The Money March of 2009

To stop the banks, Americans are planning creative actions all over the country for April 11. Check ZIP here.

Adam Smith Warned Against Subprime Lending

Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations, advocated usury laws (limits on interest rates) because they would promote lending to prudent borrowers and productive projects, which was better for society as a whole. [link]

Boom of China’s Cities

The blog at NextBigFuture reveals a next very big future:

One in five of the global city dwellers will be in Chinese cities.
China in 2025 will have 221 cities of one million people; Europe has 35.
China will have 25 cities with more than 5 million people.

Cities in China by 2025

Cruddy Methods

Why did the police punish bystanders? – Times

“At 8.45pm, as the last protesters were allowed to leave, I asked the police about the tactics. One said the intention was to keep demonstrators there until all they wanted to do was head quietly home. That does not explain the slow territory squeeze.

“Another suggested that keeping the crowd until it got violent was a useful way to identify troublemakers before the G20 proper began. Those are good operational strategies. But they are not a justification. The police should not have the authority to enact collective punishment.”

Comment: “I was there to have a look at a protest but was trapped in for five hours in increasing danger. I asked a police woman what she gained from not letting my injured and innocent friend out. She replied that ‘Maybe you’ll think twice before coming to a protest’. It’s not their job to prevent protest.”

territory squeeze: a strategy called ‘the kettle‘, protesters herded into an area and kept there for hours.

“I’ve suddenly gone from being an outside observer to being one of 2000 people (not all of whom were protesters, I can assure you) trapped in the middle….”

Sloppy Targeting

We could fund a charity hospital in every city if Congress would follow through after discovering a $3 Billion jet or a $300 bolt, oh how long we wait. I’m often curious about little public attention paid to the military. Of course nothing should interfere with tactics nor with time tables or supply, and strategy belongs to rank not commentary. Policy, though, is ours. But for every death, there’s so little attention. A better world would reverse that.

Susanne Koelbl at Germany’s Spiegel summarizes Marc Garlasco who has said, “Each individual contributes something, and that’s what is executed in the end.”

Well, bitching and bellyaching is a contribution too. He studies victims and he’s not happy.

As chief of high-value targeting at the Pentagon, Marc Garlasco was in charge of the hunt for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Now, in his position as a weapons expert at Human Rights Watch, he has become a critic of the military.

Marc says weapons are loosely used, by the US and others. Battle is unnecessarily sloppy. He’s angry about the unnecessary dead.


Waiting and Finding
Jack Gilbert

While he was in kindergarten, everybody wanted to play
the tomtoms when it came time for that. You had to
run in order to get there first, and he would not.
So he always had a triangle. He does not remember
how they played the tomtoms, but he sees clearly
their Chinese look. Red with dragons front and back
and gold studs around that held the drumhead tight.
If you had a triangle, you didn’t really make music.
You mostly waited while the tambourines and tomtoms
went on a long time. Until there was a signal for all
triangle people to hit them the right way. Usually once.
Then it was tomtoms and waiting some more. But what
he remembers is the sound of the triangle. A perfect,
shimmering sound that has lasted all his long life.
Fading out and coming again after a while. Getting lost
and the waiting for it to come again. Waiting meaning
without things. Meaning love sometimes dying out,
sometimes being taken away. Meaning that often he lives
silent in the middle of the world’s music. Waiting
for the best to come again. Beginning to hear the silence
as he waits. Beginning to like the silence maybe too much.

via wood s lot

Steambed of insight

Locked in a sixteen page .pdf is a scholar’s essay exploring “Judeo-Christian thought on material property” which may reveal “untold elements of our contingent social genealogy”. While asserting “the history of new media actually predates the history of old media”, In otherwords, if we please use “a sharpened capacity for criticizing certainties” sufficient scorn for both.

The Penny Party

Perhaps I’m confused. The last thirty years or more seem odd. President Eisenhower’s warning about corrupt dominance seems to have riddled our world.

Knowledge has increased but are we smart? Trade has increased but do perks improve our lives? In the guise of less, government is far from purpose and further from understanding.

Our communities are no longer where we meet each other.

Our neighborhoods are puffed with brands of questionable value. Revenue is drained away. Margins, fees, rates, interest and taxes paid under dubious claims. Exported.

Living is suddenly costly yet inflation is controlled we’re told. Costs skyrocket for critical water, food, housing, transportation, health and education. Services fail. Tickets and potholes. Faltering buildings and forgotten repairs and lines for a clerk. Spending for outside insiders. Picnics of arrangements. A local army. A rules and abatement fiefdom, perhaps more petty. Paid more than presidents and always new vehicles.

I know experts will point to many improvements and these are true. I love expertise. But the system fails to teach. Schools are rich, but a degree is profit paid by a mother for a step still high. Even free is expensive. We first pay for advertising television then pay more to see a production! The web is next. And will somebody tell Martha style is personal and instantly lost in a mass market. We can’t buy a self.

