Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Stuff

Happy 100th birthday to Jackson Pollock (no, he didn’t live that long - great movie about him with Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden, by the way)...

...and it looks like Allen West is at it again here (you must be so proud, you Floridians dumb enough to actually help elect this sociopath; love Jim Manley's response - he'd better not apologize)...

...also, Martin Bashir is a guy I should pay more attention to, and I’ll try to do so; here is some spot-on commentary about the Repugs (Bashir also appeared on “Real Time with Bill Maher” this week and looked knowledgeable and a bit funny when I saw him)...

…and yep, it’s time for “Retro Saturday Night” – enjoy.

Saturday Mashup (1/28/12)

  • I give you BoBo in the New York Times yesterday (here, on the matter of President Obama’s State of the Union speech the other night)…
    There was nothing big, like tax reform or entitlement reform. There was no comprehensive effort to restore trust in government by sweeping away the tax credits and special-interest schemes that entangle Washington. Ninety percent of American workers work in the service economy, but Obama spoke mostly about manufacturing.

    Instead, there were a series of modest proposals that poll well. In that sense, it was the Democratic version of Newt Gingrich’s original “Contract With America” — a series of medium-size ideas with 80 percent approval ratings.
    Of course, the esteemed David Brooks doesn’t provide sourcing for this claim (figures). However, I think the following should be noted from here…
    The truth about the fabled Contract With America is much different than (the portrayal by Jeffrey Goldberg in the New Yorker) in fact, he is propping up a thoroughly discredited bit of revisionist history. Rather than being the catalyst for the Republican’s 1994 victory, as many reporters have since portrayed it, the Contract with America actually made its debut only six weeks before the 1994 election, which makes its effect on the outcome a debatable proposition.

    What isn’t debatable is that, back in the days before the 1994 election, the Contract’s celebrated “drama and clarity” was lost on the majority of Americans. The fact is, according to an article that appeared in the December 1994/January 1995 issue of Campaigns & Elections, “very few voters were even aware of this contract during the election: just 31 percent had heard of the Contract in a late October [1994] NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

    “Moreover, very few Republican candidates ran television ads promoting their signing of the contract, while scores of Democrats ran commercials attacking their opponents for supporting a proposal that would endanger Social Security and Medicare.”

    Similarly, a poll taken by New Jersey’s Star-Ledger in Febraury1995 found that 55 percent of New Jersey residents polled “have not read or heard much about” the Contract. The poll also found that “Among those who voted Republican, 55 percent say that the Contract with America was not a reason why they selected their candidate.”
    From what I read of these things, apparently Willard Mitt Romney is getting plenty of help from the Repug establishment in deflating the candidacy of Baby Newton Leroy (and some corporate media support too, including this shocking bit of actual reporting from Brooks’s co-worker Sheryl Gay Stolberg). So try as BoBo might, somehow I don’t think all the king’s horses and all the king’s men are going to put the disgraced former U.S. House speaker back together again.

  • Also (and keeping with the State of the Union), the Doughy Pantload is in high dudgeon (here)…
    President Obama's State of the Union address was disgusting.

    The president began with a moving tribute to the armed forces and their accomplishments. But as he has done many times now, he celebrated martial virtues not to rally support for the military, but to cover himself in glory -- he killed Osama bin Laden! -- and to convince the American people that they should fall in line and march in lockstep.

    He said of the military: "At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They're not consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach."

    That is disgusting.

    What Obama is saying, quite plainly, is that America would be better off if it wasn't America any longer. He's making the case not for American exceptionalism, but Spartan exceptionalism.
    Ummhere is more context on what Obama actually said…
    Think about the America within our reach: a country that leads the world in educating its people; an America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs; a future where we’re in control of our own energy; and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.

    We can do this. I know we can, because we’ve done it before. At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known.

    My grandfather, a veteran of Patton’s Army, got the chance to go to college on the G.I. Bill. My grandmother, who worked on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best products on Earth.

    The two of them shared the optimism of a nation that had triumphed over a depression and fascism. They understood they were part of something larger, that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share: the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.

    The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.
    Doesn’t sound so “disgusting” after all, does it?

    Of course, this is in keeping with the predictable right-wing bloviation on display here…

    And does Jonah have a problem with the “within our reach” language? If so, here are more examples from another president (and I’m not checking on Number 43’s veracity here, it should be noted, only the wording)…
    For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, my proposal would mean a substantial tax savings — $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year. And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach.

