Showing posts from December 22, 2014

Robert Reich: Insider Traders are Hosing Us All

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[Remember the good old days when insider trading was against the law. Now it is the "coin of the realm in securities markets." The former secretary of labor examines how deregulation under Reagan and Bush spawned savage inequalities. *RON*]

By Robert Reich, AlterNet, 21 December 2014

A few years ago, hedge fund Level Global Investors made $54 million selling Dell Computer stock based on insider information from a Dell employee. When charged with illegal insider trading, Global Investors’ co-founder Anthony Chiasson claimed he didn’t know where the tip came from.

Chiasson argued that few traders on Wall Street ever know where the inside tips they use come from because confidential information is, in his words, the “coin of the realm in securities markets.”

Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which oversees federal prosecutions of Wall Street, agreed. It overturned Chiasson’s conviction, citing lack of ev…

This Is the Stupidest Anti-Science Bullshit of 2014

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[A catalogue of shame. *RON*]

By Tim McDonnell, Mother Jones, 22 December 2014

2014 had its fair share of landmark scientific accomplishments: dramatic cuts to thecost of sequencing a genome; sweeping investigations of climate change impacts in the US; advances in private-sector space travel, and plenty more. But there was also no shortage of high-profile figures eager to publicly and shamelessly denounce well-established science—sometimes with serious consequences for public policy. So without further ado, the most egregious science denial of 2014:

Basically everything said by Donald Trump:

You can always count on The Donald to pull no punches. He got started early this year, when he pointed to freezing temperatures in parts of the country as evidence that "this very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop" and then told Fox News that the global warming "hoax" was merely the result of scientists "having a lot of …

Debt Collectors Hound Millions of Retired Americans

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[Meanwhile, back in the front lines of the class wars, 18% of Americans expect to die owing money, 42 million Americans have medical debt, and 35% of American have debt in collections. *RON*]

By Herb Weisbaum, NBC News, 20 December 2014

It may be hard to imagine Grandma unable to pay her bills or Grandpa being hounded by debt collectors. But for millions of Americans, this is the harsh reality of retirement.

Faced with a fixed income and constantly rising cost of living, many seniors now spend their "golden years" juggling bills and fending off debt collectors.

"If they get a phone call at 10 o'clock at night and the caller is harassing them for a debt, it can be very scary," said Amy Nofziger with the AARP Foundation. "We know that it causes a lot of stress for seniors because some of these debt collectors can use foul language and other forms of harassment to try to collect the debt."

Nofziger told NBC News that s…

Oil Crash Wipes $11.7 Billion From Buyout Firms’ Holdings

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[While Russia struggles to keep its nose above water, other investors are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of buying billions of dollars worth of petro-corporation shares at bargain basement rates. *RON*]

By Devin Banerjee and David Carey, Bloomberg, 21 December 2014

Oil’s plunge makes energy a great investment for the coming years, according to Blackstone Group LP (BX)’s Stephen Schwarzman and Carlyle (CG) Group LP’s David Rubenstein. For private equity firms, it’s also been painful.

More than a dozen firms -- including Apollo Global Management LLC (APO), Carlyle, Warburg Pincus and Blackstone -- have lost a combined $11.7 billion in 27 publicly traded oil producers since June, when crude prices reached this year’s peak before beginning their six-month slide, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Stocks of buyout firms with exposure to energy have slumped, and bond prices suggest some closely held oil producers may struggle to pay…

Russian Roulette: Taxpayers Could Be on the Hook for Trillions in Oil Derivatives

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[It's hard not to be a bit paranoid about the timing of all this. John Kerry meets with King Abdullah in September, after which the Saudis start flooding the market with oil, dropping prices, and not-so-coincidentally wrecking the Russian ruble. Just in the nick of time, the US government sneaks a provision into its budget bill over Senator Elizabeth Warren's wails of alarm that will indemnify Wall Street for, potentially, trillions of dollars in losses that could be incurred on derivatives because of this drop in prices. On related themes see Ready for $20 Oil? *RON*]
Ellen Brown | Web of Debt | Nations of Change, 21 December 2014 
The sudden dramatic collapse in the price of oil appears to be an act of geopolitical warfare against Russia. The result could be trillions of dollars in oil derivative losses; and the FDIC could be liable, following repeal of key portions of the Dodd-Frank Act last weekend.

Senator Elizabeth Warren charged Ci…

Why is No One Fighting the New Robber Barons?

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[A classic Bill Moyers interview piece. Click the link I inserted into the first paragraph to watch the interview itself. *RON*]
By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism, 22 December 2014

Last week, Bill Moyers interviewed historian Steve Fraser on what he calls our Second Gilded Age. Despite the anodyne title of the segment, The New Robber Barons, it was really about why the American public has been so quiescent in the face of rapidly rising income inequality, while during the first Gilded Age, a wide range of groups rebelled against the wealth extraction operation. I encourage you to watch the segment in full or read the transcript.

The constraints of the show meant that Fraser could only sketch out some of his ideas. Here are some that stood out:

STEVE FRASER: I think we underestimate the degree to which the politics of fear operates in our society and in our economy. If you’re living– look at us now. The dominant form of employment, or what is becoming t…

Justin Trudeau Promises To Unmuzzle Bureaucrats, Ministers

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[Best line: "A spokesman for Harper thoroughly rejected Trudeau’s assertions" thereby saying absolutely nothing meaningful. *RON*]
By Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 22 December 2014

OTTAWA - Justin Trudeau is promising to scrap Stephen Harper's brand of message discipline if he becomes prime minister, giving more freedom to bureaucrats, ditching the scripts for cabinet ministers and making them and himself more accessible to journalists.

The Liberal leader says Harper's penchant for strictly controlling the flow of information — and the select few who are allowed to sparingly dispense it — has led to an opaque, secretive government that is cut off from the citizens it's supposed to be serving.

A spokesman for Harper thoroughly rejected Trudeau’s assertions.

However Harper’s approach to communications makes for bad decisions and an unhealthy democracy, Trudeau said in a year-end interview that included hi…