Loyalty without truth
is a trail to tyranny.
|Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 21h 6m 0s|
Best. Takedown. Evah....
Charles Pierce rocks the magic thunder. He writes for Esquire magazine, and yes, once again in our
nations history you have to get the non-elite opinion and the exposes of the truth from the
magazines and publications set up by individuals (blogs). This is what happened in our country
after the 1880s and 1890s. The newspapers were controlled propaganda organs for the most part. The
exposes of the Standard Oil, trusts, corrupt State legislatures, the unhealthy production of food
appeared in in monthly magazines. A few competiting small newspapers also provided real news that
wasn't just puff pieces for the local elite politicos. Upton Sinclair's books (not just the jungle)
were published by himself from a small publisher, sometimes by his own hand.
Also, here we are again today. The corporate media is the public relations front page of the
corporatist mindset of the rich and powerful. The corporations are really just legal entities that
are controlled by the
very wealthy. We are still dealing with unhealthy production systems. What you see and hear in the
press (including the radio) is just the policy agenda of the elite and their acolytes.
Politico has a column called (according to Mr. Pierce):
Tiger Beat On The Potomac has been [an] enterprise ... dedicated totally to
gossip, triviality, and Drudge-baiting to the exclusion of what's actually going on in the country
to the people these politics are supposed to serve.
In a recent column, the writers basically put some window dressing on a lobbyists wet dream about
what the large manufacturers and multinational corporations want the nation to believe. Namely,
The current tax-and-spending debate only flirts with what these insiders say needs to be done.
Instead, top White House and congressional leaders talk privately of the need for tax reform that
goes way beyond individuals and rates; much deeper Social Security and Medicare changes than
currently envisioned; quick movement on trade agreements, including a proposed one with Europe; an
energy policy that exploits the oil and gas boom; and allowing foreign-born students with science
expertise to stay here and start businesses.
Here's a snippet of how Charles Pierce points out exactly how the mainstream funnels the beliefs
of the elite to the masses:
Pierce: And to whom do these two brainiacs turn to for these bold policy ideas?
This is the clear takeaway from conversations we have had over the past three months with top
lawmakers, officials, their senior aides and the CEOs who advise and lobby all of them. Many of the
conversations were private but many were not.
Pierce: Of course, it's your "clear takeaway," you twits. You might as well troll meth labs
to learn table manners. Ask dogs for recreational tips and they'll tell you to lick your balls. Ask
monkeys about hobbies, and they'll teach you to fling poo. Ask the plutocrats, and the politicians
who serve them, and the aides who serve them about what we should do about the economy, and the
answer is always going to be "make sure we stay rich."
You need to read the entire screed.
This is how the media pushes and legitimizes the corporation agenda. Watch television and you will
be convinced, your choices will become limited, the boundaries of the views will get smaller, and
the size of the official participants diminishes. Every other point of view becomes either
marginalized or labelled radical or extreme since it outside of the tiny room where all the
legitimate discussion is supposed to take place. Political discourse is squeezed into a tube where
one side is left and the other side is right. Repetition and reiteration is continuous and never
ending, so you become so used to irrationality that you begin to forget how to think for yourself.
But you won't realize it, and instead start to get uncomfortable every time you are reminded. After
a while you begin to resent the reminders and then you begin to imbibe the entire package of what
has been fed to your brain every time the television is pumping it with sights and sounds. You
become infected with the virus and begin to spread it out to the world with your voice and the
opinions that were created in your mind -- which no longer belongs to you by the way, since you
willingly gave it up in the hopes of being endlessly entertained.
Pierce ends the takedown in utter demolition, or as the French say, J'accuse:
The longer this goes on, the more depressed I get. Clearly, a deal on the economy is being cut with
the minimal amount of input from the people on whom the weight of the deal will fall most heavily.
Sacrifice is being parceled out by people who will feel none of it. And elite journalism is
presenting this iniquitous arrangement from the point of view of the grifters and thieves who will
profit most from it. This piece is not about the current economic stalemate. It's about two
Beltway foofs showing the red on their asses by demonstrating that they can get important people on
the phone. This isn't economics. This isn't even really journalism. This is a brief in support of
oligarchy. It is public financial star-fking.
