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Fri Apr 26, 2013, 08:18 PM


Weekend Economists Revelations and Reviews April 26-28, 2013

Well, this is a week that was!

First, the Obituary of the Weekend:

RIP Uncle Vernon Dursley
(Actor Richard Griffiths Dies)


Richard Griffiths, a versatile character actor who won a Tony Award for his stage portrayal of a British teacher in “The History Boys” but gained his widest exposure as a mean-spirited uncle in the “Harry Potter” series of movies, died March 28 at a hospital in Coventry, England, after heart surgery. He was 65.

His agent, Simon Beresford, announced his death.

Mr. Griffiths was known for the incisive intelligence he brought to his roles, his flawless vocal delivery and his considerable girth. Trained in the classical tradition of the British stage, he played Falstaff in several Shakespearean stage productions and later took on dozens of roles in theater, television and film...


....His love of language and his great ear for dialects were all the more remarkable for being born out of an unhappy and testing childhood. He was born in Thornaby-on-Tees in Yorkshire, the son of a steelworker. Both his parents were deaf, and at the age of four he was translating sign language from his mother to the local shopkeepers. His parents "could make noises when they were emotionally aroused, but they couldn't form it into speech."

He attended Our Lady & St Bede School but dropped out at 15 after having tried running away from home several times, and worked as a porter. He wanted to be an artist but his beloved Rembrandt was out of fashion at Stockton & Billingham College, and instead he drifted into acting, largely "out of disappointment", he once claimed. He won a place at the then Manchester Polytechnic, and from there his confidence grew and grew.

Work came quickly but also often predictably. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1974 and slogged his guts out playing clowns and Falstaffs, but soon directors learnt not to judge a book by its cover. He was gentle Gonzalo to Michael Aldridge's Prospero in Keith Hack's production of The Tempest (1974), and the same year Tiny in David Rudkin's chilling Afore Night Come. Inevitably he was also Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1977 and Trinculo to Michael Hordern's impeccable Prospero in another Tempest in 1978. His performances in The Comedy of Errors and The Merry Wives of Windsor were preserved for the BBC Shakespeare cycle, and soon the parts got bigger, including Henry VIII for Howard Davies and Volpone for Bill Alexander, both in 1983.

You couldn't help but notice him even in the smallest of parts, which is what his television career was all about for the first few years. After a few cough and spits as policemen and park keepers, Roland Joffe cast him in a BBC Birmingham play for the Second City Firsts strand in 1977, and from there he won a guest role in the final episode of The Sweeney as a petty crook terrified of his wife but unable to stifle an enormous libido.

He was even better guesting in Minder in 1982 as the drunken, bitter brother of a successful pop star who pushes a grand piano into a swimming pool and ends up standing on top of it while drinking champagne. The episode, "Dreamhouse", came from the pen of Andrew Payne, who went on to create Pie in the Sky (1994-97), Griffiths's biggest television success, in which he starred as a detective cum chef.

Other leading television roles included the excellent Bird of Prey (1982) in which he starred as a geeky computer programmer who uncovers a conspiracy, and the sitcom A Kind of Living in 1988. He still popped up in guest roles to great effect, such as playing a crusading clergyman dogged by a scary Satanist (Keith Allen) in Inspector Morse (1993), and Willie Whitelaw in Jeffrey Archer: The Truth (2002).

His film work included trips to Hollywood for Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Sleepy Hollow (1999), though finally it was two major roles in the 2000s which really cemented his place in screen history. He had already won an Olivier, a Drama Desk, a Critics Circle and a Tony Award for his performance as the inspirational but tragic teacher Hector in Alan Bennett's The History Boys at the National before delivering the goods again in the screen version in 2006. He was deeply wounded, he said, by a reviewer who referred to Hector as a paedophile. "That really, really upset me," he said. "If you have carnal knowledge of an 18-year-old male that's not paedophilia. Nobody in Hector's class is under 18." By then he was also known to a whole new generation as the cantankerous Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter series of films. He was awarded an OBE in 2008.

He continued to triumph on stage, notably in David Hare's version of Brecht's The Life of Galileo at the Almeida in 1994, as Martin Dysart in Equus with Daniel Radcliffe at the Gielgud in 2007, and in Art in 1998 and Heroes in 2005, both at Wyndhams. It's a magnificent roster of appearances which illustrate how hard-working and versatile he was, though it is a tragedy that Griffiths died so early into what were perhaps going to be his most exciting times.

Richard Griffiths, actor: born Thornaby-on-Tees, North Yorkshire 31 July 1947; OBE 2008; married 1980 Heather Gibson; died Coventry 28 March 2013.

Next, the destruction of the rest of the world...

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Reply Weekend Economists Revelations and Reviews April 26-28, 2013 (Original post)
Demeter Apr 2013 OP
Demeter Apr 2013 #1
kickysnana Apr 2013 #17
Demeter Apr 2013 #2
Demeter Apr 2013 #3
Demeter Apr 2013 #4
Demeter Apr 2013 #5
Demeter Apr 2013 #6
Demeter Apr 2013 #7
Fuddnik Apr 2013 #31
Demeter Apr 2013 #32
Fuddnik Apr 2013 #33
Demeter Apr 2013 #8
Demeter Apr 2013 #9
Demeter Apr 2013 #10
Demeter Apr 2013 #11
Demeter Apr 2013 #27
Demeter Apr 2013 #12
Demeter Apr 2013 #13
bread_and_roses Apr 2013 #22
Demeter Apr 2013 #14
Demeter Apr 2013 #15
Demeter Apr 2013 #16
kickysnana Apr 2013 #18
hamerfan Apr 2013 #19
Demeter Apr 2013 #20
Demeter Apr 2013 #21
Demeter Apr 2013 #23
Demeter Apr 2013 #24
Demeter Apr 2013 #25
Demeter Apr 2013 #26
Demeter Apr 2013 #28
Fuddnik Apr 2013 #29
hamerfan Apr 2013 #30
Fuddnik Apr 2013 #34
xchrom Apr 2013 #35
xchrom Apr 2013 #36
xchrom Apr 2013 #37
xchrom Apr 2013 #38
xchrom Apr 2013 #39
xchrom Apr 2013 #40
xchrom Apr 2013 #41
Demeter Apr 2013 #46
DemReadingDU Apr 2013 #42
DemReadingDU Apr 2013 #43
DemReadingDU Apr 2013 #44
Demeter Apr 2013 #45
Demeter Apr 2013 #47
hamerfan Apr 2013 #48
Demeter Apr 2013 #49
Fuddnik Apr 2013 #51
Demeter Apr 2013 #52
Fuddnik Apr 2013 #53
xchrom Apr 2013 #50

Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 08:25 PM



I really have to think the Sequester is behind this...

Parkway Bank, Lenoir, North Carolina, was closed today by the North Carolina Office of the Commissioner of Banks, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with CertusBank, N.A., Easley, South Carolina, to assume all of the deposits of Parkway Bank.

The three former branches of Parkway Bank will reopen as branches of CertusBank, N.A. during their normal business hours...As of December 31, 2012, Parkway Bank had approximately $108.6 million in total assets and $103.7 million in total deposits. In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, CertusBank, N.A. agreed to purchase approximately $99.2 million of the failed bank's assets. The FDIC will retain the remaining assets for later disposition...The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $18.1 million. Compared to other alternatives, CertusBank, N.A.'s acquisition was the least costly resolution for the FDIC's DIF. Parkway Bank is the ninth FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the first in North Carolina. The last FDIC-insured institution closed in the state was Waccamaw Bank, Whiteville, on June 8, 2012.

Douglas County Bank, Douglasville, Georgia
, was closed today by the Georgia Department of Banking & Finance, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with Hamilton State Bank, Hoschton, Georgia, to assume all of the deposits of Douglas County Bank. The four former branches of Douglas County Bank will reopen as branches of Hamilton State Bank during their normal business hours...As of December 31, 2012, Douglas County Bank had approximately $316.5 million in total assets and $314.3 million in total deposits. Hamilton State Bank will pay the FDIC a premium of 0.5 percent to assume all of the deposits of Douglas County Bank. In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, Hamilton State Bank agreed to purchase approximately $260.9 million of the failed bank's assets. The FDIC will retain the remaining assets for later disposition.

