04/25/2011 archive

Winning The Future for the Wealthy

What does “Winning The Future”, the inept slogan of the Obama 2012 campaign, really mean for the middle class and poor, especially the African American, Hispanic and other minority communities? What would re-electing Obama in 2012 mean for the economy? For Glenn Ford at the Black Agenda Report, it means a further economic decline, especially for the Black community where unemployment is still more than twice that for Whites.

Obama’s Depraved Indifference

“Barack Obama must bear direct responsibility for the relative Black decline, both as candidate and president.”

Black wealth has virtually disappeared. Data gathered prior to 2007, when the full scope of the subprime mortgage catastrophe was just becoming known, showed median Black family wealth at about $5,000, one-twentieth of the median white family’s $100,000 holdings. Since then, the bottom has fallen out from under whole communities, with Blacks hit by far the hardest. By the second quarter of 2010, Black home ownership had declined from its 2007 level of 48 percent to 46.2 percent, a 3.7 percent drop, and still falling – a guarantee that median Black household wealth is well below the $5,000 registered in 2007. (Median wealth for single Black women at the top of their earning capacity, ages 36 to 49, was precisely $5 – five dollars! – in 2010.)

Barack Obama must bear direct responsibility for the relative Black decline, both as candidate and president. As election year 2008 began, Obama took the most pro-banker, laissez faire capitalist position on home foreclosures of the three major Democratic presidential candidates. John Edwards backed a mandatory moratorium on foreclosures and a freeze on interest rates, while Hillary Clinton supported a “voluntary” halt and $30 billion in federal aid to homeowners. But Obama opposed any moratorium, mandatory or voluntary, and balked at cash for homeowners and stricken communities.

Perhaps it would be in the best interests of the majority to not re-elect Obama, as Ian Welsh argues,

America is in terminal decline.  There may be a lot of ruin in a nation, as Keynes said, but that amount is not infinite.  The next chance you get to turn this around you will be starting from a much worse position.  A lot more pain will be unavoidable.

Obama is not turning things around, what he is doing is negotiating with Republicans how fast the decline will be, and how much and how fast it is necessary to fuck ordinary Americans in order to keep the rich rich.  If Obama wins another term, he will continue to negotiate the decline, then, odds are very high, a Republican will get in, and slam his foot on the accelerator of collapse.

This is why Obama must lose in 2012. I would prefer that he lose to a Democrat in a primary, then that Democrat wins, but he must lose regardless.  If he loses to a Republican, then 2016 you get a chance to put someone in charge who might do the right things (or even just some of them.)

No, those odds aren’t good. They suck.  Every part of them sucks.  And even if you get a Dem in 2016, you’ll probably choose the right most candidate, just like  you did last time, and he’ll go back to negotiating with Republicans over what parts of the corpse of America’s middle class they should dine on next.  “No, no, eat one kidney first, they only need one to survive, so that’s not too cruel.”

But it is still your best chance. Otherwise you’re looking at full, Russian-style collapse.  What comes out the other end, I don’t know, but  you really won’t enjoy getting there.

Look at what is happening now in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio where the state governments where turned over to the Republican Tea Party. Even moderate Republicans and Independents are in revolt. What is happening there is happening now at a Federal Level. Reclaiming the House and throwing out the right wingers in the Senate, replacing them with more progressive, liberal representation is our best hope and needs to be our focus. It is the only ay to counter the right wing agenda of the White House.

Our Casino Economy

It doesn’t matter that the house always wins because hey, you might get lucky.

The Casino Next Door

How slot machines snuck into the mall, along with money laundering, bribery, shootouts, and billions in profits

By Felix Gillette, Business Week

April 21, 2011, 5:00PM EST

Jacks is about the size of a neighborhood deli. There is a bar next door and a convenience store around the corner. Inside, jumbo playing cards decorate the walls. The room is filled with about 30 desktop computers. Here and there, men and women sit in office chairs and tap at the computers. They are playing “sweepstakes” games that mimic the look and feel of traditional slot machines. Rows of symbols-cherries, lucky sevens, four-leaf clovers-tumble with every click of the mouse.

