Are government conspiracies real or imagined? With your help, this site will attempt to separate the truth from the fiction, with regard to government conspiracies. Please let us know by commenting on each post whether or not the story is, in your opinion, proof of government conspiracies or fiction. Thank you.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks' Most Devious Scam Yet

Banks are no longer just financing heavy industry. They are actually buying it up and inventing bigger, bolder and scarier scams than ever 

By 

 

Call it the loophole that destroyed the world. It's 1999, the tail end of the Clinton years. While the rest of America obsesses over Monica Lewinsky, Columbine and Mark McGwire's biceps, Congress is feverishly crafting what could yet prove to be one of the most transformative laws in the history of our economy – a law that would make possible a broader concentration of financial and industrial power than we've seen in more than a century.

Matt Taibbi on the Great American Bubble Machine

But the crazy thing is, nobody at the time quite knew it. Most observers on the Hill thought the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 – also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act – was just the latest and boldest in a long line of deregulatory handouts to Wall Street that had begun in the Reagan years.

Wall Street had spent much of that era arguing that America's banks needed to become bigger and badder, in order to compete globally with the German and Japanese-style financial giants, which were supposedly about to swallow up all the world's banking business. So through legislative lackeys like red-faced Republican deregulatory enthusiast Phil Gramm, bank lobbyists were pushing a new law designed to wipe out 60-plus years of bedrock financial regulation. The key was repealing – or "modifying," as bill proponents put it – the famed Glass-Steagall Act separating bankers and brokers, which had been passed in 1933 to prevent conflicts of interest within the finance sector that had led to the Great Depression. Now, commercial banks would be allowed to merge with investment banks and insurance companies, creating financial megafirms potentially far more powerful than had ever existed in America.

All of this was big enough news in itself. But it would take half a generation – till now, basically – to understand the most explosive part of the bill, which additionally legalized new forms of monopoly, allowing banks to merge with heavy industry. A tiny provision in the bill also permitted commercial banks to delve into any activity that is "complementary to a financial activity and does not pose a substantial risk to the safety or soundness of depository institutions or the financial system generally."
Complementary to a financial activity. What the hell did that mean?

The Feds vs. Goldman

"From the perspective of the banks," says Saule Omarova, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, "pretty much everything is considered complementary to a financial activity."

Fifteen years later, in fact, it now looks like Wall Street and its lawyers took the term to be a synonym for ruthless campaigns of world domination. "Nobody knew the reach it would have into the real economy," says Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. Now a leading voice on the Hill against the hidden provisions, Brown actually voted for Gramm-Leach-Bliley as a congressman, along with all but 72 other House members. "I bet even some of the people who were the bill's advocates had no idea."

Today, banks like Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs own oil tankers, run airports and control huge quantities of coal, natural gas, heating oil, electric power and precious metals. They likewise can now be found exerting direct control over the supply of a whole galaxy of raw materials crucial to world industry and to society in general, including everything from food products to metals like zinc, copper, tin, nickel and, most infamously thanks to a recent high-profile scandal, aluminum.

And they're doing it not just here but abroad as well: In Denmark, thousands took to the streets in protest in recent weeks, vampire-squid banners in hand, when news came out that Goldman Sachs was about to buy a 19 percent stake in Dong Energy, a national electric provider. The furor inspired mass resignations of ministers from the government's ruling coalition, as the Danish public wondered how an American investment bank could possibly hold so much influence over the state energy grid.

There are more eclectic interests, too. After 9/11, we found it worrisome when foreigners started to get into the business of running ports, but there's been little controversy as banks have done the same, or even started dabbling in other activities with national-security implications – Goldman Sachs, for instance, is apparently now in the uranium business, a piece of news that attracted few headlines.

Wall Street's War

But banks aren't just buying stuff, they're buying whole industrial processes. They're buying oil that's still in the ground, the tankers that move it across the sea, the refineries that turn it into fuel, and the pipelines that bring it to your home. Then, just for kicks, they're also betting on the timing and efficiency of these same industrial processes in the financial markets – buying and selling oil stocks on the stock exchange, oil futures on the futures market, swaps on the swaps market, etc.

Allowing one company to control the supply of crucial physical commodities, and also trade in the financial products that might be related to those markets, is an open invitation to commit mass manipulation. It's something akin to letting casino owners who take book on NFL games during the week also coach all the teams on Sundays.

