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marmar

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 64,883

Journal Archives

Big Dallas Plunder (School privatization scheme)


from In These Times:


Big Dallas Plunder
Dallas business interests stacked the school board. Now, a rule change could open the door for wholesale school privatization.

BY GEORGE JOSEPH


Dallas school board elections are generally lackadaisical affairs. In 2011, the school board elections were cancelled for lack of interest, as all three candidates ran unopposed. But since the beginning of 2012, hundreds of thousands of Super PAC dollars from Dallas’ richest neighborhoods began flowing into nearly all of the district’s school board elections.

Since 2011, Educate Dallas, a PAC backed by the Dallas Regional Chamber (the local Chamber of Commerce), has raised $661,953 in cash on hand for its school board war chest, and the Dallas-based education reform PAC Kids First, led by millionaire tech CEO Ken Barth, has raised $661,616. The majority of their donations come from Dallas’ famous aristocrats, including Barth, Ross Perot, Ray Hunt—an oil heir with a net worth of $5.8 billion—and Harlan Crow, a real estate heir and buddy of Clarence Thomas.

What made white businessmen from Dallas’ segregated northern enclaves, who typically donate to their children’s private academies, start caring about the plight of a low-income district? In Dallas Independent School District, 89 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch and 95.4 percent are students of color.

One hint may come from trips that the Chamber funded for school board and city council members. District records show that since at least 2011, the Chamber spent thousands on its so-called “best practices” tour—trips for city council and school board members to Denver, Houston and Los Angeles to better understand charter schools, publicly funded but privately operated institutions. For-profit charters have been expanding in Dallas over the past 15 years, especially in the wake of the closure of 11 public schools in early 2012. And the Chamber boasts a number of charter-school operators among its members, including longtime affiliates Uplift Education and Texans CAN Academies, two of the city’s largest charter chains. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17110/dallas_home_rule_push_could_open_the_charter_floodgates



Chris Hedges: The Dead Rhetoric of War (2013)

from Truthdig:



The Dead Rhetoric of War

Posted on Sep 16, 2013
By Chris Hedges


The intoxication of war, fueled by the euphoric nationalism that swept through the country like a plague following the attacks of 9/11, is a spent force in the United States. The high-blown rhetoric of patriotism and national destiny, of the sacred duty to reshape the world through violence, to liberate the enslaved and implant democracy in the Middle East, has finally been exposed as empty and meaningless. The war machine has tried all the old tricks. It trotted out the requisite footage of atrocities. It issued the histrionic warnings that the evil dictator will turn his weapons of mass destruction against us if we do not bomb and “degrade” his military. It appealed to the nation’s noble sacrifice in World War II, with the Secretary of State John Kerry calling the present situation a “Munich moment.” But none of it worked. It was only an offhand remark by Kerry that opened the door to a Russian initiative, providing the Obama administration a swift exit from its mindless bellicosity and what would have been a humiliating domestic defeat. Twelve long years of fruitless war in Afghanistan and another 10 in Iraq have left the public wary of the lies of politicians, sick of the endless violence of empire and unwilling to continue to pump trillions of dollars into a war machine that has made a small cabal of defense contractors and arms manufacturers such as Raytheon and Halliburton huge profits while we are economically and politically hollowed out from the inside. The party is over.

The myth of war, as each generation discovers over the corpses of its young and the looting of its national treasury by war profiteers, is a lie. War is no longer able to divert Americans from the economic and political decay that is rapidly turning the nation into a corporate oligarchy, a nation where “the consent of the governed” is a cruel joke. War cannot hide what we have become. War has made us a nation that openly tortures and holds people indefinitely in our archipelago of offshore penal colonies. War has unleashed death squads—known as special operations forces—to assassinate our enemies around the globe, even American citizens. War has seen us terrorize whole populations, including populations with which we are not officially at war, with armed drones that circle night and day above mud-walled villages in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia as well as Iraq and Afghanistan. War has shredded, in the name of national security, our most basic civil liberties. War has turned us into the most spied-upon, monitored, eavesdropped and photographed population in human history. War has seen our most courageous dissidents and whistle-blowers—those who warned us of the crimes of war and empire, from Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning to Edward Snowden—become persecuted political prisoners or the hunted. War has made a few very rich, as it always does, as our schools, libraries and firehouses are closed in the name of fiscal austerity, basic social service programs for children and the elderly are shut down, cities such as Detroit declare bankruptcy, and chronic underemployment and unemployment hover at 15 percent, perhaps 20. No one knows the truth anymore about America. The vast Potemkin village we have become, the monstrous lie that is America, includes the willful manipulation of financial and official statistics from Wall Street and Washington. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_dead_rhetoric_of_war_20130916



For London, one Crossrail isn’t enough




from the Transport Politic blog:



For London, one Crossrail isn’t enough


As Paris begins construction on a massive new program of circumferential metro lines designed to serve inter-suburban travel, London has doubled down on its efforts to improve links within the center of the metropolitan area. The two approaches speak to the two regions’ perceived deficiencies: Paris with its inadequate transit system in the suburbs, London with a core that is difficult to traverse.

