Friday, October 30, 2015

Homeless? (Republican Debate Boobs/Train Wreck)  Bob (CIA) Woodward Encourages Paul Ryan's Assaults on Our Poor and Elderly  (“Obama’s Wars:” The Real Story Bob Woodward Won’t Tell)  Carly Fiorina Is a Poster Child for the Powerful (You Have Not Seen a Real Refugee Crisis) Bet You'd Like To Know How Many Trillions the Banksters Ran Off With   (Think Bob Rubin!)  Hastert Hushes It Down  (Glass-Steagall Big Lie)

Why Richard Gere's "homeless" photo went viral: It's more common — and closer to home — than we like to think
Why Richard Gere’s “Homeless” Photo Went Viral:  It’s More Common — and Closer to Home — Than We Like to Think

“When I went undercover in New York City as a homeless man, no one noticed me. I felt what it was like to be a homeless man. People would just past by me and look at me in disgrace. Only one lady was kind enough to give me some food. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”

To date, the image has received 1.55 million likes on Facebook and has been shared over 640,000 times.

There were also hundreds of comments, many of them confessional, including the phrase:  “I was homeless for a while…” After reading them, it’s difficult to avoid the impression that homelessness is not only a lot more common than many realize, but the kind of person who becomes homeless increasingly seems to be, well, ordinary.

Hillary Clinton Hasn't Learned a Thing From Iraq

. . . Clinton did end up supporting the administration's Iran nuclear deal, but her support came with a history of bellicose baggage.
Back in 2008, for example, she warned that Washington could "totally obliterate" Iran. During that presidential campaign, she chided Obama as "naïve" and "irresponsible" for wanting to engage the country diplomatically.
Even after the nuclear agreement was sealed, she struck a bullying tone: "I don't believe Iran is our partner in this agreement," Clinton insisted. "Iran is the subject of the agreement." She added that she "won't hesitate to take military action" if it falls through.
Contrast Clinton with the more moderate Secretary of State John Kerry. It's no wonder Obama's two signature foreign policy achievements - the Iran deal and the groundbreaking opening of diplomatic ties with Cuba - came after Clinton left.
There was a very telling moment about Clinton's attitude during the debate when Cooper asked, "Which enemy are you most proud of?"
Alongside the NRA, Republicans, and health insurance companies, Clinton listed "the Iranians" - which could mean either the Iranian government or the nation's 78 million people. In either case, it wasn't a very diplomatic thing to say while her successor and former colleagues are trying to chart a new, more cooperative relationship with Iran.

When it comes to war and peace, it might not matter too much if a Republican or Hillary Clinton wins the White House. In either case, the winner will be the military-industrial complex President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about.

Republican Debate Train Wreck

When it came to one issue that Rubio is vulnerable on – his wildly regressive tax plan that completely undermines his middle-class-man-of-the-people message – John Harwood got railroaded by Rubio, who insisted his plan was “pro-growth” and even boasted that he would eliminate taxes on investments. That probably would have been a good time for Harwood to point out that zeroing out taxes on capital gains is a massive windfall for the super wealthy, who draw most of their income from investments, but he passed.
As for the rest of the field, there weren’t many surprises. John Kasich kicked off the debate by reiterating his complaint that candidates like Ben Carson and Donald Trump are ridiculous clowns, and then largely disappeared for the remainder of the event. Rand Paul was a nonentity, Christie got a couple of shouty tough-guy moments in, and Huckabee popped off some folksy zingers. Carly Fiorina spent the evening sermonizing about the evils of government without ever veering into specifics. Ben Carson somnambulated through the night and made clear that his grasp of complex economic issues is tenuous at best. Trump was Trump – nothing you haven’t seen before.
With Rubio and Cruz turning in solid performances, you could sort of start to see how the contours of the race might eventually take shape. Right now you have Jeb barely hanging on as the establishment favorite in the race, while Trump and Carson have the hearts and minds of the “outsider” bloc of voters. All three are, to varying degrees, weak candidates:  Jeb doesn’t seem to even know why he’s in the race, Carson’s campaign is an elaborate fundraising scam, and Trump is a blowhard and obvious bullshit artist. If you assume that all three will eventually collapse, then establishmentarian Rubio and “outsider” Cruz are well-positioned to pick up their support networks.
Of course, that assumes Trump’s support will collapse or Jeb will pull the plug anytime soon. Even if they don’t, tonight’s terrible debate helped clarify who the serious candidates are.

