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By Gaither Stewart
(Rome) Protests, broken heads and hundreds of arrests at the G20 in London, bloody demonstrations in Kehl and Baden Baden and Strasbourg at celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of NATO, workers uprisings across the face of France, and on Saturday in Rome’s Circus Maximus a mammoth manifestation organized by the CGIL trade union underline the abyss separating the New Class of capital from labour. The current and spreading revolt of labour against capital seems to mark the second phase of the crisis of capitalism, as a consequence of the financial crisis caused by the New Class of an elite that has illogically chosen to separate itself from labour in the Occidental world.
Tiffiniy Cheng, 29, never imagined she'd help spark a populist movement influenced by a former IMF banker. Three weeks ago Cheng and her co-founding partners launched A New Way Forward, a volunteer-run website that advocates for a new approach to bank bailouts and is organizing a nationwide protest on April 11. Cheng and her friends are not new to online organizing. In 2006, some of them launched OpenCongress.org, a nonpartisan website that lets people track legislation in Congress, and Downhill Battle, a music activism website, but they never had a burning desire to study and reform the financial system. Then, as 350 billion dollars of taxpayer money went to the same CEOs who helped bring the global economic system down, Cheng and her friends, like many in America, became angry. Why reward the same people who broke the system, they asked.
On February 19, the co-founders of A New Way Forward heard the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) interviewed on PBS's Bill Moyers' Journal argue for an alternative bailout plan. Simon Johnson spent 20 years at the IMF working on international bank bailouts, among other things. Dissatisfied with the current bailout process, he decided to show his ex-colleagues at the IMF the balance sheets of some of America's leading banks receiving bailouts (concealing their names). Every one of his former colleagues gave a similar prescription: Recovery will fail unless America breaks up the financial oligarchy. In the short term, that means the failing banks would have to be temporarily taken over by the government, cleaned up, broken up and sold off in the private markets. The board members and CEOs of those banks would have to be fired and replaced. This is not the administration's current plan.
Marxist Geographer David Harvey on the G20, the Financial Crisis and Neoliberalism
By Amy Goodman | Democracy Now! | Watch Video | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
For some analysis on the G20 summit and the financial crisis, we speak to a leading thinker on the global economy. David Harvey is a Marxist geographer and distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of several books, including The Limits to Capital and A Brief History of Neoliberalism.
Many cities and towns across this country rise and fall with military spending. And with Defense Secretary Robert Gates' announcement earlier this week of new defense spending priorities, many communities are bracing for drastic cuts or a windfall.
From Seattle to St. Louis to Fort Worth, communities are closely watching how the $534 billion spending plan for the 2010 fiscal year plays out in Congress.
Lawmakers Slam Administration Efforts to Sidestep Limits on Executive Compensation
By Amit R. Paley, Washington Post
A congressional oversight committee opened an investigation yesterday into whether the Obama administration is circumventing a law that limits lavish pay for executives at firms benefiting from the $700 billion federal bailout.
Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner asking for records on any special entities that the government believes it can use to funnel bailout money without requiring firms to abide by congressional restrictions.
By Dave Lindorff
The accounting profession might seem like the last place that you’d find serious political hanky-panky going on, and it’s probably not on very many people’s A-list of fun subjects to read about, but the Financial Accounting Standards Board, a quasi-governmental body that has statutory authority to regulate and establish the rules by which public companies, including banks, do their books, has just caved in to pressure from those banks and from the large number of members of Congress who pocket huge piles of campaign swag and perks from those banks and other public companies, and gravely undermined the integrity of corporate balance sheets.
Communities print their own currency to keep cash flowing
By Marisol Bello | USA Today
A small but growing number of cash-strapped communities are printing their own money.
Borrowing from a Depression-era idea, they are aiming to help consumers make ends meet and support struggling local businesses.
The systems generally work like this: Businesses and individuals form a network to print currency. Shoppers buy it at a discount — say, 95 cents for $1 value — and spend the full value at stores that accept the currency.
Workers with dwindling wages are paying for groceries, yoga classes and fuel with Detroit Cheers, Ithaca Hours in New York, Plenty in North Carolina or BerkShares in Massachusetts.
The bank stress tests currently underway are “a complete sham,” says William Black, a former senior bank regulator and S&L prosecutor, and currently an Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri - Kansas City. “It’s a Potemkin model. Built to fool people.” Like many others, Black believes the “worst case scenario” used in the stress test don’t go far enough.
