A Gentleman's view.

The dirty game of politics played by gangsters with degrees cloaked in Brooks Brothers proper!

If children live, they learn

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Reposted From FaceBook post by Molly Swipas.

Teach them well and let them learn:

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

© 2010 – 2015, agentleman.


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Written by agentleman

September 18th, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Need Our Money Where Our Mouth Is

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20 Big Ideas From Bernie Sanders to Reverse Inequality, Expand Safety Nets and Stop America’s Plutocrats

Sanders outlines his platform in a major hometown speech.
By Steven Rosenfeld




On Tuesday, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernard Sanders gave a major speech in Burlington, Vemont, where his political career began three decades ago when he was elected mayor of his state’s largest city. Sanders, who is seeking the 2016 Democratic nomination for president, described 20 ideas that will be the hallmarks of his campaign.

1. Time for big thinking and new ideas: “Brothers and sisters: Now is not the time for thinking small. Now is not the time for the same-old-same-old establishment politics and stale inside-the-beltway ideas. Now is the time for millions of working families to come together, to revitalize American democracy, to end the collapse of the American middle class and to make certain that our children and grandchildren are able to enjoy a quality of life that brings them health, prosperity, security and joy—and that once again makes the United States the leader in the world in the fight for economic and social justice, for environmental sanity and for a world of peace.”

2. America’s problems are worse than ever: “This country faces more serious problems today than at any time since the Great Depression and, if you include the planetary crisis of climate change, it may well be that the challenges we face now are direr than any time in our modern history. Here is my promise to you for this campaign. Not only will I fight to protect the working families of this country, but we’re going to build a movement of millions of Americans who are prepared to stand up and fight back.”

3. Economic inequality is the top issue: “In America we now have more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on earth, and the gap between the very rich and everyone is wider than at any time since the 1920s. The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time and it is the great political issue of our time. And we will address it.”

4. The middle class is being destroyed: “It is the tragic reality that for the last 40 years the great middle class of our country—once the envy of the world—has been disappearing. Despite exploding technology and increased worker productivity, median family income is almost $5,000 less than it was in 1999. In Vermont and throughout this country it is not uncommon for people to be working two or three jobs just to cobble together enough income to survive on and some healthcare benefits.”

5. Poverty is worse than is acknowledged: “The truth is that real unemployment is not the 5.4 percent you read in newspapers. It is close to 11 percent if you include those workers who have given up looking for jobs or who are working part time when they want to work full time. Youth unemployment is over 17 percent and African-American youth unemployment is much higher than that. Today, shamefully, we have 45 million people living in poverty, many of whom are working at low-wage jobs. These are the people who struggle every day to find the money to feed their kids, to pay their electric bills and to put gas in the car to get to work. This campaign is about those people and our struggling middle class.”

6. The country needs a real jobs program: “If we are truly serious about reversing the decline of the middle class we need a major federal jobs program which puts millions of Americans back to work at decent paying jobs. At a time when our roads, bridges, water systems, rail and airports are decaying, the most effective way to rapidly create meaningful jobs is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation which would invest $1 trillion over 5 years to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure. This legislation would create and maintain at least 13 million good-paying jobs, while making our country more productive, efficient and safe. And I promise you as president I will lead that legislation into law.”

7. Raise the minimum wage and fight for living wages. “The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage and must be raised. The minimum wage must become a living wage, which means raising it to $15 an hour over the next few years—which is exactly what Los Angeles recently did, and I applaud them for doing that. Our goal as a nation must be to ensure that no full-time worker lives in poverty.”

8. Close the pay equity gap for women: “Further, we must establish pay equity for women workers. It’s unconscionable that women earn 78 cents on the dollar compared to men who perform the same work. We must also end the scandal in which millions of American employees, often earning less than $30,000 a year, work 50 or 60 hours a week – and earn no overtime. And we need paid sick leave and guaranteed vacation time for all.”

9. Provide basic government healthcare for all: “The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare for all as a right. Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act, 35 million Americans continue to lack health insurance and many more are under-insured. Yet, we continue paying far more per capita for healthcare than any other nation. The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee healthcare to all as a right by moving toward a Medicare-for-all single-payer system.”

10. Expand Social Security and other safety nets: “If you can believe it, the [current congressional] Republican budget throws 27 million Americans off health insurance, makes drastic cuts in Medicare, throws millions of low-income Americans, including pregnant women, off of nutrition programs, and makes it harder for working-class families to afford college or put their kids in the Head Start program. And then, to add insult to injury, they provide huge tax breaks for the very wealthiest families in this country while they raise taxes on working families… Instead of cutting Social Security, we’re going to expand Social Security benefits. Instead of cutting Head Start and child care, we are going to move to a universal pre-K system for all the children of this country.”

11. College and universities must be free: “In a highly competitive global economy, we need the best educated workforce we can create. It is insane and counterproductive to the best interests of our country, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. That must end. That is why, as president, I will fight to make tuition in public colleges and universities free, as well as substantially lower interest rates on student loans.”

12. The rich must pay fair taxes. “This campaign is going to send a message to the billionaire class. And that is: you can’t have it all. You can’t get huge tax breaks while children in this country go hungry. You can’t continue sending our jobs to China while millions are looking for work. You can’t hide your profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, while there are massive unmet needs on every corner of this nation. Your greed has got to end. You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America, if you refuse to accept your responsibilities. That is why we need a tax system which is fair and progressive, which makes wealthy individuals and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes.”
13. Break up the largest financial institutions: “It is time to break up the largest financial institutions in the country. Wall Street cannot continue to be an island unto itself, gambling trillions in risky financial instruments while expecting the public to bail it out. If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. We need a banking system which is part of the job-creating productive economy, not a handful of huge banks on Wall Street which engage in reckless and illegal activities.”

