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IRISH DANCE SET.Carlos Nuñez & The Chieftains

News and Opinion

The Irish Times. I haven't been to the NYC St. Patrick's day parade in years.  OMG, don't do it.  Also read this article.  For a number of reasons, it is kind of hilarious, and kind of not.  

Millions turn out to watch New York parade
Themes of rebuilding and coming together permeate world’s ‘largest and best’ St Patrick’s Day celebration

Even though many weren’t Irish, and even though it wasn’t actually St Patrick’s Day, an estimated two million New Yorkers marched out to line Fifth Avenue this morning to watch the city’s 252nd St Patrick’s Day parade.

Last year’s parade paid tribute to American veterans. This year, led by about 750 members of the New York State Army National Guard First Battalion 69th Infantry, the themes of rebuilding and coming together permeated from Mr Bloomberg’s morning address into the afternoon crowds.
As part of his current US trip, Taoiseach Enda Kenny – who walked in the parade alongside the United Irish Counties group – also spoke at the mayoral breakfast and emphasized the need for continuing Irish-American immigration and trade: “We’re here to celebrate our national day and who better to do that with than our own all of you,” he said.

50 reasons to love Ireland
We racked our brains for reasons why – despite the rain, recession and repression – we remain proud of our country. And here they are

2. Because we have style. Our stylists, fashion and costume designers are some of the best around, and we’re pretty good at mixing old-school materials of wool, tweed and leathers with contemporary pieces. While an over-reliance on the high street, along with weird copycat uniforms among certain tribes, thwarts general style on occasion, there’s an improvised individualism here, an off-the-cuff way we wear contemporary fashion. The key to style is not caring, and we’re pretty good at being blasé.
6. Because we have real heroes. People such as Andrew Madden, Dr Christine Buckley, Marie Collins, Michael O’Brien, Colm O’Gorman and, latterly, the Magdalene women, all of whom overcame decades of neglect, abuse, pain, and stigma to force the rest of us to look at what we were and might still be. But what they are most to be admired for is how, from such early privation, all have built successful lives for themselves and their loved ones.
9. Because of the hope, fun and empathy of our young. I see the world through my teenage daughters, and they see Irish society positively, in a way that my generation didn’t. They see the challenges of modern Irish life stoically – unemployment, emigration, trying to gain further education. ... What gives me hope in the work I do is watching how young people embrace life and find joy easily. They are open, they hug each other, sexuality is not an issue or barrier to life. People in their 20s are living life with a value system that has a strong and wonderful empathy.
– FIACH MacCONGHAIL, Director of the Abbey Theatre
13. Because of our cloudscapes. Okay, so they might dump large amounts of water on us – 141 millimetres so far this year if you live in Dublin; a whopping 353 if you're a Valentia islander – but with their kaleidoscope of moods and textures, from wispy to whimsical, scuddy to scary, Irish skies are a cloud-spotter’s paradise.
14. Because we have rediscovered the run of ourselves. We are chastened, and nicer, since the recession has blunted the coarseness of the Celtic Tiger. Many of us are poorer, and angrier at the unfairness of a debt not of our making being foisted upon us and our children. But maybe we’re more considerate of others too, with a renewed appreciation of what’s important in life.
16. Because of our rainbows. They might be as common as chips, but people visit us to see them, and our emigrants miss them. We have ideal conditions: a mixture of sunshine and showers with the sun not too high in the sky, especially in the spring. The farther south you go towards the equator, the rarer they become. To see a rainbow, the sun has to be behind you with the shower in front of you. If the sun is more than 42 degrees above the horizon, no rainbow will be visible, which is why our position in the northern hemisphere is perfect. Double rainbows are common enough, but a rare triple rainbow over Shannon, in Co Clare, last November was remarkable enough for Met Éireann to issue a press release.
20. Because of the people of Ballyhea. For well over 100 weeks now, the people of the little village of Ballyhea, in Co Cork, have met every Sunday, marched from the church along the main road between it and Limerick and back again. Theirs is a dignified, persistent and good-humoured protest against the bailout of bank bondholders that has had such profound consequences for Ireland. Theirs is a voice from an Ireland that is not yet vanquished: an Ireland that values common sense and basic justice.