The FDIC and Hamilton State Bank entered into a loss-share transaction on $159.2 million of Douglas County Bank's assets...The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $86.4 million. Compared to other alternatives, Hamilton State Bank's acquisition was the least costly resolution for the FDIC's DIF. Douglas County Bank is the 10th FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the second in Georgia. The last FDIC-insured institution closed in the state was Frontier Bank, LaGrange, on March 8, 2013.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #1)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 11:38 PM

17. I see someone noticed that we noticed they were not posting bank failures, well done.

(sarcasm but not for the well done part)

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 08:28 PM

2. I have to apologise for the tardiness of this thread


I was working quite late. Moreso than usual.

It did, however, warm up to track suit weather today, and the forsythia is starting to bloom. It's only a month late, and temps still run below average.

But I'll take any improvement that comes this way.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 08:36 PM

3. REPOST: Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever





The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There's no price the big banks can't fix...Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world's largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything...

Couple a voluntary reporting scheme with too-big-to-fail status and a revolving-door legal system, and what you get is unstoppable corruption... regulators like Britain's Financial Services Authority and the U.S. Justice Department started burrowing into the befouled entrails of Libor. The documentary evidence of anti-competitive manipulation they found was so overwhelming that, to read it, one almost becomes embarrassed for the banks. "It's just amazing how Libor fixing can make you that much money," chirped one yen trader. "Pure manipulation going on," wrote another.

Yet despite so many instances of at least attempted manipulation, the banks mostly skated. Barclays got off with a relatively minor fine in the $450 million range, UBS was stuck with $1.5 billion in penalties, and RBS was forced to give up $615 million. Apart from a few low-level flunkies overseas, no individual involved in this scam that impacted nearly everyone in the industrialized world was even threatened with criminal prosecution.

Two of America's top law-enforcement officials, Attorney General Eric Holder and former Justice Department Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer, confessed that it's dangerous to prosecute offending banks because they are simply too big. Making arrests, they say, might lead to "collateral consequences" in the economy...



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Response to Demeter (Reply #3)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 08:39 PM

4. REPOST: WikiLeaks Was Just a Preview – by Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone



...We’ve seen the battle lines forming for years now. It’s increasingly clear that governments, major corporations, banks, universities and other such bodies view the defense of their secrets as a desperate matter of institutional survival, so much so that the state has gone to extraordinary lengths to punish and/or threaten to punish anyone who so much as tiptoes across the informational line.

This is true not only in the case of Wikileaks – and especially the real subject of Gibney’s film, Private Bradley Manning, who in an incredible act of institutional vengeance is being charged with aiding the enemy (among other crimes) and could, theoretically, receive a death sentence.

There’s also the horrific case of Aaron Swartz, a genius who helped create the technology behind Reddit at the age of 14, who earlier this year hanged himself after the government threatened him with 35 years in jail for downloading a bunch of academic documents from an MIT server. Then there’s the case of Sergey Aleynikov, the Russian computer programmer who allegedly stole the High-Frequency Trading program belonging to Goldman, Sachs (Aleynikov worked at Goldman), a program which prosecutors in open court admitted could, “in the wrong hands,” be used to “manipulate markets.” Aleynikov spent a year in jail awaiting trial, was convicted, had his sentence overturned, was freed, and has since been re-arrested by a government seemingly determined to make an example out of him.

And most recently, there’s the Matthew Keys case, in which a Reuters social media editor was charged by the government with conspiring with the hacker group Anonymous to alter a Los Angeles Times headline in December 2010. The change in the headline? It ended up reading, “Pressure Builds in House to Elect CHIPPY 1337,” Chippy being the name of another hacker group accused of defacing a video game publisher’s website. Keys is charged with crimes that carry up to 25 years in prison, although the likelihood is that he’d face far less than that if convicted. Still, it seems like an insane amount of pressure to apply, given the other types of crimes (of, say, the HSBC variety) where stiff sentences haven’t even been threatened, much less imposed...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 08:42 PM

5. Nicolas Maduro Did Not Steal the Venezuelan Election By Greg Palast



Greg Palast is a New York Times bestselling author and fearless investigative journalist whose reports appear on BBC Newsnight and in The Guardian. Palast eats the rich and spits them out. Catch his reports and films at www.GregPalast.com, where you can also securely send him your documents marked, "confidential".

The guy in the cheap brown windbreaker walking up the dirty tenement steps to my New York office looked like a bus driver.

Nicolas Maduro, elected President of Venezuela last Sunday, did indeed drive a bus, then led the drivers’ union, then drove Chávez’s laws through the National Assembly as Venezuela’s National Assembly chief.

And this week, the US State Department is refusing to accept the result, suggesting Maduro hijacked the vote count. But did he?

Maduro came to me that day in 2004 on a quiet mission, sent by President Hugo Chávez to give me information I needed for my investigation for Rolling Stone – and to get information from me that might save Chávez’s life...

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Response to Demeter (Reply #5)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 08:45 PM



...I should note that ChoicePoint, once exposed, apologised to Mexico’s government, agreed to destroy its ill-gotten voter rolls and, soon thereafter, sold itself to a credit-rating company. Wackenhut fired its goof-ball spooks and sold itself off in pieces. Both deny knowingly breaking laws of any nation. And in Bush’s US State Department, all hell broke loose, as UN Ambassador John Negroponte, sources verified, fumed over what he deemed a renegade neo-con escapade endangering remaining US oil interests. (In fact, Chevron ended up paying what I call a “coup tax”.)....

... Secretary of State Kerry’s challenge to Maduro’s 270,000-vote victory margin struck me as particularly poignant. Because in 2004, besides Chávez, I gave another presidential candidate evidence of the Bush gang’s ballot banditry: Senator John Kerry. Kerry lost to Bush by a slim 119,000 in Ohio, blatantly stolen, but Kerry refused to call for a recount. It took him two years to publicly acknowledge our findings – when he introduced, with Senator Ted Kennedy, legislation to fix America’s corrupted voting system, then let the proposed law die of neglect.

Chávez knew, and Kerry will never learn, that democracy requires more than a complete count – it requires complete courage.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #6)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 08:48 PM

7. Catherina on DU is the best source for Venezuela--see this!


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Response to Demeter (Reply #6)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 01:48 PM

31. Our new Chair of the Florida Democratic Party was a lobbyist for ChoicePoint in 2000.

And it gets even better. Her husband was a lawyer for the Bush legal team in Bush v Gore.

A friend of mine, who is a perpetual burr under these fraud's saddles, confronted her politely during Q&A at a Tarpon Springs Democratic Club meet and greet.

He was forcibly thrown out.

This party is beyond repair.

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Response to Fuddnik (Reply #31)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 01:55 PM

32. wow


when is the renaming to BFEE Party due?

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Response to Demeter (Reply #32)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 02:51 PM

33. Long past due.

Dear Leader= Bush+Vocabulary.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 08:50 PM

8. THURSDAY: Gold futures logs biggest one-day gain of the year



Gold futures jumped by nearly $40 an ounce on Thursday to log the biggest one-day gain of the year, supported by physical demand for the precious metal, prospects for easier global monetary policies and a weaker U.S. dollar.

Thursday’s rally has brought gold back to roughly 50% of the massive recent sell off, said Phil Storer, director of trading at Dillion Gage Inc., a precious-metals dealer and refiner.

He expects the rally to run out between $1,455 and $1,485, but also said it could stretch out to $1,522...


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 08:55 PM

9. Obama asks Supreme Court to review appointments ruling




Setting the stage for a constitutional showdown, the Obama administration on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to rule that presidents have broad authority to make certain appointments without Senate approval. If the nine justices agree to hear the dispute over appointments President Barack Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board last year, it will be one of the biggest issues before the court in its next term, which will begin in October and end in June 2014...The U.S. Constitution allows the president to make appointments when the Senate is in recess. Such appointments expire at the end of the congressional session...

