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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Countdown To Syria 2013

(Love  and Peace From The Fire, 2012)
For whatever it is worth, for all our friends who believe in energy, let's take a moment, and send all the mojo we can to POTUS.

Syria, chemical gas, people dying by the thousands...this is such a big issue.

More people will die in Syria no matter what we do, really.

May President Obama be guided to the kindest choice. May we move forward down the softest path. May the hand of destiny touch lightly upon this time.

(Timeless Wisdom, 2013)

There is most likely no perfect outcome.

Let's pray or meditate or send good thoughts
(atheists, just take a break and drink a beer).

Focus is required.

Sending The Gift Of Intuition
Focus, 
beams of white light, 
soothing seething beams of white light to the people in Syria,
to the families in refugee camps, 
to our President who is hopefully doing every thing he can in his search for guidance.

Our world needs us to make the right move here. Even if that turns out to be no move.

Let's tread lightly and give some thought to that big stick.

The Policy Geek

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Supreme Court Rules Drug Companies Exempt From Lawsuits

Been watching the headlines lately. It's what a Policy Geek does. The last few days we found people enraged over mostly silly stuff.

(Fic, ComicBookMovie.com)
For instance, Warner Brothers announced that Ben Affleck is gonna be Batman over the course of a few films. The twitterverse went insane. We didn't see that coming. After all, Batman has no real powers, just a utility belt and a mission. And a bat plane, bat boat, bat car, bat flying wings, and the bat signal. But still, no super powers.

Of course there were more important waves of social muttering crashing against our shores. This week is already interesting. Not trying to leave anyone out, we have:

  • Syria absolutely used chemical weapons,
  • "Impeach Obama" said The Frog/French Canadian Ted Cruz who thinks he should be President,
  • Former Secretary of State Colin Powell stating (twice) that SCOTUS got the Voting Rights Act decision dead wrong,
  • Voting rights being limited in Texas and North Carolina at an accelerated rate,
  • Donald Trump blaming everyone but himself for starting a fake university,
  • San Diego Mayor stepping down under multiple accusations of sexual harassment, and
  • Tens of thousands of people are marching in Washington for basically the same things they marched for back in 1963.

It's enough to make a normal person want to punch a teddy bear. A couple of headlines got swallowed up, too. So, in case you missed them:

  • Dr. Sanjay Gupta came out as a weed fan.
  • Governor Chris Christie vetoed a couple of his own bills on gun control,
  • Republican Shennaman vowed to right the wrongs done by gutting the Voting Rights Act, and
  • Supreme Court Rules Drug Companies Exempt From Lawsuits.

The headlines really have been piling up. Oh yeah, like the one for this article. Similar to Batman, a Policy Geek really has no super powers. Just the desire to pay attention, and a mission to push back on misinformation. An educated voter is a better voter, and it follows, an educated web surfer makes a better 'sharer'.

Back to the headline. The reason you clicked in the first place. Google was taken over in July by that banner: Supreme Court Rules Drug Companies Exempt From Lawsuits. Now it's spreading on social sites. You can find very similar articles reprinted on these sites, complete with scary photos and outrage:
This is What Obamacare Looks Like
(whiteoutpress.com)

Prepared Society

Antioligarch

Hubberts-Arms.org

Organic Consumers.org

White Out Press.com

consciouslifenews.com

'Unknown' yet posted as evidence by
(ISideWith.com)
Thom Hartmann.com World Truth.tv

Political Blind Spot.com

Above Top Secret.com

I Side With.com

InfoWars.Com

Signs Of The Times.com

Oped News.com

Occupy Corporatism.com

Even some on the Right got on the bandwagon at Tea Partyorg. After all, this would be Obamacare's fault. Every single article with the same headline, all suggesting that perhaps you missed this important decision news last month, most referencing whiteoutpress.com.

If you follow The Policy Geek, you know that we have pointed out some less than reliable places to collect news and information. You might want to add those mentioned above to your watch list, or at least take their published blogs and articles with more than a grain of salt.

Justice Breyer: Courts shouldn't usurp regulators.
Image via Frobes
Did anyone bother to vet this? Doesn't seem like 'yes' is the answer.

Here's some reality. It's 2009. Companies that manufacture generic and less expensive versions of pharmaceuticals, something we should all be for, had to abide by some rules regarding labeling. So 4 years ago, in Wyeth v. Levine, the Supreme Court found drug manufacturers, esp. generic manufacturers,"liable for any deficiency on their labeling". To repeat, the high court found the drug companies "responsible regardless of what the Food and Drug Administration may or may not have previously approved.

Federal law requires generic drugs to match their brand-name warning label counterparts word for word. So when a generic company makes a cheaper version of an approved drug, as of now, their hands are tied in terms of changing the product. The problem with this argument, is that if a generic company were to notice more damaging responses to the drug, the process to change the drug or change the labeling is not designed for ease, and allows Big Pharma to just point at the FDA and shrug when a drug is dangerous.

In 2011, the Supreme Court decided to hear Pliva v. Mensing. This is the real case and decision the left conspiracy fun factor spin zone is going nuts over. In fact, the decision in this case is what gave rise to our lovely dramatic and hyperbolic title. Supreme Court Rules Drug Companies Exempt From Lawsuits. Boo!!

In Pliva v. Mensing (2011), they found that Minnesota and Louisiana tort law require a drug manufacturer that is or should be aware of its product’s danger to label that product in a way that renders it reasonably safe. Under Minnesota law, which applies to Mensing’s lawsuit, “where the manufacturer of a product has actual or constructive knowledge of danger to users, the manufacturer has a duty to give warning of such dangers.” By regulation, the FDA has interpreted that “labeling shall be revised to include a warning as soon as there is reasonable evidence of an association of a serious hazard with a drug.” This 2011 landmark case found that pharmaceutical companies that make branded drugs are liable for inadequacies in safety warnings of a medicine's label, but not the makers of cheaper copies of those medicines.

This is a definite conundrum. Generic manufacturers can not make changes to their labeling, or warn pharmacies of any dangers in writing, until the FDA finds sufficient cause to warn of dangers, and subsequently orders a change in the brand name label. When a lawsuit is brought on the state level, whether against a brand name or a generic, and the lawsuit goes after packaging or labeling, Big Pharma repeats they are at the mercy of the FDA. They have the money and the time to take it to take the case all the way to the SCOTUS. Even when states claim the packaging should have been changed, SCOTUS upholds the FDA's authority. This is a state vs federal problem that needs to be dealt with, for sure.

