Boing Boing 

PBS Frontline's "Money, Power and Wall Street" doc: watch it for free, online

An epic four-part documentary on the global financial crisis from PBS Frontline is now available to view in entirety online.

May Day, 2012 (big photo gallery)

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

A protester holds a Guy Fawkes masked teddy bear during May Day demonstrations in Los Angeles. Below, more photos from demonstrations around the world today (Canada, Germany, Spain, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, and more) in support of workers' rights and economic justice.

Joe Sabia

Above, Boing Boing pal Joe Sabia took these iPad snapshots of taxi drivers and workers protesting in NYC's Greenwich Village. "These photos are on the mid to tail-end of the march," Joe tells Boing Boing, "They're on Tenth and Broadway, heading south from Union Square."

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“My breast has fallen off. Can you reattach it?”

Atlanta Magazine has an interview with Otis Webb Brawley, M.D., and an excerpt from his new book "How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America."

The excerpt tells the story of 53-year-old Edna Riggs, of Atlanta, Georgia. Fear of cancer, medical debt, and losing her job caused her to not seek treatment for her breast cancer until it reached a very advanced state.

(Graphic content, may be upsetting; via @rogersmatthew)

Students protesting tuition hikes pepper-sprayed by police in Santa Monica, CA

(video: Jenna Chandler, Santa Monica Patch)

Last night at Santa Monica College (about 20 blocks from the beach here in Los Angeles, CA), police pepper-sprayed some 30 students in a crowd of about 150 protesters. The students want affordable education. They gathered during a meeting of the college's board of trustees to voice opposition to planned tuition hikes that would raise the cost of bread-and-butter courses during the summer session by as much as 400%. I was close enough to the location last night to hear helicopters and sirens as it happened.

The LA Times reports that Santa Monica police are today "trying to sort out" who used pepper-spray on the peacefully assembled students. Reports I heard last night indicated that the person or persons responsible were campus police, not Santa Monica police, who were called in later to secure the site. Among the injured: a child, who looks to be about 4 or 5 years old from these photos.

One student eyewitness tweeted:


More eyewitness video plus photos of two of the victims follow, at the end of this Boing Boing post.

Student blogger zunguzungu in Berkeley, who has been covering student protests and campus police brutality throughout California, rounds up news link and posts about the incident this morning. An excerpt:

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In economically devastated Greece, internet-enabled barter economy rises

An interesting piece in the Guardian this week about cashless commerce in Greece, where the currency crisis has prompted citizens to take unusual measures to obtain essential goods. One exchange website in particular is cited, and a unit of barter known as "tems." The network has been online for about a year and a half. Snip from a portion of Jon Henley's report about the open-air markets where tems are exchanged for daily neccessities:

“They’re quite joyous occasions,” she said. “It’s very liberating, not using money.” At one market, she said, she approached a woman who had come along with three large trays of homemade cakes and was selling them for a unit a cake. “I asked her: ‘Do you think that’s enough? After all, you had the cost of the ingredients, the electricity to cook …’

“She replied: ‘Wait until the market is over’, and at the end she had three different kinds of fruit, two one-litre bottles of olive oil, soaps, beans, a dozen eggs and a whole lot of yoghurt. ‘If I had bought all this at the supermarket,’ she said, ‘it would have cost me a great deal more than what it cost to make these cakes.’”

What rules the system has are designed to ensure the tems continue “to circulate, and work hard as a currency”, said Christos Pappionannou, a mechanical engineer who runs the network’s website using open-source software. No one may hold more than 1,200 tems in the account “so people don’t start hoarding; once you reach the top limit you have to start using them.” And no one may owe more than 300, so people “can’t get into debt, and have to start offering something.

Read the rest here. (via Clayton Cubitt, photo: Lambros Kazan/Shutterstock)

TOM THE DANCING BUG: Super-Fun-Pak, with Tim Tripp, Time Traveller, and MORE!

RECOMMEND: Follow RUBEN BOLLING on the twitters.

