Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Ten Worst Things about the Bush Decade; Or, the Rise of the New Oligarchs

This is a Very Good Allegory that Should be read in it's entirity.

From Informed Comment
Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion
Author: Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute

By spring of 2000, Texas governor George W. Bush was wrapping up the Republican nomination for president, and he went on to dominate the rest of the decade. If Dickens proclaimed of the 1790s revolutionary era in France that it was the best of times and the worst of times, the reactionary Bush era was just the worst of times. I declare it the decade of the American oligarchs.
Here are my picks for the top ten worst things about the wretched period, which, however, will continue to follow us until the economy is re-regulated, anti-trust concerns again pursued, a new, tweaked fairness doctrine is implemented, and we return to a more normal distribution of wealth(.)

9. Health and food insecurity increased for ordinary Americans. Health care costs skyrocketed. Most Americans in the work force who have health care are covered via their employers. 'From 1999 to 2009 health insurance premiums increased 132%"
8. The environment became more polluted. The Bush administration was the worst on record on environmental issues.

7. The imperial presidency was ensconced in ways it will be difficult to pare back. But note that its powers were never used against the oligarchs (unlike the case in Putin's Russia), but rather deployed to ensure the continued destruction of the labor movement and the political bargaining power of workers and the middle class(.)

6. The Katrina flood and the destruction of much of historic African-American New Orleans, and the massive failure of the Bush administration to come to the aid of one of America's great cities.

5. The Bush administration's post-2002 mishandling of Afghanistan, where the Taliban had been overthrown successfully in 2001 and were universally despised. The Bush administration's attempt to assert itself with a big troop presence in the Pashtun provinces, its use of search and destroy tactics and missile strikes, its neglect of civilian reconstruction, and its failure to finish off al-Qaeda, allowed an insurgency gradually to grow. It should have been nipped in the bud, but was not.

4. The Iraq War, in which the US illegally launched a war of aggression that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, displaced 4 million (over a million abroad), destroyed entire cities such as Fallujah, set off a Sunni-Shiite civil war, allowed Baghdad to be ethnically cleansed of its Sunnis, practiced systematic and widespread torture before the eyes of the Muslim Middle East and the world, and immeasurably strengthened Iran's hand in the Middle East.

3. The great $12 trillion Bank Robbery, in which unscrupulous bankers and financiers were deregulated and given free rein to create worthless derivatives, sell impossible mortgages to uninformed marks who could not understand their complicated terms, and then to roll this garbage up into securities re-sold like the Cheshire cat, with a big visible smile of asserted value hanging in the air even as their actual worth disappeared into thin air. Having allowed the one-percent oligarchs to capture most of the increase of the country's wealth in recent decades, Bush and Paulsen now initiated the surrender to them of nearly a further entire year's gross domestic product of the US, stealing it from the rest of us by deficit budget financing that will have the effect of deflating our savings and property values and relative value of our currency against other world currencies.

2. The September 11 attacks on New York and Washington by al-Qaeda, an organization that stemmed from the Reagan administration's anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s and which decided that, having defeated one superpower, it could take down the other.

1. The constitutional coup of 2000, in which Bush was declared the winner of an election he had lost, with the deployment of the most ugly racial and other low tricks in the ballot counting and the intervention of a partisan and far right-wing Supreme Court (itself drawn from or serving the oligarchs), and which gave us the worst president in the history of the union, who proceeded to drive the country off a cliff for the succeeding 8 years. And that is because he was not our president, but theirs.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wall Street Scroogism Wrecking America

by Holly Sklar via Common Dreams

The Scrooges of Wall Street were surprised a year ago by visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

The Ghost of Christmas Past took them back to 1973, when the poverty rate was the lowest on record. The Ghost showed them a middle-class family living the American Dream -- with decent wages and health care, a comfortable home, money to send the kids to college, and a pension to supplement Social Security.

"Bah!" said the Scrooges of Wall Street. "Humbug!"

The Ghost showed them an affluent family, with expensive finery, fancy cars, a vacation home and millions of dollars in wealth. The Scrooges were not impressed. They made millions of dollars a year.

