nebris: (Away Team)
~I keep reading endless numbers of articles and essays about how Trump became president. And none of the them really seem to get it. Chris Hughes comes close, but he seems to have lost his mind. Can't blame him really, as everyone is dancing around the elephant in the room; we are in fact already IN Collapse, eg, The System is in Terminal Failure.

We are in Late Stage Capitalism. What that means is as the profit margins get narrower, The Owners need to squeeze harder to extract said profits. This has been going for a few decades now, but for the general public, the 'balloon went up' with the Crash of '09, which was the direct result of The Big Squeeze. Wall Street et al created a Housing Bubble of insane proportions via all manner of shady and even illegal marketing and accounting games.

When the shit hit the fan, they got their political lackeys to use Tax Payer Money to 'reimburse' them for their loses and left said Tax Payers out to dry. Roughly 40% of the American Middle Class Wealth was lost. FORTY PERCENT. That meant eroded tax bases, gutted pension funds, wrecked state and municipal bond portfolios.

That is what Obama inherited. And, being the Corporatist he is, he bunted economically. The perfect example is the ACA [which originated with The Heritage Foundation, a very right wing think tank]. He'd promised a Public Option over and over and over again on the campaign trail. Withing a month of his Inauguration, it had vanished, forcing thirty million Americans into the clutches of the Insurance Industry. [see The Big Squeeze]

Eight years later, after more and more of that kind of betrayal from the Democrats and the insane slavering obstructionism of the GOP, the American Electorate had come to hate the establishments of both parties. And two Insurgent candidates emerged from outside of each party; Bernie and The Donald.

We all know what happened. The 'undisciplined' Dems suddenly became Very Disciplined and sandbagged Bernie. And the infamously disciplined GOP fielded a slate of total buffoons and got its clock cleaned.

Even then, Hillary should have won. She did in fact 'win' The Vote. But her ground game sucked so badly [arrogance], and the Dems had alienated so much of their own base [more arrogance], she lost four states by roughly 120K votes in total.

And that boys and girls, is how Collapse works. The System becomes so rotten that a Black Swan like The Donald can end up in the White House. Now The Deep State has to game The System [delegitimatizing it even more] in order to fix the problem and do a reset, eg a Pence White House, which while ugly, will at least be relatively stable.

But we are still in Late Stage Capitalism and Collapse is still underway and no one has any real idea what to do about that ...except, of course, More Of The Same, which is a well known definition of insanity.

Toss the now inevitable Catastrophic Climate Change into the mix and one can be certain that the next century or so is going to be 'very interesting times' indeed.

You can kill yourself now if you wish....

Nebs Sez

Jul. 24th, 2016 06:22 pm
nebris: (A Dark Boy)
Here's the Good News/Bad News regarding the 2016 Presidential Election. A Clinton II White House and a Trump White House will each suck badly, just in their own special ways. But neither one will be the fucking Apocalypse, so chill the fuck out with that noise.

That said, I'm inclined toward a Trump White House – which would almost certainly be a chaotic nightmare, as opposed to Hillary's battened down Corporatist horror show – because if he defeats Hillary, that will likely destroy the Clintonista wing of the DNC. And will almost certainly wreck the GOP in the following four years...if he doesn't say fuck it and walk away beforehand, that is. [Trust me, The Donald is perfectly capable of that]

And then maybe, just maybe, Bernie et al, could salvage something out of all that wreckage. That's the Good News.

The Bad News is that either White House will not make a great difference in the overall state of things. We are in Collapse, which is not tattooed barbarians roaming the highway, but the general break down of the Social Contract, the one where The Rulers agree to allow the rest of us to have decent lives while we allow them to be Rich and Powerful.

Extreme Climate Change, endemic economic inequality, and the final brutal stages of Capitalism are all in the pipeline and we seem incapable as a species to stop them....so we therefore get to ride them out.

Even Bernie has said – many many times over – no single President can turn that around. And I suspect we're going to see far tougher times ahead before we as a race come out the other end. And I seriously doubt the American Republic will come out of that other end with us.....

...so enjoy what you have now. What you do come November probably won't make that much of a difference in the long run.
nebris: (A Dark Boy)
EX Friend: 'Hey, I just wanted to give you a heads up that I'm ending our FB friendship.

I'm sorry, but I can't be friends with someone who--even jokingly--talks about killing people.

This message is a courtesy and a sign of respect. You may feel free to unfriend me first if you like. I wish you nothing but good things, and I truly hope you stop thinking about killing people because that's seriously unhealthy. Bye, friend.'

Moi: 'The Rich are killing us, ma'am.

