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Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 70,048

Journal Archives

More woes for the Washington Metro


MAY 9, 2016, 8:36 A.M. E.D.T.

WASHINGTON — Metro says a train that became disabled while testing tracks after a small track fire is causing delays on three lines in southeast Washington.

Metro spokesman Richard Jordan says a small fire broke out the tracks early Monday between the Minnesota Avenue and Stadium-Armory stations. He says that fire was put out using a fire extinguisher.

Jordan says a train testing whether the track was ready to open after the fire and weekend track work became disabled outside Stadium-Armory.

Jordan says trains are using just one track through that area on the blue, orange and silver lines. He says the delays will continue until the train can be removed and another train can test the tracks in that area. He says it's not clear how long that will take.

Official “Labor Market Conditions” Give off First Warning Signs

Official “Labor Market Conditions” Give off First Warning Signs
by Wolf Richter • May 9, 2016

Jobs metrics were immune to worsening economic malaise.

The official labor market metrics in the US — unemployment rate, number of jobs created, weekly unemployment insurance claims, etc. — have been immune to the worsening malaise visible elsewhere:

• Total business sales have declined since mid-2014.
• Business inventories have reached crisis levels.
• Corporate earnings, no matter how financially engineered, have fallen four quarters in a row.
• Productivity is down.
• Commercial bankruptcies in April soared 32% year-over-year to 3,482, with Chapter 11 filings skyrocketing 67%.
• The Freight Recession hit full stride with trucking deteriorating and railroad traffic down sharply as layoffs spread across the industry, and even Union Pacific engines are idled in large numbers in out-of-the-way places across the US.
• Layoff announcements are cascading through the country, including tech.
• The brick-and-mortar retail sector is in crisis and faces a wave of bankruptcies.
• The oil and gas sector is practically collapsing.

And throughout, the official employment metrics did not reflect these trends.

Now, however, the first squiggles are showing up in the numbers. So today’s Labor Market Conditions Index (LMCI) is particularly important — because it shows those squiggles.

We already got a foretaste last week when unemployment claims surged by the most in over a year, and the nonfarm jobs number, the worst since January 2014, was a doozie of a disappointment for many analysts. ...............(more)


Chinese Government Warns World of “L-Shaped Path”: a Dive & No Recovery

Chinese Government Warns World of “L-Shaped Path”: a Dive & No Recovery
by Wolf Richter • May 9, 2016

Don’t count on us, it said.

It’s fascinating how Wall Street soothsayers and American industrial companies, such as automakers, hype the Chinese economy, even as Chinese government officials are getting cold feet about their economic miracle, as they’re gradually figuring out what’s going on in their construct. And now, they’re trying to prepare the world for what they see coming.

With economic growth down to the official rate of 6.7% in the first quarter, the slowest official growth rate since the Financial Crisis, soothsayers are busily pointing out that it’s still astronomical compared to the growth rates – if you can call them that – in the US, Europe, and Japan.

But now the People’s Daily, the official paper of the Communist Party and thus a government mouthpiece, published an exclusive interview with an unnamed “authoritative figure” – a description that is “usually used for high-level officials,” the paper explained. It even ran the article on its English-language site for the entire world to see.

This authoritative figure told the People’s Daily that the Chinese economy won’t see a V-shaped recovery, or a U-shaped recovery, or any recovery of economic growth, but an “L-shaped path going forward.”

So a decline followed by no recovery. ....................(more)


Wealth Confiscation for the Digital Age: the New “Cash Tax”

Wealth Confiscation for the Digital Age: the New “Cash Tax”
by Brian Hunt • May 10, 2016

Directly from your bank account.

From Brian Hunt, director, Casey Research:

“Negative interest rates” have become a phenomenon with economists and the media. But I’m writing to tell you something about negative interest rates you haven’t heard. You certainly won’t hear about it in the mainstream press.

What’s coming at you is a historic event. It’s something our grandchildren will hear stories about, much like the Great Depression or the Cold War. It could send the price of gold much higher in the coming years.

If you know what’s coming, it could mean the difference between having lots of free cash in retirement and barely getting by. And please remember this warning: Social Security will help even less than you think.

To understand the gravity of this moment, let’s cover one of the most bizarre ideas in the world…

Negative Interest Rates.

In a normal world, your bank pays you interest on your savings. It takes your money, pools it with other people’s money, and loans it out. The bank makes money by paying out less in interest on your deposit than it earns in interest from borrowers. For example, it might pay out 3% to depositors while earning 6% from borrowers. This is how it has worked for decades. ............(more)


Hillary Clinton Hints Her Husband, Ardent Advocate of Trade Pacts, Might Be Her Jobs Czar


Hillary Clinton has suggested that she might appoint her husband, who played a leadership role in championing trade deals that have hemorrhaged jobs from the US, as jobs czar to create manufacturing positions. Say what? Even Bill appears puzzled. (Photo: Eric Austin)

Politicians in tight spots often say the most puzzling things. While campaigning in coal country, where large numbers of miners are without jobs, Hillary Clinton has been met by grassroots opposition to her (hopefully accurate) comment earlier this year that coal, as a fuel, is on its last legs.

