Tag Archives: TARP

2 plus 2 equals pink

Bank Bailouts Explained

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Quantitative Easing Explained
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Dance with my money
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Inflation Explained
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The Timothy Geetner


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Third Weekend July 2009 – Brief

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Afghanistan detainees indefinitely confined, refusing to leave cells to shower
The prisoners at the largest U.S. detention facility in Afghanistan have refused to leave their cells to shower or exercise for the past two weeks to protest their indefinite imprisonment.

The prisoners at the largest U.S. detention facility in Afghanistan have refused to leave their cells to shower or exercise for the past two weeks to protest their indefinite imprisonment.

The prison wide protest, which has been going on since at least July 1, offers a rare glimpse inside a facility that is even more closed off to the public than the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Information about the protest came to light when the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) informed the families of several detainees that scheduled video teleconferences and visits were being canceled.

Representatives of the ICRC, which monitors the treatment of detainees and arranges the calls, last visited the Bagram prison July 5, but inmates were unwilling to meet with them.

Although the prisoners are refusing to leave their cells, they are not engaging in hunger strikes or violence. Ramzi Kassem, an attorney for a Yemeni national held at Bagram, said detainees are protesting being held indefinitely without trial or legal recourse.

The U.S. military declined to comment.

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PAULSON ECONOMYHANK “I Don’t Recall” PAULSON
(AM session)(PM session)
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highlights…
REP Towns - TARP

REP Kucinich – Secret Mergers Illegal Acts

REP Speier – $15B Force

REP Burton – Too Many Secrets

REP Kanjorski – Meltdown

REP CummingsAIG Goldman

REP Kaptur – The Greatest Hail Mary Pass Of ALL TIME!

REP Stearns – Bait and Switch – No Credibility – Recuse

.more Goldman goodies
analysis

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larceny – n. the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods of another from his or her possession with intent to convert them to the taker’s own use.

grand – adj. impressive in size or appearance.

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Democrats logoCandidates Ask Lobbyists for Fund-raising Help
A number of candidates facing tough re-election bids are turning to K Street for fundraising help.

July 15 was the first time that candidates’ political committees had to detail to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) the lobbyists and companies registered to lobby that have been bundling for them — collecting checks for campaign donations to give to the politicians. Reports have begun to trickle into the election watchdog agency this week, which are required under the ethics law that Congress passed in September 2007.

In the new reports, several prominent congressional leaders in the House and the Senate have listed lobbyists as bundlers for them, bringing in tens of thousands of dollars from their networks for the lawmakers.

For example, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) listed many lobbyist fundraisers on his report to the FEC. Bundlers raised more than $110,000 for his campaign committee, Friends of Harry Reid, this past quarter.

Lobbyists helping Reid included Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group who collected $18,700 in campaign contributions for Reid this past quarter. In addition, Emanuel Rouvelas of K&L Gates bundled $19,000 for the Nevada Democrat. And William Singer of Kirkland and Ellis fundraised $39,750 for Reid. more

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What’s New?
twit vid

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marijuana Move To Legalize Marijuana Takes Root
In a 1969 Gallup poll, only 12% of Americans supported making marijuana legal. By 2005, support had grown to 36%. And in a Zogby International poll taken earlier this year, 44% of Americans said marijuana “should be taxed and legally regulated like alcohol and cigarettes.”The most interesting information, however, is in the demographic breakdown. more

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upsfedex

Conservative Group Offers Endorsement For $2M
The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group’s endorsement in a bitter legislative dispute, then the group’s president flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay.

For the $2 million plus, ACU offered a range of services that included: “Producing op-eds and articles written by ACU’s Chairman David Keene and/or other members of the ACU’s board of directors. (Note that Mr. Keene writes a weekly column that appears in The Hill.)”

The conservative group’s remarkable demand — black-and-white proof of the longtime Washington practice known as “pay for play” — was contained in a private letter to FedEx , which was provided to POLITICO.

The letter exposes the practice by some political interest groups of taking stands not for reasons of pure principle, as their members and supporters might assume, but also in part because a sponsor is paying big money.

In the three-page letter asking for money on June 30, the conservative group backed FedEx. After FedEx says it rejected the offer, Keene signed onto a two-page July 15 letter backing UPS. Keene did not return a message left on his cell phone.

