaim congressional control, as they did in 1993-94 – the Washington press corps describes the Republicans as holding firm to their small-government principles and the Democrats as refusing to give due consideration to GOP alternatives. Already a new conventional wisdom is taking shape, that “polarizing” Obama would be wrong to use the “reconciliation” process to enact health-care and environmental programs by majority vote, that he should instead water them down and seek enough Republican votes to overcome GOP filibusters in the Senate, which require 60 votes to stop. To get enough Republican votes on health care would almost surely mean eliminating a public alternative that would compete with private insurers, and on the environment, cap-and-trade plans for curbing carbon emissions would have to be shelved. But that is the course that the pundit class generally favors, while demanding that Obama and the Democrats, not the Republicans, take the necessary steps toward cooperation. “It will continue to behoove Obama to woo Republican help – no matter how tough the odds,” wrote Washington Post columnist David Broder on Sunday. “Presidents who hope to achieve great things cannot for long rely on using their congressional majorities to muscle things through.” But if Obama takes the advice of Broder and other pundits and dilutes his proposals to make them acceptable to Republicans, the President will surely draw the wrath of the Democratic “base,” which will accuse him of selling out. The vicious cycle will have rotated once again.Rock on. Suzan _________________Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at www.neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
If you also wondered where the CPA's and even low-level accountants were hiding out during the financial bloodfest, our old pal Ralph Nader has a few facts for you here. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
It is now obvious that the accountants collapsed their own skill, integrity and self-respect faster and earlier than the collapse of Wall Street and the corporate barons. The accountants-both external and internal-could have blown the whistle on what Teddy Roosevelt called the "malefactors of great wealth.
"The Big Four auditors knew what was going on with these complex, abstractly structured finance instruments, these collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and other financial products too abstruse to label. They were on high alert after early warning scandals involving Long Term Capital Management, Enron, and others a decade or so ago.
These corporate casino capitalists used the latest tricks to cook the books with many of the on-balance sheet or off-balance sheet structured investment vehicles that metastasized big time in the first decade of this new century. These big firms can't excuse themselves for relying on conflicted rating companies, like Moody's or Standard & Poor, that gave triple-A ratings to CDO tranches in return for big fees. Imagine the conflict. After all, "prestigious" outside auditors were supposed to be on the inside incisively examining the books and their footnotes, on which the rating firms excessively relied.Over at Driftglass' castle you'll find the best delineation of exactly what went over so well (for them, not us) out of the rational thinking of the radical right porkers in the 80's, when they adopted the PR of representing a new "morning in America" in order to better obscure their newest con artistry necessary for the separation of the much more available (after the end of the Vietnam war spending) money from the fingers of the workers. Sir Galahad Driftglass has it defined as a software problem, and I've got to give him props for that philosophical glimpse into the souls (naaah) of pig people. Inhale deeply here. (This guy is the B E S T!) And is looking for a decent job (like someone else here).
These are not people and we will bring ourselves to tears over and over again if we try to treat them as such; these are morally imbecilic automatons, endlessly calculating how to carve out the biggest slice of whatever pie is currently cooling on society’s windowsill.
. . . Of course, if you’re a Debit Lord instead of a Drug Lord you don’t need to go through the mess of killing everyone that stands in your way. If you’re in the business of flinging around billions instead of bullets, you can simply keep pouring money on Congress, wingnut think tanks, and astroturf activist groups until they rig the game on your behalf.
Purchase enough Senators and Representatives, buy enough time shares in enough Presidential candidates, and eventually – with third-rate intellectuals grabbing every microphone to babble on and on about the virtues of “liberating” the markets, “creative destruction” and Ayn Rand…with Fox News trumpets blaring….and with the pig people cheering right on cue -- they’ll rewrite the rules to make your favorite flavor of usury, theft, or three-card Monte as legal as sea water.
Until, of course, it all falls down.
Until Saddam makes a cold-bloodedly rational decision that ruthlessly invading his neighbor is now in his own interest.
Until the banksters make the cold-bloodedly rational decision that kiting trillion-dollar checks against toxic mortgages will make them more money than, say, investing wisely for the long term.
Because fuck the long term. Fuck wisdom.
