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Longwood Gardens.  February, 2013.  Photo by: joanneleon



BANCO SABADELL - Som Sabadell flashmob (Beethoven 9th)



News & Opinion


Hat tip to joe shikspack for some of today's news section, taken from last night's Evening Blues.

The Wall Street Journal is having a terrible time figuring out why the suicide rate is soaring among middle-aged Americans.  Perhaps they haven't heard about unemployment and about how you can't get a job if you are over 50 in America.  Maybe they haven't heard about hari kari as a retirement plan.  

US suicide rate rose sharply among middle-aged

NEW YORK — The suicide rate among middle-aged Americans climbed a startling 28 percent in a decade, a period that included the recession and the mortgage crisis, the government reported Thursday.

The trend was most pronounced among white men and women in that age group. Their suicide rate jumped 40 percent between 1999 and 2010.

But the rates in younger and older people held steady. And there was little change among middle-aged blacks, Hispanics and most other racial and ethnic groups, the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

With Bradbury’s Appendix M Opinion and 7th Circuit Vance Decision, the Government Can Torture Any of Us

Three years ago, I showed how Steven Bradbury wrote an OLC memo that approved in advance whatever techniques DOD wanted to put into the sometimes classified Appendix M of the Army Field Manual. At the time, DOJ implied to me that this memo was rescinded along with the rest of Bradbury and John Yoo’s torture memos.

In a really important post yesterday, Jeff Kaye explained that the memo, in fact, remains operative.

LTC Breasseale explained in an email response to my query last year:

Executive Order (EO) 13491 did not withdraw “‘All executive directives, orders, and regulations… from September 11, 2001, to January 20, 2009, concerning detention or the interrogation of detained individuals.’” It revoked all executive directives, orders, and regulations that were inconsistent with EO 13491, as determined by the Attorney General…. [bold emphasis added]

One last point – you seem suggest below that EO 13491 somehow cancelled Steven Bradbury’s legal review of the FM. EO 13491 did not cancel Mr. Bradbury’s legal review of the FM.”

Too-Big-to-Fail Takes Another Body Blow

Last week, on April 24th, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Louisiana Republican David Vitter introduced legislation called the "Terminating Bailouts for Taxpayer Fairness Act of 2013 Act," or the "Brown-Vitter TBTF Act" for short. The bill is a gun aimed directly at the head of the Too-Big-To-Fail beast.

During the Dodd-Frank negotiations a few years ago, Brown teamed up with Delaware Democrat Ted Kaufman to introduce an amendment that would have physically capped the size of the biggest banks. The amendment was bold and righteous but was slaughtered on the floor by a 61-33 margin, undermined by leaders of both parties – 27 Democrats voted against it.

Brown-Vitter offers a different and, in a way, more elegant solution to the problem than Brown-Kaufman. Rather than impose size limits, it simply insists that banks with over $500 billion in assets maintain higher capital reserves than are currently required. Companies like J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Bank of America will have to keep capital reserves of about 15 percent, about twice the current amount.

The bill only has such tough requirements for just those few megabanks, which sounds unfair, except that the aim of the bill, precisely, is to level the playing field. Right now, the biggest U.S. banks enjoy a massive inherent market advantage in that they're able to borrow money far more cheaply than other banks, because everybody on earth knows the government will never let them fail and will always bail them out in a pinch, making their debt essentially U.S.-government guaranteed. Studies have shown that these banks borrow money at about 0.8 percent more cheaply than other banks, and that this implicit government subsidy is worth about $83 billion a year just to the top 10 banks in America. This bill would essentially wipe out that hidden subsidy and make the banks bailout-proof.

Obama To Nominate Penny Pritzker, Mike Froman For Economic Jobs

President Barack Obama on Thursday will nominate a longtime fundraiser to run the Commerce Department and a top economic adviser as the next U.S. Trade Representative, a White House official said.

