Category: Culture

Rising wealth for the wealthy — continued decline for the rest of us

During the first two years of the nation’s economic recovery, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released Census Bureau data…

These wide variances were driven by the fact that the stock and bond market rallied during the 2009 to 2011 period while the housing market remained flat.

Affluent households typically have their assets concentrated in stocks and other financial holdings, while less affluent households typically have their wealth more heavily concentrated in the value of their home…

Overall, the wealth of America’s households rose by $5 trillion, or 14%, during this period, from $35.2 trillion in 2009 to $40.2 trillion in 2011. Household wealth is the sum of all assets, such as a home, car, real property, a 401(k), stocks and other financial holdings, minus the sum of all debts, such as a mortgage, car loan, credit card debt and student loans.

During the period under study, the S&P 500 rose by 34% (and has since risen by an additional 26%), while the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index fell by 5%, continuing a steep slide that began with the crash of the housing market in 2006…

The different performance of financial asset and housing markets from 2009 to 2011 explains virtually all of the variances in the trajectories of wealth holdings among affluent and less affluent households during this period. Among households with net worth of $500,000 or more, 65% of their wealth comes from financial holdings, such as stocks, bonds and 401(k) accounts, and 17% comes from their home. Among households with net worth of less than $500,000, just 33% of their wealth comes from financial assets and 50% comes from their home…

Looking at the period from 2005 to 2009, Census Bureau data show that mean net worth declined by 12% for households as a whole but remained unchanged for households with a net worth of $500,000 and over. Households in that top wealth category had a mean of $1,590,075 in wealth in 2005, $1,585,441 in 2009 and $1,920,956 in 2011.

Ain’t no one in that 7% living on my block – or in my neighborhood for that matter. And I don’t begrudge anyone the money they earned. Last job I had before retiring I worked for a subcontractor and my specialties often found me working on McMansions. Easily 98% of those folks earned their money. Almost no trust-funders.

What pisses me off is the power their money has over our elected officials. Politics in America is deliberately guided by the almighty dollar. Politicians prefer it that way. Corporate lobbyists prefer it that way. The greed breed that’s stolen the mantle of what is now conservatism in America absolutely loves it.

So, we get screwed.

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He ate 43½ socks — Silly dog!


Teaching his buddy how to be just as silly

The 3-year-old Great Dane was miserable and retching when its owners rushed him to a northwest Portland emergency animal hospital.

It was something he ate!

X-rays showed a stomach full of “a large quantity of foreign material.” Nearly two hours of surgery later, Dr. Ashley Magee had the answer – the dog had consumed 43 ½ socks.

DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital spokeswoman Shawna Harch said it’s perhaps the strangest case in the hospital’s history…

So strange that the hospital entered last February’s tale, complete with X-rays, in an annual contest sponsored by the vet magazine, Veterinary Practice News, and won a prize. Fittingly enough, the contest is called “They Ate WHAT?”

The DoveLewis entry summary says the Great Dane was discharged home a day after surgery. Harch says the owners aren’t available for comment but she confirms the dog is alive. No word on what he’s eaten lately.

People think dogs are carnivores. They are omnivores who prefer meat. Ours likes carrots as well as meat.

Thanks, Mike

Arkansas woman busted for shoplifting $144 worth of eye shadow

allen1

An Arkansas woman whose mug shot shows her in heavy aqua and maroon eye shadow is accused of shoplifting $144 in makeup.

Police in Fayetteville, Arkansas, arrested 31-year-old Brandy Allen, accusing her of stuffing handfuls of eye shadow into her purse Monday.

Officers said that, after being confronted, Allen went on a profanity-laced tirade and tried to damage makeup as she pulled it out of her purse so the items would appear used.

The Washington County jail said Wednesday that Allen was released on $830 bond on charges of shoplifting and disorderly conduct.

My wife says wearing eye shadow like that should be a crime all its own!

Start the day with cute!

The Swedish Department for Animal Welfare and Health said an increasing number of Swedes are choosing African pygmy hedgehogs as pets.

Michael Diemer, the department’s spokesman on issues related to pets and endangered species, told The Local.se officials have noted an increase in African pygmy hedgehog ownership amid an overall spike in popularity for exotic pets.

Diemer said it is not illegal to own the hedgehogs in Sweden, but officials are concerned many owners may not know how to properly care for the creatures.

“Pets like these need special environments, special food and specialist vets,” he said. “We have noticed more people getting in touch with us over the past few years and now we are getting calls every week from people who are unsure how to care of these animals.”

The pets sell for $285 to $430 in Sweden and subside on a diet of dry cat food and canned insects…Heidi Permonen, a Swedish breeder of African pygmy hedgehogs, said the animals require less care than some more popular pets.

“I think that people are interested in African pygmy hedgehogs because they are not as demanding as cats and dogs, for example,” she said. “You can cuddle them and they are very cute.”

Are they territorial enough to stay within a fenced yard?

