Archive for the ‘Abuse’ Category
Pope Francis rips capitalism and trickle-down economics to shreds in new policy statement
In case there was any doubt left, Pope Francis made it clear that he shares little in common with U.S. conservatives.
The pontiff released his Evangelii Gadium, or Joy of the Gospel, attacking capitalism as a form of tyranny and calling on church and political leaders to address the needs of the poor.
“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems,” the pope said in the 224-page document that essentially serves as his official platform.
Pope Francis said that inequality was the root of social ills, and prayed for world leaders with more empathy and sense of social justice.
“I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!” Pope Francis wrote. “It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.”
The pope has already drawn the ire of some conservative Catholics, particularly in the U.S., for his open-minded comments on social issues such as homosexuality, abortion and contraception, and he’s also previously criticized capitalism for promoting greed.
But his latest statements put those concerns into sharper focus – and puts him in sharp contrast to American conservative leaders who prize the unfettered free market and promote the Randian theory of objectivism, or rational self-interest.
“I am interested only in helping those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centered mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking which is more humane, noble and fruitful, and which will bring dignity to their presence on this earth,” the pope wrote.
He also launched a broadside against former President Ronald Reagan’s signature economic theory, which continues to serve as conservative Republican dogma.
“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” Pope Francis wrote. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
The pope lamented that people had “calmly accepted (the) dominion” of money over themselves and society, which he said was expressed in the recent financial crisis and the continuing promotion of consumer-based economies.
“We have created new idols,” the pope wrote. “The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.”
The pope decried the growing gap between rich and poor as a social and political problem.
“This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation,” Pope Francis wrote. “Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.”
The pope noted that corporations and individuals were failing to pay taxes in nations around the world, depriving governments of funding needed to serve all their citizens, and banks and loan organizations had crippled emerging economies with staggering interest obligations.
“The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits,” Pope Francis wrote. “In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”
Pope Francis said this political and economic system was inherently sinful because it violated the biblical prohibition against killing.
“Such an economy kills,” he wrote. “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”
The pope said that human beings themselves are used and discarded as mere consumer goods in this “disposable culture.”
“It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new,” Pope Francis wrote. “Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers.’”
© 2013, agentleman.
The US Has 761 Military Bases Across the Planet, and We Simply Never Talk About It
AlterNet is resurfacing some of the best and most popular articles published in 2008 as the year comes to a close. First, Tom Engelhardt’s essay on the spread of American military bases and global empire, published this September.
Here it is, as simply as I can put it: In the course of any year, there must be relatively few countries on this planet on which U.S. soldiers do not set foot, whether with guns blazing, humanitarian aid in hand, or just for a friendly visit. In startling numbers of countries, our soldiers not only arrive, but stay interminably, if not indefinitely. Sometimes they live on military bases built to the tune of billions of dollars that amount to sizeable American towns (with accompanying amenities), sometimes on stripped down forward operating bases that may not even have showers. When those troops don’t stay, often American equipment does — carefully stored for further use at tiny “cooperative security locations,” known informally as “lily pads” (from which U.S. troops, like so many frogs, could assumedly leap quickly into a region in crisis).
At the height of the Roman Empire, the Romans had an estimated 37 major military bases scattered around their dominions. At the height of the British Empire, the British had 36 of them planetwide. Depending on just who you listen to and how you count, we have hundreds of bases. According to Pentagon records, in fact, there are 761 active military “sites” abroad.
The fact is: We garrison the planet north to south, east to west, and even on the seven seas, thanks to our various fleets and our massive aircraft carriers which, with 5,000-6,000 personnel aboard — that is, the population of an American town — are functionally floating bases.
And here’s the other half of that simple truth: We don’t care to know about it. We, the American people, aided and abetted by our politicians, the Pentagon, and the mainstream media, are knee-deep in base denial.
Now, that’s the gist of it. If, like most Americans, that’s more than you care to know, stop here.
Where the Sun Never Sets
Let’s face it, we’re on an imperial bender and it’s been a long, long night. Even now, in the wee hours, the Pentagon continues its massive expansion of recent years; we spend militarily as if there were no tomorrow; we’re still building bases as if the world were our oyster; and we’re still in denial. Someone should phone the imperial equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous.
But let’s start in a sunnier time, less than two decades ago, when it seemed that there would be many tomorrows, all painted red, white, and blue. Remember the 1990s when the U.S. was hailed — or perhaps more accurately, Washington hailed itself — not just as the planet’s “sole superpower” or even its unique “hyperpower,” but as its “global policeman,” the only cop on the block? As it happened, our leaders took that label seriously and our central police headquarters, that famed five-sided building in Washington D.C, promptly began dropping police stations — aka military bases — in or near the oil heartlands of the planet (Kosovo, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait) after successful wars in the former Yugoslavia and the Persian Gulf.
As those bases multiplied, it seemed that we were embarking on a new, post-Soviet version of “containment.” With the USSR gone, however, what we were containing grew a lot vaguer and, before 9/11, no one spoke its name. Nonetheless, it was, in essence, Muslims who happened to live on so many of the key oil lands of the planet.
Yes, for a while we also kept intact our old bases from our triumphant mega-war against Japan and Germany, and then the stalemated “police action” in South Korea (1950-1953) — vast structures which added up to something like an all-military American version of the old British Raj. According to the Pentagon, we still have a total of 124 bases in Japan, up to 38 on the small island of Okinawa, and 87 in South Korea. (Of course, there were setbacks. The giant bases we built in South Vietnam were lost in 1975, and we were peaceably ejected from our major bases in the Philippines in 1992.)
But imagine the hubris involved in the idea of being “global policeman” or “sheriff” and marching into a Dodge City that was nothing less than Planet Earth itself. Naturally, with a whole passel of bad guys out there, a global “swamp” to be “drained,” as key Bush administration officials loved to describe it post-9/11, we armed ourselves to kill, not stun. And the police stations Well, they were often something to behold — and they still are.
