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Fri Dec 30, 2011, 06:33 PM


Weekend Economists Ring in the Old, Wring Out the New: Dec. 30, 2011 to Jan. 2, 2012

Another New Year already....I'm still waiting for the last one, which must either be on back order, or held hostage in some 3rd world nation. Maybe even here! We qualify as a third world nation nowadays, a Banana Republic, without the bananas. Is that store still in business? I haven't been to a mall in ages, having fallen out of the demographic which malls choose to serve. Or more likely, the malls have changed demographics because people my age know better than to buy crap.

Yes, I'm still in Bah, Humbug! mode. Perhaps the soggy, foggy, bone-chilling weather out here has something to do with it. Well, when the Big Depression sets in, music can take us away to a better time and place. So we are saluting Judy Collins, that Irish Nightingale, because singing is better than wine for what ails you, or at least, goes well with it.

The woman is so photogenic, it's hard to pick just one photo. Google Judy Collins Image and see what I mean.

This one looks rather recent.

And as for picking one tune--impossible! So let's start with one best suited for a New Year celebration:

And I suppose, as a form of medicine, we will have to interleave some economic news and opinion...post what you got!

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Reply Weekend Economists Ring in the Old, Wring Out the New: Dec. 30, 2011 to Jan. 2, 2012 (Original post)
Demeter Dec 2011 OP
Ruby the Liberal Dec 2011 #1
Demeter Dec 2011 #3
Ruby the Liberal Dec 2011 #5
Demeter Dec 2011 #2
Demeter Dec 2011 #35
Demeter Dec 2011 #36
Demeter Dec 2011 #37
Demeter Dec 2011 #38
Demeter Dec 2011 #39
dixiegrrrrl Dec 2011 #59
Demeter Dec 2011 #40
Demeter Dec 2011 #4
hamerfan Dec 2011 #6
Tansy_Gold Dec 2011 #27
Demeter Dec 2011 #7
Demeter Dec 2011 #19
Demeter Dec 2011 #8
Demeter Dec 2011 #57
Demeter Dec 2011 #9
Po_d Mainiac Dec 2011 #10
Demeter Dec 2011 #12
Tansy_Gold Dec 2011 #28
Demeter Dec 2011 #11
Loge23 Dec 2011 #14
Loge23 Dec 2011 #60
Po_d Mainiac Dec 2011 #13
Loge23 Dec 2011 #16
Demeter Dec 2011 #17
Ruby the Liberal Dec 2011 #18
westerebus Dec 2011 #29
dixiegrrrrl Dec 2011 #61
Demeter Dec 2011 #15
dixiegrrrrl Dec 2011 #62
Demeter Dec 2011 #20
Tansy_Gold Dec 2011 #70
Demeter Dec 2011 #21
Demeter Dec 2011 #22
Po_d Mainiac Dec 2011 #25
Demeter Dec 2011 #30
Demeter Dec 2011 #23
Demeter Dec 2011 #24
Demeter Dec 2011 #31
Demeter Dec 2011 #32
Demeter Dec 2011 #48
Demeter Dec 2011 #50
Demeter Dec 2011 #26
Demeter Dec 2011 #33
Demeter Dec 2011 #34
kickysnana Dec 2011 #54
Demeter Dec 2011 #41
Demeter Dec 2011 #42
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Demeter Dec 2011 #43
Demeter Dec 2011 #45
Demeter Dec 2011 #46
Demeter Dec 2011 #49
Demeter Dec 2011 #47
dixiegrrrrl Dec 2011 #63
Fuddnik Dec 2011 #51
xchrom Dec 2011 #52
DemReadingDU Dec 2011 #55
xchrom Dec 2011 #58
xchrom Dec 2011 #53
Demeter Dec 2011 #56
Demeter Dec 2011 #65
Fuddnik Dec 2011 #64
Demeter Dec 2011 #66
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Tansy_Gold Jan 2012 #104
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Tansy_Gold Jan 2012 #114
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Demeter Jan 2012 #80
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Demeter Jan 2012 #116
bread_and_roses Jan 2012 #132
Demeter Jan 2012 #81
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Demeter Jan 2012 #90
Fuddnik Jan 2012 #91
hamerfan Jan 2012 #92
xchrom Jan 2012 #93
Demeter Jan 2012 #95
Demeter Jan 2012 #96
bread_and_roses Jan 2012 #106
xchrom Jan 2012 #94
Demeter Jan 2012 #97
Demeter Jan 2012 #98
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Demeter Jan 2012 #102
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Demeter Jan 2012 #101
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bread_and_roses Jan 2012 #130
Demeter Jan 2012 #109
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Loge23 Jan 2012 #111
Demeter Jan 2012 #113
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Demeter Jan 2012 #117
bread_and_roses Jan 2012 #131
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bread_and_roses Jan 2012 #133
Demeter Jan 2012 #128
DemReadingDU Jan 2012 #129
Demeter Jan 2012 #135
Demeter Jan 2012 #136
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bread_and_roses Jan 2012 #141
Demeter Jan 2012 #142
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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 06:35 PM

1. Happy New Year!

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 06:38 PM

3. And may it be truly happy for the 99%


The 1% can buy (or at least, rent) their ersatz forms of happiness. They are only fooling themselves.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #3)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 06:47 PM

5. Anything is better than the massive suckagefest that was 2011, IMO.

To better days...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 06:36 PM

2. No Bank Failure--Yet


But it's early...check back here for developments, and/or a review of the year in banking.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #2)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:21 AM

35. 92 Banks Failed in 2011


Why so few, you may ask...

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Response to Demeter (Reply #35)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:25 AM

36. 2011 Bank Failure Winners



...During 2011, there have been "only" 97 bank failures, but 2012 should be another banner year for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., since there were over 150 institutions on TheStreet's third-quarter Bank Watch List of undercapitalized institutions.

The largest bank or thrift to fail during 2011 was Superior Bank of Birmingham, Ala., which had $3 billion in total assets when it was shuttered by the Office of Thrift Supervision in April. The failed thrift was taken over by the newly chartered Superior Bank, NA, which is a subsidiary of the privately held Community Bancorp LLC of Houston, Texas....The second-largest 2011 failure with $2.3 billion in total assets was First Community Bank of Taos, N.M., which was shuttered by state regulators in January and sold by the FDIC to U.S. Bancorp (USB_). While this was a relatively small deal for U.S. Bancorp, the acquirer reported a tidy $46 million gain on the government-assisted purchase.

Georgia leads the way

After falling into second place in 2010, Georgia once again took the lead among all states with 23 bank failures in 2011, followed by 13 for Florida and nine failures in Illinois. Georgia's banks continue to pay the price for the exuberant pop in the housing market in the Atlanta suburbs leading into 2007, during which a slew of new banks were organized. SNL Financial reported that in 2011, four of the failed Georgia banks were five years old, or even younger.

The largest Georgia bank to fail during 2011 was The Park Avenue Bank, which had $953 million in total assets when it was shuttered by state regulators in April. The bank was then sold by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to Bank of the Ozarks (OZRK_) of Little Rock, Ark.,

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Response to Demeter (Reply #36)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:27 AM

37. Interactive Bank Failure Map



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Response to Demeter (Reply #2)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:30 AM

38. Banks Try to Understand the Unbanked



Desperate to continue their recent success in attracting cheap new deposits to fund their balance sheets, banks are making efforts to tap the approximately 20% of the U.S. population that does not have checking and savings accounts.

The so-called "unbanked" and "underbanked" are a huge, and potentially profitable, source of deposits for banks weaning themselves off of wholesale borrowing. The can also act as a source of significant fee revenue.

Separately, banks will also battle for the hearts and minds of this customer base and their inherent mistrust of financial institutions that is pushing them towards non-traditional providers of financial services.

"Underbanked consumers are often making very rational decisions on where they go for financial services, because they've had negative experiences at banks," said Kimberly Gartner, associate director of the Center for Financial Services Innovation...


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Response to Demeter (Reply #38)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:33 AM



Meanwhile, the industry's aggregate net interest margin - the difference between banks' average yield on loans and investments and the average cost of funds - improved to 3.75% in the third quarter from 3.51% a year earlier...Banks would like to keep those numbers increasing and are focusing on signing up new customers that currently don't have deposit accounts. But first they must get past government identification requirements which are especially difficult in large immigrant communities that shy away from traditional bank accounts.

One way this is being addressed is by easing the identification requirements for new customers, including accepting alternate forms of ID and not requiring social security numbers. This became an issue for Bank of America in February 2007, when the bank was marketing accounts to immigrants in California, only requiring an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number - issued by the Internal Revenue Service issues to people who don't have social security numbers or aren't eligible to obtain them -- along with any form of identification issued by any government. It turned out that this set of customer identification requirements was acceptable to bank regulators, and it meets the requirements set out in the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council's core examination procedures.

Seeing an opportunity, non-banks are also making major efforts to jump into the action, offering various services including pre-paid debit cards, credit cards, bill paying and, of course check-cashing services. Walmart (WMT_) for example, offers check-cashing with fees starting at $3.00 ($6.00 for checks over $1,000), money transfers starting at $4.75, bill paying starting at 88 cents, and money orders for 60 cents.

Of course, using these services without having a bank account can get pretty expensive. Cashing a year's worth of pay checks at Walmart would cost $72, or $144 for a customer who grosses over $24,000 a year. And for a customer paying a bill at the last minute, the fee is $3.95 for Walmart Money Center's Express Payments service.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #39)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 02:18 PM

59. Wait a minute!!!!!

MY bank insists it has to have all sorts of ID to "update" my account, per Patriot Act, and per Money Laundering laws.
So how do the banks get around those laws by NOT requiring SS#?

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Response to Demeter (Reply #2)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:37 AM

40. Bank Failures Ease At End Of 2011, But Many More Expected In 2012 WSJ



U.S bank failures have slowed to a trickle at the end of 2011, but that doesn't mean they're coming to an end. The failures continued to abate in both number and size this year, and the ranks of distressed banks at risk of failing finally diminished. However, a newer, slower pace at which distressed banks are folding suggests small, plodding failures could extend far into the future. This year, only 92 banks failed, compared with 157 in 2010 and 140 in 2009. The size of failed banks has dropped even more sharply: The total amount of assets at failed banks this year is down 63% from last year.

Banks at risk of failing are also fewer. In August, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said its problem list--a quarterly tally of banks in greater danger of failing--shrank in the second quarter for the first time in nearly five years. The list declined again in the third quarter, standing at 844 "problem" institutions at the end of September. But it's the pace of failures that has made one of the starkest declines. So far in December, only two banks have failed with a total asset value of $288.9 million, a far cry from January's 11 banks with $7.35 billion in assets. Nearly an entire month passed between mid-November and mid-December without a single failure.

Trepp LLC, in the researcher's 2012 banking sector outlook, noted that it still has more than 200 banks categorized as high risk of failure. It predicted many of those won't be able to raise sufficient capital or shed the necessary troubled assets to avert failure, leading Trepp "to believe that failures will remain a feature of the bank landscape in 2012 and beyond."

However, one element that held relatively steady this year was the costliness of failures. For every dollar in failed-bank assets this year, the FDIC's Deposit Insurance Fund absorbed an estimated cost of 20.5 cents, relatively steady with the 23 cents of last year.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 06:39 PM

4. Judy Collins - Gaelic Lullaby


Last edited Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:40 AM - Edit history (1)

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:04 PM

6. A song Judy Collins sang about economists!


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Response to hamerfan (Reply #6)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 09:59 PM

27. Or republicans.

Take your pick.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:08 PM

7. Fed Says Dealers Tighten Terms on Hedge-Fund Security Trades





Wall Street dealers made it tougher for hedge funds to finance trading of securities and derivatives in the three months through November, a Federal Reserve survey showed today...Responses “indicated a broad but moderate tightening of credit terms applicable to important classes of counterparties,” especially hedge-fund clients, trading real estate investment trusts and nonfinancial corporations, according to the quarterly survey of senior credit officers at 20 dealers covering the period of September to November. The central bank released the report in Washington. The report adds to evidence of stress in the financial system from Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis. Investor concern about the continent’s turmoil has helped drive the premium banks pay to borrow dollars to the highest in more than two years. The Fed survey didn’t discuss causes of the tighter financing terms...Respondents reporting tougher borrowing terms for hedge funds “most frequently pointed to a worsening in general market liquidity and functioning and to reduced willingness to take on risk and, to a lesser extent, adoption of more-stringent market conventions and deterioration in the strength of counterparties as the reasons,” the Fed said.

Credit Limits

The Fed’s Senior Credit Officer Opinion Survey on Dealer Financing Terms was conducted from Nov. 15 to Nov. 28. Respondents, who aren’t identified, “account for almost all of the dealer financing of dollar-denominated securities for nondealers and are the most active intermediaries” in over-the- counter derivatives (OTCDTOTL) markets, the Fed said. (NOT IDENTIFIED, TO PROTECT THE GUILTY--WANNA BET JPMORGAN IS FIRST AND FOREMOST?--DEMETER) Measures of stress in credit markets soared during the three-month period surveyed to the worst levels in more than two years as Europe’s fiscal imbalances intensified, fueling concern that the region’s upheaval would taint bank balance sheets globally...

Interbank Lending Divergence

While the Fed said today that 80 percent of dealers reported lowering credit limits for some specific financial- institution counterparties, evidence grew that banks were growing more wary of lending to each other. The gap between the highest and the lowest rates that banks say they can borrow from each other in dollars is close to a 2.5-year high. The divergence from reported fixings by the 18 banks contributing to the three-month London interbank offered rate reached 28 basis points Thursday, within two basis points of the widest since May 2009. Libor (US0003M) for three-month loans climbed to 0.581 percent, the most since July 2009, even as central banks injected cash into the market...

...The swaps index, which typically falls as investor confidence improves and rises as it deteriorates, has declined from 127.8 on Nov. 30. It rose from 114.5 at the end of August to 150.1 on Oct. 3, the highest level since May 2009. Credit swaps pay the buyer face value if a borrower fails to meet its obligations, less the value of the defaulted debt. A basis point equals $1,000 annually on a contract protecting $10 million of debt...

Dealer Report

The Federal Reserve began querying dealers in 2010 as part of efforts to boost surveillance of financial markets following the panic of 2007-2008 that caused the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The prior survey, covering June through August, showed that 86 percent of respondents reported that the number of dealers tightening financing rates outnumbered those easing...The latest responses “reflect an apparent continuation and intensification of developments already in evidence in the September survey,” the Fed said today. About one-third of respondents tightened pricing terms, such as financing rates, to hedge funds, while one-fourth reported tightening nonprice terms including maximum maturity, the central bank said.


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Response to Demeter (Reply #7)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:40 PM

19. ANOTHER VERSION: Financial market credit tightened at year end - Fed



Banks tightened the screws on lending to major financial market participants in recent months, the U.S. Federal Reserve said on Thursday, reflecting concerns about Europe's banking crisis. The central bank's survey of senior credit officers did not mention Europe directly, but indicated a "broad but moderate tightening of credit terms applicable to important classes of counterparties over the past three months."

Large financial firms have been under pressure from worries that Europe's political deadlock may eventually lead to some type of sovereign debt default, saddling institutions with massive losses. The Fed said tighter credit terms were especially evident for hedge funds, real estate investment trusts and non-financial corporations. "These responses reflect an apparent continuation and intensification of developments already in evidence in the last survey in September," the report said. Since then, Europe's crisis has engulfed financial markets in a fear of a possible repeat of the fall of 2008, when massive investment bank failures sent an already weak economy into a nose dive.

The European Central Bank's latest attempt to stem the crisis, a 489-billion-euro program of cheap three-year loans for banks, has managed to bring down interbank borrowing costs for now. But few analysts see the situation as sustainable. "I expect (banks) to keep the money in deposits ... because they fear they can run short of liquidity and that they cannot face a bond redemption, (while) deposits are shrinking so they need higher liquidity buffers," ING rate strategist Alessandro Giansanti said.

Indeed, despite being awash with liquidity, banks still appear distrustful and prefer to deposit their money at the ECB's overnight facility rather than lend to each other.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:12 PM

8. China unveils new list of FDI likes and dislikes



China no longer wants foreign-funded automobile factories or polysilicon plants, but would welcome overseas investment in hospitals and financial leasing firms, according to updated inward investment guidelines published on Thursday. The 29-page list -- published on the website of China's economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (www.ndrc.gov.cn) -- outlines sectors where foreign investors will be encouraged, restricted or completely banned.

The guidelines, effective from Jan. 30 2012, are the basis for a range of policies regarding foreign investors in China, from project approval to tax treatment and other items. "The focus is to optimize the foreign investment structure, push forward technology innovation and industrial upgrading," the NDRC said in a statement. Investments that bring new technology and know-how to China, as well as "green" businesses in areas like battery recycling, will be particularly welcome, NDRC added.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows have been a key driver of China's economic growth in the last three decades. China drew $103.8 billion in FDI in the first 11 months of 2011, up 13.2 percent from the same period in 2010.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #8)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 01:56 PM

57. China Contraction in Manufacturing Boosts Case for Easing Policy



China’s manufacturing (EC11CHPM) contracted for a second month in December as Europe’s debt crisis cut export demand, fueling speculation that the central bank may cut lenders’ reserve requirements within days. A purchasing managers’ index was at 48.7 in December from 47.7 in November, HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics said today. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction.

Export orders (CNFREXPY) fell in December for the first time in three months and domestic demand was “sluggish,” today’s report said. Demand for cash ahead of the week-long Chinese Lunar New Year holiday starting Jan. 23 may give officials an additional reason to cut banks’ reserve ratios after a reduction last month that was the first since 2008.

“A reserve ratio cut is likely to happen by Jan. 3, before markets resume trading,” said Li Wei, a Shanghai-based economist with Standard Chartered Bank. China’s exports are under threat because “the euro area is slipping into a recession and the U.S. is also expected to slow down in early 2012,” Li said.

A deeper slowdown in China, the world’s second-biggest economy, would impair a global expansion that is already faltering because of Europe’s austerity measures. Asian stocks rose today, paring the regional index’s first annual decline in three years, on signs of strength in the U.S. economy, where a report yesterday showed stronger-than-forecast home sales.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:15 PM

9. Treasury Proposes Fee Rule to Cover Financial Watchdog



The U.S. Treasury issued a proposed rule Thursday for determining fees to be paid by large financial institutions to cover the cost of the recently established financial-stability watchdog and other expenses related to the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul. The Treasury plans to start collecting the semiannual fees in July 2012 from U.S. bank holding companies with at least $50 billion in total consolidated assets, foreign banks with at least that amount of assets in U.S. operations, as well as nonbank institutions that fall under the supervision of the Federal Reserve, according to the proposal. The Treasury expects the total amount of fees to top $100 million a year, though the actual amount of the initial assessment will depend on the amount of expenses included in the administration's fiscal 2013 budget proposal, as well as the amount of assets each firm holds on Dec. 31, 2011, according to the proposed rule.

The fees will cover the cost of the Federal Stability Oversight Council, Treasury's new financial research department, as well as expenses related to the implementation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s orderly-liquidation authorities...The FDIC gained the authority to dismantle large, faltering financial firms in the Dodd-Frank law passed last summer in a bid to end bailouts of "too-big-to-fail" firms because the government lacked an orderly way to wind them down during the crisis. The fees won't go toward any particular bank, but will instead be used for expenses related to developing FDIC policies and procedures.

Based on June 30 figures, a $100 million assessment would mean that a company with just over $50 billion in assets would pay $280,000 for the year, while the largest assessed company—with about $2.3 trillion in assets—would pay an annual fee of about $12.5 million. The pool of assets that could be assessed was estimated at $18.1 trillion as of June 30, Treasury said. Regulators still haven't finished the process of determining which nonbank institutions—such as hedge funds, private-equity firms, insurance companies, specialty lenders and broker-dealers—would be considered systemically important enough to fall under the Fed's oversight. But the interagency Federal Stability Oversight Council has said a firm must have at least $50 billion in assets and surpass at least one additional threshold in terms of derivative liabilities, short-term debt or other measure.

The proposed rule, posted on the Federal Register at www.regulations.gov, will be open for public comment for 60 days. The Treasury plans to issue the final rule by the end of May 2012 and announce the assessment rate in June.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:21 PM

10. Put the the bazooka to the transitory unintended consequences from black swan events

Words And Phrases I Hope Not To See Or Hear in 2012


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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #10)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:28 PM

12. I agree with him on black swans


Far too many ravens, corbies and other predators and scavengers are masquerading as black swans.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #12)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 10:07 PM

28. I happen to like crows

Crows are highly intelligent and resourceful. It's not their fault that a bunch of them is a murder.

to Hugin, who is crow or a raven or some such. I always forget.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:23 PM

11. The Judy Collins Story



Judith Marjorie "Judy" Collins (born May 1, 1939) is an American singer and songwriter, known for her eclectic tastes in the material she records (which has included folk, show tunes, pop, rock and roll and standards); and for her social activism. She is an alumna of the University of Colorado.

Collins was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. As a child, Collins studied classical piano with Antonia Brico, making her public debut at age 13, performing Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos. Dr. Brico took a dim view, both then and later, of Collins's developing interest in folk music, which led her to the difficult decision to discontinue her piano lessons. Years later, when Collins had become internationally known through her music, she invited Dr. Brico to one of her concerts in Denver. When they met after the performance, Brico took both of Judy's hands in hers, looked wistfully at her fingers and said, "Little Judy—you really could have gone places." Still later, Collins discovered that Brico herself had made a living when she was younger playing jazz and ragtime piano (Singing Lessons, pp. 71–72). She also had the fortune of meeting many musicians through her blind father, a Seattle radio program host.

It was the music of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and the traditional songs of the folk revival of the early 1960s, however, that piqued Collins' interest and awoke in her a love of lyrics. Three years after her debut as a piano prodigy, she was playing guitar. Her music became popular at the University of Connecticut, where her husband taught. She performed at parties and for the campus radio station along with David Grisman and Tom Azarian. She eventually made her way to Greenwich Village, New York City, where she busked and played in clubs until she signed with Elektra Records, a record label she was associated with for 35 years. In 1961, Collins released her first album, A Maid of Constant Sorrow, at the age of 22.

