Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Obama's Other Kill List

As some of us* are still trying to get our heads around the shocking news that the president has added the title "Lord High Executioner" to his list of accomplishments, let's not forget that a) this policy is only news if the New York Times is your only source of info; and b) there are plenty of other ways that the neo-lib/neo-con White House team is killing us softly, stealthily and with nary a blink from the chattering class.

In the frenzied presidential TV show known as RomBama, we have two right-of-center corporatists trying to cancel each other out by neutering each other's conservative machismo. Romney accuses Obama of being a big socialist spender. Obama counters by bragging that he has been the biggest tightwad austerian in presidential history. Romney charges that Obama is a job-killer by virtue of being the biggest anti-business regulating Marxist in the history of the free market. The president disabuses Mitt of that notion, righteously pointing to the inconvenient truth that George Bush pushed through more regulations benefiting public health and well-being than he ever did. 

Why does Barry even bother? Right-wingers just refuse to give him the respect he deserves. The best they could offer on his Secret White House Death Panel controlled leak to the Times stenographers was a stony silence. Donald Trump, though, miraculously started getting unfettered TV time in a resurgence of birtherism and its accompanying manufactured outrage from the shills on MSDNC. 

Instead of championing the rights of the people to breathe clean air and drink clean water, the president is trying to paint himself as every bit as corporation and pollution-friendly as Mitt Romney. So Romney has no choice but to paint himself as a slash-and-burn nihilist, who would dismantle the EPA entirely on Day One. The political one-upmanship gets more gruesome by the day.

And the White House is crying foul over being falsely portrayed as pro-environment and public health when it is no such thing! As Andrew Zajac and Hans Nichols of Bloomberg wrote today:
  
Savings identified thus far include more than $5 billion from loosened reporting requirements for health-care providers, $2.8 billion from changing the labeling and classification of hazardous chemicals, and $1.8 billion from overhauling inspection rules for poultry slaughtering operations.
Many of the regulatory changes have been recommended by business leaders on the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, Moira Mack, a spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in an e-mailed statement.
“The Obama administration has aggressively reformed regulatory policy to eliminate unnecessary burdens on America’s families and businesses while utilizing smart rules to protect lives, safety and the environment,” she said.
But the "unnecessary burdens" the president is so proudly and pragmatically removing from the shoulders of all those stressed-out families (read: corporations are indeed people, my friend) are actually killing us every bit as dead as those precise drone strikes aimed against our fellow humans residing in Yemen and Pakistan and Afghanistan and Somalia. Just a little more insidiously. The public interest group Center for Progressive Reform is blunt in its assessment:

 For all intents and purposes, the Administration seems to have shut down its regulatory machinery, evidently unwilling to advance significant regulatory initiatives for fear that they could adversely affect the President’s chances of being reelected. Although presidents are typically sensitive about endorsing controversial rules during the summer and fall immediately preceding an election, two aspects of the Obama Administration’s behavior are unusual. First, the Obama Administration’s effective “moratorium” on controversial rules seems to have begun months earlier than it has during past administrations, and in certain notable cases--for example, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposals to curb ozone pollution and make coal ash disposal sites safer--took hold as much as a year before the national election. Second, the list of rules bottled up by the Administration’s over-cautiousness includes long-overdue and relatively straightforward proposals--for example, a rule to mandate safe manufacturing practices for infant formula.
The price Americans are paying for the Administration’s unwillingness to proceed apace is high, both in the near and long term. The Administration’s failure to meet its own deadlines on just two of the rules (one regulating toxic air pollution from industrial boilers and process heaters, and the other restricting ozone pollution) will cost an estimated 6,500 to 17,967 premature deaths, 9,867 non-fatal heart attacks, 3,947 cases of chronic bronchitis, and more than 2.3 million lost work and school days. Those are the costs of projected delays the Administration now acknowledges. If the rules fall further behind schedule, the toll imposed by delay will mount. And if the rules are eventually scuttled or significantly weakened, even more people will die prematurely or suffer ill health, and an even greater cost will be imposed on the economy.
You can read the whole CPR report, along with the chilling chart of statistics, here.

Obama apologists don't have a leg to stand on if they try to blame nasty Republicans or a recalcitrant Congress for the president's inaction when it comes to our health and safety. A stroke of his executive pen would put the plans into action. His failure to act can only be the result of pure, self-interested, sleazy politics, notwithstanding the fact that the GOP has tried to starve the regulatory agencies of resources over the years. That "fierce urgency of now" that Candidate Obama trumpeted during his first campaign has morphed into the bland passive aggression of Sometime/Never.

* If you were hoping for a small puff of blowback from the populace over this news, you are doomed to disappointment. Glenn Greenwald explains how extremism has now become normalized. We have lost our capacity to be outraged. We have been shocked and awed into numbed apathy.



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Vigilante President

The New York Times finally got around to revealing today that President Obama has given himself the right to kill people in foreign countries by targeted drone strikes. He and his henchmen apparently get together every week for "Terror Tuesdays" to decide who lives and who dies in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and any number of countries with whom we are not at war. I guess "Manic Mondays" would not have been in keeping with what The Times calls the cool, yet compassionate, way that Obama ultimately decides who will be executed.

From The Times piece:
It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.
Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.
It's hard out there for a vigilante. Just think how George Zimmerman must have felt when he noticed a black kid in a hoodie walking around his neighborhood. As he noted in his 911 call, "there's a real suspicious guy at Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he's up to no good."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day Moralizing

President Obama's weekly radio address
This weekend, folks* across the country are opening up the pool, firing up the grill, and taking a well-earned moment to relax. But Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend. In town squares and national cemeteries, in public services and moments of quiet reflection, we will honor those who loved their country enough to sacrifice their own lives for it.

 Ain't America grand?  Everywhere you look, regular folks are opening up their private pools and slapping juicy filet mignons on the grills. Life is so good. In between romping and rollicking in the town square, waving flags and marching down prosperous Main Streets, regular folks are piously bowing their heads in this Time of Plenty and remembering those who loved their country enough to make everybody rich and self-satisfied and free from independent thought. What Second Great Depression?

This Memorial Day, Michelle and I will join Gold Star families, veterans, and their families at Arlington National Cemetery. We’ll pay tribute to patriots of every generation who gave the last full measure of devotion, from Lexington and Concord to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Presidents indulging in muted bellicosity always co-opt their wives in order to soften the ugly reality that they and their predecessors have been directly responsible for the deaths and disfigurements of millions of people. Heck, Dubya will even be draggng Laura back to the White House this week to unveil their official portraits! War crimes? What war crimes?

