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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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Investors Warned: Forget Fossil Fuels

This piece first appeared at Climate News Network.

OXFORD—The head of a global philanthropic foundation says that the world turning away from fossil fuels is a critical moment in human history, akin to the abolition of slavery.

Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the US-based Wallace Global Fund, told a packed conference in Oxford, UK, this week: “We are right in the middle of a transition— not to try to curb the burning of the fuels, but to end the fossil fuel industry altogether. The industry will be one for the history books, much like slavery”

The conference, organised by the Divest Invest movement, was held to assess progress in convincing the financial sector that it will lose its money if it continues to invest in fossil fuels.

The movement involves 500 organizations—with a combined wealth of more than $3.4 trillion—that have already pledged to divest from fossil fuels and invest in climate solutions. ............(more)


How Bernie Sanders Can Harness the Kind of Momentum Transforming British Politics

[font size="1"]Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn's campaign helped launch a progressive movement in British politics. (Robert Stothard / Getty Images)[/font]

How Bernie Sanders Can Harness the Kind of Momentum Transforming British Politics
British activists could offer lessons for Americans who are feeling the Bern about how to transition from a political campaign to a long-term, mass movement.

BY Kate Aronoff

This article first appeared at Waging Nonviolence.

After a string of recent primary victories, Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign has a fair amount of momentum behind it. Still, many are asking what comes next, and how to carry the political revolution forward—whether he wins the Democratic nomination or not.

Lessons for Sanders might come from the movement that formed around another white-haired progressive challenger to the political establishment: British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Riding the wave of his country’s emergent social movements, Corbyn’s rise to the top of the party last summer marked a break with Tony Blair’s “New Labour” brand. It also christened a new generation of Labour Party activists, eager not just for a better candidate but a new kind of politics.

Formed just weeks after Corbyn’s election, the grassroots organization Momentum is channeling the energy of Corbyn’s campaign into “a mass movement for real transformative change.” Over a hundred local groups are now running campaigns at the local level and pushing for a more democratic Labour Party, holding a mix of rallies, town hall-style meetings and pop-up political education events.

To learn more about Momentum and what it might mean for the future of the Sanders campaign, I spoke with James Schneider, a national organizer with Momentum and a journalist who’s been involved with the group since its formation.

Where did Momentum come from? Why did it start?

In the simplest form, Momentum is the continuation of the Corbyn campaign. Over the course of three months last summer, the left of the Labour Party went from being tiny and much-maligned to a popular movement. Party membership doubled. It’s nothing in comparison to Sanders’s half-million volunteers, but by the end of the campaign we had 17,000 activists throughout the country. In the United Kingdom that’s massive. It was bigger than the three other campaigns combined, and it had a popular political energy that hadn’t been seen for some time. ...............(more)


The War on Savings: The Panama Papers, Bail-Ins, and the Push to Go Cashless

The War on Savings: The Panama Papers, Bail-Ins, and the Push to Go Cashless

Posted on Apr 13, 2016
By Ellen Brown / Web of Debt

The bombshell publication of the “Panama Papers,” leaked from a Panama law firm specializing in shell companies, has triggered both outrage and skepticism. In an April 3 article titled “Corporate Media Gatekeepers Protect Western 1% From Panama Leak,” UK blogger Craig Murray writes that the whistleblower no doubt had good intentions; but he made the mistake of leaking his 11.5 million documents to the corporate-controlled Western media, which released only those few documents incriminating opponents of Western financial interests. Murray writes:

Do not expect a genuine expose of western capitalism. The dirty secrets of western corporations will remain unpublished.

Expect hits at Russia, Iran and Syria and some tiny “balancing” western country like Iceland.

Iceland, of course, was the only country to refuse to bail out its banks, instead throwing its offending bankers in jail.

Pepe Escobar calls the released Panama Papers a “limited hangout.” The leak dovetails with the attempt of Transparency International to create a Global Public Beneficial Ownership Registry, which can collect ownership information from governments around the world; and with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s global anti-corruption summit next month. According to The Economist, “The Panama papers give him just the platform he needs to persuade other governments, and his own, to turn their tough talk of recent years into action.”