As Politico reported on May 2,

Clinton has faced increased scrutiny and backlash from coal-producing areas of the country after boasting at a March town hall, "We're going to put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business." Though she followed up by saying that the United States should "make it clear that we don't want to forget those people," the remark created consternation in the coal community. On Sunday, Bill Clinton confronted protesters in West Virginia unhappy with his wife's comments.


However, Hillary Clinton provided some evidence to bolster the cynical viewpoint with her attempt to reassure coal country voters. She tried to assuage their economic fears with a hint that her husband might become her jobs czar. Now remember, this is Bill Clinton, the neoliberal globalist who played a cheerleader-in-chief role for the trade pacts that had a significant impact on the very loss of jobs in manufacturing that Hillary Clinton says she is concerned about. As CBS News reported on May 2,

Clinton is often asked exactly what kind of role her husband would play in her administration.

On Monday, in Kentucky coal country, she said she would put the former president in charge of reviving jobs in communities hard hit by manufacturing losses.

"I told my husband he's got to come out of retirement and be in charge of this because you know he's got more ideas a minute than anybody I know," she said.

Yes, and many of these ideas are like big meteors hurdling toward you.

Global trade pacts that favor corporations are not a significant reason coal is doomed -- that's actually due primarily to the development of cleaner and more cost-efficient fuels and the need to save the planet from climate change -- but they have become the symbol of a US government policy that has accelerated the hemorrhaging of US manufacturing jobs to less-costly overseas settings. ....................(more)


The Collapse of the Middle-Class Job


Our middle-income jobs are disappearing. That fact may be disputed by free-market advocates, who want to believe Barack Obama when he gushes, "We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history."

But the evidence shows that living-wage, family-sustaining positions are quickly being replaced by lower-wage and less secure forms of employment. These plentiful low-level jobs have padded the unemployment figures, leaving much of America believing in an overhyped recovery.

The Incredible Shrinking Job

New research is beginning to confirm the permanent nature of middle-income job loss. Based on analysis that one reviewer calls "some of the most important work done by economists in the last twenty years," a National Bureau of Economic Research study found that national employment levels have fallen in U.S. industries that are vulnerable to import competition, without offsetting job gains in other industries. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that "many middle-wage occupations, those with average earnings between $32,000 and $53,000, have collapsed."

Productive Workers, but Less of Them

High-salaried jobs in technology still exist, but they're available to fewer people as machines become smarter. Netflix, for example, serves 57 million customers with less than 2,200 employees, who have a median salary of $180,000. Google is worth $370 billion but employs only about 55,000 workers (50 years ago AT&T was worth less in today's dollars but employed about 750,000 workers). Facebook's messaging application WhatsApp has 55 employees serving 450 million customers. ...............(more)


The Pain You Feel is Capitalism Dying

NOTE: For whatever reason, I assume because of the @ symbol, the link doesn't work on DU. You can access the article by going to https://medium.com and typing the title of the piece and/or joe brewer in the search box.

Joe Brewer
The Pain You Feel is Capitalism Dying

It can be very confusing to know that you won’t find a decent job, pay off student loans or put in a down payment on a house in the next few years — even though you may have graduated from a top-tier university or secured glowing references from all those unpaid internships that got you to where you are today.

Even if you are lucky enough to have all of this going for you, you’ll still be one among hundreds of applicants for every job you apply for. And you’ll still watch as the world becomes more unequal, with fewer paid opportunities to do what you feel called to do in your work or for your life path.

What’s more, you won’t find much help from your friends because most (if not all) of them are going through the same thing. This is a painful and difficult time that is impacting all of us at once.


Reason 1: There Are No More Profits to Extract.

As eloquently described in the writings of Jeremy Rifkin and Paul Mason, the primary motivator for capitalists — to extract wealth from consumer exchange in the form of monetary gain — is crippled by the fact that the science of wealth extraction has become so advanced that every new wave brings diminishing returns. What is called “marginal cost” by economists, the difference between how much it costs to produce something and what people are willing or able to pay for it, is nearly zero now for everything we manufacture or provide as a service. This zero marginal cost trend is breaking capitalism down by the unexpected outcome of its own spectacular success.


So the nails are in the coffin for capitalism. What remains to be seen is whether this will take down our globalized civilization as well. I am hopeful, yet sober about our prospects. It’s going to be a very turbulent time (for the rest of our lives) but I think we can make it through this restlessness by acknowledging that it’s real, naming the architecture of wealth extraction that created these systemic harms, and dismantling this globalized system to release vital monetary resources for the emergence of a new, life-affirming paradigm for economic development. .............................(more)


Higher Education and Neoliberal Temptation: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux

Higher Education and Neoliberal Temptation: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux

Monday, 09 May 2016 00:00
By Almantas Samalavicius, Eurozine | Interview

If the university is to survive, faculty are going to have to rethink their roles as critical public intellectuals, connect their scholarship to broader social issues and learn how to write for and speak to a broader public. Of this much, the cultural critic and doyen of critical pedagogy Henry Giroux is convinced.

