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Mon Dec 24, 2012, 01:11 AM

STOCK MARKET WATCH -- Monday, 24 December 2012

[font size=3]STOCK MARKET WATCH, Monday, 24 December 2012[font color=black][/font]

SMW for 21 December 2012

AT THE CLOSING BELL ON 21 December 2012
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Dow Jones 13,190.84 -120.88 (-0.91%)
S&P 500 1,430.15 -13.54 (-0.94%)
Nasdaq 3,021.01 -29.38 (-0.96%)

[font color=red]10 Year 1.77% +0.03 (1.72%)
30 Year 2.93% +0.01 (0.34%) [font color=black]


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[font size=2]Market Conditions During Trading Hours[/font]


[font size=2]Euro, Yen, Loonie, Silver and Gold[center]




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[font color=black][font size=2]Handy Links - Market Data and News:[/font][/font]
Economic Calendar
Marketwatch Data
Bloomberg Economic News
Yahoo Finance
Google Finance
Bank Tracker
Credit Union Tracker
Daily Job Cuts

[font color=black][font size=2]Handy Links - Government Issues:[/font][/font]
Open Government
Earmark Database
USA spending.gov

[font color=red]Partial List of Financial Sector Officials Convicted since 1/20/09 [/font][font color=red]
2/2/12 David Higgs and Salmaan Siddiqui, Credit Suisse, plead guilty to conspiracy involving valuation of MBS
3/6/12 Allen Stanford, former Caribbean billionaire and general schmuck, convicted on 13 of 14 counts in $2.2B Ponzi scheme, faces 20+ years in prison
6/4/12 Matthew Kluger, lawyer, sentenced to 12 years in prison, along with co-conspirator stock trader Garrett Bauer (9 years) and co-conspirator Kenneth Robinson (not yet sentenced) for 17 year insider trading scheme.
6/14/12 Allen Stanford sentenced to 110 years without parole.
6/15/12 Rajat Gupta, former Goldman Sachs director, found guilty of insider trading. Could face a decade in prison when sentenced later this year.
6/22/12 Timothy S. Durham, 49, former CEO of Fair Financial Company, convicted of one count conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, and one count of securities fraud.
6/22/12 James F. Cochran, 56, former chairman of the board of Fair, convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud, one count of securities fraud, and six counts of wire fraud.
6/22/12 Rick D. Snow, 48, former CFO of Fair, convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud, one count of securities fraud, and three counts of wire fraud.
7/13/12 Russell Wassendorf Sr., CEO of collapsed brokerage firm Peregrine Financial Group Inc. arrested and charged with lying to regulators after admitting to authorities he embezzled "millions of dollars" and forged bank statements for "nearly twenty years."
8/22/12 Doug Whitman, Whitman Capital LLC hedge fund founder, convicted of insider trading following a trial in which he spent more than two days on the stand telling jurors he was innocent
10/26/12 UPDATE: Former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta sentenced to two years in federal prison. He will, of course, appeal. . .
11/20/12 Hedge fund manager Matthew Martoma charged with insider trading at SAC Capital Advisors, and prosecutors are looking at Martoma's boss, Steven Cohen, for possible involvement.

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[font size=3][font color=red]This thread contains opinions and observations. Individuals may post their experiences, inferences and opinions on this thread. However, it should not be construed as advice. It is unethical (and probably illegal) for financial recommendations to be given here.[/font][/font][/font color=red][font color=black]

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Reply STOCK MARKET WATCH -- Monday, 24 December 2012 (Original post)
Tansy_Gold Dec 2012 OP
No Vested Interest Dec 2012 #1
Demeter Dec 2012 #2
Demeter Dec 2012 #3
Demeter Dec 2012 #4
Demeter Dec 2012 #5
Demeter Dec 2012 #6
Demeter Dec 2012 #16
bread_and_roses Dec 2012 #34
bahrbearian Dec 2012 #37
Demeter Dec 2012 #39
Demeter Dec 2012 #17
Demeter Dec 2012 #18
bahrbearian Dec 2012 #41
Demeter Dec 2012 #42
Demeter Dec 2012 #7
Demeter Dec 2012 #8
Demeter Dec 2012 #10
Demeter Dec 2012 #9
Demeter Dec 2012 #11
Demeter Dec 2012 #12
Demeter Dec 2012 #19
snot Dec 2012 #43
Demeter Dec 2012 #44
Demeter Dec 2012 #13
Demeter Dec 2012 #14
Demeter Dec 2012 #20
Demeter Dec 2012 #15
Demeter Dec 2012 #21
Demeter Dec 2012 #22
xchrom Dec 2012 #23
xchrom Dec 2012 #24
xchrom Dec 2012 #25
xchrom Dec 2012 #26
xchrom Dec 2012 #27
xchrom Dec 2012 #28
xchrom Dec 2012 #29
xchrom Dec 2012 #30
xchrom Dec 2012 #31
DemReadingDU Dec 2012 #32
xchrom Dec 2012 #33
xchrom Dec 2012 #35
DemReadingDU Dec 2012 #36
Demeter Dec 2012 #38
DemReadingDU Dec 2012 #40

Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 02:38 AM

1. Will the stock exchanges be closing early Dec. 24th?

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Response to No Vested Interest (Reply #1)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 04:45 AM

2. Yes, it's a shortened trading day


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Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 04:48 AM

3. MF Global trustee announces settlement deals key to cash payouts




The trustee for the failed MF Global Inc on Saturday announced two key agreements that are expected to accelerate cash payouts to clients and creditors of the failed futures brokerage. James Giddens, trustee for the MF Global estate, said in a statement he has negotiated deals to resolve disputes with the company's former British affiliate and the parent company, MF Global Holdings Ltd. As a result of the UK agreement, Giddens estimated between$500 million and $600 million could be returned to the MF Global estate if the deal is finalized.

Giddens, whose job is to recover as much money as possible for customers, has returned about 80 percent of the money in customer trading accounts. Giddens said claims by MF Global's securities customers could be fully restored. Commodities customers could get "significant additional distributions," he said.

The estate has a hearing scheduled for January 31, 2013 before the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, the first step toward getting the UK agreement approved.

"The trustee's goal is still to return 100 percent to the commodities customers, and we will be going before the court in an attempt to achieve that," Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for Giddens, said on Saturday.

... As a result of money changing hands during MF Global's chaotic collapse, various company affiliates have been fighting over who owes money to whom. Earlier this month, Giddens released a report saying more than 28,000 claims have been filed by the brokerage's commodities and securities customers, all but 200 have been fully resolved. So far, Giddens has returned approximately $4.7 billion to commodities customers hit by the brokerage's collapse.

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Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 04:51 AM

4. Obama's Unwise, Unnecessary Concessions



Why is the president back to making premature and unnecessary concessions to Republicans?

Two central issues in the 2012 presidential election were whether the Bush tax cuts should be ended for people earning over $250,000, and whether Social Security and Medicare should be protected from future budget cuts. The president said yes to both. Republicans said no. Obama won. But apparently Obama is now offering to continue to Bush tax cuts for people earning between $250,000 and $400,000, and to cut Social Security by reducing annual cost-of-living adjustments.

These concessions aren’t necessary. If the nation goes over the so-called “fiscal cliff” and tax rates return to what they were under Bill Clinton, Democrats can then introduce a tax cut for everyone earning under $250,000 and make it retroactive to the start of the year. They can combine it with a spending bill that makes up for most of the cuts scheduled to go into effect in January. Republicans would be hard-pressed not to sign on.

Social Security should not be part of any such deal anyway. By law, it can’t contribute to the budget deficit. It’s only permitted to spend money from the Social Security trust fund. Besides, the president’s proposed reduction in annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustments would save only $122 billion over ten years. Yet it would significantly harm the elderly. It defies logic and fairness to give more tax cuts to the wealthy while cutting benefits for the near-poor. The median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year. Nearly 70 percent of them depend on Social Security for more than half of this. The average Social Security benefit is less than $15,000 a year. Even Social Security’s current cost-of-living adjustment understates the true impact of inflation on elderly recipients, who spend far more on health care than anyone else – including annual increases in Medicare premiums.

