Our Trip To London

July 9, 2016

Usually when the Doomsy clan is able to take a vacation, we retreat to our blue-state paradise up north. This year, though, we were able to take a hop across the pond, as it were, to London (this happened the week after the Brexit vote on June 23rd).

Big Ben 2

Churchill

Winston Churchill, of course

Kiosk

To begin, I should point out how great a tourist city London is. There’s history, fine dining, shows (saw Les Miz at the Queen’s Theater…outstanding), walking, shopping, clean and affordable mass transit via train or the “tube,”…basically, you’d be hard pressed to go looking for something and not find it. Granted it’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Also, there was great Wimbledon coverage on the BBC channels (focusing on Andy Murray in particular as well as other British players, which is to be expected) as well as Euro 2016 football; everyone was bummed that England had lost to Iceland, but Wales’s victory over Belgium was definitely a cause for celebration, even though the team subsequently lost to Portugal. Also, our visit was timed for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in World War I; the coverage was well-produced and truly touching to experience. And because of the way the British and EU markets responded to Brexit, the dollar was stronger against the pound, though not by as much as reported, really; what you could call a correction took place in a matter of days.

Another thing – yours truly had a bit of a health issue come up, and I was seen at St. Thomas’s Hospital near our hotel, and they did a great job of handling my issue promptly and sending me over to a facility on Marsh Street near Waterloo Station for a follow-up. From there it was just a matter of spending about 8 pounds 6 at the Boots chemist for the med that I needed. So, as far as I’m concerned, no complaints about NHS.

(Oh, and by the way, in case anyone is wondering how seriously the Brits handle the issue of climate change, just take a look at this sign at an office on Whitehall.)

Climate Change

The big question to me, though, was how the pro-Brexit campaign won out. And, if you can take into consideration what you might call the “cab driver point of view,” as The Moustache of Understanding could call it (here), then the pro-Brexit camp won on that front decisively. Every “black cab” driver we spoke with trotted out the same information about the UK contributing $350 million pounds a week to the EU (more here), as well as how Britain’s resources are straining under the weight of an influx of immigrants (of course, the benefits of open immigration were typically ignored by the pro-Brexit folks). Of course, these folks listen to similar conservative talk radio in their country as the type we’re inflicted with here, but I don’t say that to demean London’s cabbies; we “cabbed” it about 6 or 7 times at least, and each one of the drivers was polite, knowledgeable, and most of all, knew how to navigate their routes in expert fashion.

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I also wondered how the pro-Brexit people could have won given the shocking murder of British MP Jo Cox, who of course favored remaining in the EU (on balance, London’s businesses wanted to stay to benefit from the free flow of labor, but the surrounding areas around the city wanted to leave).

And to find the answer, I think you need to consider how truly ineffectual Jeremy Corbyn has been as head of the Labour Party in the British Parliament; he tried a maneuver to make Hillary Benn the fall guy for the Brexit vote, and the strategy failed, leading to resignations of Labour’s “shadow” cabinet (these are the folks who WOULD be in charge if the Labour party were running things – basically, despite David Cameron’s protestations, I think Corbyn is the best “friend” Cameron could ask for). I realize that the British media tends to be conservative as it is in this country, but still, Corbyn looks and acts like a political casualty at this point and is reported as such, which, as far as I’m concerned, is totally deserved.

As I’ve tried to catch up on the coverage in this country over Brexit since we returned a few days ago, I haven’t seen an account in this country of how Tory MP Michael Gove utterly gutted Boris Johnson, Gove’s alleged “bud,” in the contest to succeed Cameron as PM. Believe me when I tell you that there was coverage of this all over the place in the British media (and by the way, when searching for a foreign language TV station in Britain, all I can say is that, if you can’t find one for your language and nationality, then your language and nationality doesn’t exist). One example of this is TV commentator Andrew Marr (who the Sunday morning talking heads could learn from when it comes to getting in people’s faces), who called Gove all kinds of names right to his face while Gove barely blinked an eye (though, if you’re truly looking for Brexit villains, I nominate this guy and this guy…naughty word appears if you click on second link).

The supreme irony of all of this as far as I’m concerned, though, is that the next British PM is likely to be Tory (of course) Theresa May, who actually voted in favor of staying in the EU.

A couple of final observations: 1) The teenaged one asked one of the armed police guards at Royal Whitehall Barracks what kind of weaponry the guards carry just out of curiosity (M7 rifles, I believe), and one of the guards gave some kind of an indication that our son might be some kind of a gun nut. He isn’t, and I’m not slamming the guard, but I’m only pointing out how, unfortunately, we’ve created this perception around the world that we’re nuts on this issue because of all of the mass shootings.

Trump_RtRoXIX

And 2) The Brits are not shy at all in pointing out their dislike of this guy.


Thursday Mashup (11/1/12)

November 2, 2012

  • Only in the utterly bizarro world of the Washington Times could Obama or any other president find himself (or herself one day – ?) in a position where they need to defend a prompt and proactive response to a disaster affecting multiple states.
  • Also, I came across this item from supposed “values warrior” Michael Medved of clownnhall.com (here)…

    Catholic clergy and lay leaders, for instance, regularly acknowledge that nothing has done more to erase anti-Catholic prejudice than the emergence of the pro-life movement after Roe v. Wade. The close cooperation of traditional Catholics and evangelical Protestants in building opposition to abortion on demand destroyed the insulting old stereotypes of hard-drinking, garlic-reeking, immigrant papists versus sweaty Bible Belt snake handlers and led both groups to new respect for one another.

    Yeah, I’m sure glad those “insulting old stereotypes” that Medved has to go out of his way to tell us about have been destroyed. Aren’t you?

    In response, I give you the following from here

    Right-wingers politically love abortion. It’s a reliably contentious social wedge issue that gives their Teapublican candidates a twenty-point spot in every campaign. That’s why, while pretending to hate the 1973, 7-2 Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade, they really don’t. The brighter among them fully realize that if Roe v. Wade were ever to be overturned, there would be two immediate and unacceptable consequences. The loss of that political wedge issue and the necessity of pregnant Pro Lifers to go underground to have their own inevitable abortions, just like their liberal sisters. It’s instructive to note that in New York City, once abortions became legal, there was a 45% annual drop in maternal mortality, a figure matched by North Carolina at about the same time.

