This made me smile.
U.S. retailers last quarter suffered their darkest days since the recession.
With results in from 62 of 122 retail chains, the industry has posted its first profit quarterly drop since the economic contraction that ended in 2009, according to Retail Metrics Inc. Revenue also rose at the lowest rate since that year, the research firm found.
The results paint a grim picture of an industry hit hard by the sluggish job recovery and slow wage growth, which have turned U.S. consumers into a nation of penny pinchers. Earnings are expected to drop 6.1 percent on average during the holiday quarter, according to Retail Metrics data.
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The lack of wage gains restrained many consumers from making discretionary purchases ... To cope, some chains cut prices by 50 percent to 60 percent. The industry hasn’t seen such heavy discounting since the “fire sale” that took place during the 2008 holiday quarter.
Wind power plays a very significant role in Jacobson's plan, and many states don't have extensive on-shore wind resources. As a result, going entirely renewable involves building offshore wind on a truly massive scale, with many individual states sporting tens of thousands of turbines on the continental shelf.
And that will unsurprisingly have an effect on how winds propagate. Jacobson modeled three different hurricanes—Isaac, Katrina, and Sandy—plowing into a massive field of wind turbines. The wind speeds dropped by up to 90 miles an hour, which is enough to drop all but the most powerful storms out of the hurricane category. In fact, the huge fields of turbines were so disruptive that the wind speed started to drop before it even reached the turbines, meaning that in many cases, they could safely continue generating energy throughout the storm.
In Sandy's case, the wind did very little direct damage; rather, the storm surge the winds drove was the primary culprit. But without the wind, the storm surge was underpowered. Depending on the precise details, it dropped by anywhere from six percent to nearly 80 percent.
In a paper that was also released today, Jacobson and some colleagues at the University of Delaware have calculated that all the benefits of the wind farms—improved health via lower pollution, reduced climate change, and hurricane mitigation—combine to make the net cost of electricity generated by these wind farms cheaper than if it were generated using fossil fuels. And despite the high cost of offshore wind, when those savings are considered in the total system costs, it becomes cheaper to build wind than it does to build seawalls to protect all vulnerable areas from storm surges.
Through carbon dating, the Voynich Manuscript — named after book dealer Wilfrid Voynich who purchased it in 1912 — was found to have been created sometime in the early 1400s, and possibly created in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance. The manuscript has never been even slightly decoded — the individual words, the sentence formation, or even the diagrams of stars and plants that are found throughout — have not been solidly identified. There have been so many unproven hypotheses put forth over the years that it’s widely considered that the manuscript was intentionally created as a (very) well-made hoax. Professional and amateur cryptographers haven’t come close in making a breakthrough, and that includes World War I and II codebreakers. However, linguistics professor Stephen Bax announced that he has finally made a breakthrough in deciphering the text, by focusing on identifying proper names.
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Bax explains that his potential breakthrough involved identifying proper nouns — namely through identifying the plants and stars depicted in illustrations found throughout the text — the way similar strategies have been used to identify Egyptian hieroglyphs. From there, Bax used the proper nouns as something of a legend for deciphering other characters. Among the notable terms deciphered, the constellation Taurus was discovered, what appeared to be the seven-star cluster Pleiades was identified, as well as the word “Kantairon,” which appeared to be used to identify the medieval herb centaury.
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Bax has not stated that he has solved the 600-year-old mystery, but rather, he is reporting his findings in order to compel other linguists and cryptologists to join in and help decode the text using what might very well be the first-ever real breakthrough regarding the Voynich Manuscript.
The Roman Catholic Church is enjoying some of its best press in decades, and hundreds of thousands of alienated Catholics are returning, thanks in large part to the new, and in some cases revolutionary, leadership of Pope Francis.
But, says a new documentary by PBS’ "Frontline," “Secrets of the Vatican,” the morally wrenching controversies that threatened to destroy the church's credibility, starting about the time Pope John Paul II died in 2005, have not fully subsided. Further, the success of Francis’ papacy will depend on how quickly and thoroughly he addresses them.
"Secrets of the Vatican" ... takes an unsparing look at the state of the church Pope Francis inherited from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, successor to Pope John Paul II and the first head of the church to resign in 600 years.
“2012 was an annus horribilis for [Benedict],” Antony Thomas, the producer, writer and director of the film for "Frontline," told Yahoo News in an interview. “Everything was exploding. He wanted to clean up the Vatican bank. He was in a very difficult predicament all the way through.”
