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Taken Hostage

September 16, 2009

The American people have been taken hostage to a broken system.

It is a system that remains in place to this day.

A system where bank lobbyists have been spending in record numbers to make sure it stays that way.

A system that corrupts the most basic principles of competition and fair play, principles upon which this country was built.

It is a system that so far has forced the taxpayer to provide the banks with the use of $14 trillion from the Federal Reserve, much of the $7 trillion outstanding at the US Treasury and $2.3 trillion at the FDIC.

A system partially built by the very people who currently advise our President, run our Treasury Department and are charged with its reform.

And most stunningly — it is a system that no one in our government has yet made any effort to fundamentally change.


Why is this? Who does our Government work for? How much longer will we as Americans tolerate it? And what, if anything, can we do about it?

Dylan Ratigan

Questions we ask ourselves here all the time. Questions rarely shown asked on the MSM. The answers are too long in coming.

33 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    September 16, 2009 6:46 pm

    Good interview with Taleb: here

    MW: Are you saying the U.S. shouldn’t have done all those bailouts? What was the alternative?

    NT: Blood , sweat and tears. A lot of the growth of the past few years was fake growth from debt. So swallow the losses, be dignified and move on. Suck it up. I gather you’re not too impressed with the folks in Washington who are handling this crisis.

    Ben Bernanke saved nothing! He shouldn’t be allowed in Washington. He’s like a doctor who misses the metastatic tumour and says the patient is doing very well. The first thing I would tell Chinese officials is, how can you buy U.S. bonds as long as Larry Summers is there? He’s a textbook case of overconfidence. Look what happened to Harvard’s finances. They took a lot of risk they didn’t understand, and it was a disaster. That’s the Larry Summers mentality.

    MW: You argue that globalization and modern technology have made the world financial system far more fragile than ever before. How?

    NT: Globalization and the Web create worldwide mass effects, whether positive or negative. We have planetary fads that cause random variables to have bigger spikes than ever before. Variables that used to move 10 per cent now move 30 per cent. The whole planet can pull its money out on the same day. The Internet is what bankrupted Iceland! You in Canada destroyed things with your BlackBerry.

    Yes, a year after Lehman we see the same risk taking and same bad behaviors and instruments allowed. Same old, same old and the swan will come out swinging somewhere down the road.

    It’s all about the unfettered and excessive risk, corruption and the digitization of the panic reaction.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 17, 2009 10:03 am

      That was a good interview. I liked the part in the intro where they mention that Taleb thinks banks should be run as a public utility. I agree, especially since bankers aren’t lending out their own hard earned cash which was earned by pulling themselves up by their bootstraps – they are lending out your and my money with some more fiat money the Fed had printed out. There is a need for currency and credit and banks unless we want to go back to the barter system which isn’t a realistic option in this day and age. But we shouldn’t have a few people deciding how much currency and credit is needed and then rigging the system so they can take huge chunks of the cash for themselves. I wouldn’t mind if we had some well paid officials keeping track of the money supply. Maybe they could be paid a few hundred thou or even a couple million to keep things running smoothly, but what we have now is beyond the pale. People are being paid hundreds of millions while not running things smoothly at all and putting everyone at risk except themselves.

      I also got a chuckle from the end of the interview:

      NT: My advice is that instead of investing in medium-risk securities, you should put most of your money in very low-risk securities, and a little bit in high-risk securities. Then you might get a good black swan. Also, it’s good to have more than one profession, in case your own profession goes out of style. A Wall Street trader who’s also a belly dancer will do a lot better than a trader who winds up driving a taxi.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    September 16, 2009 7:05 pm

    Another interesting piece from the Globe

    Kafka and Eraserhead can make you smarter

    Being exposed to surrealism, whether it’s through Mr. Lynch’s film Blue Velvet or a Kafka short story, can improve learning by compelling the brain to seek out structure, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science.

    “We rely on structure to make sense of the world,” says Steven J. Heine, co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. “If you encounter something that you can’t relate [to other things], that you don’t know what to do with it, this sort of puts you off your game and you need to search for a reference point again to again find some structure.”

    In the study, one group of subjects read a Kafka short story that involves a disturbing and nonsensical series of events. Another group read a version of the story rewritten to resemble a conventional narrative. Both groups were then shown a series of letter strings containing hidden patterns. They were asked to copy each series and then put a mark next to those that followed a similar pattern.

