Archive for November, 2009

Nader v. Dodd

Posted in Political Economy on November 20, 2009 by CjH

A Dream Match

“In the beginning of a change the Patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a Patriot.”

–Mark Twain

There is a word; a name actually. The very pronunciation of which sends a deathlike chill down the gelatinous spinal column of the self-styled “progressive” Democrat. Democrat media talking heads have even a more violent reaction. A reaction that is similar to that of the mythical, bloodsucking, soul-destroying vampire when confronted with the light of day.

There is a very good chance that Ralph Nader may run for US Senate in Connecticut in 2010. Ralph told Politico reporter Glenn Thrush “You can’t believe the number of people asking me [to run]… Right now I’d say I’m agnostic”.

The long whispered rumor began to take on greater credibility as far back as April when an article by Keith Burris first appeared in “The Norwich Bulletin” — Norwich, Connecticut. Back then the driving force was the anger that Connecticut voters felt towards Senator Chris Dodd.

Connecticut voters finally realized Dodd is a do-nothing corporate Democrat for whom they have been voting pretty much out of mindless habit. However, now that most cognizant voters realize that it was the repeal of The Glass-Steagall Act (which separated commercial and investment banking firms) that was the root cause of our current economic crisis, voters everywhere, Connecticut being no exception, are taking a hard look at corporate Democrats from Barry The Bomber on down.

Chris Dodd represented Wall Street and the banks when he should have been representing the people of Connecticut and protecting them from the predatory practices of the financial world. As it turns out, it was Chris Dodd himself who engineered the Glass-Steagall repeal. Senator Dodd’s only comment on this incredibly heinous deed was that he really didn’t mean to destroy the banking system! He blames the regulators but of course the regulators did not repeal the 1933 legislation; that was done by Chris Dodd and cheerfully signed by Bill the Stain Clinton.

The Big Five

Adding insult to injury, Senator Dodd is also one of the top 5 recipients of Wall Street bucks. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, “The finance, insurance and real estate sector has given $2.3 billion to candidates, leadership PACs and party committees since 1989, which eclipses every other sector. Nineteen percent of total contributions from the employees and political action committees across all sectors came from the financial sector.” Dodd has been the happy recipient of $752,698. He is the fourth largest leech being eclipsed only by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) at $2,167,300; Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) at $1,173,400 (yes, she’s the one who replaced Hillary Clinton in more ways than one) and coming in at number three is Harry Reid (D-NV) at $1,038,210.

Democrats all! Yes, the lesser evil party which has done so much to oppose the right-wing in the last 30 years it would take a volume at least the size of an entire postage stamp to enumerate.

Dodd is hardly the paradigm for the Democrat Party’s acquiescence to corporatism. The Democrats have been slopping out the corporate trough ever since the early 1980s when Tony Coelho convinced them that they should be dialing for the same corporate dollars as the Republicans. If there was little difference between the Democrats and Republicans prior to the 80s it was completely gone by the time William the Stain was elected in 1992.

Democrats follow the Republican lead in more than just corporate money. Advertising has replaced substance and when “Brand Obama” was put on the market the Democrats never bothered to ask “where’s the beef”. Now even Democrat strategists like David Swanson are saying that the Obama administration is no better than a third Bush administration. So much for the myth that “Anybody is Better than Bush”.

Lemons for Clunkers

Imagine the experience someone has after having dumped their old clunker for a new car only to discover they bought a lemon! Suddenly even the old clunker begins to look good! Pardon the Biblical excursion but Jesus really captures the Obama-following-Bush experience quite prophetically: “When a demon goes out of a man, it travels through the desert, seeking rest, and finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ Then it goes and takes with it seven other demons more wicked than itself, and they enter and dwell therein; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” In other words, for those who thought Bush was bad, Obama will make him look like a schoolyard bully. Obama has already dropped three times as many bombs on innocent Pakistani men, women and children in one year than George Bush did in his last three years! And it took a Democrat to attack women’s rights in the recent health care spectacle – not even Bush did that!

