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Think And Act Holistically, Globally, And Cooperatively

10:28 am in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

As most of you know, I have a written a book titled Namaste: If Not Now, When? In a step by step, chapter by chapter basis, I provided a process for revolution beginning with transforming the self, extending the boundaries of the self outward to include others, and finally transforming the world.

What future will we create together? I want to encourage all of us to start dreaming about and imagining that future because we cannot create what we cannot first imagine.

One thing is certain. We cannot and should not return to the way things were before the economic crash. Our economy was based on middle class consumption, from purchasing houses to home entertainment centers and everything else offered for sale on credit. We gorged ourselves on stuff like pigs at a feed trough while almost everyone else in the world struggled to survive on less than a dollar a day.

The great reckoning is under way and far from over. I see an economic tsunami building that within the next 18 months will sweep away our financial system and dramatically increase financial, food, and health insecurity here and throughout the world.

In one of my later chapters, I introduced and briefly discussed microcredit and micropower concepts. Today, thanks to Liz Berry who got me thinking about it, I want to focus on cooperatives.

Wikipedia defines a cooperative as:

a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit. A cooperative is defined by the International Cooperative Alliance’s Statement on the Cooperative Identity as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise”. A cooperative may also be defined as a business owned and controlled equally by the people who use its services or by the people who work there. Various aspects regarding cooperative enterprise are the focus of study in the field of cooperative economics.

According to the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), “co-operatives provide over 100 million jobs around the world, 20% more than multinational enterprises”. For example, check out these statistics.

1. 45.3 million people in Asia are members of credit unions.

2. 4 out of 10 Canadians are members of at least one coop and coops employ 155,000 people. Coops are the largest employer in Quebec.

3. 23 million people in France are members of one or more co-operatives or approximately 38% of the population. 75% of all agricultural producers are members of at least one co-operative and 1 in every 3 persons is a member of co-operative bank. 21,000 coops employ more than 1 million people.

4. 1 out every 4 people in Germany belongs to a coop and 440,000 people are employed by coops.

5. In Japan 1 out of every 3 people belongs to a coop.

6. 40% of the adult population of New Zealand belong to coops and mutuals.

7. 239 million people belong to coops in India.

8. Almost 50% of the population of Norway belongs to at least 1 coop.

9. 50% of the population of Singapore belong to coops.

10. In the United States, more than 29,000 co-operatives operate in every sector of the economy and in every congressional district; Americans hold over 350 million co-operative memberships. 900 rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to 42 million people in 47 states. 30,000 coops employ more than 2 million people.

The ICA lists the following 7 principles for cooperatives:

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control

Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.

3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

5th Principle: Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7th Principle: Concern for Community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

There is no better time than now, before the economic tsunami crashes our financial shores and fractures our fragile economy, to think and act holistically, globally, and cooperatively.

If not now, when?

Namaste.

Cross posted at my website and the Smirking Chimp.

Author’s Note: I will be incorporating this essay as a chapter in Namaste: If Not Now, When?

Namaste: If Not Now, When? is my intellectual property. I retain full rights to my own work. You may copy it and share it with others for non-commercial purposes, but only if you credit me as the author. You may not sell or offer to sell it for any form of consideration. I retain full rights to publication.

Previous chapters are posted here in my Diaries or at my website.

My real name is Frederick Leatherman. I was a criminal defense lawyer for 30 years specializing in death penalty defense and forensics. I also was a law professor for 3 years.

Now I am a writer and I haul scrap for a living in this insane land.

Heh.

Namaste.

Masoninblue

We Must Reduce The Human Birth Rate And Develop Microcredit And Micropower Networks

12:41 pm in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Grateful Dead Shakedown Street

I do not believe Europe is pursuing a solution that will solve its economic crisis. Austerity suits Goldman Sachs’s and J.P. Morgan’s strategy of enrichment through asset stripping at the expense of governments and their increasingly impoverished taxpayers, but it will only increase unemployment and government deficits. I predict the collapse of the European economy as well as our own from the ramifications of European collapse and our pigheaded plunge into austerity.

In The View From The Center Of The Universe (Riverhead Books 2006) at p. 261, Dr. Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams state:

The world is at a turning point. Not the turning point of this election cycle, not even the turning point of a lifetime., but a turning point that can happen only once in the evolution of a planet. Some may dismiss this as a ridiculous exaggeration, since it is so unlikely that such a momentous turning point would occur in our short lifetimes. Unlikely or not, it is here. If we take our cosmic role seriously and let our largest selves find the sanest way across the mountains we can come down the other side having created a stable and wise long term civilization that will allow our descendants to benefit from the amazingly benign conditions of our beautiful planet. If we don’t they may curse us forever.

The human population of the world has exploded since 1900 and now stands at nearly 7 billion people. For the previous 2,000 years before 1900, it had increased very slowly and no one had lived through a doubling of the population. However, since 1900, it has quadrupled. Primack and Abrams point out at page 254,

Experts dispute how many people the earth can support, but no one seriously proposes that the earth can sustain another population doubling.

Meanwhile, selfish, über rich, nihilistic, and willfully ignorant humans addicted to greed, money, and power are endangering our mother, Gaia. The industrial revolution is headed toward collapse driven by the systematic rape and exploitation of Gaia’s natural resources, principally oil and other fossil fuels, by behemoth multinational corporations owned by Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and the other too big to fail banks (TBTF).

Muhammad Yunnus and Jeremy Rifkin have shown us a way to cross the mountains and create a stable, sustainable, and wise long-term civilization.

Yunnus created the first microcredit program in Bangladesh. In 1976 when he was an economics professor at Chittagong University he created the Grameen (Village) Bank to lend money to poor people, mostly women, to use in generating income without requiring collateral.

With assistance from his students, he began by selecting the poorest of the poor and organizing borrowers into small homogenous groups of five people. He would lend a small amount of money to 2 members of each group to use in generating income and require them to repay the loan at 16% interest in weekly installments over the course of a year. The purpose of creating a group was provide a support network for the borrower and a group incentive or peer pressure to repay the loan in timely fashion. Eligibility for a subsequent loan was dependent on having repaid the existing loan.

Ongoing support was provided by the bank staff to assist the people in each group to self-select quick income generating activities that employ the skills that borrowers already posses. Loans and ongoing supervision, which included raising political and social consciousness and providing education about basic economics, sanitation, health, and family planning were accomplished by meeting with the borrowers in their homes, rather than making them travel to the city. To maximize transparency, meetings with groups of borrowers took place in a common area in village centers.

As borrowers repaid their loans successfully, the program was gradually expanded to provide credit for housing, construction of sanitary latrines, installation of tubewells that supply drinking water and irrigation for kitchen gardens.

The borrowers own 90% of the Grameen Bank. The government owns the remaining 10%. Since inception, the bank has loaned $11.11 billion.

