Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Iraq War Vet Commits Suicide at Ohio Military Hospital

Here is an Iraq War fatality: don't bother Googling the story for it is nowhere to be found except for the link below. Why is that I wonder. I have blogged on this subject before: The Horror: War vets 'can't turn it off'. The newscast below on Jesse Charles Huff starts at 10.20 in the Democracy Now headline news.

An Iraq war veteran has committed suicide in front of a veterans hospital in Dayton, Ohio. Jesse Charles Huff shot himself with a rifle in front of the Veterans Affairs Department’s Medical Center last month. Huff had been denied unspecified treatment at the hospital just hours earlier. The father of Huff’s former roommate says he thinks Huff killed himself in part to make a statement about the inadequate medical care he received as an injured veteran. Huff was wounded by a bombing in Iraq and had been undergoing treatment for a back injury and depression.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A message from Argentina

Every once in awhile I run across an article that gives me some understanding of the bigger picture and I learn something. Why exactly IS there a crisis in global finances? And why do the PEOPLE always have to pay for it? The above article was very helpful to me and I present it here for those who want to know more......but don't have alot of time to study global finance.

I found both the article and the videos easily digestible and thought provoking. I am not sure it is possible for enough people to wake up to this information to stop the global financiers from completing their cycle. But I don't think it very dignified to play my part as an ostrich with my head in the sand bending over.

I hate dealing with economic global collapse because it is so messy and requires so much specialised knowledge to analyse it; more often than not I throw up my hands and move along to another issue.

But I am wrong to do this. Those who run the global finance know I probably won't study economics to understand today's mess; and probably will prefer to digest simplified media headlines. Average people who work and raise families barely have enough hours in the day to attend to their lives without devoting time to studying complex economic banking theories. Isn't that what politicians are elected to do?

One thing is clear to me though: democracy is dead. It is dead because the people are hoodwinked and too busy (and have little inclination) to learn more about the bigger picture of finance: people are content to play the part assigned to their little pixel in the picture painted by 'invisible hands'. Democracy requires enlightened citizens and most of us are still consumer zombies.

Related: Naomi Klein (search this blog)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Populism rising: Mobs converge on bankers

More frogs jumping out of the pot. Fair play to them.

From Huffington Post

May 17, 2010

Huge angry mobs converged outside bank employees' houses on Sunday afternoon to demand banks stop lobbying against Wall Street reform.

"Bank of America: bad for America!" shouted community leaders outside the house of Bank of America general counsel Gregory Baer. The Chicago-based grassroots organization National People's Action, in coordination with the SEIU, bused more than 700 workers from 20 states to Baer's neighborhood, one of the wealthiest corners of Washington.

The action kicks off several days of protests targeting K Street for lobbyists' role in financial reform.
Baer himself apparently tried to blend in with the crowd until a neighbor outed him. The mob booed loudly as he walked into his house. "I don't have time for you," he said, according to Trenda Kennedy of Springfield, Ill. who used a bullhorn to tell the crowd about her trouble getting a mortgage modification from Baer's bank. Kennedy told HuffPost she'd been making reduced monthly payments thanks to a trial modification via the Home Affordable Modification Program.

She said that when the bank turned her down for a permanent mod, she was told she still owed all the money she'd been paying during the trial. She said she's been notified of several sheriff's sale dates but has somehow managed to keep her home.
"Every time I'm inches away from losing my house, by some miracle it's been pushed off," said Kennedy, who is a member of Illinois People's Action.

Passersby and dogwalkers smiled at the sight of people gathered all over Baer's lawn and blocking the road. Baer's neighbor from across the street won little sympathy when he angrily yelled at protesters for waking up his two-year-old daughter.

Kennedy was one of several people who used a bullhorn to tell personal bank horror stories.
Story continues below Baer, formerly a senior official at the Treasury department, is a lawyer for the bank's regulator and public policy legal group. Bank of America declined to comment.

"Bank of America came to the homes of everyday Americans when you spread predatory loans in neighborhoods across, the country, when you financed payday-lending storefronts, when your reckless behavior sent the economy to the brink of disaster, and when your bank-owned properties littered neighborhoods from coast to coast," said a letter the group asked Baer to deliver to CEO Brian Moynihan.

"You've created a historic mess and have been unreceptive to very polite, very formal and very consistent requests to fix the problems you helped create."
The group also protested outside the house of Peter Scher, a lobbyist for JPMorgan Chase. Nobody answered the door.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

VAT should be imposed on food and children's clothes, says IMF

By By Edmund Conway, Economics Editor
Published: 9:30AM BST 15 May 2010

David Cameron should use this summer's emergency Budget to raise VAT on a host of excluded products, including food and children's clothes, the International Monetary Fund signalled yesterday.