Later that day, we’ll join Vietnam veterans and their families at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—the Wall. We’ll begin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. It’s another chance to honor those we lost at places like Hue, Khe Sanh, Danang and Hamburger Hill. And we’ll be calling on you—the American people—to join us in thanking our Vietnam veterans in your communities.

Since Vietnam is but a fuzzy memory, it is now safe to acknowledge, glorify and mythologize it. It is a Golden Anniversary, a golden opportunity for nostalgic propaganda. Thank the Vietnam vets in your communities, if you even know who they are. Not a few of them died prematurely because of undiagnosed PTSD, alcoholism, drug abuse. Many are lying forgotten in VA hospitals. Chances are that your local grizzled dumpster-diver or town drunk is a Vietnam vet, neglected and despised then, and invisible now. Vietnam has been described as the first teenage war, meaning most Nam veterans are still only in their sixties or seventies, despite the golden anniversary hoopla. The average age of combatants was only 20.

Even as we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we reaffirm our commitment to care for those who served alongside them—the veterans who came home. This includes our newest generation of veterans, from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Depending on who you believe, the veteran unemployment rate is either well above the national average, or getting better all the time. The government has partnered with slave factories like Walmart, which pledges to give "Careers With a Mission" jobs to returning vets. They claim to match military skills to job placement. For example, an Army intelligence expert might land a job as a store security guard, or otherwise morph from protecting our freedoms to protecting corporate investors!


Walmart: Morphing Your Allegiance from One Empire to Another

The Homeland Security complex says it has manufactured 50,000 make-work jobs for vets to get them out of sight, out of mind, and to prevent any more of them throwing down their heroism medals in disgust and getting beaten up at NATO protests. We have to make room, after all, for the next generation of Afghanistan (Iran? Asia Pacific? Latin America?) veterans, many of whom will be the children and grandchildren of Vietnam and Iraq veterans. The cycle of war profiteering will never end. Thanks in part to the sacrifice of the troops, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney got a 16% raise last year, up to $23 million. William H. Swanson of Raytheon raked in $24.88 million. Contrast that with the base pay of a sacrificial Army private: $1500 a month.

We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us: By making sure that they get the healthcare and benefits they need; by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families; and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job, and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect.

They will be paying higher premiums for their healthcare, in order that we can free up more money to buy weapons, predator drones, bombs, aircraft carriers, fighter jets and generally continue to enrich defense and private security contractors. We are failing to rein in the for-profit online colleges who continue to scam and indebt our returning veterans. "Enjoying the freedom they risked everything to protect" means continued prosperity for Wall Street and the military industrial complex, and austerity for everybody else.

Our men and women in uniform took an oath to defend our country at all costs, and today, as members of the finest military the world has ever known, they uphold that oath with dignity and courage. As President, I have no higher honor than serving as their Commander-in-Chief. But with that honor comes a solemn responsibility – one that gets driven home every time I sign a condolence letter, or meet a family member whose life has been turned upside down.

Many of our young men and women joined the service because they could not find a decent job here at home. They took an oath to become pawns in an endless campaign of military aggression in far-flung, impoverished corners of the world. The finest military the world has ever known is also the largest, most wasteful and deadliest military the world has ever known. It is hated and feared by innocent people the wide world over. All the letters of condolence, all the meetings with bereaved family members, have never stopped the greatest super-power on earth from waging its endless campaign for global dominance. The faux- sympathetic presidential pen is never mightier than that most profitable sword.

No words can ever bring back a loved one who has been lost. No ceremony can do justice to their memory. No honor will ever fill their absence.

But we keep giving speeches and holding parades and laying wreaths anyway, to feel all warm and snuggly inside and to justify our actions in our own minds. Ceremonies give meaning to the meaningless and justification for the unjustifiable.

But on Memorial Day, we come together as Americans to let these families and veterans know that they are not alone. We give thanks for those who sacrificed everything so that we could be free. And we commit ourselves to upholding the ideals for which so many patriots have fought and died.

The wars have bankrupted us as a nation. But thanks anyway to all the grunts who suffered and died so the plutocrats can maintain the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed. They have become free to wreak their havoc with unfettered abandon. We commit ourselves to the ideal of sacrificing poor people, so rich people and corporations can thrive. Platitudinous speeches like this one all sound alike, because they're a dime a dozen. 

Thank you, God bless you, and have a wonderful weekend.

 Fire up the grills, play a round of golf, and jump in your pools. Your president hereby declares your uncomfortable two minutes of quiet reflection to be officially over.

*"When a politician uses the word 'folks' we should brace ourselves for the deceit or worse that is coming." --Noam Chomsky.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dangerous New Deals

Some powerful Democrats have been trying to claim lately that are donning the austerity mantle just to prove to the country how insane and intractable the Republicans are in comparison. They won't admit that they themselves have veered right in order to please their Wall Street paymasters, and to keep that campaign cash flowing. They are pretending we are in a debt and deficit crisis and that a strict diet of safety net slashes coupled with a smidgen of new revenue will magically put some fat on the GDP.

They are buying into the tripe pushed by centrist think tanks run by corporations and talk show pundits owned by corporations. They insist that the failed Bowles-Simpson Catfood Commission is still alive and well and beloved by all the world. Many of them have become full-fledged members of the cult whose prime tenet is that the government is just like a family, that fairness is defined as impoverished grannies giving up one daily meal at the same time Jamie Dimon surrenders the tax deduction on his 10th vacation home.

Latest case in point: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has just approached Speaker John Boehner about immediately and permanently extending the Bush tax cuts to people earning less than $1 million a year, rather than the $250,000 championed by the Obama Administration. This idea is nothing new. In fact, N.Y. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) has been proposing the million dollar figure since forever. The sad fact, claims Chuck, is that $999,000 is just chump change when you live in New York or its wealthy 'burbs. Private school tuition is skyrocketing, property taxes on multimillion dollar mansions are out of control, and with the slight chance that the state minimum wage is going up to $8.50 an hour, the cost of The Help will go through the roof.

Chuck claimed in 2010 that the million-dollar compromise would show those nasty Republicans just how nasty they are. He predicted that his offer would make it impossible for them to say No. Guess what? They said No then, and they'll say No again. Chuck and Nancy just don't want to admit that their party's prime allegiance is to rich people, too. They have to pretend to be a bit more populist.  

