Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why Not?

Here'e what I don't quite understand.  Let us say a bank, or a Wall Street firm really is "too big to fail", why does that mean its leaders, its principals, are immunized from prosecution?

The bank can remain whole  --  just under new leadership.  In fact, a temporary "nationalization" should be in order until the "books are uncooked".

Can anyone give me a good reason why this cannot, or should not happen?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Headlines

Here's another selection of "headlines".  Perhaps now you understand my despair.  In fact, most of this crap goes well beyond anything you might call satire.
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Wisconsin Republican Party to vote on secession at state convenction in May

 

Pastor John Hagee: Tuesday’s ‘blood moon’ eclipse signals the end of the world

 


Why are geocentrists trying to undo centuries worth of accepted science? (Hint: The Jews)    -------   arrrrgh!!

 

A Minneapolis Restaurant Hosted A Nazi-Themed Party On MLK Day

Just noticed this on TPM (Talking Points Memo)  --  ties in nicely with my previous post  --  don't you think?  All those "nice heartland folks". 

When do the pogroms, murders, and book burnings start?

Please notice this "party" was held on MLK day.  Nice tie in, don't you think?  It is my opinion a lot of folks have to rethink their antisemitism, both casual and otherwise. 

Please follow link to original.
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http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/minneapolis-nazi-party?utm_source=crowdignite.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=crowdignite.com

The gathering, replete with Nazi flags and men clad in uniforms, was a Twin Cities historical society's annual Christmas party. But the party wasn't held in December. It was thrown in January. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, no less.
Photos of the party were published this week by the Minneapolis alt weekly newspaper City Pages. The paper subsequently received additional photos and information about the gathering.
According to the Star Tribune, a staff member at Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit, the restaurant that hosted the event, lost his job last week after admitting to taking photos and sharing them with friends.
Gasthof’s owner Mario Pierzchalski doesn't understand the uproar. An immigrant of Poland, Pierzchalski said the participants were merely "actors" and "peaceful people." Even so, Pierzchalski said that after six years of hosting the party, the event will no longer be held at his establishment.
“So now we have a lot of bad messages on our phones; they want to burn down the building,” he told the Star Tribune. “We live in a free country...but from the comments I see, a lot of people they don’t see what freedom is. If I break the law, punish me. But we did this for so many years and everything was fine.”
Pierzchalski has not responded to TPM's request for comment. When TPM called Gasthof’s, the woman on the other end seemed accustomed to handling inquiries about the controversy.
"Is this about the article?" she asked.
The organizers of the event have also insisted that they were not making a political statement.
Scott Steben, the organizer of the party, told the Star Tribune this week that "[b]y no means do we glorify the edicts of the Third Reich." According to the newspaper, Steben has had roles as a German soldier in "at least three movies."
Jon Boorom, who also participated in the event, compared the party in an interview with City Pages to "a Star Trek convention but for WWII enthusiasts."
On Wednesday, Steben issued an apology and said he understood "that some of the items we displayed at the dinner have made people feel uncomfortable."

Passover

Today marks the beginning of Passover, celebrating the liberation of the Jews from Egypt over 3300 years ago.

It lasts seven days in Israel, but eight in the diaspora. 

This past weekend, a RABID anti-Semite killed three innocent people outside a Jewish Center and a Jewish senior living community.  The Dr. and grandson shot and killed outside the Jewish Center were both Methodists  --  but, I guess they "looked Jewish" to the killer - a former klu-klux-klan "leader", insane anti-Semite, candidate for public office, and ex-con.

As I've said before  --  sooner or later "they" ALWAYS come for the Jews.  It NEVER fails.  Every attempt to be a "good German", a "good" whatever eventually fails  --  simply because, whenever we have bad times, some fool will ALWAYS blame it on the Jews.

Now we have antisemitism raising its ugly head on both right and left  --  the right wing with its usual "Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion", it's general "anti-anything-black-brown-non-Christian" (of the "approved" kind), and it's fear of "hippies", and damn near anything "different".  The supposed left cloaks its antisemitism in "anti-Zionism", while giving hard line Muslims who will not accept Israel as a "legitimate" country (wishing to drive them into the sea) a pass on all they do - and many of them "do" a lot.

It makes no sense for American Jews to support the Republican Party, and their support of the Democratic party must be dependent on reciprocal support from Democrats.

This does NOT include support for groups of ultra-orthodox folks who tend to publicly denigrate women and DEMAND their rules be followed in PUBLIC places.  It is, after all, still the USA - right?