The Grameen Bank’s microcredit program has been a phenomenal success with a 95% repayment rate on loans and in 2006, Dr. Yunnus and the Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Jeremy Rifkin’s new book, The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World (Palgrave MacMillan 2011), he emphasizes the democratization of energy by the use of micropower to generate and store hydrogen in order to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and create a sustainable lifestyle that literally transforms the world.

From his new book released today:

In the mid 1990s it dawned on me that a new convergence of communication and energy was in the offing. Internet technology and renewable energies were about to merge to create a powerful new infrastructure for a Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) that would change the world. In the coming era hundreds of millions of people will produce their own green energy in their homes, offices, and factories and share it with each other in an energy internet just like we now create and share information online. The democratization of energy will bring with it a fundamental reordering of human relationships impacting the very way we conduct business,govern society, educate our children, and engage in civic life.

We do not have much time to take back our government from the criminal banksters and prevent the economic collapse and plunge into the black hole of world wide depression.

October2011.org

Cross-posted at my blog and the Smirking Chimp.

Freedom Is Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose

2:11 pm in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

(h/t to Wendy Davis for her idea to use Janis Joplin’s outstanding version of Me and Bobby McGee by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster)

Crane-Station and I went scrappin’ this Sunday morning. We pulled up and parked next to a longbox in a small neighborhood shopping center where several men were tearing down the interior of a former store, now shuttered. The longbox was almost full of ripped out drywall, heating and cooling ducts, and lots of metal, most of it buried. We were going to have to work hard to liberate it.

Mason investigates.

Mason Investigates Looking For Clues

Drywall on Metal

Mason Finds Clues

We asked the men if we could get in the longbox and take the metal. The apparent foreman said, “Sure, we’ve been letting scrappers take it. Makes our job easier. Help yourself.”
So, we did.

Our first find was a section of chain-link fencing with three posts partially encased in concrete footings. As we struggled to lift the posts and the fencing out of the longbox, one of the men suddenly appeared with an electric band saw and cut the posts above the footings.

“This ought to make it easier,” he said.

He was right.

About an hour later when the temperature started heating up and we were pouring sweat trying to free a large heating duct, he suddenly peaked over the top of the longbox.

“Thought you might be getting thirsty, so I brought you some water.”

He produced two bottles of chilled water that we gratefully accepted.

That was the sweetest water we have tasted in a long time.

The crew stopped and said goodbye a little later.

He was a stranger and did not have to do anything to help us.

I have given up everything of value that I had and now that I have nothing, I find that I have everything I need.

I love the freedom that comes from not having stuff.

I enjoy the peace of not wanting.

Life is about being a part of something bigger, not about winning or losing a competition.

Life is about knowing who you are in relation to the One and to the universe the One created.

Life is about knowing your fundamental values and principles and living those values and principles every day.

Life is about respecting, protecting, and healing Gaia and all that she is.

Life is about empathizing and caring about others.

Life is about lending a hand.

The load

The load in the back of our truck.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe because it does not take anything from others or diminish them in any respect. Unconditional love is giving for the sake of giving without any expectation of receiving anything in return.

Selfishness, on the other hand, is a black hole that gathers everything unto itself and never gives away anything without strings attached. Selfishness creates resentment and a desire to get even or hurt others.

Love creates a desire to be of service to others and to love others. It creates joy and inspires love in return. Like ripples on the surface of a pond, it will travel to the end of the universe and back.

Selfishness can never triumph completely over love because the joy and happiness of loving and being loved unconditionally by others always surpasses the misery and loneliness that selfishness invariably produces.

Free yourself from the obligations of property and the expectations of others.

Namaste

In the same way when you see a flower in a field, it’s really the whole field that is flowering because the flower could not exist in that particular place without the special surroundings in the field that it has. You only find flowers in surroundings that will support them. So, in the same way you only find human beings on a planet of this kind with an atmosphere of this kind, with a temperature of this kind supplied by a convenient neighboring star.

Alan Watts

(h/t to Edger for providing the Alan Watts video where I got the quote)

Cross-Posted at my blog and the Smirking Chimp.

Values And Principles

10:32 am in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Author’s Note: Values and Principles is yet another chapter missing from my presentation of Namaste: If Not Now, When? I decided to include it last night after watching the disturbing, if not surprising, audience reaction at the Tea Party/GOP debate to a series of questions CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer asked candidate Ron Paul regarding whether an uninsured 30-year-old man, who could afford but did not buy medical insurance, hospitalized in a coma from traumatic injuries suffered during an accident should be allowed to die without medical intervention to save his life. Several people in the audience shouted out “Yes,” and the audience erupted into loud cheering interrupting Mr. Paul’s response. This incident followed an incident a week earlier in the first debate at the Reagan Library when the audience erupted into wild cheering during the lead-in to a question by Brian Williams of NBC directed to Texas Governor Rick Perry when Williams mentioned that the State of Texas had executed 234 people during his terms in office. After the cheering subsided, he completed the question asking Perry if he had trouble sleeping at night worrying about whether one of them might have been innocent. “No, sir. Not at all,” Perry said.

Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted and sentenced to death for setting the fire that burned down his house killing his three children to collect the insurance on the basis of an unqualified expert who testified that the fire was an arson caused by an accelerant. An independent and highly qualified expert reviewed the forensic evidence years later and concluded that the state’s expert was mistaken, there was no accelerant, and the fire was an accident. The report was presented to Governor Perry before the execution in an effort to spare Mr. Willingham’s life. Nevertheless, Governor Perry did not stay the execution and the State of Texas executed Mr. Willingham.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission conducted an independent review of Mr. Willingham’s case and retained another nationally recognized arson expert, Craig Beyler, who agreed with the independent expert. He specifically concluded that there was no credible scientific basis for the conclusion that arson had been committed.

Governor Perry intervened and ended the commission’s investigation before Beyler testified.

The following definition from Wikipedia is relevant to a comprehensive understanding of the information in the chapter:

Kleptocracy: alternatively cleptocracy or kleptarchy, from Greek: κλέπτης (thieve) and κράτος (rule), is a term applied to a government that takes advantage of governmental corruption to extend the personal wealth and political power of government officials and the ruling class (collectively, kleptocrats), via the embezzlement of state funds at the expense of the wider population, sometimes without even the pretense of honest service. The term means “rule by thieves”. Not an “official” form of government (such as democracy, republic, monarchy, theocracy) the term is a pejorative for governments perceived to have a particularly severe and systemic problem with the selfish misappropriation of public funds by those in power. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kleptocracy)

As always, previous chapters of Namaste: If Not Now, When? can be found in my Diaries or at my blog.

Values and Principles

Without values and principles we are nothing. Beneath the personalities that we develop and wear like a suit of clothes when we go out in public and the manner in which we perceive the environment around us and express ourselves, our values and principles are the invisible structure that defines who and what we are and informs our lives with meaning and purpose. We begin to develop them early in childhood and, as adults, we are known and will be remembered for our acts and omissions, which were an expression of our values and principles. They will be our legacy and those who are into accumulating money, toys, and power are destined to create a legacy of dust in an barren room.

