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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 05:50 PM


Weekend Economists Go Caroling December 21-23, 2012

I thought I shouldn't propagate the culture of violence that leads to militarized weapons in the hands of deranged boys/men, so I'm not featuring Bond tonight.

Instead, let's hark back to a kinder, gentler time, when saints walked among us:

Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath'ring winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I shall see him dine, when we bear them thither. "
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer. "
"Mark my footsteps, good my page. Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly. "

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

If you click on this link, you see another interpretation:

Down below in the snow are UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling. Both are wearing bathing costumes. Brown is holding a rubber ring. Darling is collecting sticks ("When a poor man came in sight, gath'ring winter fuel". Clearly, they were expecting summer temperatures. The angry-looking King shouts down to them, "So much for your optimistic forecast!"

The joke involves a play on the word 'forecast', which can be taken as referring to the weather forecast or the economic forecast. In both cases, Brown and Darling have got it wrong....


We'll look more into this carol, and others, to squeeze out a little Christmas comfort on this blustery, bitter night.

God knows, we won't find it in the economic news....

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Reply Weekend Economists Go Caroling December 21-23, 2012 (Original post)
Demeter Dec 2012 OP
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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 05:57 PM

1. Whatcha gonna do when they come for you? NDAA 2013 - Indefinite Detention Without Trial Is Back



...Under the 2012 NDAA, US President Barack Obama is affirmed the power to put any American citizen behind bars if he or she is suspected of assisting in any way with forces engaged in hostilities against the United States or its allies. That provision, Sec. 1021, says any person who commits a “belligerent act” against the country can be imprisoned indefinitely “without trial” until the vaguely-worded period of hostilities has come to an end.

Pres. Obama signed the 2012 NDAA into law on December 31 of last year, but included a statement at the time that condemned the powers under Sec. 1021 that he awarded himself. “My administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,” the president wrote on New Year’s Eve. In the months since signing the current NDAA into law, though, the White House has relentlessly defended itself in federal court to ensure that it maintains that ability, despite a federal judge having ruled the clause unconstitutional.

Sen. Feinstein’s amendment, approved by the Senate earlier this month, declared that “An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.” The Feinstein Amendment, co-sponsored by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), was described as its authors as being a one-and-for-all fix that would ensure the White House isn’t awarded the power to indefinite detain Americans in the new year. On Tuesday, though, Sen. Levin confirmed that members of a House-Senate conference agreed to remove that clause from the draft....

....Because Sec. 1021 is worded as ambiguously as it is, journalists and human rights activists’ have asked the Justice Department to ban the White House from enforcing the powers provided under that clause. District Judge Katherine Forrest awarded the plaintiffs in a federal suit against the Obama administration an injunction earlier this year that keeps the government from using that ability, but a lone appeals judge placed a stay on that ban as requested by the White House Last year, Sen. Levin admitted before Congress that under the original wording of the 2012 NDAA, American citizens were excluded from the provision that allowed for detention. Once Obama’s officials saw the text though, “the administration asked us to remove the language which says that US citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section,” Levin said. Now almost a year to the day later, Sen. Levin has again become the bearer of bad news to millions of Americans who may be subject to indefinite detention for another fiscal year.


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Response to Demeter (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 05:58 PM

2. How Will the 99% Deal with 70 Million Psychopaths? ELECT THEM TO CONGRESS, I GUESS



Did you know that roughly one person in a hundred is clinically a psychopath? These individuals are either born with an emotional deficiency that keeps them from feeling bad about hurting others or they are traumatized early in life in a manner that causes them to become this way. With more than 7 billion people on the planet that means there are as many as 70,000,000 psychopaths alive today. These people are more likely to be risk takers, opportunists motivated by self-interest and greed, and inclined to dominate or subjugate those around them through manipulative means.

Last year, the Occupy Movement drew a distinction between the top 1% and the remaining 99% — as distinguished by measures of wealth and income. Of course, this breakdown is misleading since there are many top income earners who sympathize with the plights of others and are not part of the problem. Now the real defining metric reveals itself: 1% of the global population is comprised of people who exhibit psychopathic tendencies.

The global economy we have today is built on a deep history of top-down hierarchies that promote domination and control. There have been plenty of feudal lords, warrior chieftains, and violent dictators throughout the last 6000 years of burgeoning civilization. The modern era saw the ascension of “corporate personhood” as an amoral entity enshrined into law by an 1886 ruling of the US Supreme Court. This provided a new mechanism for mobilizing capital by the moneyed elites to deploy their wealth into the realm of public policy and civil society — creating the dysfunctional economic system we must now contend with as we struggle to address global challenges.

We find ourselves in a situation where economic philosophies that celebrate selfishness can be implemented through a web of legal and financial tools that elevate and reward those individuals with psychological tendencies toward self-interest — the same people who also have a predisposition to game social contexts to their advantage regardless of impacts on others. Thus the psychopathic corporation was forged as a Frankenstein monster that enabled the constant flow of psychopathic blood, continuously replenished by the 1% of the population born into psychopathy in each new generation, to rise into positions of power as stock traders, corporate executives, and corruptible politicians....

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Response to Demeter (Reply #2)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 08:45 PM

19. Reagan turned them loose, now they're running the place.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:43 PM

14. Scandal Alert: Congress is quietly abandoning the 5th amendment



Meet the prominent legislators who think it's okay to throw Americans in jail forever without charges or trial...What everyone must understand is that American politics doesn't work the way you'd think it would. Most people presume that government officials would never willfully withhold penicillin from men with syphilis just to see what would happen if the disease went untreated. It seems unlikely that officers would coerce enlisted men into exposing themselves to debilitating nerve gas. Few expected that President Obama would preside over the persecution of an NSA whistle-blower, or presume the guilt of all military-aged males killed by U.S. drone strikes. But it all happened. Really thinking about all that may make it easier to believe what I'm about to tell you.

It may seem like imprisoning an American citizen without charges or trial transgresses against the United States Constitution and basic norms of Western justice dating back to the Magna Carta. It may seem like reiterating the right to due process contained in the 5th Amendment would be uncontroversial. It may seem like a United States senator would be widely ridiculed for suggesting that American citizens can be imprisoned indefinitely without charges or trial, and that if numerous U.S. senators took that position, the press would treat the issue with at least as much urgency as "the fiscal cliff" or the possibility of a new assault weapons bill or likely nominees for Cabinet posts.

It may seem like the American citizens who vocally fret about the importance of adhering to the text of the Constitution would object as loudly as anyone to the prospect of indefinite detention.

But it isn't so.

...News junkies likely know that I'm alluding to a specific law that has passed both the Senate and the House, and is presently in a conference committee, where lawmakers reconcile the two versions. Observers once worried that the law would permit the indefinite detention of American citizens, or at least force them to rely on uncertain court challenges if unjustly imprisoned. In response, Senator Dianne Feinstein tried to allay these concerns with an amendment:

An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.

You'd think the part about American citizens being protected from indefinite detention would be uncontroversial. It wasn't. But the amendment did manage to pass in the United States Senate...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 06:02 PM

3. More Home Buyers, Slimmer Pickings



Sales of previously owned homes rose in November to the highest level in three years. At the same time, a sharp decline in the number of properties on the market is beginning to give some power to home sellers.

Existing homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million units in November, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. That marks a 5.9% gain from the previous month and a 14.5% increase from one year ago.

It was only the third time since July 2007 that home sales have crossed the 5 million mark. Sales surpassed that threshold briefly in late 2009, when the looming expiration of first-time home-buyer tax credits fueled a buying frenzy.

The number of homes for sale fell from one year ago to 2.03 million, which is the lowest level since the end of 2001. At the current pace of sales, it would take just 4.8 months to sell that supply, a seven-year low. The Realtors' group considers a balanced market to have a six-month supply of homes. Condominium sales, which were hit hard during the housing slump amid heavy overbuilding, were up by 33% from one year ago, driven by higher sales in the South, particularly in Washington, Atlanta and Florida. Condos, which have accounted for around 10% of all home sales this year, are "beginning to catch up" with other gains in the single-family market, said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 06:14 PM

4. "Good King Wenceslas" Source legend


The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia or Svatý Václav in Czech (907–935).

Wenceslas was considered a martyr and a saint immediately after his death in the 10th century, when a cult of Wenceslas grew up in Bohemia and in England. Within a few decades of Wenceslas's death four biographies of him were in circulation. These hagiographies had a powerful influence on the High Middle Ages conceptualization of the rex justus, or "righteous king"—that is, a monarch whose power stems mainly from his great piety, as well as from his princely vigor.

Referring approvingly to these hagiographies, the chronicler Cosmas of Prague, writing in about the year 1119, states:

But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.

Several centuries later the legend was claimed as fact by Pope Pius II, who himself also walked ten miles barefoot in the ice and snow as an act of pious thanksgiving.

Although Wenceslas was, during his lifetime, only a duke, Holy Roman Emperor Otto I posthumously "conferred on Wenceslas the regal dignity and title" and that is why, in the legend and song, he is referred to as a "king". The usual English spelling of Duke Wenceslas's name, Wenceslaus, is occasionally encountered in later textual variants of the carol, although it was not used by Neale in his version. Wenceslas is not to be confused with King Wenceslaus I of Bohemia (Wenceslaus I Premyslid), who lived more than three centuries later...

In or around 1853, G. J. R. Gordon, Queen Victoria's envoy and minister in Stockholm, gave a rare copy of the 1582 edition of Piae Cantiones to English hymnwriter John Mason Neale, Warden of Sackville College, East Grinstead, Sussex and to the Reverend Thomas Helmore (Vice-Principal of St. Mark's College, Chelsea). The book was entirely unknown in England at that time. Neale translated some of the carols and hymns, and in 1853, he and Helmore published twelve carols in Carols for Christmas-tide (with music from Piae Cantiones). In 1854, they published a dozen more in Carols for Easter-tide and it was in these collections that Neale's original hymn was first published.

John Mason Neale may have written his carol some time earlier, since he carried on the legend of St. Wenceslas (the basis of this story) in his Deeds of Faith (1849). Neale was known for his devotion to High Church traditions. According to older Czech sources, Neale's lyrics are a translation of a poem by Czech poet Václav Alois Svoboda, written in Czech, German and Latin...He wrote the "Wenceslas" lyrics in collaboration with his music editor Thomas Helmore...

Neales' lyrics were set to a tune based on a 13th century spring carol "Tempus adest floridum" ("The time is near for flowering", a 13th-century spring carol first published in the Finnish song book Piae Cantiones in 1582. Piae Cantiones is a collection of seventy-four songs compiled by Jaakko Suomalainen, the Protestant headmaster of Turku Cathedral School, and published by Theodoric Petri, a young Catholic printer. The book is a unique document of European songs intended not only for use in church, but also schools, thus making the collection a unique record of secular (as opposed to sacred), children's songs of the late medieval period.


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 06:32 PM

5. More people moving to U.S. TRIUMPH OF HOPE OVER EXPERIENCE



The pace of the nation's population growth inched higher this year for the first time since 2006, boosted by a larger number of immigrants amid improving U.S. prospects.

