|Progressive Calendar 12.22.08||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Mon, 22 Dec 2008 04:29:36 -0800 (PST)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 12.22.08 1. Peace walk 12.22 6pm RiverFalls WI 2. Health house party 12.22 7pm 3. RNC court watch 12.23 6pm 4. ECAG 12.23 6:30pm 5. Salon 12.23 6:30pm 6. Phillip Doe - Ken Salazar: same old (bad) Interior 7. Ronnie Cummins - Tom Vilsack's kind of Ag: another shill for Monsanto 8. Jesse Sharkey - No school left unsold: Duncan's privatization agenda 9. Leif Larsen - Obama's unprogressive foreign policies 10. Panos Petrou - Days of rage in Greece 11. James Petras - Madoff swindle a powerful blow for social justice 12. ed - bumpersticker 13. ed - Fire works (poem) --------1 of 13-------- From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at] comcast.net> Subject: Peace walk 12.22 6pm RiverFalls WI River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from "Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact: d.n.holden [at] comcast.net. Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls, Wisconsin 54022 --------2 of 13-------- From: Joel Albers <joel [at] uhcan-mn.org> Subject: Health house party 12.22 7pm You are invited to a Health Care/Holiday House Party. i will have tea, coffee, desserts, and a pot of soup. bring some food to share if you like for the holiday.Hope to see you there. See below for details. Monday, December 22 from 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Location: Joel Albers House 3500 35th ave S Minneapolis, MN 55406 Directions: From DT Mpls going south on Hiawatha ave (hwy55) turn left (east) at 35th street, then 1/2 mile to 35th ave. Corner house,plenty of pkg. --------3 of 13-------- From: Do'ii <syncopatingrhythmsabyss [at] gmail.com> Subject: RNC court watch 12.23 6pm RNC Court Watchers are in need of participants to help with organizing court information, documentation and etc. RNC Court Watchers Meetings are every Tuesday, 6 P.M. at Caffeto's. Below is announcement for our meetings. Preemptive raids, over 800 people arrested, police brutality on the streets and torture in Ramsey County Jail. Police have indiscriminately used rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tasers and chemical irritants to disperse crowds and incapacitate peaceful, nonviolent protesters. The RNC-8 and others are facing felonies and years in jail. We must fight this intimidation, harassment and abuse! Join the RNC Court Solidarity Meeting this coming Tuesday at Caffetto's to find out how you can make a difference in the lives of many innocent people. Caffetto's Coffeehouse and Gallery (612)872-0911 708 W 22nd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55405 Every Tuesday @ 6:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M participate and help organize RNC court solidarity. For more information, please contact: rnccourtwatch [at] gmail.com THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED! --------4 of 13-------- From: Jordan S. Kushner <kushn002 [at] umn.edu> Subject: ECAG 12.23 6:30pm The next ECAG meeting will be on December 23 at 6:30 pm at MAYDAY BOOKS. [Economic issues] --------5 of 13-------- From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net> Subject: Salon 12.23 6:30pm Dec. 23, Jerry Rothstein will share the meaning of Hanukkah with us (it is the first day of Hanukkah) and the meaning of the Menorahs that he will light for us. Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon ) are held (unless otherwise noted in advance): Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943 W 7th, St Paul, MN Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats. Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information. --------6 of 13-------- Ken Salazar and the Status Quo The Man in the Hat By PHILLIP DOE CounterPunch December 18, 2008 The first time I met Ken Salazar, the man Barack Obama has tapped as the next Secretary of Interior, he was the Attorney General for the state of Colorado. That was in 1999 or thereabouts - well before he'd been told to glue that silly cowboy hat on his head so that everybody would know he was a true westerner, an old time westerner, a man bred of the land, comfortable in a saddle or behind the wheel of a pickup. It used to be people were known by their words, not their props, but Paul Bremer with his suit and combat boots in Iraq and Ken Salazar with his screwed on cowboy hat want to employ a sartorial meta-language - you know their seriousness by seeing their props. Watching how Salazar dealt with public resource issues back then gives me considerable pause as to whether he should be given legal control over one-fifth of the U.S. land area as Interior Secretary. After reviewing a few of these accounts you will be able to understand my unease. At that first meeting, we had come to him to ask for the release of engineering reports bearing on the water rights claims of the Ute Indians. These claims would become a driving force behind construction of the long-stalled federal Animas-La Plata project - a $600 million boondoggle to sequester enough water for the domestic needs of more than a million people. Among our concerns was that the Utes numbered only 3,000 people and already controlled over 150,000 acre feet of water, mostly from other federal projects. Colorado's Open Records Act requires state records to be made available within five working days of a request. As Attorney General, Salazar was responsible for enforcing that law. He told us he couldn't release the engineering reports because he might have to someday protect the people of Colorado against the claims of the Utes. The information in those records, he reasoned, might give an unfair advantage to them if made public. The law would have to wait. We were to find out much later that these reports had already been reviewed by an engineering consultant for the Indians. Indeed, later still, in a private meeting, after we brought suit over the matter, we were told by Salazar's office that we would never get any information from them. Well, some