Americans (finally) have healthcare reform!!
03.21.2010
08:21 pm

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Economy
Heroes
History
Politics

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USA

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Proud to be an American today! This is a wonderful thing for the people of this country. What a great day to be alive.

The Republican Party has been routed for a generation—or forever—and they know it. Now onwards to financial reform!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Anthem Blue Cross: Screwing Californians for Profits

 
Effective short film from Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films (who I know through my days at Disinformation, of course) that exposes the evil, predatory practices of the very insurance company where I have my own individual policy, Anthem Blue Cross of California. Each month I pay an exorbitant fee—which is about to be nearly doubled—and I’ve not been in the hospital since I was born. And it doesn’t cover anything, not even name brand prescriptions! I plan to switch over to Kaiser-Permanante as soon as possible. I hate Anthem Blue Cross. It’s run by a bunch of vile assholes.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Greece is the word
02.25.2010
10:50 pm

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Current Events
Economy

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Am I just missing it or has the situation in Greece—2 million people, which is about 40% of the workforce, walked off their jobs in protest over cuts in governmental programs—gotten precious little press coverage in the American media? (I know, I know, healthcare and the Olympics). Considering that this is literally a crisis that could split the Eurozone—and have terrible consequences in Spain, Portugal, Italy and beyond—shouldn’t Americans be paying more attention to this?

It certainly seems more dangerous than the Asian Contagion crisis of 1997.

And Greeks know how to riot properly:

Tens of thousands of striking Greek workers took to the streets today, some throwing stones at police, in a defiant show of protest against austerity measures aimed at averting the debt-plagued country’s economic collapse.

Riot police responded with teargas when, in sporadic bursts, masked youths charged them in Athens city centre. The violence coincided with a general strike that shut down public services and closed off Greece to the outside world.

For trade unions the mass show of force was a warning shot to a government struggling to satisfy its eurozone partners with policies deemed vital for the nation’s fiscal health while appeasing angry workers at home.

“This is the red line,” said Nikos Goulas, head of a union that represents 20,000 workers at Athens international airport. “Greece is not Ireland. If the government does not back down there will be huge unrest,” he added, holding a banner that proclaimed: “As much as you terrorise us, these measures won’t pass.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Detroit Schools To Offer Walmart 101
02.12.2010
12:46 pm

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Economy

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It’s hard to read this RawStory article and not think we’ve reached some kind of consumerist event horizon, or that we’re now witnessing some final, absurdist connecting of the dots between education and capitalism.  Back in ‘08, President Obama condemned Hillary Clinton for serving on the board of Walmart, a company notorious for its low-paying, dead-end jobs.

Those same jobs, though, are becoming increasingly welcome in a cities like Detroit where unemployment rate have rocketed up to an alarming 50%.  Well, the Detroit solution seems as sad as it is inevitable:

Four inner-city high schools have decided that employment with Walmart is an opportunity worth training their students to pursue.  The schools have teamed up with the giant merchandiser to offer a for-credit class in job-readiness training that also includes entry-level after-school jobs.  According to the Detroit Free Press, the principal at one of the schools optimistically suggested that “the program will allow students an opportunity to earn money and to be exposed to people from different cultures—since all of the stores are in the suburbs.”

The announcement of the program outraged Donna Stern, the Midwest coordinator for the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights And Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN).  “They’re going to train students to be subservient workers” she told the Free Press.  “This is not why parents send them to school.”

Ah, yes, exposing inner-city kids to the “wild diversity” common to all suburban areas, that’s the Walmart goal!

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Discussion
John Michael Greer: Becoming a Third World Country
02.11.2010
02:19 pm

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Economy

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Archdruid John Michael Greer on the slow descent of America to Third World status by the end of the decade.

In the course of writing last week’s Archdruid Report post, I belatedly realized that there’s a very simple way to talk about the scope of the brutal economic contraction now sweeping through American society – a way, furthermore, that might just be able to sidestep both the obsessive belief in progress and the equally obsessive fascination with apocalyptic fantasy that, between them, make up much of what passes for thinking about the future these days. It’s to point out that, over the next decade or so, the United States is going to finish the process of becoming a Third World country.