Values and principles are important to me and I would never sacrifice them for any reason. I believe in speaking the truth, treating everyone with dignity and respect, following the Golden Rule, and being of service to others.

I have saved many lives without seeking anything in return.

My immortal soul is important to me and I would never sell out.

Although inconvenient to be without, money never has mattered to me and I do not like to accumulate stuff.

I have given away everything of value that I owned.

All of my current possessions came out of dumpsters, except my rusty and faded 15-year-old rebuilt pickup truck that I got out of a junkyard.

Most of my food comes out of dumpsters.

Nevertheless, I am happy and consider myself rich beyond measure.

I pity a man like Barack Obama, who has no values or principles, except accumulating wealth and power. He so transparently is for sale to the highest bidder. In his case that is the Kleptocracy that stands behind the curtain and tells him what to do.

Who are the Kleptocrats?

They are the too big to fail (TBTF) high flying Wall Street bankers who call themselves the Masters of the Universe (MOTU) and the über rich who own corporate America and the military industrial complex (MIC). Seeking world hegemony and control of all the world’s natural resources and influenced by neoliberals Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and the neoconservative Leo Straus, all of whom who taught at the University of Chicago, the Kleptocrats have an insatiable craving for wealth and power and they are willing to tell any lie and do anything to get what they want.

They may call themselves neoliberals or neoconservatives, Republicans or Democrats, but they really only care about playing their dark games exploiting people and natural resources to accumulate wealth and power.

They see themselves as beyond the reach of the law and they instigate never-ending war to steal what they want while manipulating people with myths and archetypes using propaganda to justify what they do.

They steal taxpayer money by giving it away to pay-to-play private contractors with no-bid, no-cap, cost-plus contracts with no expectation that the contract will be completed or the money accounted for.

They are deliberately destroying the middle class in the United States, the labor unions, public education, and the safety net to plunge everyone except themselves into debt slavery in order to exploit them as a source of cheap labor at home and warm bodies to discard in war.

They own the mainstream media and they manipulate it to hide what they are doing by demonizing progressives, teachers, labor unions, Muslims, illegal immigrants, and anyone with dark skin.

I regard Barack Obama and the Kleptocrats who own him as lost souls.

They have doomed themselves to spiritually empty and lonely lives perpetually servicing a runaway addiction to money and power that can never be satisfied.

Although they may own many palatial mansions in exotic locations filled with expensive ornaments, they are little more than plush prisons surrounded by high walls and protected by security guards.

They may own expensive vehicles, yachts, and jet planes, but they dare not go anywhere without a security detail.

They may be surrounded by people, but they are alone because people like them for their money, not for whom they are. Even their families may seem like ghosts with open empty mouths and pale outstretched hands waiting for them to die.

Do the Kleptocrats know or care how many lives have they stained, ruined, and extinguished?

How can they stand the emptiness of their lives?

Better to love and be loved. Be grateful that you are not like them because their days are numbered and no one will mourn their passing.

Cross Posted at my blog and the Smirking Chimp.

Namaste: If Not Now, When? Is my intellectual property. I retain full rights to my own work. You may copy it and share it with others, but only if you credit me as the author. You may not sell or offer to sell it for any form of consideration. I retain full rights to publication.

My real name is Frederick Leatherman. I was a criminal-defense lawyer for 30 years specializing in death-penalty defense and forensics. I also was a law professor for three years.

Now I am a writer and I haul scrap for a living in this insane land.

Heh.

Namaste

Masoninblue

The Power of Myths and Archetypes

10:14 am in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Harry Callahan says, “Go ahead. Make my day.”

Author’s Note: This is another chapter that I inadvertently omitted from Namaste: If Not Now, When? I include it here because any honest recapitulation of our nation’s errors and omissions must necessarily include an analysis of the destructive myths and archetypes that have contributed to our national self-aggrandizement and obnoxious sense of entitlement. That behavior needs to stop, if we are to coexist in peace and harmony with other nations.

All of the previous chapters that have been presented here are collected in my Diaries and at my blog.

A myth is “a traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society.” Myths are not necessarily limited to the past; they can and do frame and inform us about the present. Consider, for example, American exceptionalism. The Reverend John Winthrop told the Puritan colonists of Massachusetts Bay, Read the rest of this entry →

Forfeiture Gate

9:01 am in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Burning Down The House: Dynamite Live Performance By The Talking Heads

Author’s Note: This is another missing chapter from Namaste: If Not Now, When? I apologize for the length of this chapter as it is somewhat longer than the previous chapters presented. I decided not to break it into 2 parts as it is a complicated subject and I did not want to disturb the flow and continuity. Thanks to all for reading. I welcome comments.

Previous chapters can be found here in my Diaries or at my blog.

Barack Obama is a horrible president whose policies evidence idolatry for the filthy rich, loathing and contempt for the poor, and unqualified support for outright criminal predation toward the middle class. On those rare occasions that he uses the presidential bully pulpit, he uses it for so-called “hippie punching” to attack, insult, and marginalize socially progressive democrats who dare question his authority and the wisdom of his decisions. Difficult to imagine a worse set of undesirable qualities in a president during a time of great financial upset.

There is no evidence that he has any empathy or desire to assist people who are suffering through the Main Street Great Depression. For example, his response to the real estate forfeiture crisis, or Forfeiture Gate, is an excellent example of his stubborn and pervasive unwillingness to help people whom banks defrauded.

In September 2004, the FBI began warning about an “epidemic” of control frauds in real estate mortgages initiated by lenders. A “control fraud” occurs when someone who controls an apparently legitimate business, such as a bank, uses the business as a means to commit fraud.

As William K. Black, an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri in Kansas City and the former Senior Regulator in charge of investigating the Savings and Loan fiasco during the Reagan administration explains, control fraud epidemics typically occur when financial deregulation, desupervision, and perverse compensation systems create a “criminogenic environment.” After reviewing the real estate forfeiture mess, he concluded in a piece that he wrote for the Huffington Post, dated February 25, 2009:

(1) the FBI accurately described mortgage fraud as “epidemic;”

(2) nonprime lenders are overwhelmingly responsible for the epidemic;

(3) the fraud was so endemic that it would have been easy to spot if anyone looked;

(4) the lenders, the banks that created nonprime derivatives, the rating agencies, and the buyers all operated on a “don’t ask; don’t tell” policy;

(5) willful blindness was essential to originate, sell, pool and resell the loans;

(6) willful blindness was the pretext for not posting loss reserves;

(7) both forms of blindness made high (fictional) profits certain when the bubble was expanding rapidly and massive (real) losses certain when it collapsed;

(8) the worse the nonprime loan quality the higher the fees and interest rates, and the faster the growth in nonprime lending and pooling the greater the immediate fictional profits and (eventual) real losses;

(9) the greater the destruction of wealth, the greater the (fictional) profits, bonuses, and stock appreciation;

(10) many of the big banks are deeply insolvent due to severe credit losses;

(11) those big banks and Treasury don’t know how insolvent they are because they didn’t even have the loan files; and

(12) a “stress test” can’t remedy the banks’ problem – they do not have the loan files.

