Puppet MastersS

Cell Phone

Phone Bill Follies and Obamacare

© codinghorror.com
We have a land line phone in our condo. We have it because we rent it out during the summer and thought we should have it in case renters need it. We contracted with Verizon 8 years ago for the minimal local service. The charge was $18 per month.

I just paid the monthly bill today and it was $27.08. That's a 50% increase in 8 years. I don't have better service. I don't have more bells and whistles. What could possibly have resulted in this increase?

My actual charge from Verizon for the service is only $16.45. Here is the detail for the rest of the bill:

Federal Subscriber Line Charge - $6.29

Federal Universal Service Fee - $1.09

NJ Sales Tax - $1.67

911 System/Emerg Resp Fee - $0.90

Federal Excise Tax - $0.68

A full 39% of my bill is for government taxes and fees. I don't know if Verizon is calling things Federal to mislead people, or whether these surcharges are required by the Federal government. Who knows? I'm either being screwed by a Mega-Government or a Mega-Corporation.

Bad Guys

David Seaton: Ayn Rand's India holds up a mirror for the American right to see itself

"Evil requires the sanction of the victim." Ayn Rand"
Ayn Rand
© unknownAyn Rand (R)
The other day in my perusings I stumbled upon this troubling jewel:
Not only do Indians perform more Google searches for (Ayn) Rand than citizens of any country in the world except the United States, but Penguin Books India has sold an impressive number of copies -- as many as 50,000 of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead each since 2005, a number comparable to sales there by global best-seller John Grisham. And that's not counting the ubiquitous pirated copies of her works that are hawked at rickety street stalls, sidewalk piles, and bus stations -- an honor that Rand, a fierce defender of intellectual property rights, probably would not have appreciated. Foreign Policy
To put this information into some perspective I would ask you to read a paragraph from Wikipedia:
The World Bank estimates that 456 million Indians (42% of the total Indian population) now live under the global poverty line of $1.25 per day (PPP). This means that a third of the global poor now reside in India.(...) India has a higher rate of malnutrition among children under the age of three (46% in year 2007) than any other country in the world.
Now into that context, to see what Indians are so eagerly googling, let's mix in the following sayings of Ayn Rand, which though few, hopefully give the full flavor of her "Objectivist" philosophy:

War Whore

Patrick Buchanan: Iran Derangement Syndrome

Iran is not seeking to have the atomic bomb, possession of which is pointless, dangerous and is a great sin from an intellectual and a religious point of view."

Thus did supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declare in February that Iran's possession of atomic weapons would be a mortal sin against Allah.

It is also the unanimous judgment of the U.S. intelligence community, declared in 2007 and affirmed in 2011, that Iran has abandoned any program to build nuclear weapons.

Is the Ayatollah lying? Is the entire U.S. intel community wrong?

Iran's plants, at Natanz, where uranium is enriched to 5 percent, and at Fordow, where it is enriched to 20 percent - both below weapons grade - are under constant U.N. monitoring. Iran has offered to surrender its 20 percent uranium and cease enriching to that level, if the West will provide isotopes for its nuclear medicine and lift some of the more onerous sanctions.

No deal, says the United States. Iran must give up enrichment entirely and indefinitely.

Bizarro Earth

Greek Opposition Leader Says Government Won't Last

Alexis Tsipras
© unknownAlexis Tsipras
The leader of Greece's main opposition party has accused the country's three-party coalition government of wanting to sell Greece's resources and public companies on the cheap.

Alexis Tsipras, head of the Coalition of the Radical Left party, known as Syriza, told Parliament Saturday he was especially warning those who want to "grab state property on the cheap." He warned would-be buyers of state property that they might lose all their money and face criminal proceedings.

Tsipras proposes a moratorium on the payment of Greece's debt until the country, mired in a deep recession, returns to growth. He predicts his party will soon come to power because the coalition government will fail.

The newly-elected Parliament will stage a vote of confidence on the government at midnight on Sunday.


Is Barclays LIBOR Corruption a Phony Ploy to Strengthen the Bloomberg/Qatar QIBOR?

evil banker
© n/a
Barclays Libor fix trail leads to senior managers ... Senior Barclays managers were worried over negative headlines during the financial crisis and contributed to a culture that fixed key funding rates artificially low, U.S. and UK regulators said in reaching a settlement with the bank. The findings based on internal emails and other communications raise questions about how high up the Barclays management chain came instructions to submit lower rates, and who knew about the rate rigging. - Reuters

Dominant Social Theme: The corruption of these Western banks is terminal!

Free-Market Analysis: So Barclays resides at the "heart of darkness" which is LIBOR - various rates at which banks and the rest of can borrow. Something isn't quite right about this.

Bloomberg is busy setting up QIBOR in Qatar, and the putative explanation is that there is too much corruption in London. Now we have an example of corruption! Convenient? Right on time ...

QIBOR is just like LIBOR and those involved will "set" the rate at which banks borrow after conversing with banks themselves. This is a US$ 90 trillion market and thus the movement of this facility from London to Qatar is no small event.

If one were interested in moving such a large market, charges of corruption would surely be helpful. And lo and behold, we are reading about them everywhere.

What is the big deal about financial corruption? It is simply a fact that the world's modern central banking is shot through with corruption. How could it be otherwise? It begins with central banks that fix the price of money and its volume and continues from there.


Propaganda Alert! Metropolitan Terror Police Holding Six After Woman's Release

© unknownThe operation is said not to be in connection with this month's London Olympic Games
One of seven people arrested in a Met Police counter-terrorism operation has been released without charge.