Every week in the village of Ballyhea, County Cork, they march against the banksters.  Part of my father's family was from Cork.  Maybe that's where I get it from.
Ballyhea Bondholder Bailout Protest 2nd Anniversary 3rd march 2013

Ballyhea bondholder bailout protest march

Wall Street Wankers - An Irishman Abroad

"Legalized robbery" in Cyrus this weekend.  Note that this has not been approved by the parliament yet.  They could kill the deal but I don't think we've seen that happen yet in the Europe austerity mess.  However, this deal in Cyprus is setting a new precedent in other ways so I guess that is possible.  Anyway, the grand poobahs of banking in the Eurozone and the newly elected Cyprian president made the decision on a Friday night, knowing the banks would not open again until Tuesday. [Note: they just delayed the parliament vote and declared Tuesday a bank holiday too, so banks won't open until Wednesday.] Whatever money you can get out of your account between now and Tuesday won't get sliced, which is causing a panic.  These are accounts guaranteed by government insurance, like our FDIC.  Because of a technicality (govt is taking the money, not banks refusing to return it), the insurance program doesn't apply. They are taking a percentage of everyone's savings, which disproportionately hits the little guy, who would have more (or all) of his money in cash savings.  Bondholders are not affected.  Savers are.  There are some unique factors to this situation. The huge size of the Cyrus banking sector, the fact that it seems to be a popular place to offshore money (Germany doesn't want to bail out accounts containing illegal money hidden there from Russia), the fact that most of the bond holders for their banks seem to be the govt. itself.  But still, this hurts the little guy in Cyprus the most.
Cyprus Goes After the Little Guy

The problem was where to find the extra €7 billion. Because Germany and other northern European countries were not prepared to give a handout, there were two options: force the government’s own bondholders to take a loss, or hit bank creditors.

The option of a haircut on government debt — as Greece imposed last year — was rejected. Many of the bonds are held by Cypriot banks, so a haircut — a loss on investment — would just have increased the size of the holes in their balance sheets, meaning they would have needed an even bigger bailout. The Cypriot government’s credit would have been destroyed for little benefit.

So, pretty much by default, the banks’ creditors had to be tapped. Ideally, bank bondholders would have taken the strain. But Cypriot banks have hardly any bonds. So there was not much money that could be grabbed there.
There probably will not be any immediate contagion to other crisis countries from Cyprus. After all, banking systems in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland have recently been recapitalized. Meanwhile, the combination of Cyprus’s relatively huge banking sector and the fact that it is perhaps small enough to experiment with make it a special case.

Even so, citizens in the rest of the euro zone now know that if push comes to shove, their insured deposits could be grabbed too.

Gee thanks, Germany.
Cyprus' savers bear brunt of unprecedented bailout

(Reuters) - The euro zone agreed on Saturday to hand Cyprus a bailout worth 10 billion euros ($13 billion), but demanded depositors in its banks forfeit some money to stave off bankruptcy despite the risk of a wider run on savings.

The eastern Mediterranean island becomes the fifth country after Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain to turn to the euro zone for financial help during the region's debt crisis.

In a radical departure from previous aid packages - and one that gave rise to incredulity and anger across the country - euro zone finance ministers forced Cyprus' savers to pay up to 10 percent of their deposits to raise almost 6 billion euros.

Parliament was due to meet on Sunday to vote on the measure, and approval was far from assured.

The decision prompted a run on cashpoints, most of which were depleted by mid afternoon, and co-operative credit societies closed to prevent angry savers withdrawing deposits.

Felix Salmon.  Best to read the whole thing.  He explains it in plain terms. For us, the scariest part of it is 1) Cyprus just showed how insured bank accounts mean nothing; 2) NYT article title says this could be the start of the next "financial crisis" and mentions how it could be the start of something that affects all of us, assurances from our banks that their exposure to Eurozone problems is not too big notwithstanding.  Though it also seems logical that trouble in the Eurozone would cause even more money to flow into the US.
The Cyprus precedent

I stuck my neck out in January, saying that Cyprus was “certain” to default. After all, the Europeans weren’t willing to come up with the €17 billion needed to bail the country out, and EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn told the WSJ’s Stephen Fidler that Cyprus would have to restructure its debt. But now the bailout has arrived, and — in something of a shocker — there’s no default. Instead, €5.8 billion of the bailout is going to come directly from depositors in Cyprus’s banks, in the form of what the EU is calling an “upfront one-off stability levy”.

