FedUpUSA

Mary Schapiro Must Immediately Investigate The FDIC's Confidential Information Leak In Another Blatant Insider Trading Case, Then Resign

The degree of insider trading in this market is getting ridiculous. And the strangest thing is those who are executing on blatantly obvious material, non-public insider information, are no longer concerned the least bit about getting caught as they realize that the “mighty” SEC will do nothing against them, courtesy of the example the SEC has set by finding absolutely nobody “responsible” (except, of course, the regulator’s own future employers who thus get immunity from prosecution) for the greatest market heist in history in which over $5 trillion has been transferred from the middle class to the Wall Street oligarchy (future providers of paychecks for SEC staffers).

Today’s grotesque example of the SEC’s futility to act as even a modest deterrent to insider trading activity: New York Community Bancorp (which, just so happens, is a $602 million recipient of TLGP debt), whose stock surged in the final minutes of trading for reasons (then) unknown. As reader QevolveQ pointed out at 5:30 pm, the activity in both the stock and the calls of the company was many standard deviations away from average and raised major red flags. Those questions were quickly put to rest when it became known at 6:33 pm that NYB would in fact receive FDIC subsidies to acquire newly failed AmTrust Bank in a transaction that would be “immediately accretive to earnings.” And how wouldn’t it be:

Under the terms of the agreement, the Community Bank did not acquire any
of AmTrust Bank’s  non-performing loans serviced by AmTrust Bank or any
other real estate owned; construction, land, or development loans;
private-label securities, or mortgage servicing rights, nor did it
acquire any of the assets or assume any of the obligations of the
holding company.

No, those would conveniently be funded by Ms. Bair herself. The cost to the FDIC, and US taxpayers, to make NYB a richer enterprise: $2 billion. This is value that will go straight to the bank’s bottom line. As a result of this middle-class subsidy it was a certainty that its shares would spike.

The smoking gun here comes straight from a quick observation of NYB’s intraday P/V chart: the jump at 3:24pm on statistically significant volume is a clear signal that someone was fully aware of the soon to be announced transaction:

Furthermore, as QeQ highlights, “8,933 of the Dec 12 calls traded vs. 2,244 OI, finishing +300% on the day.” A very solid return for a few hours of trading. The block trades are visible below: one set of 2,500 Dec $12 calls bought at $0.20, followed promptly by two more 2,500 blocks around $0.25. With the stock poised to open much higher than its closing price, someone is sure to make a killing.

It is practically certain that the NYB stock and option transactions came courtesy of a insider tip. And as NYB is both a ward of the state, courtesy of its TLGP umbilical cord, and as the bank would soon become $2 billion richer as a result of some more middle class-to-Wall Street fund flows, it is very likely that the FDIC itself is the source of such leak. We truly hope that one of D.C.’s most ineffective and useless females (if grossly, grossly overpaid for her “work” in 2008) will analyze whether the agency headed by another such female has been responsible for yet more illegal insider trading activity. That the government is only capable of promoting unpunished criminal activity would not surprise anyone at this point. And as this will be one of those cases when everything is handed to the SEC on a silver platter, we don’t doubt that some minor scapegoat will be put away to make it seem like the most worthless organization in the world earns its $1 billion annual budget fair and square. What is chilling is the complete disdain that insider traders now flaunt when it comes to fear of retribution by the “regulators.” And when Ms. Mary “$3.3 Million” Schapiro is done catching any and all masterminds behind this dastardly deed, we would all be very grateful if she could leave her keys, her chauffeur, and her masseuse as she packs her banker box full of Wall Street indulgences on the way out of public office once and for all – Ms. Schapiro, the public does not want you betraying its trust any longer. Now please go work for Goldman Sachs where your continued betrayal of U.S. interests will be welcome and compensated much better than the meager $3.3 million you made at Finra. The sooner you get into a job that requires efforts more consummate with your diminished capacity, the sooner you can continue counting the $5-$25 million in cash payouts you slurped up from FINRA’s defined benefit plans.

