Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
LIVE AS A BANKER
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: 20 Dec 2007
From: Stuart Handysides
Times are hard, I know. Jobs are less secure than they were. The
pension you've worked for looks a less certain prospect than it did.
Your trousers (pants/pantalon/hosen) keep falling down, not in a
farcical way, but because you need to make another hole in the belt
to hold them up.
And ProMED-mail is asking you for money.
Before you tell me to "Get real!" (do people still say that?),
consider this opportunity. Giving to causes like ProMED-mail places
you alongside other famous philanthropists -- Andrew Carnegie, John D
Rockefeller, Paul Getty, Bill and Melinda Gates people who have
nurtured valuable causes over the years. These people were not
bankers, you say (apologies to Mr and Mrs Gates, who still aren't
bankers). No, but they were philanthropists (apologies to the Gates,
who still are philanthropists), and no famous banker philanthropists
came to mind.
If any bankers read ProMED-mail, hello to you, you're not our obvious
target readership, but you are most welcome, especially if reading
and responding generously to this appeal. Many people disapprove of
your bonuses, but we will take the view that some of our best bankers
are friends if you choose to share them with us.
In appreciation I have a present for you. It's a little job I did
this morning. It took at least a minute -- ought to be worth USD 1000
or so. I am sure you are familiar with the verb "to google", meaning
to command the genie of the Internet in its Google persona to search
cyberspace. I googled "philanthropist AND banker" and found 178 000
entries. Now doesn't that give you bankers a warm glow inside, just
like hot chocolate with brandy on a snowy day, or too much chilli on
your barbie (for those of you in the southern hemisphere)? That's a
USD 5000 glow if ever I felt one.
So, gentle readers, if you want that philanthropic banker glow,
please send ProMED-mail some money. There are no limits -- it doesn't
have to be as much as USD 1000 or as little as USD 5000. Send what
you can afford, to reflect the value you feel ProMED-mail adds to
your life, your institution, the world. I believe we send our
generous donors mugs or something -- quite handy if things go
belly-up and you're reduced to singing "Brother can you spare a
dime". The passing public will know you gave to good causes in better
times and look kindly upon you.
Your gift is tax deductible in the United States [perhaps elsewhere,
too]. In addition, as a small token of our appreciation, each donor
of USD 250 will be entered into a prize draw to win a new iPad (a
gift of USD 500 gets 2 entries into the drawing, USD 1000 gets 4 entries, etc).
Donors of USD 100 receive a ProMED-mail water bottle, and donations
of USD 50 are eligible to receive an environmentally friendly ProMED
Our goal this year is to raise USD 145 000 through the year-end
Internet-a-thon. Please go to the Internet-a-thon donation webpage
now and please give generously.
Yours, in grateful anticipation
Associate Editor, ProMED-mail
Buntingford, England, United Kingdom
PS We welcome contributions to support our work from organisations
that benefit from the service we provide. To learn more about
institutional giving, contact Amy Galblum at
PPS In the interest of human filiality I omitted to mention that
"banker AND jokes" yielded 818 000 results.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
My Fellow Americans,
In the past two months our government debt has suffered catastrophic losses in the global bond market. Whereas a few months ago interest rates for 2 year Treasury notes were around ½ of 1%, they are now 3%, and this type of drastic increase has occurred in every maturity of our debt. Our thirty year bonds had a yield of 4% at the start of this crisis, and now yield over 8%. As this has been happening, the US dollar has experienced a collapse in the foreign exchange markets.
Some people say this sell-off of our government debt was an attack planned and executed by China. We have no evidence of this, and all the evidence we do have tells us that the sell-off began spontaneously in several market centers and escalated as more and more investors sold their Treasuries rather than take further losses in their portfolio. Besides, the U.K., Germany, Japan and other major countries have had similar problems with their government debt.
If it were true that one country orchestrated a financial attack on the US – and it is not true – you would be entitled to ask “How did our country ever get into such a vulnerable financial position.” The fact is, for over fifty years the United States has turned to debt to finance its current needs, rather than raise taxes to pay for the things we wanted. This attitude to “just charge it” persisted no matter which party was in power in the White House or Congress. Our politicians kept making promises to you about your retirement, your health care, your security, your shelter, and the availability of food and energy, that we could not ultimately meet. There was no discipline to our borrowing and spending because the financial markets indulged us, and because everyone thought our children’s children would ultimately pay down this bill. No one thought that we would see in our own lifetime the financial markets suspend our credit line.
Nor is our debt problem restricted just to the federal government. Most of our state legislatures are grappling with budget deficits that can only be mended with steep cuts in services. Our high yield bond markets – trading what is known as junk debt for heavily-indebted companies – have seized up. We as politicians sat back quietly while the financial industry aggressively marketed debt to you and your family, and we find out now that the banks and mortgage companies often broke the law in the process. As a consequence of this irresponsible and illegal behavior, our major banks are now in receivership and creditors as well as large depositors have experienced billions of dollars of losses. Most importantly, the average American consumer is burdened with mortgage, credit card, student loan, automobile, and other debts, and increasing numbers of you cannot meet the interest or principal payments. Consumer defaults are skyrocketing as a consequence of this crisis.
Mark this well – as a result of this crisis your standard of living is going to go down. There are major long term trends that are contributing to this decline in our living standards. Our population is aging and more people are heading into retirement hoping that the few who are working will support the many who are not. About one-third of the planet’s population in India and China are now aggressively working to achieve our lifestyle, and as they succeed in underpricing us in goods and services, we lose jobs and income. The essentials of modern life, such as energy and commodities to support our transportation and food needs, are becoming scarcer. But we made these problems much worse by ignoring them, by allowing our political system to be corrupted by huge donations from corporations and wealthy individuals, by refusing to vote because “it wouldn’t make any difference”, and by masking over the decline in our living standards by the analgesic of debt.
My friends, the era of pain avoidance is over. The era of pain management is upon us. It is now the role of government to manage this transition to a lower standard of living so that the pain is shared equably in our society. This means that government must concentrate first and foremost on the essentials – food, shelter, and fuel for our people. Very soon, nearly 50% of our population will be classified as poor by official standards, and they will necessarily receive priority attention from my administration. For those who are fortunate to have a job or the resources to support themselves for an extended period of time, we will attempt to fairly distribute the inevitable cuts in social services that are to follow.
Let me assure the financial markets that rumors about a default by the United States on its debt are completely unfounded. We will make every effort to continue to meet our financial obligations. It is true, though, that whereas at the start of this year one out of every ten dollars in taxes was used to pay interest on our debt, now – given the substantial increase in interest rates – that burden consumes four out of every ten dollars in tax receipts. This is why major cuts are now required in our national budget.
Because our priority must be on meeting the basic needs of our people, it is time to look seriously at scaling back our enormous military obligations overseas and the defense budget that takes up one-fourth of all of our spending. We will accelerate our departure from Iraq and Afghanistan. We will be looking at scaling back our defense footprint around the globe by closing hundreds of bases and cancelling many weapons systems that are not essential to national defense. There will be many job losses in the military and the defense industry as a result of these actions, and many Congressmen will fight to preserve their local defense component, but we cannot survive as a nation by maintaining anything like our existing defense establishment while half our people starve and are homeless, and the other half struggle to avoid their fate. We must recognize that the enormous scope and size of our defense establishment has in some ways secured our safety from overseas enemies, but at the cost of destroying our well-being domestically. Our new goal will be to secure our safety from overseas enemies with a smaller and more focused Department of Defense, and where possible we will continue to fund local police and fire departments, as well as the national guard and Homeland Security, to ensure domestic security.
