Author Archive | Danny Schechter

Tanked: The Financial Crisis is Still With Us With No End In Sight. It May be Time to Give War A Chance Once Again

Seal of Federal Reserve SystemEvery month, rise or shine, the Federal Reserve Bank, an institution that most Americans believe is a branch of government, or a federally run Central Bank has one of its computers add $55 billion—that’s dollars with a B—to its ledger and balance sheet.

In actual fact, the FED, as its known is actually a private institution in government trappings,  owned by,  and run by,  the very banks it is thought to regulate.  It actually has kept the economy afloat since August 2007 when the financial crisis began (not 2008 as most media outlets have it with a printing press with an infusion of $3.4 TRILLION.

At first, the Fed’s Economics Professor turned Bank president,  Ben Bernanke was called “Heliopter Ben” in an allusion to all the money he was bombing the economy with His term ended, but the practice, now barely questioned, goes on.

And why is that? To put it simply, the financial crisis is still with us, whatever talk there is of “recovery” because of structural realities that haven’t changed.… Read the rest

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That ‘Iron Law’ Of Oligarchy Is Back To Haunt Us

The word “oligarchy” has finally come home.

For years, it was a term only used in connection with those big bad and sleazy Mafioso-type businessmen in Russia.

Russia had oligarchs; we didn’t. That became a big difference between the official narrative of what separated our land of the free and the home of the brave from THEM, the snakes in the shades and private planes, in the post-Soviet period.

Actually, I first heard the term oligarchy when I was studying labor history at Cornell a half a lifetime ago. We were taught about something called the “Iron Law of Oligarchy.”

It was a concept coined by Robert Michels, a friend of sociology guru, Max Weber, way back in 1911. Here’s how it was defined in that relic of another age: The Encyclopedia Britannica:

“Michels came to the conclusion that the formal organization of bureaucracies inevitably leads to oligarchy, under which organizations originally idealistic and democratic eventually come to be dominated by a small, self-serving group of people who achieved positions of power and responsibility.  This can occur in large organizations because it becomes physically impossible for everyone to get together every time a decision has to be made.”

So, oligarchies have been with us seemingly forever—it’s an “iron law,” says he–but in current usage the term references the small elite—the 1% of the 1% that dominates economic and political decision making.… Read the rest

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Beyond The ‘McCutcheon’ Decision

The Roberts Court

The Roberts Court

Everyone’s taking about the Supreme Court’s perfectly predictable “Citizens United 2” McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision.  It’s what we are NOT talking about that worries me.

Ironically, the far right that many on the left see as the only beneficiary of a decision that treats money and free speech as if they are the same thing, is also not happy with it. They wanted, and may still get, the end of all campaign finance reform.

This decision keeps individual giving caps in place and, in the Right’s view doesn’t go far enough, although in their war of many slashes and cuts, they clearly see laws and policies trending in their direction.

If the escalation of the email that has inundated my in-box is any indication, Dems and the progressives see it in apocalyptic terms–the end of democracy as we know and the final nod towards plutocracy, if not fascism.… Read the rest

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Stressed: What Are They Trying To Tell Us?

CitibankOk, I have to admit it, I feel as though my faith in economic justice is being tested with these stress tests. Truth is, I  am becoming more stressed than ever.

The reason: despite all the “regulations” in the Dodd Frank Financial “reform” and the Volcker Rule and The Fed’s “oversight:’ the banks seems to have free reign to do what they will despite the financial crisis, and the pathetic “recovery.”

There have been fines and settlements but nothing is settled. None of them have or will go to jail.

Economic conditions continue to stress out millions even as the Fed announces “stress tests” that appear on the surface to be a way of insuring that big banks won’t need more bailouts.

Sad to say, it’s more of the charade. Partially that’s because the banks dominate the Federal Reserve, a private, not public, institution.

And, partially, because when it comes to economic crises, the stories are buried in the business pages and rarely surface as topics of concern on popular talk shows and media that most folks watch.… Read the rest

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When The Government Compounds Crimes Rather Than Fights Them: The Case of Mortgage Fraud

The Crime of Our TimeWe were all victims of the financial crisis that began in 2007 (not 2008) but some of us suffered more than others. And, hundreds of millions of us are still living with the painful aftermath as its consequences began to be felt worldwide.

The first order of business in Washington back then was to bail out the victimizers, who have done quite well, thank you very much, in rebuilding their citadels of profit.

They were only marginally impacted  by some fines that were finally assessed in lieu of jail sentences.

That  money was paid by the financial institutions,  and their shareholders,  not by decision-makers who were never held accountable. It was written off as a “cost of doing business” just as fraud became a way of doing business.

