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Demeter

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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

Organizers Worth Their Salt Jane Slaughter

http://labornotes.org/2014/02/organizers-worth-their-salt

Bosses hate a salt—a pro-union worker who’s taken a job with the intent to organize.

A few unions are recruiting salts these days, usually young people who apply for low-wage jobs in retail, hospitality, or logistics. But unions are reluctant to talk about salting, not wanting to alert management to look out for suspicious characters. In this article every worker will use a pseudonym and their situations will be disguised.

Former salt Kendra Baker says salting offers something the labor movement badly needs: a “space for young people to develop skills as workplace organizers.” The 2011 uprising in Wisconsin and the Occupy movement created “a lot of curiosity and enthusiasm about the labor movement,” she said.

Now coordinating a salting program, she stresses that salting ensures a union drive will have “a workplace-organizing component, to maintain a level of militancy on the shop floor and make sure the campaign is putting the workers first. Workers should be taking a lead on the messaging and on the goals and planning the actions.”

MORE

Big-Money Donors Demand Larger Say in Campaign Strategy (GOP)

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/02/us/politics/big-money-donors-demand-larger-say-in-party-strategy.html?hpw&rref=us&_r=0

The Republican donors who have financed the party’s vast outside-spending machine are turning against the consultants and political strategists they once lavished with hundreds of millions of dollars.

In recent months, they have begun holding back checks from Republican “super PACs” like American Crossroads, unsatisfied with the groups’ explanations for their failure to unseat President Obama or win back the Senate. Others, less willing than in the past to defer to the party elders and former congressional staff members who control the biggest groups, are demanding a bigger voice in creating strategy in exchange for their continued support.

Donors like Paul Singer, the billionaire Republican investor, have expanded their in-house political shops, building teams of loyal advisers and researchers to guide and coordinate their giving. And some of the biggest contributors to Republican outside groups in 2012 are now gravitating toward the more donor-centric political and philanthropic network overseen by Charles and David Koch, who have wooed them in part by promising more accountability over how money is spent.

“People are really drawn to the Koch model,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a New York hedge fund investor and Republican fund-raiser, who attended the Kochs’ annual donor conference near Palm Springs, Calif., in January. “It’s adaptive, data-driven, and they are the most propitious capital allocators in political activism.”


NOT GOOD NEWS...MORE AT LINK

The Year in Elections, 2013

https://sites.google.com/site/electoralintegrityproject4/data-1/expert-survey-2/the-year-in-elections-2013

In many countries, polling day ends with disputes about ballot-box fraud, corruption, and flawed registers. Recent cases such as Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia illustrate these controversies, undermining legitimacy and stability. There are disputes even in long-established democracies such as the US and Britain. But which claims are accurate? And which are false complaints from sore losers?

To address this issue, new evidence gathered by the Electoral Integrity Project compares the risks of flawed and failed elections, and how far countries around the world meet international standards. The EIP is an independent research project based at the University of Sydney and Harvard University, under the direction of Professor Pippa Norris.

This annual report evaluates all national parliamentary and presidential contests occurring in 66 countries worldwide holding 73 election from 1 July 2012 to 31 December 2013 (excluding smaller states with a population below 100,000), from Albania to Zimbabwe. Data is derived from a global survey of 855 election experts. The report includes 73 national parliamentary and presidential contests held worldwide in 66 countries. All continents and regions are represented. Immediately after each contest, the survey asks domestic and international experts to monitor the quality based on 49 indicators. These responses are then clustered into eleven stages occurring during the electoral cycle and summed to construct an overall 100-point expert Perception of Electoral Integrity (PEI) index and ranking...



... historical experience of democracy did not determine current levels of integrity; as shown in figure 3, the quality of elections was strong in several third wave democracies and emerging economies, including the Republic of Korea, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Lithuania, Argentina, and Mongolia. These countries are highly rated by experts although they only established multiparty systems and competitive democratic elections during the late-1980s and early-1990s.

By contrast, the United States ranked 26th out of 73 elections under comparison worldwide, the lowest score among Western nations, falling into the Moderate Integrity category.