heavily redacted records were eventually dribbled to us, but I think this incident provides a clear indication of how Salazar, left to his own devises, might live up to Obama's promise of openness and accountability in his administration. Another telling episode from that period was Attorney General Salazar's involvement in the Summitville Mine Superfund cleanup. Previously, Salazar's mentor Governor Roy Romer had approved the gold mining operation at Summitville, arguing that jobs were needed. To grease the startup, Romer had accepted the Canadian operator's on-site equipment in lieu of a cash bond as required by state law. It didn't take long before the operation failed, dumping cyanide into the river and poisoning it for miles downstream. Salazar announced he would personally lead negotiations with the Canadian mining company. In the end, the taxpayers picked up virtually all of the millions of dollars in cleanup. Salazar's lack of success in negotiating with the mining company and failure to prosecute should have gotten more attention, but all the costs had been transferred to the United States, thus diluting the costs to the people of Colorado. As AG, Salazar was also involved in a longstanding water case between Colorado and Kansas over the use of the Arkansas River, a case that had festered for years and certainly cannot be laid at Salazar's feet entirely. Up to now, the case has cost the taxpayers of Colorado approximately $50 million in penalties and attorney fees. The U.S. Supreme Court in reaching its verdict against the state, and in awarding punitive damages, was scathing in its condemnation of Colorado's actions, stating the Colorado knew or should have known for years that it was stealing water from Kansas. Normally, when a person steals from another, the thief either goes to jail or makes restitution. In the Arkansas River case, the public pays for the theft, while the actual thieves, a few hundred ranchers and farmers on the lower Arkansas, pay nothing. In addition, Ken and his brother, John, support a large federal pipeline project to bring potable water to towns in the lower Arkansas valley because the agricultural return flows from these same thieving ranches are so polluted they reportedly make the river unsuitable as a source of public drinking water. The preliminary costs of this pipeline are said to be between $200 and $300 million, with the public picking up the costs. Since most large federal water projects usually have cost overruns of up to 300 percent, this scheme, if funded, might actually cost up to a billion dollars. In a rational economic world, we would expect the public's representatives to first go to those causing the problem and tell them to stop, reform their operations, and pay a significant portion of the damages and remediation costs. The public might be asked to participate, but only secondarily. But that is not the way water in the West is governed, and it is not the way Salazar sees it. He has a long history of supporting water development on a large scale at public expense. He advertises himself as the senator for rural America even though, apparently unbeknownst to him, the state he represents is one of the most urbanized in the nation. Neither does his self-description necessarily mean that he is an advocate for rural workers who are among the poorest of the working poor. Instead of standing for rural interests, Salazar seems to be more an advocate for preserving old land and ranching interests. Much is made of the fact he grew up in rural Colorado without electricity. Less is made of the fact his family has received over $200,000 in farm subsidies over the last 10 years, with his brother, the congressman, being the chief beneficiary. Not surprisingly, the Salazar brothers are stout defenders of these agri-business subsidies - a stance seemingly at odds with Obama's promise to eliminate waste in government. He has been praised lavishly for opposing the Bush administration's drilling plans on some of the most valued wild land in the state, the Roan Plateau. He did the right thing, no question, but it was also the easy thing since the plan was unpopular among most state voters. It was not a high-risk endorsement. In fact the risk would have been in not getting on the bandwagon. Newspapers like the Denver Post refer to Salazar as a centrist. Apparently this is some sort of code meant to suggest a person Obama can be comfortable with, just as he seems to be comfortable with Ivy League retreads from Wall Street and the Clinton administration. But the Obama campaign was about "CHANGE" . I still have that sign. I hope it means something because millions of people who don't give a damn about centrism or any other ism are depending on it. Unfortunately, from where I sit, Ken Salazar as Secretary of Interior does not represent change, as Obama promised. Salazar represents defending the status quo and always has. Phillip Doe lives in Colorado. He can be reached at: ptdoe [at] comcast.net --------7 of 13-------- Tom Vilsack's Kind of Agriculture Another Shill for Monsanto By RONNIE CUMMINS CounterPunch December 18, 2008 Yesterday's announcement that former Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack, has been selected as the new Secretary of Agriculture sent a chill through the sustainable food and farming community who have been lobbying for a champion in the new administration. "Vilsack's nomination sends the message that dangerous, untested, unlabeled genetically engineered crops will be the norm in the Obama Administration," said Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of Organic Consumers Association. "Our nation's future depends on crafting a forward-thinking strategy to promote organic and sustainable food and farming, and address the related crises of climate change, diminishing energy supplies, deteriorating public health, and economic depression". The Department of Agriculture during the Bush Administration failed to promote a sustainable vision for food and farming and did not protect consumers from the chemical-intensive