Several thousand people committed suicide in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Meltdown, which was the result of The Rich 'gaming the system'. They walked away with a Bailout, tens of thousands of Americans lost their homes.

200,000 American children are homeless even as I type these words. And The Rich are fine with that. *Their* children are safe and well fed.

22 American Vets kill themselves Every Single Day, burnt out from fight wars that line the pockets of The Rich. And that is not even getting into the 1.5 million men, women and children killed in those war since 9/11.

Your 'delicate feelings' are exactly why The Left in this country fails and fails and fails. You cannot even face the concept of fighting back against the people that are killing you and will likely kill your family as well.'

Ex Friend: 'Yes. My feelings are so terribly delicate because I'm offended that you make casual statements about killing people on Facebook. Well if that makes me delicate then I'm proud to be delicate.

Enjoy your tough Facebook friends. I'm sticking with my nice ones.'

Moi: 'You've turned out to be very disappointing. I thought you were a brave artist. But, like so many others, you gave up and became Middle Class and weak.'
nebris: (A Dark Boy)
~We get by month by month. There's enough money to buy food and pay the bills. But then we get something like this...

The left rear tire has a slow leak and we have no money to do anything about it until the first. Neither of us is physically capable of putting the donut on and there's not enough cash to get the guy to come out an do that. He charges fifty bucks and that's all we got.

This fear I'm feeling in my gut is poverty. I was doing okay until I went out and saw that earlier. We were gonna 'get by' another month. Now, fuck knows...

I put air in the thing - which cost a fucking dollar - and hopefully it won't deflate so much that it becomes undrivable. I'm planning on refilling it in the morning - which will cost another fucking dollar - and then going to the tire joint in Lancaster and hope they can fix it, which would be free. I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed it don't blow out on Sierra Highway. *sigh*

This makes me want to kill Republicans. If not for Sequestration, Le-Le would have gotten her VA Disability increase by now and we'd have gotten new tires all around. I want to kill them because those mother fuckers want to kill me. *spits*
nebris: (Away Team)
By Charlie Stross
http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2011/12/seasonal-flame-bait.html

I'm off to do a reading in a few hours, and it's chilly outside, so I feel like turning up the heat. Therefore:

My view of contemporary US politics, which is that of an outsider and obviously incomplete (and possibly faulty, and subject to change) is as follows:


1. The USA is already a functional oligarchy. (Or, more accurately, a plutarchy.) It has been functioning as such for some time — since 1992 at the latest, although the roots of this system go back to before the Declaration of Independence — it's a recurrent failure mode. Historically such periods last for a few years then go into reverse. However, this time the trend has been running since 1980 or even earlier. What we're now seeing are the effects of mismanagement by the second generation of oligarchs in power; the self-entitled who were born to it and assume it to be the natural order of things.

2. It's impossible to be elected to high office without so much money that anyone in high office is, by definition, part of the 0.1%; even if they're an outsider to start with, they will be co-opted by the system (or neutralized — usually before they are elected).

3. Public austerity is a great cover for the expropriation of wealth by the rich (by using their accumulated capital to go on acquisition sprees for assets being sold off for cents on the dollar by the near-bankrupt state). But public austerity is a huge brake on economic growth because it undermines demand by impoverishing consumers. Consequently, we're in for another long depression. (The outcome of this new long depression will be the same as that of the first one: the main industrial power — then it was the UK; now it's the USA — will lose a lot of its remaining economic lead over its competitors and be severely weakened.)

4. Starving poor people with guns and nothing to lose scare the rich; their presence in large numbers is one major component of a pre-revolutionary situation.

5. Worse, the poor have smartphones. (Or will, within another couple of years. By 2020, today's iPhone 4S will be a cereal-packet-freebie grade toy. $10 for an equally powerful device, sold on a pre-pay tariff, via WalMart.) Which means a former constraint on civil unrest (media channels are expensive to run, so the oligarchy can maintain an effective choke-hold on mass media while trumpeting their support for freedom of speech) no longer holds true. See also the "Twitter revolution" (RIP) in Iran.

6. The oligarchs are therefore pre-empting the pre-revolutionary situation by militarizing the police (as guard labour). Note also that the prison-industrial complex remains profitable as long as there's a tax base on which to pay for the prison guards — or to use as collateral for loans to cover the guards' wages.

7. Modern communications technologies (including the internet) provide people with a limitless channel for self-expression (not to mention distraction— endless circuses without the bread). They also provide the police state with a limitless flow of intelligence about the people. Note also that it's possible to not merely listen in on mobile phone calls, but to use a mobile phone as a GPS-aware bugging device, and (with a bit more smarts) to have it report on physical proximity (within bluetooth range — about 20 feet) to other suspects. The flip side of social networking is that the police state knows all your acquaintances.

