Thursday, November 13, 2014

(Bye Bye Blue Dawgs But No Thank You for New Dims Gift)   Obstruction Pays Off for Republicans (F*cks Rest of Country, So It's All GOOD!)  Market Liars Still Rule  (Dead In the USA?)  Coal Kills Thousands  (Dirty Dirty Amazon)

BREAKING (Your Attention, Please!):

U.S. Companies Now Stash $2 Trillion Overseas. That's More Than They Have Onshore

U.S. companies are for the first time holding more than $2 trillion overseas, according to an analysis that paints a bleak picture of whether that money will make its way home and the limited economic impact it would have even if it does.

Corporate cash has hit $2.1 trillion, a sixfold increase over the past 12 years, Capital Economics said, citing its own database as well as that of Audit Analytics and other sources. There is no official total, but the firm also used regulatory filings that included "indefinitely reinvested foreign earnings" to glean the total sitting outside U.S. borders.

"The latest signs suggest that, as business confidence improves in light of the continued economic recovery, U.S. firms are starting to hold less cash domestically," Capital economists Paul Dales and Andrew Hunter said in a report for clients. "However, the foreign cash piles of the largest firms have almost certainly continued to grow."

That total, while daunting in its own right, is now greater than the amount held on U.S. shores, which totals just under $1.9 trillion, according to the latest Federal Reserve flow of funds tally.

. . . during the 2004 tax holiday "most of that (untaxed, incoming from abroad) cash was used to fund dividend payouts and share buybacks rather than to boost investment." A Democratic congressional report indicated that the biggest companies receiving the benefits of $360 billion in repatriated funds actually cut a net 20,000 jobs, and that the holiday cost Treasury coffers $3.3 billion.

"This is supported by the results of a 2009 study by the (National Bureau of Economic Research), which found that every $1 that was repatriated during the tax holiday resulted in an increase of almost $1 in shareholder payouts," the Capital note said. "Around $0.80 went towards share buybacks and $0.15 to dividend payments."

Very little, then, went to hiring and reinvestment.

Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years

So, the fat cats have won and won long term it would seem to us who fear the onslaught of the Ryan Eviscerating Social Security/Rest of Public Safety Enhancing Programs Squads?

No wonder the number of voters was so low. The electorate knew (having seen solid evidence in more outsourcing and part-time job growth for six years) that the money wasn't in the U.S. for their benefit already (and that they may as well be smoking legal jays needed constantly to alleviate their pain and outrage.)

Want to know why things never seemed to change no matter the "change" that everyone thought they had voted for previously (and how its inutility has affected the electorate for both this and probably all future elections unless a real change occurs in election buying Citizens United style), why the fall of the Blue Dogs has finally occurred in the South and what has been introduced by the powerful to take its place?

Not much you don't.

Not that the members weren’t traditional values types. Most were. And they surely ran for office on those issues as well. But there is not one word in the official Blue Dog materials about social issues. The old local Democratic yellow dog institution may have been a party that openly included “traditional” views on culture and race but the new Blue Dogs were all about the Benjamins. They were, in fact, simply an arm of the Chamber of Commerce, industry and Wall Street.

. . . Howard Dean used to famously insist that the guys with confederate flags flying on their pick-ups trucks ought to be voting with the Democrats because they need health care too. And yes, you’d think so. But they haven’t done it . . .  for a whole host of reasons.

On the other hand, it didn’t help the Blue Dogs to be so “pro-business” that they sold themselves lock, stock and barrel to the financial elites either. But, as political parties are wont to do, the Democratic establishment decided that the problem was more a matter of “branding” and “messaging” than a problem of strategy or ideology. Somewhere along the line all these Southern Conservatives decided they just didn’t like those Blue Democrats as much as they like those Red Republicans so it must be the logo or the sales pitch that didn’t work.

And as it happens, in anticipation of the imminent extinction of the Dogs, they thought ahead enough to hire Dr Franken-Dem to cobble together yet another monster to take their place.
They cleverly called it the New Dem Coalition. Started back in 2005 when the Dogs started to disappear, by 2010 the new Dems had become a powerful force in the Party. In this article about the financial reform process in 2010, they were described as “a group of 69 lawmakers whose close relationship with several hundred Washington lobbyists has made their organization one of the most successful political money machines since the Republican K Street Project collapsed in 2007.”

