Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mozilla (Firefox) attacks Congress; denounce CISPA

RT - Published: 02 May, 2012

Silicon Valley’s Mozilla Corporation has tasked themselves with extinguishing a fire, and no, it’s not what you have in mind.

Mozilla, the Mountain View, California-based developers responsible for creating the hugely successful Firefox Web browser, has issued a statement publicly condemning the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA. In a memo sent to Forbes’ data security department on late Tuesday, Mozilla’s privacy and public policy official explains that its newly-publicized stance is not one that encourages online cyber attacks, but merely establishes that the company is in favor of protecting the rights of its users.

“While we wholeheartedly support a more secure Internet, CISPA has a broad and alarming reach that goes far beyond Internet security,” reads the statement. “The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity, and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse. We hope the Senate takes the time to fully and openly consider these issues with stakeholder input before moving forward with this legislation.”

Mozilla’s issues with CISPA mirror opposition that was voiced last week on Capitol Hill during debates over the legislation. Rep Jan Schakowsky (D Illinois) said the cybersecurity bill “still fails to adequately safeguard the privacy of Americans” and that the government needs to be able to “combat the serious threat of cyber attacks and still insure that we are protecting our computer systems and the civil liberties of Americans.”

Jared Polis, a Democratic rep for Colorado, issued similar concerns, stating, “CISPA represents a massive government overreach in the name of security” and that “Any America that values his or her privacy should be concerned.”

At this point, however, the US Senate is now the only Washington entity that stands between CISPA and the desk of President Barack Obama. In a hurried vote last Thursday, the US House of Representatives passed the bill in its current form much to the chagrin of lawmakers like Schakowsky and Polis, essentially leaving approval from the other side of Congress the only thing that the bill needs to be brought to the White House.

Advisers for President Obama have issued a statement on their own part insisting that the administration will recommend that the commander-in-chief vetoes the bill if it is brought to the Oval Office, although critics have already come out to call the move another example of election year pandering. The White House issued a similar statement last year regarding the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or the NDAA. Originally the Obama administration said that the president had issues over the bill’s provisions regarding the indefinite detention of American citizens, although Obama eventually inked his name to the paper on New Year’s Eve.

This time around, condemnation is indeed present in regards to CISPA’s future, but Mozilla’s just-released memorandum could be a catalyst in bringing more critics out of the woodwork. Although opponents of CISPA have certainly come out against the bill for weeks now, Mozilla’s statement is among one of the first released by a major Internet entity. Other Silicon Valley giants such as IBM, Facebook and Microsoft still stand in favor of the bill. In recent days, it was reported that Microsoft switched stances and would formally oppose CISPA. This week, however, Digital Journal reports that a spokesperson for the company now confirms that the official Microsoft stance on CISPA is “unchanged,” returning Bill Gates’ billion-dollar corporation to the supportive side of CISPA.

That isn’t to say, of course, that widespread opposition of CISPA is far from rampant. In the recent days since CISPA’s passing, critics have continued to speak up against the act. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, presidential hopeful Ron Paul and the American Civil Liberties Union have all taken an anti-CISPA stance, as well as the popular web forum Reddit.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Power of Plutocracy

May Day! May Day!!

Last Tuesday, Mayday, 2012, tens of thousands from Occupy Wall Street and a coalition of unions and immigrant rights groups marched in New York, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major cities to protest economic inequality and to celebrate other possibilities. The dominant theme of these marches and rallies was economic justice, with a significant proportion of marchers expressing their desire for an alternative to capitalism.

Despite being four years into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, America, by aggregate measures, is about as rich as it has ever been. Per capita GDP has declined, but not nearly in proportion to the degree of economic misery being experienced by a large number of us. Our problem is that a small group of corporate executives and bankers have taken a wildly disproportionate share of what America produces and left only crumbs for the rest of us.

This epic of financial capitalism has produced little real wealth but it has been an effective tool for shifting existing wealth from those who produced it to a small group of plutocrats via a state / financial nexus. The only proposed solutions emanating from the plutocrat / state are for more of the same policies that have destroyed the American economy, polity and culture. The sad truth is that the economic elite benefit from our declining wages and the looting of our social resources in direct proportion to what we lose. The economic elite has launched a class war against us and they have indicated every intention of seeing it continue.

Current circumstances are understood in a general sense by most of us and in some great detail by a significant number. Legal scholars and current and former criminal prosecutors have identified a large number of actionable financial, war and environmental crimes committed by the financial and political elite that have gone un-prosecuted and unpunished. A social division exists where the rich and the politically connected have impunity for theirs crimes while the police and the surveillance state are used as tools of social control and political repression against the rest of us. Were redress available through the established order, criminal prosecutions of culpable elites would already have taken place.

Meanwhile, a set of concrete economic proposals that would immediately improve the lives of those most affected by the current economic crisis, as well those of the long-term dispossessed, exists without being enacted and with no impetus for enacting them from either major political party. These include:
(1) A government works program that would guarantee a job to every person who can work and who wants a job
(2) Medicare for all that would guarantee access to healthcare for all citizens regardless of their ability to pay
(3) Expanded programs of food security that would guarantee healthy, adequate and nutritious food for everyone in America
(4) Free access to public education for every American from pre-school through graduate school including trade school education that would feed the trades and the government works program
(5) Increased funding for the arts that would revive American culture and shift the cultural focus from joyless striving to facilitating a creative, peaceful and nurturing world.

These programs would immediately put America back to work in socially useful and productive endeavors. These programs would stop the downward economic spiral that capitalist policies have produced and the newly employed would pay into social programs creating a new virtuous set of economic relationships.

