Friday, March 30, 2012

There’s no bread, but we have circuses

The corporate media is talking constantly about the lottery, and the potential 2/3 of a billion dollars prize tonight. To their credit they do point out the 176,000,000 to 1 odds and how absurd that is. All the while showing the people lined up for blocks certain they can beat the odds. The people they interview in these lines are all gambling to have the American dream: to pay the bills, send the kids to college, buy a house, help their friends or stray cats, or maybe get their teeth fixed. 

A lottery like this is harmless fun in itself, the tragedy isn’t just the occasional person that spends their life savings to buy tickets because they are sure of winning. It’s what our society has come to that these people are increasingly seen as normal hopeful people, and not as pathetic. Really they are the tragic victims of 30 years of Republican economic thinking. For the bottom 80% of Americans, the lottery is their one shot at economic freedom. 

When these lotteries started you heard lots of stories about someone who spent their life saving because they were sure they could win. You do increase your odds by buying more than one ticket, but not enough to matter. There were even companies formed to buy out all the tickets when the odds were only 50 million to one. It’s physically impossible to do this with the new higher odds. 

I’m surprised they don’t raise the odds so high that nobody would ever be likely to win, they’d still sell tickets. In fact the states play the lottery too, the state with the winner gets a nice windfall from the income tax on close to a billion dollars. The state might fill some potholes, but more likely give another tax break to individuals who by themselves make a billion dollars a year, or more, and typically pay no significant taxes. 

What to do with that much money if you win? I’ve been giving it some thought, people are always wanting investment advice. The thing is, there is no safe place to put money. Besides the fundamental instability of the crazy situation we find are selves in, there is a realistic level of paranoia to consider. If you have lots of money you aren’t suddenly allowed past the velvet rope by the one percent’s bouncer. 

Having a real money makes you a target for those who make their money by looting and pillaging, they don‘t just go after the middleclass. Even if you invest conservatively, you could wake up one morning and find your investment is now worthless, since most investments today are just paper. Buying hard assets is no guarantee of safety as their value is set by markets that are inflated and then collapse to far lower than is realistic. 

To be safe with your money, you really need to be in the “too big to fail” class, the people who just “create” money out of thin air, and they don’t let riff-raff like you and me in, no matter how much money we have for now. You weren’t a legacy admission to Yale? Forget about it. 

With a couple of hundred million, leaving the country is an option, but you are kidding yourself that you’re really safe. Safety is in numbers, but not the kind on your bank account. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The American Dream has been deleted

Initial unemployment claims were down by 5000 applicants again this week while economists had again predicted a substantial rise in claims. We’ll have a better idea about what’s going on when we see the March jobs creation numbers the end of next week.

The final revision of the 4th quarter GDP number is out and pegs growth at 3% with durable goods showing a 16% growth rate. This means manufacturing is making a substantial comeback. If this 3% rate were to continue for any length of time, it would the kind of growth we haven’t seen since before Reagan.

But, I’m not suggesting that this is happening, we still don’t have any of the national policies on trade, energy, finance, higher top margin tax rates, and the other things we need for real protracted growth. Policies created by Alexander Hamilton in 1790. Growth like we had from then on, with brief stop offs for the Gilded Age and assorted bank Depressions. We had 50 good years from the time of FDR until Reagan and his fellow travelers tore it all down.

The thing about this growth is that it represents potential that could start us down the right path (I mean correct path, really the left path). An economic system always self reinforces, growth tends to beget growth, and a downturn tends to turn into an avalanche. It’s where you get the saying “grow or die”, but things don’t have to be that way.

You need to have people in charge that will do the right things, and not people in charge that loot and pillage. As much as 80% of what Wall Street and the major corporations do to  “make” money today are things that used to be criminal, or at least heavily restricted by regulation and taxed sufficiently to keep them from doing them. When we had a top marginal tax rate of at least 74% we didn’t have CEOs taking companies apart to pay themselves billions. Our industries were the world standard, and we are well on the way to having no industry.

People like Mitt Romney and Bain Capital have loaded companies up with incredible debt as they “re-structured” them, that is take all the assets and pension funds for themselves, and leave junk bonds behind. Any downturn at this point will create an avalanche of bankruptcies, and even more looting opportunities for Bain as these companies need “re-structuring“ again.

If Mitt gets the chance, he’ll restructure the whole country. The wholesale corporatizing of all public functions, as well as the sale of public assets to the corporations will make this country unrecognizable. You only need to look at the Red States to see this process is already well underway. Red is the appropriate color as the country will more resemble the old Soviet Union with no private property to speak of, but a step further than that, with no public property either.

Instead of a Hammer & Sickle, there will be corporate logos on everything, and everyone will work for the corporate state. As in the USSR, the real power will be with a tiny managerial class, and the elections will mean nothing. As Stalin said, “It doesn’t matter who votes, only who counts the ballots.” We already have corporate machines doing most of the counting, so we’re almost there.