    People who read the weirdness of Kafka’s bent tale were able to identify more patterns in letter strings than those who read the ordinary version.

    Hmmmm. Could the same be said for a liking for psychotropics? :)

    • cometman permalink*
      September 17, 2009 6:55 am

      It may be true for Kafka or Dali or Magritte, but David Lynch will definitely not make you smarter :P Never could stand that guy for some reason. I think it has to do with him not giving the audience enough credit for being able to figure out what’s going on which is how I felt about Blue Velvet and the one that hammered you over the head with the allusions to the Wizard of Oz that I forget the name of.

      Your last line reminded me of a band I haven’t listened to in a long time called “The Big F”. They had the ear and scissors from a Bosch painting on the album cover and a line in one song that said something like:

      I’ve traveled to the ends of the earth
      Psilocybins have their worth

      Here’s a song from them, although not the one with that line in it.

      • Stemella permalink*
        September 17, 2009 7:53 am

        Another new one for me! Thanks.

        I think the film you were referring to was Wild at Heart with Laura Dern and Nicholas Cage. I prefer the films of Herzog and Fellini to Lynch myself, but given the context of his work I think he does a pretty good job of illustrating the surreality of America, particularly during Reagan’s 80’s.

        • cometman permalink*
          September 17, 2009 9:26 am

          Yeah that was the one – Wild at Heart. I got the Oz metaphor he was going for but he kept hammering away at it to the point of having the good witch come down at the end which I thought was a bit much. I only saw Blue Velvet once while in college and I was deeeeeeeeeeeee- runk when I watched it. But even so I remember it being a pretty decent movie until Laura Dern’s character showed up every half hour or so to ask the male lead what was going on. The whole purpose of her character seemed to be just to give an excuse for a plot recap in case people were too dumb to get what was happening. Maybe I should watch that one again and see if my perceptions of it have changed in the last 20 years, but I guess what I’m getting at is I’d prefer a little more subtlety. David Cronenberg is another one who gets raves from the cult film fans that I just don’t like. I thought “Crash” was awful. I’m with you in preferring Herzog, who I could watch all day long. I’ve only seen a couple by Fellini but I liked them as well.

          • cometman permalink*
            September 17, 2009 9:29 am

            Oh and by the way, kudos on the latest surreal photoshop. Very nice. You could teach David Lynch a few things :)

            • Stemella permalink*
              September 17, 2009 9:58 am

              That is no photoshop. I wish I was that good. That is a real 6 ft Pacific octopus playing with his favorite toy, Mr. Potato Head! Really!

              • cometman permalink*
                September 17, 2009 10:08 am

                Ha! And I found this video in the comments of that article which our fans of classical music might enjoy:

  3. Stemella permalink*
    September 17, 2009 7:33 am

    The Larry Summers economic externality plan for Africa has gone very wrong on the Ivory Coast.

    How UK oil company Trafigura tried to cover up African pollution disaster

    The Guardian can reveal evidence today of a massive cover-up by the British oil trader Trafigura, in one of the worst pollution disasters in recent history.

    Internal emails show that Trafigura, which yesterday suddenly announced an offer to pay compensation to 31,000 west African victims, was fully aware that its waste dumped in Ivory Coast was so toxic that it was banned in Europe.

    Thousands of west Africans besieged local hospitals in 2006, and a number died, after the dumping of hundreds of tonnes of highly toxic oil waste around the country’s capital, Abidjan. Official local autopsy reports on 12 alleged victims appeared to show fatal levels of the poisonous gas hydrogen sulphide, one of the waste’s lethal byproducts.

    Trafigura has been publicly insisting for three years that its waste was routine and harmless. It claims it was “absolutely not dangerous”.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 17, 2009 10:13 am

      Disgusting. Do they have pirates on the western coast of Africa too? If so, fuck ’em up pirates.

  4. cometman permalink*
    September 17, 2009 11:28 am

    Looks like the recently released shoe throwing journalist was right to leave the country for a while. Another guy threw a shoe at US troops and was shot dead. Very short article and I couldn’t find anything with more detail, but it does say the now dead man was insulting them before throwing the shoe, so you’d think they’d have had time to size up the situation before opening fire. Must have gotten confused by all the shoe-shaped grenades the Iraqis have been using lately.