At first she sang traditional folk songs or songs written by others — in particular the protest poets of the time, such as Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, and Bob Dylan. She recorded her own versions of important songs from the period, such as Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn." Collins was also instrumental in bringing little-known musicians to a wider public. For example, Collins recorded songs by Canadian poet Leonard Cohen, who became a close friend over the years. She also recorded songs by singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Robin Williamson and Richard Fariña long before they gained national acclaim.

While Collins' first few albums comprised straightforward guitar-based folk songs, with 1966's In My Life, she began branching out and including work from such diverse sources as The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Jacques Brel, and Kurt Weill. Mark Abramson produced and Joshua Rifkin arranged the album, adding lush orchestration to many of the numbers. The album was regarded as a major departure for a folk artist and set the course for Collins' subsequent work over the next decade.

With her 1967 album Wildflowers, also produced by Mark Abramson and arranged by Rifkin, Collins began to record her own compositions, beginning with "Since You've Asked." The album also provided Collins with a major hit, and a Grammy award, in Mitchell's "Both Sides, Now," which reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Collins' 1968 album, Who Knows Where the Time Goes, was produced by David Anderle and featured back-up guitar by Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills & Nash), with whom she was romantically involved at the time. (She was the inspiration for Stills's CSN classic "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes". Time Goes had a mellow country sound, and included Ian Tyson's "Someday Soon" and the title track written by the UK singer-songwriter Sandy Denny. The album also featured Collins' composition "My Father" and one of the first covers of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire."

By the 1970s Collins had a solid reputation as an art song singer and folksinger and had begun to stand out for her own compositions. She was also known for her broad range of material: her songs from this period include the traditional Christian hymn "Amazing Grace," the Stephen Sondheim Broadway ballad "Send in the Clowns" (both of which were top 20 hits as singles), a recording of Joan Baez's "A Song for David," and her own compositions, such as "Born to the Breed."

In the 1970s Collins guest starred on The Muppet Show, where she sang "I Know An Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly," "Do Re Mi" and "Send in the Clowns." Collins also appeared several times on Sesame Street, where she performed "Fishermen's Song" with a chorus of Anything Muppet fishermen, sang a trio with Biff and Sully using the word "yes," and even starred in a modern musical fairy tale skit called "The Sad Princess."

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Response to Demeter (Reply #11)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:34 PM

14. Saw her in concert last year - still brilliant!

Ms. Collins' voice is still as clear as a Rocky Mountain spring.
There's a picture out there somewhere of Judy, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell on stage somewhere in the early 60's. Actually it was in the NYT Book Review a couple of months back - worth the look!

On another note, I for one will be glad to see 2011 gone - the worst year I've experienced since 1980 for a number of reasons. Have to figure I won't be around for the next one if they stay on a 31 year cycle!
Happy New Year all!

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:32 PM

13. caption it

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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #13)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:36 PM

16. "Sometimes, you have to compromise." nt

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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #13)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:37 PM

17. I got this! After all, I was Editor of the Harvard Law Review...


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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #13)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:39 PM

18. Well, we got it done, didn't we?

That has to account for something, right?

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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #13)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 11:00 PM

29. My take..

The Bill of Goods and The Constipation.


We've been sold out and they don't give a shit.

That's why.

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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #13)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 02:26 PM

61. Whoa!!!!

B click, copy.....paste into email..

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:34 PM

15. Rakoff Orders SEC, Citigroup to Alert Him of Appeals Filings



Citigroup Inc. (C) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission must notify U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff of any filings they make with the appeals court in Manhattan in a lawsuit between the parties, he said. Rakoff issued an order Thursday in which he laid out the history of the litigation since his refusal last month to approve an accord resolving claims that New York-based Citigroup misled investors in a $1 billion financial product linked to risky mortgages. The parties didn’t allow him time to rule on a request to halt the litigation during an appeal of that order, he said. They went to the appeals court and obtained a stay before he issued his own decision Dec. 27. “The parties are hereby ordered to promptly notify this court of any filings in the Court of Appeals by faxing copies of any such filings to this court immediately after they are filed in the Court of Appeals,” Rakoff wrote. Because of the federal appeals court’s ruling, the suit will remain on hold while the higher court considers whether to review Rakoff’s rejection of a $285 million settlement in the case. The appeals court agreed to the SEC’s request to delay the case until at least Jan. 17. The agency said halting the case was necessary because Rakoff told Citigroup to respond to the SEC’s complaint next week...

The court said the SEC’s request to stay the case in the lower court and to expedite the appeal will be submitted to a motions panel of the court Jan. 17. The case will be kept on hold until the panel decides whether to grant the requests, the court said in a two-sentence order...The SEC said it wanted to preserve agency resources by putting the case on hold while the appeals court considers Rakoff’s ruling. Rakoff said today that his Dec. 27 order denying a request from the SEC that he halt the case during the appeal was issued one minute after the Court of Appeals granted the SEC’s request. He said the SEC filed its emergency motion with the appeals court without notifying him and without telling the higher court that his decision was imminent. By not telling him of the emergency motion, Citigroup and the SEC “held back from this court material information it needed to do its job,” Rakoff said. He said one reason for his order today was to apprise the appeals court of what had transpired “and to attempt to prevent similar recurrences.”

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Response to Demeter (Reply #15)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 02:31 PM

62. Oh, that is a wonderful piece of work by the banks.

wonder how the court of appeals feels about used in that fashion?
Sure hope Rakeoff continues to enjoy good health. He is pissing off a LOT of money.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:44 PM

20. Keynes Was Right By PAUL KRUGMAN



“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.” So declared John Maynard Keynes in 1937, even as F.D.R. was about to prove him right by trying to balance the budget too soon, sending the United States economy — which had been steadily recovering up to that point — into a severe recession. Slashing government spending in a depressed economy depresses the economy further; austerity should wait until a strong recovery is well under way.

Unfortunately, in late 2010 and early 2011, politicians and policy makers in much of the Western world believed that they knew better, that we should focus on deficits, not jobs, even though our economies had barely begun to recover from the slump that followed the financial crisis. And by acting on that anti-Keynesian belief, they ended up proving Keynes right all over again.

In declaring Keynesian economics vindicated I am, of course, at odds with conventional wisdom. In Washington, in particular, the failure of the Obama stimulus package to produce an employment boom is generally seen as having proved that government spending can’t create jobs. But those of us who did the math realized, right from the beginning, that the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (more than a third of which, by the way, took the relatively ineffective form of tax cuts) was much too small given the depth of the slump. And we also predicted the resulting political backlash.

So the real test of Keynesian economics hasn’t come from the half-hearted efforts of the U.S. federal government to boost the economy, which were largely offset by cuts at the state and local levels. It has, instead, come from European nations like Greece and Ireland that had to impose savage fiscal austerity as a condition for receiving emergency loans — and have suffered Depression-level economic slumps, with real G.D.P. in both countries down by double digits...This wasn’t supposed to happen, according to the ideology that dominates much of our political discourse. In March 2011, the Republican staff of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee released a report titled “Spend Less, Owe Less, Grow the Economy.” It ridiculed concerns that cutting spending in a slump would worsen that slump, arguing that spending cuts would improve consumer and business confidence, and that this might well lead to faster, not slower, growth...


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Response to Demeter (Reply #20)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 07:06 PM

70. Krugman is -- and has been -- ivory towered and out of touch for a long time n/t

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:49 PM

21. JUDY COLLINS: Offstage (Wiki)


Last edited Sat Dec 31, 2011, 03:56 AM - Edit history (1)

In more recent years Collins has taken to writing, producing a memoir, Trust Your Heart, in 1987, and a novel, Shameless. A more recent memoir, Sanity and Grace, tells of her son Clark's death in January 1992. Though her record sales are not what they once were, she still records and tours in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. She performed at President Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1993, singing "Amazing Grace" and "Chelsea Morning." (The Clintons have stated that they named their daughter, Chelsea, after Collins' recording of the song.) In 2006, she sang "This Little Light of Mine" in a commercial for Eliot Spitzer.

In 2008 she oversaw an album featuring artists ranging from Dolly Parton and Joan Baez to Rufus Wainwright and Chrissie Hynde covering her compositions; she also released a collection of The Beatles covers, and she received an honorary doctorate from Pratt Institute on May 18 of that year. In 2010, Collins sang The Weight of the World at the Newport Folk Festival, a song by Amy Speace.

Collins joined the 10th annual Independent Music Awards judging panel to assist independent musicians' careers. She was also a judge for the 7th and 9th Independent Music Awards.


Like many other folk singers of her generation, Collins was drawn to social activism. Her political idealism also led her to compose a ballad entitled "Che" in honor of the 1960s icon Che Guevara.

Collins sympathized with the Yippie movement, and was friendly with its leaders, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. On March 17, 1968, she attended Hoffman's press conference at the Americana Hotel in New York to announce the party's formation. In 1969, she testified in Chicago in support of the Chicago Seven; during her testimony, she began singing Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," and was admonished by prosecutor Tom Foran and judge Julius Hoffman.

She is currently a representative for UNICEF and campaigns on behalf of the abolition of landmines. In 1992, Collins' son, Clark Taylor, committed suicide at age 33, after a long bout with depression and substance abuse; since his death, she has also become a strong advocate of suicide prevention.

Personal life

Collins has been married twice. Her first marriage in 1958 to Peter Taylor produced her only child, Clark C. Taylor. The marriage ended in divorce in 1965.

In 1962, shortly after her debut at Carnegie Hall, Collins was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent six months recuperating in a sanitarium.

Collins later admitted suffering from bulimia after she had quit smoking in the 1970s. "I went straight from the cigarettes into an eating disorder," she told People magazine in 1992. "I started throwing up. I didn't know anything about bulimia, certainly not that it is an addiction or that it would get worse. My feelings about myself, even though I had been able to give up smoking and lose 20 lbs., were of increasing despair." She also talks at length, in Singing Lessons (pp. 172–190, 238–240) about her years of addiction to alcohol, the damage it did to her personal and musical life, and how it contributed to her feelings of depression. She says that, although she tried other drugs in the 1960s, alcohol was always her primary drug of choice, just as it had been for her father. She entered a rehabilitation program in Pennsylvania in 1978, and she has maintained her sobriety ever since, even through such traumatic events as the suicide of her only child, Clark, after his final relapse (previous section).

In April 1996, she married designer and fellow activist Louis Nelson. They live together in New York City.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #21)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 07:52 PM




MR. KUNSTLER: Would you state your name, please?

THE WITNESS: Judy Collins.

MR. KUNSTLER: What is your occupation?

THE WITNESS: I'm a singer. I sing folksongs.

MR. KUNSTLER: Now, Miss Collins, I call your attention to March 17 of 1968 at approximately noontime on that date. Do vou know where vou were?

THE WITNESS: I was at the Americana Hotel in New York City attending a press conference to announce the formation of what we have now come to know of as the Yippie Movement.

MR. KUNSTLER: Who was present at that press conference?

THE WITNESS: There were a number of people who were singers, entertainers. Jerry Rubin was there, Abbie Hoffman was there. Allen Ginsberg was there, and sang a mantra.

MR. KUNSTLER: Now what did you do at that press conference?

THE WITNESS: Well---[sings] "Where have all the flowers---

THE COURT: Just a minute, young lady.

THE WITNESS: [sings] "---where have all the flowers gone?"

DEPUTY MARSHAL JOHN J. GRACIOUS: I'm sorry. The Judge would like to speak to you.

THE COURT: We don't allow anv singing in this Court. I'm sorry.

THE WITNESS: May I recite the words?

MR. KUNSTLER: Well, your Honor, we have had films. I think it is as legitimate as a movie. It is the actual thing she didl, She sang "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." which is a well-known peace song, and she sang it, and the jury is not getting the flavor.

THE COURT: You asked her what she did, and she proceeded to sing.

MR. KUNSTLER: That is what she did, your Honor.

THE WITNESS: That's what I do.

THE COURT: And that has no place in a United States District Court. We are not here to be entertained, sir. We are trying a very important case.

MR. KUNSTLER: This song is not an entertainment, your Honor. This is a song of peace, and what happens to young men and women during wartime.

THE COURT: I forbid her from singing during the trial. I will not permit singing in this Courtroom.


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Response to Demeter (Reply #21)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 08:22 PM

25. JUFY COLLINS...The tone deft twin sister? n/t

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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #25)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:00 AM

30. Typing in the Dark...


I'm surprised you haven't gone after the headline--which is intentionally punny.

The Fascists are working hard to bring back the good old days of feudalism, while wringing out of the social structure any remaining drops of human compassion from the New Deal and all the tears we can shed.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 08:06 PM

23. Answering The Question 'What Was It A Good Year For?' by Bill Chappell


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Response to Demeter (Reply #23)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 08:10 PM

24. After Much Tumult, Wall Street Ends Year Where It Started



We saw a crazy market this year. It swung so wildly in both directions, that ending a day a couple of percentage points up or down became the norm.

But after much tumult, Wall Street closed its year today not far from where it started it.

The AP reports:

"In the final tally, despite big climbs and falls, unexpected blows and surprising triumphs, all the hullabaloo proved for naught. On Friday, the Standard & Poor's 500 index closed at 1,257.60. That's exactly 0.04 point below where it started the year.

"'If you fell asleep January 1 and woke up today, you'd think nothing had happened,' says Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Harris Private Bank. 'But it's been up and down all year. It's been crazy.'"

The other major indices fared similarly. The Nasdaq lost 1.8 percent for the year, while the Dow ended 5.5 percent higher this year.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a preliminary analysis revealed that 0.04 change in the S&P is "the smallest annual move since at least 1947."

....All that drama led investors into the safety of the U.S. bond market, which significantly outperformed stocks, reports the Journal...

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Response to Demeter (Reply #24)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:02 AM

31. In other words:


“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

-The Red Queen

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Response to Demeter (Reply #31)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:03 AM

32. With the added caveat


“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today.” -The White Queen

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Response to Demeter (Reply #24)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 05:37 AM

48. Nasdaq wraps up 2011 in the red



Technology stocks traded slightly lower in the last session of 2011, with the Nasdaq Composite Index closing Friday in the red to cap the benchmark’s first negative year in three....


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Response to Demeter (Reply #24)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 06:12 AM

50. When Investors Rush In, and Out, Together



It seems that anxious investors in these troubled economic times are seeking safety in crowds. The prices of stocks, bonds and a host of other financial assets, which in normal conditions more often than not move in a diversity of unpredictable directions, are increasingly surging up or down in lockstep. The rise in correlation between individual stocks, but also between completely separate asset classes like stocks and gold or stocks and oil, “has been one of the big themes of the investment climate this year,” said Marc Chandler, a market strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York.

The chief explanation for the correlation is the great uncertainty facing investors — mainly over the crisis in Europe, which has raised the specter of the potential bankruptcy of governments and a collapse of the banking system. With every bit of bad news, nervous investors around the globe have been selling many of their positions across all asset classes, no matter what they are, driving prices down, and rushing into perceived safe havens like cash and United States bonds. But sometimes just a day or so later, with a glimmer of hope that Europe is pulling away from the abyss or that the United States is picking up steam, newly optimistic investors turn around and rush back from cash into harder assets, like stocks, foreign bonds or commodities, pushing prices higher together. “When things are less stressed, stocks and other investments move according to other more fundamental factors like a company’s earnings or its balance sheet,” said Maneesh Deshpande, managing director for global equity derivatives strategy at Barclays Capital. “But when macro fears take over, they move in flocks.”

The downside for investors caught in this maelstrom is that their attempts to spread risk by diversifying their portfolios is less effective. Analysts expect that volatility and correlation will continue to afflict markets in the year to come. In November and December, a common measure of correlation within the Standard & Poor’s benchmark 500-stock index reached as high as 90 percent, the highest since 1996, according to Barclays calculations. For much of the decade leading up to the financial crisis in 2008, the measure of correlation between the 50 biggest stocks in the S.& P. 500 generally stayed between 10 percent and 40 percent.

Financial stocks were the most correlated in the third quarter, but even other sectors — like consumer and health care — that are usually more differentiated experienced “remarkable pickups in correlations,” Candace Browning, head of research at Bank of America, said in a recent presentation...With so much money sloshing around from one day to the next, the high degree of correlation poses a challenge for active fund managers or other stock pickers who pride themselves on their ability to discriminate between stocks or other assets. It may be one reason that some hedge funds are having a tough time. It is also a problem for ordinary investors who have traditionally tried to protect their portfolios by spreading risk over a broad basket of assets, so that if some go down in price, others will increase. But how can you protect yourself in a world where investments rise or fall together?


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2011, 09:18 PM

26. Commodities Poised for First Annual Decline Since 2008 on Europe


Last edited Sat Dec 31, 2011, 01:59 PM - Edit history (1)


Commodities (SPGSCITR) posted the first annual drop since 2008, paced by declines in cotton, copper and cocoa, on concern that the sovereign-debt crisis in Europe and a cooling Chinese economy will sap demand for raw materials.

The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Total Return Index (SPGSCITR) of commodities fell 0.1 percent to 4,885.3 at 3:50 p.m. in New York, down 1.2 percent for 2011. Cocoa plunged 31 percent in 2011 on signs of expanding supplies from Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest grower. Cotton fell 37 percent this year amid rising output and dwindling demand. Copper, often seen as an indicator of economic activity it is used in construction and automobiles, posted its first loss since 2008.

Economic growth in China, the world’s biggest copper user, will slow to 8.5 percent next year, after growing 10.4 percent in 2010, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development projected on Nov. 28. Manufacturing in December contracted for a second month as global growth faltered and Premier Wen Jiabao prolonged a crackdown on speculation in the housing market. Global equity markets have lost $6.3 trillion in value this year as Europe’s debt crisis and slowing economic expansion weighed on investor demand for riskier assets.

“The two biggest drivers have been the global economic environment and the Chinese economy,” said Dan Denbow, a co- fund manager of the $2.1 billion USAA Precious Metals and Minerals Fund in San Antonio. “What happens next year really depends on what happens with global growth. Investors may not be as quick to come back to commodities unless they get a very good feeling about global growth.”

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:10 AM

33. The Official (?) Judy Collins Website



Includes her truly daunting appearance schedule, photos, lyrics, bio, albums for sale, and more.


Studio and live albums

A Maid of Constant Sorrow (1961)
Golden Apples of the Sun (1962)
Judy Collins #3 (1963)
The Judy Collins Concert (1964)
Judy Collins' Fifth Album (1965)
In My Life (1966)
Wildflowers (1967)
Who Knows Where the Time Goes (1968)
Whales & Nightingales (1970)
Living (1971) (Live)
True Stories and Other Dreams (1973)
Judith (1975)
Bread and Roses (1976)
Hard Times for Lovers (1979)
Running for My Life (1980)
Times of Our Lives (1982)
Home Again (1984)
Trust Your Heart (1987)
The Stars Of Christmas (Selected Especially For Avon) (1988)
Sanity and Grace (1989)
Fires of Eden (1990)
Baby's Bedtime (1990)
Baby's Morningtime (1990)
Judy Sings Dylan... Just Like a Woman (1993)
Come Rejoice! A Judy Collins Christmas (1994)
Shameless (1994)
Voices (1995)
Live At Newport (1959-1966) (1996)
Christmas at the Biltmore Estate (1997)
All on a Wintry Night (2000)
Judy Collins Live at Wolf Trap (2000)
Judy Collins Sings Leonard Cohen: Democracy (2004)
Portrait of an American Girl (2005)
Judy Collins Sings Lennon and McCartney (2007)
Paradise (2010)
Bohemian (2011)


Recollections (1969)
Both Sides Now (1971)
Colors of the Day (1972) (Greatest Hits)
So Early in the Spring... The First 15 Years (1977) (15th anniversary collection)
Amazing Grace (1985) (#34 in UK album charts)
Wind Beneath My Wings (1992)
Forever: An Anthology (1997)
Both Sides Now (1998)
Classic Broadway (1999)
The Very Best of Judy Collins (2001)
Judy Collins Sings Leonard Cohen: Democracy (2004)
The Essential Judy Collins (2004)
24 Classic Songs (2008) (MP3 Download)


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:15 AM

34. A Pathetic Happy New Year from Dilbert


That's got to be the definition of loser....

Olliphant isn't much better


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Response to Demeter (Reply #34)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 11:18 AM

54. Or a Norwegian LOL

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:43 AM

41. Fannie and Freddie Fantasies By William K. Black



An important but fundamentally flawed debate about Fannie and Freddie’s role in the ongoing crisis has raged since the SEC sued the former senior managers of both entities for securities fraud. The Wall Street Journal and Peter Wallison (in the WSJ) have claimed that the suit vindicates their positions and discredits the Federal Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC). Joe Nocera, in his New York Times column, has thundered at the SEC and then Wallison, accusing him of “The Big Lie.” Nocera’s column is also interesting because it (implicitly) argues that the thesis of Reckless Endangerment is incorrect. His colleague Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner co-authored that book. I write to provide yet another view, distinct from each of the sources.

There are two primary issues about Fannie and Freddie and the crisis discussed in the debate. First, why did Fannie and Freddie, relatively suddenly, change their business practices radically and begin purchasing large amounts of nonprime mortgages? Second, what role did declining mortgage credit quality that did not descend to the level of loans that the industry described as “subprime” play in the Fannie and Freddie crisis? The first issue is vastly more important and this article focuses on it. (The short answer to the second question is: “The first issue, for everyone except the SEC, comes down to this question: did Fannie and Freddie’s controlling officers (eventually) cause them to buy large amounts of nonprime loans for the same reason their counterparts running Lehman, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch did (the higher nominal short-term yield maximized their current compensation) or because “the government” made them buy the loans?) (Lehman, Bear Stearns, and Merrill Lynch were not subject to any governmental requirements to purchase any category of nonprime loans.)

