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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,639

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Greece and Creditors at Loggerheads Again; Troika Wants More Foreclosures

Greece and Creditors at Loggerheads Again; Troika Wants More Foreclosures
Posted on November 9, 2015 by Yves Smith

European creditors want to extract more blood from a stone, in this case Greece.

Greece and its lenders are again at odds over the latest “bailout” funds, which is €2 billion that was scheduled to be approved for release by the famed Eurobgroup (remember them? That’s all the Eurozone finance ministers) on Monday.

But a precondition for getting more dough was that Greece show enough “progress,” as in either have implemented or have committed to a sufficiently large number of “reforms”. “Reform” is Eurocrat-speak for austerian blood-letting. The creditors see Greece as coming up short.

As we’ve pointed out repeatedly in our coverage of Greece, the lenders are hell-bent on seeing Greece remake its economy in ways that are guaranteed to make their loans fail, or perhaps more accurately, produce even greater losses than if they allowed for more investment and spending, rather than insist on punitively high budget surpluses and other destructive measures.

Why this fixation on implementing failed policies? The reasons vary by actor, but they include: delusion (as in they believe austerity “works” as in makes economies better), political necessity/survival (governments that implemented austerity programs at high costs to their citizens can’t be seen to be letting the greatest profligate, Greece, get off easy), a fixation with morality (Greece must suffer pour decourager les autres). ......................(more)


Manufacturing Suspense: Big Money's Corporate Media Gatekeepers and the Primary Debate Spectacle

Manufacturing Suspense: Big Money's Corporate Media Gatekeepers and the Primary Debate Spectacle

Tuesday, 10 November 2015 00:00
By Candice Bernd, Truthout | News Analysis

Almost everything we know about the ongoing primary election contest is mediated through some kind of screen. And while the rise of new media has helped to partially shatter the one-way mirror effect of the traditional media, the major media conglomerates still exert enormous influence in negotiating the public's experience of the election process.

It's through this mediated screen that we are now seeing the Democratic presidential field narrow to three, and Hillary Clinton widening her lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa by a margin of nearly two to one among primary voters, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. She has also recently gained a small lead over Sanders in New Hampshire.

But Sanders' supporters have contended for months that the mainstream media coverage of his campaign has given him short shrift, dedicating much less coverage to his campaign overall and condescendingly dismissing his candidacy, despite his ability to draw large, excited crowds.

As Matt Taibbi recently argued, many in the mainstream journalism establishment set out to cover candidates with immature, high-school-like prerequisites for determining whether they are "electable." According to Taibbi, campaign-trail journalists have determined Sanders is "unelectable," arguing, among other obnoxious standards, that he doesn't "kiss enough babies."

Coverage of Sanders' campaign, has, in fact, been more scant in terms of quantity of stories on nightly newscasts and in major newspapers like the New York Times than Clinton's. While some media analysts say it might be reasonable that Clinton is covered more because she continues to lead in polls, that Martin O'Malley received more substantive coverage than Sanders in the run-up to the first Democratic debate on CNN seems implicitly prejudiced. .................(more)


Wichita, Kansas: Commissioner Says Privatizing Transit System Should be Option for City

Nov. 10--The chairman of the Sedgwick County Commission says the city of Wichita should be open to privatizing its struggling transit system.

Commissioner Richard Ranzau is recommending changes to the proposed Wichita-Sedgwick County Comprehensive Plan, which is intended as a guide to future growth and development.

Ranzau suggested less emphasis on bicycle and pedestrian transportation and a bigger emphasis on property rights. Those suggestions differ from the Wichita City Council's plans for transportation and community growth.

He said privatizing the public transit system should be given serious consideration. ...................(more)


Own a Vizio Smart TV? It’s Watching You

(ProPublica) TV makers are constantly crowing about the tricks their smart TVs can do. But one of the most popular brands has a feature that it’s not advertising: Vizio’s Smart TVs track your viewing habits and share it with advertisers, who can then find you on your phone and other devices.

The tracking — which Vizio calls “Smart Interactivity” — is turned on by default for the more than 10 million Smart TVs that the company has sold. Customers who want to escape it have to opt-out.

In a statement, Vizio said customers’ “non-personal identifiable information may be shared with select partners … to permit these companies to make, for example, better-informed decisions regarding content production, programming and advertising.”

Vizio’s actions appear to go beyond what others are doing in the emerging interactive television industry. Vizio rivals Samsung and LG Electronics only track users’ viewing habits if customers choose to turn the feature on. And unlike Vizio, they don’t appear to provide the information in a form that allows advertisers to reach users on other devices.

