Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cleaning Up the Blood After Republican Spending Cuts

One Child Every Seven Hours

To bring this home, we have to indulge in a dark little MeanMesa fantasy, play along.

You are two years old.  Your single mother drinks a bit, but her boyfriend has a few other habits, too.  He likes for the house to be quiet while he and your mother are spending some "together time."

Unfortunately, at two years old, you have not yet been able to quite understand this.  You foolishly assume that your mother will come to help you when you cry.  You're hungry, your diapers are wet and you're getting cold because the place is barely heated.  In your two year old mind, these are exactly the sorts of things that mothers can solve.

You cry.  You can't really talk much, or, for that matter, even walk particularly well.  So, you cry.

However, instead of your mother, the boy friend comes barrelling out of the bedroom where you would usually sleep.  You look up at him.  He is huge.

Worse, he is mad.

He slaps you across the room.  You land on your head.  He is yelling something at you, but you can't understand him.  You cry some more.

This time he picks you by your arm.  It hurts all the way across your chest.  You are terrified.  You cry some more.

Now, he screams at you and slaps you again.  This time, your whole head is on fire and your back hurts -- really, really bad.  You cry some more.

You see a giant fist speeding toward your face.

Then you see nothing.  At first, it's like falling asleep.  Then it's over.


This happens on an average of every five hours in the United States. 

This happens on average 2,500 times each year.  Reduced to "incidence per 100,000" children in the United States, the average is 3 time that of Canada, 4 times that of the United Kingdom and 11 times that of Italy.

Annually, the United States creates 4 times more corpses in this manner than two wars do.
Causes and Spending Cuts

The statistics folks have worked out most of the details about why this happens and how it can be prevented.  The lists hold no surprises.  The statistics are getting worse.

15 million -- 21% of US children live in poverty.

There are 2 million Americans in jail.  There are 7 million Americans on parole or probation.  Most are men.  Some are fathers, some are boyfriends.  Most are broke or nearly broke.

The United States accounts for the consumption of 94% of the illegal drugs sold in the world, not including alcohol.

The parents of between 1/4 and 1/3 of US children have no health insurance.

50%+ of the children born by women under 30 years of age enter single parent homes.  The poverty rate in such homes is astronomical.  65% of them rely on government assistance of one type or another.  About 1 million teen age girls get pregnant each year.  About 15% have abortions.  In New Mexico, 97 per 1,000 teen age girls will get pregnant each year.

Programs which locate and intervene in child abuse cases are effective.  They could be better, but they have shown that they are effective just the way they are.  In the current economic collapse, many state child protective intervention workers have 60 or more cases at any given time.

These safety nets are largely conducted as state business, not as uniform federal regulations.  Many states have no problem sacrificing child safety for budget cuts and state rights.

The Point?

The Republicans are imposing all sorts of their weird religious agendas in programs exactly like this one, usually disguised as ways to cut spending.

American tax payers want their tax money spent to save children, not given to "job creators."

All Better Now - painting by S.L.B. Hanson (image source)

Monday, October 17, 2011

American Driver? Pay the Nice Man $600

Really "Good" Government Allows Oil Speculators
to Cost Average Drivers $600/Year
Oh Dear.  Isn't "Fascism" A Little Harsh?

Not really.

Oil Speculators Screw You First, Then Big Oil (image source)

Rather than get too drippy on the matter, let's have just a short reminder about what fascism is and how to spot it.  For regular visitors to MeanMesa, we have covered this before.  However, that's not a good reason to revisit the issue briefly.

The "old" kind of fascism was the result of mixing "national interests" with "corporate interests."  The material result was seen in examples such as the industrial complex which grew up to support the Reich during WWII.  In fact, the political structure was called "national socialism," or Nazism.

Translating this into modern American terms means that "national interests" have been configured to be replaced by "corporate interests" in return for corporate support for -- and interference in -- national political processes.  Legitimate "national interests" have something to do with the interests of the people living in the country, and legitimate government means that protecting these general interests of the people remains a high priority in government policies.

Descending as quickly as possible from these academic hypotheticals, we need to introduce a particularly outrageous example of just what's being described here.

It has everything to do with "regulation."

The right wing mouth breathers actually find themselves cooperating in this MeanMesa explanation.  They repeatedly argue that "deregulation" is an essential element of "job creation."  Of course, their thinly disguised whining actually amounts to an implied threat to government policy makers.  "If you don't eliminate some expensive regulations, we won't hire any employees."

This wouldn't amount to much except that the regulations these "capitalists" want to eliminate have been put in place under the priority of establishing policies which serve the people represented by the government.  The "fascism angle" comes in when we consider the peculiar loyalties served by such priorities.  In this case, "deregulation" means acting with a policy contrary to the benefit of the people and in favor of a policy which benefits, well, the fascists.

Part of government is usurped, that is, to be converted, usually by merit of lower expenses, into corporate profits.  The interests of the corporation have trumped the interests of the people.

Enough theory.

