Friday Reads: transient, evanescent, inconstant

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!!

I’m not sure what manner of factors has created the circumstances of this year but I’m really over it.  Kinsey is putting on weight and eating nicely. Dinah’s fur is returning.  Miles has had a terrible few days.  Something triggered a drop in his blood sugar and he’s got so many things wrong suddenly that it’s hard to separate what’s wrong from what’s causing it.  I feel under siege.  Turning on the TV and reading the newspaper or any myriad of things I usually do to help is not really helping because the chaotic Kremlin Caligula has my stomach in tight knots already.  He’s ready to make all the creatures of the earth go extinct.  Every thing he does destroys life.

Those three words up there are how the Buddha describes our existence.  Now that we live in the nightmare realm of a person with an extremely awful personality disorder we can add destructive chaos to that list.

I was going to try to stick to other  things today because frankly it’s one moment at a time for me at the moment. I am certainly not alone. Here’s a nice read via one of my cousins: “Annie Proulx Gave One of the Best National Book Award Speeches in Recent Memory.”

We don’t live in the best of all possible worlds. This is a Kafkaesque time. The television sparkles with images of despicable political louts and sexual harassment reports. We cannot look away from the pictures of furious elements, hurricanes and fires, from the repetitive crowd murders by gunmen burning with rage. We are made more anxious by flickering threats of nuclear war. We observe social media’s manipulation of a credulous population, a population dividing into bitter tribal cultures. We are living through a massive shift from representative democracy to something called viral direct democracy, now cascading over us in a garbage-laden tsunami of raw data. Everything is situational, seesawing between gut-response “likes” or vicious confrontations. For some this is a heady time of brilliant technological innovation that is bringing us into an exciting new world. For others it is the opening of a savagely difficult book without a happy ending.

To me the most distressing circumstance of the new order is the accelerating destruction of the natural world and the dreadful belief that only the human species has the inalienable right to life and God-given permission to take anything it wants from nature, whether mountaintops, wetlands or oil. The ferocious business of stripping the earth of its flora and fauna, of drowning the land in pesticides again may have brought us to a place where no technology can save us. I personally have found an amelioration in becoming involved in citizen science projects. This is something everyone can do. Every state has marvelous projects of all kinds, from working with fish, with plants, with landscapes, with shore erosions, with water situations.

Yet somehow the old discredited values and longings persist. We still have tender feelings for such outmoded notions as truth, respect for others, personal honor, justice, equitable sharing. We still hope for a happy ending. We still believe that we can save ourselves and our damaged earth—an indescribably difficult task as we discover that the web of life is far more mysteriously complex than we thought and subtly entangled with factors that we cannot even recognize. But we keep on trying, because there’s nothing else to do.

It’s difficult being realistic these days.  I fully admit that I’d like to be able to live in a world of my invention.  For example, I’d like people to stop killing animals unnecessarily.  How can you call killing anything that’s sentient and beautiful a “sport”?  What kind of freak gets enjoyment out of that?  You eat out of necessity.  Anything beyond that puts you in the ‘disturbed’ category in my ethos.

And why, still, at 62 do I have to avoid dark streets and places?  Warn my daughters about things put in drinks?  Worry about being at event that isn’t mostly filled with gay men and women of any stripe? When can I just go some place and relax without checking for the nearby predators? Why am I supposed to laugh off incredibly disturbing behavior involving my biology or some other aspect of my existence as a woman?  How do I get the media to understand the difference between a tasteless cad and a perpetrator of sexual assault?  #EveryWomanTOO

I am a Democrat because I am a feminist who lives under a two-party system, where one party consistently votes against the interests of women while the other sometimes does not. I am not a true believer in the party itself nor in any politician. I am a realist who recognizes that we get two viable choices, and Democrats are members of the only party positioned to pump the brakes on Republicans’ gleeful race toward Atwoodian dystopia. Meanwhile, I recognize that men’s harassment of and violence against women is a systemic issue, not a Democrat or Republican problem, a Hollywood problem, a sports problem, or a media problem. Its roots lie in a patriarchal culture that trains men to believe they are entitled to control women’s bodies —for sex, for sport, for childbearing, for comedy.