I show that Fannie and Freddie’s controlling officers (eventually) caused them to buy huge amounts of nonprime loans for the higher short-term nominal yield (though they knew that the actual yield would be negative as soon as the housing bubble stalled). I exploit a “natural experiment” provided by liar’s loans – loans made without prudent underwriting of the borrower’s capacity to repay the loan. No governmental entity ever required any lender, or any purchaser of loans (and that includes Fannie and Freddie), to make liar’s loans. The mortgage industry’s anti-fraud experts, the FBI, and the banking regulators all warned about liar’s loans producing an epidemic of fraud. If Fannie and Freddie purchased large amounts of liar’s loans, then their controlling managers did so because liar’s loans’ higher short-term nominal yield maximized their near-term compensation – not because “the government” made them do so.

OFHEO, which was Fannie and Freddie’s regulator during the relevant period, had ample regulatory authority to prevent Fannie and Freddie from purchasing liar’s loans and its head, James B. Lockhart, was a George Bush appointee and one of his oldest friends (from prep school). Lockhart had President Bush’s full support and he was in no way intimidated by Barney Frank or Chris Dodd. Lockhart shared Bush’s anti-regulatory mindset, his inability to envision elite business leaders as felons, and his strong support for even the most perverse executive compensation systems. Lockhart was not “captured” by Fannie and Freddie. He was not a supporter of either entity. He and his senior regulators that I met simply did not believe it was legitimate for the government to regulate compensation or, absent proof that the business practice had already produced large losses, Fannie and Freddie’s business strategy...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:49 AM

42. Short Sales of Homes Increasing



In my post on the economy in 2012, I questioned whether the fourth or fifth prediction of a “bottom” in housing was accurate. As if to slap me in the face with statistics, a report today showed pending home sales at their highest point in a year and a half. But that only takes us to the middle of 2010, not exactly boom times for the housing market. In addition, there’s a growing trend of pending sales getting called off at the last minute, which means a lot of these sales will not come to fruition.

What I do think is a genuine trend, and one that’s slightly better than a crush of foreclosures, is the increase in short sales as an alternative to evictions and repossessions:

It’s a tarnished silver lining for people at risk of losing their houses and homeowners in neighborhoods blighted by bank-owned properties, but the robosigning scandal that slowed the foreclosure process to a crawl appears to have increased lender interest in short sales.

“Foreclosure sales are pretty devastating,” said Faith Schwartz, executive director of Hope Now, a resource for homeowners facing foreclosure. “We’d much prefer a modification, but if [homeowners] don’t quality, then the next best alternative is deed-in-lieu or short sales.”

Short sales, in which the lender agrees to let the owner sell the home for less than the amount owed on the mortgage, and foreclosures both climbed in 2010, but while short sales rose by 26,000 this year, the number of foreclosures fell by 255,000, according to Hope Now. Short sales, along with deed-in-lieu of foreclosure deals in which the lender takes the deed essentially as payment for the mortgage, still upend families, torch credit ratings and hurt neighboring property values, but they’re far less toxic than foreclosures.

Short sales are definitely preferable to foreclosures, as they leave the borrower less indebted and in a better position to rebuild their credit score. Some states allow for deficiency judgments to go after borrowers on foreclosure sales that don’t recoup the amount due on a mortgage; the whole point of the short sale process is to negotiate a sale price that avoids such a deficiency judgment.

There’s actually a government-run short-sale facilitator known as HAFA. And some lawmakers, including Jeff Merkley, have called for more efforts in this area. It’s a win-win from the perspective of the banks, too, as short sales fetch higher prices than foreclosure sales, and there are far fewer legal hassles associated with the sale. A higher price means less of a degradation in property values for neighbors, too, and the vacancy rate on a short sale is usually lower.

But all of these options are subordinate to keeping the borrower in the home. And because banks have so mashed up the securitization process and in many cases broken the chain of title associated with the home, individuals have far more leverage than they realize to make that happen.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #42)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 05:00 AM

44. Charities get more donated homes



The homes, typically low-value ones, may be refurbished and resold or demolished to rid neighborhoods of blight. By donating, mortgage owners free themselves from the cost of maintaining homes they can't sell. The bigger benefit is that cleaned-up neighborhoods help stabilize values of surrounding homes, banks say. "It's a win, win, win" for the neighborhood, the bank and the investor, says Rebecca Mairone, head of Bank of America's donation program. BofA donated 150 homes in 2011. It plans to donate more than 1,200 next year, Mairone says. Wells Fargo donated more than 1,120 homes this year, up from 295 last year, it says.

Nationwide, Habitat for Humanity rehabilitated 1,210 homes that it received as donations or bought at distressed prices in the year ended last June. That's nearly twice as many as Habitat rehabbed a year before, says Sue Henderson, vice president of U.S. operations...Charities can net thousands of dollars — or more — from donated homes, says Charles Konkus, president of the Illinois-based Real Estate Donations. It handled 117 donated homes in more than a dozen states for charities this year, Konkus says. Before the housing collapse, it got about 20 a year. Some homes are given by homeowners who receive charitable tax deductions in return. "People see this as a way out if they can't sell," Konkus says...The Cleveland-based Cuyahoga Land Bank gets about 120 donated properties a month, up from 80 a year ago, President Gus Frangos says. Cuyahoga County has 22,000 abandoned single-family homes, he says. Most donated homes are in such bad shape that they're demolished, Frangos says. Often, properties are then turned into community gardens, sold to neighbors for $100 or returned to cities. Removing a neighborhood eyesore "almost immediately stabilizes property values," Frangos says.

In some higher cost areas, homes aren't donated as much as they are sold at discounted prices...Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles bought 80 distressed homes in the past year, marking its first venture into buying vs. building, CEO Erin Rank says. The homes, typically worth about $200,000, were sometimes discounted by 25% to 30%, Rank says. Habitat resells the homes it fixes to eligible families. They get livable homes and neighborhoods where Habitat has built other homes are strengthened, too, Rank says.

Home donations don't always work for charities. The East Bay Community Foundation in Oakland, Calif., has rejected three offers of donated homes in recent years. The properties couldn't readily be turned into cash, which the foundation uses to make grants, spokesman John Pachtner says...While rising, the number of donated homes is tiny relative to the size of the foreclosure problem. Nationwide, more than 6 million homeowners are late on their mortgages or already in foreclosure, Lender Processing Services says.


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 04:54 AM

43. The Economy in 2012 By: David Dayen



Before moving on with a look at the economy in 2012, I wanted to go back to my forecasts of the economy in 2011. It turns out that the usual suspect economic analysts predicted a “self-sustaining expansion” for 2011. The leading forecasters predicted annualized growth between 3% and 4.5% for the year. I was skeptical:

If government isn’t going to drive a recovery, where will the improvement come from? Businesses are generating big profits, but so far they have not translated those into the kind of hiring that would bring down the unemployment rate. Housing, which traditionally leads the way to recovery, remains a mess. There’s still a yawning gap between existing home sales and new home sales, and with a large shadow inventory I don’t see much home construction getting done in 2011. The impact of the foreclosure fraud crisis depends on where you live, but either the banks are able to fast-track foreclosures, which is terribly destructive to local economies, or the foreclosure market has basically shut down. Without an actual resolution, the latter just creates mass confusion in the market and hurts the economy as well. Banks are resisting the kind of solution which would break the logjam in housing, stabilize prices and lead the way out. As a result their balance sheets remain shaky, their risk remains high, and lending suffers as a result.

These problems never remedied themselves, and the economy never got untracked. Only in the fourth quarter will we even approach 3% growth. The green shoots were a mirage. The only reason unemployment stands at 8.6% is because of a drop in the labor force, artificially making it look like less people are out of work...Analysts have a lot of excuses for this: the turmoil of the Arab spring, a series of natural disasters including the tsunami in Japan, the crisis in Europe. But the Arab spring remains an issue. The Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz shows that the Middle East remains unsettled. Europe has not found a sustainable solution, and in fact the continent is heading into recession, which will have an impact on US exports. Natural disasters in a climate-changed world will happen with increasing frequency. The “unexpected factors” are not so unexpected...I bring this up not to bolster my own forecasting credentials, but because we’re in the midst of a very similar conversation right now. The relatively good 4th quarter and the passage of a short-term extension of unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut (with the expectations of a longer-term passage down the road) have led analysts to make predictions of economic performance in the coming year. Here’s a sample from David Wessel:

For the past year and half, the U.S. has been caught in a tug of war. On one side is the economy’s natural resilience. On the other are the long-lasting effects of a burst credit bubble and some bad luck—the oil-price spike provoked by the Arab Spring, the supply-chain disruption following Japan’s earthquake. At the end of 2010, the economy’s resilience was winning. In 2011, it gave ground.

The latest incoming data are encouraging. Initial claims for unemployment compensation, one of the better early-warning signs, have fallen to their lowest level in 3½ years. Consumers say jobs are a little easier to find, another useful indicator. Housing starts and home sales are up. Inventories are lean. And, for what it’s worth, the stock market has bounced back in the past month.

This could be the start of the much-hoped-for virtuous circle. The job market improves. Consumers have more income. Spirits and, more important, spending perk up. Meanwhile, weakening economies abroad keep commodity prices down and limit inflation in the U.S. With mortgage rates low and consumer finances improving, home prices turn up at last. Businesses, flush with cash, expand and hire more readily, offsetting the retrenchment by governments.

Wessel tempers this later in the piece, but that’s generally the belief. The leading indicators are positive, government is generally staying out of the way of the recovery in 2012 by extending any fiscal measures, and a positive feedback loop could take hold. As in 2011, I wish I could believe that. But we’ve seen credible speculation that the relative good times in the fourth quarter came from temporary factors, like inventory restocking and backlogged orders from the Japanese tsunami. The payroll tax/UI extension for the rest of the year has not been locked in just yet, and could expire at the end of the 1st quarter. The FY2012 budget is done, but the FY2013 budget calls for far deeper cuts, and that needs to get resolved right in the heart of the Presidential election, at the end of September.

And I think analysts are most confused with respect to housing. Apparently hedge funds are starting to bet big on housing, and often they have at least some logic behind them. But we’ve heard about a bottom in housing for the last four years. I’ve seen the charts about the collapse in home building relative to population, and how people have to have somewhere to live. But without ready cash, I don’t see a lot of household formation available. And with prices still falling – the October Case-Shiller numbers showed that – foreclosures and underwater homes will still be a problem, one that we don’t have the tools to solve like increased jobs or wages. In fact, first-time jobless claims went back up last week.

So I don’t think growth will rebound, certainly not to a level that would lead to a rapid reduction in the unemployment rate. In fact, if the economy improves and more people return to the labor force, the result could be an uptick in that rate. We’re still moving at stall speed, not enough to return growth to trend, though not so slow to sink into recession. And then a European bank could fail and cause ripple effects that put us right back into the pit. We have the tools to solve this crisis, but the best we can hope for in Washington is that they don’t do anything actively harmful. They refuse to take the steps that would get us out of the mess. A lost decade is not determined by the fact of a financial crisis; it’s determined by the policy failures in reaction to it.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #43)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 05:07 AM

45. Five Charts Useful for Framing the Economic Debate in 2012


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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 05:18 AM

46. Avoiding the Danger Zones in the Year Ahead



...Generally, you ought to believe that things will turn out worse than they actually will. Why? Because the danger is on the downside. And this is a dangerous market. Europe could blow up at any time. Despite what you read in the papers, Europe’s debtor nations — and the banks that hold the debt — are just a few basis points from disaster. Traders and speculators are taking it easy over the holidays. We’ll see what happens when they get back to work in January.

China, too, is a danger zone. Trouble is, we don’t know exactly what the danger is. The economy is still growing at more than 5% per year. If the growth rate goes up...China will put a big strain on the world’s demand for oil and other commodities...which will make it harder for US and European families to make ends meet....On the other hand, China is also showing signs of a slowdown...or even a blow-up. Shanghai property prices are said to be falling...fast. And the size of China’s bad debts may be greater than America’s subprime or European ‘olive country’ bonds.

Meanwhile, the US is sitting pretty. For now. Money is fleeing China and Europe for the perceived safety of the USA. Whatever else may happen, there’s one thing investors can count on. Ben Bernanke and his merry band of price fixers will print the money necessary to pay off bondholders. But America is dangerous too. It has a doomed currency...an out-of- control military...and a dysfunctional Congress. Sooner or later, it will blow up too.

We don’t know which bomb will go off first. But at least we know to keep our heads down in 2012.

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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 05:41 AM

49. You thought 2011 was tough? By Edward Krudy



Shaky Europe. Political gridlock. Volatile markets. Familiar themes for those who lived through 2011, and investors should be ready to revisit them next year...With a spiraling debt crisis in Europe, political upheaval around the world, and crumbling creditworthiness in major industrial nations, 2011 was a tough year to know where to invest. 2012 is unlikely to offer much respite.

The S&P 500, a measure of the biggest U.S. companies' market value, spent much of the year getting pushed up and down, flummoxing shorts and longs - and scaring Moms and Pops away from stocks. It ended the year at 1,257.60, down a mere 0.04 of a point. But the S&P 500's tepid performance was encouraging, compared with other world equity markets. The United States may still be seen as a safe haven, though even that looks uncertain. For every rally built on improving economic figures this year, selloffs were never far away on worries the European debt crisis would eventually drag the continent into a recession and perhaps the United States as well. That could continue in 2012.

China and other fast-growing emerging markets can no longer be leaned on as those economies slow. In 2011's last half, the poorest-performing sectors outside of banks were most connected to global growth - materials, energy and industrial companies. "There is a growing realization that the global economy is in jeopardy," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co in Nashville. "There is uncertainty in every corner of the world."

That uncertainty fed substantial volatility in 2011. Despite the S&P's flat performance this year, there were 66 trading days when stocks moved in a 2 percent range. In 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed during a global financial crisis, there were more than 130 trading days when stocks swung that much. But that led to a flight from equities by retail investors. U.S. equity funds had outflows in every month since May. More than $483 billion left U.S. mutual funds in 2011 through the year's second-to-last week, even though the U.S. market outperformed foreign stocks late in the game.


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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 05:32 AM

47. 2011 "Are You Serious?" Awards by Conn Hallinan



The Golden Lemon Award to Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest arms company, whose F-22 Raptor fighter has some “performance” problems: the pilots can’t breathe....The U.S. Air Force was forced to “stand down” its fleet of 160+ F-22s—at $150 million apiece, the single most expensive fighter in the world—when pilots began experiencing “hypoxia-like symptoms” from a lack of oxygen. But the company got right on it, according to Lockheed Martin vice president Jeff Babione, who said he was “proud to be a part” of the team that got the radar-evading aircraft back into the air—for five weeks. When pilots continued to have problems, the F-22 fleet was grounded again. According to the Air Force, no one can figure out why oxygen is not getting to the pilots, but that pilots “would undergo physiological tests.” To see if the pilots can go without air?

Runner-up in this category is Lockheed Martins’ F-35, at $385 billion the most expensive weapon system in U.S. history. The cost of an individual F-35 has jumped from $69 million to $113 million a plane, and while this is cheaper than the F-22, the U.S. plans to eventually purchase more than 16 times the number of F-35s than F-22s. It seems the F-35 fighter has “cracks” and “hot spots” that, according to the director of the program, Vice Adm. David Venlet, are “hard to get at.” Dispatches suggests that the Air Force issue ice packs and super glue to pilots.

The P.T. Barnum Award to Dennis Montgomery, a computer programmer who scammed the U.S. government for more than $20 million. Montgomery claimed he had software that could spot terrorist conspiracies hidden in broadcasts by the Qatar-based Arabic news network, Al Jazeera. He said his program could also detect hostile submarines and identify terrorists in Predator drone videos. The Bush administration took his claims so seriously that in December 2003 it turned back flights from Britain, France and Mexico because the software had “discovered” the plane’s flight information embedded in an Al Jazeera crawl bar. The White House, fearing the planes would be used to attack targets in the U.S., actually talked about shooting the planes down. The CIA eventually concluded the software was a fabrication, but rather than rebuking those in charge during the hoax—Donald Kerr and George Tenet—both men got promotions. The spy agency also didn’t bother to tell anyone in the military, so in 2009 the U.S. Air Force bought the bogus software for $3 million.

C. Northcote Parkinson Award to the U.S. Defense Department for upholding the British sociologist’s dictum that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Parkinson—a social scientist with a wicked sense of humor—was hired after World War II to examine the future of the Royal Navy. He concluded that, given the military’s deep love of fancy gold lace, as well as its addiction to bureaucracy, eventually there would be more admirals than ships. Needless to say, that is exactly what happened. (Peter Sellers embodied Parkinson's law in I'm All Right, Jack. ) But it is not just the Brits who yearn for the golden epaulets. According to the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), the U.S. military is adding brass to its ranks at a record pace. While the enlisted ranks have grown by 2 percent from 2001 to 2011, three and four star generals and flag rank admirals have increased 24 percent, one and two star generals and admirals by 12 percent, and lower ranking officers by 9.5 percent. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made an attempt to cut the ranks of the top brass, but as soon as Leon Panetta took over the post, he reversed the cuts and added six more generals. In fact, at the same time as the Pentagon was cutting the enlisted ranks by 10,000 in anticipation of an end to the Iraq War, it added 2,500 officers. According to POGO, “Today’s military is the most top-heavy force in U.S. history.” Between 2012 and 2021, POGO estimates that the six new generals Panetta appointed will cost taxpayers $14 million. However, there may be a silver lining here. Generals and admirals don’t fight, that’s the job of enlisted men. At this rate the U.S. will run out of privates and the business of war will be left to generals and admirals. If that comes to pass, Dispatches predicts an outbreak of pacifism.


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Response to Demeter (Reply #47)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 02:38 PM

63. Ggrmmfff...

I honest do not know whether to laugh or cry.
but you can be sure I will share the above.

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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 09:56 AM

51. Great documentary on PBS last night.

It fits in with Judy Collins.

It was about the Troubadour reunion tour with James Taylor and Carole King. Great interviews and perspectives from, David Crosby, Jackson Brown, Steve Martin, Elton John, and on and on. Great music too!

One observation by David Crosby stuck out. "When an artist puts out their first record, you're hearing the results of about 10 years of work. When their second record comes out, is when you find out how good they really are".

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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 10:43 AM

52. putting the close to another year

morning all!

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Response to xchrom (Reply #52)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 01:37 PM

55. Good afternoon!

Not sure how much I will be able to post. The grandkids are coming soon, and off to Indiana for a couple days.

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Response to DemReadingDU (Reply #55)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 02:00 PM

58. Well you have fun & happy new year to you & yours! Nt

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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 10:45 AM

53. China moving to more convertible yuan: Zhou


(Reuters) - China's central bank governor argued in comments published on Saturday that Beijing does not control the yuan's flow across borders as tightly as some think and that it is natural for the currency's trading band to be widened over time.

Zhou Xiaochuan said in an interview with Chinese magazine Caixin that China did not fare badly on an International Monetary Fund measure of currencies' convertibility under the capital account.

But he stopped short of calling for a fully convertible currency.

"If the highest standard of measurement is to have wholly unrestricted convertibility, then so many developed countries have not achieved 100 percent full convertibility," Zhou told the magazine.

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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 01:44 PM

56. ... Wettest year on record at Detroit Michigan...



This has been the wettest year on record in Detroit with 47.70
inches of precipitation. This breaks the old record of 47.69 set in


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Response to Demeter (Reply #56)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 05:38 PM

65. The Weather Here Is So Weird


The snowdrops are up and ready to bloom the next time the sun shows its warmth....so, February, guys?

Hope the little bulbs survive the eternal February of the Midwest. Not that I WANT it to snow, not really.

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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 03:55 PM

64. A bad day at the orifice. Think your job is bad?

Found this in the Planet Proctor column in Funny Times. By Phil Proctor.

Bob is a commercial diver for Global Divers in Louisiana, repairing offshore drilling rigs. Below is an e-mail he sent to his sister who submitted it to a radio station in Fort Wayne, IN, for a "worst job experience" contest. (she won)

"As you know, my office lies at the bottom of the sea. I wear a suit to the office. It's a wet suit. This time of the year the water is quite cool. So, what we do to keep warm is this: We have a diesel-powered industrial water heater. This $20,000 piece of equipment sucks the water out of the sea. It heats it to a delightful temperature. It then pumps it down to the diver through a garden hose, which is taped to the air hose..."

"All of a sudden my butt started to itch. So, of course I scratched it. This only made things worse. Within a few seconds my butt started to burn. I pulled the hose out from my back, but the damage was done. In agony I realized what had happened. The hot water machine had sucked up a jellyfish and pumped it into my suit....

When I scratched what I thought was an itch, I was actually grinding the jellyfish into the crack of my butt. I informed the dive supervisor of my dilemna over the communicator. His instructions were unclear due to the fact that he, along with five other divers, was laughing hysterically. Needless to say I aborted the dive. I was instructed to make three agonizing inwater decompression stops totaling 35 minutes before I could reach the surface to begin my chamber dry decompression. When I arrived at the surface, I was wearing nothing but my brass helmet. As I climbed out of the water, the medic, with tears of laughter running down his face, handed me a tube of cream and told me to rub it on my butt as soon as I got in the chamber. The cream put the fire out, but I couldn't poop for two days because my butt was swollen shut. So, the next time you're having a bad day at work, think about how much worse it would be if you had a jellyfish shoved up your butt.

Now repeat to yourself, "I love my job. I love my job. I love my job.

Jellyfish to all politicians and banksters!

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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 05:57 PM

66. The Eight Marks of Fascist Policy, Part II






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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 06:06 PM

67. US Exports Record Amount of Refined Fuels By Ronald D. White



U.S. refineries exported a record amount of refined fuels in 2011 to markets in South America, Central America and Europe. It was one reason why Americans spent a record amount on gasoline this year: Supplies that might have helped lower prices here had been shipped abroad.