Until, of course, we wake up one more time to find that the creatures peeing down on us from the commanding heights are not human beings at all.And we've known this for how many years?
Bravo (and a star turn from the brightest of the glasses) Driftglass!
Don't think that just because Obama fired GM's Rick Wagoner that the big dogs are through with unions. Not by a long shot.
The following essay from The Providence Journal deals with this particular rightwing hedge fund/bankster wet dream. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
Wall Street Sharks Circle the UAW
By John R. MacArthur
April 15, 2009 The Providence Journal - Barack Obama's commitment to helping labor has always been suspect, but handing over the American car business to the investment banker Steven Rattner might well turn the president into the last great union buster.
To be sure, we're already long past the point where industrial unions have any real clout in our so-called service economy - this thanks to "free trade" (that is, guaranteed cheap labor in foreign locales and low import tariffs on foreign-made goods) and Bill Clinton's alliance with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). Franklin Roosevelt's old party of labor is now almost entirely the party of Wall Street and only a severe depression might alter this political reality. When Obama sent economist Austen Goolsbee to reassure the Canadian government that the candidate's criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement during the Ohio primary didn't mean anything, he meant it.
But this isn't to say there aren't a few remaining pockets of working-class resistance to the money power that Wall Street and the DLC would like to crush. And right now, Rattner and the Treasury Department task force's biggest target is not the overpaid executive staff at General Motors, but the United Auto Workers union, the country's best and traditionally most honest mass labor organization.
Just wait a few weeks, and the demands for concessions from the allegedly overpaid and cosseted UAW members will rise to levels of shrillness far greater than the very brief - and ineffective - outcry over the AIG bonuses.
It wasn't so long ago that the UAW set the standard for successful collective bargaining and trade-union integrity. Its greatest leader, the leftist Walter Reuther, was so powerfully independent that in 1968 he even dared to bolt from the AFL-CIO and its reactionary boss, George Meany.
The break stemmed in part from the longtime rivalry between industrial and craft unions - Meany started out as a plumber - but it also resulted from Reuther's greater radicalism and vision. It was the UAW that early on organized black workers, won excellent medical benefits for its members and initiated the innovation of "pattern bargaining" with the auto industry, targeting one car company at contract time instead of taking on the whole business.
Reuther could do this because he had a huge number of members who owed their middle-class status to the UAW, as well as to the G.I. Bill and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society.
At its peak, in 1979, the UAW boasted a membership of more than 1.5 million and a close relationship (perhaps too close) with the leadership of the Democratic Party. Even into the 1980s, the UAW remained so important that Douglas Fraser, Reuther's protégé and eventual successor, was elected to the Chrysler board of directors, the first union leader to serve on the board of a major American corporation. Fraser and the union had helped Chrysler through its 1979 crisis, successfully lobbying for government loan guarantees and accepting wage cuts and layoffs to keep the company out of bankruptcy.
Chrysler's bailout and revival were organized by the company's chief executive, Lee Iacocca, who saw the handwriting on the wall written in Japanese characters. I'm no fan of this self-promoting blowhard (his opportunistic hypocrisy on tariffs and trade policy is stunning), but at least he was a car person with a degree in engineering and a sense of what sells. Nobody in the Carter administration or Congress told Iacocca to resign, or Douglas Fraser to stay off the Chrysler board, as a condition for the loan guarantees.
They wouldn't have dared.
Today, Barack Obama consorts with the hedge fund/banking crowd that gave so much money to his "transformative" campaign, while he makes believe that he cares about unions. So beholden is the president to finance that he fires the General Motors CEO, Rick Wagoner, and puts in charge a banker who knows how to break up businesses, not build them - Steven Rattner. It doesn't cost Obama anything politically because the industrial lobby hardly counts anymore, especially compared with a Wal-Mart/retail lobby that loves "free trade" for its Chinese imports made by 50-cent-an-hour labor.
Meanwhile, Obama feels he has nothing to fear from a UAW that has shrunk to a mere 460,000 or so members and believes (falsely) that it has no alternative to supporting the Democratic Party. Have you ever seen UAW President Ron Gettelfinger on TV?
