An interesting piece in the Guardian this week about cashless commerce in Greece, where the currency crisis has prompted citizens to take unusual measures to obtain essential goods. One exchange website in particular is cited, and a unit of barter known as "tems." The network has been online for about a year and a half. Snip from a portion of Jon Henley's report about the open-air markets where tems are exchanged for daily neccessities:
“They’re quite joyous occasions,” she said. “It’s very liberating, not using money.” At one market, she said, she approached a woman who had come along with three large trays of homemade cakes and was selling them for a unit a cake. “I asked her: ‘Do you think that’s enough? After all, you had the cost of the ingredients, the electricity to cook …’
“She replied: ‘Wait until the market is over’, and at the end she had three different kinds of fruit, two one-litre bottles of olive oil, soaps, beans, a dozen eggs and a whole lot of yoghurt. ‘If I had bought all this at the supermarket,’ she said, ‘it would have cost me a great deal more than what it cost to make these cakes.’”
What rules the system has are designed to ensure the tems continue “to circulate, and work hard as a currency”, said Christos Pappionannou, a mechanical engineer who runs the network’s website using open-source software. No one may hold more than 1,200 tems in the account “so people don’t start hoarding; once you reach the top limit you have to start using them.” And no one may owe more than 300, so people “can’t get into debt, and have to start offering something.
Read the rest here. (via Clayton Cubitt, photo: Lambros Kazan/Shutterstock)
RECOMMEND: Follow RUBEN BOLLING on the twitters.Read the rest
Rainforest Action Network claims responsibility for the art-prank intervention.
RAN activists took to the streets of San Francisco last night and turned every Bank of America ATM in the city into an Automated Truth Machine.
The activists used special non-adhesive stickers designed to look exactly like BoA’s ATM interface. But instead of checking and savings accounts, these new menus offered a list of everything BoA customers’ money is being used for, including investment in coal-fired power plants, foreclosure on Americans’ homes, bankrolling of climate change, and paying for fat executive bonuses.
(Via Mother Jones)
The economy's recovered! For CEOs, that is. Exec pay is way, way, way
up in America. 40%
up. One CEO, John Hammergren at McKesson, took home $145M. The money-quote: "Bosses won in every area, with dramatic increases in pensions, payoffs and perks – as well as salary." Even for fired CEOs, it was a good year, with huge parachutes spun from finest gold.
Patrick Meighan, a writer on Family Guy, describes his arrest at Occupy LA, part of a brutal crackdown on 292 protesters whose belongings were destroyed and who were then subject to cruel (and in Mieghan's case, possibly crippling) detention. Meighan explains why he did it:
So that’s what happened to the 292 women and men were arrested last Wednesday. Now let’s talk about a man who was not arrested last Wednesday. He is former Citigroup CEO Charles Prince. Under Charles Prince, Citigroup was guilty of massive, coordinated securities fraud.
Citigroup spent years intentionally buying up every bad mortgage loan it could find, creating bad securities out of those bad loans and then selling shares in those bad securities to duped investors. And then they sometimes secretly bet *against* their *own* bad securities to make even more money. For one such bad Citigroup security, Citigroup executives were internally calling it, quote, “a collection of dogshit”. To investors, however, they called it, quote, “an attractive investment rigorously selected by an independent investment adviser”.
This is fraud, and it’s a felony, and the Charles Princes of the world spent several years doing it again and again: knowingly writing bad mortgages, and then packaging them into fraudulent securities which they then sold to suckers and then repeating the process. This is a big part of why your property values went up so fast. But then the bubble burst, and that’s why our economy is now shattered for a generation, and it’s also why your home is now underwater. Or at least mine is.
Anyway, if your retirement fund lost a decade’s-worth of gains overnight, this is why.
My Occupy LA Arrest, by Patrick Meighan
: "British embassies in the eurozone have been told to draw up plans to help British expatriates through the collapse of the single currency, amid renewed fears for Italy and Spain."
I have no idea who shot these, or who is responsible. Update: here are some daytime shots, from the San Francisco Mission district.