Almantas Samalavicius: The neoliberal agenda that came into being a few decades ago in the northern hemisphere, and was eventually globalized, now seems to threaten systems of higher education worldwide. The persistence of this phenomenon has become alarming to many who care about its social consequences. As you have correctly and insightfully observed in your 2014 book Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education, "a full-fledged assault is also being waged on higher education in North America, the United Kingdom and various European countries. While the nature of the assault varies across countries, there is a common set of assumptions and practices driving the transformation of higher education into an adjunct of corporate power and values." Why is this agenda taking over societies that are so different from each other? What makes neoliberalism so overwhelmingly powerful and resistant to criticism as well as to social action? Why do governments give themselves up to neoliberal ideology, even if they claim to represent quite different ideological positions?

Henry Giroux: For all of its differences, neoliberalism brings together a number of elements that makes it appear almost insurmountable, if not universal, in its ability to normalize itself and convince the rest of the world that there is no alternative as Margaret Thatcher once argued.

First, it has created a new set of power relations in which power is global and politics is local. The financial elite now operate in the global flows of capital and have no allegiance to the nation-state or to the social contract that mediated between labour and capital in the post-war period. This separation points to a crisis of agency on the part of the state and a crisis of politics in terms of the ability to develop social formations that can challenge capital on a global rather than simply a local scale. The nation-state can no longer make concrete decisions on the economic level or create social provisions necessary to limit the effects of the market and offer the most basic services for people.

At the nation level, state sovereignty has been transformed into economic sovereignty. Governments don't give themselves up, they have been hijacked by the institutions, power and wealth of the global elite. There is no way for states to challenge global forms of governance. We must remember that neoliberalism is very powerful not only because of its economic structures but also because of its pedagogical and ideological power. It not only consolidates wealth and power in different wars for the ultra-rich, it also controls all of those cultural apparatuses and pedagogical sites that function to produce identities, desires and values that mimic the market. In this sense it is a mode of governance that controls all of social life and not simply the market.

As a mode of governance, it produces identities, subjects and ways of life free of government regulations, driven by a survival of the fittest ethic, grounded in the idea of the free, possessive individual and committed to the right of ruling groups and institutions to accrue wealth removed from matters of ethics and social costs. As a policy and political project, neoliberalism is wedded to the privatization of public services, the selling off of state functions, the deregulation of finance and labour, the elimination of the welfare state and unions, the liberalization of trade in goods and capital investment and the marketization and commodification of society. As a form of public pedagogy and cultural politics, neoliberalism casts all dimensions of life in terms of market rationality. ................(more)


Emails Reveal Navy's Intent to Break Law, Threatening Endangered Wildlife

Exclusive: Emails Reveal Navy's Intent to Break Law, Threatening Endangered Wildlife

Monday, 09 May 2016 00:00
By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report

A marbled murrelet, one of the species threatened by the US Navy's jet noise. (Photo: US Department of Agriculture; Edited: LW / TO)

When it comes to getting its way with war-gaming in the Pacific Northwest, nobody is better at the concept of "distributed lethality" than the US Navy. In 2015, the Navy introduced this concept "that promised to add more fire power to all manner of Navy vessels and operate them in a way that would spread thin enemy defenses." The Navy seems determined to move forward with planned military activities like increasing jet dogfighting, electromagnetic warfare training and other actions, regardless of how many animals it kills. Internal emails show how the Navy has been working to manipulate the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) biologists into bending the law, then proceeded to break the law, whilst the consultations between the two entities are ongoing.

An anonymous Navy source leaked several internal emails to Truthout that reveal how the Navy is trying to redefine "harm" to wildlife, in a way that would allow the Navy a potentially far greater rate of "takes" to marbled murrelets and other endangered and/or threatened species. A "take" is defined by the Endangered Species Act as to "harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect" any threatened or endangered species. Marbled murrelets are secretive diving seabirds that nest in old-growth forests, which makes them vulnerable to both jet noise and sonar.

The emails show that while the Navy is aware that exceeding authorized levels of harm to species is illegal, it is nevertheless going to great lengths to move forward with its actions -- regardless of their toll on wildlife.

The emails, from August and September 2015, reveal in detail how Navy personnel from the Pacific Northwest to the Pentagon pressured an apparently overwhelmed and cash-strapped FWS to complete its biological opinion (BO) in ways that would benefit the Navy. A BO is a legal document from the FWS that is required in order for the Navy to obtain the permits it needs under the Endangered Species Act, while conducting exercises and war games. As of publication of this article, the BO, covering marbled murrelets, northern spotted owls, bull trout and other species, is not complete. ..................(more)


Boston: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the MBTA's Operations Control Center

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