Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Quilter

"Now what?"
Candy measures the backing for a king size quilt.

I've named it the Orthodox Easter Egg Quilt.

Culture Wars?

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
Theres a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

-- Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a Changin'
The last time those words were heard in earnest, they came with a full blown social and political revolution. Just who won that revolution is debatable. It's focal point was the Viet Nam War and the revolution was instrumental in stopping that war and in changing the way we all look at everything. The back lash to that revolution started with Nixon, flowered with Reagan and saw it's zenith with Gingrich's "Contract with America" and the election of George W. Bush, where it withered and died over the course of the last eight years like air leaking overnight from a faulty air mattress - leaving only aches and pains at dawn.

Well, the dawning is here and we are in a revolution now. It's not a social / political revolution like the 60s. It's political and economic. This time around, the revolutionaries are not naive flower children bent on stopping a war by sticking flowers in the ends of loaded rifles and dancing half naked in the streets. This time around the revolutionaries are older and (we hope) wiser. They are middle class tax payers with children and mutual funds; with health insurance and monthly bills ... and they all fear that tomorrow will be a repeat of today only worse. More than three million of their friends and neighbors are standing in unemployment lines and their biggest worry is they'll be next.

They've been listening, perhaps not paying direct attention, but they've been listening for years. They've heard the debates and they've watched the artificial economic bubble of asset inflation sold as economic growth expand and then burst. They knew who did it and they know the rationale ... they know that they bought into a line of unworkable bu11$hit. They know who screwed 'em.

They share one bit of clear understanding: tax cuts aren't worth a pi$hole in the snow if you don't have a job or if the prospects for the one you have are lookin' mighty grim! Tax cuts to corporations are worth even less. They've watched companies move operations and jobs off shore in good times - downsizing and right-sizing here at home in the process. It doesn't take a mathematical genius to figure out that those tax cuts go directly to the bottom line in hard times and won't create any jobs if the company isn't selling anything - and, frankly, nobody is buying anything. They've heard about tax cuts for a generation and they're still waiting for the benefits.

They've watched their buying power shrink out of sight, waiting for the trickle down benefits they were promised - while, all the time, watching the rich get richer.

It often takes time to consciously work through the flaws in the logic. Many people don't take the time to think through the knee-jerk doctrinaire pronouncements - like capitalism always good, socialism always bad; like a rising tide lifts all boats; like the "invisible hand" of the market will right all wrongs. They may not ever think through the arguments. After all, those bumper sticker phrases sound pretty good. However, they most certainly recognize, often with a blinding flash, when things are not working for them.

We're at the beginning of a revolution and the "tax cutters" in Congress, basking in the glory of the bygone Reagan years, praying for the resurrection of a legendary leader who never was, close their eyes tightly and throw tantrums on CSPAN that effectively end with "Bring it on!" They look to Reagan as a tax cutter - conveniently forgetting that he raised taxes in virtually every year of his administration except the year that he moved to lower taxes on the most wealthy. They praise Reagan as a "Cold Warrior" prepared to take on the world, conveniently forgetting that in 1983 he did everything he could to back away from retaliating when Marines were killed in Lebanon. They live in a selective reality, not realizing that Reagan wasn't nearly as good as they remember him to be (nor nearly as bad as some of the rest of us see him).

There's good advice for them from Mr. Dylan:
"Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled"
For the times they are a changin'!

... or watch the video on YouTube.

Friday, February 06, 2009

More Misdirection

... would lies be too strong a term? It's the Audacity of Nope!

Q: Does the stimulus bill include a $5.2 billion payoff for ACORN?

A: The bill does include funds for which ACORN would be eligible to compete - against hundreds of other groups. But most is for a housing rehabilitation program ACORN says it never applied for in the past and won't in the future.

... see for the details.

What 3.6 Million Jobs Lost Over 13 Months Looks Like

For those who don't think the situation is serious; for those who think we have time to quibble over 1% of the current stimulus package proposal in Congress and hold up the other 99%; for Republicans who simply don't get that SPENDING = ECONOMIC STIMULUS and tax cuts don't ...
"This chart compares the job loss so far in this recession to job losses in the 1990-1991 recession and the 2001 recession – showing how dramatic and unprecedented the job loss over the last 13 months has been. Over the last 13 months, our economy has lost a total of 3.6 million jobs – and continuing job losses in the next few months are predicted."
... read the rest on The Gavel after the click.

A big part of the current crisis is that no one is buying anything. There is supply but there is no demand. Tax cuts do not stimulate anyone to buy anything. They are aimed at people who tend to be well off and they can afford to salt the proceeds away ... that is, not spend them. Government spending on unemployment benefits, food stamps and other similar programs puts money in the hand of people who have no money. What do you imagine those people will do when they get a little cash? Hint: They'll spend it!

