Now that the super exciting Pro Bowl is over (shoot that thing and put us all out of its worthless misery), we are down to just one last football game. But it is a good one, with the top ranked team in each conference representing, and the best offense versus the best defense. And all that jazz.
And, really, what else is there to say about the game at this point? It has been the fascination of sports, general and entertainment media for two weeks of hype now. I could take you through the normal rundown on the teams, but why? My one real take is that the game boils down not to Denver’s offense or Seattle’s defense, but rather to Denver’s defense. Peyton and the Broncos will score some points no matter how well they are defended. The same cannot necessarily be said about the Seahawks. So, if the Broncos defense plays big, Denver wins. If not, they don’t.
Can’t wait to find out; will be one hell of an exciting game to watch. If you can’t wait and want a simulation, this Breaking Madden piece is pretty great.
So, let’s talk for a bit about the game itself in terms of what it means and does for the host city. Does hosting a Super Bowl mean as much to a city as is commonly claimed?
Here is a report on the effects of 2008 Super Bowl XLII on the greater Phoenix area by the Arizona State University WP Carey School of Business. The results claim:
Super Bowl festivities generated a record $500.6 million in direct and indirect spending by visiting fans and organizations, according to the newly released Super Bowl impact study produced by the W. P. Carey MBA Sports Business program.
The gross impact of a half billion dollars in the Arizona marketplace brings rejuvenation to an economy that has been weakened by a recession.
The ripple effect of return visits, family and company relocations, and word-of-mouth marketing nationally could equal or exceed the record Super Bowl spending in years to come.
That is in line with many of the claims that are commonly pitched for Super Bowls, but is that right?
Well, maybe not. There are a lot of demands on a host city, and they really add up. One of the best journalists out there writing on the intersection of sports and society is Travis Waldron, and he reported this on the eve of last year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans:
Those estimates, though, are likely fool’s gold, according to an assortment of academic research into the actual economic impact of Super Bowls and other major sporting events. When professors Victor Matheson and Robert Baade studied the economic impact of Super Bowls from 1973 to 1997, they found that the games boosted city economies by about $30 million, “roughly one-tenth the figures touted by the NFL” and an even smaller fraction of what New Orleans officials predict. A later Baade and Matheson study found that the economic impact of a Super Bowl is “on average one-quarter or less the magnitude of the most recent NFL estimates.”
Similarly, a 1999 paper from professor Philip Porter found that the Super Bowl had virtually no effect on a city’s economy. Research on other events New Orleans has hosted, including the men’s Final Four, is similar. When Baade and Matheson studied Final Fours, they found that the events tend “not to translate into any measurable benefits to the host cities.”
There are multiple reasons the estimates are often overstated. Impact estimates usually take into account how much money will be spent in the city during an event like the Super Bowl without examining how much potential spending will be lost because people don’t visit or leave the city to avoid the crowd — that is, the impact studies account for gross spending, but not net spending. And the estimates rarely include the additional cost of putting on the event, further distorting the disparity between gross and net spending figures.
Frankly, I find the Williams College study undergirding Travis’ argument far more persuasive than the happy face one put out here by ASU that is cited above. Still, even if the net impact is “only” 150-200 million dollars, that is a good thing for a city’s economy. And I don’t know what people going to the Super Bowl in cold weather place like New Jersey/New York are going to come away Continue reading
As part of an NYT story on implants the NSA has placed in 100,000 computers around the world, some of them via radio, it lists “trade institutions inside the European Union” among the targets for Computer Network Exploitation.
It must be particularly sensitive to that declaration above others, because the NSA spokesperson offers a tired excuse for why our economic spying is not bad, while China’s is.
While refusing to comment on the scope of the Quantum program, the N.S.A. said its actions were not comparable to China’s.