Let’s start with the basics: Almost 70 years after World War II, the sun is still incapable of setting on the American “empire of bases” — in Chalmers Johnson’s phrase – which at this moment stretches from Australia to Italy, Japan to Qatar, Iraq to Colombia, Greenland to the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, Rumania to Okinawa. And new bases of various kinds are going up all the time (always with rumors of more to come). For instance, an American missile system is slated to go into Poland and a radar system into Israel. That will mean Americans stationed in both countries and, undoubtedly, modest bases of one sort or another to go with them. (The Israeli one — “the first American base on Israeli territory” – reports Aluf Benn of Haaretz, will be in the Negev desert.)
There are 194 countries on the planet (more or less), and officially 39 of them have American “facilities,” large and/or small. But those are only the bases the Pentagon officially acknowledges. Others simply aren’t counted, either because, as in the case of Jordan, a country finds it politically preferable not to acknowledge such bases; because, as in the case of Pakistan, the American military shares bases that are officially Pakistani; or because bases in war zones, no matter how elaborate, somehow don’t count. In other words, that 39 figure doesn’t even include Iraq or Afghanistan. By 2005, according to theWashington Post , there were 106 American bases in Iraq, ranging from tiny outposts to mega-bases like Balad Air Base and the ill-named Camp Victory that house tens of thousands of troops, private contractors, Defense Department civilians, have bus routes, traffic lights, PXes, big name fast-food restaurants, and so on.
Some of these bases are, in effect, “American towns” on foreign soil. In Afghanistan, Bagram Air Base, previously used by the Soviets in their occupation of the country, is the largest and best known. There are, however, many more, large and small, including Kandahar Air Base, located in what was once the unofficial capital of the Taliban, which even has a full-scale hockey rink(evidently for its Canadian contingent of troops).
You would think that all of this would be genuine news, that the establishment of new bases would regularly generate significant news stories, that books by the score would pour out on America’s version of imperial control. But here’s the strange thing: We garrison the globe in ways that really are — not to put too fine a point on it — unprecedented, and yet, if you happen to live in the United States, you basically wouldn’t know it; or, thought about another way, you wouldn’t have to know it.
In Washington, our garrisoning of the world is so taken for granted that no one seems to blink when billions go into a new base in some exotic, embattled, war-torn land. There’s no discussion, no debate at all. News about bases abroad, and Pentagon basing strategy, is, at best, inside-the-fold stuff, meant for policy wonks and news jockeys. There may be no subject more taken for granted in Washington, less seriously attended to, or more deserving of coverage.
Americans have, of course, always prided themselves on exporting “democracy,” not empire. So empire-talk hasn’t generally been an American staple and, perhaps for that reason, all those bases prove an awkward subject to bring up or focus too closely on. When it came to empire-talk in general, there was a brief period after 9/11 when the neoconservatives, in full-throated triumph, began to compare us to Rome and Britain at their imperial height (though we were believed to be incomparably, uniquely more powerful). It was, in the phrase of the time, a “unipolar moment.” Even liberal war hawks started talking about taking up “the burden” of empire or, in the phrase of Michael Ignatieff, now a Canadian politician but, in that period, still at Harvard and considered a significant American intellectual, “empire lite.”
On the whole, however, those in Washington and in the media haven’t considered it germane to remind Americans of just exactly how we have attempted to “police” and control the world these last years. I’ve had two modest encounters with base denial myself:
In the spring of 2004, a journalism student I was working with emailed me a clip, dated October 20, 2003 — less than seven months after American troops entered Baghdad — from a prestigious engineering magazine. It quoted Lt. Col. David Holt, the Army engineer “tasked with facilities development” in Iraq, speaking proudly of the several billion dollars (“the numbers are staggering”) that had already been sunk into base construction in that country. Well, I was staggered anyway. American journalists, however, hardly noticed, even though significant sums were already pouring into a series of mega-bases that were clearly meant to be permanent fixtures on the Iraqi landscape. (The Bush administration carefully avoided using the word “permanent” in any context whatsoever, and these bases were first dubbed “enduring camps.”)
Within two years, according to the Washington Post (in a piece that, typically, appeared on page A27 of the paper), the U.S. had those 106 bases in Iraq at a cost that, while unknown, must have been staggering indeed. Just stop for a moment and consider that number: 106. It boggles the mind, but not, it seems, American newspaper or TV journalism.
TomDispatch.com has covered this subject regularly ever since, in part because these massive “facts on the ground,” these modern Ziggurats, were clearly evidence of the Bush administration’s long-term plans and intentions in that country. Not surprisingly, this year, U.S. negotiators finally offered the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki its terms for a so-called status of forces agreement, evidently initially demanding the right to occupy into the distant future 58 of the bases it has built.
It has always been obvious — to me, at least — that any discussion of Iraq policy in this country, of timelines or “time horizons,” drawdowns or withdrawals, made little sense if those giant facts on the ground weren’t taken into account. And yet you have to search the U.S. press carefully to find any reporting on the subject, nor have bases played any real role in debates in Washington or the nation over Iraq policy.
I could go further: I can think of two intrepid American journalists, Thomas Ricksof the Washington Post and Guy Raz of NPR, who actually visited a single U.S. mega-base, Balad Air Base, which reputedly has a level of air traffic similar to Chicago’s O’Hare International or London’s Heathrow, and offered substantial reports on it. But, as far as I know, they, like the cheese of children’s song, stand alone. I doubt that in the last five years Americans tuning in to their television news have ever been able to see a single report from Iraq that gave a view of what the bases we have built there look like or cost. Although reporters visit them often enough and, for instance, have regularly offered reports from Camp Victory in Baghdad on what’s going on in the rest of Iraq, the cameras never pan away from the reporters to show us the gigantic base itself.
More than five years after ground was broken for the first major American base in Iraq, this is, it seems to me, a remarkable record of media denial. American bases in Afghanistan have generally experienced a similar fate.
My second encounter with base denial came in my other life. When not running TomDispatch.com, I’m a book editor; to be more specific, I’m Chalmers Johnson’s editor. I worked on the prophetic Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, which was published back in 2000 to a singular lack of attention — until, of course, the attacks of 9/11, after which it became a bestseller, adding both “blowback” and the phrase “unintended consequences” to the American lexicon.