The Man Who Warned Us About Donald Trump, "Fox News" and the Rise of the Idiocracy

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Speaking of the current Idiocracy . . .

The Republican debate last night unveiled the nakedness of the self-serving thought processes surrounding the policies urged on the poor USA USA USA!!!!  (Always more tax breaks for the rich and deep blood-letting cuts in programs and services that provide very little aid already to the middle classes and the poor.)

The question was extremely substantive. Carson's answer was laughably vague. The problem here isn't that Carson was asked whether he can do math, but that he couldn't show that his tax plan was based on sound math. And that's because it isn't.
As for the question to Kasich, he was asked about a speech he gave on Tuesday calling his rivals' proposals "crazy." As the New York Times reported, Kasich argued "that Republicans who proposed abolishing Medicaid and Medicare, imposing a 10 percent flat tax, or deporting millions of people were out of touch with reality."
Kasich is right about all that, by the way. And while the question was, as Cruz said, an invitation to attack some of the other candidates, it was keyed to a substantive debate about some very strange policy ideas.
Meanwhile, Cruz himself was also asked a substantive question. The moderators asked why he was opposing a bipartisan budget deal that would avert a debt ceiling crisis, a Medicare crisis, and a Social Security Disability Insurance crisis. Rather than answer that question, he attacked the moderators for refusing to ask substantive questions, during which he pretended a slew of unusually substantive questions were trivial political attacks.
Cruz's strategy was smart, and he was arguably the debate's big winner. But it bespoke a deeper weakness. Republicans have boxed themselves into some truly bizarre policies — including a set of tax cuts that give so much money to the rich, and blow such huge holes in the deficit, that simply asking about them in any serious way seems like a vicious attack. Assailing the media is a good way to try to dodge those questions for a little while, but it won't work over the course of a long campaign.

They Knew There Would Be No Nuremberg for Them

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Our favorite CIA undercover journalist, Bob Woodward, has not slowed down a beat from putting the slam on real patriots.

Not yet anyway.

Bob Woodward Gushes Praise For Paul Ryan's Assault On The Poor
. . . Some people just depress the hell out of you because you've watched them sell out to the Republican-led Corporatocracy that America has become. One of the journalistic heroes of the Nixon Era, Bob Woodward, is now a stooge for the Republican Party and has been one of the most vehemently anti-Obama pundits out there, expecting him to magically fix problems that are only to be solved by a GOP Congress.

On Fox News Sunday, Woodward called Ryan a “true conservative” who “vibrates reasonableness.”
. . . Since we are on Fox 'News,' no one asks exactly what these big ideas are and who will suffer the most as a result of his bold plans.
Woodward truly thinks that Ryan wants to 'fix the government' by reforming entitlement spending. Fixing the government by hurting the poor is hardly considered a solution for millions of Americans who will suffer from his bold ideas. Reforming entitlement spending is code for cutting funds allocated to those who are most in need, it does not help the efficacy of government.
There are many others who beg to differ that this a moment to be optimistic. Solid progressives absolutely disagree that Ryan's plans for entitlements and tax policy are 'refreshing,' or even the least bit financially sound or fair for Americans. Robert Greenstein believes that this Ryan's allegedly bold plan for 'entitlement reform' is anything but the "Path for Prosperity" he claimed it to be.

Affluent Americans would do quite well. But for tens of millions of others, the Ryan plan is a path to more adversity.

