Town Hall Meeting

02 Jun 2014

Talk About the Future

Filed under: — Al @ 12:14 pm

Check out this article about forced scarcity. It’s a thought provoking take on how companies are clinging to their old business model when technology has changed to the point where people can easily get their product for free.

“In the last few decades, thousands of babies in Third World countries have died from contaminated baby formula. What happens is the mothers mix the baby formula with contaminated water, because sanitation is poor. So why the hell do the mothers feed their infants poison formula when they can just produce milk, for free, from their own bodies? The answer is that they do it because the manufacturer of the formula, Nestle, ran lots of ads telling them to.

If you want to know what the future looks like, there it is. The future is going to hang on whether or not businesses will be able to convince you to pay money for things you can otherwise get for free.

Futurists and sci-fi writers talk about a “post-scarcity” society, meaning it’s like Star Trek, where matter replicators and fusion reactors have ended all shortages. On one hand, that now looks like a ridiculous pipe dream, but in a lot of areas of our life, we’re already there.”

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_18817_5-reasons-future-will-be-ruled-by-b.s..html

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Thanks Mike for the link!

20 Jan 2014

The Wealth of Congress

Filed under: — Al @ 3:56 pm

Wealth Distribution of Congress

Me thinks this is a problem. The overall income distribution problem is laid out nicely here with all the stats you could possibly want. I have a feeling all those poor saps who are only in the 1-9% wealth bracket are the ones who immediately become a lobbyist after leaving in order to gain the money to be in the really exclusive top 1%!

http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

27 Feb 2013

Too Big to Jail

Filed under: — Al @ 3:27 pm

This article is a must read. I will give you the biggest shocker which is in the title, if you thought “Too Big to Fail” was bad, how about we can’t prosecute banks for helping drug dealers and suspected terrorists launder money because putting executives in jail could destabilize the company and therefore the economy. Oh that holy fucking economy reasoning. Taibbi is an amazing journalist and this piece is possibly his most important.

Too Big To Jail by Matt Taibbi

12 Nov 2012

Asshole Banks

Filed under: — Al @ 5:27 pm

I loved this “New Rule” from one of Bill Maher’s recent shows.

“New Rule: The big banks have to stop figuring out ways for us to hate them more. [slide of Wells Fargo ad] This new Wells Fargo ad asks, “What is Wells Fargo doing to help the local economy? Answer: They’ve loaned money to small businesses.” Which sounds great until you remember, they’re a bank. That’s what banks do.

“It’s like Charmin running an ad that says, “We’re helping the local community by selling you something to wipe your a** with.”

I still see these ads all the time and every one reminds me of Maher’s joke. These banks stoop so low I wonder how much longer we will keep them in business.

08 Feb 2012

2011 Inflation is 3.0%

Filed under: — Al @ 10:01 pm

CPI is double what it was in 2010. Remember to keep the inflation rate in mind when negotiating wage increases at work, or returns on investments.

2011 Consumer Price Index: 3.0%
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/cpi_01192012.htm

2011 Producer Price Index: 4.8%
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/ppi_01182012.htm

28 Nov 2011

Judge Rules SEC-Citi Settlement is B.S.

Filed under: — Al @ 7:59 pm

The settlement was for $285 million. Which is nothing compared to the billions they made on toxic mortgages they sold as AAA rated loans. This is fraud, and should be treated as a criminal lawsuit. Other than basic justice, trying this case and similar ones with other banks will help clean out the system of rot. This is from the AP article

A judge on Monday used unusually harsh language to strike down a $285 million settlement between Citigroup and the Securities and Exchange Commission over toxic mortgage securities, saying he couldn’t tell whether the deal was fair and criticizing regulators for shielding the public from details of the firm’s wrongdoing.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said the public has a right to know what happens in cases that touch on “the transparency of financial markets whose gyrations have so depressed our economy and debilitated our lives.” In such cases, the SEC has a responsibility to ensure that the truth emerges, he wrote.

The settlement would have imposed penalties on Citigroup but allowed it to deny allegations that it misled investors.

Citigroup said in a statement that it disagreed with Rakoff because the proposed settlement was “a fair and reasonable resolution to the SEC’s allegation of negligence” and was consistent with long-established legal standards.

Adam Pritchard, a professor of securities law at the University of Michigan Law School, said courts could become clogged with cases that would normally be settled if other judges adopt Rakoff’s reasoning and deprive companies of their incentive to avoid trial.

The defense of Citigroup is preposterous – they are saying we love the deal we got to pay out $285 million! Now that you reject it, then we’ll say we are innocent! Some mental gymnastics are required to understand that one. And the UM law professor saying this is bad because it clogs up the courts. Wow, interesting legal point of view. We shouldn’t prosecute criminals because it’s too time consuming. How is this person an expert?

Read the full article here.

PS: Sorry I haven’t written in a while, my wife and I had a healthy baby boy and that has taken up about 99% of my time the past several weeks.

07 Oct 2011

Corporate Personhood – ‘Nuff Said

Filed under: — Al @ 6:02 pm

Corporations Are People?

Thanks for the image K!

