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Reactions to Senate Passage of Wall Street Reform

Sanders Statement on Senate Passage of Wall Street Reform

WASHINGTON, May 20 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement after the Senate tonight voted 59 to 39 for a major Wall Street reform bill:

“As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street, this country was plunged into a horrendous recession. While this bill does not go as far as I would like, it is a strong beginning in the effort to reregulate huge financial institutions and to bring transparency to their often nefarious activities.

“I am especially proud that in this bill there is a major provision I authored which, for the first time, will lift the veil of secrecy at the Federal Reserve and give the American people an understanding of where trillions of their tax dollars went in the Wall Street bailout.

“I am disappointed that we could not garner the necessary votes to lower interest rates on credit cards or to begin the process of breaking up the largest financial institutions in this country which are the cause of so many of our problems. I intend to continue that effort until we succeed.”

Click "Read more" below right for more reactions and videos.

The Financial Crisis Is A Game Of 3 Card Monte

The Financial Crisis Is A Game Of 3 Card Monte
You Always Think You Are Going To Win Until You Lose
By Danny Schechter | PlunderTheCrimeOfOurTime.com

We live in a three card monte world. Follow the money as it moves from one shell to another. Now guess where it is. Most of us don’t know the hand can be quicker than the eye. That’s why mostly everyone who has ever been suckered into playing ends up losing except those who are allowed to win to keep the hustle going. We miss the tricks of the trade even as we swear we know where the winning card or money or ball is.

Phase one (Courtesy of Good Tricks): Begin by showing the cards and explaining the game. Do a fair throw, mix the cards on the table slowly, and then turn over the winner. Do this a few times. Without any warning or any change in your pace or handling, do a fake throw and mix the cards slowly on the table. Point to the actual winner, and say something like "You saw it end up over here, right?" They will, of course, disagree with you. Turn it up.

On Tuesday night, Americans were watching the “super primary” in which campaigns in three states supposedly showed which was the 2010 election would go. In one a Tea Party backed candidate, Rand Paul, son of a well known Congressman prevailed, declaring “We will take our government back.”

Presumably he meant from the politicians, and from the major parties, but not from Wall Street which at the very hour of his great triumph in the latest Kentucky Derby was burning the midnight oil, trashing what’s left of financial reform especially the effort to regulate derivatives.

“It’s a bad sign,” bemoans the New York Times, “that there are so many unresolved issues...virtually every effort to weaken the bill involves watering down or undoing these reforms either explicitly or by or by adding fiendishly convoluted language that obscures the bill’s purpose.”

When was the last time you saw the word “FIENDISHLY” in the New York Times?

Bill for Afghan War Could Run into the Trillions

Bill for Afghan War Could Run into the Trillions
By Eli Clifton | Australia.to News

The U.S. Senate is moving forward with a 59-billion-dollar spending bill, of which 33.5 billion dollars would be allocated for the war in Afghanistan.

However, some experts here in Washington are raising concerns that the war may be unwinnable and that the money being spent on military operations in Afghanistan could be better spent.

”We're making all of the same mistakes the Soviets made during their time in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, and they left in defeat having accomplished none of their purposes,” Michael Intriligator, a senior fellow at the Milken Institute, said Monday at a half-day conference hosted by the New America Foundation and Economists for Peace and Security.

”I think we're repeating that and it's a history we're condemned to repeat,” he said.

Intriligator also argued that the real, long-term cost of the war in Afghanistan may completely overshadow the current spending bill.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes estimated that the long-term costs - taking into account the costs of taking care of wounded soldiers and rebuilding the military - of the war in Iraq will ultimately cost three trillion dollars.

Intriligator suggested that a similar calculation for the costs of the war in Afghanistan would indicate a long-term cost of 1.5 to 2.0 trillion dollars.

”Why are we putting money into Afghanistan to fight a losing war and following the Soviet example rather than putting money into [our] local communities?” he asked. Read more.

TomDispatch: The Relentless Pursuit of Extreme Energy, A New Oil Rush Endangers the Gulf of Mexico and the Planet

From TomDispatch this afternoon, a striking analysis of what the BP oil-leak disaster in the Gulf of Mexico really means, and a reminder that it signals the grim beginning of a new oil rush in an onrushing age of "tough oil" -- Michael T. Klare, "The Relentless Pursuit of Extreme Energy, A New Oil Rush Endangers the Gulf of Mexico and the Planet."

"Yes, the oil spewing up from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico in staggering quantities could prove one of the great ecological disasters of human history," begins energy expert and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet Michael Klare. "Think of it, though, as just the prelude to the Age of Tough Oil, a time of ever increasing reliance on problematic, hard-to-reach energy sources. Make no mistake: we’re entering the danger zone. And brace yourself, the fate of the planet could be at stake."

Klare is one of our foremost analysts on the coming age of tough oil and of natural resource scarcity. In his latest TomDispatch.com post, he reminds us of a simple fact when it comes to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20th in the Gulf of Mexico: "Whether or not the immediate trigger of the explosion is ever fully determined, there can be no mistaking the underlying cause: a government-backed corporate drive to exploit oil and natural gas reserves in extreme environments under increasingly hazardous operating conditions."

