Saturday, December 07, 2013
You can't beat Dolly, Emmylou & Linda
But Red Molly does justice to this Dolly tune, "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind".
Ooops! JPM put it on paper
In the continuing probe of all frauds JPM Chase, documents have surfaced relevant to the hiring of family members of high Chinese government officials for business gain.
Federal authorities have obtained confidential documents that shed new light on JPMorgan Chase’s decision to hire the children of China’s ruling elite, securing emails that show how the bank linked one prominent hire to “existing and potential business opportunities” from a Chinese government-run company.Smoke meet gun. Now all we need is a real prosecutor to take it to the finish.
The documents, which also include spreadsheets that list the bank’s “track record” for converting hires into business deals, offer the most detailed account yet of JPMorgan’s “Sons and Daughters” hiring program, which has been at the center of a federal bribery investigation for months. The spreadsheets and emails — recently submitted by JPMorgan to authorities — illuminate how the bank created the program to prevent questionable hiring practices but ultimately viewed it as a gateway to doing business with state-owned companies in China, which commonly issue stock with the help of Wall Street banks.
The hiring practices seemed to have been an open secret at the bank’s headquarters in Hong Kong, according to the documents, copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times. In the email citing the “existing and potential business opportunities,” a senior JPMorgan executive in Hong Kong emphasized that the father of a job candidate was the chairman of the China Everbright Group, a state-controlled financial conglomerate. The executive also extolled the broader benefits of the hiring program, telling colleagues in another email: “You all know I have always been a big believer of the Sons and Daughters program — it almost has a linear relationship” with winning assignments to advise Chinese companies. Until now, the indications of a connection between the hires and business deals have not been so explicit.
Hagel flies to Kabul to save SOFA
But he is not meeting with the one man standing in the way of agreement on the plan to keep US troops in Afghanistan for another 10 years, at least.
Flying aboard a nondescript Air Force cargo plane under the cloak of secrecy, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in the Afghan capital on Saturday, where he met with top security officials but was not scheduled to meet President Hamid Karzai, whose decision to delay signing a security agreement with the United States has left the future of the American military mission here in doubt.Is Hagel playing the role of Henry Cabot Lodge for PBO? Should Karzai of the Afghans worry about a general's coup? How desperate is the Pentagon to keep us in Shitholeistan forever?
Mr. Hagel met with Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and the deputy interior minister, Mohammad Umer Daudzai, and a senior Pentagon official said he pressed for finalizing the security agreement.
But in a significant break in routine for visits by defense secretaries in the capital, Mr. Hagel was not scheduled to meet with Mr. Karzai, whose delay in signing the pact has raised the possibility of a complete pullout of American troops when the NATO combat mission here officially ends in December 2014.
Mr. Hagel said there was never a plan to meet with the Afghan president during this trip, and questioned the utility of such a meeting.
“I never asked for a meeting with President Karzai,” Mr. Hagel said. “I never received an invitation to meet with him. I didn’t expect a meeting with him. This trip is about the troops.”
He added, “I don’t think pressure coming from the United States, or more pressure, is going to be helpful in persuading President Karzai to sign a bilateral security agreement.”
UPDATE: The Shitholeistan defense minister says the Imperial permission slip will be signed in a timely manner. No details on exactly when the General's coup will occur. Probably right after the next scheduled cash dump.
As hard as it may be, some still fight age discrimination
Thanks to Republican supported ALEC templates, age discrimination is damn near impossible to prove despite the fact that everyone can see it happening all around us. Consider these people seeking redress for being fired for age (though no one says so).
If there is one thing older workers fear in this economy, it’s losing their jobs as they approach retirement. But that is exactly what happened in March to Richard L. White, who was the director of career services at Rutgers University for 22 years.The geezers really don't stand a chance because Jackson can claim his action was based on any number of legal reasons, even if they are all lies, because the cause is practically impossible to prove unless the idiot wrote something on paper.
Mr. White, 63, had received positive annual reviews from 1990 to 2011. In 2009, the supervising administrator wrote that his work was “conducted at the highest possible level!”
He was considered a leader in the field, winning a Fulbright grant in 2005, the first year it was offered for career services directors. Rutgers, the biggest public university in New Jersey, was ranked 21st nationally in 2010 by The Wall Street Journal for placing undergraduates; in 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the business school 33rd in the nation for M.B.A. pay.
