October 09, 2013

Dear President Obama Re: Government shutdown/debt limit


I am very concerned about reports that you are considering "negotiating" with the Republicans. You have done well, so far, responding to Republicans taking the government hostage. Much better than in previous instances. Experience shows us that if you give in to any of their unreasonable demands, and they are all unreasonable, that they will take that concession and wait for the next opportunity to replay the whole scenario. The only way to stop this cycle is to hold firm to your position. Negotiations either before or after ending the shutdown or extending the debt limit will only encourage them to continue their destructive tactics.


The press reports that there are enough moderate Republicans who are willing to re-open the government and extend the debt limit. You should make it clear that you are not going to budge and encourage them to take action to end this now.


The budget that is finally passed should not take away from those most in need, or cut Social Security or Medicare. These programs are the most efficient and beneficial in the entire Federal Government.


We should not cut regulation to protect our health, our environment or our economy. Well enforced regulations level the playing field, which is now tilted to favor those who would cut corners or throw their costs onto the public.


On the other hand, we could easily cut our bloated, corrupt and wasteful military and "National Security" programs without endangering our security one bit.


Republicans are being unreasonable and do not deserve serious consideration of their demands. The public is with you and will demonstrate that in the next election if you show some spine and stand up to these hooligans.

May 05, 2012

B of A Misdeeds


Your B of A – Lessons Learned
Under the guise of B of A repenting, a good summary of misdeeds.
This whole website is written as if Bank of America was being nationalized and reformed. So, B of A would now be Your B of A.
I especially like this page, where all the banks past transgressions are reported (well, maybe not ALL).

Lessons Learned
Today, we at Bank of America are turning over a new leaf. Your Bank of America will be a Bank for America. And much as we would show an incoming CEO our full balance sheet, giving him or her the full knowledge needed to chart a new course, we are committed to transparency with you as well, and to displaying for you our liabilities as well as our assets.
Claim liabilities
We will, naturally, vigorously defend ourselves in any and all of these cases and any others that may arise, so long as we remain in command of our destiny. Still, it is obvious that this volume of litigation will at the very least present a challenge for those seeking to make positive business changes.
Investors claims 
Our Bank is today facing over a dozen major lawsuits for selling fraudulent securities to institutional investors. Though we have settled for $8.5 billion in damages with one such group of investors, we still face a further $10 billion in similar claims from AIG, and $700 million more from Allstate, as well as a fraud suit for just over $1 billion by U.S. Bancorp.
Insurer claims 
We are being sued for $1.4 billion by a major bond insurer, MBIA, which claims it was fraudulently induced to insure worthless Countrywide mortgages. Another bond insurer, Assured, is seeking $1.6 billion in damages in a very similar suit. Additionally, Ambac, an insurance company which is now bankrupt, claims it lost $466 million as a result of fraud by our Bank.
Pensioner claims 
Last year, we settled for $624 million in a case that claimed we had knowingly sold in fraudulent securities to New York public pension funds. We also settled for $315 million in a case involving the Mississippi state pension fund. Similar cases from other states are unfortunately in the pipeline.
Depositor claims 
A federal judge ruled in May that Bank of America had systematically overcharged depositors with inflated overdraft fees, forcing us to pay more than $410 million in damages.
Federal Government claims 
A federal case alleges that our Bank sold over $3 billion of worthless securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The settlement in that case is pending.
Minority claims 
Earlier this year we paid $335 million to settle claims that Countrywide had systematically sold minorities riskier adjustable “sub-prime” loans when they were, in fact, well-qualified for safer, fixed-rate mortgages.
Homeowner claims
 Our Bank faces over a dozen class-action suits alleging improper foreclosure on thousands of homeowners, some even alleging perjured, "robo-signed" evidence. We have also been accused of deliberately slowing down mortgage modification claims to avoid having to comply with programs to aid distressed families, requirements imposed on us as one of the largest recipients of 2008 bailout funds.
County and town claims
 Dozens of localities are alleging that Bank of America systematically evaded hundreds of millions of dollars in local taxes by using MERS, an electronic mortgage registration system that allows the avoidance of county-level mortgage-registration fees.
Shareholder claims
 After purchasing the ailing Merrill Lynch with taxpayer funds, bonuses we paid Merrill executives—in order to ease the merger approval process—came into question and became the subject of a lawsuit. While we agreed to settle with the S.E.C. for $33 million, a judge later quadrupled the fine to $125 million to resolve the claim of fraud.
Other direct liabilities

