* MOYERS JOURNAL: HOW DID THE BIG BANKS GET SO POWERFUL? – VIDEO
Source: Bill Moyers / vimeo
Bill Moyers talks with former Citigroup Chairman John Reed to explore a momentous instance: how the mid-90’s merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group, and a friendly Presidential pen, brought down the Glass-Steagall Act, a crucial firewall between banks and investment firms which had protected consumers from financial calamity since the aftermath of the Great Depression. In effect, says Moyers, they put the watchdog to sleep.
VIDEO @ http://vimeo.com/35736113
* FREDERIC BASTIAT: HOW TO IDENTIFY LEGAL PLUNDER
By Adam Sharp, bearishnews.com
In the passage below Frédéric Bastiat comments on a few of the problems experienced in crony capitalistic societies such as ours:
But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law — which may be an isolated case — is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.
The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen.
Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.
Connecting the dots from 1850, when Bastiat wrote this, to today, hardly seems necessary. 162 years later, and Bastiat’s The Law is fresh as a daisy.
* ANSCHLUSS ECONOMICS – THE GERMANS LAUNCH A BLITZKREIG ON THE GREEK DEBT NEGOTIATIONS
By Marshall Auerback, NakedCapitalism
News stories continue to suggest that Greece once again appears on the verge of reaching a deal with its private sector creditors on how much of a loss they would be willing to accept on their bond holdings. The latest numbers suggest a 70% write-down. A pretty striking comedown for what is supposed to be a “voluntary default” and, hence, not subject to the triggers of a credit default swap on Greek debt.
Naturally, the spin surrounding the proposed agreement is that this is a “one-off” and that other troubled periphery nations shouldn’t even begin to think of securing a comparable deal. But the inherent tension between securing a write-down on Greek debt which more closely mirrors the disaster which is now the Greek economy, and the desire to minimise the potential contagion effect is rearing its ugly head already, and may help to explain some of Germany’s recent machinations.
Peter Spiegel of the Financial Times published the German government’s proposal for Greece’s “improvement of compliance” with the terms of the bailout, and all of a sudden Greek PSI positively pales in comparison. According to Germany’s proposal, whatever the result of the PSI deal, Greece would need to “legally commit itself to giving absolute priority to future debt service” and “accept shifting budgetary sovereignty to the European level”. If the Greek government is not willing to do this, the troika would presumably turn off the taps of bailout money and Greece would default. With no access to market or official financing, Greece would be forced to exit the eurozone. […]
* ARE COMPANIES MORE POWERFUL THAN COUNTRIES?
By Rana Foroohar, The Curious Capitalist
In 2008, after Lehman Brothers fell and the financial crisis and global recession began, the conventional wisdom was that we were entering an era in which government would take back power from business. In fact, just the opposite has happened.
The high profile political figures here at Davos disappointed — Merkel was angry and depressed by turns, and Geithner was defensive. Europe remains a mess, the U.S. vulnerable, and emerging markets — the only bright spot in the last three years — are slowing down. Politicians have few solutions to the huge problems of the day — labor bifurcation, debt, and inequality. Markets want answers, but leaders can’t give them — in part because for them, nearly any sort of action poses political risk.
Meanwhile, the top companies seem to exist in a world apart — they are booming, and their executives are prospering. If there is a meta theme to this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, it is that the world’s largest companies are moving on and moving ahead of governments and countries that they perceive to be inept and anemic. They are flying above them, operating in a space that is increasingly disconnected from local concerns, and the problems of their home markets. And if the conversations here are any indication, they may soon take over much of what government itself does. […]
NOTE: Make sure you read Pioro’s comment
* MONSANTO’S NEW SEEDS COULD BE A TECH DEAD END
By Tom Laskawy, Grist
When I wrote recently about the next generation of genetically engineered seeds, I was in truth referring to the next next generation. The fact is that the next actual generation of seeds is already out of the lab and poised for approval by the USDA.
