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marmar

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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,622

Journal Archives

Professor Richard Wolff: Poor Polls and Obama's Missed Opportunity


Poor Polls and Obama's Missed Opportunity

Thursday, 07 August 2014 00:00
By Richard D Wolff, Truthout | Op-Ed


What if President Obama had rejected conventional political advice and pushed for a new New Deal? What if an effective nonaligned left had pushed for such a program, economist Richard D. Wolff asks.


Once upon a time, long ago in America, another president was elected just as a major economic crisis was deepening fast. Like Barack Obama in 2008, Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 was a typically centrist Democrat. His past, too, offered little reason to expect that he would deviate from the conventional politics that got him the presidency. Moreover, both presidents' conventional advisers and political friends argued against anything other than the usual government response to capitalist economies' recurring downturns.

The advisers' argument was simple and direct. You must wait out the crisis and NOT have government interfere much (after initial emergency government bailouts of failed big corporations). Large corporations, the business community generally, and those they have made rich prefer that course of (in)action. Once the initial emergency is past, they have the resources to wait out the crisis in comfort while grabbing crisis-distressed assets at bargain prices. Most hate the idea of being taxed to pay for taking care of "bums and the unfortunate." In their minds, a government that taxes capital to support labor thereby opens the door to ever more state interventions and ultimately to "socialism." Conventional advisers insist that state interventions (eg., deficit-boosting fiscal stimulus programs, welfare supports to people struggling with unemployment, minimum wage increases, etc.) and socialism only hurt those they claim to help. They repeat as absolute truth the idea that capitalism heals itself better than any government intervention could. They conveniently forget those initial bailouts by the government.

If politicians disobey this conventional advice, corporations, business and the rich will abandon them in favor of their political competitors. Such politicians then lose to those competitors, who in turn, either follow the conventional advice or else they lose too. The lesson: To disregard the conventional advice is to commit political suicide. That threat is always part of the conventional advice, explicitly or implicitly. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/25378-poor-polls-and-obamas-missed-opportunity



1 Percent ‘Literally Rich Beyond Measure’


via truthdig:



Wealth hidden by tax shelters and non-responses to questionnaires is so undercounted that “correcting for similar lapses in income data almost erases progress made from 1988 to 2008 in narrowing the gap between the world’s rich and poor,” Bloomberg contributor Jeanna Smialek reports a body of research has found.

The conclusion comes from work conducting separately by European Central Bank economist Philip Vermeulen, London School of Economics economist Gabriel Zucman and the World Bank. Smialek quotes Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz as saying, “We always suspected there was some low-balling of the top 1 percent… There’s a growing sense that our system is rigged and unfair.”

Smialek writes:

Failure to get a better handle on the actual amount of wealth and income means economists and policy makers don’t have a proper understanding of the degree of disparity, which represents a hurdle in addressing it. For instance, knowing that earnings and assets are more concentrated could spur support for changing the tax structure, Zucman said.

“If you don’t have a good idea of what the world looks like, it’s hard to determine what the effects of policies will be,” said Carter Price, senior mathematician at the Center for Equitable Growth in Washington, which focuses on issues of economic inequality. “Looking retrospectively, it’s hard to assess what the effects of a policy were.”

The richest of America’s rich—the top 0.1 percent with at least $20 million in net wealth—held 23.5 percent of all U.S. wealth in 2012 after adding in estimates of how much was hidden in offshore tax havens, said Zucman, a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley. That compares with his previous estimate of 21.5 percent.


Stiglitz adds that more wealth and income at the top could help explain why consumer spending has been slow to rebound since the end of the recession. Luxury retailers are doing fine, however. The Bloomberg Industries Global Luxury Goods Index, which includes companies such as Coach Inc., Hermes International and Prada Spa, has surged 254 percent since the end of the 18-month slump. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/one_percent_literally_rich_beyond_measure_20140807



Living in a time when kids' playtime lands parents in jail


By Mitch Albom
Detroit Free Press Columnist


I would like to offer a blood transfusion, free of charge, to every kid in America. Because clearly I have special plasma that allowed me to survive a traumatic childhood.

I walked to school, on my own, and survived. I walked to a park, on my own, and survived. I sat in a car, by myself, and survived.

Of course, I had one benefit. My parents were not arrested for any of the above. Today, growing up the way I did, I’d be visiting Mom and Dad behind bars.

