Under the Reading Lamp — 1/22/2012


Does US Senate Commit Treason with NDAA Bill?

Jeanine Molloff, Op-Ed: “December 1st, 2011, the US Senate accomplished the unthinkable–with the nearly unanimous passage of the National Defense Authorization Bill of 2012–they committed treason. Written and planned in secret by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the newly minted NDAA contains three sections which collectively sanctions indefinite detention of alleged terrorists or ‘terrorist sympathizers’–anywhere in the world including the US– and designates the military the duty to arrest, imprison and interrogate without benefit of counsel,’ accused civilians here on Main Street.”


After ‘Citizens United’: The Attack of the Super PACs

John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney, Op-Ed: “Citizens United’s easing of restrictions on corporate and individual spending, especially by organizations not under the control of candidates, has led to the proliferation of “Super PACs.” These shadowy groups do not have to abide by the $2,500 limit on donations to actual campaigns, and they can easily avoid rules for reporting sources of contributions. For instance, Super PACs have established nonprofit arms that are permitted to shield contributors’ identities as long as they spend no more than 50 percent of their money on electoral politics.”


Corporate Rule Is Not Inevitable

Sarah van Gelder, Op-Ed: “You may remember that there was a time when apartheid in South Africa seemed unstoppable. Sure, there were international boycotts of South African businesses, banks, and tourist attractions. There were heroic activists in South Africa, who were going to prison and even dying for freedom. But the conventional wisdom remained that these were principled gestures with little chance of upending the entrenched system of white rule. ‘Be patient,’ activists were told. ‘Don’t expect too much against powerful interests with a lot of money invested in the status quo.’”


A Credit Union to Bail out People, Not Big Banks

Judith Scherr, News Report: The Occupy Movement condemns the banks’ role in predatory lending and the foreclosure crisis, the high-interest student loans they say enriches the bankers and impoverishes college students, bank investments in private prisons and more. But protesting isn’t enough for Occupy San Francisco activist Brian McKeown. He says a bank should be a transparent institution whose mission is to help people. And so, with like-minded partners, McKeown is putting together a plan for the People’s Reserve Credit Union (PRCU).


Boehner Threatens to Hold Payroll Tax Holiday Hostage to Approval of Keystone XL

Zack Ford, Video Report: On Fox News Sunday this morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told Chris Wallace that “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure the Keystone Pipeline is approved.” When Wallace pressed him whether Republican leadership would make the pipeline a condition for extending the payroll tax holiday, Boehner admitted, “We may,” adding (several times) that “All options are on the table.” Proponents of the pipeline have dwarfed opponents in lobbying spending, inflated the actual effect it will have on job creation, and spread various myths designed tocircumvent its environmental impact.


Bernie Sanders: We Must Stop This Corporate Takeover of American Democracy

Bernie Sanders, Op-Ed: “Two years ago, the United States supreme court betrayed our Constitution and those who fought to ensure that its protections are enjoyed equally by all persons regardless of religion, race or gender by engaging in an unabashed power-grab on behalf of corporate America. In its now infamous decision in the Citizens United case, five justices declared that corporations must be treated as if they are actual people under the Constitution when it comes to spending money to influence our elections, allowing them for the first time to draw on the corporate checkbook – in any amount and at any time – to run ads explicitly for or against specific candidates.”


How the Republicans on the FEC Are Making Citizens United Even Worse

Josh Israel, News Analysis: “Three Republican appointees to the Federal Election Commission may be as responsible as anyone for the lack of transparency of post-Citizens United political spending. Two years ago, when the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling, one bright spot was that the majority explicitly endorsed the constitutionality and necessity of disclosure rules that inform voters who paid for the political ads they see. ‘Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations,’ they affirmed.”


The Green Economy, Boon or Menace?

Emilio Godoy, News Report: In its study “Who Will Control the Green Economy?”, published Dec. 15, 2011, the ETC Group argues that the development of a green economy will primarily benefit large corporations, unless changes are made to the current models of production and consumption of goods and services and international governance. It reveals that large transnational corporations in the energy, pharmaceutical, food and chemical industries are already forming alliances to exploit biomass and grab control of natural resources like land and water.


