T P O

T   P   O
The Patient Ox (aka Hénock Gugsa)

G r e e t i n g s !

** TPO **
an irreligious blog
with egalitarian and individualist tendencies!


On the menu ... politics, music, poetry, and other good stuff.
There is humor, but there is blunt seriousness here as well!


Parfois, on parle français ici aussi. Soyez bienvenus!

Intelligent comments are always welcome!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Just Like Us - by Robert Reich




  Mitch Mcconnell



Just Like Us

(Why Republicans worry about corporate feelings)

-------------------------------------------------------------

By Robert Reich *

Guest blogger / Christian Science Monitor
June 19, 2012


[In the upside-down world of regressive Republicanism, Senator Mitch McConnell thinks proposed legislation requiring companies to disclose their campaign spending would stifle their free speech, a concept Robert Reich finds "bonkers."]

Perhaps you’d expect no more from the Republican leader of the Senate who proclaimed three years ago that the GOP’s first priority was to get Obama out of the White House. But Senator Mitch McConnell’s speech Friday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington is simply bonkers.

The only reason I bring it up is because it offers an inside look at how the  Republican goal of getting rid of Obama is inextricably linked to the Republican Supreme Court’s decision equating corporations with people under the First Amendment, and to the Republican’s current determination to keep Americans in the dark about which corporations contribute what.

In the upside-down world of regressive Republicanism, McConnell thinks proposed legislation requiring companies to disclose their campaign spending would stifle their free speech.

He describes the current push to disclose the sources behind campaign contributions as a “political weapon,” used by the Democrats, “to expose its critics to harassment and intimidation.”

Harassment and intimidation? It used to be called accountability to shareholders and consumers.

Five members of the Supreme Court think corporations are people. Mitt Romney agrees. And now the minority leader of the Senate – the highest-ranking Republican official in America – takes this logic to its absurd conclusion: If corporations are people, they must be capable of feeling harassed and intimidated if their shareholders or consumers don’t approve of their political expenditures.

Hell, they might even throw a tantrum. Or cry. Corporations have feelings.

This isn’t just whacko. It also defies law and logic. What are corporations anyway, separate and apart from their shareholders and consumers? Legal fictions, pieces of paper.

And whom do corporations exist for if not the people who legally own them and those who purchase the products and services they sell?

Clearly, McConnell doesn’t want corporations to be forced to disclose their political contributions because he and other Republicans worry that some shareholders and consumers would react badly if they knew – and thereby constrain such giving.

And the reason McConnell and other Republicans don’t want any constraint on corporate political giving is most CEOs are Republicans who want to use their firms – and the money their shareholders legally own – as secret slush funds for the Republican Party, funneled through front groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS.

Such nonprofits have spent significantly more than Super PACs on elections since 2010, according to the Center for Public Integrity and Center for Responsive Politics. Nonprofits have spent $95 million on elections since 2010, while Super PACs, which are required to disclose their donors, have spent $65 million, the Centers found.

Crossroads GPS has disclosed on its tax returns that 23 donors to it have each given $1 million or more to finance its campaign activities so far this year. But Crossroads claims status as a nonprofit under IRS rules – a “social welfare” organization” that doesn’t have to disclose its donors – even though anyone with half a brain knows its overriding purpose is to influence elections.

McConnell and other Republicans conveniently forget secret campaign money was at the heart of the Watergate scandals forty years ago. And that even the Supreme Court in its heinous “Citizens United” decision upheld the constitutionality of disclosure requirements on corporations and other outside groups.

Mitch McConnell wants to give some cover to his Republican colleagues who will be voting later this month or early next month on the bill to force full disclosure of corporate political expenses. But his speech at the American Enterprise Institute doesn’t provide cover. It cloaks the whole Republican enterprise in hypocrisy.
________________________________________

* Robert Reich is chancellor’s professor of public policy at UCLA-Berkley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Demain dès l'aube - de Victor Hugo


 

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

 "Demain dès l'aube" 

de 

Victor Hugo

Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.
-------------------------------------------------------------------

  "Tomorrow at Dawn" (Translation)

Tomorrow, at dawn, in the hour when the countryside becomes white,
I will leave. You see, I know that you are waiting for me.
I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain.
I cannot stay far from you any longer.