Oh, by the way, antisemitism is on the rise WORLDWIDE.  Choose your friends carefully.  Always remember:  NEVER AGAIN   

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

WHY THE MINIMUM WAGE SHOULD REALLY BE RAISED TO $15 AN HOUR

The very latest from Robert Reich.  Please follow link to original.
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http://robertreich.org/

Momentum is building to raise the minimum wage. Several states have already taken action  — Connecticut has boosted it to $10.10 by 2017, the Maryland legislature just approved a similar measure, Minnesota lawmakers just reached a deal to hike it to $9.50. A few cities have been more ambitious — Washington, D.C. and its surrounding counties raised it to $11.50, Seattle is considering $15.00
Senate Democrats will soon introduce legislation raising it nationally to $10.10, from the current $7.25 an hour.
All this is fine as far as it goes. But we need to be more ambitious. We should be raising the federal minimum to $15 an hour.
Here are seven reasons why:
1. Had the minimum wage of 1968 simply stayed even with inflation, it would be more than $10 an hour today. But the typical worker is also about twice as productive as then. Some of those productivity gains should go to workers at the bottom.
2. $10.10 isn’t enough to lift all workers and their families out of poverty. Most low-wage workers aren’t young teenagers; they’re major breadwinners for their families, and many are women. And they and their families need a higher minimum.
3. For this reason, a $10.10 minimum would also still require the rest of us to pay Medicaid, food-stamps, and other programs necessary to get poor families out of poverty — thereby indirectly subsidizing employers who refuse to pay more. Bloomberg View describes McDonalds and Walmart as “America’s biggest welfare queens” because their employees receive so much public assistance. (Some, like McDonalds, even advise their employees to use public programs because their pay is so low.)
4. A $15/hour minimum won’t result in major job losses because it would put money in the pockets of millions of low-wage workers who will spend it — thereby giving working families and the overall economy a boost, and creating jobs. (When I was Labor Secretary in 1996 and we raised the minimum wage, business predicted millions of job losses; in fact, we had more job gains over the next four years than in any comparable period in American history.)
5. A $15/hour minimum is unlikely to result in higher prices because most businesses directly affected by it are in intense competition for consumers, and will take the raise out of profits rather than raise their prices. But because the higher minimum will also attract more workers into the job market, employers will have more choice of whom to hire, and thereby have more reliable employees — resulting in lower turnover costs and higher productivity.
6. Since Republicans will push Democrats to go even lower than $10.10, it’s doubly important to be clear about what’s right in the first place. Democrats should be going for a higher minimum rather than listening to Republican demands for a smaller one.
7. At a time in our history when 95 percent of all economic gains are going to the top 1 percent, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour isn’t just smart economics and good politics. It’s also the morally right thing to do.
Call your senators and members of congress today to tell them $15 an hour is the least American workers deserve. You can reach them at 202-224-3121.

A Visit To "Some Assembly Required"

Time for a visit to "Some Assembly Required".  I am beginning to think it should be renamed, "A Survey Of Stupidity" - but, there seem to be times when it's not stupidity but some sort of criminal activity combined with short term thinking.  Also what is seen as self serving by folks too stupid to understand we are all in this mess together.  Please follow link to original.
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http://ckm3.blogspot.com/

You Shouldn't Be In Kansas Anymore, Toto: Acting at night, over the weekend, brave GOP'ers in Kansas have nullified the existing contracts of the state's public school teachers, stripping them of tenure, making them individually renegotiate their existing contracts without any union representative tainting the process. And if a teacher does not agree to this process, termination is automatic and cannot be appealed. This travesty was committed in lieu of providing court-ordered funding levels to the state's public schools. 


Get Off Your Ash: A judge has told the NC Environmental Management Commission that it had both the power and the responsibility to get on Duke Energy's ass about the massive and ongoing pollution from its 'coal ash ponds”, and that the Commission should “require an immediate halt to pollution.” The Commission, a wholly owned subsidiary of Duke Energy, is appealing the decision.

Yawn: So many scared, ignorant parents in Oregon have refused to have their little darlings vaccinated against measles that the disease is on the rise again. Politically correct stupidity reigns supreme.

 About Farce: In January, small business were at their most optimistic levels in seven years. That has collapsed in the subsequent two months to reach levels last seen back when we all knew who Lehman Brothers was.
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There's more - please go there. 

Call climate change what it is: violence Social unrest and famine, superstorms and droughts. Places, species and human beings – none will be spared. Welcome to Occupy Earth - Rebecca Solnit

Here's an interesting take on climate change from "The Guardian" - please follow link to original.
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http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/07/climate-change-violence-occupy-earth

