Monday, December 31, 2012

banksters and churches and shepherds - oh my!!!

Greenspan states that the Fed is above the law shortly after 7:30 in the interview

Churches, modern banks and associated political institutions are based largely on perception, and deception.  In order to work, they have to convince you that they are doing you a favor, bringing value to the transaction in exchange for getting you to relinquish real labor value to their custody.

In order to make the scam complete, they must make the bank/church, its employees, its building, its presentation - all look authoritative and legitimate. The bank building, like a church or government building, is large with pillars and official looking facades - conveying strength, stability and legitimacy.  

Usually there's some picture of an old guy or several guys with a big beard and royal/high class clothing to make you feel like someone important is here.  The altar/safe is placed in clear view of the public to add to the deception.  This is so when you enter the bank, church etc, you feel a sense of safety, reverence and awe.   

The entire presentation is a scam or a confidence game of the highest order.   The whole objective is to rob you of your earned value, and make you an obedient, pliable, reliable, submissive and easily managed peasant.

The big inside joke is that the only money the bank/church really has is the money you are depositing in it plus the money they collected as fractional reserves to get the banking/churching license in the first instance.  

In principle, as should be self-evident by now, money should be intrinsically worthless, and only used as a means of exchange for things of similar value. It should not be permitted for banks to create money, unless they are carefully regulated (nature, type of loans and interest rates) and/or the bank is in the public interest (usually with a public bank, a nationally chartered bank), and has a measurable multiplier effect on the economy.  

The multiplier effect should be in the expansion of goods and services which make society more productive.   Like schools which educate children (creating human capital), bridges, canals and roads which expand trade, new technologies to exploit natural resources, dams and power plants (which actually produce energy to electrify towns and cities at an affordable price).  

In this regard, Alexander Hamilton insisted that credit for such products are essential to a national economy (states included) and that debt for such purpose can be a national blessing because it can be basis for facilitating trade and national development.  The notes were usually for 20 years at 5 percent.  As such the price or interest rate should be minimal and long term, providing a stable bill of exchange which could be used for commercial transactions.

This later became known as dollar bills and dollar notes. This is where the whole concept of the dollar bill came from.  The notes were tied to productive legitimate investments so people were comfortable using these as a medium of exchange.   In fact, such bills of exchange were more desirable than gold and silver (or private bank notes)

So federalized (national) paper bills of exchange and other such instruments were favored by small and medium size businesses since they knew they these notes where for productive, useful activity for the commonwealth.  This is how the Erie and Ohio Canals were built.  This is the great innovation of Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin and John Quincy Adams that freed the general populace from reliance on England, Spain, the Netherlands, and France for gold specie in order to promote business and the economy.

It was the power of the sovereign to create money in the public interest and use such dollar bills as currency directly tied to the productive capacity of the nation. Gold, and silver, if necessary, was used for payment of international trade, with countries who did not at that time accept dollars bills as mediums of exchange.

Gold and silver (or other precious metals) were preferred by kings and other sovereigns because the quantity was usually in the hands of the powerful and wealthy, and therefore could give them power over the general population.  Bonds or paper represented how much gold you had on reserve, not anything of real value or use to the general population.  It served the royalty, bankers and aristocrats, not the peasantry and small businessmen.

Under the  old European system (represented by feudal lords, kings, bankers, etc), in order to get credit you had to have gold, silver, and issue bond, paper notes promising to pay the same in gold, silver, etc).  This severely restricted trade and made it difficult for the common man.  His economic destiny depended on whether he could convince some banker, or agent of the king to part with his gold or lend against his gold for some purpose.   In this way, power over the peasantry was maintained.

Since peasants didn't have gold, they usually had to pledge their land, and anything they had, sometimes even their wives and children, as collateral.   Taxes became oppressive and cruel.  The church merely enforced the same system under penalty of eternal damnation, etc.  As a result, people began to leave Europe in search of religious, political and economic freedom.  Most royalty and bankers were happy to see some peasants go as long as they continued to pay their taxes.

When Americans didn't have any gold or precious metals (under the old system), in the early days before it was discovered in the Southwest, it forced the early settlers to innovate and create a new medium which served the public interest.   Benjamin Franklin was one of the first do this in Massachusetts and later in Pennsylvania.   Later Hamilton, after the revolution, out of necessity and invention, expanded this concept on national level for the American States.  This type of national economic independence (from Royalty and their bankers), coupled with political independence (from Royalty and their bankers), and religious freedom (from Royalty and their Church), created a potential for enormous power and influence.

You can easily see the threat the American System presented to the British crown.  Before that time, all taxes had to be paid in gold, silver and other coins, determined and controlled by the king, and credit was not easily available for the commonwealth.   All religion and worship was to the official church.   It was a syndicate.  That's why traditional gold has always been a bad medium of exchange for the general population and has always wound up increasing the concentration of private and/or aristocratic wealth.

In fact, there was no common-wealth concept.  There was the king and his subjects.  You were not citizens with rights under law than any aristocrat was bound to acknowledge.  You were peasants. The American Revolution was a radical departure from this notion.  It threatened every Monarchy and Empire on the globe, except those who allied with it and adopted some of its principles, as did Germany (protective tariffs, technological innovation, and a credit system) as a way to free itself from the same destructive economic policies.

The key features of the American Revolution, the real one, not the fake one, was political, religious, and economic independence.  That is why, despite all its problems and failures, it remains the number one threat to the psychopathocracy and must be destroyed.  It cannot be allowed to complete and further its original vision.

