August 4, 2009 archive

Aug 04

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports Higher costs spur the rise in U.S. consumer spending. “While consumers spent more in June, they did so because prices of food and energy were rising, and not because they were ready to spend freely again. Personal incomes sagged as employers continued to cut wages and reduce working hours. And the personal saving rate, which had been rising, dropped sharply from a month earlier”.

    Meanwhile, Team Obama continues to wage the class war against the middle class. The CS Monitor reports Mixed signals from Obama team on middle class taxes. Obama’s economic advisors are considering breaking the president’s campaign pledge of no tax increases for those making $250,000 and under.

    In a televised interview on ABC on Sunday, Secretary Geithner talked about the need to make “hard choices” to rein in federal budget deficits. And the president’s top economic policy adviser, Larry Summers, said on CBS that healthcare reform will cost money, and “it is never a good idea to absolutely rule things out.”

    The Hill adds Labor unions and liberal activists criticize breaking Obama’s campaign promise.

    Obama pledged during his White House campaign not to raise “one dime” of taxes on Americans earning below $250,000 a year.

    “If you make under $250,000, you will not see your taxes increased by a single dime. Not your income tax. Not your payroll tax. Not your capital gains tax. No tax,” Obama vowed.

    “It’s a pretty important campaign promise,” said Thea Lee, policy director at the AFL-CIO. But, still Team Obama and Congressional Democrats led by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) are floating a plan to tax employer-provided health benefits as opposed to increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Geithner and Summers are in the White House advocating for their rich friends, while the rest of America still continues to hurt.

    The Washington Post reports For many Americans, there’s nowhere to go but down and the NY Times adds a person’s Income loss persists long after layoffs.

    Economists, in fact, say income losses for workers who are let go in a recession can persist for as long as two decades, a depressing prognosis for the several-million people who have lost their jobs in the current recession.

  2. Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reports Antidepressant use in U.S. doubled over decade to 10% in 2005. “The number of Americans taking antidepressants doubled to 10.1 percent of the U.S. population in 2005 compared with 1996, increasing across income and age groups… An estimated 27 million U.S. people ages 6 and older were taking the drugs by 2005… according to Columbia University research.”

    Coincidently surely, the LA Times reports Obama gives powerful drug lobby a seat at healthcare table. “As a candidate for president, Barack Obama lambasted drug companies and the influence they wielded in Washington. He even ran a television ad targeting the industry’s chief lobbyist, former Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin, and the role Tauzin played in preventing Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices.”

    Now, Tauzin is Obama’s partner having been to the White House at least 6 times and where he says he’s “secured an agreement that the administration wouldn’t try to overturn the very Medicare drug policy that Obama had criticized on the campaign trail.”

    “Drug companies — Washington’s leading source of lobbyist money — now have ‘a seat at the table’ at the White House and on Capitol Hill as healthcare legislation works its way through Congress.” Six months ago, Obama “criticized drug companies for greed now praises their work on behalf of the public good.”

    Meanwhile, The Hill reports Liberals protest Speaker Pelosi’s comments on health deal. Pelosi (D-CA) said to reporters on Friday: “Are you asking me, ‘Are progressives going to vote against universal, quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans?’? No way.” Her response triggered laughter.

    The Congressional Progressive Caucus have formally protested her remarks. “Progressive Caucus Co-Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) said Monday she was unhappy at the idea that liberals were being ‘laughed at’ and not taken seriously.” The Progressive Caucus has vowed to oppose legislation that weakens or excludes a public option for health care.

Four at Four continues with Guantanamo inmate trial proposal and Obama’s Appalachian apocalypse.

Aug 04

Dharmathon, Lyrics

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I am just a poor boy and my storys seldom told

Ive squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises

All lies and jest, still the man hears what he wants to hear

And disregards the rest, hmmmm

When I left my home and my family, I was no more than a boy

In the company of strangers

In the quiet of the railway station, runnin scared

Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters, where the ragged people go

Looking for the places only they would know.

Help, I need somebody,

Help, not just anybody,

Help, you know I need someone, help.

When I was younger, so much younger than today,

I never needed anybody’s help in any way.

But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured,

Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors.

Some folks trust to reason others trust to might,

I don’t trust to nothin’, but I know it comes out right.

Say it once again now, Whoa, I hope you’ll understand

When it’s done and over, Lord, a man is just a man.

