Saturday, June 30, 2012

Happy Oakland

happyoakland1385

It's back-up day for the hundreds of GBs I've shot in the past month and I came across this happy face, so I thought I'd post it for a smile.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Downtown From the Peaks


sanfran4607

San Francisco on a clear day - another one straight from the camera. Have I told you lately how much I love the camera? 

 Check out the 1000 px here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Morally Better Society

Krugman brings up an important point, not only about the step toward bringing America into the modern world concerning health care for its citizens, but about the cost of doing so. Pay attention to the emphasis.

But what about the cost? Put it this way: the budget office’s estimate of the cost over the next decade of Obamacare’s “coverage provisions” — basically, the subsidies needed to make insurance affordable for all — is about only a third of the cost of the tax cuts, overwhelmingly favoring the wealthy, that Mitt Romney is proposing over the same period. True, Mr. Romney says that he would offset that cost, but he has failed to provide any plausible explanation of how he’d do that. The Affordable Care Act, by contrast, is fully paid for, with an explicit combination of tax increases and spending cuts elsewhere.

So the law that the Supreme Court upheld is an act of human decency that is also fiscally responsible. It’s not perfect, by a long shot — it is, after all, originally a Republican plan, devised long ago as a way to forestall the obvious alternative of extending Medicare to cover everyone. As a result, it’s an awkward hybrid of public and private insurance that isn’t the way anyone would have designed a system from scratch. And there will be a long struggle to make it better, just as there was for Social Security. (Bring back the public option!) But it’s still a big step toward a better — and by that I mean morally better — society.

Amen. Go read the whole column.

What a day this was. Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get us to this point. The fight continues...

16th Mission

16thmissionbart4258

The 16th Mission BART station. Simple pattern pictures are harder than they look. It's a matter of balance.

It's 6:40am as I write this, awaiting the big decision on whether millions of people get health care or not. Something rather sad (and morally disgusting) about scoring the "political victory" on this issue... but ain't that America, as it stands in the year 2012.

Hold onto your hats kids, the ride is about to get a little bumpy...


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Shoes Revisited

shoesrevisited4778

From the Castro. I was enamored with this display.



Interesting story of the day - this is behind the paywall at the WSJ, but look for it to pop elsewhere eventually:

"America will halve its reliance on Middle East oil by the end of this decade and could end it completely by 2035 due to declining demand and the rapid growth of new petroleum sources in the Western Hemisphere, energy analysts now anticipate."

Bad news - fracking and dirty tar sands oil. Good news - efficient cars and renewable energy. Best news - getting the hell away from OPEC.

"By 2020, nearly half of the crude oil America consumes will be produced at home, while 82% will come from this side of the Atlantic, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By 2035, oil shipments from the Middle East to North America ‘could almost be nonexistent,’ the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries recently predicted, partly because more efficient car engines and a growing supply of renewable fuel will help curb demand."

Prediction: Renewables, especially solar, will advance in technology and cost parity, and eventually will become cheaper and more efficient than drilling. Wait and see.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dolores Park

dolorespark4361

Straight out of the camera. Check out the 1000 px here.

No notes today, maybe not for the rest of the week - have to get my head together to do another project, but will try to keep posting the photos because I got a ton of 'em. Hope you enjoy.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Catnip 6/25/12: Pride



My big gay weekend. Wow. NBC Bay News tweeted last night that over one million people attended the San Francisco 2012 Pride Parade. I can believe that. Check the pictures at the end to see how the crowd spilled into Market Street - and it was jammed from the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero all the way up to 8th Street... and maybe beyond. I guess they head for the Castro, I stuck around the Uni Center, which was a HUGE party with music and food and drink and that was packed too. Quite the show.

73 pictures so far, and I've got many more. This is just the number I managed to get done from the parade with very little processing - and I haven't even gotten to the ones from Saturday yet.

No notes this morning due to me rushing around and trying to catch up with the Supreme Court and make it into work. Have a great day everyone - enjoy the pics. If the slideshow moves too fast, check out this detail page to linger longer...


Friday, June 22, 2012

Catnip 6/22/12: All the Rainbows

hasf2375

The Haight. I was a little bit early sun-wise to catch these in all their shiny glory, will make it back one of these days. I have the "Full House" houses too - but same problem. Didn't feel like walking back once I had walked by. Something about those monster hills...


Some news:

Romney's Bain pioneered off-shoring American jobs. Surprise, surprise, surprise. "During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission." Would love to see someone take a stab at estimating how many jobs Romney destroyed between his bankrupting of some companies and the outsourcing of others.

Krugman: Prison privatization leads to political corruption and abused human beings, both employees and prisoners alike, and it doesn't save the taxpayer any money. Seems I've heard this somewhere before, namely Arizona and Indiana as recently as last year, and Florida before that. Something to consider about before you continue down the path of privatizing the public schools, don't you think?

The Senate is finally getting around to requesting that the CBO score the cuts on the sequestration deal from the debt ceiling standoff of last year. "The goal was to lay out the damage that the automatic cuts would cause, compelling an agreement to avert them." * looks at watch * Yeah, might want to take a look at that at some point.

Miracle of miracles, it seems a deal on student loan interest rates may be in the works. Shhhh! Be very quiet. Don't scare it away.