“N.S.A.’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements,” Vanee Vines, an agency spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of — or give intelligence we collect to — U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”
I wonder whether the people who parrot this line really have so little understanding of the distinctions between the way China’s government presses its economic advantage and the way we do? I wonder if they’ve never seen cables showing our diplomats pressuring other countries in ways that benefit specific, named US companies (or trade organizations), surely relying on intelligence gained from both SIGINT and HUMINT?
We are neither better or worse capitalists than China because of the way we spy. Both countries are cheating on behalf of ostensibly “national” companies (though cheating and illicitly gained intelligence are an established feature of even the best regulated markets).
For some reason the NSA thinks that so long as it doesn’t spy on one of the few remaining areas where the US has the biggest competitive advantage — its Intellectual Property — its economic spying is morally better than China’s economic spying.
That’s nonsense. It’s all cheating in the name of national strength. If it’s acceptable for us to do it, we really can’t perform moral outrage that our rivals are doing it.
I was actually surprised, back in May, when the White House announced a State Visit for Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff.
After all, not long after Obama visited Brazil in March 2011, the real started gaining value against the dollar, significantly slowing the boom Brazil had enjoyed in the wake of our crash.
When she was here in April 2012, Dilma explicitly blamed US Quantitative Easing for the reversal in currencies, and suggested the policy was meant to slow growth in countries like Brazil. Before that, Brazil’s boom and its advances in energy independence had put Brazil in a position to assume the global stature a country of its size might aspire to. And Dilma (partly correctly) blamed US actions for undercutting that stature.
I interpreted the State Dinner to be an attempt to woo Brazil away from natural coalitions with the Bolivarist governments of Latin America and the BRICS (Brazil, Russsia, India, China, and South Africa).
Fast forward to today, when the Brazilian government announced that it has postponed the visit that had been scheduled for October 23.
The usual suspects are mocking Dilma’s decision, insisting that everyone spies, and that Brazil is just making a stink for political gain. The White House statement echoes that, suggesting that it was the revelation of US spying, and not the spying itself, that created the problems.
The President has said that he understands and regrets the concerns disclosures of alleged U.S. intelligence activities have generated in Brazil and made clear that he is committed to working together with President Rousseff and her government in diplomatic channels to move beyond this issue as a source of tension in our bilateral relationship.
There is something to that stance. Dilma’s government faces a lot of unrest and the tensions of preparing for the World Cup. The portrayal that the US was taking advantage of Brazil caught her at a politically sensitive time.
All that said, those poo-pooing Brazil’s complaints ignore the specific nature of the spying as revealed. As I noted, even James Clapper’s attempt to respond to concerns raised by the original reports in Brazil didn’t address (and indeed, may have exacerbated) concerns that the US is engaging in financial war, including manipulating its currency to undercut other countries as they rise in relative power. If the US is using its advantages in SIGINT to engage in such financial war, Brazil has every reason to object, because it’s not something Brazil’s currency or telecommunications position make possible.
US disclaimers of industrial espionage no longer matter if the US is collecting SIGINT that would support substantive financial attacks, especially since Clapper in March made it clear the US envisions such attacks (even if they only admit to thinking in defensive terms).
It is wealth inequality day, in which, on the same day, the Census Bureau releases information on poverty and CQ releases the list of richest members of Congress.
As for poverty: things didn’t get statistically worse, but things didn’t get better at all, not even with decreasing unemployment (which, admittedly, is largely about labor market participation). (In good news, President Obama today extended minimum wage and overtime protections to home healthcare workers, though he bizarrely delayed implementation of the rule until 2015.)
As for wealth, 50 members of Congress are worth $6.67 million or more.
No wonder they seem so distant from the worries of their constituents.
But the truly mind-blowing detail from CQ’s wealthiest list is the remarkable luck Darrell Issa had in the last year. In just the last year, his net worth has increased from $140.55 million to $355.38 million — or a net worth increase of 152.8%. (He also became the richest member, but would have anyway on account of John Kerry’s retirement.)
No wonder he gins up factually problematic attacks on the IRS.
Here’s how CQ describes Issa managed such a feat:
The longtime denizen of the 50 Richest list finally reached the No. 1 spot after making about $135 million in 2012, mostly from investments that swelled in a bull market.