In its annual state population estimates, the Census Bureau said Thursday that there were 313.9 million people in the United States on July 1. That is up 2.3 million from a year earlier, a growth rate of 0.75%.

Although that pace is still very slow by historical standards, it nonetheless marks a tiny increase after several years of declines, in which the growth rate had fallen to a level not seen since the 1930s.

And the increase of immigrants is one more indication that the powerful effects of the Great Recession are ebbing because immigration tends to rise when the U.S. job market improves...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 06:40 PM

6. Playing Taxes Hold ’Em By PAUL KRUGMAN



A few years back, there was a boom in poker television — shows in which you got to watch the betting and bluffing of expert card players. Since then, however, viewers seem to have lost interest. But I have a suggestion: Instead of featuring poker experts, why not have a show featuring poker incompetents — people who fold when they have a strong hand or don’t know how to quit while they’re ahead? On second thought, that show already exists. It’s called budget negotiations, and it’s now in its second episode. The first episode ran in 2011, as President Obama made his first attempt to cut a long-run fiscal deal — a so-called Grand Bargain — with John Boehner, the speaker of the House. Mr. Obama was holding a fairly weak hand, after a midterm election in which Democrats took a beating. Nonetheless, the concessions he offered were breathtaking: He was willing to accept huge spending cuts, not to mention a rise in the Medicare eligibility age, in return for a vague promise of higher revenue without any increase in tax rates. This deal, if implemented, would have been a huge victory for Republicans, deeply damaging both programs dear to Democrats and the Democratic political brand. But it never happened. Why? Because Mr. Boehner and members of his party couldn’t bring themselves to accept even a modest rise in taxes. And their intransigence saved Mr. Obama from himself.

Now the game is on again — but with Mr. Obama holding a far stronger hand. He and his party won a solid victory in this year’s election. And the legislative clock is very much in their favor, too. All the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of the month...The president doesn’t hold all the cards — there are some things he and fellow Democrats want, like extended unemployment benefits and infrastructure spending, that they can’t get without some Republican cooperation. But he is in a very strong position. Yet earlier this week progressives suddenly had the sinking feeling that it was 2011 all over again, as the Obama administration made a budget offer that, while far better than the disastrous deal it was willing to make the last time around, still involved giving way on issues where it had promised to hold the line — perpetuating a substantial portion of the high-income Bush tax cuts, effectively cutting Social Security benefits by changing the inflation adjustment. And this was an offer, not a deal. Are we about to see another round of the president negotiating with himself, snatching policy and political defeat from the jaws of victory?

Well, probably not. Once again, the Republican crazies — the people who can’t accept the idea of ever voting to raise taxes on the wealthy, never mind either fiscal or economic reality — have saved the day. We don’t know exactly why Mr. Boehner didn’t respond to the president’s offer with a real counteroffer and instead offered something ludicrous — a “Plan B” that, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, would actually raise taxes for a number of lower- and middle-income families, while cutting taxes for almost half of those in the top 1 percent. The effect, however, has to have been to disabuse the Obama team of any illusions that they were engaged in good-faith negotiations.
..WELL, ONE WOULD HOPE SO, BUT THE HISTORICAL RECORDS SUGGEST NOT...Mr. Boehner had evident problems getting his caucus to support Plan B, and he took the plan off the table Thursday night; it would have modestly raised taxes on the really wealthy, the top 0.1 percent, and even that was too much for many Republicans. This means that any real deal with Mr. Obama would be met with mass G.O.P. defections; so any such deal would require overwhelming Democratic support, a fact that empowers progressives ready to bolt if they think the president is giving away too much. As in 2011, then, the Republican crazies are doing Mr. Obama a favor, heading off any temptation he may have felt to give away the store in pursuit of bipartisan dreams.

And there’s a broader lesson here. This is no time for a Grand Bargain, because the Republican Party, as now constituted, is just not an entity with which the president can make a serious deal. If we’re going to get a grip on our nation’s problems — of which the budget deficit is a minor part — the power of the G.O.P.’s extremists, and their willingness to hold the economy hostage if they don’t get their way, needs to be broken. And somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen in the next few days.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #6)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 06:45 PM




It’s always amazing how little Democrats and Republicans know about each other. Democrats, for example, are mystified that we haven’t already gotten a deal on the “fiscal cliff.” On Monday, the two sides seemed close. Both made serious counteroffers, and a deal seemed a day away. (MYSTIFIED? WHO? OBAMA, MAYBE...THE REST OF US, NO MYSTERY AT ALL!)

Then Speaker John Boehner pulled back. He did this because senior Republicans were afraid that he was giving away the concessions they would need in a future tax-reform negotiation — like closing tax loopholes. (NOW THAT'S DELUSIONAL! GOOD JOB, DAVE!)

But Democrats don’t know this. They have no clue what Republicans are thinking at any moment. Republicans are equally in the dark. The White House is a black box to them. They have no clue what President Obama wants in his second term or how the fiscal-cliff negotiations fit in.

Well, I’d like to help the Republicans understand what’s going on in the other camp...



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Response to Demeter (Reply #7)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:35 PM

13. Defiant House Progressives To Nancy Pelosi: We Will Not Vote To Cut Social Security Benefits



House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she would support President Obama’s proposed Social Security benefit cuts — even arguing that using the “chained CPI” would not be a benefit cut after previously telling President Obama “that House Democrats will not vote for any trims to future benefits in Medicare or Social Security, even a tweak to the cost-of-living index,” according to her hometown paper.

A defiant Congressional Progressive Caucus — which has 75 Members in the House — pushed back, releasing a statement declaring:

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) are standing up against a proposal to cut Social Security benefits by changing the way we calculate inflation…Tying Social Security to chained CPI is a benefit cut and members of the CPC will not vote for a deal that cuts the benefits that millions of Americans rely on.

This Progressive Caucus statement follows similarly bold statements from individual Caucus members in the preceding 36 hours...

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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 08:03 PM

18. Obama On Fiscal Cliff Talks: 'I Actually Still Think We Can Get It Done'




In a news conference Friday, President Obama said there were still things the parties could agree on about the automatic tax-rate increases and spending cuts at the end of the year. But he said parties would have to work together to get a plan approved in the next 10 days.

"Call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done," he said, after meeting with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and speaking to Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

"In the next few days, I've asked leaders of Congress to work toward a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction. That's an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days."

The president said all were in agreement that tax rates should not rise on all Americans, including middle-class families and small businesses, which would happen if the Bush-era tax cuts were not extended for anyone.

He said he hoped members of Congress would take time over the holiday break to think about the "obligations" they have to their constituents and come back to Washington ready to work.

"We move forward together, or we don't move forward at all," he said, also noting that "nobody gets 100 percent of what they want."

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 06:47 PM

8. Money market fund assets fell to $2.637 trillion



Total U.S. money market mutual fund assets fell $8.75 billion to $2.637 trillion for the week that ended Wednesday, according to the Investment Company Institute. Assets of the nation's retail money market mutual funds rose $9.46 billion to $919.89 billion, the Washington-based mutual fund trade group said Thursday. Assets of taxable money market funds in the retail category rose $6.23 billion to $721.9 billion. Tax-exempt retail fund assets rose $3.23 billion to $197.99 billion.

Meanwhile assets of institutional money market funds fell $18.21 billion to $1.717 trillion. Among institutional funds, taxable money market fund assets fell $18.36 billion to $1.634 trillion. Assets of tax-exempt funds rose $150 million to $82.61 billion.

The seven-day average yield on money market mutual funds was unchanged from the previous week at 0.02 percent in the week that ended Tuesday, according to Money Fund Report, a service of iMoneyNet Inc. in Westborough, Mass. The 30-day average yield was flat at 0.02 percent from last week. The seven-day compounded was unchanged at 0.02 percent. The 30-day compounded yield was also flat at 0.02 percent, Money Fund Report said.

The average maturity of portfolios held by money market mutual funds rose to 49 days from 48 days...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:00 PM

9. Peter Madoff Is Sentenced to 10 Years for His Role in Fraud



Peter B. Madoff was sentenced on Thursday to 10 years in prison for crimes that helped his brother, Bernard L. Madoff, swindle investors out of billions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme that collapsed four years ago this month. A lawyer by training, Peter Madoff is the second figure in the scandal to be sentenced...Mr. Madoff, in a slate blue suit and striped blue tie, entered the crowded courtroom accompanied only by his lawyers, although many members of his family and friends had written letters of support for him. The 63 character references stood in stark contrast to his brother's sentencing, when the judge in that case noted that he had not received a single supportive letter. Still, a handful of victims attended the hearing, including two who spoke emotionally about the financial and psychological hardships they are enduring and urged the judge to impose a life sentence. In his own brief statement to the judge, Peter Madoff said he was "deeply ashamed" of his conduct and had "tried to atone by pleading guilty." He added: "I am profoundly sorry that my failures have let so many people down, including my own loved ones and family."

In June, Peter Madoff, 67, admitted to a range of crimes, including falsifying documents, lying to securities regulators and filing sham tax returns. Prosecutors said that if Peter Madoff had properly done his job as chief compliance officer at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, regulators would likely have detected the fraud years earlier. Peter Madoff was not charged with knowing about the Ponzi scheme, and insists that he first learned about it only 36 hours before his brother's arrest. During the sentencing in Federal District Court in Manhattan, Judge Laura Taylor Swain expressed skepticism about that assertion.

"Peter Madoff's contention that he did not know that anything was wrong with the investment advisory business is beneath the dignity" of a sophisticated Wall Street executive, Judge Swain said.

"It is also, frankly, not believable," she added.

In pleading guilty, Peter Madoff has agreed to a 10-year sentence and a forfeiture order of $143 billion. Though a staggering sum that does not bear any relation to what Mr. Madoff could pay, it is tied to the amount of the crime's proceeds. The government set the amount that high to send a clear signal that it would seize all of his and his family's assets and distribute them to victims...Peter Madoff worked alongside his brother for 39 years. Though Bernard was the firm's sole owner, he paid Peter handsomely. The government said that Peter received about $40 million in compensation from 1998 to 2008. That money was put toward his and his wife, Marion's, lifestyle that included homes in Old Westbury, N.Y., on Long Island, and Palm Beach, Fla., as well as a $4 million apartment on Park Avenue...Judge Swain directed Peter Madoff to report to prison on Feb. 6, implicitly granting a request that he not be incarcerated until after his granddaughter's bat mitzvah in late January...The judge also complied with a request by Mr. Wing that she ask that Peter be assigned to a nearby prison in Otisville, N.Y., permitting regular visits from his family, though that decision ultimately rests with the Bureau of Prisons.

