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With the issues with visas becoming more vocal, the capitalist system is working on its version of a "solution". American Public Media - Kyl Ryssdal of my afternoon NPR ride - had an article out yesterday called:

Don't have a visa to work here? I have some office space to rent you in the ocean.

The idea is to put a floating IT tech incubator 12 miles off the California coast and provide office space to start ups that want to use visaless workers. Once you get to a certain scale, you move on shore. At that point, you have the ability to guarantee jobs and sponsor visas.

The office operators also take a equity stake in the company for providing this little reach around of visa issues.

I am sure there can be no issues with the worker treatment where you cannot legally go to the nearest port (no visa, right?) and are locked on a boat.

Now we are offshoring our tech incubators for wage savings.

This idea takes away the equity shares Amricans can get in start ups in return for working for those low wages. So much for helping people climb the ladder.


CNN Money has an article out on the "fastest growing job" - rest of headline "it pays poorly", anyone surprised?

The article here has the opening two lines:

The fastest growing job in America pays poorly. Meet home health care aides.
Guess what else? The working group is characterized by employing "mostly women and minorities".

But there are things that need to be changed - and need support to get them done.


Many home health care aides are exempt from federal minimum wage and overtime laws, due to a little-known provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1974, which puts them in the same category as casual babysitters. The Obama administration has been trying to change that over the past two years, but its efforts have been met fiercely with lobbying from the industry.
But even though there are plenty of job opportunities, many of these people make the same wage as teenagers flipping burgers or selling clothes at the mall. The average hourly wage is just $9.70 an hour, according to the Labor Department.

Under these conditions, it's no surprise then that about 40% of home aides rely on public assistance, such as Medicaid and food stamps, just to get by.

FYI - the projection for this job growth is 1.3 million new jobs in this area in the next 10 years - 130,000 jobs per year. Avrage job growth in 2012 was 150,000 jobs per month. Therefore, it is possible that nearly 10% of all new job for the next decade may be these home health care jobs paying less than $20,000 per year. That won't pay off college loans.

Did you know that home health care was expt from Fair Labor Act

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My sense of awe for science just jumped again. Science Daily has an article on artificial leaf development here. The concept is called an artificial leaf. The concept is in development but

The new analysis lays out a roadmap for a research program to improve the efficiency of these systems, and could quickly lead to the production of a practical, inexpensive and commercially viable prototype.
The idea is:
Such a system would use sunlight to produce a storable fuel, such as hydrogen, instead of electricity for immediate use. This fuel could then be used on demand to generate electricity through a fuel cell or other device. This process would liberate solar energy for use when the sun isn't shining, and open up a host of potential new applications
And these are serious folks - MIT folks now residing at Harvard. They are not saying they have the solution but:
Models to determine the theoretical limits of a given system often lead researchers to pursue the development of new systems that approach those limits, Buonassisi says. "It's usually from these kinds of models that someone gets the courage to go ahead and make the improvements," he says.
Think of this as moving from genetic medicine pre-genome project - when it was hunt and peck for solutions - to post project, when you had a roadmap to start comparing results to and planning next steps from. This really could make this happen much quicker.

I only hope to see this soon or sooner. This would be the game changer. Here's why

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Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 06:17 AM PST

Is the SEC a toothless watchdog?

by tjlord

Last week, a compliance blog - CompliancEX - had an article on Mary Jo White, the new SEC head. When the title reads "Obama's SEC pick wary of zealous Wall Street Prosecutions", one might have thoughts about this.

The article is short but the two cogent points:

As Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor during the 1990s, Mary Jo White could have sought the corporate equivalent of the death penalty: indicting Prudential Securities Inc. for fraudulently marketing $8 billion in ruinous energy partnerships to small investors
“We persuaded them there was an unacceptably high risk that charging Prudential Securities would lead to significant losses for the innocent shareholders,” said Scott Muller, a New York defense attorney who represented Prudential. “What she avoided was inappropriate collateral damage.”
Ultimately, settlement was $330 million and no criminal charges.

It is the reasoning that shareholders, whose stock was helped by the fraud, were innocent victims that is problematic - to be kind.

Not the bulldog we may be hearing about.


Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 06:54 AM PST

The Sequester - State by State

by tjlord

The Washington Post has a nice article titled "The Impact of the budget cuts depend on where you live and who you are" here

There is a state by state graphic called "Sequestration impacts, state by state estimates from the White House" here that is tabbed by a number of dimensions - such as:

Teachers and schools
Work Study jobs

Military "Readiness"
Law Enforcement

Nutrition Assistance for seniors

More below

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"Forced-placed insurance" - ever heard of it? It is the insurance a mortgage lender buys when the existing homeowner - frequently when in foreclosure - drops their insurance coverage. And it is really, really expensive. But there may be more to the story.

In an article by Neil Weinberg called Feds Favor Banks over Taxpayers in Home Insurance Tussle, he notes:

American Banker’s Jeff Horwitz has covered the force-placed market in more detail than anyone else in the country over the past three years, and what he’s uncovered is highly disturbing.