14. No more bad international trade agreements: “I will also continue to oppose our current trade policies. For decades, presidents from both parties have supported trade agreements which have cost us millions of decent paying jobs as corporate America shuts down plants here and moves to low-wage countries. As president, my trade policies will break that cycle of agreements which enrich at the expense of the working people of this country.

15. Move away from carbon-based energy: “The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change. We can do that if we transform our energy system away from fossil fuels, toward energy efficiency and such sustainable energies such as wind, solar, geo-thermal and bio-mass. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient, and we need a tax on carbon to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuel.”

16. Climate change must be addressed: “Climate change is real. It is caused by human activity and it is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world. The scientists are telling us that if we do not boldly transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies, this planet could be five to ten degrees Fahrenheit warmer by the end of this century. This is catastrophic. It will mean more drought, more famine, more rising sea level, more floods, more ocean acidification, more extreme weather disturbances, more disease and more human suffering. We must not, we cannot, and we will not allow that to happen.”

17. The US must not fight endless wars: “We live in a difficult and dangerous world, and there are people out there who want to do us harm. As president, I will defend this nation – but I will do it responsibly. As a member of Congress I voted against the war in Iraq, and that was the right vote. I am vigorously opposed to an endless war in the Middle East – a war which is unwise and unnecessary. We must be vigorous in combatting terrorism and defeating ISIS, but we should not have to bear that burden alone. We must be part of an international coalition, led by Muslim nations, that can not only defeat ISIS but begin the process of creating conditions for a lasting peace.”

18. Americans can’t afford to be apathetic: “There is massive discontent with politics in America today. In the mid-term election in November, 63 percent of Americans did not vote, including 80 percent of young people. Poll after poll tells us that our citizens no longer have confidence in our political institutions and, given the power of Big Money in the political process, they have serious doubts about how much their vote actually matters and whether politicians have any clue as to what is going on in their lives.”

19. Democracy reform starts with the plutocrats: “American democracy is not about billionaires being able to buy candidates and elections. It is not about the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other incredibly wealthy individuals spending billions of dollars to elect candidates who will make the rich richer and everyone else poorer. According to media reports the Koch brothers alone, one family, will spend more money in this election cycle than either the Democratic or Republican parties. This is not democracy. This is oligarchy. In Vermont and at our town meetings we know what American democracy is supposed to be about. It is one person, one vote – with every citizen having an equal say – and no voter suppression. And that’s the kind of American political system we have to fight for and will fight for in this campaign.

20. The Supreme Court must be changed: “If we are serious about creating jobs, about climate change and the needs of our children and the elderly, we must be deadly serious about campaign finance reform and the need for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I will not nominate any justice to the Supreme Court who has not made it clear that he or she will move to overturn that disastrous decision which is undermining our democracy. Long term, we need to go further and establish public funding of elections.”



Steven Rosenfeld

© 2015, agentleman.


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Written by agentleman

May 29th, 2015 at 8:51 am

Iraq Revisited

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Politicians who claim they had no choice but to support the invasion are wrong. America got a war it wanted – even if it wasn’t what it expected



Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush holds a press conference
Jeb Bush seemed hopelessly ill-prepared for the obvious question about his brother’s decision to go to war in Iraq Photograph: Aaron P Bernstein/Reuters
A couple of weeks ago, the Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush was asked in an interview with Fox News whether, knowing what he knows now, he would have invaded Iraq. It’s the kind of predictable question for which most people assumed he would have a coherent answer. They were wrong. Jeb blew it. “I would have [authorised the invasion],” he said. “And so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

For the next few days, as he was hammered from left and right, he flailed around like a four-star general in search of a plausible exit strategy. In a number of do-overs, he answered the same question with “I don’t know”, “I didn’t understand the question”, and “no” before finally falling back on the perennial Republican default of blaming everything on Barack Obama.

“You can tell a true war story by the way it never seems to end. Not then, not ever,” writes Tim O’Brien in his novel about Vietnam, The Things They Carried. “In a true war story, if there’s a moral at all, it’s like the thread that makes the cloth. You can’t tease it out. You can’t extract the meaning without unravelling the deeper meaning.”
Jeb Bush backtracks again: ‘I would not have gone into Iraq’
Read more
Iraq is one such story. The troops may have left, but the fallout from the conflict lingers in the American polity, clinging to its elites like stale cigarette smoke to an Aran sweater – it stinks, and they just can’t shake it. Not only did it trip Jeb up, it remains the abiding, shameful legacy of his brother George Bush’s administration. And, as Jeb hinted, it dogged Clinton during her 2008 presidential bid, too.

Back then, she claimed if she’d known what George Bush would do with the authority to go to war (ie go to war with it) she would never have given it to him. That didn’t fly. Now she concedes her vote was an unqualified “mistake”.

Extracting a moral from this disaster would demand “unravelling the deeper meaning” of America’s military impulses, the popular consent it enjoys and the craven political assent it is accorded.

