Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oprah's Ratings In Steep Decline

Are people tired of being lectured at by a sanctimonious pseudo-intellectual ? Or is the Obama effect - as his ratings fall so do hers ?

Since far too many people seem to enjoy the former, I will choose the latter as probable cause. But it's good news either way.

In the week ending July 18, CBS Television Distribution's The Oprah Winfrey Show sunk to an all-time ratings low for the third time in five weeks, dropping 13% from the prior week to a 2.8 live plus same day household average, according to Nielsen Media Research. That almost moved Oprah out of syndie's top-ten, tying for overall ninth place with CTD's Inside Edition and reruns of the off-net hour CSI: New York. Compared to last year at this time, Oprah is down 20%.(1)


1'Oprah Ratings Continue to Plummet' - Broadcasting and Cable; Albiniak

Friday, July 30, 2010

Exxon and BP in the South China Sea

Why has the South China Sea dispute jumped into the news recently, after simmering for years on the back burner ? Why did Hillary Clinton just spring one on China at the recent Asean meeting ?

Probably because of this:

The Chinese government considers the entire South China Sea as its own, dismissing claims from Southeast Asian countries to islands such as the Spratlys, and is building an ocean-going fleet to project power beyond its borders. China told Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP Plc to halt exploration in areas that Vietnam considers part of its territory, according to U.S. government agencies(1)


China views the sea as their sovereign territory by historic right. But by interfering with the market growth of these two companies China probably made a huge tactical error. Exxon is as a tied to the U.S. elite as any corporation can be, as is BP with Great Britain. The CCP substituted nationalist fervor for Maoism and might have painted itself into a box politically which it can't get out of.

1'China Says Its South Sea Claims Are `Indisputable' - Bloomberg

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wiki Leaks Versus The Pentagon

We report, you decide:

Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the release of the documents that WikiLeaks calls its "Afghan War Diary" deeply damaging and potentially life-threatening for Afghan informants or others who have taken risks to help the U.S. and NATO war effort.
"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family," Mullen said.
---
Assange told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview aired Thursday that WikiLeaks had contacted the White House — via The New York Times acting as intermediary — and offered to let government officials go through the documents to make sure no innocent people were identified. The White House did not respond to the approach, he said.(1)

How could such obviously honorable men have so many differences in memory ?

1
'Pentagon: Leak investigation may go beyond military' - AP

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Dot Com Collapse Versus the Great Recession

Which was more severe ? By unemployment, the 'Great Recession'. But Durable Goods Orders tell a slightly different story, as they reveal the true severity of the Dot Com collapse, which - as is commonly understood - was masked by the Greenspan 'put' of easy money and inflating a new bubble in the housing sector.



The overall story is that the US economy has been very weak since the last motor of productivity peaked, the internet or dot com revolution, which encouraged private capital to invest on a large scale. Without a motor of this type again, the US will be mired in stagnation indefinitely. Especially as long as the leadership remains fixated on the idea that only private capital can create jobs.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Attacks on Wiki Leaks Begin

Paying special attention to Assange's home country of Australia:

WikiLeaks founder Australian Julian Assange could have committed a serious criminal offence in helping an enemy of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the lobby group, the Australia Defence Association (ADA) says.

ADA executive director Neil James said much of the 92,201 assorted US military, intelligence and diplomatic documents leaked by Wikileaks would not be new to anyone familiar with the Afghanistan war or wars in general...

"Moreover, as an Australian citizen, Wikileaks' Julian Assange may also be guilty of a serious criminal offence by assisting an enemy the ADF is fighting on behalf of all Australians, especially if the assistance was intentional," he said...

"What WikiLeaks and its apologists ignore is the clear legal and moral differences between the actions of rule-of-law democracies applying international humanitarian law in UN-endorsed warfighting (however imperfectly at times), and the deliberate rejection of such law by the Taliban and its Islamist allies," he said.

And the Iraq War was 'legal' ? What nonsense, and what stupidity. Of course corruption breeds it in spades, which is why a gang of hackers has outwitted the official best and brightest with their unlimited warchests.