That is why the history of the American Revolution has been systematically redacted, and distorted, and replaced with a false narrative that distorts their forgotten original meaning. For example, Free Trade (means Austrian/London School financial capitalism with no barriers), Debt or Sound Money (Interest based or Gold based), Individual Liberty (Ayn Rand selfishness irrespective of morality and impact on others), Property Rights (Ayn Rand type (discrimination, human slavery, etc.)), Limited Government (no equal protection under the law, Confederacy/State's Rights and American Exceptionalism (Imperialism/Manifest Destiny, etc).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

libraries and e-lending - publishers are the problem

npr | Have you ever borrowed an e-book from a library? If the answer is no, you're a member of a large majority. A survey out Thursday from the Pew Internet Project finds that only 5 percent of "recent library users" have tried to borrow an e-book this year.

About three-quarters of public libraries offer e-books, according to the American Library Association, but finding the book you want to read can be a challenge — when it's available at all.

Brian Kenney is the director of the White Plains Public Library in New York. He tells NPR's Audie Cornish about a library patron who wanted to check out a digital copy of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs.

"It was a middle-aged guy, you know, had a high techno-comfort zone, he was carrying his iPad, and he approached the desk carrying the Isaacson bio and said, 'How do I download this,' " Kenney recalls. "And it was the classic case where I had to explain to them, 'Well, sir, actually, you can't download that from here.' And then ensues the discussion why, as though somehow or other the library was stupid or failing in its job."

In fact, Kenney says, it's not a failure on the part of the library — Simon and Schuster, which published the book, would not license it to the library for download.

You might think about all this as the Wild West of digital licensing — a frontier environment where every publisher has its own set of rules. Among the six biggest companies, Simon and Schuster currently licenses none of its e-books to libraries. The company says it simply hasn't found a model that works.

is the book an indispensable cognitive object or a cognitive bottleneck?

npr | What counts as a book these days, in a world of Kindles, Nooks and iPads — and eager talk about new platforms and distribution methods?

Traditional publishers are traveling a long and confusing road into the digital future. To begin with, here's the conventional wisdom about publishing: E-books are destroying the business model.

People expect them to be cheaper than physical books, and that drives down prices. But the story's not that simple. For one thing, digital publishers have the same problem that record labels do: piracy. And there's just not the same stigma attached to pirating an e-book as there is to holding up a Barnes & Noble.

It turns out, though, that some publishers are doing pretty well despite the piracy problem. "We've had an incredible year," says Sourcebooks President Dominique Raccah. "Last year was the best year in the company's history. This year we beat that, which I didn't think was even possible." Raccah adds that her company is doing well because of digital publishing, not in spite of it. "It's been an amazing ride," she says.
It turns out there are some huge advantages — at least for publishers. A big one: The price of an e-book isn't fixed the way it is with physical books. Ten years ago, a publisher would have sent out its books to the bookstore with the price stamped on the cover. After that, it was done — the publisher couldn't put it on sale to sell more books.

21 book publishing predictions for 2013

HuffPo | We are all on a journey. None of us know with absolute certainty what happens next. All we can do is position ourselves for the future we prophetically or delusionally imagine. History will judge us all. Those who position correctly will be rewarded. Those who aren't prepared will face the harsh realities of the future marketplace.

Every one of us holds the power to change the course of history by taking actions today that enable the future we desire. Our actions mirror our aspirations, which means the future of publishing will be determined by our collective and sometimes competing aspirations. Readers are our gatekeepers.

I challenge you, my dear writer, publisher or reader, to take charge of your future. Imagine a brighter and better future ahead, where the culture of books reigns supreme, where more people are discovering, reading, purchasing, publishing, selling, and profiting-from books. Imagine a future where more readers than ever before will enjoy a greater diversity of books than ever before. Imagine a future where the power center of the publishing business shifts from traditional publishers to ordinary writers where it belongs.

The utopian and often self-serving aspirations of industry participants don't always intersect. Sometimes, objectives are at odds with one another, and at other times objectives are aligned. Our experiences, biases and fears color our perceptions, and sometimes distort them.

Much is at stake. The world's 50 largest book publishers alone achieved $68 billion in sales in 2011, according to Publishers Weekly. Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) estimates the US consumer ebook market alone will surpass $10 billion by 2016. When so much money and power is up for grabs, industry players have a lot to fight over, and much to protect. Books are worth fighting for, so fight for the future you want. Otherwise, someone else may determine your future for you.

None of us can truly predict the future, but we can still prepare for it by remaining flexible. We must be willing to roll with the punches when fate tries to smack us upside the head, and adjust our course and our beliefs when we make mistakes, or when we discover new opportunities on the horizon.

The doubters like Donald Maass are becoming the exception, not the rule, and that worries me. When everyone starts swimming in the same direction and believing the same group think, that's when I start wondering about what comes next. It's the job of any entrepreneur - and we are all entrepreneurs of our own destiny - to prepare for the future while surviving today.

it doesn't matter what ebooks cost to make

gigaom | Book publishers are trying hard to defend the pricing of e-books — perhaps in part because they’ve been accused by the Justice Department of rigging prices to keep them artificially high — by arguing that it costs a lot more than most people think to produce the electronic version of a book. But as author Chuck Wendig notes, what e-books cost to manufacture or distribute is irrelevant to everyone but the publishers themselves. All that matters is what book consumers are willing to pay for an e-book — and the same principle applies for any form of digital content.