Depression 2.0

Fortune (Magazine)

There are a lot of unhappy lines in this recession, but this wasn't one of them. The people that snaked around Denny's restaurant in Avenel, N.J., may have been cold and wet, but no one was complaining as they stood in the snow, waiting for the restaurant chain to disprove the old myth that there's no such thing as a free lunch (or in this case, breakfast).

"A free meal in an economy like this? Heck yeah," said Joe Barrera, who waited in line with his wife Tuesday to take Denny's up on its offer of an on-the-house Grand Slam breakfast. The two go to Denny's a couple of times a year, but that may change. "I'd give them my loyalty if they did this every once in a while," he said.

By the time the couple got in line at 9:15 a.m., manager Sam Kaul estimated that almost 300 people already had been served. Normally he would have seen between 25 and 30 customers at that point in the morning.

... read the rest in Fortune after the click.


Media Matters for America previously identified numerous myths and falsehoods advanced by the media in their coverage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As debate on the bill continues in Congress, other myths and falsehoods advanced by the media about the recovery package have risen to prominence. These myths and falsehoods include: the assertion that the bill will not stimulate the economy -- including the false assertion that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the bill will not stimulate the economy; that spending in the bill is not stimulus; that there is no reason for stimulus after an economic turnaround begins; that corporate tax rate cuts and capital gains tax rate cuts would provide substantial stimulus; and that undocumented immigrants without Social Security numbers could receive the "Making Work Pay" tax credit provided in the bill.

[Here are a few more Myths about the stimulus package that get debunked.]
  1. The bill will not stimulate the economy
  2. Government spending in the bill is not stimulus
  3. There is no reason for stimulus after a turnaround begins
  4. Corporate tax rate cuts and capital gains tax rate cuts would provide substantial stimulus
  5. Undocumented immigrants without Social Security numbers would be eligible for the "Making Work Pay" tax credit
  6. CBO analysis found the majority of stimulus won't take effect for a year and a half
  7. Food stamps, unemployment payments are not stimulus
  8. The New Deal did not lower unemployment
  9. Fiscal stimulus in Japan failed during the "lost decade" of the 1990s
  10. The economic recovery bill would amount to spending more than $200K per job created
... get the details on Media Matters after the click.

Things that make you go Hummmmm ...

I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years.
-- John Cole, Balloon Juice

A Stimulus Program that Doesn't Need a Congressional Vote

As the economy takes a spanking, many women are turning to freelance fetish work to supplement their incomes.

"I've seen it before," says Linda, “during the tech bust in 2002. Women who thought they would always make a decent living in the tech sector lost their jobs.” They came looking to Linda’s industry for freelance work, and now it’s happening again: professional women whose cubicle-bound careers have been downsized are entering Linda’s corner of the “gig economy”—a corner that involves whips, ropes, and occasionally, nipple clamps.

With staff jobs evaporating and former nine-to-fivers cobbling together incomes through scattered side projects, freelancing as a dominatrix—or “pro-domme,” as industry types prefer to call it—has become a plausible gig option.

... more in the Daily Beast after the click.

Hardship Hits Wall Street

from the New York Post:

(regarding Obama's rule capping the salaries of execs of companies getting taxpayer bailout money)

"These guys have been making a certain amount of money for years and years. . . All of a sudden when you slash it down to half a million dollars what are they going to do?"

My comment: I guess you could make a similar case for the guy who made on the order of $30K or $40K for years and who's now on the unemployment line because of the poor judgment and greed of the SOB who's had his pay slashed to "ONLY" half a million a year. What's THAT fella going to do? And there are lot more of HIM out there.

Personally, I think I could make it on half a mil ... barely, right?

Let them eat cake? Those are the kinds of words that start bloody revolutions.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Republicans Find Salvation!

... or catch the video here on the Comedy Channel after the click.

Still More "Wanna know why you think what your think?"

On the past three editions of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski has relentlessly repeated the claim that funding for "welfare programs" and nutrition assistance included in the recovery bill is "not stimulus," even after CNBC anchor Erin Burnett cited Mark Zandi, the chief economist and co-founder of Moody's, on the February 2 edition of the show, and said that "[f]or food stamps, that temporary increase, you put a dollar in there, you get about $1.73 out" and that for "[u]nemployment benefits, you get $1.63 per dollar. " Burnett also said: "So a lot of these measures, short-term, would increase spending. There's no question."