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The Truth About The BLS Lies


All you need to know about how the BLS really counts unemployment in one simple cartoon.

 

And, as we expected earlier, here is Mr. Biderman’s summation on what will likely one day (after Russian hackers get into BLS emails) turn out to be an advance April fool’s joke by the Bureau of Lies and Stupidity:

TrimTabs employment analysis, which uses real-time daily income tax deposits from all U.S. taxpayers to compute employment growth, estimated that the U.S. economy shed 255,000 jobs in November.  This past month’s results were an improvement of only 10.2% from the 284,000 jobs lost in October.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the U.S. economy lost an astonishingly better than expected 11,000 jobs in November.  In addition, the BLS revised their September and October results down a whopping 203,000 jobs, resulting in a 45% improvement over their preliminary results.

Something is not right in Kansas! Either the BLS results are wrong, our results are in error, or the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

We believe the BLS is grossly underestimating current job losses due to their flawed survey methodology. Those flaws include rigid seasonal adjustments, a mysterious birth/death adjustment, and the fact that only 40% to 60% of the BLS survey is complete by the time of the first release and subject to revision. 

Seasonal adjustments are particularly problematic around the holiday season due to the large number of temporary holiday-related jobs added to payrolls in October and November which then disappear in January. In the past two months, the BLS seasonal adjustments subtracted 2.4 million jobs from the results.  In January, when the seasonal adjustments are the largest of the year, the BLS will add anywhere from 2.0 to 2.3 million jobs. In our opinion, trying to glean monthly job losses numbering in the tens of thousands or even in the hundreds of thousands are lost in the enormous size of the seasonal adjustments.

In November, the BLS revised their September and October job losses down a surprising 44.5%, or 203,000 jobs. In the twelve months ending in October, the BLS revised their job loss estimates up or down by a staggering 679,000 jobs, or 13.0%. Until this past month, these revisions brought the BLS’ revised estimates to within a couple percent of TrimTabs’ original estimates.

The large divergence between the two results begs the question of what is causing the difference.  While we don’t have an answer today, we will be poring over the data in an attempt to answer that question.

Charles – here’s a hint: FOIA Obama’s TV tour for January. That way you will know what kind of NFP numbers to expect next month.

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Why The Housing Market Is (Still) In Trouble


From The Daily Capitalist
December 3, 2009

Since the biggest financial collapse in world history was built on credit related to housing, it is pretty obvious that we should be paying very close attention to that market. The reasons are complex, but a recovery must be based on the liquidation of bad debt. The sooner that happens the quicker a recovery will happen.

When we mean “liquidation of debt” we are talking about a mountain of credit built on the housing bubble. This phony bubble wealth permeated the entire economy. When home owners saw the price of their home rising, they saw it as a source of capital to use for a variety of things, but let’s face it, most people spent it.

New stores opened, malls were built, financial institutions grew, cars and boats, second homes, vacations, and restaurants all flourished. Credit card debt mushroomed. Home mortgages were increased to pull cash out for spending. Yes, some of it went to good things, like our children’s education, helping our aged parents, and paying off bills. But the reality was that our debt kept growing.

The clever lads created even more phony wealth under the guise of insurance, but as we found out, companies like AIG really had no idea how large their obligations were for credit default swaps written against almost any financial risk. And these instruments were further leveraged without understanding the magnitude of these triple-counted obligations or their relationship to housing.

It all comes back to housing as the fuel for the 70% of our economy that was consumer spending. The thought was that housing has always gone up, and if it went down, it really never went down if you averaged growth since the post-WWII-period. A drop of 10%? Never has happened. 20%? Not even a 6th deviation possibility.

My thesis has been that this was all fueled by the Fed through monetary policies that created and supported the bubble. Aided and abetted by governmental policies and financing schemes that favored housing and risky loans. This was not a “free market” phenomenon. Far, far from it.

