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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The King of Dharamsala Valley

Hi Everyone,
Carl here, I usually don't post much on the blog, Jerry and I do our video blog together, but Jerry brings his strong learned opinions and facts to the written version here on this page. I have posted rarely.
I usually post lighter stuff, so I've put together a short story, I thought Jerry's readers might enjoy.

Since His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is state side and meeting with my good friend Barry, I thought it might be fun to write a little about my experience meeting the King of Dharamsala Valley.

So, I was invited to India to interview/audience His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for a documentary I produced on the politics of Tibet. I had been to China and had interviewed nearly 100 Chinese government officials on the subject, including the then head of the Tibetan Autonomous Region as China calls it today.

This story took place while I was in India, getting His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the The Tibetan Government in Exiles view on the subject.

As while in China, in India we would interviewed nearly every authority involved in every aspect of Tibetan life in exile and culture thru the Tibetan govenment in exile. In a months time we had interviewed nearly 80 officials including the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile, Samdhong Rinpoche and His Holiness himself. I even interviewed the Oracle. We would do three interviews a day, for 24 days. Time flew by, it was really grueling but I nor my crew felt it at all. I was just great to immerse ourselves.

We were working a one month long stoke of adventure.

This story isn't about the Documentary or the making of the Documentary. This is story about something that took place ad hoc, extra, something unexpected.

We stayed in a hotel near the home of His Holiness in McLeodganj . Located in the most populated province of India, known as Himachal Pradesh, McLeodganj sits above the Dharamsala Valley, at around five thousand feet. You can enjoy some of the most beautiful views of India from there. I would go onto the roof of our hotel and shoot sunrises every morning. The sun would rise from behind the mountain tops, sun beams would shoot upward. McLeodganj is located in the foothills of the Himalayas, with the great mountains rising up towards the Northeast, and beautiful sun washed Kanga valley and plains of India to the South.

Enough about the scenery! All of India is beautiful.

Our daily schedule was intense, we would be on the road every day by 8a.m. with interviews scheduled all day till 5.

After work we would land back at the hotel and figure out what to do for dinner, then afterwards go exploring around the hilltop town. There is a big tourist industry built around His Holiness living in McLeodganj , but most of the business's that feed off of his presence and his home are run by Kashmiris. They sell a lot of Tibetan things, mostly knock offs, there are a few Tibetan businesses but not like you'd think.

After dinner one night we happened upon a large tourist gift shop, run by Tibetans, it was pretty amazing, the things they had forsale, from silks to furniture, were simply beautiful.

We were just five guys wandering around, not big shoppers, on break looking more for a cold beer more than a stylish mala. But as a traveler you will look behind any door, so we are in this wonderful gift shop. Browsing. I hear some one say to me in clear European Danish English, "How do you like India"? I look and there is a mature women with dark black dyed hair, smiling at me, I smile back and say, I love it. She then responded, "it is a free country, completely free". I said "yes it is the kind of freedom that you'll never find anywhere else". We continued to chat, she was a Danish researcher, doing some work with one of the monasteries. I said so long. Her name was Halina.

The crew and I had dinner and a few drinks exhausted we would as with most nights be back at the hotel and be in bed by 11.

The next day we are scheduled to go to the Gangchen Kyishong, The offices of the Tibetan government-in-exile and the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives are located here. We'd be spending the day there doing three interviews, one with the Pime Minster Venerable Samdong Rinpoche, another with the now retired director of the Tibetan Works and Arhives Most Venerable Achok Rinpoce and finally the Nechung Oracle, Venerable. Thubten Ngodrup. These are some of the highest of high ranking tibetan religious figures in the world. All in the same day!

While at Gangchen Kyishong, between interviews, we had lunch just off the library, we ran into Halina my Danish friend again. We spoke briefly and parted. She claimed to be doing research for documentary also.

So the interviews went beyond well, I can tell you something about Tibetan Buddhism, how it strenghtens the mind, how it works, how the oracle or medium of Tibet functions, but thats not what this story is about. This story is about a Hindu, the King of Dharamsala Valley.

Its Friday, thanks to some proficient planing by me, who was now being called Dr. Quest, by his production team, we had scheduled weekends off.

This Dr.Quest thing was a much better nickname than my crew I used in China, who seemed to want to call me Chairman Mao, they also like calling me hu su, meaning black beard. Camaraderie is a great thing when working and traveling, they guys on the both crews, I will always be indebted to.

So its the weekend and everyone it thinking about finding some real beer and adventure in a far away land. We were getting ready to go to dinner, now the food in India is really great, but getting 5 guys to agree on where to eat is always a problem.

So we are standing on the street in front of our hotel bickering about what restaurant to go to, it's a one lane street, and a car pulls up stops and the window rolls down, it's our Danish friend Halina again. She reaches out her hand with a card in it, and says "here is my number, if you guys want to have some fun, call me tomorrow and I'll be happy to show you a good time".

Guys are funny, some laughed, some lurched back, I said fine and took her phone number.

McLeodganj has about twenty thousand people living there year round, a small town by India's standard, the main town area is around 3 square miles made up of shops and restaurants, with mostly tourists milling about.

We spent the off day just hanging around, talking with the locals, some of the crew tried and succeeded in scoring some hashish from a local Kashmiri rug vendor, I visited the Namgyal monastery, they have a coffee shop there, hung out, met some tourist, talked to the locals, Did some souvenir shopping, just taking it easy, we had two more weeks ahead, including our final week, which I had set aside for exploring as a reward for the crew, no work, Just Delhi and tourist sites around Dehri Dunn.

