In Judaism numbers play an important part in Judaic ritual practices and are believed to be a means for understanding the divine. A textual source makes clear that the use of gematria is dated to at least the Tannaic period. This marriage between the symbolic and concrete found its pinnacle in the creation of the Tabernacle. The number eighteen is considered significant because the Hebrew word for “life” is חי (chai), which has a numerical value of 18.
WHEN: Saturday, March 12, 2011
WHERE: Your local Bank of America branch/other egregious tax dodger near you
WHAT: National Day of Action
DETAILS: Gather all of your friends/coworkers/neighbors/teammates/students at your nearest Bank of America branch or tax dodger of your choice. Draw attention to the fact that your jobs and educational futures are at risk because BofA gets away without paying taxes. Get creative. Alert your local media. Have bail-ins, teach-ins, sing, dance, have fun! (At the time of this post, this is merely a suggested date of national action. If you’ve already planned an action for a different date in your community, feel free to move forward.)
WHEN: Saturday, March 26, 2011
WHERE: Local Bank of America branches/local offices of other notorious tax dodgers
WHAT: Global Day of Action
DETAILS: US Uncut, along with UK Uncut, Australia Uncut, Canada Uncut, Mexico Uncut, France Uncut, Netherlands Uncut and Sudan Uncut will all collectively demonstrate as one in cities across the globe. Target Bank of America and other egregious tax dodgers. Creativity and international solidarity are the overarching themes of this protest. Our voices will be impossible for our leaders and our corporations to ignore if they come from every corner of the map.
Plan your actions on our action map, and make sure you include locations for a meetup prior to the protest as well as the chapter organizer’s contact info. Take pictures and shoot video, or it didn’t happen. Tell everyone you can. Call your local papers, radio stations and TV stations. Promote the protests on your chapter’s facebook and twitter pages. Stay tuned to the website for more info. Updates are on the way.
The revolution will be tweeted, liked and shared.
We, the People, Win.
Progressive groups threw a one-two punch at the nation’s richest banks on Monday. A coalition of watchdogs and activists released a new report revealing how the wealthiest bailed-out banks have caused the current economic crisis by dodging taxes, and hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Washington, DC, to demand the attorneys general of all 50 states file criminal charges against banks that are suspected of committing foreclosure fraud during the nation’s housing crisis.
At least 600 demonstrators gathered outside the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) spring meeting to demand tough settlements on foreclosure fraud cases resulting from a NAAG investigation into several banks’ practice of signing foreclosure documents without checking for accuracy – a practice the NAAG calls “robo-signing.”
The demonstrators – many of them homeowners – also occupied and successfully shut down a Bank of America branch before occupying the offices of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Click here for scenes from the protests.
The report, released on Monday by the NPA and the watchdog group the Public Accountability Initiative, reveals startling figures on the same super-rich Wall Street firms that received billions in federal stimulus monies when the economic crisis began.
As states struggle to meet their budgets, public pensions are on the chopping block, but they needn’t be. States can keep their pension funds intact while leveraging them into many times their worth in loans, just as Wall Street banks do. They can do this by forming their own public banks, following the lead of North Dakota—a state that currently has a budget surplus.
Wisconsin could draw down the fund by the small amount needed to meet pension obligations, and put the bulk of the remaining money to work creating jobs, helping local businesses, and increasing tax revenues for the state. It could do this by forming its own bank, following the lead of North Dakota, the only state to have its own bank—and the only state to escape the credit crisis.
This could be done without spending the pension fund money or lending it. The funds would just be shifted from one form of investment to another (equity in a bank). When a bank makes a loan, neither the bank’s own capital nor its customers’ demand deposits are actually lent to borrowers. As observed on the Dallas Federal Reserve’s website, “Banks actually create money when they lend it.” They simply extend accounting-entry bank credit, which is extinguished when the loan is repaid. Creating this sort of credit-money is a privilege available only to banks—but states can tap into that privilege by owning a bank.