Similarly, the time has come to recognize that there are only two segments of our society capable of providing additional tax revenues: wealthy individuals, and large corporations. Both of these groups have benefited enormously over the past 40 years from a shift of wealth and productive resources to them, at the expense of the middle and lower classes. We must and we will redress these imbalances. No doubt some of these people or corporations will threaten to leave the US. In some respects we don’t want them here if they are not willing to put up a fair share in support of our people and our economy, but we will make it difficult for them to take their money and run. Accordingly, we will continue to work with other governments overseas to standardize tax rates and reduce inducements for hot money to move from country to country.
All of these actions by your government are going to increase unemployment in the immediate term. This is unavoidable, but we are going to make every effort to ameliorate the problems of the unemployed. You can, as a result of these actions and what I am telling you today, choose to vote us out of office at the next election. That is your right, but I ask you first and foremost not to fall victim to the politicians who tell you there are easy or quick solutions to our problems. You should demand candor from all government officials at all levels of government, and a candid review of our problems will reveal that it will take years to fix them. We have lost a substantial part of our manufacturing and productive capabilities in this country by misguiding these activities overseas, and falling for the illusion that financial services was somehow a valued contributor to the economy.
To rebuild our productive economy – to create goods and services that people at home and abroad wish to buy – will take imagination, entrepreneurial spirit, market discipline that rewards investment in successful enterprises, and some government help along the way. This can and will be done, in the traditional spirit of America where hard work is valued and easy money rejected. Our parents, and their parents before them, lived simpler lives than we do, and we would consider them materially “poorer”, but they were not necessarily less happy. There are advantages to a simpler life – more time for your family and your personal development – and the goal of a reduced standard of living does not mean we must be less happy as a result. The transition to a simpler life, however, will be painful for many, and as I said, our job in government is to ensure that all of us will at least have food, shelter, and fuel during the years ahead.
Finally, none of this will matter in the long run without a major reform of our campaign finance system. We must get big money out of politics at the federal and state level. Please join me in urging your state legislature to vote in favor of a Constitutional amendment that limits campaign contributions to individuals who reside in the district or state of the candidate seeking funds, and which puts a $5,000 cap per individual. Campaign contributions from corporations, foundations, out of district individuals, foreigners, from special interest groups, or in the form of in-kind donations, must be forbidden by Constitutional amendment.
We are embarking on perilous times – a time of severe trial for all of us and for our country. The journey may take many years, but there is a brighter future at the end of our troubles. We can succeed if we help each other on this journey, and if your government directs resources to the most needy among us.
May God bless and keep America.
First posted at The Agonist
From "The People's Voice." For full article;
Friday, November 19, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
From the NY Times Today;
With the Federal Reserve under attack at home and abroad, it is making an unusual public bid to keep itself away from the political crossfire.
After a barrage of criticism over the last week — including from foreign leaders, Congressional officials, economists and Alan Greenspan, the former Fed chairman — the Fed came out to explain its efforts to inject $600 billion more into the sagging economy.
One worry of Fed watchers as well as its defenders is that some of the domestic criticism may have the subtext of challenging the Fed’s traditional independence in deciding monetary policy without political interference.
In a rare on-the-record interview, William C. Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said that the Fed’s move was not intended to affect the value of the dollar, but rather to encourage a faster, stronger recovery that will also assist international growth.
“We have no goal in terms of pushing the dollar up or down,” Mr. Dudley said. “Our goal is to ease financial conditions and to stimulate a stronger economic expansion and more rapid employment growth.”
And in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the Fed’s new vice chairwoman, Janet L. Yellen, defended the decision in broadly similar terms. “I’m having a hard time seeing where really robust growth can come from,” she said. “And I see inflation lingering around current levels for a long time.” Ms. Yellen said she was “not happy to see us caught up in a political debate."
The comments by Mr. Dudley, who is also the vice chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy, and by Ms. Yellen amounted to an unusual rebuttal, the first by top Fed officials, of criticism of its decision this month to pump money into the banking system. The plan is to spur the recovery by buying government securities to lower long-term interest rates.
Kenneth A. Froot, who teaches international finance at Harvard Business School, said, “The Fed needs to get the word out more clearly” because of the politically volatile times. Mr. Froot added, “This is a very rare circumstance where the basic authority we vest in institutions like the Fed has, more than ever, been challenged,” by politicians and economists who are often identified with political parties.
The bond markets have been increasingly uneasy about the Fed’s actions. On Monday, bond prices fell and yields jumped as a result of the concerns.
The criticism has tended to fall along three lines. Some have accused the Fed of deliberately weakening the dollar to make American exports more competitive. Others fear the Fed’s decision could ignite inflation down the road. Still others say the policy will be ineffective absent additional fiscal stimulus.
Fed officials were clearly unsettled by an opinion piece by Mr. Greenspan in The Financial Times on Thursday, at the start of meetings of the Group of 20 nations in Seoul, South Korea. Mr. Greenspan said the United States was “pursuing a policy of currency weakening” and increasing the risks of trade protectionism.
In an open letter to Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, on Monday, a group of conservative economists, writers and investors urged that the Fed’s action “be reconsidered and discontinued,” arguing that the bond purchases “risk currency debasement and inflation.” The group included Michael J. Boskin, a former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers; the historian Niall Ferguson; Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office; and the economist John B. Taylor, one of Mr. Bernanke’s most prominent critics.
Mr. Dudley did not single out any critic, but suggested that the criticisms were unfounded.
“There is no long-term conflict between what the U.S. is trying to accomplish and what other countries are trying to accomplish,” Mr. Dudley said, echoing statements by President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. “A strong economic recovery in the U.S. is in the interests of the global economy.”
While Mr. Dudley said the effect on the dollar was not a consideration, he acknowledged that when interest rates adjust, “oftentimes there will be consequences for the dollar.” He added, “We have seen some dollar weakness in this period, but it doesn’t seem to be unusual, given the changes that we’ve seen in interest rates in the U.S. compared to interest rates abroad.”
Mr. Dudley rejected the idea that the Fed might be setting the stage for uncontrollable inflation in years to come. He said the Fed had tools for draining the bank reserves sitting on its balance sheet.
“We are very, very confident that those tools will be completely effective at keeping inflation in check,” he said. “We are completely willing to use those tools, when the time comes, to prevent an inflation problem. Higher inflation is not a way out. It is not a solution.”
Mr. Dudley argued that the Fed’s efforts had their intended effect. Since August, when the Fed first hinted that it might take further steps to spur the recovery, stock prices have risen and long-term interest rates have fallen. That makes it easier for consumers to buy homes or refinance mortgages, and for businesses to borrow and invest.
“You’ve seen a significant easing of financial conditions over that time period,” he said. “I have to believe that the expectation of a second large-scale asset purchase program was the primary driver of those changes.”
Even so, Mr. Dudley cautioned, “One shouldn’t view this instrument as a panacea or a magic wand that’s going to make the economy recover rapidly.” He said the Fed’s action, known as quantitative easing, was “not going to be extremely powerful” but was nonetheless necessary to reduce the risk, however slim, of a double-dip recession.
“It’s going to be a long and bumpy road to a strong and vigorous expansion, but this will be helpful rather than hurtful,” he said.
Uncertainty about fiscal policy — whether the Bush-era tax cuts will be extended, and in the long term, how the nation will rein in its record deficits — has complicated the recovery, Mr. Dudley said.