Christopher Petrella | Death, Taxes, and Alcatraz

Christopher Petrella, Op-Ed: “Please allow me to introduce some figures that I believe will convincingly demonstrate the scope and depth of our predicament. Although the United States represents less than 5% of the world’s population, we harbor over 25% of those incarcerated. In fact, we’ve incarcerated more people in absolute terms than China, whose population is four times the larger. Despite these sobering figures, few thinkers, however—even those of avowedly ‘progressive’ persuasion— have sharply critiqued the well-worn diptych of ‘crime and punishment.’”


Bad Bankers, Bad Fraud Deals, And The President’s ‘Great Gatsby’ Problem

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “Investigate the Banks!” Today a coalition of progressive groups handed in a petition with more than 360,000 signatures that demanded exactly that. It calls on the Obama administration to stop pushing a cushy fraud settlement for bankers, to pursue a fair deal for shafted homeowners, and to let criminal investigations against Wall Street crooks proceed. Yet White House officials are still aggressively pushing the very same cushy deal on foreclosure fraud that inspired the petition.


How Payday Lenders Make Billions By Fleecing Americans In Poverty

Tanya Somanader, News Report: “As a growing number of Americans slip out of the middle-class into economic insecurity, they are increasingly vulnerable to predatory lending schemes like the payday loan. Each year, about 12 million Americans incur long-term debt by taking out a short-term loan that’s intended to cover a borrowers’ expenses until they receive their next paycheck. Payday lending takes ‘unfair advantage of lower-income borrowers,’ with most taking out nine repeat loans per year with an interest rate as high as 400 percent.”


Robert Reich | Amend 2012

Robert Reich, Video Presentation: Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, the same big corporations and billionaires that destroyed our economy and caused millions of us to lose our jobs and homes, are spending obscene amounts to drown out our voices in elections and take over our government. But together, “We the People” can set things right. Stand with Robert Reich and join the movement for a constitutional amendment today.


Kucinich Announces Constitutional Amendment to Publicly Finance Federal Elections

Dennis Kucinich, Op-Ed: On the eve of the second anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United, which opened the floodgate of unlimited, shadowy corporate spending in public elections, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has introduced H. J. Res. 100, a constitutional amendment to rescue American democracy from corporate money’s corrupting influence.

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Official List of 29 2B2F Banks Released

The Official list of the 29 banks that are considered too big to fail was released this morning.  The list, as determined by a G20 cabal known as the Financial Stability Board, are the members of the Globally Systemically Important Financial Institutions club.

  1. Bank of America (US)
  2. Bank of New York Mellon (US)
  3. Citigroup (US)
  4. Goldman Sachs (US)
  5. J.P. Morgan (US)
  6. Morgan Stanley (US)
  7. State Street (US)
  8. Wells Fargo (US)
  9. BNP Paribas SA (France)
  10. Banque Populaire (France)
  11. Crédit Agricole SA (France)
  12. Société Générale SA (France)
  13. Barclays PLC (UK)
  14. HSBC Holdings PLC (UK)
  15. Lloyds Banking Group PLC (UK)
  16. Royal Bank of Scotland PLC (UK)
  17. Mitsubishi UFJ FG (Japan)
  18. Mizuho FG (Japan)
  19. Sumitomo Mitsui FG (Japan)
  20. Commerzbank AG (Germany)
  21. Deutsche Bank AG (Germany)
  22. UBS AG (Switzerland)
  23. Credit Suisse AG (Switzerland)
  24. Dexia SA (Belgium)
  25. Bank of China (China)
  26. Unicredit Group SA (Italy)
  27. ING Groep NV (Netherlands)
  28. Banco Santander SA (Spain)
  29. Nordea AB (Sweden)

Align Your Money With Your Values

I came across your site while reading up on the recent conversations about transferring money from big banks to local banks and credit unions. I work on a documentary called THRIVE that aims to bring a lot of these concerns to light which is releasing 11/11/11. To help rally awareness for the film as well as the topics, we have released a series of info graphics you might be interested in. One of these, in particular, shows people how to complete a bank transfer.

The info graphics, THRIVE movie trailer, a fractional reserve lending video, and all the information about the THRIVE Movement can be found HERE.