America is devolving into a third-world nation. And if we do not immediately halt our elite’s rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate. Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty. This is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them. We can resist, which means street protests, disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs.
What to make of Spitzer's public re-emergence? As he appears on the Today show this morning, Justin Frank, psychiatrist and author of Bush on the Couch, asks who could know better about the failure of self-regulation than someone with a sexual addiction?
“All the cops are criminals and all the sinners saints.” -Mick Jagger
Five years after Time magazine declared him “The Crusader of the Year,” Eliot Spitzer was known simply and infamously as “Client #9.” The man dedicated to public service was equally dedicated to private servicing – and the link between these two parts provided him with a leg up, as it were, on being able to spot others’ delinquent behavior far more successfully than public servants less delinquent than himself.
Spitzer was felled by his own arrogance and sexual hunger, yet it may have been precisely the qualities that drove his private life that enabled him to recognize more than anyone the damage that arrogant, greedy financial institutions were doing to our nation.
Obama's War on Labor
by Stephen Lendman
Voters expecting change keep getting rude reminders of what kind, none they can believe in reiterated again on March 30 in Obama's remarks to the auto giants. While stating "We cannot....must not (and) will not let (this) industry vanish," he laid down a clear marker. Labor, not business, is targeted. More on that below.
"We (won't) excuse poor decisions," he said. "We cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of taxpayer dollars." In rejecting their aid request, he added: "These companies - and this industry - must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state....What we are asking is difficult. It will require hard choices by the companies. (Their plan doesn't go) far enough to warrant the substantial new investments these companies are requesting."
'A Failure to Communicate'? Administration Tries to Explain Financial Crisis
New Treasury Web site 'Decodes' Complicated Economic Terms
By Matthew Jaffe | ABCNews
With the nation's recession nearing a year-and-a-half in duration, critics from Capitol Hill to Main Street say the Obama administration has not succeeded in helping the general public understand how the financial crisis occurred and what the government is doing to solve it.
"To even help people understand what is going on, they haven't done a good job," said professor George Lakoff a linguistics professor at the University of California-Berkeley. "They haven't been able to explain what the problems are."
"They need to find a way for people to understand it," he said. "That is extremely urgent."
Analysts warn that if the administration, specifically the Treasury Department, cannot better communicate its programs to the general public, then it runs the risk of a lack of understanding fueling public outrage as hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars get dished out.
"This is a very real concern and I have seen it firsthand," said Scott Talbott, vice president at the Financial Services Roundtable. "What happens is the average person focuses on one concept like 'Treasury bailing out bad banks' and then they stop listening. This incomplete conclusion leads to anger and frustration. These reactions are understandable, but if Treasury increases the public's understanding of its actions, the level of anger and frustration will decrease."
Last Wednesday, the front page of the Wall Street Journal pulled no punches. The lead headline was: "Global Slump Seen Deepening." ("The outlook for the global economy worsened on the eve of a summit of the world's 20 biggest economic powers…") A chart just beneath that headline, labeled "Gloomier Outlook" and showing World Bank economic projections, was nothing short of dramatic. The graph line for world trade simply plunged off a visual cliff and, like an arrow heading for a target, went straight down. The last paragraph of the piece quoted World Bank President Robert Zoellick this way: "In London, Washington, and Paris, people talk of bonuses or no bonuses. In parts of Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, the struggle is for food or no food."
The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials.
Administration officials have concluded that this approach is vital for persuading firms to participate in programs funded by the $700 billion financial rescue package.
Bank bailout cost nearly doubles, agency says | MSNBC
Congressional Budget Office: Taxpayers will pay $1.67 billion more
Bailing out the financial sector will cost taxpayers $167 billion more than originally anticipated, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate.
The original figure in January was $189 billion, but it is now $356 billion — $152 billion more for 2009 and $15 billion more next year, the CBO says in its March report updating the budget and economic outlook.
The CBO raised its projection because yields have increased on securities issued by the bailed-out financial institutions under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.
That means there will be an increase in the cost of the subsidy from the U.S. Treasury's purchase of preferred stock, asset guarantees and loans to automakers, the CBO said.
