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marmar

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Gender: Male
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 70,335

Journal Archives

Chris Hedges Defending Our Civil Liberties Nov. 23rd 2014





Published on Dec 4, 2014

Chris Hedges, joined by Romero Institute Chief Counsel Daniel Sheehan and Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry, discusses the state our country is in and what we as citizens can do about it.


Wall Street to Workers: Give Us Your Retirement Savings and Stop Asking Questions


from In These Times:



by David Sirota


If you are a public school teacher in Kentucky, the state has a message for you: You have no right to know the details of the investments being made with your retirement savings.

That was the crux of the declaration issued by state officials to a high school history teacher when he asked to see the terms of the agreements between the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System and the Wall Street firms that are managing the system’s money on behalf of him, his colleagues and thousands of retirees.

The denial was the latest case of public officials blocking the release of information about how billions of dollars of public employees’ retirement nest eggs are being invested. Though some of the fine print of the investments has occasionally leaked, the agreements are tightly held in most states and cities. Critics say such secrecy prevents lawmakers and the public from evaluating the propriety of the increasing fees being paid to private financial firms for pension management services.

The secrecy trend is spreading throughout the country. Last month, for instance, Illinois officials denied an open records request for information identifying which financial firms are managing that state’s pension money. Like their Kentucky counterparts, Illinois officials asserted that the firms’ identities "constitute trade secrets." Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act includes special exemptions for information about private equity firms. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17416/wall_street_to_workers_give_us_your_retirement_savings_and_stop_asking_ques



Party On!: The War Party Ascendant


from TomDispatch:


Party On!
The War Party Ascendant

By Tom Engelhardt


It was the end of the road for Chuck Hagel last week and the Washington press corps couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about writing his obituary. In terms of pure coverage, it may not have been Ferguson or the seven-foot deluge of snow that hit Buffalo, New York, but the avalanche of news reports was nothing to be sniffed at. There had been a changing of the guard in wartime Washington. Barack Obama’s third secretary of defense had gone down for the count. In the phrase of the moment, he had “resigned under pressure.” Sayonara, Chuck!

With a unanimity that crossed political lines, the accounts read as if written by a single reporter. The story went something like this: two years earlier, President Obama had brought in Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and former Republican senator with a reputation for being leery about the overuse of American military power, to wind down the war in Afghanistan, rein in military critics, and put the Pentagon budget on something closer to a peacetime footing. After a bruising Senate confirmation hearing from which he never recovered, he proved poor at “messaging” the president’s policies, had a “crappy relationship” with National Security Adviser (and Obama buddy) Susan Rice, proved a weak manager at the Department of Defense as well as a “weak link” in the Obama national security team, and could never break into the president's tight-knit circle of insiders who -- everyone agreed -- had a nasty habit of “micromanaging” America’s wars (rather than, it seemed, letting the military do what needed to be done). In the end, the president “lost confidence” in him. It was a “mutual” firing or at least Hagel had advanced somewhat voluntarily toward the edge of the cliff before being pushed off.

A subcategory of Hagel reports also bloomed, again adding up to something like a single story. In them, various journalists and commentators offered instant speculation on whom the president would invite to fill Hagel’s post. Topping everyone’s “short list”: Senator and former Army Ranger Jack Reed of Rhode Island, war fightin’ liberal and former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy (much beloved by neocons and Republicans), and hawkish former Pentagon “weapons buyer” Ashton Carter (the ultimate nominee). Unfortunately for the press, Reed and Flournoy promptly made mincemeat out of the collective wisdom of the moment, emphatically removing their names from consideration. Politico reported the Flournoy rejection this way: “Flournoy’s withdrawal comes amid speculation President Barack Obama is looking for a candidate who would be deferential to a White House that’s increasingly exerting control over Pentagon decisions.” Nothing, however, could stop the march of the news, whose focus simply switched to other potential job applicants. Striking was the eagerness of assorted journalists and pundits to act like employment agency headhunters vetting exactly the same list of candidates for the president.

