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Jim Hightower - Whining Wall Street banker pleads for pity

J.P. Morgan was recently socked in the wallet by financial regulators who levied yet another multi-billion dollar fine against the Wall Street baron for massive illegalities.

Well, not a fine against John Pierpont Morgan, the man. This 19th-century robber baron was born to a great banking fortune and, by hook and crook, leveraged it to become the "King of American Finance." During the Gilded Age, Morgan cornered the U.S. financial markets, gained monopoly ownership of railroads, amassed a vast supply of the nation's gold and used his investment power to create U.S. Steel and take control of that market.

From his earliest days in high finance, Morgan was a hustler who often traded on the shady side. In the Civil War, for example, his family bought his way out of military duty, but he saw another way to serve. Himself, that is. Morgan bought defective rifles for $3.50 each and sold them to a Union general for $22 each. The rifles blew off soldiers' thumbs, but Morgan pleaded ignorance, and government investigators graciously absolved the young, wealthy, well-connected financier of any fault.

That seems to have set a pattern for his lifetime of antitrust violations, union busting and other over-the-edge profiteering practices. He drew numerous official charges — but of course, he never did any jail time.

Moving the clock forward, we come to JPMorgan Chase, today's financial powerhouse bearing J.P.'s name. The bank also inherited his pattern of committing multiple illegalities — and walking away scot-free.

Oh, sure, the bank was hit with big fines, but not a single one of the top bankers who committed gross wrongdoings were charged or even fired — much less sent to jail.

With this long history of crime-does-pay for America's largest Wall Street empire, you have to wonder why Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan's CEO, is so P.O.'d. He's fed up to the tippy-top of his $100 haircut with all of this populistic attitude that's sweeping the country, and he's not going to take it anymore!
Dimon recently bleated to reporters that, "Banks are under assault." Well, he really doesn't mean or care about most banks — just his bank. Government regulators, snarls Jamie, are pandering to grassroots populist anger at Wall Street excesses by squeezing the life out of the JP Morgan casino.

But wait — didn't JPMorgan score a $22 billion profit last year, a 20 percent increase over 2013 and the highest in its history? And didn't those Big Bad Oppressive Government Regulators provide a $25 billion taxpayer bailout in 2008 to save Jamie's conglomerate from its own reckless excess? And isn't his Wall Street Highness raking in some $20 million in personal pay to suffer the indignity of this "assault" on his bank. Yes, yes and yes.

Still, Jamie says that regulators and bank industry analysts are piling on JPMorgan Chase: "In the old days," he whined, "you dealt with one regulator when you had an issue. Now it's five or six. You should all ask the question about how American that is," the $20-million-a-year man lectured reporters, "how fair that is."

Well, golly, one reason Chase has half a dozen regulators on its case is because it doesn't have "an issue" of illegality, but beaucoup illegalities, including deceiving its own investors, cheating more than two million of its credit card customers, gaming the rules to overcharge electricity users in California and the Midwest, overcharging active-duty military families on their mortgages, illegally foreclosing on troubled homeowners and ... well, so much more.

So Jamie, you should ask yourself the question about "how fair" is all of the above. Then you should shut up, count your millions and be grateful you're not in jail.

From John Pierpont Morgan to Jamie Dimon, the legacy continues. Banks don't commit crimes. Bankers do. And they won't ever stop if they don't have to pay for their crimes.

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 January 2015 11:28

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Pat Buchanan - Against terrorism but for what? - 856

Following the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that France "is at war with terrorism, jihadism and radical Islamism." This tells us what France is fighting against.

But what is France fighting for in this war on terror? For terrorism is simply a tactic, and arguably the most effective tactic of the national liberation movements of the 20th century.

Terrorism was used by the Irgun to drive the British out of Palestine and by the Mau Mau to run them out of Kenya. Terrorism, blowing up movie theaters and cafes, was the tactic the FLN used to drive the French out of Algeria.

The FALN tried to assassinate Harry Truman in 1950 at Blair House, shot up the House of Representatives in 1954, and, in 1975, blew up Fraunces Tavern in New York where Washington had bid his officers farewell. The FALN goal: Independence from a United States that had annexed Puerto Rico as the spoils of war in its victory over Spain.

What did the FLN, FALN, Mau Mau, Irgun and Mandela's ANC have in common? All sought the expulsion of alien rule. All sought nations of their own. All used terrorism for the same ends as Uighurs do in China and Chechens do in the Caucasus.