The Smooth Criminal Transition from Bush/Cheney to Obama
Corrupt new administration deepens and expands systemic criminalization and war agenda
by Larry Chin | Global Researcher.CA
To sober, clear-eyed observers of history and political deception, the ascension of Barack Obama held the promise for unprecedented new dangers: a revitalized New World Order, led by the Anglo-American empire’s neoliberal criminal faction and an iconic, deceptive new facilitator; and a continuation of Bush/Cheney criminality and war, under smarter and much more effective management.
Now, just months into their tenure, the Barack Obama administration has more than fulfilled the promises he made to his elite constituency, deepening the mass destruction of Bush/Cheney, while charming its victims all over the world into enjoying their own demise.
View the show here.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah. Are you saying that Timothy Geithner, the Secretary of the Treasury, and others in the administration, with the banks, are engaged in a cover up to keep us from knowing what went wrong?
WILLIAM K. BLACK: Absolutely.
BILL MOYERS: You are....
...WILLIAM K. BLACK: I don't know whether we've lost our capability of outrage. Or whether the cover up has been so successful that people just don't have the facts to react to it.
BILL MOYERS: Who's going to get the facts?
WILLIAM K. BLACK: We need some chairmen or chairwomen--
BILL MOYERS: In Congress.
WILLIAM K. BLACK: --in Congress, to hold the necessary hearings. And we can blast this out. But if you leave the failed CEOs in place, it isn't just that they're terrible business people, though they are. It isn't just that they lack integrity, though they do. Because they were engaged in these frauds. But they're not going to disclose the truth about the assets.
The Council on Foreign Relations, often described as the "real state department", has launched an initiative to promote and implement a system of effective world governance.
Henry Kissinger, a CFR member, anticipates that President Obama will, "…give new impetus to American foreign policy partly because the reception of him is so extraordinary around the world. I think his task will be to develop an overall strategy for America in this period when, really, a new world order can be created. It’s a great opportunity, it isn’t just a crisis."
The "dirty little secret" that Geithner is going to great degrees to obscure from the public is very simple. There are only at most perhaps five US banks that are the source of the toxic poison causing such dislocation in the world financial system. What Geithner is desperately trying to protect is that reality. The heart of the present problem, and the reason ordinary loan losses are not the problem as in prior bank crises, is a variety of exotic financial derivatives, most especially credit default swaps....This is what must be put into bankruptcy receivership, or nationalization. Every hour the Obama administration delays that, and refuses to demand a full independent government audit of the true solvency or insolvency of these five or so banks, costs to the US and to the world economy will inevitably snowball as derivatives losses explode.
Barack Obama's chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees last year from firms that have direct financial interests before the government or are intimately involved in the White House's bank relief programs.
The White House released late Friday the personal financial disclosure forms of many high-ranking administration officials. The document provided for Summers, who serves as one of the president's closest confidants, underscores just how close some of these officials are to the industry over which they now have oversight.
Among the firms that paid Summers large amounts in speaking fees include J.P. Morgan Chase. That bank offered the former Harvard president and Treasury Secretary $67,500 for a February 1, 2008 engagement. It has received $25 billion in government bailout funds.
Statement of SEIU President Andy Stern on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dedication to Working Families
"We must work unceasingly to uplift this nation that we love to a higher destiny, to a higher plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humanness”
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"This weekend, we will remember the life and the dream of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his dedication to uplifting all Americans seeking social justice and economic freedom.
Johann Hari: The protesters are the ones we should listen to at this summit | Independent UK
The way out of the credit and the climate crunch is the same - a Green New Deal
When this hinge-point in human history is remembered, there will be far more sympathy for the people who took to the streets and rioted than for the people who stayed silently in their homes. Two global crises have collided, and we have a chance here, now, to solve them both with one mighty heave – but our leaders are letting this opportunity for greatness leach away. The protesters here in London were trying to sound an alarm now, at five minutes to ecological midnight.
Many commentators seemed bemused that the protesters focused on the climate crunch as much as the credit crunch. What's it got to do with a G20 meeting on reviving the global economy? Why wave banners saying 'Nature Doesn't Do Bail-Outs' today? Because both crises have their roots in the same ideology – and both have the same solution.
For the past several years, I've been harboring a fantasy, a last political crusade for the baby-boom generation. We, who started on the path of righteousness, marching for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, need to find an appropriately high-minded approach to life's exit ramp. In this case, I mean the high-minded part literally. And so, a deal: give us drugs, after a certain age — say, 80 — all drugs, any drugs we want. In return, we will give you our driver's licenses. (I mean, can you imagine how terrifying a nation of decrepit, solipsistic 90-year-old boomers behind the wheel would be?) We'll let you proceed with your lives — much of which will be spent paying for our retirement, in any case — without having to hear us complain about our every ache and reflux. We'll be too busy exploring altered states of consciousness. I even have a slogan for the campaign: "Tune in, turn on, drop dead."