Vizio’s technology works by analyzing snippets of the shows you’re watching, whether on traditional television or streaming Internet services such as Netflix. Vizio determines the date, time, channel of programs — as well as whether you watched them live or recorded. The viewing patterns are then connected your IP address - the Internet address that can be used to identify every device in a home, from your TV to a phone. ...............(more)


Homeland Goes Rogue Against the Espionage Act

(The Intercept) ON SUNDAY EVENING, at around 9:30, a senior CIA official committed an egregious violation of the Espionage Act, leaking a cache of secret cables to someone who did not have clearance to receive them. The official now stands in breach of a draconian law the Obama Administration has used to win lengthy prison sentences against leakers and whistleblowers.

Of course the breach occurred in the latest episode of Homeland, so nobody is going to jail, unless manufacturing an implausible plotline is a federal crime. But the scenario that played out between Saul Berenson and Carrie Mathison on Sunday constitutes a welcome repudiation in popular culture of an abusive law, because Saul and Carrie are the heroes in this show, and heroes don’t do things that merit a 35-year prison sentence. While Homeland tends to be as reactionary as it is enjoyable, the latest twist puts Saul and perhaps Carrie into the same Espionage Act box as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Thomas Drake, Stephen Kim and John Kiriakou, all of whom have been charged under the law.

Yes, that means Saul Berenson is our new Edward Snowden, with the caveat that a compliant Saul was taken into custody in Berlin at the end of the episode, while the usually long arm of American law enforcement has not been able to touch Snowden, who lives in Russia. I wouldn’t be surprised if the show’s producers and writers, whose prior work is not infused with enthusiasm for left or libertarian causes, make the argument in a future episode that leaking classified documents for noble reasons is laudable only if you face the music like Saul. But let’s put that aside, because according to the Department of Justice, whether or not you surrender doesn’t lessen the impact of the dastardly things you have done to shred national security.

Although Sunday’s episode did not mention the Espionage Act, here’s how it comes into play. As the episode neared its end, Saul became convinced by Carrie, who herself is something of a fugitive, that the Russians had infiltrated the CIA. Carrie told Saul that she needs to see a cache of secret files that will give her the clues to expose the Kremlin’s perfidy. Carrie is of course no longer at the CIA, but once Saul came under suspicion as a turncoat for the Israelis and was abruptly deprived of his clearance, he surreptitiously accessed the agency’s computer system, downloaded the files, and then gave them to Carrie via the dashing billionaire she works for. .....................(more)


Juan Cole: In ‘Spectre,’ James Bond becomes Edward Snowden

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The latest entry in the Daniel Craig reboot of the James Bond film franchise, Spectre , turns Bond into more muscular version of Edward Snowden, as he takes down a vast 9-nation attempt at electronic surveillance and information-sharing that would also benefit a criminal cartel.

Tooling around the reviews, it strikes me as remarkable that this theme seems to be being ignored. In part, reviewers may not wish to mix their entertainment with politics. But the Bond series has always been political. I argued that the second film in the Daniel Craig Quartet, “Quantum of Solace” (2008), turned Bond into a defender of the left-leaning, pro-peasant government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, as a reaction against Bush-Cheney neo-imperialism. Producer Michael G. Wilson was responsible at least in part for that Leftist Bond. From a show business family and the step-son of long-time Bond series producer Albert Broccoli, Wilson did a law degree at Stanford in the 1960s and was at a firm specializing in international law. As with “Quantum,” concern for law and the rights of ordinary citizens is at the heart of “Spectre.”

In the terms of the intelligence world, “Spectre” is an argument between old-fashioned human intelligence (Humintel) and signals intelligence (SIGINT). The script imagines an expansion of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing program of the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to “Nine Eyes,” adding in countries such as China and South Africa. This expansion is spearheaded by a mole within MI6, “C” (Andrew Scott), though it seems clear that “C” is a stand-in for the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Although the US National Security Agency became notorious for its lawlessness and massive reach after the Snowden revelations, GCHQ is even more unconstrained. Because internet communications bounce around the world before arriving at the recipient, many are routed through undersea cables across the Atlantic. These cables come up out of the water on the west coast of Britain, and GCHQ has put sniffers on them, scooping up petabytes of our information and data-mining it.

The government of David Cameron, and especially the crypto-fascist Home Minister Theresa May, have long engaged in massive domestic surveillance and now intend to implement the bulk collection and storage of information on all the websites a Briton visits. In addition, Cameron wants to outlaw consumer encryption of the sort Apple is now increasingly offering its customers (Apple can’t turn over information to the FBI or NSA because even it doesn’t have the encryption keys). It seems a little unlikely that any such encryption ban is possible. ................(more)


Intoxicating boom and terrifying bust.

