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Messages - Surly1

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1
History / Re: Civil War Litigation Thread
« on: Today at 10:15:41 AM »
The order may have been unpopular with his troops but was doubtless faithful to Lincoln's desired outcome for a "soft peace." And more important, enforced a needed discipline on an occupying force with little external restraint. Smells like the right thing to do. By some accounts, Custer was an exemplary officer, right up until he divided his command at the mouth of the Little Bighorn,

2
Diner Newz & Multimedia / Re: Doomstead Diner Comic Strip
« on: Today at 08:11:21 AM »

3
Surly Newz / Re: The Daily Meme
« on: Today at 08:10:00 AM »

4
Surly Newz / Re: The Daily Meme
« on: Today at 08:08:07 AM »
Bill Clinton had the common touch, but he comes from common people. Hillary does not, and it shows.

Untrue. She may have a tin ear for nuance, but she played her way into that. Her upbringing was pretty pedestrian. She is the daughter of a upholsterer and curtain-maker who had a conservative upbringing. So her  upbringing was upper middle-class, not patrician by any means. But better than most of ours, probably. She was  smart enough to get into Wellesley, at a time when it didn't cost a kidney to attend.

5
Surly Newz / Re: The Daily Meme
« on: Today at 08:02:09 AM »

6
Economics / How vulture capitalists ate Sears
« on: Today at 07:46:00 AM »
Quote
Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert, a billionaire who runs hedge fund ESL Investments Inc, is working “around the clock” with possible lenders to finance a bid to keep Sears in business, according to bankruptcy-court papers.

Lampert, who was Sears’ chief executive until it filed for bankruptcy, has loaned the company billions of dollars over the years, and plans to use some of the money he is owed to finance his offer for company assets, according to court papers.

Sure he is. May Fast Eddie rot in hell.

"This is not the way to operate a healthy business. This is the way to extract value."



How vulture capitalists ate Sears

Jeff Spross

Sears, the iconic American retailer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday. Many analysts are treating Sears' fall as a cautionary tale about imprudent borrowing and failures to adapt — particularly in the face of e-commerce and rivals like Amazon. There is obviously a lot of truth in this.

But there's another piece of the narrative that deserves just as much attention: how Sears was stripped for parts by a Wall Street hedge fund.

If you track the long-term course of Sears' revenue and stock price, the problems didn't just set in with the arrival of Walmart and the big-box stores, or with Amazon and the rise of the internet economy. Instead, the tailspin really started with the arrival of a guy named Eddie Lampert and his hedge fund, ESL Investments.

Lampert had already bought Kmart out of bankruptcy in 2003. And in 2004 and 2005, he engineered Kmart's purchase of and merger with Sears, creating the third-largest retailer in the country at the time. Lampert became chairman of the combined company's board. In 2013, Lampert became Sears' CEO.

Lampert slashed capital investments to try and create a more efficient company. He retooled Sears' structure, so that almost three dozen different business departments — like shoes, home furnishings, or menswear — were each siloed, with their own management team and even their own board. It was a model taken from the hedge fund world, meant to encourage healthy competition inside the company and thus power a better overall business.

"There are a lot of decisions made over a long period of time, including by me, that may not have been always the best decisions," Lampert toldVanity Fair in April. "But I did have a point of view in terms of how shopping habits were going to change." He didn't think Sears could ever compete on the same level with the likes of Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom, and shouldn't have spent money trying. "I don't need to invest in fixtures, but I do need to invest in the features and the experiences," he continued.

But critics contend Lampert really didn't know what he was doing.

Sears invested less than 1 percent of revenue in its own capital needs from 2006 to 2017, compared to 4 percent by Target and Macy's. Many Sears stores were left in rundown shape. And without attractive in-store experiences, the company couldn't springboard customers to its website. Meanwhile, the idea of siloing different departments into competing mini-companies may have worked in finance, where teams are just competing to create investment portfolios. But within the concrete goods-and-services world of Sears, it created a "lord of the flies" atmosphere where sales staff in the same store would refuse to help one another, or fight over ad and shelving space.

Now, one thing Lampert and ESL were able to engineer, at least for a while, was a massive return to shareholders — and Lampert owns nearly a thirdof all those shares himself. (ESL Investments owns another 19 percent.) Sears' profits boomed after the merger, before finally starting to fall around the time Lampert became CEO. The company plowed $6 billion into stock buybacks from 2005 to 2012, temporarily goosing the company's stock price.

