Author Topic: The fall of the empire  (Read 11944 times)

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Offline Nubbins

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The fall of the empire
« on: October 01, 2009, 05:18:23 PM »
Detroit continues on its march towards complete decimation...

Quote
Detroit: Too broke to bury their dead
Money to bury Detroit's poor has dried up, forcing struggling families to abandon their loved ones in the morgue freezer.




DETROIT (CNNMoney.com) -- At 1300 E. Warren St., you can smell the plight of Detroit.

Inside the Wayne County morgue in midtown Detroit, 67 bodies are piled up, unclaimed, in the freezing temperatures. Neither the families nor the county can afford to bury the corpses. So they stack up inside the freezer.

Albert Samuels, chief investigator for the morgue, said he has never seen anything like it during his 13 years on the job. "Some people don't come forward even though they know the people are here," said the former Detroit cop. "They don't have the money."

Lifelong Detroit residents Darrell and Cheryl Vickers understand this firsthand. On a chilly September morning they had to visit the freezer to identify the body of Darrell's aunt, Nancy Graham -- and say their goodbyes.

The couple, already financially strained, don't have the $695 needed to cremate her. Other family members, mostly in Florida, don't have the means to contribute, either. In fact, when Darrell's grandmother passed recently, his father paid for the cremation on a credit card -- at 21% interest.

So the Vickers had to leave their aunt behind. Body number 67.

"It's devastating to a family not to be able to take care of their own," said Darrell. "But there's really no way to come up with that kind of cash in today's society. There's just no way."

The number of unclaimed corpses at the Wayne County morgue is at a record high, having tripled since 2000. The reason for the pile-up is twofold: One, unemployment in the area is approaching 28%, and many people, like the Vickers, can't afford last rites; two, the county's $21,000 annual budget to bury unclaimed bodies ran out in June.

"One way we look back at a culture is how they dispose of their dead," said the county's chief medical examiner, Carl Schmidt, who has been in his position for 15 years. "We see people here that society was not taking care of before they died -- and society is having difficulty taking care of them after they are dead."
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Offline nacho

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The fall of the empire
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2009, 05:22:29 PM »
Jesus...

You know, it worries me that we've got Obama stars in our eyes, because the fall is still happening.  Are we going to wake up in time to even try to stop it?

Offline Nubbins

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The fall of the empire
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2009, 05:27:35 PM »
Yeah, I was wondering that this morning on my way to work.  I'm starting to hear news stories all over the place that talk about how the economy is now "recovering", the stimulus package "worked" and how we're through the worst of it. I don't believe that's even remotely the case, but I think maybe Americans are just tired of feeling desperation?  I dunno... it's like we're willfully lying to ourselves or something.  
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Offline nacho

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« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2009, 05:36:41 PM »
We are!  This actually dovetails into what RC were talking about somewhere regarding post-apocalypse themed entertainment.  People want to be lied to...I think we are sick of being desperate.  And we have been for a while now. 

The whole campaign is hinky, really -- "Change."  Very Nixonian 1968.  Except no secret war in Laos and Cambodia as soon as the dust settles.  So I don't mean to go all Murph on you... Just comparing the way the two got into the White House initially.  Preying on the exhaustion of the voters.

It was a candy election, and we've embraced it blindly and are believing all the recovery talk while unemployment soars, foreclosures continue and, as far as I can see, there is no recovery.  At all.

Offline nacho

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The fall of the empire
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2009, 05:49:05 PM »
Ha!  Speak of the devil -- I refresh Reader and see this from The Guardian:


Quote
To rebalance the world economy we need to keep Americans out of the malls and rush China into spending. Don't hold your breath

Cast your mind back three years to the heady days of autumn 2006. House prices were booming. Financial markets were bullish. The International Monetary Fund reported that global growth over a five-year period was at its strongest since the late 1960s.

