Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fascism Enters US With TV's Admiring Coverage of "Tea Baggers'" Dismay

Our friend Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy gives us some insight on how easily it occurs in his How Foreign Lobbies and Elites 'Bought' the US. Germany. Prior to WWII. In color.

FASCISM is a radical and authoritarian nationalist political policy defined by a corporatist economic ideology enforced by a dictatorial regime which, in turn, is supported by a symbiotic business/corporate community.

In pre-war Germany, Hitler held a meeting with his corporate backers. He cut them all a 'deal' and, in turn, was rewarded with their enduring support and they by his LUCRATIVE DEFENSE CONTRACTS. It was I.G. Farben which manufactured Zyklon 'B' used to murder Jews, gypsies and non-Nazis in concentration camps.

In the US just one percent of the nation's population has benefited from GOP (right wing) tax cuts. I have charged that the 'tax cuts' are, rather, an elaborate money laundering scheme in which the 'ruling elite' is paid a return on its investment, that is, the purchase of the US government by way of its pimps on K-Street.

Read the US govt stats re: Income Inequalities. Income inequalities in the US are instructive, the result of an ongoing auction of the US government to domestic and foreign lobbies. Glaring correlations not accidental: terrorism is worse under GOP regimes and - at the same time - income disparities increase. US tax policy, for example, favors the rich and, of late, just one percent of the US population which is enriched by those policies.

The area around K Street in Washington, D.C., abounds with lobbyists, many of whom represent foreign governments or entities. Although some major foreign governments continue to work mainly through their embassies in Washington, nearly one hundred countries rely on lobbyists to protect and promote their interests. The subculture of public relations and law firms that do this kind of work reflects a steady decline and privatization of diplomacy - with an increasing impact on how the United States conducts its own foreign policy.

The strongest lobbies promoting foreign interests are driven by cohesive ethnic population groups in the United States, such as Armenia, China, Greece, India, Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine, and, historically, Ireland. Even countries that have strong bilateral relations with the United States, such as Australia, Japan, and Norway, need lobbyists as well as embassies. Lobbyists can operate within the system in ways that experienced diplomats cannot. A lobbying group can identify with a domestic ethnic bloc even though it is paid by a foreign government. Ethnic politics can trump corporate interests and, more important, influence what agencies within the U.S. government may see as the national interest.

The United States is a nation of immigrants -- a strength that has also created vulnerabilities. Although ethnic population groups have at times offset isolationist tendencies in the United States, they also can find themselves conflicted on issues that could divide the motherland from the adopted country, the United States. In other cases, these so-called hyphenated groups unhesitatingly side with the United States and, in effect, become more royalist than the king. --Diplomacy Inc., The Influence of Lobbies on U.S. Foreign Policy

Please read the rest of this sterling bit of research here and watch the Democracy NOW interview by Amy Goodman of Michael Massing of The New York Review of Books on "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," by Professors Stephen Walt of Harvard University and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago below. Looks like some folks are changing their minds about the definition of "friendship." Suzan ______________________

Why Shouldn't They Be Laughing? Cashing in the War Dividend & Bill Moyers - J.K. Galbraith Talk Serious NOW

Bill Moyers interviewed James K. Galbraith (no, his son - also an admired economist) on Bill Moyers Journal last night. If you want to know the similarities and differences of what is going on right now and what was going on right before the Crash of 1929, there is not a better source.

The only thing that has stopped our economy from already crashing on a par with that of 1929 are the institutions and regulations that were created after that little hiccup (which the Rethugs under the direction of Cheney, et al., were prevented (somehow) recently from changing). Galbraith (who wrote The Predator State) says that he's sure that Alan Greenspan (and all the rest) knew years before what was going to happen to the economy and did not act until he had to in order to stop the panic. Bill points out that it would have been criminal fraud and Galbraith says, "Sure!" Then Bill says in effect "How do you reform a system that pays off the top players so well?" Read on to know the answer.

BILL MOYERS: How does this last year compare with what happened after the Great Crash in '29?

JAMES GALBRAITH: It's similar in important respects and different in others. If you look at the trends in world trade and manufacturing, they're very similar. There's been a massive collapse, a collapse which is comparable in scale to 1930. The overall economy hasn't come down nearly as much, and the reason for that is that we have the institutions that were created in the New Deal and the Great Society, institutions of the welfare state, social security.

And, of course, there has been the influence of John Maynard Keynes, which gave us the very quick reaction in the form of the expansion bill of the stimulus package. And that also has kept the damage from being as large as it was in 1930 to '32. So what we're seeing today is distress of a different kind. And I think it's playing out on a longer timeframe. The great wealth that the American middle class built up, over 70 years, largely in their homes, has been terrifically impaired. In many cases, wiped out. People are upside down in their mortgages. Their mortgages are worth more than the houses that they live in. And that doesn't mean that they're going to default or millions will be foreclosed, but many millions more simply can't sell, can't move, can't change their circumstances, don't have a cushion. And that is a factor that will bring stress into their lives over time.

BILL MOYERS: A long time, right? And this is -

JAMES GALBRAITH: Over a long time, yes.

BILL MOYERS: - not something from which people recover. I mean, my father was about 24, 25, maybe at the time of the Great Crash of 1929 and he never recovered from it for the rest of his life. He never got over that experience. Is that likely to be the case with all these people suffering out across the country now?

JAMES GALBRAITH: The same was true of my grandfather on my mother's side, who was a lawyer whose practice depended upon the prosperity of the 1920s. My mother who lived until last year, never really overcame the attitudes that were inculcated in her in the Great Depression. It will have a - if something is not done to provide particularly young people, who are looking for work and cannot find it, with an opportunity to move on in life at this stage, it will mark them for the rest of their lives. I think there's no doubt about that.

BILL MOYERS: The NEW YORK TIMES had a story just the other day about community colleges being so crowded right now that they're holding classes up until two o'clock in the morning. What do you make of that? What does that say to us?

JAMES GALBRAITH: It says that first of all, people cannot find jobs. And secondly, they are looking to the educational system to provide them with something to do, and some way out of this dilemma. But until jobs are created, and in great numbers, there will not be places for those people to come out of the community college system and find useful work. That's the problem.We have a stimulus package, which is helping now, but it will be over with at the end of next year. Will there be a basis for another strong, privately financed expansion at that point? I don't see the evidence for that now. And that seems to me to be something we should be worrying about.

BILL MOYERS: So what should we do?

Read on.

From our buddy Tom Engelhardt at the TomGram comes this bit of not surprising news. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Cashing in on the War Dividend - The Joys of Perpetual War

So you thought the Pentagon was already big enough? Well, what do you know, especially with the price of the American military slated to grow by at least 25% over the next decade?

Forget about the butter. It's bad for you anyway. And sheer military power, as well as the money behind it, assures the country of a thick waistline without the cholesterol. So, let's sing the praises of perpetual war. We better, since right now every forecast in sight tells us that it's our future.

The tired peace dividend tug boat left the harbor two decades ago, dragging with it laughable hopes for universal health care and decent public education. Now, the mighty USS War Dividend is preparing to set sail. The economic weather reports may be lousy and the seas choppy, but one thing is guaranteed: that won't stop it.

The United States, of course, long ago captured first prize in the global arms race. It now spends as much as the next 14 countries combined, even as the spending of our rogue enemies and former enemies - Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria - much in the headlines for their prospective armaments, makes up a mere 1% of the world military budget. Still, when you're a military superpower focused on big-picture thinking, there's no time to dawdle on the details.