Issa appears to make his money in the stock market. He ended 2012 with at least $390 million in bonds and stocks. His true worth, however, could be far greater. Members of Congress aren’t obligated to disclose exact figures, only ranges, and Issa has seven accounts with a minimum of $50 million, which is the highest category available on standard disclosure forms.
Issa also has about $75 million in outstanding loans, owing at least $50 million to Merrill Lynch and $25 million to Union Bank. Whether he truly is the richest member of Congress actually depends on precisely how much money he owes to Merrill Lynch.
So in the last year in which insider trading was legal for members Congress, Darrell Issa managed to make at least $100 million.
And yet he believes Benghazi is the most urgent matter facing this country.
I’m fundraising this week. Please support me if you can.
Yesterday, TV Globo published details of NSA spying on Brazil’s oil company, Petrobras, SWIFT, and financial organizations. Besides revealing that man-in-the-middle attacks are sometimes used, the report didn’t offer details of what the NSA was actually collecting. Its sources suggest NSA might be seeking Brazil’s leading deep sea drilling technology or geological information that would be useful in drilling auctions, but it is also conceivable the NSA is just trying to anticipate what the oil market will look like in upcoming years (this is one area where we probably even spy on our allies the Saudis, since they have been accused of lying about their reserves).
To some degree, then, I await more details about precisely what we’re collecting and why.
But what I am interested in is James Clapper’s response. He released this statement on the I Con site.
It is not a secret that the Intelligence Community collects information about economic and financial matters, and terrorist financing.
We collect this information for many important reasons: for one, it could provide the United States and our allies early warning of international financial crises which could negatively impact the global economy. It also could provide insight into other countries’ economic policy or behavior which could affect global markets.
Our collection of information regarding terrorist financing saves lives. Since 9/11, the Intelligence Community has found success in disrupting terror networks by following their money as it moves around the globe. International criminal organizations, proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, illicit arms dealers, or nations that attempt to avoid international sanctions can also be targeted in an effort to aid America’s and our allies’ interests.
What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.
As we have said previously, the United States collects foreign intelligence – just as many other governments do – to enhance the security of our citizens and protect our interests and those of our allies around the world. The intelligence Community’s efforts to understand economic systems and policies and monitor anomalous economic activities is critical to providing policy makers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security.
Let me take this extraordinary statement in reverse order.
In the fourth paragraph, Clapper reiterates the final defense that NSA defenders use: that we’re better than, say, China and France, because we don’t engage in industrial espionage, stealing technology with our spying. That may be true, but I suspect at the end of the day the economic spying we do might be more appalling.
In the third paragraph, he retreats to the terror terror terror strategy the Administration has used throughout this crisis. And sure, no one really complains that the government is using financial tracking to break up terrorist networks (though the government is awfully selective about whom it prosecutes, and it almost certainly has used a broad definition of “terrorism” to spy on the financial transactions of individuals for geopolitical reasons). But note, while the Globo report provided no details, it did seem to describe that NSA spies on SWIFT.
That would presumably be in addition to whatever access Treasury gets directly from SWIFT, through agreements that have become public.
That is, the Globo piece at least seems to suggest that we’re getting information from SWIFT via two means, via the now public access through the consortium, but also via NSA spying. That would seem to suggest we’re using it for things that go beyond the terrorist purpose the consortium has granted us access for. Past reporting on SWIFT has made it clear we threatened to do just that. The Globo report may support that we have in fact done that.
Now the second paragraph. James Clapper, too cute by half, asserts, spying on financial information,
could provide the United States and our allies early warning of international financial crises which could negatively impact the global economy
Hahahahahaha! Oh my word! Hahahaha. I mean, sure, the US needs to know of pending financial crises, in the same way it wants to know what the actual versus claimed petroleum reserves in the world are (and those are, of course, closely related issues). But with this claim, Clapper suggests the US would actually recognize a financial crisis and do something about it.
