* THE INCOHERENT IMPERIALIST: DECONSTRUCTING TOM FRIEDMAN’S WORK
By Sandra Siagian, Inter Press Service
|A new book on the influential New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman sets out to debunk his hawkish, neo-liberal views, accusing him of overt racism, factual errors and skewed judgments on issues ranging from the United States invasion of Iraq to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Deconstructing one of the country’s highest-paid journalists, Belen Fernandez’s The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work presents a comprehensive overview of the man – and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner – she describes as “characterized by reduction of complex international phenomena to simplistic rhetoric and theorems that rarely withstand the test of reality”.
Fernandez, 29, admits that prior to 2009 she wasn’t too familiar with the work of the foreign affairs columnist. It wasn’t until that summer she decided to analyze Friedman’s work after reading “a sequence of ridiculous articles”.
Finding it difficult to ”cram all of that incompetence into a concise book”, Fernandez divided the content into three issues that ”most enraged” her, analyzing his work along with a brief examination of the shortcomings of the US media. […]
* KARL ROVE’S LATEST ATTACK ON ELIZABETH WARREN
By Simon Johnson
Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS has another ad out attacking Elizabeth Warren (video here). This is beyond ludicrous – the ad attempts to blame Ms. Warren for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and for bank bailouts. The principle here seems to be that when the truth cannot be slanted in a way you want, just ignore the facts and go all out for disinformation.
I count at least five misrepresentations in the ad, and I suggest the following corrections:
- TARP was a Republican program – proposed and implemented by President George W. Bush. At the time, Ms. Warren was busy championing people whose rights had been trampled by the financial sector through various kinds of abuses.
- Ms. Warren became chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) for TARP, precisely because people in Congress – on both sides of the aisle – trusted her to provide an honest and professional check on the support provided to financial firms. She did her highest profile work during the Obama administration, bringing relentless pressure on the Treasury and other agencies who just wanted to prop up big firms without any conditions.
- Ms. Warren has also been a strong supporter of all efforts to rein in Too Big To Fail banks, including by breaking them up. She has consistently been one of the strongest advocates for curtailing the abusive power of megabanks (and others who have behaved badly).
- At the same time, Ms. Warren has not demonized the financial sector. On the contrary, when charged with setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she went out of her way to work closely with those in the financial sector who provide sensible products with reasonable conditions. Her emphasis throughout has been on transparency, fairness, and full disclosure in this sector. You are not allowed to sell dangerous toasters in the United States; her point is that you should not be allowed to sell financial products that have been proven dangerous.
- The idea that Elizabeth Warren would ever side with “big banks” against the middle class is preposterous. Time and again, she has stuck up for the middle class (and anyone who uses financial services) – even when it was deeply unfashionable to do so. The big banks have opposed her relentlessly and on-the-record, both directly and through various surrogates.
Perhaps the more interesting point about Karl Rove’s ad is what it tells us about his strategic thinking. His team is implicitly conceding all of Elizabeth Warren’s substantive points: big banks got out of control, they did enormous damage, and they were bailed out in an unreasonable manner. But Mr. Rove’s group thinks it can turn all these issues against her, just because she worked hard against the interests of the banks – particularly to introduce effective consumer protection for financial products. […]
* ELIZABETH WARREN VERSUS KARL ROVE AND THE ONE PERCENT
By Greg Sargent, Washington Post
In an interview with Lawrence O’Donnell, Elizabeth Warren uncorked an extensive response to that comically dishonest ad from the Rove-founded Crossroads GPS attacking Warren as too cozy with Wall Street. Her answer is worth quoting at length, because it suggests she will respond to these outside attacks by pivoting the focus back to where it belongs: On Wall Street.
Warren mocked the ad’s claim that she’s cozy with Wall Street, and made the salient point that the ad is being funded by wealthy interests that don’t want to see her anywhere near the Senate. She seized on Karl Rove as a convenient foil, to retell the story of the Bush administration and its role in exacerbating the lack of Wall Street accountability that’s become the rationale of her career and candidacy:
Their strategy now is the kitchen sink strategy. Throw everything you can at her and let’s see what happens.
Let’s keep in mind what was going on just a little over three years ago. Karl Rove was part of the inner circle while George W. Bush is telling Congress and the nation, `we’ve gotta bail out the big financial institutions.’ His Secretary of the Treasury is handing out money to the largest financial institutions — no strings attached. I go down to Washington and I’m calling them out for it. I’m calling them out on executive bonuses. I’m calling them out on the fact that they’re giving this money, no strings attached. And I get attacked for it. Okay.
Then we roll forward three years. Now Karl Rove takes money from Wall Street, in order to attack Elizabeth Warren for being cozy with Wall Street?
