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Two Fridays ago on the first day of its release, I went to an early afternoon screening of the film The Soloist. I'd been eager to see it since it focuses on the real life relationship between Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a homeless member of Los Angeles' Skid Row community suffering from debilitating mental illness. In the story, as told in Lopez' columns in the LA Times, in his book, and in the screenplay by Susannah Grant, Lopez first meets middle-aged Nathaniel Ayers in downtown Los Angeles in front of a statue of Beethoven where Ayers is playing a two string violin. In that serendipitous meeting Lopez discovers that as a youth Ayers had been a gifted student at Juilliard, New York's prestigious school for the performing arts. This revelation leads Lopez on a personal mission to rehabilitate the troubled man - a mission Lopez is still on today, four years after their first encounter.
My intense desire to see this film had been predicated, foolishly as I have since come to learn, on the romantic notion that viewers would see The Soloist and be moved to help the homeless. But the film I saw, with its cartoon-like unsympathetic portrayal of the people of Skid Row, that displayed none of their individuality, humanity or humor, would never provoke such action. Instead of showing the hearts of the inhabitants and telling a few of their tales, the film portrayed them as a Fellini-esque monolith - a tainted Gomorrah teeming with decadence and dereliction.
AP Sources: Obama wants Fed to be finance supercop
By Anne Flaherty | Associated Press | Google News
The White House told industry officials on Friday that it is leaning toward recommending that the Federal Reserve become the supercop for "too big to fail" companies capable of causing another financial meltdown.
According to officials who attended a private one-hour meeting between President Barack Obama's economic advisers and representatives from about a dozen banks, hedge funds and other financial groups, the administration made it clear it was not inclined to divide the job among various regulators as has been suggested by industry and some federal regulators.
"The idea of having a council of regulators was pretty much vetoed," said one participant.
The concept of the "Long War" is attributed to former CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid, speaking in 2004. Leading counterinsurgency theorist John Nagl, an Iraq combat veteran and now the head of the Center for a New American Security, writes that "there is a growing realization that the most likely conflicts of the next fifty years will be irregular warfare in an 'Arc of Instability' that encompasses much of the greater Middle East and parts of Africa and Central and South Asia." The Pentagon's official Quadrennial Defense Review (2005) commits the United States to a greater emphasis on fighting terrorism and insurgencies in this "arc of instability." The Center for American Progress repeats the formulation in arguing for a troop escalation and ten-year commitment in Afghanistan, saying that the "infrastructure of jihad" must be destroyed in "the center of an 'arc of instability' through South and Central Asia and the greater Middle East."
The implications of this doctrine are staggering. The very notion of a fifty-year war assumes the consent of the American people, who have yet to hear of the plan, for the next six national elections. The weight of a fifty-year burden will surprise and dismay many in the antiwar movement.
Reviewing Ellen Brown's "Web of Debt:" Part II
By Stephen Lendman
This is the second of several articles on Ellen Brown's remarkable book titled "Web of Debt....the shocking truth about our money system, (how it) trapped us in debt, and how we can break free." It's a multi-part snapshot. Reading the entire book is strongly recommended - easily obtainable through Amazon or Brown's webofdebt.com site.
Bankers Capture the Money Machine - Fighting for the Family Farm
In the 1890s, "keeping the family homestead was a key political issue" given that foreclosures and evictions "were occurring in record numbers," much like today. The "Bankers Manifesto of 1892" spelled it out - a willful plan "to disenfranchise farmers and laborers of their homes and property," again like today except that now our very freedom and futures are at stake as sinister forces aim to steal them by turning America into Guatemala and lock it down by police state repression.
By Dave Lindorff
What a joke the Obama administration is becoming, as it keeps trying to prop up failing industry after failing industry.
First we had the president becoming First Car Salesman, offering federal guarantees for GM and Chrysler car warrantees so that potential car customers wouldn’t turn away from those two companies’ showrooms fearing that the manufacturers would go bust and leave them holding the bag. Then he started touting the cars themselves, saying they were “great products” and that people should go out and buy them.
