This from "Project Syndicate - by Bradford DeLong - follow link to original
Confessions of a Financial Deregulator
BERKELEY – Back in the late 1990’s, in America at least, two schools of thought pushed for more financial deregulation – that is, for repealing the legal separation of investment banking from commercial banking, relaxing banks’ capital requirements, and encouraging more aggressive creation and use of derivatives. If deregulation looks like such a bad idea now, why didn’t it then?
The first school of thought, broadly that of the United States’ Republican Party, was that financial regulation was bad because all regulation was bad. The second, broadly that of the Democratic Party, was somewhat more complicated, and was based on four observations:
· In the global economy’s industrial core, at least, it had then been more than 60 years since financial disruption had had more than a minor impact on overall levels of production and employment. While modern central banks had difficulty in dealing with inflationary shocks, it had been generations since they had seen a deflationary shock that they could not handle.
· The profits of the investment-banking oligarchy (the handful of global investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan Chase, among others) were far in excess of what any competitive market ought to deliver, owing to these banks’ deep pockets and ability to maneuver through thickets of regulations.
· The long-run market-return gradient – by which those with deep pockets and the patience to take on real-estate, equity, derivative, and other risks reaped outsize returns – seemed to indicate that financial markets were awful at mobilizing society’s risk-bearing capacity.
· The poorer two-thirds of America’s population appeared to be shut out of the opportunities to borrow at reasonable interest rates and to invest at high returns that the top third – especially the rich – enjoyed.
These four observations suggested that some institutional experimentation was in order. Depression-era restrictions on risk seemed less urgent, given the US Federal Reserve’s proven ability to build firewalls between financial distress and aggregate demand. New ways to borrow and to spread risk seemed to have little downside. More competition for investment-banking oligarchs from commercial bankers and insurance companies with deep pockets seemed likely to reduce the investment banking industry’s unconscionable profits.
It seemed worth trying. It wasn’t.
Analytically, we are still picking through the wreckage of this experiment. Why were the risk controls at highly-leveraged money-center universal banks so lousy? Why weren’t central banks and governments willing and able to step up and maintain the flow of aggregate demand as the financial crisis and its aftermath choked off private investment and consumption spending?
More questions arise from the policy response to the subsequent recession. Why, once the magnitude of the downturn became clear, weren’t governments eager to step in to return unemployment to normal levels, especially in the absence of higher inflation expectations, upward pressure on prices, or even interest-rate increases that would crowd out private investment spending? And how has the financial industry managed to retain so much political power to block regulatory reform?
Moreover, how to restructure the financial system remains unclear. The Glass-Steagall Act’s separation of investment from commercial banking greatly benefited the established oligarchy of investment banks, but somehow the entry of competitors from commercial banks and insurers increased financial companies’ profits further.
There were significant profit opportunities for financial intermediaries that could find spare risk-bearing capacity, carve out securities to take advantage of it, and thus take a middleman’s cut from matching risks with investors who could gain from bearing them. But the advent of derivatives concentrated risk rather than dispersing it, for there was even more money to be made by selling risk to people who did not know how to value it – or, indeed, what risks they were bearing.
And central banks’ failure to regard their primary job to be the stabilization of nominal income – their failure not only to be good Keynesians, but even good monetarists – raises the question of whether central banking itself needs drastic reform. Back in 1825, the Bank of England’s Governor Cornelius Buller understood that when the private sector had a sudden panic-driven spike in demand for safe and liquid financial assets, it was the Bank’s responsibility to meet that demand and so keep bankruptcy and depression at bay. How can his successors know less than he did?
It may even be the case that we ought to return to the much more tightly regulated financial system of the first post-World War II generation. That system served the industrial core well, at least as far as we can tell from the macroeconomic aggregates. We know for certain that our more recent system has not.
J. Bradford DeLong, a former assistant secretary of the US Treasury, is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau for Economic Research
This from "The Tax Policy Center" -- please follow link to original
Fixing Social Security Isn’t Hard
Howard Gleckman | Posted on June 21, 2011, 2:16 pm
Social Security has two obvious problems. While the system is not “broke,” as some insist, it will have only enough money to provide future retirees with about three-quarters of their promised benefits. At the same time, it is poorly designed for the needs of a country where life expectancy and the nature of work and family have changed dramatically since Social Security was created in 1935.
As a result, those who most need social insurance—single women, low-wage workers, the disabled, and the very old—get much less than they need. On the other hand, those who need benefits least get the most.
If Washington policymakers could hold the twin goals of solvency and modernization in their heads at the same time, they could take a few relatively modest steps needed to reform Social Security—and enhance a key pillar of the social safety net for the most vulnerable elderly.
The trick will be to get past the dissonant squabbling that passes for debate these days. Conservatives need to recognize that Social Security will remain a defined benefit program for the foreseeable future. Liberals must overcome their fear that any change at all is the death knell for social insurance.
While Social Security played a key part in reducing poverty rates among the elderly from more than one-third to less than 10 percent over the past half-century, the system is increasingly leaving some seniors behind. Just a few examples: Divorced and never-married women are three times more likely to be poor in old age than married women, and more than one-third of retired workers and widows get benefits that fall below the poverty level.
In this environment, AARP deserves tremendous credit for declaring its willingness last week to sit down and work out a Social Security deal. By doing so, it recognizes two essential realities: the seven decade old Social Security system needs to change, and it will.
But how can lawmakers and advocacy groups build a consensus with the dual aims of securing long-term solvency and modernizing the system? I think they can by agreeing to a six common-sense principles:
Create a respectable minimum benefit for low-income workers, increase some widows’ benefits, and create an additional benefit for the very old (say, 85 or older).
Raise the retirement age, including the minimum benefit age of 62. An extra year of work would solve about one-third of the program’s funding problems. More and more of us can work into our 70s and a modern Social Security system should reflect that. It makes no sense for government to signal that we should stop working at 62 when we are likely to live for two more decades.
Protect those who work physicially demanding jobs. While the percentage of older Americans who do manual labor is shrinking, those who do this work need to be protected. Long overdue reforms in Social Security’s badly broken disability system would help.
Increase contributions and reduce benefits for high-earners. Everybody would still get some benefit—Social Security is not welfare and must retain its status as social insurance. But there is no reason why it can’t be made more progressive.
Preserve the defined benefit nature of Social Security. Adding an additional savings component is a good idea. But the public is not interested in taking on additional risk with their retirement.
Be absolutely transparent about benefits and structural changes. Whatever Congress does, there should be no surprises. As it is, many young people have no confidence in Social Security. Reforms should restore their faith in this key piece of the old-age safety net. But government should also be clear that in the future Social Security will only supplement—and not replace– other retirement savings for middle- and upper-income retirees.
By following these principles, Congress and President Obama could fix Social Security in a way that makes it both solvent and relevant to a 21st century world.
This from "Climate Progress" - follow link to original
You may recall last year that Senator Inhofe’s grandchildren built an igloo to mock a killer snow storm, calling it ‘Al Gore’s New Home’. Of course, extreme precipitation is precisely what we expect from human-caused global warming, but the story still got a lot of play in the media.
What’s more ironic is that the Senate’s leading climate denier bailed on the annual Heartland climate science denial conference this morning — saying “I am under the weather” (!) — just as his home state is being slammed by a record-smashing heatwave and a drought more severe than the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Yes, I know, it’s just coincidence, not a karmic backlash. But then again climate science projects a permanent dust bowl for the Southwest if we keep listening to Inhofe. It also projects that by century’s end, the state will be above 90°F for 135 days a year!
What’s also ironic is just yesterday I pointed out that the Texas drought is so bad, “In Austin, They are Praying for a Hurricane.” Incredibly, meteorologist Stephen Mullens, aka Oklahoma City Weather Examiner, in his Wednesday post, “Heat wave records fall: No relief in sight,” writes
It seems the only hope of rain would be for a hurricane to hit the Texas coast and travel northward to Oklahoma. That path is a fairly common one. Fortunately, the scientists at Colorado State University have predicted a 50% probability that the Texas coast will be hit by a hurricane this year.
No, I don’t think one should use the word “fortunately” to describe a hurricane hitting Texas. But it is a measure of the desperation felt by a state that is three quarters covered by severe drought and that has been above 90 for the entire month.
Here are some of the amazing statistics of this Oklahoma heat wave:
Today marks the 29th consecutive day over 90. That is a record.
Today is forecast to be the 10th day above 100 in June. That is a record.
Today marks the 34th consecutive day above normal.
June 2011 set or tied single-day record high temperatures on the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 27th. Those record temperatures were 103, 104, 101, and 103 degrees, respectively.
