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A Deal Worth Opposing: Why Senator Crapo’s Proposal to Repeal or Undermine Key Parts of Dodd-Frank Is a Threat to Consumers and Financial Stability

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/11/2017 - 8:29am in

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The agreement reached between Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo and ten Senate Democrats is billed as a necessary technical fix to Dodd-Frank and regulatory relief for community banks. But this proposal would cause more harm than many—including some allies—currently believe. It would expose risk to mid-sized banks, threaten the stability of the financial industry, and, in turn, put consumers and the broader economy in harms way. While yesterday’s introduction of this legislation gained little public attention—there are a dizzying number of big reforms moving in Congress, i.e., tax reform—there is good reason to pay attention and oppose Senator Crapo’s proposal.

Crapo’s proposal will expose consumers and the economy to serious risks from large, regional banks with up to $250 billion in assets—like SunTrusts, Fifth Third, State Street, and American Express[1]—by preventing supervision by the Federal Reserve.

The cornerstone of this proposal is to raise the systemically financial important institution (SIFI) threshold for bank holding companies from $50 billion to $250 billion in asset size, which triggers enhanced safety and soundness standards, including higher capital requirements and oversight from the Federal Reserve. The proposal exempts banks between $50 and $100 billion in asset size from enhanced safety and soundness standards and Federal Reserve oversight, and gives the Federal Reserve regulatory discretion for banks with between $100 and $250 billion in assets.

Moving the threshold to $250 billion would free up 27 banks[2]—many of which are large institutions, like American Express, SunTrust, and BB&T—from the kinds of supervision and regulations that are needed to prevent harm to consumers and the economy at large. Some have made a case for decreasing the threshold to $100 billion, but the $250 billion is much higher than earlier proposals. In fact, Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin proposed the $250 threshold earlier this year—hardly a compromise.

Recent history shows that shocks to small and mid-sized banks can cause significant harm to the economy and consumers. While many regulators and policymakers focus on the largest players since the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis, we shouldn’t forget the savings and loan (S&L) crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, which showed that smaller and mid-sized firms can and do pose just as much risk. More than 1,000 (over one-third) S&Ls failed by 1989, which posed significant damage on the mortgage industry and ended one of the most secure sources of home mortgages for consumers. In fact, taken together, the small and mid-sized banks that would be largely exempted from scrutiny under the bill have $3.8 trillion in assets and represent 20 percent of all banking assets. If a shock hit these banks in aggregate, it would have serious repercussions across the financial industry and impact many consumers.

Without an explicit mandate, the Federal Reserve is likely to do nothing to account for the risk by larger banks in the $100 to $250 billion threshold. Without proper instructions, the Fed will be prone to cronyism and preferential treatment of banks in the $100 billion to $250 billion range. In Dodd-Frank, Congress gave regulators specific goal posts and guardrails when constructing the specifics of capital requirements. There were floors and ceilings and requirements that guided regulators into how to build the system that was put into place. Congress took steps in Dodd-Frank to require the Fed to take action, and, absent such a requirement, the Fed is unlikely to act.

Graphic source: David Polk

Crapo’s proposal claims to “right size” Dodd-Frank regulations for mid-sized and small banks, but Dodd-Frank already accounts for size and risk through a tiered approach that mitigates risk and protects consumers across the entire financial system. Dodd-Frank introduced three notable regulations for banks over $50 billion in consolidated assets: stress tests, liquidity requirements, and living wills. As the graphic above shows, firms between $50 billion and $250 billion in asset size are subject to miniature versions of these requirements that are significantly less strict than those for larger firms.

Policymakers—including Senator Crapo—talk about “right sizing”—i.e., making the regulations appropriate to the size of the firm. As you can see, Dodd-Frank already accounts for this. These light, less strict versions of regulations are important for mitigating systemic risk. For example, firms don’t naturally think of the damage they would case if they fail, but the living will process forces them to consider and prioritize planning for a possible failure. Liquidity has consistently tripped up the financial sector, and a light version of the liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) prioritizes establishing appropriate liquidity standards. Stress tests push risk management to think about the worse case scenarios outside hitting predefined metrics. These are important for the health of the banking sector, even for banks with $50 billion in assets, and increasing the threshold to $250 billion breaks the overall integration of these practices.

Community banks received ample relief. Crapo’s proposal to undermine Dodd-Frank protections for community banks are unnecessary, will lead to risky activities, and could result in bank consolidation that will hurt consumers.

The proposal exempts community banks—banks and credit unions with $10 billion or less in consolidated assets—from a series of Dodd-Frank rules that are important because they ensure these banks are serving consumers and are engaged in safe and appropriate financial activities. Community banks largely serve counties that are the least populated non-metropolitan and rural areas that typically suffer from economic divestment and underemployment. They are the only source of banking services that foster real economic growth and job creation, so it is crucial that these banks aren’t engaged in predatory or excessively risky activities.

The deal puts in place a series of deregulatory measures, which let community banks off the hook for safety and soundness standards and permit risky behavior, like proprietary trading. The proposal enables an off-ramp from certain capital and leverage requirements by establishing a community bank leverage ratio between 8 percent and 10 percent. Banks and credit unions with less than $10 billion of assets that meet the ratio would be considered in compliance, and thus, off the hook for further capital and leverage requirements. The proposal also provides banks with less than $10 billion in assets relief from mortgage lending rules, including the qualified mortgage rule and the Volcker Rule, which prevent banks from proprietary trading.