Urgency of the American Monetary Act
by Richard C. Cook
On Thursday, April 23, 2009, Stephen Zarlenga, director of the American Monetary Institute (AMI), delivered two briefings on Capitol Hill on the American Monetary Act that AMI drafted and that may be introduced as legislation during the current congressional session. This single measure has the potential of bringing together the tens of millions of people who have realized it’s our bank-run debt-based monetary system that lies at the center of the financial rot that is destroying our republic and its values.
Attending the briefings were congressional staffers and members of the public. Zarlenga was introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who has spoken in favor of wholesale reform of the monetary system on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Kucinich is also sponsor of H.R. 7260, the “Transparency in the Creation of Wealth Act of 2008.” This act would require the Federal Reserve to resume reporting on the quantity of M3 in the economy (mega-money accessible only to large financial institutions), along with several other economic indicators it now keeps to itself, such as total credit market debt and the holding of Federal Reserve notes by foreign interests.
Reviewing Ellen Brown's "Web of Debt:" Part I
By Stephen Lendman
This is the first of several articles on Ellen Brown's superb 2007 book titled "Web of Debt," now updated in a December 2008 third edition. It tells "the shocking truth about our money system, (how it) trapped us in debt, and how we can break free." Given today's global economic crisis, it's an appropriate time to review it and urge readers to digest the entire work, easily gotten through Amazon or Brown's webofdebt.com site. Her book is a remarkable achievement - in its scope, depth, and importance.
In the forward, banker/developer Reed Simpson said:
Am I excited that "US lawmakers voted Wednesday to create a 9/11-style commission of experts to probe the causes of last year’s devastating financial meltdown and to draw lessons to prevent its recurrence"?
The 9/11 Commission has - in retrospect - expressed confidence in the whole process:
- The co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission (Thomas Keane and Lee Hamilton) now admit that the Commission largely operated based upon political considerations
- The co-chairs also said that the CIA (and likely the White House) "obstructed our investigation"
- Indeed, they said that the 9/11 Commissioners knew that military officials misrepresented the facts to the Commission, and the Commission considered recommending criminal charges for such false statements, yet didn't bother to tell the American people (free subscription required)
- 9/11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton says "I don't believe for a minute we got everything right", that the Commission was set up to fail, that people should keep asking questions about 9/11, that the 9/11 debate should continue, and that the 9/11 Commission report was only "the first draft" of history
- 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey said that "There are ample reasons to suspect that there may be some alternative to what we outlined in our version . . . We didn't have access . . . ."
We, the undersigned organizations representing millions of Americans, encourage you to cosponsor H.R. 1207, “The Federal Reserve Transparency Act,” which would eliminate the restrictions on U.S. Government Accountability Ofﬁce (GAO) audits of the Federal Reserve.
Since its inception, the Federal Reserve has operated without sufﬁcient transparency or accountability to the American people. In fact, current law speciﬁcally excludes the Fed from a thorough audit or real congressional oversight. No government agency has such an utter lack of sunshine.
The Federal Reserve has created and dispersed trillions of dollars in response to our current ﬁnancial crisis. Americans across the nation, regardless of their opinion on the bailouts, want to know where that money has gone and exactly how much has been spent.
Who’s Behind the Financial Meltdown? | Press Release
Center for Public Integrity Investigation Identifies Top 25 Subprime Lenders and their Wall Street Backers The top subprime lenders whose loans are largely blamed for triggering the global economic meltdown were owned or backed by giant banks now collecting billions of dollars in bailout money, according to Who’s Behind the Financial Meltdown?, a new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.
“The mega-banks that funded the subprime industry were not victims of an unforeseen financial collapse, as they have sometimes portrayed themselves,” said Center Executive Director Bill Buzenberg. “These banks were deliberate enablers that bankrolled the type of lending that's now threatening the financial system.”