When you combine these things — an awareness that the Democratic Party is no more or less than best of two, and an understanding that men in power frequently exploit women — it becomes difficult to believe that Franken is the only sitting Democrat with a history of harassment, abuse or assault. The recent #metoo campaign demonstrated how normalized unwanted kissing and groping are in our culture. Donald Trump was caught on tape crudely admitting to both of those transgressions, and we made him our president. According to the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 3 women experiences some sort of contact sexual violence in her life. Sexual harassment and assault are simply too widespread for Democrats to respond to Franken’s offense with only Franken in mind: We need to respond in a way that helps us develop a protocol for meaningful change.

FILE – This Oct. 11, 1991 file photo shows University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. HBO says that “Scandal” star Kerry Washington will play Hill in a film about the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas. (AP Photo, File)

I really didn’t want to go on and on about this but wtf is this?  “Congress paid out $17 million in settlements. Here’s why we know so little about that money.”  This equals 260 settlement over the last 20 years.  This reminds me of Newt Gingrich going after Bill Clinton while cheating on his current wife with the Calista. This is happening in their offices and while they’re in office.

On Thursday, the Office of Compliance released additional information indicating that it has paid victims more than $17 million since its creation in the 1990s. That includes all settlements, not just related to sexual harassment, but also discrimination and other cases.

An OOC spokeswoman said the office was releasing the extra data “due to the interest in the awards and settlement figures.” The OOC has come under fire in recent days for what lawmakers and Hill aides alike say are its antiquated policies that do not adequately protect victims who file complaints.
CNN has also learned that during the current Congress, no settlement payment approval requests have been made to the congressional committee charged with approving them.

Go read up on how little the public knows about this huge sum of money going out to the victims of sexual predators in Congress. Now, think about how things change when there are a critical number of women that get to make decisions.  Take difference in costume choice for Wonder Woman with a woman director choosing a woman costume designer vs. the alternative.  How many of us think that that Uncle Clarence Thomas would not be on the Supreme Court if it was Senator Hillary Clinton instead of Senator Joe Biden in charge of things?

Wonder Woman was great for many reasons (Diana Prince for president, etc.), but one of the most lauded moments was the representation of the Amazons, a team of female fighters who spend their lives on an island devoid of men. This group of women were brought to life by director Patty Jenkins and costumed by designer Lindy Hemming, and their outfits were essentially armor. Flash forward to Justice League, and fans have noticed that the Amazons’ attire—designed by Michael Wilkinson with direction by Zack Snyder—are slightly…smaller.

The graphic stories told by woman on Capitol Hill–Boston Boomer wrote more on this yesterday–were probably similar to the ones that would’ve come out at of the Clarence Thomas Hearing or any hearing on Teddy Kennedy or Strom Thurmond.

Others said they had been harassed by two sitting members of Congress. Speier (D-Hillsborough) declined to identify those members, saying only that one is a Republican and one is a Democrat.

“The culture in this country has been awakened to the fact that we have a serious epidemic in the workplace in all professions, in all walks of life, and it’s incumbent upon those who are in authority to address it and address it swiftly,” Speier told reporters Tuesday after testifying in front of the House committee that is considering changes in how harassment in Congress is investigated. She said she couldn’t provide more details on the incidents because the victims had signed nondisclosure agreements as part of settlements.

The rich and powerful man always manages to get those disclosure agreements even when it’s his work or our taxpayers that pay to silence the stories of women.  Back again to that CNN article at the top:

It is unclear how much of the $17 million is money paid to sexual harassment cases because of the Office of Compliance’s complex reporting process. However, even knowing that dollar figure doesn’t quantify the problem: a source within the Office of Compliance tells CNN that between 40 and 50% of harassment claims settle after mediation — an early stage in the multi-tiered reporting process.

And the number of settlements reached may not be indicative of how widespread sexual harassment is, as many victims chose not to proceed with OOC’s process for handling complaints. Tracy Manzer, a spokeswoman for Speier, told CNN last week 80% of people who have come to their office with stories of sexual misconduct in the last few weeks have chosen not to report the incidents to the OOC.

