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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.
Do you remember the TV cartoon show “Pinky and The Brain”?
The show was about two white mice. Pinky was a gangly nutcase who talked like the Walt Disney character Goofy, with a similar personality. The Brain was this little conniving, scowling kind of guy who woke up every morning with his latest plan to take over the world.
Each episode of “Pinky and The Brain” showed how The Brain tried and failed on a given day to implement his nefarious intent. Sometimes he would try to get elected as president of the U.S. or stage a military coup or put something in the drinking water so the people would obey his will, or whatever.
In other words, “Pinky and The Brain” was not far from the truth! Today we have a cabal of financiers centered mainly in London and New York who have been trying to take over the world for the last 500 years. One term for this conspiracy is the New World Order.
With today’s worldwide economic crash, the plan is moving to its latter stages. The cabal works through the world financial system, with the world’s central banks like the Bank of England and Federal Reserve playing major roles and the Bank of International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, at the top. They maintain control by assuring that every bit of currency used in the world derives at some point through a debt owed to a bank. That’s why it’s called a debt-based monetary system.
On Monday, April 27th we will follow up our nationwide End the Fed! rallies with an "Audit the Fed! Melt the Switchboard Day".
We must all call in on that day and get EVERYONE we know to also call in to our Congressional Representatives.
The Congressional Switchboard number is: 1-877-851-6437.
Let's focus particularly on the members of the House Financial Services Committee, listed below. The Democratic Staff phone number is: (202) 225–4247. Linked listing of Committee Members below. Read the petition below. Sign the petition here.
In recent weeks, President Obama has gotten great press for winning speeches and handshakes globally, as well as for setting a new tone for American policy abroad, while administration figures, including Secretary of the Treasury Geithner and the President himself, have begun talking up "glimmers of hope" on the economic horizon. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was setting another tone entirely, however -- no smiles, no handshakes, no glimmers, lots of gloom.
It issued a sobering report last week indicating that the global financial sector has lost a staggering $4.1 trillion (yes, you read that right) in value in the last 20 months. The report also predicted a global "credit famine," and sharply lowered its previous predictions of global economic health. The IMF now expects the world economy to contract by 1.3% in 2009 (previously it had suggested a 0.5% growth rate). It also suggested that 30 of the world's 34 most advanced economies would actually shrink this year. It indicated as well that it believes the U.S. economy is set to contract by 2.8% and the European Union's by a startling 4%, far worse than expected.
Closer to home, U.S. job losses and cutbacks continue to pour in as "mass layoffs" rose to record levels and initial claims for unemployment insurance jumped for the 12th straight week. There are now a total of 6.1 million applicants and the official U.S. unemployment rate, now at 8.5%, is expected to crest above 10% early next year, if not before. (The unofficial rate, including all those out of work or significantly underemployed, is far higher.) Similarly, rents and apartment occupancy nationwide dropped for the third straight quarter.
Warning: Graphic language
Wall Street’s Best Investment: Ten Deregulatory Steps to Financial Meltdown
By Robert Weissman and James Donahue | Multinational Monitor
Wall Street has no one but itself to blame for the current financial crisis. Investment banks, hedge funds and commercial banks made reckless bets using borrowed money. They created and trafficked in exotic investment vehicles that even top Wall Street executives — not to mention firm directors — did not understand. They hid risky investments in off-balance-sheet vehicles or capitalized on their legal status to cloak investments altogether. They engaged in unconscionable predatory lending that offered huge profits for a time, but led to dire consequences when the loans proved unpayable. And they created, maintained and justified a housing bubble, the popping of which has thrown the United States and the world into a deep recession, resulted in a foreclosure epidemic ripping apart communities across the country, and caused the financial crisis itself.
But while Wall Street may not have anyone else to blame, and is culpable for the financial crisis and global recession, others do share responsibility.
