Having just dealt with the very nice people at TPC (The Phone Company), I was reminded of one on my favorite movies: The President’s Analyst from 1967.
I wonder if the folks at Apple have seen this movie.
Having just dealt with the very nice people at TPC (The Phone Company), I was reminded of one on my favorite movies: The President’s Analyst from 1967.
I wonder if the folks at Apple have seen this movie.
…just in time for me to get going to work.
I’ll be back with some real content — or what passes for it here — when I get home tonight.
Oh, and AT&T said they would “consider” giving me credit for a lost day only after service has been restored.
Internet service is down here at BBWW HQ, and AT&T is giving a ballpark estimate of sometime in the next 24hrs for a return to the connected life. Don’t expect updates here until things are back to normal operating conditions.
Iranian-backed militant group on the rise in Iraq.
Chinese army unit is the culprit behind the effort to hack U.S. computers.
It was a fuel leak that caused the fire on the stranded cruise ship.
Pro-gun lawmakers are open to the idea of limiting gun magazine sizes.
Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns (R) is retiring after only one term.
Gas prices hit 4-month high.
Proof: Maker’s Mark to stop watering the whiskey.
Explosion kills 7 anti-Taliban militia in Pakistan.
Jack Lew gets grilled at confirmation hearing to be Treasury Secretary.
The GOP is filibustering Chuck Hagel.
President Obama took his SOTU message on the road to North Carolina.
It’s a deal — American and US Airways agree to merge.
Former Sen. Scott Brown gets a gig at Fox News.
Styrofoam next on the hit list in New York City.
How can America be the greatest country in the world if people actually believe that buying a 4.5 foot tall teddy bear for your best-beloved will get you laid?
It’s been a long time since I’ve paid attention to the Super Bowl. I think the last time I did was when the Broncos were playing in 1998, and that was listening to it on the car radio as I drove back to Albuquerque from Phoenix after doing a home show. (The fun part of that drive was picking up the game as it was being broadcast by KTNN out of Window Rock, Arizona, and the commentary was in Navajo.)
Last night was no exception. I didn’t really care who won, and I really didn’t care about all the hype and buzz about the halftime show and the commercials that will be played over and over again. But there was one ad that Rick at SFDB pointed out that was worth watching.
Okay, that’s good. Plain, simple, and makes its point. No CGI, no risky language, no sexism, no objectifying of genders, and a message worth broadcasting to an audience that probably contains its fair share of members of the NRA.
(Let the record reflect that Mr. LaPierre has done a complete 180 on his view on universal background checks. He now thinks they are a sign of impending doom from an encroaching government that is bound and determined to disarm America. He doesn’t say exactly why he’s flip-flopped on this reasonable idea, but I have a feeling it has less to do with the practicality of it — in 1999, the idea of universal background checks done over the internet was in the same realm as a jet pack for everyone — and more to do with who’s sitting in the Oval Office.)
One Super Bowl ad is not going to change the minds of millions of Americans and make them in favor of universal background checks. It doesn’t have to. The overwhelming majority of Americans — and NRA members — already approve of the idea. So the ad itself isn’t really an attempt by Mayors Against Illegal Guns to win people over to their point of view. It’s basically an appeal to a very small but vocal minority of gun-strokers who think that anything that smacks of “well regulated” is the end of Freedom. So far, they’re the ones who have been the loudest voices against anything to do with gun control, gun safety, and gun sanity.
This one ad won’t change them, but it may isolate them and make it clear that they’re the ones who are the targets.