And be reasonable, who could expect the U.S. to fight two wars and maintain more than 700 bases around the world for less than the $704 billion we'll shell out to the Pentagon in 2010? But here's what few Americans grasp and you aren't going to read about in your local paper either: according to Department of Defense projections, the baseline military budget - just the bare bones, not those billions in war-fighting extras - is projected to increase by 2.5% each year for the next 10 years. In other words, in the next decade the basic Pentagon budget will grow by at least $133.1 billion, or 25%.

When it comes to the health of the war dividend in economically bad times, if that's not good news, what is? As anyone at the Pentagon will be quick to tell you, it's a real bargain, a steal, at least compared to the two-term presidency of George W. Bush. Then, that same baseline defense budget grew by an astonishing 38%.

If the message isn't already clear enough, let me summarize: it's time for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Labor, Education, and Veterans Affairs to suck it up. After all, Americans, however unemployed, foreclosed, or unmedicated, will only be truly secure if the Pentagon is exceedingly well fed.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, what that actually means is this: 55% of next year's discretionary spending - that is, the spending negotiated by the President and Congress - will go to the military just to keep it chugging along.

The 14 million American children in poverty, the millions of citizens who will remain without health insurance (even if some version of the Baucus plan is passed), the 7.6 million people who have lost jobs since 2007, all of them will have to take a number. The same is true of the kinds of projects needed to improve the country's disintegrating infrastructure, including the 25% of U.S. drinking water that was given a barely passing "D" by the American Society of Civil Engineers in a 2009 study.

And don't imagine that this is a terrible thing either! There's no shame in paying $400 for every gallon of gas used in Afghanistan, especially when the Marines alone are reported to consume 800,000 gallons of it each day. After all, the evidence is in: a few whiners aside, Americans want our tax dollars used this way. Otherwise we'd complain, and no one makes much of a fuss about war or the ever-rising numbers of dollars going to it anymore.

$915.1 billion in total Iraq and Afghanistan war spending to date has been a no-brainer, even if it could, theoretically, have been traded in for the annual salaries of 15 million teachers or 20 million police officers or for 171 million Pell Grants of approximately $5,350 each for use by American college and university students.

Next March, we will collectively reach a landmark in this new version of the American way of life. We will hit the $1 trillion mark in total Iraq and Afghanistan war spending with untold years of war-making to go. No problem. It's only the proposed nearly $900 billion for a decade of health care that we fear will do us in.

Nor is it the Pentagon's fault that U.S. states have laws prohibiting them from deficit spending. The 48 governors and state legislatures now struggling with budget deficits should stop complaining and simply be grateful for their ever smaller slices of the federal pie. Between 2001 and 2008, federal grant funding for state and local governments lagged behind the 28% growth of the federal budget by 14%, while military spending outpaced federal budget growth with a 41% increase. There is every reason to believe that this is a trend, not an anomaly, which means that Title 1, Head Start, Community Development Block Grants, and the Children's Health Insurance Program will just have to make do with less. In fact, if you want a true measure of what's important to our nation, think of it this way: if you add together the total 2010 budgets of all those 48 states in deficit, they won't even equal projected U.S. military spending for the same year. Take the situation of Massachusetts, for example. Yankee spirit or not, that state will see a 17.3% decrease in federal grants in 2010 no matter how hard Governor Deval Patrick wrings his hands. True to the American way, Patrick's projected $5 billion fiscal year 2010 deficit will be his problem and his alone, as is his state's recently-announced $600 million budget shortfall for 2009. Blame it on declining tax revenue and the economic crisis, on things that are beyond his control. No matter, Patrick will have to make deep cuts to elderly mental health services and disabled home-care programs, and lose large chunks of funding for universal pre-kindergarten, teacher training, gifted and talented programs in the schools, and so much more.

Still, that Commonwealth's politicians are clearly out of step with the country. On October 9, 2009, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino joined with Congressman Barney Frank in calling on President Obama to find extra money for such programs by reducing military spending 25%.

President Obama, cover your ears! Menino, who actually believes that a jump in military spending contributed to "significantly raising the federal deficit and lowering our economic security," asked the federal government to be a better partner to Boston by reinvesting in its schools, public housing, transportation, and job-training programs, especially for young people. Of course, this is delusional, as any Pentagon budgeteer could tell you. This isn't some Head Start playground, after all, it's the battlefield of American life. Tough it out, Menino.

One principle has, by now, come to dominate our American world, even if nobody seems to notice: do whatever it takes to keep federal dollars flowing for weapons systems (and the wars that go with them). And don't count on the Pentagon to lend a hand by having a bake sale any time soon; don't expect it to voluntarily cut back on major weapons systems without finding others to take their place. If, as a result, our children are less likely to earn high school and college diplomas than we were, that's what prisons and the Marines are for.

So let's break a bottle of champagne - or, if the money comes out of a state budget, Coke - on the bow of the USS War Dividend! And send it off on its next voyage without an iceberg in sight. Let the corks pop. Let the bubbly drown out that Harvard University report indicating that 45,000 deaths last year were due to a lack of health insurance.

Hip hip . . .

Suzan ________________________

Friday, October 30, 2009

Government Now In Hands of Wall Street Gangsters

Did you stop to think (yet) that they really believe that US citizens, having succumbed to dumbed-down educational institutions, are pretty easy pickings?


Well, don't read the latest from Professor Paul Craig Roberts who asks "Are You Ready for the Next Crisis?" Roberts is one of the few to say that Geithner works for Goldman Sachs (now) and that the whole economic policy is being run for the well-being of a few very rich people; also that the Fed's only job today is "sheltering" the Big Boys from risk (as a way to take advantage of investors) as they cook up the next bubble stew. On the You Tube video he also lets the cat out of the bag about the upcoming dollar devaluation. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Is that simple enough for most folks yet?

Evidence that the US is a failed state is piling up faster than I can record it.

One conclusive hallmark of a failed state is that the crooks are inside the government, using government to protect and to advance their private interests.

Another conclusive hallmark is rising income inequality as the insiders manipulate economic policy for their enrichment at the expense of everyone else.

Income inequality in the US is now the most extreme of all countries. The 2008 OECD report, “Business Week reported that a new report from the United Nations Development Program concluded that the US ranked third among states with the worst income inequality. As number one and number two, Hong Kong and Singapore, are both essentially city states, not countries, the US actually has the shame of being the country with the most inequality in the distribution of income.

The stark increase in US income inequality in the 21st century coincides with the offshoring of US jobs, which enriched executives with “performance bonuses” while impoverishing the middle class, and with the rapid rise of unregulated OTC derivatives, which enriched Wall Street and the financial sector at the expense of everyone else.

Millions of Americans have lost their homes and half of their retirement savings while being loaded up with government debt to bail out the banksters who created the derivative crisis.

Frontline’s October 21 broadcast, “The Warning,” documents how Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt blocked Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, from performing her statutory duties and regulating OTC derivatives.

After the worst crisis in US financial history struck, just as Brooksley Born said it would, a disgraced Alan Greenspan was summoned out of retirement to explain to Congress his unequivocal assurances that no regulation of derivatives was necessary. Greenspan had even told Congress that regulation of derivatives would be harmful. A pathetic Greenspan had to admit that the free market ideology on which he had relied turned out to have a flaw.

Greenspan may have bet our country on his free market ideology, but does anyone believe that Rubin and Summers were doing anything other than protecting the enormous fraud-based profits that derivatives were bringing Wall Street? As Brooksley Born stressed, OTC derivatives are a “dark market.” There is no transparency. Regulators have no information on them and neither do purchasers. Even after Long Term Capital Management blew up in 1998 and had to be bailed out, Greenspan, Rubin, and Summers stuck to their guns.

