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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Morning News and Views

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The largest worlds fair in history has opened in Shanghai China, with over 600,000 people in lines for the Swiss Pavilion alone. Like the ancient tradition of paying tribute to the emperor, world leaders are there for the opening, hands out for Chinese money and grants. Obama is at home in New Orleans.
The US Pavilion cost only sixty one million, among the lowest in costs, is the only one done with no government funds, and is among the most boring and least popular of the exhibits. Just as they did with the Olympics, residents were moved from their homes, security increased, eyesores removed, drastic moves to reduce air pollution taken and other actions only possible in a totalitarian communist state.

On this date, May 2, 1952, The British made Comet made the world first commercial jet aircraft flight. One year later a Comet crashed near Rome, the next year two more went down. The fatal flaw was identified as metal fatigue. A new jet Comet was unveiled in 1955, weeks after Boeing unveiled the 707 Strata-liner, which began commercial flights in 1958.

Bicycles took up the full half hour of the business report on the BBC this morning. They are booming in Europe, with commuter rental stations popular in Paris and expanding to other European capitols, including London. Light weight bikes that can be easily carried up and down stairs, stored on bike racks, yet study enough to be tamper and theft resistant and survive accidents. A bike that has a motor that kicks in when you are going up hill or if you wish to get a speed boost in an intersection or to avoid a car, and one where all the moving parts are hidden, running on computers and a chain free transmission, similar to an automobile but human energy driven.  And finally a visit to a tricycle manufacturer with over 125 years in business in New York, where it started to make life easier for street vendors and hand pushed “cabs”.

2006 Nobel Laureate Columbia University Professor and Director for the Center on Capitalism and Society, Edmund Phelps was the first guest this morning on Wall Street Journal Report. Will Washington’s overhaul restore responsibility? He feels that there are things that the government should do that they have not done. Banks should be discouraged from loading up on short-term liabilities. Big banks need to be encouraged to lend to the business sector and focus on solvency. Goldman Sachs shot themselves in the foot by not being transparent and open. In this early stage of recovery, a limited recovery that could turn around to the worse requires additional government help and everything that can be done to put confidence in the business and banking structures. We will have pretty good velocity when we come around the turn, say a grown of 2% a year. The new “normal” will be limited, disappointing to those who expect things to return to the way they were. We have to get back to old-fashioned capitalism where loans were made to companies making innovative discoveries and decisions.

Politicos’ Eamon Javers and the Wall Street Journal’s Economic Editor David Wassal discussed this past week in business on Wall Street Journal Report. Gross Domestic Product grew 2.3% which is too low to effect unemployment. The increase in spending was really minimal and overly reported, just a small bump to be expected going into spring and summer. They feel that the financial reform bill will pass in time for the political break but certainly not by Memorial Day. Consumer protection is needed. The question is what will the legislation that comes out look like. Will it be as changed and watered down as what came out of the health care debate process? Both agree Democrats will bring two victories into the fall elections, health care and financial reform.

Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson is a strong believer that Global Warming is real and the primary threat to mankind and all of other life on earth. He is at the front of carbon trading and reducing emissions in all fields, including his own areas of transportation and manufacturing. On last week’s volcano, he says safety is vital but the amount of the reaction and the time involved was longer than it had to be. He says the impact may exceed 9-11 in its economic impact. On the road to economic recovery he feels we are going in the right direction and he says he is confident about the future.

Despite the economy, remodeling is on the rise, along with purchase of new smaller homes. These are areas that have architects refocused from large and pricy to small, lower cost and more energy efficient. Chief Economist for the American Institute of Architects Kermit Baker. Renovations are a 250 billion dollar industry now, larger than the housing market. While down almost 40% from its peak, renovations are the growth market for building suppliers and retailers. Prices have come down on homes, mortgages are tight and difficult to get, so people are finding themselves limited to remaining in the same geographic area and in their homes. Contractors are hungry for work, so the cost of renovation, or expansions are quite reasonable. Green tax incentives are working, along with a public awareness of the need to conserve energy and save money. Green projects now represent over 25%, or one in four of current projects. In terms of preparing a home to sell, historically additional bedrooms, modernization of the kitchen and bath show the best to increase the sale price of a home.

The car bomb inside an SUV near Times Square was far more sophisticated than originally thought. It would have caused massive injury and loss of life. The two heroes of the day could easily have been among the victims. Two street vendors noticed smoke and what they thought were sparks or fireworks coming from inside the vehicle.

