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CONTRAST TO GREECE: Iceland is our modern Utopia

....To forget that the world is not a Greek tragedy in which the wheel of fate or of capital turns without regard to human reason is to deny reality. It is obvious that the wheel is moved by human beings. All that we can imagine being possible is as real as what the markets tell us is the reality. A sense of possibilities and the human imagination itself, recovered in Iceland, teach us that they are as true and real as the gargantuan necessity of capitalism. We just have to heed this call to discover the trap that is trying to make us believe in that necessity. There is no alternative, they declare. Perhaps some of those announcing sacrifices to us have bothered to check their map of the world?

Iceland has shown that our cartography contains more than they are telling us. That it is possible to dominate – and therein lies the principle of freedom – that ‘necessity’. Iceland, however, is not a model. It is one of the possibilities for doing things differently. The intent of the crowds in Iceland to build the future with their decisions and their imagination shows us the reality of an alternative. Because the possibility of doing things differently as proclaimed by the crowd is as real as the need to carry on doing things the same way that is demanded by capital. In Iceland they have decided not to let the shape of tomorrow be dictated by the tragic wheel of necessity. Will the rest of us continue permitting what is real to be defined by capital? Will we continue to surrender the future, the realm of the possible, and our imaginations to the banks, the corporations and governments that claim to be doing everything that can possibly be done?

MORE AT LINK http://www.presseurop.eu/en/content/article/1319821-iceland-our-modern-utopia

Weekend Economists Merry Little Christmas December 23-26, 2011

Well, what could we possibly feature this weekend?

What else? Our artistry will comprise carols and the Grand Masters' nativity of hope scenes. Our topic will be bringing Enlightenment (get it) to the world, and the change of the seasons.

I myself approach this season in every possible way except "religious". I sing in a Baptist choir, where the theme was that Xmas was nice, and the star was bright, but the whole point is the Cross (capital C) and Easter. A case of brutal torture and inhumane death--just the sort of thing to celebrate in a war-mongering culture!

Well, as a mother and a pagan at heart, I truly think birth is the whole point. The one true miracle, available to most people, and each birth is a promise, a potential, a gift. To a family, a nation, the world.


That's MY story, and I'm sticking to it.

The 99% Declaration


After Iceland’s economic collapse in 2008, the island nation decided it was time to write a new constitution, this one not based on its parent country of Denmark but rather made from the original ideas of its citizens. Iceland’s small population of 320,000 elected 25 assembly members from 522 ordinary candidates (including lawyers, political science professors, journalists, and many other professions), who in turn opened their process up to the public in an unprecedented fashion. The Constitutional Council was highly active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr, where they solicited comments and suggestions for the new government. On Friday July 29th, 2011, the Iceland parliament officially received the new constitution, comprised of 114 articles divided into 9 chapters. Set to be reviewed, and then put before vote for ratification by October 1st, the internet-assisted document marks a possible paradigm shift in governing. In the 21st Century, we’re writing our constitutions with social media...


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/09/iceland-crowdsourcing-constitution-facebook )


1. Elect one man and one woman from each of the 435 congressional districts in March 2012 plus six delegates from Washington,D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Territories. Voting will be online, possibly telephone and at local polling places.

2. Between March 2012 and July 2012, these delegates will draft a list of grievances. Candidates running in the primaries and general election will be called upon to state their positions on the issues being debated by the 876 delegates.

3. During the week of July 4, 2012, the 876 delegates will meet in Philadelphia at a National General Assembly to ratify and sign a final petition for a redress of grievances and solutions and plan a potential new independent party to run in the 2014 mid-term election.

4. The ratified petition for a redress of grievances shall be served upon all three branches of government and all candidates running for federal political office in 2012.

5. The National General Assembly will then wait a reasonable period of time for the 113th Congress, President and Supreme Court to act upon and redress the grievances listed in the petition. Political candidates in the 2012 election will be asked whether they support the petition.