Enacting these programs would require undoing the existing economic / political order that has created current conditions and that is determined to continue on the path that has led most of us to economic ruin. The political capture the existing plutocracy has achieved must be ended for meaningful change to occur. The power of the plutocracy lies in income inequality—political capture has been purchased with economic capture. Economic disparity is at the root of current conditions. This economic disparity derives from specific economic policies designed to bring it about and not from any process of nature. Economic disparity can begin to be rectified through a set of polices that include:
(1) Set maximum total compensation for corporate executives at 3X the total compensation of the lowest paid workers.
(2) Restore progressive taxation to 90+% of income that includes a wealth tax charged for the provision of programs to maintain social well being and stability (e.g. those listed above).
(3) Fund political campaigns with public money alone and enact laws against private funding of political campaigns
(4) Open the political process by including any candidate who can get 5,000 signatures of support in any campaign for national political office
(5) Require that equal time be given to each of these candidates and require that media companies provide extensive platforms for political debate in exchange for the licensing privileges that they already enjoy
(6) Review all government contracts to private industry and redirect contracts according to principles of maximizing social well-being, international peace and the nurturing of a peaceful, creative culture. Find new employment for those displaced in this process in the government works program if private jobs don’t exist for them.
(7) Immediately end all military aggression overseas, bring the troops home to guaranteed jobs and redirect all military resources to productive use while maintaining the minimal structure necessary for mutual defense.
(8) Immediately limit permissible banking activities to the straightforward provisioning of credit to unaffiliated creditworthy borrowers and place displaced bankers in government works programs if private employment is not available

These proposals are designed to provide a starting point for political dialogue. They are not the collective views of Occupy Wall Street or any group mentioned in this piece. With this understood, there already is a set of concrete proposals on the table from the plutocracy and their political servants. It includes the continued consolidation of wealth, endless war, increasing environmental destruction, increasing surveillance, control and political repression of the populace and the continued promotion of joyless consumption as the purpose of life. That is their vision. What then is ours?

May the 4th Be with You

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The 86 million invisible unemployed

AMERICA'S JOBS CRISISBy Annalyn Censky @CNNMoney  May 3, 2012

Last year, 86 million Americans were not counted in the labor force because they didn't keep up a regular job search. Most of them were either under age 25 or over age 65.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- There are far more jobless people in the United States than you might think.

While it's true that the unemployment rate is falling, that doesn't include the millions of nonworking adults who aren't even looking for a job anymore. And hiring isn't strong enough to keep up with population growth.

As a result, the labor force is now at its smallest size since the 1980s when compared to the broader working age population.

"We've been getting some job growth and it's been significant, but it hasn't yet been strong enough that you start to get people re-engaging in the labor market," said Keith Hall, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job market dropouts
A person is counted as part of the labor force if they have a job or have looked for one in the last four weeks. Only about 64% of Americans over the age of 16 currently fall into that category, according to the Labor Department. That's the lowest labor force participation rate since 1984.

It's a worrisome sign for the economy and partly explains why the unemployment rate has been falling recently. Only people looking for work are considered officially unemployed.

Jason Everett, for example, wouldn't be counted.

Out of work for nearly three years now, Everett has given up his job search altogether.

Instead, the unemployed plumber and Air Force veteran takes a few community college courses and looks after his two children while his wife is the primary breadwinner.

"I'm not even totally convinced the college degree is really going to help at this point, but I figure at least I'll be doing something," he said.
The unofficially unemployed
Last year there were 86 million people who didn't have a job and weren't consistently looking for one, according to Labor Department data.

Older people, ages 65 and over, account for more than a third. Young people between 16 and 24 make up another fifth. More than half don't have a college degree and more than two thirds are white.

Many of the teens and 20-somethings may be enrolled in either high school or college full-time. And many of the over 65 crowd are probably retired.

But what about the other 36 million folks who fall in between?

The truth is, the Labor Department simply doesn't know why they're not in the labor force. Many may be staying home with children or other relatives. Some may have gone back to school or retraining programs. Others could be disabled and unable to work, and some may have retired early.

"Even in the best of times, there are millions of people who don't want to work for a variety for reasons," Hall said.

But he suspects the number of "disengaged" Americans, like Everett, is higher than usual as a direct result of the recession.
About six million people claim they want a job, even though they haven't looked for one in the last four weeks. If they were to all start applying for work again, the unemployment rate would suddenly shoot up above 11%.
Check the unemployment rate in your state
"At this point, the labor market is worse than people realize because people are discouraged. Certainly, a large number of workers have given up on the job market," Hall said.

That said, the decline in labor force participation is not a new problem. After peaking at 67.3% in early 2000, the rate has been falling ever since.

Researchers at the Chicago Federal Reserve attribute a large part of the decline to the recent recession and lackluster recovery, but the other half to long-term demographic trends.

For example, as more women entered the labor force between the 1960s and 1990s, the participation rate rose rapidly. That effect may have plateaued since then.

Meanwhile, as Baby Boomers entered their prime working years, they also drove the participation rate higher. Once they started hitting their 50s and 60s though, many started transitioning into retirement.

Finally, teenage jobs have been on the decline and college enrollment picked up in the last decade, leading more young people to not be counted in the labor force.

As these trends continue, the Chicago Fed expects the labor force participation rate will keep falling, hitting 62.4% by 2020.

That poses a problem for a variety of reasons.

It hits tax revenue and makes it harder to fund social safety nets like Social Security. Not to mention, it's likely to increase income inequality.

Most importantly though, it makes the U.S. economy less productive and weighs on growth.

Signs of the (t)(cr)imes

Apple Has Destroyed 490,000 American Jobs

Eric Platt and Ben Duronio | May 1, 2012 - Business Insider

After taking heat for shipping jobs to China and contracting to employers with questionable labor conditions, Apple (rather publicly) took credit for creating more than half a million jobs in the U.S.

514,000 to be exact.

That figure included nearly 50,000 employees in its retail network and its corporate headquarters, where products are designed.