After several years sniffing around the edges, and the Snowden revelations

I can feel sure that your post is much more fact than most are willing to admit. It will take time for the skeptics to come around, but rest assured, the 1% always overplays their hand, and those who don't see it now will have their noses and much more rubbed into it.

What too many on DU fail to realize is that there's been massive suppression and manipulation of the "permissible" news ever since the printing press began, and even earlier, when copyists were told what to copy and what to burn. The Internet, by giving everyone freedom of the press, has enabled a great uncovering of many deeply buried truths, as well as the propagation of many scabrous falsehoods.

By labelling sites "suspicious, bogus, alarmist, etc" some seek to continue the suppression of both acquisition of truth and critical thinking. The bogus will sort itself out, if it's given an airing. There's no need to suppress it.

Weekend Economists Examine the Root of All Evil: February 28-March 2, 2014

What could be more appropriate than thinking about money in the economy group?




King James Bible; 1 Timothy 6:10

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.


But usually not before they have pierced a whole lot of other people, first. The previous line is even more telling:

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy 6: 9



Other useful biblical sayings:


Psalm 62:10
Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.

Proverbs 15:27
The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live.

Ecclesiastes 2:19
And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.

Matthew 6:19
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.


It is a constant irony to me, at least, that the religions so obsessed with the evil of money should have followers legendary in their quest for wealth, earned or not. Perhaps the one follows the other?

It is a greater irony that when history is revised, most often it is the bankers who start the wars, not the average king or peasant.





Chris Hedges: Our Sinister Dual State

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/our_sinister_dual_state_20140216

... the former National Security Agency official and whistle-blower William E. Binney and I will debate Stewart A. Baker, a former general counsel for the NSA, P.J. Crowley, a former State Department spokesman, and the media pundit Jeffrey Toobin. The debate, at Oxford University, will center on whether Edward Snowden’s leaks helped or harmed the public good. The proposition asks: “Is Edward Snowden a Hero?” But, on a deeper level, the debate will revolve around our nation’s loss of liberty.

The government officials who, along with their courtiers in the press, castigate Snowden insist that congressional and judicial oversight, the right to privacy, the rule of law, freedom of the press and the right to express dissent remain inviolate. They use the old words and the old phrases, old laws and old constitutional guarantees to give our corporate totalitarianism a democratic veneer. They insist that the system works. They tell us we are still protected by the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Yet the promise of that sentence in the Bill of Rights is pitted against the fact that every telephone call we make, every email or text we send or receive, every website we visit and many of our travels are tracked, recorded and stored in government computers. The Fourth Amendment was written in 1789 in direct response to the arbitrary and unchecked search powers that the British had exercised through general warrants called writs of assistance, which played a significant part in fomenting the American Revolution. A technical system of surveillance designed to monitor those considered to be a danger to the state has, in the words of Binney, been “turned against you.”

We live in what the German political scientist Ernst Fraenkel called “the dual state.” Totalitarian states are always dual states. In the dual state civil liberties are abolished in the name of national security. The political sphere becomes a vacuum “as far as the law is concerned,” Fraenkel wrote. There is no legal check on power. Official bodies operate with impunity outside the law. In the dual state the government can convict citizens on secret evidence in secret courts. It can strip citizens of due process and detain, torture or assassinate them, serving as judge, jury and executioner. It rules according to its own arbitrary whims and prerogatives. The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are hollow, political stagecraft. Fraenkel called those who wield this unchecked power over the citizenry “the prerogative state.”

MORE DEPRESSING REVELATIONS AT LINK

Ukraine would have more freedom and more money by going Crowd-Sourcing

People could decide for themselves if a regime was worthy, or if a people were legitimately in need.

Then the Banksters and Gangsters and Political Tools would be out of luck, and have no toehold.

And the money would have no strings--except they better spend it right, or no one will donate to them again!

Still Broken Five Years Later by MIKE WHITNEY

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/21/still-broken-five-years-later/



“The repo market wasn’t just a part of the meltdown. It was the meltdown.”

– David Weidner, Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2013.