Hearing the complaints of book buyers must be frustrating for publishers, because they actually have a pretty good case for why e-books cost what they do. Although many see the price of old-fashioned things like paper and printing presses and trucks to ship them as a big cost for printed books, publishers like Penguin point out that the main costs involve advance payments to authors, marketing and other support expenses — things that also apply to e-books. As Wendig puts it:
[P]roducing e-books costs more than you think. You’re paying for editors and cover design and, of course, for the book itself, and the mechanics of putting those things into a container are not the bulk of a book’s cost. Hence, e-books are always going to be close to their physical counterparts in cost.
But as the author also notes, consumers don’t really care what a publisher’s costs are, nor are they likely to pay more simply because a publisher argues that their content is really valuable. In the same way, movie-goers don’t really care how many millions of dollars a movie studio spent on their latest blockbuster — that has no bearing on whether they want to see it or not. It is the perceived value of the e-book that matters, not the cost — and there are some good reasons why e-book consumers might want to pay less.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

the future status of modernity's chief cognitive object

ala | As e-books and the emerging digital library occupy today’s headlines, there appears to be a tacit consensus emerging from the discourse among academics, journalists, and librarians about the future of the book. That vision of the future, as portrayed in the trade literature and popular press, consigns this centuries-old technology to obsolescence, as if it were merely another information format.

This report explores alternative scenarios, where the technology of the printed book does not disappear or become extinct, but occupies a different position in a technological ecology characterized by the proliferation of e-books and digital libraries. The printed book has for centuries been the chief cognitive object of the library. The future status of that object should be of interest to all librarians, especially as they plan for the future; therefore, this report intentionally favors the continued existence of the printed book as a viable technology.

The goal of this report is to draw attention to our assumptions about the future of the book, assumptions that are grounded in our current e-book zeitgeist. Strategic decisions are often based on underlying—and often unexamined—assumptions about the larger environment in which those decisions will be carried out. The future often turns out not as expected because we do not entertain alternative possibilities and base strategic thinking and actions on one specific belief about the future. Much of our current thinking about the future of libraries appears based on the assumption that printed books will give way to e-books and the digital transmission of textual objects.

This research report presents four scenarios so that academic and research librarians may expand their thinking about the future to include a richer set of environmental conditions:

  1. Consensus: a scenario where e-books overwhelm and make obsolete the printed book 
  2. Nostalgic: a scenario where printed books are still highly in demand and e-books haveproven to be a fad
  3. Privatization of the book: a scenario where printed books are vestigial to an ecology dominated by e-books 
  4.  Printed books thrive: a scenario where e-books and printed books exist in balance and have equal importance
Scenario thinking exercises can help to develop situational awareness. Mica R. Endsley defines situational awareness as “the perception of elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future.”

 Futuring is an exercise in expanding situational awareness by developing greater comprehension of the elements that make up the larger environment of libraries—indeed, viewing the library as a complex dynamic system affected not only by operational elements such as collections and user services but also by political, economic, social, and technological elements of the environment within which the library is situated. Beyond comprehending these elements and understanding the complex ways in which they interact, academic and research librarians must also be able to envision the future status of that system. We assume that the complex system that is the library will itself undergo change, and librarians must be able to anticipate those changes. Thus, using the language of situational awareness, scenarios should be viewed as one effort to describe a future state of the system in which decisions will need to be carried out. As academic and research librarians undertake strategic planning for their organizations, awareness of the larger environment and understanding the potential for changes in that environment will prove critical to improved decision making.

After reviewing each of the scenarios, those involved in strategic decision making should then consider their own plans—and their budgets— with respect to these questions:
  • Which state of the system do you believe best describes the environment in which your library’s strategic thinking and planning will unfold?
  • Which of these models of the future currently guides your strategic thinking and actions regarding printed books?

pearson is for dayyum sure loath to give up that paper book profit and associated value chain

