March 11, 2015 archive

About damn time.

Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson to resign

by Jon Swaine, The Guardian

Wednesday 11 March 2015 16.16 EDT

The embattled police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, is to resign a week after his department was accused of racial bias in a scathing report by the US government, an aide to the St Louis county executive told the Guardian on Wednesday.

The resignation of Jackson has long been anticipated after he was heavily criticised for his handling of the furore over a white police officer’s fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old in Ferguson last year.

Residents were appalled that Jackson’s officers left the body of Michael Brown lying for more than four hours in the residential side-street where he had been shot dead by Darren Wilson on 9 August. Successive nights of protests followed Brown’s death.

The resignation was welcomed by protest groups and lawmakers critical of Jackson’s leadership. “This is long overdue,” said Antonio French, a St Louis alderman. “There were grounds to fire or ask for the resignation of Chief Jackson months ago.

“But the details in the Department of Justice’s report of how his department operated meant there was no way for him to remain in that position if the city is to move forward”.

Jackson, 58, is the sixth senior Ferguson official to lose his job since the Department of Justice last week sharply criticised the city’s criminal justice system. Investigators concluded that police and court authorities targeted black people disproportionately and frequently violated their constitutional rights.

John Shaw, the city manager, was removed from his job on Tuesday evening. His departure followed the resignation of municipal court judge Ronald J Brockmeyer, Brockmeyer’s court clerk, and two of Jackson’s senior commanders.

Jackson presided over a police force that was 94% white in a St Louis suburb whose population is two-thirds black. African American residents reported feeling badly alienated from the officers who aggressively policed their driving and daily lives. The Justice Department’s report blamed the community disintegration on the city’s aggressive policy of raising revenue through small court fines.

The police chief was named along with Shaw and Brockmeyer as one of the driving forces behind the revenue-generation policy.

Investigators found an email from Jackson to Shaw in March 2011 reporting that court revenue in the previous month was $179,862.50, which “beat our next biggest month in the last four years by over $17,000.” The city manager replied: “Wonderful!”

Racist emails unearthed by the federal investigators prompted the resignations of veteran officers Sergeant William Mudd and Captain Rick Henke, who was effectively Jackson’s second-in-command, and the firing of Mary Ann Twitty, the city’s court clerk.

The Flaw Of Quantative Easing

So yesterday the DJI took a 300 point tumble as the European Central Bank instituted Quantitative Easing.  What is that and why is it unhelpful at best.

Quantitative Easing is a monitary policy to create liquidity when interest rates are already at zero.  The Central Bank redeems it’s old bonds at face value and issues new ones reflecting the zero interest environment.

Now there’s already a mechanism to do that called a Bond Market where you can take your paper and sell it to someone else at the current interest rate BUT you have to do so at a discount to face value to reflect the current interest.  A trivial example-

If the interest rate is 10% over 10 years you can buy a bond from the Central Bank for $900 that has a face value of $1000 redeemable in 10 years.  Now during that 10 years you get nothing, at the end you get $1000.

If you need the money now (liquidity), you go to the Bond Market and sell your bond at the going rate which has several complicating factors like the current interest rate and the date the bond comes due but is less than the face value promised if you hold the bond until it is paid (discount).

Quantitative Easing pays you face value now.  Whether this is a good deal for the Central Bank (and it almost never is because that’s not the point) depends on the amount of time between now and when the bond comes due and what interest rates are (if interest rates rise steeply and there is a lot of time between now and when the bonds are due it’s a good deal for the Central Bank).

So what is the point?  Central Bank bonds are mostly held by regular Banks who are required to hold a certain amount of assets in the form of these bonds.  The Banks cash out their Central Bank bonds, buy zero interest Central Bank bonds and pocket the difference.  In other words, just another bailout disguised with accounting tricks.

This is thought by Keynesians who think this new influx of money will be put to productive economic use to be slightly stimulative.  It’s thought by Modern Monitarists to be meaningless and by Austerians a debasement of the currency.

In fact most of the money simply goes into the pockets of Banks, the Billionaires, or gets wiped out in speculative bubbles like… oh, say the Stock Market.

So what we have here is a policy that might make a minimal amount of sense if there were a demand for productive use but will really only be used to make our insolvent Banks seem more solvent when they are in fact bankrupt.

This will become very apparent in Germany and throughout the Euro-Zone after Greece, Spain, Italy, and France repudiate their Euro debts and return to their own devalued (but for who?  Banks and bond holders, that’s who) currency.



Michael Hudson is a Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

The Breakfast Club (I Can Climb The Highest Mountain)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Bomb attack on Madrid’s commuter trains; Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic found dead; Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of Soviet Union; General Douglas MacArthur leaves Philippines in WWII.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Noted: Being a Christian is a choice, being gay is not. God made the gays. Christians, not so much.

Charles Kingsley Michaelson, III


On This Day In History March 11

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 11 is the 70th day of the year (71st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 295 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1851, The first performance of Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi takes place in Venice.

Rigoletto is an opera in three acts  with the Italian libretto written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s’amuse by Victor Hugo. It is considered by many to be the first of the operatic masterpieces of Verdi’s middle-to-late career.