It’s a high-margin, cash-rich business. According to Mecham, each terminal at a thriving cafe typically grosses $1,000 to $5,000 per month. A medium-size business with, say, 100 machines would therefore gross around $250,000 a month, or in the ballpark of $3 million a year. All of which would suggest that in less than a decade, Internet sweepstakes cafes in the U.S. have grown into a collective $10 billion to $15 billion industry.

Customers are easy to find. Mecham says sweepstakes cafes cater primarily to two demographics: the old and the poor. “Lower-income customers are coming in because they’re bad at math,” he says. “It’s like the lottery. The lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math. They’re coming in to try and catch a big break.”

Are you sure this place is honest?

Honest? As honest as the day is long!

Punting the Pundits

“Punting 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 “Punting the Pundits”

Paul Krugman: Let’s Take a Hike

When I listen to current discussions of the federal budget, the message I hear sounds like this: We’re in crisis! We must take drastic action immediately! And we must keep taxes low, if not actually cut them further!

You have to wonder: If things are that serious, shouldn’t we be raising taxes, not cutting them?

My description of the budget debate is in no way an exaggeration. Consider the Ryan budget proposal, which all the Very Serious People assured us was courageous and important. That proposal begins by warning that “a major debt crisis is inevitable” unless we confront the deficit. It then calls, not for tax increases, but for tax cuts, with taxes on the wealthy falling to their lowest level since 1931.

Robert Kuttner: A Double Dip Recession for 2012?

Economists are painting a pretty bleak picture of the economic outlook between now and the November 2012 election. Will this hurt President Obama’s re-election chances? Or will voters blame the Party of No?

That, of course, partly depends on what kind of campaign Obama runs and partly on the Republicans. But first, let’s take stock (actually, maybe let’s sell stock).

The Federal Reserve has been buying up lots of bonds to keep interest rates very low. The Fed disguises what it’s doing with the antiseptic and mystifying term, “quantitative easing,” or QE for short. This is the second time the central bank has tried this trick, hence the coy nickname, QE 2. The problem is that very low interest rates only take you so far in a depressed economy.

Will Hutton: The United States Faces a Crisis Not Seen Since the Depression

The poisonous atmosphere surrounding the role of the state and taxation allows no realistic budget bargaining

Maybe it’s because Boston is different, a semi-detached city in one of the US’s most liberal states. But the news that the world’s biggest economy had had its creditworthiness challenged for the first time by the upstart rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) hardly seemed to register with the locals.

No one I met fulminated about loss of economic sovereignty or that S&P, whose purblind approval of junk mortgage debt as triple A was one of the causes of the financial crisis, had finally over-reached itself. Bostonians seemed unconcerned. Perhaps this was because it was just one more surreal moment in the pantomime that is American economic and political life.

That was how the markets judged the news. There was a momentary tremor in the Dow Jones. Some analysts shrugged it off; others thought it profoundly serious. But soon the markets were on the rise again as if nothing had happened.

The New York Times Editorial: The House Strikes, and Wins, Again

In another House-engineered setback for the environment, the compromise budget approved by Congress and the White House prohibits the Interior Department from spending any money to carry out a policy protecting unspoiled federal lands.

Under the 1976 Federal Lands Policy and Management Act, the secretary of interior has the power to inventory, identify and protect such lands. President George W. Bush’s secretary, Gale Norton, who was more interested in development than conservation, renounced that authority. Ken Salazar, the current secretary, reaffirmed it in December only to have House Republicans strike back.

The amendment, like much from the House, was based on demagoguery. Western Republicans claimed the policy would pre-empt Congress’s right to designate permanent wilderness on federal lands. That isn’t true. What the Interior Department does, and has done until Ms. Norton came along, is identify lands with “wilderness characteristics” and manage them carefully – preventing rampant motorized vehicle use, for instance – until Congress can decide whether they deserve permanent protection.

