Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Then They Came For Me

The ones shouting loudest with greatest vehemency for liberty are ironically the proponents of its gravest threat.   Rep. Peter King, the Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee has scheduled hearings on the radicalization of the US Muslim community and its threat to the homeland.  Mr. King said the hearings are the result of a growing concern by law enforcement officials that the US Muslim community has not been cooperative in rooting out the home grown terrorists multiplying within their midst.  In service to liberty’s highest ideals, the ever vigilant Mr. King looks to initiate an assault on the civil liberties of our brother and sister Muslim citizens.

A group calling themselves The Liberty Alliance  are in full support of Mr. King’s ethnic profiling and the grave threat it poses to the civil liberties of all citizens.  Mr. King’s committee hearings will be a resplendent grand standing platform for him to play to the basest prejudices of his constituency and stoke up the fear of American angst already overloaded with a symphony of terrors.  Muslims, like the LGBT community and illegal aliens, labor unions and teachers make convenient scapegoats for the myriad problems confronting the nation.  Mr. King and The Liberty Alliance would like us to believe that labor unions have plundered the wealth of the nation.  Teachers have destroyed the schools.  The poor have bankrupted our federal treasury while the LGBT and foreigners continue to undermine the true American Judeo-Christian culture by defiling the purity of its heritage.

Its a grand irony to witness self styled libertarians mobilized into action to attack civil liberties and right to privacy of their fellow citizens.  They clamor for disclosure and transparency with the diabolical refrain,  “if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to be afraid of.” Such seditious thinking undermines the spirit of liberty.  It is a direct assault on a  society governed by laws and its citizens shielded by due process and protected by a Bill of Rights.  These democratic virtues once distinguished America as the shinning  city on a hill.  Now The Liberty Alliance denigrates it with an Orwellian platitude believing civil rights, privacy and due process are covers for terrorist cells that must be dispensed with at all costs.

It is not difficult to divine that  Peter King’s committee will encourage a number of informants to come forward to meet a specified quota for stool pigeonry.   A legion of rats and informants are the armies of despots not agents of democracies.  But these are the same Real American Freedom Fighters who led the charge against American Muslim’s right to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero.  Ask them about religious tolerance and the freedom to worship as guaranteed in the US Constitution and they’ll concede the point with the promise to serve Halal meals and build a mosque with extra capacity at Gitmo.

The ones shouting the loudest for liberty do indeed pose the greatest threat to it.  The libertarians who opened the door to 527 llcs have turned Lady Liberty into a common prostitute hiring her out to the highest bidder.  The zealots waving the Constitution with the fervor of a Red Book sprouting Maoist, forms a reactionary vanguard eager to deny the very same sacred civil liberties and rights to fellow citizens in their deranged constitutional republic of unfree and unequal citizens.

Despots and non-democratic societies do not offer or practice universal rights, freedoms and liberties for all its citizens.  Pitting one group against another, scape goating, delineating special classes of people or dual classes of citizenship are hallmarks of repressive societies.  Mr. King’s committee hearing of racial and ethnic profiling divides citizens and denies the constitutional  rights and liberties for Muslims.  This is apartheid.  Gov. Walker’s and Chris Christie’s attack on labor unions and teachers as the source of our economic debasement obfuscates systemic inequities and masks the identities of the perpetrators who plundered the wealth of this nation.  The economic elites are trying to beat the rap by forcing their public elected shills to make the working people of America pay the price for their own victimization.

Peter King’s sons of liberty are complicit agents of enslavement to the power and privilege of corporate oligarchs; hiding behind the billowing smoke of America’s civic strife and brewing internecine struggle.  They are gravely mistaken in believing that they are safely ensconced behind the golden walls of their enclaves the piles of cash allowed them to build to protect themselves  from the seething masses. Mubarak nor Gaddafi’s moat protected strongholds could protect them from the volatile tide of history.

Peter King opening up hearings on radical Islam and its role in creating home grown terrorism is of course just in time for the 2012 election.  It will provide some red meat for rabid Teabaggers screaming for blood.  Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin and other righteous Falangist Crusaders can use the grist of Peter King’s xenophobic fear mill to paint our Mau Mau  loving President and any progressive opponent a Fifth Columnist for the new Caliphate they are working to establish in the last stand of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

You Tube Video:  James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy

Risk: tolerance, politics, civil liberties, Bill of Rights

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March 7, 2011 Posted by | Christianity, Civil Rights, class, conservatism, culture, democracy, economics, ethnic, faith, gay rights, government, labor unions, LGBT, Muslim, Palin, psychology, race, republicans, social justice, Tea Party, teaching, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Economic Recovery Gathers Steam

Private-sector employment increased by 217,000 from January to February on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report released today. The estimated change of employment from December 2010 to January 2011 was revised up to 189,000 from the previously reported increase of 187,000. This month’s ADP National Employment Report suggests continued solid growth of nonfarm private employment early in 2011. The recent pattern of rising employment gains since the middle of last year was reinforced by today’s report, as the average gain from December through February (217,000) is well above the average gain over the prior six months (63,000).

The fears of a jobless recovery may be receding but the US economy has a long way to go before pre-recession employment levels are achieved. As we stated previously the economy needs to create over 200,000 jobs per month for 48 consecutive months to achieve pre-recession employment levels. The six month average of 63,000 is still well below the required rate of job creation for a robust recovery to occur. The Unemployment Rate still exceeds 9%.

The February report is encouraging because it points to an accelerating pace of job creation. The post Christmas season employment surge represents a 30,000 job gain over January’s strong report that triples the six month moving average. The service sector accounted for over 200,000 of the job gains. The manufacturing and goods producing sector combined to create 35,000 jobs. Construction continues to mirror the moribund housing market shedding an additional 9,000 jobs during the month. The construction industry has lost over 2.1 million jobs since its peak in 2008.