And this is how they describe themselves on their web site:

A fiscally-responsible, moderate bloc of lawmakers dedicated to policies that foster American success, the New Democrat Coalition is a vehicle for the millions of Americans who feel unrepresented in today’s broken political process.
As you can see it’s completely different than the Blue Dogs. Except for the fact that it’s exactly the same.


The lie that social democratic parties need conservatives is basically a corporate-led mass media lie. In fact conservatives are a toxic poison for social democratic parties because they kill off participation by the community at large.

Blue dogs are there to insert corporate-controlled politicians, paid for by corporations and who end up being nothing but PR=B$ representatives for those corporations and propped up by corporate-controlled mass media.

Every single one that gains power means losing tens of thousands of grass roots supporters who hate what the blue dogs stand for. That grass roots support is essential for social democratic parties, it is what they are at their core.

The blue dog loses far more than it gains in reality and only modern corporate marketing keeps it alive.

Blue Dogs were bound to fail. I mean....If you're conservative, why vote for a conservative Democrat when you can vote for a real Republican? And if you're liberal....why choose between a vomit shake and a turd sandwich? Republicans have terrible ideas, but they're not ashamed of them. They don't run away from them. They repeat them often enough that enough rubes buy into it...and they win elections. Democrats might as well be liberals and own it. People might not agree, but they might at least respect them for not being disingenuous all the time.

There's a reason this election had the lowest % turnout in 70 years and it's not because Republicans are winning the war of ideas. They're certainly not. It's because those who want a real Progressive agenda often have no one to vote for. As a southern liberal, I lament my state being entirely controlled by Republicans; I see no end to that in my lifetime. However, the country as a whole might be better off if liberal progressive politicians stop trying to appeal to people who would never vote for them anyway and start appealing to the people who simply don't vote.

Greywolf Borealis
You do not need the South to win the White House or to control both houses of the Congress. Which is why Democrats must go back to their progressive roots.

One of the best reporters and clearest thinking, quick-witted bon vivants in the wonderful world of Progressives has solidly placed her finger on the throbbing artery of how this election has been reported by major media such as the pearl-grasping New York Times and what it preordains:

Shame, shame, shame on the voters, was the subliminal message in a New York Times editorial published on Tuesday. Shame on the stay-at-home slackers who let a combination of acrimony and apathy get in the way of handing a mandate to the most loathsome and undeserving bunch of  hacks to come along in.... well, three-quarters of a century.

The Times editorial was about as clueless as the candidates themselves, as if that were even possible.

To be fair, the writers also partially blamed negative advertising and lack of a clear message (there they go with that "narrative deficit" meme again!) on the Democrats' resounding defeat, and the anti-Obama craze and outright mendacity of Republicans for their own relative success. But the Times missed the forest for the trees: it's the plutocracy and the corruption and the influence-peddling, stupid! The Supreme Court's decision equating money with speech went totally unmentioned in the data-driven angst and Gray Lady pearl-clutching.

My published response:

 It wasn't just the disgust, the apathy, the voter suppression, the nasty TV ads. It was the mass epiphany that voting, all by itself, just doesn't mean what it used to, as in the good old days before Citizens United.

As Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens showed in their study of voting patterns, it wouldn't matter if there was an 80% turnout. Politicians pass laws based on what the wealthy want, period. What the authors call "economic elite domination" trumps democratic pluralism. Pro-change majorities get what they want only about 30% of the time, the study shows, and usually only if their desires mesh with those of the wealthy.

 For example, since the rich generally favor marriage equality as much as the average voter, we're seeing huge legislative successes in gay rights initiatives. On the other hand, since economic elites aren't too keen on a federal minimum wage or expanded Social Security, those ideas are going nowhere fast -- as are most policies that would benefit ordinary people.

So, blaming voters, telling us that "we get the government we deserve" based on apathy, or "voting against our interests" is getting mighty stale, mighty fast.

We are smarter than we're given credit for, while the intelligence of the elites who actually run this de facto oligarchy is tragically over-estimated.

