BBC Interview with Nassim Taleb on JPMorgan

On the Eve of NATO in My Hometown

From Common Dreams:

by Donna Smith
Published on Sunday, May 20, 2012 by Common Dreams

Looking down on the Sears Tower tonight, you wouldn’t suspect a major event was just hours away.  It’s quieter than most Saturday nights – except in Wrigleyville, where Chicago’s baseball and sports fans fill the streets and the bars as usual.  But in other parts of my hometown, huge barricades and security parameters await the potential for mass protest and any related unrest.

I’ve been here for a week working to support the huge protest National Nurses United staged at Daley Plaza on Friday. It was great.  Tom Morello, Libertyville native, rocked the place and fired up the crowds on Friday.   Tom and his union sisters and brothers want a Robin Hood Tax – a small tax on Wall Street transactions that could raise $350 billion every year.  Their staged protest was a miraculous success – timed perfectly to hit the sweet spot of media interest and public anxiety.

And I’ve been listening to Chicago’s working people – the cabbies, the wait staff, the police officers (yes, they are working people too), and the other service staff in hotels and retail establishments.  NATO isn’t just a group of world leaders meeting against whom the multiplicity of social justice and anti-war activists can protest.  NATO is a scourge on the working people of Chicago.  Real people are losing days of pay and tips and business while those who want to protest sleep on church floors and in solidarity housing and eat donated food.

The “1 percenters” who are here for NATO or who are leading protests against NATO aren’t really too concerned with Chicago’s working people and their plight.  You can tell who the “1 percenters” are by their lack of concern for the rest of us – their lack of concern for the rest of Chicago’s working people and their worry about their own personal safety lest the rest of us do too much protesting against them.  The “1-percenters” want to make sure they keep themselves clean of the unwashed masses.  They want the services we provide to be provided in an uninterrupted way, but they surely do not stand with you and they surely do not stand with me.

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Here Comes Nobody

From The New York Times:

Published: May 19, 2012

I ALWAYS liked that the name of my religion was also an adjective meaning all-embracing.

I was a Catholic and I wanted to be catholic, someone engaged in a wide variety of things. As James Joyce wrote in “Finnegans Wake:” “Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody.’ ”

So it makes me sad to see the Catholic Church grow so uncatholic, intent on loyalty testing, mind control and heresy hunting. Rather than all-embracing, the church hierarchy has become all-constricting.

It was tough to top the bizarre inquisition of self-sacrificing American nuns pushed by the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law. Law, the former head of the Boston archdiocese, fled to a plush refuge in Rome in 2002 after it came out that he protected priests who molested thousands of children.

But the craziness continued when an American priest, renowned for his TV commentary from Rome on popes and personal morality, admitted last week that he had fathered a child with a mistress.

The Rev. Thomas Williams belongs to the Legionaires of Christ, the order founded by the notorious Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, a pal of Pope John Paul II who died peppered with accusations that he sexually abused seminarians and fathered several children and abused some of them.

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A Choice of Capitalisms

From Truth Dig:

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.
May 20, 2012

In this election, we’re not having an argument that pits capitalism against socialism. We are trying to decide what kind of capitalism we want. It is a debate as American as Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay—which is to say that we have always done this. In light of the rise of inequality and the financial mess we just went through, it’s a discussion we very much need to have now.

The back-and-forth about Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s old company, is part of something larger. So is the inquest into the implications of multibillion-dollar trading losses at JPMorgan Chase. Capitalism can produce wonders. It is also capable of self-destruction, and it can leave a lot of wounded people behind. The trick is to get the most out of what capitalism does well, while containing or preventing the problems it can cause.

To describe this grand debate is not to deny that President Obama’s campaign has some, shall we say, narrower motives in going after Bain. Obama’s lieutenants need to undermine Romney’s claim that his experience in the private equity business makes him just the guy to get our economy back on track.