But like the internet itself, the cat's out of the bag. In the not too distant future, there will be one-two-many Assange's and Wiki-Leaks. The ruling classes of the Western world have no idea how completed discredited they are; they are drenched in lies and blood.

And it appears there is a little blow back on Western Finance when it comes to Iceland, home of WikiLeaks. Serves Britain right, especially, after they tried to forcibly liquidate the country. I would suggest Assange become a citizen.

1'WikiLeaks head attacked by ADA'- Sydney Morning Herald
2'WikiLeaks exposure endangers Afghan lives: Times' - AFP

When Mercantilists Feud

I'm sort of wondering how long the China-Germany lovefest goes on. Maybe not too much longer:

Via the Financial Times (7/18):

Two of Germany’s most prominent industrialists have attacked the business and investment climate in China during a meeting with Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier.

The criticism from the businessmen, the chief executives of Siemens and BASF, came against a backdrop of rising discontent among foreign businesses operating in China...

J├╝rgen Hambrecht, chief executive of BASF, the chemical producer, hit out at restrictions on foreign business and complained of foreign companies being forced to transfer business and technological know-how to Chinese companies in exchange for market access...

Addressing government procurement practices, a recent area of complaint by foreign executives and governments, Peter Loescher, chief executive of Siemens, the industrial conglomerate, said foreign companies operating in China “expect to find equal conditions in the fields of public tenders”


Again, China fully expects to field their own internationally competitive companies and wants to grow them initially via the domestic market. While the capitalist world system can incorporate a South Korea or a Taiwan into the second tier of world powers, in terms of per capita GDP, it's not likely that it can with a China unless someone else on top of the pyramid falls off or collapses. Capitalism has a shown a reliance on large pools of cheap labor from its inception.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

America, A Country of Cowards

The vast majority cheers as a population is forced to flee from their homes in a law that is tantamount to ethnic cleansing. From land that is 'American' in every sense - stolen through war and conquest.

And we laud the brave troops (even if the war is 'misguided') sitting on their asses, eating nachos in some bunker in Nevada as they wipe out villages in Afghanistan by joystick.

Truly the United States as a country loves to kick the weak and serve the powerful.

1'Migrants sell up and flee Arizona ahead of crackdown' - Reuters; Gayner
2'The War Logs; Wikileaks' - UK Guardian; Davies and Leigh

Friday, July 23, 2010

Why No Reaction to Secret Government WaPo Series ?

Scolds Glenn Greenwald.

Well, what exactly is the average person supposed to do Mr. Greenwald ? Write a letter to their Senator ? Have a nice peaceful protest and march in a circle ?

The U.S. can not and will not survive as a bourgeoisie democracy will these escalating levels of inequality. The ruling class is putting a police state apparatus into place, and adapting each younger generation to a steady erosion of their constitutional rights. The ruling class no longer offers the promise of an increased standard of living or a more humane society. All they have left is coercion and thuggery.

1'Why has the Post series created so little reaction?' - Greenwald- Salon

The South China Sea Dispute

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said resolving territorial disputes in waters off China’s coast is “a leading diplomatic priority” as the U.S. strengthens Asian defense ties in the face of a Chinese naval buildup.

Ending disagreements in the South China Sea “is pivotal to regional stability,” Clinton told the 27-member Asean Regional Forum in Hanoi today, according to a transcript provided by the State Department. She is set to meet later today with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

Clinton yesterday discussed military cooperation with Vietnam and Defense Secretary Robert Gates restored ties with special forces in Indonesia. The two countries border the South China Sea, which contains sea corridors vital to world trade, and where U.S. officials say China has become more assertive.

East Asia will be an increasingly dangerous place as the decade progresses. Rapid economic growth is placing the dominance of the US 'umbrella' at doubt, at least in mindset if not practicality.