USTR nominee Michael Froman is one of Obama’s senior economic advisers and a former Citigroup executive. ... Commerce nominee Penny Pritzker, a businesswoman, philanthropist and Hyatt hotel heiress, is Obama’s final pick to fill vacancies among Cabinet secretaries in his second term. ... If confirmed, Pritzker would become the fourth woman serving as secretary in Obama’s current Cabinet. She also would be the wealthiest in the Cabinet by far, with Forbes estimating her net worth at $1.85 billion and ranking her as the 277th richest American.

Pritzker is a lifelong Chicagoan who has known Obama since the 1990s and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for both his presidential campaigns. She was his finance chairwoman in 2008, served as co-chair of Obama for America 2012 and gave $250,000 to help put on his inaugural festivities in January.


'Deficit Hawk' CEOs Pocket Hundreds of Millions with Tax Loopholes

Executives behind austerity group 'Fix the Debt' make millions off the backs of those whose benefits they want to slash

As America's top CEO's push aggressively for austerity cutbacks in government programs that benefit ordinary citizens under the guise of the lobby group Fix the Debt, those same individuals are pocketing hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies, says a new report published Thursday.

The study, Fix The Debt CEOs Enjoy Taxpayer Subsidized Pay—by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Campaign for America's Future—reveals that thanks to a tax loophole which allows corporations to deduct unlimited amounts off their income taxes for the expense of executive stock options and other so-called “performance-based” pay, Fix the Debt member firms have raked in over a billion dollars of taxpayer-funded bonuses.

"The performance pay loophole serves as a critical subsidy for excessive compensation," says the report. "The larger the executive payout, the less the corporation pays in taxes. And average taxpayers wind up footing the bill."

Common sense led a lot of people to this conclusion already (and they were probably called haters and conspiracy theorists as a result), but now there is confirmation.  But don't go expecting any corrections, retractions, amends or unsmearing from hyperpartisans or operatives because they never give it after they are proven wrong.  Hell, they never even admit to being wrong, they just move to the next round of discrediting, smearing and accusations.
US drone strikes being used as alternative to Guantánamo, lawyer says

Lawyer who drafted White House drone policy says US would rather kill suspects than send them to Cuban detention centre

The lawyer who first drew up White House policy on lethal drone strikes has accused the Obama administration of overusing them because of its reluctance to capture prisoners that would otherwise have to be sent to Guantánamo Bay.

John Bellinger, who was responsible for drafting the legal framework for targeted drone killings while working for George W Bush after 9/11, said he believed their use had increased since because President Obama was unwilling to deal with the consequences of jailing suspected al-Qaida members.

"This government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida [at Guantánamo] they are going to kill them," he told a conference at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

White House says moratorium remains on sending Guantanamo detainees to Yemen

The White House said Wednesday that despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to do what he can to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, a moratorium on sending cleared detainees back to Yemen “remains in place” – a policy that, if unchanged, provides perhaps the biggest obstacle to shuttering the controversial island prison.

The moratorium on transfers to Yemen, the home country for more than half the men detained at Guantanamo, reflects the irony of Obama’s dilemma: While he’s blamed Congress for blocking closure of the offshore prison he calls a recruitment tool for extremists, his policies are also contributing factors – something human rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say he could rectify by taking steps on his own.

Amid Hunger Strike, Obama Renews Push to Close Cuba Prison

"The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California, noted that the Obama administration had never exercised the power it has had since 2012 to waive, on a case-by-case basis, most of the restrictions lawmakers have imposed on transferring detainees to countries with troubled security conditions.
...
Human rights groups also urged Mr. Obama to direct the Pentagon to start issuing waivers, and said he should appoint a White House official to run Guantánamo policy with the authority to resolve interagency disputes. For example, because of disagreements over evidence tainted by torture, the administration has missed by more than a year a deadline to begin parole-style hearings by so-called Periodic Review Boards.
...
Another group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents detainees, urged Mr. Obama to lift his self-imposed ban on repatriations to Yemen, where a branch of Al Qaeda is active. Of the 86 low-level detainees who were designated in January 2010 for potential transfer but remain incarcerated, 56 are Yemenis."