In 2007, U.S. exports of all kinds of fuel held steady throughout the year at 1.24 million to 1.25 million barrels a day, according to Energy Department statistics. But by 2011, exports of diesel, gasoline and other products surged. In November and December, U.S. fuel exports averaged between 2.77 million barrels a day and 2.89 million barrels a day, the highest ever. Meanwhile, U.S. drivers paid an average of about $3.50 a gallon for gasoline during the year, also the highest ever. Nationally, the average cost for a gallon of regular Friday was $3.269, or 19.8 cents a gallon more than ever on a Dec. 30, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

The trend was predicted as early as last January, when two analysts with the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration delivered a presentation to the 2011 Argus Americas Crude Summit in Houston. Joanne Shore, lead operations research analyst at the Energy Information Administration, and colleague John Hackworth said that U.S. refineries had found thriving and lucrative markets overseas for their products, even as they were shutting down domestic facilities because of low demand.

Their main points: "world growth in distillate fuels" demand had "provided some attractive export opportunities for U.S. refiners" and U.S. low-sulfur diesel products were coveted in Europe, which had been more dependent on higher-sulfur fuel coming out of Russia. U.S. Gulf Coast markets also were far closer to South and Central American markets than distant European competitors.

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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 06:38 PM

68. 3.5 Million Homeless and 18.5 Million Vacant Homes in the US



The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative along with Amnesty International are asking the U.S. to step up its efforts to address the foreclosure crisis, including by giving serious consideration to the growing call for a foreclosure moratorium and other forms of relief for those at risk, and establishing a housing finance system that fulfills human rights obligations.

New government census reports have revealed disturbing information that details the cold, hard numbers of Americans who have been deeply affected by the state of our economy, and bank foreclosure practices:

In the last few days, the U.S. government census figures have revealed that 1 in 2 Americans have fallen into poverty or are struggling to live on low incomes. And we know that the financial hardships faced by our neighbors, colleagues, and others in our communities will be all the more acutely felt over the holiday season.

Along with poverty and low incomes, the foreclosure rate has created its own crisis situation as the number of families removed from their homes has skyrocketed.

Since 2007, banks have foreclosed around eight million homes. It is estimated that another eight to ten million homes will be foreclosed before the financial crisis is over. This approach to resolving one part of the financial crisis means many, many families are living without adequate and secure housing. In addition, approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans. It is worth noting that, at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.

The stark realities that persist mean that millions of families will be facing the holidays in temporary homes, or homes under threat, and far too many children will be wishing for an end to the uncertainty and distress their family is facing rather than an Xbox or Barbie doll.

Housing is a basic human need and a fundamental human right. Yet every day in the United States, banks are foreclosing on more than 10,000 mortgages and ordering evictions of individuals and families residing in foreclosed homes. The U.S. government’s steps to address the foreclosure crisis to date have been partial at best.

The depth and severity of the foreclosure crisis is a clear illustration of the urgent need for the U.S. government to put in place a system that respects, protects and fulfills human rights, including the right to housing. This includes implementing real protections to ensure that other actors, such as financial institutions, do not undermine or abuse human rights.

There is a link available at the Amnesty International website for anyone who is interested and would like to join the call on the Obama administration and Congress to urgently step up efforts to address the foreclosure crisis, including by seriously considering the growing call for a foreclosure moratorium and other forms of relief, and establishing a housing finance system that fulfills human rights obligations.

Housing: It’s a Wonderful Right


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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 06:44 PM

69. Farmers seeking high profits add acreage, harvest 'rottenest' land



A splash of green on a solid beige horizon, the golf course at the edge of this tiny town promised residents nine modest holes of refuge from corn country. Decades earlier the spot had been farmed, too, but the rocky soil was so poor, the saying went, that you couldn’t raise hell there with a fifth of whiskey. “The rottenest piece of land there is,” said Mick Elbert, a local car dealer who served on the golf association board. “All it is good for is a golf course. That’s why we built it there.”

But this year, over a chorus of objections, the greens and fairways were plowed under. The course had been losing money, and crop prices had been breaking records, so the new owner did the type of quick calculation that is quietly reshaping the region and determined that it was more valuable as farmland. The first harvest took place this fall.

Across much of the Midwest the sharp increase in farm earnings has driven the price of farmland to previously unimaginable — and, some say, unsustainable — levels. But in the process, to much less fanfare, the financial rewards have also encouraged farmers to put ever more land into production, including parcels that until recently were too small or too poor in quality to warrant a second glance...

Farmers are taking down the old barn or the grove of trees that shaded a corner of the family farm to squeeze in a few more rows of crops. They are plowing up areas previously used for grazing cattle or set aside for conservation because they had been deemed too wet, too sandy or too hilly for farming. And they are returning crops to places that had been reserved for ostensibly more lucrative purposes like strip malls, housing developments or, in several cases, struggling small-town golf courses. “One day it’s grassland, and the next day it’s black dirt,” said Jim Ringelman, the North Dakota-based director of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited, a hunting and conservation group worried about the trend. “It’s that quick.” ...


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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 07:18 PM

71. Capitalism and Loneliness: Why Pornography Is a Multibillion-Dollar Industry




Massive social changes in the US labor force and in commerce have transformed the economy and powerfully affected personal relationships. Since 1970, we have changed from being a society of people connected in groups of every kind to a society of people who are too often disconnected, detached and alienated from one another.

One is the loneliest number, and in their personal lives, Americans are increasingly alone.

What Has Happened to Us?

In the 1970s, the American dream of 150 years duration ground to a halt. From 1820 to 1970, every US generation did better than the one that preceded it. In the 1970s, computers began to replace millions of US jobs. International communication systems became so sophisticated that factories could be moved overseas, allowing the livelihoods of more millions of Americans to be outsourced. Civil rights and feminist gains had given women and minorities access to a depleted job market. Militant left trade union movements or political parties were not there to protest. Wages flattened. Profits rose with productivity and the share distributed to the top rose, rather than being distributed in wages. Wealthy banks issued credit cards with high interest rates that allowed them to make even more money on funds formerly paid out as salaries.

Men were no longer paid a family wage. Families suffered. Women poured into the labor force to make up for lost male wages. Until this point, most women's work was primarily labor in the home: creating domestic order and cleanliness, performing childcare, and providing social and emotional services for the family. After the 1970s, the majority of women worked outside of the home as well as within it. Now, practically all women work outside the home, currently constituting almost half of the labor force.

Before the movements for racial and gender equality, the best jobs were reserved for white males who were an overwhelming majority. Within our racist and sexist labor force, white men had what ultimately amounted to two wage bonuses: one for being white and another for being male. Beginning in the 1970s, it was no longer necessary to give financial bonuses to white men. Indeed, it was not necessary to pay higher wages to any workers in the US labor force. Workers' salaries flattened even as they increased their efficiency. This meant that ever more profit was made and accumulated at the top.

American white men lost a good deal of the male hegemony that accompanied steady jobs and wages that could support a family. When millions of manufacturing jobs were outsourced, our economy became a service economy. Neither the greater physical strength nor the higher levels of aggression associated with males are particularly welcome in a service economy. Heterosexual personal relationships that had developed on the basis of a male provider income could not hold. Those gendered roles were sexist and limiting. However, they could have been transformed politically without economically and psychologically traumatizing the American people.

New Roles

US women adjusted to new roles in the marketplace. Unfortunately, men did not make comparable changes. They held on to the privileges that came with men's provider roles and women's full-time service in the household. The average unemployed man currently does less housework than his fully employed wife. Many men now want extra domestic, sexual and emotional services to compensate them for the emasculation they experience when they lose provider jobs and salaries. There is conflict in the household on a whole new level. Our divorce rate has become the highest in the world. Unfortunately, men and women did not mobilize to force the government to provide free or subsidized childcare, eldercare or any other direly necessary social services to compensate for women's "second shift" at home.

In 2008, the recession struck, plunging millions of Americans into precarity and loss. Male jobs were hit hardest. Most of the jobs lost were in disproportionately stereotypically male fields such as construction, heavy machinery, finance and aggressive big-ticket sales. Seventy-five percent of the more than 5 million jobs lost in our recession have been traditionally men's jobs.

Men have fallen behind. Women's earnings grew 44 percent from 1970 to 2007, compared with 6 percent growth for men. Women now occupy nearly half of the nation's jobs, more than half of management positions and most of the seats in higher education.

Men's traditional roles in both the marketplace and the home are becoming obsolete. Only two of the 15 most rapidly increasing US jobs are usually male jobs: janitor and computer engineer. All the rest of the job-growth areas are in traditionally women's jobs in social services of all kinds. Social service jobs cannot be outsourced. Qualities traditionally associated with women, such as the abilities to nurture, cooperate and socially connect, are those most often required in America's new service economy.

Women have responded to men's financial incapacity and refusal to share equally in housework and childcare. Women can no longer bear the extra work in caring for men who can neither support them nor compensate for women's quadruple shifts in domestic labor, emotional labor, childcare and jobs outside of the home. US women increasingly refuse to marry men who cannot provide economic support and still want full personal services. Women currently initiate most US divorces and, increasingly, refuse to marry in the first place. Women can now afford to live in single households, and do. The majority of people of prime marriage and childbearing age (18-34 years old) remain unmarried and live alone.

These changes have drastically altered the pattern of intimate relationships. Shifts in gender roles and employment required women to adjust by taking on career and job responsibilities and living alone, or alone with children. Most men have not adjusted. Their former workforce and gender roles allowed men to grow accustomed to outsourcing their emotional needs and life maintenance activities to women, who are now far less available.

American women had a vital feminist movement for support. US men had and have no social, political or labor movement to explore what they missed by avoiding tasks in maintaining life or emotional intimate personal connections outside of sex. Single women continue to maintain close emotional connections with their women friends and children. Men have become increasingly emotionally disconnected and lonely. They respond to capitalist ads selling market-based solutions to their felt loss of manliness. They buy testosterone cream to enhance the sense of manhood that changed social conditions erode for them. Testosterone products are one of the biggest growth areas for the pharmaceutical industry. Heterosexual men have now become afraid of love relationships in which the rules have changed. Often, those heterosexual relationships were the only emotionally intimacy men had. They do not know how to function as equal partners, and they often fear learning. Heterosexual women, too, may be afraid, because they also have no guidance in maintaining an intimate relationship between equals. They fear losing their autonomy.

The Position of Men

Lost and lonely men may work on transforming their lives through 12-step programs or therapies. However, needing and reaching out for help has traditionally been associated with femininity, not masculinity. There are four refuges left for men who cling to male hegemony and stereotyped masculinity. They are: the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun culture; the military; the Christian right; and pornography. Of these four misogynist refuges, pornography is the most prevalent, profitable and expanding. The heterosexual Internet pornography industry has exploited heterosexual men's loneliness and contributed to changing the face of the most intimate connections.

Possibilities for meaningful and egalitarian heterosexual personal relationships now seem bleak. Women's current disappointment with men and men's increasing withdrawal from authentic communication and relationships are now reflected in popular culture. Trendy films like "Knocked Up" have birthed a new genre. In "Knocked Up," the female lead has a good job. She is attractive and professional-looking, while the male lead lives with a handful of unemployed, slovenly, male roommates who spend the majority of their time playing video games, smoking pot and watching pornography in a filthy apartment covered in pizza boxes and overall inertia. Their biggest aspiration, which remains to be accomplished, is launching their own pornography site.

A New York Times article describing two state-of-the-art sitcoms is called "Downsized and Downtrodden, Men are the New Women on TV."

Images of high-functioning women and slacker-style, adolescent men have also come up in a study conducted by one of this article's co-authors, Tess Fraad Wolff. Fraad-Wolff interviewed 48 heterosexual women of four different races and socioeconomic groups, ranging in age from 22-40 years old. She asked questions that concerned women's emotional and sexual experiences during the dating process. An overwhelming majority, 46 of the 48 women interviewed, responded with descriptions of the problems below.

Men often refuse to plan ahead and can only accept spur-of the-moment arrangements.
Men show fears of commitment after first dates by failing to make or attend second dates. They reschedule and cancel frequently.
Too many men fail to bring sufficient funds to even share the cost of possible activities on dates.
Men introduce sex and sexually related material into conversations instantly and inappropriately, yet many cannot perform.

The last complaints, about inserting sexual material into the most initial of conversations, may relate to an issue that powerfully impacts relationships and illustrates a profound connection between capitalism and loneliness. It is the mainstreaming of heterosexual pornography.

The Impact of Pornography

Pornography precedes capitalism. However, capitalists have now marketed pornography on a whole new level. Pornography has now become a pastime for billions of men and an addiction for millions. Forty million adults in the United States regularly visit pornography sites. Of those 40 million, 87 percent are men.

Capitalism and Pornography

The explosion of heterosexual Internet pornography in the early 90s yielded huge profits. Pornography is a capitalist dream machine. The industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. By 2006, worldwide pornography revenues ballooned to $97.06 billion.

Because of pornography's extreme profitability, its producers strive to capture a greater market share. They produce more violent pornography with ever younger women and more degrading and assaultive acts. Capitalism values profit above all, thus de-prioritizing consideration for equal rights, morality or damage to personal relationships.

How do the mainstreaming of pornography and the increasing numbers of viewers and addicts affect relationships?

Sexual connection can motivate people to find and maintain relationships. Heterosexual Internet pornography has dramatically altered images of sexuality. Heterosexual US men are experiencing increasing difficulty performing sexually, from maintaining erections, to focusing on partners during sex, to having orgasms at all. Many men have grown so accustomed to the breakneck pace with which pornography offers hundreds of images that they can no longer maintain arousal or concentration during the comparatively slow interactive process of actual sex. Additionally, many viewers have unconsciously associated anonymity with arousal, resulting in a failure to either engage in or appreciate the intimacy that often accompanies real sex. Men in record numbers report being unable to complete sexual acts that involve another live person. A recent University of Kansas study found that 25 percent of college-age men said they'd faked orgasms with women because they could not have orgasms without pornography.

Why Is Pornography Addictive?

The act of watching pornography involves bonding between the brain and the pornographic images and acts depicted. This neural bonding process entails the immediate mental imitation that occurs when people watch representations of any behavior, particularly behavior that possesses arousing qualities. The chemicals released from the firing of neurotransmitters create pleasurable sensations. Viewers want to get more of these sensations. Viewers are all potential addicts because they can not only achieve orgasm with pornography, but potentially develop a neurological attachment to it. They often do not realize the ways in which their relationships with pornography have begun to replace those with one another.

Many men reject actual sex in favor of the synthetic version even when they have partners with whom the opportunities for sex are present. They turn off to the connectedness and intimacy that actual sex can offer. They retreat into pornography to escape from the challenge of changed and challenging relationships with women. Many avoid even trying to form a relationship in favor of a seemingly safe, isolated, anonymous bond with artificial images on computer screens. Although the fraction of women who view and are addicted to pornography mainly do not cite decreased desire to experience real sex with partners, they do share inabilities to masturbate or orgasm without pornography or pornographic images. Initially, larger numbers of women reported feeling perpetually upset and sexually rejected by their male partners. Men, too, have now grown disturbed by their increasing sexual dysfunction and reliance on pornography.

Immersion in pornography is both a cause and a result of the bleak loneliness of trying to relate in a profit-driven America with an altered gender landscape. Pornography provides a lucrative market that sells its wares to mask heterosexual men's fear of changed gender expectations. The way in which capitalism and loneliness feed one another is present as rising numbers of men and women forego countless opportunities for intimacy in favor of the experience of sitting alone with manufactured, profit-driven images that often contain polarizing and divisive messages about gender relationships and sexuality. They select solitary, purchased experiences over mutual ones - even in sexual acts that are, by their very nature and description, about merging, physically, psychologically, symbolically and perhaps spiritually.

The hegemonic position of heterosexual males has been destroyed as the relentless capitalist search for profit eliminated and outsourced jobs and lowered wages. Men and women might have reached a desired mutual respect and equality without the capitalist, profit-driven destruction of our economic and personal lives. There are non-capitalist ways, such as uniting together to force the United States government to provide services that permit women and men to work together as equals outside and inside of the home. The destruction of the US economy left women with the burden of doing it alone and men listless, dispossessed, dysfunctional and lonely. The marketing of pornography offered a refuge from the wreckage that capitalism helped to create.

We must now face the eerie trumping of profit over shared experience. Capitalism has polluted the experience of reciprocal connection in our very bedrooms and bodies. The failure of capitalism to provide sufficient jobs, possibilities for prosperity, decent wages and social services has led masses to grab at lonely pseudosolutions that ultimately worsen the quality of life. Pornography is one of them.

Emerging From Capitalism and Loneliness

How can we emerge from this epidemic of personal isolation and loneliness? How can we connect as equals to change these things? The hope of reaching one another is beginning to mobilize the 99 percent of Americans dispossessed and formerly isolated in capitalist America. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight men and women of all races and ethnicities are beginning to affirm that we belong to the 99 percent and can begin to build a movement together as equals. It is happening. Occupy movements are spreading across America and flourishing in spite of police brutality and repression.

The 99 percent movement is characterized by democratic decisionmaking, respect, transparency, and race and gender equality. Together, people strive to end rule by and for the 1 percent of profiteers who have steered America into economic and emotional destitution. Occupy movements provide possibilities for better lives with opportunity and connection for all. They are our hope.


Creative Commons License

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.


Harriet Fraad

Harriet Fraad is a psychotherapist-hypnotherapist in practice in New York City. She is a founding member of the feminist movement and the journal Rethinking Marxism. For 40 years, she has been a radical committed to transforming US personal and political life.

Tess Fraad Wolff

Tess Fraad Wolff is a certified art therapist, hypnotherapist and MSW psychotherapist. She speaks on issues of male female relationships and pornography.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 07:21 PM

72. Judy Collins sings Leonard Cohen's Suzanne


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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 07:29 PM

73. Leasing Through the Back Door: The Private Financing of “Public” Prisons By Christopher Petrella



Nearly 130,000 bodies are currently caged in for-profit or privately managed “correctional” facilities in the United States, a figure that accounts for 16.4% of federal and 6.8% of state populations. Since 2000, moreover, the number of extant for-profit and privately contracted penal institutions has skyrocketed by approximately 120% during a time in which the population of “public” federal and state facilities has grown four times as slowly. And although federal and state expenditures on prisons have mushroomed by 72% over the last decade and now cost taxpayers $74 billion per annum, the two largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corporation), have together “earned” over $2.9 billion in profits since 2000.

While in recent years much public attention has rightly been devoted to illuminating the “industrial” operations associated with the proliferation of private prison facilities—from the tumesced pocketbooks of private prison operators to the profits generated by telecommunications companies by way of no-bid phone contracts—surprisingly scant attention has been paid to the private financiers of “public” prison projects who earn a profit each time a prison is built. And unlike those who collect revenue on prison operations, firms that purchase bonds for prison construction needn’t have a personal stake in the eventual utility or solvency of any given facility. Their coffers will grow whether or not prison beds are occupied. But a two-decade long declension in public support for prison expansion has thwarted traditional options for financing new prison construction and has resulted (as it usually does) in new opportunities for cadres of investment bankers, building contractors, and consultants to realize indulgent returns-on-investment with abidingly anti-democratic financing schemes. I call it “leasing through the back-door.” Even a cursory review of prison, jail, and detention expansion initiatives demonstrates that federal, state, and municipal governments are using “back door” financing instruments that allow them to borrow billions of dollars to build facilities that the public does not want nor can afford. The State of California provides a superlative case study for the examination of “back door” prison financing.

Simply stated, California voters have overwhelmingly rejected the issuance of prison construction bonds the last two times the issue went to referendum. And according to a 2011 poll jointly commissioned by the University of Southern California and Los Angeles Times, nearly three-out-of-four California voters currently oppose tax increases for the purpose of building new prisons. Perhaps the recent voter disinclination for prison construction is a result of the passage of California’s AB900 in 2007. AB900 allows the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to authorize $7.8 billion in lease-revenue bonds to fund the addition of 53,000 new prison and jail beds while bypassing the electorate. To date, the CDCR has packaged and sold $2.1 billion in lease-revenue bonds. Approximately $900 million of that debt was sold in 2011 alone. Many anti-prison activists have cogently argued that AB900 was drafted to circumvent the “will of the people” who previously defeated two propositions placed on the ballot by the state legislature to appropriate money from general obligation bonds to pay for more prisons. When voters began rejecting general obligation bonds for prison construction, state treasurers, corporate lawyers, and investment bankers began underwriting lease-revenue bonds for the purpose of avoiding constitutional and statutory restrictions on such debt guarded by voter approved bonds.

Of course, prison finance policy is far from immutable and often reflects political-economic trends, exigencies, and anxieties. In fact, prior to the mid-1980s, prisons were generally financed in one of two ways. State officials either adopted a “pay-as-you-go” approach by funding new construction out of general revenues or they borrowed money through the sale of general obligation bonds. A general obligation bond is simply a repayment pledge that is guaranteed by the “full faith and credit” – including the taxing power – of the issuer, in this case, the state. Failure to pay debt service on a general obligation is exceedingly rare among large government entities and typically only occurs under conditions of bankruptcy. Most crucially, the issuance of general obligation bonds requires approval by taxpayers in the form of a bond referendum. As correctional populations and costs mounted in the 1980s and 1990s, however, California and other states found it increasingly difficult 1) to fund prison expansion vis-à-vis annual operating budgets and 2) to secure public approval for new debt. Through the collusion of the public and private sectors (scarcely distinguishable these days…) state officials responded by issuing another type of debt to finance prison construction: lease revenue bonds. Elected officials can circumvent citizen lead socio-political obstacles by issuing lease-revenue bonds, a type of debt that allows agencies created by the government to finance a prison facility by issuing tax-exempt bonds and then leasing the right to use the facility back to the state. The state, which generally gains ownership of the project at the end of the lease period, uses funds appropriated by the legislature (and the governor, typically) to make lease payments. Lease-revenue bonds do not require voter approval. Lease-revenue bonds are often extraordinarily costly because they carry high interest rates resulting from the lease agreement that guarantees the loan. Even by the CDCR’s own admission, “from a standpoint of costs alone, general obligation bonds are preferable to lease-revenue bonds.”

