Tag Archives: Wall Street

Wall Street’s nightmare just got worse

POSTED BY ORHAN

On Wednesday Senate Democrats confirmed Elizabeth Warren’s seat on the Senate Banking Committee. Considering Wall Street’s crucial role in President Obama’s failure to appoint her to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the humongous wads of cash the Street spent attempting to derail her Senate run, it will be interesting to see if Warren, named “Wall Street’s worst nightmare” by Forbes, will be able to effectively usher in the regulation the big banks so desperately need–and fear.

Stiff resistance by Republicans on the Committee is a given, but I’ll be most interested to see how Wall Street-beholden Democrats respond to her efforts. In any event, there is some irony in the fact that Warren will now be regulating the institutions that fought so hard and long to bring her down.

Dorgan, Sanders, Durbin, Krugman – guess who was right. They were.

Terrific post yesterday about the banks and our Congress at The Erstwhile Conservative. Duane over there does – as I told him – the ‘heavy lifting’ while I occupy myself with Maru and oldies.

He points us to a warning from Sen. Byron Dorgan [ALERT: NY Times link] in 1999 about the dangers of repealing the Glass-Steagal Act, but they did it. They:

[Duane] . . . passed the Financial Services Modernization Act, which finally allowed commercial and investment banks and securities and insurance companies to stop slyly shacking up with each other and unite in unholy but legal matrimony.

[Dorgan in 1999] I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930′s is true in 2010…We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.

Duane quotes two more Democratic Senators:

[Sen. Bernie Sanders today] Let me just say again what many people will not be happy to hear. Wall Street is extraordinarily powerful. Congress doesn’t regulate them, the big banks regulate what Congress does.

[Sen. Dick Durbin three years ago]…hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place

Let me, Moe, add another quote, a more recent one, from Bush 43’s speechwriter, David Frum:

Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Wall Street Journal editorial page between 2000 and 2011, and someone in the same period who read only the collected columns of Paul Krugman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of the current economic crisis? The answer, I think, should give us pause. [Note from Moe: Krugman warned constantly about repealing Glass-Steagel; the WSJ supported it.]

What YOU Can Do on May Day

POSTED BY ORHAN

May Day is an international day of celebration to honor the labor movement. This year the Occupy movement has made a call for mass action—the May First General Strike (#M1GS): a day without the 99%. Over 115 US cities have organized in solidarity with this call to action.

A general strike is a way to build and demonstrate the power of the people. It’s a way to show this is a system that only exists because we allow it to. If we can withdraw from the system for one day we can use that day to build community and mutual aid. We can find inspiration and faith—not in any leaders or bosses but in each other and in ourselves.

If you are inspired by the day of action but don’t live near any organized events you can still take part. If you can’t strike, take the first step. We can work to shift the balance of power back into the hands of the people little by little in our everyday lives.

Here are some examples to get you thinking:

  1. Move Your Money: If you haven’t already, May Day is as good as any to move your money out of a national, corporate bank into a local bank or credit union. Support your local community and break up the “too big to fail” Wall Street banks that threaten our economic system. Learn more about moving your money here: www.moveyourmoneyproject.org
  2. Have a Potluck: Share a meal with others and and talk about subsidized agriculture and factory farming or make a meal with friends to serve to local homeless people a la Food Not Bombs.
  3. Start a Personal/Community Garden: On May Day, start or pledge to start a personal or community garden. Growing our own food means independence from corporate farms. This is one more way to take your self out of a system bent on keeping us complacent.
  4. Have a Free Store/FairGet together and share your unwanted items with others. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You could be helping someone who was about to go out and buy a (fill in your item here) anyway.
  5. Ride your bike to work/carpool with friends: Ride your bike or arrange a carpool to work. When you do this you are lessening our country’s dependency on outdated, unclean energies.
  6. Screen a Movie: Invite your friends or neighbors over to watch a documentary. After, have a discussion about how it relates to your values or the ideas of Occupy. You can watch political documentaries online at the following links for free:
    http://http://crimethinc.com/movies/

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/category/politics/

    http://www.documentarytube.com/category/political-documentaries
    http://freedocumentaries.org/
  7. Have a Skill Share: Give a free class to share your skills and knowledge. This could be as simple as giving a knitting demonstration or as complex as teaching someone a new language.

We have the power in our hands to change the course of our day to day realities if we are willing to participate and reach out to our neighbors and communities. In the words of Steven Biko, ”the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Big business should not be in control of us, we are the many and they are the few.

(Source)

Don’t forget to look for actions in your area here or here.

Zuccotti Park raided

POSTED BY ORHAN

NYPD raided Zuccotti Park at 1 AM this morning and cleared it. They destroyed all property, including the library. There were 70+ arrests.