The most evident and clear thing to me is that we can’t even get a good hearing on the topic unless there are enough women in places of influence in institutions to find ways to make it all come out.  Then, make it stop.  We’re probably going to have to rely on complicit men–however, not full blow predators–that have enabled rape culture with their frat boy humor and antics.  I don’t see any reason for them to be kicked out of anything unless they have a pervasive problem.  I expect, however, the enablers, like those guilty of the tasteless humor and actions shown by Franken to repent.  I also expect those that quietly enable or jokingly enable predators–like freaking Billy Bush–to do some acts of repentance.  In our law, we have varying degrees of sexual assault and sexual battery.  The law and our society agrees that the worse form of predation is of the grown up on child.  This should be punished–as it is–with the full force of the legal system.  There is no equivocation of first degree rape with lesser counts of sexual assault or battery or harassment. 

Specific laws vary by state, but sexual assault generally refers to any crime in which the offender subjects the victim to sexual touching that is unwanted and offensive. These crimes can range from sexual groping or assault/battery, to attempted rape. All states prohibit sexual assault, but the exact definitions of the crimes that fall within the category of sexual assault differ from state to state. The laws share some basic elements, but the structures, wording and scope of sexual assault offenses vary considerably, so always check your local statutes for specific questions.

Discussion on topics like sexual assault and racism are always full of nuances and backlash, denial and witness, and tribal amnesia and defiance.  Media is our current platform to work through all of these.  It should not be a good thing under any circumstance for a person of power just to force themselves or to do something violent to a helpless child, animal, or person sitting in their car while being black, or an intern.  What kind of person gets a thrill be taking away some one else’s humanity and moral authority?   What kind of person thinks an endangered animal in a wildlife park is some form of manhood trophy?  My short answer: a morally bankrupt and abhorrent one.

Meanwhile, Americans living in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are dying from lack of basic necessities.  One head has rolled, but it’s not the one that ultimately deserves it.  

Talk amongst yourselves!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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Sunday Reads: No Moore… #MeAt14

Well, when I was 14 years old, I had to wear a back brace. The corset kind, that came down over my hips and half way through around my ass. It was quite a surprise for all those teenage boys who felt the “urge” to carry out their “need” to slap ass…they got a hand full of hard plastic and most of the time a little pain with the shock that what they expected to feel…it wasn’t there.

The same thing happened when my science teacher in ninth grade went to slap my ass…

He was taking aback by the hard plastic, my ass wasn’t as soft as the few other girls in the class. The other ones who also had his affectionate pats of encouragement. One girl in particular, who was a repeat victim of his assaults…felt she could not go to her mom because her her mother was in the process of getting a teaching job at the school. She thought it would jeopardize the mother’s chances of getting an offer to teach, if her mom had to deal with a current teacher’s sexual harassment.

I spoke out. I told my dad. He called the school and talked to the science teacher himself. My dad got the confirmation straight from the asshole himself. Yes, he was grabbing his young female student’s inappropriately. He agreed, if he did it one more time, to anyone, my father would notify the authorities. If he started to single me out or treat me in any way different because of their “discussion” …my father would notify the authorities.

It worked. He stopped. At least as far as I knew…at least in our class. For the remainder of the year. My friend..her mother did get the teacher job at that jr. high school. Even at that age, the connection between employment and speaking out on sexual harassment was ingrained into a fourteen year old girl.

This whole turn of events, I’d forgotten them…

It all came back to me yesterday while my mom and I where eating dinner and we were talking about so many things making headlines this past week. I even had to call my dad to see if he remembered talking to that asshole teacher… and he did. My dad laughed about it. I think back now and wonder if maybe we all should have spoken out about what was going on in that classroom.

Me at 14. Me at 15. It never stops. The continued assault and harassment is never ending. Me at 47. Still.

Here are some links via twitter. I’m still doing this post from my phone. It sucks.

https://twitter.com/lizzwinstead/status/92976642919234764

Go to Twitter and look up the #MeAt14 hashtag.

https://twitter.com/christinawilkie/status/92920190047773491

This is an open thread.


Wednesday Reads: Rainbow 🌈 Wins

This is huge news:

But Danica was not the only Trans woman to win last night.

