Bill USA's Journal
Member since: Wed Mar 3, 2010, 04:25 PM
Number of posts: 3,536
Number of posts: 3,536
Quotes I like: "Prediction is very difficult, especially concerning the future." "There are some things so serious that you have to laugh at them.” __ Niels Bohr Given his contribution to the establishment of quantum mechanics, I guess it's not surprising he had such a quirky of sense of humor. ......................."Deliberate misinterpretation and misrepresentation of another's position is a basic technique of (dis)information processing" __ I said that
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.. after the Roberts Supreme Court, ALEC is perhaps the greatest challenge to our Democracy (as a system of government for, by and of the people rather than corporate lords and psycho-billionaires). Because the threat that ALEC represents to our democracy is so great, it's impossible to overestimate the importance of Moyers' continuing reporting on it.
"The United States of ALEC — A Follow-Up" - Moyers and Company : http://www.democraticunderground.com/101666830
Posted by Bill USA | Tue Jun 25, 2013, 02:41 PM (5 replies)
... after the Roberts Supreme Court, ALEC is perhaps the greatest challenge to our Democracy (as a system of government for, by and of the people rather than corporate lords and psycho-billionaires). Because the threat that ALEC represents to our democracy is so great, it's impossible to overestimate the importance of Moyers' continuing reporting on it. It is worth emailing, posting (FB, etc) and making sure everyone you know is aware of Moyers reports on the threat of ALEC
(video of show at site)
A national consortium of state politicians and powerful corporations, ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council — presents itself as a “nonpartisan public-private partnership”. But behind that mantra lies a vast network of corporate lobbying and political action aimed to increase corporate profits at public expense without public knowledge.
In state houses around the country, hundreds of pieces of boilerplate ALEC legislation are proposed or enacted that would, among other things, dilute collective bargaining rights, make it harder for some Americans to vote, and limit corporate liability for harm caused to consumers — each accomplished without the public ever knowing who’s behind it. Using interviews, documents, and field reporting, the episode explores ALEC’s self-serving machine at work, acting in a way one Wisconsin politician describes as “a corporate dating service for lonely legislators and corporate special interests.”
Former health care industry executive Wendell Potter says, “Even though I’d known of for a long time, I was astonished. Just about everything that I knew that the health insurance industry wanted out of any state lawmaker was included in that package of bills.”
Following up on a 2012 report, this update includes new examples of corporate influence on state legislation and lawmakers, the growing public protest against ALEC’s big business-serving agenda, and internal tactics ALEC is instituting to further shroud its actions and intentions.
for those who may want to quote from the show in their own posts here's The transcript
Interactive Map: Is Your State Legislator a Member of ALEC?
Frequently asked Questions on ALEC
Posted by Bill USA | Tue Jun 25, 2013, 02:35 PM (1 replies)
The budget talks are foundering on a Republican demand that the federal government start predicting the deficit 30 years into the future. The immigration bill is hung up over Republican demands that the government achieve full control over the 1,969 mile border between the United States and Mexico. But the Obama administration’s had some good news on its spying: Republicans are pretty comfortable with the federal government tracking our calls and mining our e-mails.
Here’s what I don’t understand: How can Republicans who think themselves skeptical of the federal government also believe it capable of predicting the path of the economy 30 years into the future while locking down the border and picking through all electronic communications?
Take the budget. Politico reports that “White House chief of staff Denis McDonough privately met with more than a dozen Senate Republicans who outlined their view of the budget picture over the next three decades instead of over the 10-year window.”
The political calculus behind this is clear: The budget deficit looks much worse over 30 years than it does over 10, lending urgency to Republican efforts to cut federal spending. But the implied confidence in the government’s powers of prognostication is extraordinary.
If we can’t get 10-year, and even one-year, projections right, how can anyone possibly believe that 30-year projections will be worth the paper they’re printed on?