And I’m not talking about Monsanto’s recently approved “drought-tolerant” seeds, which the USDA itself has observed are no more drought-tolerant than existing conventional hybrids.
No, the “exciting” new seeds are simply resistant to more than one kind of pesticide. Rather than resisting Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup alone, they will now also be resistant to Dow AgroScience’s pesticide 2,4-D . […]
* MONSANTO DECLARED WORST COMPANY OF 2011
By Anthony Gucciardi & Mike Barrett, naturalsociety.com
Biotech giant Monsanto has been declared the Worst Company of 2011 by NaturalSociety for threatening both human health and the environment. The leader in genetically modified seeds and crops, Monsanto is currently responsible for 90 percent of the genetically engineered seed on the United States market. Outside of GM seeds, Monsanto is also the creator of the best-selling herbicide Roundup, which has spawned over 120 million hectacres of herbicide-resistant superweeds while damaging much of the soil. Despite hard evidence warning against the amplified usage of genetically modified crops, biopesticides, and herbicides, Monsanto continues to disregard all warning signs.
In a powerful review of 19 studies analyzing the dangers of GMO crops such as corn and soybeans, researchers revealed some shocking information regarding the safety of these popular food staples. Researchers found that consumption of GMO corn or soybeans may lead to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice – particularly in the liver and kidneys. This is particularly concerning due to the fact that 93 percent of U.S. soybeans are known to be genetically modified. Ignoring this evidence, Monsanto continues to expand their genetic manipulation. […]
* OWS STANDS WITH FARMERS, SAY ENOUGH! TO MONSANTO
Movement is calling for protests to support 60 family farmers, small seed businesses, organizations challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed
By Common Dreams Staff
The Occupy Wall Street movement has highlighted the tremendous corporate greed and power that has benefited the 1%.
One company helping the 1% is Monsanto. Food Democracy Now! writes that:
Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets.
Monsanto’s genetically modified seed can contaminate non-gmo fields allowing the company to sue for seed theft. Food Democracy Now! continues:
In many cases farmers are forced to stop growing certain crops to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. Due to these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.
Today, the Occupy movement is seizing the moment to highlight this corporate power. […]
* SUNDERING THE SOCIAL CONTRACT
By Danny Schechter, OpEdNews
In political philosophy, the idea of a social contract is that the individual surrenders some rights for the benefits of living in a civilized society that has reasonable rules for all. However, in recent decades, the greedy rich have torn up that contract.
The conflict between property rights and human rights has entered a new chapter. It is a debate that goes back to the challenge by landowners and merchants behind the American Revolution’s war on British control over the colonial economy.
Only today, as those speaking in the name of the 99 percent challenge the super wealthy of the 1 percent (actually the .001 percent), there is a new battleground in what’s known as the housing market with as many as 14 million Americans in or facing foreclosure.
The defense of property rights is the holy of the holies for the propertied classes with a whole industry set up to enforce their claims of ownership.
We have seen how this plays out with the courts, run by often bought-off and complicit judges rubber-stamping claims by banks and realty interests even when laws are disregarded amidst fraudulent filings, biased contracts, and phony robot signings.
They control the marshals who seize your property and they constantly denigrate the real victims as “irresponsible.” It’s not surprising any more to read about banks foreclosing on properties they don’t even own. […]
* BUYING CONGRESS IN 2012
By Tom Engelhardt, Economy in Crisis
Startling numbers of Americans are “underwater” — homeowners and students alike — and so, for that matter, is Congress, even if in quite a different way. In these last years, it’s been flooded with money. Millionaires, including at least 10 centimillionaires, now make up nearly half of our representatives there, and as a group, they have been growing ever richer as Americans grow ever poorer. Bad times? Never heard of them. Congress’s median net worth rose by 15% between 2004 and 2010 — and this news, in a recent front-page New York Times piece, hardly caused a stir.