Let’s take a look at some tweets from last night:

We love being in a city with sun beautiful art on the streets! (a/c @blurstreetart) #philly #phillyart #phillystreetart #streetart #activismatwork #feminist

A post shared by Feminist Apparel (@feministapparel) on

And in other news:

For real! 🙄🙄 #smh #smashwhitesupremacy #fuckthekkk #fucknazis

A post shared by UndocuMedia #cleanDreamAct (@undocumedia) on

 

Our new report with the Prison Policy Initiative offers a deeper understanding of the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population: women. Swipe to learn more. Link to full report in bio. ⬅️ #women #prison #jail #massincarceration #smartjustice #cjreform #criminaljustice #freedom #oitnb

A post shared by ACLU (@aclu_nationwide) on

A post shared by snoopdogg (@snoopdogg) on

 

You get the picture…

This is an open thread.


Monday Reads: SchadenGaijun

TrumpzillaMorning Sky Dancers!

So, that’s not really a word.  I borrowed  part of schadenfreude from the German and gaijun from the Japanese. Gaijun is the word used to disparage outsiders or strangers in Japan. It has a long history.  Our national nightmare has gone off to embarrass us in the very area he ceded to the Chinese a few days after his coup. His first stop demonstrated his ability to be the prototype for Ugly American to friends and allies in Japan and his inability in all other things.

It’s really hard for me to really do justice to how insulting and embarassing this asshole has been in the few days he’s terrorized Japan. Trumpzilla is doing all those things that a massively selfish, uncouth, mal-educated Ugly American would do to the exponent of infinity and beyond.  His basic response to anything not him is to say something racist, I swear.

c9918f_c2ef0e5286954278b447e035547ccb34-mv2_d_2400_2400_s_4_2The Youtube is of the National Embarrassment dumping an entire box of food into a Coi Pond.  You’re supposed to show some class and culture and drop one pellet at a time to the precious fish. But no, we have a toddler who just couldn’t sit still long enough to do what he was instructed to do by the humiliated Japanese.

The moment happened as Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe headed to lunch. The leaders were escorted to a dining room that overlooks a koi pond ad Akasaka Palace.

Moments later, aides opened two large screen doors and the leaders emerged holding two small wooden boxes filled with fish food.

As an aide clapped loudly, Abe and Trump tossed spoonfuls of fish food into the pond. Then, with a look of enjoyment, Trump quickly poured his entire box of food into the pond
.
The move got Trump some laughs, and a smile from Abe, who actually appeared to dump out his box of food ahead of Trump.

The two leaders then sat down for lunch.

Trump was at Tokyo’s Imperial Palace for a greeting with Japan’s 83-year-old Emperor Akihito before settling down for meetings and lunch with Abe, who has become Trump’s closest partner in Asia as he confronts an increasingly hostile North Korea.

The two men spent much of Sunday at informal engagements in and around Tokyo, lunching on hamburgers at an exclusive country club before playing nine holes of golf. In the evening they were joined by their wives for dinner at a high-end eatery in the Ginza district.

Who the fuck eats hamburgers and plays golf while in Japan?

trumpzilla-720Oh, and here’s a short list of the various insults and stupid remarks.  Oliver Willis says it best for this one.

It doesn’t help the caricature of American ignorance when the leader of the country so blatantly demonstrates his ignorance and speaks about it as a supposedly amusing anecdote.

The remark follows his bizarre behavior after he instructed reporters to give him credit for improving economic conditions in America while speaking about Chinese President Xi Jinping.

After reporters noted Jinping’s “successful run,” Trump complained, “Excuse me, so am I.” He then launched into an extended campaign speech, rather than focusing on international relations.

Yet even when he has done that, Trump has fumbled.

Meeting with Japanese business leaders, Trump said, “We love it when you build cars – if you’re a Japanese firm, we love it – try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over.”

Japan currently builds more cars in America than the big three U.S. automakers do, and they have done so for years.

Trump is already an embarrassment to millions of Americans through his actions and words on U.S. soil, but when he goes overseas, it seems he doubles down on his embrace of ignorance and loutishness.

He is unfortunately the face of America, and he seems dead-set on making the entire country look bad while he tries to puff himself up.

trumpzilla-00Yes, “Trump tells Japan to build cars in US instead of shipping them over”. What a fucking moron! 

President Trump called on Japan to build more cars in the U.S. during his stop in the country as part of his first official tour of Asia as president.

“Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over,” Trump said at an event with Japanese business executives, according to a pool report.

“That’s not rude?” he added.

Three out of every four Japanese brand cars sold in North America were manufactured on the continent, according to Columbus Business First.