The state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND) has allowed North Dakota to maintain its economic sovereignty, a conservative states-rights ideal. The BND was established in 1919 in response to a wave of farm foreclosures by out-of-state Wall Street banks. Today, the state not only has no debt, but it recently boasted its largest-ever budget surplus. The BND helps to fund not only local government but local businesses and local banks, by partnering with the banks to provide the funds to support small business lending.
The BND is also a boon to the state treasury.
Seven States Are Now Considering Setting Up Public Banks
With the recent spate of attacks on climate science and evolution, it should not be a surprise that traditional defined-benefit pensions in the public sector are now also under attack. There are powerful political actors in this country who are anxious to build a bridge back to the 19th century, taking us to a time where working people enjoyed few protections and could not count on sharing in the gains of economic growth.
In other words, if states raise 20 cents in taxes or cut 20 cents in other spending for every 100 dollars of future income, they will be able to meet their current pension obligations. This is not a trivial sum, but it doesn’t seem likely to bankrupt our youth either.
Furthermore, the vast majority of this shortfall was due to the plunge in the stock market that followed the collapse of the housing bubble. Overly generous pensions were not the problem. The problem here were the greedy Wall Street types who profited from the housing bubble and the incompetent economists who did not see it. Of course, the market has recovered much of its losses, so future years’ pension reports are likely to show that most of shortfall has already been eliminated.
But it is important to understand the basic logic of defined-benefit pensions, since many are trying to eliminate them altogether. Defined-benefit pensions are in effect a form of insurance. They guarantee workers a level of retirement income based on the years that they work.
This guarantee of future income is more valuable to workers than getting the same amount of money in salary since it would be very expensive for workers to buy the same insurance from the financial industry. From the standpoint of the government, the insurance is virtually costless.
Davidson O. Calfee thought a temporary mortgage loan modification was the break he needed to keep his home. It allowed the Sandwich insurance agent to start saving $500 a month in 2009, when his income was down because of the recession.
But instead of being better off, Calfee is now on the edge of a financial abyss.
The government launched its loan program in 2009. It said the plan would slow a wave of foreclosures that was threatening to swamp the US economy by offering companies that service mortgages financial incentives to help property owners. The goal was to offer aid to as many as 4 million troubled homeowners, but so far just over 600,000 have received permanent modifications, according to the US Treasury Department, which administers the program.
As the numbers have disappointed, the program has come under fire for failing to help as many people as promised, as well as for glitches that may have caused qualified candidates to be rejected. And Republicans in Congress have filed a bill to eliminate the program altogether.
Critics say the Treasury has failed to push loan servicers to adjust mortgage payments or improve the application system, which relies largely on mailed and faxed documents. Treasury officials admit the program will not meet earlier expectations, but they say that is because of strict eligibility requirements and other issues. The program is voluntary, officials note, so the government can only urge mortgage companies to participate
God forbid the unemployed of an old-line industrial state should think trade has anything to do with their problems! How silly of them.
The media are saturated with these patronizing attitudes. Thus magazine articles on trade problems focus on the unemployed, implying that only life’s losers oppose free trade (and that their unemployment is probably their own fault, anyway). The careers of people whose jobs are being lost to offshoring? Mere “drudgery.” Their lives are obviously nothing worth worrying about. They’re not like us here in Pacific Heights.
Ultimately, economic logic isn’t even really the issue here, as these arguments are really aimed at people who don’t even try to understand economics, but do care immensely about their social status. Free trade is chic, global, modern, classy.
A lot of this is just a tasteful gloss on raw class bias. Despite the documented center-left preferences of most journalists on social and cultural issues, on economic issues, including trade, they lean right. A late-1990s survey by the watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found, for example, that only on environment-related economic issues were they to the left of the public. But on trade, they were well to the right. (“Right” defined as per usual in contemporary American politics; 100 years ago, protectionism was the rightist position.) For example, 71 percent of editors and reporters supported Fast Track negotiating authority for the North American Free Trade Agreement, while 56 percent of the public opposed it. As 95 percent of these editors and reporters had incomes over $50,000, and more than half over $100,000, this comes as no surprise.
