Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Mashup (7/25/11)

  • Remember all of those stories/posts/whatever that have appeared proclaiming Flush Limbore as the head of the Republican Party, as noted here (though I thought that mantle was worn by Roger Ailes of Fix Noise)? And remember how our “serious” corporate media scoffed at them?

    Well, this tells us the following…
    Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) outlined the GOP's debt ceiling plan to conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh on Monday before showing it to his conference.

    Limbaugh talked about the call he received from Boehner during his radio program Monday. Limbaugh's support of the plan would be advantageous to Republicans because it might help rally the conservative base.

    The conservative radio host said Boehner outlined his two-step plan that includes $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and a $1 trillion hike to the debt ceiling. In the second step, a commission would be appointed to come back with additional deficit-reduction proposals, which the Congress could then vote on.
    For the purposes of comparison, try imagining the reaction if Harry Reid or Charles Schumer had announced their debt reduction plans to Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow before their own party membership.

  • Further, this story tells us the following…
    WASHINGTON - Strong second-quarter earnings from McDonald's, General Electric and Caterpillar on Friday are just the latest proof that booming profits have allowed corporate America to leave the Great Recession far behind.

    But millions of ordinary Americans are stranded in a labor market that looks like it's still in recession. Unemployment is stuck at 9.2 percent, two years into what economists call a recovery. Job growth has been slow and wages stagnant.

    "I've never seen labor markets this weak in 35 years of research," says Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

    Wages and salaries accounted for just 1 percent of economic growth in the first 18 months after economists declared that the recession had ended in June 2009, according to Sum and other Northeastern researchers.

    In the same period after the 2001 recession, wages and salaries accounted for 15 percent. They were 50 percent after the 1991-92 recession and 25 percent after the 1981-82 recession.

    Corporate profits, by contrast, accounted for an unprecedented 88 percent of economic growth during those first 18 months. That's compared with 53 percent after the 2001 recession, nothing after the 1991-92 recession and 28 percent after the 1981-82 recession.
    So what do our corporate masters have to say about this?
    "Lack of clarity on a U.S. deficit-reduction plan, trade policy, regulation, much needed tax reform and the absence of a long-term plan to improve the country's deteriorating infrastructure do not create an environment that provides our customers with the confidence to invest," Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman said.
    Tisk, tisk, the poor dears...

    As noted here, Caterpillar threatened to move 23,000 jobs out of Illinois, even though the company is doing just fine. And it was accused here of demoting an executive who found a $2 billion tax dodge.

    So no, I don’t believe corporate extortion and threatening a whistleblower who uncovered some financial malfeasance “provides our customers with the confidence to invest" either.

  • Next, Nick Kristof wrote a “Nail. Hammer. Head.” column in the New York Times yesterday…
    IF China or Iran threatened our national credit rating and tried to drive up our interest rates, or if they sought to damage our education system, we would erupt in outrage.

    Well, wake up to the national security threat. Only it’s not coming from abroad, but from our own domestic extremists.

    We tend to think of national security narrowly as the risk of a military or terrorist attack. But national security is about protecting our people and our national strength — and the blunt truth is that the biggest threat to America’s national security this summer doesn’t come from China, Iran or any other foreign power. It comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.

    While one danger to national security comes from the risk of default, another comes from overzealous budget cuts — especially in education, at the local, state and national levels. When we cut to the education bone, we’re not preserving our future but undermining it.

    It should be a national disgrace that the United States government has eliminated spending for major literacy programs in the last few months, with scarcely a murmur of dissent.

    Consider Reading Is Fundamental, a 45-year-old nonprofit program that has cost the federal government only $25 million annually. It’s a public-private partnership with 400,000 volunteers, and it puts books in the hands of low-income children. The program helped four million American children improve their reading skills last year. Now it has lost all federal support.

    “They have made a real difference for millions of kids,” Kyle Zimmer, founder of First Book, another literacy program that I’ve admired, said of Reading Is Fundamental. “It is a tremendous loss that their federal support has been cut. We are going to pay for these cuts in education for generations.”
    And as Dr. Jim Taylor told us here in April 2010…
    In 2009 alone, RIF gave out 15 million books at 17,000 sites nationwide. Since its birth in 1966, RIF has distributed more than 365 million free books to over 29 million children. All this on an annual budget of around $25 million a year (for those of you who are counting, that amounts to .0005 of the total 2011 discretionary budget for the Department of Education).