Greenspan, Rubin and Summers, and a roped-in gullible Arthur Levitt who now regrets that he was the banksters’ dupe, succeeded in manipulating a totally ignorant Congress into blocking the CFTC from doing its mandated job. Brooksley Born, prevented by the public’s elected representatives from protecting the public, resigned.

Wall Street money simply shoved facts and honest regulators aside, guaranteeing government inaction and the financial crisis that hit in 2008 and continues to plague our economy today.

The financial insiders running the Treasury, White House, and Federal Reserve shifted to taxpayers the cost of the catastrophe that they had created. When the crisis hit, Henry Paulson, appointed by President Bush as Rubin’s replacement as the Goldman Sachs representative running the US Treasury, hyped fear to obtain from “our” representatives in Congress with no questions asked hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars (TARP money) to bail out Goldman Sachs and the other malefactors of unregulated derivatives.

When Goldman Sachs recently announced that it was paying massive six and seven figure bonuses to every employee, public outrage erupted. In defense of banksters, saved with the public’s money, paying themselves bonuses in excess of most people’s life-time earnings, Lord Griffiths, Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, said that the public must learn to “tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity for all.” In other words, “Let them eat cake.”

According to the UN report cited above, Great Britain has the 7th most unequal income distribution in the world.

After the Goldman Sachs bonuses, the British will move up in distinction, perhaps rivaling Israel for the fourth spot in the hierarchy.

Despite the total insanity of unregulated derivatives, the high level of public anger, and Greenspan’s confession to Congress, still nothing has been done to regulate derivatives. One of Rubin’s Assistant Treasury Secretaries, Gary Gensler, has replaced Brooksley Born as head of the CFTC. Larry Summers is the head of President Obama’s National Economic Council. Former Federal Reserve official Timothy Geithner, a Paulson protege, runs the Obama Treasury. A Goldman Sachs vice president, Adam Storch, has been appointed the chief operating officer of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Banksters are still in charge.

Is there another country in which in full public view so few so blatantly use government for the enrichment of private interests, with a coterie of “free market” economists available to justify plunder on the grounds that “the market knows best”? A narco-state is bad enough. The US surpasses this horror with its financo-state.

As Brooksley Born says, if nothing is done “it’ll happen again.”

But nothing can be done. The crooks have the government.


P.S. And what is that about a bomb shelter near the Denver airport being readied to house a new D.C. site? Brrr.

Is this 21st Century SciFi? ________________

Has the Revolution Started? Here's One We All Can Get Behind & Joe Lieberman Easily Exposed!

William Schaap, an attorney whose background encompasses the following . . .

Graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1964. Has been a practicing lawyer since then. A member of the bar of the State of New York and of the District of Columbia. Specialized in the 1970's in military law. Practiced military law in Asia and Europe. later became the editor in chief of the Military Law Reporter in Washington for a number of years. In the 70's and 80's he was a staff counsel of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City. In the late 1980's was an adjunct professor at John J. College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York where I taught courses on propaganda and disinformation. Since 1977 or '78, in addition to being a practicing lawyer, was a journalist and a publisher and a writer specializing in intelligence-related matters and particularly their relationship to the media.

For more than 20 years he has been the co-publisher of a magazine called the Covert Action Quarterly which particularly deals with reporting on intelligence agencies, primarily U.S. agencies but also foreign. He published a magazine for a number of years called Lies Of Our Times which specifically was a magazine about propaganda and disinformation. Also he has been the managing director of the Institute for Media Analysis for a number of years. For about 20 years he was one of the principals in a publishing company called Sheraton Square Press that published books and pamphlets relating to intelligence and the media. He has written dozens of articles on - particularly on media and intelligence and edited about seven or eight books on the subject. He has contributed sections to a number of other books and has had many of his articles, appear in other publications around the world including New York Times, Washington Post and major media outlets.

lets us in on the secret world of disinformation that has been de rigeur on today's (and everyday's) MSM broadcasts.

And now that the dollar is on the permanent downslide and that information can no longer be held secret from the masses, we can begin to see that the green shoots we've been taunted with are merely the lining of our financial caskets.

Because the majority of people believe that the real problem is the deficits, and not the economy. That's just flat wrong, and it creates political opposition to more stimulus, which we need. Blame it on the media for convincing people that we are in a recovery and that "green shoots" are sprouting up everywhere.

It's pure fiction. The country could still wind up in a Depression when the stimulus wears off. And it's wearing off very quickly. (The effects of the stimulus will peak in the Third Quarter) Consumer credit is contracting at a year-over-year rate of 5 percent. Household balance sheets are in tatters, savings are up, spending is down, and unemployment is headed for 10 percent.

Record foreclosures, delinquencies, bankruptcies, and defaults are sucking credit from the system making it harder for the Fed to keep the economy sputtering along. If the Fed cuts off the bloodflow of monetary stimulus, the patient will slip into a deep coma.

And about that easily exposed "Tough Love" Nomentum Joe? Maura Keaney calls him the (Democratic (?)) Enemy of the Public Option. And with his bought-and-publicly-paid-for-by-the health care no-reform opposition wife, who can doubt it? (Newsflash! He's already announced that out of his personal honorableness he will be campaigning for Rethuglicans next election.) (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Joe Lieberman has long been a thorn in the side of the Democratic party. Now he wants to sabotage healthcare reform

Joe Lieberman has become the Balloon Boy dad of the Senate Democratic caucus, a fame-whore so addicted to media attention that he hatches ever-more-desperate and risky schemes that sell out his "family" to earn press attention.

Progressives can only hope that, like Richard Heene, Lieberman will finally be exposed as a fame-seeking fraudster after his latest stunt, Tuesday's threat to filibuster any bill for healthcare reform that includes a public option.

No one who's been paying attention should be surprised by Lieberman's move, yet the Washington press corps responded as if they'd never heard of the boy who cried wolf. This is Lieberman's schtick, the only act that's ever consistently gotten him ratings.

Lieberman crashed and burned as a presidential candidate in 2003, after his self-coined "Joementum" carried him to a pathetic fifth-place showing in the crucial New Hampshire Democratic primary. And he wasn't too much of a hit as a vice-presidential candidate, either, sucking up to Dick Cheney in debates and underwhelming voters with his trademark Droopy Dog jowly drone.

But what's consistently gotten Lieberman the attention he so craves is when he positions himself as the tough-love disciplinarian who scolds, punishes and hurts his party, supposedly for its own good. He got a taste of fame in the 1990s as the sanctimonious scold of the Senate, challenging the perception that his party was the more permissive by railing against sexually explicit music lyrics and violence in video games.

The press fawned over him in 1998 when he took to the floor of the Senate to verbally horsewhip Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. When Democrats questioned George Bush's rush to war, Lieberman questioned their patriotism. And last year, Lieberman made a desperate grab for some waning limelight by campaigning for the defeat of his party's nominee for president and endorsing John McCain.

Lieberman won re-election in 2006 in part by convincing Connecticut voters that he was still a Democrat on every issue but the war. Despite his history of blocking universal healthcare efforts, he claimed: "I can do more [than Ned Lamont] for you and your families to get something done to make healthcare affordable, to get universal health insurance." Many of the Connecticut voters who stuck with Lieberman in 2006 have figured out they were duped, and now regret being stuck with him in 2012.

Polls have repeatedly shown that Lamont would beat Lieberman in a rematch, and that a well-known Democratic challenger would crush him in 2012. But Lieberman seems unconcerned about re-election at this point. His fundraising is nearly at a standstill.