By the time The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, the second volume in his Blowback Trilogy , came out in 2004, reviewers, critics, and commentators were all paying attention. The heart of that book focused on how the U.S. garrisons the planet, laying out Pentagon basing policies and discussing specific bases in remarkable detail. This represented serious research and breakthrough work, and the book indeed received much attention here, including major, generally positive reviews. Startlingly, however, not a single mainstream review, no matter how positive, paid any attention, or even really acknowledged, his chapters on the bases, or bothered to discuss the U.S. as a global garrison state. Only three years later did a major reviewer pay the subject serious attention. When Jonathan Freedland reviewed Nemesis, the final book in the Trilogy, in the New York Review of Books , he noticed the obvious and, in a discussion of U.S. basing policy, wrote, for instance:
“Johnson is in deadly earnest when he draws a parallel with Rome. He swats aside the conventional objection that, in contrast with both Romans and Britons, Americans have never constructed colonies abroad. Oh, but they have, he says; it’s just that Americans are blind to them. America is an ‘empire of bases,’ he writes, with a network of vast, hardened military encampments across the earth, each one a match for any Roman or Raj outpost.”
Not surprisingly, Freedland is not an American journalist, but a British one who works for the Guardian.
In the U.S., military bases really only matter, and so make headlines, when the Pentagon attempts to close some of the vast numbers of them scattered across this country. Then, the fear of lost jobs and lost income in local communities leads to headlines and hubbub.
Of course, millions of Americans know about our bases abroad firsthand. In this sense, they may be the least well kept secrets on the planet. American troops, private contractors, and Defense Department civilian employees all have spent extended periods of time on at least one U.S. base abroad. And yet no one seems to notice the near news blackout on our global bases or consider it the least bit strange.
The Foreshortened American Century
In a nutshell, occupying the planet, base by base, normally simply isn’t news. Americans may pay no attention and yet, of course, they do pay. It turns out to be a staggeringly expensive process for U.S. taxpayers. Writing of a major 2004 Pentagon global base overhaul (largely aimed at relocating many of them closer to the oil heartlands of the planet), Mike Mechanic of Mother Jones magazine online points out the following: “An expert panel convened by Congress to assess the overseas basing realignment put the cost at $20 billion, counting indirect expenses overlooked by the Pentagon, which had initially budgeted one-fifth that amount.”
And that’s only the most obvious way Americans pay. It’s hard for us even to begin to grasp just how military (and punitive) is the face that the U.S. has presented to the world, especially during George W. Bush’s two terms in office. (Increasingly, that same face is also presented to Americans. For instance, as Paul Krugman indicated recently, the civilian Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] has been so thoroughly wrecked these last years that significant planning for the response to Hurricane Gustav fell on the shoulders of the military’s Bush-created U.S. Northern Command.)
In purely practical terms, though, Americans are unlikely to be able to shoulder forever the massive global role the Pentagon and successive administrations have laid out for us. Sooner or later, cutbacks will come and the sun will slowly begin to set on our base-world abroad.
In the Cold War era, there were, of course, two “superpowers,” the lesser of which disappeared in 1991 after a lifespan of 74 years. Looking at what seemed to be a power vacuum across the Bering Straits, the leaders of the other power prematurely declared themselves triumphant in what had been an epic struggle for global hegemony. It now seems that, rather than victory, the second superpower was just heading for the exit far more slowly.
As of now, “the American Century,” birthed by Time/Life publisher Henry Luce in 1941, has lasted but 67 years. Today, you have to be in full-scale denial not to know that the twenty-first century — whether it proves to be the Century of Multipolarity, the Century of China, the Century of Energy, or the Century of Chaos — will not be an American one. The unipolar moment is already so overand, sooner or later, those mega-bases and lily pads alike will wash up on the shores of history, evidence of a remarkable fantasy of a global Pax Americana .
[Note on Sources: It's rare indeed that the U.S. empire of bases gets anything like the attention it deserves, so, when it does, praise is in order. Mother Jonesonline launched a major project to map out and analyze U.S. bases worldwide. It includes a superb new piece on bases by Chalmers Johnson, "America's Unwelcome Advances" and a number of other top-notch pieces, including one on "How to Stay in Iraq for 1,000 Years" by TomDispatch regular Frida Berrigan (the second part of whose Pentagon expansion series will be posted at this site soon). Check out the package of pieces at MJ by clicking here. Perhaps most significant, the magazine has produced an impressive online interactive map of U.S. bases worldwide. Check it out by clicking here. But when you zoom in on an individual country, do note that the first base figures you'll see are the Pentagon's and so possibly not complete. You need to read the MJ texts below each map to get a fuller picture. As will be obvious, if you click on the links in this post, I made good use of MJ's efforts, for which I offer many thanks.]
© 2013, agentleman.
AUTHOR: STEPHEN D. FOSTER JR.
The separation of church and state is one of the cornerstones of America’s foundation. Conservative Christian fundamentalists have sought to crush this cornerstone in the hopes of establishing Christianity as the state religion, an action that would threaten the rest of the foundation that makes up the Constitution. These conservatives contend that the Founding Fathers dreamed of making America a Christian state at the expense of those who practice other religions or none at all.
So here are 35 quotes from the Founding Fathers. Perhaps your first thoughts are the first four Presidents and maybe Benjamin Franklin, but there were many other Founding Fathers. Many were signers of the Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. They were lawyers, judges, soldiers, merchants, farmers, and some were even clergy. And the great majority of them signed the Constitution knowing that matters of government and matters of religion would be separate.
1. “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”
~George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789
2. “Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”
~George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792
3. “We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition… In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.”
~George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793
4. “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”
~John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” 1787-1788
5. “The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”
~1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by John Adams
6. “Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.”
~John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88)
7. “We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for
honors and power we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.”
~John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, April 8, 1785
8. “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802
9. “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”
~Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814
10. “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787
11. “I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799
12. “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”
-Thomas Jefferson: in letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813
13. “Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual.
State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. We have solved … the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.”