Hands off Social Security. If the Republicans are willing to raise tax rates on high earners but demand more spending cuts in return, the president should offer larger cuts in defense spending and corporate welfare.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #4)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 04:56 AM

5. Obama Will Ride to the Rescue ... for Republicans



The Republicans have put themselves in a holy mess with this Plan B debacle. They now have less than zero leverage. They are a national laughingstock. A majority of the country now thinks they are"too extreme." They just got walloped in the election. And with the tax cuts set to expire the laws are rigged against them as well...There is only one person who can rescue the Republican Party now -- Barack Obama. And he will. I have been saying for over two years now that President Obama is dying to do the Grand Bargain. He will do it at any cost. In fact, he actively wants to cut Social Security and Medicare. He can't wait for that pat on the back from the establishment when they finally call him post-partisan, above party politics, and a statesman for screwing over his own voters. This is by far his greatest wish. I couldn't believe that people couldn't believe that President Obama offered to cut Social Security again in this round of negotiations. What are you still surprised at? The man has offered to cut these so-called entitlements every time. When are you going to get it through your head -- he wants to cut them!

Ok, I'm raining on everyone's parade here because this is the moment when the partisans are supposed to be reveling in Republican failure. The Republican Party is split and in tatters. Yes, but to what end? In order for that to be relevant, the Democrats would now have to offer a very different deal where the terms are changed in our favor. If they do and they get a deal where taxes are actually raised on people making above $250,000 and Social Security and Medicare are protected, then I will be dead wrong. I will be wrong now and I will have been wrong for all of these years. You can rub my face in it. And since the Democratic partisans are now feeling triumphant, get that crow ready for me to eat. But it's not going to happen. I'm telling you this even in the Republican Party's darkest hour, the president will still give them most of what they want. My guess is that liberals will be stunned at the concessions President Obama makes even when he had the Republicans in a corner and totally defeated. Here's what you have to understand -- it's because he doesn't want to "win." Winning is different for him than it is for me and you. To us, winning is passing progressive priorities. To him, it's passing a deal where he seems like he is above party politics. In order to do that, he must cut entitlements (and corporate taxes, too, by the way).

We're going to find out who is right soon enough. I just wanted to make sure you knew what was coming ahead of time, so that you understand President Obama's real motivation. Understand that next time around, and remember he's still here for another four years, asking the president politely doesn't get you anything. He isn't a progressive in his heart, he is an establishment pleaser. The only way he acts like a progressive is if you make him. Next time, instead of applauding so much, put all of the pressure on the world on him. That's what Republicans do all of the time and it is what will allow them snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Mark my words.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #4)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:03 AM

6. Can We Please Stop Pretending Obama is “Capitulating” on Social Security?



Everywhere you look, the media narrative is that President Obama is “capitulating” to Republicans by agreeing to cuts in Social Security benefits. And I have to ask, where is this collective political amnesia coming from? Obama has made a deliberate and concerted effort to cut Social Security benefits since the time he took office. FDL reported on February 12, 2009 that the White House was meeting behind closed doors to consider ways to cut Social Security benefits, and that the framework they were using was the Diamond-Orszag plan, which was co-authored by OMB Director Peter Orszag when he was at the Brookings Institute. The birth of the now-ubiquitous “catfood” meme came on February 18, 2009 with this FDL headline:

Hedge Fund Billionaire Pete Peterson Key Speaker At Obama “Fiscal Responsibility Summit,” Will Tell Us All Why Little Old Ladies Must Eat Cat Food

As I wrote in August of 2010, Peterson’s keynote spot was the worst kept secret in town; I knew about it because I had been on a conference call with about 40 representatives of various DC interest groups, many of whom had received written notice from the White House that Peterson was scheduled to headline the event. But nobody wanted to go on the record for fear of jeopardizing their relationship with the administration in its early days. After FDL broke the news, Peterson was “disinvited” from the summit. Both he and the White House denied everything, but Robert Kuttner subsequently confirmed in the Washington Post that Peterson had, in fact, been scheduled as the keynote speaker that day. The administration backed off its immediate plans for reforming Social Security. The New York Times reported that they were “running into opposition from his party’s left” who are “vehement in opposing any reductions in scheduled benefits for future retirees.” But NYT columnist David Brooks reported that shortly after the summit, “four senior members of the administration” called him to say that Obama “is extremely committed to entitlement reform and is plotting politically feasible ways to reduce Social Security.”

Undeterred, the White House began telling journalists off the record that they were interested in “establishing an independent commission (outside the congressional committee structure) to look at creating a specific reform plan.” In January of 2010, a bill sponsored by committed Social Security slashers Judd Gregg and Kent Conrad which would have created an official commission to make recommendations about the nation’s deficit was defeated by the Senate on a bipartisan vote — 22 Democrats and 24 Republicans voted no. After the Senate defeat, on February 18, President Obama issued an executive order creating what subsequently became known as the “Catfood Commission” anyway....

...It’s clear the oligarch class has decided that this is what must happen, and that in order to be considered a “serious” person, this is what a President must do. Perhaps Obama simply wants to be considered a “serious person” by those in the ruling class. But it’s clear that he did not arrive at the decision to “reform” Social Security and cut benefits because he is a poor negotiator, or because of Republican arm twisting. It defies all logic and reason to look at his actions over the years and think that the President is now “capitulating” on Social Security. The President has been very forthcoming about the fact that cutting Social Security benefits is something he wants to do. When he said during the debate that he didn’t differ from Mitt Romney on entitlement reform, he meant it. It’s time for people to remove the rose-colored glasses and stop projecting their own feelings on to the man. It’s time to take him at his word.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #4)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:50 AM

16. A Web of Convenient Fictions Democrats, Social Security and the Fiscal Cliff by ROB URIE



With democrats ecstatic that political dysfunction has postponed their cutting the social insurance programs that Americans have paid for and count on for a few weeks, discussion of the intricacies of ‘chained CPI’ (Consumer Price Index) versus other measures of inflation used to adjust Social Security can now apparently wait for the New Year. Still, this probably isn’t a bad time to ask: why? Why cut Social Security? The program is currently solvent, is expected to remain solvent for decades to come, and projected shortfalls in the future could be better addressed by raising the incomes of the people who pay into the program, not by cutting payments to those who depend on them. What is to be gained by ‘solving’ a problem that isn’t?

If cutting Social Security isn’t necessary, why then is it being proposed? Barack Obama provided copious evidence in prior proposals, television interviews and speeches that doing so is his intent. Congressional democrats and labor leaders quickly acceded to his proposal to do so, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi going so far as to actively lie that proposed cuts will ‘strengthen’ the program. And given the cuts will eventually put tens of millions of Americans into dire poverty from a program they paid into for all of their working lives, what rationale could possibly justify doing so?

The reason I ask is a coalition of democrats, labor, liberals and progressives just re-elected Mr. Obama and democrats in Congress to what—cut Social Security? Mr. Obama created the ‘fiscal cliff’ to first push his stacked (in favor of cutting social insurance programs) ‘deficit commission’ to develop a plan to cut government spending and second, to force the issue to be revisited immediately after the election if no plan was agreed to. And Republican threats to refuse to raise the debt ceiling for leverage to ‘force’ spending cuts are idiotic—George W. Bush and congressional Republicans just led the largest increase in government spending in modern history. And that is not a difficult point to make. (And had it been on beneficial programs, it would have been laudable).

Ultimately the entire ‘debate’ is nonsense—the U.S. doesn’t fund spending directly from taxes. As the Federal Reserve is in the process of demonstrating with its QE (Quantitative Easing) programs, it can buy an unlimited quantity of government debt with money it ‘creates’ –the ‘debt limit’ is an arbitrary misdirection. This isn’t to argue that there is no relationship between economic production and money creation, but it is to point out that the ‘Federal budget’ is a convenient fiction. So, given his repeated analogy of the Federal budget to a family budget, is Mr. Obama ignorant of government finances or does he understand them and is purposely using the misleading analogy to further unstated goals?


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Response to Demeter (Reply #16)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 09:21 AM

34. And here's the crux of it

from same article

But again, why? The web of convenient fictions currently in play amongst both democrats and republicans in Washington—corporate tax cuts promote economic growth and job creation, government spending ‘crowds out’ more productive private sector spending, ‘excessive’ government debt will cause a financial market rebellion (bond vigilantes) and handing social insurance programs to private market profiteers is beneficial to the insured, are all demonstrably nonsense with only a cursory look at ‘the evidence.’