June 2013, the high court decided to narrow its earlier decision that was indeed decided in favor of the plaintiff, Wyeth. The ruling is somewhat strange given the sweeping nature of Wyeth. Right? The drug companies are responsible. So what was this new narrowing all about? In Pliva, a 5:4 majority led by Justice Clarence Thomas held that generics don’t need to comply with the same duties under STATE tort law because FEDERAL law (previously referred to) requires them to match the brand-name warning labels word for word. If the FDA doesn't find enough evidence to warrant a warning on the label, no warning is necessary on the brand name, therefore no warning is necessary on the generic version. The FDA may be slow, bureaucratic, and perhaps even understaffed, but they're all we have.

Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, pointed out that, in many cases, the potentially dangerous side effects of medicines have not come to light until decades after they were approved and often after there was no longer a branded version on the market.

'Facism' bloggers are yelling, The headline is no longer news, it's being used to make all government bad, and it's as much bait and switch as The Donald's teacher-keeps-you-after-school money making fantasy classroom. The fear mongering headline is just to sell papers. And here we are using it in the same way. Let's see if we can turn this into a productive use of your time.

Each of these mimeographed articles refer to 'Bartlett', a case brought before the SCOTUS, saying the sky was falling, and the court stepped on the health rights of every American. We agree. If that were true, it would be pretty awful. But barring it's appearance on The Onion, this information should not have been re-posted as gospel. The decision that was made in Mutual Pharmaceutical vs Bartlett found that State-law design-defect claims that turn on the adequacy of a drug’s warnings are pre-empted by federal law under PLIVA. That's all.

For the sake of clarity, federal law currently addresses the absolute responsibility of drug companies to label correctly, and the generic drugs have to do whatever the brand names do. In the case of Bartlett, possible side effects, including this flesh eating outcome, were listed on and in inserts for both versions of the drug, warning that the drug could cause “severe skin reactions” and “fatalities.” Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis were listed as potential adverse reactions on the drug’s package insert. When a case hinges on labeling or packaging, and only if a case hinges on labeling design or packaging, generics can only do what brand names do, and brand name drugs can only mark a label with what the FDA tells them they can say. When a product is "properly labeled", what else are we asking SCOTUS to do? Is the FDA immune to lawsuits? Well, yes.

You might be thinking to yourself, "An FDA employee did something wrong by approving pelvic mesh or Pradaxa or another defective drug, so I should be allowed to sue the agency under the Federal Torts Claims Act." However, there are a number of exceptions written into the Act, and one of them bars lawsuits against the FDA in conjunction with its responsibilities for licensing and approving drugs and vaccines. As a result, you cannot sue the FDA for approving a defective drug.

A look at the big picture might show that the "we fear and hate government" types are crying wolf. Strategists suggest that the white paper type phrasing and repetitious style indicate the invisible, yet well manicured hands, of Karl Rove and Heritage's Jim DeMint.

We prefer to think a correction just needs to be made. Like in the old days, when papers would post retractments when they got things wrong. Perhaps Justice Kennedy put the situation in the best light in his written opinion. Per Forbes:
"In the final paragraphs of the opinion (Bartlett) Justice Anthony Kennedy muses upon the importance of settling disputes such as the merits of generic versus brand-name drugs through “free and uninhibited speech.” He acknowledges how technology has made it possible for information to spread more widely, a right too essential to freedom to allow its manipulation.”
Translation: let the mini tsunami of nothingness just ease back out to sea. There will be real things to fight against. There will be bat signals to answer.

We will have to use whatever powers we have to turn the tide in 2014. A Democratic President may be able to replace another Supreme Court Justice. A Democratic Congress could pass some meaningful legislation in the last two years of this Presidency, including making federal law mesh with states' product laws of liability.

So figure out now what items you'll need hanging off your utility belt. Who is running in your area? Who are you going to back? What will the talking points be during the election, and what's the actual reality. Most importantly, who can you tell, and how can you spread the word when you hear something that is damaging, but may not be accurate?

Well, you can check here, we'll always tell it like it is. Or you can do your own research. But when you see a headline that takes over google is the same word for word, site after site, blog after blog, and isn't picked up by anyone you respect, maybe take a second before you hit that share button.

The Policy Geek

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Walk This Way: Your Guide To D.C. This Week

Washington D.C. is buzzing with plans for the expected crowds coming into town next week, and in anticipation of a speech to be delivered by President Obama.

This is a partial guide to events, exhibits and attractions going on this week in the nation's capitol. It will be updated as we gather more information. Feel free to add any items you know of, fun events to invite friends to, or meet ups here and there, below in the comments.

Please note,
there will be two commemorative marches,
one on Saturday, August 24th
and one on Wednesday, August 28th.

Rallies and Special Events
50th Anniversary of the March on Washington
August 21 - 28, 2013
a full week of events will be hosted by the King children,
(the remaining four of the original six)
along with grassroots organizations like National Action Network,
and the last living organizer, Congressman John Lewis.

Our World, His Dream: Freedom – Make It Happen is the unifying theme for the five-day commemoration entitled 50th Anniversary Coalition for Jobs, Justice and Freedom, with three three sub-themes: “Freedom to Prosper in Life,” "Freedom to Peacefully Co-Exist,” and Freedom to Participate in Government.” These beltway people sure like naming things.

Wednesday

Praise and Worship Service for 50th Anniversary Celebration
Wendesday August 21st
7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Mt. Airy Baptist Church
1100 North Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC 20002
Hosted by the National African American Clergy Network in partnership w/ Christian Community Development Association, National Evangelical Association, Christian Community Development Association, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, Sojourners
Capacity: 1500
Primary contact: Barbarella Brown, barbarella.a.brown@gmail.com,
(202) 352-4956

Thursday

Celebrating the Legacy of Youth in the Movement at the 10th National Black Youth Leadership Training Conference
Three Day conference ~~ Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Thursday (Day One) ~ August 22nd
9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
National Education Association

1201 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC
Black Youth Vote!, a national grassroots coalition of organizations and individuals committed to increasing political and civic engagement among black youth and young adults between the ages of 18-35.
Hosted by: Generational Alliance, NAACP Youth and College Division,
National Urban League YP, The Praxis Project,
100 Black Men of America, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity,Inc
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity,Inc, NAN Youth Move,
A. Philip Randolph Institute, BK Nation, League of Young Voters
Advocates for Youth, Hip Hop Caucus, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Highlights:
Unity Breakfast
Tribute to Jamal Rose
Gathering of Black Men “I Am Trayvon” Dialogue
Sister Circles
Issue Organizing Breakouts
Registration Required
Capacity: 250
Primary contact: Lisa Bediako or Jessica Brown, blackyouthvote@ncbcp.org, (202) 659-4929