As I do every year on New Year’s Eve, I make predictions about the upcoming year. Let’s see how I did for 2012:
Barack Obama will narrowly win re-election against Mitt Romney. It will be a campaign of fear, loathing, excess, and outrage… and that’s just on the GOP side until the inevitable coronation of Mr. Romney. The amount of money to be spent on both sides will be enough to run several mid-sized countries. Re-election campaigns are, of course, a vote on the performance of the incumbent, and Mr. Obama will have to defend his record, but the Republicans have, by their own actions, inactions, and lurch to the right in response to their hatred of all things Obama, made the choice in the election pretty clear. The stated GOP agenda has been to deny Barack Obama a second term, but other than that, they have offered nothing of substance if they win the election. That’s not surprising; they never do. They live on bumper sticker slogans and ten-word answers — Repeal Obamacare; Ban Abortion; Deport the Brown People; No More Taxes; Kill the Queers — but they offer no solutions, unless you want to go back to revive the bold and new ideas from the administration of William McKinley. The campaign will resemble that of the one in 1948 where Harry Truman, coming back from dismal approval ratings, beat the patrician and automatonic Thomas E. Dewey. Mr. Truman ran against an intransigent and right-wing-whacky Republican Congress, and Mr. Obama has pretty much the same situation. It won’t be a landslide, but unless there’s a complete meltdown of the Obama campaign juggernaut, he’ll win and might even win back Congress for the Democrats. It will not be the end of the right-wingers by any means; if anything, the re-election of Barack Obama will drive them even further over the cliff, and we will find out that the level of lunacy is infinite.
As I noted shortly after the election in November, I nailed it. The only thing I missed on was the possibility of winning back the House, but the Democrats did gain seats.
The Supreme Court, by a vote of 5 to 4, will uphold the new healthcare law, and the California Prop 8 case will get on their docket for 2013.
Right on both counts.
Despite the best efforts of the Republicans, the economy will continue to improve, but at about the same pace as it currently is, meaning that by Election Day the unemployment rate will be around 8%. Consumer confidence will continue to grow, and while the housing market will still be soft, bigger ticket items like cars and appliances will start to sell; those old cars can’t run forever.
Right again, although I underestimated the strength of the auto market. They are having their best year in a long, long time.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be recalled, which will send a shiver through right-wing governors from Ohio and Michigan to Florida. As the thousands of people in the streets from Madison to Wall Street proved, you mess with the middle class at your peril, and that sleeping giant has been awakened.
Okay, I blew that one, and Rick Snyder in Michigan is making Scott Walker look like a liberal. But I think the backlash will continue, and he has to run for re-election in 2014.
Here in Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will win another term in a tight race against Rep. Connie Mack (R), and Rep. Allen West (R) will be tossed out on his ass by the good people of Broward County. Alan Grayson (D), who lost in 2010, will win back a seat in Congress, and this will send a strong message to the Florida Democrats that if they can find some good people to run for office, they can beat Rick Scott in 2014.
Nailed that one, too, but the strongest contender in the race against Mr. Scott is the newly-minted Democrat Charlie Crist. Hold your nose, Democrats; to quote E.J. Hornbeck in the film of Inherit the Wind, he may be rancid butter, but he’s on your side of the bread.
The Tigers will go all the way this year. They got very close this year, and there’s always next year.
They did make it all the way to the World Series, only to blow it in a four-game shut out. Argh.
We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.
This year seemed especially harsh, both with friends at work and at home, and names that have been part of our lives. Peace.
Personally, some things never change. I’ll go to the William Inge Festival in April — my 21st time — where we’ll honor David Henry Hwang. I’ll go to Stratford in July with my parents, and I’ll go back to work on Tuesday. I’ve done some tinkering with the Pontiac as it verges on becoming a certified antique, which happens when the 2013 models go on sale. I have no plans to move or change jobs, and the only momentous thing that will happen is that I turn 60 in September. Big whoop.
All true, and to celebrate the Big Six-Oh I threw a little party.
Okay, let’s move on to the predictions for 2013:
- President Obama moves into his second term with pretty much the same situation in Washington and Congress as he has had for the last two years, so nothing will really get done. The budget matters, including the fake drama of the Fiscal Cliff, will still be around in some form because it’s a lot easier to kick it down the road than actually do something, especially when you have a Republican Party that absolutely refuses to work with the president on anything at all. It has nothing to do with policy, deficits or debt, taxes or revenue. The reason is pretty simple: they don’t like him, and so like a kid in grade school who refuses to do his math homework because he hates the teacher, they refuse to budge. You can pick your excuses, ranging from his Spock-like demeanor to his refusal to suck up to the Villagers, but most of it comes down to the unspoken reason that dare not speak its name: he’s black. No one dares say that out loud, but get three beers in any Republican, and I’ll bet they’ll admit it by saying “He’s not one of us.” How many dog whistles do you need? A big tell was that in the last-minute budget negotiations, Mitch McConnell went to Vice President Joe Biden as the go-between the Congress and the president. Why? Because Mr. Biden was in the Senate and knows how to talk to them, and also because he’s the white guy. So we will have another year of gridlock, and the new Congress will make the one just concluded look good.
