Monday, May 31, 2010

A Dying Economy: The Automatic Earth

I recently stumbled upon this eloquent blog. I think its most recent article is very salient:

This post emphasizes the scope of the oil catastrophe.

Matthew Simmons, a former oil company man, argues on the Dylan Ratigan show that the leak is so significant that only a bomb might be able to stop it. Simmons warns that the leak could continue for 9000 days unless something drastic is done.

Gaza: The Contemporary "Concentration Camp"

The Pope described Gaza as a contemporary concentration camp. Israel has restricted necessary supplies to Gaza since their attacks 18 months ago, which left many Gazan families without basic shelter, medical supplies, sanitation, and food.

Israel is becoming that which it sought to resist--racist, authoritarian, repressive, genocidal.

To argue that Israel is becoming racist and genocidal is not to excuse Palestinian terrorism.

However, Israel's actions are disproportionate and have the effect of producing the terroristic backlash they seek to eliminate.

The recent Israel murder of citizens in the aid flotilla proves the point that Israel is moving to the dark side through actions that are repressive, lethal, and disproportionate.

The Israeli dream is threatened from within by these actions.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

BP Buses in Temporary Workers and Then Buses Them Out

This story is beyond disgusting. BP bused workers in for Obama's visit and then bused them right out again when Obama left. This is horrific.
"Perhaps you saw news footage of President Obama in Grand Isle, La., on Friday and thought things didn't look all that bad. Well, there may have been a reason for that: The town was evidently swarmed by an army of temp workers to spruce it up for the president and the national news crews following him.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts, whose district encompasses Grand Isle, told Yahoo! News that BP bused in "hundreds" of temporary workers to clean up local beaches. And as soon as the president was en route back to Washington, the workers were clearing out of Grand Isle too, Roberts said..."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Austerity Doesn't Work To Eliminate Fiscal Imbalances

Washington's Blog explains why, citing Bill Gross of Pimco, of all people.

If you think about it, the logic is clear.

Austerity measures hurt middle and working class populations, who constitute 80%+ of the population. Higher education costs for college and fewer health and social benefits for populations reduce citizens' consumption power. Consequently, demand for services and products fall.

Austerity doesn't work in most circumstances and 30 years of empirical data drawn from IMF and World Bank imposed austerity in developing nations prove the point.

Deficit Hawks Are Attacking Middle And Working Classes Yet it Was Corporate and Wealthy Elites Who Produced the Current Deficit Increase!
Mike Lux writes at the Huffington Post:

"So just to summarize here: the deficit is caused by tax cuts for the rich, an economic collapse caused by wealthy bankers which resulted in bailouts for those wealthy bankers plus massive pain for middle income and poor people, tax loopholes and corporate subsidies designed to help the wealthy, plus two wars and wasteful defense spending (much of which goes into the pockets of wealthy defense contractors). And the solution for the deficit hawks: target middle class and lower seniors for social security cuts, and put in a regressive tax that is a burden to low and middle income people..."

Disturbing News on Oil Spill: There May be More Than 1 Leak

"Broken pipes and dis-assembled equipment" across the ocean floor, spurting oil.

This is unbelievable. It is so awfull I cannot even comprehend what is happening. We are destroying the oceans RAPIDLY and in so doing we are destroying ourselves, our present and our future.

Video on Rigged Markets

I've been wondering about oil prices. Michel Chossudovsky specifically addresses this issue in his video, linked above.

A significant Alaskan pipeline was just shut down because of a spill. The horrific oil spill in the Gulf is likely to cause prices to rise, both because of concerns about future supplies and because of the potential blockage of the oil refineries in LA. There are concerns that oil supply ships may not be able to unload their oil for refining due to the oil spill.

How come oil prices are dropping then?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

25 Questions to Ask About Economic Recovery

Additional Anecdotal Evidence
There appear to be homeless people living in the desert by my neighborhood. I've seen evidence of human defecation in washes and individuals walking down the street carrying plastic bags with clothing in them. I live quite far from the city center in an affluent semi-rural area. Perhaps former day laborers have become stranded here. What happens when they have no money to purchase food?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Great Depression and the Revolution of 2017: Hopeful Reading from L. R. Wray

Hopeful future casting by L. Randall Wray:
"...The policy proposals, which have been dubbed "New Deal 2.0", also include a universal job guarantee that would provide work and wages for the nation's estimated 75 million unemployed. The plan seems to follow a proposal that then-Representative Kucinich had introduced into the House in 2011. Funding for the program would be provided by Washington, but projects would be created and managed at the local level. At the time, Kucinich had argued that the program would "take workers as they are and where they are", providing a living wage to participants and useful public services and infrastructure to their communities..."