The robust recovery in the service sector is welcomed but sustainable economic growth can only be achieved by a robust turn around in the goods producing and manufacturing sectors. Service sector jobs offer lower wages, tend to be highly correlated to retail consumer spending and positions are often transient in nature. Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises (SME) is where the highest concentration of service jobs are created and the employment figures bear that out with SMEs accounting for over 204,000 jobs created during the month of February.

Large businesses added 13,000 jobs during the month of February. The balance sheets of large corporations are strong. The great recession provided large corporates an opportunity to rationalize their business franchise with layoffs, consolidations and prudent cost management. Benign inflation, global presence, outsourcing, low cost of capital and strong equity markets created ideal conditions for profitability and an improved capital structure. The balance sheets of large corporations are flush with $1 trillion in cash and it appears that the large corporates are deploying this capital resource into non-job creating initiatives.

The restructuring of the economy continues. The Federal stimulus program directed massive funds to support fiscally troubled state and local government budgets. The Federal Stimulus Program was a critical factor that help to stabilize local government workforce levels. The expiration of the Federal stimulus program is forcing state and local governments into draconian measures to balance budgets. Government employment levels are being dramatically pared back to maintain fiscal stability. Public service workers unions are under severe pressure to defend employment, compensation and benefits of workers in an increasingly conservative political climate that insists on fiscal conservatism and is highly adverse to any tax increase.

The elimination of government jobs, the expiration of unemployment funds coupled with rising interest rates, energy and commodity prices will drain significant buying power from the economy and create additional headwinds for the recovery.

Macroeconomic Factors

The principal macroeconomic factors confronting the economy are the continued high unemployment rate, weakness in the housing market, tax policy and deepening fiscal crisis of state, local and federal governments. The Tea Party tax rebellion has returned congress to Republican control and will encourage the federal government to pursue fiscally conservative policies that will dramatically cut federal spending and taxes for the small businesses and the middle class. In the short term, spending cuts in federal programs will result in layoffs, and cuts in entitlement programs will remove purchasing power from the demand side of the market. It is believed that the tax cuts to businesses will provide the necessary incentive for SME’s to invest capital surpluses back into the company to stimulate job creation.

The growing uncertainty in the Middle East and North Africa is a significant political risk factor. The expansion of political instability in the Gulf Region particularly Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia; a protracted civil war in Libya or a reignited regional conflict involving Israel would have a dramatic impact on oil markets; sparking a rise in commodity prices and interest rates placing additional stress on economic recovery.

Political uncertainty tends to heighten risk aversion in credit markets. The financial rescue of banks with generous capital infusions and accommodating monetary policies from sovereign governments has buttressed the profitability and capital position of banks. Regulatory uncertainty of Basel III, Dodd-Frank, and the continued rationalization of the commercial banking system and continued concern about the quality of credit portfolios continue to curtail availability of credit for SME lending. Governments are encouraging banks to lend more aggressively but banks continue to exercise extreme caution in making loans to financially stressed and capital starved SMEs.

Highlights of the ADP Report for February include:

Private sector employment increased by 217,000

Employment in the service-providing sector rose 202,000

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 15,000

Employment in the manufacturing sector declined 20,000

Construction employment declined 9,000

Large businesses with 500 or more workers declined 2,000

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers increased 24,000

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, increased 21,000

Overview of Numbers

The 202,000 jobs created by the SME sectors represents over 90% of new job creation. Large businesses comprise approximately 20% of the private sector employment and continues to underperform SMEs in post recession job creation. The strong growth of service sector though welcomed continues to mask the under performance of the manufacturing sector. The 11 million manufacturing jobs comprise approximately 10% of the private sector US workforce. The 20 thousand jobs created during February accounted for 10% of new jobs. Considering the severely distressed condition and capacity utilization of the sector and the favorable conditions for export markets and cost of capital the job growth of the sector appears extremely weak. The US economy is still in search of a driver. The automotive manufacturers have returned to profitability due to global sales in Latin America and China with a large portion of the manufacturing done in local oversea markets.

The stock market continues to perform well. The Fed is optimistic that the QE2 initiative will allay bankers credit risk concerns and ease lending restrictions to SMEs. A projected GDP growth rate of 3% appears to be an achievable goal. The danger of a double dip recession is receding but severe geopolitical risk factors continue to keep the possibility alive.

Interest rates have been at historic lows for two years and will begin to notch upward as central bankers continue to manage growth with a mix of inflation and higher costs of capital. The stability of the euro and the EU’s sovereign debt crisis will remain a concern and put upward pressure on interest rates and the dollar.

As the price of commodities and food spikes higher the potential of civil unrest and political instability in emerging markets of Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America grows. Some even suggest this instability may touch China.

The balance sheets of large corporate entities remain flush with cash. The availability of distressed assets and volatile markets will encourage corporate treasurers to put that capital to work to capitalize on emerging opportunities. The day of the lazy corporate balance sheet is over.

Solutions from Sum2

Credit Redi offers SMEs tools to manage financial health and improve corporate credit rating to attract and minimize the cost of capital. Credit Redi helps SMEs improve credit standing and demonstrate to bankers that you are a good credit risk.

For information on the construction and use of the ADP Report, please visit the methodology section of the ADP National Employment Report website.