The situation has opened a Pandora's box of horrifying new corruption possibilities, but it's been hard for the public to notice, since regulators have struggled to put even the slightest dent in Wall Street's older, more familiar scams. In just the past few years we've seen an explosion of scandals – from the multitrillion-dollar Libor saga (major international banks gaming world interest rates), to the more recent foreign-currency-exchange fiasco (many of the same banks suspected of rigging prices in the $5.3-trillion-a-day currency markets), to lesser scandals involving manipulation of interest-rate swaps, and gold and silver prices.

But those are purely financial schemes. In these new, even scarier kinds of manipulations, banks that own whole chains of physical business interests have been caught rigging prices in those industries.

For instance, in just the past two years, fines in excess of $400 million have been levied against both JPMorgan Chase and Barclays for allegedly manipulating the delivery of electricity in several states, including California. In the case of Barclays, which is contesting the fine, regulators claim prices were manipulated to help the bank win financial bets it had made on those same energy markets.

And last summer, The New York Times described how Goldman Sachs was caught systematically delaying the delivery of metals out of a network of warehouses it owned in order to jack up rents and artificially boost prices.

You might not have been surprised that Goldman got caught scamming the world again, but it was certainly news to a lot of people that an investment bank with no industrial expertise, just five years removed from a federal bailout, stores and controls enough of America's aluminum supply to affect world prices.

How was all of this possible? And who signed off on it?

By exploiting loopholes in a dense, decade-and-a-half-old piece of financial legislation, Wall Street has effected a revolutionary change that American citizens never discussed, debated or prepared for, and certainly never explicitly permitted in any meaningful way: the wholesale merger of high finance with heavy industry. This blitzkrieg reorganization of our economy has left millions of Americans facing a smorgasbord of frightfully unexpected new problems.

Do we even have a regulatory structure in place to look out for these new forms of manipulation? (Answer: We don't.) And given that the banking sector that came so close to ruining the world economy five years ago has now vastly expanded its footprint, who's in charge of preventing the next crash?

In this Brave New World, nobody knows. Moreover, whatever we've done, it's too late to have a referendum on it. Garrett Wotkyns, an Arizona-based class-action attorney who has spent more than a year investigating the banks' involvement in the metals markets and is suing Goldman and others over the aluminum case on behalf of two major manufacturers, puts it this way: "It's like that line in The Dark Knight Rises," he says. "'The storm isn't coming. The storm is already here.'"

The rest of this 5 part story, from Rolling Stone, is here

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What if Thanksgiving Exposes the Government?

What if another Thanksgiving Day is upon us and because of the government we have less to be thankful for than we did at the last one? What if at every Thanksgiving liberty is weakened and the government is strengthened? What if Thanksgiving’s warm and breezy seduction of gratitude is just the government’s way of inducing us to think we should be grateful for it?

What if we don’t owe the government any thanks for anything? What if the government owes us back all the freedom and property it has stolen from us? What if the government has produced nothing and owns nothing, save what it has coerced us to give it? What if the courts have ruled that the government can lie and cheat with impunity in order to acquire our property or assault our freedoms?

What if the government lies and cheats regularly to enhance its own wealth and power? What if the government claims that its power comes from the consent of the governed? What if no one consented to the government’s spying and lying except those who personally and directly benefit from it?

What if the government is afraid to tell us all it is doing to us for fear we might vote it out of office? What if that vote would change nothing? What if the spying and lying continued no matter who ran the government? What if those who spy and lie don’t lose their jobs no matter how they lie or upon whom they spy or who gets elected?

What if this holiday of turkey and football and family is the modern-day version of bread and circuses? What if bread and circuses — which Roman emperors gave to the mobs to keep them sated — _are just the government’s way today of keeping us _sated at the end of every November? What if the government expects us to give thanks to it for letting us have Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday off?

What if the president thinks he’s a king? What if he claims the power to kill people outside the Constitution? What if some of these people were your sisters or neighbors or friends? What if he thinks he’s so smart that he knows what choices we should make? What if he makes those choices for us?

What if we each have the natural right to choose how to care for our own bodies, but he has used the coercive powers of the law to tell us how to do so? What if that law compelled all persons to pay for more health insurance than they needed or wanted or could afford? What if the president deceived dupes in Congress into voting for that law? What if the president deceived millions of Americans into supporting that law? What if the president forced you to pay for a health insurance policy that funded killing babies in their mothers’ wombs?

What if the president knows what you want and need because his spies have captured your every telephone call, text and email? What if the Declaration of Independence says that our rights are personal, inalienable and come from God? What if the Constitution says that among our inalienable rights are the right to be left alone and the right to be different?