From China's point of view, the sea is theirs by historic right. No other country in the region sees it that way and, like it or not, they are calling in the United States as a counterweight. And the U.S doesn't maintain some dozen aircraft carriers, as much as the rest of the world combined, to hand over control one of the world's key shipping lanes.

It's highly unlikely the dispute will just be 'resolved'.

1'U.S. Says Settling South China Sea Disputes `Leading Diplomatic Priority' - Bloomberg

Monday, July 19, 2010

Polling on SB 1070

California voters are sharply divided and hold very strong opinions about Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law. According to the latest Field Poll 49% of this state’s registered voters approve of the Arizona law while 45% disapprove. Most of the voters who approve or disapprove do so strongly.

---

• White non-Hispanic voters here are supporting the Arizona law 58% to 37%, as do African-Americans (53% to 39%). This contrasts sharply with the views of Latino voters who oppose the new law 71% to 24%. Asian-American voters are more divided – 50% in favor and 43% opposed.

• Voters who were born in the U.S. favor the law 54% to 41%, while voters born outside the U.S. oppose it by a greater than two to one margin (67% to 28%).(1)


Unfortunately the results of the poll reveal the divisions within the U.S. working class and why it is impossible to sustain any kind of progressive, let alone social democratic movement. We are deeply divided by skin color, place of birth, sexual 'orientation' and the like.

The Filed poll represents what many people know but don't want to say. That the majority of both Blacks and Asians support SB 1070, and the same would probably be true within the native born GLBT community. Support is not just from the fringe Tea Party movement or even the recalcitrant and fading Reagan Democrat. SB 1070 has now become a 'Mexican issue'.

The U.S. working class has let itself be divided into camps of 'Others'. While the very wealthy may be pleased with this, it bodes ill for the future of basic progressive institutions like public education which require working class solidarity.

1Field Poll on Arizona's Immmigration Law SB 1070

No Mosques in My Backyard ?

Muslims throughout Temecula and Murrieta have saved up for years to build a mosque to replace the plain white industrial building, tucked between a pipeline company and packaging warehouse, where they now gather to pray.

But as the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley moves ahead with plans to build on a four-acre plot of vacant land near Temecula's gentle hills and invading housing developments, plans for the new mosque have stirred hostility in this mostly conservative community in southwest Riverside County.(1)

---
I don't see why this lovely 'conservative community' is making such a fuss. The only possible annoyance I could see is prayer calls going out at all hours. If it takes shutting up incessant church bells to prevent this, in the name of equality, then all the more better. Other than that, people need to worry about real things or find a partner and have lots of sex if they have all these pent up frustrations about life.
--
1' Planned Temecula Valley mosque draws opposition' - LA Times; Willon

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Foot Long Cheeseburger, Yummy !


A fast food chain that gave America the 1,400 calorie Monster Burger says it is introducing a new foot-long cheeseburger with three patties and cheese slices.

Carl's Jr. restaurants in Southern California and Hardee's in Indiana are testing the new foot-long burger that weights in at 850 calories with 20 grams of saturated fat, USA Today reported Friday...

"We live in a society that's fascinated with all things big," says Scott Hume, editor of BurgerBusiness.com, an industry trade site. "It's inherently American to push for something bigger and better than anyone else has."

Then why not make it two feet ? Under this logic it would be twice as 'bigger and better' as the hapless competition.

---
1'Carl's Jr. testing foot-long cheeseburgers" - UPI

Mike Tyson on Gentrification

I went back to Brownsville with my reality-TV-show crew, they're doing a segment about my childhood racing pigeons, and Brownsville's all upscale now. They got surveillance cameras, buildings that were abandoned cost, like, a million now, and I'm thinking, My life must've been a lie, 'cause there's nothing there that looks like my childhood. This white woman come up, and I'm thinking, Wow. When I was a kid, she would've been robbed and raped and left for dead. This is a real strange scenario, and I just wanted to cry. I'm like, "Who am I? Where's my heritage?"(1)

---
1'Everything You Think You Know About Mike Tyson Is Wrong' - Details; Solotaraff

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A General Level of Toxicity in the Enviornment

Americans are being "bombarded" with cancer-causing chemicals and radiation and the federal government must do far more to protect them, presidential cancer advisers said on Thursday...