"What share of national income goes to the richest 1 percent?" the Scrooges asked. The Ghost told them 9 percent.

The Scrooges of Wall Street said, "Bah Humbug!" and were happy it wasn't 1973.

The Ghost took them to Wall Street on Oct. 9, 2007, when the Dow Jones reached an all-time high, closing at 14,164. The Scrooges were thrilled to be back in that bubble.

The Ghost reminded them that the Dow was way up, but workers' wages were way down compared to 1973, adjusted for inflation -- and poverty was rising. The typical middle-class family worked many more hours than their parents did, but went deeply into debt to keep their home and pay for college, and worried they were a medical crisis away from bankruptcy.

"What share of national income goes to the richest 1 percent?" the Scrooges asked on their visit back to 2007. The Ghost said 23.5 percent -- nearly tying the record set in 1928, just before the Great Depression.

The Scrooges sank into a deep sleep, awaking in 2008 to see the Ghost of Christmas Present. The Ghost showed them once-thriving neighborhoods in Ohio, California, Michigan and Florida where foreclosed homes were left to decay, eroding the value of nearby homes, leading to more foreclosures and despair.

The Scrooges saw family businesses going back three generations who were suddenly treated like credit risks, and newer small businesses denied loans to buy equipment needed to fill orders. The Ghost said these businesses were laying off people they would have kept and not hiring people they would have hired, if only the big banks put more money into real business investment instead of usury and speculation.

The Scrooges said, "Bah Humbug!" and rejoiced in their bailouts and bonuses.

Then the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come previewed 2009, showing the Scrooges boarded up homes and businesses across America. The Ghost said one in seven mortgages was in default. The official unemployment rate topped 10 percent. Millions of Americans needing full-time jobs had part-time and temp jobs with inadequate pay and no benefits. Want was keenly felt.

"Are there no food banks and homeless shelters?" asked the Scrooges. "Are there no prisons?"

The Ghost of Christmas Future took them to Washington. The Scrooges of Wall Street rejoiced to see their friends at the White House, Treasury and Federal Reserve insuring their toxic assets, subsidizing their new speculation, and combining occasional tough talk on financial reform with consistently soft action.

The Scrooges heard Sen. Dick Durbin say, "The banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place."

The Scrooges saw that their banks and investment firms would be even bigger than before. And they did not change.

The bailout-fattened Scrooges of Wall Street rejoiced in their Abundance of cashboxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds and derivatives. They said, "Bah Humbug!" to Main Street and used taxpayer money for record profits and bonuses and refinancing their global casino.

So now, the Ghost of President Roosevelt has come to inspire us to learn from history. Demand the kind of strong action that reversed Scroogism before -- the kind advocated by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute's New Deal 2.0 project, the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, and Americans for Financial Reform.

As Roosevelt's spirit tells us, "If the courses be departed from, the ends will change."

Holly Sklar is author of "A Just Minimum Wage: Good for Workers, Business and Our Future" ( and "Raise the Floor: Wages and Policies That Work for All of Us." She can be reached at

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Talkin' Bout My Generation

Just In Case Anyone Needs Reminding..

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

A Wish for Wings that Work by Berke Breathed, author of Bloom County.
This is possibly the best animated Christmas show ever written!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Kinks - "Father Christmas"

From tudezdawgzy

"..give my daddy a job 'cause he needs one.."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This is Big Trouble

The Supreme Court is about to hand over our entire political system to BigCorp. with the Citizens United ruling
by John Amato at Crooks and Liars

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. When it seems that we can't get a decent healthcare package for the American public who overwhelmingly want it, what can we actually accomplish in this age of corporate rule? And if this flaming bag of shit passes there will be even less that we can do as individual American citizens.

John says: "While our backs are turned as we are engrossed with the health-care debate, there is a Supreme Court case looming on the horizon that could upend our entire political system. The Roberts court must be salivating to get the chance to help their right wing Big Corp base as they wait to render their decision on the Citizens United case which will for all purposes allow BigCorp. to dump as much money as they can into any election they want."

