Wealth and Income Inequalities are Markers of Oligarchy

  • Posted on: 6 June 2011
  • By: Tony Wikrent

Cross-posted from Real Economics. Posted on ePluribus Media at 2011-06-05 22:33:23 -0400. Bumped and promoted. - GH

At the beginning of the American experiment in self-government, concentrations of wealth and large inequalities in income and wealth were viewed suspiciously as dangerously subversive vestiges of the royalty and oligarchies of Europe. But today, conservatives would have us believe, concentrations of wealth and inequalities in income and wealth should be viewed as the natural result of a social Darwinian struggle between those who work hard, and those who do not. Thus are Americans slowly but steadily being led to acceptance of the rise of a new oligarchy,

wages vs productivity
CEO pay vs others

In one of the most famous of the Federalist Papers, No. 10, James Madison discussed the problem of factions, and noted that they most often arise based on economic interests. In preparation for the Constitutional Convention, Madison made notes of the defects of the Articles of Confederation. Vices of the Political System of the United States These short notes amplify and clarify Madison’s thinking on the formation of a new government. Here is a section dealing with the problem of emerging oligarchies:



U.S. Postal Service on the brink of insolvency

  • Posted on: 5 June 2011
  • By: standingup

The latest issue of Businessweek brings us the dire situation facing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). First a glimpse of the scope of the USPS from The U.S. Postal Service Nears Collapse.

The USPS is a wondrous American creation. Six days a week it delivers an average of 563 million pieces of mail—40 percent of the entire world's volume. For the price of a 44¢ stamp, you can mail a letter anywhere within the nation's borders. The service will carry it by pack mule to the Havasupai Indian reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Mailmen on snowmobiles take it to the wilds of Alaska. If your recipient can no longer be found, the USPS will return it at no extra charge. It may be the greatest bargain on earth.

It takes an enormous organization to carry out such a mission. The USPS has 571,566 full-time workers, making it the country's second-largest civilian employer after Wal-Mart Stores (WMT). It has 31,871 post offices, more than the combined domestic retail outlets of Wal-Mart, Starbucks (SBUX), and McDonald's (MCD). Last year its revenues were $67 billion, and its expenses were even greater. Postal service executives proudly note that if it were a private company, it would be No. 29 on the Fortune 500.

How big are these problems?

Sunday Morning Open Thread: Fractured Fragments - Classical poem meets classic video game mashup, xkcd Edition

  • Posted on: 5 June 2011
  • By: Open Thread

Now that was something I never thought I'd do: put the name "Emily Dickinson" in the same tagline as "Grand Theft Auto." Gotta love me some xkcd. He's at least as twisted as I am.

The Carriage
Click to enlarge. Attribution: xkcd.1

Now that's an image that's sure to cause a few folks to think about Emily Dickinson's work a little differently from now on.

Footnote references only over the fold.



Reunited: A lost dog reunites with it's family after six months lost and 1200 miles travelled

  • Posted on: 4 June 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

It's a great story: in November of 2010, a dog disappeared from his yard in Colorado. Six months later, he turns up in a shelter in California - 1200 miles away.

The video shows the reunion.

People and their pets often form a unique bond. For some, it's companionship. For others, work. Still others, it's a bit of both. In many ways, a pet can become an essential helper and family member. An unexpected loss can be very hard to deal with...and an unexpected reunion can be one of life's little miracles.

Hat-tip Life with Dogs.


Schadenfreude: Foreclosing on the Foreclosers - Biting Bank of America in the Assets

  • Posted on: 4 June 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

For anyone wondering what a good example of schadenfreude may be: this is. From the Daily Kos diary by Unit Zero, which first brought the story to my attention:

Warren and Maureen Nyerges purchased a house from Bank of America for cash, never getting nor needing a Mortgage. BoA in its infinite wisdom screwed up and issued a foreclosure through their attorney. The Nyerges fought and sued the bank, finally winning a judgment after a year and a half of legal wrangling. The Collier County Judge ordered the bank to pay the Nyerges legal fees of $2,534 for the "error". Five months later the bank had still not paid the judgment, so the Nyerges had their attorney do what the bank would have done, seize their assets.

This is one of the few times that one might interchange the term "schadenfreude" with "justice."


Bank of America, one of the crown princes of the Thieves Guild, has a habit of foreclosing on the wrong properties.



Elementary Geometry: The Food Pyramid buried in favor of "MyPlate"

  • Posted on: 4 June 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

On Thursday, June 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled its new symbol of balanced nutrition, called MyPlate. It replaced the outdated Food Pyramid that has been with us in one form or another since 1992. From a column by William Neuman, published on the New York Times website on May 27 - before the official unveiling - we can get an idea of some of the reasoning behind the new imagery:

It consists of four colored sections, for fruits, vegetables, grains and protein, according to several people who have been briefed on the change. Beside the plate is a smaller circle for dairy, suggesting a glass of low-fat milk or perhaps a yogurt cup.