~Thomas Jefferson: in a speech to the Virginia Baptists, 1808
14. “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814,
15. “The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State.”
~James Madison, 1819, Writings, 8:432, quoted from Gene Garman, “Essays In Addition to America’s Real Religion”
16. “And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”
~James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822
17. “Every new and successful example of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance.”
~James Madison, letter, 1822
18. “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”
~James Madison; Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical
19. “It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties.”
~James Monroe, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1817
20. “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
~Benjamin Franklin, letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780
21. “Manufacturers, who listening to the powerful invitations of a better price for their fabrics, or their labor, of greater cheapness of provisions and raw materials, of an exemption from the chief part of the taxes burdens and restraints, which they endure in the old world, of greater personal independence and consequence, under the operation of a more equal government, and of what is far more precious than mere religious toleration–a perfect equality of religious privileges; would probably flock from Europe to the United States to pursue their own trades or professions, if they were once made sensible of the advantages they would enjoy, and were inspired with an assurance of encouragement and employment, will, with difficulty, be induced to transplant themselves, with a view to becoming cultivators of the land.”
~Alexander Hamilton: Report on the Subject of Manufacturers December 5,
22. “In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced, and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind.”
~Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists (1771)
23. “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forebearance, love, and charity towards each other.”
~George Mason, Virginia Bill of Rights, 1776
24. “It is contrary to the principles of reason and justice that any should be compelled to contribute to the maintenance of a church with which their consciences will not permit them to join, and from which they can derive no benefit; for remedy whereof, and that equal liberty as well religious as civil, may be universally extended to all the good people of this commonwealth.”
~George Mason, Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776
25. “A man of abilities and character, of any sect whatever, may be admitted to any office or public trust under the United States. I am a friend to a variety of sects, because they keep one another in order. How many different sects are we composed of throughout the United States? How many different sects will be in congress? We cannot enumerate the sects that may be in congress. And there are so many now in the United States that they will prevent the establishment of any one sect in prejudice to the rest, and will forever oppose all attempts to infringe religious liberty. If such an attempt be made, will not the alarm be sounded throughout America? If congress be as wicked as we are foretold they will, they would not run the risk of exciting the resentment of all, or most of the religious sects in America.”
~Edmund Randolph, address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June
26. “I never liked the Hierarchy of the Church — an equality in the teacher of Religion, and a dependence on the people, are republican sentiments — but if the Clergy combine, they will have their influence on Government”
~Rufus King, Rufus King: American Federalist, pp. 56-57
27. A general toleration of Religion appears to me the best means of peopling our country… The free exercise of religion hath stocked the Northern part of the continent with inhabitants; and altho’ Europe hath in great measure adopted a more moderate policy, yet the profession of Protestantism is extremely inconvenient in many places there. A Calvinist, a Lutheran, or Quaker, who hath felt these inconveniences in Europe, sails not to Virginia, where they are felt perhaps in a (greater degree).”
~Patrick Henry, observing that immigrants flock to places where there is no established religion, Religious Tolerance, 1766
28. “No religious doctrine shall be established by law.”
~Elbridge Gerry, Annals of Congress 1:729-731
29. “Knowledge and liberty are so prevalent in this country, that I do not believe that the United States would ever be disposed to establish one religious sect, and lay all others under legal disabilities. But as we know not what may take place hereafter, and any such test would be exceedingly injurious to the rights of free citizens, I cannot think it altogether superfluous to have added a clause, which secures us from the possibility of such oppression.”
~Oliver Wolcott, Connecticut Ratifying Convention, 9 January 1788
30. “Some very worthy persons, who have not had great advantages for information, have objected against that clause in the constitution
which provides, that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. They have been afraid that this clause is unfavorable to religion. But my countrymen, the sole purpose and effect of it is to exclude persecution, and to secure to you the important right of religious
liberty. We are almost the only people in the world, who have a full enjoyment of this important right of human nature. In our country every man has a right to worship God in that way which is most agreeable to his conscience. If he be a good and peaceable person he is liable to no penalties or incapacities on account of his religious sentiments; or in other words, he is not subject to persecution. But in other parts of the world, it has been, and still is, far different. Systems of religious error have been adopted, in times of ignorance. It has been the interest of tyrannical kings, popes, and prelates, to maintain these errors. When the clouds of ignorance began to vanish, and the people grew more enlightened, there was no other way to keep them in error, but to prohibit their altering their religious opinions by severe persecuting laws. In this way persecution became general throughout Europe.”
~Oliver Ellsworth, Philip B Kurland and Ralph Lerner (eds.), The Founder’s Constitution, University of Chicago Press, 1987, Vol. 4, p.
31. “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.”
~Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man, 1791
32. “God has appointed two kinds of government in the world, which are distinct in their nature, and ought never to be confounded together; one of which is called civil, the other ecclesiastical government.”
~Isaac Backus, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, 1773
33. “Congress has no power to make any religious establishments.”
~Roger Sherman, Congress, August 19, 1789
34. “The American states have gone far in assisting the progress of truth; but they have stopped short of perfection. They ought to have given every honest citizen an equal right to enjoy his religion and an equal title to all civil emoluments, without obliging him to tell his religion. Every interference of the civil power in regulating opinion, is an impious attempt to take the business of the Deity out of his own hands; and every preference given to any religious denomination, is so far slavery and bigotry.”
~Noah Webster, calling for no religious tests to serve in public office, Sketches of American Policy, 1785
35. “The legislature of the United States shall pass no law on the subject of religion.”
~Charles Pinckney, Constitutional Convention, 1787
These are hardly the words of men who allegedly believed that America should be a Christian nation governed by the Bible as conservatives constantly claim. On the contrary, the great majority of the Founders believed strongly in separation of church and state. So keep in mind that this country has survived for over two centuries under the principle of separation and it is only now when conservatives are attempting to destroy that very cornerstone that we find America becoming ever more divided and more politically charged than ever before. If this right-wing faction has their way, America as we know it will cease to exist and the freedoms we have enjoyed because of the Constitution will erode. The Founding Fathers had a vision of this
nation and trusted that the people would protect that vision and improve upon it. Now is not the time to fail them. Because the day the people fail, so does America.