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Activists alter 85 BofA ATMs in SF to become "Automated Truth Machines"

Rainforest Action Network claims responsibility for the art-prank intervention.

RAN activists took to the streets of San Francisco last night and turned every Bank of America ATM in the city into an Automated Truth Machine. The activists used special non-adhesive stickers designed to look exactly like BoA’s ATM interface. But instead of checking and savings accounts, these new menus offered a list of everything BoA customers’ money is being used for, including investment in coal-fired power plants, foreclosure on Americans’ homes, bankrolling of climate change, and paying for fat executive bonuses.

(Via Mother Jones)

Good news, CEO pay is up!

The economy's recovered! For CEOs, that is. Exec pay is way, way, way up in America. 40% up. One CEO, John Hammergren at McKesson, took home $145M. The money-quote: "Bosses won in every area, with dramatic increases in pensions, payoffs and perks – as well as salary." Even for fired CEOs, it was a good year, with huge parachutes spun from finest gold.

First-hand account of Occupy LA arrest

Patrick Meighan, a writer on Family Guy, describes his arrest at Occupy LA, part of a brutal crackdown on 292 protesters whose belongings were destroyed and who were then subject to cruel (and in Mieghan's case, possibly crippling) detention. Meighan explains why he did it:

So that’s what happened to the 292 women and men were arrested last Wednesday. Now let’s talk about a man who was not arrested last Wednesday. He is former Citigroup CEO Charles Prince. Under Charles Prince, Citigroup was guilty of massive, coordinated securities fraud.

Citigroup spent years intentionally buying up every bad mortgage loan it could find, creating bad securities out of those bad loans and then selling shares in those bad securities to duped investors. And then they sometimes secretly bet *against* their *own* bad securities to make even more money. For one such bad Citigroup security, Citigroup executives were internally calling it, quote, “a collection of dogshit”. To investors, however, they called it, quote, “an attractive investment rigorously selected by an independent investment adviser”.

This is fraud, and it’s a felony, and the Charles Princes of the world spent several years doing it again and again: knowingly writing bad mortgages, and then packaging them into fraudulent securities which they then sold to suckers and then repeating the process. This is a big part of why your property values went up so fast. But then the bubble burst, and that’s why our economy is now shattered for a generation, and it’s also why your home is now underwater. Or at least mine is.

Anyway, if your retirement fund lost a decade’s-worth of gains overnight, this is why.

My Occupy LA Arrest, by Patrick Meighan

UK warns of riots if Euro fails

Ottawa Citizen: "British embassies in the eurozone have been told to draw up plans to help British expatriates through the collapse of the single currency, amid renewed fears for Italy and Spain."

EXCLUSIVE: photos of BofA's new #OWS-themed ad campaign

I have no idea who shot these, or who is responsible. Update: here are some daytime shots, from the San Francisco Mission district.

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Silicon Valley job fair for people who want jobs in India

This weekend, Silicon Valley's premier convention venue is hosting a job fair -- for people who want to work in India:

A job fair at the San Jose Convention Center this weekend is focused on helping companies recruit Indian workers who may in the U.S. on a visa by informing them about the professional and economic opportunities back home.

Organizers also stressed that the job fair is also open to anyone who is interested in working in India.

Among the companies involved in the job fair are: Flipkart, an Indian online shopping company; consulting firm Accenture; and Amazon.com, which runs development centers in Indian cities.

Others include: McAfee, which is now part of Intel; SmartPlay Technologies, an Indian semiconductor firm; InfoTech Enterprises, an Indian engineering design firm; Indian manufacturing firm Jindal Steel & Power; Tata Motors; San Jose-based Synapse Design; and UST Global, an IT services firm.

Looking for work? Here's a job fair touting tech openings in India

Bank of America rakes in big debit-card fees from people withdrawing unemployment benefits

Bank of America may have ditched its controversial debit-card fees for voluntary customers, but people on unemployment benefits who are forced to use the bank because it has to contract to administer their payments, there are plenty of fees in store. But hey, they can afford it -- a $264 unemployment check has lots of stretch in it, right?

