HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Demeter » Journal
Page: « Prev 1 2 3 Next »


Profile Information

Gender: Female
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 01:04 PM
Number of posts: 85,373

Journal Archives

Hidden Government Scanners Will Instantly Know Everything About You From 164 Feet Away


Within the next year or two, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will instantly know everything about your body, clothes, and luggage with a new laser-based molecular scanner fired from 164 feet (50 meters) away. From traces of drugs or gun powder on your clothes to what you had for breakfast to the adrenaline level in your body—agents will be able to get any information they want without even touching you.

And without you knowing it.

The technology is so incredibly effective that, in November 2011, its inventors were subcontracted by In-Q-Tel to work with the US Department of Homeland Security. In-Q-Tel is a company founded "in February 1999 by a group of private citizens at the request of the Director of the CIA and with the support of the U.S. Congress." According to In-Q-Tel, they are the bridge between the Agency and new technology companies.

Their plan is to install this molecular-level scanning in airports and border crossings all across the United States. The official, stated goal of this arrangement is to be able to quickly identify explosives, dangerous chemicals, or bioweapons at a distance.

The machine is ten million times faster—and one million times more sensitive—than any currently available system. That means that it can be used systematically on everyone passing through airport security, not just suspect or randomly sampled people.


America the Beautiful: A Fire Sale for Foreign Corporations


...the unfolding business agreement among the US and eight Pacific nations -the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - should cause every US citizen, from the Sierra Club to the Tea Party to get their pitch forks and torches out of the closet and prepare to "storm the Bastille."

The TPP negotiations have been going on for two years under extreme secrecy, no information has been made available to either the press or Congress about the US position. But on June 12, a document was leaked to the watchdog group, Public Citizen, revealing the current US position and the reason for the secrecy. The contents are surreal, shocking and prima facia evidence for how corporations have become the master puppeteers of our government.

The leaked document reveals that the trade agreement would give unprecedented political authority and legal protection to foreign corporations. Specifically, TPP would (1) severely limit regulation of foreign corporations operating within US boundaries, giving them greater rights than domestic firms; (2) extend incentives for US firms to move investments and jobs to lower-wage countries; and (3) establish an alternative legal system that gives foreign corporations and investors new rights to circumvent US courts and laws, allowing them to sue the US government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for lost revenue due to US laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges or their investment "expectations."

Despite the North American Free Trade Agreement's (NAFTA) failures, corporations are arm-twisting the federal government to pursue trade agreements as inevitable and necessary for economic progress. But 26 of the 28 chapters of this agreement have nothing to do with trade. TPP was drafted with the oversight of 600 representatives of multinational corporations, who essentially gave themselves whatever they wanted; the environment, public health, worker safety, further domestic job losses be damned...

Can a Financial Transactions Tax Work in America? An FTT FAQ


What Are the Potential Benefits of an FTT?

An FTT accomplishes two goals. Most importantly, it raises money. Unlike most taxes, however, it does so in a way that is arguably beneficial to the economy as a whole. While most taxes involve some sacrifice from taxpayers in order to promote the common good, the FTT promotes the common good directly through the "positive externalities" it generates for the economy. Positive externalities are improvements to economic efficiency that result from changes in behavior. A well-designed FTT would discourage speculation and computer-driven high frequency trading in financial instruments. That would reduce market volatility and increase access to capital markets for ordinary borrowers and investors. Even if an FTT raised no money, it would still improve the economy.

What Are the Potential Drawbacks?

For bankers, brokers and high-frequency traders, there are many potential drawbacks to an FTT. Many of them might lose their bonuses and some of them might lose their jobs. Investment banking and financial trading in general would likely become less profitable. Some ultra-luxury industries that depend on huge bankers' bonuses, like yacht-building, fine watches, auctioneering and exotic travel could also suffer.

How Much Money Would Be Raised by an FTT?

It depends on the rate of the tax and what financial instruments are covered by the tax. In the United Kingdom, the FTT (called "stamp duty" applies only to trading in stocks and bonds and is set at 0.5 percent of the transaction amount. This tax raises over $5 billion per year, according to data from the UK Institute for Fiscal Studies. Since US stock and bond markets are about ten times the size of the UK's markets, a similar US tax would raise about $50 billion per year. The US Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that $43 billion per year would be raised by an FTT on stock trading alone. Stock and bond trading are only two kinds of financial transactions and, as new forms of financial instruments are created, they are becoming less important. A broad-based FTT that covers stocks, bonds, foreign exchange, commodities and derivatives could be expected to raise at least twice as much as an FTT on stocks and bonds only. The amount raised will depend on the specifics of the tax, but a realistic goal for a US FTT should be to raise at least $100 billion per year.

How Hard Would It Be to Collect Taxes Through an FTT?