In vain did the fund warn that there might be problems ahead – from over-exuberant banks, from high commodity prices and from the dangerous imbalance in the global economy between those countries that exported too much and those that exported too little.

So here's the question. What, apart from a stonking great recession, has actually changed? Oil prices are higher than they were in late 2006, the banking system remains unreformed (and pretty much unrepentant) and the global imbalances remain untackled.

Olivier Blanchard, the IMF's economic counsellor, has a slightly less gloomy analysis. Presenting the fund's latest snapshot of the global economy, he said that the recession in the US had led to consumers saving more and spending less. That has led to a sharp reduction in the US trade deficit, and meant that the rebalancing process was half complete.

It was now up to the IMF, armed with a mandate from the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, to ensure – as Blanchard put it – that the global economic community did not get stuck halfway across the river. The IMF is supposed to monitor the economic policies of the strategically important countries to see whether they are compatible with the goal of better-balanced growth.

In short, that means the US continues to save and export more, aided by a weaker dollar, while the Chinese have to consume more and export less, aided by a stronger renminbi.

Don't hold your breath. The fact that the G20 has called for rebalancing does not mean it is going to happen. The G20 also says it wants a successful end to the Doha round of trade talks but with zero impact.

For rebalancing to become a reality two things will have to happen. First, there will have to be a permanent rather than merely temporary change in the behaviour of US consumers. Sure, they are saving more at present, because unemployment is rising rapidly and house prices have fallen sharply over the past three years. But my hunch is that Americans will be straight back to the shopping malls once they get a whiff of the economy recovering.

Second, countries have to be prepared to take the policy measures that will be urged on them by the fund. In China's case that means a revaluation of the exchange rate and a big increase in government spending on health and education. All the evidence is Beijing will respond to the pressure at its own pace, which tends to be measured and slow.

So if not much has changed and the pace of reform is likely to be glacial, what are the odds on the current recovery – sustained temporarily by high levels of government spending – being a false dawn? Reasonably high. Certainly much higher than the financial markets believe.

Offline Nubbins

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The fall of the empire
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2009, 05:54:07 PM »
hehe... I don't think you could ever go Murph unless suddenly everything in your world relates to the Rothschilds or secret weaponry that causes earthquakes in China.

Here's my thing with the election and campaign:  Obama's political impotence since taking office, while disheartening to me, is not entirely surprising.  I still have hope in the guy (as tired as that word has become) because he seems more genuine than any President I can remember and I rest easier just knowing someone with some intelligence is driving the American ship again.  He may be driving it off a cliff, but at least I know he'll give me the news about the cliff without a lot of doubletalk or simply reciting party talking points.

Do you think that Obama buys all the recovery talk?  I don't.

Here's what I wonder, now that I've run cable down into my apartment and can watch goddamn fucking television again... how much of the political stalemate going on in this country is due to our addiction to 24-hour news networks?  I flip past all of them and I just can't believe some of the shit being spewed by these networks.  And this isn't a Conservative/Liberal thing... every single network is guilty of it.  In fact, Al Jazeera dedicates a large portion of their news coverage now to comparing different network takes on a story... they actually report a story and then report the different spins being put on that story by news outlets worldwide.  

The sole purpose of the American media seems to be pitting the morons of this country against one another so that absolutely nothing productive happens, no compromise is made and disinformation brings political processes to a grinding halt.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2009, 05:55:43 PM by Nubbins »
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Offline nacho

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The fall of the empire
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2009, 06:17:28 PM »
Well, I've long thought that about the news networks.  Really reason number one why I don't own a TV and yet watch alot of TV.  I watch what I'm truly interested in, and avoid the 24-hour-shit addiction because it involves a few extra steps, and a wait. 

I just simply can't handle how 90% of television has, in one way or another, become a constant onslaught catering to the lowest common denominator, or openly trying to instigate polarization or idiocy.

And I include everything in this -- 24 hour cartoons, 24 hour cooking, 24 hour history.  Every the cool stuff.  It's just Too Damn Much. 