Posted by Bill USA | Mon Jun 24, 2013, 05:18 PM (2 replies)
Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia. Of course, you won't hear the recent financial corruption case, United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, called anything like that. If you heard about it at all, you're probably either in the municipal bond business or married to an antitrust lawyer. Even then, all you probably heard was that a threesome of bit players on Wall Street got convicted of obscure antitrust violations in one of the most inscrutable, jargon-packed legal snoozefests since the government's massive case against Microsoft in the Nineties – not exactly the thrilling courtroom drama offered by the famed trials of old-school mobsters like Al Capone or Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo.
But this just-completed trial in downtown New York against three faceless financial executives really was historic. Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street.
The defendants in the case – Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm – worked for GE Capital, the finance arm of General Electric. Along with virtually every major bank and finance company on Wall Street – not just GE, but J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia and more – these three Wall Street wiseguys spent the past decade taking part in a breathtakingly broad scheme to skim billions of dollars from the coffers of cities and small towns across America. The banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes – from "virtually every state, district and territory in the United States," according to one settlement. And they did it so cleverly that the victims never even knew they were being cheated. No thumbs were broken, and nobody ended up in a landfill in New Jersey, but money disappeared, lots and lots of it, and its manner of disappearance had a familiar name: organized crime.
In fact, stripped of all the camouflaging financial verbiage, the crimes the defendants and their co-conspirators committed were virtually indistinguishable from the kind of thuggery practiced for decades by the Mafia, which has long made manipulation of public bids for things like garbage collection and construction contracts a cornerstone of its business. What's more, in the manner of old mob trials, Wall Street's secret machinations were revealed during the Carollo trial through crackling wiretap recordings and the lurid testimony of cooperating witnesses, who came into court with bowed heads, pointing fingers at their accomplices. The new-age gangsters even invented an elaborate code to hide their crimes. Like Elizabethan highway robbers who spoke in thieves' cant, or Italian mobsters who talked about "getting a button man to clip the capo," on tape after tape these Wall Street crooks coughed up phrases like "pull a nickel out" or "get to the right level" or "you're hanging out there" – all code words used to manipulate the interest rates on municipal bonds. The only thing that made this trial different from a typical mob trial was the scale of the crime.
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-scam-wall-street-learned-from-the-mafia-20120620#ixzz2Wt3YIyL9
Posted by Bill USA | Fri Jun 21, 2013, 05:05 PM (5 replies)
It's always been recognized that S&P and Moodys played an essential part in the Trickle - Down - Deregulation disaster of '08 by issuing glowing credit ratings for mortgages they knew were junk. Now, documents revealed in a civil suit establish documentary evidence of S&P and Moodys knowing full well that the ratings they were issuing were fraudulent.
Thanks to a mountain of evidence gathered for a pair of major lawsuits by the San Diego-based law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, documents that for the most part have never been seen by the general public, we now know that the nation's two top ratings companies, Moody's and S&P, have for many years been shameless tools for the banks, willing to give just about anything a high rating in exchange for cash.
In incriminating e-mail after incriminating e-mail, executives and analysts from these companies are caught admitting their entire business model is crooked.
"Lord help our fucking scam . . . this has to be the stupidest place I have worked at," writes one Standard & Poor's executive. "As you know, I had difficulties explaining 'HOW' we got to those numbers since there is no science behind it," confesses a high-ranking S&P analyst. "If we are just going to make it up in order to rate deals, then quants are of precious little value," complains another senior S&P man. "Let's hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of card falters," ruminates one more.
Ratings agencies are the glue that ostensibly holds the entire financial industry together. These gigantic companies – also known as Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations, or NRSROs – have teams of examiners who analyze companies, cities, towns, countries, mortgage borrowers, anybody or anything that takes on debt or creates an investment vehicle.
Posted by Bill USA | Fri Jun 21, 2013, 05:01 PM (4 replies)
No doubt somebody beat me to this, but this bears repeating for those (like me) who don't get on here every day and may have missed it .....
The largest coal company in the world, Coal India, is aiming to cut its own utility bills by installing solar photovoltaic panels at its facilities across the country. The coal giant is seeking proposals from solar energy companies to build a modular 2 megawatt solar plant on 9 acres of its own land. This plant could be scaled to export power to the grid.
