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Health Care & Environment
11.18 Air pollution levels ‘forcing families to move out of cities’ [like from desertification, lack of drinkable water and rising oceans, there will also be pollution-caused immigration until humans fix things]
11.17 Policies of China, Russia and Canada threaten 5C climate change, study finds [Climate catastrophe is increasingly likely without worldwide organization, funding and commitment to winning THE WAR AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING.]
11.16 How pesticide bans can prevent tens of thousands of suicides a year [how many thousands more die early from eating pesticide-laced food?]
11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]
11.15 The long read: The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]
11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]
11.12 This Land is Your Land: The Zinke effect: how the US interior department became a tool of industry [behaving ignorantly again...]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
11.19 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 11/18/2018 (HBO) [29:26 video]
11.19 Trump Says He Was 'Fully Briefed' and Also 'Not Briefed Yet' But Either Way Saudi Crown Prince 'Absolutely' Not Involved Because Trump Knows 'Everything That Went On' Without Listening to Tape of Khashoggi Murder
11.19 'We Need New Leaders, Period': Progressive Newcomers Urge Democrats to Embrace Bold Agenda or Face Primary Challenges [Current Democrat leaders are highly compromised by corporate donations]
11.18 Trump says Pelosi deserves speakership, offers Republican votes [An affirmation of Pelosi's unsuitability]
11.18 Khanna to Pelosi: Don't Just Create Green New Deal Select Committee, Make Ocasio-Cortez Its Chair [Will Pelosi earnestly change, or end her career in disgrace?]
11.18 Chuck Schumer, Feckless Hack [Neoliberal Democrats must go!]
11.18 What the State of the VA Tells Us About Trump’s War on Welfare [Privatizing often results in outright fraud and higher costs by private prisons, privatized health insurance and health care, privatized public schools and online "colleges" like Trump University]
11.17 As Energy for Medicare for All Explodes, Steny Hoyer's Plan Includes Waiting for Trump to Help Make Obamacare Better [Another who is unfit to be Democrat leader]
11.17 'A Staggeringly Bad Idea': Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would 'Kneecap the Progressive Agenda' [Unfit to be Democrat leader]
11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
11.19 Bankrupt Sears wants to give executives $19 million in bonuses [blatantly immoral and sick to richly reward those who led the company into the bankruptcy]
11.18 Big Pharma Bankrolled Pro-Trump Group As Trump Pushed Pharma Tax Cut [Corruption Central!]
11.16 Amazon’s HQ2 Will Get a Tax Break Designed to Help the Poor [a Republican program that directly helps participating wealthy companies—but only helps workers if and when 'trickle-down' occurs.]
11.16 Trump doesn’t want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it. [George W. Bush made a similar immoral decision for the same oily reasons after 9-11, protecting Saudi defense contracts while facilitating the slaughter of poorer Arab "terrorists" in the region.]
International & Futurism
11.18 France demands UK climate pledge in return for Brexit trade deal [Excellent!]
11.17 Thousands gather to block London bridges in climate rebellion [We're losing WWIII because the enemy is invisible while we're like frogs slowly cooking. We aren't informed enough to be alarmed, but must get organized and motivated to fight back. We need a War Plan to ruthlessly pursue the fight of our lives!]
Has a Comedian Just Saved America?
Jon Stewart's Epiphany
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
To be a fair marketplace, the trading price of stocks and bonds must represent the composite wisdom of all market participants who have the same opportunity to ferret out information from public sources. However, there is only dumbed down information available to the public from tainted media, principally CNBC.As testimony to how Orwellian life has become under the outrages of Wall Street hubris, last week saw a comedian, who poses as an anchor on a fake news show, grab the reins of the Wall Street investigation from the actual investigators in Congress.
Either Jon Stewart is the smartest man in America or he has incredible instincts. In a week’s time, he has zeroed in, like a heat-seeking missile, on the core of Wall Street’s malady. How insightful of Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” to rationalize that the core of Wall Street’s corruption might well be the same core that it has drawn the darkest curtain around: trading.
Stewart is the son of an educational consultant mother (Marion Leibowitz), physicist father (Donald Leibowitz) and trading technology guru brother (Larry Leibowitz) an executive at the New York Stock Exchange. He’s got a smart family and he’s equally smart, advancing the national debate on a comedy channel.
After a week of explosive commentary and video clips of questionable reporting at the cable business network, CNBC, Stewart interviewed Jim Cramer on Thursday, March 12. Cramer hosts CNBC’s “Mad Money” show which promotes itself as an advocate for the small investor while, at the same time, suggesting lots of buying and selling of specific stocks. Stewart used the highly anticipated interview to show a devastating clip revealing Cramer to be the embodiment of the market manipulators that he rails against on his show. Acknowledging on the clip that he would never say something like this on TV, Cramer states:
Allow me to translate:
You know, a lot of times when I was making a large bet that prices would decline in a specific stock or bond or derivative when I worked in the largely unregulated world of private money called hedge funds, and I needed to give that decline a little unseen assistance to make my bets profitable, I would go into the futures market to trade. That’s because I could put down as little as 4 to 10 percent of the money I needed for the trade and borrow the balance in what is called a margin account.
