Friday, December 31, 2010

Neoliberalism: All the Taxes of Social Democracy, None of the Fun

by Kevin Carson
Center for a Stateless Society
December 31, 2010

Tom Geoghegan (in Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?) defends the advantages of the European model of social democracy against the American neoliberal model. No doubt the usual suspects on the Right feel compelled to defend the honor of the American cowboy capitalism that’s prevailed since 1980 or so, as a meaningful approximation to the “free markets” they’re always going on about.

Those of us on the free market Left, of course, will point out that what the talking heads at CNBC and the Wall Street Journal editorial page call the “free market” is anything but.

But Geoghegan does a pretty good job of advancing that argument himself. His remarks at several places in the book suggest that American neoliberal capitalism is not only statist, but that — measured even in terms of the sheer size and cost of government — it’s just as statist as German social democracy.

For example, Americans are taxed about four-fifths as much as western Europeans. So do we have a social safety net, or social amenities like public transit or single-payer healthcare, on four-fifths the scale the Germans enjoy them?

Geoghegan is also impolite enough to notice that what passes as “free market reform” in the United States doesn’t involve actually reducing government spending or intervention in the economy. Nope — it just means taxing the public the same amount or more and then giving the money to crony capitalists. So instead of using tax money to fund a state-run prison system, you use it to pay Wackenhut on sweetheart terms which Wackenhut’s lobbyists had a big part in arranging.

Medicare and Medicaid actually pay more per capita for the half or so of total healthcare costs funded by the government than western European governments pay for the entire cost of a single-payer system. But it’s not “socialized medicine” as long as delivery of service is in the hands of a technically “private” corporation, even if the corporation’s still getting most of its money at the taxpayer teat.

Because that’s what “privatization” means, to the typical “free market” wonk at Heritage or AEI: Instead of taxing the public to organize a public service through government bureaucrats who operate as a legal monopoly, you tax the public and hire a private company to perform the service. A private company which — thanks to no-bid contracts and all sorts of legal protections — usually operates as a monopoly and has the same outrageous cost-maximizing incentives as a “defense” contractor or public utility. And the tax burden may well actually be greater, because rather than just paying a bunch of white collar civil servants with GS classfications, you’ve got to pay white collar corporate drones — plus the cowboy CEO’s salary and the shareholder dividends. Taxpayer-funded either way, but with “free market reform” you get two layers of parasites instead of just the one. Woo-hoo!

See, it’s only “socialism” if you give the money to poor folks. If you give the money to corporations, that’s “pro-business.” And “pro-business,” of course, means “free market.”

Look, I’m not a social democrat or a welfare statist. If you’re looking for someone to promote the German model in the U.S., it ain’t me. But if you call yourself a libertarian, don’t try to kid anybody that the American system is less statist than the German one just because more of the welfare queens wear three-piece suits. And don’t kid yourself that, given equal levels of statism, most Americans wouldn’t prefer the kind where they have guaranteed healthcare and six-week vacations. Come on, I would — after all, if we’re choosing between equal levels of statism, of course I’ll take the one that weighs less heavily on my own neck.

What I’d really rather have is less statism (i.e., none at all) and more freedom. But if you claim to be selling freedom, here’s a little marketing tip: offer something that’s more attractive to the customer, not less. And a system where the state robs us to benefit the Fortune 500 instead of single moms and the unemployed really isn’t more attractive. Unless, of course, you’re one of the people running a Fortune 500 corporation. Good luck if you see that as the libertarian base.

C4SS Research Associate Kevin Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for such print publications as The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty and a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation and his own Mutualist Blog.

Transocean refuses to co-operate with oil spill probe

Perhaps they should arrest the CEO and all involved and charge them with contempt.  You know the way they treated left wing dissenters in the 1950s.

By The Associated Press
Thursday, December 30th, 2010 -- 5:34 pm
The owner of the rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico is refusing to honor subpoenas from a federal board that has challenged the company's involvement in monitoring the testing of a key piece of equipment that failed to stop the oil spill disaster.
Transocean said the U.S. Chemical Safety Board does not have jurisdiction in the probe, so it doesn't have a right to the documents and other items it seeks. The board told The Associated Press late Wednesday that it does have jurisdiction and it has asked the Justice Department to intervene to enforce the subpoenas.
Last week, the board demanded that the testing of the failed blowout preventer stop until Transocean and Cameron International are removed from any hands-on role in the examination. It said it's a conflict of interest. The request is pending.
Testing at a NASA facility in New Orleans is on hold for the holidays anyway and isn't expected to resume until Jan. 10, according to officials monitoring the tests and a status update distributed to interested parties.
Besides documents, the board said Transocean has also denied it access to witnesses — specifically a half-dozen of the rig company's employees the board wants to question.

