Thursday, May 31, 2012

Catnip 5/31/12: The Overlooked Star

baybridge3238


The Bay Bridge during the Supermoon. The Bay Bridge was completed in 1936, before the Golden Gate. At the time, it was the longest span in the world. It opened up San Francisco to further development and at the same time it sealed Oakland's fate - for people just kept on going once they got here...

Back to today.

Hey, has anyone noticed that Romney really sucked as a governor? While this line of engagement may have its drawbacks, it's certainly important to point out the record. Jamelle Bouie: "If the Obama campaign can knock him from his pedestal of competence with attacks on his governorship, as well as Bain Capital, they will have undermined his image as an acceptable alternative, and dealt a huge blow to his campaign." But Bouie asks the billion dollar question: Will the mainstream press bother to make the facts something other than the usual "he said, she said" argument, with no critical evaluation of the claims being made? How is that working out so far?

Congress, still dysfunctional. "President Barack Obama asked Congress to pass bills to keep student loan interest rates from doubling, prevent domestic abuse and fund the nation’s highway system. But never underestimate Congress’s ability to fumble a can’t-miss play. Now, the slate of issues that lawmakers thought would be a cinch are stuck in a legislative morass, fitting perfectly into Obama’s election-year argument that Congress is a band of incompetents who can’t even agree on curbing domestic violence or shielding college students from ballooning loan payments." Same story; Republicans are insisting on "my way or the highway", and when bills fail, they try to score political points off the failure. SSDD.

The Commerce Department has now slapped import duties on Chinese-made wind turbine towers. Domestic producers are happy, but with the expiration of the Production Tax Credit looming, no one is going to be selling anything anyway for the time being.

Robert Reich points out what should be obvious: If you cut government spending, and cut worker's wages, you take demand out of the economy, and nobody wins. Duh. Matt Yglesias warns of a coming global recession due in no small part to Europe's austerity policy and China's slowing production, although the Chinese are about to embark on another round of stimulus spending soon. That's not necessarily a good thing.

E.J. Dionne Jr., on Wisconsin: "Walker is being challenged not because he pursued conservative policies but because Wisconsin has become the most glaring example of a new and genuinely alarming approach to politics on the right. It seeks to use incumbency to alter the rules and tilt the legal and electoral playing field decisively toward the interests of those in power." Pay attention, America. It's happening everywhere, and it will happen at the federal level if Republicans take Congress and the WH. And maybe, just maybe, you don't get to vote them out next time around.

Molly Ball at The Atlantic dissects the Wisconsin recall race and points out why the Democrats seem to be falling behind. Short answer: Money, time, and national party intensity. Republicans stepped up to the plate with assistance for Walker, and the Democrats fell into in-fighting, withheld financial assistance, and distanced themselves from the effort. They still are in striking distance though, so don't count it over yet.

Time to debunk another Romney lie, this time concerning stimulus money going to "friends and family" of Obama. H/T to Greg Sargent who cites Michael Grunwald at Time: "And it turns out that the inspector general never testified that stimulus contracts were steered to friends and family. He said his office was investigating whether stimulus contracts were steered to friends and family. So far, it hasn’t confirmed that any were." Romney's source? A rabid right-winger who writes liberal-hate books and worked for Breitbart and Palin.

Seinfeld premiered 22 years ago today. Wow.

And with that, I'm off to watch the sands of time drift away on yet another 24 hours...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Catnip 5/30/12 : $1 Billion Lies

ghir

Ghirardelli Tomb on Millionaire's Row at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. Like the rest of the Bay area, the big and very expensive resting places are at the top of the hill, and have a great view of the water... and they are all crammed together in a row...


News.

How many lies can $1 billion dollars buy? We are going to find out. "Republican super PACs and other outside groups shaped by a loose network of prominent conservatives – including Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – plan to spend roughly $1 billion on November’s elections for the White House and control of Congress, according to officials familiar with the groups’ internal operations." The "pants on fire" fact-checkers better get their rest now, because they are about to get super-busy...

To the folks in North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, and Iowa - so, so sorry. Just turn off the TV, and go enjoy the nice weather outside.

Which brings us to the latest Romney lie. Greg Kessler at the WaPo, one more time: "Now that the '100,000 jobs created' talking-point has been discredited, we sense a new talking point developing in the Romney campaign — that 80 percent of Bain Capital investments 'grew their revenues.' Um, no... "The Bain statement is so vague and imprecise that in theory revenues could grow a single year, but fall in other years, and still be claimed as a growth in revenues. Moreover, the statistic takes no account of whether the business ultimately failed, despite revenue growth, because under Bain’s direction it had taken on too much debt." Three Pinocchios on this one.

Time to play some offense. The Obama campaign will dig into the real Romney record as governor of Massachusetts, and run that through the election, according to ABC News. "A 14-page research document compiled by the campaign and obtained by ABC News reveals the breadth of material Democrats plan to deploy, listing dozens of examples of Romney rhetoric and corresponding video clips from 2002, 2012, and the comparative 'results in Massachusetts.'" At the same time they will start a $25 million campaign touting the president's first-term record.

Unfortunately, that will lead to more lies from Romney, characterizing a look at his record as a "personal attack." Apparently everything he's ever done should be above scrutiny, or he will simply fall back into Professional Victimhood Mode. Comes standard with all Republican candidates. Question them, and they cry like children. Ever notice that?

Michigan, my Michigan. Looking good according to PPP, with Obama at 53 and Romney at 39. "It's not just Romney's unpopularity helping Obama in Michigan though. Obama's own approval rating is at a record high in our polling of the state with 53% of voters giving him good marks to 41% who disapprove, including a 50/43 standing with independents. Obama's crushing Romney on what will doubtless be one of the biggest issues in the campaign in Michigan- 55% think that he's been better for the automotive industry in the state to only 31% who say Romney wins out on that front." Now if Ohio has any sense...

Planned Parenthood is getting in the game with a $1.4 million ad buy for Obama. This is only the third time the group has endorsed for president; Republicans passing laws in Congress and the states to cut funding and access to health care for women has brought a new urgency to the fight.

Big Coal is on the way out. "More than 100 of the 500 or so coal-burning power plants in the United States are expected to be shut down in the next few years. While coal still provides about a third of the nation’s power, just four years ago it was providing nearly half. The decline is largely because new pollution rules have made coal plants more costly, while a surge in production of natural gas through the process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, has sent gas prices plummeting." They aren't going without a fight though, putting a multi-million dollar campaign on "clean coal" and looking to the Republicans to roll back regulations.

Off to a busy day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Catnip 5/29/12 : Wack to Bork (Pronounced "Burke")

there2718


A shot from Oakland to start the week. There! sculpture in the City Center mall embraces the Tribune Tower.

