Jun 27, 2008
Throughout the presidential primaries, while politicians amassed millions from both corporate and private sources, how many times did you hear the sub-prime lending disaster discussed?
Over a million homeowners, most of them Black or brown, faced foreclosures and the loss of their most valuable financial asset, and most politicians passed over it in relative silence, while they begged or lied for votes.
How can this be, unless they, like most pols, were the paid for property of corporations?
When the sub-prime mess hit, in a matter of hours, the Federal Reserve Board's head, Ben Bernanke, slipped $200 billion in government guarantees to keep the mortgage loan industry afloat. Thus, the U.S. government used its power to back the banks' hustling of what were essentially junk bonds.
A fifth of a trillion bucks to back those who ripped off a million people with loans designed to fail; and for those who got ripped off, nothing.
Indeed, the only politician who was attacking this practice was New York's former Attorney General (and later Governor), Eliot Spitzer. But once caught in the web of a hooker's scandal, this threat melted away into mist.
These sub-prime loans, saddled with balloon-like expanded repayment rates, were designed to fail (at least for the borrowers), and these legalized hustles were steered at an astonishing rate, at 73% of high-income African-Americans and Hispanic families. Among white high-income homeowners, only 17% were recipients of sub-primes. Should we chalk this up to coincidence?
This Greed Riot has sent shivers throughout the economy, not just in America, but overseas as well, because foreign companies and governments invested in these junk mortgage bonds.
The foreclosure crisis has slowed housing construction; loans are almost impossible to get, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates banks and investors will lose $1 trillion.
But for nearly a million families their losses will be infinitely greater. They lose their dreams, their homes, and perhaps their very families. How many divorces have been spawned by these foreclosures? How many families have been split asunder? How many suicides?
These things do not fall on the cold pages of a business ledger.
These non economic losses can be traced to pure, unmitigated greed of bankers, investment houses, and the willing blindness of a government addicted to deregulation.
(c) '08 maj
Jun 22, 2008
There is an adage in Anglo-American law that says, "The King can do no wrong," a reflection of the power of kings stemming from the conquest of Britain by William the Conqueror in 1066.
It remains in American law under the doctrine called sovereign immunity, which protects the government from suit by its citizens.
But beyond the law there is the practice of politicians of bowing to the power of the president, no matter what he (or someday, she) does.
There is no question that Richard Nixon broke laws during the Watergate scandal. Nor is there serious question that Ronald Reagan violated the Boland Amendment, which outlawed aid to the contras in Nicaragua.
When the present Bush administration wiretapped the phone calls of Americans it violated the F.I.S.A. (or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) law, which required secret court orders to proceed.
Yet, in none of these cases were presidents charged for violating the laws. Indeed, when Nixon was threatened with impeachment, his handpicked successor, Gerald Ford, issued a pardon before any charges were even made!
There's an important lesson here, in that the presidents known as the toughest on crime, didn't want that toughness when it came to their crimes.
Historians have demonstrated that high ranking congressmen worked out a nice, neat deal with Nixon, sparing him the embarrassment of impeachment if he resigned.
Centuries after a revolution, in the name of democracy , and it's still 'the king can do no wrong.' Or as Richard Nixon put it, "When the President does it, that makes it legal."
Clearly, if George W. Bush has studied anything, it's Nixon.
From secret prisons to legalized torture; from renditions abroad to wiretaps at home; from illegal wars to ruinous occupations, crimes - as in violations of both U.S. and International laws - have become presidential prerogatives.
And Congress has become legislative enablers, by not only taking impeachment off the table, but by rewriting laws to make crimes legal, and also granting retroactive immunity to those corporate criminals which aided and abetted the White House in its crime sprees.
When the White House urged companies to quietly violate FISA by spying on Americans' communications, both sides knew the law was being violated. If this involved poor folks, conspiracy charges would've been leveled, and the conspirators would've been cast into prison.
But in the recent FISA amendments, a majority of the members of the House voted to grant immunity to phone companies.
How would you like that kind of juice?
Well, you can't have it. You'd have to be a multi-million (or billion) dollar corporation...or a president.
6/21/08] (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Jun 19, 2008
As millions ready themselves for the general elections in November, it takes some effort to summon up the elections of 2 years ago.
In 2006, mid-term elections brought dramatic change to the Congress, and seemed to presage a change in the nation's direction as well.