Effective corporate tax rates are the lowest in modern history and job creation, even before the economic calamity began in 2008, is the weakest since the 1930s. As global warming caused by largely private production and the predatory, dysfunctional private sector demonstrate on a daily basis, the ‘efficiencies’ of private production come from cost shifting, not by levels of human motivation intrinsic to capitalism. As QE is demonstrating, the Federal Reserve can control both short and long term interests rates—the ‘bond vigilantes’ are only in control when they provide cover for private interests. And Barack Obama didn’t choose the ‘least bad’ option with his healthcare ‘reform,’ he chose the private option to which he is ideologically committed.

Why Barack Obama, the first Black president, the man elected to the tears of joy of millions (including mine, in those long-ago halycon hopeful days of '08 ...), wants to be the Democrat remembered for destroying SS is a mystery beyond comprehension ....

However, I don't know what that "human motivation intrinsic to capitalism" is supposed to mean - as far as I'm concerned, Capitalism is built on the theft of workers productivity - I guess that one could consider criminal greed an intrinsic human motivation? But hardly one that we want to applaud, in any sane world - which of course we're NOT living in.

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Response to bread_and_roses (Reply #34)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 10:25 AM

37. Right on .

Obama doesn't even define himself as a Democrat. and he surely doesn't govern as one. Afganistan, drones, Public Option, NDAA, spying......

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Response to bread_and_roses (Reply #34)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 10:31 AM

39. human motivation--it's more like engineering motivation


better roads, bridges, infrastructure, education, social capital, health care, etc.

It has very little to do with Capitalism, these days. Used to be the two went hand-in-hand. Now Capitalism is hooked on the crack of profiteering, and it doesn't want anything but more crack.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #4)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:52 AM

17. Taxes, and Cuts, and Drones: Obama’s Imperialism of the Peasants



In my very first post as a blogger, I wrote the following:

One problem with liberals in the tax debate is that they don’t realize just how little Americans actually get from the government. When the government doesn’t provide you with universal health care, a decent pension, good schools, or accessible and affordable public transportation, why should you want to pay taxes? The answer, of course, is not for Americans to pay less but for government to spend more. As Thomas Geoghegan explains here, “people are willing to pay taxes that they spend on themselves.”

Ezra Klein is now reporting more details on what the impending fiscal cliff deal between Obama and the Republicans is going to look like: among other things, it includes cuts in Social Security benefits, and if this Dylan Matthews post from last week is correct, tax increases that would be slightly regressive in their effects (I’m not talking here, obviously, about the tax increases that would come from undoing some of the Bush tax cuts).

So that’s the deal: We raise taxes. And what do we get in return? Lower benefits. Genius!

As I wrote in the London Review of Books during the Summer 2011 debt ceiling negotiations:

If there’s a master text for this moment, it’s Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire. Not the over-cited first time as tragedy, second time as farce line, but his astonishingly prescient analysis of the reactionary behaviour of the French peasantry during the Bourbon and July monarchies. Though the 1789 Revolution and Napoleon had liberated the peasants from their landlords, the next generation of peasants was left to confront the agricultural market from small private holdings that could not sustain them. They no longer had to pay their feudal dues, but now they had to pay their mortgages and taxes to a state that seemed to do little for them. What the state did provide, under Napoleon III, was imperial spectacle. That wasn’t nothing, as Marx noted, for in and through the army the peasants were ‘transformed into heroes, defending their new possessions against the outer world, glorifying their recently won nationality, plundering and revolutionising the world. The uniform was their own state dress; war was their poetry.’ This Marx called ‘the imperialism of the peasant class’.

In Marx’s analysis we see the populist underbelly of the debt crisis, indeed of the last four decades of the right-wing tax revolt, from Howard Jarvis’s Proposition 13 of 1978, which destroyed California’s finances by putting strict limits on property tax increases, to the Tea Party. Liberals often have a difficult time making sense of these movements – don’t taxes support good things? – because they don’t see how little the American state directly provides to its citizens, relative to their economic circumstances. Since the early 1970s, with a few brief exceptions, workers’ wages have stagnated. What has the state offered in response? Public transport is virtually non-existent. Even with Obama’s reforms, the state does not provide healthcare or insurance to most people. Outside wealthy communities, state schools often fail to deliver a real education. In such circumstances, is it any wonder ordinary citizens want their taxes cut? That at least is change they can believe in.

And here Democrats like Obama and his defenders, who bemoan the stranglehold of the Tea Party on American politics, have only themselves to blame. For decades, Democrats have collaborated in stripping back the American state in the vain hope that the market would work its magic. For a time it did, though mostly through debt; workers could compensate for stagnating wages with easy credit and low-interest mortgages. Now the debt’s due to be repaid, and wages – if people are lucky enough to be working – aren’t enough to cover the bills. The only thing that’s left for them is cutting taxes. And the imperialism of the peasants.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #4)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:55 AM

18. It would be really funny, if in the end, the result of Nth-dimensional chess was


that Obama checkmated himself....

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Response to Demeter (Reply #18)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 12:40 PM

41. With Pawns

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Response to bahrbearian (Reply #41)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 12:48 PM

42. It will have to be with pawns


All our power pieces have either been captured, cornered, or have sold out to the Corporations.

And remember, Dear Alice, a lowly pawn can become a queen, in 7 short moves.

Hence the Occupy Movement and its support network.

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Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:06 AM

7. Unemployment, Poverty in America: 75 Numbers From 2012 that are Almost too Crazy to Believe



The following are 75 economic numbers from 2012 that are almost too crazy to believe…

#1 In December 2008, 31.6 million Americans were on food stamps. Today, a new all-time record of 47.7 million Americans are on food stamps. That number has increased by more than 50 percent over the past four years, and yet the mainstream media still has the gall to insist that “things are getting better”.

#2 Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps. Today, about one out of every 6.5 Americans is on food stamps.

#3 According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”

#4 According to one recent survey, 55 percent of all Americans have received money from a safety net program run by the federal government at some point in their lives.

#5 For the first time ever, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless. That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.

#6 Median household income in the U.S. has fallen for four consecutive years. Overall, it has declined by over $4000 during that time span.

#7 Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

#8 The percentage of working age Americans with a job has been under 59 percent for 39 months in a row.

#9 In September 2009, during the depths of the last economic crisis, 58.7 percent of all working age Americans were employed. In November 2012, 58.7 percent of all working age Americans were employed. It is more then 3 years later, and we are in the exact same place.

#10 When you total up all working age Americans that do not have a job in America today, it comes to more than 100 million.

#11 According to one recent survey, 55 percent of all small business owners in America “say they would not start a business today given what they know now and in the current environment.”


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Response to Demeter (Reply #7)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:08 AM

8. This must be my favorite:


#35 At this point, only 24.6 percent of all jobs in the United States are good jobs.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #8)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:21 AM

10. American Dream Fades for Generation Y Professionals



After being dismissed from her job as a Midtown Manhattan securities attorney in October 2009, Christina Tretter-Herriger hitched a used horse trailer to her Dodge Ram pickup and drove 1,628 miles to Texas. The 32-year-old lawyer sold skin-care products in Houston before finding work as the assistant general counsel of a futures-trading firm where an irate customer punctuated a recorded voice-mail message with gunfire...

Eighteen months and two busted jobs later, the daughter of a retired physician and a former editor at Vogue circled back to upstate New York and hunkered down at a small legal office that pays about one-quarter of her former $165,000 salary.

Generation Y professionals entering the workforce are finding careers that once were gateways to high pay and upwardly mobile lives turning into detours and dead ends. Average incomes for individuals ages 25 to 34 have fallen 8 percent, double the adult population’s total drop, since the recession began in December 2007. Their unemployment rate remains stuck one-half to 1 percentage point above the national figure.

Three and a half years after the worst recession since the Great Depression, the earnings and employment gap between those in the under-35 population and their parents and grandparents threatens to unravel the American dream of each generation doing better than the last. The nation’s younger workers have benefited least from an economic recovery that has been the most uneven in recent history. “This generation will be permanently depressed and will be on a lower path of income for probably all of their life -- and at least the next 10 years,” says Rutgers professor Cliff Zukin, a senior research fellow at the university’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Professionals who start out in jobs other than their first choice tend to stay on the alternative path, earning less than they would have otherwise while becoming less likely to start over again later in preferred fields, Zukin says...

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Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:12 AM

9. Could A.I.G. Happen Again?



The United States government recently sold the last of its shares in the American International Group, more than four years after it bailed out the insurance giant with a package of assistance that eventually totaled $180 billion. In announcing the sale, the Treasury Department also said that the government had a “positive return” of $22.7 billion — a sum that fails to take into account tax breaks A.I.G. received as a ward of the state. But whether the government profited from the bailout is not important. The truly vital issue is this: Could this happen again? Unfortunately, the troubling answer is yes.

