What Real Financial Reform Looks Like

Stephen Lendman

Be wary when Washington talks reform. Nearly always it's bogus and ends up making a bad situation worse, the likely outcome this time addressing longstanding Wall Street abuses not easily changed at a time tinkering around the edges or papering them over won't work.

Case in point - the House passed "Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009" (HR 4173) and current Senate debate on the "Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010" (S. 3217). This writer addressed both measures on April 1:

Still a work in progress, the Senate bill will be as bogus as the House one, so whatever reconciliation produces will be another promise made, another broken. Business as usual will persist so don't be fooled - on this measure or any other, including the appalling health care bill that made a dysfunctional system worse, and took a giant step toward ending Medicare, one of the main reasons it was enacted, besides enriching corporate providers.

Instead of restraining financial fraud, House and Senate bills sanctify it. They leave too big to fail banks in place, permit greater consolidation, and let Wall Street casinos game the system with public money, gambling with unregulated exotic and fraudulent derivatives and other securities.

In Washington, the more things change, the more they worsen, and the public always gets scammed - fooled again because power and privilege trump people.

Lobbyists and corporate lawyers write legislation affecting their interests and get precisely what they want, a few public-friendly crumbs added for deception.

The Revenant: Brief Glimpses of Empire's Reality

Chris Floyd

I. The Ghost Who Walks
Last week, the reappearance of a figure from the recent past briefly stirred the amnesiac fog that enfolds the brutal reality of the American empire. Former Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega was taken from the American prison which has been his home for the past 21 years and flown to Paris, where he is to stand trial for decades-old drug-trafficking charges.

The extradition was itself illegal. Noriega, who was captured after the illegal American invasion of his country in 1989, was classed by the United States as a "prisoner of war." In fact, he is the only official POW in American hands today; the empire's innumerable Terror War captives have been denied this designation and its legal protections under the Geneva Conventions. But of course the United States long ago stopped paying even lip service to those "quaint" strictures, as the Noriega case once again demonstrates. Under the Geneva Conventions, POWs cannot be sent by their captors to a third country. But Washington wants to keep Noriega – a former CIA asset who left the rez and defied his imperial paymasters – under wraps, even though his U.S. sentence for drug charges has now been served. So off he went to France at the order of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – convention, and Conventions, be damned.

But why is it so vital to keep the ex-CIA hireling deep-sixed? Simon Tisdall has some answers in the Guardian. Tisdall notes that the U.S. invasion was ordered by Noriega's former CIA boss turned president, George Herbert Walker Bush, to complete an American-backed coup that had failed a few months earlier. Bush sent 24,000 troops to the tiny Central American country – which had been illegally hived off from Colombia in the early 20th century in order to give America control over the territory where the Panama Canal would be built.

Archbishop of Canterbury’s deafening silence over Israeli bullying

Stuart Littlewood

Stuart Littlewood considers Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’s feeble acceptance of, and silence over, Israel’s humiliation of him – and the Anglican Church which he leads – during his visit to Gaza.

There’s another twist in the recent adventures of the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. This Christian top cat visited Gaza in February – a year late, let it be said – but afterwards made no public statement about the wretched human conditions still prevailing there.

He didn’t even reveal his findings to the House of Lords where he has the support of a large gaggle of bishops.

This despite his claim to be "in a unique position to bring the needs and voices of those fighting poverty, disease and the effects of conflict, to the attention of national and international policy makers".

And despite his declaration that "Christians need to witness boldly and clearly".

And despite his urging greater awareness of the humanitarian crisis to ensure that the people of Gaza are not forgotten. But there’s more.

The NATO Nuisance

William Pfaff

Large and firmly implanted bureaucratic organizations are almost impossible to kill, even when they have no reason to continue to exist, as NATO has not since the Soviet Union, communism, and the Warsaw Pact all collapsed. There is no equivalent to driving a stake into the heart of a bureaucracy, whose impulse to live is inextinguishable. Hence the persisting efforts to force the beast onto a new course where some good can come from its uncheckable energy.

Its existence also is a temptation to Washington to do foolish things. First the decision was to expand NATO, despite the assurances that had been given to Moscow by the George H.W. Bush administration. This perpetuated the organization’s spirit, if not its function, as an institution hostile to Russia, which was not the effect that intelligent people in the West should have wanted.

However, it actually did not displease many in the Baltic states and Central and Eastern Europe who had spent the years since the beginning of World War II under brutal Russian repression and were not in a forgiving mood. Yet forgiveness – as an act of will and intelligence, not a sentiment – is essential to a future that will be different. Thus Poland’s traumatic but essential consignment of the Katyn murders to the past, now officially accomplished.

Guatemala: Unearthing a massacre

Larry Kaplow

The wood boxes that once contained the victims' remains decom-
posed long ago, leaving bundles of bones, boots and clothes.
Larry Kaplow/GlobalPost

Will there finally be justice for more than 100 villagers raped and buried alive during Guatemala's civil war?

LAS CRUCES, Guatemala — Archeologists this month meticulously unearthed the brittle, bare bones of what are thought to be at least 162 men, women and children killed by the Guatemalan army in 1982.

Stoic old folks watched intently for signs of brothers and sisters; kids asked about the heaps of femurs and broken craniums. There were gasps as the muddy clothing was extracted and documented — a boy’s athletic jersey, a girl’s yellow dress, an infant’s blouse.

Twenty-eight years ago, survivors couldn’t risk funerals or even discuss the crime. They couldn’t return to the frontier village of Las Dos Erres, which they had hacked out of the forest, planting crops and fruit trees in a back-breaking, doomed bid to rise from the peasantry. Entire families had been buried — some alive — in a dry well, mothers raped and hurled onto their wounded children below in about 18 hours of systematic savagery.

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