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Art by Panhandle Slim…

Marvin Gaye War

Panhandle Slim…

Pigs on parade

Five years later, and they’re still smiling!

The quants promised this house of cards couldn’t fall apart, because mortgage markets were regional, and that all of them couldn’t possibly fall at once. But that’s what happens with a bubble; it pops. And the extra layers of credit derivatives turned what could have been a somewhat more manageable crisis similar to the housing crash of the 1980s into a massive collapse. Everybody made bets with everybody – a system known as “shadow banking,” invisible to regulators – and then everybody bought insurance on them. And the insurers had no money in reserve; think AIG. Faulty links in this chain of borrowing reverberated through the system; once Lehman went bankrupt, nobody wanted to lend to anyone else because of the risk of default. Because banks relied on short-term lending, this lending freeze meant that even non-financial companies had no funds to make their payrolls.

In summary, the financial industry collectively decided that you could fund economic growth despite stagnant wages through piling on mountains of debt. But when it all went bad, the solution wasn’t to rebalance the economy, to get money into the hands of ordinary workers and preference wages over assets. The solution was to point a fire hose of money at the people who caused the problem, and inflate their assets to preserve the status quo. The Federal Reserve’s emergency lending and then quantitative easing rescued bank balance sheets. The five biggest U.S. banks are now 30 percent bigger than they were at the height of the crisis, nursed back to health by the government. Anyone who tells you TARP worked is looking at a tiny fraction of multi-trillion-dollar government support. And TARP didn’t translate support for the banks into the regular economy. Banks used the TARP program for foreclosure mitigation as a predatory lending system to trap borrowers. Lending for businesses did not increase.

Worst of all, despite a crisis built on fraud, nobody who perpetrated that fraud saw the inside of a jail cell, removing any meaningful deterrent for financial crimes. Most of those criminals walked away with enough money to fund their lavish lifestyles forever. The Justice Department recently had to admit that they inflated their own statistics on financial fraud prosecutions, and they disgracefully tried to re-insert the revised stats into old speeches to cover their tracks. I guess fraud is contagious.

Worth watching

Mixed messages

Let’s start with the good news.

Bill DeBlasio, an unabashed progressive with a biracial family, won the Democratic nomination for New York City’s mayoral race last night. (Although he won by a substantial margin, it was a crowded field and under NYC’s election law, he may face a runoff.) But victory is victory:

The result was a resounding vindication for De Blasio’s unconventional approach to the New York mayoral race in which he cut across traditional racial and ethnic lines to build what the Guardian analyst Harry Enten called “the most diverse coalition in modern history”. Key to his success, propelled from a little-known fourth place contender just a few weeks ago to his party’s front-runner, was his message of a “tale of two cities” – an implicit attack on the style of leadership of the current mayor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

In his victory speech, delivered in his home neighbourhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, De Blasio returned to the theme tune of his campaign, promising an alternative to the Bloomberg era. New York, he said, had become “a tale of two cities – one where the very wealthy had not only rebounded from the great recession but life couldn’t get much better for them, and another New York where nearly half are living on or near the poverty line, where luxury condos replace community hospitals, where pro-active policing has slipped into racial profiling.”

Oh, and the 1% are horrified at the thought he might win.

He’ll face Republican Joe Lhota in the fall.

Now for the bad news. In recall elections pushed by the NRA and the right wing, two Colorado state senators were recalled from office and replaced with Republicans:
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An American dream: My 9/11 fantasy

In my dream, I’m suddenly the queen of the United States, and I’d order people to stop dwelling on 9/11.

I’d tell them what happened at the World Trade Center made some crazy people ever crazier — and unfortunately for us, many of them were in charge when it happened.

I’d give a speech about the freedom of thought, speech and movement that made us America and inspired so many to come here, and what a mistake it was to let all that slip through our fingers in the name of “security.”

I’d ban the use of the word “homeland” on anything official. “We’re not fucking Nazis,” I’d proclaim. “We are not the ‘homeland,’ we are a free people and we’re going to stay that way.”

Whether it was through policies, covert actions or material support, the U.S. has inflicted serious harm on nations around the world, and by the laws of karma, it was just our turn.

The NSA? They’d have to work out of the White House basement (or palace, I’m not sure where I’d live), so I can drop in and keep an eye on them.

I would demand that on September 11th every year, news stations stop showing those damned videos of the World Trade Center towers being struck by the planes — in real time, no less. “War pornography,” I’d rail. “A blatant attempt to stoke the fires of division. We should have found who did this, arrested them and thrown them in jail. We didn’t need to inflict collective punishment on some other country’s civilians to avenge this crime, because that made us as bad as the people who did this.”

And I’d tell Americans they weren’t the first country in the world to suffer through a terrorist attack, so “put on your big boy pants and get over it.” Yes, it’s sad. Yes, it was a shock. But we did not invent victimhood, although you might think so, from the way the media plays it up. (When I was a reporter, we used to joke in the newsroom: “Plane Crash Kills 2 Americans, 187 Others.”)
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From 2009:

It just makes you feel so proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel’s extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles.

In a report released today, Amnesty International listed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the US president, Barack Obama, to suspend military aid to Israel.

The human rights group said those arming both sides in the conflict “will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated”.

The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.

As you may remember, use of white phosphorus (considered a war crime when used against civilian populations) was denied by the Israelis. Doctors treating wounded civilians blamed the shells for horrific burns.

The thing you need to know about white phosphorus (called Willy Pete by troops) is that it keeps burning on contact, all the way through your body. The victims have characteristic holes where shrapnel lands.

Our media covers it up, because no one wants to become a target of the Israel lobby.

We sell that to a lot of countries (I think Syria is using it now). We use it. We also sell (and use) depleted uranium shells, cluster bombs, and landmines. They’re all considered to be war crimes. If you want to see horrible pictures of children like the ones Obama is using to get congressional votes, just Google them. I warn you, though: You might get sick.

The last in love

Great J.D. Souther song. I first saw Nicolette Larson singing backup for Hoyt Axton (who was opening for Linda Ronstadt):

The blind fiddler

Hoyt Axton:


My commentary

On Obama’s speech:

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