Playin’, playin’ in the band. Daybreak, daybreak on the land.

Some folks look for answers others look for fights,

Some folks up in treetops just a looking for their kites.

Whoa, I can tell your future just look what’s in your hand,

But I can’t stop for nothin’ I’m just playing in the band.

Playin’, playin’ in the band. Daybreak, daybreak on the land.

Standin’ on a tower world at my command

You just keep a turnin’ while I’m playing in the band.

And if a man among you got no sin upon his hand

Let him cast a stone at me for playing in the band.

Playin’, playin’ in the band. Daybreak, daybreak on the land.

Together we’ll stand

Divided we’ll fall

Come on now people

Let’s get on the ball

And work together

Come on, come on

Let’s work together

(Now now people)

Because together we will stand

Every boy, every girl and man

People, when things go wrong

As they sometimes will

And the road you travel

It stays all uphill

Let’s work together

Come on, come on

Let’s work together

You know together we will stand

Every boy, girl, woman and man

Oh well now, two or three minutes

Two or three hours

What does it matter now

In this life of ours

Let’s work together

Come on, come on

Let’s work together

(Now now people)

Because together we will stand

Every boy, every woman and man

Ahhh, come on now…

Ahhh, come on, let’s work together…

Well now, make someone happy

Some come to laugh their past away

Some come to make it just one more day

Whichever way your pleasure tends

If you plant ice you’re gonna harvest wind.

Roll away the dew

Roll away the dew

Roll away the dew

Roll away the dew

In franklins tower the four winds sleep

Like four lean hounds the lighthouse keep

Wildflower seed on the sand and wind

May the four winds blow you home again.

Aug 04

In David Jeffrey Bomford’s Words: The Radio Interview

There’s a Front Page post, on the latest from the ‘birther’ conspiracy, recently posted. That’s got the links to the Washington Independent latest.

Below you can hear the interview:

Adelaide man caught up in bid to oust Obama

Aug 04

Shhh, we’re not supposed to talk about this!

But wait.  There’s more!

Former Chief of NIST’s Fire Science Division Calls for Independent Review of World Trade Center Investigation

Peter Dale Scott on similaries between JFK and 911

Sibel Edmonds:  Bin Laden worked for US till 9/11

NIST finally admits “free fall” in WTC7 implosion

Let Bin Laden Stay Free, says CIA man

And of course:

Official story of 9/11 “almost entirely untrue”, so says Commission insider.

So while we’re all chortling over the useful idiots that the corporatocracy sends out to distract us (Orly Taitz, Glenn Beck, et al), the ongoing coup will not be interrupted.

We won’t even know that the coup occurred.  We’ll be too busy laughing at the jesters and going “gosh, it’s a good thing the Dems are in power, because if they weren’t, these nutjobs would be!   Whew!”

Mission accomplished.

Aug 04

Happy Birthday! Now….Let’s talk, Barack

Now at Dkos

I’m getting close to another birthday too! And since you are a bit younger than me, I thought this might be a good day to have a little chat, maybe even pass along a little wisdom gained with years that you may not have arrived at. Yet.

First of all….just in case you haven;t noticed….The Republicans are assholes. Professional assholes, in point of fact.

And despite your considerable charm, you just aren’t going to win them over. Yeah I understand the political theater of bipartisanship, but you have pretty much milked that for all it is worth, right? The midterms are coming up, and as always, and certainly as we see on the HCR tactics, if you don’t kick their ass, they will kick yours. Iow…..it’s time to stop pretending they are reasonable partners and being nice and start really exposing them for who and what they are. Assholes.

Aug 04

DD Writers Jam Fest AUG 12 – 16: Part Deux

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Hey who wants to work up a cool banner? UPDATE! Done! Yay! Thank you, On The Bus!!

Okay Part One of the brainstorming of this was here yesterday. I’m picking up with Part Deux today to give everyone a week’s notice in advance, and get into some details. Don’t worry, it’s not that big of a deal, it’s just my OCD showing. heh.

DD Writers Jam Fest… a five days Docudharma exclusive (!) Writer’s… uhm … focus group? no… er, Workshop? well, sorta, maybe. Free For All? hmmm, yah.

Okay the main thing we’ve agreed to do is a Round Robin.  We’ll see if some of the other stuff comes together…. it’s up to us, you. Shake it up in the comments.

