Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Dispatch From the Ruins


I don't think that I am exaggerating when I say that this one affair ended two careers. In the case of David Petraeus, yes. In the case of Paula Broadwell, more than likely.

Whatever they end up doing in public or private life is now inextricably linked to the fact that this incident resulted in no charges being filed against Broadwell. It's as if the whole thing never should have been publicized in the first place.

Amazing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Destruction of the Middle Class Continues



I would have to agree with the premise of this article--the Middle Class in the United States has been hammered by the economy and the economic policies that were put into place at the end of the Clinton Administration. With the repeal of Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, the seeds were placed to go after the one thing that made the Middle Class seem wealthy--the value of a decent home.

If you can extrapolate from the destruction of home values two main points--the Middle Class was cheated and that millions of Americans were denied entry into the Middle Class--then you can see where this is headed. Unless and until real reform is enacted to prevent another Real Esate bubble, what little equity still exists out there is going to continue to shrink and lenders are going to continue to be evasive and predatory.

You absolutely cannot have a Middle Class without a real estate market that reflects actual growth in terms of the sales of existing homes. Your typical Middle Class family lost value in their major asset five years ago, their home, and that value simply hasn't come back. Their value went into the pocket of someone who thought it would be clever to ride a manufactured real estate bubble out into the middle of nowhere and then just abandon people to their fate. Untold numbers of communities have been blighted ever since, littered with homes that used to house Middle Class families.

Now, we have shells in this country. Decaying shells full of miserable failure. Real reform can't come soon enough.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Getting Rid of Dollar Bills is an Idea I Can Support


This is actually a very good idea. And, this is also why it'll never happen.

If you have any experience dealing with euros, and with the one and two euro coins, then I would imagine that you would have a pretty good feeling about ditching the $1 dollar bill entirely; if not, then you don't know what you're missing.

One of the few really advanced and intelligent things that happened with Europe's conversion to the euro was the elimination of the paper single in favor of the one and two euro coin. When you have a handful of two euro coins, you've got money.

Will Americans be able to handle such a concept? Maybe gradually, but not at first. The problem, of course, comes from the popularity of the quarter and the fact that dollar coins have failed because they were too much like the quarter.

But, anyway--yes. Get rid of the dollar bill. Save the money. It would be a smart thing to do.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Wrong Kind of Need, Fulfilled


This story feeds into the idea that everyone has to have a college degree in order to be a part of the emerging economy. The fact of the matter is, not everyone needs a degree, but a lot of people need more skills than they already have.

College degrees don't come with skills; they come with the ability
to get skills in some cases or, in many other cases, they come with a validation stamp that says "this person can be educated further."

The problem is, we are short of manufacturing job skills and I'm not sure which degree program listed above is really going to fix that problem. The people who get college degrees nowadays are usually women, and they are usually not interested in manufacturing positions. There are exceptions, but, by and large, they're graduating with degrees in business or psychology and are not looking for factory jobs.

We initiated a mindset several generations ago that linked factory work with failure and doom, and now we're paying the price for that.

Texas should focus on training people for jobs that actually exist in Texas instead of trying to ram more college graduates into an economy that needs something else.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Disenfranchised Country is Not Free


The disenfranchisement of millions of Americans has been the great lost story of this election cycle. The news has covered it sparingly. Were it not for bloggers, few people would know about the underhanded tactics being used by Republicans all over America.

We're not just talking about Ohio or Florida. We're talking about voter ID laws, Tea Party wingnuts who are going to be challenging voters tomorrow, and even the State of Arizona printing the date for election day in Spanish as being November 7.

If the election is stolen, it will mean there are people living in this country who have been fooled into thinking their vote counts, that democracy matters, and that we are a free people.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Look at All the People Standing Next to the Racist T-Shirt


First of all, it isn't fair to blame this guy, and his T-shirt, on Mitt Romney's campaign. Tomorrow, someone is probably going to wear something equally offensive to an Obama campaign event, so, you know, both sides do it. Someone with some common sense should have thrown him out of the event, and they should have made certain that there were seven or eight cameras present when they did it. That would have been a positive story for the Romney campaign (albeit, one that would have infuriated their base, but still).

Second, the freak-out over this T-shirt should be placed firmly in the category of "business as usual." There are a good number of people in this country who, thanks to things like the Tea Party and their enablers in the Republican Party, just hate the person in the White House. They hate who he is and they hate what he stands for. It is a searing hatred that ignores the facts, ignores common sense, and burns with the intensity of a thousand suns. They just hate him. They're not afraid to be seen in public expressing that hate.

Third, I say let this guy have the American he thinks he wants. He wants an America where everything is okay because there's a white person in the White House. If that's what he thinks America really is, let him cling to his fantasy and let him imagine that this isn't a richly diverse country where people can still overcome tremendous obstacles and become President. Let him pound sand in the face of change.

Because, let's face it. The guy in this shirt has a lot more in common with where Barack Obama came from than where Mitt Romney came from. The greatness of America is evident in the fact that someone with Obama's name, identity, class status, and background can become President of the United States. Mitt Romney's dad ran an American car company, was governor of Michigan, and ran for President. Now he's running on that leg up in the world. I'm guessing that the guy in this T-shirt didn't have a father who had a long and storied career in business and politics and made a lot of money that he could then use to give his children a running head start in America. I'm guessing that his background is a bit more modest, just not that of a person who is half-black.

Even if Obama wasn't black, they'd still hate him because he's a Democrat. But let's not kid ourselves--they just hate him. And that's why so many people are standing next to this guy. So, yeah. It is about him. He wore the thing. But the people standing next to him ain't exactly up on what it is that makes America great, either. They are complicit in the act of denying what makes America a place too good for them to appreciate.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

End the Bush Tax Cuts


There are going to be a lot of these stories between now and whenever they swerve the car and avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff." They are designed to scare the public.

What we should be having a discussion about is this: since the Bush-era tax cuts didn't produce jobs, growth, and improve the fiscal health of the United States one bit, why should we continue to bail out millionaires while the Middle Class suffers?

