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Bailing Banks, Who Fools South Africa? An Appreciation of Nora Ephron, John Roberts Unmasked

June 30th, 2012 - by:

HP: Normon Solomon, Close But No Cigar in California Congressional Race

After a vote-counting process that stretched a few weeks beyond the June 5 primary, anti-war Democrat Norman Solomon finally conceded the race for California’s 2nd District on Tuesday.

Solomon, an activist and co-founder of the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), finished third behind Democrat Jared Huffman and Republican Dan Roberts, who will face off in the general election. Despite picking up roughly 1,000 votes after the initial tally on election night, Solomon eventually lost by less than 200 votes to the second-place Roberts, according to the Democrat’s campaign.

Art Assure Ltd: Bailout Buttresses Banks In Europe

Of the €400 billion plus in rescue funds loaned to Greece all but €15 billion went to assist the banks. Almost all of what was received by the banks was recirculated to the sovereign coffers. The emergency loan pledged to Spain of up to €120 billion is earmarked to aid the banks who, in turn, will re-lend most of it to the Spanish government. The same will hold for Italy and the myriad of nations both within and outside the Eurozone including the internal fiddling of the U.S. Fed.

The only notable conclusion of yesterday’s EU marathon was that, rather than keeping the loans to Spain as senior to the banks, their shareholders, bondholders, and managements, the loans would now become pari-pasu with those of the banking interests. This, in effect, transfers the risk of the euro aid from those who receive it to those who give it, the taxpayers of the lending nations. My, how the world has learned from years of US Federal Reserve behavior. It is now de rigueur to sanctify the banks while devastating the taxpayer. Yes, it is true, the world needs an operating financial system to function commercially and otherwise. It does not need taxpayers and depositors to finance and guarantee speculative roulette – wheel behavior. The banking system is integral to our society but it is not the only factor that keeps the society functioning. Yet, globally the banks have received more than 95% of all funds meant to save and turn around the current economic crisis. A better balance is needed – a much better one, if we are to survive and grow from the current crisis.

The only tangible result of yesterday’s EU conference was to have transferred the risk of Spain’s bailout from the bailed out banks to the bailers – the taxpayers. Not exactly a heroic stand nor of much consequence, except morally.

Who Fools South Africa?

By Danny Schechter

Cape Town, South Africa: Just before coming to South Africa, I produced a six part TV series called “Who Rules America.” It offered a critique of conspiratorial thinking, and updated the critique made sixty years ago by sociologist C. Wright Mills who argued that the forces that run the U.S. government are outside the government.

My focus was on unelected and concrete power centers like Wall Street, the media cartel, the Military-Industrial Complex and the corporations who fund all the lobbyists and most political campaigns.

I argued that these organs of the 1% have, in effect, taken over. I am not alone in believing this.

Meanwhile, in South Africa two researchers and journalists, one with BBC, have just published “Who Rules South Africa. “

I guess the Who Rules idea is infectious even as a reviewer in the Cape Times, a self-described “communications strategist:” seems to know very little about power structure research, much less the United States.

That doesn’t stop him from opening his review this way: “If you wrote a book called Who Rules The United States,,,(it)…would be a best seller but no one would take it seriously, let alone read it.”

No evidence is cited for this claim which he uses to counterpose this new South African book with American ones he hasn’t read, e.g. William Domhoff’s classic Who Rules America is now in its sixth printing,

As Donald Pail explain it, his “sobering read” by Martin Plaut and Paul Holden argues that a political party, the African National Congreass (ANC) rules the roost, not big business, major banks, the mining industry etc.

You would think that Plaut, the African editor of the BBC World Service would know what he’s taking about but, as I read on, I realized he doesn’t,

Like the partisan hacks that have turned American politics into a crossfire and blame game, these guys stay on the surface treating the majority party has if it is above the many forces that back it and sometimes manipulate it.

To his credit, Paul quotes the authors as arguing that since l948—the beginning of formal apartheid—South Africa has been ruled by a one party state “with Democratic trimmings.” That means that the the white regime that preceded the black-led ANC government was a forerunner who what there is now.

Paul doesn’t seem to recall that with white politics, a shadowy elite Afrikaner force called the Broederband really ran the show.

There follows a useful compendium of corruption under the ANC without an equal emphasis on corruption in the National Party days when a favorite saying preceding all kinds of self dealing was “Let’s Make A Plan.”

If ANC leaders are enriching themselves by plundering the State, they are following a well work historical path.