Publisher's Weekly | Click on the company name in the table below to read a profile of that company.
Rank (2011) Rank (2010) Publishing Company (Group or Division) Country Mother Corp. or Owner Country Mother Corp. 2011 Revenue in $M 2010 Revenues in $M
1 1 Pearson U.K. Pearson U.K. $8,411 $8,097
2 2 Reed Elsevier U.K./NL/U.S. Reed Elsevier Corp. U.K./NL/U.S. $5,686 $7,149
3 3 Thomson Reuters U.S. The Woodbridge Company Ltd. Canada $5,435 $5,637
4 4 Wolters Kluwer NL Wolters Kluwer NL $4,360 $4,719
5 6 Hachette Livre France Lagardère France $2,649 $2,873
6 8 Grupo Planeta Spain Grupo Planeta Spain $2,304 $2,427
7 7 McGraw-Hill Education U.S. The McGraw-Hill Companies U.S. $2,292 $2,433
8 5 Random House Germany Bertelsmann AG Germany $2,274 $3,844
9 11 Holtzbrinck Germany Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck Germany $1,952 $1,512
10 10 Scholastic (corp.) U.S. Scholastic U.S. $1,906 $1,912
11 9 Cengage Learning U.S. Apax Partners et al. U.S./Canada $1,876 $2,007
12 13 Wiley U.S. Wiley U.S. $1,743 $1,699
13 12 De Agostini Editore Italy Gruppo De Agostini Italy $1,724 $1,843
14 15 Shueisha Japan Hitotsubashi Group Japan $1,714 $1,597
15 16 Kodansha Japan Kodansha Japan $1,551 $1,498
16 17 Shogakukan Japan Hitotsubashi Group Japan $1,444 $1,441
17 33 Readers' Digest U.S. RDA Holding Co. U.S. $1,438 $1,460
18 14 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt U.S. Education Media and Publishing Group Limited U.S./Cayman Islands $1,295 $1,673
19 19 Springer Science and Business Media Germany EQT and GIC Investors Sweden, Singapore $1,138 $1,149
20 18 HarperCollins U.S. News Corporation U.S. $1,100 (est.) $1,269
21 20 Informa U.K. Informa plc U.K. $1,069 $1,039
22 21 Gakken Japan Gakken Co. Ltd. Japan $1,043 $956
23 22 Oxford University Press U.K. Oxford University U.K. $1,004 $941
24 24 Grupo Santillana Spain PRISA Spain $936 $852
25 23 Bonnier Sweden The Bonnier Group Sweden $909 $927
26 26 Kadokawa Publishing Japan Kadokawa Holdings Inc. Japan $904 $794
27 27 Simon & Schuster U.S. CBS U.S. $787 $791
28 28 Egmont Group Denmark/
Egmont International Holding A/S Denmark $703 $792
29 29 Woongjin ThinkBig Korea Woongjin Holding Korea $685 $723
30 25 RCS Libri Italy RCS Media Group Italy $667 $805
31 31 Klett Germany Klett Gruppe Germany $594 $617
32 32 Cornelsen Germany Cornelsen Germany $558 $584
33 34 Mondadori Italy The Mondadori Group Italy $506 $549
34 35 GeMS - Gruppo editoriale Mauri Spagnol Italy Messagerie Italiane Italy $494 $525
35 39 Lefebvre Sarrut France Frojal France $467 $430
36 36 Harlequin Canada Torstar Corp. Canada $450 $468
37 37 Sanoma Finland Sanoma WSOY Finland $446 $464
37 40 China Education and Media Group (form. Higher Education Press) China (PR) China Education and Media Group China (PR) $445 $393
39 38 Media Participations France Media Participations Belgium $442 $434
40 46 Abril Educação Brazil Abril Group Brazil $411 $308
41 47 Perseus U.S. Perseus U.S. $350 $300
42 43 Westermann Verlagsgruppe Germany Medien Union (Rheinland-Pfalz Gruppe) Germany $339 $342
43 41 La Martinière Groupe France La Martinière Groupe France $335 $377
44 44 Bungeishunju Japan n.a. Japan $331 $337
45 55 AST Russia Privately owned Russia $330 $215
46 45 Groupe Gallimard France Madrigall France $329 $320
47 42 Shinchosha Japan n.a. (privately owned) Japan $319 $364
48 49 Kyowon Korea Kyowon Korea $298 $273
49 48 Weka Germany Weka Firmengruppe Germany $282 $277
50 52 Saraiva Brazil Saraiva Brazil $267 $249
51 51 Haufe Gruppe Germany Privately owned Germany $269 $256
52 56 Editora FTD Brazil Editora FTD Brazil $226 $214
53 54 Groupe Albin Michel France Groupe Albin Michel France $216 $219
54 58 EKSMO Russia Privately owned Russia $195 $200
Note: Reader’s Digest figures are revenue for the entire company. Book sales in 2011 were $545 million and $590 million in 2010. Figures are based on sales generated in calendar 2011 or—for corporations with a fiscal year—from fiscal 2011. Data are from publicly available sources and include sales of books, journals, and digital products. Because publishing data were unavailable, Pannini, Weltbild, and Disney/Hyperion are excluded from the rankings. The listing was compiled by international publishing consultant Rudiger Wischenbart under the aegis of Livres Hebdo.

what impact will ebooks have on the global publishing industry?

atkearney | The e-book revolution has begun, capturing consumers' imaginations and pocketbooks. More people today are downloading e-books, a trend that will only accelerate in the next decade and undoubtedly change the publishing value chain. Core industry participants—printing companies, distributors and book retailers—will find it difficult to adapt. While some existing players and newcomers to the market—publishers, authors, telecommunications operators and device manufacturers—will find this an ideal time to capitalize on the opportunities.

In this paper, we analyze the evolution of the e-book market, the main factors around its growth, recent trends in the United States and Europe, and the changing structure of the publishing value chain. Our goal is to answer a larger question: What should the publishing industry expect and how should they prepare?

After years of false starts, e-books finally took off in the United States. While the overall publishing market has constricted slightly, e-book sales in the trade sector have grown five-fold in three years, to $165 million in 2009, or roughly 1.3 percent of the market, according to the International Digital Publishing Forum. It could reach 20 percent penetration within seven years (see sidebar: What Took So Long for E-Books?).

U.S. e-book penetration differs by segment and target sector. Within the non-trade sector, which includes educational, reference, technical and scientific books, e-book penetration is near 30 percent and rising, thanks to their easy access (from university workstations), search options (dictionaries and research papers) and storage capacity (educational books and technical manuals).

the impact of technology on the recording industry

jakobgoesblogging | Enablers are the development of advanced hardware and software products as well as the increased importance of internet and especially social networks. During my research, I found a number of interesting statistics about recent changes in the music industry. Based on this data I will try to analyze each step of the value chain to explore how new technologies and the change in customer behavior affect the companies’ business models as well as the music industry as a whole.

Approach: After a short description of the music industry as it was some years ago, I will have a look at the most recent trends. Based on that I will point out the changes in the business model of record labels and identify some important areas in which companies have to act in order to stay competitive. To make this analysis more practical, I want to include the income statement of Warner Music Group, a leading record label to show how it is affected by recent industry chances.