In January the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that three appointments to the NLRB panel, which normally has five members, were invalid. The appeals court agreed with Noel Canning, the bottling company that challenged Obama's move, in finding that the president did not have the authority to make the NLRB appointments because the Senate was not technically in recess at the time...Backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Noel Canning argued that an NLRB ruling against it was invalid because of the appointments, which meant the board lacked a quorum. Obama made his NLRB appointments on January 4, 2012, when the Senate was in session but not conducting business. The congressional session began on January 3, according to the Senate website.

In the brief filed on Thursday, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli defended the recess appointment powers of the president, disputing the court's conclusion that it can only be used in the period between formal sessions of the Senate. Presidents from both parties have used their recess appointment authority to make appointments when the Senate is not conducting business. If the appeals court ruling was left to stand, it would "dramatically curtail" the president's authority, Verrilli said.

In addition to limiting presidential power, the ruling meant that the NLRB did not have the required quorum to make decisions, casting doubt on all its actions and rulings since Obama made the appointments. The ruling "threatens a significant disruption of the federal government's operations," Verrilli wrote.

The high court will decide whether to hear the case after lawyers for Noel Canning file a response, which is due within 30 days.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 09:27 PM

10. Congress passes plan to ease flight delays





The U.S. Congress on Friday approved a plan to ease nationwide air-traffic delays caused by federal spending cuts, seeking to calm irritated travelers but sparking a backlash from groups still being hit by budget cuts. The Senate unanimously voted for the plan late Thursday and the House of Representatives approved it Friday by a 361-41 vote. White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama intends to sign the bill. The legislation will give the Department of Transportation flexibility to use about $250 million in unspent funds to cover immediate salaries of air traffic controllers and other essential employees at the Federal Aviation Administration who had been furloughed.

Lawmakers hurried the bill through, eager to stem the growing wrath of the traveling public, which had dealt with significant take-off and landing delays since the furloughs started on Sunday. They also had faced anger from airline CEOs whose companies had mounted a grassroots campaign through a website called dontgroundamerica.com, encouraging Americans to send messages to Congress and the White House. Congressional approval of the air travel bill, barely four pages long, came as lawmakers prepared to fly out of Washington for a week-long recess. It was not clear how quickly the air delays would ease once the bill is enacted.

Democratic Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland chided fellow lawmakers for frantically pushing the bill through just before the break, making their upcoming travels easier. "They will pat themselves on the back and say job well done," said Van Hollen, who wanted to address more than just FAA furloughs.

The union representing the controllers was relieved. "After just one week of furloughs, it is abundantly clear that a fully staffed air traffic control workforce is necessary for our national airspace system to operate at full capacity," the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said...

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Response to Demeter (Reply #10)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 09:32 PM

11. Budget Politics Forcing Congress To Pick Favorites



...With spending cuts caused by sequestration rolling throughout the government, the question becomes which programs Congress might address next — and why.

"That's the parlor game in Washington," says Scott Lilly, a former staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. "There are dozens and dozens of candidates."

The federal government runs thousands of programs across the country, many of which are starting to feel the pinch. Most of them lack the visibility of air traffic controllers or meat inspectors, whom Congress decided to spare from the indiscriminate cuts of the sequester last month.

Many more programs will be visibly affected in May and June, as mandatory one-month notices for furloughs of federal employees begin to ripen.

Congress won't step in to restore each and every program, but the swift response to complaints about air travel delays suggests the task of cutting back on popular government services remains as daunting as ever.

"They're willing to reverse or fix the problem when they feel the slightest bit of pressure," says Stan Collender, a federal budget expert with the communications firm Qorvis. "What this tells you is the appetite for spending cuts — inside the Beltway and outside the Beltway — is very limited."



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Response to Demeter (Reply #11)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:09 AM

27. G.O.P. Claims Victory as Bill to Curb Flight Delays Passes




President Obama and Congressional Democrats on Friday abandoned their once-firm stand that growing airport bottlenecks would be addressed only in a broader fix to across-the-board spending cuts, accepting bipartisan legislation that would bring the nation’s air traffic control system back up to full strength.

With remarkable speed, the House overwhelmingly approved legislation to give the secretary of transportation enough financial flexibility to shift as much as $253 million to the air traffic control system, less than a week after the onset of politically problematic flight delays driven by across-the-board spending cuts. The money will be shifted from airport improvement funds, and none would come from additional revenues, once a key demand of Mr. Obama and the Democrats. The 361-to-41 vote came less than 24 hours after the Senate rushed the measure through.

Republicans claimed victory. “Consider that the Democrats’ opening position was they would only replace the sequester with tax increases,” Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, said in a memo to members before the vote. “By last night, Senate Democrats were adopting our targeted ‘cut this, not that’ approach. This victory is in large part a result of our standing together.”

The Congressional action effectively undoes one of the thorniest results of “sequestration,” the $85 billion in spending cuts that took effect March 1 and have rippled across the federal government. With the president’s promised signature, Democrats will lose significant leverage they had hoped would force Republicans into a larger agreement since the flight delays were seen as the sort of inconvenience that could force a reversal of the cuts...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 09:41 PM

12. The 1 Percent’s Solution By PAUL KRUGMAN



Economic debates rarely end with a T.K.O. But the great policy debate of recent years between Keynesians, who advocate sustaining and, indeed, increasing government spending in a depression, and austerians, who demand immediate spending cuts, comes close — at least in the world of ideas. At this point, the austerian position has imploded; not only have its predictions about the real world failed completely, but the academic research invoked to support that position has turned out to be riddled with errors, omissions and dubious statistics. Yet two big questions remain. First, how did austerity doctrine become so influential in the first place? Second, will policy change at all now that crucial austerian claims have become fodder for late-night comics?

On the first question: the dominance of austerians in influential circles should disturb anyone who likes to believe that policy is based on, or even strongly influenced by, actual evidence. After all, the two main studies providing the alleged intellectual justification for austerity — Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna on “expansionary austerity” and Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff on the dangerous debt “threshold” at 90 percent of G.D.P. — faced withering criticism almost as soon as they came out. And the studies did not hold up under scrutiny. By late 2010, the International Monetary Fund had reworked Alesina-Ardagna with better data and reversed their findings, while many economists raised fundamental questions about Reinhart-Rogoff long before we knew about the famous Excel error. Meanwhile, real-world events — stagnation in Ireland, the original poster child for austerity, falling interest rates in the United States, which was supposed to be facing an imminent fiscal crisis — quickly made nonsense of austerian predictions. Yet austerity maintained and even strengthened its grip on elite opinion. Why? Part of the answer surely lies in the widespread desire to see economics as a morality play, to make it a tale of excess and its consequences. We lived beyond our means, the story goes, and now we’re paying the inevitable price. Economists can explain ad nauseam that this is wrong, that the reason we have mass unemployment isn’t that we spent too much in the past but that we’re spending too little now, and that this problem can and should be solved. No matter; many people have a visceral sense that we sinned and must seek redemption through suffering — and neither economic argument nor the observation that the people now suffering aren’t at all the same people who sinned during the bubble years makes much of a dent.

But it’s not just a matter of emotion versus logic. You can’t understand the influence of austerity doctrine without talking about class and inequality. What, after all, do people want from economic policy? The answer, it turns out, is that it depends on which people you ask — a point documented in a recent research paper by the political scientists Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels and Jason Seawright. The paper compares the policy preferences of ordinary Americans with those of the very wealthy, and the results are eye-opening. Thus, the average American is somewhat worried about budget deficits, which is no surprise given the constant barrage of deficit scare stories in the news media, but the wealthy, by a large majority, regard deficits as the most important problem we face. And how should the budget deficit be brought down? The wealthy favor cutting federal spending on health care and Social Security — that is, “entitlements” — while the public at large actually wants to see spending on those programs rise. You get the idea: The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor. What the top 1 percent wants becomes what economic science says we must do.