These are among the findings that emerged from the Center’s computer analysis of government data on nearly 7.2 million “high-interest” or subprime loans made from 2005 through 2007, a period that marks the peak and collapse of the subprime boom. The analysis also revealed The Subprime 25 — the top 25 originators of the high-interest loans, accounting for nearly $1 trillion and about 72 percent of industry — who reported subprime loans during that period.
By Norman Solomon
In the Arctic, sea ice is melting. In the United States, houses are foreclosing.
And in Washington, the Senate is becoming a real-life Bermuda Triangle for progressive agendas.
Proposals for major limits on carbon emissions aren’t getting far in the Senate, where the corporate war on the environment has an abundance of powerful allies.
As for class war, it continues to rage from the top down. Last week, a dozen Democratic senators teamed up with Republicans to defeat a bill that would have allowed judges to reduce mortgages in bankruptcy courts.
President Obama supported that bill. But as the Associated Press reported, he was “facing stiff opposition from banks” and “did little to pressure lawmakers” on behalf of the measure. The Senate “defeated a plan to spare hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure through bankruptcy.”
I know saving or economy has gotten a REALLY bad name, but I'm talking about the actual economy, jobs, people, people's jobs producing actual useful things. Here's a plan that begins with a one-year mortgage holiday: http://www.saveoureconomy.com
In fact, other Wall Street insiders -- many of them big contributors to the Obama presidential campaign, and progressive in their concern for the public interest -- privately are expressing serious concerns that Geithner, Summers and their associates are leading the president and America's taxpayers down a path toward further economic disaster. This week, as Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois unsuccessfully fought for a congressional amendment he said would have helped 1.7 million Americans save their homes from foreclosure, the senator told a radio station back home that, "The banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." He could say the same of the White House.
‘Great Recession’ Will Redefine Full Employment as Jobs Vanish
By Matthew Benjamin and Rich Miller | Bloomberg
Post-recession America may be saddled with high unemployment even after good times finally return.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs have vanished forever in industries such as auto manufacturing and financial services. Millions of people who were fired or laid off will find it harder to get hired again and for years may have to accept lower earnings than they enjoyed before the slump.
It is inexcusable and shameful for even a Democratic House to pass a bill to allegedly combat abuses against citizens, and make that bill effective a full year later, which means all of those abuses will continue for least 12 more months. To call this a consumer protection bill is an abuse of language and a fraud against consumers and voters who do not want these abuses continuing for another year, and supported by Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress for another year. Banks given trillions of dollars to lend should lend. Those of either party who tolerate these abuses are betraying the largest financial trust ever given to public officials in the history of the nation, the world or any generation.
This week America witnessed Black Thursday for workers and families as the Senate defeated a bankruptcy bill that would have protected distressed homeowners and the House passed a bill that encourages and guarantees banks will continue abuses the bill pretends to remedy for a full year.
What will China become in this century? There can hardly be a more important question to ask. TomDispatch regular Dilip Hiro, who has followed shifting global power balances as the planet's former "sole superpower" edged into decline, offers a vivid picture below of a potential rising superpower weathering bad times as we head toward a multipolar planet.
There is, however, a more negative take on where China might be headed. Consider, for instance, Peter Kwong's recent article, "No Reform or Relief in China," which suggests a far more dismal view of that country's circumstances, or James Fallows's fascinating recent essay in the Atlantic, "Interesting Times," which presents a China capable of using this harsh economic moment (as the U.S. may not) to launch a new Great Economic Leap Forward, but offers a striking summary of the bad news in store for China right now. I find Hiro persuasive largely because I've long been convinced that American power is in decline, but I have my own caveats when it comes to China's future success. For one thing, I'm old enough to remember the period in the 1980s when Japan was being pre-anointed as the new economic superpower of Planet Earth. (There was even a much-touted book then entitled, "Japan as Number One: Lessons for America.")