Such journalism, of course, qualifies as the very definition of insiderdom and it led, implicitly or explicitly, to the crowning of Barack Obama as a “war president” for the final two years of his term. In the end, however, the media was less reporting on developments than reproducing them. The result: a record as collectively claustrophobic as post-9/11 Washington itself. ........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175930/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_war_to_the_horizon/#more



Temporary Work is Bad for Your Cognitive Health


By Antonio Cabrales, Juan Dolado, and Ricardo Mora. Originally published at VoxEU


The negative consequences of dual labour markets have been extensively documented, but so far little attention has been paid to their effects on workers’ on-the-job training and cognitive skills. This column discusses evidence from PIAAC – an exam for adults designed by the OECD in 2013. Temporary contracts are associated with a reduction of 8–16 percentage points in the probability of receiving on-the-job training, and this training gap can explain up to half of the gap in numeracy scores between permanent and temporary workers.

Starting with the seminal work by Saint-Paul (1996), there has been a large literature documenting the negative consequences of dual labour markets in several EU countries.1 Among them, Spain is often cited as the most extreme example, since its labour market is characterised by a large gap between the firing costs of workers with permanent and temporary contracts, and by lax regulation of the use of temporary contracts. Yet, so far not much attention has been paid to the effects of dual labour markets on workers’ on-the-job training (OJT) and the subsequent effect of the latter on cognitive skills.2 A new element to add to the ample evidence of the negative effects of duality on other dimensions of worker’s performance is provided by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), the exam for adults designed by the OECD in 2013, in the spirit of the PISA exams but for the working-age population.

Employment Protection Legislation and On-the-Job Training

In a recent paper (Cabrales et al. 2014), we present evidence suggesting that (everything else equal) workers under temporary contracts receive less employer-sponsored training than workers under permanent contracts and that, through this channel, labour market dualism also reduces the cognitive abilities of the former relative to the latter. One plausible mechanism leading to the gap in on-the-job training relies on the large turnover rate among temporary workers, which is induced by the much less stringent employment protection legislation they enjoy relative to permanent workers. Given this differential, whenever collective bargaining prevents neutralising severance pay (i.e. a transfer from employers to workers) through enough wage flexibility, firms will prefer to use temporary contracts in sequence rather than converting them into permanent contracts. As a result, the expected job duration of temporary workers becomes too short, making firms more reluctant to invest in their training. By contrast, the much stronger employment protection enjoyed by permanent workers increases their expected job duration, making firms more eager to invest in them. Thus, in countries with large employment protection gaps and wage rigidity, temporary contracts become dead-end jobs rather than stepping stones, as is often the case in those other countries where employment protection gaps are lower.

Spain is an interesting case study because, since the early 1990s, it has had a large share of temporary work among employees – around 33%. Even after the massive destruction of temporary jobs (almost 2 million) and the mild reduction in the employment protection gap after the labour market reform in 2012, it has fallen only to 24% – still one of the highest rates in the OECD. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/12/temporary-work-bad-cognitive-health.html



State Terrorism and Racist Violence in the Age of Disposability: From Emmett Till to Eric Garner


State Terrorism and Racist Violence in the Age of Disposability: From Emmett Till to Eric Garner

Friday, 05 December 2014 11:50
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed


If you want a picture of the future imagine a boot stomping on a human face forever. - George Orwell


The larger reasons behind Eric Garner's execution seem to be missed by most commentators. The issue is not simply police misconduct, or racist acts of police brutality, however deadly, but the growing use of systemic terror of the sort we associate with Hannah Arendt's notion of totalitarianism that needs to be explored.

When fear and terror become the organizing principles of a society in which the tyranny of the state has been replaced by the despotism of an unaccountable market, violence becomes the only valid form of control. The system has not failed. As Jeffrey St. Clair has pointed out, it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do, which is to punish those it considers dangerous or disposable - which increasingly includes more and more individuals and groups. Hannah Arendt was right in arguing that, "If lawfulness is the essence of non-tyrannical government and lawlessness is the essence of tyranny, then terror is the essence of totalitarian domination."

In an age when the delete button and an utterly commodified and privatized culture erase all vestiges of memory and commitment, it is easy for a society to remove itself from those sordid memories that reveal the systemic injustices that belie the presence of state violence and terrorism. Not only do the dangerous memories of bodies being lynched, beaten, tortured and murdered disappear in the fog of celebrity culture and the 24/7 entertainment/news cycle, but the historical flashpoints that once revealed the horrors of unaccountable power and acts of systemic barbarism are both disconnected from any broader understanding of domination and vanish into a past that no longer has any connection to the present.

