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Circling the drain.

19 May

President Obama taped an interview which was to air on Thursday night.  I did not watch it.  I can no longer tolerate more than a second of such pap any more.  However, prior to the broadcast, a few of his remarks from the interview were released to the media.  The media loved this quote:

Just hours after a top JPMorgan Chase executive retired in the wake of a stunning $2 billion trading loss, President Obama told the hosts of ABC’s “The View” that the bank’s risky bets exemplified the need for Wall Street reform.

“JPMorgan is one of the best managed banks there is. Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got and they still lost $2 billion and counting,” the president said. “We don’t know all the details. It’s going to be investigated, but this is why we passed Wall Street reform.”

While a powerhouse like JPMorgan might be able to weather an error that the bank’s own CEO called “egregious,” the president questioned what might happen to smaller institutions in similar situations.

“This is one of the best managed banks. You could have a bank that isn’t as strong, isn’t as profitable managing those same bets and we might have had to step in,” he said. “That’s why Wall Street reform is so important.” […]

http://news.yahoo.com/obama-jpmorgan-one-best-managed-banks-214359921–abc-news-politics.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=feed

 

Each article I’ve read about these quotes stresses that Obama thinks we need more financial reform and regulation.  That de-regulation led directly to the crash of ’08 is a fact not in dispute, unless someone ate your brain.  However, I don’t think that the take-away from the quotes is whatever lip-service Obama gave to reform and regulation.  Look again, bearing in mind that the largest banks in the US, which caused the financial melt-down and which have been given over 17 trillion in hidden bailouts, are now much bigger than they were.  These banks have spread their toxic waste globally and are now taking out entire countries.  Banks are able to borrow from the Federal Reserve at 0% and are also able to post virtually worthless derivatives or notional securities with no discernible market value as collateral for Fed facilities; wherein, the Fed accepts the collateral at its notional, i.e., face, value without regard for its lack of market value and will lend to these banks up to 90% of that notional value of those “toxic assets”, once again at 0% or damn close to it.   As Primary Dealers of US Treasuries, these banks are then permitted to invest as much of that free Fed money as they want into US Treasuries, generating them the interest paid by taxpayers on the Treasuries: a pretty nice rate of return on free money.   And because of fractional lending, they’re able to lend a multiple of many times over the money they are getting for free from the Fed at any interest rate they choose to charge individuals and businesses, when they choose to lend at all.

In these quotes, Obama praises his buddy Jamie as “one of the smartest bankers we got.”  He calls JPMorgan “one of the best managed banks there is.”  These statements are only true if you particularly admire the ability of Jamie and his bank to plunder the public.  The banks that were “too big to fail” in ’08, which led to 99% of the public calling for the break-up of these banks and to Congress nonetheless bailing them out, are now exponentially larger.  Yet here Obama is lauding the massive size of one of them.

“[…]the president questioned what might happen to smaller institutions in similar situations. […]‘You could have a bank that isn’t as strong, isn’t as profitable managing those same bets and we might have had to step in,’ he said.”

You go, Jamie.  Barry admires your audacity.  Hopefully, you will continue on your current trajectory and one day soon own the entire world.  We “passed Wall Street reform” not to save the average dumb-ass American, but to prevent the banks from suffering losses.  (Those are the O-man’s words, without the media interpreting them for us.  “…they still lost $2 billion and counting,” the president said. “We don’t know all the details. It’s going to be investigated, but this is why we passed Wall Street reform.”)  All this anguish over freaking JPMorgan losing 2 bb (or 5 bb or whatever) when what we should be concerned about are the truly astronomically uncountably obscene profits they have been making off our sorry asses ever since the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 which gave the banks absolute control over US monetary policy met up with the Robert Rubins, Alan Greenspans, Hank Paulsons, Ben Bernankes, and Timmeh Geithners of Generation @Now.