Osama bin Laden, in his declaration of war upon us, listed as his casus belli the presence on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia of U.S. troops and their "temple prostitutes." He wanted us out of his country.

What are Valls' terrorists, jihadists and radical Islamists fighting for? What are the goals of ISIS and al-Qaida, Boko Haram and Ansar al-Sharia, the Taliban and al-Shabab?

All want our troops, our alien culture and our infidel faith out of their lands. All seek the overthrow of regimes that collaborate with us. And all wish to establish regimes that comport with the commands of the Prophet.

This is what they are recruiting for, killing for, dying for. We abhor their terror tactics and deplore their aims, but they know what they are fighting for. What are we fighting for?

What is our vision that will inspire Muslim masses to rise up, battle alongside us, and die fighting Islamists? What future do we envision for the Middle East? And are we willing to pay the price to achieve it?

Comes the reply: America is fighting, as always, for democracy, freedom and the right of peoples to rule themselves.

But are we? If democracy is our goal, why did we not recognize the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, or of Hezbollah in Lebanon? Why did we condone the overthrow of the elected regime of Mohammad Morsi in Egypt? Why do we not demand democracy in Saudi Arabia?

But hypocrisy is the least of our problems. The real problem is that hundreds of millions of Muslims reject our values. They do not believe all religions are equal. They do not believe in freedom of speech or the press to blaspheme the Prophet. Majorities in many Islamic countries believe adulterers, apostates, and converts to Christianity should be lashed, stoned and beheaded.
In surveys, the Muslim world not only rejects our presence and puppets, but also our culture and beliefs. In a free referendum they would vote to throw us out of the region and throw the Israelis into the sea.

For many in the Mideast collaboration with America is a betrayal. And our presence spawns more terrorists than our drones can kill.

This week Valls conceded there are "two Frances," adding, "A territorial, social, ethnic apartheid has spread across our country."

Have her five million Muslims become an indigestible minority that imperils the survival of France? Have France and Europe embraced a diversity more malignant than benign, possibly leading to a future like the recent past in Palestine, Cyprus, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Ukraine?

T. S. Eliot said, to defeat a religion, you need a religion.

We have no religion; we have an ideology — secular democracy. But the Muslim world rejects secularism and will use democracy to free itself of us and establish regimes that please Allah.

In the struggle between democracy and Allah, we are children of a lesser God. "The term 'democracy,'" wrote Eliot, "does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces that you dislike — it can easily be transformed by them. If you will not have God ... you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin."

Germany used democracy to bring Hitler to power. Given free elections from Morocco to Mindanao, what kind of regimes would rise to power? Would not the Quran become the basis of law?

If Charlie Hebdo were a man, not a magazine, he would be torn to pieces in any Middle East nation into which he ventured. And what does a mindless West offer as the apotheosis of democracy?

Four million French marching under the banner "Je Suis Charlie."

Whom the gods would destroy ...

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 January 2015 10:05

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E. Scott Cracraft - What would Jesus do?