John Nichols: The Issue is Jobs, Not Deficit Reduction

Republicans never cared about deficit reduction when George Bush was president.

And, for the most part, they don’t care now — as evidenced by broad GOP support for House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan’s plan to keep the budget out of balance until 2040 while clearing the way to begin streaming federal Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid dollars into the coffers of Wall Street speculators and insurance-industry profiteers.

But Republican leaders do care about controlling the debate. When the country is focused on an overblown debate about debts and deficits, that forecloses discussion about the serious economic and social challenges facing the nation. It also forecloses discussion about holding bankers and CEOs accountable for irresponssible and illegal practices that have done far more harm to the nation’s fiscal stability than retirees and the children of low-incoem families who need a little health care.

Allison Kilkenny: The Warped US Tax System: Taxpayers Subsidize Their Own Destruction

One of the more interesting battles being waged right now is between labor and Boeing, the aerospace and defense corporation. The National Labor Relations Board accuses the company of illegally retaliating against its largest union when it decided in 2009 to put a second 787 Dreamliner assembly line in a nonunion plant in South Carolina.

Originally, Boeing intended to construct the Dreamliner in Washington, but only if the state approved a twenty-year, $3.2 billion package of tax credits. Officials ultimately conceded, but Boeing took its toys and went to play elsewhere anyway when South Carolina lured it across state lines with the promise of a whopping $900 million subsidy package a k a taxpayer dollars, and a nonunion plant to set up shop in.

Boeing also happens to be one of the shining examples of government-subsidized businesses that pay meager amounts of state and local taxes. In 2010, Boeing received a net tax refund of $137 million from state and local governments despite earning more than $4 billion in pretax profits.

Monday Business Edition

Monday Business Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Business

1 Japan auto giants see home output plunge post-quake

by Mike Patterson, AFP

Mon Apr 25, 3:29 am ET

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s leading automakers said that domestic production plummeted in March after the massive quake and tsunami, which shut off parts supplies and led to widespread power shortages.

Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, on Monday said production in Japan plunged 62.7 percent year on year in March, putting it in danger of falling this year from the global top spot it claimed from General Motors in 2008.

Domestic output slumped to 129,491 vehicles, which Kyodo News agency said was the lowest since records began in January 1976.

On This Day In History April 25

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

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

April 25 is the 115th day of the year (116th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 250 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1859, ground broken is for Suez Canal

At Port Said, Egypt, ground is broken for the Suez Canal, an artificial waterway intended to stretch 101 miles across the isthmus of Suez and connect the Mediterranean and the Red seas. Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat who organized the colossal undertaking, delivered the pickax blow that inaugurated construction.

Artificial canals have been built on the Suez region, which connects the continents of Asia and Africa, since ancient times. Under the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt, a channel connected the Bitter Lakes to the Red Sea, and a canal reached northward from Lake Timsah as far as the Nile River. These canals fell into disrepair or were intentionally destroyed for military reasons. As early as the 15th century, Europeans speculated about building a canal across the Suez, which would allow traders to sail from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea, rather than having to sail the great distance around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

The Suez Canal, when first built, was 164 km (102 mi) long and 8 m (26 ft) deep. After multiple enlargements, the canal is 193.30 km (120.11 mi) long, 24 m (79 ft) deep, and 205 metres (673 ft) wide as of 2010. It consists of the northern access channel of 22 km/14 mi, the canal itself of 162.25 km/100.82 mi and of the southern access channel of 9 km/5.6 mi.

It is single-lane with passing places in Ballah By-Pass and in the Great Bitter Lake. It contains no locks; seawater flows freely through the canal. In general, the Canal north of the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer. The current south of the lakes changes with the tide at Suez.

The canal is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of the Arab Republic of Egypt. Under international treaty, it may be used “in time of war as in time of peace, by every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.”