Where do those weekends go? Back to the news...

Wonder how many of these folks vote against their own interests. From the WSJ: "49.1%: Percent of the population that lives in a household where at least one member received some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2011. Cutting government spending is no easy task, and it’s made more complicated by recent Census Bureau data showing that nearly half of the people in the U.S. live in a household that receives at least one government benefit, and many likely received more than one."

There will be more than a few off the books soon, as extended unemployment benefits are set to expire for upwards to 500,000 people in the near future. States are sticking it to the unemployed as well, cutting weeks and making it harder to qualify for benefits. You get one guess as to which party is insisting we go this route.

We have to cut spending, right? Well, not necessarily. When it's the GOP doing the spending, government funding is a wonderful thing. But only for the fortunate few, namely defense contractors. Here's Jon Kyl: "The whole point here is to try to get some economic growth, job creation, to get out of this recession." Yeah, right. Take it away, NYT editor: "By accepting the argument that spending cuts could deepen or prolong the recession, Mr. Kyl and other Republicans are also tacitly accepting Keynesian economic theory. Republicans though, are nothing if not inconsistent. They propose to replace cuts to the Pentagon with cuts to domestic programs."

Mitt Romney, pathological liar. How many times, how many people, have to say it? How is it this man is even being considered as credible leader for this country? Eugene Robinson: "Every political campaign exaggerates and dissembles. This practice may not be admirable — it’s surely one reason so many Americans are disenchanted with politics — but it’s something we’ve all come to expect. Candidates claim the right to make any boast or accusation as long as there’s a kernel of veracity in there somewhere. Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit."

Nope, no coordination here. Karl Rove's Crossroads S-Pac and the Romney campaign come out with the same attack ad today; this time the target is the stimulus. Rove: "Obama invested our tax dollars in Solyndra. Lost half a billion." Romney: "You’ve heard of Solyndra. They took $535 million in taxpayer loan guarantees and went bankrupt." We should know by now, election laws don't apply to Republicans.

Which leads us to the newest Romney lie. Greg Sargent points it out: "So Romney will now go back to claiming Obama subtracted jobs. But there’s a new twist: Romney will claim that the effect of the stimulus has been to destroy jobs. As it has in the past, the Romney camp will justify this by pointing to a bogus metric — the net jobs lost on Obama' watch. That includes the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost before the stimulus went into effect. Really: The Romney camp’s claim is that we can calculate that the stimulus destroyed jobs overall with a metric that factors in all the jobs destroyed before the stimulus took effect. That's not an exaggeration. It really is the Romney campaign’s position. It’s time to ask Romney himself to justify it." But... but... but... Trump!

Florida is busy removing eligible voters from the voting roles, and the evidence points out that “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted. Whites and Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat of removal.” Hmmm, which state was it again that gave us Debacle 2000?

Stevenson and Wolfers at Bloomberg warn that another debt-ceiling stand-off could throw us into a deep recession. If you add Europe in recession, China's slowing growth, and this.. "The next debt-ceiling battle could be worse, because the stakes are even higher. In addition to the threat of default, the U.S. is facing the so-called fiscal cliff: a raft of spending cuts and tax increases that will happen at the end of this year unless Congress acts to postpone them." ... it's a recipe for contraction.

China is taking the solar panel tariff dispute to the WTO. Guess all the fear-mongering over a "trade war" was just that, talk (and keep in mind they impose stiff tariffs on imports too). "Rather than resorting to retaliatory measures, China’s Ministry of Commerce on Friday asked for WTO consultations, the first stage of a formal dispute process. The products covered are worth a total of $7.29 billion, a substantial figure for the companies involved but only a small fraction of the trade between the two nations."

Wait, what? The latest GOP anti-choice bill is a doozy. "The House will vote this week on legislation imposing criminal penalties on anyone performing an abortion based on the sex, gender, color or race of the parent, but the measure runs the risk of failing on the floor because of how the GOP is calling it up... Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said when he introduced the bill that his aim is to ensure equal rights for unborn children. In December, his office put out a statement saying, "A minority baby is currently five times more likely to be aborted than a white baby, and nearly half of all black babies are aborted, with over 70 percent of abortion clinics being located in predominantly minority neighborhoods." So, minorities will be held up for more scrutiny? Really?

And we're off...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day


sacviet0311sm 

 From the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Sacramento. 

 Never forget.


Happy Birthday Golden Gate

 


If anything I was too close. Will explain later... for now, here's a rush shot before I collapse into bed. 
1000 px here.

Update: Slideshow up, adding more as I decide which ones I want to process. I was positioned with the bridge to my left, the barge straight in front of me, and the island over to my right. As a result, I had to keep re-positioning the camera - and sometimes just couldn't do it quick enough! Boom, boom, boom, off they went. It was absolutely beautiful, a celebration worthy of such an icon.



Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ghosts of WWII


iowa0522 


 A bit of history for a Memorial Day weekend, the USS Iowa left Richmond for San Pedro yesterday. I was at Pier 39, she was being tugged along the north side of the Bay, and the ever-present haze was an issue. There are some better shots out there - hit teh Google machine and you will see. Even at a distance it's a helluva ship, and was interesting to watch it head out to sea. 

Here's another piece of the past, the last fully-functional Liberty boat that stormed Normandy, the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, which is permanently docked at the SF Maritime Museum along Fisherman's Wharf with the submarine USS Pampanito pictured below. You can tour the inside for a price; maybe I'll do that sometime this summer, but for now the outside will do. (Fun fact, the engine room in the movie "Titanic" is from the O'Brien.)


  obrien0577 

 And here's the USS Pampanito.

  pampanito0560

Friday, May 25, 2012

Catnip 5/25/12 - Trickle-Up and Jumping-Off

dontjump5648_1562

"The consequences of jumping from this bridge are fatal and tragic" say the signs, so, don't do it. There is talk of adding a net below at the cost of $45 million to discourage such actions; over 1,400 people have jumped from the bridge that they know of.



News for your getaway day:

Trickle up economics. Corporations and CEOs are doing better than ever. "In the fourth quarter, profits at American businesses were up an astounding 29.2 percent, the fastest growth in more than 60 years. Collectively, American corporations logged profits at an annual rate of $1.678 trillion... The median pay for top executives at 200 major companies was $9.6 million last year. That was a 12 percent increase over 2009, according to a study conducted for The New York Times by Equilar, a compensation consulting firm based in Redwood City, Calif."

Paul Krugman has some words about the behavior of our wealthy overlords: "Those are, however, questions that the wheeler-dealers don’t want asked — and not, I think, just because they want to defend their tax breaks and other privileges. It’s also an ego thing. Vast wealth isn’t enough; they want deference, too, and they’re doing their best to buy it. It has been amazing to read about erstwhile Democrats on Wall Street going all in for Mitt Romney, not because they believe that he has good policy ideas, but because they’re taking President Obama’s very mild criticism of financial excesses as a personal insult." Greed is good, and the children of the Ronald Reagan/Gordon Gekko era are now in a position to call the shots.