The typical value chain in the music industry shows five steps. It starts with creation of the content by the artist. Traditionally, the artist tried to raise awareness by sending demo tapes to the record companies and participate in band contests. The artist and repertoire (A&R) unit is the division of a record label that is responsible for talent scouting, contracting and overseeing the artistic development. Once the contract is signed, the record company takes care of the financing and records the songs. The next step is the promotion and PR of the album done by the record company. The distribution traditionally was done through merchants and retail stores. Most of them were independent but there were also big retail chains, owned by the major record labels.

why did the recording industry really collapse? | Source: There are many variations of the same graph. The point is that there was a huge spike in the 90s and I aim to explain that.

You don't have to be an analyst to identify something wrong with the record industry's graph. Predicting an unprecedented period of revenue generation off the back of a two year growth period when two of the preceding three years had seen revenue declines (one of them large) is more than optimistic. It could be explained by new strategy, marketing and innovation pushes by the music industry, but hindsight shows no evidence of that.

In a nutshell, the music industry is adamant that illegal downloading is the prime cause of its revenues dropping over the past decade. Opponents say that we're buying more music than ever, but that we're buying individual songs and not expensive albums on CDs and that's why revenue is down. But is the current quality of music really comparable to what was on offer in the 90s? Or is it more akin to the 80s?

collapse of record companies not the collapse of music

Worldwide Recording Industry Revenues from Physical: $33.1 billion (2006), $30.6 billion (2007), $27.5 billion (2008), $24.6 billion (2009), $22.2 billion (2010), $19.9 billion (2011)
digitalmusicnews | The recording industry has been fractionalized over the past decade. The touring sector suffered its worst decline ever last year. And music publishers are struggling to keep things flat.

So how is the broader music industry somehow worth $168 billion? The answer comes from a broader list of music-related sectors, including those tied to consumer electronics, radio advertising, and musical instruments.  
Take a look at this 2010 estimate from global trade group IFPI, which pegs the figure at $167.7 billion, with radio advertising squarely in the lead (larger graph here).  Recognize this business?

Forbes | From the 1960s on, the LP album gave the music industry a main product to push, and business was good. In the 1990s the widespread acceptance of the Compact Disc format gave a giant boost to the music industry in album sales. By 2007, over 200 billion CDs had been sold worldwide. But sales of the long playing album have decreased dramatically. In 2000, U.S. consumers bought 785.1 million albums; in 2011, that figure was down to 330.57 million. In 2000, the ten top-selling albums in the U.S. sold a combined 60.4 million copies; in 2011, the top ten sold just 20.2 million copies.

While accounts of the “death of the music industry” have been greatly exaggerated, no one can deny that the music industry is experiencing major changes. For decades the industry relied on a business model of selling massive amounts of copies of a few albums to finance the high-cost of producing records, plugging songs to radio, and overcoming the losses from their other projects. Record companies used the clout of having access to recording studios and access to airplay on the radio to their advantage in contract negotiations with artists, which leveled their risk intake of the enormous costs and influence needed to both produce and push a record.

Friday, December 28, 2012

federal reserve bank social media monitoring solution...,

decryptedmatrix | The Federal Reserve wants to know what you are saying about it.  In fact, the Federal Reserve has announced plans to identify “key bloggers” and to monitor “billions of conversations” about the Fed on Facebook, Twitter, forums and blogs.  This is yet another sign that the alternative media is having a dramatic impact.  As first reported on Zero Hedge, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has issued a “Request for Proposal” to suppliers who may be interested in participating in the development of a “Sentiment Analysis And Social Media Monitoring Solution”.  In other words, the Federal Reserve wants to develop a highly sophisticated system that will gather everything that you and I say about the Federal Reserve on the Internet and that will analyze what our feelings about the Fed are.  Obviously, any “positive” feelings about the Fed would not be a problem.  What they really want to do is to gather information on everyone that views the Federal Reserve negatively.  It is unclear how they plan to use this information once they have it, but considering how many alternative media sources have been shut down lately, this is obviously a very troubling sign.

You can read this “Request for Proposal” right here.  Posted below are some of the key quotes from the document (in bold) with some of my own commentary in between the quotes….

“The intent is to establish a fair and equitable partnership with a market leader who will who gather data from various social media outlets and news sources and provide applicable reporting to FRBNY. This Request for Proposal (“RFP”) was created in an effort to support FRBNY’s Social Media Listening Platforms initiative.”

A system like this is not cheap.  Apparently the Federal Reserve Bank of New York believes that gathering all of this information is very important.  In recent years, criticism of the Federal Reserve has become very intense, and most of this criticism has been coming from the Internet.  It has gotten to the point where the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has decided that it had better listen to what is being said and find out who is saying it.

“Social media listening platforms are solutions that gather data from various social media outlets and news sources.  They monitor billions of conversations and generate text analytics based on predefined criteria.  They can also determine the sentiment of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic or document.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York intends to listen in on “billions of conversations” and to actually determine the “sentiment” of those that are participating in those conversations.

sytematically dangerous institutions (SDI)

neweconomicperspectives | One of the “tells” that reveals how embarrassed Lanny Breuer (head of the Criminal Division) and Eric Holder (AG) are by the disgraceful refusal to prosecute HSBC and its officers for their tens of thousands of felonies are the false and misleading statements made by the Department of Justice (DOJ) about the settlement.  The same pattern has been demonstrated by other writers in the case of the false and disingenuous statistics DOJ has trumpeted to attempt to disguise the abject failure of their efforts to prosecute the elite officers who directed the “epidemic” (FBI 2004) of mortgage fraud.

