Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Milwaukee Fourth Poorest City in the U.S.

Milwaukee now has the dubious distinction of being the 4th most impoverished city in the United States and the Milwaukee Journal gives the grim statistics:

"Milwaukee emerged as America's fourth-most impoverished big city in 2009, as the Great Recession rippled across the city and state, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday.

Milwaukee's poverty rate reached 27%, up from 23.4% in the previous year. Only Detroit (36.4%), Cleveland (35%) and Buffalo (28.8%) had higher poverty rates among cities with populations greater than 250,000. Milwaukee was ranked 11th in 2008.

An estimated 158,245 Milwaukeeans lived in poverty last year. For a family of four with two adults and two children, the poverty threshold was an annual income of $21,954.

What's more, nearly 4 in 10 children in Milwaukee were considered poor, meaning an estimated 62,432 children lived in poverty last year, up from 49,952 in 2008."

The republicans with no sense of shame blame this on "anti-business" bias even though they controlled the state for the better part of the last 20 years. More telling is the institutionalized racism and union busting which have been facts of life in Wisconsin and have hit the largest metropolitan area of the state the hardest.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

America Sails On ....thru the Abyss

The average American is becoming accustomed to the whistling noise in their ears as they whirl merrily downward. The accumulating evidence of this free fall gathers at an increasing rate to the point where an attentive observer cannot be faulted for an ever growing sense of nausea. Here are a few examples from diverse sources:

The "Decline of Empire" documents the ever increasing rate of impoverishment in the U.S.:

"Although it is unclear how the numbers would turn out if we use a revised methodology that wasn't invented in 1955, and we include those held off the poverty rolls because they receive unemployment insurance, it appears that at least 50 million Americans live in poverty, which is about 1 in 6.

When we refer to the destruction of the Middle Class in America, those formerly classified as such do not just disappear, although I'm sure most of our political leaders wish they would. If we discount the approximately 17 people who moved from Middle to Upper Class status in 2009 Smiley_glasses , we are forced to conclude that the formerly Middle Class are now poor, although it is not clear if they are poor enough to be counted as impoverished by the Census bureau.

When Americans do find new jobs, they often find put that their old jobs paid much more than they're currently able to earn. And what will happen if the unemployment benefits run out?"

What will happen indeed? Meanwhile Americans remain essentially clueless as noted by the Smirking Chimp:

"As Election Day 2010 approaches – as the United States wallows in the swamps of war, recession and environmental degradation – the consequences of the nation’s three-decade-old decoupling from reality are becoming painfully obvious.

Yet, despite the danger, the nation can’t seem to move in a positive direction, as if the suctioning effect of endless spin, half-truths and lies holds the populace in place, a force that grows ever more powerful like quicksand sucking the country deeper into the muck – to waist deep, then neck deep.

Trapped in the mud, millions of Americans are complaining about their loss of economic status, their sense of powerlessness, their nation’s decline. But instead of examining how the country stumbled into this morass, many still choose not to face reality.

Instead of seeking paths to the firmer ground of a reality-based world, people from different parts of the political spectrum have decided to embrace unreality even more, either cynically as a way to delegitimize a political opponent or because they’ve simply become addicted to the crazy.

The latest manifestation of the wackiness can be found in the rise of the Tea Party, a movement of supposedly grassroots, mad-as-hell regular Americans that is subsidized by wealthy corporate donors (such as the billionaire Koch brothers) seeking to ensure deregulation of their industries and to consolidate their elite control over the political process.

The Tea Party madness is aided and abetted by a now fully formed right-wing media apparatus that can popularize any false narrative (like Islam planning to conquer Christian America as represented by the building of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero)."

America's totally dysfunctional political system only exacerbates the situation as noted by that curmudgeon of U.S. politics, Ralph Nader, who gives a succinct review of Republican Party stands:

" 1. They want to do nothing about unfair Chinese trade practices that lure jobs away from our country though huge factory subsidies, and where workers are repressed and counterfeit products abound. Imagine, Republicans coddling a communist regime, luring the auto parts, electronic, solar and drug ingredients industries away from America, often in violation of the World Trade Organization rules. And, in turn, China is exporting to the U.S. impure food, faulty tires, toxic drywall, lead-tainted toys and medicines which are contaminated, defective or harmful. Don’t forget the dumping violations.