A horrible year on many fronts, not just with mounting evidence of financial impropriety at the Vatican bank, but also with incidents of sexual abuse by clergy spreading to more than 20 countries and, further, exposure of church hypocrisy about homosexuality. Two of Benedict’s most significant moves were to publicly re-frame the Catholic catechism — in effect, its rules of practice — to emphasize its reference to homosexuality as an “objective disorder,” laying groundwork to, among other things, remove gay clergy.
At the same time, reports emerged from Rome of a “gay mafia” inside the church that included some of its top officials, who were unafraid to wield political power and at the same time live an openly promiscuous gay lifestyle.
“There was a lot that came to light, including a man who was, as it were, providing choirboys as rent boys,” Thomas said. “What we have tried hard to do in the film is not be simplistic about this. There are a lot of people in the Vatican who are gay who are leading celibate lives, and this is difficult for them. And there are others who are promiscuous.”
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama is further confirmation ... that the prize has degenerated into politically motivated rubbish.
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The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama ... should disgust any true supporter of peace, and cause any principled individual to seriously question the integrity of the prize and those who award it.
He has been named New York magazine’s "New Activist" of the year and included on its list of individuals "on the verge of changing their worlds” for 2009; listed as Harper’s Bazaar’s "up-and-coming politician" of 2011; and ranked number one in Law and Policy on Forbes Magazine’s "30 Under 30" Most Influential People list for 2012. In its 2013 retrospective of men born in its 80 years of publication, Esquire magazine named him the man of the year of his birth.
Farrow was awarded Refugees International's McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award in 2008, for "extraordinary service to refugees and displaced people."
He was awarded an honorary Doctorate by Dominican University of California in 2012.
In theory, fiscal stimulus juices the economy through a multiplier effect, in which one dollar of borrowed government spending produces more than a dollar of overall economic gain. With a multiplier of 1.5, a stimulus of $100 million would produce $150 million in economic activity. A multiplier of 2.0 would result in double the economic jolt of the initial cash infusion. The higher the multiplier, the bigger the boost.
The problem, as I noted in my April 2013 story on the stimulus, is that no one really knows what multiplier effect of fiscal stimulus is. Reputable economists don’t even really agree about the possible range for the multiplier. Some economists think it could be in the range of 3.0 or even higher, given the right circumstances. The Congressional Budget Office puts the estimated multiplier for government purchases at somewhere between 0.5 and 2.5. A broad survey of estimates by University of California San Diego economist Valerie Ramey found that the range was usually between 0.8 and 1.5, although the data could support anywhere from 0.5 to 2.0.
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Despite the wide uncertainty surrounding these estimates, they end up playing a major role in estimates of the stimulus’ effects. That’s because when economists at the White House or the Congressional Budget Office attempted to gauge the results of the stimulus, they relied heavily on measurements of inputs rather than outputs, and then used the multipliers to work from there. In other words, they looked at the amount of money spent on stimulus and then ran that through a model that included an estimated multiplier.
If you build a model that assumes a high multiplier effect, then your results will reveal that stimulus spending has a high multiplier effect. What you won’t have done is prove that stimulus spending has a high multiplier. But that’s how the government estimates of stimulus effects on jobs and economic growth work: Rather than measure real-world results, they count the spending, assume a multiplier, and then report the output.
And what if the real-world effects were, in reality, radically different? Would that show up in the reported estimates? No. When CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf was asked, “If the stimulus bill did not do what it was originally forecast to do, then that would not have been detected by the subsequent analysis?” his response was: “That’s right. That’s right.”
What we have then are highly uncertain, hard-to-pin-down multiplier estimates being used not to measure the results of stimulus, but to estimate what the results might be if those highly uncertain estimates happen to be correct. That’s not a clear failure, but it’s hardly proof of the unambiguous success the White House and its allies have claimed.
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No doubt the political back and forth over the merits of stimulus will continue, and the declarations of success and failure will end up as fodder in fights over possible future fiscal policy boosts. Not much will change. That’s too bad. Because if there’s anything we should have learned from the fight over the nation’s biggest fiscal stimulus, it’s that we’ve been asking the wrong question. It’s not whether the stimulus did or did not fail, it’s whether we can ever know one way or another—and whether it's worth spending hundreds of billions of dollars on economic interventions whose results are likely to remain uncertain.
I began to write, and ultimately set up the forum as well as a place for people to congregate, trade ideas, and hopefully get something of value -- and perhaps, just perhaps, coalesce into something worthwhile that might put a stop to this sort of garbage in the future.