Charles Ferguson, the documentary filmmaker who produced No End in Sight, about the never ending mismanaged war in Iraq, also produced Inside Job, which details how the financial collapse that began in 2008 was caused by the criminal greed of the global financial elite empowered by government deregulation and the viral spread of rapacious neoliberal free-market ideology. These billionaire Masters of the Universe, or the MOTU, do not believe in right or wrong. They only believe in making money. For example, in an interview by Andrew O’Hehir of Salon.com, Ferguson said,

When I started making the film I knew that there had to have been some bad behavior, but I had no idea that on a very large scale people had designed securities with the intention of selling them and gambling on their failure. I was stunned when I discovered it.

* * *

If there’s a place in the world where you can make a billion dollars by being a criminal, that place is going to attract criminals. And if you have a system that is appropriately regulated so the only way that you can make money is by doing something worthwhile, you are not going to attract criminals to run that industry.

We now have a situation where the way that you can make the most money is by doing criminal things. And you get away with it. You can even destroy your own company. In some cases, destroying your company is the way that you make the most money. And that’s bad. Personally, from the experience of researching and making this film, I think that legal controls on the structure of executive compensation are a very important part of fixing this.

By the way, from the experience of starting my software company, I can tell you that people in high technology are extremely aware of this. I dealt with the venture capital firm that invested in my company and they were extremely clear. They said: You’re going to get a salary. It’s going to be $100,000 a year. It’s never going to go up. You will never get a bonus. You will have no outside activities of any kind. You will not make a dime doing anything else. Your stock will vest over five years. And if you want to make money, you make that stock worth something. Period. It’s really simple.

The real estate foreclosure crisis is a desperate effort by the insolvent TBTF banks, which Professor Black calls systemically dangerous institutions, or SDIs, to avoid liability for fraudulently selling worthless mortgage backed securities (MBSs) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) to institutional investors. Criticizing the Obama administration’s decision not to reign in the TBTF/SDI banks as “insane, he says,

The administration may be proposing no new laws to make the oligarchs even bigger, but it (1) has encouraged their growth through acquisitions of failed banks and (2) stood silent and useless as many of the SDIs have continued to grow. It is insane to allow the SDIs to continue to exist and it is doubly insane to allow, much less encourage, them to grow.

In what I can only describe as knowingly and intentionally aiding and abetting the biggest criminal bank fraud ever perpetrated, the Obama administration and the Congress successfully convinced the professional Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to rewrite long standing accounting rules allowing the banks and the Federal Reserve, which has taken over a trillion dollars in toxic mortgages as wholly inadequate collateral, to refuse to recognize hundreds of billions of dollars of losses.

According to William Black and Randall L. Wray, the FASB’s new rule produces enormous fictional “income”and “capital” at the banks. The fictional income produces real bonuses to the CEOs that make them even wealthier. The fictional bank capital allows the regulators to evade their statutory duties under the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) law to close the insolvent and failing banks.

The inflated asset values allow the Fed and the administration to ignore the Fed’s massive loss exposure and allow Treasury to spread propaganda claiming that TARP resolved all the problems — at virtually no cost. Donovan claims that we have held the elite frauds accountable — but we have done the opposite. We have made the CEOs of the largest financial firms — typically already among the 500 wealthiest Americans — even wealthier. We have rewarded fraud, incompetence, and venality by our most powerful elites.

If the government does not hold the fraudulent CEOs responsible, who is supposed to stop the epidemic of elite financial fraud? The Obama administration’s answer is the fraudulent CEOs themselves, at a time of their choosing. You can’t make this stuff up.

The banks and the Obama administration accuse the borrowers of misrepresenting their assets and borrowing more money than they could afford to pay back. Under this scenario, the banks are the victims and they are entitled to forfeit the homes and kick the deadbeat borrowers into the street with all of their stuff. Black and Wray destroy this argument.

That homeowners would default on the nonprime mortgages was a foregone conclusion throughout the industry — indeed, it was the desired outcome. This was something the lending side knew, but which few on the borrowing side could have realized.

The homeowners were typically fraudulently induced by the lenders and the lenders' agents (the loan brokers) to enter into nonprime mortgages. The lenders knew the "loan to value" (LTV) ratios and income to debt ratios that they wanted the borrower to (appear to) meet in order to make it possible for the lender to sell the nonprime loan at a premium. LTV can be gimmicked by inflating the appraisal. The debt to income ratios can be gimmicked by inflating income. "Liar's" loan lenders used that loan format because it allowed the lender to simultaneously loan to a vast number of borrowers that could not repay their home loans, at a premium yield, while making it look to the purchaser of the loan that it was relatively low risk. Liar's loans maximized the lender's reported income, which maximized the CEO's compensation.

The problem is that only the most sophisticated nonprime borrowers (the speculators who bought six homes) (1) knew the key ratios they had to appear to meet, (2) had the ability to induce an appraiser to inflate substantially the reported market value of the home, and (3) knew how to create false financial information that was internally consistent and credible. The solution was for the lender and the lender's agents to (1) instruct the borrower to report a certain income or even to fill out the application with false information, (2) suborn an appraiser to provide the necessary inflated market value, and (3) create fraudulent financial information that had at least minimal coherence.

When the overburdened homeowner began missing payments, late fees and higher interest rates kicked-in, boosting the stated income of mortgage servicers and the value of the securities. Not coincidentally, the biggest banks own the servicers and could maximize claims against the mortgages by running up the late fees. It was quite convenient to "misplace" mortgage payments, so even homeowners who were never delinquent could get hit with fees and higher rates. And when payments were received, the servicers would (illegally) apply them first to the late fees, meaning the homeowners were unknowingly still missing mortgage payments. The foreclosure process itself generates big fees for the SDI banks.

And, miracle of miracles, the banks would end up with the homes and get to restart the whole process again — from resale of the home through the financing, securitizing, and fee-for-servicing juggernaut.

Unfortunately, it did not go quite as smoothly as planned. The SDIs were supposed to act like neutron bombs — killing the homeowners but leaving the homes standing, to be resold. The problem is that wiping out borrowers lowered the value of real estate, crushing not only the real estate market but also construction and through to all associated sectors from furniture and home restoration supplies to big ticket purchases that rely on home equity loans. It also led to questions about the value of the securitized toxic waste manufactured and held directly or indirectly by financial institutions.

Next, a few judges began to question the foreclosures, as they saw case after case in which the banks claimed to have lost the paperwork or submitted amateurishly forged documents. Or, several banks would go after the same homeowner, each claiming to hold the same mortgage (Bear sold the same mortgage over and over). Insiders began to offer depositions exposing fraud and perjury. It became apparent that in many and perhaps most cases, the trusts responsible for the securities (often these are "special purpose" subsidiaries of the banks) never received the "notes" signed by the borrowers — as required by both IRS tax code and by 45 of the US states. Without the notes, billions of dollars of back taxes could be due, and the foreclosures violate state law. Finally, the Attorneys General of all fifty states called for a foreclosure moratorium.

