Remember (back in whatever month it was) when we announced it here, and I subsequently begged Mr. Nader to go home, or straight to hell, whichever was closest?
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Remember (back in whatever month it was) when we announced it here, and I subsequently begged Mr. Nader to go home, or straight to hell, whichever was closest?
Monday, September 29, 2008
The Dow is down roughly 540 points as of this posting and falling steadily.
What would the nation do if the people who supported free markets and shimmied their way around whatever regulations exist actually lost all that money as a direct consequence of their actions? Heaven forbid they should face any consequences.
Wall Street needs to be stabilized, but I don’t agree with the plan on the table.
Apparently, I was a supporter of free markets all along, because I say, let them raise their own money, let them bail themselves out if Americans on the ground aren’t helped first. Americans who lost their homes were told “tough luck” for the past two years. Why aren’t the individual failures of all the people who have lost their homes considered a threat to the economy and the world, yet the people they owed money to are now deemed a penultimate priority? -A priority to be addressed with tax money taken from those same Americans?
I agree with President Bush that something needs to be done and soon. That “something” is offer a way out of debt to the American taxpayer who is fighting foreclosure. If that taxpayer is ultimately paying for it all, it should address him/her first. But our President laughs at deficits. He has a perfectly idiotic bravery in the face of this bail out that will add an additional $700 billion to our current national debt of over $9 trillion dollars and climbing.
George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and everyone in government voting yes to this plan want us to go screw ourselves, but not before we pay for this bail out. I’ve heard analysts supporting the plan repeatedly say that we should stop calling this a “bail out”. Well, what else should we call it? It’s not a loan.
The idea held up for the last 25 years by Reaganites and other free market capitalists, -that the markets will regulate themselves through a kind of Darwinian process where businesses that shouldn’t survive or that operate unfairly will fail- was clearly never intended to run its course by its most ardent supporters, they’re the ones asking for help.
The most egregious lie I’ve heard over the last couple of days is that the bail out could end up making money for taxpayers… but only if the loans and interest on them are fully repaid of course. Isn’t that what got us here in the first place? Why not give people the means to address their debt and save their homes, give judges absolute power to restructure the loans causing all the trouble?
Because working people don’t count.
We don’t count because we frequently vote against our own interests and focus on stupid things of no material consequence to our lives. Every idiot who came out to vote because they wanted to support candidates who opposed Gay marriage owe the rest of the nation an apology for electing these crooks who presided over this era of criminal greed.
This is not the way to bolster and stabilize Wall Street. It may actually allow the depreciations and losses in the real estate sector to freeze in place if not get worse. I’m not forgetting the poor saps like me with 401Ks, -but again it’s our money, our taxes, so it should help the people, the homeowners in debt first. There’s nothing in this plan that aims to safeguard retirement plans imperiled by Wall Street’s latest excesses in any case. Let this bail out “trickle up” to the investment banks instead. It’s more than they deserve but I guess they just don’t want to wait for it to trickle up… and they won’t have to, because again we’re a nation of suckers.
In conclusion I want to express this simple thought to you after years and years of us all being assaulted by or vegging out to television shows like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, “MTV Cribs”, “The Hills” etc:
It’s okay to hate the Rich.
They are not better than you.
They do not deserve more protection than you.
They are not entitled to your tax dollars.
They are not entitled to a different set of rules.
You will never be one of them.
It’s our love and worship of the Rich in America that emboldens someone like Henry Paulson to even try asking for 700 Billion dollars in taxpayer money with no questions asked, no accountability to anyone to spend as he pleases…
To that I can only say:
"Get the fuck out of here Mr. Paulson."
I mean seriously.
I’ll just open by stating there’s a lot going on these days, if I can be allowed the “easy out” of a criminally dull understatement. Washington Mutual, a savings and loan bank, possibly the biggest, has collapsed. The only surprise of the last 24 hours is that Wachovia was not sold to JPMorgan Chase, but to rival CitiGroup. The end of the investment banking economy on Wall Street seems to dwarf everything else on my horizon, and some of these mergers and acquisitions smell like flagrant antitrust violations disguised as rescues… But I think the founder and my co collaborator on this blog had always intended this to be a forum where the overlooked, the fictionalized, the distorted elements of our social and political lives could be set straight, brought back into focus and afforded their deserved centrality. I’ll put off writing about the latest developments in what’s left of the financial markets and the bail out agreement that nears completion to focus on something being swept under the rug while we’re all distracted by the legitimate panic over our economy.