Yes, there was always advertising, and yes it was always manipulative.  And, yes, the news has always been slanted or ultra-isolated.  But we used to have a chance to form our own ideas.  We used to go outside and play, and socialize.

And now I sound like a sad luddite.  So forget all that.  The real problem is that you can't continue that slanted, isolationist news 24/7.  And you certainly can't maintain it over a dozen news networks.  It becomes, instead, entertainment.  One long reality program where pretty girls read us newspaper headlines and blog posts, and quirky metrosexuals fall just short of staging hobo cage fights.

This is where I now go into my fourth year of telling people to watch Orwell Rolls in His Grave:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orwell_Rolls_in_His_Grave

http://www.netflix.com/Movie/Orwell_Rolls_in_His_Grave/70033846

The whole movie is online (ultra-low-quality):
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1925114769515892401#

 

Offline nacho

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The fall of the empire
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2009, 06:27:57 PM »
And watching it again myself (God, I hate Michael Moore), I'm really struck by the Goebbels quote one of the talking heads spews out:

“A media system wants ostensible diversity that conceals an actual uniformity.”

We've more than mastered that, haven't we?

Offline Nubbins

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The fall of the empire
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2009, 11:21:31 PM »
And now I sound like a sad luddite.  So forget all that.  The real problem is that you can't continue that slanted, isolationist news 24/7.  And you certainly can't maintain it over a dozen news networks.  It becomes, instead, entertainment.  One long reality program where pretty girls read us newspaper headlines and blog posts, and quirky metrosexuals fall just short of staging hobo cage fights.

Furthermore, because we've got ten or fifteen 24/7 news networks, they're all in competition with one another, always trying to one-up the other guy.  This in turn forces all of them to latch on to even the most insignificant news story and hammer it into the ground for fear that viewers will flip to another network because they're missing coverage of Britney's twat flash at some posh LA night club.  It's just ludicrous.

The best example I can remember is when Larry King had Bill Clinton on a few years ago around the time Paris Hilton was going through all that prison bullshit.  Towards the end of the interview, Larry asks Bill something like, "Why do you think this country is so fixated on people like Paris Hilton?"  To which Bill kind of stared blankly and asked, "Did you really have me on here to ask me about Paris Hilton?"  

It just amazed me that Larry King could make this veiled attack at the fickle nature of Americans and their media outlets but somehow missed that by merely bringing it up, he was contributing to the idiocy.

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Offline nacho

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« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2009, 04:28:55 AM »
The weird thing about all of them competing against each other is that many are owned by the same parent companies.  So the competition is completely artificial.  

In 2001, here's where we were:

http://www.thenation.com/special/bigten.html

There's the Big Ten -- but also note the crossover -- how they all hold minor percentages (or not so minor) of each other's pie.

Then, we were down to the Big Six:

http://www.freepress.net/ownership/chart/main

The cross-overs (not well listed on that chart) continue.

Then there were five when Viacom took CBS...  The chart below also lists some (not all) of the crossovers:

http://www.nowfoundation.org/issues/communications/tv/mediacontrol.html

And this: http://www.corporations.org/media/

Want to really get freaked out?  Start looking into who owns the social networking sites, and how that whole environment is following the media's lead.

« Last Edit: October 02, 2009, 04:47:05 AM by nacho »

Offline Nubbins

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The fall of the empire
« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2009, 12:08:19 PM »
Booyah!

Doesn't really fit in a recession thread, but since we've spent the last page talking about the media...

Quote
Sen. Graham Calls Beck 'A Cynic' And Birthers 'Crazy'

Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) offered unusually blunt assessments of the fringe elements of his party and conservative media on Thursday, calling the popular and bombastic Fox News host Glenn Beck a "cynic" whose show was antithetical to American values.