But none of this information was included when Gregory S. Jackson, now the university president’s chief of staff, wrote Mr. White’s performance appraisal for the first time in April 2012. Mr. Jackson, who had recently taken oversight of career services, wrote that Mr. White had failed to meet standards in every category.
Soon after, Mr. White was removed as director; within a year, he was fired.
In January, shortly before leaving, Mr. White filed an age discrimination lawsuit against Rutgers. Three other longtime administrators who were also terminated joined the lawsuit, bringing into the open an increasingly contentious workplace issue.
Age discrimination claims are on the rise as members of the post-World War II baby boom enter their 60s. Last year, 22,857 people filed age-related complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, compared with 16,548 in 2006.
Mr. White, as well as two other career services administrators fired from Rutgers — Dorothy Kerr, 60, and Chrystal McArthur, 64 — had received positive job reviews until Mr. Jackson became involved in 2012. (The fourth who sued, Ms. Kerr’s husband, Mark, 58, did not receive formal appraisals because he was not a supervisor.)
According to Ms. Kerr, who had spent more than 40 years at Rutgers, Mr. Jackson “kept asking us when we were going to retire.”
In the view of the fired administrators, Mr. Jackson wanted to bring in his own people, most of whom were younger, and instead of offering them other positions, dismissed them without cause.
In some ways President Obama has it easy
He does not have to put his neck on the line to get acceptance of his agreement with Iran, unlike Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the other side of it.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended an interim nuclear deal that eases some of the international community's crippling economic sanctions in return for a freeze on part of the Islamic Republic's uranium enrichment activities, saying Saturday that improving the economy is as important as maintaining a peaceful nuclear program.Rouhani has to prove the agreement is a good idea to a bunch of conservative cementheads, altogether as intransigent as the Republican/Likudniks in Congress, without the safeguards to his position.
Since Iran signed the interim agreement last month with the U.S., France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia, Rouhani has been trying to convince skeptics and hard-liners at home that Iran is not compromising on key issues of national sovereignty.
The task will likely become more difficult for Rouhani as Tehran moves toward a final accord six months from now.
"Nuclear technology and uranium enrichment is our definite right," Rouhani said in a speech to university students that was broadcast live on state TV. "But progress, better living conditions and welfare for the people is also our definite right. Breaking and dismantling the architecture of the ominous and oppressive sanctions is also our definite right."
Sanctions leveled by Western powers on Iran over its disputed nuclear program have taken an immense toll on the nation's economy, and Rouhani was elected in a landslide earlier this year with the expectation that he would quickly fix the economic malaise. At times, he has tried to frame the debate over the nuclear deal in economic terms, stressing the boost it would give the economy.
"Centrifuges should spin. But the life of people and the economy also need to spin," he added. "Without economic might, our national might won't be enhanced."
Friday, December 06, 2013
She has sung a boatload of songs over the years
And in 2006 Maria Muldaur did a fine job on this Bob Dylan tune forty years after she began singing.
Working hard for all Americans
Never should have let them foreigners in
Now we have the spectacle of the president of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim speaking out on what he thinks is necessary for economic growth.
Ensuring greater access to affordable health care is a crucial factor in alleviating poverty and promoting economic growth, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Friday while announcing ambitious targets for preventing and treating chronic illnesses in developing countries.Sure it works in those poor countries, but our richers are too rich to pay for health insurance for commoners. How un-American would that be?
About 100 million people are impoverished by medical expenses each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The World Bank and WHO aim by 2020 to reduce this number by half each year and by 2030 to eliminate it.
The consensus among many familiar with development and poverty alleviation is that providing universal health coverage is vital for economic development, said officials attending a conference in Tokyo.
Government ministers from developing nations around the world were invited to the one-day conference in Tokyo, hosted jointly by the World Bank and the Japanese government.
The gathering was aimed at spreading the adoption of universal health care to developing nations, emphasizing how it could boost growth.
Japan, which extended universal coverage to its entire population in 1961, benefited enormously from that investment, as strong public health supported the expansion of a highly productive middle class, Kim said.
"The fact is that Japan committed to universal health coverage when its per capita income was not at the highest levels, and many people thought it could not afford it," said Kim, a physician.
Under the Japanese public health system, a patient pays up to 30 percent of their medical bills, with the remaining costs paid from a social insurance scheme and general taxation.