Here are some fun facts to learn and share.  JPMorgan, “one of the best managed banks there is,” according to Obama:

•    Is the world’s largest publicly-traded company

•    Is the largest bank in the U.S. … the biggest of the too big to fail banks which are killing the American economy

•    Is the largest derivatives dealer in the world, and derivatives are inherently destabilizing for the economy

•    Essentially wrote the faux “reform” legislation for derivatives, which did nothing to decrease risk, and killed any chance of real reform

•    Is the creator of credit default swaps – which caused the 2008 financial crisis, and is the asset class which blew up and caused the loss

•    Has had large potential exposures to credit default swap losses for years […]

•    Went completely insolvent in the 1980s

•    … and again in 2007  (and was saved both times by the government at taxpayer expense)

•    Heads – with Goldman Sachs – the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, which helps set government financial policy[…]

•    Was kept alive by a huge government bailout … but used the money to invest in India and other projects which won’t really help Americans

•    Has made a killing by kicking companies and governments when they are down, engaging in various types of fraud, allegedly manipulating the silver market, and profiting on misery by acting as the largest processor of food stamps in America […]

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/05/the-truth-about-jp-morgans-2-billion-loss.html

 

The derivatives market was notionally valued at 200 trillion in ’08 despite the fact that the actual value of the underlying assets – the real estate in the US – was worth 20 tt.  The GDP of the entire world is roughly 58 tt.  Today, the derivatives market is estimated to be over a quadrillion dollars. 

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/05/top-derivatives-expert-finally-gives-a-credible-estimate-of-the-size-of-the-global-derivatives-market.html

95% of this market is held by Fannie and Freddie (because the US government keeps dumping the derivatives there to hide them for the big banks) and 5 banks.  That’s some audacity.  That’s some bubble.  That’s going to be one hell of an impressive explosion when it blows up.

The mortgage fraud settlement that was just agreed to by the Obama administration and the States Attorney has yet to seat an investigative team.  No-one even quite knows if they have an office; for sure, they have no staff.  The money from this settlement, most of which is actually coming from the taxpayers and not the banks, is being used by the states in a myriad of inventive ways, but almost none of it is actually going to the homeowners who are being fraudulently foreclosed on.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/business/states-diverting-mortgage-settlement-money-to-other-uses.html?_r=1&emc=eta1   The state of Ohio (and soon Hawai’i) has found a particularly repugnant use of their share of the funds which is being copied in several other states: they are using some of the money to tear down the empty foreclosed homes.  You don’t understand why that is offensive, do you?      Let me remind you that these vacant houses are owned by the banks – they are supposed to maintain the properties.  In an effort to prevent the banks from having to spend any of their cash whatsoever – on maintenance or in property taxes (land with buildings on it brings in higher property taxes to the state) – the states are going to tear the empty houses down for the banks.  The banks don’t even have to carry the cost of destroying the houses they don’t really want.  Now do you get it?  Furthermore, two of our US congressmen from Ohio have a bill in front of Congress to make this a national policy at a taxpayer cost of 4 billion dollars.

But enough about the banks for the moment.  Let’s look at where we stand on other issues.

The 2012 NDAA was passed with sections that allow for the indefinite detention of Americans and foreigners for ties to terrorism (whatever that means) or terrorist organizations (which groups this means is unclear and undefined).  It does away with several of the rights we have always assumed were basic here in the US.  This law has just been successfully challenged in federal court in a suit brought by Chris Hedges and others, where it has been enjoined pending a higher court ruling on constitutionality.   http://www.salon.com/2012/05/16/federal_court_enjoins_ndaa/singleton/   No-one is certain if the Obama administration is going to appeal this decision.  The 2012 NDAA was passed with 100% of the Senate voting “aye” – and here you thought they were the sane ones in Washington.  Despite the judge’s ruling earlier this week, and despite the clear threat to our rights, Congress has kept the same clauses in the 2013 NDAA, which has already passed the House and is headed for the Senate.  Furthermore, as Congressman Dennis Kucinich points out, in addition to the grave threat to our civil liberties, the 2013 NDAA prepares us to go to war with Iran.

This week, Congress is considering two pieces of legislation relating to Iran. The first undermines a diplomatic solution with Iran and lowers the bar for war. The second authorizes a war of choice against Iran and begins military preparations for it.

H.Res.568: Eliminating the Most Viable Alternative to War
The House is expected to vote on H.Res. 568. Read the resolution. Section (6) rejects any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran. Section (7) urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and opposition to any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to Iranian enrichment.

