Saturday, August 1, 2009

Last Call

As I've been saying, the downside of such a long recession is that unemployment benefits are running out for people. The NY Times is reporting about 1.5 million unemployed are going to slip through the system here before the end of the year.

Because of emergency extensions already enacted by Congress, laid-off workers in nearly half the states can collect benefits for up to 79 weeks, the longest period since the unemployment insurance program was created in the 1930s. But unemployment in this recession has proved to be especially tenacious, and a wave of job-seekers is using up even this prolonged aid.

Tens of thousands of workers have already used up their benefits, and the numbers are expected to soar in the months to come, reaching half a million by the end of September and 1.5 million by the end of the year, according to new projections by the National Employment Law Project, a private research group.

Unemployment insurance is now a lifeline for nine million Americans, with payments averaging just over $300 per week, varying by state and work history. While many recipients find new jobs before exhausting their benefits, large numbers in the current recession have been unable to find work for a year or more.

Calls are rising for Congress to pass yet another extension this fall, possibly adding 13 more weeks of coverage in states with especially high unemployment. As of June, the national unemployment rate was 9.5 percent, reaching 15.2 percent in Michigan. Even if the recession begins to ease, economists say, jobs will remain scarce for some time to come.
And the pain goes on and on and on. These people will be the next to contribute to the wave of foreclosures and other problems. Home prices will remain low or fall as more homes enter the market. That in turn will continue to drive more people out of their homes as their mortgages go underwater.

Despite the turnaround in the Dow, the reality is that the economy will be stuck in the doldrums for a very, very long time.

Zandar's Thought Of the Day

There isn't anything that a Wingnut can say on TV that will ever get them kicked off the air. Ever. It doesn't matter how large the lie is, or how many times they say it, they will end up right back on as a guest or a host to spew the same lies over and over again.

The more controversial, the more patently absurd, the more dishonest it is, the faster and more often you get your time on the TV to repeat your lie as the truth.

Not Content With The Content

Double G details the most concerning part of the "end of the feud" between GE and News Corp...errm...Olbermann and O'Reilly.
Though Olbermann denies he was part of any deal, the NYT says that there has been virtually no criticism of Fox by Olbermman, or MSNBC by O'Reilly, since June 1 when the deal took effect. That's mostly but not entirely true. On June 17, after President Obama accused Fox News of fomenting hostility towards his agenda, and Fox responded by saying that the "other networks" were pure pro-Obama outlets, Olbermann did voice fairly stinging criticisms of Fox as "more of a political entity than is the Republican National Committee right now, only it's fraudulently disguised as some sort of news organization."

But a review of all of Olbermann's post-June 1 shows does reveal that he has not ever criticized (or even mentioned) Bill O'Reilly since then and barely ever mentions Fox News any longer. And on June 1 -- the last time Olbermann mentioned O'Reilly -- Olbermann claimed at the end of his broadcast that he would cease referring to O'Reilly in the future because ignoring him (and "quarantining" Fox) would supposedly help get O'Reilly off the air ("So as of this show‘s end, I will retire the name, the photograph, and the caricature").

So here we have yet another example -- perhaps the most glaring yet -- of the corporations that own our largest media outlets controlling and censoring the content of their news organizations based on the unrelated interests of the parent corporation.
It's not surprising, of course. News outlets are businesses that are there to make money...or at least help the parent company make money through other means.

This is hardly the first time evidence of corporate control over the content of NBC and MSNBC has surfaced. Last May, CNN's Jessica Yellin said that when she was at MSNBC, "the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this [the Iraq War] was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation"; "the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives ... to put on positive stories about the president"; and "they would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive." Katie Couric said that when she was at NBC, "there was a lot of undercurrent of pressure not to rock the boat for a variety of reasons, where it was corporate reasons or other considerations" not to be too critical of the Bush administration. MSNBC's rising star, Ashleigh Banfield, was demoted and then fired after she criticized news media organizations generally, and Fox News specifically, for distorting their war coverage to appear more pro-government. And, of course, when MSNBC canceled Phil Donahue's show in the run-up to the Iraq war despite its being that network's highest-rated program, a corporate memo surfaced indicating that the company had fears of being associated with an anti-war and anti-government message.

