Daily Archive: 11/09/2014

Nov 09 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The Word is Crisis, Not Recession! by NY Brit Expat

Yes, comrades, we need to talk about crises again, the term recession simply does not explain what is really going on! Just in case you might not have noticed or perhaps the mainstream media where you live ignored it, the obvious has happened and the end of the so-called recession has disappeared into the fantasy novel. Once again there is a slowdown in growth and the financial markets are not particularly happy. This time, Germany and China are showing signs of slowdown. Globalisation has not ended the potential towards crises in the capitalist economic system; in fact, the greater interconnectedness of the world economy has exacerbated the situation and ensured that the contagion spreads.  

For those who believe the fantasies of neoliberal economics, the shock of these latest failures of neoliberalism must come as a surprise. But for those of us that have been warning of the stupidity of squeezing wages and destroying work conditions, rising inequality in income and wealth, the dangers of export-led growth when wage incomes are being squeezed meaning that unless governments become the sole purchasers of goods and services that are being produced (and they are not) that obviously there comes a point when working people cannot purchase goods and services as their incomes are too low, wiping out of savings  has happened and personal indebtedness leads to default and bankruptcy. Neither of these things helps to maintain capitalist growth, accumulation and profitability in the long run; forget that, it hasn’t even lasted in the short run.

I will be giving a run through on what is going on and why our lives feel as though we are living through the Shock Doctrine (which we are) then address the proposals of dealing with persistent unemployment under capitalism from the Left on which there is significant disagreement.

Nov 09 2014

Rant of the Week: Stephen Colbert – Republicans’ Inspiring Message on Climate Change

Republicans’ Inspiring Message on Climate Change

Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe gears up to chair the Senate Environmental Committee despite literally writing the book on global warming denial.

Nov 09 2014

Ripping the Pages Out of Text Books

In October, just before the election, the Gilbert Arizona school board voted to remove pages on contraception from the honors biology test book used used in its high school.

Gilbert Public Schools will “edit” a high-school honors biology textbook after school-board members agreed that it does not align with state regulations on how abortion is to be presented to public-school students.

Board members, backed by a conservative religious group, voted 3-2 to make the change, arguing that they are complying with a 2-year-old state law that requires public schools to “present childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.”

Board President Staci Burk said she believes the district is likely the first in Arizona with plans to edit a book under the law.Gilbert Public Schools will “edit” a high-school honors biology textbook after school-board members agreed that it does not align with state regulations on how abortion is to be presented to public-school students.

Board members, backed by a conservative religious group, voted 3-2 to make the change, arguing that they are complying with a 2-year-old state law that requires public schools to “present childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.”

Board President Staci Burk said she believes the district is likely the first in Arizona with plans to edit a book under the law.

That plan was aborted on election day when the people of this conservative Phoenix suburb decided to ax the page ripping majority.

So here’s one more bit of Election Nice Time: turns out that even in hyper-conservative Gilbert, Arizona, a bedroom community to the Phoenix metro horrorplex, it is in fact possible for a conservative school board to go to far. And it looks like the Gilbert School Board’s decision last week to razor out a page from an Honors Biology textbook in the high school – because it mentions the abortion pill – is what counts as too far: the good people of Gilbert elected two new members and reelected an anti-censorship member, replacing the Tea Party-leaning majority on the board with a new majority that is firmly against slicing out a page from a biology textbook out of fear that high schoolers will learn that abortion exists. There were other tensions between the board and the community, too, but the textbook censorship seems to have been the last straw.

Textbook tearing crosses line for even reddest voters

Rachel Maddow reports that the school board that voted to tear out pages from the honors biology textbook to remove mentions of abortion has lost its tea party majority, leaving the censorship plan in question. ArizonaHonorsBiology.com remains, just in case.

Nov 09 2014

The People v “Oil”garchy

We all know that the Supreme Court decision Citizens United allowed corporations to flood the elections with huge amounts of money. A small example of this was the attempt by Chevron to buy the small city of Richmond, CA where it has an aging, unsafe oil refinery.