This language represents a significant shift in U.S. policy and would guarantee that talks with Iran, currently scheduled for May 23, would fail. Current U.S. policy is that Iran cannot acquire nuclear weapons. Instead, H. Res. 568 draws the “redline” for military action at Iran achieving a nuclear weapons “capability,” a nebulous and undefined term that could include a civilian nuclear program. Indeed, it is likely that a negotiated deal to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and to prevent war would provide for Iranian enrichment for peaceful purposes under the framework of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty with strict safeguards and inspections. This language makes such a negotiated solution impossible.

At the same time, the language lowers the threshold for attacking Iran. Countries with nuclear weapons “capability” could include many other countries like Japan or Brazil. It is an unrealistic threshold.

The Former Chief of Staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated that this resolution “reads like the same sheet of music that got us into the Iraq war.”

H.R. 4310: Authorizing War Against Iran and Preparing the Military for it
While H. Res. 568 undermines our diplomatic efforts and lowers the bar for war, H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 begins military preparations for war. Section 1221 makes military action against Iran a U.S. policy. Section 1222 directs our armed forces to prepare for war.

SEC. 1221. DECLARATION OF POLICY.
“(a) Findings- Congress makes the following findings:
“(2) At the same time, Iran may soon attain a nuclear weapons capability, a development that would threaten United States interests, destabilize the region, encourage regional nuclear proliferation, further empower and embolden Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provide it the tools to threaten its neighbors, including Israel.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as U.S. and Israeli intelligence, have all agreed that Iran does not currently have a nuclear bomb, is not building a nuclear weapon and does not have plans to do so. Both U.S. and Israeli officials also agree that a strike on Iran would only delay their nuclear program and actually encourage them to pursue a nuclear weapon.

Sustained, diplomatic engagement with Iran is the only way to ensure transparency and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Rejecting or thwarting any inspections-based deal we are currently seeking with Iran, even when analysts are expressing guarded optimism that a near term deal is achievable, makes pre-emptive military action against Iran more likely.[…]

The United States, IAEA and Israel have all publically recognized that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. In a January 2012 interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated unequivocally that Iran is not trying to build a nuclear weapon. This clause further ignores that the U.S. and Iran have barely engaged in direct negotiations. Prior to last month’s negotiations, the U.S. and Iran had only engaged in 45 minutes of direct talks since 2009.

“(b) Declaration of Policy- It shall be the policy of the United States to take all necessary measures, including military action if required, to prevent Iran from threatening the United States, its allies, or Iran’s neighbors with a nuclear weapon.”

This is an authorization for the use of military force against Iran. It ignores the warnings of both current and former U.S. top military brass who have spoken in opposition to the use of military force against Iran, including former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.[…]

SEC. 1222. UNITED STATES MILITARY PREPAREDNESS IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
“Section 2 (A) pre-positioning sufficient supplies of aircraft, munitions, fuel, and other materials for both air- and sea-based missions at key forward locations in the Middle East and Indian Ocean;
“(B) maintaining sufficient naval assets in the region necessary to signal United States resolve and to bolster United States capabilities to launch a sustained sea and air campaign against a range of Iranian nuclear and military targets, to protect seaborne shipping, and to deny Iranian retaliation against United States interests in the region;
“(D) conducting naval fleet exercises similar to the United States Fifth Fleet’s major exercise in the region in March 2007 to demonstrate ability to keep the Strait of Hormuz open and to counter the use of anti-ship missiles and swarming high-speed boats.”

A plain reading of these provisions in H.R. 4310 taken together with H.R. 568 makes it clear: Congress is setting the stage for war with Iran.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-dennis-kucinich/ndaa-authorizes-war-again_b_1524474.html

We have wasted trillions of dollars on wars of aggression and invasion.  We are going broke.  Hell, we are broke.  But our “representatives” in Congress and our President will protect and increase the Pentagon budget and continue to spend our money on weapons and military pursuits no matter how we feel about it.  We have to send petitions begging them not to let us be picked up on the street and held forever, without formal charges or trial, in a black hole somewhere.  The petitions are ignored.  They like this new sort of situation.  We participate in polls, protest, and write letters, sending the clear message that we want to end the goddamn wars now.  In response, they try to maneuver us into yet another war and increase war funding, which will be paid for by cutting the already decimated domestic spending.

