Daily Archive: 06/12/2012

Jun 12 2012

Hardly Even Pretending

SEC: Taking on Big Firms is ‘Tempting,’ But We Prefer Whaling on Little Guys

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

May 30, 11:23 AM ET

Want an example of the S.E.C.’s idea of “shot selection”? Every year, a parade of itty-bitty failed public companies lets their paperwork lapse. Dead little companies sitting in the bureaucratic atmosphere doing nothing at all are a major threat to national security, of course, so the S.E.C. flies in to the rescue and feverishly revokes their registrations.

These actions are called “12(j) registration revocations,” and the beauty of them, from the S.E.C.’s point of view, is that it can list each one of those revocations as a separate enforcement action, when it goes before Congress at the end of every year to brag about all the good work it’s done.

Therefore toward the end of every calendar year, you’ll see a rush of these 12(j) revocations. In 2011, about one out of every six S.E.C. enforcement actions – 121 out of 735 (.pdf) – involved these delinquent filings. In the stats they submit to Congress, they list these cases right next to things like market manipulation, insider trading, and financial fraud. “The S.E.C. Enforcement staff takes 10 minutes and shoots a zombie company in the head and then has the guts to call it enforcement,” is how one attorney put it to me.

Just days after 60 Minutes ran its piece last year about the epidemic of unprosecuted fraud on Wall Street, the S.E.C. charged into action. Take a look at the dates on these two (.pdf) documents (.pdf). While Chase’s “London Whale” was preparing to play billion-dollar faro with federally-insured money and MF Global was still struggling to find its “misplaced” $1.6 billion in customer money, the S.E.C. was gallantly taking on the likes of A.J. Ross Logistics, Inc., Status Game Corp., and Fightersoft Multimedia Corporation. And bragging to Congress about its conquests. It’s as clear a case of juking the stats as you’ll ever see.

Your tax dollars at work.

Jun 12 2012

NN12: Schneiderman Keynote A Snoozer

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The much anticipated keynote address on the opening night at Netroots Nation 12 in Providence, RI was, I dare say, over two hours of my life I will never get back. While I understand the need for levity, thus the comedic interludes by emcee Baratunde Thurston, the number of speakers was just too many and they were unfortunately long winded, even for politicians. I wasn’t alone in that assessment. After nearly two hours Schneiderman had not reach the stage, so I decided to “stretch my legs” before I embarrassed my self by dozing off and falling out of my seat, although, it might have more entertaining for some than Mr. Thurston. I wasn’t alone. In the lobby outside the ballroom, I ran into an Obama supporter who found that she and I had something in common, this was booooooooring. I missed the New York Attorney General’s address and opted for the hotel restaurant for some food and libation. So here is the entire opening keynote with Schneiderman coming in at the last fifteen minutes.

Here is more agreement about the anesthesia effects of the evening from FDL blogger masachio

Schneiderman chose the pander speech. He started by explaining that real change comes from the grassroots, leaders emerge from struggles over real problems. That’s us, the Netroots! We are the leaders of the future!

He continues: We are in a transitional era now, just like the early 30s. We democrats stand for the rule of law applicable to everyone equally just like President Obama. Someone from the audience suggests loudly that locking up banksters would be a good start, and Schneiderman says he’ll get to that. Which he does a few minutes later saying that he can’t comment on the investigation he is doing. Everyone is really nice about this bit of foolery, and it was at this point I realized I would prefer to be drinking. I mutter at my tablemates that banksters and pot smokers do not face the same application of the rule of law, but no one hears me because they are stunned into dopiness.

The somnolence continues. [..]

After the speech, Schneiderman told a Talking Points Memo reporter that “nothing was off the table.” So if that’s true, when do the prosecutions start? Oh, wait, the “special unit” still has no office or telephone number after six months.

Jun 12 2012

Bad Gamblers

Not only are the Masters of the Universe simply gamblers, they’re bad gamblers who pursue sucker strategies that are doomed to fail.

You can see it when they, uhh… gamble.

On May 8th, 9th, and 10th, Michael Geismar (co-founder and President of the $4.6 Billion Quantative Investment Management hedge fund) went to the SkyBridge Altermantives Conference at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

In one of those improbable success stories they use to delude the high rollers he won about 700K and the notoriety of the incident drew it to the attention of Felix Salmon who used it as a cautionary tale of risk-taking attitude.

