Category Archives: Banksters

Map of the day: Why corporations go after water


Privatization of water supplies has been the focus of a major corporate push, with giants like Nestle leading the way, with the full support of the World Bank. A look at this map from the World Resources Institute shows why, with supplies of the real liquid gold rapidly diminishing in many countries [and in states like California] as groundwater supplies are drawn down and glaciers melt:

BLOG Water

UPDATE: From teleSUR English, a short reminder of the water crisis south of the border:

Mexico’s Water Crisis

Program note:

Mexican residents are facing water shortages as government officials enjoy their pools.

More disorders in Greece, this time farmers


And bankster-imposed austerity as again the catalyst.

We begin with a video from Agence France Presse:

Greek farmers clash in mass protest over pension reform

Program notes:

Greek farmers bring their tractors and trucks to Syntagma Square for a mass demonstration over impeding pension reforms demanded by the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

More from eKathimerini:

After being blindsided by both the size and ferocity of Friday’s protest in central Athens by farmers who oppose social security reforms, the government has renewed its appeal to the protesters to come to the negotiating table.

>snip<

Labour Minister Giorgos Katrougalos issued a fresh appeal to the farmers to sit down and talk about their objections to increases in their social security contributions and taxes. He said that each side had to “look each other in the eyes.”

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is under pressure to finalize an agreement with Greece’s lenders over pension reforms that have to deliver a total of 1.8 billion euros in savings. He is expected to travel to Paris on Wednesday and then on to Brussels for a European Union leaders’ summit on Thursday and Friday.

From RT, close-up video as the protest turned violent:

RAW: Greek farmer protesters brutally attack police, storm Agriculture Ministry

Program notes:

Police in Athens have used tear gas to disperse a rally of farmers protesting pension austerity measures as they pelted the Agriculture Ministry with stones. A larger protest demonstration is due to start later Friday.

More from RT:

Police in Athens have used tear gas to disperse a rally of farmers protesting pension austerity measures as they pelted the Agriculture Ministry with stones. A larger protest demonstration is due to start later Friday.

>snip<

About 800 farmers from Crete “attempted to push the police in front of the [Agriculture] Ministry’s entrance. The police used tear gas to stop them,” a law enforcement official said.

They smashed windows with stones before the police pushed them away.

And still more from Deutsche Welle:

The government has banned the farmers from using tractors in the demonstration, but a deal was reached to allow a symbolic procession of 17 of the vehicles in the capital. Since mid-January, farmers have used their tractors to block dozens of highways.

Earlier this month the farmers began blockading border crossings to Bulgaria and Turkey. But, following an appeal from Bulgaria on Tuesday, they allowed trucks to pass for several hours a day at one crossing. The farmers threatened to further escalate the protest by blocking air- and seaports at the weekend.

“They fooled us,” Manolis Paterakis, head of one of Crete’s farmer blockades, said about the government. “They were telling us that they support us, that they are fighting for the survival of the farmers … that young people need to return to their villages and work their land.” Now, “the same people come and confirm the exact opposite: Whoever farms today, the only thing they will achieve is to have debts to the tax office,” he said.

More context, via teleSUR English:

Farmers face a tripling of their social security contributions and higher income tax should the new bills be passed by the Greek parliament.

Pension reforms are a key part of Greece’s bailout review after Tsipras was forced to accept a third bailout in July

Greece’s economy shows little sign of recovery. It entered a recession again after its economy shrunk in two consecutive quarters. In the third quarter of 2015 it fell by 1.4 percent while it decreased by 0.6 percent in last year’s fourth quarter.

And from ANA-MPA, protests continue:

Thousands of protesting farmers arrived in Syntagma Square late on Friday evening, ranging from the 20-odd tractors that led the march opposite Parliament, and bracing for a rally intended to last over the weekend.

There were more than 10,000 farmers and other protesters gathered in the square, according to initial police estimates, and more demonstrators were continuing to arrive as other groups lit bonfires in front of the monument to the Unknown Soldier.

A police presence at the rally was discreet.

Thousands of farmers had descended on Athens from numerous regions around Greece to protest against the government’s proposed pension and tax reforms. They staged a massive march to Parliament and set up tents to camp out in Syntagma Square. The march was headed by 20 tractors brought down from the Nikea roadblock in Larissa, central Greece

Launch of a new radical European political party


Yanis Varoufakis, the radical economist the banksters demanded be ousted as finance minister of the Greek Syriza-led government as a condition of further aid, and Croatian philosopher Srecko Horvat have launched a new European political party.