To withdraw her benefits, Busby, 33, uses a Bank of America prepaid debit card on which the state deposits her funds. She could visit a Bank of America ATM free of charge. But this small community in the state's rural center, her hometown, does not have a Bank of America branch. Neither do the surrounding towns where she drops off her kids at school and attends church.

She could drive north to Columbia, the state capital, and use a Bank of America ATM there. But that entails a 50 mile drive, cutting into her gas budget. So Busby visits the ATMs in her area and begrudgingly accepts the fees, which reach as high as five dollars per transaction. She estimates that she has paid at least $350 in fees to tap her unemployment benefits.

"It really boggles my mind," she said. "This bank is taking little bits of money out of thousands of pockets, including mine."

Who needs predatory payday lenders when you've got enormous, fantastically profitable banks?

For Bank Of America, Debit Fees Extend To Unemployment Benefits (via Consumerist)

(Image: Bank of America building, Downtown Los Angeles, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 8047705@N02's photostream)

Berlusconi Bye Bye?

Is this really the final end of the Berlusconi era, or just another pause for the Cavaliere to catch his breath?

Will he return on a fresh horse as the savior of an ever-crumbling Italy, as he has done repeatedly for the past 20 years? Will my Italian friends finally be able to travel abroad without a miasma of shame, and not be forced to explain to all what a bunga bunga orgy means? Will the numerous foreigners living and working in Italy, legal, clandestine, and semiclandestine, be able to face their children and say: we did the right thing to come here? Will they say: a new day dawns on the peninsula, the specter of crisis, gloom and crime has finally lifted! Work hard for your future!

These are open questions, and frightening questions today in Italy after yesterday's dramatic countdown, and Berlusconi's declaration that he will step down only after passing an emergency law on the Italian economic crisis. United Europe and its presses have closely followed the saga of the decadent emperor. They know that it was global economics and not his domestic scandals that pried the scepter from his hands.

Italians are wondering : whatever next? How badly off is the Italian political culture, which after all is to be blamed for many times that Berlusconi has managed to take and hold power? Where was the legitimate opposition, why were the counter-forces so weak? After the fall of Milosevic in Serbia, the deeply corrupted and dysfunctional state system was hard put to maintain any pretense of a normal government. Can Italy recover, and behave like a major G-7 power again? How is that possible?

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Top US foreclosure law firm threw Halloween party where staff dressed as foreclosed-upon Americans

From a NYT opinion piece by Joe Nocera, “What the Costumes Reveal“—

On Friday, the law firm of Steven J.

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Understanding the hyperrich through the lens of tomorrow's history

Charlie Stross goes on a tear with "A cultural thought experiment," looking at what the wealth of the 1 percent means, what it can't buy them, and how it might be viewed from a future society.

The diminishing marginal utility law dictates that the more money we have, the less utility we get from any additional incremental gain. And this bites the top 1% very hard indeed.

Examine the world around us from the point of view of someone with a net income of $5M/year ...

Food is essentially free; you can afford to spend $1000 per meal, three meals a day, in the most expensive restaurants in London or Tokyo or Manhattan, and not make a dent in your income. (Oddly, even the hyper-rich don't typically spend $1000 on lunch every day: a more realistic expectation might be to dine out expensively twice a week, for $100K/year, and have the best of everything in-house the rest of the time, with a live-in chef, for another $100K/year.)

Clothing is essentially free; want a different $5000 suit for every day of the week? That's going to set you back only $35K! Spouse wants a dozen designer evening gowns a year? That's still going to be on the low side of $200K.

Housing is essentially free; $1000/day will rent you a penthouse suite in a five star hotel in Manhattan, while your mortgageable income will let you buy a palace in the $5-20M range. (There are places where you may need to spend more than $20M to buy a house; but not many of them.)