On the February 3 edition of Morning Joe, Brzezinski said of the recovery bill: "There's a lot of welfare in there. There's a lot of spending. It's not stimulus." Host Joe Scarborough replied: "We're the side of good Americans who are concerned about this package. We want a stimulus package." Brzezinski then added: "[President Barack Obama] may be the second coming, but the bill is not a stimulus package." When Scarborough later said, "We can do a lot of different things other than just spending money on old-style welfare programs," Brzezinski echoed, "Welfare programs," adding, "I'm all for food stamps, but why are they in this bill?"

... more on Media Matters after the click.

Hint: Mika, because it churns more money than just about any other vehicle open to stimulate the economy! Hungry people take their food stamps to the grocery store IMMEDIATELY and buy something. Giving a tax break to a wealthy person isn't going to get them to eat more. And it's really sad, because Mika is the smart one!

Republicans treat government "spending" (which should better be characterized as investment) as if the money was going to leave the planet. Infrastructural spending puts people to work. Food stamps puts people to work ... because it increased purchases at the local store allowing the store to buy more goods, which in turn means someone has to produce those goods and that means jobs. Increases in unemployment benefits creates more jobs, because people who have little money tend to spend what they have. They don't stash their money in off-shore accounts! They spend it! That spending creates demand ... demand drives production and increased production creates jobs ... a point lost on some who see "poor people" as simply a drag on the economy.

Senators Go Wild!, Approve House Flipping Subsidy, Media Don't Notice

by Dean Baker; Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research

The reporters covering the stimulus have been so busy editorializing against it that they haven't had time to pay attention to what Congress is doing. Last night Congress approved the Isakson amendment which gives $15,000 (or 10 percent of the purchase price, whichever is lower) to every person who buys a home in 2009.

Somehow, Isakson puts the cost of his tax break at just $19 billion. Let's break the Washington rules and try a little arithmetic. Even with weakness in the housing market, it is still virtually certain that we will sell close to 5 million homes in 2009. The overwhelming majority would qualify for the full credit. So, we get 5 million times $15,000. That sounds a lot like $75 billion.

... the rest after the click.

My comment: I wonder what mommy and daddy had in mind when they underwrote all those J-School degrees.

Get more details in the New York Times.

In my opinion, this measure will actually have a chance to do some good. It's based on "trickle up" economics and the stimulus is aimed at actual people rather than economic "middle men" such as banks, insurance companies and brokerages in the hope that the benefits would "trickle down".

$75bn is nowhere near enough ... but it's a step in the right direction. And as they say, the longest journey begins with the first step.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Don Quixote

"Many people, not all of them Spanish, are on record as believing that 'Don Quixote' is the greatest prose fiction ever produced in the Western world. Certainly it is one of the few books a genuinely international critic would dare to group with 'The Dream of the Red Chamber' or 'The Tale of Genji' or 'The Mahabharata'. It epitomizes the spiritual world of European man at mid-career as 'The Odyssey' and 'The Iliad' do at his beginnings and as 'The Brothers Karamazov' does in his decline. . . . Don Quixote starts on his quest with his head full of phantasm. What he finds is his own identity, but he finds it in communion with others. He discovers what Don Quixote is really like by discovering that other people are like himself and that he is like them. The mystery that is slowly unveiled in the course of his complicated adventures is the mystery of the facts of life. . . . Possibly all great fictions deal with self-realization, with the integration of the personality. This is, in a special way, the subject of 'Don Quixote'. Even more than in the wise reveries of Montaigne, Cervantes in this golden book gives us the purest expression of humanism -- not just its message, but its special wisdom that can be found only in adventure in the manifold, inexhaustibly eventful ways of men." (Rexroth)

Don Quixote (Passages in Spanish and English)

Still More "Why things are the way they are"

Harry Markopolos, a former money manager who sought to convince regulators for nine years that Bernard Madoff was a fraud, said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission suffers from “investigative ineptitude.”

Markopolos told Congress today that he contacted the SEC in 2000 after examining Madoff’s investment strategy and determining in four hours that returns exceeding 10 percent weren’t possible. Markopolos, in almost a decade of communication, said only one SEC staff member understood Madoff’s scheme and “the threat it posed to the public.”

“My experiences with other SEC officials proved to be a systemic disappointment and lead me to conclude that the SEC securities lawyers, if only through their investigative ineptitude and financial illiteracy, colluded to maintain large frauds such as the one to which Madoff later confessed,” Markopolos said. Madoff “had a lot of help,” Markopolos said.

... from Bloomberg.

My comment: He also said words to the effect that if all the employees of the SEC spent a full afternoon at Yankee Stadium, they still wouldn't be able to find first base ...

Who needs deregulation when we have the SEC ... no ... wait ... wasn't it the deregulators who packed the SEC staff?

