Posts Tagged ‘money’

ATTACK WALL STREET

April 16, 2010

Attack Wall Street, Not Social Security by Dean Baker April 13, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

Suppose our top generals described the growing threat from a hostile Middle East power. The country has tens of billions of oil dollars, a growing army, chemical and biological weapons, and is in the process of developing nuclear weapons. After carefully describing the risks posed by this country, our generals suggested an immediate attack on Canada. They explain that combating this Middle East country would be difficult, but defeating Canada is easy.

This is essentially the story of the latest attack on social security. Everyone who looks at the projections agrees; the scary budget stories being hyped in the media and by the Wall Street crew are driven almost entirely by projections of exploding healthcare costs. But instead of proposing ways to fix the healthcare system, these deficit hawks want to attack social security. They tell us that fixing healthcare is hard. By contrast they think that cutting money from social security will be relatively easy.The facts on this are straightforward and known by everyone involved in the budget debate. The US healthcare system is broken. We pay more than twice as much per person as the average for other wealthy countries.

The long-term problem is not that anything improper has been done with the programme; the reason that social security is projected to eventually face a shortfall is that future generations are projected to live longer than we do. This raises costs since our children and grandchildren are projected to enjoy longer retirements than we do. In short, there is no story of generational inequity here, contrary to what the Wall Street deficit hawks say.

If our deficit hawk generals are too scared to take on the healthcare industry then we also have to also make them too scared to take on social security. If we need to reduce the deficit the best place to start is a financial speculation tax. A modest set of financial transactions taxes, like the 0.5% tax on stock trades in the United Kingdom, can easily raise $150bn a year. This would go a long way toward addressing future budget shortfalls and it would raise money from people who can afford it: the Wall Street crew whose financial shenanigans led to the meltdown. Federal Reserve board chairman Ben Bernanke recently suggested cutting social security because: “that’s where the money is“. That’s not true, the real money is on Wall Street. Let’s go get it. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/04/13-2

Big Banks Rebel Against Push to Help Struggling Homeowners by James R. Hagerty April 13, 2010 by The Wall Street Journal

Some big U.S. banks are pushing back against the idea that they should slash mortgage balances for millions of troubled borrowers.

In written testimony prepared for a hearing in Washington Tuesday of the House Financial Services Committee, some of the nation’s top mortgage lenders warned of the risks of relying heavily on forgiving principal as a means of averting foreclosures

That may set up a clash with Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the committee, and other lawmakers eager for more aggressive action to prevent foreclosures. In a letter last month to four big banks, Rep. Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, argued that “to save homes on a large scale, we must move past temporary modifications in interest rates or terms and focus on permanent principal reductions that result in truly sustainable mortgages.”and argued for concentrating mainly on other methods, such as reducing interest rates.

The Obama administration recently announced plans to put somewhat more emphasis on reducing principal in its foreclosure-prevention program.

To write down loans enough to bring those debts down to no more than the home values would cost $700 billion to $900 billion, J.P. Morgan Chase estimated in its testimony. That would include costs of $150 billion to the Federal Housing Administration and government-controlled mortgage investors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bank said.

J.P. Morgan also said broad-based principal reductions could raise costs for borrowers if mortgage investors demand more interest to compensate for that risk. Borrowers probably would have to increase down payments, and credit standards would tighten further, the bank said.

Wells Fargo said principal forgiveness “is not an across-the-board solution” and “needs to be used in a very careful manner.” Bank of America said that it supports principal reductions for some customers whose debts are high in relation to their home values and who face financial hardships but that “solutions must balance the interests of the customer and the (mortgage) investor.”  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/04/13

Obama’s Efforts to Foster Harmony on Wall St Reform Erupt into Warfare by Giles Whittell April 15, 2010 by TimesOnline/UK

America’s most powerful politicians met at the White House yesterday for the start of a six-week battle in which both main parties will fight for the right to claim that they are taming Wall Street’s wildest excesses and safeguarding a resurgent US economy.