Guantanamo attorney dead in apparent suicide

An American lawyer representing detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp has been found dead in an apparent suicide.

The body of Andy P. Hart, a 38-year-old US federal public defender, was found last week with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to Truthout, an investigative blog, news of the attorney’s death came only this Wednesday from an investigator working on Guantanamo detainees’ habeas corpus petitions. That investigator requested anonymity. ...

On Wednesday, the United Nations human rights office declared that the force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantanamo amounted to torture and a breach of international law.

Andy Hart was one of several lawyers who signed a March letter addressed to Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel urging for immediate action to end the growing hunger strike.

The Pope Called One Of The Foundations Of The Global Capitalism System 'Slavery'

Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned as "slave labour" the conditions for hundreds of workers killed in a factory collapse in Bangladesh and urged political leaders to fight unemployment in a sweeping critique of "selfish profit".

The pope said he had been particularly struck by a headline saying workers at the factory near Dhaka were being paid just 38 euros ($50) a month.

"This is called slave labour!" the pope was quoted by Vatican radio as saying in his homily at a private mass in his residence to mark May Day. ...

"How many brothers and sisters find themselves in this situation!" he said, as protesters in May Day demonstrations around the world rallied against unfair work conditions and unemployment.

"Not paying fairly, not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking at how to make a profit. That goes against God!" the pope said in his strongly-worded address.

FBI releases photos of three men from Benghazi attack site

(Reuters) - The FBI on Thursday released the photographs of three men it said were at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, when it was attacked last September.

The FBI did not call the three men suspects in the attacks, saying only that they "may be able to provide information to help in the investigation."

Occupy the SEC Commemorates May Day with a Letter to the House Financial Services Committee on Swaps Reform

Today, May 1, 2013, Occupy the SEC partakes in this activist tradition by petitioning members of the House Financial Services Committee to promote the interests of the general public in considering changes to the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 specific to swaps regulation.

The recent burgeoning of highly toxic and largely unregulated swap contracts led to the Global Recession of 2008, which was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930′s.  Congress passed Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 to reform the swaps market.  To this date, Title VII has yet to be completely finalized by the relevant regulatory agencies.
[...]

OSEC’s letter is available at: www.occupythesec.org/files/OSEC_Title_VII_Bills.pdf

How Wall Street’s hold on bank regulators mimics drug lord playbook

To understand how banking regulators are co-opted by the nation’s largest banks, think drug lord Pablo Escobar, says Neil Barofsky, the former inspector general of the federal bank-bailout program.
Escobar had a “gold or lead” strategy when it came to dealing with judges in Columbia. If judges turned a blind eye to Escobar’s crimes, they were rewarded with bags of pesos, said Barofsky, a former federal prosecutor before becoming the watchdog at the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
But for judges who couldn’t be bribed, Escobar had a bullet for their brains.
Speaking at a conference in Seattle on Wednesday, Barofsky said there is a white-collar version of “gold or lead” at play in Washington, D.C., where officials with agencies assigned to regulate banks don’t want to make waves and lessen their chances of landing lucrative jobs on Wall Street after their government stints are over.



Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


Evening Blues
The Bush-era Torture Memo Obama Never Rescinded
Make ‘em Prove the Causality before They Cause Any More Suffering: Part One, Before the Fall
Daily Kos is not About More and Better Democrats. It's About Stupid and Stupider Republicans.

Smith: "Secret 'Free Trade' Negotiations Will Gut Reg's, Enrich Multinationals, Big Financial Firms"

The Climate Crisis in Three Easy Charts

Interview with David Graeber on Democracy in America

Flash mob at Copenhagen Central Station. Copenhagen Phil playing Ravel's Bolero.

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