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by Rayne

Video: Wisconsin State Police Join Protesters in Show of Solidarity

11:09 pm in Economy, Government, Politics by Rayne

Rainforest Action Network’s Jenn Breckenridge posted around 8:00 p.m. EST that the Wisconsin State Police had arrived at the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, joining the protesters in solidarity against Gov. Scott Walker and his attack on state employees’ collective bargaining.

The move may have come in response to an apparent order by the state’s assembly to close the capitol building at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. RAN’s Ryan Harvey said the state police are rejecting the order and are planning to sleep in the building along side the protesters.

The police officer says in this video,

“Let me tell you Mr. Walker, this is not your house, this is all our house.”

by Rayne

Introduction to Economics: Curriculum Ignores Reality

3:34 pm in Business, Economy by Rayne

Might as well be teaching from this old thing. (photo: Terry McCombs via Flickr)

My oldest child came home from school the other day with a problem from their economics class; the poor kid was frustrated and asked for some guidance to make sense of the assignment.

Their textbook contained a graphic depiction of the concept outlined in the text, showing a relationship between spending and jobs creation in the community. The graphic noted that consumers spent money on local goods, the money went to the business owner which in turn created the goods.

And then the business owner made more jobs.

Uh-huh. No wonder my kid was confused.

Right there, on the face of it, is a fundamental problem with our entire economy. What they teach in school has absolutely little to do with reality, and it’s this way across the entire spectrum of business and economic curriculum from K-12 through college.

Worse, kids today are taught to learn to the curriculum. They aren’t encouraged to think independently and question the curriculum, although it’s not the teachers’ fault. Deviations from the curriculum are viewed as time-sucks since the instructors are required to produce students with XX percent achievement rate on YY number of tests by the end of the year — and deviations may reduce these statistics. . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by Rayne

About That Porn You Sent Me

9:37 am in Culture, Economy by Rayne

The "ruins" of Detroit. (photo: ifmuth via Flickr)

Yeah. You know, the “ruin porn” and the “urban decay porn” you sent me, gloating over the death of Detroit like a ghoul over a corpse.

I’ve seen it already, thanks for sharing though. Over the last ten years as I’ve driven through Detroit watching its skyline and its streets and homes change after the auto industry fucked it again and again — yeah, I’ve seen the real thing, not just the warmed up leftovers you sent me.

This is what happens when a city of nearly two million occupants is treated like toilet paper by the corporations it made great. What did you expect would happen when after years of tax abatements and rolling over for these corporations’ short-sighted, quarter-to-quarter and purely selfish demands?

Did you know that General Motors thwarted the use of street cars when it “owned” Detroit?  It wanted to encourage its workers and city residents to buy its vehicles or use the buses it built, and in turn the white collar and eventually blue collar workers used the cars they bought to move to the suburbs where they could have their two- and three-car garages. The only people left behind were folks who really couldn’t afford to move to the suburbs or those hardcore souls who were dedicated to living in Detroit.

But that was over the course of the last several decades, the course of my lifetime that this urban flight occurred; it was a slow and steady bleed.

During the last ten years the slow bleed became a hemorrhage as the automotive industry offshored tens of thousands of jobs, spawning even larger numbers of job losses among suppliers, and even more jobs lost as workers fled the state and no longer purchased services from their neighborhood dry cleaners or hair salons, no longer frequented their restaurants or their grocery stores.

The collapse of the financial industry gave them the coup de gras, what with the damage subprime mortgages did to the financial subsidiaries owned by GM and Chrysler.

But I can see why you indulge in the porn; it’s fashionable. So fashionable it’s predictable. The residents of Detroit and Michigan can almost predict which photos the pornographers will take when they arrive, because we see them again and again.

Like here.

And here.

And again.

But the truth is this: Detroit has been through boom-and-bust before, survived and lived to tell about it as has the state around it. Unlike many parts of the country which are relatively new and have never gone through the cicada-like cycles, Detroit is an an elegant old survivor who wears scars deep down to her bones out of sight of the youngsters who mock her.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by Rayne

Wisconsin’s Anti-Union Budget Bill Passes Committee; Protesters Continue Rally [UPDATE]

6:25 am in Economy, Education, Government by Rayne

Wisconsin’s state Joint Finance Committee passed a highly controversial budget bill last night, voting along party lines 12-4 in favor of the bill which includes an amendment revoking workers’ right to collective bargaining for state employees. Although the committee’s Republicans had voted in favor of the bill, they had reversed some of Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to kill health insurance and retirement benefits for some state employees.