This is a subject on which Klare has been a pioneer in his analysis. Here he focuses on the new oil rush in search of energy reserves into some of the most difficult areas of the planet -- the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Arctic which, by their very nature, involve an ever increasing risk of human and environmental catastrophe -- something that has been far too little acknowledged.

Klare concludes his important new piece on what the BP ecological disaster really portends this way: "The Deepwater Horizon explosion, we assuredly will be told, was an unfortunate fluke: a confluence of improper management and faulty equipment. With tightened oversight, it will be said, such accidents can be averted -- and so it will be safe to go back into the deep waters again and drill for oil a mile or more beneath the ocean’s surface. Don’t believe it... The ultimate source of the disaster is big oil’s compulsive drive to compensate for the decline in its conventional oil reserves by seeking supplies in inherently hazardous areas -- risks be damned. So long as this compulsion prevails, more such disasters will follow. Bet on it." This is a major piece of analysis. Don't miss it. Read it now.

Protesters Gather At Massey Annual Meeting


Protesters gather at Massey annual meeting
By Dena Potter, AP | Google News

A mixture of union representatives and anti-mining activists gathered outside a historic Richmond hotel Tuesday morning to protest against a common foe — Massey Energy Co.

Hundreds of people sang songs, chanted and held signs across the street from the Jefferson Hotel, while Richmond-based Massey's board opened its annual stockholders meeting inside. Their protests were focused on Massey CEO Don Blankenship, calling for him to resign or to be prosecuted on environmental and workplace safety issues.

The meeting has attracted more attention than usual because it comes six weeks after 29 miners died in an explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. The blast is the nation's worst coal mining disaster in 40 years and has prompted an outpouring of criticism of Massey.

At least two people were arrested inside the hotel by Richmond police. Hotel officials declined to comment, and police did not immediately identify who was arrested or why.

Environmental group Rising Tide DC said group members Kate Finneran, 22, and Oscar Ramirez, 25, were arrested after unfurling a 10-by-10 hand-painted banner that read "Massey: Stop Putting Profits Over People" from the mezzanine above the grand foyer in the hotel. They were charged with trespassing and were expected to be released Tuesday afternoon. Read more.

Congressional Climate Bills - Stealth Schemes to Raise Energy Prices and Enrich Wall Street


Congressional Climate Bills - Stealth Schemes to Raise Energy Prices and Enrich Wall Street
By Stephen Lendman

On June 26, 2009, HR 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA) passed, purportedly "To create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy."

In fact, it lets energy polluters raise prices for huge windfall profits and gives Wall Street a bonanza through carbon trading derivatives speculation. Catherine Austin Fitts' Solari.com blog explained it last July in her article titled, "The Next Really Scary Bubble" is coming, saying:

"If you think the housing and credit bubble diminished your financial security and your community, or the bailouts, or the rising gas prices did as well, hold on to your hat" for what's ahead. "Carbon trading is gearing up to make the housing and derivative bubbles look like target practice," or in other words, be the mother of all scams, courtesy of administration, House and Senate collaboration with Wall Street and the energy giants.

Now the Senate version - a clean energy bill? Not according to the Center for Biological Diversity calling it:

"a disaster for our climate and planet. (The Kerry-Lieberman) proposal moves us one baby step forward and at least three giant steps back in any rational effort to address the climate crisis. (Their bill) would entrench our addiction to fossil fuels by offering incentives for increased oil and gas drilling just days after what appears to be the worst offshore oil disaster in American history."

Their proposal includes "no safeguards....to make offshore oil safe. (It) echoes greenhouse pollution reduction targets that scientists recently called 'paltry' and inadequate to prevent the worst impacts of climate change....The Kerry-Lieberman (bill) is not the answer because it asks the wrong questions."

Afghanistan: Whose War?

Afghanistan: Whose war?
By Doug Bandow | Daily Caller

America has achieved its objectives in Afghanistan: al-Qaeda has been dispersed, the Taliban has been punished, an anti-terrorism message has been sent. But Washington’s broader attempt at nation-building has been far less successful, despite the expenditure of nearly 1,000 American lives more than $220 billion. For all this, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calls the situation in Afghanistan “deteriorating.”

There is no better time than the present for Washington to learn humility. The U.S. cannot impose liberty, prosperity, democracy, and stability on Afghanistan. The Obama administration should focus on protecting Americans from terrorism while leaving nation-building in Afghanistan to the Afghan people.

The easiest way for an American to fly into Afghanistan is on Kam Air from Dubai. But it appears that only Americans fly into Afghanistan on Kam Air from Dubai. Almost, anyway.

The vast majority of passengers on my flights into and out of Kabul were white males, many with military-style haircuts and several with military tattoos. A few may be on active duty. Most probably are private security consultants. As in Iraq, contractors have come to play an increasing role in the way America fights wars.

More significant, though, is the appearance that this is America’s, not Afghanistan’s, war. Afghans are doing most of the dying, of course. But the conflict is what it is because of American (and Western) men and money.

