Friday, August 28, 2009

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) I'm tempted to fly down to DC to observe this.

2) Idiotic Idea #3,457,986 that Bill Gates has come up with since he stopped blatantly ripping Steve Jobs off. It would work IF you expanded the area covered by a factor of at least ten. If Gates can't get that climate is NOT weather, how can we expect the average American to get it?

3) Of course, Gates might just want to stick to his knitting. By the way, take a close look at the laptop in that picture...

4) More signs that things are turning around slowly.


6) Shop at Trader Joe's

7) I thought the border fence was supposed to stop Mexicans from getting rich off the labors of hard-working Americans?

8) PROTIP: If the alcohol isn't going in your mouth, ur doin it rong!

9) I had the opportunity to buy this house about twenty years ago, and passed on it. With furnishings, I'm almost as tall as it is wide.

10) I'm guessing Mt Vernon, WA is not a happenin' town...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lifting Clouds

The Fall is usually a time of bleaker economic news than the rest of the year. Not so much this year:
Aug. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Fewer Americans filed claims for jobless benefits last week, another sign the economy is pulling out of the worst recession since the 1930s.

Applications fell by 10,000 to 570,000, a higher level than forecast, in the week ended Aug. 22 from a revised 580,000 the week before, Labor Department data showed today in Washington. The total number of people collecting unemployment insurance fell to the lowest level since April.

Companies’ staff cuts are easing as government stimulus measures help stabilize the housing and manufacturing industries. At the same time, a rebound in hiring will take longer to occur, restraining the consumer spending that accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.

[...]A separate report from the Commerce Department showed the U.S. economy contracted less than forecast in the second quarter as a jump in government spending and smaller cutbacks by consumers helped mitigate a record plunge in inventories.

I won't bore you with an analysis of that last paragraph. Suffice it to say that companies are running leaner operations than they had been, and the economy is starting to drift back towards growth.

The wildly successful Cash For Clunkers program, ended Monday but launched July 24, wasn't even a factor in the 2nd quarter, which means that the 3rd quarter will probably show a further slowing in the rate of recession, if not a turnaround.

New homes sales rose ten percent in July, which is an amazing leap when you factor in the thought that mortgage lending was nearly non-existent until the second TARP bailout enacted under President Obama. Still, sales are off 13.4% from July 2008. July 2009 was the fourth straight month to show a gain in new home sales.

That's not to say housing is out of the woods yet. Lending to builders is still tighter than a maiden aunt's ass which means new home construction, a vital component of the American economy, is moribund. What you're seeing is the sale of previously built homes that sat empty.

Still, things could be much worse and the economy could be in a lot worse shape than it is. Right now, things are still teetering on the precipice like a Keystone Kops clown car. We could still tumble.

But at least I have faith that this driver is not going to put the car back into gear and drive us off the cliff like the last President nearly did!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

What can be said about Ted Kennedy that you haven't read a million other places today?

The life of the last remaining true progressive authority (there are others more liberal, to be sure, like Russ Feingold or Bernie Sanders) can be summed up in one way I doubt you've read anyplace else.

For all his flaws and faults, he became the lightning rod for right wing hatred.

You don't see Rush Limbaugh making fun of Feingold. You don't see anyone making fun of Bernie Sanders. In his death, even, the right wing extremists are making fun of Ted Kennedy.

You know what that tells me? It tells me that he had them terrified.

Ted Kennedy not only represented a link to a time when liberal legislation was effected, heck, even admired (civil rights, Social Security and Medicare, clean air and water), he ultimately came to embody those core principles of liberal philosophy.

Our lives are better for Ted Kennedy's existence. Here was a wealthy man who understood that rising tides may lift all boats, but that we need not wait for a rising tide to fix those boats that are leaky and in need of repair.

Conservative muttonheads knew this, which is why they toiled so hard to keep mocking his weight or his affairs or his one moment of avoidable tragedy.

Granted, there are some mistakes you never stop paying for, and the tragic death of Mary Jo should be one of those, but that those knucklebrains couldn't find fault with his legislative savvy or his programs and policies speaks volumes about their fear of Kennedy.

Indeed, one might make the case that life's plan included having Kennedy demeaned and belittled, as it would make him a more effective legislator, able to be scrutinized for himself, and not his stances. The distraction became the illusion became the reality.

When JFK said in 1961 "Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans," I wonder if he knew the last surviving torchbearer would be his younger brother, Ted?

I raise my voice and join the chorus of those who have asked that the healthcare reform that Ted Kennedy fought so hard to enact in his lifetime be passed immediately, that President Obama call a special session of Congress, and insist that a public option be included, and that the "Senator Edward M. Kennedy Healthcare Reform Bill of 2009" be passed by unanimous voice vote, in tribute to this man, this great man, this lion of the left.