A draft report by many of the world’s leading climatologists says emissions of greenhouse gases could rise hugely over the next 100 years.
The report, which comes from the highly influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), envisages one scenario in which carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at the end of the next century are five times what they are today.
This would almost certainly have dire consequences for the Earth’s climate system, with much higher global temperatures and sea levels. Such a scenario would inevitably cause social and economic upheaval as populations migrated from flooded coastal communities.
The report, leaked to BBC News Online, is the summary of a much bigger document prepared for the world’s politicians and policy makers.
It comes from one of the IPCC’s working groups on emission scenarios and looks at how much greenhouse gas might be put into the atmosphere.
The report’s 40 scenarios are “based on an extensive literature assessment, six alternative modelling approaches, and an ‘open process’ that solicited worldwide participation and feedback”.
The authors emphasize that “scenarios are neither predictions nor forecasts, but alternative images of how the future might unfold”. Their work incorporates several variables, including population increase, economic growth, energy use and land use change.
The tropical rain band that encircles Earth just north of the equator affects rainfall patterns worldwide. By taking sediment cores from pond and lake beds on tropical islands, scientists can determine where the band has been since A.D. 800 and where it may move in the future. At current global warming rates, the band could shift north 5 degrees by 2100, drying out Ecuador, Columbia and the U.S. Southwest.
On September 2, 2009, the transnational pharmaceutical giant Pfizer pled guilty to multiple criminal felonies. It had been marketing drugs in a way that may well have led to the deaths of people and that definitely led physicians to prescribe and patients to use pharmaceuticals in ways they were not intended.
Because Pfizer is a corporation—a legal abstraction, really—it couldn’t go to jail like fraudster Bernie Madoff or killer John Dillinger; instead it paid a $1.2 billion “criminal” fine to the U.S. government—the biggest in history—as well as an additional $1 billion in civil penalties. The total settlement was more than $2.3 billion—another record. None of its executives, decision-makers, stockholders/owners, or employees saw even five minutes of the inside of a police station or jail cell.
Most Americans don’t even know about this huge and massive crime. Nor do they know that the “criminal” never spent a day in jail.
But they do know that in the autumn of 2004, Martha Stewart was convicted of lying to investigators about her sale of stock in another pharmaceutical company. Her crime cost nobody their life, but she famously was escorted off to a women’s prison. Had she been a corporation instead of a human being, odds are there never would have even been an investigation.
My view of the primary selection system is that it consists of two basic constituencies, the elites and the base. The elites want to find a candidate who is electable and committed to their policy agenda. The elites are the prime driver of the process; they can communicate, via organs like Fox News and The Weekly Standard, which candidates may be undeserving of serious consideration despite their emotional appeal to base voters. That’s how the elites have disqualified insurgent candidates like Pat Buchanan (too right-wing) and John McCain (too left-wing); they are now doing the same to Sarah Palin (too unelectable).
But elites don’t always control the process. Sometimes they can get together and virtually determine the winner in advance (i.e., George W. Bush in 1999-2000), but, often, they can’t pick candidates without the assent of the base, which is capable of winnowing out elite-approved candidates. Think John Connally, Phil Gramm, or others for examples of candidates who made it through the elite primary but were nixed by the voters.
So, if you want to find the next Republican nominee, you need to find a candidate who’s acceptable to both elites and the base. A good summation of the list of elite-approve candidate’s can be found in George Will’s column from last Sunday.
[Pawlenty] has demonstrated political talent, having worked his way up the party hierarchy and winning the governorship in blue-ish Minnesota twice. His record contains only one major ideological deviation—support for cap-and-trade, at a time when cap-and-trade seemed to be emerging as a consensus GOP position, which he has thoroughly recanted. Because cap-and-trade is dead with no prospect of revival, I think Pawlenty could survive this apostasy. Ramesh Ponnuru’s cover story in National Review makes a persuasive case for Pawlenty as the strongest combination of conservatism and electability.
