Friday, June 22, 2012

Tap solo Thursday..

Molly performs Tightrope choreographed by Angela Carter at the VIP Dance regional competition at Stanbaugh Auditorium in Youngstown Ohio in February 2012.  Molly dances with Viva Dance Company from Monroe, MI. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

McCain: Foreign cash sneaking in via super PACs

I appreciate John McCain the man they call Maverick for calling out the glaring problem with the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that gave life to the beast known as the Super PAC.  And in particular McCain calls out the candidate he just endorsed for benefiting from questionable donations from a billionaire willing to donate $100 million of his own cash to help elect Romney.    McCain: Foreign cash sneaking in via super PACs. 
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. John McCain said in an interview posted online Friday that "foreign money" was helping fellow Republican Mitt Romney's presidential hopes and singled out one of his ally's most generous supporters.
McCain, the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee, suggested casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's $10 million contribution to a pro-Romney super PAC was a conduit for Adelson to use profits from properties in Macau to shape American elections. McCain also criticized the Supreme Court ruling that allows individuals and corporations to make such unlimited donations to nominally independent political action committees.

Now Adelson isn't your typical billionaire political contributor.  The businesses that earn him the billions are casinos in Macau in the People's Republic of China and in Las Vegas.  Not just anyone can get a gambling license in Macau, you have to know somebody.   Adelson was awarded the gambling license to operate in China after helping defuse House GOP opposition to the Beijing Olympics back in 2001.  Since then, his casino and personal fortune have done quite well.  $25 billion and counting.

Here are some snips about Adelson.

Sheldon Adelson:  Scout's Honor.

Part of Adelson’s Chinese dealings, which came under federal scrutiny in 2011, went through a non-profit called the Adelson Center for U.S.-China Enterprise. According to a WikiLeaks cable flagged by Salon, the association, which was meant to facilitate business between the U.S. and China, was shut down by the Chinese government after some “missteps” with “funds transfer mechanisms” used by Las Vegas Sands... 
Gingrich told NBC News that Adelson puts a priority on far-right policies on Israel. Adelson opposed the American Israeli Affairs Committee — threatening to withdraw financial support  when the group backed a Bush administration-led peace process in 2007...
Adelson’s right-wing views on Israel have, at times, descended into bigotry against Palestinians, who he thinks do not have legitimate aspirations to a state of their own...

These views from Adeslon are diametrically opposed to the ones Romney says he espouses,  Namely a "get tough on China" policy and a Two-State solution for Israel and the Palestinians.  We'll see what influence  $100 million buys as Romney's positions morph along the campaign trail.

And what makes the idea of Adelson shoveling gambling profits from China into into Romney's campaign more troubling is that Adelson already has a history of becoming embroiled in bribery scandals in China related to his casino operations there. How casinos do business in Macau
Last year, Sands disclosed that it is under federal investigation into whether it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits bribery to enter foreign markets. Steve Jacobs, the former head of Sands’ Macau unit, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the casino operator. The suit alleges Jacobs warned company officials that the use of the outside legal adviser, Leonal Alves, “posed serious risks” to Sands because of the federal law barring U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials.
So Sheldon and his supporters can't get too sanctimonious when people start questioning if his windfall profits from China are owed to entrepreneurship and business acumen, or to political opportunism and  payola of one form or another.

Its ironic that billionaires with sub-optimized ethics like Sheldon Adelson can inject unlimited millions into American politics thanks to a Supreme Court decision with such a patriotic sounding name.. Citizen's United.   I can't think of many better ways to undermine our Republic than to let agents of foreign nations to pump millions into our campaigns.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Repath: Religion, politics, and the A-word.

This is a post I wrote last June.  Religion, politics and the a* word.
(BTW, the a* stands for abortion.)

The questions this post raises will make people feel uncomfortable and maybe even mad, so use with caution.  Here is an excerpt..

So, here is the conundrum for religious/political opposition to abortion rights. If a child who was aborted is a martyr destined for eternity in heaven, then why should we put them on a detour and force their unwilling mothers to bring them into the Earth where they undergo the difficult trials of life after which there is a very good chance they will end up in a much hotter place for all of eternity. Jesus used this phrase when asked how to pray. "Lead us not into temptation". Life presents temptations. And in the Gospels Jesus pointed out a number of times that your life on Earth is worth nothing compared to what God has planned for you in heaven.