HSBC was one of the largest originators of fraudulent mortgage loans through its acquisition of Household Finance.

Three recent books by “insiders” have confirmed earlier articles revealing the decisive role that Treasury Secretary Geithner has played in opposing criminal prosecutions of the elite banksters and banks whose frauds drove the financial crisis and the Great Recession.

Bair, Sheila, Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself” (2012); Barofsky, Neil, Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street (2012); Connaughton, Jeff, The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins (2012).

Geithner’s fear is that the vigorous enforcement of the law against the systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) that caused the crisis could destabilize the system and cause a renewed global crisis.  I have often expressed my view that the theory that leaving felons in power over our largest financial institutions is essential to producing financial stability is insane.  Geithner, it turns out, is very sensitive to that criticism.
To sum it up: the regulators and Treasury opposed having HSBC admit the truth – that it violated the money-laundering statutes.  They warned that such a guilty plea could cause a systemic crisis because HSBC was an SDI.  When Treasury warns DOJ that a prosecution could cause a global crisis there is no chance that the AG will override Treasury’s warning on his own initiative.  That is why line prosecutors urged Holder to meet personally with Geithner to urge him to withdraw his objections to the proposed prosecution, but Holder apparently declined to seek a meeting.  Instead, Breuer emphasized that DOJ accepted Treasury’s warning that HSBC was too big to prosecute because doing so would cause a global systemic crisis.
Note the disingenuous statement made by the Treasury to the press.  Yes, DOJ makes the “decision” whether to prosecute, but if DOJ were to prosecute in a case where Treasury had warned that the sky would fall if there were a prosecution – and the sky did fall – then the DOJ’s leaders would be the idiots who ignored Treasury and blew up the world’s economy.

The Treasury statement completes setting the stage for the tale I promised to complete about Geithner’s sensitivity to his role in blocking prosecutions becoming better known.  Breuer and I were interviewed by NPR about the HSBC settlement.  I criticized it and I explained why settlement negotiations were unique in such circumstances because the government’s overriding priority was in reducing its fine to a level that it was sure would not pose any meaningful risk to the health of the SDI.  When the government fears that any SDI failure will cause a global systemic crisis the government’s paramount priority in negotiating a recovery is to restrict rather than maximize its recovery in order to ensure there is no meaningful risk of the settlement leading to the SDI’s failure.  The government’s press flacks find it easy to “spin” settlements with profitable SDIs because their capital and profits are so enormous that the government can negotiate a fine that sounds very large to the public but is relatively minor from the SDI’s perspective.  The settlement is both a “record” amount and a modest cost of doing (fraudulent) business for HSBC.

When the NPR story ran originally it contained a quotation from me noting Geithner’s long-standing opposition to prosecuting SDIs and the government’s incentive to reduce greatly the penalties on HSBC because it was an SDI.  My quotation mentioning Geithner was removed from the NPR story at the request of Treasury and replaced with this “Clarification.”

Clarification: In an early radio version of this story, a former regulator was quoted speculating that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner did not want to put HSBC out of business. We should have made it clear that it is the Justice Department, not the Treasury Department that made the decision to defer prosecution of HSBC. 

I was not “speculating” that “Geithner did not want to put HSBC out of business.”  My statement was not only factual; it wasn’t controversial given the many insider exposes that have confirmed Geithner’s position on SDIs.  (A position now parroted by Breuer.)  The statement that Treasury got placed in the “clarification” is the same carefully crafted disingenuous statement that Treasury is using to obscure the continuing success of Geithner’s efforts to prevent prosecutions of the SDIs.  What we now know definitively is how hyper-sensitive Geithner is to anything that brings to greater public attention his pusillanimous role in ensuring that fraudulent SDIs and the banksters that control them can commit their crimes with impunity from the criminal laws.  As always, I emphasize the ultimate culpability for the shameful “too big to prosecute” indulgence granted to the criminal enterprise known as HSBC rests with President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron.  It is also worth noting that the Republican Party and Governor Romney never protested this failure to prosecute and that Obama is largely continuing President Bush’s failure to even investigate seriously the banksters.  Welcome to crony capitalism.

the drug war is a joke...,

rollingstone | If you've ever been arrested on a drug charge, if you've ever spent even a day in jail for having a stem of marijuana in your pocket or "drug paraphernalia" in your gym bag, Assistant Attorney General and longtime Bill Clinton pal Lanny Breuer has a message for you: Bite me.

Breuer this week signed off on a settlement deal with the British banking giant HSBC that is the ultimate insult to every ordinary person who's ever had his life altered by a narcotics charge. Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a "record" financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank.

The banks' laundering transactions were so brazen that the NSA probably could have spotted them from space. Breuer admitted that drug dealers would sometimes come to HSBC's Mexican branches and "deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows."

This bears repeating: in order to more efficiently move as much illegal money as possible into the "legitimate" banking institution HSBC, drug dealers specifically designed boxes to fit through the bank's teller windows. Tony Montana's henchmen marching dufflebags of cash into the fictional "American City Bank" in Miami was actually more subtle than what the cartels were doing when they washed their cash through one of Britain's most storied financial institutions.

too big to jail?

guardian | The US is the world's largest prison state, imprisoning more of its citizens than any nation on earth, both in absolute numbers and proportionally. It imprisons people for longer periods of time, more mercilessly, and for more trivial transgressions than any nation in the west. This sprawling penal state has been constructed over decades, by both political parties, and it punishes the poor and racial minorities at overwhelmingly disproportionate rates.

