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MSNBC: Mark Ames and Yasha Levine
Broke the Koch Brothers' Takeover of America
Class War For Idiots / August 5, 2009
By Mark Ames


America’s collapse into a Third World banana republic is accelerating: Alabama’s most populous county, Jefferson County, is so broke it’s closing down courthouses and laying off so many cops that it’s now planning to call in the National Guard to maintain order:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The sheriff in Alabama’s most populous county may call for the National Guard to help maintain order, a spokesman said Tuesday, after a judge cleared the way for cuts in the sheriff’s budget and hopes dimmed for a quick end to a budget crisis.

It’s all too fitting that the county is going broke because it can’t pay the $3.2 billion in sewer bonds that the county borrowed, on bad advice from what’s now the biggest bailed-out bank in the land. They sold Americans shit, and now Jefferson County is literally eating that shit.

The reason why the county is broke is because it took the advice of the same Wall Street villains who later bankrupted America. In this case, JPMorgan Chase, which was hired by the county to act as advisor, and wound up not only giving the worst advice imaginable, pawning toxic assets onto the gullible hicks, but also charging them six times the normal bank fees–that’s right, JPMorgan charged the county six times the going rate for advice that ruined the county, according to Bloomberg:

The county relied on advice from a bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co., to arrange its funding, rather than use competitive bidding.

The county paid banks $120 million in fees — six times the prevailing rate — for $5.8 billion in interest-rate swaps. That was supposed to protect the county from rising rates for their bonds. Lending rates went the wrong way, putting the county $277 million deeper into debt.

That means local officials now have to pay to banks money that otherwise might have been used to build schools, hospitals or public housing.

Why would a county do something that stupid, buying up toxic assets for 6 times the price? The answer is so obvious that the SEC and FBI even made a show of investigating, but the only thing that’s come of the investigation so far is that taxpayers were forced to bail out the Wall Street thieves who tricked them, while leaving citizens to fuck off and die:

“It’s ironic that the Fed can do corporate welfare for the banks, but they can’t bail out a county that was victimized by these banks,” says Craig Greer, a Catholic chaplain at a Birmingham hospice.

The SEC and Justice Department are probing whether the banks that financed Jefferson County conspired nationwide to fix prices for derivatives, violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, according to target letters sent to bank employees.

That was a year ago. By May of this year, the SEC was still making its empty threats, but by then it had already given Bank of America, which sold similar bullshit swaps to sucker-counties around the country, complete amnesty:

Bank of America was granted amnesty by the Justice Department for its cooperation in the national antitrust probe. In exchange for voluntarily providing information and offering continuing cooperation, the federal government agreed not to bring criminal charges against the bank.

Brian Marchiony, a JPMorgan spokesman, declined to comment. The company said in yesterday’s filing that it is “engaged in discussions” with the SEC to reach a resolution before the agency files a civil complaint.

SEC spokesman John Heine declined to comment and Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Carns said he was unaware of any SEC moves against JPMorgan.

Right, so all BofA had to do was agree to snitch on everyone else–which is about as much a concession as telling a tapeworm that if it wants to continue thriving, it’s going to have to continue sucking on someone’s intestinal walls…or else!

Meanwhile, the gullible hicks are suffering–just like the whole country–while the Wall Street plutocrats laugh all the way to the taxpayer-subsidized bank. Sewage and water bills in the county were so high last year that some people had to choose between heat and water:

As nighttime temperatures plunged in Birmingham, Alabama, last October, Dora Bonner had a choice: either pay the gas bill so she could heat the home she shares with four grandchildren, or send the Birmingham Water Works a $250 check for her water and sewer bill.

Bonner, who is 73 and lives on Social Security, decided to keep the house from freezing.

`I couldn’t afford the water, so they shut it off,” she says.

Bonner’s sewer bills have risen more than fourfold in the past decade. So have those of others in Jefferson County, which has 659,000 residents and includes Birmingham, the state’s largest city.

