Category Archives: Financial Crimes

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

Some thoughts on the apparently cyclical nature of human endeavor.  A hundred years ago some of our really brave grandmothers stood and fought for their rights.  Their efforts were not appreciated by the powerful men who controlled the economy and the nation.

Iron Jawed Angels if you are interested.

These women were successful and the right to vote was extended to women.  Breath-taking in it’s success, this movement did not dislodge or change the power structure of the US significantly.  The first two decades of the last century was an era of robber barons and wild speculation.  Anarchists, wobblies and other ne’er-do-wells were less successful with their campaigns against the ruling class.

The era of rampant speculation, deregulated economies (glass-steagall anyone?)  ended with the crash of Wall Street in 1929 and a long period of economic stagnation followed.  Sound familiar? Maybe it should sound familiar.

The country started to come out of the Great Depression with the Keynsian government policy embraced by FDR, but the push-back of the moneyed interests against the deficit spending slowed the recovery.  Luckily (!?) Germany came out of its economic depression post-Versailles World War I treaty and provided an opportunity to really ramp up the world economy by roaring through neighboring countries and launching World War II.

Those with an interest in history will remember the era of American superpower dominance in the 50s and 60s.  An era when steeply progressive tax rates and a regulated economy model produced prosperity, Medicare, LBJ’s War on Poverty and more.  The country was so far left back in those days that it was a Republican – Richard Nixon – who established the Environmental Protection Agency, signed the Clean Air Act.  Of course he did that good work a little later and in the shadow of carpet bombing countries who posed no danger to the US, but by that time a permanent war economy had established itself and needed Korea, Vietnam, Russia, China, and an endless chain of scary others that have included such lackluster characters as Manuel Noriega, Sandinista Daniel Ortega, Arbenz and whoever the threat was when we invaded Grenada in 1983. A lovely little war, that one.

We might have thought harder about how we were blowing through trust funds for Social Security and cooking the books to support war and the permanent war economy, but Ronald Reagan brought a new morning to the country with a plan to unleash the US economy by flattening tax rates and regulatory agencies.  Reagan certainly had an amiable persona, he eclipsed earlier american icons like FDR, Walter Cronkite and others who inspired trust and led us to a return of the era of robber barons.

We have burned through all of the speculative economic power that could be managed by flattening blue collar wages, by exporting industry to countries with cheaper labor and non-existent or unenforced environmental rules, by revolutionizing the Ozzie and Harriet model american family by forcing families to have Harriet find a job outside the home paying 59 cents of the dollar for that job done by a human with a pair of testicles.

The speculative economy has run its course.  We have blown through the illusion of wealth of the dot com economy, we have eroded the infrastructure of the country to pay for war and at the end of the day, it turns out that there are some limits to what can be gained by stimulating the economy with a tax cut approach.  That approach worked to a certain extent when JFK proposed it against the backdrop of a really steeply progressive tax rate, but now that we have flattened the tax rates so dramatically, it just produced deficits, cuts in services, and a return to the feudal model of America.

Some say, “We have to fix Social Security!”  I say, Hey, fix the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, then get back to me.

I hear we have we have to fix Medicare!  It is going to blow up the entire federal budget.   Give me a break.  You want to fix Medicare?  Start with a single payer system that rewards health care systems that produce healthy outcomes for human beings instead of treating illness as a profit opportunity.

We have entered an era of frank and open class war. Which side are you on?

First Recall Coming in Wisconsin

Bold Progressives is reporting that the recall petition has the signatures for a recall election of Wisconsin State Senator Dan Kapanke.  I believe Mr. Kapanke has an R behind his name.

Have the neocons over-reached?  Do the attacks on public employees, AARP, push the electorate over the line?  We can only hope.  Maybe more Democrats will stand up and show that they are willing to fight for progressive causes?

It’s time for a change, baby.

Economics, Taxes, Bailouts and Political Folly

Let’s be blunt, shall we?  The republicans are committed to winning elections and regaining the majority no matter how much harm they do to the country making that happen.  When in power, the republicans govern like drunken sailors.  We get unfunded wars, tax cuts, corporate social programs like Medicare Part D and deregulation that allows for the possibility of one economic bubble after another.  Bubble economies (think the dot.com frenzy, followed by the home refi and ownership society craziness) allow for the appearance of wealth generation and create annual bonuses for bankers that are only slightly taxed.

Not that the Democrats are much better.  They get an opportunity once in a blue moon when the country manages to overcome the propaganda of Fox, Comcast, Clear Channel et al and the vagaries of vote-counting systems that have no mandated papertrail to assure integrity.  The Clinton era of 1992-1994 and the Obama era 2008-2010 are the two times that has happened and look how those two year stints turned out.

When they are out of power (which is most of the time) the democrats do better than republicans do when they are out of power.  They do not seize every opportunity to make things go wrong for country for political gains in the next election, they appear to function somewhat responsibly, working with the party in power to negotiate legislation and policy toward the mainstream, but the upshot is the political situation we have today, where US citizens and soldiers who have been convicted of no crime are tortured in the brig by deprivation of contact, by systematic humiliation, and more in the hope of breaking the mind and spirit of an individual.  This will break most of us.  Human beings are social animals.  Where State governments work to strip unions of collective bargaining power.  