War on Corruption or War on Savers?

What we may be witnessing here is the 1% going after the 10% of people who, according to German researcher Margrit Kennedy, do not need to borrow but are “net savers.” Today the remaining 90% are “all borrowed up.” Either they are unwilling to borrow more or the banks are unwilling to lend to them, since they are poor credit risks. Who, then, is left to feed the machine that feeds the 1%, and more specifically the 0.001%? The power brokers at the top seem to want it all, and today that means going after those just below them on the financial food chain. The challenge is in squeezing money from people who don’t need to borrow. How to legally confiscate their savings?

Enter bail-ins, negative interest, all-digital currencies, and the elimination of “tax havens.” ............(more)


We confronted Bill Clinton about race: “In that moment he revealed himself and his true thoughts on

from Salon:

We confronted Bill Clinton about race: “In that moment he revealed himself and his true thoughts on black people”
EXCLUSIVE: #Blacklivesmatter activists who took Bill on tell us what it was like, and how Hillary backers responded

Chauncey DeVega

During a Hillary Clinton rally in Philadelphia last week, Bill Clinton engaged in an 11-minute exchange with two protesters, Rufus Farmer and Erica Mines, who are critical of his controversial 1994 crime bill, the War on Drugs, and the impact of those policies on the black community.

In the midst of making repeated references to the “Black Lives Matter” movement, Bill Clinton made the following statement: “You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter. … Tell the truth. You are defending the people who caused young people to go out and take guns.”

I recently spoke with Farmer and Mines about their experience with the former president, their thoughts on his controversial comments about “Black Lives Matter,” “black crime,” Hillary Clinton, and the future-present of black activism. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


I have written extensively about Donald Trump and the violence at his rallies. In the media, we have had many conversations about the thuggish behavior of his supporters. What was the environment like at Hillary Clinton’s rally in Philadelphia? How were you treated? What were some of the exchanges you had with Hillary’s supporters at the rally?

Erica: The narrative about protesters and activists is that we are the violent ones, that we are the thugs. But no one wants to capture the moment when someone is snatching a sign out of your hands, or when somebody walks over to you and literally puts their hands on you. Bill Clinton was not the only person wagging their finger in the building that day. The actual confrontation started when a white lady came up to me and told me that I needed to be ashamed of myself for disrupting the event. You also have black liberals and gatekeepers who are taunting you and going along with the chastisement.

When we were protesting, there were actually black men standing in front of me as a black woman, as if my concerns about police brutality and violence did not impact them as well. For me, as a black woman, I am very vocal when I get into my politics and messaging. But they always send another black woman over to me to tell me why I am wrong. That is how it started. A black woman told me that my sign was causing conflict with the people in the building. I told her that I will not put down my sign until the other people holding their signs did the same thing.

Rufus: I had someone, a black person actually, call me a demon when the rally was over. Our intention was to go in, just the two of us, not a mob, to stand their quietly in the rally and not say a word. Unfortunately, lots of people provoked us to start speaking. ..............(more)


Most American Voters Say ‘Meh’ to 2016 Presidential Candidates in Both Parties, Except to Sanders


via truthdig:

Looks like Americans are none too excited about the 2016 election. What’s more is, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll, a majority of Americans are going to be pretty disappointed no matter who is elected come November, given the current crop of five candidates.

Of all the candidates in both the Republican and Democratic parties, Bernie Sanders is the only one to have generated significantly more positive than negative ratings.

Among all the remaining candidates, only Sanders, Clinton’s Democratic rival, generates significantly more positive than negative ratings from Americans, with 48 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of him and 39 percent unfavorable. He’s also the only candidate described by a majority of Americans as at least somewhat likable, civil, honest and compassionate. ...

At least half of Americans say they would be disappointed or even angry if either of the front-runners — Donald Trump for the Republicans or Hillary Clinton for the Democrats — are nominated, the survey shows. And a quarter said they would be disappointed or angry if both win nominations. Still another quarter would feel at best neutral if both are nominated.

Among all registered voters, 63 percent say they wouldn’t consider voting for Trump and half say the same about Clinton.