Many writers to the media and other pundits claim we are a "Christian" nation and that Judeo-Christian values should inform our political process. Although our Constitution is secular, it is hard to argue with those who think otherwise.
There are actually two types of religious conservatives. There are those who are simply conservative in the theology and practice. Others, however, are politically active in strong conservative movements and their theology informs their politics which in turn informs their theology.
Many think liberalism, or progressivism, are incompatible with Judeo-Christian values without realizing that many liberals and progressives are people of faith themselves. This includes a lot of Christians and Jews.
But, when one considers the values of the ultra-conservatives, it is not really a question of whether the U.S.A. is a "Christian" nation. It is more question of "are their values really Christian?" Of course, they may be orthodox on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. They may believe in the Trinity, the Resurrection, and the Virgin Birth. They may love God. But do they always show love to their neighbor?
Many of the values they espouse are far from "Judeo-Christian." Of course, if one uses "Biblical Quarterbacking" and takes different verses from different parts of the Bible out of context, one could well come to such conclusions. You can justify slavery, flogging, and patriarchy from the Bible if you want to. However, the overall message of the Christian and Jewish Bibles is one of justice, love of neighbor, and fair treatment of all human beings.
A common Christian slogan one hears is "what would Jesus do?" Of course, it is not easy to know what he would do or say in the modern age but it is interesting to think about. If we were to take the general whole of his teachings and their spirit and not take them out of context, many might find him critical of those who promote mean social policies in his name.
What WOULD Jesus do today? Would he tell a 12-year-old victim of incest that she should have her baby? Would he make a 14-year-old girl who was molested by a 40ish married man stand in front of a fundamentalist congregation in Concord and confess "her sin?" Would he cut food assistance to the poor and resist any type of health care reform? Would he support militarism or the death penalty (he did, after all, stop an execution)?
Or, would Jesus, like many extreme conservatives promote "big lies" and fear and disinformation about "death panels" and our president? Would Jesus, like such heroes of the Christian Right as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell support apartheid in South Africa and dictatorial butchers in Latin America? One might surmise that Jesus would not.
Humane and compassionate values are not just in the New Testament. The Jewish Bible has a lot to say about social justice. For example, those religious people who bash immigrants should read the commandment against oppressing "a stranger in the land". The Hebrew Prophets talked a lot about rich people who "eat up the poor".
Meanness, contempt for the poor, and other characteristics of many on the Religious Right are not "Judeo-Christian" values. While many condemn biological Darwinism, they are fine with Social Darwinism which seems contrary to the ideals of justice and mercy mentioned in the Bible. Especially disturbing is the identification of selfish libertarian values with Christianity.
One has to laugh about an interview years ago with Anton LaVey, the late High Priest of the Church of Satan. Of course, LaVey did not believe in a literal Devil but instead saw Satan as a symbol of our human selfishness. He said that his "Satanic" ideas were pretty much those of Ayn Rand! Do these Christian conservatives know she was also an atheist?
Liberals and conservatives generally support anyone's right to practice any religion as long as there is Separation of Church and State and that other people's rights are respected. There is no "war on Christianity" as some maintain. However, many are concerned when meanness, hate, fear, and anger are masked by religion.
(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, taxpayer, veteran, and resident of Gilford. He is not a professional theologian.)

Last Updated on Monday, 26 January 2015 09:11

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Froma Harrop - Stop making excuses for nonvoting millennials

The recent economic crisis hit the American middle class hard. But for the youngest adults trying to gain a foothold in the good life, it's been devastating. So why did so few millennials, the huge cohort of 18- to 29-year-olds, vote last November? Only 21 percent bothered.

Let's dispense with the excuse that they don't feel their elected government cares about them. You don't get served till you enter the restaurant.

The result of this passivity may soon be apparent. President Obama has issued proposals to restart the middle-class escalator in ways that would be especially helpful to millennials. They include free tuition to community college, expanded tax credits for child care and a tax break for middle-income working couples.

Because these things would be paid for with higher taxes on the very rich, many will be a tough sell to the expanded Republican majority. As we know, the conservative electoral gains were a gift from older voters, who turned out in relatively high numbers.

Many of these folks spend their leisure hours marinating in the glow of Fox News Channel, where they are told what exemplary Americans they are and how younger people without jobs or savings are basically bums. The median age of the Fox News viewer is almost 69. For Bill O'Reilly's show, it is 72.

Give these older conservatives credit. Their sense that government doesn't care about them is precisely a reason they vote. They vote whether they like or dislike the president. They vote if it's raining. In sum, they are doing what they're supposed to do. Vote.

Much blame for the voting age gap belongs with the various spokesmen purporting to represent the young, generally progressive electorate. They often sympathize with the group's reasons for not voting rather than telling them to toughen up and dive in.

I wish the TV comics dishing out news kibbles amid the bleeped-out F-words would stop telling the kids not to trust anyone, above all the traditional media. The traditional news media, for all their warts, remain a last holdout for grown-up coverage. Actually, serious government reporting, once you start following it, can be fascinating. Toilet jokes not needed.
This trashing of the more reliable sources drowns news consumers in the chaos of social media, where well-written lies and propaganda swirl among the honest reporting. Ironically, the older folks still read the newspaper, even as they often curse its viewpoints.

A poll of millennials conducted last spring by the Harvard Institute of Politics blamed decisions not to vote on a "decrease in trust" in government institutions and a rise in cynicism. Really? Few distrust government more than the older tea party folks, who correctly see the voting booth as the remedy for their discontent. They understand that you end up voting for the preferable of two choices, not perfection.

The younger voters, the Harvard pollster went on, "need to feel like they're making a difference."

The most obvious way to make a difference would be to vote, would it not? And by the way, it's truly cracked logic to say that once good leaders magically get themselves elected, we'll start voting for them.

There are two coherent ways to deal with unworthy politicians. One is to throw them out of office — or keep them out — through one's vote. The other is to submit to them and not vote.

