Aug 022012
 

 

By greydogg, 99GetSmart

* MAKING ENDS MEET

By Syndicate Films

The crisis of the capitalist financial system affects people across social classes and across the geography of Europe in similar ways: making a living is becoming more difficult in times of rising unemployment, ruthless neo-liberal flexibilisation of work and dismantling of the welfare state. This also affects housing, mobility, education, healthcare, old age pensions and so forth. Across the board, people experience an increasing precarisation of their everyday lives, which goes hand in hand with feelings of existential insecurity, anxiety and fear.

Spain is amongst the European countries most strongly affected by the austerity policies following the crisis of the global financial markets and the European debt crisis. During the last few years, Spain has seen a series of sectoral strikes, mainly in education and health care. On March 29, 2012, the country saw the second general strike within two years, this time directed against a massive labour market reform destroying job security and doing away with workers rights such as collective bargaining.

People of different generations, with different experiences and political backgrounds converged in protest against the government’s labour reform. During, before and after the strike, we asked people in the Catalan city of Barcelona how the crisis affects them and how they are dealing with it on a personal and a political level. In this video, students, workers, and unemployed who are also artists, activists and demonstrators are talking about fear, insecurity and anxiety in everyday life. However, they also explain how they are developing new models of organizing and protesting. The video includes examples for militant protest, artistic and creative tools for resistance, anti-authoritarian / libertarian networking and micropolitical organizing. This 20 minute long film is part of a militant investigation into tools of resistance against the politics of austerity across Europe.

Syndicate Films
London, June 2012

VIDEO @ http://vimeo.com/46278378

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* FAR-RIGHT PARTY DOLES OUT FOOD TO GREEKS ONLY

Source: Aljazeera

Golden Dawn hands out food parcels outside parliament, but makes sure only Greek citizens receive assistance.

Members of the extreme right Golden Dawn party have handed out food parcels outside the Greek parliament, but made sure only Greek citizens received the assistance.

Hundreds stood in line at Athens’ main Syntagma Square on Wednesday, showing IDs proving their citizenship to pick up their food.

Party volunteers dressed in black passed out milk, pasta, potatoes and olive oil in a one-day charity event critics said was meant to soften the image of a party likened by some to neo-Nazi groups.

With poverty and the unemployment rate rising, Golden Dawn has made inroads in the country’s political system with its vehement attacks against traditionally dominant parties and strongly anti-immigrant stance.

Its members have been accused of involvement in attacks against immigrants and some of its senior officials have publicly declared admiration for Adolf Hitler. The party rejects the neo-Nazi label. […]

READ @ http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2012/08/20128120364264203.html

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* CHRIS HAYES ON ELITE FAILURE

Why don’t American oligarchs fear the consequences of their corruption, and how can that be changed?

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

[…] Yet even in the wake of the oligarch-caused 2008 financial crisis that has spawned extreme levels of sustained suffering around the globe, and even as social unrest emerges in several places in the Western world as a result of this insecurity and sense of outrage and betrayal, the American elite class still seems remarkably free of any such fear. The main reason I was and remain so enthusiastic about the Occupy movement is precisely because something is needed to pose a credible threat of unrest if America’s elite class continues on the same course. Yesterday, New York Magazine published a profile of Jeff Greene, a typically vapid, bombastic American billionaire who has devoted his wealth to piggish, flamboyant personal consumption and yacht parties with Lindsay Lohan, but what struck me was this passage:

But over the past few months, it’s become clear that rich people are very, very afraid. Sometimes it feels like this was the main accomplishment of Occupy Wall Street: a whole lot of tightened sphincters. It’s not a stretch to say many residents of Park Avenue harbor vivid fears of a populist revolt like the one seen in The Dark Knight Rises, in which they cower miserably under their sideboards while ragged hordes plunder the silver.

