The Stakes Are Huge: There’s Another Bank Crash Looming, and We Must Prevent Another Bailout

From Alternet:

The housing bubble plus the worst recession since the Great Depression has created a foreclosure crisis of gargantuan proportions.

By Mike Lux

January 14, 2011

Everything I am reading these days on financial issues points to some serious reckoning soon to come, especially because of — as the folks at Third Way are calling it — foreclosure-gate. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling in the Ibanez case, along with a growing body of cases where the banks and/or their servicers have been ruled against in foreclosure cases, and even the banks’ lawyers are being castigated in court by judges for bringing in made-up paperwork, is causing a growing sense of panic among the biggest banks that hold the most mortgages. Spokespeople for the banks are talking bravely, trying to dismiss the situation as some minor paperwork errors, but everyone who has been paying attention to the situation fears that there are really big consequences afoot.

The plain fact is that over the last decade, in their overwhelming rush to make bigger and bigger profits from trading in the bubble-driven real estate securities market, the banks ran roughshod over the home mortgage and title system that had served this country (and England and many others) quite well for hundreds of years — and they made a serious mess of it. Because of the way these mortgages have been sliced and diced and sold into complicated securities, homeowners, judges, and the banks themselves are having quite a bit of trouble figuring out who actually owns the note in more cases than is easy to believe. The “paperwork” — figuring out who owns the note – is not just a little messed up, it is a disaster area.

This wouldn’t be as big a deal except that the combination of the housing bubble itself plus the worst recession since the Great Depression (caused in great part by that bubble) has created a foreclosure crisis of gargantuan proportions. Millions of homeowners are in foreclosure proceedings, millions more underwater because of the collapse of housing prices. And because the banks have cooked their books, not wanting all these toxic assets to wreak havoc with their official valuation and their stock prices, they have no interest in helping homeowners stay in their homes by writing down these mortgages to current market levels. So banks are moving to foreclose these millions of homes, but they can’t prove to judges that they even own the notes that would allow them to foreclose. Thus you have robo-signers, falsified affidavits, and all kinds of strange things being presented to judges in courts. The judges who are not bought and paid for by the banks are raising big red flags about all this, and thus you have cases like Ibanez going against the banks.

This is a mess not just for the housing market but for the entire economy, as the numbers on all this are staggering, and the housing market really does have the potential to just completely freeze up, which would be an economic nightmare. Our economy has no chance of getting dramatically better until the housing market starts moving again. So the banks are now going to their political allies, just like they did in 2008, and telling them: unless you save us from the mess that we’ve created (oh, wait, they don’t use those last four words, instead it’s the unforeseeable “perfect storm”, “black swan” thing), we will go under and take the entire economy down with us. The good news for the banks is they are not necessarily looking for a cash handout this time – although it may come to that – but just some legal “tweaking” of this “minor paperwork problem.”

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Opponents to fracking disclosure take big money from industry

From Pro Publica:

by Abrahm Lustgarten
ProPublica, Jan. 14, 2011

Congress isn’t going to regulate hydraulic fracturing any time soon. But the Department of Interior might. [2] For starters, Interior is mulling whether it should require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they use to frack wells drilled on public lands, and already the suggestion has earned Interior Secretary Ken Salazar an earful.

On January 5, a bipartisan group of 32 members of Congress, who belong to the Natural Gas Caucus, sent Salazar a letter imploring [3] him to resist a hasty decision because more regulations would “increase energy costs for consumers, suppress job creation in a promising energy sector, and hinder our nation’s ability to become more energy independent.”

A week later, 46 House Democrats followed up by signing a letter to Salazar [4] urging him to at least adopt the disclosure requirement because, as Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., said, “communities across America have seen their water contaminated by the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.”

“The public has a right to know what toxins might be going into the ground near their communities, and what might be leaking into their drinking water,” said the letter [4], which was sent by the three initial sponsors of now-stalled legislation to regulate fracturing, Hinchey, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

In the context of today’s roiling political and energy debates, it’s not at all clear who will win. But if money is an indicator, the anti-regulatory group has the upper hand.

A back-of-the-envelope analysis of campaign finance dollars contributed to the members of Congress who are speaking out on the issue shows that the Natural Gas Caucus received 19 times more money from the oil and gas industry between 2009 and 2010 [5] than the group who signed Rep. Hinchey’s letter. According to data from Open Secrets, the 32 members against disclosure received $1,742,572. The average contribution from the oil and gas sector to individuals from that group was $54,455. Oklahoma Democrat Dan Boren, who co-chairs the caucus, personally received more than $202,000, including almost $15,000 from Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest natural gas producers in the United States.