DATES: Wed through Sunday, August 12 – 16th, 2009

WHERE: Here, mostly, but also in your Brain, CPU or Journal

WHO: You. Everybody. Dharmanoids. Whoever wants in, jump in (as long as you play nice). You don’t have to be a “Writer”, no ID card or credentials art the door required. No Registration Fees either

HOSTED BY: moi but it’s a community thing

REWARDS? PRIZES? MEGA BONUSES? Er, no. Free ponies though!

So what’s this Round Robin thing? Fun. Da Rulz below. Well. I forgot where I was for a minute. “Rules” are just the standard issue Rules of Docudharma: “be excellent to each other”. The rest (below) is more like Guidelines really.

Aug 04

Fear Of Reform, What The Right Is Selling

No one following the health care debate can fail to know the Conservative movement in this nation is doing everything they can to stoke the level of fear of their base in an effort to spread the disease of fear to the nation as a whole and the Members of Congress in particular. Their overall goal is to keep any major changes in how health coverage is sold (which is what we are really talking about in this round of reform) from happening.

Originally posted at Squarestate.net

Aug 04

It’s about damn time! Brutal beatdown of Pat Buchanan and GOP, and they still don’t get it

Crossposted on Daily Kos

    How long have you been waiting for this? Well it was worth the wait. For 8+ minutes Unkle Pat is on the ropes, on the defensive, and the tool he is attacked with is the pure, simple, inconvenient truth that the fantasy world of Conservative politics can not co-exist with.

   And now that fantasy world is falling down all around them.

   I could have titled this diary Death by Stupid. It is really getting that bad, and the GOP just doesn’t get it. They have begun to believe their own spin.

   In order to grok fully the utter totality of this beatdown I have broken this video down into it’s Nonsense and Smackdown componenets.

   Go below the fold to see the brutal beating explained.

Aug 04

Docudharma Times Tuesday August 4

Bill Clinton in North Korea to Seek Release of U.S. Reporters



By MARK LANDLER and PETER BAKER

Published: August 4, 2009


WASHINGTON – Former President Bill Clinton landed in North Korea on Tuesday to negotiate the release of two American television journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegally entering North Korean territory, according to a person briefed on the mission.

Mr. Clinton flew into Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, in an unmarked jet early Tuesday morning local time, Central TV, a North Korean station, reported. The White House declined to comment.

Citing television footage from Pyongyang, The Associated Press said Mr. Clinton was greeted at the airport by North Korean officials including the chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan and Yang Hyong Sop, vice parliamentary speaker. The footage showed him smiling and bowing as a young girl presented him with flowers.

New Leader Tries to Get Toyota Back on the Road



By MICHELINE MAYNARD

Published: August 3, 2009


DETROIT – General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are not the only ones working through wrenching restructurings. Toyota is, as well, though with a much lower profile.

The results have yet to show, and in fact, no one at Toyota expects 2009 to be anything but dismal. (On Tuesday, the company reported a loss of $819 million for the first quarter.)

Its new president, Akio Toyoda, has moved quickly since taking charge in June, when he declared his dismay at the company’s financial crisis.

“Like everyone in the company, I am extremely frustrated” about the automaker’s decline, Mr. Toyoda said at his first news conference as president. “So we must start again from the ground up.”

Aug 04

Operation Reflation

Mission accomplished! Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon….the bubble economy has been reflated and it’s oh so glorious to be an American. Matt Taibbi’s Bubble Number Five – The Bailout Bubble as expressed in his brilliant The Great Bubble American Machine is now well on the way to reaching critical mass. Oh come all ye suckers, joyful and triumphant the casino is open again….time to drive up those depleted 401k’s, fine whatever credit cards haven’t been maxed out and spend….spend….spend….

Aug 04

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

2009 Poems


Illumination

Long Dark Tunnel

For years

we quivered

in our personal caves

until we found

our personal lights

our inner torches

that led us out

into a tunnel

still dark

so very murky

sinister warnings

slithering in the corners

warning us to go back

away from the danger

of being ourselves

Every so often

there has appeared

a brightness

in the distance

the dream of equality

for us to chased

only to see the light

extinguished

too rapidly

hopes dashed

at least for awhile

but we have kept pushing

forward

hoping the dreams

could avoid becoming

nightmares

Once more

lights shine

and we wonder

if this time

we will reach

the daylight

before our aspirations

burn

in a political

conflagration

not of our making

Will we ever be free?

