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Johann Hari: The Protesters Are The Ones We Should Listen To At This Summit

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.

Why Legalizing Marijuana Makes Sense

Why Legalizing Marijuana Makes Sense
By Joe Klein | Time

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

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.

Time for a Grand Inquest on the Financial Crisis

Time for a Grand Inquest on the Financial Crisis
By Robert Borosage | Campaign for America's Future

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.

US Jobless Claims Surge to New High

US Jobless Claims Surge to New High | al Jazeera

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

Tomgram: Andy Kroll, The Crisis of College Affordability

Tomgram: Andy Kroll, The Crisis of College Affordability | TomDispatch.com

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!"

War Pigs - The Cost of Global Empire

War Pigs - The Cost of Global Empire
Jim Q. | The Burning Platform

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.”

Oh Well That's All Right Then: 6 Percent of Americans SUPPORT Giving Our Money to Bankers

ZOGBY

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.

That's No Angry Mob, It's a Movement

That's No Angry Mob, It's a Movement
By Michael Winship | truthout

...Greider thinks, "People at large, I don't care whether they're middle class or upper class or working poor or union, non-union, have to find ways to come together themselves, perhaps in very small groups at first, and talk about their own stuff. Their experiences, their ideas their convictions, their aspirations for the country, themselves, their families, and then broaden out a bit, laterally. And have more people in the discussion. They don't have to become a giant organization, but they have to convince themselves that they're citizens..."That's kind of the mystery of democracy. People get power if they believe they're entitled to power."

Too Big to Fail or Too Dumb to Survive

Too Big to Fail or Too Dumb to Survive
By John Cooper

Unfortunately, the efforts to save weak banks by forcing them to merge with larger ones is worsening the "too big to fail" problem. Government agencies and policies failed to protect and in some cases contributed to the financial crisis. It is not clear that the reforms the Administration is requesting of Congress will be affective in preventing future crises.

Medvedev Urges Discussion on New Currency System

Medvedev urges discussion on new currency system
By Oleg Shchedrov | Forbes

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged international leaders on Tuesday to discuss the creation of a modern currency system, speaking ahead of a G20 meeting set to focus on a new financial architecture.

"The current system is not ideal," Medvedev said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

"We cannot develop in the next 10 years if we do not create a new infrastructure including new (currency) systems... We should think about creating a new currency system," he said.

Geithner’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’: The Entire Global Financial System is at Risk

Geithner’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’: The Entire Global Financial System is at Risk
When the Solution to the Financial Crisis becomes the Cause
by F. William Engdahl | GlobalResearch.ca

US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has unveiled his long-awaited plan to put the US banking system back in order. In doing so, he has refused to tell the ‘dirty little secret’ of the present financial crisis. By refusing to do so, he is trying to save de facto bankrupt US banks that threaten to bring the entire global system down in a new more devastating phase of wealth destruction.

March on Wall Street & AIG on APRIL 3: Bail Out People, Not Banks!

April 3 March on Wall Street
WE NEED JOBS NOW!
MORATORIUM ON FORECLOSURES!

For march details, assembly points, etc., see: http://bailoutpeople.org/logistics.shtml

Why We Need a Bail Out the People Movement

The workers and poor are in the biggest economic crisis since the Depression of the 1930s.

Corporations are laying off while demanding deep concessions from those still employed. State and local governments are cutting jobs and slashing services. Health, schools, libraries, parks, mass transit—all are on the chopping block. Tuition and transit fares are being raised.

More than half a million jobs are being lost every month. Unemployment is the worst in more than 25 years. As bad as that is, joblessness for African Americans, especially the youth, is twice as high.

Millions of families have already lost their homes because of predatory lending and high unemployment. Millions more face foreclosure or eviction. Depression-style tent cities are growing.

Myths of the Robber Class?

By David Swanson

"Myth America: 10 Greatest Myths of the Robber Class and the Case for Revolution." That's the title of a booklet Cindy Sheehan is selling online. I know we have CNBC to set us straight on such things, but I thought I'd check out Cindy's take. Her full-length books have been terrific, and I've published 1,631 shorter articles by or about her, because Cindy is not just a grieving mother. She's a grieving mother who feels betrayed, is mad as hell, is uncorrupted by money, power, or party, would rather die than censor her statements, and gets straight to the heart of a question faster than anyone else I know.