Asked whether fiscal gridlock had forced the Fed to act, he said, “We’re going to worry about what we can worry about, which is monetary policy.” The Fed, he said, has to “take the world as it is.”
Mr. Dudley, who joined the New York Fed in 2007 from Goldman Sachs, where he was the chief United States economist, also provided details about how the Fed’s outlook had evolved.
“We were going into the year expecting the economy to pick up steam,” Mr. Dudley said. In the spring, “We were starting to see the glimmers” of a healthy recovery in private-sector employment, he said. But by the summer, growth began to stall; it is now estimated at an annualized rate of 2 percent. Inflation, already low, fell further.
The economy was “vulnerable to a shock that could tip us into deflation,” he said.
In recent speeches, Mr. Dudley and Charles L. Evans, president of the Chicago Fed, mentioned the possibility of allowing inflation to run higher in the future to make up for inflation’s being too low today, an approach known as price-level targeting. But in the interview, Mr. Dudley emphasized that he had not endorsed that approach.
“The problem with a price-level target is that it’s difficult to explain what you’re doing in a way that doesn’t create larger anxiety about the long-term inflation target,” he said. “We clearly want people to understand that we are committed to price stability over the long run.”
Mr. Dudley declined to discuss the deliberations of the committee, but acknowledged that the decision was not easy.
“Reasonable people can disagree about how big the costs are versus how big the benefits are,” he said. “It’s completely reasonable to expect that not everyone is going to see it exactly the same way, because these policies have not been used much on a historical basis.”
Monday, November 15, 2010
How about a blanket-debt forgiveness for everyone? How do you think the Bank$ter$ and Wall St Investors would like that> ? ROFLAO
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Forrest Law Firm!
and these are the kinds of "professionals" they created; http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101013/ap_on_bi_ge/us_foreclosure_robosigners
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Bombs & Bubbles Bursting All Over the World - Thank you Rating Sellers & Brokers of Securities & Big Bank$ & Bank$ters in Bed With Them.
Click on link below to see an interesting vid.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
- Samuel Adams, speech at the Philadelphia
State House, August 1, 1776
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
The Leak: Approximate Rates; http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/
The Federal Scientists & BPs With-holding of Information;
In making this outrageous suggestion, Boehner was agreeing with one of the Republicans' biggest shadow groups - a group that has pledged to spend more than $50 million this cycle attacking Democrats and trying to elect other Big Oil protecting Republicans to Congress. But it gets even worse than that...
Boehner's suggestion of a taxpayer-funded bailout for Big Oil giant BP came after he and other Republicans accepted more than $188 million combined in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. This calls for an immediate response from Grassroots Democrats.
Visit our newly-launched website, BoehnerBPBailout.com to sign our petition denouncing John Boehner's Taxpayer Funded Bailout for Big Oil giant BP; http://boehnerbpbailout.com/
A clairification, of sorts; http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/boehner-on-who-must-pay-what-for-spill/
Thursday, June 10, 2010
State regulators stopped issuing permits for the reefs on May 4 because of the oil spill, effectively killing off $350,000 in Walter's expected business. It sent him into a labyrinth of archived invoices and documents lost by BP. Finally, an offer came: $5,000.
"I said that's not fair because if you say that, then I have to go out of business and I lose everything," said Walter, whose company is based in Alabama.
Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf
Fishermen, property owners and businesspeople who have filed damage claims with BP are angrily complaining of delays, excessive paperwork and skimpy payments that have put them on the verge of going under as the financial and environmental toll of the seven-week-old disaster grows.
Out in the Gulf, meanwhile, the oil company on Wednesday captured more of the crude that's been gushing from the bottom of the sea since April and began bringing in more heavy equipment to handle it.
The containment effort played out as BP stock continued to plunge amid fears that the company might be forced to suspend dividends and find itself overwhelmed by the cleanup costs, penalties, damage claims and lawsuits generated by the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.
The appearance of the famous (and massive) volumes of Rothbard's History of Economic Thought in a new edition is cause for great celebration. They have been out of print for many years, and were previously only available at a price exceeding $200 for the set. They are at last accessible again, in beautiful hardcover, and at an affordable price.
In Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, Murray Rothbard traces economic ideas from ancient sources to show that laissez-faire liberalism and economic thought itself began with the scholastics and early Roman, Greek, and canon law. He celebrates Aristotle and Democritus, for example, but loathes Plato and Diogenes. He is kind toward Taoism and Stoicism. He is no fan of Tertullian but very much likes St. Jerome, who defended the merchant class. Now, that takes us only to page 33, just the beginning of a wild ride through the middle ages and renaissance and modern times through 1870.
Classical Economics offers new perspectives on both Ricardo and Say and their followers. The author suggests that Ricardianism declined after 1820 and was only revived with the work of John Stuart Mill. The book also resurrects the important Anglo-Irish school of thought at Trinity College, Dublin under Archbishop Richard Whatley. Later chapters focus on the roots of Karl Marx and the nature of his doctrines, and laissez-faire thought in France including the work of Frederic Bastiat. Also included is a comprehensive treatment of the bullionist versus the anti-bullionist and the currency versus banking school controversies in the first half of the nineteenth century, and their influence outside Great Britain.
These are indeed the books that Mises himself longed to see: "A real history of economic thought," he said in 1955, "would have to point out the development of the doctrines and not merely list every book."
When these volumes first appeared, they were celebrated in Barron's and by top scholars around the world. They succeeded in changing the way people think about economic doctrine: the beginnings (not Adam Smith, but the Spanish theologians), the dead ends (Marx), the great triumphs (Bastiat, for example), and the truly great minds (Turgot and many others he rescued from near obscurity).
Rothbard read deeply in thinkers dating back hundreds and thousands of years, and spotted every promising line of thought — and every unfortunate one. He knew when an idea would lead to prosperity, and when it would lead to calamity. He could spot a proto-Keynesian or proto-Marxist idea in the middle ages, just as he could find free-market lines of thought in ancient manuscripts.
Many scholars believe this was his most important work. The irony is that it is not the work it was supposed to be, and thank goodness. He was asked to do a short overview of the modern era. He ended up writing more than 1,000 pages of original ideas that remade the whole of intellectual history up through the late 19th century.
Once Rothbard got into the project, he found that most all historians have made the same error: they have believed that the history of thought was a long history of progress. He found that sound ideas ebb and flow in history. So he set out to rescue the great ideas from the past and compare them with the bad ideas of the "new economics."
His demolition of Karl Marx is more complete and in depth than any other ever published. His reconstruction of 19th-century banking debates has provided enough new ideas for a dozen dissertations, and contemporary real-money reform. His surprising evisceration of John Stuart Mill is cause to rethink the whole history of classical liberalism.
Most famously, Rothbard demonstrated that Adam Smith's economic theories were, in many ways, a comedown from his predecessors in France and Spain. For example, Smith puzzled over the source of value and finally tagged labor as the source (a mistake Marx built on). But for centuries prior, the earliest economists knew that value came from within the human mind. It was a human estimation, not an objective construct.
The unfinished 3rd volume in audio
Rothbard was a pioneer in incorporating the sociology of religion into the history of economic ideas. He saw that the advent of Christianity had a huge impact on the theory of the state. He observed the rise of absolutism and theory of nationalism that came with the reformation. He traced the changes in the Western view toward lending and interest payments over the course of a thousand years.