White voters without a college degree still believe in trickle-down, and that's a huge problem for the Democrats. "Asked which candidate would do more to advance their families’ economic interests, middle-class white voters who say they are struggling to maintain their financial positions chose Romney over Obama by a large margin — 58 percent to 32 percent." Obama lost this group 58-40 in '08, and similiar margins occured in '04 and '00. So that's why Republicans don't want people to be able to afford college...

The Romney plan for college? Cut student aid, get big banks back into the loan game, encourage deregulation and for-profit colleges, and loosen diploma qualifications. In other words, make education too expensive for the poor and middle class, privatize, so those campaign contributors collect the profits and funnel them back to the Republicans, and then hand students a moutain of debt to the bank and an educational experience that won't serve them in the private sector.

It's all about Wisconsin. The NYT takes an extensive look on how the state became the flashpoint of the political world this year. Scott Walker has a lead in the recall race as the GOP has pulled out all stops to save his seat, outspending the Democrats 3-1 on the airwaves. Union leaders, who have had to settle for Tom Barrett (they supported Falk for the most part), are angry that DC Democrats haven't done more to help. "Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out..."

Americans are becoming immune to "bombshell" stories about political candidates, although it should be pointed out that they do influence the picture of the overall person and how they might govern. I managed to avoid the whole Warren/Cherokee thing myself, and I'm glad.

Jonathan Chait hits the bulls-eye on Paul Ryan and the Republican agenda. You've seen the aftermath of "disaster capitalism" in the states after 2010, you will see it on the national level if the Rs win everything in 2012. "The connecting thread of my last two print stories for the magazine — the first on the GOP’s almost panicked now-or-never focus on 2012, and the second on the rise of Paul Ryan — is that the Republicans, led by Ryan, have made a strategic decision that the economic crisis offers them an expiring window of opportunity to pass the agenda of their dreams. Should they win the election, it is vital that they use their majority immediately and to maximal effect."

Driving this weekend? Gas prices are continuing to drop. "The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline on Thursday was $3.67, nearly 30 cents below the high for the year reached in early April. A year ago, the average prices stood at $3.85 a gallon." So, President Obama gets the credit for that, right? Right?

Off to an early day - drive safe everyone.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Catnip 5/24/12 : The United States of Bain


gg6386

Golden Gate, from January. The big 75th anniversary celebration is this Sunday, and the city is gearing up for the party. The news has been full of stories on how the bridge was built - from the opposition and arguments, to the engineering, to what is happening today... pretty fascinating piece of history for this American icon, and I'm glad I'm here to witness it. More to follow.


But first, the news...

Ezra reads my bored-with-Bain mind, and asks the question, "why aren't we talking about what Romney would do as president?" Here's one chilling glimpse: "Because it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Romney is elected and Republicans don’t hold the House and win control of the Senate, Republicans wouldn’t be stymied by Democratic opposition. They would have the votes to pass their agenda. True, they won’t get a filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the upper chamber, but Ryan’s budget is, well, a budget, which means it could be passed through the budget reconciliation process -- and couldn’t be filibustered. To enact a radical change of direction, Republicans need only a simple majority of votes." Like the radical Ryan budget? That's what we will get.

Does your current health insurance plan suck? The Affordable Care Act will make it better. "Even if the law is upheld, employer-provided insurance plans are likely to continue to be more generous, but the law would significantly improve the quality of coverage for individuals in several ways, the researchers concluded." Read to find out what it will do for private plans here. Meanwhile, the NYT reports that hospitals, doctors and insurers are moving towards getting health care costs down on their own, something unlikely to stop even if the ACA is overturned in court.

Romney, however, would quickly return millions to medical bankruptcy, or no care at all. "Up to 58 million more people could end up without health insurance, relative to what will happen if current law stays in place, according to one credible estimate drawn from the things he's said so far...'Never before in history has a candidate run for President with the idea that too many people have insurance coverage.' - David Cutler, economist at Harvard and 2008 campaign adviser to President Obama."

"Businessmen make lousy presidents." Coolidge. Hoover. Evidence. Read.

Harry Reid is standing strong on budget/sequester negotiations. So far. "'To now see the Republicans scrambling to do away with the cuts to defense, I will not accept that,' Reid said. 'My people — in the state of Nevada and I think the country — have had enough of whacking all the programs. We’ve cut them to a bare bone, and defense is going to have to bear their share of the burden.' This is a major escalation from just months ago, when Obama’s 2013 budget cheerfully assumed that the sequester would never happen. And it takes direct aim at pro-defense Republicans, who have been a mainstay for Boehner inside the GOP and one very big reason the speaker had to fast-forward to try to add the debt ceiling to the fight."

They are going to drill for oil in the Arctic. They are starting in July. And that is a shame.

But will cheap natural gas start to replace the oil in the trucking fleets? The WSJ has the story on how shippers and other fleet operators are looking to make the switch to NG powered trucks; one problem is the lack of refueling stations at this point. If trucks go, cars will surely follow. And new power plants are moving towards natural gas and away from coal, too: "Coal-burning facilities are expected to slip to 10% of total new capacity in the U.S. in 2013, down from 18% in 2009, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports. Gas, meanwhile, is expected to soar to 82% of new capacity in 2013 from 42% last year." Somewhere T-Boone is smiling.

The switch to natural gas by power plants has caused a huge drop in carbon emissions as well. "According to the International Energy Agency, US energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, have fallen 450m tonnes over the past five years – the largest drop among all countries surveyed." That's good. But while we are cutting down, it's not happening fast enough overall around the globe. "(t)he IEA said 31.6 gigatonnes of CO2 were released into the atmosphere last year, mainly through the burning of fossil fuels – one gigatonne more than in 2010 and much higher than the average annual increase of 0.6 GT between 2006 and 2010. 'The impact of this increase is going to be catastrophic,' said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace." That's bad. Real bad.

A salute to Patrick Fitzgerald. Good work, sir, and all the best on your future endeavors.

Off to the day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Catnip 5/23/12 : Fiscal Cliffs and Randian Fantasies






Time-lapse of the eclipse, from Redding, California.



Back to the news...


The CBO sent a warning to Congress yesterday; fix this, or watch the country fall back into a recession. "Tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect in January would suck $607 billion out of the economy next year, plunging the nation at least briefly back into recession, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday. Unless lawmakers act, the economy is likely to contract in the first half of 2013 at an annualized rate of 1.3 percent, the CBO said, before returning to 2.3 percent growth later in the year." The Republicans will insist we take the next step...


