Tag Archives: Politics

Read This: Robert Reich, “The rich get richer, then buy elections” (updated)

Robert Reich has a powerful piece in this Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle on what he terms a “perfect storm” that is threatening democracy in America. It should be required reading.

Reich is a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley – but he’s also a former US secretary of labor, so it’s not so easy to dismiss him as another looney Berkeley lefty or an ivory tower intellectual.

So maybe people will actually pay attention to the alarm call he issues at the end of the article:

We’re losing our democracy to a different system. It’s called plutocracy.

The headline positions this article as about the increasing influence of the wealthy over the US electoral process – a very pressing topic in this election season, when you have some many extremely wealthy individuals trying to use that wealth to buy their way into high office.  It’s a real problem in California, where two tech sector businesswoman are trying to step straight from Silicon Valley into the halls of power: Carly Fiorina, former head of computer maker Hp, running for congress against Barbara Boxer; and Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, as Republican candidate for governor of California.

One of Reich’s key concerns is with the increasing lack of transparency and openness in campaign financing:

Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into advertisements for and against candidates – without a trace of where the dollars are coming from. They’re laundered through a handful of groups. Fred Malek, whom you might remember as deputy director of Richard Nixon’s notorious Committee to Reelect the President (dubbed “Creep” in the Watergate scandal), is running one of them. Republican operative Karl Rove runs another. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a third.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission made it possible. The Federal Election Commission says only 32 percent of groups paying for election ads are disclosing the names of their donors. By comparison, in the 2006 midterm election, 97 percent disclosed….

We’re back to the late 19th century, when lackeys of robber barons literally deposited cash on the desks of friendly legislators. The public never knew who was bribing whom.

But while the influence of wealth on the political process is a key concern of Reich’s, the facts and figures he lays out in the article speak to a larger notion of plutocracy and to a fundamental shift in American socity:

income in America is now more concentrated in fewer hands than it has been in 80 years

The top one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans now earn as much as the bottom 120 million of us.

The marginal income tax rate on the very rich is the lowest it has been in 80 years. Under President Dwight Eisenhower (whom no one would have accused of being a radical) it was 91 percent. Now it’s 36 percent…. Much of the income of the highest earners is treated as capital gains, anyway – subject to a 15 percent tax. The typical hedge-fund and private-equity manager paid only 17 percent last year. Their earnings were not exactly modes. The top 15 hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion.

We have to pause there to consider that: an average of $1 billion in annual income.  What is the average annual income of everyone you know? For that matter, what is the COMBINED income of everyone you know? Now, how many times would you have to multiply that to get to $1 billion?

Or what about that 17 percent tax – how much income tax did you pay last year? Those billionaires pay much less in income tax than you do – and these are the guys (almost always male) who gave us the global financial crisis.

But don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying you paid too much, but rather that they paid too little.  I don’t like some of the things the government does with my tax dollars – but then I take the bus, or go to the library or a park, or use my public school education and I remember what other things taxes get used for. And then I look at how bad the public transit and public schools and public parks and public hospitals are getting and I worry.  Unlike those hedge-fund managers, I can’t afford private health care, private schools, private parks, and even private transit is perilous these days.

And as he points out, all this enormous shift in the distribution of wealth and massive increase in wealth at the top is coming at a time when “[most] Americans are in trouble. Their jobs, incomes, savings and even homes are on the line.”

You can check out what else Reich has to say on his blog at www.robertreich.org. His book, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, is currently riding high on nonfiction bestseller lists.

A footnote: It’s not strictly true that no one would have accused Eisenhower of being a radical. In a recent New Yorker article on Glenn Beck and the Tea Party movement, the founder of the right wing John Birch Society is quoted attacking President Dwight D. Eisenhower as “a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy” who had been serving the plot “all of his adult life.” See: Glenn Beck, the Tea Party, and the Republicans : The New Yorker.

Update:

Persuant to Reich’s concern with stealth campaign funding:

Pro-Republican Groups Prepare Big Push at End of Races: “Anonymously financed groups are starting a coordinated final push to deliver control of Congress to Republicans.” (via NYTimes.)