So it's Saturday night in McLeodganj, I figured, if a door opens, it's always better to walk through it. So I decided to take Halina up on her offer. I called her from the hotel lobby phone, she said to come to the bottom of hill and she'd be waiting for I and my filmcrew at the end of the driveway located near Mentze kahn, the Tibetan medical school, and then she said, I'm going to quote her, " Its the driveway of The King of Dharamsala Valleys home". Ok now I had never before met a king, but thought, gee this is getting interesting. Hailina went on to say that they would be attending a Himalayan festival in the valley and we would be guest of the King!

So I go back upstairs to tell the guys I had talked to Halina, and we were going to a Himalayan Festival with the King of dharmasala valley. "Get dressed, and tell our driver Tapa Ji, he'll get some overtime". The crew had mixed emotions about it, it was strange because all they and I new about Halina was her invite, "are you guys looking for a good time" and her exotic look, mature ,attractive and worldly. So they really had some apprehension. Not I!

So we piled into Tapa ji's Montero, and headed down the hill from Mcleodganj, sure enough as promised, Halina was standing at the end of the driveway. She climbed into the truck and told Tapa Ji to drive on. It's dusk and the road is now perfectly paved, one of the only roads we would travel on that was without potholes and dust. It was the Kings driveway to be sure.

May is the hottest month of the year in India, we were working in 110 degree temperatures everyday. So I'm thinking, at the very least, this King, if he is a really a King, will have not only cold beer, but ice too.

The driveway is a 2 mile road that winds through the jungle, there perched on a small mound is a 2 story home, made of poured concrete, surrounded by professional landscaping and landscape lighting. India does some interesting and beautiful things with lighting, when there is electrical service of course. We get out of the truck, and walk towards the home, we enter into this perfect outdoor piazza. Halina invites us to have a seat. This home is a walled home, including the piazza, with poured concrete benches, tables, and low lighting radiating from every corner. The Kings home, It's its a dark mysterious place, I'm thinking maybe my crews apprehension was correct, maybe we've explored far enough.

The driver Tapa Ji, didn't come in he stayed with the suv. Dorje our monk guide, did. So we are all sitting in this wonderfully strange place in the middle of the jungle, and then as if
in a scene from the movie Apocolypse now, out of the homes great doors comes a large man in traditional indian white attire, he strolls over to us, and Halina says, gentlemen allow me to introduce the King of Dharamsala Valley.

As leader of our group, I stand up and he reaches his had out to shake hands, ok, so maybe he is not so kingly, and says "welcome to my home, so you're the American film crew, thank you for coming" I look at him and say "thank you for having us". This is the first and only King I've ever met, I'm kind of beside myself, my crew is sitting there, with some kind of look between shock and fear on their faces, then in a Brandoesque tone the King says "Beer, whiskey, beer,whiskey", he said it twice, really fast and mumbly, I said "that would be fantastic' I hear Todd, our sound recordist, in the background say "It sure would".

So here we are sitting with the King of Dharamsala Valley in the middle of the jungle making small talk, I find out, in a very a matter of fact way, that his wife is the head of India's National Health Administration, equal to our surgeon general, and Halina, who has been in India for 30 years, is his mistress. The king in a very Kingly way stated these facts as non pulsed as anyone about anything, from one man to another. Having a mistress is a manly kingly kind of thingly. The King, and the trick to being King is to be focused, manly, and at all times non pulsed.

After having a few drinks at the kings home, it would be time to part for the Himalayan festival in the valley, we would be guests of the king, and his mistress.

We piled into the suv, and Halina got in the truck with us, the king had his own driver, and a white car, know as an ambassador. We would drive deeper into the jungle, thru winding roads, in India, every evening in the jungle, a fregrent flower opens, it's called night queen. It has a very sweet smell. This heavy sweet oder is wafting through our car, so strong was the smell, I asked Halina what it was.

After about fifteen minutes, driving on very dark roads in the forest, we pull up to what is a decent size hotel, the interior light is radiating from the rooms on all floors, the lobby lighing is glowing into the dark jungle, our head lights cut deep into the darkness, the building is some sort of resort. Tapa Ji parks the truck, Halina says wait in the car. It was the Club Mahindra Kangra Valley Resort.

I'm watching her as she goes to the Kings car, he gets out, they turn and walk rapidly into the hotel. The resort has some kind of event going on, its buzzing with people, all well dressed, the King and Halina disappear inside.

From the passengers seat in the Montero, I'm looking at the building, and I see through the hotels second floor windows the King entering into this large room, the people in the room are part of the event taking place there. Then in less than a minute from the Kings entrance, people start to flood out of the place, hurriedly, piling into their cars, all these white government cars.

One by one they leave the parking lot, the lead car with a blue police light flashing on the dash. Tapa Ji cuts into the motorcade at about the halfway point, following the cars.

We travel another seven or so miles at high speed, through the jungle, and arrive at an outdoor stadium, there are people everywhere, we are still moving very fast, too fast for conditions, we arrive at the gate to this outdoor stadium, parking is to the right, I'm thinking we are not going to find a parkng space.

Instead of going into the lot, there is an arched entrance going into the stadium, with a red carpet on the ground going through it, people walking into the stadium. We and the Kings motorcade turn left onto the red carpet, people are literally diving out of the way of the cars, we drive into the stadium, there is seating on the field in front of the stage, not just any seating, but theater seating for vips, our cars all pull up and we get out, Sitting in the front row is The king, a guy who is head of the Dharamsala arts program, next to him is Halina, and me. The monk Dorje is next to me, and then the crew. All the people look at the King as he arrives.

