Monday, March 7, 2016

(Laugh Laugh, I Thought I'd Cry:  The Ruling Primary of the Hidden Class)  The Craziest Video You’ll Ever Watch on JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon  (Neo-Nazi Fascist Elected in Slovakia)

Why Bernie Sanders Won Super Tuesday

Majority US Public Opinion Is Mocked by the Ongoing Presidential Election

Sometimes stuff gets so surreal, you are sure you're in a waking nightmare.

So here it is. The “hidden primary of the ruling class” (Laurence Shoup) has spoken with an ugly verdict this last stupefying Super Tuesday. We can smell what the Rock of Class Rule is cooking up for the latest quadrennial extravaganza. It’s emitting the usual faint odor of inverted fascism more strongly than any time in recent memory.

We can feel the Big Chill[ary] in our bones as The Queen of Chaos gears up for the ultimate quadrennial cage match with the new Latter Day Mussolini, poised to become “Silvio Berlusconi with nukes” (Roger Cohen). We are being handed a great authoritarian “choice” between two noxious, super-wealthy presidential candidates we rightly loathe.

In one corner, Hillary “My Turn” Clinton weighs in with a Quinnipaic rating of 56% unfavorable vs. 39% favorable. In the other corner, The Donald tips the scales at 59% unfavorable v. 34% favorable. “You hate your selection? Too bad, ungrateful underlings! Now open wide so we can shove this slop down your throat.”

Both of the candidates exude violence and authoritarianism to a disturbing degree. Hillary says “we came, we saw, he died.” The victims of the blood-drenched madness she’s helped advance in the name of humanitarianism in Syria, North Africa, Honduras and elsewhere can testify to the misery she inflicts. Trump talks flippantly of shooting people and punching protesters in the face. He mocks the disabled, engages in the macho jeering of women, and goes off on anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican tirades. He promises to expand U.S. militarism like no previous president to “make America great again.”

. . . Wherein we learn that JPMorgan paid $36 billion in fines for misconduct from "Bloomberg Markets" magazine without any accompanying details other than how terrific Jamie Dimon is.

My guess is that these non-interviewers with their wide-eyed appreciation of crooks don't want to be off the Dimon Christmas list.

Do you think anyone after seeing the video below will ever take Wall Street's operations/machinations seriously again?

I don't know why.

‘Generation Screwed’ Gets a Political Organizing Primer, Just in the Nick of Time

Mrs. Clinton, This Is How We Previously Handled Classified Material

The Craziest Video You’ll Ever Watch on JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens
March 2, 2016

JPMadoff Front CoverTwo interesting things happened this week in Jamie Dimon’s world:  two gutsy attorneys, Helen Davis Chaitman and Lance Gotthoffer, published a book comparing JPMorgan Chase to the Gambino crime family, explaining how the bank could and should be prosecuted under RICO statutes for serial frauds against the investing public. Taking a diametrically different tack, Bloomberg Markets magazine editor, Joel Weber, fawned over Dimon in a "Bloomberg TV" interview, repeatedly asserting that Jamie Dimon is all about the customer.

This Bloomberg video is so hilarious we had to watch it several times to make sure it wasn’t satire.  As Weber makes his case that Dimon is all about the customer, his Bloomberg colleague, Stephanie Ruhle, is having none of it, reminding the obviously star-struck Weber that the big banks are hated in this country for good reason.

Instead of acknowledging the serial frauds at JPMorgan, Weber suggests (and this is the belly laugh/roll on the floor part) that banks are hated because when you go to a car dealer to buy a car you walk out with one. But if you go into a bank for a loan or credit card, it might turn you down.

This brand of logic is on a par with Hillary Clinton suggesting that Wall Street was lavishing millions of dollars on her in speaking fees because she was kind to Wall Street during 9/11.
Bloomberg's Jonathan Ferro (left) and Joel Weber Discuss Jamie Dimon's Dedication to His Customers
Bloomberg’s Jonathan Ferro (left) and Joel Weber Discuss Jamie Dimon’s Dedication to His Customers
Weber’s interview on "Bloomberg TV" was to promote the cover story on Dimon in the relaunch of "Bloomberg Markets" magazine.