Despite the industry’s claims for needed relief, community banks are highly profitable, which undermines claims that Dodd-Frank is unworkable and causing banks to struggle. The most recent report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) showed that community banks’ net income rose 8.5 percent from last year. The previous quarter, community bank profitability was up 10.4 percent. The FDIC’s 2016 quarterly profile on FDIC-insured banks found that community bank revenue and loan growth outpaced the industry at large. Since Dodd-Frank was passed in 2010, aggregate profit of FDIC-insured banks, including community banks, has followed an upward trajectory. The same FDIC report found that the annual loan growth rate at community banks outpaces that of non-community banks. Loan balances for community banks rose by 7.7 percent over the past 12 months. This is more than twice the loan growth in large banks, which was 3.3 percent. Over 75 percent of community banks increased their loan balances from a year ago. The fact is, community banks aren’t struggling the way many policymakers and industry advocates describe, meaning the rules have been “right-sized” from the beginning.

Ample exemptions for community banks were already baked in Dodd-Frank, making these additional exemptions unnecessary. A range of exemptions was in put in place to protect community banks in Dodd-Frank. As the Congressional Research Service found, 13 out of 14 of the most important Dodd-Frank rules relating to banks “either include an exemption for small banks or are tailored to reduce the cost for small banks to comply,” and include greater underwriting flexibility when issuing mortgages and exemption from enhanced prudential regulations. These new thresholds will not help them thrive and compete.

Beyond the exemptions for community banks in Dodd-Frank, Congress recently passed additional relief and exemptions from prudent examinations and regulations. The Crapo bill triples the asset threshold for Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement from $1 billion to $3 billion, which allows these banks to operate with higher levels of debt than would normally be permitted. It moves the threshold for an 18-month examination cycle from $1 billion to $3 billion. In December of 2014, Congress moved the Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement from $500 million to $1 billion, and they extended the 18-month examination cycle threshold from $500 million to $1 billion as part of the FAST Act funding highways in December of 2015. These relief proposals were a long-time ask of community banks, but clearly they continue to push for more even after getting what they asked for from Congress three years ago.

Tripling the threshold after it was doubled only three years ago is imprudent, especially since the first extension has yet to be analyzed to identify the impact on the industry, consumers, and the overall economy. This is a six-fold increase done quickly and behind doors, and it indicates that this is less about tailoring rules for community banks and more about community banks pushing for anything they can get.

This deal could increase consolidation among community banks, making it harder—not easier—for consumers to get the services they need. The number of banks in the U.S. has decreased for decades because of the deregulation of interstate banking. The Financial Crisis also led to an increase in community bank failures and market concentration, especially among banks engaged in riskier, and often predatory, mortgage lending. Despite these factors, the FDIC found that most community banks remained resilient amid long-term industry consolidation, and the trend of consolidation has largely been confined to banks with under $100 million in assets from 1985 to 2013. During this period, the number of institutions with assets under $100 million declined by 85 percent, while the number and total asset size of banks with $100 million to $10 billion in assets increased by over 5 percent. The higher thresholds will likely lead to more consolidation by making it more profitable and enticing for banks to merge up to the $250 billion threshold.

The Crapo proposal leads us in the wrong direction on a critical component of the safety and soundness of banks: leverage requirements.

We should be strengthening, not weakening the leverage ratio to provide extra buffer for capital requirements. This bill would allow a handful of custodial banks to remove central bank funds from their assets for calculating the supplemental leverage ratio. This is a step in the wrong direction, and if it goes further, it would significantly undermine the strengths of the leverage ratio. There are some who feel that the leverage ratio is redundant alongside risk-weighted capital requirements. However, those requirements have no ability to provide a level of security for asset-wide downgrades, and they remain too reliant on ratings agencies that have serious conflicts. As outgoing FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg notes, if these efforts go further they would cut the leverage ratio by 25 to 50 percent.

What’s noteworthy is that these predominantly deregulatory efforts are touted as simple technical fixes that will enable community banks to thrive, but they will likely have a larger impact on the structure, safety, and soundness of our financial sector. Most notably, small and mid-sized banks will have more of an incentive to consolidate, creating bigger mid-sized firms.

Will the bill “improve our financial regulatory framework and foster economic growth,” as Senator Crapo and other co-sponsors claim? It’s unlikely. We hope other policymakers and allies will follow Senate Banking Ranking Member Sherrod Brown and Senator Elizabeth Warren in recognizing that this bill isn’t good for consumers and the financial health of our economy.

 

[1] See “Winners and Losers of Senate reg relief bill,” November 4, 2017. American Banker.
[2] Holding companies with assets greater than $10 billion.

The post A Deal Worth Opposing: Why Senator Crapo’s Proposal to Repeal or Undermine Key Parts of Dodd-Frank Is a Threat to Consumers and Financial Stability appeared first on Roosevelt Institute.

Press TV: Palestinian Authority Calls on Britain to Apologise for Balfour Declaration, Recognise Palestinian State

This is a very short video from the Iranian state news service, Press TV. It’s about a couple of minutes long. It was put up on the 2nd of November 2017, just a couple of weeks ago, and reports the call by the Palestinian authority for Britain to apologise for the Balfour Declaration, and recognise an independent Palestinian state.

It was the Balfour Declaration that pledged Britain to support the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine ‘without prejudice to the Arabs’. This part of the Declaration was soon broken, and while Britain tried to give at least the appearance that it was maintaining an even hand between the Jewish settlers and indigenous Arabs, in fact it favoured the European Jewish colonialists.

In fact the British government has refused to apologise for the Declaration, and said that it was ‘proud of it’. This little bit is accompanied by everyone’s favourite braggart, Old Etonian, and lethally incompetent ego maniac, Boris Johnson. He’s shown chuntering away, but it’s silent so normal folks don’t have to put up with his god-awful braying, blustering voice.

