Friday, May 31, 2013

The American middle class is slipping lower and the already poor are not earning enough to cover their debt payments. In the meantime, the stupendous debts of the giant banks that caused the fiscal crisis continue to be paid off by the complicit Federal Government with taxpayer money.

The Real Numbers: Half of America in Poverty -- and It's Creeping Upward
The Census Bureau has reported that one out of six Americans lives in poverty. A shocking figure. But it's actually much, much worse.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Number 8 below: "According to The Economist, the United States was the best place in the world to be born into back in 1988. Today, the United States is only tied for 16th place." Were we a great country ...or what?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

40 Statistics About The Fall Of The U.S. Economy That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

By Michael Snyder (The Economic Collapse Blog | Original Link)

#7 According to the World Bank, U.S. GDP accounted for 31.8 percentof all global economic activity in 2001. That number dropped to 21.6 percent in 2011.
#8 The United States has fallen in the global economic competitiveness rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum for four years in a row.
#9 According to The Economist, the United States was the best place in the world to be born into back in 1988. Today, the United States is only tied for 16th place.
#10 Incredibly, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have been permanently shut down since 2001.
#11 There are less Americans working in manufacturing today than there was in 1950 even though the population of the country has more than doubled since then.
#12 According to the New York Times, there are now approximately 70,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit.
#13 When NAFTA was pushed through Congress in 1993, the United States had a trade surplus with Mexico of 1.6 billion dollars. By 2010, we had a trade deficit with Mexico of 61.6 billion dollars.
#14 Back in 1985, our trade deficit with China was approximately 6 million dollars (million with a little “m”) for the entire year. In 2012, our trade deficit with China was 315 billion dollars. That was the largest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in the history of the world.
#15 Overall, the United States has run a trade deficit of more than 8 trillion dollars with the rest of the world since 1975.
#16 According to the Economic Policy Institute, the United States is losing half a million jobs to China every single year.
#17 Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs. Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.
#18 At this point, an astounding 53 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
#19 Small business is rapidly dying in America. At this point, only about 7 percent of all non-farm workers in the United States are self-employed. That is an all-time record low.
#20 Back in 1983, the bottom 95 percent of all income earners in the United States had 62 cents of debt for every dollar that they earned. By 2007, that figure had soared to $1.48.
#21 In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.
#22 According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.
#23 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the bottom one-third of all Americans combined.
#24 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either “poor” or “low income”.
#25 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that receives direct monetary benefits from the federal government. Back in 1983, less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.
#26 Overall, the federal government runs nearly 80 different “means-tested welfare programs”, and at this point more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one of them.
#27 Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid. Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid, and things are about to get a whole lot worse. It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.
#28 As I wrote recently, it is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.
#29 At this point, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years. That comes to approximately$328,404 for every single household in the United States.
#30 Right now, there are approximately 56 million Americans collecting Social Security benefits. By 2035, that number is projected to soar to an astounding 91 million.
#31 Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.
#32 Today, the number of Americans on Social Security Disability now exceeds the entire population of Greece, and the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain.
#33 According to a report recently issued by the Pew Research Center, on average Americans over the age of 65 have 47 times as much wealth as Americans under the age of 35.
#34 U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.
#35 As I mentioned recently, the homeownership rate in America is now at its lowest level in nearly 18 years.
#36 There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing. That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.
#37 45 percent of all children are living in poverty in Miami, more than 50 percent of all children are living in poverty in Cleveland, and about 60 percent of all children are living in poverty in Detroit.
#38 Today, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless. This is the first time that has ever happened in our history.
#39 When Barack Obama first entered the White House, about 32 million Americans were on food stamps. Now, more than 47 million Americans are on food stamps.
#40 According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”

Monday, May 27, 2013

Economist and white-collar criminologist, Bill Black, reports on the recent Senate grilling of Apple. He begins "Senator Levin continues to do virtually the only real investigation being done in the United States of the elite entities. And he has summarized this as Apple achieving the holy grail of tax evasion, which is that Apple has succeeded in creating the stateless corporation that makes literally tens of billions of dollars and pays taxes to absolutely no one. And at the hearing that was just conducted, it turned into a love fest for Apple instead of a crackdown on this behavior..."

 theREALnews                                                                               Permalink

Apple Achieves Holy Grail of Tax Avoidance
Bill Black: Senate questions CEO Tim Cook how company earned $30 billion in 'international' profits while paying zero taxes - May 23, 13