And Lieberman can't possibly claim to be representing his Connecticut constituents by opposing a the public option. Fully 64% of Connecticut voters support a public option, including 61% of independents. But there's one constituency in the state with an interest in the status quo: the powerful for-profit health insurance industry.

Stock prices for health insurance companies, including Hartford-based insurance giant Aetna, plummeted on Wall Street Monday when Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, announced that the Senate bill would include a version of the public option which would compete with corporate profiteers. But they dramatically rebounded yesterday immediately following Lieberman's announcement that he would filibuster a final vote on any bill containing a public option.

After Lieberman literally campaigned against everything Barack Obama stood for, it should be a surprise to no one that he is opposing the most important item on the president's domestic agenda this year. Senate Democrats should stand strong and refuse to give into Lieberman's threats. Better yet, they should do the last thing that folks like Richard Heene and Joe Lieberman want: refuse to give him attention. Unfortunately, their recent track record suggests they'll do the opposite.

It's hard to know who's auditioning harder for the role of Mayumi Heene in this Senate reality show, as so many of Lieberman's Democratic colleagues have exhibited fawning, submissive enabling of this man. Even after Lieberman spent 2008 campaigning to defeat Obama, Reid rewarded him with the chairmanship of the powerful homeland security committee, saying: "We need every vote. He's with us on everything but the war."

How's that working out, Harry?

Lieberman's "other half" in the Connecticut delegation, Chris Dodd, who Obama anointed as the standard-bearer for healthcare reform in the Senate after the death of Ted Kennedy, inexplicably said on Tuesday said that Lieberman should not face retribution from the caucus if he follows through on his threat to block Obama's bill. How many times do these guys have to be punched in the face before they break up with Lieberman once and for all?

This is where the press should come in. The truth is, Lieberman's stated objections to the the public option are as flimsy and full of air as Balloon Boy's mylar and helium contraption. Thus far, however, only a few reporters have bothered to debunk Lieberman's bogus claim that the public option will add to the deficit, an assertion contradicted by the Congressional Budget Office's figures.

Lieberman and I are from the same hometown in Connecticut. He spoke at my graduation from our shared alma mater, Stamford High School. Local political legend has it that Lieberman won his very first campaign, for class president at Stamford High, with a poster picturing him perched on the roof his house reading "Vote for me or I'll jump". The last thing Lieberman's colleagues in the Senate caucus should do is give in to his threats once again. Ignore him. Let him jump. Or better yet, after all this, push him out.

Suzan __________________

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are You Ready to Fund a VAT As Well As the AfPakIraq/Financial Disasters? US Now Among "Failed States"

If you think a full-scale VAT (Value Added Tax) on everything you buy or use isn't coming (in order to fund the past disasters we've been the unlucky heirs to), then, once again, you haven't been paying attention ("Pelosi Says New Tax Is 'On The Table'").

Pelosi, appearing on PBS's "The Charlie Rose Show" asserted that "it's fair to look at" the VAT as part of an overhaul of the nation's tax code.

. . . Pelosi argued that the VAT would level the playing field between U.S. and foreign manufacturers, the latter of which do not have pension and healthcare costs included in the price of their goods because their government provide those services, financed by similar taxes.

And you gotta go with this being the right's wet dream come true - with the backing of the leftist/communist/fascist/black's "fairly elected" presidency. According to the powers-that-be, this, of course, "would not result in an increase in taxes on middle-class Americans." (In light of the revealed scandals about how their spouses are all contract-rich from these disasters, are they now running for national comedian?)

Professor Paul Craig Roberts says that the US has joined the Ranks of Failed States and asks "how can the US afford bankrupting wars, much less totally pointless wars that serve no American interest?" (Maybe no public interest, Professor?) You'll never see any logic like this emanating from the MSM. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

The US has every characteristic of a failed state. The US government’s current operating budget is dependent on foreign financing and money creation. Too politically weak to be able to advance its interests through diplomacy, the US relies on terrorism and military aggression.

Costs are out of control, and priorities are skewed in the interest of rich organized interest groups at the expense of the vast majority of citizens. For example, war at all cost, which enriches the armaments industry, the officer corps and the financial firms that handle the war’s financing, takes precedence over the needs of American citizens. There is no money to provide the uninsured with health care, but Pentagon officials have told the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in the House that every gallon of gasoline delivered to US troops in Afghanistan costs American taxpayers $400.“

It is a number that we were not aware of and it is worrisome,” said Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the subcommittee. According to reports, the US Marines in Afghanistan use 800,000 gallons of gasoline per day. At $400 per gallon, that comes to a $320,000,000 daily fuel bill for the Marines alone. Only a country totally out of control would squander resources in this way.

While the US government squanders $400 per gallon of gasoline in order to kill women and children in Afghanistan, many millions of Americans have lost their jobs and their homes and are experiencing the kind of misery that is the daily life of poor third world peoples. Americans are living in their cars and in public parks. America’s cities, towns, and states are suffering from the costs of economic dislocations and the reduction in tax revenues from the economy’s decline.

Yet, Obama has sent more troops to Afghanistan, a country half way around the world that is not a threat to America. It costs $750,000 per year for each soldier we have in Afghanistan. The soldiers, who are at risk of life and limb, are paid a pittance, but all of the privatized services to the military are rolling in excess profits.

One of the great frauds perpetuated on the American people was the privatization of services that the US military traditionally performed for itself. “Our” elected leaders could not resist any opportunity to create at taxpayers’ expense private wealth that could be recycled to politicians in campaign contributions.

Republicans and Democrats on the take from the private insurance companies maintain that the US cannot afford to provide Americans with health care and that cuts must be made even in Social Security and Medicare. So how can the US afford bankrupting wars, much less totally pointless wars that serve no American interest?

The enormous scale of foreign borrowing and money creation necessary to finance Washington’s wars are sending the dollar to historic lows. The dollar has even experienced large declines relative to currencies of third world countries such as Botswana and Brazil. The decline in the dollar’s value reduces the purchasing power of Americans’ already declining incomes.

Despite the lowest level of housing starts in 64 years, the US housing market is flooded with unsold homes, and financial institutions have a huge and rising inventory of foreclosed homes not yet on the market.

Industrial production has collapsed to the level of 1999, wiping out a decade of growth in industrial output. The enormous bank reserves created by the Federal Reserve are not finding their way into the economy. Instead, the banks are hoarding the reserves as insurance against the fraudulent derivatives that they purchased from the gangster Wall Street investment banks.

The regulatory agencies have been corrupted by private interests. Frontline reports that Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Larry Summers blocked Brooksley Born, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from regulating derivatives.

President Obama rewarded Larry Summers for his idiocy by appointing him Director of the National Economic Council. What this means is that profits for Wall Street will continue to be leeched from the diminishing blood supply of the American economy.

An unmistakable sign of third world despotism is a police force that sees the pubic as the enemy. Thanks to the federal government, our local police forces are now militarized and imbued with hostile attitudes toward the public. SWAT teams have proliferated, and even small towns now have police forces with the firepower of US Special Forces. Summons are increasingly delivered by SWAT teams that tyrannize citizens with broken down doors, a $400 or $500 repair born by the tyrannized resident. Recently a mayor and his family were the recipients of incompetence by the town’s local SWAT team, which mistakenly wrecked the mayor’s home, terrorized his family, and killed the family’s two friendly Labrador dogs.

If a town’s mayor can be treated in this way, what do you think is the fate of the poor white or black? Or the idealistic student who protests his government’s inhumanity?