6. If the grievances are not redressed and solutions implemented within a reasonable time, the National General Assembly will reconvene electronically or in person and organize a new independent political party to run for all of the 435 House seats and 33 Senate seats in 2014.





Po, you may be in business sooner than you think. They are literally crazy. This REEKS of GS.

Income inequality in the Roman Empire


Over the last 30 years, wealth in the United States has been steadily concentrating in the upper economic echelons. Whereas the top 1 percent used to control a little over 30 percent of the wealth, they now control 40 percent. It’s a trend that was for decades brushed under the rug but is now on the tops of minds and at the tips of tongues...Since too much inequality can foment revolt and instability, the CIA regularly updates statistics on income distribution for countries around the world, including the U.S. Between 1997 and 2007, inequality in the U.S. grew by almost 10 percent, making it more unequal than Russia, infamous for its powerful oligarchs.

The U.S. is not faring well historically, either. Even the Roman Empire, a society built on conquest and slave labor, had a more equitable income distribution...To determine the size of the Roman economy and the distribution of income, historians Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen pored over papyri ledgers, previous scholarly estimates, imperial edicts, and Biblical passages. Their target was the state of the economy when the empire was at its population zenith, around 150 C.E. Schiedel and Friesen estimate that the top 1 percent of Roman society controlled 16 percent of the wealth, less than half of what America’s top 1 percent control. To arrive at that number, they broke down Roman society into its established and implicit classes. Deriving income for the majority of plebeians required estimating the amount of wheat they might have consumed. From there, they could backtrack to daily wages based on wheat costs (most plebs did not have much, if any, discretionary income). Next they estimated the incomes of the “respectable” and “middling” sectors by multiplying the wages of the bottom class by a coefficient derived from a review of the literature. The few “respectable” and “middling” Romans enjoyed comfortable, but not lavish, lifestyles. Above the plebs were perched the elite Roman orders. These well-defined classes played important roles in politics and commerce. The ruling patricians sat at the top, though their numbers were likely too few to consider. Below them were the senators. Their numbers are well known—there were 600 in 150 C.E.—but estimating their wealth was difficult. Like most politicians today, they were wealthy—to become a senator, a man had to be worth at least 1 million sesterces (a Roman coin, abbreviated HS). In reality, most possessed even greater fortunes. Schiedel and Friesen estimate the average senator was worth over HS5 million and drew annual incomes of more than HS300,000...After the senators came the equestrians. Originally the Roman army’s cavalry, they evolved into a commercial class after senators were banned from business deals in 218 B.C. An equestrian’s holdings were worth on average about HS600,000, and he earned an average of HS40,000 per year. The decuriones, or city councilmen, occupied the step below the equestrians. They earning about HS9,000 per year and held assets of around HS150,000. Other miscellaneous wealthy people drew incomes and held fortunes of about the same amount as the decuriones.

In total, Schiedel and Friesen figure the elite orders and other wealthy made up about 1.5 percent of the 70 million inhabitants the empire claimed at its peak. Together, they controlled around 20 percent of the wealth. These numbers paint a picture of two Romes, one of respectable, if not fabulous, wealth and the other of meager wages, enough to survive day-to-day but not enough to prosper. The wealthy were also largely concentrated in the cities. It’s not unlike the U.S. today. Indeed, based on a widely used measure of income inequality, the Gini coefficient, imperial Rome was slightly more equal than the U.S...The CIA, World Bank, and other institutions track the Gini coefficients of modern nations. It’s a unitless number, which can make it somewhat tricky to understand. I find visualizing it helps. Take a look at the following graph.