So what does this mean for us?

"With their limitless resources, they can corrupt our system like never before and destroy our democratic process."

"In Bush v Gore, the United States Supreme Court, in an unprecedented ruling that proclaimed it should not be used as precedent, decided the 2000 presidential election by a 5-4 decision. Bush v Gore stands as one of the most legally dishonest and the most politically partisan opinion ever issued by the Court."

"That is, until the Court hands down its decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, involving a ruling by the FEC that barred a rightwing hit group, partially financed by a corporation, from running a hatchet-job film about Hillary Clinton in the days prior to an election in violation of the McCain-Feingold law. "

"By another 5-4 decision the Supreme Court will effectively turn the United States government over to corporations, i.e., back to the Republican Party, this time for keeps. The major corporations -- total profits of more than $600 billion per year for the top Fortune 100 -- will be permitted to advertise without limitation in Congressional, Senate and Presidential elections."

This could be the end of our democracy as we know it. Believe it and prepare for it. There is much more here

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

He didn't want to go home and watch the Pestle go Mortar

Here is a Warrior for HCR via Kos

This is why Rham doesn't like him. Tough shit Rahm, Dean is the real deal.

Anger or Apathy? Give up or Fight? Doormats or Warriors?

Joeseph Lieberman - ASSCLOWN, scum of the earth, does not deserve to live if he sentences millions to death.

I cannot even start to describe how angry I am over the power given to Joe Fucking Lieberman over the futures of millions of Americans who do NOT have health care and those who are underinsured or being FUCKING SCREWED by the current system every fucking day!!!!

WHY? Why does this fucking slime, the lowest form of politician, bought and paid for by the healthcare industrial complex for over 2 fucking million dollars and his FUCKING ASSWIPE WIFE too for hundreds of thousands more get to decide that Americans do not get healthcare reform??? WHY? Can someone please explain this to me???

Are the teabaggers the only ones not afraid to get the guns out?

Start here: Joe Lieberman is Laughing at the Democrats

Lieberman's Medicare Flip-Flop Leaves Democrats Fuming

More from Brendan: Senator Bob Casey and President Joe Lieberman

The Manufactured Outrage of Joe Lieberman

And Watch This From the Two-Faced Lying Sack Of Shit:


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Could He Be ...?

Billionaires and Teabaggers Rally to Support ‘Wealthcare, not Healthcare!’

How the Joe Stole Health Care

By Gregg Levine via FDL Late Night

Every Who down in Whoville liked health care a lot…But the Joe, who lived in northeast Whoville, did NOT! The Joe hated health care! Reform smells like treason! Want to know why? Someone must know the reason. It could be his “head” always broke to the right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all, Was that Joe thought his purse was two sizes too small. Read the rest of this instant classic here

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bernie Sanders Presses For Vote On State Single-Payer Option

I absolutely adore and admire Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont. I wish we had many more like him on our side of the aisle.

Here's a great article by Jeff Muskus via HuffPo on Bernie's latest amendment.
"While Democratic leaders abandoned the public option on Thursday, one senator reignited his push for an amendment that would allow states to test-pilot single-payer health insurance systems.

No matter what federal health care reform finally looks like, the Senate should give interested state governments the right to prove single-payer critics wrong, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said during a floor speech Thursday.

"I think we have got to give states the option, the flexibility to go forward with a single-payer system if that is what they want to do," Sanders said. "Once they've done it and done it well, other states around the country will say, 'We want the same thing. It's the cost-effective way to provide comprehensive health care to all of our people.'"

Sanders said his state single-payer amendment "could pass and could have the Republicans' support." Given the death of even a weak public option from which states could opt out, he shouldn't bet on it. Sanders acknowledged he won't get much support for the federal single-payer amendment he penned with Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Roland Burris (Ill.), but he wants the chance to fight for it just the same.

"One of my concerns as we hurdle down to the finish line here, I don't know who will be able to offer amendments," Sanders said. "I offered the amendment, I want the right to have that debate. I don't need 20 hours, I don't need five days. I would love to discuss with my Republican friends that issue, Democrats, that's an amendment that has a right to be offered and should be offered."