In any failed state, the greatest threat to the population comes from the government and the police. That is certainly the situation today in the USA. Americans have no greater enemy than their own government. Washington is controlled by interest groups that enrich themselves at the expense of the American people.

The one percent that comprise the superrich are laughing as they say, “let them eat cake.”

Suzan _______________________

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

They Are Lying to US & It Will Continue Until You Say "Enough!" ("Herding the Sheep")

I've said it before and I will not stop until the lying stops.

Sure, William K. Black - professor of economics and law, and the senior regulator during the S & L crisis - says that that the government's entire strategy now - as during the S&L crisis - is to cover up how bad things are ("the entire strategy is to keep people from getting the facts").

Admittedly, 7 out of the 8 giant, money center banks went bankrupt in the 1980's during the "Latin American Crisis," and the government's response was to cover up their insolvency. It's true that Business Week wrote on May 23, 2006:

President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations. I can't deny that the Tarp Inspector General said that Paulson and Bernanke falsely stated that the big banks receiving Tarp money were healthy, when they were not.

If you don't believe me . . . .

Financial insider and commentator Yves Smith wrote an essay last week entitled "MSM Reporting as Propaganda" arguing that the government has been using propaganda to make people think that things are getting better, no one is angry, and - therefore - no one should get upset:

The message, quite overtly, is: if you are pissed, you are in a minority. The country has moved on. Things are getting better, get with the program . . . .

Per the social psychology research, this “you are in a minority, you are wrong” message DOES dissuade a lot of people. It is remarkably poisonous. And it discourages people from taking concrete action.

Is Smith right? And even if she is, isn't "propaganda" too strong a word?

. . . Granted, famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says the CIA has already bought and paid for many successful journalists.

And sure, the New York Times discusses in a matter-of-fact way the use of mainstream writers by the CIA to spread messages.

True, a 4-part BBC documentary called the "Century of the Self" shows that an American - Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays - created the modern field of manipulation of public perceptions, and the U.S. government has extensively used his techniques (but the BBC isn't American, so it doesn't count).

I won't deny that the Independent discusses allegations of American propaganda (but that's a British paper, doesn't count).

And (ho hum) one of the premier writers on journalism says the U.S. has used widespread propaganda.

And (are we still talking about this?) an expert on propaganda testified under oath during trial that the CIA employs THOUSANDS of reporters and OWNS its own media organizations (the expert has an impressive background).

And (I can't believe we're still talking about this) while the U.S. government has repeatedly claimed that it was launching propaganda programs solely at foreign enemies, it has actually used them against American citizens.

Please continue this unknown to the masses exposé here.

Barbara Ehrenreich has addressed the idea of "thinking positively" in her latest book, Bright-Sided, as a negative American characteristic that points us out to the rest of the really thinking world as naifs (or knowing criminals).

I have to agree. When you travel throughout the rest of the world, people no longer are amazed at the Ugly Americans. They just avoid us (if possible) or talk down to us (if they have to speak at all) - until one mentions how stoopidly the American experiment has worked out for almost everybody. And then international good-natured comaraderie breaks out.

And, yes, people do love the American largesse given at times of great physical catastrophe. The trouble starts when they begin to speak of the price everyone has had to pay.

Suzan __________________

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Let's Starting Marching Again! Sy Hersh: Military 'In War Against The White House'

Now's the time I would like to "Just say NO!" (Thanks to Susie Madrak for covering this one in my own semi-neighborhood.)

In a speech on Obama’s foreign policy, Hersh, who uncovered the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and torture at Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraqi war, said many military leaders want Obama to fail.

“A lot of people in the Pentagon would like to see him get into trouble,” he said. By leaking information that the commanding officer in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, says the war would be lost without an additional 40,000 American troops, top brass have put Obama in a no-win situation, Hersh contended.“If he gives them the extra troops they’re asking for, he loses politically,” Hersh said. “And if he doesn’t give them the troops, he also loses politically.”

From the inestimable "Crooks and Liars" we learn the background surrounding Obama's decisions on whether to commit more troops to the AfPakIraq war - "So many of the saner people were driven out of the military during the Bush administration, it doesn't surprise me that the people left include a lot of the right-wing, racist fringe elements. Still, it's shocking to hear this:"

DURHAM — The U.S. military is not just fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s most renowned investigative journalist says.

The army is also “in a war against the White House — and they feel they have Obama boxed in,” Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Seymour Hersh told several hundred people in Duke University’s Page Auditorium on Tuesday night. “They think he’s weak and the wrong color. Yes, there’s racism in the Pentagon. We may not like to think that, but it’s true and we all know it.”

In a speech on Obama’s foreign policy, Hersh, who uncovered the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and torture at Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraqi war, said many military leaders want Obama to fail.

“A lot of people in the Pentagon would like to see him get into trouble,” he said. By leaking information that the commanding officer in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, says the war would be lost without an additional 40,000 American troops, top brass have put Obama in a no-win situation, Hersh contended.“If he gives them the extra troops they’re asking for, he loses politically,” Hersh said. “And if he doesn’t give them the troops, he also loses politically.”

The journalist criticized the president for “letting the military do that,” and suggested the only way out was for Obama to stand up to them.“He’s either going to let the Pentagon run him or he has to run the Pentagon,” Hersh said. If he doesn’t, “this stuff is going to be the ruin of his presidency.”

Hersh called the “Af-Pak” situation — the spreading conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan — Obama’s main challenge.

The only way for the U.S. to extricate itself from the conflict, Hersh said, is to negotiate with the Taliban.

“It’s the only way out,” he said. “I know that there’s a lot of discussion in the White House about this now.

I have to agree with the logic (once again) inherent in Sy's reasoning.

It is the only way out.

Suzan _________________

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What TV Should Be Running Every 15 Minutes on the Public Option for Health Care & Ever Upward Trend for Bankers' (and Others') Pay

Yes, a real public service advertisement (h/t to El Gato Negro and Whiskeyfire) lives here. It's put a little bit crudely, but you gotta love the message. Linda McQuaig reveals to our most engaged readers something the media wish we would forget (forever): Ever Upward Trend for Bankers' Pay. Or is it a bribe? I'm going with the bribe.

Some people were outraged last week by a report that a member of the kitchen staff of bailed-out Wall Street firm AIG had received a $7,700 bonus.

Surely that was far less outrageous than the million-dollar bonuses paid to others at AIG who actually carried out the firm's financial business.

After all, the kitchen helper produced something that at least could be eaten. Apart from perhaps overcooking the Chateaubriand or leaving spots on the champagne glasses, what harm could the kitchen helper have done – compared to driving the world economy over a cliff?

Unbelievably, The Wall Street Journal reported last week that banks and securities firms are on track this year to pay their employees a record $140 billion – an amount that exceeds the peak year of 2007, just before they put the global economy into meltdown.

Pay for bankers and corporate CEOs has shot up dramatically in the past 2 1/2 decades, despite often weak performance.

. . . Is there anyone – beyond members of the financial elite and their relatives – who still believes extraordinary pay levels at the top are deserved or necessary?

Society has traditionally tolerated inequalities generated by the marketplace on the grounds that big incentives at the top are necessary to encourage economic growth. But how much is enough? CEO pay was much less generous (and taxes were much higher) in the 1950s and '60s – and yet those decades had much higher economic growth rates.

Intuitively, it's always seemed unfair that bankers make so much more than, say, nurses and teachers, whose contribution to society is more immediately obvious. But neoclassical economic theory – which has long dominated western thought and shaped western societies – has taught us that each person's compensation reflects his marginal social contribution.

So the banker's high pay reflects his important role in creating efficient capital markets, which benefit society as a whole – or so the theory went.

But, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz recently noted, bankers have now effectively refuted that theory. Stiglitz compares the contribution of bankers to that of the late Norman Borlaug, who saved millions of lives by improving agricultural productivity.

"If neoclassical theory were correct, Borlaug would have been among the wealthiest men in the world, while our bankers would have been lining up at soup kitchens."

But the financial meltdown hasn't shaken the faith of those on Wall Street – and Bay Street – who continue to defend huge pay packages, insisting that that's just the way the free market works.

Or is it simply that the elite have gained too much power in recent years, and use that power to increase their own rewards?

It's certainly a cozy world at the top, where CEO pay packages are decided by corporate boards made up of other highly paid CEOs, who are inclined to believe high pay reflects intrinsic worth. As they vote for ever higher CEO pay packages, they raise the standard for all CEOs.

If the kitchen staff got to set each others' salaries, one could imagine the cost of a good dishwasher might rise as well.

Think. Deeply! (Ouch! It hurts.) Suzan _______________________

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How We Live Today (The Murders at al-Sukariya & in the US)

Growing up in the 50's and early 60's I never thought I would need to apologize for being an American citizen. It never crossed my mind that the horrors I read about which were rationalized by the Germans during their Holocaust moment would become commonplace in my country when I was an adult. Where is the shame today? (As an aside I should mention that my comments during my 25-year aerospace software engineering career against this type of technology usage led to my permanent inability to ever get a job again. And my comments about how Hillary allowed her sex to be used by the Murdochians as a get-out-of-jail-free card on defense issues has led to the same by my friends in my former progressive liaisons.) Peter Coyote co-reports that (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

On October 26, 2008, U.S. helicopters stormed a farm near the Iraq-Syria border in order to assassinate leading al-Qaeda operative Abu Ghadiya. One year later, the authors report from Syria that the raid may have been botched, and the lives of seven innocent civilians were mistakenly taken instead. . . . Akram Hamid scrubs the grease off his hands after a day of labor in Abu Kamal, a small Syrian town not far from the Iraqi border. Twenty minutes later, the mechanic rides his motorcycle past the autumn-dry rushes along the west bank of the placid Euphrates River, to al-Sukariya, happy to start fishing. It is dusk on a Sunday in October and the turned earth of the fields is pungent. Scattered farmers amble slowly home. A few late-season frogs pulse beneath the birds, chattering and thrashing in the rushes, as Hamid gets off his bike and scoots down the bank to drop his line.

He feels the rhythmic thwup-thwup in his stomach before he sees the helicopters. He stops to watch. He has seen helicopters, but not like these, and never four so close together. They display no markings of the Syrian Air Force, and they are the wrong color, painted black. He sees a B and a four. And they are flying low. When the door-gunners open fire, Hamid throws himself against the angled bank of the river. The men are shooting everywhere, firing from the air, spraying the ground.

Suddenly, the formation splits apart. Two helicopters hover just above the cinder-block walls that enclose a small farm, 300 feet away. One disappears inside the farm, and the last one lands about halfway between him and the wall. Eight men in uniform leap out and run quickly, crouching low, carrying weapons. They are not Syrians. They take cover farther up along the same bank, several hundred yards away.

Shells from the air are tearing out chunks of concrete, punching holes through the cinder blocks as if it were paper. The noise of the guns and motors is deafening. Hamid pulls himself along the rutted ground, peers fearfully over the edge of the bank, and slithers away, taking advantage of a lone tree for cover. He does not understand what is happening.

Some of the eight soldiers on the ground move forward and take up positions outside the high walls, but they don't seem to notice him. The hovering helicopters continue firing, tearing up the ground between him and the farm. “I thought it was safe because they didn’t shoot at me,” Hamid says later. After watching for about 15 minutes, he jumps on his bike to escape but, he says, “that’s when they shot me.” A bullet rips through his right arm, breaking it, mangling the muscles and nerves badly, and knocking him to the ground. Struggling to his feet, he sees the soldiers watching him as they climb into the helicopters and leave. “I was the last one they shot,” he recalls. “No one was shooting at the soldiers,” Hamid continues with certainty. “No one was shooting back.”

Despite his serious wound, Hamid was lucky. U.S. troops — possibly special operations, according to some sources — killed seven people inside the walled farm that day: a father, his four sons, including a teenage boy, the father’s visiting friend, and the night watchman. They also severely wounded the night watchman’s wife. She and her six-year-old son, along with Hamid, would be the only survivors.

John Pilger. Love him or leave him. His thoughts don't exactly line up with official policy papers, but they do with mine. I have long wondered how Obama can look at his own little girls everyday without wincing when considering the policy he has continued against the children of Afghanistan and Iraq (not to mention the recent events in Honduras). Gird you loins for Orwell's ultimate "peace" candidate. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

War is peace. Ignorance is strength - Pilger on Obama In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger draws on George Orwell's inspiration to describe the Call of Obama: "attractive to liberal sensibilities, if not to the Afghan children he kills". Barack Obama, winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, is planning another war to add to his impressive record. In Afghanistan, his agents routinely extinguish wedding parties, farmers and construction workers with weapons such as the innovative Hellfire missile, which sucks the air out of your lungs. According to the UN, 338,000 Afghan infants are dying under the Obama-led alliance, which permits only $29 per head annually to be spent on medical care. Within weeks of his inauguration, Obama started a new war in Pakistan, causing more than a million people to flee their homes. In threatening Iran – which his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said she was prepared to “obliterate” – Obama lied that the Iranians were covering up a “secret nuclear facility”, knowing that it had already been reported to the International Atomic Energy Authority. In colluding with the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East, he bribed the Palestinian Authority to suppress a UN judgment that Israel had committed crimes against humanity in its assault on Gaza – crimes made possible with US weapons whose shipment Obama secretly approved before his inauguration. At home, the man of peace has approved a military budget exceeding that of any year since the end of the Second World War while presiding over a new kind of domestic repression. During the recent G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, hosted by Obama, militarised police attacked peaceful protesters with something called the Long-Range Acoustic Device, not seen before on US streets. Mounted in the turret of a small tank, it blasted a piercing noise as tear gas and pepper gas were fired indiscriminately. It is part of a new arsenal of “crowd-control munitions” supplied by military contractors such as Ray­theon. In Obama’s Pentagon-controlled “national security state”, the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, which he promised to close, remains open, and “rendition”, secret assassinations and torture continue. The Nobel Peace Prize-winner’s latest war is largely secret. On 15 July, Washington finalised a deal with Colombia that gives the US seven giant military bases.

