The Evening Blues - 9-11-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist and singer John Brim. Enjoy!
John Brim - You Got Me Where You Want Me
"I believe that the root cause of every financial crisis, the root cause, is flawed government policies."
-- Henry Paulson
News and Opinion
An excellent article from Yves over at NC, worth a full read:
Pigs Want To Feed at the Trough Again: Bernanke, Geithner and Paulson Use Crisis Anniversary to Ask for More Bailout Powers
After a decade of writing about the crisis, we are now subjected to an orgy of yet more chatter with not much insight. in a New York Times op-e titled What We Need to Fight the Next Financial Crisis.
As the Financial Times’ Martin Wolf pointed out in a recent crisis retrospective, the response of central bankers and financial regulators to the crisis was to restore the status quo ante, and not engage in root and branch reform, as took place in the Great Depression. But as we’ve pointed out, In the US, the so-called “get out of massive mortgage securitization liability for almost free” card otherwise known as the National Mortgage Settlement represented a not-widely recognized second bailout of banks and mortgage servicers. No wonder banksters are seeking a rinse and repeat.
An overfinancialized economy is good for no one save banksters and their paid retainers. Economists in recent years have been describing how larger financial systems hurt growth. For instance, the IMF found that the optimal development of a financial system was roughly where Poland is. The IMF conceded that it might be possible to have a larger banking system not drag down the economy if it were well regulated. Other studies have found that economies with large financial sectors typically have more inequality, and inequality is separately seen as a negative for growth. So there’s no sound policy reason to coddle banks rather than cut them down to size. ...
So the bailer-outers-in-chief are keen to prescribe more of what they foisted on the American public. It should come as no surprise that they didn’t pump for stronger financial reforms, were perfectly content to allow the Fed to authorize banks subject to stress tests to pay dividends and bonuses rather than have them build up much bigger capital cushions, and in Bernanke’s case, call for a resumption of austerity policies in 2012. Each one of this terrible trio has a much longer rap sheet. But the mere fact that they have the temerity to subject the public to their cronyistic blather, and worse, the New York Times dignifies it, shows that, as Talleyrand said of the Bourbons, that policymakers and pundits have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
During the financial crisis of 2008, the world’s central banks, including the Federal Reserve, injected trillions of dollars of fabricated money into the global financial system. This fabricated money has created a worldwide debt of $325 trillion, more than three times global GDP. The fabricated money was hoarded by banks and corporations, loaned by banks at predatory interest rates, used to service interest on unpayable debt or spent buying back stock, providing millions in compensation for elites. The fabricated money was not invested in the real economy. Products were not manufactured and sold. Workers were not reinstated into the middle class with sustainable incomes, benefits and pensions. Infrastructure projects were not undertaken. The fabricated money reinflated massive financial bubbles built on debt and papered over a fatally diseased financial system destined for collapse.
What will trigger the next crash? The $13.2 trillion in unsustainable U.S. household debt? The $1.5 trillion in unsustainable student debt? The billions Wall Street has invested in a fracking industry that has spent $280 billion more than it generated from its operations? Who knows. What is certain is that a global financial crash, one that will dwarf the meltdown of 2008, is inevitable. And this time, with interest rates near zero, the elites have no escape plan. The financial structure will disintegrate. The global economy will go into a death spiral. The rage of a betrayed and impoverished population will, I fear, further empower right-wing demagogues who promise vengeance on the global elites, moral renewal, a nativist revival heralding a return to a mythical golden age when immigrants, women and people of color knew their place, and a Christianized fascism.
The 2008 financial crisis, as the economist Nomi Prins points out, “converted central banks into a new class of power brokers.” They looted national treasuries and amassed trillions in wealth to become politically and economically omnipotent. In her book “Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World,” she writes that central bankers and the world’s largest financial institutions fraudulently manipulate global markets and use fabricated, or as she writes, “fake money,” to inflate asset bubbles for short-term profit as they drive us toward “a dangerous financial precipice.” ...
