Community Articles from 2014
“Buying Up America”: The Individual Wealth of US Billionaires
By James Hall
Posted June 13, 2014
A quaint comparison of what money can buy in today’s market has Bill Gates being able to afford every home in Boston. His $76.6 billion reported by the Washington Post or the $78.4 billion by Forbes seems a pittance when put up against John D. Rockefeller’s peak wealth of $318.3 billion (based on 2007 US dollar).
According to your resident commissars over at MSNBC, “The median net worth of American households hasn’t changed much over the past decades, it’s about $20,000.” So if Gates decided to purchase all the Beantown houses, whom would he pay for the bricks and mortar? Certainly, most Americans may think of “their home is their castle”, but few actually own a debt free deed to their grand estate. No wonder the banks and financial institutions, are so fond of placing liens on real property. More…
Power in Military Black Budgets
by James Hall
Posted May 30, 2014
Somewhere along the way, genuine national defense is short-changed, even if one’s political views support the policy of imperium hegemony. The dominance of the military-industrial-complex comes not from their firepower systems, but from the ability to perpetuate a never-ending warfare society, based upon phony threats and a permanent aggressor interventionism and empire expansion.
The corporatists love this cash cow because killing fellow humans is the most profitable business in all of history. Keeping this fact hidden from the taxpayer is the ultimate black budget blueprint that needs protection for the Corporatocracy to continue. More…
6 Things That Should Never Be Privatized
By Alex Henderson
Posted May 29, 2014
The idea behind operating gas, water or electric services as public utilities is that those things are important to people’s health and survival and therefore, must be protected from corporate greed. Some things belong in the private sector, others don’t.
Here are six things in the United States that should remain in the public sector. More…
The Essential Role of Volatility, Stress and Dissent
by Charles Hugh Smith
Posted May 27, 2014
The individual or system that never experiences dissent, volatility or stress is systemically unhealthy and increasingly prone to sudden “gosh, I didn’t see this coming” collapse.
To say that volatility, stress, dissent are not just healthy, but essential for maintaining health sounds counter-intuitive. On an individual level, we try to avoid exertion, stress and crisis, and on a larger systemic level, our institutions devote enormous resources to minimizing systemic volatility and suppressing dissent.
In other words, the notion that stress and dissent are to be avoided is scale-invariant: it works the same for individuals, households, enterprises, economies, governments and empires. More…
Food, Energy, Finance: A Solutions Movement Takes Root In Northern California
by Michael Levitin
Posted May 15, 2014
Petaluma, Calif.—There’s a new currency here called Bay Bucks that’s helping businesses trade in services and get off the dollar. There’s a new agriculture-tech startup called CropMobster helping redistribute excess produce and cut down on food waste. And a new electricity provider, Sonoma Clean Power, just flipped on the switch May 1 to supply tens of thousands of Sonoma County residents and businesses with renewable energy.
Call it the Solutions Movement. Something is stirring in northern California and it feels a lot like the future – not the Android kind, and definitely not the Wall Street kind, but a more abundant, collective form of wealth that’s being generated in a community whose new energy, food and economic systems seem to be falling in sync. The takeaway from last week’s Sustainable Enterprise Conference, held in Rohnert Park an hour north of San Francisco, is that the future here looks sustainable because people believe it can and must be so. More…
Leaked Documents Show How Blackstone Fleeces Taxpayers via Public Pension Funds
by Michael Krieger
Posted May 8, 2014
The following story by David Sirota at PandoDaily is simply excellent. It zeros in on the secretive and rapidly expanding relationship between private equity firms and the public pensions that invest in them. It shows a crony capitalist love affair greased by lobbyist influence peddlers known as “placement agents,” as well as non-public agreements between PE firms and public pensions chock full of conflicts of interest, extremely high fees and underperformance. Unbelievably, in many instances the trustees of the public pensions are not allowed to know what funds the “fund of funds” invest in. This makes due diligence impossible, and in one particularly egregious example it led the Kentucky Retirement Systems to unknowingly invest in SAC Capital despite the fact it was under SEC investigation at the time.
Furthermore, with the Wall Street Journal reporting back in 2011 that $37 of every $100 dollars invested in Blackstone’s investment pool coming from state and local pension plans, it appears that taxpayers are once again being fleeced by the financial oligarch class.
After reading about a growing pool of insane “dividend deals” and payment-in-kind” notes being issued, I wondered who in their right mind was buying these deals. Well, based on the complete lack of competence and due diligence happening at public pension funds, I think we have solved part of the mystery. More…
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