    The fact is that no matter how much Roe v. Wade faux-opposition is evidenced, no matter how morally superior the right-wing ladies (and their gentleman supporters) purport to be, no matter their participation in numerous anti-abortion marches waving their ‘liberals are baby-killers’ placards, no matter their bowed heads at their preachers latest anti-abortion rant, no matter what their sanctimonious spokespeople spew out on Fox…there are just as many conservative women aborting, or mighty close to it, as their liberal counterparts.

    Let’s look at some objective, apolitical numbers from the non-partisan Guttmacher Institute. First, a shocker. Nearly 22% of all pregnancies end in abortion. A total of 3 in 10 women will have an abortion by age 45. More than half of abortions are performed on women in the 20s age range. Since Roe v. Wade, there have been well over 50 million abortions. How many of those abortions do you think were performed on right-wing women? None? That’s what they would have you believe. None. Without citing a single statistic, do you really think all 50 million women who had those abortions were liberals? Just given the fact that there are more teen pregnancies in Red States, some of which would end in abortion, would give lie to that fact.

    And while the results of the study published here aren’t quite four years old, I cannot imagine that the results have changed much over that time, particularly since, as the Think Progress post also notes, a study with similar results was conducted in 2005 also.

    But I don’t suppose that’s something you’ll hear from an author of a couple of “Golden Turkey” movie books who decided to “rebrand” as a right-wing media mouthpiece (oh, but I guess that’s an “insulting old stereotype,” isn’t it? Ooopsie!).

  • Next, somebody decided to pay attention to the demented ramblings of the “Motor City Madman” again (here), telling us, among other supposed pearls of wisdom, that “America got softer and learned to get away with mediocrity and outright slovenliness.”

    Hmm, “mediocrity and outright slovenliness,” huh? Why does that ring a bell? Still thinking

    Continuing…

    Nugent: The soul-stirring, grinding, defiant soul music by the original black masters will remain inspiring and timeless for eternity to real music lovers everywhere. Howling Wolf, Bo Diddly (sic), Chuck Berry, Little Richard, all things Motown, James Brown, Wilson Picket, Otis Redding, and all the gifted musicians since who celebrate that musical authority will always make me dance and squirm. Detroit continues to produce masterful musical talent like Kid Rock, Eminem, Jack White, Chad Smith, drummer for the Chili Peppers and Chickenfoot, and others that always deliver that original soul with their own style and touch. I just wrapped up the most exciting, high-energy, ferocious tour of my life in 2012, and the best, most intense music of my life was propelled by Mick Brown on drums, Greg Smith on bass and Derek St. Holmes on guitar and vocals and record-setting gung-ho audiences who crave such excellence and passion just like we do.

    I was just wondering as I read this – does Nugent know that Chad Smith and the Chilis support President Obama (about whom Ted said he’d rather be “dead or in jail” if Number 44 wins re-election here…since Nugent was dumb enough to give himself those two alternatives, I don’t really care which one he chooses).

  • Further, I happened to stumble across the following partisan screed from Jennifer Rubin at the WaPo here, who claimed that Willard Mitt Romney has supposedly “locked up” independents…

    The Romney-Ryan campaign and independent Republican pollsters are buoyed by the indisputable and near universal polling fact in the presidential race: Mitt Romney is winning big among independents. The conservative polling and research firm Resurgent Republic released its final batch of polling, finding Romney leads President Obama among Independents by a 51 to 39 percent margin nationally. By comparison George W. Bush won independents by 2 points in 2000 and lost independents by one point in 2004.

    Oh, and according to Repug pollster Whit Ayres, what supposedly turned it around was the debates; well, maybe the first one, but after that, I’m not buying…Ayres, by the way, said here that the Repugs could “run on” the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruling, in which the Supremes declared that the Bush administration’s proposal to use military commissions for the trials of terrorism detainees violated the Geneva Conventions and could not be enacted without congressional approval (uh, yeah…right – regarding Ayres, I mean).

    Besides, as we learn from here

    Where most political commentators output is the product of briefings, gossip and personal perception, (pollster Nate) Silver deals in cold, hard facts. And at the moment, Silver’s facts are being fired like bullets into the heart of the Romney campaign.

    Simply put, Romney is trying to generate momentum by simply proclaiming that momentum exists, even though the statistical evidence definitely tells us something wholly other (here).

    (Oh, and by the way, class act by Joe Scar to tell everyone Silver is wrong but not to respond to Silver’s gesture in response here…to update, it looks like Scarborough agreed to donate to the Red Cross, so good for him; it looks like he sort of responded – stay tuned).

    Update 11/7/12: The short answer to this, I’m sure, is never, unfortunately.

  • And I swear, I should just ignore The Moustache of Understanding, but I didn’t again (here, in which Tom Friedman returns to his hometown in Minnesota to use his supposed wisdom to inform us of how St. Louis Park is supposed to be a political bellwether)…

    Many business-oriented Republicans here are not only voting for Klobuchar but are giving her money, because they’ve become frustrated by the far-right lurch of the state G.O.P., explained Lawrence Jacobs, a politics expert at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The state is home to many global companies that would accept some tax increases to build better infrastructure and schools in order to have better-educated workers. And the Republican-dominated Chamber of Commerce here is leading the charge for open immigration, so Minnesota can bring in more knowledge workers from India to enrich its work force.

    I would slap a Franklin down on the table right now to see Friedman show up for work tomorrow and find out that Ravi Kumaristan Patel is now sitting behind his desk, and Friedman has to teach him his job before Friedman is laid off.

    (And by the way, that comment is not meant to belittle Indians. If someone receives an opportunity and they make the most of it, good for them. My problem is with the hiring managers and HR numbskulls who decide to give that opportunity to someone new to this country at the expense of a seasoned professional who has spent his or her life here building a career but is having an extraordinarily hard time finding work, all for the sake of a would-be employer saving about $5K or a little more in salary and benefits.)

    And Friedman finishes with the following…

    In the 1990s, centrist Democrats, led by Bill Clinton, brought their party back from a similar ideological ledge; they and the country and my home state are better for it.