I cannot imagine a stronger issue for a populist president to seize and use to turn his fortunes around as well as those of his party, but not Barack Obama.

He sided with the criminal banks and added insult to injury with his worthless Home Affordable Mortgage Program, or HAMP that cruelly raised financially struggling homeowner’s hopes while setting them up to miss mortgage payments by telling them to miss a payment so that they would qualify for the program and then inventing reasons to extend the application process and finally rejecting them at about the same time that the banks initiated the fraudulent foreclosure process with forged documents. So many people have been burned that hardly anyone applies to enter the program anymore. Only $12 billion out of the $65 billion authorized by Congress for the program has been spent.

Why it is almost as if the president is a full fledged member of the MOTU conspiracy to steal people’s homes. Either that or he is dumber than a box of rocks. I believe all of us can agree that he is not the latter.

Namaste

If Not Now, When?

Cross Posted at my blog and the Smirking Chimp

Environmental Personhood

12:08 pm in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Laguna de Cuicocha, Imbabura, Ecuador

Laguna de Cuicocha, Imbabura, Ecuador
By sara y tzunky on Flickr under noncommercial use Creative Commons

Author’s note: I inadvertently left this chapter and a few others out of Namaste: If Not Now, When? and have decided to include them. The previous chapters in the book can be accessed here in my diaries or at my blog.

Ecuador is a democratic republic situated on the west coast of South America. Small and wedge-shaped, it straddles the equator bordering Colombia to the north and Peru to the south. Ecuador also owns the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean 620 miles west of Guayaquil, the nation’s largest coastal city and port. The Andes mountain range traverses the middle of the country from north to south separating it into three distinct regions: coastal plain, highlands, and Amazonian jungle.

Quito, the capitol, is in the highlands at an altitude of 10,000 feet and even though it is less than ten kilometers south of the equator, the weather year round is mild with daytime temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s and nighttime temperatures in the 40s and low 50s.

I lived in Quito when I was in 6th and 7th grade; my father was a Foreign Service Officer employed by the United States Department of State. I remember Quito very well. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and I hope to return there someday.

In September 2008, the citizens of Ecuador went to the polls and rocked the world approving a new constitution, the first in world history to recognize that Pachamama, or Nature is not a thing to own and exploit at will. The Constitution recognizes that she has the inalienable right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate her vital cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes. The Constitution provides,

Rights for Nature

Article 1. Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.

Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms. The application and interpretation of these rights will follow the related principles established in the Constitution.

Article 2. Nature has the right to an integral restoration. This integral restoration is independent of the obligation on natural and juridical persons or the State to indemnify the people and the collectives that depend on the natural systems.

In the cases of severe or permanent environmental impact, including the ones caused by the exploitation of non renewable natural resources, the State will establish the most efficient mechanisms for the restoration, and will adopt the adequate measures to eliminate or mitigate the harmful environmental consequences.

Article 3. The State will motivate natural and judicial persons as well as collectives to protect nature; it will promote respect towards all the elements that form an ecosystem.

Article 4. The State will apply precaution and restriction measures in all the activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of the ecosystems or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles.

The introduction of organisms and organic and inorganic material that can alter in a definitive way the national genetic patrimony is prohibited.

Article 5. The persons, people, communities and nationalities will have the right to benefit from the environment and form natural wealth that will allow wellbeing.

Ecuador’s new constitution also created an independent federal human-rights ombudsperson who can only be removed by the legislature for cause — not for political reasons. The position is called the Public Defender, a person who serves a five-year term that may be renewed once and, although the office has no prosecutorial powers, the constitution grants it the power to investigate and expose all human-rights crimes, whether committed by the government or by others.

Native and maternal traditions have long recognized that the Earth is our mother. The ancient Greeks did too and they named her spirit Gaia, goddess of the primordial Earth. In the 1960s while he was employed by NASA and working on methods to detect life on Mars, James Lovelock developed the Gaia hypothesis, which proposes that living and non-living parts of the earth form a complex interacting system that can be thought of as a single organism.

Gaia is the fabled Garden of Eden and in the spirit of Ubuntu, we are diminished whenever one of us diminishes her.

Not long after Ecuador officially granted Gaia environmental personhood, the RATS on the United States Supreme Court (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia, plus Kennedy the swing man) legitimized raping Gaia for profit and killed our democracy in the Citizens United case when they held that corporations are persons with First Amendment rights to buy elections.

Two decisions, one in Ecuador and one in the United States illustrate two societies headed in opposite directions. We must find a way to reverse course. Our survival and Gaia’s survival depend on it.

The banksters and their neoliberal criminal class will reduce our Garden of Eden to a lifeless cinder circling the Sun, if we fail.

Namaste

Treethatownsitself

Photograph of the Tree That Owns Itself taken by Bloodofox of the Wikipedia Research Project in 2005 and posted in the Wikipedia Commons, released without restriction. Special thanks to thatvisionthing (see comment below) for providing a link to the story about the tree in Wikipedia.

Cross Posted at my blog and the Smirking Chimp.

Conclusion: Namaste: If Not Now, When? Chapter 29

7:56 am in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Author’s Note: Each chapter of this book can be read as a stand-alone and it is not necessary that they be read in numerical order. All of the previous chapters are posted here in my Diaries or at my blog.

I welcome comments and will respond as time allows. Thanks for reading.

Chapter 29

Conclusion

The Jewish sage, Rabbi Hillel, asked his students the following three questions:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

But if I am only for myself, who am I?

If not now, when?

I wrote this book to serve as a guide to answering these three fundamental and important questions. Let us review them one at a time.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

You must accept responsibility for whom and what you are.

First, you have to figure out who you are by recapitulating your life with ruthless and detached objectivity, identifying the good and the bad.

Shine the light of your attention on the bad and synthesize it with the good to become a better person. Suppression never works.

Second, you must tend to the care and feeding of your soul by using death as your advisor, paying attention to synchronicity, and following the path with heart. You will not live forever and you should not rely on anyone else to figure out who you are and tell you what to do. You will have wasted your life, if you do, and you will join the living dead: just another indistinguishable zombie in a sea of zombies.

Your life is a priceless gift from your Creator. It does not belong to anyone else.

You have something special to contribute. Find out what it is and do it.

Remember that you cannot be of service to others if you are perpetually whining and complaining. People like that are energy vampires. Avoid them and never let yourself become one. Remember too the Buddha’s wisdom that physical pain is a part of life over which you have little control, but suffering is a mental reaction to pain over which you do have control.

Heal thyself and be of service to others.

But if I am only for myself, who am I?

Think holistically. You do not exist in any meaningful way unless you exist in relationship to others. Although you are an individual, you add meaning and purpose to your life as a necessary and inseparable part of a relationship with other people, other groups, the planet, and the cosmos.

Cultivate relationships by contributing your energy, ideas, and voice. Do not be a vampire. Never use relationships to suck up energy without contributing something in return. Remember that the energy in healthy relationships always is greater than the sum of its individual contributing parts.