Don’t for a minute believe that this decision is part of some deeply-considered long-term strategy which was worked out in constructive consultations between the EU, the IMF, and the new Cypriot government. Instead, it’s a last-resort desperation move, born of an unholy combination of procrastination, blackmail, and sleep-deprived gamesmanship.
Given the balance of power in the Eurozone, it comes as no surprise that in this battle, Germany won and Cyprus lost.

They won dirty, too: by forcing a tough all-night negotiating session in which Anastasiades was given what you might call an offer he couldn’t refuse. Either confiscate deposits wholesale, or see those deposits rendered even more worthless when the ECB cuts off its funding to Cypriot banks, a decision which would — through devaluation and insolvency — lead to depositors losing as much as 60% of their money.

After Cyprus, eurozone risks transmission failure and running out of road

The Eurogroup’s decision on Friday to impose a one-off tax on depositors in Cyprus may mark a turning point in the euro crisis. [...]

This is an unprecedented decision for a eurozone country. It is also one whose potential consequences reach much further than an island in the eastern Mediterranean. It threatens to cause the transmission system between the economic and financial sectors on one side and the political and social on the other to seize up. Without this, the euro cannot be propelled forward. It cannot function.
Setting these arguments aside, the eurozone ignores at its peril the fact that these decisions do not happen in an economic or financial vacuum. They have political and social consequences that cannot be ignored if the single currency is to have a future. One need only look at the political changes that have taken place in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and elsewhere to realize that the euro area is running out of leaders who have the backing needed to implement the decisions being taken.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, elected just last month, has to clarify to his people why he is adopting a bank deposit tax when he told voters a few weeks ago that he was absolutely opposed to it. Even before Anastasiades had returned from Brussels, his political opponents were demanding a referendum on the deposit tax. Some were even calling for new elections or an exit from the euro.

Anastasiades also has to explain to Cypriots why small-time depositors have to pay a similar levy to the one some eurozone countries supposedly demanded so alleged Russian oligarchs would be forced to pay for bailing out the island’s banking system. Furthermore, he has to inform them why the Cypriot government’s pledge to guarantee deposits up to 100,000 euros - supposedly even in the most extreme circumstances - is not even worth the paper it was written on.
This is the point at which the links within the eurozone will begin to pop apart, when citizens will turn to Beppe Grillo-style solutions, to nationalists, extremists or to anyone who promises a different path.

Late update. Presumably they delayed the parliament vote because they don't have enough votes to pass it.  There is a thug someone from the European Central Bank at the presidential palace, urging the president of Cyprus to go through with this.  Man, these central bankers are rigid, greedy dumbasses.
Nicosia declares Tuesday a bank holiday, but ECB urges for action

There is genuine fear of market unrest on Monday morning when stocks may crumble in the eurozone and bank accounts in other southern European bank may suffer.

Skai radio reported on Sunday that the Bank of Greece has sent between 4 and 5 billion euros to Cyprus in order to help Cypriot banks respond to cash requirements by their clients.

Germans backing off?  A lot of damage has already been done.
Softer stance by European Parliament on Cyprus

Strong reaction to bailout measures imposed on Cyprus has brought signs of a softer stance from the European Parliament and a concession by the Nicosia government for depositors who see their capital suffer a haircut.

Martin Schulz, the head of the European Parliament, said that small depositors in Cyprus should be protected, proposing that there should be no haircut to account whose balance does not exceed 25,000 euros, in an interview to German newspaper Welt am Sonntag on Sunday.

If this is not a recipe for revolution and/or war, what is?  If the big deposits of Russian offshored money was the real problem, why didn't they limit the hit only to accounts with $1 million or more?  I wouldn't be surprised if the Cyprian parliament tries to implement something like this.  But just the fact that it was proposed by the powers that be is immensely damaging and potentially far reaching consequences.  Financial systems are built on trust.  Governments are built on trust.

Back in 1941, with the memory of the Great Depression still weighing heavy, an American wrote into the Federal Reserve with an idea. “Would it not be feasible,” the member of the public asked, “to impose a Federal tax on the deposit of funds in bank checking accounts?”

