Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
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Number of posts: 68,731
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 68,731
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EU Showdown: Greece Takes on the Vampire Squid
Posted on January 6, 2015 by Ellen Brown
Greece and the troika (the International Monetary Fund, the EU, and the European Central Bank) are in a dangerous game of chicken. The Greeks have been threatened with a “Cyprus-Style prolonged bank holiday” if they “vote wrong.” But they have been bullied for too long and are saying “no more.”
A return to the polls was triggered in December, when the Parliament rejected Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ pro-austerity candidate for president. In a general election, now set for January 25th, the EU-skeptic, anti-austerity, leftist Syriza party is likely to prevail. Syriza captured a 3% lead in the polls following mass public discontent over the harsh austerity measures Athens was forced to accept in return for a €240 billion bailout.
Austerity has plunged the economy into conditions worse than in the Great Depression. As Professor Bill Black observes, the question is not why the Greek people are rising up to reject the barbarous measures but what took them so long.
Ireland was similarly forced into an EU bailout with painful austerity measures attached. A series of letters has recently come to light showing that the Irish government was effectively blackmailed into it, with the threat that the ECB would otherwise cut off liquidity funding to Ireland’s banks. The same sort of threat has been leveled at the Greeks, but this time they are not taking the bait. ...........................(more)
Posted by marmar | Sun Jan 11, 2015, 07:44 AM (3 replies)
from Dissent magazine:
Introduction: The Promises and Limits of Progressive Cities
Michael Kazin ▪ Winter 2015
For liberal Democrats and their allies, this is the winter of their discontent—and foreboding. The most right-wing Congress elected since the 1920s has embarked on a mission to weaken or repeal federal programs that benefit neither its corporate funders nor its Tea Party base. A majority of justices on the Roberts court may ease that task by striking down the Affordable Care Act and several other laws they regard, clairvoyantly, as betrayals of the sacred wishes of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and the other periwigged designers of the Constitution.
Barack Obama, whom Republicans attacked quite savagely and quite effectively as both tyrannical and inept, will protest some of what conservatives at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue say and do. He will probably back up his words with a handful of vetos and executive orders. The president will also retain the affection of millions of Americans, if not their confidence in his leadership. Indeed, his administration, after it’s gone, will probably not appear as futile as it does in the wake of the midterm debacle. But, for now, most of the media as well as elites in both parties have turned the page.
However, to dwell solely on the grim events in Washington is to neglect a more complicated and, potentially, a more hopeful reality. Just as Michael Harrington noted in the mid-1970s, the United States is “moving vigorously left, right and center, all at once.” Last fall, voters in the solidly Republican states of Alaska, South Dakota, Arkansas, and Nebraska enacted boosts in the minimum wage. Marriage equality is now the law in thirty-two states and the District of Columbia. The same country where a denier of climate change now chairs the Senate environment committee is also a country where the movement to stop environmental disaster can mobilize a march of 400,000 people and where student groups at hundreds of campuses have called on their colleges to divest from companies that produce fossil fuels. The same country where the Tea Party is the powerful and well-financed bulwark of the party that runs Congress is also a country where, despite the weakness of unions, increasing numbers of fast-food and Wal-Mart workers are demanding a living wage and where a growing number of people on both the right and left advocate humane alternatives to mass imprisonment.
