I think I may be done
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[N]o matter how corrupt our system became over the last century--and I lived through three-quarters of it--we still held on to the Constitution and, above all, to the Bill of Rights. No matter how bad things got, I never once believed that I would see a great part of the nation--of we the people, unconsulted and unrepresented in a matter of war and peace--demonstrating in such numbers against an arbitrary and secret government, preparing and conducting wars for us, or at least for an army recruited from the unemployed to fight in. Sensibly, they now leave much of the fighting to the uneducated, to the excluded.
Despotism is now securely in the saddle. The old Republic is a shadow of itself, and we now stand in the glare of a nuclear world empire with a government that sees as its true enemy "we the people," deprived of our electoral franchise.
"Travel educates. As a result one should assume that Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger of Barack Obama, wants to learn something during his visit to Israel. Wrong! Almost everything that the candidate organized in Jerusalem fuels the impression that he doesn't want to try understanding how complicated the Middle East situation is. Instead, Romney paints the crisis region in black and white: Israel is good and the rest -- the Palestinians and the mullahs in Iran -- are lumped together."
"This one-sided world view is less dumb than it is coldly calculated. Romney is soliciting campaign donations in Jerusalem (the minimum price for two plates at breakfast is $50,000.) And he is ensnaring Jewish voters at home."
"The trip to Israel may help Romney in the short-term. But in the long-term the Republican has done damage. The Middle East needs the US as a mediator. As such, the presidential hopeful has already disqualified himself."
So far this year, 26 billionaires have donated more than $61 million to super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And, that’s only what has been publicly disclosed.This $61 million does not include about $100 million that Sheldon Adelson has said that he is willing to spend to defeat President Obama; or the $400 million that the Koch brothers have pledged to spend during the 2012 election season.These 26 billionaires have a combined net worth of $146 billion, which is more than the bottom 42.5 percent of American households (equal to nearly 50 million families in the United States).
Here is a list of the billionaires:1. Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands Casino, is worth nearly $25 billion, making him the 14th wealthiest person in the world and the 7th richest person in America.While median family income plummeted by nearly 40% from 2007-2010, Mr. Adelson has experienced a nearly eightfold increase in his wealth over the past three years (from $3.4 billion to $24.9 billion).Forbes recently reported that Adelson is willing to spend a “limitless” amount of money or more than $100 million to help defeat President Obama in November.While $100 million sounds like a lot, it equals the same percentage of Adelson’s wealth that $300 to $400 does for the typical middle class family (with a net worth of about $77,000).Sheldon Adelson owns more wealth than the bottom 40.2% of American households or 47.2 million American families.2. The Kochs (David, Charles, and William) are worth a combined $54 billion, according to Forbes. They have pledged to spend about $400 million during the 2012 election season.3. Jim Walton is worth $23.7 billion. He has donated $300,000 to super PACs in 2012.4. Harold Simmons is worth $9 billion. He has donated $15.2 million to super PACs this year.5. Peter Thiel is worth $1.5 billion. He has donated $6.7 million to Super PACs this year.6. Jerrold Perenchio is worth $2.3 billion. He has donated $2.6 million to super PACs this year.7. Kenneth Griffin is worth $3 billion and he has given $2.08 million to super PACs in 2012.8. James Simons is worth $10.7 billion and he has given $1.5 million to super Pacs this year.9. Julian Robertson is worth $2.5 billion and he has given $1.25 million to super PACs this year.10. Robert Rowling is worth $4.8 billion and he has given $1.1 million to super PACs.11. John Paulson, the hedge fund manager who made his fortune betting that the sub-prime mortgage market would collapse, is worth $12.5 billion. He has donated $1 million to super PACs.12. Richard and J.W. Marriott are worth a combined $3.1 billion and they have donated $2 million to super PACs this year.13. James Davis is worth $1.9 billion and he has given $1 million to super PACs this year.14. Harold Hamm is worth $11 billion and he has given $985,000 to super PACs this year.15. Kenny Trout is worth more than $1.2 billion and he has given $900,000 to super PACs this year.16. Louis Bacon is worth $1.4 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.17. Bruce Kovner is worth $4.5 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.18. Warren Stephens is worth $2.7 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.19. David Tepper is worth $5.1 billion and he has given $375,000 to super PACs this year.20. Samuel Zell is worth $4.9 billion and he has given $270,000 to super PACs this year.21. Leslie Wexner is worth $4.3 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.22. Charles Schwab is worth $3.5 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.23. Kelcy Warren is worth $2.3 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.
