Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Atlanta Gotham

Atlanta Gotham by Get The Flick
Atlanta Gotham, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Remember now, I'm anti-technology and can't adapt. iBook, iPhone, iPad, Flickr, blog and Facebook. And I'm a lot older now.

They're still talking about phraseology problems at CFS and I still haven't seen a valid reason for doing away with flight progress strips.

Oh yeah, this was taken with a digital camera. On the "manual" setting. Getting the Flick?

Dawn over Downtown Atlanta

See what a difference a tripod makes? And you'd have seen it if you had been at Communicating for Safety.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Vaulted Light

Vaulted Light by Get The Flick
Vaulted Light, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Never -- ever -- leave home without your tripod. I could kick myself...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Communicating for Safety 2012

Monday, January 30, is the opening of Communicating for Safety in downtown Atlanta. I’ll get to hear these stories firsthand. You could too.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Don Brown
January 27, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Remember the UK?

Do you remember that we (Get the Flick readers) are supposed to be watching the economic policy of austerity in the United Kingdom? To see how it’s working out because the Republicans want us to do the same thing?

No Interest, No Return

”Austerity -- paying down debt by cutting government spending -- does not work. It hasn’t worked in Greece, it hasn’t worked in Ireland, nor Spain, nor the United Kingdom. Remember, we’re watching the United Kingdom.”

Krugman remembers. Well...he should. He’s the one that had the idea after all.

The Greater Depression

”...the ongoing slump in Britain is now longer and deeper than the slump in the 1930s (the figure shows...”

Yes, you’ll have to go there to see the figure. After all, that’s their livelihood. I’m just a retired guy goofing around.

Yes, it is raining. Why do you ask?

Don Brown
January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Amend 2012

Since I retired and started delving into how to make things better in our country, I’ve come across this one issue over and over again in numerous places -- corporate “personhood”. Due to a fluke in a previous Supreme Court case, corporations have been slowly winning more rights as “persons”.

With the recent ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission I believe we have gone too far. To put it in a sound bite, I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one. By the way, in case you haven’t thought of it, a State can “execute” a corporation. The State can revoke a corporation’s charter. Not that any State today would. But it could. No, that’s not the kind of thoughts the Republicans want you to have when they say “State’s rights”.

Anyway, if Robert Reich says it’s time to deal with this issue, then it’s time to deal with the issue. And he says so.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to upend a hundred years of corporate law. But I believe it is time -- past time actually -- to rein in corporate power.

Don Brown
January 24, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rainy Day Irony

Maybe I should put a weather gadget on my blog with the forecast for my area. That way you can see when it was likely to rain -- in other words, when it’s likely I’ll write.

I watched Fareed Zakaria this morning. A very informative show as always. The one I’m going to write about (at least to start with) is the one I find the most ironic.

Zakaria: Post-Communist lessons for the new Middle East

”As Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya transition from dictatorship to democracy, you'd think they'd look to America as a model for their new governments. But they don't. America is still too controversial in the Arab world.”

”Where is this new city on a hill?

Take a look at the man landing at the airport in Tunis, Tunisia: It's Lech Walesa. He's the man whose actions 30 years ago in the Gdansk shipyard in Poland helped cause Communism to crumble across Eastern Europe. Walesa was in Tunisia to pass on the lessons he had learned.”

For those too young to remember -- or so old they forgot -- Lech Walesa was the leader of a union named Solidarity. A labor union supported by none other than Ronald Reagan. And the Pope. From Wikipedia:

”US President Ronald Reagan imposed economic sanctions on Poland, which eventually would force the Polish government into liberalizing its policies. Meanwhile the CIA together with the Catholic Church and various Western trade unions such as the AFL-CIO provided funds, equipment and advice to the Solidarity underground. The political alliance of Reagan and the Pope would prove important to the future of Solidarity.”

Yes, this was during the same period in which Ronald Reagan fired the PATCO controllers. Yes, trade unions (anti-capitalist, socialist thugs that they are) helped cause the collapse of Soviet Communism. The world didn’t make any more sense back then than it does now. It is not nice and neat. Never has been. Never will be.