An emergency clause in the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 allows the Fed to provide liquidity to a distressed banking system. But the Federal Reserve did not stop with the creation of a few hundred billion dollars. It flooded the financial markets with absurd levels of fabricated money. This had the effect of making the economy appear as if it had revived. And for the oligarchs, who had access to this fabricated money while we did not, it did. The global financial system is a ticking time bomb. The question is not if it will explode but when it will explode. And once it does, the inability of the global speculators to use fabricated money with zero interest to paper over the debacle will trigger massive unemployment, high prices for imports and basic services, and a devaluation in which the dollar will become nearly worthless as it is abandoned as the world’s reserve currency. ... The elites, in a desperate bid to cling to their unchecked power and obscene wealth, will disembowel what is left of the United States.
There is no denying that western Europe is currently witnessing a “populist moment”. This arises from the multiplication of anti-establishment movements, which signal a crisis of neoliberal hegemony. This crisis might indeed open the way for more authoritarian governments, but it can also provide the opportunity for reclaiming and deepening the democratic institutions that have been weakened by 30 years of neoliberalism.
In recent years, various resistance movements have emerged. They embody what Karl Polanyi presented in The Great Transformation as a “countermovement”, by which society reacts against the process of marketisation and pushes for social protection. This countermovement, he pointed out, could take progressive or regressive forms. This ambivalence is also true of today’s populist moment.
This explains their hostility to populism, which they associate with demagogy and irrationality. Alas, the challenge of rightwing populism will not be met by stubbornly upholding the post-political consensus and despising the “deplorables”. It is vital to realise that the moral condemnation and demonisation of rightwing populism is totally counterproductive – it merely reinforces anti-establishment feelings among those who lack a vocabulary to formulate what are, at core, genuine grievances. Classifying rightwing populist parties as “extreme right” or “fascist”, presenting them as a kind of moral disease and attributing their appeal to a lack of education is, of course, very convenient for the centre-left. It allows them to dismiss any populists’ demands and to avoid acknowledging responsibility for their rise.
Thanks to Obama Bailouts and Trump Tax Cuts, Five Largest US Banks Have Raked in $583 Billion Since 2008 Crash
The 2008 financial meltdown inflicted devastating financial and psychological damage upon millions of ordinary Americans, but a new report released by Public Citizen on Tuesday shows the Wall Street banks that caused the crash with their reckless speculation and outright fraud have done phenomenally well in the ten years since the crisis.
Using data from the Federal Reserve, Public Citizen also calculated that America's the banks now hold a combined $9.7 trillion in assets.
"In the aftermath of the Great Recession, American families continue to struggle. A new report by the Urban Institute finds that nearly 40 percent of Americans had trouble paying for basic needs such as food, housing or utilities in 2017," Public Citizen notes in its report. "The banks, on the other hand—with more than half a trillion dollars in profits over the past decade—are doing just fine."
If recent earnings reports are any indicator, big banks are on track to continue shattering profit records thanks to President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. Big banks are also expected to see a boost from a recently passed bipartisan deregulatory bill that analysts argue significantly heightens the risk of another crash. "Wall Street's grip on Washington is painfully evident in the corporate tax giveaways and deregulatory favors that Congress routinely bestows to this bonus-besotted industry," Bartlett Naylor, financial policy advocate for Public Citizen's Congress Watch division, said in a statement.
Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, claimed his country was being condemned for choosing not to be a “country of migrants”, as he conceded that the European parliament was set to trigger the EU’s most serious sanction against his government. Arriving late to a debate in the chamber in Strasbourg on Tuesday on the country’s courts, treatment of its Roma community and media and academic freedoms, Orbán told MEPs that the parliament was “insulting” his nation.