Does a continuing depression actually serve the interests of the wealthy? That’s doubtful, since a booming economy is generally good for almost everyone. What is true, however, is that the years since we turned to austerity have been dismal for workers but not at all bad for the wealthy, who have benefited from surging profits and stock prices even as long-term unemployment festers. The 1 percent may not actually want a weak economy, but they’re doing well enough to indulge their prejudices. And this makes one wonder how much difference the intellectual collapse of the austerian position will actually make. To the extent that we have policy of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent, won’t we just see new justifications for the same old policies? I hope not; I’d like to believe that ideas and evidence matter, at least a bit. Otherwise, what am I doing with my life? But I guess we’ll see just how much cynicism is justified.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Apr 26, 2013, 09:48 PM

13. Health Chaos Ahead By DAVID BROOKS




It was always going to be difficult to implement Obamacare, but even fervent supporters of the law admit that things are going worse than expected. Implementation got off to a bad start because the Obama administration didn’t want to release unpopular rules before the election. Regulators have been working hard but are clearly overwhelmed, trying to write rules that influence the entire health care sector — an economic unit roughly the size of France. Republicans in Congress have made things much more difficult by refusing to provide enough money for implementation.

By now, everybody involved seems to be in a state of anxiety. Insurance companies are trying to put out new products, but they don’t know what federal parameters they have to meet. Small businesses are angry because the provisions that benefited them have been put on the back burner. Health care systems are highly frustrated. They can’t plan without a road map. Senator Max Baucus, one of the authors of the law, says he sees a “huge train wreck” coming. NO DOUBT THAT IS WHY HE BUGGED OUT AND DECIDED TO RETIRE...

I’ve been talking with a bipartisan bunch of health care experts, trying to get a sense of exactly how bad things are. In my conversations with this extremely well-informed group of providers, academics and former government officials, I’d say there is a minority, including some supporters of the law, who think the whole situation is a complete disaster. They predict Obamacare will collapse and do serious damage to the underlying health system. But the clear majority, including some of the law’s opponents, believe that we’re probably in for a few years of shambolic messiness, during which time everybody will scramble and adjust, and eventually we will settle down to a new normal.

What nobody can predict is how health care chaos will interact with the political system. There’s a good chance that Republicans will be able to use unhappiness with what is already an unpopular law to win back the Senate in 2014. Controlling both houses of Congress, they will be in a good position to alter, though not repeal, the program. The law’s biggest defenders will then become insurance companies and health care corporations. Having spent billions of dollars adapting to the new system, they are not going to want to see it repealed or replaced. The experts talk about the problems that lie ahead in cascades:

  • First, there is what you might call the structural cascade. Everything is turning out to be more complicated than originally envisioned. The Supreme Court decision made the Medicaid piece more complicated. The decision by many states not to set up exchanges made the exchange piece more complicated. The lines of accountability between, for example, state and federally run exchanges have grown byzantine and unclear. A law that was very confusing has become mind-boggling. That could lead people to freeze up. Insurance companies will hesitate before venturing into state exchanges, thereby limiting competition and choice. Americans are just going to be overwhelmed and befuddled. Many are just going to stay away, even if they are eligible for benefits.

  • Then there is the technical cascade. At some point, people are going to sit at computers and enroll. If the data process looks like some 1990s glitchmonster, if information doesn’t flow freely, then the public opinion hit will be catastrophic.

  • Then there is the cost cascade. Nearly everybody not in the employ of the administration agrees this law does not solve the cost problem, and many of the recent regulatory decisions will send costs higher. A study in California found that premiums could increase by an average of 20 percent for people not covered by federal subsidies. A study by the Society of Actuaries found that by 2017 costs could rise by 32 percent for insurers covering people in the individual exchanges, and as high as 80 percent in states like Ohio.

  • Then there is the adverse selection cascade. Under the law, young healthy people subsidize poorer, sicker and older people. But the young may decide en masse that it is completely irrational for them to get health insurance that subsidizes others while they are healthy. They’ll be better off paying the fines, if those are even enforced, and opting out. Without premiums from the young, everybody else’s costs go up even higher.

  • Then there is the provider concentration cascade. The law further incentivizes a trend under way: the consolidation of hospitals, doctors’ practices and other providers. That also boosts prices.

    Over all, it seems likely that in some form or another Obamacare is here to stay. But the turmoil around it could dominate politics for another election cycle, and the changes after that — to finally control costs, to fix the mind-boggling complexities and the unintended consequences — will never end. Regulatory regimes can be simple and dumb or complex and sprawling. When you build complex, it takes a while to work through the consequences.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #13)

    Sat Apr 27, 2013, 08:37 AM

    22. Same here (n/t)

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Fri Apr 26, 2013, 09:53 PM

    14. Consumers' shift to older iPhones raises concerns on Wall Street



    So many consumers are opting to buy older iPhone models that some analysts wonder whether Apple has lost its ability to create new versions that dazzle...


    ...Not only has the shift toward cheaper phones nibbled away at Apple's profit margins, it's been dramatic enough for some analysts to view the iPhone 5 as a disappointment.

    "I think it's no surprise then that the iPhone 5 is selling worse than expected," said Brian Colello, an analyst at Morningstar.

    When Macchiavello went shopping recently for a new phone, she wasn't thinking about the bigger screen size of the iPhone 5, its faster processor, or the fact it could come with 32 gigabytes of memory. What she did think about was its price, ranging from $199 to $399.

    So instead, she gravitated to the iPhone 4, which to some may border on heresy in the gadget-obsessed Bay Area. Macchiavello got the iPhone with a mere 8 gigabytes of memory for practically free from AT&T in exchange for signing a two-year service contract....

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Fri Apr 26, 2013, 09:57 PM




    Germany Signals Austerity Leeway in Budget-Rule Flexibility


    A German Finance Ministry official said that budget-cutting rules must allow for flexibility, opening a chink in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s austerity-first policy as the only course to rescue Europe from its debt crisis.

    Rules governing how the euro area’s 17 members scale back deficits are not absolute and must respond to a shifting economic outlook, Deputy Finance Minister Steffen Kampeter said. He was responding to comments by European Commission President Jose Barroso that the path of austerity had reached its limits...

    EU Nations Seek Transaction Tax Answers on Repurchase Agreements


    Eleven European Union nations that plan to introduce a common financial-transaction tax are seeking assurances from the European Commission that the levy won’t drive up their borrowing costs.

    The Brussels-based commission should provide data about the impact of the tax on the market for so-called repurchase agreements, and by extension “on the funding cost of the central government and the real economy,” according to an April 16 working document prepared by the 11 states.

    The EU estimates the tax could raise 30 billion euros ($39 billion) to 35 billion euros a year. To become law, it has to be approved by the participating nations: Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia and Slovakia. All 27 EU nations can sit in on the talks and have the option to join.

    The 11 states are trying to address concerns that the plan could lead to the “extinction” of repo operations that keep government borrowing costs down by allowing traders to hedge their risks, according to the document. The commission has not been “fully clear” on whether revenue from the tax would offset potentially higher borrowing costs, the nations said...

    Divisions hamper bid for trading tax in Europe


    ...The idea has already opened a rift in Europe after Britain last week mounted a legal challenge to the plan, which would hit trades involving banks in London even though Britain has no intention of signing up to the scheme.

    Now doubts are also emerging within the group of 11 countries that want to pioneer the tax, designed to collect money from an industry blamed for causing the global financial crisis, according to a document prepared by EU officials and seen by Reuters.

    In the document, officials flag concerns about who will be liable for the tax and which country's authorities will have to bear the cost of collecting the levy.

    They raise fears recently voiced by Italian officials about the impact on the cost of government debt when the charge is levied on bond deals. They express worries about hurting pension funds and companies, paving the way for possible exemptions....