Read the rest
This weekend, Silicon Valley's premier convention venue is hosting a job fair -- for people who want to work in India:
A job fair at the San Jose Convention Center this weekend is focused on helping companies recruit Indian workers who may in the U.S. on a visa by informing them about the professional and economic opportunities back home.
Organizers also stressed that the job fair is also open to anyone who is interested in working in India.
Among the companies involved in the job fair are: Flipkart, an Indian online shopping company; consulting firm Accenture; and Amazon.com, which runs development centers in Indian cities.
Others include: McAfee, which is now part of Intel; SmartPlay Technologies, an Indian semiconductor firm; InfoTech Enterprises, an Indian engineering design firm; Indian manufacturing firm Jindal Steel & Power; Tata Motors; San Jose-based Synapse Design; and UST Global, an IT services firm.
Looking for work? Here's a job fair touting tech openings in India
Bank of America may have ditched its controversial debit-card fees for voluntary customers, but people on unemployment benefits who are forced to use the bank because it has to contract to administer their payments, there are plenty of fees in store. But hey, they can afford it -- a $264 unemployment check has lots of stretch in it, right?
To withdraw her benefits, Busby, 33, uses a Bank of America prepaid debit card on which the state deposits her funds. She could visit a Bank of America ATM free of charge. But this small community in the state's rural center, her hometown, does not have a Bank of America branch. Neither do the surrounding towns where she drops off her kids at school and attends church.
She could drive north to Columbia, the state capital, and use a Bank of America ATM there. But that entails a 50 mile drive, cutting into her gas budget. So Busby visits the ATMs in her area and begrudgingly accepts the fees, which reach as high as five dollars per transaction. She estimates that she has paid at least $350 in fees to tap her unemployment benefits.
"It really boggles my mind," she said. "This bank is taking little bits of money out of thousands of pockets, including mine."
Who needs predatory payday lenders when you've got enormous, fantastically profitable banks?
For Bank Of America, Debit Fees Extend To Unemployment Benefits
(Image: Bank of America building, Downtown Los Angeles, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 8047705@N02's photostream)
Is this really the final end of the Berlusconi era, or just another pause for the Cavaliere to catch his breath?
Will he return on a fresh horse as the savior of an ever-crumbling Italy, as he has done repeatedly for the past 20 years? Will my Italian friends finally be able to travel abroad without a miasma of shame, and not be forced to explain to all what a bunga bunga orgy means? Will the numerous foreigners living and working in Italy, legal, clandestine, and semiclandestine, be able to face their children and say: we did the right thing to come here? Will they say: a new day dawns on the peninsula, the specter of crisis, gloom and crime has finally lifted! Work hard for your future!
These are open questions, and frightening questions today in Italy after yesterday's dramatic countdown, and Berlusconi's declaration that he will step down only after passing an emergency law on the Italian economic crisis. United Europe and its presses have closely followed the saga of the decadent emperor. They know that it was global economics and not his domestic scandals that pried the scepter from his hands.
Italians are wondering : whatever next? How badly off is the Italian political culture, which after all is to be blamed for many times that Berlusconi has managed to take and hold power? Where was the legitimate opposition, why were the counter-forces so weak? After the fall of Milosevic in Serbia, the deeply corrupted and dysfunctional state system was hard put to maintain any pretense of a normal government. Can Italy recover, and behave like a major G-7 power again? How is that possible?
Read the rest
From a NYT opinion piece by Joe Nocera, "What the Costumes Reveal"—
On Friday, the law firm of Steven J.Read the rest
Charlie Stross goes on a tear with "A cultural thought experiment," looking at what the wealth of the 1 percent means, what it can't buy them, and how it might be viewed from a future society.
The diminishing marginal utility law dictates that the more money we have, the less utility we get from any additional incremental gain. And this bites the top 1% very hard indeed.
Examine the world around us from the point of view of someone with a net income of $5M/year ...
Food is essentially free; you can afford to spend $1000 per meal, three meals a day, in the most expensive restaurants in London or Tokyo or Manhattan, and not make a dent in your income. (Oddly, even the hyper-rich don't typically spend $1000 on lunch every day: a more realistic expectation might be to dine out expensively twice a week, for $100K/year, and have the best of everything in-house the rest of the time, with a live-in chef, for another $100K/year.)