This is why SALT will always be in Vegas, and why Vegas will always welcome SALT with open arms. I’m sure the casinos made very good money on SALT even after accounting for Geismar’s winnings, and they’ll probably make money from Geismar too, on net, over time. If nobody ever won big money, no one would gamble at all. But in the end, the house always wins – and all of these hedge-fund managers are smart enough to know that. And still, left to their own devices, what they do is gamble, and they even layer on silly “risk management” techniques which don’t reduce risk at all – in this case, after a losing hand, Geismar would bet a little less, reckoning that somehow “laws of averages” would help him as a result.

I’ll point out Michael Geismar is a hedge fund manager and is not connected with JPMorgan in any way I’m aware of.  More interesting is this description of the precise money management decisions which led to this 7,100% return.

Michael Geismar’s $710,000 blackjack breakfast

Lawrence Delevingne, Absolute Return + Alpha

May 24, 2012

After a stretch of good cards, Geismar had doubled his money to about $20,000. He then started to bet larger amounts with every winning hand, first $1,000, then $2,000 or $3000. He also scaled down his bets after one losing hand, using laws of averages but not card counting. That basic scaling strategy worked well, and Geismar got to about $200,000 early Wednesday morning. By that point he was up so much he bet $10,000 for every hand win or lose. And he kept winning.



As the other players started beating the dealer, Geismar began backing them up. Backing up is the blackjack term for betting on anoter person’s hand. Bellagio casino rules impose a $10,000 limit on an individual player’s own hand, but players are allowed to bet on each other’s hands, meaning one player could place $9,000 of his money on top of anther player’s $1,000 bet. In this way Geismar was able to bet the hands of several players, though his total bets could not exceed $30,000 per round. Geismar’s bets were usually much larger than those he was backing. He often used $5,000 chips on each of the other 4 player’s hands, and he often went right to the limit during a run of good cards, using his up-and-down scaling bet strategy. He was also betting $10,000 on each of his hands during the good streaks.

You see, this is in fact worse than no strategy at all.  Indeed, it’s a strategy to suffer catastrophic losses.

Guest post: Michael Geismar’s blackjack strategy

By Felix Salmon, Reuters

June 5, 2012

(M)athematician and blackjack expert Jonathan Adler

The idea that after seeing a bunch of one side of the coin on past flips you are more likely to see the other on future flips is called the gambler’s fallacy. The fallacy comes from the confusion between the long run outcome (with a large enough sample size, I expect half of my coin flips to be heads and half to be tails) and the outcome on any one flip (since I have seen a bunch of heads before, I need to start getting tails to balance things out in the long run).



(O)nce the player sees their hand and the dealer’s card there is generally a single best action for them to maximize their potential payout. This set of best actions is called “Basic Strategy” and is well known. The player really doesn’t have much choice in terms of what they do on a single round; any decent player will just take the optimal move based on what’s showing. Assuming the player always takes the best possible action, for every dollar they bet in a round they should lose around half a cent.



There are two main ways to legally attempt to overcome the fact that each hand on average loses you a bit of money. You can either change the odds to be in your favor, or you can try and change your bet amounts to make it less likely you will lose. Only one of these methods actually works.

By changing the structure of the game, you can make it that your average hand has a positive return. This was famously done by a group of MIT students using a method called card counting. The students exploited the fact that unlike our coin tosses from earlier, hands of blackjack aren’t truly independent events. That’s because each round of blackjack comes from the same shoe of cards, so if you keep track of what cards have been played in earlier rounds, you will have a small amount of knowledge on what cards you are likely to see in future hands. When there are mostly face cards and aces remaining in shoe then the player is actually at a slight advantage to the dealer. If you only place bets when the deck is to your advantage then you can make yourself money. The MIT students counted the number of face cards that had been seen already to estimate what proportion of remaining cards were face cards. When there were a high proportion of face cards left in the shoe they would make large bets.



Another way to try and overcome the expected loss on each hand by having the casino change the rules for you. If you’re a high enough roller, sometimes casinos will entice you to play by giving you discounts on your losses. When they offer these discounts on losses, they attempt to run the math to ensure that you should still be expected to lose money on your trip, however as described in the article it’s not clear they always get it right.