If you’ll read (or watch) the article, you’ll see another important economic lesson that Krugman harps on constantly. Poland’s ability to devalue its currency has helped keep it competitive. They have not suffered a recession like the rest of the world. So, naturally, they want to get on the euro. You can make this stuff up.

”The irony is Warsaw continues to see its destiny as being tied to the common currency. More than half its exports go to the EU - a majority of it to Germany, its main trading partner. Poles reason that being part of the same currency would encourage foreign direct investment in Poland. ”

Irony is not a recent invention. But it never goes out of style.

Don Brown
January 23, 2012

How to Lose Your Economy

Over the weekend, I read one of the best “big picture” articles I’ve read in a while. It is somewhat lengthy, so I’ll try to keep my comments brief (good luck with that) so that you’ll have some time to read it. From the New York Times (of course):

How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work

”Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.”

Disclaimer: I have Apple products running out my ears. Within reach right this moment is an iPad, iPhone and Mac Book.

Suffice it to say, I never read a good answer to the President’s question. I heard a lot of excuses. But the following really got my attention.

”Apple has become one of the best-known, most admired and most imitated companies on earth, in part through an unrelenting mastery of global operations. Last year, it earned over $400,000 in profit per employee, more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google.”

$400,000 per employee? I had no idea any company did so well. That single line turned on a few light bulbs for me. I hope it does for you too.

”“Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice,” said Betsey Stevenson, the chief economist at the Labor Department until last September. “That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.”

Companies and other economists say that notion is naïve. Though Americans are among the most educated workers in the world, the nation has stopped training enough people in the mid-level skills that factories need, executives say.”

This is the major thrust I got from the article. America had the capability to manufacture anything. But we don’t anymore because it’s cheaper overseas. So, it becomes sort of a reverse chicken-or-egg problem. Which left first? Our ability to manufacture or our skills to do so? In other words, we laid off all the “people in the mid-level skills” when we moved our manufacturing overseas and now companies complain that we don’t have “people in the mid-level skills”. Personally, I find the argument ridiculous. And easily solvable if you can settle for a little less than $400,000 profit per employee. Which leads me to...

”A few years after Mr. Saragoza started his job (back in the 90s), his bosses explained how the California plant stacked up against overseas factories: the cost, excluding the materials, of building a $1,500 computer in Elk Grove was $22 a machine. In Singapore, it was $6. In Taiwan, $4.85. Wages weren’t the major reason for the disparities. Rather it was costs like inventory and how long it took workers to finish a task.

“We were told we would have to do 12-hour days, and come in on Saturdays,” Mr. Saragoza said. “I had a family. I wanted to see my kids play soccer.””

Ah ha. I see. You can keep your job if you are willing to give up your lifestyle (so the executives can better theirs).

”In the last decade, technological leaps in solar and wind energy, semiconductor fabrication and display technologies have created thousands of jobs. But while many of those industries started in America, much of the employment has occurred abroad. Companies have closed major facilities in the United States to reopen in China. By way of explanation, executives say they are competing with Apple for shareholders. If they cannot rival Apple’s growth and profit margins, they won’t survive.”

Once again, it is the same old race to the bottom of the barrel. But it is a fool’s race. If we cannot maintain the the standard of living here in the United States then Apple (et al.) will have no market. That’s the thing about being the world’s richest nation -- it makes us the world’s biggest market and finances the world’s biggest military that keeps those sea lanes between China and America open (amongst other things).

It’s the same question I’ve raised before about what makes a company an “American” company. I love Apple products. But I don’t love any company enough to allow it to ruin our county. You can’t come here, take advantage of our just and fair legal system, our stable political system, protected by our military and enjoy access to the world’s largest market only to ship all our jobs overseas.

Corporations want to enjoy eating ice cream without paying for the labor that makes it. They want to own the farm and own the cow but they don’t want to pay the guy that milks the cow or churns the cream. They want serfs. And if you aren’t willing to live like a serf then they’ll ship the milk off to somebody across the sea that is (for a time). And they still expect you to pay the taxes that maintain the transportation system for them.

Not only is it morally wrong, it is unsustainable (to use their own buzz word). Without jobs we won’t stay the world’s largest economy and we won’t pay taxes, without which we can no longer sustain the world’s largest military which provides the security for the world’s largest economy and all that free trade. The leg bone is connected to the ankle bone.