You Tube Video: John Handy, Hard Work

Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME, political

March 3, 2011 Posted by | commerce, credit, Credit Redi, economics, government, lending, manufacturing, recession, risk management, SME, taxation, Tea Party, unemployment, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Puddenhead Wilson and the Jersey Doughboy

When Joe Wilson belched his infamous catcall “lair” during President Obama’s address to a joint session of the legislature, he revealed himself to be a poor example of a mature adult. Puddenhead Wilson’s emotional outburst may have played well with die hard Obama haters, indeed the next day his campaign war chest swelled by a million dollars; but it also sent a terrible message to America’s youth that its acceptable to disrespect your teachers, coaches, police officers or parents if you disagree with what they are saying. The fact that his campaign coffers swelled with contributions as a result of his offense compounded the power of the negative message it sent to youths and to the perpetrator himself. Awarding Puddenhead Wilson for his bad conduct only encourages him to repeat his offensive disrespectful behavior. It also sends a very poor message to America’s youth that bad behavior is OK and childish emotional outbursts may in fact find reward from enabling adults.

New Jersey Governor and emerging GOP superstar Chris Cristie, recently revealed himself to be a poor role model for the youth of America when he told a gathering of students that teachers greed was to blame for the lack of supplies and educational resources available for public schools.  The Governors injection of politics into his presentation to Trenton students is a bit ironic.  In his crusade against the teachers union, Christie  has charged educators with using school children as “drug mules” to carry the message about the danger of funding reductions for public education.   It would seem that the good Governor Christie needs to deliver a couple of kilos of his own to his adoring fans in the Tea Party and his financial backers in the GOP.

Putting partisan politics aside Christie’s message to public school students is extremely damaging.  The public schools are under incredible pressure.  All social institutions are engulfed in severe challenges and are fully engaged in crisis management mode.  America’s public schools are  not exempted from these pressures.  The complex confluence of political, cultural and economic factors plaguing society are acutely manifested and constantly working to undermine the public school system.  Governor Christie’s political rant to students throws gasoline on a combustible pile of institutional challenges confronting teachers and administrators.  Like Puddenhead Wilson, the Jersey Doughboy gives tacit approval and encouragement for students to question the authority and motives of their teachers.  Christie has just provided under-performing students a ready made excuse for failure and disruptive malcontents a lit match to throw onto a gasoline soaked pile of kindling encircling our public schools.

Christie’s partisanship places the context of his egregious mismanagement of the Race to the Top DOE grant in a new light.  Perhaps Christie’s $400 million blunder was an intentional action to reduce resources to the public schools to undermine greedy  teachers and their gluttonous union.  Why would Christie enable the funding of whip cracking greed driven drug mule drivers?  And like his killing of the DOT funded  ARC tunnel project, Christie enhances his conservative street cred by punching the construction unions in the nose and telling the socialist government in Washington to spend its money elsewhere.

Like Puddenhead Wilson,  Christie is cashing in on his actions and is building a nice portfolio of economic and political capital for himself.  His remarks about the greedy teachers provide a convenient cover and solemn absolution for the grand practitioners of greed and avarice that have led this country to the brink of fiscal insolvency, cultural destitution and political bankruptcy.  Christie’s narrative of blaming the needy plays well with large contributors who will be moved to put good 527 Corporation resources at his disposal to underwrite his political rise.

Christie’s midterm election barnstorming tour in service to the GOP booked him on a coast to coast tour that even his hero Bruce Springsteen would envy.  Though Christie’s mojo clearly failed in helping Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina win election,  the Jersey Doughboy’s political stock has risen so quickly that he felt compelled to send out a few tweets to deny he would run on a ticket with Sarah Palin for president in 2012.

So New Jersey is stuck with the doughy mess of big money winner take all partisan politics of Christie’s ideologically driven governorship for at least the next two years.  Enjoying popular support for now, Christie’s considerable body mass currently displaces enough water to ride the wave of Tea Party conservatism.  But if the fickle citizens of New Jersey make a slight left turn off Exit 16E on Thunder Road,  Christie’s fortunes will drop faster then a lead sinker placed into the rancid brew seeping to perfection in a gaudy Royal Dalton Tea Pot.

You Tube Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (Live Acoustic Version)

Risk: political, labor unions, public education, consensus

November 15, 2010 Posted by | conservatism, culture, democracy, economics, elections, government, institutional, labor unions, Obama, philosophy, politics, republicans, Tea Party, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Raising My Country’s Flag

Today is the 234th birthday of the United States of America and I’m struggling to articulate my feelings and concerns for my country.   This morning like millions of Americans I walked outside to hoist the flag to honor my country and convey support for its principles and ideals.  I still believe in those principles and ideals but I am having a tremendous crisis of faith on how those principles and ideals are put into action.

When I removed the flag from its draw my first thought was a tinge of personal shame because the flag was not properly folded in the requisite three star triangle.  This former Boy Scout knew of the proper way to fold the flag but when I lowered it after Memorial Day I had no one to assist me in the proper way to fold it.    It takes two people working in common purpose to accomplish the task.  One to fold while the other holds the flag taut.  It brought to mind my country’s ossified two party systems inability to administer effective governance.   Its time we call other care takers who have the conscience and maturity to sacrifice partisanship for the greater good of the country.

Holding the flag I was struck by its age.  I date the flag to the late 40’s.  The flag was given to me by my father and has only 48 stars.  When it was sewn Alaska and Hawaii had yet to join the grand union of states.  They would join in 59 four years after my birth. This flag boasts strong double stitches that holds the stars, stripes and blue field securely in place.  A united conglomeration of shapes, symbols and colors manufactured by top notch craftsmen guided in their work by care and skill to assure quality.  I surmise that  the workers who crafted this flag were inspired by a love of country and pride of workmanship now long gone.  Blue collar workers and the unions that represented them have been crushed by the immutable power of global capital.  In the greater cause of profits workplaces have been dismantled and livelihoods off shored to the outer regions of the global economy.  I wonder how the 11,000,000 people who are unemployed today perceive our flag this morning?  Surely most will  bless the grace of daily bread that is placed on their table today.  I  also wonder if the big time financiers who profit from grief will pause with a moment of reflection during their extravagant soirees on the source of their wealth and the price of their amusements.

