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Why is No One Fighting the New Robber Barons?

Naked Capitalism has the article Why is No One Fighting the New Robber Barons? which introduces a Bill Moyers interview.

Last week, Bill Moyers interviewed historian Steve Fraser on what he calls our Second Gilded Age. Despite the anodyne title of the segment, The New Robber Barons, it was really about why the American public has been so quiescent in the face of rapidly rising income inequality, while during the first Gilded Age, a wide range of groups rebelled against the wealth extraction operation. I encourage you to watch the segment in full or read the transcript.

Steve Fraser eloquently makes many of the points I have been making on this blog over the 7 years that I have been writing it.

A Closer Look at Public Opinion as it Relates to Americans, Religion, and Acceptance of Torture

The Rachel Maddow Show Blog has the article to which I have given the title from some of its opening words, A Closer Look at Public Opinion as it Relates to Americans, Religion, and Acceptance of Torture

The article is a discussion of the following graph

Graph of acceptance of torture by various religious beliefs

The following quote is one of the conclusions of the article:

The results in response to this question were even more striking: “All in all, do you think the CIA treatment of suspected terrorists was justified or unjustified?” For most Americans, the answer, even after recent revelations, was yes. For most Christians, it’s also yes. But for the non-religious, as the above chart makes clear, the torture was not justified.

I think this graph puts the lie to the idea that you have to believe in God to be a moral person. The idea that you can’t be an atheist and be a very moral person probably has no stronger refutation than this chart.

I can imagine a twisted interpretation of this issue that says that the people who believe in torture for some people have the moral point of view and the people who don’t believe in torture have no morals. If you believe that, you are welcome to take your belief to The World Court in The Hague and see how well that goes over. Alternatively, you can imagine what the prosecutors and judges at The Nuremberg Trials after World War II would think about this justification for torture.

Warren, Markey, and Baldwin Demand Answers from USTR on Backdoor Financial Deregulation in the TPP

The Daily Kos has the story Warren, Markey, and Baldwin Demand Answers from USTR on Backdoor Financial Deregulation in the TPP.

On Tuesday, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) sent a letter to US Trade Representative Michael Froman demanding answers about backdoor financial deregulation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The senators highlight three parts of the TPP that could undermine current and future efforts to regulate Wall Street and prevent another financial crisis:

(1) Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which allows foreign companies or investors to sue governments for losses in expected profits

(2) “Market access” provisions that could prohibit restrictions on predatory financial products, like risky forms of derivatives

(3) Limitations on governments’ ability to impose capital controls, which could stymie efforts to prevent future financial crises as well as efforts to pass a financial transaction tax

The senators asked USTR Michael Froman to respond to their questions, with negotiating text documentation, by January 6th.

We are lucky to have Senators Warren and Markey trying to protect us from the predations of the Republican Party and President Obama.  Perhaps our two Senators and their allies in Congress can finally wake up the public to the damages that this treaty will cause.  It is unfathomable as to why Obama is so adamant about the need for this awful treaty.  Is this his revenge against some perceived insult that our country has perpetrated on him and his family?

Ferguson Prosecutor: I Knew Witnesses Lied To The Grand Jury

Talking Points Memo has the story Ferguson Prosecutor: I Knew Witnesses Lied To The Grand Jury.  This is their commentary on the Buzzfeed story Prosecutor Says He Knew Some Witnesses Were Lying To The Ferguson Grand Jury.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch says he knew some of the witnesses who said they saw Michael Brown get shot were lying, but he let them testify to the grand jury anyway.

The Buzzfeed article had a link to the following YouTube video of the radio interview.

I am glad that I watched the video instead of just relying on the stories from the two sources mentioned above. The two stories certainly made it sound horrible about what the prosecutor did. However, I did have one question. When the prosecutor presented these lying witnesses, did he tell the grand jury that he thought they were lying? It seems from the interview that he did tell them of the reasons for doubting their testimony.

