See, kids? This is what political leverage looks like!
Q: Which side is Obama on? A: Ha ha, just kidding!
I wonder who turned them in? We have three of those clubhouses in this neighborhood. I imagine there will be a lot of very suspicious Mummer wives!
No matter what, I’ll be supporting Occupy Wall Street. And I think the movement’s basic strategy – to build numbers and stay in the fight, rather than tying itself to any particular set of principles – makes a lot of sense early on. But the time is rapidly approaching when the movement is going to have to offer concrete solutions to the problems posed by Wall Street. To do that, it will need a short but powerful list of demands. There are thousands one could make, but I’d suggest focusing on five:
1. Break up the monopolies. The so-called “Too Big to Fail” financial companies – now sometimes called by the more accurate term “Systemically Dangerous Institutions” – are a direct threat to national security. They are above the law and above market consequence, making them more dangerous and unaccountable than a thousand mafias combined. There are about 20 such firms in America, and they need to be dismantled; a good start would be to repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and mandate the separation of insurance companies, investment banks and commercial banks.
2. Pay for your own bailouts. A tax of 0.1 percent on all trades of stocks and bonds and a 0.01 percent tax on all trades of derivatives would generate enough revenue to pay us back for the bailouts, and still have plenty left over to fight the deficits the banks claim to be so worried about. It would also deter the endless chase for instant profits through computerized insider-trading schemes like High Frequency Trading, and force Wall Street to go back to the job it’s supposed to be doing, i.e., making sober investments in job-creating businesses and watching them grow.
3. No public money for private lobbying. A company that receives a public bailout should not be allowed to use the taxpayer’s own money to lobby against him. You can either suck on the public teat or influence the next presidential race, but you can’t do both. Butt out for once and let the people choose the next president and Congress.
4. Tax hedge-fund gamblers. For starters, we need an immediate repeal of the preposterous and indefensible carried-interest tax break, which allows hedge-fund titans like Stevie Cohen and John Paulson to pay taxes of only 15 percent on their billions in gambling income, while ordinary Americans pay twice that for teaching kids and putting out fires. I defy any politician to stand up and defend that loophole during an election year.
5. Change the way bankers get paid. We need new laws preventing Wall Street executives from getting bonuses upfront for deals that might blow up in all of our faces later. It should be: You make a deal today, you get company stock you can redeem two or three years from now. That forces everyone to be invested in his own company’s long-term health – no more Joe Cassanos pocketing multimillion-dollar bonuses for destroying the AIGs of the world.
To quote the immortal political philosopher Matt Damon from Rounders, “The key to No Limit poker is to put a man to a decision for all his chips.” The only reason the Lloyd Blankfeins and Jamie Dimons of the world survive is that they’re never forced, by the media or anyone else, to put all their cards on the table. If Occupy Wall Street can do that – if it can speak to the millions of people the banks have driven into foreclosure and joblessness – it has a chance to build a massive grassroots movement. All it has to do is light a match in the right place, and the overwhelming public support for real reform – not later, but right now– will be there in an instant.
Via Crooked Timber, Australia has (barring unforeseen circumstances) finally passed a carbon tax. It may fall under the heading of “locking the barn door when the horse is out,” but it’s better than nothing – and it’s more than we’ve managed to do.
God bless ‘em, the October2011 people continued to speak out during this Senate finance committee hearing on the Columbia trade agreement. Because, you know, it’s only the riskiest country in the world in which to be a union leader – they keep killing them. Oh well! Multinational corporations and their trade interests are much more important.
Here’s the problem with sporadic adherence to the rule of a law and an opaque extra-judicial legal system: We just don’t know who or what to believe. (That, and the executions.) The timing on this Iran “terror” plot is a little too convenient, isn’t it? I guess we should be grateful the terrorists — excuse me, alleged terrorists – weren’t simply sent to Gitmo. Amy Davidson in the New Yorker:
It’s hard to know, at this stage, how solid the case against two men charged with trying to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States is. But it does have one thing to recommend it: an indictment. One of the men charged, Manssor Arbabsiar, an American citizen, was arrested at J.F.K. on September 29th. (The other, Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian, is at large, but, according to Eric Holder, the Attorney General, is not believed to be in the United States.) Arbabsiar will be put on trial in a court in lower Manhattan, just as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be “Christmas Bomber,” went on trial today in a court in Detroit. Neither was sent to Guantánamo, or put before a military tribunal, or preëmptively assassinated. That sounds like a simple thing, and it should be, and can be, even when, as in this new case, the alleged crime is complex. There is something discouraging about the relief one feels at a rudimentary adherence to the rule of law.
At least six countries are part of the story: allegedly, an American who also had an Iranian passport travelled to Mexico to meet with a member of a drug cartel (who turned out to be a confidential D.E.A. informant) to recruit a hitman to kill a Saudi Arabian and maybe also attack the Israeli embassy in Argentina. (A map with pins in it would help here.) And its scale was also potentially great: according to a wiretap recording cited in the indictment, which said, “They want that guy [the Ambassador] done [killed], if the hundred go with him, f*ck ’em.” Still: that is nothing our justice system—our real one—can’t handle, when we let it. The evidence against Arbabsiar, according to the indictment, includes “a series of Mirandized interviews” in which he “confessed to his participation in the plot” and also gave information about the involvement of others.
Sure seems like these bankers are a little nervous these days. I wonder why? In the meantime, I’m enjoying the show as activists put their creativity into their actions:
Today in Chicago, 40 activists dressed as Robin Hoods kayaked down the Chicago River while several hundred more protesters rallied outside a hotel to deliver a message to the Mortgage Banksters attending a national conference inside: It’s time for big banks to Pay US Back!
The Mortgage Bankers Association is one of the most powerful lobbying organizations for the big banks and they represent the mortgage arms/tentacles of the BIG 4–Wells Fargo (who happens to be sponsoring the conference), Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup–as well as numerous independent mortgage companies that created the housing bubble and blew up the economy in 2008.
One of the MBA claim’s to fame is defeating Judicial Loan Modifications – a piece of legislation that Congress was attempting to pass in order to help millions of homeowners who had fallen victim to the housing crisis. Under the current law, if you only have one home you can’t declare bankruptcy and have a judge renegotiate your debts. But if you own two homes, or a boat, you can. This is unfair and biased against working and middle class families that don’t have boats, airplanes and homes in the Hamptons. Chicago has been hardest hit by foreclosures, mostly due to the MBA blocking this legislation.
Today, the MBA held a conference in a downtown Chicago hotel.
While 600 protesters rallied and chanted outside the hotel, a team of 40 kayakers dressed like Robin Hood paddled down the Chicago River and anchored outside of the hotel chanting “We Are the 99%!” for 30 minutes while another team of activists dropped a banner from the DuSable Bridge at Michigan Avenue.
Inside the mortgage bankster meeting, a fourth team of activists were embedded in the audience, ready to interrupt the banksters’ plenary conference. Two activists were able to interrupt the discussion panel before the banksters shut down the meeting entirely to avoid further interruptions.