My flag has but 48 stars.  In my short lifetime of 54 years my country granted statehood to two states.  Fifty states is a rounded number suggesting a divine hand that predetermined a Pax Americana halfway to a celestial century mark.   I worry that this glorious symbol of Federalism is at danger of unraveling again.    Texas, Alaska, Arizona and a few other stars  have expressed a desire to withdraw their stars from the sacred blue field of our flag.  Seditious murmurs from opportunistic politicians.  They eagerly dip their political cookies into the toxic brew stewed up by pissed off  Teabaggers and other deranged Falangists.  This new confederacy condemns them.  They complain that the rights of individual states are being trampled upon by an oppressive authoritarian government.  They shout  prayers from rooftops, wave hand guns, tote rifles and salute the Don’t Tread On Me flag.  They want the right to be left alone to create a personal version of a world unencumbered by responsibility to anything but a selfish self.  They damn the collective needs of the union and condemn its necessity to operate as an interconnected link in a world fraternity of nations.  The ability to express an  unencumbered will in the pursuit of self interest is their idea of citizenship.  They are prepared to defend it with guns and preemptive aggression to assert the right of the stronger.  They prefer barbarity to civility, selfishness to fraternity, personal affectation to civil rights, sameness to diversity, vigilante tribunals to social justice.

With care and reverence I wrapped the flag around my tree, envisioning flag draped coffins being off loaded from C-130 transport planes onto the impersonal gray tarmac of  a military airbase in Dover.  These selfless souls are reunited with the ground of the land they gave their last full measure of their devotion offered up to senseless conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The fallen will receive a reverence in death that our politicians failed to offer them in life by condemning them to a wasteful demise, wholly avoidable and absolutely unnecessary.  No these unfortunate patriots have not shed their blood in vain.  Their stars will forever burn bright on a blue field of valor as condemnation of the blasphemous  chicken hawks whose screaming squawks for war are nothing but hallow patriotic pronouncements spoken to secure political careers and profit financial backers.

Arranging the flag around the tree the bark of the Black Oak clings to the fabric of Old Glory.  It allows me to run a finger along the long red strip at the base of the flag.  The blood shed for the cause of this flag continues to flow.  When will it ebb?  In the cause of this flag seemingly righteous blood mixes with the awful blood of innocents.  Both stain the hands and conscience of our nation.  My two sons just entering young adulthood  are  proud members of the armed forces.  One in the Navy the other in the Army.  Their blood is my blood.  They speak of  deployment to the “Sand Box” a euphemism for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A future raising of this flag lays on my brain like a nightmare, praying that their blood doesn’t stain the grim crimson of our national symbol.

Stepping back to examine if the flag is properly hung I notice a paint stain on the field of stripes.  The splotch of beige paint now darkly blanched was splashed from a careless paintbrush I used to coat the walls of my boyhood bedroom.  I did not take the proper precaution of removing the flag from the wall before proceeding with the task of painting.  It was a small blotch about the size of a couple of 50 cent pieces lying on a dresser drawer.  It reminds me of the gushing oil spill flowing into the pristine Gulf of Mexico.  This catastrophe will forever alter the ecology and lives of the many social and ecological communities that comprise the Gulf.  This stain will remain on our flag for many generations.  The dimensions of this disaster are still beyond measure or comprehension.  It threatens to forever alter the colorful fabric of our culture, economy and political lives.  The inexorable march of corporate power in pursuit of profit threatens to crush a sustainable human habitat.  We the people alone can call them to account and require that human needs take precedence over corporate greed.

Yet today is not the day for a recitation of what I believe to be wrong with my country.  Readers of this blog can click  any subject on the cloud tag a get my doubled barreled critique of America’s behavior in a rapidly changing world.  But I have been struggling for the past few days about a theme for today’s post.  And it finally came to me when I was dutifully hanging the flag on this meaningful day.  I really want to believe in the correctness and goodness of my country and its people.  Its my country warts and all.  The warts are growing big and uglier everyday.  My country and countrymen have lost their way.  Two seemingly endless and pointless wars, the economic debasement of  “The Great Recession”, the egregious assault on the delicate ecological communities of the Gulf of Mexico, a voracious Falangist movement, the juggernaut of corporatism, the continual erosion of civil liberties, careless concern for social justice and rapidly accelerating slide into an aggressive self seeking raises my sense of outrage.

As a boy growing up this flag hung on the wall of my room for many years.  I put it up on my wall when I was an adolescent still playing with toy soldiers.  I was enamored with national pride by America’s WWII triumphs, John Wayne war heroics and Victory at Sea news reels.  I was a staunch Cold Warrior.  During grammar school I imagined myself dying a hero’s death as I fell in the victory over the USSR’s Red Army at the decisive battle of Washington School.  That patriotic zeal would continue throughout most of the Vietnam War springing to attention at Sargent Barry Sadler’s Ballad of the Green Berets.  On Saturday evenings I would watch the  Channel 5 News.  I can still hear the solemn grimness of the haunting trumpet dirge as the weekly Honor Roll scrolled the names of the fallen from the conflict in Southeast Asia.

As we grow the meanings of symbols change.  Symbols can never remain immutably fixed because its subject changes.  Failure to understand  this the symbol becomes a fiction of stale dogma unconnected to a living reality of real living things in an ever changing world.   Inane nationalists content to swaddle themselves in the flag believe their fervor and force of statement is the test of love of country.   But in fact these unfortunates  trod a dangerous path and in fact pose the greatest risk to the continued wellness of our nations ideals.