In Los Angeles, as Manuel Pastor explains, activists for immigrant rights have spearheaded coalitions dedicated to building unions as well as to help undocumented men and women gain legal status. In Seattle, as James Gregory describes, older networks created by labor insurgents and environmentalists undergirded the recent electoral victories of a string of progressive Democrats and one charismatic, unabashed socialist. Joshua Freeman argues that whatever good Mayor Bill de Blasio manages to accomplish in New York will depend both on the persistence and unity of his local base and on his administration’s ability to galvanize national support for what he is struggling to achieve. Sarah Jaffe offers a personal story, both anguished and hopeful, about tenants in one Brooklyn neighborhood who demanded a rent freeze from landlords who failed to heat their freezing apartments. Jennifer Klein examines the rise in New Haven of an alliance between organizers in the Latino community and their counterparts among health workers and Yale graduate students. This alliance helped elect progressives to run the city and is waging an innovative campaign to create more jobs that pay decent wages. Finally, in the impoverished city of Reading, Pennsylvania, Abby Scher discovers a black mayor and his band of talented advisors who are making a sophisticated effort to refashion a local economy that would be both just and green. ................(more)
The complete piece is at: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/introduction-the-promises-and-limits-of-progressive-cities
Posted by marmar | Sat Jan 10, 2015, 09:56 AM (0 replies)
On January 6, Brian Knappenberger, director of the buzz-magnet documentary “The Internet’s Own Boy,” sat down with Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin in Los Angeles at the Annenberg Space for Photography to talk about his iconic subject, Aaron Swartz, and the impact of his life’s work and legacy.
Posted by marmar | Sat Jan 10, 2015, 09:46 AM (0 replies)
Twelve Ways to Drive GMOs and Monsanto's Roundup off the Market
Friday, 09 January 2015 10:41
By Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association | Op-Ed
The technology of agricultural genetic engineering (GE) is the controversial practice of gene-splicing and disrupting the genetic blueprints of plants and trees in a lab, to produce patented seeds. The seeds are generally one of two types. One type, which includes Monsanto's Roundup-resistant crops, produces plants that survive the spraying of poisons, while all the other plants around them die. The other type produces a plant that manufactures its own pest-killing poison, designed to target a specific pest.
Contrary to what some in the biotech industry and the media claim, genetic engineering of plants is not the same thing as selective breeding, or hybridization. Genetic modification involves inserting foreign genetic material (DNA) into an organism. Selective breeding does not.
For two decades, Monsanto and its cohorts (Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, and BASF) have been randomly inserting the genes of one species into a non-related species, or genetically "interfering" with the instructions of an organism's RNA—utilizing viruses, antibiotic-resistant genes and bacteria as vectors, markers and promoters—to create gene-spliced seeds and crops. Through clever marketing, they've captured the loyalty of North America's (and many other nations') chemical-intensive farmers, grain traders and Junk Food corporations. Fortunately, in the 28 member states of the European Union, where GMOs must be labeled and independently safety-tested, there are little or no GMO crops planted, and few GMO foods or food ingredients on supermarket shelves or restaurant menus.
Although Monsanto, industry scientists and corporate agribusiness claim that GMO crops and foods, and the chemicals that accompany them, are perfectly safe and therefore need no labeling or independent safety-testing, hundreds of independent scientists, that is, those not on the payroll of Monsanto or its minions, cite literally hundreds of studies showing that GMOs and their companion chemicals, such as Roundup, are extremely toxic. ...............(more)
The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/28457-twelve-ways-to-drive-gmos-and-monsanto-s-roundup-off-the-market
Posted by marmar | Sat Jan 10, 2015, 09:25 AM (8 replies)
Surprising New Findings Point to “Perfect Storm” Brewing in Your Financial Future
by Lynn Parramore on January 08, 2015
Alan Taylor, a professor and Director of the Center for the Evolution of the Global Economy at the University of California, Davis, has conducted, along with Moritz Schularick, ground-breaking research on the history and role of credit, partly funded by the Institute for New Economic Thinking. He finds that today’s advanced economies depend on private sector credit more than anything we have ever seen before. His work and that of his colleagues call into question the assumption that was commonplace before 2008, that private credit flows are primarily forces for stability and predictability in economies.
If current trends continue, Taylor warns, our economic future could be very different from our recent past, when financial crises were relatively rare. Crises could become more commonplace, which will impact every stage of our financial lives, from cradle to retirement. Do we just fasten our seatbelts for a bumpy ride, or is there a way to smooth the path ahead? Taylor discusses his findings and thoughts about how to safeguard the financial system in the interview that follows.
LP: How is the world of credit different today than in the past?