Big-money Chevron muscles local government election

Rachel Maddow reports on how Chevron is flooding local elections in Richmond, California to install politicians who are friendlier to the company’s agenda and less resistant to new projects.

On election day the people of Richmond weren’t cowed and elected the progressive slate of candidates that will force Chevron to clean up its act.

Voters Reject Oil Titan Chevron, Elect Progressive Bloc in Richmond, California

Tom Butt elected mayor and slate of progressive candidates all win city council seats after grim battle with corporate power

A slew of progressive candidates were elected in Richmond, California on Tuesday night in a resounding defeat of corporate power, after a multi-million-dollar opposition campaign funded by Chevron brought national attention to the race but failed to take control of City Hall.

Local politician Tom Butt, a Democrat, was elected mayor with 51 percent of the vote, beating the Chevron-backed candidate, Nat Bates, by 16 points. Richmond Progressive Alliance representatives Eduardo Martinez, Jovanka Beckles, and outgoing  Mayor Gayle McLaughlin also won three of the four open seats on the City Council.

Collectively, those candidates became known as Team Richmond.

Small victories, silver linings seen in lopsided election

Rachel Maddow reviews some of the small victories, silver linings, and notable first in which liberals and Democrats may take heart amid the heavy losses suffered in the midterm election, the outcome of which, at least, promises interesting political news.

It’s the issues, not the money and sometimes the 99% wins.

Nov 09 2014

Formula One 2014: Autódromo José Carlos Pace

Well last night there was big, really big, news.

Bernie Ecclestone and F1 to welcome customer cars for 2016 season

Paul Weaver,The Guardian

Sunday 9 November 2014 09.55 EST

Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One have decided to turn their backs on the smaller teams in the sport as they move towards customer cars in 2016, when the big names will provide all the cars for the grid.

The process will start next season when Red Bull and Ferrari will each run three cars. Then, the following year, newcomers Haas will be Ferrari’s first customers under the new setup as the sport increasingly comes under control of the Big Five: Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Williams.

It will ultimately mean the end of teams such as Force India, Lotus and Sauber who have had their appeal for a more democratic share of the money generated by the sport thrown back in their faces.

The grim news of customer cars was given to the teams when they met with Ecclestone on Saturday night, and was met with abject horror, though this is what some of the smaller teams have been warning about for years now.

One prominent insider said on Sunday, just before the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix: “This is a sleazy and appalling way to go about it.”

What exactly are “customer cars”?  They are basically extra chassis/powerplant combos that combined with the standard Pirelli tires are about 98% of a racecar.  They will be sold to teams, for a price, so that they don’t have to do, or pay for, engineering design bureaus and development teams.

Why, exactly, is this a bad thing?

Most of the true afficiandos (of which I am not one, I just watch the races so I have something to talk about with my Dad) would say the primary negative results will be stifling innovation and forcing uniformity.  Formula One has always fancied itself as a breeding ground of cutting edge technology and that reputation would be lost in favor of a more cookie cutter Turn Left, Indy Car approach.  The counter argument is that it places more emphasis on driver skills to which I say- What driver skills?  Outside a handful of drivers led by Alonso (who can make a brick look racy), Hamilton (who is especially good at passing), and Button (best tire management on the track), none of the current crop seems particularly outstanding except for the ones that are truly bad and buy their seats with sponsorships (what, you didn’t know that drivers pay millions more to their teams than they make in salary and purses and depend on their patrons and endorsements for their real income?).

Speaking of money, this really puts the Littles between a rock and a hard place.  The “customer cars” will not be cheap and they don’t really save all that much.  A lot of development goes on during the season so there’s a limit to how much you can downsize in engineering and development.  They are still basically screwed by the fact that virtually all the revenue sharing, that huge $900 Million cut of $1.5 Billion Bernie the bastard likes to brag about, goes to the big five- Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, and Williams who also, along with Bernie, control the Strategy Group which is supposed to repesent the interests of all the teams and the management.

They’ve already killed an expense cap for 2015.