As the Sixties gave way to the Seventies the meaning of my flag  evolved.  It became a symbol of  imperial power and distrusted authority as the Vietnam war  droned on.  It became a symbol of naked repression as it quelled urban rebellions.  It became a symbol of  reaction when assassins silenced beloved reform leaders.  It became a symbol of deadly suppression when the Ohio National Guard murdered students at Kent State.   this flag would evolve into the sacrilege of a Warholian commercial symbol.  To my horror this flag became a  weapon in the hands of white racists threatening to use it to impale an African American man during a school busing demonstration in Landsmark in Boston.  During college as my political activism grew, Peace flags, Earth Day flags, Liberation flags, Rainbow flags all captured my imagination and had profound personal meaning but they would never replace the preeminent position the American flag holds in my heart.

I wish my countrymen well on this July 4th.  I behold my incomplete, paint stained, 48 starred Old Glory.  Its in a proper place on a good and proper day.   The white colors tinged in a yellow fade its getting on in age.  But I have hope.  I take consolation from  a voice  resonating in my ear.  As a slight breeze ripples the posted colors I recognize the not so distant call of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglas.  He’s whispering “agitate, agitate, agitate”……..

You Tube Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA

Risk: democracy, civil liberties, country, culture

July 5, 2010 Posted by | class, culture, democracy, ecological, Federalism, LGBT, manufacturing, psychology, seasons, unions, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is This Treason?

Benedict Arnold’s Procession Wagon

Living my entire 52 years in New Jersey I am constantly reminded of our beloved state’s revolutionary heritage. Commemorative plaques and historical road markers are everywhere. New Jersey played a critical role in the American Revolution and almost every house that was around at the time has a plaque to attest that George Washington slept there. Old George slept around a lot in New Jersey. He couldn’t afford to linger long in anyone spot because the damn Redcoats were always close on his heels chasing him across the state. But it is heartening to know that so many of the long passed Jersey citizens supported the cause by giving the Continental Army’s General a bed for the night. Yes I am proud of my states contribution our country’s revolutionary cause. This pride continues to fuel my detest of the name and memory of Benedict Arnold. He was the guy who betrayed the confidence of General Washington by conspiring to deliver West Point into the hands of the British. For this dastardly deed Benedict Arnold’s name will forever more be synonymous with treason and traitor.

Treason is a pretty strong word. It conjures up depraved villains engaged in subterranean subterfuges employing Machiavellian machinations in unholy alliances with foreign subversives intent on bringing our great country to its knees. Lately the word traitor has been liberally bandied about by the likes of Ann Coulter and Michael Savage to describe anyone who’s vapid nationalism falls short of their fanatical obsessions. This summer Michele Bachmann the congresswomen from Minnesota gained some notoriety for stating that she believes that an anti American cabal exists in the legislative branch of our government. According to them treason is rampant and traitors in the guise of democrats, progressives and liberals are everywhere.

The word treason has now curiously surfaced again to describe the Republican Senators who are opposing government financial assistance to save US auto manufacturers. The Big Three auto makers, Chrysler, GM and Ford; desperately need a capital infusion to remain solvent. Southern states are home to foreign automakers. They located down south because these states offered generous tax incentives and the availability of cheap non-union labor. These Southern Senators have vigorously opposed the aid package insisting that the Big Three need more fiscal discipline. They point to the generous wage scales and benefit programs the UAW workers at the Big Three receive. To some observers it appears that these Senators are more intent on protecting the foreign auto companies located within their states. They seem willing to sacrifice millions of jobs and the manufacturing infrastructure of the United States. The southern based foreign owned manufacturers are a more important constituency for these Senators then their Big Three competitors. This is a striking example of the economic and political contradictions that globalization creates for nation states.

In and of itself I don’t believe that the southern Senators political position is evidence of treason. The accusation of treason is pretty serious stuff. I am disposed to accept the southern Senators protestations that their opposition to the Big Three aid package is based on firm ideological commitment to letting the free markets do its work. If a capitalist enterprise cannot sustain itself it deserves to fail. After all, they claim that fiscal responsibility is a true Republican virtue even if the evidence of record budget deficits during the past 8 years of the Bush administration belies that claim. But the surfacing of the Action Alert Memo circulated to Senate Republican’s prior to the vote of the rescue package in congress raises some serious doubt about their true motives in opposing aid to the Big Three.

If it is authentic, the memo advises Republicans to block the Big Three aid package as a weapon to bust the UAW to weaken their Democratic Party rivals. Gone are their concerns for free market capitalism. In its place is the attack politics that the Republican Party have perfected to cram their conservative agenda down America’s throat. We witnessed the hollow pronouncements of The Country Firsters during this years presidential election. Their patriotic posturing and love of country claims offered the country no vision or alternatives to the existing Bush agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy, continuation of aggressive foreign policy, pro business anti-labor industrial policy, social welfare cuts and an expansion of the culture war on all fronts. The Republican privatization practices of using tax receipts to enrich parasitic private sector profiteering was a center piece to their program. The Republican legislative agenda funded the creation of the private mercenary army Blackwater and a myriad collection of other service providers to address elections, education, prisons and homeland security.

Is it treason to create and fund corporate entities to serve and administer government functions that are corrupt, wasteful, ineffective and whose primary allegiance is to shareholders? Probably not, but using taxpayer money to finance a mercenary army whose primary allegiance is to its shareholders probably comes pretty close.

Since the Reagan Administration this conservative agenda has resulted in the dismantling of our manufacturing base and a corresponding erosion of union jobs. In 1980 20% of the workforce was engaged in manufacturing. Today the number of manufacturing jobs is less the 10%. Our free marketeers engaged in a concerted program to outsource our industries to lower cost ares of the globe to improve returns on capital allocations to the private benefit of shareholders. Billionaire Micheal Milken plundered the “rust belt” states by closing down outdated factories in need of retooling and moved them overseas. By doing so he enriched the shareholders of the companies, his investors and the national economy of the country where the factory relocated. Unfortunately the economy of the town and state where the factory moved from didn’t fare to well. Workers saw their quality of life deteriorate due to lower wages and the social and cultural decay that accompany a deteriorating economy. State and local governments also took hits in tax revenue and had to pony up extra dough to pay for unemployment benefits and expanded social services that economically depressed areas require.

