Archive for June, 2011

“Just say no”

Posted: 30 June 2011 in Uncategorized
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The Massey Energy Company, which killed 29 miners on 5 April 2010, apparently kept two sets of books—one in which they recorded safety problems, and another they showed to federal inspectors.

That was among the conclusions of a large team of federal investigators, who spent a year sifting through more than 84,000 pages of documents, interviewing 266 people and examining evidence at the Upper Big Branch mine, where the explosion occurred.

Of course Massey Energy kept two sets of books.

The question is, why did it take this long for the Mine Safety and Health Administration to figure that out?

The Eurocrats, led by the ECB, are now using this crisis to ram through their vision of Europe, which is fundamentally anti-labor and pro capital.  That explains why the markets are celebrating today. But it lays the groundwork for more hostility and conflict in the future.

Wasn’t this precisely what the European Union was designed to prevent?

Marshall Auerback, “‘Extend and Pretend’ Continues in the Euro Zone”

Special mention

Selling the city

Posted: 29 June 2011 in Uncategorized
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We seem to be in the midst of a gigantic PR campaign for “the city,” to judge by the recent spate of books celebrating the idea of the city and selling particular kinds of cities (some of which are reviewed by Nicholas Lemann [behind pay wall]).

We’re being bombarded with Ed Glaeser’s free-market city, Elijah Anderson’s “cosmopolitan canopy,” Richard Florida’s “creative class,” John D. Kasard/Greg Lindsay’s “aerotropolis,” and many more.

All of these cities have a utopian dimension (and, in that sense, have a grain of truth, since they represent existing projects for making and remaking cities—but also lunacy, as in Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s proposal to reposition depressed factory towns like Flint and Lansing as “Cool Cities”). But, in many ways, they don’t look much like the cities I know.

Thus, they beg more questions than they answer. For example, which cities—and which parts of which cities—are they referring to? Are the favelas of Rio part of their cities? What about the banlieues of Paris? Or the vast slums of Cairo, Mumbai, and Mexico City? Or Toronto’s three cities, the ruins of Detroit, and Daley’s other Chicago?

And why this new selling of the city? Is it because of a growing disenchantment with suburbia, those areas that were once destinations of opportunity for quality schools, safe neighborhoods, and good jobs and are now suffering from growing poverty?

And, finally, there’s Lemann’s question about what kind of society might exist in these cities:

Masters of the new economy, social visionaries, and tongue-studded app developers figure large in the imagination of urban theorists these days, but most people are looking for something pretty mundane: a neighborhood, a patch of ground, a measure of peace and security, a family, status, dignity. In twentieth-century America, some people found those things in tightly packed neighborhoods. Far more found them in the suburbs. They tended their gardens, washed their cars, took their children to Little League games, went to PTA meetings and to religious services. It’s one thing to create a vast metropolis. It’s another to create a society, with a distinctive order and a set of embedded bargains regarding who gets how much of what. Twenty-first-century cities haven’t yet figured out that part.

Phil Angelides, chairperson of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which conducted the official inquiry into the nation’s financial and economic crisis, sees history being rewritten by the winners.

They say that winners get to write history. Three years after the meltdown of our financial markets, it’s clear who is winning and who is losing. Wall Street — arms outstretched in triumph — is racing toward the finish-line tape while millions of American families are struggling to stay on their feet. With victory seemingly in hand, the historical rewrite is in full swing.

The contrast in fortunes between those on top of the economic heap and those buried in the rubble couldn’t be starker. The 10 biggest banks now control more than three-quarters of the country’s banking assets. Profits have bounced back, while compensation at publicly traded Wall Street firms hit a record $135 billion in 2010.

Meanwhile, more than 24 million Americans are out of work or can’t find full-time work, and nearly $9 trillion in household wealth has vanished. There seems to be no correlation between who drove the crisis and who is paying the price.

The report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission detailed the recklessness of the financial industry and the abject failures of policymakers and regulators that brought our economy to its knees in late 2008. The accuracy and facts of the commission’s investigative report have gone unchallenged since its release in January.

So, how do you revise the historical narrative when the evidence of what led to economic catastrophe is so overwhelming and the events at issue so recent? You and your political allies just do it. And you bet on the old axiom that a lie is halfway around the world before the truth can tie its shoes.