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by Dean Baker
As we passed the fifth anniversary of the peak of the financial crisis this fall, the giant insurance company AIG was prominently featured in the retrospectives. AIG had issued hundreds of billions of dollars of credit default swaps (CDS) on subprime mortgage backed securities. When these mortgage-backed securities failed en masse, AIG didn't have the money to back them up.
This would have forced AIG into bankruptcy. However Lehman had declared bankruptcy the day before and the world was still engulfed in the aftershocks. The Bush administration and the Federal Reserve board decided that they would stop the cascade of failing financial institutions and bail out AIG. As a result, the government agreed to honor all the CDS issued by AIG and effectively became the owner of the company.
by Chase Madar
If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail. And if police and prosecutors are your only tool, sooner or later everything and everyone will be treated as criminal. This is increasingly the American way of life, a path that involves “solving” social problems (and even some non-problems) by throwing cops at them, with generally disastrous results. Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.
by Jack Healy
FOUNTAIN, Colo. — As their children cooed from wheelchairs and rocked softly in their arms, the marijuana migrants of Colorado clasped hands, bowed their heads and said a prayer of cautious thanks.
They thanked God for the dinner of roast turkey and mashed potatoes, for their children and for the marijuana-based serum that has drawn 100 families to Colorado on a desperate pilgrimage to quell the squalls of seizures inside their children’s heads. They have come from Florida and Virginia, South Carolina and New York, lining up to treat their children with a promising but largely untested oil that is considered legal medicine in this cannabis-friendly state.
“Thank you for bringing us together,” said Aaron Lightle, whose wife and 9-year-old daughter, Madeleine, moved here after the girl’s neurologists suggested removing part of her brain to stop her relentless seizures. “In crazy ways, maybe. But hey, we’re here.”
Amen, they said.
by David Cay Johnson
Anyone in a public-sector job looking forward to retiring in comfort should look carefully at what is going on in Detroit and Springfield, Ill. Sherlock Holmes would call it the case of the missing pension money.
News leaking out this week from the Motor City tells how the enormous gap between the pensions workers earned and the money set aside to pay for them will be closed. By stealing from the workers.
Courts, legislatures, and corporations are all working in concert not to pay the full benefits owed. For decades, political and business leaders failed to set aside the right amount of money each payday to cover the pensions workers earned and, in some cases, covered up the mismanagement of pension fund investments.
This is nothing short of theft, as pensions are simply deferred wages, that is, money that workers could have taken as cash in their regular paychecks had they not opted to set it aside.
by Richard Eskow
Something is happening. It’s beginning to look as if the fight for a livable minimum wage might – just might – alter our political future.
Makes sense, when you think about it. The minimum wage struggle is occurring at the intersection of powerful forces. It’s taking place at a time of growing economic inequality, the erosion of working people’s rights, and the globalization of an economic oligarchy whose scope of power is unprecedented in modern times.
And now it appears to be applying an old maxim from the early days of the environmental movement: Think globally, act locally.
The voters decide.
by Pete Guither
Back when think-tanks in the U.S. were claiming that it wasn’t even worth talking about drug legalization because it wasn’t likely to happen, Transform in the UK was hard at work putting out the extraordinary After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation and actually laying out plausible options.
Now that legalization of cannabis is not only a possibility, but a certainty, Transform has come through again, providing a guide to countries, states, and policy-makers on options for regulating the production and distribution of cannabis within a legal market: How to Regulate Cannabis: A Practical Guide, released today (27 November in the UK).
by Kate Murphy
LIKE most people, Kim Thomas has a broadband connection at home that she uses to check email, surf the Internet and stream music and video.
But unlike most people, Ms. Thomas, 56, a program director for a charitable foundation in Portland, Ore., has no monthly bill. All she did was buy a router and rooftop antenna , which not only granted her free access but also made her part owner of the infrastructure that delivers the signal. Total cost: about $150.
Ms. Thomas is a participant in the Personal Telco Project, one of a growing number of community wireless mesh networks in the United States and abroad. These alternative networks, built and maintained by their users, are emerging at a time when Internet service providers are limited in number (some argue monopolistic) and are accused of cooperating with government snoops.
by Amy Goodman
The cable news channels wasted no time before crowing over the landslide re-election victory of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. According to exit polls, Christie won a majority of both women and Latino voters, traditional Democratic voting blocs. The political chattering class is abuzz with Christie as the GOP’s great hope to retake the White House in 2016. But they miss a vital and growing undercurrent in U.S. politics: grass-roots movements at the local and state level that are challenging the establishment, and winning.
Christie was expected to win, but he needed a major landslide to help him launch a 2016 presidential bid. That is where the special election came in. In June, Sen. Frank Lautenberg died at the age of 89. Christie ordered a special election to be held Oct. 16, three weeks before the general election. This decision cost the taxpayers of New Jersey an estimated $24 million in extra election costs. He could have let the voters decide the Senate race on the same day they voted for governor and everyone else, saving taxpayers millions.
One more story demonstrating the low standard of accountability police are held to in Illinois.