As a city of several million, Kabul is most definitely Afghan. Nevertheless, the city’s organization—to the extent that it exists—is Western. Traffic, commerce, government, and much else revolves around foreign soldiers, diplomats, consultants, aid workers, journalists, and other outsiders who typically show up during war.

Taliban attacks in the capital are few, but no one feels safe. The airport is ringed by barbed wire; the road leading in is filled with concrete blocks and checkpoints. Travelers face multiple bag and body checks. Humvees topped with machine guns stand guard.

Note: The author, Doug Bandow, is the Robert A. Taft Fellow at the American Conservative Defense Alliance, advisor to Campaign for Liberty, and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. He is also a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. Read more.

Wall Street to K Street to Capitol Hill - One Big Revolving Door

Wall Street to K Street to Capitol Hill - One Big Revolving Door
By George Goehl, Executive Director, National People's Action | Huffington Post

Big bank CEOs make their most lucrative moves not from their offices on Wall Street but from their DC addresses on K Street and Capitol Hill.

A new report by Campaign for America's Future and the Public Accountability Initiative, shows things are worse than many of us knew.

The report, "Big Bank Takeover,"...documents a revolving door where former Members of Congress and federal employees soon become bank lobbyists who work to undermine democracy and further the interests of Wall Street at the expense of the American people.

The report documents how during the financial reform debate, the financial industry has hired over 70 former Members of Congress and 940 former federal employees to lobby on their behalf. Members of both parties are guilty.

One of the key findings is that the six biggest banks - Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo - account for a disproportionate share of the activity. This provides the answer to why the U.S. Senate has failed to move on the most critical component of financial reform: breaking up the big banks whose size and reach put our entire economy (not to mention our democracy) at risk. Read more.

Euro Crisis: Only Root-And-Branch Financial Reform Can Tame The Wolf Pack


Euro crisis: only root-and-branch financial reform can tame the wolf pack
By Dan Roberts | Guardian.co.UK

Excerpt:

European optimists hope the way to save the eurozone will be to complete the project by agreeing much closer fiscal and political union between the single currency members. In future, the hope is Germany would no more allow Greece to get into this mess than it would Bavaria.

Yet recognising how interconnected our economies have become does not in itself lessen the risks. In many respects, the credit crunch which began in 2007 has just jumped another firebreak: what began as a private sector banking problem has mutated into a sovereign debt disaster as nation states try to help, and is now becoming a supranational headache instead as the few remaining stable authorities, such as the EU and International Monetary Fund, get dragged in too.

Understandably, many are now again questioning the role that banks and traders have played in this saga – not least as a government-spurred recovery in bank profits once again drives personal bonuses to record levels.

In Europe, anger at the financial system is directed particularly towards London and New York, where most of the world's currency traders and debt investors hang out. The EU is already working on plans to form its own credit rating agencies as an answer to what many see as an American hegemony....

Satisfying, and just, as it may be to turn fire back on the financiers, the complicating factor is that indebted countries have never needed them more. Perhaps only a root-and-branch reassessment of our financial system itself can save us now. Read more.

Listen Tonight! KBOO Special Report: The Insanity Of Our Oil Addiction - Connecting The Dots In The BP Oil Disaster - Tonight 6-7 PM Pacific Time


KBOO Special report: The insanity of our oil addiction - connecting the dots in the BP Oil Disaster

Air date: Wed, 05/12/2010 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm Pacific Time

Featuring radical Texas populist Jim Hightower, renowned author and activist Antonia Juhasz (‘The Tyranny of Oil’), discussing the real issues behind the BP oil spill currently gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer and public speaker who has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

Twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hightower believes that the true political spectrum is not right to left but top to bottom, and he has become a leading national voice for the 80 percent of the public who no longer find themselves within shouting distance of the Washington and Wall Street powers at the top. Click here for his website.

Also on the show will be Antonia Juhasz, whose book ‘The Tyranny of Oil’ has been called the hardest-hitting exposé of the oil industry in decades, examining today's most pressing energy questions:

  • Why do oil and gasoline prices rise and fall so quickly?
  • How much oil is left?
  • How far will Big Oil go to get it?
  • And at what cost to the economy, environment, human rights, worker safety, public health, democracy, and America’s place in the world?

After Oil Rig Blast, BP Refused to Share Underwater Spill Footage


After Oil Rig Blast, BP Refused to Share Underwater Spill Footage
Message Control A Key Industry Focus During Oil Disaster Drills
By Matthew Mosk, Avni Patel, John Solomon, and Aaron Metha | ABC News And Center For Public Integrity | May 12, 2010

"The technology that's being used on the surface is over 30 years old," said Jerome Milgram, a professor of marine technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "I can say this. I don't see any practical effect for putting out booms when the sea conditions are such that the booms are totally ineffective."

BP's "worst case" scenario for a huge oil spill in the Gulf relies heavily on being able to boom and skim a half million barrels a day, according to the oil spill response plan the company filed with federal regulators.