The Executive Who Brought Down AIG

The Executive Who Brought Down AIG
Joseph Cassano Made More Than $300 Million at the Insurance Firm He Virtually Bankrupted
By Anna Schecter, Brian Ross, and Justin Rood | ABCNews

Cassano, who lives in London, made more than $300 million running the infamous Financial Products Division of AIG where he, with about a dozen others, committed AIG to insure what turned out to be more than a trillion dollars worth of junk quality loans held by banks. "He is the golden boy of the casino," said Rep. Speier. "They basically took peoples' hard earned money and threw it away, gambled it and lost everything. And he must be held accountable for the fraud, for the dereliction of his duty, and for the havoc that he's wrought on America."..."This is the other very important issue underneath the AIG scandal," said Blum. "All of these contracts were moved offshore for the express purpose of getting out from under regulation and tax evasion."..."AIG was insuring junk and it was the AIG insurance that made the junk marketable," said tax law expert Jack Blum. "American taxpayers have been put on the hook for this insurance junk."

The FBI and federal prosecutors are reportedly closing in on the AIG executive whose suspect investments cost the insurance giant hundreds of billions of dollars. The government is investigating whether or not 54-year old Brooklyn-native Joseph Cassano committed criminal fraud in virtually bankrupting the company.

Obama's Latest No Banker Left Behind Scheme

Obama's Latest No Banker Left Behind Scheme
By Stephen Lendman

On Wall Street, that is. So hyped by advance fanfare, Timothy Geithner unveiled his Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP) on March 23, the latest in a growing alphabet soup of handouts topping $12.5 trillion and counting - so much in so many forms, in "gov-speak" language, with so many changing and moving parts, it's hard for experts to keep up let alone the public, except to sense something is very wrong. They're being fleeced by a finance Ponzi scheme, sheer flimflam, and here's how from what we know:

  • $400 billion in taking over Fannie and Freddie;
  • $42 billion for the auto giants; billions more coming for their suppliers;
  • approaching $200 billion for AIG with more coming on request;
  • $350 billion to Citigroup in handouts and loan guarantees;
  • tens of billions to other banks, including $87 billion to JP Morgan Chase for bad Lehman Brothers trades;

President Obama: Small `Change' and the Mendacity of `Hope'

By Dave Lindorff

We are witnessing one of the fastest betrayals of the Democratic Party base in modern memory, as President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate slither away from a crucial constituency, the labor movement, and from support of labor’s key legislative agenda item: passage of a bill, “The Employee Free Choice Act,” which would restore a measure of fairness to labor relations.

Merrill Lynch Bonuses 22 Times the Size of AIG

From Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Kucinich: Did U.S. know more than Bank of America shareholders? $3.6 billion in Unusual Bonuses to Top Merrill Lynch Executives Weeks before Federal Cash Infusion

Washington D.C. (March 30, 2009) – In letters to Federal officials involved in the merger of Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, requested documents about their knowledge of $3.62 billion in bonuses Merrill Lynch paid top executives at the company just weeks before $25 billion in Federal aid was given to Bank of America for the merger.

“Credit as a Public Utility: The Solution to the Economic Crisis”

“Credit as a Public Utility: The Solution to the Economic Crisis”
A Video in Six Parts | Written and Produced by Richard C. Cook

Part One of Six Parts: Credit As A Public Utility: The Solution to the Economic Crisis

"Our Early Political Leaders Warned Us Against the Banking Interests"

Early U.S. statesmen, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson worked to free the nation from control by the bankers who had been behind the establishment of the First and Second Banks of the United States. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln implemented a true democratic currency by spending Greenbacks directly into circulation without borrowing from the banks. These measures allowed the U.S. to develop for much of the 19th century largely free from bankers’ control. By the end of the century, this had changed, and the bankers were taking over.