- The Supreme Court will rule the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop 8 are unconstitutional. It will be a very close vote, probably 5-4 on both cases, and they will narrowly rule on both cases, doing their best not to fling open the doors to marriage equality with a blanket ruling and leave the rest of it up to the states. But they will both go down. On the other hand, they will rule against Affirmative Action. I also think there will be some changes to the make-up of the Court with at least one retirement, either voluntary or by the hand of fate.
- Even if we went over the fiscal cliff or curb or speed-bump, the economy will continue to improve, with the unemployment rate going below 7% by Labor Day. I know this only because I know that our economy, like the water level in the Great Lakes, goes in cycles no matter what the hand of Wall Street or Washington does… unless they completely screw it up like the last time and make it even worse.
- After the extreme weather we saw in 2012, at long last we will move to do something about climate change or global warming or whatever it is fashionably called. It won’t be done by Congress, however; it will be because the people who make a living off the climate, such as agriculture and coastal enterprises such as fishing and tourism, will make it happen through their own efforts. (Yeah, I’m being extremely optimistic on this one. A year from now I will happily concede I blew it.)
- The extremism from the right that entertained us in 2012 will continue, albeit muted because 2013 isn’t an election year except in New Jersey, where Chris Christie will be re-elected and start his Howard Dean-like campaign for the presidency in 2016. The GOP will refuse to acknowledge they have a problem, but as 2014 looms and the wingers that were elected in 2010 face re-election, they will find themselves scrambling hard for candidates that can survive primary battles where the nutsery reigns and then win the general election. The only reason Governors Rick Scott of Florida, Rick Snyder of Michigan, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and John Kasich of Ohio will be re-elected in 2014 is if the Democrats don’t move in for the kill.
- I’ve given up predicting the Tigers’ future this year. Surprise me, boys.
- We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.
- Personally, this year looks good on a couple of fronts. The Pontiac is due back from the body shop this week, and I have formally entered it in its first national Antique Automobile of America car show to take place in Lakeland, Florida, in February. Things are looking better at work with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools getting a number of important grants, including a $32 million program from Race To The Top for math preparation, and the District won the coveted Broad Prize for Urban Education this past fall. One of my short plays has been selected for production in May 2013 at the Lake Worth Playhouse’s Short Cuts series, and hope springs eternal for a full-scale production again of Can’t Live Without You here in Florida. This time I have a good director who would love to do it if we can get a theatre. I’ll be off to the William Inge Festival in May to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Inge’s birth, and plans are in the works for our annual trip to Stratford, Ontario, next summer. My family continues to enjoy good health and good spirits. The blessings continue. (PS: No, I still don’t have a Twitter account.)
- And of course, the usual prediction: One year from now I’ll write a post just like this one, look back at this one, and think, “Gee, that was dumb.” Or not.
The names of the victims in the shooting in Newtown have been released.
President Obama will meet with the families of the victims today.
Egypt — Islamists expect the new constitution to be approved.
Hillary Clinton is recovering from a concussion.
Nelson Mandela undergoes surgery for gallstones.
Consumer prices drop for the first time in six months.
Syria is firing Scud missiles at rebels.
Eurocrisis: Let’s see some unity here.
Poll: Make a fiscal cliff deal already.
Fugitive John McAfee arrived in Miami.
A rock concert was held to raise money for Sandy victims.
Circumcision will remain legal in Germany.
TV commercials get quieter starting today.
Japan gets hit by a small tsunami after a strong earthquake.
Egypt — Morsi calls for “dialogue” after clashes over his decrees.
Down to two — Negotiations over the fiscal whatchamacallit are now between Boehner and Obama.
Jobs numbers for November are due out this morning.
Apple plans to build computers in the U.S.
It turns out that being a good corporate citizen is as important to selling pizzas as the thinness of the crust or the quality of the cheese.
If you don’t believe it, just ask Papa John CEO, John Schnatter.
As covered—and criticized—in this column in great detail, Mr. Schnatter decided to mix his politics with his pepperoni when suggesting that he would be cutting the work hours for Papa John employees in order to bring them below the 30 hour per week threshold that would require Schnatter to provide his employees with healthcare benefits.