About one-fifth of those surveyed say they’d either probably or definitely vote for a third-party candidate if Trump and Clinton are the nominees. ... The AP-GfK poll suggests the general election, after the parties name nominees, will be less about emotional appeals and inspiration and more about getting actual voters to cast votes before the end of Election Day. It’s what insiders call the “ground game.” And much of it is played over the airwaves at enormous expense.

Read more.

— Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

Yikes, Paul Krugman Really Doesn’t Understand Dodd-Frank

Yikes, Paul Krugman Really Doesn’t Understand Dodd-Frank

Zach Carter
Senior Political Economy Reporter, The Huffington Post
Ben Walsh
Business Reporter, The Huffington Post

Paul Krugman does not seem to understand the very financial regulations he claims to support.

Following up on his Friday column in which the liberal economist flubbed the basic history of the financial crisis, Krugman returns Monday with a column promoting certain rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation. These rules are a much better approach to financial reform than breaking up big banks, Krugman argues, because they will constrain risk and excess across the entire system.

The trouble for Krugman? Those tough rules would in fact require regulators to break up big banks, if they ever got around to implementing them.

“Making the breakup of big banks the be-all and end-all of reform misses the point,” Krugman writes. “What we need is regulation that limits the risks from nonbank institutions — and the 2010 financial reform tries to do just that. The way it does this is by allowing regulators to designate some firms ‘systemically important,’ meaning that, like A.I.G., their failure or the prospect thereof could threaten financial stability. Once an institution is so designated, it is subject to extra oversight and regulation.”

There’s something inherently contradictory about Krugman claiming on Friday that too big to fail is not that big a deal and insisting on Monday that it is very important to implement strong new regulations for too-big-to-fail firms. The extra Dodd-Frank oversight he applauds includes the requirement that big banks prepare “living wills” that explain to regulators how they can be safely unwound without a government bailout if they ever get into trouble. If a living will is formally rejected by the Federal Reserve as untenable, then the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. can go about dismantling the company. ............(more)


Is China’s Economy in even Deeper Trouble than We Think?

Is China’s Economy in even Deeper Trouble than We Think?
by Wolf Richter • April 12, 2016

[font color="blue"]Rail freight volume plunges to 2007 levels.[/font]

Rail freight volumes are an indicator of China’s goods-producing and goods-consuming economy, not just manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and the like, but also consumer goods. Thus they’re also an indication of consumer spending on goods. Alas, rail freight volume is collapsing: the first quarter this year puts volume for the whole year on track to revisit levels not seen since 2007.

While China’s economy was strong, rail freight volumes were soaring. For example, in 2010, when China was pump-priming its economy, rail freight volume jumped 10.8% from a year earlier. In 2011, it rose 6.9%. It had soared 44% from 2005 to 2011! But 2011 was the peak.

In 2012, volume in trillion ton-kilometers declined one notch and in 2013 stagnated. But in 2014, volume skidded 5.8%. And in 2015, volume plunged 10.5% to 3.4 billion tons, according to Caixin, citing figures from the National Railway Administration. It was the largest annual decline ever booked in China.

It was a year that the People’s Daily, the official paper of the Communist Party, described in this elegant manner:

Dragged by a housing slowdown, softening domestic demand, and unsteady exports, China’s economy expanded 6.9% year on year in 2015, the weakest reading in around a quarter of a century.

Which is precisely where things stop making sense: rail freight volume plunges 10.5% in 2015, and the economy still increases 6.9%? I mean, come on. .............(more)


US Commercial Bankruptcies Suddenly Soar

US Commercial Bankruptcies Suddenly Soar
by Wolf Richter • April 11, 2016

[font color="blue"]Leaving ugly skid marks on the economy, banks, and investors.[/font]

The “end of the credit cycle” is a harmless-sounding moniker for an era when defaults and bankruptcies suddenly re-materialize, as if out of nowhere, and when investors get to eat big losses in what they thought were conservative investments.

