Commentary on whatever I am thinking about, usually written while watching baseball.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Wolf Blitzer clearly knows who butters his bread. Nice job, water boy. Too bad it took Charles Barkley to talk some sense and undo all the hard work being done by CNN’s bullshit graphic and Wolf’s leading question.
Here’s CNN’s idea of an average tax bill, by way of Think Progress. If you make less than $161,000 a year, you’re “below average.”
And, just in case you don’t click through, Think Progress also provided the rest of the chart, the part that presents the tax bills of the average plebeian.
|Income||Avg. tax bill||Avg. tax bill|
It never occured to Wolf and his ilk that the answer to “How do you feel about paying higer taxes if you’re making millions of dollars a year?” could be, “I’m OK with that.” Barkley might be a member of their economic class, but he isn’t one of them.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Who else is surprised to learn that our “strong ally” in the war on terror hadn’t done this before?
Pakistan banned the Taliban on Monday, toughening its stance after the Islamic militant group claimed responsibility for deadly suicide bombings against one of Pakistan's most sensitive military installations.You don’t suppose Bush was just trying to prop up American stooge Musharraf with that strong ally talk, do you?
The ban imposed by the fragile governing coalition comes just a week after the ouster of Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally whose departure has prompted concern that the nuclear-armed country is too unstable to beat back extremists.
Anyone caught aiding the Taliban in Pakistan — which will have its bank accounts and assets frozen — faces up to 10 years in prison.
The Interior Ministry announced the ban 24 hours after rejecting a Taliban cease-fire offer in Bajur tribal region, a rumored hiding place for Osama bin Laden, where an army offensive has reportedly killed hundreds in recent weeks.
Another 200,000 people are said to have fled their homes.
Labels: War on Terror
Friday, August 22, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
And it begins ...
It’s a little early for an October surprise, isn’t it?
Sen. John McCain received two suspicious letters at two campaign offices, with at least one containing an unidentified white powder, U.S. Secret Service and McCain's spokespeople said.If this turns out not to be flour or something sent by some harmless kook, what does this do to the government’s (weak-ass) claim that (government scientist) Bruce Ivins sent the post-9/11 anthrax letters and then (conveniently) commited suicide as authorities were (finally) closing in?
Sen. John McCain's camp received two threatening letters, including one that contained white powder.
One of the letters was sent to McCain's campaign office in suburban Denver, the other to an office in Manchester, New Hampshire, causing evacuations of both offices.
The Denver letter, which contained threatening language and the white powder, was received at 3 p.m. (5 p.m. ET) at McCain's regional campaign office, McCain's campaign said.
The [New Hampshire] letter was handwritten in black ink and the envelope had a Denver return address, Sadosky said. The letter was addressed personally to McCain, a campaign source said.
And what kind of idiot would put a return address on a letter like this?
Now that McCain has left himself open for a haymaker from Obama by revealing that he doesn’t know how many houses he owns, is it already time to reignite fears of terrorist attack, to switch the subject to the issue that is McCain’s alleged strength?
And is this an attempt to equate “Denver” with “anthrax” or “terrorism” right before the Democratic National Convention in ... Denver? An attempt to make sure there’s plenty of network coverage of “the hightened security around the convention site after threatening letters containing a suspicious white powder were sent to campaign offices of Republican candidate Senator John McCain with a Denver return address”?
Of course, I hope this is nothing, and that nobody gets hurt. And I certainly don’t want to make light of what potentially could be a serious situation. But I’ve heard “wolf” too many times to take this kind of thing at face value anymore. And if that makes me less safe, I have the Republican party, and the Bush administration in particular, to thank for that. But for now, this smacks more of political desperation than terrorism.
Labels: Election follies (I hope)
Which presidential candidate is the elitist who is out of touch with ordinary Americans?
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.It would be easy to paint this exchange as an elderly man forgetting basic information about himself and, for all I know, that could be what’s going on here. But I doubt it. More likely, what we have here is a candidate who is uncomfortable with the attention focused on his wealth at a time when he’s attempting to paint his opponent as an elitist snob and himself as John Everyman. In this case, it’s every man who ever forgot how many homes he owns.
"I think — I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told Politico in Las Cruces, N.M. "It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you."
The correct answer is at least four, located in Arizona, California and Virginia, according to his staff. Newsweek estimated this summer that the couple owns at least seven properties.
The reason most people can’t relate to this situation isn’t that they never have any trouble remembering how many homes they own, it’s that they are never asked this question in the first place. It’s like being asked how much you pay your butler: It’s not relevant to most Americans’ circumstances.
But you gotta admire McCain’s attempt to muddy the water by referring to condominiums, though it seems the straight talker quickly realized that just because a property is a condo doesn’t explain why one would not know he owns it. I mean, that’s someone who is really determined not to tell the truth.
Such steely resolve.