But it also included FedEx and UPS employees who deliver its products and employees at Corning who make glass for iPads and iPhones.

So Apple basically counts anyone vaguely associated with the company or its products as a job that Apple created.

But what about the competitors Apple has bumped off in its relentless move to the top? What about the once-profitable markets, products, and companies it has destroyed? What happened to those jobs?

Business Insider analyzed data on Bloomberg, went through dozens of 10-Ks, and read through layoff announcements to see how Apple's peers have done.

What we found:

Apple has destroyed nearly as many jobs as it helped create, eliminating some 490,570 positions.

Click here to see the jobs that Apple has destroyed >

So even if Apple had created all the jobs it takes credit for creating, its chest-thumping would be misplaced, to say the least.

The truth, of course, is it is not "companies" or "entrepreneurs" who create jobs--it is healthy economic ecosystems that create jobs. (If Apple's customers couldn't afford to buy Apple's products, Apple wouldn't create a single job, no matter how cool Apple's products were). Companies are an important element of those ecosystems, but to credit them for job-creation is to give them a lot more credit than they deserve.

But that's another story.

For now, let's take a detailed look at all the jobs Apple has destroyed or helped destroy.

Here's our methodology:

Business Insider identified some 50 companies that Apple's success has impacted, including big names like IBM and HP, and smaller ones like Barnes & Noble and Adobe.

Some companies and peers prospered. Most did not, announcing a combined 306,606 layoffs over the past several years.

In choosing the companies, Business Insider took a liberal approach to the businesses hit by Apple. Could you attribute all of Circuit City's problems to Apple? Probably not. BI used similar definitions as Apple to identify these companies.

Apple was unresponsive to repeated request for comment.

Those layoffs include direct competitors like Cisco's flip camera business, which the company shuttered after poor sales, and companies like AOL,  which lose out on lucrative search traffic because of Apple's choice to default to Google.

We also looked at Apple's decision to contract to private companies like UPS and FedEx instead of using public services like the U.S. Postal Service, as well as loopholes it uses in U.S. tax law to save billions of dollars a year.

The figure above does not include the jobs Apple could have created had it manufactured its products in America — instead of at Foxconn plants in China — because the corporate mantra to cut costs and build products overseas is not simply tied to the Cupertino, Calif., based company.

Business Insider also considered the ripple effect of layoffs in the U.S. When a company fires hundreds of employees, it curtails regional spending, causing restaurants and retailers to close their doors, decreases tax collection at the state, local, and federal level, and can trigger other rounds of layoffs elsewhere in the economy.

Using data from the Economic Policy Institute, coupled with average pay in industries that saw lay offs because of Apple's success, Business Insider estimated the additional loss to the employment picture at some 180,000 jobs.

Taking that into account with the 306,000 layoffs from competitors, Apple has destroyed some 490,570 positions in the U.S.

Circuit City Layoffs: 42,974 
At its peak, Circuit City employed more than 42,000 people in its stores and corporate offices, offering the only real competing electronics network to Best Buy. But as Apple took greater share of the PC market, and had sustainable margins, Circuit City had difficulty keeping up. Add in the collapse of LCD TV prices and by the holiday season in 2008, Circuit City filed for bankruptcy and laid off its staff.
Source: Bloomberg and Company Filings
Federal Government Layoffs: 42,105
One of the biggest revelations from the recent New York Times piece was the amount of money Apple saved by using tax loop-holes. Sullivan estimated that number at $2.4 billion in 2011 (Federal Taxes). Divide that by the average rate of pay for public employees in 2011 and you get to some 42,000 lost jobs.
Kodak Layoffs: 28,000
Kodak has had problems for a number of years - with total employment declining from more than 100,000 to just 17,100 today. The iPhone and other mobile devices have eliminated the demand for stand alone cameras, and Kodak was a company that suffered greatly from the link between cameras and phones. The 131-year-old company filed for bankruptcy in January. 
Hewlett Packard Layoffs: 16,995
The iPad has made what was once a dominant PC builder an afterthought. HP attempted to enter the tablet game, but their touchpad was a disaster and they have laid off thousands of employees over the past few years (especially after costly purchases like Compaq).
Source: Bloomberg
Motorola Layoffs: 16,474
Motorola has had a painful decade after the success of its Razr - only recently regaining some strength in mobile. But after the Razr fizzled, Motorola hemorrhaged money, as well as headcount, as it tried to create a product that could compete with the iPhone.
Borders Layoffs: 16,600
Apple hardware made a number of businesses obsolete: including the need to buy physical copies of books, movies and music. Borders went bankrupt after consumers moved to digital downloads and streaming online, all fueled by Apple.
Source: Company Filings

Sprint Layoffs: 14,600
Sprint struggled to gain post-paid subscribers for years because it did not offer a device comparable to the iPhone. After AT&T and Verizon exclusivity deals finally expired, it gained the iPhone and saw some growth in subscribers.
Source: Bloomberg

IBM Layoffs: 12,668
IBM conducted a number of layoffs over the past several years, including several thousand people in research in development roles and those in certain hardware businesses that it could not compete in - on the consumer side, that was fueled by gains at companies like Apple.
Source: Bloomberg

Musical Group Layoffs: 12,500
Performing art and spectator sport employment declined from a peak of 415,000 in 2007, to a preliminary estimate of 402,500 in March of 2012. The music industry has faced substantive difficulty since Napster hit (and continues with the lower share groups are paid on iTunes), making it harder for music groups to sign with a label and get backing.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (ID: CES7071100001)
Ericsson Layoffs: 10,690
GlassdoorIn the 1990's Ericsson actually had abot 35 percent of the cell phone market. Needless to say, they did not keep up with the technology to compete with Apple and the rest.
Source: Bloomberg

