Category Archives: Economy

Chart of the day: Economic divisions in Europe


From the New York Times:

BLOG Euro

Map of the day II: European joblessness in 2015


Sorry for the poor resolution, but Eurostat’s maps have become increasingly problematic in recent months, as you can see in the original [PDF]:

BLOG Eurojobless

Map of the day: Bay Area housing bubble bulges


From the Washington Post, where interactive maps allow you to search by city or Zip code to find out how much home prices have soared or plunged between 2004 and 2015.

The Zip code circled in black is the location of Casa esnl, in the heart of bubble land. Alas, esnl isn’t a homeowner, and its only our rent that’s nearly doubled in that same time frame:

BLOG Berkeley

France getting cold feet over that trade accord


You know, the TTIP [previously], the latest of the Obama-pushed, ocean-spanning international trade agreements designed to further ensrine corporate power over national sovereignty.

From Radio France Internationale:

The French government appeared to toughen its stance on the TTIP transatlantic trade partnership on Tuesday with Prime Minister Manuel Valls warning that the proposed deal being discussed by the European Union and the US will not go through if health and environment standards are not maintained and negotiator Matthias Feki saying it might not be signed at all.

“I want to be clear: it will not succeed if it does not guarantee that the standards we have in France for our citizens’ health and environment will be maintained,” Valls said at a government-organised environmental conference in Paris on Tuesday. “And today we are too far from that to envisage an agreement.”

US President Barack Obama this week visited Europe, in part to push the free-trade deal, which has been opposed by civil society groups who claim that negotiations have been hidden from public view and that it could harm agriculture and the environment.

Earlier on Tuesday French Foreign Trade Minister Matthias Fekl, who leads negotiations for France, predicted that the deal would not be signed before the end of Obama’s mandate at the end of the year and raised the possibility that agreement may never be reached.

Quote of the day: Gentrification in the East Bay


The eastern shoreline of San Francisco Bay, including esnl’s Berkeley and Oakland, just four blocks away, has become untenable for growing numbers of people, including many of the people of color who used to live in our own neighborhood.

Our own rent was just jacked up by more than half, and we know many others in the same fix.

And so we turn with interest to our QOTD, written by April M. Short for AlterNet, who was driven from Oakland by the same forces that are driving us out as well.

The true culprit behind displacement and gentrification is a complex ricochet effect that arguably began with the tech boom, as large Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook and Apple were drawn to this desirable and nearby area. As their money has flooded the city, landlords and business owners have hiked up prices and ultimately life in San Francisco has become too expensive for many artists, laborers and others who don’t receive salaries comparable to those of tech workers. Many of those San Franciscans have moved to Oakland, which remains less expensive (if only slightly). That migration includes many tech startup workers who can’t afford to buy or rent in San Francisco and have heard Oakland is more affordable. As Oakland has been inundated with this mass influx of people from across the bay, landlords and businesses over here have in turn hiked up their prices, forcing longtime locals further into the outskirts.

Another important piece of the problem are the unethical practices of these tech giants. The most obvious example is the tech companies’ corporate shuttles that allow non-locals to be driven into the city from Silicon Valley aboard luxury buses, which have earned the nickname Google buses. Mass protests have gathered to stop the buses, and in response, the city of San Francisco recently forbade those private buses from using public bus stops. But the mass displacement of San Francisco’s people and the white-washing gentrification of its streets have not reversed (Truthout has an in-depth snapshot of the situation).

Another thing to note is the greed of some landlords. As rents have skyrocketed in the last three to five years, mortgages have remained relatively stable, and some landlords have been charging more just because they can. Because of this trend, and similar situations in New York, Los Angeles and many other metropolitan areas, it is officially the worst time in American history to be a renter. A report by the online real estate website Zillow showed in August how rents have never taken up this much of the American paycheck.

Puerto Rico, red meat to predatory banksters


The power of predators to draft American financial laws should be apparent to anyone by now, but it’s still shocking to see how viciously those laws impact the lives of men, women, and children who are both citizens and colonial subjects.

Puerto Rico is the classic example, a territory whose natives are by birthright U.S. citizens, yet are simultaneously exempt from laws created to protect citizens who happen to be born in states rather than territories.

Leave it to John Oliver and his gifted staff of researchers to get to bottom of things, with a little musical help from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the hottest ticket on Broadway.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Puerto Rico

Program notes:

Puerto Rico is suffering a massive debt crisis. Lin-Manuel Miranda joins John Oliver to call for relief.

Blood on the newsroom floor: More carnage


2016 is shaping up as another bad year for the news media, with downsizings happening in both the United States and Europe.

We’ll begin with the most notable new example, via the New York Post:

Chairman and Publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr.’s management team has been talking with some of the Times’ unions to come to a deal to provide reduced severance to those affected, sources told The Post.

“There’s a goal of a couple of hundred people,” said a source familiar with talks. “They don’t want to pay out big packages, and they’re having negotiations with the unions.”

The layoffs would likely occur between the Aug. 21 end of the summer Olympics in Brazil and Election Day on Nov. 8, sources said.

A union source confirmed there are ongoing talks about reducing severance pay, but wasn’t aware of lay-off plans at this time.

Next, the hammer falls at a major Midwestern paper, the same one esnl read as a grade schooler growing up in a small Kansas farm town.

Via Cision Media Research:

Layoffs and buyouts have hit the newsroom at The Kansas City Star. The buyouts affected several veterans of the paper, including editorial page editor Steve Paul, on staff since 1975; op-ed columnist and editorial board member Barb Shelly, with the paper since 1984; longtime theater critic Robert Trussel, on staff since 1977; digital editor Jody Cox; and assistant sports editor  Mark Zeligman.

The following staffers were laid off:

  • Greg Hack, assistant business editor
  • Alan Bavley, health reporter
  • Brian Burnes, metro reporter
  • James Fussell, features reporter
  • Mary Schulte, online photo editor

The Pittsburgh Business Times covers the kinder, gentler form of downsizing on their own home turf:

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette generated enough editorial staffers to take a second buyout offer in the last seven months that it will not move forward with any layoffs.

“With this buyout, we got near enough to where we need to be that we don’t need to go further,” said Lisa Hurm, general manager for the PG, a division of Toledo-based Block Communications, Inc.

Hurm declined to offer specifics on the number of editorial staffers to take the buyout. She added there were staff reductions in other areas of the publication along with other turnover that layoffs proved unnecessary.

PG management decided to not go forward with any involuntary layoffs after issuing a notice to the leadership of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh of the possibility of newsroom layoffs a little more than a month ago.

Digital First Media, the company that just announced it was eliminating all but the thinnest, token veneer of editing at its Northern California newspapers, has announced the sale of more of its holdings as it continues in a desperate struggle to raise cash.

But that’s what happens when investment bankers look at newspaper holdings as profit centers, a delusion if ever there was one.

From Talking New Media:

The newspaper chain Digital First News [21 April] announced the sale of New England Newspapers Inc., a day after the chain sold The Salt Lake Tribune to Paul Huntsman, the son of businessman and philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman. The papers that are part of the group sold include three dailies and one weekly: The Berkshire Eagle, The Brattleboro Reformer, the Bennington Banner — and the weekly Manchester Journal.

The papers were sold to a local group, Birdland Acquisition LLC whose principals are John C. “Hans” Morris, former president of Visa Inc., Fredric D. Rutberg, former Pittsfield District Court judg, Robert G. Wilmers, chairman and CEO of M&T Bank, and Stanford Lipsey, publisher emeritus of The Buffalo News.

Digital First Media, which is the management company which owns MediaNews Group, Digital First Ventures, and 21st Century Media, which incorporates the old Journal Register Company, just recently was able to acquire the assets of Freedom Communications in a bankruptcy auction. In that auction, Tribune Publishing, which owns the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union Tribune, appeared to have won the auction, which would have added the Orange County Register to its newspaper assets. But the Department of Justice stepped in objecting to the acquisition, and so Digital First Media won the auction. DFM owns papers in Southern California including the Los Angeles Daily News and Long Beach Press Telegram.

But DFM is hardly on solid financial group. A year ago the chain, owned by the private equity firm Alden Global Capital, attempted to sell itself whole, but had to back away when no seller interested in its dispersed holdings came forward to bid on the entire company.

Given that layoffs usually following sales, it’s a good news/bad news kind of story.

There’s plenty more, after the jump. . . Continue reading