Right-wingers still whine about "big labor's" supposedly disproportionate influence, but campaign contributions tell a different story: The finance, insurance and real-estate sector (FIRE) gave Obama just over $38 million in this last campaign, while labor gave a paltry $466,324, according to the research group Open Secrets. Granted, UAW political-action committees donated $2.32 million to various Democratic candidates in the latest election cycle (according to the FEC), but this is loose change in the world of Steven Rattner and his wife, Maureen White, a former banker and one-time national finance chairwoman of the Democratic Party. Combined, the bundled contributions of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and J.P. MorganChase just to the Obama campaign amounted to $2.28 million.
Nevertheless, we will hear no end of the overpaid and gluttonous autoworkers who dared to demand health insurance, pensions and good wages. Isn't it outrageous that a GM production worker can make $28 an hour, including benefits, and that he or she can retire in some comfort after decades on the assembly line? Isn't it terrible that GM is contractually obliged to take care of its workers? God forbid we protect Americans by raising the 2.5 percent tariff on imported cars to compensate for indirect Japanese export subsidies.
But the UAW's critics needn't worry. Whether Obama eases GM into Chapter 11 bankruptcy - that wonderful system of corporate protectionism - no doubt favored by Austen Goolsbee and Lawrence Summers, or whether he forces the UAW to destroy itself with givebacks, we're headed for the end of the line for middle-class unionism.
Bankruptcy would make it easier to break union contracts, but the UAW, relentlessly attacked for being too successful for its members and so far unable to organize Japanese car plants in the United States, will probably cave in for PR reasons before it comes to Chapter 11. If that happens, it won't be a union anymore.
Meanwhile, autoworkers (and automakers) in Japan will continue to benefit from government-funded national health insurance unavailable to American employees of non-union Japanese plants in the U.S. And Steven Rattner can go on throwing benefits for Democrats at his home on Fifth Avenue.
John R. MacArthur is publisher of Harper's Magazine. Among other books, he is the author of Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War.And that will be the end of that.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
As a poor (extremely poor) participant in America's rebirth of the "Gilded Age," I find the interview at Buzzflash particularly satisfying. No, not that kind of satisfying - the darker (much darker) kind of ultimate satisfaction where you have seen your economic life spiraling out of control for so long that when you find that others now share your opinions, you have a small epiphanous moment of grace. As my last good job was with a major company for over 13 years that began to give out (taxpayer-funded) bonuses to the execs for driving it out of business, I may have a more personal take on this essay than most. But, there again, maybe not. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
Tax responsibilities have shifted off of large wealth holders and onto wage earners, off corporations and onto individuals, off the progressive federal tax system and onto state and local tax systems, which tend to be more regressive. Tax cuts for the rich have shrunk federal services - and shifted responsibilities to states for health, anti-poverty, transportation and more. That’s the shaft part. - Chuck Collins, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and Director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good. * * * It's April 15th and the Mad Hatters of the Teabagging Party are off to protest that the extreme income redistribution over the last 30 years continue unabated so that the super-rich become even richer as America's middle class sinks into oblivion. There's been a class war going on since Reagan was elected, and it's been a war on the working class as the average wage earner got mugged by the largest shift of wealth to the rich in American history. What better day than April 15th to devote our BuzzFlash interview to a conversation with Chuck Collins, who heads the Institute for Policy Studies and is Director of their "Program on Inequality and the Common Good." We strongly recommend you read it in full. It's chock full of information that reveals the income redistribution scam that has been pulled off in full view of the American public, fattening the wallets of the already financially engorged fat cats. Also, please make a visit to Chuck's tremendous site, Extreme Inequality. The truth about economic injustice will set you free from propaganda, brought and paid for by the wealthy, on taxes. * * * BuzzFlash: Can you explain what the Working Group on Extreme Inequality" is and its relationship to the Institute for Policy Studies? Chuck Collins: The Working Group was formed by a group of labor, religious and civic leaders with the goal of advancing the discussion about the dangers of extreme inequality to our economy, health, democracy and civic life. The Institute helps staff the Working Group through our Program on Inequality and the Common Good. Our