Inherited liabilities
 After acquiring Merrill Lynch in 2009, along with its assortment of debt, toxic assets, and junk investments, Bank of America has found itself beset by thousands of complaints, class action lawsuits and even criminal charges brought by over a dozen state attorneys general. In 2011 we paid out $5.6 billion in litigation-related expenses, up from $2.6 billion for 2010. In 2012 those costs are likely to continue to rise; in the first quarter of 2012 alone, for example, Bank of America has committed to a $3.25 billion payout to the federal government to satisfy a multi-state settlement in the fraudulent “robo-signing” fiasco.
Service-charge reductions 
A significant share of our annual income is derived from the various service charges contributed by our customers. Last year, service-charge revenue decreased by almost $2 billion, due to a populist “move your money” campaign which included a highly-publicized internet petition. The aggregate effect has been devastating to a core node of our business, and makes clear the need to rethink a model that needs to sustain high overheads through such a wide variety of means.
Indirect liabilities
These are, essentially, factors that make our Bank unpopular with the general public, and increase the difficulty of doing business. These do not have a direct effect on our bottom line, but may accentuate other effects—for example, by creating a hostile judicial environment in which non-objective judges more readily accept claims against us.
Taxation issues 
Due in part to our continued losses, and the compensation imbalances outlined above, Bank of America paid no federal tax for 2011, just as in 2010 and 2009. Part of this can be tied to the immense complexity of our business and the global nature of our client base, which has necessitated the creation of hundreds of foreign subsidiaries, including many in traditionally tax-averse territories, such as the Cayman Islands. It is also largely due to the ongoing efforts of our world-class legal team. But regardless of the reasons, this great asset has, with the advent of a more politicized public, become a liability. Many more people have come to resent the fact that the bank with the most branches, customers and checking accounts of any US bank pays no federal income tax, and that public brand-tarnishing presents unknown risk. Even more, the fact that even without taxes, we still don't turn a profit leads many to suggest that our business model is fundamentally flawed.
Embroilment in the foreclosure market 
The Bank of America never intended to become a used-home dealer. By finding ourselves in a foreclosure-mill of unprecedented size, our Bank has come to take charge of a vast stock of underwater homes that in many cases remain vacant, eventually bringing the value of entire neighborhoods down. Perceived abandonment of foreclosed homes, coupled with heartbreaking images of evictions, has perpetuated a vast reservoir of ill-will about our brand which also presents a hard-to-assess bottom-line risk. It has also created a platform for critics, who have even gone so far as to engage in stunts that distort the facts, like when one irate Florida mortgage holder, who had won a small court-ordered financial judgment against our bank, mobilized their local sheriffs department to “foreclose” on one of our branches in order to collect their judgment.
Environmental liabilities unpopular 
Part of our Bank's strength has come from our predominance within key industries. From 2009 to 2010, for example, we invested more than $4 billion in coal, more than any other bank. This has led some to claim that we are responsible not only for exacerbating the global climate crisis, but for contributing to thousands of deaths due to cardiac and respiratory diseases, as well as 1.6 million lost work days due to heart attacks, chronic bronchitis cases, asthma attacks, and the like.
Inequality 
Finally, in this time when the issue of "inequality" is so prominent for Americans, much has been made of the contrast between our stock losses (40% in 2011) and the year-end compensation of our senior executives (7% more than the year before), as well as in the contrast between our CEO's rate of earning and that of a typical teller (441 times more). Regardless of the merits of these points, they do appeal to a wider and wider swath of the American public, creating a deficit of good-will about the brand, which also exposes us to bottom-line risk, especially in the retail banking sector.

Summary
Some of the issues we have outlined above will be easier to address than others. Some may even disappear on their own should there be a federal receivership process, thus it may be premature to worry about them now. But we are committed to demonstrating showing you that we have changed. We wish to provide you, the American taxpayer—who even own our bank in the near future—with the information you are likely to need in pursuing success of the sort you're defining. That was then. This is now. Your Bank of America.

