Friday, December 26, 2014

Billionaire Sentenced To Prison  (E.O. Wilson Predicts Bye Bye Biodiversity)  We Just Enjoyed the Last Christmas in America?  (Respect My Authoritah!)


Billionaire Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

By Rob Kall

Just imagine that happening in the US - any billionaire going to jail. Is it possible?

. . . There are more billionaires in the US than any other country in the world. The only one I can think of who was convicted was probably no longer a billionaire by the time he was convicted - Kenneth Lay's Enron shares had become worthless. And then he died - though Wikipedia says, "There have been conspiracy theories about his death."

Still, with 492 billionaires, according to Wikipedia, we might estimate that at least 40 or 50 of them are psychopath or sociopath. That's a frightening thought. Then again. there are no stats or studies on billionaires. It could be that half of them or more are predatory, narcissistic sociopaths.

As I've written in the series this article is a part of, it is time to legislate and by other legal means end the age of billionaires. They are far too dangerous, even the well meaning ones.

Maybe, though, the way Ken Lay ended up being prosecuted is the way it needs to be done - taking down the whole company that's been run by a criminal.

. . . It's estimated that eight percent of the population is sociopathic and that there are a higher percentage running corporations. I'd speculate that it takes some sociopathy to become a billionaire-- not for all, but for many. Sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists don't believe that laws and rules apply to them - they live as thought they are above them.

We've had 14 years of Attorneys General who have protected the wealthy and prosecuted the whistleblower heroes. It's time that is changed. Hong Kong can do it. The Bloomberg article even suggests that mainland China influence helped to make it happen.

I wonder what it will take, what kind of influence will be necessary for the US to start prosecuting billionaires, CEOs and let's throw in bad cops too.

Seems like big changes need to be made in order to stop the hemorrhaging of our biodiversity. Don't miss this video. It's short and pithy as to our future under neoconners.

E.O. Wilson talks about the threat to Earth’s biodiversity

Predictions for the new year?

What else is new?

From Of Two Minds:

December 25, 2014

We Just Enjoyed the Last Christmas in America

The end of rising wages = the end of mass affluence:  we just enjoyed the Last Christmas in America (TLCIA).

As unemployment topped 10%, the January 1975 cover of Ramparts magazine blared:  The End of Affluence:  The Last Christmas in America. (TLCIA)

The government responded to the high unemployment, rampant inflation and rising budget deficits by manipulating data to mask the politically inconvenient realities of inflation, unemployment and deficits by playing with Social Security Trust Funds, inflation data, etc. - games it continues to play to cloak reality from the media-numbed public.

The economic stagnation, despite various stock market rallies and false starts, essentially lasted 10 years, from 1973 to 1982.

The malaise had a happy ending:  huge new oil fields were discovered in Alaska, the North Sea, West Africa and elsewhere, ushering in a renewed era of cheap, abundant petroleum. President Reagan re-set Social Security for a generation and introduced a lower taxes, higher permanent deficits ideology that is now accepted as the only possible way to sustain the Status Quo:  deficits don't matter, even when they reach the trillions, because our good friends the Gulf Oil Exporters and Asian exporters will buy all our debt forever and ever, keeping interest low forever and ever.

(And if they drop the ball, then the Federal Reserve prints money and buys trillions of dollars of Treasury bonds. Sweet! We don't need any external buyers, just the Federal Reserve creating money out of thin air.)

Then the U.S. created and launched two revolutionary technologies which both created new wealth around the globe:  the personal computer (microprocessor and cheap RAM) and the Internet (TCP/IP, Ethernet, and the commercialization of Tim Berners-Lee's World Wide Web with free browsers) spawning the generation-long boom of the 1980s and 90s.

Those "saves from stagnation" were one-offs; there will be no more supergiant energy finds, nor any equivalents of the Internet expansion cycle.

When the wheels inevitably fell off the Internet/tech boom in 2000, the U.S. did not create a new engine of wealth:  it opted instead for a devilishly insidious simulacrum of wealth:  debt which rose at an exponential rate throughout the economy.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Borrowed money and phony financial legerdemain (mortgage-backed securities, derivatives based on the MBS, etc. etc.) from 2000-2007 created what I have termed a "bogus prosperity":  no actual new productive wealth was created, only a brief and self-liquidating bubble of debt-based housing and stock valuations.