U.S. Postal Service Layoffs: 10,615
Apple attributed part of its 514,000 job creation figure to shipping giants UPS and FedEx. But the truth is, it just moved the needle away from the U.S. Postal Service by using the private providers. According to Bloomberg estimates, Amazon accounts for 1.9 percent of big brown's revenue. Using that as a reference point, and the fact that Apple revenues are more than twice Amazon's, Business Insider constructed the number of jobs Apple could have sustained if it shipped its products through the USPS.
Source: Business Insider Estimate 
Barnes & Noble Layoffs: 9,000
The Nook has kept Barnes & Noble around as competitors like Borders failed, but its core business remains significantly challenged as Apple's products have moved consumers away from traditional physical units. BKS has closed a number of stores and employs 9,000 fewer people today than it did in 2007.
Source: Company Filings

Blockbuster Layoffs: 7,200
Streaming services have butchered the DVD and VHS business, and Blue Ray has not been the boon many industry analysts thought it would. Since 2007, Blockbuster has laid off more than 20,000 employees. BI attributed a third of those who lost their jobs to Apple.
Source: Company Filings

CompUSA Layoffs: 6,300
It's a repeat of Circuit City, just on a smaller scale. The computer superstore withered in the face of intense electronic retail competition and closed 126 stores, as Apple prospered and gained share.
Source: Business Insider Estimate

Sony Layoffs: 6,000
Sony once held a dominant market position in the portable music business with the Sony Walkman and other entertainment devices. The iPod made the Walkman the new 8-track player, and Apple has pressured Sony in the laptop market as well with the iPad and its Mac lineup. (These figures do not include mobile layoffs, attributed to Ericsson).
Source: Bloomberg

RadioShack Layoffs: 6,000
This retailer has faced significant challenges over the past few years as its main wireless offerings (Sprint, T-Mobile) did not sell the iPhone. RadioShack did have AT&T, and recently switched T-Mobile for Verizon Wireless. Still, its shelves are purgatory for HDMI cables and old electronics Apple seems to have made obsolete.
Source: Company Filings

Microsoft Layoffs: 5,827
Microsoft has struggled in the ancillary businesses Apple is prospering in, such as mobile, portable music, and the tablet industry. These struggles forced the software juggernaut to make cuts over the past few years.
Source: Bloomberg

Yahoo! Layoffs: 5,780
Yahoo! has struggled over the years as it has been outmoded by Google. So why is Apple to blame? The default search engine on all of Apple's products are Google, which gives the search giant a nice leg up.
Source: Bloomberg

Xerox Layoffs: 5,400
Xerox has laid off thousands of employees as its printer business steadily declined. Part of that has to do with difficulty within both the PC and inkjet sectors — industries you don't need when you use a Mac. The Xerox layoffs are based on total company announced firings, multiplied by the company's long-term asset base in the U.S. as a percent of global operations (to exclude impact to its international offices).
Source: Bloomberg

AMD Layoffs: 4,460
Apple uses intel chips in their Mac computers, which means AMD misses out on a huge potential market.
Source: Bloomberg

Best Buy Layoffs: 3,400
With Apple retail stores opening (and intense competition from Amazon) Best Buy has struggled to turn weak comparable store sales around. The company recently announced 400 layoffs in corporate as well as the closing of 50 stores.
Source: Company Filings, Business Insider Estimate

Tower Records Layoffs: 3,000
Apple's assault on the music industry hit retailers particularly hard, with stateside closings of Virgin, HMV and Sam Goody. The iPod greatly accelerated the losses of record stores as consumers switched to digital downloads (whether legal or through sites like Napster and LimeWire).
Source: New Reports

Trans World Entertainment (Sam Goody, F.Y.E.) Layoffs: 2,900
Tower Records part two. Trans World, the owner of chain stores including Coconuts, Sam Goody, and Record Town, has closed hundreds of stores and laid off thousands. Blame the iPod.
Source: Company Filings

Gateway (Acer) Layoffs: 2,500
Gateway once ran quite the successful retail chain, but a crowded environment made its PCs seem outmoded and overly expensive. Gateway ultimately closed its entire 188-store division, invested in eMachines and was then bought out by Acer during a period of consolidation. Apple did not have the same problem with its growing Mac business.
Source: News Reports

EMI Layoffs: 2,000
EMI is another record label drastically hurt by the world's move away from CDs. As the big five record companies became four, and now three, EMI had to layoff thousands and cut costs. Universal Music Group purchased EMI as greater consolidation became necessary to eek out some profits from online sales. Apple's role in the shift to digital (even as it offers a new revenue source) is pretty clear.
Source: News Reports

Lenovo Layoffs: 2,000
Lenovo was on the up when it purchased the ThinkPad unit from IBM with the goal to turn it into a dominant PC player. Unfortunately, PC sales were challenged during the recession, even as consumers scooped up Apple's Mac line up. Lenovo announced more than 2,000 layoffs to prop up margins (not included in figures for IBM).
Source: Bloomberg

Adobe Layoffs: 1,950
Adobe's issues with Apple are well documented. The company started a viral campaign to convince Apple to put Flash in its mobile devices. But Steve Jobs didn't warm to that approach, firing off a memo on his thoughts of Adobe (not too flattering). Adobe ultimately had to layoff some 1,950 as it focused on core operations and curtailed special projects.
Source: Bloomberg

T-Mobile Layoffs: 1,900
T-Mobile has lost share without having the iPhone in its device lineup, a sore point for the company that pinned its hopes on joining forces with the carrier that first offered it. But with the FCC blocking the AT&T merger, T-Mobile has had to pare back its operations to invest in 4G technology.
Source: Bloomberg

EMC Layoffs: 1,476
The very profitable cloud computing company has had to issue job cuts after competitors gained share in the market it helped create. Those competitors, like DropBox, have leveraged Apple's iOS platform and taken share through strong offerings on the iPad and iPhone.
Source: Company Filings