8. So I infer that the purpose of SOPA is to close the loop, and allow the oligarchy to shut down hostile coordinating sites as and when the anticipated revolution kicks off. Piracy/copyright is a distraction -- those folks pointing to similarities to Iranian/Chinese net censorship regimes are correct, but they're not focussing on the real implication (which is a ham-fisted desire to be able to shut down large chunks of the internet at will, if and when it becomes expedient to do so).

(Obligatory supplemental reading: The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod.)

What am I missing?
nebris: (Away Team)
~With all this #occupywallstreet stuff going on, the average citizen is once again being thrust into the middle of the political scrum. But politics is constructed in such a way as to utterly confuse and confound those who do not know its arcane rules and rituals.

Therefore, as a Public Service, I have made this simple guide to understanding how politics works. Now 'simple' does not mean 'easy'. This method involves homework. But trust me that if one sticks to this simple construct, all will be made clear in due course.

This construct consists of just five words. That's all: five words. These five words are actually two quotes from a pair of veteran players in the cutthroat politics of legalistic republics.

Cue bono [pro; Q-E bono] These first two words are a question, Latin for To whose benefit? They come from a speech by Cicero, who in turn was quoting the respected Roman consul and censor Lucius Cassius. This was twenty one centuries ago and it has since entered the language of modern jurisprudence. But it also fits perfectly for following politics. After all, the Romans did found the first Great Republic of Lawyers.

Follow the money. These last three words are an instruction. They were uttered by “Deepthroat” to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein when they were investigating the Watergate coverup. And 'following the money' blew the entire Nixon administration wide open. “Deepthroat” turned out to be Mark Felt, an Associate Director at the FBI. Mr. Felt was also a lawyer, as was nearly everyone involved in the scandal.

So, five words: “Who benefits?”-“Follow the money.” Like I said, 'simple'. Now comes the homework example: Google “Freedomworks” and “Tea Party Express” and keep following the links, all while repeating in your mind, “Who benefits?”-“Follow the money.” The personal experience of this process will explain all of this far better than any rant of mine.
nebris: (Away Team)
http://www.americablog.com/2011/10/gallup-ceo-theres-potentially.html
By Gaius Publius on 10/04/2011 01:15:00 PM

Thanks to the always informative econ writer masaccio, we find this, from James Clifton, the chairman and CEO of Gallup (the polling people).

Yes, there's a huge jobs shortfall. No, it's not a U.S. problem, it's a global problem. And no, it's not going away soon (my emphasis):

"Of the 7 billion people on Earth, there are 5 billion adults aged 15 and older. Of these 5 billion, 3 billion tell Gallup they work or want to work. Most of these people need a full-time formal job. The problem is that there are currently only 1.2 billion full-time, formal jobs in the world. This is a potentially devastating global shortfall of about 1.8 billion good jobs. It means that global unemployment for those seeking a formal good job with a paycheck and 30+ hours of steady work approaches a staggering 50 percent, with another 10 percent wanting part-time work.

This also means that potential societal stress and instability lies within 1.8 billion people, nearly a quarter of the world’s population."

Those are huge aggregate numbers, which means a lot of societal stress. Earlier the author gloomily notes:

"If countries fail at creating jobs, their societies will fall apart. Countries, and more specifically cities, will experience suffering, instability, chaos, and eventually revolution. This is the new world that leaders will confront."

Clifton calls this "America’s next war for everything" and likens it to WWII in scale and importance. (For masaccio's take, click here. It's worth a read.)

I'm not sure I agree with jobs as a primary focus for civil unrest in the rest of this century, though there's nothing minor about this problem. The lack of jobs has a cause, which makes it a symptom as well. That cause is global corporate control of economic lives and resources. This includes banks and all industries.

So while lack of jobs is one ugly tentacle of this global beast, there are others. For example, "water is the next oil" is something I'm hearing again and again, and the anti-corporate fight over water has already been joined. (Imagine a third-world farmer not being able to drill a well on his own land, because the water rights under the entire province have been sold to Global Water, Inc (a subsidiary of Koch Industries perhaps) by a corrupt and bribe-able local government. That's the coming water world.)

The "last oil" of course — which is actual oil — is still with us. If the Oil & Gas Barons can keep a lid on the social unrest (no easy task), they're perfectly placed to sell the last drop of petroleum on the planet to the increasingly desperate at an astounding price (not including the price in pollution).

What do you call it when an addict will pay you anything for what only you have? Mission Accomplished, of course. Welcome to CorpWorld, new-century edition.