This exceptional heatwave (and drought) would in fact be a rather normal June in the second half of this century if Inhofe and his ilk continue to succeed in duping the nation into inaction, as the 2009 NOAA-led impacts report projected:
Back in October, the National Center for Atmospheric Research published a complete literature review, “Drought under global warming: a review.” That study makes clear Dust-Bowlification may well devastate the mid- and south-west even on a moderate emissions path, as the figure below suggests (click to enlarge, “a reading of -4 or below is considered extreme drought”):
The PDSI [Palmer Drought Severity Index] in the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl apparently spiked very briefly to -6, but otherwise rarely exceeded -3 for the decade (see here). NCAR explains:
The large-scale pattern shown in Figure 11 [of which the figure above is part] appears to be a robust response to increased GHGs. This is very alarming because if the drying is anything resembling Figure 11, a very large population will be severely affected in the coming decades over the whole United States, southern Europe, Southeast Asia, Brazil, Chile, Australia, and most of Africa.
NCAR adds “By the end of the century, many populated areas, including parts of the United States, could face readings in the range of -8 to -10, and much of the Mediterranean could fall to -15 to -20. Such readings would be almost unprecedented.”
For the record, the NCAR study merely models the IPCC’s “moderate” A1B scenario,” atmospheric concentrations of CO2 around 520 parts per million in 2050 and 700 in 2100 (up from 390 now). We’re currently headed somewhere between the A2 and A1FI pathway, which would takes us to 850 and 1000 ppm by century’s end.
Politico reports of Inhofe today:
The senator has canceled his planned appearance at the Heartland Institute’s Conference on Climate Change today on account of illness, a spokesman tells POLITICO.
The man who is doing more than anyone else to put the entire country under extreme weather said he couldn’t come because he is “under the weather.” Seriously.
He couldn’t make it, but did make sure some words got through. “It is my hope that over the next two days you will take a little time to note the tremendous successes we have enjoyed,” Inhofe told attendees in a statement. “Today the mood in Washington is significantly different.”
What Inhofe labels as “tremendous successes” are his efforts to kill bills aimed at preserving a livable climate, thereby increasing both the likelihood and severity of future catastrophic climate impacts for billions of people at home and around the globe.
This amoral hubris won’t result in any punishment by the gods of Greek myth, but it will in all likelihood render his home state a super-hot, deserted, uber-dustbowl for a long, long, long time (see NOAA: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).
Please follow link to original. Nothing more need be said by me. It's just more proof the "Christians" have lost their way. I think they really would denounce Jesus if he ever did return. Perhaps they might kill him. He would be one of their main targets - a real "libtard".
Tea Party leader says anti-gay bullying is ‘healthy peer pressure’
Anti-gay bullying is not bullying at all; in fact, it is “peer pressure and is healthy.” That’s according to Rich Swier, an activist with the Tea Party Nation.
Swier was responding to a report from a Florida group that showed that “77% of all bullying victims are picked on due to sexual orientation, gender identity, or the perception of either.” The report also pointed out that “LGBT youth are up to five times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts.”
But, according to Swier, the anti-bullying campaign is nothing more than a sham by “radical gay activists.” He says that it’s all a part of the ever omnipotent “gay agenda” and its plan to indoctrinate school children into the so-called “homosexual lifestyle.”
This is not bullying. It is peer pressure and is healthy. There are many bad behaviors such as smoking, under age drinking and drug abuse that are behaviors that cannot be condoned. Homosexuality falls into this category.
Homosexuality is simply bad behavior that youth see as such and rightly pressure their peers to stop it. In Sarasota County over 70% of all HIV/AIDS cases are due to male sex with males.
I agree with Gulf Coast Gives that “LGBT youth are up to five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts”. Homosexuality, like drugs, harms young people if they experement [sic] with it. That is the greatest tragedy.
It’s truly amazing how these bigots, who work tirelessly to foster an atmosphere conducive to bullying and more bigotry, and work just as tirelessly to deflect the blame from themselves.
According to men like Swier, these astronomical suicide rates have nothing to do with the relentless hatred gay youth have to endure from bigots and bullies like themselves; the kids are the ones at fault for their own misery. Swier may be a perfect example of the biblical concept of human depravity
Here is a column by Ted Rall, from his Rallblog - please follow link to original.
Posted by Ted Rall on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm
Political Scientist Argues the U.S. is a Police State
The United States is a police state.
Not in danger of becoming one.
And it’s too late to restore democracy.
That’s the stark message of Andrew Kolin’s brave, lucid and important book “State Power and Democracy: Before and During the Presidency of George W. Bush.”
Kolin comes out swinging like Joe Frazier. Illusions and delusions about America as a democracy, much less one that is benevolent, don’t stand a chance.
The U.S., Kolin says, shares all the major attributes of a Third World police state: a constant state of emergency in which security always trumps civil liberties; sidestepping of laws by the government; excessive secrecy; the use of preventative detention and holding enemies of the state without filing formal charges; the manufacturing of reasons to go to war.
“The expansion of state power over the course of U.S. history came at the expense of democracy,” Kolin begins. “As state power grew, there developed a disconnect between the theory and practice of democracy in the United States. Ever-greater state power meant it became more and more absolute. This resulted in a government that directed its energies and resources toward silencing those who dared question the state’s authority.”
Some will find Kolin’s more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger deadpan delivery disconcerting or depressing. I think it refreshingly honest. Notice his use of the past tense to describe this country?
The U.S. is over. It’s always been over.
Creeping authoritarianism, Kolin says, began “not long after the end of the Revolutionary War, starting with the conquest of North America and by the start of the twentieth century, continuing with the expansionism outside of North America.”
That’s halfway down the first page.
A hundred pages in, you’ll either be stuffing rags into Molotov cocktails or slitting your wrists. You’ll definitely check the expiration date on your passport.
I was surprised to learn that Kolin is a political science professor at Hilbert College in upstate New York. His methodical walk through U.S. history and the struggle between increased state repression and popular democratic movements, a tug-and-pull in which government and its big business allies won the important battles, feels like a tight legal brief.
As Kolin argues, the fix was in from the start.
“The framers [of the U.S. Constitution] needed to establish a government that could promote and protect property, regulate the economy, create an elaborate infrastructure, and acquire native Indian lands, adhering to the policy of North American expansion, while allowing the democratic surge from below to be both expressed and contained,” Kolin writes.
Obviously, the legal status of most Americans has improved since 1789. For example, “the Abolitionists prove that political movements can disrupt repressive state policies and advance democracy.” However: “The success of the Abolitionists suggests that the government can accommodate reformism, provided its core interests [namely, to enlarge state power] remain unaffected.”
Anyone who has read Zinn or Chomsky will be familiar with the long litany of criminality and ultraviolence which expose the claim of exceptionalism as a ridiculous hoax. These are all here: the Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids, the Red Scare, dirty deals with dictators. Where the book becomes indispensable is its last third, focusing on the Clinton, Bush and early Obama administrations. This, the author argues beyond any sane ability to disagree, is when Americans citizens lost our basic freedoms and civil liberties once and for all. Habeas corpus, an 800-year-old right held by the citizens of all Western nations, gone without so much as a broken window. A president-king who orders the execution of American citizens without a trial—nay, without evidence of wrongdoing, with barely a harshly-worded newspaper editorial to complain.
For Kolin the USA-Patriot Act, passed in haste by a cowed and cowardly Congress that hadn’t had time to read it after 9/11, marks the final end of formal democracy in the United States. If nothing else, sneak into a bookstore (if you still have one in your town) and read pages 142 to 152.
Here you will find the most thorough and clear dissection of this horrible law in print. Describing Title I, for example, Kolin explains: “Due process is not mentioned in the part that grants the president the authority to freeze assets at the start of, or even prior to an investigation [into terrorism], instead of after it is completed. All property seized can be disposed of according to the president’s wishes. There is no legal requirement to have a court order prior to a seizure, creating the possibility that mistakes may be made and, in most cases, won’t be corrected.”
Unfair confiscation may seem like a minor concern for an innocent man or woman arrested, tortured or assassinated on the order of a president. For conservatives who believe property rights are sacrosanct, however, the symbolism is unmistakable: a government that can steal your stuff with impunity is the enemy of the people.
I can imagine one logical objection to Kolin’s thesis. The government may have the right to oppress. But it is not impelled to do so. So long as government officials are well-intentioned men and women, stout of heart and full of integrity, they will refrain from abusing the rights they claim against us.
However, recent history proves that our government is not run by such individuals. And even if it were—a purely theoretical supposition—who would want to live in a nation where the difference between democracy and dictatorship relies on the whims of a coterie of elites?
