Wednesday, January 6, 2016

(Defaulting Is the New Black?)  Too Many Secrets Exposed  (Next Subprime Trades:  Compressed Risks Ready to Explode?)  No Sustainables from Gates/Biotech Mob  (Another Purposely Missing Safety Valve - Not Required by Law!)

Controlled by Shadow Government:  How Top U.S. Officials Are at the Mercy of the “Deep State”

Media Fear-Mongers About Supposed “ISIS Plots” While Covering Up Key Details Like Police Entrapment and Mental Illness
The U.S. Press Has Been Accused of Helping ISIS Spread Propaganda. On New Year's we saw yet another absurd example.

Ghanaians have been fighting attempts at the imposition of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), by the Biotech industry and The Gates Foundation [1], into their food system for the last few years, including by taking the Government to Court on the issue.[2]

“Since October, [Sempra’s Porter Ranch gas] leak has spewed at least 1.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equivalent to 200,000 vehicles driving for a year, said Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board” [Bloomberg]. “‘I put my life savings into this home because it’s behind gates, and I felt safe there,’ Paige Hemmis said. ‘I don’t anymore.'” Since October, the leak has spewed at least 1.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equivalent to 200,000 vehicles driving for a year. One lawsuit claims the company failed to replace safety valves on the line. Sempra spokeswoman Melissa Bailey said such valves aren’t required under state regulations and it’s too early to say whether they would have prevented the leak.

Stories of 2015 (Michael Hudson):  Well, the leading story is that the economy has not recovered. That the 1 percent have recovered, but the 99 percent have not recovered. And there is no sign of recovery, or even any sign that the presidential candidates running in next year’s election are trying to do anything. . . . The continued austerity programs that they have. And what is going to be the political response to this austerity? At what point are voters going to say, wait a minute, we’re not going to vote the establishment mainstream parties if both the Republicans and the Democrats here, or in Europe the Conservatives and the Labour Party and the social democratic parties, they’ve all moved to the right wing of the spectrum, to pro-Wall Street. And either you save the economy, or you save Wall Street and the 1 percent. And so far both parties, both sides of the spectrum in Europe and America, are saving the 1 percent, not the 99 percent.

And you know, 200 years ago the solution to all this was to restore prosperity by extending democratic parliamentary reform, thinking that people were going to vote in their own self-interest. But that hasn’t happened. Instead of voting for self-interest, people get to vote which party supporting Wall Street do they want to watch on television, when the president and the cabinet come on and promote one tax cut on the 1 percent after another. One tax increase on the 99 percent after another. As they gut environmental laws. Which party do you want to actually administer this move to the right? A friendly Democratic face, or a sort of frowning Republican face, in the world of Orwellian doublethink rhetoric. At what point are voters going to see through all this?

If you skip Max and Stacy's reporting below . . . well . . . you probably deserve (or are looking forward to) that next ooommph! to your financial gut. It's always amazed me when confronted with how many people don't (or won't) stay apprised of what's been happening since the 2008 Financial Crisis/Holdup. I strongly recommend that you spend the next 20 minutes watching the video below. Nobody does it quite like Max and Stacy - or as quickly.

Yelling at Yellen?

Too easy. It was only a .025% increase and nothing bad's happened so far.

Earlier this month when Fed chair Janet Yellen offered her rationale for raising interest rates, it was sadly reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech, given on the USS Abraham Lincoln when he declared that major combat operations in Iraq were over in 2003.
Yellen spoke from her well-feathered perch about the “considerable progress that has been made restoring jobs, raising incomes, and easing the economic hardship of millions of Americans.” A few days later Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill and $700 billion in tax breaks before they went on their holiday. The president signed off on it all and headed off for his spectacular vacation to Hawaii.
Just what country are these happy holiday revelers living in? Even the Hallmark Channel in 2015 has more social realism than the happy talk generated from the Beltway.
Down here at the pedestrian level, between 2010 and 2014 poverty increased in one third of America’s 3,000 counties, when compared to the 2005 to 2009 period, according to the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey. In fact, the “recovery,” that pastel-colored unicorn, was only seen in the 4 percent of the nation’s counties where poverty actually declined. The rest remained stagnant.
Looking at a graphic representation of the troubling trend, a wide swath of the Pacific Northwest and most all of California, down on through the Southwest, saw this rise in poverty. On the East Coast, the New England states and those in the mid-Atlantic region were equally hard hit, and the “new” South did not escape unscathed.

