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This is an Open Thread
Dec 02 2011
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This is an Open Thread
Dec 02 2011
Oh please forgive your Bloguero his excesses and tantrums.
Yesterday your Bloguero was vexed and found himself exploding when Noot Gingrich proposed yet again that poor children (read: poor, urban children of color) work as assistant janitors and that they mop floors and clean bathrooms. These children, Noot told us, don’t have good work habits, and neither do their parents. They need to learn them, he opined, and that dollars must be earned solely by the sweat of their brows and not from engaging in the illegal activities that are so very pervasive in their neighborhoods. Your Bloguero imagines that this “idea” will eventually emerge in Congress as the “Poor, Urban Children’s Mandatory Work Act of 2012,” and that it will void child labor laws and make degrading manual work a pre-requisite to receipt of school nutrition programs if not elementary school attendance itself.
When your Bloguero was a child in Newark, his school didn’t have a course in brooming so that he could be channeled into a life of required, permanent manual work, showing up on Monday mornings for inadequate pay, and submissive obedience to the straw boss. Your Bloguero wasn’t asked to trade his pens and pencils and crayons for brooms and mops. No. Back then, it was a world of upward mobility. For everyone. And it was fervently asserted, everybody could become President, and the elementary school was everybody’s first station on the trip toward a good life. The good life, your Bloguero was always told, was built on merit. And education. And hard work. And desire. Your Bloguero notes that there could have been far worse things to tell him, including that he should start sweeping now because that was his station in life.
Noot is an experienced politician. He is far from congenitally tone deaf. And he knows how to whistle for the dogs. Let’s recall that he’s from Georgia. And let’s also recall that it wasn’t that long ago that Governor Lester Maddox was passing out ax handles in Atlanta. And so, dear reader, this ain’t no dog whistle. It’s blatant racism. Just look at Noot’s characterization of the neighborhoods in which poor children are raised. This isn’t code; it’s Noot mashing the black keys on the electoral piano with his elbow.
These neighborhoods and their residents, Noot would have us believe, are dominated by shiftlessness, by drug dealing, by welfare queens, by benefits fraud, by crime, by illegal activities of all descriptions. Your Bloguero spares you a repetition of the litany of historic grievances against the urban poor encapsulated in Noot’s remarks. So Noot’s resurrecting the pre-integration Georgia of 1953. And he’s saying that the children who are raised in these ghetto neighborhoods need to be put in their place because their families won’t do it. And the rest of the populace shouldn’t have to pay for it. And the place where these children belong, less you forget it, is as assistant janitors while they are in elementary school. Who are they to aspire to be president?
Your Bloguero is enraged. He notes in passing that this isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time that a presidential candidate plays the race card before November, 2012. Your Bloguero just wonders why there is a storm about Herman Cain’s affair and his serial sex harassments, but so far blatant racism seems to be getting a hall pass.
This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now and for several of the past weeks, it isn’t actually a digest of essays posted at The Dream Antilles. For that you have to visitThe Dream Antilles.
Dec 02 2011
John Aravosis is not wrong to liken this to the tattooing of inmates at Auschwitz.
Occupy protesters "branded" with UV ink
Montreal police borrow tactic from club bouncers to stop protesters from returning to public square
By Justin Elliott, Salon
Wednesday, Nov 30, 2011 1:12 PM
Occupy protesters in Montreal were dismayed to find they had been marked by police with a special ink that is only visible in UV light after being arrested during a raid of Victoria Square Friday.
Police told CTV Montreal they borrowed the technique from bouncers at clubs and bars and it is meant to mark protesters who might return to the square.
There are reports of police using invisible ink to mark objects as part of campaigns against burglary and underage drinking. But this seems to be the first time UV ink has been used to mark people during the Occupy movement.
Dec 02 2011
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.
December 2 is the 336th day of the year (337th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 29 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 2001, Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a New York court, sparking one of the largest corporate scandals in U.S. history.
An energy-trading company based in Houston, Texas, Enron was formed in 1985 as the merger of two gas companies, Houston Natural Gas and Internorth. Under chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay, Enron rose as high as number seven on Fortune magazine’s list of the top 500 U.S. companies. In 2000, the company employed 21,000 people and posted revenue of $111 billion. Over the next year, however, Enron’s stock price began a dramatic slide, dropping from $90.75 in August 2000 to $0.26 by closing on November 30, 2001.
As prices fell, Lay sold large amounts of his Enron stock, while simultaneously encouraging Enron employees to buy more shares and assuring them that the company was on the rebound. Employees saw their retirement savings accounts wiped out as Enron’s stock price continued to plummet. After another energy company, Dynegy, canceled a planned $8.4 billion buy-out in late November, Enron filed for bankruptcy. By the end of the year, Enron’s collapse had cost investors billions of dollars, wiped out some 5,600 jobs and liquidated almost $2.1 billion in pension plans.