Open-access health care is "one of the best things you can do to spur immediate and long-term economic growth ... and one way of reducing inequality (which can) slow economic growth," Kim told the meeting.
They were useful, once
But now, with the budget requiring choices, homeless vets will likely be cast aside to insure the military has enough excess tanks and jets that can't perform their mission.
Since 2010, homelessness among veterans has fallen by 24 percent across the country, according to a point-in-time report that the Department of Housing and Urban Development released late last month. The assessment measures homelessness on a single night in January each year.We no longer need them when we are building ships that rust and crack without any effective purpose.
In HUD’s most recent assessment, 57,849 veterans were homeless nationwide.
According to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, the recent reductions are notable because they broke previous patterns of increased homelessness during difficult economic times.
“It’s a remarkable reversal of what is traditionally the trend line,” he said during a roundtable discussion with reporters last month.
In late November, though, HUD said the budget for its existing homelessness-assistance programs would be cut by 5 percent, partly because of flat funding from Congress and the impact of sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board federal spending reductions that began last spring.
Though these cuts don’t affect the VA’s operating budget, officials are concerned about the impact they’ll have on veterans.
Vince Kane, the director of the VA National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, said his office partnered closely with HUD and the community programs it supported across the country.
The reduction in funds “will have a dramatic impact on us,” Kane said. ”If programs get cut by HUD and others, that impacts our ability to care for the entire family.”
The VA contributes grants to nonprofit programs designed to help low-income veteran families, through programs such as Supportive Services for Veteran Families.
Republicans willing to fuck farmer allies
In their continuing quest to starve as many Americans as they possibly can. As a result, the renewal of this years Farm Bill is still in reconciliation.
The bill is full of all kinds of programs that have an impact on North Carolina’s diverse agriculture, the state’s top industry. There are economic development programs spread across a state where 85 of its 100 counties are considered rural.As bad as it would be, they can not even agree on the middle. These fuckers aren't going to get anything done.
Crop insurance is a key part. Other sections fund research at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University on finding better ways to grow everything from Christmas trees to tomatoes, melons and pecans.
But about 80 percent of the bill is spending for nutrition programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.
The Senate passed a $955 billion five-year bill in June with bipartisan support. It cut $4 billion from SNAP. The House of Representatives passed legislation that reduced SNAP by $39 billion.
“We’ve been hoping and hoping for months that a farm bill would come out that we could live with,” said Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau. “We’re fairly close.”
It’s the difference in cuts to SNAP in the House and Senate that have “held the farm bill hostage,” he said.
Daniel Haley, a lobbyist for farming interests, said most of the specialty crop programs in the bill aren’t in jeopardy of being cut in the final version. The big issues holding up the bill were differences over the makeup of crop and livestock insurance programs and cuts to SNAP.
Haley said one idea under consideration was setting spending on the nutrition program somewhere between the House and Senate levels, but no one is certain what House Republicans will support.
“They could kill the farm bill again over that issue,” he said.
It’s also possible that Senate Democrats would rebel over a bigger SNAP reduction.
Last summer, the House voted down a version of the farm bill that cut food stamps by $20 billion. Democrats voted against it because they argued that cut was too big. Many Republicans voted against it because the cuts weren’t big enough. A separate bill later pegged the food stamp reduction at $39 billion.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
She's been from Ottawa to Austin, LA to Nashville
And along the way she has sung a lot, wrote a lot and learned a lot. Lynn Miles does "Three Cords and the Truth"
A smart thief knows what he is stealing
Unlike these poor dumb bastards who are probably glowing their way to oblivion. From the Washington Post.
The day after a load of stolen radioactive material was found in a field, Mexican authorities had formed a perimeter around the area and were measuring for contamination as they planned the recovery process Thursday, according to Mexican news reports.Will they get glowing obituaries?
Federal police and soldiers formed a cordon of several hundred yards around the highly radioactive container of cobalt-60, stolen earlier in the week in a carjacking as the material was being moved from a public hospital n the border town of Tijuana to a storage facility in central Mexico, news reports said.
The carjackers, who set off international alarm bells by absconding with the material, most likely had no idea what they were stealing and will probably die soon from exposure, Mexican authorities said at the end of a brief national scare.
R.I.P. Joseph Richard Dodd
Famous for one song, but what a song!