Gini coefficient of inequality

To calculate the Gini coefficient, you divide the orange area (A) by the sum of the orange and blue areas (A + B). The more unequal the income distribution, the larger the orange area. The Gini coefficient scales from 0 to 1, where 0 means each portion of the population gathers an equal amount of income and 1 means a single person collects everything. Schiedel and Friesen calculated a Gini coefficient of 0.42–0.44 for Rome. By comparison, the Gini coefficient in the U.S. in 2007 was 0.45....Schiedel and Friesen aren’t passing judgement on the ancient Romans, nor are they on modern day Americans. Theirs is an academic study, one used to further scholarship on one of the great ancient civilizations. But buried at the end, they make a point that’s difficult to parse, yet provocative. They point out that the majority of extant Roman ruins resulted from the economic activities of the top 10 percent. “Yet the disproportionate visibility of this ‘fortunate decile’ must not let us forget the vast but—to us—inconspicuous majority that failed even to begin to share in the moderate amount of economic growth associated with large-scale formation in the ancient Mediterranean and its hinterlands.” In other words, what we see as the glory of Rome is really just the rubble of the rich, built on the backs of poor farmers and laborers, traces of whom have all but vanished. It’s as though Rome’s 99 percent never existed. Which makes me wonder, what will future civilizations think of us?


Scheidel, W., & Friesen, S. (2010). The Size of the Economy and the Distribution of Income in the Roman Empire Journal of Roman Studies, 99 DOI: 10.3815/007543509789745223

Plan B – How to Loot Nations and Their Banks Legally By David Malone MUST READ!!


Does anyone think that if our governments fail to keep to their austerity targets and fail to keep bailing out the banking sector, that the banks will just shrug and say, “Well, thanks for trying” and accept their fate? Or do you think the banks might have a Plan B of their own?

First let’s be clear about Plan A. That plan is to enforce an era of long-term austerity cuts to public services, in part to cut public expenditure so as to free up money for spending on the banks, but perhaps more importantly to further atrophy public services so that private providers can take over. A privatization of services which will bring great profits and cash flow to the private sector and to the banks who finance them, and a further general victory for those who feel that private debts rather than public taxes should be what underpins our national life and social contract. Plan A therefore requires that governments convince their populace that private debts should be taken on to the public purse and that once taken on, the contracts signed by governments on behalf of the tax payers/citizens, are then sacrosanct and above any democratic change of mind. If governments can hold their peoples to this,then the banks are ‘saved’ with the added bonus that democracy and the ‘Rights’ it once guaranteed will all have been redefined as subordinate to finance and its contracts, and our citizenship will have become second to one’s contractual place in a web of private debts. Debts to the private lenders will become more important than taxes to the public exchequer. And as they do the State will wither away, leaving free-market believers and extreme libertarians exactly where they have always wanted to be – in charge – by dint of being rich. It is, in my view, a bleak future which I once described as A Toxic Debt Wasteland.

BUT it does all depend on governments being able to suppress discontent and to outlaw opposition in the sense of saying to people you may disagree but we have now declared these debts and their repayment to be outside democratic control and immune to any attempt to rescind or repudiate the agreed debt contracts. As the severity of the austerity cuts to social services (health, education, pensions etc) becomes painfully clearer to people and the ‘necessity’ for them is ‘regretfully’ extended year after year, it will become harder and harder to justify, let alone impose, such suffering. We will enter an era of vicious sectarian blame. We are already in it, but it will get much darker. The banks and those whose wealth and power is tied to them, would obviously prefer Plan A to succeed. It makes governments do all the dirty work and it would profit the banks far more in the long run. If you want to bleed a man – kill him and you get about 5 litres/quarts. But strap him to a gurney with a catheter in his arm and a drip feed in his nose, and he will bleed for you for as long as his system can stand it. That is Plan A. But what if it fails?

