28 December, 2011

Audit Reveals Federal Reserve Gave $16 Trillion in Secret Bailouts

By Jorge Reyes

The first ever GAO (Government Accountability Office) audit of the Federal Reserve was carried out in the past few months due to the Ron Paul, Alan Grayson Amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill, which passed last year. Jim DeMint, a Republican Senator, and Bernie Sanders, an independent Senator, led the charge for a Federal Reserve audit in the Senate, but watered down the original language of the house bill (HR1207), so that a complete audit would not be carried out.  Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and various other bankers vehemently opposed the audit and lied to Congress about the effects an audit would have on markets. Nevertheless, the results of the first audit in the Federal Reserve’s nearly 100 year history were posted on Senator Sander’s webpage earlier this morning: http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=9e2a4ea8-6e73-4be2-a753-62060dcbb3c3

What was revealed in the audit was startling: $16,000,000,000,000.00 had been secretly given out to US banks and corporations and foreign banks everywhere from France to Scotland. From the period between December 2007 and June 2010, the Federal Reserve had secretly bailed out many of the world’s banks, corporations, and governments. The Federal Reserve likes to refer to these secret bailouts as an all-inclusive loan program, but virtually none of the money has been returned and it was loaned out at 0% interest. Why the Federal Reserve had never been public about this or even informed the United States Congress about the $16 trillion dollar bailout is obvious — the American public would have been outraged to find out that the Federal Reserve bailed out foreign banks while Americans were struggling to find jobs.

To place $16 trillion into perspective, remember that GDP of the United States is only $14.12 trillion. The entire national debt of the United States government spanning its 200+ year history is “only” $14.5 trillion. The budget that is being debated so heavily in Congress and the Senate is “only” $3.5 trillion. Take all of the outrage and debate over the $1.5 trillion deficit into consideration, and swallow this Red pill: There was no debate about whether $16,000,000,000,000 would be given to failing banks and failing corporations around the world.

In late 2008, the TARP Bailout bill was passed and loans of $800 billion were given to failing banks and companies. That was a blatant lie considering the fact that Goldman Sachs alone received 814 billion dollars. As is turns out, the Federal Reserve donated $2.5 trillion to Citigroup, while Morgan Stanley received $2.04 trillion. The Royal Bank of Scotland and Deutsche Bank, a German bank, split about a trillion and numerous other banks received hefty chunks of the $16 trillion.

“This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”
– Bernie Sanders(I-VT)

When you have conservative Republican stalwarts like Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Ron Paul (R-TX) as well as self identified Democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders all fighting against the Federal Reserve, you know that it is no longer an issue of Right versus Left. When you have every single member of the Republican Party in Congress and progressive Congressmen like Dennis Kucinich sponsoring a bill to audit the Federal Reserve, you realize that the Federal Reserve is an entity onto itself, which has no oversight and no accountability.

Americans, already losing their homes to banks that later on leave homes vacant and vandalized, losing their jobs, and losing their middle class status, should swell with anger and outrage at the abysmal state of affairs when an unelected group of bankers can create money out of thin air and give it out to megabanks and supercorporations like Halloween candy. If the Federal Reserve and the bankers who control it believe that they can continue to devalue the savings of Americans and continue to destroy the US economy, they will have to face the realization that their trillion dollar printing presses will eventually plunder the world economy.

The list of institutions that received the most money from the Federal Reserve can be found on page 131 of the GAO Audit and are as follows:

Citigroup: $2.5 trillion ($2,500,000,000,000)

Morgan Stanley: $2.04 trillion ($2,040,000,000,000)

Merrill Lynch: $1.949 trillion ($1,949,000,000,000)

Bank of America: $1.344 trillion ($1,344,000,000,000)

Barclays PLC (United Kingdom): $868 billion ($868,000,000,000)

Bear Sterns: $853 billion ($853,000,000,000)

Goldman Sachs: $814 billion ($814,000,000,000)

Royal Bank of Scotland (UK): $541 billion ($541,000,000,000)

JP Morgan Chase: $391 billion ($391,000,000,000)

Deutsche Bank (Germany): $354 billion ($354,000,000,000)

UBS (Switzerland): $287 billion ($287,000,000,000)

Credit Suisse (Switzerland): $262 billion ($262,000,000,000)

Lehman Brothers: $183 billion ($183,000,000,000)

Bank of Scotland (United Kingdom): $181 billion ($181,000,000,000)

BNP Paribas (France): $175 billion ($175,000,000,000)

View the 266-page GAO audit of the Federal Reserve(July 21st, 2011): http://www.scribd.com/doc/60553686/GAO-Fed-Investigation

Source: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-696

FULL PDF on GAO server: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11696.pdf

Senator Sander’s Article: http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=9e2a4ea8-6e73-4be2-a753-62060dcbb3c3

03 November, 2011

Equal Rights Under the Law?

By Jorge Reyes

47 years ago, most of us were satisfied with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and, not to be outdone, a year later, with the Voting Rights Act. Today, we have new challenges with new areas of civil rights law that, unfortunately, still seem to linger far behind from the evolving mores of the nation.

