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Breitbart Op-Ed: Audit the Fed

February 10, 2015 in Politics & Elections

If the Federal Reserve was a real bank, without extraordinary powers, it would be insolvent.

The Fed has $4.5 trillion in liabilities and only 57 billion dollars in equity. It is leveraged at 80:1, nearly three times greater than Lehman Brothers when it failed.

Nearly 40 percent of the Fed’s liabilities are said to be mortgage-backed securities – the question needs to be: How many are distressed home loans?

What does that mean? It means the dollar that was once as good as gold ultimately became backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. And since the panic of 2008, your dollar is now backed by bad home loans, bad car loans, and derivatives.

Is anyone comforted?

Over the past one hundred years the dollar has lost 96 percent of its value.

If the Fed were forced to do, what every ordinary bank must do-take its ‘assets’ and mark them to their current market value-many believe the Fed would be insolvent.

So, after the banking crisis of 2008, we got alarmed and we passed regulations. The only problem is, we passed regulations on the banks that weren’t involved and gave more power to the bank that was involved-the Fed.

No bank in Kentucky failed during this crisis, yet Dodd-Frank pummeled our small community banks with crippling regulations.

What we really needed was more oversight of the Fed, not small community banks.

If the Fed has purchased more than $2 trillion dollars of ‘distressed’ assets, don’t taxpayers deserve to know what they bought?

Did they buy the assets of friends and acquaintances?

Did they buy any liabilities from companies they used to work for?

Maybe someone should ask about the revolving door from Wall Street to the Treasury to the Fed and back again. Are there any conflicts of interests?

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and I don’t agree on much, but I thought he did a great job of describing the Fed and the bank bailouts as: ‘A clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re on your own individualism for everyone else.’

Some say the Fed is already audited.

Well, when the auditor came to Congress, she was asked the identity of the debt bought by the Fed. She didn’t know.

When pressed on the case she responded, ‘We do not have the jurisdiction to directly go and audit reserve bank activities.’

Some worry about …read more


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Is Culture Just for Rich Kids Now?

February 10, 2015 in Blogs

By Stephen Marche, Huffington Post

Culture, like so much of American life, is being shaped by rising income inequality.

A class war is raging in British culture. James McAvoy, the star of the X-Men reboots, is the latest actor to wade into the debate, when he told The Herald of Scotland that an acting career was becoming an elite activity: “That's a frightening world to live in because as soon as you get one tiny pocket of society creating all the arts, or culture starts to become representative not of everybody, but of one tiny part, and that's not fair to begin with, but it's also damaging for society.”

McAvoy was adding his voice to the laments of a number of other performers, including Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. Julie Waters, famous for her role in Educating Rita and as the dance teacher in Billy Elliott, recently bemoaned the current lack of opportunities for young working-class actors: “People like me wouldn't get a chance today.” The battle has even turned political. When the shadow culture minister, Chris Bryant, claimed that the British music industry was “too posh,” James Blunt, who attended Harrow public school, called him a “classist gimp.” All of this is terribly British, of course. Britain has always had a class system, and culture has been an integral reflection of it. Americans are in no place to sneer anymore, however. The same process is underway in the United States. The ability to create increasingly belongs to the wealthy.

Culture, like so much of American life, is being shaped by rising income inequality. Art, which was the domain of a democratic, sometimes anarchic spirit, has become a preserve for the cool display of privilege.

In hip-hop, once considered the most direct expression of the life of the streets, the top practitioners are now Drake and Kanye West, the first of whom is a nice boy from one of the better neighborhoods in Toronto, and the latter of whom is the son of a professor of American literature. The literary novel is obsessed with the minutiae of academic and personal life among …read more


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4,000 African Americans Were Lynched by White Terrorists

February 10, 2015 in Blogs

By Cliff Weathers, AlterNet

A group documenting lynchings is trying to erect markers at the sites, but expects local opposition.

Nearly 4,000 African Americans were victims of “racial terror lynchings” in the South between 1877 and 1950, according to a new report by the Equal Justice Initiative.

The report, released today, is the result of some five years of research by the organization. It has found that racial terror lynching was much more prevalent than previously reported. The researchers documented several hundred more lynchings than had been identified in the past. They did so by reviewing local newspapers, historical archives and court records. They also conducted interviews with local historians, and the families and descendants of the victims.

In all, EJI documented 3,959 lynchings of black people in twelve Southern states, which is at least 700 more lynchings in these states than previously reported. More than half of the lynching victims were killed under accusation of committing murder or rape against white victims. The EJI says that racial hostility fed suspicion that the perpetrators of the crimes were black and the accusations were seldom scrutinized. “Of the hundreds of black people lynched under accusation of rape and murder, nearly all were killed without being legally convicted,” says the report.