Take the story of Nicole Gainey, the mother of a 7-year-old Florida boy. She had the audacity to recently let her son, Dominic, walk to a park on his own. For this, she was arrested, charged with child neglect and faces up to five years in prison. ............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.freep.com/article/20140803/COL01/308030059/Mitch-Albom-Living-in-a-time-when-kids-playtime-lands-parents-in-jail



Looting and plundering the public trough, Republican-style: Michigan edition


from the Detroit Free Press:



LANSING — The head of the state housing authority has rung up tens of thousands of dollars in expenses since taking office in 2012, dining on filet mignon, escargot and foie gras, staying in hotels that cost $400 to $500 a night, and traveling in a stretch limousine, records show.

Most — but not all — of the expenses have been paid by the state agency. Officials who vet expense vouchers have rejected hundreds of dollars in reimbursements Scott Woosley has sought, such as a $47.60 “dinner” receipt from a Washington, D.C., bar for which the only items consumed were three glasses of 15-year-old El Dorado rum.

In June 2013, the state agency paid $1,253 for Woosley and other Michigan State Housing Development Authority officials to drive across Nebraska in a stretch limousine after a mix-up sent the state-owned plane they flew in to Omaha instead of Lincoln, where their meeting was to take place, according to the records obtained by the Michigan Democratic Party under the Freedom of Information Act.

Woosley, who is paid $135,000 a year, made no apologies for his expense vouchers in a telephone interview Wednesday, though he said any reimbursement requests he made for alcohol charges were unintentional. He said he generally submits the expenses he incurs believing the state will reimburse him for only those charges they deem appropriate. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.freep.com/article/20140807/NEWS06/308070035/Michigan-housing-chief-runs-up-thousands-in-bills-expense-records-show



Tax dodger running for governor in Illinois


from the Progressive:



By Ruth Conniff

If you are not in the Chicago media market, you might not know much about Bruce Rauner, the Mitt Romney-like candidate for governor in Illinois, who is running ahead in the polls against Democratic Governor Pat Quinn.

If Rauner wins, Illinois will have a lot more in common with its neighbor, Wisconsin. Politically, Rauner resembles union-basher and school privatizer Scott Walker. Only Rauner is much, much richer.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, Rauner talked about his career at GTCR, the Chicago-based private equity firm he founded.

“I made a ton of money, made a lot of money,” he told Sun Times reporter Natasha Korecki. .............(more)

- See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2014/08/187805/tax-dodger-running-governor-illinois#sthash.lpVu6Eif.dpuf



6 Ways Wall Street Is Hosing Chicago Teachers


(In These Times) During Andrew Cuomo’s tenure as attorney general of New York, he noted, “In New York, the biggest pool of money is the state pension fund.” This is true with public pension funds across the nation—and Wall Street firms have leaped to take advantage of the bounty, often in unsavory ways. Over the last five years, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has routinely unearthed “pay-to-play” scandals, in which overseers of pension funds make investment choices based on personal gain.

In most cases, politicians control the investment-making decisions at pension funds. A select few, however, are controlled by their members—meaning they could invest in projects for the public good on Main Street rather than private investment funds on Wall Street. One such fund is the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund (CTPF), a nearly $10 billion pool charged with assuring the retirement security of tens of thousands of education professionals. Despite a Board composed of 12 member-elected trustees, however, Wall Street still has its hands in the kitty. Here are six ways America’s biggest investment firms have the potential to sink Chicago teachers—and just how the CTPF board can stop that from happening.

1. Underperformance

Historically, pension funds have been extremely conservative investors out of caution for their members’ finances. Only in the past 20 years have they amped up their allocations to higher-risk endeavors. And as Wall Street has quaked, so too have member livelihoods.

Over the past five years, the CTPF’s assets in traditional investments—domestic equities (stock in large, financially sound companies) and fixed income (stable bonds)—have been far more profitable than the portfolio as a whole. In that time period, the former returned 7 percent annually; in other words, if the fund had invested $100 in 2008, it would have made roughly $140 by 2014. Fixed income bonds, meanwhile, returned 6 percent. A traditional 60 percent stock, 40 percent bond portfolio, then, would have returned 6.6 percent. In order to be considered fully funded, the CTPF’s investments must return 8 percent; though neither stocks nor bonds fulfilled this completely, they were still far closer than the CTPF’s total investment return, which was a paltry 4.6 percent—a loss of around $200 million per year. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17020/six_ways_wall_street_is_hosing_chicago_teachers



6 Ways Wall Street Is Hosing Chicago Teachers


(In These Times) During Andrew Cuomo’s tenure as attorney general of New York, he noted, “In New York, the biggest pool of money is the state pension fund.” This is true with public pension funds across the nation—and Wall Street firms have leaped to take advantage of the bounty, often in unsavory ways. Over the last five years, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has routinely unearthed “pay-to-play” scandals, in which overseers of pension funds make investment choices based on personal gain.