... and this is it, folks. They aren't kidding. The GOP, if they win, will take this country right back to the Gilded Age. Goodbye New Deal, goodbye modern life, hello Ayn Rand's fantasy land. More tax cuts for the wealthy, more military spending, exploding budget deficits - and more service cuts for you. Paul Ryan expects to have a mandate. 'We will not only win the next election — we have a unique opportunity to sweep and remake the political landscape,' the Wisconsin congressman said in a speech occasionally punctuated with applause and laughter." Can't say we weren't warned - they are going for the whole GOP end game right now.


Another Republican lie debunked. Talking Points Memo has a handy new chart that shows Obama isn't such a big spender after all. "Obama’s policies, including the much-criticized stimulus package, have caused the slowest increase in federal spending of any president in almost 60 nears, according to data compiled by the financial news service MarketWatch."


Did you hear the one about the $1.45 trillion dollar jet? Florida Governor Rick Scott sure loves him some government spending when it's for military contractors. Helping people and infrastructure though? Not so much. "While Scott famously refused $2 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail in Florida, deriding it as an expensive boondoggle, his team shows no such hesitations about the $1.45 trillion F-35 project. The most expensive weapons system in Pentagon history, it has suffered technical setbacks, nearly a decade of production delays, and substantial cost overruns; the Pentagon currently estimates each plane will cost $135 million to build and maintain." Mother Jones has a report that shows our military budget will cost us a cool trillion dollars a year by 2013.


Americans overwhelmingly support military spending cuts, so sayeth the folks from "the Center for Public integrity, the Program for Public Consultation and the Stimson Center. Not only does the public want deep cuts, it wants those cuts to encompass spending in virtually every military domain — air power, sea power, ground forces, nuclear weapons, and missile defenses." Check out the results of the poll here.


Steve Rattner calls Bain like it is. Certainly can't pin him with being partisan; he knows money, and he knows the business. In today's NYT, he explains that private equity is not necessarily about creating jobs, it's about making a buck. His truth is the bottom line. "In fact, Bain Capital — like other private equity firms — was founded and managed for profit: ideally, huge amounts of gain earned legally and legitimately. Any job creation was a welcome but secondary byproduct."


The number of Americans who support gay marriage is at a record high, the number of Americans who call themselves pro-choice is at a record low. Which issue has received the spotlight of acceptance lately? The WaPo poll finds "initial signs that President Obama’s support for the idea (of gay marriage) may have changed a few minds." Imagine if Democrats showed that kind of leadership on other issues...


Auto sales are roaring, so much so that the workers are putting in 60 hour weeks every week, and still the auto companies need to add shifts and hire thousands of new people. Thank the nice President and the Democrats in Congress once again, would you?


Autos help the economy, the economy helps Obama. Bloomberg reports that the swing states are seeing the benefits, and that should boost the President in those critical areas. "The unemployment rates in a majority of the 2012 battleground states are lower than the national average as those economies improve. Coupled with the growth of adult minority populations in those states, the trends create a higher bar for presumed Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney in his quest to unseat Obama."


Existing home sales are rising and prices are moving up, a sign that the housing market could finally see recovery. "But perhaps more encouraging than the numbers was the fact that the improvements 'were broad based across all regions,' the report stated." Good to know.


Still a fight though, and no better example than the state of Wisconsin. Looks like Governor Walker may survive the recall attempt - and that has the potential to boost Republican fortunes (and it certainly would boost Republican rhetoric, See: "mandate, Ryan, above) The difference? Fundraising from outside influences, ("by the time Barrett won the nomination, Walker enjoyed a 25 to 1 fundraising advantage over the Milwaukee mayor"), Democratic infighting over the primary, you know, the usual suspects...


Off to the sunshine...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Catnip 5/22/12

fw7064


No notes this morning, have to do some running around before I go into work. Have a great day...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Nights on Broadway



 

 RIP Robin.

Catnip 5/21/12 - Manufacturing Comes Home


coitmural7282

One of those "leftist" Coit Tower WPA murals.


News? We have to do some news...

Manufacturers are moving back to America. From the Financial Times: "Two-thirds of big US manufacturers have moved factories in the past two years, with the most popular destination being the US, according to a survey being released on Monday by Accenture, the consultants. The report provides some of the first industry-wide empirical evidence of 'reshoring,' the trend of jobs once outsourced to low-cost emerging economies being brought back to the US." 65 percent of executives said they have moved manufacturing in the past two years; China came in second place, and Mexico third.

Drawing lines in the sand, Obama and Boehner claim their ground in the debt ceiling debate. "Both he and Speaker John A. Boehner put down their respective markers this week, suggesting a potential replay of their damaging showdown over the debt ceiling last summer. On Tuesday, the speaker reiterated what has become known as the Boehner Rule: House Republicans will not increase the debt ceiling again without spending cuts of a greater amount. Mr. Obama, on Wednesday, told him Congress must pass a “clean” debt-limit increase to cover the nation’s obligations; there will be no more deficit deals, he said, without higher tax revenues from the wealthiest Americans." The stand-off begins, but we have months to go before it becomes a pressing issue.

"Paul Ryan Claims Romney Budget, Which Adds $10 Trillion To Debt, Will ‘Prevent A Debt Crisis’." This is one of those times when the title stands alone.

Joshua Green at the Boston Globe imagines a world without filibuster abuse. "Had the filibuster not applied, the United States would have a market-based system to control carbon emissions, which would limit the damage from global warming, vitalize the clean technology sector, and challenge other large polluters like China and India to do the same. The new health care law would have a public option. Children of undocumented immigrants who served two years in the military or went to college could become US citizens. Women paid less than their male colleagues because of their gender would have broader legal recourse against their employers. Billionaires would not be able to manipulate the political system from behind a veil of anonymity." * sigh *

Why yes, Governor Rick Scott will be the perfect GOP face to show the nation from their convention in Tampa. He exemplifies everything they are about. "This is unwelcome news for Mitt Romney: Florida Gov. Rick Scott expects a high-profile speaking slot at the Republican National Convention. 'I would hope so,' he told a newspaper editorial board this week when asked if he anticipates giving a prime-time speech in Tampa. Nothing says 'Elect Mitt Romney!' like an unpopular multimillionaire awkwardly making the case on national TV." It does beg the question though - who else do they have?

The Ricketts episode points to a huge problem - the SuperPacs are out of control on messaging, and may make or break a candidate by going rogue with a distasteful smear campaign. But does anything really shock the public anymore?