The argument is already being made, and it's being won by those who want the rich to pay their fair share and let the Bush-era tax cuts expire. If the job creators had, you know, actually created jobs instead of lining their pockets, cutting wages, cutting workers, and outsourcing American jobs, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Here's what will avoid the "fiscal cliff" and save us from disaster--putting two or three million Americans back to work--meaningful jobs, good wages, and sustained employment--will fill the coffers of state and local governments and, in turn, the Federal coffers. Nothing grows an economy like jobs, and this Congress has purposefully avoided dealing with unemployment for far too long.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Romney's Medicare Lie


This is one of those cases where Mitt Romney is going to lie, and then not get away with it, and his handlers and supporters are going to have an aneurysm when they realize that they simply cannot make stuff up and get away with it.

I really, really hope that Romney's lies from the first debate are called out for what they are--distortions of reality that bear no resemblance to actually governing this country. NBC news has that piece, cited on top, on their front page and I hope it gets more coverage.

"Obamacare" actually helped Medicare, and the more people who know that, the better.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Devastating Ad That Explains Bain Capital Better Than Anything Else


When you ask people, "What is Bain Capital?" more often than not, you're going to get puzzled stares. That's because much of the defining and explaining that went on happened in the early summer.

Bain Capital was Mitt Romney's version of predatory capitalism. It bought companies, it sold companies, it rearranged them, and it tore them apart to make profits. And while Republicans claim that Bain created jobs, here's a testimonial as to what the tearing apart looked and sounded like.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Are You Kidding Me?


These numbers, via 538, are astonishing.

Given the state of the American economy, the massive effort to destroy President Obama, and a lengthy political season, it's no wonder the Republicans are flailing about like a drunk in an aisle full of non-alcoholic beer.

Each and every time Romney speaks, tries to get on message, and make his case to the American people, people run for the exits and express their support for the President.

It is certainly going to be closer in November, and this is by no means "locked up," but, wow. There is no popular support for a Republican for President, is there?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Food Stamps and the Debacle of Modern Economics


This sort of thing should get people motivated to do something about our economy, but it doesn't.

If you don't get people working, you won't get the number of people using foodstamps to go down. And the economic benefits of getting people back to work are staggering--more money to support state and local governments, more money paid into the system through sales taxes, and more people contributing to the economy in positive ways. This should be the number one goal of government.

Instead, we have lethargy and obstructionism. It's ridiculous. How anyone could vote Republican is beyond me.

The Obama Administration is the only hope for recovery. The Republicans want to throw people to the wolves.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The New $315 Shoe From Nike

The new LeBron James shoe from Nike is a complete and utter disgrace of a product. They're going to sell a shoe that will become a new status symbol, and thus desired by young people, for $315? And no one sees a problem with that? Where did simple values go? Why is this shoe being offered for anything more than fifty bucks? Because I can guarantee you, the cost of making that shoe doesn't even approach fifty dollars; I would be willing to wager that Nike is still getting these from sweatshops and child labor.

How many young kids are going to be robbed of these shoes? How many of them are going to fight to keep them and end up dying or killing someone? How awful.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Japanese Nationalism and Natural Gas


Is this really about nationalism? Is this really about a resurgence of pride and conquest amongst the Japanese population? Or is this yet another troublesome protest fueled by outside interests who are more motivated by publicity and helping to draw attention away from the fact that the natural resources of Asia are being stripped and extracted faster than ever before?

There is such a thing as Japanese nationalism; these are the same kooks you'll find everywhere else. Someone is being paid to stir up trouble, nothing more. That "trouble" is being used to disguise the fact that natural resources and the poor are being exploited.

Asia is ripe for a war over resources. This is why we are maintaining a huge military presence in Okinawa and are considering a move to return to the Philippines.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mary Thom of New Ulm, Minnesota is a Complete and Utter Bigot


The content of this letter is nothing new. The writer has an axe to grind, and so the letter is sent to newspapers where, given their own politics and inability to filter out bigoted hate speech properly, the woman is given a forum for her hateful views.

I suppose there is a benefit to this. Without the publication of these letters, how would you know who the crazy people are?

But the very idea that someone would get to say "homosexual marriages" are "based on something that is morally rotten so they cannot serve to promote the good health of our society" is to promote the ideas of a world class bigot. That is what is morally reprehensible here; not the fact that gay people want to be married but that some crazy lady in New Ulm, Minnesota would get a place to spread her eliminationist rhetoric.

Mary Thom claims to not be "extreme" but that's what she is--an extremist who wants to destroy homosexuals because they are morally rotten.

What's moral? Hating people? Hating the way they were born? Hating the way they live their lives?

When someone says "we cannot afford to be tolerant" it means that being intolerant is perfectly fine. From that, we see violence, shootings, hate speech and murder. We see people assaulted, killed, attacked, shot, knifed and stoned to death.

Someone let Mary Thom emerge from the swamps of cruelty and viciousness. Her letter should have remained there.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Paul Rahe is a Terrified Old Man


Poor Paul Rahe. He's terrified of the future and he doesn't have any idea how to process the information that he's being given.

In the case of Nate Silver, in particular, the act of equating his work with the CIA during the Cold War, and how they missed the collapse of the Soviet Union, is laughable. Silver does not prognosticate with anything other than sheer raw data to back him up. He doesn't "wing" it and throw wild predictions around. He has been elevated to the position he's in solely because his methodology is extremely sound and is based on statistical models which produce excellent results. Silver works those models, and acknowledges his mistakes as well as his achievements with the data; he deals with things that exist in the real world, in other words, and Rahe cannot fathom anything like this.

Rahe is looking at Mitt Romney's prospects and he's using inductive, not deductive, reasoning to argue that Romney is going to win in a landslide.

Which polls does he see? Who's data is he using? Which model shows Romney winning the Electoral College by a wide margin? Everyone else is using data that is many times more sophisticated and accurate than the famous "Dewey Beats Truman" data of yesteryear. That data breaks down the states by polls that are rigorously compared with other polls; the accuracy of a pollster's previous work is also factored in. This is some serious math we're talking about.

But math doesn't tell the whole story; trends and demographics do. The information used by the people Rahe dismisses is pretty damned good. If the polls were going the other way, would Rahe disagree with them as well?

