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mother earth

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Member since: Wed Nov 10, 2004, 05:08 PM
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Bill Black: Financial Regulations In Paralysis

As a federal litigator in the late 1980s, Black played a central role in prosecuting the corruption responsible for the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s. Since then he’s become one of America's top experts on financial fraud, which he see as endemic to the modern financial system.

In this interview, Black expresses his lament that the U.S. has descended into a type of crony capitalism that makes continued fraud a virtual certainty while increasingly neutering the safeguards intended to prevent and punish such abuse. This was not the case when Black was a regulator. In the aftermath of the S&L crisis, the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision brought 3,000 lawsuits against identified perpetrators. In a number of cases, the OTS was able to claw back the funds and profits that the convicted parties had fraudulently obtained.

Fast forward to the 2008 financial collapse, in which the losses related to the household sector alone were over 70 times greater than they were during heart of the S&L crisis. The fraud was rampant and fairly obvious. Yet how many criminal referrals did the OTS make?


What happened? Why has the OTS and other regulators allowed the same managements that crashed the mortgage market and dragged down the global financial markets with them to remain unprosecuted and free to continue looting the system?

To be sure, some of the fraudulent activity has been exposed, and the top banks have paid numerous fines for bad behavior. There have been a lot of settlements and civil cases, indicating that fraud was rampant. But in finance, you can always make more money. Prosecutions, on the other hand, get everyone’s attention.

Yet, Washington has been paralyzed. The U.S. attorney general has not begun a single investigation of criminal behavior by top management at major multinational banks. Seemingly there’s no real punishment for major misbehavior in the financial markets anymore.

In this interview, Black names names and highlights the extent of the government's complicity in extending this disgraceful state of affairs.


For more background on Bill Black:


William Kurt Black (born September 6, 1951) is an American lawyer, academic, author, and a former bank regulator.[1] Black's expertise is in white-collar crime, public finance, regulation, and other topics in law and economics. He developed the concept of "control fraud", in which a business or national executive uses the entity he or she controls as a "weapon" to commit fraud.

Black is the author of, among others, The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S&L Industry

Hillary Clinton’s Soft Populism Is Not Enough


Full article at link above, just an excerpt:

The Democratic nominee in 2016 has to propose a specific populism that recognizes the failure of free-trade deals such as NAFTA and join Elizabeth Warren in rejecting proposals to “Fast Track” a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that critics warns will be “NAFTA on steroids.” The Democratic nominee has to recognize that the Dodd-Frank reforms were insufficient and that Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is right when he proposes to break up “too-big-to-fail” banks. The Democratic nominee must recognize the need to raise new revenues, as Congressman Keith Ellison has with his proposal for a “Robin Hood Tax” on financial speculation. The Democratic nominee must, as Congresswoman Barbara Lee does, recognize the need to steer money away from bloated Pentagon budgets and toward meeting human needs. The Democratic nominee must, as Bernie Sanders does, recognize the absolute necessity of massive federal investments in infrastructure and programs that create and sustain living-wage jobs.

How about it, HRC? We want progressive values & action, let's start on TPP this week. The American people need a champion.

Sen Warren: "Pres.Obama, SAVE Our American JOBS!" NO TPP Fast Track!!! - Ed Schultz

(Above video from Jan. 19th to explain TPP in a nutshell, action this week laid out in article (4/14/15) below.)


Breaking: Leading House Democrat Will Oppose TPP Fast Track

As legislation to fast-track Congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership gets ready to finally make its debut in Congress this week, a top Democratic member of the House announced he would oppose the bill.

Representative Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, wrote in a letter Representative Sandy Levin, the ranking member of the House Ways & Means Committee, that he would oppose fast-track authority, also known as Trade Promotion Authority or TPA. The letter was obtained by The Nation and its authenticity was confirmed by an aide to Van Hollen.

Van Hollen opposed a previous iteration of fast-track legislation last year, as did most other top Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But so far, many of those Democrats (including Van Hollen) had not yet announced a position on the new TPA legislation being hammered out by Senators Ron Wyden, Orrin Hatch, and Representative Paul Ryan. (Levin opted out of those talks, and believes Congress should see at least the outline of a trade deal before taking up legislation to fast-track its approval.) Pelosi still remains publicly undecided.

If Van Hollen—a visible member of the Democratic caucus and ranking member of a major committee—ultimately supported the Wyden-Hatch-Ryan bill, it would have been a signal that House Democrats were ready to go along with the Obama administration’s trade agenda. But in his letter, Van Hollen wrote “it is clear that many [of my concerns] will not be included in a revised TPA.”