This one goes beyond anything I’ve ever imagined. I’m just amazed. It leaves you speechless.
It would be folly to imagine that these ads won’t have an impact on Warren. If Crossroads and other groups are willing to spend truly huge sums to keep Warren out of the Senate, Dems worry, she very well might find herself outspent, particularly if labor and outside groups on the left don’t step up and match the outside right wing spending. Right now Warren is keeping pace by mounting her own unusually early and aggressive ad blitz, with a six figure statewide buy supporting a one-minute biographical spot designed to prevent groups on the right from defining her on their terms. Over time, however, if a persistent spending disparity develops and the massive negative ad blitz continues, it could drive up her negatives, and the right is showing that it will throw everything it has at her.
But Warren seems determined to hit back hard, and to seize on these attacks to reframe the race on her own terms — as her versus Wall Street and its crew of political henchmen and errand boys.
* THE FINANCIAL CRISIS WAS ENTIRELY FORESEEABLE
By Washington’s Blog
Foreseeable or Not?
I noted in April:
Whenever there is a disaster, those responsible claim it was “unforeseeable” so as to escape blame.
- It happened with 9/11
- It happened with the Japanese nuclear accident
The big boys gamble with our lives and our livelihoods, because they make a killing by taking huge risks and cutting costs. And when things inevitably go South, they aren’t held responsible (other than a slap on the wrist), and may even be bailed out by the government.
Actually, it might have been slightly foreseeable for a little while before the financial crisis.
We’ve Known for Thousands of Years
We’ve known for 1,900 years that that rampant inequality destroys societies.
We’ve known for thousands of years that debasing currencies leads to economic collapse.
We’ve known for hundreds of years that the failure to punish financial fraud destroys economies.
We’ve known for hundreds of years that monopolies and the political influence which accompanies too much power in too few hands is dangerous for free markets.
We’ve known for hundreds of years that trust is vital for a healthy economy.
We’ve known since 1988 that quantitative easing doesn’t work to rescue an ailing economy.
We’ve known since 1998 that crony capitalism destroys even the strongest economies, and that economies that are capitalist in name only need major reforms to create accountability and competitive markets.
We’ve known since 2007 or earlier that lax oversight of hedge funds could blow up the economy.
And we knew before the 2008 financial crash and subsequent bailouts that:
- The easy credit policy of the Fed and other central banks, the failure to regulate the shadow banking system, and “the use of gimmicks and palliatives” by central banks hurt the economy
- Anything other than (1) letting asset prices fall to their true market value, (2) increasing savings rates, and (3) forcing companies to write off bad debts “will only make things worse”
- Bailouts of big banks harm the economy
- The Fed and other central banks were simply transferring risk from private banks to governments, which could lead to a sovereign debt crisis
Given the insane levels of debt, rampant inequality, currency debasement, failure to punish financial fraud, growth of the too big to fails, repeal of Glass-Steagall, refusal to rein in derivatives, crony capitalism and other shenanigans … the financial crisis was entirely foreseeable.
* BAILOUT TOTAL: $29.616 TRILLION DOLLARS
By Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture
There is a fascinating new study coming out of the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. Its titled “$29,000,000,000,000: A Detailed Look at the Fed’s Bail-out by Funding Facility and Recipient” by James Felkerson. The study looks at the lending, guarantees, facilities and spending of the Federal Reserve.
The researchers took all of the individual transactions across all facilities created to deal with the crisis, to figure out how much the Fed committed as a response to the crisis. This includes direct lending, asset purchases and all other assistance. (It does not include indirect costs such as rising price of goods due to inflation, weak dollar, etc.)
The net total? As of November 10, 2011, it was $29,616.4 billion dollars — (or 29 and a half trillion, if you prefer that nomenclature). Three facilities—CBLS, PDCF, and TAF— are responsible for the lion’s share — 71.1% of all Federal Reserve assistance ($22,826.8 billion).
One comment about some of the folks pushing back against this massive total: Yes, there is a big difference between a $100 lent for 3 days, and a $100 lent overnight rolled over 2 more times. And there is an enormous difference when temporary overnight lending lasts for three years.
Overnight lending, by its definition, is temporary, short term, lower risk, modest impact. It exists to allow slightly over-extended banks to meet their reserve requirements. But rolling overnight lending repeatedly for 3 years is none of those things. And it makes a mockery of these same reserve requirements, and the protective purposes they are supposed to serve.
The amount of overnight lending reflects how broken our financial system really is. A well capitalized, moderately leverage system does not require this massive liquidity from a central bank — interbank lending should be sufficient. What the data reveals is that the financial sector remains dangerously under-capitalized and overleveraged.