I am referring to one remaining example of institutionalized, government-sanctioned discrimination: The 1996 law that denies the right of marriage to same-sex couples, the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, that was passed in the heat of election-year fear and bigotry against men who want to marry other men, and women who want to marry other women. That bill was sponsored by a Republican congress and signed by then President Bill Clinton.

The law denies federal benefits to same-sex marriages. It explicitedly states that marriage is solely defined by two heterosexual couples. President Obama, who used to say his views on marriage were “evolving,” allowed his Attorney General, Eric Holder, to do what the executive branch should have done long ago and declare that Doma is unconstitutional. The administration is no longer defending Doma against legal challenges.

And today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is beginning consideration of a bill that would repeal the law. Dorothy Samuels, a reporter for a national newspaper, believes that the bill will pass the committee with the votes of all 10 Democratic members. Eight Republicans will probably vote against it, and the Democrats may not be able to muster the 60 votes needed to block a filibuster in the Senate. Prospects in the House are not so great, either.

Sadly, I feel that all of this is a pointless debate because it doesn’t even begin to address the fundamental issue at stake. All this talk of what constitutes marriage is all based on religious beliefs, none of which ought to have much sway in a secular form of government if it is just a way to express discrimination against a particular group of people.

It is far past time to disentangle the religious and the civic aspects of marriage. In such a heterogeneous, secular, and diverse society as ours, it is not the role of government to interfere in an area that is, basically, religious. And, again, that is what all these laws and regulations are all about: religious in nature. True equality in a democracy ought to emphasize equality before the law, not have an oligarchical system pick and choose what is right for some based on some historical misreading of our founding principles.

The only way to ensure true marriage equality is to remove the ability of churches to give its blessing on the legality on any matter that is of a civil nature, such as marriage and family. There are other hot button issues which are all religious in nature, of course. If that continues to happen indiscriminately, we will find ourselves no different from other countries that base their government on a god.

The role of drafting laws or ordinances is reserved to the government, federal, state, or local, not a church. Couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be able to marry and their avowals, civil or religious, ought to be respected and encouraged. If they so choose, they can then seek the religious (non-legal) blessing of their church, or mosque or synagogue. But that is only a choice, which is a personal matter that should not concern any of us.

Otherwise we really are no different from noxious laws that, though on principle were equal under the law, were on principle second class citizens. We have had plenty of those throughout our history. Let us not go down that path again.

25 June, 2011

Tot Mom Drama: the Casey Anthony trial

By Jorge Reyes

Lately, the news media on TV, the Internet and the blogosphere is filled with news about Casey Anthony, the Orlando tot mom accused of killing in 2008 her two year old daughter, Caley Marie Anthony.

Interesting enough, every time I read something about it in an opinion page there is the almost immediate apology from the writer, a sort of mea culpa for being so riveted by this court drama. I must say I have also become a daily fan of the Anthony dysfunction, which is broadcast live on HLN every day, and then continues throughout the rest of the night. I recently caught myself flipping through HLN and CNN Anderson Cooper just to make sure I was not missing anything.

My own fascination was something of a mistake. When the trial started, I tried to give it but a passive glance on TV and then tried to go about my business. That is what I did with the OJ Simpson trial more than a decade ago.  Little by little, though, this time around I became fascinated by tot mom, to paraphrase Nancy Grace.

What does this say about how we, as a culture, respond to the dark side within us, a dark side that seem to be so gratified by the tragedy of the death, or murder, of an innocent two year old.

Not sure how to answer that question.

I think that some of the answer lies in the fact that this is uncanny, cognitively senseless. Unlike what some TV commentators have said, I don’t think Cindy Anthony is a sociopath or suffering from some deep seated mental disorder. I think she is as normal as you and me. I also equally believe she is gloating in her five minutes of fame.

But these are some of the facts, and it is a circus show.

Casey Anthony, a beautiful 25 year old party girl, who had a daughter out of wedlock, seems to have been a loving mom, but who also had a love hate relationship with her own mom, Cindy Anthony, the woman who just days earlier blamed herself for having done some of those sinister google search, like "chloroform". She denied having searched "shovel", though she remembers seeing a pop up about "neck breaking" feat on youtube. Casey, a liar who knows no bounds and who is very good at convincing people of them. Then there is her brother, Lee, who breaks down in the witness stand admonishing himself for having failed the little girl as an uncle. There are many secrets in this family, and none of it makes much sense unless to me. When the patriarch of the family, George, testifies he seems to be on the defensive. At the beginning of the trial it was hinted that this death was a freakish accident, that the little girl drowned in the family pool, something everyone in the family knew about.

Let us not forget the equally bizarre jinx of those waiting outside the courtroom waiting and hoping to be one of the lucky few to get a ticket into the trial. I suppose that accused murderers have replaced singers and sports players as icons. Forget about a Madonna concert, a murder trial is the only thing that seems to rid ourselves of our ennui. Don’t any of these people work? I have a friend in Italy that follows the live trial everyday. I even have a friend who confessed to me that he wanted to write a letter to Casey Anthony in jail hoping for a reply. He was hoping to sell the letter at auction.