I say “finish the process,” because we are already most of the way there. What distinguishes the Third World from the privileged industrial minority of the world’s nations? Third World nations import most of their manufactured goods from abroad, while exporting mostly raw materials; that’s been true of the United States for decades now. Third World economies have inadequate domestic capital, and are dependent on loans from abroad; that’s been true of the United States for just about as long. Third World societies are economically burdened by severe problems with public health; the United States ranks dead last for life expectancy among industrial nations, and its rates of infant mortality are on a par with those in Indonesia, so that’s covered. Third World nation are very often governed by kleptocracies – well, let’s not even go there, shall we?

There are, in fact, precisely two things left that differentiate the United States from any other large, overpopulated, impoverished Third World nation. The first is that the average standard of living here, measured either in money or in terms of energy and resource consumption, stands well above Third World levels – in fact, it’s well above the levels of most industrial nations. The second is that the United States has the world’s most expensive and technologically complex military. Those two factors are closely related, and understanding their relationship is crucial in making sense of the end of the “American century” and the decline of the United States to Third World status.

(Archdruid Report: Becoming a Third World Country)

(The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
Under the Neon: Mole People of Las Vegas
02.09.2010
05:26 pm

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Photograph by Austin Hargrave
 
Al Jazeera English’s Witness takes a fascinating look at how the homeless survive in Sin City’s underground tunnels:

“Under the Neon” is an extraordinary journey below the surface of the bright lights of Las Vegas, to meet some of the city’s homeless people who are battling to make a home for themselves under the streets of gold in the city’s storm-drains and tunnels.

 

 
(via Mister Honk)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
No, I expect deflation, Mr. Bond
01.31.2010
06:59 pm

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Economy

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George Soros tells Davos summit gathering that gold is now “the ultimate,” most worrisome, of financial asset bubbles. Scarily-accurate stock analyst Robert Prechter believes that if deflation takes hold, then gold could see a breathtaking 40% drop in value. This will not be a good thing. Not at all.

Earlier this week Robert Prechter of Elliott Wave told CNBC that this is perhaps the last chance to get out of stocks with the DJIA in quintuple digits. He also believes that stocks will fall below the March 2009 lows.  Prechter believes that if deflation comes, gold could see a 40% drop from its peak.  He feels gold is overbought and starting a new bear move there anyway.

George Soros called gold the ultimate bubble in Davos.  The billionaire said specifically that gold was in the midst of the ultimate bubble and that with low-interest rates the world financial policymakers are running a risk of making new bubbles .  He even noted that when rates are low there are conditions for asset bubbles to form, and he said these are in development now.  Soros said, The ultimate asset bubble is gold.

 
Soros & Prechter: A Gold Bubble Ripe To Burst? (24/7 Wall Street)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
The Amazon.com of weed?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Fabled Bodhi Tree bookstore closes after four decades
01.13.2010
04:11 pm

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Books
Current Events
Economy
Pop Culture

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Los Angeles

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Sadness in the streets! The Bodhi Tree, one of the best bookstores, period, and THEE very best New Age and Spirituality bookstore anywhere on the planet is closing. Although in recent years I’ve not gone there nearly as much as I used to, in the mid-90s, I went to the Bodhi Tree every single Saturday morning without fail and poured over the shelves of the used books annex. There I found Leary first editions, tons of rare Crowley and even signed firsts of Terence McKenna’s The Invisible Landscape and True Hallucinations. I’d comb through this store sometimes twice a week. For book hounds into the occult and weirdo culture in general, the Bodhi Tree was like an intellectual candy shop. I felt great pride to see my own books and DVDs for sale there. But sadly, those days have passed. With Amazon and Barnes & Noble taking massive bites out of the profits of niche booksellers—Shirley MacLaine probably shops on Amazon—it’s hard to run a business on fumes. Even storied operations like the Bodhi Tree, in the end have their life cycles. I wonder what it will reincarnate as?

From the LA Weekly:

Owners Phil Thompson and Stan Madson informed their staff last Wednesday that the cozy Melrose Avenue shop, a nationally renowned and much beloved spiritual center, will be shutting its doors in a year’s time.