I cannot believe the banks, with everything at stake, have not thought it prudent to have a plan B. So here are my thoughts on what that plan could be. Let me say now, I do not think this plan was a long term conspiracy. I do not think the end game was in mind when the first elements were put in place. It has, I think, been constructed opportunistically. But the end result is no less dark and threatening....What I offer from here on is thinking out loud. I obviously have no proof at all that there is a plan B. All I can hope to do is show you the elements which I think could make a Plan B for the banks. Then my argument is that if the mechanism I describe could work, if I have not simply misunderstood something, then I think the banks will surely have thought of it before me. And so it either already exists or it will. I think there are scraps of information that suggest it does exist and the collapse of MF Global might even be the first example of Plan B in action. The MF Global case certainly contains all the clues. MF Global imploded when it could not get the short term funding it needed. There were two kinds of funding MF Global relied upon for its liquidity/cash flow: repo and hypothecation. For those not familiar, Repo is when a bank or brokerage ‘sells’ an asset for cash but with the agreement that it will re-purchase – hence ‘repo’ – the asset at an agreed date for an agreed price. It is not really a sale but a loan. Repo is the oxygen the financial world breathes. Repo is a $10 Trillion market...The other main source of the essential short term funding was Hypothecation. This is when a bank or brokerage pledges an asset to a ‘lender’ in return for cash but the asset remains in the possession of the borrower. What the ‘lender’ gets is hypothetical control of the asset. Although the asset never actually changes hands, the new ‘owner’s’ hypothetical control of the asset allows her to do what she wishes with the asset. Including re-hypothecating the asset to another bank or brokerage. If she does so then the hypothetical control passes to yet another ‘owner’. Even though physically it remain where it started.

Like repo – hypothecation and re-hypothecation are truely massive parts of modern debt-based banking. So the first thing the MF Global case tells us is that what happened is not due to some peripheral, parochial rogue trader-esque, isolated problem. What happened was as a result of a mechanism right at the very heart of the financial system. In the MF Global collapse what ZeroHedge, and following them, I and others wrote about, was the way in which not only did MF Global go bankrupt, but so also did some of their clients when they found the money they thought MF Global was holding for them, went unaccountably missing. Client’s money went missing because it was ‘mingled’ with the brokerage’s money when it should not have been. Brokers should keep them separate. But it seems in the ‘re-hypothecation’ of assets it was mingled. Former CEO of MF Global, Mr Corzine has sworn under oath he knew nothing about his co-mingling nor the irregularities with his company’s re-hypothecation. It has been rumoured the client’s money may now be, possibly, in the hands of JP Morgan. This hint of illegality has grabbed everyone’s attention. But I think it is actually the legal part of the story not the possibly illegal part which is by far the more important. In my opinion the key to the bank’s Plan B is in understanding why any money/assets were taken from MF Global after it had gone bankrupt and how exactly it went under in the first place. We all know MF Global had huge holdings of dicey European sovereign debt. But those debts have not become worthless so what caused MF to collapse? ...The answer to all these questions lie in a change to Bankruptcy laws that happened around the world between 2002 and 05. This might seem like a detour into nerd city but it is not. It is the key. When a company declares bankruptcy there is what the Americans call an ‘automatic stay’, which means all the assets left in a company at the moment it goes bankrupt are protected from the rush of creditor’s demands until appointed auditors can sort out who should get what. The automatic stay prevents a first come first served disorderly looting where those with the most muscle getting everything and everyone else getting nothing. As we are all painfully aware now, there is a legal pecking order to who gets paid before who, with Senior bond holders at the top. But, in America culminating in 2005 with the passage of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA) the order was changed. And that change is the crucial event. At the time the law was being passed few were aware of this change and even fewer were aware of how important it would become. At the time the furore was all about changes to personal bankruptcy. The Credit Card industry (AKA Banks) had spent more than a decade and its rumoured as much as $100 million lobbying to make bankruptcy much harder and more punitive for ordinary debtors...