“The idea,” reported the Associated Press, “is to make Colombia a regional hub for Pentagon operations . . . nearly half the continent can be covered by a C-17 [military transport] without refuelling”, which “helps achieve the regional engagement strategy”. Translated, this means Obama is planning a “rollback” of the independence and democracy that the people of Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Paraguay have achieved against the odds, along with a historic regional co-operation that rejects the notion of a US “sphere of influence”. The Colombian regime, which backs death squads and has the continent’s worst human rights record, has received US military support second in scale only to Israel. Britain provides military training. Guided by US military satellites, Colombian paramilitaries now infiltrate Venezuela with the goal of overthrowing the democratic government of Hugo Chávez, which George W Bush failed to do in 2002. Obama’s war on peace and democracy in Latin America follows a style he has demonstrated since the coup against the democratic president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, in June. Zelaya had increased the minimum wage, granted subsidies to small farmers, cut back interest rates and reduced poverty. He planned to break a US pharmaceutical monopoly and manufacture cheap generic drugs. Although Obama has called for Zelaya’s reinstatement, he refuses to condemn the coup-makers and to recall the US ambassador or the US troops who train the Honduran forces determined to crush a popular resistance. Zelaya has been repeatedly refused a meeting with Obama, who has approved an IMF loan of $164m to the illegal regime. The message is clear and familiar: thugs can act with impunity on behalf of the US. Obama, the smooth operator from Chicago via Harvard, was enlisted to restore what he calls “leadership” throughout the world. The Nobel Prize committee’s decision is the kind of cloying reverse racism that has beatified the man for no reason other than he is a member of a minority and attractive to liberal sensibilities, if not to the Afghan children he kills. This is the Call of Obama. It is not unlike a dog whistle: inaudible to most, irresistible to the besotted and boneheaded. “When Obama walks into a room,” gushed George Clooney, “you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere.” The great voice of black liberation Frantz Fanon understood this. In The Wretched of the Earth, he described the "intermediary [whose] mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation: it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged”. Because political debate has become so debased in our media monoculture – Blair or Brown; Brown or Cameron – race, gender and class can be used as seductive tools of propaganda and diversion. In Obama’s case, what matters, as Fanon pointed out in an earlier era, is not the intermediary’s “historic” elevation, but the class he serves. After all, Bush’s inner circle was probably the most multiracial in presidential history. There was Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, all dutifully serving an extreme and dangerous power. Britain has seen its own Obama-like mysticism. The day after Blair was elected in 1997, the Observer predicted that he would create “new worldwide rules on human rights” while the Guardian rejoiced at the “breathless pace [as] the floodgates of change burst open”. When Obama was elected last November, Denis MacShane MP, a devotee of Blair’s bloodbaths, unwittingly warned us: “I shut my eyes when I listen to this guy and it could be Tony. He is doing the same thing that we did in 1997.”

Suzan (weeping) _________________________

Monday, October 19, 2009

How Tired Are We? How Little Shame Have They?

As Madeline Kahn sighed in Blazing Saddles: I'm soooooooo tired. Beulahman echoes her sentiments at his blog (where I stole this historic performance) as he exposes the economic/financial lies of the last 40 years (since Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard). Today I think this is worthwhile considering seriously for more than the obvious reasons (emphasis marks added - Ed.).

But even more important is this nagging feeling I have that it appears that Americans are so far gone into oblivion, or more likely, are too caught up in their own life’s struggles to be able to care fully: hoping that what is apparent to many of us will work itself out and then we can move on with our consumer society and in-debt ourselves to the rest of the world even more deeply. Maybe you are watching more TV than spend time on the intertubes, so your view will be clouded by all their fluffy talk. But as George Washington points out, “Happy Talk, Can NOT Fix The Economy“.

This “Happy Talk” is bogus because (of) the leadership (Big Money, not the pols, themselves, for the pols only do the bidding of Big Money). This is glaringly obvious if you simply do a cursory view of their campaign finances at OpenSecrets. Nobody takes the kind of money that Big Money gives these crooks without indebtedness. Guido the Enforcer doesn’t like it when the pawn Pols take money, then spit in the face of The Don. George lays out the procession of corruption below (although the grip of Big Money has had a handhold since way before Nixon):

We're all tired of being on the case (for years) of exposing the frauds and not having it make one iota of difference in our lives. On a personal note, today I got the final notice of the lien placed on my last storage unit. This signifies the end of the line for me. It's the symbolic end of being able to reclaim any part of my former life. And the new one will undoubtedly involve something much more severe than merely living on the street.
Dear Ms. S, We need to contact you about your past due bill for your storage unit. Your account will soon go into lien status immediately due to an unpaid remaining balance of $430.40. Please contact M** immediately to settle your balance to prevent any further action.

There is no light at the end of the tunnel except for that lonesome freight train coming through at 100 miles per hour from the other way bearing down on US.

Outing denizens of his own ex-backyard, Ralph Nader asks quite impolitely:

What planet is Congressman Barney Frank on, anyway? It is the planet of the banks and other financial firms that keep his campaign coffers humming, as their chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. On his extraterrestrial perch, camouflaged by his witty and irreverent observations, he sees the agony of gouged, debt-ridden consumers and homeowners, but his actions do not measure up.

As of this writing before the final set of hearings, Mr. Frank has dropped key provisions from a proposal to establish an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).

The banks did not want a consumer right of action against companies violating standards for their mortgages, credit and debit cards, or payday and installment loans. Barney said sure!

The banks want a weak oversight panel consisting of their toady regulators, who failed repeatedly and miserably in the past decade to stave off the collapse of Wall Street and its economically lethal consequences for workers and consumers. Barney said sure!

The banks want their buddies in Congress to drop the standard of reasonableness by which the new consumer protection agency can go after wildly gouging fees and deceptive practices, such as the check overdraft racket that rakes in $40 billion for the banks. Barney said, sure, sure!

The American Bankers Association is crowing like a thousand roosters. The five biggest banks - now even bigger after the collapse, their taxpayer bailout and their acquisitions - are crowing the loudest.

And why not? They speculated with retirement and other savings of the American people. Trillions of dollars were drained from the accounts and looted from these innocents.

. . . Most stunning to Americans, right or left, who follow these big money boys is that they are developing more speculative derivative packages, loaded with luscious fees, such as securitized bets on life insurance policies. Does this remind you of the kind of financial wheeling and dealing that sank Wall Street and the economy last year?

. . . As long as the top banking bosses get their huge bonuses and their mismanaged, corrupted banks get their taxpayer bailouts, because they are too big to fail, they will continue pushing their devastating greed with impunity.

The issue is not only shame. The issue is guilt and for that, prosecution, conviction and incarceration are the remedies. That is the only prospect that sobers up the corporate crooks.

Adequate prosecution budgets, tougher corporate criminal laws and a government going for law and order - none of these are in any legislative proposals or in the hearts and minds of our Washington representatives.

Paul Craig Roberts has crossed that line also by delineating the treason clearly in his latest: The Rich Have Stolen The Economy.

Bloomberg reports that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s closest aides earned millions of dollars a year working for Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and other Wall Street firms. Bloomberg reports that none of these aides faced Senate confirmation. Yet, they are overseeing the handout of hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer funds to their former employers.

The gifts of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money provided the banks with an abundance of low cost capital that has boosted the banks’ profits, while the taxpayers who provided the capital are increasingly unemployed and homeless. JPMorgan Chase announced that it has earned $3.6 billion in the third quarter of this year. Goldman Sachs has made so much money during this year of economic crisis that enormous bonuses are in the works. London Evening Standard reports that Goldman Sachs’ “5,500 London staff can look forward to record average payouts of around 500,000 pounds ($800,000) each. Senior executives will get bonuses of several million pounds each with the highest paid as much as 10 million pounds ($16 million).“

In the event the banksters can’t figure out how to enjoy the riches, the Financial Times is offering a new magazine--”How To Spend It.” New York City’s retailers are praying for some of it, suffering a 15.3% vacancy rate on Fifth Avenue.

Statistician John Williams ( reports that retail sales adjusted for inflation have declined to the level of 10 years ago: “Virtually 10 years worth of real retail sales growth has been destroyed in the still unfolding depression.”

Fortune Magazine brags to US that:

Goldman Sachs is having a banner year, and is getting a big boost from government programs.

It's probably cold comfort, but Goldman Sachs couldn't have done it without your help.

Even al-Jazeera knows what we don't (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

Goldman Sachs' profits mostly came from trading in bonds, currencies and commodities US bank Goldman Sachs has posted third-quarter profits that are more than three times the earnings it made at the same time last year.

