Wednesday, January 27, 2016

We Broke It, You Fix It

You knew it would come to this.

The corporatist network is now circling the wagons around Michigan Governor Rick Snyder over his administration’s poisoning of Flint’s drinking water. This time it’s none other than the American Legislative Exchange Council. It’s not the Snyder administration that’s responsible, they say, it’s the retired city workers and their blood-sucking union pensions that are to blame…

See? Rick Snyder is just a victim of the leeches on the jugular vein of society: retired city workers. The fact that his administration has failed the city on nearly every level and at nearly every juncture is, according to these corporate titans and saviors of society, irrelevant.

Their article, by the way, is titled “The Government Poisoned Flint’s Water—So Stop Blaming Everyone Else” and has the subtitle “A failure of local government, brought on by public employee pensions.” It’s a catchy title because it says government is responsible, which it is. But the government they are talking about is the one that had no political power at the time the events leading to the poisoning of their drinking water were happening: local Flint officials.

I frankly don’t think these people believe their own rhetoric. They’re just paid very well to espouse them.

And now they will use this as a lesson in how government is a failure and we would all be much better off if the country was run by Walmart.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Short Takes

ISIS claims credit for the attack in Jakarta that killed seven.

President Obama took his SOTU tour to Louisiana.

Anglicans suspend entire U.S. Episcopal church over marriage equality.

Goldman Sachs to pay $5 billion in mortgage settlement.

The Oscar nominations were announced.

Tropical Update: A hurricane in January?  I blame Al Gore.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Short Takes

Veto Bait — Senate passes repeal of Obamacare and defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Pentagon opens all combat roles to women.

Massey Energy executive gets convicted on minor charges.

Putin accuses Turkish leaders of being on the take from ISIS oil sales.

Oy: Republican candidates pander to Jewish supporters.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Short Takes

Volkswagen CEO resigns over emissions scandal.

Hackers stole 5.6 million sets of fingerprints from the federal government.

Pope Francis talks about immigration and climate change.

Eastern Europe lightens up on migrant quotas.

The Tigers beat the White Sox 7-4.

Tropical Update:  TS Ida moves a little to the north.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Short Takes

VW admits to diesel emissions fraud.

E.U. ministers approve migrant plan.

Democrats defeat GOP abortion bill in the Senate.

The sage grouse doesn’t get protected status.

U.S. stops screening passengers from Liberia.

Tropical Update: TS Ida is still stuck in neutral.

R.I.P. Yogi Berra, 90, ballplayer and force of wit.

The Tigers beat the White Sox 2-1 in extra innings.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Short Takes

Secretary Kerry upped the number of Syrian refugees the U.S. will take to 100,000 by 2017.

Bye, Scott.

Volkswagen’s stock went into the tank after it was revealed they cheated on emissions software.

Here comes Pope Francis.

The best argument possible for price controls on prescription drugs.

Tropical Update: TS Ida is not making much of a move anywhere.

The Tigers lost a doubleheader to the White Sox.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Short Takes

Three Spanish reporters missing in Syria.

Iran’s parliament put off voting on the nuclear deal for 80 days.

Sweet Sixteen: Ohio Gov. John Kasich joins the GOP field.

Part of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s sentence for corruption is vacated.

Check your mailbox: Citibank is going to pay credit card holders $700 million for ripping them off.

R.I.P. Theodore Bikel, 91, actor, singer, humanitarian; E.L. Doctorow, 84, author of Ragtime and Billy Bathgate.

The Tigers lost to the Mariners 11-9.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Short Takes

Grecian Turn: Another attempt at getting out debt is proposed.

Six predominately black churches have burned in the last two weeks.

The government is investigating whether major airlines colluded on keeping prices high.

A federal judge in Alabama has ordered judges to issue marriage licenses to all comers.

R.I.P Nicholas Winton, 106, a Briton who saved nearly 700 children from the Nazis.

The Tigers lost 9-3 to the Pirates.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Short Takes

NATO troops are moving through Poland.

The trail of the New York prison escapees has gone cold.

AT&T faces $100 million fine over “unlimited” data plans.

Remnants of Tropical Storm Bill soak already-drenched Texas.

Kansas Gov. Brownback dodges ethics inquiry bullet.

More top-level changes at Microsoft.

The Tigers lost 8-4 in extra innings to the Reds.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Short Takes

Tories win close to a majority in the British election.

Drone kills al-Qaeda leader who claimed credit for Charlie Hebdo attack.

The U.S. is arming and paying moderate Syrian rebels.

Senate passes Iran nuclear deal review bill.

Another for-profit college hits the hard times.

The Tigers finally win one off the Chicago White Sox 4-1.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Adventures in Telemarketing

Scene: A living room.  Me sitting in a recliner doing a crossword puzzle.  Phone rings.

ME: Hello?

SALESDROID: Hi, your warranty on your car has expired or is about to expire. If you would like more information on how to extend it, press 1.