The reply from the Fed was polite but succinct: while there’s no doubt a tax on bank deposits would have “the advantage of administrative simplicity”, it is “not in accord with one of the fundamental principles of taxation in a democracy, namely, that taxes should be imposed in accordance with ability to pay”.
To make those distributional consequences even more egregious, the word from Brussels is that while depositors will get hit, the senior creditors who own bonds in the banks (including, naturally, some of the racier hedge funds) will escape scot-free.
Or, in the words of someone closely involved with the negotiations: “Basically Cypriots turned their country into an offshore tax haven for dirty Russian money and the Germans and others are now insisting they pay the price for that.”

However, that price is a deeply socially-damaging one.

The move has all sorts of implications, whether it’s for the state of the euro crisis, the prospect of future assaults on bank deposits, and the British deposits in Cypriot banks, which will now be gouged for the bailout. However, most of all, one’s sympathy has to be with the country’s savers. Consider it: overnight a widow’s life savings, carefully saved up over decades, have been gouged, simply because EU bureaucrats decided to protect hedge funds and the German surplus, and to teach Russians a lesson.

Eric Holder Enables Dishonesty, Fraud and Likely Criminal Activity on Wall Street

Well, you need look no further than the abundance of stories on how the multi-billion dollar JP Morgan Chase "whale" loss has just been exposed as the product of a systemic corporate culture at JP Morgan, all the way up to the White House "hero" of Wall Street, Jamie Dimon.
But it gets worse for the White House's favorite banker, as the Washington Post reports,

Washington dealt a double blow Thursday to JPMorgan Chase as a Senate report accused its iconic chief executive of hiding information about a massive loss from regulators while the Federal Reserve unexpectedly said it had found a “weakness” in the bank’s capital plans.

The twin announcements, both unveiled in the late afternoon, escalates the problems for JPMorgan, the nation’s largest bank and arguably its most prestigious. Once viewed as the strongest bank to emerge from the 2008 financial crisis, the firm on Thursday watched its weaker rivals, Bank of America and Citigroup, sail through the Fed’s examination.

This is where US Attorney General Eric Holder, appointed by and apparently reflecting the Wall Street crime tolerant policies of President Barack Obama comes in.  As BuzzFlash at Truthout reported in "Holder Admits That Department of Justice Believes Big Bankers Are Above the Law", Holder is enabling fraudulent and criminal activity on Wall Street by hardly investigating it, let alone potentially prosecuting the executives likely engaged in violations of the law.
This is corruption of the most entrenched and insidious kind, and the US attorney general's response is that some crime pays and is too big and powerful to be subject to the laws of the United States of America.

Why has BuzzFlash at Truthout been writing a steady stream of commentaries documenting how the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been enabling fraudulent and likely criminal activity on Wall Street?

Screw the companies that only care about their bottom line and getting the cheapest possible workers and giving away our jobs.  We can do this.
Making a New Economy: Getting Cooperative

A new economy is coming. While Wall Street banks are on a trend of corporate mergers and acquisitions, Main Street businesses are generating community wealth while undergoing a transition of their own. Traditional companies are becoming worker cooperatives, both to sustain during tough economic times and because years of success have enabled these companies to reward their workers. State and local governments are beginning to get wise to this trend, too, adding legislative influence to an already vibrant movement.

Take the example of Zingerman's Community of Businesses, an umbrella company that runs a fleet of food service outfits based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Over the course of more than 30 years, Zingerman's has become a statewide destination for food lovers, and their owners have become business community luminaries. Nearly 600 employees work in the eight distinct businesses that comprise the Zingerman's Community, generating annual revenues of $46 million. Inc. Magazine once rated Zingerman's among the coolest companies in the States, and the very same leaders whose vision has been so celebrated are now designing a plan to transition Zingerman's to an employee-owned worker cooperative. When the transition is complete, Zingerman's will be among the largest worker co-ops in the United States.

NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake criticizes government 'secrecy regime'

What Drake calls “the secrecy regime” - the government protocols for securing a vast cache of classified documents - has created a “misunderstanding that if you happen to speak to a reporter…by definition, anything that you might say to them could be characterized as classified.”

In a passionate plea for the sanctity of the First Amendment, Drake warned that journalists are being increasingly frozen out of government sources.

“How else will the press report the real news when their sources dry up and the government becomes a primary purveyor of its own news?” he asked in one of many disturbing scenarios posed to the audience. He quoted George Orwell and John F. Kennedy to the same effect: It is a slippery slope from government secrecy to tyranny.