We are as advertised at the Dharamsala Valley Himalayan festival.

There were about 30 thousand people in attendance, all brown people, we are the only caucasians except for Halina. Around the primeter of the field are booths set up with games and food, it's not different than a festival or county fair in America, it's a public get together, with families, teenagers, police on guard, music, dancing, all very nice. And lots of home style Indian cooking.

About half way through the program, Halina hands me a glass of whiskey, public consumtion of alcohol is frowned upon in India, I take the glass, and I hear Dorje whisper in a low voice "Don't drink it", hmm interesting I think. I smell it, and take a sip, its whiskey. I hand the glass to Todd, without hesitation, he drinks it all.

It's about an hour into the show and I decide I want some video, I have only my 3 chip handy cam, portable, so I get up and walk around the stadium, it was wonderful to mix it up with the locals, no english spoken by the folk, particularly at this folk festival, but you don't need language to communicate joy, everyone was happy, loving joyous community. Great food, that would surely kill me if I ate it. We joked as Dorje and Tapa Ji, our guide and driver would warn us constantly about eating things, by saying "No that will kill you".

I returned back at my seat, and Halina says to me, the king and his friends are going back stage to have drinks , you should join them.

Ok, now this is when, I'll say, it's like the bottom of the ninth, the bases are loaded, we have turned what would have been a non eventful evening into a very nice comeback, this was an experience up to this point to say the least. I hate sports analogies btw. I know or at least I'm sure I can top this evening off with just one more swing of the bat. I look at dorje, and he is shaking his head no, a look at my crew, and say, and this is one of the worst moments, in my life, I say, "so do you guys mind'? I look at them, one of them, now don't get me wrong I'm taking all the blame here, I don't know what crew member it was, but they said, "no we should be going".

I looked Halina, I looked at the King, and I said thank you for having us, we should be leaving.

I've had many go along get along fails in my life, but this moment, for me was the most painful mistake.

Will I ever know what lay ahead that evening by joining the King backstage for drinks? No, not ever. Really sad.

He was the unoffical King, recognized as the descendant to the oldest line of kings in india, Kings are still there, they still have local influence and wealth. When I asked dorje about this "King" status, he said that in his provence of Lahdak they have a queen, and this "royalty" can be traced back thousands of years.

i may assume that this would be his prince son.

Either or, I missed the chance. regrets I have few, but to go drink with the King of Dharamsala valley, that is one I might take to my grave. Unless . . . .

The moral of this story, be bold, every step takes courage and never not trust your instincts..

Thanks for reading.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Behind President Obama Are Two Curtains