Besides the two brothers, criminal charges have been filed against a dozen other defendants. Bernard Madoff, 74, is serving his sentence at a federal prison near Raleigh, N.C. Peter's daughter, Shana Madoff Swanson, was a lawyer at the Madoff firm but has not been charged with any crime. Frank DiPascali, a longtime Madoff employee, pleaded guilty in August 2009 and is awaiting sentencing. Of the remaining defendants, six have pleaded guilty to violations of tax and securities laws that sustained the scheme. The remaining five defendants have denied the government's charges and their trial is scheduled for October...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:12 PM

10. "What is this Feast of Stephen?"


St. Stephen’s Day is also called Boxing Day, Wren Day, or Constitution Day. In many countries December 26 commemorates the life of St. Stephen, a Christian deacon in Jerusalem who was known for his service to the poor and his status as the first Christian martyr (he was stoned to death in ad 36).

...In the United Kingdom and some Commonwealth countries, the December 26 holiday is commonly known as Boxing Day, which takes its name from the practice of giving small gifts to household servants on that day for their work throughout the year. In Ireland the holiday is sometimes called Wren Day, because in the past a wren would be killed and taken door-to-door by children asking for money in exchange for a wren’s feather, which people believed brought good luck. The tradition of going house-to-house on St. Stephen’s Day survives in many countries, especially in Scandinavia, where the day is observed by visiting friends and going to parties.

In Hungary...In 1949 the country’s communist regime promulgated a new constitution on that day with the intent of transforming the Christian-themed holiday into a politically inspired one, which they renamed Constitution Day. Following the collapse of the communist state in Hungary, however, the holiday was again celebrated as St. Stephen’s Day. One ritual entails carrying the case containing the relics of St. Stephen’s right hand in processions throughout the streets of Budapest. More modern festivities include fireworks and parades.


Wrenboys on St. Stephen's Day in Dingle, Ireland.

Saint Stephen (Koine Greek: Στέφανος, Stephanos; sometimes spelled "Stephan", the protomartyr of Christianity, is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Stephen's name is derived from the Greek language Stephanos, meaning "crown". Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom; he is often depicted in art with three stones and the martyrs' palm. In Eastern Christian iconography, he is shown as a young, beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a deacon's vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer. Rembrandt depicted his martyrdom in his work The Stoning of Saint Stephen.

History approximates Stephen's story around A.D. 34-35, shortly after Jesus' crucifixion. According to Chapter 6 of The Acts of the Apostles, Stephen was among seven men of the early church at Jerusalem appointed to serve as deacon. However, after a dispute with the members of a synagogue of "Roman Freedmen," he is denounced for blasphemy against God and Moses (Acts 6:11) and speaking against the Temple and the Law. Stephen is tried before the Sanhedrin. His defense is presented as accusing the Jews of persecuting the prophets who had spoken out against the sins of the nation:

"Which one of the Prophets did your fathers not persecute, and they killed the ones who prophesied the coming of the Just One, of whom now, too, you have become betrayers and murderers." (7:52)

While on trial, he experienced a theophany in which he saw both God the Father and God the Son:

"Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56) This vision of Christ standing differs from other Scripture which indicates Jesus sits at the right hand of God - perhaps implying that Christ stood in honor of Stephen whose martyrdom was near.

He is condemned and stoned to death by an infuriated mob, which is encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, later to be known as Saint Paul the Apostle. After his own conversion to Christianity, Paul makes reference to witnessing Stephen's martyrdom in his writings...

Many churches are named in honor of Saint Stephen, but there was no official "Tomb of St Stephen" until 415. When Christian pilgrims were traveling in large numbers to Jerusalem, a priest named Lucian said he had learned by a vision that the tomb was in Caphar Gamala, some distance to the north of Jerusalem.

Gregory of Tours reported that the intercession of Stephen preserved an oratory dedicated to him at Metz, in present-day France. His relics were preserved when the oratory was left standing, after Huns burned the remainder of the city on Easter Eve, 451...


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Response to Demeter (Reply #10)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 12:20 AM

24. Musical Interlude

Saint Stephen by the Grateful Dead:

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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:32 PM

11. The Latest War on Single Moms



...it’s not just Sweden (THAT TREATS WOMEN BETTER): The comparison countries include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. When put in this relatively diverse and similarly wealthy company, the authors write, “We find that U.S. single-parent families are the worst off. They have the highest poverty rate. They have the highest rate of no health care coverage. They face the stingiest income support system. They lack the paid-time-off-from-work entitlements that in comparison countries make it easier for single parents to balance caregiving and job holding. They must wait longer than single parents in comparison countries for early childhood education to begin. They have a low rate of child support receipt.”

Partly as a result of “welfare reform” policies, they note, “U.S. single parents have both above average employment rates,” including, often, full-time and year-round work, “and above average poverty rates.” How does that happen? Single mothers pushed into the workforce disproportionately end up in low-wage jobs, and a diminishing pool of them at that. (Over 80 percent of single parents in the U.S. are single mothers, less than half of whom have never been married.) The recession’s lasting impacts have meant a decline in employment rates for single mothers — from 73 percent in 2007 to 66 percent in 2011 — even as the last remaining benefits are being haggled down in Congress. Single mothers also tend to make substantially less than single or married men with the same education, thanks to discrimination, occupational segregation and the historic devaluing of jobs women tend to do.

The study takes a broad view of government policies affecting the most vulnerable families: It’s about affordable daycare and paid family leave, but it’s also about access to health insurance, subsidized or free early education for 3- to 5-year-olds, and child allowance program, payments many countries adopted to encourage fertility, something conservatives supposedly want too. (The earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit were meant to have a similar impact, but those were different days.)

Getting fathers to step up is increasingly popular to talk about in the U.S., but when that doesn’t happen, this country is not among several countries offering “advanced maintenance programs,” in which the government guarantees child support payments, up to a point, and then tries to collect from the deadbeat parent.

These are all concrete ways that other countries are protecting low-income families, including children who might be trapped in a cycle of poverty — but they cost a lot more than demonizing single mothers.

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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:33 PM

12. Climate Change Is Not Just an Environmental Problem -- It's an Economic One



...And here, in microcosm, is the problem with solving climate change. There's too much money to to be made doing the same old same old. There's no incentive to change, I mean, unless you like breathing the air and drinking the water. But apparently that's just not as sexy as the old "jobs and revenue" line that gets trotted out by every fill-in-the-blank financially interested party to defend every project that will add more carbon to the atmosphere.

The sticking point with climate change is it's not an environmental problem, primarily, but an economic problem. The entire world's economy revolves around carbon-spewing technologies. And until the kingpins controlling the resources that keep this economy running figure out how to make money in changing, there will be no serious change. Period, the end. Too bad about the air and water...

...I'm not against jobs and revenue but I've come to highly value breathing air and drinking water. The only force in the world capable of ultimately winning out over all this prevailing wisdom about jobs and revenue and the incredible boon of "clean" fossil fuels is sustained direct action by people. For real change, people will have to push harder, because politicians can talk forever, if you let them.

This is the conclusion many activists have come to across a variety of campaigns likeGreenpeace, theTar Sands Blockade and the newstudent movement to force colleges and universities to divest themselves of their fossil fuel investments, to name a few. It's surely going to get hotter - literally and figuratively - before health and well-being win out over jobs and revenue.

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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:45 PM



Joy to the world....

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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:53 PM

16. "Joy to the world" the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.


The words are by English hymn writer Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98 in the Bible. The song was first published in 1719 in Watts' collection; The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship. Watts wrote the words of "Joy to the World" as a hymn glorifying Christ's triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a song celebrating His first coming. Only the second half of Watts' lyrics are still used today.

The music was adapted and arranged to Watts' lyrics by Lowell Mason in 1839 from an older melody which was then believed to have originated from Handel, not least because the theme of the refrain (And heaven and nature sing...) appears in the orchestra opening and accompaniment of the recitative Comfort ye from Handel's Messiah, and the first four notes match the beginning of the choruses Lift up your heads and Glory to God from the same oratorio. However, Handel did not compose the entire tune. The name "Antioch" is generally used for the tune.

Verse 1

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Verse 2

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Verse 3 (optional)

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Verse 4

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

In the first line of the first verse, "The Lord has come" might seem more natural, but "The Lord is come" is correct. In Early Modern English, verbs of movement such as "to go" and "to come" were used with the auxiliary verb "to be" and not the present-day auxiliary verb "to have". Students of German will notice that older forms of English are similar to modern-day German forms, where "I have come" (Ich bin gekommen) is directly translated as "I am come".


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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 08:00 PM

17. European Debt Colony: Austerity Bites Hard in a Greece Shackled to its Lenders



The Greek government has hailed the eurozone finance ministers' latest decision on Greece, requiring the country to lower its debt in return for bailout funds, as yet another political victory. This was not surprising at all to Greeks, who have often seen their government celebrating decisions that have made life miserable for its citizens. But this time, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras went so far as to call the agreement a "landmark for the country's rebirth", releasing a video on YouTube entitled "Greece starts now".

Viewers of the video pointed out the irony of propagating national unity and hope to Greeks, who have meanwhile been devastated by the government's harsh austerity measures. This simplistic piece of propaganda elicited comments reflecting the genuine bitterness and disenchantment of the Greek people...

Dazed and confused

Greeks know well that calls for "national unity" are nothing but dust in the eyes of a dazed and confused people. They are represented by a weak government that has endorsed all its lenders' claims, leaving its population practically undefended at the negotiating table. According to the latest data from Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency, about 30 percent of the Greek population now lives below the poverty line - with 15 percent living in conditions of extreme poverty. These figures are for the first time comparable to those of former Soviet-bloc countries such as Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia. Austerity is shredding the social fabric of Greece. About 1,000 more people lose their jobs every day, and long-term poverty is knocking at the door of a new class of low-paid workers. According to Greece's Institute of Labour, the average salary in the country is just 74 percent of the European average - and, what's more, Greeks' purchasing power has fallen by half since 2010. Many workers now have to live on as little as 4,500 euro per year, while the poverty line is set at 7,100 euro per year.

Although wages and pensions have been slashed, the public healthcare system is being destroyed and spending on public education has fallen to levels last seen in the 1980s, the cost of living in the country remains high - confirming the words of one Greek housewife who said that Greeks are "going to have to live on a Bulgarian salary with London prices". But there is no such thing as "national unity" in despair. According to a recent bank report, despite the recession (25 percent of Greek GDP has vanished since 2009), the wealthiest 500 Greek companies saw their profits increase by 18.2 percent in 2011. Several reports have found that Greece's shipping industry, traditionally part of the country's political and economic elite, who hold 16 percent of the world's maritime fleet, pay very little in taxes. At the latest meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels, the interest rates Greece has to pay on its debt were lowered, the maturities of these loans were extended, and a plan was made for Greece to buy back some of its discounted bonds. If Greece follows this path consistently, then by 2020 public debt will be about 124 percent of its GDP, which the troika says is a sustainable figure. But the deal comes with one condition: that Greece remain on the same route of austerity for at least the next 10 years. This will cause the country's social and economic situation to rapidly deteriorate in the near future. The recession will continue, new austerity measures will be introduced and debt repayments will become even more difficult to maintain, while another recapitalisation of the Greek banks will probably be needed shortly. As the leader of the opposition party SYRIZA said in a recent interview with the Guardian, if these policies continue then in ten years, Greece "will have become a no-man's land"...It is not an exaggeration to claim that Greece is a debt colony now, shackled to its lenders. It is subservient to a trust of bankers, bureaucrats and neoliberal fundamentalist politicians in northern Europe (and within Greece, too) who aim to impose their doctrine regardless of its apparent failure and the will of the Greek people...