Construction by Suez Canal Company

In 1854 and 1856 Ferdinand de Lesseps obtained a concession from Sa’id Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, to create a company to construct a canal open to ships of all nations. The company was to operate the canal for 99 years from its opening. De Lesseps had used his friendly relationship with Sa’id, which he had developed while he was a French diplomat during the 1830s. As stipulated in the concessions, Lesseps convened the International Commission for the piercing of the isthmus of Suez (Commission Internationale pour le percement de l’isthme des Suez) consisting of thirteen experts from seven countries, among them McClean, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, and again Negrelli, to examine the plans of Linant de Bellefonds and to advise on the feasibility of and on the best route for the canal. After surveys and analyses in Egypt and discussions in Paris on various aspects of the canal, where many of Negrelli’s ideas prevailed, the commission produced a final unanimous report in December 1856 containing a detailed description of the canal complete with plans and profiles. The Suez Canal Company (Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez) came into being on 15 December 1858 and work started on the shore of the future Port Said on April 25, 1859.

The excavation took some 10 years using forced labour (Corvée) of Egyptian workers during a certain period. Some sources estimate that over 30,000 people were working on the canal at any given period, that altogether more than 1.5 million people from various countries were employed, and that thousands of laborers died on the project.

The British government had opposed the project of the canal from the outset to its completion. As one of the diplomatic moves against the canal, it disapproved the use the slave labor of forced workers on the canal. The British Empire was the major global naval force and officially condemned the forced work and sent armed bedouins to start a revolt among workers. Involuntary labour on the project ceased, and the viceroy condemned the Corvée, halting the project.

Angered by the British opportunism, de Lesseps sent a letter to the British government remarking on the British lack of remorse a few years earlier when forced workers died in similar conditions building the British railway in Egypt.

Initially international opinion was skeptical and Suez Canal Company shares did not sell well overseas. Britain, the United States, Austria, and Russia did not buy any significant number of shares. All French shares were quickly sold in France

Six In The Morning

Guantánamo leaks lift lid on world’s most controversial prison  

• Innocent people interrogated for years on slimmest pretexts

• Children, elderly and mentally ill among those wrongfully held

• 172 prisoners remain, some with no prospect of trial or release

David Leigh, James Ball, Ian Cobain and Jason Burke

The Guardian, Monday 25 April 2011

More than 700 leaked secret files on the Guantánamo detainees lay bare the inner workings of America’s controversial prison camp in Cuba.

The US military dossiers, obtained by the New York Times and the Guardian, reveal how, alongside the so-called “worst of the worst”, many prisoners were flown to the Guantánamo cages and held captive for years on the flimsiest grounds, or on the basis of lurid confessions extracted by maltreatment.

The 759 Guantánamo files, classified “secret”, cover almost every inmate since the camp was opened in 2002. More than two years after President Obama ordered the closure of the prison, 172 are still held there

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for April 24, 2011-


Pique the Geek 20110424: Easter (with Poll!)

Easter is in Christendom the holiest day of the liturgical calender, celebration the day of the rising of Christ from the dead.  The purpose of this piece is not to discuss any particular religious viewpoint, but rather to look into the history of Easter and thus to understand some of the peculiar customs that are now associated with Easter.

This is not a “hard science” piece, but rather more of an analysis of how the modern Easter came to be.  Many of you who are regular readers know that my interests are much broader than just science and technology, and history is one of them.  However, I do believe that this piece is worthy of being called Geeky.

Before we get to the very ancient traditions that predate Judaism, not to mention Christianity, we shall look at how the date for Easter is calculated.  If it seems like Easter is very late in the year for 2011, this is because it is.

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Misrata fighting rages on despite Tripoli vow

by Marc Bastian, AFP

20 mins ago

MISRATA, Libya (AFP) – Grad rockets exploded in Misrata on Sunday despite a vow by the Libyan regime to halt its fire in the besieged city where the humanitarian situation has stirred international concern.

In a hospital of Misrata, where at least 12 were reported killed in fresh fighting, two captured pro-Kadhafi soldiers told AFP that loyalist forces were losing their grip in the battle for the western port.

“Many soldiers want to surrender but they are afraid of being executed” by the rebels, said Lili Mohammed, a Mauritanian hired by Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s regime to fight insurgents in the country’s third city.