Nevertheless the so-called progressive Democrats are beginning to raise a troubled eyebrow. No, they will never vote for anyone other than a Democrat for President; that would be asking way too much. But they may just have lost enough enthusiasm to stay home next November in some states or in Connecticut they may actually realize that choosing “the lesser of two evils” is morally correct only when there is no “good” choice. The overwhelming majority of Democrats have never been able to rise to that moral level in the past but Connecticut may give them the opportunity to obtain absolution for the sins of their entire party in 2000, 2004 and 2008. Whether they can ever be absolved for the lies they told about “Nader taking votes from Gore” is questionable. They may have to serve years in political hell to cleanse their political souls of that obscenity.

Caution: The Green Party

The Connecticut Green Party has already announced that it would welcome Ralph Nader into the 2010 race for U. S. Senate and thinks he would have a good chance to win against current Senator Dodd.

A Connecticut Green Party spokesperson said, “Since the media reports began in local and national web sites last week, we have seen hundreds of responses urging him to run. With Dodd losing in many polls to the Republicans who have announced, we think Nader could be a clear choice to many who have lost faith in Dodd and his scandals with the banking and financial industries. To win, Nader would have to raise $3-5 million, which he has done easily in past campaigns and build an army of hundreds of volunteers for the race.”

In meeting with Green Party officers, nevertheless, Ralph should wear a large chain of garlic and carry the largest cross available since the Green Party sees itself as nothing more than a special interest group within the Democrat Party. Instead of backing Nader in 2004 and 2008 it gave indirect support to the Democrat candidate even rigging its own convention so that Nader could not possibly win the nomination. Nevertheless, the Greens are in perhaps greater need of absolution than the Democrats. Absolution is, after all, part of the last rites. Even with a Nader candidacy it is doubtful that the Green Party will see Resurrection Day.

The Corporate Parties

At least three Republicans have announced their intension to run against Dodd! They think he can be defeated too. Connecticut, despite Lieberman and Dodd, is nevertheless a liberal stronghold and it would be difficult for a Republican to win unless the Democrats (as may very well happen) stay home in droves.

The Democrat Party of Connecticut seems unable to come up with a viable primary challenge to Dodd, leaving the door open for Ralph Nader to run as an independent. Of course, Ralph could run as a Democrat. Sure he could, and the Pope could become an Anglican!

The Nader Virus

When I ran for House of Representatives as an independent, a newspaper reporter asked me, “given that the Congress is dominated by two parties what could I, as an independent hope to achieve since I was critical of both parties”. I responded that the human body has trillions of cells yet one simple virus can bring the entire organism to a halt. Imagine what someone like Ralph Nader could do in the United States Senate! Sure, the mainstream media will do everything possible to ignore him and minimize his achievements but even the corporate media cannot completely ignore a United States senator especially when he holds the corporate feet of both parties to the fire.

Nader as a senator could not only put the lie to Obama’s mindless rambling about why single payer will not work in the United States, he would be the only member of Congress telling the truth about why we are in Iraq and why we are murdering innocent men, women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He could speak out against the genocide being committed by Israel on the Palestinians and the Zionist’s plans to create a new Holocaust for Islam and how the whole operation is being financed by American taxpayers. He could beat the Corporate Democrats over the head with “Cap and Trade” and point out why we need a carbon tax instead. He would be the only member of Congress talking about The Basic Income Guarantee (BIG), taxing stock transactions, eliminating the federal income tax for anyone making under $100,000, restoring the progressive income tax and repealing Taft-Hartley. To be trite: a bull in a china shop.

You may say that I’m a dreamer

If Ralph Nader were to be elected to the Senate from Connecticut it would not be long before we saw a newspaper article looking something like this:

WASHINGTON – Senator Ralph Nader issued subpoenas today for the CEO’s of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Timothy Geithner, Henry Paulson…

Imagine!

John Murphy, CounterPunch

Empire Exposed

Posted in Global Order, Private Plunder, Welcome to The Machine on November 15, 2009 by CjH

Maniacal Deregulation

Posted in Political Economy on November 12, 2009 by CjH

10 Years After Glass-Steagall

By Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen; CounterPunch

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the passage of the repeal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act and related legislation. It is an anniversary worth noting for what it teaches us about forestalling financial crises, the consequences of maniacal deregulation, and the out-of-control political power of the megafinancial institutions.