toxic practices inherent to industrial agriculture. While factory farms and junk food have been subsidized with billions of tax dollars, the US industrial farm system has released massive amounts of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and increased our dependence on foreign oil. The Secretary of Agriculture is responsible for directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its $97 billion annual budget, including the National Organic Program, food stamp and nutrition programs, agriculture subsidies, and the Forest Service. While Vilsack has worked to restrain livestock monopolies, his overall record is one of aiding and abetting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs, also known as factory farms). Vilsack's support for unsustainable industrial ethanol production has already caused global corn and grain prices to skyrocket, literally taking food off the table for a billion people in the developing world. Over the past month, Organic Consumers Association members have sent over 20,000 emails to President-Elect Obama's Transition Team, calling for the appointment of a Secretary of Agriculture who would develop and implement a plan that promotes family-scale farming, a safe and nutritious food system, and a sustainable and organic vision for the future. "Obama's choice for Secretary of Agriculture points to the continuation of agribusiness as usual, the failed policies of chemical- and energy-intensive, genetically engineered industrial agriculture," said Cummins. "Americans were promised 'change,' not just another shill for Monsanto and corporate agribusiness. Considering the challenges we collectively face as a nation, from climate change and rising energy costs to food insecurity, we need an administration that moves beyond 'business as usual' to fundamental change - before it's too late," concluded Cummins. Vilsack's business as usual positions have included the following: Vilsack has been a strong supporter of genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn. The biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, named Vilsack Governor of the Year. He is also the founder and former chair of the Governor's Biotechnology Partnership. When Vilsack created the Iowa Values Fund, his first poster child for economic development was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows. The undemocratic 2005 seed pre-emption bill was the Vilsack's brainchild. The law strips local government's right to regulate genetically engineered seed. Vilsack is an ardent supporter of corn and soy based biofuels, which use as much or more energy to produce as they generate and drive up world food prices, literally starving the poor. The OCA has launched an online petition campaign at www.stopvilsack.orgto mobilize hundreds of thousands of people to oppose Vilsack's Senate confirmation. Additionally, OCA's nationwide network of 850,000 organic consumers are urging members of Congress to move beyond business as usual and implement a comprehensive strategy for organic food and farming in 2009 and beyond. Ronnie Cummins is director of the Organic Consumers Alliance. He can be reached at: ronnie [at] organicconsumers.org. --------8 of 13-------- No School Left Unsold Arne Duncan's Privatization Agenda By JESSE SHARKEY CounterPunch December 18, 2008 Teachers in Chicago are sorry to see that the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Arne Duncan, is getting a promotion. Barack Obama has selected Duncan to be his Education Secretary. In the past couple years, Duncan has been turning public schools over to private operators - mainly in the form of charter and contract schools - at a rate of about 20 per year. Duncan has also resuscitated some of the worst "school reform" ideas of the 1990s, like firing all the teachers in low-performing schools (called "turnarounds"). At the same time, he's eliminated many Local School Councils and made crucial decisions without public input. Charter schools and test-score driven school "choice" have been the watchwords of Duncan's rule in Chicago. Expect more of the same in Washington, D.C. To me, the thing that made Duncan's role clear came after three months of organizing at Senn High School, the community school where I teach, against the Chicago Board of Education's proposal to install a Naval Academy. After an inspiring campaign that involved literally hundreds of people in the biggest education organizing effort in the area in decades, we forced Duncan to come up to our neighborhood to listen to our case for keeping the military out of our school. More than 300 of us - parents, teachers, and community supporters - held a big meeting in a local church and, at the end of the meeting, we asked Duncan to postpone the decision to put the military school at Senn. Duncan's answer was a classic. He said: "I come from a Quaker family, and I've always been against war. But I'm going to put the Naval Academy in there, because it will give people in the community more choices." The exchange showed that when push came to shove, Duncan was always a loyal henchman of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's political machine - albeit with a style that made it seem like he was listening. He's just the kind of person who will look at you with a straight face and tell you that, as a person with a pacifist background, he supports a military school. Never mind that the community was fighting as hard as it could against this backroom deal between Daley and the Department of Defense - according to Duncan, the Naval Academy would give the community "more choices." Indeed, CPS has more military high schools than any other school district in the U.S. Despite all this, Duncan is being portrayed in the national media as a school administrator who had a "good" relationship with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). The truth is quite different. Duncan pursued anti-labor policies by pushing nonunion charter and contract schools. He also imposed test-oriented, competitive schemes that force