In the end, Pawlenty’s calling card is an ability to appeal to white working-class voters. Pawlenty calls himself a “Sam’s Club Republican.”
Obama can’t win the election without it.
My argument rests on the fact that Ohio is close to being a microcosm of the country—closer than any other pivotal state. As such, winning Ohio is a statistical “tipping-point” for any presidential election: If a candidate can carry Ohio, he will have appealed to a large enough slice of the national electorate to have won the states that tilt even further in his preferred direction, and he is odds-on to win the race. Likewise, a candidate who loses Ohio will almost certainly lose nationally. Here are the numbers from the six post-Reagan presidential elections:
National Democratic vote (%) Ohio Democratic vote (%) Difference
1988 45.6 44.2 (1.4)
1992 43.0 40.2 (2.8)
1996 49.2 47.4 (1.8)
2000 48.4 46.5 (1.9)
2004 48.3 48.7 0.4
2008 52.9 51.4 (1.5)
Over these elections, the Democratic candidate’s share of the Ohio vote averaged 1.5 points below his national share. And the winner of Ohio prevailed in the electoral college in all six elections.
More than three decades after smallpox was eradicated, an international struggle has reemerged with new intensity about whether to destroy the only known specimens of the virus that causes one of humanity’s worst scourges.
Some public health authorities, infectious-disease specialists and national security experts say the time has come to autoclave hundreds of vials of the pathogen held in two high-security government labs in the United States and Russia.
“We feel the world would be safer without having these stocks in existence. Why risk it escaping and resurging again?” said Lim Li Ching, a researcher at Third World Network, an international research and advocacy group based in Malaysia.
But the U.S. and Russian governments, which have repeatedly delayed incinerating the samples, are fighting for another stay of execution. Scientists need the living virus, they say, to make a better vaccine and finish developing the first treatments in case the deadly microbe is unleashed again – by accident, by a bioterrorist or by re-creating it from the computerized records of its DNA sequences.
“Do you think really that if al-Qaeda had smallpox, they wouldn’t use it because it would be deemed by Western lawyers as a crime against humanity?” Bernard said.
The Supreme Court has again rejected an appeal from a “birther” proponent questioning the citizenship of President Barack Obama.
The justices Monday turned aside without comment a request for a rehearing of various claims, after dismissing the original appeal in late January.
The long-shot petition by Gregory Hollister had called on Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to withdraw from considering the constitutional claims, contending a conflict of interest by the president’s two high court appointees.
Lower federal claims had dismissed Hollister’s claims.
The justices had also dismissed earlier, unrelated lawsuits from individuals questioning Obama’s citizenship. State birth certificate records show he was born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. His mother is a native of Kansas; his father was born in Kenya.
The Supreme Court let stand a ruling that drug companies can pay rivals to delay production of generic drugs without violating federal antitrust laws.
The justices refused to review a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the dismissal of a legal challenge to a deal between Bayer AG and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd’s Barr Laboratories. Bayer paid Barr to prevent it from bringing to market a version of the antibiotic drug Cipro.
The deal, involving Bayer’s 1997 settlement of patent litigation with Barr, was challenged by a number of pharmacies, which appealed to the Supreme Court. More than 30 states and various consumer groups supported the appeal.
The Federal Trade Commission has opposed such deals, saying they violate antitrust law and cost consumers an estimated $3.5 billion a year in higher prescription drug prices. It has supported legislation pending in Congress to prohibit such settlements, which it says have increased in recent years.
The New York-based appeals court, in its ruling last year, cited its similar 2005 decision involving the drug Tamoxifen, used to treat breast cancer, infertility and other conditions. The Supreme Court declined to review that case.
The tone was set Monday for a combative start to the 2011 legislature, when two dozen union activists taped their mouths shut outside a committee room in silent protest of legislation they condemn as payback from ruling Florida Republicans.
