Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I”m finally getting over this sinus infection so I’ve had a chance to actually read a few interesting things.  First up, is yet another one of those folks that insists that baby boomers are parasites.    I really hate generational warfare, don’t you?  However, this one is interesting.  It’s put in terms of a conversation between baby boomer son and ‘greatest generation’ father and the arguments are backed up by interesting anecdotes and statistics. Still, why do have to keep score on who’s screwed up the country more in terms of age groups?

The boomers haven’t been a total disaster, of course. They did indeed blaze huge social and economic trails for women, minorities, and people with disabilities. Those groups have gained rights that, as long as the rest of us remain vigilant, will never be reversed: Young women can grow up to be lawyers or scientists. African-Americans can grow up to be president. Boomers gave us Apple and Microsoft. They made the Star Wars movies. They grew the economy for a bit. Once, for a couple of years in the late 1990s, they balanced the federal budget.

But the numbers on the laptop remind me how fleeting much of that progress was—and how boomers chose short-term gratification when they had opportunities to secure a better future for generations to follow. Classic example: Instead of devoting the budget surpluses of the late ’90s to social programs that desperately needed them, they voted themselves tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and an expanded Medicare benefit shortly after—a move a Congressional Budget Office study from that era suggests raised the expected tax rate on future generations from 29 percent to 53 percent. They borrowed heavily to cope with the economic sluggishness of the 2000s and, in so doing, inflated a housing bubble that, when it popped, triggered the Great Recession.

Median-income growth has stagnated for women and minorities over the past decade. The typical African-American today has less wealth than his or her parents did, according to Pew. Labor-force participation for women this year hit its lowest level since 1991.

So, the Brits pile on boomers too.  Here’s something from The Economist on “Sponging Boomers” and how that relates to the next crisis.

These boomers have lived a charmed life, easily topping previous generations in income earned at every age. The sheer heft of the generation created a demographic dividend: a rise in labour supply, reinforced by a surge in the number of working women. Social change favoured it too. Households became smaller, populated with more earners and fewer children. And boomers enjoyed the distinction of being among the best-educated of American generations at a time when the return on education was soaring.

Yet these gains were one-offs. Retirements will reverse the earlier labour-force surge, and younger generations cannot benefit from more women working. There is room to raise educational levels, but it is harder and less lucrative to improve the lot of disadvantaged students than to establish a university degree as the norm for good ones, as was the case after the war. In short, boomer income growth relied on a number of one-off gains.

Young workers also cannot expect decades of rising asset prices like those that enriched the boomers. Zheng Liu and Mark Spiegel, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, found in 2011 that movements in the price-earnings ratio of equities closely track changes in the ratio of middle-aged to old workers, meaning that the p/e ratio is likely to fall. Having lived through a spectacular bull market, boomers now sell off assets to finance retirement, putting pressure on equity prices and denying young workers an easy route to wealth. Boomers have weathered the economic crisis reasonably well. Thanks largely to the rapid recovery in stockmarkets, those aged between 53 and 58 saw a net decline in wealth of just 2.8% between 2006 and 2010.

More worrying is that this generation seems to be able to leverage its size into favourable policy. Governments slashed tax rates in the 1980s to revitalise lagging economies, just as boomers approached their prime earning years. The average federal tax rate for a median American household, including income and payroll taxes, dropped from more than 18% in 1981 to just over 11% in 2011. Yet sensible tax reforms left less revenue for the generous benefits boomers have continued to vote themselves, such as a prescription-drug benefit paired with inadequate premiums. Deficits exploded.

Yes. So, all of us should just head to the ice floes.  La-ti-da.

So, here’s my weekly update on interesting historical graves.  Archaeologists believe they have found the tomb of an ancient queen in Guatamala.  A tiny jar has given them some key clues.

Glyphs carved into a tiny alabaster jar have led archaeologists to conclude that the tomb in Guatemala where the jar was found belonged to one of the greatest queens of the Classic Maya civilization, known as Lady K’abel.

“She was not only a queen, but a supreme warlord, and that made her the most powerful person in the kingdom during her lifetime,” David Freidel, an archaeologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a report released today. That description would put Lady K’abel in the same class as other ruling women of the ancient world, ranging from the biblical Queen of Sheba to Egypt’sHatshepsut and Cleopatra.