The Bain conversation has already been instructive. Romney’s friends no less than his foes have had to face the fact that Bain’s purpose was never about job creation. Its goal was to generate large returns to Bain’s partners and investors. It did that, which is why Romney is rich.

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Land grabbers: Africa’s hidden revolution

From The Guardian UK:

Vast swaths of Africa are being bought up by oligarchs, sheikhs and agribusiness corporations. But, as this extract from The Land Grabbers explains, centuries of history are being destroyed

Fred Pearce
The Observer
, Saturday 19 May 2012

Omot Ochan was sitting in a remnant of forest on an old waterbuck skin and eating maize from a calabash gourd. He was lean and tall, wearing only a pair of combat pants. Behind him was a straw hut, where bare-breasted women and barefoot children cooked fish on an open fire. A little way off were other huts, the remains of what was once a sizable village. Omot said he and his family were from the Anuak tribe. They had lived in the forest for 10 generations. “This land belonged to our father. All round here is ours. For two days’ walk.” He described the distant tree that marked the boundary with the next village. “When my father died, he said don’t leave the land. We made a promise. We can’t give it to the foreigners.”

Our conversation was punctuated by the rumble of trucks passing on a dirt road just 20 metres away. The dust clouds they created wafted into the clearing and rained down on the leaves on the trees. Beyond the road huge earth-diggers were excavating a canal. Omot watched them: “Two years ago, the company began chopping down the forest and the bees went away. The bees need thick forest. We used to sell honey. We used to hunt with dogs too. But after the farm came, the animals here disappeared. Now we only have fish to sell.” And with the company draining the wetland, the fish will probably be gone soon, too.

Gambella is the poorest province in one of the world’s poorest nations – a lowland appendix in the far south-west of Ethiopia. Geographically and ethnically, the hot, swampy province feels like part of the new neighbouring state of South Sudan, rather than the cool highlands of the rest of Ethiopia. Indeed, Gambella was effectively in Sudan when it was ruled by the British from Khartoum, until 1956. For the half-century since, the government in Addis Ababa has ruled here, but it has invested little and cared even less for its Nilotic tribal inhabitants, whose jet-black skin and tall, elegant physique mark them out from the highlanders. The livestock-herding Nuer, who frequently cross into South Sudan, and the Anuak, who are farmers and fishers, are peripheral to highland Ethiopia in every sense.

Only three flights a week go to the provincial capital, also called Gambella. When you get there, there are no taxis, because there is no demand. The road from the airport is a dirt track through an empty landscape. Gambella town is a shambles. Its population of 30,000 has no waste collection system, so garbage piles up. The drains don’t work, public water supplies are sporadic and electricity is occasional. There are few public latrines. The couple of paved roads are heavily potholed and give out before the town limits. My billet, the Norwegian-built guest house at the Bethel Synod church, was probably the dirtiest, bleakest and most ill-kempt building in which I have ever rested my head. The only vehicle in town for hire was a 40-year-old Toyota minibus of dubious roadworthiness, with a crew of three. I took it.

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Stephanie Cutter: Get the facts on Karl Rove’s BS

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Greek euro exit would hit at home, but fallout could be global

From The Washington Post:

Published: May 17, 2012

Spiralling inflation. A collapsed banking system. Hundreds of billions of dollars in unpayable debts and likely isolation from the world financial community.

That much Greece can count on — at least initially — if its political paralysis continues and it leaves the euro.

Patrick Legland, head of research at Societe Generale SA, discusses the U.S. economy and possible implications of Greece leaving the euro. He speaks with Maryam Nemazee on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse.” (Source: Bloomberg)

 But the fallout would extend well beyond Greece’s borders, and analysts have been struggling to grasp whether it would upend markets as the collapse of Lehman Brothers did in 2008 or — if Europe’s financial systems prove durable and its politicians adept in response — simply pass with a shrug.