Few nutritionists will mourn the passing of the pyramid, which, while instantly recognized by millions of American school kids, parents and consumers, was derided by nutritionists as too confusing and deeply flawed because it did not distinguish clearly between healthy foods like whole grains and fish and less healthy choices like white bread and bacon.

In a piece by Dallas Duncan of The Gainesville Times entitled Clean dinner plate replaces food pyramid: Experts weigh in on government's new dietary guidelines, published a day following the official unveiling, we learn a few more things about MyPlate:

The image advises people to eat smaller portions, reduce sodium intake, drink water and low-fat or fat-free milk and increase intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

"This is a lot more user-friendly," Hall County Schools Nutrition Coordinator Jennifer Teems said. "It's easy for kids to look at and say, ‘This is what should be on my plate.'"

Teems said the only thing she would change on MyPlate was to feature pictures of food.

"It is not perfect of course, because it doesn't handle mixed foods, but it is better than the pyramid," Crawley said. "I wish it gave a size for the plate. Most dinner plates are huge now and may result in overeating."

Everyone's tastes are different, so the new image may or may not be palatable to some, but most appear to agree that it's a definite improvement over the Food Pyramid...and, in particular, the most recent incarnation of the pyramid, which was called MyPyramid.

You can go check out the new symbol and nutrition guidelines at ChooseMyPlate.gov.



Open Thread: Still going after trial lawyers? USA v Johnny Reid Edwards

  • Posted on: 3 June 2011
  • By: Open Thread

One of the raisons d'etre of the Bush White House and for the general ascendance of the Republican revolt, in particular, was the rubric of 'civil justice reform'.

Big business dislikes paying out on tort damage judgements because of the bad publicity and, well, to be honest, just because their shareholders don't like to give up profits.

So, as Karl Rove got his gig together, the Republicans increasingly made their chief objective that of their funders, making the judicial system a friendlier place for profitability.

A federal grand jury indicted two-time presidential candidate John Edwards on Friday over massive sums of money spent to keep his mistress in hiding during the peak of his 2008 campaign for the White House.

...The case of USA v Johnny Reid Edwards contains six counts: one count of conspiracy, four counts of illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements. The indictment was returned in the Middle District of North Carolina.

John Edwards is a trial laywer. 

Daily News - McClatchy Headlines for Thursday June 2, 2011

  • Posted on: 2 June 2011
  • By: Roxy

Oh, How Helpful!

  • Posted on: 1 June 2011
  • By: Aaron Barlow

In his 1973 book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney demolished the idea that outsiders can come to Third World countries and bring them out into the developed world.  Our "help," as that help is almost always offered, is almost always counterproductive, leading to a culture of dependency, not enabling independence and growth, as the helpers might believe.  I discovered the truth of that during my own time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the late 1980s, and wrote about it with another former Peace Corps Volunteer, Bronwyn Hughes, a few years later.  

We described how it was best that outsiders from the developed world seek initiative locally and support it rather than bringing in their own ideas about what would work for a community not their own.  Our piece first appeared in an online journal that no longer exists.  Later, in 2007, it was republished in the ePluribus Media Journal.  Called "Nothing New: A Small Enterprise Development Project in West Africa," it can be found here.

The New-Economy Movement

  • Posted on: 1 June 2011
  • By: Tony Wikrent

Long-time activist Gar Alperovitz has an interesting article in The Nation about the emerging structure of "The New-Economy Movement.," a mostly uncoordinated group of non-profits companies and foundations, and citizen co-operatives, that have explicitly rejected the central tenet of modern Anglo-American capitalism that the profit motive reigns supreme. These are new, and some old, "institutions whose priorities are broader than those that typically flow from the corporate emphasis on the bottom line."

Among groups mentioned are the The American Sustainable Business Council, an alliance of 150,000 business professionals and thirty business organizations, whose "members are “triple bottom line” companies and social enterprises committed to the environment and social outcomes as well as profits"; the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE); and Mondragon, one of the largest and most successful cooperative enterprises in the world, based in the Basque region of Spain, with almost 100,000 workers.

Alperovitz notes that these types of organizations are signs of a growing realization that our current economic system is not sustainable. The financial and economic crisis of the past three years has forced more and more people to question the basic principles of Anglo-American capitalism and its over-weening emphasis on profit.



A Silly Season Upon Us?

  • Posted on: 31 May 2011
  • By: Aaron Barlow

The supposed "scandal" related to Representative Anthony Weiner's Twitter account is allowing this rather outspoken congressperson's many enemies to try to give legs to something that fell apart almost as soon as it was attempted.  This is where our politics has returned, to its low point in the early days of the Republic when the purpose was to trash, not to convince.

No one was fooled by this silly attempt to tar Weiner, not even his political enemies.  Yet they are still trying to use it to tarnish his reputation.