That’s some heady company for Lady K’abel.

Some of the most bizarre comments made by Mitt Romney was his dislike of shipping jobs to China or having China fund our lifestyle as compared to funding their own. It takes brass ones to suggest that he’s not been in favor of shipping jobs to China given this Bain Capital investment in a Chinese factory that is quite shocking.  The word sweatshop is so inadequate.  No wonder he thinks all of us are freeloaders if he thinks this situation constitutes a normal working conditions. Romney discussed the working conditions so he was well aware of where his money was going.

Economist Paul Davidson recently pointed out the truth on AlterNet : “Romney has spent his career offshoring and outsourcing American production processes — and associated jobs — to countries like China where human labor is valued in the market at a very low wage rate.” The sub-human conditions at these production facilities represent things that Americans are strongly opposed to: child abuse, squalor, forced overtime, and peanuts for pay.

Romney’s penchant for bragging about his business activities at fundraisers helps underscore just how vile his brand of capitalism really is. While CEO of Bain, Romney invested in a Chinese sweatshop which he appears to be describing in detail at the very same Boca Raton fundraising event where he made his infamous case that nearly half of all Americans are freeloaders.

A report recently released by the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights reveals that while Romney was deeply invested at a firm called Global-Tech, low pay and horrific conditions were status quo at its Chinese appliance factory.

Here are some really horrifying details from the same article.

From April 1998 through August 2000, Romney and his Brookside Capital Partners Fund, a Bain affiliate, poured around $23 million into the Global-Tech sweatshop in Dongguan, China. Among the details outlined in the report were the following:

  • Factory workers made 24 cents an hour in 1998 and less than $2 a day. Wages in Global-Tech were less than 2 percent of U.S. wages.
  • As CEO, Romney appears to have been uninterested in calling for improvements at the facility. Today, the sweatshop is still a horror where starvation wages prevail and workers’ rights are nonexistent. Overcrowded, filthy dormitories; rotten food; routine 15- to 16-hour shifts; and backbreaking 105- to 112-hour, seven-day workweeks are the norm.
  • The appliance factory has 800 student “interns” — 16-years-olds forced to work repetitive, exhausting 15- to 16-hour shifts on assembly lines with no overtime pay.

There’s a story in Vanity Fair on Jamie Dimon that’s also an eye-opener.

… Dimon’s sanguinity is somewhat belied by the formidable lobbying machine that he’s built in Washington. JPMorgan’s shop is much bigger than that of other banks, and it is chock-full of politically connected former congressional staffers. The firm has become known for the regularity with which its top people show up in Washington.

Dimon has put himself front, center, and uncensored in the debate about tougher oversight. He’s lambasted regulators for failing to recognize that, while some companies were “too big to fail,” others were “ports in the storm,” and for making “hundreds of rules, many of which are uncoordinated and inconsistent with each other.”

Part of the explanation is purely pragmatic: Dimon is trying to preserve his firm’s profits—and maybe the firm itself. But it’s hard not to hear something more emotional when you listen to Dimon. “This country would be flying if we had gotten stuff right and all worked together, but we haven’t,” he says. He frequently says that banks and bankers are being “scapegoated” for their role in the crisis, and he is full of righteous indignation. He often invokes Abraham Lincoln: “I’m a Democrat, and I tell Democrats and Republicans, you guys are busy simplifying and scapegoating—well, Abe Lincoln wouldn’t do it.” He says he’s heard the story of a young officer telling Lincoln during the Civil War, “We’re going to win because God is on our side.” Lincoln responded, “Son, let’s hope that we’re on God’s side.”

I watched Amy Goodman on Democracy Now after the end of the Debates.  She did a great segment on the difficulty of getting outsider candidates into the presidential debate.  You may want to watch it if you get a chance.

President Obama made a good point in late 2011, when he told “60 Minutes,” “Don’t judge me against the Almighty; judge me against the alternative.” If only the public had a full range of alternatives against which to judge. In fact, most people do. They just don’t know it. The reason they don’t know it is because the media don’t report on third-party politics or campaigns. These campaigns also lack the funds to purchase television airtime, or to compete against the Democratic and Republican campaign fundraising juggernauts. This leads to less diversity of voices, and far fewer alternatives on the ballot.