That does not make it right. The white nationalists never claimed to be in the business of a social transformation. Who Rules South Africa says that conflicts of interest are rife with three quarters of the Cabinet and 59 percent of the country’s Parliamentarians (in a 400 member body) have their own outside financial interests They cite an earlier report saying 20 percent of the public servants are also deeply in debt and are being pursued by government agencies.

And this just touches the surface of all the wheeling and dealing that’s going on. Some of it is blatant an in your face like the Presidents decision to spend 2 billion Rand on a the latest presidential jet bigger than the one Germany’s Angela Mekel flies around in

Paul condemns President Zuma for using power to enrich and protect his cronies with a “corrupt police force working hand-in-glove with organized crime to maintain his position of power.”

Stories like this are all too common but if top officials are being bribed, who is bribing them?

And that question leads to many undercovered answers including big business players in this country and abroad. Wherever there are takers, there are givers. When there is a culture of corruption, there are many outside forces living off of it and profiting from it

Who has investigated all the payoffs associated with the 2010 World Cup games in South Afirca? Who investigated the scandal plagues soccer bosses at FIFA who demanded that South Africa spend billions on stadium construction—often by foreign companies—to host the event. ( By the way, I liked the old Greenpoint stadium!)

South Africans are now deeply in debt for a two week party, while Fifa brags that ts World Cup in South Africa was the most profitable in their history.

There are many powerful extra parliamentary bodies in South Africa like the Chamber of Mines and many business associations that are deeply implicated in the erosion of the promise of democracy. The full details of the Arms Deal Scandal with foreign suppliers has yet to be fully investigated.

For many years, it was clear who ruled South Africa. First, the Dutch and then the British colonialists imposed their oppressive social orders and extractive economic systems. ‘

Then the Afrikaners took their turn insuring a brutal genre of white domination with apartheid.

But, now that the ANC is in power after nearly l00 years of struggle and sacrifice, books like Who Rules South Africa are published to blame them for all that’s wrong in the country and compare them to Chinese Communist who came to power through a violent revolution, not the ballot box. I am not justifying ANC lapses, just saying they are not the only ones to blame.

This book might be renamed WHO FOOLS SOUTH AFRICA?, because while some of its criticisms are on target, its whole attitude is brimming with arrogance and self-righteousness, along with a narrow political frame that leaves the big money and big powercrats out of the argument.

Since Mr Paul is so frightened by Chinese influence and example, he might be reminded of a famous quotation from Chairman Mao who understood that power grows out of the barrel of a gun. sanMao also said famously, “No Investigation, No Right To Speak.”

This superficial investigation does not help us understand how globalization imposes itself on South Africa. It doesn’t help us understand, “Who Rules South Africa” either.

•Women’s Media Center: Nora Ephron, An Appreciation by M.G. Lord

Nora Ephron taught me the difference between wit and snark—long before snark slithered out from its dark hole and infected the national dialogue.

Nora was classy, in the way that wit is classy. Often she mocked herself in order to mock deserving targets. In a piece pegged to the 25th anniversary of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, for example, she confessed that in high school, she had skipped over the book’s passages about egoism and altruism and fallen hard for its architect hero: “I spent the next year hoping I would meet a gaunt, orange-haired architect who would rape me. Or, failing that, an architect who would rape me. Or failing that, an architect.”

To her shock, however, in a college seminar, she discovered that the book was not, in fact, a celebration of sex or buildings but rather a polemic against the welfare state. And she reached this inevitable conclusion. Rand’s work, she declared, “is better read when one is young enough to miss the point.”

In her professional life, however, Nora rarely missed the point. In 2008, for instance, she was far too clever to be manipulated by the Slate editors who invited her—and other women writers—to define “feminist.” What they sought was a loose interpretation that might permit the word to be applied to Sarah Palin, the gun-toting, anti-choice fundamentalist whom G.O.P. Presidential Candidate John McCain had selected as his running mate.

What Nora gave them was this: “I know that I’m supposed to write 500 words on this subject, but it seems much simpler: You can’t call yourself a feminist if you don’t believe in the right to abortion.”

Although I encountered Nora socially over the last three decades—we had several friends in common—I mostly knew her through her work. And, happily, she knew me through mine. I will never forget the night she crossed the room at a party to tell me how much she had liked my book, Forever Barbie—never mind that this occurred long after the book was published. In my universe, Nora was more than an important movie director. She was the author of “A Few Words About Breasts,” a classic 1970s essay on women and body image that informed every page in my book.

I like Nora’s fiction and movies. But I will always treasure her essays, especially the early ones. My favorite is about Dorothy Parker, or, more specifically, about Nora not being Dorothy Parker and whether this seeming handicap should have stopped her—as a woman and a humorist—from ever touching a typewriter.

