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Month: December 2011

Patti Smith Turns 65 Today

Patti Smith Turns 65 Today

Happy 65th Birthday to Patti Smith born on this day in 1946.

You can watch her performing “Gloria” on Saturday Night Live on April 17, 1976 at age 29 by going here. (No embed allowed for this classic SNL performance.)

Or, if you are in New York City tonight or tomorrow night, you can celebrate her birthday and Lenny Kaye’s too, who turned 65 on December 27th, if you are lucky enough to have a ticket to her sold out shows at The Bowery Ballroom.

Or  you can just pour yourself a drink and propose a toast to Patti on this day.

tumblr_ll7x6v9mgK1qckm0wo1_500 Patti Smith Turns 65 Today


Pity the Poor Nauseous Billionaires

Pity the Poor Nauseous Billionaires

From “Bankers Seek to Debunk Attack on Top 1%” on Bloomberg today:

Jamie Dimon, the highest-paid chief executive officer among the heads of the six biggest U.S. banks, turned a question at an investors’ conference in New York this month into an occasion to defend wealth.

“Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I don’t understand it,” the JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) CEO told an audience member who asked about hostility toward bankers. “Sometimes there’s a bad apple, yet we denigrate the whole.”

Dimon, 55, whose 2010 compensation was $23 million, joined billionaires including hedge-fund manager John Paulson and Home Depot Inc. (HD) co-founder Bernard Marcus in using speeches, open letters and television appearances to defend themselves and the richest 1 percent of the population targeted by Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.

Tom Golisano, billionaire founder of payroll processer Paychex Inc. (PAYX) and a former New York gubernatorial candidate, said in an interview this month that while there are examples of excess, it’s “ridiculous” to blame everyone who is rich.

“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles.

Ken Langone, 76, another Home Depot co-founder and chairman of the NYU Langone Medical Center, said he isn’t embarrassed by his success.

“I am a fat cat, I’m not ashamed,” he said last week in a telephone interview from a dressing room in his Upper East Side home. “If you mean by fat cat that I’ve succeeded, yeah, then I’m a fat cat. I stand guilty of being a fat cat.”

If this hasn’t yet fully engaged your gag reflex, go here to read more.

And if you care to know more about Jamie Dimon, may I suggest Gary Rivlin’s recent article for Politico: “JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon Strikes Back at Populist Anger.”

In the two years following the subprime collapse, JPMorgan Chase took more than $50 billion in losses, mainly on bad subprime mortgages.

That happened on the watch of Dimon, who took charge of JPMorgan Chase in 2004. Also under his tenure, JPMorgan admitted to congressional investigators that it had overcharged 10,000 military families on their mortgages and foreclosed on 54 of them; paid $154 million to settle charges filed by the SEC (without denying or admitting guilt) that it duped its own clients; and paid another $211 million in fines, along with $130 million in restitution, to settle charges that it defrauded local governments in 31 states. There was also the $722 million in fines and restitution payments the bank was forced to make after JPMorgan confederates were caught paying off officials in Jefferson County, Alabama (home to Birmingham), to secure a municipal finance deal that helped lead to the largest government bankruptcy in U.S. history.

P.J. Harvey takes top honors in England for “Let England Shake”

P.J. Harvey takes top honors in England for “Let England Shake”

In September, P.J. Harvey took home the 2011 Mercury Prize awarded for the best British album, Let England Shake.

This week the monthly English music magazines, MOJO and Uncut, released their lists of the top 50 albums of the year. Let England Shake topped both lists.

Uncut Top 10

  1. P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake
  2. Gillian Welch – The Harrow and the Harvest
  3. Metronomy – The English Riviera
  4. White Denim – D
  5. Josh T. Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen
  6. The Horrors – Skying xl
  7. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
  8. Wild Beasts – Smother
  9. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
  10. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

MOJO Top 10

  1. P.J. Harvey  – Let England Shake
  2. The Horrors – Skying xl
  3. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
  4. Jonathan Wilson – Gentle Spirit
  5. Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow
  6. White Denim – D
  7. Josh T. Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen
  8. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
  9. Tom Waits – Bad as Me
  10. Wild Beasts – Smother

I’ll leave it to Spider Stacy of the Pogues to describe the importance of P.J. Harvey’s music. Here’s an excerpt from the the feature article about her in Uncut:

I am beyond flattered that she should have been listening to us while making a record of such beauty as Let England Shake. There is no one else like her. She’s peerless, one of the very few contemporary artists in any discipline whose clarity and profundity of vision have sharpened and deepened over the years to a point where she now seems to be working in a field defined only  by herself. Her empathy, her erudition, the sense of connection between blood and clay and the bones and roots of the world echo something that could so nearly be lost, but is always somewhere to be found, hovering in the air or lying in the soil  below us: the dark red life of these rainy islands.

With that said, I’ll leave you with a video to one of the songs off the award winning album.

Newt Gingrich’s Tax Plan Lowers Rates for the Rich and will Bankrupt the Country

Newt Gingrich’s Tax Plan Lowers Rates for the Rich and will Bankrupt the Country

Newt Gingrich wants to overhaul the tax code in a way that would cut everyone’s taxes, but most of the cuts would go to the extremely wealthy. McClatchy News reports on the Tax Policy Center’s study of the Gingrich plan:

Gingrich’s plan would provide small tax cuts to those at the bottom of the income ladder, giving those making less than $10,000 an average cut of $222 under one scenario, the analysis found.