For the last three decades, financial regulators, Congress and the executive branch have steadily pulled back the regulatory system that restrained the financial sector from acting on its own worst tendencies. The post-Depression regulatory system aimed to force disclosure of publicly relevant financial information; established limits on the use of leverage; drew bright lines between different kinds of financial activity and protected regulated commercial banking from investment bank-style risk taking; enforced meaningful limits on economic concentration, especially in the banking sector; provided meaningful consumer protections (including restrictions on usurious interest rates); and contained the financial sector so that it remained subordinate to the real economy. This hodge podge regulatory system was, of course, highly imperfect, including because it too often failed to deliver on its promises.
But it was not its imperfections that led to the erosion and collapse of that regulatory system. It was a concerted effort by Wall Street, steadily gaining momentum until it reached fever pitch in the late 1990s and continued right through the first half of 2008. Even now, Wall Street continues to defend many of its worst practices. Though it bows to the political reality that new regulation is coming, it aims to reduce the scope and importance of that regulation and, if possible, use the guise of regulation to further remove public controls over its operations.
Mike Farrell Videos Done: Put Them on TV Now
Mike Farrell ("BJ Hunicutt" from TV's MASH) supports Medicare For All
You can support Medicare For All too. Send a fax to the White House and to key Senators and Congressmen by clicking on the "send a fax" link in the video or just send your fax to Congress and the White House right now.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, known as the "banker to the poor" for making small loans in impoverished countries, is now doing business in the center of capitalism -- New York City.
In the past year the first U.S. branch of his Grameen Bank has lent $1.5 million, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, to nearly 600 women with small business plans in the city's borough of Queens.
People around the country are struggling to repay mortgages and credit card debts, but Grameen America says its loan repayment rate is more than 99 percent.
Law enforcement sources said David Kellermann, acting chief financial officer of mortgage company Freddie Mac, was found hanging in the basement of his Reston, Va., home, dead from an apparent suicide early this morning.
The death was "an active investigation" and there were "no signs of foul play," Fairfax County police officer Sabrina Ruck said.
Local police said they were called to Kellermann's home at 4:48 a.m., but would not say who'd placed the call to 911.
Kellermann, 41, and a 16-year veteran of Freddie Mac, had been the company's CFO since September, after a government takeover of the company following the housing crisis.
Freddie Mac had been criticized for reckless business practices that some argued contributed to the housing and financial crisis. The company is controlled by the government and owns or guarantees about 13 million home loans.
Freddie Mac and sibling company Fannie Mae, which together own or back more than half the home mortgages in the United States, have been hobbled by skyrocketing loan defaults and have received about $60 billion in combined federal aid.
Kellermann was named acting chief financial officer in September 2008, after the resignation of Anthony "Buddy" Piszel, who stepped down after the government takeover.
Geithner Defends Bank Rescue Program Amid Warnings
Geithner faces questions about bailout amid warning it could expose taxpayers to losses
By Jim Kuhnhenn | ABCNews
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner defended the bank rescue program devised by the Obama administration Tuesday as the International Monetary Fund predicted U.S. financial institutions could lose $2.7 trillion from the global credit crisis.
Geithner, testifying before the rescue plan's Congressional Oversight Panel, faced several questions about how Treasury is using the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program and how it intends to help rid financial institutions of their bad loans and securities.
His testimony came in the wake of a watchdog agency report that warned Obama administration initiatives could increasingly expose taxpayers to losses and make the government more vulnerable to fraud.
A special inspector general assigned to the bailout program concluded in a 250-page quarterly report to Congress that a private-public partnership designed to buy up bad assets is tilted in favor of private investors and creates "potential unfairness to the taxpayer."
Geithner said the new plan "strikes the right balance" by letting taxpayers share the risk with the private sector while at the same time letting private industry use competition to set market prices for the assets.