....I am sorry this has been such a long piece but I wanted you to see exactly how I came to this because I hope you can show me how I am wrong. Please do so politely and I will go downstairs and celebrate my stupidity with a cup of tea, before apologizing to you all. I would very much like to be wrong...But if I am not wrong, then the banks have created a financial Armageddon looting machine. Their Plan B is a mechanism to loot not just the more vulnerable banks in weaker nations, but those nations themselves. And the looting will not take months not even days. It could happen in hours if not minutes. Our leaders would have only a few hours to decide who they would side with: the banks or us. The past four years give me no faith they would chose us.


David Malone is author of the "The Debt Generation". David has a career spanning nearly twenty years producing and directing documentaries for both the BBC and Channel4. His series Testing God was shortlisted for the Royal Television Society best documentary series and was described by The Times as "moving and startling - as close to poetry as television gets." For the last three years David has focused considerable attention on the financial system. His BBC documentary High Anxieties- The Mathematics of Chaos, first broadcast in September 2008, was one of the first films to be made about the financial crisis accurately anticipating the problems that were to unfold in the economy. The Debt Generation was published in November 2010.

David Malone on the Keiser Report


Thirteen Ways to Tax the Rich


...So far, the idea of taxing the rich has only been stated in general terms. In order for it to have impact, it must be further clarified, or else it will be misinterpreted by politicians pushing ideas which they will falsely claim would tax the rich - such as Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's phony 9-9-9 plan, or even Obama's "millionaires' tax." Here are 13 true, progressive tax-the-rich proposals:

1. Require Professional Investors to Bring Their Offshore Trillions Back to US Banks

About $4 trillion today is held in offshore tax havens by US investors, individuals and institutions in island nations such as Cayman Islands, Vanuatu, Seychelles, Isle of Man, Cyprus and others, and in more traditional havens such as Switzerland and Lichtenstein. The IRS has identified 27 of these, which it calls "special jurisdictions."

If just $2 trillion of that $4 trillion being held offshore was required to be redeposited in US banks, those investors would have to pay the 35 percent, top-bracket personal income tax on that money the first year. This new requirement would raise about $700 billion.

Future earnings on the remainder would also be taxed in the second to fifth years, yielding another $200 billion a year. Anyone refusing to repatriate funds could receive a 10 percent penalty after 90 days, followed by additional similar penalties. Countries that refused to cooperate should have their US-based assets frozen and taxed until they comply.

2. Require US-Based Multinationals to Repatriate Funds Hoarded in Offshore Subsidiaries

Multinational corporations today are hoarding between $1 and $1.4 trillion in their offshore subsidiaries, thereby refusing to pay the required 35 percent corporate tax rate. If they were required to repatriate just the lower amount, $1 trillion, it would raise $350 billion in the first year and another $140 billion a year in each of the next four years. A 50 percent tariff could be imposed on re-imported products produced offshore by any company refusing to repatriate these funds.

3. Incentivize Domestic Investment and Job Creation for Corporations Sitting on Trillions in Cash

Large US corporations today are hoarding between $2 and $2.5 trillion in cash and refusing to invest it in the United States, instead preparing to buy back stock, increase dividends or acquire other companies. US companies refusing to create jobs by domestically investing, within six months, at least one third of their current $2 trillion cash hoard would be taxed at a 15 percent surtax rate for the remaining six months of the first fiscal year. This measure would raise another $300 billion in tax revenue for the first year. The tax would repeat for those not investing their cash hoard in the subsequent second year at the same rate.

4. Implement a Financial Transactions Tax on Stocks, Bonds and Derivatives

At least $150 to $200 billion a year would be raised by implementing a financial transactions tax as follows:

$1.00 per every common stock trade for stock value traded $10,000 or less.
Add $100.00 for stock trades valued $10,000 to $100,000.
One percent tax on all trades worth more than $100,000.
One dollar for every $1,000 value for all forms of corporate bond sales, both investment and junk-grade bonds.
A similar charge for commercial paper transactions.
$1 per $100 notional value for all interest rate, currency and other derivatives trades, levied on each of the counterparties.
1 percent tax of notional value for all credit default swaps derivatives trades.