[SOURCE: Charles Pierce | Esquire | 11
|Friday, 7 December 2012 at 21h 55m 10s|
The Long Term Unemployed
Another snippet from Krugman about the unemployed.
So why aren’t we helping the unemployed? It’s not because we can’t afford it. Given those ultralow
borrowing costs, plus the damage unemployment is doing to our economy and hence to the tax base, you
can make a pretty good case that spending more to create jobs now would actually improve our
long-run fiscal position.
Nor, I think, is it really ideology. Even Republicans, when opposing cuts in defense spending,
immediately start talking about how such cuts would destroy jobs — and I’m sorry, but weaponized
Keynesianism, the assertion that government spending creates jobs, but only if it goes to the
military, doesn’t make sense.
No, in the end it’s hard to avoid concluding that it’s about class. Influential people in Washington
aren’t worried about losing their jobs; by and large they don’t even know anyone who’s unemployed.
The plight of the unemployed simply doesn’t loom large in their minds — and, of course, the
unemployed don’t hire lobbyists or make big campaign contributions.
So the unemployment crisis goes on and on, even though we have both the knowledge and the means to
solve it. It’s a vast tragedy — and it’s also an outrage.
[SOURCE: Paul Krugman | New York Times | 7
Lest we forget ... here's the employment to population ratio (percentage of persons employed)
And here is the Link to the "Unemployment Dashboard", which updates the Unemployment data regularly:
Another good measure is the population percentage on food stamps. Right now we are at 19.34%. One
in every 5 persons are on food stamps. That's up from 2006 and 2007 where it was between 11 and 12
percent, or 1 in every 8 or 9 persons.
Think about that. 1 person in five uses food stamps to buy food. Spending less than 80 dollars a
week to feed yourself is pretty spartan, and when you have children, forget about it. 80 times 52
is about $4000 a year. Double that and you have $8000 a year.
According to the US
- Per capita household money income is $27,915
- Median household income is $52,762
- Median personal income is $32,140
(Notice that the household income is heavily skewed from the "average". This is because household
income obscures individual income, because single persons are a household as well as married
couples. Which is why household income is not very interpretive. Notice that Median personal
income is not as heavily skewed.)
Now on to my last point. $8000 dollars a year for food divided by the median personal income
($32,140) is 25% of personal income being spent on food. So half the population is spending MORE
THAN 25% of their income on food.
In fact, 93% of the population earns less than $100,000 per year. 70% earn less than $45,000 per
year. 40% earn less than $22,500 per year. This is BEFORE TAXES.
So wait, in the prior paragraph, that median income is before taxes, which means the actual
percentage on food stamps is probably pushing 38 to 40 percent -- that is, half of the population
spends roughly 40% of their after-tax income on food.
Now given that 40% of the population earns less than $22,500 per year BEFORE TAXES, you can bet
close to half of what is left after taxes (probably 75%, or $17,000) is spent on food. Food stamps
is an option.
[[SOURCE: 2010 Census | census.gov ]
[SOURCE: wiki/Personal_income_in_the_United_States | Wikipedia]
|Friday, 7 December 2012 at 18h 49m 7s|
Next day after my earlier post about the stupidity of raising the eligibility of medicare, here's
Paul Krugman on the subject:
First, raising the Medicare age is terrible policy. It would be terrible policy even if the
Affordable Care Act were going to be there in full force for 65 and 66 year olds, because it would
cost the public $2 for every dollar in federal funds saved. And in case you haven’t noticed,
Republican governors are still fighting the ACA tooth and nail; if they block the Medicaid
expansion, as some will, lower-income seniors will just be pitched into the abyss.
Second, why on earth would Obama be selling Medicare away to raise top tax rates when he gets a big
rate rise on January 1 just by doing nothing? And no, vague promises about closing loopholes won’t
do it: a rate rise is the real deal, no questions, and should not be traded away for who knows what.