    To me, that is highly debatable. Yes, this country had a really good run under Clinton, and there’s no denying it. However, did you know that The Heritage Foundation, of all people, called the ’96 Clinton budget “a bold privatization document” here?

    And columnist Joseph Palermo tells us the following here

    The Democratic leadership at (around 1992-1994) apparently believed that by capitulating to the Republican-Blue Dog agenda on “free trade” (NAFTA), and screwing over labor unions, one of the key Democratic constituencies, the GOP and their Blue Dog brethren would cooperate on health care reform. It was a monumental error in judgment that cost the Democratic Party dearly. Health care reform was just as popular among the public then as it is today.

    The Democrats showed the country that even with majorities in both houses of Congress and the presidency they could not deliver largely due to Blue Dog obstructionism. All the Democrats had to show for their efforts going into the 1994 midterm elections was a very pissed off labor movement and a failed attempt to help working people attain affordable health care. On election day Democrats stayed home and the Newt Gingrich “revolution” seized Washington launching a fourteen-year period of misrule the consequences of which we are still dealing with today.

    Ironically, in the 1980s, the Democratic Party had sustained itself better than during the Clinton years because it was forced to mobilize against the administrations of Reagan and Bush the Elder. In the 1990s, once the Blue Dogs and their champion Bill Clinton was in power the Democratic Party experienced a precipitous decline in power and influence nationally, which paved the way for the Tom DeLay/George W. Bush years.

    And let’s not forget how “darlings” of the Democratic Leadership Council (which remade the party in its corporatist image prior to Clinton’s election) such as Mark Warner and Harold Ford rallied to the defense of Bain Capital when the latter’s “fee fees” got a little hurt earlier in this wretched election cycle, as noted here (actually, this is probably closer to what I originally had in mind…a related post is here).

    I realize none of this is going to change the hopelessly jaded point of view of “Mr. Suck. On. This.” But every time it occurs to me that the Democratic Party of today has not one blessed word to say about poverty, gun control, the environment or this country’s ever-perpetuating economic inequality, I thank the corporatist “Bush Dog” Dems who set us down that sorry path (and while it may be a little cold to cite 1992 as the milestone for that, that is the clearest demarcation point I can find).

  • Finally (and speaking Dubya’s wretched reign), I give you this

    Twenty-three million people unemployed or underemployed, a $16-trillion debt and repeated trillion-dollar deficits.

    Boo.

    The scariest thing this Halloween has nothing to do with witches and goblins or even the Munsters remake (ugh). The scariest thing in America right now is the continued awful economy.

    An incumbent president running for re-election in a down economy – we’ve heard that story before. Only when we heard it last time, George W. Bush was running for re-election in 2004 and the economy was in remarkably fine shape.

    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

    Oh dear God, that’s funny – in response, I give you the following from here (from September ’04)…

    The (Labor Department) report could give a lift to the Bush campaign, coming just hours after the Republicans renominated him. The president and his advisers like to point to the nearly 1.7 million jobs created since August 2003.

    But the Kerry campaign notes that despite the recent job gains, the economy has still lost about 1 million jobs since Bush took office in early 2001, meaning Bush is likely to become the first president since the Depression era’s Herbert Hoover to complete his term with an overall drop in U.S. payrolls.

    Roger Altman, senior economic advisor to Kerry, told CNNfn that even with the most recent gain, the administration’s job performance has been weak.

    “You need about 150,000 new jobs a month to keep even with growth in population,” he said. “Taken in proper context, it’s just not a very good record.”

    The report showed less strength in the labor market than in the spring, when the economy created an average of nearly 300,000 jobs a month from March through May.

    But after two months of weak reports, the latest number and the revisions to June and July brought the three-month average to just over 100,000.

    In its report, the department said manufacturing and construction showed gains and the service sector added 108,000 jobs. Education and health services posted a seasonally adjusted 45,000 gain, and the government added 24,000 jobs.

    Average hourly wages rose 5 cents to $15.77. Over the last 12 months average hourly wages have risen 2.3 percent, not keeping pace with the rate of inflation.

    “The report is still a poor one given what has come before, but not terrible,” economist Robert Brusca of FAO Economics wrote in a note after the report. “There is no reason to think it is weak enough to put the Fed on hold.” But Brusca said a rate hike at that meeting would be a mistake, given the economy’s mediocre strength.

    “The outlook remains poor,” said University of Maryland Business School professor Peter Morici. “Production cutbacks at Ford and GM, mediocre personal income growth and record trade deficits all bode poorly for economic growth and jobs creation.”

    And as long as we’re talking about Dubya, Obama and jobs, I give you what should be the last word here (and to help Number 44, click here).

    Update 11/2/12: More evidence is here.


  • Friday Mashup (9/14/12)

    September 14, 2012

  • Really, Foxies? Our embassies are being “overrun” (here)?

    Not according to this

    KHARTOUM/TUNIS (Reuters) – Fury about a film that insults the Prophet Mohammad tore across the Middle East on Friday with protesters attacking U.S. embassies and burning American flags as the Pentagon rushed to bolster security at its missions.

    The obscure California-made film triggered an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya’s city of Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on Tuesday, the anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

    In Tunis, at least five people were wounded by police gunfire near the U.S. embassy, and a Reuters reporter said a big fire had erupted within the embassy compound. Protesters had earlier leapt over the compound wall.

    Witnesses said Sudanese police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters to stop them approaching the U.S. embassy outside Khartoum, but some jumped over the wall. A Reuters reporter heard gunfire from the scene.

    In a related story, I thought this was a highly interesting development concerning the former “sugar daddy” of one-time Repug presidential hopeful Former Senator Man-On-Dog (somehow I have a feeling that Not Your Father’s Republican Party has a hand, however small it may be, in all of this anti-Muslim propaganda that has currently inflamed an area that is highly flammable already – fits in too nicely with the whole “October Surprise” mentality)…I think this is worthwhile reading on this subject also (Update: More good stuff from C&L here…worthy of a donation, I’d say).

  • And yes, we are indeed in the “silly season” when Frank Bruni of the New York Times can write about the recent Democratic National Convention and concoct the following (here)…

    AT their party’s ebullient convention last week, the Democratic politicians with an eye on the 2016 presidential contest were out in full force and almost in full stride, never mind that 2012 has yet to be settled.