US foreclosures soar, housing prices slump

By Patrick Martin
31 December 2010
The number of completed home foreclosures rose to 245,000 in the third quarter, according to a report from bank regulators that covers only two thirds of all US home mortgages, those held by national banks and savings & loan institutions.

The figure was reported in the quarterly mortgage report filed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Office of Thrift Supervision, which regulate banks and S&Ls respectively.

The overall number of foreclosures completed in the July-September period is likely well over 300,000, making it virtually certain that total foreclosures will top one million in 2010. The total number of foreclosures in process increased to 1.2 million, up 4.5 percent from the second quarter and up 10.1 percent from the third quarter of 2009.

Newly initiated foreclosures jumped to 382,000 in the third quarter, a rise of 31.2 percent compared to the second quarter and 3.7 percent above the third quarter of 2009. The larger number of initiated foreclosures compared to completed foreclosures means that the number of foreclosures can be expected to rise sharply in the coming year.

New Orleans Fire Kills 8 Homeless Youths

I used to see the homeless kids of Hollywood who squatted the abandoned buildings damaged in the LA quake of 1994.  brutal lives of kids who were throwaways and runaways.

I reiterate, "No one in this fucking country should be able to own a multi-million dollar home while people are dying of exposure on the streets or in squats.

We need cheap, even free housing for the homeless, with things like phones and utilities so they don't wind up dying in the streets.

The New Orleans fire and the conditions of youth in America

By Kate Randall
Thursday, Dec 30, 2010
30 December 2010
Five young men and three young women perished in a fire in an abandoned warehouse early Tuesday morning in New Orleans after lighting a fire to keep warm in the freezing temperatures. Flames engulfed the structure. Before firefighters could extinguish the blaze they were all dead, their bodies burned beyond recognition.
“They were all amazing, beautiful, accomplished people,” Audrey Bean, 19, told the local Times-Picayune. Her friend, Gwendolyn Faye, 19, said the group had turned the warehouse—which had no utilities—into a home, with beds and cooking facilities. Rachel Park, 27, said those who died were artists, welders, musicians; some had plans to open a bicycle collective.
The deadly blaze—the worst in New Orleans in almost four decades—was one of six such fires across the metropolitan area that night. It serves as a grim exposure of the worsening plight of the homeless, and of the desperate conditions facing young people in particular.

by Mark Memmott

In 1941, a United Press International photographer snapped a photo that would help inspire the nation. As the Lansing State Journal writes, it captured a 17-year-old bandana-clad girl who was working at a metal-pressing plant near Ann Arbor.

That image heavily influenced a poster that "evoked female power and independence under the slogan 'We Can Do It!,' " The Washington Post writes. It became one of the most-famous "Rosie the Riveter" illustrations of the war.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle of Lansing, who 40 years later didn't realize that the photo of her played a role in the Rosie phenomena, died Sunday at a hospice in Lansing. She was 86.

Dead Soul Is a Debt Collector: Deceased Woman's Name Was Robo-Signed on Thousands of Affidavits


Martha Kunkle has come back to life.
 She died in 1995. Yet her signature later appeared on thousands of affidavits submitted by one of the nation's largest debt collectors, Portfolio Recovery Associates Inc., in lawsuits filed against borrowers.
 Some regulators complain that the use of Ms. Kunkle's name reflects an epidemic of mass-produced, sloppy and inaccurate documentation in the debt-collection industry. Lawsuits have surged as more borrowers fall behind on payments and collection firms turn to courts to get what they are owed.
After being sued for fraud, Portfolio Recovery Associates decided in early 2008 that any documents bearing Ms. Kunkle's name had "defects" and shouldn't be used when trying to collect debts, a company spokeswoman said.

Civil War Revisionists/Holocaust Deniers, Cut from the same Cloth

a true blue Yankee born in upstate New York, land of the abolitionists.  John Brown's body lies a moldering in the grave there in the North Country.

Our Volunteers fought and died to end slavery and restore the Union.