original work was to dramatize that “inequality matters” - that these inequalities have undermined the quality of life for everyone. With the economic meltdown, we’ve all gotten a “crash course” in how extreme inequality is bad for the economy. With wages stagnant for three decades, most working families have survived by working more hours and borrowing on credit cards and against home values, if they are fortunate enough to own one. The consumption of the bottom 70 percent of U.S. households has been based on debt - not on real wage growth. Meanwhile, wealth has dramatically concentrated at the top of the pyramid. The superrich in the top one percent put massive amounts of this wealth into the speculative casino economy - which helped wreck the economy. In our view, extreme inequalities contributed to the economic collapse. BuzzFlash: You have a section on your website Extreme Inequality entitled "How Unequal are We?" Well, how economically unequal have we become? Chuck Collins: We’ve become dangerously unequal as wealth has concentrated in very few hands. The top one percent has over 34 percent of all private wealth - more than the bottom 95 percent of the population combined. In the mid-1970s, this wealthiest one percent had less than 20 percent of private wealth. This is a dramatic shift in a short time. We’re in America’s “Second Gilded Age.” This matters because wealth is power -- the power to shape the culture, to distort elections, and shape government policy. A plutocracy is a “rule by wealth” – and more and more the priorities of the society are shaped by the interests of organized wealth. We have a downloadable “chart pack” that has very up-to-date materials on income, wage, and wealth inequality. Better yet, we did a short video called “The Sound of Inequality” which is an audio illustration of the wealth gap using black beans in a soup pot. BuzzFlash: Does your blood boil when the right-wing corporatists use the word "redistribution of income" as a pejortive associated with "socialism" when they have been redistributing income to the wealthy for decades? Chuck Collins: It is boiling, especially around April 15 Tax Day. It is a fantastic deflection. For 30 years, right-wingers have pushed for policy rule changes in the economy (trade, taxes, government spending, deregulation) that have fueled a radical redistribution of wealth from the bottom and middle of society -- to the tippy top. It’s been a Robin-Hood-in-Reverse. When President Obama proposes to raise the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, they call him a “socialist.” Imagine, a 4.6 percent hike in taxes could tip us into a totalitarian socialist state. What would these right-wing extremists call Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, who presided over a top tax rate of 91 percent on the ultra-rich? The forces of organized selfishness will reflexively object to any tax, but most of the population recognizes that the price of a healthy and good society is a fair tax system and healthy communities without grotesque inequality. BuzzFlash: Your website discusses some of the racial dimensions of economic inequality. Can you give us a summary? Chuck Collins: If we examine these wealth disparities through the lens of race, we get another important part of the story. The legacy of racial discrimination is imprinted on today’s wealth and asset ownership patterns. This historical legacy is different for each racial group, but the basic story is about systematic barriers to homeownership and wealth accumulation for people of color. How else can we explain that the percentage of Blacks, Latinos and whites who own their home is 47, 49.7, and 75 percent, respectively? And that the median net worth for an African-American household ($20,600) is only 14.6 percent of the median wealth for a white household ($140,700)? Racial discrimination in housing loans after World War II means that, two generations later, we still have very uneven wealth and asset ownership. Even before the economic crisis blew open in September 2008, tens of billions of wealth owned by people of color had vanished in the sub-prime scam. My co-worker Dedrick Muhammad is an expert on this. You can learn a lot from being a fan of his “Bridging the Racial Wealth Divide” work on Facebook. BuzzFlash: What about hidden taxes for people who aren't rich? When we cut taxes for the rich, all of us end up paying higher fees for what were formerly free public services - for example in Chicago the parking meters were just privatized and the costs for drivers skyrocketed. While we keep reducing taxes for the wealthy, the public services are still needed, so we end up paying for them through privatization and increased fees. Chuck Collins: Great example of the parking meters. I recently was asked to pitch in to buy a new chair for my daughter’s public school. And here I thought that’s what my taxes were for! When you get nickel-and-dimed for services that used to be public -- or watch public services get slashed - or have to wait longer in line or on telephone hold -- I want you to repeat this mantra: “Stop the Shrink, Shift and Shaft.” It is important to step back and see the dramatic tax shifts that have taken place over the last several decades. The neo-cons worked to shrink certain parts of