    Martin O’Malley, the Maryland governor, popped up here, there and everywhere. Mark Warner, the Virginia senator, was nearly as ubiquitous. And Joe Biden made the fiery most of a prime speaking slot just before President Obama’s.

    But all of them knew that their efforts would probably be for naught and their aspirations in vain if a certain someone who was then half a world away decided to reach — again — for the White House. Like a poltergeist in a pantsuit, Hillary Clinton haunted Charlotte.

    I give you Clinton Derangement Syndrome on display, my fellow prisoners.

    And speaking of the Times (a bit late to clean out my “in” bin, I’ll admit), The Moustache of Understanding gives us a description of what constitutes a “hard working day” for our corporate media (here, singing the praises once more over how wonderful “globalization” allegedly is)…

    Technology and globalization are wiping out lower-skilled jobs faster, while steadily raising the skill level required for new jobs. More than ever now, lifelong learning is the key to getting into, and staying in, the middle class.

    There is a quote attributed to the futurist Alvin Toffler that captures this new reality: In the future “illiteracy will not be defined by those who cannot read and write, but by those who cannot learn and relearn.” Any form of standing still is deadly.

    I covered the Republican convention, and I was impressed in watching my Times colleagues at how much their jobs have changed. Here’s what a reporter does in a typical day: report, file for the Web edition, file for The International Herald Tribune, tweet, update for the Web edition, report more, track other people’s tweets, do a Web-video spot and then write the story for the print paper. You want to be a Times reporter today? That’s your day. You have to work harder and smarter and develop new skills faster.

    I’m sorry, but with all due respect to the many hard-working news professionals of the Times, Friedman really should shut his jowling yap over the supposedly heroic efforts of his fourth-estate brethren.

    Particularly when you consider this

    According to a recent survey from Millennial Branding and Payscale, Millenials really are most likely to be employed in service industry jobs. So, all those jokes about post-graduation latte pouring and t-shirt folding haven’t been in vain. And while it might be comforting to think of these jobs as necessary way stations on the path to an upwardly mobile future – especially if you’re someone who holds one – there’s mounting evidence that the American labor market may never return to its pre-recession composition. The future is already here and it brings with it low-wage temporary or contract work as a way of life.

    I know of at least one college graduate with a BA in education who can’t find work in our school district, so she waits tables at an Applebee’s instead. A friend of mine works for a company where someone with an MBA in finance was just hired as an executive assistant (her most visible job within the company appears to be filling up Outlook meeting calendars for the owner). Many of the folks living in the development of Le Manse Doomsy are never home because they’re either working at least two jobs or longer hours at one, or both.

    We have an employment crisis in this country. And we have had one for some time. And we’ll still have one whether or not President Obama is returned for another term or (God help us) Former Governor Etch-A-Sketch, Weather Vane Willard Mitt and Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv take over this fall.

    So you’ll forgive me if I tell you that I don’t give a crap about what an allegedly hard time Tom Friedman’s fellow journos have it at The Times, what with having to labor under the oppressive yolk of “tweeting,” filming Web videos, reading other “tweets” and filing news reports with an occasional update before it’s time for happy hour.

    And all the while, Obama’s American Jobs Act continues to sit in the U.S. House for a year and counting (here), having been stalled by “Man Tan” Boehner and that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor.

  • Next, I have a little “compare and contrast” from a couple of days ago in the matter of Obama HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; first, I give you Jake Tapper of ABC News (here)…

    President Obama was notified today by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that one of his key Cabinet officials violated the Hatch Act, the law that restricts the political activity of anyone employed or holding office in the Executive Branch except for the President and Vice President.

    Carolyn Lerner, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel concluded that Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius violated the Hatch Act when she served as the Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker at the February 25, 2012 gala for the pro-gay rights Human Rights Campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    The event was billed as official travel, and she appeared at the event in an official capacity, but in her remarks – which departed from her official text – she advocated for the election of Lt. Governor Walter Dalton in his primary and general election race for governor, and for the re-election of President Obama, saying, “one of the imperatives is to make sure that we not only come together here in Charlotte to present the nomination to the president, but we make sure that in November he continues to be president for another four years.”

    After media inquiries following those remarks, the Department of Health and Human Services “retroactively reclassified the event as political,” the OSC report states, and reimbursed the federal government for the costs of her travel.

    When asked about her remarks in an interview with OSC investigators, the report says Sebelius “expressed regret for the statements” regarding Dalton “since there were ‘other primary opponents who were close by.’” She said her “‘shout out’ came across ‘as an endorsement.’” She allowed that her comments about President Obama were “a mistake” and an example of her again going “off script.” “I clearly made a mistake,” Sebelius said. “I was not intending to use an official capacity to do a political event.”

    Lerner did not recommend that any action be taken against Sebelius.

    On the same day concerning the same story, the Daily Tucker screeched as follows (here)…

    The Federal Times (a Gannett publication, I think) suggests that Sebelius may be fired for her illegal activity. “The finding could possibly cost Sebelius her job,” the outlet reported. “Although OSC did not recommend any specific punishment, and said Obama will decide how to punish her, Hatch Act violators are usually fired.”

    Dan Epstein, the president of good-government group Cause of Action, told The Daily Caller that since Sebelius is a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee, she isn’t entitled to a review from the Merit Systems Protection Board — one that that could reduce her penalty if she were a career staffer.

    “Sebelius doesn’t get (Merit Systems Protection Board – I guess Tucker doesn’t have any copy/style editors) Review so there’s no ability for the MSPB to lower the penalty to a suspension and the Board isn’t entitled to review,” Epstein said. “If Sebelius wasn’t a cabinet member or a PAS (Presidentially Appointed and Senate Confirmed) OSC would proceed by filing a complaint with the MSPB.”

    “Thus the point is that by Close of Business on September 12, 2012, the President has been informed of a Hatch Act violation and yet has decided not to fire Sebelius,” Epstein added. “The President has therefore decided to overlook the improper political activities of his appointees when in their official capacities. He has effectively said it is okay to politicize the executive branch.”

    WAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Oh, give me a freaking break! Sebelius was probably jet lagged or something and forgot where she was. Grow up!