Let’s look at these operations-

Red Bull is the only team in position to field 3 cars in 2015 because they’re already fielding 4, Red Bull and Toro Rossa distinguished only by the powerplants, Renault (which sucks) and Ferrari (which sucks worse).  Dietrich Mateschitz doesn’t care about how much money he loses, it falls in the rounds of the vast sums he spends promoting his Energy Beverage Empire.

Ferrari really doesn’t have much existence outside of Formula One.  Enzo was always race first and oh, let’s sell some very expensive fast luxury cars to pay for it.  Enzo is dead and now the operation is run by the suits at Fiat and selling expensive luxury cars is what they’re about.  For them also Formula One is mere marketing, it’s kind of like Cadillac competing in Turn Left racing.  They make crap and will whore it to anyone, coasting on their reputation of greatness while not really giving a damn.  Bernie loves them and gives them sweetheart deals because they have a huge fan base and are ‘the soul of the sport’.  They are entirely unlikely to field a third car because they can barely support the two they’ve got.

Mercedes is the only serious player from a manufacturing standpoint and they have it all, an actual Car Company with a racing division.  It’s not really a surprise that they’re the only ones who were able to manufacture the new specification engines (with any power or reliability) and in 2015 they’re about to reap the benefits of that.  The problem is that they are not above giving their best stuff to their Works team first and holding out on their paying customers.  Like Red Bull Formula One is a mere blip on their bottom line marketing budget, but while they’d be happy to sell you things at an exorbitant price they probably won’t field a third car because they have real accountants and it’s marginally ineffective, where is the additional benefit?

McLaren and Williams actually have more in common with the Littles than they do with the Big Three.  They are primarily racing teams, not marketing vehicles.  They buy most of their tech off the shelf and use their design and development staff to package it in a chassis that innovates enough to keep them competitive, McLaren more than Williams because Williams has been out of contention for so much longer.  Like Ferrari both teams are sputtering on the fumes of their reputation, but they don’t even have the consolation of an Automotive giant like Fiat backing their play when it deigns to notice them at all.  These teams will never be able to add a third car and are likely to vanish as developers under a “customer car” system leaving only Mercedes (for sure, as long as they don’t get bored or pissed off and leave for 50 years like they did the last time) and Ferarri (maybe, if Fiat lets them) as vendors.  Dietrich Mateschitz has no investment besides marketing in Formula One and would be content to have it ‘Formula Red Bull’ with either all the cars wearing his colors or better yet his Harlem Globetrotters beating up the Washington Generals (which would be all the others) every week.  He will spend what it takes to win which I have to admire in that George Steinbrenner way, but if he can win with off the rack why waste money?

Haas Racing

Bernie is looking at the U.S. market in a big way.  Haas makes his money off his industrial tool business and has been quite successful in the Turn Left and IndyCar world where buy rides are the norm.  Now one might think that he’d want to do his own designs to showcase his CNC prowess, but it’s far from a sure thing.  In any event he has no plans to race before 2016 and it’s highly unlikely he would be a supplier until it was proven his cars were competative.

Ecclestone’s Hard Place

Most of his track contracts have severe penalty clauses for showing up with less than 14 – 16 cars because of the 2005 U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis where the drivers using Michelins refused to race out of safety considerations and only 6 cars took the track (and the drivers were quite right to do so).

While the 3 Littles (Lotus, Force India, and Sauber) and the one receivership team that is attempting to continue (Caterham, Marussia is done) have filled to race in 2015, were they to withdraw Bernie would only have 12 cars in his traveling show, and the last time “customer cars” were used was likewise a time of low participation-

Three-car teams? F1 has had them before, but things were different back then

By Mike Wise, Sky News

30/10/14 12:46pm

Sixty years ago, Mercedes were entering as many as four cars per race while BRM stretched as far as five in the early-1970s. Meanwhile, the sale of customer cars produced some real ‘David and Goliath’ moments: Stirling Moss beating the might of Ferrari in an old, underpowered Lotus at the 1961 Monaco GP, for example.

That car was entered by Rob Walker, who was also the last private entrant to win a grand prix in 1968. Fields were low around that time too, but the answer came via the simple expedient of bolstering the grid with Formula 2 cars.

