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Fascinating segments on the exploitation of Puerto Rico

Published on Jun 22, 2016

Puerto Rico’s massive debt has been discussed at length in Congress and the media, all omitting the most important fact: the history of being a colonial subject for over 500 years, still owned and controlled by the United States.

Abby Martin talks to two professors of Latin American studies, Luis Barrios and Danny Shaw, about the long struggle of Puerto Rico to break the shackles of US and Spanish colonialism—from indigenous resistance to the Young Lords in Harlem. Learn how the US Empire obscures the island’s colonial status today, who really is responsible for the so-called “debt crisis,” and how it can all be solved.

The Big Unravel: US Commercial Bankruptcies Skyrocket

The Big Unravel: US Commercial Bankruptcies Skyrocket
by Wolf Richter • July 6, 2016

Instead of that promised “escape velocity.”

This year through June, there have been 91 corporate defaults globally, the highest first-half total since 2009, according to Standard and Poor’s. Of them, 60 occurred in the US. Some of them are going to end up in bankruptcy. Others are restructuring their debts outside of bankruptcy court by holding the bankruptcy gun to creditors’ heads. In the process, stockholders will often get wiped out.

These are credit fiascos at larger corporations – those that pay Standard and Poor’s to rate their credit so that they can sell bonds in the credit markets.

But in the vast universe of 19 million American businesses, there are only about 3,025 companies, or 0.02% of the total, with annual revenues over $1 billion; they’re big enough to pay Standard & Poor’s for a credit rating.

About 183,000 businesses, or less than 1% of the total, are medium-size with sales between $10 million and $1 billion. Only a fraction of them have an S&P credit rating, and only those figure into S&P’s measure of defaults. The rest, the vast majority, are flying under S&P’s radar. About 99% of all businesses in the US are small, with less than $10 million a year in revenues. None of them are S&P rated and none of them figure into S&P’s default measurements.

So how are these small and medium-size businesses doing – the core or American enterprise?

Total US commercial bankruptcy filings in June soared 35% from a year ago, to 3,294, the eighth month in a row of year-over-year increases, the American Bankruptcy Institute (in partnership with Epiq Systems) reported today. ................(more)


These 2 Forces Will Crush the San Francisco Housing Bubble

These 2 Forces Will Crush the San Francisco Housing Bubble
by Wolf Richter • July 5, 2016

Jobs, labor force are declining; housing construction in epic boom.

The San Francisco housing bubble – locally called “Housing Crisis” – needs a few things to be sustained forever, and that has been the plan, according to industry soothsayers: an endless influx of money from around the world via the startup boom that recycles that money into the local economy; endless and rapid job growth of highly-paid jobs; and an endless influx of people to fill those jobs. That’s how the booms in the past have worked. And the subsequent busts have become legendary.

The current boom has worked that way too. And what a boom it was. Was – past tense because it’s over. And now jobs and the labor force itself are in decline.

Until recently, jobs and the labor force (the employed plus the unemployed who’re deemed by the quirks of statistics to be looking for a job) in San Francisco have been on a mind-bending surge. According to the California Employment Development Department (EDD):

• The labor force soared 15% in six years, from 482,000 in January 2010 to its peak of 553,700 in March 2016.
• Employment skyrocketed 23%, from 436,700 in January 2010 to its peak of 536,400 in December 2015. That’s nearly 100,000 additional jobs.

This increase in employment put a lot of demand on housing. Low mortgage rates enabled the scheme. Investors from around the world piled into the market. And vacation rentals have taken off. As money was sloshing knee-deep through the streets, and many of the new jobs paid high salaries, the housing market went, to put it mildly, insane. ..............(more)


Howard Zinn on the 4th of July

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism—that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder—one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking—cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on— have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours—huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction—what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

That self-deception started early. ...............(more)


Philadelphia: Serious Cracks Found in 95 Percent of SEPTA Cars Inspected So Far

July 03--SEPTA officials said Sunday that serious structural "fatigue cracks" have been discovered in steel equalizer beams underpinning most of the Silverliner V trains inspected so far this weekend.

"Only five of the 100 cars inspected so far do not have any cracks," SEPTA general manager Jeff Knueppel said. He said the cracks are a "serious safety" concern.

The agency pulled all 120 of the Silverliner V trains -- one third of the entire fleet -- from service on Saturday when a slight tilt in one car alerted crews to the problem the day before.

Knueppel said the cars would likely be sidelined throughout July and August, causing "profound" transit headaches for its Regional Rail customers. .............(more)


Red Alert As Arctic Snows Melt Faster

By Tim Radford / Climate News Network

LONDON—German scientists have fingered a new suspect in the great glacial melting mystery. The secret agent that may be darkening the summer snows and speeding up the absorption of solar rays is a family of microscopic, cold-loving organisms that tint the snow red.