We're about to find out. Fundraising totals show that, while Romney only raised half as much as Obama in April, he is keeping pace with the President thanks to the billionaries who are backing the Republican Party and donating to these SuperPacs. While the President still leads with cash-on-hand, the vast rightwing juggernaut is putting everything they have into this campaign to install their own puppet in power. The WSJ reports the Obama campaign is holding back on spending for now - which is probably a great idea when you are going to need the firepower for the end game.

ABC News has a great breakdown on the fundraising totals for campaigns and S-Pacs here.

USA Today comes up with categories for five different economic classes of America as it stands right now, and measures the election based on how those groups see the candidates and this election. "The Downbeats and a second group that leans overwhelmingly to Romney, the Thriving, make up 51% of those surveyed. The other three categories — the 99 Percenters, the Hard-Pressed and the Upbeats — make up 49% of the total. They lean almost as decisively to Obama." Might be more accurate than regular polling, but I'm guessing the tribal factor still rules supreme.

Off to face the week....

Notes From The Eclipse

columbuseclipse7344


Lens flare like mad, but see the little circles on the back of the statue Christopher Columbus that is on the top of Telegraph Hill? That's the eclipse (and that would be the Golden Gate toward the bottom of the frame).

All week the question has been, "Where to go?" Decided to head for the Coit Tower. Fascinated by the history behind the place; first by Lillie Hitchcok Coit, who left a third of her fortune to SF to "to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved." Lillie sounded like she was pretty damn cool for her time:

Coit Tower was paid for with money left by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy socialite who loved to chase fires in the early days of the city's history. The tower took five years to construct. Before December 1866, there was no city fire department, and fires in the city, which broke out regularly in the wooden buildings, were extinguished by several volunteer fire companies. Lillie Coit was one of the more eccentric characters in the history of North Beach and Telegraph Hill, smoking cigars and wearing trousers long before it was socially acceptable for women to do so. She was an avid gambler and often dressed like a man in order to gamble in the males-only establishments that dotted North Beach. Coit was reputed to have shaved her head so her wigs would fit better.

Lillie's fortunes funded the monument four years following her death in 1929. She had a special relationship with the city's firefighters. At the age of fifteen she witnessed the Knickerbocker Engine Co. No. 5 in response to a fire call up on Telegraph Hill when they were shorthanded, and threw her school books to the ground and pitched in to help, calling out to other bystanders to help get the engine up the hill to the fire, to get the first water onto the blaze. After that Lillie became the Engine Co. mascot and could barely be constrained by her parents from jumping into action at the sound of every fire bell. After this she was frequently riding with the Knickerbocker Engine Co. 5, especially so in street parades and celebrations in which the Engine Co. participated. Through her youth and adulthood Lillie was recognized as an honorary firefighter.

The tower itself was built during the Depression, and contains some very progressive elements in the form of WPA murals, so much so that Bill O'Reilly suggested that Al Qaeda should make it a target. Between that, and the rest of the history, well, I'm there. You know that's where I had to go for any good magic that an eclipse might bring. Here's the tower near the peak:

coittowereclipse7306


Note the shadows, and how they are circular as they project the eclipse in progress. This shot from the small park behind the tower shows that phenomena a little better...


eclipseshadows7317


I was very lucky to get anything at all. My camera has been giving me grief the past couple of days; batteries going bad and not holding a charge. Usually I can pop out the carriage from the grip, pop it back in, and get more juice out of them. That wasn't working very well (or at all for a while) so I didn't get much - but managed to squeeze out a few.

Very pretty. Great views from the hill. There were families doing the pinhole trick, and other photogs set up (with filters and such) for shots. The light dimmed, and the city became more defined somehow. Maybe with the sun partially blocked the haze wasn't reflected back as it usually does. Got very windy and very chilly, until finally it passed, and the sun came back out again for the walk back to the train.

Great way to end an excellent weekend.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Well Hi There!

koch

Look who paid little 'ol me a visit...


Catnip 5/18/12: It's Not Easy Being John Boehner

jellyfish9973

Jellyfish at the SF Aquarium.


News!

The world's smallest violin is playing for John Boehner. "Thirty minutes. That’s roughly the time it took for conservatives to jump all over Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team after the GOP’s game plan for dealing with President Barack Obama’s health care law leaked to the media." The tears. They sting.

No, really, the zealots are a problem. House Republicans mean to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, and to enact even more tax cuts for the wealthy while they close your middle class tax deduction loopholes. Or something. They are going to fast-track the procedure, 2013 is the target. This dovetails nicely with Romney's "Day One" ad, where he promises to cut taxes for the "job creators" and take away health care from millions. Oh, and remember how it was reported that House Republicans were going to punt on Keystone? Yeah, they are, he leads the ad with that. Apparently an oil pipeline will save the entire country. * head scratcher *

Greg Kessler absolutely dismantles Romney's newest line that he created 100,000 jobs at Bain and Obama lost 100,000 jobs in the auto industry. He's got the facts to back it up: "Romney’s remarks make little sense. Not only is his claim of creating 100,000 jobs at Bain untenable, but also his assertion that 100,000 jobs have been lost in the auto industry 'on the president’s watch' does not add up," handing Romney a four Pinocchios and a "repeat offender" award. Romney's flat-out lying, and he's going to continue to lie. Guess we just have to deal with it.

Hat tip to Wonkbook for this excellent quote (and story) from a "job creator". "'We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years,' Hanauer said at the TED conference. 'Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Rather, they are a consequence of an ecosystemic feedback loop animated by middle-class consumers.' When the middle class thrives, he said, 'businesses grow and hire, and owners profit.'" Read Jim Tankersley's "The 1 Percent Solution" in the National Review. Here is someone who "gets it".

A rebellion against Norquist? Some rookie Republicans in the House are doing just that. Good luck!

House Democrats are trying to do something about states that are making it harder for people to vote. Good luck with that, too. The Obama campaign has set up a new website that tells voters what they need to know about their state's laws - thing about that is, a lot of the poor and elderly and minorities these laws target aren't going to be reached through this medium, but every effort on this front is a good one.

Paul Krugman is jumping up and down and demanding you pay attention to what's happening in Europe. More often than not, Paul Krugman is right. Heed the warning.

Cub's owner Joe Ricketts pissed off the wrong guy. Don't be looking to the city of Chicago for help with Wrigley renovations anytime soon. And keep in mind that other members of the Ricketts family are also part-owners of the team - and they are Obama-backers. Any way they can buy Joe out and send him on his tea-bagging way?


That's it for now, the weekend beckons. Have a good one, and thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dim All The Lights


 

 RIP Donna.

Catnip 5/17/12: Escape from Alcatraz




alcatraz0106


Alcatraz from Pier 39. Looks like you could swim away, doesn't it? Check out the 1000 px.

News: 

Unleash the Biden! Joe was really good yesterday. Watch here.

