Friday, January 30, 2009

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) How is it that kids can break your heart?
2) Bla, Bla, Bla Bla, Bla, Bla, Bla Bla, Hey, Hey, Hey, Just GOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
3) Actually, I should be fair to Blagojevich. He was never convicted of any crime, and an arrest does not a crime make. If it had, I would have placed Bush under citizens' arrest.
4) Perhaps the real reason the GOP voted in lockstep against the stimulus package is not so much that they "weren't allowed to contribute," to periphrase Grassley, but because they had nothing TO contribute. Politically, it's a less risky gambit for 2010 than to admit your party is so bereft of ideas after trotting out the tax cut flag again that you have to capitulate to the only game in town.
5) It's nice to see Pat Tillman is not being forgotten by the Cardinals as they head to the Super Bowl.
6) It occurs to me that Mayor Bloomberg is setting a bunch of boobytraps in the event he's barred from seeking a third term.
7) Bonuses and Wall Street. Look, this is a controversial topic, to be sure, but I'm not sure this is the time to discuss changes. I agree, it's obscene for big money Wall Street traders to rake in huge bonuses ahead of a meltdown. On the other hand, these should be more rightly termed "commissions earned" since they are tied to the economic activity of the individual trader and usually, these commissions make up 75% of the trader's annual income. You wouldn't want to take a 75% cut in pay, would you?
This is a topic I probably ought to explore in more depth in a full column, because I have a LOT more to say, pro and con on this.
8) And God spoke to Sarah Palin, and said "Sarah, honey, stop taking my name in vain."
9) Think this has anything to do with the double barrel Bush war and Bush Depression?
10) Who wants to live forever? Jelly fish.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Sound Of One Hand Clapping

It seems bipartisanship died pretty quickly on the Hill:

WASHINGTON — Without a single Republican vote, President Obama won House approval on Wednesday for an $819 billion economic recovery plan as Congressional Democrats sought to temper their own differences over the enormous package of tax cuts and spending. [...]

Democrats voluntarily dropped from the package several provisions that Republicans had singled out for derision in recent days, including money to restore the Jefferson Memorial and for family planning programs.

You'll hear a lot in the coming weeks from FReepers and their fellow travelers about the domestic spending portions of this package, and of course, the sudden interest in deficits. There will be talk, particularly with regards to the safety net spending portions, like extending unemployment benefits or automatically enrolling the unemployed in Medicaid.
This from a group of people who thought nothing of digging deeply into the national treasury to provide welfare for a people in a land thousands of miles away after we bombed the living crap out of them, shot them up, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, and generally made their lives miserable...for nothing!
So naturally, the first question I have to ask is, "Why would you spend half a trillion dollars on a land that you will never ever visit to assist people you will never ever meet, but not a dime to help the family down the block buy a loaf of bread or get a flu shot? Why would you spend a trillion and a half to bailout your banking buddies so they can buy corporate jets or pay obscene bonuses, but not help a fourth grader keep her clarinet?"
Why do they hate America so?
Naturally, there's a bright side to all this partisan show of hatred for a fairly reasonable-if-massive bill: when it succeeds, the Republicans will be scrambling to explain to constituents why they voted against the very lifeline they ended up depending on, and wouldn't the constituency have gotten an even better deal if their Congresscritter had agreed to go along?
Part of this, I'm sure, is political theatre. Barack Obama, meeting with Capitol Hill Republicans (must have been one of the small conference rooms on the Hill), signaled he'd be willing to adjust some of the tax breaks offered in the package to include small businesses, so long as the Republicans would pony up some of the corporate welfare they've allowed to creep into the budget over the past fourteen years.
Senator Charles Grassley (R-Pornville) seemed rather hesitant to be cooperative.
Iowa, where men are men and sheep wear IUDs.
The dance begins. The Senate debate on the bill begins in earnest today, but will likely extend into next week. For once, it might be worth tuning in CSPAN and popping up some Orville Redenbacher.
Too, the whole rural/urban split across party lines (rural legislators, Democrats and Republicans, derailed a compromise on the distribution of Medicaid funding) as reported by Politico is probably going to end up in a bit of arm twisting behind the shed. Clearly, Republicans in Congress feel this is their best weapon in peeling off support for the stimulus package, and it will be interesting to see if Pelosi can marshall her whip (Steny Hoyer) to drag these kids back into the lunch line.
I suspect so. It's early in the term and these folks have a lot of legislatin' to do. Screw around with the signature piece of legislation of this Congress, and you run the risk of losing the party's backing in your re-election, which most are already running for.
There's a sentiment among conservatives that Americans are "bailed out", that the spending that's already happened has them weary and wary of any new spending proposals.
Silly Charlie Brown conservatives. If anything, people are going to be solidly behind this bill, and will get all over you for supporting Bush's bank bailout bill for taking money that could have been pumped into the economy and wasting it on Falcon jets. And yet, these dimwits report this "sentiment" as if it existed anywhere but in the feeble addlepated minds of Rush and Sean and Lord Coultermort.
If it's a recession when your neighbor loses his job but a depression when you lose yours, then it's a bailout when he gets a check in the mail, but a stimulus package when you do.
And don't feel bad for your banking buddies, Republicans. I know I don't!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nom Nom Nom