The murder of Emmett Till; the killing of the four young black girls, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair, in the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama; the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; the killing by four officers of Amadou Diallo; and the recent killings of countless young black children and men and women, coupled with the ongoing and egregious incarceration of black men in this country are not isolated expressions of specific, marginalized failures of a system. They are the system, a system of authoritarianism that has intensified without apology. Rather than being viewed or forgotten as isolated, but unfortunate, expressions of extremism, these incidents are part of a growing systemic pattern of violence and terror that has unapologetically emerged at a time when the politics and logic of disposability has been normalized in American society and violence has become the default position for solving all social problems, especially as they pertain to poor minorities of class and color. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/27832-state-terrorism-and-racist-violence-in-the-age-of-disposability-from-emmett-till-to-eric-garner



David Sirota: A Multi-Billion Dollar Secret


from truthdig:


A Multi-Billion Dollar Secret

Posted on Dec 5, 2014
By David Sirota


If you are a public school teacher in Kentucky, the state has a message for you: You have no right to know the details of the investments being made with your retirement savings. That was the crux of the declaration issued by state officials to a high school history teacher when he asked to see the terms of the agreements between the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System and the Wall Street firms that are managing the system’s money on behalf of him, his colleagues and thousands of retirees.

The denial was the latest case of public officials blocking the release of information about how billions of dollars of public employees’ retirement nest eggs are being invested. Though some of the fine print of the investments has occasionally leaked, the agreements are tightly held in most states and cities. Critics say such secrecy prevents lawmakers and the public from evaluating the propriety of the increasing fees being paid to private financial firms for pension management services.

The secrecy trend is spreading throughout the country. Last month, for instance, Illinois officials denied an open records request for information identifying which financial firms are managing that state’s pension money. Like their Kentucky counterparts, Illinois officials asserted that the firms’ identities “constitute trade secrets.” Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act includes special exemptions for information about private equity firms.

The denial from Illinois pension officials followed a decision earlier this year by Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, to reject a newspaper’s open-records request for information about state pension investments. The treasurer’s office argued that financial firms have the right to “minimize attention” around their compensation. Last week Raimondo, who is now Rhode Island’s governor-elect, held a closed-door meeting of the state investment commission to review the state’s $61 million investment in a controversial hedge fund. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/a_multi-billion_dollar_secret_20141205



Denver Police Beat Unarmed Man, Topple His Pregnant Girlfriend and Delete the Evidence


&list=PLZNV4DrfcAmHk88zdCZJ4nydI8NurqcvL


Officers with the Denver Police Department deleted bystander footage that showed them beating an unarmed man named David Flores and knocking his pregnant girlfriend, Mayra Lazos Guerrero, to the ground. Fortunately, the segment was sent to a remote digital storage network known as a cloud, and the horrific event is preserved for all to see.

Veteran Denver police officer Charles Jones IV hit Flores—who was suspected of having hidden drugs in his mouth—in the face six times, repeatedly knocking his head against the concrete ground. The videographer, Levi Fraser, told FOX 31 news, “I used to cage fight for quite a while and I’ve never seen punches harder than that.”

Former police officer Mark Carlson was hired to review the case. He accused the officers of using excessive force. “I just don’t see how either swallowing evidence or—they’re worried about him choking—is justifying that degree of force. You’re risking—‘we don’t want you to choke, so we’re gonna fracture your face instead.’ “ .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/denver_police_beat_unarmed_man_topple_his_pregnant_girlfriend_20141204



It's All Coming To An End, Bill Gross Warns


from Zero Hedge:



Say what you want about Bill Gross, but the legendary bond investor is absolutely spot on in the following paragraph from his latest, December, investment outlook:

How could they? How could policymakers have allowed so much debt to be created in the first place, and then failed to regulate their own system accordingly? How could they have thought that money printing and debt creation could create wealth instead of just more and more debt? How could fiscal authorities have stood by and attempted to balance budgets as opposed to borrowing cheaply and investing the proceeds in infrastructure and innovation? It has been a nursery rhyme experience for sure, but more than likely without a fairytale ending.


.....(snip).....