Some states and regions were particularly terrifying for African Americans, with dramatically higher rates of lynchings compared to the rest of the South. These areas included Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. Counties that were particularly terrifying were Hernando, Taylor, Lafayette, and Citrus counties in Florida; Early and Oconee counties in Georgia; Fulton County, Kentucky; and Moore County, Tennessee, which had the highest rates of lynchings. Phillips County, Arkansas, and Lafourche and Tensas parishes in Louisiana were regions of mass killings of African Americans that make them historically notorious. Georgia and Mississippi had the highest number of lynchings of all the Southern states.

In conversations with survivors of those that had been lynched, EJI found that lynching played an integral role in the migration of millions of African Americans away from Southern states.

EJI also found …read more


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Sen. Paul Announces Service Academy Nominations for 2015

February 10, 2015 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul today announced his service academy nominations for 2015. Fifty-one Kentuckians were nominated to the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. ‘It is an honor to nominate these young women and men from Kentucky to attend America’s esteemed service academies,’ said Sen. Paul. ‘I applaud each of these students, both for their hard work in the classroom and their dedication to our country.’ The nominees, and their hometowns, are listed below: United States Military Academy Nomination 1Tipton Alexander – Glasgow Emily Brunner – Louisville Nathaniel Freihofer – Hebron Mark Cole Green – Mount WashingtonChristopher Hidalgo – Goshen Michael Hyman – Brooks Meredith Laskey – Fort Thomas Cedric Miller – LouisvilleRobert Rodgers III – Goshen Eric Sirles – Mount Washington Nomination 2William Bossert – Lexington Joshua Carroll – Hebron Samuel Decker – Louisville Peter Fields – Erlanger Campbell Gott – Bowling GreenPatrick Eamon Hannan II – Paducah Brandon Hottois – Mount Washington John Rudd – WilmoreChristian Simms – Bardstown Lauryn Westman – Louisville United States Naval Academy Nomination 1Charles Bryce Anderson – Russell SpringsCaleb Bridgwater – LouisvilleAaron Conway – Smiths GroveChristopher Dyer – LouisvilleIsaac Feinn – LouisvilleBraxton Foote – Hebron Campbell Gott – Bowling GreenZoe Moon – Fort MitchellAndrew Pennybaker – ProspectAlexander Reczek – Louisville Nomination 2Alexander Armstrong – ErlangerTriston Cottrell – DrakesboroAndrew Ferguson – LexingtonGregory Hamilton II – GeorgetownAlec Hazeres – BellevueStanley Hines Jones IV – GeorgetownChase Kindler – LouisvilleKenneth Montgomery – WinchesterDaniel Walker – ProspectRyan West – LouisvilleUnited States Merchant Marine Academy Tipton Alexander – Glasgow Caleb Bridgwater – Louisville Andrew Ferguson – LexingtonJan-Niklas Isenhart – Goshen Zane Logan – Winchester Will Matherly – Elizabethtown Patrick Mills – Owensboro …read more


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EPA's Mercury Rules: Dumb and Dumber

February 10, 2015 in Economics

By Patrick J. Michaels

Patrick J. Michaels

This year, the Supreme Court is going to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s outrageous rules for mercury emissions from power plants, and hopefully SCOTUS will see through the Agency’s patently absurd reasoning.

The EPA’s mercury rule is yet another example of the Obama administration’s extreme bending of the law in service of its perseveration on global warming. In this case, the point of regulating mercury emissions—which are miniscule—is to further the administration’s goal of shutting down every coal-fired power plant in the country, even though they currently supply about 40 percent of our electricity. 

The EPA has to justify regulations in order to shoehorn them into some mystical interpretation of a small section of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act that allows it to regulate hazardous air pollutants. And what could be more hazardous than dreaded airborne mercury from the combustion of coal in our power plants?

To prevent an I.Q. loss of an impossible-to-measure 0.00209 points, the EPA’s mercury rule will effectively shut down every coal-fired power plant in America.”

The Court should be aware that:

1. there is more mercury in our air from natural sources—volcanoes come to mind—than from all human activity;

2. mercury emitted from both volcanoes and coal-fired smokestacks resides for months in the air, usually until it is precipitated out by some rainstorm. As a result, a large amount of the mercury that falls here originated in highly polluted China;

3. all US emissions are a mere 2 percent of the global total;

4. US power plants emit only half of that—about 0.5 percent of the total—and by 2016 will emit even less than that.

In its rule-making, the EPA had to demonstrate benefits, or more precisely, how much cost is extracted by current mercury emissions. So, who would benefit?

No one. The EPA had to literally invent a population that does not exist, but which might be affected. So they estimated, in their imagination, the effect on children who were born to a hypothetical population of 240,000 “women of child-bearing age in subsistence fishing populations who consume freshwater fish that they or their family caught.”

And “consume” these hypothetical fisher women did—300 pounds per year.

