Archive for August, 2011
At Slate, Mandy Van Deven offers this explanation for why the ideas of the left aren’t taking root in modern America:
The left’s success in the 1930s was based on a lot of preparation that went back to the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era when corporations were seen as malefactors of great wealth. When the Great Depression hit there was immediate support for ideas that people on the left had been talking about, like that corporations are selfish and exploit their workers or that the wealth should be more evenly spread out. For the past 35 years, conservative notions about Big Government rather than liberal ones about Big Business have been dominant. When the economic crisis hit in the 2008, Americans were already primed to believe the government couldn’t do anything right because it hasn’t been doing anything right for years. Ironically, the conservatives were proved right when the stimulus didn’t do what the Obama administration hoped it would do, and clearly the Tea Party has been able to grow on that policy mistake. The reaction depends on what people think when an economic crisis hits, not what people say to make their case after it has happened.
Back in 1978, Justice William Renquist wrote a dissent that is extraordinary reading today. This nugget of jurisprudence was dug up by Linda Greenhouse, who write an excellent NYT Op-Ed titled “Over the Cliff.”
This dissenting justice did not take issue with a corporation’s status as a “person” in the eyes of the law (as Mitt Romney recently reminded a heckler at the Iowa State Fair). But corporate personhood was “artificial,” not “natural,” the justice observed. A corporation’s rights were not boundless but, rather, limited, and the place of “the right of political expression” on the list of corporate rights was highly questionable. “A state grants to a business corporation the blessings of potentially perpetual life and limited liability to enhance its efficiency as an economic entity,” the dissenting opinion continued. “It might reasonably be concluded that those properties, so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere … Indeed, the states might reasonably fear that the corporation would use its economic power to obtain further benefits beyond those already bestowed.”
Noting that most states, along with the federal government, had placed limits on the ability of corporations to participate in politics, the dissenting justice concluded: “The judgment of such a broad consensus of governmental bodies expressed over a period of many decades is entitled to considerable deference from this Court.
Why is writing so difficult, and why is it that I write so slowly? These are two questions addressed by a well-written and presumably slowly-written article by Michael Aggar at Slate.
Kellogg is always careful to emphasize the extreme cognitive demands of writing, which is very flattering. “Serious writing is at once a thinking task, a language task, and a memory task,” he declares. It requires the same kind of mental effort as a high-level chess match or an expert musical performance. We are all aspiring Mozarts indeed. So what’s holding us back? How does one write faster? Kellogg terms the highest level of writing as “knowledge-crafting.” In that state, the writer’s brain is juggling three things: the actual text, what you plan to say next, and—most crucially—theories of how your imagined readership will interpret what’s being written. A highly skilled writer can simultaneously be a writer, editor, and audience.
Several weeks ago I passed this restroom door, which was located in a grocery store.
Cannot? Oh yeah? That sign made me want to prove the sign wrong by carrying tons of merchandise into the restroom until it was completely full of merchandise.
I don’t know why the “can” vs. “may” error gripes me so much–perhaps it’s because I hear and see this problem so often, and also because it seems that it would be so very easy to understand the problem and stop making the error.
Until last week, I was using Final Cut Express 4 on my iMac. It took me quite a bit of time to get familiar with the many features of Final Cut Express–I struggled so much to remember how to access the many features that I created a single-spaced four-page cheat sheet. Then, just when I finally got comfortable with Final Cut Express, Apple released a new ground-up version of Final Cut Pro (version X). It has major improvements compared to FCE, including background rendering, re-design of the work areas, ability to tag and categorize clips and much more. The previous version of Final Cut Pro sold for $800, whereas the brand new Final Cut Pro X sells for only $300.
