Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Congratulations, corporate crime fighters! Coup averted for three days! ...from Michael Moore

by Michael Moore

Friends,

Everyone said the bill would pass. The masters of the universe were already making celebratory dinner reservations at Manhattan's finest restaurants. Personal shoppers in Dallas and Atlanta were dispatched to do the early Christmas gifting. Mad Men of Chicago and Miami were popping corks and toasting each other long before the morning latte run.

But what they didn't know was that hundreds of thousands of Americans woke up yesterday morning and decided it was time for revolt. The politicians never saw it coming. Millions of phone calls and emails hit Congress so hard it was as if Marshall Dillon, Elliot Ness and Dog the Bounty Hunter had descended on D.C. to stop the looting and arrest the thieves.

The Corporate Crime of the Century was halted by a vote of 228 to 205. It was rare and historic; no one could remember a time when a bill supported by the president and the leadership of both parties went down in defeat. That just never happens.

A lot of people are wondering why the right wing of the Republican Party joined with the left wing of the Democratic Party in voting down the thievery. Forty percent of Democrats and two-thirds of Republicans voted against the bill.

Here's what happened:

The presidential race may still be close in the polls, but the Congressional races are pointing toward a landslide for the Democrats. Few dispute the prediction that the Republicans are in for a whoopin' on November 4th. Up to 30 Republican House seats could be lost in what would be a stunning repudiation of their agenda.

The Republican reps are so scared of losing their seats, when this "financial crisis" reared its head two weeks ago, they realized they had just been handed their one and only chance to separate themselves from Bush before the election, while doing something that would make them look like they were on the side of "the people."

Watching C-Span yesterday morning was one of the best comedy shows I'd seen in ages. There they were, one Republican after another who had backed the war and sunk the country into record debt, who had voted to kill every regulation that would have kept Wall Street in check -- there they were, now crying foul and standing up for the little guy! One after another, they stood at the microphone on the House floor and threw Bush under the bus, under the train (even though they had voted to kill off our nation's trains, too), heck, they would've thrown him under the rising waters of the Lower Ninth Ward if they could've conjured up another hurricane. You know how your dog acts when sprayed by a skunk? He howls and runs around trying to shake it off, rubbing and rolling himself on every piece of your carpet, trying to get rid of the stench. That's what it looked like on the Republican side of the aisle yesterday, and it was a sight to behold.

The 95 brave Dems who broke with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd were the real heroes, just like those few who stood up and voted against the war in October of 2002. Watch the remarks from yesterday of Reps. Marcy Kaptur, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Dennis Kucinich. They spoke the truth.

The Dems who voted for the giveaway did so mostly because they were scared by the threats of Wall Street, that if the rich didn't get their handout, the market would go nuts and then it's bye-bye stock-based pension and retirement funds.

And guess what? That's exactly what Wall Street did! The largest, single-day drop in the Dow in the history of the New York Stock exchange. The news anchors last night screamed it out: Americans just lost 1.2 trillion dollars in the stock market!! It's a financial Pearl Harbor! The sky is falling! Bird flu! Killer Bees!

Of course, sane people know that nobody "lost" anything yesterday, that stocks go up and down and this too shall pass because the rich will now buy low, hold, then sell off, then buy low again.

But for now, Wall Street and its propaganda arm (the networks and media it owns) will continue to try and scare the bejesus out of you. It will be harder to get a loan. Some people will lose their jobs. A weak nation of wimps won't last long under this torture. Or will we? Is this our line in the sand?

Here's my guess: The Democratic leadership in the House secretly hoped all along that this lousy bill would go down. With Bush's proposals shredded, the Dems knew they could then write their own bill that favors the average American, not the upper 10% who were hoping for another kegger of gold.

So the ball is in the Democrats' hands. The gun from Wall Street remains at their head. Before they make their next move, let me tell you what the media kept silent about while this bill was being debated:

1. The bailout bill had NO enforcement provisions for the so-called oversight group that was going to monitor Wall Street's spending of the $700 billion;

2. It had NO penalties, fines or imprisonment for any executive who might steal any of the people's money;

3. It did NOTHING to force banks and lenders to rewrite people's mortgages to avoid foreclosures -- this bill would not have stopped ONE foreclosure!;

4. It had NO teeth anywhere in the entire piece of legislation, using words like "suggested" when referring to the government being paid back for the bailout;

5. Over 200 economists wrote to Congress and said this bill might actually WORSEN the "financial crisis" and cause even MORE of a meltdown.

Put a fork in this slab of pork. It's over. Now it is time for our side to state very clearly the laws WE want passed. I will send you my proposals later today. We've bought ourselves less than 72 hours.

Yours,
Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.com
MichaelMoore.com

~ Common Dreams ~

Belief in God 'really can relieve pain'

Academics at The Oxford Centre For Science Of The Mind gave electric shocks to 12 Roman Catholics and 12 atheists as they studied a painting of the Virgin Mary.

They found Catholics seemed able to block out much of the pain. Using brain-scanning techniques, they also discovered that the Catholics were able to activate part of the brain associated with conditioning the experience of pain.

The experiment is one of a series being conducted by the academics, a group of scientists, philosophers and theologians from different departments at the university.