Fed Trips over Eye-Popping Commercial Real Estate Bubble, Accidentally Looks, Sees “Early Signs” of “Search for Yield”
by Wolf Richter • November 10, 2015

[font color="blue"]Intoxicating boom and terrifying bust.[/font]

No one in his right mind plays in commercial real estate with their own money. Other people’s money is the key. Low interest rates make it happen. Banks are eager to lend. They repackage some of these loans into highly-rated Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities that yield-desperate investors are eager to gobble up, spreading the risk far and wide.

CMBS made the prior commercial real estate bubble possible, before it all blew up in 2008. And they’re making it possible now. When it doesn’t work out, as in 2008, it isn’t that much of a problem because other people’s capital gets destroyed.

And so prices have been bid up again over the years since the low of May 2009, and miracles have been performed after the crash, and construction cranes are dotting cities, and one of those forests of construction cranes must have triggered something funny in Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren. He opened his eyes and counted these cranes on a short walk in Boston, and for the first time saw what had been ballooning before him for years: a commercial real estate bubble.

Or at least now he admitted it, or a tiny part of it, rolled into a speech on Monday that confirmed, to the apparent shock of the stock market, which swooned, that December “could be the appropriate time for raising rates.” ..............(more)


Millennials Ditch Big Banks and Go Local With Their Money

(Bloomberg) Millennials are increasingly shunning big banks and going local with their money.

Community banks won with younger customers last year, netting a 5 percent increase in account holders ages 18 to 34, while credit unions recorded a 3 percent gain, according to data compiled by Accenture Plc. By comparison, large national and regional banks struggled to retain millennial clients -- losing 16 percent of them over the same period.

One reason: Bigger banks tend to charge more for retail services. There’s been an increase in fees for account maintenance, overdrafts, ATM withdrawals and other services at major financial institutions.

For Tommy Oakes, it comes down to price. The 24-year-old, who works on the sales team at Pay Simple, a Denver-based e-commerce company, began bank-shopping after graduating from college and picked USAA Federal Savings Bank. “They have no monthly fees,” he said. “They reimburse your ATM fees, and I can also bundle insurance and investments with them.” ......................(more)


Juan Cole: What Obama should tell Netanyahu this Week (But won’t)

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Far right Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is arriving in Washington, D.C., Monday, and will apparently ask the US to almost double its $3 bn. a year in aid to $5 bn.

Netanyahu has been a constant thorn in the US side and has done absolutely nothing for his supposed ally despite all the crises in the Middle East. The theory that Israel is a strategic asset for America in the region has never been more obviously bankrupt than now. If the major US policy goal is defeat of ISIL, Iran is the best US partner.

Obama launched two attempts to kickstart peace talks between Israel and Palestine, the first spearheaded by George Mitchell and the second by Secretary of State John Kerry. Netanyahu torpedoed them both. He stepped back from a settlement freeze right in the middle of the first round of talks in 2010. He and his cabinet went out of their way to humiliate Kerry during the last round. Netanyahu is very attached to all the Palestinian territory he has stolen and he does not intend to give any of it back (he has pledged no Palestinian state). But the Palestine officials can’t be seen to sign away the future of Palestinian children entirely, and so they had no proposal from the Israeli side that they could take back to their public.

Then there was Netanyahu’s long and viciously fought campaign to undermine Obama’s Iran negotiations, and, indeed, to countermand the president of the United States on US foreign policy. This was the most astonishing interference by another country in American politics since Britain launched the War of 1812 and burned down the White House. .............(more)


Where’s the Outrage Over the Beheadings in Saudi Arabia?

from truthdig:

Where’s the Outrage Over the Beheadings in Saudi Arabia?

Posted on Nov 9, 2015
By Bill Blum

By the time you read this column, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, Dawoud Hussein al-Marhoon and Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher may be dead.

In case you’ve never heard their names, they are young prisoners of conscience currently housed in solitary confinement at the notorious al-Ha’ir penitentiary in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They are waiting to be beheaded. In all likelihood, as is Saudi custom, no advance public notice of their executions will be given. We’ll learn of their demise only after the fact, via social media, or when the Saudi government officially announces that their sentences have been carried out.

Al-Nimr, al-Marhoon and al-Zaher are Shiite Muslims who were arrested without warrants at different times in 2012 for participating in pro-democracy protests in the country’s Eastern province during the Arab Spring uprising of 2011-2012. Al-Nimr and al-Marhoon were 17 years old when they were apprehended; al-Zaher was 16.

Although approximately 90 percent of the Saudi population consists of Sunni Muslims, the oil-rich Eastern province is predominantly Shiite. Relations between the two strands of Islam have never been good in Saudi Arabia, but tensions have reached a fever pitch in recent years. Branded as apostates by prominent Sunni clerics, the Shiites of Saudi Arabia are an oppressed and segregated minority, historically excluded from access to government services, jobs and leadership positions and often subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. ................(more)


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