The article mentions in passing that JPMorgan Chase has paid “more than $36 billion in settlements and fines since the financial crisis” but then it fails to deliver the gory details of what those fines were about. Other than the London Whale fiasco, where $6.2 billion of depositors’ money was lost to reckless derivatives gambling in London, there is barely a mention of the endless stream of crimes that JPMorgan Chase has been charged with over the past four years.

That history is whitewashed in the article with this comment from Dimon:  “Businesses are going to make mistakes. They shouldn’t be shot and hung every time,” along with allowing Dimon to have the final word in the article with this:  “But I’ve always believed business is here to serve your clients, your shareholders, your communities. If we do this well, everyone benefits. We have to do a good job for all of them.”

The most damning part of this article is that the fearsome “F” word doesn’t appear once. JPMorgan dates back to 1871. It managed to survive 143 years without being charged with criminal activity. But under Dimon’s reign, it was charged with two felony counts in 2014 under a deferred prosecution agreement from the U.S. Justice Department for its involvement in the Bernie Madoff fraud and charged with another felony count, to which it admitted, on May 20, 2015 for its involvement in rigging the foreign currency market. How could a reporter forget to mention an unprecedented three felony counts in the past two years against Dimon’s story line that it’s all about the customer.

Unfortunately for Dimon, attorneys Chaitman and Gotthoffer have no such lapse of memory. In their newly published book, JPMadoff:  The Unholy Alliance between America’s Biggest Bank and America’s Biggest Crook, they provide a rap sheet of exactly how JPMorgan has been “taking care” of its customers under Dimon’s oversight:

In April 2011, JPMC agreed to pay $35 million to settle claims that it overcharged members of the military service on their mortgages in violation of the Service Members Civil Relief Act and the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

“In March 2012, JPMC paid the government $659 million to settle charges that it charged veterans hidden fees in mortgage refinancing transactions.

“In October 2012, JPMC paid $1.2 billion to settle claims that it, along with other banks, conspired to set the price of credit and debit card interchange fees.

“On January 7, 2013, JPMC announced that it had agreed to a settlement with the Office of the Controller of the Currency (‘OCC’) and the Federal Reserve Bank of charges that it had engaged in improper foreclosure practices.

“In September 2013, JPMC agreed to pay $80 million in fines and $309 million in refunds to customers whom the bank billed for credit monitoring services that the bank never provided.

“On November 15, 2013, JPMC announced that it had agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle claims that it defrauded investors in mortgage-backed securities in the time period between 2005 and 2008.

“On December 13, 2013, JPMC agreed to pay 79.9 million Euros to settle claims of the European Commission relating to illegal rigging of benchmark interest rates.

“In February 2012, JPMC agreed to pay $110 million to settle claims that it overcharged customers for overdraft fees.

“In November 2012, JPMC paid $296,900,000 to the SEC to settle claims that it misstated information about the delinquency status of its mortgage portfolio.

“In July 2013, JPMC paid $410 million to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to settle claims of bidding manipulation of California and Midwest electricity markets.

“On November 19, 2013, JPMC agreed to pay $13 billion [that’s billion with a ‘b’] to settle claims by the Department of Justice; the FDIC; the Federal Housing Finance Agency; the states of California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York; and consumers relating to fraudulent practices with respect to mortgage-backed securities.

“In December 2013, JPMC paid $22.1 million to settle claims that the bank imposed expensive and unnecessary flood insurance on homeowners whose mortgages the bank serviced.

On May 15, 2015, five financial institutions, including JPMC, pled guilty to a criminal conspiracy to fix the foreign exchange market, paying a total of $5.6 billion in fines. JPMC paid $892 million in fines.”

Less than three months ago, JPMorgan agreed to charges by the SEC that it had steered its customers into in-house products where it reaped higher profits without disclosing this conflict to the customer

It paid $267 million to settle these charges.

