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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 75,786

Journal Archives

Banksters Win Again

(Reuters) - The judge in the landmark bankruptcy of Alabama's Jefferson County sided with Wall Street creditors on Friday and sharply limited how the cash-strapped local government can use funds generated by its sewer system.

The ruling, in a months-long court dispute, aggravates a cash crunch for the county that may exhaust its general fund within three months.

In the dispute over the size of payments to owners of $3.2 billion of sewer-system debt, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Bennett said the county cannot pay legal fees and set aside charges for depreciation and amortization from net operating revenues owed to creditors.

The judge stopped county officials from putting current monthly revenues into reserves for capital projects, professional fees and other purposes not directly related to present operations - actions which reduced payments to creditors. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://news.yahoo.com/judge-gives-win-wall-street-alabama-bankruptcy-231755976.html

................Lest we forget how Jefferson County ended up in this mess..........................

Jefferson County, Alabama: Screwed By Wall Street, Still Paying

POSTED: April 7, 11:47 AM ET
by Matt Taibbi

The good times just keep coming for Jefferson County, Alabama. Last year I did a story for Rolling Stone about Wall Street's sacking of the Birmingham, Alabama region -- the city was roped into a series of deadly swap deals by a number of banks, most notably JP Morgan Chase, that left the county billions of dollars in debt.

The genesis of the whole affair was a sewer project that crooked local pols turned into a $3 billion money pit; when they turned to Wall Street to help finance their way out of the cost overruns, the banks leaned on the County to take on a series of swap deals that essentially pushed the debt into the future, but at geometrically increasing cost. Among other things, the banks worked through middlemen who bribed the local commissioners into taking the toxic deals. As a result of all of this, Jefferson County not only ended up saddled with an astronomical debt service on its sewer project, it also saw a downgrade in its overall credit rating, which left it paralyzed in its attempts to borrow money to pay for general expenditures.

Those financial chickens are now coming home to roost. Some of the people I spoke with during that story have been in touch lately to give me the gruesome updates. The most recent news is that the County is closing four courthouses in an attempt to save $21 million a year. Beyond that, there has been a spate of ugly news stories. A local judge recently appointed a New Jersey Water Works executive named John Young to serve as the receiver for the JeffCo sewer system. The appointment of the receiver came at the behest of Bank of New York Mellon, the trustee for most of the county's debt -- Young's job will be to jack up sewer rates in order to pay off the $515 million of sewer debt the city defaulted on.

I got a number of outraged emails from County residents who noted that Young's salary will be $500 an hour. This unelected official will be paid $4000 a day for the job of raising sewer rates on citizens who never once voted for a new sewer project, never voted to accept any of the swap deals, and in general were deprived of any input into any of the financing messes once the few elected officials who were involved started taking bribes from the banks. ........(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/jefferson-county-alabama-screwed-by-wall-street-still-paying-20110407#ixzz1zPtl0y7w

1st: Protect Obama's Health Care Reform. 2nd: Move Toward a Public Option

from OnTheCommons.org:

1st: Protect Obama's Health Care Reform. 2nd: Move Toward a Public Option
Lessons from Canada in creating a health care commons step-by-step

June 28, 2012 | by David Morris

It’s relatively easy for Americans to understand that parks, sidewalks, the environment or the Internet are all part of the commons. That’s because no one owns them.

But it’s more of a stretch when it comes to elements of the commons that have traditionally been under private ownership. Access to health care, for instance, rightly belongs to all of us the same as air, water, sunshine or other things we depend upon for life. We are, after all, morally bound to help anyone who needs medical attention. And our tax money funds much of the research that results in new medicines and procedures.

Yet these simple truths are clouded by the fact that in the United States, even after the passage of President Obama’s health care reforms, a large share of health services is operated on a for-profit basis—a unique situation among wealthy nations, which means our health care is more expensive and many people are denied access.

If health care were more widely recognized as a commons, the idea of a public health care option—or even a single-payer system—would not seem so controversial to Congress members. In fact, a look right across the border at the Canadian health care programs shows how well a true health care commons works. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://onthecommons.org/magazine/1st-protect-obamas-health-care-reform-2nd-move-toward-public-option

HAPPY CANADA DAY !!!!!!!! ............

....... to my neighbors (oops, neighbours) across the river in Windsor and everywhere else in your beautiful country. Dump Harper !!!

[font size="1"]Canada Day celebration in Toronto[/font]

The Deadly Addiction to Cheap Meat: How the overuse of antibiotics on livestock is making us sick

from In These Times:

The Deadly Addiction to Cheap Meat
How the overuse of antibiotics on livestock is making us sick.