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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 08:55 PM

20. Forecast: 13.1% Of US Workers To Be Jobless in 2013 By David Walsh



Data released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) on December 19 indicate that 13.1 percent of the workforce, or more than one in eight workers, will be out of a job at some point in 2013. The EPI calculates that 14.9 percent of the workforce, or some 23 million people, were unemployed at one time or another in 2011. (The 2012 rate has not yet been calculated, of course). This figure for 2011 contrasts sharply with the official annual jobless rate of 8.9 percent, which is simply the average official monthly unemployment rate for the year. The holiday season jobs situation remains grim in the US for tens of millions, even as the Obama administration and the media blather on about the strength of the American economy.

A more accurate glimpse of social reality in the US was provided by a recent item on the Bloomberg Businessweek web site, headlined “Banks See Rich Returns as Staff Suffers,” which began: “For employees at the biggest Wall Street banks, 2012 brought a humbling post-crisis reality of job cuts, lower pay and tarnished reputations. For investors, it was a happier story.” The article noted that the Standard & Poor’s 500 Financial Index, covering some 81 Wall Street firms, was up 27 percent for 2012, its largest increase since 2003, led by a 104 percent gain by Bank of America Corp. As Bloomberg Businessweek pointed out, “Shareholders, impatient for the industry to boost profit, were rewarded as Wall Street firms cut jobs and pay, and exited businesses.”

Nine major banks—Deutsche Bank, Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, UBS, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley—reported more than 30,000 job cuts between them in the first nine months of this year. Investors have rewarded the financial firms that most ruthlessly slashed jobs. Citigroup stock jumped 6.3 percent when company officials announced “the New York-based bank would cut 11,000 jobs.” Jobless claims for the week ending December 15 jumped unexpectedly to 361,000, an increase of 17,000 from the previous week’s revised figure, signaling, in the words of one commentator, “an unwelcome speed bump in the labor market’s recovery.”

Talk of a recovery is empty and cynical in face of the actual economic reality. There are currently 22.7 million people officially unemployed or under-employed in the US, or some 14.4 percent of the labor force. This figure is extremely misleading, as the official jobless rate has remained steady or dropped primarily due to people leaving the workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) excludes millions who have given up looking for work from its jobless category...

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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 09:09 PM

21. The Fiscal Cliff Is A Diversion: The Derivatives Tsunami and the Dollar Bubble By Paul Craig Robert



...the fiscal cliff is about small numbers compared to the Derivatives Tsunami or to bond market and dollar market bubbles...The fiscal cliff requires that the federal government cut spending by $1.3 trillion over ten years. The Guardian reports that means the federal deficit has to be reduced about $109 billion per year or 3 percent of the current budget. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/27/fiscal-cliff-explained-spending-cuts-tax-hikes More simply, just divide $1.3 trillion by ten and it comes to $130 billion per year. This can be done by simply taking a three month vacation each year from Washington’s wars...The Derivatives Tsunami and the bond and dollar bubbles are of a different magnitude. Last June 5 in “Collapse At Hand” http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2012/06/05/collapse-at-hand/ I pointed out that according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s fourth quarter report for 2011, about 95% of the $230 trillion in US derivative exposure was held by four US financial institutions: JP Morgan Chase Bank, Bank of America, Citibank, and Goldman Sachs.

Prior to financial deregulation, essentially the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and the non-regulation of derivatives--a joint achievement of the Clinton administration and the Republican Party--Chase, Bank of America, and Citibank were commercial banks that took depositors’ deposits and made loans to businesses and consumers and purchased Treasury bonds with any extra reserves. With the repeal of Glass-Steagall these honest commercial banks became gambling casinos, like the investment bank, Goldman Sachs, betting not only their own money but also depositors money on uncovered bets on interest rates, currency exchange rates, mortgages, and prices of commodities and equities. These bets soon exceeded many times not only US GDP but world GDP. Indeed, the gambling bets of JP Morgan Chase Bank alone are equal to world Gross Domestic Product...According to the first quarter 2012 report from the Comptroller of the Currency, total derivative exposure of US banks has fallen insignificantly from the previous quarter to $227 trillion. The exposure of the 4 US banks accounts for almost of all of the exposure and is many multiples of their assets or of their risk capital.

The Derivatives Tsunami is the result of the handful of fools and corrupt public officials who deregulated the US financial system. Today merely four US banks have derivative exposure equal to 3.3 times world Gross Domestic Product. When I was a US Treasury official, such a possibility would have been considered beyond science fiction. Hopefully, much of the derivative exposure somehow nets out so that the net exposure, while still larger than many countries’ GDPs, is not in the hundreds of trillions of dollars. Still, the situation is so worrying to the Federal Reserve that after announcing a third round of quantitative easing, that is, printing money to buy bonds--both US Treasuries and the banks’ bad assets--the Fed has just announced that it is doubling its QE 3 purchases. In other words, the entire economic policy of the United States is dedicated to saving four banks that are too large to fail. The banks are too large to fail only because deregulation permitted financial concentration, as if the Anti-Trust Act did not exist. The purpose of QE is to keep the prices of debt, which supports the banks’ bets, high...

The hyped threat of the fiscal cliff is immaterial compared to the threat of the derivatives overhang and the threat to the US dollar and bond market of the Federal Reserve’s commitment to save four US banks...Now that there are no jobs, now that real family incomes have been stagnant or declining for decades, and now that wealth and income have been concentrated in few hands is the time, Republicans say, to destroy the social safety net so that we don’t fall over the fiscal cliff. In human history, such a policy usually produces revolt and revolution, which is what the US so desperately needs. Perhaps our stupid and corrupt policymakers are doing us a favor after all.


Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #21)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 05:11 AM

28. Bill Black: Let’s Celebrate the Failure of the July 2011 Great Betrayal


By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Cross posted from New Economic Perspectives


In July 2011, President Obama and Speaker Boehner reached an agreement in principle on a deal crafted to inflict $4 trillion in austerity by raising taxes modestly, slashing social spending, and beginning to unravel the safety net. The deal would have been a disaster for America. Unemployment was 9.1%. The deal would have thrown us back into a recession and caused unemployment to surge. Recessions and increased unemployment cause tax revenues to fall and increase demand for social services (e.g., for unemployment compensation) – they produce large deficits. Austerity kills jobs and frequently increases deficits. The Eurozone is the latest demonstration of this fact. We should, therefore, all be celebrating the failure of the July 2011 austerity deal. We almost committed an act of economic self-mutilation of tragic proportions. Instead, because of the failure to adopt austerity in July 2011 we followed an economic policy based on modest stimulus. As predicted by most economists (including my UMKC colleagues) that policy produced modest growth and modest reductions in unemployment. The recovery produced the sharpest reduction in budgetary deficits in modern U.S. history. The Eurozone’s leaders’ austerity policies forced many nations back into recession. Austerity was most draconian in the periphery where it produced Great Depression levels of unemployment, particularly for young adults. The dominant media meme about the “fiscal cliff” is that it is an insane austerity program that would force the U.S. back into a gratuitous recession and cause large increases in unemployment. Logically, that should cause the media to recognize that the far more severe austerity blows that Obama and Boehner sought to inflict on the U.S. in July 2011 at a time when our economic recovery was much weaker than it is today would have been disastrous and that we should be overjoyed that the deal fell apart.

The media, however, constantly warns us of the need not to repeat the “failure” to reach the July 2011 deal. They show no sign of recognizing the logical incoherence in simultaneously warning that the fiscal cliff’s austerity must be avoided lest it force the nation back into recession and that it is urgent that we adopt austerity. Media reports virtually never explain that if the July 2011 austerity deal had been finalized the results would have been catastrophic. The media is similarly incoherent when discussing (more precisely, ignoring) another key aspect of the fiscal cliff – its origins. The “fiscal cliff” is not really a cliff, but it is definitely an economically illiterate and self-destructive austerity program. That is the first key analytical aspect of the origins of the fiscal cliff – it was known to be an economically illiterate and self-destructive austerity program when it was adopted. The obvious question, which the general media studiously ignores, is why the parties agreed to the “fiscal cliff” deal when it was obvious that it would cause catastrophic damage to our economy and people. The “fiscal cliff” (austerity) deal is the deal that did not fail – it was the bipartisan deal that became law in August 2011. It is revealing that no one in the media even attempts anymore to defend the bipartisan fiscal cliff (austerity) deal. The media normally have a romantic crush on anything bipartisan, no matter how much it harms the nation. The fiscal cliff austerity deal is so obviously stupid that even the media almost universally criticize it. This should prompt three obvious questions.

1. What idiot designed the fiscal cliff (austerity) deal?
2. Why did both parties support it?
3. Why did the media not denounce the deal before it was adopted?

The answers are:

1. President Obama took the lead in crafting the “fiscal cliff.” He did so with terrible counsel provided by Treasury Secretary Geithner and William Daley, Obama’s chief of staff (Wall Street’s leading representative within the administration and, like Geithner, a strong opponent of stimulus and a strong proponent of austerity).
2. Both parties “knew” that austerity was essential.
3. The media “knew” that austerity was essential.

Obama is the person in the world who benefitted most from the failure of the July 2011 austerity deal he reached in principle with Boehner. If the austerity deal had been finalized the nation would have be forced back into recession. Unemployment was 9.1% in July 2011. It would have risen sharply above 10% and it would have gone up every month in 2012 as the election approached. Obama would have been crushed by Governor Romney. The irony is that Obama tried five times in 2011 to inflict austerity on America. Had he succeeded, he would have caused grave damage to our nation. Had he succeeded in inflicting austerity he would have also destroyed his re-election chances, given the Republicans control of the U.S. Senate, slashed public services when they were most needed, and begun the process of destroying the safety net. He would have gone down in history as a grotesque failure.

  • Obama’s first major effort to inflict austerity on the nation in 2011 was his July austerity deal in principle with Boehner. Their shared goal was a $4 trillion austerity program with mild increases in tax revenues and fierce cuts to social programs and the safety net.

  • Obama’s second effort to inflict austerity was the creation of the “fiscal cliff” austerity deal in August 2011. The premise of the August deal was that austerity needed to be inflicted on America.

    Aug. 2, 2011—
    U.S. Averts First-Ever Default but Economic Impact Still Uncertain

    “It’s an important first step to ensuring that as a nation we live within our means, yet it also allows us to keep making key investments in things like education and research that lead to new jobs and assures that we’re not cutting too abruptly while the economy’s still fragile,” Obama said in a statement from the White House Rose Garden before signing the bill.

    “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again,” Obama said. “We can’t balance the budget on the backs of the very people who have borne the brunt of this recession. Everyone has to chip in. It’s only fair. That’s the principle I’ll be fighting for in the next phase.”