But not everyone is subjected to that system of penal harshness. It all changes radically when the nation's most powerful actors are caught breaking the law. With few exceptions, they are gifted not merely with leniency, but full-scale immunity from criminal punishment. Thus have the most egregious crimes of the last decade been fully shielded from prosecution when committed by those with the greatest political and economic power: the construction of a worldwide torture regime, spying on Americans' communications without the warrants required by criminal law by government agencies and the telecom industry, an aggressive war launched on false pretenses, and massive, systemic financial fraud in the banking and credit industry that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.

This two-tiered justice system was the subject of my last book, "With Liberty and Justice for Some", and what was most striking to me as I traced the recent history of this phenomenon is how explicit it has become. Obviously, those with money and power always enjoyed substantial advantages in the US justice system, but lip service was at least always paid to the core precept of the rule of law: that - regardless of power, position and prestige - all stand equal before the blindness of Lady Justice.

It really is the case that this principle is now not only routinely violated, as was always true, but explicitly repudiated, right out in the open. It is commonplace to hear US elites unblinkingly insisting that those who become sufficiently important and influential are - and should be - immunized from the system of criminal punishment to which everyone else is subjected.

Worse, we are constantly told that immunizing those with the greatest power is not for their good, but for our good, for our collective good: because it's better for all of us if society is free of the disruptions that come from trying to punish the most powerful, if we're free of the deprivations that we would collectively experience if we lose their extraordinary value and contributions by prosecuting them.

This rationale was popularized in 1974 when Gerald Ford explained why Richard Nixon - who built his career as a "law-and-order" politician demanding harsh punishments and unforgiving prosecutions for ordinary criminals - would never see the inside of a courtroom after being caught committing multiple felonies; his pardon was for the good not of Nixon, but of all of us. That was the same reasoning hauled out to justify immunity for officials of the National Security State who tortured and telecom giants who illegally spied on Americans (we need them to keep us safe and can't disrupt them with prosecutions), as well as the refusal to prosecute any Wall Street criminals for their fraud (prosecutions for these financial crimes would disrupt our collective economic recovery).

A new episode unveiled on Tuesday is one of the most vivid examples yet of this mentality. Over the last year, federal investigators found that one of the world's largest banks, HSBC, spent years committing serious crimes, involving money laundering for terrorists; "facilitat[ing] money laundering by Mexican drug cartels"; and "mov[ing] tainted money for Saudi banks tied to terrorist groups". Those investigations uncovered substantial evidence "that senior bank officials were complicit in the illegal activity." As but one example, "an HSBC executive at one point argued that the bank should continue working with the Saudi Al Rajhi bank, which has supported Al Qaeda."

Needless to say, these are the kinds of crimes for which ordinary and powerless people are prosecuted and imprisoned with the greatest aggression possible.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

i cry therefore i am...,

nytimes | People widely report that crying relieves tension, restores emotional equilibrium and provides “catharsis,” a washing out of bad feelings. (Tears, in fact, seem to be the only body fluids that do not evoke feelings of disgust.) The term “catharsis” has religious overtones of purging evil and sin; it’s no surprise that religious icons so frequently feature tearful saints and that religious ceremonies are, around the world, one of the main settings for the release of tears.

Crying is a nearly universal sign of grief, though some mourners report that, despite genuine sorrow, they cannot shed tears — sometimes even for years after their loved one has gone. Unlike today, when the privacy of grief is more respected, the public or ceremonial shedding of tears, at the graveside of a spouse or the funeral of a sovereign, were once considered socially or even politically essential. To avoid dry eyes, widows would fill their handkerchiefs with onions lest their bereavement be underestimated.

When I lecture on crying, I ask my audience to let me know, by a show of hands, which art forms most move them to tears. About 80 percent say music, followed closely by novels (74 percent), but then the figures fall sharply, to 43 percent, for poetry, and 10 to 22 percent for paintings, sculpture and architecture.

I am often asked why I do not include cinema in these surveys, but what drives emotion in films is usually the music. Witness Michel Hazanavicius’s recent “silent” film “The Artist,” which won the Academy Award for best picture last year. Anything but silent, it arouses intense emotions through its musical score.

The physical act of crying is mainly one of inhaling — as opposed to laughter, which requires exhaling — and involves the soft palate, larynx and pharynx. Crying disrupts speech, which is why we choke up when we weep. This suggests to linguists and anthropologists that emotional crying evolved before propositional language, perhaps explaining why tears communicate states of mind and feelings that are often so difficult to express in words. Of course, from an evolutionary perspective, recognition of emotion (usually through facial gesture) was essential for survival.

exploring rhythm and brain function

the scientist | This September, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart exposed his brain to a live audience at the annual meeting of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in New Orleans, Louisiana. With an electroencephalography (EEG) device strapped to his head, Hart strutted across the stage, drum in hand, as images of the rhythms pulsing through his brain were projected on big screens at the front of the hall. “It was like taking my brain out of my skull and watching it dance,” he says.

The stunt was the result of a collaboration between Hart and Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. Brought together by their shared interest in the power of rhythm, the duo says they hope to generate new research into its role in higher-order brain functions—and find ways to influence brain rhythms to improve cognitive health.  

“Mickey had an experience several years ago with his grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s,” says Gazzaley. “He noticed she was most communicative when he played the drums. It hit home that music and rhythm could have therapeutic impact, something he’d suspected for a long time.” So the AARP put Hart in touch with Gazzaley, who studies how brain rhythms change with normal ageing and disease, to help raise funds for research designed to explore the science behind Hart's observation.