A.I.G., whose chief business is insuring consumers and businesses, collapsed in 2008 because of reckless speculation by a subsidiary, A.I.G. Financial Products. That unit bet big on the housing and credit boom with credit-default swaps, which are financial instruments that mimic insurance. By the time it collapsed, the division had guaranteed nearly $80 billion in mortgage securities, often for large investment banks and hedge funds. The government stepped in to bail out A.I.G. because its failure could have dealt mortal blows to other financial institutions that the company had agreed to protect from losses.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, policy makers in Washington, London and elsewhere began working to address the shortcomings exposed by A.I.G. Congress passed the Dodd-Frank reform law that imposes new controls on financial activity but leaves it to regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to fill in the details. While those agencies have made some progress, like requiring derivative trades to be more transparently traded and reported, they have completed just one-third of the rules required by the law. The things regulators have yet to finish include imposing limits on the size of bets investors can make using credit default swaps and other exotic financial instruments, and also requiring investors to maintain sufficient reserves to make good on all of those bets. Another cause for concern is that American, European and Asian policy makers have not sufficiently coordinated their regulation of financial derivatives. That means investors looking to escape regulations in one country can do so by moving their trades to another part of the world. The derivatives business is global and its regulation must also be international. One of the reasons the A.I.G. Financial Products unit escaped the notice of regulators was that it was based in London, where it operated under a French banking license. At the very least, U.S. agencies must regulate the trading activities of the foreign branches and subsidiaries of American financial institutions.

The blame for regulatory delays falls, in part, on an unrepentant financial industry that has fought against regulation at every turn, on Capitol Hill or in the courts. It has, for instance, sued the C.F.T.C. to block a rule that would have limited the size of investors’ positions in certain derivatives...

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Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:30 AM

11. Top Tax Expert Confirms Our Doubts About Occupy Wall Street’s Debt Buying/Forgiveness Scheme


As readers may recall, we expressed serious reservations about the tax consequences of a program launched by Strike Debt, an Occupy Wall Street working group, to buy distressed consumer debt from debt collectors and forgive it. These concerns have been confirmed by a top tax expert, Lee Sheppard. Sheppard not only describes how the scheme has the potential to harm the borrowers that Strike Debt wants to help, but also points out how their initiative runs afoul of IRS rules for not for profits.*

Sheppard is a heavyweight in her field. Her bio at Forbes states:

Sheppard is one of the most widely read and respected tax commentators in the world. She has been a mainstay of Tax Analysts’ publications for 30 years. Trained as a lawyer, Sheppard specializes in cutting-edge financial issues, such as derivatives and hedge funds, and taxation of multinational corporations. She is frequently asked to speak on tax subjects. She has appeared on television shows such as 60 Minutes and Frontline, as well as in the documentary We’re Not Broke. Tax Analysts, the publisher of Tax Notes and related publications, is a nonprofit publisher that provides the latest and most in-depth tax information worldwide.

While Strike Debt’s plan, called Rolling Jubilee, sounds like a clever way to help debt overburdened consumers, upon inspection it looks more like a gimmick, since Strike Debt concedes it will be able to provide relief only to a small number of people. And in case you hoped that the project was using these purchases as a foundation to publicize the issue of consumer debt slavery, the Rolling Jubilee website proclaims that 100% of the proceeds of its fundraising will be used for debt purchases, which means no money will be spent on PR and lobbying.

Strike Debt’s Tax Problems

Strike Debt has two potential problems with its program. The first is that borrowers it is trying to help be liable for taxes and thus could wind up worse off than if Strike Debt did nothing. The second it that Strike Debt itself may be liable for failing to comply with the requirements of the type of not for profit it has elected to use, a 501 (c)(4). We’ve discussed these issues at much greater length, including extracts of IRS rules and discussions of case law, in two previous posts (see here and here)

The possible problem for borrowers is due to the fact that forgiveness of debt is taxable income to the borrower and the party writing off the debt is required to notify the IRS. Strike Debt cheerily claims that they can treat the forgiveness as a gift. A gift (up to $13,000 per donee per year) is not income to the recipient and if the transfer is indeed a gift, Strike Debt would not be obligated to report the forgiveness of debt to the IRS.

It is important to understand that this is a novel tax position. We discussed earlier at some length why this is grey and the outcome can’t be determined at this juncture. Even though a generous act of buying and writing off debt seems like a gift, intuition and tax law often don’t match.The IRS’s discussion of gift treatment stresses that “there will not be any gift exception in a commercial context.” Debt buying is a commercial activity, and Strike Debt’s argument that it has no profit motive may not be sufficient to win it gift treatment, particularly in light of other rulings and case law in this area, some of which we cited in past posts.

And Strike Debt can’t get this question sorted out now; the IRS publishes a list every year of issues on which it will not issue a ruling, and whether a particular transfer is a gift is one of them. In addition, the IRS is much less generous in its view of who is a suitable recipient of charity than the public at large might be. People earning middle class incomes are not considered to be a “charitable class”, no matter how much difficulty they are having in paying their bills. Our understanding is that Strike Debt is making no effort to ascertain the income level of individuals whose debt it is buying. The way Strike Debt is using a not for profit organization looks even dicier. As we noted earlier:

Rolling Jubilee is using a 501 (c)(4), which is a form of tax exempt organization used for “social welfare” purposes, which can include lobbying and political activities as long as they are primarily for the promotion of social welfare. However, the debt buying scheme appears to run afoul of the “private benefit” rule. From the IRS discussion of 501 (c)(4)s:

To qualify for exemption under section 501(c)(4), the organization’s net earnings must be devoted only to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes. In addition, no part of the organization’s net earnings can inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.

Forgiving someone’s debt could be a violation of the private benefit rule.

Sheppard’s “Occupy Wall Street’s Santa Problem” Article

Sheppard confirms that Strike Debt’s tax position is risky. From her article in Forbes:

Ironically, the very aspect of the Rolling Jubilee project that is most charming to its proponents and the public—forgiving the debt of a lucky few—makes it problematic from a tax perspective. First, the tax law says that debt forgiveness by a creditor is income to the debtor in the amount of the principal forgiven.

There are some specific exceptions to this rule, such as the one recently enacted for forgiveness of residential mortgage debt, which expires at the end of this year (section 108(a)(1)(E)). Congress did not create an exception for gifts by creditors. Exceptions to cancellation of indebtedness income are narrowly construed—taxpayers don’t get to create their own exceptions by popular will.

Oh, but it’s a gift! Rolling Jubilee appears to be working on the premise that a creditor acting in an economically irrational way and wrapping forgiveness letters up in a bow establishes donative intent.

A gift would absolve the debtor from debt cancellation income. Gifts are excluded from income (section 102). But there is a presumption that a creditor will act like a creditor. When Rolling Jubilee purchases debt, it is stepping into the shoes of the creditor. So the organization has the burden of proving that debt forgiveness is a gift.

Sheppard also confirms our concerns about the IRS not seeing middle class borrowers as a charitable class, and raises more flags about Strike Debt’s use of a 501 (c)(4):

Section 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations are required to be operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare. Giving big gifts of debt forgiveness to a few people is not consistent with the purpose of the exemption. It is not enough that the organization be operated as a nonprofit.

A social welfare organization must be operated to benefit a community, not a select group of individuals. Credit counseling services can qualify because they hold themselves open to all debtors needing assistance (Rev. Rul. 65-299).

Certainly overindebted middle class Americans constitute a broad class of people. But this class is not a charitable one and this group is not a community.

The Rolling Jubilee Fund by its own admission can only forgive the debts of a few. Its purpose is more symbolic than substantive in clearing out the huge backlog of debt—as one proponent noted, to start a conversation about debt.

Section 501(c)(4)(B) explicitly prohibits monetary benefits to any private shareholder or individual. It refers to “net earnings.” The net earnings of a debt purchaser would be the difference between the purchase price of the debts and the collectible amount. If Rolling Jubilee forgives one person’s debt, it has transferred its potential earnings on that item of debt to a private individual.

In other words, Houston, we have a problem.

Strike Debt’s Sort of Response

...Here is are the remarks from the unnamed advisor to Strike Debt on tax issues:

“I’m a little mystified by the critiques based on the tax implications,” says the tax lawyer who has been advising Strike Debt. (The lawyer works in the tax department at a top international law firm — her employer knows she is advising Strike Debt, but doesn’t want its name attached to the project.)

