Archive for wall street

You're Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't

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the poor

What's pleasantly surprising is that despite Republican efforts to stall any safe jobs bill, the economy has picked up. Unemployment dropped in the latest report to 7%, the lowest number in five years.

That's forty-five straight months of improved job numbers. Now that's a great streak, but when you start in such a deep hole, it's more of a continued improvement, but not a clean bill of health.  A healthy overall unemployment number should be somewhere in the two or three percent range. Despite GOP obstruction, the President's plans, along with those of the Fed, are yielding small and steady results. And that could end up being bad news.

Job growth is bad news? Leave it to the GOP to turn improvements into detriments for hundreds of thousands. The Republicans are moving to punish those who weren't lucky enough to grab onto a job and make them suffer even more. The GOP doesn't want to renew the extended unemployment coverage for millions after their state support runs out. And of course, timing is everything. As much as it's a time of "cheer," it's also the time of great despair and the highest numbers of suicide. Being destitute, devoid of hope is a major cause. This is not the time to cut aid to the poor. Food stamps and unemployment need to be continued.

If the GOP really cares -- not that anyone believes that -- but if there's a chance there's a compassionate soul trapped in the body of a Republican, think about working on a reasonable jobs bill. Think about helping with passing a version of the Senate immigration bill. Stop your war on women and healthcare for the poor. And please don't penalize the unemployed who are just trying to find one of the few jobs out there that you haven't found ways to defund or restrict with blockage in the House and Senate.

Being a Scrooge is not only a stigma you'll be able to easily shun, but a compassionate one that you need to shed.

You can't have it both ways. You can't fight job creation on every level, then because the President's plans seem to be working, albeit slowly, slap down the job hunters who haven't been as fortunate.

Find a jobs bill and then, when enough people are working, you might consider cutting back jobless benefits. But now's not the time. Remove people from unemployment with jobs. That's the healthy way. Then the reason to trim extended funding will follow. We're not there yet.

Republicans, if you're not prepared to confess to the world that the President and his party has ushered through some steady economic growth, don't take it out on the less fortunate by further victimizing the jobless, the hungry and those in need. Increasing jobs, decreases unemployment. Don't cut essential programs. It's that simple.

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Elizabeth Warren Unleashed - Her Roar Backs Down 'Third Way' Think Tank

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lions roar

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been constantly on the attack over Wall Street gaming us, playing the public for fools on an uneven playing field. Plainly put, they refuse to pay their fair share. Recently that's brought out some ringing criticism from the Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank. Democrats for years have been known for in-squabbling. Lately it's been a Republican trait, but the exclusivity and even civility seems to be waning. Democrats are picking on each other. That's what's cost them in the past, and may hurt them again in the 2014 elections.

Responding to Senator Warren's call to increase, not trim Social Security benefits...

BUZZFEED:

Third Way’s Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler wrote Monday that “nothing would be more disastrous for Democrats” than to embrace the economic populism of Warren and New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. Warren responded Wednesday with a letter to several major financial institutions, asking them to disclose donations to think tanks — seen as a thinly veiled reference to the op-ed.

That hit a nerve, for sure. Senator Warren's attacks continued on their tactics. HUFFPO: 

The Massachusetts Democrat said that Wall Street's push to cut Social Security is part of a broader agenda. "It's part of the larger issue about a rigged playing field. They don't wanna pay more, they don't wanna pay a fair share. I believe everybody should pay a fair share," she said. "That's how we make sure people can retire with dignity. That's not what Wall Street wants to do."

Third Way's spokesman responded by saying that under Warren's plan, Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase's CEO, would be entitled to a higher Social Security payout.

"Oh please. I'm out there working for Jamie Dimon the same way Dick Cheney is out there trying to save the environment," Warren said.

Senator Warren, you tell 'em. Third Way is a think tank. Make them pay when they don't think. Seems that when you dish it back at them, Democratic ears prick up. And you're retort has even cracked through the Third Way think tank's leaders. They don't even agree with themselves, evidently.