The FTT is one of the easiest kinds of taxes to collect because it is collected centrally by large banks instead of taxpayer by taxpayer like most other taxes. According to the Economist magazine, it costs just 3 cents in administrative expenses for every $100 raised through the UK stamp duty, versus $1.42 for the personal income tax and $1.25 for the corporate income tax. "Stamp duty is one of the easiest taxes to administer," according to the LowTax.net web site based in the British Virgin Islands. Of course, LowTax.net views that as a problem: they think the British government will never give up its FTT because it is too easy to collect.

Wouldn't Banks Just Move Trading Overseas to Avoid Paying the Tax?

It depends how the tax is set up. A well-designed tax won't allow trading to be moved overseas, though banks are sure to lobby for a tax that would allow this....

HOW IT'S DONE: Secret panel can put Americans on "kill list' (OCTOBER)


American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials. There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House's National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate....The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss anything about the process.

Current and former officials said that to the best of their knowledge, Awlaki, who the White House said was a key figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate, had been the only American put on a government list targeting people for capture or death due to their alleged involvement with militants. The White House is portraying the killing of Awlaki as a demonstration of President Barack Obama's toughness toward militants who threaten the United States. But the process that led to Awlaki's killing has drawn fierce criticism from both the political left and right. In an ironic turn, Obama, who ran for president denouncing predecessor George W. Bush's expansive use of executive power in his "war on terrorism," is being attacked in some quarters for using similar tactics. They include secret legal justifications and undisclosed intelligence assessments.

Liberals criticized the drone attack on an American citizen as extra-judicial murder.

Conservatives criticized Obama for refusing to release a Justice Department legal opinion that reportedly justified killing Awlaki. They accuse Obama of hypocrisy, noting his administration insisted on publishing Bush-era administration legal memos justifying the use of interrogation techniques many equate with torture, but refused to make public its rationale for killing a citizen without due process.

Some details about how the administration went about targeting Awlaki emerged on Tuesday when the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, was asked by reporters about the killing. The process involves "going through the National Security Council, then it eventually goes to the president, but the National Security Council does the investigation, they have lawyers, they review, they look at the situation, you have input from the military, and also, we make sure that we follow international law," Ruppersberger said.



Weekend Economists Go For Broke July 6-8, 2012

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated...

A friend of mine, who doesn't drive highways, begged a ride of me tonight, and coming back we were diverted by a hazardous waste spill (first notice 8:40 AM, final cleanup and highway open 10:19 PM), and stopped for dinner. We are calling it our "vacation". Sigh.

So, it's 11 PM and the heat index is 95F. The air is supposedly "only" 84F. How long can this go on? They promis a break in the weather on Sunday. We shall see. Their predictions have been hit or miss lately.

We were going to explore the End of the World in film and literature (but not religion, I can't handle that that while the fires of hell are consuming my flesh and everything I've ever planted).

I think the best place to start is:

Don't forget your towel!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Krakafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Trall (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you—daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know of, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy).

See the videos, above

They are TERRIFIED of the masses getting any say, any power, any money, any control of resources or of their own lives.

Because unlike them (the perfect, noble, Ubermensch 1% Elite, created in their own image, vetted by elitist institutions and put in charge of the World at wet-behind-the-ears ages)

the masses are somewhat less than animals, who at least can be valued by the pound. Of course, the for-profit jails have made some people more valuable...

That's why they took away the houses. The pensions. The safety net. The jobs (and the benefits). And soon, social security itself.

That's why the camps were built. The borders sealed off to passports and Homeland Security. The law banning free travel to "suspected" tax evaders. Oh, and for the ladies, all the birth control and abortion confiscation they have planned.

FRSP is too good for them. They need extraordinary rendition, first.

Did John Roberts Give Mitt Romney A Gift? MUST READ


The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, puts me in mind of the old proverb: Be careful what you wish for. Democrats on a victory lap should watch their step, because John Roberts may have given Mitt Romney a gift. The impact on the health system will be much smaller than the political fallout, because with or without Obamacare, the American health system will continue to unravel -- quickly if Romney is elected, slowly if Obama is re-elected.

First the policy, then the politics:

Obamacare is simply incapable of doing what it is supposed to do -- provide nearly universal care at an affordable and sustainable cost.
The problem is that three years ago, in his futile efforts to win over Republicans (remember the embarrassing courtship of Olympia Snowe?), Obama gutted the law before it was even passed. He made the private insurance companies the linchpin of the new system, and promised them millions of additional customers and billions of taxpayer dollars. He also did nothing to rein in the profit-oriented delivery system that rewards providers on a piecework basis for doing tests and procedures. So with all the new dollars flowing into the system and no restraints on the way medicine is practiced, the law is inherently inflationary.

Although there are some provisions to curb the worst abuses of the insurance companies, such as excluding people with preexisting conditions, there is nothing in the law that would stop insurers from raising premiums. A senior executive of the industry's trade association, America's Health Insurance Plans, told me privately that that's exactly what the companies will do if regulations cut into their profits. Thus, costs under Obamacare will almost certainly rise even faster than at present. No reform can work well or very long if its costs are unsustainable.