The identification is not a simple matter, and no arrest is likely to be made soon. But researchers say that the cryophilic micro-eukaryotes can make the snow 13%—and sometimes up to 20%—less likely to reflect radiation back into space.

Stefanie Lutz, postdoctoral research associate at the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, and colleagues report in Nature Communications that they sampled red-tinged summer snows from 40 sites on 16 glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, northern Sweden, and Norway’s Svalbard archipelago.

Cosmopolitan culprit

They then subjected their samples to genetic and microbiological analysis to identify what they describe as a “cosmopolitan” culprit. Despite the variation in geography, only about six kinds of algae—the biologist’s choice of word is taxa—colonised and coloured the snow in all the sites. ..................(more)


Japan’s Mega-Pension Fund Plows into Stocks, Eats $50Bn Loss, Tries to Hide it till after Election

LEAKED: Japan’s Mega-Pension Fund Plows into Stocks, Eats $50Bn Loss, Tries to Hide it till after Election
by Wolf Richter • July 3, 2016

Benefiting hedge funds and banks that had front-run the fund.

Abenomics is facing elections on July 10 for the less powerful Upper House.

But Abenomics hasn’t fared very well. It engaged in the biggest (relative to the economy) money-printing and bond buying extravaganza the world has ever seen. The securities the Bank of Japan has bought, now at ¥426 trillion ($4.15 trillion), amount to 85% of GDP. About $8 trillion in Japanese Government Bonds sport negative yields. Even the 30-year yield is just about zero. The JGB market, once the second largest government bond market in the world, has frozen. The BOJ’s primary dealers are in revolt. Some have already pulled out.

Savers are scared. Sales of safes to be installed at home have soared. There have been no structural reforms to speak of. Japan Inc. has benefited enormously, through various tax benefits and special stimulus packages, including foreign aid that is channeled back to Japanese companies. Government deficits are gigantic, providing additional stimulus for Japan Inc. And yet, the economy is languishing.

So Abenomics is facing its voters again. Few people on earth are as cynical about their elected officials as Japanese voters. Any remaining illusions have been wrung out of them years ago. In polls, voters have explained that they have not benefited from Abenomics. Yet, Prime Minister’s Shinzo Abe’s position remains strong, mainly because the opposition is so flimsy.

His conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been in power since its beginning in 1955, except for an 11-month stint in 1993/94, and from 2009 to 2012. At the end of 2012, Abenomics was installed. ..............(more)


Interesting piece by a Cambridge professor on the divide between London and the rest of the UK

from Dissent magazine:

Britain’s EU Problem is a London Problem
Peter Mandler ▪ June 24, 2016

Yesterday the UK voted to leave the European Union after thirty years of a halting, sometimes noble, often messy experiment in international cooperation. In my circles—professional, well-educated, Cambridge and London—the principal reaction was incredulity. How could this happen? Who could want this? A natural reaction. In my electoral district, 75 percent voted to Remain. In the hip parts of London where my daughter lives, a similar result. But a look at the electoral map showed (inevitably, given that a substantial majority of England—though only a narrow majority of the UK—voted to Leave) that huge swathes of England outside of London voted by similar proportions to Leave—the poorer areas on the East and South coasts, depressed former industrial districts in the North, though also more prosperous parts of the West Country and the Midlands.

In shorthand, Britain’s EU problem is a London problem. London, a young, thriving, creative, cosmopolitan city, seems the model multicultural community, a great European capital. But it is also the home of all of Britain’s elites—the economic elites of “the City” (London’s Wall Street, international rather than European), a nearly hereditary professional caste of lawyers, journalists, publicists, and intellectuals, an increasingly hereditary caste of politicians, tight coteries of cultural movers-and-shakers richly sponsored by multinational corporations. It’s as if Hollywood, Wall Street, the Beltway, and the hipper neighborhoods of New York and San Francisco had all been mashed together. This has proved to be a toxic combination.

For the rest of the country has felt more and more excluded, not only from participation in the creativity and prosperity of London, but more crucially from power. That gap had begun to yawn dangerously in Thatcher’s 1980s, when deindustrialization in the North and the finance and property boom in the South East meant that growing inequality acquired a grave geographical component. London was not the sole beneficiary. There are pockets of London-like entitlement scattered all over the country—in university towns like Brighton, Cambridge, and Bristol, in select neighbourhoods of Manchester and Leeds. But the big money—and all those elites—remained firmly in London. In recent decades it has felt as if the whole country had been turned upside down and shaken, until most of the wealth and talent had pooled in the capital. One of the most striking features of this period has been the turnaround in London’s educational performance; in the 1990s, it had among the worst educational outcomes in Britain, today it has the best. Some of this is owing to immigration—striving immigrant groups are helping London’s schools to thrive. But some of it is owing to a different kind of migration—talented and ambitious young people from all over the country thronging to London to teach. London’s gain is the rest of the country’s loss.