schools to close if they can't raise test scores above a certain level. Yet he failed to implement the kinds of changes that really would improve student performance - such as smaller class sizes and expanded facilities to end overcrowding. Instead, special education teachers were laid off and budgets squeezed. Moreover, Duncan has done nothing to address racial segregation in our schools - which is so bad that a 2003 Harvard University study found that CPS is "only a few percentage points from an experience of total apartheid for Black students." Rather than try to remedy this shameful situation, Duncan requested the removal of the federal judicial consent decree that mandates the meager efforts CPS has undertaken to improve the racial balance of our schools. CTU members in the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) will use their December 17 press conference to set the record straight. Duncan is getting ready to take his methods to the national level. Teachers, students, parents and communities everywhere will have to be prepared for a new round of attacks on public education under the banner of "reform." Jesse Sharkey is a teacher in Chicago and writer for the Socialist Worker. --------9 of 13-------- Obama's Unprogressive Foreign Policies by Leif Christian Larsen December 20th, 2008 Dissident Voice Humanitarian Aid The Obama campaign has said, due to military spending and the bailout, they "probably won't be able to meet our commitment" to raise foreign aid. Unfortunately, what foreign aid currently exists is often systematically designed to bankrupt farmers in the developing world, since the US is the only aid providing country that refuses to buy food aid from local farmers, instead using hunger as a cynical excuse to dump excess inventory from large, subsidized agrobusinesses, who claim this as a tax writeoff. Military Waste Obama wants to increase the size of the military, even though we spend more than all the rest of the world combined on "defense," and it actually makes us less safe. Solving world hunger, transitioning to sustainable energy, industry, and communities, providing health care for all and promoting R+D and sustainable employment might seem to you to be more important priorities to which the trillions of dollars being burned up in military spending (when the full costs are counted) might be better dedicated. But you, my friend, are not Barack Obama. His choice for Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, wants the US to make new nuclear weapons and maintain all our old ones. Pro-War Obama lied about his commitment to have US soldiers out of Iraq within 16 months, and he was dishonest to begin with since he fully intended private mercenaries to continue on there even after said "withdrawal". He wants to ramp up the war in Afghanistan, despite the fact that history has shown that only real social investment and not military force can bring peace to the region, one of the poorest and most miserable on earth. He has expressed a willingness to bomb Iran and won't rule out a first strike nuclear attack. Middle East Peace Obama's anti-Palestinian stance is in some ways the strongest of any US president ever, and directly opposed to opinion of the people's and governments of every other nation on earth. He does not seek a two-state end to the Israeli conquest, says he will not negotiate with the elected government of Palestine, and claims that Jerusalem should be considered the capital of Israel, something no other president or world leader has ever before seriously proposed. The plight of the Palestinian people is a huge cause of foreign support for anti-US terrorism (due to our government's financing of the majority of the military operations against them). Latin America Obama regards the democratically elected (in a landslide) governments of Venezuela and allied nations as "enemies of the United States," and has urged sanctions against them. He has ruled out the possibility of ending the cruel embargo against the people of Cuba, despite the worldwide consensus that the embargo is illegal, hurts common people, and has been counter-effective in bringing political freedoms to the island. Obama supports Colombian attacks of soveigern nations like Ecuador, in which civilians are killed. He considers the drug-and-death-squad dictatorship in Colombia to be America's best friend in the region. He supports bringing the "Colombian solution" of military response to the drug trade into Mexico. Selling Out Martin Luther King Jr., a REAL AGENT OF CHANGE, said "My government is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world". Obama, a false prophet of progress, says the opposite, "We lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good". That is why Obama is president and MLK was, very likely, assassinated by our own intelligence agencies. - Leif Christian Larsen is concerned about the unprogressive dangers of the new administration that we can fight against now (and effect some real change). [Obama is yet another anti-progressive enemy in the White House, of the same ilk as Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2. 28 years of misrule, now to be made 32 or god forbid 36. Hope and $2 will get you a cup of coffee. Proof that major-party politics alone (ie without strong citizen social movements) only leads us further and further away from any kind of country or lives that most of us want. -ed] --------10 of 13-------- [Moving now from criminally passive America to heroically activist Greece] The Rightwing Government is Headed for Its Downfall Days of Rage in Greece By PANOS PETROU CounterPunch December 18, 2008 On the night of December 6, a special police squad in Athens murdered a 15-year-old student in cold blood in Exarchia, a neighborhood with a long tradition of activism among young people, the left and anarchists. This was only the latest instance of police brutality against immigrants, and left-wing and anarchist activists--especially youth, in the wake of a major youth resistance movement against privatization of education