“I know that you have already made up your minds. I know that a majority will approve the report and I know that my speech here today will not manage to change your opinion,” he told MEPs. “But still I have come heretoday because you are not going to condemn a government but a country as well as a nation. You are going to denounce Hungary that has been a member of the family of Christian nations for a thousand years.” The Hungarian populist nationalist, who won landslide general election victory in April, was addressing the parliament before a vote on Wednesday on a report which has advised it to trigger article 7, which can ultimately lead to an EU member state losing its voting rights in the union’s institutions.
Orbán stands accused of undermining the independence of its judiciary and media, waging a propaganda and legal war against the Central European University, founded by the philanthropist George Soros, and mistreating asylum seekers and refugees while limiting the functioning of non-governmental organisations who seek to aid them. ...
Some MEPs spoke in opposition to the report, including Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader who appealed to Hungary to join the “Brexit club”. Conservative MEPs also appeared set to vote against the triggering of article 7, on the grounds that it would be an interference in the country’s domestic politics. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: “Labour MEPs will vote to hold Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary to account. The Conservatives must do the same, and @Theresa_May should condemn his attacks on judicial and media independence, denial of refugee rights, and pandering to antisemitism and Islamophobia.”
But with Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s party (EPP), of which Orbán’s party, Fidesz is a member, signalling that his patience with the Hungarian government had been exhausted, it appeared almost certain that the threshold of two-thirds of MEPs supporting the triggering of the EU’s rule of law procedure would be met. The Hungarian prime minister, who has been in power since 2010, offered no evidence, however, that he was willing to rethink his most contentious policies. Instead, Orbán attacked the leadership of the EPP, describing it as “weak” and claiming it was “dancing to the tune of the socialists and the liberals”.
Saudi Arabia has responded to the breakdown of UN peace talks by relaunching its offensive to capture the crucial Yemen port city of Hodeidah, claiming to have killed more than 70 Houthi rebels in fighting in recent days. On Sunday, 11 soldiers from the coalition made up of the Saudis, the UAE and local Yemeni fighters were killed, reflecting the intensity of the fighting for the strategic Red Sea port, the entry point for 80% of the aid into the country.
Aid agencies said local UN staff were reporting that the bombardment “is the worst, by far, of any since the [Red Sea] campaign started in early June,” and involves not only airstrikes and shelling but also bombardment from naval ships. Humanitarian staff on the ground reported an “almost continuous presence of Saudi/UAE coalition aircraft” over Hodeidah since Friday night. The coalition aim seemed to be to cut off the main supply road from Hodeidah to the capital, Sana’a.
The UN and Britain had invested heavily in the success of peace talks led by UN special envoy Martin Griffiths, but the talks collapsed before they started when the Houthi negotiating team said it had not received satisfactory guarantees from Saudi Arabia about its safe passage to Switzerland. Griffiths said he would continue to his efforts to relaunch the talks.
Brazil’s jailed former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has abandoned the long-running prison-cell campaign he has been waging to reclaim his country’s leadership, a source from his leftist Workers’ party said. Lula, who ruled for two terms, until 2011, and was one of the most popular leaders in modern Brazilian history, had shown a convincing lead in polls and was insisting on his candidacy even after an electoral court barred it on 1 September.
But in a widely anticipated move he will now be replaced by Fernando Haddad, a former philosophy lecturer and São Paulo mayor, who had been his vice-presidential candidate. Lula’s Workers’ party (PT) is set to announce the change on Tuesday afternoon in front of the federal police headquarters in the southern city of Curitiba where Lula is serving a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“My voice is the voice of Fernando Haddad and all the comrades in this fearless journey to rescue national dignity,” Lula said in a letter read out by actor Sérgio Mamberti during an event in São Paulo on Monday night. In an official video posted on social media by senior PT figures on Tuesday, Haddad said: “I’ve spoken to Lula and he’s furious at so much injustice … Lula was the best president Brazil ever had – we know he would win this election. But unfortunately they insist on taking him out … [against] the will of the people.” ...