The clip also includes a brief interview with Richard Silverstein in Seattle, who notes how the Declaration led to the disinheritance of the Palestinians, and describes the recognition of an independent Palestine as ‘a no-brainer’. He believes that the importance of the Balfour Declaration was overstated, and says that there isn’t much of a case for paying reparations to the Palestinians, as Britain didn’t pay the Israelis for what they had suffered under the Mandate either. He also puts Palestine into the wider context of colonial politics and oppression, saying that Britain treated the Arabs in Palestine the same way it treated its other colonial possessions in India, across the Middle East and Africa.


Political and Corporate Corruption in Iran

I’ve previously refrained from putting material up from Press TV, because I heartily despise the Iranian government. It’s an extremely authoritarian state, which oppresses ordinary working people and its constituent ethnic minorities for the benefit of the mullah-merchant princes. These are members of the ulema, who also have extensive links to the merchants of Tehran bazaar and their own business interests. There’s a special term in Farsi, the ancient language of Persia, for the merchant-mullahs, and the ulema currently running the country definitely don’t like. I think they had the last journo or political dissident jailed for using it. There is also a massive underground Christian church in Iran, which, unlike its Chinese counterpart, is very much unknown in the West. It’s very heavily persecuted, contrary to various Hadith and passages in the Qu’ran, where Islam’s Prophet states that ‘there should be no compulsion in religion’. And I shall blog about that little injustice further, as it says as much about the cynical use of religion by the American military-industrial complex to advance their interests.

Iran Diverse and More Tolerant than Expected

I am also very much aware of the bloodcurdling nature of the Iranian rhetoric about Israel, and how former president Ahmedinejad’s speeches have been very plausibly interpreted as advocating the complete destruction of the state of Israel. However, Iran’s remaining Jewish community is quite well treated. I also understand that the country’s ancient Zoroastrian community, who were the country’s official religion under the Persian Empire, is also tolerated and respected. About three per cent of the Iranian population are Armenian Christians, who historically took refuge in Iran to escape persecution elsewhere in the Middle East.

It’s a very diverse country ethnically. Only 51 per cent of the country speaks the official language, Farsi. Other ethnic groups include Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs, Reshtchis and various tribes speaking languages related to Turkish. The Iranians I’ve met have been very relaxed and matter of fact about the different religious monuments and places of worship that are scattered across their ancient nation. I was asked a few years ago by a Shi’a Muslim Iranian friend if I’d ever seen the Christian churches, that had been built around the Black Sea. There is an Anglican church, whose membership is composed of indigenous Iranians in Tehran, and I personally know people, who have been sent Christmas by Muslim friends, which they purchased in this church.

In short, whatever I think of the mullocracy, the country itself has always struck me as modern, tolerant and cultured. The last should come as no surprise. This is the nation that produced the great poets Firdowsi, who composed the epic history of the Iranian nation, the Shah-Name, and Saadi. Looking through the library, I found an English translation of the latter illustrated by none other than Private Eye’s Willie Rushton. Iran’s government are not its people.

The Balfour Declaration against Wishes Diaspora Jews

But I’ve decided to reblog this piece, because what it has to say about the Balfour Declaration is important. With the Declaration, Britain gave away land, which was not ours to give, and which we had absolutely no right to give away. I’ve already blogged about the way the majority of Britain’s Jewish community at the time were dead against the Declaration. They had absolutely no wish to move once again to another foreign country. They wanted to be accepted for what they were – Brits, like everyone else. The only difference is that they were of a different religion, Judaism.

I’ve also read the same thing about Hungarian Jewry, in a book I borrowed on the history of Judaism a couple of decades ago from one of my aunts. The book’s author, if I recall correctly, was a Christian priest, who admired the Jews and hated anti-Semitism. It stated there that most Hungarian Jews in the late 19th and early 20th century considered themselves ‘Magyars of the Israelitish religion’. You can see that by the way Stephen Fry talks about his Jewish grandfather. He was a Hungarian Jew, but Fry always talks about him as a ‘Magyar’ – the ethnic Hungarians’ term for themselves. Georgy Ligeti, the avant-garde composer, whose weird pieces Lux Aeterna and Atmospheres formed part of the sound track to Stanley Kubrick’s epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, is also of Hungarian Jewish heritage. He has said in an interview that his family’s surname was originally something very German or Yiddish, but that they changed it to a Hungarian equivalent out of patriotism and national pride. Which disproves so much of that awful, vile bilge Viktor Orban and his wretched Fidesz party are either claiming or insinuating about the country’s remaining Jewish population.

And I’ve blogged before about how Tony Greenstein, one of Zionism’s greatest critics, has pointed out that the Yiddish-speaking Jewish masses in pre-War Poland supported the Socialist Bund, and wanted to be accepted as equal citizens with the same rights as their gentile Polish compatriots. Britain’s Jews were not isolated in wishing to remain in their ancestral European countries. They were part of the mainstream. A mainstream that the Israel lobby in the Tories, the mainstream media, and spurious anti-racism groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the squalid, malicious libellers of the Jewish Labour Movement in the Labour Party, are desperately trying to conceal and obscure. Heaven forfend if you try to mention this, or that the Zionists occasionally collaborated with Nazis and their fellow-travellers to persecute diaspora Jewry. They get terribly upset and start ranting that you’re an anti-Semite.

Suppression of Alternative Media by Western Neoliberal Elite

I also reblogged this because it was from Press TV. I despise the Iranian government, but I also heartily despise the way the American political-military-industrial caste is now trying to suppress alternative news sources. This means going after RT, because, er, they actually do their job as journos and cover issues like racism, growing poverty, the crimes of empire and the exploitative nature of capitalism. And so they’ve created another Red Scare, in which RT is the secret hand of Vladimir Putin corrupting American politics. And the Tories over here are doing exactly the same.