So this looks crazy to me; it looks like a deal that makes no sense either substantively or in terms
of the actual bargaining strength of the parties. And if it does happen, the disillusionment on the
Democratic side would be huge. All that effort to reelect Obama, and the first thing he does is give
away two years of Medicare? How’s that going to play in future attempts to get out the vote?
[SOURCE: Paul Krugman | New York Times | 7
|Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 21h 25m 2s|
Subsidies and tax breaks don't work
You gotta love a newspaper whose editorial staff can call a spade a spade.
Competition among states and cities to lure businesses in hopes of creating jobs is not new, but it
has become more fierce in recent years. An investigation by The Times found that state and local
governments are giving out $80 billion a year in tax breaks and other subsidies in a foolhardy,
shortsighted race to attract companies. That money could go a long way to improving education,
transportation and other public services that would have a far better shot at promoting real
Instead, with these giveaways, politicians and officials are trying to pick winners and losers,
almost exclusively to the benefit of big corporations (aided by highly paid lobbyists) at the
expense of small businesses. Though they promise that the subsidies are smart investments, far too
often the jobs either don’t materialize or are short-lived, leaving the communities no better off.
The three-part series by Louise Story described how in places like Texas and Ohio, state and local
governments have lavished millions of dollars in tax breaks on corporate giants like Samsung and the
Big Three automakers — even as they faced budget deficits and were forced to cut spending on
critical services. The tax revenues forgone in this giveaway frenzy should concern Congress deeply.
After all, federal funds account for one-fifth of state and local budgets.
In one particularly egregious example in Pontiac, Mich., the State of Michigan gave $14 million in
tax credits and a state pension fund guaranteed $18 million in bonds to a movie studio that created
just 12 permanent jobs. In Texas, Amazon.com, the online retailer, received tax abatements, sales
tax exemptions and other benefits totaling $277 million to open a warehouse that promises to employ
2,500 people. Those benefits were granted after the retailer closed another warehouse because of a
dispute with the government involving sales taxes.
Many governments don’t know the full value of the subsidies they hand out in the form of tax
refunds, rebates, loans, grants and more. And they don’t know if the jobs created would have been
created anyway. The fact is, numerous studies show that such incentives result in only a small
increase in jobs and that any gains usually come at the expense of other cities and states.
Local governments would be much better off investing tax dollars in education and public works that
would deliver long-term benefits to both businesses and workers. California, for instance, is among
the least generous of the larger states in doling out tax breaks. It gave out just $112 per capita
compared with $759 in Texas, $672 in Michigan, and $210 in New York. Its experience leaves no doubt
that investments made in public institutions like the University of California system can remain
critically important to economic growth decades later.
The senseless race to give away billions in subsidies is, of course, hard to stop when elected
leaders think a pledge of potential jobs might help in their next election. But even when attracting
businesses is a legitimate goal, it has to be done in ways that are fair and transparent.
The trouble with targeted incentives is that they are little more than transfers of wealth to a
handful of powerful corporations from all other taxpayers, including other businesses. If the
problem is excessive tax burdens on businesses in general, then the solution is broad tax reform
that also benefits small business owners, who are more likely to stick around if the regional
economy weakens and who are unlikely to hopscotch around the country in search of a bigger tax break.
[SOURCE: Times Editorial | New York
Times | 5 December 2012]
|Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 20h 12m 56s|
Proposals that cannot work
Just cut the deductions and loopholes they say. Raise the eligibility age of Medicare to save money.
These two ideas are proposed by the Republicans to raise revenues and avoid raising taxes on wealthy
people. They sound good at first, but in reality won't actually achieve their purpose. Instead,
other cost externalities, most of which will involve increased government spending.
Let me explain.