Greenstein was the Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Carter as well as the man appointed by President Clinton in 1994 to serve on the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform and headed the federal budget policy component of the transition team for President Obama. Ryan budget is thus an exercise in obfuscation — failing to specify trillions of dollars that it would need in tax savings and budget cuts to make its numbers add up. No one should take seriously its claim to balance the budget in ten years.
It’s also an exercise in hypocrisy — claiming to boost opportunity and reduce poverty while flagrantly doing the reverse. Here’s just one example:   Ryan has criticized some of the poor for not working enough and says that he wants to promote work and opportunity. But his budget eliminates Pell Grants entirely for low-income students who have families to support, must work, and are attending school less than half time on top of their jobs.
You're not alone if you are wondering who funds Woodward these days. Eric Boehlert raised a good point a few years ago that it isn't Liberals. Liberals certainly do not subscribe to the ridiculous cult of Paul Ryan as the savior of the GOP. This Emperor has no clothes, but Bob Woodward thinks he's dressed to the nines.
How did America’s Nixon-era, “journalistic hero” become so un-cool? Go here for some "WhoWhatWhy" deep background. And if you haven’t yet, be sure to read this on Watergate, from Russ Baker’s Family of Secrets, where Woodward’s true colors really come out.

When a conservative says they want to "fix government" it always means get rid of Social Security Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, student loans, unemployment...anything that helps actual real people must be eliminated while also passing giant tax cuts for rich people and corporations, but of course we have ALL the money in the world for the DoD and wars, but nothing for veterans. That goes without saying.

"Entitlement programs" - things you pay into for your entire working life as a form of insurance, and for which you should legitimately expect to get a return on for your contributions.

So what happens to all that contributed money that would no longer be distributed among its shareholders?

Well - I understand Iran needs bombing...

They never run on the destruction of either program, but their "fixes," privatizing chief among them, are highly destructive.

Precisely. Not a single word out of his mouth in the last ten years has been anything .... anything but centrist-right, both-sides dribble, and his cadence … I'm sorry, but he seems incapable of thinking quickly. Absolute Chauncey Gardiner-esque luckiest journalist who has ever lived.

What's happening in our society has a fairly simple psychological explanation.

On one side we are the "haves." The "haves" benefit from all that society has to offer and see society through the prism of special privilege. The daily vagaries of the "have nots" are completely alien to them as they have no correlate in their own lives with which to compare them, making empathy for the plight of the less well off members of society difficult.

On the other side we have the "have-nots." "Have-nots" find themselves dealing with shrinking wages, job exports, and a greatly reduced social safety net in an environment of increasing hostility toward those who are forced by circumstances beyond their control to rely on it. For their pains they are pejoratively dubbed by the haves as "moochers" and "takers."

The "haves" and the "have nots" don't mix socially, and indeed, seldom, if ever, find themselves in a forum favorable to examining the issues from both sides. The media don't help in this. The "haves" have a voice piece, the MSM, which addresses the problems and solutions facing America solely in terms of ideas which benefit the "haves", even though the "have-nots" are by far numerically superior to the haves and in any true democratic process would have a larger, not smaller, voice than the haves.

There is a name for this - aristocracy. The aristocracy benefits only indirectly from policy, however, by virtue of being above the line beneath which one is reliant of the safety net or the real and dread fear thereof. The true beneficiaries are the ones truly controlling the political process - the oligarchs - comprised of veritable handfuls of multi-national corporations whose goals are at cross-purposes, not just with the interests of the poor, but with the sovereign interests of the nation.

Anyone who thinks Paul Ryan has the answers to anything has totally lost it as far as I'm concerned. All other industrialized nations do far, far better by their citizens than this one does in terms of healthcare, education, economics etc. Paul Ryan's solutions would take us back several centuries. As far as Woodward is concerned, I lost any respect I had for him back in the 70s decades ago.

"Bob Woodward, what has happened to you?"

He sold out and got fabulously rich. Now he sides with Nixon's associates.

