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October2011.org

Happiness

The movie:

Happy – A Documentary Trailer from Wadi Rum Films on Vimeo.

I was just thinking last night that my life was very happy right now. (Except for the ever-present money worries.) But other than that, I’m enjoying myself. How about you? What makes you happy?

SSDI.

Disability “on the verge of insolvency,” according to AP, because of the flood of people filing because there are no jobs.

The disability program is also being hit by an aging population — disability rates rise as people get older — as well as a system that encourages people to apply for more generous disability benefits rather than waiting until they qualify for retirement.

What was all that about social costs?

Yep

Wonder when we’re going to start drug-testing the banksters for their welfare checks?

Citigroup Inc. (C) and Bank of America Corp. (BAC) were the reigning champions of finance in 2006 as home prices peaked, leading the 10 biggest U.S. banks and brokerage firms to their best year ever with $104 billion of profits.

By 2008, the housing market’s collapse forced those companies to take more than six times as much, $669 billion, in emergency loans from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The loans dwarfed the $160 billion in public bailouts the top 10 got from the U.S. Treasury, yet until now the full amounts have remained secret.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s unprecedented effort to keep the economy from plunging into depression included lending banks and other companies as much as $1.2 trillion of public money, about the same amount U.S. homeowners currently owe on 6.5 million delinquent and foreclosed mortgages. The largest borrower, Morgan Stanley (MS), got as much as $107.3 billion, while Citigroup took $99.5 billion and Bank of America $91.4 billion, according to a Bloomberg News compilation of data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, months of litigation and an act of Congress.

“These are all whopping numbers,” said Robert Litan, a former Justice Department official who in the 1990s served on a commission probing the causes of the savings and loan crisis. “You’re talking about the aristocracy of American finance going down the tubes without the federal money.”

Don’t be silly! We don’t let bankers go down the tubes, only poor people. Geeze.

Japanese Chernobyl

The affected area is probably even bigger than this, if past pronouncements from Japan are any guide:

TOKYO — Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels, several major media outlets said Monday.

The formal announcement, expected from the government in coming days, would be the first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant, an eventuality that scientists and some officials have been warning about for months. Lawmakers said over the weekend — and major newspapers reported Monday — that Prime Minister Naoto Kan was planning to visit Fukushima Prefecture, where the plant is, as early as Saturday to break the news directly to residents. The affected communities are all within 12 miles of the plant, an area that was evacuated immediately after the accident.

Tar sands

Queen Rhee

USAToday has done an in-depth series on the rampant cheating behind Rhee’s school “reform,” yet she refuses to talk to them. Gee, I wonder why? Because the media for once actually did their job — instead of fawning on her and refusing to take her at face value?

This is a very enlightening piece. Everyone should read it:

WASHINGTON — Why won’t Michelle Rhee talk to USA Today?

It’s hard to find a media outlet, big or small, that she hasn’t talked to. She’s been interviewed by Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey. She’s been featured on a Time magazine cover holding a broom (to sweep away bad teachers). She was one of the stars of the documentary “Waiting for Superman.”

These days, as director of an advocacy group she founded, StudentsFirst, she crisscrosses the country pushing her education politics: she’s for vouchers and charter schools, against tenure, for teachers, but against their unions.

Always, she preens for the cameras. Early in her chancellorship, she was trailed for a story by the education correspondent of “PBS NewsHour,” John Merrow.

At one point, Ms. Rhee asked if his crew wanted to watch her fire a principal. “We were totally stunned,” Mr. Merrow said.

She let them set up the camera behind the principal and videotape the entire firing. “The principal seemed dazed,” said Mr. Merrow. “I’ve been reporting 35 years and never seen anything like it.”

And yet, as voracious as she is for the media spotlight, Ms. Rhee will not talk to USA Today.

‘We’ll help you out’

Bank of America director to Rick Perry.

Dancing in the dark

That’s reassuring, isn’t it? We’ve been throwing tax breaks at companies to encourage them to create jobs in the U.S. — when we have no way of actually knowing if they’re creating jobs here:

Some of the country’s best-known multinationals closely guard a number they don’t want anyone to know: the breakdown between their jobs here and abroad.

So secretive are these companies that they hand the figure over to government statisticians on the condition that officials will release only an aggregate number. The latest data show that multinationals cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States and added 2.4 million overseas between 2000 and 2009.

Some of the same companies that do not report their jobs breakdown, including Apple and Pfizer, are pushing lawmakers to cut their tax bills in the name of job creation in the United States.

But experts say that without details on which companies are contributing to job growth and which are not, policymakers risk flying blind as they try to jump-start the hiring of American workers.

“It’s an important piece of information that the American people should have,” said Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. “Should you listen to the kind of advice these companies have about how to grow the economy when their record and their model indicates they’ve cut jobs? . . . Or should we talk to people who actually do create jobs in the United States?”

As the country faces an unemployment crisis, President Obama, lawmakers and business lobbyists have all touted the country’s biggest companies as critical to creating jobs.

The head of Obama’s jobs council, General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt, said during a tour of a company plant in Greensboro, S.C., that firms should be ready to answer questions from the public.

“If you want to be an admired company, you better know, you better have accountability, and you better think through where the jobs are,” he said.

GE breaks out its employment numbers in company filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2010, about 46 percent of GE’s 287,000 employees worked in the United States, compared with 54 percent in 2000.

BP Gulf oil spill

Leaking again? Sure looks like it. BP flaks are their usual forthcoming selves!

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