government - the parts that help non-wealthy people have decent lives and economic opportunity. Remember anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s stated goal: “I want to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” Tax responsibilities have shifted off of large wealth holders and onto wage earners, off corporations and onto individuals, off the progressive federal tax system and onto state and local tax systems, which tend to be more regressive. Tax cuts for the rich have shrunk federal services - and shifted responsibilities to states for health, anti-poverty, transportation and more. That’s the shaft part. The result is a weakened regulatory state - which by the way was the goal of the neo-con anti-tax, anti-government activists. So speculators boost up housing or oil prices - and we all pay more. It’s a form of taxation - though the money goes to speculators. With the lack of strong government oversight, we all end up paying more to private corporations and speculators. One challenge is this happens in slow motion and we adjust our expectations. But there was a time when working class students used to get grants to help with college expenses. There was a time when there were homebuyer assistance programs that didn’t require you to work through a predatory lender. BuzzFlash: Your group just released "Reversing the Great Tax Shift: Seven Steps to Finance Our Economic Recovery Fairly." Can you share some of the highlights? Chuck Collins: We offer some very concrete examples of the tax shifts I just mentioned. For instance: In 1955, when the U.S. first instituted “Tax Day,” America’s top 400 taxpayers paid three times more of their income in taxes than the top 400 of 2006, the most recent year with IRS data available. If these 400 ultra-rich folks had paid 1955 tax rates, the federal treasury would have collected an additional $35.9 billion more in revenue in 2006. Our report found that the 139,000 U.S. taxpayers who made over $2 million in 2006 averaged $5.9 million in income. They paid an effective tax rate of 23.21 percent, compared to 49 percent effective rate that those of equivalent income paid in 1955. If these individuals had paid taxes at the same rate as their 1955 counterparts, the federal treasury would have collected, in 2006, an additional $202 billion. That’s enough money to send massive “aid to the states” and make more overdue investments in transforming our economy to be more sustainable. The main part of our report identifies seven tax proposals to reverse the tax shift and raise $450 billion in revenue from the wealthy and global corporations that are playing games with the tax system. For instance, we propose that income from wealth (capital gains and dividends) should be taxed the same as income from work and wages. That reform would generate $80 billion in revenue. When someone asks, “Where will the money come from?” - This is our answer. BuzzFlash: Can you compare the U.S. tax policy toward the rich to some other nations? Chuck Collins: The U.S. has among the lowest tax rates for an advanced industrial economy. BuzzFlash: How come so many salaries and bonuses for CEOs have grown to such enormous amounts, regardless - in many cases - of their performance on the job? Chuck Collins: The problem of runaway CEO pay has been alarming for twenty years. In 1980, the gap between highest and average paid workers in a company was about 42 to one. Today, it is over 300 to one. Excessive pay to top managers promotes a very short-term outlook, encouraging CEOs to do whatever it takes to boost their share price for the next quarter. It provides a disincentive for long-term company health and growth. Wall Street’s culture of greed has wrecked our economy. Most ordinary taxpayers don’t know we subsidize excessive pay – by allowing corporations to deduct bloated pay packages. Our group supports legislation to limit the deductibility of excessive CEO pay, such as the Income Equity Act introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee. BuzzFlash: How can individual Americans concerned about economic justice take action? Chuck Collins: In the next two years, there will be many opportunities to push back against the economic policies that worsened inequality. We have a President who understands the corrosive impact of inequality on people and communities. Folks should sign up for action alerts at www.extremeinequality.org. We send out a monthly round-up of timely actions and activities. BuzzFlash: Are you optimistic that we will be moving toward economic justice in the coming years? Chuck Collins: Yes. There is a growing mobilized sector of society that want a healthy and fair economy. We’ve seen the disaster of an economy organized around funneling wealth to the top. We all have a stake in an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy. Some positive signs of the times: Some wealthy folks and business leaders agree that things are out of balance. Business for Shared Prosperity was formed to mobilize business leaders to support increases in the minimum wage. The newly formed Wealth for the Common Good brings together wealthy individuals and business leaders to support rebalancing the tax system. BuzzFlash interview conducted by Mark Karlin.Have a nice day. Suzan __________________________