The Censorship of Alex Salmond by the Beeb

Alex Salmond now has his own show on RT in Britain. I can’t think of a single reason why he shouldn’t, and at least one good reason why he should: the Beeb heavily censored and deliberately misquoted and then edited out his own words at the Scots independence referendum t’other year. Nick ‘Macclesfield Goebbels’ Robinson asked Salmond if he was worried that the big financial houses would leave Edinburgh for London if Scotland got its independence. Salmond gave him a full answer, stating that he was not worried, and was confident that this would not happen. He quoted various sources from within the financial sector.

Oops! Salmond wasn’t supposed to do that. So over the course of the day, the footage was carefully edited down so that it first appeared that Salmond gave only a cursory reply without much substance. Then it was edited out completely, and ‘Goebbels’ Robinson blithely told the camera that Salmond had not answered his question.

Which was a sheer, blatant, unashamed lie.

Apart from this, Salmond as the former leader of the Scots Nats is in a particularly good position to take up a job for RT. Scotland has always had particularly strong links with Russia. I can remember attending an academic seminar on this when I was hoping to do a degree in Russian at one of the unis in Birmingham. That went by ’cause I didn’t get the grades. I can also remember being told by an aunt, whose husband was Scottish, and who had very pro-Soviet opinions, that the Russians were particularly keen on the works of Rabbie Burns. It was part of the curriculum when they learned English.

This has not stopped Theresa May urging Salmond not to take up the job. Which just follows all the Tories, like Boris Johnson’s equally demented father, who criticised the Labour party because some of their MPs and activists appeared on RT. While conveniently ignoring the various Tories, who had.

So more hypocrisy and scaremongering. No change, there then!

Galloway and Press TV

George Galloway also has, or had, his own show in Press TV, and is an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights. I’ve been wary about him ever since he launched the Respect party, and the way the media monstered him when he saluted Saddam Hussein for his indefatigueability. But I’ve developed a considerable respect for him since then, because so much of what I’ve heard him say about the neoliberal elites and their warmongering attempts to start a conflict with Russia is absolutely correct.

The Anti-Muslim Right and al-Jazeera

The Republicans in America and the anti-Islamic right also hated Al-Jazeera. The Qatar-based broadcaster is supposed to be another source of evil propaganda and disinformation, this time covering for ‘radical Islam’. I think this might be because Al-Jazeera, like RT and Press TV, are showing us in the West what we are doing in the Middle East. Like the hundreds of thousands our bombs are killing, and the millions, who are being thrown out of their homes and forced into refugee camps and exile. The masses, who don’t have food, water, electricity and medical care, because the secular welfare states that have provided this have been destroyed in pursuit of big profits by the multinationals. Just like their people are being persecuted and butchered by sectarian killers, and their women and children enslaved by those savages in ISIS as Daesh tries to roll back the gains they have made. And yes, there has been a Muslim Feminist movement. Just like there has been one in Christianity and Judaism. But you count on Tommy Robinson and the English Defence League not to tell you that. Just as you can count on ISIS, with the backing of the Saudis, in trying to destroy it. Or at least leave it severely restricted.

The War on Domestic Alternative News

And once the elite have finished with the alternative news networks, they’ll try and finish off domestic American and British alternative news sources. Like The Young Turks, the Jimmy Dore Show, the David Pakman Show, Sam Seder’s Minority Report and Democracy Now! in the US. As well as the alternative, left-wing bloggers and vloggers, Google and Facebook are trying to marginalise as ‘fake news’. They’ve even developed algorithms to take traffic away from these sites. I’ve a very strong suspicious Mike’s been hit with it over here, as have several other bloggers. If I remember correctly, they’ve even tried to censor Tom Pride of Pride’s Purge, claiming he wasn’t suitable for children as his material was ‘adult’. It was, but only in the sense that you had to be a mature adult, who actually thought about the issues, to read it.

And once the people at the margins are suppressed, the elite are going to go for the mainstream.

And all we can expect from the mainstream broadcasters is more propaganda denying the reality of poverty, of climate change, of the misery created by the destruction of the welfare, the privatisation of the NHS over here and the refusal to implement single-payer in America, and the sheer, catastrophic lies about how climate change isn’t really occurring.

And as the media gets censored, the brutality of the police and the military will get worse. Black Lives Matter has raised the issue of the cavalier way some cops kill Blacks for the slightest of reasons. But recent arrests and brutalisation of White protesters have also demonstrated that this casual thuggery is also moving towards the White population as well. Counterpunch a few weeks ago put up a piece about a secret US forces report, which predicted that in the next couple of decades, US policing would become more militarised. The army would be used to quell the riots and disturbance that would break out thanks to poverty and increased racial friction.

Orwell’s going to be proved right. In 1984 he asks what the future will be like. The chilling, famous reply is: a jackboot stamping on a human face. Forever.

Without any alternative media to protest, because they’re all in jail or hiding on trumped up charges of treason.

Instead, we’re going to be treated to the lies of shills and hacks like ‘Goebbels’ Robinson and ‘Arnalda Mussolini’ Kuenssberg. And fed racist, Tory drivel by the Murdoch media, the Weirdo Barclay Twins and Paul Dacre.

Paul Krugman: Everybody Hates the Trump Tax Plan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/11/2017 - 4:56am in

"The only significant winners would be those making more than $1 million a year.":

Everybody Hates the Trump Tax Plan, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Looking at the reactions to Republican tax plans, I found myself remembering what people used to say about former Senator Phil Gramm...: “Even his friends don’t like him.”...