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–June 26, 2009

Aug 04

Economic Exploitation – Satire (or Truth?) of Alan Greenspan Speech

Satire (or truth?) of an Alan Greenspan speech on ‘Economic flexibility’

To the National Association for Business Economics Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois – 2005

Original Text

Today I will blow smoke up your ass and tell you why feeding Americans to the Economy and doing away with our social safety net is good for the Masters of the Universe.

Back when word traveled by cargo ship and carrier pigeon, there was no need for Government to protect people from economic fraud. Then the Industrial Revolution started to happen and Adam Smith was channeled to protect the profits of Robber Barons.

With absolutely no concept of multinational corporations and instantaneous communication, Adam Smith had no idea that the Hidden Hand would not function as he postulated it would. Robber Barons captured and bribed elected officials and convinced them that Adam Smith’s Hidden Hand was a good idea despite the fact that the size, scale and speed of an Industrial economy was totally unimaginable to a colonial economist in 1776.

After a few years of irrational exuberance, the Hidden Hand led us into a Great Depression.

Despite the Great Depression, and subsequent dismissal of the Hidden Hand as a viable economic model, the Titans of Industry were able to spend hundreds of millions on propaganda and bribes for elected officials in order to get people to stop protecting themselves with the institution of government.

The measured, Visible Hand of Government of, by and for the People that got us out of the depression, protected the people from exploitation by their bosses, bank and market fraud, famine, and a host of other potential pitfalls of modern day society.

This social safety net was chipped away at by the persecuted Titans of Industry for the next 3 decades.

When the economy started to struggle as US Oil production topped off and we were forced to rely on other countries for oil, that’s when we struck. Starting in the 70s, congress bowed to the pressure of business interests and began ‘deregulating’ everything – transportation, communications, energy and financial services industries. The goal of this scheme was to promote competition, which was supposed to raise our standard of living. De-regulation was coupled with a reduction in trade Bailiffs and Terriers.

As a consequence, the United States, then widely seen as a shining city on a hill, became the land of the paper towel and fast food. Joseph Schumpter of Harvard gave us the term ‘creative destruction’ – the continual scrapping of old technologies to make way for the innovative. In that paradigm, standards of living never really rose despite the fact that new metrics and technologies told us they did. We had a firesale to do away the stuff that made us great at what we do and laid off a ton of people who unable or unwilling to relocate to the third world to work for peanuts.

Through this process, wealth is created, incremental step by incremental step, as high levels of productivity associated with innovative technologies displace less-efficient productive capacity and these spoils were given to the rich. This model presupposes the continuous churning of a exploitative economy in which the new displaces the old and the rich are all that matter.

As the 80s progressed, the success of the scam of transferring money upward was apparent – turning citizen into consumer by removing government protection made it easier to rob and exploit them as they were forced to work harder for less.

Beyond deregulation, innovative technologies, especially information technologies have contributed mightily to enhanced exploitability. A quarter of a century ago, companies often required 10 men to do the job of one guy at a computer terminal, robots work longer, faster and harder than men and we don’t have to pay them at all!

Deregulation and information technologies have joined, in the US and elsewhere to advance the exploitative abilities of the financial sector, but creative accounting may turn out to have been the most important contributor to our current Bubble Economy.

Historically, banks have had to bail themselves out of trouble, as they were responsible for their losses. When they could not do so, the government stepped in. But given recent de-regulation and subsequent hidden leveraging through asset-backed securities, collateral loan obligations and credit default swaps, the banks can hide their risk until the bubble explodes and forces a government bailout. Or they can just threaten to blow themselves up and take government money.

Embarrassingly deficient pricing options and financial mumbo jumbo developed by mathematicians along with fast computers and telecom have significantly increased risk and reward for behavior that, before regulation, was entirely illegal. The new instruments of risk dispersal have enabled the largest and most sophisticated banks, in their credit-granting role, to divest themselves of that credit risk and responsiblity by passing it on to institutions with far less leverage, like the American Citizen and their insurance companies and retirement funds.

These increasingly complex financial instruments have contributed to the development of a far more exploitative, wasteful and hence plutocratic financial system than the one that was dismantled 25 years ago. After the bursting of the stock market bubble in 2000, unlike previous periods following large financial shocks, nobody stepped in to stop the irrational exuberance and protect the people from waste, fraud and abuse.