The solution is what has always worked. Despite what the Republicans would have you believe, it is commitment and intervention of the government that makes it all go. Our government intervened after Sputnik was launched (by another government) and we got serious about cranking out engineers. We can do it again. That’s how China is doing it.

”When an Apple team visited, the Chinese plant’s owners were already constructing a new wing. “This is in case you give us the contract,” the manager said, according to a former Apple executive. The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory. It had a warehouse filled with glass samples available to Apple, free of charge. The owners made engineers available at almost no cost.”

(Emphasis added)

It isn’t their overwhelming culture of capitalism that is threatening our economy. It’s China’s government using capitalism to further their national goals. It really isn’t that hard to figure out. Well, unless you’re a modern-day Republican that staked your career on the idea that government can’t do anything right.

Don Brown
January 23, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Betting on Leroy

Now it’s a party. I read a really good article on Leroy’s win in the South Carolina Republican primary. From the Associated Press via the Boston Globe:

Extraordinary Gingrich comeback also vindication

”The former House speaker came from behind to overtake Mitt Romney on Saturday in a state that for decades has chosen the eventual Republican nominee. On the way there, Gingrich triumphed over months of campaign turmoil and at least two political near-death experiences as well as millions of dollars of attack advertisements and potentially damning personal allegations.”

It’s a long article, but on page two they reminded me that Newt was almost dead -- politically.

”Then came Sheldon Adelson to the rescue.

The billionaire casino magnate and longtime Gingrich backer ponied up at least $5 million for an outside group -- made up of former Gingrich aides -- to help put his buddy back in the game. ”

Just in case you might be interested in the guy that is trying to pick the next President of the United States.

Sheldon Gary Adelson (born August 6, 1933) is an American casino and hotel magnate. ... He is currently the 8th wealthiest American and 16th wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of $23.3 billion.”

If I was you I would read the whole entry on Wikipedia. Then I’d ask myself a question. “Do I want to live in this guy’s version of America?” Some of you will say, “Yes”.

Don Brown
January 22, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Come On South Carolina!

Get out there and vote for Leroy all you sandlappers. Make all my dreams come true. This will be the biggest mistake you’ve made since firing on Fort Sumter. And I can’t think of a better place for a mistake to be made.

If you think I’m excited about Newt’s recent surge in the polls you ought to see Rachel Maddow. She loves politics -- the nitty-gritty of it all. And she is absolutely giddy about the whole Newt/Romney thing. I think you should watch the whole show. But that’s up to you.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Don Brown
January 21, 2012

On Unemployment and Pensions

I hope that we are at some kind of turning point in our society. I think we are. I perceive that people are thinking harder about what we all want out of life -- and our government. Consumerism and a work ethic without reward seem to be losing their luster.

But first things first. Buffet Fan and The Angry Bureaucrat were both kind enough to do some calculations on the unemployment numbers for me. I appreciate it. 8% isn’t great but it’s better than 8.5%.

And speaking of unemployment...just because I haven’t been able to work it in anywhere else...

I surprised an Episcopal priest the another day when I asked about the prayer for unemployed. “A prayer for the unemployed?” Yep. After growing up Baptist, I have a real appreciation for written prayers. Short, to the point and no more struggling to find the right words. In case you ever need a well-written prayer for public use, now you know where to find one.

For the Unemployed

”Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer
want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this
land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find
suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment
for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

(Just another tidbit before I move on. The Book of Common Prayer is where you find that bit about ashes to ashes, dust to dust that you hear in the movies all the time. Hollywood knows good writing when it hears it.)

Did you notice the line about “so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment”? Public and private wealth. We could think about that for a while. Think oil fields in our territorial waters. Think trees in our national forests. Let your mind wander over that public wealth for a moment or two. Some private companies get very, very rich (not to mention powerful) by exploiting our public wealth.

I like the part about “suitable and fulfilling employment” too. That part sounds easy for the folks on the right side of the curve. It’s not so easy for the those on the left side.

Are they not also deserving of “suitable and fulfilling employment”? And how about a pension?