It would require an assessment of why so many Americans supported the war for so long, how an ostensibly independent media not only failed to challenge the state but actively capitulated to it, and why nobody has paid the price for any of these mistakes. In short, it would demand a reckoning with American power – how it works, as well as whom it works for, and to what end. (Britain’s pathetic collusion demands a whole other column.)

In the absence of such an account, a true war story is not possible, and so the political class would rather collude in a huge lie that will continue to infect the US body politic, as Vietnam did, until it finds remedy in the truth.

The point here is not to relitigate the war. The verdict on that front is clear by the number of those who once endorsed it and now disclaim it. The point is to reclaim the truth of the past in the hope of a better and more honest future. If those who lied us into the war can lie us out of it too, then we are no better equipped to stop them the next time.

Jeb’s mistake is that he picked the wrong lie. It’s simply not true that “almost everybody” who saw the intelligence backed the war – 133 representatives and 23 senators opposed it. Nonetheless, his rationale – worthy of any hapless teenager – that he would have done it because everybody else was doing it has more integrity than most.
Jeb Bush’s Iraq war fumble lays bare the political football that is George W Bush
Read more
Many of those who supported it did so in an act of cowardly political calculation. Raising their index finger to the political wind and the middle finger to international law they thought: “This is going to happen, so I might as well get on board.”

Opposing the war in 2003 struck those with more ambition than principle as a career-ending act of folly. The administration was selling lies; but they were willing buyers.

Broadly speaking, the public was of the same mindset. The most important single factor shaping Americans’ opinions about any war is not American casualties, foreign casualties or even expense, but whether they think America will win, says Christopher Gelpi, a political science professor at Duke University who specialises in public attitudes to US foreign policy. Sure enough, on the eve of the invasion two thirds of Americans backed it and a slim majority said they’d supported it without a UN resolution. Support grew once the bombing started and only soured once it was clear no victory was in sight.

The falsehood peddled by most of Jeb’s critics amounts to this: “I wouldn’t support it now because now we know the intelligence was faulty. But there’s no way we could have known that then.” Or as New York Times columnist David Brooks, one of the most eminent stenographers for American state power, put it: “To erase mistakes from the past is to obliterate your world now. You can’t go back and know then what you know now.”

The trouble with this is that we did know then. The world knew, which is why majorities in almost every other country opposed it. The United Nations was trying to acquire proof one way or another but was not allowed to finish the job. Politicians were not, in fact, led to war by faulty intelligence; they deliberately commissioned the intelligence that would enable them to go to war.

According to notes taken by Steve Cambone, aide to the former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, just hours after the 9/11 attack Rumsfeld demanded: the “best info fast … judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] @ same time – not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].” The Pentagon’s top lawyer was told “to talk w/ PW [Paul Wolfowitz] for additional support [for the] connection w/ UBL.” “Need to move swiftly,” Cambone noted. “Go massive – sweep it all up things related and not.”

America got the war it wanted; it just wasn’t the war it expected. “History will allow clear judgments about which leaders and which institutions were up to the challenge posed by Saddam,” Brooks wrote the week of the invasion, “and which were not.” History has spoken. Sadly, too many still suffer from selective hearing.



© 2015, agentleman.


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Written by agentleman

May 28th, 2015 at 9:16 am

Smooth Talking Makes BullShit Sound Good

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The Right’s Political Correctness

By E.J. Dionne Jr.



WASHINGTON—Scott Walker insists that when he changes his positions, he is not engaged in “flips.”

“A flip would be someone who voted on something and did something different,” the Wisconsin governor explained last week on Fox News. His altered views on immigration don’t count because he is not a legislator. “These are not votes,” he helpfully pointed out.

Sheer brilliance! Other than former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Walker’s major rivals at the moment are Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky. They have all cast lots of votes. So Walker can accuse them of flip-flopping while claiming blanket immunity for himself.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party and the country, Walker’s careful parsing of shape-shifting counts as one of the cerebral high points of the debate among the party’s 2016 presidential candidates.

The shortage of philosophical adventure and the eagerness of GOP hopefuls to alter their positions to make them more conservative have the same cause: a Republican primary electorate that has moved so far right that it brooks no deviationism. What makes it even harder for the candidates to break new ground is that the imperatives of orthodoxy are constraining even the thinkers who are trying to create a new “reform conservatism.”

The fall-in-line-or-fall-in-the-polls rule means that Walker has gone from supporting to opposing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, as has Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J. Rubio got much praise for his work in negotiating a bipartisan bill that would have allowed the undocumented to become citizens—and then, faced with hostility from tea partyers, he turned against it.

Paul, the most daring of the lot because of his libertarian convictions, deserves kudos for being true to his small-state ideology by standing up—literally, for nearly 11 hours on the Senate floor—against the Patriot Act. But even Paul has recast his foreign policy positions to make them sound more hawkish and thus more in keeping with prevailing Republican views.

Accommodating right-wing primary voters poses real risks to the party in next year’s elections. Its candidates’ messages on immigration and gay marriage, could hurt the GOP with, respectively, Latinos and the young.

But the greater loss is that none of the leading Republicans is willing to offer a more fundamental challenge to the party’s rightward lurch over the past decade. L. Brent Bozell III, a prominent activist on the right, could thus legitimately claim to The Washington Post: “The conservative agenda is what is winning the field.”

Where, for example, is the candidate willing to acknowledge that, like it or not, there’s no way anywhere close to all Americans will be able to get health insurance unless government plays a very large role? Where is the Republican who will admit that if the party had its way on further tax cuts, many programs Americans like would fall by the wayside?