The tax lawyer dismisses the concern that the Rolling Jubilee is engaged in commercial activity: “It doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me,” she said. “When Habitat for Humanity is helping people build houses, someone still has to buy the lumber. It doesn’t change their tax status. The critical thing is that this is a not-for-profit organization, and it’s not engaged in trying to make money.”

Furthermore, the lawyer says, recipients don’t have to be poor to receive tax-free debt forgiveness. “This is focused on medical debt,” she says, “and people with health problems can be categorized as distressed. You don’t need to show that they’re impoverished.”

Note the logic is a bit circular: we are organized as a not-for-profit, ergo since we are not trying to make money, of course what we are doing is charitable. That doesn’t wash. Using the same reasoning, you could create a hospital that did plastic surgery for celebrities and claim it was a valid not for profit because it was not engaged in trying to make money because it has set its fees to cover all its costs and not have anything left over, and would send patients refund checks if it did. The IRS has specific notions of what constitutes charity and what constitutes social welfare. Rolling Jubilee’s activities need to conform to them. It does not appear that they do...Now there may be other ways for Strike Debt to achieve its ends without running this level of tax risk for borrowers and itself. Bankruptcy attorney masaccio suggested one earlier this month:

If the debtor has defenses to the indebtedness Rolling Jubilee and the debtor can enter into a settlement agreement in which both sides release each other from all claims. In that situation, there is no debt forgiveness. Instead, each side gives consideration to the other to avoid litigation and serious loss. The situation can be improved if the debtor provides a statement of assets and liabilities and a budget showing that collection of the amount owed is highly unlikely. It is further improved if the debtor pays something towards the debt. That money can be used by Rolling Jubilee to offset the expenses of reaching out and settling, or even to buy more debt.



* Strike Debt is using a 501 (c)(4) and correctly tells donors that their contributions are not tax deductible, so any IRS action would not affect people who have donated to the program. However, losing its tax exempt designation would expose the program, Rolling Jubilee, to taxation.

Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/12/tax-authority-confirms-our-doubts-about-occupy-wall-streets-debt-buyingforgiveness-scheme.html#XXYfhscIiVHWEM3e.99


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Response to Demeter (Reply #11)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:36 AM

12. Wolf Richter: The EU Bailout Oligarchy Issues A Report About Itself (FOR EXAMPLE)



On Friday before Christmas when nobody was paying attention, when people were elbowing their way through department stores or heading out for vacation, the European Commission issued its report on bank bailouts in the European Union—a dry document with mind-boggling numbers that left out the most important fact. The misnamed “2012 State Aid Scoreboard“ provided a sobering number—misnamed because it covered the period from October 2008 through December 2011, and not 2012. It had taken the Commission bureaucracy a year to add up all the numbers, and there were a lot of them to add up. Turns out, the amount that the governments of all 27 EU states had handed to their banks to prop them up or bail them out amounted to €1.616 trillion ($2.1 trillion).
It does not include the bank bailouts of 2012, such as Spain, whose banks are getting their first installment of €39 billion, or Greece {The Price Of “Collective Trauma”: Greece At The Brink of Civil War}, or tiny Cyprus whose banks alone require at least €10 billion {The Bailout Of Russian “Black Money” In Cyprus}. Nor does it include any of the ECB’s bailout operations. Nevertheless, €1.616 trillion is a big number: 13% of European Union GDP. Of that, €1.174 trillion was for “liquidity support,” and €442 billion was for “bank solvency” support, such as recapitalizations and dumping “impaired assets.”

The usual suspects? Um….

  • In third position, Germany, whose banks received 16% of the total.

  • In second position, Ireland, whose banks also got 16% of the total. Time and again, we can only shake our heads at the act of insanity committed by the Irish government at the time when it decided to condemn its citizens and taxpayers, current and future, to bail out and make whole the investors in Irish banks—a decision that bankrupted the entire country though it had had its fiscal house in order, until then.

  • And in first position, drumroll…. the UK, whose rotten banks, now coddled and protected in the City, received 19% of the total.

    The Scorecard is short and dry. Nowhere does it say that the citizens and taxpayers of these countries paid not for the bailout of the banks, but for the bailout of their investors, including stockholders, bondholders, counter parties, and other investors and speculators. Guaranteeing deposit or transaction accounts is one thing. But bailing out investors and speculators who’d taken risks and had been compensated for them through yield or the lure of capital gains is quite another. Socializing the losses and risks that certain privileged investors have incurred—and then allowing them to profit from the bailouts—is of course the purpose of all bailouts. It’s not the bank per se that is important, but its investors. A topic that the bailout oligarchy wraps in silence.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #12)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 06:19 AM

    19. Lessons learnt from $1.5bn settlement



    UBS this week became the first major financial institution to enter a guilty plea to US authorities in two decades – and the first to have two former traders issued with criminal charges as part of the global probe into interest-rate manipulation. But in relative terms, the plea by UBS’s Japanese subsidiary and the $1.5bn fine the Swiss bank must pay to settle allegations that it had rigged Libor and other lending rates was a bargain. It could have paid more, had it not won partial immunity by being the first bank to co-operate with the authorities. The UK’s Financial Services Authority, for example, gave it a 20 per cent discount on its fine, reducing it to £160m, while the bank disclosed last year that it had signed a partial leniency agreement with the US Department of Justice’s antitrust division. The total settlement of $1.5bn – with US, UK and Swiss authorities – sends a strong message to other banks under investigation, including Royal Bank of Scotland . Stephen Hester, RBS chief executive, says the bank is hoping to conclude a settlement by the end of February, and people familiar with the talks say it expects to pay more than the $450m fine paid by Barclays – but less than UBS.

    ...The US government’s investigation was helped by UBS turning over millions of emails, electronic messages and recorded phone calls, as well as making numerous employees’ available for questioning.
    “The stakes are getting so high you have to wonder what public goal is being served,” said one US defence lawyer. The DoJ “can’t make cases without substantial co-operation by companies.” But he questioned the benefit of co-operation if a company ultimately takes a guilty plea.

    Companies, especially those in regulated industries like banking, generally don’t have much of a choice, lawyers say. If they don’t co-operate, they could face harsher penalties or risk losing their licences. But when co-operation results in what lawyers say are draconian penalties, it has some legal advisers rethinking their advice. “It draws an interesting focus on whether financial institutions will have an incentive to want to self-report,” notes another US defence lawyer.

    Lawyers point to the $1.9bn penalty HSBC paid to settle allegations relating to money-laundering and breaches of sanctions as a measure that penalties are getting too large. “If you can’t fight, you have to pay ransom,” says one lawyer. He states that he has advised companies not to self-report when they find and fix wrongdoing. He recalls one chief executive saying he agreed with him, “but you’ve got to understand: for the outside board members it’s the company’s money or their reputation. Which do you think they’re going to pick?”

    Conversely, others on Capitol Hill have pressed the DoJ to be tougher on companies, especially when they have a long-running pattern of misconduct. In 2009, UBS paid $780m to the DoJ and admitted helping US citizens avoid paying taxes. UBS’s assistance, though, was not absolute. The FSA’s statement adds that the bank had not co-operated enough to qualify for a full 30 per cent discount, while US regulators took into account the fact that UBS didn’t fully co-operate until the US probe had been under way two years. They also note that the improper conduct continued despite the federal probe....


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    Response to Demeter (Reply #11)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 02:17 PM

    43. I.m.h.o.,

    Sheppard is bending over backward to try to make problems for Rolling Jubilee.

    I'm no tax expert, but rules such as "no benefit to a shareholder or private individual" are clearly aimed at making sure that those running the nonprofit organization are not mainly benefitting themselves or their cronies with excessive salaries, perqs, crony contracts, or other benefits. The rules are NOT aimed at prohibiting charitable actions toward persons who are otherwise unrelated to the nonprofit organization and are the beneficiaries intended by those who donate to the organization.

    If a foundation couldn't give a benefit to ANY private individual, a soup kitchen couldn't give away a bowl of soup without jeopardizing its status. Or cf. the Red Cross helping disaster victims –– they don't make beneficiaries do financial disclosure before handing out a blanket; and in the case of Rolling Jubilee beneficiaries, a lot of them are probably worse off than some of the people helped by Red Cross, since by the time they lose their homes, they've probably depleted ALL their other assets.

    Similarly, just because Rolling Jubilee is buying debt doesn't mean its activity is commercial in the sense of being for-profit.