The number of insights in these volumes are countless. Every page, every paragraph, bursts with intellectual energy and the author's fiery passion to tell the reader the remarkable story of economics. Many reviewers have remarked that Rothbard's accomplishment seems super-human. He seems to have read everything. His originality is overwhelming. His passion for liberty and integrity in science is evident. His disdain toward those who sell out to the state is manifest as well.
Rothbard worked on these volumes in the ten years before his death. He also gave a series of lectures on his ongoing research. As a result, we all had very high expectations. But nothing could have prepared us for what eventually appeared.
This set is a monument to Rothbard's genius, a resource that will be valuable to intellectuals for generations, and a great read too!
Read entire article in PDF File;
Monday, June 7, 2010
Jun 7, 2010
By Fred Branfman
It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage. ... [Doublethink is] to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it. ... [Continuous] war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly trained specialists. … The fighting … takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at. …
—George Orwell, “1984”
[The treatment of the] hapless race of native Americans, which we are exterminating with such merciless and perfidious cruelty, [is] among the heinous sins of this nation, for which I believe God will one day bring [it] to judgment.
—John Quincy Adams, cited in Noam Chomsky’s new book, “Hopes and Prospects”
Noam Chomsky’s description of the dangers posed by U.S. elites’ “Imperial Mentality” was recently given a boost in credibility by a surprising source—Bill Clinton. As America’s economy, foreign policy and politics continue to unravel, it is clear that this mentality and the system it has created will produce an increasing number of victims in the years to come. Clinton startlingly testified to that effect on March 10 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
Since 1981 the United States has followed a policy until the last year or so, when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food so thank goodness they can lead directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. It was a mistake that I was a party to. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. I did that. I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did, nobody else.
Clinton is to be praised for being the first U.S. president to take personal responsibility for impoverishing an entire nation rather than ignoring his misdeeds or falsely blaming local U.S.-imposed regimes. But his confession also means that his embrace of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and NAFTA “neo-liberalization” destroyed the lives of many more millions well beyond Haiti, as U.S. support for heavily subsidized U.S. agribusiness damaged local agricultural economies throughout Latin America and beyond. This led to mass migration into urban slums and destitution, as well as increased emigration to the U.S.—which then led Clinton to militarize the border in 1994—and thus accelerated the “illegal immigration” issue that so poisons U.S. politics today.
Clinton might also have added that he and other U.S. leaders imposed such policies by force, installing military dictators and vicious police and paramilitary forces. Chomsky reports in “Hopes and Prospects” that in Haiti, semiofficial thugs empowered by a U.S.-supported coup murdered 8,000 people and raped 35,000 women in 2004 and 2005 alone, while a tiny local elite reaps most of the benefits from U.S. policies.
Clinton’s testimony reminded me of one of my visits with Chomsky, back in 1988, when, after talking for an hour or so, he smiled and said he had to stop to get back to writing about the children of Haiti.
I was struck both by his concern for forgotten Haitians and because his comment so recalled my experience with him in 1970 as he spent a week researching U.S. war-making in Laos. I had taken dozens of journalists, peace activists, diplomats, experts and others out to camps of refugees who had fled U.S. saturation bombing. Chomsky was one of only two who wept openly upon learning how these innocent villagers had seen their beloved grandmothers burned alive, their children slowly suffocated, their spouses cut to ribbons, during five years of merciless, pitiless and illegal U.S. bombing for which U.S. leaders would have been executed had international law protecting civilians in wartime been applied to their actions. It was obvious that he was above all driven by a deep feeling for the world’s victims, those he calls the “unpeople” in his new book. No U.S. policymakers I knew in Laos, nor the many I have met since, have shared such concerns.
Bill Clinton’s testimony also reminded me of the accuracy of Chomsky writings on Haiti—before, during and after Clinton’s reign—as summed up in “Hopes and Prospects”:
The Clinton doctrine, presented to Congress, was that the US is entitled to resort to “unilateral use of military power” to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources.” In Haiti, Clinton [imposed] harsh neoliberal rules that were guaranteed to crush what remained of the economy, as they did.
Clinton would have a cleaner conscience today had he listened to Chomsky then. Many more Americans may also benefit by heeding Chomsky today, as U.S. elites’ callousness toward unpeople abroad is now affecting increasing numbers of their fellow citizens back home. Nothing symbolizes this more than investment bankers tricking countless Americans out of their life savings by luring them into buying homes they could not afford that were then foreclosed on.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades
John Vidal, environment editor The Observer, Sunday 30 May 2010
We reached the edge of the oil spill near the Nigerian village of Otuegwe after a long hike through cassava plantations. Ahead of us lay swamp. We waded into the warm tropical water and began swimming, cameras and notebooks held above our heads. We could smell the oil long before we saw it – the stench of garage forecourts and rotting vegetation hanging thickly in the air.
The farther we travelled, the more nauseous it became. Soon we were swimming in pools of light Nigerian crude, the best-quality oil in the world. One of the many hundreds of 40-year-old pipelines that crisscross the Niger delta had corroded and spewed oil for several months.
Forest and farmland were now covered in a sheen of greasy oil. Drinking wells were polluted and people were distraught. No one knew how much oil had leaked. "We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots," said Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe and our guide. "This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months."
That was the Niger delta a few years ago, where, according to Nigerian academics, writers and environment groups, oil companies have acted with such impunity and recklessness that much of the region has been devastated by leaks.
In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a major ecological catastrophe caused by oil that has poured from a leak triggered by the explosion that wrecked BP's Deepwater Horizon rig last month.
That disaster, which claimed the lives of 11 rig workers, has made headlines round the world. By contrast, little information has emerged about the damage inflicted on the Niger delta. Yet the destruction there provides us with a far more accurate picture of the price we have to pay for drilling oil today.
On 1 May this year a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline in the state of Akwa Ibom spilled more than a million gallons into the delta over seven days before the leak was stopped. Local people demonstrated against the company but say they were attacked by security guards. Community leaders are now demanding $1bn in compensation for the illness and loss of livelihood they suffered. Few expect they will succeed. In the meantime, thick balls of tar are being washed up along the coast.
Within days of the Ibeno spill, thousands of barrels of oil were spilled when the nearby Shell Trans Niger pipeline was attacked by rebels. A few days after that, a large oil slick was found floating on Lake Adibawa in Bayelsa state and another in Ogoniland. "We are faced with incessant oil spills from rusty pipes, some of which are 40 years old," said Bonny Otavie, a Bayelsa MP.
This point was backed by Williams Mkpa, a community leader in Ibeno: "Oil companies do not value our life; they want us to all die. In the past two years, we have experienced 10 oil spills and fishermen can no longer sustain their families. It is not tolerable."
With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations. Locals blame the oil that pollutes their land and can scarcely believe the contrast with the steps taken by BP and the US government to try to stop the Gulf oil leak and to protect the Louisiana shoreline from pollution.
"If this Gulf accident had happened in Nigeria, neither the government nor the company would have paid much attention," said the writer Ben Ikari, a member of the Ogoni people. "This kind of spill happens all the time in the delta."
"The oil companies just ignore it. The lawmakers do not care and people must live with pollution daily. The situation is now worse than it was 30 years ago. Nothing is changing. When I see the efforts that are being made in the US I feel a great sense of sadness at the double standards. What they do in the US or in Europe is very different."