Evidence of the Plutonomy

HEADLINE: Consumer spending trend is a shaky foundation for economic recovery
Analysts say the upswing in buying is largely by affluent people snapping up luxury items and delinquent homeowners who have extra money since they aren't making their mortgage payments

May 16, 2010By Don Lee, Los Angeles TimesReporting from Washington — "Increased consumer spending has fueled hopes that the current economic recovery will keep getting stronger, but behind the encouraging numbers is a little-noticed reality: Much of the new spending has come not from America's broad middle class but from a small slice of affluent people at the top.

And upper-crust spending, while welcome, can be worrisomely volatile: Since it involves luxuries, not everyday necessities, the buying can suddenly shrink if something such as the recent stock market plunge panics affluent shoppers...."

Chris Hedges: The Greeks Get It
Hedges applauds Greek resistance to enforced austerity:
"We are facing the collapse of the world’s financial system. It is the end of globalization. And in these final moments the rich are trying to get all they can while there is still time. The fusion of corporatism, militarism and internal and external intelligence agencies—much of their work done by private contractors—has given these corporations terrifying mechanisms of control. Think of it, as the Greeks do, as a species of foreign occupation. Think of the Greek riots as a struggle for liberation."

I agree with Hedges that the fusion of corporate power, perpetual war, and state surveillance and control are driving us into disaster. This type of society cannot address the pressing environmental issues that will spell disaster for humanity.

Instead, the corporate-war-machine cannibalizes (consumes) wealth and resources and numbs the populace of the US with trash tv and internet celebrity culture.

At least, I suppose, the Greeks get it...

Major Event Recorded at Site of Oil Spill Eruption

It does not look good.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

John Pilger on Rebellion Against Shock Therapy

Pilger remarks:
In Greece, as in America and Britain, the ordinary people have been told they must repay the debts of the rich and powerful who incurred them. Jobs, pensions and public services are to be slashed and burned, with privateers put in charge. For the EU and the IMF, the opportunity presents to "change the culture" and to dismantle the social welfare of Greece, just as the IMF and the World Bank have "structurally adjusted" (impoverished and controlled) countries across the developing world.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

No Criminal Charges??????????????

The U.S. financial crisis and subsequent economic depression were caused by "control fraud" (see Willaim Black & J. K. Galbraith )

Investment and commercial banks in Europe and the U.S. were bailed out by governments despite their roles in causing the crisis. The banks that have survived the crisis are bigger and more powerful and more leveraged than prior to the crisis. They reap extraordinary profits betting against governments, U.S. states, and municipalities. All the while, they continue to get nearly free money from central banks.

The insurance industry also played an important role in the crisis by insuring banks risky bets using no collateral or reserves. The US government continues to bail out AIG, which played an important role in the crisis.

Today the Washington Post reports that no criminal charges will be filed against AIG executives:
"The executives, who worked at a unit of AIG called Financial Products, were instrumental in designing complex contracts known as credit-default swaps. For a fee, the firm essentially would insure a company's corporate debt in case of default. The products were intended to be a money-maker for the firm and its parent company.

The first quarter of 2010 Goldman Sachs made money every single day, not losing one penny. They did this by manipulating financial markets using "flash trading'" (or high frequency trading) and by engaging in naked short selling, among other practices that should be illegal and should result in criminal prosecution. (e.g., see for background info)

Unregulated capitalism has produced a Frankenstein monster that is sucking the vitalities from national populations as governments assume the banks losses while enforcing austerity measures (higher taxes and lower social spending) upon populaces now twice victimized by these ruthless predatory entities.

Relevant Links

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rape and Pillage: Its Class Warfare

John Pilger has a wonderful article describing the pillaging by financial elites. European citizens are much more attuned to the class-based nature of the assaults currently underway against social-welfare programs and institutions. Pilger's article is worth reading:

Some excerpts from his article:

"As the investigative journalist David DeGraw has reported, the principal Wall Street banks that 'destroyed the economy pay zero in taxes and get $33bn in refunds.'"

"In Greece, as in America and Britain, the ordinary people have been told they must repay the debts of the rich and powerful who incurred them. Jobs, pensions and public services are to be slashed and burned, with privateers put in charge. For the EU and the IMF, the opportunity presents to "change the culture" and to dismantle the social welfare of Greece, just as the IMF and the World Bank have "structurally adjusted" (impoverished and controlled) countries across the developing world."