During a series of dry-run exercises, where the U.S. Coast Guard, other agencies and oil companies practiced their response to major oil spill disasters, industry executives repeatedly pressed federal regulators to give them more say on what information would be released to the public if disaster struck.

Reports obtained in a joint investigation by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity show oil companies targeted the potential release of "confidential" information as a key concern.

That behind-the-scenes lobbying effort helped foretell a tug of war this week over images that BP America did not want the public to see as the company struggled to try and contain the massive spill unleashed after one of the company's offshore oil rigs exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

Throughout the clean-up effort, BP has monitored the spill site around the clock using submarine-mounted cameras at the mouth of the spill. An official at Oceaneering International, the company that operates the submarines under a contract with BP, told ABC News he "could walk right down the hall and watch it, but I can't share it without BP's express permission." Read more.

Protesters Target BP, Oil Spill Cleanup Continues

Protesters Target BP, Oil Spill Cleanup Continues | ABC News

Billions of oil barrels spilled reminiscent of Exxon Valdez catastrophe

Senate Votes to Audit the Fed

Senate Votes to Audit the Fed
By John Nichols | The Nation

“The Fed can no longer operate in virtual secrecy,” declared Vermont independent Bernie Sanders Tuesday after the Senate voted 96-0 to add his "Audit the Fed" amendment to the financial regulatory reform bill.

The Senate amendment is not as muscular as the bipartisan legislation backed by the House, which was sponsored by Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, an aggressive progressive, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, an equally agressive conservative with libertarian leanings. The Grayson-Paul bill authorizes audits by the Government Accountability Office of every item on the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, including all credit facilities and all securities purchase programs; there would be exemption only for unreleased transcripts, minutes of closed-door meetings and the most recent decisions of the central bank. The Senate measure is narrower in its focus, but it would require the GAO to scrutinize some several trillion dollars in emergency lending that the Fed provided to big banks after the September, 2008, economic meltdown.

The actual amount of public money that has been set aside for private banks is not known. That's one reason why this audit is so important. But there can be no doubt that the figure is astronomical. The Center for Media and Democracy’s Wall Street Bailout Tally shows that since 2008, the U.S. government has flooded Wall Street banks and financial institutions with $4.7 trillion dollars in taxpayer money, mostly in the form of loans from the Fed reserve. The Fed has never told us which firms got these loans and what type of collateral American taxpayers got in return. This will now be revealed. We will also get an accounting of the Fed’s “stealth” bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. Read more.

Protests As US Congress Opens Oil Spill Hearing


Protests as US Congress opens oil spill hearing | AFP

Protesters called out "BP kills" and waved signs denouncing the British energy giant Tuesday as the US Congress opened its first hearing into the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"BP kills wildlife, BP kills people, BP kills the planet," two of the demonstrators, members of the anti-war group Code Pink, called out moments before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources began the session.

The protesters also waved signs that read "BP = Bad People," and one wore a T-shirt with a crudely painted "power to the people."

A second group of protesters staged a more quiet show of opposition in black T-shirts emblazoned with "Energy Shouldn't Cost Lives," applying make-up in the shape of black tears.

Related links:

(PressTV) – BP dome fails to stop oil leak
British Petroleum (BP) has failed in its first attempt to contain oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico with a metal box as crystallized gas fills the structure. Read More Here

  • (McClatchyDC) – Video: Since spill, feds have given 27 waivers to oil companies in gulf. Since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded on April 20, the Obama administration has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico. Video Link Here
  • Video: Southern Boys Show US Government How to Clean Up Oil With Hay! – Video Link Here
  • (MediaConsortium) – Weekly Mulch: Slick of Oil Industry Cash Gummed up Regulatory Works
  • The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is worse than anyone thought, and the crisis will likely go on for months. British Petroleum (BP) is tripping over itself to say it’ll cover the costs of the clean-up, yet before the spill, the company spent its time and money pushing back against government regulation and safety measures. Read More Here
  • (Spiegel) – Expert Recommends Killing Oil-Soaked Birds A German biologist says that efforts to clean oil-drenched birds in the Gulf of Mexico are in vain. For the birds’ sake, it would be faster and less painful if animal-rescue workers put them under, she says. Studies and other experts back her up. Kill, don’t clean,” is the recommendation of a German animal biologist, who this week said that massive efforts to clean oil-soaked birds in Gulf of Mexico won’t do much to stop a near certain and painful death for the creatures Read More Here
  • (Guardian) – Chevron wins access to film-maker’s Amazon pollution footage
  • Crude, released last year, focuses on the 17-year legal battle between Chevron and 30,000 Ecuadorians who say their land, rivers, wells, livestock and own bodies were poisoned by decades of reckless oil drilling in the rainforest. Read More Here
  • (AP) – Oil spill may endanger human health, officials say
  • With a huge and unpredictable oil slick drifting in the Gulf of Mexico, state and federal authorities are preparing to deal with a variety of hazards to human health if and when the full brunt of the toxic mess washes ashore. Read More Here
    (GreenPeace) – BP working hard to keep the damage hidden – Read More Here

Sanders' Federal Reserve Transparancy Amendment Passes

Sen. Sanders holds a Capitol Hill press conference following overwhelming passage by the Senate of his amendment to audit the Federal Reserve and force the agency to disclose which institutions received low-interest loans. The amendment passed 96-0.