It's fun to juxtapose stories!

"I think that our leadership, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are taking the right approach," Gingrey said. "I mean, it's easy if you're Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don't have to try to do what's best for your people and your party. You know you're just on these talk shows and you're living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn't be or wouldn't be good leaders, they're not in that position of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell."

Asked to respond to Gingrey, Limbaugh, in an email to Politico, wrote: "I'm sure he is doing his best but it does not appear to be good enough. He may not have noticed that the number of Republican colleagues he has in the House has dwindled. And they will dwindle more if he and his friends don't show more leadership and effectiveness in battling the most left-wing agenda in modern history. And they won't continue to lose because of me, but because of their relationship with the grassroots, which is hurting. Conservatives want leadership from those who claim to represent them. And we'll know it when we see it."
As they begin meeting in Washington today, many members of the Republican National Committee are focusing their ire against what they considered George W. Bush's anti-conservative policies and trying to dump the man he tapped to run the GOP.
[...]Duncan "has never criticized Bush when the president was wrong," said Shawn Steel, an RNC member from California. "He's the agent of the establishment, and we need a change in personnel."
 Can't you just feel the love?
I have a reminder for the Limbaughts and the archconservative right wing of the Republican party: Robespierre.
Actually, for Limbaugh, a more appropriate reminder might be Marat.
The trouble with revolutions egged on by people who are fraudulently interested "in the common good," is eventually, the masses find out the true nature of
the "leadership," and rebel. Marat, for example, was stabbed to death by an admirer, Charlotte Corday, after his influence in the Revolution and the Reign Of Terror had waned.
Much like Limbaugh's position today, Marat had aligned himself with a lucky star in Robespierre, but once on the tiger, had to hold on literally for dear life and was unable to. That hard stuff you feel under your flabby ass, Rush? That's the ground. The tiger is turning. Too bad you can't run very fast, isn't it?
Similarly, Robespierre was an ideologue, much like Limba-- I mean, Marat. Much like the GOP, Robespierre was accused of tyranny and dictatorship after he passed laws that effectively barred citizens from their rights and established networks of spies that would act without regard for the truth to "protect the people". The Patriot Act, anyone?
Like the GOP, Robespierre tried to instill a quasi-religious governing policy, putting God (actually, Être suprême or Supreme Being) into the French constitution.
Like the GOP, Robespierre tried to stamp out the only real political opposition he faced, the Hébertists.
And like the GOP, Robespierre was ultimately beheaded when the people realized that he was worse than the royalty he had replaced! This after the people had been terrified into order, threatened with wolves at the door, and subsumed into complicity with the Reign of Terror.
Life is fractal, and in this instance, the larger playwright of the French Revolution has writ small, tiny, insignificant, the future of the GOP.
We are watching the GOP now eat itself, much as the Jacobins (ironically, also called Republicans) of Robespierre did, in the individual quest for power in the wake of the loss of their leadership.
Oh...keep in mind that, while the Repub-- er, Jacobins, were cannibalizing themselves, a figure arose out of the ranks: a fairly low ranking officer with little political experience who would lead France to her greatest glory ever.
Life does present us with unusual parallels, does it not?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lay Me Off In Fields Of Clover