© 2013, agentleman.
The Corporate Bully Whose Front Groups, Willful Distortions and Hate-Mongering Has Poisoned U.S. Politics : Meet Richard Berman
“Why don’t we know who one of the most powerful people in America is? What he has done? Why ’60 Minutes’ called him Dr. Evil?” asksSaru Jayaraman, a leader in a growing national movement of restaurant workers demanding better pay and working conditions.
Dr. Evil is Richard Berman, a Washington-based lawyer-turned-hitman for Big Food who pioneered and still deploys many of the most intentionally deceptive, inflammatory and anti-democratic tactics used in corporate propaganda campaigns today. For nearly four decades, Berman’s attacks have tried to smear, discredit and destroy public-interest causes and groups by a toxic brew of industry front groups, distortion-filled attacks, ridicule and bullying to stoke prejudice and hatred as a means of turning the public’s attention and regulators away from his paymasters’ business practices.
Take his effort to cripple the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and defame the character of its CEO, Wayne Pacelle. He ran a television ad during the 2013 Academy Awards telling people not to give to HSUS. He created a YouTube video viewed 1.7 million times calling Pacelle “the Bernie Madoff of the charity world.” He set up a non-profit front group called Humane Watch to undermine donations intended for the HSUS and a website attacking its funding. He even threatened the Better Business Bureau to drop HSUS’ accreditation under the business group’s Wise Giving Alliance, and then attacked BBB when it refused to do so.
Astute observers have concluded that Berman is guilty of the sins he regularly accuses others of. Legitimate watchdog groups, such as CharityNavigator.org, have characterized his web of non-profit front groups, which take in millions in tax-deductible corporate donations, as the fake charities. Tax law experts contacted by Bloomberg.com said his operation was comparable to Madoff’s, a shell game of financial transfers enriching Berman that likely violated tax laws. Investigative reporters have even traced e-mails from front groups who deny they’re working with him back to his office.
Can one man really be held responsible for large slices of any era’s excesses, especially in a city as dominated by opportunists as Washington, D.C.? The answer is yes, there are people who are emblematic of political eras. Ronald Reagan was the “Teflon president,” evading criticism that stuck. Lee Atwater was the dark political operator who revived the GOP’s racist attack machinery for George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign. In Berman’s case, there is a decades-long record of gleefully taking fights into the gutter.
Why would Berman and his backers go after a group like the Humane Society of the U.S., the nation’s most effective animal protection group? Or enviromentalists concerned about mercury in tuna? Or nutritionists concernedabout trans fat? Or physicians worried about the effect of high-fructose corn syrup on obesity? Or restaurant workers seeking a higher minimum wage and paid sick days? Or liberal foundations funding public-interest advocates? Because in every one of these examples, their warnings and advocacy threaten how Big Food—the corporate-dominated food and beverage industry paying Berman—makes its fortune.
Berman and his agribusiness allies didn’t just target the Humane Society of the U.S. They’ve gone after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, creating websites and videos saying that PETA kills pets when they can’t find homes. They mock almost all public health efforts as a totalitarian nanny state nightmare. Their bottom line is always the same: protect profits by stifling debate and government regulation. And Berman’s methods usually involve playing dirty to intimidate and win on emotion.
In May, the Boston Globe’s deputy Washington bureau chief Michael Kranishwrote a magazine-length report on Washington’s “industry of distortion,” citing Berman’s attack on the Humane Society of the U.S. as Exhibit A. It ended by quoting a 2010 article by the Nebraska Farm Bureau News where Berman boasted about winning on emotion—not truth.
“Emotional understanding is very different; it stays with you,” Berman said. “Intellectual understanding is a fact and facts trump other facts. When I understand something in my gut, you’ve got me in a very different way.” Speaking to Minnesota’s Agri-Growth Council in 2012 about animal rights activists, he was blunter. “We should attack their credibility using ridicule and humor; not for what they’ve said but for who they are.”
Now 70, he has used front groups and exaggerated facts flung with a disregard for public consequences for decades. He created the American Beverage Institute in 1991, which attacked Mothers Against Drunk Driving, saying it was not run by women and that using a cellphone in a car is more dangerous than driving slightly drunk. Like fists on a punching bag, Berman unleashed a series of distorted claims to derail any effort that might alter the booze industry’s business model—such as lowering the legal blood alcohol level. His institute’s experts, on his payroll, blare that new cars will soon have breathalyzers, and that people won’t be able to have a “beer at a ballgame.”
It is stunning how many fights have been picked by Berman’s corporate protection racket. He’s also gone after teachers’ unions, food processing industry union drives, Obamacare and Obama’s tax policies, and groups such as Center for Science in the Public Interest. He’s defended the tanning salon and payday lending industries. His Employment Policies Institute exists to keep minimum wages as low as possible. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington, which created BermanExposed.org in 2009, tracks his efforts—the front groups, attack websites and propaganda. “Berman runs at least 23 industry-funded projects, such as the Center for Union Facts, and holds 24 ‘positions’ within these various entities,” BermanExposed said.
Real public-interest groups such as CREW and the Humane Society of the U.S. have tried to hold Berman accountable for years. But they have been thwarted by playing by Washington’s murky rules. In 2004, CREW filed an Internal Revenue Service complaint to revoke his non-profits’ tax status, which let dozens of corporations funnel millions into a political attack machine. The HSUS filed a similar complaint last year. But the IRS does not want to say when campaigns without candidates—like Karl Rove’s 2012 non-profit—cross the line from “educational” to “political,” which would be illegal. Just this week, for example, itapproved non-profit applications for dozens of Tea Party chapters, taking their word that they will limit political work to 40 percent of overall activities. Berman’s aides, when they talk to the press, say that his non-profits are educational.