Palm Layoffs: 1,247
Palm hoped that the Pre and Pixi smartphones could compete with the iPhone and that it could offer some semblance of a comeback. After first sales looked promising, the products withered as Apple (and Android), continued to grow. Palm was then purchased by HP, before the company decided to shutter the whole unit. (Palm layoffs not included in HP figures).
Source: Company Filings

Virgin Megastores Layoffs: 1,060
Virgin Megastores had a surprisingly profitable run, with giant stores in Times Square generating healthy margins. But when digital sales decimated book, movie and music sales, Virgin decided to cut its losses and sell off its coveted real estate holdings which housed the Megastores.
Source: News Reports

Dell Layoffs: 905
Against Apple's strong gains with its Mac computers, Dell has seemed staid. The company has difficulty competing with Apple's premium offerings, and when demand for its PCs slumped, it saw margins substantively pressured. Dell has yet to find a way to successfully compete with any of Apple's other products — including mobile, mp3 players, and tablets.
Source: Bloomberg

AOL Layoffs: 800 
AOL was supposed to be the darling of the Internet age, until it wasn't. Torn up by larger competitors like Google, AOL has forged ahead with a push into content. But what the company used to bet on, search, is stymied by Apple's choice to default to Google on its iPad, iPhone and MacBook lines.
Source: Bloomberg 
Cisco Layoffs: 500
Networking giant Cisco has tried to push into the consumer sphere for sometime, and it thought it had a hit with the well priced flip camera business. But the camera never took off as consumers defaulted to their iPhones to take photos. Cisco ended up closing the business and laying off the employees in the division.
Source: Bloomberg

Warner Music Group Layoffs: 300
Warner Music Group is yet another music company hit by the move to digital and purchases on iTunes (you could argue that it performed better than most of the industry during the transition). Warner was forced to lay off 300 employees as revenues struggled.
Source: Company Filings

Hasbro Layoffs: 200
Who needs board games when you can use an iPad or iPhone to entertain yourself? Hasbro decided to close its board-game manufacturing plant in Massachusetts after demand dried up. You can blame that on the success of games like Words With Friends on your iPhone.
Source: Bloomberg

IAC ( Layoffs: 170 was once a powerhouse in search (depending on how you define powerhouse) but as the iPhone and iPad grew mobile search, Ask lost out. The company decided to axe some 170 employees over two different periods as it gave up on the product.
Source: Bloomberg

Universal Music Group Layoffs: 110
Universal, much like Warner, is one of the three main remaining music companies. The company has laid off some 110 employees as traditional CD sales tumbled. Recording companies have been upset with Apple's pricing strategy for some time, but that has lessened as Apple changed it's $0.99 per song requirement.
Source: News Reports

Usury (interest on loans) Has Always Been a Sin--What Happened?

What ever happened to the immorality (and illegality) of usury?

Given the numerous verses in the Bible explicitly forbidding it -- far more than all the scriptural references to abortion or homosexuality added together -- you'd think in a "Christian" society, with so many politically-engaged Bible-believers, usury would be a hot button issue.

The Prophet Ezekiel, for example, declared usury an "abominable thing" and put it in the same category as rape, murder, robbery and idolatry. (Ezekiel 18:19-13).

The Code of Hammurabi instituted regulations for interest-bearing loans. Both Plato and Aristotle considered usury to be immoral and unjust. The Romans had the "Twelve Tables" and capped interest rates at 8.3 percent.
The Quran says "those who take usury will arise on the Day of Resurrection like someone tormented by Satan's touch."

Hinduism and Buddhism have also historically frowned on the practice.

Even though neocons like to forget it, American religion has a long and distinguished tradition of usury prohibition. 

Adam Smith, the "father of the free-market capitalism" strongly supported the control of usury. While he wasn't against an all-out prohibition of charging interest, Smith argued for a cap on interest rates, thinking it would provide low-risk borrowers involved in socially useful investments access to necessary funds, even with "the greater part of the money...(being) lent to prodigals and projectors (investors in risky, speculative ventures), who alone would be willing to give (an unregulated) high interest rate."

At the founding of the nation in 1776, every state in the Union adopted a general usury law that capped interest rates at six percent. It wasn't until the early 1900s that a concerted push was made to relax usury laws, though the usury-be-damned mentality didn't really hit its stride until the Reagan Revolution, setting in motion a process of deregulation that led us right smack into derivatives, credit-default-swaps, and other "financial weapons of mass destruction" of the lending business, and voilĂ  - the Great Recession.

The bailed-out banking industry could care less, of course. "Imposing interest-rate caps will deny tens of millions of Americans access to credit," says Ken Clayton, senior vice president and general counsel for card policy at the American Bankers Association. "Low- and moderate-income Americans, and small businesses, would suffer. This is exactly the wrong result if you want to increase lending."

Translation: unless lenders can gouge credit consumers, only the affluent will be served.

Whatever happened to usury and interest rate limits? It died in the Senate, just like Wall Street wanted, though it's hard to miss the irony of a "godless" socialist like Bernie Sanders being the one to lead the (unsuccessful) charge in the Senate to bring back that ole time religion. Sadly, it didn't have a prayer.

Smile, you are a Civilian Internee!

By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie

As every day passes, it becomes clearer that our once-free nation is quickly turning down the path of a totalitarian police state, as embodied by thepassage of S.1867 in the Senate and H.R.1540 in the House.

With the knowledge that KBR is developing a so-called “National Quick Response Team” to man the detention centers on 72 hours’ notice, the picture only gets more grim.

This trend is also reflected in the recent United States Army job posting for Internment/Resettlement Specialists.

While this might sound tame and harmless to some, upon reading the job description a troubling picture emerges.