The academics and economists (none of whom ever worked a day on Wall Street) have been telling us in OpEds and speeches and testimony before Congress that the crumbling Wall Street structure results from bundled subprime mortgages, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and asset backed securities.
Trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds have been spent on the premise that if we get these toxic assets off the balance sheets of the major firms, the credit spigots will begin to flow, the banks will once again trust and lend to each other, and investors will resume buying stocks and bonds with their confidence restored. Stewart’s weeklong commentary and clips helped to expose this logic as bogus.
Trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds have been spent on the premise that these toxic assets are the problem. The fate of a nation has been staked on that analysis: that if we get these assets off the balance sheets of the major firms, the credit spigots will begin to flow once again, the banks will once again trust each other and lend to each other, and investors will resume buying stocks and bonds with their confidence in the system restored.
Stewart’s weeklong commentary and clips helped to dramatically expose this logic as bogus. None of the toxic instruments would have grown to a problem capable of collapsing the country’s financial system if their trading had been regulated, transparent and fairly reported on by mainstream media. The security instruments were never the problem; how they were traded was the problem. For example, the mortgage and debt securities were, in reality, junk bonds but they were tradedas triple A. They were not traded on an exchange where price discovery would have shown them to be junk bonds, they were traded in an opaque over the counter market. In the case of credit default swaps, they were traded in a market created by the very firms who needed to hide for as long as possible (while executives reaped windfall compensation and bonuses) the dubious pricing of the securities and gargantuan amounts being issued. (See CounterPunch column “How Wall Street Blew Itself Up.”)
Wall Street is supposed to have an early warning system that if something is amiss it will self correct in time to avoid a collapse of the system. That early warning system is known as price action. In other words, the trading price of Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and AIG should have begun a downward trajectory years ago as these firms loaded up on leveraged junk. There is only one possible scenario, in my opinion, to explain why this did not happen: trading in the market was rigged. Thanks to Jim Cramer, the public now knows how easy it is to get stock prices to move up or down. (As one more example, see “Wall Street Powerhouses Invested Alongside Madoff.”)
To be a fair marketplace, the trading price of stocks and bonds must represent the composite wisdom of all market participants who have the same opportunity to ferret out information from public sources. When trading is internalized at the big Wall Street firms (meaning they are allowed to match customer stock orders in-house), when they are able to create and clandestinely operate their own trading venues off the radar screens of the regulators, when they are able to create offshore vehicles like Structured Investment Vehicles to hide bets gone bad, there is no longer any composite wisdom. There is only dumbed down information which the public possesses from CNBC and the superior information available to those operating inside the clandestine system. (See Maria Bartiromo and the Co-Branding of CNBC and Citigroup.)
The big Wall Street firms that taxpayers are bailing out even gobbled up some of the largest specialist firms. Those are the folks who are required to maintain fair and orderly markets on the regulated stock exchanges. But here’s what the specialists are really doing, according to charges disclosed on March 4, 2009 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC):
The $70 million in disgorgement and penalties the SEC charged 14 specialist firms (some of which are owned by Wall Street powerhouses like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup) is now effectively coming out of the taxpayers’ pocket since these are two firms enrolled in the taxpayer cash for toxic asset trash bailout bonanza. In other words, the public investor is now paying back the money that was stolen from the public investor in the continuing Wall Street saga of heads I win, tails you lose. Is it any wonder it takes a comedian to deal with this stuff.
The speed at which Congress begins daily sessions investigating trading of both toxic and non toxic securities will determine the speed at which this country begins to rebuild from the ashes.
After the 1929 crash and as the nation entered the Great Depression in the early 1930s, the Senate convened hearings by the Committee on Banking and Currency that peeled back month after month from 1932 to 1934 previously impenetrable layers of trading fraud. Each layer of fraud opened a window into the next layer. The hearings did not focus on assets, toxic or otherwise, it focused on the trading of assets: how Wall Street created dark pool operators (today’s hedge funds) to trade on inside information and manipulate prices; how some of the most respected men on Wall Street had participated in trading frauds; how some of the largest firms were secretly manipulating stock prices; how respected business columnists were taking bribes from Wall Street players to move trading prices.
I’ve often pondered just how it was that every large brokerage firm had the same idea at almost the same time in the early 1990s: to put a TV set airing CNBC in every stockbroker’s office. The managers came around and offered the broker a deal they couldn’t refuse: a deeply discounted price on the TV and the firm would install it hanging from the edge of the ceiling so it wouldn’t take up precious desk space. Out of 55 brokers in my office at the time, only myself and one other broker declined. Can you think of any other industry that wants its workers sitting around watching TV instead of working? Unless, of course, what CNBC is telling brokers to buy and sell is actually considered part of the work day by the Wall Street masters.
As you ponder that, consider this excerpt from testimony given at the Friday, June 3, 1932 Senate hearings:
Jon Stewart has opened the floodgates. Let the hearings begin.
Pam Martens worked on Wall Street for 21 years; she has no security position, long or short, in any company mentioned in this article. She writes on public interest issues from New Hampshire. She can be reached at email@example.com
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on March 17, 2009.