The Koch brothers are mobilizing their billions to take the Republican propaganda war to the digital world. "Republican political operatives, some with deep financial backing from the billionaire Koch brothers and others, are unleashing about a half dozen major projects that take advantage of advanced database technologies to manage campaigns and target voters with personalized messages." They are doing this in secret too - the Koch name does not appear on the "annual regulatory filing" but they are the money behind the effort. 

Moderate Mitt? Not a chance. Most excellent writer Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect points out that Mitt has not moderated his message for the general - and he is very unlikely to govern as a moderate when the people who run the Republicans (Kochs, Norquist, Rove, et.al.) will insist that he follow orders. "Romney is running for president as a right-wing Republican with right-wing ideas, and it is absurd to think that he would suddenly revert to the Mitt who governed Massachusetts. Even if he wanted to, he would first have to contend with a conservative movement that sees itself as the dominant partner in this relationship." Consider yourself warned. 

The owners of the Chicago Cubs are getting ready to unleash the mother of all negative advertising campaigns against Obama, the thing that McCain wouldn't let them do, the $10 million dollar plan that will take the President down.... featuring Rev. Wright. OK, stop laughing now. And BTW, these same Tea Party Cub owners that want taxpayer dollars to fund their efforts? Good to see the rest of the world catching up to that story, but really sad that supporting the Cubs now leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Just can't do it after this nonsense.

Turns out that Republicans love Obamacare after all. "If the law is partially or fully overturned they’ll draw up bills to keep the popular, consumer-friendly portions in place — like allowing adult children to remain on parents’ health care plans until age 26, and forcing insurance companies to provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Ripping these provisions from law is too politically risky, Republicans say." 

Some good economic news: Housing starts are rising, usually a leading indicator of a healthy economy. "U.S. home building grew in April, the latest sign that the recovery may be strengthening in the long-struggling market. Separately, U.S. industrial output rebounded in April, a sign of healthy demand for factory goods. Home construction increased 2.6% from March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 717,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Year-over-year, starts were up nearly 30%." 

Keystone pipeline demands are quietly being dropped from the transportation bill. Republicans plan to use it as a campaign issue instead. 

The Commerce Department will decide whether to impose anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar panel imports - this would be on top of the anti-subsidy tariffs recently imposed. Chinese solar panels are being sold below cost in the US, which in turn has driven the import market up to $2.65 billion last year, from $21.3 million in 2005. While US manufacturers may rejoice at the level playing field, installers are nervous that assumed higher prices may put a damper on the market.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Catnip 5/16/12

pelican3422


American White Pelican at Lake Merritt.

Oh, there is news...

The House GOP threatens to takes the country hostage once again. Why? It works. They got what they wanted the first time, so of course they will do it again. Ezra: "They also drove President Obama's approval ratings beneath 40 percent. And while I'm not one who thinks Republicans intentionally tank the economy to undermine Obama, there's little doubt that the effect of the debt-ceiling debacle was to set back the recovery, brightening Republican prospects and darkening Democratic ones. The fact is that it's easier to be sanguine about economic showdowns when you're not the ones in charge." The House also announced (again?) they will fast-track the extension of the Bush tax cuts. Deficit? What deficit?

Senate Republicans will be wasting more of the taxpayer's time today, holding debate and votes on budgets that will go nowhere. "A fifth budget measure up for a vote, from Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), is based on President Obama's budget and is seen as an attempt to embarrass the White House...'They are really, really absurd,' (Harry Reid) said. Reid claimed that one plan makes $7 trillion in accounting errors."

Barbara Boxer "goes there" and accuses Republicans of trying to deliberately tank the economy to help Romney. From a MSNBC appearance, rough transcript, here's the Senator from Cailfornia: "And, you know, it's interesting that they're setting up a big fight, McConnell and Boehner, making it a crisis when it isn't a crisis and demanding more cuts when they didn't live up to the cuts they agreed to. Because they want to create a crisis so maybe say, oh, my goodness, maybe if we change everything, things will be better. Maybe we need a different president." Um, yup, that about covers it.

Need help with your mortgage? Too bad, your state may have used that money to plug its budget deficit. This could be Exhibit A of why simply handing the states a bunch of money in the form of block grants is a bad idea. "In a budget proposed this week, California joined more than a dozen states that want to help close gaping shortfalls using money paid by the nation’s biggest banks and earmarked for foreclosure prevention, investigations of financial fraud and blunting the ill effects of the housing crisis."

Correction: The Eurozone is not in a recession. Germany saved their bacon. But the rest...

US energy independence, it's closer than you think. "The U.S. Energy Information Agency says U.S. oil imports will drop 20% by 2025. Oil giant BP projects the U.S. will get 94% of its energy domestically by 2030, up from 77% now, as oil imports fall by half... In practical terms, more energy independence could mean 3.6 million new jobs, enough to cut unemployment by two percentage points, Citigroup argues."

Jonathan Chait, on Romney's budget speech yesterday: "It’s hard to wrap your arms around Romney’s argument, because it’s an amalgamation of free-floating conservative rage and anxiety, completely untethered to any facts, as agreed upon by the relevant experts." The AP agrees on "the facts" issue. While we may laugh, this is actually setting a very dangerous precedent. Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog has been chronicling Mitt's mendacity this whole campaign; how many journalists have to say that this man is flat-out lying with every breath he takes until people understand he's not worthy of the office he seeks?

Rove's Crossroads SuperPac is going on the air with a massive $25 million ad buy. "The ad will air in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. First wave: $8 million, starting today and total of $25 million for the month." A wrinkle in the plans: The courts may force disclosure on secret donors soon.

The Club for Growth released its Tea Party scorecard on the freshmen in the House, and found that most are just not up to the task of destroying the country as we know it. Such a pity. "The conservative Club for Growth on Tuesday released a detailed scorecard for freshmen House Republicans. The Club argues that despite Tea Party rhetoric, many of the 87 member freshman class are not conservative enough." Who headed the list at 100%? That would be Michigan's own Justin Amash from the moderate and even blue-leaning CD-03. Hmmmm. Seems a decent challenger could make some headway there...

(Too angry to talk about Roy Schmidt. Hope the voters show him the door. That is all.)

Tweet of the morning reveals the mixed messages the GOP must send on the economy: Things are great! in the states where Republicans took over in '10, but things are bad! everywhere. Huh? NBC's Mark Murray: "Conflicting GOP economic messaging: RGA press release for Scott Walker touts, "Wisconsin added 20,000+ jobs last year" Off to the races...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mitt Likes Music, Including This



From the folks that brought you the Pete Hoekstra's "Build A Turtle Fence" comes the mash-up on Mitt. Hat tip to the NYT. Enjoy.