And now for the harm this would visit upon their children. To determine this the EPA, of course, has a computer model, which determined how much consumption of this fish would lower the kids’ I.Q.

I.Q. scores, which are supposed to measure …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Banking Giant That Helped the 1% Hide Billions in Taxes

February 10, 2015 in Blogs

By Cliff Weathers, AlterNet

The banking giant used secret Swiss accounts to help the world’s wealthiest people evade taxes.

HSBC, the world’s second largest bank, helped some of the richest people in the world stash away billions in assets to avoid taxes. The Swiss arm of the British banking giant encouraged wealthy clients to hide their fortunes from governments and other taxing authorities and helped to make their transactions untraceable.

A group of media organizations, including the BBC, The Guardian, LeMonde, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained documents revealing the complex tax dodge scheme.

The documents reveal that HSBC’s exclusive Swiss bank allowed rich clients to withdraw bricks of cash in various foreign currencies to hide such transactions. The bank also conspired with clients in creating undeclared “black” accounts to hide their wealth from domestic taxing authorities. Moreover, this service was aggressively marketed by HSBC bankers to uber-rich clients, including wealthy heirs, unethical financiers, business executives, Hollywood stars, European royalty and even global crime figures.

In one recording obtained by journalists, an HSBC Swiss banking manager gives advice to a British financier and his partner, showing them how they could use their account to cheat on Italian taxes. Another document reveals that HSBC bankers were assisting “blood diamond” dealer Emmanuel Shallop with hiding his income from Belgian tax authorities and evading taxes. Other memos show that bankers turned a blind eye to a client withdrawing numerous cash bundles of Danish Kroner, while acknowledging that the activity was illegal.

The obtained files cover three years, 2005-2007 and reveal the activities of more than 30,000 secret bank accounts containing nearly $120 billion in assets.

HSBC has admitted to “past failures” but says that it has reformed.

“We acknowledge that the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC's Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were significantly lower than they are today,” the bank said in a statement. HSBC also said that it is “cooperating with relevant authorities.”

According to HSBC, the Swiss banking arm had not been fully integrated with …read more


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6 Heroes Who Refused to Torture

February 10, 2015 in Blogs

By Rebecca Gordon, TomDispatch

They showed that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney didn't have to endorse inhumane methods.

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Why was it again that, as President Obama said, “we tortured some folks” after the 9/11 attacks? Oh, right, because we were terrified. Because everyone knows that being afraid gives you moral license to do whatever you need to do to keep yourself safe. That’s why we don’t shame or punish those who were too scared to imagine doing anything else. We honor and revere them.

Back in August 2014, Obama explained the urge of the top figures in the Bush administration to torture “some folks” this way: “I understand why it happened. I think it’s important, when we look back, to recall how afraid people were when the twin towers fell.” So naturally, in those panicked days, the people in charge had little choice but to order the waterboarding, wall-slamming, and rectal rehydration of whatever possible terrorists(and innocents) the CIA got their hands on. That’s what fear drives you to do and don’t forget, at the time even some mainstream liberal columnists were calling for torture. And whatever you do, don’t forget as well that they were so, so afraid. That’s why, says the president, “It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious,” too quick to judge the people in the Bush administration, the CIA, and even the U.S. military who planned, implemented, and justified torture.

The president has vacillated about just how long this period of exculpatory fear was supposed to last. Sometimes he seems to suggest that it’s just the responses in the more or less immediate aftermath of those attacks we shouldn’t feel too sanctimonious about. Sometimes it’s all those “years after 9/11” during which America’s leaders had to face “legitimate fears of further attacks” and therefore kept on torturing people.

However long the panic lasted, the important point is that, as Obama insisted in …read more


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Robert Reich: The Wealthy Have Pulled America Back to the 19th Century

February 10, 2015 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, AlterNet

Wall Street and enormously rich individuals have gained political power to organize the market in ways that leave most Americans behind.

My recent column about the growth of on-demand jobs like Uber making life less predictable and secure for workers unleashed a small barrage of criticism from some who contend that workers get what they’re worth in the market.

A Forbes Magazine contributor, for example, writes that jobs exist only  “when both employer and employee are happy with the deal being made.” So if the new jobs are low-paying and irregular, too bad.

Much the same argument was voiced in the late nineteenth century over alleged “freedom of contract.” Any deal between employees and workers was assumed to be fine if both sides voluntarily agreed to it. 

It was an era when many workers were “happy” to toil twelve-hour days in sweat shops for lack of any better alternative. 

It was also a time of great wealth for a few and squalor for many. And of corruption, as the lackeys of robber barons deposited sacks of cash on the desks of pliant legislators.

Finally, after decades of labor strife and political tumult, the twentieth century brought an understanding that capitalism requires minimum standards of decency and fairness – workplace safety, a minimum wage, maximum hours (and time-and-a-half for overtime), and a ban on child labor.