Corporate Fascism and Buying Gasoline

Here we can begin with the idea that one feature of the social economy that our government is responsible for protecting -- for our own interests -- can be classed as "freedom of trade."  The opposite of "freedom of trade" is "restraint of trade."

Restraint of trade means that, one way or another, the "free market, capitalistic" nature of something has been subverted in favor of profit.  In this case, the "profit" is not resulting from normal "free market" activities, but, of course, instead, from the "restraint of trade."

Now, under a legitimate "free market" system, gasoline prices would amount to the cost of gasoline plus the profit required by the capitalists running the various businesses providing the gasoline for sale. Under ideal conditions, the "gasoline providing" businesses could be expected to be constantly seeking ways to lower the cost of the gasoline.

You know, "free market" stuff.

Likewise, the "gasoline providing businesses" would also be forced to compete with each other, maintaining prices at competitive levels so their products would be, well, competitive.  The prospect of adding a few dollars to the price of a gallon of gasoline, thus greatly increasing the profit from its sale, would be attractive, but the competition would instantly ruin the plan by offering a lower price at the station just across the street.

Further, approaching the "free trade" idea as a responsibility of government, if a wealthy gangster were to suddenly appear on the market, purchase all of the gasoline before it could be transported to the gas stations and raise the price a few dollars per gallon, forcing all the gas stations to charge accordingly for their supply, the government would, theoretically, step in to express some legal discomfort with the resulting "restraint of trade."

This scheme would require enough cash on the part of the gangster to purchase all the gasoline as it emerged from the refineries, corner the market and accomplish all this to control the price.  This necessary investment cash would, in a sense, simply be a part of doing business this way.  However, if the gangster added a little more to this cost by including whatever it would take to "keep the government out" of the business, his scheme could just roll ahead, "roses, simply roses."

Of course, this would be a "monopoly," and we have very distinct laws against such "monopolies."

If we had no such laws against monopolies, we would have corporate fascism where the interests of the corporations would be able to trump the interests of the consumers.

Oil Speculators as Fascists

With the "monopoly idea" off the table, we should probably expect gasoline prices to be fairly rational, that is, routine products of the "free market, free trade" system.   After all, monstrosities such as the pre-Sherman Antitrust Act Standard Oil were finally crushed in its earlier, oligarchic, corporate form decades ago for these very reasons.


However, an important difference marks the comparative tale of then and now.  Giant monopolies such as Standard actually owned the entire material components of everything required to utterly control a market, supply, prices -- everything.  In the "now version" we find all this control skulking in the nearly invisible world of commodities traders, with respect to this posting, oil traders.

What it has in common with its historical precursors is its amazingly parasitical nature.  We are discussing oil speculators, the modern form of the inflationary parasites.  The reason we are discussing oil speculators has everything to do with a quiet CNN news story which surfaced today, October 14, 2011.  Read the entire article here.

The headline is enough.  CNN reports:

"Oil speculation seen adding $600 to your gas bill."

The reason such an outrage is possible, much less legal, is precisely because Congressmen and Senators made it both.  If there are 100 million drivers paying this $600 "speculation increment" in their annual gasoline bills, the "total take" will be:

$600 X 100,000,000 = $60,000,000,000 ($60 Bn) per year.

It gets worse.  The estimated population of oil speculators, even counting each individual in companies which do such a shady business, is between 200 and 500.  The $60 Bn "take" is divided between, being generous, 500 well positioned individuals.  The rough income being generated for these 500 individuals amounts to a little more than $100 Mn per year, for each one.

How in the world have these little banksters ever been able to convince the Congress to provide the body of law which made this legal?  And, by the way, not only legal but also enjoying a top marginal tax rate of 15%?

Don't kid yourselves.  They bought and paid for every letter in every law they needed and received.  They still own the laws and lawmakers they need, today.  They continue to "take home" this same amount of income, today.  They still pay 15% income tax on all the dollars they can't off shore or hide some other way, today.

This is the kind of money that Republicans know is big enough to control the entire government, that is, at least big enough to subvert it nicely.

A "subverted" government which holds a higher loyalty to corporate traders than it does to the people it represents is a fascist government.  When such a government is "paid" to sustain such a practice, it is a criminal government.

So, if you are still trying to "get over" this bit of news, spend a little time reviewing Texas Governor Perry's "job plan," announced today.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Letter to Egypt In November

A Few More Ideas From an Old American

A Revolution's Growing Pains

First, be constantly certain that everyday Americans are watching your progress.  Quite aside from the diplomats and the other faces of America you may see, the people here in the towns, farms, villages and cities are fascinated with the news of Egypt's emergence.  Whatever our government may be doing, our hearts are with you.

Notably, your present concern about the continuing role of the Egyptian military comes to the fore.

We all remember the comforting development of "turning over" the remnants of your old government to the military.  In our US news media we were told repeatedly that the Egyptian military was respected and trusted by the citizens of its country.  We were relieved and heartened when your military declined to impose the violent ambitions of the the old autocrat against the Egyptians during the revolution in the streets.