We definitely feel like we can stand together on these issues. Hopefully, sharing this with your readers can help create the impact we’re all looking for. Lastly, if you’re more interested in the film we should discuss getting you set up with a home screening. I would be happy to help you with that.

Thanks in advance for your support,

John Shi

Under The Reading Lamp — 10/28/2010


Bank Transfer Day: A Guide to Closing Your Account
News Analysis: “The description and goal of Bank Transfer Day is straightforward: If you currently have checking and savings accounts (deposit accounts) with a big bank, the organizers encourage you to remove all of your funds, close your accounts, and place your money in a new deposit account with a not-for-profit credit union. The organizers ask that you do this by November 5. And since November 5 is a Saturday, you should definitely do it before November 5 since many big banks aren’t open on weekends.”


Goldman Sachs v. Occupy Wall Street
Video Report: “A controversy in the banking community has arisen around the Occupy Wall Street movement. Greg Palast investigates the story behind Goldman Sachs’ recent decision to pull out of a fundraiser for the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union in New York City after it learned the event was honoring the protesters at Occupy Wall Street. The investment bank withdrew its name from the fundraiser and also canceled a $5,000 pledge. Was the $5,000 a Goldman Sachs donation or actually American taxpayer bailout money Goldman set aside for community banks?”


GOP Presidential Candidates’ Tax Plans Would Benefit The Rich
Steven Thomma, News Analysis: “The flat tax — so called because it offers one flat rate for taxpayers in all income groups while taking away many or all deductions — would simplify taxes. It also would almost certainly give big tax cuts to wealthy Americans. Republicans believe that cutting taxes, especially on the wealthy, helps to spur investment, economic growth and hiring.”


Should Minimum Wage Earners Pay a Tax Rate 460 Times Higher than Millionaires?
Kyle Linzer, Special Feature: The question of the supposed simplicity and fairness of a flat tax keeps popping up every few years in political debate, most recently with the 9-9-9 plan of Herman Cain. I just wanted to look at what this kind of flat tax would look like for people across the income range to see how fair and simple it would be. One question needs to be addressed before we can begin to look at real numbers.


Robert Reich | Wall Street is Still Out of Control
Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “Next week President Obama travels to Wall Street where he’ll demand – in light of the Street’s continuing antics since the bailout, as well as its role in watering-down the Volcker rule – that the Glass-Steagall Act be resurrected and big banks be broken up. I’m kidding. But it would be a smart move — politically and economically.”


What’s Happened to the Big Players in the Financial Crisis
Braden Goyette, News Investigation: “Mortgage lenders contributed to the financial crisis by issuing or underwriting loans to people who would have a difficult time paying them back, inflating a housing bubble that was bound to pop. Lax regulation allowed banks to stretch their mortgage lending standards and use aggressive tactics to rope borrowers into complex mortgages that were more expensive than they first appeared.”


Flanders on Ed Schultz on Oakland Crack Down
Laura Flanders, Video Report: Whose servants? Whose safety? Whose space? The extreme violence of the Oakland police underscores the critical questions the Occupy movement is raising. Just what is the place of the public in the privatized state? Good for Ed Schultz, alone in prime time, for leading with this story Wednesday night.


Jim Hightower: “We the People,” Not “We the Corporations”
Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “A year from now, Americans will be caught in an unprecedented blizzard of presidential campaign ads. We’ll be blinded by the whiteout and buried in the storm’s negativity. For the first time ever, most of this ad blizzard will not come from the candidates, but from ads secretly funded by huge corporations. This is because a five-man cabal on the Supreme Court issued an edict last year that perverts nature itself.”


Rick Perry Outlines Flat Tax, Social Security Proposals
Adam Beam, News Report: “The optional flat tax is the centerpiece of a broad economic initiative that includes Social Security and Medicare changes, spending cuts, freezing pending federal regulations and other steps aimed at bolstering the economy and balancing the federal budget by 2020. Perry described it as a ‘bold reform needed to jolt this economy out its doldrums.’ The flat tax would offer a major break for America’s wealthiest taxpayers by enabling them to move from the current top bracket of 35 percent into the 20 percent bracket.”