Gospel Brunch and Roundtable
Celebrating the Legacy of Women in the Movement: Past, Present and Future
Thursday August 22nd
10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Cannon Caucus Room in the Dorothy I. Height Building

Capitol Hill
Washington, DC
Women played an integral role in the 1963 March on Washington and the civil rights movement overall, however, their story is rarely told. Black Women’s Roundtable, an initiative of The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation focused on policy issues related to women and girls, will bring together intergenerational women leaders to discuss their contribution to the civil rights movement.
Invitation Only
Contact events@ncbcp.org MEDIA CONTACT: edmedia@dogonvillage.com

Covering Civil Rights: On the Front Lines
Reflections on the March on Washington and I Have a Dream Speech 50 Years Later

Thursday August 22nd
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (actual program is 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.)
The Newseum
Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater

555 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC.
The Newseum, in partnership with the National Council of Negro Women, will host a free evening program that will include a special appearance by Elder Bernice King, chief executive officer of The King Center and daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Rev. King will receive the NCNW’s 2013 Leadership Award. Moderated by Sirius XM radio host, Joe Madison, the event will also feature a discussion with journalist and author of “Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement,” Simeon Booker, who was on the front lines of covering the civil rights story. The program is free and open to the public, but seats are limited and must be reserved at CoveringCivilRights.eventbrite.com

Although the program is free and open to the public, seating in the Annenberg Theater for this event is SOLD OUT. A limited amount of overflow visitors can reserve standing room. Those in the Newseum atrium will be able to view the program on the giant 40-foot-by-22-foot high-definition media screen.
Capacity: 550

Emancipation of Capital Gala
Thursday August 22nd
Grand Hyatt

Washington D.C.
Hosted by National SCLC

Friday

Protect Our Voting Rights Youth Organizing Training
10th National Black Youth Vote! Leadership Training Conference

Three Day conference ~~ Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Friday (Day Two) ~ August 23rd
8:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
National Education Association

1201 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC
Highlights:
Unity Breakfast
Issue Organizing Breakouts
Health for All: Affordable Care Act Update
Saving Our Voting Rights Protections - Congressional and State Legislative Action
Regional/State-Based Organizing Strategy Sessions
Registration Required
Capacity: 250
Primary contact: Lisa Bediako or Jessica Brown, blackyouthvote@ncbcp.org,
(202) 659-4929

Drum Majors for Justice CelebrationThe Redeem the Dream Summit
Friday August 23rd
8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Grand Hyatt, Independence Ballroom

1000 H Street NW
Washington, DC
Redeem the Dream National Summit and Reception
A stellar line-up of civil rights legends and contemporary movement leaders will discuss why and how this historic march became a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement and why it’s important to not only commemorate but continue the victories of the March on Washington. Participants include: Rev. Jesse Jackson, Representative Maxine Waters, Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin Foundation), Marc H. Morial, Rev. Al Sharpton, the Hip Hop Caucus and more!
Hosted by National Urban League and The Memorial Foundation.
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

U.S. Postal Service Unveiling of limited-edition 1963 March on Washington Stamp
Friday August 23rd
9:30 a.m. front table check 
Newseum 
New York Times–Ochs-Sulzberger Family Great Hall of News 
Level 1
555 Pennsylvania Ave NW. Washington, DC.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the U.S. Postal Service will unveil a limited-edition stamp commemorating the 1963 march at a special program at the Newseum on Aug. 23rd. The stamp will go on sale the same day. In the true spirit of participation that surrounded the historic march, the Postal Service for the first time invites the public to help digitally unveil the new stamp and become a part of a virtual stamp mosaic. Individuals can pledge to "take a stand for equality" and add their Facebook or Twitter profile photo to the March on Washington Stamp Mosaic on the U.S. Postal Service Stamps Facebook page. Each photo unveils a small piece of the stamp artwork. As more people participate, the artwork will gradually be uncovered until the full stamp is revealed on Aug. 23.

Drum Majors For Justice Future Leaders Celebration
Redeem The Dream Summit

Friday August 23rd
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Freedom Plaza
14th Street and Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Future Leaders Celebration- This symbolic event will feature marching bands, young leaders, and seasoned civil rights leaders. It will captivate the hearts and minds of young adults and in the end support them as they take up the mantel and step into their roles as Drum Majors for Justice.
Participants include: Rev. Jesse Jackson, Representative Maxine Waters, Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin Foundation), Marc H. Morial, Rev. Al Sharpton, the Hip Hop Caucus and more!
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

(vintage struggle, 1968)

National Town Hall Meeting on Poverty in America
Moving Together, Moving Forward: Jobs and Freedom
57th Annual SCLC International Convention

Friday August 23rd
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. ~~ Race and Poverty Panel
5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. ~~ Voting Rights Panel
7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. ~~ Reception
Grand Hyatt

1000 H Street, NW
Washington, DC
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Hosted by Southern Christian Leadership Conference, SCLC Poverty Institute, Rainbow PUSH

Commemorative Concert
57th Annual SCLC International Convention

Friday August 23rd
5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Washington D. C. Convention Center

Washington, DC
Hosted by Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Register here: http://www.nationalsclc.org

Washington Welcome Reception for Anniversary Marchers
Mayor Vincent C. Gray w/Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)

Friday August 23rd
6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
The Willard Intercontinental Hotel
1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
Invitation Required
Hosts Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC),Uptown Magazine, DestinationDC, Flow.
Primary contacts:
Daryl R. Levine, daryl.levine@dc.gov, (202) 727-6263 or
Cynthia Brock-Smith, cynthia.brocksmith@dc.gov, 202-727-6306

Youth Mass Meeting and Pre-March Rally Friday August 23rd 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Metropolitan A. M. E. Church\ 1518 M Street, NW Washington, DC Hosted by NCBCP Black Youth Vote!, APRI, NAACP,NEA, Generational Alliance, NAN Youth Move OPEN TO THE PUBLIC


Saturday
Urban League Pre-March Rally
5:30 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.
Grand Hyatt Hotel
Independence Ballroom 1000 H St. NW
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Celebrating the Legacy of Youth in the Movement
at 10th National Black Youth Leadership Training Conference