With little legal recourse, Berman’s targets have worked with the media to try to expose his dark tactics. In 2007, CBS’ “60 Minutes” produced a Berman profile, “Meet Dr. Evil,” which was the name union officials gave him. This spring, theBoston Globe profiled the Humane Society attacks, dissecting his methodology, profiteering, refuting his attacks, and concluded that no responsible official or media should heed him. But these more civil tactics—seeking IRS review, being upbraided in the mainstream media—don’t derail a street fighter who enjoys bullying. As a smug Berman told “60 Minutes,” “I grew up in the Bronx. Name-calling is not the worst thing that I’ve been subjected to.”
If anything, Washington’s political culture has been embracing Berman’s thuggery. October’s federal government shutdown, the ongoing Obamacare and budget wars, and the routine vilification of critics are all signs of increasingly poisoned politics.
The fights that Berman and his allies are picking today are not the same as a few years ago when their message was based around a “personal freedom” mantra and their target was the “nanny state” and its advocates, who called for regulation of their unhealthy or addictive products. Today, Berman and allies like the National Restaurant Association are ramping up attacks on groups such as Restaurant Opportunities Centers United—a powerful nationwide movement of low-wage workers. Why? Because ROC United is challenging the business model of an industry that pays poorly, has few benefits, is rife with sexual discrimination, and has escaped anti-trust regulation for decades.
“They don’t just weigh in on minimum wage and paid sick days,” said Jayaraman, ROC United co-founder. “They’re the ones that got pizza declared a vegetable in Congress. They’re the ones that fight the soda tax bills. They’re the ones that fight the trans fat bills. They have some connection to these groups that set FDA policy…. They all come together in the body of Richard Berman.”
From Big Tobacco to Big Exploitation
When CBS’ Morley Safer talked to Berman, he had been working to stop regulation of addictive substances and unhealthy foods for decades. He grew up in working-class New York where his father ran gas stations and car washes. He went to law school in the 1960s and began his career as a labor lawyer for management at Bethlehem Steel—opposing unions. In the early 1970s, he moved to Washington as director of labor law at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he filed a brief opposing granting healthcare to pregnant women. In 1975, he moved into food and beverages, working for the Steal and Ale restaurant chain. In 1986, he created his firm, Berman and Co., where within a decade cigarette-maker Philip Morris became a multi-million-dollar account.
ConsumerDeception.com, one of the first websites tracking Berman, posts “inter-office correspondence” and other memos documenting his tobacco-defending tactics. Berman proposed creating “The Guest Choice Network… to educate members of the hospitality industry on all the issues that affect their business.” Its goal was to stop second-hand smoke regulations and smoking bans, that day’s anti-smoking efforts. Philip Morris executive Barbara Trach, writing on the margin of a 1995 memo suggesting an initial $600,000 payment, listed the rules that would come to define a Berman operation.
“We can’t tell him what to do—he knows what to do and what’s going on,” shewrote. “We don’t want reportable activities… No direction in grassroots by us… Minimize written correspondence… Check payable to Berman & Co.”
The Guest Choice Network became the Center for Consumer Freedom, which Berman used to attack nearly 60 public interest groups and government agencies, according to ConsumerDeception.com’s count a dozen years ago: health departments; medical and scientific associations; public health, farming and environmental groups. The funders were a who’s who of agribusiness giants, food producers and processors, and fast food and restaurant chains. CREW’s BermanExposed.org has since updated the list.
In the “60 Minutes” profile, Berman described himself as a fighter for corporations in an era dominated by do-gooders. “Businesses themselves don’t find it convenient to take on causes that might seem politically incorrect,” he said. “And I am not afraid to do that.”
Berman says he isn’t in interested in policy debates and position papers, but gut punches that people will remember. In one anti-union drive effort, his television ad begins with a smirking cashier, saying, “You know what I love, paying union dues just so I can keep my job.” A smiling black construction worker followed, saying, “I really like how the union discriminated against minorities.” Then a busy waitress, “Nothing makes me feel better than knowing I’m supporting their fat-cat lifestyles.” It ended, in unison, “Thank you union bosses,” with an on-air credit to the “Center for Union Facts.” In another television ad, a trial lawyer interrogates a Girl Scout on a witness stand because her cookies do not have nutrition labeling.
Berman calls this approach “shooting the messenger,” and told CBS it “means people getting that this messenger is not as credible as their name would suggest.” His staff goes through government reports, activist press releases, policy papers and books by anyone who might stand in the way of unfettered corporate profits. They take aim by seizing on small points—a research methodology, size of a poll, minority opinion—and blow up that trifle to smear a reputation, organization or agenda. They create websites parodying the points, write and air ads attacking groups, their leadership, their funding, and even push GOP officeholders to join in the bullying.
The methodology is twisting the truth, exaggerating facts that are totally acceptable to make them sound corrupt, and fanning cliches or prejudice to evoke emotional reactions that take the public’s eye away from real scrutiny of, or accountability for, his clients’ exploitive business practices.
So Berman launches a website shouting that PETA kills animals. He accuses the Humane Society of the U.S. of giving less than 1 percent of its funds to local shelters, but he omits that HSUS runs five of its own animal care centers and sanctuaries, supports countless rescue groups, operates disaster response teams for animal victims of natural disasters, investigates animal cruelty and carries out countless other initiatives for animal welfare and protection.
Front groups traced back to Berman’s office accuse ROC United of a litany of supposed sins in cities considering higher minimum wage and paid sick leave laws, while other websites mock Jayaraman’s new book while she’s on a speaking tour. Meanwhile, Berman writing on the National Restaurant Association (NRA) website, says that raising minimum wages are “a politician-made disaster” leading to “the death of the entry-level job.” On theWall Street Journalopinion page, the anti-regulator argues without a trace of hypocrisy that groups like ROC United should be regulated under federal labor law.
Marion Nestle, a longtime healthy food expert and author who also has beenattacked by Berman, says she tries to ignore him. Nestle said she met Berman once, when they were on a panel at a NRA conference. That appearance gave her the chance to meet with a handful of national restaurant chain CEOs, Nestle said, where she went in armed with three demands—including one about ceasing to bankroll Berman.