Too many young Americans choose the submission route. Should the conservative Congress shoot down proposals to help them advance economically, they'll see the price of going limp.

The politically powerful know they need only one reason to vote: It's Election Day.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Pat Buchanan - Selma, 50 years on

On Martin Luther King Day, 2015, how stand race relations in America?

"Selma," a film focused on the police clubbing of civil rights marchers led by Dr. King at Selma bridge in March of 1965, is being denounced by Democrats as a cinematic slander against the president who passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In the movie, King is portrayed as decisive and heroic, LBJ as devious and dilatory. And no member of the "Selma" cast has been nominated for an Academy Award. All 20 of the actors and actresses nominated are white. Hollywood is like the Rocky Mountains, says Rev. Al Sharpton, the higher up you go the whiter it gets.

Even before the "Selma" dustup, the hacking of Sony Pictures had unearthed e-mails between studio chief Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin yukking it up over President Obama's reputed preference for films like "Django Unchained," "12 Years a Slave" and "The Butler." "Racism in Hollywood!" ran the headlines.

Pascal went to Rev. Sharpton to seek absolution, which could prove expensive. Following a 90-minute meeting, Al tweeted that he had had a "very pointed and blunt exchange" with Pascal, that her e-mails reveal a "cultural blindness," that Hollywood has to change, and that Pascal has "committed to this."

These cultural-social spats — LBJ loyalists vs. the "Selma" folks, Sharpton vs. Hollywood — are tiffs within the liberal encampment, and matters of amusement in Middle America. More serious have been the months-long protests against police, following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner on Staten Island, some of which have featured chants like, "What do we want? Dead Cops!"

The protests climaxed with the execution in Bedford-Stuyvesant of two NYPD cops by a career criminal taking revenge for Garner and Brown.

Race relations today seem in some ways more poisonous than in 1965, when there were vast deposits of goodwill and LBJ pushed through the Voting Rights Act easily, 77-19 in the Senate and 328-74 in the House. Only two Republican Senators voted against the VRA.

But not a week after LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act, the Watts section of Los Angeles exploded in one of the worst race riots in U.S. history. After seven days of pillage and arson, there were 34 dead, 1,000 injured, 3,000 arrested, and a thousand buildings damaged or destroyed. The era of marching for civil rights was over and the era of Black Power, with Stokely Carmichael, Rap Brown and The Black Panthers eclipsing King, had begun.

In July 1967, there were riots in Newark and Detroit that rivaled Watts in destruction. After Dr. King's murder in Memphis in April of 1968, riots broke out in 100 more cities, including Washington, D.C. By Oct. 1, the nominee of the Democratic Party, civil rights champion Hubert Humphrey, stood at 28 percent in the Gallup poll, only 7 points ahead of Gov. George Wallace.

Though Nixon won narrowly, the Great Society endured. And in the half-century since, trillions have been spent on food stamps, housing subsidies, Head Start, student loans, Pell Grants, welfare, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and other programs.

How did it all work out?

Undeniably, the civil right laws succeeded. Discrimination in hotels and restaurants is nonexistent. African-Americans voted in 2012 in higher percentages than white Americans. There are more black public officials in Mississippi than in any other state. In sports, entertainment, journalism, government, medicine, business, politics, and the arts, blacks may be found everywhere.

Yet the pathology of the old urban ghetto has not disappeared. In some ways, it has gotten much worse. Crime in the black community is still seven times what it is in the white community. Test scores of black students remain far below those of Asian and white students. While 40 percent of all infants are born to single moms, the illegitimacy rate in black America is over 70 percent. Whether it is dropout rates, drug use rates, delinquency rates or incarceration rates, the rates for blacks far exceed those of white and Asian-Americans, and of immigrants and Hispanics.

White households have a median family income below that of Asians, but far above that of black Americans. White households have on average $143,000 in wealth in stocks, bonds, home equity and other assets, 13 times that of the average black household.

At Howard University in 1965, LBJ declared, "We seek ... not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and equality as a result."

"Equality as a result"?

Measured by the average incomes and wealth of Asians and whites and Hispanics and blacks, we have failed. And income inequality is back again, as issue No. 1.

After 50 years of affirmative action and the greatest wealth transfers in human history, "equality as a fact" has not been achieved and will not be, absent a greater seizure of power by the U.S. government and larger and virtually endless transfers of wealth.

The reports of Karl Marx's death have been greatly exaggerated.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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