Compare the rate of GDP growth (another unreliable indicator, but all we have) with the astonishing rise in debt:

Meanwhile, wages adjusted for inflation have stagnated for 15 years while asset prices for stores of value such as housing in desirable areas have skyrocketed in terms of median household income:

Real household income has declined in the Bubble Era across the entire income spectrum:

Here is real median household income and labor's share of the economy:  both are in structural decline, and inflating asset bubbles has done nothing to reverse either trend.

Why will Christmas 2014 be the last Christmas in America? It's simple: declining wages cannot support an ever-expanding mountain of debt.

The Federal Reserve has played a game for six long years of lowering the cost of debt (i.e. the rate of interest borrowers must pay), which has enabled stagnating wages to support ever heavier debt loads.

There is an endgame in sight to this financial trickery, a point of diminishing returns to lower interest rates:  the Fed can't drop rates lower than 0%. Borrowers simply can't qualify for more debt, regardless of interest rates.

The extreme fragility of an economy based on ever-expanding mountains of debt piled on declining incomes is apparent:  if the Fed can't raise interest rates even a tiny quarter point without threatening to collapse the unstable pyramid of debt-based affluence/ consumption, what does that say about the fragility of the "growth" (supposedly running at a hot 5% annually) and "prosperity"?

Claiming that a few hundred dollars in lower gasoline costs per household will enable a desert of declining income to bloom is the equivalent of claiming that an inch of rain in Death Valley will transform the desert into a lush tropical rain forest.

Remember the lackluster Christmas of 2014; well, the endgame of expanding debt will play out as every endgame does:  furious moves by central bankers will prolong checkmate but not transform the inevitable loss into a win. Media sound and fury are no substitute for rising real household wages and incomes.

And speaking of the rearing of the rich . . .

They forgot how to say "Thank you!"?

From our buddies at Crooks & Liars:

Respect My Authoritah!

Regardless of the fact that it's been a recovery for the wheeler-dealers for a long time now, they've spent the Obama years sulking.

Respect My Authoritah!
So maybe now it's a recovery for the rest of us:

The U.S. economy roared into overdrive in the third quarter as consumer and business spending fueled the biggest expansion in more than a decade.

Gross domestic product grew at a 5 percent annual rate from July through September, the biggest advance since the third quarter of 2003 and up from a previously estimated 3.9 percent, revised figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 75 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a 4.3 percent increase in GDP....
It's been a recovery for the wheeler-dealers for a long time now. Here's the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the past five years:

And yet the wheeler-dealers have spent the Obama years sulking:

Well, you can lump them in with the cop unions and intelligence professionals, who've decided lately that they get an inadequate amount of respect, a word that, to them, means "unquestioning deference."

Charlie Pierce is right to say that revolt within the intelligence and cop communities is a threat to our political system:

For the past two weeks, on two different fronts, we have been confronted with the unpleasant fact that there are people working in the institutions of our self-government who believe themselves not only beyond the control and sanctions of the civil power, but also beyond the control and sanctions of their direct superiors.... In Washington, John Brennan, the head of the CIA, came right up to the edge of insubordination against the president who hired him in the wake of the Senate report on American torture.

Meanwhile, in New York, in the aftermath of weeks of protests against the strangulation of Eric Garner by members of the New York Police Department, two patrolmen, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were murdered in their squad car by a career criminal and apparent maniac named Ismaaiyl Brinsley. In response, ... the NYPD is acting in open rebellion against Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, and the civil power he represents over them. This is an incredibly perilous time for democracy at the most basic levels....

It is very simple. If the CIA is insubordinate to the president, whom the country elected, then it is insubordinate to all of us. If the NYPD runs a slow-motion coup against the freely elected mayor of New York, then it is running a slow-motion coup against all the people of New York. There is no exemption from this fundamental truth about the way this country and its system is supposed to work.
It's dangerous that we're losing sight of the basic notion that these people work for us, not the other way around. But we're also surrendering to the notion that we get by in America (or fail to) at the whim of Wall Street and corporate chieftains -- the misnamed "job creators" -- rather than the other way around. The rich don't like regulation, don't like taxation, and don't want us questioning those preferences. Generally, we don't.

In each case, we fearfully defer to the powerful because we think the powerful have the power of life and death over us. And the powerful take it as their due.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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