Rep. Joe Crowley, a New York Democrat who is an honorary co-chair of Third Way, told BuzzFeed that he did not agree with Third Way on all issues, especially on Social Security, but he would “continue to work with them.”

It's nice to know someone has our backs. Now keep on 'em. Don't let up. We need you and your progressive thinking. Seniors are, as you say, for the most part separated from poverty by Social Security. They can't afford any cutbacks. Not if they want to live out their lives with a modicum of dignity. The seniors who helped build this country deserve that at the very least.

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Video- The Daily Show: Heavy Settle

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So simple, but so ignored.

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Are Corporations People or Not? If They Are, We Can Put Them Involuntarily In Conservatorship

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Corporations are people 2

Republicans, led by the vocal charge of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney have been saying corporations are people, too.

Then in 2010, the Supreme Court with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, determined that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to exercise their freedom of speech to buy elections and run our government.

In my mind, it's human beings that are people and corporations are strictly legal entities. And now it comes down to the distinction. Because if corporations are people, I want them treated that way.

If I make a series of bad, irrational or even questionable actions as an individual I can be deemed a threat to myself or others. I can be forced to appear in court and prove my competency or I can be institutionalized or made to report to a conservator. My rights can be taken away from me.

Using the Citizen's United ruling, can't we, as a stock holder (meaning someone with a vested interest in the well-being of the "individual) or purchaser of a company's product, petition the court and make them appear before a judge and prove to be competent enough to avoid supervision? Can you imagine the competency hearings that could spur on?

Outrageous, of course. That's taking the ruling way too far. But didn't the Supreme Court do the same thing?

They gave corporations the right to make donations large enough to sway elections and therefore impact my well-being. So why can't the shoe be put on the other foot? Just think about it for a minute.

show on other footThe reason there's local courts is to handle local issues, violations of laws. There are state Supreme or Superior courts to review those when justices may have made a mistake. There's Federal Appeals courts to review possible mistakes by Superior Courts. And there's the Supreme Court to review those possible misrulings. What happens when the Supreme Court makes a mistake? They can be guilty of that just as easily as any other court.

Well, like with your iPhone, we have an app for that.

MovetoAmend.org has been created to put some sanity back in America after the egregious Citizen's United ruling. They want to see it change -- recent elections have proven we need to take steps to protect our votes and now. MovetoAmed makes the argument is that with unlimited corporate money in the election process individuals rights are being trampled.

Remember Orwell's 1984 with big brother looking over our shoulder. We scoffed. Then come 2013 and Snowden's revealing the vast big brother of the NSA. It became reality.

So if you think corporate takeovers of this country isn't possible, you're naive.

Dissenting Justice Stevens wrote:

". . . corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their 'personhood' often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

~Supreme Court Justice Stevens, January 2010

The video below demonstrates how we CAN and MUST take corporate and special interests out of political campaigns. It's really a hopeful few minutes, definitely worth a look-see.

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What The Hell Is Net Neutrality?

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Net-Neutrality-all-bits

Wired:

Net neutrality is a dead man walking. The execution date isn't set, but it could be days, or months (at best). And since net neutrality is the principle forbidding huge telecommunications companies from treating users, websites, or apps differently — say, by letting some work better than others over their pipes — the dead man walking isn't some abstract or far-removed principle just for wonks: It affects the internet as we all know it.

Okay, so how does that affect me? Are we facing a shutdown or what?

Not a shutdown -- but the Internet super highway is about to erect toll booths.

toll booths

We obviously have net neutrality at the moment. Because of it I don't have to wait longer for one site to download than another. Competition as to the fastest provider, Google, FireFox, Yahoo, AOL -- it's pretty much the same. I have choices, but I don't have to pay more or less to use one over the other.

But for how long?

Not much, if the court goes the way it's leaning. And that's going to mean big changes -- subtle at first, but costly over the long run for we, the consumers. At the same time, it'll ring up obscene profits for the telecoms.

First, this opens the door to fees charged you for data uploads, downloads and speed of access. We had those once and net neutrality pretty much did away with those.