A fantasy, I suppose. But, beneath the furious roil of the economic crisis, a national conversation has quietly begun about the irrationality of our drug laws. It is going on in state legislatures, like New York's, where the draconian Rockefeller drug laws are up for review; in other states, from California to Massachusetts, various forms of marijuana decriminalization are being enacted. And it has reached the floor of Congress, where Senators Jim Webb and Arlen Specter have proposed a major prison-reform package, which would directly address drug-sentencing policy. (See pictures of stoner cinema.)
Kucinich on Budget Resolution: I Simply Cannot Endorse a Budget or a Plan that Authorizes the Expansion of War
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today issued the following statement after voting against H.Con.Res 85, setting forth the Congressional Budget for the fiscal year 2010:
“I am committed to doing everything I can to put our community and our nation on the path to economic stability. I led opposition to the bank bailout program TARP, I worked vigorously in favor of the stimulus package, and I have worked to save the automotive, steel and aerospace industries in America.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has called for "sweeping regulation" of the financial community, beginning a discussion of how we restructure the banking system—in and out of the shadows—as we emerge from what Robert Kuttner calls the Great Collapse. Literally trillions have already been committed in loans, guarantees, swaps, direct equity to stave off a complete financial collapse, even as the real economy declines.
But before we decide on the salvation, we need a public probe of the fall. What caused the Great Collapse? We need a grand inquest—either a special congressional committee or an independent commission like the 9/11 Commission armed with subpoena power—to expose misbegotten policies, malpractices, and mistaken ideas that allowed the wizards of Wall Street to transport us over the cliff.
The number of US workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits has surged to its highest level for more than 26 years, according to a government report.
Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose to 669,000 from 657,000 the previous week, the Labour Department said on Thursday, the highest number since October 1982.
The number of unemployed workers claiming benefits for more than a week ro
Just this week, on the front page of my hometown paper was the less-than-shocking news that, in our new economically wounded world, if your parents can pay the staggering tuition demanded by our top private colleges in full, you have a major leg up in the race to the college of your choice. New York Times reporter Kate Zernike quotes Robert A. Sevier, an "enrollment consultant to colleges," saying, "If you are a student of means or ability, or both, there has never been a better year." And as fans of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers used to say in my childhood, "Wait till next year!"
Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction
Sorcerers of deaths construction
In the fields the bodies burning
As the war machine keeps turning
Death and hatred to mankind
Poisoning their brainwashed minds, oh lord yeah!
Black Sabbath – War Pigs
You know civilization is in danger when I find more wisdom in the words of Ozzy Osbourne than in the words of any elected U.S. official. The U.S. war machine keeps turning. As we enforce our will on foreign countries, we produce more people who hate us. Just when you think the U.S. government is beginning to make sense by withdrawing troops from Iraq, they make the terrible decision to shuttle 21,000 more troops into the Afghan calamity. At a cost of $3.2 billion per month, we will throw another $38 billion down a rat hole in a country that has no vital strategic importance to the United States. Barack Obama is doing this to prove that he is a true statesman. The Soviet Union killed over 1 million Afghans, while driving another 5 million out of the country and left bankrupted and defeated after ten years. Young Americans will continue to die for who? for what? Our foreign policy during the last eight years can be summed up in one military term, SNAFU – Situation Normal All Fouled Up. These foreign interventions are a smoke screen for what is really going on in this country. When a government has unsolvable domestic problems, they try to distract the public by creating foreign conflicts. General Douglas MacArthur understood the danger.
“I am concerned for the security of our great Nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within.”
A new Zogby Interactive poll shows support scraping bottom for giving federal money to shore up big banks. The survey of 4,112 adults completed last week found only 6% believe we should “continue providing government money to banks, as well as buying their troubled assets, with the hope that banks will increase lending” as the best option to take regarding failing big banks.
Slightly more than one-half (51%) oppose providing any more federal money to banks, “even if that means some of the banks would go out of business.” The third option we gave respondents was a temporary takeover of the most troubled banks, with the government eventually selling the banks back to private investors. Nearly one-third (32%) like that idea.