People who lose their homes to foreclosure have no problem remembering how many homes they own.
UPDATE: Perhaps this explains some of McCain’s confusion.
UPDATE 2: The liberal media do their duty.
UPDATE 3: Obama’s ad.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I’ve been saying for years that the social stigma about discussing salaries benefits employers and hurts employees. Instead of your salary being a reflection of your worth to your employer, it becomes a reflection of how little your employer can get you to accept. Instead of being valued, you’re being exploited.
When a job listing asks for your salary history, the employer is saying, “I’m not looking for a professional who will help my organization succeed, I’m looking for a bargain.” After all, your salary history has nothing to do with their salary structure. And when listings say to include your salary requirements, and that resumes without salary requirements will not be considered, the employer is looking to start a bizarro bidding war in which the biggest sucker rises to the bottom. If there were truth in advertising, ads like these would list “chump” as the job title.
Professor Lawler has found that most people carry a mental image of where they stand in relation to their fellow workers. Significantly, he said, that image is likely to be wrong. We underestimate what those in positions above us make and overestimate what those in positions comparable to ours make — a surefire recipe for feeling underpaid.If I learned that a colleague doing the same job was making more than I was, I would be pissed. Not at the colleague, but at the employer who allowed that inequity to exist. Yet most employers probably would blame, and likely punish, the person who revealed the inequity.
So is the answer for every workplace to tell all? Penelope Trunk thinks so.
Last month, she started a flurry of debate on her blog, The Brazen Careerist (penelopetrunk.com) with a post advocating salary transparency (and in which she conceded that she hadn’t yet laid the groundwork for such a policy at her company).
Her logic was that secrecy about salaries masks inequity. What you are paid should reflect your worth to your employer. Companies should have a range of pay for any given job, and if a worker is at the low end of that range there should be a reason.
Instead, Ms. Trunk wrote, what you are paid more often reflects what your employer can get you for. Skilled negotiators earn more. Employees who are more personable or favored for intangible reasons earn more. So do those who were hired when the manager was either desperate or flush. That results in a salary scale that makes no sense, and leaves many feeling cheated.
Secrecy favors an employer in hiring. It can be difficult for potential employees to know if an offer is fair if they are blindfolded. In the absence of widespread transparency by companies, Web sites are filling the gap.
“Information is good and more information is better,” said Robert Hohman, a founder of Glassdoor.com, which started in June. Glassdoor allows people to anonymously post salary information, making it one of a growing number of Web sites that list salaries by specific company rather than by general job description.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Don’t you just hate when you’re minding your own business, just trying to get through the day, when suddenly you unintentionally initiate legal proceedings?
Republican presidential candidate John McCain's divorce was amicable enough that he and his ex-wife jointly brought a lawsuit 10 years later to recover damages for lost mementos, but it wasn't amicable enough to prevent McCain's mother from suing his ex-wife to get back some personal property.How do you sue someone unintentionally? What was she trying to do when she inadvertently sued Carol McCain? (Carol is the wife John McCain divorced after she was in a horrible, disfiguring car accident, not the wealthy heiress wife he was fucking on the side and married while he was still married to Carol.)
Both lawsuits were settled out of court decades ago and before they went to trial, but records of them are kept in the archives of the city courthouse in Alexandria.
Curiously, although the records clearly list the plaintiffs, McCain's campaign says that the Arizona senator didn't know about or authorize the 1990 lawsuit with his ex-wife, Carol, and that his mother's 1980 lawsuit was filed "unintentionally." And McCain's 96-year-old mother, Roberta, says she never sued Carol.
This might be the first unintentional suing since Stig O'Hara sued himself accidentally during the breakup of the Rutles.
I don’t give a hot, steaming pile of rat shit about some age-old pissing contest over who owns what. I care that the rhetoric of an American presidential campaign has degenerated to the level of half-funny British satire. And I care that, in the not-arriving-soon-enough post-Bush era, a major-party nominee for the presidency of the United States and his surrogates A) still think that the American people are stupid enough to buy such a ridiculous explanation and B) have so little regard for the truth that they are willing to offer this shit for public consumption.
Remember when people used to take offense to being lied to? Apparently it doesn’t bother the people in the
Labels: Election follies
Friday, August 15, 2008
Friday Afternoon Music Club
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
A reef of gold buried beneath this vast, parched grassland arcs across some of the world's poorest countries. Where the ore is rich, industrial mines carve it out. Where it is not, the poor sift the earth.Learn all you can about that jewelry you have your eye on before you plunk down one cent.
These hard-working miners include many thousands of children. They work long hours at often dangerous jobs in hundreds of primitive mines scattered through the West African bush. Some are as young as 4 years old.
In a yearlong investigation, The Associated Press visited six of these bush mines in three West African countries and interviewed more than 150 child miners. The agency's journalists watched as gold mined by children was bought by itinerant traders. And through interviews and customs documents, they tracked gold from these mines on a 4,800-kilometer, or 3,000-mile, journey to Mali's capital city and then on to Switzerland, where it entered the world market.