When you do this to enough towns and states, pretty soon it has a negative effect on the nation. Is that treason? Probably not, but a concerted policy to enrich yourself by helping a foreign country benefit at the expense of yours gets pretty close to the definition of treason.

To fill the economic vacuum caused by the closure of our factories we built a service economy based on the unbridled expansion of our banking industry and the availability of cheap credit. This lead to speculative bubbles in the equity, real estate market and credit markets. These bubbles spawned a perverse credit culture that mortgaged our future and transferred enormous wealth to well heeled investors and speculators. Much of the wealth has been transferred to the sovereign wealth funds of foreign nation states. They now hold the mortgage on our country’s future. Benedict Arnold sold the plans to invade West Point for a Generals Commission in the British Army and the sum of 10,000 Pound Sterling. Vulture capitalists aided and abetted by an accommodating conservative political agenda and willing politicians plundered and exported Americas prized assets in allegiance only to their own self interest and economic benefit.

Is this treason?

You Tube Video: My Country Tis of Thee

Risk: labor unions, industrial policy, recession, privatization

December 12, 2008 Posted by | business, economics, politics, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Victory for Republic Workers

workers41MASSES

AMONG the mountains I wandered and saw blue haze and red crag and was amazed;  On the beach where the long push under the endless tide maneuvers, I stood silent; Under the stars on the prairie watching the Dipper slant over the horizon’s grass, I was full of thoughts.

Great men, pageants of war and labor, soldiers and workers, mothers lifting their children–these all I touched, and felt the solemn thrill of them.

And then one day I got a true look at the Poor, millions of the Poor,
patient and toiling; more patient than crags, tides, and stars;
innumerable, patient as the darkness of night–
and all broken, humble ruins of nations.

Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems

The laid off United Electrical Union workers who took over their shuttered Chicago workplace to receive separation compensation due them under the Federal WARN Act have been offered a settlement by Republic management. According to breaking stories, The Bank of America and JP Morgan have created a fund that will provide each Republic worker 8 weeks pay, any accrued vacation time and a continuation of health and welfare benefits for the next two months.

We thank the banks for making the funds available to redress the just grievance of the Republic workers. Unfortunately the close of this incident signals the beginning unemployment for the 300 Republic workers. In this economy the availability of well paying jobs will be difficult to secure. We wish them well in their search. We once again commend the Republic workers for standing up for their rights. Their steadfast commitment in the fight for justice is a courageous example of speaking truth to power and a lesson that power concedes nothing without a struggle. You are the salt of the earth. You are a light to the world. Thank you.

We wish the Republic workers a holiday filled with abundant joy.

You Tube Music Video: Pete Seeger, Union Maid

Risk: labor unions, bankruptcy, credit, unemployment, banking,labor unrest

December 10, 2008 Posted by | banking, bankruptsy, folk, poetry, unions | , , , , | Leave a comment

To The Barricades!

Thomas Hart Benton
Mine Strike
1934

Workers in the heat of struggle throughout the history of the labor movement have often cried “to the barricades” as a last resort to defend their rights, freedoms and protect their means of living. It is a signal that the interests of labor and capital are at distinct odds with each other. When an impasse is reached and the irreconcilable requirements of both parties are unable to be resolved through negotiation, workers take direct action with slowdowns, strikes, sit ins and takeovers as the only means to exert their will and protect their interest.

So it is with great sympathy that we hold up the workers and picketers at Republic Window and Door in Chicago. Last week the management of Republic informed their workers that due to the slowdown in the housing market they are going out of business and that the company cannot pay the workers any separation compensation due to lack of funds. In a radical action to protect separation benefits owed to them in accordance with federal law, Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN); workers have taken over the factory in a desperate attempt to secure a just separation settlement. The workers, many of Hispanic decent and members of the United Electrical Union, have barricaded themselves inside the factory in a kind of Battle of the Alamo of the US labor movement.

The timing and circumstances of Republic’s closing is unfortunate and is symptomatic of the country’s severe economic malaise. Ironically the projected severity of the economic downturn facing the US economy is the direct result of the deconstruction and dismantling of America’s manufacturing base. The rationalization of the US manufacturers that began in the 1980’s with Micheal Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert accompanied by a storied SWAT Team of vulture capitalists had to battle and undermine the political clout and power of labor unions to achieve their objectives. The erosion of union power accelerated as membership dropped and the demonization of unions became a political tool used by the Republican’s to attack their rivals in the pro labor Democratic Party. As Republican trickle down economics grew in ascendancy quality of life, wages, heath care and employment benefits for working people have fallen precipitously. The political attacks against unions continue as a large lobbying effort is underway to defeat The Employees Free Choice Act. Without strong unions working people are at risk and remain extremely vulnerable to the debilitating effects of the current recession.

Historically, Chicago has played a central role in the formation and development of the US labor movement. Chicago’s Haymarket Square Riots is a seminal event that propelled the development of the organized labor movement. It was critical to the rise of the American Federation of Labor and endowing unions with the political power to secure the 8 hour working day, better working conditions, decent wage scales and employment benefits. Today as the workers at Republic have walled themselves inside their perishing workplace in an attempt to be rightfully compensated for their exertions and service, Republics management must find a way to meet its commitment by respecting the dignity and economic well being of its former employees. Lets hope that this struggle going on in Chicago represents an awakening for Americas new found respect and support of unions and hopefully not its death knell.

Our prayers and best wishes are with the Republic workers; as they stand in defense for the rights and well being of all American workers. May God continue to bless them with dignity and may the unity of disenfranchised workers serve to assure a prosperity for themselves, their families, and our nation. For truly as it is written in the Gospel of Luke, the laborer is worthy of his pay.