Three Day conference ~~ Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Saturday (Day Three) ~ August 24th
7:00 am – Midnight
Location: TBD
Highlights:
Unity Breakfast
50th Anniversary March on Washington Realize the Dream March and Rally
Global Festival
Closing Out and After Party
Registration Required
Capacity: 250
Primary contact: Lisa Bediako or Jessica Brown, blackyouthvote@ncbcp.org, (202) 659-4929

Main Commemorative March and Rally
Saturday August 24th. 
8 a.m. – 4 p.m. 
Lincoln Memorial
Commemorative march and rally along the historic 1963 route will begin at the Lincoln Memorial.
National Conveners: Martin Luther King, III and Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network
Co-Convened by: AFSCME, AFT, AFL-CIO, APRI, HRC, LCCR, NAACP, NBJC, SCLC,SEIU, NCBW, NOW, NUL, NCNW, NCBCP, The King Center, National African American Clergy Network and CWBI (List in Formation)
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC


(50th Anniversary March, 2013)
DC Statehood Rally
Saturday August 24th.
8:30 a.m
DC War Memorial

Independence Avenue NW
Washington DC.
Rally participants will attend a short program before marching as a group to the Lincoln Memorial for the national program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Join D.C. statehood activists at the D.C. War Memorial (across from the MLK Memorial and just east of the Korean War Memorial) for a short program before we march as a group at 9:30 a.m. to the Lincoln Memorial for the national program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. We will be marching for all of the unfinished business from 1963, but most especially for statehood for D.C. - the only way to end D.C.'s colonial status and for the people of the D.C. to have the right to govern themselves and have all the same democratic rights as other Americans.
For more information on the DC Statehood rally go to http://marchondc50.dc.gov/;
or call 202-232-2500 to get involved.

Historical Walk Down Black Broadway's Theatre Row 
Saturday August 24th. 
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Theater Walk: U Street and the Howard Theater
13th St. NW and U St. NW
Meet outside the U Street Metro station's 13th Street exit.
Explore the neighborhood that was shared by African-American intellectuals, business leaders and families of all economic levels. The businesses they owned and the houses they lived in are featured on this walk. U Street was dubbed "Black Broadway" for the numerous movie theaters, nightclubs and ballrooms frequented by jazz musicians like Cab Calloway, Pearl Bailey, Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington. You'll see a theater and club where these performances took place.

March on Washington 50th Anniversary Family Day at the National Portrait Gallery
Saturday August 24th. 
11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. 
Smithsonian Institution, National Portrait Gallery
The Kogod Courtyard
Eighth and F Sts. NW
Join the Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African American History and Culture to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Tour the exhibition "One Life: Martin Luther King Jr." to learn more about the civil rights leader and his "I Have a Dream" speech. Enjoy vocal performances by Kim and Reggie Harris, hands-on activities and fun for the whole family. This program is sponsored in part by the Reinsch Family Education Endowment.

Global Freedom Festival
Four Day Festival ~~ Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
Saturday (Day One) August 24th.
2 - 6 p.m.
National Mall

Seventh and 14th Sts. NW
Among the speakers and groups at this year's festival are Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King, III, the families of Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till; Congressman John Lewis; Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader; Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer; Randi Weingarten- President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Lee Saunders- President, AFSCME; Janet Murguia- President, The National Council of LaRAZA; Mary Kay Henry- International President, Service Employers International Union (SEIU); Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association (NEA); and many others.

An Afternoon with Thurston Clarke on JFK's last hundred days
Saturday August 24th.
2:30 PM
Newseum

Knight TV Studio
555 Pennsylvania Ave NW. Washington, DC.
Noted John F. Kennedy historian Thurston Clarke talks about his new book, "JFK's Last Hundred Days," which gives a detailed account of the last three months of the Kennedy presidency. Clarke's detailed account of the last hundred days begins with the death of two-day-old Patrick Bouvier Kennedy on Aug. 9, 1963.
The program is free with regular paid admission to the museum.
Seating is on a space-available basis.

Freedom Festival
Saturday August 24th. 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
West Potomac Park

Hosted by The King Center and the National Park Service
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Sunday
Global Freedom Festival
Four Day Festival ~~ Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
Sunday (Day Two) August 25th.
10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
National Mall

Seventh and 14th Sts. NW
Among the speakers and groups at this year's festival are Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King, III, the families of Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till; Congressman John Lewis; Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader; Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer; Randi Weingarten- President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Lee Saunders- President, AFSCME; Janet Murguia- President, The National Council of LaRAZA; Mary Kay Henry- International President, Service Employers International Union (SEIU); Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association (NEA); and many others.

SCLC Worship Service
Sunday August 25th.
11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Howard University

Washington D. C.
Hosted by SCLC
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Hosted by Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Primary contact: Damien Alexander, daconne17@gmail.com, (404) 522-1420

Freedom Festival
Sunday August 25th. 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
West Potomac Park

Hosted by The King Center National Park Service OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Documentary of 50's Iconic Photograper Rowland Scherman
Sunday August 25th.
2:30 p.m.
Newseum

Documentary Theater
Q and A with Scherman will follow the special screening of the new documentary "Eye on the Sixties: The Iconic Photography of Rowland Scherman." The film is an intimate portrait of Scherman and documents his work during the 1960s. Among his many assignments, Scherman was the primary photographer of the 1963 March on Washington, which he shot for the United States Information Agency. One of Scherman’s most iconic photographs from the march is of 11-year-old Edith Lee Payne. Payne will be part of a panel discussion following the film to talk about her memories of the photograph and that historic day. Also appearing on the panel is the film’s producer, Chris Szwedo.

Monday

Global Freedom Festival
Four Day Festival ~~ Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
Monday (Day Three) August 26th.
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
National Mall

Seventh and 14th Sts. NW
Among the speakers and groups at this year's festival are Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King, III, the families of Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till; Congressman John Lewis; Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader; Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer; Randi Weingarten- President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Lee Saunders- President, AFSCME; Janet Murguia- President, The National Council of LaRAZA; Mary Kay Henry- International President, Service Employers International Union (SEIU); Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association (NEA); and many others

Screenings of We Shall Overcome and Yesterday Girl
Monday August 26th
6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Goethe-Institut

812 Seventh St. NW
Friendship, Freedom, Tolerance series. Two short films that highlight the internationalist attitude toward the American civil rights movement and its progressive activists in the 60s.