    I can't say I'm certain there's no technical problem under any rule or regulation; but Rolling Jubilee's activities certainly fall within the spirit of the law as far as I'm concerned, and I agree that if there is any technical difficulty, the rule should be changed.

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    Response to snot (Reply #43)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:36 PM

    44. I totally agree


    and as I said, there's no law that says they can't make a special ruling....they do it for every 1% that walks by.

    It is better to beg forgiveness after, than ask permission before.

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:42 AM

    13. On Killing Sprees



    ...The two most important things to understand are that gun control would reduce harm significantly, and that gun control is a palliative for a sick culture. The US does have more guns than anyone else, but countries like Finland have a pile of guns and people don’t kill nearly as many innocents with them. Likewise every military age male in Switzerland has an assault rifle, and they don’t have killing sprees.

    The first point first, China has people who go on sprees with knives. In fact there was one just recently in a school, 23 students were injured. That’s sad, but not one of them died. Not one. Guns make violence far, far more deadly. Reducing gun availability won’t stop attacks. It will reduce how deadly they are.

    The key points of leverage on harm reduction are reducing clip sizes, getting rid of automatics and semi-automatics and radically restricting ammunition purchases. Likewise soft-target ammunition – bullets intended to fragment, and hollow point ammunition need to go away. These bullets have no purpose but to kill civilians. You don’t use them against military or paramilitary targets because they suck against body armor. As such they have no place, even if you believe in a 2nd Amendment “fight the government” argument. If you’re fighting the government, you’ll want ammo that can pierce body armor.

    The second point is that America has far more of these attacks than anyone else. This is because America:

    1) is under economic pressure. The more people who are in economic trouble, the more attacks.

    2) has jobs which are intensely unpleasant, with the asshole boss being the norm. Don’t tell me otherwise.

    3) has a startling rise in diagnosed mental illness, and a startling rise in the use of psychoactive medications whose effects we don’t really understand. In particular, there has been a massive increase in the drugging of young children (males are who we care about in this context) with amphetamines and dextro-Amphetamines, officially starting as young as 3 years old, and unofficially, earlier. Long term use of amphetamines is associated with psychotic breaks and violence, this is not in question, we have a TON of historical evidence. You cannot keep people constantly on amphetamines and not expect these sort of eruptions.

    4) The increase in mental illness and medication is in large part because life in America is extraordinarily unpleasant. You live in a militarized surveillance society with no guaranteed health care and with a job market that doesn’t provide enough jobs for those who need it, allowing bosses to treat those who do have jobs like shit, and executives to take virtually all productivity gains for themselves. The economic model is to pile debt on consumers to create rental streams, but constant debt payments put people under major psychological pressure, all the time.

    5) People are suffering an epidemic of chronic physical diseases on top of this.

    You cannot have a pressure cooker society which is also militarized and swimming in guns. You simply cannot....

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #13)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:44 AM

    14. Gun Pandemonium as No Background Needed for Web Sales



    The ad features an AR-15 semi- automatic rifle, similar to a gun used in the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings for $2,000. “No background check required. Just cash face to face with valid PA Drivers License. It’s Pandemonium!”

    The classified ad was posted Dec. 20 on Armslist.com, a website for gun enthusiasts. Closely held Armslist LLC’s site and others like it offer an easy way for gun buyers to avoid background checks, gun-control advocates say. While some sellers on the site require one, most don’t because federal law doesn’t require background checks for guns sold privately. In a disclaimer, the site places the responsibility on users to comply with laws and doesn’t certify or investigate any person or transaction.

    “People need to realize there is a permanent gun show every day online that is accessible to anyone with a computer,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in an interview.


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    Response to Demeter (Reply #13)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 06:42 AM

    20. Three Heads, We Lose: Gun Control Without Equality Means More Massacres, Not Fewer



    Although the massacre in Newtown is not the type of rebellion-like rampage massacre that I usually write about — where employee attacks his workplace and his co-workers, or middle-class school kids attack their school and fellow students — a few things about the culture around this crime stand out.

    First, Connecticut has the second worst rate of income inequality in the US, thanks to all the Wall Street fundies and insurance executives who live secluded from some of the starkest poverty outside of the Deep South. Even more telling is the way Connecticut degenerated from the late 1970s, when it was one of the most egalitarian states in the union, to today’s banana republic-levels of inequality. One study ranks Connecticut as having the fastest-growing rate of inequality since Reagan took office of any state in the union. Since those Reagan years, there have been a number of mass shootings in Connecticut. I profiled some of them in Going Postal — the most recent (and most spectacular) workplace massacre in the state took place just two years ago at Hartford Distributors, leaving nine people dead.

    This is a point that has gone largely unconsidered during the post-Newtown furore: gun control without broader social justice is pointless. And the two apparently separate proposals that Obama and the Democrats are floating this month— gun control laws simultaneous with austerity measures including an inexplicable assault on Social Security — are worse than pointless: It’s rancid neoliberal politics at its sleaziest and nihilistic worst. And if history is anything to go by, it’s only going to increase the chance of future massacres. Obama's proposals are the very opposite of the sort of transformative gun politics I wrote about in my last piece on the history of gun-fanatic politics: rancid shock doctrine politics that exploits the tragedy of the Newtown mass-murder as cover for slashing Social Security benefits to those who need it most, transferring that plundered wealth into the pockets of Wall Street bond-holders. Targeting gun-owners while taking away their benefits can only lead to one outcome: even more keenly focused hate, rising paranoia and a public even easier to manipulate than they already are. Hard as that is to imagine...This is gun politics guaranteed to fail, as doomed to failure as libertarian gun-nut politics which combines austerity and rising inequality with flooding guns into the population and pushing vigilante laws.

    For one thing, the Democrats tried this already in 1994, when Clinton signed a federal law banning 19 assault weapons. Not only did employee workplace massacres — a new type of mass-murder crime that first appeared in the late 1980s — continue unabated after Clinton’s ban, but they spread a few years later to another setting once thought safe: middle America’s schoolyards. A few years after Clinton’s assault weapons ban, school kids — mostly white, mostly middle-class — were massacring their fellow students, most famously in Columbine. Clinton and the Democrats blamed their 1994 election blowout on the gun control law, and many still push that myth today. (A more obvious explanation is Clinton’s neoliberal politics, pushing through the NAFTA free-trade pact that kneecapped what was left of labor power, and making deficit reduction a priority over everything else in those first two years.) By the time Clinton left office, he’d abolished welfare, deregulated financial markets, and left a legacy of inequality that made Reagan look like a social democrat by comparison. In 2000, CEO’s earned 531 times what their average employees were paid. Even pro-business publications like Businessweek started getting queasy about Clinton’s politics of oligarchy, as the magazines's 2001 article, "We’re Back To Serfs and Royalty," shows:

    'The huge disparity between the compensation of CEOs and the people who really make most companies function is starting to raise questions of fairness. For instance, look at how CEO pay has skyrocketed -- by 434% since 1991, according to BusinessWeek's annual survey of executive compensation. Meantime, the paycheck of the typical worker grew only 34%.

    "We're back to serfs and royalty in the Middle Ages," declares Edward Lawler, professor of management at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. And that's before the passage of President Bush's tax-cut plan, which would widen the advantage of the upper crust on an aftertax basis.'

    That was Businessweek way back in 2001 — but no one in DC took it seriously.

    In 2004, with the NRA bragging that it owned President Bush, Clinton’s assault weapons ban was lifted, and the inane theory that more guns equals greater safety was given another try. The result: Rampage massacres migrated from workplaces and schoolyards to a new setting, college campuses. And why wouldn’t they? The same underlying politics of concentration of wealth and political power accelerated further under Bush than they did under Clinton. The differences are minor: neoliberal politics is inequality plus gun control, libertarian politics is more inequality plus flooding the population with guns and setting them against each other.

    Income inequality is wrong for all sorts of obvious reasons, but also for a few less obvious ones, including health and longevity. Studies prove the obvious: that greater inequality leads to higher rates of mental illness. Psychiatric drug prescriptions for children and adults have been soaring over the past few decades — between 1987 and 1996, prescriptions doubled for children; and from 1996 to 2006, psychiatric drug prescriptions for children jumped another 50% (while prescriptions for adults soared 73% in that same 1996-2006 period). Meanwhile, the adolescent suicide rate soared 400% from the 1950s through 1999.