More at The Real News


William K. Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. He has taught previously at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and at Santa Clara University, where he was also the distinguished scholar in residence for insurance law and a visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Black was litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, deputy director of the FSLIC, SVP and general counsel of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and senior deputy chief counsel, Office of Thrift Supervision. He was deputy director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement. Black developed the concept of "control fraud" frauds in which the CEO or head of state uses the entity as a "weapon." Control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime combined. He recently helped the World Bank develop anti-corruption initiatives and served as an expert for OFHEO in its enforcement action against Fannie Mae's former senior management.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The value of gold is being supressed by at lease 14 colluding traders of paper gold. Paul Craig Roberts: "This was an attack ordered by the Federal Reserve, which is why there is no investigation of the illegality." "[This] tells us that the Federal Reserve sees no way out of printing money in order to support the federal deficit and the insolvent banks. If the dollar came under attack and the Federal Reserve had to stop printing dollars, interest rates would rise. The bond and stock markets would collapse. The dollar would be abandoned as reserve currency. Washington would no longer be able to pay its bills and would lose its hegemony." "The dollar’s demise awaits the world’s decision how to get out of it. The Federal Reserve can print dollars with which to keep the bond and stock markets high, but the Federal Reserve cannot print foreign currencies with which to keep the dollar afloat."

Washington Signals Dollar Deep Concerns — Paul Craig Roberts

May 18, 2013 | Original Here                                                      Go here to sign up to receive email notice of this news letter

Over the past month there has been a statistically improbable concurrence of events that can only be explained as a conspiracy to protect the dollar from the Federal Reserve’s policy of Quantitative Easing (QE).

Quantitative Easing is the term given to the Federal Reserve’s policy of printing 1,000 billion new dollars annually in order to finance the US budget deficit by purchasing US Treasury bonds and to keep the prices high of debt-related derivatives on the “banks too big to fail” (BTBF) balance sheets by purchasing mortgage-backed derivatives. Without QE, interest rates would be much higher, and values on the banks’ balance sheets would be much lower.

Quantitative Easing has been underway since December 2008. During these 54 months, the Federal Reserve has created several trillion new dollars with which the Fed has monetized the same amount of debt.

One result of this policy is that most real US interest rates are negative. Another result is that the supply of dollars has outstripped the world’s demand for dollars.

These two results are the reason that the Federal Reserve’s policy of printing money with which to purchase Treasury bonds and mortgage backed derivatives threatens the dollar’s exchange value and, thus, the dollar’s role as world reserve currency.

To be the world reserve currency means that the dollar can be used to pay any and every country’s oil bills and trade deficit. The dollar is the medium of international payment.

This is very helpful to the US and is the main source of US power. Because the dollar is the reserve currency, the US can cover its import costs and pay for its cost of operation simply by creating its own paper money.

If the dollar were not the reserve currency, Washington would not be able to finance its wars or continue to run large trade and budget deficits. Therefore, protecting the exchange value of the dollar is Washington’s prime concern if it is to remain a superpower.

The threats to the dollar are alternative monies–currencies that are not being created in enormous quantities, gold and silver, and Bitcoins, a digital currency.

The Bitcoin threat was eliminated on May 17 when the Gestapo Department of Homeland Security seized Bitcoin’s accounts. The excuse was that Bitcoin had failed to register in keeping with the US Treasury’s anti-money laundering requirements.

Washington has stifled the threat from other currencies by convincing other large currencies to out-print the dollar. Japan has complied, and the European Central Bank, though somewhat constrained by Germany, has entered the printing mode in order to bail out the private banks endangered by the “sovereign debt crisis.”

That leaves gold and silver. The enormous increase in the prices of gold and silver over the last decade convinced Washington that there are a number of miscreants who do not trust the dollar and whose numbers must not be permitted to increase.

The price of gold rose from $272 an ounce in December 2000 to $1,917.50 on August 23, 2011. The financial gangsters who own and run America panicked. With the price of the dollar collapsing in relation to historical real money, how could the dollar’s exchange rate to other currencies be valid? If the dollar’s exchange value came under attack, the Federal Reserve would have to stop printing and would lose control over interest rates.

The bond and stock market bubbles would pop, and the interest payments on the federal debt would explode, leaving Washington even more indebted and unable to finance its wars, police state, and bankster bailouts.

Something had to be done about the rising price of gold and silver.

There are two bullion markets. One is a paper market in New York, Comex, where paper claims to gold are traded. The other is the physical market where personal possession is taken of the metal–coin shops, bullion dealers, jewelry stores.

The way the banksters have it set up, the price of bullion is not set in the markets in which people actually take possession of the metals. The price is set in the paper market where speculators gamble.

This bifurcated market gave the Federal Reserve the ability to protect the dollar from its printing press.

On Friday, April 12, 2013, short sales of gold hit the New York market in an amount estimated to have been somewhere between 124 and 400 tons of gold. This enormous and unprecedented sale implies an illegal conspiracy of sellers intent on rigging the market or action by the Federal Reserve through its agents, the BTBF that are the bullion banks.