Not only is Coal India pursuing commercial solar power plants, it’s also “mulling” the installation of rooftop solar panels at the Ranchi Central Mine Planning and Design Institute, where it does mining research. The panels would go on “staff colonies” and in mining areas, with the goal of reducing the company’s energy bills.
Coal India explained the reason for these moves in its bid document:
“India has an abundance of sunshine and the trend of depletion of fossil fuels is compelling energy planners to examine the feasibility of using renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and so on.”
This is a remarkable statement from the largest coal company in the world. Coal India produces 90 percent of India’s coal, and not only is it turning to solar as an efficient business practice, it understands India cannot power itself by coal. In fact, a coal-based electricity system is not reliable: solar energy is. And solar may be the only hope for much of rural India to become electrified after decades of failed grid expansion plans. With so much potential solar capacity across the country (see below for how much potential solar energy hits India every year), there is little wonder that even fossil fuel companies are looking to get in on the game.
A Pike Research report last year predicted that the global mining industry would invest $20 billion in renewable energy by 2020. Coal India may be among the first coal companies to commit to solar in the way it seems to be, though in 2012 a British coal mining museum in south Wales recently outfitted two rooftops with 400 solar panels. Neyvili Corp produces coal in India and is building a 10 megawatt solar power plant that could be upgraded to 25 megawatts, along with a 50 megawatt wind farm. Oil India has also started investments in wind and solar.
Posted by Bill USA | Fri Jun 21, 2013, 12:27 PM (5 replies)
Every time the government lends at a low rate to a borrower, it invests in that borrower. Right now, the government lends money every day to big banks at less than 1% interest. If Congress does not act before July 1, interest rates on new subsidized Stafford loans will double — and the government will be charging our students nine times as much as they charge big banks.
OUR VIEW: Let markets set the rates
Last month, I introduced the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act. The idea is simple: For one year, we should give students that same low 0.75% interest rate the big banks get.
Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have introduced legislation to keep interest rates at their current 3.4% level for two years. Neither is a long-term fix. Instead, both are designed to give us some breathing room to keep rates from doubling while we tackle the problem of rising college costs and a trillion dollars in student loan debt outstanding.
The student loan program has turned our young people into profit centers for the government. The Congressional Budget Office says we will make $51 billion in profit from this year's loans. Keep in mind — those are net profits, profits after accounting for the cost of borrowing the money and the cost of writing off bad debts.
Republicans have proposed plans that would generate even more profits for the government. According to the CBO, their plan would combine a floating interest rate and hefty new fees to produce an additional $16 billion in profits. Students cannot — and should not — pay more.
Posted by Bill USA | Fri Jun 21, 2013, 12:13 PM (7 replies)
the world is being massively held back (in terms of economic development and equity) by traditional modes of supplying capital to those with objectives but lacking the means. Traditional lenders have completely ignored those who don't already have wealth. But these are the people who can produce the greatest gains to society - if given the chance.
Bank of Bob: One man's venture into microlendinghttp://www.news-leader.com/usatoday/article/2435759
Bob Harris, former stand-up comedian, "Jeopardy" contestant, and television writer, got a plum assignment covering the world's most luxurious hotels for ForbesTraveler.com in 2008. While staying in hotels that would bankrupt most people overnight, he took an interest in the poverty that surrounds so many luxe establishments. And that, in turn, led him to invest his earnings from Forbes at Kiva.org, which allows people to make small loans - as little as $25 - to people in lesser-developed nations. "The International Bank of Bob," now in bookstores, is his story about making those loans, and visiting Kiva.org borrowers around the world. USA TODAY reporter John Waggoner interviewed Harris on his newfound role as an international lender.
Q: You have a lot of good things to say about Kiva.org in your book. Are there any caveats you'd add?
A: I don't have a lot of caveats. The thing works: You do get paid back more than 99% of the time. If you go to a major Wall Street bank, rates are virtually nothing. If you deposit $25, a year later you have the same $25, plus a small pile of pennies. Through Kiva, you'd have the same $25, minus a small pile of pennies. And for that you could be helping someone in West Africa buy a cow or repair a taxi. I'd rather have that $25 helping a Bangladeshi fisherman and know what he's doing with it, than tossing it into a big Wall Street bank.
