Daily Archive: 11/15/2012

Nov 15 2012

How’s that austerity thing working out for you (again)?

There is simply no denying anymore that Europe is entering the second dip of a double dip recession as a result of it’s austerian policies.

Euro Zone Economy Shrinks for a Second Quarter

By JACK EWING, The New York Times

Published: November 15, 2012

Gross domestic product in the euro zone fell 0.1 percent in the three months through September compared with the previous quarter, according to Eurostat, the European Union statistics agency. The downturn was slightly less severe than in the second quarter, when growth contracted 0.2 percent. But it was the fourth quarter in a row of zero growth or worse.

Perhaps more worrisome, the data showed that Spain, Portugal and several other countries remain far from the kind of recovery that would bring increased tax receipts and help them overcome their debt problems. European leaders, who have benefited from a tenuous calm on financial markets in recent months, are likely to face additional pressure to ease the government austerity programs that have undercut growth in Southern Europe.



A recession is often defined as two quarters in a row of falling output, though many economists say it is important to take other data into account. But with unemployment in the euro area at 11.6 percent and nearly 26 million people out of work, few would dispute that the region is in a deep downturn.

“Leading indicators suggest that the euro zone recession will broaden and deepen in the current fourth quarter,” said Martin van Vliet, an economist at ING Bank.



(I)n Western Europe the economic decline spread to Austria and the Netherlands, which had been growing in previous quarters. The Austrian economy contracted 0.1 percent, while the previously healthy Dutch economy plunged 1.1 percent, catching economists off guard.

One reason for the decline was that Dutch consumers cut back purchases of cars, illustrating how the crisis in the European auto industry is having a broader effect. Slower export growth and a decline in construction also had an effect, according to Statistics Netherlands, the official data provider.

Euro Area Slips Into Recession Second Time in Four Years

By Marcus Bensasson, Bloomberg News

November 15, 2012

Europe’s economic malaise is deepening as governments across the region impose budget cuts to narrow their fiscal deficits. Spain and Cyprus this year joined the list of countries seeking external aid, following Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Unions across the region have held protests against austerity measures.

“Overall I think it’s remarkable that we haven’t seen so far in the last year a stronger decrease in economic activity considering the strength of the euro-zone debt crisis,” said Alexander Krueger, chief economist at Bankhaus Lampe in Dusseldorf. “Stopping the downward trend is the story for the first half of next year.”



Euro-area industrial production dropped 2.5 percent in September from the previous month, the most in more than three years, led by double-digit declines in Portugal and Ireland. German investor confidence unexpectedly declined in November, the ZEW Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim said on Nov. 13.

Siemens AG, the biggest engineering company in Europe, on Nov. 8 unveiled a 6 billion-euro savings plan to restore profitability, acknowledging it was slow to react to shrinking demand. Commerzbank AG, which is forgoing its dividend, on Nov. 8 reported profit that missed analysts’ expectations on losses from non-core assets and a decline in consumer banking earnings.

How about England and our Neo-Liberal friend David Cameron?

UK risks triple-dip recession, Mervyn King warns

Josephine Moulds, The Guardian

Wednesday 14 November 2012 08.46 EST

The UK economy risks suffering from a triple-dip recession amid a period of persistently low growth that will last until the next election, the governor of the Bank of England has warned.

Sir Mervyn King cut Britain’s growth forecast to 1% next year and warned that output was more likely than not to remain below pre-crisis levels over the next three years. “There seems a greater risk that the UK economy may be in a period of persistent low growth,” he said on Wednesday.

The UK economy emerged from a double-dip recession in the third quarter of this year, when the economy grew by 1%, but King warned that this was driven by one-off factors. “Continuing the recent zig-zag pattern, output growth is likely to fall back sharply in the fourth quarter as the boost from the Olympics in the summer is reversed – indeed output may shrink a little this quarter,” he said. If that period of contraction continues into 2013, the UK could drop into a triple-dip recession.

How are people reacting?  As you would expect there are massive protests all across Europe.

Europe unites in austerity protests against cuts and job losses

Tom Kington in Rome, Helena Smith in Athens, Kim Willsher in Paris and Martin Roberts in Madrid, The Guardian

Wednesday 14 November 2012 14.30 EST

Hundreds of thousands of Europeans mounted one of the biggest coordinated anti-austerity protests across the continent on Wednesday, marching against German-orchestrated cuts as the eurozone is poised to move back into recession.