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Fri Apr 26, 2013, 10:38 PM

    16. Economic Slowdown Coming - Even for the Fatcats By Yves Smith



    ...why shouldn’t the professional investors (as opposed to widows and orphans who can no longer rely on low risk bond investments to produce adequate income) be pleased as punch? This recovery may be nothing to write home about, but it sure has served those at the very top of the food chain extremely well. Remember, the income gains in this tepid rebound have gone entirely to the top 1% while the rest of us as a whole have lost ground. And aggregates like that mask increasing distress among at the bottom of the economic ladder. For instance, in New York, a city that has benefited more from the tender ministrations of the Federal Reserve and Treasury than most cities in the US, the number of poor and near-poor increased in 2011. From the New York Times:

    The rise in New York City’s poverty rate as a result of the recession has apparently eased, but not before pushing nearly half of the city’s population into the ranks of the poor or near-poor in 2011, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg administration.

    That year, according to the city’s measure, about 46 percent of New Yorkers were making less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold, a benchmark used to describe people who are not officially poor but who still struggle to get by. That represents a rise of more than three percentage points since 2009, when the nation’s recession officially ended.

    And with so many left out of the fruits of what growth there has been, there’s a real possibility that the economy will move into stall speed. And the econopundits are finally waking up to the fact that the slowdown in the rest of the world will drag on the US. 25% of S&P earnings come from Europe, for instance. From theWall Street Journal:

    Troubles overseas are threatening the U.S. recovery for the fourth year in a row. This time it’s weakening economies abroad, rather than tumbling financial markets, signaling turbulence ahead.

    U.S. exports of goods to the European Union are declining outright. Growth in overall U.S. exports has been sputtering for months, after a three-year postrecession surge. And major U.S. companies are reporting increasingly dour overseas outlooks tied to the recession-plagued euro zone and slowing growth in other leading economies such as China.

    The renewed fears of a global slowdown come after months of hope that a stronger recovery was finally taking shape.

    “Every now and then you see a glimmer, things seem to improve, and then a little bit of bad news comes,” World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu said….

    And this is before you get to the fact that the gangrene of European austerity is reaching the core, yet the only debate among the powers that be is whether to ease up a bit, not whether to change course completely. And political fissures are widening. Italy is the one country that Germany can’t push around much because it could credibly leave the Eurozone. Luigi Bersani, the center-left leader that the Troika had hoped would win the Italian elections, was ousted by his own party in a series of votes over Parliamentary leadership, leading to the re-election of Giorgio Napolitano as President. This development is seen to favor Berlusconi, who has advocated leaving the eurozone. People came to the streets as the vote was announced and Beppe Grillo called for protests, although he said he could not travel in in time from the north to join.

    Now the optimists are touting housing and shale gas as the drivers of recovery. Yet we are at risk of seeing a repeat of the pattern of 2010 through 2011, in which growth in the first three months fades, leading to the question as to how much of that growth was an artifact of seasonal adjustments that don’t fit well with an economy in a balance sheet recession. And the high profit levels that stock mavens have celebrated are part of the problem. We’ve never had a recovery where the labor share of GDP growth had been so low. Some stock-watchers have also pointed to Warren Buffett’s remark in 1999:

    In my opinion, you have to be wildly optimistic to believe that corporate profits as a percent of GDP can, for any sustained period, hold much above 6%. One thing keeping the percentage down will be competition, which is alive and well.

    What appears to have changed since then is major industries becoming more concentrated (banking is a prime example), leading to oligopolistic pricing, which is rent extraction, pure and simple. In addition, Paul Krugman reminds us this evening that cutting government spending when the economy is less than robust is a sure path to a slowdown. And he stresses an angle that is often treated as secondary in policy discussions, namely, the way the long-term unemployed are effectively permanently unemployed. The usual excuse offered is that their skills have become stale, but Krugman contends that the real issue is pure and simple prejudice:

    The key question is whether workers who have been unemployed for a long time eventually come to be seen as unemployable, tainted goods that nobody will buy. This could happen because their work skills atrophy, but a more likely reason is that potential employers assume that something must be wrong with people who can’t find a job, even if the real reason is simply the terrible economy. And there is, unfortunately, growing evidence that the tainting of the long-term unemployed is happening as we speak.

    One piece of evidence comes from the relationship between job openings and unemployment. Normally these two numbers move inversely: the more job openings, the fewer Americans out of work. And this traditional relationship remains true if we look at short-term unemployment. But as William Dickens and Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University recently showed, the relationship has broken down for the long-term unemployed: a rising number of job openings doesn’t seem to do much to reduce their numbers. It’s as if employers don’t even bother looking at anyone who has been out of work for a long time.

    To test this hypothesis, Mr. Ghayad then did an experiment, sending out résumés describing the qualifications and employment history of 4,800 fictitious workers. Who got called back? The answer was that workers who reported having been unemployed for six months or more got very few callbacks, even when all their other qualifications were better than those of workers who did attract employer interest.

    So we are indeed creating a permanent class of jobless Americans.

    Another open question is the odd continued rise of stock prices even as corporate earnings weaken. Why are investors paying more for companies whose earnings are declining in aggregate? In normal bull markets, you see a new leadership group emerge, and late in cycle, investors increasingly favor conservative stocks. This time the leaders are defensive plays, high quality companies that pay healthy dividends. While bulls say that this is predictable given ZIPR, we’ve had ZIPR for years now. Why should these stocks be worth more now? Now of course, the short answer is simple: it’s the momentum, stupid. Many fundamentally-oriented investors have been licking their wounds. And the nature of momentum-driven investing is that it can work longer than more sober-minded souls would think possible. When this disconnect ends is anyone’s guess. But markets like this suggest that even more caution than usual is warranted.

    Yves Smith is the founder of Naked Capitalism and the author of 'ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism.'

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #16)

    Fri Apr 26, 2013, 11:46 PM

    18. Also ex-mployees who have survived the worst will not do anything to keep their jobs.

    Like not join unions or not speak up.

    They are not subject to the daily group speak, propaganda and insane, unnecessary pressures employers use today.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 27, 2013, 02:57 AM

    19. Musical Interlude

    RIP, George Jones.
    He led the life of a rock star & made it to 81. We should all be so lucky.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 27, 2013, 07:51 AM

    21. 4 Recent Victories for the Common Good



    1. February 22: Public Access to Publicly-Funded Research

    After a major public outcry, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) directed federal agencies to make published results freely available to the public. Director John Holdren declared, “Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support.”

    The announcement by the Obama Administration came after 65,000 people petitioned the White House to make publicly-supported research available to the public. The decision came 6 weeks after the suicide of Aaron Swartz who was facing up to 35 years in prison for freely distributing nearly 5 million scholarly articles from a privately owned digital archive. The death of Swartz—whose 2008 manifesto declared that sharing information is a “moral imperative” and that the “privatization of knowledge” is a curse—became a rallying cry for those who wanted to honor his legacy by changing a federal bias toward the privatization of public information that goes back to the Reagan Administration.

    2. March 3: Swiss Vote to Put Fat Cats on Diet

    By more than 2 to 1, Swiss voters approved the “fat cat initiative”, a Constitutional amendment that bans big payouts to new and departing managers, gives shareholders the right to veto executive compensation and makes prison the penalty for executives who defy the new rules. All 26 Swiss cantons approved the amendment. A few weeks before the vote the nation was both outraged and energized by the $78 million payoff offered to the outgoing Chairman of Novartis even as the firm was cutting jobs. The vote reflected a deep-seated public sense “that company managers have been ransacking the coffers at the expense of society”, noted one Zurich newspaper.

    3. March 21: Right to Water Advocates Gain Ground in Europe

    The European Right to Water Initiative announced it had gathered 1.3 million signatures on a petition to demand the European Commission stop mandating or encouraging the privatization of water utilities. To be formally recognized by the European Union, the petition needs not only a million signatures but also a sufficient number from 7 EU member states. Currently 5 states have exceeded that level; several more are close.