If we have attained a degree of exploitability that can keep the money flowing to the rich despite the most significant shocks – a proposition that was just fully proven in the Winter of ’09. The ability of the economy to make money for the rich has been enhanced and rich people will be happier.

Governments today, although still more concerned with the General Welfare of their people during the age of Slavery and the Gilded Age are rediscovering the trappings of feeding the economy the lives and livelihoods of their people. We are also beginning to recognize that Global Exploitation is easier with the help of the Hidden Hand.

Through the careful use of political bribes and corporate propaganda, governments in recent decades have stopped protecting their people from exploitation by the marketplace. We appear to be perverting Adam Smith’s notion that exploitation and domination of people by the market and market titans is somehow capitalism. This greater tendency towards exploitation, hiding the truth and self regulation has made the stability of the economy impossible to gauge, even by experts.

It is important to remember that the nature of the market is complex, nobody understands it and things move too fast for governments to act appropriately.

Being able to outsource government functions to private industry is a valuable policy asset. Turning over vital government functions and paying more from them has helped our economy grow. This is a clear demonstration of the benefits of an increasingly exploitative economy.

We weathered a decline on October 19, 1987, of a fifth of the market value of US equities with little evidence of subsequent macro-economic stress because we had regulations on the books to ensure proper oversight and management of the economy. Contrast this with the Stock Market Bubble’s bursting in 2000 – despite the massive waste, fraud, abuse and public outrage, nothing was done to keep it from happening again.

***

In perhaps what must be the greatest irony of economy policymaking, success at exploiting entire populations of people carries it’s own risks. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and people know that. The good times can’t go on forever and the people are apt to lose their stomachs for risk or to get frightened by gloomy predictions which could lead to widespread exposure of toxic assets. Such developments apparently reflect not only market dynamics but also the all-too-evident alternating and infectious bouts of human euphoria and distress and the instability they engender.

Therefore, because it is difficult to suppress growing market exuberance with a seemingly stable economy, a highly exploitative system needs to be in place to manipulate the markets and to tilt the table back towards the wealthy when the shit hits the fan.

Relying on policymakers to pop speculative bubbles and to stop them from happening again is not an option. As the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) transcripts of the mid-1990s duly note, we at the Fed were uncomfortable with a stock market that appeared as early as 1996 to disconnect from its moorings.

Yet the significant monetary tightening of 1994 could not stop us from inflating the bubble. And after the repeal of Glass Steagall equity prices really shot up. The FOMC had the ability to stop this bubble, but it would have been bad for business and for stockholder and consumer confidence, so the band played on, for morale’s sake.

6 years after we saw the problem it appeared that we would have to do something drastic to counteract the euphoria that we allowed to spread because of our actions that were heretofore illegal. In short we would have to pop the bubble ourselves precipitating a recession and shining a bright light on formerly illegal and fraudulent activities. We decided to let the bubble grow and pop all on it’s own. We figured this would be better for rich people, given their superior knowledge, information and connections to markets, they’d be alright.

***

Exploitability is most readily achieved by fostering an environment of few rules and domination by the most powerful entities. A key element in creating this environment is exploitative labor markets. Many working people equate labor market flexibility with job insecurity.

Despite that perception, exploitative labor markets appear to promote job creation. An increased capacity of management to fire workers without excessive cost, for example, apparently increases companies’ willingness to hire without fear of unremediable mistakes. The net effect has been what appears to be a decline in the structural unemployment rate in the united states, and definitely cheaper labor.

Protection of People and trade, both domestic and international, from waste fraud and abuse does not contribute to the welfare of American workers. At best it is a short term fix at a cost of reduced wealth capturing by the economic elite. We need to make train and educate the recently fired, not protect them and their family from exploitative work practices.

Moving forward, I trust that we have learned durable lessons abotu the benefits of fostering and preserving an exploitative economy. That exploitation has been the product of the economic dynamism of our CEOs and firms that was unleashed, in part, by the efforts of corporate propagandists and their bought and paid for policymakers to remove public protections and promote plutocracy.

Although the business cycle has not disappeared, exploitation has made the economy less transparent and more efficient at transferring money to those that matter. To be sure this has created some new challenges for policymakers. But more fundamentally, a more exploitative economy has been key to the impressive growth in the standards of living and economic welfare of the wealthy elite so evident in the United States.  

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