"The incidence of some cancers, including some most common among children, is increasing for unexplained reasons," wrote the two panel members, Dr. LaSalle Leffall, professor of surgery at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington and Margaret Kripke, an emeritus professor at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.(1)

I wonder if the increasing numbers of autistic children is a result of this.

We have trashed the environment in so many ways that we may be overwhelming our bodies natural filters. This might affect young children the most, since they have the weakest defenses.

1'Americans "bombarded" with cancer sources: report'- Reuters; Fox

'Jeb Bush is Married to a Latina'

Simon Rosenberg worries:

"Jeb [Bush] is married to a Latina, is fluent in Spanish, speaks on Univision as a commentator, his Spanish is that good...And if you look at the electoral map in 2012, you have to assume that Obama is going to have a very hard time in holding North Carolina and Virginia. The industrial Midwest, where the auto decline has been huge, has weakened Obama's numbers... a great deal. So Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin become a bit more wobbly. So if you're Barack Obama, the firewall is the Latin belt from Florida to southwestern California. And there is only one Republican who can break through that firewall. And it is Jeb."(1)

Apparently appeals to fuzzy skin color solidarity is all the Democratic Party has to offer. One would think that Jeb's economic vision would offer some possibility of criticism.

Sorry, the U.S. can't function smoothly even on its on terms, a bourgeoise Republic, as a balkanized collection of identity interests. That only works when there is an overwhelming -for instance- Protestant Establishment, to play off of. But even the Power Elite as an Establishment is disintegrating (as David Brooks recently wrote).

Maybe the newly engorged ruling class can get it together, but maybe not.

1'The Bush Revvial' - Huff Po; Stein
2'The Power Elite' - NYT Op-Ed; Brooks

Friday, July 16, 2010

Migrant Villages Under Lock and Key

The government calls it "sealed management." China's capital has started gating and locking some of its lower-income neighborhoods overnight, with police or security checking identification papers around the clock, in a throwback to an older style of control.

Introducing the future middle-class that will drive consumption for the next 30 years ?

I wonder if anyone in the finance world has thought seriously about how social and political institutions in China, and Asia for that matter, are going to get from Point A to Point Z to accommodate this burgeoning - or prospective burgeoning- middle class.

1'Beijing starts gating, locking migrant villages' AP; Anna

A Growing Credibility Crisis

So says the Financial times, about Obama's presidency:

“The bottom line here is that Americans don’t believe in President Obama’s leadership,” says Rob Shapiro, another former Clinton official and a supporter of Mr Obama. “He has to find some way between now and November of demonstrating that he is a leader who can command confidence and, short of a 9/11 event or an Oklahoma City bombing, I can’t think of how he could do that.”

Actually, the entire U.S. ruling elite - and their assorted Yes Men, courtiers, poolboys and Hacks - face a growing a credibility crisis. For what does the Republican leadership offer in response but a collection a retreads, nutcases and hucksters; i.e. Gingrich, Palin and Romney.

The slaughters in Iraq and Afghanistan, Katrina, the Oil Spill, the Financial Crisis...it goes on and on.

1'Obama faces growing credibility crisis' - Financial Times; Luce

Thursday, July 15, 2010

China's Malacca Dilemma

Referred to obliquely in a recent NYT op-ed. Therese Delpech, of the Carnegie Institute and the French Atomic Energy asks military shy Europeans:

"If Taiwan, to our common misfortune, should become the object of a confrontation between China and America, the Europeans may have to do some work — in the Middle East, for example, helping block maritime routes. Is Europe prepared to consider this, let alone actually do it?"

The 20 Families of International Gangsterism (G-20 political and finance leaders) have not yet declared a 'a war' but they always remind each other who holds the power of the gun. Hu knows it.