In an unusual intervention, the IMF said one of the best ways for the coalition Government to raise money and repair the public finances would be to remove the zero-rate that excluded a number of goods from VAT.

The recommendation came amid suspicion that the Government would also have to raise the level of the sales tax from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent if it was to afford the tax pledges it made in its agreement earlier this week.

Although the IMF's suggestion, published in a comprehensive survey of public finances around the world, was less eye-catching than raising the headline rate, it would potentially have a greater impact on the price of goods, and on families' living standards.

The document, signed by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF's managing director, said: "There is substantial scope for improving the revenue performance of the VAT in almost all countries, including by eliminating exemptions and reduced rates."

VAT is not charged by HM Revenue and Customs on certain items, including food, children's clothes, domestic passenger transport, books and prescription drugs.

The IMF said Britain could raise 3.3 per cent of its economic output – about £50 billion a year – merely by halving the number of exemptions.

It added that despite having among the highest levels of petrol duty in the Western world, Britain could afford to increase fuel taxes slightly more, raising a further £3 billion.

The suggestions were likely to fuel suspicion that George Osborne, the Chancellor, would raise a series of taxes, including VAT, at the emergency Budget, which is due to take place within 50 days.

City commentators, including Robert Chote, the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and 24 of the 28 economists regularly surveyed by the Treasury, pinpointed the sales tax as the most likely candidate to rise in the Budget.

However, few suggested that the Treasury should lift the exemptions, which also included financial services fees. Some warned that increasing VAT on zero-rated items would affect the finances of lower income families in particular.

The IFS calculated in its Green Budget earlier this year that such a move – even at a more limited level, raising only £24 billion – would account for about 7 per cent of the income among low-paid workers.

The increases may be necessary if Britain was to start reducing its deficit, the IMF said.

It pointed out that, over the next few years, Britain would need to reduce its deficit by 9 per cent of gross domestic product – equivalent to £130 billion.

The Government has yet to specify how fast it intended to cut the deficit, although it pledged to cut spending by more than it raised taxes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Iceland jails and sues banksters

The AFP publishes a story on the only country in the developed world with enough courage to jail their banksters. We could all do better to imitate the spirit of Iceland's people.


Iceland: a ray of hope in a dark world
Ireland could learn from Iceland
Ireland should be leading

Maybe there is hope for us afterall.

More than a year and a half after Iceland's major banks failed, all but sinking the country's economy, police have begun rounding up a number of top bankers while other former executives and owners face a two-billion-dollar lawsuit.

Since Iceland's three largest banks -- Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir -- collapsed in late 2008, their former executives and owners have largely been living untroubled lives abroad.

But the publication last month of a parliamentary inquiry into the island nation's profound financial and economic crisis signaled a turning of the tide, laying much of the blame for the downfall on the former bank heads who had taken "inappropriate loans from the banks" they worked for.

On Wednesday, the administrators of Glitnir's liquidation announced they had filed a two-billion-dollar (1.6-billion-euro) lawsuit in a New York court against former large shareholders and executives for alleged fraud.

"I think this lawsuit is without precedence in Iceland," Steinunn Gudbjartsdottir, who chairs Glitnir's so-called winding-up board, told reporters in Reykjavik.

"It is about higher figures than we have ever seen," she said, adding that she expected Glitnir to file more lawsuits going forward, but that "it is unlikely any will be this big."

Glitnir said it was suing "Jon Asgeir Johannesson, formerly its principal shareholder, Larus Welding, previously Glitnir's chief executive, Thorstein Jonsson, its former chairman and other former directors, shareholders and third parties associates with Johannesson for fraudulently and unlawfully draining more than two billion dollars out of the bank."

The bank also said it was "taking action against its former auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for facilitating and helping to conceal the fraudulent transactions engineered by Johannesson and his associates, which ultimately led to the bank's collapse in October 2008."

Glitnir's suit, filed in the New York state Supreme Court on Tuesday, blamed most of the bank's woes on "Johannesson and his co-conspirators," who had "conspired to systematically loot Glitnir Bank in order to prop up their own failing companies."

Johannesson, the former owner of the now-defunct Baugur investment group with stakes in a number of British high street stores including Hamleys, Debenhams and House of Fraser, said he was shocked by the lawsuit.

"The distortions and the nonsense in the lawsuit are incredible," he told the Pressan news website.

Glitnir's administrators "can get a 10-year-prison sentence for misusing US courts in this manner," he insisted.

The bank's chief administrator Gudbjartsdottir took his comments in stride.

"I didn't expect him to be happy with the lawsuit," she said.

In addition to its New York suit, Glitnir said it had "secured a freezing order from the High Court in London against Jon Asgeir Johannesson's worldwide assets, including two apartments in Manhattan's exclusive Gramercy Park neighbourhood for which he paid approximately 25 million dollars."