You thought I’d forgotten about that part didn’t you? I think the general public needs an education about pensions. A pension isn’t some gift a corporation bestows on you. It is part of a worker’s “ just payment for their labor”. Even I, a Federal retiree, was required to pay money into my retirement. The government -- just like other employers -- factors the cost of administering those funds as part of your compensation.

What would you do if somebody snatched your paycheck out of your hands? Chase them down and beat them? Shoot them? Call the cops? Why do we consider entities that steal pensions any different than common thieves? “Wall Street” (et al.) stole a lot of pensions. Billions if not trillions of dollars worth. The rating agencies helped them by rating junk as triple-A investments. Retirement funds are not pools of money you take to Vegas and gamble. They are supposed to be put into the safest of investments. It was all a con and the thieves got rich.

Take a look at your retirement fund and notice the big hole blown in it by the Great Recession. Then remember the unemployed. You probably saw a recovery in your retirement fund. They didn’t. You might want to say a prayer for them.

Don Brown
January 21, 2011

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Spinning Machine

I heard Rachel Maddow spin a statistic the other day (sorry, can’t find the clip) about unemployment. She hinted that President Obama had reduced the size of government. Well, the size of government has shrunk, but it’s not the portion that President Obama oversees and it really isn’t good news. Well, unless you’re a Republican.

Unemployment is down. That’s good news. Sort of. The economy isn’t adding jobs nearly fast enough. But it is adding jobs. Which is better than losing jobs of course.

Well, unless you’re a Republican that is. Then it’s good that the economy is losing jobs -- at least government jobs. How’s that for spin? Okay, I’ll let the Republican spin themselves into a corner.

Chart of the Day: Historic Drop in Government Jobs

”The chart above displays the annual change in total government employment (data here) and shows that the 589,000 reduction in government jobs between 2009 and 2011 was the largest reduction in government payrolls since the post-WWII period of 1945-1947.  Total government employment (federal, state and local) in December 2011 was the lowest government payroll level since June 2006.”

If you remember Grover Norquist’s desire to shrink government down until he can “drown it in the bathtub”, you might think that Grover and his gang are now happy. You’d be wrong.

Are you confused yet? You should be. Okay, go back to that link above and look at the chart. Once you’ve done that, you can forget the eye candy and notice that the author (Mark J. Perry) graduated from George Mason University and was a visiting scholar at The American Enterprise Institute. My readers know the code and know those are markers for right-wing neocons.
All this political spin has turned reality upside down. Mr. Perry says:

”If some of those 589,000 government jobs losses are permanent, wouldn't it be ironic if one of the legacies of the Obama administration was a long-term reduction in the size of government through reduced government employment?”

Mr. Perry finally clarifies (at the end of the post) that the vast majority of the government job losses are at the local level (511,000). The state level governments lost another 114,000. Federal jobs are actually up by 25,000. Can we please focus on this for a moment?

Americans lost 625,000 jobs. These jobs aren’t held by “government”. They are held by people. Over a half million people lost their jobs. And “local level” translates into firemen, policemen and teachers. Is that the people the smaller government types want laid off? Regardless, Mr. Perry (and his kind) are hailing this as a good thing.

The media is telling you that adding 176,000 jobs in December and dropping the unemployment rate from 8.7% to 8.5% is good news but Mr. Perry and his Republican friends want you to believe that 625,000 firemen, policemen and teachers losing their jobs is a good thing.

In all the information -- this blizzard of bull chips -- I can’t find out what the unemployment rate would be if these 625,000 Americans had kept their jobs. And make no mistake about it, we could have kept them employed. As a matter of fact, it would probably have been cheaper to keep them employed. It certainly would have been more humane.

Class project -- Find out what our national unemployment rate would be if 625,000 people were still employed. The first one with the answer gets an honorable mention.

In the meantime, keep in mind that the Republicans (Grover Noquist, et al) are accomplishing their goals. They have indeed shrunk government. I hope you’ll ask yourself what the price has been. I’ll say it again, the money most of you have lost on the value of your home alone is greater than any tax increase you’ve ever paid. I won’t mention blowing up the world’s economy -- this time.