To pretend these were merely minor overnight loans, rolled over once or twice, is foolish, dangerous nonsense. […]
* WHY NO FINANCIAL CRISIS PROSECUTIONS? EX-JUSTICE OFFICIAL SAYS IT’S JUST TOO HARD
By Marian Wang, Nation of Change
The Justice Department has decided that holding top Wall Street executives criminally accountable is too difficult a task.
Why’s that? Well, according to a now-departed Justice Department official who used to be in charge of investigating such matters, the Justice Department has decided that holding top Wall Street executives criminally accountable is too difficult a task.
David Cardona, who recently left the FBI for a job at the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the Wall Street Journal that bringing financial wrongdoing to account is “better left to regulators,” who can bring civil cases. Civil cases, of course, can produce penalties from the banks — as well as promises to be on better behavior — but don’t put any executives behind bars. Here’s the Journal:
While at the FBI, Mr. Cardona oversaw dozens of criminal probes of large financial firms. The FBI’s probes haven’t led to any successful prosecutions of high-profile executives in relation to the financial crisis, despite demands from some lawmakers and angry Americans. In contrast, the SEC has filed crisis-related civil-fraud cases against 81 firms and individuals, and it has negotiated almost $2 billion in penalties in cases that have been settled.
Cardona told the Journal that the failed first attempt to charge financial players with crisis-related fraud — the 2009 trial and eventual acquittal of two Bear Stearns Cos. hedge-fund managers — triggered “a lot of rethinking on how we do things.” After that, he said, the federal government began to question its “ability to convince a jury that criminality has occurred” on complex and technical financial cases.
The lack of prosecutions was also raised in a ‘60 Minutes’ piece Sunday about large-scale mortgage fraud during the bubble. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer told CBS that the Justice Department had not lost confidence and was “bringing every case that we believe can be made.” […]
* WHY NO ONE’S INVESTIGATING WALL STREET
By David Sirota, Salon
The government finds money to crack down on food stamp “fraud.” If it wanted to go after finance crooks, it could
When it comes to our government’s collective refusal to aggressively investigate — much less prosecute — Wall Street crime, one prevailing line of apologism implies that it’s all about resources. As the general fable goes, Wall Street is so sprawling and so lawyered up that public law enforcement agencies simply don’t have the resources to make sure justice is served, especially at a time of budget deficits. In this story, Wall Street is not simply too big to fail; it’s too big to even police.
The motivation for such myth-making is obvious: It wholly absolves elected officials for their decisions to let their financial-industry campaign contributors off the hook. Yet thanks to recent events, the whole “Too Big to Police” rationale is being exposed for the farce that it is.
At the local level, the same governments that plead poverty when they’re asked to enforce their laws on financial fraud have somehow found plenty of resources to deploy their militarized police forces against Occupy protesters. At the federal level, it’s even more blatant. As we learned in a little-noticed Washington Post piece on Tuesday, the same Obama administration that has refused to spend political capital and federal monies to go after Wall Street is expending new resources to crack down on the supposedly rampant problem of food stamp “fraud.”
Tracking an individual example of this phenomenon, Matt Taibbi makes clear that it’s really difficult to overstate just how revealing this kind of thing is. Wall Street crooks who stole trillions of dollars are rewarded by the administration with additional trillions in bailouts. Meanwhile, those crooks’ now-impoverished victims — so poor they are on food stamps, mind you — are being targeted by the same administration for criminal investigation for allegedly making a few extra bucks on recycling empty bottles. […]
* ’99 PERCENT’ DROP IN ON DC POWER PLAYERS
By Laurie Kellman, Yahoo!
WASHINGTON (AP) — It wasn’t the slick suits, pricey heels and sense of purpose of the congressional staffers that Susan Wilkinson saw this week on Capitol Hill. What stung about crossing paths with them, she said, was this: “They wouldn’t make eye contact with us,” the unemployed Seattle activist recalled Thursday. “When did I get invisible?”
Wilkinson was among hundreds of angry Americans who streamed through Washington and its corridors of power this week to command attention for the 99 percent of Americans that protesters claim are struggling to survive the recession. They were hard to miss.
Dozens were arrested for disrupting traffic. Others crashed a campaign fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Their fist-in-the-air chants — “We are united” — echoed through the canyons separating the Capitol’s office buildings.
The message to the power brokers: They should be making laws for people who can’t afford lobbyists. Much of it was taken from the Democrats’ playbook, like extending unemployment insurance, and making wealthy people pay more taxes.
