October 31, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM

Titus Andronicus Get Patriotic on Civil War-Themed 'Monitor' (Kenneth Partridge, 5/16/12, Spinner)

When you write a concept album based on the Civil War, as Titus Andronicus mastermind Patrick Stickles has done with 'The Monitor,' his band's recently-released sophomore album, you're bound to face some criticism. Already, some have labeled the record pretentious and ironic, criticisms Stickler staunchly denies.

"I've read a couple of things that refer to some element of ironic patriotism in our lyrics, which is completely off the mark," Stickles tells Spinner. "I really think America is the greatest country that's ever existed."

With the War Between the States as a metaphorical backdrop, Stickles uses the 10 songs on 'The Monitor' to explore his own internal conflicts. By the end of the album -- a 65-minute mix of ramshackle punk rock and spoken-word recitations of Civil War-era speeches and poems -- the singer learns a valuable lesson: "We have to account for our own happiness." [...]

"Even though we have a lot of problems, we also have the best ideas," he says. "We still have the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and all [these] beautiful documents, and the idea that all men, or all humans, are created equal, and with work there is nothing you can't accomplish, and everyone deserves a fair shake," he says. "That is, you know, pretty much as good as it gets."

Titus Andronicus: Civil War Punk Rock (ROBERT CHRISTGAU, NPR)

The leader of Titus Andronicus, Patrick Stickles, isn't one of those cartoon punks who spell stupid with two Os. No short, snappy songs for this band -- on its debut album, his three-chord thrash was sprawling, ending with three seven-minute songs. So it's not too much of a surprise that the follow-up, The Monitor, mixes images of youthful angst with images of the Civil War. Quotations from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" even show up in "Richard II."

After college, Stickles left suburban Glen Rock, N.J., to join a girlfriend in Boston. There, he absorbed Ken Burns' The Civil War documentary and did a lot of related reading as his love life fell apart.

Such was the genesis of The Monitor. Oddly, however, the album doesn't reference either of these inspirations all that much. Instead, historical pain and personal pain combine to inspire alternately furious and dejected meditations on the moral confusion of Stickles' generational cohort, who has "never seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Watch the full video at Baeblemusic.com
Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


David Cameron faces rebellion as Labour to vote with Tory sceptics on EU budget cut (Rowena Mason, 31 Oct 2012, Telegraph)

David Cameron is facing a serious rebellion as Labour and backbench Tories are preparing to gang up against his plans to accept a rise in the EU budget.

Mr Cameron has promised to fight the European Commission's demands for a five per cent increase, which would cost the UK an extra £10 billion over seven years - or £22,000 a minute. The Prime Minister would accept a lower rise of around two per cent in line with inflation.

This pledge is not enough for the eurosceptics, whohave tabled an amendment calling for a cut in the budget, Around 40 are officially planning to rebel and at least a dozen more expected to join them.

Labour sources said the party is planning to vote with the Tory rebels, if a vote on the amendment is allowed to go ahead.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


U.S. Workers' Compensation Rises 0.4% (ERIC MORATH And SARAH PORTLOCK, 10/31/12, )

Pay and benefits for U.S. workers continued to grow modestly from July through September, suggesting that a still-shaky labor market is holding back compensation. [...]

Soft demand for labor left workers with little bargaining power to pursue better salaries and benefits even as job creation improved during the third quarter. The unemployment rate fell to 7.8% in September, the lowest level since 2009.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


Illogical Housing Aid (YONAH FREEMARK and LAWRENCE J. VALE, 10/31/12, NY Times)

[D]emocrats shouldn't be so quick to attack any change to the mortgage interest deduction. In doing that, they're depriving themselves of a potentially powerful tool for progressive governance, one that could greatly increase funding for affordable housing. In truth, the mortgage interest tax deduction benefits the rich far more than middle-income families. A 2012 study by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that of federal tax expenditures for homeowners, more than half goes to households with annual incomes above $100,000, about twice the United States median.