While the legislation remains behind closed doors for now, Van Hollen said continuing public opposition from Republicans made it clear that the TPA legislation wouldn’t include additional currency, labor, and environmental provisions. Moreover, he wrote that since TPA was being unveiled so close to the conclusion of the overall trade talks, “it is clearly too late for TPA to have any meaningful impact on the shape of TPP negotiations.”

Like virtually all Democrats, Van Hollen cited concerns that enforceable currency manipulation obligations would not be included in the trade deal.

He also said he objects to further entrenching the investor-state dispute settlement process, which according to negotiating documents leaked last month by Wikileaks will be included in the TPP deal. Those provisions set up a process of international tribunals where foreign companies can challenge regulatory actions by sovereign governments, and seek financial damages for any lost profit as a result of regulation. Van Hollen wrote that “a TPP that allows for increased investor lawsuits could undermine a government’s right to regulate in the public interest and involve the US in costly and detrimental lawsuits covered by American taxpayers.”

Van Hollen further cited concerns over labor standards in some of the signatory countries, particularly Vietnam, and said he insists on an agreement that includes “strong and enforceable labor protections as well as an action plan to ensure that countries are complying with internationally recognized labor rights.”

The next several days will be crucial for the fate of TPA. Many Democrats have so far remained neutral or muted on the ongoing talks, but as the legislation finally proceeds towards a vote, several leading and visible Democrats like Van Hollen will start to take positions. Activists were heartened that Van Hollen dropped an early marker in the fight. “This letter lists some good reasons why fast track is in trouble—including investor lawsuits, currency manipulation, and workers rights—but this will come down to the growing realization that fast track will make it easier to send American jobs overseas,” said Jason Stanford of the Coalition to Stop Fast Track.

Warren & Cummings Launch Middle Class Prosperity Project


The Middle Class Prosperity Project is a collaborative effort by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Policy, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to focus greater congressional and public attention on the challenges facing the middle class, and to formulate and implement concrete policy changes in order to address these challenges.

While billions are set to be spent on 2016 for the reigning Oligarchy candidates, income inequality

is set to be a topic of "concern"...we have team Hillary & team Lunatic (most likely Jeb Bush), both are pleasing to the Oligarchs. TPP is yet to be mentioned by Hillary, so forgive my lack of enthusiasm. I'm waiting on Bernie or Warren.

As for logos, BOTH parties should simply use $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

New Oxfam report says half of global wealth held by the 1%

[div class="excerpt"}
Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
• The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.
• The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
• Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.
• The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.
• In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.
This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a significant threat to inclusive political and economic systems. Instead of moving forward together, people are increasingly separated by economic and political power, inevitably heightening social tensions and increasing the risk of societal breakdown.

Global Capitalism: April 2015 Monthly Update, Richard Wolff



Edited to add: While Prof. Wolff's updates are always informative and important, I think this one in particular brings home the truth of what the new normal means. There is a distinct deterioration, and desperation and strife are part of that norm. Very potent is the opinion that what is playing out in Greece is part of what is similarly playing out here, and likely to get worst (i.e., Ferguson), social unrest comes with inequality, while the rich prosper during the worst economic times. All we have to do is look around, we see the changes everywhere. We feel the inequality growing, and EVERYWHERE, the root of that inequality is the same, predatory capitalism or feudalism, the serfs vs. the oligarchs.

Reform is unavoidable, and everyone can impact that change. I suspect the upcoming election will be different. Same old, same old does not bode well for our country.
Posted by mother earth | Thu Apr 9, 2015, 09:20 AM (4 replies)

“we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but we will say that heroes fight like Greeks”

Payback Time 04.08.151:36 PM ET

Even as Greek PM Schmoozes Putin, He Demands Germany Pay Its Nazi Debt

The attempt to claim reparations from Berlin may be an act of desperation, but it reminds Greeks of the desperate times they survived as heroes during WWII.

“Our allies the Greeks, have seen off the Italian army,” said Winston Churchill near the height of the Second World War. “Hence,” he declared, “we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but we will say that heroes fight like Greeks.”

Those words live on in Greece’s national imagination.

The war irretrievably scarred the country. Some figures estimate that almost one in ten Greeks died fighting the Nazis—and it wasn’t in vain. Greek resistance at the Battle of Crete on May 20, 1941, caused the Germans more loss of life in a single day than the Wehrmacht had experienced up until that point. Even more importantly, Greek resistance delayed the German invasion of the USSR by almost two months, dramatically changing the outcome of the war.

But Greece paid heavily for its bravery. Entire villages were massacred in retaliation for the actions of resistance forces that continued to fight on after the Germans had conquered the country. The Greeks suffered pervasive war crimes, looting and heavy damage to property as well as a €10.3 billion occupation loan that the Bank of Greece was forced to pay the Nazis.