    It is in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply — and the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power — by even greater use of clean coal technology ... solar and wind energy ... and clean, safe nuclear power. We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol — using everything from wood chips, to grasses, to agricultural wastes. We have made a lot of progress, thanks to good policies in Washington and the strong response of the market. Now even more dramatic advances are within reach.
    And by the way, do you want to know how our pal Jonah rose to prominence to begin with? Check this out…
    Goldberg's career as a pundit was launched following his mother Lucianne Goldberg's role in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, when he wrote about the "media siege" on his mother's apartment in The New Yorker.[2][3]

    Goldberg has spoken of his mother and the Lewinsky scandal:

    My mother was the one who advised Linda Tripp to record her conversations with Monica Lewinsky and to save the dress. I was privy to some of that stuff, and when the administration set about to destroy Lewinsky, Tripp, and my mom, I defended my mom and by extension Tripp... I have zero desire to have those arguments again. I did my bit in the trenches of Clinton's trousers.[4]
    And Goldberg is the one telling us what is disgusting?

  • Finally (and I know I’m a little behind on this), I give you Nike CEO Phil Knight, saying the following during the funeral of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno (here)…
    "If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation, and not in Joe Paterno's response."
    And of course, the remark earned a standing ovation.

    Oh, so the investigation is the villain? Not the alleged child-raping activities of Jerry Sandusky, one of Paterno’s coaches? Not “Joe Pa” himself either, of course, for turning the matter over to the trustees and not going public MUCH earlier when the trustees apparently sat on their hands?

    Please read this about Nike from October 2009, particularly the following, to understand how Knight allowed those in his employment to be abused, perhaps in not quite as horrific a manner as some of those under Paterno’s charge were abused, but still bad all the same…
    … because of the pressure that was placed on Nike by consumers, women workers no longer have to prove they are menstruating to get their legally guaranteed leave. Also, workers are no longer beaten with machetes or threatened at gunpoint for union organizing activity.

    However, while we have seen the progress mentioned above, we still have no movement on the two most important issues - Nike workers are still being paid a poverty wage and Nike still refuses to bargain with their workers in good faith.
    I’m not going to try and equate Nike’s business practices with the recruiting and coaching activities of Joe Paterno, since I believe there is no comparison. What I’m saying, though, is that, given all this, Phil Knight has no right whatsoever to try and claim the moral high ground here.

    So, when it comes to demonizing the accusers of Penn State, including Joe Paterno, I have the following advice for Knight: Just (Don’t) Do It.

    (Sorry – too easy).
  • Friday, January 27, 2012

    Friday Stuff

    (I hope to get back to posting one of these days - couldn't quite make it happen today, though I have stuff in my "in" box.)

    Gee, I wonder if Oklahoma State Sen. Ralph Shortey thought the following was a documentary (here)…

    …and I keep asking about Baby Newton Leroy’s space-based air traffic control system because I just haven’t gotten an answer, and I don’t expect that I ever will (here – more “Nail. Hammer. Head.” stuff from Jon Stewart)…

    …and speaking of space (and getting a lot more serious), today is the solemn 45th anniversary of this tragedy…

    …and in another milestone, Brian Wilson played the first of four sold-out performances of "Smile" at The Royal Festival Hall, London ten years ago today; a clip follows (and by the way, concerning Wilson’s remarks at the end about The Beach Boys and The Beatles, it should be noted from the concert film that Sir Paul met Wilson backstage before one of the ’02 shows and wished him luck, which Wilson appreciated – a classy moment all around).

    Thursday, January 26, 2012

    Thursday Stuff

    (I'll try to do that posting thing tomorrow, but I can't promise anything yet.)

    RIP, Politifact (and kudos to Rachel here – try “Totally, Unarguably, And Completely 100 Percent True” instead, morons)...

    ...and here’s a poppin’ little number, for no particular reason (maybe The Mittster has this at one of his palaces – ??? the way, that’s all I have to say that is even remotely tangential to the 256,344,722nd Repug presidential candidates’ debate tonight).

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Tuesday Stuff

    Don’t look now, but here’s the latest anti-clean energy campaign from the Koch Brothers – yes, it’s another spot-on “Onion” parody, but is it really that far off?...

    In The Know: Coal Lobby Warns Wind Farms May Blow Earth Off Orbit

    …and yep, I admit that I like happy endings in videos, even though this doesn’t have one.

