Apr 25 2017

The Breakfast Club (Swinging)

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

Radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi born; ‘America’ first used on a world map; U.S. and Soviet troops meet in World War II; The Hubble Space Telescope deployed into orbit; Jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.

Edward R. Murrow

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Apr 24 2017

False Centerists

It is not a center position to promote a Neo Liberal philosophy of elitist Randian selfishness. The only reason Ivanka and Jared are approved by the Versailles Villagers is because as 7 Figure 1%ers they identify with them instead of the 99% of us.

Apr 24 2017

Sumerian Cow Tokens

So what is the value of an Ur Cow Token?

Sorry, I can’t get a market price for Ur per se so you’ll have to settle for a Sumerian one from around 1953 – 1935 BCE backed (and baked) by the Royal mint itself which in “very good” condition fetches around $1200 in Federal Reserve notes good for all Debts Public and Private.

Or a Cow if you have a TARDIS, market value for one of those is $1642 and you get the income from the meat and milk and manure and the little baby Cows which over a 4.7 year lifespan (oh, don’t get sentimental on me, we’re talking about an imaginary Cow from an economic standpoint and you can keep it in a feedlot so you don’t have to do any of those icky pitchfork thingees).

The cool mist settled in the hollows of the night as the idiot stood by the fence contemplating (as well as his child-like mind could) the bovine somnolence that stood before him, serenely dreaming lactative 4 stomach dreams of endless fields of daisies, yes daisies for that was her name- Daisy, bright as the summer sun, long slow munching of grass and partially digested grass, methane producing, global warming Daisy. She smelled of the earth and as he approached her side, careful not to disturb her gentle ‘earth gifts’, he could feel the heat of her fermentive power, the transformation of cool clay, the wetness of spring floods, and the greenness, the awesome greenness of the whole valley.

Gently he pushed her and she collapsed, even now unconscious, the pastures of her youth playing in her mind as the idiot re-crossed the boundary between what was her and her kind’s alone, back to the mundane reality that waited for him, back to his own kind and their cruel taunts.

As the sun rose the mist fled. Daisy, startled, rose to her feet and resumed her life as if nothing had happened. The idiot, wracked by guilt, finished his undergraduate degree in English Literature, not only never forgetting his youthful indiscretions but in fact REVELING in them as he said to me-

“Do you want fries with that?”

Anyway it’s $2582 in net income at least which is more than twice as many green pieces of paper as that dried out piece of dirt.

Wait ek. I can monetize that future income and invest it in something with a higher return!

Sure, at a discount, and please tell me what other investments are going to yield 20% per year?

Uber stocks?

What if Uber Is a Joke?
By Dean Baker, Truthout
Monday, April 24, 2017

While Uber’s impact on the taxi industry is clearly not a joke, the market valuation of the company may well be. Uber is not yet publicly traded, but its market value has been estimated as being as high as $70 billion. That compares to a market value of just $51 billion for auto giant GM and $44.6 billion for Ford.

These are longstanding companies that both make close to $10 billion in annual profits. By contrast, Uber is losing billions of dollars a year.

Investors are not ordinarily prepared to pay large amounts of money for the stock of companies that lose money. The stock certificates might be pretty, but presumably at the end of the day investors will want to see profits.

There are two stories whereby Uber turns itself around and becomes a hugely profitable company. The first is that it will soon drive out enough of its competition so that it will enjoy near-monopoly status in many markets. This will allow it to raise its prices enough so that it can then turn large profits.

There are two problems with this story, one technical and the other legal. The technical problem is that it is not clear whether the technology of the taxi industry lends itself to monopolies. It’s not that hard to have an app for calling cabs, nor is it hard to hire drivers. If Uber were to up its prices by 20-30 percent, it would likely find many new competitors in the market.

Let me stop right here and admit I wrote a term paper in Economics that argued Monopolies were unstable in the long run because the threshold price for their products was just below a level that would attract competition. It’s true enough but I grossly underestimated that threshold.

The other problem is the legal one. Predatory pricing to gain a monopoly is textbook anti-competitive behavior. This should lead to anti-trust action by the government and lawsuits by competitors. This is undoubtedly a major reason that Uber has staffed itself with former top Obama administration officials. Of course, Donald Trump has probably never heard of anti-trust laws.

The other turnaround story for Uber is that it was never really about taxis, but rather self-driving vehicles. Uber is going to be the behemoth of the self-driving vehicle industry and dominate this market the way IBM once dominated computers and Microsoft dominated software.

The problem with this story is that Uber would have to beat out a large number of major competitors, including the existing auto companies, Apple, Google and undoubtedly many smaller tech companies. That seems like a long shot.