January 28, 2012

Slavoj Žižek speaks at Occupy Wall Street: Transcript

I've got to admit I never heard of Slavoj Žižek before. But I love this speech. One of the great things about the Occupy Movement is that we are all talking to each other. We are talking but more importantly we are listening. And voices that have been out there talking about these issues can be heard.

Clearly there is a history behind this guy. He seems to understand the magnitude and difficulty of what we are doing. He encourages us to stay in it for the long haul. There is a difference between a protest, which is inherently powerless and a movement that owns its power and is serious about bringing about the society we want to live in.

Thanks to Sarahana for posting this transcript at
http://www.imposemagazine.com/bytes/slavoj-zizek-at-occupy-wall-street-transcript



Don't Fall In Love With Yourselves
Slavoj Žižek speaks at Occupy Wall Street
October 9, 2011


They are saying we are all losers, but the true losers are down there on Wall Street. They were bailed out by billions of our money. We are called socialists, but here there is always socialism for the rich. They say we don’t respect private property, but in the 2008 financial crash-down more hard-earned private property was destroyed than if all of us here were to be destroying it night and day for weeks. They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare.
We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scene from cartoons. The cat reaches a precipice but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath this ground. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street, "Hey, look down!"
In mid-April 2011, the Chinese government prohibited on TV, films, and novels all stories that contain alternate reality or time travel. This is a good sign for China. These people still dream about alternatives, so you have to prohibit this dreaming. Here, we don’t need a prohibition because the ruling system has even oppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to imagine the end of the world. An asteroid destroying all life and so on. But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism.
So what are we doing here? Let me tell you a wonderful, old joke from Communist times. A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “Let’s establish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.” This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink: the language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom— war on terror and so on—falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here. You are giving all of us red ink.
There is a danger. Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember, carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal lives. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like “Oh. we were young and it was beautiful.” Remember that our basic message is “We are allowed to think about alternatives.” If the taboo is broken, we do not live in the best possible world. But there is a long road ahead. There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want. But what do we want? What social organization can replace capitalism? What type of new leaders do we want?

Remember. The problem is not corruption or greed. The problem is the system. It forces you to be corrupt. Beware not only of the enemies, but also of false friends who are already working to dilute this process. In the same way you get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice cream without fat, they will try to make this into a harmless, moral protest. A decaffienated protest. But the reason we are here is that we have had enough of a world where, to recycle Coke cans, to give a couple of dollars for charity, or to buy a Starbucks cappuccino where 1% goes to third world starving children is enough to make us feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after marriage agencies are now outsourcing our love life, we can see that for a long time, we allow our political engagement also to be outsourced. We want it back.

We are not Communists if Communism means a system which collapsed in 1990. Remember that today those Communists are the most efficient, ruthless Capitalists. In China today, we have Capitalism which is even more dynamic than your American Capitalism, but doesn’t need democracy. Which means when you criticize Capitalism, don’t allow yourself to be blackmailed that you are against democracy. The marriage between democracy and Capitalism is over. The change is possible.
What do we perceive today as possible? Just follow the media. On the one hand, in technology and sexuality, everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon, you can become immortal by biogenetics, you can have sex with animals or whatever, but look at the field of society and economy. There, almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes by little bit for the rich. They tell you it’s impossible. We lose competitivity. You want more money for health care, they tell you, "Impossible, this means totalitarian state." There’s something wrong in the world, where you are promised to be immortal but cannot spend a little bit more for healthcare. Maybe we need to set our priorities straight here. We don’t want higher standard of living. We want a better standard of living. The only sense in which we are Communists is that we care for the commons. The commons of nature. The commons of privatized by intellectual property. The commons of biogenetics. For this, and only for this, we should fight.
Communism failed absolutely, but the problems of the commons are here. They are telling you we are not American here. But the conservatives fundamentalists who claim they really are American have to be reminded of something: What is Christianity? It’s the holy spirit. What is the holy spirit? It’s an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other, and who only have their own freedom and responsibility to do it. In this sense, the holy spirit is here now. And down there on Wall Street, there are pagans who are worshipping blasphemous idols. So all we need is patience. The only thing I’m afraid of is that we will someday just go home and then we will meet once a year, drinking beer, and nostaligically remembering “What a nice time we had here.” Promise yourselves that this will not be the case. We know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire. Thank you very much.