Catnip 5/15/12

att5845


AT&T. Bird's eye view. Not the greatest of shots as the sun was setting and the shadows fall in the park, but O...M...F...G... what a stadium. The views are incredible. Will get back for a day game and shoot the hell out of this place soon. Check the 1000 px here - it's a little better.

Optimistic America. Two out of three got to admit it's getting better, it's getting better, all the time. Or they think it will, anyway. "Though an overwhelming 71% rate economic conditions as poor, a 58% majority predict they will be good a year from now. While those surveyed are inclined to say they are worse off financially than a year ago, nearly two-thirds say they think they'll be better off this time next year." Hope?

The Obama SuperPac Priorities USA gets in on the Bain action with a $4 million online/TV ad buy in Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. And they too have a Romney record site at www.RealRomneyRecord.com.

Keep your eye on the California budget story. As Digby points out, this is one big economy we are talking about (9th largest in the world, "ahead of Spain, India, Canada, Russia and Australia"), and it's about to undergo some severe austerity measures - which could act to drag down the rest of the nation. Now, California has been going through years and years of this, and may muddle through once more, but at some point...

Sargent's bold headline of the day: "Romney set to attack deficit that Bush created." TPM has a handy chart about tax cuts and wars to prove the point. And, just to push this right over the edge of the absurd, Romney hits the stump today to ask for more of the same - bigger tax cuts, and increased military spending.

Businesses are starting to notice that the gridlock in Congress is setting us up for a crisis later this year. "Across the U.S. economy, anxiety is rising about the potential for widespread disruptions after the November election, when a lame-duck Congress will have barely two months to resolve a grinding standoff over taxes and spending." Fasten your seatbelts, and look for this to become a campaign issue as the year wears on.

House Republicans will do anything to keep those Bush tax cuts intact. More threats to tie "tax reform" to another extension of the breaks for the wealthy, a vote sometime this summer, yada yada yada... see, gridlock, above.

The Eurozone (formerly known as Europe?) falls into an official recession. How is that austerity working out for everyone?

Gotta run, busy day ahead...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Catnip 5/14/12

prince4586


Prince. 'Nuff said.

Here now the news:

Obama plays the Bain card. "The Obama campaign is going up with a hard hitting two-minute ad (two minutes! emphasis mine) in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia on GST Steel, a Kansas City company that Bain acquired a majority stake in, leading to hundreds of layoffs and at least $12 million in Bain profits. The ad is accompanied by new Web site, RomneyEconomics.com. 'This isn’t just about attacking Romney’s wealth and character. It’s about turning Romney’s number one asset — the aura of economic competence created by his successful business career — into a liability,'" sez Greg Sargent. Yup. I'm just surprised it's happening now.

Republican obstruction, it's not just for Congress anymore. Check out what is happening in the states on the health care exchanges: "In about two dozen states across the country, the insurance marketplaces at the heart of the 2010 health-care law remain in limbo, with Republican governors or lawmakers who oppose the statute refusing to act until the Supreme Court decides its constitutionality....In states with Democratic governors, such as New Hampshire and Minnesota, it is often Republican-dominated legislatures that are causing the hold-up."

America's bridges are falling down... falling down.... falling down...:"The nation’s population is growing at a steady pace, yet infrastructure investments lag. The lifelines of commerce — roads, bridges, runways, ports — are showing their age, and in this era of fiscal austerity it may be a long time before they get rebuilt. As Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood likes to say, the nation is 'one big pothole.'" More austerity, anyone?

Birthday parties everywhere are at risk as the nation deals with a shortage of helium. Don't laugh, it's a real problem: "The United States is running out of helium. Yes, helium. Thanks, in part, to a 1996 law that has forced the government to sell off its helium reserves at bargain-bin prices, the country’s stockpile of the relatively rare and nonrenewable gas could soon dwindle... A severe helium shortage, experts say, would cause problems for large swaths of the economy, from medical scanners to welding to the manufacturing of optical fibers and LCD screens."

Wholesale prices, down: "U.S. wholesale prices declined for the first time this year, suggesting a drop in energy costs is helping to keep inflation under control. The index of producer prices, which measures how much wholesalers and manufacturers pay for goods and materials, fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in April from a month earlier, the Labor Department said Friday."

Minority-owned firms pay the price of government austerity. "U.S. government contracts to black-and Hispanic-owned small businesses fell last year for the first time in a decade, declining at a sharper rate than awards to all companies... Contracts to the two minority groups fell at a faster pace than all contracts, which dipped 1 percent as the U.S. government slowed spending to help reduce the federal deficit. The gap may reflect stiffer competition over a shrinking pool of revenue and the recession’s greater impact on black and Hispanic firms."

Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker lays the Citizens United decision at the feet of John Roberts. "In a different way, though, Citizens United is a distinctive product of the Roberts Court. The decision followed a lengthy and bitter behind-the-scenes struggle among the Justices that produced both secret unpublished opinions and a rare reargument of a case. The case, too, reflects the aggressive conservative judicial activism of the Roberts Court."

Introducing Karl Rove's Youth League. "Crossroads Generation, a new super PAC formed with the help of a handful of established GOP groups, is tapping into the economic frustrations of under-30 voters facing dim job prospects, crippling student loans or the prospect of having to move back home with their parents. Starting Monday, the PAC is launching a $50,000 social media ad campaign targeting younger voters in eight swing states, including Ohio and Virginia. Their ultimate goal: woo younger Americans to the Republican side, including some who supported Obama in 2008."

Turns out people don't like the Ryan budget. And Dems are using it to attack their GOP counterparts in congressional races, which is giving the Republicans a sad. Imagine, being called out for supporting absolutely horrible, destructive policy. Times are hard.

Off to face the week...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Baseball Been Berry, Berry Good to Me


Justin Verlander warms up....

  verlander5083 

 ... and I got to shake hands and say "hi" to Brandon Inge...

  inge5126 

 ... it was a very nice weekend at the Coliseum.

Miggy Says Hello

miggy4599




Was fun seeing all the D fans at the Coliseum tonight... and very confusing to be cheering for two teams at once....

Friday, May 11, 2012

Catnip 5/11/12

oakas8458


So, how about that Brandon Inge, huh?

News:

WaPo fact-checker Greg Kessler is launching a new category when it comes to campaign claims this year: "Repeat offender." What prompted this? Mitt Romney and his claims about the auto industry rescue. What else can you do, when you have present the facts over and over and refuted Romney's talking points time and time again, and Mitt still clings to his now thoroughly discredited story? Character. It matters.

J.P. Morgan Chase. $2 billion, down the drain on a bad bet on derivatives. Awaiting the new fees on my checking account. The bank still earned around $4 billion in the first quarter.