“Chi non lavora, non fa l’amore”

THE WEB OF PRECARIOUSNESS
By Gaither Stewart

Precariousness looms like a black cloud over the continent of Europe. The fragility of human life and of the life style generations of westerners are accustomed to today rages like a modern plague. Precariousness is a contagious disease. It leaps from worker to worker, from class to class. No wonder that life in our times has never seemed more temporary. Permanence belongs to another age.

Obamanomics Isn't About Big Government

Obamanomics Isn't About Big Government
By Robert Reich | WSJ

Twenty-eight years ago, Ronald Reagan used the severe economic downturn of 1980-82 to implement an economic philosophy that not only gave force and meaning to a wide range of initiatives but also offered a way back to sustained economic growth. Is there a similarly powerful animating idea behind Obamanomics?

I believe there is -- and it's not a return to big government.

The expansive and expensive forays of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board into Wall Street notwithstanding, President Barack Obama's 10-year budget (whose projections may prove wildly optimistic if the economy fails to rebound by early next year) presents a remarkably conservative picture. In 10 years, taxes are expected to fall to around 19% of GDP, a lower level than the late 1990s. Spending is expected to drop to around 22.5% of GDP, about where it was under Ronald Reagan -- including nondefense discretionary spending at about 3.6% of GDP, its lowest since data on this were first collected in 1962.

The real distinction between Obamanomics and Reaganomics involves government's role in achieving growth and broad-based prosperity. The animating idea of Reaganomics was that the economy grows best from the top down. Lower taxes on the wealthy prompts them to work harder and invest more. When they do so, everyone benefits. Neither Reagan nor the apostles of supply-side economics explicitly promised that such benefits would "trickle down" to everyone else but this was broadly understood to be the justification.

Global Investors Ponder Implications of US Dollar Collapse

Global investors ponder implications of US dollar collapse
By Alex Lantier | WSWS


The very fact that Barron's is imagining such a scenario indicates the power of the objective tensions building up inside world capitalism. It is considering a situation in which major US creditors such as China refuse to lend to the US government, forcing Washington to cut spending. The result would be a truly explosive social situation, as the US government told the population it no longer had money to fund social spending, after trillions of dollars had already been handed out to the banks and the super-rich.

The world bourgeoisie is beginning to consider the consequences of the huge deficit spending and money-printing operations that the Obama administration is using to fund its bailouts of Wall Street and major banks. As these policies increasingly raise questions about the value of the US dollar, commentators are in particular pondering the desirability and implications of a diminished international role for the American currency.

At his March 24 press conference, President Obama made his first public comment on recent Chinese proposals for an international currency overseen by the International Monetary Fund. Obama said: "As far as confidence in the US economy or the dollar, I would just point out that the dollar is extraordinarily strong right now. And the reason the dollar is strong right now is because investors consider the United States the strongest economy in the world, with the most stable political system in the world. So you don't have to take my word for it."

The Market Mystique

Op-Ed Columnist: The Market Mystique
By Paul Krugman | NYTimes

On Monday, Lawrence Summers, the head of the National Economic Council, responded to criticisms of the Obama administration’s plan to subsidize private purchases of toxic assets. “I don’t know of any economist,” he declared, “who doesn’t believe that better functioning capital markets in which assets can be traded are a good idea.”

Leave aside for a moment the question of whether a market in which buyers have to be bribed to participate can really be described as “better functioning.” Even so, Mr. Summers needs to get out more. Quite a few economists have reconsidered their favorable opinion of capital markets and asset trading in the light of the current crisis.

Bill Moyers Journal: William Greider

Bill Moyers Journal | Watch video

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, the corporate state is here.

WILLIAM GREIDER: The corporate state is here. And I'd say, let's not argue over that. The fact is, if the Congress goes down the road I see them going down, they will institutionalize the corporate state in a way that will be severely damaging to any possibility of restoring democracy. And I want people to grab their pitch forks, yes, and be unruly. Get in the streets. Be as noisy and as nonviolently provocative as you can be. And stop the politicians from going down that road. And let me add a lot of politicians need that to be able to stand up. Our President needs that to be able to stand up.

For years best-selling author William Greider sounded the alarm about Washington's unholy alliance with Wall Street and the failure of the Federal Reserve and other regulators to take preventive measures to avoid disaster. Now, he offers some suggestions to the question everyone is asking: "What do we do now?"