Clothing is essentially free; want a different $5000 suit for every day of the week? That's going to set you back only $35K! Spouse wants a dozen designer evening gowns a year? That's still going to be on the low side of $200K.
Housing is essentially free; $1000/day will rent you a penthouse suite in a five star hotel in Manhattan, while your mortgageable income will let you buy a palace in the $5-20M range. (There are places where you may need to spend more than $20M to buy a house; but not many of them.)
You don't have to do housework, interior decorating, cooking, driving, DIY home improvements, flight booking, or shopping (unless you want to). People can be hired to do any of the above for rates ranging from $15K to $100K per year, depending on the complexity of the job. And you earn $100K per week.
(Image: Wanted Poster at Holburn Station (London, UK), a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from takomabibelot's photostream)
"Occupy the Classroom," Nicholas D. Kristof's NYT op-ed, argues that the fight for economic justice needs to include a demand for universal access to high quality early childhood education, as this is the key to social mobility.
“This is where inequality starts,” said Kathleen McCartney, the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as she showed me a chart demonstrating that even before kindergarten there are significant performance gaps between rich and poor students. Those gaps then widen further in school.
“The reason early education is important is that you build a foundation for school success,” she added. “And success breeds success.”
One common thread, whether I’m reporting on poverty in New York City or in Sierra Leone, is that a good education tends to be the most reliable escalator out of poverty. Another common thread: whether in America or Africa, disadvantaged kids often don’t get a chance to board that escalator.
Maybe it seems absurd to propose expansion of early childhood education at a time when budgets are being slashed. Yet James Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago, has shown that investments in early childhood education pay for themselves. Indeed, he argues that they pay a return of 7 percent or more — better than many investments on Wall Street.
(via Beth Pratt)
(Image: Preschool Songs, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from caseywest's photostream)
The central bank of Belarus has auctioned off its office chairs, cardboard boxes, and sugar bowls, but they promise it's not an indication of any sort of trouble
with the economy.
Watch live streaming video from occupynyc at livestream.com
445pm ET: Happening as I post this. Watch live video here.Read the rest
According to the US Dept of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child in a middle-income family has increased by 40 percent over the past ten years. Every major category of child-rearing expense has seen steep increase: day-care, education, food, gas, medical insurance, and so on. At this rate, childrearing may become a luxury item for America's increasingly wealthy super-rich.
"It takes half of my paycheck to pay for my child care -- you start to feel like, Is this even worth it?" said Anna Aasen, a mother of two from Roseburg, Ore.
The rising cost of raising a child
In 2010, the cost of putting two children in child care exceeded the median annual rent payments in every single state, according to a recent report by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, or NACCRRA.
"It defies logic," said Linda Smith, NACCRRA's executive director. As more families are priced out of licensed child care services, the health and safety of those children are put in jeopardy, she said.
For Stephanie Serafini, 38, licensed day care for her two children comprises about 30% of her $39,000 annual income. Serafini pays a particularly high rate for care because her oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger's and ADHD.
It is by far Serafini's largest monthly expense, but also the one with the least flexibility. "Other bills don't get paid," she admitted. "If you don't have day care you don't work."
Starting about an hour ago, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich
is answering pretty much whatever questions people pose him on Reddit. Among the gems:
evasilev: What is the top priority policy change you would like to see outlined in Obama's upcoming policy speech to Congress?
Robert Reich: It will be a hard sell, but when consumers (whose spending is 70 percent of the economy) won't spend, and businesses (who are facing lackluster sales) won't hire, government has to be the spender of last resort. The President should ask for a trillion dollars to boost the economy. Not just on the WPA and CCC I mentioned, also infrastructure investment, also loans to cash-starved states and localities. With 25 million Americans looking for full-time work, and the cost of borrowing so incredibly low (T-bills at 2 percent), this is the only responsible thing to do.
patefacio: How is Clinton on a personal level? He looks like he'd be a great guy to have a beer with.
Robert Reich: I've known him since he was 22. At Oxford, as grad students, we didn't inhale together.
I thought about asking him if he'd like to join me for dinner this weekend, but I chickened out.
I'm Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, author, and professor of public policy at Berkeley. AMA.