Upper-income Americans take advantage of these policies to help them buy million-dollar homes, but there are relatively few federal housing dollars for extremely low-income families -- and even fewer for those in the next tier up, who earn between $20,000 and $50,000 a year. Rather than preserve the mortgage-interest deduction as it is now, progressive politicians would do better to redirect the benefits we currently provide to America's wealthiest homeowners to supporting housing for struggling and moderate-income families. [...]

Since 2000, federal assistance to the poor through long-term subsidies of public housing and Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) has stagnated. A third program, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, encourages the development of housing for working-class families, but the affordability of the apartments it covers is guaranteed only for a limited time.

Together, public housing and voucher programs serve roughly the same number of households as in 2000, even though the nation's population has grown by 33 million, or 12 percent, and the number of impoverished people has ballooned by 14 million, or 45 percent.

Today, the federal government spends about $40 billion annually on housing programs designed specifically for low-income households. Yet the mortgage interest deduction alone costs the Treasury some $80 billion a year. Almost $35 billion in housing aid goes to families with incomes above $200,000.

Not only would expanding the voucher program and making them more generous--but limiting them to purchases, rather than rentals--serve to stimulate the economy by bringing back housing prices and help to get the poor out of the inner cities many are trapped in, it is also a brilliant/insidious way of undermining the other social programs by building up the savings of our most marginal citizens. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 PM


Smart Meters Help Utility Speed Sandy Restoration (Martin LaMonica, October 31, 2012, Technology Review)

As power utilities work to restore electricity service to millions of people in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, at least one utility has found its investment in smart meters is making a difference.

Pepco, which serves Washington D.C. and parts of Maryland, is using these two-way meters to automatically locate where power outages on its network occurred. Once power is restored, the utility can also ping meters to verify service, rather than send out a crew or make a phone call, according to a Pepco representative. [...]

Cutting back trees near power lines is considered one of the best preventative measures. 

Smarten the meters; bury the lines.
Posted by orrinj at 10:10 AM


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Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Romney, GOP Suddenly Plunging Onto Democratic Turf (Thomas Beaumont and Brian Bakst, October 31, 2012, (AP) 

Mitt Romney is suddenly plunging into traditionally Democratic-leaning Minnesota and Pennsylvania, and his GOP allies are trying to put Michigan into play. It's forcing President Barack Obama to defend his own turf - he's pouring money into television ads in the states and dispatching top backers - in the campaign's final week. [...]

Former President Bill Clinton was dispatched in response on Tuesday. "Barack Obama's policies work better," he declared on the University of Minnesota campus, one of his two stops in a state that offers 10 electoral votes and hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 AM


The progressive case against Obama : Bottom line: The president is complicit in creating an increasingly unequal -- and unjust -- society (MATT STOLLER, 10/27/12, Salon)

So why oppose Obama? Simply, it is the shape of the society Obama is crafting that I oppose, and I intend to hold him responsible, such as I can, for his actions in creating it. Many Democrats are disappointed in Obama. Some feel he's a good president with a bad Congress. Some feel he's a good man, trying to do the right thing, but not bold enough. Others think it's just the system, that anyone would do what he did. I will get to each of these sentiments, and pragmatic questions around the election, but I think it's important to be grounded in policy outcomes. Not, what did Obama try to do, in his heart of hearts? But what kind of America has he actually delivered? And the chart below answers the question. This chart reflects the progressive case against Obama.

The above is a chart of corporate profits against the main store of savings for most Americans who have savings -- home equity. Notice that after the crisis, after the Obama inflection point, corporate profits recovered dramatically and surpassed previous highs, whereas home equity levels have remained static. That $5-7 trillion of lost savings did not come back, whereas financial assets and corporate profits did. Also notice that this is unprecedented in postwar history. Home equity levels and corporate profits have simply never diverged in this way; what was good for GM had always, until recently, been good, if not for America, for the balance sheet of homeowners. Obama's policies severed this link, completely.

The link between the recovery of corporate profits and the decline in housing prices is direct, both were a function of the recession.  Profits just went up because excess employment was trimmed back after a thirty year social experiment.  The resulting economy, more efficient, productive and profitable, will help drive housing prices back up.