Embrace life.

Be yourself.

Live in the moment.

Experience passion.

Get rid of your television.

Avoid living vicariously through others.

Visualize yourself as a hero on a hero’s epic journey, rather than a victim.

Banish fear, get off the damn couch, go outside, do something positive, and be of service to others.

If not now, when?

Until you run out of excuses is not the correct answer.

Conclusion

I have woven much of the ancient wisdom teachings along with my personal story throughout this book in the genuine hope that it will help you change your life for the better as I have changed mine.

I believe the deeply corrupt and broken United States Government is the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world and its leader, Barack Obama, is the most dangerous terrorist.

All of the life forms on this sparkling jewel of a planet, which is the true Garden of Eden, are endangered. The dream of our forefathers and generations of Americans is endangered. We and the people of the world are endangered. Our destiny today is unimaginable destruction and devastation unless we act to change it through nonviolent revolution.

Time is running out . . .

October2011.org

Much love and good luck.

And one more thing: don’t forget to laugh!

Namaste

August 25, 2011

Cross-Posted at my blog and the Smirking Chimp.

Namaste: If Not Now, When? Is my intellectual property. I retain full rights to my own work. You may copy it and share it with others, but only if you credit me as the author. You may not sell or offer to sell it for any form of consideration. I retain full rights to publication.

My real name is Frederick Leatherman. I was a criminal-defense lawyer for 30 years specializing in death-penalty defense and forensics. I also was a law professor for three years.

Now I am a writer and I haul scrap for a living in this insane land.

Heh.

Namaste

Masoninblue

Cosmic Uroboros: Namaste: If Not Now, When? Chapter 28

7:58 pm in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Author’s Note: Each chapter of this book can be read as a stand-alone and it is not necessary that they be read in numerical order. All of the previous chapters are posted here in my Diaries or at my blog.

I welcome comments and will respond as time allows. Thanks for reading.

Chapter 28

Cosmic Uroboros

The Uroboros is an ancient mythological serpent that swallows its tail. Down through the ages many cultures have associated it symbolically with the creation of the world and the unity of all things. Ironically, given what present day scientists know about physics, astronomy, and cosmology, the ancient Uroboros perfectly symbolizes the universe. Updated and renamed the Cosmic Uroborus by present day scientists, it is a science based mythology for the Third Millennium, CE.

1. Background

We humans are cosmologically important because we are the product of 14 billion years of evolution involving the interaction of chance and natural selection. We are luminous stardust beings, we are intelligent, and we live at the spherical center of our universe.

The choices we make today will determine whether 14 billion years of evolution will be for naught or produce a super human who cares for and protects this beautiful Garden of Eden that we call Earth and all of its life forms before migrating to the stars.

For example, in their book at page 151, Discovering Our Extraordinary Place In The Cosmos (Riverhead Books 2006), Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams said,

Every particle in our bodies has a multibillion-year past, every cell and every bodily organ has a multimillion-year past, and many of our ways of thinking have multithousand-year pasts. Each of us is a kind of nerve center where these various cosmic histories intersect.

The universe began with the Big Bang 14 billion years ago. Earth is 4.5 billion years old and the third planet from our Sun.

The Sun is at the center of our solar system and our solar system is located in the Orion Arm of a spiral galaxy we call the Milky Way. In about 6 billion years, our Sun will swell into a red giant consuming Mercury and Venus and frying Earth to a cinder.

We humans have more than enough time to figure out how to get it right, but right now—particularly with the United States Government corrupted beyond imagining by the criminal banksters and completely out of control—we humans are causing incredibly destructive climate change and the greatest mass extinction of species since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. If we fail to stop our government and fail to move to a more sustainable and eco-friendly manner of living, we and the planet may not survive this millennium.

Our solar system orbits the center of the Milky Way galaxy once every 220 million years.

Our species, Homo sapiens sapiens is approximately 100,000 years old.

The nearest galaxy to us is Andromeda. The Milky Way and Andromeda, together with approximately 30 little satellite galaxies comprise our Local Group of galaxies.

70% of all matter and energy in the universe is composed of dark energy, which is a theoretical explanation for the known accelerating expansion of the universe. Dark energy causes the space between galaxies to expand. The more distant a galaxy is from us, the more rapidly it is accelerating away from us.

The expansion of space exceeds the speed of light. Any galaxy that is so far away from us that light has not been able to reach us in the 14 billion years since the Big Bang lies outside our cosmic event horizon. Because the speed of light is slower than the rate that space is expanding, light from such a galaxy will never reach us just as light from us will not reach it.

25% of all matter and energy in the universe is composed of dark matter. Dark matter is not really dark; it is invisible and transparent. It does not interact with light. It does not emit light as stars do or reflect light as gas clouds do. In addition, it does not absorb light as dust does and it does not emit or absorb X-rays, radio waves, or any other form of radiation that astronomers can detect. We know it exists because galaxies would fly apart without it. That is, there must be a vast cloud of invisible and transparent matter that fills and surrounds each galaxy and cluster of galaxies out to a distance 10 times the radius of the disk of visible stars. That vast cloud creates a gravitational force field that is sufficient to overcome dark energy and allow galaxies to form and evolve. In fact, all galaxies are located within invisible and transparent clouds of dark matter and space does not expand within the cloud and never will.

As we look out at the universe from our vantage point on Earth, we are looking into the past because we are seeing light that was emitted at some time in the past and it has been traveling toward us at 186,000 miles per second, or 300,000 kilometers per second. For example, if a star is 100 light years away, we are seeing the star as it was 100 years ago, and if it were 10 billion light years away, we would be seeing it as it was 10 billion years ago.

There is no astronomical center to the universe because it is infinite and without boundaries. However, the Milky Way is the spherical center of our universe because the portion of the universe that we can see is about 14 billion light years away. Scientists call it our cosmic event horizon.

4% of all matter and energy in the universe is composed of invisible atoms.

0.5% of all matter and energy in the universe is composed of Hydrogen and Helium.

0.01% of all matter and energy in the universe is composed of all other visible atoms

We are made of hydrogen, helium, and stardust, which is composed of the heavier elements produced by stars.

The Milky Way Galaxy is the center of our spherically visible universe just as every galaxy is the center of its own spherically visible universe. As time passes, fewer and fewer galaxies will be visible to us because they will have accelerated away from us and beyond our cosmic horizon.

Not only are we located at the spherical center of the universe, we humans are at the center or middle of all possible sizes in the universe. This is where the Cosmic Uroboros comes in.

2. The Cosmic Uroboros

Using centimeters as our measurement basis (1 centimeter = a little less than ½ inch; 100 centimeters = 1 meter), most humans are between 1 and 2 meters tall (1 meter = 100 centimeters or 10 to-the-second centimeters)

Therefore, most humans are in the 10 to-the-second range.

Mountains are in the 10 to-the-fifth centimeter range or 3 orders of magnitude larger than humans.