So here goes: Henry Waxman, Congressman from California and the Democratic chairman of the he House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, subpoenaed Attorney General Mukasey in June 2008 for the transcripts of interviews with Vice President Dick Cheney as well as the transcripts of President George W. Bush’s interview with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald -and most importantly the Grand Jury testimony of Karl Rove. This as you already know, is all because key Bush administration officials leaked Valerie Plame’s identity to journalists between June and July of 2003. This leak was the White House’s attempt to retaliate against her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. Ambassador, for aggressively criticizing President Bush’s knowing misuse of flimsy intelligence to justify the March to war in an Op Ed piece in the New York Times.
Valerie Plame’s name was revealed on July 14, 2003, by journalist Robert Novak, which effectively marked her and everyone she ever worked with still operating in the field for violent reprisals by enemies of the United States. It took a formal CIA complaint to the Justice Department to start a criminal probe into exactly who in the Bush Administration was/were responsible for the leaks.
-Yes, let that sink in: the CIA had to file a complaint against the White House.
AG Mukasey had advised President Bush to invoke Executive Privilege powers to stop release of the transcripts after the investigation began but Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald maintained all of these documents could be turned over to Congress, i.e. the representatives of the people of the United States under an authorization by the Department of Justice.
The week before last, the contents of Dick Cheney’s interview transcripts and the others related to this investigation were cited as “classified” for the first time. The Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel maintains that the documents are withheld because they contain information “protected from disclosure” by the National Security Act of 1947.
That is a bunch of Horse Shit.
In my life, there has not been a more criminal administration than the White House of George W. Bush. That’s no small statement considering I was alive (albeit a small child) during Richard Nixon’s presidency. These smug, impossibly rich elitists laugh at our laws and imperil human beings to suit their own ends. I’m talking about things like: Going after a guys’ wife because they can’t silence his criticism of them even though she’s a CIA Operative and her identity is supposed to be protected under our treason laws; I’m talking about sending young and not so young men and women to invade and police a country so that friends and associates of the Bush administration can come in on no-bid contracts that make the deficit skyrocket; I’m talking about going after people in our own government, in our own taxpayer funded intelligence apparatus; I’m talking about trying to rig the justice department so that it’s an instrument of their will and not an institution that safeguards the rule of law and the constitution for you, me and everyone you know and don’t know.
A federal judge ordered Vice President Cheney to preserve all documents during his terms as Vice President on September 20, 2008. Someday, the country will be allowed the privilege of knowing the truth about what these crooks did while they were in office to people like Valerie Plame and possibly others.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Today, Wednesday September 24, 2008 many economists and analysts are still saying that this crisis in the finance and real estate markets is not large enough to sink the American economy. Today, I’m still saying they’re missing the point. This crisis is a symptom of a larger economic catastrophe already happening. The American economy is imperiled by the weakened collective earning power of its individual citizens which has in turn injured those sectors of the financial markets that exploited them most severely.
The investment banks that have imploded over the last couple of months put a gun to their own heads by shifting to a “derivative” paradigm back around 2001. Investment banks had historically been institutions that made their money on deals and on facilitation of transactions. Around eight years ago by my estimates, they got swept up by a relatively new fad/scam that emerged after the Internet bubble burst. They decided to try and make money off of their own portfolios and the portfolios of other competing investment banks by structuring what are generally called “financial derivatives”. When people started walking away from the debts and letting mortgages go unpaid and those homes were foreclosed on, the investment banks with the biggest dependencies (exposures) to the real estate sector failed. Bear Stearns was among the first of the big ones to fail because they had “purchased” too many loans and mortgages that were “originated” by other institutions and subsequently went unpaid. This was possible because Bear Stearns and other Investment banks didn't know the details, history and solvency of the clients involved in the loans they bought. There was no "chain of origination", -to use a term I just learned yesterday and to coin a phrase I just made up.
The analysts said:
Bear Stearns was too big to fail. It’s gone.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were too big to fail. The government practically owns them.