2. Republicans, led by Senator Richard Shelby and his banking friends, declared their adamant opposition to Professor Elizabeth Warren becoming head of the new consumer financial regulation agency. (To avoid a confrontation with them, President Obama made her a special assistant to organize this consumer watchdog.) Ms. Warren has a solid record of exposing and communicating clearly to families the tricks and traps of credit card companies, mortgage firms, and intermediaries that have taken so many billions of consumer dollars with impunity.

3. The Republicans led by their House leader, John Boehner (Rep. Ohio), a total toady of the gouging student loan companies, opposed the Democrats successful reform of this taxpayer boondoggle that guaranteed obscene profits and had the taxpayers absorb any student defaults. Boehner’s lobbying should upset millions of parents who had to foot the bill for so many years.

4. The Republicans are opposed to raising the federal minimum wage to what it was, adjusted for inflation, in 1968!! They opposed an adequate budget for health and safety enforcement by OSHA to diminish the 58,000 American workers who die every year from workplace toxics and trauma. They are now blocking protections for coal miners pending in the Senate after the Massey mine disaster.

5. Republicans oppose doing anything about “too big to fail” even after Wall Street’s reckless, avaricious collapse of the economy, costing 8 million jobs and trillions of lost pension and mutual fund dollars.

Moreover, they do not support genuine enforcement of the anti-trust laws which are supposed to break up monopolization efforts, monopolies or oligopolies like Monsanto (seeds) or the big five banks—bailed out by taxpayers and secure in their domination of well over 50 percent of all bank assets, deposits and the credit card business. This is by far the highest concentration of financial power in modern U.S. history. With few exceptions, the GOP want very few federal cops on the corporate crime beat.

6. Fighting for the last billionaire and multimillionaire, Republicans are blocking ending Bush’s tax cuts on incomes beyond $250,000 per year. Yes, Republicans want to reduce the deficit yet they want to end revenues of over 700 billion dollar over ten years of restored super-rich taxes. They are blocking renewal of the estate taxes after their expiration on Dec. 31, 2009 left no taxes this year on the estates of the super-rich. (Over 99 percent of estates were already exempt from the federal estate tax.)

7. No matter that Republicans caved to the health insurance companies getting over 30 million new covered customers, starting in 2014, they supported the industry’s blaming the federal government, no less, for this month’s latest sharp hike in insurance premiums by Aetna and others largely on the policies of individuals and small business. The Republicans did this after blocking the “public option” that would have given consumers both a choice and the benefit of some competition to the big insurance firms.

8. Have the Congressional Republicans ever challenged the bloated, wasteful, contractor-corrupt military budget that makes up half of the entire government’s discretionary budget?

Even the Congress’s own auditing agency—the Government Accountability Office (GAO) declares the Pentagon budget unauditable. Many Pentagon audits document the abuses of Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater and other firms in the deficit-driving, bloody Iraq and Afghanistan wars (both Republican espoused.) The Pentagon’s burgeoning budget, now nearing $800 billion a year, is deemed untouchable. (A few Republicans, like Charles Grassley and John McCain sometimes object to contracting abuses.)

9. President Obama wants a counter-recessionary public works program renovating airports, bridges, highways, rail and mass transit, drinking water and sewage treatment facilities and other infrastructures. Republicans sneer at this local job creation for much needed facilities.

10. Unlike any Republican Party since its creation in 1854, it has misused the filibuster threat, and any one of its Senators misuse the rules and block even going to a floor discussion or a nomination vote. The Party is earning its moniker as the Party of NO. Republicans have turned the U.S. Senate into America’s graveyard."