So you see, it's not just jobs, though that's a huge piece of the problem. There are lots of these tentacles. And at some point in this century that problem will have to be sorted, to the bitter end. If we're lucky, it won't happen in our personal lifetimes.

But kudos to Clifton for noticing the job numbers. A 1.8 billion shortfall certainly gets your attention.

GP
nebris: (Away Team)
By Steve M, No More Mister Nice Blog
Posted on September 20, 2011
Via AlterNet


From an AP "fact check" of the arguments underlying the president's call for the so-called Buffett tax:

There may be individual millionaires who pay taxes at rates lower than middle-income workers. In 2009, 1,470 households filed tax returns with incomes above $1 million yet paid no federal income tax, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

Excuse me -- if any millionaires paid zero federal income tax, then it's inaccurate to say that there "may be" millionaires with a lower tax rate than typical middle-income workers. There are millionaires with a lower tax rate -- period, full stop. By definition, there are more than a thousand of them -- at least. So avoid the conditional, please. (The AP "fact check" doesn't tell us about millionaires who pay some federal income tax but not very much, though surely there are a number of those as well.)

****

There's also this, in the "fact check":

Obama's claim hinges on the fact that, for high-income families and individuals, investment income is often taxed at a lower rate than wages. The top tax rate for dividends and capital gains is 15 percent. The top marginal tax rate for wages is 35 percent, though that is reserved for taxable income above $379,150.

If you read this looking for "the facts," you might conclude that that 15% rate is unfair, but only to somewhat less rich people, those who make more than $379,150. What the "fact check" leaves out is that it's unfair to middle-income people. Here are the current marginal tax rates. Notice how much -- or, rather, how little -- money you can make and still be paying federal income tax (on at least some of it) at a higher rate than hedge-fund fat cats paying 15%:

Single Filing Status
[Tax Rate Schedule X, Internal Revenue Code section 1(c)]

10% on taxable income from $0 to $8,500, plus
15% on taxable income over $8,500 to $34,500, plus
25% on taxable income over $34,500 to $83,600, plus
28% on taxable income over $83,600 to $174,400, plus
33% on taxable income over $174,400 to $379,150, plus
35% on taxable income over $379,150.

Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow(er) Filing Status
[Tax Rate Schedule Y-1, Internal Revenue Code section 1(a)]

10% on taxable income from $0 to $17,000, plus
15% on taxable income over $17,000 to $69,000, plus
25% on taxable income over $69,000 to $139,350, plus
28% on taxable income over $139,350 to $212,300, plus
33% on taxable income over $212,300 to $379,150, plus
35% on taxable income over $379,150.

Make $65 grand as a single person and you're paying 25% on nearly half your income, while the hedge-fund guy pays 15% on his $65 million. AP could have told us that, but it's an inconvenient fact.
nebris: (Away Team)
By Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet
Posted on September 16, 2011
Alternet

The underground economy isn't just drugs and sex work--and it touches all of our lives.

The United States continues to suffer from mass unemployment, and people have had to adjust their lifestyles to the new reality—fewer jobs, lower wages, mortgages to pay that are now more than their homes are worth. Millions have dropped out of the job hunt and are trying to find other ways to sustain their families.

That's where the underground economy comes in. Also called the shadow or informal economy, it's not just illegal activity like selling drugs or doing sex work. It's all sorts of work that doesn't get regulated by the government or reported to the IRS, and it's a far bigger part of the economy than most of us are aware—in 2009, economics professor Friedrich Schneider estimated that it was nearly 8 percent of the US's GDP, somewhere around $1 trillion. (That makes the shadow GDP bigger than the entire GDP of Turkey or Austria.) Schneider doesn’t include illegal activities in his count-- he studies legal production of goods and services that are outside of tax and labor laws. And that shadow economy is growing as regular jobs continue to be hard to come by—Schneider estimated 5 percent in '09 alone.

The Young Women's Empowerment Project [PDF] describes what they call the “street economy” as “... any way that girls make cash money without paying taxes or having to show identification. Sometimes this means the sex trade. But other times it means braiding hair, babysitting, selling CDs/DVDs, drugs or other skills like sewing and laundry.”

D.A. Barber explained:

“This underground economy goes beyond the homeless collecting aluminum cans or clogging day labor halls. It includes the working poor getting cash for all forms of recycling: giving plasma, selling homemade tamales outside shopping plazas, holding yard sales, doing under-the-table work for friends and family, selling stuff at pawnshops, CD, book and used clothing stores, and even getting tips from restaurants and bars--to name a few.”

That means nearly all of us have participated in some way in the underground economy.