Millions took part in Europe-wide strikes, and in city after city along the continent’s debt-encrusted Mediterranean rim, thousands marched and scores were arrested after clashes with police.

There were banners declaring “Austerity kills,” Occupy masks, flares, improvised loudspeakers and cancelled flights. But there was also a violent, even desperate edge to the demonstrations, particularly in Madrid and several Italian cities. In the Spanish capital, police fired rubber bullets to subdue the crowd; in Pisa, protesters occupied the Leaning Tower, and in Sicily cars were burned.

“There is a social emergency in the south,” said Bernadette S├ęgol, the secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation. “All recognise that the policies carried out now are unfair and not working.”

Workers Across Europe Synchronize Protests

By RAPHAEL MINDER, The New York Times

Published: November 14, 2012

The breadth of the demonstrations, which affected scores of cities, reflected widespread unhappiness with high unemployment, slowing growth and worsening economic prospects in Europe, and the resistance that European governments confront as they push plans for more belt tightening. Occasional clashes with the police were reported in some cities.

Among those striking on Wednesday were railroad workers in Belgium; airline workers, autoworkers and teachers in Spain; civil servants in Italy; and transit workers in Portugal. Union leaders called the coordinated actions historic.

Government officials generally played down the disruptions caused by the actions and said their countries had no alternative but to cut spending and reduce their deficits. The Spanish economy minister, Luis de Guindos, said his government “is convinced that the path we have taken is the only possible way out.”

The tumbrils are closer than you think.

Nov 15 2012

Details of BP Criminal Settlement Released

Over the last day or so it has been widely rumored that British Petroleum has reached a settlement on criminal charges for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Disaster in which at least 11 people lost their lives on the rig alone and spilled over 4.5 Million Barrels of Oil and uncounted amounts of toxic chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico.

BP to Admit Crimes and Pay $4.5 Billion in Gulf Settlement

By JULIA WERDIGIER, The New York Times

Published: November 15, 2012

Even with a settlement on the criminal claims, BP would still be subject to other claims, including federal civil claims and claims for damages to natural resources.

In particular, this settlement does not include what is potentially the largest penalty: fines under the Clean Water Act. The potential fine for the spill under the Clean Water Act is $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel spilled. That means the fine could be as much as $21 billion, according to Peter Hutton of RBC Capital Markets in London.

Sources say at least 2 employees will be charged with manslaughter.

BP settlement not the final word in spill story

By Steve Hargreaves @CNNMoney

November 15, 2012: 12:56 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — BP announced Thursday it settled criminal charges with the U.S. government over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill for $4.5 billion. But that won’t resolve some of the biggest liabilities still facing the company.

Chief among them is the penalty that could come out of the Clean Water Act — a potential civil fine for spilling the oil itself.

If things go the company’s way, that fine could be somewhere between $3.5 billion and $5 billion, said Jason Gammel, an analyst at Maquarie Securities Group in London.

But if BP is found guilty of gross negligence in the spill, the penalty could more than quadruple to roughly $20 billion — dwarfing today’s settlement.

The government has accused BP of gross negligence in the spill. A civil trial is set for February, and could drag on for years.

BP’s $7.8 Billion settlement with victims in the uncapped class action has yet to be approved by courts.

Nov 15 2012

Hurricane Sandy Disaster: Disaster Capitalism v. Progressive Reform

Sandy’s Devastation Opens Space for Action on Climate Change and Progressive Reform

At a speaking event in New York City this week, award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein discussed why the reconstruction from Superstorm Sandy is actually a great place to usher in progressive change. Klein’s latest article for The Nation magazine is called, “Superstorm Sandy – a People’s Shock?” She is the author of the best-selling book, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” and is now working on a book about climate change

Transcript can be read here

Superstorm Sandy-a People’s Shock?

Less than three days after Sandy made landfall on the East Coast of the United States, Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute blamed New Yorkers’ resistance to big-box stores for the misery they were about to endure. Writing on Forbes.com, he explained that the city’s refusal to embrace Walmart will likely make the recovery much harder: “Mom-and-pop stores simply can’t do what big stores can in these circumstances,” he wrote. [..]

The same day, Frank Rapoport, a lawyer representing several billion-dollar construction and real estate contractors, jumped in to suggest that many of those public works projects shouldn’t be public at all. Instead, cash-strapped governments should turn to “public private partnerships,” known as “P3s.” That means roads, bridges and tunnels being rebuilt by private companies, which, for instance, could install tolls and keep the profits. [..]