My thesis has also been that we can’t recover until all this bad debt is liquidated, and capital generated by savings is created and ultimately invested in profitable enterprises. It would be a mistake to rekindle the bubble. But, as we know, that’s what our government is trying to do. The government creates uncertainty as it flails around with programs, spending, and debt schemes to revive the economy. As a result mark-to-market accounting is thing of the past and banks are guarding their balance sheets, corporations are sitting on a lot of cash, cutting costs, and becoming leaner, and Mr. and Mrs. America still favor savings and debt instruments over equities and spending.

The big question: is the housing market bottoming out? Because once it does, debtors and debt holders will then have a handle on how great their losses are. When the bottom is falling out, it is difficult to get lenders to lend if they are afraid their remaining cash reserves will be needed to shore up the bank because of loan losses. The holders of subprime debt find it difficult to value their assets while housing values are still dropping.

Lenders have been shepherding their cash, reducing debt obligations, and cutting back lending and new investments because they do not know how deep their hole will be until housing bottoms out. Keynes called this a “liquidity trap.” More reasonable people, especially the Austrian school economists, call this a reasonable and necessary response to uncertainty.

The Fed and the federal government have been flogging this liquidity trap issue without let up and basically credit is still drying up. A 0.25% Fed Funds rate is basically a negative rate and they still can’t get banks to lend. The Fed’s balance sheet is at a record high. They have bought $850 million of mortgage backed securities. They are injecting cash into lenders. They have basically suspended mark-to-market accounting.

In Q3, the FDIC reported that bank lending still contracted by 3%:

Loans and leases held by U.S. commercial banks have declined for 10 straight months, falling to $6.7 trillion as of Oct. 28 from $7.2 trillion at the end of 2008, according to a separate statistical release from the Fed.

 

Commercial and industrial loans have dropped to $1.37 trillion from $1.6 trillion, commercial real-estate loans have declined to $1.66 trillion from $1.72 trillion, and consumer loans have fallen to $847 billion from $857 billion at the end of last year.

Business lending 10-09

What do banks do? They have decided they would rather hold Treasury paper instead of make loans. This chart shows what’s been happening. No wonder T-rates have stayed so low despite massive deficit financing.

US Govt securities held by banks 10-09

This is what makes Bernanke, Geithner, and Summers lose sleep at night. “It’s supposed to work, dammit!” Maybe this is why Summers is always falling asleep. No matter what they’ve tried, they can’t get banks to lend. I think they are very worried about this and while they say the economy is recovering nicely, they are crossing their fingers at the same time.

Back to housing.

I have been saying that I think the housing market is finding a bottom. I thought that low prices and rising affordability was the main driver of the housing market. If this were so, then housing prices would reflect real market valuations and this would finally bring about the liquidation of assets and debt wastefully invested during the prior artificial credit cycle. Lenders would know where they stood financially and would liquidate bad assets and rebuild their balance sheets. No more waiting around wondering what the Fed or the government would do to save housing.

I was wrong.

The housing market I now believe is being sustained almost entirely by the Fed and the federal government. This rekindling of the housing bubble is counterproductive and will hinder a real recovery of the economy because an artificially backed market will delay the necessary liquidation of the prior cycle’s malinvestment of capital.

Here is why I changed my mind:

First, 59% of new home buyers are relying on government-backed FHA, the Veterans Administration, and the Department of Agriculture loans. Most of these sales are driven by the first-time home buyers tax credit. The tax credit program has been extended through April, 2010.

Second, existing home sales are being driven by the tax credit and by foreclosure and short sales. Existing home sales are up 10.1%. Distressed sales — mainly foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 30% of transactions in the third quarter. And. according to the NAR, home sales are being driven by first time home buyers trying to make the previous November deadline.

This will have a negative impact on future sales. Like Cash for Clunkers, these government-driven sales may just be eating into sales that would have occurred in 2010. Many economists are referring to this phenomenon as “payback.”

Third, mortgage rates are now at 30 year lows. Another Fed related gift to home buyers. The average 30-year mortgage rate was 4.95% in October, down from 5.06% in September, according to Freddie Mac. Today, Freddie said the rate was down to 4.7%.