    I know that these statements by Obama strike many Americans as sensible, but they betray a basic misunderstanding of economics and explain why he embraces austerity. We are a nation with a sovereign currency. Our national government is nothing like a household. “Balancing the budget” (“live within our means”) in response to the Great Recession is austerity. Austerity is a disastrous policy in such circumstances because it causes nations to fall back into recession or depression. The issue is not “fairness” through joint sacrifice. If “everyone” “chips in” through austerity it still produces a gratuitous recession or depression. That is not “fair” – it is insane – there is no such thing as a “fair” recession. “Fighting” for “fair” austerity so that everyone suffers equally through a “fair” recession is impossible because recessions cause increased unemployment, which is inherently unfair. But the more essential point is that it is insane to cause recessions through austerity. That’s the principle for which we fight at UMKC. The economic crises we face are jobs and homes. Similarly, you do not “cut” federal spending when the economy is operating well before full capacity because of a Great Recession. Obama’s stated policy was to cut federal spending in 2011, but not “too abruptly.” Cutting overall spending in response to a Great Recession causes gratuitous recessions, even if you make “key investments.”

  • Obama intended the prospect of the fiscal cliff’s dramatic mandatory cuts in social programs to extort progressive Congressional Democrats into agreeing to inflict severe austerity by voting in favor of what Obama hoped would be massive cuts in social programs and the safety net adopted by the Congressional “super committee” created by the same bipartisan austerity deal that created the “fiscal cliff.” Obama encouraged the “super committee” to inflict massive spending cuts and tax increases (super-sized austerity).

  • Obama’s fourth effort occurred during the super committee negotiations. Some members of Congress opposed the imposition of the “fiscal cliff” austerity provisions and sought to remove, delay, or reduce them. Obama intervened to block any effort to avoid or reduce the austerity inflicted by the “fiscal cliff.”

    President Obama called the Democratic and Republican chairmen of Congress’s special deficit reduction supercommittee Friday and urged them to reach a deal….

    But he also carried another message: Congress should not undo the painful consequences for failing to reach a deal that were agreed to when the supercommittee was created in the August debt deal.

    But the so-called sequester could not be undone without a sign-off from Obama, and he made clear Friday that he would not agree.

    “The sequester was agreed to by both parties to ensure there was a meaningful enforcement mechanism to force a result from the Committee,” the White House said in a statement. “Congress must not shirk its responsibilities. The American people deserve to have their leaders come together and make the tough choices necessary to live within our means, just as American families do every day in these tough economic times.”

    He urged them to strike a deal that would cut both entitlements and raise revenues.

    Yes, President Obama “urged” the infliction of severe austerity through cuts in the safety net, massive cuts in social programs, and deliberately created and used the “fiscal cliff’s” self-destructive austerity threat to extort these betrayals of the American people. His surrogates (Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson – the co-chairs of Obama’s austerity commission) pushed the “super committee” to “go big” and inflict $4 trillion in austerity. (Simpson predicted that the markets would “tank” absent such an austerity deal.) Obama urged austerity under the “logic” that a national government with a sovereign currency is “just” like a household – the most basic and common economic error in this field. The President of the United States thinks that the U.S. government is “just” like a household and should try to balance the budget (“live within our means”) through austerity in response to the Great Recession. He also thinks we should seize the political opportunity, even if it had nothing to do with the budget deficit, to begin to unravel the safety net. It is this sad record that led me (and many others) to warn before the election that Obama’s effort to secure a “Grand Bargain” constituted a “Great Betrayal” motivated by his desire to create his legacy. Obama’s self-portrait is that he was willing to agree to sacrifice his Party’s greatest accomplishments (the safety net) in order to secure a bipartisan agreement imposing austerity. The actual sacrifices, however, will be made by the elderly, the poor, and the working class, the victims of his betrayal. If Obama succeeds in producing another recession through austerity you can add the nation to the list of sacrificial victims. When the super committee failed to reach a bipartisan austerity deal in November 2011, members of Congress sought to pass legislation removing the fiscal cliff’s austerity provisions.

  • Obama’s fifth effort to inflict austerity occurred when he threatened to veto any reduction in fiscal cliff austerity.

    Nov 21, 2011 4:52pm

    President Obama said today he will veto any efforts to get rid of the automatic spending cuts that will be triggered by the supercommittee’s failure to reach a bipartisan solution to deficit reduction.

    “There will be no easy off-ramps on this one. We need to keep the pressure up to compromise, not turn off the pressure,” the president said this evening. “The only way these spending cuts will not take place is if Congress gets back to work and agrees on a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion.”

    Fortunately for the nation (and Obama), fate conspired to cause four of Obama’s efforts to inflict austerity to fail while the fifth (the “fiscal cliff”) does not begin to kick in until 2013. For opposite reasons, the Tea Party and progressive Democrats have interacted in a manner that blocked Obama’s efforts to inflict austerity on the nation. (The Tea Party loves austerity, but hates even modest tax increases for the wealthy.)

    ...All of this was economically illiterate...
    Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/12/bill-black-ets-celebrate-the-failure-of-the-july-2011-great-betrayal.html#J8BfvKODMuxXoq0M.99
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    Response to Demeter (Reply #28)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 05:47 AM

    33. Obama Presses Stripped-Down Plan to Limit Tax Increase



    President Obama, conceding that a “grand bargain” for deficit reduction with Speaker John A. Boehner is unlikely, called Friday for Congress to approve a stripped-down measure by year’s end to prevent a tax increase for all but the richest taxpayers and to extend aid for two million unemployed Americans.

    “That’s an achievable goal; that can get done in 10 days,” Mr. Obama said to reporters during a hastily scheduled evening appearance in the White House briefing room. “Call me a hopeless optimist,” he added, “but I actually think we can get this done.”

    The president, who took no questions, read his statement just after a brief phone conversation with Mr. Boehner and a separate meeting at the White House with Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and Senate majority leader. It was Mr. Boehner’s stinging defeat Thursday night — when rebellious antitax House Republicans blocked a vote on his tax plan, after he had suspended negotiations with Mr. Obama — that forced the president to reach for a fallback strategy with Senate help.

    By Friday, both the House and the Senate had closed for the Christmas break, and soon after his statement Mr. Obama left with his family for their annual holiday trip to Hawaii, his native state. His return date is dependent on events, aides said...

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #33)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 05:52 AM

    34. Wall Street Week Ahead: A lump of coal for "Fiscal Cliff-mas"



    Wall Street traders are going to have to pack their tablets and work computers in their holiday luggage after all.

    A traditionally quiet week could become hellish for traders as politicians in Washington are likely to fall short of an agreement to deal with $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts due to kick in early next year. Many economists forecast that this "fiscal cliff" will push the economy into recession.

    Thursday's debacle in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner failed to secure passage of his own bill that was meant to pressure President Obama and Senate Democrats, only added to worry that the protracted budget talks will stretch into 2013.

    Still, the market remains resilient. Friday's decline on Wall Street, triggered by Boehner's fiasco, was not enough to prevent the S&P 500 from posting its best week in four.

    "The markets have been sort of taking this in stride," said Sandy Lincoln, chief market strategist at BMO Asset Management U.S. in Chicago, which has about $38 billion in assets under management.

    "The markets still basically believe that something will be done," he said.


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Fri Dec 21, 2012, 09:14 PM

    22. You chose one of my all time favorite carols!

    I absolutely love "Good King Wenceslas" with it's medieval sounding tune - hell, I never looked it up but it probably IS medieval. Anyway, love it that you chose that particular carol.

    Hope to contribute some this weekend, sometime ....

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Fri Dec 21, 2012, 10:38 PM

    23. I'm going to put all the covers over my head and see if it stops the howling


    We are having a gale the likes of which resembles Hurricane Hugo.

    Maybe I'll even get warm, then. No dreams, I've given up on dreams, but a good night's sleep would be a delightful change...

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 04:37 AM




    The European Commission on Tuesday released a special report devoted to euro zone countries with large current account surpluses, Germany in primis, and while it diplomatically refrained from making forceful policy recommendations, it emphatically noted that the weak bank regulations and wage restraint exercised by Europe’s largest economy ineluctably has had significant impact on other members of the currency union.

    Running external surpluses can be justified due to demographic trends, natural resource endowments and future economic growth expectations, but “the largest surpluses in the euro area are, in general, above the level suggested by fundamentals,” the Commission said.

    Much ink has been spilled decrying the troubles on the euro-zone periphery as reflecting competitiveness problems, but the Commission suggests that faulty asset allocation – which necessarily incriminates savers at least as much as spenders – and lack of coordination on various policy fronts are at least equally to blame.

    Export growth of the euro-zone’s deficit countries – in primis Spain – was roughly equal to the surplus ones, but the latter posted sharply lower import growth, accounting for the “main difference” between current accounts in the region, the Commission said...

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 04:46 AM

    26. Is Our Republic Ending? 8 Striking Parallels Between the Fall of Rome and U.S.





    Lawrence Lessig'sRepublic Lost documents the corrosive effect of money on our political process. Lessig persuasively makes the case that we are witnessing the loss of our republican form of government, as politicians increasingly represent those who fund their campaigns, rather than our citizens.

    Anthony Everitt'sRise of Rome is fascinating history and a great read. It tells the story of ancient Rome, from its founding (circa 750 BCE) to the fall of the Roman Republic (circa 45 BCE).

    When read together, striking parallels emerge -- between our failings and the failings that destroyed the Roman Republic. As with Rome just before the Republic's fall, America has seen:

    1 -- Staggering Increase in the Cost of Elections, with Dubious Campaign Funding Sources:Our 2012 election reportedly cost $3 billion. All of it was raised from private sources - often creating the appearance, or the reality, that our leaders are beholden to special interest groups. During the late Roman Republic, elections became staggeringly expensive, with equally deplorable results.Caesar reportedly borrowed so heavily for one political campaign, he feared he would be ruined, if not elected.

    2 -- Politics as the Road to Personal Wealth: During the late Roman Republic period, one of the main roads to wealth was holding public office, and exploiting such positions to accumulate personal wealth. As Lessig notes: Congressman, Senators and their staffs leverage their government service to move to private sector positions - that pay three to ten times their government compensation. Given this financial arrangement, "Their focus is therefore not so much on the people who sent them to Washington. Their focus is instead on those who will make them rich." (Republic Lost)

    3 -- Continuous War: A national state of security arises, distracting attention from domestic challenges with foreign wars. Similar to the late Roman Republic, the US - for the past 100 years -- has either been fighting a war, recovering from a war, or preparing for a new war: WW I (1917-18), WW II (1941-1945), Cold War (1947-1991), Korean War (1950-1953), Vietnam (1953-1975), Gulf War (1990-1991), Afghanistan (2001-ongoing), and Iraq (2003-2011). And, this list is far from complete.

