December 15, 2008 archive

Four at Four

  1. The hard times are just begining and 2009 is looking to be worse. States are running out of money to pay unemployment claims. The New York Times reports —

    30 States’ Unemployment Funds Running Out

    Thirty states are at risk of having the funds that pay out unemployment benefits become insolvent over the next few months, according to the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. Funds in two states, Indiana and Michigan, have already dried up, and both states are borrowing from the federal government to make payments to the unemployed…

    It is recommended that states keep at least one year of peak-level benefits in their trusts, but many have not, and already some states are far worse off than others.

    The situation puts states, many of them facing huge deficits, in an even tighter vise. As more people lose their jobs, the revenue base that the benefits are drawn from shrinks, making it harder to pay claims. Adding to that burden is that states will eventually have to pay back what they borrow…

    States that come up short have the option of borrowing from the federal government, but if the loan is not paid back within the federal fiscal year, 4.7 percent interest is accrued, which cuts into states’ general funds…

    As such, they are then forced to raise taxes or cut services, or both.

    We’ve created this mess by having low taxes in good times and not saving for bad times.

Four at Four continues with an update from Iraq, Obama and the left, and All aboard Obama.

NSA Whistelblower Identified

The person who tipped off New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen about the illegal wiretapping of US citizens has come forward with his story in Newsweek. His name is Thomas Tamm.

Manufacturing Monday: Week of 12.15.08

My oh my, what an interesting week, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  From our trade deficit to our automakers on the brink of joining our domestic consumer electronics firms, things aren’t looking all that swell.  The latest indicators are showing, at least for November, what has been on everyone’s mind, the economy.  Some are saying, though that things will pick up, that the recession began a year ago and we’ll come through it by 2009.  We’ll see, when the average worker is able to stop worrying not just about making rent or that mortgage payment, but also putting food on the table, then I’ll agree.  Globally, like the United States, things for now look dim.  And like I said, the figures show it…which leads us to the Numbers!

Through the Portals

But at least no one is throwing shoes at me. To the best of my recollection.

This epic episode has turned into an odd odyssey. A life passage moment, a kind of passing through a portal, a rebirth thing? Who know when you are in the middle of it. But a bit unusual for sure. And as usual, when things are unusual, the best thing to do is surrender and enjoy the ride. Embrace the bitter, then sit at it’s hoary feet and attempt to learn the lessons it has to teach, secure in the knowledge that these are real, meaningful, lessons. As real as the pain that accompanies them…and as real as the fact that if you don’t learn them this time….they will come back to teach you again.

People are winging wingtips at the wicked witch, the ruling class is openly planning the winter campaign of the class war, the expiration date on 1984 has still yet to pass, denial has become our 51st state, surpassing Palinland in size and the sheep still sleep peacefully in their burning beds. Surrealists and satirists are still out of jobs as the tattered flag of reality blows in the gale force of change, losing more of its once proudly undisputed threads with each passing nanosecond even as the handmaiden seamstresses of what passes for a media and our modern storytellers frantically attempt to weave a new one, unable to admit that they too are fucking clueless, lest they too join the ranks of the dispossessed and foreclosed, even as they are clamored to by a desperate but retreatingly interested populace now only wanly asking wtf.

Who am I to argue? I surrender. And kneel at the feet of the bitter, eating it’s dregs and listening to it’s story, which will at least, be honest. And in the midst of it all manage a wry and knowing smile looking back at the shaft of the spear that is my life even as I stare at the tip and watch it sharply penetrate the future, secure in the knowledge that “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” and pulling on my workboots for the times to come.

Good night Gracie, I will be back soon! For like a kidneystone, this too shall pass. Lest this come off as grim, I am having what could be called fun, though like unto Lawrence of Arabia, it has been observed that I have an unusual definition of fun! See ya soon.

Naked Emperors and Shoeless Heroes

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In the story of The Emperor with No Clothes, it was a child, in the end, who was the only one who spoke up. The Emperor in all his “glory” paraded down the street wearing nothing but the self-delusion of his grandeur, and still not one soul had the courage to call the man for what he was – less than an empty suit.

And as the citizenry watched in horrified silence as their emperor strutted his detachment from reality down the street, it was a child who, in her young innocence of political correctness and the social pecking order had the common sense to ask, “Why isn’t the Emperor wearing any clothes?”

At which time all hell broke loose.

that Marx thing again

I’m getting these questions about Marx, again, over on Big Orange.  “You’re against capitalism; are you some kind of marxist?” they ask.  To me it doesn’t really matter: either I am a marxist or I’m not a marxist, depending on whether or not the gang affiliation of “being a marxist” means a lot to the person asking the question.  But here’s a diary about old Moor, his chicken-scratchings, and his legacy.

OK, so this isn’t going to go away.  I wrote a long diary on this last year, but I can see it’s time for another one.

(Reposted from Big Orange (and rewritten a bit) for the viewing pleasure of the Docudharma people)

Open Thread


Monday’s thread is full of grace.

Docudharma Times Monday December 15

Always Making Sure

The Rich Get Theirs

While The Middle Class Gets Nothing

Monday’s Headlines:

Inaugural party planners walk the taste line

Thai opposition leader becomes PM

China transport links to help spur Taiwan economy

Besieged and stressed Gazans fall victim to black market painkiller

Iraqi who threw shoes covered U.S. bombing of Shiite area

Turkish academics in apology to Armenians

Pope Benedict XVI under-fire for ‘negative’ statements

African Union urges Somali leaders to end division

Battle in a Poor Land for Riches Beneath the Soil  

Economic Storm Batters Argentina’s Breadbasket

Executive Pay Limits May Prove Toothless

Loophole in Bailout Provision Leaves Enforcement in Doubt

By Amit R. Paley

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, December 15, 2008; Page A01

Congress wanted to guarantee that the $700 billion financial bailout would limit the eye-popping pay of Wall Street executives, so lawmakers included a mechanism for reviewing executive compensation and penalizing firms that break the rules.