Goldman, which received billions of dollars in US taxpayer money at the height of the global financial crisis, reported on Thursday that it earned $3.03bn in the July-September period, or $5.25 a share, bettering predictions of $4.24 a share by analysts.

The banking giant earned $810m, or $1.81 a share, during its fiscal third quarter of last year, which ended in August.

While Goldman usually devotes about 50 per cent of net earnings to pay and benefits, its strong third-quarter performance allowed it to drop the ratio of compensation to revenue to about 43 per cent, while still setting aside $5.4bn.

Robert Becker reminds us that:

In a stunning 1906 Cosmopolitan expose, journalist David Graham Phillips made history with his headline, “The Treason of the Senate.” He then justified his condemnation of mercenary senators, then cherrypicked by states and owned by nefarious Trusts:

Treason is a strong word, but not too strong, rather too weak, to characterize the situation in which the Senate is the eager, resourceful, indefatigable agent of interests as hostile to the American people as any invading army could be.

By 1914, the 17th Amendment mandated senators be popularly elected but, judging by today’s unevolved results, we have not yet salvaged one of the Founders' worst blunders. This American replica of the House of Lords, our least democratic, least representative organ, lives on, still the blockage after all these years.

You’d think franchising ex-slave descendants, non-land-owning men and wise women would save us? Yet our pretend elections, especially when counting votes tests southern I.Q.’s, only obscure contemporary 1906-style corruption. We pay senators from, say, Oklahoma as dumb as posts, as willfully ignorant about science and economics as history, hence easy pickings for modern “trusts” run by smarter executives.

Beyond the energy, mining, banking and endless war cartels, robber barons of health will spend $400 million fighting reform just this year, on top of $50 million channeled to Senate Finance committee members. None dare call that treason, just good business.

And if you don't believe me, even the con artists at CNBC aren't afraid to say that (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

This global recession will turn into a "full-blown depression," Nicu Harajchi, CEO of N1 Asset Management, said Friday, adding that global stimulus hasn't come down to Main Street.

Wall Street is making money, while consumers aren't, Harajchi told CNBC. "We have seen the G20 coming out with cross border capital injections of $5 trillion this year. . . But a lot of this money hasn't really come down to Main Street," he said.

"When it comes down to corporate America, corporate Europe or even in Asia, in Japan, we are not seeing Main Street making any money," he said. "Consumers are losing their jobs. They are struggling with their mortgages, with their credit. And we are just seeing this continuing."

The $5 trillion injection is "monetary expansion," according to Harajchi. "At some point, which we believe to be 2010/11, some of the central banks are going to recall some of that money and that will turn from monetary expansion to monetary contraction."

He also said he doesn't see the corporates or the public "being able to pay back that debt."

"We see 2010 becoming a much more risky year than 2009," he said.

Harajchi said unemployment data are "a leading indicator" instead of a lagging indicator.

It certainly was for me.

Suzan __________________

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Go To "Showdown in Chicago - Oct. 25" to Change the World!

Dean Baker*, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, says if we go to Chicago (again!), we can change the future (both economic and political) of this country.

And Take America Back From the Banks! (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

(Breaking News: Goldman Sachs 2009 bonuses to double 2008’s!)

Reining in the financial industry's power and greed will be a long, hard-fought war. But it is one that must be fought

The elites hate to acknowledge it, but when large numbers of ordinary people are moved to action, it changes the narrow political world where the elites call the shots. Inside accounts reveal the extent to which Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon's conduct of the Vietnam war was constrained by the huge anti-war movement. It was the civil rights movement, not compelling arguments, that convinced members of the US Congress to end legal racial discrimination. More recently, the town hall meetings dominated by people opposed to healthcare reform have been a serious roadblock for those pushing reform.

Those disgusted by the bank bailouts, and the bankers who brought us this recession, will have a chance to make their views known when the American Bankers Association has its annual meeting in Chicago this month. A large coalition of labour, community and consumer organisations are organising a protest at this "Showdown in Chicago".

A big turnout at this event can make a real difference. Just to review the scorecard, most of the country is still suffering the fallout from the bankers' irrational exuberance of the housing bubble era. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and other forecasters expect the suffering to endure for years to come.

The US unemployment rate is about to cross 10%, with an additional 9 million workers only able to find part-time work. CBO projects that unemployment will not return to normal levels until 2014. Almost 200,000 people are losing their homes every month through foreclosure. Tens of millions of people who had expected a comfortable retirement just saw most of their wealth disappear with the collapse of the housing bubble. State and local governments are being forced to lay off school teachers and fire fighters under the pressure of enormous budget deficits.

But not everyone is suffering. Thanks to the bailout programmes put in place last fall, most of the country's major banks are back on their feet. In fact, in the most recent quarter, bank profits hit a new record high as a share of all corporate profits.

And the banks are sharing their wealth. Many of their top executives and high performers will be getting bonuses this year worth millions of dollars. In some cases the bonuses will be in the tens of millions.

In the meantime, in elite Washington circles people are busy making plans for a national sales tax so that the government can limit the fiscal damage caused by the bankers' recession. A sales tax is of course very regressive, since low- and moderate-income people typically spend the vast majority of their income, while our banker friends will more likely to be able to save some of their income or spend it in other countries where they will not be paying this new sales tax.

To summarise: the bankers wrecked the economy with their greed, ran off with taxpayer dollars in a massive bailout and now plan to raise taxes for the rest of us. If that picture doesn't sound quite right, then go to Chicago.

This is a case where the divisions are not left-right, but of the elite against everyone else. When Congress was debating the Tarp bank bailout last fall, members of Congress were hearing calls from people across the political spectrum who were outraged that their tax dollars were going to the banks that had wrecked the economy. A higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats ended up voting against this bankers' piñata.

The policies that will rein in the banks: reform of the Federal Reserve Board to make it democratically accountable, a tax on financial speculation to pay for the bankers' mess and restrictions on the bank abuses of consumers that caused the carnage have support from people on both the left and right.

A bill that would require the Fed to disclose what it did with more than $2tn in loans to banks and other financial institutions was originally co-sponsored by Ron Paul and Alan Grayson, one of the most conservative and one of the most progressive members of Congress. Due to public pressure, it now has more than 270 co-sponsors.This is exactly the sort of alliance that gets the elite worried. Reining in the power of the financial industry will be a long, hard-fought war, but it is one that must be fought. President and Nobel peace prize winner Barack Obama may not have been able to bring the Olympics to Chicago, but everyone who wants to retake our country from the banks can bring their backside there on 25 October.

* Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He is frequently cited in economics reporting in major media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, CNBC, and National Public Radio. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian Unlimited (UK), and his blog, Beat the Press, features commentary on economic reporting. His analyses have appeared in many major publications, including the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, the London Financial Times, and the New York Daily News.

He received his Ph.D in economics from the University of Michigan.Dean has written several books, his latest being Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy (PoliPoint Press, 2009), which chronicles the growth and collapse of the stock and housing bubbles and explains how policy blunders and greed led to the catastrophic - but completely predictable - market meltdowns. This year he also wrote a chapter ("From Financial Crisis to Opportunity") in Thinking Big: Progressive Ideas for a New Era (Progressive Ideas Network, 2009). His previous books include The United States Since 1980 (Cambridge University Press, 2007); The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2006), and Social Security: The Phony Crisis (with Mark Weisbrot, University of Chicago Press, 1999). His book Getting Prices Right: The Debate Over the Consumer Price Index (editor, M.E. Sharpe, 1997) was a winner of a Choice Book Award as one of the outstanding academic books of the year.

On to Chicago! Suzan _________________