Another thing Lampert and ESL did was load Sears up with debt. The company owes $5.6 billion. A lot of that credit was loaned to Sears by Lampert and his various operations. ESL Investments owns 40 percent of Sears' debt load all by itself. Lampert and his fellow hedge funders not only ran the company, and thus made the decision to borrow the money; they lent it the money, and thus benefit from Sears' debt service payments.

Finally, Lampert also had Sears sell off $3 billion of its physical properties in 2015 to a fund called Seritage Growth Properties. Lampert was chairman of Seritage's board of trustees. Sears went from owning its storefronts outright to often having to pay rent to stay in them — rent that, once again, Lampert benefited from.

This is not the way to operate a healthy business. This is the way to extract value. This is a story of corporate spinoffs and financial engineering to suck money out of Sears and into the pockets of Lampert and his fellows. The whole thing bears a striking resemblance to how Bain Capital and other private equity funds cannibalized Toys 'R' Us.

Obviously Sears had other problems beyond Lampert and this type of financial pillaging. Sears' business model and brand are of a bygone era, and it's arguable that nothing could have saved Sears. But Sears' fall is also a lesson in how the people at the top of a corporation can also act as a kind of modern-day viking raiding party, traveling from company to company and pillaging each in turn. "[Lampert] had a puppet board who have never pushed back in any way that anybody has ever seen, and why would they?" Mark Cohen, the former CEO of Sears Canada, told Vanity Fair. "They're all handpicked Eddie acolytes."

None of this is sustainable, of course. You can only bleed a company so much before it dies.

Sales and revenue eventually plummeted, and Sears hasn't turned a profit since 2010. It's closed over 2,000 stores since 2011. Over the last 10 years, the company's market value fell by at least $26 billion, and 175,000 of its employees lost their jobs. The workers and salespeople who remain have seen their take-home pay severely reduced over the last few years. Finally, bogged down by debt obligations, Sears filed for Chapter 11 on Monday.

The bankruptcy will involve closing another 142 unprofitable stores, on top of 46 other closings already in the works, leaving the company with probably around 600 stores remaining. The hope is that going through Chapter 11 will allow Sears to emerge on the other side still intact in some way.

As major holders of Sears' debt — debt that is largely secured, moreover — Lampert and ESL will have enormous sway over how the bankruptcy proceeds. Chapter 11 will either repay the debt they're owed, or transform their debt holdings into new shareholder positions

They ran Sears into the ground, and yes, they'll lose a bunch of money for that. But they'll make a bunch of money, too.


7
It’s time to break up wealth dynasties in the U.S.
First, consider that three U.S. families control more wealth than 4 million average households, then consider what policies might fix this imbalance.




Here’s an often-cited fact about wealth disparity in the United States: The top 1% of the country owns more wealth than the bottom 90% does combined. But let’s put some faces to the numbers, shall we? To begin with, the three wealthiest people in the United States–Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett–own more wealth than the bottom half of the country combined. Equally concerning: Three families–the Waltons, the Kochs, and the Mars–own a combined fortune of $348.7 billion, more than 4 million American families who possess the median wealth in the country.

The super-wealthy, self-made men of the Bezos variety, are representative of the pernicious way that capitalism funnels money toward people who need it the least. The inherited wealth of people like the Waltons show that this is something that has been happening over time, and has yet to be broken.

[Source Image: whitehoune/iStock]

Dynastic wealth and the disturbing inequities it perpetuates are the subject of a recent report from the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, which is appropriately titled, “Billionaire Bonanza 2018: The Role of Dynastic Wealth.”In compiling the report, coauthors Josh Hoxie and Chuck Collins dove into the Forbes 400 list, and found that one-third of the members have inherited wealth from previous generations. The 15 wealthiest families (who each have multiple members on the Forbes 400 list) account for a combined wealth of $618 billion.

When reading “Billionaire Bonanza 2018,” it’s difficult to know where to start. Do you talk about the fact that the wealth of the Walton family alone increased from $690 million in 1982 to $169.7 billion in 2018–an unfathomable leap of 9,257%, and one of the few times I’ve spelled out a percent change with a comma? Or do you look to Jeff Bezos, whose individual fortune of $160 billion is now nearly equivalent to that of the entire Koch family?