And here are a few other Pathteacher posts where I stand in the intersection of religion and politics.  I don't tend to shy away from confronting loud mouths who claim to be representing and defending God.  Note to foolish men. The creator of heaven and earth doesn't need you to defend him in court.

The Evolution of a Theocracy  

Sunday Sermon: Thomas Aquinas on Faith and Reason

Sunday Sermon: Don't be an anti-government nutjob

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nations at odds on Rio+20 earth summit.. Of course they are

The mood is apparently rather surly heading into the Rio+20 Earth Summit, where world leaders had intended to meet to agree upon a road map for a sustainable future for all nations, rich and poor.  

Nations at odds on Rio+20 earth summit

"... In a widely-circulated editorial, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who now runs Green Cross International, contrasted the "optimism and hope" of the Rio Earth Summit 20 years ago with the "cynicism and despair" surrounding this one.
"I feel bitter when I look at the cavernous gulf between rich and poor, the irresponsibility that caused the global financial crisis, the weak and divided responses to climate change, and the failure to achieve the MDGs," he said.
"The opportunity to build a safer, fairer and more united world has been largely squandered."
The eight rounds of formal and informal preparatory talks since the beginning of the year have been bedevilled by problems of substance as well as of process.
Some Western nations, especially the US, appear unwilling to give ground on anything that would help rival up-and-coming economic powers, in particular China.
They, meanwhile, are reluctant to countenance any language that could put a brake on their development.
The summit also falls in a difficult political period, with the US presidential election due later this year, an impending change of Chinese leadership, and many nations struggling under various financial issues." 

 I have written on this topic a number of times.  The best way (and in my opinion the only way) for Nations to both reduce their carbon footprint and promote economic growth and prosperity for all is to conserve resources as in reduce the wasted usage of resources.

Right wingers who ironically refer to themselves as Conservatives hold only one thing dear, their right to waste as much as they feel like wasting.  Being a have as opposed to a have-not comes with the privilege of not having to think or worry about conserving resources.   "Drill baby drill" is the motto, meaning the strategy for the future is to simply keep increasing the supply of energy available for use by the people who can afford it.  Oh, and of course, the other part of the conservative strategy is to deny and discredit climate science.  

But even if the people who think this way had their druthers and we could somehow just continue increasing the energy supply all this would do is work to clog up our roads and highways with more and more traffic and traffic is clearly a speed governor on the economy.  The more we sit in our vehicles in traffic jams, the more we waste on fuel reducing disposable income and the more every product will eventually cost by the time it gets to market reducing disposable income even further.   "Drill baby drill" is a profoundly dumb strategy, and only a dimwit could look at all the implications of this strategy and actually think it would lead to a sustainable future.

For the record, I don't think conservatives are dumb.  Rather, I think they are just selfish and greedy and because of that they are unwilling to change anything about their lifestyle in order to conserve scarce resources for future generations including their own children.  After all, it is easier to pretend being dumb than it is to admit being greedy.

The bonus for conserving resources is that the less we waste, the less we will use, and the less we use the less the resources will cost consumers and there is no doubt that when resources cost less, it will spur economic growth.

And it won't be that hard to reduce waste.  Improve traffic flow by timing stop lights and planning highway lane closures better. Reduce government entity fuel usage by converting to 4-day weeks for schools, 3-day US Mail delivery, reduced military spending, etc.. Promote more ride sharing, car pooling, and public transportation, promote electric and natural gas powered vehicles, etc..  I could list hundreds of ideas for reducing waste in the usage of fuel.  This is the path forward.  This is how Government helps businesses become more profitable and increase economic growth.  This is how our generation starts to build a sustainable economy and a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.   Reduce waste in a thousand  small ways.  Create a glut in energy production, crash the price, use some of the windfall savings to invest in renewable energy sources.

Repeat all of these steps until energy is no longer a burden on the economy that acts as a speed governor.