“We all have very strong differences of opinion on many issues. However, like our founding fathers before us, we must put aside our differences and unite to fight a common enemy. It has now become evident to a critical mass that the Republican and Democratic parties, along with all three branches of our government, have been bought off by a well-organized Economic Elite who are tactically destroying our way of life. The U.S. economy, government and tax system is now blatantly rigged against us”, wrote David DeGraw. (“The Economic Elite Have Engineered an Extraordinary Coup…”, 2-15-10,
There is a stage set up for all the world to see. On that stage is President Barack Obama, yet behind that stage is a curtain. Hidden, but not so blindly any longer, are President Obama’s directors. One can describe them in many ways, either as the puppet masters, the producers, or the money-masters. But it really does not matter. President Obama is performing an act before the American people, while the rest of world watches.
Behind that curtain lies another curtain, and not so hidden any longer, either are another group of directors. These are those power brokers inside the Pentagon. These are the generals, senior intelligence commanders, Homeland Security controllers, and the contractor war profiteers.
Mr. McGraw continued to illustrate this point. “Current statistical policies prove that conditions for 99 percent of Americans will continue to deteriorate. The Economic Elite have engineered a financial coup that have brought war to our doorstep…and make no mistake, they have launched a war to eliminate the U.S. middle class.”
Pam Martens wrote, “I think it’s time to take Wall Street literally: they’ve made it abundantly clear they have an insatiable appetite for killing things: the housing market, the financial system, the economy, reform legislation, the next generation’s future. Wall Street is so steeped in destruction that the symbols of death are everywhere.” “As currently structured, Wall Street investment banks have no incentive to bring viable companies to market. Wall Street makes the same huge fees for putting lipstick on a pig and dumping it on the public as they do for launching solid companies with real job growth potential.” (“This Trend is Not Your Friend: Wall Street’s Killer Instinct Spells Death Knell for Jobs”, 2-8-10,
So, behind curtain number one were men once paraded on the cover of Time magazine, in their February 15, 1999 issue, just 11 years ago, as the greatest. Ms. Marten stated that these men were considered by Time to be “The Committee to Save the World.”
It has come to pass that these three men: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and then Deputy Treasury Secretary, and now, President Obama’s National Economic Council director, Larry Summers were all deeply and irresponsibly responsible for destroying this economy, and should have been labeled as The Committee to Destroy the World’s Economies.
Ms. Marten wrote that these three neo-liberal destroyers of the economy had a total of 7 degrees from some of the finest universities in the country, yet lacked a single ounce of common sense among them. These men were responsible for repealing the depression era investor protection legislation known as the Glass-Steagall Act that prevented the combination of commercial banks with investment banks and brokerage firms from killing jobs, the financial system, and the economy.
So why is President Obama using Larry Summers and Robert Rubin as his advisors instead of people who have a better understanding of what is needed to restore this broken economy?
Ms. Marten went on to unveil others who lack any real common economic sense that stand behind curtain number one. There is Neal Wolin, who was general counsel to Larry Summers, in the Clinton administration, but was now confirmed as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under Timmy Geithner. Both Wolin and Rubin were driving forces in drafting the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, under Clinton, which ended the barrier between investment and commercial banks and insurance companies, thus permitting the new financial behemoths to become too big to fail.
We must not forget that current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke stands arm-in-arm with these economic ‘dysfunctionates’ behind the curtain. In addition, are the likes of Lordie Lordie Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs’ CEO, who appears not only to have been involved in Treasury theft through fraudulent relations  (“I had no fraudulent relations with that company!”) with AIG, and now, possibly with the purchase of credit default swaps/shorting Greek debt. John Carney of described it this way.
“Goldman Sachs arranged swaps that effectively allowed Greece to borrow 1 billion Euros without adding to its official public debt. While it arranged the swaps, Goldman also sought to buy insurance on Greek debt and engage in other trades to protect itself against the risk of a default on those swaps. Eventually, Goldman sold the swaps to the national bank of Greece.”
It appears that Goldman Sachs and their fellow predatory vampires love and live to kill anything economic by sucking all the financial life out of their prey. 
The future looks very sad. President Obama pretends to be presenting plans to put Americans back to work. But the facts really don’t show it to be true. President Obama has decided to guarantee $8 billion in loans so a new nuclear plant can be built. What this says is that the Atlanta, Georgia Southern Company cannot get loan guarantees without a socialized, taxpayer supported financing program. Nuclear plants cannot get insurance unless the government guarantees the insurance, as well! I guess, Obama does not believe in spreading out this $8 billion for a more diversified manufacturing job stimulus development program.
This job climate is the worst since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began accumulating the data. Currently, for every open-until-filled job posting in the U.S., six people are actively looking for work.
“If [this economic slump] persists much longer, this era of high joblessness will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults-and quite possibly those of the children behind them as well. It will leave an indelible imprint on many blue-collar white men-and on white culture. It could change the nature of modern marriage, and also cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many inner cities into a kind of despair and dysfunction not seen for decades. Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture, and the character of our society for years”, wrote Dan Peck in his fantastic, eye-opening March 2010, Atlantic Monthly article called “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America”.
David DeGraw lists the current statistics. In 2009, one out of five U.S. households didn’t have enough money to buy food. 50 million citizens are living in poverty. 50 million people are without health care. In total, Americans have lost $5 trillion from their pensions and savings since the economic crisis began and $13 trillion in value of their homes. Personal debt has risen from 65 percent of income in 1980 to 125 percent today. 1.4 million Americans filed for bankruptcy in 2009, a 32 percent increase from 2008. As bankruptcies continue to skyrocket, medical bankruptcies are responsible for over 60 percent of them, and over 75 percent of the medical bankruptcies filed are from people who have health insurance.  There are 3 million homeless Americans. The percentage of “underwater” homes is close to 50 percent, or 25 million homes. Our prisons are filled with 2.3 million people. We have more people incarcerated than any other country in the world! In January, 1.1 million workers were eliminated from the unemployment totals because they were “officially” labeled discouraged workers, and discouraged workers are not counted in the unemployment figures. “Discouraged workers” don’t count, either. Nor do they count “involuntary part-time workers”. In total, we have 30 million U.S. citizens who are unemployed or underemployed. We are consistently shedding jobs. Just on the day of January 27th, several companies announced new cuts of more than 60,000 jobs. Workers are finding their hours increased, but with wages and benefit cuts. Median household income has fallen 5 percent as the unemployment rate increases, and is expected to fall even further. There are 15 million workers who now fall into the category of the working poor with a median income of $32,390, but the other half of the country is making less than that! Over 60 percent of Americans now live paycheck to paycheck.
There is a liquidation sale occurring in this country and it is mainly being offered by the men’s warehouse, and I don’t mean where you can buy a good looking foreign made suit! It is really at the men and women’s warehouse---America!
“Financial markets demonstrated their lack of competence in making economic judgments with their reckless behavior over the past decade or more. The public has repeatedly had to bail them out from bad lending decisions. The rating agencies, too, repeatedly demonstrated their incompetence in evaluating risks. The real risk for America right now is a prolonged weak economy-something that a mindless focus on deficits can help ensure”, wrote Professor Joseph Stiglitz (“Obama Must Resist ‘Deficit Fetish’”, 2-2-10, Politico).
“The deficit hawks from the banking system went on vacation from the fall of 2008 through the spring of 2009, while they demanded money be doled out freely-to themselves.” “[T]he deficit hawks are back at work, more vocal than ever about the need to cut government spending. They say it was for the health of the economy to dole out money to the banks; but not necessary to the health of our society…” “[For example] it was not acceptable to alter the contracts of the AIG personnel, even those “key” and irreplaceable personnel who made the mistakes that led to a $180 billion bailout, but acceptable to break the contract between America’s elderly, and the rest of society, by cutting back on Social Security.” “The bankers were short sighted when getting the country into the mess. But deficit fetishism is equally short sighted. It was a mistake to give in to bankers’ pleas for deregulation before the crisis; a mistake to give into their demand for a bailout without constraints and without appropriate compensation for the government during the crisis, and even more wrong now to give into demands for unfettered deficit reductions, including an end to the stimulus.” (Joseph Stiglitz)
Here we have behind the curtain a cabal of incompetent, predatory financial mobsters unable to even know when they themselves are being scammed by one another.
It is so much like mob bosses sitting down at a red and white checked clothed table in the back room of Rico Obama’s Italian Kitchen, smiling, toasting each other’s fake willingness to ‘all get-along’ and soaking up a gourmet spaghetti and meatball dinner, all the while, only a mile away in a dark, and dank warehouse one mobster’s assassins are suiting up for an execution-style attack upon another mobster’s gang-of-boys, or possibly upon the cook and host.
President Obama remains on the stage trying to convince the audience, who are jeering and hissing, that he can juggle a great many objects all at once with success and skill, yet, unfortunately, what the audience sees is a stage floor littered with his fallen objects. When will he learn that this is not a rehearsal but the final act?
Thanks for reading, jerry