And I still like Rachel. I still listen to her podcast every morning. I just wanted to point out the truth is a lot more damning than the spin.

Don Brown
January 17, 2012

The Moment of "S" (DSC_0093)

I'm testing to see how Flickr works with Blogger.

Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK Day 2012

This day will be spent pretty much like the last. I hope to get some more writing in soon. I’ve noticed I have more time if it rains. The weatherman says maybe tomorrow.

This is still my favorite quote for the day:

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only for the words and acts of the children of darkness, but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light."

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
January 27, 1965
Atlanta, Georgia

Don Brown
January 16, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Flickr, Flick, Flack

Oh, that won’t be confusing or anything...

I’ve gone and done it. I set up a Flickr account.

That is all.

Don Brown
January 12, 2011

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Price of No Privacy

We tell ourselves that we’re in control of our lives. That we control our privacy. That there isn’t a cost to using Facebook and other social media. That our “lunch” really is free.

We know better don’t we? The BBC used to let bloggers “embed” videos. I can’t find the link to do so now. But I want you to watch one. Before I put up the link, I want you to remember some words from Al Gore.

“The potential for manipulating mass opinions and feelings initially discovered by commercial advertisers is now being even more aggressively exploited by a new generation of media Machiavellis. The combination of ever more sophisticated public opinion sampling techniques and the increasing use of powerful computers to parse and subdivide the American people according to "psychographic" categories that identify their susceptibility to individually tailored appeals has further magnified the power of propagandistic electronic messaging that has created a harsh new reality for the functioning of our democracy.”

Now, go watch the video from the BBC.

And why does the BBC want you to go to their site? That’s right. Data. Your data. I don’t collect any. But you can bet your bottom dollar that Google -- which hosts this blog for “free” -- does.

Don Brown
January 9, 2011

They’re Everywhere

This is what you can do with your time when you’re retired.

My wife sent me a “civics test” that she got via email and thought was interesting. She scored slightly better than what the email purported “college professors” scored (55%) and an “average American” (49%). She wanted to see what I scored.

So I, of course, took the test. It didn’t seem particularly difficult to me. But I did notice the questions got a little squirrely towards the end. By the end of the test, I was convinced there was a political agenda at work in the test. My son suspected the same thing and started the search. I joined in.

As you can see (if you followed the link), the test is from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. And here we go to Wikipedia. Follow the bouncing links.

Intercollegiate Studies Institute

“The group supports "limited government, free market economy, and Judeo-Christian moral traditions..."”

Right wing code words if there ever were any.

”In a 1989 speech to the Heritage Foundation, the ISI President, T. Kenneth Cribb Jr., stated:...”

My readers already know about the Heritage Foundation so let’s follow T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr.

”T. Kenneth Cribb Jr. is a former Presidential advisor—to President Ronald Reagan—and currently the president of the traditionalist conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute.”

”Cribb graduated in 1970 from Washington and Lee University, and served as national director for ISI from 1971 to 1977. After that, he went on to University of Virginia Law School, graduating in 1980. He was deputy to the chief counsel of the Reagan campaign the same year.”

”He was appointed to his current position in 1989. During his tenure, ISI has vastly expanded its revenues and programs. He also served as vice chairman of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board from 1989 to 1992. Other commissions of trust include president of the Collegiate Network, an association of conservative college newspapers; vice president of the Council for National Policy, a conservative umbrella organization; member of the Board of Advisors for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education; and counselor to the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy, a conservative legal organization. Cribb also serves on the Board of Advisors of the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, an educational organization that continues the intellectual legacy of noted conservative icon Russell Kirk.”.

My point is that even the most seemingly-innocuous things have an agenda these days. Some person is behind that agenda. Some person with money. It takes money to design a “civics test”, present it in a professional manner, set up the web site to administer it and then propagate it. Lord only knows what they’re are doing with the data they get when you visit the site. And make no mistake about it --they are doing something with it. They’re probably using the traffic statistics to bolster their case for more funding from their donors.

Speaking of donors, let’s go to Right Wing Watch and check them out.

”The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) is helping to identify, educate and promote the next generation of right-wing leaders, primarily through its funding of college newspapers, its speakers programs and its promotion of conservative professors and journalists.”