November 17, 2011

Tents


The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor, to sleep in the parks  –Paraphrased from Anatole France


Police attacks on Occupy movements from Wall Street to Oakland, Portland, Denver … have often been justified by the “need” to prevent the use of tents or shelters in public places.  Of course, we know that the real reason is that the powers that be don’t like the political and social views that are being expressed by the Occupations. 

We’ll get back to tents in a minute, because I find this part of the story fascinating, but lets look at the other pretexts that have been used recently.  From Portland’s Mayor Sam Adams, to Oakland’s Jean Quan, to New York’s Michael Bloomberg, suddenly there is a great concern for the “health and welfare” of the protesters.  Massive police violence, pepper spray, beatings and “less lethal” projectiles leveled at non-violent people does not arouse the same level of concern, although it is without a doubt a far greater threat to “health and welfare” than anything that goes on in the camps.

So, what does go on in those camps that is so terrible?  Some of the allegations are so far off base that they are just silly.  For one thing, after two months of occupations all these cities suddenly have terrible problems of crime, drug use and homelessness going on in the camps. Obviously caused by the Occupy movement(?)  And did I mention this is a few days before large demonstrations planned for November 17 to mark two months of Occupy Wall Street?  Jean Quan justified the attack on Occupy Oakland by citing a murder. Actually that murder had nothing to do with the occupation and was not in the camp. The most that could be said is that somebody got killed near the camp. Unfortunately, people are killed pretty frequently in Oakland. How does beating up a bunch of people that had nothing to do with it, arresting them – not the  criminal -  and throwing away their possessions solve that problem? 

Several cities justified their actions because homeless people were moving into the camps. “That’s not protest” they say, “It’s just dirty drug using homeless people taking the opportunity to move back into public spaces. We can’t allow that”  Well, first of all having homeless people in the camps is a political act.  The whole point of the movement is that a tiny minority has seized control over our economic and political systems. They are enriching themselves and using the political system to prevent any attempt to regulate or control their anti-social behavior.  One of the results that we have been seeing is that people are losing their jobs and their homes. They have nowhere to go. Homelessness is one of the symptoms of our problem.  As is drug use (and make no mistake, alcohol is a drug). People are there to enrich themselves at the expense of the hopeless.  But the government ends up criminalizing the victims because solving the problem would challenge the entrenched system that relies on being able to keep people poor, keep wages down and keep profits up for the 1%.  If people overdose, it would have happened wherever they were. It is not because of the Occupy camps.

If those of us who have homes and some kind of jobs had to really confront homelessness, we would want to change that system. And that brings us back to why homeless people can’t be allowed in the camps.  They become visible when they come out of the hiding places they have been forced into by those who just don’t want us to think about it.  And that is why there are laws against tents and against sleeping in public parks. This does nothing to solve the problem. It just forces people to sleep under bridges or deep in the bushes. It makes them invisible, which is, of course, the point. 

The authorities are using these same anti-tent or anti-camping ordinances against the Occupy Movement. And for the same reason. To make them invisible.  To make them go away. To keep them from challenging the system that makes some people homeless, makes us all poorer (99% of us) and prevents the majority from forming the more equitable society that most of us want to live in. 

The movement can respond to the relatively rare crimes that may be committed in their neighborhood.  When women were harassed at Occupy Wall Street they created a safe space for themselves and set up women only tents. In general this movement has been good about policing themselves. We wouldn’t raze a suburban street because there was a crime committed there, and certainly not a gated community with the stately homes of the wealthy. Why then use that excuse to tear down Occupy camps? It has nothing to do with “health and welfare” and of course we all know that.

July 20, 2011

WTF Obama!

Obama endorsed the Gang of Six budget plan that would cut Social Security, raise taxes on the Middle Class and CUT taxes on the rich. Yes, I said CUT. Read about it anywhere but here is a nice summary from Democracy Now

I kind of lost my cool and sent this letter..