[…]

I see no evidence that “rich people are very, very afraid” — at least not by their actions. And that, to me, is the problem. That fear — a lot more of it — is necessary. Their ability to rope themselves off from the society they are degrading, combined with the para-militarization of domestic police forces (aggressively displayed in response to the Occupy movement and related protests), and the rapidly increasing domestic powers of surveillance and detention (designed to intimidate the citizenry and thus deter and guard against mass protests), have convinced them, I think, that they need not fear any protest movements or social unrest, that America can and will become more and more of a police state to suppress it. An elite class that is free to operate without limits — whether limits imposed by the rule of law or fear of the responses from those harmed by their behavior — is an elite class that will plunder, degrade, and cheat at will, and act endlessly to fortify its own power. […]

READ / AUDIO INTERVIEW @ http://www.salon.com/2012/08/01/chris_hayes_on_elite_failure/

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* PLUTOCRACY NOW

Source:  Automatic Earth

We could write stacks of books on the prevalence of money in politics and the swarms of lobbyists who descend on Washington every single week, and many people have, but it’s simpler to just focus on the most egregious example of corruption. The most powerful, influential economic policy-making institution in the country, the Federal Reserve (“Fed”), is an unelected body that is completely unaccountable to the people. Well, let’s back up and start with the fact that this institution’s very existence is most likely unconstitutional. Here’s why:

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states that Congress has the power to “coin money” and “regulate the value thereof”. The Supreme Court has long held that Congress can delegate its legislative powers to Executive agencies as long as it provides an “intelligible principle” to guide the agencies’ action.

We don’t even have to reach the question of whether the Federal Reserve Act sets out an “intelligible principle”, however, because existing precedent states that Congress cannot delegate its powers to private institutions. Schecter Poultry (held “a delegation of its legislative authority to trade or industrial associations…would be utterly inconsistent with the constitutional prerogatives and duties of Congress“). In that case, the Supreme Court struck down parts of FDR’s National Industrial Recovery Act which authorized these private organizations to draft “codes of fair competition” and submit them to the President for approval.

The Fed, by it’s own admission, is an independent entity within the government “having both public purposes, and private aspects”. By “private aspects”, they mean the entire operation is wholly-owned by private member banks, who are paid dividends of 6% each year on their stock. Furthermore, the Fed’s decisions “do not have to be ratified by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branch of government” and the Fed “does not receive funding appropriated by Congress”. […]

READ @ http://theautomaticearth.com/Finance/plutocracy-now-why-the-fed-is-unconstitutional.html

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* JOAN VEON – AGENDA 21 PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP PPP CORPORATE FASCISM

Joan Veon discusses the implications of public private partnerships and their impact on society. This is a must watch.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZsLvoSyu0

Jan 152012
 

 

* BILL MOYERS: OCCUPY A CAUSE (VIDEO)

By Bill Moyers, Truthout

What’s the common cause behind Occupy protesters?

The Moyers & Company team visited the Occupy Wall Street site several times between October and December in 2011 — visits that reveal real faces, real people, and a true common cause. In this premiere Bill Moyers Essay, Bill talks about their anger — not at the concept of wealth itself, but at the crony capitalists who resort to tricks, loopholes, and hard, cold cash for politicians to make sure insiders prosper… and then pull up the ladder behind them. […]

Bill Moyers on Occupy Wall Street from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/bill-moyers-occupy-cause/1326562917

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* CORRUPT REGIMES CRUMBLE WHEN THE FOOT SOLDIERS REFUSE TO CARRY OUT THE TYRANT’S DRACONIAN ORDERS

By George Washington, Washington’s Blog

“Its Always When The Foot Soldiers of the Elite Won’t Carry Out the Forms of Draconian Control that These Dead Regimes Crumble”

Pulitzer prize winning reporter Chris Hedges pointed out recently (starting at 5:05):

I was in Leipzig on November 9, 1989 with leaders of East German opposition and they told me that – perhaps within a year – there would be free passes back and forth across the Berlin wall.

Within a few hours, the Berlin Wall, at least as far as an impediment to human traffic, did not exist.

Week after week, month after month, these clergy in Leipzig held these candlelit vigils. And it was slow at first … people forget. Just like the Egyptian revolution has been percolating for many many months, and even years.

And suddenly, it began to grow. [Indeed, a study of history shows over and over that people don't realize how close they may be to a positive turning point ... if they just persist.]

And Honecker – who had been in ruling East Germany since the time of the dinosaurs – sent down a paratroop division to Leipzig .. . and they won’t attack the demonstrators.

It’s always when the foot soldiers of the elite won’t carry out the forms of draconian control that these dead regimes crumble.