"We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the US," said Nnimo Bassey, Nigerian head of Friends of the Earth International. "But in Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people's livelihood and environments. The Gulf spill can be seen as a metaphor for what is happening daily in the oilfields of Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
"This has gone on for 50 years in Nigeria. People depend completely on the environment for their drinking water and farming and fishing. They are amazed that the president of the US can be making speeches daily, because in Nigeria people there would not hear a whimper," he said.
It is impossible to know how much oil is spilled in the Niger delta each year because the companies and the government keep that secret. However, two major independent investigations over the past four years suggest that as much is spilled at sea, in the swamps and on land every year as has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico so far.
One report, compiled by WWF UK, the World Conservation Union and representatives from the Nigerian federal government and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, calculated in 2006 that up to 1.5m tons of oil – 50 times the pollution unleashed in the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Alaska – has been spilled in the delta over the past half century. Last year Amnesty calculated that the equivalent of at least 9m barrels of oil was spilled and accused the oil companies of a human rights outrage.
According to Nigerian federal government figures, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are 2,000 official major spillages sites, many going back decades, with thousands of smaller ones still waiting to be cleared up. More than 1,000 spill cases have been filed against Shell alone.
Last month Shell admitted to spilling 14,000 tonnes of oil in 2009. The majority, said the company, was lost through two incidents – one in which the company claims that thieves damaged a wellhead at its Odidi field and another where militants bombed the Trans Escravos pipeline.
Shell, which works in partnership with the Nigerian government in the delta, says that 98% of all its oil spills are caused by vandalism, theft or sabotage by militants and only a minimal amount by deteriorating infrastructure. "We had 132 spills last year, as against 175 on average. Safety valves were vandalised; one pipe had 300 illegal taps. We found five explosive devices on one. Sometimes communities do not give us access to clean up the pollution because they can make more money from compensation," said a spokesman.
"We have a full-time oil spill response team. Last year we replaced 197 miles of pipeline and are using every known way to clean up pollution, including microbes. We are committed to cleaning up any spill as fast as possible as soon as and for whatever reason they occur."
These claims are hotly disputed by communities and environmental watchdog groups. They mostly blame the companies' vast network of rusting pipes and storage tanks, corroding pipelines, semi-derelict pumping stations and old wellheads, as well as tankers and vessels cleaning out tanks.
The scale of the pollution is mind-boggling. The government's national oil spill detection and response agency (Nosdra) says that between 1976 and 1996 alone, more than 2.4m barrels contaminated the environment. "Oil spills and the dumping of oil into waterways has been extensive, often poisoning drinking water and destroying vegetation. These incidents have become common due to the lack of laws and enforcement measures within the existing political regime," said a spokesman for Nosdra.
The sense of outrage is widespread. "There are more than 300 spills, major and minor, a year," said Bassey. "It happens all the year round. The whole environment is devastated. The latest revelations highlight the massive difference in the response to oil spills. In Nigeria, both companies and government have come to treat an extraordinary level of oil spills as the norm."
A spokesman for the Stakeholder Democracy Network in Lagos, which works to empower those in communities affected by the oil companies' activities, said: "The response to the spill in the United States should serve as a stiff reminder as to how far spill management in Nigeria has drifted from standards across the world."
Other voices of protest point out that the world has overlooked the scale of the environmental impact. Activist Ben Amunwa, of the London-based oil watch group Platform, said: "Deepwater Horizon may have exceed Exxon Valdez, but within a few years in Nigeria offshore spills from four locations dwarfed the scale of the Exxon Valdez disaster many times over. Estimates put spill volumes in the Niger delta among the worst on the planet, but they do not include the crude oil from waste water and gas flares. Companies such as Shell continue to avoid independent monitoring and keep key data secret."
Worse may be to come. One industry insider, who asked not to be named, said: "Major spills are likely to increase in the coming years as the industry strives to extract oil from increasingly remote and difficult terrains. Future supplies will be offshore, deeper and harder to work. When things go wrong, it will be harder to respond."
Judith Kimerling, a professor of law and policy at the City University of New York and author of Amazon Crude, a book about oil development in Ecuador, said: "Spills, leaks and deliberate discharges are happening in oilfields all over the world and very few people seem to care."
There is an overwhelming sense that the big oil companies act as if they are beyond the law. Bassey said: "What we conclude from the Gulf of Mexico pollution incident is that the oil companies are out of control.
"It is clear that BP has been blocking progressive legislation, both in the US and here. In Nigeria, they have been living above the law. They are now clearly a danger to the planet. The dangers of this happening again and again are high. They must be taken to the international court of justice."
by John Carney
Goldman Sachs may have found a way to compromise with the Securities and Exchange Commission that will allow both sides to declare victory.
The clock is ticking on the SEC’s case against Goldman Sachs. Sometime in the next few weeks, Goldman will either go to federal court with a substantive denial of the SEC’s allegations or agree to a settlement.
The two sides are still far apart. Goldman Sachs is unwilling to enter into the typical Wall Street settlement—paying a fine and agreeing not to commit further violations, while neither admitting nor denying the accusations—because it insists on denying that it intentionally committed fraud, sources familiar with the matter say. The SEC has accused Goldman of fraud under both the Securities Act of 1933 and Exchange Act of 1934 and is unwilling to abandon those claims for lesser offenses, those sources say.
Goldman is wary of settling any case while the accusation of fraud is outstanding. Part of this wariness is rooted in the reputational damage that could come from seeming to give up resisting the fraud accusation. More importantly, the company is concerned about the host of private class-action lawsuits that would surely follow any SEC settlement.
The SEC, however, cannot afford to be seen going easy on Goldman. It has managed to avoid having its authority stripped away in the financial reform process—the bills passed by both the House and the Senate largely keep the SEC independent and its authority intact—but it has been stung by criticism that lax enforcement of securities laws contributed to the financial crisis.
Despite this gap between the SEC and Goldman [GS 144.04 -0.79 (-0.55%) ] , a compromise position might not be completely out of reach. A technical legal difference in the fraud sections of the Securities Act and Exchange Act may allow both the SEC and Goldman to walk away happy.
The SEC accused Goldman with violating Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Section 17(a) of the Securities Act. Both are anti-fraud provisions. Like most anti-fraud statutes, Section 10(b) requires the government to prove a fraudulent intent. The first subsection of Section 17(a) also requires proof of fraudulent intent. But the second and third subsections of 17(a) do not require any proof of intent to defraud. This makes accusations based on the second and third subsections much easier to prove—and perhaps easier for Goldman to stomach.
In fact, subsection 17(a)(2) does not even employ any form of the word “fraud” or “deceit.” It makes the sale of a security or a derivative unlawful if a material omission renders the sale merely “misleading.”
The SEC’s claim against Goldman based on this subsection is its strongest and easiest to prove.
Goldman might accept a settlement if the civil charges requiring fraudulent intent or claiming a scheme that operated as fraud were dropped, a source said. That would leave open the charge of merely negligently “misleading” the investors in the Abacus deal. A source close to the matter indicated that this would be far more palatable to the company since it does not explicitly implicate Goldman in fraud.
The SEC has recently shown a willingness to cut this kind of deal. In February, the SEC settled a backdating case against Michael Byrd, the former CFO and later COO of Brocade Communications Systems, Inc.
Initially, the SEC had charged Byrd with violating both Section 10(b) and Section 17(a). In the settlement, the Section 10(b) charges were dropped, as was any charge based on the first part of Section 17(a).
The only surviving allegations--including a number of charges not involved in the Goldman case--were those that do not require proof of fraudulent intent. An earlier Brocade backdating settlement followed a similar pattern.