Wait, what? They continue,

“General obligation bonds typically carry an interest rate 0.2 to 0.5 percentage points below the interest rate on lease-revenue bonds. [General obligation bonds issued by the state of California carry an average interest rate of 5.5% and a service life of 25 years.] In addition, lease-revenue bonds have slightly higher issuance costs (due to the need to purchase commercial insurance) than do general obligation bonds and require a higher value of bonds to be issued to produce the same net proceeds generated by general obligation bonds.”

The higher risk and cost associated with lease-revenue bonds doesn’t seem to concern Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley – three of the largest six U.S. financial institutions—that have underwritten and purchased over $2 billion in lease-revenue bonds for prison construction in California from 1991-2007. The public must be made to know that although financial institutions like Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley do not profit directly by exploiting prison labor or by operating private penal facilities, they nonetheless realize exorbitant annual revenues by propping up a “prison industrial complex” by way of “leasing through the back door.” And to paraphrase 16th century Dutch polymath Balthazar Gerbier, too many back doors make thieves.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 07:31 PM

74. JUDY COLLINS - "Someday Soon" HD 1969


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Sat Dec 31, 2011, 07:38 PM

75. Carelessly Mistaking Theater For Policy by: Paul Krugman



One crucial thing you need to understand about political journalists in the United States is that, with some honorable exceptions, they don’t know or care about actual policy. In a way, that makes sense — the skills needed to cultivate contacts, to get the inside scoop on what’s going on in Congressional scheming or campaign war rooms, are very different from the skills needed to interpret spreadsheets from the Congressional Budget Office.

The problem, however, is that all too often political journalists mistake the theater of policy for reality (or don’t care about the difference). Hence, the awful decision of Politico to give Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, an award as the health care policy maker of the year. Even if you like the thrust of Mr. Ryan’s ideas, even if you think privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher scheme is fine, what became painfully, embarrassingly clear during the debate over the Ryan plan was that Mr. Ryan is, well, incompetent. The plan was a mess, from its invocation of ludicrous Heritage Foundation projections to its crazy assertions about what would happen to discretionary spending. It’s true that the plan “got everyone talking,” as Politico says — but mostly it got people talking about what a mess Mr. Ryan’s effort was.

Oh, and it was pretty clear that Mr. Ryan wasn’t being honest about his own numbers.

What’s going on here, I suppose, is that Politico is mistaking theater for policy. Mr. Ryan isn’t an important health care reformer, or even minimally competent in his attempted wonkery, but he plays a deep thinker on TV. And the people at Politico either don’t understand the difference, or they don’t care.

Lies and Elections

As we wait to see whether the Republican party nominates for president the guy who claims that his health plan was nothing like Obamacare, (Mitt Romney), or the guy who claims that Freddie Mac paid him $1.6 million for his work as a historian (Newt Gingrich), one thing is obvious: This election is going to pose a major challenge to the news media. How will they handle the lies problem?


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Response to Demeter (Reply #75)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 07:41 PM

76. Electing People Who Will Govern on Foolish Assumptions Won't Work



Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me or as George Bush famously butchered the quote, “you can’t get fooled again.” But it seems the American people have a great capacity for allowing themselves to be fooled over and over again. Why we’re even ready to accept the myth that Newt Gingrich is brilliant and Mitt Romney could cure the stuttering economy by making ruthless corporate skills the law of the land.

How extraordinary it would be if business acumen translated into leadership talent and enabled a corporate giant to run a country and deal with the vagaries of a complex world. Those who seek easy answers for our dilemmas are satisfied it seems that candidates simply announce their intentions to shrink government, balance the budget and keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear device, in a breathtaking overhaul of our political system - - except of course for solving the problem of a bloated financial industry and removing the perks from corporate America’s balance sheet.

Conservatives spend most of their time conforming to arcane notions of what a conservative is and how best they can demonstrate their adherence to the principles of a narrow generic agenda. Being conservative may include broad-based goals such as lower taxes, smaller government and moral imperatives but programs to enhance the lives of most Americans often get lost in waves of rhetoric. How strange it seems to run a campaign on the basis of one’s conservative bona fides instead of tackling the major issues of the day; they are not the same thing and conservative values are not a palliative formula that will cure the country’s ills.

But we find ourselves in the midst of a dizzying Republican primary roundabout in which choices include religious beliefs, traditional have-gun-will-travel foreign policy and isolationist doctrine couched in promises of what each candidate will accomplish as soon as they reach the oval office. The subject of jobs is rarely touched upon except to criticize the president for not creating them. And efforts to reign in the excesses of an out-of control corporatist segment of our society are met with derision by conservatives who insist “free markets,” that is unregulated business interests as they see it, are the best medicine for an ailing economy. That mindset has brought us to a state of “unbridled crony capitalism, a confluence of corporate corruption and political corruption” so described by Ed Fallon, an Occupy Des Moines organizer. But he added in a recent interview, “the system is a mess”, but that doesn’t mean it is unworkable. With respect to goals, Fallon said one of the organization’s goals is to lobby for reinstating Glass Steagell, the law that formerly forbade mixing investment entities with banks and which, when overturned, wreaked such havoc in the financial markets. Special-interest legislators worked their will in Congress and helped to create the travesty we now struggle to unravel. Once achieved such legislative victories are hard to defeat no matter how devastating the consequences of partisan maneuvering prove to be - - fooled again, this time into near financial ruin...


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 07:47 PM

77. My Bah, Humbug was actually a 24 hour stomach bug


so I'm feeling a tad less insane...need to go out and paper the world with Sunday's issue of advertising wrapped in a right-winged tissue of lies, which is back to its usual size (half of what it's been since Veteran's Day).

Post on, Weekenders! Find your Judy Collins favorite and share!

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 07:53 PM

78. 10 Things Still Made in America



...Greeting cards

The Great Recession and high unemployment have even worked their way into the messages offered on greeting cards.

In 2009, Hallmark introduced a line of greeting cards meant to express sympathy and support for those who have lost their job. A grumpy-looking cat is pictured on one such card with the prose: "Heard about your job. Is there anywhere I could hack up a hairball, like, say, on a former employer's head? Just wonderin' ..."

Another has a less humorous take: "Losing your job does not define you. What you do about it does. As you face what lies ahead, your strength will come from the determined and passionate person you are ... the person I already know you to be."

Given the audience, Hallmark stresses that all the cards are made in the U.S...



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Response to Demeter (Reply #78)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 08:13 PM

79. Factoid 'O the Year by digby



The gap between the United States’ rich and poor continued to grow last year, according to new government wage data.

With pay down and fewer jobs available, the Social Security Administration’s figures highlight one of the major issues of the Occupy Wall Street movement - widening income disparity, the Associated Press reported.

The SSA said 50 percent of workers made less than $26,364 last year — and most Americans have fewer job opportunities available to them. But the wealthiest Americans are relatively unscathed, with those earning $1 million or more jumping 18 percent from 2009.

Total employment fell again last year, dropping from 150.9 million in 2009 to 150.4 million in 2010. And in 2007, at the height of the recession, there were still 5.2 million more jobs than in 2010, the AP wrote.


So, not only are the rich getting richer, they are failing to deliver on the primary reason we are supposed to worship and revere them for their success --- job creation. There are fewer jobs today than there were at the height of the recession. Heckuva job, Galties.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #78)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 12:59 PM

104. American Greetings NOT made in US

I was looking, in the last few days before Christmas, at some boxed cards discounted at the local grocery store. Box of 16 cards with envelopes, $10. MADE IN FUCKING CHINA.


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Response to Tansy_Gold (Reply #104)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 01:13 PM

105. But the Pink Slip ones are


There's a name for that kind of reasoning, British, which escapes me at the moment, since mind is on email...

but the source carefully points out that they don't do everything here...

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Response to Demeter (Reply #105)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 02:05 PM

114. Yes, those were Hallmark

My point, though, was that AMERICAN (yeah right) Greetings manufactured their Christmas cards in China. I think that is an oxymoron.


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Response to Tansy_Gold (Reply #114)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 02:44 PM

115. Well, I Think You Are Too Harsh, Tansy


After all, MOST American corporations are manufacturing in China, and shipping the goods to sell here..it's the American (business school) way....

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Response to Demeter (Reply #115)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 04:58 PM

121. Yes, but those other corps don't have the

freakin' balls to continue to call themselves "American". Oh, I suppose some of them do, but I just think it's pretty damned ballsy for AG to keep their name and then produce their shit in China.

I mean, if ever there was a corp to boycott. . . . and with Valentine's coming up. . . .

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 06:45 AM

80. The Occupation Thread


I'm going to post links to articles on the Occupy movement here. they aren't easy to sample, so look them up!

Occupations in winter


Protesters nationwide link up through large-scale conference calls and plan what's next...

Ten Winning Moments for the 99% in 2011


Small Occupy Movements Across the Country Accumulate Victories


Occupy Rigged Elections: A Call for the Second American Revolution in 2012


Our electoral process is rigged in the following ways:

  • Corporate personhood and the legal determination that money equals speech.
  • Corporate campaign financing and lobbying; billions to buy our elected representatives.
  • Corporate restriction of candidate access to the media and to participation in vital debates.
  • Corporate media exit polling, which often alters results to manufacture a false "red shift" of rightward-moving electoral outcomes.
  • Manipulation of electoral structures and mechanisms
  • Partisan redistricting, which re-draws electoral district maps that favor a particular party.
  • Voter ID laws that disenfranchise young, poor and minority voters.
  • Fraudulent purging of voter rolls, including "caging" - removing a voter from the rolls or discarding their vote based on the return of direct mail to their listed address, a practice found to be used fraudulently and with racial bias, making it illegal under the Voting Rights Act.
  • Disenfranchisement of felons, many poor, black or Hispanic, and convicted on drug offenses.
  • The centralized rigging of computerized voting machines.

    The battle to topple the corporatocracy must strategically attack all of these points. But for the purpose of this call to action - Occupy Rigged Elections - we're going to focus on the last, least understood bullet point: computerized election fraud.

    In the end, how ballots are counted - the central control mechanism of democracy - could prove the easiest piece to reclaim; our first real step toward radically shifting power back toward the people...

    OCCUPY WEBSITE: http://interoccupy.org/

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Response to Demeter (Reply #80)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 07:10 AM

84. Cities that broke up Occupy camps now face lawsuits over free speech, use of force



Most major Occupy encampments have been dispersed, but they live on in a flurry of lawsuits in which protesters are asserting their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly and challenging authorities’ mass arrests and use of force to break up tent cities.

Lawyers representing protesters have filed lawsuits — or are planning them — in state and federal courts from coast to coast, challenging eviction orders and what they call heavy-handed police tactics and the banning of demonstrators from public properties.

Some say the fundamental right of protest has been criminalized in places, with protesters facing arrest and charges while doing nothing more than exercising protected rights to demonstrate.

“When I think about the tents as an expression of the First Amendment here, I compare it to Tahrir Square in Egypt,” said Carol Sobel, co-chairwoman of the National Lawyers Guild’s Mass Defense Committee. “Our government is outraged when military forces and those governments come down on the demonstrators. But they won’t extend the same rights in this country,” she said. “They praise that as a fight for democracy, the values we treasure. It comes here and these people are riffraff.”

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Response to Demeter (Reply #84)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 07:13 AM

85. OccupyMarines Renews Vow To Protect Protesters


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Response to Demeter (Reply #80)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 02:52 PM

116. Populism Isn't Dead, It's Marching: What 19th Century Farmers Can Teach Occupiers About How to Keep



Not so long ago, Americans witnessed the beginning of a mass democratic uprising. Thousands of average people, disgusted by greedy elites and corporate control of government, launched a movement that spread to almost every state in the nation. They did it to reject debt. They did it to fight foreclosures. They did it to topple a world where the 1 percent determined life for the other 99. And they did all of it against incredible odds, with a self-respect that stymied critics.

The year? 1877. The people? Dirt-poor farmers who would come to be known as Populists...the Populists came within an inch of changing the entire corporate-capitalist system. They wanted a totally new world, and they had a plan to get it. But as you may have noticed, they didn’t. And now here we are, one hundred years later, occupying parks where fields once stood. We’re at a crucial phase in our movement, standing just now with the great Everything around us—everything to win or everything to lose. It’s our choice. And that’s good, because the choices we make next will echo, not just for scholars and bored kids in history class, but in the lives we do or don’t get to have. The good news is this: the Populists traveled in wagons and left us their wheels. We don’t have to reinvent them. We’re going in a new direction, but I have a feeling they can help us get there.

Occupy has done a lot of things right, and even more things beautifully. But strategy has not been our forte. That was okay at first, even good. We didn’t have one demand, because we wanted it all. So we let our anger grow, and our imagination with it. We were not partisan or monogamous to one creed. That ranging anger got 35,000 people on the Brooklyn Bridge after the Wall Street eviction, and hell if I’m not saying hallelujah. But winter is settling now, and cops are on the march. Each week we face new eviction orders, and wonder how to occupy limbo.

It’s time for a plan, then, some idea for going forward. This plan should in no way replace the rhizomatic-glorious, joyful-rip-roarious verve of the movement so far. It can occur in tandem. But we need a blueprint for the future, because strategy is the road resistance walks to freedom...I sat down a few years ago and devoted myself to studying social movements of the past. I wanted to see what I could learn from them—where they went wrong, where they went right. I didn't trust this exercise to random musings. No, like a good Type A kid, I made butcher paper lists of past movement features and mapped them onto current ones. I asked: What is the revolt of the guard for the climate movement? What’s the modern anti-corporate equivalent of the Boston Tea Party? As I read, I learned a lot about the phases movements go through as they form, what common features they share, and what often breaks them apart. I could name these phases myself, but it’s already been done. And no one has named them better than historian Lawrence Goodwyn, a thinking human if there ever was one and a student of the Populist movement...


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Response to Demeter (Reply #116)

Mon Jan 2, 2012, 08:48 AM

132. "We’ve got to change it all, and we’ve got to do it before the ice caps melt"

"Occupy Wall Street is by and large in phase one. Fair enough; it’s been only two months. Building a movement took the Populists ten or twenty years, so we could easily rest easily. But for most people I know, there is a deep, darkening sense that we do not have that kind of time. We’ve got to change it all, and we’ve got to do it before the ice caps melt, before that python, global finance, dies and squeezes its victims one last and lethal time. We are on the edge of history. We are urgency embodied."

This is the bottom line. Yet even those economists "on our side" are still, for the most part, parroting the "growth" mantra. This is where my imagination, my "hope" fails me - I think we've left it too long, that we can't do it in time. I wish I thought otherwise.

I have no hope. I see no future.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 06:48 AM

81. Eight States Raise Minimum Wage for New Year



...The federal rate is $7.25 an hour, only about $15,000 a year for full-time workers before taxes and other deductions. Eighteen states, more than 100 cities and counties and the District of Columbia have higher rates, but their rates also are clearly inadequate.

During his 2008 election campaign, President Obama proposed raising the minimum to $9.50 an hour by 2011. But even though that would merely adjust the minimum wage for inflation, Congress and the White House have done little to make it happen.

Some of Obama's Republican opponents in Congress actually have called for the minimum wage to be abolished, largely because their big money backers in the restaurant business, who employ about 60 percent of all minimum wage workers, are against it, as are many other business and corporate interests.

Congress' failure to act has left it up to the states. The eight that are raising their rates on New Year's Day include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Their rates will increase by 28 to 37 cents an hour to between $7.64 and $9.04. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) calculates that will bring nearly 1.4 million full-time minimum wage workers an extra $582 to $770 per year...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 06:55 AM

82. Republicans Try to Impose Selfishness on American People



In the iconic Christmas film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” an angel offers the beleaguered main character, George Bailey, the stark choice between a hometown named for a cruel banker or one created by and for the middle class...The banker’s town, Pottersville, is filled with bars, gambling dens and despair. The people’s town of Bedford Falls is made of hope, hard working middle class families, and their homes financed by the Bailey Brothers Building & Loan.....The film’s happy ending is the people of Bedford Falls banding together to rescue George Bailey and the Bailey Brothers Building & Loan that had given so many of them a leg up over the years.

Republicans seek a different conclusion. They find middle class cooperation and community intolerable. They want the banker, Henry Potter, with his “every man for himself” philosophy to triumph. In the spirit of their self-centered mentor Ayn Rand, Republicans are trying to disfigure America so she resembles Pottersville...This is exactly what Republicans do...This time last year, Republicans demanded extension of tax breaks for the 1 percent, contending tax breaks stimulate the economy. For the past three months, however, Republicans have fought extension of payroll tax cuts, contending a break benefiting 160 million middle class Americans did not stimulate the economy.

They describe beloved American programs like Medicare and Social Security as charities – using the euphemism “entitlements.” Like mortgages from the Bailey Building & Loan, Medicare and Social Security are not charities. They’re the American people depositing and pooling their money for the benefit of the American community...The GOP tries to destroy programs like these that aid the middle class, the vast majority of Americans – the 99 percent – while Republicans protect tax breaks and special perks for the rich – the one percent, the Henry Potters....All year, Republicans have demanded an end to programs the middle class created to aid the majority, the 99 percent. The GOP wants to reverse the new banking regulations that were passed in an attempt to prevent another economic collapse caused by risky Wall Street practices. The GOP tried to to rescind the healthcare reform law that prevents insurance companies from terminating coverage when beneficiaries get sick and prohibits the practice of refusing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Influential Republicans this year have called for repealing laws forbidding child labor, laws guaranteeing minimum wage and laws protecting the environment. They’ve demanded elimination of federal funding for organizations like the Public Broadcasting System that educates preschoolers, Head Start, which provides opportunity to poor children, and Planned Parenthood, which uses 97 percent of its funds to provide general, obstetrical and gynecological medical care to women, many of whom are rural and poor.

...Republicans are attempting to impose their selfish belief system on the selfless American people, people like the citizens of Bedford Falls who rush to the rescue of neighbors....It won’t work, just like it didn’t in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Republicans will fail in their attempt to make America Pottersville because the 99 percent believe avarice is a sin, not a value. The GOP will fail because greed is not the American way.


Leo Gerard

Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW), was elected in October to his second four-year term since first taking office in 2001 after the retirement of former president George Becker.

Gerard serves on the AFL-CIO's Executive Council (www.aflcioi.org), where he chairs the AFL-CIO's Public Policy Committee. He serves on the U.S. National Commission on Energy Policy, and is a charter board member of the Apollo Alliance (www.apolloalliance.org), a non-profit public policy initiative for creating good jobs in pursuit of energy independence.

Gerard is a founding partner in 2006 with the Sierra Club of the Blue Green Alliance (www.bluegreenalliance.org), which today includes the Natural Resources Defense Council and four other unions dedicated to expanding jobs in the green economy. He also helped create the Washington-based Alliance for American Manufacturing (www.americanmanufacturing.org), a unique non-partisan, non-profit partnership forged to strengthen manufacturing in the U.S. that’s made up of America's leading manufacturers and the USW.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 06:58 AM

83. Partisan Shenanigans, Political Nonsense by: Paul Krugman



President Obama has tried — desperately, and far beyond the point at which it made any kind of sense — to reach across the partisan divide in the United States. He has bent over backward to be nice to bankers. He has clearly been uncomfortable with any kind of populist rhetoric, although that may finally be changing.

And his reward for all this is that Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and current candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, describes him as a full-on Marxist: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. “[Obama] seeks to replace our merit-based society with an entitlement society,” Mr. Romney said in a recent speech. “In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people to enjoy truly disproportionate rewards are the people who do the redistributing — the government.”

Reality just doesn’t matter here — which is why Mr. Obama might as well reach out to his base instead of the unreachable right...


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 07:53 AM

86. Judy Collins - I Think It's Going To Rain Toda


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Sun Jan 1, 2012, 08:00 AM

87. JUDY COLLINS - "Amazing Grace" with the Harlem Boys Choir 1993


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 08:02 AM

88. Bread and Roses



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Sun Jan 1, 2012, 08:08 AM

89. U.S. is top 2012 property investment pick



The United States will remain the top choice of most global commercial real estate investors in 2012, but the country has lost ground to Brazil which ranked No. 2 this year, according to a survey released Sunday.

While the United States offers the most stable and secure option in commercial real estate, investors said improvement in rent and occupancy growth and the repeal of a 1980 foreign investment tax would have the strongest impact on their investment decisions, according to the 20th annual survey of Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE) members.

For about the past year or so, investors in U.S. commercial real estate have focused on gateway cities such as New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles, driving prices up and yields down.

Meanwhile commercial property in Brazil, with its bubbling economy and safer investment environment, has become a hot spot for global investors. Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, jumped to the fourth best city for real estate investment dollars in 2012, up from 26th place last year...The United States is still very desirable and was second behind the UK in attracting cross border investment in 2011, according to Real Capital Analytics preliminary figures...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 08:12 AM

90. 2012: A Better Year, Unless Europe's Debt Blows It Up




Last New Year's Day, most economic forecasters were predicting a good year ahead. But 2011 turned out to be another disappointment for stock investors and home sellers, and a discouraging time for job seekers.

Now, as 2012 begins, economists are hoping their crystal balls are working a bit better. Most are seeing a brighter picture.

A recent Associated Press survey of leading economists showed a consensus estimate of 2.4 percent GDP growth in 2012. That would top 2011, when growth ran at an estimated 2 percent.

If the consensus forecast were to come true, the growth would be strong enough to whittle down the unemployment rate of 8.6 percent. The rate already is down to its lowest level in nearly three years, and based on recent improvements in weekly jobless claims, appears likely to slip further...


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 10:56 AM

91. Happy New year! Just dropped in for a quick goodbye.

I'll probably get the axe soon.

A signing apology? For formalizing a Police State?