Gingrich’s plan would be most generous to those making more than $1 million a year, delivering an average tax cut of almost $614,000 a year. At the same time, it would give them with a lower overall federal tax rate — 11.9 percent — than most people making less money, that is, everyone making between $40,000 and $1 million.

The overall effect: The Gingrich plan would cut federal taxes for those making less than $10,000 by 0.6 percent. It would cut federal taxes for those making more than $1 million by 19.7 percent.

Here’s graph from Krugman’s blog that compares tax rates across income levels:

Gingrich-Tax-Policy-Center-graph Newt Gingrich's Tax Plan Lowers Rates for the Rich and will Bankrupt the Country

This is what “the thinker” has to propose? What’s he been thinking about lately? Obviously not about the Occupy Wall Street movement and their focus on the tidy flow of money to the top 1%. I don’t think there’s one person in the 99% that would approve of this plan that cuts taxes on the richest 0.1% of Americans to a rate that is just a little over half of what those in the middle would pay. Is he serious? What does he think all the people have been protesting about all around the country for the past three months?

Nor has Gingrich been thinking about the federal debt that was the focus of the 2010 mid-term campaigns that propelled many small-government Tea Partiers into office. The Tax Policy Center predicts that the Gingrich plan would bring in $850 billion less revenue in 2015 than our current tax code would deliver. Does anyone who is really concerned about deficit spending think it’s a good idea to adopt a tax plan that reduces revenue by close to a trillion dollars a year?

If Republicans make Gingrich their nominee, then there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Republicans don’t give a rat’s ass about deficits. All they’ve ever cared about in the past and all they’ll ever care about in the future is making the rich richer and destroying all government programs that provide benefits for the poor and middle class. Gingrich’s risable plan makes it so obvious: Cut everybody’s taxes (but mostly for the rich), and then say we can’t afford any government safety-net programs. Yes… take us back to 1900 era size government, and all will be fine – for the rich!

The Lack of Universal Healthcare Hurts US Productivity and Competitiveness

The Lack of Universal Healthcare Hurts US Productivity and Competitiveness

Both the United States and the United Kingdom have struggling economies in the wake of the Great Recession with high unemployment rates and levels of economic insecurity. But consider this: In the UK if a worker loses or changes his job, his access and that of his dependents to that nation’s universal healthcare system remains the same no matter what. And he will never be billed a penny for any medical treatment he or his spouse or his children receive.

Contrast that with his American counterpart. Assuming that he is fortunate enough to work for a company that even provides health insurance, he is always vulnerable to the possibility of out-of-pocket medical expenses not covered under his plan. (Medical debt is the single biggest cause of personal bankruptcy in America. 62% of personal bankruptcies are the result of medical expenses, and 78% of them had some form of medical insurance.)  If he loses his job he also loses his health insurance. And to get covered under a new insurance plan will be difficult if not impossible if he or a dependent family member has a significant pre-existing condition.

The Affordable Care Act will ameliorate some of the most egregious features of the private health insurance market and the gaps in coverage. However, Republicans are committed to repealing the law. Medicare and Medicaid provide medical coverage for the elderly and very poor but both programs are under assault from the GOP under the pretext of reducing the budget deficit.

In an economy that is struggling for air many companies are saddled with burdensome overhead to provide health insurance for their workers. For example, it’s been estimated that healthcare costs add up to $2,000 to the price of a car made in Detroit. It’s no accident that US automakers have plants in Canada where wage rates are comparable but they don’t have the same burden of worker health costs. And these adverse effects on our industrial competiveness are by no means limited to the auto industry.

The current argument over entitlement spending misses the point. The fragmented nature of the American non-system of health care coverage is the problem not Medicare and Medicaid. The private insurance industry, with its inordinately high administrative overhead compared with, say, Medicare, has proven to be as inefficient and ineffective at slowing medical inflation as it is at providing affordable insurance to the poor and ailing elderly. That is why Medicare and Medicaid exist in the first place. Cutting the benefits or eligibility of these entitlements, therefore, as the GOP wishes will simply shift costs to those least equipped to assume the burden.

A universal health insurance system to share the cost as well as the benefits as widely as possible makes both moral and economic sense. Just ask the people of every other advanced nation in the world.

Santa’s Bag of Goodies is Stuffed with Machine Guns

Santa’s Bag of Goodies is Stuffed with Machine Guns

Christmas Machine guns

Santa-with-gun Santa's Bag of Goodies is Stuffed with Machine Guns

So much for satire.

Gun Club’s Santa Delivers Machine Guns, Year After Year

From Fox News in Phoenix:

The Scottsdale Gun Club is inviting people to enjoy Santa and Machine Guns.

The family event allows people to take a holiday card picture with St. Nick — and a high-powered fire arm.

Santa poses against a backdrop of an $80,000 Garwood minigun.

Families can choose to pose with other firearms, ranging from pistols to modified AR15s.

They also get a chance to test out the machine guns.

Dress your kids up like little Christmas Soldiers

So dress up the kids in camo and hurry on down to the Scottsdale Gun Club’s Family Christmas Photo Special to get the perfect family photo for your Christmas card, because nothing says “Merry Christmas” quite like you and your family flanked by Santa and his machine guns.

Santa-Baby-Gun Santa's Bag of Goodies is Stuffed with Machine Guns