I am glad and grateful too. For example, spring and summer, running a dog along the creek. Kids at recess. Because play is fundamental to living. As serious as politics. As important as war. But I’m worried. The elite increase. They play. We work.

We do not own our world. It’s been taken. It’s gone. We tune to media to learn less about things. Cling to pundits. Most too loud. We rarely assert our opinion, seldom our rights. Perhaps Orwell’s culture. Too few Twain and no Vonnegut to alert our common sense.

We are losing domain and gaining danger. Cameras and cards are watching now. Are we no longer a democracy? Bullies roost. So many pirates, too much poison, such silly mistakes. And of all things during these days, leaders woo and placate and want cash to woo and placate. Arrogance is common. Insisting is rare. Scientists are saying, “If we won’t care for it, Earth will take it from us.”

Too much is already taken. We are offered too little and we give too much. We are spent.

If we ever launch a new political party, we should forget the old campaigns of power and praise and know who takes each penny from our pocket.

The Penny Party. Wealth is true. Audits are honest. It’s your money too. Bravo!

Just walking

Aside of me

Just a tiny moment and take a small dream,
Just a wondrous hour and take a strong heart,
and there you’ll be,
and there you’ll be,
aside of me.

Just forgiveness,
Just forevermore,
and there you’ll be,
and there you’ll be,
aside of me.

If I could a walk a longer mile,
If I could talk a wider smile,
If I could find a deeper gold,
If I could gild a finer bold,
there you’ll be,
there you’ll be,
aside of me.

Something to do, wot?

So many markets not the mall:

There is no doubting the need for computers in emerging markets. A digital infrastructure can help these nations address the pain points that plague personal life and business interactions.

For example, if India needs to ensure education for the 200 million youth of the country, computers can complement teachers to help students learn better.

Computers can make businesses into real-time enterprises and thus make supply chains more efficient.

Computing can help governments interact better with citizens.

Even entertainment can be transformed with the availability of Massputers.

Help from a hole

We start from a simple premise: For years, our efforts in Afghanistan have lacked the resources needed to achieve our goals. And that’s why the United States has recommitted itself to a clear and focused goal — to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.

This effort cannot be America’s alone.

We could use some names

Look at the dates!

Seduced by debt Wall Street calls products,
we soared with Reagan and crashed under Bush.

Household DebtMany Lured To Many Packages
How We Funded the Republicans

So simple.

So arrogant.

So vote-boosting.

So crowd-pleasing.

But merely a scheme to lift numbers.

“It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.” – Warren Buffet

And to think, happy with our homes and energy, now they are after our health care and Social Security.

Fraud as our culture

  • Greater losses than all other forms of property crime combined… [link]
  • The exact kind of behavior that has been destroying America… [link]
  • Calculated dishonesty by people in charge at the heart of corporate scandal… [link]
  • Corporations optimized as a weapon to loot creditors and shareholders… [link]

William K. Black interviewed at Bill Moyers Journal:

MOYERS: I was taken with your candor at the conference here in New York to hear you say that this crisis we’re going through, this economic and financial meltdown is driven by fraud.

BLACK: There’s no more effective acid against trust than fraud, especially fraud by top elites, and that’s what we have.

The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own OneEconomic theory about fraud is underdeveloped…

Economists are not taught about fraud and fraud mechanisms…

Economists minimize the incidence of fraud… and the importance of fraud… for reasons of self-interest, class and ideology…

Ponzi investments, drug money laundering, the CIA, suppressed SEC investigations, and political financing… self-interest, class and ideology.

Now Black is focused on an even greater scandal, and he spares no one — not even the President he worked hard to elect, Barack Obama.

But his main targets are the Wall Street barons, heirs of an earlier generation whose scandalous rip-offs of wealth back in the 1930s earned them comparison to Al Capone and the mob, and the nickname “banksters.”

What happens after a plane crashes?

Power to fixers

BlagojevichBy one count, Illinois has seen 1,000 public-corruption convictions since 1970. Five former Illinois governors have been prosecuted during the past 44 years. [AP]

Blagojevich didn’t stumble into a gray area or cut some corners after years in office, according to the indictment — he set out from day one to abuse his authority.

While he campaigned on a promise to clean up after the scandals of the previous governor, Blagojevich and a handful of political pals were already planning to line their pockets and split the money after Blagojevich left office…

Addicted to bellyaching

Dana Blankenhorn:

The assumption of conflict, of politics as war, drives our media as well as ourselves.

The idea of compromise and common ground are lost to every single talking head on the TeeVee. There is no such thing as policy at CNN or Fox or MSNBC. There is only politics. There is only win and lose. That’s not the way the world is. That’s not even the way Washington really works, because it’s a town of owners, not renters, people who spend decades poisoning the atmosphere against one another.

The President seeks to raise us out of that darkness into the light, but it’s a project that will take more time to accomplish.

God smiles on fools, on naive children, and on the United States of America.