Never mind that extending the tax cuts to almost-millionaires will seriously
bloat the deficit. The public interest group Citizens for Tax Justice estimates that in 2013 alone, the Pelosi-Schumer plan would cost between $60 and $70 billion. As a matter of fact, their plan would actually be more beneficial to the really, truly, filthy rich than to the merely rich: a full 50% of their tax cuts would go straight to millionaires:
This would result because under Pelosi’s proposal, a married couple making $3 million a year, for example, would continue to pay the lower tax rates (enacted under President Bush) on $1 million of their income. Under Obama’s proposal, a married couple making $3 million a year would continue to pay the lower tax rates on just $250,000 of their income.
Taxpayers with incomes exceeding $1 million would therefore receive substantially larger tax cuts under Pelosi’s proposal than they would under Obama’s proposal.
The Huffington Post quoted an anonymous Democratic aide whose name could not possibly be Nancy Pelosi as saying Nancy Pelosi's whole point is just to make the Republicans look bad by displaying how reasonable and serious she herself is:
If Republicans refuse to move on this proposal, it is clear they are standing with millionaires and endangering the economic security of the middle class," said the aide.
(snip) 
"What Pelosi is proposing is a reasonable path forward given this situation," said the aide.
Pelosi made other waves recently by signalling she would also be open to a "Grand Bargain" of social safety net cuts, leading former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold to circulate a petition against the plan. Again, she had defended herself by claiming that her aim was simply to make the nihilistic GOP look unreasonable to voters in this election year. Same game of chicken, in which she puts impoverished surrogates (real people) behind her political daredevil wheel.

Either Nancy Pelosi is trying to out-Obama Obama in the Negotiating With Oneself department, or she is getting old and befuddled, or she is giving needed cover for Obama to "cave" in an election year/lameduck session, or she has been a corrupt phony all along and it's just beginning to dawn on people. If I had to cast a vote today, I would opt for all of the above.

As the sixth wealthiest member of the House with a reported net worth of almost a quarter-billion dollars, Pelosi ranks right up there with Mitt Romney in the riches department. Maybe her California constituents should consider throwing her a retirement party, sooner rather than later.

Moon Struck


The Senate usually moves with all the deliberative speed of a snail on Valium, so everybody perked up when all of a sudden it voted unanimously to strike the word "lunatic" from the federal code. Since the bill must now go to the House for final approval, it's still quite possible that lunacy will remain official in The Homeland for eons to come. After all, the Senate did its usual half-assed job by allowing "idiot" to remain on the books.

Sen. Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, introduced the bill last month after it came to his attention that calling mentally disabled people lunatics is insulting. It is also outdated by about a century. The British Parliament, after all, got rid of the term way back in 1930, replacing it with "person of unsound mind."
The word "lunatic" appears in the U.S. Code in Title 1, Chapter 1, which covers rules of construction. Chapter 1 holds that when determining the meaning of any law, "the words 'insane' and 'insane person' and 'lunatic' shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis."
According to Conrad's bill, it also appears in laws related to banking that deal with the authority to take receivership of estates.
Lunatic (derived from lunaticus) literally means "moonstruck" and despite its current political incorrectness, may actually have a basis in fact. From Wikipedia:

Philosophers such as Aristotle and Pliny the Elder argued that the full Moon induced insanity in susceptible individuals, believing that the brain, which is mostly water, must be affected by the Moon and its power over the tides, but the Moon's gravity is too slight to affect any single person, Even today, people insist that admissions to psychiatric hospitals, traffic accidents, homicides or suicides increase during a full Moon, although there is no scientific evidence to support such claims.
In a 1999 Journal of Affective Disorders article, a hypothesis was suggested that the phase of the moon may in the past have had an effect on individuals with bipolar disorder by providing light during nights which would otherwise have been dark, and affecting susceptible individuals through the well-known route of sleep deprivation. With the introduction of electric light, this effect would have gone away, as light would be available every night, explaining the negative results of modern studies. The authors suggested ways in which this hypothesis might be tested.
I confess, having worked in both the journalistic and medical fields, to somewhat believing the theory that the full moon brings out the craziness in people. Ask any emergency room nurse, cop, or beat reporter if they don't agree. It just seems that after any given night of mayhem, it turns out that the moon was full. But actually testing the hypothesis as suggested by the above experts? Sounds like something the CIA may already have done.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Going Negative, Nicely

So, Newark Mayor Cory Booker felt all pukey inside when he saw that anti-Romney ad comparing Bain Capital to a blood-sucking vampire. And then the pundits said his career was toast, and then the Obama campaign staunchly defended the bloody verbal imagery in the commercial.

But lo and behold, other Democrats have begun slithering out of their own corporate closets in nauseous solidarity with Booker. Leave capitalism alone, they plead. For this is the week that the party of FDR, the party of labor and civil rights, the poor and oppressed, is very publicly acknowledging that it is indeed just the other half of the Money Party.

But other Dems remain closeted, "privately worried" that their Wall Street blood money is going to dry up because of presidential negativity. And, going full circle, the ever-skittish Obama campaign is now pushing back against the pushback against the pushback:
In an indication of how rocky the day was for Obama, however, one surrogate for the president generated controversy in his defense of the ad against Romney.
Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said Romney’s business practices amounted to “raping companies and leaving them in debt” for his own profit.

The Obama campaign quickly distanced itself from those remarks, telling media outlets it “strongly disagrees with Congressman Clyburn’s choice of words — they have no place in this conversation.”
Okay, everybody got that? Bain did indeed sink its cruel lecherous fangs into  tender flesh, sucking and sucking away in a frenzy until the victim was drained dry and fell down in a dead heap. But it absolutely did not have forceable sexual relations with that company. 

Acceptable

Unacceptable

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Congress Talk Pretty One Day

Attention again, all grammarians, armchair psychologists and nitpickers. Somebody with a lot of time on his hands has come out with a study showing that Congress critters cannot string a coherent sentence together as well as they used to. Our lawmakers have actually been rated according to grade level, and the results are not pretty. Does it surprise anyone that the newest, most right wing extremist members also rank the lowest in the elocution department?