Though “a glimmer of hope seemed to appear after President Obama took office,” Kolin shows how the Democratic president “merely modified police state practices.” Furthermore, the transitional nature of the brutal authoritarian tactics enacted by Bush into the next presidency indicates that they are not anomalous but structural. “The Obama Administration’s position that amnesty should be granted to those who tortured [under Bush] as well as those who authored the torture memos, itself violates national and international law; it also ensures that such policies will likely be repeated.”
Attorney General Eric Holder said: “We don’t want to criminalize policy differences.” Kolin replies: “Since when is support for a police state a policy difference?”
If you’ve somehow managed to ignore Obama’s record over the last few years, and you’re still thinking of voting for him next November, this book will change your mind.
This from Courthouse News Service.com. I'm beginning to think our "public servants", the police, no longer think of themselves that way. Perhaps they are just a tad out of control. Since most cops seem to HATE "liberals", HATE what they call "smartasses", and HATE the concept of civilian control, and (of course, since they are around to protect property, the rich, and their spawn - not the "unwashed masses") hate unions, many folks who THINK cops are around to protect THEM are in for a rude awakening -- anyway, here's the report.
Please follow link to original.
DAYTON, Ohio (CN) - Dayton police "mistook" a mentally handicapped teen-ager's speech impediment for "disrespect," so they Tasered, pepper-sprayed and beat him and called for backup from "upward of 20 police officers" after the boy rode his bicycle home to ask his mother for help, the boy's mom says.
Pamela Ford says her "mentally challenged/handicapped" son Jesse Kersey, 17, was riding his bike near his Dayton home when Officer Willie Hooper stopped him and tried to talk to him.
The mom says that "Prior to the incident described below, defendant Hooper knew Jesse and was aware that Jesse was mentally challenged/handicapped and a minor child."
Nonetheless, Ford says, Hooper "apparently took Jesse's speech impediment for disrespect ... [and] began yelling at Jesse and after Jesse attempted to communicate with him[.] Jesse, being a minor and mentally challenged/handicapped, turned and rode his bike back to his home in an attempt to ask his mother, Ford, to help him communicate with defendant Cooper," according to the complaint in Montgomery County Court.
On the way, the mom says, "A neighbor attempted to communicate with Officer Hooper about Jesse's disabilities and was told to go back into his home, or he would be arrested."
As Ford opened her front door, she says, Hooper and co-defendant Officer John Howard, "fired their Tasers, striking Jesse in the back with both probes."
"Once inside the house, defendant Hooper and defendant Howard began to struggle with Jesse, who was standing against the back door with his hands up in front of his face, saying 'Please quit, please quit.'
"On numerous occasions, Ford and a family friend, Christopher Peyton, informed Officer Hooper that Jesse was mentally challenged/handicapped, and that Jesse did not understand what was happening," the complaint states.
But the mom says the cops continued their assault: "Officer Howard utilized his Cap-Stun pepper spray and sprayed Jesse ... [and] struck Jesse with a closed fist in the upper chest area.
"Officer Howard utilized his ASP and repeatedly struck Jesse in the upper left side of his left thigh.
"Back-up units were requested to Jesse's house, wherein upward of 20 police officers from different jurisdictions were present.
"At no point, even after being advised of Jesse's mental challenge/handicap by Jesse's family and numerous bystanders, did defendant Hooper, defendant Howard, or any other police officer present, attempt to communicate with Jesse or explain in terms he could understand as to why Jesse was being chased.
"Jesse was handcuffed and hogtied before being placed in the back of a police cruiser.
"Jesse was charged with assault on a peace officer, resisting arrest, and obstructing official business."
However, "Jesse was declared incompetent by the Montgomery County Juvenile Court and the charges against Jesse were dismissed."
Jesse and his mom seek damages from the city and the two lead officers, for false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, assault, battery, excessive use of force, infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.
They are represented by Richard Boucher.
Time to visit "Some Assembly Required", there's a lot of "fun news" out there this Weds.
Don't forget to follow link to original -- for even more "fun"
One More: Along with fires in Arizona and floods in Minot and riots in Athens, don't forget that 10 million people in the Horn of Africa are suffering under the worst drought in 60 years. Add them to the list.
Perspective: Medicaid serves 68 million Americans, including the disabled, the elderly, certain women and children, and the poor. House Republicans, not being personally acquainted with a lot of poor people, want to cut the program- a lot. Just 5% the first year, but 15% in 2014 and by 35% by 2021
The Emphasis Game: The Case-Shiller house price index is out. Depending on which part of the data you wanted to emphasize – the 10-city index, the 20-city index, adjusted, unadjusted – house prices are either up a little bit, flat, down a little bit, or down a lot. Best guess is things were pretty flat – 0.1% of 170,000 is pretty much statistical noise.
The Golden Age: After 30 years of decreasing federal regulation, decreasing taxes, decreasing unionism the US should be entering an age of plenty for all – according to Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and the GOP. How are things in your neck of the woods?
What will happen to all the empty houses?
And what will happen to all the people from all the empty houses?
(comment from Tina -- and, who seems to give a DAMN?)
Bad to Worse: Scientific research confirms that humankind has raised the Earth's temperature a little less than 1ºC so far, and that - absent a dramatic change in our carbon emissions – another 3ºC rise is inevitable by 2100. If 1ºC is enough to melt the Arctic, and it is, 4ºC will be a disaster, one from which technology will not save us.
Here's an interesting little bit of delving into the future from CBS News, this by Prof Michael T. Klare. (please follow link to original)
The new "30 Years War"
A 30-year war for energy preeminence? You wouldn’t wish it even on a desperate planet. But that’s where we’re headed and there’s no turning back.
From 1618 to 1648, Europe was engulfed in a series of intensely brutal conflicts known collectively as the Thirty Years’ War. It was, in part, a struggle between an imperial system of governance and the emerging nation-state. Indeed, many historians believe that the modern international system of nation-states was crystallized in the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which finally ended the fighting.
Think of us today as embarking on a new Thirty Years’ War. It may not result in as much bloodshed as that of the 1600s, though bloodshed there will be, but it will prove no less momentous for the future of the planet. Over the coming decades, we will be embroiled at a global level in a succeed-or-perish contest among the major forms of energy, the corporations which supply them, and the countries that run on them. The question will be: Which will dominate the world’s energy supply in the second half of the twenty-first century? The winners will determine how -- and how badly -- we live, work, and play in those not-so-distant decades, and will profit enormously as a result. The losers will be cast aside and dismembered.
Why 30 years? Because that’s how long it will take for experimental energy systems like hydrogen power, cellulosic ethanol, wave power, algae fuel, and advanced nuclear reactors to make it from the laboratory to full-scale industrial development. Some of these systems (as well, undoubtedly, as others not yet on our radar screens) will survive the winnowing process. Some will not. And there is little way to predict how it will go at this stage in the game. At the same time, the use of existing fuels like oil and coal, which spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is likely to plummet, thanks both to diminished supplies and rising concerns over the growing dangers of carbon emissions.
This will be a war because the future profitability, or even survival, of many of the world’s most powerful and wealthy corporations will be at risk, and because every nation has a potentially life-or-death stake in the contest. For giant oil companies like BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, an eventual shift away from petroleum will have massive economic consequences. They will be forced to adopt new economic models and attempt to corner new markets, based on the production of alternative energy products, or risk collapse or absorption by more powerful competitors. In these same decades, new companies will arise, some undoubtedly coming to rival the oil giants in wealth and importance.
The fate of nations, too, will be at stake as they place their bets on competing technologies, cling to their existing energy patterns, or compete for global energy sources, markets, and reserves. Because the acquisition of adequate supplies of energy is as basic a matter of national security as can be imagined, struggles over vital resources -- oil and natural gas now, perhaps lithium or nickel (for electric-powered vehicles) in the future -- will trigger armed violence.
When these three decades are over, as with the Treaty of Westphalia, the planet is likely to have in place the foundations of a new system for organizing itself -- this time around energy needs. In the meantime, the struggle for energy resources is guaranteed to grow ever more intense for a simple reason: there is no way the existing energy system can satisfy the world’s future requirements. It must be replaced or supplemented in a major way by a renewable alternative system or, forget Westphalia, the planet will be subject to environmental disaster of a sort hard to imagine today.
The existing energy lineup
To appreciate the nature of our predicament, begin with a quick look at the world’s existing energy portfolio. According to BP, the world consumed 13.2 billion tons of oil-equivalent from all sources in 2010: 33.6% from oil, 29.6% from coal, 23.8% from natural gas, 6.5% from hydroelectricity, 5.2% from nuclear energy, and a mere 1.3% percent from all renewable forms of energy. Together, fossil fuels -- oil, coal, and gas -- supplied 10.4 billion tons, or 87% of the total.