If you're poor, the only way you're likely to injure someone is the old traditional way: artisanal violence, we could call it – by hands, by knife, by club, or maybe modern hands-on violence, by gun or by car.
But if you're tremendously wealthy, you can practice industrial-scale violence without any manual labor on your own part. You can, say, build a sweatshop factory that will collapse in Bangladesh and kill more people than any hands-on mass murderer ever did, or you can calculate risk and benefit about putting poisons or unsafe machines into the world, as manufacturers do every day. If you're the leader of a country, you can declare war and kill by the hundreds of thousands or millions. And the nuclear superpowers – the US and Russia – still hold the option of destroying quite a lot of life on Earth.
So do the carbon barons. But when we talk about violence, we almost always talk about violence from below, not above.
Or so I thought when I received a press release last week from a climate group announcing that "scientists say there is a direct link between changing climate and an increase in violence". What the scientists actually said, in a not-so-newsworthy article in Nature two and a half years ago, is that there is higher conflict in the tropics in El Nino years, and that perhaps this will scale up to make our age of climate change also an era of civil and international conflict.
The message is that ordinary people will behave badly in an era of intensified climate change.
All this makes sense, unless you go back to the premise and note that climate change is itself violence. Extreme, horrific, longterm, widespread violence.
Climate change is anthropogenic – caused by human beings, some much more than others. We know the consequences of that change: the acidification of oceans and decline of many species in them, the slow disappearance of island nations such as the Maldives, increased flooding, drought, crop failure leading to food-price increases and famine, increasingly turbulent weather. (Think Hurricane Sandy and the recent typhoon in the Philippines, and heat waves that kill elderly people by the tens of thousands.)
Climate change is violence.
So if we want to talk about violence and climate change – and we are talking about it, after last week's horrifying report from the world's top climate scientists – then let's talk about climate change as violence. Rather than worrying about whether ordinary human beings will react turbulently to the destruction of the very means of their survival, let's worry about that destruction – and their survival. Of course water failure, crop failure, flooding and more will lead to mass migration and climate refugees – they already have – and this will lead to conflict. Those conflicts are being set in motion now.
You can regard the Arab Spring, in part, as a climate conflict: the increase in wheat prices was one of the triggers for that series of revolts that changed the face of northernmost Africa and the Middle East. On the one hand, you can say, how nice if those people had not been hungry in the first place. On the other, how can you not say, how great is it that those people stood up against being deprived of sustenance and hope? And then you have to look at the systems that created that hunger - the enormous economic inequalities in places such as Egypt and the brutality used to keep down the people at the lower levels of the social system, as well as the weather.
People revolt when their lives are unbearable. Sometimes material reality creates that unbearableness: droughts, plagues, storms, floods. But food and medical care, health and well-being, access to housing and education – these things are also governed by economic means and government policy. That's what the revolt called Occupy Wall Street was against.
Climate change will increase hunger as food prices rise and food production falters, but we already have widespread hunger on Earth, and much of it is due not to the failures of nature and farmers, but to systems of distribution. Almost 16m children in the United States now live with hunger, according to the US Department of Agriculture, and that is not because the vast, agriculturally rich United States cannot produce enough to feed all of us. We are a country whose distribution system is itself a kind of violence.
Climate change is not suddenly bringing about an era of equitable distribution. I suspect people will be revolting in the coming future against what they revolted against in the past: the injustices of the system. They should revolt, and we should be glad they do, if not so glad that they need to. (Though one can hope they'll recognize that violence is not necessarily where their power lies.) One of the events prompting the French Revolution was the failure of the 1788 wheat crop, which made bread prices skyrocket and the poor go hungry. The insurance against such events is often thought to be more authoritarianism and more threats against the poor, but that's only an attempt to keep a lid on what's boiling over; the other way to go is to turn down the heat.
The same week during which I received that ill-thought-out press release about climate and violence, Exxon Mobil Corporation issued a policy report. It makes for boring reading, unless you can make the dry language of business into pictures of the consequences of those acts undertaken for profit. Exxon says:
We are confident that none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become 'stranded'. We believe producing these assets is essential to meeting growing energy demand worldwide.
Stranded assets that mean carbon assets – coal, oil, gas still underground – would become worthless if we decided they could not be extracted and burned in the near future. Because scientists say that we need to leave most of the world's known carbon reserves in the ground if we are to go for the milder rather than the more extreme versions of climate change. Under the milder version, countless more people – species, places – will survive. In the best-case scenario, we damage the Earth less. We are currently wrangling about how much to devastate the Earth.
In every arena, we need to look at industrial-scale and systemic violence, not just the hands-on violence of the less powerful. When it comes to climate change, this is particularly true. Exxon has decided to bet that we can't make the corporation keep its reserves in the ground, and the company is reassuring its investors that it will continue to profit off the rapid, violent and intentional destruction of the Earth.
That's a tired phrase, the destruction of the Earth, but translate it into the face of a starving child and a barren field – and then multiply that a few million times. Or just picture the tiny bivalves: scallops, oysters, Arctic sea snails that can't form shells in acidifying oceans right now. Or another superstorm tearing apart another city. Climate change is global-scale violence, against places and species as well as against human beings. Once we call it by name, we can start having a real conversation about our priorities and values. Because the revolt against brutality begins with a revolt against the language that hides that brutality.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tea Party Defender Of Traditional Marriage Busted Wrecking His Traditional Marriage

This from "Joe.My.God." - please follow link to original.  Once again, our supporters of "traditional marriage" seem to also support "traditional cheating". 

Don't many of these guys also support mandatory jail time for the CRIME of adultery?

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http://joemygod.blogspot.com/



Freshman Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA), who campaigned on a platform of "defending our Christian way of life" and on the "defense of natural marriage" has been caught on video making out with a young female staffer. Local news outlets are speculating about an affair. McAllister has issued the usual statement asking for privacy while his family gets through this extremely fucking embarrassing time.

There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness. I’m asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff and my constituents who elected me to serve. Trust is something I know has to be earned whether you’re a husband, a father or a congressman. I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I’ve disappointed. From day one, I’ve always tried to be an honest man. I ran for Congress to make a difference and not just be another politician.
McAllister was elected in November 2013 special election after GOP Rep. Rodney Alexander resigned to join the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal. During his campaign McAllister sought and received the endorsement of the Duck Dynasty clan.