The Sunlight Foundation, using its own Capitol Words invention, arrived at the conclusion that Congress has sunk a full grade level in the past seven years. My first reaction was, only one notch? And if you've also been wondering how it is that Americans consistently vote these clowns back into office over and over again, against their own economic interests, the answer is that Congress is still smarter than the average shlub, who reads at late 8th grade level:

Today’s Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. The Gettysburg Address comes in at an 11.2 grade level and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is at a 9.4 grade level. Most major newspapers are written at between an 11th and 14th grade level. (You can find more comparisons here)
All these analyses use the Flesch-Kincaid test, which produces the 'reads at a n-th grade level' terminology that is likely familiar to many readers. At its core, Flesch-Kincaid equates higher grade levels with longer words and longer sentences. It is important to understand the limitations of this metric: it tells us nothing about the clarity or correctness of a passage of text. But although an admittedly crude tool, Flesch-Kincaid can nonetheless provide insights into how different legislators speak, and how Congressional speech has been changing.
So in other words, if Michele Bachman utters a sentence like: "As the mother of 260 foster children, I consider myself a huge fan of antidisestablishmentarianism" she would score off the congressional charts? Sorry, but this measuring tool is just screaming out to be gamed by stupid cheaters to make themselves look good. But to be fair, according to the Congressional database, Bachmann actually scored above the average shlub, speaking at a mid-9th grade level, or approximately the degree of difficulty of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

What a nightmare. Somebody wake me up.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What's Wrong With This Sentence? (and everything else)

Attention all grammarians, armchair shrinks, and nitpickers. This was the last sentence in an article by Helene Cooper in today's New York Times:
“As the wealthiest nation on earth, I believe the U.S. has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and nutrition and to partner with others,” Mr. Obama said Friday morning in remarks in Washington.
a) The professorial prez has used a dangling modifier. President Obama inadvertently refers to himself as the wealthiest nation on earth. He should have said: "As the wealthiest nation on earth, the U.S. has a moral obligation...."  I,yi yi, yi yi! (I just never got over my eighth grade sentence-diagramming days in Catholic school.)

b) He said we have a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and nutrition. Does this guy like to always have it both ways, or what? If I were a Freudian, I would call this a slip. Our president satiates our hunger with his populist speeches, yet fails to follow through on actual policies that would nourish the body politic. He calls Jamie Dimon the greatest banker of all time at the same time he says we need to rein Jamie Dimon in. He brags about the Volcker Rule now, even though his team of banker enablers has been working to delay it until 2014 or later. 

 We are all, of course, keeping a close watch on the happenings in the Chicago Police State, where the paramilitary thugs have already pre-emptively arrested some demonstrators in front of Obama's campaign HQ and elsewhere, and even charged a group of OWS protesters with being terrorist threats. I think that after this week, the meaning of NATO might be changed to "New Austerians Tase (Terrorize? Torture? Threaten>) Occupy". Most of the international bellicose bubbleheads gathering for the power elite confab are calling for the hoi polloi  to share the sacrifice. But somehow, money is never an object when it comes to perpetuating the military-industrial complex. Except for Francois Hollande, who is still too much of a newbie to have been co-opted, the NATO apparatchiks and their guests are there to celebrate the hegemony.

Meanwhile, the judge who just declared the indefinite detention clause of the NDAA unconstitutional wisely listened to Chris Hedges and his co-plaintiffs, who'd asserted the intentionally vague law was having a chilling effect on their writing and their activism. Would merely having a conversation with someone the administration arbitrarily calls a terrorist make the interviewer also a terrorist in the government's eyes, and thus subject to detention without trial? Since the government left that question dangling by refusing even to answer, the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. That, of course, did not prevent the House from voting for indefinite detention yesterday. And not only that, the phony deficit hawks also proved their austerity rhetoric a sham once again by approving expenditures for useless military hardware and the construction of a massive East Coast anti-missile system. This, from GOP pod-people like Eric Cantor and John Boehner, who keep insisting the debt is destroying the country.

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, not so much because of the money or the indefinite detention clause (which he is totally for, as the wealthiest nation on earth) -- but because of the clause banning same-sex marriages on military property. Far from being concerned about the death of due process and free speech and assembly, the White House worries that the anti-gay clause might be illegal:
 The defense budget would also prohibit same sex marriage ceremonies on any military installation. The White House described the provision as a “troublesome and potentially unconstitutional limitation.”
And it might really get sticky if two gay Occupiers want to get married at West Point and have as their witnesses journalists who once interviewed suspected Yemeni militants. But as an obscure blogger, this scenario may probably never cross the president's mind. Like that clumsy sentence and the one at the top of this post, vague statutes are deliberately kind of left dangling, open to whatever interpretation any future leaders care to give them. In the meantime, Obama can indeed get away with claiming "L'├ętat -- c'est moi."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Scandal Within a Fraud Wrapped in a Theft

Remember how each of the homeowners unfairly foreclosed on was supposed to get a paltry thousand or two dollars out of that pathetic sweetheart deal the Obama Administration put together with the criminal banksters earlier this year? The total settlement amount came to a mere $2.5 billion. And the bulk of it, theoretically, was supposed to go directly to the affected residents. At the very most it would have paid maybe a month's rent, or the cost of a moving truck, for each victim. There was also money put aside for general housing relief for the states. 

The upshot was, that after stealing billions and creating untold misery for millions, banks once again got away with murder*, or at least with fraud, conspiracy, perjury and grand larceny. It can't get any worse than that, right?

Wrong. The New York Times has published an article revealing that the hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for housing relief for the states is being used for other purposes. The states are in budget crises from coast to coast, thanks to the de facto austerity policy that is in place here in the Corporate Homeland. Thanks are also due to the same big banks, whose recklessness crashed the economy in 2008, leading to an unemployment crisis and business closings and the resulting shriveling of local tax bases. Regular federal aid to states has dried up too, thanks to the machinations of the phony deficit hawks posing as responsible people in Washington. Dozens of states are, in effect, robbing Peter (the settlement funds) to pay Paul (everything else.) In the best case scenarios, they're robbing from the poor to give to the poor. In the worst case scenarios, they're robbing from the poor to give to the corporations and the rich. Perhaps the worst case of all is in Arizona, where the AG wants to use half the settlement money for (private) prisons. Well, they argue, prisons are considered housing too! You have to put a roof over the heads of all the marijuana smokers and undocumented folks! Luckily, a civil rights group has already sued to try to prevent this particular outrage. But how about Georgia, which will use its $99 million share to "lure job-creators" to move into their state?

Even in my home state of New York, whose attorney general was one of the big holdouts against the Obama Administration's mortgage fraud settlement until he was co-opted into running a non-existent mortgage fraud task force, admits New York's $15 million share will be used to fund legal clinics to counsel homeowners facing foreclosure rather than repay the people who were wrongly foreclosed on. The funding for the legal program was drying up, and the decision was made to use the money proactively rather than retroactively. So the people already out on the street or living in a relative's basement can probably kiss their thousand bucks goodbye. 