Maury Lane, FedEx’s director of corporate communications, said: “Clearly, the ACU shopped their beliefs and UPS bought.” more
.pdf letter
Where’s My Bailout?

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apollotripod The Eagle Has Landed

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WHOW.H.O. Says It Plans to Stop Tracking Swine Flu Cases
In a move that caught many public health experts by surprise, the World Health Organization quietly announced Thursday that it would stop tracking swine flu cases and deaths around the world.

The last W.H.O. update, issued on July 6, showed 94,512 confirmed cases in 122 countries, with 429 deaths.

Many epidemiologists have pointed out that, in reality, millions of people have had swine flu, usually in a mild form, so the numbers of laboratory-confirmed cases were actually meaningless. And performing the tests has overwhelmed many national laboratories. W.H.O.

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note
byś nie odleciał przypadkiem

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yum!

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Congressional Lawmakers Invest In Their (Financial) Health
As members of Congress assess the proper dose of reform for the nation’s health care system, many of them have likewise invested hundreds of thousands of dollars of their personal funds into the very companies whose financial fortunes depend on what measures become law.

While some political scientists and other experts are concerned this reality inhibits good policy, lawmakers themselves say the financial health of their constituents — not their investment portfolios — alone drive their decisions.

Legislators held significant investments in pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Amgen, the Center for Responsive Politics has found. Through 2008 — the most recent year for which lawmakers filed this information — many congressional members’ personal funds were also invested in big-time insurers Aetna, UnitedHealth Group and Metlife, among others.

“Having personal funds in healthcare companies has the potential to influence someone’s understanding of the issues and affect the policies they support. The potential for being influenced by one’s own self interest is present whenever Congress is considering legislation that could have an impact on the profits of the companies,” said Leonard Weber, Professor Emeritus at the University of Detroit Mercy and an ethics consultant for health establishments. “It would certainly be better if these self-interests were not part of the decision-making process.”

Nearly one in four current members of Congress had invested some money in health companies during 2007, the most recent year CRP calculated lawmakers’ extensive personal finances. (Data for 2008 will be available in our personal financial disclosure database come October). That made for a total of between $44.2 million and $93.9 million. And while the market has changed significantly since then, a scan of their 2008 reports show that lawmakers held onto–or even purchased–stock in these companies during 2008.

Because lawmakers report the value of their assets in ranges, it’s impossible to determine their exact worth.

Merck, Pfizer and UnitedHealth rank among the top 10 investments in 2007, and are part of an industry that opposes one of the main components of reform proposals–a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers. more

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pills

Drug Makers Score Early Wins as Plan Takes Shape
The pharmaceuticals industry, which President Barack Obama promised to “take on” during his campaign, is winning most of what it wants in the health-care overhaul.

The final contours of the legislation are far from settled, but the industry, led by a onetime powerful congressman, has notched a string of victories.

Legislation expected soon in the powerful Senate Finance Committee will leave out cost-cutting steps as part of an agreement with the industry and the White House, according to Congressional aides, industry lobbyists and others involved in the talks. more

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Joy Of Sachs

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pound-signIMF warns pound could be at risk from uncertainty
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that Gordon Brown risks a run on the pound if he does not set out a clear path for reducing national debt.

In a report published yesterday following a staff mission to Britain in May, the IMF said that a “credible plan” was needed to reverse the rapid deterioration of the public finances if confidence in the UK was to be upheld.

“Market conditions suggest the UK has been getting the benefit of the doubt, both in the Government bond market and also the foreign exchange market,” said Ajai Chopra, the IMF’s mission chief for the UK. “This benefit of the doubt is not going to last forever and it’s going to be important that the Government does not test the limit of the market’s confidence.

“The authorities will need to move more aggressively in their fiscal consolidation plans and to be specific it will be important to set public debt on a firmly downward path faster than is envisaged in the 2009 Budget,” he added….

The report added: “Should fiscal sustainability come into question, interest rates would rise despite monetary easing efforts, the ability of the Government to provide support to the financial sector would be severely limited and pressures on the currency could emerge.” telegraph uk £

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james brown

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itty bitty logo-googleWorking With News publishers
Last week, a group of newspaper and magazine publishers signed a declaration stating that “Universal access to websites does not necessarily mean access at no cost,” and that they “no longer wish to be forced to give away property without having granted permission.”