What if the president took an oath to uphold the Declaration and the Constitution but believes in neither? What if he believes that our rights come from the collective consent of our neighbors, whom he can influence, or, worse yet, from the government, which he can control? What if he believes that he can invade our right to be left alone by spying on us and lying to us and destroy our right to be different by killing us? What if he actually did all these things?

What if only individuals foolish enough to do so give up their own rights but cannot give up the rights of those of us who refuse to surrender them? What if the government can only constitutionally take away personal freedoms when a jury has convicted someone of a crime? What if the government thinks it can take our rights away by ordinary legislation or by presidential fiat? What if it has done so?

What if someone who once worked for the government knew all this and risked life and limb to tell us about it? What if the government at first denied that it lies to and spies upon all Americans? What if it demonized the whistle blower? What if it chased him to the ends of the Earth because he revealed awful truths? What if everything Edward Snowden revealed about the government turned out to be true?

What if it is the personal courage and constitutional fidelity of Edward Snowden for which we should be thankful? What if the government hates and fears our freedoms just as it hates and fears the revelation of the awful truths Snowden possesses?

What if our thanks are due primarily to the Author of our freedoms, who made us in His image and likeness, and to those who have exercised those freedoms to seek and reveal the truth? What if it is the truth, and not the government, that will keep us free?

What if we have the right to pursue happiness no matter what the government says? What if we have the right to be unique no matter what the government wants? What if the freedom to seek the truth will bring us happiness?

What if that freedom which is still ours is a just cause for a happy Thanksgiving, after all?

 The original article from Judge Napolitano is here

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Verizon's diabolical plan to turn the Web into pay-per-view

The carrier wants to charge websites for carrying their packets, but if they win it'd be the end of the Internet as we know it...

 
Think of all the things that tick you off about cable TV. Along with brainless programming and crummy customer service, the very worst aspect of it is forced bundling. You can't pay just for the couple of dozen channels you actually watch. Instead, you have to pay for a couple of hundred channels, because the good stuff is scattered among a number of overstuffed packages.

Now, imagine that the Internet worked that way. You'd hate it, of course. But that's the direction that Verizon, with the support of many wired and wireless carriers, would like to push the Web. That's not hypothetical. The country's No. 1 carrier is fighting in court to end the Federal Communications Commission's policy of Net neutrality, a move that would open the gates to a whole new -- and wholly bad -- economic model on the Web.

The rest of this story is here

Friday, August 30, 2013

Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever

This story came out a few months ago, but it shines light on some problems that are facing the financial industry and our future financial stability.

The comments are great!

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Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world's largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.

You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that's trillion, with a "t") worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it "dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets."

That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world's largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world's largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.

Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It's about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget.

It should surprise no one that among the players implicated in this scheme to fix the prices of interest-rate swaps are the same megabanks – including Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland – that serve on the Libor panel that sets global interest rates. In fact, in recent years many of these banks have already paid multimillion-dollar settlements for anti-competitive manipulation of one form or another (in addition to Libor, some were caught up in an anti-competitive scheme, detailed in Rolling Stone last year, to rig municipal-debt service auctions). Though the jumble of financial acronyms sounds like gibberish to the layperson, the fact that there may now be price-fixing scandals involving both Libor and ISDAfix suggests a single, giant mushrooming conspiracy of collusion and price-fixing hovering under the ostensibly competitive veneer of Wall Street culture.

Why? Because Libor already affects the prices of interest-rate swaps, making this a manipulation-on-manipulation situation. If the allegations prove to be right, that will mean that swap customers have been paying for two different layers of price-fixing corruption. If you can imagine paying 20 bucks for a crappy PB&J because some evil cabal of agribusiness companies colluded to fix the prices of both peanuts and peanut butter, you come close to grasping the lunacy of financial markets where both interest rates and interest-rate swaps are being manipulated at the same time, often by the same banks.

"It's a double conspiracy," says an amazed Michael Greenberger, a former director of the trading and markets division at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and now a professor at the University of Maryland. "It's the height of criminality."

The bad news didn't stop with swaps and interest rates. In March, it also came out that two regulators – the CFTC here in the U.S. and the Madrid-based International Organization of Securities Commissions – were spurred by the Libor revelations to investigate the possibility of collusive manipulation of gold and silver prices. "Given the clubby manipulation efforts we saw in Libor benchmarks, I assume other benchmarks – many other benchmarks – are legit areas of inquiry," CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton said.

But the biggest shock came out of a federal courtroom at the end of March – though if you follow these matters closely, it may not have been so shocking at all – when a landmark class-action civil lawsuit against the banks for Libor-related offenses was dismissed. In that case, a federal judge accepted the banker-defendants' incredible argument: If cities and towns and other investors lost money because of Libor manipulation, that was their own fault for ever thinking the banks were competing in the first place.
"A farce," was one antitrust lawyer's response to the eyebrow-raising dismissal.