But at the last minute, the Bush administration insisted on a one-sentence change to the provision, congressional aides said. The change stipulated that the penalty would apply only to firms that received bailout funds by selling troubled assets to the government in an auction, which was the way the Treasury Department had said it planned to use the money.

Face to face with the Taliban

Exclusive report from a Taliban veteran’s compound in Afghanistan and on the battlefield

Ghaith Abdul Ahad in Afghanistan, Sunday 14 December 2008 19.44 GMT

Qomendan Hemmet sat cross-legged under a window of the mud-walled room. His shoulder, sunk in an old military jacket, rested against the wall and a radio antenna stuck out of his pocket. Next to him sat his deputy, wrapped in a big blanket, silent and sleepy. Around the room sat his men, their faces contorted by years of fighting and poverty, dressed in shalwar kameez and magazine pouches, eyes dark as the kohl lining them. Radios crackled, phones rang non-stop, and more fighters came, drank tea and left with orders.

“Salar is the new Falluja,” declared Qomendan Hemmet emphatically. “The Americans and the Afghan army control the highway, and five metres on each side. The rest is our territory.



States’ Funds for Jobless Are Drying Up


Published: December 14, 2008

With unemployment claims reaching their highest levels in decades, states are running out of money to pay benefits, and some are turning to the federal government for loans or increasing taxes on businesses to make the payments.

Thirty states are at risk of having the funds that pay out unemployment benefits become insolvent over the next few months, according to the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. Funds in two states, Indiana and Michigan, have already dried up, and both states are borrowing from the federal government to make payments to the unemployed.

Unemployment taxes are collected by states from employers, but the rate varies from state to state per employee. In good times states build up trust funds so that when unemployment is high there is enough money to cover the requests for benefits, which are guaranteed by the federal government.

NYT: shoe-throwing MAY reveal a security lapse

I saw it on CNN International News last night. George W. Bush and I were both stunned momentarily. Shoes thrown at the outgoing 43rd President of these United States. One shoe as  “… a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!”  The second shoe from “… the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!”


Hitting someone with a shoe is considered the supreme insult in Iraq. It means that the target is even lower than the shoe, which is always on the ground and dirty.

at Daily Kos

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

State of the Onion XXVII

Art Link

Suspended in Blue

Common Ground

Common ground

cannot be found

when some people demand

that everyone have

the same beliefs

as themselves

Common ground is found

when it is acknowledged

that individuals

with different beliefs

can work together

towards the same goals

Common ground is found

when we concentrate

on what we do

not why we do it

or what we believed

while we were doing it

Common ground

is populated

when individuals

with different beliefs

can respect the value

of divergent points of view

Most important of all

common ground occurs

when people are willing

to be changed

by the effort they make

to seek it

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–February 10, 2006

Late Night Karaoke

Throwing Shoes: Free Speech Please Join In

With The Free Speech Thing And Not The Throwing Of The Shoes

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – Kill Your Television

Just In Time For That New Media

A New Media Paradigm. Part II

A New Media Paradigm. Part I

While I have a moment or 2 I’d like to talk about my media habits.

I see a lot.

The TV is on 24/7 unless I’m out.  Usually news as you might imagine.  When I was working as a cashier at a convenience store I’d read 4 newspapers a day including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal which are way overpriced.  When I drive I listen to NewsRadio 88 (Traffic and Weather together on the 8s at 8, 18, 28, 38, 48, and 58 minutes past the hour) unless there’s a Mets game on or I’m out of range (more about the Mets and sports in general in an upcoming episode).

If I’m even out of range of the clear channel stations I like talk radio and occasionally I’ll even stream WABC when my lust for schadenfreude overwhelms me.

Not music so much.

Back in my DJ days my chief utility was librarian and programmer.  When my buddy and I worked he would run the board and I was in charge of finding the next song out of the 1000 CD collection.  By memory with something else playing.  It makes my ears bleed to listen to the plastic mouseketeer boy/girl band American Idol rap crap that passes for popular today.  Music ended about the same time MTV stopped playing videos and started doing reality.

And I’ve always hated country, why do you ask?

But my main point is not to tell you kids that your music sucks although it does (shakes fist at cloud), but to get you to reflect on the changes in the business model of music.  You used to get 7 or 8 great songs an album because they would sell the singles separately.  Then 45s went out of style and you’d get 1 or 2 great songs an album and pay about the same price (adjusted for inflation) as you did for those great A & B side 45s.

Then when digital came out you spent the mega bucks to replace your entire collection.

But digital changed everything.  Vinyl would wear out (two plays, and you can tell the difference between the second and the first) but CDs never do.  More than that, they’re easy to copy.  If all else fails you can put a microphone next to your speaker and tape something that sounds kind of ok, no worse than your average mp3.  Sure it sounds like crap, but so does radio and people have been listening to that for 80 years now.  The fortunate fact is your mind makes up the difference.

Having memorized all those songs I feel no more compelled to re-hear them than to re-read the books I remember the plots from simply by looking at the title on the spine (more thousands and most re-read many times for pleasure).

What I look for from radio on the rare times I listen is novelty.  I want to hear something not only fantastic but new.  My Aunty Mame is trying to get me into books on tape.

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