 Memo to the victors with their spoils - if you think that this rigged system has given you a popular mandate, you need to think again.
And in a follow-up response to a reader who disagreed with me:

I didn't mean to suggest that we not vote at all. I can very well understand why so many people abstained, however. I voted in the meh-terms myself (albeit with some cynicism) because it was a local election, and states and counties are the only places where there is even a prayer for change., esp. with the progressive props on many ballots this year. I have also written comments and blog posts urging others to vote, with the full awareness that there are more weighted and "valuable" votes than ours being cast. So, we can't simply traipse to the polls every two and four years and then just sit back and rest and feel that we've done our entire "permitted" civic duty. 
There are plenty of other valuable ways to be a good citizen. I engage my more conservative friends in political discussions all the time.... sometimes my lefty reasoning strikes a chord, most times not, but at least I've engaged. I find there is a lot of common ground with "the other side" re Wall Street corruption and government surveillance, for example. So ... voting, boycotting, writing, protesting, picketing, striking, organizing, not giving in to the divide-and-conquer techniques the duopoly uses to maintain its power. Activism of all kinds is necessary if we have a hope of reanimating our democracy.
Very few pundits are actually talking about the duopolistic complicity of the whole corrupt system. They don't dare admit that our elected officials hold all of us in utter, sneering contempt, and that the low turnout last week is tantamount to a corporate coup. They don't dare admit that through this default "victory" our rulers hold power illegitimately. Not many of them are talking about the inconvenient truth that even with its abysmal 13% approval rating, Congress has seen the return of 95% of its members.

Admitting all of this might hasten the inevitable collapse of the fraudulent facade on top of the very real ruins of our democracy. And thus we pretend, we deflect, we scapegoat, we ignore the forest for the trees.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose we can believe in, toujours and ad infinitum.

All righty, Karen!

I'm pretty sure that if the Dems try even a mildly obstructive campaign against the Republican black tide (no, not a racist hit) getting ready to be unleashed bigtime by the Ryan Retardeds on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Disability and every other program dear to Progressives and consumer advocates that the media won't give them a pass.

Like they have the last six years to the kinder, gentler Republicans (who tried every conceivable avenue they could squeeze into to murder every Progressive and safety-net-for-the-fragile program left operating after the previous welfare-safety-net-program-eradication regime - and the people most dependent on them if at all possible).

"Obstruction has just been rewarded, in a huge way," wrote Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast.

Led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republicans vowed in 2009 to oppose every political move Obama made, not matter how sweeping or how minor. "To prevent Obama from becoming the hero who fixed Washington, McConnell decided to break it. And it worked," wrote Matthew Yglesias at Vox, in the wake of the midterm election results. New York's Jonathan Chait made a similar observation about McConnell:   "His single strategic insight is that voters do not blame Congress for gridlock, they blame the president, and therefore reward the opposition."

But why? Why don't voters blame Congress for gridlock?

Why would the president, who's had virtually his entire agenda categorically obstructed, be blamed and not the politicians who purposefully plot the gridlock? Because the press has given Republicans a pass. For more than five years, too many Beltway pundits and reporters have treated the spectacular stalemate as if it were everyday politics; just more "partisan combat." It's not. It's extraordinary.

Note the press complaint Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) logged four years ago. It was about how timid the news media were in covering Republican obstructionism. Her critique still applies today:

You guys don't write about [it], and this is what they do. I don't see it, and I take five newspapers. I don't see it on the tube, and I don't see it anywhere. It's obstruction. It's obfuscation. It's bringing the body to a halt and it's been done dozens of times. And this is one more of those times ... and they haven't gotten much criticism for it clearly or they would have stopped it.

On paper, the GOP's desperate maneuver in 2009 looked risky:  Just gum up the works of Congress and stand in the way of every proposal from the new president who was just swept into office with a public mandate for change?

Wouldn't commentators clobber the GOP for blind partisanship and hollow obstruction?

Looking back though, there was very little risk involved. There was no element of chance because within days of Obama being sworn into office, the Beltway press sent out clarion call:   If Republicans don't cooperate with the new, wildly popular president, it's the president's fault.

And that press judgment hasn't budged since 2009.