BY Terry J. Allen

America's cheap meat habit is costing more than we bargained for. The factory farming of cows, pigs, poultry and fish sucks up 29 million pounds—80 percent—of antibiotics sold in the United States.

Many illness-causing bacteria are now resistant to most or all of the antibiotics that once killed them. While the overuse of antibiotics on humans has contributed to this public health crisis, the most egregious factor in creating antibiotic resistance is the routine, widespread, greed-driven dosing of livestock. About a quarter of U.S. meat and poultry samples contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The FDA, after more than three decades of dithering, has finally acknowledged a “mounting public health problem of global significance.” But, when even industry acknowledges a serious problem, an April FDA report containing “non-binding recommendations” politely asks the food industry to use antibiotics “judiciously”—and gives industry three years to figure out how to circumvent the reforms.

In 1946, producers discovered that adding antibiotics to feed increased animal growth—and industry profits. This subtherapeutic dosing also allowed livestock to survive filthy, overcrowded conditions that would otherwise generate high and unprofitable rates of disease and death. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/13350/the_deadly_addiction_to_cheap_meat

The Nation: In the Healthcare Decision, a Hidden Threat?

In the Healthcare Decision, a Hidden Threat?

Aziz Huq
June 29, 2012

The Supreme Court’s decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius—the healthcare cases—was a tremendous political victory for the Obama administration and, more importantly, the tens of thousands of Americans who will be saved from illness and death by the law. But make no mistake: the decision could also be a significant legal victory for the political forces committed to limiting the state’s ability to care for the weak and fragile among us.

In the hours after the health care decision was handed down, many commentators crowed over Chief Justice John Roberts’s statesman-like craft in putting together a moderate opinion that, in different parts, managed to unite the left and the right of the Court. They are half right. The opinion may be statesman-like, but it’s ultimately radical, endorsing a view of Congress’s power that had few, if any, takers until it was embraced by the Republican Party and its Tea Party flag-bearers. Indeed, it may even contain a seed that could unravel important benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

The immediate effect of the decision, of course, is that the law’s implementation can proceed. But on the one hand, Roberts, with four liberal justices, held that the individual mandate was constitutional as an exercise of Congress’s taxing power. On the other hand, Roberts joined the four conservative justices in stating that he believed that the same mandate could not be upheld under Congress’s Commerce Clause power. This should not to be overlooked. The Commerce Clause is the central plank of Congressional authority, employed to support everything from the Environmental Protection Agency to the civil rights laws. Flouting the usual rule that judges must avoid addressing unnecessary constitutional questions, Roberts made it clear that his new limitation on the Commerce Clause power was necessary to his opinion, and hence arguably binding on future courts.

What Roberts has done is much like what his predecessor Chief Justice John Marshall did in the landmark 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison, which also announced a dramatic new legal principle in a way that evaded immediate political opposition. Marshall’s opinion in Marbury is celebrated today because, while addressing a relatively minor dispute about federal officials, he used that case to establish the Court’s power of judicial review. But in establishing this power, Marshall effectively sided with Jefferson in the dispute at hand. Because Jefferson won, the White House was in no position to attack the Court for its then-startling and controversial assertion of the right of the judiciary to review legislative- and executive-branch actions. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thenation.com/article/168677/healthcare-decision-hidden-threat

Lost in Translation

Idiocracy, the documentary.

from DailyKos, via AlterNet:

Texas GOP Makes Opposition to "Critical Thinking Skills" Official Policy Until 2014, Now Claiming it Was an Accident

Texas Republicans are saying that their 2012 platform's opposition to "critical thinking skills" was a mistake—but that mistake is now the formal policy of the Republican Party of Texas until 2014.

The stated reasoning behind opposition to critical thinking skills was that such education programs "focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority." As Hunter described this logic:

Critical thinking, of course, is what allows a person to differentiate between fact and hokum. I will assume that this is the peeve being addressed by the party plank (which, as it turns out, doubles as a handy paddlin' board). Differentiating between fact and hokum sounds all fine and good until it leads to questioning your elders. When elders spout hokum, now that needs to be properly respected. If your elders say the Loch Ness Monster is proof that evolution never happened and that Noah's Ark was actually a hovercraft, you had better damn well not start using your newfound critical thinking skills on picking apart that. Believing something contrary to your parents counts as behavior modification only if the original behavior was a full-on brainwashing.