It should come as no surprise. Millions of Americans lost their homes, and with them the foundation of their household wealth. During the “recovery,” census data documents that the median U.S. household income has actually declined for three years in a row and remains below its peak in 1999.

The labor force participation rate, the percentage of Americans in a job or looking for one, remains historically low, at less than 63 percent, which means that 93 million able-bodied Americans are not working. A big chunk of the nation is missing in action.

Last year, the National Employment Law Project used Bureau of Labor statistics to analyze just what kinds of jobs had been created in the “recovery” following the Great Recession. What they found was what every American looking for work already knows:
The jobs that have been created are mainly in the lowest-paying sector of the economy.
In the NELP’s report “The Low Wage Recovery: Industry Employment and Wages Four Years Into the Recovery,” researchers found that there were now 2.3 million more of the lowest-paying jobs, 700,000 fewer middle-income positions and more than a half million fewer higher-paying jobs.

And while Yellen and her colleagues, with their Inspector Clouseau magnifying glass, are unable to find inflation, there is plenty of evidence of deflation of the wages Americans are earning. NELP found this past Labor Day that wages in the 800 lowest-paying occupations they surveyed had actually declined by 5.7 percent from 2009 to 2014. Mid-level wage-paying positions saw a 2.6 decline in the real median wage while the best-paying jobs saw a 3 percent slide.

We are settling into a new feudalism where income disparity and wealth inequality are actually accelerating, and hardwired into the economy. As more Americans adjust to their diminished economic standing, they are paying more and more of their shrinking income for higher rents.
. . . By 2013, white household wealth was 13 times that of the median net worth of black households, up significantly from eight times in 2010. Pew used data from the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances.
Back in 1968, Dr. Ralph Albernathy led a poverty mule train to Resurrection City, an impromptu encampment in our nation’s capital organized to bring national focus to the plight of the nation’s poor. Back then an American still had a national conscience that could be pricked with some effect, combined with the election of Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Consider that from 1959 to 1968 the ranks of those living in poverty had dropped from close to 40 million to 25 million.
Today, more than 45 million Americans are on food stamps, which is equivalent to the entire population of Jordan, Hong Kong, Israel, Sweden and Hungary combined. 
Earlier this year, a personal finance website, released a national survey that indicated 62 percent of American households had no emergency savings and were living from paycheck to paycheck. In a nation where keeping up with the Joneses is hard-wired in our DNA, we often choose to remain isolated about the week-to-week struggle so many of us are in.
Back in 2012 in their seminal book The Rich and the Rest of Us:  A Poverty Manifesto, authors Tavis Smiley and Cornel West captured the essence of our national political discourse with an accuracy that endures. “Beyond sound bite competition, these candidates for high office, protected with gilded lives of wealth and privilege, seem to know nothing about poverty or the poor. They claim to be concerned about the middle class, but they must have not gotten the memo, the new poor are the former middle class.”


The government is just an ATM to the wealthy. Want to end that? We need public funding for federal elections. We need to address gerrymandering, we need to deal with the lousy 4th estate (a new fairness doctrine), shorten election season, gut Citizen's United, make election day a holiday (make it patriotic to vote), make registering to vote and actual voting easier. In short, we need a constitutional amendment. It won't be easy, but the alternative will be far worse. No other action available in our current framework will suffice (how's that Dodd-Frank working out). If we can move in that direction, then that could be an example of the kind of political revolution that Bernie speaks of.

Don't miss the comments above; they'll slay you.

But wait.

What else can we do to the poor (and formerly middle class) to make their lives even more worthless (and painful)?

There are lots of things even if we don't mention providing an abysmal lack of decent health care for the over 40 million unemployed.