A number of the state’s school districts were canceling classes for today. Wisconsin Education Association Council president Mary Bell asked school employees to join in another day of protests in Madison — the third day in a row at the state capital.

The budget bill heads to the state senate today where it is expected to pass.

In the mean time, pressure mounts to recall Gov. Walker; at least one Facebook page and a watch-blog have launched efforts to discuss the recall process. The wrinkle, though, is that Wisconsin state law does not allow recall of the governor until after the first year in office (pdf):

No petition for recall of an officer may be offered for filing before the expiration of one year after commencement of the term of office for which the officer is elected. A petition may be circulated 60 days before the expiration of one year, but may not be offered for filing until after the officer has completed one year in office.

Will Wisconsin’s residents be too numb ten months from now to finish the recall process? Perhaps the Green Bay Packers can help by encouraging petition signings at tailgate events this fall, now that they’ve come out against the anti-union budget bill.

UPDATE — 10:45 a.m. EST — If you’re a Twitter user, you might want to watch these:

http://twitter.com/bluecheddar1 — Progressive blogger who lives near the capitol, live tweeting events.

http://twitter.com/WisconsinEye — Wisconsin’s state equivalent to C-SPAN, will be covering the vote in state senate today (website URL: http://www.wiseye.org)

Search these hashtags for latest: #notmywi #wiunion #solidarityWI

blue cheddar posted that a UW Madison student and teacher assistant walk out was to begin at 9:15 a.m. local time (10:15 a.m. EST).

by Rayne

Kentucky Employers Claim They Can’t Find Workers, Must Hire Illegal Immigrants

4:45 pm in Business, Economy by Rayne

If you can read this sign and want manual labor, you're probably not welcome. (photo: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr)

Today’s issue of Louisville, Kentucky’s Courier-Journal has a front page article that helpfully explains many jobs in the area must be filled by illegal immigrants because no American has applied for them.

The story appears to be spawned out of the fears expressed by employers like the area’s horse farms that the state’s legislature may crack down on hiring illegal immigrants, cutting off their last source of labor.

Employers say they have little choice but to bring on immigrant workers when filling positions.

“All of us are in a position of needing employees. We don’t want to hire illegals,” said David L. Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association. Based in Lexington, the KTA represents the $4 billion annual horse breeding industry and 52,000 employees, according to the nonprofit’s website.

Asked how pervasive the presence of undocumented workers is in the horse racing industry, Switzer declined to comment. But he added that openings for stable hands, grooms and night watchmen are extremely difficult to fill.

“A significant number of foreign born are working in our industry,” Switzer said. “At some of our farms, they have not had a Caucasian or African American apply for a job in eight years. Nobody applies. What are we supposed to do?”

What a crock of potted baloney.

Try this yourself: browse through some of the job posting sites like Monster.com, Indeed.com, and SimplyHired.com and look for jobs with the keyword “horse” in the “Lexington, KY” area.

You’ll find nothing in the way of stable hands, grooms, watchmen or “equine staff” advertised for folks without a degree; you might find one job for a nonprofit equine advocacy manager, but that’s about it.

I went to the Courier-Journal.com’s website for the paper which carried this story and clicked on their Jobs listing. Apparently they use CareerBuilder.com to run their jobs page. Guess what? One job listing for keyword “horse” and location “Louisville, KY” — a sous chef position at The Blue Horse.

If I spread a slightly wider net, I can pull up a job listing under a category called “equine staff”; there’s a posting for a “driving stable assistant” which appears to be in Germany, IN. But that’s not in the neighboring state of Indiana; the posting is for an international job, location: Germany.

That’s why no Caucasian or African American has applied for their jobs: they aren’t advertising openings, and for a reason.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by Rayne

Super Bowl Anti-Marketing or Bimbo Pushback: Getting the ‘Old Girls’ in the Game

10:57 am in Business, Culture, Economy, Internet, Science and Technology by Rayne

Cloris Leachman appears in an ad for domain registrar Network Solutions; the ad promotes a service offered by the registrar which competes with GoDaddy.com. Most Super Bowl fans will recognize GoDaddy’s ads with little prompting; they generally feature a young and prominently endowed woman dressed scantily while breathlessly promoting GoDaddy’s brand. GoDaddy has also featured ads with Indy Series/NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, but the ads still revolve around a young woman. In at least one recent case, a GoDaddy ad featuring Patrick was rejected because of its reference to beavers; one might well ask what beavers have to do with domain registrations.