But don't worry! Its inclusion in the formal platform of the Republican Party of Texas was all a mistake. As a party spokesman told TPM,

"The chairman of the Education Subcommittee) indicated that it was an oversight of the committee, that the plank should not have included 'critical thinking skills' after 'values clarification,'" Elam said. "And it was not the intent of the subcommittee to present a plank that would have indicated that the RPT in any way opposed the development of critical thinking skills."

The complete piece is at: http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/1002663/texas_gop_makes_opposition_to_%22critical_thinking_skills%22_official_policy_until_2014%2C_now_claiming_it_was_an_accident/

Amy Goodman: The American citizens rebelling against Citizens United

The American citizens rebelling against Citizens United
Even as the supreme court struck down a Montana law limiting corporate campaign finance, a movement for reform is building

Amy Goodman
guardian.co.uk, Friday 29 June 2012

"I never bought a man who wasn't for sale," William A Clark reportedly said. He was one of Montana's "copper kings", a man who used his vast wealth to manipulate the state government and literally buy votes to make himself a US senator. That was more than 100 years ago, and the blatant corruption of Clark and the other copper kings created a furor that led to the passage, by citizen initiative, of Montana's Corrupt Practices Act in 1912.

The century of transparent campaign-finance restrictions that followed, preventing corporate money from influencing elections, came to an end this week, as the US supreme court summarily reversed the Montana law. Five justices of the supreme court reiterated: their controversial Citizens United ruling remains the law of the land.

Clark's corruption contributed to the passage of the 17th amendment to the US constitution. Now, close to 100 years later, it may take a popular movement to amend the constitution again – this time, to overturn Citizens United and confirm, finally and legally, that corporations are not people.

Citizens United v Federal Election Commission is the case in which the US supreme court ruled that corporations can contribute unlimited amounts of funds toward what are deemed "independent expenditures" in our elections. Thus, corporations, or shadowy "Super Pacs" that they choose to fund, can spend as much as they care to on negative campaign ads, just as long as they don't coordinate with a candidate's campaign committee. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/29/american-citizens-rebelling-citizens-united

Bankers Skate AGAIN...Laughing All The Way to Their Mansions

from the Working Life blog:

Bankers Skate AGAIN...Laughing All The Way to Their Mansions

by Jonathan Tasini
Wednesday 27 of June, 2012

You don't have to look further than the utterly pathetic game of repeated "stay-out-of-jail" cards handed the global banker elite to understand why people are pissed--whether in the U.S., Greece or pick a country. Time after time, the guys who cratered the economy, and robbed people of their jobs and wealth, are given a pass on their behavior--and not only that, shareholders get to pay for their crimes and misdemeanors. It happened again.

Another sham "punishment":

Barclays has agreed to pay more than $450 million to resolve accusations that it attempted to manipulate key interest rates, the first settlement in a sprawling global investigation involving many of the world’s biggest banks.

The British bank struck a deal with regulators in Washington and London, as well as the Justice Department. The settlement is seen as the first in a series of potential cases against other major financial firms.

This is not change. In fact, this kind of settlement guarantees one thing: it will happen again. The message to these guys is simple: if you do this again, you will not lose your freedom--meaning, go to jail--and you will not even lose your jobs. Indeed, we will help raise your level of mirth, comfort and happiness because, while you sock away more pay and benefits to buy your 3rd or 4th mansion, the SHAREHOLDERS will pay for your misdeeds.

This is crony capitalism defined. And the regulators--and political leadership--is simply reinforcing the game. Not that it's surprising. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.workinglife.org/blogs/view_post.php?content_id=15377

Medicare for All: A Single Solution to the Health Care Fracas

from YES! Magazine:

Medicare for All: A Single Solution to the Health Care Fracas
The Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court, but many remain dissatisfied. How we can still make health care work.

by Robert Weissman
posted Jun 29, 2012

It will take some time to digest the Supreme Court's decision yesterday, but it appears to have averted some terrible jurisprudence that might have very seriously restricted the government's overall ability to regulate the economy and protect citizens.

In upholding most of the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court lets stand legislation that offers some important benefits, but only to a portion of those who are uninsured, and will predictably fail to solve our nation's health care crisis.

However the health reform law ultimately plays out, we know two things for certain: Tens of millions of Americans will remain uncovered as will tens of millions of under-insured who will remain at risk of financial ruin if a major illness strikes; and it will leave the private health insurance and pharmaceutical industries in charge of prices and life-and-death treatment decisions.

There is a single solution to the challenges of providing coverage to the 50 million who are uninsured that would curb out-of-control health care costs and provide a humane standard of care to all who enter the medical system. That solution is an improved Medicare-for-All, single-payer system. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/medicare-for-all-a-single-solution-to-the-health-care-fracas

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