There could be immediate risks to the Spanish and Italian economies: Tens of billions of dollars have left those nations in recent months as investors doubt their ability to both control rising public debt and boost their economies from recession. A Greek departure from the euro would, officials and analysts fear, push the lack of confidence in the euro zone to another level, accelerate that capital flight and leave one or both nations close to economic collapse.

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American Spring: The Documentary

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Veterans symbolically discard service medals at anti-NATO rally

From Reuters:

By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO | Sun May 20, 2012

(Reuters) – Nearly 50 U.S. military veterans at an anti-NATO rally in Chicago threw their service medals into the street on Sunday, an action they said symbolized their rejection of the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of the veterans, many wearing military uniform shirts over black anti-war t-shirts, choked back tears as they explained their actions. Others folded an American flag while a bugle played “Taps,” which is typically performed at U.S. military funerals.

“The medals are supposed to be for acts of heroism. I don’t feel like a hero. I don’t feel like I deserve them,” said Zach LaPorte, who served in Iraq in 2005 and 2006.

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Guns Drawn on Journalists, Car Raided at NATO Summit in Chicago

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German Occupy rally draws 20,000 in Frankfurt

From The Toronto Star:–german-occupy-rally-draws-20-000-in-frankfurt?bn=1

Juergen Baetz
Sat May 19 2012

BERLIN—Some 20,000 activists took part in a major rally of the local Occupy movement in Frankfurt on Saturday, German police said.

Protesters peacefully filled the city centre of continental Europe’s biggest financial hub in their protest against the dominance of banks and what they perceive to be untamed capitalism, Frankfurt police spokesman Ruediger Regis said.

Police revised the initial turnout estimate of 10,000 quickly upward to 20,000 as protesters jammed Frankfurt’s downtown business district on what was a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon.

A spokesman for the organizers, Roland Suess, said turnout has already reached 25,000. Organizers had told authorities that they expect between 10,000 and 40,000 participants.

The protest group calling itself Blockupy has called for blocking the access to the European Central Bank, which is located in Frankfurt’s business district.

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Quebec Steps Closer to Martial Law to Repress Students: Bill 78 is a “Declaration of War on the Student Movement”

From Andrew Gavin Marshall:

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
May 19, 2012

On Friday, May 18, the Québec legislature signed a special “emergency law” to “restore order” in the province following three months of student protests in a strike against the government’s proposed 80% increase in the cost of tuition. A legislative debate lasted all night and resulted in a vote of 68-48 in favour of the legislation. The legislation has three main focal points: (1) it “suspends” the school semester for schools majorly affected by the strike, (2) it establishes extremely high fines for anyone who attempts to picket or block access to schools, and (3) it imposes massive restrictions on where and how people may demonstrate and protest in the streets. The law is set to expire by July 1, 2013.

On Monday, May 14, Quebec’s Education Minister Line Beauchamp resigned, and was replaced with Quebec’s Treasury Board president Michelle Courchesne, a former Education Minister from 2007 to 2010, who had also participated in the failed negotiations the weekend of May 4. Premier Jean Charest commented on the change of ministers and the continuity of the government’s position on the tuition hikes, saying that, “We believe in this policy… This policy is going to go ahead.” On Tuesday, May 15, protests continued in Quebec, with about 100 riot police called in to break a student strike blockage of a community college in Montreal. Students were told that “all necessary force” would be used to ensure that classes would resume, in line with a legal injunction obtained by 53 of the school’s students to return to class. Legal injunctions have regularly been used to undermine the student strike, as the state refuses to recognize the right of students to strike. As a result, a few dozen – or even one or two – students can obtain legal injunctions to force the schools to re-open and go to class. The injunctions are backed by the power of the state, and so the riot police are called in to pepper spray, tear gas, and beat with batons those students who form picket lines blocking access to the schools. On May 15, parents and teachers of striking students were involved in helping organize the picket line which ended with the riot squad using tear gas and arresting several people.

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