Time in our hands

Four-time Hugo Award Nominee Paolo Bacigalupi: I thought we were all going to live in space. Now I’m just hoping we’ll still get to keep living on Earth. [ecogeek]

Motive for us all

“The only way forward is through shared and persistent efforts to combat fear and want wherever they exist.” – Obama

Maybe this sums it.

Dead Water

Gulf Dead ZoneSloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
There are more than 450 dead zones around the world.

Roughly 7,000 square miles 8,000 square miles off Louisiana is dead.

Dead because there’s not enough oxygen to sustain fish or fauna. Dead because oxygen-devouring algae are over-nourished with run-off fertilizer!

Sources of Gulf Dead ZonesTreehugger reports:
The short version is that commercial fertilizer and animal manure in nine states—Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi—causes 70% of the problem, but it’s really specific places within these states.

And well water is dying too. Forty three million Americans – 15 percent of the population — use drinking water from private wells.

The USGS sampled 48 states and found nitrate is contaminating four percent of the wells, particularly in the Corn Belt and the Central Valley of California.

Our well water is dirtied with as many as 219 contaminants including pesticides, volatile organic compounds and fertilizers.

A first-ever national survey found flame retardant – polybrominated diphenyl ethers – in the U.S. coastal zone and Great Lakes which damages the liver and thyroid and neurological development.

Streams too have been wasted and we may not eat live well unless we stop passing the problem downstream…

Currently the Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787) would reverse the cavalier Bush-era errors that washed away rules for intermittent streams and isolated wetlands, an important vitalization of government that’s critical for both water and the health of our soil.

Gushing Sludge

The Nation uncovers sanctioned fraud:

Thanks to an obscure tax provision, the United States government stands to pay out as much as $8 billion this year to the ten largest paper companies.

Paper mills are adding diesel fuel to a process that requires none in order to qualify for tax credits.

In 2005 Congress passed, and George W. Bush signed, the $244 billion transportation bill. It included a variety of tax credits for alternative fuels such as ethanol and biomass.

It also included a fifty-cent-a-gallon credit for the use of fuel mixtures that combined “alternative fuel” with a “taxable fuel” such as diesel or gasoline.

Enter the paper industry.

Since the 1930s the overwhelming majority of paper mills have employed what’s called the kraft process to produce paper. Here’s how it works. Wood chips are cooked in a chemical solution to separate the cellulose fibers, which are used to make paper, from the other organic material in wood. The remaining liquid, a sludge containing lignin (the structural glue that binds plant cells together), is called black liquor. Because it’s so rich in carbon, black liquor is a good fuel; the kraft process uses the black liquor to produce the heat and energy necessary to transform pulp into paper. It’s a neat, efficient process that’s cost-effective without any government subsidy.

By adding diesel fuel to the black liquor, paper companies produce a mixture that qualifies for the mixed-fuel tax credit allowing them to burn “black liquor into gold”.

The industry makes more money from ‘tax credit diesel’ than from selling paper!

The Killing Nuts

[AP] Neither federal nor state laws require food manufacturers to test the safety of their products or to report any findings of contamination.

Kraft Foods Inc. detected salmonella in its pistachios more than six months ago but didn’t report the finding until last week.

CEO’s at the White House

But President Barack Obama wasn’t in a mood to hear them out. He stopped the conversation and offered a blunt reminder of the public’s reaction to such explanations. “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that.”

“My administration,” the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

All Era Have Beginnings

Obama sets dramatic goal

President Barack Obama told a European audience today that he wants “a world without nuclear weapons.”

Media are not your friends

Mike Masnick capably unwinds jargon, posting several times per day at the well known Techdirt. Here’s his exploration of our current sad media:

Tim Lee recently highlighted an interesting, but worth exploring, aside made by Will Wilkinson, talking about the concept of “journalistic capture.” You are (hopefully) aware of the concept of regulatory capture — whereby regulators effectively become tools of the industries they regulate. There are a variety of reasons behind this, in part due to the fact that industries will always have more advanced lobbying activities rather than consumers or other parties, but also due to the fact that there’s often a revolving door between regulators and the industries they regulate. That’s why industry lobbyists all too often write the bills that regulators introduce and pass. Regulators are all too happy to allow this to happen — as their main source of information about those industries comes straight from the industry reps themselves. Thus, the “need” for any particular piece of legislation is quite often presented from the industry’s viewpoint directly. Basically, since the industry controls the flow of information, the laws come out in their favor. Regulatory capture at work.

Wilkinson’s point is that something quite similar often happens with journalists and the industries or individuals they cover.

Basically, the journalists are almost entirely reliant on their sources within the industry to provide the information necessary for reporting on that industry. Thus, the insiders are able to shape the story and often have it come out to their advantage — just like laws and regulatory capture. It’s certainly not a new concept to think that journalists often become too chummy with the industry insiders they cover — but thinking of it in terms of “journalistic capture” is quite an intriguing concept which deserves more widespread recognition and discussion — especially in an era where so many people distrust journalists and are looking for sources they feel aren’t as biased.