Hahahahaha. Didn’t — still doesn’t — work out that way.
I’ll put working comments below. But one of my first impressions is that all of this is useful information, and in some ways really encouraging information (in others, horrifying).
For that reason, this is one of my favorite parts of the story itself:
Lee Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat who was a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and co-chairman of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, said that access to budget figures has the potential to enable an informed public debate on intelligence spending for the first time, much as Snowden’s disclosures of NSA surveillance programs brought attention to operations that had assembled data on nearly every U.S. citizen.
“Much of the work that the intelligence community does has a profound impact on the life of ordinary Americans, and they ought not to be excluded from the process,” he said.
“Nobody is arguing that we should be so transparent as to create dangers for the country,” he said. But, he said, “there is a mindset in the national security community — leave it to us, we can handle it, the American people have to trust us. They carry it to quite an extraordinary length so that they have resisted over a period of decades transparency. . . . The burden of persuasion as to keeping something secret should be on the intelligence community, the burden should not be on the American public.”
Hamilton is absolutely right. There’s no reason why information at this level of detail shouldn’t be shared with American taxpayers ponying up the $52.6 billion to pay for it all.
Working comments on Budget Justifications
4: The IC is apparently going to start researching trade disputes. I assume that’ll be primarily targeted at China. But it’s an interesting development.
About 14 months ago, I was at Netroots Nation in Providence, RI. RI has, like MI, been really battered by the Great Recession. Nevertheless, we had just seen Providence’s glorious WaterFire installment. And I had spent lots of time talking to local politicos getting a boost from Netroots Nation’s presence.
At a party that night, I got into a conversation with a top Netroots Nation organizer, describing a protest of GE’s shareholder meeting at Detroit’s Renaissance Center earlier that year. I described the responses people who had flown in for the event — including people who’d grown up in MI and people who’d never been in the state — had to seeing Detroit. Partly it was trauma in response to devastation of the city, the empty spaces, the decay. Partly it was a recognition of the energy and beauty that remain in the city. For Americans to see both the devastation and the hope of the city was, I thought, an important experience before the rest of the country follows the disinvestment and decline of Detroit.
The Netroots Nation person said, “What do you think about holding Netroots Nation in Detroit, so everyone gets that experience?”
I’m sure the NN organizers were already considering the idea, but I like to think my enthusiasm, as well as that of Eclectablog, who shortly thereafter joined into the conversation and added how much he drives into Detroit to go out, had a role in NN picking Detroit as the location for next year’s convention.
Yesterday, the Detroit News published a crazy op-ed, from a right wing operative who doesn’t even live in MI, claiming that NN’s selection to come to Detroit was all about unions and their purported failures.
Detroit’s bankruptcy has shed light on the ugly face of progressive governance, and is a haunting indicator of what can happen when government lets public-sector unions bleed taxpayers dry.
As the city faces difficult decisions about its financial future, one would expect progressives and labor interests to divert attention from the fallout.
But instead, they’re bringing Netroots Nation, a conference of progressive activists, to Detroit next year to promote the same model of government at the national level.
Eclectablog skewers the revisionist history of Detroit’s decline and the corporatist backing of the op-ed here.
This is the standard, boilerplate misdirection we’ve come to expect from corporatist groups funded by SPN and AFP like the Michigan’s Mackinac Center: portray teachers, once considered pillars in our community, as greedy for daring to ask for a living wage, good healthcare benefits, and, God-forbid, a pension that allows them retire without living in poverty.
It’s the same approach used by corporate sponsored groups and wealthy individuals like Dick Devos across the country on an ever-increasing level.
Oddly, Telford’s op-ed is posted under the topic of “Detroit Bankruptcy”. The fact is, however, it has nothing to do with Detroit’s bankruptcy. It’s a propaganda piece written by a corporatist living in Virginia who is attempting to rewrite Michigan history to suit his group’s anti-union agenda.