It hasn’t always been this way. In 1980, the League of Women Voters ran the debates, and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson was allowed to participate (President Jimmy Carter opposed his participation and boycotted the event). In 1992, billionaire Ross Perot used his personal funds to overcome the media blockade of his presidential campaign. His successful debate performance temporarily propelled him ahead of both Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush in the polls.

Since then, no third-party candidate has been allowed into the presidential debates. The debates are run by the Commission on Presidential Debates, an organization described by George Farah, founder and executive director of Open Debates, as “a private corporation financed by Anheuser-Busch and other major companies, that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties to seize control of the presidential debates from the League of Women Voters.”

Farah told me that in 1988, “you have the Michael Dukakis and the George Bush campaigns drafting the first-ever 12-page secret debate contract. They gave it to the League of Women Voters and said please implement this. The League said, Are you kidding me? We are not going to implement a secret contract that dictates the terms of the format. Instead, they release the contract to the public and they held a press conference accusing the candidates of ‘perpetrating a fraud on the American people’ and refusing to be ‘an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American people.’”

The Democratic and Republican parties wrested control of the debates from the League of Women Voters, and have controlled them since.

So, I love Japanese woodcut prints and had quite a collection of them prior to the divorce.   Fortunately, older daughter has been ensuring they don’t disappear to E-bay and into her step mother’s casino fund.  The one above is called Beauty and Violence.  I wanted to end with a really interesting and inspiring story about the elderly in Japan.  Japan has an extremely large population of long-lived seniors.  This story is about them and their participation in athletics. Notice that Japan is not promoting the ice floes like Paul Ryan and a lot of Republican leaders even though Japan’s debt is substantially more worrisome than ours.

Saddled with record public debt, Japan is promoting social interaction to curb the cost of caring for the 32 percent its people older than 60 — the highest proportion globally. By 2050, one in five people worldwide will be over 60, from one in nine now, according to the United Nations. Japan’s approach may help other countries also facing rising numbers of elderly.

“It enables them to participate quite actively in community life,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, secretary general of the UN’s Population Fund, which is leading UN efforts on aging. People with strong social networks “will probably not fall ill as frequently,” he said in an interview in Tokyo, where the UN released a report on aging this week.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare released policies on health and aging that focus on strengthening seniors’ community involvement in July, a shift from previous approaches that centered only on individual behavior.

Finding cost-effective ways to promote healthy aging will be critical for countries trying to reconcile rising welfare costs and a shrinking tax base. By 2050, 42 percent of Japan’s population will be at least 60 years old, according to Global AgeWatch.

Read on about Japan’s 10 point plan for Healthy Aging. It includes subsidizing exercise for seniors and rewarding them for doing civic and group activities with coupons.

In Tokyo’s Suginami ward, where Doi lives, authorities award points in the form of stickers to seniors who participate in government-approved activities from picking up litter, to attending health and sporting events, to cultural activities. Each point has a value of 50 yen (64 cents) and can be exchanged for grocery coupons. The Suginami local government has allocated 80 million yen for the project this year, according to its website.

“People who are disadvantaged socially and economically have more health problems,” the health ministry in Tokyo said in July.

Each year since 1988, the ministry has hosted the “Nenrinpic” carnival in which seniors compete at a national level in sports such as tennis, petanque and croquet. Doi’s petanque team has represented Tokyo five times, been a finalist three times and won the championship in 1999, she said.

Health clubs are benefiting from a growing enthusiasm for exercise among seniors. Koshidaka Holdings Co., which operates 1,200 women-only fitness centers in Japan, says 50- and 60-year- olds make up more than 60 percent of its 500,000 members.

“The core customers have never really exercised in their adult life before, so they feel the benefits from an easy, 30- minutes of weight training,” Hiroshi Koshidaka, the company’s president, said in an interview. “Many come three times a week, feel improvement, make friends, encourage others to join, and stop people from quitting.”

The purpose of the plan is to end the isolation that many seniors feel and support them in a healthy, connected life style.  Wow.  Imagine that.