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“Obama’s Wars:”  The Real Story Bob Woodward Won’t Tell

Just one year before the publication of “Obama’s Wars,” Bob Woodward became a player in his own book-in-progress. He morphed into his true identity: Warrior Bob. Actually, there’s an even deeper persona, Agent Woodward — but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

In June of 2009, Woodward traveled to Afghanistan with General Jim Jones, President Obama’s National Security adviser, to meet with General Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of forces there. Why did Jones allow this journalist to accompany him? Because Jones knew that Woodward could be counted on to deliver the company line — the military line. In fact, Jones was essentially Woodward’s patron.

The "New Republic"'s Gabriel Sherman wrote at the time that

… Jones was a guest of Woodward at his wife Elsa Walsh’s fiftieth birthday party held at Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee’s house. He and Elsa were glued to Jones at the cocktail party before the dinner started…

In September of last year, McChrystal (or someone close to him) leaked to Woodward a document that essentially forced President Obama’s hand. Obama wanted time to consider all options on what to do about Afghanistan. But the leak, publicizing the military’s “confidential” assertion that a troop increase was essential, cast the die, and Obama had to go along. Nobody was happier than the Pentagon—and, it should be said, its allies in the vast military contracting establishment.

The website "Firedoglake" chronicled the developments in a pungent essay:

Apparently General McChrystal and the Petraeus cabal aren’t willing to wait for their Commander in Chief to set the strategy. Prior to the President’s interviews, McChrystal’s people were already telling journalists that they were “impatient with Obama” as Nancy Youssef reported. This “Power Play,” as I mentioned last night, included a veiled threat that McChrystal would resign if he didn’t get his way.
And sure enough, just hours after the Commander in Chief was on the airwaves, somehow McChrystal’s classified report hit the "Washington Post" … compliments of Bob Woodward no less.
Wow, what a coincidence!
This episode highlights a crucial aspect of Bob Woodward’s career that has been ignored by most of the media. Simply put, Woodward is the military’s man, and always has been.

For almost four decades, under cover of his supposedly “objective” reporting, Woodward has represented the viewpoints of the military and intelligence establishments. Often he has done so in the context of complex inside maneuvering of which he gives his readers little clue. He did it with the book Veil, about CIA director William Casey, in which he relied on Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, a rival of Casey’s, as his key source. (Inman, from Texas, was closely identified with the Bush faction of the CIA.) The book was based in part on a “deathbed interview” with Casey that Casey’s widow and former CIA guards said never took place.

Typically, Woodward uses information he gets from his main sources to gain access to others. He then gets more secrets from them, and so on down the line.  His stature — if that’s the word — as a repository of this inside dope has been key to the relentless success machine that his media colleagues have perpetuated. The "New York Times" review of his Obama book laid out the formula:

In Obama’s Wars, Mr. Woodward, as usual, eschews analysis and commentary. Instead, he hews to his I Am a Tape Recorder technique, using his insider access to give readers interested in inside-the-Beltway politics lots of granular detail harvested from interviews conducted on background, as well as leaked memos, meeting notes and other documents.

Some of this information is revealing about the interplay of personality and policy and politics in Washington; some of it is just self-serving spin. As he’s done in his earlier books, Mr. Woodward acknowledges that attributions of thoughts, conclusions or feelings to a person were in some cases not obtained directly from that person, but from notes or from a colleague whom the person told — a questionable but increasingly popular method, which means the reader should take the reconstructed scenes with a grain of salt.
And then, thanks to all this attention, and even with that grain of salt, the book went to #1.

But might there be more to Woodward and his oeuvre than just questionable work practices? Well, let’s see. Woodward granted former CIA director George H.W. Bush a pass by excluding him from accounts of Iran-Contra, which occurred while the notorious intriguer was vice president under the notoriously hands-off Ronald Reagan. (When I asked Woodward about this for my book Family of Secrets, he replied, “Bush was … What was it he said at the time? I was out of the loop?”)

Later Woodward got exclusive access to H.W.’s son. He spent more time with George W. Bush than did any other journalist, writing several largely sympathetic books about his handling of Iraq and Afghanistan before playing catch-up with prevailing sentiment and essentially reversing course.