    And I don’t know what the hell Cause of Action is (I hardly think it’s a “good government group”), but this tells us that Epstein recently alleged that there are 174 “secret” ACORN (!!!!!) organizations (cue the scary sounding background music – of course, in the world of reality, we know that ACORN no longer exists).

    Besides, as noted here, I’ll “see” Tucker Sebelius’s mistake and “raise” him Lurita Doan of the Bushco GSA, who actually oversaw Hatch Act violations, though she was too busy playing stupid in front of the House Oversight Committee under Dem Henry Waxman to be nailed without a subpoena.

    Update 9/18/12: Leave it to The Daily Tucker to double down on the stoo-pid here.

  • Continuing, I give you this choice nugget from Repug U.S. House Rep Joe (“You Lie!”) Wilson of South Carolina (from here, attacking President Obama on foreign policy…again)…

    President Ronald Reagan’s national security approach of providing peace through strength kept the United States and our allies safe for decades.

    I know the bar is already set pretty low for Wilson, but I think it’s particularly disgusting for him to invoke the memory of The Sainted Ronnie R a mere two days after we observed the anniversary of the worst foreign-based attack in our history, made possible in no small part because Number 40 decided to arm the mujahedeen in Afghanistan (including bin Laden) against the former Soviet Union (here).

  • Finally, it looks like Repug senators John Thune and Kelly Ayotte, among other culprits, are all aghast over President Obama supposedly not “leading” in the matter of increasing defense spending in his proposed budget (here).

    In response, this tells us the following from last May…

    The White House today reacted to news that representations of President Obama’s budget had been voted down by the House and Senate by decrying the introduction of the amendments, by Republicans, as “gimmicks.”

    “Gimmicks are not solutions,” White House press secretary Jay Carney emailed to ABC News. “The American people overwhelmingly support a balanced approach to our long-term budget challenges. That’s the approach the President supports. The sooner Republicans drop their intransigence and join the American people in supporting a balanced approach, the sooner Congress will be able to come together and reach a compromise.”

    I guess the Repugs figure that we’ll just forget about their playing political games at the behest of their campaign contributors as opposed to practicing actual governance for the benefit of the people they were ostensibly elected to represent.

    It would be truly depressing if it turned out that they were right.


  • Tuesday Mashup (5/22/12)

    May 22, 2012
  • I neglected to point out the following recently (until now) by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating in Gallup Poll History, on the pages of the Murdoch Street Journal (of course – here)…

    Some in both parties in Washington look at the risks inherent in democratic change—particularly in the Middle East and North Africa—and find the dangers too great. America, they argue, should be content with supporting the flawed leaders they know in the name of stability.


    Like this guy, jackass? Nice job to blow him off (along with just about all else from your wretched presidency) and leave for Number 44 to clean up.

    Apparently, some in our corporate media will go to any lengths in an effort to “rebrand” our 43rd president as some kind of a statesman or a visionary on foreign policy.

    Part of me wishes there were a punch line to that remark, but the joke is so unbelievable that I can’t think of anything to top it.

  • Next, the Moustache of Understanding returned to form in the New York Times Sunday (here)…

    Microsoft still does more than 80 percent of its research work in America. But that is becoming harder and harder to sustain when deadlock on Capitol Hill prevents it from acquiring sufficient (H1B) visas for the knowledge workers it needs that America’s universities are not producing enough of. The number of filled jobs at Microsoft went up this year from 40,000 to 40,500 at its campus outside Seattle, yet its list of unfilled jobs went from 4,000 to almost 5,000. Eventually, it will have no choice but to shift more research to other countries.

    Naah, it’s not because our august captains of industry are rapacious, unrepentant pirates who plead for tax cuts while the middle class that built the products that made them rich are forced to settle for ever-smaller pieces of the proverbial financial pie. Don’t you see? They “have no choice” but to do the whole “engulf and devour” thing elsewhere instead.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    D.C. is filled with mills that produce bogus studies to provide Congress with rose-colored glasses that deprive reality. Some studies spin H-1B workers as “entrepreneurs.” Others make absurd job claims, such as that each H-1B worker creates six additional jobs (Do the math here: With around 100,000 H-1B visas a year, that would make H-1B the single largest job creation factor in the economy.)

    In fact, the opposite is true. The largest users of H-1B visas are foreign offshoring companies. They use H-1B visas to provide on-site support for projected moved to other countries. In that model, each H-1B worker here is a proxy for even more jobs lost.

    In spite of a long parade of damning audits on the H-1B program, Congress has done nothing to clean up the mess. Deliberate loopholes in the law allow employers to replace Americans with lower-paid H-1B workers. Working in the computer industry, I have witnessed employers openly replacing hundreds of Americans with cheaper worker on H-1B visas.

    H-1B supporters rarely forget to remind the public that the statute requires H-1B workers to be paid “the prevailing wage.” They invariably forget that, 20,000 words later, the statute redefines the term “prevailing wage” in such a manner that an employer can legally pay a software engineer in Edison, N.J., $34,133 a year less than the median wage.

    How is it possible that Americans can be fired in their own country, be replaced with foreign workers, and Congress does nothing for decades? H-1Bs, bailouts to Wall Street, and subsidies to politically connected business are all symptoms of the same problem: a government that is controlled by special interests that are antithetical to those of the American people.

    And on top of that, this post from 2008 tells us of a recruiter who pretty much debunked the entire mythology that there aren’t enough “knowledge workers” in this country to fill the available jobs (God forbid that employers haven’t fine-tuned their resume-screening software, or you’re out of luck, Mr. or Ms. Unemployed American Worker).

    Rest assured, though, that apologists like Friedman will always return twice a week on the pages of The Old Gray Lady to reinforce the status quo (and possibly get in a plug for the economic “virtues” of China also, along with the wonders of the Internet, of course).

  • Finally, I give you BoBo, trying to sanitize the business exploits of Willard Mitt Romney on the matter of GST Steel (here)…

    Private equity firms like Bain acquire bad companies and often replace management, compel executives to own more stock in their own company and reform company operations.

    Most of the time they succeed. Research from around the world clearly confirms that companies that have been acquired by private equity firms are more productive than comparable firms.