    4. April 10: Saturday Mail Saved

    The US Postal Service reversed its February 6th decision to end Saturday mail delivery as of this August. The Postal Service blamed Congress for requiring six-day delivery in a continuing budget resolution in March, but the reason really was the groundswell of public opposition to its decision. Indeed, the leading advocate of privatizing the Post Office, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee declared, “Despite some assertions, it’s quite clear that special interest lobbying and intense political pressure played a much greater role in the Postal Service’s change of heart than any real or perceived barrier to implementing what had been announced.”

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 27, 2013, 09:55 AM

    23. How One Tweet Almost Broke US Financial Markets By Nick Baumann MOTHER JONES






    When a phony Associated Press tweet reported explosions in the White House, Wall Street's computers reacted as if it were real...In the January/February issue of Mother Jones, I wrote about Wall Street's embrace of high-speed computer programs that execute thousands of trades per second. These algorithms, some of which can teach themselves and operate almost entirely without human interference, present a new and challenging danger to the stability of global financial markets because they work in timeframes that people can't begin to perceive. By the time an actual person realizes something is wrong, it might already be too late to fix the problem. The concern isn't that one firm's high-speed trading program will make a mistake, but rather that a bunch of them will make the same mistake at once, launching a chain reaction that could undermine the financial system.

    On Tuesday, the world saw exactly how fast these sorts of programs can respond to bad news. Many high-speed trading algorithms are designed to read headlines and trade based on that information before human traders can react. So when the Associated Press Twitter account tweeted at 1:07 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday that two explosions were reported in the White House and President Barack Obama was injured, the market fell immediately...The S&P 500 fell nearly 1 percent, wiping out more than $130 billion in shareholder value in minutes. As the market plunged, quotes—offers to buy or sell—surged. But the vast majority of those offers were withdrawn before anyone could trade on them. Liquidity—a term that refers to the ease with which traders can buy or sell a financial product—dried up, suggesting that today's highly liquid markets are in fact very fragile.

    ...The S&P 500 fell nearly 1 percent, wiping out more than $130 billion in shareholder value in minutes. As the market plunged, quotes—offers to buy or sell—surged. But the vast majority of those offers were withdrawn before anyone could trade on them. Liquidity—a term that refers to the ease with which traders can buy or sell a financial product—dried up, suggesting that today's highly liquid markets are in fact very fragile.

    Liquidity in the S&P 500 E-Mini, the most important stock futures contract, has "never dropped that quickly and that far that fast—ever," says Eric Hunsader, who runs NANEX, a firm that provides software and services to high-speed traders. "The faster that we let trading go, the faster liquidity will disappear," he adds. For ordinary traders, the sheer speed with which high-speed traders pulled out of the market in the wake of the phony AP tweet suggests that "the investor is a spectator not a participant." He continues, "There is no way [the average investor is] going to be able to get in and take advantage of something like this. The prices you see on CNBC might as well be a newspaper at the end of the day."

    ...Within about five minutes—after it became clear that the AP tweet was fake, the Twitter account was suspended, AP journalists tweeted that the tweet was false, and a group of Syrian activists claimed responsibility—the market recovered its losses. But the incident suggests that someone with the ability to hack high-profile Twitter accounts could wreak havoc on US and world financial markets, and make a lot of money doing so. If you knew that a hacked tweet was about to panic the markets, you could short the market for that period of time, or buy low when stocks hit bottom, knowing they'd recover when the news proved to be false. In fact, the fake tweet made regulators suspicious that something like that might have happened: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is investigating trading in 28 futures contracts during the tweet crash to make sure everything was above-board and no one had inside information. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission are also probing the incident....


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    Response to Demeter (Reply #23)

    Sat Apr 27, 2013, 09:58 AM

    24. Investigations Expand in Hacking of A.P. Twitter Feed By NICOLE PERLROTH NYT



    ...“We have standard operating procedures whenever there are market developments, and this is no exception,” said John Nester, an S.E.C. spokesman. “These procedures start with getting the facts about what occurred. We do not limit ourselves to looking at the catalyst for an event, but also its repercussions, to determine whether any further inquiries or actions are warranted.”

    The A.P.’s account was the fourth prominent Twitter account of a media organization to be hacked in recent months — accounts for CBS, NPR and the BBC have all been hijacked by hackers recently — but the A.P. incident had the most serious impact. Within seconds of the fake A.P. post, the Dow Jones Industrial Average nosedived, dropping 150 points, before recovering five minutes later. High-frequency trading algorithms that are designed to make trades based on certain headlines served as a catalyst...

    Mr. Chilton, who referred to high frequency traders as “cheetahs,” noted that there was no “kill switch” in their technology to prevent them from acting on misinformation. “We need to set up basic rules of the road,” Mr. Chilton said. “We should not just accept technology blindly.”

    The timing of the A.P. on Twitter comes just two weeks after Bloomberg announced that it would start incorporating Twitter feeds into its financial information terminals. The new feature allows traders to monitor social media buzz and market-moving news from their Bloomberg terminals. Bloomberg introduced the service after it became clear that traders were already using the service to inform trading decisions. Last August, an erroneous tweet suggested that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was dead, created a surge in crude oil prices...

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:03 AM

    25. The Morose Middle Class By CHARLES M. BLOW



    The Middle Class is in a funk, its view of the future growing dim as fear rolls in like a storm. An Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll released Thursday found that while most Americans (56 percent) hold out hope that they‘ll be in a higher class at some point, even more Americans (59 percent) are worried about falling out of their current class over the next few years. In fact, more than eight in 10 Americans believe that more people have fallen out of the middle class than moved into it in the past few years. The poll paints a picture of a group that is scared to death about its station in life.

    By the way, 58 percent of respondents in the poll viewed themselves as either middle class (46 percent) or upper middle class (12 percent). According to the poll, Americans see a middle class with less opportunity to get ahead, less job security and less disposable income than the middle class of previous generations. Respondents were most likely (52 percent) to say that losing a job would put them at the greatest risk of falling out of their current class, followed by an unexpected illness or injury in the family. Most of those polled believe that higher education is the key to staying in the middle class, but many worry about its prohibitive cost and inaccessibility.

    And who did most of them say is responsible for making it worse for the middle class? Congress, chief executives of major corporations and big financial institutions. Of those who blame politicians, there is some evidence that Republicans get more of the blame than Democrats. A CNN/ORC poll released last month found that 32 percent of respondents thought that Democrats favor the middle class compared with 27 percent who believed the same of Republicans. Sixty-eight percent of those polled believed that Republicans favor the wealthy, compared with 24 percent who believed that Democrats do.

    This anxiety about a shrinking middle class is understandable. A Pew Research Center study, “The Lost Decade of the Middle Class,” released in August, found that “since 2000, the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some — but by no means all — of its characteristic faith in the future.” According to the report, “Fully 85 percent of self-described middle-class adults say it is more difficult now than it was a decade ago for middle-class people to maintain their standard of living.”

    The report continued:

    “Their downbeat take on their economic situation comes at the end of a decade in which, for the first time since the end of World War II, mean family incomes declined for Americans in all income tiers. But the middle-income tier — defined in this Pew Research analysis as all adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median — is the only one that also shrunk in size, a trend that has continued over the past four decades.”

    ...In his State of the Union speech in February, President Obama said that the “true engine of America’s economic growth” is “a rising, thriving middle class.” It certainly looks as if that engine has stalled.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:07 AM

    26. With Winters Gone, Can We Be Far Behind? By DICK CAVETT FOLLOW-UP ON LAST WEE


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:14 AM

    28. Duty calls


    I'll be back to see what you all have added....It's spring, today, and for the next 5 days...I'm going to try to go out and enjoy it!

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #28)

    Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:25 AM

    29. Potty calls

    Then yardwork. It looks like the rainy season is going to kick off a couple of weeks early. So, I've got the week-end to accomplish a few things.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 27, 2013, 01:20 PM

    30. Musical Interlude II

    More George:

    Here's the complete statement from his publicist. The ol' Possum was, understandably, one of those performers who I always figured would probably die early for (the usual) self-inflicted reasons; i.e. it wouldn't have surprised me many, many years ago to pick up the morning paper and read he'd died. Ditto a number of other famous musicians. I think I'll dig out "The Race Is On" and listen to it; that one is timeless...