All of this negotiating and compromising creates a meek democratic party that cannot remember its own priniciples when the stars align to give them a majority.  The party is so unfamiliar with governing from a majority position that it can’t figure out that the solution to an economic downturn of the scale of the great depression or the great recession is keynesian economics directed at job creation and infrastructure, not the stabilization of the economic status quo.  Nothing is too big to fail as the democrats have proven in 2008-2010 as they governed themselves and the country further into the ditch as they protected financial institutions that are the fount of electoral politics. They were completely inept in their understanding and response to the ultimate SCOTUS corporate decision – Citizens United.  There were legislative fixes that should have been in place even before the Supreme Corp announced its unsurprising decision.

And health care?  Yes, health care needs fixing.  The system we have is a private enterprise mess.  The health care fix is in moving to single payor.  This isn’t rocket science.  In the absence of the fortitude and votes to go to single payor, you have to keep it on the table in the form of a public option or you might as well not waste the time and effort on the reform battle.  Sure, it’s a good thing to have new rules that allow “children” up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance policies and to reduce corporate profit-taking by rescission and pre-existing condition sleight of hand, but 2008-2010 screamed for a job program, for the bankruptcy court cramdown solution to the housing mortgage crisis, for an all-out push to reduce our energy dependence on foreign oil and look what we got instead.

It’s not too late for the democratic party to learn how to lead, even from a minority position, but they have to be ready next time to speak the truth.  We need to raise taxes and regulate the economy and industry.  We have to be true to our founding principles regarding human rights instead of bending to the pull of commerce and profit.

Set Bradley Manning free.  Put Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in jail (and ct scan to determine once and for all if they are human or reptile).  Stop the wars.  Bring the troops home, close down at least half of our foreign bases.  Reinstate the tax structure that existed under President Nixon, if not the one that existed under President Eisenhower.

Boycott Koch Industries Products

If you want to get the attention of the Koch brothers and express your disapproval of their attack on unions, the middle class and working folks, all you have to do is stop giving your dollars to Koch Industries products.

Alternet has picked up this story:

How You Can Boycott the Kochs

 

Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue on Flickr

Over the past few weeks, the billionaire Koch brothers and their front groups have steadily increased their involvement in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights. The Kochs’ outsized wealth and influence are forces to be reckoned with; that’s why we should all be grateful that a Koch backlash, including a boycott of Koch Industries’ products, has started picking up steam.

Geebeebee at Daily KOS has put together a pretty comprehensive list of Koch Industry goods that you might want to avoid if you want to send a message.

 

Army of Fake Social Media Friends to Promote Propaganda

I have posted about this before, but I think the story and its importance have not gotten any traction yet.  I am not sure why that is the case because this is a pretty amazing revelation about the automation of propaganda and disinformation by the intelligence community against the American people.

Darlene Storm over at Computerworld has now taken up the story.   Here is Darlene’s lead:

By Darlene Storm, Computerworld    Feb 23, 2011 2:03 pm

 It’s recently been revealed that the U.S. government contracted HBGary Federal for the development of software which could create multiple fake social media profiles to manipulate and sway public opinion on controversial issues by promoting propaganda. It could also be used as surveillance to find public opinions with points of view the powers-that-be didn’t like. It could then potentially have their “fake” people run smear campaigns against those “real” people. As disturbing as this is, it’s not really new for U.S. intelligence or private intelligence firms to do the dirty work behind closed doors.

It’s not a big surprise that the U.S. military also wants to use social media to its benefit. Last year, Public Intelligence published the U.S. Air Force social media guide which gave 10 tips for social media such as, “The enemy is engaged in this battlespace and you must engage there as well.” Number three was “DON’T LIE. Credibility is critical, without it, no one cares what you have to say…it’s also punishable by the UCMJ to give a false statement.” The Air Force used the chart below to show how social media influences public opinion.  Click on the link to jump to the Air Force website

 The 6th Contracting Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base sought the development of Persona Management Software which could be used for creating and managing fake profiles on social media sites to distort the truth and make it appear as if there was a generally accepted agreement on controversial issues. “Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms.” What happened to don’t lie and the Uniform Code of Military Justice?

Everything revealed after Anonymous leaked emails from private security firm HBGary Federal is disturbing on many levels. However, the Daily Kos said with the Persona Management Software it would take very few people to create “an army of sockpuppets” which could distort the truth while appearing to be “an entire Brooks Brothers riot online.”

So again I ask, what happened to number three . . . the rule about not lying that was also “punishable by the UCMJ to give a false statement”?

I think the problem is that it is theoretically possible to be punished for breaking laws or giving a false statement.  The application of law and punishment is tilted heavily in favor of getting away with law breaking within the context of maintaining the status quo.  Bernie Madoff goes to jail, but he’s the exception.  He went off the deep-end and simply fabricated financial statements instead of making a fortune creating hyper-inflated derivatives to sell off to the rubes, the pension boards, the 401k patrons in the manner of more mainstream Wall Street raiders.   Bradley Manning is in solitary for months as the military and government use their tools and playbook to torture Manning in this way that leaves no fingerprints, but clearly breaks human beings who are clearly social creatures.  Deprive us of all social contact and context for months and we come apart.  This is hardly news, yet it continues to happen.

You tell me, is the government and the military committing crimes when they engage in lying and propaganda to manipulate public opinion using social media?  Is it or should it be a crime to hold any human being in social isolation?  and the really big question, is there any way that we can level the playing field and encourage the prosecutorial powers to ply their trade against the insiders who are breaking laws or is the justice system primarily reserved for harassing  the enemies of the status quo?