It turns out, the pizza eating public did not approve.
Indeed, so serious was the reaction that Schnatter was forced to publish an op-ed piece where he sought to convince us that he never really intended to cut back worker hours but had simply been speculating on what he might do in response to the legislation.
According to YouGov BrandIndex, a leading marketing survey that measures brand perception in the marketplace (called “Buzz”), Papa John’s had good reason for concern as the pizza chain’s brand identity has plummeted from a high of 32 on election day, to a remarkably low score of 4 among adults who have eaten at causal dining restaurants during the past month.
It also might have something to do with the fact that all the attention got people to notice that his product isn’t that great no matter what he said.
I am going to go shopping… for tires for the Mustang and some grapefruit juice for breakfast. Other than that, I’m not venturing out. It’s been years since I’ve joined the hordes at the mall for Christmas shopping.
What about you?
John Metz, the Denny’s franchise owner here in Florida who encouraged customers to stiff his staff for the cost of Obamacare, got a sharp lesson in corporate imagery.
Denny’s chief executive John Miller privately reached out to Metz to express his “disappointment” with the Florida franchisee’s controversial statements about Obamacare, which sparked a wave of backlash for the national restaurant chain over the past few days. Metz released a statement Monday night expressing “regret” over his statements.
“We recognize his right to speak on issues, but registered our disappointment that his comments have been interpreted as the company’s position,” Miller said in an email to The Huffington Post.
Miller is rushing to put out the fire sparked by Metz’s controversial proposal to charge restaurant customers a 5 percent Obamacare fee. “Customers have two choices: They can either pay it and tip 15 or 20 percent, or if they really feel so inclined, they can reduce the amount of tip they give to the server,” Metz told HuffPost in an interview last week.
Some Denny’s franchisees have since dealt with angry customers, calls for a boycott and declining sales. A spokeswoman for Metz said he will not conduct more interviews.
Why is it that people are always so surprised that the public pays attention to things they say in public?
Putting Down the Pen — Philip Roth retires from fiction writing.
On the computer in Philip Roth’s Upper West Side apartment these days is a Post-it note that reads, “The struggle with writing is over.” It’s a reminder to himself that Mr. Roth,who will be 80 in March and who has enjoyed one of the longest and most celebrated careers in American letters, has retired from writing fiction — 31 books since he started in 1959. “I look at that note every morning,” he said the other day, “and it gives me such strength.”
To his friends the notion of Mr. Roth not writing is like Mr. Roth not breathing. It sometimes seemed as if writing were all he did. He worked alone for weeks at a time at his house in Connecticut, reporting every morning to a nearby studio where he wrote standing up, and often going back there in the evening. At an age when most novelists slow down, he got a second wind and wrote some of his best books: “Sabbath’s Theater,”“American Pastoral,”“The Human Stain” and “The Plot Against America.”Well into his 70s, the books, though shorter, came uninterruptedly, practically one a year.But over the course of a three-hour interview — his last, he said — Mr. Roth seemed cheerful, relaxed and at peace with himself and his decision, which was first announced last month in the French magazine Les InRocks. He joked and reminisced, talked about writers and writing, and looked back at his career with apparent satisfaction and few regrets. Last spring he appointed Blake Bailey as his biographer and has been working closely with him ever since.
Mr. Roth said he actually made the decision to stop writing in 2010, a few months after finishing his novel “Nemesis,” about a 1944 polio epidemic in his hometown, Newark.
“I didn’t say anything about it because I wanted to be sure it was true,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute, don’t announce your retirement and then come out of it.’ I’m not Frank Sinatra. So I didn’t say anything to anyone, just to see if it was so.”
On a table in his living room was a stack of photographs he had just been sent by a cousin: his mother in her bridal gown, the veil trailing down a flight of stairs; a very young Mr. Roth with his parents and his older brother, Sandy, outside their home in Newark; a handsome teenage Roth sitting on a sofa with his first serious girlfriend; Private P. Roth in his Army uniform and helmet.
Nearby was an iPhone he had bought recently. “Why?” he said. “Because I’m free. Every morning I study a chapter in ‘iPhone for Dummies,’ and now I’m proficient. I haven’t read a word for two months. I pull this thing out and play with it.”