[I press 1. Live human comes on the line.]

CON ARTIST: I’m sorry but we can’t seem to pull up the information on your car. Please tell me the year, make and model.

ME: It’s a 1960 Edsel Villager station wagon.

[Click]

ME: Hm, they must know that Ford only made 59 of them; hard to get parts for it. Oh well.

[I go back to doing the crossword.  Lights fade.  End of play.]

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Short Takes

C.I.A. torture — The Senate report lays it all out.

Congressional leaders say they have reached a deal on spending.

Secretary of State Kerry warns Senate on limiting ISIS fight.

The Supreme Court rules against BP’s challenge to their oil spill settlement.

Jonathan Gruber apologized for his “stupid” remarks about Obamacare.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bought and Paid For

Gee, what a shock.  According to the New York Times, Republican officials in at least a dozen states are on the take from energy companies.

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.

They share a common philosophy about the reach of the federal government, but the companies also have billions of dollars at stake. And the collaboration is likely to grow: For the first time in modern American history, Republicans in January will control a majority — 27 — of attorneys general’s offices.

The Times reported previously how individual attorneys general have shut down investigations, changed policies or agreed to more corporate-friendly settlement terms after intervention by lobbyists and lawyers, many of whom are also campaign benefactors.

But the attorneys general are also working collectively. Democrats for more than a decade have teamed up with environmental groups such as the Sierra Club to use the court system to impose stricter regulation. But never before have attorneys general joined on this scale with corporate interests to challenge Washington and file lawsuits in federal court.

Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews.

“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” said David B. Frohnmayer, a Republican who served a decade as attorney general in Oregon. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”

For Mr. Pruitt, the benefits have been clear. Lobbyists and company officials have been notably solicitous, helping him raise his profile as president for two years of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a post he used to help start what he and allies called the Rule of Law campaign, which was intended to push back against Washington.

That campaign, in which attorneys general band together to operate like a large national law firm, has been used to back lawsuits and other challenges against the Obama administration on environmental issues, the Affordable Care Act and securities regulation. The most recent target is the president’s executive action on immigration.

“We are living in the midst of a constitutional crisis,” Mr. Pruitt told energy industry lobbyists and conservative state legislators at a conference in Dallas in July, after being welcomed with a standing ovation. “The trajectory of our nation is at risk and at stake as we respond to what is going on.”

I’m not surprised that this kind of corruption is going on.  I’m not surprised that they’re perfectly shameless about it.  What I am surprised that it was on the front page of the Times like it’s news.  It’s not like anyone’s going to get in trouble for it, and even if they did and it got all the way to the Supreme Court, it will be upheld as free speech.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Short Takes

Big banks face new round of charges from Justice Department.

Nobel in medicine goes to brain reserachers.

Nurse in Spain infected with Ebola.

Arrest made in Miami shooting that left 15 injured.

Kid brings over 400 bags of heroin to daycare.

R.I.P. Marian Seldes, stage star, and Geoffrey Holder, actor/dancer.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Timbits On Tamiami Trail?

Burger King is thinking about heading for the True North.

Tim_Hortons_logo_(original).svgBurger King announced Sunday that it is in talks to buy Tim Hortons and form a new publicly listed company that would be based in Canada.

The two fast-food companies said that Burger King majority owner 3G Capital would continue to own the majority of shares of the new company, with the remainder held by existing shareholders of Tim Hortons and Burger King.

The companies’ statement says Miami-based Burger King Worldwide Inc. and Ontario-based Tim Hortons Inc. would continue to operate as standalone brands but would share corporate services.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the talks and that the companies say there’s no assurance a deal will happen.

The new company would have 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries worldwide. The companies say that would make it the world’s third-largest fast-food restaurant company.

The reason for the BK move is to make it a Canadian-based company and do the tax-inversion shuffle.  But I wonder if that means that there will be Tim Hortons here in South Florida.  I’m always ready for a box of Timbits.

Friday, July 18, 2014

How Not To Fire People

Microsoft laid off 18,000 people yesterday, and the memo that went out with the news is so laden with corporate-speak and happy-talk about someone else’s future stock portfolio that it makes you want to wither and crawl away.  Kevin Roose at New York magazine takes a look.

Typically, when you’re a top executive at a major corporation that is laying off more than 10 percent of your workforce, you say a few things to the newly jobless. Like “sorry.” Or “thank you for your many years of service.” Or even “we hate doing this, but it’s necessary to help the company survive.”

What you don’t do is bury the news of the layoffs in the 11th paragraph of a long, rambling corporate strategy memo.

And yet, this was Microsoft honcho Stephen Elop’s preferred method for announcing to his employees today that 12,500 of them were being laid off. (18,000 are being laid off companywide; Elop, the former head of Nokia, oversees the company’s devices unit, which was hardest hit by the layoffs.)

How bad was Elop’s job-axing memo? Really, really bad. It’s so bad that I can’t even really convey its badness. I just have to show you.