This week, as world leaders gather in Chicago to make long-term plans for Afghanistan, your representative in Congress will cast votes that could help end the destabilizing U.S. military presence in that country or prolong it.  Congress could cut the bloated military budget to put funds into urgently needed domestic programs – or give the Pentagon even more money.

The FY 2013 military budget (NDAA) is up for a vote in the House likely this Friday. It contains more than $642 billion of taxpayer money to pay for a war the majority of Americans oppose, nuclear upgrades that threaten non-proliferation agreements, programs and weapons that even the Pentagon doesn’t want. The bill also promotes provocative threats on Iran, enables reckless actions by Israel and prohibits the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States.

Austerity for the Pentagon at a time when the deficit is huge and vital domestic programs are being cut? Not a chance if the House Armed Service has its way. It’s not just the Republicans, who are at fault.  The majority of Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee also voted in favor, producing a lopsided 56-5 margin for an outrageous bill for a military budget that is even bigger than the one requested by the White House.

Partisan rhetoric should not obscure the reality that if this over-sized military budget passes the Congress, it will be paid for by programs that affect the most vulnerable-food stamps, school lunches, health insurance for low income children, “Meals-on Wheels” for the elderly. – petition from USLaw.

Our money is also being spent to police us.  To make sure we don’t get out of hand.  We will now have drones hovering over us and lots of inventive new methods are being put into place to spy on us.  The domestic drones are not going to be used to spy on us, we are assured by our Congressional Drone Caucus, because that would be, like, all illegal and shit.  (Yes, drones have their own caucus.)  But if some drone somewhere overhead accidentally has its surveillance apparatus turned on, we can save the recordings for 90 days, examine them to see if any suspicious activity has been picked up, and use the recordings against you.  Because you never know what you’ll find when you spy on Americans on purpose accidentally.  And what is the law for if not to instruct us where it can be circumvented?
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/05/air-force-drones-domestic-spy/#more-80214

So here is a really cool idea for how a city can use taxpayer money.  Buy these cunning streetlamps.  They may look like ordinary streetlights, but they actually record all sound and movement nearby.  Oh, and they have a little television screen to alert passing citizens about emergencies or what-not.  As Janet Napolitano says, there’s nothing so delicious as scaring the crap out of the citizens every minute of every day.  These streetlamps just went live in a town in Mich.

[…]Simply put, the Intellistreets project is a system of Internet-connected luminaries that communicate with one another across the city. In addition to lighting the area, they can broadcast verbal and written messages, monitor rainfall and give directions.
According to their own website, the system is also great for “data harvesting.”

Not only does Intellistreets offer information about the neighborhood and provide light, it also monitors the conversations of pedestrians, records video, monitors foot-traffic and counts heads — all of which is recorded and stored for possible analysis. And according to Harwood [Intellistreets designer and owner], the tiny 80,000 community of Farmington Hills isn’t going to be the only town using his technology — Detroit, Chicago and Pittsburgh have placed orders and the inventor claims that he is in talks with the Department of Homeland Security.

http://on.rt.com/072ubj

You can visit Intellistreets website here:  http://www.images1.com/
But one of our dedicated civil servants in office has an idea for saving money – bring out the dogs.  Ah, yes, nothing says ‘land of the free’ quite like uniformed officers with Alsatians on leash manning checkpoints at all transportation hubs.

[…]The TSA’s top financial officer, David Nicholson, defended the agency, saying it has cut its warehouse costs from $7.6 million in 2009 to $3.5 million in 2011.

But Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) suggested that the TSA consider what he said was a cheaper, more effective alternative to the scanners: bomb-sniffing dogs.

“People are going to die if you continue to make these kinds of asinine decisions,” he told Nicholson. “Go get the dogs.” […]

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/13/business/la-fi-0514-travel-briefcase-20120514

This madness needs to stop.  The people in charge are making such bad decisions in part, perhaps, because many of them are so stupid that if they were in elementary school, they’d be riding the short bus, but mainly because they are soulless, shark-eyed, low-level grifters, bought and paid for.  They no longer serve the country – its people or its best interests.  They are deliberately letting our country go to ruin internally while spending our money on instigating wars, killing people in far-off lands, and handing buckets of cash to the biggest banks and corporations they can find.  When they do spend our own taxpayer money domestically, it is only for projects that poison our water and our air, bail out the companies that ship our jobs overseas, or are designed to keep us in line lest we get out of hand while they bankrupt the nation.