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    Monday Mashup (1/23/12)

    I’ll give you what I have time for, and it will have to be quick…

  • Good luck to Gabby Giffords – it’s more important that she does all she needs to do to heal as much as possible; politics are secondary to living your life (here).

  • In light of the passing of Joe Paterno, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit this New York Times column from last November by Penn State’s Michael Berube.

  • And sticking with sports, I give you the following (here, following the lead of "Orange Man" and NASCAR drivers before him)…
    Washington (CNN) -- Opposed to what he called the "out of control" growth of the federal government, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas declined an invitation to join his teammates at the White House on Monday.

    The award-winning Thomas, who last year led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup championship emblematic of National Hockey League supremacy, was one of three players missing when President Barack Obama met with the team to offer congratulations.

    According to a story on the team's website,, Thomas "opted out" of the White House visit. One of the other missing players was injured, and the third now plays for another team, according to the website story.

    A statement by the 37-year-old Thomas posted Monday on the team website said he opposed the "out of control" growth of the federal government that threatened "the rights, liberties, and property of the people."

    "This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the federal government," the statement said. "Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL."

    The statement ended by saying: "This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic." It concluded with the initials "TT."
    Yeah, well, that sounds oh so honorable, until you find out the following (here)…
    While his politics aren't common knowledge among many hockey fans, Thomas hasn't hidden his political leanings. He's a fan of former Fox News channel host Glenn Beck, once saying he aspired to appear on Beck's talk show as a guest.

    Big Government, a website founded by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, celebrated Thomas as a "true Tea Party patriot" for having "In God We Trust" and the Gadsden flag on his mask.
    Gee, ya’ think Thomas is actually ashamed of being a teabagger and doesn’t want to admit it?

    He may be an elite NHL goaltender, but I think he needs to realize that the White House is the people’s house, and when you refuse an invitation, you’re also insulting the people of this country. And while I know I once said that medal winners should return the hardware they received from Former President Numbskull, I never said that they should be personally disrespectful to him (deserved though that would have been).

    And Thomas is being personally disrespectful to President Obama. And by extension, he’s being personally disrespectful to all of us, under the guise of this “both sides are at fault” crap.

    And as an American citizen playing in the NHL (where he has a lot of company in that regard), he definitely should know better.

  • Finally (and timed a bit for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade yesterday), this Daily Tucker post from Repug U.S. House Rep Dave Schweikert tells us the story of how his mother, who was unwed while pregnant, was tempted to undergo an abortion but chose to carry him to term instead, turning him over to adoptive parents before Schweikert reunited with his birth mother later. It is truly touching stuff, and commendable on the part of all concerned.

    And I’d love to “leave it there,” but I can’t.

    This tells us how Schweikert claimed that jobs were the priority for him and his pals in the House upon the beginning of their term, though they flipped and then ended up passing the most draconian anti-abortion bill this country has ever seen.

    And as for being “pro-life,” he accepted $10,000 from the Koch Brothers here (of course, the garbage the Kochs want to spew into the air unabated will end up increasing cases of asthma and premature births, as noted here).

    And on top of that, Schweikert believes that the Department of Education is “unconstitutional” (here – so how exactly are our kids supposed to become educated?).

    So, typical for a “pro lifer” in my experience, Schweikert and his pals claim to support life in the womb, but once that kid pops out, he or she is on their own.

    Wonder what Schweikert’s birth mother thinks about that?
  • A Rotten Apple Tale Of A Trade Swindle

    As mad as I get at Ross Douthat, John Harwood, David Brooks et al from time to time, I don’t know any other paper except the New York Times that is capable of the type of reporting on display here, from yesterday (the topic is the gradual extinction of the manufacturing sector of this country, concerning both blue and white-collar jobs…well, the Inky is capable of something like this with Barlett and Steele, but their work hardly appears anymore, though I do link to it later here)…
    When Barack Obama joined Silicon Valley’s top luminaries for dinner in California last February, each guest was asked to come with a question for the president.

    But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?

    Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

    Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

    Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.
    I would ask that all of those people out there deifying Jobs and who were ready to risk injury to themselves upon the news of his death pay particular attention to that remark.

    In 2007, a little over a month before the iPhone was scheduled to appear in stores, Mr. Jobs beckoned a handful of lieutenants into an office. For weeks, he had been carrying a prototype of the device in his pocket.

    Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen, according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.

    People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People also carry their keys in their pocket. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

    After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.
    And why is that, exactly? Well…
    …a bid for the work arrived from a Chinese factory.

