Thursday, October 16, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Short Takes

State officials ask for an investigation into a fatal shooting of a black man in St. Louis.

ISIS threatening to overrun a province in western Iraq.

Hong Kong — The government backed out of a meeting with protestors.

West Virginia joins the marriage equality march.

Teeter-Totter — Wall Street goes through gyrations this week.

R.I.P. Jan Hooks, 57, actor on SNL and Designing Women.

Tropical Update: Invest 99L is north of Puerto Rico.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Short Takes

There’s a gun battle with ISIS going on in the Turkish border town of Kobani.

Five airports are stepping up screening of passengers arriving from West Africa.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient from Liberia who traveled to Dallas, died yesterday.

Idaho and Nevada: Justice Anthony Kennedy granted emergency stays on marriage equality, then lifted the one on Nevada.

White House alarmed by JP Morgan security breach.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Walmart Ditches Workers

This from Reuters:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the biggest U.S. private sector employer, said on Tuesday that its 1.3 million workers would have to pay more for healthcare and it would end benefits for some part-time staff in a move that could prompt other companies to follow suit.

The world’s largest retailer said it would raise health insurance premiums for its entire U.S. workforce beginning in January. In addition, Wal-Mart will end coverage for employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, a change that will impact 2 percent of U.S. workers, or about 30,000 people.

Because the Walton family is going broke, right?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

Short Takes

The leader of Hong Kong refused to resign in the face of the Umbrella movement.

ISIS is pressing their attack on border towns in Syria and Iraq.

None of the 100 people who came in contact with the Ebola patient in Texas are showing symptoms.

Oil prices are dropping; crude is under $90 a barrel.

JP Morgan hacked; over 76 million households affected.

The Tigers got walloped 12-3 by the Orioles in Game 1 of the ALDS.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

Just Like Old Times

Paul Krugman on the GOP blame-the-victim attack on the unemployed.

Last week John Boehner, the speaker of the House, explained to an audience at the American Enterprise Institute what’s holding back employment in America: laziness. People, he said, have “this idea” that “I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this. I think I’d rather just sit around.” Holy 47 percent, Batman!

It’s hardly the first time a prominent conservative has said something along these lines. Ever since a financial crisis plunged us into recession it has been a nonstop refrain on the right that the unemployed aren’t trying hard enough, that they are taking it easy thanks to generous unemployment benefits, which are constantly characterized as “paying people not to work.” And the urge to blame the victims of a depressed economy has proved impervious to logic and evidence.

[...]

Is it race? That’s always a hypothesis worth considering in American politics. It’s true that most of the unemployed are white, and they make up an even larger share of those receiving unemployment benefits. But conservatives may not know this, treating the unemployed as part of a vaguely defined, dark-skinned crowd of “takers.”

My guess, however, is that it’s mainly about the closed information loop of the modern right. In a nation where the Republican base gets what it thinks are facts from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, where the party’s elite gets what it imagines to be policy analysis from the American Enterprise Institute or the Heritage Foundation, the right lives in its own intellectual universe, aware of neither the reality of unemployment nor what life is like for the jobless. You might think that personal experience — almost everyone has acquaintances or relatives who can’t find work — would still break through, but apparently not.

Whatever the explanation, Mr. Boehner was clearly saying what he and everyone around him really thinks, what they say to each other when they don’t expect others to hear. Some conservatives have been trying to reinvent their image, professing sympathy for the less fortunate. But what their party really believes is that if you’re poor or unemployed, it’s your own fault.

Having just seen Ken Burns’ documentary on the history of the last 100 years in America as seen through the lens of the Roosevelts, it is a stark reminder to hear again the voice of a politician that essentially echoes that of the robber barons of the 1890′s and the 1920′s.  How little things have really changed since then, and even though it took wars and revolutions to try to change them, they still sound like John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan: screw you if you haven’t got a million bucks lying around, and I don’t have to explain a damn thing to anybody.

Footnote:  On a brighter note, the heirs of Rockefeller have decided that they want nothing more to do with the oil business because of its impact on the climate.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Short Takes

Secretary of State Kerry meet with Arab leaders to build a coalition against ISIS.

European leaders agreed to tougher sanctions against Russia.

A newly-released video from Ferguson bolsters claims that Michael Brown was shot while surrendering.