I hesitated to buy the new version, despite the many improvements, because I didn’t want to spend a lot of time training up on a new video program (as I did when I ditched Adobe Premier Elements (on my PC) in order to move to Final Cut Express on an iMac). Nonetheless, I took the plunge last week, downloading FCP X from the online Apple Store (the only way to buy it). One factor in upgrading was the recommendation of Izzy Hyman, who offers first-rate video instruction at his membership-based site. In fact, Izzy now offers 25 free lessons on Final Cut Pro X at his site (Note: I’ve written about Izzy once before.). His lessons cover each of the following topics, and each lesson includes high-quality screencasts:
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By now, whatever stimulus effect the Obama Stimulus Plan has had is nearly gone or gone. It is certain that the approximately $200 million in Democratic Middle Class Tax Cuts are gone which was the price Republicans demanded as part of the re-authorization of the Bush tax breaks for the top 2% of wage earners near the end of last year. The states have spent all the federal monies given to them which allowed states to initially avoid laying-off police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and teachers and now states are going through lay-offs in droves further depressing the economy. And see here.
There were only 18% of the Stimulus Plan dollars which went to “infrastructure” and those dollars are gone, too. The economy was treading water, and now growth is slipping. More federal dollars for bridges, roads and schools are needed and proposed by President Obama but, Republicans apparently will not vote for anything but cutting federal spending or cutting taxes for corporations and millionaires.
15 year fixed mortgage rates for well qualified borrowers are approximately 3.375 % as of the writing of this piece. Some broker/lenders will quote lower rates if you buy points. What’s there for the merely “decently” qualified borrowers? You might get 3.5% for a 15 year fixed rate. But, there’s a way to get all of those amongst us who are current on our loans and the loans are owned by FHLMC (“Freddie Mac”) and FNMA (“Fannie Mae”) (recently combined into the FHLA), FHA and VA an immediate break which will stimulate the economy.
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I’ve sometimes referred to the telecom industry as “communist.” After all, if the AT&T and T-Mobile merge is approved, that bigger version of AT&T would have 80% of the wireless market. That means one player would dominate an industry. If you don’t like the phone service you’re getting, don’t have a phone. Communism, whether the Soviet or the Capitalist version, stifles innovation and causes customer service to stagnate. It also forces consumers to pay artificially high bills because there is no competition. Dylan Ratigan has picked up on this comparison too:
Lately I have been using the phrase “Corporate Communism” on my television show. I think it is an especially fitting term when discussing the current landscape in both our banking and health care systems.
As Americans, I believe we reject communism because it historically has allowed a tiny group of people to consolidate complete control over national resources (including people), in the process stifling competition, freedom and choice. It leaves its citizens stagnating under the perpetual broken systems with no natural motivation to innovate, improve services or reduce costs.
Ergo, we need to stamp out communism everywhere we find it, even when it exists in a capitalist system like the United States.
Glenn Greenwald has written a blistering article describing the decision of the Obama Administration to put pressure on the New York Attorney General to sign on to a deal to immunize big mortgage banks from criminal prosecution in return for meager civil fines. This is a terrible position for the President to take, but it’s not surprising given Obama’s track record:
[Yves Smith's] entire analysis should be read. The President — who kicked off his campaign vowing to put an end to “the era of Scooter Libby justice” — will stand before the electorate in 2012 having done everything in his power to shield top Bush officials from all accountability for their crimes and will have done the same for Wall Street banks, all while continuing to preside over the planet’s largest Prison State . . . for ordinary Americans convicted even of trivial offenses, particularly (though not only) from the War on Drugs he continues steadfastly to defend. And as Sam Seder noted this morning, none of this has anything to do with Congress and cannot be blamed on the Weak Presidency, the need to compromise, or the “crazy” GOP.
The lack of decent compensation for victims is the tip of the iceberg. The problem is the the Obama Administration has decided to shield the banks from being investigated at all. No bank executives will face prison time despite immense damage that they’ve done to the U.S. economy. In short, Obama is helping to sweep this entire sordid economy-crushing scandal under the rug.
Aside from robosigning, which was all over the funny papers last year, the Administration and the AGs have made sure they have no facts. A member of the Administration who was involved in the settlement talks confirmed what we have long said on this blog: there was no investigation of any kind, despite Iowa attorney general Tom MIller’s lies claims to the contrary. They didn’t even bother getting to first base, namely making document requests.
Greenwald cites to Joseph Stilitz in his article. I followed that link to this sobering paragraph:
Growing inequality, combined with a flawed system of campaign finance, risks turning America’s legal system into a travesty of justice. Some may still call it the “rule of law,” but it would not be a rule of law that protects the weak against the powerful. Rather, it would enable the powerful to exploit the weak.