And that’s why its so important not to respond to police provocation. […]

READ / PHOTOS / VIDEO @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/01/corrupt-regimes-crumble-as-soon-as-the-foot-soldiers-refuse-to-carry-out-the-tyrants-draconian-orders.html

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* ICELAND EXITS RECESSION

Decision to force bondholders to pay for banking system’s collapse appears to pay off as economy grows 1.2% in third quarter

By Phillip Inman, Guardian UK

Iceland‘s decision two years ago to force bondholders to pay for the banking system’s collapse appeared to pay off after official figures showed the country exited recession in the third quarter.

The Icelandic economy, which contracted for seven consecutive quarters until the summer, grew by 1.2% in the three months to the end of September.

Iceland famously agreed in a referendum to reject a scheme to repay most of its debts that were once worth 11 times its total national income.

In contrast to Ireland, Iceland’s taxpayers refused to foot the bill for the debts accumulated by the banking sector. Bondholders were told to accept dramatic reductions in the value of repayments on bank debt after the sector borrowed beyond its means to fund ambitious investments abroad.

The return to growth is likely to put pressure on Irish politicians to explain why Dublin rejected a more radical restructuring of its debts and a departure from the eurozone. […]

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/dec/07/iceland-exits-recession-third-quarter

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* THE GREEK PARENTS TOO POOR TO CARE FOR THEIR CHILDREN

By Chloe Hadjimatheou, BBC World Service, Athens

Greece’s financial crisis has made some families so desperate they are giving up the most precious thing of all – their children.

One morning a few weeks before Christmas a kindergarten teacher in Athens found a note about one of her four-year-old pupils.

“I will not be coming to pick up Anna today because I cannot afford to look after her,” it read. “Please take good care of her. Sorry. Her mother.”

In the last two months Father Antonios, a young Orthodox priest who runs a youth centre for the city’s poor, has found four children on his doorstep – including a baby just days old.

Another charity was approached by a couple whose twin babies were in hospital being treated for malnutrition, because the mother herself was malnourished and unable to breastfeed.

Cases like this are shocking a country where family ties are strong, and failure to look after children is socially unacceptable – and it’s not happening in a country ravaged by war or famine, but in their own capital city. […]

READ @ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16472310

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* DEGRADE THIS: WALL STREET’S RATINGS AGENCIES UNDERMINE EUROPE’S ATTEMPT AT RECOVERY ACTION LIKE FINANCIAL TERRORISTS

By Danny Schecter, Common Dreams

Pasted Graphic.tiff

We live in an increasingly degraded country.

Our politics are degraded and a laughing stock to the word. Our military is demoralized and degraded with soldiers urinating on dead civilians and awaiting deployment orders for the next illegal intervention.

Our education system has been degraded with standards falling and pervasive defunding. Our transportation system, ditto.

I could go on, but I don’t have to. We are all living the decline with downward mobility, jobless and foreclosures, to cite a few trends that make life so miserable for so many.

Now, our godlike financial ratings agencies have decided to degrade nine countries struggling to fix their financial crisis. The decision by Standard & Poors (Best renamed, “It is now Standard to Be Poor”) to downgrade credit ratings for France, Italy, Austria and six other European countries signals those nations that Wall Street has them by the cojones. Their costs for borrowing will go up.

They are being warned: We are in Charge. Do as we say! […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/14-4

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* AS CENTRALIZED SYSTEMS DEVOLVE, THE SOLUTION IS LOCALISM

By Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds

Depending on Central State/central bank borrowing and spending to prop up the Status Quo is a doomed strategy.

I think the thread between these three seemingly disparate stories is clearly visible. I am indebted to longtime correspondent Joel M. for sending me these articles:

A Dimly Flickering Light in a Darkened Downtown. An Ohio mill town’s once-bustling main street is now a ghost town; people are desperate to sell their family heirlooms to one of the downtown’s few remaining businesses, a vintage shop, to raise cash.

A Fight for Post Offices and Towns’ Souls. Even as the number of family farms rises for the first time in decades in the U.S., long-standing services to rural communities such as post offices and schools are being slashed.

With Work Scarce in Athens, Greeks Go Back to the Land. As Greece’s economy plunges and unemployment rises, many Greeks are fleeing to the countryside and looking to the nation’s rich agricultural past as a guide to the future.

The thread that connects these stories is the devolution of centralized concentrations of control and the power of localism to fill the void.