That appears to have been a foolish dream.
It wasn't my first foolish dream; I've been a fool many times before -- and I'm sure it won't be the last time either.
You see, nobody wants to do anything about the real issues facing our nation and that we have as a people -- at least not in a productive way. It's far more important and easier to take cheap shots, to play "gotcha" and to parade around bull**** than it is to face the facts about what our society has become, and when we play those games all we're doing is adding to the puerile and derelict nature of what our society has devolved into.
We're more-interested in whether Alec Baldwin said a bad thing on a NY Street than whether colleges are ripping off young adults. We're more interested in going after people predicated on half-truths and outright lies than the bald-faced rip-offs and outrages that are served upon us daily by those who claim to be acting in our "best interest" -- and our own culpability for same, in that virtually every one of these people holds office and power only because we consent with votes cast at either the polls or the store. It doesn't matter that the media intentionally placed their logo in a strategic fashion when George Zimmerman got out of a cop car to hide the back of his head so you couldn't see the gash that Trayvon Martin put there, and that was just one of the first half-truths and outright distortions presented in that case; we buy the products advertised on those "news" shows and watch those networks to this day.
Harry Reid struts around the Senate pontificating on evil Republicans even though his office and he personally knows that Medicare and Medicaid will bankrupt the country -- but he'll be dead first, so he doesn't give a damn nor will he put a stop to it. Boehner and McConnell, for their part, are happy to make all sorts of noises about deficit spending, but then when the time comes to actually stop it they fold for the same reason -- they don't give a damn either as they expect they'll leave office before it all goes to Hell and it's very profitable for them and their friends to continue the charade. Both sides of the aisle knew damn well that Obama was lying about virtually every respect of Obamacare and yet Pelosi literally said that Congress had to pass the law to know what was in it, which is a rank admission that she knew she was screwing the entire country. You don't care either because she's still in office. CEOs come on CNBC and other media channels to tout their "greatness" just as Mozillo did -- or for that matter Dick Fuld of Lehman who promised he was going to "burn the shorts." When his own pants caught on fire instead who called him on that?
What does it say about us when we're more-interested in whether Miley Cyrus is twerking with a foam finger than the rip-offs on Wall Street promulgated with HFT, blatant falsehoods spewed forth in Congressional testimony by Fed officials and outright lies by the head of the NSA? What does it say about us when a Congressperson documents that they and the President lied about your health care, intentionally destroying your insurance coverage and relationship with your physician -- and yet they still sit in their offices drawing paychecks funded with your money, voluntarily handed over, more than four years later?
What does it say about us when we're too damn busy dredging up old bull**** to demand that the foundation of this nation actually mean something? What does it mean when the most-important aspect of our lives is prattering about who's porking who (or who did pork who) instead of why we as a society tolerate grift on a wholesale basis to the point that 40% of our population gets a check that they literally steal from everyone -- including themselves and their children?
Maybe we all deserve what's happening and what's coming. Maybe we deserve the sort of thing that's happening in the Ukraine.
During a domestic incident with his live-in girlfriend Samantha Scheibe, police uncovered a chilling arsenal of weapons and ammunition inside Zimmerman’s home, the full extent of which has never been pictured — until now.
According to police documents and new photos obtained by Radar, Zimmerman was found to be hiding the following deadly weapons inside his Florida home:
- One Keltec 12-gauge shotgun
- One Walther .380 handgun with seven rounds of live ammunition in the magazine
- One Taurus 9 mm handgun with live rounds in the magazine
- One Glock 19 handgun with 16 live rounds
- One AR-15 semi-automatic rifle
- Dozens of rounds of ammunition
- Several gun holsters and bags
Deputies seized the stash and categorized the items as evidence in a list that rivals the arsenals amassed by Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza and Aurora, Colorado, theater assassin James Holmes. Lanza massacred the 20 innocent children and six educators of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., 14 months ago. Holmes slaughtered 12 and injured 70 theater-goers in Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012.
All three mens’ arsenals include a version of their shared top three deadliest guns: the assault rifle, the shotgun and the concealed carrier’s trusted, Glock.
Zimmerman’s two additional guns put him one gun ahead of Holmes and make him even with Lanza (who had five killing machines, counting the .22 rifle he used at his home to kill his mother).