8 Things Mainstream Media Doesn't Have the Courage to Tell You

Here's a little something from "Alternet".  Please follow link to original.
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http://www.alternet.org/media/8-things-mainstream-media-doesnt-have-courage-tell-you?paging=off&current_page=1

 
The following are all relevant, fact-based issues, the "hard news" stories that the media has a responsibility to report. But the business-oriented press generally avoids them.

1. U.S. Wealth Up $34 Trillion Since Recession. 93% of You Got Almost None of It.

That's an average of $100,000 for every American. But the people who already own most of the stocks took almost all of it. For them, the average gain was well over a million dollars -- tax-free as long as they don't cash it in. Details available here.


2. Eight Rich Americans Made More Than 3.6 Million Minimum Wage Workers

A recent report stated that no full-time minimum wage worker in the U.S. can afford a one-bedroom or two-bedroom rental at fair market rent. There are 3.6 million such workers, and their total (combined) 2013 earnings is less than the 2013 stock market gains of just eight Americans, all of whom take more than their share from society: the four Waltons, the two Kochs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett.



3. News Sources Speak for the 5%

It would be refreshing to read an honest editorial: "We dearly value the 5 to 7 percent of our readers who make a lot of money and believe that their growing riches are helping everyone else."

Instead, the business media seems unable to differentiate between the top 5 percent and the rest of society. The Wall Street Journalexclaimed, "Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before," and then went on to sputter: "What Recession?...The economy has bounced back from recession, unemployment has declined.."

The Chicago Tribune may be even further out of touch with its less privileged readers, asking them: "What's so terrible about the infusion of so much money into the presidential campaign?"


4. TV News Dumbed Down for American Viewers

A 2009 survey by the European Journal of Communication compared the U.S. to Denmark, Finland, and the UK in the awareness and reporting of domestic vs. international news, and of 'hard' news (politics, public administration, the economy, science, technology) vs. 'soft' news (celebrities, human interest, sport and entertainment). The results:

-- Americans [are] especially uninformed about international public affairs.
-- American respondents also underperformed in relation to domestic-related hard news stories.

-- American television reports much less international news than Finnish, Danish and British television;
-- American television network newscasts also report much less hard news than Finnish and Danish television.

Surprisingly, the report states that "our sample of American newspapers was more oriented towards hard news than their counterparts in the European countries." Too bad Americans are reading less newspapers.




5. News Execs among White Male Boomers Who Owe Trillions to Society

The hype about the "self-made man" is fantasy. In the early 1970s, we privileged white males were spirited out of college to waiting jobs in management and finance, technology was inventing new ways for us to make money, tax rates were about to tumble, and visions of bonuses and capital gains danced in our heads.

While we were in school the Defense Department had been preparing the Internet for Microsoft and Apple, the National Science Foundation was funding the Digital Library Initiative research that would be adopted as the Google model, and the National Institute of Health was doing the early laboratory testing for companies like Merck and Pfizer. Government research labs and public universities trained thousands of chemists, physicists, chip designers, programmers, engineers, production line workers, market analysts, testers, troubleshooters, etc., etc.

All we created on our own was a disdainful attitude, like that of Steve Jobs: "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.".

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Please follow link to read the rest.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Some of our Cats


That's Dixie, our part Siamese belle and Gidget, a perennial kitten. Both are loving, sweet cats. They are growing old together - along w2ith our other kitties. More to come soon.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Here are some headlines for all y'all to enjoy.  Do they describe what you want America to be?  If they are not   ---   DO SOMETHING.  Organize, vote, write letters, show real support for those who describe and support REAL AMERICAN VALUES  --  not the KKKonservative - KKKristian - Right-Wing-Republican crap they are ALL selling.

Read some REAL American History, not the tortured, revisionist, crap David Barton is selling.  Please, learn about your country.  Support the egalitarian dream that was America.
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Visitors to Arkansas town greeted with billboard directing them to pro-KKK website

 

Oregon GOP candidate for governor: Same-sex marriage is ‘a sin, just the same as murder’

 

Tea Party group suggests ‘dictator’ Obama staged Sandy Hook massacre to ‘get your guns’

 

Fox guest links Ft. Hood shooting to welfare recipients and immigrants ‘who do nothing’

 

Pat Robertson: Buying stuff ‘by computer’ is the ‘Mark of the Beast’


etc., etc., etc.