The enormous sales of naked shorts drove down the gold price, triggering stop-loss orders and margin calls. The attack continued on Monday, April 15, and has continued since.

Before going further, note that there are position limits imposed on the number of contracts that traders can sell at one time. The 124 tons figure would have required 14 traders with no open interest on the exchange to sell all together in the same few minutes 40,000 futures contracts. The likelihood of so many traders deciding to short at the same moment at the maximum permitted is not believable. This was an attack ordered by the Federal Reserve, which is why there is no investigation of the illegality.

Note also that no seller that wanted out of a position would give himself a low price by dumping an enormous amount all at once unless the goal was not profit but to smash the bullion price.

Since the April 12-15 attack on the gold price, subsequent attacks have occurred at 2pm Hong Kong time and 2 am New York time. At this time activity is light, waiting on London to begin operating. As William S.Kaye has observed, no entity concerned about profits would choose this time to sell 20,000 to 30,000 futures contracts, but this is what has been happening.

Who can be unconcerned with losing money in this way? Only a central bank that can print it.

Now we come to the physical market where people take possession of bullion instead of betting on paper instruments. Look at this chart from ZeroHedge. The demand for physical possession is high, despite the assault on gold that began in 2011, but as the price is set in the non-real paper market, orchestrated short sales, as in the current quarter of 2013, can drive down the price regardless of the fact that the actual demand for gold and silver cannot be met.

While the corrupt Western financial press urges people to abandon bullion, everyone is trying to purchase more, and the premiums above the spot price have risen. Around the world there is a shortage of gold and silver in the forms, such as one-ounce coins and ten-ounce bars, that individuals demand.

That the decline in gold and silver prices is an orchestration is apparent from the fact that the demand for bullion in the physical market has increased while naked short sales in the paper market imply a flight from bullion.

What does this illegal manipulation of markets by the Federal Reserve tell us? It tells us that the Federal Reserve sees no way out of printing money in order to support the federal deficit and the insolvent banks. If the dollar came under attack and the Federal Reserve had to stop printing dollars, interest rates would rise. The bond and stock markets would collapse. The dollar would be abandoned as reserve currency. Washington would no longer be able to pay its bills and would lose its hegemony. The world of hubristic Washington would collapse.

It remains to be seen whether Washington can prevail over the world demand for gold and silver. Can the dollar remain supreme when offshoring has deprived the US of the ability to cover its imports with exports? Can the dollar remain supreme when the Federal reserve is creating 1,000 billion new ones each year, while the BRICS, China and Japan, China and Australia, and China and Russia are making deals to settle their trade balances without the use of the dollar?

If the consumption-based US economy deprived of consumer income by jobs offshoring takes a further dip down in the third or fourth quarter–a downturn that cannot be masked by phony statistical releases–the federal deficit will rise. What will be the effect on the dollar if the Federal Reserve has to increase its Quantitative Easing?

A perfect storm has been prepared for America. Real interest rates are negative, but debt and money are being created hand over foot. The dollar’s demise awaits the world’s decision how to get out of it. The Federal Reserve can print dollars with which to keep the bond and stock markets high, but the Federal Reserve cannot print foreign currencies with which to keep the dollar afloat.

When the dollar goes, Washington’s power goes, which is why the bullion market is rigged. Protect the power. That is the agenda. Is it another Washington over-reach?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

If you think your medical insurance is more than you can afford now, read this to find out what the greedy corporations have in store for you next. Only in America!

Welcome to the Brave New World of Corporatized Medicine: Just Hope You Don't Get Sick!
"Business freedom" in America increasingly means the God-given right to exploit the vulnerability of the public.

In fact, business freedom here increasingly means the God-given right to exploit the vulnerability of the public. The example slouching into view is more corporate control over the practice of medicine. And based on the previews, it will make the horrors falsely attributed to socialized medicine look pale.

Two accounts last week bring the issue home. The first came in the Health Care Renewal blog (hat tip Lysa). It’s a reminder of how the current institutional efforts to regiment doctors undermine the caliber of medical care. It has become distressingly common for HMOs and other medical enterprises to have business-school trained managers putting factory-style production parameters on doctor visits. Outside of foreclosure mills, it’s hard to find similar approaches in other professions.