Massive counterclaims, in excess of $10 million, have just been filed against climate scientist Michael Mann after lawyers affirmed that the former golden boy of global warming alarmism had sensationally failed in his exasperating three-year bid to sue skeptic Canadian climatologist, Tim Ball. Door now wide open for criminal investigation into Climategate conspiracy.
Buoyed by Dr Ball's successes, journalist and free-speech defender, Mark Steyn has promptly decided to likewise countersue Michael Mann for $10 million in response to a similar SLAPP suit filed by the litigious professor from Penn. State University against not just Steyn, but also the National Review, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Rand Simberg. Ball's countersuit against Mann seeks "exemplary and punitive damages. " Bishop Hill blog is running extracts of Steyn's counterclaim, plus link.
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Steyn’s legal team, aware of the latest developments from Vancouver, have correctly adduced that Ball has effectively defeated Mann after the Penn. State pretender’s preposterous and inactive lawsuit against Ball was rendered dormant for failure to prosecute. Under law, Mann’s prevarications, all his countless fudging and evasiveness in the matter, establishes compelling evidence that his motive was not to prove Ball had defamed him, but more likely a cynical attempt to silence fair and honest public criticism on a pressing and contentious government policy issue.
The fact Mann refused to disclose his ‘hockey stick’ graph metadata in the British Columbia Supreme Court, as he is required to do under Canadian civil rules of procedure, constituted a fatal omission to comply, rendering his lawsuit unwinnable. As such, Dr Ball, by default, has substantiated his now famous assertion that Mann belongs "in the state pen, not Penn. State." In short, Mann failed to show he did not fake his tree ring proxy data for the past 1,000 years, so Ball’s assessment stands as fair comment. Moreover, many hundreds of papers in the field of paleoclimate temperature reconstructions that cite Mann’s work are likewise tainted, heaping more misery on the discredited UN’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) which has a knack of relying on such sub prime science.
Where Do We Go From Here?
It will likely be open season on Mann. Anyone may now freely dismiss him in the harshest terms as a junk scientist who shilled for a failed global warming cabal. Without fear of his civil legal redress, we may now refer to Mann for what he is: a climate criminal, a fraudster.
Devastating evidence has now come to light not just that the floods ... could have been prevented, but that they were deliberately engineered by Labour ministers in 2009, regardless of the property and human rights of the thousands of people whose homes and livelihoods would be affected. Furthermore, that wildly misleading Met Office forecast in November led the Environment Agency to take a step that has made the flooding infinitely more disastrous than it need have been.
The “smoking guns” begin with a policy decision announced in 2005 by Labour’s “floods minister” Elliot Morley ... Under the heading “Saving wetland habitats: more money for key sites”, Morley directed that, to comply with the EU’s habitats directive and a part-EU-funded study involving the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the WWF and the Environment Agency, flooding in Somerset should be artificially promoted, because “wildlife will benefit from increased water levels”. The 13 local drainage boards, responsible for keeping the Levels properly managed, were all to be co-opted into implementing this policy.
The Environment Agency had already stopped proper dredging of the River Parrett, which provides the main channel draining floodwater on the Levels to the sea, because of the exorbitant cost of disposing of silt under EU waste regulations. And Morley had vetoed a proposal to build a new pumping station at Dunball, at the end of the massive Kings Sedgemoor Drain, which would have allowed much more effective, 24-hour pumping of flood water into the mouth of the Parrett estuary,
In 2008, an Environment Agency policy document on the “Parrett Catchment Area” admitted that it was “still not completely clear” how much the deliberate increase in flooding would breach “the property rights and Human Rights” of those whose homes and businesses would be damaged. Yet in 2009, the government gave £8 million to “restore” – ie, increase flooding on – 10 Somerset “floodplains”, including the purchase of a large area of farmland at Southlake Moor next to Burrowbridge on the Parrett, which had been drained since the 13th century. It was to be handed over to Natural England to “store” water as habitat for birds when, as the Met Office was already predicting, climate change would bring drier winters.
This was where November’s forecast came in, because it led the Environment Agency deliberately to flood Southlake Moor in the expectation of a dry winter. When those December and January rains poured down, this large expanse of water-sodden ground blocked the draining to the already horribly silted-up Parrett of a very much larger area of farmland to the east. This was made even worse by the lack of that Dunball pumping station, vetoed by Morley, at the sea end of the Kings Sedgemoor Drain.
Thus came about the disaster that has filled our television screens for weeks. The hydrology of this vast area had been sabotaged by the Labour government’s deliberate, EU-compliant policy, directed by the Environment Agency.