If you compare what presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders has been repeatedly telling debate viewers on national TV, that the business model of Wall Street is fraud, against the above rap sheet, you understand exactly why the public is angry and outraged at the Wall Street banks and the establishment candidates who take their campaign money and then do their bidding with toothless regulatory appointments once in office.

There’s one more interesting aspect to this story. Last October, the "New York Post" reported that "Bloomberg Markets" magazine was going to cease to exist as a monthly magazine but would relaunch this year as a “promotional tool” for the company’s financial news/data terminals. According to the article, the decision “came directly from Michael Bloomberg.”

At an annual cost of $24,000 a year for the Bloomberg terminal and about 320,000 terminals spread across Wall Street trading rooms around the world, you’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of  $7 billion a year in revenues (mega users of multiple terminals like JPMorgan Chase may get a discount from the $24,000). In fact, the Bloomberg terminal is the cash cow that has made former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg a multi-billionaire with "Forbes" reporting yesterday that his “net worth increased $4.5 billion” last year to a cool $40 billion total. That was just enough, adds "Forbes" “to edge out Republican power player David Koch as the richest man in New York.”

Let’s face it, you don’t become the richest man in New York by dredging up pesky details like felony counts against your largest customers on Wall Street.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

I can certainly attest personally to the essay below.

Most Benefits of the Gig Economy Are Completely Imaginary

By Rebecca Smith, "Quartz"
04 March 16

he on-demand economy is starting to show some cracks. In February, hundreds of Uber drivers rallied outside the company’s headquarters in Queens, New York, protesting the fare cuts that have been imposed in 100 cities in the United States and Canada. Meanwhile, "The New York Times" featured an article about Uber drivers banding together in Dallas and protesting rate cuts in San Francisco and Seattle. Back in New York, unions are coordinating a strategy aimed at organizing Uber drivers at LaGuardia Airport.

The month before, Lyft agreed to pay $12 million to drivers in order to settle a lawsuit that challenged the companies’ treatment of its workers. Lyft will also accept provisions intended to protect drivers from unfair terminations. And in December, Seattle became the first city in the country to pass an ordinance giving Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers a process for collective bargaining.

Clearly, change is the air. We should seize this moment to reflect on what America owes its workers—and how the new economy is failing them. Here are a few points to consider:

1. The “new economy” looks a lot like the old economy.

Companies like Uber, Lyft, Handy, Postmates, and Wonolo dispatch drivers, odd-job workers, cleaners, delivery people, shelf-stockers, and others for short-term “gigs.” Such convenience is great for many consumers. What’s not great is that these companies claim their business models are so innovative that they don’t need to treat the workers they rely upon as employees.

Unfortunately, this claim is nothing new. For decades, whole segments of industries, including janitorial, trucking, home care, and delivery services, have adopted a strategy of labeling their workers as self-employed independent contractors. In this way, businesses are able to push many of their costs onto the shoulders of the low-wage workers who do their bidding.

Companies in the same industries that want to treat their workers lawfully have to struggle to compete with companies that save money by paying no Social Security, Medicare, workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance taxes and abide by no labor laws. It’s a great get-rich scheme for those at the top, but a stay-poor scheme for the workers at the bottom.

2. You can do right by your workers and still do well as a company.

Uber has become the face of the on-demand economy. The driving service takes apparent delight in ignoring workplace laws, transportation laws, disability access laws and more. (It was sued 50 times in 2015, far more than its closest competitors.)

But many other companies are moving away from labeling workers as independent contractors. Honor, a startup that hires and places home-care workers, nannies, and housekeepers via an online platform, recently announced its switch to hiring workers as employees.

In June, the grocery delivery company Instacart switched over some of its in-store workers, making them employees as well. In July, the package delivery startup Shyp did the same for all of its workers. The valet service Luxe did so in the same month. Some Amazon PrimeNow workers are also being reclassified as employees, and senior care company HomeHero is reclassifying its workers.