The torch has been dropped, my friends. Who among us will agree to pick it up, for Ted's sake?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Days Of Swine And Roses

It could get ugly this fall:
Up to half of the population of the U.S. could come down with the swine flu and 90,000 could die this season, according to a dire report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

[...]"It's a plausible scenario that we need to be prepared for," said Marty Cetron, the Center for Disease Control's director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.

The report says that under a worst-case scenario, between 60 and 120 million Americans could get sick with the swine flu and another 30 million could contract the virus but not show symptoms. Between 30,000 and 90,000 could die -- more than twice the annual average of deaths associated with the seasonal flu. Those deaths generally occur in people older than 65.

It should be noted that swine flu eruptions continue throughout the northern hemisphere, despite the onset of summer weather, which usually mitigates flu outbreaks.

So we're looking at a highly contagious, highly infectious disease that shows signs of only strengthening as people are forced into closer contact behind closed doors.

Not fun.

Keep in mind that a far larger percentage than normal of those getting ill with this flu will be younger, healthy adolescents and young adults. It's not clear if the same hiccup in the affected age will trend in the death statistics. One presumes that a healthy adult will be in a far better position to fight off a bug than the elderly, very young, or infirm.


The 1918 flu pandemic saw an unusual spike in young adults precisely because of the nature of that virus (more avian than swine) and possibly because it was similar to another flu outbreak 30 years earlier.

With swine flu and avian flu currently exposed to one another in the southern hemisphere, it would be prudent to follow this story a bit more closely than current surveys indicate it has been.

It could be ugly. It might not be. My guess is it will be uglier than the CDC and HHS are making it out to be, particularly once the vaccine runs low.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vacation, Have To Get Away

It astounds me the hoopla raised over a simple week away from the White House:
Senior White House officials have not ruled out the possibility of a town hall -- which, in Obama world, might qualify as a fun vacation activity.

That's probably not First Lady Michelle Obama's notion of the ideal vacation. For months, aides have been planning as normal a summer getaway as possible, whittling down the possible sites until they found a secluded spot on a tony island, where stars and presidents have long been able to expect privacy.
It is, in my opinion, not coincidental that the networks scheduled all these Republicans (including Joe LiebeRman) to speak this weekend, just as the video of Obama stepping off a plane in the Vineyard hit the wires.

After all, we all recall what happened the first summer that Bush took six weeks off to vacation:
But I digress...

The concern trolling on the part of the Republicans (including Joe LiebeRman) has been touching but unnecessary. After all, when Bush was running up half trillion dollar deficits during our last recall? The one that lasted nearly his entire first term? one seemed to mind. Indeed, Veep Cheney pointed out that deficits don't matter.

So long as you're running a war of aggression on a people half a world away that did nothing to harm you.

Once you actually try to help people, well, Katie bar the door!

Even a Nobel Prize-winning economist seems to think the Republicans (including Joe LiebeRman) are talking out their asses.

Others have pointed out that, just because the US government runs a postal service, private businesses are still highly competitive and highly profitable, and that is a good analogy. After all, the US government is mandated by Congress to provide affordable mail delivery to each and every address in the United States. Neither UPS nor Fedex could possibly achieve that and make a profit. They can make a profit on niches that the USPS can't really focus its resources on.

It's called limiting a bureaucracy.

But I put a different case: unions.

Some would make the claim that the government getting into the health insurance business would put private insurance out of work.


There are union workplaces, and non-union, and if anything, the non-union places seem to be more competitive once the trouble of swallowing the fall-out from union-based benefits is worked through.

After all, if a union shop gets a vacation concession, other companies will start to lose workers to those union shops that have greater goodies, until they too offer more competitive employment benefits.

Then things straighten up and fly right and non-union shops can still gouge their workers in other areas.

What unions provide is a single large entity that can negotiate with large corporations, thus balancing an equation that is woefully tilted against an individual worker.

Government ideally should be the firewall between individuals and corporations, but sadly that has been co-opted by the SCOTUS, which has ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals, plus a few more. Among those rights is the right to free speech, and by extension, to donate to political campaigns.

The concentration of cash in a corporation's coffers makes this a slam-dunk: they will buy candidates that individuals could not possibly afford.

Except thru unions, of course.

The analogy coalesces when one realizes that any health care reform must include a governmental component whereby doctors, hospitals, and yes, insurance companies must deal with some entity with the resources that a government can bring to bear in an industry.

Just like a union can legitimately be the only organ an individual can use to address the inequities of the working world.

This is the sole legitimate function of government: to protect its citizenry.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Quick Admin Note

I know, it's been awfully quiet here on the ranch.

Mea culpa. I left for vacation in such a rush that I forgot to ask Katrina to come in and feed the cat (THUMBPER adds, "Dass riet! Ah had ta et howseplans awl wik!").
And I forgot to set up a bunch of posts to tide you guys over.

I'll figure some way to make it all up to you folks, even you, Stoopid!. Sorry about that.