But … home prices are still falling. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of prices fell 8.9% for the July-through-September period from a year earlier. That was an improvement from the 14.7% drop in the second quarter and the 19% decline in the first three months of 2009. Median prices of existing homes fell in 123 of 153 metropolitan areas during the third quarter compared with a year earlier. The national median price was $177,900, down 11.2% from the third quarter of 2008. [Don’t ask me to explain the disparity. Case-Shiller and NAR measure this differently.] Last month the median price for an existing home was $173,100, down 7.1% from $186,400 in October 2008.

Thus, despite record interference in the housing market by the government, home prices are still falling. There are several reasons why it is likely that home prices will continue to fall.

Almost 25% of home owners are upside down with their mortgages. Nearly 10.7 million households had negative equity in their homes in the third quarter, according to First American CoreLogic. This shadow market is huge:

Home prices have fallen so far that 5.3 million U.S. households are tied to mortgages that are at least 20% higher than their home’s value, the First American report said. More than 520,000 of these borrowers have received a notice of default, according to First American. …

 

But negative equity “is an outstanding risk hanging over the mortgage market,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist of First American Core Logic. “It lowers homeowners’ mobility because they can’t sell, even if they want to move to get a new job.” Borrowers who owe more than 120% of their home’s value, he said, were more likely to default.

 

Mortgage troubles are not limited to the unemployed. About 588,000 borrowers defaulted on mortgages last year even though they could afford to pay — more than double the number in 2007, according to a study by Experian and consulting firm Oliver Wyman. “The American consumer has had a long-held taboo against walking away from the home, and this crisis seems to be eroding that,” the study said.

This overhang will continue to drive prices down. There is no way the Feds can force lenders to modify enough loans to make a serious dent in this overhang. It’s imply too big. Eventually the losses from forced modifications will mount and the FHA or any other agency will not be able to pay off their guarantees to lender. Nor should they try.

Mark Zandi, who correctly predicted a crisis in the housing market, but not the Crash, said on Wednesday, “The housing crash is not over.” He said the lull in foreclosure sales for the past few months, due to the government’s pressure on lenders to modify loans, has resulting in higher prices. He expects Case-Shiller to bottom by Q3 2010 with an overall price decline of 38% (now at 32%).

“Foreclosure sales will increase, and home prices will resume their decline by early 2010 as mortgage servicers figure out who will not qualify for a modification,” he said.

 

Zandi said 7.5 million foreclosure sales will have taken place between 2006 and 2011. The majority of these sales, however, have not emerged yet, with 4.8 million foreclosure sales expected between 2009 and 2011.

What this means is that the housing supply, now down to a 7+ months supply, will rise again, and prices will continue to decline. We haven’t seen the bottom yet.


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A Cheaper and More Effective Military Strategy for Afghanistan


Supporters of an escalation of the Afghanistan war often ask that we give military options a chance.  They also respond to criticism of the surge by asking “okay smart guy, what would YOU do to fight Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?”  Several pro-war posters also asked that pro-military arguments be given a chance.

Well, initially, the U.S. admits there are only a small handful of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. As ABC notes:

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.

With
100,000 troops in Afghanistan at an estimated yearly cost of $30
billion, it means that for every one al Qaeda fighter, the U.S. will
commit 1,000 troops and $300 million a year.

There are
probably more than 100 homicidal maniacs in any large American city.
But we wouldn’t send soldiers into the city to get those bad guys.

Indeed, a leading advisor to the U.S. military – the very hawkish Rand Corporation – released a study
in 2008 called “How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al
Qa’ida”. The report confirms what experts have been saying for years:
the war on terror is actually weakening national security.

As a press release about the study states:

Terrorists
should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and
our analysis suggests that there is no battlefield solution to
terrorism.

There are additional reasons why prolonging the Afghan war may reduce our national security, such as weakening our economy.

But if you want a military solution anyway, Andrew J. Bacevich has an answer.