What [Obama’s chief economics advisor, Lawrence Summers] wanted was exactly what he got, a slow, underperforming economy with high unemployment and huge deficits. Does anyone really think that an economist with Summers’ impressive education and experience could be $1 trillion off in his calculations? (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was eventually whittled down to $787 billion) It’s ridiculous. Summers wanted a flagging economy so he could torpedo Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These were the targets from the very beginning.As for Obama, well, he probably figured that the $800 billion fiscal package would be enough to carry him over the finish-line in the 2012 elections, but not so big that it would subvert the goals of his chief economics advisor who was beholden to Wall Street and big business. In truth, Obama wanted the same thing as Summers, a justification for attacking the meager programs that keep the elderly and vulnerable from destitution.
Obama could allocate $300 billion per year to rehire the 650,000 teachers and other state and local workers who’ve been laid off since the crash. That would be the easiest thing to do. Skip all the red-tape connected to infrastructure and gov job’s programs and just rehire the people who got their pink slip after the crash. The money spent on jobs would more than pay for itself by raising state revenues and boosting economic activity by many orders of magnitude.
Have you seen a graph of how many (state and local) jobs have been lost under Obama? It’s shocking! Take a look: http://streetlightblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/government-job-destruction.html
We need to get these people back to work so they can feed their families and pay the bills. If we can afford $11 trillion to bail out crooked bankers, we can certainly afford a measly $300 mil for hard-working middle class families. It’s just a matter of priorities.
Obama is just as committed to gutting Social Security as Romney. The only difference is that he’s a better pitchman. Much better.
Labels: 1%, ARRA, Bush Administration, Counterpunch, elites, incompetence, Medicare, Mike Whitney, Mitt Romney, Obama administration, social contract, social darwinism, Social Security, super-rich, unemploymentSubmit To Propeller
The key to the police state operations of the US in the 21st century is to repress pro-democracy citizens and pre-empt any mass movement without undermining the electoral system, which provides political theater and legitimacy. A police state ‘boundary’ is constructed to ensure that citizens will have little option but to vote for the two pro-police state parties, legislatures and executives without reference to the conduct, conditions and demands of the core, inner and outer circle of victims, critics and activists. Frequent raids, harsh public ‘exemplary’ punishment and mass media stigmatization transmit a message to the passive mass of voters and non-voters that the victims of repression ‘must have been doing something wrong’ or else they would not be under police state repression.The key to the police state strategy is to not allow its critics to gain a mass base, popular legitimacy or public acceptance. The state and the media constantly drum the message that the activists’ ‘causes’ are not our (American, patriotic) ‘causes’; that ‘their’ pro-democracy activities impede ‘our’ electoral activities; their lives, wisdom and experiences do not touch our workplaces, neighborhoods, sports, religious and civic associations. To the degree that the police-state has ‘fenced in’ the inner circles of the pro-democracy activists, they have attained a free hand and uncontested reach in deepening and extending the boundaries of the authoritarian state. To the degree that the police state rationale or presence has penetrated the consciousness of the mass of the US population, it has created a mighty barrier to the linking of private discontent with public action.[...]Ideologically, the police state depends on identifying the expansion of police powers with ‘national security’ of the passive ‘silent’ majority, even as it creates profound insecurity for an active, critical minority. The self-serving identification of the ‘nation’ and the ‘flag’ with the police state apparatus is especially prominent during ‘mass spectacles’ where ‘rock’, schlock and ‘sports’ infuse mass entertainment with solemn Pledges of Allegiance to uphold and respect the police state and busty be-wigged young women wail nasally versions of the national anthem to thunderous applause. Wounded ‘warriors’ are trotted out and soldiers rigid in their dress uniforms salute enormous flags, while the message transmitted is that police state at home works hand in hand with our ‘men and women in uniform’ abroad. The police state is presented as a patriotic extension of the wars abroad and as such both impose ‘necessary’ constraints on citizen opposition, public criticism and any real forthright defense of freedom.
[Consider] the years-long screeching over President Bush’s mere eavesdropping and detentions without any judicial review or transparency — he’s assaulting the Constitution and Our Values! – compared with the reaction to Obama’s more extremist assassinations without any judicial review or transparency. Or consider how a high-level aide to John Ashcroft marveled with envy over Obama’s ability to prosecute whistleblowers with such abandon, noting to The New York Times that the Ashcroft DOJ was deterred by the prospect of a political storm that Obama simply does not face: ”We,” lamented the Ashcroft aide, “would have gotten hammered for it.”
This was the same dynamic that led former Bush OLC official and current Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith to explain quite presciently (and celebratorily) back in May, 2009, that Obama — by leading progressives and Democrats to support his embrace of Bush/Cheney Terrorism and civil liberties policies — was doing more to entrench those once-controversial policies as bipartisan consensus than Bush and Cheney themselves could ever have dreamt of doing:
The new administration has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit. Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric. . . .[...]