“We’re going after the rhythm code,” Hart says. “If we crack it, we may be able to use that information to diagnose and treat these brain diseases. That’s the big enchilada!”

1922: Why I Quit Being So Accomodating

mikecanex | Three things were very clear to me in that night of self-examination five years ago. First: A man’s chief loyalty must be to the woman who has joined her life to his; to the children who call him father; and to the business which feeds and clothes and houses them all. In my easy-going willingness to befriend the world at large, I was sacrificing my wife, my children, and my employer far more than I was sacrificing myself. As I look back, I marvel that my wife and the children should have borne with me as uncomplainingly as they did.
What was true of my family was true of the business as well. I thought I was being friendly to the customers of the house. As a matter of fact, I was too often being friendly to the customers at the expense of the house. It is a common fault in salesmen. They let a thousand trivial demands on the part of the men to whom they sell take their time and energy from the business of the men for whom they sell.

Second: I am convinced that indiscriminate charity, whether one gives money or time — which is life itself — merely pauperizes the recipients. The business and social world are full of respectable panhandlers, who will take and take and take, just as long as they can find anyone to give. I gave to them for years, at the expense of those who had a far better claim upon my generosity. I am still willing to help any man who honestly needs help. But as for the strong, perfectly well, and perfectly capable human beings who have chosen to ride through the world on someone else’s back, they will have to look for another beast of burden. They can buy their own theatre tickets, write their own letters of introduction, make their own hotel reservations, use somebody else’s office instead of mine for their engagements, and borrow money from the banks which are in business to lend.

And, finally, I am persuaded that no one ever achieves anything worth-while in this world unless he has so great a respect for his work that he compels all other men to respect it. Unless, in a word, he commands his time. Read the life of a great scientist like Agassiz. Was he forever at the world’s beck and call? Not for a single day. To letters inviting him to write, or to lecture for money, he replied that he had no time for those things. He was the custodian of a certain number of days — a number far too small for the great task he had laid out for himself — and he would not be diverted even for an instant.

I was explaining this point of view to a good old aunt of mine one afternoon and she exclaimed: “But, Joe, it is so selfish for a man to put his work ahead of everything! It’s unchristian.”

“On the contrary, it is Christian in the very finest sense,” I replied. “What was it that Jesus said when his parents rebuked him for his failure to keep his engagement with them on that first journey down from Jerusalem? ‘Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?’ He demanded. He had work to do — great work and little time in which to do it. Even He was no exception to the eternal rule that achievement comes only through the subordination of every power to a great ideal; and that no man is really obliging who does not first discharge in full his obligations to his work.” Fist tap Dale.

the peasant

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

imagination also comes from the moving centre

pnas | Music moves us. Its kinetic power is the foundation of human behaviors as diverse as dance, romance, lullabies, and the military march. Despite its significance, the music-movement relationship is poorly understood. We present an empirical method for testing whether music and movement share a common structure that affords equivalent and universal emotional expressions. Our method uses a computer program that can generate matching examples of music and movement from a single set of features: rate, jitter (regularity of rate), direction, step size, and dissonance/visual spikiness. We applied our method in two experiments, one in the United States and another in an isolated tribal village in Cambodia. These experiments revealed three things: (i) each emotion was represented by a unique combination of features, (ii) each combination expressed the same emotion in both music and movement, and (iii) this common structure between music and movement was evident within and across cultures.

nationalgeographic | “Only human.” It’s a downer of an idiom, used to convey the inevitable transgressions and inadequacies of our species. He cheated on his wife with a supermodel, but come on, he’s only human. No, she can’t write three blog posts a day and Tweet every hour and read historical biographies in her spare time, she’s only human.

But, really, what’s “only” about human biology, emotions, behaviors and history? At very least, they make for some good stories.

A cop in Florida once found a scientist dissecting an armadillo penis on the side of the road. A genetic screen made me reconsider my coffee habits. Poverty breaks down connections in a baby’s brain. Tourism in the Galápagos is simultaneously funding conservation efforts and destroying the things that need to be conserved. Stories about people — what we’re made of, what we do, why we do it — are what interest me most, and what you’ll find on this blog.

I’m kicking off with a story about the (maybe) uniquely human capacity to feel emotion through music. Why does a lullaby soothe a newborn, a dirge console the grieving, and a KoRn song make you want to rip your ears out?

According to a study out yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, our cognitive connection to music may have evolved from an older skill, the ability to glean emotion from motion. People will choose the same combination of spatiotemporal features — a certain speed, rhythm, and smoothness — whether pairing a particular emotion with a melody or with a cartoon animation, the study found. But most surprising, the results held true in people from two starkly different cultures: a rural village in Cambodia and a college campus in New England.

The study dates to an afternoon in the spring of 2008, when Beau Sievers sat down for a class on the origins of music at Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire. Sievers, a composer, was working on a Master’s degree in something called electroacoustic music (now called digital musics), an unusual program for people who want to study relationships between music, technology and cognitive science. That afternoon the class heard from a guest lecturer, psychology professor Thalia Wheatley, whose neuroimaging studies had pinpointed some of the brain regions involved in perceiving motion. Other labs had found that some of the very same regions activate during music perception, giving Wheatley the idea that the two skills are somehow linked in the mind. She presented the general hypothesis to Sievers’s class, adding that she hadn’t yet found a rigorous and quantitative way to test it.

After class, Sievers asked Wheatley if he could work on that for his Master’s thesis. She said sure, and over the next few months, the duo came up with a clever experiment.