The Distributional Games

From Robert Reich  --  please follow link to original
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http://robertreich.org/

Every year I ask my class on “Wealth and Poverty” to play a simple game. I have them split up into pairs, and imagine I’m giving one of them $1,000. They can keep some of the money only on condition they reach a deal with their partner on how it’s to be divided up between them. I explain they’re strangers who will never see one other again, can only make one offer and respond with one acceptance (or decline), and can only communicate by the initial recipient writing on a piece of paper how much he’ll share with the other, who must then either accept (writing “deal” on the paper) or decline (“no deal”).
You might think many initial recipients of the imaginary $1,000 would offer $1 or even less, which their partner would gladly accept. After all, even one dollar is better than ending up with nothing at all.
But that’s not what happens. Most of the $1,000 recipients are far more generous, offering their partners at least $250. And most of partners decline any offer under $250, even though “no deal” means neither of them will get to keep anything.
This game, or variations of it, have been played by social scientists thousands of times with different groups and pairings, with surprisingly similar results.
A far bigger version of the game is now being played on the national stage. But it’s for real — as a relative handful of Americans receive ever bigger slices of the total national income while most average Americans, working harder than ever, receive smaller ones. And just as in the simulations, the losers are starting to say “no deal.”
According to polls, they’ve said no deal to the pending Trans Pacific Trade Agreement, for example, and Congress is on the way to killing it.
It’s true that history and policy point to overall benefits from expanded trade because all of us gain access to cheaper goods and services. But in recent years the biggest gains from trade have gone to investors and executives while the burdens have fallen disproportionately on those in the middle and below who have lost good-paying jobs.
By the same token, most Americans are saying “no deal” to further tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. In fact, some are now voting to raise taxes on the rich in order to pay for such things as better schools, as evidenced by the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York.
Conservatives say higher taxes on the rich will slow economic growth. But even if this argument contains a grain of truth, it’s a non-starter as long as 95 percent of the gains from growth continue to go to the top 1 percent – as they have since the start of the recovery in 2009.
Why would people turn down a deal that made them better off simply because it made someone else far, far better off?
Some might call this attitude envy or spite. That’s the conclusion of Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, in a recent oped column for the New York Times. But he’s dead wrong.
It’s true that people sometimes feel worse off when others do better. There’s an old Russian story about a suffering peasant whose neighbor is rich and well-connected. In time, the rich neighbor obtains a cow, something the peasant could never afford. The peasant prays to God for help. When God asks the peasant what he wants God to do, the peasant replies, “Kill the cow.”
But Americans have never been prone to “kill the cow” type envy. When our neighbor gets the equivalent of new cow (or new car), we want one, too.
Yet we are sensitive to perceived unfairness. When I ask those of my students who refuse to accept even $200 in the distribution game why they did so, they rarely mention feelings of envy or spite. They talk instead about unfairness. “Why should she get so much?” they ask. “It’s unfair.”
Remember, I gave out the $1,000 arbitrarily. The initial recipients didn’t have to work for it or be outstanding in any way.
When a game seems rigged, losers may be willing to sacrifice some gains in order to prevent winners from walking away with far more — a result that might feel fundamentally unfair.
To many Americans, the U.S. economy of recent years has become a vast casino in which too many decks are stacked and too many dice are loaded. I hear it all the time: The titans of Wall Street made unfathomable amounts gambling with our money, and when their bets went bad in 2008 we had to bail them out. Yet although millions of Americans are still underwater and many remain unemployed, not a single top Wall Street banker has been indicted. In fact, they’re making more money now than ever before.
Top hedge-fund managers pocketed more than a billion dollars each last year, and the stock market is higher than it was before the crash. But the typical American home is worth less than before, and most Americans can’t save a thing. CEOs are now earning more than 300 times the pay of the typical worker yet the most workers are earning less, and many are barely holding on.
In 2001, a Gallup poll found 76 percent of Americans satisfied with opportunities to get ahead by working hard, and only 22 percent were dissatisfied. But since then, the apparent arbitrariness and unfairness of the economy have taken a toll. Satisfaction has steadily declined and dissatisfaction increased. Only 54 percent are now satisfied, 45 percent dissatisfied.
According to Pew, the percentage of Americans who feel most people who want to get ahead can do so through hard work has dropped by 14 points since about 2000.
Another related explanation I get from students who refuse $200 or more in the distribution game: They worry that if the other guy ends up with most of the money, he’ll also end up with most of the power. That will rig the game even more. So they’re willing to sacrifice some gain in order to avoid a steadily more lopsided and ever more corrupt politics.
Here again, the evidence is all around us. Big money had already started inundating our democracy before “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission” opened the sluice gates, but now our democracy is drowning. Only the terminally naive would believe this money is intended to foster the public interest.
What to do? Improving our schools is critically important. Making work pay by raising the minimum wage and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit would also be helpful.
But these are only a start. In order to ensure that future productivity gains don’t go overwhelmingly to a small sliver at the top, we’ll need a mechanism to give the middle class and the poor a share in future growth.
One possibility: A trust fund for every child at birth, composed of an index of stocks and bonds whose value is inversely related to family income, which becomes available to them when they turn eighteen. Through the magic of compounded interest, this could be a considerable sum. The funds would be financed by a small surtax on capital gains and a tax on all financial transactions.
We must also get big money out of politics — reversing “Citizens United” by constitutional amendment if necessary, financing campaigns by matching the contributions of small donors with public dollars, and requiring full disclosure of everyone and every corporation contributing to (or against) a candidate.
If America’s distributional game continues to create a few big winners and many who consider themselves losers by comparison, the losers will try to stop the game — not out of envy but out of a deep-seated sense of unfairness and a fear of unchecked power and privilege. Then we all lose.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What America Isn’t, Or Anyway Wasn’t