Even attempting to preserve this level of energy output in 30 years’ time, using the same proportion of fuels, would be a near-hopeless feat. Achieving a 40% increase in energy output, as most analysts believe will be needed to satisfy the existing requirements of older industrial powers and rising demand in China and other rapidly developing nations, is simply impossible.
Two barriers stand in the way of preserving the existing energy profile: eventual oil scarcity and global climate change. Most energy analysts expect conventional oil output -- that is, liquid oil derived from fields on land and in shallow coastal waters -- to reach a production peak in the next few years and then begin an irreversible decline. Some additional fuel will be provided in the form of “unconventional” oil -- that is, liquids derived from the costly, hazardous, and ecologically unsafe extraction processes involved in producing tar sands, shale oil, and deep-offshore oil -- but this will only postpone the contraction in petroleum availability, not avert it. By 2041, oil will be far less abundant than it is today and so incapable of meeting anywhere near 33.6% of the world’s (much expanded) energy needs.
Meanwhile, the accelerating pace of climate change will produce ever more damage -- intense storm activity, rising sea levels, prolonged droughts, lethal heat waves, massive forest fires, and so on -- finally forcing reluctant politicians to take remedial action. This will undoubtedly include an imposition of curbs on the release via fossil fuels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, whether in the form of carbon taxes, cap-and-trade plans, emissions limits, or other restrictive systems as yet not imagined. By 2041, these increasingly restrictive curbs will help ensure that fossil fuels will not be supplying anywhere near 87% of world energy.
The leading contenders
If oil and coal are destined to fall from their position as the world’s paramount source of energy, what will replace them? Here are some of the leading contenders.
Natural gas: Many energy experts and political leaders view natural gas as a “transitional” fossil fuel because it releases less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases than oil and coal. In addition, global supplies of natural gas are far greater than previously believed, thanks to new technologies -- notably horizontal drilling and the controversial procedure of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) -- that allow for the exploitation of shale gas reserves once considered inaccessible. For example, in 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) predicted that, by 2035, gas would far outpace coal as a source of American energy, though oil would still outpace them both. Some now speak of a “natural gas revolution” that will see it overtake oil as the world’s number one fuel, at least for a time. But fracking poses a threat to the safety of drinking water and so may arouse widespread opposition, while the economics of shale gas may, in the end, prove less attractive than currently assumed. In fact, many experts now believe that the prospects for shale gas have been oversold, and that stepped-up investment will result in ever-diminishing returns.
Nuclear power: Prior to the March 11th earthquake/tsunami disaster and a series of core meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex in Japan, many analysts were speaking of a nuclear "renaissance," which would see the construction of hundreds of new nuclear reactors over the next few decades. Although some of these plants in China and elsewhere are likely to be built, plans for others -- in Italy and Switzerland, for example -- already appear to have been scrapped. Despite repeated assurances that U.S. reactors are completely safe, evidence is regularly emerging of safety risks at many of these facilities. Given rising public concern over the risk of catastrophic accident, it is unlikely that nuclear power will be one of the big winners in 2041.
However, nuclear enthusiasts (including President Obama) are championing the manufacture of small “modular” reactors that, according to their boosters, could be built for far less than current ones and would produce significantly lower levels of radioactive waste. Although the technology for, and safety of, such “assembly-line” reactors has yet to be demonstrated, advocates claim that they would provide an attractive alternative to both large conventional reactors with their piles of nuclear waste and coal-fired power plants that emit so much carbon dioxide.
Wind and solar: Make no mistake, the world will rely on wind and solar power for a greater proportion of its energy 30 years from now. According to the International Energy Agency, those energy sources will go from approximately 1% of total world energy consumption in 2008 to a projected 4% in 2035. But given the crisis at hand and the hopes that exist for wind and solar, this would prove small potatoes indeed. For these two alternative energy sources to claim a significantly larger share of the energy pie, as so many climate-change activists desire, real breakthroughs will be necessary, including major improvements in the design of wind turbines and solar collectors, improved energy storage (so that power collected during sunny or windy periods can be better used at night or in calm weather), and a far more efficient and expansive electrical grid (so that energy from areas favored by sun and wind can be effectively distributed elsewhere). China, Germany, and Spain have been making the sorts of investments in wind and solar energy that might give them an advantage in the new Thirty Years’ War -- but only if the technological breakthroughs actually come.
Biofuels and algae: Many experts see a promising future for biofuels, especially as “first generation” ethanol, based largely on the fermentation of corn and sugar cane, is replaced by second- and third-generation fuels derived from plant cellulose (“cellulosic ethanol”) and bio-engineered algae. Aside from the fact that the fermentation process requires heat (and so consumes energy even while releasing it), many policymakers object to the use of food crops to supply raw materials for a motor fuel at a time of rising food prices. However, several promising technologies to produce ethanol by chemical means from the cellulose in non-food crops are now being tested, and one or more of these techniques may well survive the transition to full-scale commercial production. At the same time, a number of companies, including ExxonMobil, are exploring the development of new breeds of algae that reproduce swiftly and can be converted into biofuels. (The U.S. Department of Defense is also investing in some of these experimental methods with an eye toward transforming the American military, a great fossil-fuel guzzler, into a far “greener” outfit.) Again, however, it is too early to know which (if any) biofuel endeavors will pan out.
Hydrogen: A decade ago, many experts were talking about hydrogen’s immense promise as a source of energy. Hydrogen is abundant in many natural substances (including water and natural gas) and produces no carbon emissions when consumed. However, it does not exist by itself in the natural world and so must be extracted from other substances -- a process that requires significant amounts of energy in its own right, and so is not, as yet, particularly efficient. Methods for transporting, storing, and consuming hydrogen on a large scale have also proved harder to develop than once imagined. Considerable research is being devoted to each of these problems, and breakthroughs certainly could occur in the decades to come. At present, however, it appears unlikely that hydrogen will prove a major source of energy in 2041.
X the Unknown: Many other sources of energy are being tested by scientists and engineers at universities and corporate laboratories worldwide. Some are even being evaluated on a larger scale in pilot projects of various sorts. Among the most promising of these are geothermal energy, wave energy, and tidal energy. Each taps into immense natural forces and so, if the necessary breakthroughs were to occur, would have the advantage of being infinitely exploitable, with little risk of producing greenhouse gases. However, with the exception of geothermal, the necessary technologies are still at an early stage of development. How long it may take to harvest them is anybody’s guess. Geothermal energy does show considerable promise, but has run into problems, given the need to tap it by drilling deep into the earth, in some cases triggering small earthquakes.
From time to time, I hear of even less familiar prospects for energy production that possess at least some hint of promise. At present, none appears likely to play a significant role in 2041, but no one should underestimate humanity’s technological and innovative powers. As with all history, surprise can play a major role in energy history, too.
Energy efficiency: Given the lack of an obvious winner among competing transitional or alternative energy sources, one crucial approach to energy consumption in 2041 will surely be efficiency at levels unimaginable today: the ability to achieve maximum economic output for minimum energy input. The lead players three decades from now may be the countries and corporations that have mastered the art of producing the most with the least. Innovations in transportation, building and product design, heating and cooling, and production techniques will all play a role in creating an energy-efficient world.
When the war is over
Thirty years from now, for better or worse, the world will be a far different place: hotter, stormier, and with less land (given the loss of shoreline and low-lying areas to rising sea levels). Strict limitations on carbon emissions will certainly be universally enforced and the consumption of fossil fuels, except under controlled circumstances, actively discouraged. Oil will still be available to those who can afford it, but will no longer be the world’s paramount fuel. New powers, corporate and otherwise, in new combinations will have risen with a new energy universe. No one can know, of course, what our version of the Treaty of Westphalia will look like or who will be the winners and losers on this planet. In the intervening 30 years, however, that much violence and suffering will have ensued goes without question. Nor can anyone say today which of the contending forms of energy will prove dominant in 2041 and beyond.
Were I to wager a guess, I might place my bet on energy systems that were decentralized, easy to make and install, and required relatively modest levels of up-front investment. For an analogy, think of the laptop computer of 2011 versus the giant mainframes of the 1960s and 1970s. The closer that an energy supplier gets to the laptop model (or so I suspect), the more success will follow.
From this perspective, giant nuclear reactors and coal-fired plants are, in the long run, less likely to thrive, except in places like China where authoritarian governments still call the shots. Far more promising, once the necessary breakthroughs come, will be renewable sources of energy and advanced biofuels that can be produced on a smaller scale with less up-front investment, and so possibly incorporated into daily life even at a community or neighborhood level.