And Mazda and Toyota announced in August that they were investing $1.6 billion to start a new manufacturing plant in the U.S. that will create about 4,00 new jobs.

Trump added that “Japan has been winning” when it comes to trade deals with the U.S.

“I have to say that for the last many decades, Japan has been winning. And you do know that,” Trump said.

Trump has long called for the U.S. to have better trade deal with other countries including Japan. He told reporters one day earlier that he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would be having “major discussions” on trade during the trip.

Trump also bragged about the quality of U.S. military equipment during the event.

“We made the greatest military equipment in the world. There’s nothing close. [Abe] is ordering a lot of military equipment, as he should be, given what’s happening with one of your neighbors,” Trump said during a visit to the U.S. ambassador’s residence.

21294272_170843256807045_7718744860198436864_nSpeaking of military equipment,  Trump seems to have a 17th century view of Japan.  He must’ve prepared for his trip by watching reruns of old Mifune movies or perhaps Shogun.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said Japan should have shot down the North Korean missiles that flew over the country before landing in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year, diplomatic sources have said, despite the difficulties and potential ramifications of doing so.

The revelation came ahead of Trump’s arrival in Japan on Sunday at the start of his five-nation trip to Asia. Threats from North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs were set to be high on the agenda in his talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.

Trump questioned Japan’s decision not to shoot down the missiles when he met or spoke by phone with leaders from Southeast Asian countries over recent months to discuss how to respond to the threats from North Korea, the sources said.

The U.S. president said he could not understand why a country of samurai warriors did not shoot down the missiles, the sources said.

In defiance of international sanctions imposed to compel Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons and missile development programs, North Korea test-launched ballistic missiles on Aug. 29 and Sept. 15 that flew over Hokkaido before falling into the Pacific Ocean.

However, the Self-Defense Forces did not try to intercept the missiles, with the government saying the SDF had monitored the rockets from launch and judged they would not land on Japanese territory.

But the altitude and speed of the missiles would have made it very difficult to destroy them in flight, while failure would have been embarrassing for Japan and encouraging to North Korea.

Defense Ministry officials confirmed this view and said there were also legal issues to clear.

Trump doesn’t have a clear handle on the restrictions placed on Japan after surrender on what they can and cannot do militarily.   How’s this for a headline? “Donald Trump begins Asian trip in Japan, with ketchup, golf and nuclear war on agenda.”

A Japanese official told reporters the country’s famed Wagyu beef would be on Sunday’s menu, prompting fears of a culinary gaffe.

In May, Mr Trump shocked the foodie world by ordering his $71 steak cooked “well done” and (gasp) smothering it in tomato sauce.

Asked about the prospect of a similar food snob crime against high-end Wagyu, the Japanese foreign affairs official implied a subtle dance of manners is at play.

“We will prepare ketchup,” the official said.

godzilla-2014-france-wallpaper__140518160110Trump has suggested a nuclear Japan.

 President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. drastically increase its nuclear arsenal follows a presidential campaign in which he made a number of contradictory statements about weapons of mass destruction.

As a candidate, he called nuclear proliferation the “single biggest threat” facing the world while also suggesting Japan and South Korea should obtain nuclear weapons as a defense. During one debate he ruled out a “first strike” but in the same breath said he would not take anything off the table.

He clearly has no sense of what Japan has become since being the first place nuclear bombs were dropped and being stripped of nearly everything after World War 2.  Today, there was this shocker!

Oh, and then there’s this in the speech.

Donald Trump has risked causing major offence during a visit to a key US ally, with bellicose remarks to troops that talked up America’s military prowess.

The President was speaking at Yokota air base in Japan in the early stages of his tour of the Asia-Pacific region and at a time of heightened tension with North Korea due to the country’s nuclear ambitions.

Mr Trump has traded insults with Kim Jong-un, who he calls “Little Rocket Man”, following repeated ballistic missile tests by Pyongyang including two that flew over Japan’s Hokkaido island.

The billionaire did not temper his rhetoric in a speech to US and Japanese military personnel on Sunday, saying that “together with our allies, America’s warriors are prepared to defend our nation using the full range of our unmatched capabilities”.

“No dictator, no regime, no nation should ever underestimate American resolve,” he added.