Those mid-terms centered around the public's demand and hunger for an end to the Iraq war and illegal occupation, and was an electoral expression of that deep national discontent.
Well, it's been two years now, and the Congress has just voted another $165 billion (that's right, with a b) to fund the Iraq war.
It's been two years - and the Iraq mess is still a scar on the national psyche.
It's now become the property of both major political parties -Democrats and Republicans.
It's the very nature of politics that politicians regularly betray the interests of those who have voted for them.
They'll take the votes, yes: but they don't answer to the people. As the saying goes, 'They answer to a higher power' - the military industrial complex.
If we think back to the primaries, candidates of both parties who ran on genuine anti-war platforms had to contend with waves of media ridicule. Think about how the corporate media treated either Dennis Kucinich (D. OH), or Ron Paul (R. TX), or former congressman, Mike Gravel.
All were depicted as little better than boobs, objects of an occasional sidebar, but never seriously presented as candidates of 'presidential timber.'
And, as Marshall McLuhan (1991-1980) said, 'the medium is the message.'
The media, hired guns for their corporate bosses, served their interest by coverage which slanted the perceptions of millions, that only those they thought electable were 'serious' candidates.
'Only so-and-so can raise enough money', most reporters opined, selling candidates as surely as they sold soap.
These processes have produced the very hour we now live in; a time of peril and disaster.
What kind of democracy can such a process engender?
And now, 1/2 year from another election, we will hear a plethora of promises, spun with the best commercials that money can buy.
We will march into the booth, our eyes shiny with anticipation.
In a matter of months, or years, we will look back at the ashes of promises aborted, and wonder how we keep doing it again, and again, and again.
6/19/08 (c) '08 maj
Jun 14, 2008
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Jun 14, 2008
As the price of gasoline soars, Americans are forced to think in ways that they haven't in generations: to drive, or not to drive?
Do they park the car and opt for public transportation?
Or do they try to sell the ole gas guzzler (better known as SUVs) for a tiny foreign import?
For most of the latter 20th century, a car was seen as an American right, more sacred than freedom of the press, for while many may've felt that the functions of a free press was problematic, the freedom to drive (with relatively cheap gas) was part of the national psyche.
For 50 years suburbs sprang up in the hinterlands of major American cities -- white rings around blacker and bleaker urban centers. Those mass migrations were made possible by the car, and affordable gas.
Those days are fast receding into yesteryear as gas prices break records almost daily.
And despite the sound and fury echoing from the nation's Capitol, or various presidential campaigns, the simple truth is that U.S. politicians have little impact on this phenomenon.
That's because oil is an international resource, affected by global economic and political forces beyond American control. It's also true that the toxic tensions released by the Iraq war have destabilized the region so much that a mere rumor can send prices spiking, feeding speculation, which profits from his cycle.
In 2003, before bombing even began over Baghdad, oil was selling at nearly $30 a barrel.
It's now over $135 a barrel.
More than a natural resource, oil has become a financial asset in itself, like stocks, bonds, real estate or gold. And like many assets, as long as it appreciates in value it will attract speculators who trade in oil futures, and in the absence of any real regulation, will push the price as far as the market will bear (and, after all, isn't that what a 'free market' means?).
One industry observer, Daniel Yergin, of the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, noted, "People are hedging against a falling dollar by buying oil and that hits the price. The most important thing that could be done would be for the dollar to rebound. And that is nothing you can legislate. " * Moreover, some industry experts have written that speculation hikes prices from 20 to 40%! That means that the price of a barrel of oil is really closer to $54 than $135, and thus that the price per gallon should be closer to $2.70!
So, the next time you coast into a gas station, and your jaw tightens as you notice the latest gas prices, remember why. That price was spiked by the twin forces of the Iraq war, and the government policy of deregulation.
Those who expect politicians to ease this problem are dreaming, as shown by the rejection of a recent bill seeking a windfall profits tax on oil companies in the Senate.
Exxon, for example, made more money in the last several quarters than any corporation in the history of business. Will the politicians who accepted millions from the likes of them choke this golden goose?
I think not.
So, get angry at the goof who just cut you off, or stole your parking space. Get angry at the car full of boys who are banging the bass so loudly the highway is bouncing.
Get angry at everybody, except the system that made this situation inevitable.
--(c) '08 maj
[*Source: Mouawad, Jad, "Oil Prices Are Up and Politicians Are Angry, Yawn.," New York Times, May 11, 2008, Sun., p.2 (Week in Review section). ]