November 1, 2013

Above is a video report that updates the movement to establish a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT) (a k a the Robin Hood tax) in the United States, from The Real News, an independent journalism outlet.

An FTT would free up billions of dollars that could be used to protect society’s most vulnerable citizens, or to create a bailout fund for the next crash. And a tiny tax on trades would also have the benefit of reducing volatility in the financial markets by limiting incentives to digitize and automate everything; automated computer algorithms making microsecond decisions (high-frequency trading) are responsible for the majority of global trades being made today. (The systemic risks inherent in loosely regulated global financial markets have increased as the financial industry has exploded in size and importance. About $6 trillion is traded on financial markets daily as of 2009, including $4 trillion on the foreign exchange market, by far the world’s largest market, followed by the derivatives market. The size of the foreign exchange market has increased 800% since 1988.)

Europe has started moving ahead with an FTT in the face of firm opposition from both the Democratic and Republican parties. The Obama Administration, via Tim Geithner, has made its distaste with an FTT clear. Increased public awareness of the issues and public pressure on lawmakers is urgently needed.

July 18, 2013
US Megabanks Report Huge Profit Gains While Real Economy Falters

Bank of America saw a 63% rise in profits compared to this quarter last year ($4 billion). JP Morgan saw a 32% rise ($6.1 billion). Goldman Sachs profits actually doubled, a full 100% rise ($1.9 billion).

These gains, the banks report, were made not by helping ordinary folks with mortgages and small businesses and the like. They were made on Wall Street, in boardroom consulting and by using complex machine algorithms to decide on split-second high-frequency trades on global financial markets. These enormous profits fall into the hands of the top 1%, the top 0.1%, and the top .01%.

A few days prior to the bank reports, Paul Krugman had this to say about the state of the real economy, still staggering after the global financial crisis:

Full recovery still looks a very long way off. And I’m beginning to worry that it may never happen.

You might think that a persistently poor economy — an economy in which millions of people who could and should be productively employed are jobless, and in many cases have been without work for a very long time — would eventually spark public outrage.

You might think.

April 4, 2013
Exclusive: Offshore financial industry leak exposes identities of 1,000s of holders of anonymous wealth from around the world

The Guardian:

The leak of 2m emails and other documents…has the potential to cause a seismic shock worldwide to the booming offshore trade, with a former chief economist at McKinsey estimating that wealthy individuals may have as much as $32tn (£21tn) stashed in overseas havens.

The naming project may be extremely damaging for confidence among the world’s wealthiest people, no longer certain that the size of their fortunes remains hidden from governments and from their neighbours.

March 31, 2013

What is a “Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich”?

And why is it that poor and middle-class families in Western countries are accountable for paying taxes while the very richest families and corporations aren’t? And what’s the deal with that empty, fenced off “development project” outside of Nairobi, the one being built for the world’s biggest tech firms?

Tax-Free Tour is a sweeping and infuriating look into the world of offshore tax havens and corporate tax-dodging, including how it all works and how it exacerbates global inequality and economic suffering. Made by Dutch journalists, the film competently dissects an underreported and crucial financial issue and is a real eye-opener. If you find it educational, please share.

The expression plastered on the face of the Starbucks financial officer as he’s being expertly grilled by the British MP—like a naughty boy being taken to task—is unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.

After watching, there’s a chance you may decide to join the international tax justice movement. Fixing the tax haven issue could potentially ease the pain of millions of families.

Produced by Dutch public television broadcaster, VPRO.

March 30, 2013
Goldman Sachs Rejects Shareholder Proposal That Firm Run for Elected Office

Bloomberg:

[Goldman shareholder] John Harrington said the bank should explore running for office, using a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that corporations have similar political rights to individuals.

“It’s too bad we didn’t get it on the ballot, it would have been a good discussion piece,” Harrington said today in a phone interview. “You begin to see a pattern of how much influence corporations have on our political balance, and now it’s so skewed that you figure, ‘Why don’t we have Goldman run for president and JPMorgan Chase run for vice president.’ And that way, they can run the system for real.”

March 25, 2013
Wikileaks Was Just a Preview: We're Headed for an Even Bigger Showdown Over Secrets

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone:

The secrets are out there and everyone from hackers to journalists to U.S. senators are digging in search of them. Sooner or later, there’s going to be a pitched battle, one where the state won’t be able to peel off one lone Julian Assange or Bradley Manning and batter him into nothingness. Next time around, it’ll be a Pentagon Papers-style constitutional crisis, where the public’s legitimate right to know will be pitted head-to-head with presidents, generals and CEOs….What if it we’re forced to look at all of this for real next time, and what if it turns out we can’t accept it? What if murder and corruption is what’s holding it all together?