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

President Obama Should Take A Lesson From Mr. Toyota

This week and last we have had apologies from what should have been our government officials, our president, the nation’s first Supreme Court appointed president, our Federal Reserve chairman, and the CEO bankstas, but that was not the case. Instead it was from Mr. Toyota. He is not a brand name like Mr. Goodwrench, a GM brand that ended up becoming Mr. Brokenwrench. No, Mr. Toyota has been spitting up apologies like never before. First, it was over his combustion engine vehicles, and now it is over his hybrid operating system vehicles, including a Lexus model.
Mr. Toyota apologized for failing to correct the brake and gas pedal problems. He actually apologized twice. Many say it is too late for apologizes.
Mr. Toyota basically said that he was very sorry for disappointing not only the buyers of his vehicles, but for letting down the employees and the dealers. He was so, so sorry. He understands that the customers don’t trust the company as they once did, but he will do whatever it takes to regain their trust, once more.
Wow!!! We must all agree that an apology was required. Not only required because of defects in the products that resulted in hundreds of thousands of vehicles to be fixed, but in order to stand tall he had to say, ‘I will fix it! I will make it right again! I will work to regain my customer’s trust! I will commit economic resources to make sure that quality control is on the top of the priority list!’
Unfortunately, we Americans have yet to hear such an apology from anyone who was a major pyromaniac in the economic forest fire that swept through this entire nation, then jumped the “Pond” and spread all through Europe. There has been no one!
Former President BushBoy has been mum on this one. Hank-da Paulie-Paulson, now a big time book author, one time CEO of Goldman Sachs, BushBoy’s Treasury Secretary, and, most of all, a major financial crime syndicate hit man has been praising what he believes to be his own successes, when in actuality, they were major failures. We have heard no sincere apologies from Alan Greenspan, or from former President Bill Clinton who signed into law the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, and the death knell legislation killing the decade’s long Glass-Steagall Act, which was the firewall between deposit holding banks (FDIC insured), and the risk potential financial investment houses (not FDIC insured).
Nor have we heard an apology from former Senator Phil Gramm another sleazy-bagster who nearly single-handedly ushered in these laws, under Clinton, which allowed Little Boy Bush to cut some real brush and pile it up miles high for a really big fire to be lit by the likes of Goldman Sachs, BoA, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Countrywide, and others to rip off the American homebuyer, the retirement fund investor, and the general saver trying to make a decent living for himself and his family.
Most of all, we have not heard an apology from President Obama after over one year of banksta rescue maneuvers. $12T handed out to banksta CEOs to make sure that the very thieves who robbed the American taxpayer, were once again back in business, passing out bonuses, replenishing their corporate stock shares so the thieving CEOs and the other monopoly corporate capitalist monster predators could prosper from their continued capital gains, which they can enjoy while all the other Americans who were saving for their own retirement or child college funds would eventually lose half of it. A pure and simple transfer of wealth from the lower 90% to the upper 10% of the income ladder. That was how it worked. We lost it, and they captured it.
Americans are so soft and good hearted that they cannot let the richest of the rich suffer any hardship. How unpatriotic that would look.
It is very likely that President Obama is too late to offer an apology. During his first year as president, he spent a great deal of time shaking hands with all kinds of highfalutin heads of state, and ultra-rich people, as well as getting his picture taken on the beach, dancing, playing with his kids and dog. He had no time, whatsoever, to write up an apology. He was too busy doing more important things. And anyway, an apology would be hollow if it was not followed up by real action—Mr. Toyota style. And Barack is just not allowed to do it.
President Obama did not fix the economic braking problem that drove the economy into the abyss; and, did not fix the sticking accelerator problem, which careened the government tour bus over the cliff. He had a dual problem: brakes and gas. Both failures caused the crashing and careening of the government’s magic bus into a huge cravace.
The economic gas pedal began sticking during Reagan’s presidency, and went full throttle under Little Boy Bush. Obama was elected by a majority to fix the sticking gas pedal, and make sure the economic braking system would not fail. He was voted into office to put the brakes on the Federal Reserve and Treasury to stop Goldman Sachs, and the rest of the syndicate gangsta get-away vehicles from making off with the loot.
But, there were no apologies, and instead, just the opposite occurred! Excuses by the likes of Hank Paulson, who said that the rescue of the banks was essential, otherwise we would see 20% unemployment. Hey, Hankie Spankie, we already have that figure now if you include those who have stopped looking for work, underemployed, and the currently unemployed. Hank Paulson is the same kind of fool that we see vying for attention in order to sell junkie books. You betcha!
The truth has been shown to be that President Obama has no intention of pulling a Mr. Toyota. President Obama has allowed crime syndicate field general Ben Bernanke to re-enlist as Federal Reserve chairman, as well as most of those Democrats in Congress. 47 of the 70 votes to reconfirm Bernanke for a second term as Fed chairman were Democrats. 30 were no votes, and they were mostly Republicans. Now the Republicans are reigniting the populist torch and will probably carry it all the way to the 2012 presidential election, as well as into the midterm election cycle.
President Obama was the master-of-ceremonies at the ‘Republican-As-Populist’ bumper sticker slogan party. Why would the Democrats, who have been pathetically looking like the party of spinelessness, so willing to throw away their reelection bids, and an opportunity to discard an economic war criminal holdover from the Bush administration? What were they thinking? Do they actually believe that we will be entering an economic recovery with massive joblessness numbers, while Greece is on the verge of a sovereign wealth default, as well as working Americans spending nearly everything they make on a home that is more than likely underwater; and  their credit card interest rates are rising toward 70%; and  mom and pop’s daily and weekly purchased items have become more expensive because the dollar is worth-less forcing them to use more dollars on what appears to be more expensive items; and then there is the rising college costs, as we watch our savings shrink, and as we hope that the principal can remain even. Can someone tell me what is in the water that flows through the tap at the White House and Congressional water fountains?
What we are witnessing today is a flat out war against working Americans in this Congress. The Republicans are pulling every political maneuver to obstruct President Obama’s agenda. Professor Elizabeth Warren’s desired Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would protect consumers from fraudulent financial instruments sold by banks, is being killed by banks and Senate Republicans. The House of Representatives passed the formulation of such an agency, but the Senate is being paid by banksta lobbyists to push it back. The banks do not want to agree to sensible reforms that would protect consumers. They like fraud!
Jamie Dimon, the CEO of Citigroup, cavalierly stated that there would be no reason for reforms and consumer protections because “financial crises are expected every 5-7 years, so we should just get over it.”
Instead of President Obama and Congress working diligently to prevent financial crises ever again, especially since this one was the worst since the Great Depression, they are playing party games to do little to protect working Americans from further economic collapses and destruction of their savings and asset wealth.
