Author Archive: Tim Hogan
imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.
I remember taking a course at Saint Louis University in International Law with Professor Jean-Robert Leguey-Feilleux Ph.D. in my college days in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The course included a discussion of terrorism. Dr. Leguey-Feilleux told us one of the issues before the United Nations and the international community was a definition of “terrorism.” The best definition of “terrorism” I remember, and the one my instructor endorsed, was “the taking of innocents for political purposes.”
Terrorism is not necessarily killing, but may cause death and certainly fear. Terrorism is political. In another college class, political science professor and author David Easton defined “politics” as “the authoritative allocation of values.” So “terrorism” is the taking of innocents in an attempt to influence how people or peoples allocate their “values.” The primary motivator in any terrorist effort is fear. The absence of fear negates the intent of the terrorist. But fear may motivate others to seek gain from the tactical terrorist efforts for strategic purposes. I believe such was the goal of the Bush administration and still remains that of the Republican Party in the United States. I now fear we may have to add President Obama to the fold of those which have sacrificed basic American values and democratic freedoms to short term political expediency.
During the 40 or so years of the Cold War, the Republican right could be counted upon to rant about Democrats being “soft on Communism” and take electoral victories in the White House which was only interrupted by Kennedy’s “missile gap,” Johnson’s “Great Society” (following JFK’s assassination) and the blip of Jimmy Carter after Watergate. After the rise in expectations after the growth and success of the Solidarity movement in Poland, due in large part to Pope John Paul II, and similarly after Democrats like Sen. Scoop Jackson (D-WA) forced increased emigration from the old USSR (which wanted “most favored nation” trade status) and Jimmy Carter’s “human rights” focus upon US foreign policy, the Cold War ended.
Now there was a conundrum for the right. No more “soft on Communism” to run national elections strategies upon anymore. There ensued two terms of President Bill Clinton.
President Bill Clinton infuriated the right into heretofore unseen levels of spastic fits of yobbo yapping and a renewed commitment by the right and its corporatist supporters to an electoral victory in 2000. After nearly a billion dollars of campaign spending to support a candidate which the corporations invented and called “George Bush,” Bush v. Gore ensued. “W” was then anointed president thanks to the one vote of Sandra Day O’Connor, along with the rest of the Republicans on the US Supreme Court. But “W” was an unproven commodity and he foundered in his early days in the Presidency, until 9/11.
George Bush liked to repeat the mantra “9/11 changed everything” and he’s right. 9/11 gave the political Right an opportunity to claim Democrats are “soft” on terrorism just as they had in the past claimed Democrats were “soft” on Communism. George B. Shaw said; “Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but no one has a right to be wrong on the facts.” Let’s look at the former Soviet Union and its satellites as a threat and compare them to our latter day foes in the “Global War on Terror (GWOT)”.
At a minimum, the Soviet Union had hundreds of thousands, maybe a million or so, of soldiers, sailors and airmen in arms. The Soviet Union had hundreds of thousands of tanks, planes, ships and submarines. The Soviets had some 15,000 nuclear warheads, most targeted on the US. Their nukes actually worked. We may not now know where they all are, but there were some 15,000.
The Soviets had numerous substantiated chemical, nerve and biological weapons. In short, real weapons of mass destruction (WMD) existed.
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Herman Cain has now “suspended” his campaign for the 2012 Republican nomination for President of the United States. Mr. Cain cited “continued distractions and continued hurt on me and my family.” Mr. Cain had been the target of claims of past sexual harassment and a long standing sexual affair with an Atlanta woman. With Mr. Cain’s withdrawal, there seem to be four remaining candidates atop the GOP Presidential field: Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Newt Gingrich.
Former Republican Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in 2012 is running against himself from his race for Governor of the State of Massachusetts. Governor Romney has also lost credibility regarding his efforts as a “job creator.” Romney’s prior private sector business, Bain Capital, and Goldman Sachs purchased two Florida medical diagnostics firms, closed them and 850 jobs were lost; Bain and Goldman made $250 million on the deal. Romney’s net worth went up to some $250 million during this time.
Meanwhile, former Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich is running against what he said as recently as a week before his last statement on some issues. Gingrich is no stranger to controversy as he was cited for ethics violations and fined $300,000 while serving as the Republican Speaker of the US House in January of 1997. Mr. Gingrich has also been criticized for extra-marital affairs and leaving two wives as they suffered from multiple sclerosis and cancer. One ex had to sue Gingrich for child support as she suffered and survived on charity as Gingrich served in the US House. Mr. Gingrich had carried on an affair with his now third wife even as his second wife was suffering from cancer.