Emboldened by continuing popular disgust over the big banks’ role in the worst US recession since the 1930s, President Obama invited Republican leaders to what was billed as a cordial bipartisan discussion of financial regulatory reform.

It was anything but. In an hour-long meeting that appears to have deepened party divisions over the future of the economy, Mr Obama attacked his Republican guests for their closeness to Wall Street lobbyists, demanded a complete overhaul of the risky derivatives markets that led to the brink of a financial meltdown two years ago and accused Republicans of a “campaign of misinformation” about his reforms.

In open defiance of Mr Obama’s call for cross-party backing for the Senate finance Bill, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, denounced the Bill minutes after the White House meeting as a recipe for institutionalising the bank bailouts of 2008. The $85 billion (£50 billion) rescue of the AIG insurance giant in particular has become a reviled symbol of taxpayer-funded indulgence of Wall Street irresponsibility.

This is the first serious test of Mr Obama’s ability to sway Congress since senior Republicans, including Senator John McCain, vowed to block every item on his domestic agenda after their defeat on healthcare.

Democrats still fear that victory may cost them dearly at the midterm elections but they are confident that when it comes to reining in Wall Street they will have the public behind them.

“This ought to be a bipartisan Bill and I think in the end it will be,” Mr Goolsbee said.

The White House is calculating that Republicans who choose to remain opposed to the most sweeping Wall Street reforms in several generations will risk being punished by voters for appearing to support irresponsible bankers at the expense of Main Street. Senator McConnell and others had a private meeting in New York this week with hedge fund managers and their lobbyists. Democrats have since gleefully accused him of parroting Wall Street’s talking points. On yesterday’s evidence, he may have to find some new ones. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/04/15

Climate Bill Would Curb EPA by Lisa Lerer April 14, 2010 by Politico.com

Efforts to limit the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases has emerged as a major battleground in the climate debate, as three key senators move toward releasing the first draft of their revamped climate bill.

Recent drafts of the legislation would hobble the EPA by limiting the agency’s regulatory powers under the Clean Air Act, according to lawmakers and lobbyists familiar with the bill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who’s crafting the climate bill with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), says the provision is necessary to win business backing for the bill.

“I wouldn’t support EPA regulation on top of congressional action, and I couldn’t support 50 states coming up with their own standards,” he said. “That’s one thing business legitimately needs.”

In response to concerns voiced by moderate Democrats, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that she expects the agency to weaken its proposed pollution standards and delay implementation of the new rules until 2011.

But Jackson also urged lawmakers to focus on passing a climate bill instead of on stopping the agency.

“We are not going to be regulating this calendar year, and I really think it would be wonderful if the energy of the Senate on this issue would be put to new legislation to do something,” she said. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/04/14-2

GOLD!

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HOLY GRAIL, BABOON HEART

July 10, 2009
Pastiche Der Nibelungen.

Pastiche Der Nibelungen.

Ammunition for discussions, harangues and loud debates

BEYOND DAN BROWN: The DeVinci Load. The so-called Holy Grail is the object of legendary quest for Arthurian knights and may be a “wide-mouthed or shallow vessel,” although its precise etymology (in the true literal sense of the word) remains uncertain, and small wonder. The Grail was probably inspired by classical or Celtic mythologies, which abound in horns of plenty, magic life-restoring caldrons, and the like. In Finland, the pre-Christian Kalevala features the sampo, which might be a pillar that holds up the sky, or a mill to produce salt, meal and gold, or a talisman of happiness and prosperity. Take your pick.

The first extant text (or more aptly invention) about the Grail is Chrétien de Troyes’ late 12th century unfinished romance Parceval or Le Conte du Graal, which combined the religious with the fantastic. In the 13th century Robert de Borron’s poem extended the Christian significance of the legend, linking the Grail with Christ’s cup at the Last Supper and with Joseph of Aramea whom he said used it to catch Jesus’ blood as he hung on the cross. In the same century, Wolfram von Esenbach’s Parzival* gave the Grail profound and mystical expression as a precious stone fallen from Heaven (sampo, anyone?). Malory’s late 15th century Le Morte D’Arthur transmitted the fanciful Grail essence to English-speaking readers.