What a surprise: Senate Republicans killed the Citizens United constitutional amendment.

Ted Cruz got booed off-stage by Arab Christians.

Tropical Update: Two areas of potential weather in the Atlantic are Invest 92L and TS Edouard.

The Tigers had a much-needed night off.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bullshit Works

Digby cites a poll in the Wall Street Journal that says Republicans have a 10-point advantage on the economy.  This despite the fact that the economy under President Obama has done better than it did under Ronald Reagan and the fact that in general the economy usually does better with a Democrat in the White House than it does under those financial geniuses in the GOP.

This proves for the umpteenth time that the Republicans are very good at baffling the voters with bullshit about lower taxes and trickle-down growth while standing atop the rubble of the housing bubble and the worst recession in eighty years.  They stand in the way of anything that could remotely be seen as helping the people who need it the most and then count on their votes in November because they’ve dazzled them with trinkets and frightened them with abstract fears of gay marriage and affordable health insurance.

Republicans have been running the House for four years now and their approval rating is duking it out with ebola to see who’s less popular.  Given that, the voters will happily return 98% of the incumbents in November.  So it works.  Which is why they do it.  It’s a lot easier than actually governing.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lousy Socialist

How can Barack Obama hold his head up as a commie pinko socialist when he’s doing a better job with the economy than Ronald Reagan?  Don’t ask me, ask Forbes.

When President Obama took office America was gripped in an offshoring boom, started years earlier, pushing jobs to the developing world.  Manufacturing was declining in America, and plants were closing across the nation.

This week the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released its manufacturing report, and it surprised nearly everyone.  The latest Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) scored 59, two points higher than July and about that much higher than prognosticators expected.  This represents 63 straight months of economic expansion, and 25 consecutive months of manufacturing expansion.

New orders were up 3.3 points to 66.7, with 15 consecutive months of improvement and reaching the highest level since April, 2004 – five years prior to Obama becoming President.  Not surprisingly, this economic growth provided for 14 consecutive months of improvement in the employment index.  Meaning that the “grass roots” economy made its turn for the better just as the DJIA was reaching those highs back in 2013 – demonstrating that index is still the leading indicator for jobs that it has famously always been.

The stock market has converted the long-term growth in jobs and GDP into additional gains for investors.  Recently the S&P has crested 2,000 – reaching new all time highs.  Gains made by investors earlier in the Obama administration have further grown, helping businesses  raise capital and improving the nest eggs of almost all Americans.  And laying the foundation for recent, and prolonged job growth.

[...]

Economically, President Obama’s administration has outperformed President Reagan’s in all commonly watched categories.  Simultaneously the current administration has reduced the deficit, which skyrocketed under Reagan.  Additionally, Obama has reduced federal employment, which grew under Reagan (especially when including military personnel,) and truly delivered a “smaller government.”  Additionally, the current administration has kept inflation low, even during extreme international upheaval, failure of foreign economies (Greece) and a dramatic slowdown in the European economy.

Today, John Boehner asked yet again, “Where are the jobs?”

Ahem:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [last Friday] issued America’s latest jobs report covering August.  And it’s a disappointment.  The economy created an additional 142,000 jobs last month. After six consecutive months over 200,000, most pundits expected the string to continue, including ADP which just yesterday said 204,000 jobs were created in August.

Even though the plus-200,000 monthly string was broken (unless revised upward at a future date,) unemployment did continue to decline and is now reported at only 6.1%.  Jobless claims were just over 300,000; lowest since 2007.  Despite the lower than expected August jobs number, America will create about 2.5 million new jobs in 2014.

And that is great news.

Sorry, Mr. Speaker, but we know it’s hard to see anything when you have a bad case of cranial rectitus.

Citizens United Amendment Advances

A pleasant little surprise via TPM:

A Democratic-led constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and subsequent rulings loosening restrictions on money in politics moved forward in the Senate on Monday evening.

The procedural vote was 79 in favor, 18 against.

The vote means the Senate can begin debate on the measure. But it is highly unlikely to ultimately pass the chamber as it faces fierce Republican opposition. It would need to clear another 60-vote threshold in order to end debate and come to a final vote. And that final vote would require the support of two-thirds of senators to succeed.