Now, for a bit of cognitive dissonance. Woodward’s signature achievement - bringing down Richard Nixon - turns out not to be what we all thought. If that comes as a surprise, you have missed a few books, including bestsellers, that put pieces of this puzzle together. (Family of Secrets has several chapters on the real Watergate story, but there are others that present detailed information, including those by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, James Rosen, Jim Hougan and others.)

Here’s the deal:  Bob, top secret Naval officer, gets sent to work in the Nixon White House while still on military duty. Then, with no journalistic credentials to speak of, and with a boost from White House staffers, he lands a job at the "Washington Post." Not long thereafter he starts to take down Richard Nixon. Meanwhile, Woodward’s military bosses are running a spy ring inside the White House that is monitoring Nixon and Kissinger’s secret negotiations with America’s enemies (China, Soviet Union, etc), stealing documents and funneling them back to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They then give what they stole to columnist Jack Anderson and others in the press.

That’s not the iconic Woodward of legend, of course — so it takes a while for this notion to settle in the mind.  But there’s more — and it’s even more troubling. Did you know there was really no Deep Throat, that the Mark Felt story was conjured up as yet another layer of cover in what became a daisy chain of disinformation? Did you know that Richard Nixon was loathed and feared by the military brass, that they and their allies were desperate to get Nixon out and halt his rapprochement with the Communists?  That a bunch of operatives with direct or indirect CIA/military connections, from E. Howard Hunt to Alexander Butterfield to John Dean — wormed their way into key White House posts, and started up the Keystone Kops operations that would be laid at Nixon’s office door?

Believe me, I understand. It sounds like the “conspiracy theory” stuff that we have been trained to dismiss. But I’ve just spent five years on a heavily documented forensic dig into this missing strata of American history, and I myself have had to come to terms with the enormous gap between reality and the “reality” presented by the media and various establishment gatekeepers who tell us what’s what.

Given this complicity, it’s no surprise that when it comes to Woodward’s latest work, the myth-making machine is on auto pilot. The public, of course, will end up as confused and manipulated as ever. And so things will continue, same as they ever were. Endless war, no substantive reforms. Unless we wake up to our own victimhood.

Image Credit:  (

Robert Reich | Carly Fiorina Is a Poster Child for the Powerful

27 October 15
arly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and now among the front-runners in the Republican primary, has an essay in this morning’s Wall Street Journal in which she blames Obama and Hillary Clinton for widening inequality. “People at the top seem to be doing just fine …. in the period 2009-2012, 95% of the gains went to the top 1%.” Her explanation:  “because big government only works for big business, the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected."
Her premise is wrong, of course (inequality took off in the 1980s under Reagan, and Republicans have done everything in their power to keep it widening since then). But it's also an odd argument for Ms. Fiorina -- who’s the poster child for big business, the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected. Last year her former company, Hewlett-Packard, spent $5,179,818 on lobbying, mostly to reduce its tax bill, and donated over $1 million to political campaigns and parties, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Ms. Fiorina herself contributed more than $5.7 million to her failed Senate campaign in 2010, and counts among her major backers hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo.
Fiorina doesn’t propose getting big money out of politics, reversing “Citizens United,” public financing of elections, or even disclosing the sources of all campaign funding. All she wants is a “smaller government,” which, presumably, means one that does absolutely nothing for anyone other than big business, the powerful, the wealthy, and the well-connected.
What do you think?

Wondering why everything's taking off now (at least with regards to the again-roaring-for-no-real-reason stock market with its accompanying casino credit speculation)?

Could be this:

We have already discussed in the past in this space, the topic of financialization. But seeing as how the stock market keeps rallying while the economic statistics have remained for the most part, punk, time to revisit the issue once again. Is it all simply FED or no FED? Or is the interest-rate issue ground zero and/or purely symptomatic of the triumph of financialization over the real economy?
Further urged to revisit the topic by the seemingly contradictory developments of the ECB banks reportedly humming along nicely while trade between Asia and Europe remains obviously, significantly crimped.
Let’s make this plain English because it takes too much energy to interpret most of what is written on the topic.
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Ian Welsh

Posted: 27 Oct 2015  
Refugee Crisis?