Texas, of course, never had any notion of using its share for the purpose intended. This is a state, remember, that was threatening to secede a few years ago. What else do you expect when you hand crooked Governor Goodhair (Rick Perry) a fat check from Washington? He'll either pretend to refuse it or find a sneaky way to funnel it to his rich friends. In the case of the fraudclosure settlement, it just went straight to the General Fund with no accountability even offered.

In cash-strapped California, where A.G. Kamala Harris was another diehard holdout on the puny bank settlement, Gov. Jerry Brown has announced his state's $400 million share will go directly toward closing the budget gap:

 (Harris was) holding out until the very end for a deal guaranteeing that a large share of the benefits would go to California, and then trumpeting her success in a news conference and a flurry of interviews with national news outlets. So Mr. Brown’s revised budget put her in an awkward position.
“While the state is undeniably facing a difficult budget gap,” she said in a statement, “these funds should be used to help Californians stay in their homes.” Both officials are Democrats.
When asked if Mr. Brown could legally appropriate the money, which is supposed to be held in a special fund “for the benefit of California homeowners affected by the mortgage/foreclosure crisis,” a spokesman for Ms. Harris declined to comment.
Just last week, Ms. Harris announced plans to give about half the money to groups that provide housing counseling and legal assistance to homeowners — groups whose budgets have shrunk while demand for their services grows. The other half would be used primarily for investigation of mortgage-related crime.
The Obama Administration apparently never saw this diversionary development coming. They are quietly, even desperately, begging the states to use their sudden mini-windfalls for the intended purpose. Fat chance. It's like giving a starving man $100 and telling him to use it to pay his electric bill.

The $2.5 billion was intended to be under the control of the state attorneys general, who negotiated the settlement with the five banks — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Ally. But there is enough wiggle room in the agreement, as well as in separate terms agreed to by each state, to give legislatures and governors wide latitude. The money can, for example, be counted as a “civil penalty” won by the state, and some leaders have argued that states are entitled to the money because the housing crash decimated tax collections.
Shaun Donovan, the federal housing secretary, has been privately urging state officials to spend the money as intended. “Other uses fail to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the settlement to bring real, concerted relief to homeowners and the communities in which they live,” he said Tuesday.
Yeah, Shaun. That ridiculous settlement sure would have changed the lives of all those victimized homeowners and their entire communities overnight. But here's the thing: what goes around, comes around. You force through a joke of a settlement, and guess what? The joke turns out to be on you.

Meanwhile, the Administration is trying to save face by launching an FBI investigation into that mysterious $2 billion ($4 billion? $14 billion?) Whale Fail loss over at mortgage fraudster JPMorgan Chase (one of the Big Five banks slapped on the wrist in the settlement.) The number of people believing there is going to be an actual probe is approximately zero.

* There is a case to be made that banks are literally killing people. Job loss and health insurance loss and home loss caused by the bankster-induced economic crash cut years off lives.  Bank-assisted suicide is another cause of premature death. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Banker Wankers

I haven't written about the JPMorgan Chase $2 billion debacle till now, for two reasons. First, Mothers Day and Jamie Dimon don't mix. It was really in poor taste to put this guy on TV yesterday -- when you think of Dimon and mother, it's not the word "day" that comes after his name. (I kinda stole that from Obama's quip about Rahm Emanuel.)

Second of all, I understand bupkis about the machinations of the financial industry. But that's the whole point, right? The bankster class, with its credit default swaps, proprietary trading, tranches and myriad arcana, likes it that way. The public has no idea what they're doing. Of course, the bankers probably don't either. But they possess things  the non-psychopathic segment of the population does not: greed without guilt, reckless risk-taking, a grandiose sense of entitlement, government welfare in the form of endless no-interest loans from the taxpayer-funded Fed which they then relend to the public for their private profit .... And better still, little to no government regulations reining them in. And best of all, the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington that ensures that bankers will continue to own and control the entire country. And bestest of all, either no new laws criminalizing their bad behavior, or no enforcement of the laws already on the books.

For everybody else wondering why we should be mad at Jamie Dimon and his banking behemoth, here is an "Explainer" from Heidi Moore.

In his column today Paul Krugman calls for more banking regulations, while of course expecting no such thing to actually happen. Banker wankers have big egos and tiny memories and little to no capacity for self-reflection:

What did JPMorgan actually do? As far as we can tell, it used the market for derivatives — complex financial instruments — to make a huge bet on the safety of corporate debt, something like the bets that the insurer A.I.G. made on housing debt a few years ago. The key point is not that the bet went bad; it is that institutions playing a key role in the financial system have no business making such bets, least of all when those institutions are backed by taxpayer guarantees.
For the moment Mr. Dimon seems chastened, even admitting that maybe the proponents of stronger regulation have a point. It probably won’t last; I expect Wall Street to be back to its usual arrogance within weeks if not days.
Yeah, and don't expect the Obama Administration to suddenly jump up and demand reform either. This was my comment in response to Krugman:

Last month, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner cavalierly announced in a speech that "you can't legislate away stupidity and greed and risk-taking and recklessness."
Well, actually you can. And the outrageous fact is that nobody in a position of responsibility even tried to untangle the devil knot that binds the mega-banks and government together.
I was actually pretty surprised to learn that Dimon is not only chief of his bank, he's also a chairman at the N.Y. Fed. How did that even happen? The foxes are guarding henhouses every place you look. They continue to steal our eggs with impunity. No new laws, no prosecutions, barely a few slaps on a few plutocratic wrists. No banker left behind.
The revolving doors between Washington and Wall Street continue to spin. They need to be slammed shut, pronto. Three years ago, people were too stunned to realize what was going on when the economy crashed all around them and they lost everything. Now, thanks to a plethora of books and articles and documentaries and the Occupy movement, the public is all too aware of the stupidity, greed, risk-taking and corruption.
Forget the watered-down, delayed, and defanged Dodd-Frank Act. As others have suggested, it's long past time to bring back Glass-Steagall. It worked for half a century once, it can work for another half a century again.