The general public strongly disapproves — by a 2-1 majority, according to Quinnipiac, although the majority would be even bigger if people really understood what’s going on. But surely at least C.E.O.s like the plan, right?

Actually, not so much. A few days ago Gary Cohn, Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser, met with a group of top executives. They were asked to raise their hands if lower taxes would lead them to raise capital expenditures; only a handful did. “Why aren’t the other hands up?” asked Cohn, plaintively.

The answer is that C.E.O.s ... know that tax rates aren’t that important a factor in investment decisions. ...Most serious economic analyses agree..: Corporate tax cuts wouldn’t actually do much to raise investment. They would, however, explode the budget deficit.

So in an attempt to limit that deficit blowout, Senate Republicans are proposing significant tax increases on working families..., taxes would rise on average for every group with incomes under $75,000 a year... The only significant winners would be those making more than $1 million a year. Populism!

Oh, and this doesn’t even take account of the health care sabotage... By repealing the mandate ... the plan would ... cause 13 million to lose coverage; that loss of coverage, and the associated government subsidies, is why mandate repeal saves money that can be given to corporations. But the move would also drive up premiums... So that’s an additional, hidden indirect tax on the middle class.

Nor does it take account of what would inevitably come next: tax-cut-induced deficits would, by law, trigger cuts in Medicare, and this would just be the start of a G.O.P. assault on programs like disability insurance...

All of which raises the question, why are Republicans even trying to do this? It’s bad policy and bad politics, and the politics will get worse as voters learn more about the facts. Well, last week one G.O.P. congressman, Chris Collins of New York, gave the game away: “My donors are basically saying get it done or don’t ever call me again.”

So we’re talking about government of the people, not by the people, but by wealthy donors, for wealthy donors. Everyone else hates this plan — and they should.

Trump Gets Chance to Reshape CFPB

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/11/2017 - 1:55am in

Trump will soon name a replacement for CFPB director Richard Cordray; rule-making and enforcement priorities will become more bank-friendly.

Richard Coughlan Lays into Farage for Confusing Jews with Zionism

This is another, very well-informed rant by Richard ‘the Dick’ Coughlan. Coughlan’s a stand-up comic in his other job, and his videos on YouTube presumably are in the same style as his comedy shows. As you can tell by his signature farewell at the end ‘May God be less’, he’s also quite a militant atheist. I don’t support his atheism, but I am reblogging this because, like many of his other videos on race, it has some very important things to say about prejudice, and how things are really different from the way they’re presented by the Right.

In this video, he’s mostly concerned with attacking Nigel Farage for confusing American Jews with Zionism and the Israel lobby. Farage has his own show on LBC. The other day he took a call from ‘Ahmed’, who said that it was peculiar that everyone was talking about the way Russia interfered in the American elections, but no-one was talking about AIPAC’s and the Israeli’s interference. The man parodied in the Judge Dredd strip as ‘Bilious Barrage’, agreed, and said it was down to the fact that there were 6 million Jews in America. He then went on to talk a little more about how powerful and influential the Jewish lobby in America is.

Coughlan points out that this isn’t very much as a piece of racial prejudice, but it is nevertheless dangerous, as Farage has confused American Jews and the Zionist lobby. He’s afraid this will act as a kind of dog-whistle to promote anti-Semitism further amongst those with racist and far right-wing views. So Coughlan goes on to show how profoundly mistaken Farage is. Most Jews in America are profoundly liberal politically, and many are deeply critical about Israel’s religious and political constitution, and the treatment of the Palestinians. Israel’s biggest supporters aren’t Jewish Americans, but American Christians.

But before he gets on to this issue, he talks about some of the other news about the far right he finds amusing or irritating. Such as the fact that the blogger, Peter Sweden, has a YouTube channel, in which he devotes a nine minute video to discussing a kebab he bought in Norway. He also talks about Milo Yiannopolis briefly getting a job with the Daily Caller, presumably another right-wing media outlet. But he didn’t last there long. He was sacked, and the person, who hired him was also sacked. The Caller, Coughlan goes on to say, has some truly horrendous people working for it. But Yiannopolis was too much even for them.

I can’t say that I’m surprised Yiannopolis got sacked. But it probably has nothing to do with Milo’s own, very right-wing political views, where he’s attacked Blacks and non-Whites, feminism and ‘SJW’ – Social Justice Warriors – in general. No, it’s far more likely they got rid of Milo because of his comments defending paedophilia, comments which he later retracted. Sort of. Before recognising that he was also a victim through being abused by a Roman Catholic priest when he was 14.

Coughlan points out that Israel mostly attracts the support of very hardline, racist, anti-Islamic individuals and organisations like the English Defence League, Jihad Watch, Gert Wilders, Pamela Geller, and the hardline American Conservatives. The biggest organisation lobbying for Israel in the Land of the Free is the CUFI – Christians United For Israel. This was presided over by the Roman Catholic bigot, John Hagee, before his death, and had Jerry Falwell, the extreme right-wing Christian evangelist on its board. It has 2.5 million members. AIPAC – the largely Jewish Israeli lobbying group, is more influential, as it has more powerful and influential members. Here he runs through a list of American politicos. But its actual membership is much smaller -100,000. American Conservatives love Israel, because Israel’s a profoundly Conservative nation. In the 2012 elections, 65 per cent of Israelis favoured Mitt Romney. But extremely politically Conservative Jews, such as Pamela Geller and Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism, aren’t representative of American Jewry as a whole.