But each of these central bankers is trying to achieve the same basic objective: Solve a debt crisis by creating more debt. Can it be done? A few years ago, I wrote that this uncommonsensical feat could be accomplished, but with a number of caveats: 1) Initial conditions must not be onerous; 2) Both monetary and fiscal policies must be coordinated and lead to acceptable structural growth rates; and 3) Private investors must continue to participate in the capital market charade that such policies produced.

Let me explain each of these three caveats in turn.

1. By initial conditions, I am referring to existing structural headwinds that would thwart the successful rejuvenation of old normal, nominal growth rates. Certainly a country’s current debt/GDP ratio factors enormously into the oddsmaking for success. It is difficult, for instance, to imagine Japan getting out of its quagmire of debt by simply creating more of it and buying 100% or more of the new and current supply. Similarly, Greece (which has already suffered several restructurings) as well as neighboring Euroland peripherals begin the healing process well behind the debt/GDP eight ball. But there are other significant initial conditions – structural headwinds – that my version of the “New Normal” envisioned as early as 2009: aging demographics, technology/the race (rage) against the machine, and the ongoing reversal of globalization, are all growth-stunting factors to consider. Economist and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has labeled this “Secular Stagnation” and rightly so, but it is just another way to describe the New Normal and its deleterious effect on future growth.
Monetary and fiscal policies must work side by side; they must be stimulative as opposed to being counterproductive. It makes little sense, for instance, for Euroland to be running a tight fiscal policy resembling the balanced budget mandate of Germany, while at the same time initiating quantitative easing and negative interest rate monetary policies. The same holds true for the Bank of Japan’s massive monetary stimulus on the one hand, and Japan’s raising of its consumption tax on the other. One could even apply that complaint to the U.S. with its fiscally restrictive rebalancing of its budget deficit from 10% to 3% over the past five years. If not for fracking, Uncle Sam might be labeled the Old Man in the Shoe for not knowing what to do. In fact, in the U.S., as elsewhere, there has been little focus on public investment and infrastructure spending. It’s been all monetary policy, all of the time, with most of the positives flowing over to markets as opposed to the real economy. The debt currently being created is not promoting real growth and solving a debt crisis – it is being used by corporations to repurchase shares and accentuate the growing inequality between the very rich and the middle class.

2. Keeping private investors playing the “game” in our financial markets even though they smack of a pyramid scheme might seem like a no-brainer. “Where else can they go” has been and continues to be the commonsensical refrain. Not sure, but perhaps Google Maps can show the way. But on the fringe and at the margin, there are alternatives to negative interest rates or artificially low cap rates, or escalating P/E ratios based on historically high profit margins. And even if investors must buy something, they don’t necessarily have to buy it in their own or any specific country. If 3-year German government bonds yield -.05%, then how about a 3-year Brazilian government bond at 12.5%? At the moment the negative yielding German bond gets the market’s vote, but you must see the point. Creating more debt with artificially low yields leads to currency wars and exchange rate volatilities that distort global capitalism. Solving a debt crisis by creating more debt cannot cure the disease if higher volatility distorts the historical flow of markets and associated commerce.

3. And of course economic theory might suggest that artificially low interest rates gradually but inevitably lead not to more consumption and real growth, but to more savings in order to meet future liabilities such as education, health care, and eventual retirement. If a household needs $250,000 for any or all of these future commitments, it will be twice as hard to meet them with 5-year Treasurys at 1.5% instead of 3%.


.....(snip).....

Markets are reaching the point of low return and diminishing liquidity. Investors may want to begin to take some chips off the table: raise asset quality, reduce duration, and prepare for at least a halt of asset appreciation engineered upon a false central bank premise of artificial yields, QE and the trickling down of faux wealth to the working class. If the nursery rhyme theme is apropos to the future, as well as the past, investors should remember that while “Jack and Jill went up the hill,” that “Jack fell down, broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.” ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-12-04/its-all-coming-end-bill-gross-warns



Noam Chomsky "Correlation between the Paris Commune and the Occupy Wall Street Movement"





It's All Coming To An End, Bill Gross Warns

from Zero Hedge:



Say what you want about Bill Gross, but the legendary bond investor is absolutely spot on in the following paragraph from his latest, December, investment outlook:

How could they? How could policymakers have allowed so much debt to be created in the first place, and then failed to regulate their own system accordingly? How could they have thought that money printing and debt creation could create wealth instead of just more and more debt? How could fiscal authorities have stood by and attempted to balance budgets as opposed to borrowing cheaply and investing the proceeds in infrastructure and innovation? It has been a nursery rhyme experience for sure, but more than likely without a fairytale ending.


