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    • And They Made A Desert: 80 to 90% Drop In Nutrients In Food
      Stumbled across this lovely chart the other day. The core fact most people, including the folks in the “best every world” Panglossian movement (like Pinker) don’t seem to understand, is that even if they were right (questionable), the prosperity we have is based on burning down our house. “Sure is hot! Hottest it’s every been!” […]
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The 16 Trillion dollar Con

…. Or “16 Trillion for Bankers and Sacrifice for us” …. It hardly seems fair.

From Bernie Sanders today comes this heart-stopping news:

Veil of secrecy lifted at the Fed

More than two years ago, I asked Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, a few simple questions that I thought the American people had a right to know: Who did the Fed bail out? How much did they receive? What were the terms of this assistance?

Incredibly, the chairman of the Fed refused to answer these fundamental questions about how trillions of taxpayer dollars were being put at risk.

Thanks to an amendment that I included in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to audit and investigate the Fed, the American people are finally getting answers to these questions.

A few days ago, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office completed the first independent investigation into the emergency actions taken by the Federal Reserve. As a result of this investigation, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided a jaw-dropping $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the world.

Among the investigation’s key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland. In my view, no agency of the United States government should be allowed to bail out a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the president.

The GAO also determined that the Fed lacks a comprehensive system to deal with conflicts of interest, despite the serious potential for abuse. In fact, according to the report, the Fed provided conflict-of-interest waivers to employees and private contractors so they could keep investments in the same financial institutions and corporations that were given emergency loans.

For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed’s board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks for the Fed’s emergency lending programs.

Let me repeat:

we now know that the Federal Reserve provided a jaw-dropping $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the world.

Where the heck does the Federal Reserve GET this kind of money?  And why can’t they give it to prop up Social Security and Medicare?

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What About the Renters?

Oh no they dit-nt. This morning FOX News reported that another bank took the TARP handout and partied on us. Did we have fun yet? Reportedly, the bank had the appreciation event planned long ago, so in other words, how could they call the wedding off, despite that the in-laws didn’t have the money? They’d just borrow it from us. But it’s okay they say, because the party money came from the operating fund. Turns out the report came from TMZ, God save me.

A bank that received $1.6 billion in bailout money just spent a fortune last week in L.A. hosting a series of lavish parties and concerts with famous singers … and TMZ cameras caught it all.

Northern Trust, a Chicago-based bank, sponsored the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club in L.A. We’re told Northern Trust paid millions to sponsor the PGA event which ended Sunday, but what happened off the golf course is even more shocking.

I was raised in WLA and Santa Monica, CA, and I can tell ya The top places were booked for this junket: The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Loew’s Santa Monica, The Ritz Carleton. Events included performances by Chicago for $100,000, rental of the Santa Monica Airport hanger for a dinner followed by a performance by Earth, Wind, and Fire. Plus chauffeuring everyone everywhere. Sigh. Oh, and I almost forgot, Sheryl Crowe did a concert at the House of Blues, which was rented for $50,000. Yay, we’re supporting the arts.

It seems to me that the fiddling at others’—OUR—expense while our country burns is a moral failure. What is going on?

Me. I’m personally in dire straits. It was about this time during the seventies that I went underground, moved to the country, and lived like a third world peasant. I actually know how to do that.

Subsequent to that and prior to this, I rented then owned a home and sold it while the market was still good, but turning the corner. I lived there for thirteen years as a single mom then empty nester—I owned it for eight years. It was a lot of work and responsibility to have the American dream.

When I started, I knew nothing about real estate, property, property taxes, loans, mortgages, refinancing, house maintenance and systems, nor the city and county systems that supported mine—but it was all on me, and I learned. I was well aware of what I was getting into, because I had to read it to sign and asked questions. I became aware of the fudging that was going on by the loan officer after he quoted what the previous one had written. And yes, I went along. Was it right? No. But I was stuck. I had borrowed against my home to do maintenance and emergency system repairs and replacement, and also train in a new career. When I saw a few For Sale signs begin to creep up in my area, where for years there had been none, I decided to sell, despite multiple advisers saying that housing was not a bubble fixing to burst.

Although my place was beautiful, gave me, my family, and friends many happy memories, and I planted and grew absolutely beautiful perennial gardens, which were beloved and painful to leave, I’m happy to rent. Right now I prefer it—to be able to focus on my work and writing.

But what about all the people who rent? Renters are people, too. Who’s talking about them/us and what happens after they lose their jobs or can’t find work. Or the self-employed? They don’t get unemployment benefits. How many Americans are in that boat? Or in the boat whose benefits ran out long ago?

Now that I rent again, how come I can’t get help to pay my landlord? I don’t think I should, but why can some segments of society get help and not others? If I can’t pay my rent next month, I can’t get a waiver for a year or an adjustment on the amount. I can’t not pay from one month to the next, yet people who can’t pay their mortgage can, and they are rewarded. Because they hold the property, I know. And the whole domino thing, I know. In the end, we all need shelter, food, and clothing at the least.