5. Raise Capital Gains, Dividends Tax and Restore Estate Tax to 1980 Levels

This proposal raises taxes on capital gains and dividends from the current 15 percent to the 35 percent rate that is currently levied on all top-bracket personal incomes. It would also tax carrying interest at the same rate, and require all hedge fund managers to pay 35 percent, instead of their current 15 percent. Estate tax rates and thresholds would be restored to 1980 levels. These measures raise at least $125 billion in the first year, as well as an additional $125 billion per year for the next four years.

6. End the Bush-Era Tax Cuts

The Bush tax cuts passed between 2001 and 2004 cost approximately $2.9 trillion over the last decade. Extending the Bush tax cuts for another decade will cost another $2.2 to $2.7 trillion. These extensions in 2010-2011 alone cost the US budget about $270 billion a year. Immediately suspending the Bush tax cuts for 2012, the second year, will save $270 billion.

7. Restore Top Personal and Corporate Tax Rates to 1980 Levels

Proposal 5 addresses only capital gains, dividends and estate tax rates within the broader personal income tax. Proposal 6 addresses revenue savings for only one more year, 2012. Proposal 6 includes revenue potentially raised from raising the top marginal income tax rate or the top marginal corporate income tax rate back to 1980 levels of 50 percent. It does not include numerous tax credits, exemptions, subsidies and other tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations.

Restoring the top marginal rates for the personal income tax in general and the corporate income tax to the 50 percent level in 1980, as well as raising capital gains and dividends to the 50 percent level would raise more than $100 billion more in tax revenue per year.

8. Stabilize State Revenues With a Business-to-Business 2 Percent Value-Added Tax (VAT

Consumers and households pay a significant sales tax to provide state government revenues. Businesses buying from other businesses should also pay an appropriate "business to business" sales tax on intermediate goods they buy from each other, just as households pay on final goods sales. The initial tax should be levied at half the consumer sales tax rate in the first year. After that, it should be scaled to an equal rate over a five-year period.

This business sales tax, a "value-added tax" only on intermediate goods sales, would in most cases fully stabilize state revenues.

9. De-Incentivize States' "Race to the Bottom" With a Relocation Tax

This tax would prevent states from competing with each other in a "race to the bottom" to lure companies from each other, which has been increasingly undermining state revenues for more than a decade. It would be a federal level tax designed to offset any tax advantage to a company from moving from its current state to another state.

Should the company relocate nonetheless, the revenue from the tax is earmarked for spending on job creation and job retraining for workers negatively affected by the relocation.

10: Increase the Social Security Payroll Tax on Wages and Salaries (Earned Incomes)

Currently, less than 85 percent of all wage earners pay up to the current top annual limit of $106,800. This imbalance occurred because wage income at the top wage levels above $106,800 has risen faster than the Social Security base increase.

This proposal would raise the limit to $250,000 a year and indexes future limits to inflation to recover the remaining 15 percent of earned incomes (wages) not paying the Social Security tax above $106,800.

This approach is sometimes called "scrap the cap." However, the full proposal here - "pay the same" - also calls for requiring an equivalent 6.7 percent tax on all capital incomes (dividends, interest, capital gains, rents) up to the $250,000.

"Pay the same" would not only stabilize current Social Security payments for the rest of the century, but would also create enough revenue to raise Social Security benefit payments by at least 20 percent above current levels.

11. Transform Social Security Into a True Social Insurance Tax

A 6.7 percent tax levied on all incomes (capital gains, dividends, interest, business rents, etcetera) up to $250,000 annually, and also indexed for inflation, would create an even larger Social Security surplus. It is called a "pay the same": payroll equivalent tax.

This plan would transform Social Security from a "payroll tax" to a true social insurance tax. The tax revenue raised would amount to additional hundreds of billions of dollars a year and stabilize the Social Security trust funds for the rest of the 21st century while simultaneously providing a 20 percent raise in monthly Social Security benefit payments for the 48 million current and future retirees.