Just to clarify, Dimon is a director of the Class A board at the New York Fed, and the chairman and CEO of the bank itself. I had initially misread the N.Y. Fed listings and mixed up his various titles. But in any case, it essentially makes for a triple conflict of interest. (h/t to reader Bilal, who shared the above linked chart explaining the hierarchy.) Dimon serves in an advisory capacity at the Fed, elected by and representing his fellow bankers only. But make no mistake -- he wields an extraordinary amount of influence in the economic and government sectors.  Elizabeth Warren wants him gone now. As far as I can tell, she is the only politician calling for his head. Or even for just a portion of his head. That speaks volumes on how soon we're going to see a stampede of politicians champing at the bit to reinstate Glass-Steagall.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Marriage Equality $tuff

I live in a small college town that has the unique distinction of being the site of some of the first same sex marriages in the country -- back when the very idea was shocking to many, and very, very illegal. The straight mayor of New Paltz, a recent SUNY grad at the time, was criminally charged for performing the ceremonies eight years ago, and he paid a heavy personal and financial price for it. He lost his bid for re-election, became ostracized by the moral majority, couldn't find a job, and was even reduced to sleeping on friends' couches.

Now Jason West is back, re-elected mayor on the Green Party ticket, and making his living painting houses. His response to President Obama's announcement that he had finally personally evolved into accepting same sex marriage? A big, fat "Meh."
"I'm happy the president finally joined the 21st century and has recognized the civil rights of these Americans. But until he starts pushing for a federal law, the various Gay-Straight Alliances in any high school in the country are doing more to advance the cause than he is. They're the ones in the front lines," West said.
Meanwhile, I have been counting all fund-raising emails coming in from various and sundry Democrats in the wake of the Obama Evolution. The first one arrived from Nancy Pelosi, not even one hour after the Robin Roberts interview aired. It asked me to sign a statement, to show solidarity with Brave Barry. I knew by signing I would be deluged, but I obliged anyway, just to see how intense the money-grubbing would get.

Sure enough, within minutes Nancy wrote back, asking for $3 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. ThinkProgress, the blog of The Center for American Progress (CAP), the neoliberal think tank with close ties to the White House, followed up, wanting me to sign President Obama's thank you card to mark the historic day. The White House itself sent a formal announcement, with video. Then  another email from Nancy Pelosi  urging me to be "part of history."  And to harvest emails by telling all my friends to be part of history too, of course.

The next day (Thursday) Jim Dean (Howard's bro) emailed me for a donation to Democracy for America, a DNC front group and asked me to tweet a thank you to the president. The White House sent a second official announcement, with video, just to remind me. Rep. Jared Polis, whoever he may be, emailed me and let me know the Republicans were already on the marriage equality attack. Contribute now!!! Another one from CAP to remind me to Tweet.

Sen. Al Franken, to his credit, did not directly ask for money. He just sent an email saying marriage rights activists should be proud and work hard to enshrine their work into law. But CAP sent a third missive titled "The Knives are Out", reminding me I had only seconds to sign my name to the Twitter message. Uh oh. I guess missed out.

MoveOn, which recently jumped on the Occupy co-optation bandwagon, asked me to "chip in" to Obama's re-election campaign because he deserves a reward for coming out so bravely. I guess the 99% money-making gimmick is a thing of the past. We liburls can just go back to drinking the kool-aid.

Meanwhile, I had to check my spam folder to see all the emails from the Obama campaign itself. I never asked, but Yahoo had started placing all the Bam Spam in the junk aisle. There is just so damned much of it, the automatic filter got it confused with the Nigerian scams and credit score alerts and porn. Let's see... I am counting one, two.... ten pleas for cash from Campaign HQ. But to be fair, one of them was based on Mothers Day. Barack wants me to wish Michelle well on her special day by sending him cash. What a stand-up guy.

Oh, here's something different and interesting. An email titled "Historic" just landed in my in-box. It's from Eric Schneiderman, the NY State Attorney General who was put in charge of the White House's mortgage fraud task force. Has he finally indicted a bankster? Nope.


Friend,
We witnessed a great moment this week as President Obama announced his support for the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples.
There is no doubt that having the President's support on this important issue will help ensure that all Americans are treated equally under the laws that govern our state and country.
And, you guessed it: Please donate to his campaign war chest. 

From BuzzFeed comes news that the Obama campaign has wasted no time ordering some gay swag to sell on its website. If you were afraid Barry was trying to co-opt OWS, just check out how he now totally owns Gaydom. Obama Pride.... sounds like a whole new brand. But still evolving, methinks, since the model is not quite ready to show her face.





.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Such, Such Was the Mitt

Many if not most politicians are sociopaths -- otherwise, how could they even live with their own lying, scheming selves? But the story of Mitt Romney's scissor-wielding assault on a fellow prep school student when he was 18 years old goes far beyond the merely nauseating. It reaches the ultimate point of true vomit-worthiness.


 Jason Horowitz of The Washington Post has written an excellently-sourced article about Romney's serial bullying in his teen years, which included playing incessant pranks on a blind teacher, and sneaking up on necking couples in a lovers' lane. But the worst of it was the attack on a gay student who had just dyed his longish hair blond. One day, Romney became so aroused that he formed a posse of preppies who held the kid down as Mitt hacked at his hair with a pair of scissors. This amounted to a criminal assault, and would additionally have been prosecuted as a hate crime today. But Mitt was never even reprimanded, let alone charged.


The victim, however, was later expelled after a group of elite tattle-tales turned him in for sneaking a cigarette. He died several years ago, and never forgot the incident, as one of the tormenters who encountered him in later life remembers. Mitt Romney, when confronted with the story today, at first semi-denied it, chuckled inappropriately, then apologized "if anyone was offended". A little late for the victim.


The WaPo story also has a lot of background on the elite Bloomfield Hills, Michigan school that was the scene of the crime(s). Cranbrook, the article says, was/is every inch a snobbish institution modeled after the British all-male boarding schools. I immediately thought of Christopher Hitchens' memoirs of his own school-day experiences at the hands of older boys and the rampant consensual homosexual experimentation amongst the pupils. And I was also reminded of George Orwell's classic indictment of boarding school cruelty and perversion, titled Such, Such Were the Joys.


Young Eric Blair (Orwell) was regularly beaten by the adults in the school and to a lesser extent, bullied by his peers. But there is another parallel to Cranfield and Orwell's alma mater, Crossgates -- and that is the extreme snobbery. Physical cruelty was matched only by Class War juvenilia. From the WaPo piece:
Lou Vierling, a scholarship student who boarded at Cranbrook for the 1960 and 1961 academic years, was struck by a question Romney asked them when they first met. “He wanted to know what my father did for a living,” Vierling recalled. “He wanted to know if my mother worked. He wanted to know what town I lived in.” As Vierling explained that his father taught school, that he commuted from east Detroit, he noticed a souring of Romney’s demeanor.
Orwell recounts an eerily similar incident:


I recall a conversation that must have taken place about a year before I left Crossgates. A Russian boy, large and fair-haired, a year older than myself, was questioning me.
'How much a-year has your father got?'