States would still run the government insurance system even in Sanders' federal single-payer model, but the feds would cover the costs with additional payroll and income taxes. Though he said the current bill marks progress, Sanders said the needed debate and changes are far from over, and one change tops his list.

"I do not think we are at the two-yard line. I think a lot of work has to be done to improve this bill," he said. "I think at the end of the day, the only way you're going to provide comprehensive universal health care to all is with a Medicare single-payer system, which ends hundreds of billions of bureaucracy and waste engendered by the private insurance companies."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Case Of Classic SwiftBoating: How The Right-Wing Noise Machine Manufactured ‘Climategate’

By Lee Fang via Think Progress

In mid-November, thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit webmail server — a top climate research center in the United Kingdom — were hacked and dumped on a Russian web server.

Polluter-funded climate skeptics, along with their allies in conservative media and the Republican Party, sifted through the e-mails, and quickly cherry picked quotes to falsely accuse climate scientists of concocting climate change science out of whole cloth. The skeptics also propelled the story, dubbed “Climategate,” to the cover of the New York Times and newspapers across the globe.

According to a Nexis news search, the Climategate story has been reported at least 325 times in the American press alone.

While the hacked e-mails may reveal that scientists might not have nice things to say about climate change deniers at times, they do nothing to change the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use are raising temperatures and making oceans more acidic.

As the right attempts to use the Climategate story to derail the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference this week, arctic sea ice is still at historically low levels, Australia is still on fire, the northern United Kingdom is still underwater, the world’s glaciers are still disappearing and today NOAA confirmed that not only is it the hottest decade in history, but 2009 was one of the hottest years in history.

But how did the right-wing noise machine hijack the debate?

The methods for the right-wing political hit machine were honed during the Clinton years. Columnist and language-guru William Safire, a former aide to actual Watergate crook President Nixon, would attached “-gate” to any minor post-Nixon incident as a “rhetorical legerdemain” intended “to establish moral equivalence.” (See phony manufactured scandals “Travelgate,” “Whitewatergate,” etc.) A right-wing echo chamber — including the Rev. Moon-funded Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, talk radio, and the constellation of various conservative front groups and think tanks — would then blare the scandal incessantly, regardless of the truth. But the more troubling aspect of this gimmick is the increasing willingness for traditional media outlets, from the Evening News to the Washington Post, to largely reprint unfounded right-wing smears without context or critical reporting.

One of the most successful coups for right-wing hit men was the “SwiftBoat” campaign, a well financed effort orchestrated by lobbyists and Bush allies to smear Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) war record. But “Climategate” is no different, with many of the same conservatives actors playing their respective roles:

Nov. 17: – RealClimate blogger Gavin Schmidt realized that someone was hacking his computer and downloading 160MB of files from a Turkish IP address. About an hour after the intrusion, a mysterious commenter at the climate skeptic blog Climate Audit posted a link to the hacked files with a note reading: “A miracle just happened.” Schmidt noted that, “four downloads occurred from that link while the file was still there (it no longer is).”

Nov. 19: – Hackers then used a computer in Saudi Arabia to post the stolen e-mails, stored on a Russian server, on the climate skeptic website Air Vent.

– Skeptic blog “Watts Up With That” curiously is among the first blogs to posts the hacked e-mails.

– Chris Horner, an operative of the Koch Industries/ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, blogged giddily at National Review that although he had not been “able to fully digest this at present,” “the blue dress moment may have arrived” on climate science.

– Sarah Palin appears on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor to discuss her new book. Palin and O’Reilly compare a young man who briefly hacked into her e-mail account in 2008, calling the incident “extremely disconcerting and disruptive” and “Watergate-lite.” O’Reilly and Plain do not discussed the hacked climate e-mails.

Nov. 20: – In a front page article, the New York Times’ Andy Revkin reports that the e-mails “might lend themselves to being interpreted as sinister.”

– Myron Ebell, of the Koch Industries/ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, releases a statement pointing to the stolen e-mails to conclude that global warming science is “phony.”