You have yet to see a real refugee crisis.
Rising global temperatures could push the sun-baked cities of the Persian Gulf across a threshold unknown since the start of civilization: the first to experience temperatures that are literally too hot for human survival.
It will be WORSE in many parts of the tropics.  Humidity increases effective heat.
Habitats, or refugees.

Really, both.

This is the level of stupid we have engaged in.

People rag on about how bad Communism was, how many deaths it caused, but they never properly add up capitalism’s deaths.  These, however, will make capitalism anathema to our children.  They will consider us insane and worse than insane: psychopaths who knew what they were doing when they condemned a billion or more people to death, billions to impoverishment and did it anyway, for little more than greed.

The U.S. Is Still Stonewalling an Independent Review of Why It Bombed a Hospital

Dennis Hastert Pleads Guilty in Hush-Money Case

The brief hearing revealed no new details about why Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to an unidentified person. The payments were allegedly intended to conceal past misconduct by the Illinois Republican, but prosecutors have never explained the nature of the wrongdoing.

The Associated Press and other media, citing anonymous sources, have reported that the payments were meant to hide claims of sexual misconduct from decades ago.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors were expected to drop a charge that Hastert violated federal banking laws.

. . . Hastert was speaker for eight years — longer than any other Republican. He also parlayed his connections into a lucrative lobbying career after leaving Congress in 2007.

. . . Known as a savvy deal maker in Congress, Hastert and his attorneys negotiated the plea deal in recent weeks, avoiding a trial that could have divulged embarrassing secrets dating back to his days as a high-school wrestling coach.

No illegalities allowed by these upstanding guys here.

Err . . . none reported anyway!

The "New York Times" Invented a Big Lie About Glass-Steagall, and Then Obama Told It, and Now Hillary . . .

A funny thing happened in 2012 after Andrew Ross Sorkin, a financial writer at the New York Times, wrote his spectacularly false narrative telling readers that the repeal of Glass-Steagall Act had nothing to do with the crash because problem firms like Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG didn’t own insured commercial banks — which would have been prohibited under the Glass Steagall Act, had it not been repealed in 1999. In fact, all three of the firms did, indeed, own banks insured by the FDIC at the time of the crash.

We figured that Sorkin had just made an error, or, well, three monster errors, so we wrote to his editor. We heard nothing. We wrote to the "New York Times" public editor who is supposed to uphold the integrity of the paper. Nothing. We wrote to the publisher. Nothing. To this very day, the errors remain in the Sorkin article. When the so-called paper of record allows three outrageously wrong errors to persist as fact, it doesn’t look like sloppy journalism, it looks like a conspiracy to deny the public an honest narrative.

Sorkin’s lie has since been regurgitated by two other writers at the "New York Times:"  Paul Krugman and William Cohan. The lie has also spread to President Obama and Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, as a cover for why they won’t buck Wall Street and work to reinstate this critically needed legislation as Senators Elizabeth Warren, John McCain, Bernie Sanders and dozens of others in Congress are demanding. Marcy Kaptur’s legislation in the House of Representatives to restore the Glass-Steagall Act has 67 cosponsors.