. . . Obama — as he has proven — can get away with far more aggression and belligerence by all but eliminating the pervasive political conflict that arises when done under a Republican President.
The California Democrat is both the prime enemy of leaks and "one of the biggest leakers in Congress"[...]
That the powerful Senator who has devoted herself to criminally punishing low-level leakers and increasing the wall of secrecy is herself “one of the biggest leakers in Congress” is about as perfect an expression as it gets of how the rule of law and secrecy powers are sleazily exploited in Washington . . . Dianne Feinstein should be criminally prosecuted for espionage and threatened with decades in prison (indeed, as an American citizen and government employee, she certainly has greater legal duties not to leak than does, say, private Australian citizen Julian Assange, whose espionage prosecution she is demanding).But as Democrats are very fond of pointing out these days — as they did, very fairly, when Mitt and Ann Romney recently took angry offense at the notion that they should disclose more than two years of their tax returns (“Dear me, it appears that Lady Romney has lost her patience with the riff raff and their unseemly questioning about money”) – our nation’s oligarchs believe at their core that they are entitled, by all notions of what they believe to be basic fairness, to be exempt from the rules they impose on everyone else. That is Dianne Feinstein at her core. It’s how she can be both Prime Enemy of leaks and “one of the biggest leakers in Congress” without having her brain even recognize, let alone recoil from and revolt against, this most grotesque of aristocratic privileges.
[T]he senior Democratic Senator from California and Intelligence Committee Chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, who also serves as the National Security State’s most faithful servant (a National Security State which, just by the way, has greatly enriched her extremely rich military contractor husband, Richard Blum; Feinstein herself reported a net worth of $80 million back in 2006).
We live in an era of defective government.
This corruption is not an accident. It is the product of years of very patient work. It has been brought about through expensive lobbying, relentless propaganda, agnotology. You can see it in this election cycle, where 196 Americans — 0.000063% of the population — have given more than 80% of Super PAC dollars.
Is it democracy or plutocracy when less than 200 people drive election spending in a nation of 300 million?
Previously, we have pointed out how brazen the lobbying has been to actually cut the SEC enforcement budget. This has created an agency that is defective by design. Take a guess who loses in the battle between you, the individual taxpayer versus the corporation.
Wall Street has taken advantage of the crisis and morphed into a cartel. The tragedy is the only entity that is large and powerful enough to offset their wealth and power are national governments. Yet where ever we look, we see that government has been corrupted and rendered neutered by corporations:
-The Federal Reserve Zero Interest Rate policy is a balm to banks whose balance sheets still have so much bad real estate exposure that higher rates will cause corporate bankruptcy;
-The SEC brings minor insider trading cases while enormous financial crimes go unpunished;
-The Supreme Court has granted natural rights to corporations — rights previously reserved for living and breathing Human Beings;
-The CFTC no longer does the sort of daily audits that can prevent fraud like MF Global and PeregrineFG;-The US Attorney’s office has been captured by the Treasury department, which in turn was captured by large Banks long ago;
-Laws that used to be written by Congressional staffers and academics are now drafted by the regulated industry itself;
-The Attorneys General offices of the states are too timid to sue these same banks for obvious perjury;-Tax loopholes allow wealthy companies to pay very little taxes relative to profits;
-Copyrights that should be in the public domain are retained by companies who have changed intellectual property laws by corrupting legislators.
-The Minerals Management Service (MMS) gives away oil leases and mineral rights for pennies on the dollar.-Money has somehow been equated to speech, turning the idea of “One Person, One vote” on its head.To function properly, all of these agencies need budgets, a career path for a motivated staff. Yet most of that has been gutted.
Take a look at Neil Barofsky’s book Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street. He describes a Federal prosecutorial system that has been systematically disassembled. There are few career lawyers with the know how, budget and balls to go after the big fish. There is little institutional memory.
We see this throughout government, a product of even a debate that has been corrupted. The framework is not “How can me make government more effective, efficient responsive?“ Instead, the debate has degenerated into “How can we get government out of the way? How can we make taxes lower?”
Its not that I want big government, I want effective regulations. Its not that I want to pay higher taxes, I want efficient government that can accomplish things. I don’t want to live in a corporatocracy, I want to live in a nation where there is a Rule of Law.
The only way to make this happen is to change the campaign finance laws. Without that, we are a plutocracy governed by lobbyists.
Hence: Its the bankers world, we just live in it . . .