[Source Image: whitehoune/iStock]

The key, ultimately, is to understand all of these facts in context. “Intergenerational wealth is one of the least talked about, but probably one of the most important drivers of inequality in the U.S.,” Hoxie says. Over the decades, wealthy families like the Waltons and the Kochs have accumulated wealth through their businesses. Reduced taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, as well as the growing practice of stock compensation, have enabled such families to hold onto their wealth, “and shield their assets from society,” Hoxie says. The same system is buffering Bezos’s steep wealth trajectory–and will enable him to transmit it to his children, beginning a new wealth dynasty. Meanwhile, these same systems that benefit the wealthy–tax breaks and shareholder returns–are trapping regular, working class people. Median household wealth in the U.S. has actually declined 3% since 1983 (as the Walton’s wealth reached nearly five-digit percent growth). Income growth across that same time period, for non-1%-ers, has also flatlined.

A big issue is that in this current economic landscape, young people entering the workforce stand very little chance of outperforming their parents economically. That used to be a given: A kid born in 1940 had a 92% chance of earning more than their parents. Now, someone born in 1980 has just a 50% chance–despite the fact that worker productivity has risen 77% since 1973. “The question I come back to is always: Where do all those economic gains go?” Hoxie says. The answer: To the people already at the top, who are then able to transfer their wealth down to their children and keep the cycle going. Inherited wealth in the U.S. is not taxed, so wealthy families are essentially able to maintain a pipeline of funding for their future generations without having to contribute any of it to society.

Calling for a change to this dynamic is the underlying point of the “Billionaire Bonanza 2018” report. “There are programs that we don’t have that we should have that would directly address this problem,” Hoxie says. The report outlines two of them. One solution is a direct tax on the top 0.1% of households in the U.S. The Institute for Policy Studies calculates that a 1% tax on this upper echelon, with a wealth of over $20 million, would generate $1.899 trillion in revenue over the next decade.

[Source Image: whitehoune/iStock]

The other is a tax on wealth transferred between generations. The report cites the work of New York University professor Lily Batchelder, who has estimated that inheritances make up around $4 out of $10 of all household wealth. She proposes extending income taxes (with an additional surcharge of 15%) to capture inherited wealth. Even if the first $2.1 million a person inherits is kept tax-free, the proposal could generate around $200 billion in a decade. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), similarly, has proposed strengthening the inheritance tax specifically to address the affordable housing crisis in the U.S.

“The worst possible takeaway from reading this report is the sense that this is just how the economy is, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Hoxie says. What “Billionaire Bonanza” makes clear is that there is more than enough money out there in the U.S. economy to address our most pressing concerns, from housing affordability to good public education to everyday pressures on people who haven’t seen their wages rise in years. Right now, though, it’s concentrated in the hands of people so sheltered from the stress of existing in the contemporary economy that they see no reason to change the system.

The U.S., the “Billionaire Bonanza” report reminds readers, has a strong tradition of breaking up concentrated wealth. Theodore Roosevelt famously said: “Of all forms of tyranny, the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of a plutocracy,” following the first Gilded Age. Now that we’re well into the second, we need bold policy solutions to redistribute the country’s vast economic resources in a way that benefits everyone from the bottom up, not just those already sitting at the top.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eillie Anzilotti is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Ideas section, covering sustainability, social good, and alternative economies. Previously, she wrote for CityLab.

More


8
DNA Tests Prove Aboriginal Australians Are the World's Oldest Culture
The genetic study helps show that the ancestors of today's Aboriginals came here about 58,000 years ago.



Research published this week by Nature has confirmed Australia's Aboriginal people are the Earth's most ancient civilisation. "A genomic history of Aboriginal Australia" is a world-first genomic study that helps reveal how ancestors of today's Aboriginals reached what is now Australia about 58,000 years ago.

Led by Professor Eske Willerslev from the University of Cambridge, the study was co-authored by elders from Indigenous communities around Australia. The team was able to sequence the genome of 83 Aboriginal people, as well as 25 Papuans from the New Guinea highlands. Researchers collected saliva from widely dispersed geographic and linguistic groups to retrieve the DNA. Previously, only three Aboriginal Australian genomes had been sequenced.

Prior to this study being published, some scientists had debated whether or not modern Aboriginal people are the descendants of ancient tribes who first populated Australia. This research, the most comprehensive genomic study of Indigenous Australians to date, also helps to confirm that all humans share the same common ancestors from a single African migration event.

That event occurred when both Papuan and Aboriginal ancestors left Africa as part of a larger group of migrants around 72,000 years ago, then split with that main group of early humans about 58,000 years ago. Probably the first group of humans to cross an ocean, they reached "Sahul"—the supercontinent that was made up of modern day Tasmania, Australia, and New Guinea together—and then split apart about 37,000 years ago. The supercontinent only split up around 8,000 years ago.

"Australia has one of the longest histories of continuous human occupation outside Africa, raising questions of origins, relatedness to other populations, differentiation and adaptation," the study concludes. "We find that Aboriginal Australians and Eurasians share genomic signatures... a common African ancestor."