Here's what he actually thinks is going to give Romney a landslide:
Romney can go on to speak of Obamacare. He can point to the corruption that Barack Obama brought from Chicago to Washington. He need only mention Solyndra and sound the theme of crony capitalism. Romney can also point to the President’s systematic misuse of the executive power – to defraud the salaried employees of Delphi and the bondholders of General Motors and Chrysler, to gut the welfare reform passed by New Gingrich and adopted by Bill Clinton, to let school systems out of No Child Left Behind, to sick the IRS on political enemies, to force people into unions, to encourage voter fraud, to deprive Catholics and other Christians of the free exercise of their religion. The list is long.
I'm not aware of anyone who even remotely believes that Romneycare, I mean, Obamacare is a loser; far from it--Romney cannot bring it up and, when one of his spokespeople does, all hell breaks loose.

Solyndra, Delphi, and welfare reform are not on the lips of voters. Crony capitalism is, and the word is Bain. People are vaguely aware that the auto company bailout worked and saved millions of jobs. People probably don't remember how the Bush Administration sent the U.S. Attorneys after voter fraud (another issue no one cares about because it doesn't exist) and the political enemies of George W. Bush; I don't think they see the Obama Administration in any such light. People are also vaguely aware that the Catholic Church has a tendency to change the subject so that people stop talking about all those kids who were raped. Newt and Gingrich are words so poisonous that the man is literally and figuratively bankrupt because people in his own party rejected his candidacy. And Bill Clinton is pretty popular right now.

In short, Paul Rahe has no idea what he's talking about because things like fact don't matter to him. Winning does. And his guy is the worst presidential candidate since whenever.

When you're old, that's gotta hurt. That's gotta hurt like a son of a bitch. But, the facts remain. Which poll shows a Romney landslide? So far, the data simply isn't there.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Don Siegelman Goes Back to Prison


If there was ever a time to use the power of a Presidential pardon to right a wrong, this is that time.

Former Governor Don Siegelman is going back to prison on bullshit charges concocted by lackeys taking orders from Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove. It's that simple.

Putting him in prison for doing what virtually everyone else does is a tremendous injustice. If you held others to this standard, the prisons would be full of Governors, Congressmen, and Senators.

Don Siegelman is guilty of being a Democrat at the wrong time. That's all.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No Taxes For Ten Years?


Everyone who is blogging about this probably has the same thing to say, and I'm not going to throw fuel on the fire by simply saying my own version of "holy cow!"

This is an apocryphal story, and if it should prove to be true, it really does highlight the divide between rich and poor in this country. America is not a country that wants to hate the rich; far from it. It is a country where being rich is not treated the same way it is treated everywhere else; it is something to aspire to, especially through hard work and perseverance.

The problem with Mitt Romney is that he is running a terrible campaign and he is stonewalling on his tax returns. He is a terrible politician who is fast becoming the poster child for being out of touch, too rich, and indifferent to political realities.

Nobody wants to hate Romney; people want to like him, but he is too used to holding his nose and stiff-arming the little people. He is an order giver, not a politician. He has failed to find his true calling in life, and, for that, we are now suffering.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Understanding Hillary Clinton


Reuters has a magazine article up on Hillary Clinton that is definitely worth looking at. This stood out:
the more Clinton waxed on about Suu Kyi, the more I thought that she was also talking about herself—a celebrity first lady with a troubled marriage who could have chosen to opt out of politics entirely but instead launched a whole new career as an ambitious United States senator turned combative presidential candidate before morphing yet again over the last few years into the most globetrotting top diplomat in American history. "When I was first lady," recalled Clinton, "I could say anything I wanted to say, and I often did." Here she stopped for one of her trademark deep laughs before adding, "for better or worse." It's a laugh that makes her very human—and also one that immediately calls to mind the many controversies of Clinton's long career. Remember "the vast right-wing conspiracy" that was out to get her husband during the Monica Lewinsky scandal? And her defiant taunting of Barack Obama during the 2008 primaries, when she said her future boss wasn't nearly experienced enough to take that 3 a.m. phone call? Now Clinton has a different role and a different set of dilemmas: If she speaks too forcefully about human rights, she'll be chided for letting wild-eyed activism get in the way of America's economic interests. But if she fails to bash the Chinese over their harsh treatment of dissidents and brutal suppression of free speech, then she'll be called a sellout. Her shape-shifting career guarantees that Clinton will be criticized at every turn, but it also gives her the opportunity, as she notes about Suu Kyi, "to put into practice everything she's been thinking about and working on her entire adult life."
The reason why it is so difficult for Clinton to speak about human rights is because few of her predecessors did enough on behalf of human rights to give her any room with which to work. Diplomacy is very much a game where you have to walk in the footsteps of your predecessors; for the entirety of the Bush Administration, Colin Powell and Condi Rice were de facto absent from any substantive discussion about human rights. The world suffered mightily for it.

Clinton will always be a victim of sexism and Republican hatred. They despised her then and they despise her now. On substance, she is better than all of them, and they know it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Perfect Way to Change the Subject


American workers aren't all bad, of course. We have plenty of highly skilled people. What we lack are ethical capitalists who actually want to produce things and take measured risks. And, when you think about it, why should they do the right thing? This notion that they can't find workers is yet another wingnut myth--it has no basis in reality.

The current system rewards cutting workers, shedding overhead, and taking a short-term gain instead of investing and growing companies over the long haul. Nobody cares what the profits might be in two or three years; American companies live or die by the next quarter. If the choice is to keep profits flat or cut a thousand workers and see a jump in the value of the stock, guess who's going to be looking for work? The CEO or the thousand workers sacrificed to make things look profitable? It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, until, of course, there's no one left to fire.

If we had a tax policy that rewarded job creation and investment, you might see a change in this outlook. But, instead, you have a corporate culture which worships at the altar of cutting, not investing.