Surprise! Surprise! Eric Cantor lands job on Wall Street starting at $3.4 Million

bagman

After Rep. Eric Cantor lost his primary to a tea party challenger in June, he could have stayed on as a lame duck, collecting his salary and voting as a full member of Congress through January 2015. Instead, Cantor decided to step down from his job as the GOP’s majority leader and resign his seat early. Cantor claimed that the decision to call it quits was in the interests of his constituents…

No one believed him…

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cantor will soon start work at Moelis & Co, an investment bank. Cantor—whose experience prior to becoming a professional politician largely consisted of working in the family real estate development business—will earn a hefty salary for his lack of expertise: According to Business Insider, he’s set to make $3.4 million from the investment firm. “Mr. Moelis said he is hiring Mr. Cantor for his “judgment and experience” and ability to open doors—and not just for help navigating regulatory and political waters in Washington…”

Yes, Democrats sell out, too. In 2010, former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh announced his plans to retire in 2010 in a New York Times op-ed that bemoaned the the lack of bipartisan friendships in the modern Senate and attacked the influence of money in politics. Yet shortly after he left Congress, Bayh signed up with law firm McGuireWoods and private equity firm Apollo Global Management and began acting as a lobbyist for corporate clients in all but name. Less than a year later, he joined the US Chamber of Commerce as an adviser.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) pulled a similar trick, promising “no lobbying, no lobbying,” before taking a $1-million-plus job as the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, Hollywood’s main lobbying group.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 417 ex-lawmakers hold lobbyist or lobbyist-like jobs.

Relying on most of these creeps for anything approaching ethics, dedication to the needs of ordinary Americans, is a farce. Either we take the money stream out of politics and adopt a simple system of short-term campaigns with the same kitty for each candidate, apportioned fairly for independent candidates – or the people of this nation must start at the grassroots and built regional responsive parties from the local and state level to challenge the bought-and-paid-for politicians in the two old parties.

They are past their sell-by date. Throw ‘em in the dumpster and start over again.

Do-Nothing Republicans don’t care if the US is represented abroad

party of NO

As fighters affiliated with the self-declared Islamic State roll across the porous Turkish border into Syria, the United States has a problem: It has no ambassador to Turkey.

As the Ebola virus rages in Sierra Leone, the United States has no ambassador there. And as North Korea poses a nuclear threat, the United States has no ambassador in South Korea.

The same is true when Turkey demands an answer for US spying.

Nominations for the posts are among dozens languishing in the Senate, many for months. The would-be ambassador to Sierra Leone, for example, has been waiting more than 400 days for an up-or-down vote. Veteran diplomats say the Senate’s persistent gridlock over domestic matters is hurting the United States on the world stage.

The number of nominees awaiting confirmation now stands at 55 out of 226 positions, about one-fourth of all ambassador-ranked posts. For the vast majority of nominees who have been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and are awaiting a full vote in the Senate, the average wait has been more than seven months, according to State Department statistics…

Unlike years past, when political clashes have held up small groups of nominees for brief periods, the current stand-off is more widespread and long-lasting, preventing all but a trickle of nominees from getting a vote.

“It really makes a joke of us abroad,” said Charles A. Ray, a former ambassador to Cambodia and Zimbabwe who spent 30 years in the foreign service. “Having the Senate literally block ambassadorial positions really sends a negative signal to countries we have relationships with. It makes them think that relationship doesn’t matter to us much.”

Cripes. I think half the backwater Neo-Confederate Republicans in Congress don’t even care about a relationship with the rest of the United States. As long as NASCAR keeps trundling around in a circle and state courts are allowed to enforce 19th Century rules about women – they’re as happy as can be.

Just keep those contributions coming in from coal companies and military-industrial gun-thugs.

Is red the new black?


Click to enlargeRex Features

Crimson tide: Is red the new black? The presence of at least 14 scarlet women at the Emmys last night would seem to suggest so. Finding a shade that flatters skintone but doesn’t clash or merge into the carpet is a styling challenge.

Used to be celebrities hated to be seen in public looking very much like another celebrity.

Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager named as Ron Paul’s bribery bagman


“Just make the check out to cash!”

The campaign manager for U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican locked in a tough re-election battle, resigned late Friday in fallout from a scandal stemming from his time with the 2012 Ron Paul presidential campaign.

McConnell is facing Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in a race Republicans view as important if they are to secure control of the Senate.

While denying any wrongdoing during his time working for Paul, Jesse Benton said blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Benton was the spokesman for the libertarian Paul’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign when, during the Republican primary season, a supporter of a rival candidate was secretly paid by a Paul staffer to publicly switch sides.

Former Iowa Republican state Senator Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty this week to concealing $73,000 he was paid to endorse Paul over U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann.

McConnell has dropped Benton like the hot potato he obviously is.

Maybe handling a smooth job of bribery was one of the qualities that appealed enough to McConnell to choose him as campaign manager. Lots of money floating around the political career of a bought-and-paid-for hack like Mitch McConnell.

Row over cow settled by DNA tests


The cow in question

A woman in the southern Indian state of Kerala is set to win a court battle to keep a cow after DNA tests proved it belongs to her, her lawyer says…The woman, TS Sashilekha, had been accused by her neighbour Geetha of stealing the animal.

The acrimonious dispute even saw the cow in question appear in court.

It is thought to be the first time an ownership battle over an animal has been decided by DNA tests in India, where Hindus consider cows to be holy.

The legal battle between the two women began last year when Geetha claimed that a cow in her herd was the mother of the disputed animal…But DNA tests ordered by the court did not match, meaning that Sashilekha will get to keep the cow.

…N Chandra Babu, lawyer for Sashilekha, told the BBC, “It is a rare case and possibly the first of its kind in history. Perhaps this is the first time a DNA test was held on a cow to find out its real owner.”

After the disputed cow was produced in court, Sashilekha was allowed to keep it in her possession – but only after paying 45,000 rupees in securities.

I understand why the court would ask the eventual victor to provide security presumably covering the value of the cow. Hopefully, returned without charges. Another good reason why she is suing the accuser for costs and compensation.