"If the government alone purchased these legacy assets from banks, it would assume the entire share of the losses and risk overpaying," Geithner said in his remarks. "Alternatively, if we simply hoped that banks would work off these assets over time, we would be prolonging the economic crisis, which in turn would cost more to the taxpayer over time."
Selected Audio of Panel Discussions from the Left Forum April 18, 2009
- Panel Chairman: Suzi Weissman, St. Mary's College (off mike, not included in -audio)
- Jack Rasmus, Economics and Politics, St. Mary's College
- Nomi Prins, Author, "Other People's Money"
- Michael Hudson, Institute for the Study of Long Term Trends
- Hillel Ticktin, Critique
- "The Obama Campaign & Presidency: Lesson for the Left"
- Panel Chairman: Bill Fletcher Jr., Center for Labor Renewal
- Gihan Perera, Miami Workers Center, Right to the City Alliance
- Stanley Aronowitz, Sociology, Graduate Center, CUNY
- Barbara Epstein, History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz
It's natural, whether as a website or an individual, to get caught up in issues that are immediate and urgent. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have been the focus of so many TomDispatch columns are happening right now. People are dying now. The economy is melting down now. The foreclosed and homeless are waking up now in ever-growing numbers. Unemployment lines are getting longer as you read this. Children are hungry this very minute, and the anxiety of a middle-class in freefall is palpable right now almost anywhere you go.
But now and then, it's also useful to take a step back and ask some longer term questions. Even if we could stop the wars, put people back to work (and back into their homes), even if we could get consumers spending again, there's always the "what-for" question. What have we accomplished if all we've done is reset the clock on the next war, the next bubble, the next bust... and if, all the while, the ice is melting and the globe warming?
Chip Ward, a TomDispatch contributor since 2003, spent 16 years confronting corporations that pollute and run, leaving sickness and suffering in their wake. He was focused on urgent and immediate tasks that made a difference right away (and, while he was at it, running a library system in Salt Lake City that was slowly filling up with homeless people). Recently, he took a break and retreated to the remote canyons of southern Utah where he's been reflecting on that bigger picture and, as it happens, on the nature of bigness itself at a moment when "too big to fail" is the phrase du jour. Tom
Too Big to Fail
Ecological Ignorance and Economic Collapse
By Chip Ward
"Too big to fail." It's been the mantra of our economic meltdown. Although meant to emphasize the overwhelming importance of this bank or that corporation, the phrase also unwittingly expresses a shared delusion that may be at the root of our current crises -- both economic and ecological.
In nature, nothing is too big to fail. In fact, big is bound to fail. To understand why that's so means stepping away from a prevailing set of beliefs that holds us in its sway, especially the deep conviction that we operate apart from nature's limits and rules.
Here's the heart of the matter: We are ecologically illiterate -- not just unfamiliar with the necessary scientific vocabulary and concepts, but spectacularly, catastrophically, tragically dumb. Oh yes, some of us now understand that draining those wetlands, clear-cutting the rainforests, and pumping all that CO2 into the atmosphere are self-destructively idiotic behaviors. But when it comes down to how nature itself behaves, we remain remarkably clueless.
Putting Finance Capitalism "Back in Its Box"
by Stephen Lendman
So writes Philip Augar in an April 13 Financial Times (FT) op-ed. He's a former UK investment banker/broker and author of The Death of Gentlemanly Capitalism, The Greed Merchants, and most recently Chasing Alpha: How Reckless Growth and Unchecked Ambition Ruined the City's Golden Decade. More on his newest book below.
He quotes Nicolas Sarkozy, a questionable choice, at the G 20 summit saying "The all-powerful market that is always right is finished," then on departure adding "a page has been turned." For Augar, that depends on whether a "free-market" successor is constructed, something "entrenched interests in America and Britain would be well-advised to encourage if they wish to remain centre stage."
SF, CA Holds 'Bail-Out Working People - Not the Banks' Teach-In, May 5th As A Powerful Model for Public Action
A Powerful Model for Public Action
When: SATURDAY, MAY 9, 2009 - 1 to 5 p.m. - (registration begins at 12:30 p.m.)