”Right-wing donors include: Sarah Scaife Foundation; Allegheny Foundation; The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; Earhart Foundation; JM Foundation; John M. Olin Foundation; Philip M. McKenna Foundation; Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation; Castle Rock Foundation; and the Carthage Foundation.”

Odd, you usually see Coors in that group. Hold on...wait a minute...

”Board of Trustees: E. Victor Milione (President Emeritus); Jay Bayard Boyle, Jr. (Vice President); Alfred Regnery; Edwin Meese (former Atty. General for President Ronald Reagan); T. William Boxx; James Burnley; Richard Allen; Holland Coors (of Coors Brewing Company);...”

(Emphasis added)

By the way, did you catch James Burnley on that list? Some of you may remember we have history. I wish I would have had the above information on him before I had to tangle with him.

These people are out there. They are well financed and they are not going to go away. They dismantled government regulations so they could prey upon working people. They have given us lower wages, less benefits and shredded our society’s safety net. They turned Wall Street into a casino and blew up the world’s economy. They led us into a “war of choice” in Iraq. They have turned the greatest country the world has ever known into a political basket case.

They are not your friends. They’re everywhere. Stop voting for them.

Don Brown
January 9, 2011

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Global Warming +2

About t Two years ago, I whined that my daffodils were already blooming on January 7th. I didn’t have time to photograph them or write about it, but the first one bloomed on January 1st this year.

Can you imagine 10 years down the road when daffodils bloom for Christmas?

The map below shows the increase (in red) or decrease (in blue) of the “hardiness” zone that gardeners use to determine which plants are suitable to grow in the zone in which they live.

For those that care to read more about it, I recommend Wikipedia as a starting point.

Global warming

”Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and scientists are more than 90% certain most of it is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels. These findings are recognized by the national science academies of all the major industrialized countries.”

”Other likely effects of the warming include more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events including heatwaves, droughts and heavy rainfall events, species extinctions due to shifting temperature regimes, and changes in crop yields.”

”In a 4 °C world, the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world. Hence, the ecosystem services upon which human livelihoods depend would not be preserved.”

Don Brown
January 8, 2011

P.S. I forgot to link the USDA Hardiness Zone map and the controversy behind updating it, which is what inspired this post in the first place. Sheeesh!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Told You So -- Thatcher

Several quick thoughts. Sorry for the quick writing style. No time.

Told you Thatcher would be in the “buzz”. Corporate media conglomerations shape public discussion. There’s a movie to sell. Even “liberals” will help sell it. No such thing as bad publicity.

Great stuff from Robert Reich.

The Decline of the Public Good

”Meryl Streep’s eery reincarnation of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” brings to mind Thatcher’s most famous quip, “there is no such thing as ‘society.’” None of the dwindling herd of Republican candidates has quoted her yet but they might as well considering their unremitting bashing of everything public.”

”“Privatize” means pay-for-it-yourself. The practical consequence of this in an economy whose wealth and income are now more concentrated than any time in 90 years is to make high-quality public goods available to fewer and fewer.

In fact, much of what’s called “public” is increasingly a private good paid for by users — ever-higher tolls on public highways and public bridges, higher tuitions at so-called public universities, higher admission fees at public parks and public museums. ”

I say again, great stuff. Read it.

Truer words have never been spoken. I heard it from a real liberal -- Michael Moore. (Roots are further back, probably.)

One of the most ironic things about capitalism is that the capitalist will sell you the rope to hang himself with. Actually they will give you the money to make a movie that makes them look bad, if they believe they can make money off it.”

We can change our society for the better. It’s been done before. Corporations and wealthy people are not invincible.

Don Brown
January 6, 2011

Circumstances Beyond Our Control

Sorry for the lack of blogging. Life has once again intervened. I’m sure things will return to what passes for normal soon.

In the meantime, there’s always Krugman. I am particularly fond of this one:

Nobody Understands Debt

”Perhaps most obviously, the economic “experts” on whom much of Congress relies have been repeatedly, utterly wrong about the short-run effects of budget deficits. People who get their economic analysis from the likes of the Heritage Foundation have been waiting ever since President Obama took office for budget deficits to send interest rates soaring. Any day now!