The "New York Times" seems disingenuous at best and conspiratorial at worst:  admitting in an editorial that it blew it big time in advocating for the repeal of Glass-Steagall while hiding in the wings as its writers are allowed to push a false narrative that the "New York Times" refuses to correct.
The editorial page editors wrote on July 26, 2012:
“While we are on this subject, add "The New York Times" editorial page to the list of the converted. We forcefully advocated the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. ‘Few economic historians now find the logic behind Glass-Steagall persuasive,’  one editorial said in 1988. Another, in 1990, said that the notion that ‘banks and stocks were a dangerous mixture’ ‘makes little sense now.’
“That year, we also said that the Glass-Steagall Act was one of two laws that ‘stifle commercial banks.’
“Having seen the results of this sweeping deregulation, we now think we were wrong to have supported it.”
Last week, the opinion page of the "Bloomberg News" operation joined the factually-challenged chorus. Paula Dwyer wrote about the financial crash in 2008:
“Here the main actors were Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley — all free-standing investment banks with no commercial banking units. Again, Glass-Steagall played no role.”
What is particularly preposterous about this is that almost everyone on Wall Street knew that Lehman Brothers for years prior to the crash had been peddling insured certificates of deposits from its banking unit in order to raise cheap cash. Surely someone at the vast Wall Street news and data gathering behemoth known as Bloomberg L.P. should have spotted this obvious error.
Lehman Brothers owned two FDIC insured banks, Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB and Lehman Brothers Commercial Bank. Together, they held $17.2 billion in assets as of June 30, 2008, 75 days before Lehman went belly up. Merrill Lynch owned three FDIC insured banks. At a conference held at the National Press Club in 2003, Merrill Senior VP, John Qua, talked about Merrill’s sprawling bank empire:
“Merrill Lynch conducts banking in the United States through two depository institutions – Merrill Lynch Bank USA, a Utah industrial loan corporation; and Merrill Lynch Bank and Trust, a New Jersey state non-member bank. We also own a federal savings bank that offers personal trust services to our clients. And we conduct significant banking activities outside the United States through banks in London, Dublin, Switzerland, and elsewhere. The combined balance sheet of our global banks is approximately $100 billion.”
Bear Stearns owned Bear Stearns Bank Ireland, which was swallowed up by JPMorgan after Bear Stearns collapsed in March 2008. JPMorgan noted in 2012: “It is the only EU passported bank in the non-bank chain of JPMorgan and provides the firm with direct access to the European Central Bank repo window. It has also been added to the JPMorgan Jumbo issuance programs to issue structured securities for distribution outside the United States.”
Morgan Stanley, with its thousands of stock brokers, owned the Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Bank , also insured by the FDIC, and now renamed the Morgan Stanley Bank, National Association. As of June 30, 2015, this insured bank has $126.6 billion in assets, according to the FDIC.
The only firm that Paula Dwyer got right was Goldman Sachs. But today, Goldman has jumped on the bandwagon with its own insured bank, Goldman Sachs Bank USA with $122.6 billion in assets.
There’s a quick and simple way to blow a mile wide hole through all of these false narratives. As the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported and Senator Elizabeth Warren stated in the Senate Banking Committee on March 3 of this year, Citigroup (the largest insured bank in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of assets), Merrill Lynch (which owned insured banks) and Morgan Stanley (also owner of an insured bank) required a cumulative total of more than $6 trillion in secret loan assistance from the Federal Reserve during the financial crash. Warren stated:
“During the financial crisis, Congress bailed out the big banks with hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money; and that’s a lot of money. But the biggest money for the biggest banks was never voted on by Congress. Instead, between 2007 and 2009, the Fed provided over $13 trillion in emergency lending to just a handful of large financial institutions. That’s nearly 20 times the amount authorized in the TARP bailout.
“Now, let’s be clear, those Fed loans were a bailout too. Nearly all the money went to too-big-to-fail institutions. For example, in one emergency lending program, the Fed put out $9 trillion and over two-thirds of the money went to just three institutions: Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch.
“Those loans were made available at rock bottom interest rates – in many cases under 1 percent. And the loans could be continuously rolled over so they were effectively available for an average of about two years.”