The Workers’ party now has less than a month to transfer Lula’s support to Haddad – who doubled his support for the first round vote on 7 October in a poll from the Datafolha polling institute published on Monday.
About a million people have gathered in Barcelona to renew their calls for Catalan independence and to demand the release of jailed political leaders almost a year after the unilateral referendum that triggered Spain’s worst political crisis since its return to democracy.
The annual Diada celebrations commemorate the fall of the city at the end of the Spanish war of succession in 1714, but in recent years they have been used by pro-independence groups as a show of strength.
The issue of independence remains divisive in the region, with polls suggesting Catalans are almost evenly split on whether to stay part of Spain. Organisers said 460,000 people registered to take part in the rally, while police in Barcelona put attendance at about 1 million, making it roughly the same size as last year’s event.
Once again, the independence movement demonstrated its extraordinary capacity to mobilise its base, filling about four miles of Diagonal, the city’s broadest street, with hundreds of thousands of flag-waving supporters dressed in T-shirts bearing the slogan: “We’re making the Catalan republic”. With chants of “the streets will always be ours” and “independence”, the massive crowd assembled rather than marched in their allotted sections along the street.
Then at 17:14 – to correspond with the year that Barcelona fell – there was silence, followed by a wave of sound that roared from one end of Diagonal to the other, where it symbolically toppled a wall representing direct rule that Madrid imposed for several months after the independence declaration last October was ruled unlawful.
With Hundreds of Children Still Detained, Sessions Instructs Judges to Show Less 'Sympathy' for Immigrants
With around 500 families still separated and hundreds of children still in detention as a result of the Trump administration's cruel "zero tolerance" policy and as the White House moves ahead with a proposal one critic called "Gitmo for children," Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday lectured incoming immigration lawyers to show less "sympathy" for immigrants trapped in President Donald Trump's mass deportation dragnet.
"When we depart from the law and create nebulous legal standards out of a sense of sympathy for the personal circumstances of a respondent in our immigration courts, we do violence to the rule of law and constitutional fabric that bind this great nation," Sessions declared in a speech delivered to 44 new judges in Virginia. "Your job is to apply the law—even in tough cases."
Sessions' comments, which come as the Trump administration continues to face international condemnation over its family separation policies, immediately provoked backlash from the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ)—the union that represents U.S. immigration judges—as well as former judges, who characterized the attorney general's instructions as politically motivated, legally baseless, and morally bankrupt. ...
Sessions' speech was delivered just hours after new United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet denounced the Trump administration's family separation policy—which was devised and implemented by Sessions' Justice Department—as "unconscionable" in her first speech on Monday and ripped the White House for not doing nearly enough to reunite the families it forcibly ripped apart.
Cancer patients and other people with debilitating conditions are being forced to choose between medical marijuana and federal public housing assistance. Even though some of the most conservative states are passing laws legalizing medical weed, marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance on a federal level, along with heroin and ecstasy, which can make users ineligible for programs like rental assistance or public housing.
Lily Fisher, a 55-year-old breast cancer survivor in Montana, learned that first-hand when she saw her application for a Section 8 rental assistance voucher rejected in August after revealing that she was using medical marijuana to treat her pain, according to the Billings Gazette. Section 8 is a federal program that subsidizes rent for low-income Americans.
In August, another woman seeking Section 8 assistance in Pennsylvania learned the same about the marijuana she uses to treat her back pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. And a third woman, in Arcata, California, was evicted from her federally-subsidized apartment in July after a maintenance worker spotted her legal stash of medicinal edibles, according to the local Times-Standard. These women are facing homelessness due to the conflict between state and federal law on pot. ...
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a memorandum in 2011 saying new admission applications revealing legal marijuana use would be denied, no matter the circumstance. However, the memorandum gave local landlords and public housing authorities the right to determine whether they should evict existing residents for medical marijuana use.