So there you have it: life in the banana republic of norteamerica. The banks fleece the peasantry, and when they’ve been picked clean and can’t pay another red peso, the federal government calls in la guardia nacional to keep order. It’s a good thing–from the oligarchy’s view, that is–that the suckers only response is to crash townhall meetings demanding that they not be given free health care, while spending all their unemployed time searching for holes in Obama’s birth certificate rather than the holes in their own wallets.

Americans are the only idiots in the world who take an old-fashioned ass-rape without even putting up a fight.

For more on Alabama read: Alabama Shootings: Just Another Battle In America’s Thirty Years’ Class War and Murder Mystery Solved: The Shocking Story of How A Chicken-Slaughtering Billionaire Plundered Rural America.

Buy Mark Ames’ book Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.

Click the cover & buy the book!

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Add your own

  • 1. monopole  |  August 5th, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Um, lived in Alabama for 5 years in the 80’s “a Third World banana republic” would be quite an improvement.

  • 2. Joe Blow  |  August 5th, 2009 at 10:21 am


    Now if rates had gone up they would have been protected! (of course with the coming collapse rates were only headed lower)

    but the real issue is that they were sold a two-way bet rather than just a fixed rate..

  • 3. ur12  |  August 5th, 2009 at 10:50 am

    “Americans are the only idiots in the world who take an old-fashioned ass-rape without even putting up a fight.”

    How true ! But then we would never pass up an opportunity to butt-slam some foreigners living abroad, would we ! So.. ” what’s fair is fair ” (in the words of another butt-slammer )

  • 4. FSB Agent 008  |  August 5th, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Luckily, where there is a problem, there is a solution. Pentagon needs every able man that Jefferson county can provide. Some women will do too (someone has to be raped when locals are not around). Instead of blowing out their brains in a hot,stinky trailer, why not die in far-away lands while earning few bucks and sending it back to Alabama right before it. Afghanistan is warming up, Iran war is coming, Iraq about to fall apart, Pakistan needs its nukes secured by brave Yanks, there is work all over the place. I hope every American signs up for free one-way travel to help Muslims build democracy and promote human rights.

  • 5. Aaron Colyer  |  August 5th, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    I hope you are all ready….it’s coming to the rest of America as well… within the next two years we will see more and more of this kind of thing…by the end of this year other places will be handing over controll to the government and martial law…. just wait until the unemployment runs out for 6.5 million AMericans…

  • 6. Realist  |  August 5th, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Nobody buys you brakfast after a gangrape.

  • 7. Hans  |  August 5th, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    “It’s all too fitting that the county is going broke because it can’t pay the $3.2 billion in sewer bonds that the country borrowed”

    you mean that the “county” borrowed.

  • 8. thomzas  |  August 5th, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Hey Mr Ames,

    Did you see the Colbert Report?

    Nice bit of tea party “grassroots” campaign debunking and Freedomworks outing.


  • 9. Jon Ezell of Central Alabama  |  August 5th, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    The narrative about the gullible hicks is pretty good, but it probably (the trial starts 08/31/09) had more to do w/ bribery, as the amounts that some of the accused and convicted bankers and advisers were being paid was more than the credit swaps were supposed to save.

    The letter from the County Sheriff to the Governor is not going to lead to a deployment of Nat’l Guard, and is best understood as political grandstanding on the part of the Sheriff. Along w/ the picthfork and torch reaction JeffCo residents have had to the 4-hour lines at the DMV, the Sheriff’s fear-mongering will probably force an emergency state legislative session (due to our backwards constitution, the entire state legislature has to be convened to handle county-level issues like taxes).

    For a great graphic of this shell-game clusterfuck, check out this pdf:

    See also :

    and if you’ve never met Birmingham’s Mayor, who was County Commission President when this dumb shit went down, check out:

    (although this entry doesn’t mention his most recent stunt of handing out unicorn statues to the city council.)

    Thanks for covering our quaint little murder-capital in your hallowed pages!