    And that is why Obama’s politics — the politics of austerity, cutting deeper into the most sacrosanct program, Social Security, a program that doesn’t even affect the deficit and is fully funded, but which has been a top political priority for the oligarchy for decades now — combined with feckless gun control laws and increased mental health care (which will barely cover the increase in mental illnesses caused by greater inequality) — is worse than failure, it’s nihilism and treachery in their purest rankest form. This is the sort of politics that creates worse and even more shocking rampage massacres — and while that’s bad for all of us, it’s good for the dominant politics of our age, because it means we’ll stay stuck in the same idiotic shouting matches pitting neoliberal calls for gun controls against libertarian calls for a nation of armed vigilantes. So long as both agree on the economic politics — and neoliberals and libertarians always have — the gun politics remain a shrill diversion.

    * * * *

    Another under-reported element to the Newtown massacre involves the Bushmaster assault weapon. While most attention has focused on the weapon itself and whether or not it should be banned, surprisingly little has been written about the private equity firm, Cerberus Capital, that currently owns Bushmaster. I say "currently" because the firm is vowing to sell Bushmaster, having suddenly been struck with a conscience. (By coincidence, Martin Feinberg, the father of Cerberus' founder, lives in Newtown. He told Bloomberg that the shooting was "devastating" and "horrendous, truly horrendous." That has to make for awkward dinner table conversation this Christmas.) Cerberus is the sociopathic embodiment of everything wrong and fucked up with our financialized economy — and, until recently, it didn't even try to hide this fact. For one thing, Cerberus is named itself after the mythical three-headed watchdog-monster with a serpent’s tail that guarded the gates of Hell (Hades), and devoured anyone who tried to escape. That's what we journalists are supposed to call a "red flag."

    The billionaire who founded Cerberus is Stephen Feinberg, one of those right-wing populist blowhards who makes a big deal out of all the Harleys and Ford pickups he owns, and the hunting guns he used to kill deer, and his alleged "blue collar background." Feinberg made a lot of Galt-ian noise about his commitment to free-market principles, or lack of any principles that implied duty to his employees, especially after Cerberus took control of Chrysler in 2007. He hired Dan Quayle and Bush’s Treasury Secretary Jack Snow, and together they formed the three heads of the Cerberus beast from Hell. By late 2008, wouldntchaknowit, Feinberg had to crawl to Washington with hat in hand for a bailout, yammering about how he still considered himself a "patriot" and how sorry he was that he destroyed Chrysler and needed government moochers to bail him out of that investment (along with his investment into GM’s finance arm).

    A New York Times profile of Feinberg in 2009, capturing the Cerberus sociopath in a brief moment of affected humility, is worth recalling for a laugh:

    MR. FEINBERG, a longtime free-market enthusiast and a Republican who never envisioned himself needing the government for help, suddenly found himself running a company that needed federal support to stay alive.

    By early last December, with Chrysler bleeding cash, he had become a vocal presence in Washington, circulating around Congressional offices to get his story out.

    ...Cerberus now values its Chrysler stake at 19 cents on the dollar. It is a humbling and embarrassing figure for Mr. Feinberg. But it’s better than zero cents on the dollar, which is what his stake might have been worth had the government not bailed him out.

    Mr. Feinberg and his colleagues at Cerberus maintain to this day that their time at Chrysler was, in part, a reflection of their patriotism — a view that some analysts find hard to swallow.

    "It’s hard to believe that any of these firms — including Cerberus — will be viewed as patriots in 10 years," said John Rogers, a private equity analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, "because I don’t think their impact on any of these companies will be seen as so positive for the overall economy."

    Mr. Feinberg still begs to differ, saying his experience at Chrysler has left him feeling like a good citizen.

    "There were times we could have been tougher and pushed harder and gotten more," he says, "but it wasn’t the right thing for the country."


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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:47 AM

    15. Morgan Stanley Banker Who Stabbed Cab Driver Fired by Firm



    I was racking my brain for one final story that sums up this era in politics, the state of our world circa 2012, and I have to give it to this one from a few days ago.

    William Bryan Jennings, whose parents obviously hoped for a Progressive populist reformer as a child, grew up to work at Morgan Stanley, and acquire all the sense of entitlement and douchebaggery that goes along with such an occupation (I believe they give that to you at the same time as your parking space). One year ago to the day, on December 21, 2011, Jennings left a Christmas party in New York City, and his town car didn’t show up (#richwhitepeopleproblems). So he hailed a cab to take him to his home in Darien, Connecticut. When he got home, Jennings decided to treat the cab ride like a buyout deal, and trying to negotiate down for a lower fare. This is an executive at Morgan Stanley who didn’t want to pay full fare to get home. The cabbie asked for $204 (Jennings said it was $294). Jennings offered $50 (good negotiating ploy; start low!). At this point I should mention that Jennings makes around $3 million a year.

    The cabbie went to the police to settle the argument, driving away from the home. So Jennings did the obvious thing: he pulled out a pen knife and started fighting with the Middle Eastern cabbie, yelling racial slurs like “Go back to your own fucking country” and “I’m going to kill you, motherfucker,” cutting him on the right hand and eventually escaping from the cab. Jennings ran home and spent two months hiding from the police before coming forward....You know how this story ends. Jennings got away with it. The state dropped the charges because the cabbie held onto the pen knife for five months before delivering it to police, thereby tainting the evidence. So it’s the same old story; entitled, rich banker assaulting a working person and getting away with it on a technicality. William Bryan Jennings was too big to fail.

    But a funny thing happened. Morgan Stanley fired the guy for breaching their internal code of conduct.

    William Bryan Jennings, the banker whose assault and hate-crime charges over a dispute with a New York cab driver were dropped, was fired by Morgan Stanley and is now reportedly trying to get millions in deferred compensation denied him by his former employer [...]

    Jennings and his attorney did not immediately return a request for comment. An unnamed spokesman for Jennings told the Journal: “The issue is not Mr. Jennings’ conduct. The issue is Morgan Stanley’s conduct. Morgan Stanley knew Mr. Jennings was victimized and still fired him and still kept his money.”

    A spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley provided a statement:

    “While we cannot comment on specific instances or individuals, the claw back provisions in our compensation model allow us to take action where appropriate when an employee engages in conduct that is detrimental to the firm, including conduct that causes damage to the firm’s franchise and reputation, or creates a situation in which the Firm suffers losses or is exposed to excessive financial or regulatory risks.”

    This seems like a case of just desserts, and it is. But the flip side of this is that Morgan Stanley saw the opportunity to deny compensation to one of their executives after he embarrassed the firm, and they made it a pretty good deal for them by clawing back as much as $5 million in compensation. The firm did not suffer any losses from this sorry tale, let’s be honest. But Morgan Stanley can use that for their own financial advantage.

    So this is the perfect Wall Street story: entitled, self-absorbed assholes, the fecklessness of the justice system, and firms taking any opportunity to make money off the exchange.

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 06:49 AM

    21. I don't think I can stand to read or post any more bad news


    after all, it's Christmas Eve:


    “A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

    “Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

    He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

    “Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?”

    “I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

    “Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”

    Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.”

    “Don’t be cross, uncle!” said the nephew.

    “What else can I be,” returned the uncle, “when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

    “Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.

    “Nephew!” returned the uncle sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”

    “Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.”

    “Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!”


    “You’ll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge.

    “If quite convenient, sir.”

    “It’s not convenient,” said Scrooge, “and it’s not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you’d think yourself ill-used, I’ll be bound?”

    The clerk smiled faintly.

    “And yet,” said Scrooge, “you don’t think me ill-used, when I pay a day’s wages for no work.”

    The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

    “A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. “But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.”


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    Response to Demeter (Reply #21)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 06:50 AM

    22. May the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future Visit Our Scrooges


    and save capitalism from itself.

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 06:57 AM

    23. Merry Christmas my Dear Friends!

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 06:58 AM



    NEW YORK (AP) -- Shoes are coming out of the closet and landing under the Christmas tree. They're a top seller this holiday season - a big feat considering most years they don't even make gift lists.

    Laranda Williams, 39, used to buy clothing, tools and electronics as presents for her family. This year, though, she looked at their feet and got inspired. She bought some Vans sneakers for one of her sons, two pairs of stilettos for a girlfriend of another son, and Nike running shoes for her husband.

    "Electronics and clothing get redundant," said Williams, who lives in Clarksville, Tenn. "Shoes are just the wow. I know they're going to use it, and I know they're going to love it."

    The shoe-gifting fetish is part of a larger trend of shoppers buying loved ones gifts that they not only like, but also can use. It's this habit of practicality that Americans have been clinging to throughout the economic downturn.