Foreign Bankers, Low Hanging Fruit and Social Security


Foreign Bankers, Low Hanging Fruit and Social Security
Reprinted in full courtesy of NCPSSM | May 11, 2010

In these days of billion dollar public relations campaigns designed to convince the American people that somehow Social Security must foot the bill for a decade of unrelated fiscal failures, the headlines hardly surprise us anymore. But today on CNN Money we came across something which has really set the bar for balanced media coverage at a new low.

Jeanne Sahadi’s “Fixing Social Security: the Low Hanging Fruit” reads like a Peterson Foundation News Release. Quoting liberally from the multi-billionaire anti-entitlement crusader and the director of another Peterson funded group, the Concord Coalition, provides lop-sided sources for a story about Social Security. Surely CNN could have found at least one Social Security expert in Washington to balance the anti-Social Security rhetoric? Rhetoric like:

“it (cutting Social Security) would be a confidence builder with our foreign lenders” Peter Peterson, Peterson Foundation

“They could begin with Social Security, which oddly enough has gone from being the ‘third rail of American politics’ to the low-hanging fruit” Robert Bixby, Concord Coalition

These “experts” Sahadi consulted view Social Security cuts as low-hanging fruit and a confidence builder for foreign bankers …really? Is that really all there is to this story? How about a quote reminding CNN viewers and its online readers that Social Security hasn’t contributed one dime to our current fiscal mess–that Social Security is funded by contributions from American workers, not federal dollars? How about a quote from an economist or Social Security policy expert explaining that what fiscal hawks really want is for Washington to renege on its repayment to the Social Security trust fund—a trust fund built up by contributions from America’s workers over decades and now made to be the scapegoat for failed borrow and spend policies, skyrocketing health care costs, two wars, tax cuts for the wealthy and a Wall Street run amok (which ultimately collapsed our economy).

And Chicks for Free?

And Chicks for Free?
By James Howard Kunstler | Truthout

...The truth is that the imbalances of global finance are so grotesque now that the whole money system is hanging together with nothing but spit and prayer. I get rafts of e-letters every week warning of a supposedly-coming global currency -- a companion idea to the notion of a one-world government. Both are idiotic fantasies. Events are taking the nations of the world in the other direction: towards break-up, down-sizing, down-scaling. Likewise, if major currencies such as the Euro and the dollar blow up, they're much more likely to be replaced by more local bank-notes backed by gold than by some hypothetical Amero or Globo-buck.

At seven a.m. Eastern time, the European stock markets were zooming, and Bloomberg even carried a wonderfully mysterious headline saying Greek Bonds Rally. That was especially rich -- like, who in the fuck is going to load up on Greek bonds now? Is there a pension fund somewhere run by such dimwits that they would sell their positions in the Goldman Sachs issued Timberwolf CDO in order to get in on the new bargain in ten-year Greek sovereigns? I hope those pensioners are prepared to spend what remains of their lives selling chestnuts from pushcarts on the streets of Oslo, because they sure won't be clipping coupons in front of any World Cup telecast.

As if life in the USA wasn't surreal enough last week. Once upon a time, the stock market was a place where people with capital went to look for productive activity to invest in -- say, a company devoted to making soap flakes, an underpants factory. Now the market is a robot combat arena where algorithms battle for supremacy of the feedback loops. Thursday's still-baffling fifteen-minute "crash" was an excellent demonstration of the diminishing returns of technology. People too-clever-by-half, aided greatly by computers, have now gamed the investment indexes so successfully that these markets no longer have anything to do with investment -- they're just about shaving micro-points of profit at high volumes by micro-milliseconds off mere differentials in... math! This is truly quant heaven, a place where only numbers matter and there is no correspondence to anything in the real world. In other words, last Thursday's bizarre action was a warning that the American stock markets have flown up their own aggregate ass. Read more.

The Cover-up: BP's Crude Politics and the Looming Environmental Mega-Disaster

The Cover-up: BP's Crude Politics and the Looming Environmental Mega-Disaster
By Wayne Madsen | Oil Price | Note: Bolding mine. ~Chip :)

WMR has been informed by sources in the US Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Florida Department of Environmental Protection that the Obama White House and British Petroleum (BP), which pumped $71,000 into Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign -- more than John McCain or Hillary Clinton, are covering up the magnitude of the volcanic-level oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and working together to limit BP's liability for damage caused by what can be called a "mega-disaster."

Obama and his senior White House staff, as well as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, are working with BP's chief executive officer Tony Hayward on legislation that would raise the cap on liability for damage claims from those affected by the oil disaster from $75 million to $10 billion. However, WMR's federal and Gulf state sources are reporting the disaster has the real potential cost of at least $1 trillion. Critics of the deal being worked out between Obama and Hayward point out that $10 billion is a mere drop in the bucket for a trillion dollar disaster but also note that BP, if its assets were nationalized, could fetch almost a trillion dollars for compensation purposes. There is talk in some government circles, including FEMA, of the need to nationalize BP in order to compensate those who will ultimately be affected by the worst oil disaster in the history of the world.