When it comes to the Goldman case, however, the SEC is playing its cards very close to its vest. It surprised Goldman by filing the lawsuit without pursuing further settlement negotiations. And virtually nothing about the settlement terms it is seeking have leaked out to the media.
Importantly for Goldman, most federal courts hold that Section 17(a) does not give rise to private actions. This means that Goldman would not be making itself more vulnerable to class-action lawsuits from outside investors even if it actually admitted to the charge of misleading omissions in the Abacus deal. Only the SEC is empowered to bring suit under Section 17(a).
The extent of Goldman’s monetary liability will not necessarily be affected by the exact charge it settles. So Goldman could still wind up paying a huge fine—some have estimated the fine could amount to $1 billion, the highest ever paid by a single firm. But if Goldman could avoid copping a plea to fraud, while perhaps limiting its vulnerability to class action investor lawsuits, it would likely agree to a deal.
Goldman does not seem confident that a deal will definitely be reached. As CNBC.com reported last week, sources say Goldman is still preparing a full-fledged defense even as talks with the SEC continue. The firm has been posturing behind the scenes, indicating that it believes it could uncover weaknesses in the government’s case during the pre-trial discovery phase. But it would prefer a settlement that dropped the fraud charges under the terms outlined above, sources say.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Kohler is also an ex-President of the International Monatary Fund
(The People Who Rule The World Bank & The World)
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Senate Approves $60 Billion For War, While House Cuts $24 Billion For Unemployed Workers And State Aid
WASHINGTON — The Senate easily passed an almost $60 billion war funding bill Thursday, but anxiety over out-of-control budget deficits led House leaders to drop tens of billions of dollars in spending from a separate catchall bill anchored by an extension of jobless benefits.
Confronted with a rebellion by Democratic moderates, House leaders planned to dump overboard $24 billion in aid to states and allow generous health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers to expire. The changes were an effort to round up votes to extend unemployment benefits and renew more than 50 popular tax breaks that expired last year.
Help for doctors facing a big cut in Medicare reimbursements would also be dropped from the measure, aides and lobbyists said, and is unlikely to be resurrected by a vote on Friday.
Democrats will miss their self-imposed deadline of passing the jobless benefits measure before Memorial Day, even if the House passes the bill Friday. The Senate announced Thursday that it will not hold any more votes until senators return from their holiday break June 7.
The steps by House leaders could reduce the deficit impact of the bill to as little as $30 billion or so in hopes of winning over moderate "Blue Dog" Democrats unhappy about adding to the deficit as the national debt is on the verge of topping $13 trillion. A version circulated last week would have added $134 billion to the deficit.
One Blue Dog, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said he would probably vote for a slimmed down version of the bill.
"The bigness issue and the deficit issue has been addressed," Cuellar said.
Across the Capitol, Senate Democrats had far better success in advancing the war funding bill, which would pay for President Barack Obama's 30,000 troop increase in Afghanistan.
A dozen Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, joined Democrats in a 67-28 vote to pass the bill. Two anti-war Democrats, Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, opposed it.
The war funding bill also includes $5 billion to replenish disaster aid accounts, and there's money for Haitian earthquake relief and aid to U.S. allies in the fight against terror.
The war funding measure has been kept relatively clean of add-ons that could draw GOP opposition – to the frustration of liberal Democrats such as Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, the top Senate sponsor of a $23 billion plan to help school districts avoid teacher layoffs as local revenues remain weak. Facing sure defeat, Harkin declined to offer the plan to the war funding bill.
Thousands of people are set to begin losing jobless benefits when an extension of unemployment insurance expires next week. A 65 percent subsidy for health insurance benefits for the unemployed under the COBRA program also expires.
The benefits extensions are part of a sweeping package of unfinished business that lawmakers had hope to complete before their Memorial Day recess to avoid the embarrassment of letting them lapse before going on vacation. Efforts to pass short-term extensions to buy time were doomed to fail since they would require the agreement of all 100 senators.
Democratic leaders cut the package of spending and tax cuts Wednesday by about $50 billion – to $143 billion – in an attempt to pick up votes. Thursday's moves could whack more than $50 billion more from the measure.
It's a tough vote for lawmakers who want to help constituents hit hard by the recession but are wary of being labeled big spenders. The economy is starting to pick up, but unemployment is still high as the nation continues to struggle from the loss of more than 8 million jobs. At the same time, angst over deficit spending is growing as midterm congressional elections near in November.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that the Senate would not vote on the House tax and spending measure and announced the Senate would shortly adjourn for the Memorial Day recess.
The expanded jobless benefits provide up to 99 weeks of payments in many states, at a cost of nearly $40 billion. The benefits are part of a bill that includes a one-year extension of about 50 popular tax breaks that expired at the end of last year and a delay in scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.
It was looking grim Thursday night for a proposal to delay the scheduled 21 percent cut in payments until 2012, which would cost nearly $22 billion. The plan was to be dropped from the bill, and a separate vote on putting it back was thought likely to fail.
The cost of the bill would be partially offset by tax increases on investment fund managers, oil companies and some international businesses. The tax increases total about $57 billion over the next decade. Changes giving underfunded pensions more time to improve their finances would raise $2 billion.
Also in the House, Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., called off a vote on a far larger version of the war funding bill that added the $23 billion to help school districts avoid teacher layoffs, along with $6 billion to make up for a funding shortfall in grants for low-income college students. An Obey spokesman blamed the busy floor schedule and ongoing uncertainty over the jobless benefits bill. Appropriations panel Republicans had vowed to offer a raft of politically painful amendments.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Chevron drills for oil in places where millions of families struggle on less than $1 a day. (See Chevron in Ecuador) That $40 billion could have supported schools, health care and food programs –so where did it go?
Chevron knows exactly how much it paid to each country. But they won't say. And without any information on these secret payments, poor communities can't demand their fair share – to send their children to school, create jobs and escape poverty and hunger.
Tell Chevron to open the books on its secret payments so that the world can follow the money and help put it toward real development.
In less than a week, Chevron will hold its annual shareholder meeting. This is our moment to demand that Chevron finally come clean. Greater transparency and accountability will stabilize countries and help Chevron in the long run.
Chevron won't even provide a basic accounting of how much money goes to each country – so there's no transparency, no accountability, and no way for poor people to call for their fair share.
That means people whose lands are yielding up billions of dollars in oil revenues still face chronic hunger and poverty. It means some officials remain free to enrich themselves with no public oversight. This makes it hard for citizens and watchdog groups to follow the money and keep officials honest.
Our partner, Oxfam America, has met with Chevron multiple times, but they keep refusing to disclose. So they have filed a shareholder proposal for Chevron's May 26th annual meeting, by which shareholders can exercise their rights and ask Chevron to open the books on its secret payments – and in partnership with Oxfam America we're also making it easy for people like you to put direct pressure on Chevron.
Other oil and mining companies disclose this information, and Chevron should join them – especially since more transparency will actually help Chevron in the long run by stabilizing countries. If the company agrees to change its policies, it could be a watershed moment across the oil, gas, and mining industries.
Tell Chevron to stop the back-room deals that open the door to corruption and keep people in poverty.
Chevron advertises itself as a protector of the planet. So why isn't it agreeing to let the public see what it pays to foreign governments?
your help, we can pressure Chevron to make a real change in its policies – and help millions of poor people in the process. Please share this alert with your friends and family.