A sparking device was strapped to the back of the participants' left hands to deliver an electric shock.

The scientists then asked them to contemplate two paintings, Sassoferrato's 17th Century Virgin Mary and Leonardo da Vinci's 15th Century Lady With An Ermine.

The researchers hoped that the face of the Virgin Mary would induce a religious state of mind in the believers, while da Vinci's secular painting was chosen because it did not look dissimilar and would be calming.

They spent half an hour inside an MRI scanner, receiving a series of 20 electric shocks in four separate sessions while looking at either the religious or non-religious picture.

The Catholics said that looking at the painting of the Virgin Mary made them feel 'safe', 'taken care of' and 'calmed down and peaceful'.

More significantly, they reported feeling 12 per cent less pain after viewing the religious image than after looking at the Leonardo.

The front right-hand side of their brains lit up on the scanner, indicating that the neural mechanisms of pain modulation had been engaged.

There was no such brain activity among the atheists, whose pain and anxiety levels stayed roughly the same throughout the experiment.

Writing in the scientific journal Pain, the researchers concluded that at least some religious believers can moderate their pain by thinking about it more positively.

~ more... ~

 

'Talk about asking for a miracle'

After a White House summit meeting that ground to a halt amid raised voices and finger pointing, Hank Paulson, the US Treasury Secretary, got down on bended knee.

Looking up from the floor of the Roosevelt Room, he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and her fellow Democrats not to "blow it up" by withdrawing her party's support for his $700 billion financial bail-out package – or revealing quite how badly the summit had gone.

"I didn't know you were Catholic," Pelosi, an Italian-American ex convent girl, told the former Goldman Sachs chairman, who happens to be a Christian Scientist. "It's not me blowing this up, it's the Republicans."

Paulson sighed: "I know, I know." It had been an attempt to inject some gallows humour into a dire situation.

Moments earlier, George W. Bush had declared, with his characteristic penchant for boiling an issue down to its bare essentials: "If money isn't loosened up, this sucker could go down." History may one day record whether the "sucker" he was referring to was the Bush-Paulson bail-out package or the United States itself.

It may read like a melodramatic Hollywood script but the future of the American remains at stake. The summit came after the most turbulent month in Wall Street since the Great Depression of the Thirties – a subject on which Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve and an architect of the Bush-Paulson plan, is an expert.

~ more... ~

 

13 votes shy of a simple majority


The tally was even or close for the first 10 minutes of voting. Thirteen minutes in, though, the vote slipped into negative territory at 162-166. It never regained a majority of support.
 
Thirteen of the 19 most vulnerable Republicans and Democrats in an Associated Press analysis voted against the bill despite the pleas from Bush and their party leaders to pass it.

Many political analysts projected that the bill would be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives by about a 80-100 vote margin. The reality: bill defeated, 228-205 and the stock market plunged a big seven zero zero and more.

Public policy analysts, professional and otherwise, will spend ample time investigating the reasons why the bill failed, but in a crisis such as this one, congressional leaders, save for reviewing their mistakes, do not have time for the stuff of graduate seminars in public policy: they need to get a rescue bill passed.

The $55 trillion question

As Congress wrestles with another bailout bill to try to contain the financial contagion, there's a potential killer bug out there whose next movement can't be predicted: the Credit Default Swap.

In just over a decade these privately traded derivatives contracts have ballooned from nothing into a $54.6 trillion market. CDS are the fastest-growing major type of financial derivatives. More important, they've played a critical role in the unfolding financial crisis. First, by ostensibly providing "insurance" on risky mortgage bonds, they encouraged and enabled reckless behavior during the housing bubble.

"If CDS had been taken out of play, companies would've said, 'I can't get this [risk] off my books,'" says Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor and former director of trading and markets at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. "If they couldn't keep passing the risk down the line, those guys would've been stopped in their tracks. The ultimate assurance for issuing all this stuff was, 'It's insured.'"

Second, terror at the potential for a financial Ebola virus radiating out from a failing institution and infecting dozens or hundreds of other companies - all linked to one another by CDS and other instruments - was a major reason that regulators stepped in to bail out Bear Stearns and buy out AIG (AIG, Fortune 500), whose calamitous descent itself was triggered by losses on its CDS contracts (see "Hank's Last Stand").

And the fear of a CDS catastrophe still haunts the markets. For starters, nobody knows how federal intervention might ripple through this chain of contracts. And meanwhile, as we'll see, two fundamental aspects of the CDS market - that it is unregulated, and that almost nothing is disclosed publicly - may be about to change. That adds even more uncertainty to the equation.

"The big problem is that here are all these public companies - banks and corporations - and no one really knows what exposure they've got from the CDS contracts," says Frank Partnoy, a law professor at the University of San Diego and former Morgan Stanley derivatives salesman who has been writing about the dangers of CDS and their ilk for a decade. "The really scary part is that we don't have a clue." Chris Wolf, a co-manager of Cogo Wolf, a hedge fund of funds, compares them to one of the great mysteries of astrophysics: "This has become essentially the dark matter of the financial universe."

~ more... ~

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image from http://www.spitting-image.net

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