It is these issues—and the wounds they have left—that Greece’s new hard left governing party Syriza is now seeking to exploit in its ongoing battle with the International Monetary Fund and European Union led by Germany, to which it owes hundreds of billions of euros.

The E.U. is demanding payment of its loans; the Greek government is doing its best to renegotiate the terms. In the latest rhetorical blow in this ongoing saga Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has demanded that Germany pay—literally—for the destruction it visited on his country almost 70 years ago.

After only a few months in power, and desperately trying to stave off bankruptcy, the new government’s general accounting office has found the time to calculate (for the first time in Greece’s history) that Germany owes it nearly €279bn ($303bn) in reparations.

The Germans reject the claim, pointing to a payment of 115 million Deutschmarks they made to Greece in 1960, and consider the matter closed. This didn’t stop Tsipras bringing the demand up in a recent meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

It’s a typical Syriza move: deeply populist and somewhat cynical as it seeks to distract from the vast sums Greece owes to its creditors—most immediately an outstanding €450m loan from the IMF due this week—and to build on widespread anti-German sentiment across Greece at the same time.

“The Germans are trying to take over Europe again,” is a comment I’ve heard in various forms over the past few years in Greece as bitterness at the harsh, German-led austerity reforms that successive Greek governments have been forced to impose on their people in exchange for massive cash bailouts has grown. Greeks have seen their standard of living plummet as salaries and pensions have been slashed and unemployment risen to around 25 percent of the population.

Syriza was elected on a platform that promised to end the austerity measures. Its rhetoric was aggressive and confrontational—promising Greek voters a Syriza government wouldn’t bend to E.U. demands. But so far it has been forced to backtrack because its still needs E.U. funds in order to avoid going bankrupt. The fighting rhetoric has so far not been matched by deeds.

So the rhetoric continues.

“The demand for war reparations shows a reinvigorated determination by the new government in Athens to press the issue of war reparations and the forced loan,” says Jens Bastian, an independent economic advisor for Southeastern Europe based in Athens. “This issue has been raised before, most recently by the previous Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, but he never put a specific number on the amount to be claimed, nor did he threaten to confiscate certain institutions such as the Goethe Institute owned by Germany in Greece.”

“This has a lot to do with domestic politics,” continues Bastian. “It is to show to the electorate and the general public that Syriza means business and that it will stand up to Germany.”

The issue is certainly emotive. Many in Greece still feel that Nazi Germany’s crimes in the country have received scant attention compared to its atrocities elsewhere. The question is: will it work? It seems unlikely in the extreme that Germany will be paying Greece close to €300 billion any time soon and Bastian believes that Greece would be ill-advised to use the war reparations as leverage in any attempts to negotiate the restructuring of its accumulated sovereign debt.

More fruitful might be repayment of the forced loan. “The interesting thing is that it [the loan] is based on a contract,” says Bastian, “and it included a timetable for repayment including interest that would accrue. In this case it is much more difficult for Germany to say the matter is legally and politically closed.”

Whether or not any claim succeeds, Syriza continues to show its displeasure with the E.U. and is keen to show its European “partners” that it has options. Tsipras has just flown to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At issue as far as he is concerned will be any possible financial assistance that Russia might be able to offer Greece. For his part, Putin will be more than happy to try to further divide the E.U.

But Russia has its own problems. With oil prices collapsing and its war in Ukraine emptying it of cash and men, Moscow is unlikely to offer Greece anything of real help.

In the meantime, Greece and the E.U. grow farther and farther apart, the consequences of which could reverberate across the continent for many years to come.

Posted by mother earth | Wed Apr 8, 2015, 07:54 PM (2 replies)

Youth of SYRIZA: More Radical on Debt, Grexit and Redistribution in Greece TRNN

Aris Spourdalakis, member of the Youth of Syriza, speaks out on the debt management and the opportunity for democracy and redistribution in Greece - April 7, 2015

Aris George-Baldur Spourdalakis has been a member of SYRIZA Youth since 2007. He attends the University of Athens, where he is a student of physics and an activist.


SPOURDALAKIS: Well, I would say on a political level we would be against exiting the euro. However, the main slogan that we remain true to is the slogan which states that we won't have any more austerity simply to save the euro. Therefore, even though a Grexit may not be something that we would aspire to, it might prove to be necessary in the coming months or years of the negotiation.