There’s one thing both cities deem essential, though: Much faster transit links to reduce travel times around each respective region. In London, that means growing support for additional new tunneled rail links designed to bring suburban commuters through the center city while speeding urban travelers.

Since the conclusion of the second World War, London’s Underground network has grown very slowly: The Victoria Line was added in 1968 and the Jubilee Line extended in 1979, but that’s about it. In some ways, that made sense: London region’s population peaked in 1951 at 8.1 million and declined precipitously until the 1980s. It only recouped it losses in 2011. But the region is now growing quickly, adding an estimated 100,000 or more people a year, reaching a projected 9.7 million 20 years from now. The number of commuters entering the city is expected to grow by 36% by 2031.

That growth has put incredible strain on the city’s transit network, with ridership growing by 40% in fifteen years. Through direct government grants, the support of the pseudo-public Network Rail, and the commitment of Transport for London, the local transit organizing body, the city has two major relief valves under construction. The Thameslink Programme, which will open for service in 2018, will improve the existing north-south rail link through the city by allowing for trains every two to three minutes; the Crossrail 1 project, also opening in 2018, will create a new, 21-km northwest-to-southeast subway corridor that is expected to increase overall transit capacity by 10% while significantly reducing east-west travel across the city center. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2014/07/30/for-london-one-crossrail-isnt-enough/

In the words of Howard Zinn ...........


"Terrorism has replaced Communism as the rationale for the militarization of the country, for military adventures abroad, and for the suppression of civil liberties at home. It serves the same purpose, serving to create hysteria."


"Behind the deceptive words designed to entice people into supporting violence -- words like democracy, freedom, self-defense, national security -- there is the reality of enormous wealth in the hands of a few, while billions of people in the world are hungry, sick, homeless."



http://www.notable-quotes.com/z/zinn_howard.html






Self-Service Scooters are the Next Form of Communal Transportation in Paris?



The Parisian family of environmentally-friendly vehicles could very well be enlarged! After the famous Vélib’, self-service bikes, and Autolib’, public electric car sharing service, Scootlib’ is set to be the next to enlarge the ranks of alternatives for getting around the capital. Zoom with Scootlib’, Paris’ self-service scooters!

Self-Service Scooters

The City of Paris has expressed the desire to make it so that in several years, residents of the capital largely abandon their individual means of transport to circulate solely with those vehicles owned by the city. Following Velib’ and Autolib,’ enter Scootlib’. In order to meet their goal, what better than to propose the rental of the three types of vehicles most often used on the roads: bikes, cars, and scooters!

Self-service stations of electric scooters already exist in two cities: San Francisco and Barcelona. In the Californian city, one hundred scooters have taken to the roads since September 2012, and 250 are parked in the seven neighborhoods of the Catalan capital since May 2013. But the Parisian project is even more ambitious: Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, wants 3,000 to 5,000 scooters, spread out in 700 stations across the city.

The clientele targeted by Scootlib’: Teens and young working adults

The public targeted by the Scootlib’ initiative is essentially youth and young working adults, between 14 -16 years old and 35-40 years old respectively. These are the citizens who own a motorized scooter or who get around in the city using Velib’ or the metro. And the desire to use motorized scooters is increasing. It is important to note that 150,000 motorized two-wheelers currently circulate every day in Paris, even though there are only 80,000 parking places that can accommodate them. Scootlib’ could therefore be a good solution in response to this problem. This is especially true considering one particular burning issue circulating the news: the end of tolerance for sidewalk parking, which was voted by the Council of Paris on Dec. 17, 2013. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://sustainablecitiescollective.com/global-site-plans-grid/322306/self-service-scooters-are-next-form-communal-transportation-paris



Bank Settlement Grade Inflation: High Bullshit to Cash Ratio in $17 Billion Bank of America Deal


from Naked Capitalism:


Bank Settlement Grade Inflation: High Bullshit to Cash Ratio in $17 Billion Bank of America Deal
Posted on August 21, 2014 by Yves Smith


Over the last year, the Administration has entered into a series of bank settlements over various types of mortgage misconduct. The sudden rush to generate headlines from misdeeds that have been covered in the media in lurid detail during and after the crisis looks an awful lot like an effort to stem continuing criticism over the abject failure to punish banks and more important, their execs for blowing up the global economy for fun and profit, particularly since the Dems are at serious risk of losing control of the Senate in the Congressional midterms.