Oh, did we forget that the most important view is to protect the richest people in the country from ever suffering any inconveniences, and to make sure that the lower 90% meet the needs of the upper 10% of the people?
Citigroup is working fast and furious to subvert the Obama administration’s stage performance from appearing to even look like he is a man of the people. Jamie Dimon is dope-slapping Obama in public to let me and you know exactly who this president is working for. Jamie Dimon is masterminding a plan to subvert any Credit CARD Act requirements from doing anything but screw users even after the law was passed and to be enforced.
Here it is explained by Mr. James Kwak, of Baseline Scenario, “Credit Card Cleverness”: “Section 171 of the CARD Act (detailed guide here) prohibits “hair-trigger” increases in credit card interest rates on outstanding balances, whereby an issuer could increase a rate for any reason at any time. 171(b) specifies how interest rates can be changed; for example, the rate can change as the index it is based on changes, or the rate can change at the end of a clearly defined introductory period. 171(b)(4) says that if a borrower misses a minimum payment, the issuer has to wait sixty days before raising the interest rate. 171(b)(4)(B) says that after raising the rate, if the borrower makes the minimum payments for the next six months, the issuer has to restore the previous rate.
The person who got the letter above used to have an 8.1% APR. This letter raises the APR to 29.99%. But, if he pays his balance on time, he will get a “credit” amounting to (at least) 70% of the interest amount, bringing the APR down to 8.99%. If he misses a minimum payment, he may not be eligible to continue in the program. In other words, he has an 8.99% APR that jumps to 29.99% immediately (retroactively, actually, since it can apply to the previous month’s balance) if he misses a payment. Furthermore, the 8.99% rate does not have to be restored after six months of making payments, because the official rate was always 29.99%, and the 70% credit is just a “program.”
This attempt to get around Congress’s clear legislative intent is so transparent that it should be an easy case for the appropriate regulator to strike down. I believe the appropriate regulator for this kind of thing is the Federal Reserve. Maybe Ben Bernanke can show that he’s serious about consumer protection.” (End)
Here is more evidence of the Republican’s War Against Working Americans! ‘Republikon’ economic war strategist Frank Luntz wrote a memo describing in detail how his fellow jihadis could kill financial regulatory reform so working Americans continue to remain victims.
This same consulting political terrorist outlined how to kill health care reform for his comrades. After that, he went after financial regulatory reform.
In Sam Stein’s piece on Huffington Post, called “Frank Luntz Pens Memo To Kill Financial Reform”, “In a 17-page memo titled, "The Language of Financial Reform," Luntz urged opponents of reform to frame the final product as filled with bank bailouts, lobbyist loopholes, and additional layers of complicated government bureaucracy.
"If there is one thing we can all agree on, it's that the bad decisions and harmful policies by Washington bureaucrats that in many ways led to the economic crash must never be repeated," Luntz wrote. "This is your critical advantage. Washington's incompetence is the common ground on which you can build support."
Luntz continued: "Ordinarily, calling for a new government program 'to protect consumers' would be extraordinary popular. But these are not ordinary times. The American people are not just saying 'no.' They are saying 'hell no' to more government agencies, more bureaucrats, and more legislation crafted by special interests."
In Republican circles Luntz's words, which have helped the party score win the message wars over health care and other legislative battles, are often treated as gospel. Already, some of the advice he's offered on regulatory reform has found its way into the political discourse -- with a proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency seemingly on life support under Republican objections.
In addition to tying regulatory reform to a massive government takeover, Luntz's memo includes several other data points and messaging suggestions as a blue print for the legislation's defeat. Opponents, he writes, would be well served to link the package to the financial industry bailout (which, it should be noted, is fundamentally not part of the legislation). According to accompanying polling data, 52 percent of voters said they would be "much less likely" to vote for their member of Congress if they voted for a financial reform bill that contained a fund to bail out banks and Wall Street.
"Public outrage about the bailout of banks and Wall Street is a simmering time bomb set to go off on Election Day," Luntz wrote. "Frankly, the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big Bank Bailout." (End)
What Luntz was doing was to frame his resistance to what would actually help working Americans, and their savings and investments as a negative. He actually stated that ordinarily people would be in favor of financial regulatory reform, and consumer protections but not now. HUH? Not now? These are the worst times since the Great Depression. If not now, then when would Americans want to be protected and demand regulation by their government?
This is a battle plan to brainwash Teabagger-types that don’t want bigger government, yet it is these same Republicans who voted in Bush’s massive budget deficits, war funding, domestic spying agenda, expansion of Medicare prescription drug benefit plan, bailouts, and the exporting of what has ended up to be 80% of all manufacturing jobs. Luntz’s Economic War Plan is also framed in lies. None of the regulatory reforms are tied to bailouts, but Teabagger-types, which is the Kool-Aid drinking group they are hoping to rally, will eat the pabulum.
James Kwak, responded to Luntz’s attack plan, wrote in his piece called “Elizabeth Warren Calls Out Wall Street”:
“The goal is simple: to make Americans think that the CFPA is their enemy, because it’s part of the government, and that the banks are nice cuddly ewoks by comparison.
This is absurd.
We like to make fun of government in this country, but really, what are you and a few of your buddies going to do to fight JPMorgan Chase on your own? For all of our beloved rugged individualism (and our individual right to handguns), it doesn’t do much good when you’re up against your credit card issuer. There is no Chicago-school free market solution to an oligopoly that, on top of all its other advantages, has an implicit government guarantee that gives it a major funding cost advantage over its competitors. One of the purposes of government is to protect ordinary people from forces (hurricanes, terrorists, monopolies) against which free market forces do not provide adequate protection. This is why we need a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. And this is what Frank Luntz wants to trick people into forgetting.” (End)
The ‘Republikon’ Party is working hard to push back protections for hardworking Americans.  Ranking Senate Banking ReCon Richard Shelby is not supporting any formation of a consumer financial protection agency with teeth and bite. This is their strategy. Shelby said that Democrat Chris Dodd, who supports the agency being independent, is the only one on the Senate Banking Committee supporting it.
Americans must wake up to the fact that President Obama is just dancing on the government stage pretending to be looking out for working Americans, when in actuality there is a curtain behind his with all his stage managers telling him how to perform the act. Those managers are the corporate elite, the monopoly capitalists, and the financial banking investment crime syndicate; yet, behind them is another curtain, very sheer, and impossible to see through. Behind that curtain is the military industrial-intelligence-domestic spying puppet masters controlling the entire stage performance.
President Obama’s damage control has not been with the American people, the real consumer in the country, but with those indulging in maintaining control of asset wealth inflation.
Thank for reading, jerry