    When an Apple team visited, the Chinese plant’s owners were already constructing a new wing. “This is in case you give us the contract,” the manager said, according to a former Apple executive. The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory. It had a warehouse filled with glass samples available to Apple, free of charge. The owners made engineers available at almost no cost. They had built on-site dormitories so employees would be available 24 hours a day.

    The Chinese plant got the job.
    But wait, there’s more…
    A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

    “The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
    The last thing in the world I intend to do here is extol the supposed virtues of a country that houses its workers in dormitories (mentioned in the article), making them work in excess of 12 hours a day six days a week (also mentioned) and makes them sign agreements not to kill themselves when the workload gets too unmanageable (not mentioned in the Times story) and puts up nets around the outside of the dormitories to catch them if they try to kill themselves by jumping out a window (also not mentioned there, but here).

    Also, it should be pointed out (and I don’t want to shock anybody) that, apparently, in China they don’t have these stupid arguments all over the place about what is the role of state government versus the federal government, the requisite conservative versus liberal hissy fit, etc. , so much so that nothing gets done anymore (at least here). Someone in authority pretty much tells a worker “do this for almost nothing or I’ll shoot you” and it gets done (again, not something I admire).

    Still, you want to find out what Apple executives really think of the U.S. workforce?
    Apple executives believe there simply aren’t enough American workers with the skills the company needs or factories with sufficient speed and flexibility. Other companies that work with Apple, like Corning, also say they must go abroad.

    “We shouldn’t be criticized for using Chinese workers,” a current Apple executive said. “The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”
    Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if these nameless Apple executives actually had the guts to go “on the record” with these observations?

    And speaking of the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch, how exactly have they fared? I think you know the answer…
    As Apple’s overseas operations and sales have expanded, its top employees have thrived. Last fiscal year, Apple’s revenue topped $108 billion, a sum larger than the combined state budgets of Michigan, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Since 2005, when the company’s stock split, share prices have risen from about $45 to more than $427.

    Some of that wealth has gone to shareholders. Apple is among the most widely held stocks, and the rising share price has benefited millions of individual investors, 401(k)’s and pension plans. The bounty has also enriched Apple workers. Last fiscal year, in addition to their salaries, Apple’s employees and directors received stock worth $2 billion and exercised or vested stock and options worth an added $1.4 billion.

    The biggest rewards, however, have often gone to Apple’s top employees. (Timothy D.) Cook, Apple’s chief, last year received stock grants — which vest over a 10-year period — that, at today’s share price, would be worth $427 million, and his salary was raised to $1.4 million. In 2010, Mr. Cook’s compensation package was valued at $59 million, according to Apple’s security filings.
    But of course Cook and his pals don't think US unemployment is their problem. That makes Cook another economic sociopath as far as I’m concerned – continuing…
    A person close to Apple argued that the compensation received by Apple’s employees was fair, in part because the company had brought so much value to the nation and world. As the company has grown, it has expanded its domestic work force, including manufacturing jobs. Last year, Apple’s American work force grew by 8,000 people.
    So did Apple have any thoughts on how to generate more U.S. jobs?
    …the executives had suggested that the government should reform visa programs to help companies hire foreign engineers. Some had urged the president to give companies a “tax holiday” so they could bring back overseas profits which, they argued, would be used to create work. Mr. Jobs even suggested it might be possible, someday, to locate some of Apple’s skilled manufacturing in the United States if the government helped train more American engineers.
    Another “tax holiday” and more H1B visas - more non-answers…

    So it appears that anyone with at least half a brain in this country knows that we need an emphasis on education at all levels to try and close this gap and create more jobs. And this comes at a time when at least one of the leading presidential contenders offered by one of our major political parties in this country want to abolish the Department of Education (here).

    But not to worry; the story tells us at the end that Steve Jobs got his unscratchable glass surface for his phones that he could show off at the California dinner party with President Obama (in front of executives whose combined worth was $69 billion, the story notes).

    The Times story fails to note, however, whether or not these corporate vampires could see their own reflections.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Sunday Stuff

    Yep, looks like the Repugs are trying to bring the so-called “right to work” (as in, “right” to get utterly fleeced) to Hoosier-land, run by former Bushie Mitch Daniels (here)…

    …and oh, to be such a put-upon rock star, fending off roadies while walking around with your shirt off and being fawned over by the media – nice tune anyway.