By Dave Lindorff
What’s wrong with this picture: Four groups invest in a company. One group puts in a 55% investment, a second puts in a 20-35% investment, a third puts in an 8% investment and a fourth goes in for 2%. The group putting in the 20-35% stake gets three seats on the company’s nine-member board of directors, which will be appointing the new company’s management team. The group investing 8% gets four board members, and the group investing 2% gets 1 seat. Finally, the group that will hold the majority stake in the company, 55% of the shares, gets…the one remaining seat on the board.
Why would anyone buy a majority stake in the company and accept only a 1/9 representation on the board, and thus virtually no say in the selection of management or in management decisions?
Since I began to write on economics and monetary policy I have argued that we should abolish our bank-centered, debt-based monetary system and replace it with a system where credit is viewed as a public utility. This would lead to money controlled by the people’s elected government and issued both for common needs, such as education, health care and infrastructure, and as a citizens’ dividend reflecting our fair share in the bounty of our producing economy.
FDR'S New Deal v. Obamanomics in Their First 100 Days
By Stephen Lendman
With good reason, progressive economists reflect positively on Roosevelt's New Deal even though:
- it failed to end the Great Depression;
- had many flaws;
- did too little for blacks, women, immigrants, small farmers, agricultural workers, and the poor;
- let blacks be persecuted, discriminated against, and in the South denied their voting rights and lynched;
- 10 weeks after Pearl Harbor, he signed an Executive Order interning loyal Japanese American citizens because of their ethnicity; smaller numbers of German and Italian Americans as well;
- despite popular discontent with US broadcasting, he signed the 1934 Communications Act establishing permanent broadcasting law that handed the public airwaves to entrenched interests and laid the foundation for today's corrupted media; he called it a "New Deal in Radio Law," indeed for the broadcasters that profited;
- his main task was to save capitalism, not remake America into a social democracy beyond what was necessary at the time;
- like all elected officials, Roosevelt was above all a politician who wanted to be re-elected; and
- it took a world war to restore prosperity.
CFR Corporate Members Get Lion's Share of Bailout Funds
By Thomas R. Eddlem | New American
The man in charge of administering the bailouts is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who served as a staff member of the New York City-based Council on Foreign Relations before being hired in 2003 to head the New York City branch of the Federal Reserve Bank (Fed). As the vice chairman of the Fed’s Open Market Committee, Geithner is probably a poor choice to get the nation out of it’s current economic mess. He served as Alan Greenspan’s number two man at the Fed, so Geithner is as responsible as anyone for facilitating the severity of the real estate and financial bubble and its subsequent collapse. After all, the Fed was the driving force behind the asset bubble, inflating the bubble larger and larger through artificially low interest rates and an inflationary easy-money policy.
Former U.S. Senator Ernest F. (“Fritz”) Hollings on “Silent Conspiracies”
by Richard C. Cook | www.RichardCCook.com
I met Senator Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings (D-SC) in 1985 in the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. I had testified before the Rogers Commission after I leaked documents to the New York Times about NASA’s past knowledge of flaws with the O-ring joints whose failure caused Challenger to blow up. Later I told commission investigators and the press it was political pressure from the Reagan White House that likely caused NASA to overrule the engineers who tried to stop the launch.
Senator Hollings, then senior Democratic member of the Republican-controlled Senate Commerce Committee, thought the same thing. He wanted the Senate to conduct its own investigation, but the Republicans blocked it.
More than 100 people were arrested during a series of demonstrations in Washington yesterday, including five members of Congress who were part of a group that gathered outside the Sudanese Embassy to condemn the expulsion of aid agencies from Darfur.
All told, police squared off with demonstrators at three unrelated protests that began in the morning and continued into the afternoon. Eight people were arrested outside the embassy, seven Greenpeace activists were arrested near the State Department, and 91 others were arrested during a demonstration by disability rights advocates outside the White House.