Ray Lehmann, co-founder of the R Street Institute, a mouthpiece for the insurance lobby (formerly a division of the climate-denying Heartland Institute), had another public prize in his sights. In a Wall Street Journal article about Sandy, he was quoted arguing for the eventual “full privatization” of the National Flood Insurance Program, the federal initiative that provides affordable protection from some natural disasters-and which private insurers see as unfair competition.

But the prize for shameless disaster capitalism surely goes to right-wing economist Russell S. Sobel, writing in a New York Times online forum. Sobel suggested that, in hard-hit areas, FEMA should create “free trade zones-in which all normal regulations, licensing and taxes [are] suspended.” This corporate free-for-all would, apparently, “better provide the goods and services victims need.”

Ms. Klein is speaking on Friday night at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City as part of 350.org’s “Do the Math” tour with Bill McKibben.

Nov 15 2012

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Dean Baker: The Crisis of the Deficit Crisis Mongers

The gang for gutting Social Security and Medicare (aka “The Campaign to Fix the Debt”) are running in high gear. During the long election campaign they gathered dollars, corporate CEOs and washed up politicians for a full-fledged push in the final months of the year. They are hoping that the hype around the budget standoff (aka “fiscal cliff”) can be used for a grand bargain that eviscerates the country’s two most important social programs, Social Security and Medicare.

They made a point of keeping this plan out of election year politics because they know it is a huge loser with the electorate. People across the political and ideological spectrums strongly support these programs and are opposed to cuts. Politicians who advocated cuts would have been likely losers on Election Day. But now that the voters are out of the way, the Wall Street gang and the CEOs see their opportunity.

Thom Hartmann: It’s the “Jobs Cliff,” Stupid!

They’re up to it again – this time with what they call the “fiscal cliff.”

Beware of con men bearing slogans. The oldest trick in the book is for conservatives – cons – to create hysteria around something, and then get all of us to give them billions of our tax dollars to fix the problem they’ve gotten us all hysterical about. [..]

It becomes particularly ironic when they get hysterical about a program that goes into effect at the end of this year that will modestly raise taxes back to where they were when Bill Clinton was president, and will cut spending, particularly military spending, although not even close enough to take us back to where it was before Bush. [..]

In other words, the “fiscal cliff” is another classic example of what Naomi Klein called “Disaster Capitalism.” Create a panic, and then profit from it. For example, Wall Street is helping fund groups like the Third Way that are pushing hard for us to give our Social Security Trust Fund – which has over two and a half trillion dollars in it – to Goldman Sachs and Citibank so they can take care of it for us. Doesn’t that make you feel all safe, and warm-and-fuzzy?

Jeremy Scahill: The Petraeus Legacy: A Paramilitary CIA?

It was the CIA director’s relationship with JSOC-not Paula Broadwell-that should have raised concerns.

While much of the media focus on l’affaire Petraeus has centered on the CIA director’s sexual relationship with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, the scandal opens a window onto a different and more consequential relationship-that between the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. In a behind-the-scenes turf war that has raged since 9/11, the two government bodies have fought for control of the expanding global wars waged by the United States-a turf war that JSOC has largely won. Petraeus, an instrumental player in this power struggle, leaves behind an agency that has strayed from intelligence to paramilitary-type activities. Though his legacy will be defined largely by the scandal that ended his career, to many within military and intelligence circles, Petraeus’s career trajectory, from commander of US military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to the helm of the CIA, is a symbol of this evolution.

“I would not say that CIA has been taken over by the military, but I would say that the CIA has become more militarized,” Philip Giraldi, a retired career CIA case officer, told The Nation. “A considerable part of the CIA budget is now no longer spying; it’s supporting paramilitaries who work closely with JSOC to kill terrorists, and to run the drone program.” The CIA, he added, “is a killing machine now.”

Ralph Nader: Preserve Benefits: Cut Gouging and Inequities

Congress is still talking about a “Grand Bargain” that “balances” far more spending cuts than tax increases. That is another way of saying that you – the consumer of Medicare and Medicaid services, the recipient of Social Security, and the average taxpayer-will take the brunt of the spending cuts, while the wealthy get their income taxes restored, not raised, to their pre-Bush modest levels. Don’t buy it!

