Saturday, May 2, 2009

Spectre Wins (Presently) But Schechter Triumphs By Exposing Bankster Plans

Can your heart stand the pressure of knowing the truth about the insiders' view of the "Bankster Power Scandal?" Danny Schechter hopes so and he enumerates the ways the citizenry has been yanked back and forth by media misrepresentations (and their Congressional representatives) as to what is really going on with your money (and your future). Only the strong need read on. (That means you.)

Last week, a Zogby poll found that a majority of the public believes the press made things worse by reporting on the economic collapse. Not only is that blaming the messenger, it also overlooks the fact that much of the media was complicit in the crisis by not covering the forces that caused the collapse when it might have done some good. . . . Usually, the people who pull the strings stay in the background to avoid too much public exposure. They rely on lobbyists to do their bidding. They prefer to work in the shadows. They may back certain politicians, but coming from a world of credit default swaps as they do, they hedge their bets by putting money on all the horses. They have so much influence because they have been reengineering the American economy for decades through "financialization," a process by which banks and financial institutions gradually came to dominate economic and political decision-making. Kevin Phillips, a one time Reagan advisor and commentator, says our deepest problem is "the ascendancy of finance in national policymaking (as well as in the gross domestic product), and the complicity of politicians who really don't want to talk about it." . . . The team of Tim Geithner and Larry Summers has been carrying Wall Street's water as Robert Rubin did before them. No wonder that Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder told the Street last February, "We're not going to go on any witch hunts." That was before we learned that Wall Street forced US regulators to delay the release of stress test results for the country's 19 biggest banks until next Thursday, because some of the lenders objected to government demands that they needed to raise more capital. They are trying to rig the results. That was also before the public learned of the obscenely huge bonuses the firms benefiting from the TARP bailout were shelling out to their executives. That was before we saw how the bankers with help from Democrats, including new convert Arlen Spector, managed to kill a bill to help homeowners stop foreclosures. . . . In this past week, we also saw how a few hedge funds undermined the attempt to save Chrysler from bankruptcy by holding out for more money even after the unions and big banks agreed to compromise to save jobs. The President was furious but apparently powerless: "A group of investment firms and hedge funds decided to hold out for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout," Obama said. "They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices, and they would have to make none. Some demanded twice the return that other lenders were getting." Explains the blog Naked Capitalism, "the banksters are eagerly, shamelessly, and openly harvesting their pound of flesh from financially stressed average taxpayers, and setting off a chain reaction in the auto industry which has the very real risk of creating even larger scale unemployment than the economy already faces. It's reckless, utterly irresponsible, over-the-top greed." . . . "The Senate on Thursday rejected an effort to stave off home foreclosures by a vote of 51 to 45. It was an overwhelming defeat, with the bill's backers falling 15 votes short - a quarter of the Democratic caucus - of the 60 needed to cut off debate and move to a final vote. Across the United States, the measure is estimated to have been able to prevent 1.69 million foreclosures and preserve $300 billion in home equity." Commented the Center for Responsible Lending, "Instead of defending ordinary Americans, the majority of Senators went with the banks. Yes, the same banks who have benefited so richly from the TARP bailout." . . . Will they be allowed to get away with it? A "captured" Congress is doing their bidding. There is no doubt that class antagonism is stewing, says the editor of the blog. He expressed a fear of a reaction that will go way beyond flag-waving tea parties. . . . "... I am concerned this behavior is setting the stage for another sort of extra-legal measure: violence. I have been amazed at the vitriol directed at the banking classes. Suggestions for punishment have included the guillotine (frequent), hanging, pitchforks, even burning at the stake. Tar and feathering appears inadequate, and stoning hasn't yet surfaced as an idea. And mind you, my readership is educated, older, typically well-off (even if less so than three years ago). The fuse has to be shorter where the suffering is more acute." One is reminded of the title of that movie, "There will be blood." Rather than show contrition or compassion for its own victims, Wall Street is hoping to jack up its salaries and bonuses to pre-2007 levels. The men at the top are oblivious to the pain they helped cause. And so far, they've only occasionally been scolded by politicians that have mostly enabled, coddled, bankrolled, funded, rewarded, and genuflected to their power. Wall Street's behavior may be predictable, but how can we account for the silence of so many organizations that should be out there organizing the outrage that is building? Knock, Knock, Obama supporters, bloggers, trade unionists, out of work workers and fellow Americans. Will we fight back or roll over? Pitchforks anyone?
Read the whole sorry story here by a courageous and gifted writer. William Rivers Pitt, on the other hand is into comedy. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
As the news of Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic Party rolled across the news waves yesterday, I kept hearing Bill Murray from the movie "Meatballs" in my head: "It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter!" Which is not entirely true, of course. The fallout after Specter woke up on the left side of the bed on Tuesday has been entirely entertaining, largely hilarious and just significant enough to warrant a little serious attention ... but that's just politics, which is also the entire reason Specter jumped. "I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans," claimed Specter, but that's a lot of hooey; as a Republican, Specter consistently supported several of the most extreme right-wing pieces of legislation ever presented before the Senate. No, Specter flipped for one simple reason: He was facing an insurmountable primary challenge from his right flank, in the guise of conservative House member and former Club For Growth president Pat Toomey. Down by double digits in the polls, Specter did the simple math, figured his chances of re-election were far stronger if he campaigned under the Democratic banner, and ran into the waiting arms of his colleagues across the ideological aisle. For the GOP and its supporters, the defection brings yet another shock to an already decimated Republican system; this was rough news for them and no mistake about it. A parade of long Republican faces and clenched Republican jaws have been marching across television screen since the