As I have often noted here, the expansive Central State is on an S-curve of decline, and this is most apparent in places such as Greece that cannot print a couple trillion dollars a year to fund a bloated Status Quo like the U.S. can (at least for now).

But the Central State is on an S-curve even in nations such as the U.S. and “socialist” France, where rural post offices are also being closed or their hours drastically slashed for budgetary reasons. […]

READ @ http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com/2012/01/as-centralized-systems-devolve-solution.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+google%2FRzFQ+%28oftwominds%29

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* SO YOU STILL THINK THE INTERNET IS FREE … (CHARTS)

Source: open.youyuxi.com

CHARTS @ http://open.youyuxi.com/

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* EPIC – FOIA DOCUMENTS REVEAL HOMELAND SECURITY IS MONITORING PUBLIC DESENT

Source: epic.org

As the result of EPIC v. DHS, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC has obtained nearly thee hundred pages of documents detailing a Department of Homeland Security’s surveillance program. The documents include contracts and statements of work with General Dynamics for 24/7 media and social network monitoring and periodic reports to DHS. The documents reveal that the agency is tracking media stories that “reflect adversely” on DHS or the U.S. government. One tracking report — “Residents Voice Opposition Over Possible Plan to Bring Guantanamo Detainees to Local Prison-Standish MI” — summarizes dissent on blogs and social networking cites, quoting commenters. EPIC sent a request for these documents in April 2004 and filed suit against the agency in December. For more information, see PDF: EPIC: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security: Media Monitoring.

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/01/2-minute-video-of-irans-people-arrest-us-war-criminals-planning-their-murders.html @ http://epic.org/2012/01/epic—foia-documents-reveal-h.html

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* 2-MINUTE VIDEO OF IRAN’S PEOPLE: ARREST WAR CRIMINALS PLANNING THIER MURDERS

By Carl Herman, Washington’s Blog

Documentation to prove the “emperor has no clothes” obvious facts: US constantly violates war law; arrest Obama before ‘false flag’ war on Iran

VIDEO @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/01/2-minute-video-of-irans-people-arrest-us-war-criminals-planning-their-murders.html

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* WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY … AND FIGHTING BACK IS “AGGRESSION”

By Kevin Carson, Information Clearing House

The US Department of Defense recently promulgated a new “defense” guidance document: “Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.” I use scare quotes because it just doesn’t seem quite right to use “defense” to describe a document that — like its predecessors — envisions something like an American Thousand-Year Reich.

The greatest shift in emphasis is in the section “Project power despite Anti-Access/Area Denial Challenges.” The “threat” to be countered is that China and Iran “will continue to pursue asymmetric means to counter our power projection capabilities.”

That refers to a long-standing phenomenon: What Pentagon analysts call “Assassin’s Mace” weapons — cheap, agile weapons that render expensive, high-tech, weapons systems ineffective at a cost several orders of magnitude cheaper than the Pentagon’s gold-plated turds. In the context of “area denial,” they include cheap anti-ship mines, surface-to-air missiles, and anti-ship missiles like the Sunburn (which some believe could destroy or severely damage aircraft carriers).

Thus the Pentagon defines as a “threat” a country’s ability to defend itself effectively against attack or to prevent an enemy from putting offensive forces into place to attack it. Yes, you read that right: To the American national security establishment, it’s considered threatening when you prepare to defend yourself against attack by the United States. It’s the perspective of a Family Circus character: “Mommy, he hit me back!” That kind of double standard is pretty common in the National Security State’s assessment of the world. […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30249.htm

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* RAHM CAUGHT RED HANDED BY STATE OFFICIALS

By Hyde Park Johnny, Daily Kos

In a reversal of fortunes Rahm’s bullying and union busting tactics have not only been uncovered, but challenged by state officials on the Chicago Facilities Task Force Force. What was established by evidence and eyewitness testimony in a hearing on January 12, 2012 is that Rahm Emanuel’s push to turn over public schools to private operators is his use of textbook union busting schemes to get what he wants. The most disturbing revelations about mayor 1% was the use of paid outside agitators to speak in favor of closing public schools and Board officials forging documents to push out homeless students from one school.