The measure, proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), would restore the legal right of Congress to establish campaign spending limits. Approved by committee on a party line basis in July, it is one of several pre-election votes Senate Democrats are planning in an attempt to highlight the contrast between the two parties before Americans head to the polls.

It has zero chances of passing, but at least they’re going to talk about it, and it will get the Republicans to tell us exactly why they believe that corporations are people, my friend.

They will claim that it re-writes the First Amendment, which is bullshit.  The amendment gives Congress the power to regulate campaign finance.  It does not itself regulate campaign finance.  And it has a clause that specifically states the amendment does not change the First Amendment.  But the big money backers of the GOP will pull out all the stops, so this amendment will have the lifespan of a spider on a hot griddle.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Negotiating Over the Price

There’s an old joke about a guy who sees an attractive woman at a cocktail party.  He says to her, “Would you sleep with me for a million bucks?”  She looks him over and says, “Sure.”  He replies, “Okay, how about for twenty?”  She retorts, “Hell, no; what do you think I am?”  He says, “We’ve already established that.  Now we’re just negotiating over the price.”

That came to mind when I read this piece in the Tampa Bay Times:

Top aides to Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, two of the most vehement anti-Communist voices in Washington, took an all expenses paid trip to China this month courtesy of the Chinese government.

Sally Canfield, deputy chief of staff to Rubio, and Arthur Estopinan, chief of staff to Ros-Lehtinen, were part of a congressional staff trip facilitated by the U.S.-Asia Institute.

The trips, which include meetings with government officials in Beijing, have occurred since 1985, involving hundreds of lawmakers and staffers. They are a popular perk on Capitol Hill and come with luxury hotel stays and visits to top tourist sites, including the Great Wall. The cost can exceed $10,000 a person.

The Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen connection stands out because of their strong anti-Communism views. Both Cuban-American lawmakers have condemned the human rights records of China and Cuba and have opposed efforts to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba. They also regularly criticize people who have gone to Cuba.

[...]

The Tampa Bay Times learned of the aides’ visits — which have not yet shown up in Senate or House disclosures — from a source backing a group that wants to see more normal relations with Cuba.

“It represents a real double standard,” said Chris Sabatini, senior policy director of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, when the Times told him about the trips. “At the same time they are denying citizens’ right to travel to Cuba, they feel staff can travel to another country that has the same pattern of human rights abuses.”

[...]

Rubio’s spokesman Alex Conant wrote: “Senator Rubio has consistently condemned the totalitarian nature of the Chinese government, its record of systematic human rights violations and its illegitimate territorial claims. However, China is the most populous nation on earth, has the world’s second largest economy, has a significant nuclear weapons arsenal and is increasingly an economic competitor of the United States.

In other words, China paid for everything, including accommodations, travel, meals, and who knows what else, while if you took a trip to Cuba at the invitation of that government, bring your own soap.  A million bucks or twenty makes all the difference.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Winning By Being Wrong

The GOP has gotten so used to saying the budget deficit is exploding and is out of control that even when it’s not, they still say it is.

Let’s also note that the shrinking deficit – we’re seeing the fastest reduction since the end of World War II – is also one of the nation’s best-kept secrets. It was just last year when an independent national poll asked Americans whether they thought the deficit was increasing, decreasing, or staying about the same. Only 6 percent of the country recognized reality. That’s not a typo; it was just 6 percent.

The fact remains, however, that the annual budget deficit is on track this year to have shrunk by about $900 billion since President Obama took the oath of office.

Responding to the news today, a Republican spokesperson for the House Budget Committee told The Hill, “Too many families are living paycheck to paycheck, and if this report is any indication, things aren’t getting much better. We need to get spending under control, so we can build a healthy economy and expand opportunity for everyone in this country.”

You know what the best part — by which I mean the most aggravating part — is?  We wouldn’t have had the deficit in the first place had it not been for the Republicans.  To top it all off, they’ll campaign against the Democrats on it.  And probably win.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Short Takes

National Guard leaving Ferguson.

Three Hamas military leaders were killed by Israeli attacks.

Mudslides and debris close roads in Washington state.

Two American ebola victims have recovered and been released from the hospital.

American auto industry has hit its highest level of production in 12 years.

Tropical Update: Invest 96L is out there and heading west.

The Tigers lost 1-0 to the Rays.