The Internment/Resettlement Specialist, or I/R Specialist for short, is not only tasked with handling the custody and control of individuals designated as an Enemy Prisoner of War (EPW) but also of so-called Civilian Internees (CIs).

This is a classic example of Orwellian language. You’re not an American citizen being indefinitely imprisoned by the military in a military prison; instead you’re a Civilian Internee in a Civilian Internee Camp.

In this article you will learn exactly what a Civilian Internee is, what few rights are afforded to them and just how oppressed a Civilian Internee actually is, according to the military’s own documents on the subject.

We will delve into great detail, showing the exact language and ways that Civilian Internees are controlled and prevented from making any real contact with the outside world or being able to seek out justice.

I don’t think that anyone is blind enough to find the title of Civilian Internee reassuring, especially considering the fact that Civilian Internee is the exact designation assigned to the Japanese-Americans who were locked up during World War II.

These innocent Americans were put in so-called internment camps which bore a striking resemblance to the concentration camps of Nazi-era Germany, for committing no crime other than being of a certain ancestral origin.

If our government would lock up hardworking, patriotic Americans simply for being of Japanese descent, it is not a leap to think that they would do the same for the political opposition.

Civilian Internee is actually a specific status of prisoner under the Geneva Conventions which is supposed to designate civilians who are detained during wartime, supposedly for security reasons.

However, as we all know, the Japanese people being locked up were no security threat at all, in fact, despite the grand betrayal embodied by the internment of innocent American citizens; many Americans of Japanese descent actually went and fought for the United States in World War II.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army was a prime example of this, as it was a unit composed entirely of Japanese-American soldiers.

They fought in Italy, Southern France and Germany and were in fact the most highly-decorated regiment in the entire history of the armed forces of the United States with 21 recipients of the Medal of Honor.

The fact that such individuals would put their lives on the line and fight for a nation that was detaining their friends and family is almost unbelievable, but they did it and yet our government is likely going to repeat the same horrific mistakes they made in the past.

I just wonder if this time around people will actually continue to go off and fight for a country that is engaging in the exact practices we are supposed to oppose and fight against around the world.

Specifically, the job description lists under advanced responsibilities that the I/R Specialist may be involved in, “Provide command and control, staff planning, administration/logistical services, and custody/control for the operation of an Enemy Prisoner of War/Civilian Internee (EPW/CI) camp.”

There are some publicly available military documents that go into more detail about what exactly a Civilian Internee is and how they are treated.

Despite the somewhat innocent sounding designation, Civilian Internees have little to no rights and are essentially totally powerless while in military detention.

There are lots of purely ceremonial rights granted to Civilian Internees like the ability to vote for representatives to speak for the camp, but the military can refuse to allow anyone who is voted in to actually hold the position.

Therefore, the representatives of the Civilian Internees would likely be nothing more than sycophantic lapdogs who bow before the officers in charge of the camp.

Anyone who would actually represent the Civilian Internees would just be blocked by the military, as it is explicitly written that they can do exactly that.

In the Army Regulation 190-8 document also called “Enemy Prisoners of War, Retained Personnel, Civilian Internees and Other Detainees,” which is available on the Air Force’s website, some details are given on what exactly Civilian Internees are and how they are treated.

Chapter 6 of the document, entitled “Administration and Operation of CI Internment Facilities,” beginning on page 23 of the PDF (page 19 of the document), delves into some of these issues.

Beginning with section 6-3, we learn that Civilian Internees have no real right to property under this military rule.

While they pretend to give the detainees property rights, it is clear that they can strip you of your belongings at any time for any reason.

Sub-section b. states, “The personal effects that detainees are allowed to retain, but are taken from them temporarily for intelligence purposes, will be receipted for and returned as soon as practical.”

Essentially, they can claim your belongings are needed for intelligence purposes and hold them until it is deemed practical to return them.

When that would be is anyone’s guess but the language is clearly ambiguous enough to allow the military to strip Civilian Internees of any and all personal belongings for however long they please.

Section 6-4 goes over the so-called “Internee Committee” which is a two-three person committee which is “empowered to represent the camp to the protecting powers, International Committee of the Red Cross, or other authorized relief or aid organizations and U.S. military authorities.”

Once again, the military is able to determine what exactly you can do and this language clearly allows the military to deny access to any outside relief or aid organizations by saying that they are not authorized.

Under sub-section c. “Each member of the Internee Committee will be approved by the camp commander prior to assumption of duty. If the camp commander refuses to approve or dismisses an elected member, a notice to that effect with reasons for refusal or dismissal will be forwarded through channels to the Branch PWIC [Prisoner of War Information Center] for transmittal to the protecting power with a copy furnished to the NPWIC [National Prisoner of War Information Center].”

This committee is clearly a farce which is directly controlled by the military, as if those who are rounding up and detaining American citizens can be trusted with treating those prisoners fairly, which is a laughable assertion.

One of the duties of the Internee Committee is to present and transmit “petitions and complaints to the appropriate authorities,” but given that the committee can be hand selected by those who are operating the prison, there is no way that any real petitions or complaints would ever be filed by the puppet committee.

Yet it gets even worse, the Internment Committee handles, “The distribution and disposition of collective relief shipments.”

Meaning that the military’s lapdogs will be the ones with the power to distribute food and other supplies to whomever they wish.

They even handle, “The delivery of perishable goods to the infirmary when addressed to a CI undergoing disciplinary punishment.”

The Committee is also given access to postal and telegraphic facilities in order to communicate with the so-called “protecting powers,” also known as the people unjustly detaining civilians en masse without charge or trial, along with the “authorized” aid organizations.

Civilian Internees have to provide their own clothing and footwear and, “Except for work clothing or as circumstance warrant, or climatic conditions required, no replacement clothing will be issued.”