You don't have to do housework, interior decorating, cooking, driving, DIY home improvements, flight booking, or shopping (unless you want to). People can be hired to do any of the above for rates ranging from $15K to $100K per year, depending on the complexity of the job. And you earn $100K per week.

(Image: Wanted Poster at Holburn Station (London, UK), a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from takomabibelot's photostream)

Occupy the Classroom: economic justice demands universal early childhood education


"Occupy the Classroom," Nicholas D. Kristof's NYT op-ed, argues that the fight for economic justice needs to include a demand for universal access to high quality early childhood education, as this is the key to social mobility.

“This is where inequality starts,” said Kathleen McCartney, the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as she showed me a chart demonstrating that even before kindergarten there are significant performance gaps between rich and poor students. Those gaps then widen further in school.

“The reason early education is important is that you build a foundation for school success,” she added. “And success breeds success.”

One common thread, whether I’m reporting on poverty in New York City or in Sierra Leone, is that a good education tends to be the most reliable escalator out of poverty. Another common thread: whether in America or Africa, disadvantaged kids often don’t get a chance to board that escalator.

Maybe it seems absurd to propose expansion of early childhood education at a time when budgets are being slashed. Yet James Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago, has shown that investments in early childhood education pay for themselves. Indeed, he argues that they pay a return of 7 percent or more — better than many investments on Wall Street.

(via Beth Pratt)

(Image: Preschool Songs, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from caseywest's photostream)

Belarusian central bank auctions off its sugar bowls

The central bank of Belarus has auctioned off its office chairs, cardboard boxes, and sugar bowls, but they promise it's not an indication of any sort of trouble with the economy.

Occupy Wall Street takes over Times Square (updated)

Watch live streaming video from occupynyc at livestream.com


445pm ET: Happening as I post this. Watch live video here.

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Cost of raising middle-income child in USA increases by 40% in ten years


According to the US Dept of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child in a middle-income family has increased by 40 percent over the past ten years. Every major category of child-rearing expense has seen steep increase: day-care, education, food, gas, medical insurance, and so on. At this rate, childrearing may become a luxury item for America's increasingly wealthy super-rich.
"It takes half of my paycheck to pay for my child care -- you start to feel like, Is this even worth it?" said Anna Aasen, a mother of two from Roseburg, Ore.

In 2010, the cost of putting two children in child care exceeded the median annual rent payments in every single state, according to a recent report by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, or NACCRRA.

"It defies logic," said Linda Smith, NACCRRA's executive director. As more families are priced out of licensed child care services, the health and safety of those children are put in jeopardy, she said.

For Stephanie Serafini, 38, licensed day care for her two children comprises about 30% of her $39,000 annual income. Serafini pays a particularly high rate for care because her oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger's and ADHD.

It is by far Serafini's largest monthly expense, but also the one with the least flexibility. "Other bills don't get paid," she admitted. "If you don't have day care you don't work."

The rising cost of raising a child (via Consumerist)

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich answering questions on Reddit

Starting about an hour ago, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich is answering pretty much whatever questions people pose him on Reddit. Among the gems:

evasilev: What is the top priority policy change you would like to see outlined in Obama's upcoming policy speech to Congress?

Robert Reich: It will be a hard sell, but when consumers (whose spending is 70 percent of the economy) won't spend, and businesses (who are facing lackluster sales) won't hire, government has to be the spender of last resort. The President should ask for a trillion dollars to boost the economy. Not just on the WPA and CCC I mentioned, also infrastructure investment, also loans to cash-starved states and localities. With 25 million Americans looking for full-time work, and the cost of borrowing so incredibly low (T-bills at 2 percent), this is the only responsible thing to do.

patefacio: How is Clinton on a personal level? He looks like he'd be a great guy to have a beer with.

Robert Reich: I've known him since he was 22. At Oxford, as grad students, we didn't inhale together.

I thought about asking him if he'd like to join me for dinner this weekend, but I chickened out.