I told him what I thought it was, adding a few hundreds to make it sound better. The Russian boy, neat in his habits, produced a pencil and a small notebook and made a calculation.'My father has over two hundred times as much money as yours,' he announced with a sort of amused contempt.

Orwell's hellish school-days occurred at the very beginning of the 20th Century, when ingrained class distinctions still reigned supreme. He didn't write his essay until after World II had served to erase class lines, if not cruelty to children. Or so he thought: "The snobbishness that was an integral part of my own education would be almost unthinkable today, because the society that nourished it is dead," he concluded.

No, not dead. Merely asleep and destined to cross the wide Atlantic to further wreak its cruel, prurient havoc in the New Gilded Age. Welcome to Mitt Romney's America, Mr. Orwell.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

President Nano-Nibbler

Okay, so most experts now agree that we are in a full-fledged Depression/Long Recession, and the jobs are never coming back. Real unemployment is at least 20% when you factor in the forgotten people who have just given up looking out of pure despair. Underemployment doesn't count in the official stats either: most of the new jobs are in the low-paying service and retail sectors. The working poor are the new normal. We may not be as officially austere as the Eurozone, but we are being subjected to a de facto austerity, with more cuts to the safety net looming on the horizon.

Yet even the phony deficit hawks who insist the country is broke have no problem recklessly spending billions of dollars of borrowed money on one acknowledged war that nobody supports, and more billions on secret narco-wars and drone strikes. And nobody knows the true cost of the bloated Homeland Security boondoggle in which everybody and his brother are considered potential enemies of the state. It has to have been trillions since 9/11 changed everything -- including the Constitution.

Epic crisis, right? Not if you listen to what passes for political discourse in this country, in which bickering and vague platitudes and bellicosity abound, and junior-size bandaids are being prescribed for gaping economic wounds. Take the presidential campaign. Instead of forging ahead with bold plans to fix things, President Obama's strategy is comprised of a weak two-pronged plastic fork attack: shoot (er -- jab) the Mittfish in the barrel, and double-dog-dare Congress to work with him on niblet corn initiatives.

(graphic by Kat Garcia)

Barry was in Albany yesterday, nano-campaigning at a "nano-scale" college. He sounded like an inept hand-wringing parent whose only solution is to complain about the misbehaving brats instead of exerting authority. Here's one line that got a lot of laughs from the audience:

"The only time Government employment has gone down under a recession has been under me."  Hysterical, right?

And the Republicans have the nerve to call him a big-spending socialist, right? Well, he'll show them how small he can be!
So today I’m announcing a handy little “To-Do” list that we’ve put together for Congress. (Laughter.) You can see it for yourselves at whitehouse.gov. It’s about the size of a Post-It note, so every member of Congress should have time to read it — (laughter) — and they can glance at it every so often. And hopefully we’ll just be checking off the list — just like when Michelle gives me a list, I check it off. (Laughter.) Each of the ideas on this list will help accelerate our economy and put people back to work — not in November, not in next year, but right now.
Oh my God, my sides are just splitting. (Just a little aside: Albany is one hell of a depressing place, so cornball presidential speeches must be laugh riots.) But let The Nibbler continue:
  First, Congress needs to help the millions of Americans who have worked hard, made their mortgage payments on time, but still have been unable to refinance their mortgages with these historically low rates. This would make a huge difference for the economy. (Applause.)
(Umm... here we go again with separating the hardworking Americans who pay their bills from those dreaded greedy homeowning slackers who are totally to blame for their own foreclosures. No mention of that vaunted financial fraud task force, no mention that banks are balking at refinancing and still foreclosing illegally,  or that the president has the power to enforce the rules and actually tell Justice to indict some of these bastards). 

Second, if Congress fails to act soon, clean energy companies will see their taxes go up and they could be forced to lay off employees. In fact, we’re already hearing from folks who produce wind turbines and solar panels and a lot of this green energy that they’re getting worried because there’s uncertainty out there. Congress hasn’t renewed some of the tax breaks that are so important to this industry. And since I know that the other side in Congress have promised they’ll never raise taxes as long as they live, this is a good time to keep that promise when it comes to businesses that are putting Americans to work and helping break our dependence on foreign oil. (Applause.) So we should extend these tax credits. That’s on the “To-Do” list. That’s number two.
(I have nothing against green energy and tax breaks for the worthy small business owner, but wouldn't you rather hear him call for scrapping or at least raising the FICA cap on Social Security contributions above the first $106,000? Congress isn't even going to do small shit, so why not just go for it and demand they do big shit? Maybe because he doesn't really want to, either?)
Number three, Congress should help small business owners by giving them a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages. (Applause.) We believe small businesses are the engine of economic growth in this country. We should not hold them to a situation where they may end up having to pay higher taxes just by hiring more workers. We should make it easier for them to succeed. So that’s on our “To-Do” list. That’s number three.
(Actually, in a Depression, government is the only  proven driver of economic growth. Obama obviously pays more attention to David Brooks than to Paul Krugman. He is more Herbert Hoover than FDR. Instead of making it easier for "small businesses" to succeed, he should ensure that ordinary people succeed. How about supporting the Living Wage Bill? How about that 2008 campaign promises for a federal minimum wage? But first, he should promise that regular people will just freaking survive this shitstorm. Where is his outrage over the GOP plan to cut food stamps, unemployment benefits, health care?)
Number four, Congress should help our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find a good job once they come home. (Applause.) Our men and women in uniform have served this country with such honor and distinction — a lot of them come from upstate New York. Now it’s our turn to serve them. So we should create a Veterans Job Corps that helps them find work as cops and firefighters, employees at our national parks. That’s on our “To-Do” list.
(Homeland Security is already inventing tens of thousands of jobs for returning vets, many of whom suffer from traumatic brain injuries, PTSD and other physical and mental problems. Their suicide rate is astronomical. How about we just bring them all home right now and get them the medical help they need before they are forced into even more stressful jobs as cops and firefighters? And yeah, upstate New York is indeed prime real estate for plucking up impoverished young people and convincing them that a military life of endless soul-destroying deployments is a cool career choice.)
Then the last item, the fifth item, which bears especially on what’s going on here — the last item on our congressional “To-Do” list is something that will help a lot of you in particular. You know better than anybody that technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last few decades. And that’s a great thing. Businesses are more productive; consumers are getting better products for less. But technology has also made a lot of jobs obsolete. (shades of David Brooks's structural unemployment canard)  Factories where people once thought they’d retire suddenly left town. Jobs that provided a decent living got shipped overseas. And the result has been a lot of pain for a lot of communities and a lot of families.
There is a silver lining to all of this, though. After years of undercutting the competition, now it’s getting more expensive to do business in places like China. Wages are going up. (the horror!) Shipping costs are going up. And meanwhile, American workers are getting more and more efficient. Companies located here are becoming more and more competitive. So for a lot of businesses, it’s now starting to make sense to bring jobs back home. (Applause.)
(People are working longer hours and getting paid less. Skilled factory workers are paid only about half the going rate, adjusted for inflation, of a decade ago. Unions are being destroyed like crazy, but that's OK. Obama's got Big Labor in the bag. Of course, companies are more competitive when they can get away with cutting benefits and hoarding profits. CEOs pocket about 1000 times what their employees earn through honest labor.)