12. Increase Medicare's 1.45 Percent Payroll Tax by 0.25 Percent

An initial 0.25 percent increase in the payroll tax - that's a combined 0.5 percent for employee and employer - for the next ten years provides all necessary funding to stabilize the Medicare system for ten years. Starting the 11th year, 2022, another 0.25 percent each tax increase is necessary. Thereafter, the 77 million baby boomers begin to decline as a cost factor and the costs of Medicare level off and then decline. So, a total tax increase of 0.5 percent over 20 years for both worker and employer totally covers the Medicare cost shortfalls. Those who consider this mere 1.7 percent tax for the next ten years unacceptable should consider that the typical employer-insured health care plan costs the equivalent of 30-35 percent of a worker's take-home pay today.

13. Tax the "Big-Four Parasite Industries": Banks, Oil, Health Insurance and Big Pharma

There are four industries that are sucking the economic lifeblood from the US economy at the expense of not only their workers (the bottom 80 percent households), but also of millions of smaller businesses. These industries "suck" superprofits out of the economy, away from wages and other businesses income. They are the most powerful in terms of both economic and political influence. They are the banks, the oil companies, the health insurance companies and the big pharmaceutical companies.

The excess prices they charge have been rising at double digits now for decades, allowing the big four parasites to reap superprofits at the expense of everyone else. An excess-profits tax equivalent to a minimum 10 percent of the gross profits or net income of the companies in these industries should be levied on the biggest companies in these industries. Those excess profits should be returned to consumers and small businesses as offsets for health care costs, gas and electric utility costs, and mortgage interest in the form of credits on annual federal tax returns.

The preceding proposals to "Tax the Rich" are excerpted from the recent pamphlet by Jack Rasmus, "An Alternative Program for Economic Recovery," recently produced for various Teamsters unions in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York. The longer pamphlet also includes proposals to restructure the banking and retirement systems in the United States, create 17 million jobs, save 11 million homeowners, and stabilize state and local government finances. For more information about the pamphlet, contact the author: . The pamphlet may also be ordered online.: http://www.kyklosproductions.com/


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Weekend Economists Going to the Dickens December 16-18, 2011

What the dickens did you say?

dick·ens n. Informal

1. A severe reprimand or expression of anger: gave me the dickens for being late.

2. Used as an intensive: What in the dickens is that? (Shakespeare used it in 'the Merry Wives of Windsor, 1600: I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had him of.)

3. Like the dickens (a lot)

4. a word used in exclamations of confusion; "the dickens you say"

This phrase has nothing to do with Charles Dickens. Dickens is a euphemism, specifically a minced-oath, for the word devil, possibly via devilkins. “What the dickens” has been around for over five centuries. In the old days, people refrained from using words like “hell”, “devil”, and “Satan” in their speech. They felt that if these words were uttered, their souls would immediately go to hell; as a result, they coined euphemisms for these words. “Dickens” was one of the words they came up with.

The expression “what the dickens” has the same meaning as “what the hell?” and “what the devil?” So when someone says, “Who the dickens are you?” what he is saying is, “Who the hell/devil are you?” According to some scholars “dickens” refers to Satan. One of the terms used to refer to the devil is “Old Nick”. Since “dick” rhymes with “Nick”, the word began to be used to refer to the devil. There are a number of expressions in the English language with the word “dickens”. Some are, “go to the dickens”, “raise the dickens”, “play the dickens” and “the dickens take you”.

BUT, being the perverse punster I am, we are going to THE Dickens himself, Charles Dickens, who left the Victorian era shaken AND stirred by his voluminous novels and one short, sweet story, the novella A Christmas Carol,

first published by Chapman & Hall on 19 December 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visits of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. The novella met with instant success and critical acclaim.