Then let's say you like to visit your favorite site. If they don't pay a fee, it may take longer to download them than another similar site and you might go away to their competition. Or our carriers may instill a surcharge on us to be downloaded at a faster speed or more available to some search engines than others.

This is a real threat. Let's say you like to get your up to the minute sports scores from ESPN.com. They may be deep pocketed enough to pay a large fee not to speed up their delivery, but to slow down full access for other sports reporting outlets by making usury demands for their accessibility and availability.

And don't forget the door this opens to advertising revenues. If you're already tired of the ads embedded in many video clips, how about having to watch one before you can open every one of your emails? Texts. Tweets. Instagrams.

Also, telecom providers will, if this law changes, make it harder for reuse and access to news and information. That might hurt Rand Paul in his speech stealing endeavors, but it also hurts small independents who need to rely on major news gathering outlets to bring you timely and complete stories. Rebroadcast of clips and even some YouTube entries may become impossible.

We're not talking about copyrights, though they are affected. We're talking about the potential for locations like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram and YouTube to charge fees for numbers of tweets sent or received, messages posted or even accessed. They can start institution of levels - The Gold level allows unlimited access while Silver allows less posts or comments and the most costly, ala carte pricing.

be scaredA huge commercial door is about to be opened and it's frightening.

...companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and others declared a war on the internet’s foundational principle: that its networks should be “neutral” and users don’t need anyone’s permission to invent, create, communicate, broadcast, or share online. The neutral and level playing field provided by permissionless innovation has empowered all of us with the freedom to express ourselves and innovate online without having to seek the permission of a remote telecom executive.

But today, that freedom won’t survive much longer if a federal court — the second most powerful court in the nation behind the Supreme Court, the DC Circuit — is set to strike down the nation’s net neutrality law, a rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010.

This is something  that we all need to watch. We've been blessed with net neutrality for some time now. And we can't afford to lose it. It's a freedom that should be as dear to us as the first amendment -- freedom of speech.

As we saw with the striking down of the Citizens United case, individuals rights are being trumped by big business and political committees fronting for specific special interests. This could soon hit us all. Our favorite sites could be forced into financial hardship or even worse, extinction.

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Rachel, It's not Plagiarism, It's Derivatives

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plagiarism

Over the past week or so it's been fun to see Rachel Maddow take on apparent Xeroxer-in-Chief, plagiarizer, the duplicitous, Rand Paul. He's in the middle of "Liftgate", the scandal. It's become evident and reported all over the news that Senator Rand Paul has an apparent Wikipedia addiction and his abundant uncredited usage of their copy as his. Time after time, just like in the song, (Sinatra, not Cindi Lauper), the Kentucky Senator has been proven to have lifted entire passages without referencing or crediting the source.

Now here at TPC, we work under the rule that you can quote, just attribute. It's pretty simple, and this way the point you're making is given some weight. After all, who knows me other than as a television/movie writer-producer-author-humorist. So when I discuss politics, science, culture, or just about anything else, it's valuable to show where that foundational information is coming from.

Of course, if the source is not the most reliable, like a rumor I heard at the grocery store or the barber, you should know that too. Then you can make up your own mind how much weight you want to give my musings. It's really not too tough to prove your points if what you present as facts really are. Generally sourcing is routine. It may take time, but the Internet is pretty handy for that. JAR (Just Ask Rand)

So shame on Rand Paul for not just taking the time and prefacing a point (even lifted word for word) with, "...And according to (fill in the blank)" then making the quote. That's not hard. And it can even boost  your presentation as you've added to your arsenal with the heft of the source -- even if it is Wikipedia. Hey, I admit it -- sometimes that's the quickest reference, especially when you're just looking for a simple definition or historical background on a person. Something like what years did Reagan serve as president? Wikipedia is fine for that.

Well, though this post is about plagiarism, it's not really about the Maddow-Paul feud and maybe even their duel. It's about our Congress and more specifically, the finance laws that are being plagiarized and passed behind our backs.