However, we also see -- now -- your growing suspicions about that same military as the days and weeks of Egypt's efforts to ascend into democracy unfold.  This MeanMesa post focuses precisely on this matter.

End the Waiting

The tedious schedule of establishing a government, writing an Egyptian Constitution and transferring social control to civilians seems like a long one.  At least, it seems like a long one when viewed from the comfort and security of our American living rooms.

From the most recent events in the streets of Cairo, it clearly seems that Egyptians see it as a suspiciously long one as well.  The rate at which the Egyptian military is proceeding is not one which inspires great confidence about the final outcome of the revolution.

There's little argument that instituting all sorts of civil authority and capacity is a daunting task.  Understandably, the Egyptian military continues to offer up this explanation as to why things must move so slowly.

When the scope of this undertaking is compared to the comfortably established social structures we see in the US, all the myriad of details and resolutions grows to an almost confounding size.  Yet, one thread which runs through the heart of this task is not so complicated, that is, difficult, perhaps, but still remarkably straight forward.


If indeed a "mis-step" has occurred, it arises from the subconsciousness inertia remaining after the old, authoritarian scheme of governance.  Under that system, Egyptians grew accustomed to "waiting" for the responses of the autocracy.  Granted, this "waiting" grew so onerous as to result in the Egyptian revolution, but the habit may have proved to be more durable than first expected.

Now, Egyptians have reverted to this old plan.  Now, Egyptians are, once again, "waiting" for the advent of the government they were dreaming of when they risked life and limb in Tahrir Square in January.  This latest "waiting" seems out of character for the brave Egyptian revolutionaries.

Interim Government - The Hazard and The Prize

What is proposed here is a rapid establishment of an interim, civilian government as quickly as possible -- certainly on a schedule far faster than what is currently proposed by the military.  The first, formidable concession necessary for the idea is that whatever is created this way will be imperfect.  

The course set out by the military is, at least ostensibly, a cautious one presented as a plan to retain the new civilian power accomplished in revolution.  All sorts of precautions are included to produce a final result which guarantees the civilian nature of the future government.  This is the promise which justifies the military's two or three year schedule.

Make no mistake.  There is a lot which must be done.

However, there may be an equally important interim task.  The Egyptian people should move at once to establish an interim civilian authority which can run concurrently with the military efforts.  It is interim because it is temporary, and even the "authority" element can be equally transitive.  Nonetheless, there must be a representative voice of the Egyptian people running along side the military effort.

Here, MeanMesa can offer the skeleton of a plan.  Happily, it is a plan which will require no more "waiting" for the acquiescence of the Egyptian military for it to move forward.  The basic elements of the plan are fairly simple.

First, divide the country's population into local council districts, each with a standard population, say something between 250,000 and 500,000 people.  There will be the predictable inclinations to refine such groups into segregated interests, ethnic majorities and the like, but, for the time being, dispatch all these and allow simple geographic boundaries to govern the division lines.

The goal here will be to elect a standard sized council to speak for the district.  Remember that we have spoken already about a voice beyond that of the military which can represent the people directly.  A good size for such a council might be ten representatives or so.

Next, make a list of those who will vote in each of these districts, and make all the necessary preparations for elections.  It is important to start having candidates who are willing to lead such district councils and having elections which will make their positions legitimate.

The authority of such councils will not be given over to them or granted to them by the military.  In fact, there is little prospect that the Egyptian military will immediately begin to "follow" the directives of decisions coming from such councils, but what will be accomplished is the voice of electorates.  This is what is missing at the moment.

This is the "next step" which is required to break the status quo.

Once in place, the councils can begin to do the job of representing the Egyptians under the beautiful democratic duress of being replaced in the next election.  Local problems can be addressed, even if they can't be solved.  Resources can be applied to local interests far more directly.

Perhaps even more important, candidates for the new Parliament will emerge.  Ideas about the new Egyptian Constitution can begin to move from council to council.  Egyptians will begin to grow accustomed to campaigning, serving and voting.  

All these things are subject to improvement through practice and experience.  It will be precisely this experience which will direct Egypt to its future.  There is only so much that even the most determined and democratically inspired military officers can add to the mix.  This is not their world.

The End of "Interim"

The coming months of the revolution will see many changes implemented.  The origin and inspiration of these "institutional" changes will be deep in the military minds of the many of the same people who served in the late autocrat's oppression of the Egyptian people.

So far, this "arrangement of necessity" has not gone too badly at all.  However, what lies directly ahead may be even more critical than what has gone on so far.  The electricity of the revolution has calmed a bit, and those with the "old ambitions" have had a chance to quietly consider schemes to either return to that old system or to exploit the new one.

Every Egyptian who votes for a council must understand that the arrangement is temporary, but also, that it is vitally necessary.  There is a growing vacuum.  Citizens know what they don't want but may need to experiment a little to discover what they do want.

A new democracy is no place for the timid.