In South Carolina, you get arrested. On Wall Street, you get adulation.

Different strokes, different folks.

A woman in South Carolina was arrested for public obscenity for  having these on her car. It’s still in Court.

On Wall Street it’s different dontchaknow. Behold the industry icon, the brass balls that keep the world spinning and the testosterone flowing in lower Manhattan. This manifestation of the ‘Bull Market Deity’ lives and snorts outside the NY Stock Exchange, where he is also a popular tourist attraction. Whatever you do, do not tell the cops!

Zuccotti Park

POSTED BY ORHAN

Whatever happens now to the grand experiment in authentic democracy that is #OccupyWallStreet, much has been achieved.

For those who experienced the hierarchy-free and consensus-based direct democracy of the General Assemblies, saw and lived the little anarchist society, based on mutual aid rather than personal profit, built with love and sweat on a tiny strip of land–we no longer believe another world is possible, we know it. For us normal existence under capitalism–existence for the accumulation of wealth and power–no longer holds any fascination; like the mummy exposed to fresh air, it disintegrates, leaving only emptiness.

#OccupyWallStreet is under attack, and its physical manifestation will not stand. It is under attack by the Right; by the Liberal establishment–ostensibly Left–to whom #OWS is as dangerous as it is to the Right; by the political class, obsolete when a people think and decide for themselves; and most of all, by the corporate elites who stand above Left and Right, pulling the puppet-strings in the shadow-play called American politics.

So tomorrow, we keep going. Howard Zinn wrote the following lines for moments like these, and they never seemed more meaningful:

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.

The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

Update: Friday morning from the NY Times:

The cleanup of the Lower Manhattan park that has been occupied by protesters for nearly a month was canceled Friday shortly before it was supposed to begin, averting a feared showdown between the police and demonstrators who had vowed to resist any efforts to evict them from their encampment.

The announcement was made by the Bloomberg administration around 6:20 a.m., about 40 minutes before workers were scheduled to enter Zuccotti Park, which has been the home base for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators angered by what they see as an unfair and corrupt financial system.

#OccupyWallStreet – Alan Grayson schools P.J. O’Rourke

POSTED BY ORHAN
Grayson superbly summarizes the #OWS grievances. And O’Rourke summarizes what has become the mainstream criticism, from both Left and Right:

#OccupyWallStreet – Demands

POSTED BY ORHAN

The MSM continues to ridicule #OWS for not having a specific list of demands. The absence of demands, and consequent absence of a divide-and-conquer target, that’s driving the media into such a tizzy is not specifically a “tactic”, but, as far as I can tell, is a byproduct of the radical democratic process being practiced by the General Assemblies (nicely described by Matt Stoller).

Here is the closest thing I’ve found to an “official” statement on demands from The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a paper published and distributed by #OWS:

What are the demands of the protesters?

Ugh—the zillion-dollar question. Again, the original Adbusters call asked, “What is our one demand?” Technically, there isn’t one yet. In the weeks leading up to September 17, the NYC General Assembly seemed to be veering away from the language of “demands” in the first place, largely because government institutions are already so shot through with corporate money that making specific demands would be pointless until the movement grew stronger politically. Instead, to begin with, they opted to make their demand the occupation itself—and the direct democracy taking place there—which in turn may or may not come up with some specific demand. When you think about it, this act is actually a pretty powerful statement against the corruption that Wall Street has come to represent. But since thinking is often too much to ask of the American mass media, the question of demands has turned into a massive PR challenge.

The General Assembly is currently in the midst of determining how it will come to consensus about unifying demands. It’s a really messy and interesting discussion. But don’t hold your breath.

So it appears #OWS is specifically addressing the anger of the majority of Americans at the power, arrogance, and lack of accountability enjoyed by the coterie of the richest 1%, and the marginalization, disempowerment, and impoverishment of the remaining 99%–and doing it in a way that is “horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based”, which most people–let alone members of the political class–find it almost impossible to wrap their heads around.

When I visited Zuccotti Park today, there were some very tense cops trying to keep everyone within the bounds of the metal pens they had set up, but the park is just too small for the number of people occupying it. A second Manhattan General Assembly was scheduled to meet in Washington Square Park this afternoon; I wonder how Mayor Bloomberg will deal with the growth.

He’s obviously expecting the onset of winter to disperse the crowds without police action, but if the “contagion” (as our pundits called the Arab occupations of public spaces) spreads, there will be more demand for him to take forceful action, even if he feels otherwise. What I find interesting about Bloomberg is that he’s a One Percenter with tremendous overt political power, who also owns and controls a massive media machine.

As I stood inside, the park was surrounded by gawkers and tourists slowly filing by. The cops were telling the passers-by, “Take your pictures and move on, there are other people behind you”. Now #OWS seems to be a tourist spot somewhat more popular than the new World Trade Center, two blocks due north.