March 14, 2013

Overturning Citizens United: Is a Constitutional Amendment the Best Path to Limit Dark Money?

From Democracy Now:

On Tuesday, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 landmark Citizens United ruling that cleared the way for corporations and other special interest groups to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. The bill is part of a growing movement to overturn the ruling. Today we host a debate on whether the push for a constitutional amendment is the best path to overturning Citizens United. We speak to Mark Schmitt, a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and John Bonifaz, co-founder and director of Free Speech for People.

March 13, 2013

Here’s a treat from My Dinner with Andre (1981) with Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, directed by Louis Malle. Prepare to take a mindful 5 minute break from the reality of your day…

March 7, 2013
The Latest from Wall St and Washington: Fallout from a PBS Documentary Exploring Why the Obama Administration is Avoiding Prosecutions for Flagrant Financial Crimes

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone:

A great many people around the country were rightfully shocked and horrified by the recent excellent and hard-hitting PBS documentary, The Untouchables, which looked at the problem of high-ranking Wall Street crooks going unpunished in the wake of the financial crisis. The PBS piece certainly rattled some cages, particularly in Washington, in a way that few media efforts succeed in doing.

November 6, 2012
Thirty-Eight Decisions
In an attempt to emphasize some of the areas of general agreement and silence between the two candidates in this election—issues that will require citizens taking democratic action outside the electoral system—Tomáš Zeman and I put together this graphic. The interactive version can be downloaded here.

Thirty-Eight Decisions

In an attempt to emphasize some of the areas of general agreement and silence between the two candidates in this election—issues that will require citizens taking democratic action outside the electoral system—Tomáš Zeman and I put together this graphic. The interactive version can be downloaded here.

October 25, 2012

Kickstarter:

The Yes Men Are Revolting is a funny, action-packed adventure. With the environment on the brink of collapse, we ask a pressing question: at a time when corporate forces have bought and sold democracy, how can we effect real change? Our answer: get every viewer involved in the struggle.

For the last four years we’ve worked with dozens of groups on infiltrations, impersonations, and mass actions to try to make a difference. Check out the video on this page for a little taste! After the part where we ask for your support, you’ll see a scene where we hold a press conference pretending to be from the US Chamber of Commerce (big-money lobbyists who spend hundreds of millions blocking and dismantling environment, labor, housing, and health laws). The press conference goes well, and the Chamber’s real PR guy even shows up—comedic vigilante justice at its best. Stay tuned to this page for more videos in coming weeks.

But as we continued pulling off actions like the one against the Chamber, the Obama years rolled by, and as money’s chokehold on democracy got tighter, we got more frantic. We even took it out on each other, and our “band” almost split up. But then, a sequence of unbelievable global uprisings, from Tahrir Square to Occupy Wall Street, got us excited about the idea of a global revolution–and we began to realize that we can do it too.

Then, energized by our involvement with the Occupy movement, we came to realize our true role in social change. Now, we’re hatching our most ambitious plan ever.

October 22, 2012
After the Boom in Natural Gas

An extraordinary investigative piece in the NYTimes this weekend (see link above) detailed the recently burst bubble of the natural gas market in the U.S., including who it damaged irreparably (ordinary people, the environment) and who benefited big time (members of the top .1%). The article includes revelatory detail on how two billionnaire fraternity brothers, one an investment banker and the other an energy corporation CEO, fueled the country’s natural gas bubble using ownership of land on gas-rich shales, global connections to elite investors, creative financial instruments, and a significant amount of bluster and bullshit.

October 20, 2012
The facts are in: Nonviolent resistance works

National Catholic Reporter:

Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan uses graphs, charts, sociological research and statistical analysis to show how in the last century, nonviolent movements were far better at mobilizing supporters, resisting regime crackdowns, creating new initiatives, defeating repressive regimes and establishing lasting democracies.

October 19, 2012
The Self-Destruction of the One Percent

Chrystia Freeland, NYTimes Op-Ed:

The irony of the political rise of the plutocrats is that, like Venice’s oligarchs, they threaten the system that created them.

October 15, 2012
Project Censored: Top 25 Most Underreported News Stories of the Year

‘Censored 2013’ celebrates the importance of independent journalism for democratic self-government, and it holds to account the corporate media for their failure to provide the public with complete, relevant news coverage.