You have the highest hopes and the very best wishes for your future from MeanMesa.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dumping ComCast

ComCast, The Corporate Bottom Feeder (image source)
A Brief History of ComCast and MeanMesa

Years ago, ComCast was "invited" into MeanMesa Galactic Headquarters bundled as an internet provider and a Spartan, 30 channel cable television service.  The monthly bill was around $40 for the internet and another $11 for the basic cable hook up.  Because of the "geriatric situation" which dictated MeanMesa's personal tastes, this television arrangement was fine.

The "geriatric situation" amounted to an appetite to watch television instead of running around town in the dark of night which, predictably, increased with age.  
The old tele could provide FOX, an on-line shopping extravaganza, all the alphabet networks (except MSNBC, of course) six channels of Spanish language melodramas and another half a dozen dirty shirt preachers from Kentucky asking daily for mail-in "faith blessings."

Those were the good old days.

Looking back through the 2010 ComCast billing history, we see a routine monthly billing reflecting this arrangement.
For example,
Apr 2, 2010 = $51.97
Aug 4, 2010 = $54.22

However, in the cold, dark days of December, 2010, a nice ComCast man knocked on my door. offering a "ComCast special" which, for an additional $29.95 per month would increase my cable service from the "basic" level of 30 channels to an "advanced package" of around 150.  After immediately agreeing to this sudden and robust opportunity and "good fortune," the man installed a new box or two, and the old tele "blossumed" into a new state of service and access, one previously almost unimaginable.

Calculating the new monthly bill was simple enough.  Starting with the $55 or so of the old bill and adding the cost of the new "advanced package" -- including New Mexico's 7% sales tax -- the new bill would be around $90 per month.

For example,
Jan 7, 2011 = $92.71

Importantly for this posting, the nice ComCast man explained which new channels would be included in the "advanced package," and, in fact, after installing the new boxes, carefully checked to make sure that these new offerings were, indeed, now on the tele.  There were plenty of "ComCast advanced package dentritus," but there were also a nice collection of science, history, military and science fiction offerings.

The Letter

However, by June, 2011, ComCast was no longer interested in continuing our business relationship.  Bluntly, the Texans in charge of sustaining ComCast profits took a decision to raise rates, more or less, on the "spur of the moment."

The particular mechanism of this "raising rates" process of theirs would begin with a letter to all ComCast subscribers.  The content of this letter follows:

Naturally, MeanMesa called the number in the letter and asked about just what would be required to "keep" all the channels which had been "mistakenly" included in the "advanced package" installed by the nice ComCast man a few months earlier.  Of course, the precise channels which had been "mistakenly" included all this time were exactly the ones which made the "advanced package" desirable in the first place.

The 24/7 colon cleansing channel, along with the endless infomercials for the soap scum removing bath brush, Pastor McGillicutty's Sin Fighting Pentecostals  a relentless offering of cut "gem stones," senior golf and Amish wood stoves would emerge from ComCast's correction of the "mistake" uninjured.

Well, ComCast's remedy to this "mistake" turned out to be quite simple.  For an additional $10 per month or so, everything would be returned to its previously satisfying state with no hurt feelings whatsoever.  Still, spurred by a lingering suspicion that the whole affair amounted to little more than a cheaply disguised "bait and switch" scheme to raise prices just as ComCast was adopting yet another profit enhancing lunge before changing its name, MeanMesa called them back, telling them to just "shut it down."

There would be no blood money extracted by such a sleezy gambit.

ComCast's New Name

From this point forward, the favorite channels began to slowly disappear. 

The Handsome Young Strangers

Although MeanMesa was succumbing to a growing grumpiness from having all these channels deleted, the old stubborn consumer was bearing the travails of the deprivation fairly well.  After all, reception still included the local PBS channel along with Rachel Maddow each evening.

Then, one afternoon while returning from the nearby whole foods grocery with a few veggies for dinner, MeanMesa encountered two nicely dressed young men, resting by the postal boxes. 

"What's brought you two to the apartment complex?" 

"We're here selling DISH network services.  Are you interested?"

Of course, in practically no time at all, MeanMesa had transferred the television cable to DISH, receiving in the bargain, lots of channels and a good reduction from the old ComCast price.  The two salesmen said they would cancel the ComCast cable service and get a refund on the unused time.  MeanMesa suspected at once that ComCast would be acting very much "out of character" to actually do something this ethical and reasonable.

That turned out to be the case -- no refund.  Still, the change was well worth it.  The sensation of leaving ComCast was similar to escaping from East Berlin.

The young DISH salesmen also said that they would replace the old ComCast internest service with Verizon, further reducing the price of the television computer bundle.  This part of the offer has not yet materialized, but, with the prospect of dumping ComCast completely now on the table, it turns out that there are plenty of alternative computer servers.