Plans by BP to sink a 4-story containment dome over the oil gushing from a gaping chasm one kilometer below the surface of the Gulf, where the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and killed 11 workers on April 20, and reports that one of the leaks has been contained is pure public relations disinformation designed to avoid panic and demands for greater action by the Obama administration, according to FEMA and Corps of Engineers sources. Sources within these agencies say the White House has been resisting releasing any "damaging information" about the oil disaster. They add that if the ocean oil geyser is not stopped within 90 days, there will be irreversible damage to the marine eco-systems of the Gulf of Mexico, north Atlantic Ocean, and beyond. At best, some Corps of Engineers experts say it could take two years to cement the chasm on the floor of the Gulf. Read more.

The Financial Oligarchy Reigns: Democracy’s Death Spiral From Greece to the United States

The Financial Oligarchy Reigns: Democracy’s Death Spiral From Greece to the United States
By David DeGraw | Amped Status

As the Economic Elite continue their plunder, the people in Greece riot and the big banks score yet another big blow against the people of the United States.

Democracy throughout the world is under attack. Many people can make the argument that our democracy here in America is only an illusion, but even the illusion of democracy is crashing down. Tragedies are currently playing out across the world on an epic scale. Unprecedented economic and environmental catastrophes have become the norm. Billions of people, the overwhelming majority of humanity, have been sentenced to a slow death due to a concentration of wealth and resources within the humanity’s economic top 0.5%. Ultimately, short-sighted greed has proven to be humanity’s most severe disease.

I: Democracy Vs. Oligarchy: Lessons from History

The experiment known as democracy is devolving into fascism before our eyes, the “iron law of oligarchy” is once again asserting itself. From the Founding Fathers on, we have known that you cannot have a concentration of vast wealth and Democracy at the same time, and we currently have the greatest concentration of wealth in the history of the United States. As former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

The power struggle between democracy and the concentration of power represented within private banking interests has been a war raging throughout American history. Our Founders and early Presidents were very explicit in their opposition and our need to vigilantly guard against any private interests who sought control over our economy. In fact, our current crisis and power structure was summed up with stunning accuracy by the Founding Fathers themselves. As James Madison called it, “the daring depravity of the times.” As he described, “The stock-jobbers will become the praetorian band of the government, at once its tools and its tyrants; bribed by its largesse, and overawing it by clamors and combinations. Substituting the motive of private interest in place of public duty, leading to a real domination of the few under an apparent domination of the many.”

Leave it to Madison, the Father of the Constitution, to give us one of the most prescient quotes on modern day America you can find. For those of you who have never heard the term “stock-jobbers,” here’s the definition from a dictionary written in 1811:

“Stock Jobbers

Persons who gamble in Exchange Alley, by pretending to buy and sell the public funds, but in reality only betting that they will be at a certain price, at a particular time; possessing neither the stock pretended to be sold, nor money sufficient to make good the payments for which they contract: these gentlemen are known under the different appellations of bulls, bears, and lame ducks.”

Yes, even the Founders, long before High Frequency Trading algorithms and derivatives, had a clear understanding and great fear of the casino rigging tyrants in “Exchange Alley.” Madison also famously said: “History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.” Read more.

High Frequency Terrorism: How the Big Banks and Federal Reserve Maintained Their Death Grip Over the United States

High Frequency Terrorism: How the Big Banks and Federal Reserve Maintained Their Death Grip Over the United States
By David McGraw | Amped Status

The following article is the third-part of a six-part report titled: “The Financial Oligarchy Reigns: Democracy’s Death Spiral From Greece to the United States.” The full report is available here.

III: Financial Terrorism Operations: 9/29/08 & 5/6/10

In the aftermath of Goldman Sachs’ public flogging before the world in Congress, and while under investigation, on the very day that Congress was voting on the “break up the too big to fail banks” amendment and cutting behind the scenes deals to gut the audit of the Federal Reserve, the stock market had its greatest sudden drop in history, plummeting 700 points in ten minutes - shades of September 29, 2008 all over again.

If you recall, back in September ‘08, as Congress was voting down the first bailout, the big banks made the market plunge a record 778 points in one day, fear and panic then led Congress to pass the bailout. Trillions of our tax dollars, the money that we desperately need to keep our society functioning over the long run, then went out the window and into the pockets of the very people who caused the crash.

What happened on September 29, 2008 will go down in history as one of the greatest acts of terrorism ever.

9/29/08 proved that when you have so much power concentrated in the hands of a few, you can manipulate a computer algorithm and make the market and economy go which ever way you want it to go. So on 5/6/10, just as the power of the big banks was threatened again on the floor of the Senate and a deal on auditing the Federal Reserve was being negotiated, in came a sudden and unprecedented ten-minute 700 point market drop. A precision-guided High Frequency Trading (HFT) attack to show Congress who’s boss.