PERIES: Now, SYRIZA committed to more than--no new austerity. They promised to roll back austerity of the previous government. And I imagine that the supporters of SYRIZA, when they voted for SYRIZA, was with the understanding that that's what they were going to get from SYRIZA. But clearly that's not what they're able to deliver, given the current financial situation. What is the discussion about that?

SPOURDALAKIS: Well, I think there's an understanding that the negotiation isn't over and that in order to make such a big change within an international system, which is so much rigidly in favor of neoliberalism and of austerity, there has to be some time and there have to be major changes.

However, what I think is important also to keep in mind is despite the fact that SYRIZA was voted in for the reason that you said, mainly to oppose austerity and to roll back the measures that were taken in the past five years, the majority of the population is also in favor of the euro and remaining within the European Union and the Eurozone. Therefore this is also important to take into account, that SYRIZA didn't have, wasn't elected in order to take the country outside the euro on the first sign of trouble.

PERIES: Now, the assumption that most of SYRIZA and Greeks don't want to exit the euro has been contested by some polls that were done actually by the European Union, according to somebody we had interviewed earlier this month by the name of Michael Nevradakis, who actually challenged that some polls actually indicate that Greeks actually do not mind leaving the euro if that's what it comes down to. What are your feelings about that?

SPOURDALAKIS: Well, I think that the main question is the question of policy. The main question is if we want neoliberal reforms and austerity or if we want to roll back austerity and we want democratic reforms in the state. And this isn't a question of currency. It's a question of politics, both internal and external. Therefore I think that it's very difficult to go forward with this program when the international situation is so much against us, regardless of whether we're within the Eurozone or not.

So I think that there is a crucial amount of people who understand this. And I also think that if the negotiation proceeds and if the European Union proceeds with a very rigid line--continue the negotiation--we might come to a Grexit. And I think that people will support the government if it chooses to take this road.

However, it's still going to be very difficult. I don't think it'll change the core problem, which is the fact that both inside Greece and internationally the political situation is very much against the program that we want to implement.

PERIES: And if Greece takes this path, I understand some plans are underway in terms of plotting a path to an exit within the party. What does that look like?

SPOURDALAKIS: There's really no--there's no defined outline on what that would mean. There's no--there hasn't been big preparation, there haven't been big preparations about this plan B. And I guess each person or each tendency you talk to who might support exiting the Eurozone has a slightly different view of this.

PERIES: So, Aris, in terms of the broader politics and the other issues that are being debated, for example privatization, restoring the labor and public employees that were fired by the previous government, and other issues that are immediately at hand at SYRIZA, what are some of the other issues that the youth front is advocating? And is that more radical than the position that SYRIZA is hoping to implement right now?

SPOURDALAKIS: Well, I would say that both SYRIZA and the youth wing are more radical, at least in their positions, than the government is. For example, the youth wing has opened the issues of human rights, the issues of immigration, the issues of equal rights for the LGBT community, and so on. And these are issues which are not popular in the Greek society. And, therefore, the government's positions, I would say, are less radical than those of the party or those of the youth. And what we're trying to do is both [incompr.] pressure and check the government into implementing this kind of policy, but also trying to create a movement which will change the view that the society has on these issues.

PERIES: And what are some of the issues that are really at heart for the youth movement?

SPOURDALAKIS: Well, I would say that a very important issue is, of course, privatizations and stopping the privatizations that are going on right now, for example the mining operation in northern Greece, which has been temporarily stopped, but it hasn't been brought back entirely. It's the issue of the concentration camps that were created by the previous government for immigrants and shutting them down. And it's also the issue of--also the issue of human rights, [human] rights of prisoners. And then, of course, also the LGBT issue of civil union for gay couples.

And these are all issues that the government has made some promises on but that remained to be quite--they're still quite unpopular with the society. The society still is quite conservative on these issues.

So what we're trying to do is create a movement that will both pressure the government into more progressive positions, but will also create sort of a social consensus to back these changes.

PERIES: So, other countries, when they're in this kind of situation of not having very much money in their public treasury to stimulate the economy, has come up with certain economic development plans to develop the local economy by its people with the limited resources it has. Is there any economic plan of that sort being discussed or developed by SYRIZA?

SPOURDALAKIS: The program does include cooperative forms of economy and investment. Also, there is, at least in theory, the encouragement for workers to take over closing factories, which--this has already taken place in Thessaloniki in a factory. This has been going on for at least two or three years now. And the program is to support these kind of measures. So I guess the main answer to this question would be sort of cooperative and solidarity type economics, we call it, which is more of a social kind of economics. It's not a public sector, not private sector, but sort of a cooperative type of investment.

Full Transcript:
Posted by mother earth | Wed Apr 8, 2015, 03:08 PM (0 replies)
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