I will walk the eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Without seeing anything outside, nor hearing any noise,
Alone, unknown, the back curved, the hands crossed,
Sad, and the day for me will be like the night.

I will not look at the gold of the evening which falls,
Nor the faraway sails descending towards Harfleur.
And when I arrive, I will put on your tomb
A green bouquet of holly and flowering heather.




Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gambling vs Investing - by Andrew Rosenthal





Jamie Dimon

 
 
 
 
 
                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                
Jamie Dimon on Gambling
By Andrew Rosenthal
NY Times Opinion Pages,
 June 19, 2012

Jamie Dimon, the head of JP Morgan Chase, testified before the House Committee on Financial Services today. This was my favorite exchange:

    Rep. Gary Ackerman: What is the difference between gambling and investing?


    Dimon: I think when you gamble you usually lose to the house.

    Ackerman: That’s been my general experience with investing.

    Dimon: I’d be happy to get you a better financial advisor.

There are many obvious differences between gambling and investing, but let’s just stick to the one that Mr. Dimon offered – there is no fix for the house (the bank) when you invest.

Mr. Ackerman’s question reminded me of a Louise Story article from last year, on JPMorgan and Sigma, a troubled pre-crash investment vehicle. “In the summer of 2007, as the first tremors of the coming financial crisis were being felt on Wall Street, top executives of JPMorgan Chase were raising red flags about … Sigma,” Ms. Story wrote. “But the bank chose not to move out $500 million in client assets that it had put into Sigma two months earlier.”

The result? Sigma collapsed. The clients lost nearly all their money, and JP Morgan collected nearly $1.9 billion, according to a lawsuit filed against the company. That’s just one particularly costly example of the gamblers losing to the house.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

On Corporate Socialism - by David Cay Johnston


  David C Johnston
How corporate socialism destroys
By David Cay Johnston *
Reuters.com
June 1, 2012 
 

IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. — A proposal to spend $250 million of taxpayer money on a retail project here illustrates the damage state and local subsidies do by taking from the many to benefit the already rich few.

Nationwide state and local subsidies for corporations totaled more than $70 billion in 2010, as calculated by Professor Kenneth Thomas of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

In a country of 311 million, that’s $900 taken on average from each family of four in 2010. There are no official figures, but this one is likely conservative because — as documented by Thomas, this column and Good Jobs First, a nonprofit taxpayer watchdog organization funded by Ford, Surdna and other major foundations — these upward redistributions of wealth keep increasing.

In Irondequoit, just outside Rochester, N.Y., and a few miles from where I live, developer Scott Congel wants $250 million in sales taxes to finance rebuilding the Medley Center mall while adding condominiums and a hotel. Typically local governments issue bonds, which are paid off using sales tax receipts that are diverted from public purposes to the developer’s benefit.

Subsidies for retail businesses are the worst kind of corporate welfare because, as the end of the economic chain, retailing grows only when population and incomes increase. If population or income falls, then subsidies for new projects like Congel’s damage existing businesses, where people would otherwise be spending their money.

The mall, which struggled from the start, was built in 1990 for $140 million in today’s dollars. A Congel associate, Adam Bersin, bought it in 2005 for less than $6 million in today’s dollars. He then persuaded the Monroe County industrial development agency to issue $5.4 million in bonds and then flipped the real estate to Congel in 2007.

Today the mall is empty, its doors sealed, except for a Sears at one end and a Macy’s at the other, each with a handful of customers during my visits.

Congel promised a $260 million project, but five years on nothing is built and Congel is seeking delays in fulfilling promises for which the mall was granted property tax breaks. 