Then he corrected himself: “I haven’t read during the day. At night I read. I read for two hours. I just finished a marvelous book by Louise Erdrich, ‘The Round House.’ But mostly I read 20th-century history and biography. I lived then. I was either a child or at school or at work. It’s time I caught up.”
Free Stuff — Ta-Nehisi Coates on what everyone wants.
There was a great deal of talk after the election of the “fever” breaking around the GOP, and the party coming to their senses. Perhaps Bobby Jindal’s aggressive rebuttal evidences some of this.
At any rate, I think it’s worth noting that all political parties organize around their interests, around pay-outs, as Romney calls them. Mitt Romney, for instance, represented a coalition whose stated interests lay in expanding the policies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, outlawing national protection for abortion, doing nothing about climate change, and decreasing the tax burden on the “makers.”
This is interest-group politics. It is not a nefarious evil. It is the practice of American democracy. At least that’s what it is when taken up by interest groups who are predominantly white, predominantly male, and rooted, electorally, in the old Confederacy. When the practice is taken up by a coalition of women, gays, the young and people of color, many of them tax-payers, it is suddenly deemed a “pay-out” or “stuff,” as it was so recently put.
But they too want “stuff.” They want the right to discriminate against gay families. They want the right to enact poll-taxing. They want the law to force all pregnant women into labor. That many Americans disagree can only be the result of Chicago-style bribery. I win or you cheated.
Hostess’s management certainly bears some of the blame for its failure to successfully adapt, though the company made numerous (and failed) attempts to introduce healthier products. But the simple truth is that this kind of failure is endemic to the system—there are always going to be companies that are unable to change in response to the marketplace. And those companies are supposed to go out of business. Not to be too clichéd about it, but this is what creative destruction is all about.
The problem, of course, is that that destruction is going to upend the lives of thousands of workers. And to the extent, then, that Hostess’s demise shows us something important about the plight of organized labor today, it’s not that greedy workers have precipitated their own demise. It’s rather that one of organized labor’s biggest challenges over the past four decades has been that union strength was concentrated in industries and among companies that, though once dominant players in the postwar American economy, have often ended up in a slow slide to obsolescence, employing fewer and fewer workers and having less and less money to pay them with. In theory, unions could have made up for this by organizing those companies and industries that have become ascendant since the nineteen-seventies, but for a variety of reasons (including a tougher corporate approach to union-busting, a less friendly legal climate, the difficulty of organizing many small enterprises as opposed to a few big factories, and a tendency to protect existing members rather than put real money into organizing) they haven’t. And the paradox is that as unions have gotten smaller and less influential, they’ve also gotten less popular. That’s why it’s so easy for Hostess’s management to spin the anti-union narrative.
The real issue here is that people’s image of unions, and their sense that doing something like going on strike is legitimate, seems to depend quite a bit, in the U.S., on how common unions are in the workforce. When organized labor represented more than a third of American workers, it was easy for unions to send the message that in agitating for their own interests, union members were also helping improve conditions for workers in general. But as unions have shrunk, and have become increasingly concentrated in the public sector, it’s become easier for people to dismiss them as just another special interest, looking to hold onto perks that no one else gets. Perhaps the most striking response to the Hostess news, in that sense, was the tweet from conservative John Nolte, who wrote “Hostess strikers had pension. PENSIONS! What is this 1962?” It was once taken for granted that an industrial worker who worked for a big company for many years would get a solid middle-class lifestyle, and would be taken care of in retirement. Today, that concept seems to many like a relic. Just as Wonder Bread does.
Doonesbury — Invisible Men.
The clash in Gaza heats up.
Two people are missing, 11 injured in Gulf oil rig explosion.
Capital Hill leaders had “constructive” talks with the president about avoiding the fiscal cliff.
States start signing on to healthcare exchanges.
Hostess Brands, makers of Twinkies, shuts down.
That old devil moonlighting — A New York prosecutor owns up to having acted in porn films in the 1970′s.
St. Lucie County grants Allen West’s request for a recount.
China unveils its new leadership.
Israel bombards Gaza; kills Hamas leader.
Budget and Benghazi: President Obama held his first news conference since his re-election.
Slow recovery from Sandy in New Jersey.
Harsh Buzz: 5-Hour Energy drink linked to a number of deaths.
Surplus? The city of Miami discovers they have money in the bank.