The repeal of Glass-Steagall removed the legal prohibition on combinations between commercial banks on the one hand, and investment banks and other financial services companies on the other. Glass-Steagall’s strict rules originated in the U.S. government’s response to the Depression and reflected the learned experience of the severe dangers to consumers and the overall financial system of permitting giant financial institutions to combine commercial banking with other financial operations.

Glass-Steagall protected depositors and prevented the banking system from taking on too much risk by defining industry structure: Commercial banks could not maintain investment banking or insurance affiliates (nor affiliates in non-financial commercial activity).

As banks eyed the higher profits in higher risk activity, however, they began in the 1970s to breach the regulatory walls between commercial banking and other financial services. Starting in the 1980s, responding to a steady drumbeat of requests, regulators began to weaken the strict prohibition on cross-ownership.

Despite herculean efforts by Wall Street throughout the 1990s, Glass-Steagall remained law because of intra-industry and intra-regulatory agency disagreements.

Then, in 1998, in an act of corporate civil disobedience, Citicorp and Travelers Group announced they were merging. Such a combination of banking and insurance companies was illegal under the Bank Holding Company Act, but was excused due to a loophole that provided a two-year review period of proposed mergers. The merger was premised on the expectation that Glass-Steagall would be repealed.

Citigroup’s co-chairs Sandy Weill and John Reed led a swarm of industry executives and lobbyists who trammeled the halls of Congress to make sure a deal was cut. But as the deal-making on the bill moved into its final phase in Fall 1999, fears ran high that the entire exercise would collapse. (Reed now says repeal of Glass-Steagall was a mistake.)

Robert Rubin stepped into the breach. Having recently stepped aside as Treasury Secretary, Rubin was at the time negotiating the terms of his next job as an executive without portfolio at Citigroup. But this was not public knowledge at the time. Deploying the credibility built up as part of what the media had labeled “The Committee to Save the World” (Rubin, Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and then-Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, so named for their interventions in addressing the Asian financial crisis in 1997), Rubin helped broker the final deal.

The Financial Services Modernization Act, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, formally repealed Glass-Steagall. Among a long list of deregulatory moves large and small over the last two decades, Gramm-Leach-Bliley was the signal piece of financial deregulation.

Repeal of Glass-Steagall had many important direct effects but the most important was to change the culture of commercial banking to emulate Wall Street’s high-risk speculative betting approach.

“Commercial banks are not supposed to be high-risk ventures; they are supposed to manage other people’s money very conservatively,” writes Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. “It is with this understanding that the government agrees to pick up the tab should they fail. Investment banks, on the other hand, have traditionally managed rich people’s money — people who can take bigger risks in order to get bigger returns. When repeal of Glass-Steagall brought investment and commercial banks together, the investment-bank culture came out on top. There was a demand for the kind of high returns that could be obtained only through high leverage and big risk-taking.”

This is a very important part of the story of what created the financial crisis.

What lessons should be learned from the 10-year debacle?

First, Glass-Steagall’s key insight was in the need to treat regulation from an industry structure point of view. Glass-Steagall’s authors did not set out to establish a regulatory system to oversee companies that combined commercial banking and investment banking. They simply banned the combination of these enterprises. Cleaning up the current mess, we need strategies that focus on industry structure — meaning, especially, that we must break up the big banks — as well as more traditional regulation.

Second, we need to return to Glass-Steagall’s more particular understanding: depository institutions backed by federal insurance protection cannot be involved in the risky, speculative betting of the investment banking world. (Notably, the Glass-Steagall problem is now worse than it was before the financial crisis, following JP Morgan’s acquisition of Bear Stearns, and Bank of America’s takeover of Merrill Lynch.) Moreover, we need not just to reinstate Glass-Steagall, but infuse its underlying principles throughout the financial regulatory scheme. Commercial banks should not be in the business of speculation. They have a job to do in providing credit to the real economy. They should do that. Their job is not to engage in betting on derivatives and other exotic financial instruments.

Third, giant financial institutions exercise too much political power, and for that reason alone must be broken up.

Fourth, we need broad reform in the area of money and politics. We need public financing of Congressional regulations, even stronger lobbyist reforms, and tight restrictions to close the revolving door through which individuals spin as they travel between positions in government and industry.