As people forget that their grandparents owned property, a business, their own car, could afford to live the American Dream, and begin to see success only as getting a job with corporation that keeps them out of the street; they will ease into being Comrade Corporate Workers. With digitalized history, the memory hole of 1984 becomes a computer algorithm. Things have always been this way Comrade, just read Wikipeda.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The outcome can't be guaranteed

Some estimates are now available on the practical consideration of Israel’s aspirations of them attacking Iran’s newest uranium enrichment facility. To penetrate to the reported depth of this installation through 300 feet of solid rock, the largest weapon Israel is reported to have is a 5000 lb bunker buster, and it would take a minimum of six direct hits. That is, hitting the bottom of the original hole, if the first one is on target.

Only Israel’s F-15s are capable of carrying a bomb this size, and it would be overloaded in the sense of becoming an easy target for any defense Iran puts up. To make that many direct hits would require a minimum of 75 attempts. Israel has only 85 F-15s in all configurations, some of which are set up as interceptors, and probably can’t carry such large bombs for the distance required. Plus they would need in flight refueling from a very limited fleet of aging air tankers.

The biggest problem that Israel has in this adventure is the Syrian/Russian air defense system that is fully capable of detecting one F-15 let alone a 400 plane strike force of all types of aircraft, that would be required to take on all of Iran‘s installations at once. Iran won’t be caught off guard and will mount its own formable defense. Israel would likely lose a significant portion of its air force in the attempt and still not achieve its goal.

The USAF, who is capable of delivering much larger bombs, says it would be a fool’s errand to attempt such an attack even for the US. So any fantasy talk of Israel attacking Iran is strictly for political ends, it benefits the right in Israel, and it benefits the rightwing here as it helps drive up oil prices.

This strategy requires that the price of oil doesn’t collapse before the election. With demand already depressed by past high prices that led to a move toward more efficient use of oil products, and combined with lowered consumption from the still depressed economy, the price bubble could burst anytime.

The corporate media keeps repeating the talking point that Obama’s release of oil from the strategic reserve last year didn’t have much effect, nor for very long. The actual numbers have of course a liberal bias, it was universally accepted that gas would be $6/gallon by Labor Day and this didn’t happen. While gas is approaching the peak of last year’s prices, the supply on hand is even greater. In short it’s a bubble in the B******t, the price will collapse if Obama does nothing, but any action on his part will trigger the price collapse. The longer he waits, the more dramatic the result.

But, with Obama’s current lead over Romney in the states that matter for the Electoral College, he could start spending all his time at the ranch in Crawford. Oh wait, Obama actually takes his job seriously, so he won’t. Too bad this work ethic doesn’t guarantee a good outcome for the nation. Things are that bad.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Protect and defend the corporation against all enemies, foreign and domestic

I’ m sitting here writing in my hoodie, not as a solidarity statement but because it’s cold today. I hate to think that some people see that fashion choice as probable cause to believe a crime is being committed, or rather as an excuse to commit one. Maybe they should sell hoodies that say, “WHITE” across the back to avoid confusion, you know, like windbreakers that say “FBI“ and such to distinguish the players at a crime scene. Just so the crackers with guns can keep it all straight.

I said it was cold today, the general trend all winter has been 20-30 degrees above normal, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any cold air. That’s what makes the ubiquitous tornado, the conflict between cold and warm. Spring is coming early, with farmers planting a month ahead of schedule in hopes of a bumper crop. Government crop insurance protects them if they guess wrong, another example of externalizing the risk, the taxpayers pay for global warming directly, and also cover the bets on global warming.

The best illustration lately was a Mike Luckovich cartoon - The man says, “If global warming caused a mild winter, why is it [while it’s still winter, is it] snowing?”  the woman says, “That’s [not snow, that‘s] pollen you idiot”. Wild swings in weather are the new normal. You can plan for the regular F5 tornado, that’s the new normal. One of the Alabama towns wiped out last year, was visited again already with another killer tornado. The new normal will be to live underground.

Some people are upset that Dick Cheney received a new heart at age 71, which is a full year beyond the guidelines for the age to get a donated heart. It’s not likely that this was a human heart. Dick Cheney’s only interest in a human heart would to eat it. However, you’ll know they adapted a human heart anyway, if you see him in public wearing a plastic cone to keep him chewing on it.

A reliable prediction on the Supreme Court’s view on Obama-care only requires a simple analysis.  Past rulings seem to swing from right to left without pattern, until you factor in what favors the corporations involved. Without fail the ruling goes to favor the corporation. Okay, that still makes a prediction difficult because there are two opposing positions. The insurance companies love the mandate as a revenue stream, but they have problem with the 85% rule coverage rule.

Under Obama-care they must spend 85% of premiums for actual healthcare on large groups, and 80% on individuals to actually provide needed healthcare. This compares to the 60% that many providers spent before regulation. If they don’t spend enough, then they must refund the difference to policyholders, instead of pocketing the money as excessive profits. This is almost certainly what the court will be really be ruling on, Corporate profits.

They are the Corporate Supreme Court, their oath is to support the corporations, uphold the corporations, and defend the rich against all enemies (or rather their victims), foreign and domestic. Just like all Republicans do, forever and all time, Amen.