Bacevich
is no dove. Graduating from West Point in 1969, he served in the United
States Army during the Vietnam War. He then held posts in Germany,
including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the United States, and the
Persian Gulf up to his retirement from the service with the rank of
Colonel in the early 1990s. Bacevich holds a Ph.D. in American
Diplomatic History from Princeton University, and taught at West Point
and Johns Hopkins University prior to joining the faculty at Boston
University in 1998. Bacevich’s is a military family. On May 13, 2007,
Bacevich’s son, was killed in action while serving in Iraq.

Last year, Bacevich wrote in an article in Newsweek:

Meanwhile,
the chief effect of allied military operations there so far has been
not to defeat the radical Islamists but to push them across the
Pakistani border. As a result, efforts to stabilize Afghanistan are
contributing to the destabilization of Pakistan, with potentially
devastating implications. September’s bombing of the Marriott hotel in
Islamabad suggests that the extremists are growing emboldened. Today
and for the foreseeable future, no country poses a greater potential
threat to U.S. national security than does Pakistan. To risk the
stability of that nuclear-armed state in the vain hope of salvaging
Afghanistan would be a terrible mistake.

All this means that the
proper U.S. priority for Afghanistan should be not to try harder but to
change course. The war in Afghanistan (like the Iraq War) won’t be won
militarily. It can be settled—however imperfectly—only through politics.

The
new U.S. president needs to realize that America’s real political
objective in Afghanistan is actually quite modest: to ensure that
terrorist groups like Al Qaeda can’t use it as a safe haven for
launching attacks against the West. Accomplishing that won’t require
creating a modern, cohesive nation-state. U.S. officials tend to assume
that power in Afghanistan ought to be exercised from Kabul. Yet the
real influence in Afghanistan has traditionally rested with tribal
leaders and warlords. Rather than challenge that tradition, Washington
should work with it. Offered the right incentives, warlords can
accomplish U.S. objectives more effectively and more cheaply than
Western combat battalions. The basis of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan
should therefore become decentralization and outsourcing, offering cash
and other emoluments to local leaders who will collaborate with the
United States in excluding terrorists from their territory.

This
doesn’t mean Washington should blindly trust that warlords will become
America’s loyal partners. U.S. intelligence agencies should continue to
watch Afghanistan closely, and the Pentagon should crush any jihadist
activities that local powers fail to stop themselves. As with the
Israelis in Gaza, periodic airstrikes may well be required to pre-empt
brewing plots before they mature.

Were U.S. resources unlimited
and U.S. interests in Afghanistan more important, upping the ante with
additional combat forces might make sense. But U.S. power — especially
military power — is quite limited these days, and U.S. priorities lie
elsewhere.

Rather than committing more troops, therefore, the
new president should withdraw them while devising a more realistic —
and more affordable — strategy for Afghanistan

In other
words, America’s war strategy is increasing instability in Pakistan.
Pakistan has nuclear weapons. So the surge could very well decrease not
only American national security but the security of the entire world.

I think that diplomatic rather than military means should be used to
kill or contain the 100 bad guys in Afghanistan. But if we are going to
remain engaged militarily, Bacevich’s approach is a lot smarter than a
surge of boots on the ground.

Moreover, it would save hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars…

War hawks also ask “what would YOU have done after 9/11?”  Gee, I don’t know . . . maybe gotten the Taliban to turn over Bin Laden?

BONUS UPDATE 2-FOR-1 AFTER THANKSGIVING PACKAGE DEAL SPECIAL: If you don’t hear about alternative plans such as Bacevich’s from the corporate media, here is why …

5 Reasons that Corporate Media Coverage is Pro-War

There are five reasons that the mainstream media is worthless.

1. Self-Censorship by Journalists

Initially, there is tremendous self-censorship by journalists.

For example, several months after 9/11, famed news anchor Dan Rather told the BBC that American reporters were practicing “a form of self-censorship”:

There
was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around
peoples’ necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you
will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of
patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps
journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions…. And
again, I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism.

 

What we are talking about here – whether one wants to recognise it
or not, or call it by its proper name or not – is a form of
self-censorship.