Other on-demand startups, including Alfred, Munchery, Managed by Q, Bridj, and BlueCrew, treated their workers as employees from the get-go. Along with paying payroll taxes and complying with minimum wage laws and the Affordable Care Act, many of these startups offer paid vacation, stock options, and transitions from part-time to full-time schedules. Why? Because they know such a system is good for their workers. And that makes it good for their business.

3. Many on-demand workers aren’t in it for the flexibility.

Companies in the on-demand economy love to claim that workers enjoy the flexibility that comes with the job, and that they will happily sacrifice the benefits of employee status in order exchange for freedom to make their own schedules.

It’s certainly true that flexibility is a great thing. Too few American workers are able to take a paid, or even unpaid, days off when they are sick, have family obligations, or need some personal time. That’s what campaigns for fair scheduling, paid sick days and paid leave are about. We should strive to give all workers these options.

But the logic that on-demand companies use to justify their treatment of workers falls flat. For starters, there’s nothing about employee status that requires inflexibility. Companies get to decide how they structure jobs.

Moreover, the degree of flexibility that on-demand workers have is likely overblown. One company-distributed survey of more than 1,000 on-demand workers commissioned by the newsletter Request for Startups found that the much-vaunted flexibility is “illusory.” That’s because workers have to work during the hours when there is high demand.

Another survey of 4,600 workers, recently published by Intuit, found that the average on-demand worker relies on three different income streams. Their biggest worry is having enough work and a stable income. Finally, a JPMorgan Chase Institute study of bank records from 260,000 platform workers found that they use platforms to earn more money when their income dips or when they are between jobs. Gig economy jobs are often a last resort, not a first choice. That sounds a lot less like freedom and a lot more like part-time workers struggling to patch together a living wage from jobs with unpredictable schedules.

4. The on-demand economy has highlighted the need for a new social compact.

In the latter decades of the 20th century, the post-World War II paradigm of longterm, stable employment with a single employer gave way to an economy in which many individuals expected to move through several jobs over their careers. In the 21th century, even those expectations have been upended.

Millions today have given up the hope of attaining career-long security and support from steady jobs. Instead, they must deal with the reality of reality of one-off gigs, part-time work, and temporary employment, all while companies shirk accountability for wage standards and workplace benefits.

On-demand companies have rightly pointed out that simply being called an employee doesn’t ensure security or stability. Politically-motivated attacks on safety net programs have already diluted the reach and efficiency of employment-based programs such as workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. A third of American families nearing retirement have no savings at all. And despite the successes of the Affordable Care Act, many face high health-insurance costs, and 10% of Americans (33 million) still don’t have health care at all, according to 2014 US Census data.

We need to rebuild and rethink the social compact of the 20th century. That means extending protections to those who have historically been without them, and ensuring that benefits follow workers from job to job.

The on-demand economy has given us an opportunity to talk about the gaps in the social compact for one segment of workers. But we should aim higher. We should ensure that all people—full-time, part-time, and freelance, regardless of the label businesses choose to place on them—can make a living from work and benefit from an expansive social safety net. And together with their co-workers, all workers should be able to bargain collectively with the company that calls the shots.

Neo-Nazi Party Wins Seats in Slovakia Parliament for First Time

A neo-Nazi party in Slovakia won seats in the nation’s parliament for the first time.

In the results of Saturday’s national elections announced Sunday, the People’s Party-Our Slovakia garnered 8 percent of the vote, three times more than expected, which is equal to 14 seats. The country’s parliament, the National Council, has 150 members.

Party chairman Marian Kotleba had led the banned neo-Nazi party Slovak Togetherness-National Party.

“We have elected a fascist to parliament,” Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said of Kotleba, who has referred to NATO as a “criminal organization” and spoken out against the United States, the European Union and immigrants.

The Smer-Social Democracy Party of Prime Minister Robert Fico, which ran on an anti-migrant platform, took 28.3 percent of the vote, or 49 seats, which will require the party to form a coalition. In the previous election, in 2012, Smer took 44.4 percent of the vote, or 83 seats, and was not required to form a coalition.

In July, Slovakia assumes the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.

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