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 07:45 AM



    SEATTLE (AP) -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reached its highest number yet of companies audited for illegal immigrants on their payrolls this past fiscal year.

    Audits of employer I-9 forms increased from 250 in fiscal year 2007 to more than 3,000 in 2012. From fiscal years 2009 to 2012, the total amount of fines grew to nearly $13 million from $1 million. The number of company managers arrested has increased to 238, according to data provided by ICE.

    The investigations of companies have been one of the pillars of President Barack Obama's immigration policy.

    When Obama recently spoke about addressing immigration reform in his second term, he said any measure should contain penalties for companies that purposely hire illegal immigrants. It's not a new stand, but one he will likely highlight as his administration launches efforts to revamp the nation's immigration system.

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 07:52 AM

    26. US fiscal cliff: Boehner still hopes for deal


    Republicans will keep working to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff of tax rises and spending cuts, House Speaker John Boehner has said.

    Earlier, right-leaning Republicans rejected a plan by Mr Boehner to raise taxes on higher earners.

    Mr Boehner said "significant spending cuts and real tax reforms" were needed.

    President Barack Obama said he believed a deal could still be done to beat the 1 January deadline, and called for everyone to "give a little bit".

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 07:55 AM

    27. News Corporation says publishing arm lost $2.1bn


    News Corporation says its publishing wing incurred a $2.1bn (£1.3bn) loss in the last financial year.

    Revenues fell 5%, partly as a result of the closure of the News of the World, which it stopped publishing after the phone-hacking scandal broke in the UK.

    The company detailed the losses as it formally applied to US regulators the Securities and Exchange Commission to split its business into two.

    News Corp plans to separate publishing from its film and TV business.

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 08:00 AM

    28. Norwegian minister Espen Eide urges UK caution on quitting EU


    Mr Eide said Norway had 'limited scope' in EU decision-making

    Norway's foreign minister has urged the UK to assess the advantages of staying in the European Union, rather than consider leaving.

    Norway is not in the EU but has access to the single market. UK Eurosceptics use it as a model for how the UK could relate to the EU from outside.

    But Foreign Minister Espen Eide said Oslo had "limited scope for influence".

    "We are not at the table when decisions are made," he told Radio 4's The World This Weekend.

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 08:06 AM

    29. Nobel Laureate Has Most Awkward Dinner Ever With Financial Advisers He Just Destroyed


    Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman claims in his book Thinking, Fast And Slow that the stock picking industry is built largely on an "illusion of skill."

    Among the evidence he gives is a study he did of a group of investment advisers. Kahneman analyzed their returns over eight years to see how consistently advisers performed over time. While he expected large variation in performance, he was surprised to see that the correlation was basically zero.

    "The results resembled what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill," he writes.

    How did the advisers respond to evidence of their uselessness? With the most awkward dinner party — and car ride — ever:

    On the evening before the seminar, [colleague] Richard Thaler and I had dinner with some of the top executives of the firm, the people who decide on the size of bonuses ...

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/daniel-kahneman-on-wealth-management-2012-12#ixzz2FyTACcLo

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 08:15 AM

    30. American Dream Fades for Generation Y Professionals


    After being dismissed from her job as a Midtown Manhattan securities attorney in October 2009, Christina Tretter-Herriger hitched a used horse trailer to her Dodge Ram pickup and drove 1,628 miles to Texas.

    The 32-year-old lawyer sold skin-care products in Houston before finding work as the assistant general counsel of a futures-trading firm where an irate customer punctuated a recorded voice-mail message with gunfire.

    “No one was left with the impression that he just happened to be phoning from a sporting clays range,” she says.

    Eighteen months and two busted jobs later, the daughter of a retired physician and a former editor at Vogue circled back to upstate New York and hunkered down at a small legal office that pays about one-quarter of her former $165,000 salary.

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 08:19 AM

    31. Greece Should Write Off Billions of Overdue Taxes, Report Says


    Greece should write off part of the 53 billion euros ($70 billion) of outstanding taxes owed to it as it will only be able to collect up to 20 percent of that amount, a report by the European Union and International Monetary Fund showed.

    More focus is needed on collection from the 1,500 biggest debtors, which make up two-thirds of the total amount owed to the state, according to an e-mailed copy of the November report from the Athens-based finance ministry today. More staff should be allocated to auditing those cases and specific targets for 2013 should be set, it said.

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 08:22 AM

    32. Song - The 12 Days of Trading

    On the 1st day of trading the markets gave to me, a spike from high frequency

    On the 2nd day of trading the markets gave to me, two blow off tops, and a spike from high frequency.

    On the 3rd day of trading the markets gave to me, three missed fills, two blow off tops, and a spike from high frequency.

    On the 4th day of trading the markets gave to me, four phantom bids, three missed fills, two blow off tops, and a spike from high frequency.

    On the 5th day of trading the markets gave to me, five boooo-yaaaaahs, four phantom bids, three missed fills, two blow off tops, and a spike from high frequency.

    On the 6th day of trading the markets gave to me, six Goldman upgrades, five boooo-yaaaaahs, four phantom bids, three missed fills, two blow off tops, and a spike from high frequency.

    On the 7th day of trading the markets gave to me, seven rouge traders, six Goldman upgrades, five boooo-yaaaaahs, four phantom bids, three missed fills, two blow off tops, and a spike from high frequency.

    On the 8th day of trading the markets gave to me, eight flash crashes, seven rouge traders, six Goldman upgrades, five boooo-yaaaaahs, four phantom bids, three missed fills, two blow off tops, and a spike from high frequency.

    On the 9th day of trading the markets gave to me, nine false breakouts, eight flash crashes, seven rouge traders, six Goldman upgrades, five boooo-yaaaaahs, four phantom bids, three missed fills, two blow off tops, and a spike from high frequency.

    On the 10th day of trading the markets gave to me, ten pumping analysts, nine false breakouts, eight flash crashes, seven rouge traders, six Goldman upgrades, five boooo-yaaaaahs, four phantom bids, three missed fills, two blow off tops, and a spike from high frequency.

    On the 11th day of trading the markets gave to me, eleven anchors rambling, ten analysts pumping, nine false breakouts, eight flash crashes, seven rouge traders, six Goldman upgrades, five boooo-yaaaaahs, four phantom bids, three missed fills, two blow off tops, and a spike from high frequency.

    On the 12th day of trading the markets gave to me, twelve double baggers, eleven anchors rambling, ten analysts pumping, nine false breakouts, eight flash crashes, seven rouge traders, six Goldman upgrades, five boooo-yaaaaahs, four phantom bids, three missed fills, two blow off tops, and a spike from high frequency.


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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 08:22 AM

    33. China Pledges Rural Reforms to Boost Incomes, Consumption


    China said it will better protect farmers’ land rights and boost rural incomes and public services to help narrow the divide with urban areas.

    The government will increase agricultural subsidies and ensure “reasonable returns” from planting crops, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Dec. 22, citing an annual work conference to set rural policy.

    The goals, which include increasing rural incomes by at least as much as those in urban areas, reflect a new leadership’s focus on reforming the land system and addressing wealth disparities as it encourages migration into towns and cities to boost consumption. Li Keqiang, set to take over from Wen Jiabao as premier in March, is championing urbanization as a growth engine.

    “A completely new policy approach is emerging under Li Keqiang,” said Yuan Gangming, a researcher in Beijing with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “It’s about giving farmers a bigger share from land deals, it’s about changing local governments’ reliance on revenues from land, and it’s ultimately about a fairer system of sharing China’s economic growth.”

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 09:41 AM

    35. THE VILLAGE PEOPLE -- N.O.E.L!!!111

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    Response to xchrom (Reply #35)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 10:00 AM

    36. Now that song puts on a Christmas smile!

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 10:28 AM

    38. Aries (3/21-4/19) horrorscope (could apply to any Democrat today)


    Are you losing your patience with someone? If it seems like they can't listen to reason, they may have made up their mind already. Maybe they refuse to see any alternatives. If you feel like you've hit a brick wall, then step back and stop hitting your head against it! Learn when enough is enough. If you can't deal with someone, you need to just work around them (or avoid them altogether). Some people just don't know how to work with others, and that is not your problem.

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    Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

    Mon Dec 24, 2012, 10:48 AM

    40. 'Twas The Night Before Christmas...In Boehnerville

    'Twas The Night Before Christmas...In Boehnerville

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