The book was written and published in early Victorian era Britain when it was experiencing a nostalgic interest in its forgotten Christmas traditions, and at the time when new customs such as the Christmas tree and greeting cards were being introduced. Dickens' sources for the tale appear to be many and varied but are principally the humiliating experiences of his childhood, his sympathy for the poor, and various Christmas stories and fairy tales.

The tale has been viewed as an indictment of nineteenth century industrial capitalism and was adapted several times to the stage, and has been credited with restoring the holiday to one of merriment and festivity in Britain and America after a period of sobriety and sombreness. A Christmas Carol remains popular, has never been out of print, and has been adapted to film, opera, and other media.


If, like me and every woman of my acquaintance, you are feeling no Christmas spirit, if the carols are getting on your nerves and like Handel's Messiah's sheep, you feel you have gone astray this year, let not one, not two, but 3 Christmas spirits bring you into the light of the season....

I'd like to point out that, immediately following the appearance of this tale, we have the publication of Engel's The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, and a string of revolts and revolutions around the globe in the tumultuous years of 1848 and beyond, up to the American Civil War, that ultimate labor revolt.

The Wheels of Justice Grind Slowly, But They Grind Very Fine

I predict:

Barack H. Obama will become a victim of signing this immoral, illegal usurpation of civil rights, as he will be a victim indefinitely detained, and probably tortured, when the right-wing gets the first opportunity.

Of course, an awful lot of the 99% will be victimized before him.

He thinks he and his will NEVER be threatened. He thinks he is special.

He is special, especially foolish. But then, that is THE defining characteristic of the 1%. He will be lucky if they leave his wife and daughters alone.

You know, being American USED to mean you WERE special. You weren't subject to the kind of abuse that millenia of the 99% were subjected to by their 1%ers. You had rights, and habeas corpus, and the rule of law, and independent judiciary, the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, the right to trial by a jury of your peers, etc.

He signs this bill, and we have NOTHING. And neither does Barack Obama.

Lehman Brothers: Financially and Morally Bankrupt


The lesson of Lehman Brothers' failures of fiduciary duty is that large-scale lending should not be entrusted to private banks.

Last week, federal court Judge James M Peck approved the final phase of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, which began with the investment bank's collapse on 15 September 2008. That bankruptcy, the largest in US history, precipitated the credit markets' disintegration that cascaded into the global economic meltdown that has deepened ever since. With roughly $450bn still owed by the bank, Judge Peck approved that Lehman Brothers has only $65bn left to settle creditors' claims. The latter must thus accept just over 14 cents for every dollar Lehman Brothers owed them. "Thieves," they are probably muttering.

Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy has revealed multiple layers of ramifying corruption and theft among global banks in the US and elsewhere, as well. Many juicy details are covered in the nine-volume court examiner's report of 11 March 2010. It documents the bank executives' mammoth misjudgments in their investment decisions, including their repeated violations of the basic banking principle not to borrow short-term and lend the proceeds long-term. The bank examiner shows misleading statements made about their activities and how they disguised Lehman's financial health and credit-worthiness. It appears that various legal and semi-legal mechanisms were used to manipulate their accounts, and otherwise violate the spirit and letter of laws and regulations....

....The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers opened a window on strategies and tactics of many large private banks around the world. The hows and whys of their catastrophic mishandling of their "fiduciary duties" – basically, to be fundamentally prudent and trustworthy in how they manage other people's money – stand revealed. They no longer deserve public trust. Yet, to date, the weak new rules and laws passed in the wake of the global crisis have changed little.

Lehman Brothers' collapse and its aftermath threatened global capitalism and not merely other big global banks. "Too big to fail" thus became those banks' slogan in demanding and obtaining the dominant influence over governments. After Lehman's collapse, governments bailed out those banks, no matter the cost. By borrowing vast sums to fund those bailouts, governments raised national debts to reduce the big banks' private debts. Hence today's European sovereign debt crisis....
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