Where: Plumbers Hall
1621 Market St. @ Franklin St.
(3 blocks from Civic Station BART stop; @ Van Ness MUNI stop)
San Francisco, CA 94103 - Map
What: TEACH-IN & MASS MOBILIZATION PLANNING MEETING
Without joining together for our common interests, we don't have the strength to change our government's priorities. We must begin to build a massive movement that will have the power to impact government policy and give people genuine hope for a better future.
Help organize a mass mobilization and ongoing action campaign around the following demands:
- No layoffs. Massive job-creation program.
- Tax the rich -- don't bail out the banks.
- Pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
- Single-payer healthcare for all.
- Affordable housing for all. Tenants' rights. Moratorium on foreclosures & evictions.
- Funding for jobs and for social services & infrastructure, not for war.
- Stop the ICE raids and deportations. Legalization for all!
Barack Obama: Crime Boss
by Stephen Lendman
Since taking office, Obama, wittingly or otherwise, has headed the largest criminal enterprise in history - the mass looting of national wealth to enrich his Wall Street benefactors. He assembled a rogue economic team of Clinton/Robert Rubin retreads - to fix the current crisis they engineered.
In a March 13 article, (author and former Republican strategist) Kevin Phillips called them "recycled senior (Clinton administration) Democrats (responsible for the) tech mania, deregulation binge and (1997 - 2000) stock market bubble and crash. (Obama) extend(ed) the (disastrous) mismanagement and pro-Wall Street bias of the 2008 Bush regime bailout."
He called Geithner and Bernanke "hapless," the result of their ruinous misjudgments (and, along with Alan Greenspan, complicit) with finance-sector malfeasance."
Florida food stamp jobs in India aggravate recipients, officials
By Michael C. Bender | Palm Beach Post
After selling real estate for two decades in Palm Beach County, Michelle Brown picked up a baby-sitting job when the housing market tanked. Then the children's parents had their hours cut at work, so she turned to the state for help in buying food.
When Brown called the customer service line for the state's food stamp program, a phone rang in India.
"It's like a slap in the face," said Brown, 52, of Jupiter. "That's a job I'd be qualified for."
Under pressure for questionable industry practices, top executives of 14 of the nation's largest credit card companies are heading to the White House on Thursday for a meeting with senior administration officials.
The executives plan to talk about their efforts to increase transparency and help the economy, according to an industry official and a Capitol Hill aide, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting has not been announced.
Mr Barofsky said he was investigating whether banks had “cooked their books” to get some of the $700bn (€540bn, £475bn) in Tarp fund bailout money. He declined to go into specifics but said possible criminal offences included “securities fraud, wire fraud, false statement”....“One of our strongest recommendations of the last report was do not expand the Talf to buying legacy assets. If its structure is not changed considerably it’s very, very dangerous,” he said. “We know the triple A rating [ascribed to the securities by credit rating agencies] was a sham. We could be buying securities that are backed with assets that we know were likely riddled with fraud.”
Robert Corsini sent this note:
I've run across several things focusing on the relationship between AIG and the Iraq and Afghan occupations. AIG insures over 80%, that's OVER EIGHTY-PERCENT of the non-military, military contractors in Iraq! ie KBR, Blackwater, Haliburton (NYT article 2007). Since well over 1200 contractors have been killed and thousands more wounded and with all the other liabilities going on over there, if AIG is insolvent, what's going to happen with all the claims? Clearly AIG drank its own koolaid believing that the occupation was going to be a cake-walk. They never imagined the scope of the liabilities. It's striking that AIG has underwritten all the construction in Iraq as well. If virtually none of the public infrastructure is functional -- AIG is essentially liable for every dollar that has already been spent.
Here is a link to an AIG document that drips with gorgeous irony: PDF.