Keith Olbermann agreed that there is self-censorship in the American media, and that:

You
can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in
trouble …. You cannot say: By the way, there’s something wrong with
our …. system.

As former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006:

Mainstream-media
political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant,
but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat
comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what
journalists were put on this green earth to do. . . .

 

There’s
the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as
those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive.
There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling
isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political
spectrum.

 

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start
calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if
not to the comedians then to the bloggers.

 

I still believe that
no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling
than a well-informed beat reporter – whatever their beat. We just need
to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship –
or whatever it is – out of the way.

2. Censorship by Higher-Ups

If
journalists do want to speak out about an issue, they also are subject
to tremendous pressure by their editors or producers to kill the story.

The
Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture
scandal and the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, Seymour Hersh, said:

“All
of the institutions we thought would protect us — particularly the
press, but also the military, the bureaucracy, the Congress — they
have failed. The courts . . . the jury’s not in yet on the courts. So
all the things that we expect would normally carry us through didn’t.
The biggest failure, I would argue, is the press, because that’s the
most glaring….

 

Q: What can be done to fix the (media) situation?

 

[Long
pause] You’d have to fire or execute ninety percent of the editors and
executives. You’d actually have to start promoting people from the
newsrooms to be editors who you didn’t think you could control. And
they’re not going to do that.”

In fact many journalists are warning that the true story is not being reported. See this announcement and this talk.

And a series of interviews with award-winning journalists also documents censorship of certain stories by media editors and owners (and see these samples).

There are many reasons for censorship by media higher-ups.

One is money.

The media has a strong monetary interest to avoid controversial topics in general. It has always been true that advertisers discourage stories which challenge corporate power.
Indeed, a 2003 survey reveals that 35% of reporters and news executives
themselves admitted that journalists avoid newsworthy stories if “the story would be embarrassing or damaging to the financial interests of a news organization’s owners or parent company.”

In addition, the government has allowed tremendous consolidation in ownership of the airwaves during the past decade.

Dan Rather has slammed media consolidation:

Likening
media consolidation to that of the banking industry, Rather claimed
that “roughly 80 percent” of the media is controlled by no more than
six, and possibly as few as four, corporations.

This is documented by the following must-see charts prepared by:

And check out this list of interlocking directorates of big media companies from Fairness and Accuracy in Media, and this resource from the Columbia Journalism Review to research a particular company.

This image gives a sense of the decline in diversity in media ownership over the last couple of decades:

The
large media players stand to gain billions of dollars in profits if the
Obama administration continues to allow monopoly ownership of the
airwaves by a handful of players. The media giants know who butters
their bread. So there is a spoken or tacit agreement: if the media
cover the administration in a favorable light, the MSM will continue to
be the receiver of the government’s goodies.

3. Drumming Up Support for War

In addition, the owners of American media companies have long actively played a part in drumming up support for war.

It
is painfully obvious that the large news outlets studiously avoided any
real criticism of the government’s claims in the run up to the Iraq
war. It is painfully obvious that the large American media companies
acted as lapdogs and stenographers for the government’s war agenda.

Veteran reporter Bill Moyers criticized
the corporate media for parroting the obviously false link between 9/11
and Iraq (and the false claims that Iraq possessed WMDs) which the
administration made in the run up to the Iraq war, and concluded that
the false information was not challenged because:

“the
[mainstream] media had been cheerleaders for the White House from the
beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the
President — no questions asked.”

And as NBC News’ David Gregory (later promoted to host Meet the Press) said:

“I
think there are a lot of critics who think that . . . . if we did not
stand up [in the run-up to the war] and say ‘this is bogus, and you’re
a liar, and why are you doing this,’ that we didn’t do our job. I
respectfully disagree. It’s not our role”

But this is nothing new. In fact, the large media companies have drummed up support for all previous wars.

For example, Hearst helped drum up support for the Spanish-American War.