It's getting kind of silly out there:

Furloughs, wage reductions, hiring freezes and shorter hours simply did not do enough. A year into this recession, companies across the board are resorting to mass job cuts.

Home Depot, Caterpillar, Sprint Nextel and at least eight other companies announced on Monday they would cut more than 75,000 jobs in the United States and around the world — a gloomy start to the workweek for employees anxious about holding their own as the economy sinks. Caterpillar, the maker of heavy equipment, is slashing its payrolls by 16 percent. Texas Instruments said late in the day that it would eliminate 3,400 jobs, or 12 percent of its work force.

Jobs began disappearing in home building and mortgage operations early in the recession, then across finance and banking more generally. Now the ax is falling across large swaths of manufacturing, retailing and information technology, taking out workers from New York to Seattle. Just last week, Microsoft announced its first significant job cuts ever.

At Home Depot, profit for the three months that ended Nov. 2 was $756 million, or 45 cents a share, compared with $1.09 billion, or 60 cents a share, for the period a year ago. Even so, that was better than Wall Street expected. Sales at stores open at least a year declined by 8.3 percent, compared with a drop of 6.2 percent a year ago.

Caterpillar, an economic bellwether and component of the Dow Jones industrial average, reported fourth-quarter earnings of $661 million, or $1.08 per share, on Monday, down from $975 million, or $1.50 per share, a year earlier. Overall sales rose 6 percent to $12.92 billion. Analysts, on average, expected earnings of $1.31 per share on revenue of $12.84 billion, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

Sprint-Nextel, to be fair is struggling with enormous debt racked up when Sprint bought Nextel, coupled with the unfortunately timing of the maturity of that debt, last November, when credit markets were their tightest and refinancing almost impossible.

Texas Instruments Incorporated today announced fourth-quarter revenue of $2.49 billion, net income of $107 million and earnings per share (EPS) of $0.08. These financial results include restructuring charges of $0.13 per share. Without the charges, EPS would have been $0.21, considerably better than the company's mid-quarter expectations.

Microsoft Corp. today announced revenue of $16.63 billion for the second quarter ended Dec. 31, 2008, a 2% increase over the same period of the prior year. Operating income, net income and diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $5.94 billion, $4.17 billion and $0.47, declines of 8%, 11% and 6%, respectively, compared with the prior year.

So, apart from Sprint, which doesn't report earnings until next month, ALL OF THESE COMPANIES EARNED MONEY IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF THIS HORRIBLE BUSH DEPRESSION!

A caveat: just because a company makes money, I am not advocating that all attempts to save money or improve efficiencies and/or earnings should cease. I do not have a crystal ball on any one particular company, nor do I know what their internal projections show. Indeed, some of these earnings listed here may have been inflated by one-off, non-operating revenues, like the disposal of a subsidiary or a currency exchange effect. I don't know. I'm going to address this in generalities, tho.

This leads me to the point of this article: loyalty. Specifically, the objectives of business in an economic downturn. Caterpillar withstanding, none of these businesses has been through a real economic doldrum.

The main objective of a business in America is to earn a profit. I think we can agree on that, and further, we can agree this is a good thing: profits mean more business, more business means more jobs, more jobs means more people eating dinner as opposed to starving.

