Daily Archive: 06/19/2014

Jun 19 2014

Too Big To Fail Banks Are Getting Bigger

Last week the city of Miami sued JP Morgan Chase for its predatory lending practices in Miami’e minority neighborhoods that caused a wave of foreclosures resulting in blight and high crime in those areas

There has been no criminal prosecution of these banking behemoths by the Department of Justice, not because of lack of evidence but because Attorney General Eric Holder refused to bring those charges. Instead Holder has negotiated with the banks and, in the case of JPMorgan, directly with the CEO’s, imposing large fines that most of these banks recoup in hours. We know that the Obama administration is top heavy with former Wall Street and banking executives from Obama’s Treasury Department, to the Department of Commerce down to his latest appointment Thomas Wheeler, as chair of the Federal Communications Commission. Why has this been allowed? Why haven’t the regulations and reforms been enacted? Why no prosecutions? One word answer: Congress. As PBS’s [Bill Moyer notes Congress is their secret weapon

These finance executives took part in “scandals that violate the most basic ethical norms,” as the head of the IMF Christine Lagarde put it last month, including illegal foreclosures, money laundering and the fixing of interest rate benchmarks. In fact, banking CEOs not only avoided prosecution but got average pay rises of 10 percent last year, taking home, on average, $13 million in compensation.

  These “gentlemen” are among the leaders of the industry’s efforts to repeal, or water down, some of the tougher rules and regulations enacted in the Dodd-Frank legislation that was passed to prevent another crash. As usual, they’re swelling their ranks with the very people who helped to write that bill. More than two dozen federal officials have pushed through the revolving door to the private sector they once sought to regulate.

   And then there are the lapdogs in Congress willfully collaborating with the financial industry. As the Center for Public Integrity put it recently, they are “Wall Street’s secret weapon,” a handful of representatives at the beck and call of the banks, eager to do their bidding. Jeb Hensarling is their head honcho. The Republican from Texas chairs the House Financial Services Committee, which functions for Wall Street like one of those no-tell motels with the neon sign. Hensarling makes no bones as to where his loyalties lie. “Occasionally we have been accused of trying to undermine aspects of Dodd-Frank,” he said recently, adding, with a chuckle, “I hope we’re guilty of it.” Guilty as charged, Congressman. And it tells us all we need to know about our bought and paid for government that you think it’s funny.

Mr. Moyers was joined by economist Anat Admati, co-author of the book, The Bankers’ New Clothes, to discuss the bipartisan effort to defang Dodd-Frank and let these Too Big To Fail banks get even bigger.

Wall Street banks are lobbying to defang sections of the law related to derivatives – the complex financial contracts at the core of the meltdown. One deregulation bill, the “London Whale Loophole Act,” would allow American banks to skip Dodd-Frank’s trading rules on derivatives if they are traded in countries that have similar regulatory structures.



Full transcript can be read here

Jun 19 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Robert Sheer: Up Close and Personal With George W. Bush’s Horrifying Legacy

The Iraq disaster remains George W. Bush’s enduring folly, and the Republican attempt to shift the blame to the Obama presidency is obscene nonsense. This was, and will always be, viewed properly as Bush’s quagmire, a murderous killing field based on blatant lies.

This showcase of American deceit, obvious to the entire world, began with the invented weapons of mass destruction threat that Bush, were he even semi-cognizant of the intelligence data, must have known represented an egregious fraud. So was his nonsensical claim that Saddam Hussein had something to do with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, when in fact he was Osama bin Laden’s most effective Arab opponent.

The New York Times Editorial Board: Slurs Don’t Deserve Trademark Protection

Will the Washington Redskins Change Its Name Now?

There is no question that the term “redskin” has been used as a racial slur for American Indians for hundreds of years and is on par with offensive terms used to denigrate blacks and Hispanics. And it is also clear that federal law prohibits the Patent and Trademark Office from registering trademarks that disparage people or bring them “into contempt, or disrepute.”

That is why the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board was right in ruling on Wednesday that six trademarks granted to the owners of the Washington Redskins football team should be canceled because the name is disparaging to many American Indians. [..]