Here's an interesting post from Dr. Krugman's blog  --  please follow link to original
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http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/

I get mail:
Paul you are a subhuman communist traitor who should be deported. You are a disgrace to america’s founders and an affront to the Constitution. Republicans believe in protecting the money of WORKERS not RECEIVERS. All workers, poor and rich, should be protected from high taxes equally.
Well, I get at least one of these each day. But it’s kind of interesting to read this right after reviewing Piketty, because one point Piketty makes is that the modern notion that redistribution and “penalizing success” is un- and anti-American is completely at odds with our country’s actual history. One subsection in Piketty’s book is titled “Confiscatory Taxation of Excess Incomes: An American Invention”; he shows that America actually pioneered very high taxes on the rich:
When we look at the history of progressive taxation in the twentieth century, it is striking to see how far out in front Britain and the United States were, especially the latter, which invented the confiscatory tax on “excessive” incomes and fortunes.
Why was this the case? Piketty points to the American egalitarian ideal, which went along with fear of creating a hereditary aristocracy. High taxes, especially on estates, were motivated in part by “fear of coming to resemble Old Europe.” Among those who called for high estate taxation on social and political grounds was the great economist Irving Fisher.
Just to reemphasize the point: during the Progressive Era, it was commonplace and widely accepted to support high taxes on the rich specifically in order to keep the rich from getting richer — a position that few people in politics today would dare espouse.
And as my correspondent so vividly illustrates, many people nowadays imagine that redistribution and high taxes on the rich are antithetical to American ideals, indeed practically communism. They have no idea (and wouldn’t believe) that redistribution is in reality as American as apple pie.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The New Tribalism and the Decline of the Nation State

This from Robert Reich.  Please follow link to original.
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http://robertreich.org/


We are witnessing a reversion to tribalism around the world, away from nation states. The the same pattern can be seen even in America – especially in American politics.
Before the rise of the nation-state, between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, the world was mostly tribal. Tribes were united by language, religion, blood, and belief. They feared other tribes and often warred against them. Kings and emperors imposed temporary truces, at most.

But in the past three hundred years the idea of nationhood took root in most of the world. Members of tribes started to become citizens, viewing themselves as a single people with patriotic sentiments and duties toward their homeland. Although nationalism never fully supplanted tribalism in some former colonial territories, the transition from tribe to nation was mostly completed by the mid twentieth century.

Over the last several decades, though, technology has whittled away the underpinnings of the nation state. National economies have become so intertwined that economic security depends less on national armies than on financial transactions around the world. Global corporations play nations off against each other to get the best deals on taxes and regulations.
News and images move so easily across borders that attitudes and aspirations are no longer especially national. Cyber-weapons, no longer the exclusive province of national governments, can originate in a hacker’s garage.

Nations are becoming less relevant in a world where everyone and everything is interconnected. The connections that matter most are again becoming more personal. Religious beliefs and affiliations, the nuances of one’s own language and culture, the daily realities of class, and the extensions of one’s family and its values – all are providing people with ever greater senses of identity.

The nation state, meanwhile, is coming apart. A single Europe – which seemed within reach a few years ago – is now succumbing to the centrifugal forces of its different languages and cultures. The Soviet Union is gone, replaced by nations split along tribal lines. Vladimir Putin can’t easily annex the whole of Ukraine, only the Russian-speaking part. The Balkans have been Balkanized.

Separatist movements have broken out all over — Czechs separating from Slovaks; Kurds wanting to separate from Iraq, Syria, and Turkey; even the Scots seeking separation from England.

The turmoil now consuming much of the Middle East stems less from democratic movements trying to topple dictatorships than from ancient tribal conflicts between the two major denominations of Isam – Sunni and Shia.

And what about America? The world’s “melting pot” is changing color. Between the 2000 and 2010 census the share of the U.S. population calling itself white dropped from 69 to 64 percent, and more than half of the nation’s population growth came from Hispanics.

It’s also becoming more divided by economic class. Increasingly, the rich seem to inhabit a different country than the rest.

But America’s new tribalism can be seen most distinctly in its politics. Nowadays the members of one tribe (calling themselves liberals, progressives, and Democrats) hold sharply different views and values than the members of the other (conservatives, Tea Partiers, and Republicans).

Each tribe has contrasting ideas about rights and freedoms (for liberals, reproductive rights and equal marriage rights; for conservatives, the right to own a gun and do what you want with your property).
Each has its own totems (social insurance versus smaller government) and taboos (cutting entitlements or raising taxes). Each, its own demons (the Tea Party and Ted Cruz; the Affordable Care Act and Barack Obama); its own version of truth (one believes in climate change and evolution; the other doesn’t); and its own media that confirm its beliefs.

The tribes even look different. One is becoming blacker, browner, and more feminine. The other, whiter and more male. (Only 2 percent of Mitt Romney’s voters were African-American, for example.)