Rove keeps on spinning to defend the secret donations to his GOP slush funds: “Media Matters – Oct. 24 (News Analysis) – On CBS’ Face the Nation, Karl Rove continued to defend his GOP-aligned political group from criticism that it does not disclose its donors by using falsehoods and obfuscation.” (via NewsTrust.)

Media Debates Anonymous Donors, Ignores Deceptive Ads: “care2.com – By Aaron Pendell – Oct. 24 (News Analysis) – The secret financing of thousands of television ads and other media by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, and other 501(c)(4) PACs will be debated long after Nov. 2 has come and gone, but there is a related matter of supreme and immediate importance that is going largely unnoticed: The content of the ads range from deceptive to objectively false.” (via NewsTrust.)

 

 

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Read This: Downhill With the G.O.P.

Paul Krugman – Downhill With the G.O.P.: “the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.”… (via NYTimes.com.)

Read This: Anger is sweeping America…

Anger is sweeping America. True, this white-hot rage is a minority phenomenon, not something that characterizes most of our fellow citizens. But the angry minority is angry indeed, consisting of people who feel that things to which they are entitled are being taken away….

These are terrible times for many people in this country. Poverty, especially acute poverty, has soared in the economic slump; millions of people have lost their homes. Young people can’t find jobs; laid-off 50-somethings fear that they’ll never work again.

Yet if you want to find real political rage … you won’t find it among these suffering Americans. You’ll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.

read the rest from Paul Krugman: The Angry Rich and Taxes – NYTimes.com.

Read This: Tea Party rhetoric twists the language of emancipation

Tea Party rhetoric twists the language of emancipation: “Tea Party rhetoric uses the language of civil rights to manipulate America’s white working class…” (via Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

Read This: Through Islamic Center Debate, World Sees U.S.

even though many in the United States have framed the future of the community center [Park51, aka the “Ground Zero Mosque”] as a pivotal referendum on the core issues of religion, tolerance and free speech, those outside its borders see the debate as a confirmation of their pre-existing feelings about the country, whether good or bad.

“America hates Islam,” said Mohaimen Jabar, the owner of a clothes shop in Baghdad, Iraq.

“If America loved us, it would help the Palestinians and stop the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “It would stop Iran and Israel from distorting the image of Islam.”

read the whole article: Through Islamic Center Debate, World Sees U.S. – NYTimes.com.

Somalia has a role model for success on its doorstep

Somalia is one of the nightmares of the start of the 21st century – the epitome of so many of the bad things – a failed stated, a country torn by the old (post)colonial and tribal violence that torments so much of Africa, and by the new jihadist and fundamentalist violence as well. One of my professors and I once had a discussion about “social infrastructure” – the structures in society, values, beliefs and so on that allow a society to function, the social and psychological equivalents of roads, bridges, water supplies, utilities – with Somalia as the prime example of a country in which the social infrastructure seemed so devastated that it was hard to imagine any path to recovery – and the boy soldiers there as perhaps the best instance of this.

Here’s an article that offers a lot of insights into the current situation in Somalia, and also some ideas on ways out of the nightmare…

Somalia has a role model for success on its doorstep | Ioan Lewis: Torn between violent extremists and a puppet government, Somalia could look to Somaliland for a lesson in nation building… (via guardian.co.uk.)

More on the WikiLeaks War Logs – The Big Picture

Close Read: WikiLeaks and the War: What does it mean to tell the truth about a war? Is it a lie, technically speaking, for the Administration to say that it has faith in Hamid Karzai’s government and regards him as a legitimate leader—or is it just absurd? Is it a lie to say that we have a plan for Afghanistan that makes any sense at all? If you put it that way, each of the WikiLeaks documents—from an account of an armed showdown between the Afghan police and the Afghan Army, to a few lines about a local interdiction official taking seventy-five-dollar bribes, to a sad exchange about an aid scam involving orphans—is a pixel in a picture that does, indeed, contradict official accounts of the war, and rather drastically so…. (via The New Yorker.)

PETA Porn (SFW)

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I quite enjoy these pictures – well, more than quite in some cases – but the dour, humorless leftist in me can’t help but raise some objections.

When PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was objecting to the meat industry, there was a real critical and subversive edge to their use of naked women to draw attention to the fact that the “meat industry” is in fact the slaughter of other creatures on a massive scale. Marking out sections of a woman’s body with the lines of the different cuts of meat had great rhetorical power, and those lines cut both ways: they drew attention to where those shrink-wrapped cuts of meat really come from (this or that area of the body of another living creature), while at the same time pointing to our objectification of women, our “meat market” attitude towards women.  So – at least potentially – those PETA anti-meat eating ads simultaneously critiqued our unethical treatment of animals and our unethical treatment of women.

But as the PETA ad campaign has branched out to look at issues like spaying/neutering pets, the circus and leather and fur, the double edge of that critique has been blunted. Now it sometimes feels perilously close to all those other advertising campaigns based on the premise that “sex sells.” The fact that what they are selling might be something we see as good shouldn’t change our response to how this message is conveyed.  If using objectifying images of women to sell cars or beer or whatever is wrong, then it is still wrong when those images are being used to “sell” the idea that our treatment of animals in the circus is bad.

A related issue is the use of porn stars such as Sasha Grey and Jenna Jameson as tools in the PETA marketing machine…  Back in the day, vegans and “people for the ethical treatment of animals” would have been natural allies with, or even the same people as, those attacking patriarchy in general and porn in particular. I think that the original feminist critique of porn got it wrong in all sorts of ways, but given the fact that women and girls are still routinely trafficked, around the world, and essentially sold into slavery as part of the sex industry – a sex industry in which porn plays a role – we clearly need to spend a bit more time thinking about such old school feminist concerns as the objectification of women, attitudes towards sex and sexuality, the sex trade… and porn.  The PETA ads simply blow off all these issues in their concern to save the fluffy bunnies.

I am also a bit troubled by PETA’s call to spay/neuter our pets.  I think we should spay/neuter our pets. I also think that spaying/neutering is, when you get right down to it, “elective” (in the sense of not medically necessary) surgery performed on animals against their will in order to make it more convenient for us to have pets – cutting them to fit our lifestyle.

I don’t think there’s any easy way around it: if we are going to keep pets, particularly in built-up areas, then they really do need to be spayed/neutered. But it is something we do to them, which it seems unlikely they would choose, to make them fit into our world, our lives, our needs.  It may be that there is no way to reconcile a truly ethical treatment of animals with our desire to keep dogs and cats in our city apartments and suburban homes. If so, we should face that; we should at least be talking about it.  But PETA gets its funding and support from animal lovers, and saying that pets are quite possible simply unethical would cut into their base.

Finally, in keeping with journalistic standards of disclosure, I should say that I own pets and porn, and recently started eating meat again… Make of all that what you will.

Read This: Who’s afraid of the nuclear bomb?

Who’s afraid of the nuclear bomb? | Richard Rogers: Just shy of my sixth birthday when the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989, I have no memory of ever being aware of the danger of imminent nuclear attack. For my oldest brother Seb, born in 1968, things were very different… (via Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

Site of the Week: Demos – a UK think tank

Demos is “a London-based think tank. We generate ideas to improve politics and policy, and give people more power over their lives. Our vision is a society of free and powerful citizens.”

“A multi-dimensional measure of poverty will give a more complete picture of poverty in modern Britain…”

What does it mean to live in poverty? For decades, politicians and policymakers have tended to go straight to the most common definition of poverty: households that live below 60 per cent of median equivalised income. But this definition of relative income poverty has an arbitrary nature (why not 50 per cent or 70 per cent of median income?) – and leaves a host of questions unanswered.

In 2010, Demos is launching a flagship programme of work to develop a new, multi-dimensional measure of poverty that will take into account the full range of factors that affect quality of life and wellbeing.

The idea of poverty is widely seen as living below a standard below which nobody – or children, at least – should be expected to live. But a family’s living standard is affected by much more than their income, or whether they are experiencing material deprivation. It is affected by levels of access to health and education services, including their access to a GP or a dentist, to high-quality hospitals and to good schools, and by factors such as quality of housing.

(via Demos | Projects.)

The Great Kagan Supreme Court Debate

Barring any really surprising revelations, Elena Kagan will pass relatively unscathed (certainly by the standards of some past hearings) through the Senate confirmation hearings and take over the seat on the Supreme Court bench vacated by retiring Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. If and when this happens, she will become the third sitting female justice, joining Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and only the fourth in history, with Sandra Day O’Connor.