The post describes how a pediatrician, Pauline, who has developed a reputation for treating chronic conditions is at loggerheads with her for-profit practice. The suits don’t like her patient mix. She gets too many tough cases, when they’d rather have basically healthy kids who are there for a cold or ear infection. Mind you, this is only partly a money issue. These visits can be “up coded” so as to get larger insurance/patient payments, but she gets a higher level of patients in less-generous state insurance programs. But some of the pushback is that her practice is perceived as disruptive, since she uses what is perceived as too much of her and staff time, separate and apart from the economics. She’s constantly breaking management’s precious guidelines. One of her turf struggles:
She had set up a visit to see a new medically complex patient and had blocked off 40 minutes, the amount of time she felt she needed to do a good job. The child had a complex genetic disorder, cerebral palsy, and heart, lung, and kidney problems. Both the cardiologist and the nephrologist had called asking her to take this patient. She agreed. After she had scheduled the visit, a manager called her and told her that she was being allowed only 15 minutes to see that patient. After some fruitless discussion with him, Pauline finally said, “Okay, I guess that means that you’ll be seeing the patient instead of me, right?” The shocked voice at the other end of the phone line replied, “What do you mean? I don’t know how to take care of patients.” “That’s exactly my point,” Pauline put in.

Pauline explained that this manager assigned to her office is not even a college graduate. Physicians cannot access the schedule electronically and have no control over scheduling. These functions are controlled by the office manager and (amazingly) by some of the medical assistants who have received some “leadership” training. These medical assistants are even allowed to evaluate the clinical competency and skills of the physicians.
And to add insult to injury, how long did this discussion take? All those minutes the doctor spent fighting with a petty bureaucrat come at the expense of patient care.

As an aside, it’s hard to stress enough that this sort of demoralizing micromanagement and unwillingness to listen to and learn from workers, is a widespread shortcoming of management American-style. And it has weirdly been airbrushed out of the media. When I was a kid in business school, US manufacturers were having their clocks cleaned by Germans and the Japanese. There was a good deal of critical self examination back then. One source of foreign ascendancy was that they had newer factories, so you couldn’t really blame American management for that one. But the second was that it was widely acknowledged that US managers were generally poor at dealing with labor. And this wasn’t “labor” in the union sense, but at having productive relationships with factory workers (note that there has been massive revisionist history since then. When I was in Bschool, none of my classmates, nearly half of whom had worked in major manufacturing companies, had bad things to say about unions.) Now you’ll often see the decline of American manufacturing attributed to unions in an “everybody knows that” tone.
So let me add a further nugget about Pauline’s background. In one of her previous jobs, she was made the manager of a pediatric outpatient center within a county hospital caring for a largely indigent population. This center had been running in the red for a good while. Pauline took over and within 28 months she’d streamlined the place and had them running well in the black, while still administering a quality of care that Pauline and her colleagues could be proud of. In short, Pauline could probably tell the managers of her current practice a thing or two about how to optimize patient scheduling without compromising care or cost —if they’d listen.
As bad as that is, most patients are unware of how much their care has been fitted to a Procrustean bed. The deliberate degradation in the name of profits is going to become more obvious, at least if the health care industry has its way.

I strongly encourage you to read this post from Whole Health Chicago (hat tip Lambert) in full. It shows how the future of American medicine is to fire the ones who are unhealthy. No, I am not making that up. The writer, Dr. David Edelberg, describes a recent presentation by a large insurance company. They’ve apparently been hosting similar sessions with physicians in the Chicago area in large medical practices. Here are the key bits (emphasis original):
The speaker at these evenings is always a physician employed by the insurance company. His/her title is medical director (I begin to think there must be dozens and dozens on their payroll) and he always begins by reassuring the audience that he was in clinical practice himself so he understands something of what physicians–especially primary care physicians–are facing. I view this physician more as a “Judas steer,” the animal that leads an innocent but doomed herd of cattle through the slaughterhouse corridors to the killing floor.

The health industry hopes that individual medical practices and small medical groups will ultimately disappear from the landscape by being financially absorbed into larger groups owned by hospital systems.
And why do the powers that be regard this as desirable? Although the article does not stress this point, doctors have an established revenue stream. So the acquirers buy them out and impose discipline on those artistic, freewheeling doctors. The “practice style,” which used to mean the independence that doctors once enjoyed, is now an Orwellianism and includes hewing to corporate guidelines as to how to operate.