“I wanted these restaurant chains to give a price break for smaller portions, to have the default meals for kids be healthy, and I wanted them to stop funding the Center for Consumer Freedom,” she said of meeting with the CEOs of Applebeesand Darden, the nation’s largest restaurant group. “They just went ballistic. Absolutely ballistic. It was truly amazing. I thought they were three completely reasonable asks. And they said that Berman was the only person who understood their problems.”
Nestle’s sit-down with Berman’s sponsors reveals why he has had a four-decade run as a corporate hit man. With the backing of tobacco, booze and then Big Food, he has created industry front groups, kept his sponsors’ identities largely hidden, developed a political playbook based on smears, distortions and hate-mongering, and seen the campaign and lobbying profession embrace his poisonous and destructive methodology.
America’s political culture has become uglier and more hate-filled in recent decades, and Richard Berman has played a singular roll in that descent into the gutter.
© 2013, agentleman.
12 Ways JP Morgan Admitted It Ripped Off Americans to the Tune of Billions
Wall Street’s latest chapter in corporate accountability is hardly satisfying, even if it is a rare admission of wrongdoing from a major bank. On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced a $13 billion settlement with J.P. Morgan for its rapacious role in the housing market bubble and collapse.
Beyond analyses showing that the government’s supposed largest fine ever might end up “closer to $2.74 billion,” and that $7 billion of it is tax deductible—tantamount to America’s 138 milliontaxpayers each giving a $50 bill to Morgan—the nation’s business press is filled with praise for the bank turning a page.
No one should hold their breath waiting for the Justice Department to announce criminal charges against bank executives; even if Attorney General Eric Holder says the case it not closed. Instead, what Americans are left with is an odd legal creature—a so-called “Statement of Facts”—describing Morgan’s greedy sins.
This declaration is not written in plain English. So here’s AlterNet’s translation of what Morgan said that it did, followed by the relevant legalese. This is as close to a corporate confession of greed and deceit as Americans get today.
1. J.P. Morgan knew it had bad loans from the start.
J.P. Morgan made billions by buying high-interest mortgages and selling them as packages to investors, who expected solid returns. Inside Morgan, its contactors knew that they were buying loans that didn’t even meet the brokers’ standards.
“JPMorgan employees were informed by due diligence vendors that a number of the loans included in at least some of the loan pools that it purchased and subsequently securitized did not comply with the originators’ underwriting guidelines.”
2. J.P. Morgan knew appraisers were inflating values.
To get a mortgage, lenders require an appraisal as part of a clearance process. Morgan knew appraisers were rubber-stamping home values that were absurdly high, but ignored it. The bigger the loan, the more profit in interest payments.
“A number of the properties securing the loans had appraised values that were higher than the values derived in due diligence testing from automated valuation models, broker price opinions or other valuation due diligence methods.”
3. J.P. Morgan lied about these values to investors.
Their business was based on reselling bundles of loans, so they deliberately over-promised to investors and hid information that the loans would likely fail.
“JPMorgan represented to investors in various offering documents that loans in the securitized pools were originated “generally” in conformity with the loan originator’s underwriting guidelines.”
4. When asked about bad loans, they said, ‘Don’t worry.”
When asked about bad loans in their budled investments, the bank said they were looking at mortages one-by-one and carefully certified their loans.
“Exceptions were made based on “compensating factors,” determined after “careful consideration” on a “case-by-case basis.”
5. They were buying loans like sharks biting at bait.
J.P. Morgan went right to the worst mortgage mills and starting buying everything that they had written, which included very-high interest loans on home values that were overstated with unsupportable payments.
JPMorgan began the process of creating RMBS [residential mortgage backed securities] by purchasing pools of loans from lending institutions, such as Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., or WMC [Washington Mutual] Mortgage Corporation, that originated residential mortgages by making mortgage loans to individual borrowers.”[WMC collapsed and was taken over by the federal government in 2008].
6. Their sales pitches were filled false assurances.
J.P. Morgan’s sales team, which included newly minted M.B.A. business school graduates working the phones and higher-ups at industry conferences armed with Powerpoint presentations, boasted of quality controls and vetting.
“JPMorgan salespeople marketed its due diligence process to investors through oral communications that were often scripted by internal sales memoranda, through presentations given at industry conferences, and to certain individual investors. In marketing materials, JPMorgan represented that the originators had a “solid underwriting platform,” and that JPMorgan was familiar with and approved the originators’ underwriting guidelines.”
7. Meanwhile, Morgan knew it was buying bad loans.
Back at corporate headquarters, the auditors that Morgan hired to review the mortgages that they were buying found that a sizeable slice of them—from the originators like Countrywide—did not even meet the mortgage broker’s supposed standards, and lacked information showing borrowers could pay them back.
“JPMorgan’s due diligence vendors graded numerous loans in the samples as Event 3’s, meaning that, in the vendors’ judgment, they neither complied with the originators’underwriting guidelines nor had sufficient compensating factors, including in many instances because of missing documentation such as appraisals, or proof of income, employment or assets.”
8. They dumped bad loans, en masse, into loan pools.
Executives ignored their auditors and threw the bad loans into the larger pot, as if that would make them go away, as if their solution was diluting its impact. When that didn’t work on an individual loan basis, they signed off on bad loans in bulk.
“JPMorgan directed that a number of the uncured Event 3 loans be “waived” into the pools facilitating the purchase of loan pools, which then went into JPMorgan inventory for securitization. In addition to waiving in some of the Event 3 loans on a case-by-case basis, some JPMorgan due diligence managers also ordered “bulk” waivers.”
9. They had twice the bad loans as their standards allowed.
The bank’s internal standards allowed for up to 15 percent of their bundled loans to be risky. But Morgan’s auditors found that they had nearly double that figure. So they cooked their books, by re-grading those bad loans, from so-called “Event 3” to “Event 2” status, to make its portfolio look like it met the bank’s standards.
“From the first quarter of 2006 through the second quarter of 2007, of the 23,668 loans the vendor reviewed for JPMorgan, 6,238 of them, or 27 percent, were initially graded Event 3 loans and, according to the report, JPMorgan ultimately accepted or waived 3,238 of these Event 3 loans – 50 percent – to Event 2.”