- The Change.org team in partnership with Oxfam America
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Here’s why Obama’s Fed chief, Benjamin S. Bernanke, is intentionally destroying the value of every dollar you earn and have saved or invested …
The US President's bank balance has been buoyant since he took office. But he is still some way short of rivalling the very richest world leaders
By David Usborne
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Now the nation knows. That doggy in the White House window is worth $1,600 (£1,100). Pretty pricey for a pooch – but then he is part of a household that is worth many millions of dollars, according to the latest financial disclosures filed, as US law requires, by the First Couple, Barack and Michelle Obama.
The forms, posted for all to see on the internet, are a window into the not inconsiderable wealth of America's top family, generated partly by royalties from the president's two memoirs, Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope.
Last year, they earned him between $2m and $10m. His assets are between $2.3m and $7.7m – the forms show ranges of value rather than specific figures.
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Joe Biden, the Vice President, seems to have a much leaner financial cushion. His form reveals that he received a signed first edition of a James Joyce book, Anna Livia Plurabelle, from a fan last year worth $3,500. He lists his overall assets at between only $155,029 and $675,000.
It might behove a political leader to go to the dog pound for a puppy rather than indulge in so expensive a pedigreed pet. Happily for Mr Obama, this animal – Bo, a Portuguese water dog – is listed as a gift. He was presented to the Obamas by the late Senator Edward Kennedy
Also entered in the documents are the $1.4m Mr Obama received from the Nobel committee for the peace prize he won last year and – more importantly – his decision to donate all of it to charity. The value of the prize medal and diploma, if anyone is wondering, is "not readily ascertainable", the form says.
Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, all top federal officials are required annually to disclose their financial interests.
Thus we can see that Mr Obama has an impressive range of assets including in stocks, college education funds for his two daughters, mutual funds, bank accounts and bonds.
In these days of deep distrust of Washington and politicians generally, it might be better for the likes of Mr Obama to be able to demonstrate relative penury.
Leaders the world over try to claim proximity to the "ordinary voter"; large fortunes can be an impediment.
The carefully crafted image of Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, as a spokesperson for working Americans has taken a hit recently, for instance, with revelations that her recent book, burgeoning TV career and work on the speaking circuit has earned her about $12m.
Even the elections in Britain saw an attempt by some to paint then candidate, now Prime Minister, David Cameron, as a member of the elite and therefore out of touch.
A 2008 News of the World report put Mr Cameron's personal fortune at £3.2m. Both he and his wife, Samantha, whose mother is Viscountess Astor, stand to gain more through future inheritances.
Too much cash in the attic may pose greater difficulties for a parliamentary leader, however, than for a president, who is both politician and head of state. Assuming it is honestly gained (and is not swollen by the plundering of taxpayer pockets), being rich need not be a problem, especially if yours not a socialist state.
In Chile, voters had no difficulty recently electing Sebastian Pinera as their new president, whose first task upon taking office was to dispose of his $1.5bn stake in the national airline, Lan Chile.
That Mr Cameron concluded his first cabinet meeting with an announcement that he and all his ministers would be taking a 5 per cent pay cut was a sign that he is wary of the connection between public appreciation of politicians and what they earn, particularly in a time of austerity. The biggest scandal in British politics in recent years, after all, was about MPs and fiddled expenses.
It helps Mr Obama that most of his fortune is coming not from the public purse – he is paid a salary of $400,000 a year – or from a past career, say on Wall Street, but from the two books. It is the voters, after all, who have been buying them.
TWENTY RICHEST WORLD LEADERS
1. King of Thailand, £20bn
The longest-serving monarch in the world as well as the richest, 82-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej's wealth includes large amounts of land and property. However the Thai government has disputed his position as the wealthiest head of state, saying that much of this is not part of his personal wealth. Regardless of his personal finances, in a country where the rural poor are currently locked in violent protests against an unpopular government, he remains a universally loved figure.
2. Sultan of Brunei, £13.5bn
Brunei's oil and gas reserves have kept the Sultan among the world's richest, and he spends accordingly: as well as having a love for luxury cars, for his 50th birthday in 1996 he hired Michael Jackson to perform.
3. Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (President of UAE), £12bn
As the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa has been a driving force during its recent spending spree in its attempts to establish itself as a cultural hub. A pro-Western moderniser and camel-racing fan.
4. King of Saudi Arabia, £11.5bn
Saudi Arabia's vast oil reserves are behind the wealth of King Abdullah, whose grandeur is such that he has a city named after him – King Abdullah Economic City – currently being constructed on the west coast of the country.
5. Silvio Berlusconi, £6bn
Varied business interests – including television stations, magazines and his beloved AC Milan – have made the Italian prime minister a very rich man indeed. His many critics charge that he has used his political career to maximise that wealth.
6. Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein, £2.5bn
The fortune of Liechtenstein's monarch comes from the royal family's ownership of the country's LGT Bank, and the prince owns palaces and land in Austria. He expanded his power in the tiny country in a 2003 referendum.
7. Emir of Qatar £1.4bn
The head of a country with the world's third largest natural gas reserves, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani's expensive tastes include art as well as horse and camel racing. His $137m loan in 1996 was crucial to the founding of the Al Jazeera news network.
8. Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, £1.2bn
Nicknamed "Mr 10 per cent" thanks to the corruption allegations that have dogged him, Benazir Bhutto's widower is accused by the National Accountability Bureau of holding $1.5bn in assets abroad.
9= Prince Albert II of Monaco, £700m
Assets of the wealthy Grimaldi family includes art, real estate and Société des Bains de Mer, which owns Monaco's casinos. Prince Albert, a lifelong bachelor with two illegitimate children, is the son of Hollywood actress Grace Kelly.
9= Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile, £700m
Responsible for the introduction of the credit card to Chile, Pinera sold many of his investments when he became president last year. He agreed to give up a television station under pressure over conflicts of interest this week.
11. Sultan of Oman, £470m
Sultan Qaboos, who came to power when he overthrew his father in 1970, suffered considerable losses in the credit crunch, but remains vastly wealthy. The Sandhurst graduate has used his fortune to finance the restoration of mosques across the country.
12. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea, £400m
Once labelled Africa's worst dictator, he deposited half a billion dollars from the national treasury into private family accounts in 2003 to "fight corruption".
13. The Queen, £300m
Even excluding state-owned properties like Windsor Castle and national treasures like the royal art collection, and despite the downturn, the Queen's homes, business interests, horses, art collection and jewellery have kept her personal fortunes in rude health.
14. Emir of Kuwait, £270m
Unlike most other Gulf leaders, Sheikh Sabah's fortune depends on a stipend from the state – which he took steps to increase considerably by passing a law that adjusted it from $25m to $188m annually after he acceded to the throne in 2006.
15. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, £135m
Although her mother put the family's major cultural assets into national trusts, Beatrix is still worth about $200m. Her family gets an allowance of €5.6m a year – plus €93m or so in expenses.
16. King Mswati III of Swaziland, £68m
As the sole trustee of a $10bn national fund, Mswati augments his personal wealth with state money. Each of his 13 brides has a palace, a retinue and a BMW; meanwhile, two thirds of the country live in poverty.
17. Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia, £41m
Although Rudd's own background is in bureaucracy, he enjoys considerable wealth as the husband of Therese Rein, an entrepreneur who sold her recruitment business in 2007 to avoid conflicts of interest.
18. John Key, New Zealand Prime Minister, £25m
The former investment banker amassed a tidy sum before entering politics with the right-wing National Party in 2002. He owns properties in London and Hawaii as well as his home country.