Cells are in the 10 to the -3rd centimeter range or 5 orders of magnitude smaller than humans.

The smallest size in the universe is due to the interplay between general relativity and quantum mechanics. There can’t be more than a certain amount of mass packed into a region of any given size. Add more mass and it collapses to no size at all, a black hole. The size of a particle is actually the size of the region in which you can confidently locate it. The smaller the space, the more energy it takes to find it and more is equivalent to larger mass.

Turns out that the maximum mass that general relativity allows to be crammed into a region of space without the region collapsing into a black hole is also the minimum mass that quantum mechanics allows to be confined in such a region. The size of this region is called a Planck length (10 to the -33rd centimeters).

The largest possible size is the distance to our cosmic horizon (10 to the 28th centimeters).

The difference between the smallest and the largest sizes in our universe is 60 orders of magnitude and we are close to the middle.

The head of serpent symbolizes the largest size in the universe and the tail symbolizes the smallest. The body of the serpent also symbolizes time. With respect to both time and size, we are located in about the middle of the serpent’s body, which is called Midgard, a name for Earth taken from the Edda, a Norse creation myth in which the land of humans is halfway between the land of the gods and the land of giants.

This turns out to be the only size that conscious beings like us could be. Smaller creatures would not have enough atoms to be sufficiently complex, while larger ones would suffer from slow communication—which would mean that they would effectively be communities rather than individuals, like groups of communicating people, or supercomputers made up of smaller processors.

Discovering Our Extraordinary Place In The Cosmos (Riverhead Books 2006),
p. 161.

Different physical forces control events on different size scales. Electrical and magnetic (electromagnetic) forces control what happens from atoms up to mountains, even though gravity plays a role. But around the size scale of mountains, gravity starts to gain the upper hand. The maximum size of mountains is determined by a competition between electromagnetism and gravity. The electromagnetic force is the glue of the chemical bonds that hold together the atoms that mountains are made of, and the strength of the glue is the same everywhere, regardless of the size of the planet. But the strength of the gravitational force grows with the increasing mass of the planet or of the mountain. When the mountain becomes big enough, its gravity overcomes the electromagnetic forces that hold mountains together, and the roots of the mountain flow or break, causing earthquakes. The smaller the mass of the planet, the weaker the gravity pulling the mountain down. Consequently, mountains can be much higher on smaller planets like Mars than they are on Earth. Since the strength of gravity continues to grow with mass, once we reach that part of the Cosmic Uroboros where gravity controls, all larger scales are also controlled by it and all other forces become less important.

* * *

Moving clockwise now on the Cosmic Uroboros, zooming way inward past Midgard to the very small, we reach the size scales of subatomic particles. This is the region controlled by what are called the strong and weak interactions. These forces are active only on scales smaller than atoms. Gravity is of no importance at all on these scales. In fact, gravity’s power fades out at the small end of Midgard. It can’t hurt a mouse. You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mineshaft and at the bottom, as long as the ground is soft, it will walk away. Gravity plays virtually no role in the life of bacteria, which are at about 7:00 on the Cosmic Uroboros. From there until about 12:00, gravity is completely irrelevant.

But then a strange thing happens. As we continue along the Cosmic Uroboros to the very tip of the tail, gravity’s strength increases as objects get closer to each other, and at the tip of the tail distances between particles are almost unimaginably small. The Cosmic Serpent swallowing its tail represents the possibility that gravity links the largest and the smallest sizes and thereby unifies the universe. This actually happens in superstring theory, a mathematically beautiful idea that is our best hope for a theory that could unify quantum theory and relativity. In string theory, sizes smaller than the Planck length get remapped into sized larger than the Planck length.

Discovering Our Extraordinary Place In The Cosmos (Riverhead Books 2006),
pp. 161-163

When we started teaching the Cosmic Uroboros, we realized that it might matter that humans are at the center of all possible sizes. We realized further that stardust can be seen as central, not peripheral. In fact, the entire existential façade of despair and stoicism flips inside out if we simply view the universe from the inside, where we indisputably are. Once we made this mental shift and opened our eyes to this view from the center of the universe, we not only kept discovering more ways that we are central: we found that doing so evoked the opposite emotions from the existential stance—not despair but hope, not resignation but excitement. These may be equally arbitrary emotions but they lead to nonarbitrary actions.

Discovering Our Extraordinary Place In The Cosmos (Riverhead Books 2006),
p.278

Cross-Posted at my blog and the Smirking Chimp.

Namaste: If Not Now, When? Is my intellectual property. I retain full rights to my own work. You may copy it and share it with others, but only if you credit me as the author. You may not sell or offer to sell it for any form of consideration. I retain full rights to publication.

My real name is Frederick Leatherman. I was a criminal-defense lawyer for 30 years specializing in death-penalty defense and forensics. I also was a law professor for three years.
Now I am a writer and I haul scrap for a living in this insane land.

Heh.

Namaste

Masoninblue

Kleptocrats Are A Cancer: Namaste: If Not Now, When? Chapter 26

10:28 am in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Author’s Note: Each chapter of this book can be read as a stand-alone and it is not necessary that they be read in numerical order. All of the previous chapters are posted here in my Diaries or at my blog.

I welcome comments and will respond as time allows. Thanks for reading.

Note: Except as indicated, I obtained most of the information that I present here from AmpedStatus.org:

Exclusive: Analysis of Financial Terrorism in America: Over 1 Million Deaths Annually, 62 Million People With Zero Net Worth, As the Economic Elite Make Off With $46 Trillion

http://ampedstatus.org/exclusive-analysis-of-financial-terrorism-in-america-over-1-million-deaths-annually-62-million-people-with-zero-net-worth-as-the-economic-elite-make-off-with-46-trillion/#elite

(h/t) Robert Alexander Dumas at Firedoglake/MyFDL

Chapter 26

Kleptocrats Are A Cancer

Wikipedia definition of a kleptocracy:

Kleptocracy, alternatively cleptocracy or kleptarchy, from Ancient Greek: κλέπτης (thief) and κράτος (rule), is a term applied to a government subject to control fraud that takes advantage of governmental corruption to extend the personal wealth and political power of government officials and the ruling class (collectively, kleptocrats), via the embezzlement of state funds at the expense of the wider population, sometimes without even the pretense of honest service. The term means “rule by thieves”. Not an official form of government such as a democracy, republic, monarchy, or theocracy; a kleptocracy is rather a pejorative for a government perceived to have a particularly severe and systemic problem with the selfish misappropriation of public funds by those in power.

According to an extensive study by Deloitte, an auditing and financial advisory firm , US millionaire households now have $45.9 trillion in wealth, which includes an estimated $6.3 trillion hidden in offshore accounts.

The upper one-tenth of one percent of the population (0.1%) owns more than 50% of this wealth.