New ABC/WaPo poll out this morning finds - you guessed it! - mixed results on the issues facing America.. Obama fares far better than Mitt in popularity and personal likability, but for whatever reason, the party who crashed the economy still receives more trust on the economy. Full results here.

When it comes to gay rights, we're talking "legacy" now. "But it’s now clear that the Obama administration has quietly accumulated an impressive and unprecedented record on gay rights. Indeed, with his health-care reform bill in jeopardy of being overturned by the Supreme Court or repealed by a future Congress, there’s a real possibility that his efforts for gay equality will prove to be his most enduring legacy. The history books may remember Obama for doing for gays what Lyndon Johnson did for African Americans: Leading his party across a bridge to an irrevocable position on civil rights."

Remember how Republicans were going to "repeal and replace" Obamacare? Yeah, well, don't hold your breath on the "replace" part. "Ditching a comprehensive proposal could also make it easier for Republicans to steer the public’s focus away from popular elements of the Affordable Care Act that are unlikely to make the cut in a GOP plan." What is the GOP plan? You get a tax cut if you buy your own policy. If you can't afford a policy? Too bad for you. And too bad for the entire healthcare system, because we would be back to where we started - with millions and millions of people without insurance.

The cuts to federal unemployment extended benefits kick in this weekend. Around 230,000 people lose their benefits immediately, bringing the total to nearly 400,000 for this year. "The GAO estimates that 2 million people exhausted unemployment benefits as of early 2010, and although some had spouses or accumulated assets for financial support, nearly one in five fell into poverty."

As expected, the House passed the Ryan bill that not only breaks the deal they reached on the debt ceiling last year, but protects defense spending at the expense of children, the sick and the elderly. "To do that, the committees cut food stamps, children’s health insurance and Medicaid, eliminated the Social Services Block Grant to state and local governments (which pay for Meals on Wheels, child abuse prevention and other programs) and eliminated a new fund intended to help the government liquidate failed financial giants. Of the savings, $23.5 billion came from Medicaid and children’s health care; $4.2 billion from hospitals that serve the poor and uninsured; and $33.7 billion from supplemental nutrition assistance." Priorities on display. It never passes the Senate, and the WH said "veto".

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker admits that his budget (and governance) is a divide-and-conquer strategy devised soley to bust unions and turn the cheeseheads into a red state. It's on tape and everything. Politico labels this "Armageddon in Wisconsin", pointing out that the nation's battle between the reactionaries and the progressives starts here. "It’s a proxy war, a swing-state fight that’s being closely watched — and even choreographed, to a degree — by the presidential campaigns and the party committees who are looking for clues into the November election landscape."

Jonathan Alter takes a closer look at the real division in this election, when it comes to candidates, parties and principle: "Labels such as 'conservative' and 'liberal' are worn out. 'Right-wing' doesn’t fit Romney, who describes himself as 'severely conservative' but isn’t a wing nut. 'Left-wing' is an inaccurate description of the president, whose most 'leftist' initiative -- Obamacare -- is modeled on plans proposed by those noted Bolsheviks Bob Dole and Howard Baker. A more useful distinction may be between venture capitalists and human capitalists." Emphasis mine.

The view from the cheap seats.

oakas8360

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Catnip 5/10/12

ggampi8053


The amphitheatre in Golden Gate Park.

News? Some news:

The Obama campaign is promoting the President's historical stance on gay marriage, asking supporters to sign onto a petition and join the e-mail list, as well as releasing a new video that highlights the fact the Obama is moving us forward while Mitt Romney is moving "Backwards on Equality." What does this mean for the election? Not all that much, according to the pundits and pollsters. While it may cost a few votes in the rural areas and southern areas, the President gains enthusiasm with younger voters and other progressives who were on the fence about even voting at all this year.

The downside on this announcement may be Mitt Romney's problem, according to Norm Scheiber at The New Republic in this astute point: "While swing voters may be ambivalent about gay marriage itself, they’re much less comfortable with displays of intolerance." With the conservative organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage now frothing at the mouth and vowing to make this an issue, Romney will be forced to keep his intolerance on display. That's can't be good in the long run. For Mitt, anyway.

Beyond electoral consequences, Ezra Klein eloquently sums up the most important aspect of the President's announcement: "But there are, of course, many Americans for whom this will matter quite a lot. Many of them are young Americans who perhaps have only recently realized that they're gay, and who live in places, or with families, they know will have trouble accepting that fact. To these Americans, the president's words are a signal that they can look forward to a future in which they will be accepted, and in which they can live in a way that makes them happy. They're evidence in other words, that it gets better. And that's a big deal."

For a real life example of why the President's leadership is so important, we only need to turn to the case of Mitt Romney, prep school bully. The Washington Post recounts a tale today from Romney's Cranbrook school days in 1965, where he first taunted another male student for having long hair - and then he gathered a gang of boys together, and forcibly held the long-haired student down, and cut his hair. And here we thought George W. was a problem child.

Tea Party extremism in some races and "lackluster" candidates in others may cost the Republicans their chance at winning the Senate, according to the experts at Cook and Rothenberg. "The professional handicappers say that although they still expect GOP gains, Democrats are slightly favored to retain their majority, and the majority party is likely to hold just 51 seats — or 50, with the vice president serving as the tiebreaker."

Quinnipiac surveys swing-state Ohio today, and finds that Cook and Rothenberg may be on to something. While President Obama holds only a one-point lead over Romney at 45-44 percent, the Senate race there shows incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown up on challenger Josh Mandel by six points, 46-40. Brown has a strong lead with independents and women, which could be the deciding factor in such a divided state.

James Hansen at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies sends a very scary warning about Canada's tar sands oil reserves. It doesn't get any clearer than this: "Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk."

How about some lovely solar panels instead? The New York Times reports a boom in installation these days: "Installers, often working through big-box chains like Home Depot or Lowe’s, are taking advantage of hefty tax breaks, creative financing techniques and a glut of cheap, Chinese-made panels to make solar power accessible to the mass market for the first time. The number of residential and commercial installations more than doubled over the last two years to 213,957, according to Greentech Media, a research firm."

That's it for now, gotta run....

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Moment in History


P050912PS-0237 

 "But over the course of several years I've talked to friends and family about this. I've thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, I've gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction. 

What I've come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens. 

 Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn't dawn on them that their friends' parents should be treated differently. 

 So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry." 

- President Barack Obama, May 9th 2012

 Watch the full interview here.

I miss my friends tonight. I wish they had been here to see this, and that we could have celebrated it together. As it stands, I'm sitting alone in an apartment in Oakland, California, listening to Al Stewart's 'Time Passages' on the radio, a bit overwhelmed by all the emotions. 

Elation. Anger. Sorrow. Vindication. Resolve.

Equality.

Now go vote for this guy. He's officially on the right side of history.