Therefore I was revolted and disgusted by people in the South's attempts to gloss over the monstrous role the enslavement of people of African ancestry played in the Civil War.

This is akin to actions of the Holocaust Deniers.  Beyond the sharing of similar politics there is the little matter of racism.

I have heard Southerners refer to the Civil War as "The War of Northern Aggression."  "War of Southern Treason", would be more appropriate considering they deserted the Union and fired the first shots in the war.

Then there is the inherent dishonesty in their claim, "It wasn't about slavery, it was about state's rights."  The only freaking state's right the Civil War was about was the right of the rich white southern elite to own black people as slaves.  They actually cited the Bible as justification.

They still cite their weird pick and choose version of the Bible to rationalize all sorts of stupid bigotry and hatred.

Slavery paintings coming down from Atlanta office

By The Associated Press  RAY HENRY
December 29, 2010
ATLANTA - (AP) — Murals of slaves harvesting sugar cane on a Georgia plantation and picking and ginning cotton are coming off the walls of a state building on the order of a new agriculture commissioner.

The murals are part of a collection of eight works painted by George Beattie in 1956 depicting an idealized version of Georgia farming, from the corn grown by prehistoric American Indians to a 20th-century veterinary lab. In the Deep South, the history in between includes the forced use of slave labor.

"I don't like those pictures," said Republican Gary Black, the newly elected agriculture commissioner. "There are a lot of other people who don't like them."

Slavery was indisputably part of 19th-century farming in Georgia. By 1840, more than 280,000 slaves were living in the state, many as field hands. Just before the Civil War, slaves made up about 40 percent of the state's population.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Exploiting the Unemployed

Some story just cause such total rage despair that one doesn't know whether to cry or grab the pitch forks and torches.

The corporate scum have destroyed the middle and working class chance of ever obtaining some nebulous thing that used to be called the American Dream and now they feel free to spit on and abuse the workers whose jobs they out sourced or cut to drive up the profits that have given even more to the rich.

Smash the Corporations...

By Kristen B. Frasch
It seems a growing number of employers are offering lower-than-expected salaries to job candidates who are re-entering the workforce as the recession ebbs. Why? Because they can.
"Companies will pay you less because they know you have no choice but to take it," Holly Erickson, 38, a resident of St. Clair, Mo., tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

According to the story, many unemployed job seekers are sacrificing about $10,000 in pay for every year they are out of work, although researchers have yet to pinpoint just how many workers have taken hits to their careers and wages because of the recession.

Democratic lawmaker: Citizens United puts US on path to fascism

By Daniel Tencer
Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 -- 9:56 pm

The US Supreme Court's striking down of nearly a century's worth of campaign finance laws means the US government can now be "bought" and the country may be headed for fascism, says an outgoing Democratic House representative.

In an interview this week, Rep. John Hall (D-NY), who lost his seat in the mid-term elections, told the New York Observer that he sees a threat to American democracy in the court's ruling.

"I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called fascism. So that's really the question -- is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?"

The Citizens United decision upended decades of campaign finance regulation, allowing corporations, unions and other groups to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns without having to identify themselves. In a decision split along ideological lines, the court ruled that restrictions on spending amounted to a violation of First Amendment rights. Others have challenged the notion that corporations and other organizations have the "personhood" needed to be granted constitutional rights.

Polluter-Funded Groups Spending Almost $70 Million On Anti-Clean Energy Ads

I may have run this one before as I stumbled on the link in an end of year round-up.

I think it is more pertinent than ever given how the climate change deniers are cranking up their propaganda machines and claiming blizzards in New York are proof  there is no global warming.

When you are paid by polluters to sell a lie, you are a whore.  Money and need to survive makes many people into whores willing to lie for the corporations in order to get a paycheck.

The "Citizens (Corporations) United" ruling legalized the corporate purchasing of the US government.  The  corporate whores called spokespeople exist to con us into believing their lies.

Oct 21st, 2010

Amid an unprecedented surge in mostly secret money into this year’s election campaign, a new report released yesterday by the Center for American Progress Action Fund details how 13 right-wing groups — including large secret money groups like American Crossroads, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and American Action Network — have spent more than $68.5 million this year on “misleading and fictitious televisions ads designed to shape midterm elections and advance their anti-clean energy reform agenda.” In addition to the anti-clean energy ads polluting our airwaves, an earlier CAPAF report outlined an astonishing $242 million in spending on lobbying by the 20 biggest oil, mining, and electric utility companies.