What to Tell Congress - Updated - Concise Version

Longer version with more detail and advice: HERE.

 

Recommendations

For Meetings with Congress Members and Senators

During April 4-19, 2009, Recess

 

Adjust to your  communities’ priorities and to fit your representative and senators.  Make the case to them of the necessary trade-off in defunding war in order to fund human needs. Make alliances with activist groups wishing to pressure elected officials on domestic funding needs and workers’ rights.

 

I. PEACE

 

Oppose Escalation of War in Afghanistan and Pakistan

A bipartisan group of fourteen members of Congress recently wrote to the president asking him to reconsider his proposal to send more troops to Afghanistan.  Your representative and senators should send similar letters, and should include opposition to missile strikes or the introduction of troops into Pakistan.

 

Hey DCr's! “Rethinking the Industrial Revolution” - What is Capitalism Anyway, and Where did it Come From?

What is Capitalism Anyway, and Where did it Come From?

Who: A discussion by Mike Zmolek, PhD
When: April 9th, 2009, from 6:30-8:00 pm
Where: In the Cullen Room at the NEW 5th & K location of Busboys & Poets, 1025 5th Street NW, Washington DC 20001

As the global capitalist system plunges into its worst crisis since the Great Depression, take some time out to hear this primer on how capitalism got going in the first place. Drawing on a body of recent scholarship which seeks to trace the specific historical path by which capitalism developed out of the middle ages, D.C. resident Mike Zmolek will discuss the findings of his recently completed doctoral dissertation—15 years in the making—titled “Rethinking the Industrial Revolution.” The conclusions may surprise you, and capitalism’s early crises might seem only too familiar.

Please RSVP to Mike.

History Lesson: And These Are the People We Expect to Fix Things Now?

By Dave Lindorff

George Santayana once famously said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But what about those who don’t just ignore history, but who hire and take counsel from those who committed historic follies in the past?

Back in November 1999, Congress passed legislation pushed by then Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), rescinding the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act. The measure, backed by the Clinton administration, and overwhelmingly passed by the Senate (90-8) and the House (362-57), opened the way for banks to merge with investment banks and insurance companies, and led directly to the current financial cataclysm.

Credit As A Public Utility: The Solution to the Economic Crisis by Richard C. Cook (videos)

Here's someone willing to look for fundamental solutions to the larger problem: GO HERE.

LET'S STOP WALL STREET LOAN-SHARKING

 

By Senator Bernie Sanders 
 
The “Masters of the Universe” on Wall Street – through their greed, recklessness and illegal behavior – have plunged this country into a deep recession causing millions of Americans to lose their jobs, their homes, their savings and their hope for the future.  In order to fully understand the cause of this fiasco, I have introduced legislation calling for a thorough investigation of the financial meltdown and the prosecution of those CEOs who broke the law.  The culture of greed, fraud and excessive speculation must come to an end.
 
In the midst of this financial disaster, one of the great frustrations that I hear from my constituents is that while taxpayers are spending hundreds of billions bailing out major financial institutions, and while these big banks are getting near-zero interest rate loans from the Fed, these very same financial institutions are now charging Americans 20 percent or 30 percent interest rates on their credit cards.  In fact, one-third of all credit card holders in this country are now paying interest rates above 20 percent and as high as 41 percent – more than double what they paid in interest in 1990.  Recently, some major institutions such as Bank of America have informed responsible cardholders that their interest rates would be doubled to as high as 28 percent, without explaining why the increase was taking place.

Townhall Talk and a New Way Forward

By David Swanson

Obama's Thursday "town hall" featuring questions submitted online produced some interesting comments from our president. In response to a question from college students he explained that making student loans directly from the government, without passing them through banks and giving profits to banks from public money, makes more sense. But he claimed that giving far more money than we've ever loaned to students to banks in hopes that they will loan it to businesses is the only way to save our economy.

President Obama's claim for the need to give or loan so much money to very wealthy people is that they will loan it to small businesses. So, why not just give it or loan it to small businesses? And how many are trying to borrow money without success? Aren't more struggling to pay the debts they've got?

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