Water main outside Boston has ruptured, causing at least 2 million households to have to boil water before drinking.

In the Congo 100 people were massacred, in an ongoing string of religious and tribal attacks.

Gaza’s Hamas government can’t pay its 32,000 employees in full for the second straight month. They blame an Israeli blockade for limiting much needed cash flow and international banking in their “country.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres is accusing North Korea of smuggling missiles to Iran.  He says some of those weapons then flow to militants in Lebanon and Syria, who threaten Israeli citizens daily. The UN suspects North Korea of shipping missiles, missile parts and technology to Lebanon’s Hezbollah Syria and Myanmar.

Tornadoes ripped through four states in the south last weekend leaving at least ten dead, including two Children. One twister was almost a mile wide at its base when it touched down.

The search for the 11 workers still missing after last Tuesdays oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico has been called out. There is a major leak from an oil-head that is nearly a mile under water has hit the Gulf coast causing what is being called the largest environmental disaster in US history.

Over 100,000 protesters took to the streets in Okinawa last weekend, including its governor, mayors and major politicians, to demand the US leave the base we have had there since out costly invasion of the island during World War II.

South Korea investigators say they have proof that an explosion that sank one of their warships last month was caused by a torpedo.

The Director of the National Economic Council Lawrence Summers is President Obama’s lead man on pushing for Wall Street Reform. The complex financial reform bill may have prevented the financial crisis in 2008, with procedures to avoid taxpayer bailouts and to deal with everything that occurred to create the house of cards that led to the collapse of the financial system. We passed profoundly important financial legislation following the depression, with the market innovating and changing leading to a very positive economy. But a lack of regulation led to the situation of greed and manipulation that led to our financial crisis.

Republicans say the reforms will encourage bailouts and lead to a greater deficit. But Summers says that top economist and other experts say we need to end too big to fail, and these proposals will head off bailouts and not increase the deficit, in fact lower it in the future. There is no one who believes that too big to fail is acceptable, that it is acceptable for financial institutions to rely on the prospect of bailout, and that the days of heads I win, tails I win can continue.

“There has been an enormous backpressure against bipartisan cooperation, making this a complex situation and more difficult than it needs to be. We are prepared to go ahead vigorously with any partner on any key issue since we feel Gridlock needs to end.”

Next on “CBS Face the Nation” New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman was joined by the Author of “The Big Short”, Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Lewis.

Thomas Friedman says that there is an incentive for Republicans and key Democrats to drag their feet on reform. The incentive is simply the massive campaign donations and commercial advertising big banks and Wall Street can spend this fall on political campaigns.

Friedman says that postponing the climate change job is a tragedy. There was bipartisan support for the bill coming up Monday, but immigration and financial reform were given last minute priority for legislative time. The administration is supporting Harry Reid in Nevada, Barbara Boxer in California and others in the raw politics of gaining Hispanic support in the election this fall. Only Lindsey Graham is supportive of green energy reform on the Republican side, and the delay could lose his vote.

Politicos’ Eamon Javers and the Wall Street Journal’s Economic Editor David Wassal discussed this past week in business on Wall Street Journal Report. Gross Domestic Product grew 2.3% which is too low to effect unemployment. The increase in spending was really minimal and overly reported, just a small bump to be expected going into spring and summer. They feel that the financial reform bill will pass in time for the political break but certainly not by Memorial Day. Consumer protection is needed. The question is what will the legislation that comes out look like. Will it be as changed and watered down as what came out of the health care debate process? Both agree Democrats will bring two victories into the fall elections, health care and financial reform.

On NBC’s meet the press US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she intends on serving through President Obama’s first term. Asked if she will be considered for the Supreme Court, she indicated she has not intention of becoming a judge. She admitted that the Secretary of State job is exhausting and that there are incredibly difficult problems facing the world today.

Clinton says there will be come reconciliation between those fighting in Afghanistan and real progress made, but she doubts that some US foes will be willing to lay aside their differences.  She says that for Taliban to come over to our side or to be part of any potential unified government they would have to renounce al-Qaida and violence. She says she doubts Taliban leader Mullah Omar will give up his ties to al-Qaida.

The secretary of state believes it is clear that Iran is in violation of a treaty designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

On Arizona’s new immigration law, Clinton says she believes it may have overstepped state authority, and that it does invite racial profiling.