The clothing of Civilian Internees is marked with “CI” on the front and back of each sleeve in 4 inch tall black or white letters between the elbow and shoulder and on the front of pants and shorts above the knee and on the back below the belt.

The food situation is similarly unpleasant considering that “Subsistence for the CI will be issued on the basis of a master CI menu prepared by the theater commander.”

“The daily individual food ration will be sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to maintain the CI in good health and to prevent nutritional deficiencies,” although they make it clear that if you perform physical labor you receive more food depending on the kind of labor performed.

Therefore, if whatever food they decide is “sufficient in quantity, quality and variety” is not enough (which it likely won’t be) you’ll be forced to work hard manual labor to get additional food.

Although, you can use facilities to prepare “additional food received or procured by [the CI] from authorized sources.”

What these authorized sources are is unclear but it is likely the case, like in private prisons, that they will make foods available to prisoners at exorbitant prices which is all too appealing given the horrendous quality of the food provided.

Part of section 6-6, “Medical Care and Sanitation” clearly indicates that those who are unvaccinated will be forced to be vaccinated whether they like it or not.

“Each CI will be immunized or reimmunized as prescribed by theater policy,” meaning that if the commander of the theater (in this case, likely the United States of America itself) decides that certain vaccinations are mandatory, you are not allowed to be released into the general population until you receive them or as they put it “until medical fitness is determined.”

It gets even more fascinating when they get to section 6-7, “Social, Intellectual, and Religious activities,” which says, “Subject to security considerations and camp discipline, the CI will be encouraged, but not required, to participate in social, intellectual, religious, and recreational activities.”

Well, that doesn’t sound too bad, right?

The next sentence might change your mind, “Introducing political overtones into or furthering enemy propaganda objectives through these activities will not be tolerated.”

In other words, if you engage in discussing politics or the truth of the situation (which is likely to be designated as an act of furthering enemy propaganda objectives) you will not be allowed to participate in any social, intellectual, religious or recreational activities.

Furthermore, the entire ability to participate in any activities is dependent on “security considerations and camp discipline,” meaning that at any time they can suspend all activities for any reason or no reason at all.

They also delve into official visits by so-called “Duly accredited representatives of the protecting powers and of the International Committee of the Red Cross and other[s] [who] will be permitted to visit and inspect CI camps and other places of internment in the discharge of their official duties.”

However, “The inspections will be at times previously authorized by the theater commander.”

Yet again, they set up the false pretense of rights and justice just to undermine it by making it only at times authorized by the theater commander, meaning that they could easily cover up any wrongdoing long before the inspection takes place.

Even worse, they can prohibit the inspections altogether. “Such visits will not be prohibited, nor will their duration and frequency be restricted, except for reasons of imperative military necessity, and then only as a temporary measure.”

Who decides when it is an imperative military necessity and how long this temporary measure lasts? Well, of course, it is the military.

Getting regulators to regulate themselves works out so well in the case of the private Federal Reserve I can see why they would want to utilize such a tactic in a situation like this as well.

Visits with family are similarly restricted by whatever the theater commander decides to put in place. “Near relatives and other persons authorized by the theater commander will be permitted to visit the CI as frequently as possible in accordance with theater regulations. They should be advised that the taking of photographs on or about the facility is prohibited.”

They even have outlined a program to develop “vocational training projects with an immediate view of developing skills that may be useful during interment”.

While they claim that Civilian Internee clergy will be allowed to communicate with religious leaders on religious matters, they do say that it “will be subject to censorship.”

The restrictions on communications are outlined in section 6-8 and include no drawings, maps, or sketches in any outgoing correspondence, no registered certified, insured, COD, or airmail items will be allowed to be received by Civilian Internees, and “Censorship of the CI mail will be according to the policies established by the theater commander.”

This is where it gets really disturbing: “Outgoing letters and cards may be examined and read by the camp commander. The camp commander will return outgoing correspondence containing obvious deviations from regulations for rewriting.

“Camp commanders will name U.S. military personnel to supervise the opening of all mail pouches containing incoming letters and cards for CI. These items will be carefully examined by the named personnel before delivery to detainees. Those items that arrive without having been censored by appropriate censorship elements will be returned for censorship to the designated censorship elements.”

Is it just me or does this read like something out of a work of fiction? Essentially you won’t be able to read or write anything that the military overlords do not wish you to. If you attempt to report torture or other horrors to anyone on the outside they will either censor it or force you to rewrite it.

All packages received by CIs are searched and, if requested, examined by the so-called “censorship element.” They point out that they will closely examine all items and messages but also claim “undue destruction of contents of parcels will be avoided.”

Not quite reassuring, if you ask me.

To make matters even worse, if such a thing was possible, the CI is not allowed to make or receive any phone calls whatsoever.

Telegrams can be sent under certain specific conditions but they, too, are censored.

Civilian Internees may receive books but, “Books that arrive at camps uncensored will be censored by a representative of the censorship element.”

English-language newspapers and magazines published in the United States are allowed to be distributed to the camp library by approved relief or aid organizations at the camp commander’s discretion after they have been censored.

The manner in which Civilian Internees can attempt to file complaints is just as ludicrously unjust as the rest of the regulations we have gone over thus far.

Essentially they only way you can file complaints is through the Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA), Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans (ODCSOPS), National Prisoner of War Information Center (NWPIC), or in the case of “any act or allegation of inhumane treatment or other violations of this regulation will be reported to HQDA (DOMA-ODL), WASH DC 20310-0400 as a Serious Incident Report.”

Just like the other regulations we’ve gone over, there is a false impression of justice which crumbles under a moment’s scrutiny.

“Discipline and security” under section 6-10 is clearly taken seriously in the case of Civilian Internees.

The regulations state, “Measures needed to maintain discipline and security will be set up in each camp and rigidly enforced. Offensive acts against discipline will be dealt with promptly. The camp commander will record disciplinary punishments. The record will be open to inspection by the protecting power.”