AT: The first time we plotted credit levels, well, we were almost shocked by our own data. It was a bit like finding the banking sector equivalent of the "hockey stick” chart (a plot of historic temperature that shows the emergence of dramatic uptrend in modern times). It tells us that we live in a different financial world than any of our ancestors.
This basic aggregate measure of gearing or leverage is telling us that today’s advanced economies' operating systems are more heavily dependent on private sector credit than anything we have ever seen before. Furthermore, this pattern is seen across all the advanced economies, and isn’t just a feature of some special subset (e.g. the Anglo-Saxons). It’s also a little bit of a conservative estimate of the divergent trend, since it excludes the market-based financial flows (e.g., securitized debt) which bypass banks for the most part, and which have become so sizeable in the last 10-20 years.
LP: You’ve mentioned a “perfect storm” brewing around the explosion of credit. What are some of the conditions you have observed?
We have been able to show that this trend matters: in the data, when we observe a sharp run-up in this kind of leverage measure, financial crises have tended to become more likely; and when those crises strike, recessions tend to be worse, and even more painful in the cases where a large run-up in leverage was observed.
These are findings from 200+ recessions over a century or more of experience, and they are some of the most robust pieces of evidence found to date concerning the drivers of financial instability and the fallout that results. Once we look at the current crisis through this lens, it starts to look comprehensible: a bad event, certainly, but not outside historical norms once we take into account the preceding explosion of credit. Under those conditions, it turns out, a deep recession followed by a long sub-par recovery should not be seen as surprising at all. Sadly, nobody had put together this sort of empirical work before the crisis, but now at least we have a better guide going forward. ................(more)
The complete piece is at: http://ineteconomics.org/institute-blog/surprising-new-findings-point-perfect-storm-brewing-your-financial-future
Posted by marmar | Sat Jan 10, 2015, 08:04 AM (3 replies)
Though President Obama promised “transparency” and “openness,” he has slipped so far from those goals that some wonder how many sides of his mouth he can speak through. He has surely not broken from the longstanding pattern of presidential deceits that have eroded the Republic, as Jason Hirthler writes.
By Jason Hirthler
If the American public knew what was being perpetrated in its name, it might put an end to the slow-motion coup d’état of the United States by corporate wealth. But it is kept in the shadows, pinioned by a harness of half-truths that underwrite its ignorance and enable its indifference.
The public will likely remain in this state until it hears the whole truth, and not the abridged version peddled by an unscrupulous administration, its Pavlovian Cabinet, our obsequious Congress, and the sycophant media (those dutiful court stenographers of state power). Until this confederacy of knaves is exposed at scale, the Janus-faced narrative streaming from the lips of the Commander-in-Chief — whomever he or she may be — will neither change nor falter. Ringing in a New Year will not matter.
Let’s take a look at a few of the key storylines in foreign policy. Note how each is fundamentally incomplete. Key facts are elided. Context is erased. Ulterior motives buried. American action is thus cast in the lambent light of good intentions. From the administration’s standpoint, the fundamental goal of selective storytelling is to portray offensive acts of aggression as defensive acts of nobility, the backbone of the myth of American exceptionalism.
Defending Ukrainian Sovereignty
Perhaps the story of the year in 2014 was Ukraine. President Barack Obama has roamed the world declaiming on the sacred rights of our dear Ukrainian friends in Kiev. As Obama has it, these freedom-loving patriots have suffered multiple injustices this past year: When their former Crimean province endured the indignity of annexation by the Russian bear. When they were forced to bravely face down a savage uprising in the East — where Moscow infected the people with failed ideas and false hopes.
Maybe our values were once noble, and perhaps those of the average American still are, but the government has long veered off on a path of its own, its habitués corrupted by the clichés of power, empowering cronies for all manner of criminality. For peace, they’ve substituted violence. For transparency, intrigue. For economic equality, lawful pillage. For consensus, conclave. For participation, exclusion. For representation, a price tag. ................(more)
The complete piece is at: https://consortiumnews.com/2015/01/09/obamas-narrative-of-deceits/
Posted by marmar | Sat Jan 10, 2015, 07:56 AM (14 replies)
The U.S. government has treated principled whistle-blowers like treasonous spies, yet Attorney General Eric Holder has reportedly ignored recommendations from his own FBI and Justice Department to prosecute former CIA chief David Petraeus.