Coughlan points out that about 22 per cent of Jewish Americans aren’t religious. This is so high a percentage, that the census has had to create another category specifically for them. There are now two entries for Jews – one for religious Jews, and another for non-religious. American Jews are also overwhelmingly liberal. 65 per cent of them vote Democrat. The majority also support a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue, and 66 per cent believe that Israel and an independent Palestine could co-exist peacefully. It’s just that their leaders don’t want to. 44 per cent of American Jews are opposed to Israel building further settlements in Palestinian territory. As for the theological view that Israel was given to the Jews by the Almighty, only 40 per cent of American Jews believe this. Which contrasts with the 82 per cent of American Christian Evangelicals, who think this is the case. And 77 per cent of American Jews have an unfavourable view of the orange simian creature, now skulking in the White House.

Regarding Israel’s religious constitution, 43 per cent of American Jews want synagogue and state to be separated. A further 20+ per cent want there to be more separation between synagogue and state, but not a total separation. He also notes the rise in Jewish concerns about anti-Semitism. Last year, in 2016, only 21 per cent of American Jews felt anti-Semitism to be a problem. This year, 2017, it has risen to 41 per cent.

And on social issues American Jews are very liberal. 90 per cent of American Jews, whether religious or not, support gay marriage and LGBT rights, as opposed to 50 per cent of Americans in general. They are also for gun control, against global warming, and do not support the war in Iraq nor the War on Terror.

Coughlan then discusses the size of the various Jewish denominations in America, and the political stance of the largest, the United Reform Judaism Union. 35 per cent of American Jews belong to Reform Judaism. The next largest Jewish denomination in America are the Conservatives, with 18 per cent, and then the Orthodox, with 10 per cent. The president of the URJU is Rabbi Robert Eric Yoffre. Yoffre ran unopposed as leader between 1996 and 2012. He’s very much in favour of equality, social justice and tolerance and religious dialogue, having spoken at Christian and Islamic religious conferences. But most people probably haven’t heard of him. And despite the size and numerical importance of this gentleman’s denomination, when he goes to Israel he is not treated as a rabbi. Because Israeli law does not recognise Reform Judaism as a denomination.

Coughlan states before he begins his discussion of real political and religious views of American Jews that he doesn’t intend to say anything about Israel, either for or against. This is simply about the facts about American Jewish opinion, as gleaned by polling groups like Pew Research.

He then continues his attack on Farage by stating that his conflation of ‘Jews’ with the Israel lobby will act as a dog-whistle to anti-Semites with stupid conspiracy theories about Jewish power and influence. And while he’s at it, he also wonders why Farage is no longer talking about Brexit. He should, because he spent 20 years campaigning for it, as well as being massively in favour of Trump. But now it’s a complete failure, supported only by bitter, racist Little Englanders.

As for stupid conspiracy theories, Farage’s conflation of the Jews with the Israel lobby may only be a small piece of prejudice, but he wonders what’s next: Farage raving about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, perhaps? This is the notorious Tsarist forgery, which supposedly revealed that there was a massive Jewish conspiracy to enslave gentiles around the world. It was concocted by the Tsar’s secret police, the Okhrana, or Department 4, to convince the Tsar to increase the persecution of the Jews further. It’s a deeply malign document that has inspired racists and Nazis since its publication, such as Oswald Mosley in Britain and Adolf Hitler in Germany. Coughlan then concludes that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are so important, that he’ll probably produce another video debunking them.

This is video is really good, as it gives the facts and figures to support some of the arguments I’ve put up before now, stating that Judaism and Zionism are entirely separate, and that many Jews are deeply critical of Israel. The veteran Jewish critique of Zionism and the Israeli lobby, Professor Norman Finkelstein, has made the point that historically support for Israel was very much a minority opinion amongst Jewish Americans. Many Jews in America and over here support the Palestinians and the campaign for their civil and political rights, joining groups like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction campaign against Israel. And in Israel itself there are proud Jews, who also protest against the house seizures and demolitions, the construction of the illegal settlements, and the brutalisation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their ancestral lands.

This probably explains the sheer venom of the Israel lobby, and its organs in the Labour party, in persecuting them, as well as gentile critics of Israel. I’ve pointed out time and again how the majority of people suspended and expelled from the Labour for anti-Semitism were nothing of the sort. They were very largely decent, anti-racist men and women, who hated anti-Semitism as another form of the racism they detested. They opposed Israel, or at least the brutalisation of the Palestinians, because they saw Israel as a White, European settler state, based on the same racist, imperialist and colonialist attitudes towards indigenous peoples, that has led to the brutalisation of other indigenous peoples and the theft of their land by Europeans across the globe.

However, the Israeli lobby both here and in America has libelled and vilified these people as anti-Semites, even when its obvious to everyone else that they aren’t. Those so maligned have included self-respecting Jews, who have themselves been the victims of real, anti-Semitic abuse or assault. This does not matter. Zionist and pro-Israel organisations, like the horribly misnamed Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, have adopted a tortuous definition of anti-Semitism, which deliberately conflates it with opposition to Israel. And so it doesn’t matter how genuinely anti-racist a person is, whether they have a positive view of Jews, or simply have no strong opinion of them one way or another. Or if they’re Jewish, how observant they are, or otherwise self-respecting. Simply for denouncing Israel’s attack on Jews, they’re attacked as self-hating and anti-Semitic. And many people, including the British comedian Alexei Sayle, have noticed that the majority of the victims of the witch-hunt in the Labour party over this issue have been Jewish.