It is still up to you to decide if you think the prosecutor is telling the truth. Even if he is telling the truth, you may still decide that presenting this testimony was either the wrong or the right thing to do. However, now you have the “original” source for the story on which to base your judgment. I have also warned you that you ought to listen to what went on before you pass judgment. If you decide you don’t have the time or desire to listen to the 30 minute interview, just be careful about how much you want to repeat of the article about the interview, or how certain you want to portray what you know based on these articles. You may also be forming opinions of what you have heard that are even more steps removed from the original source material. Be careful and be skeptical.

Stop the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership)

I received an email from Campaign For America’s Future. If you have seen my previous posts on TPP, you know I think this is a very important issue.

Campaign for America's Future

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell knows who he works for, and it’s not you and me.

He’s announced his first priority when he takes the gavel will be to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is a big, multi-national trade deal negotiated in secret.

The big corporations love TPP because it will invalidate scores of environmental and labor regulations and let them ship jobs overseas. Consumer laws could be trumped by unelected tribunals.

The deal is stuffed with provisions that could not survive in the light of day. So Senator McConnell is dead set on passing this deal using a “fast-track” process that will skip niceties like public hearings and amendments.

We have to stop this. There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves over the last election. The consequences are too grave. We must raise the alarm.

The Campaign for America’s Future will organize progressive groups and allies in Congress (even some conservatives). We will create and distribute educational materials and petitions. We will inundate Congress with letters and phone calls.

Will you help fund the campaign to stop this dangerous, job-killing trade deal before it’s too late?

This is an on-the-ground, in-the-air and across-the-wires campaign. We have the truth and large portions of the public on our side, but we are going to be vastly outspent. You can help level the playing field.

We truly appreciate you and are aware that every dollar you give is a sacrifice. We will not let you down.

Click here to make a donation to help stop fast track in its tracks.

© 2014 Campaign for America’s Future Inc. 1825 K Street, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20006

Wall Street Is Dismantling Financial Reform Piece by Piece

Elizabeth Warren posted on her Facebook page.

Less than a week after Wall Street slipped a bailout provision written by Citigroup into the government spending bill, the Fed has given the big banks another victory. Delaying the Volcker Rule is one more giveaway that lets Wall Street have more time to make risky bets using taxpayer-backed money. This is a nice favor for the lobbyists working to slow down the implementation of Dodd-Frank and chip away at critical financial reforms, but it’s a bad deal for middle class families and our economy.

The post were an introduction and comment on The New Republic article Wall Street Is Dismantling Financial Reform Piece by Piece.  You can’t realize the height of the duplicity of the deal the banks slipped into the Cromnibus spending bill, until you read how the article connects that to this delaying of the Volcker Rule.   This is something that Machiavelli would have written about if he were writing The Prince today.

If You Thought Stop-And-Frisk Was Bad, You Should Know About Jump-Outs

Think Progress has the article If You Thought Stop-And-Frisk Was Bad, You Should Know About Jump-Outs.

What Hadieh described is what many Washington, D.C. residents call a jump-out, so named because of the element of shock and surprise when multiple officers unexpectedly jump out of an unmarked car toward pedestrians. The tactic has gotten very little public attention, but it is for many black residents the mark of policing problems in the nation’s capital: militaristic, seemingly arbitrary, and reeking of racial disparity.

If you are white, like me, and have not heard this term before, read the article.  Then think what your life would be like if this happened to you multiple times per week.  Would this bother you at all?

Michael Pettis: Is China Really Turning Away from the Dollar?

Naked Capitalism has the post Michael Pettis: Is China Really Turning Away from the Dollar?