We agree, and that’s how things stand today. The truth is that news publishers, like all other content owners, are in complete control when it comes not only to what content they make available on the web, but also who can access it and at what price. This is the very backbone of the web — there are many confidential company web sites, university databases, and private files of individuals that cannot be accessed through search engines. If they could, the web would be much less useful.

For more than a decade, search engines have routinely checked for permissions before fetching pages from a web site. Millions of webmasters around the world, including news publishers, use a technical standard known as the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) to tell search engines whether or not their sites, or even just a particular web page, can be crawled. Webmasters who do not wish their sites to be indexed can and do use the following two lines to deny permission: more
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1916 – 2009

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Clickables

indentured servitude rc 365flagxavd changecongressfwcc suebush consumer watchdog

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QOTD: “Oh, My Hat!”

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lilmoon

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26 June 2009 – Brief

QOTD: We have plenty of money, we’re just putting it all in the wrong places, giving it to the wrong people, who are using it for the wrong reasons.

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chinaflag

Dollar Falls on China Call for World Currency; Stocks Pare Gain -sh

China, the biggest foreign holder of U.S. Treasuries, reduced its holdings of government notes and bonds by $4.4 billion to $763.5 billion in April, according to the data released on June 15 in Washington. People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan in March urged the IMF to expand the functions of its unit of account and move toward a “super- sovereign reserve currency.”

“To prevent the deficiencies in the main reserve currency, there’s a need to create a new currency that’s delinked from the economies of the issuers,” the People’s Bank of China said in a review of the economy in 2008 released today.   cont…
BBC: China argues to replace US dollar

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snapsWill America’s Besieged Middle Class Snap? -sh
The current crisis could have been mitigated if increased household consumption had been financed through wage increases and if financial institutions had used their earnings to augment bank capital rather than employee bonuses.

The current system has failed because it was built on an incentive system that did just the opposite.

even I figured this one out – good article, good read

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On the Edge with Max Keiser
1. Max – Paulson lying, fraud, thieving, larceny.
2. Stacy Herbert – China, Japan, crony, casino, capitalism, gulag.
3. Catherine Austin Fitts - Goldman Sachs, AIG, welfare, arrogance, larceny, criminals, betting against clients, Foxnews, CNBC, grand theft, US coup d’état.
4. cont., CIA recruits bankers, derivatives, WMFD , China speculation, commodities, bubble, Japanese nationals, US bonds, real or counterfeit, values of the dollar, do you own your home, naked short selling, bank holiday.

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Also See goldmansachs666

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PLAY IRAQI BIG OIL

bigoilxlx

Iraqi oil contracts to be auctioned in live TV ‘game show’ -sh
More than 30 energy companies, including BP, Shell and ExxonMobil will be forced to tussle for contracts worth billions.

Oil giants will be forced to tussle for contracts worth an estimated $16bn (£9.7bn) live on Iraqi television in a bizarre contest they fear could end up resembling a game show.

More than 30 energy companies, including BP, Shell and ExxonMobil may be forced to make last-minute alliances and reveal their offers in a tense round of bidding due to start early next week.

Iraq, which has the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves, plans to conduct the bidding for contracts to develop six major oil and two gas fields publicly over the course of a few hours.

The scheme appeared to come as a shock to some of the major oil companies. Others admitted they “had an inkling” that Baghdad would conduct the process in the open but had not expected a televised spectacle.

“It’s like a Eurovision song contest or a game show for energy companies,” said an executive at a top-three global oil giant. “A lot of work has gone into preparing our bid but I think on the day we are going to see the process may be quite fluid. If some companies find themselves disappointed on one contract they may have to make deals with other partners on the spot.”

It is likely that each energy company will submit a sealed bid, which will then be compared with other offers, before the government awards the contract there and then.

“BP certainly does not have any objection to efforts to make the process public and transparent,” a spokesman for the oil giant said last night.

There will later be a second bidding round for 11 oil and gas fields, as the government attempts to boost production from 2.4m to 6m barrels a day by 2015.

Analysts estimate that the contracts could yield $1 trillion for Iraq over the next 20 years.

The world’s biggest oil companies, also including Chevron, Total, Sinopec and ConocoPhillips, are expected to take part by making an offer for up to three contracts as members of a consortium.