We have all read about the outrageous compensation schemes that offending executives have been rewarded with, even as the media has finally discovered deepening income inequality.… Read the rest

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Russia Today’s Beast Of Burden: Shoot the Messenger and Obscure The Message

Liz_Wahl_on_RT_AmericaJames Kirchick is just the neutral reporter the Daily Beast would assign to report on the ideological controversy surrounding the Russian backed RT-TV Channel’s coverage of the crisis in the Ukraine.

The Beast lives up to its name by sending a hardcore polemical ideologue to uncover what he predictably labels as ideological media bias.

Kirchick is a veteran of the anti-communist wars, now revived as the anti Putin wars, not some neutral journo crusading for democracy.

According to Wikipedia, he is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington,  prior to this he was writer-at-large for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He is a graduate of the New Republic, Murdoch’s Weekly Standard and writes for Azure, a magazine that described itself as pro-Zionist and free market.

Ok, just so we know who are dealing with here.

And now, to bolster his “credibility” he presents himself as a victim in his latest article that exposes himself, far more than his target, asserting that his rights as a journalist were somehow compromised because of a gutsy quest for truth.… Read the rest

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Mess With Glenn Greenwald At Your Own Risk

Glenn_greenwald_portrait_transparentClearly, there’s an officially sanctioned, if not supported, backlash underway to cast doubt on the those who are disseminating the information that Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers are exposing to the global public.

What better way to respond to the evidence of government overreach and criminality in the spying by the NSA and other agencies than to try to change the subject by smearing the people who are funding the reporting on it to us.

This latest round of the media battle should not be surprising. In fact, it’s all too predictable.

In the latest round, lawyer and journalist Glenn Greenwald, the point person/interpreter for the majority of the Snowden disclosures, came under attack by indirection with a high profile smear on Pierre Omidyar, the eBay billionaire funding his new venture, First Look Media.

Leading the charge publicly is one MarkAmes, who writes for Pando Daily, a rival news agency funded by another Silicon Valley tech moneyman.… Read the rest

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Skiing Down Hill – On The Slopes And In The World

Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin

Olympics live for Heroes and Sheroes—the “amateur” athlete winners that TV sportscasters swoon over,  and companies later reward with lucrative endorsement contracts that, in turn,  push them in the celebrity elite, often with enough staying power to move effortlessly from competition to commentary.

This year, in Sochi, America’s sweetheart is an 18 year old teenager with doting and photogenic parents who has won hearts as she slalomed to Olympic Gold.

It helps that Mikaela Shiffrin is attractive and articulate, self-deprecating in an aw-shucks adolescent manner, and yet a model of iron discipline on the slopes.

It was clear from her fawning video profile that she was destined to be the ‘got it’ girl on her way to the glory of a gold.

Shiffrin has a way with words as well as skills. She was upbeat and catchy in conversation with reporters, who, then, couldn’t say enough good things about her unaffected style.… Read the rest

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Debating Poverty At The United Nations: Do The Media Hate The Poor?

United Nations, New York: One is always proud to be invited to speak at the United Nations, one of the few global institutions that is still taken seriously, and that can generate international resolutions and shape programs free of total domination by the big powers.  

When you are an outsider like I am, it’s a bit of an ego boost to think that the world might be listening to little old you, and that, at least for one session, you are among the chosen to hold forth on something serious in what critics deride as ‘The House of Babble.’

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I have been around the world body for years, even as recipient of a prize for a TV documentary from the UN Correspondents Association  (UNCA). In that case, the film offered a strong critique of the UN cockup in Bosnia, but then, the award was presented to me by the then (and sixth) UN  Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, who clearly hadn’t seen it

So, yes there is pretense and hypocrisy,  but there are also sincere and dedicated people—diplomats and international civil servents– working to improve the world.… Read the rest

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The Olympics Are Here To Stay—And To Pay

Vladimir Putin - Olympic HostThe Winter Olympics are off and running, and the media focus is about the threat of terrorism, Putin’s motives in holding it, and why a backward town in the old Soviet Union that has been a center of human rights abuse for years is somehow, surprise, surprise, not up to the luxury standards in Los Angeles or Park City Utah (especially for reporters who bitch the most!)

As the Guardian noted,

“every Olympics experienced pre-Games jitters: in London there was the last-minute panic over security guards that resulted in the army being called in; in Vancouver there were street protests and a fatality on the luge course; and the runup to Beijing was clouded by human-rights protests during the torch relay.”

The politics of it is always conspicuous by its presence; the economic agenda behind it conspicuous by its absence.

Every day, the stories are more and more absurd:  The Russians are blocking a delivery of Greek yogurt for our figure skaters or rounding up stray dogs—features like that.… Read the rest

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