But as much as the media dutifully amplifies the multibillion headline value of these pacts, we’ve reminded readers again and again that all of these agreements have substantial non-cash portions which are ludicrously treated as if they have the same value as cold, hard cash. As we’ve reminded readers often, it’s critical to keep your eye on the real money, since the rest of the total is almost without exception things the bank would have done anyhow (or even better, giving banks credit for costs actually borne by others, like modifying mortgages that the bank merely services, meaning the bank gets a credit for a writedown imposed on an investor).

A telling trend in this rash of deal-making is that the bullshit to cash ratio has been rising. Notice the pattern:

November 2013 JP Morgan settlement of FHFA, other Federal, and certain state mortgage claims. $13 billion headline value. $9 billion in cash. Bullshit to cash ratio: 44.4%

July 2014 Citigroup mortgage settlement over misrepresenting residential mortgage backed securities. $7 billion headline value. Cash portion $4.5 billion. Bullshit to cash ratio: 55.6%

August 2014 Bank of America settlement. $17 billion headline value. Cash portion $9 billion. Bullshit to cash ratio: 88.9%


Now admittedly, none of these approach the mother of all bullshit settlements, namely, the Federal/49 state mortgage settlement of early 2012, whose real purpose was to take pesky state attorneys generals out of the business of getting too inquisitive about mortgage chain of title issues, which Georgetown Law professor Adam Levitin more colorfully called “securitization fail”. The totals kept moving around prior to the filing of the settlements with each bank, and by then, the media had lost interest in the particulars. Since these pacts are really all about managing public perception rather than punishing bank crimes, the rough and ready figures touted at time of the initial announcement are most germane.

February 2012, Federal/49 state mortgage settlement. $25 billion headline value. “Less than $5 billion” in cash, so charitably call it $5 billion. Bullshit to cash ratio: 400%. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/08/high-bullshit-to-cash-ratio-in-17-billion-bank-of-america-deal.html



Rick Perry 2016





http://www.truthdig.com/cartoon/item/perry_20140822


Bank Settlement Grade Inflation: High Bullshit to Cash Ratio in $17 Billion Bank of America Deal


from Naked Capitalism:


Bank Settlement Grade Inflation: High Bullshit to Cash Ratio in $17 Billion Bank of America Deal
Posted on August 21, 2014 by Yves Smith


Over the last year, the Administration has entered into a series of bank settlements over various types of mortgage misconduct. The sudden rush to generate headlines from misdeeds that have been covered in the media in lurid detail during and after the crisis looks an awful lot like an effort to stem continuing criticism over the abject failure to punish banks and more important, their execs for blowing up the global economy for fun and profit, particularly since the Dems are at serious risk of losing control of the Senate in the Congressional midterms.

But as much as the media dutifully amplifies the multibillion headline value of these pacts, we’ve reminded readers again and again that all of these agreements have substantial non-cash portions which are ludicrously treated as if they have the same value as cold, hard cash. As we’ve reminded readers often, it’s critical to keep your eye on the real money, since the rest of the total is almost without exception things the bank would have done anyhow (or even better, giving banks credit for costs actually borne by others, like modifying mortgages that the bank merely services, meaning the bank gets a credit for a writedown imposed on an investor).

A telling trend in this rash of deal-making is that the bullshit to cash ratio has been rising. Notice the pattern:

November 2013 JP Morgan settlement of FHFA, other Federal, and certain state mortgage claims. $13 billion headline value. $9 billion in cash. Bullshit to cash ratio: 44.4%

July 2014 Citigroup mortgage settlement over misrepresenting residential mortgage backed securities. $7 billion headline value. Cash portion $4.5 billion. Bullshit to cash ratio: 55.6%

August 2014 Bank of America settlement. $17 billion headline value. Cash portion $9 billion. Bullshit to cash ratio: 88.9%


Now admittedly, none of these approach the mother of all bullshit settlements, namely, the Federal/49 state mortgage settlement of early 2012, whose real purpose was to take pesky state attorneys generals out of the business of getting too inquisitive about mortgage chain of title issues, which Georgetown Law professor Adam Levitin more colorfully called “securitization fail”. The totals kept moving around prior to the filing of the settlements with each bank, and by then, the media had lost interest in the particulars. Since these pacts are really all about managing public perception rather than punishing bank crimes, the rough and ready figures touted at time of the initial announcement are most germane.