Bayard Rustin Commemoration
Monday August 26th
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Lincoln Theatre
1215 U Street, NW, Washington, DC
To register go to www.apri.org
Hosted by A. Philip Randolph Institute, American Federation of Teachers, National Black Justice
Coalition Primary contact: Jan Temple, jtemple@apri.org, (202) 508-3710

Legacy and Leadership Gala
Monday August 26th
7:00 p.m.
Capital Hilton
1001 16th St. NW
Hosted by the SCLC
To register go to sclc.org

Tuesday
Virtual Panel on Education 50 Years of Struggle: 
Youth Driving Economics, Education and Social Change
Tuesday August 27th.
9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

School Without Walls (DC Public School) -- this event is supposed to be streamed online
The King Center is partnering with Discovery Education, Kaplan University. Featuring: Secretary Arne Duncan, US Dept of Education, Ambassador Andrew Young, Naomi King, and Bernice A. King. When a link is released, we will post it here.

2013 March on Washington Memorial
Youth Mentoring Summit

Two Day Summit
Tuesday (Day Two) August 27th
9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Newseum
Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater

Led by: National Park Service
The Newseum, in partnership with the National Park Service, the National Alliance of Faith and Justice, and the National Park Foundation, hosts the second day of the March on Washington Memorial Youth Mentoring Summit. Held on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, the summit will feature special guests from the civil rights movement, including Carlotta Walls LaNier and Ernest Green, two of the Little Rock Nine students who integrated Little Rock's Central High School in 1957. Other guests include Chuck McDew, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1961 to 1963, and Edith Lee-Payne, whose iconic photo at age 11, taken at the 1963 March on Washington, became a symbol of youth involvement.
Program is free and open to the public, but seats are limited and must be reserved online at penorpencilmovement.org/marchonwashington.php. Registration forms must be returned to registration@nafj.org by Aug. 20, 2013.

Global Freedom Festival
Four Day Festival ~~ Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
Tuesday (Day Four) August 27th.
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
National Mall

Seventh and 14th Sts. NW
Among the speakers and groups at this year's festival are Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King, III, the families of Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till; Congressman John Lewis; Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader; Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer; Randi Weingarten- President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Lee Saunders- President, AFSCME; Janet Murguia- President, The National Council of LaRAZA; Mary Kay Henry- International President, Service Employers International Union (SEIU); Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association (NEA); and many others

Freedom Festival
Tuesday August 27th.
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
West Potomac Park




Wednesday
Interfaith Service
Wednesday August 28th.
9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Shiloh Baptist Church

Hosted by The King Center and The Coalition for Jobs

Interfaith Service
Wednesday August 28th.
9 – 10:30 a.m
.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
West Basin Drive SW at Independence Avenue SW
Washington D.C.
An interfaith service will be held at the Memorial in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

MLK Memorial in D.C., 2013
FYI, National Park Service rangers give regularly scheduled talks on the life and contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let Freedom Ring
Wednesday August 28th.
11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Lincoln Memorial
President Obama will speak at the Let Freedom Ring Call To Action marking the 50th anniversary.
Event will feature remarks from former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, the King Family, elected officials, international dignitaries, celebrities, youth and leaders from national and international organizations. The program is global in nature and will include performances by a Haka Team from New Zealand and Junkanoo Performers from the Bahamas. Confirmed program participants include: Kid President, Jaime Fox, Peter and Paul, Hill Harper, Soledad O’Brien, Lynda Johnson Robb, Bebe Winans and others to be announced.
For more details, go to http://officialmlkdream50.com/.
Hosted by The King Center and The Coalition for Jobs, Justice and Freedom (National Council of Negro Women, SCLC, National Urban League, National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, National Action Network, National Council of Churches, Children’s Defense Fund), and the National Park Service.
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Primary contact: Rosalind McGinnis, rmcginnis@thekingcenter.org, (404) 526-8900
For more details go to: http://goo.gl/wE5bW1

Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action
If your city, school, organization or faith based group wants to participate in coordinating a local Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action Bell Ringing at 3 p.m. please contact Steve Klein SKlein@thekingcenter.organd register your bell ringing event.

American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold's Paintings of the 1960s
12-12:30 p.m.
National Museum of Women in the Arts

1250 New York Ave. NW
Gallery Talk. As seen in 49 rarely exhibited paintings, Faith Ringgold developed expressive figures and adapted African designs to reflect on momentous events that shaped America in the 1960s. These bold images represent Ringgold's response to the civil rights and feminist movements.

Changing America
The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863
The March on Washington, 1963
On view through Sept. 15, 2013.
National Museum of American History
14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Washington DC.
The exhibition at the Smithsonian features historic photographs and items ranging from Harriet Tubman’s shawl to a portable version of the Emancipation Proclamation—one created for Union soldiers to read to and distribute among African Americans during America's Civil War.

Civil Rights at 50
on display through 2015
Newseum
555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C.
Currently launching this three year revolving exhibit, Newseum's Civil Rights at 50 will be updated each year to chronicle milestones in the civil rights movement from 1963, 1964, and 1965 through historic front pages of newspapers and magazines.

A Day Like No Other: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington
August 28, 2013 through March 1, 2014
The Library of Congress
Thomas Jefferson Building
10 First St. SE
Washington, DC.
The exhibition will consist of 40 black-and-white images from newspaper and other media photographers, independent photojournalists and people who participated in the march. Part of the collections in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division, the images convey the immediacy of being at the march and the palpable excitement of the noticeably mixed crowd in attendance. The exhibition will allow visitors to rediscover the context and ongoing legacy of this important event in the country’s history.

American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s
through Nov. 10, 2013
National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave NW Washington, DC.
As seen in 49 rarely exhibited paintings, Faith Ringgold developed expressive figures and adapted African designs to reflect on momentous events that shaped America in the 1960s. These bold images represent Ringgold's response to the civil rights and feminist movements.

Washington, DC Hotels
Here are some resources to help you find a room.

There you have a it. A heap of information, but probably nothing compared to all the more personal get togethers planned for this week, as progressives and civil rights activists from all over the country meet face to face to discuss going into 2014.

Come visit, or just share the info with a friend who might be going. Additions or changes to this list is welcome in the comments.


The Policy Geek

Walk This Way: The Anniversary Of A Dream

We are coming up on an anniversary of sorts.

It's been 50 years since Martin Luther King delivered his famous 'dream' speech, and 84 years since the Reverend Dr. was born. August 28th is really an anniversary of history itself. Much like the holiday we enjoy every January when we party on the civil rights' leader's birthday, the day he delivered the 'dream' to the American public will be celebrated with all due pomp and circumstance on the 28th.