There is little anybody can do legally to force Mr. Snyder and National Football League to change the team name. But they should realize that even if they successfully challenge the trademark board’s decision, using a term that so clearly offends so many people undermines the value of the team and the league.

Chris Weigant: Biden Was Right

Vice President Joe Biden was right. Let’s begin with that.

Biden, back in 2006, was the leading proponent (together with Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations) of a scheme to divide Iraq into three largely autonomous states: a “Kurdistan” in the north, and a region each for the Sunnis and Shi’ites. This plan was, needless to say, not adopted. Instead, America bet on the political prowess of prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, who was going to form a “reconciliation” government which would give all three groups a share of governmental responsibility in a power-sharing coalition government. This, as it turns out, was a bad bet. If America had forced the Biden plan on Iraq back then, we might be in a radically different place than we find ourselves now.

Or maybe not. It is absolutely impossible to predict the future, especially in the Middle East. Nobody can really say what will happen (or what would have happened) with any degree of certainty. But it’s pretty easy to see now that what may be next for Iraq is a de facto implementation of Biden’s original plan. The violence which is happening now might have been largely avoided, if the division of Iraq had happened when America still had an overwhelming military presence in the country (say, back in 2006). The Sunni section might have had the time to build up its own governmental and security services, which might have precluded the militant takeover which is happening now. I realize that’s a lot of “mights” and “maybes,” but that’s about as good as you can get in making Middle East predictions, as I mentioned. All you can definitively say is that the chances for a much better outcome would have been higher. Which is, in and of itself, enough to now say that Biden was right.

Amy Goodman: Heed the Voices For Peace Amid the Tragedy of Iraq

It didn’t take long this week for the architects of the disastrous U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq to apply their makeup and jump before the cable news television cameras. The militia group known as ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has swept across Iraq, conquering city after city and stopping short of Baghdad in what has been described as a “lightning advance,” summarily executing people in its wake. ISIS emerged from the festering civil war in Syria, and has exploited the instability in that country, along with the weak and famously corrupt central Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. With just several thousand armed troops, ISIS has managed to rout the Iraqi army with its hundreds of thousands of soldiers trained and equipped by the U.S. occupying forces at U.S. taxpayer expense.

Cronies of George W. Bush, like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol and Paul Bremer, have been given airtime on the networks and space in the opinion pages to lambast President Barack Obama for the current crisis in Iraq. These pundits and politicians are no less wrong today than they were when selling the Iraq War back in 2003.

Noel Ortega: What Piketty Forgot: The Crisis of Capitalism Isn’t Just about Inequality

It’s not just about the distance between rich and poor, but about the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.

By now, it’s no secret that French economist Thomas Piketty is one of the world’s leading experts on inequality. His exhaustive, improbably popular opus of economic history-the 700-page Capital in the Twenty-First Century-sat atop the New York Times bestseller list for weeks. Some have called it the most important study of inequality in over 50 years.

Piketty is hardly the first scholar to tackle the linkage of capitalism with inequality. What sets him apart is his relentlessly empirical approach to the subject and his access to never before used data-tax and estate records-that elegantly demonstrates the growing trends of income and wealth inequality. The database he has compiled spans 300 years in 20 different countries.

Exactingly empirical and deeply multidisciplinary, Capital is an extremely important contribution to the study of economics and inequality over the last few centuries. But because it fails to address the real limits on growth-namely our ecological crisis-it can’t be a roadmap for the next.

Robert Reich: How America’s Real Business Leaders Want to Save Capitalism

A few weeks ago I was visited in my office by the chairman of one of the country’s biggest high-tech firms who wanted to talk about the causes and consequences of widening inequality and the shrinking middle class, and what to do about it.

I asked him why he was concerned. “Because the American middle class is the core of our customer base,” he said. “If they can’t afford our products in the years ahead, we’re in deep trouble.”

I’m hearing the same refrain from a growing number of business leaders.

