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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 75,439

Journal Archives

David Sirota: Warren Buffett’s Epic NCAA Humblebrag

from In These Times:

Warren Buffett’s Epic NCAA Humblebrag
Buffett and Quicken Loans want to give you $1 billion for your perfect NCAA bracket—because they can.


In historians’ quest to find the perfect anecdote to summarize this era of unprecedented economic inequality, they confront an embarrassment of riches (pun intended).

There are the stories of billionaires like Tom Perkins, Stephen Schwarzman and Ken Langone insisting that criticism of inequality is akin to Nazism. There are more subtle antics at the local level—for instance, there is news this week that in New York (aka one of the most unequal states in America) Republican legislators are aiming to create a special sales-tax exemption for those buying private jets. And there is, of course, the tale of the billionaire vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Charles Munger, telling everyone to “thank god” for massive bank bailouts, and then telling the poor to “suck it in and cope” with their own problems.

Each of these makes a good modern-day analogue to the legend of Marie Antoinette’s attitude toward the proles during the 18th century. Yet, none of these examples rise to truly iconic “let them eat cake” status in the way the recent episode involving Warren Buffett does.


Look, I’m as much of a fan of March Madness as the average guy, and I understand all the excitement surrounding this “who wants to be a billionaire?” sweepstakes. However, when you take a moment to think about this spectacle in the context of the current economic moment and recent economic history, it is downright grotesque.

Poverty is rampant. Wages are stagnating. Three quarters of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck. The unemployment rate remains persistently high and inequality has hit Gilded Age levels. Much of this has been exacerbated by a housing crisis and mortgage fraud. Yet, in the face of such emergencies, one of the world’s richest men joined a mortgage lender that sold shady loans to brag about their collective wealth. That’s the obvious takeaway as Buffett runs to fawning news outlets to proudly proclaim that it wouldn’t faze him in the least to write a billion-dollar check. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/16488/warren_buffetts_epic_ncaa_humblebrag

Guess which states are most dependent on the federal gubmint?

(HuffPost) If we learned nothing else during the 2012 election, it is that some of us are makers, hard-working folk solely responsible for America's prosperity, and others are takers, who want the federal government to pay for luxuries like food and health care.

What may come as some surprise is where these two warring tribes tend to live. The states with elected officials most likely to espouse anti-taker sentiments -- i.e., Republican-dominated states -- are the most dependent on federal spending, while returning the least to Washington in the way of tax dollars.

That's according to the consumer finance site Wallet Hub, which crunched federal tax and spending data and then ranked states from most to least dependent on Uncle Sam. In the map below, green states are the least dependent, while red states -- appropriately -- are the most dependent.

The "makingest" state, according to the analysis, is Delaware. Delawareans -- this is really what they call themselves -- pay $1 in taxes for every 50 cents they get back from the federal government. Delaware also has the lowest rate of federal contracts received, as a proportion of federal tax dollars paid. And the state has the highest gross domestic product per capita, at $72,642.

The "makingest" state, according to the analysis, is Delaware. Delawareans -- this is really what they call themselves -- pay $1 in taxes for every 50 cents they get back from the federal government. Delaware also has the lowest rate of federal contracts received, as a proportion of federal tax dollars paid. And the state has the highest gross domestic product per capita, at $72,642. ........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/26/republican-states-most-dependent-government_n_5035877.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000013&ir=Politics

Chicago: Focus in CTA crash falls on operator fatigue, braking system


By Peter Nickeas, Lolly Bowean, Richard Wronski and Kim Geiger Tribune reporters
11:00 p.m. CDT, March 24, 2014

Federal investigators will focus on whether a CTA train operator fell asleep at the controls and if an automatic braking system was working properly as they seek to pinpoint the cause of a spectacular crash Monday that left a Blue Line car perched atop an escalator.

The operator may have fallen asleep shortly before her train smashed through a “bumping post” at the end of the track at O'Hare International Airport just before 3 a.m., according to a transit union representative.

The CTA employee, whose name has not been released, said after the crash that she was tired, said Robert Kelly, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308.

“I can confirm that she was extremely tired,” Kelly said. .......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-ohare-train-crash-20140324,0,1750012.story

NY: Subway Ridership Hits 65-Year High

Subway Ridership Hits 65-Year High

Monday, March 24, 2014 - 10:46 AM

By Kate Hinds

[font size="1"]The Bedford Avenue L station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Kellan/flickr)[/font]

More people rode New York City's subways last year than any time since 1949 — and Brooklyn is one of the reasons for the boom.

It had the largest borough-wide average weekday ridership increase, with the L, F and G lines all experiencing substantial growth.

The MTA says last year's subway ridership of 1.7 billion was the highest since 1949, and weekday ridership of 5.5 million was the highest since 1950.

Bus ridership showed a bit of rebound in 2013 after five years of flat numbers. Annual ridership had been hovering around 120 million since 2008, but that number jumped to 125 million people last year. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.wnyc.org/story/subway-ridership-hits-65-year-high/

Professor Richard Wolff's Economic Update: Criticisms of Capitalism (audio link)

Listen: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22456-economic-update-criticisms-of-capitalism

Economic Update: Criticisms of Capitalism

Thursday, 13 March 2014 12:40
By Richard D Wolff, Economic Update / Truthout | Radio Segment

Updates on the General Motors recall scandal; corporations' push for secret courts; the economics of marijuana; Radio Shack closings; and US workers leaving the labor force. Major discussions of the history and basics of the criticism of capitalism, and billionaires and extreme inequality as products of capitalism.

Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Strategies?

Real News, via Naked Capitalism:

Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Strategies?
Posted on March 25, 2014 by Yves Smith

Yves here. The Real News Network commemorates the 30th anniversary of the coal miners’ strike in the UK, which was in many ways labor’s last stand, with a broad-ranging interview with George Irvin, research professor at the University of London. He takes a broad historical perspective to show how the rise of a low-wage, debt driven economy and the pressure to reduce the role of government have painted Anglo-Saxon capitalism in a corner.


Bill Moyers: Who’s Buying our Midterm Elections?

Who’s Buying our Midterm Elections?
March 21, 2014

In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court is expected to issue another big decision on campaign finance, one that could further open the floodgates to unfettered and anonymous contributions, just as the Citizens United case did four years ago.

This week Bill speaks with investigative journalists Kim Barker and Andy Kroll about the role of dark money — and the wealthy donors behind it — in this year’s midterm elections.

Already, three times as much money has been raised for this year’s elections as four years ago, when the Citizens United decision was announced. “This is the era of the empowered ‘one percenter’. They’re taking action and they’re becoming the new, headline players in this political system,” Kroll tells Moyers. Kim Barker adds, “People want influence. It’s a question of whether we’re going to allow it to happen, especially if we’re going to allow it to happen and nobody even knows who the influencers are.” ............................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://billmoyers.com/episode/whos-buying-our-midterm-elections/

These Seattle Teachers Boycotted Standardized Testing—and Sparked a Nationwide Movement

from YES! Magazine:

These Seattle Teachers Boycotted Standardized Testing—and Sparked a Nationwide Movement
Parents, students, and teachers all over the country have joined the revolt to liberate our kids from a test-obsessed education system.

by Diane Brooks
posted Mar 14, 2014

Life felt eerie for teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High in the days following their unanimous declaration of rebellion last winter against standardized testing. Their historic press conference, held on a Thursday, had captured the attention of national TV and print media. But by midday Monday, they still hadn’t heard a word from their own school district’s leadership.

Then an email from Superintendent José Banda hit their in-boxes. Compared with a starker threat issued a week later, with warnings of 10-day unpaid suspensions, this note was softly worded. But its message was clear: a teacher boycott of the district’s most-hated test—the MAP, short for Measures of Academic Progress—was intolerable.

Jittery teachers had little time to digest the implications before the lunch bell sounded, accompanied by an announcement over the intercom: a Florida teacher had ordered them a stack of hot pizzas, as a gesture of solidarity.

“It was a powerful moment,” said history teacher Jesse Hagopian, a boycott leader. “That’s when we realized this wasn’t just a fight at Garfield; this was something going on across the nation. If we back down, we’re not just backing away from a fight for us. It’s something that educators all over see as their struggle too. I think a lot of teachers steeled their resolve, that we had to continue.” ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/education-uprising/pencils-down

Kalamazoo quietly emerging as a literary hot spot

(Detroit Free Press) Kalamazoo is a midsize city, but in literary terms, it’s gigantic.

The southwest Michigan hub, home to Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College, has quietly become a thriving literary town that cultivates extraordinary readers and writers whose accomplishments are attracting national attention. The city will host the inaugural Kalamazoo Poetry Festival on April 4-5, featuring acclaimed writers, workshops, readings and discussions. But literary enthusiasm has long been teeming in this community of 74,000 that lies halfway between Chicago and Detroit.

“You can’t throw a rock without hitting a poet,” says Bonnie Jo Campbell, one of the most celebrated anchors of Kalamazoo’s literary scene. She grew up in the area, moved away for a time and returned. “American Salvage,” her 2009 short-story collection, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award. Her novel “Once Upon a River,” published in 2011, was described by Entertainment Weekly as a “demonstration of outstanding skills on the river of American literature.”

Though Kalamazoo’s writers are diverse enough to defy generalizations, its standout literature fuses lyrical intensity with powerful stories. Campbell’s “American Salvage” and “Once Upon a River,” for example, delve into the sacred and profane in southwest Michigan’s rural landscape. David Small’s “Stitches” — another National Book Award finalist — is full of menacing silences and rich vulnerability. Stuart Dybek, a stalwart of WMU’s writing program, authored the story collections “Coast of Chicago” and “I Sailed With Magellan,” which both find the surreal in the grittiness of urban landscapes. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.freep.com/article/20140323/ENT05/303230042/kalamazoo-authors-poets

Detroit Free Press: What Judge Friedman learned about gay families from a lesbian law clerk

By Brian Dickerson
Detroit Free Press

Almost 19 years ago — long before most Michiganders could imagine a day when gay and lesbian couples would enjoy the right to marry and raise children together — U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman discovered that a social revolution was breaking out in his own chambers.

It was the summer of 1995, and Judith Levy, the second-year University of Michigan Law School student Friedman had recently tapped to become his law clerk after she graduated the following June, had come to the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit to meet her future boss for lunch.

They’d come face-to-face just once before, when Levy interviewed for the clerk’s job the previous February, and Levy had chosen not to share with Friedman the good news she and her partner, Janet Johnson, were privately celebrating.

But now, seven months later, the clerk’s job was hers, and there was no hiding their secret: Levy was pregnant. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.freep.com/article/20140323/COL04/303230067/judge-bernard-friedman-gay-marriage-michigan

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