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Today at a campaign event in Wisconsin, Republican presidential hopeful and jellybean fan Rick Santorum attempted to demonize California for eroding the values of Heartland, America.

Santorum, who also believes that Obama was effectively brainwashing kids by sending them to college, claimed today that California Universities are partially responsible for ruining this country because they don’t teach American History. Which is, of course, a completely incorrect statement.

Here’s Santorum himself, on CNN this afternoon:

And here’s that bag of wind transcribed:

I was just reading something last night from the state of California. And that the California universities – I think it’s seven or eight of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course. It’s not even available to be taught. 

Just to tell you how bad it’s gotten in this country. Where we’re trying to disconnect the American people from the roots of who we are, so they have an understanding of what America should be.

As liberal blog Think Progress points out, the only school in the UC system that doesn’t offer American History courses is UCSF right here in San Francisco. It doesn’t offer any American History courses because it is, in fact, a medical school. According to a spokeswoman for the UC system, every undergraduate program is required to study American history.

Stay tuned for Santorum’s next speech, in which he reminds us he never intended that to be understood as a factual statement.

via Newser

(NEWSER) – Wall Street firms may soon have a new gig: landlord. A number of them are looking into getting directly involved in real estate, buying up foreclosed properties from Fannie Mae in bulk, reports the Wall Street Journal. They couldn’t then flip the houses—per the deal, they would rent out the properties and not resell them for several years, in an attempt to unclog the housing market. And that arrangement likely sounds fine to many investors: Goldman Sachs economists pegged the annual yield on rental units at a 6.3% average nationwide, though that figure topped 8% in some areas; mortgage bonds, meanwhile, are yielding about 3%.

The planned bulk sale is not huge: eight pools that contain a total of 2,500 houses, worth about $320 million. “We’re investing a lot of capital, a lot of time, with the expectation that this is a very small beginning to a very big movement,” said the head of one securities company considering buying. But will the bids be too low, or will investors make healthy offers in the hopes of convincing Fannie Mae that bulk buys are the way to go? On the investor side, one warns that it’s tough to get a “responsible return on capital” due to the costs associating with renovating and managing the properties. Bids are due next month.

via Mashable

KABUL, Afghanistan — A new women-only Internet cafe in Afghanistan’s capital is the first of its kind in this country.

Staffed entirely by women, it’s a place for women to connect to the world in a country where they don’t often enjoy the freedom to do what they please online away from the watchful eyes of their fathers, husbands or brothers.

The Young Afghan Women for Change — a local group of women activists — inaugurated the Sahar Gul Internet Cafe last week. The group wants the cafe to become a place for women in Kabul to use the Internet, away from the prying eyes of others — especially from men.

“Based on a survey we did in Kabul, we found out that women were harassed in regular cafés and were uncomfortable sitting beside men for an hour-long (Internet browsing session),” says Zafar Salehi, a YAWC member.

The café is named after Sahar Gul, who was kept in solitary confinement and tortured by her husband for months. Her tragic case drew a great deal of international attention.

Afghans living in the country joined expatriates in Europe and the U.S. in raising money to help the Sahar Gul Internet Café open its doors. Additionally, a private company donated 15 laptops, and a telecommunications firm is providing the café with a free year-long Internet connection.

The YAWC will continue to ask women around Afghanistan about their Internet privacy concerns. If they find another area that might be in need of a women-only Internet cafe, they’ll build another just like the Sahar Gul shop.

“In every province where women use the Internet, they have the same problem,” says Salehi. “We can hopefully expand this initiative to other places.”

Via Huffington Post

Technically, the economy has been in recovery for two years. But it turns out the rich have been doing most of the recovering.

In 2010 — the first full year since the end of the Great Recession — virtually all of the income growth in America took place among the country’s very wealthiest people, says an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. The top 1 percent of earners took in a full 93 percent of all the income gains that year, leaving the other 7 percent of gains to be sprinkled among the vast majority of society.