As the research also shows, Aboriginal civilisations have lived in Australia for so long that they've been able to adapt biologically to its environment. This means that groups living in different parts of the country adapted in different ways according to weather conditions. Because they were so geographically isolated from each other—Australia's landmass being particularly vast—genetic diversity between different tribal groups is huge. Aboriginal Australians living in desert regions, for example, were able to withstand sub-zero night temperatures without increasing their metabolic rates. Europeans can't do this.

With the rise of anti-immigration sentiment in Australia, there's no better time to acknowledge that most of us are fairly recent arrivals on land owned by the oldest civilisation on earth.


9
IMHO. I always thought if you worked with your hands, you were blue collar.

By that definition, Eddie is Blue Collar.  ::)

RE

You don't have to be an asshole with every single post.

10
https://www.npr.org/2018/11/16/668557179/texas-students-will-soon-learn-slavery-played-a-central-role-in-the-civil-war

Texas Students Will Soon Learn Slavery Played A Central Role In The Civil War

"What the use of 'states' rights' is doing is essentially blanketing, or skirting, the real foundational issue, which is slavery," Democratic board member Marisa Perez-Diaz, from San Antonio, said at a Tuesday board meeting.

"Blanketing." In a word.

Disagreement about the expansion of slavery was the determinative issue of US history from the ratification of the Constitution through 1861.
I don't know how else you can fairly understand it otherwise. What to do with emancipated blacks was (and remains) a wholly different issue.

11
Surly Newz / The Doomstead Diner Daily November 17
« on: Today at 04:02:09 AM »

The Doomstead Diner Daily November 17


The Diner Daily is available HERE with even MORE sections and stories:
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The Doomstead Diner is a hub for discussion and information pertaining to the ongoing Economic Collapse of the Industrial Economy. The Diner is the result of many years of discussion and debate on many other forums. At Doomstead Diner, our goal is to collate much of the information we can to assist in planning for the world to come.

12
I ran across this excellent piece in the Washington Post. It isn't new, but it's timely.It helped me understand how a moron like Trump can come to be President, and be hugely popular among large numbers of people, even though almost everything he does is either ignorant, stupid, or downright mean.

The Post goes to great lengths to make sure people like me have trouble reading them for free or re-posting their stuff on forums, so it would be much easier to read the images, which are huge, if you just follow this link.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/22/who-exactly-is-the-white-working-class-and-what-do-they-believe-good-questions/?utm_term=.79a5b691ba70
.
I finally read this. I note that it was written two years ago, which makes me wonder how you found it. In any event I'm sure the authors would have reached the same conclusions today.

I didn't find too much surprising at all, but a couple things that are troubling. For example, it comes as a surprise to no one that J6P is employed in a service job; he manages a 7-11 since that's all he can get since we outsourced manufacturing. He's now a member of Alan Greenspan's "precariat."

Some thoughts.

Quote
1. The majority of white Americans are working-class, and nearly half have more than a high-school education

It's nigh on impossible to NOT get a HS diploma these days. You have to be a fuck-up several deviations below the mean to fall off the people-mover known as public education.

Quote
White workers without a degree earn more than workers of other races and ethnicities with similar levels of education
I hope so. They've been telling kids this for 70 years. Although that may be coming to an end, as we see below.
 
Quote
2. They live in cities and suburbs, not primarily in rural America
Sure they do. Where else would they live? No one wants to commute for two hours to get to the 7-11. The countryside is for agribusiness, fecal lagoons and landfills.

Quote
3. Few of them have blue-collar jobs
Because they increasingly don't exist. We don't make anything that anyone wants except payday loans and slurpees. Now the workers are called "managers" to avoid overtime rules and payment, and to be worked endlessly without recompense. The glories of late stage capitalism.

Quote
According to a Post analysis of Census data, white workers with less than a four-year degree most commonly hold jobs as store managers, cashiers, salespeople and administrative assistants. Many work in food service as servers or cooks. Some are nurses. There are a number of blue-collar workers in trades outside of manufacturing, such as trucking and construction.

I find this disingenuous in the extreme, and I don't know why they would define it thus. If truckers and carpenters aren't "blue collar," the designation is meaningless. IMHO. I always thought if you worked with your hands, you were blue collar.

Quote
4. A few use opioids, but far more use marijuana

From what I understand opioid addiction starts with pain mitigation. I know this firsthand. Norco (formerly Vicodin) will take the edge off, and a step "up" to oxycontin is (at least to me) really unpleasant. I know people DO abuse these drugs, but I have never been a fan of depressants, so I just don't get it. I can't even imagine it.