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Is There A Threat of Fascism in the USA?

From Op-Ed News:

Does Fascism Lurk Around The Corner In The USA?

By Danny Schechter

January 11, 2011

Fascism is one of those words that sounds like it belongs in the past, conjuring up, as it does, marching jack boots in the streets, charismatic demagogues like Italy’s Mussolini or Spain’s Franco and armed crackdowns on dissent and freedom of expression.
It is a term we are used to reading in histories about World War 2—not in news stories from present day America.
And yet the word, and the dark reality behind it, is creeping into popular contemporary usage.
Radical activists on the left have never been hesitant to label their opponents with this “F word” whenever governments support laws that limit opposition or overdo national security or abuse human rights. Government paranoia turns critics paranoid.
One example: writer Naomi Wolf forecast fascism creeping into America during the Bush years accelerated by the erosion of democracy, writing:
“It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable – as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here.”
Wolf feared Americans couldn’t see the warning signs:
Now, those bells are now being rung by John Hall, an outgoing Democratic Congressman from upstate New York. His fear of fascism has less to do with repressive laws and militarism than the influx of corporate money into politics, swamping it with special interests that buy influence for right wing policies and politicians.
“I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called Fascism,” he told the New York Observer. “So that’s really the question– is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?”

The Only Transsexual/Transgender Books I Bother Reading Anymore are Written by TS/TG Folks

Yesterday, Edith mentioned “Changing Sex” by Bernice Hausman.

I’m aware of the book.  Were someone to give me a copy or were I to find a copy in a used bookstore for a couple of bucks I might pick it up and have it in my reference library, but I probably wouldn’t bother reading it.

Most stuff written about transsexual and transgender folks by non-TS/TG people is utter bullshit.

Why should they have a clue?  Seriously…  They look at those of us who change our sex and freak out, the idea that someone would change something most people see as so basic and so immutable blows their minds.

It is impossible for them to conceive that what ever is at the heart of core sex identity or core gender identity for TS/TG people is the exact same thing that is at the heart of core sex identity/core gender identity for them.

Therefore there must be something radically different about us.

When Tina and I created the meme Women Born Transsexual and by extension Men born Transsexual it was a way of saying enough with all the theoretical bullshit.  A way of saying stop with all the stigmatizing theories.  we were born this way, end of story.

I don’t give a rat’s ass if you got your Ph.D and your tenured position based on your ground breaking study of us and have based your whole career on this theory.  Go retrain.  Millions of others have had to when the corporations out sourced our jobs.   I hear Walmart is hiring.

Maybe once upon a time we needed these folks.  Back before we had a vocabulary to tell our stories, but I’m not certain we needed most of them even then.

Turns out that researchers over the years used most of their studies to hurt us.  We should have smelled a rat when we looked at the optional answers to absurd questions and none of the answers we were offered fit.

Bailey and Blanchard were infamous for this but so were many less infamous developers of transsexual and transgender theories.

So I basically gave up on reading what the Non TS/TGs had to say.  For that matter often times but not always, reading what a transgender person has to say a bout transsexual people is pretty pointless as is the reverse.

I like biographies and memoirs.  I like Jay Prosser, Julia Serano, Viviane Namaste as serious theorists.

There are others too like Aaron Devor and Jack Halberstam whose books are always ones I mean to buy but rarely come across on the used shelves.

We no longer need these straights to define us anymore than lesbian or gay people need them so I have tended to just let them go.

Revolution in Tunsia

World Socialist Web Site:

Tunisian president flees the country

By Ann Talbot
15 January 2011

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has fled Tunisia. A state of emergency has been declared. The army has taken control of the airport, and gatherings of more than three people have been banned. An announcement on state television warned that anyone refusing to obey military orders would be shot. As night fell, the country was once again under curfew, after a day in which the police opened fire on peaceful protesters outside the Ministry of the Interior.

The day began with thousands of protestors marching along Avenue Bourguiba in central Tunis and gathering outside the ministry to demand the immediate resignation of Ben Ali. They chanted, “No to Ben Ali, the uprising continues.”

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From Al Jazeera:

Emergency rule imposed in Tunisia

Beleaguered president fires government and calls for elections within six months after violent clashes rock capital.
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2011

The latest development on Friday came as police fired tear gas at protesters outside the interior ministry in Tunis.