Q: What about the interest borrowers pay? Kiva.org funnels money to lenders, who get interest, but people who contribute to Kiva.org get no interest, right? Isn't there some concern that the local lenders charge a high interest rate?
A: At Kiva, you're lending money at no interest, and you're getting a negative 1% rate. A lot of Americans, when they look at the rates borrowers are paying in the field, those rates seem comparatively high. But in India, education loans are 9%, but the inflation rate is 7.5%. So you have to put the rates into local context. I never met a client in the field who complained about the interest rates.
Kiva - Change a Life for $25: http://www.kiva.org/start
Change a life for $25
Every day, Kiva connects thousands of people to borrowers and partner institutions around the world, working together to create opportunity and alleviate poverty. It only takes $25 to get started.
Kiva lenders combat poverty daily by making small loans to borrowers around the world. We believe in fair access to affordable capital for people to improve their own lives.
Often only a relatively small amount of money stands in the way of Kiva borrowers and their dreams. Whether it’s a Kenyan farmer who needs $500 in order to double her grain production, or a young Bolivian woman who lacks the $1,500 tuition for nursing school, Kiva lenders provide a hand up to these and countless other borrowers.
Join us and make a loan today.
Interested in changing the World? Try person to person aid. If enough of us do this, we just might change the World (in time).
Kiva home page
Posted by Bill USA | Fri Jun 21, 2013, 12:07 PM (0 replies)
In case it wasn’t clear already, the U.S. Supreme Court hammered home Thursday morning that it will protect the rights of corporations to force arbitration over the individuals’ access to the court system at any expense.
In a 5-3 ruling with Justice Sonia Sotomayor recused, Justice Antonin Scalia eviscerated almost any opportunity small merchants have to challenge alleged monopolistic practices by American Express in their credit card agreements.
Sound familiar? Earlier this term, the court turned back on procedural grounds a lawsuit alleging monopolistic practices by Comcast. A week after that, they turned back the claims of workers to challenge employer practices as a class. And in 2011, they issued one of the worst blows to consumer rights in years when they held that consumers challenging $30 fees could not sue together as a class. In each of these cases, the court’s procedural rulings mean the parties may never get to argue about whether these corporations actually violated the law. And as a consequence, these corporations may never be held accountable.
With Thursday’s ruling, the court added small businesses to the list of aggrieved parties whose access to the courthouse has been foreclosed by boilerplate contracts that prohibit parties from filing their challenge as a class, or from otherwise alleviating the immense cost of filing their claims individually. This time, the litigants were small businesses taking on American Express, and their lawyer was none other than conservative powerhouse Paul Clement. Clement has argued many of the major conservative court wins of the past few years, and his argument on the side of the plaintiffs was probably the last best shot at curbing the Roberts Court’s total perversion of the Federal Arbitration Act.
Posted by Bill USA | Thu Jun 20, 2013, 05:41 PM (3 replies)
WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House of Representatives approved a far-reaching bill to ban a woman's ability to seek an abortion after 20 weeks on a mostly party-line 228-196 vote Tuesday.
It stands no chance of becoming law under the Obama administration. The White House issued a veto threat Monday, calling the bill an "assault on a woman's right to choose." The Democratic Senate also has not scheduled a vote on the legislation.
However, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, justified the vote as a response to the recent murder conviction of Philadelphia physician Kermit Gosnell for abortion procedures conducted in his medical clinic. "Listen, after this Kermit Gosnell trial and some of the horrific acts that were going on, the vast majority of the American people believe in the substance of this bill, and so do I," Boehner said.
The legislation stirred a heated debate in the House. The majority of Democrats opposed the legislation and argued that House Republicans— 88% of whom are white males —were out of touch with women.
The standard Republican twisted view of reality is evident in Boehner's screwball 'rationale' for the bill. If this bill became law it would INCREASE the number of Gosnells victimizing desperate women.
Posted by Bill USA | Wed Jun 19, 2013, 11:57 AM (2 replies)