And while they’ve been waiting, those rates have dropped to historical lows.”

But the blogger that read my mind this week was The Angry Bureaucrat.

Banned 14-yr Old SNL Cartoon About Media Ownership Is Even Truer Today

”Watch the video - it's no wonder that GE cut the cartoon from all subsequent airings of that SNL episode and has never broadcast it since the first showing. I'm amazed it made it on the air the first time.

And since the cartoon originally aired, concentration of media ownership in the US has only gotten more extreme:”

Jump on over there and read it. I’ve got to run. Life is calling.

Don Brown
January 6, 2011

Monday, January 02, 2012

Banker Fear

My brother started me on listening to Dylan Ratigan about six months ago. I haven’t made up my mind about him (Dylan) yet. I think we’ve had this discussion before. I’m slow.

First it was his TV show on MSNBC. Mr. Ratigan is a little over the top. Okay, he can be a lot over the top at times. And I don’t enjoy watching TV that much. But I do like being outdoors and I listen to podcasts while I’m waiting for the sun to rise or cutting the grass. And I do occasionally run out of things to listen to. Enter Dylan Ratigan’s podcast -- Radio Free Dylan.

All this is so that you have a little background on the most extraordinary exchange I heard on his program yesterday. (It aired on December 12. I say again, I’m slow.)

Yves Smith on How Banks Extract from the Economy

”Big Banks are extracting capital for themselves with such power that investors are actually afraid to go to the courts for redress.

Yves said that one prominent securities lawyer told her “he knows investors who he said if Jamie Dimon came into somebody’s house and killed the children of these people, he said they would be afraid to call the police.” ”

I listened to the podcast and Yves Smith did say that -- with even more passion than Dylan Ratigan (if that’s possible.) Yves Smith is the publisher of Naked Capitalism. And, if you don’t already know, Jamie Dimon is President/CEO of JP Morgan/Chase -- the largest bank/broker/hedge fund/financial monster in America.

Just what kind of rabbit hole have we fallen into here, Alice? Have we become an over-sized banana republic where oligarchs rule by fear and intimidation? Or has journalism as we know it died? Dylan Ratigan is indeed “over the top” but his previous guest was Gretchen Morgenson from The New York Times and I didn’t notice her turning up her nose at Mr. Ratigan. And you don’t get any more “mainstream” than The New York Times. Besides, look at this exchange with Yves Smith. It fits with what I believe has been going on.

”YVES:...I mean one of the classic examples is infrastructure deals.  I mean, fortunately, those are beginning to get a bit of a bad name.  But, you know, you will have a government that owns some sort of asset like the classic example was the Chicago parking meter deals where they get revenues from it and because they are a bit broke, they decide that they are going to sell the family china when they are still going to have to rent it back and use it.
And what happens is that these investors will – they have so many fees in these deals, there are multiple fees.  I mean I could go through it, but basically not only do the investors want to earn a return in the 15% to 20% range, but then you also have a lot of fees in putting together the deals because they are extremely complicated.

DYLAN: Right.

YVES: And there is a fee for managing the asset on top of that.  And the deals are set up to be a heads I win, tails you lose kind of deals where, for example, in Chicago if they clean the streets, they have to pay the parking meter consortium for the loss of revenues.  And they have jacked up the parking charges so much that its hurting local merchants.  So you know – and literally in the case of the Chicago meter deal, they marketed to investors at twice the price they paid the city because they knew they are going to ramp – they planned to ramp their fees aggressively.”

Remember how I’ve been warning you about letting the government privatize ATC and create la “toll booth” in the sky?

If you have the time, you might want to listen to this episode of Science Friday with Ira Flato. There are two thoughts in it that helped form this blog.

1) The guests mention that we’re not hearing anything else about the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima because the major news organizations don’t have the budget to cover long-term events like this anymore.

2) The guest panel of scientists bemoan the fact that the political reporters won’t take on the Republican Presidential candidates about their anti-science positions. Specifically about global warming.

I hope you are reaching the conclusion that we should be concerned about the “corporatization” of the media also.

Don Brown
January 2, 2011