Oddly enough, under this section it is written that no CI may have any political emblem, insignia, flag, or picture of a political leader unless it is a picture of a political leader that appeared in a magazine, book, or newspaper and wasn’t removed by the censorship element.

They also explicitly state that you are to be nice to your captors, “The normal civilian courtesies will be required of the CI in their relationships with military personnel.”

Under section 6-12 some of the “Disciplinary proceedings and punishments” are outlined including a list of some approved punishments.

These disciplinary measures include, “(1) Discontinuance of privileges granted over and above the treatment provided for by this regulation. (2) Confinement. (3) A fine not to exceed one-half of the wages that the CI may receive during a period of not more than 30 days. (4) Extra fatigue duties, not exceeding 2 hours daily, in connection with maintaining the internment camp.”

Any single disciplinary punishment cannot go on for more than 30 consecutive days, although further discipline can be imposed after a 3 day period between punishments of 10 days or more.

However, these regulations on discipline and judicial proceedings are likely to be waived due to the fact that the National Defense Authorization act would effectively override the need to comply with any of these regulations.

Civilian Internees can indeed be forced to perform labor. Compulsory labor is supposedly limited to: “(1) Administrative, maintenance, and domestic work in an internment camp. (2) Duties connected with the protection of the CIA against aerial bombardment or other war risks. (3) Medical duties if they are professionally and technically qualified.”

Civilian Internees are only allowed a rest period of 24 consecutive hours every week and any paid work is paid at a rate announced by the Department of the Army after the outbreak of hostilities.

The problem is not only that our government has a clearly outlined procedure for dealing with civilians who are locked up for no reason at all, but that our government has a history of doing exactly that.

It is also quite dangerous that under the NDAA, American citizens could easily be classified as Enemy Prisoners of War instead of Civilian Internees, giving them even less rights.

Furthermore, under section 1031, anyone can be shipped off to any foreign country or handed over to any foreign entity, essentially waiving what few rights are afforded under there regulations.

With our so-called representatives in Congress voting 406-17 to make portions of the meetings in which they discuss H.R.1540 and S.1867 closed to the public in order to avoid public scrutiny, we are truly entering the dark ages of American history.

Those individuals in Washington who we elected to represent us are now passing legislation that is literally waging war against the people of the United States while keeping certain aspects of the process completely secret.

These developments should be disturbing to every single American, no matter what your political persuasion.

We are watching the brutal counterterrorism apparatus that has plagued foreign nations and resulted in the pain and suffering of countless people around the globe turn back around against us.

What will it take for the people of America to stand up and demand that our rights, as outlined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, be preserved?

Will it really take seeing your friends, family and neighbors snatched up in the middle of the night, never to be seen again? If we really wait that long, I fear that it will be too late.

Yesterday Was a Sad Day for Dallas

DALLAS OBSERVER - Thu., May 3 2012  
By Jim Schutze

I sat in the front row of the folding chairs yesterday and gazed around the ceremonial "flag room" at City Hall. Mayor Mike Rawlings and a majority of the Dallas city council** were ganged up around the podium endorsing a plan to build a two-billion-dollar toll road next to the Trinity River between downtown and Oak Cliff.

Leaning against the long inside wall of the room like crows on a wire were the old rich white guys in suits, representing the city's traditional elite. Most of the chairs behind me were filled with their claque, an array of people who depend on them for jobs or appointments.

At the front of the room in the first row was the ever-dwindling and meager little pack of local reporters who still cover this sort of thing. And then to our right, outside I.M. Pei's glowering wall of glass, was the city, blanched and beleaguered on this warm windy day, gazing back at us as if hoping somebody in here would know what to do.

The whole thing was sad.

The basic concept -- wreck the riverfront to build a highway -- is an absurd buggy whip of an idea, an anachronistic concept so out of synch with modern urban reality it would be laughable if it didn't involve ruining this city's only natural geographic feature.

The mayor engaged in a serious amount of double-talk about regionalism and gridlock, knowing full well that none of that is the reason for this road. It was left to southern Dallas council person Vonciel Hill to blurt the truth -- at least what she's been told is the truth by the rich crows on the wire -- that, "where the road goes go the dollars." They think doing this will make them money. That's the real joke. Their secret agenda is a stupid agenda.

The ancient white leadership of the city has sold the hungry black leadership of the city on the notion that building a superhighway along the river will promote real estate development along its route, eventually including the tail-end of that route in black southern Dallas.

That's the stupid. That's the buggy whip. It won't work in black Dallas. It won't work in white Dallas. It won't work. The crows on the wire don't understand that urban districts don't grow on highways any more, if they ever did. They understand nothing about how the new inverted cities of the 21st century grow or why.

It's interesting that these people who have maintained relatively tight control over City Hall all these years actually made most of their own money on suburban raw-land development, betting successfully on flight.

Their basic template -- "access is success" -- comes from the 'burbs. That's what they are trying to replicate along the Trinity River. In their culture, bicycles are for village idiots; the only people who walk around are burglars; if you really want to see nature, get a plane ticket.

The crows on a wire really and truly believe that building a honking, roaring, stinking expressway on top of the river is going to make a lot of rich people want to come live in condo towers along the expressway. And people like Vonciel Hill really believe that the rich people have finally divulged how they do it, so she's along for the ride.

It's no ride. It's sad. Really. It's a lot of other things, too. But when I looked out through that big leaning window yesterday at that skyline waiting out there for answers, more than anything else I felt sad for our city.

** You might remember that 3 or 4 years ago, a majority of the Dallas City Council were under investigation by the FBI...~~jef

Declassified MK-Ultra Project Documents

Declassified MK-Ultra Project Documents:

Table of Contents: Pages 1-101
                Human behavioural controls. 

continued: .pages 102 to 200