Whichever countries move most swiftly to embrace these or similar energy possibilities will be the likeliest to emerge in 2041 with vibrant economies -- and given the state of the planet, if luck holds, just in the nick of time.
Bio: Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet. A documentary movie version of his previous book, Blood and Oil, is available from the Media Education Foundation. This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
This from BuffaloNews.com about N.Y. State Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican who voted for expanded marriage rights as a "matter of conscience" -- here's a quote from Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas Langworthy:
"He informed me by text while he was on the floor," Langworthy said of Grisanti's Friday vote. "I urged him to stick by his word he had given. The people elected him on what he ran on. This is not tax policy or something. This is important stuff."
NOTE: "not TAX POLICY or SOMETHING. This is important stuff." -- what the hell is going on with Republicans? Have they TOTALLY lost their minds? Aren't they ALWAYS running on "tax policy"? Does this mean it's ALL a sham?
Please follow link to read the rest at the original.
Coleman Hawkins on saxophone, Rex Stewart of cornet, Jo Jones on drums, Milt Hinton on bass, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, Danny Barkerand on banjo, Vic Dickenson on trombone. This is taken from the Sound of Jazz, a CBS special which appeared in the 50s
Here's the thing, they WANT America destroyed. They want it to go down in flames, flood, wind, rain, heat, economic collapse, ANYTHING. They so WANT to be right. Why do you think the Rabid-Religious-Right, the Bat-Shit-Crazy-Republicans, the Secessionists, the Rabid-Anti-Gay-Nutjobs, and all the other extremists WANT the total collapse of the USA --- it's not doing EXACTLY what THEY want. It's been going in a totally different direction for years -- very successfully, I might add -- and THEY do not like it. So, now the Rebooblicans, the Rethuglicans, the folks who hold The House of Representatives, want to DESTROY our SOCIETY. They don't give a damn how many folks die. They WANT folks to die -- it will go a long way to proving them "right", even though they brought it about with their regressive, anti-social policies. They want America to become a "third world country" - because THAT means THEY were right.
Even if they "win" - it won't be enough, there will still be something left. there will still be folks that do not agree with them.
Eventually they will begin "eating their own", leading to the complete downfall -- perhaps then folks can begin rebuilding.
This from "Raw Story" - please follow link to original
Pat Robertson warns God will destroy America over same sex marriage
Posted on 06.27.11
By David Edwards
Television evangelist Pat Robertson responded to New York’s decision to legalize same sex marriage by warning Monday that the result would be America’s destruction.
“I think we need to remember the term sodomy came from a town known as Sodom and Sodom was destroyed by God Almighty and the thing that they practiced was homosexual activity and even they tried to rape angels who came down there, so that’s the kind of people they were,” Robertson said. God “sent an angel down there and He said to Lot and his family, ‘get out now because I’m gonna destroy this whole area.’”
“We’re heading that way as a nation. In history there’s never been a civilization ever in history that has embraced homosexuality and turned away from traditional fidelity, traditional marriage, traditional child-rearing, and has survived. There isn’t one single civilization that has survived that openly embraced homosexuality. So you say, ‘what’s going to happen to America?” Well if history is any guide, the same thing’s going to happen to us,’” he predicted.
Robertson also admitted that Jesus “didn’t say anything about the homosexuality.”
Amanda Marcotte at "Pandagon" has put up a post titled, "Wingnut bloggers rally behind a violent call for revolution. Please follow link to original.
Here are a couple of paragraphs -- GO THERE, read the rest.
Ugh. I debated writing this post because I really dislike writing about "men's rights activists", because their comically large and unjustified egos cause them to crave attention, and I don't like feeding trolls. Also, attracting the attention of a group that supports the interests of men who have a tendency to develop unhealthy obsessions with women means being the target of said unhealthy obsession. But since they're in a feeding frenzy of sick obsessions and a couple of people concerned about me have contacted me about it, I'm going to quickly post about the latest MRA obsession and how it demonstrates exactly how fucked up the online anti-feminist community really is.
The story begins with a man named Thomas Ball, who committed suicide in the most horrific way, by setting himself on fire in front of a New Hampshire courthouse. He sent a 15-page suicide note/manifesto to the newspaper, and it turns out that he was protesting the enforcement of laws against domestic violence. Despite the deep wrongness of his cause---I mean, he literally says that men who beat their wives should have full rights to live with the women they abuse and the state shouldn't be able to keep said men away from their victims---a number of anti-feminist types have declared him a hero and a martyr for their cause. Ball also characterized himself as a Tea Partier and his act as an act of violent protest against the state, and calls for insurrection and revolt. This has caused his base of support to expand dramatically, and you're seeing Glenn Reynolds and his wife supporting this act of violence. David at Man Boobz covered the response from the "men's rights" folks, and again the general tenor is support for setting yourself on fire and sending threatening letters calling for more violence, and many of Ball's supporters suggest even more violence.
This from "Hullabaloo", by Digby - please go to original. Follow link.
"The bitch made me do it"
It is almost impossible for me to believe that someone with this level of abusive rationalization could even become a Municipal Judge, much less a State Supreme Court Justice:
Prosser admitted to using the word "bitch," but said it was justified. "I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely warranted," he said in March.
Why did Prosser think it was warranted? "They (Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements. This is bullying and abuse of very, very long standing," Prosser claimed.
I'm honestly gobsmacked that someone in a position to mete out justice from the bench of the state's high court would have the gall to fall back on this "bitch made me do it" trope to justify his behavior. There is such a thing as "judicial temperament" and this person does not have it.
Prosser has a serious problem, which he demonstrated last week in living color by choking a fellow justice. And naturally he's saying that it was self-defense. That's what they all say.
This from "The Economic Populist" -- please go to the original to read the rest of this article (follow link).
It sometimes seems we have just given up -- or, is it the corporate media that makes it seem that way?
Importing Foreign Workers is not a Manufacturing Policy
Submitted by Robert Oak on Sat, 06/25/2011 - 11:43
Just unbelievable. Seems by hook or by crook Obama is doing exactly what his corporate donors demand he do. That's import more foreign workers to take American jobs.
The latest is in a faux pas agenda that is being sold as a manufacturing policy. Contained within Obama's lobbyist white paper being presented as a report we have this:
Expand the number of high-skilled foreign workers that may be employed by U.S. companies.
Let's see, we only have more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) college graduates than the U.S. can employ and it is well documented foreign workers are used to labor arbitrage U.S. workers. There are currently about 200,000 tech workers needing a job and that does not count the hundreds of thousands forced out of their careers by foreign guest workers and offshore outsourcing. .......................................................
The following, from "The Guardian", is in the "what else is new" realm.
Please follow link to original
World's wealthiest people now richer than before the credit crunch
We are not all in this together. The UK economy is flat, the US is weak and the Greek debt crisis, according to some commentators, is threatening another Lehman Brothers-style meltdown. But a new report shows the world's wealthiest people are getting more prosperous – and more numerous – by the day.
The globe's richest have now recouped the losses they suffered after the 2008 banking crisis. They are richer than ever, and there are more of them – nearly 11 million – than before the recession struck.
In the world of the well-heeled, the rich are referred to as "high net worth individuals" (HNWIs) and defined as people who have more than $1m (£620,000) of free cash.
According to the annual world wealth report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, the wealth of HNWIs around the world reached $42.7tn (£26.5tn) in 2010, rising nearly 10% in a year and surpassing the peak of $40.7tn reached in 2007, even as austerity budgets were implemented by many governments in the developed world.
The report also measures a category of "ultra-high net worth individuals" – those with at least $30m rattling around, looking for a home. The number of individuals in this super-rich bracket climbed 10% to a total of 103,000, and the total value of their investments jumped by 11.5% to $15tn, demonstrating that even among the rich, the richest get richer quicker. Altogether they represent less than 1% of the world's HNWIs – but they speak for 36% of HNWI's total wealth.
Age also helps: more than eight out of 10 of the world's wealthiest people are aged over 45. So does being male: women account for just over a quarter of the total – though this is slightly higher than in 2008. The highest proportion of wealthy women is in North America – 37% of HNWIs – while the lowest is in the Middle East, which has 14%.
Generally, HNWIs are most concentrated in the US, Japan and Germany: 53% of the world's most wealthy live in one of those three countries, but it is Asian-Pacific countries where the ranks of the rich are swelling fastest. For the first time last year the region surpassed Europe in terms of HNWI individuals.