That’s how corporate socialism works – taxpayers contribute when the market rejects.

TAXPAYERS’ EXPENSE -

Congel has never spoken publicly about his plans for the mall and neither Congel nor any of his representatives, including a lawyer, returned my calls. But last month his office gave a local TV station a statement promising to invest not $260 million but $750 million.

My review of construction costs for hotels and condominiums suggests the $750 million figure is wildly inflated, but it may make the subsidies more politically palatable.

If the larger figure is real, and taxpayers put up $250 million, they would pay for a third of the project, while for a $260 million project the taxpayer share would be 96 percent.

Having taxpayers pay nearly all of a new investment is becoming common. General Electric, for example, is getting Ohio taxpayers to cover 92 percent of a $126 million project.

That’s how corporate socialism works — taxpayers donate capital, while the owners keep the profits. 

Congel, along with GE and others, should rely on the market to finance projects. If a project is sound, the market will finance it and, if not, why should taxpayers donate?

When the Monroe County industrial development agency gave Congel’s plan initial approval I asked for its due diligence. The county provided a thin report stating that if taxpayers finance the restoration Medley Center sales would grow from $30 million annually to $420 million.

The report cover states that Congel commissioned it. Judy Seil, director of the agency which gives money to companies, confirmed that Congel paid for the report. Still, she insisted, the report is the county’s due diligence.

That’s how corporate socialism works. The poor may have to pass a drug test to get benefits but rich applicants write their own ticket.

My due diligence shows that total inflation-adjusted income in Monroe County fell by $2.5 billion, or 13 percent, from 2000 to 2008, the latest data. With such a steep drop in incomes it seems unlikely that Medley Center sales could grow 14-fold.

That’s how corporate socialism works — ignore inconvenient facts.


WINNERS AND LOSERS

As for that proposed hotel, my analysis of county hotel tax data shows demand for lodging unchanged for two decades. If taxpayers finance Congel’s hotel it would either fail or almost certainly force an existing hotel or two out of business.

That’s how corporate socialism works — government, not the market, picks winners and losers.

Last November I warned that New York State taxpayers would have their pockets picked ever more thoroughly because of a decision by the state’s highest court.

The majority acknowledged that the New York State constitution bans gifts to corporations. To get around this, the court ruled, tax dollars can be funneled through a government economic development agency like the one Seil runs.

That’s how corporate socialism works — ignore inconvenient laws.

Because New York had one of the strongest prohibitions among the 50 state constitutions, this ruling shows how easily corporations can plunder state treasuries.

New taxes to pay for stadiums for team owners, billion-dollar-plus gifts for building factories and the pocketing by 2,700 companies of state income taxes paid by their workers have become common.

That’s how corporate socialism works — divert money from schools and other public services to company coffers.

The 50 New Yorkers from libertarians to liberal Democrats who brought the case asked for a rehearing, citing serious factual errors in the high court’s decision.

The court not only denied the request, it also imposed $100 for court costs. Attorney James Ostrowski of Buffalo, who represented the plaintiffs, called that a gratuitous “slap in the face of people who litigated a matter of vital public interest on a shoestring budget.”

That’s how corporate socialism works — penalize anyone with the temerity to fight being taxed to give to the already rich.

Congel may never get $250 million of taxes, but if he does it will cost taxpayers whether they visit his mall or not, while weakening or destroying existing local businesses.

That’s how corporate socialism works — privatize gains, socialize losses and destroy competitors who do not get subsidies.
______________________________
* Reuters columnist, David Cay Johnston, is the president of Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), an education organization with 4,200 members. Mr. Johnston is a 13 year veteran of the New York Times, and a 2001 Pulitzer Prize winner for enterprise reporting on loopholes and tax inequities of the U.S. tax code.



Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ants, Mosquitoes, and Beavers - Pioneer Press BB









Encounters with Ants, Mosquitoes, and Beavers
------------
The Pioneer Press Bulletin Board
(06/14/2012)

Twitty of Como: "Subject: The world around us.

"Sometimes I think ants don't like to be disturbed. Think 'Angry Ants.' I innocently move rocks in the garden -- and before I know it, ants are boiling all over the place, bumping into each other in their quest to find what it was that disturbed them.

"I think somewhere down there is a Patton-like ant general, roaring 'Get out there AND FIND IT -- whatever it was! Take no prisoners!' They search in ever-widening circles as I leave the scene. I've been bitten too many times.

"[Whose] garden is it, anyway?"
-----------------------------------------------

* BB says: It's theirs. You're just a squatter!

================================================


Al B of Harland: "A mosquito bit me. I didn't turn into a mosquito. Things like that happen. Apparently, if a vampire bites you, you become a vampire. I'd like to be bitten by a billionaire.

"I was paddling the Missouri River in Montana when a beaver attacked my canoe. I saw the beaver near the edge of the river and decided to have a closer look. That proved to be a bad idea. The beaver came at me as though I'd said something bad about its momma. I curled into a ball as if I were about to be mugged by a bear. It made paddling difficult. The beaver interpreted my actions correctly as a complete surrender and swam off to pick on someone its own size. The river was uphill the rest of that day.

"I camped after being attacked by mosquito and beaver. I watched as a rattlesnake slithered past my tent. Dave Barry said that camping is nature's way of promoting the motel industry."
--------------------------------------------------------------------

**BB's final comment:  Band Name of the Day ==> Patton's Angry Ants





Wednesday, June 13, 2012

From "Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte" - by Lord Byron




Lord Byron

From "Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte"
by
 Lord Gordon Byron (1788-1824)
=========================

I

'Tis done -- but yesterday a King!
And arm'd with Kings to strive --
And now thou art a nameless thing:
So abject -- yet alive!
Is this the man of thousand thrones,
Who strew'd our earth with hostile bones,
And can he thus survive?
Since he, miscall'd the Morning Star,
Nor man nor fiend hath fallen so far. 
 .....
 V

The Desolator desolate!
The Victor overthrown!
The Arbiter of others' fate
A Suppliant for his own!
Is it some yet imperial hope
That with such change can calmly cope?
Or dread of death alone?
To die a prince -- or live a slave --
Thy choice is most ignobly brave!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Amazing 6th Sense! - by Anonymous

 


 

A father put his three year old daughter to bed, told her a story and listened to her say her prayers which she ended by saying:  “God bless mommy, God bless daddy, God bless grandma and good-bye grandpa.”

The father asked, “Why did you say good-bye grandpa?”

The little girl said, “I don’t know, daddy. It just seemed like the thing to do.”

The next day grandpa died.

The father thought it was a strange coincidence.

A few months later, as the father put the girl to bed, he heard her say her prayers, which went like this: “God bless mommy, God Bless daddy, and good-bye grandma.”

The next day the grandmother died.

“Oh my God,” thought the father, “This kid must really be in contact with the other side!”

Several weeks later as the little girl was going to bed, her dad heard her say, “God bless mommy and good-bye daddy.”

He practically went into shock right then and there. He couldn’t sleep all night and got up at the crack of dawn to go to his office. He was nervous as a cat all day, had lunch sent in and watched the clock. He figured if he could get by until midnight he would be okay. He felt safe in the office, so instead of going home at the end of the day he stayed there, drinking coffee, looking at his watch and jumping at every sound. Finally when midnight arrived, he breathed a sigh of relief and went home.

When he got home, his wife said “I’ve never seen you work so late, what’s the matter?”

He said, “I don’t want to talk about it, I’ve just spent the worst day of my life.”

She said, “You think you had a bad day, you’ll never believe what happened to me. This morning our neighbor, James, dropped dead right here on our porch!”






Friday, June 8, 2012

Appreciating What You Have - by TPO




The following is from Mordechai Dixler * ...
 