A year ago, as the financial crisis was unfolding, it seemed very plausible that these reforms would be seriously debated in Congress. Three months ago, it appeared that Wall Street had successfully maneuvered to keep them off the table. But in Congress a recognition is now settling in that regulatory reforms on the table are failing to deal with the problems of size and industry structure — and that there may be a severe political price to be paid for such failure. Suddenly, it seems that common sense may again be politically viable.


The Evil Empire

Posted in Global Order, Private Plunder, Welcome to The Machine on November 8, 2009 by CjH

Republic of Fools

By Paul Craig Roberts, CounterPunch

The US government is now so totally under the thumbs of organized interest groups that “our” government can no longer respond to the concerns of the American people who elect the president and the members of the House and Senate. Voters will vent their frustrations over their impotence on the president, which implies a future of one-term presidents. Soon our presidents will be as ineffective as Roman emperors in the final days of that empire.

Obama is already set on the course to a one-term presidency. He promised change, but has delivered none. His health care bill is held hostage by the private insurance companies seeking greater profits. The most likely outcome will be cuts in Medicare and Medicaid in order to help fund wars that enrich the military/security complex and the many companies created by privatizing services that the military once provided for itself at far lower costs. It would be interesting to know the percentage of the $700+ billion “defense” spending that goes to private companies. In American “capitalism,” an amazing amount of taxpayers’ earnings go to private firms via the government. Yet, Republicans scream about “socializing” health care.

Republicans and Democrats saw opportunities to create new sources of campaign contributions by privatizing as many military functions as possible. There are now a large number of private companies that have never made a dollar in the market, feeding instead at the public trough that drains taxpayers of dollars while loading Americans with debt service obligations.

Obama inherited an excellent opportunity to bring US soldiers home from the Bush regime’s illegal wars of aggression. In its final days, the Bush regime realized that it could “win” in Iraq by putting the Sunni insurgents on the US military payroll. Once Bush had 80,000 insurgents collecting US military pay, violence, although still high, dropped in half. All Obama had to do was to declare victory and bring our boys home, thanking Bush for winning the war. It would have shut up the Republicans.

But this sensible course would have impaired the profits and share prices of those firms that comprise the military/security complex. So instead of doing what Obama said he would do and what the voters elected him to do, Obama restarted the war in Afghanistan and launched a new one in Pakistan. Soon Obama was echoing Bush and Cheney’s threats to attack Iran.

In place of health care for Americans, there will be more profits for private insurance companies.

In place of peace there will be more war.

Voters are already recognizing the writing on the wall and are falling away from Obama and the Democrats. Independents who gave Obama his comfortable victory have now swung against him, recently electing Republican governors in New Jersey and Virginia to succeed Democrats. This is a protest vote, not a confidence vote in Republicans.

Obama’s credibility is shot. And so is Congress’s, assuming it ever had any. The US House of Representatives has just voted to show the entire world that the US House of Representatives is nothing but the servile, venal, puppet of the Israel Lobby. The House of Representatives of the American “superpower” did the bidding of its master, AIPAC, and voted 344 to 36 to condemn the Goldstone Report.

In case you don’t know, the Goldstone Report is the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. The “Gaza Conflict” is the Israeli military attack on the Gaza ghetto, where 1.5 million dispossessed Palestinians, whose lands, villages, and homes were stolen by Israel, are housed. The attack was on civilians and civilian infrastructure. It was without any doubt a war crime under the Nuremberg standard that the US established in order to execute Nazis.

Goldstone is not only a very distinguished Jewish jurist who has given his life to bringing people to accountability for their crimes against humanity, but also a Zionist. However, the Israelis have demonized him as a “self-hating Jew” because he wrote the truth instead of Israeli propaganda.

US Representative Dennis Kucinich, who is now without a doubt a marked man on AIPAC’s political extermination list, asked the House if the members had any realization of the shame that the vote condemning Goldstone would bring on the House and the US government. The entire rest of the world accepts the Goldstone report.

The House answered with its lopsided vote that the rest of the world doesn’t count as it doesn’t give campaign contributions to members of Congress.