Where was the Labour party in all this? To many people Tony Blair’s New Labour party looked indistinguishable from the rest of the metropolitan elite. A lot of its leaders were professional politicians parachuted into Northern working-class heartland seats. Tony Blair himself represented a former coal-mining community, Sedgefield. His henchman Peter Mandelson represented nearby Hartlepool, a former shipbuilding centre. His successor Ed Miliband represented Doncaster North, at the heart of the Northern coal and steel belt. All went to Oxford, all have spent their entire adult lives in politics, all live in London—wherever their “main home” was nominally located. Recently Labour tried to break with this legacy. Last year it elected a rank outsider, Jeremy Corbyn, as its leader, on a wave of anti-elitist revulsion. Corbyn stood for “Old Labour,” a politics of class and welfare and redistribution. Or did he? Corbyn too is a Londoner, representing a deeply bohemian inner London suburb, Islington North; he was my MP for ten years. He too has spent his lifetime in politics—not in think tanks or PR outfits, but in a range of London-centered “movement” groups, for nuclear disarmament, Irish republicanism, Palestinian liberation. He came to power on a wave of youth and student enthusiasm. Undoubtedly he does represent young, creative, multicultural London. But from Sedgefield, Hartlepool, and Doncaster that London doesn’t look all that different from the London of fat-cat bankers and thieving politicians. .................(more)


What the Supreme Court's Affirmative Action Case Was Really About

What the Supreme Court's Affirmative Action Case Was Really About

Friday, 24 June 2016 00:00
By Nikole Hannah-Jones, ProPublica | News Analysis

Update: The Supreme Court has upheld the University of Texas's consideration of race in admissions. The case had been brought by Abigail Fisher, who argued she had been denied admission because of her race.

In 2013, ProPublica's Nikole Hannah-Jones highlighted an overlooked, deeply ironic fact about the case: When one looked at Fisher's arguments, she had not actually been denied admission because she is white, but rather because of her inadequate academic achievements. Read that analysis, originally published March 18, 2013, below.

When the NAACP began challenging Jim Crow laws across the South, it knew that, in the battle for public opinion, the particular plaintiffs mattered as much as the facts of the case. The group meticulously selected the people who would elicit both sympathy and outrage, who were pristine in form and character. And they had to be ready to step forward at the exact moment when both public sentiment and the legal system might be swayed.

That's how Oliver Brown, a hard-working welder and assistant pastor in Topeka, Kan., became the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that would obliterate the separate but equal doctrine. His daughter, whose third-grade innocence posed a searing rebuff to legal segregation, became its face.

Nearly 60 years after that Supreme Court victory, which changed the nation, conservatives freely admit they have stolen that page from the NAACP's legal playbook as they attempt to roll back many of the civil rights group's landmark triumphs.

In 23-year-old Abigail Noel Fisher they've put forward their version of the perfect plaintiff to challenge the use of race in college admissions decisions.


So while the Fisher case has been billed as a referendum on affirmative action, its backers have significantly grander ambitions: They seek to make the case a referendum on the 14th Amendment itself. At issue is whether the Constitution's equal protection clause, drafted by Congress during Reconstruction to ensure the rights of black Americans, also prohibits the use of race to help them overcome the nation's legacy of racism. ..............(more)


As US Home Prices Hit Peak Bubble, “Smart Money” is Selling

As US Home Prices Hit Peak Bubble, “Smart Money” is Selling
by Harry Dent • June 24, 2016

What do they know that we don’t?
By Harry Dent, Senior Editor, Economy & Markets:

Two weeks ago, I wrote about an upcoming New York City condominium listing for $250 million. I mention this because, as I’ve explained before, it’s always the tallest buildings and priciest condos to get hit during major downturns.

Just look at the early 1930s and mid-1970s marking peak bubbles if you don’t believe me!

You’ll understand, then, why I smiled when I saw a Forbes slideshow called “The Little Black Book of Billionaire Secrets,” featuring the most expensive homes in each of the 51 states, including Washington D.C.

North Dakota held the honor of the least expensive home, at just under three million dollars, now that the fracking boom has burst. The most expensive home was not in Manhattan, but in Florida – Palm Beach – at $159 million.

That’s a wide range of values, where the top house is 57.2 times the lowest of the high! ................(more)


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