announcement to denounce Specter, the Democrats, President Obama, and pretty much anything else that came into their sight. "A lot of people said, well Specter, take McCain with you, and his daughter," growled Rush Limbaugh after the news came out. RNC Chairman Michael Steel said in a statement, "Let's be honest. Senator Specter didn't leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record." With Specter's departure, goes the media refrain, the last vestiges of so-called "moderate" Republicanism are on the verge of being swept away entirely. But is Arlen Specter actually a moderate, and does his departure actually change anything? "Consider Specter's most significant votes over the last eight years," wrote Salon's Glenn Greenwald on Tuesday, "Ones cast in favor of such definitive right-wing measures as: the war on Iraq, the Military Commissions Act, Patriot Act renewal, confirmation of virtually every controversial Bush appointee, retroactive telecom immunity, warrantless eavesdropping expansions, and Bush tax cuts (several times). Time and again during the Bush era, Specter stood with Republicans on the most controversial and consequential issues." "Arlen Specter," continued Greenwald, "is one of the worst, most soul-less, most belief-free individuals in politics. The moment most vividly illustrating what Specter is: prior to the vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, he went to the floor of the Senate and said what the bill 'seeks to do is set back basic rights by some 900 years' and is 'patently unconstitutional on its face.' He then proceeded to vote YES on the bill's passage." Specter's ideological inconsistency even extends to the act of switching parties, as evidenced by his reaction when James Jeffords (I-Vermont) dumped the GOP in 2001 and briefly handed majority control of the Senate to the Democrats. "Specter said then-Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords' decision to become an independent was disruptive to the functioning of Congress," reported The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "He proposed a rule forbidding party switches that had the effect of vaulting the minority to majority status in the middle of a congressional session. 'If somebody wants to change parties, they can do that,' Specter said at the time. 'But that kind of instability is not good for governance of the country and the Senate.'" Pretty funny stuff right there. The supposedly big deal for Democrats is the fact that, once Al Franken finally wends his way past Republican roadblocks and takes his Minnesota Senate seat, the addition of Specter to the Democratic caucus lifts their majority to the much-ballyhooed number 60, which is the number of votes needed to thwart GOP filibusters and pass legislation unimpeded. This would seem to be an important victory for the Democrats - for the first time in 30 years, one party controls the White House and Congress with a supermajority in the Senate - but really, it's just a little more theater for the masses to enjoy and the media to misinterpret. "While the move would create what is likely to be the Senate's 60th Democratic vote, potentially enough to withstand Republican filibusters," reported The Boston Globe on Wednesday, "it would not necessarily change the chamber's legislative dynamics. Democratic successes at expanding their caucus have made it less unified ideologically, and Specter - one of only three Republicans in Congress to back Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus bill - said he expected to defy his new party as readily as he did his old one." Thus, the idea that Democrats have achieved some lofty threshold of power is almost entirely chimerical; Specter is no more likely to caucus with the Democrats just because he is one than he was likely to caucus with the GOP back when he had an "R" after his last name. Even if Specter took some kind of blood oath to always provide that 60th vote for the Democratic caucus, the threshold itself is largely a media/right-wing confabulation. For decades, the filibuster was considered a weapon of last resort; the use or threatened use usually only came into play when the Senate had a controversial Supreme Court nominee up for consideration. During George W. Bush's Reign of Error, the Republican-controlled Congress was able to pass all kinds of insanely anti-constitutional legislation between 2002 and 2006 needing just a simple majority to win, because the Democrats never took the filibuster club out of their bag. Only when majority power in Congress changed hands after the '06 midterms did the filibuster become a daily part of governance on Capitol Hill, because the GOP used it against everything that moved. The news media, with its absolute lack of context and inability to remember anything more than a day old, has acted and spoken ever since with the incorrect idea that only a 60-vote majority can get anything done in the Senate. This is simply nonsense. No, the Democrats have had the power to pass just about whatever they want with 51 votes ever since 2006, but have only recently begun to make noises about doing so now that health care reform is on the table. President Obama, unwilling to deal with the 60-vote-threshold fiction, is pushing his allies in the Senate to do away with the rules that give a 41-member minority the power to gum up the works. Senate Democrats could have done this three years ago, and adding Specter to the equation does not change that arithmetic one bit. Besides, what does it say about a Democratic Party that is so willing to embrace a former Republican who has voted with the far right on so many occasions? "The idea that Specter is a 'liberal' Republican or even a 'moderate' reflects how far to the Right both the GOP and our overall political spectrum has shifted," continued Glenn Greenwald on Tuesday. "Reports today suggest that Democratic officials promised Specter that the party establishment would support him, rather than a real Democrat, in a primary. If true, few events more vividly illustrate the complete lack of core beliefs of Democratic leaders, as well as the rapidly diminishing differences between the parties. Why would Democrats want a full-blooded Republican representing them in the blue state of Pennsylvania? Specter is highly likely to reprise the Joe Lieberman role for Democrats: a 'Democrat' who leads the way in criticizing and blocking Democratic initiatives, forcing the party still further towards Republican policies." Senators Bayh, McCaskill, Nelson, Lieberman and now Specter represent a core problem within the ranks of the Democratic majority in the Senate. These individuals amount to a cadre of faux-"centrists" who have been, and likely will continue to be, the main line of resistance against Obama's legislative agenda and the improved welfare of the American people. They are the ones most empowered when everyone inaccurately believes the Democrats need 60 votes to pass anything. The annihilation of this fiction will go a long way toward removing these obstacles from the path of progress. Let them vote their consciences, if they have such a thing, without allowing them to hold the entire process hostage.
Not really so funny now is it? Read the rest here. And put your head between your legs . . . . Suzan ________________________

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