Cold-Cereal
=====//=====

Linus, of Peanuts comic strip fame, sits down for a bowl of cereal. After pouring the milk he runs off to find a book to enjoy with his cereal. First he looks for the sports section of the paper or the comics, but he can't find either. He nervously scans the bookshelves for a book he hasn't read, but there's nothing to his liking. With visible desperation on his face, he runs to the comic books, flips through a few until he's finally satisfied -- he finds one that he hasn't read. Now panting, but ever hopeful, he hurriedly returns to his cereal bowl to discover the obvious -- it has long since gone soggy.

While the Heavenly gift of Manna was falling daily, many of the Jews in the desert reminisced about "the delicacies" of Egypt. They cried, "Who will feed us meat?" After the miraculous Exodus, the splitting of the sea, and while Manna fell from the sky, more faith, gratitude and self-control was expected of them. Ever patient, [G-d] promised they would have their meat in the desert, but with the warning that they would eat so much of it that they would become sick and die. With another open miracle, [G-d] directed a massive flock of quail towards the encampment. Anxious to fill their desire for meat, the people collected heaps of quail, feasted on their find, and before the supply was finished, many had met their deadly end.

What I find telling is that no one was forced to eat the quail. In fact they were warned that they would be tempted, and in the end the pursuit would kill them. It becomes clear that a warning from [G-d] Himself, even while His loving Manna rains from the sky, will not stop one whose sole focus is physical comfort. All the values one holds dear, building a family, a career, staying healthy, or, for Linus, enjoying a bowl of crisp cereal, will be forfeited for the sake of soothing even minor discomforts. Continually remind yourself of what you truly hold dear, and with [G-d's] help you'll maintain the proper focus and not sacrifice life for comfort.

___________________________________

Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis - Torah.org


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Influence en Afrique - d'après Le Courrier International






Influence en Afrique *



[ L'Afrique, un nouvel espace stratégique pour les Etats-Unis ]


"Le commandement américain en Europe consacre aujourd'hui 70 % de son temps et de son énergie à l'Afrique", constate The Wall Street Journal, "alors que voici à peine trois ans, ce continent était totalement absent des préoccupations de Washington".

"Même les officiels d'une administration Bush pourtant essentiellement préoccupée par la guerre en Irak accordent de plus en plus d'attention à l'Afrique, et ce n'est pas pour des raisons humanitaires. Car, finalement, elle n'a presque rien à redouter en terme d'impact des nombreuses situations dramatiques que traverse le continent." Le quotidien américain analyse cette évolution en relevant que l'intérêt américain pour l'Afrique repose sur trois facteurs : "Le terrorisme islamiste, la sécurité énergétique, l'influence grandissante de la Chine sur ce continent."

"Tout d'abord, les groupes islamistes radicaux sont en train de recruter en Afrique, où ils renforcent leurs liens avec Al-Qaida et développent des voies d'infiltration vers l'Europe, le golfe Arabo-Persique et l'Irak", note The Wall Street Journal, qui relève ainsi "qu'il n'est pas anodin qu'Oussama Ben Laden ait cité le Soudan et le Darfour lors dans son dernier message". Le quotidien ne se voile pas non plus la face : "Si 40 % des nations africaines sont aujourd'hui considérées comme des démocraties, d'immenses parties du continent sont sans lois, corrompues et terriblement pauvres, ce qui constitue un terreau idéal pour alimenter le terrorisme antioccidental."

"Ensuite, les prix records du pétrole et la dépendance de plus en plus forte de l'Occident à l'or noir rendent difficile la protection des fournisseurs africains. Les pays du golfe de Guinée représentent aujourd'hui 15 % de l'approvisionnement des Etats-Unis, mais ce pourcentage devrait monter à 25 % dans les dix ans à venir."