Why would this scenario be mentioned in an editorial in the paper of record, but to remind the 'new master' China that it is painfully vulnerable to energy blockade ? Much like Japan was once upon a time.

1'Where Is Your Military Might, Europe?' - NYT Op-Ed; Delpech

Murdoch and Bloomberg Team Up For Immigration Reform

Mayor Bloomberg headed up to News Corp headquarters this morning (6/24) to talk on Fox and Friends with Fox owner Rupert Murdoch to announce his new coalition to press for national immigration reform.

The aim of the coalition is to press the economic argument for immigration reform, and the mayor has recruited a large set of CEOs to join him.


Liberals and the Left seem to be headed for the standard gutting and filleting on this issue. In the U.S. everything and anything is subordinated to the interests of the wealthy.

Perhaps we could call legislation out of this 'reform' push the Bracero Program for Computer Programmers Act.

1'With Murdoch, Bloomberg Launches National Coalition On Immigration' - New York Observer; Brown

Ongoing Textile Strikes in Bangladesh



1'Garment workers protest in Bangladesh' - UK Guardian

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Add it to the Trade Deficit

As the Gulf Coast oil spill continues to gush, U.S. seafood suppliers are turning to Asia to ensure Americans have enough shrimp for their gumbos, Creoles and cocktails this summer, but some of those overseas cupboards are low themselves...

The price of plump black tiger shrimp is at a 10-year high in Vietnam, selling for around $13.50 per kilogram ($6.14 per pound), said Bui Dung, a manager at Minh Phu, Vietnam's biggest shrimp exporter in the southern Mekong delta province of Ca Mau...

"The demand, particularly from the U.S., is huge," Dung said. "We receive order requests from U.S. importers almost everyday...

Meanwhile, many Vietnamese-American shrimpmen are going bankrupt.

1'US raps on Asian shrimpers' doors after oil spill' - AP; Mason

About That Yuan Rise

Half of China's textile firms may risk going bankrupt if the value of the Chinese currency yuan rises 5 percent against the U.S. dollar given the industry's thin profit margins.(1)

China needs to go up the value chain if the yuan continues to rise - which they are doing - but even this would mean exacerbated unemployment in the developed world, or protectionism. The aggregate demand simply isn't there to absorb capacity and lowering wages in the largest markets isn't going to do much for that problem.

1 "China's textile firms may face bankruptcy on yuan appreciation: newspaper" - Xinhuanet

Kobe Bryant and Arthritis

Arthritis really sucks, especially if you are young and in a field that requires work with the hands. Many people might scoff at Kobe Bryant's arthritis problems , but as a musician who has dealt with a similar issue, it is quite debilitating and demoralizing to deal with when it directly affects one craft. And the thing is, arthritis can't really be 'cured' by a pill or an operation. It never goes away, you just deal with it. In this way, Bryant really is a remarkable athlete given the fine motor skills needed to shoot a ball through a tiny hoop. But I still don't like the Lakers.

1'Kobe Bryant has the index finger of an 83-year-old man' - Yahoo Sports; Kerby

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tolerating High Unemployment

Why ? The capacity for solidarity in the American working class seems greatly eroded. The list of Others is longer than ever. Go to any campus in California and one will find plenty of tabling on some issue of identity, as long as the identity has nothing to do with class. Identity rights is fine and dandy, once upon a time it was actually radical. It mostly isn't now. Louisiana has an Indian-American Republican governor and South Carolina is about to add a second. The right wing is more than willing to accept non whites as long as they are solid class warriors. So table away. The Roman ruling class had a phrase : Divide et Impera. Though Rome rotted away from the inside as well.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shake Up at the Musicians' Union

The sitting president of the national musicians' union just lost re-election. As anyone familiar with unions knows, this is unusual. It's a symptom of years of declining membership due to issues familiar with any union, as well as the larger problem of a dwindling live music scene. This has lead to factionalization, and less unity, as too often happens with workers during crisis.