So, I’ve gone way past my usual length and MABlue always gives me a hard time about that so, I’ll leave the rest of the day’s news reporting to you.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


68 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. Beata says:

    Good news for Obama:

    CNN reporting unemployment rate has fallen to 7.8%, the lowest since Jan. 2009.

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. Ron4Hills says:

    The Repugnicans have to be careful, if they are seen to be happy about bad news and unhappy about good news it could “wet blanket” Mitt’s debate bump more than the unemployment number.

    • bostonboomer says:

      What debate bump? The entire conversation so far has been about Mitt’s lies and his threat to fire Big Bird.

      • Ron4Hills says:

        Tongue in cheek bump…I should also say taht the admin has to be careful not to do a happy dance. It is good that the number finally went below 8.0, but 78 is nothing to crow about.

  4. Fannie says:

    What was it Romney said when the President talked about the tax reductions for plants going overseas, something like he’s been in business for over 25 years, and didn’t know what the President was talking about.

    What are those benefits that he got with Bain going to China, Global Tech?

  5. bostonboomer says:

    It looks like Charles Manson follower Bruce Davis is going to be released. Some people think he was the Zodiac killer.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/05/bruce-davis-manson-release-parole_n_1942080.html

  6. RalphB says:

    Funny and I’m so glad someone put this in the paper of record!

    Timothy Egan / NYT: Idiot’s Delight

    You’re an undecided voter. Your time is up. The rest of us are sick of pretending to care about you, saying nice things to you, doing your damn laundry.

    Decide, O.K.? When the choice was between Scrooge McDuck and the Kenyan Socialist, you couldn’t make up your mind. Now that you know it’s between two Harvard know-it-alls, with clear, divergent views of government, you’re waiting for — what? The long-lost Mormon tablets to reappear? Donald Trump to reveal what his phantom investigators found among the birth records in Hawaii?

    No, of course not. To your credit, you don’t take your talking points from the toxic menu of far-right radio nor from the conspiracy theorists of the paranoid left. But that’s the only nice thing I’m going to say about you.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      The amazing thing is that there are two quite radically different approaches to government that this election is all about:

      1. Do you want to watch the dismantling of the social safety nets put in place to assist people like you such as Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, student loans, healthcare access, and gay rights?

      2. Or would you support a party that is fighting to keep the majority of its citizens from “going under” with heavier personal debt that will be a given if these programs disappear?

      How difficult is that? I could offer more variables but I would then appear to be burdening these idiots with too many choices so I will leave it at that.

      • RalphB says:

        Seems like an easy choice to me. I don’t understand “undecided” voters at this point. I don’t think they are “undecided”, but rather “uncaring” because they don’t understand that their own lives will be affected.

      • Beata says:

        A year ago I might have believed statements like “Romney is a moderate” and “there’s no difference between the two parties”. But the GOP primary, revelations about Romney’s Bain years, the Ryan pick ( and the budget plan he represents ), and the GOP convention blew those arguments away. The choice is clear now. How people can still be “undecided” is extremely puzzling. I suspect those “undecided” voters won’t vote.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Fact check of Romney’s claims of dramatic achievements as Governor of Massachusetts:

    Mr. Romney and the legislature did at times get along, Massachusetts schools were often top-rated, and some taxes did drop during Mr. Romney’s four years as governor, from 2003 through 2006. But a comparison of his claims to the factual record suggests that all three take liberties with the truth.

    While the governor and the legislature came together to produce balanced budgets and enact a signature health care reform bill, much of those four years were characterized by conflict and tensions. In the opening months of his tenure, Mr. Romney vetoed a Massachusetts House plan to create new committees and raise staff members’ pay, and the legislators rejected his flagship proposal, a nearly 600-page plan to overhaul the state bureaucracy.

    Mr. Romney proved to have a taste for vetoes, killing legislative initiatives in his first two years at more than twice the rate of his more popular Republican predecessor, William F. Weld, The Boston Globe reported in 2004. The lawmakers responded in kind by overriding his vetoes at a rapid pace.

    Much more at the link.