“We heard shots, I believe they were shooting in the air but for sure they were shooting [tear] gas bombs, and they are trying to disperse and spread people,” Youssef Gaigi, an activist at the scene, told Al Jazeera.

“There were some clashes, police on their bikes and cars hitting people. Things quickly changed. Before, this morning things were totally peaceful, we had people from all social classes, we had people from everywhere come here to Tunis and now they just decided to use violence.” The protesters are seeking the immediate resignation of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the president, and are refusing to disperse until he steps down.

In a sign of a deepening political stand-off in the North African nation, increasingly being referred to on social media platforms as the “Jasmine Revolution”, thousands of protesters converged in front of the interior ministry building on Friday, chanting slogans such as “Ben Ali, leave!” and “Ben Ali, thank you but that’s enough!”.

Complete story at:

From The Huffington Post:

Tunisia has been rocked by riots recently over unemployment and corruption, thought to have been sparked by the suicide of a young man who could not find a job and was barred from selling fruit without a permit.

The unrest culminated today with the ouster of president and strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi announced on state television that he had taken control of the country.

A cable released by WikiLeaks called Tunisia a “police state” and criticized Ben Ali for being out of touch with the people. This has fueled references to the current protests as a “WikiLeaks Revolution.”

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From Foreign Policy in Focus:

Pro-Democracy Uprising Fails to Keep Washington From Backing Tunisian Dictatorship
January 13, 2011

In the course of some civil insurrections, like Iran and Burma, Washington has strongly condemned the regime and provided strong words of encouragement for the pro-democracy activists challenging their repression. In a couple of cases, like Serbia and Ukraine, the United States and other Western countries even provided limited amounts of economic assistance to pro-democracy groups. Most of the time, however, particularly if the dictatorship is a U.S. ally like Tunisia, Washington has either backed the government or largely remained silent.

Indeed, rather than praise Tunisia’s largely nonviolent pro-democracy movement and condemn its repressive regime, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has instead expressed her concern over the impact of the “unrest and instability” on the “very positive aspects of our relationship with Tunisia,” insisting that the U.S. is “not taking sides” and that she will “wait and see” before even communicating directly with Ben Ali or his ministers.

In addition, as the popular uprising against the Ben Ali dictatorship commenced last month, Congress weighed in with support of the regime by passing a budget resolution that included $12 million in security assistance to Tunisia, one of only five foreign governments (the others being Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Colombia) provided direct taxpayer-funded military aid.

Complete story at:

From The Guardian UK:

Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali forced to flee Tunisia as protesters claim victory

Angelique Chrisafis in Tunis and Ian Black, Middle East editor

January 15, 2011

Tunisia‘s president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has fled his country after weeks of mass protests culminated in a victory for people power over one of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes.

Ben Ali had taken refuge in Saudi Arabia, at the end of an extraordinary day which had seen the declaration of a state of emergency, the evacuation of tourists of British and other nationalities, and an earthquake for the authoritarian politics of the Middle East and north Africa.

After hours of conflicting reports had him criss-crossing southern Europe by air, the Saudi state news agency confirmed he had arrived in the kingdom together with his family. Earlier, French media reported that Nicolas Sarkozy had refused Ben Ali refuge, although France denied that any request had been received.

In Tunisia, prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced that he had taken over as interim president, vowing to respect the constitution and restore stability for Tunisia’s 10.5 million citizens. “I call on the sons and daughters of Tunisia, of all political and intellectual persuasions, to unite to allow our beloved country to overcome this difficult period and to return to stability,” he said in a broadcast.

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Right Wing Extremist Tea partiers push to remove criticisms of Founding Fathers from textbooks

Joseph, Goebbels would be so proud of these evil liars and historical revisionists.

From Raw Story:

By Sahil Kapur
Friday, January 14th

Tea party activists in Tennessee are pushing state legislators to amend curriculum in a way that eliminates criticisms of the Founding Fathers’ treatment of Native Americans and holding of slaves, according to a news item.

Roughly two-dozen tea partyers demanded that their state lawmakers modify textbook standards to “compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government,” the Memphis-based The Commercial Appeal reports.

From the Commercial Appeal:

That would include, the documents say, that “the Constitution created a Republic, not a Democracy.”

The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.

“The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody — not all equally instantly — and it was their progress that we need to look at,” said Rounds, whose website identifies him as a Vietnam War veteran of the Air Force and FedEx retiree who became a lawyer in 1995.

The group also wants the state legislature to reject key provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 as “an insult to Constitutional principles

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