by Ralph Nader
The Nader Page
Soon after the passage in 1999 of the Clinton-Rubin-Summers-P. Graham deregulation of the financial industry, I boarded a US Air flight to Boston and discovered none other than then-Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers a few seats away. He was speaking loudly and constantly on his cell phone. When the plane took off he invited me to sit by him and talk.
After reviewing the contents of this Citibank-friendly new law called the Financial Modernization Act—I asked him: “Do you think the big banks have too much power?”
He paused for a few seconds and replied: “Not Yet.” Intrigued by his two word answer, I noted the rejection of modest pro-consumer provisions, adding that now that the banks had had their round, wasn’t it time for the consumers to have their own round soon?
The current debate on our side as to whether President Obama should “go after” the Georgites, right up to, or perhaps starting with, BushCheney echoes the debate on possible impeachment that occurred when the last Congress came to power. At the time, I put forth the view that it might be a good idea, despite the political risks, if one started on the mundane, such as corruption. One could start with it rather than with the truly important, such as the use of torture by the Administration, ordered/approved (depending upon how you read the known words) from the top. Among other things, violating the Geneva Conventions automatically violated Article Six of the Constitution (which makes ratified treaties part of the supreme law of the land). Given the incoming personnel at the top levels of the Justice Department, I do think the Administration will get there, sooner or later. But it has other priorities now, such as the economy, health care, and Israel/Palestine. And Congress, led by Rep. John Conyers, is already starting in on the top level Georgites, on the matter of violating the Constitution. So what might the Administration do right away?
I am a third generation lefty, my parents and grandparents on both sides were lefties of one flavour or another, but I think I am the first one to actually write pretty much full time about events from left field.
Throughout my three-score and some on this planet it’s gone from bad to better to worse to downright disastrous, the process propelled by the insane ‘logic’ of capital.
Trying to chart the ebb and flow of it all is not easy, it’s complex and contradictory, just as we human beings are and sometimes I just get sick and tired of the whole damn thing and wonder why I even bother. There’s no money [in] it, exposure to an awful lot of grief, misery and injustice that I have absolutely no control over, so why do it?
The glib answer would be that somebody has to, but in fact nobody forced me to, the imperative comes from somewhere far deeper, triggered I suspect in my childhood and not just because I grew up surrounded by Reds.
I venture to guess that at the risk of going all Freudian, Jungian, Bethelheimian or whatever, the catalyst was the simple fact that I was different, that in turn forced me onto the ‘outside’ as it were, looking in.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is seeking to punish Israel for alleged war crimes. He has called for an international investigation panel.
Al Jazeera has been out with Amnesty International investigators conducting house-to-house searches in Gaza and collecting all of the evidence, such as shrapnel fragments, that will aid in the investigation.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Awad reports.
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Turkish PM clashes with Israel Continue reading
Updated: 1.31.09 added another story
compiled by Cem Ertür
27 January, 2009
excerpts from: ‘Iran and Syria trying to replace PLO‘
by Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, 29 January 2009
The Palestinian Authority [PA] on Thursday accused Iran and Syria of encouraging Hamas and other radical groups to establish a new leadership that would challenge the [Palestine Liberation Organisation] PLO’s claim to be the “sole and legitimate” representative of the Palestinians. The PA is an organ of the PLO.
The PA fears that the potential new leadership, which would be headed by Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, would be recognized by several Islamic governments that are unhappy with President Mahmoud Abbas.
The PA is also worried because the idea of replacing the PLO is being backed by prominent Arab political analysts, newspaper editors and even veteran Fatah leader Farouk Kaddoumi.
Mashaal on Wednesday surprised the PA by announcing that the current circumstances require the Palestinians to start thinking about the creation of a new leadership that would represent all Palestinians.
The PLO was no longer the legitimate representative of the Palestinians “because of its role in deepening divisions among the Palestinians,” he said.
His declaration has won the backing of all the Damascus-based Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command headed by Ahmed Jibril.
Hussein a-Sheikh, a senior Fatah operative in the West Bank, called for organizing protests against Mashaal’s comments.
“This is an Iranian-Syrian plot against the PLO,” he said.
A Fatah leaflet distributed in Nablus on Thursday lashed out at former MK [member of the Israeli parliament Knesset] Azmi Bishara for supporting the idea […] The leaflet condemned all those who support Hamas as “mercenaries” working for Iran, Syria and Qatar.
excerpt from: Thousands of al-Qaeda supporters active in Gaza
by Ali Waked, Ynetnews, 31 January 2009
Thousands of global Jihad supporters, mostly concentrated in southern Gaza, are currently active in the Strip according to a Ynet inquiry with various Palestinian sources.
According to Ynet’s inquiry, the overwhelming majority of Qaeda supporters are in fact Hamas or Popular Resistance Commiittees (PRC) members who were unimipressed with Hamas’ decision to join the political establishment and run in the Palestinian elections. These members claimed that this prompted Hamas to abandon the path of Jihad, which they felt is the only way to liberate Palestinian lands from Israel’s control.
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By now most Americans have experienced extreme disgust upon hearing about the nearly $20 billion in bonuses given to people in New York City’s financial sector at the end of 2008. After sending the nation into the current economic black hole there is no way of comprehending the audacity of financial company executives in giving themselves and their colleagues shameful rewards for abysmal and disgraceful performance. Other than screaming and moaning about all this dishonorable behavior what should the Obama administration and Congress do?
Here is the solution that the overwhelming majority of Americans should demand: A law should be immediately passed that imposes a new special federal income tax of 99 percent on all income in excess of $500,000 annually for single taxpayers and $1 million for couples, starting for 2008 income. Call it a greed tax. Call it justice. Call it getting even for too many years of uncontrolled greed that has given the nation nothing but economic injustice and inequality, and given capitalism a very bad name. Call it a sensible way to raise federal revenues to help offset the cancerous national debt.
Considering that nearly all of the people who received the 2008 bonuses also received high salaries and even larger bonuses in previous years, and the many billions of dollars of federal dollars going into bailouts of companies, there should be no qualms about such a greed tax. For example, in the two previous years a total of about $70 billion in bonuses were received by these greedy financial sector elites.
Even outside the financial sector, executives also received obscene bonuses in 2008 despite terrible performance. The compensation research firm Equilar, for example, reports that the average performance-based bonuses for top executives, other than the chief executive, at 132 companies with revenues of more than $1 billion increased by 14 percent, to an average of $265,594, in the 2008 fiscal year, in addition to high salaries.
As just one of countless examples of greed, consider that the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Mark Hurd, received $42.5 million in 2008 pay. He had received over $20 million in signing inducements in 2005. During his tenure some 40,000 jobs have been eliminated at H-P. And consider this nice little perk: In 2008 the company also paid out about $181,000 for his business meals.
And then there is the case of Robert Rubin at Citigroup. During his nine years there the company lost over $65 billion. What did Rubin earn? He pocketed $126 million. What did he say when he left? “I bet there’s not a single year where I couldn’t have gone somewhere else and made more.”
Enough already. Drastic action is needed to achieve some justice. With all the attention on the Obama stimulus plan based on spending money the nation does not really have or can afford, it is appropriate to use this proposal to raise more revenues. Tax greed!
[Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through www.delusionaldemocracy.com.]