The redoubtable Michael Lewis (whose The New, New Thing I taught when it was a brand-new book over 10 years ago) documented even worse that went on in the money-mad deregulated 80's, which brought us the Savings & Loan debacle costing the taxpayers billions of dollars before the good guys were put back in charge of the rules.

I want to recommend, if you haven't read it before, Lewis' first book, Liar's Poker, which is being reprinted this year for many more salient reasons than that it's been 25 years since it first appeared. Salon gets down with Lewis about his personal history on Wall Street as well as his book's prescience:

Salon:  Wall Street was booming, the City of London, which had been sleepy for a long time, was booming as well. It seems like, looking back, it wasn’t as much of an anomaly as it was the beginning of the world we’re in now. The scenes you’ve sketched almost feel like a photographic negative of the financial crash of 2008. I wonder the extent to which you felt like you were witnessing the birth of something.

Michael Lewis:  That’s exactly how I feel. I misread it at the time. In fact, if I had read it right I might have had less energy about the book. I thought what I was doing was capturing this very bizarre moment that could not be sustained. I really thought it was freakish; this isn’t humility, this is true:   I thought, “these people are paying me hundreds of thousands of dollars to give financial advice, that’s fucking insane,” and nobody else around me was any more qualified than me. I just felt like people were going to look back and say, “Can you believe they did this?” but it turned out to be the start of a new world where this became normal.

The big trends that originated, actually, at Salomon Brothers swept over Wall Street. The proprietary trading business, and the idea of turning your partnership into a corporation, and the idea that what you’re supposed to be doing if you’re a salesman is dreaming up really, really complicated products that the customer doesn’t understand — all that starts there and then, and it just kept going. So yes, I do feel like the reason the book has continued to sell is that it speaks to people still going to Wall Street, which is bizarre.

SalonWell, some of these people are kind of charming, and they’re all colorful. Besides the financial collapse, how did these people and the world they made possible change our world? What are the long-term impacts of this fervor?

Michael Lewis:  I think the mortgage bond example is the best. At the time, even though the mortgage department was raping the clients and making reams of money, I really thought — and I do think — that this was a really, really useful innovation. It would be really great to get capital from all over the world to the American home buyer, just to lower the cost of owning a home, as long as it was done on the up-and-up, where people knew what they were lending to. It was a really good idea at the origins, but it metastasized into something that was a horrible idea. You don’t find the actual characters who dreamed up the good idea … they didn’t help metastasize it. They were there for one part of it and then it kind of got away from them.

Proprietary trading, too. There was a moment where it weirdly made some sense for the proprietary trading that was going on at Salomon Brothers to be as dominant in the firm as it was. It was really smart, and if you were a shareholder you would say keep doing it. It metastasized into an opportunity for the people who were on the sharp end of things to make huge bets, and if they worked out they got rich, and if they didn’t work out the firm suffered.

It’s a little hard to blame the people who have the idea for the consequences of the idea. There’s no way anybody in this “Liar’s Poker” foresaw what was going to happen. I can remember sitting down with one of the guys from the mortgage department, who happened to be a very senior person at Merrill Lynch when they were loading up on subprime bonds, and he got fired because he said, “We don’t do this.” He said, “This is insane” … I would say the dynamic is something like the revolution consuming the revolutionary. These particular people would have been very ill-suited to perpetrate what’s been perpetrated, basically, in the name of their ideas.

Having said that, they were obviously not sane. It was vulgar and it was rapacious, up to a point.

SalonYou’ve mentioned the huge amount of money that you were making at the time, and you were low on the totem pole and quite young there. What did money do to these people? Did it change them? Did it make them happy? Did it make you happy?

Michael Lewis:  No. One of the reasons it was so easy to leave is that I looked up and I said, “How am I going to feel 10 years from now?” I didn’t see any examples of people who seemed happy. It was more like the money owned them, rather than that they owned the money, and they came to need it. Having said that, the sums of money now seem trivial. John Gutfreund, the head of the firm, was paid $3 million a year and that was considered scandalous. Now that’s the ante for –

Salon:   I think Larry Ellison makes that on his lunch break.

I have always respected John Fogerty's political insight and musical accomplishments. Rock on, John!

The discussion within the essay by the seemingly young(?) journalist no-minds of their comprehension of the meaning of "Fortunate Son" is priceless.

Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl and the Zac Brown Band playing John Fogerty's 'Fortunate Son' at the Concert for Valor on Veteran's Day. (photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl and the Zac Brown Band playing John Fogerty's 'Fortunate Son' at the Concert for Valor on Veteran's Day. (photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Team Springsteen: Why 'Fortunate Son' Belonged at the Concert for Valor

Fogerty was drafted when he was 20 years old, in 1965, and came home from active duty two years later. In his own words, he was inspired to write “Fortunate Son” because “I did not support the policy or the war… If you asked anyone in the army at that time why we were going to Vietnam to fight, no one could answer… Probably the real answer was keeping the war machine going, and business. To sacrifice a young man’s life with no real purpose, taking these young men from their mothers and families, was wrong. I was the guy who was living this life… I had very strong feelings about all of this… To me, those soldiers were my brothers. I understood them because I was also drafted into the army just like them. The protest was against the policy, not the soldiers…

“I had been thinking about all this turmoil… It had been on my mind for some time how sons of certain senators escaped the draft. It was very upsetting to me, as a young man of draft age. In political conventions, many times, states will use the phrase “favorite son,” as they recognize their leader to make a nomination. The songwriter in me thought about this, and I changed the name to ‘Fortunate Son,’ a phrase to describe what we have all witnessed in our time… When the troops came home, Nixon turned his back on the soldiers. As my feelings about this got stronger and stronger, I knew I had to write about it.” Fogerty wrote the music first “without even knowing what the lyrics were.” Later, he went to his bedroom with a pen and paper and wrote the lyrics in twenty minutes. “It was very personal to me.”

Interestingly enough, there did not appear to be the same level of uproar when Springsteen played “Born in the U.S.A.,” a song that, in the understatement of the evening, he said was one he “wrote 30 years ago, and I think it still holds up today.”

Maybe because people just think it’s a rah-rah, go America jam? If so, they would not be the first to make that mistake. Shortly after its release, “Born in the U.S.A.” was famously used by Ronald Reagan as a campaign song.

“Born in the U.S.A.” is, to quote music critic Greil Marcus, “about the refusal of the country to treat Vietnam veterans as something more than nonunion workers in an enterprise conducted off the books. It is about the debt the country owes to those who suffered the violation of the principles on which the country was founded, and by which it was justified itself ever since.” Given that the takehome message of the Concert for Valor was to not forget our veterans after they get back from combat — celebrity emcees spent much of their speeches pointing viewers to foundations aimed at employing and aiding vets here at home — “Born in the U.S.A.” is a perfect fit for the theme.

Coal Kills!

The experts at Stuttgart University posited that the largest 300 coal plants cause approximately 22,300 premature deaths a year. Of the 50 projects still in the planning phase, were they to come to fruition, they would be responsible for an additional 2,700 premature deaths.

The entire coal industry kills nearly 30,000 Americans each year due to respiratory illnesses. An additional 670,000 Chinese lose their lives each year due to pollutants and the world total is over a million annual deaths.

Amazon's Dirty Energy Problem

While the rest of the Internet goes green, Amazon's bringing its next big data center to coal country

If the Internet were a country, it’d rank sixth in the world for electricity demand. Fortunately, it’d also rank as one of the greenest, thanks in large part to efforts by industry leaders like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to invest in renewable energy to power their massive data centers.

Bucking the trend entirely is Amazon, which continues to be the big, dirty smudge on that otherwise gleaming record. Back in April, Greenpeace released a report slamming Amazon Web Services — which plays host not just to the online retail empire but also Netflix, Pinterest and Spotify, among other popular sires — for what appears to be a utter lack of interest in going green.

And now, the company’s expected to be bringing its next big data center to coal-heavy Ohio, meaning its environmental record could be about to get even dirtier.


TONY said...

Didn't know that Amazon's dirty fingerprints were to be found on Pinterest. Scary....

Cirze said...

Yeah, T.

I said in an essay years ago that whenever a new internet venture arose, we should look for NSA or Billionaire (MS, 'zon, Goog, etc.) money to be behind it.

I called Facebook and Twitter early on to negative comment, but the newer ones are much easier for almost anyone to figure out, ne c'est pas?

Love you,