It looks very much like it’s because these organisations know how weak their position is, and how repugnant very many ordinary people, including Jews, find their persecution of the Palestinians. And so to keep up the image that Jew = Zionism/ Israel, as dictated by Likudnik doctrine, they have to try to marginalise and vilify those who deny it. And that means particularly persecuting Jews.

One of the books that was published a few years ago on the Israel Lobby noted that the lobby affected American elections through the funding of political candidates by organisations and Jewish businesses. AIPAC and similar groups give ample funds to pro-Israel candidates. And where an aspiring congressman or senator is critical of Israel, they will donate heavily to their opponent, thus ensuring that they will lose the election.

But as Coughlan has shown, not all American Jews support Israel, or at least not its maltreatment and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Some American Jewish businessmen even donate to Palestinian charities and organisations, as well as Israeli. One of them is featured in the book Bushwhacked, published a few years ago, which exposes everything nasty and corrupt about George Dubya. This gentleman is included because he stands out against the bigotry and intolerance of the Bush administration.

Others have pointed out that Christian Zionism is much larger, and has a very theological agenda. It’s adherents believe that in order for Jesus to return to Earth in the Second Coming, the Jews must return to the Holy Land and Israel restored. This will culminate in a final battle between the forces of good and evil. Twenty years ago the forces of evil were the Communist bloc. Now it’s Islam. These people are a real, terrifying danger to world peace.

And the Israel lobby also has a profound connection to real anti-Semites going right back to the Nazis and the Ha’avara agreement. As anti-Zionists like Tony Greenstein and very many others have documented, the pioneers and leaders of the Zionist movement were all too willing to deal with anti-Semites, because they believed that increased anti-Semitism against diaspora Jews would benefit Zionism by encouraging more Jews to emigrate to Israel. Hence the Judischer Rundschau, the main Zionist newspaper in 1930s Germany, hailed the infamous Nuremberg laws, and urged its readers to wear their yellow star with pride. This was before the Holocaust, which the magazine did not foresee, but it’s still chilling nonetheless. And the head of the Zionist movement in Hungary during the War, Kasztner, allowed the Nazis to deport a greater number of Jews to the Death Camps than may otherwise have occurred, because he hoped that they would also spare some and send them to Israel instead.

But if you dare mention these historical facts, you’re an anti-Semite.

And more recently, the real Nazis and anti-Semites connected with Trump’s administration, like the Alt-Right ‘White Zionist’ Richard Spencer, have very strongly supported Israel. Spencer’s even been on Israeli TV. And Sebastian Gorka, a former member of Trump’s administration with extensive connections to the Hungarian Fascist right, has also been one of the guests at the Herzliya conference, the annual jamboree for the Israeli military. Many real Fascists and anti-Semites support Israel because they see it as another way of getting rid of their domestic Jews, by forcing them to emigrate there.

Judaism is certainly not synonymous with Zionism. And some Zionists and Zionist organisations will collaborate with Fascists and anti-Semites against diaspora Jews, in the hope of boosting their country’s population.

On Campus Politics: BDS vs Zionism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/11/2017 - 10:29pm in

Tags 

Politics, zionism

Earlier this week the student government of the University of Michigan voted to divest from Israel. It was a largely symbolic vote that is unlikely to have real implications for the University. But it is very concerning: it was the 12th attempt by the UM student government since 2002, and marks what is arguably the most significant success of the BDS movement among students anywhere to date...

Students have often been the proverbial canaries in the coal mine. This will either be seen as a high point of the Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel before its decline. Or it is simply a harbinger of things to come....

There are a growing number of Jewish students who are supporting the movement. Increasingly these students are being castigated as self-hating Jews or who have been brainwashed by anti-Semitic groups. Externally, adults seek to "protect" "vulnerable" students from this kind of activism.

I understand this motivation and sometimes feel it. But targeting students in this way is counterproductive.

I continue to teach undergraduates at Washington University in St. Louis--one class on Jewish Political Thought and another on Zionism. I recognize that some students have been attracted to the BDS movement because of their love of Israel, and their repugnance of what they see as its unjust treatment of Palestinians.

These students are not hateful anti-Semites. They are pursuing what they believe justice requires through the means of civil disobedience that has been the hallmark of social justice campaigns based on core values of the Jewish prophetic tradition.

I strongly disagree with them on this issue. I believe they are mistaken in their approach. And I believe that they do not recognize that many BDS supporters not in fact seeking peaceful solutions to the conflict. There is a problem when those rallying against the only Jewish state wear anti-Israel and anti-Semitic t-shirts fabricated in countries whose violations of civil, human and political rights are shameful.

What should we do?

When Jewish communal institutions condemn students or make them out to be "brainwashed" they are insulting the intelligence of students and their ability to think for themselves.

When we keep student voices out of our communal institutions because of their views, we are not protecting them, we are not shielding the innocent from harm and we are not advancing our cause. We are alienating our next generation. We are using our fear to marginalize ourselves from the very real and important concerns that they have. BDS is not the answer. But that does not mean that their concerns are without merit.

As a professor with 20 years of experience in higher education, I don't think condemning students is a particularly effective way to go, it adds fuel to the fire. ("Grown ups" have tried doing this with students for decades; it's not that effective!) And as the CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, I am equally concerned that a strategy of condemnation of students will only strengthen BDS, particularly on campus....

The opposite of ignorance is education.

...We will continue to support the creation of broad educational opportunities to understand the conflict and the motivations of those who are supporting the BDS. And we stand ready to partner with our student organizations who want to provide an open and educational opportunity to understand the full dynamics of the conflict and why we believe BDS is a truly harmful movement.