Michael Collins: Things are Different (and sometimes much better) in the East

  • Posted on: 31 May 2011
  • By: MichaelCollins

Michael Collins

The nation formerly known as the Ottoman Empire is building a strong foundation for a bright future. That nation is also addressing its scandalous recent past as it reaches out to old enemies. The dynamics producing real change in Turkey are well worth understanding. Turkey is on a path to rapid economic growth, cultural liberalization, and will emerge as a key player in world affairs.

The Turkish people elected a new government in 2002. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became Prime Minister after his AK Party gained an absolute majority in the nation's unicameral legislature. The United States corporate media tagged the AK party as a threat to Turkey's secular democracy. This is, as usual, a perversion of the political and social realities.

Here are the key elements contributing to Turkey's success.


Memorial Day

  • Posted on: 30 May 2011
  • By: susie dow

The small town I grew up in was founded in the early 1700's. Pre-Revolutionary War - better known amongst my friends as the Shot-Heard-Round-the-World-War. A name that evoked a war worthy of Orson Wells. And predecessor in our minds to World War 1 and 2. (Rock solid logic of a 6-year old.)

Each Memorial Day, small American flags were placed on the graves of the veterans from wars past. Far too many wars, some of them now long forgotten. There were cast iron rods with stars set into the ground to hold the flags. I hope they haven't all been stolen by now. There was a problem with looting gravestones back in the 1980's. Antique dealers have no honor when it comes to the dead.

I can remember skipping through the wet grass of the cemetery to look at the flags and read the names on the gravestones. It took effort to watch out for dips and hollows where unsteady ground was evidence of a collapsed casket buried deep under ground.

The gravestones had lovely penmanship chiseled into the slate with winged smiling skulls of the late 1700's hovering over the deceased. The veterans names on the old stones sounded so exotic to me as a child, like Ebeneezer and Elijah. Far more interesting than their modern equivalents of Bob and Ben.

The Common, where a small group of veterans would form a line, salute and raise a flag, still held an old cannon. Yet another childhood plaything - sometimes a horse, sometimes a rocket. On occasion, someone would dig up an old cannonball somewhere - though a relic of what war was a mystery. The Revolution never did make it to our little corner of the world.

Those days, the flags would stay in the graveyard through July 4th. Somebody - I don't know who - collected the little flags shortly after Independence Day. Some things, even a kid could figure out, no one ever stole a flag.


When George done good: Celebrating Rosa Parks, and her work toward a more perfect union

  • Posted on: 29 May 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

I'm not a fan of George W. Bush or his two terms as President. He wasn't the primary culprit for those dark times, but he was - and remains - the figurehead.

But he, himself, was not the utter failure that his party and cronies were; he did some good. One example: his commemoration of Rosa Parks. To the Wiki:

On October 30, 2005, President George W. Bush issued a proclamation ordering that all flags on U.S. public areas both within the country and abroad be flown at half-staff on the day of Parks' funeral.

Metro Transit in King County, Washington placed posters and stickers dedicating the first forward-facing seat of all its buses in Parks' memory shortly after her death,[53] and the American Public Transportation Association declared December 1, 2005, the 50th anniversary of her arrest, to be a "National Transit Tribute to Rosa Parks Day".[54] On that anniversary, President George W. Bush signed Pub.L. 109-116 , directing that a statue of Parks be placed in the United States Capitol's National Statuary Hall. In signing the resolution directing the Joint Commission on the Library to do so, the President stated:

By placing her statue in the heart of the nation's Capitol, we commemorate her work for a more perfect union, and we commit ourselves to continue to struggle for justice for every American.[55]

Rosa Parks died of natural causes at the age of 92 on October 24, 2005, about 7:00 pm EDT; she lived in Detroit.



The Truth About the Confederacy

  • Posted on: 29 May 2011
  • By: Tony Wikrent

Originally posted April 10, 2011 on CorrenteWire and DailyKos. Posted to ePluribus Media 2011-05-29 11:33:17 -0400 - bumped and promoted. -- GH

The 150th anniversary of the Fort Sumter bombardment that formally began the Civil War is tomorrow, and wrong-wingers throughout the South and the rest of America are fixing a big celebration. There’s going to be a seemingly infinite issuance of blogs, articles, radio interviews, and television appearances that will proffer a prettified picture of a brave and stolid South, courageously defending the “true conservative Constitutional” principles of states rights, individual responsibility, and limited government.

If you’re one of the many Americans who don’t really know that much about the Civil War, you have probably been perplexed by the number of wrong-wing Republican politicians who have made open statements of admiration the past year or two for the Confederate ideas of states rights and secession. This very lengthy diary is designed to fully inform you what the Confederacy was really like – a society suffering acutely from class differences; a society ruled by a slave holding oligarchy that was sickeningly arrogant and grasping, as well as racist. A number of myths about have been developed about the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy for over a century, and those myths and lies are probably going to be repeated so often the coming days and weeks that you’re going to want to puke. My intent for this diary is to help shatter those myths and lies.