In fact, throughout this month our nation's capitol will play host to a variety of civil rights groups honoring the occasion.

AFP/Getty Images, 1963
During the hot and sticky August of 1963, scores of Americans were drawn to protest in the nation's capitol. The beautifully interracial crowds marched on Washington D.C. demanding equal justice for all citizens under the law.

They congregated in front of the Lincoln Memorial which is located on the opposite end of the mall from the Capitol Building where President Barack Obama would be sworn into office a smidgen more than 45 years later. Martin Luther King predicted a time when freedom, harmony, and equality for all would become a reality in the U.S., and predicted his own death, leaving behind his “I Have a Dream” speech to speak to generations to come.

(Time, 2013)
In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice to protest and action to discuss.

He wrote five books and dozens of articles. He led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world. He formed the coalition of conscience, penned the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", and planned drives in Alabama to register African American voters. He conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson, still managing to get arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times. King was awarded five honorary degrees including The Nobel Peace Prize; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but a world figure, as well.
1963 Alabama Bombing

18 days after the March On Washington, four young girls were killed when a bomb exploded in the basement of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Five years after giving the "I Have A Dream" speech, Revered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Dead at the age of 39.

This Reverend, this leader of the hopeful, spoke directly to our souls. He articulated his vision so clearly, and with such moving prose, that it was through his eyes so many could see for the first time. The fact that The Struggle still continues today, that thriving racists still exist, is baffling to those of us who believe in equality.

In 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act outlawing all forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and outlawing discrimination against women in the US. The fight isn't over. There always seems to be new and ingenious ways to strip Americans of their civil rights, and the ever vigilant have their work cut out for them decade after decade, Scotus decision after Scotus decision. Citizens United, Voting Rights Act. Work others died for being tossed around like Godzilla's playthings.

MLK's dream, once shared with the hundreds of thousands who listened to him live on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, was recorded and replayed to generations. Today, the gift of his vision lives in the hearts of the American public.

There was talk of the MLK monument being "out of service" on the anniversary, as decisions had been made to change the inscription, but luckily those changes were completed, phew, just in time. No, they didn't give the statue a facelift, and they didn't decide to uncross those famously crossed arms of the civil rights leader. No, the text that was removed from Reverend Dr. King's monument was — “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

(Time, 1963)
That snippet was taken from Dr. King’s "Drum Major Instinct" speech, given two months before the "Dream" speech, in Atlanta. Critics said the engraved quote made MLK sound arrogant, so the chisels came out.

In the full quote, Dr. King was alluding to his possible eulogy: “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

His words literally still vibrate today at a level apparently higher than any elephant can hear. Where those words were carved out of stone on the monument, there is now only sandblasted rock with no inscription at all.

Hoodie Truth, 2013
A week of events have been planned throughout the nation's capitol, which should be perfectly temperate this time around. If you decide to join this year's march from the Lincoln Memorial to the King Memorial on Aug. 24th, you'll find the weather around 80 degrees that day with only 10% humidity. It's an easy and delightful stroll from Lincoln to the MLK monument where there will also be an interfaith service on Aug. 28th.

Policy Geeks have put together a more complete guide to events, exhibits and attractions in the nation's capitol. Just check out our next blog post, Part II. Guide will be updated as more information becomes available. Feel free to add any items you know of, fun events to invite friends to, or meet ups here and there, below in the comments.

We recommend joining one of the many bus rides planning to descend on our nation's Capitol this week. If you need to know how to get around the city on Saturday, the Washington Post offers some advice and details. 

Rising from the floor of The Mall in the heart of Washington D.C., placed halfway between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, MLK's monument tells the story of a nation torn by public bouts of racism, sexism, and blind hate.  Lessons as important today as they were then. So maybe come and visit. And be part of what stands between justice and injustice.

Come stand where he stood.

Come march for what he marched for.

The Policy Geek

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Following Suit

(Venere, 2013)
Goldman Sachs, A Class Act.
Recently, The Policy Geek has been following a story on some key banking players. Not to ruin the ending for you, but spoiler alert....

USA Today, yesterday (article snippet):
"HONG KONG (AP) — AUGUST 5, 2013 — A class-action lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. against the London Metal Exchange (LME) and Goldman Sachs, alleging that their "anti-competitive and monopolistic behavior" in aluminum storage has unfairly influenced the price of the commodity.
Wall Street banks and the metal exchange are facing increased scrutiny of their involvement in businesses that store and transport commodities, such as oil and aluminum.
In July, a Senate committee held a hearing into whether banks should be allowed to control power plants, warehouses and oil refineries. The owner of the LME, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, said in a statement Sunday (8/4/13) that it will fight the lawsuit, which it believes is without merit."
A class-action lawsuit. Who woulda thunk it possible to even attempt to take on the big banks? This step comes fast on the heels of our investigation into LME and Goldman Sachs. USA Today continues:
"In the past few days, Goldman announced it is taking measures to make more aluminum immediately available to customers at its Detroit metal storage facilities, which is run by Metro International and operates under LME regulations.
The bank pointed out in making its announcement that "the overall delivered price of aluminum is down nearly 40% since its 2006 peak levels."
Here's the problem with this lobbied press release. As we know, one great way to make money is to make bets predicting the future value of a product. In other words, betting market prices will go up, or down. We'll refer to these bets as Options, although depending on the side of the table you decide to sit on, you could be trading either "Put Options" or "Call Options".

A bank can afford to sell a commodity at a loss, because they make money on the peak sale, the low pick up, and all the storage related billing services in the middle. With the big bucks coming in from owning warehouses, guaranteed, rain or shine, and the associated hedge bets easily available to lay, and then fix, who cares if the price goes down?

The price goes down when a bank wants to buy a stock. The price goes up when the bank actually releases inventory or stock. There is only one conclusion to make, albeit hard to swallow. Our banks control the prices of the world's major commodities, especially a strong commodity that doesn't lose it's value over time when stored, like aluminum, and oil.

One by one, fraudulent practices, more easily hidden before the age of internet research, are being held up to massive public scrutiny. Though there may be few arrests, and small fines to be paid for now, at least the ponzi schemes are being taken down.
Deutsche accused of bankrolling illegal land grabs in Asia.
Everybody Wants To Rule The World.
Earlier this year, electricity prices were called out as unusually high in California and areas of the Midwest. On July 30th, The New York Times, and others, reported the results of an in depth investigation which revealed rampant big bank intervention, only this time it was JP Morgan accused of imposing extra costs on the system. Adding no value, this big bank interjected themselves as middlemen between power producers and the utility companies that actually sell power to consumers and businesses. JPMorgan struck a $410 million settlement. Well now, that seems fair, doesn't it?