The reform conservatives were supposed to remedy this shortcoming, and they have issued some detailed proposals. But their efforts remain largely reactive. Last week, Yuval Levin, the intellectual leader of the movement, joined a symposium in Reason, the sprightly libertarian magazine, to reassure others on the right that reform conservatives are—honest and true!—no less committed than they are to “limited government,” to rolling back “the liberal welfare state,” and to reducing government’s “size and scope.”

It’s not surprising that Levin’s fervently anti-statist Reason interlocutors were not fully persuaded. What’s disappointing to those outside conservatism’s ranks is that the Reformicons are so often defensive.

With occasional exceptions, they have been far more interested in proving their faithfulness to today’s hard-line right than in declaring, as conservatives in so many other democracies have been willing to do, that sprawling market economies need a rather large dose of government. Conservatives, Levin says, are “eager to build on the long-standing institutions of our society to improve things.” Good idea. But somehow, the successes of decades-old governmental institutions in areas such as retirement security, health care provision and environmental protection are rarely acknowledged.

Many Republicans, especially reform conservatives, know that most Americans who criticize government in the abstract still welcome many of its activities. Yet stating this obvious fact is now politically incorrect on the right. Conservatives who condemn political correctness in others need to start calling it out on their own side. Otherwise, Scott Walker’s artful redefinition of flip-flopping could become the 2016 Republican debate’s most creative intellectual contribution.
E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.



© 2015, agentleman.


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Written by agentleman

May 26th, 2015 at 9:44 am

Posted in Politics

By Popular Demand

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Ireland Votes to Approve Gay Marriage, Putting Country in Vanguard



DUBLIN — Ireland became the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, sweeping aside the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in a resounding victory Saturday for the gay rights movement and placing the country at the vanguard of social change.

With the final ballots counted, the vote was 62 percent in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, and 38 percent opposed.

The turnout was large — more than 60 percent of the 3.2 million eligible voters cast ballots, and only one district out of 43 voted the measure down. Cheers broke out among the crowd of supporters who had gathered in the courtyard of Dublin Castle when Returning Officer Riona Ni Fhlanghaile announced around 7 p.m. that the ballot had passed, 1,201,607 votes to 734,300.
Pedestrians walk past a mural in favor of same-sex marriages in Dublin on May 21, 2015.Soul-Searching as Ireland Prepares to Vote on Same-Sex MarriageMAY 21, 2015
A cafe in Dublin displayed a campaign sticker supporting same-sex marriage in Ireland.Referendum in Ireland Could Complete a Rapid Shift on Same-Sex MarriageMAY 21, 2015
Not long ago, the vote would have been unthinkable. Ireland decriminalized homosexuality only in 1993, the church dominates the education system, and abortion remains illegal except when a mother’s life is at risk. But the influence of the church has waned amid scandals in recent years, while attitudes, particularly among the young, have shifted.

Supporters celebrated a historic vote to legalize same-sex marriage on Saturday in Dublin. Credit Aidan Crawley/European Pressphoto Agency
“Today Ireland made history,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny said at a news conference, adding that “in the privacy of the ballot box, the people made a public statement.”

“This decision makes every citizen equal and I believe it will strengthen the institution of marriage,” Mr. Kenny said.

The vote is also the latest chapter in a sharpening global cultural clash. Same-sex marriage is surging in the West, legal in 19 nations before the Irish vote and 37 American states, but almost always because of legislative or legal action. At the same time, homosexuality is illegal across much of the Middle East and gay rights are under renewed attack in Russia and parts of Africa.

The results showed wide and deep support for a measure that had dominated public discourse and dinner-table conversation in the months before the vote on Friday. Supporters celebrated in gatherings and on the streets, with the rainbow colors of the gay rights movement and Yes vote buttons conspicuously on display.

Surprising many who had predicted a generational divide, the support cut across age and gender, geography and income, early results showed.
Ireland has become the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, sweeping aside opposition from the Roman Catholic Church in a resounding victory for the gay rights movement. By Reuters on Publish Date May 23, 2015.
With early vote counts suggesting a comfortable victory, crowds began to fill the courtyard of Dublin Castle, a government complex that was once the center of British rule. By late morning, the leader of the opposition, David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, conceded the outcome on Twitter: “Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done.”

In Dublin, supporters of same-sex marriage celebrated on Saturday.Editorial: The Victory for Same-Sex Marriage in IrelandMAY 23, 2015
For older activists, the moment marked a profound evolution for their country. For the world, it suggested how far the gay rights movement has come, to make such a significant step in a country with a storied history as a religious stronghold.

“Throughout my youth, adolescence and young adulthood, it was a criminal offense to be gay,” said David Norris, a 70-year-old Irish senator and longtime activist.
He said he had faced “total isolation” as a young man.

“There was silence on the subject,” he said. “It wasn’t mentioned in the newspapers, it wasn’t mentioned in the broadcast media. Then there was a fear of criminal prosecution, of being involuntarily placed in a lunatic asylum, losing your job, being socially destroyed. It was a terrible situation.”
The referendum changes Ireland’s Constitution so that civil marriage between two people is now legal “without distinction as to their sex.” It requires ratification by both houses of the Irish Parliament and the president. Though that is a formality, the date when gay and lesbian couples can marry will be determined in that process.

There was support for the measure across the political spectrum, including from Prime Minister Kenny, of the center-right Fine Gael party, and his Labour coalition partner, which had pushed for the referendum. Sinn Fein, an opposition party, also expressed support.