23 Sep 2011

Elizabeth Warren on “Class Warfare”

Filed under: — Al @ 11:11 am

It’s nice to see someone who is sane running for the U.S. Senate. The best point she makes is that no one gets rich alone.

16 Aug 2011

“Karl Marx Was Right”

Filed under: — Al @ 1:23 pm

Nouriel Roubini has been explaining basic economics for years now, and gained national prominence in 2008 when he analyzed correctly the housing sector and predicted the housing price drops. People at the time of course called him crazy when he said house prices could fall 35%. Here he explains how capitalism can kill itself: if corporations cut labor and reduce wages, it then reduces demand because people don’t have money to spend, which then leads to more cuts. The downward spiral is reinforced until everyone loses.

You can watch the entire 22 minute interview here.

09 Aug 2011

Thanks Tea Party

Filed under: — Al @ 12:38 pm

We now get to enjoy their economy, so this video gives thanks.

Just keeping score, I believe the economic accomplishments so far were extensions of the Bush tax cuts for 2 more years, including for millionaires and billionaires, and then slashing government spending (with only surface cuts to the bloated defense budget). Thank you so much, I can’t wait to see the unemployment rate after these changes!

07 May 2011

400 Have More Wealth Than 150 Million Poorest

Filed under: — Al @ 9:18 pm

That is not a typo. This was stated by Moore recently at a Wisconsin demonstration. It is true – it was fact checked by the organization Politifact. See the link below for the full explanation of how they verified it.

http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/mar/10/michael-moore/michael-moore-says-400-americans-have-more-wealth-/

Make sure to keep this in mind when people talk about how to deal with the deficit.

08 Mar 2011

Parental Leave in the United States

Filed under: — Al @ 3:38 pm

“The report, “Failing its Families,” says at least 178 countries have national laws guaranteeing paid leave for new mothers, while the handful of exceptions include the U.S., Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. More than 50 nations, including most Western countries, also guarantee paid leave for new fathers.”

“Past efforts in Congress to enact a paid family leave law have floundered, drawing opposition from business lobbyists who say it would be a burden on employers. Instead, there is the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which enables workers with new children or seriously ill family members to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. By excluding companies with fewer than 50 employees, it covers only about half the work force, and many who are covered cannot afford to take unpaid leave.

“In the European Union, paid parental leave varies from 14 weeks in Malta to 16 months in Sweden, which reserves at least two months of its leave exclusively for fathers. Most EU countries have maintained the provisions of their programs despite the recession….the bid to expand paid leave in the U.S. was hampered by the clout of corporate lobbyists and the relatively weak status of the labor movement. ”

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110223/ap_on_re_us/us_paid_parental_leave

Unbelievable stuff…California and New Jersey are the ONLY states with paid leave programs, and its a meager 6 weeks. And before I hear the inevitable “well then move somewhere else,” remember that demanding more rights is how communities improve.

24 Feb 2011

2010 Inflation About 2.75%

Filed under: — Al @ 10:56 am

Inflation for 2010 is about the same as it was in 2009. Remember to keep this in mind when dealing with wage increases at work, or returns on investments.

2010 Consumer Price Index: 1.5%
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/cpi_01142011.htm

2010 Producer Price Index: 4.0%
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/ppi_01132011.htm

23 Feb 2011

The Downsides to Social Mobility

Filed under: — Al @ 4:12 pm

It sounds odd and totally wrong, but there are downsides to social mobility. Some of the most famous philosophers in history have discussed it: Kant, Benthem, Aristotle. This article from BBC News discusses the downsides they give, such as physical dislocation (moving to where the jobs are), isolation from family and shallow relationships with friends due to short friendships. Also, if riches are based on merit, then you would only have yourself to blame for your own poverty. Another downside is the things that generate money may be terribly soul draining. For example a banker may make a lot of money putting them into the wealthy class, and an artist may end up poor. So assuming upward mobility is desirable, then the incentive is to have more bankers and fewer artists…is this the best possible world?

While I think that social mobility is very important and vital to human existence, it is an interesting and useful thought experiment.

27 Jan 2011

The Weimar Republic

Filed under: — Al @ 1:41 pm

It is the name given to the parliamentary republic of Germany from the years 1918-1933. Noam Chomsky gave some interviews in 2010 to The Progressive Magazine and Chris Hedges about the risk of U.S. fascism and mentioned “the Weimar Republic was the peak of Western civilization and was regarded as a model of democracy.” He went on to explain how quickly it failed and turned into Nazi Germany, drawing parallels to current situations in the U.S. One such parallel is Germans got sick of government wrangling and their service to the powerful. A fringe movement like the Nazi’s, who had 2% of the vote in 1928, took power by 1933. And one reason they got more support is because Germans figured they couldn’t be much worse than the leaders they had so far.

I personally don’t know much about the Weimar Republic, but it sounds like an important part of world history and the history of democracy, so the more people know about it the better. Chomsky’s explanation and this youtube video seem like a decent place to start.

