- Occupy Wall Street: Hit Bankers Where it Hurts--Taibbi
- Herman Cain Hoping for Big Financial Campaign Stimulus from the Rich
- More on Iran "Terror Plot"
- Media Bias in Libya Reporting: "media’s complicity in the human rights violations"
Occupy Wall Street: Hit Bankers Where it Hurts--Taibbi
My Advice to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters: Hit Bankers Where it Hurts
By Matt Taibbi
October 13, 2011
"Rolling Stone" - - I've been down to "Occupy Wall Street" twice now, and I love it. The protests building at Liberty Square and spreading over Lower Manhattan are a great thing, the logical answer to the Tea Party and a long-overdue middle finger to the financial elite. The protesters picked the right target and, through their refusal to disband after just one day, the right tactic, showing the public at large that the movement against Wall Street has stamina, resolve and growing popular appeal.
But... there's a but. And for me this is a deeply personal thing, because this issue of how to combat Wall Street corruption has consumed my life for years now, and it's hard for me not to see where Occupy Wall Street could be better and more dangerous. I'm guessing, for instance, that the banks were secretly thrilled in the early going of the protests, sure they'd won round one of the messaging war.
Why? Because after a decade of unparalleled thievery and corruption, with tens of millions entering the ranks of the hungry thanks to artificially inflated commodity prices, and millions more displaced from their homes by corruption in the mortgage markets, the headline from the first week of protests against the financial-services sector was an old cop macing a quartet of college girls.
That, to me, speaks volumes about the primary challenge of opposing the 50-headed hydra of Wall Street corruption, which is that it's extremely difficult to explain the crimes of the modern financial elite in a simple visual. The essence of this particular sort of oligarchic power is its complexity and day-to-day invisibility: Its worst crimes, from bribery and insider trading and market manipulation, to backroom dominance of government and the usurping of the regulatory structure from within, simply can't be seen by the public or put on TV. There just isn't going to be an iconic "Running Girl" photo with Goldman Sachs, Citigroup or Bank of America – just 62 million Americans with zero or negative net worth, scratching their heads and wondering where the hell all their money went and why their votes seem to count less and less each and every year.
No matter what, I'll be supporting Occupy Wall Street. And I think the movement's basic strategy – to build numbers and stay in the fight, rather than tying itself to any particular set of principles – makes a lot of sense early on. But the time is rapidly approaching when the movement is going to have to offer concrete solutions to the problems posed by Wall Street. To do that, it will need a short but powerful list of demands. There are thousands one could make, but I'd suggest focusing on five:
1. Break up the monopolies. The so-called "Too Big to Fail" financial companies – now sometimes called by the more accurate term "Systemically Dangerous Institutions" – are a direct threat to national security. They are above the law and above market consequence, making them more dangerous and unaccountable than a thousand mafias combined. There are about 20 such firms in America, and they need to be dismantled; a good start would be to repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and mandate the separation of insurance companies, investment banks and commercial banks.
2. Pay for your own bailouts. A tax of 0.1 percent on all trades of stocks and bonds and a 0.01 percent tax on all trades of derivatives would generate enough revenue to pay us back for the bailouts, and still have plenty left over to fight the deficits the banks claim to be so worried about. It would also deter the endless chase for instant profits through computerized insider-trading schemes like High Frequency Trading, and force Wall Street to go back to the job it's supposed to be doing, i.e., making sober investments in job-creating businesses and watching them grow.
3. No public money for private lobbying. A company that receives a public bailout should not be allowed to use the taxpayer's own money to lobby against him. You can either suck on the public teat or influence the next presidential race, but you can't do both. Butt out for once and let the people choose the next president and Congress.
4. Tax hedge-fund gamblers. For starters, we need an immediate repeal of the preposterous and indefensible carried-interest tax break, which allows hedge-fund titans like Stevie Cohen and John Paulson to pay taxes of only 15 percent on their billions in gambling income, while ordinary Americans pay twice that for teaching kids and putting out fires. I defy any politician to stand up and defend that loophole during an election year.
5. Change the way bankers get paid. We need new laws preventing Wall Street executives from getting bonuses upfront for deals that might blow up in all of our faces later. It should be: You make a deal today, you get company stock you can redeem two or three years from now. That forces everyone to be invested in his own company's long-term health – no more Joe Cassanos pocketing multimillion-dollar bonuses for destroying the AIGs of the world.
To quote the immortal political philosopher Matt Damon from Rounders, "The key to No Limit poker is to put a man to a decision for all his chips." The only reason the Lloyd Blankfeins and Jamie Dimons of the world survive is that they're never forced, by the media or anyone else, to put all their cards on the table. If Occupy Wall Street can do that – if it can speak to the millions of people the banks have driven into foreclosure and joblessness – it has a chance to build a massive grassroots movement. All it has to do is light a match in the right place, and the overwhelming public support for real reform – not later, but right now – will be there in an instant.