You break it, you buy it.
Were JP Morgan's actions really all that bad? We must be talking about fractions of a cent per customer, right? In open court, the bank was accused of devising “manipulative schemes” to transform “money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers.

"You People"
When you are JP Morgan, you don't have to concern yourself with others' profits. It doesn't matter if you are dealing with an investor owned power producer, or a consumer owned utility. their success or failure is not your concern. This is not your grandfather's savings and loan.

Greed is all well and good, but Avarice, now that's a bedfellow. In the selective perception of a bank's radar, profit isn't profit unless it's huge, like Jabba The Hut huge. They take that avarice, dress it up as the holy grail, and make every move accordingly. As long as a bank makes bank on every transaction within a commodity's supply chain, they profit, and they're happy.

Utility companies, which directly serve all of humanity, could change hands a million times, they wouldn't care. Power suppliers whose products are necessary to humanity's basic survival, are not really their concern, and easily replaceable long term. And besides, we are just talking a percentage of a cent per transaction. Nothing to see here.

Asia Today, 2013

Settling down.
The settlement agreement reached on the 30th listed a dozen different strategies used by JP Morgan to fix prices. The settlement also details that the bank had believed their scheme would generate between $1.5 billion and $2 billion in profits by 2018. Now they'll just have to make some other plans.

Banking on America
Some commodities are not that easily recognized. Housing, for instance. Everyone needs housing. The American Dream is to own a house. Plain and simple. Unfortunately, the long fingers of the big banks can't reach far enough into your wallets with interest rates alone, no, since 2000, banking institutions started to double down on bundled mortgage derivatives.

The Obama Administration is starting to hold some of them to task. Among other major deals, after recent criminal banking fraud charges were filled against Bank of America, the finance giant agreed to an $8.5 billion settlement, a $1.6 billion settlement, and another settlement worth more than $10 billion. Heavy fines, but no hefty time in jail, for anyone. Last night, the Chicago Tribune reports that the U.S. government filed two civil lawsuits against Bank of America with accusations of bank investor fraud.

The financial outlays and fines hitting the headlines are a great start. At least someone is doing something, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the profiteering our banks have been proliferating in like pirates on the high seas.

There oughta be a law against banks who invest in a commodity while controlling other parts of the supply chain. Tearing down our carefully constructed protections is not the exclusive property of the Right Wing Republicans in Congress, but it would seem the main heartbeat of the GOP meme itself. A glimpse of the big picture makes it clear, new and improved legislation is required to regain overall control of America's commodity distribution chain.

So when you see something, say something. It could just save the world.

The Policy Geek

UPDATE FROM REUTERS: August 8, 2013"Lawsuits alleging aluminum price fixing by big banks will shine an uncomfortable light on the role played by the London Metal Exchange, suggesting that the murky world of metal trading is likely to attract more attention from the authorities. Even if it successfully defends itself from class action lawsuits by aluminum manufacturers, the LME may have to accept greater external oversight into a trade that until now flourished with little external supervision.

The LME, which was sold last year by its member bank owners to the operator of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, is a defendant in lawsuits which accuse Goldman Sachs (GS.N), JP Morgan (JPM.N) and Glencore-Xstrata of rigging the aluminum market. The lawsuits, brought by small aluminum manufacturers in the United States, accuse the banks and traders of hoarding metal in warehouses, driving up the prices of industrial products from soft-drink cans to aeroplanes.

Plaintiffs argue that the LME abetted the scam by writing rules that made it possible and ignoring calls to change. Although the LME insists its rules were made independently, at the time the actions took place Goldman and JP Morgan were its two biggest shareholders, with JP Morgan owning 10.8 percent and Goldman owning 9.5 percent."

UPDATE FROM REUTERS: August 26, 2013 ~ "A judge has dismissed London Metal Exchange Ltd as a defendant from U.S. antitrust litigation accusing banks and commodity companies of conspiring to drive up aluminum prices by restricting supply, hurting manufacturers and purchasers. In a decision made public on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan concluded that the LME was an "organ" of the UK government, and therefore immune from the lawsuit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Forrest acknowledged that her decision may at first glance seem "somewhat surprising and counterintuitive," noting that the LME is a privately-held, for-profit company subject to extensive regulation. But she said the relevant case law "tips decidedly" toward a grant of immunity, noting that the LME is required by law to perform "the decidedly public function of market regulation."

Established in 1877, the LME was bought in December 2012 by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd. The LME said more than 80 percent of non-ferrous metals futures business is transacted on its platforms, totaling $14.6 trillion in 2013.

The decision does not affect other defendants in the case, which include the large mining company Glencore Plc, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and various commodity trading, metals mining and metals warehousing companies."
UPDATE May 1, 2015 ~ "Citing jurisdictional issues, a New York federal judge on Thursday dismissed the London Metal Exchange, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Glencore International AG and others from multidistrict litigation accusing them of manipulating aluminum prices. U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest denied a motion by direct-purchaser plaintiffs Agfa Corp., Agfa Graphics NV and Mag Instrument Inc. to reconsider the LME's dismissal, saying the LME was permanently dismissed due to sovereign immunity. Glencore PLC and other foreign entities were permanently dismissed due to lack of personal jurisdiction, according to the order. In all, the judge said, the LME, LME Holdings Ltd., Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd., JPMorgan, Henry Bath & Son Ltd., Goldman, Glencore International, Glencore UK Ltd., Glencore PLC and Pacorini Metals AG were no longer parties in any of the MDL actions.

Plaintiffs Agfa, Mag Instrument and Eastman Kodak Co. are alleging similar antitrust violations — that between 2010 and 2013, several banks, affiliated warehousing companies, the LME and other financial institutions agreed to delay delivery of aluminum to customers producing products like drink cans. The plaintiffs said that the delay inflated rents on metal storage and that the trading companies profited from futures trading based on the resulting market conditions while the plaintiffs paid inflated prices for aluminum.

Judge Forrest nixed the complaints, finding that the plaintiffs lacked antitrust standing and hadn't sufficiently pled the existence of a conspiracy. She also dismissed the LME, finding that despite being privately owned, it was protected as part of the U.K. government."
So, we suppose, that is that. Will the practices stay the same? Or will some sort of  reform take place? Time will tell.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Heavy Meddle

The Ring at the LME
(bullionstreet.com)
Who runs the London Metal Exchange? Soooooo glad you asked.