Most people don’t have the skill and manpower to count cards, they don’t have enough money to warrant a discount, nor do they have any other way to get the odds on each hand in their favor. So to try and overcome the house edge, they will try to cleverly alter the amount they are betting on each hand. A betting strategy, or a martingale, is a set of rules to determine how much a player should bet on each hand to try and compensate for previous wins or loses. This is different from counting cards because it doesn’t take into account what cards are left in the shoe; it only uses how many times the player has won or lost.

For example, let’s say you and your spouse go to a blackjack table with $1,024 $1,023 and hope to win an additional dollar. Your spouse suggests you just play one hand and if you lose then walk away, but you have a better idea in mind. On your first hand you bet a single dollar. If you win you do walk away, but if you lose you bet two dollars. If you lose twice in a row you bet four dollars, if you lose three times in a row you bet eight dollars, and you continue to double your bet until you get a win. Any time you win a hand you will wipe out all of your previous losses and you’ll get a dollar in winnings. The only way not make of money is to lose 10 straight hands in a row, and since losing 10 straight hands in a row is extremely unlikely, you expect to almost always make the dollar you were hoping for. Or in terms of the coins from before, instead of betting a dollar that a coin will flip heads, you bet $1,024 that out of ten flipped coins at least one will be heads. If you win you get an extra dollar, otherwise you lose all of your $1,024 $1,023.

If you followed your spouse’s advice, you would have slightly less than a 50% chance of winning a dollar, and slightly greater than 50% chance of losing a dollar. By not following their advice, you have around a 99.9% chance of winning the dollar, and a 0.01% chance of losing all the money you walked in with. In fact because the amount you would lose when you get ten bad hands in a row is so catastrophically high, the expected amount you win overall is still negative. Your clever betting strategy didn’t actually change the house’s advantage over you; all it did was push the risk out so that you lose very rarely and when you lose you lose big. You can mathematically prove that any betting strategy you use, no matter how hard you try and optimize it, will fail to change the fact that the house has an advantage – you’ll still lose money by playing.



Once the bank has increased their leverage, this becomes similar to the betting strategy in blackjack. Most of the time, the bank’s pair of investments will yield a decent return. Every once in a while, Microsoft will decrease in value while Google increases, and the bank will lose much more money than if they hadn’t hedged at all. Just like the person using a betting strategy, they have pushed their risk to the tail events: only when the market moves in a particular way will they lose money, but when it does, they’ll lose big.

As Wall Street has created more and more complicated financial products, it has become nearly impossible for a buyer to determine how much of the product’s return is due to shifting risk to the tails. In terms of blackjack, consider a person who tells you they can get an average return of five cents for every dollar you give them to play, but doesn’t tell you how they do it. Unless you watch them play, there is really no way for you to know if they are actually changing the game like the MIT students, or if they are just employing a betting strategy and at some point will lose all of your money.



The lesson here is that whether on Wall Street or the strip in Las Vegas, it’s easy to confuse increasing the chances of winning with shifting risk. Increasing the chances of winning improves the amount you should expect as payout. Shifting the risk makes it so that most of the time you get a good payout, but every once and a while you lose catastrophically. As a culture, we should be trying to ensure that the people making financial decisions are looking to do more of the former and less of the latter, especially given the systemic consequences of recent catastrophic market collapses.

Jun 12 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Buchheit: War or Revolution Every 75 Years. It’s Time Again.

When Charles Dickens wrote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” to begin “A Tale of Two Cities,” he compared the years of the French Revolution to his own “present period.” Both were wracked with inequality. But he couldn’t have known that 75 years later inequality would cause the Great Depression. Or that 75 years after that, in our own present period, extreme inequality would return for a fourth time, to impact a much greater number of people. He probably didn’t know that the cycles of history seem to drag the developed world into desperate times about every 75 years, and then seek relief through war or revolution.

It’s that time again.

Three cycles (225 years) ago, in the years before the French Revolution, inequality was at one of its highest points ever. While it’s estimated that the top 10% of the population took almost half the income, as they do today, the Gini Coefficient was between .52 and .59, higher than the current U.S. figure of .47. The French Revolution began a surge toward equality that lasted well into the 19th century.