Rather than offer our own explanation, here’s the video of the formal announcement, issued this week, via From acTVism Munich:

Press Conference: Yanis Varoufakis & Democracy in Europe Movement 25

Program note:

On the 9th of February, 2016, Yanis Varoufakis & Srecko Horvat launched a movement called Democracy in Europe Movement 25 (DiEM25) in Berlin at Volksbühne.

And for more details, here’s the party’s manifesto.

From the Democracy In Europe Movement — DiEM25:

A MANIFESTO FOR DEMOCRATISING EUROPE

For all their concerns with global competitiveness, migration and terrorism, only one prospect truly terrifies the Powers of Europe: Democracy! They speak in democracy’s name but only to deny, exorcise and suppress it in practice. They seek to co-opt, evade, corrupt, mystify, usurp and manipulate democracy in order to break its energy and arrest its possibilities.

For rule by Europe’s peoples, government by the demos, is the shared nightmare of:

  • The Brussels bureaucracy (and its more than 10,000 lobbyists)
  • Its hit-squad inspectorates and the Troika they formed together with unelected ‘technocrats’ from other international and European institutions
  • The powerful Eurogroup that has no standing in law or treaty
  • Bailed out bankers, fund managers and resurgent oligarchies perpetually contemptuous of the multitudes and their organised expression
  • Political parties appealing to liberalism, democracy, freedom and solidarity to betray their most basic principles when in government
  • Governments that fuel cruel inequality by implementing self-defeating austerity
  • Media moguls who have turned fear-mongering into an art form, and a magnificent source of power and profit
  • Corporations in cahoots with secretive public agencies investing in the same fear to promote secrecy and a culture of surveillance that bend public opinion to their will.

The European Union was an exceptional achievement, bringing together in peace European peoples speaking different languages, submersed in different cultures, proving that it was possible to create a shared framework of human rights across a continent that was, not long ago, home to murderous chauvinism, racism and barbarity. The European Union could have been the proverbial Beacon on the Hill, showing the world how peace and solidarity may be snatched from the jaws of centuries-long conflict and bigotry.

Alas, today, a common bureaucracy and a common currency divide European peoples that were beginning to unite despite our different languages and cultures. A confederacy of myopic politicians, economically naïve officials and financially incompetent ‘experts’ submit slavishly to the edicts of financial and industrial conglomerates, alienating Europeans and stirring up a dangerous anti-European backlash. Proud peoples are being turned against each other. Nationalism, extremism and racism are being re-awakened.

At the heart of our disintegrating EU there lies a guilty deceit: A highly political, top-down, opaque decision-making process is presented as ‘apolitical’, ‘technical’, ‘procedural’ and ‘neutral’. Its purpose is to prevent Europeans from exercising democratic control over their money, finance, working conditions and environment. The price of this deceit is not merely the end of democracy but also poor economic policies:

  • The Eurozone economies are being marched off the cliff of competitive austerity, resulting in permanent recession in the weaker countries and low investment in the core countries
  • EU member-states outside the Eurozone are alienated, seeking inspiration and partners in suspect quarters where they are most likely to be greeted with opaque, coercive free trade deals that undermine their sovereignty.
  • Unprecedented inequality, declining hope and misanthropy flourish throughout Europe

Two dreadful options dominate:

  • Retreat into the cocoon of our nation-states
  • Or surrender to the Brussels democracy-free zone

There must be another course. And there is!

It is the one official ‘Europe’ resists with every sinew of its authoritarian mind-set:

A surge of democracy!

Our movement, DiEM25, seeks to call forth just such a surge.

One simple, radical idea is the motivating force behind DiEM25:

Democratise Europe! For the EU will either be democratised or it will disintegrate!

Our goal to democratise Europe is realistic. It is no more utopian than the initial construction of the European Union was. Indeed, it is less utopian than the attempt to keep alive the current, anti-democratic, fragmenting European Union.

Our goal to democratise Europe is terribly urgent, for without a swift start it may be impossible to chisel away at the institutionalised resistance in good time, before Europe goes past the point of no return. We give it a decade, by 2025.

There’s lots more after the jump. . .

Continue reading

Hillary Clinton, the bu$ine$$-as-u$ual candidate


As Counsel to the President and a White House adviser on domestic policy during the Clinton Administration, William E. Curry got to know both members of Washington’s most famous power couple.

And what he saw has him firmly in the ranks of Bernie Sanders supporters.