Holy Shit! The House actually passed a bill!
Now here is something you don't see every day, Chauncey. The Boner Bunch in the House actually passed a bill that on the face of it will do some public good.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill aimed at reining in "patent trolls," companies that buy or license patents from others, then extract licensing fees after filing infringement lawsuits viewed by many as frivolous.Admittedly the details might make it worthless, but the very idea of it leaves one gobsmacked.
The House passed the bill overwhelmingly by a vote of 325 to 91. The Senate is considering a similar measure and could act before the end of the year.
The White House has expressed support for the bill. Sponsored by Robert Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia, it targets much-criticized patent assertion entities, for behavior like sending large numbers of licensing demands to small businesses without determining if they actually use infringing technology.
If you are near a strike
Drive up to whichever fast food joint it is and express your solidarity and congratulate the workers then drive away.
Workers walked off their jobs at fast-food restaurants across the country as part of a national protest against low wages, a day after President Barack Obama renewed his call for a minimum wage hike in a speech Wednesday.And if you are hungry, eat at a real diner and don't forget to tip your server.
The action is part of a growing movement against what workers say are sub-standard working conditions and wages too low to make ends meet. Thousands of labor activists and workers, who were scheduled to start their shifts early Thursday morning, did not show at work and chose to protest instead.
Workers and their supporters are expected to strike at the nation's major national fast-food restaurants, organizers said, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC. Protesters in cities such as Charleston, S.C., Providence, R.I. and Pittsburgh, Pa., will join the action for the first time, along with clergy, elected officials and community supporters.
Dozens of sign-carrying McDonald's employees and others marched in front of a Detroit restaurant during the pre-dawn rally Thursday, shouting familiar phrases: "Raise the minimum wage" and "Hey, hey, ho, ho, $7.40 has got to go."
Death By 1000 Cuts; How Many In The New Budget Plan?
The Republicans have always made a big show of trying to make huge cuts in M-I-C funding but they have always done their worst in the thousand little cuts they get the Democrats to agree to. With no "Grand Fucking Bargain" coming from the current House?Senate negotiations, we have to wonder what array of new small cuts they will win.
The goal is to avoid a train wreck like the one that caused the 16-day partial government shutdown in October. The shutdown ended when lawmakers agreed to a stopgap measure to fund the government for three months. That funding measure expires Jan. 15, the same day that $109.3 billion in sequestration cuts are due to kick in.Whatever cuts are agreed to, we can rest assured that our grossly bloated military budget will not be harmed.
Those close to the talks caution that nothing is final yet – and everything could blow apart at any moment.
But so far, there’s cautious optimism. Negotiators are considering a 2014 budget for discretionary items – those under Congress’ control – that would spend at an annual rate of about $1 trillion, more than the $967 billion that conservative Republicans want but less than the $1.058 trillion Senate Democrats endorsed.
The budget leaders are crafting a plan to soften the blow of sequestration’s across-the-board spending cuts by finding savings in other areas of the budget and by generating revenue through increasing some user fees. The federal government attaches these small fees on things that range from airline tickets to national parks usage.
That would allow the two parties to claim that their sacred cows were untouched: Democrats who balk at cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Republicans who won’t accept tax increases.
They do generally agree that they want to spend more than the sequester would allow. Many in Congress maintain that the cuts are harming military preparedness and social programs.
Take That! Hobby Lobby
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Brother and sister play well together
Even if this is listed as Sara Watkins only, she has her brother Sean on the guitar and harmonies.
5 Billion a day
That's how many cellphones the NSA tracks each day. And they save it and can go back and find someone of interest and track back all the points of contact.
The NSA has no reason to suspect that the movements of the overwhelming majority of cellphone users would be relevant to national security. Rather, it collects locations in bulk because its most powerful analytic tools — known collectively as CO-TRAVELER — allow it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.So it's no longer enough to not do anything wrong, as the sheep say. Now you have to hope that none of your phone contacts do anything wrong, as well.
80 years ago you could once again get a legal drink
Prohibition was ended this day eighty years ago. Those uptight whities who wanted to do something about those funny speaking immigrants had to admit failure and let the liquor flow again.
Many Americans this week will toast the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, a 14-year ban on the sale and production of alcoholic beverages that turned booze-smuggling thugs into celebrities and otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals.But one other prohibition aimed at "those others" since remains.