New York Times Editorial: Now, Spain

Two weeks after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain vowed “there will be no Spanish banking rescue,” and after days of delay in which Mr. Rajoy pressed European officials for sounder rescue terms, Spain has now joined Greece, Ireland and Portugal as the latest bailout recipient. Catastrophe averted? Hardly.

Bailouts – this one is worth up to $125 billion – are supposed to help restore investor confidence. But investors have clearly figured out what too many European politicians are still denying: serial bailouts, piecemeal plans and one-size-fits-all austerity are not a solution.

On Monday, Spanish and Italian borrowing costs spiked after Mr. Rajoy, the day before, had lamely tried to downplay the new bailout – calling it a line of credit – while Mario Monti, Italy’s prime minister, publicly warned of a “permanent risk of contagion.”

Robert Kuttner: Which Road for Europe?

This month, Europe will either sink deeper into economic crisis, or drastically reverse course. The results from the first round of the French legislative elections Sunday are encouraging. Projections suggest that after the second round next Sunday, President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party will either have an absolute majority, or, at worst, a working majority with other left parties. This will increase Hollande’s leverage within Europe as a counterweight to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel’s strategy, for now, has been to change the subject. With insane austerity policies having been inflicted on weak economies at the insistence of the German government, Merkel, confronted with a worsening crisis, has been speaking grandiosely of deeper European integration.

But the kind of fiscal integration that Merkel proposes will take years if not decades, and the European economy is going up in smoke right now. Fiscal and tax integration will be even less plausible if it includes German-style austerity.

Simon Johnson: We Need a Watchdog for all the New Watchdogs

Two years after passage of the Dodd- Frank financial reform law, how are we doing putting in place crucial provisions, including a way to control systemic risk?

Not well, according to Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. during the 2008-2009 economic disaster and author of some of the reforms in the act. [..]

Her point is simple. The Dodd-Frank Act created the all- important Financial Stability Oversight Council (known as FSOC and pronounced F-Sock). It replaced the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, a panel frequently mentioned in former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s memoir of the financial crisis, “On the Brink.” That working group lacked authority to coordinate the alphabet soup of regulators overseeing the U.S. financial system.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The “Fiscal Cliff”? A Hoax. The Democrats’ “Long Game”? A Myth. This Is the Real Budget Battle

Suddenly the headlines are filled with talk of an impending “fiscal cliff,” a series of tax and budget changes which the news pages say is an impending catastrophe and which the editorial pages are urging Washington lawmakers to prevent.

How would they do that? Why, with the same “Grand Bargain” we keep hearing about, an economically destructive plan in which Democrats betray their principles by imposing benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare in return for the Republicans’ grand concession of raising taxes on – you.

It’s a nearly surreal situation: Democrats acting like Republicans, and Republicans acting like Visigoths about to sack every city on the continent. All this surreality raises all sorts of Zen-like questions.

Josh Silver: Citizens United Mastermind Ousted From RNC

On Friday, Indiana attorney Jim Bopp quietly lost reelection to the Republic National Committee. Bopp is the architect of the infamous Citizens United Supreme Court case that gave us super PAC’s and the torrent of political spending that has turned elections into auctions. [..]

Bopp’s extremism helps us understand the irrationality of the Citizens United case, which actually asserts that super PACs do not create corruption or even the appearance of corruption. You have to be an extremist or just naive to buy that assertion. Bopp’s actions demonstrate that the infamous court case is part of the broader effort cede control of our country to monied interests while our leaders — and the public — become more polarized and divided.

Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson: Alan Simpson: Pulling Apart Social Security, And Proud of It

Dear Senator Simpson,

Your plan would begin pulling apart our Social Security system brick by brick. Unfortunately, you seem to think that bigotry and bullying will silence those of us who are trying to educate the public about the devastating cuts in your plan. No amount of ageism, however, can hide the harm your plan would cause for Americans — young and old, alike.

That is why we ask that you stick to your word and have an open and public discussion with young people, who would be hit hardest by the drastic cuts in your plan, and we have started a petition to gather the support of others who think you shouldn’t go back on your word.

A bigot is someone who stereotypes an entire group of people with a pejorative label as a way of advancing his or her own views and prejudices. An ageist, a term coined by the late Dr. Robert Butler, the founding director of the National Institute on Aging, is someone who directs that prejudice against older people.