Many placed the results in a national context, saying it pointed not only to change but also to the compassion and tolerance of the Irish people.

Alex White, the government’s minister for communications, said: “This didn’t change Ireland — it confirmed the change. We can no longer be regarded as the authoritarian state we once might have been perceived to be. This marks the true separation of church and state.”

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, said: “There are two Irelands, the elite Ireland and the hidden Ireland. And today the hidden Ireland spoke.”
When Same-Sex Marriages Became Legal
About 20 countries have already legalized same-sex marriages. Here is a list of when each did.

2001 The Netherlands
2003 Belgium
2005 Canada and Spain
2006 South Africa
2009 Norway and Sweden
2010 Argentina. Iceland and Portugal
2012 Denmark
2013: Brazil, England and Wales, France, New Zealand and Uruguay
2014 Luxembourg and Scotland
2017 (Law becomes effective.) Finland
Gay rights activists around the world had said a victory would be an important milestone.

“I think this is a moment that rebrands Ireland to a lot of folks around the world as a country not stuck in tradition but that has an inclusive tradition,” said Ty Cobb, the international director of the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based advocacy group.

Late in the campaign, four Catholic bishops urged parishioners to vote against the measure. But as ballot boxes were opened one by one, and paper yes and no votes stacked up in front of counters at long tables in a cavernous hall, optimism among referendum supporters grew.
Campaigning on both sides of the debate had been underway for months, with posters, billboards and commercials. One opposition commercial said, “You should be able to have reservations about gay marriage without being called a homophobe,” while a commercial supporting same-sex marriage featured young people encouraging their parents to vote.

Thousands are believed to have returned to Ireland to take part in the vote; plane tickets from London Friday night sold out.
Ireland’s paradigm shift from a quasi theocracy to a leader on gay rights was the result of a sustained campaign by gay activists. They set up a network of support groups around the country and fused a grass-roots movement with aggressive social media outreach and a registration drive that brought in more than 100,000 new voters since last November. Tens of thousands of doors were knocked on, extensive leafleting campaigns took place and posters were ubiquitous.
“Commentators just don’t seem to have grasped that this has been the culmination of a 10-year campaign to change attitudes in this country,” said Colm O’Gorman, chief executive of Amnesty International (Ireland) and a leading gay rights campaigner.

Leaders on both sides tried to strike a conciliatory note, though they said some issues remain to be sorted out, from rules on surrogacy to the ability of religious groups to hew to their views.

“The personal stories of people’s own testimonies, as to their difficulties growing up being gay certainly struck a chord with people,” said Jim Walsh, an Irish senator who opposed the marriage referendum, during a television interview.

“I would like today to not get back into the arguments that we had during the campaign but to wish them well,” he said. “But I think that going forward we will need to address issues which are going to arise.”

In a news release, the Iona Institute congratulated the yes side for “a very professional campaign that in truth began long before the official campaign started.”

But it also said “we will continue to affirm the importance of the biological ties and of motherhood and fatherhood” and urged the government to “address the concerns voters on the No side have about the implications for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.”

Nick O’Connell, 42, who is from a rural area in County Kilkenny in the Irish Midlands, was cradling a celebratory drink in a Dublin bar, the Back Lounge. He said he had been too afraid to come out as gay until his mid-20s.

“Today I’m thinking of all those young people over the years who were bullied and committed suicide because of their sexuality. This vote was for them, too.”

He added: “This is different from other countries because it was the people who gave it to us, not a legislature.”



© 2015, agentleman.


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Written by agentleman

May 25th, 2015 at 9:14 am

Wall Street: We Fuck Everybody Worldwide

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Matt Taibbi: World’s Largest Banks Admit to Massive Global Financial Crimes, But Escape Jail (Again)

This is about as serious a financial crime as you can possibly get, says the Rolling Stone journalist.
By Amy Goodman, Nermeen Shaikh

In an interview with Democracy Now!, Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi spoke about the recent news surrounding the five major banks – Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS – who pled guilty to rigging the price of foreign currencies and interest rates. Their fines amount up to more than $5 billion. “They were monkeying around with the prices of every currency on Earth,” Taibbi told Amy Goodman. “So, if you can imagine that anybody who has money, which basically includes anybody who’s breathing on the planet, all of those people were affected by this activity. So if you have dollars in your pocket, they were monkeying around with the prices of dollars versus euros, so you might have had more or less money fractionally, depending on all of this manipulation, every single day.”

Below is an interview with Taibbi, followed by a transcript:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to the felons on Wall Street. Five of the world’s top banks will pay over $5 billion in fines after pleading guilty to rigging the price of foreign currencies and interest rates. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland pleaded guilty to conspiring to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the five trillion foreign exchange—$5 trillion foreign exchange spot market. UBS pleaded guilty for its role in manipulating the Libor benchmark interest rate. On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the deal.


ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH: We are here to announce a major law enforcement action against international financial institutions that for years participated in a brazen display of collusion and foreign exchange rate market manipulation, and will, as a result, pay a total of nearly $3 billion in fines and penalties. As a result of our investigation, four of the world’s largest banks have agreed to plead guilty to felony antitrust violations. They are Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays PLC and the Royal Bank of Scotland PLC.


AMY GOODMAN: No one who works with the banks was hit with criminal charges as part of the settlements.

For more, we’re joined by Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist with Rolling Stone magazine. His most recent book, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, is now out in paperback.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Matt.