Among the many reasons for the popularity of banning alcohol in the US then were the concern of industrialists such as Henry Ford for the creation of a sober, industrious working class. Prohibition was in part intended to regiment and control working people and ensure they were productive, generating profits of which the corporations captured the lion’s share. Prejudice against German-Americans and their beer-making, in the wake of WW I, played a role, as well. The massive wave of immigration from southern and eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean (including Italians, Poles Jews and Lebanese/Syrians) also induced fears of rowdy foreign immigrants among the middle class Protestant women of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The Ku Klux Klan was implicated in the anti-saloon movement and helped enforce prohibition, becoming a major force in states like Indiana (which it took over politically) and in the then Democratic Party. That is, Prohibition was about race and class in some large part.It's time for the US to grow up.
The prohibition of marijuana, which had been legal most of American history, was also about race and class, and U.S. Commissioner of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, deployed fear of Mexican immigrant labor to convince Congress to enact the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Fear of African-Americans, white youth and jazz were also drivers of this legislation.
Despite the hysteria about immigrants and the burgeoning blue collar class, the mainstream of America abolished prohibition on December 5, 1933. Among the goals of the anti-dry politicians was to jump-start business in the early years of the Great Depression and to generate tax-revenue. (Restaurants, for instance, are seldom profitable without liquor licenses; when they are successful, they pay taxes. And covert speakeasies paid no taxes because they were illegal. In 1933 they could become legitimate bars and become part of the tax base for an impoverished city, e.g.)
Some 90% of the American population is still in the Great Bush Depression that began in 2008. Only the stockholders have really recovered. The actual unemployment rate is historically high, a fact hidden by the tinkering with the definition of unemployment. Shouldn’t we now be as pragmatic as FDR, and seek to end the Federal prohibition of marijuana, as well? It would be a boon to the economy and to a government burdened by debt. And, shouldn’t we be embarrassed, as a country with a very large and important Latino community, of the racist origins of this Prohibition? And, are we still afraid of youth and jazz?
Numbers are up across the board
Enrollments in Obamacare are up and they are not the only ones. To date the most successful part of the ACA law has been the expansion of Medicaid and CHIP.
The undeniable success story so far of Obamacare is Medicaid expansion. According to a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, more than 1.46 million people were approved for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program in October, alone. Enrollment increases are happening in the 25 states that have accepted the Medicaid expansion plan under Obamacare, but in the other states, as well.Part of the success does come down to that simple fact of increased awareness. And that awareness has increased despite the "best" efforts of Republican governors to stop it. And the most successful part so far is the "single payer" Medicaid.
In states that are not expanding Medicaid, applications to Medicaid and CHIP agencies increased 4.1 percent in October over the previous few months, and the total number of individuals determined to be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP was 697,019. In states that are expanding Medicaid, applications jumped 15.5 percent, and 757,991 new eligibility determinations were made. The overall total across all states was an 8.6 percent increase in applications and 1,460,367 new eligibility determinations.
South Carolina, a state that has adamantly refused to expand Medicaid, enrollments are expected to jump 16 percent in the next year and a half, and Utah and Idaho are expected to see similar increases, even though they have refused the expansion. That's just by virtue of people knowing they need to sign up for health insurance, and finding out that they meet the eligibility requirements.
Among the many things left undone by Republican Obstructionism
The long term unemployed are getting screwed again. Extension of federal unemployment benefits beyond the minimum will end at the year end if Congress does nothing and John Boehner is good at making Congress do nothing.
Lillian Humphrey is 62 and has worked for at least 40 of those years. But she had to leave a job at the beginning of the year after she was diagnosed with osteoporosis and could no longer lift the heavy equipment as required by the position. She’s been relying on unemployment benefits to get by since May, “which enables me to know my bills are being paid and I’m not going to lose my house,” she told ThinkProgress. But she and millions of other people who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more will be cut off unless Congress acts by the end of the year.No unemployment and no jobs thanks to an economy kept in neutral by a do nothing Congress.
That’s because the federal program, which offers benefits after the typical state cut off of 26 weeks, is set to expire and would have to be reauthorized. Democrats have pushed to extend it as part of the budget conference begun in the wake of the government shutdown, and to that end they will hold a hearing on the long-term unemployed on Thursday. But Republicans are indicating that they aren’t likely to support an extension.