Citigroup, not Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers, was the institution that first undermined confidence on Wall Street and set the crisis in motion. That fact is underscored by the documentation from the GAO that Citigroup began its secret loans from the Fed on December 1, 2007 and they continued through at least July 21, 2010, aggregating to a total of $2.513 trillion. Bear Stearns didn’t fail until March of 2008 followed by Lehman on September 15, 2008.
The Federal Reserve, the very institution that allowed the merger of Citibank with an insurance company (Travelers Group), an investment bank (Salomon Brothers), a retail stock brokerage firm (Smith Barney) and 2,000 operating subsidiaries in 1998 to form Citigroupin violation of the Glass-Steagall Act and the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 which, respectively, barred banks from merging with securities firms and insurance companies from merging with insured banks – propped up this insolvent bank during the crisis with massive amounts of secret loans, to avoid the embarrassment of its lax regulation and permitting the Frankenbank merger in the first place.
At the time of the crisis, Citigroup had $2 trillion in assets on its balance sheet and $1.2 trillion off its balance sheet. It was the insolvent elephant in the crisis, receiving the following from the taxpayer:   $45 billion in TARP funds, over $300 billion in asset guarantees and $2.513 trillion in cumulative loans from the Fed.
At the time the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed on November 12, 1999 with President Bill Clinton signing the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the United Stated had enjoyed 66 years of financial stability under the legislation. It had been enacted in 1933 in the wake of the 1929 crash and the realization by Congress that corruption on Wall Street was systemic and the nation’s deposit taking banks that protect the life savings of average Americans could not be under the same roof or affiliated with high-risk speculators and the criminally-inclined on Wall Street.
The premise that high-risk gamblers cannot be adequately policed is as true today as it was in 1933. In 1995, one derivatives trader, Nick Leeson, blew up the British bank, Barings, by hiding losses of $1.3 billion. In 2012, JPMorgan Chase’s London derivatives traders were trading with insured deposits from the U.S. bank, eventually owning up to $6.2 billion in losses.
We’ll never know if JPMorgan could have been another Barings because the infamous London Whale trading was exposed by "Bloomberg News" and the "Wall Street Journal" and alerted regulators. Reporters apparently knew more about the trading than JPMorgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, who initial calledly it a “tempest in a tea pot.”
The U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations conducted an in-depth investigation of the matter and held hearings. The Chairman of the Subcommittee at the time, Senator Carl Levin, stated that JPMorgan “piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.”
Thanks to the repeal of Glass-Steagall, JPMorgan Chase now owns one of America’s largest insured depository banks. And, according to this February report from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Research, JPMorgan Chase and the resuscitated Citigroup now pose the greatest interconnected risk to the U.S. financial system – seven years after the greatest financial crash since the Great Depression. In May of this year, both admitted to a criminal felony charge involving the rigging of foreign currency trading.
If that thought is not sobering, try this on for size. According to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the regulator of national banks, as of the second quarter of this year, just four large commercial banks represent 91.1 percent of the total notional amount of derivatives contracts, or a total of $180.29 trillion dollars held in just four banks. (That’s trillion with a “t.”) Those commercial banks are all affiliated with stock underwriting and derivatives trading: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank (part of Citigroup), and Goldman Sachs.
Editor’s Note:  For our readers’ enjoyment, we filed a Freedom of Information Act request and obtained video from the June 25 and June 26, 1998 hearings conducted by the Federal Reserve in the lead-up to repealing Glass-Steagall. The first video is your humble editor explaining to the “experts” what was going to happen if they allowed the Citigroup merger to proceed and repeal Glass-Steagall. The second video is Chuck Prince, eventually to become Chairman and CEO of Citigroup as it teetered toward the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history, explaining to the Federal Reserve officials how the bank would always remain strong and viable.

And they still are.


Bipartisan Budget Deal Averts Devastating Cuts but Lets Pentagon Sidestep Caps

Hidden within the surprise budget deal that congressional lawmakers and the White House unveiled on Tuesday is a major windfall for the Pentagon.

The GOP Debates and the Ghost of Tom Joad

William Rivers Pitt:  Both debates were a showcase for hatred of the federal government, except every one of those candidates shamelessly coddled a trillion-dollar government "defense" sector to the detriment of all the Tom Joads out there.

Dat's all folks!

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