19. Lee Myung-bak, President of South Korea, £16m
Lee came from a poverty-stricken background to rise at Hyundai until he became chief executive. Cleared of fraud shortly before his inauguration in 2008.
20. Milo Djukanovic, President of Montenegro, £10m
Mysteriously wealthy, he denies allegations that he was involved in a lucrative tobacco smuggling ring.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Taken aback by reception to familiar '80s movie, its makers figure the time is right for Gordon Gekko's return
CANNES, FRANCE-Normally when Hollywood comes to Cannes, it's not to preach the virtues of restraint or sober second thought.
This is the town where no one blinks at $1,500-per-night hotel rooms or $10 sips of espresso. There is also something incongruous about millionaire actors and directors pleading the cause of workers and common folk.
So there was a surreal quality about Friday's proletarian news conference following the Cannes Film Festival world debut of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Oliver Stone's belated follow-up to his 1987 drama of corporate greed.
A lot of things have happened in the past 23 years, including 9/11 and an economic crisis or three. The thinking of Stone and his leading man Michael Douglas has changed. Their world view has broadened considerably, and they're no longer snickering about the more venal aspects of Gordon Gekko, the corporate raider, played to sneering perfection by Douglas, who became an immortal villain with his "greed is good" boasting and ruthless money deals.
Now the older and more thoughtful Douglas and Stone seem almost guilty about Gekko, and how he became an unwitting symbol of success for many impressionable viewers of the original Wall Street.
"Well, I think Oliver and I both were pretty stunned, after the first one, how they perceived Gekko," said Douglas, 65.
"He's an insider trader, a guy who destroyed companies - a very, very well-written villain, and people are attracted to villains. We just never anticipated that all these MBAs, all these people in business school, would be ranting and raving that this was the person they wanted to be.
"And yet, 23 years later, I imagine that a lot of these MBA students are heading up these investment banking companies because the greed has not stopped. It's become legal."
Stone, 63, whose father was a stock trader, said he was initially reluctant to revisit Gekko and his era, "because I didn't want to celebrate that culture of wealth ... it just seemed to be getting worse and worse. There was no reason to make a movie.
"After the (2008 economic) crash, of course, all bets were off because, really, it was a major heart attack. It was a triple bypass. I think they put a stent in, but I'm not sure if they've solved it.
"So this is serious, and it puts the whole world in a new perspective. It's time to come back and get Gordon Gekko."
Rather than make a movie about Gekko exploiting the 2008 money meltdown, which the film does address, Stone wanted his Wall Street sequel to address the toll that unchallenged capitalism takes on families.
Gekko has a daughter, played by Carey Mulligan, who is involved with up-and-coming trader Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who seems almost a contradiction in terms: he wants to get filthy rich by peddling clean green energy technology.
Gekko's motives aren't immediately clear in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, but he's not the obvious villain of the piece. He's trying to get his life back together, and reunite with his estranged daughter, after spending eight years in prison on convictions for various financial crimes.
The real bad guy in the film is Josh Brolin's Bretton James, a billionaire investment banker who seems to be picking up where his old pal (and now enemy) Gekko left off.
Brolin sees his character as a cautionary example of someone blinded by greed.
"The theme of the first movie is 'greed is good' and the theme of this one is 'more,' " Brolin said.
"There's no end to the possibilities of accumulation. Having myself traded, on a very small level, I understand what it is to get caught up in that moment of greed where you go, 'I understand the kids are upstairs and they need to eat, but I need 15 more minutes because I may make that much more money. And then they'll be able to eat more' ...
"To tap into that greed and allow yourself to lose your identity and reconfigure your identity within that is, morally, completely bereft."
Many people accused Stone and Douglas of celebrating the cowboy capitalism of the 1980s with Wall Street. That may have been true then, but it's certainly not the case with the sequel, scheduled for wide release on Sept. 24. Stone in particular seems genuinely concerned about where the world is headed, and what it means to average workers.
"It seems we got drunk (on greed)," Stone said.
"In 1987, I thought (capitalism) was going to correct itself, I really did ... but it got worse ...
"Stock holders and CEOs made money, but working people did not. There's tremendous inequality and injustice in that and that has to be corrected."
In his personal life, as a happily married man with two young additions to his family, Douglas is anything but a Gordon Gekko. Outside of acting, he works closely with the United Nations as an official ambassador of peace, promoting nuclear disarmament. He's not happy with the current slow pace of change, in all aspects of global renewal.
"It's pretty disappointing," Douglas said.
"The area I work on, which is the elimination of nuclear weapons, there seems to be some great movement going ahead but as you do look at the greed, at the oil spills, the volcanic ash, the Earth seems to be speaking back."
Are people ready for a Gordon Gekko who wants to build rather than smash? We'll see.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Evan Bayh (D-Ind.)
Thomas Carper (D-Del.)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)
Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
John Rockefeller (D-W.V.)
Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Arlen Specter (D-Pa.)
Mark Warner (D-Va.)
David Vitter (R-La.)
EVERYONE ELSE supports it!
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Dear Concerned Individual,
"The U.S. Government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost," said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on November 21, 2002.
Saying that the U.S. Government could "…produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost" is a great big lie. Because there is a cost – it’s inflation.
And it costs you, and every citizen, by robbing them blind of the purchasing power of their dollars.
Since taking the helm of the Federal Reserve in 2006, this is precisely what Bernanke's done...he's printed money like there's no tomorrow. In fact, he's more than doubled the Fed's balance sheet while pushing the federal funds rate to near zero.
What this means is, Bernanke's methodically debauching the dollar to bailout the banks and stimulate the economy. Moreover, this means the dollars in your paycheck, savings, and retirement account, are being watered down to that of a cheap Budweiser beer.
But that's not all...
Warning: This is NOT for Everyone
Just so you know what you're getting into... Before continuing on, we must warn you:
This is NOT for everyone.
In fact, it may not be for you.
You've had enough of all the government bailouts, stimulus, and spending bills...and are doubtful it'll do a lick for the economy (Hint: it won't...in fact, it'll make things worse)...
You've watched in shock and awe as the stock market has run up 60 percent since its March 9, 2009 low and are considering getting back in the market (Hint: don't do it. This will go down as the all time sucker's rally)
You've suspected the global financial and economic crisis will send the world economy -- including the United States -- tail spinning into another Great Depression (Hint: it already is)...
You've asked "What gives with all these bank failures? And is my bank next?" (Hint: it's practically guaranteed)...
You're concerned the mortgage meltdown will only get worse (Hint: it's only just begun...Alt-A's are next)...
You wonder where all the "liquidity" the Fed "injected" into the system to "calm" the markets came from. And what the heck is "liquidity" anyway? (Hint: it's not what you think it is)...
You suspect the price of gas will once again explode over $4 per gallon...or more (Hint: you ain't seen nothing yet)...
You watched in awe as McMansion homes sprouted like alfalfa...sold at insane prices...and are outraged that we now have to bailout the wall street fat cats like AIG that insured these loans for people who couldn't really afford them to begin with. What gives?
You wonder why practically all the manufacturing jobs have been sent offshore due to "globalization"...
And why all the top U.S. companies are companies that don't make anything...but just shuffle paper.
You dislike filling out "government forms"...and distrust all the government meddling in your private affairs...
All in all, if you look around you and see a world that doesn't quite add up to what you're being told by politicians...the news media...and your broker...
Then you have absolutely, without a doubt, come to the right place...
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