In Michigan, we know better. We know that the labor movement, which was born in Michigan, created the middle class. We know that unions brought us the 40-hour work week and raised the standard of living of our citizens so that they, too, could enjoy the benefits of a successful industrial manufacturing economy. They protect workers from the greed and excess of profit-minded corporations ensuring a safe workplace and sensible environmental protections.
It’s funny. Here’s a guy who lives in VA, a place that has benefitted from 12 years of massive government stimulus, going out of his way to speak out against Detroit — a city that owes a small part of its woes to policies set in the DC Metro area — winning convention dollars from a progressive organization (backed, I’m proud to say, by enthusiastic residents of the state).
How insecure do you have to be to go that far out of your way to discredit the idea of people from all over the states coming to Detroit to network, spend money, and have fun?
When I heard this line from Obama’s counterterrorism speech last week,
We are actively working to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians — because it is right and because such a peace could help reshape attitudes in the region. And we must help countries modernize economies, upgrade education, and encourage entrepreneurship — because American leadership has always been elevated by our ability to connect with people’s hopes, and not simply their fears. [my emphasis]
My immediate thought was,
“modernize economies.” Because neoliberalism is a failsafe bulwark against terror.
Sunday, John Kerry rolled out that plan in Amman – in the form of $4 billion in private donations led by Tony (!) Blair (!).
I have asked Quartet Representative Tony Blair and many business leaders to join together. And Prime Minister Blair is shaping what I believe could be a groundbreaking plan to develop a healthy, sustainable, private-sector-led Palestinian economy that will transform the fortunes of a future Palestinian state, but also, significantly, transform the possibilities for Jordan and for Israel.
It is a plan for the Palestinian economy that is bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything proposed since Oslo, more than 20 years ago now.
To achieve that, these leaders have brought together a group of business experts, who have donated their time, who have come from around the world over the course of the last six weeks to make this project real and tangible and formidable – as we say, shovel-ready. They have come from all over the world because they believe in peace, and because they believe prosperity is both a promise and a product of peace.
This group includes leaders of some of the world’s largest corporations, I’m pleased to say. It includes renowned investors and some of the most brilliant business analysts out there – and some of the most committed.
The fact is that we are looking to mobilize some $4 billion of investment.
The preliminary results already reported to me by Prime Minister Blair and by the folks working with him are stunning: These experts believe that we can increase the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50 percent over three years. Their most optimistic estimates foresee enough new jobs to cut unemployment by nearly two-thirds – to 8 percent, down from 21 percent today – and to increase the median annual wage along with it, by as much as 40 percent.
These experts hope that with their plan in full force, agriculture can either double or triple. Tourism can triple. Home construction can produce up to 100,000 jobs over the next three years, and many of them would be energy efficient.
Ultimately, as the investment climate in the West Bank and Gaza improves, so will the potential for a financial self-sufficient Palestinian Authority that will not have to rely as much on foreign aid. So just think, my friends – we are talking about a place with just over 4 million people in a small geographic area. When you’re talking about $4 billion or more and this kind of economic effort, you are talking about something that is absolutely achievable.
Aside from all the obvious problems with this plan — such as the stranglehold Israel has on Palestine’s “borders” and the prior expropriation of good farmland, aside from the fact that Israel and its booming economy gets something like four times more aid per capita as the Palestinians (though Israel’s aid gets recycled back into war toys), aside from the fact that investment in Palestinian territories isn’t going to make Bibi Netanyahu any more willing to negotiate in good faith, there’s the underlying assumption that throwing a bunch of “investment” money (Stephen Walt calls it a bribe) and “modernizing” an economy will fix things. Granted, increasing employment in the territories is an improvement over what exists today, but is a Tony Blair style economy really going to help? Continue reading
In tandem with the release of his book, Who Owns the Future?, Jaron Lanier’s interview with Salon generated a lot of hand-wringing across social media. It seems Lanier, one of our so-called intellectual visionaries, believes that the collapse of Kodak and its 140,000 jobs, and the rise of Instagram and its 13 jobs, exemplifies the killing field of the internet. Lanier theorizes good paying jobs that once supported a thriving middle class have disappeared as internet-enabled firms replaced them. As these jobs vaporized, so did necessary benefits. Here’s a key excerpt from the interview:
“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face,” he writes in the book’s prelude: “At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”
What a crock of decade-late shit.