– Reading reports on right-wing blogs on air, Rush Limbaugh dedicates a segment to the hacked e-mails, claiming they vindicate his belief that global warming does not exist.

– Conservative Ed Morrissey concluded the e-mails prove global warming is “not science; it’s religious belief.”

– Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin cheers “the global warming scandal of the century,” adding: “The Chicago Way is the Global Warming Mob Way.”

– ExxonMobil-funded front group FreedomWorks blasts out an e-mail asking “Has the Global Warming Lie and Conspiracy Been Truly Exposed?”

– Marc Morano, a former Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) staffer who helps to distribute climate change denying propaganda to a network of news outlets and conservative organizations, broadcasts Climategate to talk radio.

— The Wall Street Journal’s environmental blog publicizes the conservative blogosphere’s furor: “this should get interesting … Maybe this will spice things up.”
More here: Think Progress

Classic, know-nothing character assasination, Atwater/Rovian politics. Disgusting.

The Consequences Of Global Warming — From A To Z

I have been "discussing" climate change with some conservatives and how global warming, even though naturally occuring, is accellerated by carbon emmissions into the atmosphere. Here are their talking points: "Al Gore is heavily invested in alternative energy and stands to profit, there is no global warming and if there was humans do not contribute, the stolen e-mails prove the science is wrong, thousands of scientists don't believe humans contribute, there will be a tax on everyone, the US will lose control over it's sovereignty, liberals are brainwashed followers and on ad nauseum.

I have posted the National Geographic Magazine 2 page "Carbon Bathtub" article which explains how carbon affects global warming in simple terms, they refuse to read it. Trying to talk to non-science believers is difficult at best and masochistic at worst.

Here is a great article from Brad Johnson at Think Progress on the consequences of global warming from A to Z. What will it take for the know-nothing right to understand?

"As the nations of the world gather in Copenhagen, the Wonk Room has prepared this alphabetical journey of the impacts of climate change around the globe.

A. East Antarctica, long stable, is now losing ice.

B. Bolivia needs $1 billion over the next seven years to build reservoirs, as the glaciers that hold the nation’s water supply are shrinking rapidly.

C. Leatherback sea turtles that spawn on the beaches of Costa Rica are threatened with extinction by warmer temperatures and rising seas.

D. Denmark joined United States, Norway, Canada, and Russia in identifying climate change as “the most important long-term threat” to future existence of polar bears.

E. The rapidly warming highlands of Ethiopia are becoming too hot for its elite athletes, such as local-born Haile Gebrselassie, to train there.

F. Noting the unprecedented floods this year in Fiji, Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama recently warned that rising sea levels affect not just the islands’ economies, but put into doubt the very existence of his nation.

G. Greece suffered through another storm of extreme wildfires this summer as heat waves and drier conditions increase.

H. Global warming-fueled hurricanes, intense poverty, and widespread deforestation combine to form a gathering storm of disasters for Haiti.

I. The deforested peatlands of Indonesia are drying, disintegrating, and burning.

J. The increasingly early arrival of cherry blossoms in Japan reflects rising global temperatures.

K. The more frequent and severe droughts that are killing off the elephants will likely trigger more conflicts in the arid lands of northeast Kenya.

L. The incidence of wildfires in the cedar forests of Lebanon has increased tremendously over recent years.

M. “If things go business-as-usual, we will not live, we will die,” Maldives President Mohammad Nasheed told the UN General Assembly. “Our country will not exist.”

N. The ministers of Nepal have held the world’s highest cabinet meeting on Mount Everest, as rapidly rising temperatures have reduced snowfall over the mountains and caused glaciers to melt.

O. More than 50 per cent of the population of Oman lives on coastlines vulnerable to rising seas, but its supplies of peridotite may help sequester carbon dioxide emissions.

P. The massive floods that killed hundreds in the Philippines this summer are becoming the norm.

Q. Petroleum-soaked Qatar emits 60 tons of carbon dioxide per person, the most of any nation on earth.

R. Increased floods and malaria outbreaks from global warming, deforestation, and unsanitary conditions have hit Rwanda hard in the past decade.