He explains why in this RT America interview:

Hillary is ‘too close to Wall Street, a part of ‘soft-corruption’” – fmr advisor to Bill Clinton

Program notes:

While the residents of New Hampshire head to the Primary polls on Tuesday, the gap between the Democratic campaigns of underdog Bernie Sanders and presumed-annointee Hillary Clinton have been tightening, as was demonstrated in Iowa’s Caucus earlier in the month. A number of major roadblocks related to Clinton’s connections with the “political establishment” could be driving this. Former White House advisor to Bill Clinton, Bill Curry, joins RT to dissect what could hold back Hillary and propel Bernie in the Granite State.

Lee Judge, editorial cartoonist of the Kansas City Star, may have been channeling Curry when he created his latest offering:

BLOG Hillary

Finally, a headline from the London Daily Mail:

EXCLUSIVE: How the Clintons embraced Wall Street and made $76,000 a DAY by cashing in with speech after speech – but now Hillary wants to fight to ‘rein in’ the money men

  • Hillary and Bill Clinton have taken in a total of $150 MILLION since 2001, when he left office
  • In 2015, at the height of their earning power,  she and Bill made $27,946,490 in total – $76,565.72 every day
  • They made speech after speech to Wall Street big names with 39 appearances for banks and other financial and legal institutions
  • She refuses to release transcripts which she ordered to be made of the speeches unless every candidate does the same for all private sector talks 
  • Hillary spoke to series of other bodies, never for less than six figures, and even got $100,000 for a satellite appearance
  • Now she says she wants to ‘rein in Wall Street’ and get ‘secret unaccountable money out of politics’

UPDATE: Another headline, this one from The Intercept:

Lobbyists, Consultants Fret Over Bernie Sanders Victory

Bernie Sanders won an overwhelming victory in the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, capturing nearly every demographic group and 60 percent of the vote. The insurgent democratic socialist from Vermont, however, was not celebrated in some quarters of Washington, D.C., as a number of lobbyists and business political consultants took to Twitter to complain.

A legal Icarus lashes out a a corrupt justice system


In Greek mythology, Icarus was the son of Daedalus, the architect of the labyrinth to which Minos, king of Crete, consigned the monstrous Minotaur to devour his enemies. Daedalus and Icarus were forced to flee after Daedalus plotted with Ariadne to help Theseus escape the monster.

Daedalus devised wings made of feathers mounted in wax, so he and his son could fly from the island, telling his son he must fly neither to low, lest the sea’s moisture render the wings useless, nor too high, lest the sun’s heat melt the wax.

Icarus, needless to say, flew tie, dying in a plunge into the sea after the wax had melted.

William S. Lerach was a legal Icarus, a San Diego class action attorney raised in an impoverished household in Pittsburgh, he specialized in shareholder litigation, recovering billions for investors in Enron, and served as a passionate advocate for his profession and for the public interest.

When Congress moved to radically restrict his profession, Lerach was outspoken, as Wikipedia notes:

While testifying in Congress in 1995 against the passage of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America) which Congress passed by over-riding the veto of President Clinton, Lerach warned at the hearing: “In 10 or 15 years you will be holding another hearing about a debacle in the securities market that will make you remember the S&L mess with fondness.”

But Lerach may have flown to close to the sun when he took on Vice President Dick Cheney for his actions at Halliburton, and in 2007 he was arrested by the Bush administration’s Justice Department and plead guilty to a single felony charge of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and making false declarations under oath related to his involvement in a kickback scheme, a scheme which to esnl‘s own knowledge was commonly practice by class action lawyers.

He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

Lerach suspects his prosecution was political, given that the Bush administration almost never demanded criminal convictions of crooked banksters and corporate executives, the usual targets of Lerach’s lawsuits.

Disbarred after completely his prison term, Lerach lives in La Jolla, and according to one account, is worth nearly a billion dollars.

While he no longer practices law, he remains a passionate advocate, decrying changes in the criminal justice system and law enforcement that fall most heavily on people of color. And much more.

He has a lot to say in this address given to an audience at the University of California at San Diego, and there’s nothing he says we don’t agree with.

From University of California Television:

American Law: Instrument of Progress or Weapon of Oppression? William Lerach — A Life In The Law

Program notes:

Former litigator William S. Lerach explores the chasm between the ideals and the reality of the American legal system, one that promises equal access and accountability but often shields the financial elite from civil liability and criminal prosecution. Drawing on his extensive experience with class action lawsuits, Lerach shows how major court decisions have skewed toward defendants over time, even when evidence confirmed their participation in illegal activity. Lerach also condemns recent judicial decisions that have spared police officers from punishment for incidents that have led to the deaths of unarmed African-Americans. This is the first in a new series from UC San Diego — “A Life in the Law: Practitioners Reflecting on Law and the Legal Process on American Life.”

Quote of the day: On Bernie’s missed opportunity


From the redoubtable Jim Kunstler, writing at his blog, Clusterfuck Nation:

Bernie blew his biggest chance yet to harpoon the white whale known as Hillary when he cast some glancing aspersions on Mz It’s-My-Turn’s special side-job as errand girl of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks. Together, Bill and Hillary racked up $7.7 million on 39 speaking gigs to that gang, with Hillary clocking $1.8 million of the total for eight blabs. When Bernie alluded to this raft of grift, MzIMT retorted, “If you’ve got something to say, say it directly.”

There was a lot Bernie could have said, but didn’t. Such as: what did you tell them that was worth over $200,000 a pop? Whatever it was, it must have made them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Did it occur to you that this might look bad sometime in the near future? Is there any way that this might not be construed as bribery? And how is some formerly middle-class out-of-work average voter supposed to feel about you getting paid more for 45 minutes of flapping your gums than he or she has earned in the past five years?

Bernie could have found a gentlemanly way to say that directly, but perhaps he experienced a sickening precognitive vision of his jibes being used against the party establishment’s candidate in the fall general election. Of course, if it looked like Hillary was going to get elected, the remaining sound-of-mind in this country might be falling over each other to apply for citizenship in Uruguay.

Africa’s ‘Green Revolution’ helps only the richest


As for the poor, forget about it.

In reality, the set of practices endorsed by neoliberals in Washington and Europe, is a cover for driving the poorest farmers into debt as they are driven to buy fertilizers, seeds, herbicides, and pesticides from Big Agra companies in the North.

driven into debt and foreclosed when they can’t pay because of crops failures and poor yields, the only beneficiaries are large landholders.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Rather than alleviating poverty, a farming revolution aimed at increasing and modernising agricultural production in Africa could be harming the poorest, according to a new study.

The University of East Anglia research details how changes brought on by modernisation programmes disrupt subsistence practices, deepen poverty, impair local systems of trade and knowledge, and threaten land ownership.

The “green revolution” of the 1960s and 70s – when policies supporting new seeds for marketable crops, sold at guaranteed prices, helped many farmers and transformed economies in Asia – has also become increasingly popular in Africa where up to 90 percent of people in some countries are smallholder farmers.

In Rwanda, government, donors and development institutions such as the International Monetary Fund have hailed the strategy as a success for the economy and in reducing poverty.

But in interviews with villagers in Rwanda’s mountainous west the researchers found only a relatively wealthy minority had been able to keep up with modernisation, while the poorest cannot afford the risk of taking out credit for the seeds and fertilisers required for modernised agriculture.

Here’s the summary from the study from the report, Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications of Imposed Innovation for the Wellbeing of Rural Smallholders, which is available free in its entirety from the journal World Development, under a Creative Commons agreement sponsored by  Natural Environment Research Council:

Green Revolution policies are again being pursued to drive agricultural growth and reduce poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. However conditions have changed since the well-documented successes of the 1960s and 1970s benefitted smallholders in southern Asia and beyond. We argue that under contemporary constraints the mechanisms for achieving improvements in the lives of smallholder farmers through such policies are unclear and that both policy rationale and means of governing agricultural innovation are crucial for pro-poor impacts. To critically analyze Rwanda’s Green Revolution policies and impacts from a local perspective, a mixed methods, multidimensional wellbeing approach is applied in rural areas in mountainous western Rwanda. Here Malthusian policy framing has been used to justify imposed rather than “induced innovation”. The policies involve a substantial transformation for rural farmers from a traditional polyculture system supporting subsistence and local trade to the adoption of modern seed varieties, inputs, and credit in order to specialize in marketable crops and achieve increased production and income. Although policies have been deemed successful in raising yields and conventionally measured poverty rates have fallen over the same period, such trends were found to be quite incongruous with local experiences. Disaggregated results reveal that only a relatively wealthy minority were able to adhere to the enforced modernization and policies appear to be exacerbating landlessness and inequality for poorer rural inhabitants. Negative impacts were evident for the majority of households as subsistence practices were disrupted, poverty exacerbated, local systems of knowledge, trade, and labor were impaired, and land tenure security and autonomy were curtailed. In order to mitigate the effects we recommend that inventive pro-poor forms of tenure and cooperation (none of which preclude improvements to input availability, market linkages, and infrastructure) may provide positive outcomes for rural people, and importantly in Rwanda, for those who have become landless in recent years. We conclude that policies promoting a Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa should not all be considered to be pro-poor or even to be of a similar type, but rather should be the subject of rigorous impact assessment. Such assessment should be based not only on consistent, objective indicators but pay attention to localized impacts on land tenure, agricultural practices, and the wellbeing of socially differentiated people.