If you think the massive sudden drop happened because one lowly trader hit one wrong button, if you actually believe that the entire stock market can plunge because of one mistaken key stroke by a low level trader, you are stunningly naïve. I hate to burst your bubble, but this was a direct attack.

Talking With Chalmers Johnson: The Downward Slope of the Empire

Talking With Chalmers Johnson
The Downward Slope of the Empire
By Harry Kreisler | Counterpunch

So, what do I suggest probably will happen? I think we will stagger along under a façade of constitutional government, as we are now, until we’re overcome by bankruptcy. We are not paying our way. We’re financing it off of huge loans coming daily from our two leading creditors, Japan and China.

It’s a rigged system that reminds you of Herb Stein, [who], when he was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in a Republican administration, rather famously said, “Things that can’t go on forever don’t.” That’s what we’re talking about today. We’re massively indebted, we’re not manufacturing as much as we used to, we maintain our lifestyle off huge capital imports from countries that don’t mind taking a short, small beating on the exchange rates so long as they can continue to develop their own economies and supply Americans: above all, China within twenty to twenty-five years will be both the world’s largest social system and the world’s most productive social system, barring truly unforeseen developments.

Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blowback and The Sorrows of Empire. He appeared in the 2005 prizewinning documentary film Why We Fight. He lives near San Diego.

Kreisler: Once upon a time you called yourself a “spear-carrier for the empire.”

Johnson: “—for the empire,” yes, yes.

That’s the prologue to Blowback; I was a consultant to the Office of National Estimates of the CIA during the time of the Vietnam War. But what caused me to change my mind and to rethink these issues? Two things: one analytical, one concrete. The first was the demise of the Soviet Union. I expected much more from the United States in the way of a peace dividend. I believe that Russia today is not the former Soviet Union by any means. It’s a much smaller place. I would have expected that as a tradition in the United States, we would have demobilized much more radically. We would have rethought more seriously our role in the world, brought home troops in places like Okinawa. Instead, we did every thing in our power to shore up the Cold War structures in East Asia, in Latin America. The search for new enemies began. That’s the neoconservatives. I was shocked, actually, by this. Did this mean that the Cold War was a cover for something deeper, for an American imperial project that had been in the works since World War II? I began to believe that this is the case. Read more.

Senators Opposing Breaking Up The Banks Get Way More Money From Financial Industry


Senators Opposing Breaking up the Banks Get Way More Money from Financial Industry
By Donny Shaw | A New Way Forward Blog

We’re conducting a whip count on the SAFE Banking Act amendment to the financial reform bill right now, which would force a handful of the biggest banks to shrink themselves down over a period of three years to about the size they were in 2003. Obviously, the big banks are dead set against this amendment. Their lobbyists are currently working the Hill to fight it.

As the day wound down on Wednesday afternoon and Senate offices began to close, the whip count paused for the day with 11 senators in the supportive column and 11 senators in the opposing column. So I began thinking, how does support for breaking up the banks a la the SAFE Banking Act correspond with campaign contributions from the finance industry Pulling from lifetime campaign contribution data provided by OpenSecrets.org, I discovered that senators opposing the big-bank opposed SAFE Banking Act have received nearly twice as much money from the financial sector.

  • Total lifetime financial industry contributions to the 11 supporters: $13,174,331
  • Mean average lifetime contribution of the supporters: $1,197,666
  • Total lifetime financial industry contributions to the 11 opponents: $24,996,352
  • Mean average lifetime contribution of the opponents: $2,272,395

If that’s not clear, I don’t know what is. There’s no ambiguity here — Senators opposing the SAFE Banking Act are doing the bidding of the big banks that are funding their political campaigns.

UPDATE: In response to a request in the comments, here are the individual totals from OpenSecrets:

Supporters:

  • Kaufman $0
  • Sherrod Brown $1,620,430
  • Casey $1,355,841
  • Harkin $2,534,445
  • Merkley $721,157
  • Sanders $181,095
  • Whitehouse $1,222,607
  • Durbin $3,055,424
  • Burris $4,900
  • Dorgan $1,455,834
  • Franken $1,022,598

Opponents:

  • Conrad $2,507,437
  • Bill Nelson $3,213,078
  • Begich $412,637
  • Warner $2,632,766
  • Gregg $1,070,249
  • Grassley $2,605,399
  • Enzi $1,087,043
  • Sessions $2,158,535
  • Crapo $1,779,063
  • Ensign $2,589,370
  • Alexander $4,940,775

DOJ Responds to Velvet Revolution's Call for Criminal Investigations Into Goldman Sachs and Massey Energy



Twin StopTheChamber Successes! Criminal Investigation of Massey Energy and Goldman Sachs Announced by DoJ!

Our StopTheChamber.com campaign has been on fire since we wrote to Eric Holder three weeks ago asking for a criminal investigation of Massey Energy CEO and Chamber of Commerce director Don Blankenship whose safety violations caused the death of 29 miners. Our spokesman, in numerous appearances, has been educating the mainstream press about the Chamber’s unethical activities. And last week, within 24 hours of when we publicly asked, “Where are the prosecutors” of Massey Energy and Goldman Sachs, the Department of Justice announced criminal investigations against both companies!