However, there are a number of much smaller companies which are hoping to add specific areas of expertise by partnering with larger oil and gas groups. It is understood that Shell has been in talks about a tie-up with two Chinese energy groups.

However, it is possible that Baghdad may not look kindly on a bid from the Chinese state company, Sinopec, which took over London-listed Addax in Iraq’s Kurdistan region last week. The Iraqi oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, has not given his support to companies drilling in the semi-autonomous region, warning that it could hamper their success in the official contract process. But Kurdistan has been much quicker than the central government to develop its crude production with foreign partners.
telegraph UK

Iraq oil auction disappoints – Easy Oil

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IRAN
Preparing the Battlefield
The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.
by Seymour M. Hersh
July 7 2008

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

JSOC_emblemClandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.

Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.

“The Finding was focused on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.” The Finding provided for a whole new range of activities in southern Iran and in the areas, in the east, where Baluchi political opposition is strong, he said.

Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and “there was a significant amount of high-level discussion” about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.
cont…

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STRIKE!

changecongress</preasons

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11 June 2009 Brief

lynch
Interview Project

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don’t want to pay your credit cards, mortgage or car loans? Think you can take your chances on the dollar bottoming,  get a credit card, spend it and not pay it back? Think again

The Banks now work for the Treasury Department

TITLE I—TROUBLED ASSETS RELIEF PROGRAM

SEC. 101. PURCHASES OF TROUBLED ASSETS.

(a) OFFICES;  AUTHORITY.—

(c) NECESSARY ACTIONS.—The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this Act, including, without limitation, the following:

(3) Designating financial institutions as financial agents of the Federal Government, and such institutions shall perform all such reasonable duties related to this Act as financial agents of the Federal Government as may be required.

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energy

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tea
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pillowtalk

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OXICLEAN HEALTH CARE - tell them Billy Sent ya!

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The Declaration of Geneva
At the time of being admitted as a member of the medical profession:
I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due;
I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;
The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
I will respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died;
I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honor and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
My colleagues will be my sisters and brothers;
I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;
I will maintain the utmost respect for human life,
I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;
I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honor

noteMy Old Drunk Friend

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Corporate Personhood

corporatecrooksAvoiding Corporate Liability
Once upon a time early in the 19th century, corporations came into existence by state legislatures approving charters, which were granted for a limited period of time and for limited purposes. These corporations – producing textiles and other products in New England – raised capital in part because their investors had limited liability. That meant they could not lose any more than their investment if things went wrong.

Since corporations were artificial legal entities and not human, these lawmakers feared that without some strong leashes, they could be creating Frankensteins.

Over the following two hundred years, these ever larger corporations and their attorneys have been driving relentlessly, dynamically to erect systems of privileges and immunities that give the corporations themselves limited liability.

Their first big move was to take the chartering authority from the state legislature and place it inside an executive agency where chartering became automatic, shorn of the conditions the lawmakers once imposed.

Once chartering became automatic, perpetual and open-ended, corporate lawyers moved to have the courts – not the legislatures – turn corporations into “persons” for purposes of constitutional rights.

Their big breakthrough came with the Santa Clara case in 1886 when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed its summary headnotes to declare that the railroad in the case was a “person” for purposes of the 14th amendment. Through elaborations in later Supreme Court decisions, that meant that companies like Aetna, General Electric, Exxon and Lockheed had most of the same constitutional rights as real people like you.

Soon it was off to the races and the promised land of no-fault corporate behavior. Early in the 20th century, companies erected “no-fault” workers compensation schemes limiting damages for the horrors of worker injuries and workplace diseases in those mines, factories, and foundries.

Then came the steady erosion of shareholder rights and power, notwithstanding the securities acts of 1933 and 1934 which emphasized disclosure and anti-fraud rules. As owners, the shareholders have had little control over the corporations they “own”. The split between ownership by the stockholders and control by the corporate bosses, and their rubber stamp boards of directors, is now wider than the Grand Canyon.

With the limitless “business judgment rule” and the permissive corporate chartering Goliath ensconced in the state of Delaware, shareholders don’t even have a vote as to whether their hired bosses should dissolve their company into bankruptcy.