This scale of wealth of the richest people in Asia Pacific – fuelled by the fast-growing economies in China and India – is now threatening to overtake North America, where the value of the wealth rose more slowly – 9% – to reach $11.6tn.
The richest people in the Asia-Pacific region have also fared better since the crisis. Their wealth is now up 14.1% since 2007 while individuals in North America and Europe are yet to recoup the losses they suffered during the banking crisis.
Britain is lagging behind in the league of affluence – it has not yet enjoyed a return to pre-crisis levels of wealth as sluggish economic growth holds back prospects. The growth in the number of rich individuals in the UK was among the slowest in the top 10 nations, showing a 1.4% rise to 454,000 and remaining below the 495,000 recorded in 2007.
The report said that while the UK stock market rose almost 30% and GDP grew 1.3% – after contracting by 4.9% in 2009 – the fortunes of the rich were held back by falling house prices and the rise in unemployment. Their prospects might improve next year, however. "Construction spending for the 2012 London Olympics is expected to help propel the economy and the housing market recovery," the report said.
The 1.4% rise in the number of rich people in Britain compares with a 7.2% rise in Germany and 8.3% in the US – where there are 3.1m HNWIs – and the 3.4% rise in France.
India moved into the top 12, with a 20.8% rise to 153,000, for the first time, while Italy, 10th in the table, endured a contraction in the number of wealthy people from 190,000 to 170,000.
The performance of investments made by wealthy individuals in shares and commodities, and their willingness to take more risks, helps drive their wealth, which in turn fuels "passion" purchases of multimillionaire must-haves, ranging from Ferraris to diamonds, art and fine wines. Demand for such luxuries is especially high among the growing number of wealthy individuals in the emerging markets.
The report warns of problems for this year, saying "the path to global recovery will likely be uneven and various risks remain".
It added: "The global effects of the financial crisis receded in 2010 but aftershocks still materialised in many forms, including the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the growing burden of a gaping fiscal deficit in the US. These types of shocks showed the fragility of the economic recovery and could still pose an obstacle to growth in 2011".
The pace of growth in the wealthy has returned to a "more sustainable pace" since last year's report, when there was a 17% rise in the number of HNWIs to 10 million, reaching pre-crisis levels.
David Prosser, just re-elected to another 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a tight election, allegedly “grabbed fellow Justice Ann Bradley Walsh by the neck” prior to the release of the hasty ruling on the anti-union bill, which the court eventually upheld.
Details of the incident, investigated jointly by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, remain sketchy. The sources spoke on the condition that they not be named, citing a need to preserve professional relationships.
They say an argument that occurred before the court’s release of a decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees culminated in a physical altercation in the presence of other justices. Bradley purportedly asked Prosser to leave her office, whereupon Prosser grabbed Bradley by the neck with both hands.
Justice Prosser, contacted Friday afternoon by the Center, declined comment: “I have nothing to say about it.” He repeated this statement after the particulars of the story — including the allegation that there was physical contact between him and Bradley — were described. He did not confirm or deny any part of the reconstructed account.
The Capitol Police were apparently called out for this incident, and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, the investigative overseer of the judicial branch, was brought in on the matter as well, though they did not confirm or deny this.
During Prosser’s re-election campaign, there was an report that he called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “total bitch” who he would “destroy,” comments Prosser eventually acknowledged. So this is at least the second incident of violent verbal or, in this case, physical violence coming from Prosser.
Prosser, A Republican, won re-election by around 7,000 votes out of nearly 1.5 million case over JoAnne Kloppenburg, a Democratic assistant US Attorney. Kloppenburg had a razor-thin lead before thousands of votes from the city of Brookfield in Waukesha County were mysteriously “found” two days after the election. After a recount, the decision was confirmed, and Prosser awarded the victory.
But after this incident, that decision may have to be rethought. Assault of this type, if it’s proven true, is a class H felony under Wisconsin law. As Ian Milhiser notes, there are mechanisms in Wisconsin to remove Prosser, although it’s doubtful any of them would be employed immediately. Prosser could be impeached, but that would require a majority vote in the Assembly to impeach and a 2/3 vote in the Senate to convict. There’s something called a “removal by address,” but again that’s through a 2/3 vote of each house of the legislature. Prosser could actually be recalled from office, much like the Senate recalls. But he gets a one-year grace period from the beginning of his term (which doesn’t start until August), so that couldn’t occur for a year.
So the only real option is resignation, which I would suspect some organizations in Wisconsin will call for soon. We’ve all seen Republicans in Wisconsin ignore standard norms practically every step of the way since the election of Scott Walker, and I wouldn’t expect any different from Prosser. But he deserves a lot of pressure over this. The guy obviously has nothing close to a judicial temperament, and may actually be a felon under Wisconsin law.
Another interesting aspect of this is the timing, coming right before the release of the decision on the anti-union law. You may remember this highly ideological decision, written in part by Prosser, where the state Supreme Court along party lines both took the case and gave the ruling on the same day. The ruling amounted to “if the legislature does it, then it’s not illegal,” dismissing the violation of open meetings requirements during the passage of the anti-union bill by saying basically that the legislature wasn’t bound by it. There have been allegations of close contact between Republican Justices and legislative leaders, and the evidence surrounding the case comes close to confirming that. Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald announced on June 13 that, if there were no Supreme Court decision, his chamber would pass the anti-union bill again as part of the budget. The next day, the Supreme Court delivered their ruling.
I would imagine we haven’t heard the last of this.
This from U.S. News -- please follow link to original
Why the Jobs Situation Is Worse Than It Looks
We now have more idle men and women than at any time since the Great Depression
By Mortimer B. Zuckerman
Posted: June 20, 2011
The Great Recession has now earned the dubious right of being compared to the Great Depression. In the face of the most stimulative fiscal and monetary policies in our history, we have experienced the loss of over 7 million jobs, wiping out every job gained since the year 2000. From the moment the Obama administration came into office, there have been no net increases in full-time jobs, only in part-time jobs. This is contrary to all previous recessions. Employers are not recalling the workers they laid off from full-time employment.
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The real job losses are greater than the estimate of 7.5 million. They are closer to 10.5 million, as 3 million people have stopped looking for work. Equally troublesome is the lower labor participation rate; some 5 million jobs have vanished from manufacturing, long America's greatest strength. Just think: Total payrolls today amount to 131 million, but this figure is lower than it was at the beginning of the year 2000, even though our population has grown by nearly 30 million. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the economy.]
The most recent statistics are unsettling and dismaying, despite the increase of 54,000 jobs in the May numbers. Nonagricultural full-time employment actually fell by 142,000, on top of the 291,000 decline the preceding month. Half of the new jobs created are in temporary help agencies, as firms resist hiring full-time workers.
Today, over 14 million people are unemployed. We now have more idle men and women than at any time since the Great Depression. Nearly seven people in the labor pool compete for every job opening. Hiring announcements have plunged to 10,248 in May, down from 59,648 in April. Hiring is now 17 percent lower than the lowest level in the 2001-02 downturn. One fifth of all men of prime working age are not getting up and going to work. Equally disturbing is that the number of people unemployed for six months or longer grew 361,000 to 6.2 million, increasing their share of the unemployed to 45.1 percent. We face the specter that long-term unemployment is becoming structural and not just cyclical, raising the risk that the jobless will lose their skills and become permanently unemployable. [See a slide show of the 10 best cities to find a job.]
Don't pay too much attention to the headline unemployment rate of 9.1 percent. It is scary enough, but it is a gloss on the reality. These numbers do not include the millions who have stopped looking for a job or who are working part time but would work full time if a position were available. And they count only those people who have actively applied for a job within the last four weeks.
Include those others and the real number is a nasty 16 percent. The 16 percent includes 8.5 million part-timers who want to work full time (which is double the historical norm) and those who have applied for a job within the last six months, including many of the long-term unemployed. And this 16 percent does not take into account the discouraged workers who have left the labor force. The fact is that the longer duration of six months is the more relevant testing period since the mean duration of unemployment is now 39.7 weeks, an increase from 37.1 weeks in February. [See a slide show of the 10 cities with highest real income.]
The inescapable bottom line is an unprecedented slack in the U.S. labor market. Labor's share of national income has fallen to the lowest level in modern history, down to 57.5 percent in the first quarter as compared to 59.8 percent when the so-called recovery began. This reflects not only the 7 million fewer workers but the fact that wages for part-time workers now average $19,000—less than half the median income.