Jun 12 2012

SCOTUS Blesses Indefinite Detention

Another right further diminished by the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Denies 7 Detainee Cases, Leaving Crippling Limits On Detainee Rights In Place

One day before the fourth anniversary of Boumediene v. Bush, which held that detainees being held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their confinement in federal court, the Supreme Court denied review (pdf) of seven detainee cases that were pending before the court. The decision not to review any of the cases essentially makes the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit the last stop for detainees seeking habeas corpus. While many detainees won their habeas corpus cases at the trial court level, no detainees have been released from Guantanamo due to these decisions because the DC Circuit has a perfect record of reversing these decisions.

Although today’s action does not have any precedential force, it undercuts the extent to which detainees can seriously challenge their detention by leaving the D.C. Circuit’s pro-detention decisions in place [..]

Marcy Wheeler @ emptywheel explains what the Supreme Court has just blessed:

   

  • Holding a person indefinitely for being in the wrong place at the wrong time-including a school, a road, and a guest house-where suspect people are.
  •    

  • Holding a person indefinitely based on an admittedly error-ridden report the government wrote up itself.
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  • Holding a person indefinitely based on pattern analysis.
  •    

  • Completely upending the role of District Court judges in the fact-finding process.
  • The Justices have abdicated their responsibility  to an ever more powerful Executive branch:

    Especially deserving of review was a petition by Adnan Latif, a Yemeni who was captured near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan in December 2001. Latif said he had traveled to Pakistan to seek medical treatment; the U.S. government insisted that he was a fleeing Taliban fighter.

    A federal district judge ruled in Latif’s favor, concluding that, because of possible transcription and other errors, a government report of an interview with him was “not sufficiently reliable to support a finding by a preponderance of the evidence that Latif was recruited by an Al Qaeda member or trained and fought with the Taliban.” Overturning that finding, the D.C. Circuit ruled that the government’s evidence was entitled to “a presumption of regularity” and that lower court judges should require that a detainee’s “self-serving account must be credible – not just plausible.” In her opinion, Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown (a former California Supreme Court justice) approvingly cited dissents in the Boumediene case and referred snidely to its impracticality and “airy suppositions.” [..]

    Dissenting in the Latif case, Judge David Tatel described the decision as an “assault on Boumediene.” At the very least, the ruling called for a full-fledged review by the Supreme Court. Instead, the justices have abdicated their authority and devalued their own achievement.

    Jun 12 2012

    On This Day In History June 12

    This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

    Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

    Click on image to enlarge

    June 12 is the 163rd day of the year (164th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 202 days remaining until the end of the year.

    On this day in 1776, Virginia adopts George Mason’s Declaration of Rights

    The assembled slaveholders of Virginia promised to “the good people of VIRGINIA and their posterity” the equal right to life, liberty and property, with the critical condition that the “people” were white men. These same white men were guaranteed that “all power” would be “vested in, and consequently derived from” them. Should a government fail to represent their common interest, a majority of the same held the right to “reform, alter or abolish” the government.

    Drafting and adoption

    The Declaration was adopted unanimously by the Fifth Virginia Convention at Williamsburg, Virginia on June 12, 1776 as a separate document from the Constitution of Virginia which was later adopted on June 29, 1776. In 1830, the Declaration of Rights was incorporated within the Virginia State Constitution as Article I, but even before that Virginia’s Declaration of Rights stated that it was ‘”the basis and foundation of government” in Virginia.  A slightly updated version may still be seen in Virginia’s Constitution, making it legally in effect to this day.

    It was initially drafted by George Mason circa May 20, 1776; James Madison assisted him with the section on religious freedom. It was later amended by Thomas Ludwell Lee and the Convention to add a section on the right to uniform government (Section 14). Patrick Henry persuaded the Convention to delete a section that would have prohibited bills of attander, arguing that ordinary laws could be ineffective against some terrifying offenders.

    Mason based his initial draft on the rights of citizens described in earlier works such as the English Bill of Rights (1689), and the Declaration can be considered the first modern Constitutional protection of individual rights for citizens of North America. It rejected the notion of privileged political classes or hereditary offices such as the members of Parliament and House of Lords described in the English Bill of Rights.