10. They met with Countywide, but kept buying bad loans.
Morgan auditors obviously knew that they had a very big problem on their hands and met with the slippery loan originators. But that did not stop other executives from buying bundles of bad loans—such as ones where borrowers made up their income on loan applications. Instead of approving individual mortgages, Morgan picked up its pace and approved these loan purchases in bulk.
“JPMorgan Managing Directors in due diligence, trading, and sales met with representatives of the originator to discuss the loans, then agreed to purchase two loan pools without reviewing those loan pools in their entirety as JPMorgan due diligence employees and managers had previously decided; waived a number of the stated income loans into the pools; purchased the pools; and subsequently securitized hundreds of millions of dollars of loans from those pools into one security.”
11. They kept telling investors everything was peachy.
Even though this skullduggery, mismanagement and distortions was going on inside the bank’s offices and known to top Morgan executives, they said nothing and kept selling the bundles with bad loans to investors.
“None of this was disclosed to investors.”
12. Other Wall Street giants did the exact same thing.
During the financial crisis brought by the collapse of the housing market, Morgan bought Bear Stearns, an investment bank, and Washington Mutual Bank. These banks did the exact same thing as Morgan; knowingly buying mortgages that never should have been written in the first place and ignoring auditors.
“Bear Stearns would purchase loans where there was a variance from the guidelines that the managers or other employees deemed acceptable. In addition, Bear Stearns completed bulk purchases of Alt-A loan pools even though the rate of loans with exceptions in the due diligence samples indicated that the un-sampled portion of a pool likely contained additional loans with exceptions.”
And so did Washington Mutual, which failed was closed by the government’s Office of Thrift Supervision in 2008.
“WaMu did not disclose to securitization investors in written offering materials the information from its internal reviews concerning instances of borrower fraud and misrepresentations regarding borrower credit, compliance, and property valuation, in the origination of loans, including as to loans that were sold into securitizations.”
These terse, matter-of-fact sentences from Department of Justice lawyers are what a corporate confession of massive greed and wrongdoing looks like today. It’s not very satisfying or reassuring to know that banks like Morgan preyed on the public—with predatory loans, cooked books, false sales pitches and no real effort to rein in abuses—because they were making money hand over fist.
While they partied on, the collapse of the housing market eviscerated the life savings of millions of people, as home values fell and still have not recovered. Meanwhile, the fact that apparently $7 billion of the settlement will be deductible from Morgan’s taxes is maddening. That’s equal to every American taxpayer handing Morgan CEO James Dimon a $50 bill—as if he’s not rich enough.
© 2013, agentleman.
Transgender Day of Remembrance 2013: A Reporter’s List
I did this for the first time last year. The 20-odd transgender deaths that passed my desk during 2012 were compiled into a post presenting the victims’ names and how they died in order to convey the importance of observing the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I’m doing it again for 2013.
This is by no means a complete list. Most transgender deaths are unreported or lost due to misgendering. I should also point out that not everyone agrees on which types of deaths ought to be included in such lists. I’ve included domestic violence and suspicious deaths but excluded suicide. I’m starting with the most recent death and working my way back to November 2012:
Mercedes Demarco (aka Fernando Gomez): Died in police custody after being tased. The exact cause of death has not been disclosed by this writing.
Hilary Molina Mendiola: Pulled from a car and thrown from a bridge by two men in Mexico City.
S. Athiswaran: Found tied up and stabbed to death at her home in Bagan Ajam, Malaysia.
Eyricka Morgan: Died at a hospital after being stabbed at home in New Brunswick, N.J. A roommate has been arrested and charged with murder.
Melony Smith: Beaten to death in Baldwin Park, Calif. A suspect has been arrested.
Shaun Hartley: Found beaten to death in an abandoned house in Baton Rouge, La. Hartley was a witness to a murder for the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney and may have been silenced.
Konyale Madden: Found shot to death in her home in Savannah, Texas.
Islan Nettles: Died at a New York City hospital following removal of life support after being declared brain-dead following a brutal beating. Police have a suspect.
Domonique Newburn: Found dead in her home in Fontana, Calif. Police have a suspect.
Gaye: Found murdered in her home in Istanbul, Turkey.
J. Ratworabood: Shot to death after she was given a ride home in Khon Kaen, Thailand. The police arrested a suspect.
Mylene: Beaten to death with a hammer in Limoges, France. A suspect has been arrested.
D. Jones: Beaten, stabbed and hacked by a mob in Jamaica. No suspects have been arrested.
Hari (female name unknown): Found dead under a pile of rocks in Mangadu, India. A suspect has been arrested.
Diamond Williams: Hacked to death with an axe in Philadelphia. A suspect has been arrested.
Dora Oezer: Found stabbed to death in her home in the providence of Kusadasi in Turkey.
Unknown: Found dead in a Houston, Texas, gully.
Diana Martinez: Shot to death inside a hotel in Monterrey, Mexico.
Unknown: Brutally murdered in Hidalgo, Mexico.
Wanda: Legendary Miami entertainer was shot to death in Tampa, Fla. A suspect has been arrested.
Laura Aguilar: Stabbed to death in Rio Grande, Argentina, during an apparent domestic dispute with her ex-partner.
Cemia Acoff (aka Cemia Dove, Cici): Found in a retaining pond tethered to a block in Cleveland, Ohio. A suspect is now on trial for the murder.
Ashley Sinclair: Found shot to death in Orange County, Fla.
Kelly Young: Died at a hospital after being shot in her home in Baltimore, Md.
Milan Boudreaux: Found shot in the head at her New Orleans-area home. A suspect has been arrested.
Unknown: Beaten to death in Istanbul, Turkey.
Evon Young (aka Yung LT): Choked, shot and tossed in a dumpster. His body was never found. Five suspects were arrested.
Cecilia Marahouse: Shot just outside Fortaleza, Brazil.
Gunce Hatun (aka Dairy Babe): Shot on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey. A suspect was detained.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is Nov. 20. You can also read a report on each individual on this list, including links to sources. Feel free to share your comments or new facts on any of the trans people on this list.
Thanks for reading.
© 2013, agentleman.