This shameful, servile act of “the world’s greatest democracy” occurred the very week that a court in Italy convicted 23 US CIA officers for kidnapping a person in Italy. The CIA agents are now considered “fugitives from justice” in Italy, and indeed they are.

The kidnapped person was renditioned to the American puppet state of Egypt, where the victim was held for years and repeatedly tortured. The case against him was so absurd that even an Egyptian judge ordered his release.

One of the convicted CIA operatives, Sabrina deSousa, an attractive young woman, says that the US broke the law by kidnapping a person and sending him to another country to be tortured in order to manufacture another “terrorist” in order to keep the terrorist hoax going at home. Without the terrorist hoax, America’s wars for special interest reasons would become transparent even to Fox “News” junkies.

Ms. deSousa says that “everything I did was approved back in Washington,” yet the government, which continually berates us to “support the troops,” did nothing to protect her when she carried out the Bush regime’s illegal orders.

Clearly, this means that the crime that Bush, Cheney, the Pentagon, and the CIA ordered is too heinous and beyond the pale to be justified, even by memos from the despicable John Yoo and the Republican Federalist Society.

Ms. deSousa is clearly worried about herself. But where is her concern for the innocent person that she sent into an Egyptian hell to be tortured until death or admission of being a terrorist? The remorse deSousa expresses is only for herself. She did her evil government’s bidding and her evil government that she so faithfully served turned its back on her. She has no remorse for the evil she committed against an innocent person.

Perhaps deSousa and her 22 colleagues grew up on video games. It was great fun to plot to kidnap a real person and fly him on a CIA plane to Egypt. Was it like a fisherman catching a fish or a deer hunter killing a beautiful 8-point buck? Clearly, they got their jollies at the expense of their renditioned victim.

The finding of the Italian court, and keep in mind that Italy is a bought-and-paid-for US puppet state, indicates that even our bought puppets are finding the US too much to stomach.

Moving from the tip of the iceberg down, we have Ambassador Craig Murray, rector of the University of Dundee and until 2004 the UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, which he describes as a Stalinist totalitarian state courted and supported by the Americans.

As ambassador, Murray saw the MI5 intelligence reports from the CIA that described the most horrible torture procedures. “People were raped with broken bottles, children were tortured in front of their parents until they [the parents] signed a confession, people were boiled alive.”

“Intelligence” from these torture sessions was passed on by the CIA to MI5 and to Washington as proof of the vast al Qaeda conspiracy.

Amb. Murray reports that the people delivered by CIA flights to Uzbekistan’s torture prisons “were told to confess to membership in Al Qaeda. They were told to confess they’d been in training camps in Afghanistan. They were told to confess they had met Osama bin Laden in person. And the CIA intelligence constantly echoed these themes.”

“I was absolutely stunned,” says the British ambassador, who thought that he served a moral country that, along with its American ally, had moral integrity. The great Anglo-American bastion of democracy and human rights, the homes of the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, the great moral democracies that defeated Nazism and stood up to Stalin’s gulags, were prepared to commit any crime in order to maximize profits.

Amb. Murray learned too much and was fired when he vomited it all up. He saw the documents that proved that the motivation for US and UK military aggression in Afghanistan had to do with the natural gas deposits in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The Americans wanted a pipeline that bypassed Russia and Iran and went through Afghanistan. To insure this, an invasion was necessary. The idiot American public could be told that the invasion was necessary because of 9/11 and to save them from “terrorism,” and the utter fools would believe the lie.

“If you look at the deployment of US forces in Afghanistan, as against other NATO country forces in Afghanistan, you’ll see that undoubtedly the US forces are positioned to guard the pipeline route. It’s what it’s about. It’s about money, its about energy, it’s not about democracy.”

Guess who the consultant was who arranged with then Texas governor George W. Bush the agreements that would give to Enron the rights to Uzbekistan’s and Turkmenistan’s natural gas deposits and to Unocal to develop the trans-Afghanistan pipeline. It was Karzai, the US-imposed “president” of Afghanistan, who has no support in the country except for American bayonets.

Amb. Murray was dismissed from the UK Foreign Service for his revelations. No doubt on orders from Washington to our British puppet.