F1 was a marginal sport then, with less money floating around and so fewer vested interests. Looking back, the people with most to lose were the drivers themselves: in 1968, four were killed between April and July alone. The arrival of sponsorship that year signposted the future but, as we’re currently seeing, commercial imperatives create different sorts of problems.

The template for two cars-per-team came with the signing of the first Concorde Agreement at the start of 1980s, which also brought an end to the use of customer cars. Of course, the ensuing period has seen F1 turn into a money spinner but a good chunk of its revenues (estimated in total at around $1.5 billion per year) aren’t re-invested in the sport.

Times are still tough for most, though, and with that in mind the FIA announced its intention to introduce a budget cap in 2015. But those plans didn’t get far: the big teams vetoed them in April.

It’s an outcome that demonstrates just how F1 can’t seem to help itself: that the biggest teams, under the guise of the Strategy Group, have the power to block rule changes they don’t agree with.

The Strategy Group was formed last year as a result of a deal between the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone. Both also sit on the group, which approves proposals by a majority vote. But if there’s a rule the big teams and the commercial rights controller don’t like, they can nip it in the bud.

In effect, then, the governing body – which you’d think would have a large measure power to legislate the sport it presides over – can’t do anything if the others disagree. Smaller teams have no say at all, although you have to wonder what their attitudes would be if things were different for them.

So the big teams seem intent on feathering their nests, with the smaller ones stuck on the outside looking in and two of them seemingly heading for oblivion. Meanwhile, Ecclestone remains F1’s ringmaster even at the age of 84 while the FIA sits on its hands.

Where does F1 go from here?

If revenues aren’t being re-invested then the sport itself could somehow buy back the rights (now valued as high as $12 billion but leased to Ecclestone by the FIA in 2001 in a 100-year deal worth just $360 million). But that’s surely too big an ask now; teams and manufacturers have had the chance before and didn’t take it.

The cut teams do take could be split more equitably but, again, that would need agreement from the bigger teams, who rejected the budget cap idea summarily because they don’t think it’s enforceable. But salary caps are enforceable in other sports; are the books of F1 teams and their wider businesses really that much more complicated?

In a nutshell, it’s the same old story: about how business and entertainment shove the actual sport to one side. But if the sport loses its intrinsic appeal then, ultimately, no-one’s a winner. As such, the situation needs some give from those who, as we know, find that difficult.

Doubtless F1 will adapt and survive as it always has but if that means three-car teams or customer cars as anything other than a short-term measure then it doesn’t bode well. Just look at what IndyCar racing has become.

When they were last on the grid, it was for the right reasons: as part of a less rigidly professional yet more charming sport in which money wasn’t necessarily the be-all and the underdog would have his day.

But if it happens again it would be for the wrong reasons and serve as the best proof yet that F1 is heading down the wrong track.

I’ll note that today’s F2 cars are 2 – 3 seconds a lap slower and IMSA races multiple classes on the same track simultaneously all the time.  On the other hand IMSA runs very few races, doesn’t get much TV exposure, and is definitely a third rate series.

But ek you say, that’s a Sky News report and aren’t they owned by Murdoch?

You mean Rupert Murdoch who can buy and sell Bernie Ecclestone 6 times before Tuesday?  You mean Sky One that has the largest television deal for Formula One broadcast rights?  Precisely.

Bernie is playing a dangerous game here and Formula One could disappear much faster than you think.

This is big news.  Bigger than all the silly season stuff I had prepared, bigger than the Drivers Championship.  I don’t use ‘Breaking’ except ironically, but this went down last night and blew the rest of it out the window.

I might fill in later, we’ll see about that after the race.

Oh, the Race.

Autódromo José Carlos Pace is about the shortest track there is.  They just resufaced and if it rains (which it does constantly) it will be a skating rink.  On offer are Mediums and Softs.  Mercedes and Williams (Mercedes) hold the first 2 rows, McLaren (Mercedes) and Red Bull (Renault) split the 3rd and the first Ferrari (Alonso, the brick racer, who else) shows up in 8th.

Pretty tables when I get to them.