Watch Quick Video: RFK Jr. Talks to VR about Massey Energy's Criminality

Watch our Earth Day, interview with Bobby Kennedy Jr., who calls Massey Energy “a criminal enterprise,” and says Blankenship should “be in jail” for causing the death of the 29 miners.

VR Offers $50,000 Reward re: Massey Energy Bribes

On Monday we offered a reward for information leading the arrest of any Massey Energy executive who paid a bribe to federal officials to overlook safety violations. The FBI announced last Friday that it was investigating such bribes.

We have to keep the pressure on to hold these corporate criminals accountable. Will you help by signing on to our StopTheChamber.com campaign?

Your tax-deductible donations are needed to enable us to continue with our press releases, ads and public relations campaign.

What Real Financial Reform Looks Like

What Real Financial Reform Looks Like
By Stephen Lendman

Be wary when Washington talks reform. Nearly always it's bogus and ends up making a bad situation worse, the likely outcome this time addressing longstanding Wall Street abuses not easily changed at a time tinkering around the edges or papering them over won't work.

Case in point - the House passed "Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009" (HR 4173) and current Senate debate on the "Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010" (S. 3217). This writer addressed both measures on April 1:

See Bogus Washington-Proposed Financial Reform.

Still a work in progress, the Senate bill will be as bogus as the House one, so whatever reconciliation produces will be another promise made, another broken. Business as usual will persist so don't be fooled - on this measure or any other, including the appalling health care bill that made a dysfunctional system worse, and took a giant step toward ending Medicare, one of the main reasons it was enacted, besides enriching corporate providers.

Instead of restraining financial fraud, House and Senate bills sanctify it. They leave too big to fail banks in place, permit greater consolidation, and let Wall Street casinos game the system with public money, gambling with unregulated exotic and fraudulent derivatives and other securities.

In Washington, the more things change, the more they worsen, and the public always gets scammed - fooled again because power and privilege trump people.

Lobbyists and corporate lawyers write legislation affecting their interests and get precisely what they want, a few public-friendly crumbs added for deception.

Consider a few measures likely to pass or not change:

Momentum Mounts for Left-Right Coalition Against Fed Secrecy: White House Picks Wrong Side

Momentum Mounts for Left-Right Coalition Against Fed Secrecy: White House Picks Wrong Side | Press Release

An unusual left-right coalition has formed against Wall Street and the White House in a fight for openness at the Federal Reserve.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today released new letters of support for an amendment that he plans to offer next week to make the Fed name banks that took trillions of dollars in secret subsidies.

The Obama administration has sided with the Fed and powerful Wall Street interests in opposition to the amendment. “When it comes to openness vs. secrecy, Wall Street vs. Main Street, taxpayers vs. the big bankers, I am sorry to say that the White House has come down on the wrong side,” Sanders said. “With growing support for this amendment from both the left and right, I hope that the administration reconsiders.”

Bill Black, Andy Stern, James Galbraith, Dean Baker Sign Letter of Support for Audit the Fed

Bill Black, Andy Stern, James Galbraith, Dean Baker Sign Letter of Support for Audit the Fed
By Jane Hamsher | FireDogLake

The Obama administration and Fed officials have said they “would fight to stop it at all costs” an amendment to the financial reform bill sponsored by Bernie Sanders that would require an audit of the Federal Reserve. However, economists, labor organizers, bloggers and other progressive leaders have signed on to a letter of support for the Sanders amendment, which is cosponsored by Russ Feingold, Jim DeMint, Ron Wyden, Chuck Grassley, and other Senators from both sides of the aisle (PDF).

The letter begins: Since the start of the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has dramatically changed its operating procedures. Instead of simply setting interest rates to influence macroeconomic conditions, it rapidly acquired a wide variety of private assets and extended massive secret bailouts to major financial institutions....Read the rest of the letter.

Take Action! Sign on in support of the Bernie Sanders Audit the Fed Amendment here.

Inouye Wants To Know: Where Is The War Funding Bill?

Inouye wants to know: Where is the war funding bill?
Posted By Josh Rogin | Foreign Policy

Every year, the Pentagon asks for money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the understanding that it won't be enough and that Congress will have to give even more money before the year is out. And every year Congress waits until the very last minute to give out the additional money.

This year is no different. Despite the fact that Congress gave the administration $130 billion to last them until the fiscal year ends in October, that didn't include the $33 billion needed for President Obama's Afghanistan surge or the $2.8 billion that's now needed to help Haiti recover from its earthquake.

Congressional Quarterly, Congress' Bible on all things legislative, has been writing for weeks that the new supplemental war-funding bill was imminent, but as of yet, no bill has surfaced. And the Senate's top appropriator, war veteran Daniel K. Inouye, D-HI, is getting impatient.

The Cable caught up with Inouye on the subway linking the Capitol with the Senate office buildings and asked him when Congress would get going on the war bill.

"That's what I've been asking!" Inouye said, noting that the House side has to go first and then the Senate can follow. Read more.

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