    This process involves a great deal of churn and creative destruction. It does not, on net, lead to fewer jobs. A giant study by economists from the University of Chicago, Harvard, the University of Maryland and the Census Bureau found that when private equity firms acquire a company, jobs are lost in old operations. Jobs are created in new, promising operations. The overall effect on employment is modest.

    In response, I would suggest that you read the following from here (Bain bought a controlling interest in GST for $8 million, sold $120 million worth of bonds, and then paid themselves a $36 million dividend…they repeated this trick with another steel mill, combined both as “GS Industries” and ended up about $378 million in debt between the two)…

    During all of this they constantly cut both the workforce and safety standards of both plants while failing to invest even minimal money into the plants upkeep much less towards making any capital improvements. Finally in 2001 “GS Industries” now over $500 million in debt declared bankruptcy and closed the plants.

    It then became apparent that Bain had also declined to adequately fund the workers pension plans, employees suddenly out of work were now faced with the additional loss of promised severance pay, health insurance, and life insurance. In 2002 the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation had to commit $44 million to make up the shortfall towards funding only the basic pension payments. The workers never did receive their promised insurance benefits…

    So in this instance Romney and Bain not only cost over 750 workers their jobs and forced two previously fairly healthy businesses into bankruptcy. They also managed to line their pockets with millions of dollars while doing so and before forcing a government agency to step in and pay $44 million towards their bad pension debt.

    If this is Mitt Romney’s idea of how to “create jobs and restart the economy” I don’t think I want anything to do with it.

    And by the way, let us not forget this priceless little moment concerning the presumptive Repug nominee and our not-completely-still-moribund economy

    I would be curious to see what would happen if the New York Times was ever acquired by a private equity firm similar to Bain. I would hope that a lot of the paper’s talented news professionals wouldn’t have to worry about their jobs, but, as the process of “creative destruction” unfolded, I would like to know how “modest” the effect would be on BoBo’s future employment.


  • Monday Mashup (7/26/10)

    July 26, 2010

  • 1) The Bucks County Courier Times brought us more riotous comedy yesterday from Repug Mikey Fitzpatrick, running to reclaim his PA-08 House seat from Dem Patrick Murphy (here)…

    Unemployment has risen 100 percent in the four years Congressman Murphy has been in Congress; notably, his party has been in the majority in every one of those years.

    It has only occupied the White House for a year and a half, though (of course, Mikey omits that incon-vee-nient detail). And the event that triggered the skyrocketing unemployment rate was the fall of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, which took place on the watch of A Certain 43rd President, as well as approval of TARP funding soon afterwards.

    Besides, based on the graph that appears here, the Repugs and their “leader” in the White House had nothing on the employment numbers of the full eight-year Democratic presidential administration that preceded it (and here is more on Murphy and jobs).

    And a lot of other House members, both Democratic and Republican, have held their House seats since 2006, so I guess you could say that they brought us a “100 percent” increase in unemployment also.

    Otherwise, Mikey’s screed was full of the “tax cuts, magic of the marketplace” mythology that got us into this mess to begin with, as well as “Murphy-Pelosi Murphy-Pelosi Murphy-Pelosi baad scary liberals vote for me I’m a native Bucks Countian with six kids” stuff (and to help his opponent, click here).

  • Update: Oh, and P.S…

    Fitzpatrick Spending Cuts While in Office: 0

    Former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s criticism of Murphy bill to cut spending shows complete lack of an agenda to move country forward.

    (Bristol, PA) – Former Congressman Fitzpatrick announced last week that, given the chance to return to Washington, he will not fight for legislation to cut government spending and waste. He criticized Patrick Murphy for passing a new law to cut spending but clarified that he agreed with the content, just not the act of passing a law.

    “We are all against waste, fraud and abuse,” former Congressman Fitzpatrick said, “but shouldn’t the federal government be working to eliminate fraud without new federal legislation?”

    Patrick Murphy’s campaign manager Tim Persico noted that it was unclear what, exactly, Fitzpatrick suggested we do to cut spending and eliminate fraud, since it seems unlikely that asking agencies nicely will work.“Fitzpatrick’s comments pretty much sum up his economic agenda,” Persico said. “If sent to Washington, Fitzpatrick promises not to fight for legislation to cut spending and waste.”

    This matches up neatly with his past record. When the voters of Bucks County gave him a chance in Washington, Fitzpatrick failed to introduce or pass a single bill to cut spending. However, he was happy to support massive, unpaid tax breaks for the richest people in the country. Now, in a bit of sour grapes, he’s whining that we’re finally making progress against outrageous and wasteful spending. It’s his own record in Congress – not Patrick Murphy’s – that Mike should take issue with.

    # # #

    For Immediate Release, July 23, 2010
    Contact, Tim Persico, (215) 783-3736

    —————————————————-
    BACKGROUND:

    Passing this law is the latest in a series of initiatives that Patrick Murphy has championed to cut spending. He worked with Republican Congressman Tim Rooney (FL) to pass a law closing loopholes in Medicare that were allowing billions in fraud. He also has a measure to eliminate a massive corporate welfare scheme in the Department of Agriculture that would save $500 million taxpayer dollars.

    Additionally, Murphy has fought to eliminate the F-22 savings taxpayers $3 billion, and he has crossed party lines to vote for $20 billion in spending cuts.

    And Fitzpatrick? His bipartisan bills to cut spending while in Congress? …0

    Successfully passed Fitzpatrick bills to cut spending while in Congress? …0

  • 2) And speaking of big yuks, Jonah Goldberg chastised Tom Friedman in the New York Times yesterday since Friedman quite rightly took umbrage over what could be the death knell for common sense climate change legislation this year (here)…

    But when DC — and the entire East Coast — was shellacked by an historic snow storm and deep freeze, Friedman thought it was flat-out stupid to cite abnormal weather as evidence in political squabbles:

    I realize there are a lot of different directions I can go to point out that only a life form with a single-digit IQ could contest the fact that man-made global warming has accelerated to the point where our planet is melting and sane people need to do what we must to try and stop it, but I think this will suffice for now.

    Oh, That Doughy Pantload.