    Why is RIF so important? As the program's name suggests, reading is fundamental to future academic success, upward mobility, and economic security. Yet, if you've seen any of the research on reading proficiency in the U.S., you would be appalled. Thirty-six percent of American 4th graders read below the "basic" level on reading tests and that percentage increases to 54 percent for economically disadvantaged children. And reading proficiency among high-school students in the U.S. has been on the decline for years. Moreover, fewer than half of families read to their young children every day and, by 8th grade, only 19 percent of children read on their own daily. Oh, by the way, an estimated 40 million adults can't read a story to a child. For many young children, RIF gives them the opportunity to learn to read and prepare for future success in school. And, for our country, RIF helps prepare these children to be vital and contributing members of our society.
    Thus far, I haven’t been able to track down whether or not Mikey the Beloved voted to cut RIF funding or not. If and when I do, I’ll update this post accordingly.

  • Continuing, I came across the following sports-related tidbit here…
    BALTIMORE -- Baltimore Orioles left fielder Luke Scott is probably done for the season, or at best headed for an extended stay on the disabled list with a troublesome shoulder injury.

    Scott has a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He was activated from the 15-day DL before Friday night's game against the Los Angeles Angels, but after going 0 for 3 he was poised to be replaced by a pinch hitter for his final at-bat as the designated hitter. The game ended with Nolan Reimold in the on-deck circle in Scott's place.

    "He was not going to take that last at-bat," manager Buck Showalter said of Scott.

    Scott hit a team-high 27 home runs in 2010, but this year he's batting .220 with nine homers and 22 RBIs in 64 games.
    Aww, poor Luke Scott. You remember him, don’t you? He was the guy who said here that “Obama does not represent America – he was not born here.”

    Bye bye for 2011, wingnut.

  • Finally, on another sports-related note (shocking, I know), I wanted to comment on the following article…
    The hard-partying ways of Flyers captain Mike Richards and center Jeff Carter played a major role in the organization's decision to trade both players in June, say two Flyers who played with the pair last season.

    Carter was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets for free agent forward Jakub Voracek and first- and third-round picks in the draft, and Richards was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn.

    The two unnamed players said that the Flyers front office was disappointed in Carter and Richards' longstanding party lifestyle and that teammates were concerned about the pair's drinking.

    Shortly after his arrival in December 2009, coach Peter Laviolette instituted what players came to call the "Dry Island." Laviolette asked team members to commit to not drinking for a month, and each player was asked to write his number on a locker room board as a pledge. No. 17 (Carter) and No. 18 (Richards) were absent from the board on the first Dry Island, as well as the estimated five more times the policy was instituted.

    In a phone interview Thursday, Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren confirmed that Richards and Carter hadn't put their numbers on the board, but said there had been others who declined. "We carry 23 players and there wasn't 23 numbers up there."

    Holmgren was "really upset that this is out there. That's our locker room. Our inner sanctum. Our board. Someone's crossing a line here," in discussing the Dry Island.
    First, I should point out that this appeared in a “gossip” column for The Daily News, which is exactly where it belongs (and it should be noted that Carter’s agent Rick Curran said the “story” was “bullshit” and criticized the last-year-Flyers who didn’t come forward with their names to back the accusations, which I think is a very good point).

    However, I think this ties into the coverage of how the Flyers are supposed to be so much more able to compete for the Stanley Cup now that they’ve traded two marquee players for some rookies and young guys who haven’t established themselves yet, which I think is total fiction.

    Yes, it’s possible that all of the team’s moves could pan out perfectly. But I see no coverage or commentary anywhere from our lapdog Philadelphia sports media (no doubt wetting themselves over the possibility of taking issue with The Almighty Ed Snider) in the event that it doesn’t.

    And I don’t know what Mike Richards and Jeff Carter did in their time off ice, and I don’t care (it’s also nobody’s business, really). What I do know is that they developed into elite players and led the team to a level of accomplishment that hadn’t been seen around here in awhile (since the ill-fated Eric Lindros era, I guess). Their level of play and the statistics they compiled speak for themselves.

    And when Jeff Carter is among one of the league leaders in scoring for Columbus next year and Mike Richards is helping the Los Angeles Kings to become a dominant Western Conference team once more, that will speak a hell of a lot louder to me than how much time they spent on “the Dry Island.”

    All Paul Holmgren had to do after the 2010 finals was sign free agent Antti Niemi of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, and all of this could have been avoided. But we are where we are.
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