Club President Angela Greiling Keane has made press freedom a priority for her presidency this year. Had Drake been convicted, “it would have had a chilling effect on whistleblowers and journalists, who often receive and keep defense documents,” she said in introducing Drake.
Drake mocked a White House statement celebrating Sunshine Week and repeatedly used metaphors of light in his remarks.

“In an open and transparent society, the citizenry are supposed to know the truth of its own government," he said. "So if the First Amendment is the sunshine of our liberty, how else are we to remain free if the government casts its shadow over you and me?”

Domestic Drones Allow For New Forms Of Privacy Invasion: ACLU

For one thing, helicopters are far more expensive than drones. "Manned helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are expensive to acquire, staff, and maintain. A police helicopter costs from $500,000 to $3 million to acquire, and $200-$400 an hour to fly," according to the ACLU.
Then Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald has voiced similar concerns in the past:

The fact is that drones vest vast new powers that police helicopters and existing weapons do not vest: and that’s true not just for weaponization but for surveillance. Drones enable a Surveillance State unlike anything we’ve seen. Because small drones are so much cheaper than police helicopters, many more of them can be deployed at once, ensuring far greater surveillance over a much larger area. Their small size and stealth capability means they can hover without any detection, and they can remain in the air for far longer than police helicopters.
Greenwald also notes that, while weaponized drones have not appeared in the domestic sphere, the surveillance drones that have can be easily armed.

Domestic drones are just one example of police militarization, a process by which domestic law enforcement agencies become more like the armed forces that fight abroad.

Robert Parry.
Pope Francis, CIA and ‘Death Squads’
Exclusive: In the 1970s, Father Jorge Bergoglio faced a moment of truth: Would he stand up to Argentina’s military neo-Nazis “disappearing” thousands including priests, or keep his mouth shut and his career on track? Like many other Church leaders, Pope Francis took the safe route, Robert Parry reports.

The Vatican’s fiercely defensive reaction to the reemergence of these questions as they relate to the new Pope also is reminiscent of the pattern of deceptive denials that became another hallmark of that era when propaganda was viewed as an integral part of the “anticommunist” struggles, which were often supported financially and militarily by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Indeed, the predominant role of the Church hierarchy – from the Vatican to the bishops in the individual countries – was to give political cover to the slaughter and to offer little protection to the priests and nuns who advocated “liberation theology,” i.e. the belief that Jesus did not just favor charity to the poor but wanted a just society that shared wealth and power with the poor.

So, any reformers of any stripe were readily labeled “communists” and were made the targets of vicious security forces, often trained and indoctrinated by “anticommunist” military officers at the U.S.-run School of the Americas. The primary role of the Catholic hierarchy was to urge the people to stay calm and support the traditional system.
Instead of leading the charge for real economic and political change in Latin America, John Paul II denounced “liberation theology.” During a 1983 trip to Nicaragua – then ruled by the leftist Sandinistas – the Pope condemned what he called the “popular Church” and would not let Ernesto Cardenal, a priest and a minister in the Sandinista government, kiss the papal ring. He also elevated clerics like Bergoglio who didn’t protest right-wing repression.

John Paul II appears to have gone even further, allowing the Catholic Church in Nicaragua to be used by the CIA and Ronald Reagan’s administration to finance and organize internal disruptions while the violent Nicaraguan Contras terrorized northern Nicaraguan towns with raids notorious for rape, torture and extrajudicial executions.

Eagle Ford Shale Boom Fuels ‘Madhouse’ in South Texas Counties

The shale boom has changed all that here and throughout an oil-rich swath of counties extending to the Canadian border. Figures released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau show counties in south and west Texas are now among the fastest- growing places in the U.S. as oilfield workers rush to the Eagle Ford Shale. The underground formation holds an estimated 3 billion barrels of oil and 150 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.

“It’s a madhouse,” J.E. Wolf III, a Yorktown real estate broker, said in a telephone interview. “I’ve been selling real estate here for 43 years, and I’ve never seen it like this.”
“If you can pass a drug test and get a commercial driver’s license, you can get $80,000 in one phone call,” Gulick said.
William Frey, senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, said the latest Census estimates could be an early sign of a resurgence of migration to the Sunbelt.

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