30-Apr-2009

It's Official, The Banks Own the US Government

DURBIN: And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.
And that's a serving Senator speaking, no conspiracy theorist. Link.

Update: And the Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway thinks so too:

May 2 (Bloomberg) -- Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Vice Chairman Charles Munger, whose company is the largest private shareholder in Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co., said banks will use their “enormous political power” to prevent changes to the industry that would benefit society.

“This is an enormously influential group of people, and 90 percent of that influence is being spent to gain powers and practices that the world would be better off without,” Munger, 85, said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “It will be very hard to accomplish the kind of surgery that would be desirable for the wider civilization.”

...

Munger said the financial companies spent $500 million on political contributions and lobbying efforts over the last decade. They have a “vested interest” in protecting the system as it exists because of the high levels of pay they were earning, he said. The five biggest U.S. securities firms, only two of which still exist as independent companies, paid their employees about $39 billion in bonuses in 2007.

Our Media

From The Hindu:
Over the last few months, just as the economy entered its current recessionary phase, the mainstream media, which till then had been uniformly unswerving in their antipathy to NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), suddenly began to sing its praises.

Because rural people don't really matter till they are required to bail out the economy!

03-Apr-2009

Talking Movies (Not Really)

It may seem tame considering what has come since, but Henry Levin's 1960 teen romantic comedy Where the Boys Are was fairly revolutionary for its time.

... the movie tells the tale of two college co-eds, Merritt (Dolores Hart) and Melanie (Yvette Mimieux) on spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Merritt hesitates on taking the penultimate step in the game of what she calls "backseat bingo" in order to win the heart of a special beau; Melanie fairly explicitly affirms (for the time, anyway) that she intends to show no such restraint.

Of course, it ends very badly for Melanie. Lured to a party at aroadside motel where she believes that her new boyfriend will be present along with other desirable young Ivy League "Yalies", she is next seen wandering aimlessly in the middle of a busy highway, hair and clothes disheveled - as the then movie morals code would not allow the word that described her obvious violation to be explicitly uttered, the audience was left to draw the obvious inference as to the terrible price she paid for her licentiousness.

She gets hit by a car; in the hospital, she confesses the worst part of her sin to Merritt. "They weren't even Yalies!" she sobs.
But it is not really about the movie.
Thirty eight years later, in 1998, US Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairwoman Brooksley Born, in seeking to uphold the integrity of the financial system, was similarly accosted. However, in contrast to poor Melanie, the gang that attacked her possessed just about the highest imaginable academic pedigrees. They were the then deputy secretary of the Treasury (and now the chair of President Barack Obama's National Economic Council) Laurence Summers (BA Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Phd Harvard); Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan (BA, MA Columbia, Phd New York University); and the leader of the gang, Treasury secretary Robert Rubin (BA Harvard, LLB Yale - yes! he was even a Yalie). After the attack on chairwoman Born, the gang carelessly hopped into their souped-up hot rod and proceeded to further make the preparations for their rich-kid, thrill-kill firebombing of the world financial system we see occurring today.