Dear President Obama, What the #$%^& is wrong with you? Do you think you were elected to cut taxes on the rich and cut programs for the rest of us? Think again. You promised change but the only change you are giving us is change for the worse.

Let me be clear. Social Security and Medicare are in fine shape. We do NOT need to cut there and the people will not accept cuts. We need more government spending to create jobs and get us out of the recession. We need to roll back tax cuts to the rich and make sure that profitable corporations do not use off shore tax havens and loopholes to wiggle out of their fair share of taxes. Taxes on the rich are already the lowest in the world. Make them pay their fair share.

The budget crisis is only a crisis because nobody is standing up to Republican blackmail.

THEY DO NOT GIVE A DAMN ABOUT JOBS OR THE ECONOMY. THEY WANT TO WRECK THE ECONOMY SO THEY CAN BLAME IT ON YOU AND WIN THE NEXT ELECTION. THEY ARE ANTI-AMERICAN AND IT IS YOUR JOB TO EXPOSE THEIR LIES AND RALLY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO A SANE POLICY. WE ARE WAITING.

GET OFF YOUR %$#$%%$ ASS AND GIVE THEM HELL. You would be popular again and you would be doing the right thing.

July 01, 2011

Debt as a moral issue

... we’re actually at a very strange historical moment because they’ve managed to convince people around the world that debt is somehow something sacred. I mean, a debt is just a promise, right? It has no greater moral standard than any other promise that you would make. Yet, here we have people accepting that it’s perfectly reasonable to say well, we can’t possibly keep our promise to the public, politicians say, to give you health care because it’s absolutely unthinkable we could break our sacred promises to bankers to give them a certain percentage of interest every year. How did that become a convincing argument? It’s utterly odd if you think about in terms of any kind of principle of democracy. As I say, if you look at the history of world religions, of social movements what you find is for much of world history what is sacred is not debt, but the ability to make debt disappear to forgive it and that’s where concepts of redemption originally come from.

-David Graeber teaches anthropology at Goldsmiths College at the University of London. He is the author of several books, his newest book–"Debt: The First 5,000 Years" (Melville House) comes out later this month.

The quote was from Democracy Now 7/1/11

June 28, 2011

Israel Attacks Non-violent activists

Dear Secretary of State Clinton,

On January 28, 2011 you issued a strong statement to the Egyptian government urging it not to attack peaceful demonstrators, "We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters and we call on the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain the security forces." (full text) I wrote you then thanking you for that statement. Today I am asking you to apply that same standard to Israel.

As you know, the Israeli government has threatened to violently attack the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, including the US Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope. As you also are very well aware, these are people committed to non-violent activism to aid Palestinians, especially in Gaza, to achieve basic human rights in the face of a punitive blockade. Israel's threats are credible because they have attacked previous boats, resulting in many unnecessary injuries and the deaths of nine people last year. Israel routinely violently attacks Palestinians engaged in non-violent protests with high velocity tear gas canisters, rubber coated bullets, clubs and live ammunition. Don't Palestinian democracy demonstrations deserve the same support as Egyptians or Libyans? Don't Americas traveling abroad deserve to be safe from unwarranted attack?

Just as the Egyptian, Libyan and Syrian governments spread lies about democracy demonstrators in order to justify attacking them, Israel is spreading lies
about the flotilla. The flotilla carries no weapons and will not attack the Israeli soldiers who may well attack them. They are, I'll say it again, committed to non-violence. They are by no stretch of the imagination supporting terrorism. On the contrary, they and the many thousands of non-violent activists in Palestine are providing an alternative to violent resistance to the continued denial of basic human rights. They hope that non-violent means are more effective in convincing the world of the need for a just and equitable peace agreement. I hope that they are right. If Israel will respond there is now some hope for peace and justice.

Israel only undercuts it's own position and casts doubt on its desire for peace with the lies and unnecessary violence they have resorted to. The US should support peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. We should call upon Israel to respect human rights
, just as we call on Egypt, Libya, Syria and other governments to do the same.

cc: President Obama
Rep Norm Dicks
Senator Patty Murray
Senator Maria Cantwell