  • 10. porkers-at-the-trough  |  August 5th, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    great reporting from Exiled…
    thanks for that Bloomberg link, the Bush-OBAMA GIVEAWAY to the Wall Street FRAUDSTERS, SHYSTERS, & SCAMMERS is now at 23 TRILLION taxpayer dollars –
    with the America-hating Bankster SOB’s CHARGING US INTEREST for THEIR bailouts !!!!!!

    As a lifetime (amateur) student of the pyschology of our murderous (past) century, and the dictators & national, mass-media propaganda that made those multi-millions-killed death-totals possible –
    (“democide” is the term coined by Prof. Rudy Rummel)
    …it really is fascinating to see just how easy it is to hoodwink so many millions of people…
    …and it is fascinating JUST HOW INSECURE arrogant, “master-race” or “chosen” people really are..
    …and it is FASCINATING to see how “smart” people, in this case Barack Obama & his Goldamn-Sachs swindlers, can be so DELUSIONAL, bordering on abject stupidity, as to dig themselves into this $23 TRILLION hole.
    (That’s nearly two full years of America’s entire GDP with NOTHING to show for it, but a temporarily pumped up market)

    (We KNOW that Bush surrounded himself with sychophants, suck-ups, & acolytes…
    Obama is matching Bush toady for toady, he just stuck ANOTHER GS swindler into ANOTHER high US govt. “economic” policy making position this week!)

  • 11. אברהם  |  August 5th, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    @FSB Agent 008

    American here who has already signed up for the lost war in central Asia. What can I say? I’m educated enough to have a worthless BA and know about imperialism, cynical and selfish enough to not be bothered… not enough to give up a living wage and health insurance. That’s what the country’s come to and it’s not my fault.

    Iran would love for us to even try to assault them, and Pakistan’s nukes are secure. My concern is what to do when the Posse Comitatus Act is bypassed as the National Guard prove ineffective in suppressing the rabble. And that’s surreal. It’ll happen in less than a decade but it’s hard to internalize. Like knowing that you’ll die someday but when you look down at your hands and imagine them shriveled, wrinkly, cold, fingernails long… but impossible to believe. Right now it’s not an adaptive trait to possess a moral compass, but when (not if) I get orders to shoot our tired huddled masses? Who knows? I don’t.

  • 12. FSB Agent 008  |  August 5th, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    By the way, I forgot to add that I’m a monkey in human form. Nietzsche was talking about people like me when he wrote: “Anti-semitism is another word for ‘under-privileged.'”

  • 13. captain america  |  August 5th, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    i have to wonder what post 12 said before the exile censor got to it.

  • 14. Anonymous  |  August 6th, 2009 at 2:09 am

    I’m guessing post 12 was a slam at poster 11’s use of a Hebrew name, before the exile censor got to it, and I’ll even guess, and hope, that it wasn’t an interesting or original enough anti-semitic rant to be worth reading.

    The censoring was deserved anyway, for being both anti-semitic and flat stupid. I suppose maybe FSB never thought Mark Ames might be Jewish, but how could he have missed that the site regularly posts articles by a man named Yasha Levine?

    Anyway, post 11 really bothers me. That’s going to keep prodding my consciousness for a while.

  • 15. geo8rge  |  August 6th, 2009 at 5:54 am

    Fairly simple solution Chapter 9 Bankruptcy, which is what happened earlier at “The Alabama Adventure” them park. They do not want Ch 9 as it would rewrite lots of other contracts and would affect pensions of civil servants. Probably unavoidable.

  • 16. Timo  |  August 6th, 2009 at 9:05 am

    This ain’t fair. Americans are going down without a fight. Now who the f*ck we know-it-all uppity whitey Europeans are going to sneer at now?!

    There is no joy kicking a man already down for the count. Or maybe this is somekind of trick you Yanks are trying to pull?! Must be it…you dirty rascals!