One would think with such political fodder to work with the political opposition would have a field day however the Democratic party is a deeply conflicted organization which hopes to remain in power by focusing on the insanity of their opponents. This probably not much of a hope when one realizes that at any given time at least 10% if not more of the populace is certifiably nuts. Add in the now unleashed potential of corporate money as notes Alexander Cockburn:

'A huge new factor is the consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last January in the Citizens United case. The Court ruled that corporations should encounter no impediment in sluicing money into elections via so-called “independent expenditures” theoretically bypassing direct contributions to a candidate. Already, at this point in the electoral season, Republican senate candidates have benefited from $23.3 million in these independent expenditures, while Democrats have only seen $3.3 million thrown their way."

and witness the end of functional democracy in the United States. Welcome to the Oligarchic Kleptocracy of the United States of America.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ivan Kupala "Pcheli 2"

Ivan Kupala combines aspects of traditional life with inimitable Russian techno.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Militarism and the End of America

Recently I was flying on a domestic U.S. airline and at the end of the flight the stewardess exhorted passengers to thank members of the armed forces for their service. While this might seem innocuous to most it was to me another example of creeping militarism that has been seeping into American life for the last nine years. With the recent economic collapse it becomes even more obvious that the military is the only option for an increasingly large number of Americans, especially the youth. The ugly reality is that for many the military is the only employment option. More to the point, for a nation which is increasingly financially, morally, and intellectually bankrupt, military force is the only thing in its favor. When the only tool we have is a hammer every problem is a nail.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fighting Bob Fest 2010

A crowd of 6,500 to 7,000 gathered at Baraboo, WI on Saturday, September 11th, for the 9th Fighting Fest. By FOX News estimating protocols this would translate to about 500,000 people. The mood was serious and the speakers, as usual, both inspiring and informative. Pictured above are Jim Hightower, Jesse Jackson, and John Nichols. The general message was fight back, end the Afghan occupation, continue the struggle for single payer health care, and above all resist corporate fascism in American life. A particular item of interest the was despicable Citizens United Supreme Court decision which has essentially put the electoral process up for sale and the need to over turn this decision. Conspicuous by their absence was the mainstream media who normally would be all over the place if this was a Tea-Bagger event. C-SPAN however was present and I'm sure will roll some footage at 3:00AM some week night.

Friday, September 10, 2010

9 Lazy 9 - Black Jesus

I love the music, the video reminds one of a bygone era when Americans actually made stuff and had jobs.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Sea Ice Update

It appears that this years Arctic ice melt will be only 2nd to the record set in 2007 and continues a trend of decreasing sea ice for the last couple of decades. The National Snow and Ice Data Center provides further info:

"Arctic sea ice generally reaches its annual minimum extent in mid-September. This August, ice extent was the second lowest in the satellite record, after 2007. On September 3, ice extent dropped below the seasonal minimum for 2009 to become the third lowest in the satellite record.

The Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route are largely free of ice, allowing the potential for a circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean. At least two expeditions are attempting this feat, the Norwegian explorer Borge Ousland and the Peter I yacht from Russia."

As pointed out at NPR (of all places) these anti-climate change (republicans) people are fact impervious on a large number of issues.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day 2010

The American holiday for labor was originally conceived in Canada and became a national holiday in the U.S. after President Grover Cleveland ordered Federal troops to put down the Pullman strike in Illinois in 1894.It was hoped this would garner support in the upcoming Presidential election that year(he lost). Since then organized labor has waxed and now mostly waned. American industry has been hollowed out, sent overseas, and ceased to be a meaningful part of the economy while financialization has run amuck. The idea of an eight hour day is now a historical anomaly while debt-burdened American workers try to hold onto whatever they can. With this the quaint notion of a single wage earner actually supporting their family is now pretty much unheard of while corporate supported politicians get elected supporting so-called family values. Strange Days indeed.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Vladimir Vysotsky - Koni Priveredlivye *Capricious Horses"

I put this up as a salute to that icon of Russian music and film Vladimir Vysotsky. Vysotsky during the 1960s and 1970s occupied a place comparable to someone such as Bob Dylan and is a father of contemporary Russian alternative music.