Ask your average guy-on-the-street ‘what caused the financial crisis’, and you’ll either get a blank stare followed by a shrug of the shoulders or a brusque, three-word answer: “The housing bubble”. Even people who follow the news closely are usually sketchy on the details. They might add something about subprime mortgages or Lehman Brothers, but not much more than that. Very few people seem to know that the crisis began in a shadowy part of the financial system called repo, which is short for repurchase agreement. In 2008, repo was ground zero, the epicenter of the meltdown. That’s where the bank run took place that froze the credit markets and sent the financial system into freefall. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to fix the problems in repo, which means that we’re just as vulnerable today as we were five years ago when Lehman imploded and all hell broke loose. Repo is a critical part of today’s financial architecture. It allows the banks to fund their long-term securities cheaply while giving lenders, like money markets, a place where they can park their money overnight and get a small return. The entire repo market is roughly $4.5 trillion, although the more volatile tri-party repo market is around $1.6 trillion. (Note: That’s $1.6 trillion that’s rolled over every day.)

Repo works a lot like a pawn shop. You bring your rusty bike and your imitation Van Gogh “Starry Night” to Rosie’s E-Z-Pawn, and the guy with the gold earring behind the counter gives you 15 bucks in return. That’s how repo works too, the only difference is that repo is a loan. The banks post collateral –mostly pools of mortgages (MBS) or US Treasuries– and get overnight loans from a cash-heavy lenders, like money markets, insurance companies or pension funds. Borrowers repay the loan with interest added to the original sum. The problem that arose in 2008, and that will likely crop up in the future, was that the value of the underlying collateral (subprime MBS) was steadily downgraded forcing the banks to take steep haircuts. (which means they couldn’t borrow as much on their collateral) The bigger the haircuts, the less money the banks had to fund their securities which forced them to sell assets to make up the difference. When banks and other financial institutions deleverage quickly, asset prices plunge and capital is wiped out forcing the Fed to step in and backstop the system to prevent a full-blown meltdown. And that’s exactly what the Fed did in 2008. It slashed rates to zero, set up myriad lending facilities and provided unlimited backing for both regulated and unregulated financial institutions. It was the biggest financial rescue operation of all time and it cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 to 13 trillion dollars in loans and other guarantees. Under the provisions of the Dodd Frank financial reforms, the Fed is forbidden from carrying out a similar bailout in the future, although you can bet-your-bippy that Yellen and Co. will bend the rules if there’s another catastrophe.

Fixing repo is not a left-right issue. Among the people who follow these things, there is general agreement about what needs to be done to make the system safer. Even New York Fed President William C. Dudley –who’s no “liberal” by any stretch–admits that the system is broken. In October, 2013, at a bank conference Dudley opined, “Current reforms do not address the risk that a dealer’s loss of access to tri-party repo funding could precipitate destabilizing asset fire sales, whether by the dealer itself, or by the dealer’s creditors following a default.” In other words, the chances of another 5-alarm fire sometime in the future are pretty darn good. Dudley’s description of what happened during the acute phase of the crisis is also worth reviewing. He said:

“Higher margins on repo and increased collateral calls due to credit ratings downgrades reduced the quantity of assets that could be financed in repo markets and elsewhere, prompting further asset sales. As wholesale investors started to exit, this set in motion a bad dynamic—a fire sale of assets that cut into earnings and capital. This just increased the incentives of investors to run and for banks to hoard liquidity against the risk that they could themselves face a run. This downward spiral of fire sales and funding runs was a key feature of the financial crisis …”


And, that, dear reader, is a first-rate account of what happened in 2008 when panic gripped the markets and the dominoes started to tumble. Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s version of events is also worth a look if only because he describes the crash in terms of what it really was, a modern day bank run. Here’s what he said:

“What was different about this crisis was that the institutional structure was different. It wasn’t banks and depositors. It was broker-dealers and repo markets. It was money market funds and commercial paper.”