I'm Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, author, and professor of public policy at Berkeley. AMA.

Paul Krugman: save the economy by staging an alien invasion hoax

Paul Krugman has an unorthodox suggestion for saving the economy: stage a fake alien invasion like the one the superhero Ozymandias pulls in Watchmen:
Think about World War II -- that was actually negative social product spending and yet it brought us out... If we discovered that space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive build-up to counter the space alien threat, and inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. And then if we discovered, "whoops, we made a mistake," we'd [still] be better... There was a Twilight Zone episode like this, in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time we need it to get some fiscal stimulus.
Economist Paul Krugman Endorses 'Watchmen' Alien Invasion Plan for Fiscal Recovery (Thanks, Laura!)

Explaining "adverse possession" -- squatter's delight

Christopher Maag wrote a fascinating piece for Credit.com about the little-known legal claim called "adverse possession" that allows people to take possession of abandoned property.

Here’s the basic version of how it works:

1) Someone owns a property, whether it’s a house, a condo or just a strip of ground.
2) If the owner isn’t using the property, somebody else can come in and use it, without the owner’s permission.
3) After some amount of time (in Texas it's three years; in New York State it's ten), the squatter can claim ownership free and clear.
People have been making adverse possession claims for decades. The most famous cases happened on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1980s and '90s, when artists, punks and homeless people squatted in vacant buildings and brownstones.

Squatters Unite! McMansion Squatter Becomes Part of National Movement.

Pizzanomics: What's the link between cost of a NYC slice and cost of subway ride?

[video link]

Internets Celebrities, starring Dallas Penn and Rafi Kam, is my new favorite internet video series. You'll see these guys on the Boing Boing Video in-flight television channel on Virgin America starting next month. Their latest episode explores the connection between the cost of a slice of pizza in New York City, and the cost of an MTA subway token. From the video description:

In 1980, New Yorker Eric Bram noticed that for twenty years the price of a subway token had tended to match the price of a slice of pizza. Thirty years later, his hypothesis still holds true. The question we wanted answered is WHY. Are the MTA and the various supposedly independent pizza shops involved in collusion - or who's taking their pricing cues from who? And what about the dollar pizza spots that have been popping up all over Manhattan recently -- could these be predicting a lower cost transit authority appearing in our future?
Directed by Casimir Nozkowski, Edited by Corinne Maro, Original Music by Bless 1, Producers: Robin Oye, Jesse Wilson, Cornelius van Gorkom.

(thanks, Jesse Thorn!)

Over 938,000 applicants for McJobs get turned away

The "good" news: McDonalds recently hired 62,000 people for minimum wage, part-time work, which was 24 percent more than they planned. The bad news: Over a million people applied for the jobs, which means at least 938,000 applicants were turned down.

Home value chart updated 1890-2011

home-value.jpg

Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture says:

In 2006, just as the Housing market was peaking, the NYT ran this graphic of the 100-year Case Shiller chart. It showed how radically overvalued Housing had become. Two years later, TBP reader Steve Barry updated that graphic, including the projected Home Price mean reversion. Its time to update this for 2011. Note the 2009 tax credit wiggle.
Case Shiller 100 Year Chart (2011 Update)

To understand the U.S. federal budget, divide by 100,000,000

Philip Greenspun divided the U.S. 2011 federal budget by 100,000,000 and wrote a little parable:
We have a family that is spending $38,200 per year. The family's income is $21,700 per year. The family adds $16,500 in credit card debt every year in order to pay its bills. After a long and difficult debate among family members, keeping in mind that it was not going to be possible to borrow $16,500 every year forever, the parents and children agreed that a $380/year premium cable subscription could be terminated. So now the family will have to borrow only $16,120 per year.
Understanding Congress's solution to the federal deficit problem

Matt Ridley's talk at Long Now: "The story of history is of more for less."