MATT TAIBBI: Good to see you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: OK, explain what these banks are charged with. And what does it mean when you say banks are charged, but all the people go free?

MATT TAIBBI: Right, they filed—actually, these banks, the companies, pleaded guilty to felony charges in this case, which means it was not individuals of the company, it was the actual company itself, which is actually a step forward, because for a long time in the post-2008 period we were having a lot of settlements where there was a sort of a neither-admit-nor-deny agreement between the government and these companies, and in this case they actually did have to admit to wrongdoing and did have to plead guilty to a criminal charge, in addition to the money changing hands.

AMY GOODMAN: And what was the wrongdoing?

MATT TAIBBI: The wrongdoing was manipulating the prices of currencies, which is about as serious a financial crime as you can possibly get, I think. You know, you and I sat here a few years ago and talked about the Libor scandal. This is very similar.
AMY GOODMAN: In as simple terms as you can make it, because I think that’s why nobody goes to jail: No one can—


AMY GOODMAN: You can understand if someone steals a candy bar.


AMY GOODMAN: And a person can go to jail for years for that.


AMY GOODMAN: But when it comes to this, what did they do?

MATT TAIBBI: They were monkeying around with the prices of every currency on Earth. So, if you can imagine that anybody who has money, which basically includes anybody who’s breathing on the planet, all of those people were affected by this activity. So if you have dollars in your pocket, they were monkeying around with the prices of dollars versus euros, so you might have had more or less money fractionally, depending on all of this manipulation, every single day. And again, Attorney General Lynch went out of her way to say that this activity went on basically every single day for the last five years or so. So every single day, that $5 in your pocket was worth a little bit more or a little bit less, based on what these people were doing. And if you spread that out to everybody on Earth, it turns into a financial crime that’s on a scale that, you know, you would normally only think of in Bond movies or something like that.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, the Justice Department says traders used online chat rooms and coded language to manipulate currency exchange rates. One high-ranking Barclays trader chatted, quote, “If you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying.” And another responded, quote, “Yes, the less competition the better.” So, could you comment on that, Matt? And also explain why, in this particular case, the companies pleaded guilty.

MATT TAIBBI: Well, I think part of it is because they had this very graphic online record of these people chatting and admitting to essentially a criminal conspiracy in writing. That’s one of the things that’s really interesting about this entire era of financial crime, is that you have so much of this very graphic, detailed documentary evidence just lying around. The problem is the government has either been too overwhelmed or too disinclined to go and get it and do anything with it. In this case, you have people openly calling themselves the cartel or the mafia, and then openly talking about monkeying around or manipulating, you know, the price of this or that. The CFTC, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, actually released chats from a different case involving interest rate swaps yesterday, where they—where one guy was bragging about how he was holding up the price of interest rate swaps like he was bench-pressing at. They were bragging about this, you know, in these chat rooms. So these—what you have to understand about a lot of these people, they’re very testosterone-laden, souped-up young people who think that they’re indestructible. They’re very arrogant. And they’re doing all this in chat rooms, thinking they’re never going to get caught. And they got caught.
AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat said, quote, “The behavior that resulted in the settlements we announced today is an embarrassment to our firm, and stands in stark contrast to Citi’s values,” unquote. Meanwhile, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon called the investigation findings, quote, “a great disappointment to us.” He went on to say, quote, “The lesson here is that the conduct of a small group of employees, or of even a single employee, can reflect badly on all of us, and have significant ramifications for the entire firm,” said the CEO, Jamie Dimon.

MATT TAIBBI: Well, what’s humorous about this is that virtually all of these so-called too-big-to-fail banks now have been embroiled in scandals of varying degrees of extreme seriousness since 2008. So for them to say, “Oh, it’s just a few bad apples in this one instance,” is increasingly absurd. They have been dinged for everything from bribery to money laundering, to rigging Libor, to mass fraud in the subprime mortgage markets and now the forex markets. It’s one mass crime over—you know, after another, and there’s no consequence.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, aren’t these banks competitors?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, sort of. But that’s the main problem in this case, is what’s happening is that they’re colluding, which is a far more dangerous kind of corruption than what we saw, for instance, in 2008, when you saw a lot of banks, in house, committing fraud against their own clients and against the markets. This behavior, where you have a series of major banks colluding to fix the price of a currency, that is extremely dangerous. And if that behavior is allowed to go unchecked, the negative possibilities that could stem from that are virtually limitless.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, the foreign exchange market is the largest, and yet the least regulated, market in the financial world.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: Do you know why that is? And who would be in charge of its regulation?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, a variety of regulatory bodies would have what you would describe as a general purview over this kind of activity. Obviously, they got them on an antitrust violation, so this—it falls under the purview of the Department of Justice. The Fed, the banking regulators, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, they all have a kind of a general mandate to look out for this sort of stuff. But the problem with the forex markets is that there isn’t a specific body that’s specifically looking at this all the time. It’s not like, let’s say, you know, the commodities market, where you do have a CFTC that’s specifically looking at that. This is one of many markets that simply falls between the cracks in the regulatory scheme, where there isn’t a single—you know, a targeted effort to look at this all the time.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who’s now running for president, introduced the Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: The bill that I am introducing today with Congressman Brad Sherman would require regulators at the Financial Stability Oversight Council to establish too-big-to-fail list—a too-big-to-fail list of financial institutions and other huge entities whose failure would pose a catastrophic risk on the United States economy without a taxpayer bailout. This list must include, but is not limited to, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley.
It should make every American extremely nervous that in this weak regulatory environment—weak regulatory environment—the financial supervisors in our country and around the world are still able to uncover an enormous amount of fraud on Wall Street and other financial institutions to this very day. I fear very much that the financial system is even more fragile than many people may perceive. This huge issue simply cannot be swept under the rug. It has got to be addressed.