The piece uses Parker to explore what Harold Bloom called “the anxiety of influence”: Can you admire writers who have come before without letting their achievements silence you? And it challenges tokenism: the notion that one woman—and only one woman—could keep pace with the sparkling male geniuses at the Algonquin Round Table.

I first met Nora in 1975, two years after she wrote on Parker. I was a sophomore at Yale, studying with Bill Zinsser, a New Yorker writer who was then the Master of Branford, one of Yale’s 12 residential colleges. In the 70s, masters held weekly teas, designed to let students rub proverbial elbows with visiting dignitaries—usually Nobel Laureates or heads of state. Bill’s teas, however, were the most popular on campus—because he invited his writer friends from Manhattan.

At that tea, in an effort to impress Nora, I rattled off whole paragraphs from her essay on Ayn Rand—the sort of thing that today might get a person locked up for stalking. But Nora took the performance in stride—and suggested that I read her piece on overcoming the excessive influence of other writers.

Life often serves up strange synchronicities. On the day Nora died, I was finishing my syllabus for a course on writing the personal essay. The Parker piece was the first reading I scheduled. But I struggled to come up with a companion writing assignment.

Did today’s students know—or care—about Dorothy Parker?

Was any contemporary writer witty, accomplished and versatile enough to paralyze a twenty-something?

The answer was obvious. I assigned 800 words to fit this title: “On Not Being Nora Ephron.”

Ignoramuses in High Places: Barney Frank’s Statement Regarding Further Evidence of the Need for Adequate CFTC Funding

WASHINGTON – Congressman Barney Frank released the following statement about the necessity of adequate funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The argument for adequate funding has been strengthened recently by the announcement of a settlement with Barclays Bank over allegations that the bank had manipulated interest rates, and by the revelation that losses at JPMorgan Chase from a series of derivatives transactions may grow to as much as $9 billion.

The persistence of opposition by Congressional Republicans to the sensible regulation of derivatives is a modern example of what was known in earlier times as “invincible ignorance,” a theological concept describing people who are impervious to any argument. This mindset is the only possible explanation for the Republicans’ continued insistence on reducing funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission below even this year’s inadequate level; their insistence on pushing to exempt from any American regulation risky, highly-leveraged derivative transactions conducted by American banks – insured by America’s depositor insurance – through their foreign branches; and their support for industry efforts to drag out the rulemaking process and to bring lawsuits when it is completed.

The CFTC’s success in uncovering the outrageous manipulation of the Libor, and the consequent settlement which will bring to the U.S. Treasury hundreds of millions of dollars, demonstrates the value of that agency. The refusal by Republicans to meet the Obama administration’s request for $308 million for the CFTC, when the agency has helped bring into the Treasury approximately that amount in one successful prosecution, demonstrates that the party is driven not by concern for the deficit but rather by ideological rigidity.

We recently learned that JPMorgan Chase may lose as much as $9 billion on its derivative trading in London. The very fact that JPMorgan continually has had to upgrade the amount at issue is reminiscent of the problems with A.I.G., another example of derivatives being traded in London by an American institution. These situations demonstrate that the rules on derivative trading put in place by the 2010 financial reform law are an important protection not just for our economy, but for the institutions themselves. Yet Republicans want such transactions to be immune from any American regulation.

I am optimistic that while the right-wing elements in control of the Republican Party will maintain their “invincible ignorance” despite this further evidence of the importance of sensible regulations, the American people as a whole will understand the danger of weakening oversight of large financial institutions, and that we will succeed in getting adequate funding for the CFTC.

Andy Borowitz Exposes Chief Justice of Supreme Court

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – Controversy swirled around John Roberts today as billionaire Donald Trump claimed that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had a fraudulent birth certificate.

Mr. Trump said that these are the findings of a team of personal investigators he retained just after ten o’clock yesterday morning.

According to these investigators, Justice Roberts, who claims to have grown up in Indiana, was actually born in a mud hut in a tiny rural village in Kenya.

Furthermore, Mr. Trump claimed, “So-called John Roberts’ father was a village witchdoctor who forced all of the villagers to submit to his shamanic treatments, whether they wanted them or not.”

While most of the mainstream media seemed skeptical of Mr. Trump’s allegations, Sean Hannity of the Fox News Channel called them “very concerning,” adding, “It’s time that the American people learned the truth about John Hussein Roberts.”

Thanks for being here, My efforts to write a newsier blog last night were frustrated by the crash of the internet in the hotel I am in in Capetown. It just shows how we take our instant access for granted.

Here are some stories of interest, including one I am submitting to a local newspaper.

As always, your comments welcome to dissector@medichannel.org


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