“Things have reached a boiling point,” observed protester Ed Vining, a small businessman from Boise, Idaho, who took photos of his fellow protesters passing in near silence in front of the Capitol. “This (protest) is as American an act as you can imagine.”
Their top target: House Speaker John Boehner, the Ohioan from modest roots they accuse of making law to benefit of the richest 1 percent while nearly 1 in 10 American workers is unemployed.
Fresh off a night of political party-crashing, the protesters carried their message as close to Boehner as they could get, marching from a Senate park across the East face of the Capitol to a sidewalk outside his personal office building.
“One: We’re unemployed! Two: We are united! Three: Tell the speaker we’re not leaving,” they hollered. From the terraces of the House building across the street, business-suited people watched and took pictures. […]
READ @ http://news.yahoo.com/99-percent-drop-dc-power-players-234421845.html;_ylt=AouNWz1BJFxMI8FY0q0S51Ws0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNpMDduZGN2BG1pdAMEcGtnA2NmZWJhNjQxLTBjYzYtM2RiMC1hNmQ2LWY1MzU4MTM0MDViOARwb3MDOQRzZWMDbG5fTGF0ZXN0TmV3c19nYWwEdmVyAzJhNjI3ODgwLTIyNzUtMTFlMS05ZGI5LTFmNzBjMzQwNTA5Zg–;_ylv=3
* WHY IS ERIC CANTOR BLOCKING THE CONGRESSIONAL INSIDER TRADING ACT?
By John Carney, CNBC
In a strange and unexpected twist, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives is now blocking progress on a bill that would definitively outlaw insider trading by federal lawmakers.
The Republican sponsor of the bill in the House, Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus of Alabama, had scheduled a markup of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act for next week. But on Wednesday, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia cancelled the markup session.
Cantor reportedly said he blocked the bill to give Congress more time to examine the issue. Critics of the move, however, fear that any delay could kill the bill entirely.
Some version of the the STOCK Act has been bouncing around Capitol Hill for six years. But recent attention to the issue of Congressional insider trading, following reports from CNBC’s Eamon Javers and a “60 Minutes” report, brought the bill out of stasis and made its passage into law seem likely. If the latest delay pushes the bill into next year, it may become lost in election-year politics.
Trading by lawmakers based on non-public information about legislation falls into what many see as a loophole in insider trading regulations.
Although corporate insiders are banned from trading on non-public information about their companies, congressional representatives and senators may not be banned from trading on non-public information about legislation or regulation. The legal issue is disputed by scholars and regulators.
The head of the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission recently argued that congressional insider trading is already banned. But he admitted that no legal action has ever been taken against a member of Congress.
Studies have shown the investment portfolios of House members and Senators consistently outperform the market by significant degrees, suggesting they are either miraculously bright and lucky investors or using their access to non-public information when trading. Financial experts regard the idea that it is just luck or investing smarts as laughable. […]
* NATIONWIDE PROTESTS UNDER WAY IN RUSSIA
Source: Al Jazeera
|Protests in Russia are taking place against Vladimir Putin’s 12-year rule amid signs of swelling anger over a poll won by his ruling United Russia party with the alleged help of widescale fraud.
Moscow authorities gave permission for 30,000 people to gather on a square across the river from the Kremlin on Saturday, after detaining some 1,600 activists over the past few days who joined unsanctioned rallies against the December 4 vote.
The opposition is also organising rallies in at least 14 other major cities in a rare outpouring of mistrust in a system put in place by Putin when he first became president in 2000.
Protests have already begun elsewhere, with several hundred marching in Vladivostok, seven timezones to the east of Moscow.
A 30,000-strong demonstration would be the largest to hit the Russian capital in 20 years, in what some see as the first warning bell for the former foreign agent and his secretive inner circle of security chiefs.
Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker, reporting from Moscow, said: “Troops from the interior ministry and water cannons are also on standby in Moscow.
“I do think, that if the protestors try and widen the rally, then there could well be a clampdown.”
The authorities’ decision to permit Saturday’s rallies to go ahead nationwide is a first for the Putin era and suggests the Kremlin would prefer to avoid street battles between protesters and the riot police.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Ivan Safranchuk, a Russian political analyst, said: “People will be allowed to protest, but direct political change won’t happen.”
Putin’s United Russia has been bruised by allegations of corruption, after opposition parties and international observers said the vote was marred by vote-rigging, including alleged ballot-box stuffing and false voter rolls.
The official results of the elections to Russia’s Duma showed that the ruling party United Russia lost 77 of its 315 seats, just retaining a small majority.
Barker said there is a widespread view, fuelled by mobile phone videos and accounts on internet social networking sites, that there was wholesale election fraud, and that Putin’s party cheated its way to victory. […]