Companies expect loyalty from their employees in exchange for providing a job: that means you won't up and steal their products to sell yourself, you'll show up on time to work, and focus on your work. That should be the minimum contract, right? They have you from 9 to 5, you promise to give them 100% during those hours.

As we all know, that's not how it works: you work overtime. Or you have to do your banking during work hours, because your banker is only available at that time. Your kid gets sick. Your boss needs you to skip lunch for a project.

At the end of the day, these should all balance out. At the end of the day, you should be able to go home knowing you have a job tomorrow morning because you did a good job today.

Ah, but the truth is, your loyalty is only part of the company's equation. The company has to obey society's laws, too, for example.

A more important loyalty lay someplace else, however: the stockholders. And here's the rub. So long as American society adjudicates a company based on its stock price and performance only, workers will have the short end of the stick.

If stockholders don't like the performance of a particular stock, they will sell those shares and buy one that performs to their expectations. In effect, your work decisions can be countermanned by any number of shareholders deciding that you are not working hard enough. The stock price drops, the company, despite earning a profit, looks to shore up that price, and the two quickest ways to do that are to cut expenses or buy their own shares back.

If you don't believe me, here's a prediction: of the five companies named in the article I linked to, only Sprint's shares will experience no rise today. They may not all finish up above their close of yesterday, but they will all spend some time above that share price.

Cutting expenses, in most industries, means cutting into the largest expense area: salaries. And that means job losses.

Never mind that your firm made $661 million dollars in just three months. Nevermind that $661 million probably more than pays the annual salaries plus benefits of every single employee about to be laid off. The market has decided that $661 million wasn't enough. You'll have to go.

And there's the basic unfairness of the worker-employee contract: when you quit, you're expected to give two weeks notice and help train, if possible, your replacement. If the company lets you go, it's considered a benefit (and possible waste of money, from the shareholder's POV) to find you a new job or at least help pay for you to train for a new job.

And in truth, it really should be an obligation.

No, it should be considered an obligation to do as much as possible to keep you in your job. That would be a fair employment contract.

Why? Simple. Your life pretty much revolves around that job. You sleep one-third of your life away. Similarly, you work one-third of your life to pay for your bed, and for whatever else you do with the final third of your day. That means you've invested, just like a shareholder, in your company.

Indeed, the more progressive companies consider shareholders and employees as equals, and group them together as "stakeholders".

How to change this? It isn't going to be easy, but President Obama's plan to push the Employee Free Choice Act is a hopeful sign.

That's right: unions. Now many on the right, and too many on the left, will talk about how unions are evil, inefficient creations. And there's some truth to this: unions have a pretty ugly history of corruption, greed, theft, and obstruction.

They also provided you with your two weeks' vacation, your paid sick days, health insurance, 40 hour work week, health and safety regulations, and so on.

Indeed, unions are about the only tool at the worker's disposal to make sure he or she gets a fair shake in the employment contract. Think about it: it's you versus this large, multiheaded hydra of life-sapping commerce. Who do you think is going to win, unless you find allies?

If business behaved in an ethical manner, well, we wouldn't be in this particular mess. CEOs of banks wouldn't be greedy, wouldn't be answering to shareholders about how the other guy is lending money hand over fist and earning much more, even if it's from people who's credit is less than prime risk. CEOs would merely point out to shareholders that they are protecting their investments.

Which they would now, of course, be perfectly within their rights to do. But barn door after the horse has run out.

And if businesses behaved in an ethical manner, the people getting laid off now probably wouldn't, since there's a higher loyalty, to the nation as a whole, that these businesses ought to recognize. Laying people off now, when you're making a perfectly good profit, is a bad idea. It's anti-American, it makes the depression that much worse by forcing people to go on the public dole, and it disrespects the government's attempts to help out the truly needy by dumping more of them on the pile.

This must change.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"I'd Like To Buy A Clue, Vanna"

Someone got his little soldier up early this morning, and wrote...