And here’s what to expect:
Physicians are expected to spend a limited amount of time with each patient, and are encouraged to see as many patients as possible during a workday. The insurance companies, sometimes with the token cooperation of a few physician-employees, create vast books of patient-care guidelines to which they believe their physicians must be “accountable” (remember this word, it will crop up again). These guidelines might mean documented Pap smear and mammogram frequency, weight management and exercise, colonoscopies for patients over 50, and getting that evil LDL (bad cholesterol) below 99 by any means possible…

If the chart audit system discovers that a physician, for whatever reason, is an “outlier”–that she’s either not following the guidelines exactly or not getting the results anticipated for her patient population—she’ll be financially penalized. A quick example of what might occur: if your LDL is 115, you may be on the receiving end of a statin sales pitch from your doctor, not because bringing it down to 99 will improve your longevity, but because your refusal to do so will impact her financial bottom line.
Now of course, you might say, “Well, in fairness, medicine is too much of a cottage industry. Look at how many doctors give unnecessary annual EKGs to patients in low risk groups. How else are we going to get to evidence-based medicine?” The problem is that what we as patients will get isn’t driven by best outcomes, it’s driven by profits. Edelberg explains:
…the subtext of “standardized” always includes the unspoken “spend less money on the patient.” Thus, a doctor might be financially penalized for recommending nutritional counseling to lower cholesterol (“counseling is expensive”) instead of writing a generic statin drug (cheap). Or recommending psychotherapy (“therapy is very expensive”) instead of generic Prozac (cheaper than M&M’s). Or referring patients for massage, acupuncture, or even chiropractic (“expensive, expensive, expensive!”) instead of pushing an over-the-counter antiinflammatory (free to the insurance company, as it’s OTC).
And I shudder to think what becomes of patients who don’t hew to standard templates: the person who had a high body mass but not due to dangerous abdominal fat (which is what creates the health risk) who is pushed to take the latest, greatest diet drug. What about people who don’t buy into the religion of getting your LDL down to below 100 (one reader argued that while it may lower your risk of heart disease, it increases your all-factor death risk by reducing your ability to fight MRSA)? Will they face penalties if they fail to comply?

No, you just will find it nearly impossible to get a doctor to take you:
• Let me close with a best-as-I-recall quote from an insurance company medical director. “We can no longer afford to pay for health care under the PPO model. Our plan is to phase out all fee-for-service care during the next few years. We’ll pay you doctors a finite amount of money to take care of a defined population. We tell doctors, ‘Don’t spend much money and you can keep the difference. Period. Don’t follow guidelines, and you’ll be leaving behind some serious money on the table and we’ll just take it back.’”
In case you think I overstated the implications, Edelberg recapped the discussion that ensued:
One physician piped up…. “But what about the non-compliant patients who won’t take the meds, don’t eat well, don’t have mammograms, continue to smoke? And what about super-health-conscious patients who want their vitamin levels measured and want referrals to acupuncturists?”

Another physician answered wearily for the medical director (who didn’t disagree): “You’ve got to fire patients like that. Get the non-compliant and the super-demanding out of your system. They’ll drag your numbers down. Hit your personal bottom line.”

Hey you, patient. Yes, I mean YOU. Pink slip time! Canned! Take your medical records and don’t let the frosted glass door hit you in the…on the way out.
In other words, if you are high maintenance because you don’t do what your doctor says (and remember, “non-compliant” includes people who don’t follow orders because they think the cookie-cutter approach isn’t right for them) or want higher service or per the example of the pediatrician Patricia’s 40 minute case, have a complicated set of ailments, you’ll be shunted. The brave new world of corporate medicine will eject you.

The rich are unlikely even to know that this change is occurring. There will be a tier of doctors on the high end to cater to patients who want more personalized, cutting edge treatment and might need some prodding. And they can always go abroad if they can’t find what they need here. But for ordinary schlubs, expect to find the doctor’s office become more hostile as the brave new world of corporatized medicine becomes entrenched. 

Yves Smith is the founder of Naked Capitalism and the author of 'ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism.' 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The criminality of the megabanks caused the present recession, yet the Federal government treats them as too big to fail and too big to jail. But what if the states were to sue individual bankers accused of defrauding the public? How sweet that would be! And California's Attorney General is contemplating doing just that. Support her!

Will JPMorgan Chase Bankers Finally Pay the Piper?

Will California Attorney General Kamala Harris hang tough in her new lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase, the first to target individual bankers accused of defrauding the public? If so, it would be the first time in five years that executives at a major bank have personally paid a price for their misdeeds.

Weekend at Jamie’s

Recent revelations have shown the world that JPMorgan Chase comes as close as any institution in America to embodying all that is corrupt, contemptible, and criminal about today’s megabanks.  This is gratifying, at least on a personal level, since that was not a popular assessment when we first started writing about JPM and CEO Jamie Dimon a few years back.

In those days Dimon was help up as the “good banker” by the president and the press. His institution was considered well-managed and ethical by some of the more shallow members of the popular press, despite the plethora of scandals and crimes like the Alabama bribery case.

Since then we’ve had a variety of Chase revelations: the “Burger King kids” details behind its massive foreclosure fraud; its confessed criminal mistreatment of active duty military personnel; its deeds in fraudulently propping up a failed mortgage lender (it was like a financial Weekend at Bernie’s); and (speaking of “Bernies”) its negligence (at best) in the handling of the fraudulent Madoff accounts, which should have triggered all sorts of red-flag warnings.