Unemployment benefits “enables me to know my bills are being paid and I’m not going to lose my house,” she said.
For Humphrey, losing the benefits will force a number of tough choices. She is the sole provider for herself – “Nobody helps me pay my bills,” which are few, she said. She’s been “desperately applying for jobs,” putting out more applications than required to receive benefits every week. But she suspects that her age is an impediment to getting a new job. “I’ve been on interviews where people don’t know how old I am or haven’t figured out how old I am, and then you can see the look on their face when they come out to greet me that I’m not something that they would be interested in,” she said. “It hurts, after a couple of times seeing that, it hurts.” Now she puts the year she started working on her résumé and tells people her age when doing phone interviews. “When they see that I’m old, then I don’t hear back from them,” she added.
If the extended benefits disappear at the beginning of the year and she isn’t able to find a job in time, she will likely have to tap into Social Security. But those benefits will be less than unemployment, so even if she goes that route she would at least have to work part time. On top of that, her family has a history of heart problems and she has to watch her high cholesterol, so employer-sponsored health insurance is particularly important to her. “I would prefer to work and get some benefits,” she said. “I don’t want to retire early.”
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
An Irish based band doing American styled music
I Draw Slow may have a funny name and seem out of place, but their music is a joy to hear.
It's good to be for something
To secure power, kill your family first
Not saying that Kim Jong Pudge is going to liquidate his uncle and/or any other relatives, but he is trimming their sails.
Jang Song-thaek, an uncle of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and a man widely considered to be No. 2 in the Pyongyang government, has been dismissed from all posts of influence, the National Intelligence Service of South Korea told Parliament on Tuesday.Leaving us all to wonder if real family heads will roll.
Mr. Jang’s downfall follows the executions of his two deputies last month at the administrative department of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea on charges of “corruption and anti-party activities,” according to lawmakers who were briefed by intelligence officials in a hurriedly scheduled meeting at the National Assembly. The South Korean intelligence agency did not reveal how it learned of the executions, the lawmakers said.
North Korean news media have not reported on Mr. Jang’s fate or on the executions. In the past, North Korean officials reported by South Korean news media to have been purged have occasionally resurfaced. But Mr. Jang’s unusually long absence from the news in North Korea and the South Korean intelligence service’s special briefing to lawmakers were seen as clear signs that he is in trouble.
Mr. Jang, 67, has been a mentor to his nephew as well as a fixture in the North Korean power elite since the days of Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, exercising his widespread influence from the party’s administrative department, which he led. He is the husband of Kim Kyong-hee, the beloved sister of Kim Jong-il and an aunt of the current leader.
Mr. Jang and his wife emerged as key brokers of power in the reclusive North Korean regime after Kim Jong-il suffered a stroke in 2008. They played leading roles in engineering the fast-track grooming of Kim Jong-un as designated heir, analysts said. Following Kim Jong-il’s death in late 2011, the couple then helped their nephew consolidate power through a series of purges that replaced 44 percent of top officials in the party, military and cabinet.
But Mr. Jang’s seemingly unbridled influence has also prompted outside analysts to speculate that Mr. Kim would eventually see him as a potential challenge to his authority. They said Mr. Kim had moved to weaken the broad network Mr. Jang built while the government was going through a transition in the past two years. On Sunday, the main party daily, Rodong Sinmun, the North’s key propaganda tool, exhorted North Koreans to thoroughly establish the “monolithic leadership of Kim Jong-un” and “follow him to the end of the world.”
This would be awesome if it happens
Al Jazeera reports that efforts are being made to unionize low paid bank employees.
Today, kicking off a week of protests against big banks, the New Day New York Coalition released a report documenting historic levels of inequality in Wall Street’s hometown. The paper reveals that the top 1 percent of income earners take home 40 percent of New York’s total income and that the city’s financial sector was responsible for approximately 45 percent of job losses (affecting some 26,000 workers) in the first half of this year. While bank CEOs receive handsome compensation — JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon made $21 million in 2012 — 39 percent of bank tellers in New York State had to rely on public assistance to stay afloat.And those former direct employees were also knowledgeable about laws and systems in ways their successors are not. Without them to provide intelligent input, management output has become garbage.