These investors cannot even determine the limits on the runaway pay packages by and for their supreme executives. Investors cannot even propose their names for election to the boards of directors in these Kremlin-style corporate board elections. Investors are told—if you don’t like what we your bosses are doing, you’re free to sell your shares. And, of course, that exit leaves the rascals more in charge.

Anytime the law is activated on behalf of the “little people”, corporate lobbyists move in to weaken or delete these instruments of accountability. For example, tort law giving wrongfully injured Americans their day in court against manufacturers of defective cars, hazardous chemicals or drugs and other products has been weakened by business-backed state and federal laws. More immunity for corporate wrongdoing.

When the early atomic power industry got underway in the nineteen fifties, insurance companies would not insure the potentially massive damages a breach of containment disaster might produce. No problem. The industry pushed Congress to pass the Price-Anderson Act in 1957, which greatly limited the utilities’ and manufacturers’ liability for the human devastation arising from a class nine meltdown.

How about the contracts you sign with credit card, auto dealer, insurance company, bank and other vendors? Over the years by using fine print contracts to avoid many obligations, sellers have disadvantaged consumers who have to sign on the dotted line. Corporate lawyers have turned contract law upside down. And if you don’t want to sign, you can’t go to a competitor company because the contracts are just as one-sided, taking away your rights page after page, including your right to go to court.

Well, suppose a corporation, like General Motors, is so mismanaged that it is losing sales, profits, creditworthiness and heading toward abject failure. No problem. There is always chapter 11 voluntary bankruptcy to terminate obligations to creditors, dealers, litigants, and other claimants with pennies on the dollar.

Here is how bankruptcy attorney Laurence H. Kallen described the process in his book, Corporate Welfare: “…in chapter 11 the megacorporations almost all succeed famously. They dominate the committees and bully the judges. They stay ten steps ahead of any feeble attempts at supervision. They use the bankruptcy laws to force plans of reorganization down creditors’ throats. And then the executives of those corporations laugh all the way to the bank.”

Speaking of banks, wouldn’t you like to have the power to mutate yourself like six large insurance companies did last November to get billions of your tax dollars under the TARP rescue program?

Mired in their risky, reckless investments, including derivatives, these insurance companies qualified for the money simply by a paper restructuring of themselves as bank holding companies. Voilá! The U.S. Treasury declared they qualify as financial firms and will soon be receiving your money. The New York Times reports that “hundreds” of other such companies “are still in the pipeline for review.”

Whether it is equal justice under the law, equal protection under the law, equal access to the law, or the power to make laws, there is no contest between the corporate entity and the real human being.

What Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis feared in an opinion he wrote during the nineteen thirties is happening. These megacorporations have become Frankensteins—moving to own our genes, the plant seeds of life and taking control of computerized artificial intelligence. Their final conquest is far along—the control of government which is then turned against its own people.

As Paul Harvey used to say: “Good day.”

Ralph Nader

corporate personhood

FRONTLINE

meltdown

blackmoney

ten trillion and counting


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Waterboard the Fed?

frTo my knowledge, no one has proposed waterboarding the US Federal Reserve. But the hostile reaction of much of the country’s political leadership to suggestions that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit the Federal Reserve Board might lead people to think that waterboarding was being called for.

The basic story is straightforward. The US Congress has lent more than $700bn, via the Treasury, to bankers at below market interest rates through the troubled assets relief programme, or Tarp. This was to keep the banks from going belly up. At the same time, the Fed has lent more than $2 trillion to banks and non-financial institutions to maintain liquidity in the financial system.

The congressional oversight panel, led by Elizabeth Warren, has frequently complained that the Treasury has not always been altogether forthcoming in providing information about its lending practices under the Tarp. However, there is at least a public paper trail. We can find out how much money each bank received and under what terms.

By contrast, there is no public paper trail for the Fed’s loans, even though it has more than three times as much money outstanding as does the Treasury through the Tarp. The Fed has only provided aggregate information on the amount of loans in each of its various lending programs, and general information on the terms of the loans and the types of collateral received.

However, it is not possible to find out in detail how much money Goldman Sachs borrowed, for example, at what interest rate, and which assets it posted as collateral. The Fed has explicitly refused to make information about specific borrowers public. In fact, the inspector general who has the responsibility for overseeing the Fed told congress that she does not have this information. Apparently the Fed doesn’t even trust its inspector general with information on its lending practices.

more…

Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009

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Where’s My Change?

doubledog“No more fine print; no more confusing terms and conditions.” This is what Barack Obama told a White House gathering of leading credit card issuers this week.