© 2011 Rolling Stone
Herman Cain Hoping for Big Financial Campaign Stimulus from the Rich
[Cain recently blamed the jobless and the poor for their problems]
Why Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Plan Is a Disaster for the Middle Class
RS Politics Daily
by: Tim Dickinson
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain wants to increase your taxes so that the very rich pay less.
If you were trying to formulate a tax proposal to enrage and energize the Occupy Wall Street movement, it would be hard to improve on Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan.
The Republican frontrunner is proposing a 9 percent tax on wages, a 9 percent tax on business income and a new 9 percent federal sales tax. This cleverly marketed flat-tax plan would "drastically increase taxes on the working poor and middle class, and reduce taxes going forward on the rich, " Edward Kleinbard, a professor of tax law at USC, writes for Tax Notes.
Kleinbard estimates that 90 percent of tax payers would end up with a "vastly increased tax bill," under the 9-9-9 plan. That's because the "business flat tax" is effectively structured as a payroll tax, so with each 9 in Cain's plan, workers take the hit. "The combination of the three actually operates as the economic equivalent of a 27 percent uncapped payroll tax," writes Kleinbard. A middle class family of four with an income of $50,000, he tells Rolling Stone, would see its tax burden soar by nearly $5,000 a year to $13,500. "Its staggering!" For a family just to break even under Cain's scheme, it would need to take home in excess of $120,000 a year.
If Cain were being honest, he would sell his tax scheme as the 9-0-9-0-9 plan. That's because two taxes vital to the fairness of the current tax code simply disappear: Taxes on capital gains and inheritance. That is to say, taxes on the rich.
Who earns capital gains? The top 0.3 percent of tax payers take home more than 60 percent of America's investment income. Perversely, the Cain plan would liberate more than 23,000 millionaires from federal income taxes altogether. Those who make money soley from investing wouldn't pay nine percent – they'd pay a zero percent. That's an average annual tax cut of nearly half a million dollars for some of the fattest cats in the land.
Repealing the estate tax, currently up to 35 percent for estates in excess of $5 million, would create another trillion-dollar windfall for the richest of the rich. The two tax breaks dovetail nicely. Under Cain's plan, a billionaire hedge fund manager could pay nothing in income tax and then pass that wealth on to his heirs completely tax free.
The net effect of the Cain plan, says Kleinbard, would be to shift the tax burden from capital to labor, and — within labor income — to shift the burden of taxes down the ladder from the CEO class to workers struggling to make ends meet.
Worse, Cain's plan would not raise any more revenue than the current system. Cain would destroy the fairness of the tax code and still leave America's fiscal house, Kleinbard says, "in exactly the same mess we're in now."
More on Iran "Terror Plot"
FBI Account of "Terror Plot" Suggests Sting Operation
Analysis by Gareth Porter*
WASHINGTON, Oct 13 (IPS) - While the administration of Barack Obama vows to hold the Iranian government "accountable" for the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, the legal document describing evidence in the case provides multiple indications that it was mainly the result of an FBI "sting" operation.[More]
Although the legal document, called an amended criminal complaint, implicates Iranian-American Manssor Arbabsiar and his cousin Ali Gholam Shakuri, an officer in the Iranian Quds Force, in a plan to assassinate Saudi Arabian Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir, it also suggests that the idea originated with and was strongly pushed by a undercover DEA informant, at the direction of the FBI.
On May 24, when Arbabsiar first met with the DEA informant he thought was part of a Mexican drug cartel, it was not to hire a hit squad to kill the ambassador. Rather, there is reason to believe that the main purpose was to arrange a deal to sell large amounts of opium from Afghanistan.
In the complaint, the closest to a semblance of evidence that Arbabsiar sought help during that first meeting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador is the allegation, attributed to the DEA informant, that Arbabsiar said he was "interested in, among other things, attacking an embassy of Saudi Arabia".
Among the "other things" was almost certainly a deal on heroin controlled by officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Three Bloomberg reporters, citing a "federal law enforcement official", wrote that Arbabsiar told the DEA informant he represented Iranians who "controlled drug smuggling and could provide tons of opium".
Because of opium entering Iran from Afghanistan, Iranian authorities hold 85 percent of the world's opium seizures, according to Iran's Fars News Agency. Iranian security personnel, including those in the IRGC and its Quds Force, then have the opportunity to sell the opium to traffickers in the Middle East, Europe and now Mexico.