Here’s how it starts:

Hello there,

Hello there? Hello there? Out of all the possible “you’re losing your job” greetings, you chose the one that sounds like the start to a bad OKCupid message? “Hello there” isn’t how you announce layoffs; it’s what you say right before you ask, “What’s a girl like you doing on a site like this? ;)” It’s the fedora of greetings.

Read the whole thing, and then go out and buy a Macbook.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Bitter Pill

The consensus among the commetariat about yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case seems to be a collective “Well, it could have been worse.”

Yes, the court could have decided that for-profit companies have the same religious rights as a person — much as they did in the Citizens United case, giving free speech rights to corporations — but instead narrowly found that closely-held companies — those that aren’t publicly traded, basically — could, on contraception only, get away with dictating to their employees what kind of birth control they could use.  But still telling us that it could have been worse isn’t much consolation, and the ramifications go far beyond just some Christians who don’t know much about IUD’s but know a hell of a lot about minding the way other people spend their money.

There is some good points made by people who know the law trade far better than I do about what this ruling means, including Eric Loomis at LGM and Kate McDonough at Salon.  From the latter:

To sum it up, five male justices ruled that thousands of female employees should rightfully be subjected to the whims of their employers. That women can be denied a benefit that they already pay for and is guaranteed by federal law. That contraception is not essential healthcare. That corporations can pray. That the corporate veil can be manipulated to suit the needs of the corporation. That bosses can cynically choose à la carte what laws they want to comply with and which laws they do not. Each specific finding opens a door to a new form of discrimination and unprecedented corporate power. If you think this ruling won’t affect you, you haven’t been paying attention. If you think these corporations are going to stop at birth control, you’re kidding yourself.

(By the way, it should be noted that not just women use birth control.  I may be gay, but I do know that men have a part to play in the reproductive process, and their lives can be impacted by making it harder for people to have access to contraception as well.  Also, the pill isn’t just for birth control.  There are a number of other medical reasons for taking it.  That tidbit of news seemed to escape the grasp of Justice Alito et al.)

The Republicans are rejoicing, not just because this is seen as a smackdown for Obamacare and a win for their Religious Reich handlers, but because now they can campaign on preserving the sanctity of corporate faith and family values.  Yeah, that will really win with the womenfolk vote.  Going into the elections of 2014 and 2016 embracing the morals framed in 19th century era patriarchy will win the day, I’m sure.  As Steve Benen notes,

Congratulations, Republicans, you’ve won your big case at the Supreme Court, and positioned yourself this election as the 21st century political party that supports restrictions on contraception access. The party saw a political landmine and decided to do a victory dance on it. We’ll see how this turns out for them.

 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Solar Flare

Just in time for Earth Day:

Homeowners and businesses that wish to generate their own cheap, renewable energy now have a force of conservative political might to contend with, and the Koch brothers are leading the charge. The L.A. Times, to its credit, found the positive spin to put on this: Little old solar “has now grown big enough to have enemies.”

The escalating battle centers over two ways traditional utilities have found to counter the rapidly growing solar market: demanding a share of the power generated by renewables and opposing net metering, which allows solar panel users to sell the extra electricity they generate back to the grid — and without which solar might no longer be affordable. The Times reports on the conservative heavyweights making a fossil fuel-powered effort to make those things happen:

The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation’s largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states.

…The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a membership group for conservative state lawmakers, recently drafted model legislation that targeted net metering. The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates.

“State governments are starting to wake up,” Christine Harbin Hanson, a spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, said in an email. The organization has led the effort to overturn the mandate in Kansas, which requires that 20% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources.

Rachel Maddow reported last night that the state of Oklahoma, the leader in backwards thinking, has passed a law that charges homeowners for using solar panels.

The reason is obvious: solar and other renewable energy sources are a threat to the oil industry, and in America, oil rules.  If the Koch brothers’ fortune had come from the glass panel business, they’d make it their mission to put solar panels on everything.  That’s the way capitalism works, and that’s why they’re buying up every state legislature with more than 100 sunny days in the calendar year.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Where The Money Is

Someone knocked off televangelist Joel Osteen’s church.

Joel Osteen recently reported the theft of $600,000 from the safe in his church, but the theft wasn’t the only information of interest revealed. After finding out that this large chunk of money was from just one weekend of Osteen’s collected church donations, jaws dropped around the nation.

According to News Max on March 18, it didn’t take long for folks on the outside to do the math. Based on Osteen’s reported amount of money in this theft, it appears his Lakewood Church takes in $32 million a year. Calculator keys were punched around the nation taking the $600,000 for Olsteen’s [sic] weekend donation collection and timing this by the 52 weeks in a year.

Many consider this a conservative estimate of donations this church receives, as March is just an average month with no holidays for the church. The spirit of giving around the holidays has to net this church more than the average week. Then there’s Easter and other holidays.

All of it tax-free, too.

Saturday, March 15, 2014