Sorry kids. I can't stand being associated with these fascist ass-suckers anymore.

Bring on President Palin, Romney, Paul, Gingrich, Bachmann, Santorum.....et al. They deserve it! Anybody who agrees with and defends this shit is not worth talking to, or arguing with. And they don't deserve my vote. This season, I'll vote for anybody but a Republican or Democrat.

Fuck 'em all!

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Response to Fuddnik (Reply #91)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 11:39 AM

92. Happy New Year!

To Fuddnik and everyone else here for giving me a calm port in the storm. Lurking/reading/learning here has been great. I hope to continue, but I am where Fudd is. They're all owned by the corporations these days and don't even try to hide the fact.
Would the Democrats even have the cojones to nominate an FDR in today's world?

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Response to Fuddnik (Reply #91)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 11:57 AM

93. happy new year fuddnik!!!

just hang out w/ us.

you add a lot -- and i would hate to see you go.

so many of LGBTIQ folks were purged -- and i find that i miss them. i would miss you.

oh and the doggie pics, of course.

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Response to Fuddnik (Reply #91)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 12:00 PM

95. You've got your cell here, Fuddnik


Don't abandon it all. We each have to work with what we've got. And one of the things we've got is each other. That's what is so threatening to DU Corporate.

On the other hand, without us, DU would be a cheap imitation Facebook.

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Response to Fuddnik (Reply #91)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 12:05 PM

96. Judy Collins - My Father


There's a book just published, called "Railroaded", got a review on NPR. Thought you might be interested...


The author confirmed that the Pacific Coastal Railway was built to facilitate the annexation of Canada's Pacific Northwest...Jay Gould's idea...

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Response to Fuddnik (Reply #91)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 01:15 PM

106. Happy New Year to Fuddnik and to all here

I'm with you Fudd - as an exemplar, I offer this thread:


personally, i think "we" need a new home. it is depressing to even browse here.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 11:59 AM

94. China factories struggle, policy action seen ahead


(Reuters) - China's big manufacturers narrowly avoided a contraction in December a survey showed on Sunday, but downward risks persist and suggest the world's second's second-largest economy will need fresh policy support to counter a slowdown in growth.

The official purchasing managers' index (PMI), complied by the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP) on behalf of the National Bureau of Statistics, rose to 50.3 in December from 49 in November.

That indicated a slight expansion in business activity in China's vast factory sector, but the reading was barely above the flatline of 50 that demarcates expansion from contraction which the index fell below in November for the first time since early 2009.

Analysts had expected the official PMI to be at 49.1 in December.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 12:08 PM

97. Judy Collins - "Farewell to Tarwathie"



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Sun Jan 1, 2012, 12:20 PM

98. The 10 Craziest Economic Policy Ideas Of 2011




Think we missed a good one? Let us know in the comments below:

  • Florida State Rep. Proposes Ending Ban On Dwarf Tossing To Create Jobs

  • New Jersey Gives MTV’s ‘Jersey Shore’ A Film Credit Worth $420,000

  • Kentucky Provides Tax Credit To Build Theme Park Modeled After Noah’s Ark

  • Virgina Bill Provides Tax Credit For Blasting Cremated Remains Into Space

  • Newt Gingrich Proposes Jobs Plan For Poor Kids To Be Janitors

  • Alaska Rep. Proposes A Tax Deduction For Donations Of Wild Game Meat

  • The GOP Presidential Candidates’ Tax Plans — From 9-9-9 To The Tax Break For No One

  • House Republicans Call For Blocking Job Killing Python Regulations

  • Goldbugs Return Across The Country

  • Goldbuggery — the belief that the U.S. should go back to using the gold standard — made a strong return to the country in the last year, from Georgia lawmakers proposing a bill that would force taxpayers to make state transactions in only gold and silver to Utah legalizing the use of gold and silver coins for just about anything. And Republicans piled on, deriding the U.S. dollar as “fiat currency” and attending goldbug conferences. Nevermind that most mainstream economists agree that linking the U.S. currency to a rock that comes out of the ground never actually worked and would have disastrous consequences if embraced again. PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE FACT THAT THIS IS ACTUALLY IN THE PLANNING, FOLKS, BY MORE NATIONS THAN JUST OURS...OURS REFUSES TO "PLAN" FOR ANYTHING EXCEPT A POLICE STATE.

  • South Carolina Offers Tax-Free Weekend To Buy Guns

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 12:26 PM

    99. Lies, Damn Lies And The Four Whoppers Of 2011 (Jonathan Alter is a Bloomberg View columnist)



    ...My Four Fat Ones are:

    No. 1. “The financial crisis was caused not by Wall Street but by the federal government, namely Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

    No. 2. “Republicans voted to end Medicare.”


    No. 3. “Democrats’ tax increases on millionaires are a ‘job-killer’ for small business.”

    No. 4. “We’re inches away from no longer having a free economy.”



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    Response to Demeter (Reply #99)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 12:42 PM

    102. The Big Lie (NOW WE'RE TALKING!)



    Wall Street has destroyed the wonder that was America...

    It was in May 1961 that a series of circumstances took me from the hushed precincts of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was working as a curatorial assistant in the European Paintings Department, to Lehman Brothers, to begin what for the next 30 years would be an involvement—I hesitate to call it “a career”—in investment banking. I would promote and execute deals, sit on boards, kiss ass, and lie through my teeth: the whole megillah. In consequence of which, I would wear Savile Row and carry a Hermès briefcase. I had Mme. Claude’s home number in Paris and I frequented the best clubs in a half-dozen cities. But I had a problem: I was unable to develop the anticommunitarian moral opacity that is the key to real success on Wall Street.

    I had my doubts from the beginning. A few months after I started to work downtown, I ran into an old friend from college and before, a man later to become one of New York’s most esteemed writers and editors...“So,” he asked, “how do you like what you’re doing now?”

    “I like it quite a lot,” I said. And this was true: these were new frontiers for me, the pace was lively, the money was good enough ($6,500 a year), and there was so much to learn. But there was one aspect of Wall Street that I found morally confusing if not distasteful: “There’s one thing that bothers me, though. It’s this: on the one hand the New York Stock Exchange has sent its president, the estimable G. Keith Funston, out into the countryside, supported by an expensive, extensive advertising campaign, to exhort the proletariat to Own your share of America! As if buying 50 shares of IBM or GM in 1961 is as much of a civic duty as buying a $100 war bond in 1943.” I then added, “But here’s the thing. At the same time as Funston’s out there doing his thing, if you ask any veteran Wall Street pro how the Street works, the first thing he’ll tell you is: The public is always wrong. Always.” I paused to let that sink in, then confessed, “I have to tell you, I have trouble squaring that circle.”

    And that was back when Wall Street was basically honest, brought into line thanks in part to Ferdinand Pecora’s 1933 humiliation of the great bankers of the Jazz Age and even more so because of the communitarian exigencies forced on the nation by war...

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #102)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 12:52 PM

    103. But now, I think, the game is at long last over....


    As 2011 slithers to its end, none of the major problems that led to the crisis point three years ago have really been solved. Bank balance sheets still reek. Europe day by day becomes a financial black hole, with matter from the periphery being sucked toward the center until the vortex itself collapses. The Street and its ministries of propaganda have fallen back on a Big Lie as old as capitalism itself: that all that has gone wrong has been government’s fault. This time, however, I don’t think the argument that “Washington ate my homework” is going to work. This time, a firestorm is going to explode about the Street’s head—and about time, too.

    It’s funny; the Big Lie has a long pedigree. A year or so ago, I was leafing through Ron Chernow’s indispensable history of the Morgan financial interests, and found this interesting exchange between FDR and Russell Leffingwell, a Morgan partner and Washington fixer, a sort of Robert Strauss of his day. It dates from the summer of 1932, with FDR not yet in office: “You and I know,” wrote Leffingwell, “that we cannot cure the present deflation and depression by punishing the villains, real or imaginary, of the first post war decade, and that when it comes down to the day of reckoning nobody gets very far with all this prohibition and regulation stuff.” To which FDR replied: “I wish we could get from the bankers themselves an admission that in the 1927 to 1929 period there were grave abuses and that the bankers themselves now support wholeheartedly methods to prevent recurrence thereof. Can’t bankers see their own advantage in such a course?” And then Leffingwell again: “The bankers were not in fact responsible for 1927–29 and the politicians were. Why then should the bankers make a false confession?”

    This time, I fear, the public anger will not be deflected. Confessions, not false, will be exacted. Occupy Wall Street has set the snowball rolling; you may not think much of OWS—I have my own reservations, although none are philosophical or moral—but it has made America aware of a sinister, usurious process by which wealth has systematically been funneled into fewer and fewer hands. A process in which Washington played a useful supporting role, but no more than that.

    Over the next year, I expect the “what” will give way to the “how” in the broad electorate’s comprehension of the financial situation. The 99 percent must learn to differentiate the bloodsuckers and rent-extractors from those in the 1 percent who make the world a better, more just place to live. Once people realize how Wall Street made its pile, understand how financiers get rich, what it is that they actually do, the time will become ripe for someone to gather the spreading ripples of anger and perplexity into a focused tsunami of retribution. To make the bastards pay, properly, for the grief and woe they have caused. Perhaps not to the extent proposed by H. L. Mencken, who wrote that when a bank fails, the first order of business should be to hang its board of directors, but in a manner in which the pain is proportionate to the collateral damage. Possibly an excess-profits tax retroactive to 2007, or some form of “Tobin tax” on transactions, or a wealth tax. The era of money for nothing will be over.

    But it won’t just end with taxes. When the great day comes, Wall Street will pray for another Pecora, because compared with the rough beast now beginning to strain at the leash, Pecora will look like Phil Gramm...


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 12:30 PM

    100. How Germany Builds Twice as Many Cars as the U.S. While Paying Its Workers Twice as Much



    In 2010, Germany produced more than 5.5 million automobiles; the U.S produced 2.7 million. At the same time, the average auto worker in Germany made $67.14 per hour in salary in benefits; the average one in the U.S. made $33.77 per hour. Yet Germany’s big three car companies—BMW, Daimler (Mercedes-Benz), and Volkswagen—are very profitable.

    How can that be? The question is explored in a new article from Remapping Debate, a public policy e-journal. Its author, Kevin C. Brown, writes that “the salient difference is that, in Germany, the automakers operate within an environment that precludes a race to the bottom; in the U.S., they operate within an environment that encourages such a race.”


    There are “two overlapping sets of institutions” in Germany that guarantee high wages and good working conditions for autoworkers. The first is IG Metall, the country’s equivalent of the United Automobile Workers. Virtually all Germany’s car workers are members, and though they have the right to strike, they “hardly use it, because there is an elaborate system of conflict resolution that regularly is used to come to some sort of compromise that is acceptable to all parties,” according to Horst Mund, an IG Metall executive. The second institution is the German constitution, which allows for “works councils” in every factory, where management and employees work together on matters like shop floor conditions and work life. Mund says this guarantees cooperation, “where you don’t always wear your management pin or your union pin.”
    Why Saab Had to Die Frederick E. Allen Frederick E. Allen Forbes Staff
    15 images Photos: The 15 Best Companies To Work For

    Mund points out that this goes

    against all mainstream wisdom of the neo-liberals. We have strong unions, we have strong social security systems, we have high wages. So, if I believed what the neo-liberals are arguing, we would have to be bankrupt, but apparently this is not the case. Despite high wages . . . despite our possibility to influence companies, the economy is working well in Germany.


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 12:38 PM

    101. Goodbye "Shop Til You Drop" Mentality: Renegade Band of Economists Call for "Degrowth" Economy





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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 01:19 PM

    107. Going Postal



    What kind of nation won’t fund a post office?

    There was a time not too long ago when mantles lined with Christmas cards were as ubiquitous as Christmas trees, when birthdays bestowed us with similar arrays, when the US Postal Service would regularly visit our homes and drop off tangible graphic reminders that people loved us—that we were part of a community. Now our hundreds or thousands of Facebook “friends” hit a key and post to our pages. Our email inboxes might clog for a day or two with similar messages, laden with pop-ups to market us happiness or merriment in accordance with what the date requires. Offline, in the real world, where things have texture, our social environments grow more barren. Love, hate, and business, the pundits tell us, have migrated to email and social media, and hence that molluscan dinosaur, snail mail, is extinct.

    But my disgust with the radical scheme to kill off the Postal Service has nothing to do with nostalgia or romanticism. The Postal Service is not a mere delivery service, an outdated, inefficient alternative to FedEx or UPS. It’s a public service that every nation on earth, except for Somalia, maintains, with the US joining Somalia as one of the only nations on earth not to fund a postal system. We used to fund it, from the birth of our nation until the Reagan presidency. It’s one of the only public services specifically addressed in the US Constitution—right in Article One. Its genesis dates back to the Second Continental Congress, which appointed Benjamin Franklin as our first postmaster general.
    Delivering democracy

    The original purpose of the Postal Service was not to deliver Christmas gifts or iPads but to deliver democracy.


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    Response to Demeter (Reply #107)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 01:21 PM

    108. I REPEAT: The original purpose of the Postal Service was to Deliver Democracy!


    It was the conduit for political discussion and debate, tying a geographically dispersed population into a single, somewhat informed electorate. That’s why magazines and newspapers historically enjoyed a low, government-subsidized rate. The founding fathers realized that a large nation must communicate through media, and that privately funded media would skew the national debate toward the interests of the rich. Hence, they established the oostal service and gave it a mandate to subsidize independent media with deeply discounted media mail rates. That’s why its formation was enshrined in the US Constitution—for the same reason the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and names journalism as the only profession that it specifically safeguards. A free press, including a means for disseminating that press, are paramount necessities for a democracy to function.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #108)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 07:48 AM

    130. A point totally absent in the national conversation - and another

    point - in neighborhoods and small towns, it's part of the "community" I think - it's demise part of the "barreness" in the textured real world noted in the post above. People see their neighbors at the post office. The clerks get to know them. This sounds like a small and insignificant thing, but it's not.

    And of course, the poor often have no internet, or if they do, no credit cards and often no bank account - they do not pay their bills online. Same with the elderly. For them, longer delivery times and fewer delivery days are not minor changes.

    There are values other than "efficiency." Besides, one has to question an "efficiency" that in this age - for just one example here in my town - now leaves a huge building nearly empty so our mail can be trucked 60 miles every day to be sorted, and then trucked back 60 miles to be delivered to get a letter across town.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 01:28 PM

    109. A Christmas Message From America's Rich A MUST READ BY MATT TAIBBI


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 01:32 PM

    110. Debts Go Bad, Then It Gets Worse



    A personal bankruptcy is supposed to cut borrowers loose from lenders and debt collectors, but Capital One Financial Corp.—one of the nation's largest credit-card issuers—sometimes doesn't want to let go.

    Leila Torres, a 35-year-old waitress who lives in Hawthorne, N.J., concluded her Chapter 7 bankruptcy case in 2009. She was stunned when she got a letter notifying her that Capital One was suing her for $4,266 in credit-card debt.

    "I was trying to move on, and this whole thing has sucked me back into a nightmare," she says.

    Capital One dropped the suit after Ms. Torres accused the company in a separate lawsuit filed in September of flouting bankruptcy law. Capital One asked a bankruptcy judge to throw out her suit, but he refused. It wasn't the first time the company went after its customers for debts that had been snuffed out in bankruptcy, even though the practice is illegal. A court-appointed auditor concluded earlier this year that Capital One pursued 15,500 "erroneous claims" seeking money previously erased by a bankruptcy-court judge.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 01:38 PM

    111. Send in the Clowns

    Did you all hear the one about the six economists??

    Let's set the views of the NYT6 in today's Sunday Business to Ms. Collins' discography:

    "Where to go from here? And how to face the challenges ahead? Sunday Business asked the six economists who write the Economic View column to do a little blue-sky thinking on issues as varied as the Fed, Europe and housing. You won’t find stock tips. But if 2011 was any guide, the best advice for 2012 may be this: Hold tight."

    N. GREGORY MANKIW A professor of economics at Harvard, he is advising Mitt Romney in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
    Mr. Mankiw advocates more transparancy from the Fed, and praises Bernanke:
    "Mr. Bernanke deserves more credit than anyone for preventing the financial crisis from turning into a second Great Depression."
    Somewher, I hear Judy singing: "Let's Pretend"

    CHRISTINA D. ROMER An economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, she was chairwoman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.
    Ms. Romer, the floor is yours:
    "We already have a blueprint for a bipartisan solution. The Bowles-Simpson Commission hashed out a sensible plan of spending cuts, entitlement program reforms and revenue increases that would shave $4 trillion off the deficit over the next decade. It shares the pain of needed deficit reduction, while protecting the most vulnerable and maintaining investments in our future productivity. Congress should take up the commission’s recommendation the first day it returns in January."
    Judy? "The Life You Dream"
    Sidenote: The favorable Reagan reference by Romer spoke volumes about this administration's approach to the crisis.

    TYLER COWEN A professor of economics at George Mason University.
    Mr. Cowen reminds us that Europe isn't just our vacation destination:
    "There are, however, several darker possibilities. One is that the economies of some major euro zone nations will continue to stagnate. In per-capita terms, Italy is already poorer than it was 12 years ago, so maybe it’s stuck in a slow-growth mode. If that’s the case, more borrowing from the European Central Bank is simply stretching an unsustainable situation."
    Ms. Collins is heard singing that haunting refrain: "Farewell to Tarwathie"

    ROBERT H. FRANK An economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.
    Mr. Frank reminds us of a happier time when we could actually afford things.
    "Growing income disparities don’t just make the 99 percent angry. They also raise the cost of achieving basic goals."
    Judy's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" plays in the background.

    ROBERT J. SHILLER A professor of economics and finance at Yale.
    Well, you know what this is about...
    "Yet the problems facing homeowners today are even bigger than they were in the dark days of the financial crisis. According to the S.& P./Case-Shiller 20-city Home Price Index, home prices have fallen 13.2 percent since Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008. Over the same period, of course, unemployment has climbed."
    Judy Collins sings Pete Seeger's beauty: "Oh, Had I a Golden Thread"

    RICHARD H. THALER A professor of economics and behavioral science at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.
    Just to reinforce the bleak situation we are in, we invited a Chiacgo School economist to opine:
    "Where to start? First, make it easier to eat well while at work. That doesn’t mean limiting the cafeteria menu to tofu and cauliflower. It means offering various healthful, tasty options that are featured prominently. Put an attractive salad bar including some healthy proteins before the burger line, for instance, and subsidize the healthy food."
    That's really not a selective quote - his whole piece is like this!
    Ms. Collins closes with "Simple Gifts"

    Yikes, and you want to be our latex salemen!!


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    Response to Loge23 (Reply #111)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 01:50 PM

    113. Good thing I wasn't eating lunch as I read


    or you would owe me a new stomach lining.

    Judy would approve--she's the previous protest generation, after all.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 01:47 PM

    112. Robert Fisk: Bankers are the dictators of the West



    ...It seems to me that the reporting of the collapse of capitalism has reached a new low which even the Middle East cannot surpass for sheer unadulterated obedience to the very institutions and Harvard "experts" who have helped to bring about the whole criminal disaster...

    ...We've been deluged with reports of how the poor or the disadvantaged in the West have "taken a leaf" out of the "Arab spring" book, how demonstrators in America, Canada, Britain, Spain and Greece have been "inspired" by the huge demonstrations that brought down the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and – up to a point – Libya. But this is nonsense. The real comparison, needless to say, has been dodged by Western reporters, so keen to extol the anti-dictator rebellions of the Arabs, so anxious to ignore protests against "democratic" Western governments, so desperate to disparage these demonstrations, to suggest that they are merely picking up on the latest fad in the Arab world. The truth is somewhat different. What drove the Arabs in their tens of thousands and then their millions on to the streets of Middle East capitals was a demand for dignity and a refusal to accept that the local family-ruled dictators actually owned their countries...The Arab martyrs against dictatorship died to prove that their countries belonged to their own people. And that is the true parallel in the West. The protest movements are indeed against Big Business – a perfectly justified cause – and against "governments". What they have really divined, however, albeit a bit late in the day, is that they have for decades bought into a fraudulent democracy: they dutifully vote for political parties – which then hand their democratic mandate and people's power to the banks and the derivative traders and the rating agencies, all three backed up by the slovenly and dishonest coterie of "experts" from America's top universities and "think tanks", who maintain the fiction that this is a crisis of globalisation rather than a massive financial con trick foisted on the voters.

    The banks and the rating agencies have become the dictators of the West. Like the Mubaraks and Ben Alis, the banks believed – and still believe – they are owners of their countries. The elections which give them power have – through the gutlessness and collusion of governments – become as false as the polls to which the Arabs were forced to troop decade after decade to anoint their own national property owners. Goldman Sachs and the Royal Bank of Scotland became the Mubaraks and Ben Alis of the US and the UK, each gobbling up the people's wealth in bogus rewards and bonuses for their vicious bosses on a scale infinitely more rapacious than their greedy Arab dictator-brothers could imagine.

    ...Why don't my journalist mates in Wall Street tell me? How come the BBC and CNN and – oh, dear, even al-Jazeera – treat these criminal communities as unquestionable institutions of power? Why no investigations – Inside Job started along the path – into these scandalous double-dealers? It reminds me so much of the equally craven way that so many American reporters cover the Middle East, eerily avoiding any direct criticism of Israel, abetted by an army of pro-Likud lobbyists to explain to viewers why American "peacemaking" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be trusted, why the good guys are "moderates", the bad guys "terrorists". The Arabs have at least begun to shrug off this nonsense. But when the Wall Street protesters do the same, they become "anarchists", the social "terrorists" of American streets who dare to demand that the Bernankes and Geithners should face the same kind of trial as Hosni Mubarak. We in the West – our governments – have created our dictators. But, unlike the Arabs, we can't touch them.

    The Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, solemnly informed his people this week that they were not responsible for the crisis in which they found themselves. They already knew that, of course. What he did not tell them was who was to blame. Isn't it time he and his fellow EU prime ministers did tell us? And our reporters, too?