Last week, the Obama administration imposed new arbitrary rules for Guantanamo detainees who have lost their first habeas corpus challenge. Those new rules eliminate the right of lawyers to visit their clients at the detention facility; the old rules establishing that right were in place since 2004, and were bolstered by the Supreme Court’s 2008 Boumediene ruling that detainees were entitled to a “meaningful” opportunity to contest the legality of their detention. The DOJ recently informed a lawyer for a Yemeni detainee, Yasein Khasem Mohammad Esmail, that he would be barred from visiting his client unless he agreed to a new regime of restrictive rules, including acknowledging that such visits are within the sole discretion of the camp’s military commander.
The New York Times Editorial Page today denounced these new rules as “spiteful,” cited it as “the Obama administration’s latest overuse of executive authority,” and said “the administration looks as if it is imperiously punishing detainees for their temerity in bringing legal challenges to their detention and losing.” Detainee lawyers are refusing to submit to these new rules and are asking a federal court to rule that they violate the detainees’ right to legal counsel.
When the President finally unveiled his plan for “closing Guantanamo,” it became clear that it wasn’t a plan to “close” the camp as much as it was a plan simply to re-locate it — import it — onto American soil, at a newly purchased federal prison in Thompson, Illinois. William Lynn, Obama’s Deputy Defense Secretary, sent a letter to inquiring Senators that expressly stated that the Obama administration intended to continue indefinitely to imprison some of the detainees with no charges of any kind. The plan was classic Obama: a pretty, feel-good, empty symbolic gesture (get rid of the symbolic face of Bush War on Terror excesses) while preserving the core abuses (the powers of indefinite detention ), even strengthening and expanding those abuses by bringing them into the U.S.
In fact, Obama’s “close GITMO” plan — if it had been adopted by Congress — would have done something worse than merely continue the camp’s defining injustice of indefinite detention. It would likely have expanded those powers by importing them into the U.S.
Now, here we are, almost four years after the vow to close Guantanamo was enshrined in an Executive Order, and the rights of detainees — including the basic right to legal counsel — are being constricted further, in plainly vindictive ways. Conditions at Guantanamo are undoubtedly better than they were in 2003, and some of the deficiencies in military commissions (for the few who appear before them) have been redressed. But the real stain of Guantanamo — keeping people locked up in cages for years with no charges — endures. And contrary to the blatant myth propagated by Obama defenders, that has happened not because Obama tried but failed to eliminate it, but precisely because he embraced it as his own policy from the start.
A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network.
James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer.
He shows that at least £13tn – perhaps up to £20tn – has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, "protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy". According to Henry's research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than £4tn in 2010, a sharp rise from £1.5tn five years earlier.
The detailed analysis in the report, compiled using data from a range of sources, including the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund, suggests that for many developing countries the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world.
Oil-rich states with an internationally mobile elite have been especially prone to watching their wealth disappear into offshore bank accounts instead of being invested at home, the research suggests. Once the returns on investing the hidden assets is included, almost £500bn has left Russia since the early 1990s when its economy was opened up. Saudi Arabia has seen £197bn flood out since the mid-1970s, and Nigeria £196bn.
"The problem here is that the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments," the report says.
The sheer size of the cash pile sitting out of reach of tax authorities is so great that it suggests standard measures of inequality radically underestimate the true gap between rich and poor. According to Henry's calculations, £6.3tn of assets is owned by only 92,000 people, or 0.001% of the world's population – a tiny class of the mega-rich who have more in common with each other than those at the bottom of the income scale in their own societies.
"These estimates reveal a staggering failure: inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people," said John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. "People on the street have no illusions about how unfair the situation has become."
Journalist and activist Chris Hedges appeared Friday on Moyers & Company to talk about the conclusions of his latest book. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is dedicated to investigating the most exploited and impoverished places in America, places that he says are “virtually off the radar screen in terms of the commercial media.”
“It’s absolutely imperative that we begin to understand what unfettered, unregulated capitalism does,” Hedges emphasized. “These are sacrifice zones, areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. And we’re talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed. And because there are no impediments left, these sacrifice zones are just going to spread outward.”
When Moyers asked Hedges what he meant by saying there are no impediments left, he explained, “The political system is bought off, the judicial system is bought off, the law enforcement system services the interests of power, they have been rendered powerless.” Even worse, Hedges believes these devastated communities represent the future for all of us.
Hedges was particularly eloquent in describing the coal-mining areas of West Virginia, which “in terms of national resources is one of the richest areas of the United States [but] harbor the poorest pockets of community, the poorest communities in the United States. Because those resources are extracted, and that money is not funneled back into the communities.”
“These corporations know only one word, and that’s more,” Hedges went on. “And because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from the creating, essentially, a corporate oligarchic state.”
“We have become complicit,” he noted sadly, “because we’ve accepted this as a kind of natural law. And the acceptance of this kind of behavior, and even the celebration of it is going to ultimately trigger our demise.”