Generally speaking, a lower financial reward means less time for people to devote to the craft. You have to go out and make a 'real living'. In other words, quality and creativity declines. After all, it is somewhat dangerous to be a starving artist in the United States; you're one accident away from bankruptcy or homelessness.

Ray Hair, president of AFM Local 72-147 in Dallas, Texas has won the election for President of the American Federation of Musicians over incumbent Tom Lee. Lee conceded the election this evening in Las Vegas at the AFM Convention. Hair was supported by groups including recording musicians who had opposed many of Lee’s proposals to make AFM recording more competitive including buyout videogame recording contracts....
One of the challenges Hair faces is balancing the interests of competing groups within the AFM. A union made up primarily of part-time musicians, the AFM also covers film and television recording and symphonic work. RMA recording musicians have made no secret of their concerns that the AFM is not looking out after their best interests, with Lee attempting to balance the needs of established full-time recording musicians against those recording musicians who have lost work due to recording work being outsourced to buyout locations including Seattle, London, and eastern Europe. The advent of real-time recording links to studios around the world via the Internet has created an even more competitive environment.(1)


1'Ray Hair Elected President of AFM at Vegas Convention' - Film Music Magazine

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stealing Skilled Labor from the Developing World Does Not Constitute a Growth Policy

The United States and other Anglo countries are adept at assimilation, and capable of being the giant sucking sound for skilled labor from the developing world. But contrary to many mainstream American economists views, draining skilled labor from the developing world does not constitute a growth policy. It acts as an outsourcing of the United States education system to countries that are much poorer, have less resources, and need skilled labor much more. It acts as a pressure release against increased funding and improvements in our own public education system. While it may be good for selected individuals, and certainly for business owners, as a net sum gain it is zero or less than zero. It limits the potential of Americans within the public education system, and enserfs developing countries to remittances and a subservient relationship with the developed world.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Road Tripping 2010

I am in the middle of a cross country road trip, my first in over a decade. While the scenery changes are interesting, the experience as a whole seems much less so than before. The U.S. has become very much homogenized into a series of fast food chain restaurants offering their fare of sodium and weight gain. In the same way, our regional differences and personalities seem to be smoothed over by a wash of commercialization. There is less in the way of idiosyncrasies and regional characters. I guess they are all dying off. True, one does not want any Easy Rider moments, but the country is developing a certain blandness to it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Solar Power Grants

The government is handing out nearly $2 billion for new solar plants that President Barack Obama says will create thousands of jobs and increase the use of renewable energy sources.

Obama announced the initiative in his weekly radio and online address Saturday, saying the money is part of his plan to bring new industries to the U.S.

"We're going to keep competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America," Obama said.

In reality this is far too little. Private capital is sitting on the sidelines in the trillions . If the holders of private capital can't find a way to invest it - beyond swapping paper - then it should be taxed, seized, or borrowed at 1% interest through bonds, and used for infrastructure, education, and future growth industries.

This will necessarily have to be the future of all so-called advanced economies or they will be riddled with weak demand and high unemployment for perpetuity. We have over capacity in mature industries worldwide, and unprofitable technologies in growth industries, both of which discourage investment from private capital. Thus, the swapping of paper.

The establishment of public banks , perhaps with money created by the Federal Reserve, would also be nice. If Chase and Jamie Dimon can access it, why can't we ?

Back to the initial point: 2 billion is weak, pathetic, and window dressing.

1'Obama awards $2B for solar power, hails new jobs' - AP; Pace

Friday, July 2, 2010

Arnold the Brave

California GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday cut the pay of most of the state’s workers to minimum wage – $7.25 an hour – for the month of July.


It takes a real tough guy to kick the worker. Anything so that Arnold can continue go to nice banquets with California's billionaires.

The ruling class will be wistfully recalling a strong left that once pushed for a restoration of purchasing power to the middle/working class. You can't run a modern economy on yacht manufacturing and asset souffles. No wealth redistribution, no recovery. No recovery, then war.

1'Calif. employees cut to minimum wage' - Politico; Barr