I listened to some of the testimony. It was brutal.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

In the beginning ...

... or catch the video on YouTube.

... ... then there's this one.

and lets not forget THIS one.

Rock and roll may have changed over the years ... but that only makes it different, not better.

Some of the stimulus the Republicans can't get behind ...

from Wonkette

  • A billion dollars extra for the 2010 U.S. Census, which is going to pay good money to many jobless people in every American town — and shore up Lockheed-Martin, which is getting $500 million to build the data systems and run the machinery.

  • $75 million for FBI employee salaries, because why would you want to pay America’s top cops to do law enforcement and investigations, in America?

  • $500 million for Mississippi River flood control projects, which would employ thousands of laborers and keep dozens of construction companies in business, because nothing makes Republicans happier than seeing a Katrina repeat on the teevee every other hurricane season.

  • $200 million for green vehicles on U.S. military bases and $600 million to replace the federal fleet of cars with hybrids, because only a gay communist could see the economic benefits of $800 billion in sales for U.S. auto manufacturers while simultaneously cutting the government’s gasoline bill by billions per year.

  • $1.4 billion for rural garbage-disposal and recycling programs, because who but an Islamo-Fascist would want to provide much-needed jobs for the Red State countryside while keeping toxic garbage out of those people’s drinking water?

  • $125 million to rebuild the broken, rotten, third-world sewer system of our Nation’s Capital. You give the blacks this, and who knows what they’ll want next! And by “give,” we mean “pay a decent wage to laborers in D.C., to rebuild their sewers.”

  • $6 billion to pay dozens of big regional contractors, hundreds of local businesses and tens of thousands of American workers to retrofit federal buildings so that they’ll be energy efficient.

  • $200 million for computer centers at community colleges, because if poor unskilled workers want to “learn the computer,” they should just go to Stanford instead of complaining.

But the Bush tax cuts for the people who need them least? They gotta stay!

Just a thought ...

from Quotes of the Day

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

-- Albert Einstein

Monday, February 02, 2009

Wake Up, White People!

OK. Now this is seriously funny. The BFF of Tony Perkins (of the Family Research Council), former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, is going apesh*t over the election of Michael Steele to run the RNC. He refers to the former Maryland Lt. Gov as "Obama Junior" (if only!) ...

... more of the story on Pam's House Blend ... An On Line Magazine in the Reality Based Community ... after the click.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Just a thought ...

Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.

-- Victor Stenge

Worth Considering

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© 2009 Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson was about to sign the Immigration and Nationality Act on Oct. 3, 1965, he chose to do it at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. That day he said, "Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers. From a hundred different places or more they poured forth into an empty land, joining and blending in one mighty and irresistible tide."

Built by a nation of strangers? An empty land? Joining and blending? Every Native American worth his or her salt would bridle at those words of such monumental ignorance and for those paltry words to be spoken by the President of the United States makes it overwhelmingly appalling. Johnson was probably parroting the opinions of the majority of Americans about America's indigenous people: out of sight, out of mind, out of consideration. What in the hell are Native Americans: chopped liver?

Every human being that landed on the shores of America was an immigrant. They came to this land from Europe bringing along their baggage filled with religious strife and racial prejudice. They discovered that this was not an empty land, but a land filled with thousands upon thousands of industrious and spiritual people. They took from the Natives their industriousness in order to survive and crushed the spiritual because it was not only beyond their comprehension, but a challenge to the teachings of their Holy Bible.

... more from Tim Giago after the click.

Adopt a Word to Save it From Extinction

from Lifehacker

Save the Words is a website dedicated to keeping underused English language words in the dictionary. Pick an underused word and pledge to save it from extinction.

Lexicographers analyze the frequency of word usage in popular culture and media to decide which new words will go into the dictionary, but they also track the falling popularity of words and opt to remove them. At Save the Words, an initiative of the Oxford English Dictionary, you can browse a wall of rare words, be given a random word, or search for a word to see if it's in danger of extinction.

... find a word and throw it a lifeline on SaveTheWords.

"Big" is a relative term

The following information comes from the balance sheet's of the Federal Reserve's Flow of Funds Report

Since the 4th quarter of 2007, US households have lost $7.09 trillion in net worth. The big categories are:
  • $2.9 trillion from real estate
  • $2.4 trillion from corporate equities
  • $.990 trillion from mutual funds
  • $1.8 trillion from life insurance
That's a ton of losses, isn't it?

My comment: For a better look, lets chart that:

Left Axis = $ Trillion

The real question is, given the hole in the economy, are we applying enough spackle?

(Hat tip to Bonddad Bob.)