Those numbers come courtesy of Emmanuel Saez, the Berkeley economist who co-created a resource known as the World Top Incomes Database. Saez and his colleagues crunched the data on income growth from 2010, the most recent year available, and found that it was shockingly lopsided.

While much of the country is simply treading water, with a growing number of people either edging toward poverty or already there, the richest of the rich seem to be coping nicely.

Saez’s findings suggest that even though the recession dealt a blow to the 1 percent, it did little to push the U.S. off the path it’s been on for decades — that of a vast and growing disparity between the richest and poorest citizens.

Income for most workers has barely risen in the last 30 years, but the top 1 percent of earners have seen their income almost triple in the same amount of time. Economists and other experts say that could be the result of any number of factors, including the decline of labor unions, the explosion in capital gains during the middle part of the aughts, and tax policies put in place in recent years that favor the wealthy.

In his State of the Union address this past January, President Obama called economic fairness “the defining issue of our time,” perhaps mindful of the growing number of voters who say they can’t even afford basic necessities like food.

The wealth gap has been cited as a major concern for the nationwide Occupy movement, and research has suggested that income inequality might be associated with the kind of underwhelming economic growth the country has experienced for the past two years.

via Hyperallergic

This is Hilarious!!!

LOS ANGELES — If you log into the jobs board in Craigslist Reno, you might come across a strange posting: “Dictator Seeks New Job!” Log into Craigslist Istanbul and you’ll notice another one: “President of Syria Seeks Employment!

Bashar al-Assad, apparently, is looking for work.  Here are some of his qualifications:

“I will consider all offers of temporary and/or long-term employment. I am especially interested in working abroad. I am expert in all aspects of despotic rule, including torture, general corruption and fixed elections.”

It’s a niche market, to be sure.

The project is the latest by new media artist Joseph Delappe, who last year placed Hosni Mubarak up on eBay.  When asked why he chose Craigslist and not, say, Monster.com, he responded:

“I am drawn to Craigslist as it is simple and straight forward. My hope is that others may take up the call and post locally. I like that Craigslist allows me to post my ad in say, Beirut as easily as one may post in my home location, Reno.”

With his Dictator Series, situated in unexpected internet media, Delappe sees his work as “a wry form of protest,” and he’s put out an open call on Rhizome for others to join in.

It looks like Craigslist readers are getting it. One of Delappe’s first responses:

Hi Mr Asad,
I am all about second chances you cruel dictator.
I have an interesting sales opportunity with new and unique wellness products. Will you be interested to hear more
?
Sorry no killing in this position..

“I have no illusions that what I am doing may in any way affect the outcome in Syria,” he noted. “I do this as a way of showing my support as an artist for people on the other side of the world who are fighting for their freedom.”

via Slate.com

Just before last year’s Super Bowl, Bill Maher devoted one of his “New Rules” to the NFL. Labeling the bit “Irritable Bowl Syndrome,” he began by saying that “Americans must realize what makes NFL football so great: socialism.” He is referring, of course, to the league’s rigorous revenue sharing, which he contrasts with the less fair system employed by Major League Baseball. The NFL, he says, “literally shares the wealth. TV is their biggest source of revenue, and they put all of it in a big commie pot and split it 32 ways.”

The NFL is thus, Maher argues, more like the Democratic Party, and MLB more in line with the GOP. A writer over at the Atlantic website contrasts this argument with one from Allen Barra, who says that the MLB is actually the more fair of the two. It reminded me of George Carlin’s classic baseball vs. football riff, which I point to nearly every time I’m explaining to someone why I prefer the former to the latter.

The Atlantic writer also shares a terrific animation of the Maher segment by London-based artist Fraser Davidson. Davidson, working indepedently, used the audio version of Maher’s book The New Rules for his soundtrack. His art makes Maher’s argument much more dazzling, and almost prompts me to reconsider. Almost, but not quite. Still, it’s wonderfully done. Enjoy.

via Good.is

Just as France was being chastised for excessive national borrowing with a sovereign debt downgrade, thousands of lucky French people had their financial obligations forgiven after the country’s oldest bank decided to simply wipe their slate clean.