Since Ronald Reagan's election in 1980, conservatives of various sorts, and conservatisms of various stripes, have generally been in the ascendancy. And a good thing, too! Conservatives have been right more often than not — and more often than liberals — about most of the important issues of the day: about Communism and jihadism, crime and welfare, education and the family. Conservative policies have on the whole worked — insofar as any set of policies can be said to "work" in the real world. Conservatives of the Reagan-Bush-Gingrich-Bush years have a fair amount to be proud of.

Bill. Really.
Lemme see…

Communism - Reagan spent hundreds of billions of dollars on unnecessary military crap, including Star Wars, to defeat a philosophy that crumbled under its own weight. Carter would have simply let the shit crumble.

Jihadism - Bill Clinton rolled up sixteen separate terror plots, including plots to bomb London, kill the pope, and blow up planes over Chinese airspace. George W Bush cleared brush.

Crime and welfare - Poverty and crime do go hand in hand. Crime and welfare didn't reduce until Bill Clinton's terms when he actually "spread the wealth" to the poor and middle class, the wealth that Reagan's "paean to the peon he'd pee on" missed.

Education - Reagan tried to dismantle the Department of Education. Even Bush was smart enough to know that education means jobs means our future. Again, Clinton raised education levels nationwide.

The Family - Abortion rates finally fell under Clinton. They rose under Reagan and the two Bushes. Divorce rates fell in the late 90s.

Someone want to clue this jackass in that Republicans are KILLING America?

Just. Go. Away.

PHOTO Blagojevich missed a deadline Wednesday to tell the Illinois Senate what people and documents he wanted to subpoena for the trial scheduled to begin Monday. Seriously, dude, how much of an invitation did you really need?
Rod Blagojevich, the absentee impeachee governor of Illinois, is in New York City today, trying to....
Well, I'm not quite sure what he's trying to do. Drum up sympathy? Maybe, altho it's really hard for me to feel sympathetic to such a monstrous creation of the Daley political machine as Blago.
State his case?
Well, I'm not sure he's being particularly successful in doing much more than making an utter ass of himself. To-wit:

Illinois' beleaguered Gov. Rod Blagojevich said today that when he was deciding who would take President Obama's Senate seat he considered appointing talk show queen Oprah Winfrey.

Um, hmm. Is he seriously suggesting that Oprah might want to bail him out of this jam, or else face the music from her audience and the press over "pay for play" accusations? There's certainly an underlying nuance to this.
And then there's this:

Blagojevich, wearing a blue ivy league shirt, told NBC's Amy Robach that he has not prepared mentally for possibly going to prison. The impeachment was triggered by Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest on criminal charges, including trying to auction off President Obama's vacant senate seat.

As Dec. 9 unfolded, Blagojevich told NBC, "I thought about Mandela, Dr. King and Gandhi and tried to put some perspective to all this and that is what I am doing now."

Blagojevich is not going to participate in his defense because he says the rules are rigged against him. He will not be in Springfield for his trial; instead he will be doing nationally televised interviews.

Even as we speak, Bono is re-writing "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" to include the following stanza:
One man caught on a hidden wire tape
One man he did slip
Free at last, they took your seat
But they could not take your hairrrr!
The rules are rigged against him, to be sure. Why? BECAUSE HE'S FUCKING GUILTY, and the law is designed to punish the guilty and exonerate the innocent, as best as society sees fit.
Rod, dude, seriously. It's time. Put down the cap pistol, cowboy up and let the trial begin. Face the legislature, defend yourself honestly and let the dignity of the proceedings remind you that it's not nice to screw around with the public trust. This wasn't a blow job you are accused of getting or giving, for that matter. It's a reminder that people in power need to remember why they were trusted with that power.
Power that you abused.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

We Need Moah Bideos Laik Diss

Mah cuzzens in Kee Wess got demseffs a qat cam an dey be felmen stoopid hoomens gittin drunked an stoff! Ah gone sell da DBD an call et "Hoomens Goen Wile!"