Just to illustrate how insecure the labor movement is, there is nobody on strike in the United States today, according to David Rosenberg of wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff. Back in the 1970s, it was common in any given month to see as many as 30,000 workers on the picket line, and there were typically 300 work stoppages at any given time. Last year there were a grand total of 11. There are other indirect consequences. The number of people who have applied for permanent disability benefits has soared. Ten years ago, 5 million people were collecting federal disability payments; now 8 million are on the rolls, at a cost to taxpayers of approximately $120 billion a year. The states today owe the federal insurance fund an astonishing $90 billion to cover unemployment benefits. [See cartoons about the deficit and debt.]
In past recessions, the economy recovered lost jobs within 13 months, on average, after the trough. Twenty-three months into a recovery, employment typically increases by around 174,000 jobs monthly, compared to 54,000 this time around. In a typical recovery, we would have had several hundred thousand more hires per month than we are seeing now—this despite unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus (including the rescue of the automobile industry, whose collapse would likely have lost a million jobs). Businesses do not seem to have the confidence or the incentive to add staff but prefer to continue the deep cost-cutting they undertook from the onset of the recession.
But hang on. Even to come up with the 54,000 new jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics assumed that 206,000 jobs were created by newly formed companies that its analysts believe—but can't prove—were, in effect, born in May under the so-called birth/death model, which relies primarily on historical extrapolations. Without this generous assumption in the face of a slowing economy, the United States would have lost jobs in May. Last year the bureau assumed that 192,000 jobs were created through new start-ups in the comparable month, but on review most of them eventually had to be taken out, as start-ups have been distressingly weak given the lack of financing from their traditional sources such as bank loans, home equity loans, and credit card lines. [Read more stories on unemployment.]
Where are we today? We have seemingly added jobs, but it is not because hiring has increased. In February 2009 there were 4.7 million separations—that is, jobs lost—but by March 2011 this had fallen to 3.8 million. In other words, the pace of layoffs has diminished, but that is not the same thing as more hiring. The employment numbers look better than they really are because of the aggressive layoffs in the early part of this recession and the reluctance of American business to rehire workers. In fact, the apparent improvement in job numbers has been made up of one part extra hiring and two parts reduced firing.
Even during past recessions, American firms still hired large numbers of workers as part of the continual cycle of replacing employees. Of the 150 million workers or job seekers in America, about one third turn over in a typical year, leaving their old jobs to take new ones. High labor "churn" is characteristic of our economy, reflecting workers moving to better jobs and higher wages and away from declining sectors. As Stanford business professor Edward Lazear explains so clearly in the Wall Street Journal, the increase in job growth over the past two years is attributable to a decline in the number of layoffs, not from increased hiring. Typically, when the labor market creates 200,000 jobs, it has been because 5 million were hired and 4.8 million were separated, not just because there were 200,000 hires and no job losses. But when an economy has bottomed out, it has already shed much of its excess labor, as illustrated by the decline in layoffs—from approximately 2.5 million in February 2009 to 1.5 million this April. In a healthy labor market like the one that prevailed in 2006 and into 2007, American firms hired about 5.5 million workers per month. This is now down to about 4 million a month. Quite simply, businesses have been very disciplined in their hiring practices. [Read Zuckerman: America's Fading Exceptionalism.]
We are nowhere near the old normal. Throughout this fragile recovery, over 90 percent of the growth in output has come from productivity gains. But typically at this stage of the cycle, labor has already taken over from productivity as the major contributor of growth. That is why we generally saw nonfarm payroll gains exceeding 300,000 per month with relative ease. This time we have recouped only 17 percent of the job losses 23 months after the recession began, as compared to 207 percent of the jobs lost from previous recessions (with the exception of 2001). There is no comfort either in two leading indicators of employment, with no growth in the workweek or in factory overtime.
Clearly, the Great American Job Machine is breaking down, and roadside assistance is not on the horizon. In the second half of this year (and thereafter?), we will be without the monetary and fiscal steroids. Nor does anyone know what will happen to long-term interest rates when the Federal Reserve ends its $600 billion quantitative easing support of the capital markets. Inventory levels are at their highest since September 2006; new order bookings are at the lowest levels since September 2009. Since home equity has long been the largest asset on the balance sheet of the average American family, all homeowners are suffering from housing prices that have, on average, declined 33 percent (compare that to the Great Depression drop of 31 percent). [See a slide show of the 10 cities with the lowest real income.]
No wonder the general economic mood is one of alarm. The Conference Board measure of U.S. consumer confidence slumped to 60.8 percent in May, down from 66 percent in April and well below the average of 73 in past recessions, never mind the 100-plus numbers in good times. Never before has confidence been this low in the 23rd month of a recovery. Gluskin Sheff's Rosenberg captured it perfectly: We may well be in the midst of a "modern depression."
Our political leadership in both Congress and the White House will surely bear the political costs of a failure to work out short- and long-term programs to fix the job shortage. The stakes are too high to play political games.
For the longest time folks like Prof. Paul Krugman have spoken of the impossibility of solving the Greek crisis while maintaining the Euro. Of course lots of VSP's (Very Serious People) have poo-pooed all that stuff.
I guess the chickens are coming home to roost.
Please follow link to original - from The Guardian.
Greece, Schengen, Nato – it's time to admit the European dream is over
As its leaders meet to grapple with the Greek crisis, the airwaves are full of existential debates about the future of the EU itself
To hear such a bold assertion from one of the two men was striking. But to hear it coming from the other was the sign of a political earthquake. Last month, during a rip-roaring lecture at the Hay Festival, the historian Niall Ferguson observed, almost as an aside, that our generation is "of course" living through the collapse of the European Union. Designed to provoke? Of course. That's Ferguson. It's the sort of remark that you dwell on, all the same.
Especially when, just the other day, I heard Sir Stephen Wall say something so similar. Here's what Wall said, at a seminar run by the Policy Network thinktank in London: "We have seen the high point of the European Union. With a bit of luck it will last our lifetime [Wall is 64]. But it's on the way out. After all, very few institutions last forever."
Ferguson is a Eurosceptic. His dismissive view of the EU is not a surprise. But Wall's view that the EU is on the way out marks the death of the old faith. For Wall was the most influential British pro-European diplomat of his time: our man in the negotiations of most of the EU treaties of the modern era; Tony Blair's longtime European policy adviser; and the author of a book on the EU that begins with the words: "I am convinced that wholehearted participation in the EU is strongly in Britain's national interest." First the Berlin Wall. Now Stephen Wall. European collapses don't come more dramatic.
Yet the remarkable thing about Wall's pessimism is that it no longer seems so remarkable. As EU leaders gathered in Brussels on Thursday to grapple with the Greek crisis, the airwaves were awash with existential debates not just about Greece or the eurozone but about the very future of the EU itself. Though most EU-watchers still talk of muddling through as the most likely policy response to Greek bankruptcy, it is a muddling without momentum, direction or real agreement, let alone enthusiasm. David Marquand, lifelong pro-European social democrat, author of a new lament on Europe, parodies Lenin by characterising current policy as "one step forward, three steps back".
It is not hard to see why this tone has now captured the European debate. The Greek crisis has vindicated those who said the country should never have been allowed to join monetary union. That may be blood under the bridge now; but the debt crisis exposes something that would have been exposed at some time anyway – the failure of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl's generation of European leaders to back monetary union with the economic and political union without which the eurozone was always going to be vulnerable.
Any commentator who forecast victory for the AV referendum should not quote himself too proudly. Nevertheless, I wrote in 1997 that it was possible to imagine a Europe "in which the Treaty of Maastricht will come to be seen in some places (perhaps even in Germany itself) as the Treaty of Versailles came to be seen in inter-war Europe – as the source of the problem, not the answer to it. If the attempt to satisfy the convergence conditions, or the effort to keep within the single currency 'stability pact' is to cause, or even to appear to cause, the dismantling of the welfare and redistributive systems upon which millions of the poorest in Europe depend, then it could spark populist and nationalist backlashes in almost any state in the EU."
This view wasn't rocket science. Yet today, that dynamic is not just imaginable but happening. It is happening, moreover, not solely because of the sovereign debt crisis in Greece and the rest. The platonic Europe of which Jean Monnet and Jacques Delors dreamed, a Europe with unifying institutions of law and government, with a single demos and a single chair at the high counsels of the world, is retreating on several fronts.
The single currency is the most dramatic. But the collapse of the Schengen treaty on freedom of movement within the EU is almost as potent a sign, a response not just to the surges of migration triggered by the Arab spring, but also to national concerns about jobs and welfare in the recession. Meanwhile, Europe's failure to evolve an effective common security and foreign policy, highlighted in Nato over Libya as in the past in Afghanistan and Iraq, and excoriatingly exposed by the US defence secretary Robert Gates earlier this month, underscores not just a failure to progress, but in practice a further retreat from a meaningful common approach.