The New York Times reports this evening that “nearly half” of the Chamber’s $149 million in contributions in 2008 came from just 45 donors. (The Chamber claims to have 300,000 members.) “Many of those large donations coincided with lobbying or political campaigns that potentially affected the donors.”

With no end in sight to such dramatic spending in order to protect polluters’ profits, a new ThinkProgress exposé published yesterday suggests that the level of coordination between secret money political groups, ultra-rich conservative donors, and polluters may be even deeper than previously thought. ThinkProgress obtained a memo detailing a secretive gathering held by the Koch brothers this past June, at which the Koch brothers plotted their 2010 election strategy with 210 attendees from the oil industry, coal companies, health insurers, banks, right-wing media (including Glenn Beck), the U.S. Chamber, and others. The June meeting was merely the latest in a series of similar gatherings held twice annually by the Kochs in order to coordinate the funding of the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks, media outlets and other anti-government efforts.

The list of attendees obtained by ThinkProgress shows that there is considerable overlap between the groups that have been running tens of millions in anti-clean energy ads and those who attended the Koch confab, including:

European Anarchists Grow More Violent, Coordinated

When the greed of the wealthy elite, the Corporations and masters of the universe make life for the majority of people so painful and purposeless they create revolutionary contradictions.

If those contradictions grow large enough due to the passage of austerity measures that make life so harsh for working people that they have nothing to lose then the chances of their being willing to roll the dice of revolution becomes inevitable.

Free market  MOTUs should have read Marx or the history of  how and why the New Deal saved their nuts instead reading the dribblings of  that schlock writer, Ayn Rand.

12/28/10 05:23 PM

ROME — A loosely linked movement of European anarchists who want to bring down state and financial institutions is becoming more violent and coordinated after decades out of the spotlight, and may be responding to social tensions spawned by the continent's financial crisis, security experts say.

Italian police said Tuesday that letter bombs were sent to three embassies in Rome by Italian anarchists in solidarity with jailed Greek anarchists, who had asked their comrades to organize and coordinate a global "revolutionary war."

Identical package bombs exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome on Dec. 23, badly wounding the two people who opened them. A third bomb was safely defused at the Greek Embassy on Monday.
"We're striking again, and we do so in response to the appeal launched by our Greek companions," the Italian group known as the Informal Anarchist Federation wrote in a claim of responsibility for the third bomb that was released by police here Tuesday.

Pity about Obama.  We needed another FDR and instead we got a Reagan worshiping neo-lib.

Bye-bye Kodachrome

I must admit that over the years I shot far more Ektachrome than Kodachrome because so much of my photography was done with lower levels of light and Ektachrome could be push processed.

But the last roll of Kodachrome...  Film had and still has qualities digital doesn't and Kodachrome was just so perfect for certain kinds of light.

I wake up some sunny winter mornings in LA and think, "My what a beautiful Kodachrome day."  I'd stick my 28mm or 35mm on the Nikkormat I kept loaded with Kodachrome, shove it into my bag and head out for the day....

For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas

Published: December 29, 2010

PARSONS, Kan. — An unlikely pilgrimage is under way to Dwayne’s Photo, a small family business that has through luck and persistence become the last processor in the world of Kodachrome, the first successful color film and still the most beloved.

That celebrated 75-year run from mainstream to niche photography is scheduled to come to an end on Thursday when the last processing machine is shut down here to be sold for scrap.

In the last weeks, dozens of visitors and thousands of overnight packages have raced here, transforming this small prairie-bound city not far from the Oklahoma border for a brief time into a center of nostalgia for the days when photographs appeared not in the sterile frame of a computer screen or in a pack of flimsy prints from the local drugstore but in the warm glow of a projector pulling an image from a carousel of vivid slides.
In the span of minutes this week, two such visitors arrived. The first was a railroad worker who had driven from Arkansas to pick up 1,580 rolls of film that he had just paid $15,798 to develop. The second was an artist who had driven directly here after flying from London to Wichita, Kan., on her first trip to the United States to turn in three rolls of film and shoot five more before the processing deadline.

The artist, Aliceson Carter, 42, was incredulous as she watched the railroad worker, Jim DeNike, 53, loading a dozen boxes that contained nearly 50,000 slides into his old maroon Pontiac. He explained that every picture inside was of railroad trains and that he had borrowed money from his father’s retirement account to pay for developing them.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010: A Precedent-Setting Year In the Fight Against Coal

December 28, 2010

Who said environmentalism is dead? When it comes to coal, the movement is alive and well.