Granted, it’s a small slate. The 3,500 clients who benefitted from the bank’s largesse had debts of 150 euros or less (about $190) with the Crédit Municipal de Paris, also known as the “Mont-de-piété,” the bank of the poor, which has for centuries allowed the needy to get loans against their valuables—a kind of ethical pawnshop, or the original microlender. The small kindness was welcome for many.

“I’m very happy, it’s the first time I get something for nothing,” said Geneviève, an elegant woman in her fifties who was at the bank to get back a gold coin and a small wedding band she had pawned three years ago. “There came a point when I needed money. They’re not worth much but they’re important to me.”

The unexpected gift is a way for the bank to celebrate its 375th anniversary. The Crédit Municipal de Paris was created in 1637 by Théophraste Renaudot, a doctor, journalist and philanthropist who wanted to combat poverty by giving the needy access to fair banking.

“The goal was to combat usury,” explains Thierry Halay, who authored a history of the Mont-de-piété. “Interest rates at the time could go up to 130 percent,” which quickly turned small loans into unmanageable debt.

The good doctor’s idea was to give the poor people of Paris loans they could reasonably hope to repay, at decent rates for the time (about 10 percent annually) against whatever collateral they could produce: pots and pans, linens, silverware, artisans’ tools. Halay found evidence of a 19th-century woman so destitute her only possession was her mattress. Every morning, she would carry it to the bank and pawn it. With that money, she’d buy potatoes, sell them for a profit during the day and buy back her mattress at night.

Today, the bank stores more than a million objects, from the puny piece of jewelry to the grand masterpiece, in headquarters covering a city block in the historical center of Paris. With a capitalization of 60 million euros, the bank had 93 million euros in pawn-broking loans outstanding in 2010. Its 2010 profit of 1.3 million euros was partly assigned to improving shelters for the homeless.

“It was the country’s first secular, welfare institution. It was a safety net,” Halay says.

Similar city-owned, not-for-profit banks opened all over the country on the same principle: Pawn an object and you get a yearlong loan. Pay off the interest (4 to 8.9 percent annually) and you can extend the loan; pay off the principal and you get your property back. If your valuable is sold for more than you owe, the profit is yours. These banks were eventually granted a state monopoly on pawn-broking loans, which continues to this day; France is thus a country without pawnshops.

Celebrities of the day secretly used the bank: Victor Hugo, Claude Monet and Napoleon’s first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, among others. Prince François d’Orléans, third son of King Louis-Philippe, once pawned his watch to settle a gambling debt. Ashamed when asked what happened to his precious timepiece, he answered, “I left it at my aunt’s (ma tante).” To this day, getting help from “ma tante” is a discrete way of saying one’s been going to the “poor people’s bank.”

“People were never very proud to go to the Mont-de-piété,” Halay says. It may be why people turned away from it: With the prosperity of the 20th century, people wanted to forget this symbol of poverty.

But it is no longer forgotten. As the economic crisis rippled through Europe, the Crédit Municipal de Paris saw a 29-percent jump in attendance in December 2011, compared with the same month in 2010. France’s economy grew about 1.75 percent in 2011, but economists expect less than one percent in 2012, maybe even a recession. Unemployment is at 9.8 percent, reaching 10-year highs and still climbing.

“We get more and more young people, students and retirees, too,” says Florence Marambat, a spokeswoman for the bank. “People used to get their property back after 11 to 13 months; now it’s closer to 24 months. But nine out of 10 still get it back.”

“Our director likes to say our waiting room is like that of a hospital emergency room,” she adds “Everyone comes to it at some point.”

Nearly 700 people come through here every day, on awkward hallways and too-small waiting rooms. Some are clutching a jewelry pouch, others have a letter, which the bank started sending out last week, notifying them to come claim their valuables for free. The operation will continue in waves through the end of February.

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