This week on “CBS’s Face the Nation”:

Bob Orr, CBS News Homeland Security Correspondent, labeled last nights Times Square incident as a terrorist attack, since there was no warning and no attempts at extortion. The fireball it would create could have killed dozens or hundreds in the panic and chaos that would have followed. No one claimed responsibility. The obvious is home grown terrorism, possibly inspired by foreign interests or perhaps American based right-wingers.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, Democrat (Louisiana) says 25,000 barrels a day may be seeping into the Guild per day, putting into perspective the only 7,000 gallons released over the last ten years.  It could take 90 days or more to stop the leak with any known method of stopping a leak this size, much less cleaning up all of the oil. There is a dome structure being attacked today to help limit the loss.  A 1.6 billion dollar fund was set up after the Exxon Valdez spill, but that fund may not be enough to pay for or compensate for the damage done with this past two weeks oil leak and fire.
Rep. Charlie Melancon, Democrat (LA) sees major economic negative impacts on his district, with tourism, fishing, hunting, and much-needed redevelopment all severely impacted in this post-Katrina period for New Orleans and the gulf.

Rep. Lus Gutierrez , Democrat (IL) was arrested yesterday at a DC rally against the Arizona Immigration reform bill. He was involved in an act of civil disobedience bringing attention to what he considers an unconstitutional and bad bill, moving us toward becoming a police state. His arrest just outside of the White House as in protest of the “immorality” of our legal system, with over 4 million children who are citizens without parents who have been sent back to Mexico as illegal aliens. “Amnesty” implies you did something wrong. He thinks it is time we have discussion and debate on ending illegal immigration, as we know it. Go after employers. Bring in new technology to make sure that everyone who works in America has a right to work here. People have roots in the community. He feels that immigrants should learn English, be integrated into society and have to work toward citizenship. The law is discriminatory. It creates a fear of police instead of support, and a fear to step forward and testify or report crime when it needs to be reported. In the end it speaks to a lack of action on the core issues. The greatest asset are the eyes and the ears of the public, “let’s not drive a wedge between the police and the public.”

Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (Arizona GOP Senate Candidate) supports the law, saying it is designed to enforce Federal Law. He says what going on has been a massive misinformation and distortion campaign coast to coast against the country. Border security is national security. It is not about Mexico or Mexicans. There is a deliberate distortion to move this from a question of enforcement to one of ethnicity. There has to be reasonable suspicion.  My friends in California want to come to Arizona not boycott it, to reinforce that we are enforcing the law. Boycotts are misplaced. A majority of Hispanics agree with this law.

It pays to throw a Tea Party: Business, politics merge for leaders

From Yahoo News (with a Thank You to Michael Toole):

Whatever ultimate political effect that Tea Party conservatism has on the country, one thing is increasingly clear: Being a high-profile leader of the small-government movement is very big business.
The movement's popular appeal stems from grass-roots outrage over the bailout of America's financial system, the expanded role of government, and the growing deficits. But the Tea Party has also been aggressively promoted by conservative media, political leaders and advocacy groups — and its broad appeal has  blurred the distinctions among the three.
A year into this fledgling political movement's life, reports are emerging of the huge money being made by Tea Party leadersSarah Palin and Glenn Beck are in front of the pack, but a few new faces and a few old faces are also getting into the game.

The Big Money

Sarah Palin
• Former governor of Alaska, Fox News contributor, author, speaker
• $12 million

How she parties: In 2009, Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska governor after just 2½ years, allowing her to take full political and financial advantage of the explosive celebrity status she gained as John McCain's 2008 White House running mate. Although her arrival on the national scene predated the birth of the Tea Party, she quickly became the politician in America most closely associated with it. This January, Palin signed on as a contributor for Fox News. In February, she delivered a keynote address at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tenn. Last month, she rallied Tea Party conservatives in Arizona to support McCain in a Republican primary and spoke out at the first stop on the recent Tea Party tour — an event organized around the bid to defeat Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his hometown of Searchlight, Nev.
How it pays: Wherever Palin goes, attention follows — and money usually comes with it. In a just-released cover story for New York Magazine, Gabriel Sherman details the growth of what the magazine calls "Palin Inc." According to both Sherman and ABC News, Palin has gone from a state of indebtedness (due to legal troubles in Alaska) to estimated earnings of $12 million in less than a year.  Palin makes $1 million a year for her contributions to Fox News. She sold her first book, "Going Rogue," to HarperCollins for $7 million and a second book for an undisclosed amount. She gives speeches around the country for an average fee of $100,000 each. According to Sherman's reporting, Palin insisted on charging full fee for her speech to the National Tea Party Convention because the event itself was being run for-profit by its organizers.  The $100,000 included $18,000 for a private jet. Beyond her Tea Party activities, Palin has also signed up to star in a reality show on life in Alaska for the Learning Channel. She'll reportedly be paid $250,000 per episode.