Lehman Brothers was too big to fail. It is the greatest bankruptcy in history.
AIG was too big to fail. It’s being bailed out by the taxpayers and will probably be sold off in pieces.
The economists, regulators and government officials are telling Americans that this isn’t the same as the Great Depression. But saying a situation is “different” is a far cry from saying it’s “better”. Now, while unemployment is not nearly as high as during the Great Depression; that isn’t a watermark for normalcy or health on its own. What is happening right now is that individual wealth and earning power are dangerously out of scale with individual debt for most Americans.
One of my college professors Niki Logis, once said to me that “Science can not be allowed to develop without oversight because it doesn’t march on for the sake of human progress and the people’s well being, it marches on for the sake of itself.” Those words are painfully applicable to all the cynical rhetoric and cheerleading for unrestricted and deregulated business and markets over the last 25 years. Business only ever has “business” on its mind.
In my last two posts, it has not been my aim to make you think that the world is ending, just the world as you know it.
There have been other massive bubbles and financial implosions in my own lifetime: the Savings and Loan scandal of the 80s; the hedge fund crisis and crash of the Pacific rim markets in the 90s; the internet bubble of ’00; even down to companies like Enron and WorldCom. All of them were the result of unregulated practices and the appeal of “fast” money.
The difference is none of these brought down Wall Street.
None of these were bailed out.
If you’re like me, you might be wondering why it is that other commercial sectors don’t seem to be suffering or triggering such horrendous collapses and bankruptcies. The corporations that produce, manufacture and distribute goods and services for product categories like food and restaurants, apparel, toiletries and cosmetics, electronics and paid entertainment to name just a few don’t seem to be in trouble, some are even thriving.
That’s because Americans can still “pay” for those with credit cards…
Therein may lay the next financial disaster.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
I wrote recently that I believe this Finance and Investment Apocalypse is actually largely a product of a strange new “trickle up” dynamic. A dynamic whereupon the individual bankruptcies and foreclosures of the many, create the ultimate fall of the few who ride their backs and monetize their ability to pay and the time it takes them to pay for things. Someone with a lot more expertise and knowledge of economic systems and markets than myself needs to look at this failure and identify what part of this interdependence made it all fall apart: Did the overseas move of so many American jobs by corporations destroy American earning power to the degree that it then destroyed the revenue steam of investment banks dependent on those same Americans to pay their mortgages and interest? Or were there a myriad of economic factors at work? Are there more disasters related to the credit card industry and its debt-based revenue streams coming?
I have no idea. Every scenario seems as likely as any other to me at this point.
I, like many Americans, have more questions than answers. I’m profoundly worried by today’s news and what it means. If as Richard O’Connor once wrote in paraphrasing Honoré de Balzac that “behind every great fortune there is a great crime” then what was the great fortune? What specifically is the great crime behind this unfolding collapse of the investment houses? The rising tide is too chaotic, too large and disordered to clearly see. But my most nagging question at this time is this:
Had the Bush administration managed to get all Americans to sink their retirement fortunes in the stock markets as they had intended, would they have been so quick to bail everybody out as they have with these companies?
In the interest of full disclosure, the funds in my own 401k are managed by Goldman Sachs.
Friday, September 19, 2008
It’s hard to believe my first post on this blog was not about the Iraq war, not about the incompetence of this administration, not about the criminality of the Bush cabinet, but a rant about a holiday.
February was a long time ago.
Just ask anybody on Wall Street. Ask anybody with a 401K plan, or any stock investments, or anyone who works in finance or media… ask anybody who owned a home. The third quarter of 2008 and the calendar year’s end will be marked by new and historic low points in the growing national financial disaster. I’m not making any real astute predictions there, but I have to tell you all it’s going to get much, much worse. The cumulating effects and radiating impact of the various elements of this financial-soon-to-be-economic crisis, (a trickle up disaster of sorts) threaten our country and the world as we know it.
In a strange twist of irony, Ronald Reagan’s fanciful trickle down theory of economics has been turned nightmarishly on its head.
Those trickled-down-upon masses, (those people ignorant of their choices, options and rights), fed the housing and mortgage finance boom of the last years. These citizens agreed to criminally usurious loan agreements and now have “cried uncle”. They can’t pay the absurd debts they accrued. They have been defaulting on loans for the last few cycles. Their homes are being foreclosed on, their property and possessions repossessed. The value of everything they “owned” is depreciating in a spectacularly destructive and infectious manner.