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 02:54 PM

    117. Balancing Act



    A small group of Chicago clothing retailers is challenging convention by offering their low-wage, mostly part-time workers a list of perks normally reserved for management: flexible hours, time off when needed, and a locked-in schedule of shifts that allows workers to plan a full month, rather than a few days, in advance.

    If researchers are correct, higher worker satisfaction at those stores will boost employee morale, retention rates, and productivity, pushing labor costs down and revenues up. Meanwhile, employees will report reduced stress, better physical and mental heath, and stronger relationships with family and friends.

    “It’s really a win-win,” says Susan Lambert, an associate professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. Lambert is among a handful of people exploring one of the most overlooked areas of labor policy: work-life balance at the bottom of the pay scale.

    The flexible workplace benefits the professional class often takes for granted—maternity and sick leave, time off for family emergencies, control over work schedules, telecommuting—rarely trickle down the pay ladder. Yet studies show that workers at or near minimum wage are most in need of such benefits. The working poor are more likely to hold down multiple jobs, have greater health care needs, be single parents and caregivers, and have difficulty commuting to their jobs.

    While much attention in recent years has focused on minimum wage and so-called living-wage legislation, experts argue that actual wages are less important than the work schedule...

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #117)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 08:10 AM

    131. So now they want to try roses without bread

    NOT that increasing worker control over schedules and reasonable adjustments for child care, illness, etc are BAD things - they're not (although in this case they are just more band-aids in an insane and unsustainable system - so they'll make it easier to work three jobs, ROFL except it's not funny) - but I think that the "experts argue[ing] that actual wages are less important than the work schedule..." were not focused on very low-wage jobs.

    So fuck you, Susan Lambert, you "an associate professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration."
    You, Susan, are part of the reason that I hate the "professional" social worker class (although yes, there are of course good people among them). You are part of the problem, Susan, you and your parasitical Oligarch-enabling colleagues.

    on edit: Having now read "The Long Revolution" article it seems to me that it speaks particularly to "Susan" and her ilk:

    "In many ways, this scaling down also allows intellectuals to abrogate their responsibilities as teachers of ethics by retreating into more and more rationalized "specialities" that effectively disengage us from imagining and thinking through the bigger picture, and allow us to remain in small-scale analytical frames.

    Immanuel Wallerstein put it this way: "What the concept of the two cultures [those of the sciences and the humanities] had achieved was the radical separation, for the first time in the history of humanity, in the world of knowledge between the true, the good, and the beautiful." Wallerstein draws the conclusion that "the great methodological debates that illustrated the historical construction of the social sciences were sham debates, which distracted us from realizing the degree to which the 'divorce' between philosophy and science effectively eliminated the search for the good from the realm of knowledge and circumscribed the search for truth into the form of microscopic positivism that took on many guises." [ii]"

    Bold that last sentence - a "microscopic positivism" indeed.

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    Response to bread_and_roses (Reply #131)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 10:06 AM

    134. the radical separation....between the true, the good, and the beautiful


    Wow. How did I miss that? It is profoundly and sorrowfully true.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 03:00 PM

    118. With the Long Revolution Underway, We Need to Think Big



    ...The consolidation of power now taking place without regard to national boundaries has had deep impact on the last remaining public investments in very specific, local ways. Major institutional changes are needed that, like the economic crisis itself, run through the social, political and cultural spheres. Stop-gap measures and rhetorical flourishes were seen for what they are - appeasements that do not go to the roots of the problem. How can we best understand the new scale: how protest against local economic policies connects up with the global protests of the Occupy movement?

    ...Even the givens of life under neoliberalism seem to be unsettled: the usual accommodations of the state to dissent or fluctuation in the capital and labor markets seem to be ruthlessly withdrawn. As intellectuals, we might continue to mine the archive of disciplinary practices, methods, data, and yet there seems a sense of inadequacy and incompleteness in most of our efforts. Public discourse as well seemed, at least until the recent few months, to be trapped in a rhetoric that was palpably dated. Nonetheless, on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Williams "The Long Revolution," I wish to make the argument that cultural studies is eminently adaptable to the historical occasion of the Occupy movement.

    Despite its obvious roots in the Britain of the late 50s, "The Long Revolution" allows a particularly useful, wide-frame optic onto how we might approach today's global protests against the obscene concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a tiny minority and the cynical desecration of democracy and the common good under the name of economic necessity. Indeed, much of what Williams remarks upon in his time seems to be eerily familiar. For example, he writes:

    Capitalism ... emphasizes the decline in control by shareholders (an ironic comment, of course, on the extension of shares, which is then not a new kind of ownership, but simply an extension of playing the market), and the rise in importance of the managers and technicians. In fact the economy, while not controlled by ordinary shareholders, is not controlled by managers and technicians either, but by powerful interlocking private institutions that in fact command what some Labour politicians wistfully call "the commanding heights of the economy." Even if the managerial revolution had occurred (and the real revolution is the passing of power to financial institutions and self-financing corporations), the original challenge would still be lost, for the direction of our common economic life would have been reduced to a series of technical decisions, without anything more than a market reference to the kind of society the economy should sustain.

    While we might ourselves wistfully regard much of what is reported in this passage (that a firewall between private and publicly funded financial entities might be imagined in an era of bailouts whose volume baffles the imagination), we can see how our public lives have been put at the mercy of rational market decisions - or, rather, what is done in their guise...

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 03:06 PM

    119. Europe's Austerity Measures May Guarantee Recession by: Paul Krugman



    European leaders earlier this month announced a plan that, on the face of it, was pure nonsense...Faced with a crisis that is mainly about the balance of payments,with fiscal crisis as a secondary consequence, they supposedly committed everyone to severe fiscal austerity, which would guarantee a recession while leaving the real problem unaddressed.

    But all this was supposed to work, according to many observers — and, briefly, the market — because the pain would provide the cover the European Central Bank needed to step in and buy lots of Italian and Spanish bonds. In effect, the plan is supposed to rely on a Draghi ex machina, which turns contractionary policies expansionary.

    It’s actually quite remarkable how many sensible people base their analyses on the presumption that the E.C.B. will do what has to be done. Barry Eichengreen, the economist who is a genuine expert on all things euro, starts his analysis of prospects for 2012 with the confident assertion that Mario Draghi, the president of the E.C.B., will ride to the rescue. “The collapse of the euro zone would, of course, be an economic and financial calamity,” Mr. Eichengreen wrote in a recent column for Project Syndicate. “But that is precisely why the European Central Bank will overcome its reluctance and intervene in the Italian and Spanish bond markets, and why the Italian and Spanish governments will, in the end, use that breathing space to complete the reforms that the E.C.B. requires as a quid pro quo.”

    But as far as anyone can tell, the monetary cavalry aren’t coming. And the bond market has figured this out.

    What Anglo-Saxon economists need to understand is that the Germans and the E.C.B. really, really don’t share our worldview; they really do believe that austerity is all you need. And all indications are that they will cling to that belief, even as the euro falls apart — an event they will insist was caused by debtors’ fecklessness.

    Given a choice between saving Europe and remaining righteous, they’ll choose the latter.


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 03:09 PM

    120. "The Protester" Becomes Time's Person of the Year, Wants More by: J.A. Myerson, Truthout



    ...By way of prognosticating where from here, Anderson confesses that "as long as government in Washington - like government in Europe - remains paralyzed, I don't see the Occupiers and Indignados giving up or losing traction or protest ceasing to be the defining political mode. After all, the Tea Party protests subsided only after Tea Partyers achieved real power in 2010 by becoming the tail wagging the Republican Party dog. When radical populist movements achieve big-time momentum and attention, they don't tend to stand down until they get some satisfaction."

    In that analysis is contained the primary misunderstanding that underlies so much of the mainstream media's coverage of Occupy and its international brothers and sisters (and leads to such widespread misunderstanding about the nature of the movement). This year's "Protester" was not protesting government paralysis.

    Governments are not the primary bearers of power in the geopolitical landscape. Bigger things are at work, and the biggest of these is the globalization of capital. Governments are, in fact, toppling in Europe because the political superstructures of the democratic world are so dearly at the mercy of the international financial class. Already in Greece and Italy (a country with a bigger economy than India's, borrowing at 7.2 percent), the democratic leadership has been replaced by what the media euphemistically call "technocrats" - really, these are bankers who have performed coups d'etat.

    Global capital supersedes governmental sovereignty by way of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), supernational currency consortia, free trade agreements and an increasing percentage of corporate wealth accounted for by international conglomerate ownership. When countries get in the way of globalization for reasons righteous or wicked, the powerful countries engineer military rebellion (as in Venezuela) or all-out wars (as in Iraq) to put an end to the insolence. This global power system propels itself, as power systems always have, by subordinating the most vulnerable. In the years since the onset of the financial crisis, this has meant austerity, union busting and the gutting of the commons for private ownership, and it has meant this worldwide.

    It is the perfidy and callousness of this power structure, which is much bigger and much more important than any government, feeding 2011's "Protester." ....

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 08:47 PM

    122. America’s Financial Leviathan By J. Bradford DeLong



    In 1950, finance and insurance in the United States accounted for 2.8% of GDP, according to US Department of Commerce estimates. By 1960, that share had grown to 3.8% of GDP, and reached 6% of GDP in 1990. Today, it is 8.4% of GDP, and it is not shrinking. The Wall Street Journal’s Justin Lahart reports that the 2010 share was higher than the previous peak share in 2006....But if the US were getting good value from the extra 5.6% of GDP that it is now spending on finance and insurance – the extra $750 billion diverted annually from paying people who make directly useful goods and provide directly useful services – it would be obvious in the statistics. At a typical 5% annual real interest rate for risky cash flows, diverting that large a share of resources away from goods and services directly useful this year is a good bargain only if it boosts overall annual economic growth by 0.3% – or 6% per 25-year generation....

    ....Overall, however, it remains disturbing that we do not see the obvious large benefits, at either the micro or macro level, in the US economy’s efficiency that would justify spending an extra 5.6% of GDP every year on finance and insurance. Lahart cites the conclusion of New York University’s Thomas Philippon that today’s US financial sector is outsized by two percentage points of GDP. And it is very possible that Philippon’s estimate of the size of the US financial sector’s hypertrophy is too small.

    Why has the devotion of a great deal of skill and enterprise to finance and insurance sector not paid obvious economic dividends? There are two sustainable ways to make money in finance: find people with risks that need to be carried and match them with people with unused risk-bearing capacity, or find people with such risks and match them with people who are clueless but who have money. Are we sure that most of the growth in finance stems from a rising share of financial professionals who undertake the former rather than the latter?


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 08:58 PM

    123. The Defining Issue: Not Government’s Size, but Who It’s For



    Americans have never much liked government. After all, the nation was conceived in a revolution against government.

    But the surge of cynicism now engulfing America isn’t about government’s size. The cynicism comes from a growing perception that government isn’t working for average people. It’s for big business, Wall Street, and the very rich instead.

    In a recent Pew Foundation poll, 77 percent of respondents said too much power is in the hands of a few rich people and corporations....“Big government” isn’t the problem. The problem is big money is taking over government.

    Government is doing less of the things most of us want it to do — providing good public schools and affordable access to college, improving our roads and bridges and water systems, and maintaining safety nets to catch average people who fall — and more of the things big corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy want it to do.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 09:24 PM

    124. As '11 Ends, 11 Charts Of 11 Disturbing 11 Year Trends


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 09:49 PM

    125. Law to Find Tax Evaders Denounced



    Legislation meant to help the United States government locate overseas assets of American tax cheats created little stir when it was quietly slipped into a jobs bill last year. But the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or Fatca, as it is known, is now causing alarm among businesses outside the United States that fear they will have to spend billions of dollars a year to meet the greatly increased reporting burdens, starting in 2013. American expatriates also say the new filing demands are daunting and overblown. “Congress came in with a sledgehammer,” said H. David Rosenbloom, a lawyer at Caplin and Drysdale in Washington and a former international tax policy adviser for the Treasury Department. “The Fatca story is really kind of insane.”

    Congress created the act after the Justice Department’s successful pursuit in 2009 of UBS that resulted in the Swiss bank — which had encouraged American citizens to set up secret offshore accounts — paying $780 million and turning over client details to avoid criminal prosecution. The law is meant to ensure Americans cannot use hidden trusts overseas to evade taxes, a goal that is widely applauded. But critics say that it amounts to gross legislative overreach, and that the $8 billion the Treasury expects to reap in taxes owed over 10 years pales next to the costs it will impose on foreign institutions. Those entities are being asked, in effect, to pay for the cost of tracking down American tax evaders. The law demands that virtually every financial firm outside the United States and any foreign company in which Americans are beneficial owners must register with the Internal Revenue Service, check existing accounts in search of Americans and annually declare their compliance.

    Noncompliance would be punished with a withholding charge of up to 30 percent on any income and capital payments the company gets from the United States. Under the law, for example, if Deutsche Bank, having agreed to register with the United States authorities in compliance with the law, were to transfer $25 million to a noncompliant Polish bank, Deutsche Bank would be required to withhold part of that sum, transferring it to the I.R.S. The Polish recipient would then have the option of challenging that withholding by filing an American tax return, claiming the money, despite not being an American citizen. In practice, tax experts say costs like that might drive the Polish bank out of business. “They’re trying to force every financial institution in the world to sign onto this regime,” said Denise Hintzke, who heads the global tax compliance initiative at Deloitte in New York.

    Financial institutions outside the United States also say that the law’s costs will be imposed overwhelmingly on them, giving a competitive advantage to United States rivals. The European Banking Association estimates that its members would have to pay at least $10 to vet each existing account plus overhaul data systems and procedures...The I.R.S., under pressure from angry and confused financial officials abroad, has extended the deadline for registration until June 30, 2013, and is struggling to provide more detailed guidance by the end of this year. But beginning in 2012, many American expatriates — already the only developed-nation citizens subject to double taxation from their home government — must furnish the I.R.S. with detailed personal information on their overseas assets. American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group, estimates the new form will add three hours to tax preparation. Considering that the law provides harsh penalties for even unintentional errors, the organization says it is “simply not realistic for a vast swath of the normally law-abiding filer community unable to afford the expensive services of a professional tax adviser.” Even with the new requirement, American expatriates must continue reporting their foreign financial assets to the Treasury Department, meaning they will be reporting twice, to different arms of the government, according to different standards. “The Fatca legislation treats all Americans with overseas bank accounts as criminals, even though most of them are honest, hard-working individuals who happen to be living and working or retired abroad,” said Jacqueline Bugnion, a director of American Citizens Abroad.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 10:01 PM

    126. What if the SEC investigated Banks the way it is investigating Mutual Funds? By William K. Black



    ...The SEC is identifying “accounting control frauds” – the frauds that cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime combined. The SEC is not identifying a few rotten apples, but roughly 100 hedge funds likely to have engaged in accounting fraud. The WSJ describes the SEC’s identification system:

    “The list is the low-tech product of a high-tech effort by the SEC to crack down on fraud at hedge funds and other investment firms. After the agency failed to detect the $17.3 billion Ponzi scheme by Bernard L. Madoff, who wowed investors with steady returns over several decades, SEC officials decided they needed a way to trawl through performance data and look for red flags that might signal a possible fraud.

    In 2009, the SEC began developing a computer-powered system that now analyzes monthly returns from thousands of hedge funds. Officials won't say exactly how it works or how much it cost to build, but the agency has announced four civil-fraud lawsuits filed as a result of what it calls the "aberrational performance initiative."” The SEC should be applauded for finally understanding that “if it’s too good to be true; it probably isn’t true.” Our agency put a similar system in place in 1984 to identify the S&L accounting control frauds that were driving that crisis. A quarter-century later, the SEC began to follow our well-trodden trail – but only with regard to felons inhabiting the middle of the fraud food chain (hedge funds).

    The SEC has, inevitably, discovered that accounting fraud is common among hedge funds. It is unlikely that the SEC system is really “high-tech” in information science terms. Low-tech information systems have been capable of identifying “aberrational performance” for at least thirty years. We did not have to create any pioneering software in 1984 in order to identify aberrational performance. The cost and time to create our “red flags” was trivial (a few hours of programming time by an agency staffer). (We were collecting the data and computing the necessary ratios anyway. One simply decides the level of a few key variables worthy of being flagged. There’s nothing magic about a “flag.” All it means is that suspicious levels are highlighted on the computer screen and on physical copies of the periodic reports so that they capture the reader’s attention.) The SEC took two years to create its “aberrational performance” system and is embarrassed enough about the cost that it wants to keep it secret. The two year development process allowed the SEC to make a major advance relative to our system – they invented a title consisting of two words and eight syllables. Devising a title that recondite doubtless accounts for six months of the time it took the SEC to develop its flags.

    The most interesting aspects of the WSJ story, however, are two unexamined topics that should have been central to the story. First, there is not a word in the article about criminal prosecutions for the frauds the SEC has identified. The frauds, as described in the article, are so blatant that they would make relatively simple to prosecute. There is no indication that the SEC wanted the WSJ to know that they had made well over a hundred criminal referrals against hedge fund CEOs and senior officers. There is no indication that the WSJ reporters were interested in whether the SEC had made criminal referrals against these moderately elite felons. As a result, we have no information on whether the SEC has in fact made hundreds of criminal referrals against the senior officers at the hedge funds that they have identified as having engaged in likely fraud. Indeed, we have no evidence that they have made any criminal referrals. Neither the SEC nor the WSJ reporters indicated that any prosecutions, or even Department of Justice investigations, resulted from the SEC hedge fund investigations.

    Second, why isn’t the SEC’s top priority the systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs)? The SDIs are the financial institutions that are so large that the administration fears that their failure will cause a new global crisis. The SDIs pose by far the greatest risk to the economy and investors of any entity. Their frauds reached “epidemic” proportions and drove our ongoing crisis and the Great Recession. The SEC, however, applied its “aberrational performance” system to its smallest entities and is now expanding it to mutual funds. There is no indication that the SEC intends to use the system to spot fraudulent SDIs. There is no indication that the SEC has even contemplated using the system to spot fraudulent SDIs. There is no indication that the WSJ reporters asked why the SEC was failing to use its system where it was most needed...Applying the SEC system to the SDIs would have led the SEC to develop a more sophisticated analytical approach to identifying fraud. There is no indication that the SEC has any familiarity with the criminology, economics, and regulatory literature about how to identify accounting fraud. Admittedly, the SEC (finally) has taken seriously the warning that generations of parents have impressed upon their children – “if it’s too good to be true; it probably isn’t true.” The Achilles’ heel of the SEC analytics is that it assumes fraud must be aberrational and its flags are (at least as described in the story) all tied to identifying aberrations premised on the implicit assumption that fraud cannot be endemic. The SEC official told the WSJ reporter that they looked for “outliers.” Accounting control fraud, however, can become endemic, particularly in a product line, because it produces a “Gresham’s dynamic” in which bad ethics drives good ethics out of the market. Accounting control frauds report results that are too good to be true, but they all report extraordinary results because accounting fraud is a “sure thing” (George Akerlof and Paul Romer, “Looting: the Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit, 1993). Accounting control fraud was far more common among the SDIs than the SEC system has identified among hedge funds.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 10:06 PM

    127. Repo Men By Kevin D. Williamson




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    Response to Demeter (Reply #127)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 09:32 AM

    133. "Goldman Sachs is omnipresent."

    and what does it say about our Oligarch Overlords when even NR runs an article pointing out that Wall Street is a den of thieves?

    ... and as for the other "unmentionables" - ROFL.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Jan 1, 2012, 10:07 PM

    128. A four-day weekend is like running a marathon!


    Gonna take a breather, in hopes of living to post another day...

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #128)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 06:49 AM

    129. I feel I have been on a marathon for weeks

    The grandkids are sooo energetic, especially at this time of year, so bubbly and full of excitement. I keep wishing all that would put me in a better mood, but fearing for their future in this world, is depressing. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 10:09 AM

    135. Firefox has completely stopped working...again, and screwed up the machine doing it


    So I'm back in Chrome, trying to remember all the bookmarks...

    What is wrong with those people? Don't they ever test anything?

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 11:03 AM

    136. Exxon wins $900m in Venezuela claim


    US oil major Exxon has secured $900m in compensation from Venezuela, less than 10% of the original claim sought from the government of Hugo Chávez


    ----------THAT'S GONNA SMART

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 11:14 AM

    137. An Act Of War: Obama signs bill imposing Iran banking sanctions



    HONOLULU: President Barack Obama signed a sweeping U.S. defense funding bill on Saturday that includes new sanctions on financial institutions dealing with Iran's central bank, but cited concerns about sections that expand the U.S. military's authority over terrorism suspects and limit his powers in foreign affairs.

    "The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it," Obama said in a statement, citing limits on transferring detainees from the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and requirements he notify Congress before sharing some defense missile information with Russia as problematic.

    The bill, approved by Congress last week, aims with its Iran sanctions to reduce Tehran's oil revenues but gives the U.S. president powers to waive penalties as required. Senior U.S. officials said Washington was engaging with its foreign partners to ensure the sanctions can work without harming global energy markets, and stressed the U.S. strategy for engaging with Iran was unchanged by the bill.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #137)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 11:18 AM

    138. Iran central bank to file motion in US court to unfreeze funds -WSJ



    Bank Markazi, Iran's central bank, is preparing to file a motion in a New York federal court early in February asking for the release of about $2 billion of its frozen funds at Citigroup's Citibank unit, the Wall Street Journal said, citing attorneys for the bank. A U.S. court froze the assets in 2008 after a group of victims sought the funds as partial payment for a $2.7 billion legal judgment made against Tehran for its alleged role in the 1983 Beirut bombing, the Journal said.

    The bomb attacks against U.S. and French armed forces, in Lebanon for a peacekeeping operation, claimed nearly 300 lives. The funds were deposited in Citibank by Luxembourg-based Clearstream Banking SA, the WSJ said.