So let’s try alternative number three — Uber’s stock is nearly worthless, but for now people are willing to pay lots of money for it. This shouldn’t sound far-fetched if you have heard of AOL, Priceline or more recently Groupon. In each case, stock valuations soared into the tens of billions or even hundreds of billions before plunging to a small fraction of this amount.

In such cases we see a massive redistribution of wealth, often from pension funds and other institutional investors to the “visionaries” who were able to sucker them. Folks like Steve Case, the former CEO of AOL, are incredibly rich today because of their talents in this area. Perhaps Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is following in his footsteps.

I, for one, am always willing to trade magic beans for live jive Cows. Hope you get lots of golden eggs before the traitorous harp calls the Giant on you.

Apr 24 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Zombies of Voodoo Economics

According to many reports, Donald Trump is getting frantic as his administration nears the 100-day mark. It’s an arbitrary line in the sand, but one he himself touted in many pre-inauguration boasts. And it will be an occasion for numerous articles detailing how little of substance he has actually accomplished.

Yet many of these reports will, I suspect, miss half the story. It’s important to note just how little the tweeter-in-chief has managed to achieve; but we also need to focus on what, exactly, it is that he hasn’t achieved.

For Mr. Trump sold himself to voters as unorthodox as well as effective. He was going to be a different kind of president, a consummate deal-maker who would transcend the usual ideological divide. His supporters should therefore be dismayed, not just by his failure to actually close any deals, but by the fact that he evidently has no new ideas to offer, just the same old snake oil the right has been peddling for decades.

Charles M. Blow: Resilience of the Resistance

The resistance to the travesty of Donald Trump’s presidency is holding up just fine, thank you very much.

As we approach the 100th day of the Trump administration, a tremendous amount of attention and coverage will be devoted to analyzing its impact and efficacy. But I would also like to take time to celebrate the impact and efficacy of the resistance.

I must say that the issue of resilience was one that I worried and wondered about from the beginning: For far too many Americans in this digital age, stamina is rare, attention spans are short and the urge for instant gratification, or at least for expedient resolution, is enormous.

I worried that modern shortsightedness would prevent resisters from seeing the long game, that the exhaustion of constant outrage would numb them to unrelenting assault.

But, to my great delight, my worry was unfounded. Not only is the movement still strong, it appears to be getting stronger. People have found a salve for their sadness: exuberant agitation. Far from growing limp, the Trump resistance is stiffening and strengthening.

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Apr 24 2017

The Breakfast Club (Ballet)

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

An aborted mission to free American hostages in Iran ends in disaster; Ireland’s ‘Easter Rising’ begins; Armenians face mass deportation during World War I; Singer Barbra Streisand born.

Breakfast Tunes

Happy 75th Birthday, Barbra

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Diplomacy is like jazz: endless variations on a theme.

Richard Holbrooke

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Apr 23 2017

“It won’t help. Then the anger becomes real.”

Apr 23 2017

Hitler’s Birthday

Apr 23 2017

French Presidential Election 2017: Round One (Update)

Update 20:45 CEST: François Fillon conceded defeat calling for his supporters to vote against the far-right that Marine Le Pen represents and endorses Emmanuel Macron.

Update 20:35 CEST: The Guardian has an historic note about this election:

(T)his is the first time in modern French history that neither of the mainstream centre-right or centre-left parties of government that have governed France since the second world war have qualified for the second round of a presidential election.

Update 20:15 CEST: Some of the polls closed at 7 PM CEST and early estimates have Macron and Le Pen leading with 23.7% and 21.7% respectively. Fillon and Mélenchon trailing on around 19.5%. The Socialist candidate, Hamon, is way down on 6.5%.

These are early estimates but the French have a very accurate system to estimate the votes that is usually within a percentage point or two. While it is based on actual vote counts, it is not an official count but it is not a poll either.

Hamon has already conceded and urged those who voted for him to vote for Macron on May7.

Today the French vote on which two of the eleven candidates will have the chance to their president for the next five years. Since 1962, unlike the United States, the French have directly elected their president. To be president of France that person must get 50% of the popular vote which has, as in the past, required a second round of voting two weeks after the first between the top two candidates. The candidate who wins serves for five years and, since 2008, can only serve for two consecutive terms. Campaign advertising on TV is not allowed and each candidate is given equal time on public television. Spending is also tightly regulated and capped with an independent agency regulating the election and party spending. These are not arbitrary rules, they are part of the French constitution. It seems a lot more civil and organized than US elections for as uncivil as the French can be at times.

Although only four or five are considered contenders for the two second round spots on May 7, it is still anyone’s game. Polling has been no help and there is much speculation by political pundits about how the shooting on the Champs Elysee and the insertion of the highly unpopular presidents of Russia and the United States will effect the peoples’ opinion. One thing is certain, the French can be fickle and unpredictable.