There are currently 12 Ring members (and a few known associates), with dealing privileges at the LME. i.e.:
What's Past Is Prologue, My Friend.
(Cargo Ships, 1859)
Back in the day, after buying aluminum at The London Metal Exchange, it would take months and months to acquire it. Long voyages incurred extra costs that could really add up. And who knew what the market would bear when your ship came in. Prices would fluctuate, and that cargo might be bought and sold many times before it actually arrived.

Hedge Hogs
LME - with the six primary metals traded on the Exchange, provided investors access to futures (hedge bets) and traded options (hedge bets) during those windows in travel timeThe trades are done without the physical delivery, storage and transaction costs associated with the underlying commodity contracts. At the LME, the member banks just trade pink slips around. Tracking the storage of metal stockpiles through a vast network of approved warehouses, the LME has flourished, though never more so than right now in terms of trading volume.  In addition to whatever effect hoarding has on hedging, a warehouse storing the actual commodity makes bank on their tinny tenants.
.
Who's keeping an eye on American metal prices?
(Franklin Mint, 2006)
"In the days when the system worked efficiently, you could get metal out of the LME warehouse network in 48 hours. In those days, small- to medium-sized consumers regularly used the LME as a source of supply." said Lisa Reisman of Metal Miner, a leading global metals market rag, in response to Goldman Sachs' press release from last week.

Fashionably Late
This week, Metal Miner reported that in 2013 the current wait time for metal delivery is, wait for it, 19 months. 19 Months!! Why? The report was talking about Detroit. The city that went that to sleep. It's not like the trucks are getting stuck in traffic!

When translated, the July 23rd Goldman Sachs' press release reads: 'These are warehouse issues. These things just take time. We are only talking about 3% of the metal market, really. Most of these warehouses don't own what they store, you silly journalists, you. Seriously, there is nothing to see here folks. The warehouses don't HAVE to move more than 1,500 tonnes a day per warehouse company, per city, anyway.'

"The cynic may suggest, what is to stop the warehouse owners, such as Goldman, from buying and selling their own inventory while in storage, thereby artificially decreasing the amount of metal in the system, artificially increasing the sale price, and artificially adding to the wait time?" suggested Metal Miner. When pressed, Ms. Reisman offered, "We don’t have hard evidence of this, but in a self-regulated market, such practices could proliferate."

Associate Members of The Ring are all big traders as well as finance players. Glencore owns vast quantities of metal, and also owns the warehouse giant Pacorini. JPMorgan works the same way.

Gaining Weight
According to Forbes, "in 2010, metal stockpiles held in depots registered with the LME swelled to 6 times that of 2007's reported levels – bringing in unprecedented storage revenues from clients who stockpile their metals in warehouse locations. Through its purchase of Metro International, in 2007, Goldman Sachs owns the biggest warehouse in the LME system. By 2010, these Detroit hangouts held a quarter of the aluminium stored in the Metal Exchange’s facilities." That's right 25% of the world's aluminum. Not 3%. And that was back in 2010.

"It's driving up costs for the consumers, and it's not being driven up because there is a true shortage in the market. It's because of an issue of accessing metal ... in Detroit warehouses," said Nick Madden, chief procurement officer for Novelis, the world's biggest maker of rolled aluminum products.

By 2011, Goldman was raking in $378,000 per day in storage costs from those sleepovers in Detroit, which were imposed on customers for months even after they had requested to have their metal removed. In other words, Goldman Sachs was charging (just for storage of the commodities they were also trading) more than $11 million a month, for month after month, to store aluminum they were supposed to deliver upon purchase. They even encouraged clients to buy metals as part of their portfolios, and kindly offered to warehouse those investments as well.

Hoarding Aluminum
The Pause That Refreshes
In 2011, the only one complaining loudly about aluminum shortages was Coca-Cola, and how much sympathy can you really feel for Coke? So no one really listened. This had the effect of driving the cost of aluminum in the US to the highest level in more than a decade.


Of course, that was then. And this is now. And now we know that there are trucks pretending to actually deliver "physical commodities" traveling in circles, in lower Detroit. And every time they pass go, they collect.

With each delay, they collect. With each side bet on futures, they collect. With each transaction fee, they collect.

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Banker.
The banks owning these warehouses make money on mining, distributing, warehousing, hedge betting, distributing, trading, selling, more warehousing, distribution, smelting, and price fixing. It's not just a cent on a can.

It's easier to think of our corporations as responsible marketers and distributors of goods and services to the people. Stewards of the world's consumers, do no harm sort of thing. But then, we should know better. For some reason, when Americans hear all the gory details of this syphoning of cash from the monetary system, we just let the info self destruct. We go on no mission. We make no signs. Our eyes glaze over, and we crack a can of beer, sitting back in our aluminum lawn chairs made in China, BBQing on our aluminum grills on these hot days, and generally enjoying the sounds of summer.

"Walmart has everything we need" you say, "everything's made in China and that's pretty cheap, so what's all the hubub about?" You should be happy to know that The London Metal Exchange was wholly acquired by Hong Kong Exchanges Clearing Limited last December.

Gilt Complex
Then JP Morgan announced they were quitting the physical commmodities business. That happened. The announcement came just three days after a powerful Senate banking committee heard from experts who said that metals warehouses owned by Wall Street and other commodities traders were distorting markets and even driving up the cost of aluminum cans for beer and soda. "Some said allowing them to trade in physical markets was a risk to the financial system." - Reuters. Does this also mean that Morgan Stanley, JP's long lost cousin, is stepping out of The Ring? We'll have to just wait and see.

On the 28th, Forbes recalculated their original 3% theory. Goldman Sachs Actually Holds Close To 25% Of The US Aluminum Supply, Maybe More, they headlined.

Too Big To Fail
In reality, an apples-to-apples comparison would contrast metal stored in US warehouses against US aluminum production in 2012. Last year, Goldman stored 1.5 million tons out of a possible 2.2 million tons, or 68% of total US aluminum primary supply. And that's just one metal, and one bank, storing in one city, they were to big to help.

They know we are waking up. So now it's up to you? Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to share the information. Share it liberally. Break it down for those Republican friends of yours who think corporate tax rates are too high and it's stifling business growth.

This message will self destruct, only if you let it.

The Policy Geek
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