Enron had created offshore entities, units which may be used for planning and avoidance of taxes, raising the profitability of a business. This provided ownership and management with full freedom of currency movement and the anonymity that allowed the company to hide losses. These entities made Enron look more profitable than it actually was, and created a dangerous spiral, in which each quarter, corporate officers would have to perform more and more contorted financial deception to create the illusion of billions in profits while the company was actually losing money. This practice drove up their stock price to new levels, at which point the executives began to work on insider information and trade millions of dollars worth of Enron stock. The executives and insiders at Enron knew about the offshore accounts that were hiding losses for the company; however, the investors knew nothing of this. Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow led the team which created the off-books companies, and manipulated the deals to provide himself, his family, and his friends with hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed revenue, at the expense of the corporation for which he worked and its stockholders.
In 1999, Enron launched EnronOnline, an Internet-based trading operation, which was used by virtually every energy company in the United States. Enron president and chief operating officer Jeffrey Skilling began advocating a novel idea: the company didn’t really need any “assets.” By pushing the company’s aggressive investment strategy, he helped make Enron the biggest wholesaler of gas and electricity, trading over $27 billion per quarter. The firm’s figures, however, had to be accepted at face value. Under Skilling, Enron adopted mark to market accounting, in which anticipated future profits from any deal were tabulated as if real today. Thus, Enron could record gains from what over time might turn out to be losses, as the company’s fiscal health became secondary to manipulating its stock price on Wall Street during the Tech boom. But when a company’s success is measured by agreeable financial statements emerging from a black box, a term Skilling himself admitted, actual balance sheets prove inconvenient. Indeed, Enron’s unscrupulous actions were often gambles to keep the deception going and so push up the stock price, which was posted daily in the company elevator. An advancing number meant a continued infusion of investor capital on which debt-ridden Enron in large part subsisted. Its fall would collapse the house of cards. Under pressure to maintain the illusion, Skilling verbally attacked Wall Street Analyst Richard Grubman, who questioned Enron’s unusual accounting practice during a recorded conference call. When Grubman complained that Enron was the only company that could not release a balance sheet along with its earnings statements, Skilling replied “Well, thank you very much, we appreciate that . . . asshole.” Though the comment was met with dismay and astonishment by press and public, it became an inside joke among many Enron employees, mocking Grubman for his perceived meddling rather than Skilling’s lack of tact. When asked during his trial, Skilling wholeheartedly admitted that industrial dominance and abuse was a global problem: “Oh yes, yes sure, it is.”
Dec 02 2011
Ward Churchill live on Wild Wild Left Radio Friday, December 2nd at 6pm ET!
Listen live by clicking the link icon below:
In the 6 months since we last spoke, things have changed dramatically – Chickens are coming home to roost here in the form of OWS, and the tactics being used to stop this Democratic Movement are escalating. The transitions of power in the Arab Spring countries are complex, and the Elites are struggling to hold their control.
I, for one, cannot wait to hear Ward’s take on these new circumstances in which America finds herself.
Ward Churchill is a Professor of Ethnic Studies and Communications from the University of Colorado, an activist and the author of more than 14 acclaimed books, and hundreds of essays. He is an expert on American Indian History.
He is charming to interview, brilliant and with a quick sense of humor. I am THRILLED to engage him again!!!
The call in number is 646-929-1264 to join the conversation!
Tip: In order to comment in the show’s companion chat, you must create a BTR account, its free and only takes seconds. Chat is monitored during the show, so make yourself heard.
Miss the show? The podcasts are available at the link above, or at the Wild Wild Left
Join Wild Wild Left Radio every Friday at 6pm ET, with Hostess and Producer Diane Gee to guide you through Current Events taken from a Wildly Left Prospective….
WWL Radio: Bringing you controversial, cutting edge, revolutionary, “out there where the buses don’t run” LEFT perspective since January of 2009!
Dec 02 2011
Another state attorney general is suing five major banks and Mortgage Electronic Registration System Inc. and its parent company over deceptive foreclosure practices. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed the suit on Wednesday seeking redress from Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc., and Ally Financial.
Ms. Coakley joins a small group of state attorney generals from larger states that have been hit the hardest by the foreclosure/mortgage fraud scandal:
Ms. Coakley, whose reputation was tarnished after her loss to a Republican for the late Ted Kennedy’s senate seat, has been strong on tightening state regulations and force banks to assist financially stressed homeowners save their homes:
Coakley spoke in support of legislation she filed in January with state Senator Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat, and Representative Steven M. Walsh, a Lynn Democrat. The proposed law, which they call An Act to Prevent Unlawful and Unnecessary Foreclosures, focuses on mortgage loans that are considered to be risky, including those with interest-only payment and adjustable rates.