The Last Roar of the Wounded Boar

The computer problem hasn't been resolved yet, but it will be.  In the meantime, ComCast has sent their latest bill, no doubt still smarting from the loss of a customer.  It is included here for an example reference.  The monthly bill under the new ComCast brand image, Xfinity, has increased from $96 to $142.  The new monthly cost of replacement services will be around $70.

Bye, Bye, ComCast.  Oh, What a Relief It Is!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Republican Candidates Selling the Dream

Fantastic Images of Economic Recovery
Go ahead, the first one's free.

Prosperity is, uh, "Just around the corner?" (image source)

With a large percentage of Americans now deeply wounded by the unregulated antics of the autocracy's eight year "looting festival," we can collect a troubling package of "unrealistic expectations" about recovery.  Worse, these expectations are already presenting a non-economic reality which may prove even more damaging than what's been done to house prices and 401K accounts.

Although what is revealed in the shadow of that gloomy visitor doesn't have a specific dollar cost associated with it, the cost is still rising.

"Non-economic?"  "Cost still rising?"

What are we talking about here?

Since it hit with its full force, the 2008 Great Republican Recession has exposed all sorts of dismal, unexpected things about the American economy.  Further, this growing, modern understanding of it has not been simply an education about what it looks like in recession.  Instead, Americans have been receiving daily doses of hard numbers reality about what this economy has been all along -- even before the Republican calamity of 2008.

At least, some Americans have been receiving these distasteful new understandings.  Importantly for this post, far too many Americans have yet to even begin their education -- both about the recession and about what was transpiring before it.

The "gloomy visitor" mentioned above is neither particularly a new political reality nor an exclusively mechanical economic creature.  It is the "collection agent" for an even greater deficit.

After six decades of utter failure, the horrible results of the US educational system have, finally, come home to roost.  Even while they face the necessity of voting to rectify this mess, the vast majority of its American victims have no idea about what is actually going on in this latest, massive crisis.

Great Expectations

This conclusion would not amount to much without a bit of evidence to support it.

So, let's look at the evidence.

We see it most clearly in the expectations of those who are presently suffering through this.  What do they expect in terms of economic recovery?  Perhaps even more disturbing, why in the world are they expecting these things?

These expectations of theirs are derived primarily from an admittedly flimsy view of what has always happened in the past.  Recessions are nothing new in a country determined to accept casino capitalism as a necessary part of our traditional system.

The "flimsy view" comes from years of public education which has provided neither the facts nor the logic to successfully interpret what we see before us.  The "root" of these problematic expectations comes from the expectation that this recession will "work itself out" in roughly the same manner as the others we have experienced before.

To put it more provocatively, Americans both lack the education to make sense out of this and, worse,  the interest to get that education, then make sense out of this.  The first casualty of this inadequate analytical capacity is a realistic grasp of the scope of the damage and the gravity of its consequences.

Beginning with this conceptual deficit, the journey to all the false conclusions employed as foundations for ridiculous expectations is "all down hill."  

Americans expect that their housing prices will "rebound" when the foreclosure surplus subsides. They expect that their retirement accounts will start to refill themselves once the market recovers.  They think that their incomes will once again begin to rise if the just "stay the course."  They think that their college educated children will get good jobs and live in a nice, traditional American prosperity.

Unquestionably the most dangerous by-product of such expectations arises in the political arena.  Election decisions are, as we speak, being formulated on all this nonsense.  Candidates are allowed to relentlessly promise this sort of imaginary recovery as if it amounted to nothing any more complicated than a "walk in the park."

Discerning the Past, the Imaginary Future
and the Real Future

At this point, MeanMesa could start plastering charts and graphs one after another, each time examining one of the various "hot dreams" listed above.  However, selecting a salient example to carry the general idea is easy:  unemployment.

For decades the US unemployment rate rumbled along at around 5%.  In the public schools of the 1950's where MeanMesa learned about such things, 5% was considered "healthy," that is, at 5% folks who wanted jobs could find one and companies who wanted to hire people still had plenty of choices.

At 4%, the economy was getting "too hot," and at 6% the economy was in recession.  Further, if unemployment did either of these two things, the economy would almost immediately begin to adjust itself back toward the magic 5% levels.  Of course, the nation was, at this time, firmly under the control of a nice bunch of grey haired white men.

In fact, we can share a couple of charts from News Junkie Post dated November of 2009.  (Read the entire article here.)

Job Growth and Decline under past administrations.

Over all job creation by administrations of each party.

The information which drove both of these charts in 2009 came from the history of unemployment during recessions which the country had experienced up to that time.  However, breathing this historic data into what's happening to us right now is a mistake -- a mistake which the GOPCon candidates are employing as their current "buggy whip" to keep the American Legion bar goers on fire against re-electing Obama.

Even after the "Pearl Harbor-9/11" bombing of the national economy in 2008, these drawling GOPCons still hope to rewrite the contents of the country's recent cultural memory to somehow fit into this latest "shoe box."  Exactly what's missing in the minds of the educationally challenged GOPCon base is the information in the chart which follows.

