Blog Archive

Saturday, November 16, 2013

New York Times: Quotation of the Day


"On the bad days, it's really hard to get out of bed. I ask myself, 'What did I do wrong?'"

ALBA M√ČNDEZ,, a 24-year-old with a master's degree in sociology who was interviewing for a job at a supermarket in Madrid, the capital of Spain, where in September, unemployment among those 24 and younger stood at 56 percent.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Statehood For Moosylvania Or The Most Dangerous Moment In Human History

Near the Conclusion of the following Documentary on "The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show," there was an experience in real life with the creators of the show in 1962 when Jay Ward and friends drove to the White House and requested to speak with the President in a Ford Econoline van decorated with the theme,"Statehood For Moosylvania" broadcasting circus music. The White House Security at the gate were unusually hyper vigilant and eventually began to draw their side arms when Jay finally relented and they left. Later, they learned that day was the first of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Apparently, Jay Ward had purchased an island in the Lake of the Woods which was bisected by the border between Minnesota and Canada and to promote his animated series based upon the fictional Frostbite Falls, Minnesota characters Rocky and Bullwinkle, Jay and crew carried out the stunt. It was the convergence of two very different forces at the worst possible time imaginable.

Having been born and raised in the Region of Northern Wisconsin in early 1962, this most dangerous moment in human history occurred while I was an infant in my crib. Later, my father, a veteran Navy Radioman of World War Two in the Pacific theater, had purchased a Ford Econoline van and worked as an Electrician and Radio/TV Repairman, supplying the family with black and white television with antenna to receive the two available channels in the Region: On and Off. Surprisingly, the home State of Senator Joseph "Communist Hunter" McCarthy consented to rebroadcast the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show animated series on weekend mornings from the local TV Station. Even more surprising was the fact my father consented to my viewing it. Of course, the most dangerous moment in human history had  indeed passed, Kennedy's were assassinated, Krushchev was replaced and the classic Social Revolutions of the 1960's were about to unfold. Besides, the only alternatives for entertainment out on the edge of the Canadian Shield on Weekends were myself, a neighbor kid, my parents, grandparents or the staff of the local TV Station; none of which were very good at playing with a five year old boy.

Yes, most of the actual scripts of the Show were way over my head and it has taken me over 40 years to understand the "encrypted" messages. The humor was nauseating and the animation truly bad but the key common denominator for any kid was the intuitive sense that the creators, whatever they were saying and doing, were having a lot of fun creating it. They were actually playing and having fun. The material spared no one, including the television industry itself, and the Show was banned in places. It cultivated a taste in me at a very early impressionable age, that some may even say half jokingly was a "corrupting" influence, for a cynical biting satire of very serious current events and proved quite educational in the process. Only as an adult did I realize I was really pissing people off and being very inappropriate and offensive at the worst possible times. Others were NOT AMUSED. They were mad.

Behind the scenes of the greatest animated cartoon series ever created. Though reflecting the innocence of the country during the early sixties, Rocky & Bullwinkle nevertheless had an edge, with numerous lines that weren't meant for children. The references in many of the shows only would be understood by adults since they encompassed political & social satire/commentary and were drawn from literature, history, popular culture, etc. That makes them fresh even today. For those adults who remember the series from their childhood, there's more than just nostalgia to hold our attention. The Bullwinkle Show did not treat kids as mentally inferior or talk down to them; it expected them to understand- if not at that time, then eventually. Unfortunately, the first minute is missing. Category Film & Animation License Standard YouTube License

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Why Washington Is Cutting Safety Nets: RSN by Robert Reich

Economist, professor, author and political commentator Robert Reich. (photo: Richard Morgenstein)
Economist, professor, author and political commentator Robert Reich. (photo: Richard Morgenstein)

Why Washington Is Cutting Safety Nets

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

02 November 13

As of November 1 more than 47 million Americans have lost some or all of their food stamp benefits. House Republicans are pushing for further cuts. If the sequester isn't stopped everything else poor and working-class Americans depend on will be further squeezed.

We're not talking about a small sliver of America here. Half of all children get food stamps at some point during their childhood. Half of all adults get them sometime between ages 18 and 65. Many employers - including the nation's largest, Walmart - now pay so little that food stamps are necessary in order to keep food on the family table, and other forms of assistance are required to keep a roof overhead.

The larger reality is that most Americans are still living in the Great Recession. Median household income continues to drop. In last week's Washington Post-ABC poll, 75 percent rated the state of the economy as "negative" or "poor."

So why is Washington whacking safety nets and services that a large portion of Americans need, when we still very much need them?

It's easy to blame Republicans and the rightwing billionaires that bankroll them, and their unceasing demonization of "big government" as well as deficits. But Democrats in Washington bear some of the responsibility. In last year's fiscal cliff debate neither party pushed to extend the payroll tax holiday or find other ways to help the working middle class and poor.

Here's a clue: A new survey of families in the top 10 percent of net worth (done by the American Affluence Research Center) shows they're feeling better than they've felt since 2007, before the Great Recession.

It's not just that the top 10 percent have jobs and their wages are rising. The top 10 percent also owns 80 percent of the stock market. And the stock market is up a whopping 24 percent this year.

The stock market is up even though most Americans are down for two big reasons.

First, businesses are busily handing their cash back to their shareholders - buying back their stock and thereby boosting share prices - rather than using the cash to expand and hire. It makes no sense to expand and hire when most Americans don't have the money to buy.

The S&P 500 "Buyback Index," which measures the 100 stocks with the highest buyback ratios, has surged 40 percent this year, compared with a 24% rally for the S&P 500.

IBM has just approved another $15 billion for share buybacks on top of about $5.6 billion it set aside previously, thereby boosting its share prices even though business is sluggish. In April, Apple announced a $50 billion increase in buybacks plus a 15% rise in dividends, but even this wasn't enough for multi-billionaire Carl Icahn, who's now demanding that Apple use more of its $170 billion cash stash to buy back its stock and make Ichan even richer.

Big corporations can also borrow at rock-bottom rates these days in order to buy back even more of their stock - courtesy of the Fed's $85 billion a month bond-buying program. (Ichan also wants Apple to borrow $150 billion at 3 percent interest, in order to buy back more stock and further enrich himself.)

The second big reason why shares are up while most Americans are down is corporations continue to find new ways to boost profits and share prices by cutting their labor costs - substituting software for people, cutting wages and benefits, and piling more responsibilities on each of the employees that remain.

Neither of these two strategies - buying back stock and paring payrolls - can be sustained over the long run (so you have every right to worry about another Wall Street bubble). They don't improve a company's products or customer service.

But in an era of sluggish sales - when the vast American middle class lacks the purchasing power to keep the economy going - these two strategies at least keep shareholders happy. And that means they keep the top 10 percent happy.

Congress, meanwhile, doesn't know much about the bottom 90 percent. The top 10 percent provide almost all campaign contributions and funding of "independent" ads.

Moreover, just about all members of Congress are drawn from the same top 10 percent - as are almost all their friends and associates, and even the media who report on them.

Get it? The bottom 90 percent of Americans - most of whom are still suffering from the Great Recession, most of whom have been on a downward escalator for decades - have disappeared from official Washington.

Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.