There are two ways to cut Medicare and Medicaid. The right wingers want to cut benefits. Consumers want to cut vendor fraud, the overcharging and the immense over-diagnosis, over-treatment and erroneous or unnecessary procedures and prescriptions documented so often by, among others, the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (http://tdi.dartmouth.edu/), Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dennis Kucinich: The Real Scandal Surrounding the Petraeus Resignation

The National Security Agency routinely collects 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and communications every single day. Any kind of digital communication can be recorded and stored. Where you were when you wrote an email, where the recipient was when it was read, the text of the message can all be stored in enormous facilities like the $2 billion dollar Utah Data Center which contains four 25,000 foot facilities containing rows of data servers. They have to pump 1.7 million gallons of fluid through the facility every day just to keep it from overheating.

The NSA doesn’t need a warrant to record your most private conversations. They have managed to circumvent our privacy laws because they define an “intercept” as a piece of information read by an agent. That means they don’t need authorization to record and save your information until someone decides they’d like to read it.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The “Fiscal Cliff” Is a Hoax … and a Mel Brooks Routine

They’re dashing through the corridors of power in Washington with appropriately grim expressions this week. Congressional leaders are talking about the upcoming ‘fiscal cliff,’ which journalists are dutifully describing as a “looming crisis.”

In fact, if you do a Google News search for articles containing the words “fiscal cliff” and “looming” you’ll get 72,000 hits (as of Wednesday evening). We know because we tried it.

72,000 hits.

But nothing’s “looming.” Nothing. There’s just some language in a law Congress passed last year. If they don’t want it to happen they can un-pass that law. It’s a simple as that.

And do you want to know something? They don’t want it to happen.

Nov 15 2012

On This Day In History November 15

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

November 15 is the 319th day of the year (320th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 46 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1867, On this day in 1867, the first stock ticker is unveiled in New York City. The advent of the ticker ultimately revolutionized the stock market by making up-to-the-minute prices available to investors around the country. Prior to this development, information from the New York Stock Exchange, which has been around since 1792, traveled by mail or messenger.

The ticker was the brainchild of Edward Calahan, who configured a telegraph machine to print stock quotes on streams of paper tape (the same paper tape later used in ticker-tape parades). The ticker, which caught on quickly with investors, got its name from the sound its type wheel made.

Calahan worked for the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, which rented its tickers to brokerage houses and regional exchanges for a fee and then transmitted the latest gold and stock prices to all its machines at the same time. In 1869, Thomas Edison, a former telegraph operator, patented an improved, easier-to-use version of Calahan’s ticker. Edison’s ticker was his first lucrative invention and, through the manufacture and sale of stock tickers and other telegraphic devices, he made enough money to open his own lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where he developed the light bulb and phonograph, among other transformative inventions.

Stock tickers in various buildings were connected using technology based on the then-recently invented telegraph machines, with the advantage that the output was readable text, instead of the dots and dashes of Morse code. The machines printed a series of ticker symbols (usually shortened forms of a company’s name), followed by brief information about the price of that company’s stock; the thin strip of paper they were printed on was called ticker tape. As with all these terms, the word ticker comes from the distinct tapping (or ticking) noise the machines made while printing. Pulses on the telegraph line made a letter wheel turn step by step until the right letter or symbol was reached and then printed. A typical 32 symbol letter wheel had to turn on average 15 steps until the next letter could be printed resulting in a very slow printing speed of 1 letter per second. In 1883, ticker transmitter keyboards resembled the keyboard of a piano with black keys indicating letters and the white keys indicating numbers and fractions, corresponding to two rotating type wheels in the connected ticker tape printers.

Newer and more efficient tickers became available in the 1930s and 1960s but the physical ticker tape phase was quickly coming to a close being followed by the electronic phase. These newer and better tickers still had an approximate 15 to 20 minute delay. Stock ticker machines became obsolete in the 1960s, replaced by computer networks; none have been manufactured for use for decades. However, working reproductions of at least one model are now being manufactured for museums and collectors. It was not until 1996 that a ticker type electronic device was produced that could operate in true real time.

Simulated ticker displays, named after the original machines, still exist as part of the display of television news channels and on some World Wide Web pages-see news ticker. One of the most famous displays is the simulated ticker located at One Times Square in New York City.