"Only in America can you make that much money crying," Graham said of Beck. "Glenn Beck is not aligned with any party. He is aligned with cynicism and there has always been a market for cynics. But we became a great nation not because we are a nation of cynics. We became a great nation because we are a nation of believers."

Appearing before a crowd of Washington's elite power players and opinion-makers, Graham spoke largely without filter, offering acidic takes on subject well beyond Beck. The Senator called the birther community that questions the president's U.S. citizenship "crazy" and implored them to "knock this crap off" so the country could get on to more important matters.

"I'm here to tell you that those who think the president was not born in Hawaii are crazy," said Graham, who went on to dispel another myth: that Obama is a closet Muslim.

Speaking before The Atlantic's First Draft of History conference, Graham also ventured to call "crazy" a recent article on Newsmax, laying out how a military coup could overtake the Obama administration.

But he insisted that the demagoguery and wild emotions were prevalent to the fringes of both political parties. "There are people out there saying crazy things on our side of the aisle," he said, "there were people saying crazy things about President Bush. That's just the way it is. "

And he insisted that the opposition to Obama was (largely) not based in racial politics.

"How can you go from [the election]," he asked, "and then have a race problem a few months later? There are people in this party who are having a tough time reconciling having a black president.... But most of these people carrying around crazy signs would applaud Alan Keyes. They are very passionate about their politics and if Alan Keyes spoke at their conference they go through the roof."

Reflecting comments made earlier in the day by his colleague and close friend, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Graham said he was deeply worried about "the passions of cable TV" whipping up the emotions of the public. "If you get rewarded for being a jerk you are going to keep doing it," he said, before labeling "Talk radio, MoveOn.org, and the 24-hour news cycle" as the main culprits in polarizing the nation.

"Can you imagine doing D-Day with cable television?" he asked. "Can you imagine writing the Constitution -- you know, O'Reilly says Ben Franklin's giving in on something. Can you imagine having to do that in this environment?"
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The fall of the empire
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2009, 03:23:14 PM »
Detroit continues on its march towards complete decimation...


I was at a party this weekend talking with some people who'd just gotten back from Detroit.  I've spent a lot of time trying to scour the net for sources to confirm the things they were telling me about the city, but haven't been able to find much.  They said the unemployment rate there is approaching 30%, the police force has been cut so much that most minor crimes are going unpunished, 70% of murders remain unsolved, 2-story houses can be bought for as little as $5000... etc., etc.  

Meanwhile, we still have New Orleans reeling from a storm that hit them over 3 years ago and California is setting itself up to be the next, great, American disaster.

Quote
Will California become America's first failed state?
Los Angeles, 2009: California may be the eighth largest economy in the world, but its state government is issuing IOUs, unemployment is at its highest in 70 years, and teachers are on hunger strike. So what has gone so catastrophically wrong?

California has a special place in the American psyche. It is the Golden State: a playground of the rich and famous with perfect weather. It symbolises a lifestyle of sunshine, swimming pools and the Hollywood dream factory.

But the state that was once held up as the epitome of the boundless opportunities of America has collapsed. From its politics to its economy to its environment and way of life, California is like a patient on life support. At the start of summer the state government was so deeply in debt that it began to issue IOUs instead of wages. Its unemployment rate has soared to more than 12%, the highest figure in 70 years. Desperate to pay off a crippling budget deficit, California is slashing spending in education and healthcare, laying off vast numbers of workers and forcing others to take unpaid leave. In a state made up of sprawling suburbs the collapse of the housing bubble has impoverished millions and kicked tens of thousands of families out of their homes. Its political system is locked in paralysis and the two-term rule of former movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen as a disaster – his approval ratings having sunk to levels that would make George W Bush blush. The crisis is so deep that Professor Kevin Starr, who has written an acclaimed history of the state, recently declared: "California is on the verge of becoming the first failed state in America."

...

California is currently cutting healthcare, slashing the "Healthy Families" programme that helped an estimated one million of its poorest children. Los Angeles now has a poverty rate of 20%. Other cities across the state, such as Fresno and Modesto, have jobless rates that rival Detroit's. In order to pass its state budget, California's government has had to agree to a deal that cuts billions of dollars from education and sacks 60,000 state employees. Some teachers have launched a hunger strike in protest. California's education system has become so poor so quickly that it is now effectively failing its future workforce. The percentage of 19-year-olds at college in the state dropped from 43% to 30% between 1996 and 2004, one of the highest falls ever recorded for any developed world economy. California's schools are ranked 47th out of 50 in the nation. Its government-issued bonds have been ranked just above "junk".

Some of the state's leading intellectuals believe this collapse is a disaster that will harm Californians for years to come. "It will take a while for this self-destructive behaviour to do its worst damage," says Robert Hass, a professor at Berkeley and a former US poet laureate, whose work has often been suffused with the imagery of the Californian way of life.

Now, incredibly, California, which has been a natural target for immigration throughout its history, is losing people. Between 2004 and 2008, half a million residents upped sticks and headed elsewhere. By 2010, California could lose a congressman because its population will have fallen so much – an astonishing prospect for a state that is currently the biggest single political entity in America. Neighbouring Nevada has launched a mocking campaign to entice businesses away, portraying Californian politicians as monkeys, and with a tag-line jingle that runs: "Kiss your assets goodbye!" You know you have a problem when Nevada – famed for nothing more than Las Vegas, casinos and desert – is laughing at you.

This matters, too. Much has been made globally of the problems of Ireland and Iceland. Yet California dwarfs both. It is the eighth largest economy in the world, with a population of 37 million. If it was an independent country it would be in the G8. And if it were a company, it would likely be declared bankrupt. That prospect might surprise many, but it does not come as news to Tuua, as she glances nervously into the warming sky, hoping her parents will not have to wait in the car through the heat of the day just to see a doctor. "It is so depressing. They both worked hard all their lives in this state and this is where they have ended up. It should not have to be this way," she says.

...

But it is no laughing matter. One in four American mortgages that are "under water", meaning they are worth more than the home itself, are in California. In the Central Valley town of Merced, house prices have crashed by 70%. Two Democrat politicians have asked for their districts to be declared disaster zones, because of the poor economic conditions caused by foreclosures. In one city near Riverside, a squatter's camp of newly homeless labourers sleeping in their vehicles has grown up in a supermarket car park – the local government has provided toilets and a mobile shower. In the Los Angeles suburb of Pacoima, one in nine homeowners are now in default on their mortgage, and the local priest, the Rev John Lasseigne, has garnered national headlines – swapping saving souls to saving houses, by negotiating directly with banks on behalf of his parishioners.

The whole article is enormous, so I only pasted a little bit of it.  The rest can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/04/california-failing-state-debt

Maybe we need to start a thread about the death of the American empire... it's toppling all around us.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2009, 03:29:47 PM by Nubbins »
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Offline nacho

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The fall of the empire
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2009, 03:33:17 PM »
Yeah...I'll start a new thread.

Offline Nubbins

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Re: The fall of the empire
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2009, 04:02:10 PM »
It makes me wonder what other big, American cities are in decline.  Atlanta seems fairly unscathed so far, but I don't pay attention to as much local stuff as I should.
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Re: The fall of the empire
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2009, 04:11:21 PM »
I think DC's unemployment is now 11%.  But this is such a dismal town for that kind of shit normally, it's hard to see the difference.  Also, the entire Metro area is hovering at an average of 6%.  We're basically unchanged from the good times.

It's really hard to get a handle on dying cities and bankrupt states when you live inside the Beltway.  This area is such a weird little micro-universe, the rest of the country almost feels like foreign soil. 

Just found this fun chart:

http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=usunemployment&met=unemployment_rate&tdim=true&q=unemployment+rates#met=unemployment_rate&tdim=true