  • 17. ReturnFreeRisk  |  August 6th, 2009 at 9:37 am

    So they lost about $300mln on a $6bln trade…about 5%. Tough luck in a pretty awful market environment. Who were the elected/appointed officials on the county finance board that went in on this trade? We are seeing a lot of stories about ingnorant municipal finance managers lately. Did anyone get other proposals on the fees of the advisory relationship, or maybe hire a third party due diligence advisor? Must have been in a pretty awful fiscal position in the first place if you need to enter into $6bln interest rate hedges. Its only a matter of time before every state in the union has a story like this running. Common sense…Dont go to the casino to pay your utility bills.

  • 18. Mary  |  August 6th, 2009 at 10:07 am

    As a Michigander this makes me laugh. Yes, I know this shit is coming to Michigan, if they don’t just abandon the place first. But I love seeing these anti-union assholes get hoist on their own petard first. Fucking pigfuckers.

  • 19. WelcomeToAmericanSomalia  |  August 6th, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Here’s a more cynical view: the Market Fundamentalists in their government (mostly Libertarians, and surely some Anarcho-Capitalists) knowingly did this to do what they can’t do otherwise: shut down (or seriously gut) the government. It’s hard to convince people to just *do* that, so the next best thing is to bankrupt these places so that they’re forced to shut down or seriously scale back. Now these people can have their Wild West Libertopias (AKA Somalia in America) they dream about while they build shrines to Murray Rothbard an in their backyards.

    Law enforcement? Bah! We’ll all have guns, grenades, land mines on our laws, barbed wire fences, and underground bunkers in case the neighbors attack!

  • 20. fajensen  |  August 7th, 2009 at 3:27 am

    How about Alabama, instead of this “law enforcement” rubbish, tasked the National Guard with going round the banks and get a refund?

    It will be muy interesting with all those soldiers with combat training and experience coming back from the rectums of the world ….

  • 21. Jason  |  August 7th, 2009 at 2:19 pm


    What market fundamentalists? The banks don’t want a free market, they want a managed market. One managed for their benefit, of course.

    Why would you force government to shut down when you can make it a wholly owned subsidiary? You can’t get on a bailout gravy train when there’s nobody available to give you one.

  • 22. foshoflo  |  August 7th, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    While Mark Ames seems to have hit on the injustice of the situation in Jefferson County, (which I appreciate because I live in Birmingham, AL)I resent being called a hick.
    Ever heard of ethos, Mark? You’re doing a shitty job of developing it with your readers.

  • 23. WelcomeToAmericanSomalia  |  August 7th, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    @Jason: I’m talking about the people that BOUGHT them, not the Corporatists that SOLD them.

  • 24. az  |  August 7th, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Yeah and China is really ruled by communists. Keep dreaming, kid.

  • 25. אברהם  |  August 7th, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Is there anything surprising about “market fundamentalism”?

    In Going Postal Ames shows how Westerners before the 19th century thought slavery was beneficial to Africans.

    Or read some Marx, the chapters about surplus value in Capital. He quotes a number of contemporary writers who assert that the British economy would collapse if workers got the fourteen-hour day.

    It’s not even worth contesting arguments of this caliber. They make a lot of baseless assumptions and unproven assertions. You’d have to write a book-length summary of economics and world history to even begin. Just recognize that opinion leaders who lionize the Free Market are rationalizing their position in the social pyramid, even though they most often are too stupid to realize they’re lying.

    As for those Kansans who vote against their Rational Self-Interest, well, maybe that is unprecedented. Does anybody know if the slaves agreed they were being civilized by benevolent Christian whites? Or if European factory workers accepted their position in the Market as a function of Natural Law?

    (Sorry, I can’t help capitalizing terms of libertarian dogma. Shit’s like if the One State in We was run by Ayn Rand)

  • 26. Kidmidnight  |  August 9th, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Hicks? Lol I think you mean blacks. It was your precious African Americans that caused this mess. Larry Langford. Look him up.

  • 27. Kidmidnight  |  August 9th, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Also you would think a liberal Jew would know better than to use stereotypes. I guess it’s ok though if you are stereotyping white men.

  • 28. John  |  April 12th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    “gullible hicks” is a cheap shot. At this point you have to include the citizens of Chicago and Connecticut and il cittadinanza di Milano among the gulled.

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