If the goal is to eliminate deductions for wealthy persons, then you have to devise a system of what
counts as wealthy, and what numbers to use and tax. A lot of people who make more than 100,000 are
getting their income from multiple sources. For small businesses, the revenue of the business is
different than the profit of a corporation. Limited partnerships and S corporations are different
then a company with 10,000 employees. Salaried employees can also supplement their income. Assets
and different asset classes (buildings, securities, bonds, cash, contracts) all have different
issues and variability that is not simple to capture in a tax system that wants to "simplify" the
tax code by just charging a percentage to a single number. Upper income people have almost all of
their savings in assets; lower income persons little to few and mostly none. For wage earners and
small salaried employees this is much easier, but that is beside the point. Remember this was
suppose to avoid
raising taxes on upper income people.
And who counts as "upper income"? The $40,000 a year pensioner
in a home worth $200,000 on the market. A hedge fund manager getting a salary of $80,000 but has a
firm with a net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The language in the law is gonna be
important. So right off, this will not capture the maximum amount of income, because the very
lawyers to scrutinize and understand the updates of the written laws, and accountants to manipulate
these laws in their favor.
Increasing tax rates however does not increase the legal bureaucracy or involve interpretations and
chicanery. Nothing has to be changed except the number of the percentage. So you see how this
works and what this nonsense is really all about. Changing the laws by eliminating a lot (but not
all) "loopholes and deductions" really just means a chance to put wording into a new law and create
But leaving that aside, it is the externalities that are more detrimental to the theory of this even
saving money. People who can't deduct the interest from their mortgage bills will likely be less
inclined to buy a home, which means having a depressing effect on the housing market. If the
deductions for charities get hit, then a good chunk of charity will disappear -- but not all,
because fact is some people are just
generous -- and who or what will be picking up the slack. The government.
At one extreme: it's the police that have to spend their time dealing with a dead homeless person (lack
of medical care) who also have to involve other government officials in the process. The lunatic
who can't get his
meds will break the windows of dozens of cars and cost citizens money directly. The poor kid who
can't go to school because they have to work creates lost time and diminished potential from our
human resources -- unless you think educational ignorance and poverty is a blessing. Regardless of
the 5 to 25 percent who may or may not move out of poverty, the other 75% or more are gonna be poor
their whole lives.
By the way, in case you haven't noticed, the government already gives you a subsidy every time you
file a tax form. It's called a Personal deduction. That's a subsidy by another name. Turns out
that every single American has been on the government teet since birth.
Or what about the hidden subsidizes for families that are deductions for having children. Or the
tax credit. Eliminate or phase out these, and you pass the burden onto the individuals and negate
the reason why these subsidies occurred.
Small businesses employ up to 70% of the labor force because they are labor intensive, and have
more workers per revenue dollar than larger companies. Diminish the small businesses and replace
them with large corporations and you diminish the availability of employment because the number of
workers per revenue dollar will DECREASE. Large companies are in business because they are more
efficient otherwise they wouldn't be economically viable.
So what happens when small businesses go bankrupt? The courts get clogged with legal matters. A
small percentage of frustrated people looking for limited job opportunities choose crime. Violence
and other illegal activity increase the costs of government.
Raising the age of medicare, another "necessary" budget saving device, only means a lot of older
people will have to wait that much longer to have affordable health care. This will increase the
costs of Medicaid, which is an absolute necessity if we are going to have a functional health care
system. Without Medicaid, Hospitals would not be profitable at all unless they deny people who are
poor, which is what used to happen in the past. Rich people had their own hospitals, and poor
people got the Charity hospitals. The history of Catholic and non-profit hospitals evolved in the
United States as a means of avoiding this harsh reality, but as the population got large the entire
system became over-worked and unmanageable. So the government offered to foot the bill whenever
hospitals had to deal with people who can't or won't or will not be able to pay the bills.
saved the health care system. So it's amazing to me that anyone even contemplates ending or
decreasing the funds for Medicaid.
[SOURCE: Jackie Calmes | | 4 December
|Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 19h 56m 41s|
The Health Care Costs
Barry Ritholtz asks the commentariati "Why are US Healthcare Costs twice as expensive as the rest of
And the commentariati responds:
So afraid are they of having to give a poorer person medical attention ... that they have allowed an
entire insurance industry
to grow up and require financial support in order to have a third party BETWEEN patient and doctor
so they can tell themselves that their tax dollars are not being spent on a poorer American.