After this admission, it’s with moral certitude that I do my coaching, writing, and healing work, with the knowledge that it’s helping to save and enhance the lives of others. It’s the light work I must do in a time of moral decline and an abundance of fear.

It is The Fear that is helping to propel things in a downward spiral, which is what Bill Clinton meant last week, when he suggested that Obama needs to convey that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what Bill did as Prez: he, not Obama, was the original man from Hope. But Bill’s schtick worked, because his actions and the mood he conveyed matched it. He buoyed people’s hopes, as opposed to Obama’s chastising Americans after he staged multiple gigantic events for a year while picking our pockets, and now picking them again and again, and those of our kids and grandkids. This is different than Bush?

It is imperative for entrepreneurs, creatives, and real light workers (haters, bite me) who offer a compassionate, helpful, truthful, empowering solution to anything to re-up. It’s time to use the technology that I learned for the cause to disseminate my professional message, which is about living healthfully and powerfully. Although my passion for real Democracy trumped my professional efforts during the past year, once again I’m reminded that my professional is political. As usual following a spiritual or an ethical path is not the easy road, but it is the only one in the end, underneath it all. Doing so, hoping once again, against all “hope”—that I don’t become Queen of the Road in the process.

Thursday: What the bankers bought with $600 million.

No seppuku for them.

Last week, we briefly discussed Japan’s lost decade.  In short, it goes like this: Japan’s bubble burst back in 1990-91 with the collapse of their real estate market.  The Japanese government took a mostly hands off approach to the recovery and even imposed some austerity measures, like tax increases.  That made their recession worse.  It wasn’t until 2001 when a new prime minister appointed a whiz of a finance guy that the Japanese economy started to come out of it’s big, black hole.  The remedy that worked was- ta-da-da!- getting tough with the banks.  Yes, the banks were mainlining borrowed money and using it to create even more ingenious ways of making up their lost cash.  Adam Posen called it “gambling with resurrection”.  The Japanese finally realized that being co-dependent to an industry with a gambling addiction was not in anyone’s best interest so they forced the banks into sobriety and voile!, the Japanese economy started to recover.  (I am beginning to see why the banking industry might not have wanted Hillary Clinton.)

Unfortunately, that’s not the approach we in the US are going to take.  No, we are not going to force the banks and bankers to have a day of reckoning.  We are going to postpone the intervention so we can draaaaaggg this recession out.  Why?  Well, to my untrained, non-econ eye, it appears that bankers and their shareholders are more equal than the rest of us wretched refuse.  The recession is going to be hard but not as hard on the bankers as it could be and, really, isn’t that what we all live for?  To make sure that the people who aspired to those positions can live in the style to which they have become accustomed?  YOU may get laid off and have to suffer, but why should they?  If they are living well, they serve as shining beacons on a hill, examples to us all.   We can all look up and say, “My tax dollars paid for that”.  It’s something to be proud of.

OK, some people in Connecticut clearly haven’t gotten the memo that we are to leave the poor bankers and their government welfare bonuses alone.  They are littering the poor, hapless bankers’ yards with furniture, simulating foreclosure.  That just pisses bankers off.  First they have to get Manuel to clean it all up and then they have to fly off to Aspen *weeks* earlier than they intended to.  What do these people want from them??  Isn’t it enough that they may be forced to survive on a measley $500K?

For those of you who want to know what Geithner’s plan means and how it will keep bankers safe, check out the two most recent podcasts from Planet Money:

Get Tougher, Please – Guest Adam Posen describes what needs to be done to banks to shorten the recession sensibly.

How to Save a Bank – A critique of the Geithner’s plan.  It falls short of what needs to be done to banks to shorten the recession sensibly.

At the end of yesterday’s podcast, I got a distinct impression that Adam Davidson and Alex Blumberg felt betrayed and depressed by the whole proposal.  You can hear it in their voices.  Jeez, I hope they weren’t Obamaphiles because that kind of rude awakening sucks, er, is of low quality. But what did we expect from Obama who got nearly a billion in campaign contributions from the Wall Street gang?  They need to keep shooting up and hoping that their brilliant schemes will pay off like one of Ralph Cramden’s “Get-Rich-Quick” ideas.

Oh, and one other thing.  I have read rumors that someone is floating the idea to tap into the Social Security trust fund for cash to get the economy rolling again.  Just a short term loan or something.  Yeah, Yeah, it’s just a parody but let’s just take the idea out of circulation right now.  Some of us who diligently stashed away money in our 401K’s are now looking at pretty fricking bleak retirements.  We may not have time to recover our losses before we’re given our gold watches.  Social Security had better be there for us, especially those of us who have been paying the surplus funds since we started working.  I’ll start my own March on Washington if anyone even *thinks* about tapping into it.

That’s a promise.