Perry: “I Don’t Care” Whether My Tax Plan Gives Breaks to the Rich
Pat Garofalo, News Analysis: “Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) today became the latest GOP presidential hopeful to release a tax plan, as he tries to catch up in the polls, some of which even have him trailing former Speaker Newt Gingrich and libertarian favorite Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). The plan, as Perry has been explaining, revolves around a 20 percent flat tax. Former pizza magnate Herman Cain and former Govs. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Jon Huntsman (R-UT) have all laid out tax plans that give huge tax breaks to the wealthy.”


Who Are these Occupy Protesters, and What Do They Want?
Lois Beckett, News Analysis: “At first glance, the synchronized protests that took place in more than 900 cities around the globe on Oct. 15 seemed to indicate that Occupy Wall Street had achieved a kind of worldwide resonance. But the truth is more complex. Many of the protests elsewhere grew out of movements that pre-date Occupy Wall Street and out of frustrations that, though similar in some ways, are also specific to their countries. Here’s a look at the origins, demands and affects of five of these global protests, as well as the criticism they’ve faced.”


Glen Greenwald: Immunity and Impunity in Elite America
Glenn Greenwald, Op-Ed: “As intense protests spawned by Occupy Wall Street continue to grow, it is worth asking: Why now? The answer is not obvious. After all, severe income and wealth inequality have long plagued the United States. In fact, it could reasonably be claimed that this form of inequality is part of the design of the American founding — indeed, an integral part of it. Many Americans who once accepted or even cheered such inequality now see the gains of the richest as ill-gotten, as undeserved, as cheating.”


Dean Baker: The Military Spending Fairy
Dean Baker, Op-Ed: “Faced with the prospect of cuts to the Defense Department’s budget, the defense industry is pushing the story of the military spending fairy on members of Congress. They are telling them that these cuts will lead to the loss of more than 1 million jobs over the next decade. Believers in the military spending fairy say things like “the government can’t create jobs,” but also think that military spending creates jobs.”


Obama Housing Plan Gets Faint Praise
Ben Hallman, News Report: “Obama’s new housing initiative, announced Monday in Las Vegas, may not be as bold as some had hoped, but it offers some underwater homeowners the possibility of relief. A week earlier at the Venetian casino, the leading Republican candidates said that the government should get out of the way and let the market sort out the foreclosure mess. The president’s plan will loosen restrictions on the Home Affordability Refinance Program (HARP), which was created especially for homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth.”


Occupy Wall Street, 1979
John Cavanaugh and Robin Broad, New Analysis: “Thirty-two years ago, the two of us and 1,043 other protesters were arrested for what one would now call “occupying” Wall Street. It was October 29, 1979, the 50th anniversary of the Wall Street crash that ushered in the Great Depression. We two were then graduate students at Princeton, and we had trained for weeks as part of an “affinity group” of about a dozen people prepared to commit acts of civil disobedience to prevent what we saw as a greater evil.”


Robert Reich | Why We Shouldn’t be Selling the Right to Live in America
Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “America is having a fire sale. Why not sell wealthy foreigners the right to live here, too? That’s the notion behind a bill introduced last week by Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Democrat Senator Charles Schumer of New York: Stoke demand for American homes by allowing foreign nationals to buy them. In return, give foreigners the right to live here (although not work here).”


A Fire Sale for Arsonists: The “Revised” Bank Mortgage Settlement Still Stinks
Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “Let’s imagine that the Mayor, the DA, and the Chief of Police said they’ve come up with a great “settlement”: The arsonists will pay a small fine, and they’ll never be prosecuted for arson. Plus, if they’re asked very nicely, they’ll also agree to provide a little help to 27 out of the 1,000 families they made homeless – although they’d control the ‘help’ process and the town might wind up footing the bill anyway.”


Recalling the Lost Paradise of Budget Surpluses
Froma Harrop, Op-Ed: “Hard to believe, but once upon a time, economists worried that the U.S. government would pay off all its debt. Also hard to believe, once upon a time was only 11 years ago. President Clinton had bequeathed his successor budget surpluses “as far as the eye could see.” He wanted some of them used to speed up repayment of the remaining $3.6 trillion still owed the public in Treasury bonds. He said it could all be paid off by 2013.”