Where the hell was Lanier in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the U.S. manufacturing sector nose-dived due to government policies created by corporate-acquired elected officials and appointees?
It wasn’t the internet that killed the middle class. The apathy of intellectuals and the technology elite did; too few bothered to point out the potential repercussions of NAFTA and other domestic job-depleting policies. In the absence of thought leaders, corporatists sold the public and their electeds on job creation anticipated from globalizing policies; they just didn’t tell us the jobs created wouldn’t be ours.
It wasn’t the rise of digitization that killed the middle class. It was the insufficiency of protests among U.S. brain power, including publicly-funded academics, failing to advocate for labor and home-grown innovation; their ignorance about the nature of blue collar jobs and the creative output they help realize compounded the problem.
Manufacturing has increasingly reduced man hours in tandem with productivity-increasing technological improvements. It wasn’t the internet that killed these jobs, though technology reduced some of them. The inability to plan for the necessary shift of jobs to other fields revealed the lack of comprehensive, forward-thinking manufacturing and labor policies.
It all smells of Not-My-Problem, i.e., “I’m educated, technology-enabled, white collar; those stupid low-tech blue collar folks’ jobs aren’t my problem.”
Until suddenly it is. Continue reading
I had realized NYC’s fast food workers were striking today, in what may end up being the biggest fast food worker strike. And I always mark the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, since the tragedy came just a week after I was born.
But I just copped onto the link between the two.
Today is the second citywide day of strikes in New York’s fast food industry. On November 29, 2012, some 200 workers at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, and Domino’s Pizza locations across multiple boroughs struck in what Jonathan Westin, executive director of NYCC, called “their coming out party.” Before that, Westin explained, the workers had been organizing behind the scenes, keeping their plans quiet. Now, he said, even in the face of intimidation from their bosses, the workers have been able to grow their movement.
“We’ll have double the number of strikers, four or five hundred workers on strike, and double the locations too,” Westin said. “We will have several stores where it will not just be minority strikes like it was last time, we will have the majority of workers at several stores out on strikes, making it hard for them to do business on this day.”
The date, April 4, holds special meaning for the workers and many of their supporters in the community. It is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. King was in Memphis to support the strike of the city’s sanitation workers, whose “I Am a Man” signs made clear that their labor struggle was part of the larger civil rights fight. Last week, two of those strikers, Alvin Turner and Baxter Leach, met with some of the fast food workers to share advice and inspiration. [my emphasis]
As Ned Resnikoff writes, the plight of the workers are similar: wages so low that it requires welfare support to survive.
Fast food workers and Memphis sanitation workers have had “similar struggles,” said Chad Tall, a strike leader and Taco Bell employee. “The thing that set [the sanitation workers] apart from everyone else is they made a decision to change it.”
Tall is part of a group of fast food workers who met with two surviving members of the 1968 strike in late March. “That’s what they told us,” he said. “Make the decision, then do it.”
Fast food workers are in a similar position to sanitation workers in 1968, said labor and civil rights historian Michael K. Honey, author of a book about the Memphis sanitation strike.
“In the case of sanitation workers, 40% of them were actually getting welfare benefits while they were working full-time jobs because they were so poorly paid,” he told MSNBC. Today, the fast food industry provides an annual mean wage of $18,600, lower than any other industry in the United States.
Fast food unionization is a nascent movement, fighting a lot of structural challenges. But the recent paid work day legislation in NYC made clear, it’s a fight that is a no-brainer, even for outsiders.
Plus, if the mobbed fast food restaurants I saw on my recent drive through very poor rural areas are any indication, it’s a movement that could grow to encompass all parts of the country.