Yesterday I wrote about the Republicans defunding programs that protect us from illegal financial practices: When You Can't Beat Them, Defund Them 

Now to prosecute a banking institution you need to catch the banks red-handed. To do that you need the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to press charges. They're our watchdogs. They, by statute, have the authority to bring about legal actions on the public's behalf.

See what I did there? I attributed the statement to it's source. Anyway, according to another source, consumer watchdog and commentator, Mansur Gidfar, reports that the Congressional financial market watchdogs, our protectors, have become afflicted with plagiarism of their own.

fox in chicken house

Congress seems to be in co-opting other people's writings and passing them off as their own. Sadly in this case, it's the good guys stealing horrible concepts and turning them into law to protect the bad guys. Our financial regulations. Our elected officials are letting the criminals literally draw up the regulations (which of course  favor them) and then passing them -- all while taking money and kickbacks from the B.G.'s. (bad guys)

Rather than blather on about how wrong this is, listen to Mansur. In a few minutes he'll have you pulling out your hair asking why we're worried about Rand Paul who just delivers lifted speeches. While we're fixated on that, we're doing nothing about our congressmen/women who are plagiarizing self-serving regulations from the people they're supposed to be protecting us from. Inadvertently we're becoming victims of the old diversion play.

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When You Can't Beat Them, Defund Them

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going broke

You got to hand it to the cagey tenacity of the Republicans. When they don't like a bill. They vote against it. If somehow it still passes, the vote to defund it. Use the Affordable Care Act as a prime example.

This isn't the first time they've gone to this method of killing a law -- using funding as their weapon.

Over the past few years, new and improved regulations have been instituted on Wall Street and banking. The Republicans and their Tea Party faction don't like it, but these rules and regulations did get passed. These are protections for the consumer from fraud, speculation and undue fees charged everyone of who uses a bank or credit card.

Now to prosecute a banking institution you need to catch the banks red-handed. To do that you need the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to press charges. They're our watchdogs. They, by statute, have the authority to bring about legal actions on the public's behalf.

So last year we learn of a multi-billion dollar international banking speculation scandal, referred to as the London Whale case. In that one, JPMorgan/Chase is said to  have lost about 4 Billion dollars in bogus speculation. And who's left holding the bag? You and me. Unless... this money is recovered in actions brought about by the CFTC.

Thank God we have them. Well, we have them, but we don't fund them.

Thanks to the GOP, they voted down the necessary funding required to run the CFTC. Add to that the other cuts forced by sequestration and now we, the public, are going to be stuck with no one to recover the lost money for us, as well as prosecute the guilty. So they receive a get out of jail free card and we get $4 billion in losses. Sounds about right for the Republicans.

HUFFPO:

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has decided not to press charges against two traders in the "London Whale" case partly because it is so strapped for cash, its former chief enforcement officer, David Meister, told the Wall Street Journal.

House Republicans, as you may know, have made it pretty hard for the CFTC to do its job lately. They've repeatedly rejected requests for more CFTC funding and most recently turned down a raise for the agency to $315 million from $195 million. Of course, the agency's budget was already squeezed by the automatic spending cuts of the sequestration.

Republicans seem to think that the CFTC's budget, up from just $111 million five years ago, is more than enough. But as Bloomberg Businessweek pointed out on Friday, the markets under the CFTC's jurisdiction have gotten more than ten times bigger. (And as the WSJ notes, CFTC fines have paid for the agency's $195 million annual budget many times over.)

So the GOP wants to cut funding of a program that protects us from fraud AND more than pays for itself, if funded.

Yes, that's our Republicans at work. Shut down the government which costs us $24 Billion and yet refuse to pay for a division that can do good and make money. Isn't that what the Republicans are known for -- making money?

I think it's time for the Democrats to step forward and force the issues to the public's attention. Remind them Congress is responsible for all the banking fees we're paying to cover the Wall Street gambling by not voting in the funding necessary to protect us. It's the Republican's plot to destroy America. It's the Democrats' destiny to save it.

The Republicans have just rolled back provisions of Dodd-Frank which offers us protections from the financial shenanigans of big banks. Now they defund their donor's watchdogs (our guardians) so they can reap political contributions.

This has got to stop.

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