She would also bring the Supreme Court to a curious religious mix – 3 Jews and 6 Catholics – which is exciting commentary, and some bizarre speculations and conspiracy theories, on the right. All we need is some connection to the UN and the World Bank to have a set-up worthy of an X Files level conspiracy (Elders of Zion, Templars, Jewish bankers, the Vatican, etc.).

Perhaps Richard Branson has taken Colonel Sanders’ place…

For more reasoned discussion: Two leading legal experts debate the pros and cons of Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan. Lawrence Lessig knows Kagan well through their shared time at Harvard, while Glenn Greenwald is a regular commentator on the Supreme Court.

The Great Kagan Supreme Court Debate: “The following is a transcript of Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! interview on Wednesday with Glenn Greenwald and Lawrence Lessig. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Amy Goodman: If confirmed, the fifty-year-old Elena Kagan would be the Court’s youngest member. She would become the fourth female Supreme Court justice in US history and the third on the Court’s current bench. She would also be the first justice in nearly four decades without any prior judicial experience.  (via AlterNet.)

It’s good to hear some sensible analysis and critique of Kagan’s judicial perspectives – far too much of the discussion has involved a quite disturbing focus on her identity. Her Jewish identity has been the subject of a thinly- to not-at-all- veiled antisemitic screed by, surprise, surprise, Pat Buchanan:

Pat Buchanan Takes On the Kreplach Cabal: “If (Elena) Kagan is confirmed,” he wrote, “Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats.”

Gulp!

“If Kagan is confirmed,” he went on, “three of the four justices nominated by Democratic presidents will be from New York City: Kagan from the Upper West Side, Sotomayor from the Bronx, Ruth Bader Ginsburg from Brooklyn. Breyer is from San Francisco.”

Well, Katie bar the door before the kreplach cabal busts through the gates.

Buchanan didn’t say it but he didn’t have to: The real danger is that too many Jews will wind up sitting on the highest court in the land. And that would be a bad thing for the republic.  (via Coop’s Corner – CBS News.)

Pat Buchanan suggests: Too many Jews on U.S. Supreme Court bench: “Buchanan decried the lack of Protestants on the bench, saying that “If Kagan is confirmed, the Court will consist of three Jews and six Catholics (who represent not quite a fourth of the country), but not a single Protestant, though Protestants remain half the nation and our founding faith.”

Keli Goff: Elena Kagan, Pat Buchanan, MSNBC and Me: “why is a major network is continuing to provide a paying platform for someone engaged in hate speech? Pat argues, “If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats.”

Buchanan Kagan Column Draws More Criticisms Today: “Syndicated Columnist Pat Buchanan’s controversial column from last week that essentially claimed too many Jews would be on the Supreme Court if nominee Elena Kagan joined the group received two more criticisms today.”

For some background on Pat Buchanan, and previous examples of his racism, antisemitism and all around demagoguery, check out Pat Buchanan in His Own Words for such tasty treats as this:

In a 1977 column, Buchanan said that despite Hitler’s anti-Semitic and genocidal tendencies, he was “an individual of great courage…. Hitler’s success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.” (via Fair.org.)

(In a similar vein… while researching this, I came across Top 10 Craziest Things Ever Said By Pat Robertson | Ranker – A World of Lists. I’d love to get him and Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi – of the infamous “boob-quake” theory – together, wouldn’t you? Just imagine the hilarious theories and accusations they’d come up with.)

As the Coop’s Corner post above suggests, other right-wing commentators have complained that Kagan’s confirmation would leave the bench too weighted to “coastal” perspectives and in particular to a New York liberal perspective (and isn’t that really just a code phrase for “kike”?).

But Kagan’s ethnic background has not been the only aspect of her identity to come in for scrutiny, commentary and criticism. Her sexuality has been a frequent topic of discussion – with a sort of consensus seeming to emerge that she is a closeted lesbian, who has kept her sexuality as carefully concealed as her positions on constitutional issues. And as with her legal opinions, the issue of her sexual preferences has been raised both on the left and the right, albeit only with a mild and hopeful curiosity on the left, as opposed to the homosexual panic that is predictably gripping the right.