It’s not clear how many public housing authorities have sided with tenants on the local level, nor how many applicants have been rejected due to federal marijuana laws. But as more states normalize marijuana locally, it can make users ineligible for federal programs, like housing assistance.
In Wake of Bombshell Op-Ed, Watchdog Calls for Congress to Investigate 'Erratic' Trump—Starting with Subpoenas for Cabinet
An anonymous op-ed detailing President Donald Trump's erratic behavior, printed in the New York Times last week, set off speculation regarding which Trump administration senior official may have penned the piece—but a government watchdog on Monday said the op-ed is mainly noteworthy not for the palace intrigue described within but because it gives lawmakers more than enough reason to investigate Trump's alleged abdication of his duty to preside over the country. ...
Common Cause Calls for Immediate Hearings on Reports of White House Turmoilhttps://t.co/EKDTu14No4
— Common Cause (@CommonCause) September 10, 2018
While the op-ed argued that Americans should feel secure in the fact that there are "adults in the room," Common Cause argued that nothing in the piece should be comforting to the public. "Americans deserve to know the truth behind these accusations that the president poses a severe enough threat to our nation that the cabinet weighed invoking the 25th Amendment in order to remove him from office, and that those same unelected officials are in effect running the nation to mitigate the damage that would be done by the president," said Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn in a statement.
A transparent exchange of information about what is taking place behind the scenes at the White House could be extremely useful to the public, the group wrote in its letter to the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the House Oversight Committee—but not if details of a chaotic presidency are only hinted at in an anonymous letter. "Whistleblowers have been important throughout history," wrote Hobert Flynn. "They are often the only way that the public learns about fraud or abuse, and they serve an important watchdog function...But the fact that 'Anonymous' proudly proclaims there are 'adults in the room' holding the line against the president's worst impulses moves us from whistleblower to an unelected and unaccountable shadow presidency by committee."
Real Estate Tycoon Dumps Money Into Super PAC to Stop Zephyr Teachout’s Bid for New York Attorney General
A super PAC has jumped into the New York state attorney general’s race with a last-minute infusion of support for Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who is surging late in the race on the back of a torrent of corporate-fueled spending. Maloney is heavily funded by Wall Street and New York real estate interests, over which he would have jurisdiction as attorney general.
On September 7, a vehicle calling itself the Committee for Justice and Fairness political action committee reported $100,000 in independent expenditures on digital ads attacking Zephyr Teachout, one of Maloney’s opponents. A little over a week earlier, the New York-based real estate firm Related Companies LP gave $100,000 to the PAC. Two days after that, the founder and chair of the firm, Stephen Ross, gave $21,000 to Maloney’s campaign. This suggests that the ad buy is for the benefit of Maloney, not New York City Public Advocate Tish James, another major candidate in primary contest. James, however, stands to benefit as her progressive opponent is pummeled.
Fresh off a surprise endorsement from the New York Times and other newspapers around the state, Teachout’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for New York attorney general has wind at its back, but a Monday poll found her in third place, closely behind James and front-runner Maloney.
Maloney is friendly to the finance and real estate sector — which has a keen interest in who becomes New York’s top cop, given the heavy presence of industry in the state. Earlier this year, over the protests of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., he voted to roll back certain regulations for large banks. Maloney has quickly become the preferred candidate of that sector. The Financial Times reported on September 3 that “senior figures from Wall Street are lining up” to support the congressman, citing backing from Wall Street lawyers like Martin Lipton of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Rodgin Cohen of Sullivan & Cromwell.
'Major Victory': Landowner's Legal Challenge Halts Construction of Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana
In a "major victory" for local landowners and pipeline activists who are fighting to block the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana, the company behind the project agreed to halt construction on a patch of private property just ahead of a court hearing that was scheduled for Monday morning. The path of the 163-mile pipeline runs through Atchafalaya Basin, the nation's largest wetland and swamp. Local landowners and activists have raised alarm about the threat the pipeline poses to regional water resources, wildlife, and communities.