William Domhoff, sociology professor and author of Who Rules America? recently reported,

Unlike those in the lower half of the top 1%, those in the top half and, particularly, top 0.1%, can often borrow for almost nothing, keep profits and production overseas, hold personal assets in tax havens, ride out down markets and economies, and influence legislation in the US. They have access to the very best in accounting firms, tax and other attorneys, numerous consultants, private wealth managers, a network of other wealthy and powerful friends, lucrative business opportunities, and many other benefits.

Folks in the top 0.1% come from many backgrounds but it’s infrequent to meet one whose wealth wasn’t acquired through direct or indirect participation in the financial and banking industries…. Most of the serious economic damage the US is struggling with today was done by the top 0.1% and they benefited greatly from it…. For example, in Q1 of 2011, America’s top corporations reported 31% profit growth and a 31% reduction in taxes, the latter due to profit outsourcing to low tax rate countries…. The year 2010 was a record year for compensation on Wall Street, while corporate CEO compensation rose by over 30%.…

In 2010 a dozen major companies, including GE, Verizon, Boeing, Wells Fargo, and Fed Ex paid US tax rates between -0.7% and -9.2%. Production, employment, profits, and taxes have all been outsourced….

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is this: A highly complex and largely discrete set of laws and exemptions from laws has been put in place by those in the uppermost reaches of the US financial system. It allows them to protect and increase their wealth and significantly affect the US political and legislative processes.

They have real power and real wealth. Ordinary citizens in the bottom 99.9% are largely not aware of these systems, do not understand how they work, are unlikely to participate in them, and have little likelihood of entering the top 0.5%, much less the top 0.1%….

… the American dream of striking it rich is merely a well-marketed fantasy that keeps the bottom 99.5% hoping for better and prevents social and political instability. The odds of getting into that top 0.5% are very slim and the door is kept firmly shut by those within it.

Who are these people?

Former Goldman Sachs CEO and Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson had already amassed at least $700 million prior to moving to the US Treasury in 2006. Current Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and a few other top executives at Goldman Sachs just received $111.3 million in bonuses. Blankfein just took home $24.3 million, as part of a $67.9 million bonus he was awarded. Goldman’s President Gary Cohn took home $24 million, as part of a $66.9 million bonus he was awarded. Goldman’s CFO David Viniar and former co-president Jon Winkelried both took home over $20 million in bonuses.

Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit just took home $80 million, in what may eventually total more than $200 million in compensation and bonuses. Coming in at the top of the list is JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who just took home $90 million.

If you think people in this income level don’t control the US political process, you are not paying attention. After they caused this economic crisis, they got the government to give them trillions of dollars in taxpayer support, and then, after taking our tax dollars, they gave themselves all-time record-breaking bonuses. 2009 was an all-time record-breaking year for Wall Street executives bringing in a total of $145 billion. And then, in 2010, they raised the bar even higher, breaking the all-time record set the year before by pulling in another $149 billion. The audacity of it all is stunning.

They are not the only ones.

The LA Times reported:

“Leaders of Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealth, WellPoint and Aetna received nearly $200 million in compensation in 2009, according to a report, while the companies sought rate increases as high as 39%….

H. Edward Hanway, former chief executive of Philadelphia-based Cigna, topped the list of high-paid executives, thanks to a retirement package worth $110.9 million. Cigna paid Hanway and his successor, David Cordani, a total of $136.3 million last year….

Ron Williams, the CEO of Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna Inc., earned nearly $18.2 million in total compensation, down from $24.4 million in 2008.

Meanwhile, over 50 million people cannot afford health insurance and many people who have health insurance cannot afford doctor visits because the deductible and the co-pays are too high.

More than 60% of all personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills and 75% of the medical bankruptcies were filed by people with health insurance.

The richest 400 Americans paid 30% of their income in taxes in 1995, but they now pay only 18%.

1,470 Americans earned over $1 million in 2009 and didn’t pay any taxes.

The average tax rate for millionaires was 22.4% in 2009, down from 30.4% in 1995. The average millionaire saves $136,000 a year due to reduced tax rates.

Corporate taxes accounted for 27.3% of federal revenue in 1995. In 2010, corporate taxes accounted for only 8.9% of federal revenue. Corporate taxes accounted for 4.3% of overall GDP in 1955, in 2010 they accounted for only 1.3%.

The cuts in taxes for the mega-wealthy have led to record wealth inequality and resulted in a record national deficit. Meanwhile, to make up for the deficit that the richest one-tenth of one percent of the population has created, Democrats and Republicans are committed to making draconian budget cuts to vital social services, which target the poor, middle class, elderly and sick, while handing out billions more in corporate welfare annually.

What about us?

While the official unemployment rate reported by the BLS hovers above 9%, the actual unemployment rate, based on household surveys, is 22.5% and 34 million people are looking for fulltime employment. The economy is still losing more than 400,000 jobs per week and the number of new jobs is not sufficient to keep up with the number of new workers entering the work force.

To make matters worse, the spending cuts in the new deficit deal will cause the loss of an estimated 1.8 million jobs.

For the past twenty years, wages have stagnated and declined and our cost of living has increased by 67%. More than 250 million Americans, another record-breaking number, are currently living paycheck-to-paycheck struggling to make ends meet. As the national debt has reached a record $14.6 trillion, total personal debt is now over $16 trillion. Consumer debt is $2.5 trillion. Credit card debt is $805 billion and student debt now exceeds $1 trillion.

The Kleptocrats may call themselves neoliberals or neoconservatives, Republicans or Democrats,. No matter what they call themselves, however, they are driven by greed and really only care about exploiting people and diminishing natural resources to accumulate unimaginable wealth and power. They have captured government and destroyed our democracy with their money and they see themselves as a class unto themselves beyond the reach of the law.

They are particularly fond of engaging in never-ending war to steal what they want and using propaganda to lie their way into starting wars. They are deliberately destroying the middle class in the United States, the labor unions, public education, and the safety net to plunge everyone except themselves into debt slavery in order to exploit them as a source of cheap labor at home and warm bodies to discard in war. They own the mainstream media and they manipulate it to hide what they are doing by demonizing genuine liberals and progressives, teachers, Muslims, illegal immigrants, and anyone with dark skin.

Make no mistake: They are willing to tell any lie and commit any act to get what they want.

Aided and abetted by our president, they are systematically destroying our democracy, the two-party system, and the Democratic Party. They are destroying the quality of our lives by eliminating our jobs, stealing our homes, stealing our retirement savings, and increasing the cost of gas, food, and our health care to enslave us in debt.

Now they want our social security.

In short, they are killing us inch by inch.

We are the only ones who can stop them.

October2011.org

I can feel it. Can you?

Cross-Posted at my blog and the Smirking Chimp.

Namaste: If Not Now, When? Is my intellectual property. I retain full rights to my own work. You may copy it and share it with others, but only if you credit me as the author. You may not sell or offer to sell it for any form of consideration. I retain full rights to publication.

My real name is Frederick Leatherman. I was a criminal-defense lawyer for 30 years specializing in death-penalty defense and forensics. I also was a law professor for three years.

Now I am a writer and I haul scrap for a living in this insane land.

Heh.

Namaste

Masoninblue