    Nashville, Tenn. (April 26, 2013) – Country Music Hall of Famer, Grand Ole Opry member, and Kennedy Center Honoree George Glenn Jones died Friday, April 26, 2013 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He was hospitalized April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure.

    Born September 12, 1931, Jones is regarded among the most important and influential singers in American popular music history. He was the singer of enduring country music hits including “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Grand Tour,” “Walk Through This World With Me,” “Tender Years” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” the latter of which is often at the top of industry lists of the greatest country music singles of all time.

    “A singer who can soar from a deep growl to dizzying heights, he is the undisputed successor of earlier natural geniuses such as Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell,” wrote Bob Allen in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Encyclopedia of Country Music.”

    Jones was born in Saratoga, Texas, and he played on the streets of Beaumont for tips as a teenager. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps before returning to Texas and recording for the Starday label in Houston, Texas. In 1955, his “Why Baby Why” became his first Top 10 country single, peaking at number four and beginning a remarkable commercial string: Jones would ultimately record more than 160 charting singles, more than any other artist in any format in the history of popular music.

    Jones’ first number one hit came in 1959 with “White Lightning,” a Mercury Records single that topped Billboard country charts for five weeks. He moved on to United Artists and then to Musicor, notching hits including “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Race Is On,” “A Good Year for the Roses” and “Walk Through This World With Me.”

    Jones signed with Epic Records in 1971 and worked with producer Billy Sherrill to craft a sound at once elegant and rooted, scoring with “The Grand Tour,” “Bartenders Blues” and many more. Sherrill also produced duets between Jones and his then-wife Tammy Wynette, and in the 1970s they scored top-charting hits including “We’re Gonna Hold On,” “Golden Ring” and “Near You.”

    By the time “Golden Ring” and “Near You” hit in 1976, Jones and Wynette were divorced, and Jones was battling personal demons. His solo career cooled until 1980, when he recorded “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” a ballad penned by Curly Putman and Bobby Braddock that helped Jones win Country Music Association prizes for best male vocal and top single. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” revived a flagging career, and Jones won the CMA’s top male vocalist award in 1980 and 1981. He also earned a Grammy for best male country vocal performance.

    In 1983, Jones married the former Nancy Ford Sepulvado. The union, he repeatedly said, began his rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol and prolonged his life. He signed with MCA Records in 1990 and began a successful run, and he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. His guest vocal on Patty Loveless’ “You Don’t Seem To Miss Me” won a CMA award for top vocal event in 1998, and it became his final Top 20 country hit.

    In 1999, Jones nearly died in a car wreck, but he recovered and resumed touring and recording. He remained a force in music until his death, playing hundreds of shows in the new century and collecting the nation’s highest arts award, the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievement, in 2008. In late 2012, Jones announced his farewell tour, which was to conclude with a sold-out, star-packed show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on November 22, 2013. Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, Sam Moore, The Oak Ridge Boys and many others were set to perform at Jones’ Bridgestone show.

    Jones is survived by his loving wife of 30 years Nancy Jones, his sister Helen Scroggins, and by his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sat Apr 27, 2013, 05:21 PM

    34. Pool Time.

    Today's yardwork is done. Now for a splash!

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 06:48 AM

    35. South Africa’s Mines Union to Ask for Double-Digit Pay Increase


    The National Union of Mineworkers, an ally of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, said it will ask for a double-digit increase in pay when negotiating with the Chamber of Mines in May.

    “Demands to the Chamber of Mines will be delivered two weeks from now and the NUM will demand a double-digit pay increase as well as significant improvement in conditions of service,” the union said in an e-mailed statement today.

    With industrywide wage talks looming, tensions between labor groups are intensifying. Lonmin Plc (LON) ended a six-week strike at Marikana last year by agreeing to pay increases for workers of 11 percent to 22 percent. South African mining companies that employ the NUM’s two top leaders should no longer have to pay their union-related salaries, the Chamber of Mines said last week.

    The union was founded in 1982 by workers including Cyril Ramaphosa, who went on to lead the biggest-ever strike in the country’s gold industry five years later and is now the richest black South African after Patrice Motsepe, according to the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times. The NUM vies with the National Union of Metalworkers to be the biggest in the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which has been in alliance with the ANC since the first all-race elections in 1994.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 06:51 AM

    36. China Industrial Companies’ Profit Growth Slows as Economy Cools


    Growth in Chinese industrial companies’ profits slowed in March, adding to evidence the nation’s economic recovery is losing steam.
    Net income increased 5.3 percent from a year earlier to 464.9 billion yuan ($75 billion), down from a 17.2 percent pace in the first two months, the National Bureau of Statistics said on its website yesterday. Profit in the first quarter rose 12.1 percent to 1.17 trillion yuan, it said.

    China’s stocks fell for a third straight month in April amid investor concern that the recovery in the country’s economic expansion is losing momentum and will hurt corporate earnings. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP) closed 1 percent lower on April 26, the last trading day before a three- day holiday ending May 1.

    “Profits are only growing in line with sales and with problems of overcapacity and the sluggish global picture, it doesn’t bode well for a speedy return to higher profit margins,” said Louis Kuijs, chief China economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in Hong Kong. “Heavy industries especially still face destocking and higher costs, but if there is a silver lining, industries catering to the consumer, like textiles, food and beverages, seem to be doing much better.”

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 06:55 AM

    37. Spain Is Beyond Doomed: The 2 Scariest Unemployment Charts Ever


    Spain is in a great depression, and it is one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen.

    Five years after its housing boom turned to bust, Spanish unemployment hit a record high of 27.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013. It's almost too horrible to comprehend, but 19.5 percent of the total workforce has not had a job in the past six months; 15.3 percent have not in the past year; and 9.2 percent have not in the past two years. You can see this 1930s-style catastrophe in the chart below from the National Statistics Institute.

    Here's the story of Spanish unemployment in three acts. During the boom, joblessness was relatively high due to persistent structural problems. Then it shot up fast and faster as Spain's building bust and then Lehmangeddon hit in 2008. But it has kept climbing up since the panic abated, albeit at a less catastrophic pace, due to the toxic combination of too tight money and budgets.

    In other words, austerity hasn't been the path to prosperity. It's been the path to perma-slump.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 07:45 AM

    38. Germany's Greens lurch left in bid to beat Merkel


    (Reuters) - Germany's Greens lurched to the left at a party congress in Berlin over the weekend by endorsing a "soak-the-rich" campaign for new taxes, a risky attempt to win power in September's election that upset the party's pragmatist wing.

    Ignoring warnings against raising too many taxes at once from their most successful leader, Greens state premier Winfried Kretschmann, the 800 delegates voted to push to raise the top income tax rate to 49 percent from 42 percent and introduce an annual 1.5 percent wealth tax on assets above a million euros.

    Greens delegates even booed one of their most respected leaders, Tuebingen mayor Boris Palmer, when he said the tax increases weren't balanced - a humiliating slap in the face for the "realo" or pragmatic wing that has long ruled the roost.

    The Greens' shift at the congress that ended on Sunday seemed calculated to woo left-leaning voters and raise the party's chances of returning to power after September's election to end its eight-year stretch in opposition.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 07:49 AM

    39. Bank of Japan lifts economic forecasts


    The Bank of Japan (BoJ) has raised its forecast for both economic growth and inflation this year in its twice yearly report.

    The BoJ now estimates growth for the year from March to March of 2.9%, up from its previous forecast of 2.3%.

    Of equal interest was its forecast for inflation, which it lifted to 0.7% from 0.4%.

    Deflation has been one of the biggest bugbears for Japanese policy makers as it holds back consumer spending.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 07:54 AM

    40. Spain revises down its economic forecast


    Spain's government has revised down its forecast for the Spanish economy this year, saying the level of contraction is likely to be worse than previously predicted.

    Madrid now expects the economy to contract by 1.3% in 2013, compared with its earlier estimate of -0.5%.

    The announcement came as the government presented its economic programme for the next three years.