Support or join in protest.  If you feel you have to vote in what is now basically a one-party election, vote for a third party.  Vote for Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson.  The only reason we have the idea that a third party can’t win is because that is what the media and the power-brokers want us to believe.  Stop believing this bullshit.  Support the Occupy movement.  They are trying to change this thing around.  The only reason you think they are irrelevant is because that is what the media and the power-brokers want you to believe.  Stop believing this bullshit.  Maybe it is too late and we will quietly crumble into a third-world country anyway with few of us taking note as it happens or understanding why.  But for God’s sake, if you get any of it, if you have a glimmer of understanding, stand up and protest in whatever way you can.

Some creative people in the Occupy movement have designed a set of cards that can be used for educational purposes.  Each card contains information about a different topic.  You can print the cards yourself from their website, or order them from Occucards.  So far, they have ten different cards, with more in the works.  The information is succinct and factual.  You can view, order, or print your own copies from this site:  http://www.occucards.com/

If you choose not to order, but want to support the project, I’m sure they will be pleased to accept donations to continue their work.  I am not affiliated with this project in any way, by the way.  Kitt (thank you!) brought Occucards to my attention in the comments and I think it is a wonderful idea – I am happy to help spread the word.

Sample: Occucard on the US Monetary System, back:

The Monetary System
The text as it appears on the back of the card
Federal banking rules allow banks to make loans of up to nine times the amount of money they have in reserve. This is called “fractional reserve banking” and is the process by which private banks increase the money supply by creating and loaning out more money than they actually have. Fractional reserve banking is commonly misunderstood to mean that banks must put 10% of their money into reserves, after which they can loan out the remaining 90%. But in fact, when banks put money in reserve, they are then allowed to create and loan out new money, up to nine times the amount they actually put in reserve, or 900% more. This means that when a bank makes a loan, it is literally loaning money into existence. This newly created money enters into circulation and increases the nation’s overall money supply. Then, as the borrower begins making loan payments back to the bank, the principle portion of each payment is removed from circulation, while the interest remains, becoming the bank’s profit. This entire process takes place digitally. No paper money needs to be printed, since loans and repayments are made simply by increasing and decreasing account balances on computers.
This awesome power to create money out of nothing is the reason banks are the most powerful institutions in the nation. The ability to loan new money into existence gives private banks unlimited capital with which to finance and control society’s development, and the pursuit of profit is their only consideration. Commercial bank loans are awarded with no consideration for the social or environmental consequences of the commercial activity, but rather solely on whether the business will make money and hence be able to pay back the loan with interest. The immense wealth banks are able to accrue through this process also allows them to manipulate society’s political institutions. By funding the political campaigns of both major parties and hiring huge armies of lobbyists, banks and other giant corporations have subverted the political process, resulting in a government unresponsive to the needs of citizens.
Currently, all new money entering into circulation is created by banks through the process of issuing loans, which saddles the population with massive debt. However, there are other ways money can be created. The U.S. government could create its own money (rather than borrowing it from the Federal Reserve) and release it into circulation in the form of salaries and wages via public works programs, or in the form of subsidies given directly to private companies that provide benefits to society. Spending money into existence like this increases the money supply without creating debt.
The wholesale privatization of the money creation process, where all new money is released into circulation in the form of bank loans, and where the US Government is forced to borrow money from the Federal Reserve (or else tax the people) before it can spend, enriches private banks at the expense of ordinary Americans, the majority of whom are perpetually in debt. Given the power of large, financial corporations over our government, returning to a just monetary system will require a broad-based movement of protest, education and civil disobedience.
References and external links
http://www.positivemoney.org.uk/2011/12/capitalism/

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2 responses to “Circling the drain.

  1. Emanuel

    June 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks for writing about us! We are currently producing ten new cards on new topics. They should be available by August 15th.

    Like

     
    • Teri

      June 24, 2012 at 5:07 am

      Dear Emanuel,
      I was remiss in not contacting you first. I have tons of excuses I could offer, but none that are very plausible. In any case, I will be mentioning Occupy and Occucards in future posts and will be sure to include an updated list of topics covered by the cards.

      Thank you for the work you are doing on behalf of America’s people.

      Best,
      Teri

      Like

       

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