The least expensive way to deliver medicine is to socialize delivery, giving direct necessary
care to everyone and covering the bill through taxes.
It flat out costs less than essentially doing this while paying for insurance agents to interfere
with every aspect of doing this.
BUT IT INVOLVES GIVING DIRECT SUPPORT TO POOR AMERICANS.
What are you a Nation of again?
The American model of fee-for-service medicine cannot create a viable market: It must lead
inevitably to market failure after market failure because the price of the good — health — has no
reliable price signal, the ability to clearly associate the good with its cost. The invisible hand
cannot operate without price signals. Full stop.
The full picture:
1) U.S. Pharma manufacturers routinely reformulate and re-patent existing drugs, as much as they
can, to extend full price chargeability.
2) Pharma chains routinely over price for prescriptions, e.g.: Duane Reade
3) Doctors are “bribed” to write prescriptions for dubiously required drugs, and for brand vs.
4) More than 20%+ of physicians bill for unecessary or non-performed procedures, especially for
gastro and cardio diagnostics.
5) Insurance companies deny payments for as much as 25%+ of legitimately billed tests and
procedures, while retaining premiums and ancillary fees.
6) Hospitals, health systems and freestanding facilities routinely both over bill and over
collect for tests, procedures, and other patient treatments and care.
7) The government regulatory agencies charged with oversight are grossly incompetent.
Fraud, incompetence, and kickbacks are the rule of the day. God bless America!
Tim McInerney, Healthcare Capital LLC
Doctors, hospitals, clinics and labs are paid nearly 2x in the US compared to the rest of the world.
What’s the difference?
In the US, the medical industry is a private, for profit business, that has been allowed to run amok
for the last 75 years. In the rest of the world health care is either a government service, or
treated as a tightly regulated public utility. The kind of disgusting, disgraceful medical
profiteering that goes on all the time in the US simply IS NOT LEGAL anywhere else.
From the doctors to the hospitals and insurers, all are operating a massive scam and ripoff, and
it’s all legal, thanks to the government being in the pockets of the industry. As a result,
Americans pay an 80% penalty relative to the rest of the world to support the scam. The US medical
scam industry exacts a private tax of 18-19% of GDP, while in the rest of the civilized world,
medical care costs only 10-11% of GDP.
It just doesn’t get any simpler than that. But the American people have been brainwashed by the
massive industry propaganda machine, and corrupted by the massive bribery of a slight majority of
people who get coverage without having to pay out of pocket. If they never see the cost, the can’t
understand the cost. Meanwhile, 15% of us go without, too rich or too young to qualify for
government insurance, and either not healthy enough or not rich enough to pay for private insurance.
Obamacare does not address the true nature of the problem of excessive cost.
[SOURCE: Barry Ritholtz |
the big picture blog | 4 December 2012]
|Monday, 3 December 2012 at 19h 47m 16s|
I'm so glad global warming is a hoax
Over all, global emissions jumped 3 percent in 2011 and are expected to jump 2.6 percent in 2012,
researchers reported in two papers released by scientific journals on Sunday. It has become routine
to set new emissions records each year, although the global economic crisis led to a brief decline
The level of carbon dioxide, the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, has increased
about 41 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and scientists fear it could
double or triple before emissions are brought under control. The temperature of the planet has
already increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1850.
Further increases in carbon dioxide are likely to have a profound effect on climate, scientists say,
leading to higher seas and greater coastal flooding, more intense weather disasters like droughts
and heat waves, and an extreme acidification of the ocean. Many experts believe the effects are
already being seen, but they are projected to worsen.
[SOURCE: Justin Gillis & John M Broder | New York
Times | 2 December 2012]
|Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 19h 54m 6s|
The history of dealing with financial crises goes back to before the constitution. Dealing with
them has always taken ingenuity, and some form of economic rebalancing.
the central principle for understanding macroeconomic policy has been that everything is different
when you’re in a liquidity trap. In particular, the whole case for fiscal stimulus and against
austerity rests on the proposition that with interest rates up against the zero lower bound, the
central bank can neither achieve full employment on its own nor offset the contractionary effect of
spending cuts or tax hikes.