    Bank Markazi's lawyers cite the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act as safeguarding from seizure by litigants the holdings inside the U.S. of any foreign central bank, according to the newspaper.

    "Bank Markazi will show that its property is immune from seizure," David Lindsey of Chaffetz Lindsey LLP, the law firm representing the Iranian central bank, told the WSJ.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #138)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 11:21 AM

    139. Iran denies fuel TO EU, Arab airlines



    Iran is refusing to refuel some European and Arab airlines at its main international airport in a tit-for-tat move over major oil companies denying fuel to Iranian planes abroad, the airport’s chief said Saturday. “Government directives” ordered the ban, Morteza Dehqan, head of Tehran’s Imam Khomeini international airport, told the ISNA news agency. “In a reciprocal move, we are not giving fuel to the airlines of countries which do not give fuel to our airlines,” he said.

    He did not say when the decision was adopted. AFP could not immediately confirm which foreign airlines were affected by the decision.

    In October, Iran’s foreign ministry warned it would “confront” Western companies for refusing to refuel its planes in Europe, which it called a violation of international law. European authorities and airports have been silent about the reported measures, which are separate to unilateral restrictions the EU imposed soon after the UN Security Council adopted a fourth set of sanctions against Tehran in June.

    Unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States, however, target gasoline and jet fuel supplies to Iran. Some airports in the Gulf and southwestern Asia are also reportedly refusing fuel to Iranian airlines, including its flag carrier Iran Air as well as leading private airline Mahan Air. Iran Air has been under US sanctions since 1995 that have prevented any sale of Boeing or Airbus aircraft or spare parts. As a result, the airline has become one of the most dilapidated airlines in the world.
    Mahan Air was put on the US sanctions list in October for allegedly transporting members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, some senior officers of which are on a US travel blacklist.

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    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 11:33 AM

    140. GENERAL, OFF-TOPIC QUERY: What has changed so much on DU that it feels like a foreign land?


    I no longer go to LBN because the stuff there isn't particularly newsworthy. The Good Reads usually aren't. Everything seems trivial.

    I stick to my last here at SMW and WEE. I don't even bother posting elsewhere, partly because there is so little news permitted out during holidays, and partly because I know there will be no welcome reception of what I've found significant.

    I've seen crossposting out of WEE and SMW, valiant attempts by xchrom and others to spread the news, but it just isn't anything like it was.

    I've served on a number of juries, and found that usually it's the thin-skinned paranoid or the native-born humorless alerting, and the odds are that half the time, the jury goes with them, to no purpose except squelching alternate perspectives. That's not a discussion, it's group-think for damaged egos.

    Going elsewhere? Well, the facilities here are superior to anything else I've seen...the html codes, the structure...

    It's just the willingness to put on the blindfold, drink the hopium, and posture that's getting to me.

    That, and the stalled economy.

    Guess it's time to do something useful...

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #140)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 12:49 PM

    141. It's the microscop-ication (n/t)

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    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 04:14 PM

    142. The Miracle of (BANK) Solvency By David Malone



    ...Bankers have the Day of Reconciliation – when the year’s accounts must be reconciled, When all their deeds must be accounted for, all their actions weighed and a final reckoning made. So spare a thought this New Year for the auditors of Deloitte, PcW, Ernst & Young and of course, Ireland’s favourite, KPMG as they, in solemn convocation with Chief Risk Officers, Chief Finance Officers, of the world’s largest banks, perform the Ritual of Reconciliation and reveal, by the grace of creative accountancy, number massaging and rank but ordained lying, the great Miracle of Solvency once again. Sing Hallelujah!

    For it is crunch time for year end accounts.

    Deep inside every bank, dealers have been sitting, staring at their phones hoping the bank’s Risk Manager wouldn’t call them to ask what a certain trade they made this year was actually worth, what value should be booked for it and what risk weighting applied to it? For as we approach the Day of Reconcilliation the dealers must call up the details of the deals they did, the assets they bought and sold or lent or borrowed and account for them. The Bank’s CRO (Chief Risk Officer) must then, by law, satisfy him or herself that the numbers presented are true and the valuations fair and honest, and sign off on them accordingly. Whereupon, the CFO (Chief Finance Officer) must look upon the assembled accounts of all the actions of all the traders on all the trading desks and compile the bank’s accounts for the year, showing capital adequacy (enough capital to cover the bank’s liabilities as laid down in international law) and then these accounts must be passed to the ‘Independent’ Auditors for them to check and scrutinize till they too are wholly satisfied that the accounts present a true and faithful picture of the health of the bank...Once. long ago, the purpose of the ritual may have been to sort the solvent from the insolvent, the strong from the weak, but today it is about declaring that all banks are saved. None shall be forsaken. They are all to be declared solvent, none of them with a stain upon them. You might think I am being flippant but I’m not. Ask yourself how many of the auditors will find their clients insolvent? Or how many banks will appear in public in the coming weeks with accounts that show they are insolvent or even just in trouble? That is no longer what the ritual is about. The ritual is about finding how everyone is fine. Regardless of the fact, played out year after year, that within months, sometimes only weeks, of the miracle of solvency being proclaimed, banks will ‘unexpectedly find’ they need to raise more capital. These days the miracle does not last and wears off.

    Not long ago I spoke to a senior risk manager of a German bank who described a particular incident from a year end reconciliation. He found a particular derivative trade that had to be accounted for, but the trader who had made the deal had left the bank some years earlier. No one knew the details of the trade and no one could value it. So the risk manager sought out the counter-party to the trade. Perhaps as the people owed the money, they would know, at the very least, what they were owed. It turned out to be a very large Swiss bank. Sadly for his New Year holiday, the Risk Manager found the trade had been booked in Singapore. He waited up and called. The Swiss Bank at first denied any knowledge of the trade. It was so long ago, they too had no recollection. However our Risk Manager couldn’t simply pretend it never happened. There was an accusingly empty box on the spread sheet. Eventually the Risk manager said, well my best guess – and it was a guess based on the imperfect paperwork of the original deal with no subsequent details of risks or changes in value – ‘My guess is we owe you X.’ To which the hugely brilliant and highly paid bankers who were owed this money said, ‘Yeah, fine. Let’s call it that’, and hung up. This isn’t hear say. It happened as described....The figure was duly inscribed in the ledger, the Risk Officer signed off, the CFO signed off, the auditors signed off, obligingly, for the clients who were paying them handsomely for this service, and the accounts were declared complete and perfect. They did the job they were designed for – to show the bank in its best possible light and obscure any irregularities or blemishes. And bonuses were lavished right and left. As it turns out this particular bank was anything but all right - Not that you would ever have told from those accounts - and eventually needed a vast bail out from the tax payers of the nation it was parasitizing.

    And lets be clear about how serious the lies we are talking about are. The accounts are what investors use in order to decide if it is safe to invest in or lend to a bank. It wasn’t safe. But that fact was nowhere in those accounts. As it will not be in the accounts of any of the major banks of the western world this year, like last year, like the year before and the year before that. The culture, the religion, of lies and liars, is too powerful. The auditors are not there to reveal anything unpleasant about the banks. They work for the banks. Are paid by them and look forward to many more payments for many more accounts....


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    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 04:23 PM

    143. The Number One Catastrophic Event That Americans Worry About: Economic Collapse



    ...At least that is what a recent survey conducted by Leiflin Inc. for the EcoHealth Alliance found. But this goes along with what so many other polls have found over the past few years. Over and over again, opinion polls have found that the number one issue that American voters are concerned about is the economy. The truth is that average Americans are deeply, deeply concerned about unemployment, debt, the housing crash and the steady decline in the standard of living. It has been years since the U.S. economy has operated at a "normal" level, and many Americans are afraid that things could soon get a whole lot worse...In the new survey mentioned above, those contacted were asked to select the top three potential catastrophes that worry them the most. The following results come directly from the survey....

    Economic Collapse: 63%
    Natural Disaster: 46%
    Terrorist Attack: 44%
    Global Disease Outbreak: 33%
    Global War: 27%
    Nuclear Accident: 25%
    Global Warming: 22%
    Fuel Shortage: 15%
    Cyber War: 8%
    Famine: 8%
    Oil Spill: 6%
    Industrial Accident: 5%

    As you can see, "economic collapse" was the winner by a wide margin.

    Back in 2008, a financial crisis that began on Wall Street was felt in the farthest corners of the globe. This time, ground zero for the financial crisis is going to be in Europe. As I have written about previously, the European financial system is rapidly coming apart at the seams. The euro continues to drop like a rock, and banking stocks continue their long-term decline. Many people expect a "financial collapse" to happen on a particular day. But that is not how it happens usually. Instead, it is often like a snowball that starts rolling downhill very slowly at first but that eventually become a huge avalanche. Right now, we are seeing the financial world come apart in slow motion. A recent article posted on Automatic Earth included a list of the year-to-date performance of some of the most prominent global banking stocks. These numbers are absolutely staggering....

    BofA: -60.38%
    Citi: -44.76%
    Goldman Sachs: -46.41%
    JPMorgan: -23.03%
    Morgan Stanley: -45.24%
    RBS: -50%
    Barclays: -34.32%
    Lloyds: -63.02%
    UBS: -29.33%
    Deutsche Bank: -28,55%
    Crédit Agricole: -56.04%
    BNP Paribas: -37.67%
    Société Générale: -59.57%

    But because these numbers happened over the course of a year and not on a single day it doesn't feel quite as much like a "collapse". Unfortunately, things are about to get a whole lot worse. Global credit markets are really freezing up - especially in Europe. Considering the fact that the entire global financial system is based on credit and debt, that is a very bad thing.
    Our system simply does not work when banks do not want to lend money to each other or to businesses. Just yesterday there was an article in the Guardian that talked about how it looks like the credit crunch may be getting even worse.... "If European banks are still this concerned, it's not a good sign," said Karl Schamotta, senior markets strategist with Western Union Business Solutions. "That underlines the possibility that this liquidity crunch is getting worse and will continue into the new year."

    When banks cut back on lending, that causes the money supply to shrink. When the money supply shrinks substantially, it is almost impossible to avoid a recession...While real M1 deposits are still holding up in the German bloc, the rate of fall over the last six months (annualised) has been 20.7pc in Greece, 16.3pc in Portugal, 11.8pc in Ireland, and 8.1pc in Spain, and 6.7pc in Italy. The pace of decline in Italy has been accelerating, partly due to capital flight. "This rate of contraction is greater than in early 2008 and implies an even deeper recession, both for Italy and the whole periphery," said Mr Ward.

    Those are very, very frightening numbers. About the only thing propping up European banks right now is the fact that the European Central Bank is loaning them gigantic piles of cheap money. But there is a big problem...European banks are running out of collateral for those loans...The only way European banks can now convince anyone—institutional investors, fellow banks or the ECB—to lend them money is if they pledge high-quality assets as collateral. Now some regulators and bankers are becoming nervous that some lenders' supplies of such assets, which include European government bonds and investment-grade non-government debt, are running low. So what happens when banks all over Europe start running out of collateral and can't get any more loans?

    The answer should be obvious. As I detailed a few days ago, many prominent voices in the financial world now believe that we could be looking at a financial crisis that will be even worse than 2008. If you want to see what happens when a collapse happens and a depression begins, just look at what is happening in Greece....

    *100,000 businesses have been closed since the beginning of the crisis.

    *About a third of the nation is now living in poverty.

    *The unemployment rate for those under the age of 24 is 39 percent.

    *The number of suicides has increased by 40 percent in the past year.

    *Thefts and burglaries nearly doubled between 2007 and 2009.

    Things have gotten so bad that hundreds of families in Greece are abandoning their children. Some are taking their children to charitable institutions and others are handing them directly over to the government...Does that seem shocking to you?

    Well, all of this is coming to America eventually. Someday we will see American parents abandoning their children because they cannot take care of them anymore. Someday we will see suicides absolutely skyrocket in America because people have lost all hope. Someday we will see thefts and burglaries soar to unprecedented heights as millions of desperate people attempt to try to find some way to survive. It is all coming. The federal government cannot pile up a trillion dollars of additional debt every year indefinitely. We cannot afford to see an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day in the United States shut down. Eventually there won't be anymore factories to shut down. We cannot afford to keep putting millions more Americans on welfare. At this point the government is feeding 46 million Americans a month. Will the government eventually be feeding most of us? The U.S. economy is getting weaker and weaker and weaker. All of the long-term trends are absolutely nightmarish. We are accumulating debt faster than ever, and our ability to produce wealth is diminishing faster than ever. There is no way that things are going to be okay if we stay on the path that we are currently on. So the truth is that Americans should be very concerned about an economic collapse...It is coming and it is going to be very painful.

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    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 05:13 PM

    144. Jerome Powell, Jeremy Stein Chosen by Obama to Fill Fed’s Board Vacancies



    President Barack Obama said he will nominate two former U.S. Treasury Department officials for the Federal Reserve Board, including one who served in a Republican administration. Jerome Powell, an attorney who was a Treasury undersecretary for former President George H.W. Bush, and Jeremy Stein, a Harvard University economist who has advised the current administration, are Obama’s picks. Pairing candidates who served under both parties may help ease approval by a Senate where the Democrats’ majority narrowed last year, letting Republicans block administration nominees. The Fed’s seven-member Board of Governors has two vacancies. While the term of Elizabeth Duke, an appointee of President George W. Bush, expires Jan. 31, she can continue to serve until a successor is appointed.

    The number of voting policy makers who could oppose Bernanke will fall to one in 2012 from three in 2011, Perli said. The Fed chairman gained majorities for his decisions this year...

    Powell, whose term would run through Jan. 31, 2014, has spent most of his career outside government, spanning the worlds of private equity, investment banking and law. He would add financial-markets experience missing since Kevin Warsh, 41, left the Fed board in April. Powell was a partner at the Carlyle Group, the Washington- based manager of private-equity funds, from 1997 to 2005 and was an investment banker in the 1980s with Dillon Read and Co. after working as an attorney following his 1979 graduation from Georgetown University’s law school. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University. Powell joined the Treasury as an assistant secretary in 1990 and was appointed an undersecretary in 1992. While at the department, he helped revamp government-bond auction procedures after Salomon Brothers admitted to bid-rigging.
    Stein’s term would end Jan. 31, 2018. He served in the Obama administration from February to July 2009 as a senior adviser to the Treasury secretary and on the staff of the National Economic Council, according to Harvard’s website. He was also a senior staff economist on President George H.W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from September 1989 to June 1990, leaving just before Powell was nominated to a Treasury post...

    Like Bernanke and several other senior Fed officials, Stein holds a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Stein’s research topics include corporate investment and financing decisions, risk management, stock- market efficiency and capital allocation inside companies. Stein, who has served on the New York Fed’s Financial Advisory Roundtable since 2006, rejoined Harvard as an economics professor in 2000. He worked as an assistant professor of finance at the business school from 1987 to 1990. Stein taught at MIT from 1990 to 2000. Stein also worked as an intern at Goldman Sachs (GS) and Co. from July 1986 to June 1987, according to his curriculum vitae posted on Harvard’s website.

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    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 06:07 PM

    145. The $18 Trillion Threat Of The Unregulated Shadow Banking System



    ...When you add together the assets in hedge funds, ETFs, money market mutual funds, sovereign wealth funds and family investment offices(think Soros) t he total amount of assets that are subject to oversight and regulation appears to be $18 trillion, down from $25 trillion before the 2008 meltdown. This money is what we call “the shadow banking system.” And is where the most “games” are being played using other people’s money.

    Risk taking, I have been warned , has moved to the “shadow banking system,” which utilize flow of funds accounts that are outside the purview of the Dodd-Frank Act, Basel III, and even the ministrations of t he Federal Reserve. None of these regulators have the obligation of overseeing the re-use of this pledged collateral, which are being supplied by asset managers to other dealers or players who “mine” this collateral for other purposes than were first intended.

    You want to worry about money you can’t see– and don’t know where it is located? Then, worry big-time about some $5.8 trillion of the “shadow banking” system that are in some kind of crazy-quilt daisy chain where they are pledged by some huge unregulated hedge fund or sovereign wealth fund, and then end up as collateral being used by yet another financial dealer. There’s no central collateral clearing desk or depositary– where all of these transactions can be observed. It means long term savings can be turned into short-term transactions that are part of the counter-party web of global financial markets.

    If a hedge fund can use its Treasury bills to finance various transactions, which lead to related transactions, how are we to monitor the use o the $5.8 trillion– much less the whole lot of $18 trillion in the system at the end of 2010? You can be sure this IMF study won’t be the first investigation of this phenomenon. The way to comprehend this transformation of finance into a shadow banking system is to understand that this is how MF Global got into trouble and went under. Reverse maturity transactions that are “the dominant source of marginal demand for money-type instruments in the financial system,” were the tools used by MF Global’s CEO Jon Corzine to take his fatal leveraged bond position in European sovereign debt...


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    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 06:13 PM

    146. Michael Olenick: Is Shadow Housing Inventory Vastly Larger Than Widely Believed?



    The turn of the year is the time to make predictions and projections. I’m optimistic that the tide will finally turn for the American middle-class, suffering silently in a one-sided economic war. I don’t think this will be because of altruism, or even justice, but rather simple pragmatism. Specifically, I believe that parasitic financial institutions have pushed the boundaries so far that they’ve put their host, the middle-class itself, at risk. One new bit of information suggests the housing front is in more perilous shape than most pundits believe.

    One challenge when performing any type of analysis is that information is scattered in many different places, and even when disseminated by the government its accuracy is oftentimes questionable. We’ve already seen existing home sales for recent years revised downward from their already dismal position, with barely a yawn from the public and no accountability whatsoever from government regulators who used that information when more reliable sources existed.

    I don’t understand why accurate housing data, which is supposed to be open to the public, is so hard to come by. The housing crisis arguably rises to the level of a national emergency, one we can see and fee every day as it ripples through the economy. Despite that, government-owned Fannie Mae still keeps loan-level data away from the public, it’s extremely difficult to get data from Freddie Mac, and MERS’ database remains a black hole.

    There is one piece of data only recently released — and, as far as I can tell, has gone unnoticed — that, if true, suggests the housing market is in such dire straits we’ve finally reached a critical mass where only radical out-of-the-box solutions will work. If this information, which comes of a highly suspect albeit well connected insider, is accurate, then extend and pretend has finally reached its natural end...


    FHFA reports that Fannie Mae’s share of total US mortgage debt, at the end of 2010, is 27.7%. If Fannie Mae really does have 600,000 homes they expect to foreclose upon we’d expect to see about 2,165,000 shadow inventory homes total .. in Florida.

    It’s impossible to believe this figure is accurate. Let’s look at some data. First, the Census Bureau reports there are just under nine million housing units in the entire state at the end of 2010, 8,989,580, to be exact. According to court records between July, 2010 through December, 2011, inclusive, there were 1,044 foreclosure filings per month in Stern’s home county, Broward County, FL; 22,144 filings total. However, from January, 2009, through June, 2010, inclusive, there 2,544 monthly filings in the same county; 48,144 filings total.

    If the number Stern relayed is accurate, that would put a theoretical backlog of filings, for that one county, at 26,000. If we extrapolate to the rest of this high foreclosure state it’s safe to say shadow inventory estimates for the US have been dramatically underestimated, in much the same way that existing home sales were overestimated, albeit to a much more severe degree...


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 06:36 PM

    147. George Washington: Fly your own drone for under $300



    The Parrot A.R. Drone can be launched and controlled with your iPhone or iPad:


    The Parrot A.R. Drone costs $299. The Parrot A.R. Drone can maintain stable flight at an altitude of up to 20 feet, and a maximum altitude of up to 160 feet. More sophisticated drones can fly higher and for longer, in a more stable fashion.

    For example, protesters in Warsaw used a spy drone last month to see what police were doing. As diydrones.com notes:

    People tend to assume that UAVs will be used by the police to keep watch on us, but as … video, taken by a RoboKopter of riots in Warsaw, shows, they can equally be used by citizens to keep tabs on the police. No need to wait for the local news to send a helicopter to get the aerial scene of a demonstration, just Do It Yourself!


    For more amazing technology, see LINKS.

    For information on building your own drone, start AT THIS LINK:


    Disclaimer: The FAA apparently considers do-it-yourself drones to be legal. We don’t know whether there are any Department of Homeland Security or other regulations or laws prohibiting flying your own spy drone. Consult with a representative of all appropriate Federal, state, county and local agencies to determine whether or not you may fly your own drone.

    NOTE If I’d run across this post a little earlier, I would have noted that a drone makes a great stocking stuffer! Also, drone with a camera is a lot harder to take out with a nightstick than a hand-held camera or cell. Subject, of course, to the caveats above. Anyhow, I love DIY. –lambert

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    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 06:54 PM

    148. Unemployed Portuguese told to 'just emigrate'



    Portugal's prime minister has been criticised for suggesting that unemployed youth leave the country to find work....A wave of indignation was triggered when Passos Coelho, in the face of the growing unemployment that is hitting young people and educators extremely hard, suggested to teachers on December 18 that as an alternative they could move to Portuguese-speaking countries like Brazil or Angola.

    The next day, several ministers applauded the prime minister's remarks, saying his suggestion was a valid solution, especially for teachers.

    But the governments of Angola and Brazil quickly responded, saying they had no immediate need for teachers...


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    Response to Demeter (Reply #148)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 06:56 PM

    149. Unemployed Rely More On Family Than Government by KIRK SIEGLER



    A Kaiser Family Foundation and NPR survey shows that many people enduring long-term joblessness have been relying more heavily on friends and family than government or other safety net services to get by. Many surveyed also say that, so far, the federal government's efforts to boost the economy and job market have done more harm than good...

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #149)

    Mon Jan 2, 2012, 07:00 PM

    150. I shouldn't post stuff like the above--I lose heart


    And it's bad to end on a down note....but I haven't the ability to flog myself into continuing.

    Time enough for tomorrow, if Hugin will oblige with a new SMW thread....

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