S. The inhabitants of the Alpine villages of Fieschertal and Fiesch in Switzerland have asked for the Pope to bless their prayers for the restoration of their nation’s glaciers, which shrank by 12 percent over the past decade.

T. Newly discovered, exotic species like the fanged frog of Thailand are especially vulnerable as climate change will further shrink their already restricted habitats.

U. Agriculture in the United States has been ravaged this year by catastrophic droughts in Texas and California, heat waves in Louisiana and Nebraska, storms across the High Plains and the Midwest, floods in North Dakota and Minnesota, and torrential rains in Illinois and Georgia.

V. Speaking from Vatican City on the eve of the Copenhagen conference, Pope Benedict XVI counseled “all people of good will to respect the laws laid down by God in nature and to rediscover the moral dimension of human life.”

W. Warming oceans and sea level rise threaten the coral reefs of the remote Polynesian islands of Wallis and Futuna.

X. The nomadic descendents of Kublai Khan in Inner Mongolia, where Xanadu once stood, are being driven from the grasslands as the Chinese government attempts to fight the region’s desertification.

Y. Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, may be the first capital city in the world to run out of water, as drought and overuse diminish its supply.

Z. On the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, the flow of Victoria Falls is far below average, as drought and high temperatures reduce the Zambezi.

It Appears That We Have Been Down This Housing Crisis Road Before... Like 1936

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We Interrupt Zappadan for a Moment to Remember John Lennon, Mercilessly Gunned Down on This Day in NYC.


Update: The NRA can kiss my ass.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dedicated to Dick Cheney et al., May We Live to See You Stand Trial

The Carbon Bathtub from National Geographic

Click Graphic for larger image.
Graphic: Nigel Holmes. Sources: John Sterman, MIT; David Archer, University of Chicago; Global Carbon Project

It’s simple, really: As long as we pour CO2; into the atmosphere faster than nature drains it out, the planet warms. And that extra carbon takes a long time to drain out of the tub.

A fundamental human flaw, says John Sterman, impedes action on global warming. Sterman is not talking about greed, selfishness, or some other vice. He’s talking about a cognitive limitation, “an important and pervasive problem in human reasoning” that he has documented by testing graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Sterman teaches system dynamics, and he says his students, though very bright and schooled in calculus, lack an intuitive grasp of a simple, crucial system: a bathtub.

In particular, a tub with the tap running and the drain open. The water level can stand for many quantities in the modern world. The level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is one. A person’s waistline or credit card debt—both of which have also become spreading problems of late—are two more. In all three cases, the level in the tub falls only when the drain runs faster than the tap—when you burn more calories than you eat, for instance, or pay off old charges faster than you incur new ones.

Plants, oceans, and rocks all drain carbon from the atmosphere, but as climatologist David Archer explains in his book The Long Thaw, those drains are slow. It’s going to take them hundreds of years to remove most of the CO2; that humans are pouring into the tub and hundreds of thousands of years to remove it all. Stopping the rise of CO2; will thus require huge cuts in emissions from cars, power plants, and factories, until inflow no longer exceeds outflow.

Most of Sterman’s students—and his results have been replicated at other universities—didn’t understand that, at least not when the problem was described in the usual climate jargon. Most thought that simply stopping emissions from rising would stop the rise of CO2; in the atmosphere — as if a tap running steadily but rapidly would not eventually overflow the tub. If MIT graduate students don’t get it, most politicians and voters probably don’t either. “And that means they think it’s easier to stabilize greenhouse gases and stop warming than it is,” Sterman says.

(Click graphic for larger image)

By 2008, the level of CO2; in the tub was 385 parts per million (ppm) and rising by 2 or 3 ppm each year. To stop it at 450 ppm, Sterman says, a level many scientists consider dangerously high, the world would have to cut emissions by around 80 percent by 2050. When diplomats convene in Copenhagen this month to negotiate a global climate treaty, Sterman will be there to help, with software that shows immediately, based on the latest climate-model forecasts, how a proposed emissions cut will affect the level in the tub—and thus the temperature of the planet. His students are generally much better at bathtub dynamics by the end of his course, which gives him hope. “People can learn this,” he says. —Robert Kunzig

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Harsh Consequences after 30 years of Conservative Economics

Worrisome Thoughts on the Way to the Jobs Summit
by Robert Reich via his blog

Most ideas for creating more jobs assume jobs will return when the economy recovers. So the immediate goal is to accelerate the process. A second stimulus would be helpful, especially directed at state governments that are now mounting an anti-stimulus package (tax increases, job cuts, service cuts) of over $200 billion this year and next.