While all of this is going on, there are even Anthony family mementos being sold online, mainly on EBAY. Recently, a baseball signed "Jesus Loves You, Cindy Anthony", sold for about $250.00.

This entire trial is a modern day tragedy. It reeks of decomposition, from which one day we are told it is the smell of a dead body and the next that it is the smell of pizza. What a show. No wonder we are all riveted by this. It is a trial filled with lies, betrayals, hints of incest, murder. Shakespeare could have done no better.

When I stare at the glassy eyed face of Casey Anthony, I see a void within as much as the void that exists in our society, me included. Lest we forget, this is not about a dysfunctional, circus like atmosphere of a family at odds with itself. This is about the life of a little girl who, no matter how she died and I doubt it if any of us will ever find out the truth, had her life tragically taken away from her by the negligence of a mother who, ironically, tattood on her shoulders bella vita, beautiful life in Italian, when her daughter was dead. Bella vita, yes, something Caley Anthony will never know.

07 May, 2011

President Obama did what none of his predecessors could accomplish, and without waterboarding.

by Jorge Reyes

A lot of right wing ideologues are infuriated, to say the least, at the fact that it was a center to left President who successfully sent the order to murder America's Public Enemy No. 1, Osama bin Laden. As a refresher, we must never forget that one of the many ironies of this same President who signed an executive order clearing the way to ban interrogation techniques of detainees in Guatanamo. Those interrogation techniques had been a hallmark of the Bush administration's war on terror. In fact, it was a program perversely relished by the political right at all levels.  Ex President George W. Bush is nowhere to be found these days. According to what his wife Laura to a news outlet, he just wants to enjoy the fruits of a private citizen. Good riddance, really. He was, by far, the most idiotic President we have ever had.

Regardless of this, key figures from Bush's administration are claiming that most of this victory is theirs too. After all, they were bold enough to inflict waterboarding and other harsh methods on helpless prisoners.

Dick Cheney, a man I have never been able to stand, told some media outlets that "it wouldn't be surprising" if the enhanced interrogation program put in place during "our first term" produced results that contributed to its success. Some of Bush's closest political advisers, joined the fray too. According to them, it is very clear that enhanced interrogation helped "create an environment that gave rise to this information."

What these men conveniently don't mention is they were also part of an administration that let bin Laden slip out of the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan and eventually find refuge in Abbottabad, Pakistan, living it off in a million dollar compound and not in a cave as it was assumed. Like most and much of what that Bush dude did, it was up to Obama to clean up the mess, which includes a war in Iraq, an economy on the brink of a depression, and our standing with the international community. Further, they also left us an extremely bloated bureaucracy, Homeland Security, estimated to have cost us more than a trillion dollars. All in the spirit, of course, to fight terror. Along the way, many of our civil liberties went to hell, too. But as it is, we already live in a police state. We just dont want to admit it.

What is left in much of these discussions is the fact that brutal interrogation methods had very little to do with the capturing of bin Laden. The key to locating bin Laden was to find his trusted courier, a man with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Glenn Carle, a retired CIA officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee, told the New York Times that coercive techniques "didn't provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information" and most of his colleagues felt it was "un-American and did not work."

For a country that wants to be a beacon of morality, admonishing other nation states when they are failing to do the same, it is one of the strangest twists of fate that we seem to legitimize torture, when need be, when desired, when it is part of our national interest, which in this day and age means just about anything.

Obama achieved his mission accompkished not by continuing on the same habit of his predecessors. He did their unfinished work without adopting any of their methods. That's something to think about, at a time when everyone is now claiming victory for a job well done.

01 May, 2011

"The Standing Babas" in the novel Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

By Jorge Reyes

I am reading an almost 1,000 page novel titled Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. The basic plot of the book, loosely based on the author's own life, is about a man who escapes from prison in Australia (where he was serving a 19-year sentence for armed robbery, which he committed to maintain his heroin addiction) before fleeing to India. By fleeing, he in essence becomes a lifelong fugitive. In India, among many things, he reinvents himself and becomes a "doctor" for people living in a Bombay slum of twenty five thousand families.

The novel, full of amazing stories within stories, describes a religious sect known as the Standing Babas, who have vowed to remain standing for many years. Here's a quote from the book about them.

''Bajrang Das, a 'standing' baba, who never sits down, day and night. He sleeps standing too, hanging over this swing. A metal chastity belt covers his genitals.

''A ‘standing’ Baba, who is called khareshwari, has taken the vow not to sit or lie down for twelve years. He may rest one leg by hanging it in the sling under his swing. It is a painful austerity: the swollen legs and feet tend to develop persistent ulcers.

''Khareshwaris may walk about, but usually just hang in their swing in their corner -- and stand.''

I have yet to finish reading this beautifully crafted and complex novel. But thinking that the standing babas was a fictional ploy, I researched them online and to my even greater disbelief I discovered that the standing babas are real.

As I quoted above, members of this religious group actually make a vow never to sit, not even to sleep. They stand for a specified number of years, 12 years seems to be the target, or they commit themselves never to sit for the remaining of their lives.  To read that particular chapter on the standing babas is to almost to feel the pain and misery these people must endure for their religious beliefs.