Nov 09 2014

On This Day In History November 9

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.

November 9 is the 313th day of the year (314th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 52 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1872, fire rips through Boston. The Great Boston Fire was Boston’s largest urban fire and still one of the most costly fire-related property losses in American history. The conflagration began at 7:20 p.m. on November 9, 1872, in the basement of a commercial warehouse at 83-87 Summer Street in Boston, Massachusetts. The fire was finally contained twelve hours later, after it had consumed about 65 acres of Boston’s downtown, 776 buildings, and much of the financial district and caused $73.5 million in damage. At least twenty people are known to have died in the fire.

In the aftermath, the city established an entirely new system of firefighting and prevention. The fire also led to the creation of Boston’s financial district.

The fire began in the basement of a warehouse at the corner of Kingston and Summer streets. At the time, this area of the city contained a mix of residences and light industry. Its buildings and most area roofs were made mainly of wood, allowing the blaze to spread quickly as the wind blew red hot embers from rooftop to rooftop. In addition, as Boston streets were narrow, large flames from one structure could literally leap across them to nearby buildings.

Firefighting units from Maine to New Haven, Connecticut, arrived to help, but efforts to fight the fire were plagued by difficulties. There was not enough water on hand to get the fire under control; the hydrant system did not work well because much of the equipment was not standardized; and even when firefighters got their hands on an adequate supply of water, the height of the buildings and the narrowness of the streets made it difficult to direct the water at the blaze from the optimum angle. Because a local equine epidemic had struck the city fire department’s horses, it was difficult to get the fire engines to the correct locations at the right times. In addition, some of the efforts were counter-productive. Explosions were used to attempt fire breaks, but this high-risk strategy was not executed with enough precision and served only to further spread the fire.

The fire was finally stopped at the doors of Fanueil Hall the following morning, but it had already destroyed much of the downtown area. Boston’s officials realized that their fire-prevention efforts had been ineffective and, in the aftermath of the disaster, began to revise and strengthen all of the city’s fire laws and regulations. An inspection system was instituted and the local fire departments began to coordinate their efforts.

Nov 09 2014

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting 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.

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

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

This Week with George Stephanopolis: There are no announced guests. The panels at the roundtable are Democratic strategist Donna Brazile; Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren; BuzzFeed.com editor-in-chief Ben Smith; and Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, managing editors of Bloomberg Politics.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffer’s are: President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.

His panel guests are: Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal; Bob Woodward, The Washington Post ; David Gergen; and Michelle Norris of NPR.

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd: The guests on this Sunday’s MTP are: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R); former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.); Sen.-elect Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Rep.-elect Gwen Graham (D-Fla.).

No idea who the panel guests are but most likely right wing hacks like “Bloody” Bill Kristol who will just make you want to start drinking way too early in the AM.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Ms. Crowley’s guests are Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE); Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY); Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-WI); Sen. John Thune (R-SD); Chris Murphy (D-CT); and a swarm of newly elected member of the House: Brendan Boyle (D-PA); Carlos Curbelo (R-FL); Ruben Gallego (D-AZ); and Lee Zeldin (R-NY).

Nov 09 2014

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

 Germany marks anniversary of fall of Berlin Wall

9 November 2014 Last updated at 02:09


Celebrations are being held in Germany to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Concerts and exhibitions are being staged in the city and Chancellor Angela Merkel will later attend a huge open-air party at the Brandenburg Gate.

White balloons marking a stretch of the wall will be released to symbolise its disappearance.

The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to stop people fleeing from Communist East Germany to the West.

Its fall in 1989 became a powerful symbol of the end of the Cold War.

Sunday’s Headlines:

War with Isis: The militants will remain until the region’s Sunnis feel safe

Protesters set fire to Mexican palace as anger over missing students grows

Heavy shelling, unmarked military columns observed in eastern Ukraine

Japanese MP’s surprise encounter paved way for meeting of leaders

Hong Kong’s post-handover leader says China won’t change mind on democracy: paper

Nov 09 2014

The Breakfast Club

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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Today in History

Breakfast Tune

Breakfast News & Blogs Below