The Network Solutions’ Leachman ad represents anti-marketing, which Geoff Livingston wrote about yesterday, discussing a trend in “unselling” products. The Volkswagen ad with the tiny Darth Vader wannabe (see at bottom of this post) could also be seen as an anti-marketing ad; there’s little effort made to push the product, only a subtle appeal through the ubiquity of the subject across a range of potential buyers, made in a way which cuts through all the other advertising — targeted buyers of the Volkswagen in the ad are familiar with Star Wars and are likely of child-rearing age, and can readily relate to the ad. This isn’t a new approach; it’s been more common among European companies to use an indirect approach to selling. New, though, is the uptick in this kind of marketing, intended to break through the deluge of promotions pushed through regular broadcast and cable outlets, and now social media.

What’s particularly important about the Leachman ad is not unselling or anti-marketing, but the pointed pushback at advertising which uses young women as objects to promote a product while doing little to convey anything about the product’s merits. One might well wonder what it is that GoDaddy offers customers after watching one of their well-endowed ads — what does GoDaddy have to do at all with the internet?

The advocate at the end of the YouTube ad above is a critical point of departure as well; BlogHer.com’s CEO Lisa Stone dispels the notion that women are only window dressing for a technology product. Women are purchasers of domain services, and are among those customers that want to “get serious” as the ad’s tagline says are those who want trustworthy and effective technology products and services, not breast-enhanced glitz.

Women have been given short-shrift in technology for a very long time, even though they have become a driving force in technology consumption. The disparity in how women are treated by the technology has been the focus of several organizations, among them the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, and Women Who Tech, an organization which hosts an annual summit focusing on parity in the technology industry. The work of these organizations may finally have paid off — 15 years after the Borg Institute launched — if a member of the technology industry is finally willing to stake a sizable chunk of marketing cash to go after the market segment which doesn’t want or need sexist messaging to promote products and services.

But perhaps the raw numbers convinced Network Solutions to do the Leachman ad:

As of 2005, there are an estimated 10.1 million majority-owned, privately-held, women-owned firms in the U.S., employing 18.2 million people and generating $2.32 trillion in sales. Women-owned businesses account for 28 percent of all businesses in the United States and represent about 775,000 new startups per year and account for 55 percent of new startups.

That’s an awfully big market segment to insult with bimbo-laden ads to promote products and services.

by Rayne

Special FDL Book Salon Preview: Chat with FCIC’s Byron Georgiou about FCIC’s Report

3:39 pm in Economy, FDL Book Salon, Financial Crisis, Government by Rayne

FCIC Commissioner Byron Georgiou

Join us for a special FDL Book Salon tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. ET when FDL’s Ed Walker will host a live chat with Financial Crisis Inquiry Commissioner Byron Georgiou. They’ll be discussing the FCIC’s financial crisis report and take your questions on the same.

From Mr. Georgiou’s biography at FCIC’s website:

Byron Georgiou has had a long career in the private and public sector in business, law and government service.

He currently oversees Georgiou Enterprises, with wide ranging interests including the manufacture of a broad range of lithium ion iron phosphate all electric powered vehicles. [...]

Mr. Georgiou has served since 2005 on the advisory board of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance which hosts the world’s leading blog on corporate governance and financial regulation.

Since 2000, Mr. Georgiou has been affiliated Of Counsel to the national law firm of Robbins, Geller, Rudman & Dowd, the world’s largest plaintiffs’ securities practice, and has spent much of the last decade investigating and civilly prosecuting financial fraud, with leadership roles in the historic litigations on behalf of victimized investors at Enron, WorldCom, Dynegy, AOLTimeWarner, and UnitedHealth.

Mr. Georgiou serves on the FCIC along with Phil Angelides (chairman), Bill Thomas (vice chairman), Brooksley Born, Bob Graham, Keith Hennessey, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Heather Murren, John W. Thompson, and Peter J. Wallison.