AMY GOODMAN: So that is Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, senator of Vermont, independent senator. About a decade ago, you stayed with Sanders for about a month, covering him for Rolling Stone, doing a profile.

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah. Sort of remarkably, he invited me to tag along and just sort of watch how the process works. I think he felt that the public should know about a lot of the nooks and crannies of the congressional bureaucracy. And I got this remarkable education into how things actually work. He didn’t hold anything back. Sanders is, you know, exactly as advertised. He’s a completely honest, I think, politician who is just really interested in seeing—you know, standing up for regular working people. So, his voice on this particular issue, I think, is really important, because he’s one of the few politicians who understands that it’s a truly bipartisan issue that affects everybody, people on both sides of the aisle, equally. And he’s absolutely right about breaking up the banks. That is the most single most important thing that has to be done with this issue.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, there have been reports, Matt Taibbi, and I’m sure this is the case, that none of the significant changes that were to be put in place in the financial system since the crisis occurred several years ago—those changes have not yet taken place, and so this kind of thing is likely to recur. Could you talk about that and also the extent to which the new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, is likely to be tougher on banks and, indeed, on bankers?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, I don’t know if that’s exactly true. I definitely hear from people on Wall Street all the time that there are—there are certain things that are different. I think, you know, trading—banks trading for their own accounts, that’s been severely curtailed since Dodd-Frank. You know, there have been a number of regulations that have made it more difficult to engage in the kinds of risky activities that we saw before 2008.

But by and large, the general problem is more unwillingness to enforce existing laws. And it wasn’t so much an absence of new regulations that was the problem in 2008. It was more a failure of will on the part of the government. We had laws on the books that were perfectly sufficient in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when we, you know, conducted over 1,800 prosecutions and put 800 people in jail after the S&L crisis. We can do the same thing now, if we want to, with this or with robo signing or with subprime mortgage fraud or any of another dozen other scandals, and we just haven’t done it. And that—I think that’s the main problem, and it’s a failure of will. And I do hear from people that there is more serious now—seriousness now, in the waning years of the Obama administration, more willingness to go after the banks.

AMY GOODMAN: A new report from the Corporate Reform Coalition called “Still Too Big to Fail” says, since 2008, regulators have failed to enact key parts of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. It found, quote, “The top six bank holding companies are considerably larger than before, and are still permitted to borrow excessively relative to the assets they hold. … Banks can still use taxpayer-backed insured deposits to engage in high-risk derivative transactions here and overseas. Compensation incentives fail to discourage mismanagement and illegality, given that when legal fees, settlements, and fines mount, it is usually the shareholders, not the corporate executives who pay.” The report concludes, quote, “Should one of these giant banking firms fail again, it appears that the damage will not be contained.” So there’s a lot here. One is that the U.S. could descend again. Number two is that even with the billions that are now—these banks have to pay, who is actually paying?

MATT TAIBBI: Oh, the shareholders. I mean, that’s—the pain is not going to come from the actual wrongdoers, you know, the people who actually committed these offenses—although there have been some criminal indictments in the previous Libor case, so we can’t say that nobody’s going to go to jail, because it is possible that that could happen. There could be a few low-level players who will get rolled up in this thing.

AMY GOODMAN: Because the non-prosecution agreement was voided because they did it again?

MATT TAIBBI: Yes, but even in the Libor case, there were people from other banks. Rabobank, there were a couple of employees who got—who were criminally indicted, if I remember correctly. But it was nothing like the roundup that should have happened. I’m just saying that there were a few individuals who got caught up here and abroad. But by and large, you know, that quote is absolutely correct.

There are a couple of points that are really important here. First, after 2008, we made the system far more concentrated. We made the too-big-to-fail banks much bigger than before. We actually did this intentionally. We used taxpayer money to merge banks together, to make them bigger and more dangerous and harder to regulate. And we saw, with episodes like the London Whale episode, that massive losses can happen in the blink of an eye, and we will have no idea when it’s coming. And so, this kind of activity—we’ve definitely made the system riskier, harder to regulate. And all those things are certainly true, and Dodd-Frank has failed to address those.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Taibbi, we’re going to break, and when we come back, you’ve written another piece called “Why Baltimore Blew Up,” and we’re going to take a look at this. You say it goes far beyond the police killing of Freddie Gray. Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist with Rolling Stone magazine. His recent book is now out in paperback, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. Stay with us.



© 2015, agentleman.


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Written by agentleman

May 24th, 2015 at 7:29 am

Wall Street Ain’t Sweating The Clintons

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The Clintons Made Wall Street Richer, and It Returned the Favor

The Clintons’ wealth is derived from an army of corporations that benefited from the laws the couple passed.
By Zaid Jilani

Late at the end of last week, the Clinton campaign sent its long-awaited personal financial disclosures to select media outlets. From the perspective of the campaign, it was a clever move; by sending their disclosures to the media first before sending them to the Federal Election Commission, they essentially controlled the timing of the stories about their income for the past year and a half.