It was another tough year for the coal industry. In the last 25 months not one coal-fired power plant broke ground for construction in the United States. In 2010 alone a total of 38 proposed plants were erased from the drawing board, the most ever recorded in a single year. Utilities also announced 12,000 MW in coal plant retirements -- or enough power to bring electricity to a whopping 12 million American households. And even Massey Energy's infamous henchman Don Blankenship is set to retire, effective next month.

Indeed coal executives got what they deserved in their stockings this holiday season -- big lumps of black coal. "I predict historians will point at 2010 as the year that coal's influence peaked and began declining," says Bruce Nilles, deputy conservation director of the Sierra Club, whose organization released a year-end report on coal in the U.S.

Nilles is correct; the coal boom out west looks to be over, as companies like Arch and Peabody scramble to figure out what to do with their vast reserves while U.S. markets begin to dwindle. The EPA has also not been as friendly to this portion of the energy sector as in years past, placing most coal permits for mountaintop removal on hold and even recommending a veto of the proposed Spruce Mine in West Virginia, which would be the largest of its kind in the country.

With the help of Rainforest Action Network and other grassroots activists, financing for new mining projects from the likes of PNC and UBS will prove difficult from now on. In 2010 both banks joined the growing number of lending institutions that are turning their backs on mountaintop removal ventures. During the first half of this year renewable energy projects also accounted for 93 percent of all proposed projects.

Fmr. Shell president ‘predicting’ $5-a-gallon gas in 2012

By David Edwards
Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 -- 10:22 am

The former president of Shell Oil said he believes Americans could be paying $5 for a gallon a gas by 2012.
"I'm predicting actually the worst outcome over the next two years which takes us to 2012 with higher gasoline prices," John Hofmeister said in a recent interview with Platts Energy Week television.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with Oil Price Information Service, agreed that Americans would see $5 a gallon gas but told CNN that he did not believe it would happen in 2012. "That wolf is out there and it's going to be at the door...I agree with him that we'll see those numbers at some point this decade but not yet."

"The demand is still sluggish enough in some of the mature economies," he said.

Hofmeister also predicted that demand would outstrip supply before the end of the decade.

The iron rule of being working class

True in the UK. True in the US, too. John Lennon said it all in "Working class Hero".

There was a brief period that pretty much ended with Reagan and Thatcher when there was more social mobility, when there was a lull in the constant class war waged by the rich to keep working people in their places.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Forget social mobility. Education and hard graft will only get you so far while jobs are insecure and the middle class looks after its own

On going to university in the mid-1990s I was exposed for the first time to the iron law of being middle class: once you're in there, it's almost impossible to fall out. Observing the people around me, and how their lives panned out, it appeared that you could do a huge amount of arsing around and still land on your feet: at school, on your gap year, at university, and for much of your 20s – until you finally decided, at the age of about 27, that it was time to shape up. You'd still be on £30,000 by the time you were 30.

Until then I'd only really known the iron law of being working class, which is that once you're in there, it's almost impossible to get out. You can arse around as much you like, but it's not going to make much difference to your prospects if those are limited in the first place. You have to believe the future is worth working for, which is why, for most people, social mobility takes place in a context of relative security.

It's virtually impossible to work your way "from the very bottom to the very top", as David Cameron put it, in a single generation; that journey takes two or three generations, if it happens at all. One reason why the generation born around 1958 is the most socially mobile to date is that their parents had, for the first time in history, a work background of full employment, reasonable job security, and comparably high wages.

Yet those working-class 18-year-olds – and mature students in full- or part-time work – who are taking degrees are likely to be doing so at a new university or at a local college, where the connections that lead to secure middle-class jobs are fewer and more distant-seeming. What we have seen over the past 40 years is the concentration of privilege within an enlarged middle class. Most of the existing middle class had working-class grandparents; many had working- or lower-middle-class parents. You didn't always need a degree to "get on". A majority of those attending university now, and who are therefore more likely to get middle-class jobs, will already come from middle-class backgrounds.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

US Changes How It Measures Long-Term Unemployment

by Rick Hampson
Published on Tuesday, December 28, 2010 by USA Today

So many Americans have been jobless for so long that the government is changing how it records long-term unemployment.