Peter Aaslestad, one of several co-owners of undeveloped marshland, filed an injunction in July alleging that the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) was clearing trees and trenching on his property without permission. ETP—which is also behind the hotly contested Dakota Access Pipeline—claims it has the right to the use property through expropriation, a process used to take private land for public benefit.
Monday's agreement "essentially gives us everything we would have asked for with [the injunction] request and argued for in our hearing," Misha Mitchell, a lawyer for Aaslestad and Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, explained in a Facebook video. "The company has voluntarily agreed to cease entering onto the property and to stop all construction activities on the property."
A court hearing for the expropriation battle is scheduled for Nov. 27, meaning the company will not meet its initial deadline of completing construction by October. "This represents a significant victory for the conservation of the Atchafalaya Basin and for the rights of private landowners who lawfully resist their property being seized for private gain," Aaslestad said in a statement.
A collective of activists fighting against the pipeline—who have created the L'eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life) floating resistance camp—celebrated the agreement as validation of their ongoing efforts to kill the project. "We have been tased, pepper sprayed, put into choke holds, and beaten with batons to stop this illegal construction that ETP was carrying out despite not having an easement for the land," the group wrote on Facebook Monday. "While this is a major victory, construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline continues in other parts of the Atchafalaya Basin. We won't stop until completely shut down the Bayou Bridge Pipeline."
Amid Demands California Goes Beyond 'Climate Capitalism,' Gov. Brown Signs 100% Renewables by 2045 Into Law
Climate groups are praising the work of local organizers after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Monday legislation committing the state to 100 percent clean electricity by 2045—a move that coincided with a direct action in San Francsico where frontline communites rallied to demand an end to "climate capitalism." ...
The action by the world's fifth-largest economy, said Environment America's chairman Doug Phelps, showed that "California is lighting a path for decision makers from around the world." President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord made such "subnational action... crucial," he added. ...
Yet while it represents "a goal worth celebrating," Oakland-based Miya Yoshitani, executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, said, "The critical question now is whether the transition to 100 percent renewable energy will be a just transition that benefits everyone, especially workers and communities most impacted by pollution and climate change." Yoshitani made the remarks in San Francisco, where the grassroots-led alliance It Takes Roots staged a direction action to make sure the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit, spearheaded by Brown, puts the needs of communities above the profits of corporations, and to demand that the "climate profiteers" present for the gathering of the Brown's Task Force on Climate take their cues from those most affected by climate crisis, not a small group of power-wielders.
promotion of carbon trading markets and other perverse subsidies to oil, gas, and other polluting corporations only perpetuates climate change, and decimates Indigenous communities and Native nations, communities of color and other working class peoples throughout California and around the world.
Such incentives for "climate capitalism" will turn frontline communities into sacrifice zones for decades to come, and despite Brown's attempts to prove he is different from Trump and the dark forces of climate denial, his "climate leadership" promotes the same corporate agenda—aimed at expanding the dig, burn, drive, dump industries destroying our communities and the air, land, and water we depend on.
Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 130 mph and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week.
Communities along a stretch of coastline that’s vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change prepared to evacuate. The South Carolina governor ordered the state’s entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon Tuesday and predicted that 1 million people would flee. And Virginia’s governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas.
The storm’s first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as dangerous rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway.
For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring torrential rains to the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other dangerous conditions.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
John Brim, Eddie Taylor - Ice Cream Man
John Brim - Tough Times
John Brim - Gary Stomp
John Brim - Rattlesnake
John Brim - I Would Hate To See You Go
John Brim & His Gary Kings - Go Away
John Brim And His Gary Kings - That Ain't Right
John Brim - It Was A Dream
John Brim and Big Maceo - Bus Driver
John Brim and His Trio - Drinking Woman