Committee action on the measure was postponed. But critics said the measure, which would make it more difficult for unions to collect dues and use them on political activity, is the first of many muscle-flexing bills backed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-controlled legislature.
“I pay dues so I can have a voice,” said Jane Walker, an Orlando transportation worker. “I want a voice in my own future, not only on the job, but here in the legislature and in political campaigns.”
Monday’s demonstration was only a preview.
As the two-month legislative session starts today, more than 30 rallies are planned across the state, including a downtown West Palm Beach gathering, led by teachers, union activists, police, firefighters and other Democratic-allied organizations.
Union representatives, teachers, police and firefighters threatened by Scott’s proposed pension and education changes form the core of those protesting. But low-wage earners, seniors and parents of school-age children also are expected to turn out, fearing a proposed overhaul to jobless benefits and cuts to money for health care, social services and public schools.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people who say, ‘This is going to be my first rally of any kind,’ ” said Damien Filer of Progress Florida, which has been planning rallies in major cities and using a Facebook page called “Awake the State.”
The West Palm Beach rally is planned for 4 to 7 p.m. in the 100 block of Clematis Street.
The people of Wisconsin will not give up! The fight against Governor Scott Walker’s plan to destroy public sector unions, public schools and social services is a daily theme in all parts of this state. Protests are ongoing. The Wisconsin AFL-CIO is planning a massive march in Madison at 3:00 p.m., March 12 — the largest rally yet. Students and workers in Milwaukee are busy preparing for the March 12 protest in Madison. The march will likely be the largest seen since two weeks ago, when more than 100,000 arrived from all over Wisconsin and chanted “Kill the bill.” “We’re expecting these buses to be full,” commented Milwaukee Students for Democratic Society organizer Rachel Matteson. “Students and workers here are joining together to save our unions and stop the over $250 million in proposed cuts to our UW system.”
A bill to strip Idaho’s public school teachers of much of their collective bargaining rights won final passage in the state Legislature on Tuesday and was awaiting the governor’s signature to become law.
The measure, which cleared the Republican-controlled House on a vote of 48-22, would restrict collective bargaining for the state’s 12,000 unionized teachers to salaries and benefits only, removing from labor negotiations such issues as class size and teacher workloads.
The legislation, which supporters have said is necessary to help rein in education spending, also would eliminate teacher tenure, limit the duration of teachers’ labor contracts to one year and remove seniority as a factor in determining the order of any teacher layoffs.
Moreover, it would bar collective bargaining by a teachers’ union altogether unless the union local could prove that it represented more than 50 percent of the teachers in that school district.
Teachers descended on the Tennessee state Capitol, many bused in by unions, to protest Republican-sponsored bills that would limit their collective bargaining rights. The president of the National Education Association, Dennis Van Roekel, even made the trek.
“We are here together,” Van Roekel said. “We are one. Are we not? Yes we are.”
Marching to the state house, Van Roekel took the lead. The NEA president has hopscotched the country as teachers and other public employees protect their collective bargaining rights from Republican lawmakers.
In Tennessee, teachers are some of the only public employees with the legal authority to negotiate pay, benefits and working conditions. Several bills in the Legislature would diminish the union’s role, including one that would strip collective bargaining altogether. And the justification isn’t a budget shortfall. The sponsors say their proposals are meant to reform education.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
For the last three years, Gallup has called 1,000 randomly selected American adults each day and asked them about their emotional status, work satisfaction, eating habits, illnesses, stress levels and other indicators of their quality of life.
The New York Times asked Gallup to come up with a statistical composite for the happiest person in America, based on the characteristics that most closely correlated with happiness in 2010. Men, for example, tend to be happier than women, older people are happier than middle-aged people, and so on.
Gallup’s answer: he’s a tall, Asian-American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year. A few phone calls later and …
Meet Alvin Wong.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin.
~~Dwight David Eisenhower