Of course, everything is relative. Compared to the giant energy companies, ours is a Congress of paupers. After all, the Big Five oil outfits (BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell) announced a combined $36 billion in profits in the second quarter of 2011. Exxon alone pulled in $10.7 billion (and spent more than half of those profits simply to buy back its own stock). In the third quarter, the same five companies returned for an encore. They made another $32.6 billion in profits, with Exxon at $10.3 billion (about half of which it again spent on stock buybacks). […]
* CONGRESSMEN BATTLE OVER KOCH BROTHERS KEYSTONE PIPELINE – VIDEO
Source: TheYoungTurks, youtube
Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman got an angry response from Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield over the idea that the right wing billionaire Koch brothers should be subpoenaed over their financial interest in the Keystone XL Pipeline. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian break it down.
* SAVING AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
By Bernie Sanders, Economy in Crisis
I have recently introduced a constitutional amendment, the Saving American Democracy Act, to undo the damage being caused by the disastrous 5-4 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
In my view, this Supreme Court decision is one of the worst in the history of our country. Together, we have got to do everything we can to repeal it. A good place to start would be signing the petition and becoming a citizen co-sponsor of this resolution.Let me be very clear. Despite what five members of the U.S. Supreme Court may believe, a corporation is not a person. A corporation does not have First Amendment rights to spend as much money as it wants, without disclosure, on a political campaign. Corporations should not be able to go into their treasuries and withdraw unlimited sums of money in order to buy elections. That’s not what American democracy is supposed to be about.This horrendous Supreme Court ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy. It has further tilted the balance of power in our country towards the rich and the powerful and against the needs of the middle class and working families.
Today, when corporations have more than $2 trillion in cash in their bank accounts and are making record-breaking profits, the American people are outraged when the Supreme Court says that these corporations have a constitutionally-protected right to spend shareholders’ money to dominate an election. If we do not reverse this decision, there will be no end to the impact that corporate interests can have on our campaigns and our democracy. […]
* OCCUPY DC PROTESTERS STAY PUT AMID EVICTION THREATS
By Charundi Panagoda, Global Issues
Two days after some 400 people were arrested during a protest organised by Occupy Oakland on the U.S. west coast, members of Occupy DC say they have no plans to leave despite the threat of police action.
Gathered at McPherson Square in Washington, most were unfazed by the National Park Service’s intention to enforce a ‘no camping’ rule starting at noon on Monday. The occupiers gathered under a ‘Tent of Dreams’, a blue tarp over a statue, to showcase solidarity and waved slogans that read ‘Eviction? Bring it!’
‘We are going to take a stand and stay as long as possible,’ Carla Boccella, a registered nurse, told IPS. […]
* OCCUPY OAKLAND: OVER 400 ARRESTED AS POLICE FIRE TEAR GAS, FLASH GRENADES AT PROTESTERS
Source: Democracy Now! / Amy Goodman
* JOURNALISTS – MYSELF INCLUDED – SWEPT UP IN MASS ARREST AT OCCUPY OAKLAND
By Gavin Aronsen, MotherJones
On Saturday, Occupy Oakland re-entered the national spotlight during a day-long effort to take over an empty building and transform it into a social center. Oakland police thwarted the efforts, arresting more than 400 people in the process, primarily during a mass nighttime arrest outside a downtown YMCA. That number included at least six journalists, myself included, in direct violation of OPD media relations policy that states “media shall never be targeted for dispersal or enforcement action because of their status.”
After an unsuccessful afternoon effort to occupy a former convention center, the more than 1,000 protesters elected to return to the site of their former encampment outside City Hall. On the way, they clashed with officers, advancing down a street with makeshift shields of corrugated metal and throwing objects at a police line. Officers responded with smoke grenades, tear gas, and bean bag projectiles. After protesters regrouped, they marched through downtown as police pursued and eventually contained a few hundred of them in an enclosed space outside a YMCA. Some entered the gym and were arrested inside.
As soon as it became clear that I would be kettled with the protesters, I displayed my press credentials to a line of officers and asked where to stand to avoid arrest. In past protests, the technique always proved successful. But this time, no officer said a word. One pointed back in the direction of the protesters, refusing to let me leave. Another issued a notice that everyone in the area was under arrest. […]
* LATEST INDICTMENTS LOOK BAD FOR SCOTT WALKER
By Ruth Conniff, The Progressive
The criminal complaints raise serious questions about what Walker knew and when he knew it.
The secret John Doe investigation of Governor Scott Walker’s associates by the Milwaukee County District Attorney, with help from the FBI, keeps turning up new dirt.
The worst, so far, are the allegations that Walker staffers Tim Russell and Kevin Kavanaugh stole money that was supposed to go to Wisconsin veterans and vendors at a Milwaukee County Zoo veterans’ event, as well as the widows and children of Wisconsin’s war dead–and used it to pay for cruises, restaurant meals, and a Walker-for-governor campaign web site.
Russell and Kavanaugh are pleading not guilty.
Russell’s partner, Brian Pierick, was also dragged into court to face child enticement charges because investigators found records on computers and iPhones of a sexual relationship with an underaged boy, and visits to Internet porn sites using the handle “Walker04”. […]
* THE CRISIS OF EDUCATION IN AMERICA: “HOW TO BECOME A SERF”
|A society in which people exist for the sake of companies is a society enslaved|
By John Kozy, Global Research
How to Become a Serf
Man is a pathetic creature; a brute trying to be god but traveling in the wrong direction.
Educational systems now train workers to fulfill the needs of companies. A society in which people exist for the sake of companies is a society enslaved. But there’s a deep problem with the notion that education should equal vocational training. To paraphrase a very famous and renowned person, man does not live by work alone. Indeed, the knowledge and skills needed to earn a living in a capitalist industrial economy are of little use in human relationships, and human relationships are the core of everyone’s life. Schools devoted to vocational training provide no venue for teaching cultural differences, for trying to understand the person who lives next door or in another country. Value systems are never evaluated; alternatives are never considered. As a result, although we all live on the same planet, we do not live together. At best, we only live side by side. At worst, we live to kill each other. Education as vocational training reduces everything to ideology, our devotion to which causes us to reject the stark reality that stares us in the face, because our ideologies color the realities we see and people never get wiser than those of previous generations. People have become nothing but the monkeys of hurdy gurdy grinders, tethered to grinders’ organs with tin cups in hands to be filled for the benefit of the grinders. And this is the species we refer to as sapient. What a delusion!
For many years, I have been troubled by what I saw as the results of what passes for education in America and perhaps elsewhere too. Why is it, do you suppose, that one generation does not seem to get any smarter than the previous one? Oh, it may know more of this or that, but what it “knows” does not translate into smarts. In other words, why don’t people ever seem to get wiser? Why do they repeat the same mistakes over and over?
For centuries, an education was thought to be comprised of considerably more than one providing the skills and requirements needed to carry on a trade or profession. For instance, consider this passage:
“Education is not the same as training. Plato made the distinction between techne (skill) and episteme (knowledge). Becoming an educated person goes beyond the acquisition of a technical skill. It requires an understanding of one’s place in the world—cultural as well as natural—in pursuit of a productive and meaningful life. And it requires historical perspective so that one does not just live, as Edmund Burke said, like ‘the flies of a summer,’ born one day and gone the next, but as part of that ‘social contract’ that binds our generation to those who have come before and to those who are yet to be born.
An education that achieves those goals must include the study of what Matthew Arnold called ‘the best that has been known and said.’ It must comprehend the whole—the human world and its history, our own culture and those very different from ours. . . .” […]
* EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW ABOUT LEARNING IS WRONG
By Garth Sundem, Wired
Taking notes during class? Topic-focused study? A consistent learning environment? All are exactly opposite of the best strategies for learning.
I recently had the good fortune to interview Robert Bjork, the director of the UCLA Learning and Forgetting Lab, a distinguished professor of psychology, and a massively renowned expert on packing things in your brain in a way that keeps them from leaking out.
It turns out that everything I thought I knew about learning is wrong.
First, he told me, think about how you attack a pile of study material. […]