The disclosures detail the incomes of both Clintons going back to 2014. From what was offered to the press, we know that in less than a year and a half, the Clintons raked in over $30 million, the vast majority from speaking fees they charged to foreign and domestic corporations and other organizations willing to pay speech honorariums.

The bulk of the reporting on this matter has focused on the amount of money the Clintons earned. “The report underscores how much wealth the Clintons continued to amass as the Secretary of State prepared to launch her second bid for the presidency,” concluded USA Today. But the bigger story is why the Clintons are so rich. Their wealth is derived from an army of corporations that benefited from the very laws the Clintons passed, and now they are returning the favors. Although corporations from every sector of the economy developed this symbiotic relationship with the Clintons, none is more prominent than Wall Street.

Making Wall Street Richer

In 1999, President Bill Clinton rallied allies in Congress to pass the Financial Services Modernization Act, which repealed the Depression-Era Glass Steagall law separating commercial and investment banking. The result was a spree of mergers and growth that involved a huge growth in the size of the nation’s biggest banks and their profits.

Clinton’s Treasury chief, Robert Rubin, was soon hired to become an executive at Wall Street megabank Citigroup, pulling in $115 million in pay from 1999 to 2008. But the next beneficiary of Wall Street was the Clintons themselves.

It wasn’t long after the Clinton presidency ended that the Clinton speech circuit began. Because spousal income is shared, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was required to disclose her husband’s many paid speaking engagements. A month after leaving office, Bill Clinton gave a speech to Morgan Stanley for $125,000, which advocated for the Wall Street deregulation. He spoke to another financial firm, Credit Suisse First Boston, which paid him the same amount.

As Bill Clinton traveled across the United States and the globe speaking to financial firms and others paying top dollar, his wife was in Washington deciding on matters these institutions had interests in. In 2001, Senator Clinton backed a bankruptcy bill that made it much harder for people to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy; the bill was primarily supported by banks and credit card issuers. Recall that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)— then a consumer advocate and law professor—thoroughly briefed First Lady Hillary Clinton on the impacts of the bill just a few years earlier. According to Warren, her testimony turned Clinton against the bill. However, once the financial industry started pouring funds into the Clintons’ bank account, that opposition disappeared.

Over the years Hillary Clinton was in the Senate, the financial industry paid millions of dollars to the couple’s shared bank account. In 2004, Bill Clinton was paid a quarter million dollars to speak to Citigroup in Paris; the same year, Goldman Sachs paid him $125,000 for an address in New York City. The following year, Goldman paid him $125,000 for a speech in South Carolina, a quarter million to speak in Paris and $150,000 to speak in Greensboro, Georgia. This is just a small snippet of what the Clintons were paid.

In 2008, after the conclusion of her failed first run for the presidency, Senator Clinton continued to advocate for Wall Street. She appeared on national television to advocate for the financial bailout package that progressive leaders like senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) opposed. She cautioned against over-regulating, telling MSNBC hosts that “we seem in America to go from one end of the spectrum to the other, we’re bouncing around like some pendulum instead of trying to stay in the center, be pragmatic, come up with solutions that work.”

Hillary Hits the Lecture Circuit

As Secretary Clinton presided over our nation’s foreign policy, her husband continued to rake in millions of dollars for the couple from domestic and foreign corporations. In particular, foreign firms in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership paid her husband $1.5 million.

After departing the State Department, Hillary decided to join the lecture circuit herself. Although we don’t have any comprehensive financial disclosures for 2013, it is telling that two of her first addresses were for the Goldman Sachs megabank, where she reportedly earned $200,000 per address.

In 2014, the year Clinton was elevated to an all-but-certain presidential candidate, the power couple brought in enormous amounts of money from Wall Street. Bill Clinton gave an address to Bank of America in London that netted $500,000. Recall that this was a bank that netted $45 billion from taxpayers, thanks to a bailout package Hillary supported. That’s an 8,999,990 percent return on investment.
Campaign Time

The Clintons made the financial sector even richer, and in return, the financial sector made the Clintons go from being in debt when they lived in the White House to being in the top .01% of all American income earners. From deregulation of the big banks, to tightening personal bankruptcy laws, to supporting unfair and unfettered bailouts, the Clintons, to steal a phrase from Donna Summer, “worked hard for the money.”

Yet Wall Street needs to ensure that the symbiotic relationship continues by bringing the Clintons back into power. That can’t be done by paying large speaking fees alone.

Although Hillary has been cast in the media as running to the left by altering her previous positions on an array of social issues, her fundraising base is virtually the same as in 2008. In 2008, one of her first financiers was Alan Patricoff, a private equity kingpin who was critical of government regulations put in place after the Enron scandal. This year, Patricof is again a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. While she talks about representing “everyday Americans,” it is estimated she raised a million dollars from just three fundraisers in New York City, one of them at the home of Steve Rattner, a financier who had to pay $10 million as part of a settlement related to kickbacks (he also campaigns to cut Social Security and Medicare).

In contrast, Bernie Sanders is said to have raised $4 million from a total of 100,000 donors. Sanders opposed the deregulation of Wall Street and the bailouts. He can’t call a group of Wall Street friends and raise a million dollars in a weekend from enough people to fill three rooms.

The symbiotic relationship between the Clintons and high finance exists because America is a country where anybody can make it, if they just decide to help make the rich richer. The question is, where does this relationship leave the rest of us?

Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.




© 2015, agentleman.


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Written by agentleman

May 21st, 2015 at 10:20 am

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