May the Lord continue to bless them and keep them.

You Tube Video: Rachel Maddow, Republic Window and Doors

You Tube Music Video: Pete Seeger, Which Side Are You On?

You Tube music Video: Natalie Merchant, Which Side Are You On?

Risk: labor unions, recession, social safety net, manufacturing, WARN,


December 9, 2008 Posted by | folk, manufacturing, social unrest, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whats Good for GM

I always thought the quote “Whats good for General Motors is good for America.” was a vile admission that the rights and interests of individual citizens was subservient to the vested interests of corporations. I always thought this was uttered by Calvin Coolidge or Herbert Hoover, the historical poster boys of an out of touch presidency intellectually immune and emotionally removed from the pain and troubles of the working class. Happily ignorant or seemingly unconcerned of a country slipping into a paralyzing depression while they whistled past the grave yard.

More recently the voices of average citizens have again been raised to decry the power and privilege of special corporate interests. They buy access and favor through the deft abilities of well compensated lobbyists and generous financial contributions by the monied interests to encourage politicians to adopt their world view. America’s economic and political history is a sometimes sordid, sometimes splendid tale of the restive relationship of labor and capital and how their respective political interests are made manifest in our laws, policies and programs that emanate from Capitol Hill.

Since at least the beginning of this year we have been barraged with prognostications of a catastrophic economic collapse. The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department have moved with dispatch to bolster bank capital to assure that liquidity and confidence in the banking system is protected. The EESA and TARP responded to the capital formation needs of banks. Most legislators supported EESA even though it only had tepid support by taxpayers. But the deal went through because we were told that if we failed to pass the bailout legislation for banks our nation would be swallowed by an economic black hole. Paulson’s defense of the TARP and its strategic transformation will be covered in subsequent posts but this authors skepticism of the TARP and Paulson’s intention is on record. The TARP and EESA are temporary short term liquidity fixes to frozen credit and capital markets. Supporting and protecting manufacturing is how the US will transition its bankrupt merchant capitalism to an economy based on the manufacture of value capable of long term sustainable growth.

So today we go on record in support of a Federally mandated capital infusion and formation initiative for the automotive industry. As we have previously stated the dismantling of our countries manufacturing infrastructure lies at the root of our current economic dilemma. We advocate acceptance of The Hamilton Plan to address economic recovery and long term sustainability of the US economy. Manufacturing is the bedrock of recovery and the Federal Government needs to encourage the formation of capital clusters of all stakeholders to incubate support structures that will accelerate the recovery of manufactures. The support program is not about writing a blank check to an industry that is badly managed. The automotive recovery plan needs to recognize, aggregate and focus all forms of capital to address this rapid deterioration of our ability to create value through manufactures.

The Hamilton Plan advocates that the Treasury Department form an SME Development Bank to encourage manage and administer the capital formation required to address a GM turnaround. The recovery proscription will need capital, cooperation and political will from all parties. Those include, government, business, labor, social service and academic institutions. The need to support manufacturing is paramount if we hope to recover from structural economic malaise. The failure of GM would have a profound impact on the fiscal, physical and psychological health of the US economy and its citizens. In this instance what is good for GM is not only good for America but it is vital for its survival.

We will offer a more detailed outline in future posts.

You Tube Music Video: James Cotton, Rocket 88

Risk: manufacturing, recession, unemployment, sustainability

November 13, 2008 Posted by | blues, Bush, manufacturing, recession, TARP, unions | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Riding The Acela Express

I don’t really know what Acela means.

I imagined it to be a Greek or Latin word perhaps the name of a divine conveyance or swift footed messenger from Roman mythology. It’s probably nothing that deep. Most likely it is one of those made up words invented by a high powered marketing firm on Madison Avenue. Most know it as the rebranding of Amtrak. A kind of corporate rechristening available only to the well capitalized and those blessed with fat marketing budgets. They had to do it. After the supply-sider victory of the Reagan Revolution the legacy of losses and unending government subsidies to the failing railroad industries had to be purged from the new American political lexicon. It’s kind of like when Khrushchev was removed from power in the USSR. History books had to be rewritten to exclude the memory of Khruschev’s glorious contributions to building a workers’ paradise with Stalinist absolutism.

Riding the Acela Express from Newark New Jersey to our nation’s capitol in Washington DC provides a front seat view of a sad and sobering survey of our quickly evaporating manufacturing base and our country’s diminished industrial strength.

Riding the Acela Express down the spine of our county’s once formidable east coast industrial corridor presents a sad irony. The former Soviet Union unintentionally destroyed its economy due to its inefficient deployment and allocation of capital. While the United States, the USSR’s great historical antagonist and seeming victor of the cold war, destroyed it’s manufacturing base through the carefully considered rationalization of our industries by reallocating capital to foreign markets in search of superior returns.

In practice, this meant closing old inefficient factories and moving them overseas. From an economic standpoint it makes perfect sense. Capital seeks its best return. If that return can be found in an overseas market where labor costs are lower, tax rates are more favorable and regulatory oversight is non-existent the shareholders of the firm that closed the doors on US workers will realize a better return on their equity investment. That’s how capital markets work. Michael Milken and other predators would have a ball and build many fortunes instructing corporate America on the finer points of financial alchemy and demonstrate how easy it was to spin gold from the junk of old rust belt industries.

At first it kind of made sense. We didn’t want those kinds of jobs anyway. They were dirty and caused pollution in our communities. These types of businesses were highly unionized and susceptible to industrial disputes that only antagonized the uneasy relationship between labor and capital. Many of these industries were too capital intensive and the investment needed to maintain world class competitiveness was just too high to see any kind of acceptable return within the required time frames that benefited management and shareholders. The US was moving to a service oriented economy that obviated the need to manufacture anything. We would be an economy of designers, merchants, consultants, marketers and bankers. We did retain some clean, high tech, lite and lean factories that would rely on assembling machines from various components sourced just in time from overseas manufacturers. That was the industrial and economic vision of post cold war America.