Citing what it calls "an unprecedented rise" in long-term unemployment, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), beginning Saturday, will raise from two years to five years the upper limit on how long someone can be listed as having been jobless. 

The move could help economists better measure the severity of the nation's prolonged economic downturn.
The change is a sign that bureau officials "are afraid that a cap of two years may be 'understating the true average duration' — but they won't know by how much until they raise the upper limit," says Linda Barrington, an economist who directs the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Likening recessionary unemployment spikes in recent decades to a storm at sea, she says, "The waves are getting higher, and we want to understand the intricacies of how they're made up."

The Working Poor

As the middle class in America continues to be slowly wiped out, the number of working poor continues to increase. Today, nearly one out of every three families in the United States is considered to be "low income". Millions of American families are finding that they can barely make it from month to month even with both parents working as hard as they possibly can. Blue collar American workers from coast to coast are having their wages decreased at a time when it seems like the cost of virtually every monthly bill is going up. Unfortunately, there is every indication that things are only going to get worse and that average American families are going to be financially squeezed even more in the months and years to come. 

The Working Poor Families Project has just released their policy brief for the winter of 2010-11. What they have discovered is that the number of working poor in the United States is higher than they have ever seen it before and it continues to increase at a staggering pace. The following are some of the key findings for 2009 that were pulled right out of their report....

Home Prices Falling Across the Country

Tuesday December 28, 2010 

The new Case-Shiller data of home prices for October show that prices are dropping nationwide more than expected. Continuing problems with foreclosure fraud and the end of programs like the first-time homebuyer’s tax credit which propped up the markets can be seen as the culprits.
Data through October 2010, released today by Standard & Poor’s for its S&P/Case-Shiller1 Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, show a deceleration in the annual growth rates in 18 of the 20 MSAs and the 10- and 20-City Composites in October compared to what was reported for September 2010. The 10-City Composite was up only 0.2% and the 20-City Composite fell 0.8% from their levels in October 2009. Home prices decreased in all 20 MSAs and both Composites in October from their September levels. In October, only the 10-City Composite and four MSAs – Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington DC – showed year-over-year gains. While the composite housing prices are still above their spring 2009 lows, six markets – Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Portland (OR), Seattle and Tampa – hit their lowest levels since home prices started to fall in 2006 and 2007, meaning that average home prices in those markets have fallen beyond the recent lows seen in most other markets in the spring of 2009.
Different areas which experienced different housing bubbles have different rates of change, but the trend is downward basically everywhere. And they’re falling in some leading indicator areas to the lowest depths of the entire housing crisis.

I don’t know how you have an economic recovery with home prices falling. Many believe they need to fall, but I’d argue they need to stabilize, through modification programs with principal reduction to stop the tide of foreclosures which has deteriorated prices and sent more homeowners underwater. The only way to break the vicious cycle of foreclosures-lower home prices-more underwater borrowers-foreclosures is through stabilization. And the fraudulent securitizations provide an opportunity in that arena.

The Census Revealed America's Fastest Growing Class: The Working Poor

Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse | Dec. 27, 2010, 8:15 AM

As the middle class in America continues to be slowly wiped out, the number of working poor continues to increase. Today, nearly one out of every three families in the United States is considered to be "low income". 

Millions of American families are finding that they can barely make it from month to month even with both parents working as hard as they possibly can. Blue collar American workers from coast to coast are having their wages decreased at a time when it seems like the cost of virtually every monthly bill is going up.

Unfortunately, there is every indication that things are only going to get worse and that average American families are going to be financially squeezed even more in the months and years to come.

The Working Poor Families Project has just released their policy brief for the winter of 2010-11. What they have discovered is that the number of working poor in the United States is higher than they have ever seen it before and it continues to increase at a staggering pace. The following are some of the key findings for 2009 that were pulled right out of their report....

Read more:

Number Of Uninsured Americans Soars To Over 50 Million

Yeah Obama's wussy Health Care reform really worked.  Force people to buy expensive health insurance from inefficient private Health Care Insurers with money they don't have is really working at increasing the number of uninsured.

Government is not a business and shouldn't run like a business.  It is a legal fiction that corporations are people.  We need a government that represents the people of this nation and not the corporations.