“I hope we shall . . . crush in [its] birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations.”
Much has been written about the causes and the effects of the financial crisis of 2008. The right blames easy home loan credit they claim was mandated by federal laws and Democratic legislators. The left blames corporate greed run amok after the GW Bush administration gave up regulation of the financial sector to the “free market.” It is important to know who the players were that brought us to a world-wide economic crisis in 2008 and another which is working itself out in Europe right now as a result of the sovereign debt crisis in the Southern tier of European Union countries of Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The Irish financial crisis was as a result of an exploded housing bubble much as unfolded in the US. It is important to note there are neither “easy home loan credit… mandated by federal laws” or “Democratic legislators” in Ireland.
At the core of the crises is a group of US based banks and financial services corporations, chief among which are Goldman Sachs. Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, along with Goldman Sachs, are still making massive investments in risky derivatives such as credit default swops and credit default options and currently hold over 95% of such contracts in that market.
But, Goldman Sachs has had at the nexus of all the actors its players and yet another has just been appointed as the new head of the European Bank, Mario Draghi. Mr. Draghi’s immediate past position was with the Bank of Italy and just before that Mr. Draghi was with Goldman Sachs. It was during Mr. Draghi’s tenure at Goldman that the firm came under heavy fire for mis-stating Greece’s debts so as to ease its entry into the EU.
Italy’s likely new appointed PM, Mario Monti, is also a Goldman Sachs alumnus and will have to leave as the Euro Chair of the Trilateral Commission if he enters government service.
Lucas Papademos, the newly appointed PM of Greece, is a technocrat and that’s thought to help Greece and the EU but, resigned (as required) as a member of the Trilateral Commission upon his government appointment. Mr. Papademos served as a member of the Trilateral Commission along with the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and folks from AIG and other major Wall Street players that brought us the 2008 meltdown and now have brought the entire EU sovereign debt crisis to a boil.
The very scary reality is that the next economy to falter after the Southern tier is France. France holds the highest amount of any nation of the sovereign debt of the South. Soon, France may lose its AAA credit rating which it has held to even though its debt to GDP ration of 83% is higher than the about 62% of the US. France will next have to enact “austerity measures” such as those already imposed in much of the EU and which have caused riots in Greece.
What this all means to us poor average Americans is that while we work hard, pay our taxes, save for our retirements and kids’ college, forces beyond our ken and control are at work around the Western world to make sure that the interests of our monied corporations are those which are served and that our votes, our elections and our very dreams for ourselves and our children just don’t matter any more. And see here and here.
There was a war while we slept last night, we lost. Goldman Sachs and its ilk won by removing all our wealth to them, by removing elected officials to be replaced by their former employees and by taking over our dreams and replacing them with their own.
“As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
“Corporations are not ‘people.’ I’ll believe corporations are ‘people’ when Texas and Georgia execute the next corporation…”
(Reference: 6:00 on the above video)
Billionaire hedge fund operator Raj Rajaratnam was sentenced recently to 11 years for insider trading in a Manhattan federal court. Mr. Rajaratnam was convicted by a jury of 14 counts of insider trading for illegally conspiring to obtain and using insider information from individuals at Goldman Sachs, among others. Prosecutors argued that Rajaratnam made over $74 million from his scheme.
While some might praise the effort to convict Mr. Rajaratnam, how did the folks who he bribed or whatever fare? Why does the name Goldman Sachs keep coming up in all the Wall Street scandals? Did the government get anything from Goldman Sachs or any other bailout recipients for the money used to keep these operations alive? Just what the hell is Goldman Sachs still doing in any investment banking business at all? Goldman Sachs and 3 other banks are still trading in the risky derivatives which brought down the financial markets in 2008. Goldman and the other 3 banks hold some 95% of those contracts.
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This is the third article in a series of three (here are the first and second) which are based upon a recent revealing piece published by truthout.org where Mike Lofgren, a veteran Republican operative on the Republican staffs of the US House and Senate Budget Committees reveals what lies at the core of contemporary American Republicanism and why he quit after 28 years of service. Mr. Lofgren writes:
To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.
Mr. Lofgren continues:
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I’m Tim Hogan. I am a husband, a father of two, a small businessman and I am one of the 99%.
The day will come when our Republic will become an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. When that day comes, we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation.