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Toyota Metaphor

After 50 years of growing a corporation, a brand, a reputation, Toyota went down. It went down rather quickly, but began to trip over its feet several months ago, and some might rightfully say years ago. Toyota became the most respected name in automotive manufacturing. Quality and reliability were its first names.

It went down due to continued outsourcing of its parts, lack of quality control, and possibly, over expansion. It began to over-plant its fields stripping the soil of its vital nutrients. Instead of manufacturing its own parts, it outsourced them to places where they were far from the corporation’s laboratories. They fell from grace because of a sticky gas pedal. Several months ago, its flagship brand, Lexus, rolled a car off its line, and into the hands of an unsuspecting owner who, along with two others, met their death because the gas pedal got stuck against the floor.

At first, the cause was said to be from the floor mat, so floor mats were recalled and modified. But the problem persisted. It got to the point where around 8 of Toyota’s brands were suspended from sales. Dealers were freaked out that they would be risking defaults on their loans they made to obtain cars. Mortgages on dealership buildings were at risk of defaults, too.

Consumers were trading in their Toyotas for models not at risk of a sticky pedal. Consumers were over-reacting and began to panic over what the company had not figured out. This is America. The land of the panicked, and home of the over-reacted. Be afraid!!! Be afraid of the sticky gas pedal. We must have our solutions right this damn minute. There is no time to waste. We want it now. Keep government out of my Medicare!

Toyota worked day and night with the gas pedal manufacturer once they realized the US consumer was ready to storm the dealerships and surround them with their Camrys, Corollas, Tacomas, and more. It was starting to get primitive, and looking like the cavalry surrounding the enemy. “Keep government out of my Medicare”, I heard confused, flustered and angry Teabaggers yelling out at the local Toyota service department representatives.

There were signs with “Obama” crossed out reading “Toyotacare: Seniors will be shovel ready!” I guess that meant they were ready to bury their Toyota. Here is another sign reading “Seems like Toyota (liberals crossed out) can sell (dish crossed out) it out, but can’t take it back. (Democrat and Republican crossed out) Toyota, Chevy, Chrysler: same sh*t different heap (pile crossed out).”

I guess I would have to say to anyone who is still driving their Toyota and worried, drive carefully!!! Drive more defensively. And drive with caution and with due diligence that at any moment you might have to shove it into neutral, pull it over, and cut the engine. Machines do screw up. There is no getting around it.