After some eight months of discussion, Thompson and Madson decided to sell the property to a local business owner who leases space to several other nearby retailers. The Bodhi Tree opened in 1970. Land values in the area have risen dramatically since then. Meanwhile, the business of selling print books has been on a steady decline. For years, real estate agents had been circling the Bodhi Tree like vultures. In the end, selling the property became a much more profitable option than continuing to sell books.

Thompson and Madson started the bookstore when they were in their 30’s. They are now both in their early 70’s. They were aerospace engineers who left a life of science for one of contemplation and meditation.

“Twenty years ago we felt like it was an expanding situation,” says Madson. “We were concerned the store was getting too big. We had a staff of 100. Publishing was expanding. Spirituality was expanding. But what changed was that the market became widely dispersed.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Now what?
01.04.2010
05:39 pm

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Economy

Tags:
The way we live now

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U.S. growth prospects deemed bleak in new decade. A dismal job market, a crippled real estate sector and hobbled banks will keep a lid on U.S. economic growth over the coming decade, some of the nation’s leading economists said on Sunday.

And by leading economists, they mean Joseph Stiglitz, he of the Nobel prize, and people of that rarefied caliber. Here, have some more:

Many predicted U.S. gross domestic product would expand less than 2 percent per year over the next 10 years. That stands in sharp contrast to the immediate aftermath of other steep economic downturns, which have usually elicited a growth surge in their wake.

“It will be difficult to have a robust recovery while housing and commercial real estate are depressed,” said Martin Feldstein, a Harvard University professor and former head of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Housing was at the heart of the nation’s worst recession since the 1930s, with median home values falling over 30 percent from their 2005 peaks, and even more sharply in heavily affected states like California and Nevada.

The decline has sapped a principal source of wealth for U.S. consumers, whose spending is the key driver of the country’s growth pattern. The steep drop in home prices has also boosted their propensity to save.

“It’s very hard to see what will replace it,” said Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate and professor of economics at Columbia University. “It’s going to take a number of years.”

And blah, blah, fucking blah. I’ve read so many articles on America’s decline in the past three years that I’m getting bored to tears with them. I think this will be my last post on the economy for some time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as convinced as the next guy that everything is in a hell of a mess, believe you me. I’m just sick and tired of reading about it. How many different ways can the media parse the main event: things suck, “the system” has run out of gas and it’s likely to stay that way for a long, long time unless something unforeseen happens.

And like what? What would prompt economic growth in America today? See any likely industrial contenders? Ones that none of the rest of us have heard of?

But I’m done with it. I get it and I am over it. I want to start reading reading about what we’re going to DO about it. I mean how will we live? This is what the next conversation needs to be about. While capitalism isn’t exactly finito yet, it’s running on fumes and anyone with half a brain can see that it will be a greatly diminished capitalism moving forward, with the world’s largest economy, run as it is on consumer spending, rampant, unbridled debt and obese greed, now a reluctant mare, unable to drag the rest of the world behind it. Maybe for good this time. We don’t know yet.

And when I read about how the “new” Republican party and these knucklehead teabaggers clamoring for a return to the ideological conservative purity of the Reagan era where all it took was a whopping good tax cut to to right all of our wrongs, I gotta say it, these people seem as dumb as shit to me. Are they living in the same country that the rest of us are living in?

It’s about time America turns off the FOX News and gets used to the idea of Socialism and get used to the idea quickly. Because we can all agree to agree on something—like we’rel doomed—and get organized—fast—or people are going to get hurt, and go hungry and lack health care. How much longer can the government wait before they start to at least make plans to make plans about all these stubbornly unemployed people?!?!

Here is a handful of articles from recent weeks that are coming at it from different angles, but they all agree that things suck and we better get used to it:

U.S. growth prospects deemed bleak in new decade (Reuters)

A Decade of Self-Delusion (Pat Buchanan writing in Human Events)

An Empire at Risk: How Economic Weakness Endangers the U.S. and The U.S.-China Economic Partnership is Through (both by Niall Ferguson, writing in Newsweek)

So there you have it. Case closed. Happy New Decade and probably at least part of the one beyond that barring some sort of unexpected miracle.

What are we going to do next? How are we going to live? This is what we need to be asking each other.

Talk amongst yourselves. And play nice.

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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