If the deficit hawks threaten to take flight, the administration should use the remaining TARP funds. Other less expensive ideas include a new jobs tax credit for any firm creating net new jobs. Lending directed at small businesses, which are having a hard time getting credit but are responsible for most new jobs. A one-year payroll tax holiday on the first, say, $20,000 of income – which would quickly put money into peoples’ pockets and simultaneously make it cheaper for businesses to hire because they pay half the payroll tax. And a WPA style program that hires jobless workers directly to, say, insulate homes.

Most of this would be helpful. Together, they might take the official unemployment rate down a notch or two. But here's the real worry. The basic assumption that jobs will eventually return when the economy recovers is probably wrong. Some jobs will come back, of course. But the reality that no one wants to talk about is a structural change in the economy that's been going on for years but which the Great Recession has dramatically accelerated.

Under the pressure of this awful recession, many companies have found ways to cut their payrolls for good. They’ve discovered that new software and computer technologies have made workers in Asia and Latin America just about as productive as Americans, and that the Internet allows far more work to be efficiently outsourced abroad. This means many Americans won’t be rehired unless they’re willing to settle for much lower wages and benefits. Today's official unemployment numbers hide the extent to which Americans are already on this path. Among those with jobs, a large and growing number have had to accept lower pay as a condition for keeping them.

Or they've lost higher-paying jobs and are now in a new ones that pays less. Yet reducing unemployment by cutting wages merely exchanges one problem for another. We'll get jobs back but have more people working for pay they consider inadequate, more working families at or near poverty, and widening inequality. The nation will also have a harder time restarting the economy because so many more Americans lack the money they need to buy all the goods and services the economy can produce. So let's be clear: The goal isn’t just more jobs. It's more jobs with good wages. Which means the fix isn’t just temporary measures to accelerate a jobs recovery, but permanent new investments in the productivity of Americans.

What sort of investments? Big ones that span many years: early childhood education for every young child, excellent K-12, fully-funded public higher education, more generous aid for kids from middle-class and poor families to attend college, good health care, more basic R&D that's done here in the U.S., better and more efficient public transit like light rail, a power grid that's up to the task, and so on. Without these sorts of productivity-enhancing investments, a steadily increasing number of Americans will be priced out of competition in world economy. More and more Americans will face a Hobson's choice of no job or a job with lousy wages. It's already happening.

Cartoon - Play Safe (1936)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Rats are Leaving the Sinking Ship

Why I Parted Ways With The Right
by Charles Johnson
Johnson, who blogs at Little Green Footballs, wrote on Monday that fanatic politicians, racism, sexism, anti-Islamism, hate speech, conspiracy theories and other troubling trends on the right wing have led him to make a formal break.

"The American right wing has gone off the rails, into the bushes, and off the cliff," he concluded. "I won't be going over the cliff with them."

"I cannot support a movement that holds that purely religious doctrine should govern civil political decisions and that uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power.
I cannot support a movement that is deeply homophobic, cynically deploys fear of homosexuals to win votes, and gives off such a racist vibe that its share of the minority vote remains pitiful."

"I cannot support a movement which has no real respect for the institutions of government and is prepared to use any tactic and any means to fight political warfare rather than conduct a political conversation."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

America Without a Middle Class

By Elizabeth Warren via Huffington Post
Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the banking bailouts. (I love this woman)

Can you imagine an America without a strong middle class? If you can, would it still be America as we know it?