    • Stemella permalink*
      September 17, 2009 3:01 pm

      Here’s a bit more detail from Reuters

      Iraqi man shot by U.S. forces after throwing “shoe”

      Ahmed Mohammed, a doctor at a hospital in Falluja, said the man in Falluja, a 32-year-old mechanic named Ahmed Latif, had been shot in the chest. He was operated on Thursday evening and remained in critical condition.

      Ahmed Abdul Razzaq, a policeman in Falluja, said the man had been suffering from psychological problems related to fierce battles that U.S. forces have fought in Falluja since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.


      Uday Latif, the victim’s brother, said he believed his brother had thrown a sandal.

      “He hates the U.S. military and becomes hysterical whenever he sees U.S. patrols. But he doesn’t know how to use a gun and never thought even for a minute to use one,” he said, adding that Latif did not suffer psychological problems before 2004.

      Uday Latif said his brother had been detained in 2007 by U.S. forces for two weeks.

      Tragedy compounded by tragedy. I wish we would leave the Iraqis alone and get out of their country. This story makes me feel so sad.

  5. cometman permalink*
    September 17, 2009 11:42 am

    Good op-ed from one of my favorites who I haven’t heard from in a while – Chris Cooper with Once Again The Animals Were Conscious of A Vague Uneasiness.

    Also enjoyed the little bio at the end:

    Mr. Cooper works hard and gets by. But he does not have health insurance. He cannot afford it. Therefore he does not often seek doctoring. Mandating his purchase of the deficient, dishonest products of the industry will not induce him to do so; it will likely just further piss him off and cause him to generate more unwholesome, unhelpful essays such as this. Persons wishing to contact him for whatever reason (no insurance agents, please) may write to Before he leaves this author wishes to tell you that he is one resident of the state of Maine who is not impressed with the work of Senator Olympia Snowe, political bed-partner of Senator Max Baucus. Just so you know.

    Make that two residents.

    • Stemella permalink*
      September 17, 2009 3:32 pm

      “We were desperate for a leader; we got a motivational speaker.”

      That was a great read. He ties it all up perfectly and succinctly. A kindred spirit suffering the malaise of the neo-feudal corporatocracy that we call America.

  6. cometman permalink*
    September 17, 2009 11:52 am

    Jeremy Scahill wonders why Obama continues to pay Blackwater millions on the second anniversary of the massacre they committed in Iraq. Difficult to read his description of what happened there two years ago. Even more difficult to understand why this company still exists.

  7. cometman permalink*
    September 17, 2009 12:09 pm

    The government plan for carbon offsets explained simply.

    • Stemella permalink*
      September 17, 2009 3:33 pm

      Poor wabbit! He should have used one of my rattuses instead. ;)

      CROC is right, alright.

  8. cometman permalink*
    September 17, 2009 12:56 pm

    Couple of interesting posts from Zerohedge today.

    First, this one which argues that the stock markets are rising on hype from cheerleaders alone in the last few months because there is no economic recovery for the vast majority of people.

    Second is the short, mind numbing post where some financial type or another seems to think that potential bankruptcy is now a good reason to invest in a company.

  9. cometman permalink*
    September 17, 2009 1:01 pm

    More stupid from republicans- Dana Rohrabacher wonders why Iraqis aren’t more grateful.

  10. Stemella permalink*
    September 18, 2009 5:33 am

    In this era of shoes – flinging, flying, shot, and dropping – there are two more in process of explosively hitting the fan in slow motion that belie the premature verdentjaculations of the officialdom of government and their bankster masters.

    Wells commercial real estate ticking time bomb and coming cre woes


    “Option” mortgages to explode, officials warn

    Slow motion detonation of dropping shoes. Sounds rather recession inducing if not outright depression conducive. And yet the risky business behaviors goes on and on all the while cheered by the pirates and technocrats.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 18, 2009 7:55 am

      Amazing how so many can have their heads in the sand and continue cheerleading. But the cheerleading seems to be the only way the banksters can find new sheep to fleece.

      Here’s another kind of funny real estate related piece on the situation in one Florida over-development and attempts by voters to stop the developers from their continuing stupidity: The Mayor of Coconut Creek Gets Butterflies .

      A group of gritty citizens have organized a successful petition to put on the 2010 ballot in Florida an amendment to the state constitution called Florida Hometown Democracy. It is greatly feared by state business interests, including Associated Industries and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. If the amendment passes by a 60 percent majority– a new threshold for passage of amendments by petition proposed and passed specifically to counter Florida Hometown Democracy– then changes to local growth plans will be subject to local vote and not local elected representatives acting as zoning councils.


      These forces represent a status quo that is unmoveable even under the duress of the worst collapse in housing values since the Depression. Still, they will spend an unlimited amount of money to “persuade” the electorate in Florida, nurtured to voting age during the Age of Stupid, that “complexities” of regulations governing growth are the appropriate responsibility of representative democracy.

  11. Stemella permalink*
    September 18, 2009 6:02 am

    The price being paid by the workers for the cheap technology we use to text and twitter. Or – the Larry Summers externalities plan implemented in China.

    China’s “cancer villages” bear witness to economic boom

    The river’s flow ranges from murky white to a bright shade of orange and the waters are so viscous that they barely ripple in the breeze. In Shangba, the river brings death, not sustenance.

    “All the fish died, even chickens and ducks that drank from the river died. If you put your leg in the water, you’ll get rashes and a terrible itch,” said He Shuncai, a 34-year-old rice farmer who has lived in Shangba all his life.

    “Last year alone, six people in our village died from cancer and they were in their 30s and 40s.”

    Cancer casts a shadow over the villages in this region of China in southern Guangdong province, nestled among farmland contaminated by heavy metals used to make batteries, computer parts and other electronics devices.

    Every year, an estimated 460,000 people die prematurely in China due to exposure to air and water pollution, according to a 2007 World Bank study.

    I was surprised to read that these people are having to cover their own medical costs for the cancers. I would have figured that a commie country would have socialized medicine, but I thought wrong. China is definitely going to be another explosive shoe to drop. It makes sense why they slaughter bad managers violently.

  12. Stemella permalink*
    September 18, 2009 6:36 am

    Check out this website of a portrait artist, Geoffrey Raymond, who focuses on the worst of the hostage taking banksters and pirates: Hank Paulson, Dick Fuld, Bernanke and the Elvin One all in red.

    Year of Magical Painting

    I saw a blurb on him on PBS. He sets the portraits up on Wall St, outside of Lehman Bros location, to let passers by sign them with messages. If you click on the images on his blog you can read them.

    Here’s the whole portfolio
    His prints are available for sale at zerohedge, see top post there.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 18, 2009 7:40 am

      Good stuff. I like the “annotated” idea of letting people make comments on them. The one of Bernanke called “Big Ben-We’re totally Screwed” was good too :)

  13. cometman permalink*
    September 18, 2009 8:03 am

    Here’s a little bit of good news from Obama – plans for the stupid missile shield that were pissing off Russia have been canceled, which has republicans who need their wargasms foaming at the mouth.

    Of course sanity hasn’t really prevailed as the article mentions some ambiguous plans to build some different kind of missile defense in pretty much the same location.

    Obama said the system he is embracing is more cost-effective, uses proven technology, and will offer “stronger, smarter, and swifter defense of American forces and America’s allies.’’ It would deploy smaller SM-3 missiles, at first aboard ships and later on land somewhere in Europe, possibly even in Poland or the Czech Republic.

    How about if the Europeans are really so worried about Iran, they build their own damn missile shield? Of course that would mean it probably wouldn’t be built because left to their own devices without Uncle sugar egging them on, most of the European leaders don’t seem to feel Iran is an existential threat to their countries. And think of the poor defense contractors who’d have to go without if that happened.

  14. cometman permalink*
    September 18, 2009 8:12 am

    Interesting blurb I ran across at the Harper’s website which shows the lack of understanding W had about the bank bailout he was signing on to (big surprise there!) .

    I read the entire article after clicking on the GQ link and found out it was an excerpt from that new book written by a republican speechwriter about the inner workings of the Bush administration. Now I realize that when writing speeches for Bush he may have had to dumb things down a bit, but this article (and I’d imagine the rest of the book too) read like it was written by a 9th grader. Not sure if it is representative of the intellect of the writer or whether he was dumbing it down for his presumably republican audience. I’m gonna take a stab and guess it was the former.

  15. cometman permalink*
    September 18, 2009 8:28 am

    Reading the tea leaves on Justice Sotomayor – this sounds encouraging.

    During arguments in a campaign-finance case, the court’s majority conservatives seemed persuaded that corporations have broad First Amendment rights and that recent precedents upholding limits on corporate political spending should be overruled.

    But Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority might have it all wrong — and that instead the court should reconsider the 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights flesh-and-blood people have.

    Judges “created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons,” she said. “There could be an argument made that that was the court’s error to start with…[imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics.”

  16. cometman permalink*
    September 18, 2009 11:15 am

    Chris Dodd has some legislation he’s about to unveil to rein in bank overdraft fees. I’d like to see some details before getting too excited about it all – hopefully it won’t just be a requirement to increase the small print from a 36 font to a 32 like they did with some of the credit card “reform”. But judging by past performance it probably will be once the lobbyists have told Dodd what he really thinks.

    And you have to wonder whether the bankster-enabling Dodd would have bothered at all if there weren’t so many people calling for his head and lining up to run against him like Peter Schiff.

    • Stemella permalink*
      September 19, 2009 9:34 am

      He is in the hot seat. Even the current CEO of the WWE is looking to get that seat. It will be interesting to see if the banksters throw him overboard or fight to keep him. Isn’t that what it is all about these days? I imagine if he drafts any legislation that has actual teeth, he’ll be swimming with the fishies.

  17. cometman permalink*
    September 18, 2009 11:52 am

    Good post by Chris Floyd about the rise of a new liberal social justice party in Germany called “Die Linke” and the lack of a real liberal opposition to the oligarchs here. he quite justifiably takes Michael Moore to task for some of his recent remarks which I found mind boggling coming from Moore when I first read them a couple days ago.

    So again: where is the American “Linke”? Those who should be spearheading such a movement are instead quibbling over how many more troops we should send to kill villagers in Afghanistan, or the precise calibrations of the transfer of public wealth to the insurance companies and the financial house … or how, in the immortal words of Michael Moore, we can best support the president — as Obama defends and extends Bush’s policies on torture, secrecy, indefinite detention, assassinations, Wall Street coddling and military aggression — because Obama is just “faking right to go left.”

    And how many people will die, languish or be dispossessed by these “fake” policies until Obama finally hangs that big left turn, Michael? What number would be acceptable to you? Ten thousand? A million? When the next “unfortunate incident” kills another dozen children in Afghanistan, will you, like Madeline Albright, bite your lower lip with sad but steadfast determination and say, “We think that it’s worth it”?

    There will be no “Linkeage” in America as long as this cringing, blinkered stance holds sway, even among the most prominent “dissenters” in the land. Moore and those like him are just pouring salt in the wounds of the people, who can clearly see that Obama is not acting in their interest. The old folk saying holds true here: “Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.” Don’t tell me Obama is for me when I can see with my own eyes that he is against me.

    Thus any message of genuine, positive dissent is discredited; and in the vacuum left by the Democrats’ eager embrace of militarist oligarchy and the dissidents’ craven refusal to acknowledge the truth about their White House hero, the Right rushes in with its poison brew. And in this noxious atmosphere, who knows what rough beast is even now slouching toward Bethlehem to be born?

    Moore seems to be suffering from the delusion that if all the liberals just hope hard enough, Obama will eventually start listening. Fuck that. Liberals gave small contributions to Obama by the millions and backed that up with their votes. It was made quite clear that the majority of this country wanted a change of course from the disastrous policies of the Bushies, not a continuation of them. And yet when the liberals in Congress balk at his policies that aren’t liberal at all, they are the ones who are taken to the woodshed and threatened by the Obama administration while the Blue Dogs and frothing at the mouth republicans are coddled.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Moore backtracks at all from those statements in the run-up to the release of his new film. If not, he may lose a lot of respect from some of his strongest supporters.

  18. cometman permalink*
    September 18, 2009 11:56 am

    Floyd has another good post about the murder ordered by Obama earlier this week and how not many have even noticed or seen anything to make a stink about if they did. I didn’t catch it either until Floyd brought it up.

    We are truly governed by monsters.

    • Stemella permalink*
      September 19, 2009 9:42 am

      Explains why Squo won’t seek justice for the war crimes of the last administration, doesn’t it. The super Executive with all of Cheney’s acquired powers is now a permanent fixture. Welcome to the new normal. Same as the old normal but Chicago style.

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