.....(snip).....

But each of these central bankers is trying to achieve the same basic objective: Solve a debt crisis by creating more debt. Can it be done? A few years ago, I wrote that this uncommonsensical feat could be accomplished, but with a number of caveats: 1) Initial conditions must not be onerous; 2) Both monetary and fiscal policies must be coordinated and lead to acceptable structural growth rates; and 3) Private investors must continue to participate in the capital market charade that such policies produced.

Let me explain each of these three caveats in turn.

1. By initial conditions, I am referring to existing structural headwinds that would thwart the successful rejuvenation of old normal, nominal growth rates. Certainly a country’s current debt/GDP ratio factors enormously into the oddsmaking for success. It is difficult, for instance, to imagine Japan getting out of its quagmire of debt by simply creating more of it and buying 100% or more of the new and current supply. Similarly, Greece (which has already suffered several restructurings) as well as neighboring Euroland peripherals begin the healing process well behind the debt/GDP eight ball. But there are other significant initial conditions – structural headwinds – that my version of the “New Normal” envisioned as early as 2009: aging demographics, technology/the race (rage) against the machine, and the ongoing reversal of globalization, are all growth-stunting factors to consider. Economist and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has labeled this “Secular Stagnation” and rightly so, but it is just another way to describe the New Normal and its deleterious effect on future growth.
Monetary and fiscal policies must work side by side; they must be stimulative as opposed to being counterproductive. It makes little sense, for instance, for Euroland to be running a tight fiscal policy resembling the balanced budget mandate of Germany, while at the same time initiating quantitative easing and negative interest rate monetary policies. The same holds true for the Bank of Japan’s massive monetary stimulus on the one hand, and Japan’s raising of its consumption tax on the other. One could even apply that complaint to the U.S. with its fiscally restrictive rebalancing of its budget deficit from 10% to 3% over the past five years. If not for fracking, Uncle Sam might be labeled the Old Man in the Shoe for not knowing what to do. In fact, in the U.S., as elsewhere, there has been little focus on public investment and infrastructure spending. It’s been all monetary policy, all of the time, with most of the positives flowing over to markets as opposed to the real economy. The debt currently being created is not promoting real growth and solving a debt crisis – it is being used by corporations to repurchase shares and accentuate the growing inequality between the very rich and the middle class.

2. Keeping private investors playing the “game” in our financial markets even though they smack of a pyramid scheme might seem like a no-brainer. “Where else can they go” has been and continues to be the commonsensical refrain. Not sure, but perhaps Google Maps can show the way. But on the fringe and at the margin, there are alternatives to negative interest rates or artificially low cap rates, or escalating P/E ratios based on historically high profit margins. And even if investors must buy something, they don’t necessarily have to buy it in their own or any specific country. If 3-year German government bonds yield -.05%, then how about a 3-year Brazilian government bond at 12.5%? At the moment the negative yielding German bond gets the market’s vote, but you must see the point. Creating more debt with artificially low yields leads to currency wars and exchange rate volatilities that distort global capitalism. Solving a debt crisis by creating more debt cannot cure the disease if higher volatility distorts the historical flow of markets and associated commerce.

3. And of course economic theory might suggest that artificially low interest rates gradually but inevitably lead not to more consumption and real growth, but to more savings in order to meet future liabilities such as education, health care, and eventual retirement. If a household needs $250,000 for any or all of these future commitments, it will be twice as hard to meet them with 5-year Treasurys at 1.5% instead of 3%.


.....(snip).....

Markets are reaching the point of low return and diminishing liquidity. Investors may want to begin to take some chips off the table: raise asset quality, reduce duration, and prepare for at least a halt of asset appreciation engineered upon a false central bank premise of artificial yields, QE and the trickling down of faux wealth to the working class. If the nursery rhyme theme is apropos to the future, as well as the past, investors should remember that while “Jack and Jill went up the hill,” that “Jack fell down, broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.” ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-12-04/its-all-coming-end-bill-gross-warns



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