When government is big, then true inequality is not of wealth, but of political access ... Access isn't about money; it's about becoming useful to those in power.
There are two cities and two countries in America; the land of the politically connected who are part of a network that can score anything from millions in cash to open door prisons and the land of the politically unconnected who don't understand why the government won't leave them alone. It won't leave them alone because in a corrupt system, being left alone is a special political favor.
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In a city or a country run by income inequality campaigners like Barack Obama or Bill de Blasio, the inequality of wealth takes a back seat to the inequality of access.
Men banned from becoming Queen as 700 years of law redrafted ahead of gay marriage
Men are to be banned from becoming Queen or Princess of Wales as part of an unprecedented effort to rewrite more than 700 years of law to prevent unintended consequences of gay marriage.
Chief Witch to Banquo: Thou shalt not be King, but thou shalt be royal.
Banquo (falsetto): Ooh - I'm going to be Queen!
Appearances to the contrary, the conflict we are witnessing is not an atavistic, ethno-linguistic struggle between Russians and Ukrainians, or some kind of tussle between street thugs and police. There are no ancient ethnic rivalries at stake.
It is not even clear that the Ukrainian political struggle is really just a geographic dispute, as it is so often characterised, between the more “European” western half of the country and the more “Russian” East.
On the contrary, this is a political conflict, and one which is not that hard to understand. On the one side are Ukrainians (both Russian and Ukrainian-speaking) who want to live in a “European” democracy with human rights and rule of law, one which is genuinely integrated with the European Union and the rest of the world. The supporters of this “European” option include students, pacifists, gay and environmental activists, as well as Right-wing nationalists and people motivated by memories of the terrible crimes that Stalin carried out in Ukraine 80 years ago.
On the other side are Ukrainians (also both Russian and Ukrainian-speaking) who support an undemocratic, oligarchic regime which is politically and economically dependent on Russia, more cut off from the European Union, and affiliated instead with the customs union controlled from Moscow.
Some of this regime’s supporters are the tiny elite who have made such massive profits from Ukrainian corruption, and who have famously purchased some of London’s most expensive homes (and, if rumours are correct, may have rapidly taken up residence in them this week).
Others without such wealth may fear the violent extremists they have seen on the television news, and the forces of general disorder. Still others may fear that even a trade agreement with Europe would entail deep reforms and economic changes, threatening their jobs.
Either way, this is not a fight over which language to speak or even over who controls Kiev’s main square. Historical allegiances are not an issue, either. Though both get bandied about, neither the word “fascist” nor the word “communist” is correctly applied to either side.
On the contrary, the fighting on the street this week was the latest manifestation of a deep national disagreement over the nature of the Ukrainian state, the shape of Ukraine’s economy, the status of the legal system, the country’s membership of international organisations. This is a legitimate political argument, and ultimately it can only have a political solution.
A new paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne calculated the odds of "computerization" for the 600+ jobs that the BLS tracks. They range from 96% automatable (office secretaries) to 0.9% (registered nurses). Here are the ten fastest-growing jobs and the odds that robots and software eat them:
- Personal care aides: 74%
- Registered nurses: 0.9%
- Retail salespersons: 92%
- Combined food prep & serving workers: 92%
- Home health aides: 39%
- Physician assistant: 9%
- Secretaries and admin assistants: 96%
- Customer service representatives: 55%
- Janitors and cleaners: 66%
- Construction workers: 71%
These ten occupations account for 3.85 million projected jobs in the next ten years, or 25 percent of the decade's projected job haul. And six of them are at least two-thirds automatable, based on researchers' projections of current computing power.
During World War II, the 13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion started an adventurous experiment as it prepared for D-Day: enlisting dogs into their ranks. The so-called "paradogs" (short for "parachuting dogs") were specifically trained to perform tasks such as locating mines, keeping watch and warning about enemies. As a side job, they also served as something of a mascot for the two-legged troops.
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Training began with getting the dogs used to loud noises. At the base in Larkhill Garrison, the dog handlers had the dogs sit for hours on transport aircraft with their propellers spinning. They also trained the dogs to identify the smell of explosives and gunpowder in addition to familiarizing them with possible battlefield scenarios, such as what to do if their master was captured, how to track down enemy soldiers and how to behave during firefights.
Training on the ground lasted roughly two months. But then the dogs started what wasn't part of the training of the other search dogs in the war: parachuting maneuvers.