The bill would require lenders to analyze a borrower’s financial information to determine whether modifying the loan to a more affordable payment would be more beneficial financially to the lender than going through the lengthy and costly process of taking the property through foreclosure. Many lenders already undertake such a study before deciding whether to foreclose, but the bill would permit homeowners to file a lawsuit if the process does not occur, according to Coakley’s staff.
The proposed law also would force lenders to prove they are the legal owner of mortgages before foreclosing, incorporating the findings of recent foreclosure-related decisions from the state’s Supreme Judicial Court.
These five state attorney generals are doing the hard work that should be done by the US Attorney General Eric Holder. Instead Mr. Holder is still clinging to Iowa AG Tom Miller’s stalled negotiations with the banks to settle the fraud for a mere $25 billion and exoneration from criminal prosecution. Mr. Holder has made protecting banks and corporations his priority and just recently announced a new initiative to prosecute intellectual property rights thefts by the public. This is not what Americans elected this administration to do.
Dec 02 2011
Apparently, US Attorney General Eric Holder thinks it is far more important to protect corporations from intellectual property (IP) theft than to protect us from predatory and fraudulent banking practices that has led to collapse of the economy. He is more concerned that you or your neighbor are illegally downloading movies or songs from the internet or receiving pharmaceuticals from Canada.
On November 29, Mr. Holder held a press conference to announce a serious crack down on IP theft:
As our country continues to recover from once-in-a-generation economic challenges, the need to safeguard intellectual property rights – and to protect Americans from IP crimes – has never been more urgent. But, in many ways, this work has also never been more difficult.
Recent technological advances – particularly in methods of manufacturing and distribution – have created new opportunities for businesses of all sizes to innovate and grow. But these quantum leaps have also created new vulnerabilities, which tech-savvy criminals are eager to exploit. As a result, we’re seeing an alarming rise in IP crimes – illegal activities that can not only devastate individual lives and legitimate businesses, but undermine our nation’s financial stability and prosperity.
Make no mistake: IP crimes are anything but victimless. For far too long, the sale of counterfeit, defective, and dangerous goods has been perceived as “business as usual.” But these and other IP crimes can destroy jobs, suppress innovation, and jeopardize the health and safety of consumers. In some cases, these activities are used to fund dangerous – and even violent – criminal enterprises and organized crime networks. And they present a significant – and growing – threat to our nation’s economic and national security.
But we are fighting back – in bold, comprehensive, and collaborative ways.
One of those “bold, comprehensive, and collaborative ways” is a series of series of television, radio, and Internet public service announcements that will ask the public to spy on their neighbors.
We shouldn’t be surprised by this since, as reported in the Wired:
The Justice Department under President Barack Obama has seen a sea change in attitude when it comes to intellectual-property enforcement, which could have been predicted by the number of former Recording Industry Association of America attorneys appointed by the Obama administration. (Hollywood votes and donates Democratic).
Meanwhile, as Matt Stoller writes, mortgage fraud continues unabated and unprosecuted:
In 2004, the FBI warned Congress of an “epidemic of mortgage fraud,” of unscrupulous operators taking advantage of a booming real estate market. Less than two years later, an accounting scandal at Fannie Mae tipped us off that something was very wrong at the highest levels of corporate America.
Of course, we all know what happened next. Crime invaded the center of our banking system. Wall Street CEOs were signing on to SEC documents knowing they contained material misstatements. The New York Fed, riddled with conflicts of interest, shoveled money to large banks and tried to hide it under the veil of central bank independence. Even Tim Geithner noted that Lehman had “air in the marks” in its valuations of asset-backed securities, as the bankruptcy examiner’s report showed that accounting manipulation to disguise the condition of the balance sheet was a routine management tool at the bank. [..]
And yet, no handcuffs. [..]
And what happens when this kind of fraud goes unprosecuted? It continues, even today. The same banks that ran the corrupt home mortgage securitization chain are now committing rampant fraud in the foreclosure crisis. Here’s New Orleans Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Magner discussing problems at Lender Processing Services, the company that handles 80 percent of foreclosures on behalf of large banks. [..]
The bad behavior is so rampant that banks think nothing of a contractor programming fraud into the software. This is shocking behavior and has led to untold numbers of foreclosures, as well as the theft of huge sums of money from mortgage-backed securities investors.
It would be nice if the Obama Justice Department devoted the same man power, resources and efforts into prosecuting the banks and mortgage service lenders who pushed fraudulent loans and have illegally foreclosed on thousands of homes. The attitude of Obama administration continues to be that they must bail out banks and protect corporations while the public gets sold out by the government that is suppose to protect us.