While most analysts agree about the origins of the crisis and the type of changes that are needed to avoid a repeat, the banks have blocked all attempts at reforming the system. But, why? It’s because the reforms would cost the banks more money, and they don’t want that. They’d rather put the entire system at risk, then cough up a little more dough to make repo safer. Here’s how the New York Fed summed it up in a paper titled “Shadow Bank Monitoring”:

“One clear motivation for intermediation outside of the traditional banking system is for private actors to evade regulation and taxes. … Regulation typically forces private actors to do something which they would otherwise not do: pay taxes to the official sector, disclose additional information to investors, or hold more capital against financial exposures. Financial activity which has been re-structured to avoid taxes, disclosure, and/or capital requirements, is referred to as arbitrage activity.” (“Shadow Bank Monitoring”, Federal Reserve Bank of New York Staff Reports, September, 2013)


That says it all, doesn’t it? They don’t want to pay taxes, they don’t want to hold capital against their collateral, and they want to continue to run their businesses in the shadows so nosy shareholders and regulators can’t see what the heck they’re up to. So, what else is new? The banks are running a crooked, black box operation, and they aim to keep it that way come hell or high water. The banks can’t be reasoned with, that’s obvious from the position they’ve taken. They’ve put profits above everything, even the viability of the system. How can you reason with people like that? Just get a load of what the New York Fed said on the matter:

“Intermediaries create liquidity in the shadow banking system by levering up the collateral value of their assets. However, the liquidity creation comes at the cost of financial fragility as fluctuations in uncertainty cause a flight to quality from shadow liabilities to safe assets. The collapse of shadow banking liquidity has real effects via the pricing of credit and generates prolonged slumps after adverse shocks.”


This sounds more complicated than it is. What the Fed is saying is: “Hey, guys, you’re creating all this fake money (credit) by loading up on leverage (borrowing), and that’s pushing us closer to another crisis. Once the money markets figure out that all those nifty subprime CDOs you’ve been trading for overnight loans aren’t worth Jack-crap, then they’re going to cut you off at the knees and move into risk-free assets like US Treasuries. So why don’t you wise-the-hell-up, and start playing by the rules like everyone else so we don’t have to deal with another big, freaking meltdown. Okay?”

(Of course, I’m paraphrasing here.)

The only way to fix repo is by backstopping collateral with more capital, forcing all trading onto central clearing platforms (where regulators can see what’s going on), and regulating shadow banks like traditional, commercial banks. The editors at Bloomberg said it best nearly a year ago. They said: ” If an entity engages in banking activity… it must register as a bank, with all the backstops and capital requirements that entails.”

Right on.

If we’re not going to nationalize the banks and turn them into public utilities, which is what we should have done in 2009 when we had the chance, then we need to put safeguards in place to keep them from crashing the system every few years. Regulate, Regulate, Regulate. That’s the ticket. Stricter regulations could have prevented the last crisis, and stricter regulations can prevent the next one. It’s just a matter of finding the political will to get the job done.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

Anatomy of the Deep State by Mike Lofgren

http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/21/anatomy-of-the-deep-state/

Rome lived upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face. Industry is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By day the Ostia road was crowded with carts and muleteers, carrying to the great city the silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia Minor, the timber of the Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt; and the carts brought out nothing but loads of dung. That was their return cargo.

– The Martyrdom of Man by Winwood Reade (1871)


There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.

During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case, and I have been among the harshest critics of this development. But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system. On one level, the critique is self-evident: In the domain that the public can see, Congress is hopelessly deadlocked in the worst manner since the 1850s, the violently rancorous decade preceding the Civil War.

As I wrote in The Party is Over, the present objective of congressional Republicans is to render the executive branch powerless, at least until a Republican president is elected (a goal that voter suppression laws in GOP-controlled states are clearly intended to accomplish). President Obama cannot enact his domestic policies and budgets: Because of incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, he could not even get his most innocuous presidential appointees into office. Democrats controlling the Senate have responded by weakening the filibuster of nominations, but Republicans are sure to react with other parliamentary delaying tactics. This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.

Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented — at least since the McCarthy era — witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory. Despite the habitual cant of congressional Republicans about executive overreach by Obama, the would-be dictator, we have until recently heard very little from them about these actions — with the minor exception of comments from gadfly Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, save a few mavericks such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, are not unduly troubled, either — even to the extent of permitting seemingly perjured congressional testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance...

AN IMPORTANT ANALYSIS....MUST READ

There Are Whales Alive Today Who Were Born Before Moby Dick Was Written

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/there-are-whales-alive-today-who-were-born-before-moby-dick-was-written-660944/

FASCINATING READ!
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