Each tribe is headed by rival warlords whose fighting has almost brought the national government in Washington to a halt. Increasingly, the two tribes live separately in their own regions – blue or red state, coastal or mid-section, urban or rural – with state or local governments reflecting their contrasting values.

I’m not making a claim of moral equivalence. Personally, I think the Republican right has gone off the deep end, and if polls are to be believed a majority of Americans agree with me.

But the fact is, the two tribes are pulling America apart, often putting tribal goals over the national interest – which is not that different from what’s happening in the rest of the world.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wealth Over Work

The latest from Prof. Krugman - follow link to original
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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/opinion/krugman-wealth-over-work.html?ref=paulkrugman&_r=0

It seems safe to say that “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the magnum opus of the French economist Thomas Piketty, will be the most important economics book of the year — and maybe of the decade. Mr. Piketty, arguably the world’s leading expert on income and wealth inequality, does more than document the growing concentration of income in the hands of a small economic elite. He also makes a powerful case that we’re on the way back to “patrimonial capitalism,” in which the commanding heights of the economy are dominated not just by wealth, but also by inherited wealth, in which birth matters more than effort and talent.
To be sure, Mr. Piketty concedes that we aren’t there yet. So far, the rise of America’s 1 percent has mainly been driven by executive salaries and bonuses rather than income from investments, let alone inherited wealth. But six of the 10 wealthiest Americans are already heirs rather than self-made entrepreneurs, and the children of today’s economic elite start from a position of immense privilege. As Mr. Piketty notes, “the risk of a drift toward oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism.”
Indeed. And if you want to feel even less optimistic, consider what many U.S. politicians are up to. America’s nascent oligarchy may not yet be fully formed — but one of our two main political parties already seems committed to defending the oligarchy’s interests.
Despite the frantic efforts of some Republicans to pretend otherwise, most people realize that today’s G.O.P. favors the interests of the rich over those of ordinary families. I suspect, however, that fewer people realize the extent to which the party favors returns on wealth over wages and salaries. And the dominance of income from capital, which can be inherited, over wages — the dominance of wealth over work — is what patrimonial capitalism is all about.
To see what I’m talking about, start with actual policies and policy proposals. It’s generally understood that George W. Bush did all he could to cut taxes on the very affluent, that the middle-class cuts he included were essentially political loss leaders. It’s less well understood that the biggest breaks went not to people paid high salaries but to coupon-clippers and heirs to large estates. True, the top tax bracket on earned income fell from 39.6 to 35 percent. But the top rate on dividends fell from 39.6 percent (because they were taxed as ordinary income) to 15 percent — and the estate tax was completely eliminated.
Some of these cuts were reversed under President Obama, but the point is that the great tax-cut push of the Bush years was mainly about reducing taxes on unearned income. And when Republicans retook one house of Congress, they promptly came up with a plan — Representative Paul Ryan’s “road map” — calling for the elimination of taxes on interest, dividends, capital gains and estates. Under this plan, someone living solely off inherited wealth would have owed no federal taxes at all.
 This tilt of policy toward the interests of wealth has been mirrored by a tilt in rhetoric; Republicans often seem so intent on exalting “job creators” that they forget to mention American workers. In 2012 Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, famously commemorated Labor Day with a Twitter post honoring business owners. More recently, Mr. Cantor reportedly reminded colleagues at a G.O.P. retreat that most Americans work for other people, which is at least one reason attempts to make a big issue out of Mr. Obama’s supposed denigration of businesspeople fell flat. (Another reason was that Mr. Obama did no such thing.)

In fact, not only don’t most Americans own businesses, but business income, and income from capital in general, is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people. In 1979 the top 1 percent of households accounted for 17 percent of business income; by 2007 the same group was getting 43 percent of business income, and 75 percent of capital gains. Yet this small elite gets all of the G.O.P.’s love, and most of its policy attention.
Why is this happening? Well, bear in mind that both Koch brothers are numbered among the 10 wealthiest Americans, and so are four Walmart heirs. Great wealth buys great political influence — and not just through campaign contributions. Many conservatives live inside an intellectual bubble of think tanks and captive media that is ultimately financed by a handful of megadonors. Not surprisingly, those inside the bubble tend to assume, instinctively, that what is good for oligarchs is good for America.
As I’ve already suggested, the results can sometimes seem comical. The important point to remember, however, is that the people inside the bubble have a lot of power, which they wield on behalf of their patrons. And the drift toward oligarchy continues.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Timidity Trap

Here's the latest column from Dr. Krugman - please read.  Follow link to orignal.
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 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/opinion/krugman-the-timidity-trap.html?ref=paulkrugman&_r=0