February 2012, Federal/49 state mortgage settlement. $25 billion headline value. “Less than $5 billion” in cash, so charitably call it $5 billion. Bullshit to cash ratio: 400%. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/08/high-bullshit-to-cash-ratio-in-17-billion-bank-of-america-deal.html



Vultures Circling Argentina, Disconnect At The Fed


from the Working Life blog:


Vultures Circling Argentina, Disconnect At The Fed
Posted on 20 August 2014


It might look these events are completely unrelated but there is a tie between the extortion underway of Argentina courtesy of a hedge fund, on the one hand, versus the cluelessness at the Federal Reserve Board about what is actually happening to real people.

The vulture is Paul Singer, the hedge fund billionaire who runs Elliott Management. The very short story is that he won’t take a discount on bonds he holds from Argentina’s defaulted bonds–contrary to just about all the rest of the claimants who negotiated a deal with Argentina that would still hand them a nice tidy 300 percent profit.

Argentina is trying to get some legislation passed in the U.S. to help out but certainly this sums it up:

Argentina has refused to pay the holdouts, calling them vultures whose actions are akin to extortion, comments which were repeated by Mr. Kicillof on Wednesday. Both sides failed to reach a court-mediated settlement last month, and on July 30, Argentina slipped into a default after a $539 million interest payment to other bondholders was blocked.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kicillof said the government would extend the option to swap the original bonds with those to be issued under Argentine law to its holdout investors who did not participate in previous debt restructurings.

“Mr. Singer can come here and show up at the counter and receive payment, obtaining a 300 percent profit,” Mr Kicillof said. But, he added, “that isn’t enough for Mr. Singer because he’s a vulture.”


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

The point is that, underneath both events, is the same problem: the financial mandarins still call the shots and are always looking for a way to fuck the regular person, whether s/he lives in Argentina or on Main Street U.S.A. ..............(more)

- See more at: http://www.workinglife.org/2014/08/20/vultures-circling-argentina-disconnect-at-the-fed/#sthash.5hmT5fQq.dpuf



What Happened to the Recovery?


from Dollars & Sense:


What Happened to the Recovery?
BY GERALD FRIEDMAN


Part I: Weak Employment, Stagnant Wages, and Booming Profits

The 2007-2010 recession was the longest and deepest since World War II. The subsequent recovery has been the weakest in the postwar period. While total employment has finally returned to its pre-recession level, millions remain out of work and annual output (GDP) is almost a trillion dollars below the economy’s “full-employment” capacity. This column explains how high levels of unemployment have held down wages, contributing to soaring corporate profits and a remarkable run-up in the stock market.

Output plunged and has not recovered. There was a sharp fall in output (GDP) at the onset of the Great Recession, down to 8% below what the economy could produce if labor and other resources were employed at normal levels (“full employment” capacity). Since the recovery began, output has grown at barely above the rate of growth in capacity, leaving the “output gap” at more than 6% of the economy’s potential—or nearly $1 trillion per year.



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

Part II: Government Policy and Why the Recovery Has Been So Slow

The recovery from the Great Recession has been so slow because government policy has not addressed the underlying problem: the weakness of demand that restrained growth before the recession and that ultimately brought on a crisis. Focused on the dramatic events of fall 2008, including the collapse of Lehman Brothers, policymakers approached the Great Recession as a financial crisis and sought to minimize the effects of the meltdown on the real economy, mainly by providing liquidity to the banking sector. While monetary policy has focused on protecting the financial system, including protecting financial firms from the consequences of their own actions, government has done less to address the real causes of economic malaise: declining domestic investment and the lack of effective demand. Monetary policy has been unable to spark recovery because low interest rates have not been enough to encourage businesses and consumers to invest. Instead, we need a much more robust fiscal policy to stimulate a stronger recovery.

The Fed has kept interest rates unprecedentedly low. Determined not to repeat what orthodox economists saw as the main cause of the Great Depression—a “tight” money supply—the Federal Reserve responded very aggressively to the crisis in 2007 and 2008. The Fed drove its main target short-term interest rate, the federal funds rate, down to an unprecedented near-zero level. Even at interest rates below zero in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, however, effective demand has been so depressed and so much unused productive capacity has remained that banks have found few borrowers. .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2014/0814friedman.html



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