Job Losses and Recoveries of Previous Recessions Compared to This One (data source)

(A MeanMesa Note:  This chart was originally broadcast of PBS NewHour, Oct. 7, 2011 See video)

We see that President Obama, despite the obstructionist stranglehold of the House tea bags, has managed to "bend" the job loss numbers back to a positive slope.  However, the repeated image coming from the reactionaries on the right suggests that, somehow, he should have already completely remedied the job loss
damage of the autocracy's insatiable and thoroughgoing mismanagement.

We can see a crystal clear image of the results of the House tea baggers efforts to "create jobs" by examining the right half of the current unemployment record.  Even worse, the same reactionaries are touting daily that, in fact, they can solve this problem if we would only elect even more of them.

Yet, Republicans are not only running of their horrendous record of instigating the massive unemployment in 2007 (the left edge of the chart), but also on their "record" of job creation since they took over the House of Representatives in 2010.  This would be bad enough, made nightmarishly real by the number of American voters willing to extend the carnage, but perhaps the most awful of all is found as an unanticipated consequence in the background of their insane scheme.

Setting Our Sight Squarely on Imagining the Imaginary

Adrift in a swamp devoid of fact, the GOPCons have sought out the imaginary rather than "dirtying their hands" with the real -- or even, the possibly real.

The vast majority of those hoodwinked into pulling the voting level over an "R" will believe that a return to 5% unemployment is "just around the corner."  The best estimates of the case suggest that 2014 or 2016 are both still narcotically optimistic, and even then only after a breathtakingly provocative, non-traditional series of previously unheard of economic measures.

The point here is that the prospects of an imaginary, impossible unemployment recovery have been artificially -- and artfully -- incorporated into the Republican platform.  As usual, the entire focus is on winning the election at any cost.  They assume that the inevitable disaster afterwards can be handled by their media.

They can't govern, and they know it.  They've already proved it to us, and now, they are sailing solely on their own denial.

In forty-five days toward the end of 2007 a Republican government sponsored the unregulated extraction of 20% of the entire accumulated wealth of this country since its beginning in the late 1790's.  In 2008 the "demand side" of the economy collapsed because so much money had been removed and redistributed.

Job creation responds to demand.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How To "De-Fang" Your Bankster

Are US Banksters Creeping YOU Out?
Drilling Down to Specifics

It's easy, given the economic train wreck which has now engulfed all the actual human people (as opposed to "people" who are "corporations") in the world's developed countries, to simply bemoan the conditions of our existence under the heavy boot of the well established oligarch class. However, such a general malaise, we are discovering, is an obstacle far too easily handled by the ruling class.

The patient day laborers in the "public psychology management sections" behind those board rooms find it very convenient to simply describe us a "mildly restive."  Oh sure, we can grumble, but when we confront the now elaborate fortress of wealth which has been so "innocently" constructed to separate us from what would otherwise be a natural prosperity, we are confounded with the question of "Where to begin?"

Well, that "fortress of wealth" was not constructed from massive elements.  It is not the overnight product of revolution or a coup d'etat.  It was very quietly and gradually assembled from a thousand little insults steadily amassed in countless sunny afternoons in our Congress amid the cigar smoke and brandies.

Any citizen now wishing to undo what has been done must first realize that the process will require an equally long series of remedies, that is, an equally  long series of determined counter measures.  The fenders of the monster will have to be unbolted and dispatched one by one.

With an adversary so well armed and entrenched as this most modern class of democracy hating oligarchs, there is no other way to reach the chassis, and so long as that chassis remains in tact, the monster will inevitably return.

If You Take the Congress, What Do You Do With It?

Although our afternoon naps may be punctuated with fantasies of guillotines and adolescent French girls waving Tri-Color flags from barricades, we'll need far more specific plans if we expect to make much progress.

In fact, one early aim would be to permanently obliterate even this term "much progress," itself.  We're past the point where we might relax with "much progress."  This dragon must become entirely and unequivocally a corpse, not just a more manageable invalid.

Here, MeanMesa repeats a previous idea, not with the ambition of extracting just a few more blog visitors from the process, but because its "time may have come."  At least, perhaps, because the necessity of their reconsideration has grown more relevant.

Let's look at one item in a  "starter package" of new law which could begin to make a difference right away.

If only we could spay and neuter them. (image source)

Mortgages as Ownership

The shift of home ownership to those who are holding the securitized mortgage packages will continue pretty much regardless of political developments.  However, MeanMesa is quite willing to reiterate a suggestion made several times in the past on this little blog.

This has to do with collateral damage.  As the foreclosures rage on ahead, home values continue to cascade and ex-home owners rent cozy apartments, an unexpected victim arises from the rubble.  

Local property tax bases.

Schools, especially, but also roads and other local expenses, are left holding the bag.  As the big boys' mortgage gimmicks continue to unfold wreaking havoc like a medieval plague, property tax revenues plummet, leaving cities and towns without the means to make payroll for their teachers, principals and janitors.