Low pay, professional veneer
Ryan Filson, a 38-year-old assistant branch manager in New York, started out as a bank teller when he was 18. (He asked that his real name not be used.) “The money I made back then is the same that they’re paying tellers now to start: $10! And the workload is so different. Tellers have a harder job today than I ever saw,” he said, referring to time-intensive verification procedures for checks and deposits.
In 2010 the national median salary for tellers was $24,100, or just over $11 per hour. But tellers and other retail staff are often required to purchase suits and look the part of professional workers. They also face pressure to meet stringent quotas for referrals and sales of checking and savings accounts, credit cards, loans and mortgages while cultivating relationships with their customers.
“The three women (tellers) I work with all receive public assistance,” Filson said. “I was shocked. (The head teller) shows up for work on time, she has a great personality, she works hard. (With welfare), you have the image of someone lazy collecting a check, so for me, that was eye opening.”
On the corporate side, back-office personnel are paid meager hourly wages, are routinely outsourced and subcontracted and are segregated from analysts and investment bankers in the same company. Large banks often treat support departments as a drain on resources rather than a crucial part of the business.
According to subcontracted back-office workers at a prominent New York bank, clerical, security and technology staff are paid $12 per hour, though their predecessors — direct employees of the corporation before a massive restructuring — were paid $16 to $20 per hour. In the third quarter of this year, the same bank reported earnings of nearly $1 billion. (Those interviewed asked that neither they nor their employer be identified.)
Detroit Muni workers passing around the anal lube
Because the US judge in the Detroit bankruptcy case has ruled that it may proceed and there will be no protection for the pension and medical plans that were supposed to be funded with deferred compensation. In plain English, the workers are now free to be screwed seven ways past Sunday.
The U.S. judge overseeing Detroit's bankruptcy case ruled Tuesday that the city could proceed with its filings to deal with billions in debt, a decision that will likely cause a long-term fight with the city's unions, and may allow Detroit to sell off some of its most prized assets.All the residents of Detroit will suffer from this decision to privatize public assets but the city workers past and present are the ones who will receive the largest and most immediate impact.
Noting that the city "no longer has the resources to provide its residents with basic police, fire and services," Judge Steven Rhodes said Detroit was insolvent, and could therefore file Chapter 9 bankruptcy in order to help pay down $18 billion in debt.
While Rhodes ruled that the city could cut the pensions of Detroit's 23,000 municipal workers, he also cautioned that Detroit should not use the bankruptcy as an excuse to sell off assets like artwork from its large museum, the Detroit Institute of Art, for a quick cash infusion.
The city's final plan will need the approval of judge Rhodes', who also warned that he wouldn't approve overly severe cuts to pensions.
The decision was met with protests by dozens of city workers outside the courtroom, employees who don't want to see their pensions cut and who have already faced deferred payments on their pensions.
Just in time for Noon Prayers
Monday, December 02, 2013
Singing about the one that could have been
Diane Birch in her video for "Valentino"
So we can afford more Aircraft Carriers & their F-35's
And the only way possible is to cut into military compensation, with the largest cuts on the ordinary grunts, swabbies and jarheads.
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that military commanders have agreed to a plan that would curb the growth of pay and benefits for housing, education and health. But it must still be approved by Mr. Hagel and President Obama. In past years, Congress has approved pay raises and benefit improvements and resisted rollbacks. It is possible that politically savvy Pentagon leaders may be hitting the personnel issue hard right now to force lawmakers to end the sequester or to otherwise soften its blow to the overall military budget. Personnel costs are not the only ones rising. Weapons procurement has risen 88 percent from 2001 to 2012.Quick! Cut their pay so that no useless contractors need suffer any diminution of their excess profits. It is just an extension of what was done in the private sector anyway.
But many Washington-based think tanks, spanning all ideologies, are also pushing reform. In June, a group of them — including the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the liberal Center for American Progress — called for a comprehensive review and modernization of the military compensation system, which has been largely unchanged for 40 years.
One problem is that unrestrained compensation costs will edge out funds for training, readiness and weapons. A recent Congressional Budget Office study said that between 2001 and 2012, when private-sector wages were effectively flat, basic military pay rose by 28 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. The study also said that cash compensation for enlisted personnel, including food and housing allowances, is greater than the wages and salaries of 90 percent of their civilian counterparts. And health care costs are projected to rise from $51 billion in 2013 to $77 billion by 2022.