Less than a year ago, Francis Campos-Dunn was still working at a county hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area, helping patients navigate the often-maddening bureaucracy required to draw on their health insurance. These days, she has a new set of problems to navigate: how to manage her own care without any insurance of her own, having slipped into an unfortunate but fast-growing slice of the population--Americans who have lost their jobs and now lack health coverage.

Back when she was still working, Campos-Dunn, 42, earned $4,000 a month, enough to make her co-payments for regular medical care. These days, she depends on $300 a month contributions from her 16-year-old son--money he earns at a part-time job--just to pay to the rent. When a recent seizure left her with two broken teeth, she skipped the required treatment and opted to have the teeth pulled instead, because she lacked the funds--a choice that would have previously seemed unthinkable.

As the Great Recession has sown unemployment and downgraded work even for those people who have held on to their jobs, the number of Americans lacking healthcare has swelled beyond 50 million, according to a sobering new report from the Kaiser Foundation.

Among the report's most troubling findings: The number of Americans without any health care coverage grew by more than four million in 2009. That left almost one-fifth of non-elderly people uninsured. Among those between 19 and 29 years old, nearly one-third lacked coverage.

The study underscores the degree to which the recession has accelerated the loss of basic elements once viewed as inextricable pieces of a middle class life. The number of Americans lacking medical coverage now exceeds the population of Spain.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russian Tycoon, Found Guilty

It appears the Russians have the courage to do something the rest of the developed world does not and that is find the richest man in their country guilty of fraud.

The more I learn of Hillary Clinton and her ties to dubious shadowy Christo-Nazi forces like the Family, which in turn has ties to all sorts of nefarious characters around the globe the less likely I become to ever vote for her for anything.

I despair for my country and the people of my country. Denis Diderot was right. The religous and the wealthy are a curs upon humanity.

So Hillary has her panties in a knot over the Russians convicting Khodorkovsky.  Could it be she's afraid the idea might spread and we might just free the drug prisoners and replace them with the real criminals presently heading corporations?

MOSCOW — To Russian prosecutors, imprisoned oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is guilty of more crimes: They say he stole nearly $30 billion in oil from his own company and laundered the proceeds. To others, he is a dissident who stood up to the powerful Vladimir Putin.

Whatever he is, Khodorkovsky, once the country's richest man, could be spending more time in jail. And many here point to one man: Putin.

Khodorkovsky's conviction on Monday of stealing from his company, Yukos, demonstrated that little has changed under Putin's successor, President Dmitry Medvedev, despite his promises to strengthen the rule of law and make courts an independent branch of government.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led a chorus of political figures in the United States and Europe in condemning the verdict.

It "raises serious questions about selective prosecution and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations," she said.

BTW notice the language used: "They say he stole nearly $30 billion in oil from his own company and laundered the proceeds."

Try this instead: "He was convicted of stealing nearly $30 billion in oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds."

Isn't it nice how there are two sets of language governing how we speak of crimes, one for those committed by the poor and one for those committed by the rich?  There is never much doubt about the guilt of crimes committed by the poor while even a guilty verdict regarding crimes by the rich is treated as a foolish accusation.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2011: A Brave New Dystopia

I am very pessimistic  about the fate of not only the working/middle class in the US and Europe but the rest of the world too.

Free Market Economics are a failure for most of us, while being a great success at enslaving the bulk of us, for the benefit of a tiny minority that are coming to own all the wealth.

I've started to grasp the elements of control, from use of the spectacle and the psychology of selling via manipulation of desire to 24/7/365 surveillance. The suspension of legal rights and safe guards as well as the strong arm tactics of a full blown Fascist police state.

The funny thing about being a sport shooter is that we meet some ultra right wing paranoid  survivalist type folks and we have discovered are often upset about the same things they are even if we see a completely different set of people behind them.

The Tea Party has been an Astro Turf generated movement,  aimed at diverting attention of people filled with inchoate rage at having their lives totally messed over by the banks and other corporations from the sources of their pain by getting them to focus on to the  common scape goats instead: Hippies, queers and people of color or other national origin.

As for liberals?  I tend to find liberals pretty damn useless, more hung up with how wonderfully liberal they are and their versions of the spectacle to see how much pain working people of the class stuck in McJobs without benefits are experiencing.

I am so tired of so called liberals telling me I shouldn't be so angry.  I am so sick of the cowardly platitudes citing Gandhi or Martin Luther King.  Instead of telling me how violence doesn't work tell it to those subjecting the working poor to the violence of not having a living wage, a life free from constant stress and enough leisure time for anything other than work and consuming toys with out the time to ever play with them.