In the air conditioned conference room in Riyadh where one of these "bundled mortgage delights" has finally landed, a sterile, chilly angst fills the atmosphere as the actual value of this little stinker gradually comes to light.  The 'owner' of one of the autonomous sovereign investment funds has just taken a $100 Mn hit, but some little town in Ohio has just had to increase the size of classes in its public schools to 35.

Bring my securities trader. (image source)

So, what can be done?

The slightest change to the way that mortgages are legally "organized" can make all the difference in the world.  Even better, this scheme accomplishes a nice collection of additional benefits once it becomes the law of the land.

The Scheme

The new law says that the ownership of mortgaged real estate runs with the mortgage instead of the title.

Of course, we know that, at least in the world of finance, this is already the case.  If you doubt it, let your house get foreclosed.  The real owner will emerge from that stack of paper you signed when you moved into your dream home.

For the comfortably ensconced home owner, making his mortgage payment month after month, the change is invisible.  Each month's payment covers the traditional accounts of principal and interest, but it would also include the cost of a pro-rated payment of the property taxes.

At any given moment in the life of the mortgage, a percentage of the ownership of the real estate is shared between the mortgage holder and the home owner.  When the monthly payment is made, the property tax would be paid collectively by each of the stake holders according to the percentage of ownership calculated for that month.

We know that mortgage bankers are not going to lose money on this arrangement because they will simply include the property tax in the monthly payment.  The home owner is going to have to pay the annual property tax, anyway, and under this change, his tax payments will simply be channelled through his mortgage payment instead of being made when he gets his annual tax bill.

However, the important difference becomes clear when the house is foreclosed.

At that point, the ownership of the house reverts entirely to the mortgage holder -- and so does the property tax liability.

If you are a banker and your mortgage holder defaults, you can still foreclose to your heart's content, but each of the properties which revert to your ownership will carry with them the continuing property tax exposure.  This alone will present an additional reason for just a little more reluctance on your part as the benefactor of the foreclosure.

If you wind up owning a bunch of residential real estate as a result of your foreclosure practices, you will also wind up with the corresponding property tax liabilities.  Let's take a look at what additional changes this might incorporate into the massive foreclosure process currently under way.

1. Municipalities will continue to receive property tax revenues, even when foreclosures increase.  This means that established municipal services such as schools will continue to be funded.

2. Bankers and mortgage holders will become much more interested in policies which will protect local property values.  Further, this new "interest" will extend to the holders of securitized mortgage packages regardless of where they are.

All the investors will have a new incentive to become and remain good citizens in the places where they hold mortgages.

3. Even with the prospect of foreclosure no more than a distant, future possibility, mortgage holders will become more involved in municipal services expenditures.  It may be attractive to demand frugality on expenses for municipal services, but being too stingy will result in creating adverse conditions which led to lower housing prices.

Bankers know about all sorts of useful things which could help a municipality make sense out of both its property tax policies and its expenditures for schools and maintenance.  If it became a matter of their business interests to "take an interest" in such things, their management expertise could contribute a lot.

4. The business of holding mortgages would adopt a much more local nature.  The presently unregulated journey of a mortgage investment might tend to remain closer to home at local banks instead of making its way to China or Japan.

5. The credit credentials required for a mortgage would begin to reflect the new arrangement.  The deregulation fever of the autocracy made it not only profitable, but unsettlingly acceptable for an eager beaver mortgage salesman to simply get almost any signature on the instrument, take his commission and pack the thing off into the world of investment funds, helter skelter.

The prospect of foreclosing the mortgage, once the additional burden of assuming the on-going property taxes is included, would make lenders quite a bit pickier about their mortgage partners.  Since the jobs picture in the local economy would become more important, the mortgage lenders would have a much larger, material stake in the prosperity of that local economy.

We may not be able to stop the foreclosure mania that is raging along right now, but this simple change could go a long way towards not repeating this monstrosity.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Memo to the "Occupation"

A Few Ideas to "Chew" On

First, know that MeanMesa loves you.  Every single one of you.  The UFO folks, the pure food folks, the clean water folks, the anarchists and the politicians. The hulu hoopers, the drummers, the stoned and the determined.  Every single one of you.

The commercial "mouth junk" is having gastric problems trying to decide just how to handle you all.  It should be clear by this time that most of these talking heads are already planning for your demise.  They want, very, very much, to turn out to be the ones who were able to "see through" what you're all doing.

Of course, these "heads" are consumed with the prospect of having "been right all along" and the corresponding ratings jumps they dream of getting for being the most historically perceptive, politically savvy, but ultimately, the most "accurately cynical."

Some of you may have held momentary fantasies about the commercial media dedicating a lot of attention to what you're doing, but you will be well served to remember that the prize they seek rests among their viewers and has absolutely nothing to do with your wonderfully dynamic dreams.  For further clarity, we can divide them into two groups.