I say “infectious” because in America, depreciation sometimes happens in a staggeringly contagious mode of pathology: homes are foreclosed on/ neighborhood housing values plummet/ more homes are defaulted on compounding the loss of value for houses in neighboring areas/ small businesses serving neighborhoods fail/ more jobs lost/ more debt is defaulted on etc, ad infinitum. Perhaps consumers shouldn’t have been allowed to take on unsustainable debts, or sign horrifically progressive loan agreements in which the principal of the debt exists insulated by escalating interest charges.
The profits from this interest were greedily clamored for by investment banks and the lenders they gambled on. This profit has now evaporated.
The American financial markets and lending institutions are at the epicenter of a coming disaster, but in some ways they are only symptoms of the central disease:
…they have no money because the people they make money from, have no money.
The implosions of Bear Stearns, CountryWide, Fannie May, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and now AIG are history making business failures, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Books will be written about it. These wipeouts are only the beginning…
As of September 19, 2008, it’s all being profiled as a financial collapse in the media, but soon it will metastasize into an undeniable “economic” collapse, a socio-economic collapse that will affect every man, woman and child… Why? -because it had always been a socio-economic collapse to begin with. Now that the lending institutions are failing, politicians are finally worrying about the average debtor, the rank-and-file human being at the start and at the end of this disaster: the jobless; the uninsured; the working poor; the overextended middle-class; and everyone who paid more than they should have to these financial institutions and lenders for homes that were either overvalued or predatorily financed.
The funny thing is, not only is the public ripped off by banks, not only is the public losing its money at the other end as more retirement plans depend on funds and 401Ks but the taxpaying people of this country are also going to bail the biggest of the market disasters out.
This used to be called, “getting screwed coming and going”. The government calls it “being responsible”.
I want someone, anyone, to explain to me how it is that these giant lenders and investment banks can collect all of the money and profits from their predatory lending but pass on the losses to the taxpayers. It’s criminal.
Filmmaker Patrick Creadon directed a documentary called I.O.U.S.A. that was in the official 2008 competition at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s a documentary that tracks David Walker, an important man I’d never heard of, unknown to anyone I know, even among the people who actually follow politics and government closely. Mr. Walker was the U.S. Comptroller General. Think of him as the one man ultimately responsible for watching federal public spending. Yeah, there’s actually a guy for that in America, and nobody knows who he is (He resigned in March 2008). Creadon’s documentary looks at our growing national debt and its consequences for the people and the country. Creadon illustrates how the alarming debts the United States owes to foreign countries are becoming impossible to pay off… sound familiar?
It is what is happening to us individually.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
"I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, 'I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia. That kind of thing is insulting to the American people."
Monday, September 15, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Scores of journalists were arrested and detained at the recent Republican National Convention in St. Paul Minnesota. We’ve written extensively on this blog about the horrendous ineptitude and venal calculations made by the American media when covering an important news story, or ignoring historic crimes in the making.
Once again, an attack on our country’s foundation is getting no substantial media coverage. Crackdowns on citizens' rights in China receive more media coverage by our newspapers and news networks. Currently, there is no outrage. There is no investigation. There is numbing silence. What’s particularly gruesome about this; is that it concerns the Fourth Estate itself.
Wake up. The constitution you live under is now null and void and this is not America anymore.
Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner is about to commit what can only be seen as a violation of the Constitution in my estimation: she is in the process of deciding whether or not to press felony riot charges against several journalists. Anna Pratt of The Minnesota Independent is one of the few journalists discussing this as the civic disaster that it is. Pratt reported that AP journalists, AP photographers, along with local St. Paul Pioneer Press photographers, and even a New York Post photographer were arrested or detained. I am listing the names and their outfits here, if only to give you, both reader and citizen, some sense of the scope of this tragedy befalling our way of life in the United States:
Tom Aviles, WCCO photojournalist
Charlie B, MTV Think blogger, Viacom
Wendy Binion, Portland IndyMedia
Geraldine Cahill, The Real News
Eileen Clancy, I-Witness Video
Paul Demko, The Minnesota Independent
Amy Forliti, AP reporter
Ben Garvin, Pioneer Press photographer
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Art Hughes, Public News Service
Suzanne Hughes, The Uptake, volunteer
Ted Johnson, Variety
Olivia Katz, Glass Bead Collective
Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Democracy Now!