This should be the key message for the Nations at Rio+20.  We can do this just by putting politics aside and focus on wasting less.            


Saturday, June 9, 2012

A pair of badass amps..

This is my Music Man 212 guitar amplifier that I bought used in 1980 from a cool guy named Roger Bach who played in a local Detroit area bar band called Springwells.   Not sure exactly what year it was made but I guess 1978.  Roger said the Music Man was just too heavy to lug around to gigs.  The tubes and analog reverb give the Music Man a classic sound that just can't be reproduced with circuit boards. .   

Music Man 212  

And this is the brand new Marshall guitar amp that my buddy Fred just bought with some of the overtime cash he's been squirrelling  away.  Way badass.  I didn't know Marshall still made tube amps.  It sounds incredible. Friday nights in Dearborn Heights just got a bit louder.   

Marshall JVM

(Thanks to Gina Valentino for taking the photos and e-mailing them to me.)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bonus Depreciation, profits, taxes, and jobs

Disclaimer, I am not a financial type.  I usually keep whatever small amount of cash I have balled up in my pockets, I can't find the checkbook, and it is my opinion that the stock market requires more luck than a game of rock-paper-scissors.  So me trying to decipher anything at the Bureau of Economic Analysis is somewhat akin to a caveman trying to figure out how an iPod works.   

But when I landed at the BEA web page comparing 2011 vs 2012 statistics for Gross Domestic Income, corporate profits, and corporate taxes I became intrigued by what is referred to as Bonus Depreciation.  Here is an excerpt.. (emphasis added)

Gross Domestic Income and Corporate Profits
Real gross domestic income (GDI), which measures the output of the economy as the costs incurred and the incomes earned in the production of GDP, increased 2.7 percent in the first quarter. For a given quarter, the estimates of GDP and GDI may differ for a variety of reasons, including the incorporation of largely independent source data. However, over longer time spans, the estimates of GDP and GDI tend to follow similar patterns of change. 
Profits from current production before taxes increased $11.4 billion, or 0.6 percent (quarterly rate), in the first quarter. Domestic profits of financial corporations increased $20.6 billion, domestic profits of nonfinancial corporations increased $6.3 billion, and rest-of-the-world profits decreased $15.5 billion. Profits from current production after taxes decreased $64.4 billion, as taxes on corporate income increased $75.8 billion. About $50 billion of the increase in corporate taxes reflected the expiration of "bonus depreciation" claimed under the Tax  Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010.

Here is a definition of Bonus Depreciation:
An additional amount of deductible depreciation that is awarded above and beyond what would normally be available. Bonus depreciation is always taken right away, in the first year that the depreciable item is placed in service. This type of incentive is offered either as an additional incentive or as a measure of relief for small businesses that want to buy additional equipment.

 Now, believe it or not, in 2011 corporate profits were the highest ever recorded in the USA.
CARPE DIEM: Corporate Profits Reached Record High in 2011

" ... The chart above shows after-tax corporate profits for U.S. corporations as a whole, which set a new record high in 2011 of more than $1.5 trillion, and were 20.5% above the pre-recession peak of $1.26 trillion in 2006 (adjusted for inflation). While the weakness in the labor market continues to receive media attention, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that U.S. corporations have never been more profitable.

Measured by real GDP, output is just now barely above pre-recession levels, and measured by employment, the economy is still five million jobs below December 2007. Measured by corporate profits, the economy has made a strong and complete recovery and is now above pre-recession levels by more than 20%."

For perspective, Here is the GOP's take on job creation..
The House Republican Plan for America's Job Creators
More taxation, regulation, and litigation will not create more jobs. Government takeovers of the economy have failed while the size and the scope of the federal government has exploded. Washington has tied the hands of small business owners and job creators with onerous regulations and backward fiscal policies that have stalled the economy, slowed innovation and destroyed jobs. We need common sense, pro-growth policies to give small businesses and entrepreneurs renewed confidence in our economy and to remove Washington as the roadblock to job creation.