"Enfin, la Chine a fait de l'Afrique l'un des fers de lance de sa quête d'influence au niveau mondial, triplant dans les cinq dernières années ses échanges commerciaux avec le continent pour les porter à 37 milliards de dollars. Et Pékin forme aujourd'hui dans ses universités et ses écoles militaires les élites africaines de demain." Le président chinois Hu Jintao est d'ailleurs actuellement en tournée en Afrique, où il va rencontrer les dirigeants marocains, nigérians et kényans.

Pour agir, estime The Wall Street Journal, il faut que les Etats-Unis coordonnent leurs forces. Ce qu'ils ont commencé à faire. "Le commandement des forces américaines en Europe a créé un groupe d'action auquel participent 15 agences gouvernementales. Et le général en chef de ce commandement travaille avec la chambre de commerce américaine pour que des hommes d'affaires américains se joignent à lui lors de ses déplacements dans un pays africain."

En fait, la politique américaine en Afrique s'articule surtout autour d'une coopération militaire renforcée, mais, prévient le quotidien, "le grand combat du XXIe siècle est de parvenir à coordonner les acteurs influents au plan national pour qu'ils travaillent tous dans le même sens. Si rien ne suit la coopération militaire, les Etats-Unis ne triompheront pas en Afrique."
__________________________________________

* Source :  Courrier International,  L'Opinion Du Jour (25.04.2006)

=================================================
TPO :  La situation s'est plus ameliorée maintenant (en 2012).




Sunday, June 3, 2012

Regarding the Keystone Pipeline - The Washington Post





 
 
What the Keystone pipeline won’t do

By Editorial Board 

Washington Post
Published: May 13, 2012


Congress is battling over whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, proposed for the heart of the country. The project has clear value to the United States. Yet, with all the amped-up rhetoric, it is important to remember what the project would not do. It would not endow the United States with “energy security” in the sense that most Americans understand the phrase and that many pipeline advocates wield it. It would not significantly lower oil prices. In fact, when it comes to oil, America will be affected by global events for decades, and that’s assuming the right policies are in place.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) underscored that point in a report it released last week. “The extensive network of pipelines, shipping and other options for transporting oil around the world means that a single world oil price prevails,” the CBO pointed out. “Disruptions related to oil production that occur anywhere in the world raise the price of oil for every consumer of oil, regardless of the amount of oil imported or exported by that consumer’s country.”

If the United States imported every barrel it burned from Canada — or even unearthed it from American soil — a revolution in Libya, production quotas in Saudi Arabia or riots in Nigeria would still affect American consumers. Unless, as Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations and The Post’s Brad Plumer pointed out, America were to take the extraordinary step of removing itself from the world oil market entirely, which could lead to its own price spikes and ignite a trade war.

With enhanced domestic and Canadian production, the country would achieve a certain energy independence: If the world oil market were to collapse because of a global war or another catastrophe, America would maintain access to its energy resources, though they could be much more expensive. But producing more oil here or north of the border would never mean, as Newt Gingrich put it in February, that the United States could “no longer worry about the Persian Gulf.”

In fact, the best way to insulate Americans from oil-price volatility and other drawbacks of oil use would be to use less oil. The price would still move around, but it would matter less. Such an approach would also help achieve the most important energy priority: slowing climate change.

There are sensible policies to promote this long-range goal. An economy-wide, anti-carbon policy, such as a carbon tax, would fit the bill. Short of that, the best policy would be a higher gasoline tax, which could also fund transportation needs. President Obama’s auto efficiency standards will also help. In contrast, direct subsidies for electric cars are extremely expensive for meager benefits.

None of this argues against the Keystone XL pipeline or expanding domestic oil production. There are valuable economic benefits to both, starting with jobs. But policymakers shouldn’t pretend that increasing supply can deliver energy independence. Reducing consumption has far more promise.
______________________________
 
****Washington Post Editorials
Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the editorial board. News reporters and editors never contribute to editorial board discussions, and editorial board members don’t have any role in news coverage.