Composition history

Verdi was commissioned to write a new opera by the La Fenice opera house in Venice in 1850, at a time when he was already a well-known composer with a degree of freedom in choosing the works he would prefer to set to music. He then asked Piave (with whom he had already created Ernani, I due Foscari, Macbeth, Il Corsaro and Stiffelio) to examine the play Kean by Alexandre Dumas, père, but he felt he needed a more energetic subject to work on.

Verdi soon stumbled upon Victor Hugo’s Le roi s’amuse. He later explained that “It contains extremely powerful positions … The subject is great, immense, and has a character that is one of the most important creations of the theatre of all countries and all Ages”. It was a highly controversial subject and Hugo himself had already had trouble with censorship in France, which had banned productions of his play after its first performance nearly twenty years earlier (and would continue to ban it for another thirty years). As Austria at that time directly controlled much of Northern Italy, it came before the Austrian Board of Censors. Hugo’s play depicted a king (Francis I of France) as an immoral and cynical womanizer, something that was not accepted in Europe during the Restoration period.

From the beginning, Verdi was aware of the risks, as was Piave. In a letter which Verdi wrote to Piave: “Use four legs, run through the town and find me an influential person who can obtain the permission for making Le Roi s’amuse.” Correspondence between a prudent Piave and an already committed Verdi followed, and the two remained at risk and underestimated the power and the intentions of Austrians. Even the friendly Guglielmo Brenna, secretary of La Fenice, who had promised them that they would not have problems with the censors, was wrong.

At the beginning of the summer of 1850, rumors started to spread that Austrian censorship was going to forbid the production. They considered the Hugo work to verge on lèse majesté, and would never permit such a scandalous work to be performed in Venice. In August, Verdi and Piave prudently retired to Busseto, Verdi’s hometown, to continue the composition and prepare a defensive scheme. They wrote to the theatre, assuring them that the censor’s doubts about the morality of the work were not justified but since very little time was left, very little could be done. The work was secretly called by the composers The Malediction (or The Curse), and this unofficial title was used by Austrian censor De Gorzkowski (who evidently had known of it from spies) to enforce, if needed, the violent letter by which he definitively denied consent to its production.

In order not to waste all their work, Piave tried to revise the libretto and was even able to pull from it another opera Il Duca di Vendome, in which the sovereign was substituted with a duke and both the hunchback and the curse disappeared. Verdi was completely against this proposed solution and preferred instead to have direct negotiations with censors, arguing over each and every point of the work.

At this point Brenna, La Fenice’s secretary, showed the Austrians some letters and articles depicting the bad character but the great value of the artist, helping to mediate the dispute. In the end the parties were able to agree that the action of the opera had to be moved from the royal court of France to a duchy of France or Italy, as well as a renaming of the characters. In the Italian version the Duke reigns over Mantova and belongs to the Gonzaga family: the Gonzaga had long been extinct by the mid-19th Century, and the Dukedom of Mantova did not exist anymore, so nobody could be offended. The scene in which the sovereign retires in Gilda’s bedroom would be deleted and the visit of the Duke to the Taverna (inn) was not intentional anymore, but provoked by a trick. The hunchback (originally Triboulet) became Rigoletto (from French rigolo = funny). The name of the work too was changed.

For the première, Verdi had Felice Varesi as Rigoletto, the young tenor Raffaele Mirate as the Duke, and Teresina Brambilla as Gilda (though Verdi would have preferred Teresa De Giuli Borsi). Teresina Brambilla was a well-known soprano coming from a family of singers and musicians; one of her nieces, Teresa Brambilla, was the wife of Amilcare Ponchielli.

The opening was a complete triumph, especially the scena drammatica, and the Duke’s cynical aria, “La donna è mobile”, was sung in the streets the next morning.

Late Night Karaoke

The Daily/Nightly Show (Women’s Rights)

Amish Comedy

Well it’s somehow appropriate that on a night Jon is hosting Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, two of the names mentioned by The Great Mentioner as potential replacements for Jon (the other being Amy Schumer) the topic is Women’s Rights, but it’s not surprising given that it’s Women’s History Month.

It’s an extremely broad subject and as usual Larry’s site is singularly unhelpful.  He doesnt have the topic up, you have to glean it off the segment subjects, and forget about listing the panelists.  It’s rare when he does.

For my part I consider myself a raging feminist and it comes down to this-

Women’s Rights are Human Rights.

I’ve always tried to treat people the way people should be treated.


I always did hate this house.

This Week’s Guests-

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are the two principal writers and characters of the TV series Broad City, now in it’s second season and renewed for a third.

Broad City follows Ilana and Abbi, both are self-professed Jewish feminist women who perpetually experience misadventures of carelessness and frivolity in New York City. Ilana seeks to avoid working as much as possible while pursuing her relentless hedonism and Abbi tries to make a career as an illustrator, often getting sidetracked into Ilana’s hijinks.

At least the episodes I’ve seen are much raunchier and cruel than the synopsis.  Think of a cross between Sex and the City an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  Unlike the gross out and violent prank comedy that fills so much of what’s considered the ‘cutting edge’ it’s actually funny at points if you don’t think about the human misery and degradation that drives many of the plots, kind of like Seinfeld on steroids.

Your web exclusive two part extended interview with John Lewis along with the real news below.