And an official summary of America’s overthrow of the democratically-elected president of Iran in the 1950’s states, “In
cooperation with the Department of State, CIA had several articles
planted in major American newspapers and magazines which, when
reproduced in Iran, had the desired psychological effect in Iran and
contributed to the war of nerves against Mossadeq.”
(page x)

The mainstream media also may have played footsie with the U.S. government right before Pearl Harbor. Specifically, a highly-praised historian (Bob Stineet) argues
that the Army’s Chief of Staff informed the Washington bureau chiefs of
the major newspapers and magazines of the impending Pearl Harbor attack
BEFORE IT OCCURRED, and swore them to an oath of secrecy, which the
media honored (page 361) .

And the military-media alliance has continued without a break (as a highly-respected journalist says,
“viewers may be taken aback to see the grotesque extent to which US
presidents and American news media have jointly shouldered key
propaganda chores for war launches during the last five decades.”)

As the mainstream British paper, the Independent, writes:

 

There
is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass
media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist
it and to expose it. The sheer ease with which this machinery has been
able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now
afflicts the production of our news.

The article in the
Independent discusses the use of “black propaganda” by the U.S.
government, which is then parroted by the media without analysis; for
example, the government forged
a letter from al Zarqawi to the “inner circle” of al-Qa’ida’s
leadership, urging them to accept that the best way to beat US forces
in Iraq was effectively to start a civil war, which was then publicized
without question by the media..

So why has the American press has consistenly served the elites in disseminating their false justifications for war?

One of of the reasons is because the large media companies are owned by those who support the militarist agenda or even directly profit from war and terror (for example, NBC – which is being sold to Comcast – was owned by General Electric, one of the largest defense contractors in the world — which directly profits from war, terrorism and chaos).

Another seems to be an unspoken rule that the media will not criticize the government’s imperial war agenda.

And
the media support isn’t just for war: it is also for various other
shenanigans by the powerful. For example, a BBC documentary proves:

There
was “a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing
American businessmen . . . . The coup was aimed at toppling President
Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The
plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families
in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse &
George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should
adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great
depression.”

Moreover, “the
tycoons told the general who they asked to carry out the coup that the
American people would accept the new government because they controlled all the newspapers.

See also this book.

Have you ever heard of this scheme before? It was certainly a very large one. And if the conspirators controlled the newspapers then, how much worse is it today with media consolidation?

4. Access

Politico reveals:

For
$25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post has offered lobbyists and
association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to
“those powerful few”: Obama administration officials, members of
Congress, and — at first — even the paper’s own reporters and editors…

The
offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator
for private lobbyist-official encounters — was a new sign of the
lengths to which news organizations will go to find revenue at a time
when most newspapers are struggling for survival.

That may
be one reason that the mainstream news commentators hate bloggers so
much. The more people who get their news from blogs instead of
mainstream news sources, the smaller their audience, and the less the
MSM can charge for the kind of “nonconfrontational access” which leads
to puff pieces for the big boys.

5. Censorship by the Government

Finally,
as if the media’s own interest in promoting war is not strong enough,
the government has exerted tremendous pressure on the media to report
things a certain way. Indeed, at times the government has thrown media owners and reporters in jail
if they’ve been too critical. The media companies have felt great
pressure from the government to kill any real questioning of the
endless wars.

For example, Dan Rather said, regarding American media, “What you have is a miniature version of what you have in totalitarian states”.

Tom Brokaw saidall wars are based on propaganda.

And the head of CNN said:

There
was ‘almost a patriotism police’ after 9/11 and when the network showed
[things critical of the administration’s policies] it would get phone
calls from advertisers and the administration and “big people in
corporations were calling up and saying, ‘You’re being anti-American
here.’

Indeed, former military analyst and famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said that the government has ordered the media not to cover 9/11:

Ellsberg seemed hardly surprised
that today’s American mainstream broadcast media has so far failed to
take [former FBI translator and 9/11 whistleblower Sibel] Edmonds up on
her offer, despite the blockbuster nature of her allegations [which
Ellsberg calls “far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers”].