We also learned that capitalism needs a fair balance of power between big corporations and workers. 

We achieved that through antitrust laws that reduced the capacity of giant corporations to impose their will, and labor laws that allowed workers to organize and bargain collectively. 

By the 1950s, when 35 percent of private-sector workers belonged to a labor union, they were able to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions than employers would otherwise have been “happy” to provide.

But now we seem to be heading back to nineteenth century.

Corporations are shifting full-time work onto temps, free-lancers, and contract workers who fall outside the labor protections established decades ago.

The nation’s biggest corporations and Wall Street banks are larger and more potent than ever. 

And labor union membership has shrunk to fewer than 7 …read more


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Do We Really Want a Passive Judiciary? No.

February 10, 2015 in Economics

By Timothy Sandefur

Timothy Sandefur

Senator Rand Paul’s recent remarks about “judicial restraint” have shaken up both left and right, but anyone who has stood before a judge or jury knows he’s talking sense. “We say we don’t want judges writing laws,” Paul told an audience at the Heritage Foundation. “I don’t want them writing laws either, but do I want judges to protect my freedom, do I want judges to take an activist role in preserving liberty?”

Obviously the answer is yes. Any plaintiff or defendant wants the court to be alert to protect the rights of the innocent. That requires judges to actively examine the facts and the law, to reach just and rational results. But under the theory of “judicial restraint” that prevails in today’s courtrooms, judges often do the opposite. That theory—which applies to many of our most important constitutional cases—requires judges to presume in the government’s favor, disregard the evidence, and even invent rationalizations for laws that cannot stand rigorous scrutiny.

As a practicing attorney, I’ve often seen “judicial restraint” work as a rubber stamp: anything the government says is a good idea is upheld, regardless of the facts or the injustice of the law. That’s what happened in the infamous Kelo v. New Londondecision, where the Supreme Court upheld the power of states to seize people’s homes and give the land to developers to replace with shopping malls or luxury condos. The Constitution says government may only take property for “public use,” not private uses like malls, but the Court held that as long as bureaucrats thought Connecticut’s redevelopment project would benefit the public, judges should defer to them.

The Constitution promises uncompromising protection of liberty.”

Or consider the Louisiana law that required anyone wanting to open a florist shop to get a license. Getting licensed wasn’t easy—it required expensive training, and a tough exam. Why should someone who wants to arrange flowers be forbidden from doing so without government permission? But when the law was challenged in court, the judge upheld it because officials claimed it might protect consumers from scratching their fingers on the wires florists use to hold bouquets together. There was no evidence that this was a realistic danger. Instead, the real reason for the law—as government witness admitted under oath—was to protect established florists from having to compete against entrepreneurs. Yet “restrained” courts often ignore real facts and uphold laws on silly pretexts.

Leaders …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Bowling Green Daily News Op-Ed: Right-to-Work is really about worker freedom

February 10, 2015 in Politics & Elections

Union membership may be in decline across America, but here in the Bluegrass State, unions still have the power to force workers into becoming dues-paying members against their will. That means if you work for an employer who contracts with a union, you can be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

That’s outrageous. It’s long past time Kentucky follow the lead of 24 other states and pass right-to-work legislation. Right-to-work laws are simple enough. They empower employees to decide on their own terms whether they prefer to spend their hard-earned money on joining a union, or if they would prefer to take that money home.

Right-to-work legislation is a smart policy that boosts economic development while advancing workers’ rights by ensuring workers are not forced to join, and thus aren’t limited by the dictates of a union.

We support right-to-work laws at every level of government – federal, state, and local. We’ve joined together to push for national right-to-work legislation in the U.S. Senate in the past. Just this week, we again introduced the National Right to Work Act. And we see great benefits for Kentucky to pass a state right-to-work law. We were pleased to see the Kentucky Senate pass one, and we encourage the Kentucky House to take up and pass this pro-worker reform.

Local jurisdictions throughout the commonwealth are fed up with waiting for a state or federal law that will provide them with the safety net from big labor they need. That’s why we support Warren County’s recent move to pass its own right-to-work legislation. Other Kentucky counties, including Simpson, Fulton, Todd and Hardin, have followed Warren County’s lead to stay competitive. Local jurisdictions should do everything they can to increase their own competitiveness, which is why we applaud other counties in Kentucky following in their footsteps.

Warren County, like the rest of Kentucky, must compete for employers with neighboring states, many of which, like Tennessee and Indiana, have already passed right-to-work laws. Without a similar incentive, Kentucky will lose out in the race to attract businesses that create jobs in our communities. It’s no accident that manufacturing employment is one-third higher in states that embrace these policies, and that nine of the top 10 states for business and jobs in America are all right-to-work states.

Until big labor’s grip on workers and employers is loosened, Kentucky will keep falling behind its …read more