Ticker tapes then and now contain generally the same information. The ticker symbol is a unique set of characters used to identify the company. The shares traded is the volume for the trade being quoted. Price traded refers to the price per share of a particular trade. Change direction is a visual cue showing whether the stock is trading higher or lower than the previous trade, hence the terms downtick and uptick. Change amount refers to the difference in price from the previous day’s closing. These are reflected in the modern style tickers that we see every day. Many today include color to indicate whether a stock is trading higher than the previous day’s (green), lower than previous (red), or has remained unchanged (blue or white).

Nov 15 2012

The Fiscal Obstacle Course

Starting with Fiscal Cliff, Obama’s 2nd Term Rests on Organizing, Not Cheerleading

President Obama will open deficit reduction talks on Friday with a call for a $1.6 trillion tax hike on corporations and the wealthiest Americans over the next 10 years. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are sitting down to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” of expiring tax cuts and automatic spending reductions set to take effect at the end of the year. We’re joined by Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, who says the protection of “entitlement” programs will depend on action from Obama’s progressive supporters. “The question is: Will the Democratic Party, and specifically the progressive and liberal component of the Democratic Party, change its behavior from cheerleader, from blindly supportive, partisan apparatchiks … into some kind of a force where they actually fulfill their duties as citizens, which is to hold political leaders accountable?” Greenwald asks.

Transcript can be read here

Why Washington’s “Fiscal Cliff” is a Myth

by  Mattea Kramer and Chris Hellman, National Priorities Project

They don’t call it the “cliff” for nothing. It’s the fiscal spot where a nation’s representatives can gather and cry doom. It’s the place – if Washington is to be believed – where, with a single leap into the Abyss of Sequestration, those representatives can end it all for the rest of us.

In the wake of President Obama’s electoral victory, that cliff (if you’ll excuse a mixed metaphor or two) is about to step front and center. The only problem: the odds are no one will leap, and remarkably little of note will actually happen. But since the headlines are about to scream “crisis,” what you need to understand American politics in the coming weeks of the lame-duck Congress is a little guide to reality, some Cliff Notes for Washington.

As a start, relax. Don’t let the headlines get to you. There’s little reason for anyone to lose sleep over the much-hyped fiscal cliff. In fact, if you were choosing an image based on the coming fiscal dust-up, it probably wouldn’t be a cliff but an obstacle course – a series of federal spending cuts and tax increases all scheduled to take effect as 2013 begins. And it’s true that, if all those budget cuts and tax increases were to go into effect at the same time, an already weak recovery would probably sink into a double-dip recession.

But ignore the sound and fury. While prophecy is usually a perilous occupation, in this case it’s pretty easy to predict how lawmakers will deal with nearly every challenge on the president’s and Congress’s end-of-year obstacle course. The upshot? The U.S. economy isn’t headed over a cliff any time soon.

A peek at the obstacles ahead makes that clear. [..]

Among all the spending and tax changes in the queue, and all the hype around the cliff, the great unknown is whether it’s finally farewell to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. And that’s no perilous cliff. Letting those high-end tax cuts expire would amount to a blink-and-you-miss-it 0.003% contraction in the U.S. economy, according to Moody’s, and it would raise tens of billions of dollars in desperately-needed tax revenue next year. That’s no small thing when you consider that federal revenue has fallen to its lowest point in more than half a century. Ending these tax cuts for the wealthy would bring in cash to reduce deficits or increase funding for cash-starved priorities like higher education.

It’s impossible to say how Congress will come down on this final issue, though we do know how lawmakers will arrive at their decision. At least Congress is consistent. On this, as on all other matters in the fiscal obstacle course, it’s not the economy.

It’s the politics, stupid.

Nov 15 2012

My Little Town 20121114: When Dad Blew off His Leg

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

This actually occurred after the former Mrs. Translator and I had married and moved away, but it still is quite a story.  Dad was an avid hunter, mainly upland birds, bobwhite quail in particular.  Our traditional Christmas breakfast, after the gifts were opened, was fried quail, biscuits, gravy, and grits.  Dad always fried the quail and my mum did everything else.

In western Arkansas there were lots of quail except in the rare year that was either really bad as far as the weather goes or if a disease outbreak had occurred.  In my 20 years of living at home and decades afterwards, there were always quail for Christmas breakfast.  In scarce years Dad would freeze enough to assure that there were plenty for Christmas morning.

Dad, in addition to being a deadeye shot, was also a gunsmith.  He also had impressive woodworking skills and often would buy gunstock blanks of fine American black walnut and create his own gunstocks.