Category Archives: Finance

Birgitta Jónsdóttir: Headed for Iceland’s top post?


A 2011 self-portrait by Birgitta Jónsdóttir

A 2011 self-portrait by Birgitta Jónsdóttir

esnl‘s long been partial to Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Iceland’s poet, artist, Internet activist, publisher, hacker, and best-known science fiction fan.

She came to international prominence as a Wikileaks activist at a time when half the world’s cops and spooks wanted to shut the site down, and her activism led her into the national legislature as a member of the Pirate Party, a movement she helped found.

The anger spurring her move into the political arena came from the national government’s capitulation of the banksters who had brought the country to near-ruin.

But now she stands on the brink of yet another major change.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir could become the nation’s next prime minister.

From a 28 January post from the Reykjavik Grapevine:

The Pirate Party is currently polling at 42%, remaining the top party in the country for the past year now. Support for the party exceeds that of both parties in the ruling coalition combined.

These results come from a new poll conducted by Stöð 2 and Fréttablaðið, where the Pirates have polled at over 30% for the past 12 months.

At the same time, support for the Independence Party is now at 23.2%, which is a record low for the party for this poll. Their partners in the ruling coalition, the Progressive Party, are currently slightly above 10%. This puts support for the Pirates alone almost 10% greater than that of both parties in the coalition.

So what would this remarkable activist do in office?

From a 22 January Backchannel profile:

Stubbornly, Birgitta follows the Pirate Party guidelines: horizontal leadership, power rotation, liquid democracy. She votes in Parliament according to the majority will collected on the Píratar web platform. Birgitta is a captain with no title or privileges. Yet she leads.

With only three parliamentarians, Pirates have surged into first place for the next legislative elections. (With 38 percent of voter intention, they are ahead of both traditional parties combined.) “People are really fed up,” she comments. Birgitta could become prime minister. She rolls her big eyes and says, “That is my worst nightmare.”

Birgitta isn’t a rebel but a hacker. Complaining and pointing fingers is a waste of time. She has a goal, a plan: Birgitta wants democracy to work again. Being in charge is the price to pay. Yet she imposes her conditions: She wants her hands free. If in power, Birgitta’s action plan is clear: apply the new constitution; implement IMMI to make Iceland a safe haven for freedom of expression and data; hold a proper debate on joining the European Union, followed by a referendum; conduct a six-month policy assessment of every ministry; and turn the recommendation into a government plan. After that, Birgitta would step down to force new elections to have this plan supported across the board. A true pirate, she would leave her seat as soon as she is done. Power destroys souls. It has worn her out already.

So what does she believe?

From Julian Correa, a video of a talk she gave on freedom of information [and much more] at the November 2014 CopyCamp, a Warsaw gathering on copyright law:

Birgitta Jónsdóttir

And here’s an interview from We Are Change Rotterdam:

Birgitta Jónsdóttir: “We have to help the system to collapse”

Program notes:

Birgitta Jónsdóttir is a politician (poetician) and an activist member of the Althing, the Icelandic parliament, formerly representing the Citizens’ Movement and The Movement, but now representing the Pirate Party. We Are Change Rotterdam got a chance to talk to her about revolution, Icelandic politics, the new Icelandic constitution and much more. Utrecht, 2014

We suspect life is about to get very interesting in Iceland.

Her blog is here, she also posts on Facebook and on Twitter.

Chart of the day: One tax remains constant


Gues which one?

From the U.S. Census Bureau [PDF]:

Quarterly Summary of State and Local Government Tax Revenue for

Headline of the day II: Cash and carry Clinton


From the Washington Post:

Clinton blasts Wall Street, but still draws millions in contributions

Even as Hillary Clinton has stepped up her rhetorical assault on Wall Street, her campaign and allied super PACs have continued to rake in millions from the financial sector, a sign of her deep and lasting relationships with banking and investment titans.

And the Post’s Ann Telnaes offered her own contribution on Clintonian hypocrisy, keying off a statement the candidate made at last night’s New Hampshire Democratic Town Hall:

BLOG Clinton

Chart of the day III: Chinese market collapses


From the New York Times, evidence that the Collapse of 2016 is already underway, with massive amounts of notional wealth already destroyed [click on the image to enlarge]:

BLOG China

Charts of the day II: Student debt, Black burden


Student debt is yet another burden that falls disproportionately on America’s African American families, as evidenced in these charts from Less Debt, More Equity: Lowering Student Debt While Closing the Black-White Wealth Gap [PDF], a joint report from Demos and The Institute on Assets and Social Policy:

BLOG Debt

Borrowing while black: Banksters in action


Just having a name that sounds like the applicant is African American will cost the would-be borrower a 71 percent reduction on the lender’s credit score, according to a new study.

From teleSUR English:

Mortgage lenders across the United States discriminate against African-Americans clients, according to a new study.

In an industry where credit scores are meant to determine eligibility, race was half as much a determining factor of the lender’s response to a loan request.

The study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Urban Economics, emailed over 5,000 Mortgage Loan Originators—the first point of contact that can offer and negotiate loans—with white-sounding and Black-sounding names.

Differences in the initial responses were significant enough to note consistent discrepancies: in the rate, length, content, tone and timing of the responses. The African American-sounding clients were repeatedly treated more poorly. On the whole, the treatment amounted to about 71 percent lower credit score.

More from the Marquette University College of Business Administration:

A Marquette University study forthcoming in the Journal of Urban Economics has found that African-Americans seeking home loans are discriminated against by mortgage lenders at the earliest stages of the application process.

According to Dr. Andrew Hanson, associate professor of economics and the study’s lead author, black Americans are far more likely than white Americans to be ignored by mortgage loan originators.

Hanson pointed out that allegations of discriminatory lending practices during the 2004-08 housing boom resulted in the two largest cash settlements ever between mortgage lenders and the Department of Justice — $335 million from Bank of America’s Countrywide group and $175 million from Wells Fargo. The complaints alleged that these institutions steered equally qualified minority applicants into higher interest (sub-prime) loans and charged higher fees than for white borrowers.

“While some observers may chalk the root cause of discrimination during the boom to an unusual housing and lending market, that may not necessarily be the case, as our research points out,” Hanson said.

In the three-year study, Hanson and his collaborators tested for racial discrimination by mortgage lenders using what’s known as a correspondence experiment approach. The team sent identical email inquiries to lenders, with one primary difference — the name of the potential borrower.

“We used names that are highly likely to be associated with either African-Americans or white Americans to see if their inquiries were treated differently by lenders,” Hanson said.

After analyzing the data from more than 10,000 emails, Hanson found net discrimination by 1.8 percent of lenders through non-response. The study also showed that lenders offer more details about loans and are more likely to send follow-up correspondence to whites.

“Looking just at the response rates of mortgage loan originators, the effect of being African-American is equivalent to the effect of having a credit score that is 71 points lower,” Hanson noted.

Chart of the day II: The billion dollar election


From the Center for Public Integrity, a look at the huge numbers of dollars pouring into the 2016 Presidential election as of the end of the year, with the greatest share of those corporate and bankster super PAC dollars going to the GOP. Click on the image to enlarge, and go to the link for an interactive version:

2015 fundraising by candidates versus super PACs

2015 fundraising by candidates versus super PACs