Now, I find this interesting:
Quote
5. They are not culturally conservative
They are not evangelicals, and the Gospel of Prosperity probably rings hollow to them. But when combined with this:

Quote
6. Being white matters to many of them... Members of the white working class identify more strongly with their race. About 40 percent of the white working class said that being white was "very" or "extremely" important to their identity

...along with being "American." This a recipe for the kind of race-based hatemonkeys that attend Trump rallies, who he knows he has to keep fully stoked. In the two years since this article was created we've seen this phenomenon mature. Isn't it interesting that, according to the article, so many "members of the white working class identify more strongly with their race. About 40 percent of the white working class said that being white was "very" or "extremely" important to their identity." To invest so much of your identity and self esteem into what is an unearned accident of birth, and nothing for which one can take pride or ANY sense of accomplishment, is really pathetic.

Now this one made me think:
Quote
7. They don't believe education will make them better off
This is an indicator of trouble in river city. The pro-ed propaganda no longer works: these folks know that the jobs don't exist, and the woods are full of lavishly educated baristas deeply in non-dischargeable debt. When the working class no longer believe that having a four-year college degree would make their lives better, that's an index of personal doom and hopelessness.
There has been plenty written, and some of it posted here, about the utility of four year degrees v. getting a trade. One rarely runs across a poor plumber. certified electrician or carpenter. I've known plumbers who drive BMWs. Many aver that college is a colossal con-job foisted on us by colleges, universities and banks a brand new generation to a form of financial indentured servitude.
College doesn't have to be for everyone, and there is joy and purpose in learning for its own sake. We're free to learn as much as we can afford.

Which is why this, to me, is a non-sequitur:

Quote
Overall, members of the white working class say that they're doing okay. When asked if they felt "happy" about their lives, about 79 percent said yes, compared to 87 percent of college-educated whites. There's a happiness gap there, but the majority of the working class — no matter their race or ethnicity — are staying on the sunny side
.

Remarkable since nothing will improve their futures. It doesn't seem to follow. I guess being white, American and uneducated is enough.

"White working class" is a popular talking point for the chattering classes, but from reading this, I both learn some things I already knew, and find I know nothing at all. If there is a clear lesson here, I missed it.

13
Surly Newz / Re: Apostle of the Incel Army and the Way Things Used To Be
« on: November 16, 2018, 02:16:57 PM »
For a real racist the black candidate is always the worst candidate.

The real Southern racists of my experience wouldn't vote for a black candidate if he was handing out gold bullion and he or she was running against the Prince of Darkness himself.

For corroboration, see LBJ.

"If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."

14
Surly Newz / Re: Apostle of the Incel Army and the Way Things Used To Be
« on: November 16, 2018, 02:13:53 PM »


Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, serial child molester.

Duh.

Did his constituents know he was a child molester when they voted for him?

RE

Hell no. Nobody votes for a kidfucker. Roy Moore proved that by getting an Democrat elected by being a creepazoid.

15
Quote
I ran across this excellent piece in the Washington Post. It isn't new, but it's timely.It helped me understand how a moron like Trump can come to be President, and be hugely popular among large numbers of people, even though almost everything he does is either ignorant, stupid, or downright mean.

I don't have time to follow this post, but those images are overwhelming. You could try sizing them.

In any event, I give you more credit for coming close to the nut of the problem with the D party, which is turning their back on "working class whites," no matter how you define them. This I lay squarely at the feet of the Clinton junta, and the "Democratic Leadership Committee," now defunct, which was a bagman operation run by Rahm Fucking Emanuel for the purpose of collecting corporate contributions for Dems, and in return steeling party policy to the right.
The Clintons were and remain class traitors.
Another corrective for the "Marxist in every woodpile" bullshit. The FSoA has a politics with two right wing parties. So naturally fart-sniffers see Marxists everywhere. Anyone advocating for change looks like an anarchist or Marxist to dyed-in-the-wool True Believers.

You could just click on the link, if you aren't locked out because of the WaPo paywall.

I read most of your endless cut-and-pastes. I am at work too, and I'm not good at manipulating images anyway . Sorry.

You misunderstand. I was just suggesting you size the images for readability. I used to suggest that to GO, who could never figure it out. It's just a littlw code after the firat image tag.
I generally do that when replying to a post with an image for that very reason: to enhance readability.
I have a digital subscription to WaPo, so I have no impediment to reading it, which I will do this evening. Soon actually.

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