There don’t seem to be any major economic crises underway right this moment, and policy makers in many places are patting themselves on the back. In Europe, for example, they’re crowing about Spain’s recovery: the country seems set to grow at least twice as fast this year as previously forecast.
Unfortunately, that means growth of 1 percent, versus 0.5 percent, in a deeply depressed economy with 55 percent youth unemployment. The fact that this can be considered good news just goes to show how accustomed we’ve grown to terrible economic conditions. We’re doing worse than anyone could have imagined a few years ago, yet people seem increasingly to be accepting this miserable situation as the new normal.
How did this happen? There were multiple reasons, of course. But I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately, in part because I’ve been asked to discuss a new assessment of Japan’s efforts to break out of its deflation trap. And I’d argue that an important source of failure was what I’ve taken to calling the timidity trap — the consistent tendency of policy makers who have the right ideas in principle to go for half-measures in practice, and the way this timidity ends up backfiring, politically and even economically.
In other words, Yeats had it right: the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
About the worst: If you’ve been following economic debates these past few years, you know that both America and Europe have powerful pain caucuses — influential groups fiercely opposed to any policy that might put the unemployed back to work. There are some important differences between the U.S. and European pain caucuses, but both now have truly impressive track records of being always wrong, never in doubt.
Thus, in America, we have a faction both on Wall Street and in Congress that has spent five years and more issuing lurid warnings about runaway inflation and soaring interest rates. You might think that the failure of any of these dire predictions to come true would inspire some second thoughts, but, after all these years, the same people are still being invited to testify, and are still saying the same things.
Meanwhile, in Europe, four years have passed since the Continent turned to harsh austerity programs. The architects of these programs told us not to worry about adverse impacts on jobs and growth — the economic effects would be positive, because austerity would inspire confidence. Needless to say, the confidence fairy never appeared, and the economic and social price has been immense. But no matter: all the serious people say that the beatings must continue until morale improves.
So what has been the response of the good guys?
For there are good guys out there, people who haven’t bought into the notion that nothing can or should be done about mass unemployment. The Obama administration’s heart — or, at any rate, its economic model — is in the right place. The Federal Reserve has pushed back against the springtime-for-Weimar, inflation-is-coming crowd. The International Monetary Fund has put out research debunking claims that austerity is painless. But these good guys never seem willing to go all-in on their beliefs
For there are good guys out there, people who haven’t bought into the notion that nothing can or should be done.
The classic example is the Obama stimulus, which was obviously underpowered given the economy’s dire straits. That’s not 20/20 hindsight. Some of us warned right from the beginning that the plan would be inadequate — and that because it was being oversold, the persistence of high unemployment would end up discrediting the whole idea of stimulus in the public mind. And so it proved.
What’s not as well known is that the Fed has, in its own way, done the same thing. From the start, monetary officials ruled out the kinds of monetary policies most likely to work — in particular, anything that might signal a willingness to tolerate somewhat higher inflation, at least temporarily. As a result, the policies they have followed have fallen short of hopes, and ended up leaving the impression that nothing much can be done.
And the same may be true even in Japan — the case that motivated this article. Japan has made a radical break with past policies, finally adopting the kind of aggressive monetary stimulus Western economists have been urging for 15 years and more. Yet there’s still a diffidence about the whole business, a tendency to set things like inflation targets lower than the situation really demands. And this increases the risk that Japan will fail to achieve “liftoff” — that the boost it gets from the new policies won’t be enough to really break free from deflation.
You might ask why the good guys have been so timid, the bad guys so self-confident. I suspect that the answer has a lot to do with class interests. But that will have to be a subject for another column.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"New Ladders Of Opportunity Into The Middle Class"

George Bush talked about "the ownership society".  Obama talks about "new ladders of opportunity into the middle class".

Can someone please tell me what the real difference between these phrases is?  Does either phrase say ANYTHING about greater equality?  Does either one address the huge elephant in the room? 

I think not.  That's the unfortunate thing about our politics today.  That's the unfortunate thing about our society today.  We have forgotten all about "We The People".  we have totally lost the egalitarian impulse.  We no longer give a damn if children go hungry.  We no longer give a damn if folks are homeless.

This, the richest society in HISTORY (or so they tell us) actually has people going hungry.  People freezing to death because they are homeless  --  and, we don't give a damn.

At the very same time our "conservatives" call themselves "Christians".  They are "Christians" who ARE "the money changers".  They worship MONEY.  It isn't the idol they worship, it's the GOLD.

I think all these haters should be ashamed of themselves.  Hate just for hates sake.  Mean, narrow, evil people, judging everyone while never looking into themselves. 

If they want to see "the anti-Christ"  --  they need only look into a mirror.

By the way   ----   how did that "ownership society" thingy work out?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'? Natural and social scientists develop new model of how 'perfect storm' of crises could unravel global system

let us hear some more do-nothing "happy happy" crap.  O.K.?

Please follow link to original
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http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/14/nasa-civilisation-irreversible-collapse-study-scientists

A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.
Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."
The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.
It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:
"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."
By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."
Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with "Elites" based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:
"... accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels."
The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:
"Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use."
Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from "increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput," despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.
Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions "closely reflecting the reality of the world today... we find that collapse is difficult to avoid." In the first of these scenarios, civilisation:
".... appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature."
Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that "with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites."
In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners", allowing them to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe." The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how "historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases)."
Applying this lesson to our contemporary predicament, the study warns that:
"While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory 'so far' in support of doing nothing."
However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.
The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:
"Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion."
The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business - and consumers - to recognise that 'business as usual' cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.
Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies - by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance - have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. But these 'business as usual' forecasts could be very conservative.