And now we have an example of GE's forcibly silencing the top-rated commentator on MSNBC -- ordering him not to hold Fox News accountable any longer -- because, in return, News Corp. has agreed to silence its own commentators from criticizing GE. The corporations that own our largest news organizations have extensive relationships with the federal government. Anyone (like Charlie Rose) who denies that those relationships influence how these news organizations "report" on the government -- driven by the desire which corporate executives have to avoid alienating the government officials on whom their corporate interests depend, or avoid alienating potential customer bases for their products -- is completely delusional. GE's forcing Keith Olbermann to cease his criticism of Fox News and Bill O'Reilly is a clear and vivid example of how that works.

A gentleman's agreement between two massive media companies. What could be more American?

Explains why the Village gets so testy when they are threatened with losing their gatekeeper role of what America is supposed to think. Corporations that control media empires don't take kindly to having to fight out in the open, so when the media fighting gets personal, the bosses get a little cranky.

Behind every Villager is a corporate agenda.

Alabama Bound (And Gagged)

Alabama's largest county faces massive layoffs and a near-discontinuation of most of the county's public services as Jefferson County, home of Birmingham, is now out of time and money.
It is hardly unusual these days for a government building to forgo a fresh paint job or regular lawn care to cut costs. But last week, the director of the Jefferson County public nursing home was told that the county could no longer afford to bury indigent patients.

Across town at the juvenile detention center, the man in charge was trying to figure out how to feed the 28 children in his custody when the entire cafeteria staff is let go. The tax collector warned local school districts to expect a six-month delay to get their share of property taxes. In family court, administrators plan to delay child support, custody and child abuse cases, leaving some children in the hands of the state indefinitely.

In every part of Jefferson County — Alabama’s most populous county and its main economic engine — government managers have been scrambling to prepare for Saturday, when two-thirds of county employees eligible for layoffs — up to 1,400 — will be lost in an effort to stave off financial ruin.

“Outside of the city of Detroit,” said Robert A. Kurrter, a managing director with Moody’s Investors Service, “it’s fair to say we haven’t seen any place in America with the severity of problems that they’re experiencing in Jefferson County.” Moody’s rates Jefferson County’s credit lower than any other municipality in the country.

In July, the county asked Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, to declare a state of emergency. Mr. Riley declined, delicately explaining that his authority extended to tornadoes but not to tsunamis of red ink.
And keep in mind folks that this is Alabama, not California. It's the Republicans that run the show here. Yeah, there are Democrats involved too, but they're not the ones calling the shots, especially in the Statehouse. Jefferson County Republicans are blaming state Republicans and vice versa. At the heart of the problem is a "subprime" bond-swap blowup and a sewer system overhaul project that was riddled with corruption and kickbacks, plus a county "occupation tax" that exempted "professionals" like doctors and lawyers from having to pay, meaning in Jefferson County, the bulk of people paying the tax were poor. (Regressive taxes. Gotta love 'em.)

But the only reason the tax was repealed was that the state delegation from Jefferson County wanted to earmark that money for their own projects, not the county's. The county officials told them to go to hell, and the state lawmakers then repealed the tax out of pique. The county continued to collect the tax for another ten years after it was repealed in 1999 while the matter went to court.

Jefferson County lost in January. They lost big time. The repeal was ruled valid. And suddenly this huge, nasty good ol' boy situation turned into a Jerry Springer fight.

Now it's the folks of Jefferson County who have to pay.
Probate Court will shrink to 13 people, from 54, to process wills, adoptions, and commitments of the mentally ill. There used to be 488 people repairing roads and bridges; there will soon be 89. Doug McCutcheon, who has worked in the county maintenance department for 24 years, will be out of work, and so will his cousin Tim McCutcheon, who will have two daughters in college in the fall.

Adrilisa Steele, 34, a juvenile probation officer, said, “We are probably going to be standing in line for services like everyone else.”

Ms. Steele meant lines for unemployment insurance and food stamps, but at the courthouse, the lines for car tags or driver’s licenses were already very long. People waited for more than two hours, fearful that come Monday, those routine tasks would become much harder. The general attitude, not surprisingly, was one of indiscriminate disgust. Neither the commissioners, nor the legislators nor Wall Street escaped blame.
Will the county commissioners, state lawmakers or Wall Street titans lose their jobs? Eventually. But not this weekend like two-thirds of the county employees. And the solution?

Why, to try to reinstate that "occupational" tax on the county's poor...which would now ironically include the soon to be laid off county employees.

Gotta love it.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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