that rattled the right-wing government of Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis. The next day, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), revolutionary left organizations and anarchist activists called a demonstration at police headquarters in Athens. This was the first shock. Although the demonstration wasn't well organized, and in spite of the climate of fear cultivated by the government and the big media, tens of thousands of people came out in the streets. At the same time, demonstrations were organized spontaneously in smaller cities around the country. The police attacked the demonstration, using chemical sprays and tear gas. The demonstrators resisted by building barricades and bonfires all night long in the center of Athens. However, the real earthquake happened the next day. On December 8, DEA members visited schools, proposing occupations and demonstrations. We found out that the idea was already on the minds of a majority of students. All schools in the country closed, and thousands of students poured into the streets. The students occupied the centers of cities all over Greece, and in many cases, they besieged the police departments. The sizes of the protests were huge, especially in Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras. Hundreds of demonstrations took place in smaller towns, and even in villages. It was already obvious within a matter of days that this would be a generalized explosion of youth after years of oppression, poverty and deep cuts in the government's social spending. The demonstrators made their objectives known: By targeting the police department, they were attacking the government's authoritarian policy of repression. By targeting the banks, they were attacking the symbols of capitalism to show their anger with neoliberal policy. That afternoon, SYRIZA called a demonstration for the center of Athens. Despite the police presence and the use of tear gas, tens of thousands of people participated. The police again used violence to disperse the demonstrators. What followed was a wild night of confrontations. More than 30 banks and many big stores and public buildings were set on fire. The same thing took place in other cities around the country. In addition to students, the poor and immigrants came out to the demonstrations. The hatred of police repression and the country's rich was everywhere. * * * THE NEXT day, Tuesday morning, dawned on a terrified government. Rumors circulated that Prime Minister Karamanlis intended to declare a state of emergency in Athens and Thessaloniki, which would mean a "temporary" suspension of all democratic and political freedoms. But any such plans were withdrawn after the government realized the strength of the demonstrations would cancel out the strength of any "extraordinary measures." Karamanlis called together the leaders of the political parties in successive meetings, demanding their consent for stopping the crisis with threats of brutal police intervention. It was obvious that pressure was being was directed at the radical left coalition SYRIZA. But the leadership of SYRIZA withstood it. The head of SYRIZA's parliamentary group, Alekos Alavanos, came out of a meeting with Karamanlis and called on the workers and students to continue their struggle to topple the Karamanlis government. Alavanos also demanded a "real apology" toward the youth--which would mean disarming the police, the end of all privatization measures in education and a policy to strengthen employment for young people. Though pressed hard by the media, he made it clear that SYRIZA wasn't participating in the riots, but he refused to condemn the "violence" of the demonstrators, insisting that the point was the fight against police violence. One disappointing response was that of the Communist Party of Greece. After meeting with Karamanlis, the party's secretary, Aleka Papariga, denounced SYRIZA and demanded that it stop pandering to the anarchists. The same line was taken by the leader of the right wing, Georgios Karatzaferis, who also targeted SYRIZA and accused it of being the "political wing" of the rioters. The real problem, however, is the attitude taken by the large social democratic party, PASOK, led by Georgios Papandreou. In order to oppose Karamanlis' center-right New Democracy party, Papandreou denounced the murder and police oppression. But at the same time, he denounces the demonstrations, proposing instead silent candlelight vigils to "mourn" the young student who was killed. The murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos came as the economic crisis reached a new level. Greece's trade unions had already called for a 24-hour general strike on December 12. But the social democratic leadership of the Confederation of Greek Workers--terrified by the wave of demonstrations and complying with Karamanlis' request--canceled a labor rally planned for that day. The rally did take place after a mobilization by SYRIZA and organizations of the revolutionary left. It was massive, very militant and peaceful. Participation in the strike call was almost total. This broke through the climate of fear and scaremongering promoted by the government. As this article is being written, the movement is continuing, and no one really knows what the future holds for Karamanlis. The right-wing government is headed toward its downfall. Every opinion poll shows that it has already suffered a huge loss of support after the outbreak of big corruption scandals revolving around illegal sales of public land in collaboration with the church. The media in Greece think that Karamanlis won't be prime minister by the summer of 2009. DEA is participating enthusiastically in the resistance movement. We support the unity of the young demonstrators fighting against repression and the workers and their unions fighting against exploitation. To achieve unity, we need a left that is massive and effective, but also a left that is radical--that can inspire all the people now in struggle with the belief that this society, capitalism, should