Mexican drug cartels have begun connecting with Middle Eastern drug traffickers, in many cases stationing operatives in Middle East locations to facilitate heroin production and sales, according to a report last January in Borderland Beat.
But the FBI account of the contacts between Arbabsiar and the DEA informant does not reference any discussions of drugs.
. . . .
Petraeus’s CIA Fuels Iran Murder Plot
October 13, 2011
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, in his accustomed role as unofficial surrogate CIA spokesman, has thrown light on how the CIA under its new director, David Petraeus, helped craft the screenplay for this week’s White House spy feature: the Iranian-American-used-car-salesman-Mexican-drug-cartel plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.[More]
In Thursday’s column, Ignatius notes that, initially, White House and Justice Department officials found the story "implausible." It was. But the Petraeus team soon leapt to the rescue, reflecting the four-star-general-turned-intelligence-chief’s deep-seated animus toward Iran.
Before Ignatius’s article, I had seen no one allude to the fact that much about this crime-stopper tale had come from the CIA. In public, the FBI had taken the lead role, presumably because the key informant inside a Mexican drug cartel worked for U.S. law enforcement via the Drug Enforcement Administration.
However, according to Ignatius, "One big reason [top U.S. officials became convinced the plot was real] is that CIA and other intelligence agencies gathered information corroborating the informant’s juicy allegations and showing that the plot had support from the top leadership of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the covert action arm of the Iranian government."
Ignatius adds that, "It was this intelligence collected in Iran" that swung the balance, but he offers no example of what that intelligence was. He only mentions a recorded telephone call on Oct. 4 between Iranian-American cars salesman Mansour Arbabsiar and his supposed contact in Iran, Gholam Shakuri, allegedly an official in Iran’s Quds spy agency.
The call is recounted in the FBI affidavit submitted in support of the criminal charges against Arbabsiar, who is now in U.S. custody, and Shakuri, who is not. But the snippets of that conversation are unclear, discussing what on the surface appears to be a "Chevrolet" car purchase, but which the FBI asserts is code for killing the Saudi ambassador.
Without explaining what other evidence the CIA might have, Ignatius tries to further strengthen the case by knocking down some of the obvious problems with the allegations, such as "why the Iranians would undertake such a risky operation, and with such embarrassingly poor tradecraft."
"But why the use of Mexican drug cartels?" asks Ignatius rhetorically, before adding dutifully: "U.S. officials say that isn’t as implausible as it sounds."
But it IS as implausible as it sounds, says every professional intelligence officer I have talked with since the "plot" was somberly announced on Tuesday.
The Old CIA Pros . . . .
Media Bias in Libya Reporting: "media’s complicity in the human rights violations"
Mainstream Media’s Coverage of Libya Disturbing
INSTITUTE FOR SECURITY STUDIES
Published 14 Oct 2011
The mainstream media’s conspicuous silence about the racially motivated human rights abuses perpetrated against black Libyans and immigrants, by the NATO-backed Transitional National Council (TNC) forces in Libya, is disturbing. Similarly, the high civilian casualties of the current intense fighting in the city of Sirte seems, to a large extent, to be underplayed. Yet organisations such as Human Rights Watch have acknowledged that civilian abuses have continued and called on forces on both sides that are fighting in Sirte to minimize harm to civilians and treat all prisoners humanely.
This biased media coverage raises questions about the credibility of media organisations and their agenda. Is it because the presence of widespread evidence of racially motivated human rights abuses committed by the TNC forces raises moral and ethical questions that challenge the validity of the notion of a “humanitarian war”? The responsibility assumed by NATO and the TNC forces to protect civilian lives from abuse by Gaddafi forces is also questionable, as it appears this mandate does not seem to extend to the protection of black Libyans and African immigrants.
. . . .
It in interesting to note that despite widespread evidence of such racial abuses perpetrated by the TNC forces, it appears mainstream media organisations have not been willing to represent a narrative that does not conform to its set ideological position and agenda. What has become evident where the reports of racial abuses have reached mainstream media is the framing of a narrative that portrays the victims as “African mercenaries,” despite the availability of adequate evidence to prove that many of the victims were not mercenaries. Amnesty International reports that, “the allegations about the use of mercenaries proved to be largely unfounded” but this has remained an unknown fact to the public. This revelation demonstrates the media’s complicity in the human rights violations. Therefore, mainstream media organisations have concealed gross abuses that could have been exposed and stopped by not representing and speaking against such human rights violations.
The lack of adequate exposure and coverage of the rebels’ racial violations by mainstream media corroborate the assertion that the media is not serving the public but it is serving power and in the process it has abandoned professional media ethics and standards.
ISS Pretoria Office
Patty Griffin-Cold As It Gets
Jim Rogers- Let the Banks Fail!!- CNBC