  • 3) Also, I’ll “cut to the chase” concerning this Matt Bai column in The New York Times yesterday; he blames the Shirley Sherrod mess last week on Obama because he isn’t “transcendent” enough on the race question – there really is no further need to frustrate yourself by trying to make further sense of it.
  • 4) And in a related story, as they say, Mark Halperin tells us the following on the Sherrod business here (comparing her case to the O.J. Simpson mess – Memo to Halperin: lay your hand on the table, open it up so your palm faces upward, and then smack yourself in the forehead)…

    But the coverage of both sagas — Simpson literally for years and Sherrod for the better part of a week — was insanely overblown. The Sherrod story is a reminder — much like the assault in 2004 on John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — that the Old Media is often swayed by controversies pushed by the conservative New Media. In many quarters of the Old Media there is concern about not appearing liberally biased, so stories emanating from the right are given more weight and less scrutiny. Additionally, the conservative New Media, particularly Fox News Channel and talk radio, are commercially successful, so the implicit logic followed by decision makers in the Old Media is that if something is gaining currency in those precincts, it is a phenomenon that must be given attention. Most dangerously, conservative New Media will often produce content that is so provocative and incendiary that the Old Media finds it irresistible.

    I guess this is as close as Halperin actually gets to something approximating introspection, but I still believe the following should be noted from here (in the matter of “Old Media” preoccupation with largely conservative “New Media”).

  • 5) Finally, the Washington Times continues to give column space to Ted Nugent, with predictable results (here)…

    We shouldn’t expect anything different from a president and administration who don’t have a clue about how private industry works or how Fedzilla’s policies stifle growth. At least from my research, I still can’t find anyone on the president’s closest team who has actually started a successful business.

    From here…

    In Obama’s Cabinet, at least three of the nine posts that Cembalest and Beck cite — a full one-third — are occupied by appointees who, by our reading of their bios, had significant corporate or business experience. Shaun Donovan, Obama’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development, served as managing director of Prudential Mortgage Capital Co., where he oversaw its investments in affordable housing loans.

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu headed the electronics research lab at one of America’s storied corporate research-and-development facilities, AT&T Bell Laboratories, where his work won a Nobel Prize for physics. And Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in addition to serving as Colorado attorney general and a U.S. senator, has been a partner in his family’s farm for decades and, with his wife, owned and operated a Dairy Queen and radio stations in his home state of Colorado.

    The post also tells us that the only Obama cabinet appointees who do not have had “significant private sector experience” are Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

    And funny, but as I read this, I don’t have an inclination that Nugent, were he deprived of a guitar, a weapon, or his big mouth, would have the slightest clue as to how the “private sector” works either.


  • Monday Mashup Part One (5/17/10)

    May 17, 2010

    Three items from “the old gray lady” here, people…

  • I’m usually a fan of Gail Collins of the New York Times, but I have to wonder what she was thinking when she wrote the following in an otherwise sensible column on Saturday…

    “Do you support allowing people to carry loaded guns into an American airport?” Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey asked the attorney general at a recent Appropriations Committee hearing.

    The proper answer to this question would seem to be: “Huh?” However, Eric Holder is a dignified guy, so he settled for “very worrisome.”

    Lautenberg has a knack for proposing laws against things that most people would presume were illegal already. You may remember him from such past hits as “Let’s Not Let Convicted Felons Buy Weapons at Gun Shows” and “Don’t Sell Assault Rifles to People on the Terrorist Watch List.”

    Neither is anywhere near being passed. Or even coming up for a vote.

    Yeah, well, as noted here, people on the terror watch list are able to buy guns about 91 percent of the time, though the NRA rank-and-file membership (which has just about always acted more sensibly than its leadership) basically disapproves of this idiocy (here).

    Also, this story in the Times tells us that the U.S. Senate voted to allow Amtrak passengers to carry unloaded and locked handguns in checked baggage (and as I noted at the time, Amtrak train baggage is not “checked,” and anyone who thinks it is has obviously never ridden on Amtrak, or else they would know better…update: please see comment).

    Neither Collins nor anyone else should “presume” what is illegal and what isn’t. That’s exactly how the wingnuts are successful, by filling that information void with their propaganda that gets repeated to the point where it becomes “conventional wisdom.”

  • Also, it appears that John Harwood has been doing hallucinogenic drugs again, or something, based on this…

    Three United States Senate primaries on Tuesday offer new signs of the election-year intentions of America’s dyspeptic voters.

    A few voters, anyway.

    By the way, for those of you who haven’t eaten a Thesaurus for lunch or something, I should point out that “dyspeptic” means disgruntled.

    In Kentucky, Rand Paul’s bid for the Republican nomination will again test the strength of the Tea Party right against the establishment, represented by Trey Grayson.

    In Arkansas, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s attempt to oust the incumbent Democrat, Senator Blanche Lincoln, will measure the left’s resistance to compromise in the age of Obama.

    Oh, that’s cute (and Harwood then goes on to talk about Specter and Sestak in PA and how that race could show whether or not “partisan inconstancy is too much to bear”).

    If Harwood would decide to give a rest to his wankery for a minute and do some actual reporting, he would learn, among other things, that the Arkansas Democratic primary is actually a three-person contest between Lincoln, Halter and D.C. Morrison, the “Ralph Nader” candidate, if you will (harking back to Bush/Gore 2000…still painful, I’ll admit), who has zero chance of winning, though he could take just enough votes away from Lincoln in particular to keep her from getting 50 percent of the vote and thus force a runoff between her and Halter in June (all of this, along with more of Lincoln’s putrid record, is noted here).

    Also, the supposed “resistance to compromise” by “the left” has not a damn thing to do with an odious ad sponsored by a business group sympathetic to Lincoln criticizing Halter for offshoring of jobs to India; the highly questionable veracity of the ad is noted here, along with the fact that, though Lincoln has criticized it, that hasn’t stopped her from using imagery from the ad in a mailer (unfortunately, the ad appears to have succeeded in its goal so far; it is particularly galling for Lincoln to imply that she gives a damn about workers in this country when she opposes the Employee Free Choice Act).

    I sincerely hope that Harwood’s readers don’t grow “dyspeptic” over his preoccupation with “resistance to compromise” and “partisan inconstancy” as opposed to the reality point of view.

