Tags: Oligarchy

Video of the Day: The Republic of Bill

I saw this video a couple of weeks back, but never got around to posting it. The Republic of Bill sounds like a pretty great place. Where do I sign up?

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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A “Ring of Steel” – The UK Spends $80 Million on a Massive Fence to Protect Politicians Ahead of NATO Summit

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 12.07.54 PMMost of us woke up this morning to news that the UK had raised its terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe.” Considering the competence and trustworthiness of the nation’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, there must be some specific threat they’re concerned about to justify instilling fear in a population of 65 million. Nope.

Although the new threat level rates the risk of an attack on the UK to “highly likely,” Home Secretary Theresa May stated that “there was no evidence to suggest one was imminent.” Well then.

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Poverty Profiteering in 2014 – Introducing Private Probation Companies

As N.P.R. reported in May, services that “were once free, including those that are constitutionally required,” are now frequently billed to offenders: the cost of a public defender, room and board when jailed, probation and parole supervision, electronic monitoring devices, arrest warrants, drug and alcohol testing, and D.N.A. sampling. This can go to extraordinary lengths: in Washington state, N.P.R. found, offenders even “get charged a fee for a jury trial — with a 12-person jury costing $250, twice the fee for a six-person jury.”

- From Tuesday’s New York Times op-ed, The Expanding World of Poverty Capitalism 

We’ve all heard about the private prison industry by now. An idea so insane and so rampant with perverse incentives that no civilized society would ever allow such a concept to take hold. Yet taken hold it has in the Banana Republic formally known as America.

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Monks and Martyrs: A Controversial Perspective on Dissent in 21st Century America

Two months ago, I highlighted a powerful video from Warren Pollock in the post: Video of the Day – The Religion of Consumerism. Today, I am highlighting another one of his videos.

While this one is no less interesting, it’s likely to be quite a bit more controversial. He poses questions that philosophers have no doubt pondered from the very first moment human beings came together to organize into centralized political structures.

Namely, what is the responsibility of a citizen in a society in which the majority is ruled by a small minority? By living passively within this system has a citizen de facto given his or her consent to the minority? If so, is that citizen therefore ultimately responsible for the fate of the society as a whole?

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The Bailout of Robert Mugabe – How Wall Street Money Led to Intimidation, Torture and Death in Zimbabwe

Four days later, Camec announced it was using the money it raised to purchase a joint venture with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp., or ZMDC, Mugabe’s state-owned mining company. The joint venture owned the platinum stakes on the Great Dyke that had been taken back just a few weeks earlier from Anglo American. The price included $5 million in cash; Camec issued shares to partners whose identities were shielded by a shell company based in the British Virgin Islands; and $100 million to Mugabe’s government. Camec said the $100 million was a cash loan “to comply with its contractual obligations to the government of Zimbabwe” for the platinum claims. It said the money would be repaid out of ZMDC’s share of future platinum earnings. Camec’s balance sheets for the period make clear that funding for the platinum rights came from the private transactions involving Och-Ziff.

- From the excellent Bloomberg article, The Hedge Fund and the Despot 

The $100 million figure mentioned above that flowed directly to Zimbabwe’s brutal dictator Robert Mugabe was more than just a cash infusion to a corrupt dictator. Rather, it was a veritable political lifeline to a desperate and vulnerable despot. Facing defeat in the initial round of elections to the opposition, and with the nation’s currency hyper-inflating, the only thing he had at his disposal were valuable platinum assets that were at the time held by Anglo American Platinum. So Mugabe did what any desperate tyrant would do. He expropriated the assets from Anglo-American and immediately put them on the market to raise money to crush his opposition. Enter Wall Street.

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How Senator Jay Rockefeller (Worth Over $100 Million) Shamelessly Wastes Taxpayer Money

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 7.54.43 AMJust in case you still had any lingering doubt about how members of Congress see themselves, and the lack of any sort of respect they have for taxpayer dollars, you need to look no further than Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.


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The Credit Bubble’s “Final Frontier” – Meet Goldman’s Fixed Income Global Structured Covered Obligation

Fixed Income Global Structured Covered Obligation. Say that three times fast.

According to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the bailed out financial criminals at Goldman Sachs are set to launch the latest and greatest toxic derivative product directly into the portfolios of willing muppets the world over. It all starts this September, so public pension funds may as well just start taking out stacks of hundreds and torching them at Burning Man while they still have a chance.

Yes, it’s called the “Fixed Income Global Structured Covered Obligation,” and no, you will not have a clue what’s in it. No seriously, you won’t have a clue.

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Obama Wines and Dines Some of the World’s Most Brutal Dictators at the First Ever U.S.-Africa Summit

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 4.15.32 PMLast month, I wrote an article highlighting the fact that President Barack Obama apparently had become so tired of being President that he decided to just hang out and socialize instead. The piece was titled, The New York Times Describes Obama – “A Restless President Weary of the Obligations of the White House…” 

Apparently, Mr. Obama has found a middle ground. A perfect mix of dinner-party diplomacy with some of the world’s most violent and homophobic dictators. Introducing the first ever U.S.-Africa summit, which just ran from August 4-6th. As the Daily Mail points out, President Obama had no problem smiling and hobnobbing with a cornucopia of murders and human rights abusers. If there was a Hollywood celebrity hashtag campaign of outrage protesting the event, I must have missed it.

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Meet OIRA – The Secretive White House Office with Disturbing Regulatory Powers

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 11.42.23 AMBut in practice, OIRA operates largely in secret, exempt from most requests under the Freedom of Information Act. It routinely declines to release the changes it has proposed, the evidence it has relied upon to make them, or the identities and affiliations of White House advisers and other agencies’ staff it has consulted. OIRA doesn’t even disclose the names and credentials of its employees other than its two most senior officials.

In 2013 the Administrative Conference, an independent federal agency that reviews government administrative processes, released a study of OIRA’s effect on the application and interpretation of science the agencies gather and analyze to write rules. In examining a group of air-quality regulations, the study found that most of OIRA’s suggestions involved substantive changes. The report concluded that in some instances, the office has proposed changes to the basic science underlying the rules. These included revising numbers in tables created by the EPA, altering technical discussions and recommending different standards altogether.

- From ProPublica’s extremely important article: Lobbyists Bidding to Block Government Regs Set Sights on Secretive White House Office.

Have you ever heard of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, otherwise known as OIRA? Yeah, neither had I.

As someone who prides himself on being a relatively informed citizen, it is always shocking and disturbing when I learn of a powerful organization operating in the shadows of America’s faux democracy with which I am almost entirely unfamiliar. While I’m sure I’ve read many articles in which OIRA was mentioned, I had never fully understood exactly what it is, and how it is used by lobbyists and large corporate interests to further entrench the established oligarchic power structure. We can thank ProPublica for providing this service.

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“Three Lost Decades” – How the American Middle Class is 20% Poorer Now vs. 1984

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 11.16.01 AMLike so many other things in popular American culture, this quaint notion of a “middle class” in the U.S. is at this point nothing more than a myth; a rapidly fading fantasy from a bygone era. As myself and many others have noted for quite some time, the decimation of the middle class began long ago. It really got started in the early 1970′s after Nixon defaulted on the gold standard and financialization began to take over the American economy. Median real wages haven’t increased since that time and the rest is history.

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