The first bunch will be the "comfortably numb," fireside sweater and even speech contingent who have been dutifully spewing out "grandfatherly analysis" which usually begins with a comparison between you and some other movement in the past.  They will scoff and chuckle with a few well seasoned reflections on other things before they begin their relentless efforts to validate their false dichotomies as a prelude to the predictably artificial hypocrisy hunting.

First Bunch:  PBS NewsHour, NBC, ABC etc.

The second bunch will careen immediately into name calling, skipping the tedium of making such comparisons at all.  Their "mouth junk" will have you unwashed, sexual profligate, ne'er do well, drug criminals with ties to both the Soviet Union and al Qeada.  The irony is that their listeners had already completely arrived at such conclusions before they received the first words of the broadcast.

Second Bunch: Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Riley, Levin and the other FOX denizens.

Both "bunches" are presently infatuated with repeating over and over that "no one can be sure" what you want to accomplish, but that you are, most likely, something to be feared.  This post will deal with this side of things next.

The Ghost of the Occupation's Past

Some of you may think that the zany, out of control diversity you are presently manifesting will turn out to be a weakness, a vulnerability.  You may consider this aspect of where you are now to represent a significant weakness on your journey to becoming a well understood, media enhanced popular movement.

You know, like the tea bags.

Well, you are 180 degrees off target.  The tea bags have been exposed along with the gears and levers of the "grassroots" movement which created them.  Their world got viciously "warmed up" with literally hours of incendiary FOX broadcast time not because it was interesting, but because Rupert Murdoch decided that it would.

Whatever inertia this created was immediately "monetized" by Dick Armey's public relations arm, causing the dismembered juggernaut to lurch forward for a while.  The disgruntled FOX fans misspelled their signs and rode to over reported appearances in hired busses where they burped and farted on queue for the cameras.

The tea bags are now a violent, embarrassing piece of history.  The 2010 election products are horrifying the country as their disembodied past favorites lodged in the House of Representatives continue to rampage destruction.

Some of the "occupation folks," following along with those attempting to describe them for cash and profit, may have this same concern.  Forget it.  So long as your uncontrollable, energy rich chaos continues, you will never face the fate of the mystically feral tea bag "innocents" if there ever were any.

No one in the moneyed class wants to help you, and yet none of them can formulate a scheme to exploit you.  All they want is to silence you, to ridicule you, to outlast you.  Your formidable defense against all these insults resides in your wonderful confusion.

At this moment the "suits" are waiting for a safer opportunity to orthagonalize you.  If they can reduce all this uncontrollable diversity to talking points, ostensibly revealing your every quirk, sponsor, inspiration and claim, they will have assuaged the fear and excitement by creating a way to remove your teeth.

Those who oppose you eat a diet of cynicism.  If you "take the bait" by normalizing and enforcing all your varied positions into something specific, the world will enjoy a comfortable revelation that, in the end, nothing is real, everything is just more of the same and that the "occupation," like everything else in their dismal world, has feet of clay.

It doesn't.

So, remain individuals.  Those who watch may come to understand slowly, but they will come to understand.  It may take some time for them to realize that they actually do have an appetite for ideas beyond the media's pablum of conceptual efficiency.

The Ghost of the Occupation's Future

MeanMesa predicts that you will meet this flimsy waif sooner than you think.  A robust, literary plot might be attractive, but both you and the ghosts are operating on a calendar which ends this phase in November of 2012.  

And, we're not talking Aztecs here.

You are going to become political.  Further, it simply won't do to have this metamorphosis as a result of being dragged into it, kicking and screaming.  Regardless of what the breathless terror mongers on FOX may say, you cannot overthrow the government.  All the things you want the most will arise from the Congress.

But they can only arise from a very different, new Congress.  That rancid place is precisely where the old things that you hate the most came from, too.

At this moment, there are Democrats who, viewing the mass of people in your occupation, see only campaign workers who can be coerced into another round of backing the lessor of two evils.  There will be no shortage of Max Baucus's and Mary Landrieu's licking their chops at the prospect of a cut rate campaign carried on the backs of you and your friends.

The Republicans are simply reaching for their sleeping pills in hopes of avoiding the nightmare.

Facing facts, your occupation will have to conclude that there are probably not candidates who can be trusted to live up to the pledges of allegiance to your ideas that they will be anxious and eager to murmur.  You will need new candidates, and those people are standing among you right now.

Expect a litany of impossibilities. Insurmountable political machines.  Immense Citizen United money. But through all of this, anticipate and recruit a collection of new politicians who cannot be "orthagonalized" any more successfully than you can be at this present moment.  Some of those you pick will turn out to be "purchasable;" others will turn out to be simply crazy.  However, among them will be the new versions of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren with fresh faces.

Jim Morrison's old rock and roll admonition means everything:  "They've got the guns, but we've got the numbers."

You've got the numbers, and MeanMesa predicts that you will have even more -- many, many more -- in the days and weeks ahead.  Stay free and open, and most important of all, stay wonderfully energetic and chaotic.  Don't worry about message.  You're doing fine!

Hold your sabre loosely.