We Are the 1 Percent

POSTED BY ORHAN

Tens of thousands marched through the streets of lower Manhattan Wednesday in support of Occupy Wall Street and to protest the actions of the financial elite that has devastated the lives of so many. The current issue of Orion magazine includes an article by Christopher Ketcham that  draws the connection between the demonstrators and the city they marched in:

Of the twenty-five largest cities, New York is the most unequal city in the United States for income distribution. If it were a nation, it would come in as the fifteenth worst among 134 countries ranked by extremes of wealth and poverty—a banana republic without the death squads.

It is the showcase for the top 1 percent of households, which in New York have an average annual income of $3.7 million. The One Percenters took for themselves close to 44 percent of all income in New York during 2007 (the last year for which data is available).

New York’s wealth concentration is almost twice the record-high levels among the top 1 percent nationwide, who claimed 23.5 percent of all national income in 2007, a number not seen since the eve of the Great Depression.

The number of homeless in the city rose to an all-time high last year with a record 113,000 men, women, and children, many of them comprising whole families, retreating night after night to municipal shelters.

Average workers have been the consistent losers since 1990. The real hourly median wage in New York between 1990 and 2007 fell by almost 9 percent. Young men and women aged twenty-five to thirty-four with a bachelor’s degree and a year-round job in New York saw their earnings drop 6 percent. Middle-income New Yorkers—defined broadly by the FPI as those drawing incomes between approximately $29,000 and $167,000—experienced a 19 percent decrease in earnings.

Almost 11 percent of the population, about 900,000 people, live in what the federal government describes as “deep poverty,” which for a four-person family means an income of $10,500 (the average One Percenter household in New York makes about that same amount every day).

About 50 percent of the households in the city have incomes below $30,000; their incomes have also been steadily declining since 1990. During the boom of 2002–07, the trend was unaltered: the average income in the bottom 95 percent of New York City households declined.

The wealth of the One Percenters derives almost entirely from the operations of the sector known as “financial services,” whose preoccupation is “financial innovation.” The One Percenters draw the top salaries at commercial and investment banks, hedge funds, credit card companies, insurance companies, stock brokerages.

The largest twenty financial institutions in the U.S., almost all of them headquartered in New York, now control upward of 70 percent of the country’s financial assets, roughly double what they controlled in the 1990s.

According to the article, financial innovation is a “socially useless activity”, with “little or no long-term value”, whose purpose is to “merely shift money around” without designing, building, or selling “a single tangible thing.” Financial services once allocated capital for socially useful projects that also created jobs. The goal now is to maximize short-term profit by generating and bursting asset bubbles, hedging carefully to come out ahead no matter the cost to society. Having created a wave of gentrification that devastated manufacturing and made the city unaffordable for most workers, including writers, artists, and musicians, the One Percenter sits atop a cuturally sterile world that “that offers nothing but mass consumption as a prospect for our youth,” that trumpets “contempt for the least powerful in society,” that offers only “outrageous competition of all against all.”

We make our own signs

(I say ‘we’, of course, in a solidarity kind of way.)

An observation:

Occupy Together and We Are The 99 make their own signs.

Real Americans

POSTED BY ORHAN

There are now over 130 #Occupying groups nationally. There’s a site to find one nearby or start your own.

I went to Zuccotti Park yesterday afternoon. The energy was different than a demonstration–the people were, well, occupying, not marching. The group was predominantly young, but people of all ages were participating. The area was mobbed with tourists, media (but not MSM), people who work in the area, some jeering, others curious or obviously sympathetic. My sense is that the energy changes from hour to hour.

There were lots of small groups, people working out tactics and strategy; if there’s anything like an organizational focus, the General Assembly is it; the emphasis is on leaderlessness, non-hierarchy, non-violence, consensus-building, giving everyone a voice.

There was a fairly heavy police presence, but the cops appeared laid back; they’re also learning–nothing energizes people like seeing college kids penned and pepper-sprayed.

Right now the people need sleeping bags, blankets, boots, food.

Gimme that old time religion, er, I mean protestin’!

This is what Occupy Wall Street is about. And now that major news outlets have deigned to take notice, it’s growing into a movement.  Invitations to local demonstrations are popping up all over Facebook (I’ve had two invitations just this morning) and this has generated an organizing site here. It gets personal at We Are the 99 Percent.  From there:

UPDATE: Here’s the official site for Occupy Wall Street. And I just found another picture I rather fancy.