This isn’t hard, folks; it’s just Macro 101. Yet a large number of economists — never mind
politicians or policy makers — seems to have a very hard time grasping this basic concept.
A Liquidity trap occurs
when investment opportunities are not attracted by low interest rates, and thus economic growth
cannot be stimulated by simply making borrowing less expensive.
[SOURCE: Paul Krugman | New York Times | 1
|Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 15h 54m 35s|
Learning styles is bunkum ???
Apparently there is no substance to the belief that people have different "learning styles." This
surprises me, but I'll defer to the scientists while I assess their study.
Research has never been able to back up that which seems so obvious in the classroom. Studies reveal
that under controlled conditions, there is actually no difference in the way people respond to
visual, auditory or kinesthetic modes of teaching
According to science, our brains all learn in pretty much the same way. What does differ between
students is background knowledge, areas of greater or lesser ability and areas of more or less
interest. All of these factors affect how well people learn
Incorporating variety in lessons, then, and even sensory variety, is an excellent approach to
increasing understanding across the board -- but not because students have inherent, sense-based
learning styles. Variety helps because students come with different knowledge bases, talents and
interests -- and because it can help keep them awake during math class
Psychologist Dan Willingham at the University of Virginia, who studies how our brains learn, says
teachers should not tailor instruction to different kinds of learners. He says we're on more equal
footing than we may think when it comes to how our brains learn. And it's a mistake to assume
students will respond and remember information better depending on how it's presented.
For example, if a teacher believes a student to be a visual learner, he or she might introduce the
concept of addition using pictures or groups of objects, assuming that child will learn better with
the pictures than by simply "listening" to a lesson about addition.
In fact, an entire industry has sprouted based on learning styles. There are workshops for teachers,
products targeted at different learning styles and some schools that even evaluate students based on
This prompted Doug Rohrer, a psychologist at the University of South Florida, to look more closely
at the learning style theory.
When he reviewed studies of learning styles, he found no scientific evidence backing up the idea.
"We have not found evidence from a randomized control trial supporting any of these," he says, "and
until such evidence exists, we don't recommend that they be used."
Willingham suggests it might be more useful to figure out similarities in how our brains learn,
rather than differences. And, in that case, he says, there's a lot of common ground. For example,
variety. "Mixing things up is something we know is scientifically supported as something that boosts
attention," he says, adding that studies show that when students pay closer attention, they learn
And recent studies find that our brains retain information better when we spread learning over a
longer period of time, say months or even a year, versus cramming it into a few days or weeks.
Rohrer and colleagues nationwide are currently researching what teaching methods work best for all
students, but only using the evidence.
[SOURCE: Cedar Riener & Daniel Willingham | Change
magazine | Sept-Oct 2010]
[SOURCE: Patti Neighmond | NPR | 29 August 2011]
[SOURCE: Julia Layton | How Stuff
Works | 1 December 2012]
Cedar Riener is an assistant professor of psychology at Randolph-Macon College.
Daniel Willingham is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. He blogs at the
Washington Post and is the author of Why Don't Students Like School?
|Friday, 30 November 2012 at 20h 1m 34s|
The don't care about the debt
It's just a subterfuge to disguise what they are really after. A Trojan Horse.
One of the Fix the Debt campaign’s main proposals for deficit reduction is creating a “territorial
tax system” that would enable corporations to evade taxation on offshore earnings—which amounts to a
combined $418 billion from the Fix the Debt member corporations—when they bring that money home, and
giving themselves a $134 billion tax break, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy
Studies titled “The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks.”
Just to be clear, they are talking about paying off the national debt by pocketing $134 billion in
And that’s just from Fix the Debt corporate signatories. Taken as a whole, the S&P 500 currently has
an estimated $1.5 trillion in revenues in offshore havens. That’s roughly the size of the national
debt in 2009.
You should read the entire article.
[SOURCE: Jonathan Valania | Philly
Magazine | 29 November 2012]
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