 

As
Edmonds has also alluded, Ellsberg pointed to the New York Times, who
“sat on the NSA spying story for over a year” when they “could have put
it out before the 2004 election, which might have changed the outcome.”

 

There
will be phone calls going out to the media saying ‘don’t even think of
touching it, you will be prosecuted for violating national security
,'” he told us.

 

* * *

 

“I am confident that there is conversation inside the Government as to ‘How do we deal with Sibel?'” contends Ellsberg. “The
first line of defense is to ensure that she doesn’t get into the media.
I think any outlet that thought of using her materials would go to to
the government and they would be told ‘don’t touch this . . . .
‘”

Of course, if the stick approach doesn’t work, the government can always just pay off reporters to spread disinformation.

Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says the CIA has already bought and paid for many successful journalists. See also this New York Times piece, this essay by the Independent, this speech by one of the premier writers on journalism, and this and this roundup.

Indeed,
in the final analysis, the main reason today that the media giants will
not cover the real stories or question the government’s actions or
policies in any meaningful way is that the American government and
mainstream media been somewhat blended together.

Can We Win the Battle Against Censorship?

We
cannot just leave governance to our “leaders”, as “The price of freedom
is eternal vigilance” (Jefferson). Similarly, we cannot leave news to
the corporate media. We need to “be the media” ourselves.

“To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men.”
- Abraham Lincoln

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Powerlessness
and silence go together. We…should use our privileged positions not
as a shelter from the world’s reality, but as a platform from which to
speak. A voice is a gift. It should be cherished and used.”

– Margaret Atwood

“There
is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is
the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at
points in history and creating a power that [nothing] cannot suppress.”

- Howard Zinn (historian)

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent”
- Thomas Jefferson

 

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New $170 Billion Stimulus Package On Deck


The economy is so hot, that democrats in Congress are now moving with yet another stimulus package, this one for $170 billion, targeting bankrupt states and formerly surging unemployment (Obama has some TV appearances today; the BLS will be back to its previously scheduled job collapse next month). In other news, Japan did approximately 10 such small scale bailouts even as its market proceeded to keep probing new lows over the last two decades, and as reinvested 3x its annual GDP in comparable such one-time boosts to the economy without doing anything to prevent its current deflationary collapse.

From Dow Jones:

Congressional Democrats are moving ahead with a roughly $170 billion package to spur jobs growth and boost emergency  assistance to the unemployed, Democratic congressional aides say.

The two separate bills are taking shape amid an improving jobs picture, but with unemployment still at 10%. U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver a speech Tuesday at the Brookings Institution where he intends to lay out his own ideas for a narrowly targeted jobs bill, which will overlap with  Congress’s intentions but won’t be identical.

Both the administration and Congress will almost certainly pay for part of their program with some of the $115 billion that bailed out banks have repaid to the Treasury Department.

Some more details on Krugman’s wet dream:

The legislation will likely be split in two. The first part, at around $110 billion, would be considered emergency spending. It would again extend unemployment insurance, food stamp increases and a provision in the stimulus bill that subsidizes private-health insurance for the unemployed. This portion will likely be attached to a giant spending bill this month to fund the federal government, and will be added to the already huge U.S. budget deficit.

A second “jobs” bill would cost up to $70 billion, funded by the bank bailout. It would include more money for highway and bridge building, school construction and repair, and water and sewer projects. A second component would be direct aid to state governments cutting back services and raising taxes, moves that are hurting the economic recovery.

Finally, some repaid bailout funds will be lent back to small businesses directly from the Treasury.

Of course, nobody will have the brilliant idea of actually using TARP repayments (before they are needed to bail out the banking system again some time in late 2010) to actually pay back some of the debt which as of a few months ago has been classified as “unmanageable” by everyone including Mr. Bernanke. But why care about the sovereign default in 4-6 years when there are mid-term elections to be worried about. At least in the meantime, the abovementioned Fed Chairman can teach us all we need to know about Fiscal responsibility, courtesy of a completely “apolitical” and transparent Federal Reserve.

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