The dogs' slim bodies proved to be advantageous because, during their test jumps, they could use the parachutes that had actually been designed to carry bicycles. In order to make it easier to get the dogs to jump out of the aircraft, they weren't given anything to drink or eat beforehand. On April 2, 1944, Bailey wrote in his notebook about the first jump with the female Alsatian Ranee. He notes that he carried with him a 2-pound piece of meat, and that the dog sat at his heels eagerly watching as the men at the front of the line jumped out of the plane.
Then it was their time to jump, which Bailey describes in this way:
"After my chute developed, I turned to face the line of flight; the dog was 30 yards away and slightly above. The chute had opened and was oscillating slightly. (Ranee) looked somewhat bewildered but showed no sign of fear. I called out and she immediately turned in my direction and wagged her tail vigorously. The dog touched down 80 feet before I landed. She was completely relaxed, making no attempt to anticipate or resist the landing, rolled over once, scrambled to her feet and stood looking round. I landed 40 feet from her and immediately ran to her, released her and gave her the feed."
Jump, land, eat: With each training jump, the dogs started enjoying their job more. In fact, the dogs sometimes allowed themselves to be thrown out of the planes or leapt out without any coaxing.
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In what followed, as one soldier in the 13th Battalion later noted, Bing and the other dogs proved to be very useful, especially for locating mines and booby traps. "They would sniff excitedly over it for a few seconds and then sit down looking back at the handler with a quaint mixture of smugness and expectancy," he wrote, noting that the dogs would then be rewarded with a treat. "The dogs also helped on patrols by sniffing out enemy positions and personnel, hence saving many Allied lives," he added.
No one can say for sure who the first dog to parachute was. This undated photo (most likely from between 1920 and 1924) shows members of the Colorado Air National Guard with dog Jeff, wearing his parachute. After making several successful jumps, he was killed in August 1924, when his chute failed to open.
Most observers on the Hill thought the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 – also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act – was just the latest and boldest in a long line of deregulatory handouts to Wall Street that had begun in the Reagan years.
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A tiny provision in the bill also permitted commercial banks to delve into any activity that is "complementary to a financial activity and does not pose a substantial risk to the safety or soundness of depository institutions or the financial system generally."
Complementary to a financial activity. What the hell did that mean?
"From the perspective of the banks," says Saule Omarova, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, "pretty much everything is considered complementary to a financial activity."
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Today, banks like Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs own oil tankers, run airports and control huge quantities of coal, natural gas, heating oil, electric power and precious metals. They likewise can now be found exerting direct control over the supply of a whole galaxy of raw materials crucial to world industry and to society in general, including everything from food products to metals like zinc, copper, tin, nickel and, most infamously thanks to a recent high-profile scandal, aluminum.
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... banks aren't just buying stuff, they're buying whole industrial processes. They're buying oil that's still in the ground, the tankers that move it across the sea, the refineries that turn it into fuel, and the pipelines that bring it to your home. Then, just for kicks, they're also betting on the timing and efficiency of these same industrial processes in the financial markets – buying and selling oil stocks on the stock exchange, oil futures on the futures market, swaps on the swaps market, etc.
Allowing one company to control the supply of crucial physical commodities, and also trade in the financial products that might be related to those markets, is an open invitation to commit mass manipulation. It's something akin to letting casino owners who take book on NFL games during the week also coach all the teams on Sundays.
The situation has opened a Pandora's box of horrifying new corruption possibilities, but it's been hard for the public to notice, since regulators have struggled to put even the slightest dent in Wall Street's older, more familiar scams. In just the past few years we've seen an explosion of scandals – from the multitrillion-dollar Libor saga (major international banks gaming world interest rates), to the more recent foreign-currency-exchange fiasco (many of the same banks suspected of rigging prices in the $5.3-trillion-a-day currency markets), to lesser scandals involving manipulation of interest-rate swaps, and gold and silver prices.
But those are purely financial schemes. In these new, even scarier kinds of manipulations, banks that own whole chains of physical business interests have been caught rigging prices in those industries. For instance, in just the past two years, fines in excess of $400 million have been levied against both JPMorgan Chase and Barclays for allegedly manipulating the delivery of electricity in several states, including California. In the case of Barclays, which is contesting the fine, regulators claim prices were manipulated to help the bank win financial bets it had made on those same energy markets.
And last summer, The New York Times described how Goldman Sachs was caught systematically delaying the delivery of metals out of a network of warehouses it owned in order to jack up rents and artificially boost prices.