be overthrown, and that an alternative that meets our needs, socialism, is a feasible solution. This is the potential presented clearly in front of us during the days of struggle that have shaken Greece. Panos Petrou is a member of Workers Internationalist Left (DEA, by its initials in Greek) and part of the editorial board of DEA's newspaper Workers' Left. This article originally appeared in the Socialist Worker. --------11 of 13-------- Bernard Madoff: Wall Street Swindler Strikes Powerful Blows for Social Justice by James Petras December 20th, 2008 Dissident Voice We never thought he would do this to us, he was one of our people. - Member of Palm Beach Country Club. An Introduction to the Mega-Swindle Wall Street broker Bernard ("Bernie") Madoff, former president of NASDAQ, revered and respected investor confessed to pulling off the biggest fraud in history, a $50 billion dollar scam. Bernie was known for his generous philanthropy, especially to Zionist, Jewish and Israeli causes. A one time life-guard on Long Island in the 1960's, Bernie launched his financial career by raising money from colleagues, friends and relatives among wealthier Jews in the Long Island suburbs, Palm Beach, Florida and in Manhattan, promising a modest, steady and secure return of between 10 to 12%, covering any withdrawals in typical Ponzi fashion by drawing on funds from new investors who literally pleaded for Bernie to fleece them. Madoff personally managed at least $17 billion dollars. For almost four decades he built up a clientele, which came to include some of the biggest banks and investment houses in Scotland, Spain, England and France; as well as major hedge funds in the United States. Madoff drew almost all of the funds from high net-worth private clients who were recruited by brokers working on commission. Bernie's clients included many multi-millionaires and billionaires from Switzerland, Israel and elsewhere, as well as the US's largest hedge funds (RMF Division of the Man Group and the Tremont). Many of the swindled super-rich clients forced their money on Madoff, who sternly imposed rigorous conditions on potential clients: He insisted they have recommendations from existing investors, deposit a substantial amount and guarantee their own solvency. Most considered themselves lucky to have their funds taken by the highly respected Wall Street swindler. Madoff's standard message was that the fund was closed - but because they came from the same world (board members of Jewish charities, pro-Israel fund raising organizations or the "right" country clubs) or were related to a friend, colleague or existing clients, he would take their money. Madoff set up advisory councils with distinguished members, contributed heavily to museums, hospitals and upscale cultural organizations. He was a prominent member of exclusive country clubs in Palm Beach and Long Island. His reputation was enhanced by his funds record of never having a losing year - a big selling point in luring millionaire investors. Madoff shared with his super-rich clients (Jews and Gentiles) a common upper class life style, and mix of cultural philanthropy with low key financial profiteering. Madoff "played" his colleagues with a soft-spoken, but authoritative, appearance of "expertise", covered by a veneer of upper class collegiality, deep commitment to Zionism and long-term friendships. Bernie's mega-fund shared many signs with recent high level scams: The constant high returns, unmatched by any other broker; a lack of third party oversight; a backroom accounting firm physically incapable of auditing the multi-billion dollar operation; a broker-dealer operation directly under his thumb and the total obfuscation of what he was actually investing in. The obvious similarity of signs with other fraudsters were overlooked by the rich and famous, the sophisticated investors and high paid consultants, the Harvard MBA's and the entire army of regulators from the Security and Exchange Commissions (SEC) because they were totally embedded in the corrupt culture of "take the money and run" and "if you're making it, don't ask questions." The reputation of the superior wisdom of a seemingly successful Jewish Wall Streeter fed into the self-delusions of the wealthy and the stereotypes held by millionaire Gentiles. The Big Swindle Madoff's investment fund only dealt with a limited clientele of multi-millionaire and billionaires who kept their funds in for the long haul; the occasional withdrawals were limited in amount and were easily covered by soliciting new funds from new investors fighting to have access to Madoff's money management. The long-term big investors looked toward passing their investments to their kin or eventual retirement. The wealthy lawyers, dentists, surgeons, distinguished Ivy league professors and others who might need to draw from their funds for an occasional fancy wedding or celebrity-studded bar-mitzvah, could draw from their funds because Madoff had no problem covering the withdrawal by attracting funds from rich owners of sweat shop garment factories, dangerous meat packing outfits and slumlords. Madoff was no Robin Hood, his philanthropic and charity contributions facilitated access to the rich and wealthy who served on the boards of the recipient institutions and proved that he was "one of them" a kind of super-rich "intimate" of the same elite class. The shock, awe and heart attacks that followed Madoff's confession that he was "running a Ponzi scheme" drew as much anger for the money lost and the fall from the moneyed class as for the embarrassment of knowing that the world's biggest exploiters and smartest swindlers on Wall Street, were completely "taken" by one of their own. Not only did they suffer big losses but their self-image of themselves as rich because they are so smart and of "superior stock" was utterly shattered: They saw themselves as suffering the same fate as all the schmucks they had previously swindled, exploited and dispossessed in their climb to the top. There is nothing worse for the ego of a