    4 -- Foreign Powers Lavish Money/Attention on the Republic's Leaders: Foreign wars lead to growing influence, by foreign powers and interests, on the Republic's political leaders -- true for Rome and true for us. In the past century, foreign embassies, agents and lobbyists have proliferated in our nation's capital. As one specific example: A foreign businessman donated $100 million toBill Clinton's various activities. Clinton "opened doors" for him, and sometimes acted in ways contrary to stated American interests and foreign policy.

    5 -- Profits Made Overseas Shape the Republic's Internal Policies:As the fortunes of Rome's aristocracy increasingly derived from foreign lands, Roman policy was shaped to facilitate these fortunes. American billionaires and corporations increasingly influence our elections. In many cases, they are only nominally American - with interests not aligned with those of the American public. For example, Fox News is part of international media group News Corp., with over $30 billion in revenues worldwide. Is Fox News' jingoism a product of News Corp.'s non-U.S. interests?

    6 -- Collapse of the Middle Class: In the period just before the Roman Republic's fall, the Roman middle class was crushed -- destroyed by cheap overseas slave labor. In our own day, we've witnessed risingincome inequality, a stagnating middle class, and the loss of American jobs to overseas workers who are paid less and have fewer rights.

    7 -- Gerrymandering:Rome's late Republic used various methods to reduce the power of common citizens. The GOP has so effectivelygerrymandered Congressional districts that, even though House Republican candidates received only about 48 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 election -- they ended up with the majority (53 percent) of the seats.

    8 -- Loss of the Spirit of Compromise: The Roman Republic, like ours, relied on a system of checks and balances. Compromise is needed for this type of system to function. In the end, the Roman Republic lost that spirit of compromise, with politics increasingly polarized betweenOptimates (the rich, entrenched elites) and Populares (the common people). Sound familiar? Compromise is in noticeably short supply in our own time also.For example, "There were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s combined."


    About the Author: Steven Strauss was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). Steven was one of the NYC leads for Applied Sciences NYC, NYC BigApps and many other initiatives to foster job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. He is an Advanced Leadership Fellow at Harvard University for 2012. In 2010, Steven was selected as a member of the Silicon Alley 100 in NYC. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University, and over 20 years' private sector work experience. Geographically, Steven has worked in the US, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #26)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 04:49 AM

    27. The Unequal State of America: The economics paper that rattled Washington



    Thomas Hungerford, An employee of the Congressional Research Service, in 2011 published a paper that found that after-tax income inequality rose 11.2 percent between 1996 and 2006. Rising capital gains and dividends among the wealthy were the main driver of the widening gap, he concluded, accounting for 72 percent of the increase. Tax cuts, he found, accounted for the rest. The cuts had an especially big impact because income from capital gains surpassed salaries for the top 1 percent of earners over that period.

    This September, the CRS followed up with a 65-year retrospective by Hungerford on whether tax cuts for the rich help the economy. "Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates (has) had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth," he wrote. "However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution."

    Landing in the last weeks of a tight presidential race in which tax cuts were a big issue, the report caused a stir in Washington...Senate Republicans pressed the CRS to retract the document. They also objected to a 2011 report by two other CRS economists that reached similar conclusions about the impact of tax cuts on the economy. The analyses overlooked contrary evidence and were being misused by partisans, Senate staff told a top CRS official. Over the objections of Hungerford's superiors, the service temporarily withdrew his September paper. "I stand by my report," Hungerford told Reuters.

    Last week, the service re-issued the report with the same conclusions as the old, but adding new mention of a study with contrary views.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #27)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 05:29 AM

    30. How Coal Brought Us Democracy, and Oil Ended It: Lessons from the New Book “Carbon Democracy”



    Long before politicians mewled helplessly about the power of “Big Oil”, carbon-based fuels were shaping our very political, legal, intellectual, and physical structures. It was, for instance, coal miners who brought us the right to vote. Israel’s founding had a lot to do with British fears of Palestinian labor unrest in coastal energy complexes. And the European Community was a post-WWII experiment to switch that continent to oil, a task begun before World War I by British conservatives to defeat their domestic political opponents. Glass-Steagall crimped financial flows, partially at the behest of the oil industry. In fact, you can’t understand modern democratic or third world political structures without understanding energy, and particularly, coal and oil. That’s the contention of Tim Mitchell’s new book, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil, a history of the relationship between carbon-based fueling sources and modern political systems. It’s a book that tackles a really big subject, in a sweeping but readable fashion, and after reading it, it’s hard to imagine thinking about political power the same way again.

    Everything in our politics flows through dense carbon-based energy sources, and has for three to four hundred years. For instance, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a pivotal moment in America’s strategic outlook. America, a global hegemon whose empire was weakening, seized the second largest oil deposits in the world as a way of preventing its economic and political decline. Was there any precedent for this kind of action? As it turns out, yes. The last declining global hegemon, Great Britain, also engaged in a brutal and highly controversial British occupation of Iraq, in the 1920s, pressed aggressively by the well-known British conservative, Winston Churchill. Churchill supported this occupation not just because he wanted Iraq’s oil, but because he wanted to defeat democratic forces – particularly militant coal miner unions – at home. Churchill and conservative elites running through British history (most recently Margaret Thatcher) understood that as long as the British power grid, and more importantly the military, was dependent on radical coal miners, his left-leaning labor opponents would be able to demand higher wages, social insurance, voting rights, and a share of the economic gains of the British economy. He preferred to have the British economy running on oil, so he sought imperial strategies to ensure access to resources without being reliant on his political opponents. Globally, in fact, the switch from coal to oil was a fight about labor.

    The use of coal and oil in the context of industrialization has always been about who has the power to profit from the surplus these energy forms produce, but until now, no one has pulled the various historical details together into a historical narrative laying bare the fascinating power dynamics behind the rise of Western political systems and their relationship with energy. Carbon Democracy is an examination of our civilization’s 400 hundred year use of carbon-based energy fueling sources, and the political systems that grew up intertwined with them. Rather than presenting energy and democracy as separate things, like a battery and a device, Mitchell discusses the political architecture of the Western world and the developing world as inherently tied to fueling sources. The thesis is that elites have always sought to maximize not the amount of energy they could extract and use, but the profit stream from those energy sources. They struggled to ensure they would be able to burn carbon and profit, without having to rely on the people who extract and burned it for them. Carbon-based fuels thus cannot be understood except in the context of labor, imperialism and democracy.

    This book is a response to David Yergen’s The Prize: The Epic Question for Oil, Money, and Power, a classic story ( OR PERHAPS MORE ACCURATELY: FAIRY TALE! DEMETER) of hardy entrepreneurs taking huge risks to find oil in the most remote places. Yergen’s narrative centers on oil scarcity, and its contributions to economic growth in a capitalist framework. Oil is, to Yergen, the prize, solving the key problem of how to supply enough energy for a modern consumer society with a flexible and inexpensive fuel source...In Carbon Democracy, Mitchell has a counterintuitive take on oil, one that after awhile, makes much more sense than what Yergen argues. Mitchell points out that the problem of oil has never, until recently, been that it is a scarce commodity, but that it is a surplus commodity. We had too much of it. And the central problem that this created was not how to find more of it, but how to ensure that oil cartels profiting from high oil prices could make sure that very few new oil finds, especially from the massive fields in the Middle East, came online. Far from a hardy band of entrepreneurs searching for more oil, the story of oil is one of parasitic cartels manipulating governments and inventing concepts like mandates, self-determination, and national security to ensure they could retain high profits selling a widely available commodity. But Mitchell takes the story much deeper than Yergen did, because Yergen’s book is fundamentally a fairy tale that skirts over questions of labor and colonialism...


    ...Mitchell has reinterpreted the creation of much of our democratic apparatus, from labor laws to minimum wages to the right to vote to resistance to imperialism, as the struggle between different types of carbon-based fuels and the various characteristics of the labor required to extract and use them...


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    Response to Demeter (Reply #30)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 05:35 AM

    31. Why Malthus Got His Forecast Wrong


    Most of us have heard that Thomas Malthus made a forecast in 1798 that the world would run short of food, and that great famine would result. But most of us don’t understand why he was wrong. This issue is relevant today, as we grapple with the issues of world hunger and of oil consumption that is not growing as rapidly as consumers would like–certainly it is not keeping oil prices down to historic levels.

    What Malthus Didn’t Anticipate

    Malthus was writing immediately before fossil fuel use started to ramp up.


    The availability of coal allowed more and better metal products (such as metal plows, barbed wire fences, and trains for long distance transport). These and other inventions allowed the number of farmers to decrease at the same time the amount of food produced (per farmer and in total) rose. On a per capita basis, energy consumption rose (Figure 2) allowing farmers and others more efficient ways of growing crops and manufacturing goods.


    If it hadn’t been for the fossil fuel ramp up, starting first with coal, Malthus might in fact have been right. As it was, population was able to ramp up quickly after the addition of fossil fuels.


    A person can see that there was a particularly steep rise in population, right after World War II, in the 1950s and 1960s (Figure 3). This is when oil consumption mushroomed (Figure 2, above), and when oil enabled better transport of crops to market, use of tractors and other farm equipment, and medical advances such as antibiotics...It is likely that increased consumer and business debt following World War II (Figure 4) also played a role in the post-World War II ramp up.


    The reason I say that debt likely played a role in this ramp is because at the end of World War II, people were, on average, pretty poor. The United States had recently been through the Depression. Many were soldiers coming back from war, without jobs. Without a ramp up in factory work and related employment, many would be unemployed. A ramp up in debt fixed several problems at once:

  • Allowed low-paid workers funds to buy new products, such as cars, that used oil
  • Allowed entrepreneurs funds to set up factories
  • Allowed pipelines to be built, and other support for ramped up oil extraction
  • Provided jobs for many coming home from the war effort

    The debt ramp up, and the resulting increase in oil production, raised living standards. Figure 2 shows that the increase in per capita energy consumption was far greater in the 1950 to 1970 period when oil production was ramped up than in the coal ramp-up between 1840 and 1920. The long coal ramp-up period does not appear to have been accompanied by such a big ramp-up in debt...



    About Gail Tverberg

    My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. The financial system is also likely to be affected.
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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 05:15 AM

    29. Bank of America Delinquent Loans Mean Losses: Mortgages



    Bank of America Corp. has amassed $64 billion of mortgages that are at least six months delinquent and have yet to enter foreclosure, more than twice the amount held by its four largest competitors combined.

    The loans are monitored as part of February’s $25 billion settlement between the top five U.S. lenders and state attorneys general over allegations of abusive foreclosure practices. Bank of America’s stockpile of deteriorating debt is mostly from its 2008 acquisition of Countrywide Financial Corp., once the nation’s largest mortgage provider. Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), the biggest U.S. servicer, has $15.3 billion of such unpaid loans.