Gudbjartsdottir said Johannesson had just 48 hours to come up with a satisfactory list of his assets.

"If he does not give the right information he faces a jail sentence," she said.

Four former Kaupthing executives, who all live in Luxembourg, have meanwhile been arrested in Iceland in the past week and Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for that bank's ex-chairman, Sigurdur Einarsson.

Former head of the bank's domestic operations, Ingolfur Helgason, and former chief risk officer Steingrimur Karason were arrested late Monday on arrival from Luxembourg, just days after former Kaupthing boss Hreidar Mar Sigurdsson, along with Magnus Gudmunsson, who headed the bank's unit in Luxembourg, were taken into custody.

The 49-year-old Einarsson, who lives in London, said late Tuesday he had no plans to travel to Iceland to be arrested.

"I'm absolutely flabbergasted about the latest news," he told the Frettabladid daily.

"There is in my opinion no need for the arrests or custody rulings, and I will not of my own free will take part in the play that it appears is being staged to soothe the Icelandic people," he said.

"I'll put the human rights I enjoy here in Britain to the test and will not therefore come home (to Iceland) to these conditions without being forced," he added.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The resurgence of populism

Everything old is new again. As 'we the people' are being slowly boiled like frogs in a lukewarm pot, some are jumping out. As austerity cuts in budgets and social services hit more and more, people are getting pissed off. And increasingly willing to do something about it.

History is repeating itself in country after country; the fat cats v. the rest of humanity. The answers for today's problems are the same as always: the people themselves must stand up and say, 'NO MORE'. As Jim Hightower says: 'Fat cats are no match for alley cats.'

And people are protesting, everywhere; they just don't get the press coverage by the media giants that the politicians and Wall Street get. From peasants in Peru to citizens of Kyrgyzstan, from Iowa to Greece, the people are taking to the streets to take back their power, power which has been abused by an international plutocracy.

The following three videos are from Bill Moyer's Journal. They show the stuff that hope is made of. They are the antidote to cynical apathy. They inspire me to keep on 'keepin on': a grain of sand may be small, but a sand storm can carve into granite cliffs. I hope you will find some inspiration in these interviews with Howard Zinn and Jim Hightower. The third video is about how Iowans took back their power. Each video is approximately 30 min.

Iowa Citizens

Click here

Monday, May 3, 2010

Half of inmates jailed for non-payment of fines

A lovely state of affairs we have here in Ireland: debtors prisons. When half the prison population is there for non-payment of government fines, me thinks that history is repeating itself in Ireland. Instead of the English jailing us, we just jail ourselves.

Fair play to Sunday Business Post and Richard Curran/John Burke for bringing the story to light.

If you live in the USA, don't feel left out. Apparently the majority of prison inmates there are guilty of smoking pot.

Read and weep.

Half of inmates jailed
for non-payment of fines

02 May 2010
By Richard Curran and John Burke

Sunday Business Post

Half of all the people who were sent to prison last year were incarcerated for non-payment of fines, new figures reveal.

In the first ten months of 2009, 3,300 people were sent to prison for failing to pay fines.

A continuation of that pattern for the final two months of the year would leave the full-year total equal to half of all those placed in prison last year, according to Professor Ian O’Donnell of the Institute of Criminology at University College Dublin.

O’Donnell said that the number of people in Irish prisons was set to top 100 per 100,000 of the population for the first time since the foundation of the state. When remand prisoners are included the figures are even higher, according to O’Donnell.

‘‘The numbers in prisons have been creeping up, and it is part of an alarming trend," he said.

Breaching the 100 per 100,000 figure crossed a ‘‘significant threshold, taking Ireland from a comparatively low prison population to a middle ranking level by EU standards’’, added O’Donnell.

The growing numbers in prison for non-payment of fines reflects the economic downturn, ac cording to O’Donnell. He condemned the trend, which ‘‘breaks up families, while failing to recover the fine, and costs the state a lot of money’’.

Meanwhile, a previously-unpublished report has found that diseases such as hepatitis C are ‘‘endemic’’ in Irish prisons.

The examination, carried out by public health experts, found that medical infrastructure at more than one-third of the state’s 14 prisons was ‘‘unsuitable’’ for meeting patient health needs. Some equipment in use was found date back to Victorian times, the experts concluded.

Related: Prison population increased in '08

Number of committals for non-payment
of fines and RTA offences 1990-2006



All blogs are really just small snapshots of a person's mind, heart and soul as they evolve together through life....

Small bits of the thread of life we weave together into the fabric of ourselves, in the hope we will make sense of our existence, individual and collective.

On this page, is the cloak I have fashioned from my fabric to warm myself in a universe which often makes little sense.

Inside my cloak, it is warm enough to face the blistering cold winds of the insane world in which I find myself.

If you find some a bit of 'the good stuff' here, it has been my pleasure.