In the developing world, a system of triage imposed by the World Bank and the IMF has long determined whether people live or die. Whenever tariffs and food and fuel subsidies are eliminated by IMF diktat, small farmers know they have been declared expendable. The World Resources Institute estimates that the toll reaches between 13 and 18 million child deaths every year. This, wrote the economist Lester C Thurow, is "neither metaphor nor simile of war, but war itself".

"In the developing world, a system of triage imposed by the World Bank and the IMF has long determined whether people live or die. Whenever tariffs and food and fuel subsidies are eliminated by IMF diktat, small farmers know they have been declared expendable. The World Resources Institute estimates that the toll reaches between 13 and 18 million child deaths every year. This, wrote the economist Lester C Thurow, is "neither metaphor nor simile of war, but war itself".

If Pilger's words seem too harsh, read at Bloomberg how the banks conspired to bilk taxpayers by rigging interest rates swas on municipal bonds:

If you are still unconvinced, read about how the illegal practice of naked short selling was used in the US to rig markets and used abroad to attack countries (Guest Post by Jesse):

The evidence is VERY clear that out-of-control banks and hedge funds are pillaging publics while obliging governments are assuming their losses, implicitly encouraging their attacks by failing to break up the too big to fails and failing to enforce laws designed to regulate markets.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nations OVER banks! Market Ticker Has it Right!!!

The lines in the sand are being drawn. Which side will Obama take? Can he redeem himself? The time is NOW!

Denninger at Market Ticker has a fantastic article basically calling upon Obama to redeem himself by standing up for the interests of OUR NATION over the interests of these corrupt and nation-destroying banks.

READ the article...

Oil Spill Cover Up: Must Read

IT TAKES A WOMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When the going gets tough, it takes a woman to make a stand!

You Go Angela Merkel!!!!!!!!!!

Merkel is responding to the hedge funds' and banks' financial terrorism by hitting back by banning naked short selling.

We have seen strong women emerge and take stands in this crisis, including Merkel, Elizabeth Warren, and Janet Tavakoli, among many more. Perhaps it is women's ties to the family that encourage this loyalty to the overall populace.

Jesse's Cafe Americain has a good article on Merkel

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ADHD Significantly Correlated with Pesticide Exposure

Previous research has established clear correlations between lead exposure and ADHD and pre-natal exposure to cigarette smoke and ADHD.

New research establishes clear correlations between ADHD and pesticide exposure in children.

In my recent book, Governing Childhood: Biopolitical Technologies of Childhood Management and Education, I critique the popular and scientific community for defining ADHD primarily and sometimes exclusively as a genetically heritable disorder.

Obviously there is more money to be gained by patenting supposed ADHD genes than there is to be found in exploring how environmental pollutants hurt our children.

I am so grateful for the unappreciated and often unfunded work of epidemiologists whose efforts reveal how environmental "insults" injure our children.

In the wake of this research and the President's panel on environmental causes of cancer (see previous post), the time has come to DEMAND that companies producing, selling and using toxic chemicals be extensively regulated for the well-being of our populace.

The current laws regulating chemical testing and use must be updated. US laws do not require all, or even most, chemicals to be tested for safety.
The European Union's REACH framework offers a good benchmark.

Additionally, citizens need to be educated on the dangers of commonly used chemicals such as Round Up in order to minimize their use!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fundamental U.S. Right of Habeas Corpus Discarded

Scott Shane writes in the New York Times of how the U.S. decided it could kill without trial US citizens. Why isn't the public demonstrating against this fundamental violation of their CONSTITUTIONAL civil liberties. Habeas Corpus is fundamental to our democracy.

From the article:

"The Obama administration’s decision to authorize the killing by the Central Intelligence Agency of a terrorism suspect who is an American citizen has set off a debate over the legal and political limits of drone missile strikes, a mainstay of the campaign against terrorism.

"The notion that the government can, in effect, execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone, with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, makes some legal authorities deeply uneasy. .."