I find it a bit funny that Ray LaHood, President Obama’s transportation secretary, saying Toyota was a “little safety deaf” because it dragged its feet over its gas pedal problem. In this AP interview story titled “LaHood says Toyota slow to respond”:
"They should have taken it seriously from the very beginning when we first started discussing it with them," LaHood told AP. "Maybe they were a little safety deaf."
 AP wrote, LaHood also said the government was considering civil penalties for Toyota over its handling of the recalls but declined to elaborate. Sales fell 16 percent in January, hurt by Toyota's decision to halt sales while it sorted out a fix for problems with faulty gas pedals. Most other automakers reported sales gains for the month as the broader industry continued to show signs of improvement.
That problem prompted the company to recall 2.3 million vehicles two weeks ago in the United States. In October, Toyota recalled more than 4 million vehicles to replace floor mats that were suspected of causing accelerators to get stuck, leading to crashes. The recall has since grown to more than 5 million vehicles. Toyota has announced a separate fix for that problem, and parts for that repair are expected to arrive at dealerships beginning later this week. Beginning in 2003, the government conducted several investigations into reports of unwanted acceleration involving Toyota vehicles but failed to find any evidence that the vehicles were defective. When the government probed reports of floor mats in Lexus vehicles jamming gas pedals, Toyota said there was "no possibility of pedal interference" with the floor mats if they were placed properly and secured.
But a government survey of Lexus owners found dozens of reports of sudden acceleration and evidence that in some crashes owners had pressed hard on the brakes but failed to stop the vehicles. The investigation led Toyota to recall an accessory all-weather floor mat for 55,000 Lexus vehicles in September 2007.
The problems grew last August when a California Highway Patrol officer and three family members were killed in a high-speed crash aboard a 2009 Lexus ES350. The Lexus hit speeds exceeding 120 mph, struck a sport utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames as a family member called 911.
Toyota hopes a small steel insert the size of a postage stamp will solve problems with friction that are blamed for the potential glitch. Dealers said they expected to receive parts for the fix starting Wednesday. LaHood said the Toyota recalls "may be the most serious safety issue that we have faced here at DOT" during his tenure. "This is a big deal, this is a big safety issue," LaHood said. (End)

Toyota was legally required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to stop selling the cars that were at risk of gas pedal failure.

Wow! If only Goldman Sachs were told by the Treasury to stop selling securities and derivatives until they reduced their leveraging, and held more capital reserves before selling a single at-risk investment, and required all transactions be made in the open market then our president might have some sharper teeth when he bites back today!

Now, if only George W. Bush and President Obama had handled this Toyota incident in the same way as our economy, maybe the economy would be running safer and smoother.

Ray LaHood claimed this mechanical failure was a big deal and a big safety issue. Well, I would say that so was the economic and financial hijacking of our economy by the banking mobsters, such as Goldman Sachs, and AIG, Bank of America, and Wachovia, and the rest of the ‘too-big-to-failure’ bankstas.

But our rescue of the economic “big deal” was handled not for the consumer and the middle class investor saving for retirement, but for the richest 1% of the corporate elite, or the ‘corporate totalitelites’. Did the government tell the Bankstas to go out and find their own fix; to find their own financing? No. The fix was in for them. Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Bush, and Tim Geithner, and now Obama handed them the crazy glue in the form of TARP, and other Treasury and Federal Reserve bailouts totaling a support structure of $23 trillion, and Senators Chris Dodd and Barney Frank’s Senate Banking Committee have now agreed to offer another $4T if they need another bailout.

Now, Paul Volcker has made a strong recommendation to President Obama how to fix his “broken gas pedal problem” by, once again, separating out banks from investment houses and creating regulation that works. But, Geithner seems to be saying that is a bad idea and will cause a storm in the financial markets, even though that is what caused it in the first place, and the markets have been rallying because there are no regulations to speak of.

LaHood says the Toyota sticking gas pedal incident is the most serious safety issue seen at DOT. How about we rephrase that and say that the mega-banks feeding from the public trough, not abiding by government regulations, buying Congressional legislators and Bush43 to make laws that assisted their looting process, being over-leveraged, and under-capitalized during the time when they were selling fake securities to unknowing “Johns” who were caught with their pants down, while making huge piles of billions of dollars as they engaged in the destruction of the Real Economy by sending investment capital overseas to build Chinese manufacturing plants so as to make cheap stuff they could then export back to the unemployed American worker. 

Wow, Ray LaHood, wouldn’t you say that what I just described out-does ya? How about that what I just described has ended up being the biggest national security issue to face the US government?

Maybe the fix would have been a bit more complex that a postage stamp piece of metal, but just as you had gone over to Japan to express your concern on behalf of the American consumer, had our government leaders went into the offices of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the other banksta CEO mobsters and told them that they were responsible for their own fixing so that the consumer would be safe and protected, otherwise they would have to go into bankruptcy court, and the FDIC would then step in break up the bloated behemoths into smaller pieces as the government protected the consumer’s investments. Then an investigation into possible crimes would then proceed.

This did not happen. Instead, Geithner, Bernanke, and Paulson made fabulous deals with these bankstas protecting their wealth and balance sheets, as well as the opportunities to pay huge bonuses during a time of economic hardship. Oh well. Just Keep Government Out Of My Medicare. That is all I want!!!

Just as millions of consumers were at risk of death and/or injury from the gas pedal defects, more Americans were taken down by the financial banking mobsters, to the tune of tens of trillions of dollars, than by this single car company, and the reverberations worldwide were much more powerful than aftershocks, yet our government reacted with more force and hyper-diligence to protect the consumer from risk of harm caused by a sticky gas pedal than we have seen over what many have coined the Second Depression.

Thanks Ray LaHood for making it clear that Toyota has been more important to consumers than this economic recession. I appreciate it, and feel better already.
So, is my Medicare looking freedom-like yet?

Thanks for reading, jerry