These are the top candidates:

Emmanuel Macron is a 39 year old who was briefly a civil servant before becoming a Rothschild’s banker and then an adviser and economy minister in François Hollande’s government. He has never been elected to office. He has campaigned as being “pragmatic and fair” neither left or right. He is socially and economically liberal but pro-business. He has no party affiliation and is running as an independent.

Marine Le Pen is a 49 year old lawyer and head of the Front National party that was founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. She represent the far right and has run on a platform to end immigration, slash crime, eradicate Islamism, pull France out of Europe and save it from globalization. Her campaign slogan is “Au nom du peuple” which translates: “in the name of the people.” She sees herself as the savior of the French public, French culture, and French language. Sound familiar? It should.

François Fillon, 63, a former center-right prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and a member of the Les Républicains party, has been hit by an alleged corruption scandal. A self-styled “clean hands” candidate, he was accused of giving his wife and children taxpayer-funded fake jobs. After slipping in the polls, his numbers have stabilized and he is back in contention. He is economically a Thatcher radical (read austerity) calling for cuts in taxes and public spending, slashing public sector jobs, raising the retirement age, freeing up labor laws and breaking trade union power. He appeals to the conservative French Catholic voter promising to preserve traditional family values. Hmmm, sounds even more familiar

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, , a far-left veteran with a radical economic program, could also make the final two. He is the head of a new party, La France Insoumise (Untamed France), his policies include shortening the working week, lowering the retirement age, raising the minimum wage and social security benefits, and taxing top earners at 90%.

He also wants to abandon nuclear power, abolish the presidential regime of the Fifth Republic, and in foreign affairs withdraw from NATO, develop warmer ties with Russia, and renegotiate the terms of France’s EU membership with the promise of an in-out referendum afterwards.

The ruling party Socialist candidate is Hollande’s former education minister Benoît Hamon, 49, whose most radical idea is his proposal to introduce a universal basic income.

Most of the media pundits are concerned about a Le Pen win, even though the current polling shows that she would lose no matter who she faced. An article in The Guardian makes some interesting points about that possibility:

Most observers doubt Le Pen can win more than 50% of the second-round vote. But there are caveats. Her support is more solid: in surveys, Le Pen’s voters mostly say they are certain to support their chosen candidate; Macron’s tend not to be so sure.

There is no precedent for a Macron victory: no centrist has ever occupied the Elysée palace, nor any candidate running without the political and logistical backing of one of the traditional left or rightwing parties.

In past elections, the two-round system has allowed voters from both left and right to form a united “Republican front” against any FN candidate who makes it to the second round. So far, that pact has largely held.

But some observers worry it is now vulnerable. They say voters are so disaffected, and consider politicians so corrupt and ineffective, that the pact could be seen more as the political class saving its skin rather than a bulwark against extremism.

One recent survey showed 89% of French voters believe politicians do not listen to them. How angry, demoralised people vote will be decisive. And an unforeseen event, such as another major terrorist attack, could yet change the whole dynamic of the race.

Now that’s really sounding familiar.

Voting is done by paper ballot since the French don’t trust electronic voting machines to be secure. Polling stations opened in the Atlantic Ocean territories of Saint Pierre and Miquelon as well as French Guyana in South America, the Caribbean’s Guadeloupe and elsewhere. Voters abroad could also cast ballots in French embassies, with polls across France opening on Sunday. The count will begin on Sunday evening when polls have closed across mainland France.

Apr 23 2017

The Breakfast Club (Circus Jig)

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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AP’s Today in History for April 23rd

William Shakespeare born, dies 52 years later on same day; MLK Jr. assassinator James Earl Ray dies at age 70; Cesar Chavez dies at age 66; Hank Aaron begins climb to throne home run king.

 

Breakfast Tune Circus Jig

 

Something to think about, Breakfast News & Blogs below

 
Largest Charter School Chain in LA Raises Millions in Dark Money to Fight Union Drive
Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

The extraordinary lengths to which Los Angeles’ largest charter school chain will go to defeat a union drive were revealed in a new California State Auditor report that found it raised nearly $1 million for the effort and broke federal privacy law by giving alumni information to industry lobbyists to augment their union-busting campaign.

The efforts by Alliance College-Ready Public Schools (Alliance) to stop the union drive that began in March 2015, when 67 teachers and counselors said they wanted to join United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), also included $2.2 million in donated legal fees, hiring an array of campaign consultants routinely seen in political fights and coordinating with the California Charter School Association (CCSA), which used the private alumni files to recruit former students to their side.