It’s when new money for Corporate America gets a little more skittish, and credit just a little tighter – not all at once, but over time. And for over-indebted junk-rated companies, that slight tightening and the accompanying rise in rates at the top triggers liquidity crises, defaults, and bankruptcies at the bottom.

Ratings agencies have responded to the end of the credit cycle by downgrading companies in a relentless tango. With each downgrade, credit tightens just a bit more for these companies, causing additional risks and operational difficulties. As liquidity dries up for them, they slash investments and cut costs, which wipes out the hope for growth – the essential ingredient that kept the illusion alive.

In that vein, Standard & Poor’s reported that it downgraded 44 US junk-rated companies in March, while upgrading just 15. This comes on top of the 82 issuers it downgraded in February. In the first quarter, about 45% of S&P’s downgrades hit oil & gas companies. Not a surprise, given the state the industry is in. But 55% of the downgrades hit companies outside oil & gas! .................(more)


Neoliberal Economists: Against Bernie Sanders and Common Sense

Neoliberal Economists: Against Bernie Sanders and Common Sense

Saturday, 09 April 2016 00:00
By Jack Rasmus, teleSUR | Op-Ed

As U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has gained momentum in the presidential primaries, the attacks on his proposed economic programs have grown proportionally.

Leading the assault have been supporters of Hillary Clinton, especially Paul Krugman, and other "stars" of the economics profession like Christine Romer, Laura Tyson, Alan Kreuger, and Austan Goolsbe -- all of whom have served in past Democratic administrations and are no doubt looking to return again in some capacity in another Clinton administration. Sometimes referred to as the "gang of four," in recent weeks all have been aggressively attacking Sanders' economic programs and reforms. However, the target of their attacks, which began in February and continue today, is Sanders' proposals for financing a single-payer universal health care program by means of a financial transactions tax.

The irony of the Krugman/Gang of Four attack is that Sanders' proposals represent what were once Democratic party positions and programs -- positions that have been abandoned by the party and its mouthpiece economists since the 1980s as it morphed into a wing of the neoliberal agenda.

Sanders' critics have been especially agitated that their own economic models are being used to show that Sanders' proposals would greatly benefit the vast majority in the U.S. But debating Krugman and his neoliberal colleagues on the grounds of their faulty economic model -- a model that failed miserably under Obama to produce a sustained, real economic recovery in the U.S. -- is not necessary. Their model has been broken for some time. Some straightforward historical facts and recent comparative studies are all that's needed to show that a real financial transaction tax can generate more revenue than is needed to fund a single-payer type program. Here's how.

A Real Financial Transaction Tax

Let's take four major financial securities: stocks, bonds, derivatives, and foreign currency purchases (forex). ...............(more)


You’ve got $50 billion for transit. Now how should you spend it?

from the Transport Politic:

[font size="1"]» Metropolitan Seattle plans to offer its voters the chance to fund a large new transit expansion program. But are the projects chosen for initial funding the right ones?[/font]

Building a regional fixed-guideway transit network is no quick or easy feat, at least in the United States in our era of high costs and relatively slow construction timelines. Seattle’s first light rail line was funded by voters in 1996 but didn’t open its first section for thirteen years; the full extent of the initial line just opened last month, a full twenty years later.

Despite the slow pace, residents of big cities across the country are hungry for more, hoping to spread the benefits of rapid transit to other parts of their respective metropolitan areas. That impulse motivated Seattle residents to approve the $18 billion Sound Transit 2 package (named after the regional transit agency) in 2008, which will extend “Link” light rail north, south, and east, creating a 50-mile light rail network by 2023.

It has also encouraged Sound Transit to propose a third package of projects, expected to be submitted for voter approval this November. Sound Transit 3 (ST3) would support $50 billion in investments, to be completed by 2041.

Excitement about adding light rail—and the region does apparently want it, given the massive ridership produced by the opening of new stations last month—has nevertheless been countered by skepticism about the value of the draft ST3 plan put forward by the transit agency’s planners and leaders.

Their questions are relevant to any region that’s considering major new transit expansion projects: If the projects the plan includes aren’t ideal, are they worth paying for? If the projects are built in the wrong order, are the links scheduled for the back of the line worth waiting for? ..............(more)


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