State Representative Esther Golar said she was at the meeting about Reed School in Englewood, which is set to receive Guggenheim students, and saw people arrive on a bus. She said she talked to them and discovered they were from a halfway house and were paid $25 to come to the meeting. […]

READ and PHOTOS @ http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/01/14/1054604/-Rahm-Caught-Red-Handed-By-State-Officials?via=siderec

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* WALKERGATE EXPANDS, TOP AIDE GIVEN IMMUNITY

By Kenneth Quinnell, Crooks And Liars

An ongoing John Doe investigation into possible illegal activity by aides to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) expanded when Walker’s spokesperson, Cullen Werwie, was given prosecutorial immunity. Speculation as to the reasons for the immunity, which authorities haven’t revealed, don’t signal good news for Walker:

During the 2010 Republican Lt. Governor race, Werwie worked for the campaign of former Republican State Rep. Brett Davis. After Davis was defeated in the September 2010 Republican Lt. Governor primary, Werwie went to work as the traveling press person for Scott Walker’s gubernatorial campaign. In that role, Werwie would have traveled everywhere Scott Walker went, working in close proximity to Walker, no doubt leaving Werwie privy to most – if not all – of Scott Walker’s communications while on the campaign trail.

So what could Cullen Werwie have knowledge of? Were there more widespread campaign finance violations beyond those that have already been exposed and prosecuted?

Could there have been “pay to play” going on within the campaign?

What about the possibility that Milwaukee County resources (or man hours) were used for the benefit of Walker’s gubernatorial campaign?

Despite conservative pundits’ claims that the investigation is a witch-hunt, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm says the investigation is ongoing and it has already produced one conviction and numerous charges against Walker aides.

Among the charges so far: […]

READ @ http://crooksandliars.com/kenneth-quinnell/walkergate-expands-top-aide-given

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* HOW GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS COULD AFFECT OUR HEALTH IN UNEXPECTED WAYS

By Ari LeVaux, AlterNet

Chinese researchers have found small pieces of rice ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood and organs of humans who eat rice. The Nanjing University-based team showed that this genetic material will bind to receptors in human liver cells and influence the uptake of cholesterol from the blood.

The type of RNA in question is called microRNA (abbreviated to miRNA) due to its small size. MiRNAs have been studied extensively since their discovery ten years ago, and have been implicated as players in several human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. They usually function by turning down or shutting down certain genes. The Chinese research provides the first in vivo example of ingested plant miRNA surviving digestion and influencing human cell function in this way.

Should the research survive scientific scrutiny — a serious hurdle — it could prove a game changer in many fields. It would mean that we’re eating not just vitamins, protein, and fuel, but gene regulators as well. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153737

Dec 102011
 

 

* 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. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153388

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* 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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. […]

READ @ http://baselinescenario.com/2011/12/08/karl-roves-latest-attack-on-elizabeth-warren/#more-9493

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* 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.

READ @ http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/elizabeth-warren-versus-karl-rove-and-the-one-percent/2011/12/09/gIQAGHkJiO_blog.html

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* 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.

For example:

  • It happened with 9/11

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.

But surely the financial crisis was different. After all, Wall Street executives and politicians say that the financial crisis wasn’t foreseeable. And see this.

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 literally thousands of years that debts need to be periodically written down, or the entire economy will collapse. And see this.

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 the 1930s Great Depression that separating depository banking from speculative investment banking is key to economic stability. See this, this, this and this.

We’ve known since 1988 that quantitative easing doesn’t work to rescue an ailing economy.

We’ve known since 1993 that derivatives such as credit default swaps – if not reined in – could take down the economy. And see this.

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.

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/12/the-financial-crisis-was-foreseeable-a-long-time-ago.html

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* 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. […]

READ @ http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/12/bailout-total-29-616-trillion-dollars/

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* 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.

It’s an issue we and others have noted again and again: Years after the financial crisis, there have still been no prosecutions of top executives at the major players in the financial crisis.

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.” […]

READ @ http://www.nationofchange.org/why-no-financial-crisis-prosecutions-ex-justice-official-says-it-s-just-too-hard-1323357871

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* 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. […]

READhttp://www.salon.com/2011/12/06/why_no_ones_investigating_wall_street/singleton/

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* ’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

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* 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. […]

READ @ http://www.cnbc.com/id/45612773?__source=google%7Ceditorspicks%7C&par=google

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* 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.”

Allegations

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. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2011/12/2011121053755418485.html