The audit report did not say who gave the money or legal work worth $3.2 million to Alliance, which operates 25 schools in the LA region with 12,000 students and has more than 600 teachers and counselors. The state auditor’s goal was to determine if any of the anti-union funds spent by Alliance had been diverted from taxpayer funds. It concluded that Alliance set up separate accounts and had not dipped into the $157 million it got from state, federal, and local sources in fiscal year 2015-16. …

 
A Government Swindle on Student Debt
Ryan de Laureal, Socialist Worker

Imagine if, after graduating from college with a five- or six-figure student loan debt, you learned you could enroll in a government program that would allow a portion of your debt to be forgiven in exchange for 10 years of work at a broad range of public-service jobs, from nonprofits to government agencies.

This was the promise of the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007 as part of the bipartisan College Cost Reduction and Access Act.

The program offered a track for recent grads to escape debt obligations and provided an incentive for graduates to fulfill urgently needed — and usually low-paying — positions serving the public in one way or another.

Now imagine that, after spending the early years of your career working for less money in public service in exchange for debt forgiveness, you find out that the government had decided to retroactively retract the offer — even though you received letters of approval confirming that your job qualified you.

This nightmare scenario is the actual situation confronting a number of PSLF program recipients, who last December were compelled to file a lawsuit, joined by the American Bar Association, to get the Department of Education (DoE) to keep its promises. …

 
IMF members set aside trade split as French vote rattles nerves
Leika Kihara and Francesco Canepa

International Monetary Fund members on Saturday dropped a pledge to fight protectionism amid a split over trade policy and turned their attention to another looming threat to global economic integration: the first round of France’s presidential election.

Concerns that far-right leader Marine Le Pen and far-left rival Jean-Luc Mélenchon, both critics of the European Union, could top the field in Sunday’s vote added to nervousness over U.S. trade policy at the IMF and World Bank spring meetings.

“There was a clear recognition in the room that we have probably moved from high financial and economic risks to more geopolitical risks,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told a news conference. …

 
IN SECRET COURT HEARING, LAWYER OBJECTED TO FBI SIFTING THROUGH NSA DATA LIKE IT WAS GOOGLE
Alex Emmons, The Intercept

IN HER FIRST APPEARANCE representing the American public before the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2015, Amy Jeffress argued that the FBI is violating the Fourth Amendment by giving agents “virtually unrestricted” access to data from one of the NSA’s largest surveillance programs, which includes an untold amount of communications involving innocent Americans.

The NSA harvests data from major Internet companies like Facebook, Google and Apple without a warrant, because it is ostensibly “targeting” only foreigners. But the surveillance program sweeps up a large number of Americans’ communications as well. Then vast amounts of data from the program, including the Americans’ communications, are entered into a master database that a Justice Department lawyer at the 2015 hearing described as the “FBI’s ‘Google’ of its lawfully acquired information.”

The FBI routinely searches this database during ordinary criminal investigations — which gives them access to Americans’ communications without a warrant. …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something to think about over coffee prozac

Bus ad promoting US city festival shows images from Europe

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A bus ad promoting a Concord, New Hampshire, arts festival takes a detour through Europe.

Huge photos on a Concord Coach bus that travels between Concord and Boston feature images of the Merrimack River and a local clock tower, both associated with New Hampshire’s capital city.

But the Concord Monitor reports (http://bit.ly/2pVXe08) that photos of people on a Prague hillside and a painter from Venice, Italy, also are in the ad for the May 6 festival.

Still, Concord Coach president Ben Blunt says: “I think you can get your message across.”

Concord Coach paid for the ad. A festival volunteer chose the photos from a stock photo service.

Last year, Rhode Island hired a new chief marketing officer after its embarrassing state tourism campaign included a video featuring a scene from Iceland.

Apr 23 2017

Pondering the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Pondering the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

On Sunday mornings we present a preview of the guests on the morning talk shows so you can choose which ones to watch or some do something more worth your time on a Sunday morning.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

This Week with George Stephanopolis: The guests on Sunday’s “This Week” are: U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions; and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The roundtable guests are: Cincinnati radio talk show host Bill Cunningham; Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter; ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd; and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Face the Nation: Host John Dickerson’s guests are: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH).

His panel guests are: Wall Street Journal’s Carol Lee; National Review’s Reihan Salam; The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg; and New York Times Magazine‘s Mark Leibovich.

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd: The guests on this week’s “MTP” are: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); White house Chief of Staff Reince Priebus; and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

The panel guests are: NBC Today Show host Savannah Guthrie.

State of the Union with Jake Tapper: Mr. Tapper’s guests are: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC); and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

His panel guests are: Democratic strategist Bakari Sellers; Republican strategist Amanda Carpenter; president of Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden; and Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA)

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