You can read a copy of the FCIC’s published conclusions at this link (pdf).

Add this event to your calendar and join us for what should be an enlightening discussion — 2:00 p.m. tomorrow ET at FDLBookSalon.com.

by Rayne

Valentine’s Day Just Got Pricier: Ivory Coast Halts Cocoa Exports

12:29 pm in Business, Economy, Food, Foreign Policy by Rayne

photo: mhaithaca via Flickr

If you’re buying something already on the store shelves in the way of chocolate sweets for your Valentine, your wallet may not suffer. But if you’re buying something chocolate which hasn’t yet been made, you may be paying more and soon now that the Ivory Coast’s newly-elected and internationally recognized president has called for a ban on cocoa exports.

Bloomberg reports:

Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of a Nov. 28 election, suspended all cocoa and coffee shipments as of today to cut off funds to incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to stand down. The country’s main exporters agreed to the ban, Malick Tohe, an adviser to Ouattara’s government, said by telephone from Abidjan yesterday.

The ban is for a one-month period and has already boosted cocoa prices on commodity markets by 10%. The prospects for continuing increases in cocoa prices are quite strong since Ivory Coast produces nearly a third of the world’s entire cocoa crop, and uncertainty alone will encourage speculation.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by Rayne

It’s Not a Sale or a Merger but a Joint Venture: Comcast and GE Will Share Corporatist Mouthpiece NBC

2:19 pm in Business, Economy, Executive Branch, Government by Rayne

source: Wikipedia

In all the hubbub over Keith Olbermann’s exit from MSNBC’s Countdown and the chatter over President Obama’s appointment of General Electric’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt as chair of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB), a very important point has been overlooked.

The Comcast-GE deal regarding ownership of NBC and its holdings like MSNBC is not a merger or an outright sale.

It’s a joint venture.

This means Comcast and GE are partners in a media company. They are not equal partners since Comcast will hold 51 percent and GE will hold 49 percent of ownership in the new joint venture entity, NBCU (the entity formed from GE-NBC’s acquisition of Universal back in 2003).

Which means that Immelt — who was seated at the state dinner for China’s Premier Hu Jintao, who is now responsible for encouraging economic growth in the U.S. as the chair of PERAB — remains a co-leader of a powerhouse in broadcast, cable and other forms media in this country.

While Comcast claims it didn’t pull the trigger on Olbermann, NBC’s parent company may well have had some input into the termination of Olbermann’s contract.

And while GE may have availed itself during the previous administration of Karl Rove’s encouragement and the Bush administration’s blessings toward corporatist media, the Comcast deal doesn’t terminate GE’s access to similar aid from the Obama administration. Rather, Comcast now gets to play the heavy for an additional two percent of ownership while realizing the same benefits GE received over the last ten years. . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by Rayne

What’s Really Scaring Conservatives – Sharia Law or Islamic Banking?

3:37 pm in Countries in Conflict, Culture, Economy, Religion by Rayne

Conservatives are divided into different and often competing factions, including social conservatives who are driven by their Christian fundamentalist values, and Wall Street conservatives who are driven by the profit motive. It’s not difficult to see how the twain meet, though; the corporatists of Wall Street use their economic power to co-opt the religious right, “buying” them to do much of the heavy lifting for their corporate aims. Sometimes money can simply buy any angry conservative by persuading them that everything afflicting them is the fault of the left or some “other” — see the example of the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party.

But in the case of the recent ramp-up of fear by the right wing against Islamic sharia law, it’s difficult to see any involvement of the monied corporatists. There doesn’t seem to be any rationale for them to get involved.

Or is there? Perhaps the problem is that most Americans are not familiar enough with Islam’s tenets to see there is a threat to American corporatists’ current business model; it’s enough of a threat that they just might spend money making donations to religious groups asking them to ratchet up the fear factor against all things Muslim including sharia law.

You see, under sharia, interest on loans has been forbidden; as the report here by al Jazeera explains, profit is made on trade or sales, not on the loan of money itself.

Just imagine what applying this kind of law to our American banking system would do to the banksters which cannot foreclose fast enough, using foreclosure fraud on already fraudulent subprime loans.

Would you like to break Islamic law by gambling and bet that corporatists are more worried about this possibility than the Christian fundamentalists are about sharia?