In most cases, politicians control the investment-making decisions at pension funds. A select few, however, are controlled by their members—meaning they could invest in projects for the public good on Main Street rather than private investment funds on Wall Street. One such fund is the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund (CTPF), a nearly $10 billion pool charged with assuring the retirement security of tens of thousands of education professionals. Despite a Board composed of 12 member-elected trustees, however, Wall Street still has its hands in the kitty. Here are six ways America’s biggest investment firms have the potential to sink Chicago teachers—and just how the CTPF board can stop that from happening.

1. Underperformance

Historically, pension funds have been extremely conservative investors out of caution for their members’ finances. Only in the past 20 years have they amped up their allocations to higher-risk endeavors. And as Wall Street has quaked, so too have member livelihoods.

Over the past five years, the CTPF’s assets in traditional investments—domestic equities (stock in large, financially sound companies) and fixed income (stable bonds)—have been far more profitable than the portfolio as a whole. In that time period, the former returned 7 percent annually; in other words, if the fund had invested $100 in 2008, it would have made roughly $140 by 2014. Fixed income bonds, meanwhile, returned 6 percent. A traditional 60 percent stock, 40 percent bond portfolio, then, would have returned 6.6 percent. In order to be considered fully funded, the CTPF’s investments must return 8 percent; though neither stocks nor bonds fulfilled this completely, they were still far closer than the CTPF’s total investment return, which was a paltry 4.6 percent—a loss of around $200 million per year. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17020/six_ways_wall_street_is_hosing_chicago_teachers



Eugene Robinson: Time to Tame the Monster (CIA)


from truthdig:


Time to Tame the Monster

Posted on Aug 6, 2014
By Eugene Robinson


The CIA now admits that it spied on a Senate investigation into the agency’s shameful program of secret detention and torture. Do we need any more proof that the spooks are out of control?

An internal “accountability board” will look into the incident, an agency statement said, and might recommend “potential disciplinary measures” or even “steps to address systemic issues.”

Somehow, I don’t feel reassured.

You will recall that when Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., alleged in March that the CIA was rummaging through her panel’s computer files without permission, CIA Director John Brennan scoffed at the complaint with high-handed derision. “I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong,” he said.

Oops. An internal CIA probe discovered that, well, a good deal of spying and monitoring and hacking did take place. Brennan has reportedly apologized to Feinstein and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the ranking Republican on the committee—both of whom have been among the CIA’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/time_to_tame_the_monster_20140806



Noam Chomsky: Why National Security Has Nothing to Do With Security


from TomDispatch:


How Many Minutes to Midnight?
Hiroshima Day 2014

By Noam Chomsky


If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of Homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: BNW (before nuclear weapons) and NWE (the nuclear weapons era). The latter era, of course, opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but -- so the evidence suggests -- not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts.

Day one of the NWE was marked by the “success” of Little Boy, a simple atomic bomb. On day four, Nagasaki experienced the technological triumph of Fat Man, a more sophisticated design. Five days later came what the official Air Force history calls the “grand finale,” a 1,000-plane raid -- no mean logistical achievement -- attacking Japan’s cities and killing many thousands of people, with leaflets falling among the bombs reading “Japan has surrendered.” Truman announced that surrender before the last B-29 returned to its base.

Those were the auspicious opening days of the NWE. As we now enter its 70th year, we should be contemplating with wonder that we have survived. We can only guess how many years remain.

Some reflections on these grim prospects were offered by General Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which controls nuclear weapons and strategy. Twenty years ago, he wrote that we had so far survived the NWE “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175877/tomgram%3A_noam_chomsky%2C_why_national_security_has_nothing_to_do_with_security/



Oil Companies Are Funding Mysterious Angolan Research Center That May Not Exist


WASHINGTON –- Oil companies BP and Cobalt International Energy agreed in December 2011 to provide $350 million to construct a research institute in Angola, as a condition of gaining drilling rights for an offshore block of the African country's coast. So far, the companies have paid half that amount -- but there's no evidence the project actually exists.

The United Kingdom-based nonprofit Global Witness flagged the project in a report released Tuesday, as leaders of African nations are in Washington for a summit with U.S. officials. The payments, the group says, show the need for greater transparency in oil and gas industry transactions abroad, particularly in regions with a history of corruption.

Houston-based Cobalt, BP Exploration Angola and state-owned Sonangol announced the contract signing for the offshore area in December 2011, noting that it was "the most sought after block" in the round of bidding for offshore contracts. Cobalt listed the funding for the Sonangol Research and Technology Center, or SRTC, and other "social projects" in a December 2011 production-sharing contract filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/05/oil-transparency-africa-bp_n_5649291.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000013



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