So that’s the fifth item. That’s all on our “To-Do” list. I’m not trying to overload Congress here. (Laughter.)
So over the next few weeks, I’m going to be talking about this “To-Do” list when I’m on the road. I’m going to be talking about all the things that Congress can do right now to boost our economy and accelerate even more job growth. Of course, it’s not enough just to give them the list — we’ve also got to get them to start crossing things off the list. And that’s where all of you come in.
I’m going to need you to pick up the phone, write an email, tweet, remind your member of Congress we can’t afford to wait until November to get things done.
So there you have it, folks. That is the answer to the Second Great Depression. Speak loudly and carry a small plastic fork. Make corny jokes and be amazed that audiences still exist who can laugh at and applaud this crap. Don't expect Barry to go all LBJ and go to Congress himself and twist some arms. That is not his cool cerebral style, and besides, he's got a lot of canoodling with rich donors on his plate. So Tweet your member of Congress and if you're lucky, your message will not be caught up by the Homeland Security dragnet. Just make sure you don't bring up how nauseated you feel about the bipartisan funding of war, the spy state, corporate welfare, and Citizens United.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Breaking Up with BofA

Chances are that no matter how small your home town is, it contains a Bank of America branch. This heartless financial behemoth has blotted the landscape from sea to shining sea. Your friendly neighborhood bank was there one day, gone the next, in a stealth takeover by one insatiably greedy and lecherous corporate crime family.


Bank of America has a long list of dubious distinctions:


  • #1 forecloser of homes in the US,


  • #1 funder of the US coal industry,


  • Job killer by letting go of nearly 100,000 workers over the past several years,


  • Bonus Buster paying its top five executives over $500 million in bonuses,


  • Saddling students with a lifetime of debt, and


  • Financing the war machine.

  • But there is hope on the horizon. In its never-ending quest to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, the Occupy movement will be converging on corporate HQ in Charlotte, NC tomorrow for the bank's annual shareholder meeting. Smaller protests are being held at branches throughout the country. For an anti-BofA event near you, check out this site.


    It's painfully obvious that the Obama Administration is never, ever going to clamp down on this monstrosity of a financial institution. The president will even be rubbing our noses in it by giving his DNC acceptance speech at Bank of America stadium this September. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has assigned a measly 55 investigators to pretend to look into the malfeasance of BofA and the other too big to exist financial crime cabals.


    If you have not yet read the seminal takedown of BofA by Matt Taibbi, you can find it here. An excerpt:
    So what does the government do about a rogue firm like this, one that inflates market-wrecking bubbles, commits mass fraud and generally treats the law like its own personal urinal cake? Well, it goes without saying that you rescue that "admitted felon" at all costs – even if you have to spend billions in taxpayer money to do it.


    In fact, the real bailouts of Bank of America didn't even begin until well after TARP. In the years since the crash, the bank has issued more than $44 billion in FDIC-insured debt through a little-known Federal Reserve plan called the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program. The plan essentially allows companies whose credit ratings are fucked to borrow against the government's good name – and if the loans aren't paid back, the government is on the hook for all of it. Bank of America has also stayed afloat by constantly borrowing billions in low-­interest emergency loans from the Fed – part of $7.7 trillion in "secret" loans that were not disclosed by the central bank until last year. When the data was finally released, we found out that, on just one day in 2008, Bank of America owed the Fed a staggering $86 billion.
    (snip) 
    That means that when you take out a credit card or a mortgage or a refinancing from Bank of America, you're essentially borrowing from the state; the "private" bank is simply taking a cut as a middleman. "For banks, the cost of capital is the key to success," says former New York governor Eliot Spitzer. "So by lowering their cost of capital to almost zero, the Fed has almost guaranteed that the banks will make big profits."
    European governments are actually starting to fall because of the austerity measures imposed on the victims of  global banking rapacity. The Profits over People meme is universal and is being rejected on a worldwide scale. We have, it seems, reached the tipping point.


    Meanwhile, while Bank of America has been the cause of a whole series of unfortunate events, the City of Charlotte has declared its Shareholder Meeting an "extraordinary event" -- meaning that the cabal-coddling government is making sure that bank execs don't get their feelings hurt by irate protesters. Writes Allison Kilkenny of The Nation:


     ....the city plans to restrict free speech and expand the ability of police and security forces to target and profile the homeowners, worker, community members, students and immigrants who plan to demand justice from one of the largest banks in the country.
    The label tightens restrictions on what protesters are allowed to do at such events and gives police more power to search people's property (backpacks, coolers, etc.) in the vicinity. Certain items, such as scarves, are now banned from the event, and the possession of items like markers, hammers and spray paint is now grounds for arrest.
    The extraordinary event tag's origins date back to a city ordinance enacted in January in anticipation of the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Charlotte in September.
    Thus far, it seems like the unprecedented measure adopted by the City Manager has done little to ebb the tide of protester enthusiasm.
    Bank of America obviously thinks it is impervious. Right in the middle of the national uproar over its corrupt practices, it just started sending out letters to homeowners offering financial relief on properties it probably doesn't even own. This is to game the recent terms of the financial settlement with the Attorneys General, reducing the amount of the paltry fine it agreed to pay in lieu of prosecution of its rampant foreclosure fraud. Dave Dayen of Firedoglake has the whole tawdry tale.