  • Finally, I give you The Moustache of Understanding (here)…

    … in a world where our demand for Chinese-made sneakers produces pollution that melts South America’s glaciers …

    Uh, you wanna run that one by me again, Mr. “The Mall Is Flat” (and by the way, how did the stock of General Growth Properties do last week)?

    So it’s supposed to be our fault that the sneakers we may buy at a big-box retail store come from some country made by someone paid a starvation wage under conditions of oppression most of us cannot imagine?

    In response, I give you David Sirota (here)…

    This is Tom Friedman’s world view – a view that has made him the shining star of what economist Jeff Faux calls “The Party of Davos.” It is a view we see not only in his writing about the UAE, but in his book “The World Is Flat.” His vision is of a world that is terrific for wealthy people like Friedman. He writes glowingly of booming metropolises in India, China and the UAE. But he refuses to go even one inch beneath the alluring veneer and actually look at day-to-day life for non-elites in the countries he trumpets as “modernizing models.”

    That’s not by accident, because Friedman is not stupid. His utopia is a world where a tiny handful of very rich people use “free” trade to move their capital wherever they please, exploit the most oppressed workers on the planet, and underwrite dictatorships who disenfranchise citizens. It is a world where the term “shared prosperity” means hundreds of billions of dollars being shared only between a tiny group of sheiks, dictators, businessmen and political elites. It is a world where the President of the United States simultaneously talks about his supposed desire to spread democracy, then publicly fawns all over the world’s worst dictators, and then wonders why anti-Americanism is on the rise.

    That world is a dream for someone like Friedman – it means he and his fellow class warriors get to continue living the high life, no matter how much anti-Western resentment their rhetoric and policies breed throughout the world, no matter how much economic destruction they are wreaking on ordinary people.

    And oh yeah, Friedman also says “We’ve become absorbed by shorter and shorter-term thinking.”

    As in “the next six months”?


  • Tuesday Mashup (11/3/09)

    November 4, 2009

  • As noted here, ten years ago today, Morgan Lee Pena, all of 2 ½ years old, died when the car in which she rode was broadsided by a driver who failed to stop for a stop sign while using his cellular phone.

    With that in mind, this story tells us the following…

    OXFORD, England — Inside the imposing British Crown Court here, Phillipa Curtis, 22, and her parents cried as she was remanded for 21 months to a high-security women’s prison, for killing someone much like herself. The victim was Victoria McBryde, an up-and-coming university-trained fashion designer.

    Ms. Curtis had plowed her Peugeot into the rear end of Ms. McBryde’s neon yellow Fiat, which had broken down on the A40 Motorway, killing Ms. McBryde, 24, instantly.

    The crash might once have been written off as a tragic accident. Ms. Curtis’s alcohol level was zero. But her phone, which had flown onto the road and was handed to the police by a witness, told a story that — under new British sentencing guidelines — would send its owner to jail.

    In the hour before the crash, she had exchanged nearly two dozen messages with at least five friends, most concerning her encounter with a celebrity singer she had served at the restaurant where she worked.

    They are filled with the mangled spellings and abbreviations that typify the new lingua franca of the young. “LOL did you sing to her?” a friend asks. Ms. Curtis replies by typing in an expletive and adding, “I sang the wrong song.” A last incoming message, never opened, came in seconds before the accident.

    With that as evidence, Ms. Curtis was sentenced in February under 2008 British government directives that regard prolonged texting as a serious aggravating factor in “death by dangerous driving” — just like drinking — and generally recommend four to seven years in prison.

    And to tell you what Pennsylvania is doing by contrast, this tells us of Senate Bill 1097 currently working its way through the legislature that “stipulates mobile telephones and hand-held communication devices. Similar to House Bill 1827, Senate Bill 1097 has exceptions built in for law enforcement and 911 calls. The fine for a violation of this law is $100. Hands-Free devices are allowed under the proposed driving law.”

    H.B. 1827 stipulates a fine of $50, by the way.

    As opposed to 21 months in a high-security prison for “death by dangerous driving.”

    You tell which country is serious about trying to fix this problem and which one isn’t.

    I believe that most people know to conduct themselves behind the wheel, but for the benefit of the few knuckleheads who may be reading this who actually don’t, I have a simple (if unoriginal) message:

    Hang up and drive.

  • Also, I got a kick out of the following remark here from Mississippi Repug Governor Haley Barbour concerning the NY-23 U.S. congressional fiasco, in which Barbour claimed that the voters were “cheated” out of a primary between Dede Scozzafava (who of course dropped out and endorsed Dem Bill Owens) and conservative independent candidate Doug Hoffman (who, based on this, is apparently not a whiz at math).

    In principle, Barbour is partly right, but all he cares about here is nursing his grudge over the fact that Hoffman wasn’t officially “blessed” by the New York State Repug politicos in advance of the general election (as opposed to that “values-voter” infidel Dede Scozzafava).

    It’s hard to take seriously any pleas for good government from Barbour who, as noted here, was ordered to move the candidates for last year’s U.S. Senate race to the top of the ballot where they belonged in accordance with state law (the corrected ballot stood, by the way).

    But just remember anyway that Barbour complained about the absence of a Republican primary in NY-23.

    On CNN.

    We’ll have to “leave it there.”

  • And finally, in last Sunday’s New York Times, Tom Friedman opined as follows here (just getting to this now)…

    More and more lately, I find people asking me: What do you think President Obama really believes about this or that issue? I find that odd. How is it that a president who has taken on so many big issues, with very specific policies — and has even been awarded a Nobel Prize for all the hopes he has kindled — still has so many people asking what he really believes?

    I don’t think that President Obama has a communications problem, per se. He has given many speeches and interviews broadly explaining his policies and justifying their necessity. Rather, he has a “narrative” problem.

    “You can’t get nation-building without shared sacrifice,” said (Harvard political theorist Michael) Sandel, “and you cannot inspire shared sacrifice without a narrative that appeals to the common good — a narrative that challenges us to be citizens engaged in a common endeavor, not just consumers seeking the best deal for ourselves. Obama needs to energize the prose of his presidency by recapturing the poetry of his campaign.”

    Yeah, maybe Obama can come up with something to rhyme with “Suck. On. This.,” eh, Tom?

    And this was a “poetic” moment too, wasn’t it?


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