Oh No! Obama Picks Liberal, Jewish Woman Who May Or May Not Be A Real Live Lezzie As Next Supreme Bench Warmer: “Penetrating intellect, unwavering integrity, sound judgment, and prodigious work ethic??” Well, well no wonder Republicans can’t stand the gal.

It’s interesting to see how much more open – and crass – the speculations about and attacks on Kagan’s sexual identity are than when the issue came up earlier during Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s confirmation process. I share a mild curiosity about Kagan’s sexuality, but don’t see it as having any particular bearing on her performance, if confirmed, on the Supreme Court.

I am much more concerned about the fact that she has kept closeted pretty much any information that might help us to understand what sort of positions she might take on the Bench regarding a whole range of pressing legal and constitutional issues, such as the matter of executive power.

And as if all that crap wasn’t enough, controversy has also arisen over one of the few of Kagan’s constitutional opinions is public:

The defective Constitution – Ben Smith : “Michael Steele has opened up on Elena Kagan today with a particularly odd line of attack, going after her for quoting Thurgood Marshall to the point that the Constitution was “defective.”

Using the words “defective” and “Constitution” in the same sentence is what we call waving the red flag (socialism) in front of the bull(shit) of the right, embodied in people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. What Kagan actually did was refer to a discussion by Thurgood Marshall of the way in which the Constitution finessed the issue of slavery, and in other ways undercut its most important principles: “On a matter so basic as the right to vote, for example, Negro slaves were excluded, although they were counted for representational purposes at three-fifths each. Women did not gain the right to vote for over a hundred and thirty years.”

Thurgood Marshall was  the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. He retired in 1991, unhappy that Bush would be picking his successor, who turned out to be Clarence Thomas – and a less  inspiring or appropriate replacement for one of the greatest legal minds in American history can hardly be imagined. Before becoming a judge, Marshall was a lawyer who, acting as the NAACP’s chief counsel, argued in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court in which he would later serve.

I’m nervous about Kagan’s nomination – obviously not because she might be a queer Jew from the Big Apple, which would suit me down to the ground, that being one of my personal favorite demographics – but because I feel that the little we do know about her perspective on pressing matters that are likely to come before the Court suggests that she will be too centrist for my tastes. Roe v Wade might be safe, but I am not so sure what would happen on issues like Patriot Act-style expansions of executive power and domestic surveillance or Guantánamo-like extraterritorial finessing of political and judicial oversight.

Bruce Sterling Loves Dissidents. Me, too – I want more of them.

The World’s Top Dissidents
by Bruce Sterling

*Some are born dissidents, while others have dissidence thrust upon them.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/05/07/the_worlds_top_dissidents

*That’s quite a motley crew. Maybe they should start a labor union, or a Facebook group, or something.

*Unlike my melancholy reaction to hackers, watching dissidents always cheers me the heck up. I can’t help but like ‘em. They really perk me up. They’re all over the place. Every nook and cranny. It’s like some kind of Hannah Arendt “banality of goodness.” It’s easy to romanticize dissidents. Until, you, uh, marry one.

*Gosh they are so cute, though. Wow. Especially when they’ve got blogs

(via Beyond The Beyond.)

Well, I can certainly relate to him pashing on Yoani Sánchez, the Cuban dissident and blogger behind Generación Y, which picture (above) appears in his entry. But, girl-watching aside, the article that caught Sterling’s eye raises some issues worth considering.

The Foreign Policy article that Sterling links to is on “The World’s Top Dissidents: Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, and more”:

Democracy. Women’s rights. Freedom of the press. The rule of law. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, China to Peru, dissidents are working tirelessly for the liberties so many take for granted. Their fight isn’t an easy one — dissidents often pay a price for their work in the form of surveillance, kidnappings, beatings, assassinations, arrests, and torture. FP’s May/June issue featured the story of one such dissident,the jailed Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. But it is only the lucky few whose cases echo around the world — Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, for example, or Tibet’s Dalai Lama. Meanwhile, innumerable people are caught up in the same battle. Here are just a few.

(via Foreign Policy.)

It’s a useful article for providing a snapshot into activism and political freedoms around the world, and it might be hard to quibble with its list of “top dissidents,” but I still wonder at the selection criteria. There are no dissidents from any western, European, developed nation – other than Russia, which I’m not sure counts as western, European or developed at this point. Well, okay developed. And I suppose China also counts as developed now. But still it seems very much a case of “round up the usual suspects.”