    The data, published last month by the monitor of the settlement, highlight Bank of America’s vast backlog of delinquencies, and the years it will take to work through them as borrowers fall further behind and losses mount for investors in mortgage-backed securities. While the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank has begun modifications for many of its 275,000 homeowners at least 180 days behind as of Sept. 30, some will join the already clogged U.S. foreclosure pipeline...Delays in processing the loans add to the expenses borne by investors because maintenance, property taxes and other costs add up. While rising prices may make the mortgage-backed securities more valuable, servicers can be forced to come up with cash to cover interest payments from the delinquent loans and modifications become more difficult to accomplish as the borrower’s unpaid debt grows.

    Bank of America’s portfolio of loans that are at least six months old and not in foreclosure accounts for 3.3 percent of all of the mortgages it services. Citigroup Inc. (C) has 1.1 percent of its loans in that category and Ally Financial Inc. (ALLY), Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) each have less than 1 percent...Bank of America has about 930,000 loans that are at least 60 days delinquent, down from 1.5 million from the peak in January 2010, Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan, 53, said during a Dec. 14 event at the Brookings Institution in Washington.


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 05:43 AM

    32. All time most annoying Xmas decorations ever--be glad he's not your across-the-street neighbor‏



    25,000 LEDS. Tune in to a short range FM broadcast to hear the sound track while sitting in your car.

    $10,000 prize contest entry.

    Some people just have too much time on their hands.


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    Response to Demeter (Reply #32)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 01:34 PM

    50. It could be worse

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #32)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 12:29 PM

    71. That's just the kind of excess that was lampooned in the song

    so I guess it fits.

    I knew a lot of electron jockeys who would take this as a challenge and try to top it. The problem is the electrical bills, something that mercifully stops most people in my 'hood.

    They go for gaudy, not elaborate around here.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 06:10 AM

    35. The Markets (some of them) will be open Monday


    It is a shortened day for Wall St.

    So, I guess WEE will have a holiday edition on Tuesday.

    Any suggestions for a theme?

    I have to pat myself on the back. I've gotten the inbox down to 3 weeks of naked capitalism and 28 newsletters from one other website, which is more in-depth and involved, so I'm saving it for last. Only two pages in hotmail! Barring any overwhelming madness in my real life (which is a vain wish...real life is defined by overwhelming madness), I might have one New Year's Resolution to strike off the annual list.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 08:49 AM

    36. after 2 marathon days of shopping -- i need to stop and recuperate

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 08:51 AM

    37. Steve Jobs' high-tech yacht impounded over bill dispute


    Steve Jobs' luxury yacht Venus has been impounded in Amsterdam harbour

    Venus, the minimalist high-tech yacht commissioned by the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, has become embroiled in a row over a disputed bill.

    French designer Philippe Starck claims Mr Jobs' heirs still owe him 3m euros of a 9m euro fee for the project, according to Dutch paper Het Financieele Dagblad.

    Mr Starck called in the debt collectors and had the yacht impounded,

    The Port of Amsterdam confirmed that the boat is not allowed to leave.

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    Response to xchrom (Reply #37)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 09:00 AM

    40. Schaudenfruede for Breakfast!


    I'll go make some mimosas....

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #40)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 09:05 AM

    43. oooh -- i just love a mimosa! nt

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    Response to xchrom (Reply #43)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 09:33 AM

    44. Mimosas for all--on the house!


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    Response to Demeter (Reply #44)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 10:02 AM

    45. that just makes everything Festive and Fabulous

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 08:55 AM

    38. Obama Calls For A Scaled-Back Deal To Avoid The 'Cliff'


    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has throttled back his ambitions for a sweeping budget bargain with Republicans. Instead, he's calling for a scaled-back measure sufficient to prevent the government from careening off the "fiscal cliff" in January by extending tax cuts for most taxpayers and forestalling a painful set of agency budget cuts.

    In a White House appearance Friday, Obama also called on Congress to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed that would otherwise be cut off for 2 million people at the end of the year.

    Obama's announcement was a recognition that chances for a larger agreement before year's end have probably collapsed. It also suggested that any chance for a smaller deal may rest in the Senate, particularly after the collapse of a plan by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to permit tax rates to rise on million-dollar-plus incomes.

    "In the next few days, I've asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction," Obama said. "That's an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days."

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/obama-calls-for-a-scaled-back-deal-the-avoid-the-cliff-2012-12#ixzz2FmySKkXB

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 08:58 AM

    39. Britain's Government Is On The Brink Of Collapse



    Trying to predict 2013 by peering through the miasma, the big question on my mind is: Can Britain's coalition government survive? By all rights it shouldn't.

    In the most recent Yougov survey, less than a third of Britons said they support the coalition. Fifty-nine percent oppose it. The combined poll ratings of its two parties, the Conservatives and their junior partner Liberal Democrats, don't equal those of the opposition Labour Party.

    It's easy to understand why the government and its parties are so unpopular. The economy has been hammered everywhere except London and its suburbs by an ideologically driven set of austerity measures that led to a double-dip recession in 2012 and the possibility of a third dip in the first part of next year.

    The Bank of England is forecasting a miserable 1 percent growth in GDP this year. Since its prognostications have been overly optimistic every year since the crisis began, however, I predict it will be off again and that growth will be fractional at best.

    Read more: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/united-kingdom/121220/britain-coalition-government-2012-2013-cameron-clegg-austerity#ixzz2Fmz0jeeA

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    Response to xchrom (Reply #39)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 09:01 AM

    41. It could teeter for years


    I'm not holding my breath.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 09:04 AM

    42. The Truth About What Kind Of Job You Can Get Into With Your Major


    The "language" majors go on to be teachers, join the healthcare field, and work in law

    English/literature majors work in health/medicine, teach, write for a living, and become lawyers

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 10:03 AM

    46. Japan faces prospect of third decade of low growth


    Investors are not ready to bet against Japan. But maybe that's the country's biggest problem.

    Until there is a sign that the outside world is prepared to park its savings somewhere else, Tokyo will continue to sail further into debt.

    The Bank of Japan delivered its third shot of monetary stimulus in four months on Thursday, adding another 10 trillion yen (£73bn) to the £740bn of electronic money already spent by the bank on its own government's debt.

    The move is considered a prelude to more aggressive action next year as the country confronts the prospect of a third decade of low growth.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 10:28 AM

    47. a very Merry Yule...

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    Response to xchrom (Reply #47)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 12:55 PM

    48. I love Enya's music

    I had the 2 grandkids (almost 6 and almost 5) to help me make Christmas cookies yesterday. Such fun! Some cookies rolled thin, some thick. And sprinkles. LOTS of sprinkles, lol! The dogs are still finding loose sprinkles on the kitchen floor!

    Oh, btw, we have another dog, that makes 3. We came home in the dark last week, and he busted indoors with us. That was rather a shock to have a furry critter along the side of me to think he was home. It could have been a coyote, or robber or anything. But he is very friendly. We have looked everywhere for its owners, posted flyers, but no calls. No collar or chip either. He's probably 50 pounds, white with a few brown spots. Possibly a spaniel or setter mix.

    P.S. Spouse named him 'Buster'!

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    Response to DemReadingDU (Reply #48)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 01:27 PM

    49. I had that happen on my paper route


    I was getting into the car and a little bitty terrier jumps into the back seat.

    The Humane Society found a chip in her ear and reunited her with her family...

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    Response to DemReadingDU (Reply #48)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 02:02 PM

    55. That Buster - he's been looking for you.

    And he found you for Christmas!

    Mazel Tov!

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    Response to xchrom (Reply #47)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 01:39 PM

    51. I saw a donkey get into the moonshine once.

    He was a very, merry mule.

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    Response to Fuddnik (Reply #51)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 01:40 PM

    52. LOL!

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    Response to Fuddnik (Reply #51)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 02:00 PM

    54. !

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 01:48 PM

    53. That was one of my favorite Carols to sing at Christmas assemblies.

    I loved to sing.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Dec 22, 2012, 04:06 PM

    56. A View From Washington: The President's Quest for the Unholy Grail



    ...There are exactly two rules to live and die by when the government starts reshaping its priorities. One: If you are not at the table you are on it. Two: The best way to take something away from someone is for them to give you permission to do so for a greater, nobler good. If you are not at a table and people are talking about making the world better by making sacrifices, you are in what we policy wonks call “bad trouble.”

    So on one side we have the Fix the Debt people saying we have to cut “entitlements” – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – or privatize them, or turn them into a straight up welfare program. In return for this, they are willing to pay as much as 4% higher taxes for the good of the country. Also on their side of the table is the GOP, which wants to do what they want but not raise any taxes on anybody because apparently that would not be good for the country.

    On the other side we have the president and a number of Democrats saying that we have to control the costs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, so that they will be secure for the long-term, by raising ages or “chaining” cost of living increases to the CPI, or means testing… but they want raise taxes on the super wealthy by 2% to 4%.

    You are probably now duly alarmed that these positions sound eerily similar. It appears that you are not at the table. Now it dawns on you that you should be watching for what they are asking you to give up for some noble reason...

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #56)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 08:29 AM

    59. Well, he nails it - a must read, I'd say

    Not that there is anything regulars here won't know, but well-phrased, succinct, and on target. Short, too.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 07:38 AM

    57. Dodd-Frank Swap Rules Delayed Six Months for Overseas Trades


    The largest Wall Street banks and foreign-based financial companies won a six-month delay in some swap regulations for overseas trades, even as they must begin registering with U.S. regulators by year-end.

    The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the main U.S. derivatives regulator, voted 4-1 to leave the registration deadline in place while providing a delay until July 12 for capital and other requirements for overseas operations of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and other banks, the agency said in a statement yesterday. The CFTC also reduced the number of overseas offices immediately registering.

    “There is a lot of work to be done with international regulators,” CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler said in a telephone interview. “It’s my firm belief that if reforms were not to cover the branches and affiliates of U.S. entities either directly or through substituted compliance the public would be left without critical protections.”

    The international reach of CFTC swap rules has been one of the most controversial elements of the agency’s Dodd-Frank Act rules, prompting opposition from financial companies including JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Barclays Plc. (BARC) The agency has also faced criticism from European and Asian regulators over the reach of a rule requiring trades to be guaranteed at clearinghouses and traded on exchanges or other platforms.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 08:27 AM

    58. Incoming Prime Minister Makes A Clear Threat To Strip The Bank Of Japan Of Its Independence


    Japan, of course, has been famously mired in deflation, with the central bank attempting multiple rounds of QE to only mediocre effect.

    From Japan Times:

    Abe, who has specifically called for a target of at least 2 percent, issued the warning on a TV program.
    "We expect (the BOJ) to discuss it at the next Policy Board meeting" on Jan. 21 and 22, he said of his inflation-busting recommendation.
    If the policymakers don't give in, "we will revise the Bank of Japan law and set (the inflation target) by signing an accord with the BOJ," Abe said, using veiled language to disguise his threat to strip the central bank of its independence.

    This will definitely be one of the biggest economic/monetary policy stories to emerge in 2013: Can Abe actually force such a mandate on the bank, and furthermore, will it work?