They see an economic recovery that’s bypassing most Americans. Median hourly and weekly pay dropped over the past year, adjusted for inflation. [..]

These business leaders know the U.S. economy can’t get out of first gear as long as wages are declining. And their own businesses can’t succeed over the long term without a buoyant and growing middle class.

They also recognize a second danger.

Jun 19 2014

The Breakfast Club

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Breakfast Tunes

Jun 19 2014

The War That Never Ends

Obama to Congress: I don’t need new permission on Iraq

I’ll let you know what’s going on, but I don’t need new congressional authority to act, President Barack Obama told congressional leaders Wednesday about his upcoming decision on possible military intervention in Iraq.

SNIP

While the White House statement emphasized Obama would continue to consult with Congress, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the President “basically just briefed us on the situation in Iraq and indicated he didn’t feel he had any need for authority from us for the steps that he might take.”

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California agreed with McConnell’s assessment, adding she believed congressional authorization for military force in Iraq back in 2001 and 2003 still applied.



Jun 19 2014

On This Day In History June 19

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 19 is the 170th day of the year (171st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 195 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is approved after surviving an 83-day filibuster in the United States Senate.

Passage in the Senate

(President Lyndon B.) Johnson, who wanted the bill passed as soon as possible, ensured that the bill would be quickly considered by the Senate. Normally, the bill would have been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator James O. Eastland , Democrat from Mississippi. Given Eastland’s firm opposition, it seemed impossible that the bill would reach the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield took a novel approach to prevent the bill from being relegated to Judiciary Committee limbo. Having initially waived a second reading of the bill, which would have led to it being immediately referred to Judiciary, Mansfield gave the bill a second reading on February 26, 1964, and then proposed, in the absence of precedent for instances when a second reading did not immediately follow the first, that the bill bypass the Judiciary Committee and immediately be sent to the Senate floor for debate. Although this parliamentary move led to a filibuster, the senators eventually let it pass, preferring to concentrate their resistance on passage of the bill itself.

The bill came before the full Senate for debate on March 30, 1964 and the “Southern Bloc” of 18 southern Democratic Senators and one Republican Senator led by Richard Russell (D-GA) launched a filibuster to prevent its passage. Said Russell: “We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our (Southern) states.”

The most fervent opposition to the bill came from Senator Strom Thurmond (D-SC): “This so-called Civil Rights Proposals, which the President has sent to Capitol Hill for enactment into law, are unconstitutional, unnecessary, unwise and extend beyond the realm of reason. This is the worst civil-rights package ever presented to the Congress and is reminiscent of the Reconstruction proposals and actions of the radical Republican Congress.”

After 54 days of filibuster, Senators Everett Dirksen (R-IL), Thomas Kuchel (R-CA), Hubert Humphrey (D-MN), and Mike Mansfield (D-MT) introduced a substitute bill that they hoped would attract enough Republican swing votes to end the filibuster. The compromise bill was weaker than the House version in regard to government power to regulate the conduct of private business, but it was not so weak as to cause the House to reconsider the legislation.

On the morning of June 10, 1964, Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) completed a filibustering address that he had begun 14 hours and 13 minutes earlier opposing the legislation. Until then, the measure had occupied the Senate for 57 working days, including six Saturdays. A day earlier, Democratic Whip Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, the bill’s manager, concluded he had the 67 votes required at that time to end the debate and end the filibuster. With six wavering senators providing a four-vote victory margin, the final tally stood at 71 to 29. Never in history had the Senate been able to muster enough votes to cut off a filibuster on a civil rights bill. And only once in the 37 years since 1927 had it agreed to cloture for any measure.

On June 19, the substitute (compromise) bill passed the Senate by a vote of 71-29, and quickly passed through the House-Senate conference committee, which adopted the Senate version of the bill. The conference bill was passed by both houses of Congress, and was signed into law by President Johnson on July 2, 1964.

Jun 19 2014

TDS/TCR (The Next Zuckerberg)

TDS TCR

Repair Texas

The WØRD

Although my eyes were open

They might just as well’ve been closed

The real news below.