I've been putting up stuff written by people whose books I have been reading.  I wanted answers as to why it seems more and more like a police state and why I feel more and more helpless in the face of this oligarchy that has all the money and can crush anyone it wants.

Chris Hedges wrote: Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

Posted on Dec 27, 2010

By Chris Hedges
The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.
We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.
Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.
“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” Orwell wrote in “1984.”  “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

Targeted by ‘Anonymous,’ Bank of America website sees intermittent outages

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, December 27th, 2010 -- 2:45 pm

The website of America's largest bank appeared to be suffering sporadic downtime on Monday afternoon amid a flurry of voluntary distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks from "hacktivist" group "Anonymous." 

While the site was still available at time of this story's publication, reports were surfacing across Twitter noting infrequent outages. Raw Story was able to confirm, via two third party website verification services, the site's technical difficulties on Monday (with screenshots here and here).

Mr. Kissinger, Have You No Shame?

In the 1960's the US government not only tacitly supported Suharto's commission of genocide in Indonesia but actively abetted him with the CIA compiling lists of people to be murdered. (Jeff Sharlet: "The Family").
Henry Kissinger and the American government were participants in the over throw and assassination of Chile's duly elected Socialist President, Salvador Allende by Pinochet setting of   years of right wing tyranny in Chile accompanied by disappearances and mass murders.

Ignore the recent excuses. Henry Kissinger's entire career was a series of massacres and outrages.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Dec. 27, 2010

"So our culture has once again suffered a degradation by the need to explain away the career of this disgusting individual. And what if we did, indeed, accept the invitation to "remember the context of his entire life"? Here's what we would find: the secret and illegal bombing of Indochina, explicitly timed and prolonged to suit the career prospects of Nixon and Kissinger. The pair's open support for the Pakistani army's 1971 genocide in Bangladesh, of the architect of which, Gen. Yahya Khan, Kissinger was able to say: "Yahya hasn't had so much fun since the last Hindu massacre." Kissinger's long and warm personal relationship with the managers of other human abattoirs in Chile and Argentina, as well as his role in bringing them to power by the covert use of violence. The support and permission for the mass murder in East Timor, again personally guaranteed by Kissinger to his Indonesian clients. His public endorsement of the Chinese Communist Party's sanguinary decision to clear Tiananmen Square in 1989. His advice to President Gerald Ford to refuse Alexander Solzhenitsyn an invitation to the White House (another favor, as with spitting on Soviet Jewry, to his friend Leonid Brezhnev). His decision to allow Saddam Hussein to slaughter the Kurds after promising them American support. His backing for a fascist coup in Cyprus in 1974 and then his defense of the brutal Turkish invasion of the island. His advice to the Israelis, at the beginning of the first intifada, to throw the press out of the West Bank and go for all-out repression. His view that ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia was something about which nothing could be done. Forget the criminal aspect here (or forget it if you can). All those policies were also political and diplomatic disasters."

Complete article at:

How did obesity become a partisan fight?

Ever get the feeling that if Michelle Obama announced her wholehearted support of the Fight against cancer, that Caribou Barbie Palin and her band of evil Republi-Nazi trolls would come out in support of cancer?

Sunday, December 26, 2010; 8:00 PM

Is Elmo a Kenyan, too? Or maybe a Socialist? He is awfully red, after all.

I ask because the Sesame Street puppet recently visited the White House to support "Let's Move," first lady Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity. And that campaign has become, in one of the more striking political stories of the past year, the latest battleground in the left-right culture wars.

It's never easy for the spouse of a president, who so far has always been a wife, to settle on a signature issue. Choose something trivial, and she'll be accused of frothiness unworthy of strong and independent womanhood. Choose something more controversial, and people immediately demand, "Who elected you?"

In that context, the first lady's campaign would seem to have struck Goldilocks perfection. The obesity epidemic is a genuine public health emergency, with vast implications for the nation's well-being, economy and even national security. And yet, could anyone really be against children eating healthier food and getting more exercise? Could anyone really object to White House assistant chef Sam Kass trying to interest Elmo in a vegetable-laden burrito?

Well, yes, if Michelle Obama is for it, someone will be against it. Someone like Glenn Beck, for example, who was moved to rail against carrot sticks, or Sarah Palin, who warned that Obama wants to deprive us all of dessert.