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/japans-incoming-prime-minister-makes-a-clear-threat-to-strip-the-bank-of-japan-of-its-independence-2012-12#ixzz2FshmuF6P

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 08:39 AM

    60. "Bolivia's Morales Calls for New Era of 'Peace and Unity' to Break Greed of Capitalism"


    Published on Friday, December 21, 2012 by Common Dreams
    Bolivia's Morales Calls for New Era of 'Peace and Unity' to Break Greed of Capitalism
    The 'end of the world' it is not, says president of Bolivia, but rather an opportunity to dispose of 'capitalism's greed' and unite in happiness and unselfishness
    - Jon Queally, staff writer

    Bolivian President Evo Morales is marking today's winter solstice and the much-discussed calendar date by celebrating a hopeful vision for a "new era of peace and love" in the world, one in which the spirit of community and respect for Mother Earth will win out over the greed induced by global capitalism.

    In an open invitation to celebrate the day, Morales explained that "the Mayan calendar's 21 of December is the end of the non-time and the beginning of time... the end of selfishness and the beginning of brotherhood, it is the end of individualism and the beginning of collectivism.

    ... this marks the end of an anthropocentric life and the beginning of a bio-centric life. It is the end of hatred and the beginning of love, the end of lies and beginning of truth. It is the end of sadness and the beginning of happiness, it is the end of division and the beginning of unity...

    ... It is the end of hatred and the beginning of love, the end of lies and beginning of truth."

    Viva Morales!

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 08:45 AM

    61. How The First Rothschilds Created Modern Finance And A Vast Fortune That Has Lasted For Centuries


    The Rothschild dynasty is, without a doubt, the pioneers of international finance.

    Mayer Amschel Rothschild, the first of the family to open a bank, was honored by Forbes as the seventh most influential businessman of all time and the inventor of modern banking who introduced "concepts such as diversification, rapid communication, confidentiality and high volume."

    Simply, Mayer understood and was willing to spend money in order to make money.

    But the family's rapid rise to wealth has earned them much animosity throughout the annals of history. A quick Google of 'Rothschild family' reveals a vast number of conspiracy theories surrounding the allegedly unsavory means used to attain their fortune, the breadth of their connections, and their influence over major world events.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-early-rothschilds-built-a-fortune-2012-12?op=1#ixzz2FsmM29gu

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 08:57 AM

    62. Baby, it's cold outside!


    21F but no wind chill effect....and it's going to stay below freezing with a drop to10F on Thursday. Oh, goody! I get to wear my purple balaclava. It's something to behold, I'll tell you! Thank goddess I only need it in the dead of night....

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 09:01 AM

    63. The ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Failed. Kill It And Get Back to Work. By Richard (RJ) Eskow



    The so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ was never real. Congress and the President invented it during last year’s negotiations, apparently to persuade voters that unpopular budget measures were needed to avoid a crisis. With the collapse of John Boehner’s ‘Plan B,’ that gambit has failed. What now?

    That’s easy: The moving finger of Washington, having writ, can unwrite.

    The ‘fiscal cliff’ was never real. It was virtual reality. Now it’s time for our leaders to take off the goggles and get back to work...If politicians are determined to enter into another suicide pact – and to commit political harakari in the process – there’s another “crisis” looming in the first quarter of 2013. That’s when Congress has to approve the debt-ceiling limit. If they want another round of brinksmanship, they can engage in it then. (Not that we’re recommending it, of course.)

    Right now they need to kill the cliff, if only for their own selfish reasons. Boehner and his Congressional Republicans have painted themselves into a corner. The public’s against them – and they know it...

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #63)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 09:02 AM

    65. Choose your own fiscal cliff adventure!



    If the United States goes over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” allowing a wave of scheduled tax hikes and spending cuts to take effect Jan. 1, the nation would likely enter a recession as the deficit falls too far, too fast. How would you avert the cliff, though?

    Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out a path forward using this calculator. First, identify which aspects of the fiscal cliff’s tax increases and spending cuts you would allow to go forward, and which you would cancel. Then, pair it with other deficit-reduction policies you want to enact to start bringing deficits down even without the pain of an immediate austerity crisis. Then, add in any stimulus measures you might want to cushion the blow of deficit reduction and try to get the economy on track.

    Once you have your plan for resolving the fiscal cliff, be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Who knows, maybe Boehner and Obama are listening...


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 09:01 AM

    64. Police chiefs using extra-legal methods to attack Catalan politicians


    A group of police officers shrouded in anonymity are publishing unsigned reports in which grave accusations of corruption are leveled at high-ranking Catalan government officials, certain judges and prosecutors who have been tasked with investigating graft among nationalist politicians, and against executives from the region’s leading daily newspapers.

    This anonymous police conspiracy, from sources apparently beyond Interior Ministry control, was launched when the CiU nationalist bloc regional administration of Artur Mas began its slide toward a separatist defiance of the government in Madrid, calling early elections for November and subsequently announcing that the countdown to a future sovereignty referendum had started.

    Police sources believe that the officials who are drawing up these reports are motivated by the perceived danger of a break-up of the Spanish state. First, this group of law-enforcement officers distributed a report, supposedly by the UDEF Fiscal and Economic Crime Unit, which was designed to discredit premier Mas in the midst of the autumn electoral campaign. The report, which formed the basis of a series of reports in the Madrid daily El Mundo, was described as a fake by the UDEF chief when he testified before a judge.

    Now another five also unsigned reports have come to light and are circulating among conservative media.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 09:10 AM

    66. Making guns in your garage: how 3D printers will revolutionise the manufacture of deadly weapons



    In the very near future, someone will be killed with a gun not bought from a dealer or a dodgy bloke in a pub, but printed at home in metal and plastic with a 3D printer. The tools necessary to replicate a deadly weapon will soon be affordable to someone toiling away at home. The cost of 3D printers has dropped substantially: models are available for as little as £400. Extremely polished designs such as the MakerBot Replicator 2 and Form Labs Form1 reveal how close the technology is to becoming a mainstream consumer proposition.

    For anyone who wants to use their printer to make weapons, the web is a treasure trove. The CAD files needed to build popular hand guns are readily available and efforts to make a 3D printed gun have begun. Earlier this year, amateur gunsmith Michael Guslick, who goes by the name of HaveBlue, created the lower receiver – part of the housing that hold a firearm’s operating parts – for an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle using a 3D printer. He combined it with off-the-shelf parts to create a .22 calibre pistol and fired 200 rounds to prove that the 3D printed component was up to the task.

    What’s especially interesting about Guslick’s DIY project is that, in the US, the lower receiver is the legally controlled part of a firearm and must show a serial number. Creating a replica of that component from scratch using a 3D printer suddenly makes it a whole lot easier for people without gun licences to build a high-quality, unregulated weapon.

    Zip guns – improvised weapons made from commonly available parts – have always been an option. In the Fifties, street gangs in New York put together pistols with tubing from coffee percolators, wood handles and elastic bands to power the firing pin. The single-shot weapons were liable to explode on firing and therefore more dangerous for the shooter than the target...It’s likely that the first fully printed 3D gun will be similarly unreliable, owing to the limitations of the material. But that has not stopped Defense Distributed, a group of libertarian gun lovers who have raised over $20,000 to fund their WikiWeapon project. The plan is to offer designs for two weapons – one “training gun” with no moving parts and an electrical solenoid for its firing action, and one with fully moving parts. The group admits that, to begin with, a plastic firearm is likely to be single use.

    Cody Wilson, the law student at the University of Texas leading the group, says: “In the future, no one is going to be able to decide who has a gun but you. This is a project that intends to help subvert older hierarchies and these older modes of thinking.” However, WikiWeapon has already suffered two big setbacks. First, its fundraising efforts were shut down by crowdfunding site IndieGoGo. Then the 3D printer it had leased was repossessed by the manufacturer, Statasys. The company said it took back the machine when it became aware of Wilson’s plans...


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 09:19 AM



    BOSTON (AP) -- In the city where a protest over tax policy sparked a revolution, modern day tea party activists are cheering the recent Republican revolt in Washington that embarrassed House Speaker John Boehner and pushed the country closer to a "fiscal cliff" that forces tax increases and massive spending cuts on virtually every American.

    "I want conservatives to stay strong," says Christine Morabito, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party. "Sometimes things have to get a lot worse before they get better."

    Anti-tax conservatives from every corner of the nation echo her sentiment.

    In more than a dozen interviews with The Associated Press, activists said they would rather fall off the cliff than agree to a compromise that includes tax increases for any Americans, no matter how high their income. They dismiss economists' warnings that the automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1 could trigger a fresh recession, and they overlook the fact that most people would see their taxes increase if President Barack Obama and Boehner, R-Ohio, fail to reach a year-end agreement.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 09:25 AM



    PARIS (AP) -- Across Europe, holiday "shoppers" this season are doing more browsing than buying.

    Retailers remain hopeful for a last-minute burst of Christmas consumerism, and some governments are encouraging it by allowing stores to open on Sunday. But with economies across the region slowing and unemployment soaring, analysts say holiday spending in Europe is bound to disappoint for the fourth year in a row.

    In Rome, some shopkeepers say holiday sales are down 20 percent from last year. In Paris, refurbished second-hand toys are attracting buyers. And in Spain, which has Europe's highest unemployment rate, some families are contemplating whether to give gifts at all.

    As in the U.S., holiday shopping is vital to many businesses: British non-food retailers can make up to 50 percent of their profits in the end-of-year push. In Germany, holiday business accounts for 30 percent of annual toy sales.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 09:38 AM



    PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) -- More employees are working remotely with computers, smartphones and video-conferencing. But those technologies are still no substitute for actually being in the office.

    A growing number of tech companies are trying to address that problem with so-called telepresence robots.

    These mobile video-conferencing systems are designed to give remote employees a physical presence in the workplace.

    These robotic stand-ins are still a long way from going mainstream, with only a small number of organizations using them. They can be expensive, difficult to navigate or get stuck if they venture into areas with poor Internet connectivity. Non-techies might find them too strange to use regularly.

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    Response to xchrom (Reply #69)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 12:36 PM

    72. Give me a break!


    I'd call it pointless, not "strange". The people who think this is useful are the strange ones.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #72)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 12:37 PM

    73. i thought it was weird too.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 09:41 AM

    70. French truffle thieves face military threat


    French truffle farmers say several thieves have been arrested after gendarmes set up roadblocks to search vehicles for stolen fungi. Photograph: Michel Gangne/EPA

    Never let it be said that Gallic gastronomes would allow either an economic crisis or thieves to get in the way of their seasonal delicacy.

    As the price of the rare Tuber melanosporum – otherwise known as the truffle – rocketed to €1,200 (£978) a kilo, producers have called in gendarmes to protect their valuable harvest.

    Officers of the military force are patrolling the production areas in the Drôme in south-east France and have also reportedly set up roadblocks to search cars for stolen fungi.

    Several thieves have been arrested, according to producers, who harvest the "black diamonds" between December and the end of February. Truffles are used, by those who can afford them, to flavour their Christmas and new year meals.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Dec 23, 2012, 06:59 PM

    74. Well, another weekend has come and gone


    Pardon my absence, I keep falling asleep today. Exhaustion, no doubt.

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