The activities followed a weekend of other protests connected to the meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Yesterday began with a show of civil disobedience that snarled rush-hour traffic as seven Greenpeace activists scaled a construction crane at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue NW, near the State Department, and unfurled a huge banner to call attention to global warming. The crane was on the site of a future institute for peace.
By Harry Giroux | Truthout
With the election of Barack Obama, it has been argued that not only will the social state be renewed in the spirit and legacy of the New Deal, but that the punishing racial state and its vast complex of disciplinary institutions will, if not come to an end, at least be significantly reformed. From this perspective, Obama's presidency not only represents a post-racial victory, but also signals a new space of post-racial harmony. In assessing the Obama victory, Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein wrote, "It is a place where the primacy of racial identity - and this includes the old Jesse Jackson version of black racial identity - has been replaced by the celebration of pluralism, of cross-racial synergy." Obama won the 2008 election because he was able to mobilize 95 percent of African-Americans, two-thirds of all Latinos and a large proportion of young people under the age of 30. At the same time, what is generally forgotten in the exuberance of this assessment is that the majority of white Americans voted for the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket. While "post-racial" may mean less overt racism, the idea that we have moved into a post-racial period in American history is not merely premature - it is an act of willful denial and ignorance. Paul Ortiz puts it well in his comments on the myth of post-racialism:
The idea that we've moved to a post-racial period in American social history is undermined by an avalanche of recent events. Hurricane Katrina. The US Supreme Court's dismantling of Brown vs. Board of Education and the resegregation of American schools. The Clash of Civilizations thesis that promotes the idea of a War against Islam. The backlash facing immigrant workers. A grotesque prison industrial complex. [Moreover] ... [w]hile Americans were being robbed blind and primed for yet another bailout of the banks and investment sectors, they were treated to new evidence from Fox News and poverty experts that the great moral threats facing the nation were greedy union workers, black single mothers, Latino gang bangers and illegal immigrants.
How Geithner forged ties to finance club: Treasury secretary's relationships with banking giants raises questions
By Jo Becker and Gretchen Morgenson | NYTimes
Timothy F. Geithner, who as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank oversaw many of the nation’s most powerful financial institutions, stunned the group with the audacity of his answer. He proposed asking Congress to give the president broad power to guarantee all the debt in the banking system, according to two participants, including Michele Davis, then an assistant Treasury secretary.
The proposal quickly died amid protests that it was politically untenable because it could put taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars.
“People thought, ‘Wow, that’s kind of out there,’ ” said John C. Dugan, the comptroller of the currency, who heard about the idea afterward. Mr. Geithner says, “I don’t remember a serious discussion on that proposal then.”
But in the 10 months since then, the government has in many ways embraced his blue-sky prescription. Step by step, through an array of new programs, the Federal Reserve and Treasury have assumed an unprecedented role in the banking system, using unprecedented amounts of taxpayer money, to try to save the nation’s financiers from their own mistakes.
The centerpiece of President Barack Obama's plan to keep thousands of people from losing their homes amid the worst economic crisis in decades is headed for defeat next week in the Senate.
Allowing people to seek mortgage relief in bankruptcy court is opposed by Republicans and enough Democrats to block it. They remain worried that the legislation would unleash a torrent of loan defaults, ultimately driving up mortgage rates and introducing fresh uncertainty to an already ailing economy.
The rejection would deal a blow to the popular president pushing an ambitious agenda to stabilize the economy.
The global financial crisis could become "a human and development calamity" for many poor countries, the World Bank said, urging donor nations to speed delivery of money they have pledged and consider giving more.
Developing countries, its main constituency, face "especially serious consequences with the crisis driving more than 50 million people into extreme poverty, particularly women and children," the bank said Sunday.
Bank President Robert Zoellick said some of the poorest economies are being hit by "second and third waves of the crisis." He said no one knows how long it will last or when recovery will begin.
"There is a widespread recognition that the world faces an unprecedented economic crisis, poor people could suffer the most and that we must continue to act in real time to prevent a human catastrophe," Zoellick said.