Glenn Beck
• Fox News host, radio host, author, speaker
• $32 million

How he parties: In the past decade Glenn Beck has transformed himself from a regional radio shock jock to a national multiplatform money-making juggernaut. And in the past year, he's used his vast influence to help organize and motivate the Tea Party movement. Beck traveled to San Antonio, Texas, for the inaugural tax-day Tea Party protests in April 2009 and taped his show as he participated. The Tea Party protests in Washington in September drew inspiration from Beck's 9-12 Project, which Beck describes as an effort to reclaim the spirit of national unity after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Beck often dedicates his television and radio shows to articulating the Tea Party worldview, such as concern with the growth of the federal government and the national debt, as well as perceived similarities between President Obama's liberalism and European socialism, Soviet communism, and even German Nazism.
How it pays: Beck was blunt with Forbes Magazine when discussing his success. "I could give a flying crap about the political process," he deadpanned. "We're an entertainment company." Forbes said that Beck's company, Mercury Radio Arts, raked in $32 million from March 2009 to March 2010. That included $2 million fromFox News for his daily television show, $10 million for his daily radio show, $3 million for speaking events, $4 million from his online operation, and a whopping $13 million in print endeavors with Simon & Schuster (books and a magazine). Beck dominated the New York Times bestseller list in 2009, with three separate No. 1 books and a total of 3.5 million books sold.

The Solid Money

Dick Armey
• Former House majority leader, former lobbyist, chairman of FreedomWorks
• $550,000

How he parties: Since leaving Congress in 2003, Armey, the former House Republican majority leader, has co-chaired the conservative D.C. advocacy organization FreedomWorks, initially while also representing clients of law and lobbying firmDLA Piper. FreedomWorks played a key part in organizing the Tea Party. The group helped coordinate the September rally in Washington and has consistently been one of the key D.C.-based groups to lend support, organizationally and financially, to the movement. Armey himself has been a regular featured speaker at Tea Party events and something of a spokesman for it on national TV shows like "Meet the Press."
How it pays: You might say Armey has actually lost money because of his Tea Party role. Criticism of the fact that he continued to work for lobbying law firm DLA Piper while holding the chairmanship of FreedomWorks caused him to resign from the lobbying firm in August. According to the Dallas Morning News, that decision cost Armey $750,000 a year. Of course, Armey's position at FreedomWorks still pays him $550,000 a year, and his Tea Party activities have greatly enhanced his public profile.

(Armey photo by AP)

Andrew Breitbart
• Web publisher, author, pundit, speaker
• $500,000-plus

How he parties: Breitbart is the owner of five websites (,, and and a regular speaker at Tea Party rallies across the country. He gave a keynote address at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville in February and will be giving the keynote at the National Tea Party Unity Convention in Las Vegas in July. Breitbart has become an outspoken critic of the left and defender of the Tea Party against what he sees as unfair media attacks.
How it pays: Breitbart certainly isn't making Beck or Palin money. The staff he has for his websites is small and, according to a recent profile in Slate by Christopher Beam, the team only recently moved out of the basement of his Los Angeles home. But according to his business partner, Breitbart's network of sites is now attracting over 10 million unique readers a month and generating over 40 million pageviews. If those numbers are correct, Breitbart's bare bones staff is attracting an audience as big as a large regional newspaper, and millions of dollars of revenue could follow. Breitbart says he plans to expand his empire soon by launching three more sites: Big Peace, Big Education and Big Tolerance. Breitbart was also paid $500,000 for an upcoming book, "Thinking Big."
(Breitbart photo via Wikipedia Commons)