The New York Times reported Friday that “F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors have recommended bringing felony charges against retired Gen. David H. Petraeus for providing classified information to his former mistress while he was director of the C.I.A.” Petraeus, a decorated general who worked for both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, is accused of passing classified information to his mistress, who was also his biographer.
Petraeus resigned from the CIA in 2012 and Holder was supposed to have decided whether to prosecute by the end of the year. The Times reports that the dilly-dallying has irritated Holder’s own subordinates, who see a double standard, as well as Petraeus supporters.
With Obama and Holder, the U.S. has conducted more prosecutions under the Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined. The administration has hunted leakers from all corners of government, including some who are praised as heroes. ...........(more)
The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/why_isnt_david_petraeus_on_trial_20150109
Posted by marmar | Fri Jan 9, 2015, 11:05 PM (9 replies)
Posted by marmar | Fri Jan 9, 2015, 09:49 AM (1 replies)
On the heels of a report linking 77 earthquakes in Ohio to fracking, a Texas city in an area rife with drilling operations was hit with a wave of 11 earthquakes in 24 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday. The most intense registered 3.6 on the Richter scale, well over the level at which people would feel it — the local 911 service received more than 300 calls from residents trying to figure out what was going on.
These recent quakes bring the total number to 26 since October in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. James Joiner reports at The Daily Beast that north Texas has seen more than a hundred quakes since 2008, when fracking operations began to ramp up, a dramatic increase from years previous.
Something similar is going on in neighboring Oklahoma, where, as we mentioned yesterday, there have been 586 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater in just one year — the most of any state in the contiguous U.S. in 2014. Between 1975 and 2008, the state only got, on average, three earthquakes of this magnitude per year. ................(more)
The complete piece is at: http://grist.org/news/texas-city-in-fracking-area-is-rocked-by-11-earthquakes-in-24-hours/
Posted by marmar | Fri Jan 9, 2015, 09:39 AM (37 replies)
The Republican Strategy To Repeal Dodd-Frank
Posted on January 7, 2015
By Simon Johnson
On January 7, 2015, Day 2 of the new Congress, the House Republicans put their cards on the table with regard to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms. The Republicans will chip away along all possible dimensions, using a combination of legislation and pressure on regulators – with the ultimate goal of relaxing the restrictions that have been placed on the activities of very large banks (such as Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase).
The initial target is the Volcker Rule, which limits the ability of megabanks to place very large proprietary bets – and their ability to incur massive losses, with big negative consequences for the rest of us. But we should expect the House Republican strategy to be applied more broadly, including all kinds of measures that will reduce capital requirements (i.e., make it easier for the largest banks to fund themselves with relatively more debt and less equity, taking more risk while remaining Too Big To Fail and thus benefiting from larger implicit government subsidies.)
The repeal of Dodd-Frank will not come in one fell swoop. Rather House Republicans are moving in several stages to reduce the scope of the Volcker Rule and to gut its effectiveness.
The first step in this direction came on Wednesday, with a bill brought to the floor of the House supposedly to “make technical corrections” to Dodd-Frank. This legislation was not considered in the House Financial Services Committee, and was rushed to the House floor without allowing the usual debate or potential for amendments (formally, there was a “suspension” of House rules).
Buried in this legislation is Title VIII, which will extend the deadline for one important aspect of Volcker Rule compliance to 2019. (The specific topic is by when big banks should divest themselves of some Collateralized Loan Obligations, CLOs – on how these investments function as internal hedge funds at the largest three banks, see this primer from Better Markets, a pro-reform group.) ................(more)
The complete piece is at: http://baselinescenario.com/2015/01/07/the-republican-strategy-to-repeal-dodd-frank/
Posted by marmar | Fri Jan 9, 2015, 09:26 AM (0 replies)