Half of the countries from which the dissidents are drawn are Muslim.

Sub-Saharan Africa is represented by Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Eritrea, Somalia, Zimbabwe – for the most part countries with problematic relations with the United States. Are there no dissidents of note in Nigeria (the fifth-largest exporter of oil to the United States), Kenya or South Africa?

Human Rights Watch cites “large-scale violence, endemic corruption, a lack of accountability for abuses, and other pressing human rights problems in Nigeria.” But despite these problems, Nigeria apparently has no dissidents important enough to make Foreign Policy‘s list. Perhaps they’ve all been killed.

And for that matter, what about dissidents in England, France, Germany, Italy or the United States? I guess according to Foreign Policy, there couldn’t really be any dissidents, by definition, in these countries because “dissidents are working tirelessly for the liberties so many take for granted.” The implication being we can take these liberties for granted because we possess them.

Women’s rights? Apparently a settled issue – for us. Violence against women and unequal pay have nothing to do with rights after all. And we’re going to ban Muslim headscarves to make sure even Muslim women have their rights in our society, whether they like it or not. Surveillance? Again, not around here. Those warrantless, illegal wire-taps don’t really count – they were in a good cause. And despite what you may have read, the Guantanamo detentions were completely in accord with the rule of law – at least the laws we care about. Democracy – we’re fine thanks. (Just ignore that glitch in Florida a couple years back, or the reports of voters in the UK arrested for protesting their inability to vote in the recent election.)

Of course, Foreign Policy says upfront that they are only covering “the lucky few whose cases echo around the world” and not the others “caught up in the same battle” whose voices don’t get heard. But what kind of journalism is that? The voices of dissidents do not “echo around the world” through some natural acoustic property of the globe – they do so to a large extent because the media choose to pick up those voices and amplify them. So we should ask, why these voices instead of some others? Why not other voices as well?

The Global Financial System Sucks

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Remember the “rogue trader” who wiped out Barings Bank, the oldest merchant bank in London – and hence one of the oldest banks in the world – when he lost well over $1 billion speculating on futures contracts? How about Jérôme Kerviel, who “lost” almost $7 billion playing with futures in 2008? What about the American S&L Crisis that began in the 1980s? That ended up producing losses of around $160 billion – most of which was paid for by a government bailout under President George H. W. Bush, directly contributing to the budget deficit blowout of the early 1990s.

Rogue traders, futures, options and derivatives, housing bubbles, Ponzi schemes, Bernie Madoff, Bear Stearns, AIG, Washington Mutual, Goldman Sachs, the list goes on and on. In the most recent outrage from the financial sector, it looked like some schmuck said “billion” instead of “million” and sent the stock market into one of its worst nosedives in history, though now it seems like out-of-control software may have been to blame. Either way – stupid and sucky.

Stock Selloff May Have Been Triggered by Trader Error: “CNBC.com – May. 06 () – In one of the most dizzying half-hours in stock market history, the Dow plunged nearly 1,000 points before paring those losses in what possibly could have been a trader error.”

(via NewsTrust.)

How many more examples of the greed, corruption and ineptitude of the global financial system and the people who run it – and on which so much now depends (know anyone who’s lost a job or a house recently?) – do we need before we decide that a root-and-branch overhaul is needed of the whole rotten setup?

And it is clear that Obama – our sexy black president – is not the man for the job. But are we surprised? He’s an American politician, a committed part of a system which is deeply enmeshed with the American and global financial system. And he is perhaps even more in thrall to Big Money than some other presidents. He’s so excited to be making the big bucks and playing with the big boys.

And now he has to worry about the mid-term elections, and after that his own re-election. He’ll be campaigning from now on, more or less continuously, and while bashing banks may have a certain populist appeal, it doesn’t seem to be doable in Congress – too many Congressmen get too much money from those guys, or are those guys or want to be those guys when they get kicked out of office – and failure of another major policy push would be very damaging.

He’ll do good things, no doubt – but to expect a real overhaul of this rotten system is unrealistic. Expect bandaid reform: something that can be sold to voters as reform, but that doesn’t really hit the megabanks and money houses where they live – in their pocketbooks, power and penis-substitutes – and does little to correct the systemic dysfunctionality.

Continue reading

An Herbal Tea Party

© Copyright 2010 Andy Singer – All Rights Reserved.

via PoliticalCartoons.com.

Crisis in Greece – with Statement on Bank Deaths

Everybody gets so much information all day long
that they lose their common sense.
~ Gertrude Stein

Another roundup of news articles and blog posts on the situation in Greece, with particular attention to the deaths in the bank fire… Obviously, there’s a vast amount of material out there, far more than I could ever repost/link to here. I’m trying to select significant articles from mainstream, but not too bad news sources along with useful inputs from left perspectives – but basically what you are getting is what I read that I found helpful, enlightening, provocative or enraging.

Greek Protests Claim First Fatalities – Slide Show
Demonstrations against tough new austerity measures in Greece claimed their first fatalities with three people reported to have died inside a bank building set ablaze by protesters. Protesters marched in Athens on Wednesday.

(via NYTimes.com.)

Debt crisis: The EU is waterboarding Greece | Poul Nyrup Rasmussen: “The austerity measures forced on to the Greeks are not only unfair, they set a bad precedent for the rest of Europe

On the day of the eurozone leaders’ meeting in Brussels, it is essential that we look at what is really going on in the European Union. The Conservative majority in the EU has again lost sight of the big picture. Its punishment of Greece is like the nation-state equivalent of waterboarding….”

(via Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

Greek Lawmakers Pass Austerity Plan: “The crucial vote stirred immediate concerns about unrest among the thousands of protesters massed in Athens.”
(via NYT > Home Page.)

It’s Not About Greece Anymore: “The Greek rescue package announced last weekend is far from enough to stabilize the euro zone, two economists write.”
(via NYT > Home Page.)

Greece Riots as Seen on Twitter, YouTube: “As riots explode in Greece, pictures and videos are flying around the social web, shared from news sources and folks on the ground. The images and videos we’re seeing are nothing short of otherworldly and terrifying. Riot police don gas masks, violent protesters take over the streets, gun shots ring out and open flames burn in the streets.

Readers should be aware that some folks may find the content below, particularly video content, shocking, disturbing or offensive. Please keep this in mind when you decide whether or not to watch these videos.”

(via Mashable!.)

“The management of the bank strictly barred the employees from leaving today … while they also forced the employees to lock up the doors” – Statements on the deaths in Athens: “Following the deaths of three workers in a fire at a bank in central Athens yesterday, we reproduce for reference the statements of a worker at the Marfin bank on the incident, and the communiques of the bank workers’ union OTOE and the Skaramanga squat in Athens. The bank workers union struck today in response to the deaths, blaming the goverment and employers for the fatalities.

The statement of an employee of the Marfin bank on the deaths:

Quote:
‘I feel an obligation toward my co-workers who have so unjustly died today to speak out and to say some objective truths. I am sending this message to all media outlets. Anyone who still bares some consciousness should publish it. The rest can continue to play the government’s game.” more

(via libcom.org.)

State terror in Exarcheia: “In an orgy of collective punishment the Greek police unleashed a brutal attack on Exarcheia, after the end of yesterday’s protest march, destroying shops and social centres, evacuating a squat at gunpoint and brutalising the locals.

The police brutality seen on the streets of Exarcheia last evening after the end of the general strike protest march in Athens has been unprecedented and casts serious doubts on the nature of the present regime in Greece which is casting away its democratic veil to expose itself as what it really is: the continuation of the colonel’s junta.”

(via libcom.org.)

What do we honestly have to say about Wednesday’s events?: “What do the events of Wednesday (5/5) honestly mean for the anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement? How do we stand in the face of the deaths of these three people – regardless of who caused them? Where do we stand as humans and as people in struggle? Us, who do not accept that there are such things as “isolated incidents” (of police or state brutality) and who point the finger, on a daily basis, at the violence exercised by the state and the capitalist system. Us, who have the courage to call things by their name; us who expose those who torture migrants in police stations or those who play around with our lives from inside glamorous offices and TV studios. So, what do we have to say now?

(via After the Greek Riots › Irregular updates and articles on the situation in Greece, in English.)