As Orhan says, ‘we’ll see’

Kunstler, once again saying what no one but Jon Stewart says in public:

It was heartening at least to see a few signs of life “out there” in the karmic interstices. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan sent a memo to the Attorney General of the US – viz: something has been going on in Wall Street that merits your attention. As in most seemingly crucial turnings lately, echo answered. Can someone please check to see if Eric Holder over in the Department of Justice is leaking sawdust? He must be stuffed something. Styrofoam would just make him look lumpy. Could he be a computer graphic? Or is he just a simple slab of cardboard with a photo glued on. Perhaps Senator Levin’s next memo might be in the form of a subpoena to Mr. Holder, requesting his testimony as to how many trillions of dollars were snookered, swindled, and Ponzied out of the US public for the benefit of about a thousand guys in and around lower Manhattan (with branch offices in suburban Connecticut and New Jersey).

You go Elizabeth, you go!

Joe Nocera’s column Talking Business in today’s NY Times is interesting. It seems that the House subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit has summoned the great enemy, the great advocate for American consumers, Elizabeth Warren. Obama hired her last year to set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – he dared not appoint her director of the new agency because confirmation was very iffy. The banks don’t care for Ms. Warren you see. She won’t run interference for them and that’s just not right.

. . .  the real purpose of the hearing: to allow the Republicans who now run the House to box Ms. Warren about the ears. The big banks loathe Ms. Warren, who has made a career out of pointing out all the ways they gouge financial consumers [us] — and whose primary goal is to make such gouging more difficult. So, naturally, the Republicans loathe her too. That she might someday run this bureau terrifies the banks. So, naturally, it terrifies the Republicans.

. . . rather than waiting until July to start helping financial consumers, Ms. Warren has been trying to help them now. Can you believe the nerve of that woman? . . . at the request of the states’ attorneys general, all 50 of whom have banded together to investigate the mortgage servicing industry in the wake of the foreclosure crisis, she has fed them ideas that have become part of a settlement proposal they are putting together.

She’s a hero and as clean as they come. You go Elizabeth, you go.

New boss, same as the old boss

We’re finally crackin’ down on those Wall Street miscreants! Yippeeee! The AG had a press conference yesterday and he said they at the Justice Department were all kinds of proud of ‘Operation Broken Promise’ and have “brought cases against 343 criminal defendants and 189 civil defendants”

Way to go Justice Department, right?

Today, New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin says “I actually called some chief executives after Mr. Holder’s news conference, and not one had heard of Operation Broken Trust.

“That’s because in the two years since the peak” of the financial crisis, the government has not brought one criminal case against a big-time corporate official of any sort.

“Instead, inexplicably, prosecutors are busy chasing small-timers: penny-stock frauds, a husband-and-wife team charged in an insider trading case and mini-Ponzi schemes.”

Yeah, that’ll do it.

The United Citizens of da’ money

Ooohhh, Tom Toles is very very good.

More here.

We win – something at least.

Following up on my earlier post, this morning Washington Monthly gives us a nice summary of the outcome. (clipped from the NY Times story – link in the clip):

MARATHON SESSION LEADS TO BREAKTHROUGH ON WALL STREET REFORM…. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t quick, and it wasn’t pretty, but seemingly-endless negotiations have produced a sweeping Wall Street reform package ready to be approved by both chambers.

Nearly two years after the American financial system teetered on the verge of collapse, Congressional negotiators reached agreement early Friday morning to reconcile competing versions of the biggest overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression.

A 20-hour marathon by members of a House-Senate conference committee to complete work on toughened financial regulations culminated at 5:39 a.m. Friday in agreements on the two most contentious parts of the financial regulatory overhaul and a host of other provisions. Along party lines, the House conferees voted 20 to 11 to approve the bill; the Senate conferees voted 7 to 5 to approve.

Members of the conference committee approved proposals to restrict trading by banks for their own benefit and requiring banks and their parent companies to segregate much of their derivatives activities into a separately capitalized subsidiary.

Yeah, they’ll do that. Sure they will.

After 9/11, I found my way to Juan Cole’s site, Informed Comment.  He is one of our foremost experts on the Middle East. An Arabic speaker, he’s spent half his life in that part of the world. So while wars were blooming around us in the early naughts, Cole became an important source – for me anyway – in trying to figure out whatever was going on.

And just now, planning to link to him, looking around his site, I find there is no bio. He’s a very geeky academic type (if you’ve ever seen him on TV, you know this already), so that’s surprising.  His numerous awards and affiliations however are mostly there.  You can go look and marvel.

Today, he muses about Haiti and contemplates the Wall Street bonuses, and suggests these dudes tithe their bonuses to the relief effort. Heh. This particular line struck me:

” . . . the bonuses of the six biggest banks are now estimated to come in at $150 billion. Ten percent of that would be two years worth of Haiti’s gdp.”

He’s written an entire column on the subject at NPR.