"Incredible," says Sylvia Sokol, an attorney for Constantine Cannon, a firm that specializes in antitrust cases.

All of these stories collectively pointed to the same thing: These banks, which already possess enormous power just by virtue of their financial holdings – in the United States, the top six banks, many of them the same names you see on the Libor and ISDAfix panels, own assets equivalent to 60 percent of the nation's GDP – are beginning to realize the awesome possibilities for increased profit and political might that would come with colluding instead of competing. Moreover, it's increasingly clear that both the criminal justice system and the civil courts may be impotent to stop them, even when they do get caught working together to game the system.

If true, that would leave us living in an era of undisguised, real-world conspiracy, in which the prices of currencies, commodities like gold and silver, even interest rates and the value of money itself, can be and may already have been dictated from above. And those who are doing it can get away with it.


 The whole story is here. Do yourself a favor and read the comments. Very interesting!

US Finally Admits What Ron Paul Said: "Nobody Knows Who Set Off The Gas"

The AP reports that US intelligence officials are admitting that linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack is no "slam dunk," as opposed to Obama (and Kerry) who are 'unequivocal' of the fact.
Via AP,
The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack is no "slam dunk," with questions remaining about who actually controls some of Syria's chemical weapons stores and doubts about whether Assad himself ordered the strike, U.S. intelligence officials say.

...

an intercept of Syrian military officials discussing the strike was among low-level staff, with no direct evidence tying the attack back to an Assad insider or even a senior Syrian commander, the officials said.

So while Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that links between the attack and the Assad government are "undeniable," U.S. intelligence officials are not so certain that the suspected chemical attack was carried out on Assad's orders, or even completely sure it was carried out by government forces, the officials said.

...
Perhaps more concerning...
Another possibility that officials would hope to rule out: that stocks had fallen out of the government's control and were deployed by rebels in a callous and calculated attempt to draw the West into the war.
"The danger of escalation with Russia is very high," Ron Paul warns in this brief Fox News interview. After casting doubts on the government's 'knowledge' and reasoning in the region, Paul gets straight to the point. Simply put, he notes, despite the ongoing headlines of 'proof' and 'dreadful videos', Paul states "We're not positive who set off the gas," and indeed - who is set to benefit most from any Assad-regime-smackdown? Al-Qaeda.
"Assad is not an idiot," Paul adds, "it's unlikely he would do this on purpose... look how many lies were told to us about Saddam Hussein prior to that build-up." A lot of uncomrtable truths in this brief clip for an administration that has crossed its own red line (as we noted here) on actions against Syria now... "I think it's a false flag..." Paul adds, there is a big risk that "we are getting sucked in" and the American people are against this war.

The entire story is here, along with the video and a link to the AP Report.

Will Obama Again Go Against The People's Wishes On Syria?

NBC poll: Nearly 80 percent want congressional approval on Syria

Nearly 80 percent of Americans believe President Barack Obama should receive congressional approval before using force in Syria, but the nation is divided over the scope of any potential strike, a new NBC News poll shows.

Fifty percent of Americans believe the United States should not intervene in the wake of suspected chemical weapons attacks by Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to the poll. But the public is more supportive of military action when it's limited to launching cruise missiles from U.S. naval ships - 50 percent favor that kind of intervention, while 44 percent oppose it.

The two-day survey was conducted as the Obama administration weighs launching strikes against Syria for the alleged use of chemicals weapons in its violent civil war, as well as amid growing demands by U.S. lawmakers that Congress should have a voice in any debate to authorize force.
On Thursday night, the Obama administration briefed congressional leaders in its effort to make the case for military intervention.


Also on Thursday, Britain's parliament rejected a motion urging an international response to the chemical weapons attacks blamed on the Syrian government.

But White House officials told NBC News that the administration was prepared to go it alone.
"As we've said, President Obama's decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States," Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House and National Security Council, said in a statement.

In this new NBC poll, 50 percent of respondents oppose the United States taking military action in response to Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons, compared with 42 percent who support it.
And 58 percent agree with the statement that the use of chemical weapons by any country violates a “red line” that requires a significant U.S. response, including the possibility of military action.
Still, a whopping 79 percent of respondents – including nearly seven-in-10 Democrats and 90 percent of Republicans – say the president should be required to receive congressional approval before taking any action.

The full story is here, as well as a copy of the poll itself.