One of the biggest enablers of this outright theft of productivity is Tom Friedman. How many times do we need to hear that American workers have no skills? Well, that's all dashed to pieces now, isn't it? The problem is, no one cares.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ignore the Bedwetters


You would think that the Romney campaign would have harsh words for the Obama Campaign and the media, but why do they say such terrible things about the people who are supposedly on their side?
“We went through this in the primary,” the adviser said. “You have a lot of people inside the Beltway, who like to sit back and be armchair quarterbacks, strategists who talk to you and don’t go on the record. We have a plan. We know what the plan is, and we’re going to implement the plan.” 
The adviser added: “We aren’t reacting to what the Obama campaign does. … We aren’t reacting to what Republican strategists do. We’ve got a plan to win. We know what it takes and that’s what we’re going to do. All of this hew and cry, you know, from the bedwetters who get to sit on the sidelines, aren’t going to affect what we’re going to do and our plan.” 
In many ways, the Globe story didn’t break a lot of new ground, as several truth squad reports pointed out. It simply renewed focus on the fact that Romney has always stated that he technically left Bain in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympics, while maintaining legal and financial ties to the company that didn’t include actively managing its affairs or investments. 
[emphasis mine] 

As far as I know, the revelation from the Boston Globe article was not wholly explored during the primary campaign, and if it had been, I would think that it would have severely damaged Mitt Romney's credibility. It may not have cost him the nomination, but it sure wouldn't look like the huge deal that it is right now.

I don't know how the working media can parse this any other way. Romney has been caught in a massive lie, and the lie is written into the financial disclosure documents that he submitted in order to allow himself to serve as the head of the Winter Olympic Games and to give himself some distance from Bain Capital's connection to outsourcing jobs to China. He has been caught committing and act of outright fraud, a felony-level financial disclosure crime that likely would have resulted in charges if it had been discovered in the early 2000s when he was trying to elevate his national profile.

And that's what this is really all about--Romney has been caught lying about what he owned, what he was worth, and where his money has been sheltered time and time again. He lied so that he could elevate his status in the political world, not the business world. He has no credibility and he has dubious financial ethics. The idea that a venture capitalist of his supposed experience maintained ownership of Bain Capital and then did not "actively" manage its affairs or investments is the sort of dodge that a lot of people sitting in Federal prison have tried in relation to things like insider trading.

It doesn't matter if he was actively involved (a subpoena of E-mails? internal documents? might further prove or disprove this fact) because that's not the standard for ethical disclosure. You either owned it or you did not; Romney owned Bain Capital for three years longer than he admitted to owning it.

That's something the "bedwetters" would call a "big fucking deal."

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Want More Time Off? Sorry, Can't Help You


Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I realize that this is about "elite" workers, but, really, the statistics cover ALL workers, and when we talk about the benefits enjoyed by workers, once it becomes fashionable to take them away from some, the employers will reduce them for all. Yes, even pesky lawyers.

Our Galtian overlords think we are lazy, indolent, overfed, and underworked. That's why they are destroying public sector unions--those people sometimes get as much as six weeks off per year. Since the late 1970s what has happened? Private section union membership has decreased while most of the union membership has stayed in public sector unions. So, the only thing standing in the way of reducing the amount of time off, on average, that the American worker enjoys is the size of the public sector unions. Once they are destroyed, it's over.

The elimination of benefits for workers begins with those who have no voice. Once they see their benefits reduced or eliminated, it becomes easier to chip away at the benefits enjoyed by others. If American workers at all levels remain in a "I've got mine, screw the other guy" tribal mentality, then there's very little left for anyone to wish for. This really is one of those situations where we're all in it together. The people at the very top are hoping on division and strife to destroy huge chunks of the American workforce, and public sector unions are under siege right now. After them, the fatter benefits enjoyed by workers depicted above are next.

If you want to argue that people should have more time off, fine. But don't pretend that employers are going to give that away. They might negotiate with employees for more time off, but unless you are organized, forget about it.

With over 8% unemployment, they're not going to give anyone anything unless it is pried from their greedy, chubby little fingers. And, of course, people hate unions, unions are corrupt, unions are full of mafia members, unions destroyed America five times before Ronald Reagan saved us all, blah, blah, blah...

The simple fact is, tribalism is bringing down America, and our elites couldn't be more pleased with that.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Which Way Do You Want It?

President Obama and his socialist minions finally find a way to stay out of the way of small government conservatives and libertarians alike and this is the thanks he gets?

So, the President is not supposed to be spending money that we don't have, but the President is supposed to be spending money on planes that might not even have helped contain this fire because certain wind-driven forest fires cannot be stopped, no matter what?

We don't have any money to spend on health care, a stimulus package, improving our nation's infrastructure (hello, what do you think a fire-fighting plane is part of but the infrastructure of the Federal firefighting effort?), taking care of Veterans, investing in new technologies, getting off foreign oil, or finding renewable energy sources, but we're supposed to buy the idea that there's plenty of money to fight forest fires from the air in Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs only but the Obama Administration has been too slow to spend that money we don't have?

Convoluted logic much? Either you believe in a functioning, active government that spends money and invests in things like planes and technology and preventative forest management or you believe in things like the Ryan budget plan which cuts money for those things and starves old people and gives tax breaks to the wealthy. If you're going to sit here and say you believe in both, get the hell out of town.

That reminds me of a saying. Everybody hates the government, but damned if they don't change their mind when a fire truck pulls up at two in the morning and saves their house from burning down. Damned if they certainly don't.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Brad DeLong Buries Austerity


The move to austerity crippled Europe; I don't think there is a sane person who would argue otherwise. But, austerity in America has been a huge bust, and you have to champion those who called it for what it was--stupid, irresponsible, and utterly, utterly ruinous.

One quibble--when DeLong celebrates Larry Summers, I know he's praising him in the big picture sense. In the small picture, however, it was Summers who argued against using TARP funds to aid small businesses.

I would argue that America's problem, economically, stems from the fact that not enough was done, or is being done, to stimulate small business activity.

This is the sort of madness that true economists face.



How much faith would you put in that nonsense? And yet, I can guarantee you that far too many decision-makers follow the line of thinking espoused by Pethokoukis rather than Krugman, et al.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Virgin Airlines Leads the Way


There is almost no chance I'll be able to fly Virgin Airlines this summer, but, if I could, I certainly would.

But, then there are people who will say, oh, it's all a sham. Well, so what? At least they are trying.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

CEO Pay Continues to Rise

There is a great deal of suffering in the United States, but none of it is being experienced at the top. The pay of CEOs, on average, rose 2 percent in 2010 and 5 percent in 2011. Despite the fact that tax rates are incredibly low on the wealthy, job creation is still muddled and troubled and the rich are getting richer. At what point do people begin to realize that the shakedown of the American people has entered a tenth calendar year and is shooting for an eleventh with no break in sight?

So, if we were to raise the tax rate on everyone who makes more than a half a million per year by six percent, we'd fall into revolution and anarchy, would we not?

It is patently unethical to continue in this manner. The wealthy in America enjoy a standard of living completely unheard of on Earth as it is in Heaven. The suffering at the bottom grows and the comfort of those at the top races into the stratosphere. And Mitt Romney could very well be the next President, guaranteeing four straight years of unrestrained corporate greed with zero accountability.

Amazing.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What Happens When the Banks Are Empty?


Correct me if I am wrong, but, when the banks are empty of deposits, there really is no reason to consider them banks anymore, right? And, when that happens, the economies of Spain and Greece are going to collapse further, and whatever cash these poor people have hoarded is going to be worthless anyway, wouldn't you say? Because that is what is happening right now--in parts of Europe, people are taking their cash out of the banks. These would be the same banks everyone is trying to prop up.

So, what we have here is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe everything is failing, then your actions will contribute to that failure, especially if you no longer trust the institutions of the society in which you live.

Has anybody figured out what will happen when these countries tip into anarchy, revolution, and civil war? Or is everyone of the opinion that people are just going to sit around with no money, no jobs, no food, no homes and enjoy the summer weather?

About a hundred years ago, all of Europe fell into a massive war over far, far less than what is happening right now. Then, it was a misunderstanding among cousins and the death of some fat member of one of the royal families. Now, it is the story of millions and millions of people being asked to suffer needlessly for the sins of the elites.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Not Everyone is Working This Week


Whenever the subject of football comes up, people in Europe find a way to stop working and do something about watching the game. Here where I am at, they are setting up outdoor viewing parties and they are getting ready to celebrate Germany vs. Portugal.

The Euro 2012 starts today, and this could be the last gasp of a Europe unified by the Euro currency. What happens now is so far up in the air only football can help people feel connected to something. No one seems to care that Spain is unraveling or that joblessness and helplessness are entering yet another summer.

This is a haves vs. have-nots sort of thing. Can you really relax and fly to a tournament in Poland or Ukraine? Consider yourself fortunate.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Wisconsin is the Mirror That Reflects What America Could Become

Does this man have a right to stand there and wave his sign?

Absolutely.

The problem is, neither side of the political spectrum really believes this is a right that people are entitled to anymore. Those on the Republican side of the spectrum cannot tolerate anyone who protests in their presence; the quickest way to get a Republican to start believing in the rule of law again is to allow them to use it to silence people who point out what lying bastards they are.

I'm rather disappointed that this lone, tragic Scott Walker supporter wasn't given a blanket, a chair, a bottle of water, and his own retinue of "buddies" to help him understand that the Democrats in Wisconsin are all that stands between the future and oblivion. The destruction of unions, the elimination of organized labor, and the inability of any group to seek redress of grievances in the workplace leads to the tyranny of corporations; it leads to a future where everyone works for five bucks an hour and where they're lucky to get that. It leads to the 1870s all over again, buddy.

They should have cleared a space, put tape around him, and allowed him to act like an ignorant jackass in public. They should have fanned the hot air away from him and given him free access to the toilet if necessary, with the promise that nothing would happen to his sign if he needed a break.

I guess it is possible that he broke some law and bashed someone with his sign; perhaps he is another ignoramus with a handgun sticking out of his pants. Who knows?

Be overly polite and tolerant of these people; they know not what it is they believe in. They don't understand that their future is as bleak as everyone else's when the billionaires win and when the people lose. Waving their signs and bellowing their nonsense is what connects them to whatever it is they think they believe in. I can't figure out what that is; it has something to do with what happens when a broke, desperate community mortgages itself to bail out a crummy professional sports team and builds a stadium only rich people can afford to use.

Hey, maybe I've got it wrong. Perhaps this fellow has a few billion rolling around in his sock drawer. Maybe he's a robber baron in disguise, hoping to break a few unions so he can put the screws to his terrified workers. Really, sir. Jeans? In public? How unbecoming of a man of means.

Wisconsin is the most important place in America right now. If Scott Walker survives, then Americans face a future that will be reflected back at them from a darkened mirror. They can count on staring at themselves in the morning, and then dragging themselves off to jobs that are unsafe and miserable. They can count on being underpaid and they can count on being exploited.

Who wants to live like that? Besides this jackass, obviously.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Republican Party Hates Veterans


I keep telling people that the Republican Party hates Veterans, and I think this message is finally starting to gain some traction.

The Republicans want to disenfranchise Veterans because they tend to be consistent with their voting patterns. Many of them are already Republicans, and vote Republican no matter what, so they are a safe voting bloc. Angering them does not automatically lead to defections, in other words.

The Democrats who can be identified as Veterans know that their benefits are under siege from Republicans. They know that the Republicans don't want to foot the bill for their foreign policy misadventures--to do so would be to acknowledge that they made a horrible mistake by invading Iraq and by creating so many wounded warriors. It was all about patriotism when it was time to vote for defense spending five or six years ago; now we hear about austerity and budget cuts when it comes time to figure out what we need to spend on rehabilitating and taking care of Veterans.

Naturally, they want to purge the voter rolls of anyone who even remotely sounds foreign. The fact that Mr. Internicola happens to have been awarded the Bronze Star for his service means nothing to these people; follow the link to the article and you'll see comments from the wingnuts who think that this man is probably an illegal alien, despite a lifetime spent in this country since returning from World War II.

If there's one thing that should have earned this man his citizenship and his dignity, it would have been his service. That means nothing to Republicans. They don't know what service is, and when they see a person who has served and who now identifies themselves as a Democrat, their first instinct is to disenfranchise that person and identify them as being un-American.

That's how it is in America right now--if you're a liberal, a Democrat, or someone who thinks that there is a progressive view of this country, then you have to be a socialist or a criminal. What a dismal state of affairs.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Short Sale and an Object Lesson

This is an interesting story because it demonstrates just how out of touch the Congress is with what is going on in America.

If you're Senator Mike Lee, dumping your home in Alpine, Utah isn't about being caught up in a bad housing market. It's about getting rid of a property that is dragging you under before the lucrative paydays of being a United States Senator can start arriving.

Read this part of the article and try to keep from guffawing:
The state’s newest senator ended up in a "short sale" — in which a mortgage holder and bank agree to take a monetary hit to sell the home — after Lee was elected to the Senate and left his law firm, Howrey L.L.P. 
Lee said he knew he had to sell his home if elected because he went from a salary of several hundred thousand dollars a year to the Senate payroll of $174,500. But he thought improvements to the home and a rebound in housing prices would help. Failing that, he was owed a large sum, he says, from Howrey that could provide a "cushion." 
But then a neighbor’s home went through a short sale, dropping home values on the street, and Howrey filed for bankruptcy, leaving Lee with little option other than to persuade the bank to take a loss.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but going from an income of "several hundred thousand dollars" to $174,000 doesn't exactly mirror the American experience right now, does it? Those are choices people are certainly faced with in a few rare instances, but how many of them are looking at the potential earnings of having their fingers on the levers of power?

Lee obviously had a choice as to whether or not to maintain ownership of his dream home; he chose to dump it because it was losing value. How he believed that "improvements" to the home would help him pay his bills is beyond ludicrous to believe. How does improving a property lower the mortgage? That sounds like a sad-sack lie in order to make people ignore the fact that he calculated that a Senate seat would propel him out of Utah and far beyond what he could have achieved as a lawyer.

Lee ran for the Senate and bailed on his law firm because being a United States Senator is one of the most lucrative scams going. He, literally, grew up amongst Senators and was raised in McLean, Virginia amongst the politically connected (his father served in the Ford and Reagan Administrations). It's that simple. He knew several years ago that he would end up taking a hit--but he probably also knew that his law firm was on the ropes and he needed to find something else to do in order to maintain his cash flow. I don't know--but it sounds suspect to me. So, why not return to Washington D.C. and cash in on being in Congress? Sounds like a smart move to me. Dumping his "dream" house was smart as well. Who needs a money pit back home when your real home is in the leafy suburbs of Washington D.C.

Communities all over America are vulnerable to the housing market and it's not just about short sales. Abandoned homes litter the American landscape. Empty, blighted properties are driving down property values everywhere. The people who live there are seeing their incomes remain stagnated and their lives are on hold because they cannot unload the properties (and get a sweet deal like Lee did and have the bank and the mortgage holder take a voluntary loss) and move on. 

Well, Senator Lee has moved on. The object lesson here is, sucks to be you if you don't have a Senate seat to fall back on when things go south. He has four more years to start making deals and to start raising millions in campaign contributions. His connections guarantee him this payday. If his Senate career survives past his next re-election campaign, he can look at being a millionaire with as many homes as he wants when his twelfth year in the Senate is up. I'm sure he's crying like a baby over all of this.

Do you think Senator Lee is going to start writing legislation that will make things easier for people in his situation? No, he's from the party that thinks that your problem with your mortgage is because you're a lazy sinner who is getting what you deserve, so pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and win your own Senate seat, sucker.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

They Should Let Him Go


They should just let him go.

In America, when someone takes your money, you have the full resources of the courts and the rule of law to back you up and allow you to maintain your wealth.

In many countries, the legal system favors the government, or the power structure of the elites in that country. There are no protections. This is why, in Russia, for example, you can have a massive fortune and find yourself sitting in prison on trumped up charges and your fortune parsed out amongst Kremlin insiders.

Mr. Saverin doesn't understand how overseas banks can fail, and fail without notice, and how he can run afoul of the wrong bureaucracy and lose everything. In America, you have recourse. Anywhere else? Forget it.

The real outrage should be directed at corporations that pay no tax whatsoever while enjoying the protections of doing business in a country that has the rule of law. Those same people are sending a little coin towards Senator Schumer, however, so maybe that's what Saverin is really guilty of--failing to make a few timely donations to a handful of re-election campaigns.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Maid Has a Million Dollars?


Dominique Strauss-Kahn is probably not counting on collecting the million dollars:
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is suing the hotel housekeeper who accused him of sexually assaulting her, saying she seriously damaged his reputation with what he calls a bogus allegation. 
The former International Monetary Fund leader and French presidential hopeful struck back at maid Nafissatou Diallo's lawsuit against him with denials and a $1 million defamation claim of his own Monday, exactly a year after she told police he tried to rape her in his Manhattan hotel suite. He says whatever happened was consensual. 
He was arrested, resigned from the IMF, and spent several days behind bars and three months on house arrest before prosecutors dropped the case, saying they'd lost confidence in Diallo's trustworthiness because she'd lied about her background and changed her account of what she did right after leaving Strauss-Kahn's room. Although prosecutors didn't say they believed she misrepresented the encounter itself, Strauss-Kahn's court papers blast her claims as intentional lies.
What does he hope to gain? His future in French politics is gone; his place in history is wrapped in the sordid lies of his personal life. His name is never going to be restored to respectability. Burying this woman in a costly lawsuit is a neat tactical move. Once the money on her end dries up, DSK can walk away from the legal jeopardy of a U.S. court decision.

Suing this woman misses the real target. Whoever "set him up" should be sued, or at least investigated. I am of the belief that DSK was set up in New York City; but the reason why he was set up is obvious. His personal habits and practices left him vulnerable to being smeared in this way.

Oh, and where is his BlackBerry? That should be the real issue here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More Garbage From the Daily Caller


Yet another piece of nonsense from The Daily Caller. In an attempt to gin up some phony outrage, the "blogger" invents a phony story about how people who have trouble urinating is suddenly going to cost people billions of dollars.

Bull-frickin'-crap.

As signed into law, there was, indeed, an update to the Americans With Disabilities Act. It was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 25, 2008. It took effect on January 1, 2009, some nineteen days BEFORE the Obama Administration.

The scope of disability covered under the law has been broadened, and you can thank President Bush for that. But, by implication, this fact is missing from the story posted above.

You gotta love how these dishonest clowns frame non-issues in such a specific and ignorant way. It's all Obama's fault, even the things signed into law by George W. Bush.

Which is to say, business as usual for the Daily Caller. The most pertinent piece of information is usually missing from a story that, by implication, makes this President Obama's fault.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Are These Stories Linked? You Betcha

 The economic problems facing the world are well documented; we are in an extended period of economic trouble and uncertainty. Dealing with these issues has put a tremendous strain on people all over the world.

The story posted above is about Italy; the one posted below is about a disturbing trend in Minnesota:


The coincidences are not readily apparent, however. Suicide is, many times, the result of mental illness. The first article details how the business downturn in Italy has driven many to desperation and suicide. The second article gives anecdotal evidence that there is an uptick in the number of people committing suicide by either jumping in front of a moving vehicle or by lying on a road.

I'm curious if the Minnesota suicides are driven by economic reasons. Stress and loss are factors that can drive suicides; my thinking is that there is some universality in these two stories and that they are driven by economic hard times and a vanishing safety net.

You see, destroying the safety net is not really about material things. It is really about dignity and hope. Granting people meager benefits--and not stigmatizing them and making them the subject of ridicule in our society--is one way to ease the stress of hard times and give people a reason to get on their feet again. I don't think it is natural to accept a handout and just stay there. It might be that way for some, but not for all. Our society isn't built that way. And if we were extending a little help and assistance to people who need it, maybe they wouldn't feel the absence of hope and possibility.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mitt Romney's Arrest Reveals a Disregard For Public Safety

Mitt Romney and the hired help enjoy a day of boating

When Mitt Romney was arrested by a park officer in 1994, it revealed more about his character than I think people are willing to admit. It also revealed that there are more than few wingnuts who have no respect for public safety or park rangers.

With regards to Romney, you can't read this and not conclude that the man believes himself to be above the law. Simply saying, "I'll just pay the fine" ignores the instructions given to him by law enforcement. Yes, that park ranger or park official is a law enforcement officer. Disregarding his instructions is breaking the law and he was well within his rights to put Romney in handcuffs and take him in.


I think it is a wonderful touch to throw the boys out there, once again, and hope for sympathy and understanding. This is called deflecting attention away from the fact that he acted like a rich, entitled jackass in front of a law enforcement officer. Romney isn't Joe Sixpack, out on the lake for a good time. He's someone who ran for the U.S. Senate in the year that he was arrested. You'd think that a guy running for the Senate would have a little better judgment than that.

The law in question is pretty clear on this (granted, the law may have been updated since 1994):

Any state that goes to the extent noted here to spell out how an identification number should be properly displayed on a recreational boat isn't fooling around. My experience is with the State of Minnesota, not Massachusetts. Where I'm from, you wouldn't dream of going out on the lake in a boat that doesn't have the proper numbers displayed. And you certainly wouldn't disregard the instructions of a park official.

Our wingnut friends have what is, apparently, a limited acquaintance with common sense and recreational boating.

Here's a typical response:

Yes, Rick Moran is a complete and utter idiot. "Give lip to a cop?" Really? Does he have any idea how dangerous it is to be a park official? On the national level, being a park ranger is more dangerous than being a special agent with the FBI. You are twelve times more likely to die in the line of duty as a park ranger than an FBI agent.

Here's another one:

Poor Tom Maguire. The complete and utter extent of his reasoning capability is to make an Obama comparison. Talk about carrying water.

Not to be outdone, here's Hot Air:

Disregarding a police officer is no biggie? No wonder these people love them some George Zimmerman. Disregarding a law enforcement officer and launching a boat without visible identification numbers isn't technically breaking the law. It's breaking the law.

All of these responses gloss over the fact that Romney threw his weight around, bullied his way out of being held accountable for his disregard for law enforcement, and basically acted like a jackass in public because he can afford to pay fines and do whatever he wants to do. The rest of America doesn't live like this. The rest of America doesn't tool around on a boat like Richie Rich, flaunting power, wealth, and prestige. And I'm pretty sure the rest of America doesn't hide behind the fact that having five sons in the car is reason enough to do whatever you want and to hell with what some park ranger says.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Unethical Practices From the Travel Channel


In order to raise revenue and defraud their readers, the Travel Channel's website features this neat little item.

When you follow a link from an affiliate, you end up on the Travel Channel website. The "video" above promises a beautiful woman will "frolic" before your eyes and thus give you a softcore porn fix.

The problem is, when you click on the video to make it work (ha! how did I get this far? well, uh...there's something shiny over there! look!), it takes you to an ad for going RV'ing. At least, that's why I get here overseas. You might get a different ad or result when you click on the video in the continental United States. All I know is, when I followed the link from an affiliate, I ended up looking at a pop-up ad. And that's clearly a dastardly crime of unexpectedly evil proportions. Or no big deal. Take your pick.

This is the sort of thing websites do to survive now. They bait and switch, lie and deceive, and risk losing their credibility. It would be nice if Google would downgrade www.travelchannel.com to a zero rating and stop sending them traffic in exchange for this unethical little turd. But, that would be shrill, wouldn't it?

Well played, Travel Channel. Well played, indeed.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

CREW Makes a Move Against Fox News

CREW has the right idea here. By going after the FCC licenses, they will keep this story alive in the United States. There is a criminal aspect to what News Corp was doing and it should be investigated and prosecuted in the United States. Hounding Rupert Murdoch is something everyone should welcome. He used his enormous power against people for decades. Now we're seeing some measure of payback.

The problem is, there is no FCC. It is a paralyzed, toothless agency. It cannot move swiftly against anyone or anything, unless they accidentally expose their boobs on network television.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Same Old Song and Dance

Our elites are scared.

What more can you say about a blaring headline and a story like this on MSNBC as we head towards the weekend? One authored by "senior producer" John W. Schoen? One that posits that our economy will be crushed if the Bush tax cuts expire?

Well, this is where you have to scream bullshit.

It's a very neat trick to link spending cuts with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. They are not the "Bush-era" tax cuts; they are the tax cuts that gutless Democrats helped pass in the early 2000s and we are still paying a steep price for this neat little piece of fiscal insanity and monetary redistribution. They are what's killing this country. They are what is allowing the One Percenters to continue their scam. And their scam is obvious. In exchange for "creating jobs" they are going to continue to demand their tax cuts.

The problem with this scenario is that they're not creating jobs. They're hoarding their wealth.

I'm all for a rollback on these tax cuts. If they want to replace them with targeted incentives--like actually hiring people or investing in green technology--fine and dandy. But don't link these tax cuts to a "crushing" of America's economy. That's absurd.

Our elites--Bernanke especially--have failed to accomplish much of anything with regards to restarting America's economy. It's time to end the cozy relationship between failed Wall Street bankers and failed ex-Wall Street politicians and go back to a tax rate of 39% for everyone who makes more than $250,000 per year and a 45% tax rate for everyone who makes more than a million dollars a year. And if you have more than a billion dollars in assets, we'll be taking half, please.

It's the least you could pay for living in the one country on Earth where such wealth actually allows you to live without fear of paying a 90% rate or being thrown in prison with the other oligarchs because the Prime Minister thinks you may be too popular for your own good.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Petty Theft Gets You a Felony in Florida

I'm sure that they'll throw the book at this man over a dollar's worth of soda, and there will be many who say that he has it coming and what part of illegal don't you understand and that we should jail the bastard for the rest of his miserable life. So long as someone else is getting the business end of the broomstick, right?

Come on. He was drunk, down on his luck, and he went into a fast food joint and got out of hand. Did he hurt anyone? No. Sober him up, jail him for a few days for the drunk and disorderly, and then let's move on. Charge him for with a felony? Over this? That's the definition of cruel and unusual punishment, and of the excess of the law with regard to piling on charges. Does this case even remotely appear to be the even and fair application of the rule of law? No. What a nightmare.

Why not throw him on the rack and whip him without regard for this quaint notion of mercy and compassion?

At some point, it will dawn on the rest of the country that Florida's laws were written by the priests on loan from the Spanish Inquisition.

The Hysteria Will Continue

This is one of those stories that, in our anti-intellectual times, will be seen but not believed. Already there are probably a dozen or more wingnut bloggers, ready to slap this down.

America has a lot of problems, but far down on the list are problems directly related to so-called illegal immigration. The real problem, as far as I can see, centers around the fact that there are no jobs, there is no money, and no one is doing anything about it. So, why wouldn't people go back to where they came from?

Immigrants are not here to steal American jobs; there aren't any jobs anymore. And what few are available, nobody wants. Does anybody want to go pick cucumbers or tomatoes in Alabama this summer? Because there might have been jobs for that (this year, I don't think too many farmers in Alabama are going to plant food that no one will ever pick). Does anybody want to live in a large American city and make menial wages cleaning buildings and preparing food? Jobs a-plenty for that. Does anyone want to work construction when there's nothing worth building right now? Nope.

There are going to be a lot of jobs available when President Romney caves in to the base and builds a massive fence from California to the Gulf of Mexico. This fence will be designed so that the waves of immigrants who aren't coming anymore can watch how it keeps Americans from leaving.

Another Kind of Brain Drain


There is a parallel here in the American experience with foreign students. After 9/11, American policy towards students from abroad and student visas became harsher and more restrictive. This resulted in a redirection of students to places like Canada and Germany. Now, we're seeing the flip side of this.

Students that would have maybe studied in America are finding themselves leaving Germany as soon as their education is completed, due in large part to the complexity and difficulty of complying with restrictive, anti-immigrant laws that discourage keeping intellectual capital in the country. Germany needs foreign workers, desperately, in order to maintain its status as a net exporter of goods. It is not uncommon for one German worker to support as many as five other individuals (extended family, etc.) and it is entirely possible to do that here.

If you are going to bring people to your country and educate them and provide them skills, keeping them should be easy. Instead, these people, who have great value and potential, move on, looking for something palatable. Who can blame them?

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Obama Administration is Actually Enforcing the Law


I want to highlight a few things here.

First, the immigrants who have been rounded up and detained are not all of Hispanic origin. This is clear from the article. And it is clear that the Obama Administration is not in the business of targeting Hispanics for harassment and illegal detention.

Second, this was the "biggest ever" roundup, meaning that the Obama Administration has done a better job of enforcing America's immigration laws than the Bush Administration ever did. Apparently, the Bush Administration couldn't find this many criminals to sweep up and detain. File that under the things that make you go "hmm."

Third, these were violent and dangerous criminals who were taken off the streets of America, meaning that the Obama Administration is doing a better job of keeping Americans safe than the Bush Administration.

Think you'll get that from the wingnuts and the mouth-breathers who talk about birth certificates and a gun treaty with the United Nations?

Nope.

Now, let's be frank about this. I am not always happy with the way my government goes about enforcing the law and dealing with the law. But this is an election year, and the Obama Administration is clearly doing all that it can to protect Americans.

At least it is doing more than the Bush Administration ever did.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Think of the Lives Destroyed by Foxwoods Casino



Legalized gambling is, essentially, a means by which the proprietor can print their own money. It is nothing less than a guaranteed cash cow. Except when people fail to understand that gambling is a bubble, not a constant line going upwards. The Foxwoods bubble has peaked, and now revenues are going down. Couple all of that with extremely poor decisions and heavy borrowing against future receipts, and you have no way out of the dive. As soon as the recession hit, they knew their gambling receipts were going to flatten. But they didn't stop trying to expand and they didn't stop living as if revenues were never going to fall.

Later in this piece, someone brings up the idea of being "realistic" members of our society. If you've been living off the fantasy that legalized gambling is a good idea, you are going to have to come back to reality.
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