Yves Smith introduces the article with the following comment:

Yves here. This important post by Michael Pettis addresses whether the efforts of the Chinese to diversify their foreign investments away from the dollar will be a negative for the US. Pettis is skeptical of that thesis, and some of his reasons are intriguing. Like quite a few experts, he doubts that China’s role in sponsoring an infrastructure bank will be a game changer, and he also points out, as we have regularly, that the Chinese cannot deploy their foreign exchange reserves domestically without driving the renminbi to the moon (via selling foreign currencies to buy RMB), which is the last thing they want to have happen. A more surprising, but well argued thesis is that reduced Chinese purchases of US bonds would be a net plus for the US. Get a cup of coffee. This is a meaty, important article.

By meaty article, she probably means there is more information in here than most of us can understand and digest in one reading or without additional reading on our part.  I handle this problem by recording the link to the article on my blog so I can go back to the article if I am so inclined.  The other way I handle the complexity is to assume that if I read enough of these articles, that the knowledge accumulates to the point where you understand more and more of the content of these articles. (That is how I have come to understand some of Modern Money Theory.)

If you don’t read these articles because you cannot understand all of it, then you will only delay the day when you will start to understand the subject matter or postpone that day of understanding forever.

It’s better to fight and lose than not to fight at all

Got an email from Elizabeth Warren. I wish President Obama would have learned the lesson that sometimes it is important to fight even if you don’t win the current battle.

Don’t miss the quote from The Hill:

“One senior financial industry executive said the dust-up over the funding bill has forced the industry to recalibrate its lobbying priorities for the coming year. Given Warren’s megaphone, the executive said, getting through the next Congress without new restrictions on large banks would constitute a win.”

Below is the email.

Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts

Washington is rigged for those who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists. Last week, we got a close look at what really goes on.

House Republicans slipped a provision into the must-pass, omnibus budget package in a secret, closed-door deal. Citigroup lobbyists literally wrote the provision to weaken the new rules on Wall Street and make it easier for the biggest banks to get bailed out again in the future. JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon personally called up members of Congress to lobby for their votes.

Nobody likes bailouts. Democrats don’t like bailouts. Republicans don’t like bailouts. But Wall Street proved again that with enough money and enough power, they can tilt the playing field in Washington a little more in their favor.

I fought my heart out against that provision last week. So did tens of thousands of people who signed petitions, who called their representatives, who tweeted and Facebooked, and who spoke out about it.

We lost this time. But here’s what I want you to remember: It’s better to fight and lose than not to fight at all.

It’s better to fight because if you don’t fight, you can’t win. Besides, even when you don’t win, you can change the game. Here’s a snippet from an article in The Hill newspaper earlier this week that shows what I mean:

We know that our job is going to get tougher in 2015. Mitch McConnell has been saying for months – both out in the public and in secret meetings with the Koch brothers – what his plan will be when Republicans take control of the Senate: use every trick and political game they can think of to undermine President Obama and grind the government’s work to a halt.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to fight back for working families. To fight back for people who couldn’t get health insurance for years and don’t want Republicans to take their new insurance away. To fight back for Social Security and Medicare so seniors can retire with dignity. To fight back for the environment so our grandkids will be able to breathe the air and drink the water. To fight back for accountability and a level playing field so nobody steals your purse on Main Street, or your pension on Wall Street.

That’s why we’re here: To fight the big fights. We won’t always win, but darn it, we’re going to try.

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you for your support, for your time, for your voice, and for your fight. We’re a team, you and I. I never forget that.

Thank you for being a part of this,


All content © 2014 Elizabeth for MA, All Rights Reserved
PO Box 290568
Boston, MA 02129
Paid for by Elizabeth for MA

Warren’s Display of Backbone Threatens Career as Democrat

Andy Borowitz’s Facebook post Warren’s Display of Backbone Threatens Career as Democrat may predate the video below by Jon Keller. Borowitz said:

“She stood up for what she believed in and didn’t try to water it down,” said Democratic strategist Harland Dorrinson. “That is a serious violation of the Democratic playbook.”

Compare this to the thrust of Jon Keller’s report on WBZ-TV in Boston.

Spoiler Alert