Now there’s the London Whale scandal and what appears to be a subsequent case of investor deception.

The bank wound up paying a staggering $16 billion in fines and settlements over a four-year period, more than 12 percent of its net income during that time.

The Scandal of Our Time

An ethically healthy society would never have lionized a CEO like Jamie Dimon or an institution like JPMorgan Chase. That’s why we’ve called it “the scandal of our time.” What explains Dimon’s inability to stem the lawbreaking and correct his organization’s broken ethical system? The most generous interpretation is that he’s an incompetent manager — so incompetent that, even after numerous suits, revelations, and settlements, “Jamie didn’t know about all the illegal and unethical behavior that continued unabated in his institution.

Jamie Dimon
Needless to say, there are more plausible explanations.

And yet, in those cases where the bank has been called to account with fines and settlements, it has been shareholders and not the wrongdoing bankers themselves,who have paid cost. Ironically, that even happens when the shareholders themselves are the ones who were defrauded. That’s why we say that bank fraud is the only crime on Earth in which the victims make restitution on behalf of the wrongdoers.

Is this ugly pattern finally changing?

Meet the Does

Blogger and finance expert Yves Smith thinks so. California Attorney General Kamala Harris is suing JPMorgan Chase and individual bankers (named as “Does 1 through 100″) for “commit(ting) debt collection abuses” against Chase credit card holders, “flooding California’s courts with… collection lawsuits based on patently insufficient evidence.”

The Harris suit calls on the Court to assess $2,500 against each defendant for each violation of “Business and Professions Code section 17200,” and an additional $2,500 penalty for each violation perpetrated against a senior citizen or disabled person.

That may not sound like a lot of money for a banker but, as Smith points out, there are more than 100,000 potential violations. Smith writes: “If (Harris) can get the individuals who were supervising the robosigning operations (better yet, the C level execs ultimately responsible) and the complicit law firms, she might bankrupt some well-placed people. This could be extremely entertaining.”

Indeed. In fact, I’ll buy the popcorn.

Walking the Walk

From Yves Smith:

“Now Harris has been widely depicted as an opportunist. But she’s kicking up more dirt on the banking front right now than any other official … This case has enough headline value that Harris might go a few rounds before settling. JP Morgan is known for throwing vast amounts of lawyers at opponents to bury them in legal costs and busywork, so this case, sadly, is unlikely to go to trial. But if she can get the goods on the right sort of DOES, she might make some individuals pay in a serious way, which would have far more deterrent effect.

Adds Smith: “If nothing else, we should applaud what she’s so far and press her to keep going.”

I generally agree with all of the above. But some of us have been burned by even the most cautious cheerleading for seemingly promising Wall Street investigations and lawsuits.  That’s especially been true when the actions in question are being conducted by elected officials with any sort of connection to the Obama White House, an institution which has become synonymous with efforts to protect bankers and restrict their punishment to the merely symbolic.

Attorney General Harris is considered close to the president. She’s undoubtedly being either cajoled or pressured (or both) to cave on this issue.

Reaching Out

So I’m going to emphasize the words “press her” in Smith’s last sentence.  If Harris is determined to see this through, her suit is potentially the kind of sea change in banker law enforcement we’ve been waiting for. But that means she’ll need emphatic expressions of support to strengthen her resolve (and to explain to the Administration why she can’t and won’t back down).

And if this is merely another publicity stunt, she needs to know that a choreographed cave-in will be very poorly received by her constituents.

Harris therefore deserves strong expressions of support, along with statements that citizens expect her to see this action through — at least far enough to ensure that the malefactors involved pay some personal penalty for their misdeeds.

(Contact information for Kamala Harris, Attorney General for the State of California, can be found here.)

RJ Eskow

Republished from Huffington Post with the author’s permission.
Saturday, 11 May 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Memo to my fellow Democrats: The enemy is not “the Republicans,” rather it is the Republicans AND Democrats “elected” to Congress and the White House. (I put “elected” in quotes because the elections are systematically rigged.) Here Paul Craig Roberts, a highly educated old-school Republican with on-the-job credentials in both Reagan’s cabinet and Wall Street, relates the work of other educated out-side-the-box thinkers who see the U.S. media for what it is: a propaganda machine that would make Goebbels jealous. Roberts finishes with a critic of Obama’s recent speech to the graduating class of The Ohio State University: “Outdoing George Orwell’s Big Brother, Obama said in public to a graduating class of a great university without shame: ‘You have grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as . . . some sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.’” Well, tyranny is already here my friends. But thanks to the “presstitute” media, the majority of Americans are unaware that the U.S. Constitution has long since been shredded.