In the story-telling invention, the quest itself became a search for mystical union with God. Through various permutations by many different writers over several hundreds of years, the Grail theme formed a culminating point for the Arthurian romance. It’s a good story device; it doesn’t really matter what it really is, as long as it stands for truth, justice and the “right” way. Its physical presence is just like the True Cross, Longinus’ Spear, St. Michael’s pickled peritoneum, or any other “holy” relic: e.g. entrepreneurs started fabricating bits of the true cross as soon as they noticed a market for it – in fact, selling bits and pieces obviously would part the cross out, so they invented the miracle of overnight renewal; as we’ve seen from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the DeVinci Code, and Newsweek, people are still making big bucks selling new baubles to hang on the old artificial tree, which is patently, the Grail’s only real value. When you get right down to it, it’s buying a box of air, isn’t it? That’s the way faith works, so have fun with the storyline.

Incidentally, Christ is the Greek Chrestos – a mystery cult popular with the poor and lower middle class of the 1st century C.E. Working people infected their middle class masters with it. Female heads of households were particularly susceptible to its egalitarian message. Self-proclaimed “Apostle” Paul of Tarsus cobbled Chrestos with the historical Jesus movement as a sales package for Gentiles (infuriating the Jesus movement because he co-opted and lied about their guy; of such petty human foibles are great religious movements conceived), but that’s another story.

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* Parzival by Wolfram Von Eisenbach, 13th century C.E. Much ado about fabrics, flags, one’s place at the table, head-busting by foolish men for foolish ladies, and the romantic search for the fabulous grail – the holiest snipe hunt for the silliest prize: the Americas-Stanley-Wimbledon cup of immortality available only for unblemished boobery.  “He’d paid his debt to joy, his life was but a dying.” – Wolfram Von Eisenbach, Parzival.

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MOURNING IN AMERICA: In time, the plastic fantastic mourning that passes for genuine grief will dim.  Society’s itch to have its heroes, even if it has to lie like hell to make them, will be satisfied for the time being.  It will be trotted out again with the next “must-vent” crisis, and we shall have walls of flowers, teddy bears, and balloons – everything in short, nothing short of a full Super Bowl extravaganza – and many blathering speeches shy of substance and dripping with hypocrisy and crocodile tears, mindless chest thumping and blubbering, murmured prayers and homilies, all accepted as available.  Flags will fly.  Guns will boom.  Vendors and trinket salesmen will profit.  Blimps will display large advertising messages and rockets will light the night sky with red, blue, green, yellow and, Lordy loo, who knows what color pyrotechnics?  The body politic will sleep steadier, enervated and expended by a good old-fashioned group grope and mope. This has to be one of the silliest societies on record.

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REVERY: We’ve come a long way, you and I.  Thousands upon thousands of miles, and yet we’re still far short of our destination.  Where are we going anyway?  Haven’t we already been there?  The universe is a big round circle in a dimension so large that we poor mites cannot see the curve.  It looks like a straight line to us, but so does time, and time is a repetition of itself, always telling us the same thing.  As each generation is born, the next arises, and each of those, and all of those millions more, grows by the same learning process, through the same biology, give or take a tiny percent of one gene, which seems to specify skin tone and what we call racial differences.  It’s the same as classifying men by the size of their nipples and finally as insignificant. We all begin as fertilized eggs.  We are one with the chicken and the salamander, the fish and the spider. There is not one atom within us that is remarkable for being unique.  There is nothing unique in the universe, except individual discovery.

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SOME LINKS WORTH VIEWING:

Washington Diarist by Leon Wieseltier, Accommodationism: “One of the most troublesome qualities of reason is that it is not always reasonable.” http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=cf4e433c-60bd-4184-abc3-fc372c7f8304

Broken Promises: Health Care Deals Struck in Secrecy http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/07/10-1

Law Will Let Afghan Husbands Starve Wives Who Withhold Sex http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/07/10-4

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FINAL WORD: “We’ve never done it with a baboon‘s heart!” Hector Elizondo, ER, 9-29-94

Robin the Old: One Brunch Only

 

Marijuana Papers

July 9, 2009
FIRST PAPER:
Choices.