Chomsky’s Weimar Republic Explanation with the Progressive Magazine

Chomsky’s Weimar Republic Explanation with Chris Hedges and Truthdig

13 Dec 2010

“Quantitative Easing” Explained

Filed under: — Al @ 9:22 pm

Ding Dong School for Econ Majors (or financial “experts”):

18 Nov 2010

The Millionaires Club

Filed under: — Al @ 12:04 pm

I knew the Senate was called “the millionaires club,” but it looks like the House is becoming its own millionaires club too.

Study: Lawmakers’ Personal Wealth Increased 16% in 2008

A new study shows members of Congress saw a boost in personal wealth as the U.S. economy suffered the worst of the economic recession. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, lawmakers’ personal wealth increased an average 16 percent between 2008 and 2009. The number of millionaires rose to 261, nearly half the total members of Congress. The median wealth of a House member topped $765,000, while the average for a senator was more than $2.3 million.

That [number of millionaires] compares to about 1 percent of Americans who lay claim to the same lofty fiscal status.

When averaging lawmakers’ minimum and maximum potential wealth for 2009, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) tops the list with holdings exceeding $303.5 million. Issa is followed by a fellow Californian, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), with $293.4 million. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) places third at $238.8 million.

The most popular investment among congressional members reads as a who’s who list of the most powerful corporate political forces in Washington, D.C. — companies that each spend millions, if not tens of millions of dollars each year lobbying federal officials. Many of them likewise donate millions of dollars to federal candidates each election cycle through their top employees and political action committees.

With 82 current members of Congress invested, General Electric tops this list. It’s followed by Bank of America (63), Cisco Systems (61), Proctor & Gamble (61) and Microsoft (54).

Read the entire article here

15 Nov 2010

Common Sense Solutions Really Means Dumb it Down

Filed under: — Al @ 1:38 pm

Matt Taibbi’s latest articles on the Tea Party and the Financial Collapse have been excellent, this short article gives a flavor of his good work.

“By rallying behind dingbats like Palin and Michele Bachmann — the Minnesota congresswoman who thought the movie Aladdin promoted witchcraft and insisted global warming wasn’t a threat because “carbon dioxide is natural” — the Tea Party has made anti-intellectualism itself a rallying cry.”

“…her primary complaint with the deeply flawed reform bill sponsored by Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank was that it would “end free checking accounts.”

I thought 8 years of Dubya would have been enough simplicity for the century…based on the recent election, apparently a bunch of voting Americans want more of it. Sigh. Turnout appears to be about 40%, according to a GMU website.

Read the whole article here.

Taibbi’s latest on the foreclosure debacle can be found here.

03 Nov 2010

Post Election Analysis

Filed under: — Al @ 5:07 pm

Oddly I think I’m more pissed off California Prop 19 (Legalize It!) failed than anything because that would have had a direct and pretty immediate positive impact on all of us by shrinking the prisons. Here is a good analysis on what happened by Glenn Greenwald who is an excellent writer and thinker.

Pundit sloth: Blaming the left
By Glenn Greenwald

Ten minutes was the absolute maximum I could endure of any one television news outlet last night without having to switch channels in the futile search for something more bearable, but almost every time I had MNSBC on, there was Lawrence O’Donnell trying to blame “the Left” and “liberalism” for the Democrats’ political woes. Alan Grayson’s loss was proof that outspoken liberalism fails. Blanche Lincoln’s loss was the fault of the Left for mounting a serious primary challenge against her. Russ Feingold’s defeat proved that voters reject liberalism in favor of conservatism, etc. etc. It sounded as though he was reading from some crusty script jointly prepared in 1995 by The New Republic, Lanny Davis and the DLC.

There are so many obvious reasons why this “analysis” is false: Grayson represents a highly conservative district that hadn’t been Democratic for decades before he won in 2008 and he made serious mistakes during the campaign; Lincoln was behind the GOP challenger by more than 20 points back in January, before Bill Halter even announced his candidacy; Feingold was far from a conventional liberal, having repeatedly opposed his own party on multiple issues, and he ran in a
state saddled with a Democratic governor who was unpopular in the extreme. Beyond that, numerous liberals who were alleged to be in serious electoral trouble kept their seats: Barney Frank, John Dingell, Rush Holt, Raul Grijalva, and many others. But there’s one glaring, steadfastly ignored fact destroying O’Donnell’s attempt — which is merely the standard pundit storyline that has been baking for months and will now be served en masse — to blame The Left and declare liberalism dead. It’s this little inconvenient fact:

Read the Rest Here

I only have this video to add, maybe this explains it all better. All you wacky liberals “HAVE MEDDLED WITH THE PRIMAL FORCES OF NATURE…AND YOU…WILL…ATONE!”

Network is such a good film, despite its not so subtle way of making Arabs seems scary. It’s funny because I can see Howard Beale (the one being yelled at) as Pelosi or Obama at the end of election day yesterday, and I can also see him as a Tea Bagger upstart like Rand Paul the day he is sworn in.

11 Oct 2010

Banksy Intro to “The Simpsons”

Filed under: — Al @ 9:02 pm

Banksy is a graffiti artist from the UK. Check out some of his work here. I don’t know how long Fox will let this intro last on youtube, so check it out while you can. I’m amazed this was allowed to air in the first place. Props to “The Simpsons” for still doing edgy stuff after 22 seasons.

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