Jon Krawczynski, AP reporter
Joseph La Sac, Pepperspray Productions journalist
Ed Matthews, University of Kentucky photojournalism student
Jonathan Malat, KARE-11 photojournalist
Stephen Maturen, The Minnesota Daily assistant picture editor
Britney McIntosh, University of Kentucky photojournalism student
Matt Nelson, University of Iowa student
Jason Nicholas, New York Post freelance photographer
Mark Ovaska, Rochester freelance photographer
Christopher Patton, The Daily Iowan
Elizabeth Press, Democracy Now!
Matt Rourke, AP photographer
Sheila Regan, TC Daily Planet
Lambert Rochfort, Pepperspray Productions journalist
Seth Rowe, Sun Newspapers, St. Louis Park
Jeff Schorfheide, The Badger-Herald photographer
Mark Skinner, University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebel Yell reporter
Ania Smolenskaia, The Real News
Matt Snyders, City Pages
Nicole Salazar, Democracy Now!
Dean Treftz, U-Wire
Nathan Weber, Chicago-area freelance photographer
Jim Winn, University of Kentucky
John Wise, MyFox national editor
Dawn Zuppelli, Rochester IndyMedia
These are only the names I know of. Even Fox and its parent News Corp are trapped up in this Orwellian dragnet. Rupert Murdoch, who claims to love newspapers, doesn’t seem to think much of the rights they exercise and represent for Americans.
In the last three days, a few Democrats and Republicans, all of whom I count among my friends have said “it’s not so serious”, that I’m “overreacting because Amy Goodman was among those arrested”. Arrested, I corrected, in what I recognize as a clear misuse of martial power by the police.
There is no such thing as “too close” for a reporter or journalist. If it’s up to police in riot gear to determine a reporter’s proximity to an event, than that my friend is the end of the country. I ask you my fellow Americans: How will we know the truth from the lie? How will we know anything at all?.…
I’d ask Republicans to consider:
What if police had arrested the National Enquirer reporters following John Edwards as he was off visiting the woman with whom he’d had an extramarital affair?
Would it have been a violation of the people’s right to know then?
I’d ask Democrats to consider:
What if police had arrested the reporters following the Jack Abramoff scandal?
But the reporters covering the preceding news stories weren't immersed in a riot you might say…
I’d ask all of you to think hard about how much of our political system there is left to defend seven years after the attack on the World Trade Center Towers and on our Pentagon.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The McCain camp is willing to go to any lengths in order to win this election. The response from the Obama campaign has been to try to combat the lies with the truth. However, they should know by now that once a claim has been made (true or not), a percentage of the public will believe it. They should know this because of what was done to John Kerry. Kerry responded to the swift boat nonsense by saying that the American people knew better than that. He was incredulous that he, as a decorated Vietnam war vet, should have to defend his record against a draft dodger who only faced shots from a tequila bottle during the Vietnam war. The public bought it though and the public is probably going to buy whatever lies the McCain camp can come up with between now and election day.
This latest round of attacks make it clear that it's time for a change. It's time for Obama and Biden to stop complementing John McCain. McCain has certainly never returned the favor. The Democrats should stop prefacing their criticism of John McCain with "...we honor his service to our country", or "...John McCain is a freind of mine", or "John McCain cares about his country". Until now, the Democrats have brought a knife to a gun fight. It's time they even up the score. I am not advocating for the Obama camp to start lying about the Republicans, but it is time for them to stop pussyfooting around the truth. Sarah Palin isn't qualified to be President. I know she's running for Vice President, but she is only a "heart beat away" from the top job. Sarah Palin was for the "bridge to nowhere", she hired a lobbyist to help secure federal earmarks for ther small town in Alaska. These facts are not in dispute. The Obama campaign should call their remarks what they are, lies. They are simply lies. Obama's tax plan will not raise taxes on the majority of Americans, but McCain keeps on repeating that he will and polls show that a majority of the public believe it. It is a lie. It's time to call it what it is.