Any confusion or uncertainty about the importance of habeas corpus can be cleared here:

We are heading down the slippery slope of fascism...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Criminal Fraud Caused Financial Crisis

The well-regarded economist, James K. Galbraith describes the criminal fraud at the heart of the financial crisis. Here is an excerpt:

"Ask yourselves: is it possible for mortgage originators, ratings agencies, underwriters, insurers and supervising agencies NOT to have known that the system of housing finance had become infested with fraud? Every statistical indicator of fraudulent practice – growth and profitability – suggests otherwise. Every examination of the record so far suggests otherwise. The very language in use: "liars' loans," "ninja loans," "neutron loans," and "toxic waste," tells you that people knew. I have also heard the expression, "IBG,YBG;" the meaning of that bit of code was: "I'll be gone, you'll be gone."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Scary Federal Tax Withholdings
Zero Hedge Reports on April's Tax Receipts:

"Tax receipts down 7.9% YoY, Individual Income Tax down 21.5% YoY, and more importantly, spending: Total spending up 14.2%, National defense up 17%, Medicare up 39.4%, Social Security up 4.2% and General Government up 5.6%."

I cannot authoritatively confirm their data but the site is usually very careful about what they publish. I think the plummeting income tax is very concerning, as is the skyrocketing military (aka "WAR") spending...

Environmental Tipping Point
"The world's eco-systems are at risk of "rapid degradation and collapse" according to a new United Nations report...

"The U.N. warns several eco-systems including the Amazon rainforest, freshwater lakes and rivers and coral reefs are approaching a "tipping point" which, if reached, may see them never recover..."

"Vertebrate species fell by nearly one third between 1970 and 2006, natural habitats are in decline, genetic diversity of crops is falling and sixty breeds of livestock have become extinct since 2000..."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The State of Housing and Irrational Economics

The blog site, Decline of the Empire (above) has a good article on the condition of the housing market. It is not pretty.

Housing is represented as critical to economic recovery. This truism points to the fundamental irrationality of our US economic system.

Housing growth primarily eats up the outer-rings of metropolitan areas. Thus, the sustainability of expanded housing is predicated upon cheap oil. Herein lies the crux of the problem.

Cheap oil is going away fast. The recession has dampened demand but growth in emerging economies will take up slack even if the US demand stagnates or declines.

Indeed, there is no such thing as cheap oil when externalities (pollution, health costs, military costs, etc.) are factored in. The absolute and ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico dramatizes that point so well.

Rather than trying to prop up a fundamentally flawed economic growth model, the US government ought to be funneling funds into alternative energy forms, jobs, and sustainable agriculture and urban infrastructures.

Fiscal conservatives' concerns can be addressed by halting bailouts to AIG and the banks, while revenue can be generated on a substantial--say 1%--Tobin tax on stock market transactions. This tax will raise revenue while also conveniently impinging against the profitability of the destructive and market distorting high frequency trading algorithms that are capable of destroying pension funds and main street investors' savings.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Robert Reich Makes a Compelling Argument for REGULATING Wall Street

Here is a long quote from his recent article, "The (Almost) Crash of Wall Street" posted at Alternet in response to last Thursday's (temporary) market crash of 1000 points:
"Regardless of why it happened, it's further evidence that the nation's and the world's capital markets have become a vast out-of-control casino in which fortunes can be made or lost in an instant -- which would be fine except for the fact that most of us have put our life savings there. Pension funds, mutual funds, school endowments -- the value of all of this depends on a mechanism that can lose a trillion dollars in minutes without anyone having a clear idea why. So much of the market now depends on computer programs and mathematical models that no one fully understands, so much trading is in the hands of a few people whose fat thumbs or momentary carelessness might sink the economy, so much of global wealth now depends on who can move their money quickest at the slightest provocation -- that we are toying with financial disaster every day. The luck or foolishness of a few traders, and inside knowledge and information that some possess and others don't, combined with ultra high-speed computers, put us all at the whim of a system whose risk is way out of proportion to any public benefits..."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

1 Million Gallons A Day!

Oil Containment Strategy Fails. Reuters reports that Florida State Univ. prof. estimates 1 Million Gallons a Day Poisoning Ocean:

"Oil has been gushing into the Gulf at a rate estimated at a minimum of 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons/795,000 liters) a day since the well ruptured. Ian MacDonald, biological oceanographer at Florida State University, told Reuters this figure was too conservative, putting his guess as high as 25,000 barrels (1.05 million gallons/4 million liters) a day."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Making Sense of the Economic Data

Headlines to Consider:
Murray, S. (2010, May 4). Manufacturing shows broad signs of growth. The Wall Street Journal, p. A8.
Manufacturing activity increases as index for new orders rose. However, construction spending is still 12.3% lower than the same time last year (a time in which construction was very low).

