Saturday, July 09, 2011

More Business as Usual

Water flows downhill. Greed expands.
J.P. Morgan Securities rigged bids in at least 93 municipal bond deals in 31 states for eight years beginning in 1997, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Thursday.

The government said the firm agreed to pay $228.2 million to settle charges by the SEC and other state and federal authorities, including the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Municipal bonds are supposed to be safe, tax-exempt investments that help local governments and nonprofit organizations fund public works projects such as roads, bridges, schools and hospitals. But recent enforcement actions have portrayed this seemingly staid corner of the banking world as having been a feasting ground for corrupt financiers.

Read the entire article and you begin to wonder why J.P. Morgan is still allowed to do to business and senior executives not imcarcerated.

Labels: ,

Friday, July 08, 2011

How True

From a comment at HorsesAss:
...cycling consistently broadens and deepens my local understanding in a way nothing else does.


Certainly Not an American Solution the extraordinarily high cost of health care for seniors.
The principle that we should all as citizens contribute our wealth, where it exists, to our care is fair, equitable and socially ethical.
Those who have benefited most from the conditions which have been to their advantage, whose means have been most generously enhanced should quite properly be expected to contribute proportionately.

As far as I'm concerned, the idea readily applies to just about any aspect of the social contract. Think about who actually makes our middle-class so comfortable
After all, the services which we have enjoyed in our pre-geriatric years have been provided by the least well rewarded. Our refuse has been collected, streets cleaned, potholes mended, milk and post delivered, bedpans emptied, housework undertaken, meals served, a plethora of services which have brought comfort, convenience and carelessness to our lives, all have been undertaken by the lowest paid, and for many of these, such work has caused greater damage to their biological systems than is the case with those whom they serve.

As long as I'm quoting British sources, the Rolling Stones also recognized who's on the bottom. From Beggars Banquet:
Lets drink to the hard working people
Lets drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Lets drink to the salt of the earth

Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
Spare a thought for his back breaking work
Say a prayer for his wife and his children
Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

And when I search a faceless crowd
A swirling mass of gray and
Black and white
They don't look real to me
In fact, they look so strange

Raise your glass to the hard working people
Lets drink to the uncounted heads
Lets think of the wavering millions
Who need leaders but get gamblers instead

Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
And a parade of the gray suited grafters
A choice of cancer or polio

And when I look in the faceless crowd
A swirling mass of grays and
Black and white
They don't look real to me
Or don't they look so strange

Lets drink to the hard working people
Lets think of the lowly of birth
Spare a thought for the rag taggy people
Lets drink to the salt of the earth

Lets drink to the hard working people
Lets drink to the salt of the earth
Lets drink to the two thousand million
Lets think of the humble of birth

Labels: ,

On the Mend. Yeah. Right.

Economic recovery, capitalist style:
Two years after the recession officially ended, companies are adding fewer workers despite record cash stockpiles and healthy profit margins.
Including discouraged workers and those working part time, but who would prefer full-time work, the “under-employment” rate jumped from 15.8 percent to 16.2 percent.

Unemployment has topped 8 percent for 29 months, the longest streak since the 1930s. It has never been so high so long after a recession ended. At the same point after the previous three recessions, unemployment averaged just 6.8 percent.

And those who do have jobs are earning less.

Job Creators, my ass. More like Freebooters.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Pessimistic Realist

Juan Cole does not have much faith in America even as he hopes for better in the Arab world. I would like to think he's wrong but have nothing with which to dispute his facts or analysis.


Monday, July 04, 2011


On this Fourth of July, it is altogether fitting and proper to recall that freedom is incomplete. America has done much to advance the idea of individual autonomy and liberty but much remains to be done.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Much, but not all, has changed for the better since Frederick Douglass spoke these words in 1852.

The struggle continues.


Sunday, July 03, 2011

From Serf to Citizen

Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute(*), has an article in Foreign Policy on the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago. He attributes the complete and sudden disintegration of the Soviet state to a change in mindset: Mikhail Gorbachev's liberalization gave space for Russians and other Soviet peoples to think of themselves as citizens rather than subjects or serfs. That consciousness delegitimized Soviet and Communist authority as people began demanding to be treated with respect, as they said, "No More!"
Those who instilled this remarkable "break in consciousness" were no different from those who touched off the other classic revolutions of modern times: writers, journalists, artists. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed, such men and women "help to create that general awareness of dissatisfaction, that solidified public opinion, which … creates effective demand for revolutionary change."

Aron goes on to predict that this same growing consciousness will further transform Russia and many other nations through out the world as people demand to be recognized as citizens and insist on respect. I can't argue with Aron's basic thesis. Aron clearly recognizes that this consciousness is only necessary, not sufficient to guarantee progress. But Roza Otunbayeva, president of Kyrgyzstan, reminds us that the seed exists in each human heart:
"It is the magic of people, young and old, men and women of different religions and political beliefs, who come together in city squares and announce that enough is enough."

Maybe, someday, Americans will do the same.

(*) Usually a suspect organization at this location but I'm willing to listen when they make sense or offer information worth considering.


There But For Fortune

One of my enduring lessons from Vietnam is that being American exempts me from most of the world's truly egregious horrors. The lesson comes back to me today as I read The Least Free Places on Earth, 2011.