respectable swindler than to be trumped by a bigger swindler. As a result, a number of the biggest losers have so far refused to give their names or the amount they lost, working instead through lawyers fighting off other losers. The Positive Side of Madoff's Mega-Swindle (The Inadvertent Hand of Justice) While it is understandable that the super-rich and wealthy, who have lost a large portion of their retirement and investment funds are unanimous in their condemnation and cries of betrayal of trust, and the editorials of all the prestigious newspapers and weeklies have joined the chorus of moral critics, there is much to praise in Madoff's deeds, even if such praise was not at the heart of his fraudulent endeavor. It is worthwhile to list the inadvertent positive outcomes of Madoff's mega-swindle. First of all the swindle of $50 plus billion dollars may make a big dent on US Zionist funding of illegal Israeli colonial settlements in the Occupied Territories, lessen funding for AIPAC's purchase of Congressional influence and financing of propaganda campaigns in favor of a pre-emptive US military attack against Iran. Most investors will have to lower or eliminate their purchase of Israel bonds, which subsidize the Jewish State's military budget. Second, the swindle has further discredited the highly speculative hedge funds already reeling from massive withdrawals because of deep losses. Madoff's funds were one of the last "respected" operations still drawing new investors, but with the latest revelations it may accelerate their demise. The dismissed promoters may finally have to perform an honest, productive day's work. Third, Madoff's long-term, large-scale fraud was not detected by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) despite its claims of at least two investigations. As a result, there is a total loss of credibility. More generally, the SEC's failure demonstrates the incapacity of capitalist government regulatory agencies to detect mega frauds. This failure raises the question of whether alternatives to investing in Wall Street are better suited to protect savings and pension funds. Fourth, Madoff.s long-term association with NASDAQ, including his chairmanship, while he was defrauding his clients of billions, strongly suggests that the members and leaders of this stock exchange are incapable of recognizing a crook, and are prone to overlook felonious behavior of "one of their own". In other words, the investing public can no longer look to holders of high posts in NASDAQ as a sign of probity. After Madoff, it may signal time to look for a king-size mattress for safe keeping of what remains of a family's wealth. The fifth point is that the investment advisors from top banks in Europe, Asia and the US managing billions of funds did not carry out the most elementary due diligence of Madoff's operation. Apart from severe bank losses, tens of thousands of influential, affluent and super-rich lost their entire accumulated wealth. The result is total loss of confidence in the leading banks and financial instruments as well as the general discrediting of "expert knowledge". The result is a weakening of the financial stranglehold over investor behavior and the demise of an important sector of the parasitic "rentier" class, which gains without producing any useful commodities or providing needed services. The sixth point is that since most of the money stolen by Madoff came from the upper classes around the world, his behavior has reduced inequalities - he is the "greatest leveler" since the introduction of the progressive income tax. By ruining billionaires and bankrupting millionaires, Madoff has lessened their capacity to use their wealth to influence politicians in their favor - thus increasing the potential political influence of the less affluent sectors of class society - and inadvertently strengthening democracy against the financial oligarchs. A seventh point can be made that by swindling life-long friends, self-same ethno-religious investors, narrow ethnically defined country club members and close family members, Madoff demonstrates that finance capital shows no respect for any of the pieties of everyday life: Great and small, holy and profane, all are subordinated to the rule of capital. Eighth, among the many ruined investors in New York and New England, there are a number of mega slumlords (real estate moguls), sweatshop owners (fancy name-brand clothes and toy manufacturers) and others who barely paid the minimum wage to their women and immigrant laborers, evicted poor tenants and swindled employees out of their pensions before moving their operations to China. In other words, Madoff's swindle was a kind of secular "divine" retribution for past and present crimes against labor and the poor. Needless to say, this "unconscious Robin Hood" did not redistribute the money fleeced from the employers to their workers, he reinvested part of it in charities which enhanced his philanthropic image and to payout to some of his early investors so sustain the overall Ponzi scam. Point number nine is that Madoff struck a severe blow against anti-Semites who claim that there is a "close-knit Jewish conspiracy to defraud the Gentiles", laying that canard to rest once and for all. Among Bernard Madoff's principle victims were his closest Jewish friends and colleagues, people who shared Seder meals and frequented the same upscale temples in Long Island and Palm Beach. Bernie was discriminating in accepting clients, but it was on the basis of their wealth and not their national origin, race, religion or sexual preference. He was very ecumenical and a strong backer of globalization. There was nothing ethnocentric about Madoff: He defrauded the Anglo-Chinese bank HSBC of $1 billion dollars and several billions from the Dutch arm of the Belgian bank Fortes. $1.4 billion was from the Royal Bank of Scotland, the French bank BNP Paribas, the Spanish bank, Banco Santander, the Japanese Nomura; not to mention hedge funds in London and the US, which have admitted holdings in Bernard Madoff Investment