Choices.

There are many terrible drug habits.  The worst is alcohol, in numbers of users and anti-social effect.  It is the leading cause of teenage deaths: 80,000 young Americans a year, 40,000 maimed from mixing drink and driving.  U.S. government/police statistics confirm the following:

–     100,000 alcohol-related deaths annually (compared with zero marijuana deaths in 10,000 years).

–     At least 40-50% of all murders and highway fatalities are alcohol-related.

–   Alcohol is indicated in 69-80% of all child/rape/incest and wife-beating cases.

–     Heroin is indicated in 35% of burglaries, armed robberies, grand theft auto, etc.

–     The FBI reported over 600,000 arrests for simple marijuana possession in 1997.

Approximately 50% of all drug enforcement money, federal and state, for the last 60 years has been directed toward marijuana!  70-80% of all people now in prison would NOT have been there 60 years ago.  In cultivated ignorance and prejudice we put 800,000 of 1.2 million people in jail (1998 – not including county jails) for a minor habit.  80% of them were not dealing.  In 1978 there were 300,000 people in jail for all crimes combined.

After wide cultivation for 10,000 years, marijuana was outlawed in America in 1937.  Was it because it threatened public health – or certain business interests?  Hemp (cannabis sativa) is one of the most useful plants known to man.  Its fibers make rope, sails, shirts, paper; it provides clean lighting and lubricating oils, animal feed, and is safely used in medicines.

What happened?  In the 1920’s and ‘30s, Americans became concerned about drug addiction – especially morphine and a Bayer Company “miracle drug” called “heroin.”  Most Americans didn’t know smoking hemp was intoxicating until William Randolph Hearst began a sensational campaign linking “killer weed” to jazz musicians, “crazed minorities,” and “unspeakable crimes.”  His newspapers featured headlines like:

  • MARIJUANA MAKES FIENDS OF BOYS IN 30 DAYS: HASHEESH [sic] GOADS USERS TO BLOOD-LUST

Not all shared their view.  The U.S. Siler Commission studied marijuana smoking by off-duty servicemen, found no lasting effects, and recommended NO criminal penalties apply to it.

But, the anti-hemp campaign had results.  By 1931, after two years of secret hearings Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act.  Unsure if it was constitutional to ban it outright, they taxed the plant prohibitively instead.  Growers had to register; sellers and buyers were buried in paperwork; noncompliance was a federal crime.  The tax was $100 an ounce (“legitimate” marijuana then sold for $2 a pound).  The Act ruined the legitimate industryMedical use was too expensive; doctors and pharmacists turned to chemically derived drugs.  Nonmedical uses were taxed to death and farmers stopped growing.  No brainer, it still grew wild all over the U.S.; its “illegitimate” use was little affected by Congress.

Going on four generations now, propaganda and lies have relentlessly drained taxpayer’s money to build government’s anti-drug machine and the conditions of a police state.  Virtually every state is in the midst of the biggest prison expansion ever in America’s and the world’s history, creating political vultures only concerned for the growth of their prison-related crime-fighting industry and job security.  They demand more prisons and more money to pursue this “law and order” madness against an invented crime.

We can moderate society’s problems and reject the police state by simply legalizing marijuana.  We can clear the jails, and re-employ police, court, prison and rehabilitation staff to deal with real crime and hard drug abuse.  We can put money into our schools and health care without raising anyone’s taxes.  We can also stop lying to ourselves, and end a terrible multi-generational injustice.  Let’s just say “no” to these anti-marijuana bozos.               jl, Portland, 6-05

Just Say Now (Willamette Week article on present efforts to legalize marijuana:

http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3535/12786/

Jack Herer (pronounced as in “terror”).  Everything you ever wanted to know about hemp, fully documented:

http://www.jackherer.com/

SECOND PAPER:

Fresh moral dilemma in every bite!