We will continue to fight those in the BDS movement who are animated by dangerous anti-Semitism and seek to perpetrate evil, sometimes through intimidation and bullying. But must do so in a manner that does not also alienate a next generation of our own community who, because of their identity with Israel, are seeking to advocate for social justice there.--Andrew Rehfeld on Facebook.

Rehfeld is a political theorist I have known since graduate school, and our scholarly interests have considerable overlap. Since 2012, he is also the president and chief executive officer of Jewish Federation of St. Louis. He gained national prominence for his public role in responding to the vandalism of a Jewish cemetery. I was pleased to see his post on Facebook. Andrew has many wise words about the current, counterproductive and self-defeating (pro-zionist) strategy aiming to discredit the BDS campaign. And I am pleased he addresses this issue. Over the last year he is increasingly becoming a voice to be reckoned with in charting American Jewish self-understanding today.

I would like to add a few thoughts to his. But because a post like this may also be read by folks who are not my regular readers, let me just say something about my views. I defend the legitimacy of Zionism (even at the height of the Gaza war) because I take Zionism as a response to the failures of liberalism to deliver on its aims (e.g., free movement of people, protection of minorities, dignity of all etc.). So, while I am a liberal and a Zionist, I am not a liberal Zionist. I have done a series of posts in which I highlight the strategic failures of Zionism: i) its failure to establish permanent borders for the state of Israel; (ii) to settle what kind of political entity Israel should be so that it can end its near-permanent war-footing and occupation of hostile populations; (iii) (the perception of) Israel's dependence on America's political and military support, which ties Israel to America's strategic interests and electoral politics. In addition, I have become increasingly aware of (iv) the split between the interests of Zionism and American Jewry. I have written quite a number of essay about others who also struggle to chart the wisest Zionist course in today, and so hopefully you will check them out before you jump to conclusions about my views. Okay, so much for today's stage-setting.

In so far as their is a dedicated response to the BDS campaign (see Israel on Campus Coalition), it is deliberately polarizing. Andrew has highlighted the ways in which Jewish students with a strong sense of justice and reservations about Israeli politics are treated with contempt or condescension. As a leader of a Jewish community he correctly discerns that such a response is 'alienating' to the 'next generation' of would be members and future leaders of the Jewish community. This polarizing strategy will, thereby, lead American Jewry into a cul-de-sac depriving itself from future talent and leadership.

Andrew does not mention the impact on non-Jewish students, who may well come to believe that there are no arguments available to the Zionist side, and may well come to think that all Zionists support all the current unjust treatments of Palestinians;* that Zionism today is fearful of an open debate and lacks the intellectual resources to meet present challenges. 

This last paragraph may seem worded to strong. But we should not overlook that pro-Zionists have supported a campaign of criminalizing support for BDS. If that were to succeed we would be in astounding position that burning an American flag and marching as a Nazi are protected speech, but calling for a boycott and divestment of Israel are not. Such a campaign of criminalizing support for BDS is not just illiberal, but also profoundly alienating to many with no intrinsic interest in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship and so self-defeating over the medium term.

So, the current strategy to tackle BDS is fundamentally anti-intellectual, does not generate dialogue, mutual understanding, or true education. This is why it's good that a genuine educator like Andrew speaks about these issues.

Above, I mentioned that the current response to BDS is polarizing. This plays, in fact, into the hands of the activist core of BDS which needs a drip of news and incidents to keep mobilizing overstretched young people to take an interest in what is otherwise a distant conflict. Such polarization energizes BDS and its would be supporters. 

I used to think that polarization was caused by Jews, who based on historical experience, believe that any sign of weakness, or lack of projection of strength, is setting oneself up for cycles of victimization. In addition, polarization serves those who do not wish to have Israeli policies toward Palestinians and Arab-Israelis second-guessed and questioned on American campuses. Maybe that's all what's going on. The campaign against Steven Salaita (for my view) revealed that fierce critics of Israel have to fear for their jobs, and that's profoundly illiberal and inimical to intellectual life.

But I have  increasingly come to feel that polarization also plays into the hands of those Zionists that think American Jewry's future is not Stateside. I worry that quite a few people (academics, donors, etc.) who encourage and support a polarized, illiberal response to BDS are fine with such an outcome. It is notable that if I am right (recall iv) about Israel's reliance on America's strategic interests and electoral politics then this is a disastrous long-term policy for Zionism.

 

*It's possible, of course, that Zionism and justice for Palestinians are ultimately incompatible. But that's a different topic.

Roy Moore's Systemic Danger to Our Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/11/2017 - 2:57pm in

Concerned about Roy Moore? This post shows how his accusations are a systemic danger to our democracy.

Strict Greens’ Recycling Policy Sees Discarded 90s Politician Turned Into Senator

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/11/2017 - 6:57pm in

Tags 

Politics

Andrew Bartlett

The Greens have chosen to re-use an old senator they found washed up in Canberra, rather than waste resources on a brand new Senator.

The impressive commitment to the party’s ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ policy was announced by party leader Richard Di Natale months ago and put into action this week.

“Usually old politicians end up in landfill, but we prefer to make do with the throwaways others discard”.

Mr Di Natale said the senator was a little bit coarser and rougher around the edges now but would do for the moment.

Although that moment might be up sooner than thought – the recycled senator may soon need to be thrown out again.

The Struggle in the Democratic Party

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/11/2017 - 6:00pm in

The fight for control over the Democratic party continues....

Cutting Taxes on Profits and Reality

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/11/2017 - 2:50pm in

Tags 

Politics

The post below is silly. It is based on bending over backwards to take silly arguments for the GOP tax plan seriously. This older post is the one with some relevance to the real world. The silly argument is that lower taxes on profits imply a lower cost of capital for firms. Investors will demand […]

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