Michael Grabell, last noted here for his great piece on temp workers in modern America, has a vomit-inducing piece on the excesses of workers compensation conferences, where new layers of middlemen who have seen ways to profit of providing compensation, party to grotesque excess.
A scantily clad acrobat dangles from the ceiling, performing flips and splits as machines puff smoke and neon lights bathe the dance floor in turquoise and magenta. Dancers in lingerie gyrate on poles to the booming techno. Actors dressed as aliens pose for selfies with partygoers. There’s an open bar and waiters weave through the crowd passing out chocolate truffles.
It’s the closing night of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo.
The party at Light, a Cirque du Soleil-themed club at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, capped off the workers’ comp industry’s biggest annual networking event. For three days in November, hundreds of vendors wooed insurers and employers with lavish after-hours parties, giveaways of designer handbags, photos with Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug, and free rides in orange Hummer limousines.
A top manager for a major insurance company recalled standing amid the hoopla a few years back when a company CEO turned to her and marveled: “All of this because somebody got hurt at work.”
Workers’ comp is supposed to be simple. If you’re injured on the job, your employer pays your medical bills and part of your wages while you recover.
But over the past two decades, a cottage industry of middlemen has emerged, which some have dubbed the “workers’ comp industrial complex.” Even private equity firms have bought in, seeing profit opportunities in employers’ and insurers’ quest to contain spending.
This must be happening because compensation for actual injured workers is really great, right? Ha ha, no.  
Over the past year, ProPublica and NPR have detailed how state after state has reduced the benefits historically granted to injured workers. As a result, some workers have been evicted from their homes, denied medical care and put in humiliating situations.
While lawmakers have clamped down on payments to workers, doctors and lawyers, little scrutiny has been given to these “cost containment” firms — even though today they arguably have more influence on how injury benefits are handled than insurers and employers.
Highlighting the bounty, there are now more than 150 workers’ comp conferences a year. There’s one for the American Society of Workers Comp Professionals, one for the Association of Workers’ Compensation Professionals and one for the Association of Workers’ Compensation Claims Professionals. At least 26 have golf tournaments.
At the national workers’ comp and disability expo, vendors gave away Apple watches, bottles of bourbon, and a Vespa scooter. There were free massages and shoeshines, a superhero caricature artist, more than one mentalist, and a live alligator named Spike.
The problem, shockingly, is private equity firms:
Last year, workers’ comp insurers in California spent 36 percent of premiums on overhead — more than they spent on medical care. That’s over twice what group health plans can spend on administrative costs under the Affordable Care Act.
A glimpse of the Vegas expo shows why. There were companies that provide networks of doctors and companies that review medical bills, firms that provide expert medical opinions and firms that specialize in complex claims. There were defense lawyers, data processing firms, rehab facilities, surveillance companies, outside claims shops, occupational medicine clinics, pain management services, translators, schedulers, headhunters and associations promoting other conferences.
There were labs that test injured workers’ urine for illegal drugs. There were even labs that test urine to ensure workers are taking the prescribed drugs instead of selling them.
In California, the amount of money that insurers spend on medical cost containment programs has more than doubled from $197 million in 2005 to $471 million in 2014, according to the state workers’ comp ratings bureau.
Seeing huge profit potential, private equity firms have gone on a buying spree.
Sedgwick, a company that processes claims for large employers, was acquired by two private equity firms for $1.1 billion in 2010 and then sold to another for $2.4 billion in 2014. One Call Care Management, known in the industry as a medical “cost containment” firm, was bought for more than $2 billion in 2013, and reportedly bid to buy another vendor, pharmacy benefit manager Helios, for $2 billion this fall.
This is utterly revolting, yet not surprising at all. Part of the reason these conferences are so lavish is that these companies now have great power in state legislatures and can influence legislation. And in the New Gilded Age, with companies writing legislation and shaping regulation, whatever they want is what they get. Like an alligator named Spike and orange Hummer limos.

DuPont’s Deadly Deceit:  The Decades-Long Cover-Up Behind the “World’s Most Slippery Material”
For decades DuPont operated above the EPA and knowingly concealed the dangers of Teflon exposure

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