And of course, if this month's jobs report is discouraging then it must mean we need to lower taxes, right?
Baltimore Sun: Poor jobs report shows need to cut taxes

The grim May employment report, only 69,000 nonfarm jobs, is the third consecutive subpar tally, replete with downward revisions for the two prior months. It's a devastating number for the American economy. The Obama "Keynesian" government-spending model has proved to be a complete failure.
President Barack Obama doesn't seem to understand businesses create jobs. And firms have to be profitable in order to hire. Yet the president's rhetoric is degrading the importance of profits. Without profits, businesses can't expand. And if they don't expand, they can't hire. And if they don't have profitable rates of return, they won't attract new capital for investment.

So how does this all fit together?  Well, the 100% Bonus Depreciation that was part of the 2010 Economic Stimulus was intended to spur American businesses to invest capital in their operations while helping the businesses be more profitable by reducing their corporate tax burden by allowing them to claim all of the depreciation for their investment in just one year. And by all indicators, the 100% Bonus Depreciation rule in 2011 did just that.  Corporate profits soared to levels never seen before and corporate taxes fell dramatically.  By the GOP playbook, that would have been the ideal setting for creating jobs.

But the job creation did not meet the expectations and the GOP is now calling for even more corporate tax breaks so that businesses can be more profitable.  In their mind, that is the only way to create jobs.

However, this strategy also leads to higher deficits and more anxiety about our government's inability to rein in the debt monster.  Soon enough the politicians in DC will convene to discuss raising the debt limit again, which of course will turn into a game of chicken as politicians threaten to let the economy go down in flames rather than grant permission for the government to borrow any more money.  We have been down this road before.  Just last year in fact.

So it is discouraging to see how we haven't learned a thing, or at least the Tea Party / GOP hasn't.  They are still holding on to the failed logic that by cutting corporate taxes, it will increase their profitability and induce them to expand operations and hire more people.

In fact, there is no reason to think higher profits based on gimmicky tax breaks will do anything more than give corporations a temporary profit bonanza that they will utilize to drive up stock prices, pay bigger bonuses, and park the money in the bank for the inevitable rainy day.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Romney says the US needs to import more smart people

This is directly from Mitt Romney's campaign site.. The page on Human Capital 

Attracting the Best and the Brightest

To ensure that America continues to lead the world in innovation and economic dynamism, a Romney administration would press for an immigration policy designed to maximize America’s economic potential. The United States needs to attract and retain job creators from wherever they come. Foreign-born residents with advanced degrees start companies, create jobs, and drive innovation at an especially high rate. While lawful immigrants comprise about 8 percent of the population, immigrants start 16 percent of our top-performing, high-technology companies, hold the position of CEO or lead engineer in 25 percent of high-tech firms, and produce over 25 percent of all patent applications filed from the United States.

  • Raise visa caps for highly skilled workers
  • Grant permanent residency to eligible graduates with advanced degrees in math, science, and engineering

It is ironic that Mitt Romney makes the case at his campaign website that we need to import more people with advanced technical degrees from other nations considering the disregard that Mitt and the GOP/Tea Party have for education here within the USA.    Mitt never goes on to mention the need to attract and enable more American students to pursue advanced science and math degrees.  Apparently all we need to do is attract scientists from around the world to come live here. 

Perhaps Mitt and the GOP/Tea Party want to outsource higher education to the developing world where it can be accomplished without taxpayer support through Federal and State subsidies, student loans, research grants, Pell Grants, etc.  Also, because so many in the GOP/Tea Party promote anti-science views (see climate denial and Intelligent Design) the base is not opposed to offshoring the unholy business of advanced science education and research.

At any rate, pointing out the need to grant additional visas for immigrants holding advanced science degrees without addressing how we might improve the access to advanced education for our own best and brightest students points out how Romney's priorities align with big business and not middle class Americans.  

Of course, Mitt could just be acknowledging the stature of the international students who were fortunate enough based on economics or politics back home to attend an American University for their advanced degree to assure them they can stay here after they graduate. Rich kids go to the front of the line at the immigration office when Mitt is in charge.       

Take note all you young Americans who may or may not like being referred to simply as Human Capital by a politician who has amassed $255 million buying and selling capital.  When it comes to scientists, you domestic models are too expensive.  We'll bring in cheap imports instead.