Here's Stewart Brand's recap of science author Matt Ridley's (The Rational Optimist, Genome, The Red Queen) talk at the Long Now's Seminar About Long-term Thinking in San Francisco on Tuesday.
rational-optimist.jpgHominids had upright walking, stone tools, fire, even language but still remained in profound stasis. What led to humanity's global takeoff, Ridley argues, was the invention of exchange about 120,000 years ago. "That's ten times older than agriculture."

The beginnings of trade encouraged specialization and innovation, which encouraged further innovation, specialization, and trade, and the unending virtuous cycle of progress was set in motion. The quality and speed of the progress depends on the size of the population doing the exchanging. "It's not how clever we are but how much in contact we are with each other." Thus the 5,000 Australians who became isolated on Tasmania 10,000 years ago didn't just stop progressing, they forgot how to make and use bone tools and even how to clothe themselves against cold weather. Their individual brains were fine, "but there was something wrong with their collective brains."

What really is being exchanged is ideas. The Pill-cam (for shooting video of your gut) was invented, Ridley points out, when a gastroenterologist had a conversation with guided missile designer.

The acceleration of progess can be measured in objective terms such as the amount of labor it takes to earn an hour of reading light. In 1997, with CF bulbs, it was half a second. In 1950, with incandescent bulbs, eight seconds. In 1880, with kerosene lamps, fifteen minutes. In 1800, with candles, six hours. In every decade various intellectuals keep saying that progress has stopped or is about to stop, but Ridley showed chart after chart chronicling constant improvement in everything we care about. Life expectancy is increasing by five hours a day. IQ keeps going up by three points a decade. Agriculture gets ever more productive, leaving more land to remain wild. Even economic inequality is decreasing, with poor countries getting rich faster than rich countries are getting richer.

On the subject of climate change, Ridley has a similar set of detailed charts showing that sea level has been rising slowly for a long time, but it is not accelerating. The same with the retreat of glaciers. Overall global warming is proceeding slower than was predicted. Humanity has been decarbonizing its energy supply steadily for 150 years as we progressed from wood to coal to oil to natural gas. A few years ago it was thought that only 25 years of natural gas was left, but with the invention of hydrofracking shale gas, the supply is suddenly 250 years worth, and it is a hugely cleaner source than coal. (Among nuclear innovations, Ridley is particularly intrigued by thorium reactors.)

"The story of history is of more for less." Paul Ehrlich's formula (I=PAT--- environmental Impact equals Population times Affluence times Technology) is better stated as I=P/AT--- Impact equals Population divided by Affluence times Techology. As affluence and technology increase, and population levels off, environmental impact can go ever down.

An historian once wrote, 'On what principle is it that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?" That was English historian Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1830, even before the industrial revolution.

Matt Ridley on "Deep Optimism"

The Dumbest Thing Ever Said!...by Hillary Clinton, about the Drug War


ReasonTV explains black market economics to Hillary Clinton.

Recently, during an interview with Mexico's Televisa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the United States can't legalize drugs "because there is just too much money in it."

Apparently, Clinton doesn't understand that there's so much money to be made selling illegal drugs precisely because drugs are illegal. Reason.tv uses Clinton's love of pant suits and Chardonnay to explain the economics of prohibition to the former presidential candidate.

The Dumbest Thing Ever Said!...by Hillary Clinton, about the Drug War

Detroit will pay you to take one of its houses

Kevin-Bauman-house.jpg
Photo by Kevin Bauman. See more of Kevin's stunning photos of abandoned Detroit homes.

From Business Insider:

Mayor Dave Bing is trying to save Detroit by offering incentives to lure residents back to abandoned neighborhoods. One program offers $150,000 in housing renovation money and requiring only $1,000 down to police officers who are willing to relocate to the city. Another offers college graduates $2,500 to rent and $20,000 forgivable loan to buy properties. Potential home buyers can choose from plenty of cheap or free homes, especially in the blighted neighborhoods of Woodward Ave. and Brush Park.
Detroit Will PAY You To Take One Of These 100 Abandoned Homes