For insurers, writing policies sight unseen against the homes of troubled owners is risky, and it’s perfectly understandable that they’d charge relatively high premiums to reflect that. But Jeff uncovered the fact that the cost of force-place premiums swelled beyond reason—to as much as ten times what a regular policy would cost. A big culprit in the gouging appears to be under-the-table payments that insurers make to banks for steering business their way.

More below:
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Public pensions are the next budget issue - we all see it coming. The question is whether the investments they make are also a potential issue.

The head of theTeacher Retiremnt System of Texas - Steve LeBlanc - has this to say about private equity:

The main point, though, is that the retirements of millions of teachers in Texas, cops in Florida, fire fighters in California and public employees in New York are more financially secure because of private-equity and real-estate investments. It's been a critical part of TRS's success and it should be part of the equation for others as well. The fact that many U.S. companies are prospering and creating jobs because of the capital and expertise invested by private equity just makes it all the better.
Its mission is:
Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) is a retirement plan sponsor. The firm provides retirement and related benefits for those employed by the public schools, colleges, and universities supported by the State of Texas. It also provides a health insurance program for public school retirees.
OooooKkkkkk - lt's look a little deeper. The TRST has $112 billion in assets. It allocates those assets where it wants, in fact:
Bain's Connection to Government Pension Funds
Bain Capital, founded by Mitt Romney, has received significant amounts of its capital from  government-worker pension funds.

According to NyPo,  Preqin uses public documents, news accounts and Freedom of Information requests to track private-equity holdings. Since 2000, Preqin reports, the following funds have entrusted some $1.56 billion to Bain:

Teacher Retirement System of Texas ($122.5 million)

(FYI - Ohio Teacher's Retirement System has almost twice as much in Bain).

TRST has even developed more relationships, per Mr. LeBlanc:

At TRS, in fact, we've steadily increased our allocation to private equity and real estate. In addition, we recently struck an innovative strategic partnership with the firms KKR & Co. and Apollo Global Management that affords us greater flexibility and more control over our investments.
So, in essence, TRST is privatized - what could go wrong?

Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 12:06 PM PST

No Budget, No Pay - good idea or bad?

by tjlord

Just got an email (from Repubs):

Moments ago, the House took a stand: if the Senate doesn’t pass a budget, then Members of Congress won’t get paid.

It’s simple: No Budget, No Pay.

Have not read the bill so don't know all the crap in there, but want to discuss the concept.

The Repubs want to say "no budget, no pay" - is this for both houses or only the Senate?

The sponsor claims:

members of the U.S. Senate and House do not get paid until they pass a budget.
If for both houses, I say - bring it on. I can't see the people like Doug Lamborn (CO - CD5) going without a pay check. So, my thought is the house republicans blink first. Once again, we get the Blazing Saddles scenario - I think this is a loser for the Rs.



Who blinks first

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We have seen voter suppression, redistricting (gerrymandering) and now the electoral college actions from the neo-conservatives. I would recommend to anyone the The Party is Over by Mike Lofgren - I have to believe that book was diaried in the past.

There is a reference that he used from Hannah Arendt - a political philosopher many here may know.

As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.
And finally:
Undermining Americans’ belief in their own institutions of self-government remains a prime GOP electoral strategy
The activities described are a pattern and strategy - only by opposing the strategy as well as the actions can democracy be preserved.

Many on this forum have described the need for a state by state, district by district strategy - that is the only way to defend against a strategy of using the levers of democracy to defeat democracy. Since our federal government is based and founded on the activity at every congressional district and since the power to define those districts is based at the state level, only by participating and communicating at the state legislative district can democracy be fully protected.


There have been a number of diaries about Republican discussions about proportional electoral college voting in certain states. This is not a new idea.

After the 2004 election, there was a significant effort to change the Colorado constitution to adopt proportional allocation of electoral collge votes - if it had been in place in 2004, Al Goer would have been President.

The amendment failed - 65% to 35% - when the Democrats promoting the amendment withdrew their support.

The official "Blue Book" Pros and Cons below the squiggle

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Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:15 AM PST

Jack Lew for Sec Treasury?

by tjlord

This was a headline that came over from Bloomberg:

.Obama Said Close to Choosing Lew for Treasury Secretary
By Hans Nichols - Jan 7, 2013 10:00 PM MT Play Jack Lew Eyed for Treasury but Timing a Dilemma

President Barack Obama may choose White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to replace Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner as soon as this week, according to two people familiar with the matter.

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Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 10:13 AM PST

One final justification for Hagel

by tjlord

Let's face it, there is a lot to discuss about nominating Hagel for SecDef. But the one I haven't seen is the cover for the 2016 election. Huh, you say?

Look at it this way - assume Hagel is there to manage the Afghanistan wind down. And the debt ceiling does come to a revenue/spending "compromise. In that case, the defense budget will logically be exposed to cuts.

A Democratic president a Democratic SecDef - can you hear the "they are gutting our military - kick them out" in 2014 and 2016?

But a Democratic president and a known Republican SecDef - especially if Obama, as is likely, says "you lead on the plan for cuts, Chuck"?

That is one good reason for the Republicans to blast Hagel - they know h may just tell the truth and make the cuts and then both parties own them.

Just saying. Makes 2014 a very different discussion in the elections when you can say "your guy was making the cuts".

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