California Budget Crisis Expected to Linger. May 5 2010.
"LOS ANGELES, May 4 (Xinhua) -- Revenue collections in California plunged in April, dashing hopes of an easy budget fix, it was reported on Tuesday. Revenue for April lagged projections by nearly 30 percent, or roughly three billion dollars, according to the Los Angeles Times."

Federal Income Tax Collections Foretell More Bad News for States
Rockefeller Institute fiscal policy experts see troubling indicator in federal data through end of April
"Albany, N.Y. — A decline in personal income tax revenues collected by the federal government through the end of April 2010 suggests that state governments may suffer significant declines in such tax collections compared to 2009, a period which itself was down dramatically from the year before, according to Rockefeller Institute fiscal experts. . . .Through April 30, the federal government’s nonwithheld income taxes are down 17.6 percent from a year earlier. That is likely a close estimate to the final decline the Internal Revenue Service will see in nonwithheld income tax collections in this period; in 2009, 96 percent of April and May's nonwithheld taxes were known by April 30.

HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF THESE DATA POINTS? MANUFACTURING INCREASES AND THAT IS GOOD BUT MANUFACTURING IS BUT A SMALL CONTRIBUTION TO NATIONAL GDP TODAY. The Service Sector must still be contracting. Public sector employees are getting hit hard again with layoffs and furloughs...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oil Spill is a Direct Result of Deregulatory Zeal and Disgusting Bush Era Predation and Corruption

This article by Robert F. Kennedy on absolute corruption under the Bush Administration illustrates exactly how and why the current massive environmental and economic disaster occurred:

"In truth, culpability for the disaster can more accurately be laid at the Bush Administration's doorstep. For eight years, George Bush's presidency infected the oil industry's oversight agency, the Minerals Management Service, with a septic culture of corruption from which it has yet to recover. Oil patch alumnae in the White House encouraged agency personnel to engineer weakened safeguards that directly contributed to the gulf catastrophe..."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Media Bias and the Collapse of the Middle Class

Mybudget 360 has a good article on the disproportionate and continued effecte of the depression on the poor and (lower to middle) middle class. The article is worth reading. Here are a few excerpts:

"...Over 6.5 million of the 15 million unemployed Americans have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. As a percent, this is the highest number of long-term unemployed we have had since the Great Depression. What is not discussed in this recession is the working poor and middle class have taken on the burden of this financial calamity disproportionately.

We are not all in this equally. When was the last time you heard on the mainstream press that 40 million of your fellow Americans are now receiving food assistance? And when was the last time you heard that jobs for the middle class are still largely disappearing?..."

The article contains quite a few charts that demonstrate conclusively that for the poor and middle-class---tha majority of the populace--this is and continues to be a Great Depression with no clear trajectory for improvement...

This Oil Ride Essay

Linh Dinh's short essay on landmarks in our century plus oil ride. A very nice synopsis.

Culiminating in:
"...2010 - Floating 5,000 feet above the ocean floor, a British Petroleum rig was drilling 30,000 feet into the earth's crust when it exploded, then sank over its drill hole. 210,000 gallons a day are spilling as I'm writing this, and they won't be capped any time soon. This is no tanker breaking up, my friends, but the raped earth spewing what we've been demanding so relentlessly for over a century now. A monstrous ecocide, this is too fitting an end to our reckless oil ride...."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Robert Reich: The Federal Government Needs to Bailout Education

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, has a 2 minute video urging the federal government to provide interest free loans to states to bailout public education k-university AND he advocates a minute tax on financial transactions to be directed toward public education.

A minute transaction tax would eat into high frequency trading. I've posted previously on high frequency trading. It should be banned and is primarily used to manipulate markets through "price discovery" and through essentially adding a surcharge to all other financial transactions conducted by legitimate investors operating at normal transaction speeds.

Mutual funds and pension funds alike pay more than they should because of high frequency trading.

Reich's proposed tax is often described as a Tobin tax and is very much supported by insiders critical of Wall Street fraud and deceit (e.g., see Max Keiser).

Let us hope Reich's proposals are pursued by policy makers....

1/3 of Domesticated U.S. Bee Population Fails to Survive Winter

US scientists have found 121 different pesticides in samples of bees, wax and pollen, lending credence to the notion that pesticides are a key problem. "We believe that some subtle interactions between nutrition, pesticide exposure and other stressors are converging to kill colonies," said Jeffery Pettis, of the ARS's bee research laboratory.

ALSO check link for more on oil spill disaster