    Spain's unemployment rate hit 27.2% in the first three quarters of 2013.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 08:35 AM

    41. Luxembourg Is Not The Next Cyprus


    The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, with a population of just over half a million, smaller even than the other speck in the Eurozone, the Republic of Cyprus, ranks in the top three worldwide in per-capita GDP.

    In a Eurozone wealth survey, it had the highest average household wealth – €710,100. Only Cyprus, a former off-shore banking center in the Eurozone, came close.

    Yet Luxembourg is threatened with ruin.

    It has 141 banks – bank companies, not ATMs. One bank per 3,808 people. Most of them do private banking. The financial sector added 38% to GDP in 2010 and contributed 30% to the country’s tax revenues, according to the Luxembourg Bankers’ Association (ABBL). All due to bank secrecy and tax laws.

    Read more: http://www.testosteronepit.com/home/2013/4/26/luxembourg-is-not-the-next-cyprus-not-yet-but.html#ixzz2RlF5lP3c

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    Response to xchrom (Reply #41)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 11:28 AM

    46. Pull the plug on the Euro.


    It is an Epic Fail.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 09:31 AM

    42. Paul Farrell: Capitalism is killing our morals, our future

    4/27/13 Paul Farrell: Capitalism is killing our morals, our future

    Yes, capitalism is working ... for the Forbes 1,000 Global Billionaires whose ranks swelled from 322 in 2000 to 1,426 recently. Billionaires control the vast majority of the world’s wealth, while the income of American workers stagnated.

    For the rest of the world, capitalism is not working: A billion live on less than two dollars a day. With global population exploding to 10 billion by 2050, that inequality gap will grow, fueling revolutions, wars, adding more billionaires and more folks surviving on two bucks a day.

    Over the years we’ve explored the reasons capitalism blindly continues on its self-destructive path. Recently we found someone who brilliantly explains why free-market capitalism is destined to destroy the world, absent a historic paradigm shift: That is Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel, author of the new best-seller, “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets,” and his earlier classic, “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?”

    For more than three decades Sandel’s been explaining how capitalism is undermining America’s moral values and why most people are in denial of the impact. His classes are larger than a thousand although you can take his Harvard “Justice” course online. Sandel recently summarized his ideas about capitalism in the Atlantic. In “What Isn’t for Sale?” he writes:

    “Without being fully aware of the shift, Americans have drifted from having a market economy to becoming a market society ... where almost everything is up for sale ... a way of life where market values seep into almost every sphere of life and sometimes crowd out or corrode important values, non-market values.”

    Click link to

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    Response to DemReadingDU (Reply #42)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 09:39 AM

    43. Mike Shedlock: Is Capitalism Killing Our Morals and Economy?

    4/24/13 Mike Shedlock: Is Capitalism Killing Our Morals and Economy?

    In one of the most hopelessly incorrect collections of drivel that I have ever seen, Paul Farrell of MarketWatch writes Capitalism is killing our morals, our future.
    Yes, something is trapped in our brains, or rather the brains of Farrell, Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel, and those who think like them. The first problem is Farrell and Sandel do not know what free market capitalism is. We certainly do not have it. The free market would not have fractional reserve lending. The free market would have gold and silver as money.

    The primary reason for the major disparity in wealth is bank leverage of fiat money created at will via fractional reserve lending. The most redeeming feature of capitalism is failure, but the Fed has a moral hazard policy of "too big to fail" that promotes massive risk-taking.

    There would be no Fed in a free market and there would be bank failures, not bailouts on the backs of taxpayers. In a free market, money would not be inflated at will, nor would credit be handed out to anyone who could breathe as happened in the housing bubble.

    Anyone who equates what is happening now with "free market economics" has something much smellier than mush for brains. So does anyone who thinks the socialist model would serve us better. If the socialist model was better, and more regulation and rules were the solution for everything, France would be the booming leader of the world economy.


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    Response to DemReadingDU (Reply #43)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 09:44 AM

    44. PonziWorld: Ground and Pound On Global Ponzi Capitalism

    4/27/13 PonziWorld: Ground and Pound On Global Ponzi Capitalism

    Paul Farrell went all in on Ponzi Capitalism. Then Shedlock went after Farrell for some reason. Now I am going to tear Shedlock a new asshole...
    Notice, as always, the key facts were never refuted.

    Paul Farrell asserted that there was a 340% increase in the number of billionaires in 13 years, even as the poverty statistics for the U.S. went likewise parabolic. Shedlock made no comment on that stat, apparently, that's all good.
    Then, the first point Shedlock made was that Paul Farrell "does not know what capitalism is" - apparently "the free market would not allow fractional reserve lending".

    None of us know what "free market capitalism is", because fractional reserve lending came into being in 1913 - 100 years ago. We've all lived "in the bubble" our entire lives.

    Then Shedlock goes after the Fed - rightly so - for creating distorted incentives. But he never tackles greed. He never tells us how to solve that problem. I ask this fundamental question - did Hush Puppy-wearing clueless academics in positions of power in the U.S. create the underlying corruption in this system. Or was it special interest groups seeking untoward gains and massive short-term profits, that corrupted the system? Which came first? This is the fundamental question at hand.
    And, worst of all, Shedlock never mentions Globalization. He never tells us how American workers are supposed to compete with Chinese wage slaves who have no environmental or labour standards and who are trying to commit suicide, but can't because there are fucking trampolines installed around their buildings.

    I don't go in for these philosophical debates, and clearly we are talking about two different things. Paul Farrell and this blog are excoriating ponzi capitalism such as it exists today and has existed for the past forty years. Shedlock is yearning for some bygone era that has never existed in his lifetime, but almost certainly exists on paper somewhere. The bottom line is that you can tell me all day that some version of "capitalism" is great, but then you better figure out how to feed the children. Because only a deluded out-of-touch apologist for greed doesn't know what happens if you don't feed the children. And while we are at it, we need a system that rewards hard work. Because clearly the globalized ponzi scheme rewards the hardest-working people the least, another factor Shedlock never addresses. In the end, what "ism" that eventually system gets us to, is strictly a philosophical diversion.

    a bit more...

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    Response to DemReadingDU (Reply #44)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 11:27 AM

    45. "Feed the Children" Would be the start of a GREAT Platform


    for universal change to the human society...for the benefit of ALL the human race.

    And I don't think anything less will make a difference.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 11:49 AM

    47. Speechless


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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 12:05 PM

    48. Musical Interlude III

    Tennessee Whiskey by George Jones:

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 12:46 PM



    I'm going out of town and mind next weekend...anybody want to run the place from Friday night to Sunday?

    The format is free and easy...there's really nothing to it but opening the door so your friends can come in and chat!

    Leave word below....

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #49)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 06:41 PM

    51. I could probably start things off Friday evening.

    But no human could possibly fill your mighty shoes.

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    Response to Fuddnik (Reply #51)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 07:49 PM

    52. My feet are not THAT big!


    The Kid, on the other hand, is size 12....I would be eternally grateful.

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    Response to Demeter (Reply #52)

    Mon Apr 29, 2013, 12:31 AM

    53. It's Derby Week-end. I guess that will be the theme.

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    Response to Demeter (Original post)

    Sun Apr 28, 2013, 01:34 PM



    NEW YORK (AP) -- Procter & Gamble had been on a tear.

    The company's stock had climbed 22 percent since the start of the year as the maker of Tide detergent and Crest toothpaste turned in better profits for two quarters in a row. Last Thursday, P&G reported even higher earnings. And its stock immediately dropped 6 percent.

    What happened? Like so many other big companies reporting results recently, P&G hit its target for earnings but missed on revenue. Nearly halfway through the first-quarter earnings season, Corporate America is still reporting solid profits, with seven of every ten big companies hurdling over Wall Street's expectations. Sales, however, are another story.

    Nearly the same proportion of big companies - six out of ten - have fallen short of revenue targets, according to S&P Capital IQ. The tally so far looks grim: Revenue has shrunk 2.4 percent compared with last year.

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