Right afterward, President Obama told the press that “there has to be strong and reliable protections for consumers, protections that ban unfair rate increases and forbid abusive fees and penalties.”

This soaring rhetoric places a heavy burden on Mr. Obama to stand up to the giant power of the credit card bosses and their monetized allies on Capitol Hill. Yet he has shown little interest in re-instating a Presidential consumer advisor as did Lyndon Johnson with the formidable Betty Furness and as did Jimmy Carter with the legendary Esther Peterson.

Deep recession times are tough for the nation’s over 200 million consumers. Still, no consumer voice in the White House, though consumer groups asked Mr. Obama to move promptly on this tiny advocacy office months ago.

The corporate chieftains have easy access to the White House and the new President, whether these bosses come on missions demanding power or missions of beggary for bailouts. When will he meet with the leading heads of consumer protection groups with millions of dues-paying members who could give him the base to hold accountable and regulate the democracy-denying, economy-wrecking corporate supremacists?

“Where’s the Backbone?” asked Ruth Marcus, the usually-restrained lawyer-columnist for The Washington Post. On April 15, 2009 she wrote: “When will President Obama fight, and when will he fold? That’s not entirely clear—and I’m beginning to worry that there may be a little too much presidential inclination to crumple.” Ms. Marcus asserts that “for all the chest-thumping about making hard choices and taking on entrenched interests, there has been disturbingly little evidence of the new president’s willingness to do that.” This is the case even with his allies in Congress, never mind his adversaries.

Just four days later, The New York Times weighed in with a page one news article that said President Obama “is well known for bold proposals that have raised expectations, but his administration has shown a tendency for compromise and caution, and even a willingness to capitulate on some early initiatives. …His early willingness to deal or fold has left commentators, and some loyal Democrats, wondering: ‘Where’s the fight?’” Like the Post, the Times gave examples.

It is not as if Mr. Obama is lacking in public opinion support. Overall he has a 65% approval rating. People know he inherited a terrible situation here and abroad from the Bush regime and they want action. Large majorities believe America is declining, that there is too much corporate control over their lives, and that the two parties have been failing the American people.

But the President’s personality is not one to challenge concentrated power. A Zogby poll reports that only six percent of the public supports the financial bailouts for Wall Street. The vast majority of people do not think the bailouts are fair.

The upcoming 100 day mark for the Obama administration is a customary time for evaluations by the politicos, the pundits, and the civic community. While his supporters can point to the pay-equity law for women, more health insurance for poor children, and a $787 billion economic stimulus enactment, the general appraisal by the liberal-progressive intelligentsia is decidedly mixed and gentle with undiluted hope.

Mr. Obama nourishes these mixed feelings. He showed some courage when he agreed, as part of an ongoing court case, to release the four torture memos written by Bush’s Justice Department. Graphic photos of prisoner treatment in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be released next week. Yet Obama came out against a Truth Commission regarding the alleged crimes of the Bush regime and said he would “look forward and not look back.” For Obama that means immunity for anyone from the Bush Administration who may have violated the criminal laws of the land.

It is remarkable to read those oft-repeated words by lawyer Obama. Law enforcement is about looking back into the past. Investigation and prosecution obviously deals with crimes that have already occurred. That’s the constitutional duty of the President.

After 100 days it is far too early to render many judgments about Obama. One can, however, evaluate his major appointments—heavily Clintonite and corporate. One can also look at what he hasn’t gotten underway at all—such as labor law reform, a living wage, and citizen empowerment.

Next Monday, the Institute for Policy Studies (www.ips-dc.org) releases a detailed report card on Obama’s first 100 days titled “Thirsting for a Change.” While The Nation held a panel discussion on April 22 in Washington, D.C., the panelists largely gave Obama the benefit of the doubt so far, and declared that only grassroots mobilizing will move him forward on such matters as “single-payer” health care, corporate abuse, and the demilitarization of our foreign policy and our federal budget.

Panelist William Grieder coined the phrase “independent formulations” to describe the citizen action needed.

It is important to note that a transforming President has to ask for and encourage this pressure from the citizenry, much as Franklin Delano Roosevelt did in the 1930s.

Ralph Nader

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