- James Madison
Our Republic is at such an impossible time because the fewest have the wealth of our nation. The gap between the richest and poorest in America is at its greatest ever. The income of the top 1% of Americans has increased by nearly 300% since 1979 while wages and salaries of average Americans have barely, if at all, kept up with inflation over the same period. Americans suffer poverty at the highest rate ever. 46.3 million Americans have household incomes below the federal poverty line, with one in six children in America living in poverty, right now.
The percentage of wages as a percentage of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is at its lowest since 1947 when the government began keeping such statistics while corporate profits are at an all time high. Corporations have more than $2 trillion in cash reserves while unemployment is endemic and worker productivity is at all time highs.
The financial crisis of 2008 spawned efforts to stop the excesses of the banking and investment communities but, those valiant efforts have been to no avail as the laws and regulations which would prevent a re-occurrence of the financial crisis have been stymied and blocked by the financial industry’s stranglehold on the US House and Senate and threats of lawsuits.
Meanwhile the four largest financial institutions which took over $100 billion in bailout money from US tax payers have doubled and redoubled down on the risky derivatives which caused the financial collapse. Bank of America, Citicorp, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs as insured commercial banks now hold some 95% of risky derivatives as investments after they collectively received over $135 billion in federal bailout monies. Yes, the bailout monies were repaid with interest but, right now banks continue the very same risky activities which caused the 2008 financial meltdown in the first place. And see here and here.
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The only problem is that Bachmann, Cain, Perry and Santorum are all declared Republican candidates for President in 2012. In a Republican presidential primary season so far filled with over a dozen candidates, the numbers called by God to run are ever increasing and may give us an all time high for those to whom the Almighty has spoken.
With what appears to be a record number of Republican candidates called by God to run for President in 2012, Mike Lofgren’s characterization of the GOP and its relationship with the Almighty rings ever more true. This article is the second in a series of three analyzing recent statements by Mr. Mike Lofgren, who spent 28 years on the GOP staff of the US House and Senate Budget Committees. He had some interesting things to say about the Republican love affair with the Almighty as the guide for its members’ ambitions. For instance, Mr. Lofgren says the following:
Give me that old time religion. Pandering to fundamentalism is a full-time vocation in the GOP. Beginning in the 1970s, religious cranks ceased simply to be a minor public nuisance in this country and grew into the major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa Caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. The results are all around us: if the American people poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution versus creationism, scriptural inerrancy, the existence of angels and demons, and so forth, that result is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican Party and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary or quaint beliefs.
I guess the rest of us, not called by God to run for President, have some less lofty calling or are just somehow less morally upright than those chosen few of the GOP. But, I just wonder what really is going on here? I mean can God have called all these people to run for President? How did they receive their call? Is it the height of hubris to claim the allegiance of the Almighty or just another day on the 2012 Republican Presidential campaign trail? I can honestly say that I have not been called by God to run for President and that fact does not upset me in the least.
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Thought we bailed them out, Wall Street banks continue with much of their destructive behavior. Exhibit A: They hold 95% of Derivatives. How can we stop the madness?
Large U.S. bank speculation in derivatives, the very thing which caused the economic crisis of 2008, is going on more than ever. JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have some 95% of such exotic investments, with only a small percentage being held by the tens of thousands of other banks in the US. Each of the current large bank holders of derivatives were recipients of bailout funds under the TARP.
The federal law (Glass-Steagall) which had prevented banks from involving themselves in such ultra-risky transactions was repealed in 1996, and its replacement was a hard fought losing battle to pass the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. The proposed CFTC regulations to limit the type and numbers of such positions taken by commercial banks on such financial investments are being challenged even before they are made final.
One of the new items proposed to be regulated is the type, number and amounts of positions taken on West Texas Light Crude oil which is a benchmark for the international price per barrel of oil. Previously, the WTLC market was regulated in Dubai and the UK and not in the US, so speculators could do as they pleased with those oil prices and not be subject to US regulation or even US scrutiny. It is commonly agreed that speculators add as much as 40% more to the price of a barrel of oil. The proposed CFTC regulations anger large speculative investors and they have threatened lawsuits even before the regulations go into effect.
One method of suppressing speculation is a financial transaction tax. Some experts say that a broad series of financial transaction taxes will provide additional revenues to countries and also serve to prevent the kind of wholesale speculation in derivatives and other such exotica which gave us the world economic crisis in 2008. Taxing authorities could also provide regulators real-time information on the positions of various investors to monitor and avoid abuses.
The European Community is about to impose such a tax on financial transactions to deter speculators and to raise revenues. Perhaps we in the US may do likewise.