And in a remark that held the potential to cause widespread offence in a country where America killed around 140,000 people in 1945 – when it dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the President added: “Every once in a while, in the past, they underestimated us. It was not pleasant for them, was it?”

Dr Jacob Parakilas, the deputy head of Chatham House’s US and the Americas programme, told The Independent the remarks were “insensitive”, but arguably no more so than other comments the President is reported to have made about Japan.

“This at the same time that he described them as a nation of ‘samurai warriors’. I think that’s probably much more offensive,” he said.

He added: “It’s a question of what the Japanese people feel. The Japanese government isn’t likely to raise a concern over anything that Trump says that they perceive as insensitive, because they’re seeking his continued support.

“It’s Trump. He barely can get through a day without saying something that’s readable as impolitic.”

Kolb_LoresPoor Prime Minister Abe.  He’s been assigned to  play the proverbial Asian Stereotype of  Cato while  hanging out with Inspector Clueless.  I’m particuarly sensitive to all of this since my children are of Japanese descent.  I’ve been regaled with such comments as “at least he isn’t black” and “don’t bring home any slanty eyed grandbabies”,  seeing a secretary call my ex her “little yellow friend”  and watching an uncle by marriage  let his aunt that he drug to a family reunion treat my ex–born on a US military base in Japan of the typical war bride soldier thing–like he was personally responsible for the horrible death of her son on the Bataan Death March.

Abe, listening to an interpreter through an earpiece, smiled and remained silent. But his face betrayed a touch of uncertainty as the U.S. leader returned to his script. After the Japanese government had rolled out the red carpet for Trump and his family for two days, the patron was being patronized. It is becoming a familiar theme for Abe.

Their relationship can seem like an oddball mismatch of global leaders who are thrust together over their shared dislike of the nuclear-armed tyrant next door in North Korea, but who somehow hit it off amid golf course hijinks. Since Trump took office, Abe has been his most consistent suitor, courting him with luxurious gifts (a $3,800 gold-plated driver) and constant attention (numerous phone calls and a personal visit to the White House and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida).

But as Abe has lavished attention on Trump, their relationship has retained a subtext in which the U.S. president insists on asserting his dominance in a passive-aggressive manner. It started with Trump’s emasculating 19-second handshake with Abe in their Oval Office meeting in February, after which Abe appeared to grimace as though his fingers had been crushed.

Trump has let up on the power grip since then but in more subtle ways he has continued to show who is the alpha — a price Abe appears willing to pay in his strategic servitude to keep Trump supporting the post-war security alliance that the president had openly questioned in his election campaign.

The Japanese are the masters of wearing different faces and allowing differing levels of intimacy impact relationships.  Trump would be well advised to figure out when he’s being shaded in the Japanese tradition.   You can learn about kao, menboku, and tiamen here.  No gaijun businessman doing deals in Japan doesn’t extensively study these things first. Believe me, the Japanese are great at poker faces, bluffs, and going all in.

So, there’s a lot of TRussia news today. We’re waiting for the Flynn arrests.  There’s a huge dump of data on Treasure Isles that shows how nearly every Trump Billionaire on the cabinet is basically in business with Russia.  Wilbur Ross is likely going down.  I want to spend some time reading the Paradise Papers and grasping what’s going on.  Here’s a good place to start. 

I just want to bury my head in my pillow and make it all go away.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Wednesday Reads: Not Again

I don’t want to tell you what I thought about after the details about the attack in NYC started to become clear.

One word I haven’t heard since yesterday late afternoon….Russia.

A few links to get started:

Did y’all see this?

I’m writing this post on my phone, the roof of our house is up…and it looks like I will be back home on Friday. (Even though there is still a lot of work needed. )

Anyway, things should start to get back to normal next week.

I think you will find this next link interesting:

Cartoons and commentary:

Found on Facebook…artist unknown:

And a final warning…as you eat your Halloween candy:

This is an open thread.


Friday Late—Really Late–Reads

KinseyGood Afternoon!

Well, I think I officially joined Team Crazy Cat Lady.  I saved this little girl from death row this morning after being bribed and cajoled by a friend.  She’s a total peach too.  Kinsey’s doing her own introductions and doesn’t appear to need any help from me. I’m not sure how any one has a cat for ten years and then just unceremoniously dumps them–hyperthyroidism and all–with out any second thoughts but she’s home with the rest of the kathouse tribe now.