NAMING NAMES:
Was it a conspiracy?  Was a viable industry ruined because it threatened public health, or because a few large businesses would profit from banning it?  Hemp was outlawed in 1937 just as new technology that processed it faster, producing higher-quality fiber with less cost and environmental damage than wood-based pulp, was invented.  Hemp would have undercut competing products overnight.  Popular Mechanics predicted that it would become America’s first “billion-dollar crop.  …10,000 acres devoted to hemp will produce as much paper as 40,000 acres of average [forest] pulp land.”

William Randolph Hearst had a vested interest in protecting the pulp industry.  He owned enormous timber acreage and hemp could put his paper-manufacturing division out of business and ruin his land value.  He slanted the news to protect his investments.  He led a yellow journalism campaign to outlaw hemp.  As example, a car accident in which marijuana was found dominated the headlines for weeks, while alcohol-related accidents (outnumbering marijuana over 1,000 to one) made the back pages.  Hearst popularized the word “marijuana” to introduce fear of the unknown to create a useable hysteria.

The Du Pont Company also had pulp industry interests, patenting a new process for wood-pulp paper.  Their own records show wood-pulp products as over 80% of all their railroad car holdings for the next 50 years.  Du Pont was also drastically changing its business strategy.  Primarily a military explosives maker, they realized after World War I that peacetime uses for artificial fibers and plastics would be more profitable.

Du Pont poured millions of dollars into research to create synthetics like rayon and nylon.  Two years before the Marijuana Tax Act outlawing hemp, they developed a substitute for hemp rope.  The year after the tax, they brought rayon out in direct competition with hemp cloth.  Du Pont assured Congress in secret testimony that they could make synthetic petrochemical oils to replace hemp oil.  The millions spent on research, and hundreds of millions in expected profits would be wiped out if newly affordable hemp products hit the market.  So, Du Pont worked with Hearst to eliminate hemp.

 Du Pont’s point man was Harry J. Anslinger, commissioner of the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) (out to make it big like FBI’s Hoover).  He was appointed by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, chairman of Mellon Bank, Du Pont’s chief financial backer, and Anslinger’s wife’s uncle.  Anslinger used his clout to sway congress.  When the American Medical Association (AMA) argued for hemp’s medical benefits, Anslinger led the entire congressional committee to denounce and dismiss them.

Five years after the tax was imposed, the government reversed itself when the Japanese seized Philippine hemp, causing a wartime rope shortage.  Overnight, they urged hemp cultivation and made a movie, “Hemp for Victory” – then, just as fast, recriminalized hemp after the shortage passed.  While it was legal, it saved the life of a young pilot named George H.W. Bush, who didn’t know when he bailed out of his plane that:

–     Parts of his aircraft were lubricated with hemp oil.

–     100% of his parachute webbing was U.S. grown cannabis hemp.

–     All the rigging, ropes and fire hoses of his rescue ship were hemp.

President G.H.W. Bush opposed decriminalizing hemp grown in the U. S.

Does the hemp conspiracy continue?  Doctors can’t prescribe marijuana for patients as medication for chronic pain, although one judge found, “the record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people and doing so with safety under medical supervision.”

The Anti-Drug Industry continues its ruthless disregard for truth, mercy, and facts.  The evidence of marijuana’s benign nature is fully documented.  Propaganda and greed fuel the anti-marijuana crowd, not facts or justice.

Just Say Now (Willamette Week article on present efforts to legalize marijuana:

http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3535/12786/

Jack Herer (pronounced as in “terror”).  Everything you ever wanted to know about hemp, fully documented, with authenticated  copies of original materials:

http://www.jackherer.com/

“They lie about marijuana. Tell you pot-smoking makes you unmotivated. Lie! When you’re high, you can do everything you normally do, just as well. You just realize that it’s not worth the fucking effort. There is a difference.” – Bill Hicks.  

Jack Herer (pronounced as in “terror”).  Everything you ever wanted to know about hemp, fully documented:

http://www.jackherer.com/