Yet little is known or discussed about this section of our lives, even though it touches each of us as we try to make ends meet.

Economist Edgar Feige estimated in 2009 that unreported economic activity was costing the US government $600 billion in tax revenues, and the growth in that number—from the Internal Revenue Service's 2001 estimate of $345 billion—indicates the growth of the informal economy. Reporting on Feige's work, Dennis Chaptman noted, “As the recession deepens and regular employment opportunities decline, unreported activities tend to grow, thereby swelling the tax gap and worsening the government's budget deficit.”

Workers in the underground economy can also be vulnerable to exploitation; the Monthly Review pointed out that workers, especially undocumented immigrants, are pushed into off-the-books work out of desperation and have no officials to appeal to when their conditions are horrific or their pay substandard; wages are pushed downward and expectations lowered.

Labor economist Mark Price agreed. He told me, “People enter such arrangements because of their difficulty finding formal employment. Think of undocumented immigrants that work as housecleaners or in the construction industry.”

He continued, “Employers or consumers who use workers in this way are doing so to boost profits or lower prices. Of course documented workers also can end up choosing to work in the underground economy but that choice, like the choice for the undocumented, has the same basic driver--the inability to find formal paid employment that meets a worker's needs.”

Alfonso Morales, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, told the Christian Science Monitor that off-the-books work “is probably neutral to good.” He pointed out that it is impossible to separate the informal economy from the formal. “People who make their money in unregulated businesses probably spend it in regulated ones.”

Price compared the growth of the underground economy to payday lending; “a typically undesirable practice that develops and thrives because it fills a need created by the failure of public policy to address societal needs.”

The informal economy, though, does not only consist of low-wage workers. Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, pointed out in her book Cities in a World Economy that there is also an informal economy of creative professionals. In an article titled “Cities Today: A New Frontier for Major Development” she wrote:

“In brief, the new informal economy in global cities is part of advanced capitalism. One way of putting it is that the new types of informalization of work are the low-cost equivalent of formal deregulation in finance, telecommunications, and most other economic sectors in the name of flexibility and innovation. The difference is that while formal deregulation was costly, and tax revenue as well as private capital went into paying for it, informalization is low-cost and largely on the backs of the workers and firms themselves.”

She points out that by keeping creative professional work informal, these workers avoid the corporatization of creative work, and maintain the freedom to be innovative and self-sufficient.

While these creative workers prize independence, Lisa Dodson stressed the way communities came together to help one another through tough times, often through off-the-books economic activity, in her book The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy.

In one passage, she tells the story of arriving in a small-town farmer's market in Maine, only to overhear a discussion between locals on “neighbors and the market erosion of common fairness.” She wrote:

“Just then a middle-aged woman, who had been talking to friends, suddenly turned around to face other shoppers and asked, 'What’s happening to us? Why doesn’t the government do something?' A local farmer, sorting vegetables nearby, responded immediately, 'The government is the same as the oil companies. There’s no difference. We can’t wait for them to do anything.' A young mom holding a baby as she stood in line said, 'So what do we do?' There was no single response, but they were looking at each other to find it.”

Without solutions coming from Washington or local governments, it continues to be up to working people to find a way to negotiate the rough economy. Price argued, “People shouldn't have to give up fundamental human rights like access to income in retirement or safety on the job because they need work. But in a society like ours, which tolerates high levels of unemployment, the underground economy is often the next best alternative to starving.”

While some have been able to flourish working underground, it's important to remember that most workers are not off the books to dodge paying taxes or because they prefer it that way. As we see more and more people dropping out of the formal labor market altogether in despair, the informal economy will remain a destination of last resort—and will keep growing.

Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.
nebris: (Away Team)
From CBSNEWS.com
September 19, 2011 5:50 AM

At a food pantry in a Chicago suburb, a 38-year-old mother of two breaks into tears.

She and her husband have been out of work for nearly two years. Their house and car are gone. So is their foothold in the middle class and, at times, their self-esteem.

"It's like there is no way out," says Kris Fallon.

She is trapped like so many others, destitute in the midst of America's abundance. Last week, the Census Bureau released new figures showing that nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty — a record 46.2 million people. The poverty rate, pegged at 15.1 percent, is the highest of any major industrialized nation, and many experts believe it could get worse before it abates.

The numbers are daunting — but they also can seem abstract and numbing without names and faces... )
nebris: (A Dark Boy)
~I was going to write a post about the possible SoCal grocery workers strike and how I had to cross the picket lines last time because I was homeless and that the whole fucking thing seems to turning on healthcare costs but I'm sick of fighting with Libertarian sociopaths over this shit and will spend the energy working on The Explanation instead.

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