I was going to spend today doing economics wonk things because I’m seriously worried about some underlying conditions in this economy. I’m also quite worried about the shitty law giving the Wall Street Gambling Palaces a break from oversight and being held accountable.  The Senate killed a rule on class actions suits against Financial Institutions.

The Senate has voted to get rid of a banking rule that allows consumers to bring class-action lawsuits against banks and credit card companies t’t o resolve financial disputes. Critics say Republicans and the Trump administration are siding with Wall Street over Main Street and that the shift will block consumers from joining together against the likes of Wells Fargo and Equifax.

“This bill is a giant wet kiss to Wall Street,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said on the Senate floor. “Bank lobbyists are crawling all over this place begging Congress to vote and make it easier for them to cheat their customers.”

With Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote, the rollback of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule banning restrictive mandatory arbitration clauses found in the fine print of credit card and checking account agreements passed 51-50, with Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John Kennedy, R-La., voting against repeal.

The Republican-controlled House had already voted to rescind the rule and President Trump is expected to quickly sign the measure, which also bars similar rules in the future.

The consumer agency’s rule, released in July, was aimed at giving consumers more power. Prior to the rule, the bureau said companies could “sidestep the court system” by “forcing consumers to give up or go it alone.”

This allowed companies to “avoid big refunds, and continue harmful practices,” the bureau wrote in July in announcing the changes.

House Republicans on Thursday narrowly adopted the Senate’s version of the 2018 budget resolution, overcoming a key hurdle for the party’s tax-reform plan.

The budget will allow Republicans to pass a tax overhaul that adds up to $1.5 trillion to the deficit through a process known as reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes to pass in the Senate.

Twenty Republicans voted against the budget in the 216-212 vote, more than the 18 who voted against the original House version earlier this month.

Most of the 20 defectors were centrists hailing from populous states that could stand to lose from eliminating the state and local tax deduction.

Those lawmakers included Reps. Dan Donovan (N.Y.), John Faso (N.Y.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), John Katko (N.Y.), Pete King (N.Y.), Leonard Lance (N.J.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Tom MacArthur (N.J.), Chris Smith (N.J.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Claudia Tenney (N.Y.) and Lee Zeldin (N.Y.).

“We must provide middle-class tax relief and lower the burdens on job-creating small businesses. I could not, however, vote in support of a budget resolution that singled out for elimination the ability of New York families to deduct state and local taxes,” Faso said in a statement.

DNFcWusUEAASa_oMore Economic News and analysis from Dr Joseph Stiglitz–writing for The Nation –that’s really on point and scary.

There is a widespread sense of powerlessness, both in our economic and political life. We seem no longer to control our own destinies. If we don’t like our Internet company or our cable TV, we either have no place to turn, or the alternative is no better. Monopoly corporations are the primary reason that drug prices in the United States are higher than anywhere else in the world. Whether we like it or not, a company like Equifax can gather data about us, and then blithely take insufficient cybersecurity measures, exposing half the country to the risk of identity fraud, and then charge us for but a partial restoration of the security that we had before a major breach.

athomeKinseyHarvard Economist Manuel Maniz shows us that just economic growth alone is no longer producing the results we need. This is a scary break down about all know about labor economics where increases in labor productivity are supposed to lead to increases in wages.

Macroeconomic data from the world’s advanced economies can be mystifying when viewed in isolation. But when analyzed collectively, the data reveal a troubling truth: without changes to how wealth is generated and distributed, the political convulsions that have swept the world in recent years will only intensify.

Consider, for example, wages and employment. In the United States and many European countries, average salaries have stagnated, despite most economies having recovered from the 2008 financial crisis in terms of GDP and job growth.

Moreover, increases in employment have not led to a slowdown or a reversal of the decline in the wage share of total national income. On the contrary, most of the wealth created since the 2008 crisis has gone to the rich. This might explain the low levels of consumption that characterize most advanced economies, and the failure of extremely lax monetary policy to produce an uptick in inflation.

Employment, too, seems to be performing in anomalous ways. Job creation, where it has taken place, has followed a different path than history suggests it should. For example, most employment growth has been in high-skill or low-skill occupations, hollowing out the middle. Many of the people who once comprised the Western middle class are now part of the middle-lower and lower classes, and live more economically precarious lives than ever before.

Productivity growth has also become polarized. According to the OECD, in the last decade, productivity within “frontier firms” – defined as the top 5% of firms in terms of productivity growth – increased by more than a third, whereas the rest of the private sector experienced almost no productivity growth at all. In other words, a smaller number of companies have made greater efficiency gains, but there has been relatively no diffusion of these benefits into the broader economy.

It is unclear why these trends are occurring, although the impact of new technologies and related network effects is certainly part of the reason.

At the macro level, aggregate US productivity has increased by more than 250% since the early 1970s, while hourly wages have remained stagnant. This means that productivity growth has not only been concentrated within a narrow set of firms, but also that productivity and market labor income have decoupled. The fundamental consequence of this is that wages are no longer performing the central redistributive role they have played for decades. Simply put, gains in capital productivity are not being translated into higher median incomes, a breach of the social contract on which liberal economies rest.

It should be evident by now that many of the world’s economies are undergoing some form of structural change, and in the wake of that change, the “jobs-productivity-income” distribution triangle has gone askew. This paradigm shift has led to the erosion of the Western middle class and the rise of the precariat, a new socioeconomic class comprising not just those who cannot find a job, but also those who are informally, casually, or otherwise insecurely employed.

kinsey on bedSo the bad news in the bond market continues. Please read “WILL TRUMP OVERSEE THE FINANCIAL APOCALYPSE?” by William D. Cohan.

Jeffrey Gundlach is known around Wall Street as the Bond King. His Los Angeles-based firm, DoubleLine Capital, manages $116 billion, most of which is invested in bonds. He is also a bit of a Renaissance man, peppering his insights about the credit markets with astute references to Nietzsche, Mondrian, Escher, and Mad magazine covers. That’s why his answer to a simple question—“Why would anyone invest in bonds?”—from someone in the audience at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit, held earlier this month in Los Angeles, was at once both startling and perceptive.

You would think that Gundlach would be a big fan of bonds, given that he’s the Bond King and all. But he isn’t, for reasons that go to the heart of why the financial markets are far more dangerous than the daily highs in the stock market and record-low interest rates would suggest. “I’m not a big fan of bonds right now,” he told my V.F. colleague Bethany McLean at the summit, “and I haven’t been really for the past four years, even though I manage them, and institutions have to own them for various reasons.”

Let’s face it: people’s eyes tend to glaze over when someone starts talking about bonds and interest rates. Which is why much of the audience inside the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and those watching the livestream, probably missed the import of Gundlach’s answer. But the bond market is hugely important. The stock markets get most of the attention from the media, but the bond market, four times the size of the stock market, helps set the price of money. The bond market determines how much you pay to borrow money to buy a home, a car, or when you use your credit cards.

The Bond King said the returns on bonds have been anemic at best for the past seven years or so. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average has nearly quadrupled since March 2009, returns on bonds have averaged something like 2.5 percent for treasuries and something like 8.5 percent for riskier “junk” bonds. Gundlach urged investors to be “light” on bonds. Of course, that makes the irony especially rich for the Bond King. “I’m stuck in it,” he said of his massive bond portfolio. He said interest rates have bottomed out and been rising gradually for the past six years. (Rising interest rates hurt the value of the bonds you own, as bonds trade in inverse proportion to their yield. Snore . . .) Gundlach said his job now, on behalf of his clients, “is to get them to the other side of the valley.” When the bigger, seemingly inevitable hikes in interest rates come, “I’ll feel like I’ve done a service by getting people through,” he said. “That’s why I’m still at the game. I want to see how the movie ends.”

But it can’t end well.

me and dinah and miles

Okay, so the other complication in my life is my poor mustang isn’t charging and it’s either the starter or the alternator so tomorrow I start out getting it towed and finding out what I can’t afford to have done to it.  (sigh)

Have a good evening!


Wednesday Reads: Diary of a Madman

Thank the gawds above, this crappy motel has TCM…and it is the best time of the year for classic movies. Halloween.

It’s been almost two months without my old movies. I’ve missed them.

But back to the, de Loco….

No, not that madman…this one:

Oof, that is a big mouth.

More cartoons:

The Buffalo News

This is an open thread.