The Platform

Fox News
• cable news and opinion network
• unknown

How they party: Fox has played a key role in promoting the Tea Party. For the first set of protests in April 2009, the network sent opinion hosts and news reporters around the country to broadcast live from the events. The Fox News website listed where viewers could find a Tea Party in their area. Since those first events, it's been a leading topic on the channel, and pundits like Palin, Beck and Sean Hannity promote it enthusiastically. The channel did draw the line, however, when Hannity tried to tape a show at a Tea Party rally and fundraiser in Cincinnati.
How it pays: Fox had its best ratings year ever in 2009. While much of that is due to the continued dominance of consevative host Bill O'Reilly, who is less directly involved in Tea Party activism and promotions, it's also a result of Beck's record-breaking success for the network in Fox's 5 p.m. slot. More viewers means more money from advertisers means more revenue for Fox News and its parent company News Corp.  According to the New York Times, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes made $23 million in 2009 for his role in that success. This year may be even better: According to Gabriel Sherman, every time Palin appears on the channel, ratings shoot up 10 to 15 percent.
(Ailes/Murdoch photo by AP)

— Andrew Golis is the editor of the Yahoo! News blog. Brett Michael Dykes is a national affairs writer for Yahoo! News.

First posted April 22, 2010

dagnabit it ain't cotonpickin'so.

27% of men and 40% of women are bothered by swear words. 67% of men and 47% of women feel that is it acceptable to swear.

Shifts in wealth, debt and economics

The dot com burst, housing market bust, stock market disaster all hit baby boomers the hardest, with many not having the time or resources to retire, or they feel, pay their traditional tax burden.          

The rich get richer off the poor as the poor get poorer, and for everyone else there is personal greed and the need to tighten the belt and say "to heck with the next generation's" education, roads, police, fire and other services.."they should pay for it themselves."

This may sound, as a conservative friend of mine would say, "fine and dandy" but the truth is that the older generation has always subsidized and provided for younger generations, as each prepares the world for the next, and in turn for the generation after, It is a natural succession of teaching, learning and providing that goes back to the dawn of man. Yet in today's society it seems to be every man (or woman) to themselves and let others pay for it, because we do not want taxes or expenses to fall on our already tightening pocket books.

Barter is returning as a coin of trade in this decreased income society. Home handymen are bartering for rent, older vehicles and even food. Artists are trading their craft for another they may need. In New York an acting coach is trading confidence lessons in return for singing lessons. The BBC indicates that while this underground economy is no a dominant one, it may be that the industrialized world may be growing ever so slightly closer to what remains a dominant currency in the third world, the currency of your own time, talents, sweat and labor.

The new main market or capitalism is the poor. The poor of the world live in very high cost micro-economies but want the same things others do, at least what helps them to live a better life. Their traditional barter system of existence has been pushed aside by a capitalistic society where goods, services and the tools of the 21st century all require cash, or at least interests bearing credit. The poor pay as much as 200% interests to own a cell phone, and three times the cost per call. They need computers, not just want them, to be competitive in the new world. With the poor representing the majority of the people of the world, their buying power, while loosest per individual, cumulatively is the highest in the world. But they cannot afford $1,600 for a medical procedure that can be done for $20. That brings up the value or total lack of value of intellectual property rights and reverse engineering as a legitimate way of creating alternative lower cost products.

So the fabric of how businesses recoup their own research and development costs may crumble, resulting in less incentive to be innovative and advance overall society, at least for profit.

The “Sandwich Generation” that follows the Baby Boomers is not helping, nor do they want to help their parents. Their priority is their children and their future grandchildren and that they will do better than even their parents (Baby Boomers) did. 80% are concerned about themselves, their financial future. 41% still contribute directly to their kids who are old enough to be on their own. These observations are the result of a study by the Charles Schwab Foundation.

Five years ago 46% of Americans were planning on creating wealth and growing their value, 30% felt as if they had no control and the remainder were happy with status quo. Today only 20% feel that they can grow their own wealth and prosper, while 40% feel that they have to do everything they can to stay even and fewer than, interesting enough, one in three Americans still feel they have no control over their own status in life. This is based on Pew Trust surveys.

Baby boomers are having to work longer, but are contributing less to the government, which has always relied on its older generation to pay the lion’s share of taxes that support education and infrastructure. Taxes are a dirty word, with need increases turned down by older voters, who are much more likely to turn out and vote than their younger counter parts. Also income per capita for older Americans is down. The split in rich vs. poor, wealthy vs. lower middle class is greatest over the age of 50. The dot com burst, housing market bust, stock market disaster all hit baby boomers the hardest, with many not having the time or resources to retire, or they feel, pay their traditional tax burden. This could be one of the core reasons for the Tea Party movement, one that does not answer key questions of “how to you pay for…” for government services from education to medical care.