Where, then, to cut? Reducing the size of the armed forces would have the quickest effect. The budget office suggests giving smaller pay raises; replacing the current retirement system, under which active-duty members qualify for immediate benefits after 20 years of service, with a defined benefit system that partially vests earlier in a service member’s career; and increasing health care enrollment fees, deductibles or co-payments. Military retirees pay only a fraction of what civilians pay for health care premiums, and those with second careers often choose to stay on the government plan. It makes sense that they be asked to assume a greater share. To the extent possible, any changes should affect future recruits rather than current enlistees.
Juan Cole explains NSA enablers in Congress
Feinstein and Rogers just came on television to scaremonger the American people with the Syrian jihadis, and both of them voted to give the Syrian rebels millions of dollars in arms.Informed Comment
That’s a pretty good racket. You support the jihadis abroad and then point to jihadis abroad as the reason for which you have to get into the underwear of the American people.
Like Sparky sez
Newtown turned out to be the best Christmas present Mad Wayne LaPierre ever had. Tom Tomorrow has the details.
Do you know what the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are?
Better do some study because right now the US and China are indulging in a Big Power pissing match over those islands. The problem is these contests can magnify small mistakes into big trouble.
In an era when the Obama administration has been focused on new forms of conflict — as countries use cyberweapons and drones to extend their power — the dangerous contest suddenly erupting over a pile of rocks in the East China Sea seems almost a throwback to the Cold War.The good is the Rising Sun is on our side. The bad is they have a history of attacking without warning.
Suddenly, naval assets and air patrols are the currency of a shadow conflict between Washington and Beijing that the Obama administration increasingly fears could escalate and that American officials have said could derail their complex plan to manage China’s rise without overtly trying to contain it. As in the Cold War, the immediate territorial dispute seems to be an excuse for a far larger question of who will exercise influence over a vast region.
The result is that, as the Chinese grow more determined to assert their territorial claims over a string of islands once important mainly to fishermen, America’s allies are also pouring military assets into the region — potentially escalating the once obscure dispute into a broader test of power in the Pacific.
Now a maritime outpost that had modest strategic significance is taking on enormous symbolic import. South Korea, which has broader concerns about China’s regional power, is building a new naval base for 20 warships, including submarines, arguing that it has to protect vital shipping lanes in the East China Sea for its exports — including many electronics headed to China.
The Japanese, after largely depending on American bases on Okinawa to back up their own limited patrols in the area, plan to build a new army base by 2016 on a small, inhabited island near the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
The Japanese are also planning to deploy more F-15s and radar planes to Okinawa and a new helicopter carrier, and, for the first time, have considered buying unarmed American drones to patrol the area, part of a three-year-long shift in military strategy to focus on their southern islands and on China. That is part of a fundamental change in the national mind-set toward a Japan that is more willing and able to defend itself than anytime since World War II, in part because of doubts about America’s own commitment to the region.
There is some federal aid to railroads.
And, in a story that should bring some cheer to Atrios, McClatchy details where it goes and who doesn't like it.
The nation’s freight rail network has been the quiet recipient of more than $600 million in federal investment during the Obama administration.While mostly freight oriented, any track improvements help all traffic in the end. Viable passenger improvements are a good reason to get rid of Republican/Teabaggers in Congrerss.
According to Federal Railroad Administration numbers, at least half that amount has gone to projects that benefit the nation’s four largest railroads, the same companies at the heart of the industry’s ubiquitous “Freight Rail Works” campaign.
That doesn’t even include tens of millions more that states have contributed for additional investment in ports and high-speed passenger trains that’s boosted the nation’s freight railroads.
The public dollars have built new overpasses to separate trains from one another, as well as cars and trucks. They’ve replaced aging bridges, laid new track and upgraded signal systems. They’ve paid to enlarge tunnels and raise bridges so that shipping containers may be double-stacked. They’ve built new facilities where cargo containers can be transferred from trucks to trains, or vice versa.
Supporters say these public investments, combined with private capital, are model infrastructure partnerships that will help take trucks off crowded highways, reduce pollution and improve the flow of goods to and from the nation’s seaports.
There are Cafeteria "Right To LIfers" too
Sunday, December 01, 2013
Live from Abbey Road
Seems like just the right place for Laura Marling doing "What He Wrote" from her second album.
Having trouble finding a gift for your political junkie?
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