How Elites and Media Minimize Dissent and Bury Truth — Paul Craig Roberts

May 11, 2013 | Original Here                                                        Go here to sign up to receive email notice of this news letter

Over the last several years I have watched the rise of an important new intellect on the American scene. Ron Unz, publisher of The American Conservative, has demonstrated time and again the extraordinary ability to reexamine settled issues and show that the accepted conclusion was incorrect.

One of his early achievements was to dispose of the myth of immigrant crime by demonstrating that “Hispanics have approximately the same crime rates as whites of the same age and gender.” You can imagine the uproar, but Unz won the debate.

Unz provoked and prevailed in another controversy when he concluded that Mexican-Americans have approximately the same innate intelligence as whites, with their lower IQs being due to transitory socio-economic deprivation.

He next surprised by showing the connection between the declining real value of the minimum wage (about one-third less than in the 1960s) and immigration. Americans cannot survive on one-third less minimum income than four decades ago, and the unfilled jobs are taken by Hispanics who live many to the room. A higher minimum wage, Unz pointed out, would cure the illegal immigration problem as American citizens would fill the jobs.

I wrote about some of Unz’s remarkable findings. One of my favorites is his comparison of the responsiveness of the Chinese and US governments to their publics. I found his conclusion convincing that the authoritarian one-party Chinese government was more responsive to the Chinese people than democratic two-party Washington is to the American people.

The person is rare who can take on such controversial issues in such a professional way that he wins the admiration even of his critics. In my opinion, Ron Unz is a national resource. He has established online libraries of important periodicals and magazines from the pre-Internet era, information that otherwise essentially would be lost. I have not met him, but he donates to this site and is an independent thinker free of The Matrix.

Unz’s latest article, “Our American Pravda,” is a striking account of the failure of media, regulatory, and national security organizations and subsequent coverups that leave the public deceived. Unz uses the Iraq war as one example:

“The circumstances surrounding our Iraq War demonstrate this, certainly ranking it among the strangest military conflicts of modern times. The 2001 attacks in America were quickly ascribed to the radical Islamists of al-Qaeda, whose bitterest enemy in the Middle East had always been Saddam Hussein’s secular Baathist regime in Iraq. Yet through misleading public statements, false press leaks, and even forged evidence such as the “yellowcake” documents, the Bush administration and its neoconservative allies utilized the compliant American media to persuade our citizens that Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs posed a deadly national threat and required elimination by war and invasion. Indeed, for several years national polls showed that a large majority of conservatives and Republicans actually believed that Saddam was the mastermind behind 9/11 and the Iraq War was being fought as retribution. Consider how bizarre the history of the 1940s would seem if America had attacked China in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

“True facts were easily available to anyone paying attention in the years after 2001, but most Americans do not bother and simply draw their understanding of the world from what they are told by the major media, which overwhelmingly—almost uniformly—backed the case for war with Iraq; the talking heads on TV created our reality. Prominent journalists across the liberal and conservative spectrum eagerly published the most ridiculous lies and distortions passed on to them by anonymous sources, and stampeded Congress down the path to war.

“The result was what my late friend Lt. Gen. Bill Odom rightly called the “greatest strategic disaster in United States history.” American forces suffered tens of thousands of needless deaths and injuries, while our country took a huge step toward national bankruptcy [and a police state]. Economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and others have estimated that with interest the total long-term cost of our two recent wars may reach as high as $5 or $6 trillion, or as much as $50,000 per American household, mostly still unpaid. Meanwhile, economist Edward Wolff has calculated that the Great Recession and its aftermath cut the personal net worth of the median American household to $57,000 in 2010 from a figure nearly twice as high three years earlier. Comparing these assets and liabilities, we see that the American middle class now hovers on the brink of insolvency, with the cost of our foreign wars being a leading cause.

“But no one involved in the debacle ultimately suffered any serious consequences, and most of the same prominent politicians and highly paid media figures who were responsible remain just as prominent and highly paid today. For most Americans, reality is whatever our media organs tell us, and since these have largely ignored the facts and adverse consequences of our wars in recent years, the American people have similarly forgotten. Recent polls show that only half the public today believes that the Iraq War was a mistake.”

Unz covers a number of cases of criminality, treason, and coverups at high levels of government and points out that “these dramatic, well-documented accounts have been ignored by our national media.” One reason for “this wall of uninterest” is that both parties are complicit and thus equally eager to bury the facts.