In fact, it is unlikely that Obamacare will ever be fully implemented as it stands.
If Romney is elected, with a Republican Congress, it will be quickly overturned. If Obama is re-elected (and I hope he is, despite my disappointment in his health plan), it will come apart more slowly. But unravel it will, as costs rise and it becomes clear that there are still tens of millions of Americans priced out of the system...


The Barclays ethos infects our culture. Purge the entire board


If this is culture change, it's glacially slow. Five years after Northern Rock signalled a banking collapse that impoverished nations, there is no reckoning. Citizens are impotently angry but business as usual prevails. David Cameron emits halfhearted indignation: the banks will be semi-split, and not until 2019. Meanwhile, testosterone-fuelled silverbacks eat what they kill in under-supervised dealing rooms, skimming fortunes from everyone else's endeavour. So far the remedies are cough drops for cancer.

The biggest beast strides off with £100m, plus another possible £20m goodbye money. He is not struck off, nor abashed, not a bit. Is that a master of the universe, that charmless prevaricator with less self-awareness than an ape? These princelings' characters are malformed by a lifetime of courtiers' flattery. Politicians face hourly reminders that they are mortal, but not the denizens of the high towers of finance. The FSA signalled unease about the cultural failings of Diamond's leadership four months ago, yet the board clung on to him even after that £290m fine.

The Financial Times writer John Gapper quotes one ex-banker's thinking: "It would be a very good thing if an awful lot of people lost their jobs in a lot of banks." A purge would indeed send out shock waves. Firebrand Stelios Haji-Ioannou, a major shareholder in easyJet, had the right idea this week in calling for Sir Michael Rake's ejection from the airline's chairmanship, for his role on the Barclays board. If the entire board of Barclays was sacked, not just from the bank but banished from all their multiple other posts and banned from future directorships, consider what a healthy fright would shudder through every complacent institution infected with the Barclays culture, with so many Barclays directors on the boards of regulators and standard-setters...



Adam Curtis -- The Century Of The Self


Adam Curtis' acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty.

To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund's devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund's great grandson, Matthew Freud.

Sigmund Freud's work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society's belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man's ultimate goal.



France Pushing for a Maximum Wage; Will Others Follow?


A reader pointed out a news item we missed, namely, that the new government in France is trying to implement a maximum wage for the employees of state-owned companies. From the Financial Times:

France’s new socialist government has launched a crackdown on excessive corporate pay by promising to slash the wages of chief executives at companies in which it owns a controlling stake, including EDF, the nuclear power group.

In a departure from the more boardroom-friendly approach of the previous right-of-centre administration, newly elected president François Hollande wants to cap the salary of company leaders at 20 times that of their lowest-paid worker.

According to Jean-Marc Ayrault, prime minister, the measure would be imposed on chief executives at groups such as EDF’s Henri Proglio and Luc Oursel at Areva, the nuclear engineering group. Their pay would fall about 70 per cent and 50 per cent respectively should the plan be cleared by lawyers and implemented in full…

France is unusual in that it still owns large stakes in many of its biggest global companies, ranging from GDF Suez, the gas utility; to Renault, the carmaker; and EADS, parent group of passenger jet maker Airbus.

Of course, in the US, we have companies feeding so heavily at the government trough that they hardly deserve the label of being private, but the idea that the public might legitimately have reason to want to rein in ever-rising executive pay is treated as a rabid radical idea.

In July 2011, Doug Smith proposed a maximum wage, using a 25 to one ratio, for any enterprise that used taxpayer funds. I’d be curious to learn how this idea developed in France, since it would be helpful to know who this idea developed and what experts/research they relied on. From Doug’s post:

For those, however, receiving bailouts, deposit insurance, government guarantees, tax breaks, tax credits, other forms of public financing, government contracts of any sort – and so on – the top paid person cannot receive more than twenty-five times the bottom paid person. This ratio, by the way, is what business visionary Peter Drucker recommended as most effective for organization performance as well as society. It also echoes Jim Collins who, in his book Good To Great, found that the most effective top leaders are paid more modestly than unsuccessful ones. And, critically, it is a ratio that is in line with various European and other nations that have dramatically lower income inequality than the United States.

In other words, the French proposal isn’t that big a change from existing norms, at least in most other advanced economics (ex the UK, which has also moved strongly in the direction of US top level pay). But despite the overwhelming evidence that corporate performance is if anything negatively correlated with CEO pay, the myth of the superstar CEO and the practical obstacles to shareholder intervention (too fragmented; too many built in protections for incumbent management, like staggered director terms; major free rider problems if any investor tries to discipline extractive CEO and C level pay, which means it’s easier to sell than protest) means ideas like this are unlikely to get even a hearing in the US. Let the looting continue!
Go to Page: « Prev 1 2 3 Next »