They pound the dirt with wooden posts for hours until it is as fine as flour. They wash the dirt in a large sieve-like box. Then they squat next to a plastic tub, pour mercury into their bare hands and rub it into the mud like a woman scrubbing laundry on rocks.
Mercury attracts gold. But it also attacks the brain and can cause tremors, speech impediments, retardation, kidney damage and blindness.
Labels: All Children Left Behind
Time for an overhaul
Another reason we’re in such a deep hole.
Two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, according to a new report from Congress.When 75 percent of all U.S. corporations aren’t paying any federal taxes, an overhaul of the tax code is needed.
The study by the Government Accountability Office, expected to be released Tuesday, said about 68 percent of foreign companies doing business in the U.S. avoided corporate taxes over the same period.
Collectively, the companies reported trillions of dollars in sales, according to GAO's estimate.
"It's shameful that so many corporations make big profits and pay nothing to support our country," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who asked for the GAO study with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Our national embarrassment
This is what you get when
Is this what restoring dignity to the White House looks like?
Labels: The Vacation President
Sunday, August 10, 2008
The party of stupid
Know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”In the Republican worldview, everything is black and white, and stopping to think before doing things like drilling holes that you KNOW won’t produce oil for years or even starting a war is weak-willed hand wringing.
In the case of oil, this takes the form of pretending that more drilling would produce fast relief at the gas pump. In fact, earlier this week Republicans in Congress actually claimed credit for the recent fall in oil prices: “The market is responding to the fact that we are here talking,” said Representative John Shadegg.
What about the experts at the Department of Energy who say that it would take years before offshore drilling would yield any oil at all, and that even then the effect on prices at the pump would be “insignificant”? Presumably they’re just a bunch of wimps, probably Democrats.
So why are Republicans gushing about offshore drilling, even though the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Energy Information Administration says, “access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030”? That's exactly why. You don’t think Republicans are in a hurry to take a real bite out of the hands that feed them, do you? No, they’d rather take a fake bite and bullshit voters into believing that it’s a real bite.
And the bullshit campaign is starting to pay off. A recent poll shows that 51 percent of voters now believe that offshore drilling will have a significant impact on oil prices within a year, even though both George Bush and John McCain have said that the only short-term impact of drilling would be “psychological.”
Plus, Republicans finally found a talking point that stuck. After months of failed narritives, Republicans have finally realized that it’s the economy, stupid, that voters care about. It’s hard to blame them for taking their time in getting around to economic issues, considering who is responsible for the current state of the economy. (Remember that $128 billion surplus someone inherited?) So after months of bragging about the alleged success of "the surge" to a war-weary public and accusing Obama of being a “celebrity” in the mold of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, the GOP finally hit a nerve. And all they had to do was take advantage of the desperate by telling them what they desperately want to hear: That there’s a simple, immediate answer to their trouble that won’t cost them anything.
(And while we’re at it, John McCain is going to eliminate the deficit without raising taxes. Yeah, that’s going to happen.)
So Krugman says that the Republican party is the party of stupid, but he’s only talking about the simple-minded solutions the GOP offers to problems facing the American people. But I will go a step further and say that Republicans count on stupid. They need stupid. Stupid is as essential to their success as fundraising. They need voters to believe bullshit, like Hurricane Katrina caused no oil spills and that offshore drilling is the immediate answer to skyrocketing fuel prices. That’s why Fox News is so important to the Republican party: it’s williness to say anything, to repeat any lie — no matter how ridiculous — to support the GOP narrative. More to the point, Fox News is important to Republicans because it helps keep people stupid.
It’s significant, I think, that for the Republican party, simple-mindedness is reserved only for policy positions. They’re quite shrewd when it comes to campaigning, election tampering and disseminating talking points. Which leads me to believe that these are the areas where they are focusing their attention, and that they aren’t interested in solutions to the problems of American people. They’re interested in power, not governing.
Meet the new boss
Friday, August 01, 2008
Friday news dump
More news that the Bush administration tried to slip in under the radar.
The nation’s employers eliminated 51,000 jobs in July, the seventh consecutive contraction in the labor market, as the unemployment rate reached a four-year high, signs that the pressure on business owners and consumers is likely to continue.Note the “good” news: The number of layoffs was less than 75,000. That means things are getting worse, but more slowly than analysts thought they would.
Still, the decline in the job market has softened since the spring. The number of layoffs was less than the 75,000 that economists had expected, and the government said that businesses cut fewer jobs in June and May than previously reported.
Still, the nation’s unemployment rate has steadily moved higher. In July, it rose to 5.7 percent from 5.5 percent in June, its highest level since March 2004.
So the economy hasn't gone down the toilet. It’s just circling the drain.