Today, one in five Americans is unemployed, underemployed or just plain out of work. One in nine families can't make the minimum payment on their credit cards. One in eight mortgages is in default or foreclosure. One in eight Americans is on food stamps. More than 120,000 families are filing for bankruptcy every month. The economic crisis has wiped more than $5 trillion from pensions and savings, has left family balance sheets upside down, and threatens to put ten million homeowners out on the street.

Families have survived the ups and downs of economic booms and busts for a long time, but the fall-behind during the busts has gotten worse while the surge-ahead during the booms has stalled out. In the boom of the 1960s, for example, median family income jumped by 33% (adjusted for inflation). But the boom of the 2000s resulted in an almost-imperceptible 1.6% increase for the typical family. While Wall Street executives and others who owned lots of stock celebrated how good the recovery was for them, middle class families were left empty-handed.

The crisis facing the middle class started more than a generation ago. Even as productivity rose, the wages of the average fully-employed male have been flat since the 1970s.

But core expenses kept going up. By the early 2000s, families were spending twice as much (adjusted for inflation) on mortgages than they did a generation ago -- for a house that was, on average, only ten percent bigger and 25 years older. They also had to pay twice as much to hang on to their health insurance.

To cope, millions of families put a second parent into the workforce. But higher housing and medical costs combined with new expenses for child care, the costs of a second car to get to work and higher taxes combined to squeeze families even harder. Even with two incomes, they tightened their belts. Families today spend less than they did a generation ago on food, clothing, furniture, appliances, and other flexible purchases -- but it hasn't been enough to save them. Today's families have spent all their income, have spent all their savings, and have gone into debt to pay for college, to cover serious medical problems, and just to stay afloat a little while longer.

Through it all, families never asked for a handout from anyone, especially Washington. They were left to go on their own, working harder, squeezing nickels, and taking care of themselves. But their economic boats have been taking on water for years, and now the crisis has swamped millions of middle class families.

The contrast with the big banks could not be sharper. While the middle class has been caught in an economic vise, the financial industry that was supposed to serve them has prospered at their expense. Consumer banking -- selling debt to middle class families -- has been a gold mine. Boring banking has given way to creative banking, and the industry has generated tens of billions of dollars annually in fees made possible by deceptive and dangerous terms buried in the fine print of opaque, incomprehensible, and largely unregulated contracts.

And when various forms of this creative banking triggered economic crisis, the banks went to Washington for a handout. All the while, top executives kept their jobs and retained their bonuses. Even though the tax dollars that supported the bailout came largely from middle class families -- from people already working hard to make ends meet -- the beneficiaries of those tax dollars are now lobbying Congress to preserve the rules that had let those huge banks feast off the middle class.

Pundits talk about "populist rage" as a way to trivialize the anger and fear coursing through the middle class. But they have it wrong. Families understand with crystalline clarity that the rules they have played by are not the same rules that govern Wall Street. They understand that no American family is "too big to fail." They recognize that business models have shifted and that big banks are pulling out all the stops to squeeze families and boost revenues. They understand that their economic security is under assault and that leaving consumer debt effectively unregulated does not work.

Families are ready for change. According to polls, large majorities of Americans have welcomed the Obama Administration's proposal for a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). The CFPA would be answerable to consumers -- not to banks and not to Wall Street. The agency would have the power to end tricks-and-traps pricing and to start leveling the playing field so that consumers have the tools they need to compare prices and manage their money. The response of the big banks has been to swing into action against the Agency, fighting with all their lobbying might to keep business-as-usual. They are pulling out all the stops to kill the agency before it is born. And if those practices crush millions more families, who cares -- so long as the profits stay high and the bonuses keep coming.

America today has plenty of rich and super-rich. But it has far more families who did all the right things, but who still have no real security. Going to college and finding a good job no longer guarantee economic safety. Paying for a child's education and setting aside enough for a decent retirement have become distant dreams. Tens of millions of once-secure middle class families now live paycheck to paycheck, watching as their debts pile up and worrying about whether a pink slip or a bad diagnosis will send them hurtling over an economic cliff.

America without a strong middle class? Unthinkable, but the once-solid foundation is shaking.

Elizabeth Warren is the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard and is currently the Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel.