It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk

Anybody who wonders where the next financial crisis is coming from need look no further: $100,000 of student loan debt with a salary of $37,000 per year is a recipe for absolute economic catastrophe.

Student loan debt is effectively eternal - you must pay it off or die trying, as you can't even bankrupt out of it. It literally follows you until you die, and your Social Security or other pensions. Any asset is open season for student loan debt. Any wages or income (even lottery winnings) can (and will) be garnished to satisfy the debt. Requiring future janitors and mail clerks to incur such debt just to enter the labor force is economic suicide. These folks will never clear the debt - never. And the government (read "taxpayers") will be left holding the bag.

How did this happen? The Federal government guarantees student loans - when a borrower defaults the government makes the bank or other lending institution whole. There's absolutely no risk for a bank to write a Federally guaranteed student loan. The government then tries to collect - but from what? There's an old adage about blood and turnips that's more than applicable here. Congress can ignore reality as much as it wants by "getting tough on deadbeats", but that's not going to change the fact that the deadbeats are broke, and couldn't pay if they wanted to. The banks and universities have effectively swindled both borrower and government here - they've raided the Treasury and saddled students with what effectively amounts to debt slavery. Even those lucky students who do get good enough jobs to eventually pay off their debt are snookered: why do you think the rate of inflation in education has been so extraordinary? Easy money supplied by the banks and guaranteed by the Feds has removed anything resembling a market in higher education.

Eventually the chickens will come home to roost - exactly what form this will take is hard to say. But I've got to wonder if the Federal government considers itself as "too big to fail", and if so, exactly who it expects to bail it's sorry ass out?

The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job.

(link) [New York Times]

22:33 /Politics | 1 comment | permanent link

Has the Great Library of Timbuktu Been Lost?

This isn't the first time Islamists have been involved in destruction on a historical scale - nor will it likely be the last. The inheritors of Theophilus live on ...

As the desert inches south into the city of Timbuktu, the sand settles on your skin and the air feels heavy in your lungs. When I travelled there nine years ago, the mythical city, home to the shrines of three hundred and thirty-three Sufi saints, left a bleak impression, tempered only by the selected wonders under glass at the Ahmed Baba Centre, an edifice which, until last Friday, housed between sixty and a hundred thousand manuscripts dating back as far as the thirteenth century. Other smaller libraries and private collections held many more. Until last week, the total number of historic manuscripts in Timbuktu and its surrounding region was estimated at about two hundred thousand.

(link) [The New Yorker]

08:23 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

New Victims In The War On Painkillers

Depressing news from the War on Some Drugs...

Regrettable. I guess that's one way to describe what happened to Jamie Russell. Another might be collateral damage.

(link) [The Agitator]

via Overlawyered

08:34 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke

Tabbi hits this one out of the park.

By eschewing criminal prosecutions of major drug launderers on the grounds (the patently absurd grounds, incidentally) that their prosecution might imperil the world financial system, the government has now formalized the double standard.

(link) [Rolling Stone]

22:37 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

To Steer Students to Jobs in Demand, Florida May Cut Costs for Select Majors

A singularly bad idea on a lot of different levels.

Exactly what role is the state university filling here? Have we reduced our institutions of higher learning to nothing more than taxpayer supported vocational schools for the benefit of corporate interests? I always thought the goal of education was, well, education. Silly of me, I suppose.

Furthermore, there are going to be several unexpected economic impacts from this. The professions they're talking about driving students towards with reduced tuition are already on the higher end of the pay scale - if you increase supply, what happens to the price? Or second thought, maybe that effect is not so unexpected...

But worst of all will be the subtle impact on quality of work. We already have too many people picking a career based on how much money they'll make, and this will only drive that trend. Would you rather have a doctor who's interested in medicine, or one who became a doctor because the state subsidized his tuition and "steered" him away from English Lit? Would you rather drive a car whose gas tank was designed by an engineer who really cared about physics, math and mechanical interactions, or one who engineers because he makes more money than he would doing community theater?

I can't count how many mediocre programmers I've run across over the years who only got into it because "software's where it's at", and "computer people make a lot of money". The irony here is that none of them ever got to where it really was, and none of them made very much money at it, either.

Now, looking for more value on the remaining dollars, Governor Scott and Republican lawmakers are prodding Florida’s 12 state universities to find ways to steer students toward majors that are in demand in the today’s job market.

(link) [New York Times]

22:22 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

How Political Campaign Spending Brought Down the Roman Republic

Well, whaddya know? Somebody else noticed the parallels...

Ancient politicians were just as skilled as modern ones at identifying and exploiting loopholes in election law. In Rome, the key loophole lay in the fuzzy distinction between ambitus (electoral bribery) and mere benignitas (generosity). Roman elections were often won on the strength of free food, drinks, entertainment, and sometimes hard cash offered directly to voters and financed by private fortunes. In fact, Roman campaign slogans were sometimes inscribed on the bottom of commemorative wine cups—you could drain the cup and find out whom to vote for. Most of the Roman elite relied on the gentleman’s agreement that the line between bribery and generosity would not be strictly patrolled. At worst, rank vote-buying was something your opponents engaged in; you, on the other hand, were simply being a good neighbor.

(link) [Slate]

22:55 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Poor management, not union intransigence, killed Hostess


The firm emerged from bankruptcy with more debt than when it went in — in with $575 million, out with $774 million, all secured by company assets. That's pretty much the opposite of what's supposed to happen in bankruptcy. By the end, there was barely a spare distributor cap in the motor pool that wasn't mortgaged to the private equity firms and hedge funds holding the notes (and also appointing management).

(link) [Los Angles Times]

14:35 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Why the GOP Will Double Down on a Losing Strategy

I find it difficult to celebrate anyone's election - but I do not find it nearly so tough to celebrate most of the Republican Party's defeat. They've been captured by Christian Right, and that fact alone makes this heathen very nervous. In fact, it makes me positively nauseous to hear them mouth slogans about "small government" and "liberty" while trying to crush gay rights and a woman's right to choose. Watching them squirm now because those contradictions cost them big is rather amusing. And I'm afraid the article's right - they probably will double down on the stupid, and end up going the way of the dodo.

After the historic GOP congressional wave in 2010, many Republicans were sure Obama was destined for defeat in 2012. An incumbent who had presided over four years of high unemployment — and whose overwhelming unpopularity was discussed as an immutable fact on Fox News and talk radio — seemed ripe for the picking. His re-election has some party leaders worried that the GOP is out of step with demographic and ideological trends, preaching to a shrinking choir. They do not want to be what Congressman turned TV host Joe Scarborough has despairingly called “the stupid party,” with retro in-the-bubble ideas about rape, contraception and “self-deportation” that alienate a modern multicultural electorate.

(link) [Time]

09:14 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

The Plot to Destroy America's Beer

If anything will turn ordinary Americans against the Corporate State, this is it.

One Friday night in January, Rinfret, who is now 52, stopped on the way home from work at his local liquor store in Monroe, N.J., and purchased a 12-pack of Beck’s. When he got home, he opened a bottle. “I was like, what the hell?” he recalls. “It tasted light. It tasted weak. Just, you know, night and day. Bubbly, real fizzy. To me, it wasn’t German beer. It tasted like a Budweiser with flavoring.” He examined the label. It said the beer was no longer brewed in Bremen. He looked more closely at the fine print: “Product of the USA.” This was profoundly unsettling for a guy who had been a Beck’s drinker for more than half his life. He was also miffed to have paid the full import price for the 12-pack.

(link) [Business Week]

19:13 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Mourdock’s mistake is speaking for God

The Republican Party scares me more and more with every election cycle. They are rapidly becoming religious fascists, and if anybody out there seriously thinks they'll stop with opposition to abortion and gay marriage they'll be in for a rude shock if the Teavangelicals get control of House, Senate and Presidency. Contraception will be next on the target list - even the humble condom is an affront to their almighty god. Who knows what their god will demand after that?

Steinberg correctly points out the dangers of this attitude in this piece, albeit from a Christian perspective. He's a bit more optimistic than I over their minority status, but that could be due to his location in Chicago and mine in rural Indiana.

I actually witnessed an incident similar to what he uses to illustrate his point. Some years ago I co-officiated at a funeral for two young boys who died in a fire. The family (and the funeral) was heathen, and before the service a relative of the grieving mother approached her and said "It's really OK, your little boys are in Heaven with Jesus now, and all things work for the glory of God." The mother wheeled and literally punched her cousin out cold.

These theocrats have got to be stopped, and soon, but it can't just be done in the political arena. It's going to take a cultural change towards tolerance to get any lasting good effects. Steinberg seems to think that change is underway. I hope he's right.

Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock joined a growing list of Tea Party Republicans — Joe Walsh, Todd Akin — who stumbled into a briar patch by telling women what to believe, in this case when Mourdock said when a women conceives after a rape, “it’s something God intended.”

(link) [Chicago Sun Times]

19:20 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Come Home, America

George McGovern, RIP

To the slanting wall above my desk is taped a large “Come Home America/ Vote McGovern Shriver ’72” poster. Designed by artist Leonard R. Fuller, the collage fills an outline of the United States with iconographic images, historic statuary, and photos of unprepossessing but individuated Americans. The message is peace and brotherhood and a return to the ideals of the Founders. The mood is civics-class hippie, antiwar wife-of-a-Rotarian, liberal community-college-professor-who-cries-at-“America the Beautiful.” Like George McGovern himself, the poster suggests that a hopeful and patriotic mild radicalism resides on Main Street America. Or as Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe once asked, what’s so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding?

(link) [The American Conservative]

via C4SS

18:57 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Billy Graham Endorses Romney Then Scrubs Site Calling Mormonism A Cult

Because Oceania has always been at war with East Asia.

Billy Graham last night endorsed Mitt Romney for president, and shortly thereafter, his website was scrubbed of a statement Graham or his organization made calling Mormonism a “cult.”

(link) [The New Civil Rights Movement]

11:23 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Multiple-Choice Romney

Best. Political. Quote. Ever.

As for Romney, the best summation of his flip-flopping was provided by Ted Kennedy in a 1994 debate in Massachusetts: “I am pro-choice,” Kennedy said, before adding of Romney, “My opponent is multiple-choice.”
The subject then was abortion and Romney declared, “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country.” In response to Kennedy’s jibe, he shot back, “You will not see me wavering on that or being multiple-choice.”

(link) [New York Times]

22:16 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

CEO emails 7,000 employees: Defeat Obama or else

"Tone deaf" doesn't due this guy justice. If Florida goes for Obama in November the Dems should send this idiot a thank you note.

Surprise. David Siegel, the resort CEO who is building the biggest private home in the country, really, really doesn't like President Obama.

(link) [CNN]

20:12 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Some Salty Items

I'm cleaning out my "to be posted" folder, so here are a couple of articles on one of my favorite topics: salt.

It's Time to End the War on Salt

For decades, policy makers have tried and failed to get Americans to eat less salt. In April 2010 the Institute of Medicine urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the amount of salt that food manufacturers put into products; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already convinced 16 companies to do so voluntarily. But if the U.S. does conquer salt, what will we gain? Bland french fries, for sure. But a healthy nation? Not necessarily

(link) [Scientitic American]

Salt, We Misjudged You

The first time I questioned the conventional wisdom on the nature of a healthy diet, I was in my salad days, almost 40 years ago, and the subject was salt. Researchers were claiming that salt supplementation was unnecessary after strenuous exercise, and this advice was being passed on by health reporters. All I knew was that I had played high school football in suburban Maryland, sweating profusely through double sessions in the swamplike 90-degree days of August. Without salt pills, I couldn’t make it through a two-hour practice; I couldn’t walk across the parking lot afterward without cramping.

(link) [New York Times]

21:33 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link