Unz is raising the question of the efficacy of democracy. Does the way democracy works in America provide any more self-rule than in undemocratic regimes? He offers this example:

“Most of the Americans who elected Barack Obama in 2008 intended their vote as a total repudiation of the policies and personnel of the preceding George W. Bush administration. Yet once in office, Obama’s crucial selections—Robert Gates at Defense, Timothy Geither at Treasury, and Ben Bernake at the Federal Reserve—were all top Bush officials, and they seamlessly continued the unpopular financial bailouts and foreign wars begun by his predecessor, producing what amounted to a third Bush term.”

In an article not long ago, I raised the issue whether Americans live in The Matrix with their perceptions and thoughts controlled by disinformation as in George Orwell’s 1984.

Unz adds to this perspective. He tells the story of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky’s plan to transform Russia into a make-believe two-party state complete with heated battles fought on divisive and symbolic issues. Behind the scenes the political elites would orchestrate the political battles between the parties with the purpose of keeping the population divided and funneling popular dissatisfaction into meaningless dead-end issues. In such a system, self-serving power prevails. After describing Berezovsky’s plot, Unz asks if Berezovsky got his idea from observing the American political scene.

Thinking further about the propagandistic nature of the US media, Unz writes:

“Individuals from less trusting societies are often surprised at the extent to which so many educated Americans tend to believe whatever the media tells them and ignore whatever it does not, placing few constraints on even the most ridiculous propaganda. For example, a commentator on my article described the East German media propaganda he had experienced prior to Reunification as being in many respects more factual and less totally ridiculous than what he now saw on American cable news shows. One obvious difference was that Western media was so globally dominant during that era that the inhabitants of the German Democratic Republic inevitably had reasonable access to a contrasting second source of information, forcing their media to be much more cautious in its dishonesty, while today almost any nonsense uniformly supported by the MSNBC-to-FoxNews spectrum of acceptable opinion remains almost totally unquestioned by most Americans.”

Unz’s view of the US media as propagandists for power is consistent with that of John Pilger, one of the last remaining real journalists who refuses to serve power, and with Gerald Celente, who sums up the sordid American media in one word–”presstitutes.” I know from my own media experience that an independent print and TV media no longer exists in the West. The American media is a tightly controlled disinformation ministry.

Those few Americans who are free of the constraints imposed by dogmas on their ability to think and to process information have a huge responsibility for their small number. The assault on the rule of law began in the last years of the Clinton regime, but the real destruction of the US Constitution, the basis for the United States, was achieved by the neoconservative George W. Bush and Obama regimes. Wars without declarations by Congress, torture in violation of both US and international law, war crimes in violation of the Nuremberg standard, indefinite detention and assassination of US citizens without due process of law, universal spying on US citizens without warrants, federalization of state and local police now armed with military weapons and uniforms, detention centers, “your papers, please” (without the Gestapo “please”) not only at airports but also on highways, streets, bus terminals, train stations, and at sporting events.

On May 5 Obama gave the commencement address at Ohio State University. No doubt that the graduates thought that they were being honored by being addressed by the world’s greatest tyrant.

Obama told the graduating class, to applause, that their obligation as citizens is to trust the government. Outdoing George Orwell’s Big Brother, Obama said in public to a graduating class of a great university without shame: “You have grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as . . . some sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”
Blogger's Note: You should understand the monologue below as PCR's parody of what Obama might have been thinking in that moment, as opposed to the words he was actually using at the Ohio State commencement.
Listen to my propaganda, not to those constitutional experts, legal authorities, and critics of me, the First Black President, who tell you to beware of unaccountable government. Due process is decided by the demands of the war on terror. If there is a war on terror, do you want a fair trial or do you want to be safe? I am going to make you safe by not giving defendants accused of terrorism, who some liberal-pinko-commie judge would set free, a fair trial.

Making you safe by enveloping you in a police state is a nonpartisan undertaking. Just listen to Lindsay Graham and Peter King and John McCain. These Republican leaders are demanding the police state that I am providing.

As my own legal department, The US Department Of Justice, decided, the Dictator, I mean, elected president, has the power to save the country from domestic and foreign terrorists by abrogating the US Constitution, an out-of-date document that binds our hands and prevents us from keeping you, our serfs and minions, I mean our cherished citizens, safe.

Trust me. That is your obligation as a US citizen. Trust me and I will make you free, happy, employed sometime later in this century when the Amerikan Empire controls the world.

The US Constitution was written by people who opposed Empire. These people were misguided, just like the Roman Republicans who did not understand the need for a Caesar. The American Empire, as the neoconservatives have made clear, is what keeps you free from terrorism. We have to kill them over there before they come over here. And those who are over here will be killed too. We tolerate no dissent. That part of the Constitution is gone, along with the rest of it.

Now give me my honorary doctorate, another sign of approval of my usurpation.