  8. RalphB says:

    How hackish is this story? Just look at that headline and the Tapper report saying Republicans are using this to kick the State Dept.

    ABC: Email Shows State Department Rejecting Request of Security Team at US Embassy in Libya

    ABC News has obtained an internal State Department email from May 3, 2012, indicating that the State Department denied a request from the security team at the Embassy of Libya to retain a DC-3 airplane in the country to better conduct their duties.

    No one has yet to argue that the DC-3 would have definitively made a difference for the four Americans killed that night. The security team in question, after all, left Libya in August.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I don’t get the significance. It’s not even about Benghazi. The plane was used for the military security team.

      Post’s request to continue use of the plane in support of the SST was considered. However, it was decided that, if needed, NEA will charter a special flight for their departure.”

      The story doesn’t even mention that Hillary already responded to Issa’s letter.

      • RalphB says:

        It’s a Drudge scoop. That’s my opinion.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I wonder if Obama hurt Jake Tapper’s feelings or something? Tapper used to be a favored member of the press corps and would often get the first question at press conferences. Lately he’s been doing everything he can to undermine Obama. He was always a hack, IMO.

      • RalphB says:

        By the way, that SST was there to advise them on security for the embassy and the consulate in Benghazi. Wonder what they had to say about it before they left? If we never find out it will be because they approved what was there.

  9. RalphB says:

    The Rand Corps continuous polling of the presidential race is interesting. Obama is up.

    https://mmicdata.rand.org/alp/?page=election#election-forecast

  10. Sara says:

    Did Romney break debate rules by bringing notes.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      I just watched that video at Cannonfire. If the debate rules didn’t allow prepared notes, then Romney Cheated? So, who’s surprised?

    • dakinikat says:

      I saw him give a paper to his son afterwards to put in his pocket and thought that odd.

      • RalphB says:

        Romney campaign says this was a handkerchief but, unless my eyes deceive me, the object bounces and that wouldn’t be a hanky normally,

      • Seriously says:

        Lol! Iago hands off to Lady Bracknell. She’s pressured by Algernon–a long pass, there’s a scrim near the endzone–we can’t see the handkerchief–where is the handkerchief–MICHAEL FRAIN has the handkerchief! Touchdown!!!!

    • RalphB says:

      Shorter slow-motion video.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        What i noticed in the video is that it didn’t fold down when he tossed it on the podium like you’d expect a handerkerchief. But hell, you can put notes on a handerchief too, can’t you?

      • ANonOMouse says:

        And yep, it did bounce. I need to do a scientific experiment to see if I can throw a piece of cloth onto a table and make it bounce. 🙂

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “Oh how I miss the Clinton nineties where the president could talk to heads of state on the fone while getting that infamous bj…and THAT was our biggest national crisis.”

        LOL!!!!

        Although I will say, that like everyone else here, I’ve had a head cold/sinuses for weeks and if Mitt Romney has a bouncing handerchief, I want to know where he got it because I drop mine so often I could use one that bounces back to me. 🙂

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Didn’t GWBush have a lump in his suit coat during his debate with Kerry? It must have been a remote Carl Rove receiving unit.

      • Beata says:

        Imho, it looks too flat, stiff, and thin to be a handkerchief. It looks like a piece of paper.

        “Hey, Mitt baby, is that a flat, stiff, and thin handkerchief you have in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” 😉

      • Seriously says:

        Frayn, Frayn lol

      • Fannie says:

        Didn’t Palin use the palm of her hands?

  11. Beata says:

    Dak, I love the Japanese woodcuts. I hope you will be able to keep your collection in your family!

  12. RalphB says:

    Another Xtian lunatic from the House Science Committee. This all has to be some kind of sick joke!

    Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA): Evolution, Big Bang ‘Lies Straight From The Pit Of Hell’

    Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) tore into scientists as tools of the devil in a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet last month.

    “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

    According to Broun, the scientific plot was primarily concerned with hiding the true age of the Earth. Broun serves on the House Science Committee,

    “You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth,” he said. “I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”

    Broun — a physician, with an M.D. and a B.S. in chemistry — is generally considered to be among the most conservative members of Congress, if not the most. He drew national attention in 2010 for saying he did not know if President Obama was an American citizen.