Whenever two or more consenting Europe-watchers gather together to discuss these things, it is never long before someone says that the only alternative to muddling through is a bold regenerative leap – a single tax regime, a unified banking system and, above all, a single federal system of law and government for what remains of the eurozone, just as Delors wanted a generation ago.
There will be such talk at Brussels this week. But it's not going to happen. Or at least it's not going to work. Times have changed. Delors' generation has gone from the scene. The nationalist right and the global bond markets have won. The internationalist social and Christian democrats have lost. The Europhiles who speak of such leaps remind me of nothing so much as the crazy American evangelicals who think these are the end times of the Earth and that a liberating act of rapture will save us from ourselves and our sins.
I say this as someone who wanted and wants the European project to succeed, who still believes that our collective interests lie in a single, though smaller, probably northern European federal state with an overarching, directly elected government where appropriate; a single currency; shared tax and social solidarity systems; common defence and security policies; and occupying a single seat at the world's summits. That Europe would get my vote. But it is not going to happen, nor is anything like it, even in my children's lifetimes.
The question facing Europeans is therefore this. Not to forge an ever closer union in which, for all the EU's successes, the word forge seems unhappily to be increasingly appropriate. But how to manage the now foreseeable breakup of the EU in a responsible and restrained way, preserving and strengthening such forms of co-operation as we can. The goal would be to minimise the dangers of war between states, ethnic conflict within them, and immiseration of the most defenceless: all more real dangers in the next generation than the last. But that, ironically, was why the EU was created in the first place
The sarcastic, semi-humorous "word", "hoocoudanode" about the real estate collapse, the collapse of the economy, and just about everything brought about by our out-of-control "banksters", also known as "The Masters Of The Universe", is brought into even sharper focus by the following from The New York Times, Nov. 12, 1989. That's right 1989! (please follow link to original)
Privatizing Will Make Life Worse
June 24, 2011
By Michael Hudson
November 12, 1989, New York Times
PERESTROIKA GOES SOUTH
This article was published in the NYT more than 20 years ago, forecasting precisely what has happened.
I attended the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington
last month. When the meetings ended, I was left with the impression that no further writedowns
would be forthcoming for Latin America’s debtor countries unless they followed the lead of Mexico.
To do this, countries like Brazil and Argentina would have to sell off their public utilities, some
potentially profitable industrial corporations and some service industries like airlines.
In the past, one met mostly bankers at these big international meetings. Now there are a lot of
For Latin America the foreclosure process has begun, but for the time being it is called privatization
or debt-for-equity swaps. Countries hoping to borrow more money from creditor-nation
governments, the I.M.F. and the World Bank, are being told to help themselves by relinquishing
ownership of their basic economic infrastructure.
In advocating this brave new world of privatizing hitherto public monopolies, these local investors
and their partners, the international banking and investment community, cite a number of truisms.
Private-sector managers will run enterprises more efficiently, the proponents of privatization say.
This argument has merit, as far as it goes. But it should be remembered that the troubled savings
and loan institutions in Texas were all privately run businesses.
But more important, in the United States and Europe there exists a balance between private
profitability and the public’s need for popularly priced power, transport and other services. This
balance is insured by public regulatory agencies and is backed by antitrust legislation.
But few Latin American or other third world economies have ever had to develop these regulatory
traditions because their governments have owned the major public utilities and other monopolies.
The fact that private ownership of these enterprises will be a new experience for these countries
means that it may not have the same salutary consequences as in the United States.
Proponents of privatization say that a sell-off of utilities will reduce government budget deficits.
They argue that privatization will turn government-owned businesses, which are often fiscal drains
on a country, into private tax-paying entities. As a result, lower federal deficits may help slow the
endemic inflations that plague most debtor economies.
But for the population at large, shifting the economic burden away from government (and hence the
taxpayers) may turn out to be largely illusory. For what the government saves in subsidies may be
paid by users of these utilities in the form of higher power, phone and transport rates charged by the
Fortunately, there are alternatives to the above scenarios. The most obvious one is to keep these
monopolies public but restructure them as truly independent corporations by bringing in the best
management possible. The alternative to badly run public enterprise is not necessarily privatization,
but better administration with effective checks and balances against incompetence and malfeasance.
A second option is to put public regulatory and antitrust legislation in place before it is too late. The
objective is to hold privatizers to their promises by making them absorb the penalty for their own
possible inefficiency, by enjoying lower profits rather than extorting higher rates from consumers.
After all, why should third world populations deserve less than the United States in this respect?
Whatever option is chosen, the possible outcomes are relatively clear. If the new purchasers of public
utilities are foreign, it will constitute a retrogression from neocolonialism back to direct colonialism.
If domestic investors buy a nation’s economic infrastructure, they will achieve a higher degree of
power than has been attained by investors in the United States and Europe. The upshot of this may
be an unprecedented economic polarization in countries where wealthy citizens already have a strong
influence on government.
But the most likely outcome is an alliance between wealthy local families and foreign banks and
other international investors. That would give the takeover process a cosmopolitan patina.
One way or another, the debt-into-equity conversion represents a foreclosure on the mismanaged
economies of the third world. But behind the rhetoric of today’s privatization, one must always ask,
Qui bono? Who will benefit from the prospective economic changes? In my opinion, it will be the
rich and the creditor banks who benefit from these schemes. For the people in general, and for
public-employee labor unions, privatization means that life may well be more expensive in the
In addition to rotting crops, Georgia leads the USA in FAILED BANKS. Perhaps we should allow them to leave the union. The only problem with that is -- they would apply for foreign aid, get the money, and STILL hate the USA. Hmmmm!
First American Bank and Trust Company, Athens, Georgia, Assumes All of the Deposits of Mountain Heritage Bank, Clayton, Georgia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2011
Mountain Heritage Bank, Clayton, Georgia, was closed today by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with First American Bank and Trust Company, Athens, Georgia, to assume all of the deposits of Mountain Heritage Bank.
The two branches of Mountain Heritage Bank will reopen during normal business hours as branches of First American Bank and Trust Company. Depositors of Mountain Heritage Bank will automatically become depositors of First American Bank and Trust Company. Deposits will continue to be insured by the FDIC, so there is no need for customers to change their banking relationship in order to retain their deposit insurance coverage up to applicable limits. Customers of Mountain Heritage Bank should continue to use their existing branch until they receive notice from First American Bank and Trust Company that it has completed systems changes to allow other First American Bank and Trust Company branches to process their accounts as well.
This evening and over the weekend, depositors of Mountain Heritage Bank can access their money by writing checks or using ATM or debit cards. Checks drawn on the bank will continue to be processed. Loan customers should continue to make their payments as usual.
As of March 31, 2011, Mountain Heritage Bank had approximately $103.7 million in total assets and $89.6 million in total deposits. In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, First American Bank and Trust Company agreed to purchase essentially all of the assets.
The FDIC and First American Bank and Trust Company entered into a loss-share transaction on $69.2 million of Mountain Heritage Bank's assets. First American Bank and Trust Company will share in the losses on the asset pools covered under the loss-share agreement. The loss-share transaction is projected to maximize returns on the assets covered by keeping them in the private sector. The transaction also is expected to minimize disruptions for loan customers. For more information on loss share, please visit: http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/lossshare/index.html.
Customers with questions about today's transaction should call the FDIC toll-free at 1-800-823-5346. The phone number will be operational this evening until 9:00 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time (EDT); on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EDT; on Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m., EDT; and thereafter from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., EDT. Interested parties also can visit the FDIC's Web site at http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/mountain.html.
The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $41.1 million. Compared to other alternatives, First American Bank and Trust Company's acquisition was the least costly resolution for the FDIC's DIF. Mountain Heritage Bank is the 48th FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the fourteenth in Georgia. The last FDIC-insured institution closed in the state was McIntosh State Bank, Jackson, on June 17, 2011
I'm just another old woman who has had wide ranging interests for a long time,
These include fishing, shooting, reading, cooking, and all manner of (mostly) left wing politics.
Born and bred in New York - Queens, to be precise - I now live in Texas, another state that folks seem to attack (like N.Y.) without ever having been here.
I'm also a fan of most sports -- esp. baseball, esp. the New York Yankees.
Originally a New York Giants (baseball) fan, I was crushed when they moved. It took many years wandering in the wilderness before I returned to baseball. I's all Wade Boggs fault. When I watched that artist, my love for baseball resurfaced. Since he was then a Yankee -- it had to be the Yankees.
The Mets pretended they had spiritual ties to the old Brooklyn Dodgers - no Giant fan could go there.
I tried - couldn't do it.