But the vision outside my window on this Sunday morning Acela Express ride looks very different. They say that Georgian’s know their home when they see the red clay soil of their beloved state. As I pass through the metro areas of Trenton, Camden, Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore I see miles and miles of half demolished factories whose crushed emulsified bricks have turned the earth of these abandoned industrial brownfield to blazing acres of red ochre.

The landscape offers a view of row after row of empty disassembled and decaying factories. They litter the landscape like forgotten industrial sarcophagi that was long ago broken into and pillaged, its contents whisked away by savvy tomb raiders.

The abandoned shipping docks whose bills of lading long since posted last orders that disembarked decades ago. Old forges, not fired since our Great War now stand as furtive tombstones to a productive past. These committed sentinels still stand post, watching over rusted rails that once creaked under the weight of bulging freight cars delivering goods to defend the arsenal of democracy. Now the rail yards serve no purpose other then rusted planter boxes for some invasive plant species. Closed beer gardens stand next to empty Union Halls whose cheap tin signage proclaims solidarity from a bygone day. You can still barely make out the union local number if you catch the right light from this mornings emerging sun. And the church steeples and factory smokestacks both covered in many layers of hard earned coats of gray soot stand in each others holy presence reminding us of the solemn Shaker proverb, “hands to work hearts to God.”

Last we witness the awful toll the dismantling of our industrial base has claimed on our urban communities. We pass archaic schools that rise like Gothic anachronisms, resembling prisons not Lyceums of learning. We see the tiny wooden row houses of Philadelphia and Baltimore and wonder how the inhabitants will sleep through a night where temperatures will remain uncomfortably hot. Nature and capital both abhor a vacuum. In the absence of legal industry and commerce such areas will become incubators for the growth of black-markets whose social cost and commercial thrust poses great risk to the heath and efficiency of free markets and the personal liberties of free people.

The USSR failed miserably in its attempt to build a workers state. Centralized bureaucratic planning, totalitarian political control, and the parasitic drain of capital by a class of ruthless self serving party elites strangled all entrepreneurial initiative and any hope for an efficient economic system. The possibility for workers to fully enjoy the fruits of their labors vanished as nothing more then an idealistic dream.

The current state of our manufactures and how we got there may turn out to be one of those funny ironies of history. What the Soviets did to their economy by accident and incompetence, we did to ourselves through intention. The industrial policies and practices we have pursued have strengthened the economies and industrial capacities of Russia and China. Both countries economies are experiencing robust growth. Russia due to its extensive oil and natural gas reserves is once again an emerging superpower that the United States must consider in its global political, economic and military strategies. China due to its rapid development of its manufacturing capacity now boasts tremendous balance of trade surpluses. China’s exports far more then it imports and it puts its surplus into its massive Sovereign Wealth Fund. This SWF is an investment vehicle that loans money to the large US banks to bolster their fragile balance sheets so we can get through this dangerous and debilitating credit crisis. The tables have dramatically turned.

The Acela Express. What a window it provides on the state of the American economy. After an exhaustive search I discovered a reference to Acela. In a far eastern language it refers to “a cloth less one.” Or in other words naked, as in the emperor has no cloths or perhaps we are vulnerable and exposed as a naked child in a blizzard without a strong industrial and manufacturing base? Or as in the “clothless one” hides nothing and always presents the naked truth. However you interpret Acela, let us hope that the Midnight Special continues to shine an ever loving light on you.

Music: Lonnie Donagen, Midnight Special

Risk: capital flight, manufacturing, labor unions, urban communities, political, global competitiveness, balance of trade, railroads,

June 14, 2008 Posted by | China, culture, folk, manufacturing, sovereign wealth funds, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moses the Divine Risk Manager

Moses was anointed a divine risk manager by “E”. He received instruction and guidance from the One Who Cannot Be Named.

Armed with this knowledge and insight Moses looked upon the condition of his people and took action to free them from the bondage of enslavement and oppression. Time after time he went before the CEO of Egypt, (The Pharaoh) to ask him to conform to God’s will and to warn him that if he failed to do the right thing he will risk God’s wrath.

The Passover is a recounting of a mitigation strategy that worked. The Passover comes from Moses instruction to the Jews to paint lambs blood over their homes doorjambs so that they might be spared the cost of God’s retribution. Those who followed Moses instruction suffered no consequence. Those who did not heed the warning by failing to perform this action suffered the loss of the households first born son “and there was a great cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again.”

As is usually the case, those who fail to take action to mitigate risk suffer consequences. Those who take protective action improve their odds that they will not suffer negative consequence of a risk event due to the result of the steps they took. They also enhance their possibility to be blessed with knowing and experiencing peace and the prayerful expectation of deliverance.  When anxiety, problems, or worries threaten to overwhelm me I take a minute to slow my mind and try to re-center myself by evoking an effective risk management tool with this simple prayer.

“God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can,

and wisdom to know the difference.”

For me, the Serenity Prayer is like painting lambs blood on the doorjambs of my mind. It remains my fervent hope that difficulties passover your house. But when troubles do visit may you find the strength, courage and fortitude to survive and grow from the challenges and travails of life.

We wish everyone a meaningful and blessed Passover.

Peace as in the word Shalom.

Peace as in a greeting of Salaam Alaikum.

May a Peace that passes all understanding be with you always.

May a Peace that recognizes the joined hands of Namaste be seen in all hearts.

You Tube Music Video: Louis Armstrong, Go Down Moses

Risk: tolerance; warning signs

April 20, 2008 Posted by | Bible, faith, holiday, seasons, unions | , | Leave a comment