    The Declaration consists of sixteen articles on the subject of which rights “pertain to [the people of Virginia]…as the basis and foundation of Government.” In addition to affirming the inherent nature of natural rights to life, liberty, and property, the Declaration both describes a view of Government as the servant of the people, and enumerates various restrictions on governmental power. Thus, the document is unusual in that it not only prescribes legal rights, but it also describes moral principles upon which a government should be run.

    Influence

    The Virginia Declaration of Rights heavily influenced later documents. Thomas Jefferson is thought to have drawn on it when he drafted the United States Declaration of Independence one month later (July 1776). James Madison was also influenced by the Declaration while drafting the Bill of Rights (completed September 1787, approved 1789), as was the Marquis de Lafayette in voting the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789).

    The importance of the Virginia Declaration of Rights is that it was the first constitutional protection of individual rights, rather than protecting just members of Parliament or consisting of simple laws that can be changed as easily as passed.

    Jun 12 2012

    In Memoriam: Ray Bradbury

    “I don’t try to predict the future, I try to prevent it.”

    ~Ray Bradbury~

    Ray Douglas Bradbury, August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012

    Bradbury died in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91, after a “lengthy illness”, coincidentally during a rare transit of Venus

    My earliest memory of Ray Bradbury was my father reading to me from The Martian Chronicles. I was three. Later he would read aloud from Fahrenheit 451 and his short stories while I looked on at the words on the page. I read from those same books that were left to me by “Pop” to my daughter and gave her my first edition copy of “Something Wicked This Way Comes” which “Pop”  gave me for my 15th birthday.

    Ray Bradbury, Who Brought Mars to Earth With a Lyrical Mastery, Dies at 91

    By many estimations Mr. Bradbury was the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream. His name would appear near the top of any list of major science fiction writers of the 20th century, beside those of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein and the Polish author Stanislaw Lem. His books are still being taught in schools, where many a reader has been introduced to them half a century after they first appeared. Many readers have said Mr. Bradbury’s stories fired their own imaginations.

    More than eight million copies of his books have been sold in 36 languages. They include the short-story collections “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man” and “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” and the novels “Fahrenheit 451” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

    Though none of his works won a Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Bradbury received a Pulitzer citation in 2007 “for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”

    Scarecrow gave this tribute to Bradbury’s memory by reminding us of what could happen in a totalitarian society like the one in Fahrenheit 451:

    In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury describes the horrors of a totalitarian society so repressive and fearful of ideas that it banned books and burned them.  But clever humans figured out they could preserve the literature if each person committed to memorizing a book, reciting and teaching it to others, and passing it on to the next generations.

    So I thought we might honor Bradbury’s life and work by passing on a few ideas that are worth preserving as we ponder the meaning of Wisconsin and mourn America’s descent into union bashing and income inequality, enforced by secrecy, propaganda and protected financial looting. [..]

    First, as this analysis from the Economic Policy Institute illustrates – and see the video at top – income equality tends to be much higher in America when there are strong unions, while inequality explodes when unions are weak.  It seems like an obvious connection – if lower classes have clout, they can demand more of the benefits of their labor – but it’s not emphasized enough in all the media’s right wing excitement about destroying the power of unions. [..]

    Second, as James Kwak has written, the Republican policy of lower taxes does not apply across the board; it applies to the top, mostly.  But they don’t seem to care if taxes are directly or indirectly raised on the poor.  In the Atlantic, Kwak writes about the “GOP’s bizarre, disturbing passion for raising taxes on the poor.” [..]

    [One] way to look at Wisconsin is to see it as part of a long term, calculated strategy of weakening unions and destroying their bargaining power.  With that power gone, there is nothing to prevent the top percentages from grabbing almost all the gains from labor productivity increases, thus increasing income and wealth inequality.  The winners then use the political power from that to perpetuate the inequality in their favor.  From there, it is a simple enough leap to use the protected positions of wealth to loot the rest of society and use the power of the state to protect the looting and cover for the looters.

    It’s a great strategy if you’re one of the looters, but it’s profoundly criminal.    Remember that.

    Ray Bradbury will live forever with his words, hopefully, the future generations will listen, so far we aren’t

    May the Goddess guide him on his journey to the Summerlands. May his family, friends and all those who ahve read and will read his works, find Peace.

    Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns.