The Watering Hole, Monday, December 9th, 2013: Minimum Wage Scrooge

Yes, I still occasionally read parts of Newsmax and Moneynews, just so that you won’t have to. You’re welcome.

The Moneynews email subject that caught my eye this time was “Fast-food Workers Rally for Higher Minimum Wage.” I wanted to see how they would spin this issue. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to be skewed, with the one notable exception.

“Fast-food workers in hundreds of U.S. cities staged a day of rallies on Thursday to demand higher wages, saying the pay was too low to feed a family and forced most to accept public assistance.

The protests escalated a series of actions at several Walmart stores on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, seeking to draw attention to workers at the lowest end of the wage scale.

The description of fast-food workers, once viewed mainly as teenagers looking for pocket money or a first job, has changed. Today’s fast-food worker is typically over 20, often raising a child, and 68 percent are the primary wage earners in their families, according to a report by the University of Illinois and the University of California, Berkeley.

About 100 workers in Chicago marched along Michigan Avenue with a large costumed Grinch, chanting: “We can’t survive on $7.25.” Protesters want the hourly U.S. minimum wage raised to $15 from $7.25.

In Kansas City, Missouri, Kizzy Sanders, 30, an employee at a local Popeye’s restaurant, joined about 100 protesters picketing fast-food restaurants in freezing temperatures.

“I love my job, I love the people I work with, but the $7.70 I make does not cut it,” said Sanders, a mother of three. “It doesn’t pay my bills, I can’t buy my kids anything for Christmas. I can’t even celebrate Christmas.”

Thursday’s protests were organized by groups such as “Fast Food Forward” and “Low Pay is Not OK” that have the support of labor union giant Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million members including healthcare, janitorial and security workers.”

“Despite the involvement of organized labor, the protests are focused on wages, not unions, for the moment, said John Logan, a labor studies professor at San Francisco State University’s College of Business.

“The immediate goal is to focus national attention on the impact of poverty-level wages on employees and the negative impact of poverty-level wages for the public and the economy,” Logan said.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau and public benefit programs show 52 percent of fast-food workers relying on at least one form of public assistance, between 2007 and 2011, according to the report from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois.”

“Because the current minimum wage, on an inflation-adjusted basis, lags behind those of decades past, the purchasing power of minimum-wage earners has diminished.

Increasing the minimum wage, however, would not reduce poverty, said Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute, because employers will compensate by reducing staff and workers’ hours. Instead, they should expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides a small-wage supplement for low-income families in the form of a tax refund, he said. A 2012 study published by the Employment Policies Institute found that states that increase the Earned Income Tax Credit by 1 percent saw a 1 percent drop in state poverty rates.
[Emphasis mine.]

“Others disagree. Christian Dorsey, director of external and governmental affairs for the Economic Policy Institute [the progressive organization with which Employment Policies Institute wants us to be confused], said tax credits should not let employers skimp on wages.

“Businesses have a responsibility to pay workers enough to keep them out of poverty,” Dorsey said. “The idea that we would simply not look at wages is passing off the problem to someone else.”

Yes, Employment Policies Institute, one of soulless lobbyist Rick Berman’s stable of “non-profits.”

Charity Navigator is a website which provides “information and ratings on charities”. Here’s an excerpt from their review of Employment Policies Institute:

Charity Navigator has become aware of the following information in connection with this charity:

During our analysis of this charity’s FYE 2011 Form 990, the document revealed that more than half of the Employment Policies Institute Foundation’s functional expenses were paid to its CEO Richard Berman’s for-profit management company, Berman and Company. The document revealed that, out of total expenses of $2.10 million, $1.17 million were paid to Berman and Company for staff[ing] and operat[ing] the day-to-day activities” of the charity.

Sourcewatch, too, provides lots of information regarding the tangled web of EPI and other Berman & Co. ‘non-profits.’ It’s a sweet, and profitable, arrangement for Berman & Co.

A quick glance at some of the ‘studies’, ‘press releases’ and ‘letters to the editor’ touted on Employment Policies Institute’s home page pretty much sums up whose side they’re on in the employer vs worker fight. And while Berman’s EPI should still be nursing their bruises after the recent thrashing given by Chris Hayes to one of Berman’s minions (who was unable to answer the simple question “how many economists do you have on your staff?”), instead, his “think-tanks” continue to crank out ludicrous reasoning for keeping workers from getting ahead.

It all comes back to what Bill Maher said several weeks ago: “Do you want smaller government with less handouts, or do you want a low minimum wage? Because you cannot have both.”

This is our daily open thread–don’t be shy!

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 21st, 2013: Mixed Nuts

First, Foreign Policy Magazine got a little ‘spacy’ towards the end of the shutdown, with author Michael Peck penning a pair of fantasy articles titled “The Empire Shuts Down” and “One Starship to Rule Them All”

Next, this piece from moneynews.com, features the always-wild-looking “economist” Jim Cramer prognosticating – and perhaps precipitating, if anyone pays attention to him – the shakiness of the dollar. An excerpt:

As the world laughs at Washington’s antics, CNBC’s Jim Cramer says smart money should look for any possible means to flee the dollar.

The United States is “a laughing stock around the world, maybe worse than Italy in some ways when I look at benchmarks,” he said on Squawk Box. “We have obviously lost the faith of a lot of countries.”

If there is a way to take your money out of this country, Cramer suggests putting it in Germany. If he were in the shoes of China, Kuwait, Brazil or Japan, “I would do it immediately,” he claimed.

Third, from Newsmax.com, Amy Woods has a piece on another peanut gallery member: “Sen. Coburn: ‘We’re Drunk’ on Government Spending.” Here’s a bit:

“Special-interest groups, and not the tea party, caused the 17-day government shutdown, Sen. Tom Coburn said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“We didn’t do anything except create a big mess in Washington, and I’m not so inclined to think it was the tea party as much as it was outside interest groups and a few individuals within our party that took advantage of that situation,” Coburn said. All the bickering about the Affordable Care Act distracted Americans from the fact the government spends too much, he added.

Next, an October 19th article from Alternet brings us “Right-Wing Lunacy Never Sleeps: 10 Nutty, Vile and Absurd Utterances From the Fringe This Week.” In this round-up, Justice Antonin Scalia reaffirms his racism, Tony Perkins babbles some nonsense about Democrats wanting a theocracy, Glenn Beck and Pat Buchanan continue to howl in the wilderness, and more.

Finally, also courtesy of Newsmax, the other gum-flapping self-important Limbaugh, David, proves that he is just as delusional as his louder brother in “GOP Poised for Post-Shutdown Comeback”:

“Obamacare represented not only one of many policy setbacks under Obama but also the ever-acquisitive government’s consumption of another one-sixth of the formerly capitalist and robust American economy.”

[That's a load of horseshit, David, enough with the fake "government takeover of healthcare" bogeyman. Last I looked, the U.S. is still a capitalist nation, and the last time we had a "robust American economy" was under a Democrat, President Bill Clinton.]

“Then Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee ratcheted it up a notch, going to the Senate to call Obama out on his destructive agenda and promising to do everything they can to defund and derail Obamacare. Cruz’s 20-plus-hour floor speech was a seminar in the eloquent communication of conservative principles.”

["...eloquent communication of conservative principles"? 'Green Eggs and Ham'? I don't think that David Limbaugh (or his louder brother, for that matter) watched the entirety of Cruz's rambling and sometimes incoherent "seminar."]

“Just as my brother, Rush, gave millions of conservatives hope through his radio show by validating the legitimacy of their beliefs, Cruz, Paul, and Lee let us know that we have people in office fighting for us, as well.

“I reject the conventional wisdom that Cruz and his warriors hurt our cause by increasing the likelihood of our defeat in 2014. To the contrary, they enhanced our cause by energizing the base and fighting. And they laid serious gloves on Obama; his approval rating has never been lower. They also gave him an opportunity, which he fully embraced, to demonstrate his mean-spiritedness, his pettiness, and his dishonesty for all to see.

“The shutdown was not the disaster he promised any more than sequestration has been; he was hyper-partisan and gratuitously punitive during the ordeal; and his egregious misrepresentations about Obamacare were manifesting themselves throughout.”

[Sorry, but to Rush Limbaugh, the word "hope" is part of a punchline, certainly not something that Rush ever gave to his Rushbots. You can "reject conventional wisdom" all you want, but that doesn't mean that conventional wisdom, in this case, is wrong. Obama's approval rating is currently around 50%, according to a recent Rasmussen poll; on the other hand, according to the Gainesville Times, a new poll puts Congress's approval rating at an all-time low at 5%. I'm not sure exactly what planet David Limbaugh, along with the other mixed nuts listed above, inhabits, but it must be a particularly miserable place to dwell.]

This is our Open Thread. Go ahead, get cracking!

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 7th, 2013: All the Crazy That Fits

It’s been a while since I put on my hip waders and stepped into Newsmax, so here’s a few gems:

From “Rev. Billy Graham Prepares ‘Perhaps … My Last Message’” by David A. Patton:

“In an exclusive interview, the Rev. Billy Graham tells Newsmax that President Obama’s “hope and change” mantra is nothing more than a cliché and warns that the nation faces increasing threats to civil and religious liberties from its government.

Graham, who is preparing for possibly his last crusade, this time via video, said America is drenched in a “sea of immorality” and suggested that the second coming of Christ is “near.”

“Our early fathers led our nation according to biblical principles,” Graham wrote in response. “‘Hope and change’ has become a cliché in our nation, and it is daunting to think that any American could hope for change from what God has blessed,” he stated, an obvious reference to President Obama’s campaign motto.

“Our country is turning away from what has made it so great,” he continued, “but far greater than the government knowing our every move that could lead to losing our freedom to worship God publicly, is to know that God knows our every thought; he knows our hearts need transformation.” ~~~

Many believing Christians believe in a coming Armageddon, a final battle between good and evil prophesied in the book of Revelation.

Graham tells Newsmax it is not wise to “speculate” about the dates of such a battle, but he adds that the Bible says that there “will be signs pointing toward the return of the Lord.”

“I believe all of these signs are evident today,” Graham wrote, adding that “the return of Christ is near.

“Regardless of what society says, we cannot go on much longer in the sea of immorality without judgment coming,” he says.”

Next, from “Rove: Obama Wants to ‘Break the Republicans'” by Amy Woods:

“Republican strategist Karl Rove on Sunday described President Barack Obama’s behavior throughout the budget showdown as “stubborn obstructionism” whose goal is to “get more money and break the Republicans.”

“The stubborn obstructionism of the president … has a purpose, which is to try and get the Congress to agree to the Senate Democrats’ spending number, which is $91 billion bigger than the House, and bust the sequester, and end the 2011 spending agreements,” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He is attempting to put the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling and, in fact, naming the amount of the debt ceiling on the Congress and not on himself.”

Third, from “Rand Paul: Democrats’ Stubbornness Keeping Government Closed” by Sandy Fitzgerald:

“Paul denied that House Republicans led to the shutdown by refusing to fund the government.

“The House Republicans said they would fund all of government, and they did,” Paul said. “They funded all of government short of one program. So they really were never wanting to shut down government over this, they were wanting to fund government, and then have a debate.”

He further blamed Obama for his refusal to negotiate for the shutdown.

“When you say the president wants 100 percent of Obamacare or he will shut down the government, that’s exactly what happened,” said Paul. “If he [Obama] doesn’t get 100 percent of his way – his way or the highway – then they won’t do any spending bills that don’t include everything that he wants. That’s him unwilling to negotiate, that’s him being unwilling to compromise.”

Had enough? How about one more? From “Rep. Graves: Obama To Blame if Country Defaults” by Amy Woods:

“Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Graves said Sunday the party is “united” in its belief the government should re-open and negotiations with Democrats should continue to avoid a possible economic default over the debt ceiling.

“We have had a tremendous fight over keeping the government open and protecting Americans from Obamacare,” Graves said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There’s no reason to default. The president’s the only one demanding default right now.”

Sorry, but I have to throw this last link in, just for laughs: Another one by Bill Hoffman, “From Senate to Center Stage: Fred Thompson Makes Broadway Debut”. The author of the piece completely omits any mention of Thompson’s disastrous run for the Presidency, or the fact that Thompson’s most recent “acting” gig has been on ‘Reverse-Mortgage’ commercials.

This is our Open Thread. Have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 11th, 2013: From Morons to Marvels

Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has been in the news a lot lately, in part for having been one of the select few Republicans who were invited to the recent dinner meeting with President Obama. In an appearance yesterday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Senator Johnson stated,

“If we’re going to really get to an agreement, this is a good step…You have to start meeting with people. You have to start developing relationships. You’ve got to spend a fair amount of time figuring out what we agree on first.”

[Especially when the Republican "leaders" won't tell their flock the truth about what the President has offered, and the flock and the media are too dumb or brainwashed to lift a couple of fingers and check whitehouse.gov!]

The same “This Week” appearance also saw Paul Krugman, in his inimitable manner, school Senator Johnson on the Social Security program.

Prior to that, in the debate over authorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Senator Johnson was one of a group of “…Republicans [who] have objected to new provisions in the law, including one allowing tribal courts for the first time to prosecute men who aren’t American Indians when they’re accused of abusing an American Indian woman on a reservation. . .”, according to ThinkProgress, which also quotes Senator Johnson as saying:

“the Senate has approved a piece of legislation that sounds nice, but which is fatally flawed. By including an unconstitutional expansion of tribal authority and introducing a bill before the Congressional Budget Office could review it to estimate its cost, Senate Democrats made it impossible for me to support a bill covering an issue I would like to address.”

Coincidentally and fortuitously (or not), when searching for a link on a completely different topic, I ran across this one about Ron Johnson from 2010. It includes a video of Johnson, demonstrating the average conservative’s love of fetuses but not actual children, while “…testifying against the Wisconsin Child Victims Act, which would have eliminated the statute of limitation on lawsuits brought by victims of abuse by priests against the Catholic Church.

Okay, as a palate-cleanser, I believe that there’s something for everyone in these photo slideshows from The Weather Channel.

For all of us who love space science and/or who have experienced various types of mind-enhancement, here’s (now think Muppets “Pigs in Space” voice) “Light Trails from Space.”

Staying in space for the moment, the Comet Pan-STARRS is in the ‘hood, and should start to be visible to the naked eye tomorrow. The chart shown in this article indicates where the large comet can be located (in the western sky at sunset) over the next two weeks or so.

Last from TWC (and getting back to ‘trails’…you’ll see): unusual (and occasionally claustrophobia-inducing) tunnels are highlighted in this feature. Although the first tunnel shown only has the one photo – see below – the rest of them have some amazing shots. Tunnel #18, Shanghai’s Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, described as “senseless, yet fabulous“, could likely induce trails even for persons who have never seen trails before. A youtube video of the entire ride is linked to under the description of the Shanghai tunnel, but I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet. Who’s gonna go first? :)

Enjoy!

Ukraine "Tunnel of Love"

Ukraine “Tunnel of Love”

This is our Open thread – what topic would you like to discuss?

Sunday Roast: February 10, 2013 – Reading List

Good Morning, All. And shhhhhh… them wolfies are asleep, so read in silence and tell us what you think in comments, but shhhhhh…

Economy:

WITH the financial crisis over and the recovery gaining momentum, one big piece of unfinished economic business hangs over Barack Obama’s second term: arresting the relentless rise in America’s already sky-high debt. He is turning to the task with what seems an improbable claim: that the job is closer to completion than people appreciate. (read on)

More Economy:

Do we have a solid economic recovery underway? (read more)

Austerity sucks:

The debt crisis is finally catching up with wind energy, once a fast-growing sector in Europe. After more than a decade of double-digit growth, austerity, rapidly changing energy policies and skittish investors are putting a damper on the industry. (read more)

Science:

We’ve only just wiped the sweat from our brow following the averted Mayan apocalypse, but already news is spreading of another impending doom; and this one even has actual science behind it. (read more)

Wisdom:

Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.Benjamin Franklin 

This is our Open Thread, Add your wisdom!

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 3rd, 2012: Conservative BS on Taxes

Since I forced myself to wallow in some of the crap on Newsmax, I figured that I should share some of the sliminess with you all. Let’s start with the arrogantly delusional George Will, who manages to squeeze a lie into each paragraph of his dementia-driven article. Here’s just a few examples of Will’s drivel; he starts off with:

“With a chip on his shoulder larger than his margin of victory, Barack Obama is approaching his second term by replicating the mistake of his first. Then his overreaching involved healthcare — expanding the entitlement state at the expense of economic growth. Now he seeks another surge of statism, enlarging the portion of gross domestic product grasped by government and dispensed by politics. The occasion is the misnamed “fiscal cliff,” the proper name for which is: the Democratic Party’s agenda.”

- and -

“…he surely understands that the entitlement state he favors requires raising taxes on the cohort that has most of the nation’s money — the middle class.”

- and -

“Republicans…respond that because lower rates reduce incentives to distort economic decisions, they promote growth by enhancing efficiency. Hence restoration of the higher rates would be a giant step away from, and might effectively doom, pro-growth tax reform…Furthermore, restoration of the Clinton-era top rate of 39.6 percent would occur in the very different Obama era of regulatory excesses and Obamacare taxes. Hence Republicans rightly resist higher rates.”

On to forever-lugubrious John Boehner:

“I would say we’re nowhere, period,” Boehner said on a taped segment of the “Fox News Sunday” program that aired today. “We’ve put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved. But the White House has responded with virtually nothing.”

Yet, from the same article:

“Obama has proposed a framework that would raise taxes immediately on top earners and set an Aug. 1 deadline for rewriting the tax code and deciding on spending cuts, according to administration officials. It calls for $1.6 trillion in tax increases, $350 billion in cuts in health programs, $250 billion in cuts in other programs and $800 billion in assumed savings from the wind-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Next, we’ve got the ubiquitous Grover Norquist. Norquist, despite a growing number of Republicans attempting to put some daylight between themselves and the Norquist pledge, stated last week:

“Well, the Republicans also have other leverage. Continuing resolutions on spending and the debt ceiling increase. They can give him debt ceiling increases once a month. They can have him on a rather short leash, you know, here’s your allowance, come back next month…Monthly if he’s good. Weekly if he’s not.”

In the Newsmax article, Norquist continues in the same childish vein, threatening “Tea Party 2“:

“Republicans want to continue the Bush tax cuts, and the extenders and the AMT [Alternative Minimum Tax] package . . . it’s the president who’s threatening to raise taxes if he stamps his feet and doesn’t get his way.”

And in case you aren’t sickened enough by those three, there’s the Sue Ann Niven of the Republicans, Peggy Noonan, saying:

“The election is over, a new era begins — and it looks just like the old one…A crisis is declared. Confusion, frustration, and a more embittered process follow. This is the Obama Way.”

Got your blood boiling yet?

This is our daily open thread — it’s Monday, wake up and start discussing something!

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 10th, 2012: Romney’s Ramblings

I’ve been reading through the transcripts of Mitt Romney’s campaign speeches, and I’ve noticed that he has several recurring themes and lies about President Obama:

- “President Obama sees a different America and has taken us in a different direction.”

- “A few months into office, he travelled around the globe to apologize for America.”

- “Ronald Reagan rallied America with “Peace Through Strength.””

- “We must pass a torch to the next generation…”

- “It’s really an election about the soul of America.”

- “Three years ago, Candidate Obama promised to address the problems of illegal immigration in America. He failed. The truth is, he didn’t even try.”

- “American strength rises from a strong economy, a strong defense, and the enduring strength of our values. Unfortunately, under this President, all three of those elements have been weakened.”

- “This President’s first answer to every problem is to take power from you, your local government and your state so that so-called “experts” in Washington can make those choices for you. And with each of these decisions, we lose more of our freedom.”

This particular speech from January, 2012, in New Hampshire, probably has the most out-and-out lies of all the speeches I’ve read so far (read for yourself.)

Here’s the most hypocritical lie (and one that he reiterated at the RNC):

- “At the time, we didn’t know what sort of a President he would make. It was a moment of crisis for our economy, and when Barack Obama came to office, we wished him well and hoped for the best…”

I’ve also run across various and sundry WTF? lines:

- “As President, on Day One, I will focus on rebuilding America’s economy. I will reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts. Time and again, we have seen that attempts to balance the budget by weakening our military only lead to a far higher price, not only in treasure, but in blood.”

- “Barack Obama has failed America. It breaks my heart to see what’s happening in this country. These failing hopes make up President Obama’s own misery index. It’s never been higher. And what’s his answer? He says this: “I’m just getting started.”

- “If a couple has a baby, the government will actually give them more support—in the form of food stamps, welfare, or other benefits—if they do not marry than if they do. Our safety-net programs penalize the decision to marry, instead of rewarding it. That’s just wrong. And that’s why I will eliminate these marriage penalties.”

- “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers.”

Romney’s campaign speeches also contain myriad Republican-hot-button-buzzwords, repeated ad nauseum, such as “freedom”, “opportunity”, “exceptionalism”, “entitlements”, “failure”, etc. In addition, Romney makes plenty of promises to uphold or strengthen various rights: States’ rights; corporations’ rights to conduct their businesses unfettered by Federal regulations; and, of course, the overarching rights of a collection of zygotes.

However, thus far in my research (ten speeches), one very important topic stands out which Mitt Romney completely ignores: Women’s issues and rights. Romney’s only mention of women:

- “We live in the most powerful nation that ever existed. And it all goes back to a few men and women who had the courage to stand – and even die – for their belief in liberty and equality.”

and

- “…I will hold fathers financially responsible for their child, whether or not they have married the mother.”

As I mentioned, I’m only ten speeches into a collection of about forty-five, so there’s a possibility that Romney may have discussed support for women’s rights in a later speech. But I’ve got the feeling that that possibility is slim-to-none.

This is our daily open thread — What would YOU like to ramble about?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, July 26th, 2012: The Tortoise Turtle is Hare-Brained

Not to insult any tortoises, turtles, or hares who happen to be reading this; because, honestly, most tortoises, turtles and hares are more intelligent and have more integrity than the subject of this post, but…

MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY-TURTLEWAX) IS A MANIPULATIVE, DESPICABLE, LYING AND YES, TREASONOUS, UGLY BAG OF MOSTLY WATER. (As Wayne would say: ‘There, I said it, and I’m glad.’)

Yesterday’s “Quote of the Day” in the Washington Post:

QUOTE OF THE DAY
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defending his decision to drop the threat of a filibuster on a proposal to preserve tax cuts soley[sic] for the middle class:

“By setting these votes at a 50-vote threshold, nobody on the other side can hide behind a procedural vote while leaving their views on the actual bill itself a mystery to the people who sent them here…”

The Washington Post article states:

“McConnell acknowledged the unusual nature of his decision — Democratic aides could not recall another occasion when McConnell permitted a simple majority vote on a contentious issue. McConnell said his goal was to force vulnerable Democrats to support a plan to raise taxes less than four months before the Nov. 6 ballot.”

“By setting these votes at a 50-vote threshold, nobody on the other side can hide behind a procedural vote while leaving their views on the actual bill itself a mystery to the people who sent them here,” McConnell said.

Moreover, McConnell said, the tax bill cannot advance because it is a Senate-originated tax measure. The Constitution requires all tax measures to originate in the House.

“The only reason we won’t block it today is that we know it doesn’t pass constitutional muster and won’t become law,” McConnell said. “What today’s votes are all about,” he said, is “showing the people who sent us here where we stand.”

Yes, Mitch, it shows the people who sent you there that you stand against them, as poll after poll indicates that the vast majority of Americans are in favor of letting the Bush tax cuts for the extremely wealthy expire. Yeah, you show ‘em, Mitch.

According to a ThinkProgress article posted after the 2011 debt ceiling hostage debacle, “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) confirmed this fear [of Republicans holding the debt ceiling hostage] when he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that Republicans will hold the debt ceiling hostage in the future, saying this debate “set the template for the future”:

MCCONNELL: “It set the template for the future. In the future, Neil, no president — in the near future, maybe in the distant future — is going to be able to get the debt ceiling increased without a re-ignition of the same discussion…”

“Discussion”? That was no “discussion”, Mitch, it was a deliberate act on the Republican’s part to undermine both President Obama and the American economy.

The same ThinkProgress 2011 post continued, “The debt ceiling has been raised dozens of times in the past without controversy, including 19 times under President Bush alone. President Reagan increasing the debt ceiling by 199.5 percent during his eight years in office — more than any executive to date — while Presidents Bush, Jr. raised it 90.2 percent and Bush Sr. increased it by 48.0 percent.” Of course, as everyone knows, IOKIYAR.

According to DailyKos, the debt ceiling fight:

“…didn’t just hurt the economy or disrupt the economic recovery, halt job growth, and wreck consumer confidence. It also cost taxpayers $1.3 billion and counting, according to the Government Accountability Office [GAO].

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said Monday that the $1.3 billion in costs came as the result of increased borrowing costs for the Treasury Department.

Ezra Klein at The Washington Post provided a link to the GAO’s “Analysis of 2011-2012 Actions Taken and Effect of Delayed Increase of Borrowing Costs.”

As a reminder to us all, this October 2010 ThinkProgress article quotes McConnell:

MCCONNELL: The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” McConnell added, “Our single biggest political goal is to give our nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful. …

Apparently nothing else matters to Republicans: if trashing the U.S. economy, rising unemployment (where are the jobs, Speaker Boehner?), and undermining the rights of citizens to vote will help “to give [their] nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful”, well, if the Republicans spoke French (horrors!), they’d likely say, “c’est la vie” – or, more appropriately, c’est la guerre.”

This is our daily open thread — ladies and gentlemen, start your discussion!

Sunday Roast: Inside Job

Inside Job is a 2010 documentary film about the late-2000s financial crisis directed by Charles H. Ferguson. The film is described by Ferguson as being about “the systemic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry and the consequences of that systemic corruption.”

After watching this film, I better understood what happened to cause our economy — and economies all over the world — to collapse.

We know what happened.  We know how it happened.  We know why it happened.  No consequences have been issued, except for the fallout that rained down on regular people like you and me.  All of the banksters involved are still in place, in one form or another, and they still have enormous power over us and our economy.

This.  Could.  Happen.  Again.

It’s a virtual guarantee.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss

The Watering Hole: Tuesday June 12, 2012 – Duck and Pray or Go Vote! Your decision.

Bank Run

The perfect economic storm may be rocking the boat big time, come three weeks. That’s how long IMF boss Christine Lagarde reckons Europe has left to solve their problems. I wish everybody the best of luck with Angela Merkel being the key person in the situation. That’s one obstinate woman if there ever was one.

Well, then there are younger economic powerhouses than Europe, which could pick up the slack. India? Errr no. Brazil? So sorry, no help. China? Hmmmm.

Don’t expect the economy to be any help in November when it comes to President Obama running for a second term. Mitt Romney’s position gets stronger by default. Bringing out the Democratic vote, even if you are understandably less than enthusiastic must be top priority this year. If Mitt Romney is elected, the last remnants of what’s left of the middle class will go down in flames. Their already dismal funds will be transferred to the top 1%.

The 1% will then learn a little later, that their money is just printed on paper after all and there is no one left they can milk for more. Then the top 0.1% will go after the others, but that won’t be of any help to any of you.

Is it that bad? Yes it is.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 1st, 2012: And Your Advice is Worth???

I like to check out Foreign Policy Magazine online now and again for different stories and viewpoints. You can imagine my surprise today when I saw an article titled “How to Beat Obama”, written by…wait for it…Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie. Yes, Karl Rove, despite being wrong nearly as often as William Kristol, still thinks that his advice would be helpful to the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee. Check out some of the pearls of wisdom Karl and Ed are offering:

“In an American election focused on a lousy economy and high unemployment, conventional wisdom holds that foreign policy is one of Barack Obama’s few strong suits. But the president is strikingly vulnerable in this area. The Republican who leads the GOP ticket can attack him on what Obama mistakenly thinks is his major strength by translating the center-right critique of his foreign policy into campaign themes and action. Here’s how to beat him.

First, the Republican nominee should adopt a confident, nationalist tone emphasizing American exceptionalism, expressing pride in the United States as a force for good in the world, and advocating for an America that is once again respected (and, in some quarters, feared) as the preeminent global power. Obama acts as if he sees the United States as a flawed giant, a mistake that voters already perceive. After all, this is the president who said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Voters also sense he is content to manage America’s decline to a status where the United States is just one country among many.”

Ah, yes, the “American Exceptionalism” cliche – Americans are somehow inherently better than the rest of the world, and we damn well don’t need to pay attention to any of those lesser people in all of those other crappy countries. America is a flawless giant, dammit, and just look at how perceptive American voters are, too!

“The Republican nominee should use the president’s own words and actions to portray him as naive and weak on foreign affairs. Obama’s failed promises, missed opportunities, and erratic shifts suggest he is out of touch and in over his head.”

Karl, do you remember anything of the presidency of George W. Bush, or have you simply blocked it all out?

“The Republican candidate must address at least four vital areas. The most important is the struggle that will define this century’s arc: radical Islamic terrorism. He should make the case that victory must be America’s national goal, not merely seeking to “delegitimize the use of terrorism and to isolate those who carry it out,” as Obama’s May 2010 National Security Strategy put it. As in the Cold War, victory will require sustained U.S. involvement and a willingness to deploy all tools of influence — from diplomacy to economic ties, from intelligence efforts to military action.”

I thought that this 2012 election was all about JOBS, JOBS, JOBS – oh, wait, that was the 2010 mid-terms, or…well some election was/is supposed to be about JOBS…I think.

“Second, the Republican candidate must condemn the president’s precipitous drawdown in Afghanistan and his deep, dangerous defense-budget cuts. Both are viewed skeptically by the military: The former emboldens America’s adversaries and discourages its allies; the latter is of deep concern to veterans and other Americans who doubt Obama’s commitment to the military.”

Jeebus knows that we don’t want to “precipitously” leave Afghanistan after, what, only eleven years or so? And didn’t I hear that President Obama has actually increased the defense budget?

“During the 2008 campaign, he also argued that Iran was a “tiny” country that didn’t “pose a serious threat.” How foolish that now seems.”

“In part because of how he has mishandled the Iranian threat, Obama has lost much political and financial support in the American Jewish community. His approach to Israel must be presented as similarly weak and untrustworthy. The Republican candidate must make clear the existential threat to Israel from a nuclear-armed Iran…”

We certainly wouldn’t want Israel to defend itself all alone, with only a few hundred nuclear weapons, against a possible/future/maybe-nuclear-armed Iran, now would we?

Obama recognizes that he’s seen as “cold and aloof,” and the Republican nominee should hammer this point home. The president has few real friends abroad (excepting, of course, Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as he told Time magazine’s Fareed Zakaria). The Republican nominee should criticize Obama for not understanding that the U.S. president’s personal engagement is essential for effective global leadership. Obama’s lack of regular close contact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which has destroyed relationships with America’s erstwhile allies, is simply the most jarring, inexplicable example of this president’s hands-off approach.

If the Republican candidate turns out to be Mitt Romney, our allies (and enemies, too!) will be SO overwhelmed by the “warm and fuzzies.” So, President Obama hasn’t been calling al-Maliki and Karzai as much as Rove and Gillespie think he should? What are they, Obama’s mother?

“Because the fall campaign must be devoted to promoting the Republican message on jobs and the economy, the GOP nominee must share his big foreign-policy vision no later than early summer.”

“The fourth line of attack must be about America’s fragile economy and how to restore it. Many voters think Obama’s stewardship of the economy has been inconsistent and even counterproductive.”

Of course, talking about jobs and the economy can wait until the fall – it gives the Republican nominee that much more time to think of something other than “cut taxes and regulations for corporations” and “make the Bush tax cuts permanent.”

“Undoubtedly, Obama will attempt to preempt criticism of his foreign policy by repeating endlessly that Osama bin Laden was killed on his watch. By campaign’s end, some voters will wonder whether the president personally delivered the kill shot.”

Yes, undoubtedly, ’cause that’s what Rove and Gillespie would do – it would definitely convince “some voters”, i.e., FuxNews-watchers.

“Absent a major international crisis, this election will be largely about jobs, spending, health care, and energy. Voters do, however, want a president who leads on the world stage and a commander in chief who projects strength, not weakness.”

What the…”absent a major international crisis”? Such as, Karl?

“A November 2011 survey conducted by Resurgent Republic showed that 50 percent of voters (as well as 54 percent of self-identified independents) think America’s standing in the world is worse under Obama, while only 21 percent believe it is better. This represents a sharp drop from April 2010, when 50 percent of voters (and 49 percent of independents) believed Obama had improved America’s standing.

That’s because Obama has failed to become a strong international leader, and the Republican nominee must reinforce this message — one most Americans already believe. Foreign policy is a weakness for this president, not a strength.”

Hey, guess who’s a Board Member at Resurgent Republic? Why, good old Ed Gillespie!

Hmmm, I don’t think that your advice is so hot, Karl (and Ed.) Maybe they should read another article at Foreign Policy magazine that refutes their arguments.

Regardless of whether or not Rove and Gillespie’s advice is useful, I don’t think that either of the current ‘leaders’ for the Republican nomination would be capable of following it.

This is our daily open thread – feel free to opine on this or any other topic.

The Watering Hole: December 20th – Commodities

Picture found at panoramio.com Sculture by Peter Lenk "Slavenmarkt" (Slaves Market)

Sculpture by Peter Lenk

This is what I always wanted to be. Livestock, a commodity. When I started to work for Digital Equipment Corporation in 1986 I was hired for the Personnel Department. This changed it’s name into “Human Resources” after a while and that didn’t improve how we treated our employees. Obviously things have gone farther. This is from today’s “The Guardian” Business Blog:

The UK’s human capital – the economic value of the knowledge and skills of the working age population – fell by £130bn in 2010, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The knowledge and skills of workers in the UK were worth an estimated £17.12 trillion in 2010. This was more than two-and-a-half times the estimated value of the UK’s tangible assets – such as buildings, vehicles, plant and machinery – at the beginning of that year.

The value of the UK’s human capital stock increased steadily between 2001 and 2007, averaging annual increases of £425bn. The slowing of earnings growth and increases in unemployment during the economic downturn meant that growth in the stock of human capital slowed to an average of £120bn a year between 2007 and 2009, before falling in 2010.

Human Capital Stock…Livestock…Maybe I am a bit too sensitive. What do you think?

This is our daily Open Thread. Join us and discuss..

The Watering Hole, Thursday, November 17th: Bad Moms! Bad!

Last week, my friend Maria, with whom I work, forwarded me an email that she received from a “friend.”  Maria explained that she had mentioned to this “friend” that her son, Matt, had recently gone down to the Occupy Wall Street protest and had protested along with them, including joining in with a drum circle.  Maria’s “friend” was appalled by this information, and, the following day, sent her an email which is apparently making its rounds on the internets, with the subject line being “I think she nailed it.”  It consisted of a column by someone named Marybeth Hicks, who evidently has her own website, http://www.marybethhicks.com, and who has also written a book entitled “Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid: Confronting the Left’s Assault on Our Families, Faith and Freedom”  Yeah, right.   I will not quote the entire column, but the overall gist of it was that the mothers of the OWS protesters had not taught their children properly, so Ms. Hicks would do so in the mothers’ stead.  Here’s some examples of what OWS protesters’ moms, in Ms. Hicks’ opinion, should have taught their kids:

“Call it an occupational hazard, but I can’t look at the Occupy Wall
Street protesters without thinking, “Who parented these people?”
As a culture columnist, I’ve commented on the social and political
ramifications of the “movement” – now known as “OWS” – whose fairyland agenda can be summarized by one of their placards: “Everything for everybody.”

“Thanks to their pipe-dream platform, it’s clear there are people with serious designs on “transformational” change in America who are using the protesters like bedsprings in a brothel.”

Nice how Ms. Hicks takes the example of one particular “placard” (sorry, but when I hear someone use the word “placard”, I just assume that that person is ancient as hell – as a Mets fan, I automatically think of Casey Stengel talking about the annual Banner Day at Shea.)  And, since the main complaint of most right-wingers regarding OWS is that they do NOT have a clear platform, pipe-dream or not, I have no idea how Ms. Hick finds it “clear” that there’s a sleazy conspiracy afoot.

“* Life isn’t fair. The concept of justice – that everyone should be treated fairly – is a worthy and worthwhile moral imperative on which our nation was founded. But justice and economic equality are not the same. Or, as Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want.”

Apparently Ms. Hicks is unaware of the next line in the song, “But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need“, so she probably would not comprehend that the OWS protesters are out there trying to get what they need, i.e., opportunities for decent jobs, reasonably affordable healthcare, etc.

“When you demonstrate to eliminate student loan debt, you are advocating precisely the lack of integrity you decry in others. Loans are made based on solemn promises to repay them. No one forces you to borrow money; you are free to choose educational pursuits that don’t require loans, or to seek technical or vocational training that allows you to support yourself and your ongoing educational goals. Also, for the record, being a college student is not a state of victimization. It’s a privilege that billions of young people around the globe would die for – literally.”

In other words, keep to your station in life, kids.  And, for the record, Ms. Hicks, at least millions of young people around the world live in countries which, through their taxation system, DO provide free university educations – and the students don’t have to die for the “privilege”!

“…while making a mad dash from my cab to the door of my hotel to avoid you [the OWS protesters], I saw what isn’t evident in the newsreel footage of your demonstrations: Most of you are doing this only for attention and fun. Serious people in a sober pursuit of social and political change don’t dance jigs down Sixth Avenue like attendees of a Renaissance festival. You look foolish, you smell gross, you are clearly high and you don’t seem to realize that all around you are people who deem you irrelevant.”

“Newsreel footage”?  Again, just how old is this Hicks woman?  And just what evidence does this woman have that the demonstrators were “clearly high”?  What Ms. Hicks also does not understand is that all of those protesters, if they were aware of Ms. Hicks at all, would immediately deem HER irrelevant.  And, finally:

“* There are reasons you haven’t found jobs. The truth? Your tattooed necks, gauged ears, facial piercings and dirty dreadlocks are off-putting. Nonconformity for the sake of nonconformity isn’t a virtue. Occupy reality: Only 4 percent of college graduates are out of work. If you are among that 4 percent, find a mirror and face the problem. It’s not them. It’s you.”

Yes, of course, Ms. Hicks, all of the OWS protesters and their counterparts across the country and around the world have tattoos, body piercing and dirty dreadlocks.  And, for the record, at least 9.1 percent of college graduates cannot find jobs, and the problem is NOT them, IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID.  Ms. Hicks is the one who needs to “occupy reality.”

My friend Maria responded politely to her “friend” that her son, a post-graduate student in mathematics now studying for his doctorate, has neither tattoos nor piercings, nor does he sport dirty dreadlocks.  I wonder if she’ll hear from her “friend” again.  Heh.


Disturbing factoid of the day…

28.6%…

That’s the number of homeowners estimated to be ‘underwater’ – owing more on their mortgages than their houses are worth – at the end of the 3rd quarter, up from earlier in the year.

By my calcs, that’s approximately 16.6 MILLION homes… currently worth less than their owners paid for them. And according to this year old article from Reuters

the total value of U.S. single-family homes tumbled about $798 billion in the fourth quarter (of 2010), according to Zillow. For the year, values fell by more than $2 trillion to $22.3 trillion.

Don’t know how much value has been shed this year so far, but if the numbers are up, it’s got to be at least in the multiple hundreds of billions of dollars, I’d reckon.

As they say in Scotland… Ouch’mon.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday, November 8 – Personhood

Image source: Flickr Creative Commons user zieak

I am not talking about the abominable plans in Mississippi to turn a fertilized egg into a person legally. I have no intention to grace this irrationality with a post. I am talking about “The Economy” and “The Markets”. Both are nomina depicting a number of activities but are treated like they were personalities.

The Economy, that’s what we do. That’s the system or range of economic activity in a country, region, or community. We do it by producing goods, by providing services, by consuming. You name it. It is not a person, it is the totality of economic interaction done by all of us. As this is done by all of us, we have as a society or community the right and the duty to set the rules how this interaction should be, in order to be most profitable for all of us.

The Economy is not a person which is empowered to set the rules unless we make it that way, or rather let it happen. We do that currently.

The Markets are defined ranging from a) A public gathering to sell and buy merchandise, to b) A specific geographical area where certain merchandise or good are being sold to or bought from, to most globally c) The entire enterprise of buying and selling commodities and securities. If this were a person I’d recommend psychiatric evaluation for dissociative disorder.

The Markets are an integral part of the greater entity The Economy. The Economy is what WE do, The Markets is what WE do inside The Economy. WE decide how we want to do it. It is time we took our lives and our society back into our own hands and start to send representatives into our parliaments who do OUR bidding not the bidding of their shill friends Economy and Markets.

For behind the shill we find the real friends who perfectly understand how to use the concept of The Economy and The Markets as godlike ruling force against us. We all know who they are on your side of the Atlantic and on ours. 

This is our open thread. A public gathering to offer and accept your comments and a lively discussion. Get going.

There are holes…

There are big holes…

There are really, really, big holes…

And then there’s this…

… a really, really, really big hole…

That’s the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, southwest of Salt Lake City in Utah. The world’s largest open pit mine, the Bingham is two and a half miles wide, three-quarters of a mile deep, and covers approximately 1,700 acres, or a little over two and half square miles.

You gotta admit… that really is… quite… the… hole. I came across that picture by accident the other day, just surfing the Intertubes, and it kinda blew me away… that is one big farker, and man-made to boot.

It got me to thinking about the really nasty things that we humans do to our planet, and usually in the name of making as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, and the long term consequences be damned.

Another truly notable, really, really, really big hole that humans made is the grotesquely spectacular Mir Diamond Mine Crater, in Russia. The picture is real, btw… it has not been photoshopped for effect.

Located at Mirna in Eastern Siberia, the Mir is over 1,722 ft deep (1/3 of a mile) and has a diameter of 3,900 ft (3/4th of a mile). Helicopters are forbidden from flying over the Mir; several have been sucked in by the down drafts. Here’s more about the Mir if you’re interested, and here’s a nice collection of some of the biggest man-made holes on the face of the Earth, if you can stomach it…

Of course, not all holes are made just for money… some result when we disagree with each other…

This beauty…

… believe it or not, isn’t a picture taken on the face of the Moon, it’s the Sedan Blast Crater in Nevada, the result of a nuclear test back in 1962. If you look carefully at the picture, around five o’clock (lower right side) you can see a viewing platform for visitors, with the road leading up to it. Yes… the Sedan Crater really is that big. According to the good people of Wiki, “Because the craters at the NTS had features similar to the topography of Moon craters, Astronauts for Apollo 14 visited Sedan in November 1970″.

Though nowhere near the size of some of our other holes, it is still nonetheless impressive, considering it was created in mere seconds, the aftermath of this explosion

Here are some stats for you to grok over… the Sedan was a mere ten kiloton blast and still managed to move 6.6 MILLION cubic yards of dirt, or 12 MILLION tons of weight, and left a hole over 300 feet deep and more a quarter of a mile across…

That is one incredible hole… all the more so for being produced by flipping a switch, whereas the Bingham is the byproduct of a century’s steady mining. Here’s an overhead shot of the Nevada Test Area that’s home to the Sedan Crater… it’s like the Earth has broken out in some sort of nasty rash, huh?

Weighing in at niggling 10 kilotons, the Sedan would be considered tiny when compared to today’s bombs with their 10 megaton yields (that’s 10,000 kilotons…). You read that right… we now have nuclear bombs a thousand times more powerful than the Sedan, or Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

I can only imagine the size of the hole one of those would leave in the Earth. And not only are some of those nukes a thousand times more powerful, we have, en toto, an estimated 8,500 of them and the Russians 11,000. Overwhelming, innit?

Here’s a truly frightening collection of atomic test photos… click on one of them and you’ll get a slide show… the pictures are even more impressive that way…

And yet all it took to produce this mess was eighteen guys with box cutters… go figure…

Then… there are other kinds of really, really big holes that human beings are capable of producing, intentionally or otherwise…

Like the kind our beloved banking class blew in the country’s economy back at the heights, er… the depths… of the subprime mortgage fiasco…

The above chart shows the value of the S&P 500 over the last ten years. Note the enormous slide in the index starting in late 2007 just as the economy was beginning to bear the first brunt of massive numbers of bad mortgage defaults, soon to be followed by even bigger losses due to bad bonds based on those bad mortgages.

The S&P 500 index is such a broad based index that it is commonly used to gauge the overall health of the stock market and even the US economy. Please note just how much it finally dropped at the low point in early 2009, losing nearly half its value.

Now THAT is one spectacular hole and represents several TRILLION dollars of value vanishing in a greasy puff of smoke. Thank you ever so much, Wall Street! No wonder Warren Buffet once described derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction”.

It’s now way half past 2011 and with an estimated million homes in foreclosure, several million more in the pipeline, and 870,000 already in the hands of banks, we’re STILL climbing out of that last crater and will be for quite some time to come…

And of course, the usual suspects (the bankers) saw nothing… heard nothing… and know nothing… ‘cept that CEO Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, the bank that has become the poster child for Wall Street shenanigans, has lawyered up…

And that other hole, earlier in the decade… around 2002 to 2003? That’s the hole blown in our economy by the dot-com collapse… again gratis our beloved banksters. And the smaller, yet significant drop in late 2001? That’s the aftermath of 9/11.

It makes one think… it do. It seems that as our machines grow more and more powerful and our ability to manipulate our environment increases, the potential for destruction, deliberate or otherwise, grows proportionally too.

Dr. Frankentstein, meet your monster.

I think it’d be fun to start a list of really, really big holes here… we could call it the “A List of Really, Really Big Holes”… but that’s too many words, so maybe we should just call it “The ‘A’ Hole List” for short…

Soooooooooooo… which really, really big holes do you think should be on our little A List?

***TRoS snaps fingers***

One more just came to mind… and this humongous ‘A’ hole definitely belongs on the list…

There… if that hole doesn’t belong, then none of them do… talk about yer weapons of ass destruction…

The Watering Hole, Thursday, October 27th: …and in other news…

After mulling over topics for today’s post, I decided to just present a mixed bag of ‘things that caught my eye on the internets during the past few days.’ The articles range from serious to tongue-in-cheek to outright ridiculous. The following are from Foreign Policy Magazine online and from Newsmax.

From FP: The title of Ryan Caldwell’s article, “An Islamist, a Liberal, and a Former Regime Loyalist Walk into a Cafe”, snagged my attention. The article gave an interesting presentation of the post-Gaddafi views of three Libyans of different stripes working together. Also, for some reason I found it just wondrous that the interview was done via Skype, from Caldwell’s home in California to a cafe in Benghazi. Plus I learned that ‘celebratory gunfire’ is called rasaas al-farah, which means, literally, “bullets of joy.”

From FP: In “Dumb Power: Republicans Introduce the “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?” Foreign Policy”, David Rothkopf gives his reaction to the Republican debate on foreign policy.

From Newsmax: In the Newsmax “Breaking News” email, this article was billed as “Thomas Sowell: Herman Cain Is Real Black, Obama Not Typical“. The article includes such tidbits as:

“His prescription for fixing the economy: “I would love to have a constitutional amendment that says politicians are not allowed to intervene in the economy under any circumstances. I think there would be a boom following that.””

From Newsmax: The title of “Hensarling: Supercommittee Need Not Cut Entitlements” sounds hopeful, doesn’t it? Sure…read the whole article: Hensarling, the Republican co-chair of this “Supercommittee”, has some strange ideas. Here’s one:

“I would like to pick up the Internal Revenue Code by its roots and throw it into the nearest trash can. Having said that, realistically, that’s probably a bridge too far for this committee,”


From Newsmax
: And finally, Frank Gaffney being Frank Gaffney:

“Frank Gaffney warned in an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview: “I’m afraid there’s a war coming, a very serious, perhaps cataclysmic regional war,” he said. “It will be presumably over, at least in part, the future existence of the state of Israel. It may involve all of its neighbors, as they have in the past, attacking Israel to try, as they say, to drive the Jews into the sea.””

Enjoy!

This is our Open Thread. I’m sure you can find something to say about any one of the above, so Speak Up!

Sunday Roast, October 23rd, 2011: Do Moderates Really Exist?

Eisenhower and Kennedy

Published in the Pawling Press, Pawling, NY, Friday, October 14th, 2011, under the title “If Moderates Ruled…” by Jane Schneider

Note: I wrote the following in response to an opinion piece by the Pawling Press‘s conservative columnist, Mr. Paul Keyishian. Mr. Keyishian’s piece was entitled “When Moderates Ruled the Country”; it should be available in full at http://www.pawlingpress.com next week.

“I agree wholeheartedly with Paul Keyishian’s piece in the October 7th edition of the Pawling Press, wherein Mr. Keyishian discusses the presidencies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, and the positive effects that these administrations’ moderate and forward-thinking policies had on our country. It was an era when science and technology leapt forward, an era when national goals and ambitious aims were lauded, encouraged, and became part of our national identity.

As Mr. Keyishian said, President Eisenhower “had the foresight to anticipate the need for the interstate highway system…”, “And to help stimulate the national economy, while simultaneously assisting those in need, Eisenhower wisely continued the most necessary and efficient New Deal policies of FDR.” About President John F. Kennedy, Mr. Keyishian said, “President Kennedy generally supported policies that were sensible, pragmatic, and humane. His dedication to social justice was exemplified by his support of the civil rights movement, creation of the Peace Corps, and promotion of various programs to assist the underprivileged and oppressed.”

Again, the point of Mr. Keyishian’s piece was that America, under these two moderate, more-or-less centrist, presidencies prospered and became an example to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, in today’s political terms, these types of programs and policies are now considered to be left-wing, liberal ideals, and are now vilified by politicians and pundits as ‘socialist.’ It appears that the extreme right-wing minority of the conservatives in power has exerted such a gravitational pull that all political ideologies have shifted rightward, out of their natural orbit around the center. For instance, as a liberal, I know that President Obama is centrist, or perhaps marginally left-of-center, yet he is labeled as a liberal (or much, much worse) by pundits. What is terribly sad and foreboding is that such a centrist cannot even propose a national aim or goal, such as investing in the country’s future by becoming a world leader in green technology, without being shouted down – inaccurately – as a socialist. Do the shouters and pundits not remember what, in retrospect, felt like the glory days of America as a world leader and pioneer in technology, particularly space technology? Do they not realize that, if this country is to continue to be a world leader and aspire to such glory again, we must have national goals and dreams that transcend party politics and petty, mundane squabbles?

And do they also not realize that, in those exciting, inspiring years under two moderate Presidents, tax rates for the wealthy soared as high as 90%? Eisenhower and Kennedy did not borrow money to achieve their lofty goals, they used tax revenues to do so. So why is anyone balking today about increasing taxes on the wealthy by a mere 4% or 5% (letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, bringing their rates back to the 39.6%, I believe, under Clinton), when so much needs achieving in today’s United States, and should not be achieved by borrowing more money? A nation so beset by petty and divisive politics desperately needs a national goal, one that will not only inspire Americans, but that will provide jobs, a cleaner environment, less dependency on fossil fuels (thereby reducing certain national security issues), and will instill the American feeling of pride in being part of something that will benefit ourselves and future generations. As the poet Robert Browning put it, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp — or what’s a heaven for?”

Where are the moderate, far-seeing, pragmatic public servants in today’s political arena? I fear that they are all but extinct.”

Jane E. Schneider

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

Here’s what the Occupy Wall Street protesters are angry about

via Business Insider

1. Unemployment is at the highest level since the Great Depression (with the exception of a brief blip in the early 1980s).

2. At the same time, corporate profits are at an all-time high, both in absolute dollars and as a share of the economy.

3. Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low. In other words, corporate profits are at an all-time high, in part, because corporations are paying less of their revenue to employees than they ever have. There are lots of reasons for this, many of which are not the fault of the corporations. (It’s a global economy now, and 2-3 billion new low-cost employees in China, India, et al, have recently entered the global workforce. This is putting pressure on wages the world over.)

4. Income and wealth inequality in the US economy is near an all-time high: The owners of the country’s assets (capital) are winning, everyone else (labor) is losing.

The United States is one of the most unequal developed countries in the world.  We can’t continue this way, and the Occupy Wall Street protesters are marching GLOBALLY to bring attention to the problems we’re facing because of the greed of the top 2% and the policies that enable them.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, September 15th, 2011: THIS EARTH IS NOT FLAT

Published in the Pawling Press, Pawling, NY, Friday, September 9th, 2011, under the title “Not So Flat Earth”

Note: I wrote the following in response to an opinion piece by the Pawling Press‘s conservative columnist, Mr. Paul Keyishian. Mr. Keyishian’s piece was entitled “Achieving Ideological Balance at the Federal Level”; it should be available in full at http://www.pawlingpress.com next week.

I found it aptly ironic that both Frank Matheis [liberal columnist] and Paul Keyishian, in their opinion pieces of September 2nd, referred to the idea that no sane person these days believes that the world is flat. However, while Mr. Matheis went on to discuss the dismissal of science by climate change deniers, including many of today’s prominent Republicans and Tea Partiers, Mr. Keyishian took a different route. Mr. Keyishian’s column centered around the idea that, while “established scientific facts” are either right or wrong, opposing political philosophies are “not so cut and dried.” While this is true to a certain degree, some political philosophies are readily proven to be wrong, simply by looking at history.

I am compelled to dismiss Mr. Keyishian’s base premise where he “assume[s] that each side of the political spectrum has something meaningful to contribute…” or “that we all possess the sincere desire to ‘even things out’ politically.” Anyone who has paid attention to the political arena in the last few years since President Obama was elected has to realize that, even before the 2010 mid-terms, the majority of sitting Republicans became the party of Obstruction, the party of “No!” and even “Hell, NO!” Senior Republican Mitch McConnell outright stated that the party’s goal was to “make President Obama a one-term President”, which doesn’t exactly sound like meaningful contribution in my view. The only solution that the Republicans offered to mitigate the effects of the recession and the rampant, increasing unemployment rate were tax cuts, especially for the wealthy and big corporations.

Here’s where we go back to the ‘flat-earth/established science’ idea: Republicans, and I mean every single Republican Congressperson and Senator, still pronounce that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations actually create jobs and must be continued, some believe permanently. This flies completely in the face of established historical fact. Historical facts tell us that, when President Clinton raised taxes, including on the wealthy and corporations, the country gained millions of jobs (and provided his successor with a budget surplus); historical facts also tell us that, when George W. Bush reduced taxes on the wealthy and big corporations, the country LOST millions of jobs. Republicans paid no attention to the burgeoning deficit during the Bush years, but suddenly it became the number one priority when a Democrat, President Obama, took office. (Sorry, that one should be filed under “Hypocrisy”, not “Established Science”.)

Mr. Keyishian’s dream scenario that having a Republican President, a majority Democratic House, and a more-or-less evenly split Senate would help to make Congress, and therefore the country, work better together to accomplish ideologically central, moderate legislation, is just that: a dream scenario. First, this idea is totally dependent on the premise that the members of the House and Senate are all reality-based, competent and honest public servants. Unfortunately, there are very few of those to be found, in this age of big-money-influenced politics. Take the big money out of politics with real, effective campaign finance reform and lobbying reform, and this scenario may become slightly less dreamlike. Second, let’s turn Mr. Keyishian’s scenario on its head and look at the current makeup of the legislative and executive branches: we have a Democratic President, a majority Republican House, and a more-or-less evenly split Senate. If Mr. Keyishian’s hypothesis held true, wouldn’t one have to believe that there would be more cooperation, compromise, and resulting ideologically central, moderate legislation, instead of what is actually happening in today’s Congress?

Lastly, the scenario that Mr. Keyishian proposes has Michele Bachmann as his choice for the Presidency. Like most of the Republican candidates, Ms. Bachmann is a climate-science denier and doesn’t believe in evolution. She has also signed the Grover Norquist pledge (compulsory for Republicans, although one Congressman just recently disavowed the pledge) of no additional taxes, not for anyone, not ever. This past weekend, Ms. Bachman went as far as saying that she ‘would consider’ the idea of ZERO taxes on corporations. Ms. Bachmann has also signed a ‘no abortions for any reason’ pledge, and is anti-homosexual: she and her husband truly believe that one can “pray away the gay.” To sum up, Michele Bachmann is a “Flat-Earther”, and not someone who is qualified to lead the United States of America, especially not in this century.

By Jane E. Schneider

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

Sunday Roast, August 21st, 2011: Just Say “NO” to Oil

Amidst all of the beer, car, cell phone, erectile dysfunction and other pharmaceutical commercials, lately I’ve been seeing a lot more commercials for various oil and natural gas companies, touting all of the research they do or how ‘clean’ their product is. The latest push from Exxon/Mobil is for “oil sands” technology.

“Oil sands” or “tar sands” according to Wikipedia, are defined as “a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The sands contain naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, water, and a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially “tar” due to its similar appearance, odour, and colour).” One of the largest deposits is located in Alberta, Canada, and a proposed pipeline, the Keystone XL, to run from Alberta to Texas, is currently the center of a whirlwind of controversy, involving the State Department, Congress, the EPA, ranchers and landowners, environmental activists, protests and arrests, and opposing labor unions.

Whooping Cranes

The Keystone XL, owned by the TransCanada company, starts in Alberta, Canada, home of the magnificently beautiful but endangered Whooping Crane, of which there are only about 400 left. The process by which the oil sands are accessed starts with bulldozing forests, then stripmining, then steam-heating the bitumen product. The proposed 36″ diameter pipeline would run through several states, and more importantly, would run through the Ogalalla Aquifer, the “largest underground reservoir on the planet”, part of which is located under the Sandhills of Nebraska. Existing pipelines from the Alberta oil sands facility to parts of the U.S. have already had a history of leaks, including last year’s spill into the Kalamazoo River. Why would anyone even entertain the notion that the 2000-mile-long proposed pipeline would be less likely to be plagued by the same problems? I seriously urge everyone to read the entire Incite article (also linked to above), as well as related articles in this month’s edition of the Audubon magazine, as this post cannot encompass all of the pertinent information, including the sleazy and despicable actions of TransCanada in their efforts to force affected landowners off their lands.

While billions upon billions of dollars are being poured into this proposed pipeline, estimates of U.S. jobs the project could purportedly create are only around 20,000 – a mere drop in the bucket considering the millions of unemployed right now. Are 20,000 jobs really worth the possibility of a slow leak or spill in such a varied and important range of ecosystems through which the pipeline would pass, and especially the possibility of a catastrophic leak into an underground reservoir which serves as a water supply to eight states? The Final Environmental Impact Statement is due out around now, and, once it is published, the Obama Administration has 90 days to review it and make a decision. I sincerely hope that they come to the conclusion that a mere 20,000 jobs is not worth the potentially disastrous risks, and give this proposed pipeline the thumbs down that it deserves.

This is our Sunday open thread — What do you think?

Sunday Roast: The GOP owns the US debt downgrade.

TalkingPointsMemo

The GOP and their teabagger buddies are entirely responsible for the S&P downgrade of the US credit rating, from AAA to AA+.  They took this country hostage over a routine matter of paying bills they ran up, and threatened to crash not only our own economy, but economies worldwide.

Why?  It’s very simple.  It’s because they are chickenshit opportunistic liars.

When the GOP is in power, all is right with the world.  Deficits don’t matter — just ask Dick “Dick” Cheney — and it’s their time to run up the bills on the great big US credit card.  Borrow and spend, that’s the GOP.  But when the GOP is out of power, the deficit becomes the biggest and most important emergency we’ve ever had, and people are too stupid to understand that the Democrats are just cleaning up the aftermath of yet another drunken GOP spending spree.

Hell, give me “tax and spend” Democrats any day.  At least the shit they’re spending money on is paid for.  The borrow and spend GOP happily spends money our grandchildren haven’t even been born to earn, and then gleefully proclaims that the Black Democrat Socialist Commie Nazi Stalinist Muslim President has run up more debt than any president in history.

Bitch, please.

Here’s what the S&P says about who’s responsible for the downgrade:

“[P]eople in the political arena were even talking about a potential default,” said Joydeep Mukherji, senior directior at S&P. “That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable,” he added. “This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns.”

We all know that the S&P are a bunch of nefarious fuckwits, who enabled Wall Street’s merry joy ride with our national and personal economies, but since we were asking them a specific question about one event, let’s pretend like we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

Now, who are these “people in the political arena” who were “talking about a potential default?”  You know, the people who all of a sudden were just fine with not paying the bills they ran up, and letting the full faith and credit of the United States fall into a fucking sink hole?

Here’s a list:

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), May 18, 2011
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), May 19, 2011
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), June 24, 2011
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), May 18, 2011
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), July 13, 2011
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), June 26, 2011 — Hey, she wants to be president!
Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), June 27, 2011 — He wants to be president, too!  Again!
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), July 13, 2011
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), May 16, 2011
Tim Pawlenty, July 15, 2011 — Another one who wants to be president!
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), July 18, 2011
Nebraska Senate candidate Jon Bruning, July 29, 2011

There are more, but you get the picture.

Oh look, they’re all Republicans/Teabaggers, but now they’d like you to think that those who were literally holding this country hostage — and will happily do so again — were President Obama and the Democrats. If it weren’t so sick and troubling, and if assholes like Mitch McConnell didn’t have their very own television network spewing bullshit to the idiotic non-thinkers in this country (no, I’m not linking to that trash), I’d be laughing my silly ass off.

Contrary to Republican/Teabagger “thinking,” things don’t stop being true just because it no longer suits their narrative or purposes.  We have to stop letting them get away with this shit.

No more being polite, no more taking the high ground, no more “both parties are at fault” fairy tales, and no more assuming that idiot America will look things up for themselves.  None of that.

Our media is worse than useless, they have become a destructive force in this country.  We are on our own, folks.

Repeat after me:  Republicans entirely own the S&P downgrade of the credit rating of the United States.  See above for a list of a few of the culprits.  Repeat often and loudly.  Don’t let anyone get away with saying anyone else had a hand in it — not even the President.

Watering Hole – Monday August 8, 2011 – Crises of Capitalism

This video is a little more than 11 minutes in length.  It’s an interesting perspective.  Last week was bad news week.  Can it get any worse?

This is our Open Thread today.  My apologies for not having much more to say at this point.  Perhaps you have something to add to the conversation so Speak Up!

Watering Hole – Monday, August 1, 2011 – Philadelphia Freedom

Today is our 30 year wedding anniversary and we will be spending the day in Philadelphia doing the “freedom tour”.

For most of my life, I have lived in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania.  During all these years, I have never seen the Liberty Bell.  With the looming shutdown of our government due to its inability to pay the bills or the closing of government buildings due to the cuts, cuts and more cuts, now could be my last chance to get to Independence square and see some of the artifacts that are part of our nation’s beginning.  It’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen if the US defaults on its debt.  One thing for sure is that government employees would be laid off, seniors would not receive their Social Security checks, veterans would not receive their benefits, and nursing homes could close which would create more job losses.  Basically, more people will be out of work and there will be less money to spend and BUSINESSES WILL SUFFER.  Default is NOT an option.  Our bills must be paid.

This is our open thread.  I won’t be around today as I will be searching for freedom. You will need to Speak Up and do all the chatting.

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