Securities. Indeed Bernie was emblematic of the modern up-to-date, politically correct, multicultural, international...swindler. The ease with which the super rich of Europe forked their fortunes over caused one Madrid-based business consultant to observe that, "picking off Spain's wealthiest was like clubbing seals". (Financial Times, December 18, 2008 p.16) The tenth point is that Madoff's swindle will likely promote greater self-criticism and a more distrustful attitude toward other potential confidence people posing as reliable financial know-it-alls. Among self-critical Jews, they are less likely to confide in brokers simply because they are zealous backers of Israel and generous contributors to Zionist fund drives. That is no longer an adequate guarantee of ethical behavior and a certificate of good conduct. In fact it may raise suspicion of brokers who are excessively ardent boosters of Israel and promise consistent high returns to local Zionist affiliates - asking themselves whether this business about "what is good for the ..." is really a cover for another scam. The final and 11th point is the demise of Madoff's enterprise and his wealthy liberal Jewish victims will adversely affect contributions to the 52 Major Jewish American Organizations, numerous foundations in Boston, Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere, as well as the Clinton/Schumer militarist wing of the Democratic Party (Madoff bankrolled both of them as well as other unconditional Congressional supporters of Israel). This may open Congress to greater debate on Middle East policy without the usual high volume attacks. Conclusion Madoff's swindle and fraudulent behavior is not the result of a personal moral failure. It is the product of a systemic imperative and the economic culture, which informs the highest circles of our class structure. The paper economy, hedge funds and all the "sophisticated financial instruments" are all "Ponzi schemes" - they are not based on producing and selling goods and services. They are financial bets on future financial paper growth based on securing future buyers to pay off earlier cash ins. The "failure" of the SEC is totally predictable and systemic: The regulators are selected from the regulatees, are beholden to them and defer to their judgments, claims and audit sheets. They are structured to "miss the signs" and to avoid "over-regulating" their financial superiors. Madoff operated in a milieu of a Wall Street where everything goes, where impunity for mega-bailouts for mega swindlers is the norm. As an individual swindler, he out-defrauded some of his bigger institutional competitors on the Street. The whole system of rewards and prestige goes to those best able to juggle the books, to cover the paper trails and who have willing victims begging to get fleeced. What a mensch, this Madoff! In a few days, one individual, Bernard Madoff, has struck a bigger blow against global financial capital, Wall Street and the US Zionist Lobby/Israel-First Agenda than the entire US and European left combined over the past half century! He has been more successful in reducing vast wealth disparities in New York than all the white, black, Christian and Jewish, reform and mainline Democratic and Republican governors and Mayors over the past two centuries. Some right-wing conspiracy theorists are claiming that Bernie is a secret Islamic-Palestinian agent (from Hamas) who set out to deliberately undermine the financial base of the Jewish State of Israel and its most powerful, affluent and generous US backers and foundations. Others claim that he is a closet Marxist whose swindles were carefully designed to discredit Wall Street and to funnel billions into clandestine radical organizations - after all - does anyone know where the lost billions have gone? Unlike the leftist pundits, bloggers and protest marchers, whose earnest and public activities have had no effect on the rich and powerful, Madoff has aimed his blows where it hurts the most: Their mega-bank accounts, their confidence in the capitalist system, their self-esteem and, yes, even their cardiac well-being. Does that mean we on the left should form a Bernie Madoff Defense Committee and call for a bailout in line with Paulson's bailout of his Citibank cronies? Should we proclaim "Equal bailout for equal swindlers!"? Should we advocate his flight (or his right of return) to Israel to avoid a trial? It might not fly with his many Jewish victims to make the case for an Israeli retirement for Bernie. There is no reason to mount the barricades for Bernard Madoff. It's enough to recognize that he has inadvertently rendered an historic service to popular justice by undermining some of the financial props of a class-ridden injustice system. Postscript Was it out of sheer admiration or because of some covert linkages with Madoff that our current Attorney General Michael Mukasey is removing himself from the investigation? Others of equal importance and influence are most certainly tied in the Madoff Affair, and not just the "victims". We are facing a serious case of matters of State ... No one can believe that a single person could by himself pull off a scam of this size and duration. Nor can any serious investigator believe that $50 billion dollars has simply "disappeared" or been squirreled into personal accounts. James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras' most recent book is Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power (Clarity Press, 2008). He can be reached at: jpetras [at] binghamton.edu. --------12 of 13-------- --------------- stop hoping start hopping --------------- --------13 of 13-------- Fire Works For the first hundred days let one hundred fires bloom let one hundred Bama parts feet fingers elbows knees be held to the flames enveloped in the flames purified by the flames no pain no gain For the second hundred days let two hundred fires bloom ... For the third hundred days ... ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8
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