A 30-year-old woman detained in west London on Thursday, when five men were also arrested, was freed on Saturday.

A 22-year-old woman became the seventh person arrested in the operation when she was detained in east London in the early hours of Saturday.

The arrests are on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

On Friday, a magistrate granted detectives additional time until 12 July to keep in custody those arrested the day before.

The woman and a 21-year-old man were detained at separate addresses in Ealing, while a 29-year-old man was arrested in an Ealing street. The woman is married to one of the men.


Drone Strike Kills 19 Ahead of US-Pakistan Meeting in Tokyo

Air strike is first since Pakistan reopened Nato supply route to Afghanistan and comes just before crucial diplomatic meeting
© Str/EPAPeople in Multan, Pakistan, protest against US drone attacks on Saturday.
The death toll from a US drone strike in Pakistan rose to 19 on Saturday, increasing tensions ahead of a meeting between secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her Islamabad counterpart.

Pakistani authorities increased the estimate from an initially reported 12 suspected militants who were killed in the attack in the Dattakhel region in North Waziristan on Friday.

On Sunday, Clinton is due to meet with Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, in Tokyo. That meeting, on the sidelines of a major conference on Afghanistan, will be given added pique as a result of the increased use of drones by the CIA in recent months.

Friday's strike came just days after Washington and Islamabad resolved a protracted dispute over the use of unmanned armed aircraft, with Clinton apologising for an air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

The apology paved the way for Pakistan to permit trucks carrying Nato supplies to cross into Afghanistan for the first time in more than seven months.


Extradition or Asylum? Assange Awaits Ecuadorian Decision

The deadline set by the UK's highest court for Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden runs out on Saturday. The whistleblower says he won't leave the safety of the Ecuadorian embassy in London until a decision on his asylum request is made.

­Julian Assange has spent the last two and a half weeks in the Ecuadorian embassy with London police standing guard at every exit should he attempt to leave.

On June 19 he entered the embassy and filed a request for asylum. Ecuador's UK ambassador is personally working on the matter and even had to return home for consultations. An answer was expected to be forthcoming, but as of yet there has been none.

But as Saturday is the deadline for Assange's extradition to Sweden after the whistleblower's failed appeal to the Supreme Court of the UK against the sexual assault allegations, Ecuador will be forced to weigh in on the issue.

Assange may be put on a plane to Sweden Saturday or Ecuadorian officials might grant him asylum in the South American country.


Banks' Defenses to Potential Trillions in Libor Claims Fail

in greed we trust
© n/a
All 3 Libor Defenses Fail

The big banks have been manipulating the world's central economic indicator - Libor - for decades, harming homeowners, students, credit card holders, small businesses, cities and many others.

The sums involved were huge. As the Economist notes:
The sums involved might have been huge. Barclays was a leading trader of these sorts of derivatives, and even relatively small moves in the final value of LIBOR could have resulted in daily profits or losses worth millions of dollars. In 2007, for instance, the loss (or gain) that Barclays stood to make from normal moves in interest rates over any given day was £20m ($40m at the time). In settlements with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in Britain and America's Department of Justice, Barclays accepted that its traders had manipulated rates on hundreds of occasions.
The Independent notes that potential liability from the Libor suits could wipe out Barclays, RBS and other banks ... and that the big banks have taken inadequate reserves against litigation risks.

Bad Guys

One arm of the TPP octopus: Investment Rules Harm the Environment

corporate pollution
© Javier Galeano/Associated Press
It's Branded as a Trade Agreement, But What's Really at Stake?

Trade officials from nine Pacific Rim nations - Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam - are in intensive, closed-door negotiations to sign a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement in 2012. Every Pacific Rim nation from China and Russia to Indonesia and Japan could eventually be included. There are draft texts for many of this pact's 26 chapters, most of which have nothing to do with trade, but rather impose limits on domestic food safety, health, environmental, and other policies. The governments won't release the texts to the public. But over 600 U.S. corporate "trade advisors" have full access. America's worst job-offshoring corporations, global banks, agribusiness, and pharmaceutical giants want this deal to be another corporate power tool like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement.) Consumer, labor, environmental, and other public interest advocates want transparency in the process and a "Fair Deal or No Deal."

A major goal of U.S. multinational corporations for the TPP is to impose on more countries a set of extreme foreign investor privileges and rights and their private enforcement through the notorious "investor-state" system. This system allows foreign corporations to challenge before international tribunals national environmental, land use, health and other laws and regulations that apply to domestic and foreign firms alike. Outrageously, this regime elevates individual corporations and investors to equal standing with each TPP signatory country's government - and above all of us citizens. This regime would empower corporations to skirt national courts and sue our governments before tribunals of private sector lawyers operating under UN and World Bank rules to demand taxpayer compensation for domestic regulatory policies that investors believe diminish their "expected future profits."

If a corporation "wins", the taxpayers of the "losing" country must foot the bill. Over $350 million in compensation has already been paid out to corporations in a series of investor-state cases under NAFTA-style deals alone. This includes attacks on natural resource policies, toxics bans, zoning and permits, health and safety measures, and more. In fact, of the over $12.5 billion in the 17 claims now pending under NAFTA-style deals, all relate to environmental, public health and transportation policy - not traditional trade issues. Governments have paid out over $675 million to investors in investor-state disputes under U.S. FTAs and bilateral investment treaties (BITs) - almost 70 percent of this related to oil, mining and gas disputes.