More miracles, the farm bill passes the Senate. Click link for picture of smiling Debbie Stabenow. And for those screaming about the Democrats facilitating the $4.5 billion in cuts to food stamps, keep in mind a couple of things: Number one, this never gets through the House, where Paul Ryan has suggested $134 billion in cuts to food stamps AND turning it into a block grant program, and number two, the election of 2010. Take the victory of a Democratic majority in the Senate getting something done, and start throwing your disgust at the GOP House - because they will make the Dems look like Santa Claus before this is over.

One Republican candidate for Senate throws Paul Ryan's budget under the bus. Nice try, but sorry dude, you're still GOP, and there is more damage to our country waiting in the wings than just that budget. Tester still the best choice, Montana. And what is it with all the contrarians in West Virginia?

There have been many, many stories on what may happen if Obamacare is struck down by the Supreme Court, but none as compelling as this one from the NYT this morning. "The tumor grew like a thick vine up the back of Eric Richter’s leg, reminding him every time he sat down that he was a man without insurance. In April, when it was close to bursting through his skin, he went to the emergency room. Doctors told him it was malignant and urged surgery. His wife called every major insurance company she found on the Internet, but none would cover him: His cancer was a pre-existing condition." Will deal with this next week, I'm sure.


One more day until fun. Gotta run.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Catnip 6/21/12: Negative Message Mitt

annindenver9223

In honor of Ann Curry, here's a never before seen picture from the convention in Denver in '08. Wishing this excellent reporter all the best, and hoping she lands at a place where her real talents can shine.


Back at the grind...

Boom, there it is. We now have evidence that Romney and the Republicans are rooting for the economy to fail - as if that weren't obvious already. "Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to tone down his statements heralding improvements in the state’s economy because they clash with the presumptive Republican nominee’s message that the nation is suffering under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter."

The bigger question: Can Republicans win with a campaign that merely trash talks Obama and focuses entirely on the negative? It's not working in Rick Scott's Florida, where a Quinnipiac poll lead for Romney in March has now turned to an Obama advantage, 46-42. The difference? Obama carries minorities, women and the young - and independents are now flocking to the President in a ten-point flip from the last poll, 46-37.

Republicans may just get their wish, but it won't be because of anything that Obama has done. Slowing growth in China and troubles in Europe are starting to hit manufacturing here in America, with Reuters reporting that the Purchasing Managers Index fell a couple points to 52.0 last month (anything above 50 indicates expansion). Unemployment claims remain steady.

Progress on the farm bill? We can't have that! While the Senate is still chewing over the nitty-gritty details, Eric Cantor has indicated the House Republicans will "put the brakes" on getting anything accomplished right now, thankyouverymuch. "Cantor’s involvement is an ominous sign for farm bill advocates, but his aides insisted that the Virginia Republican was not saying 'no' to any House farm bill this summer. Instead, they said the majority leader wanted to 'push the pause button' and allow time for some assessment of the political situation." Translation: How can we mess this up to try and make Obama look bad. What's that you say? Serve the country and the American people? Who gives a damn about them?

Candidates are refusing to use the word "Congress" as they are campaigning for a seat in Congress. Gee, can't imagine why.

Disturbing stat from Gallup about religious bigotry: 18% of Americans would not vote for a Mormon for president, and that number hasn't changed since 1967. Sad. But here's the kicker: 21% said they wouldn't vote for a Catholic back in 1960, but Kennedy won anyway. Shows that the bigotry is against the religion and not the individual. 4 in 10 Americans don't know that Romney is a Mormon, but maybe it won't matter in the end.

And besides, those Mormon campaigns know how to party down. Ooo-la-la. Champagne and dancing girls for everyone!

While we wait (until next week) for the SCOTUS decision on health care, enjoy this lovely article from the NYT on how the billionaire death panels have poisoned the well on public opinion to the tune of $235 million spent on negative advertising to turn people against the law. Never mind that the system collapses without it...


Off to what is starting out to be a cloudy and cool day. Sometimes the fog is kind of nice.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Catnip 6/20/12: Suddenly Summer

sundailberk2235

Sundial on the Berkeley campus. Happy Summer Solstice to you all.


News!

Gutting of the country. Even though tax revenues are starting to recover, states are still making cuts to vital services. Examples cited? Schools, elderly and public safety. Totals: "State and local spending is down 0.8% this year — a 2.7% drop when adjusted for inflation — to an annual rate of $2.4 trillion, a USA TODAY analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis data found... The pullback has trimmed 662,000 state and local jobs since August 2008, about 3%."

Great story from Bryce Covert at The Nation that points out once again that Americans want to keep "teachers, cops and firefighters" on the job. They may want to see benefit cuts, but as far as layoffs - no. Go read. Bryce and partner Mike Konczal are the writers that originally pointed out how it was the Republicans elected in 2010 and the red states that have driven the layoffs of "teachers, cops and firefighters." Sensing a pattern yet, America?

The New York Times gets in the public sector layoff game today too - making this the official meme in my little world. "Government payrolls grew in the early part of the recovery, largely because of federal stimulus measures. But since its postrecession peak in April 2009 (not counting temporary Census hiring), the public sector has shrunk by 657,000 jobs (different number than above). The losses appeared to be tapering off earlier this year, but have accelerated for the last three months, creating the single biggest drag on the recovery in many areas."

Mark Thoma at the Fiscal Times points out how anti-government extremism on the part of public job-slashing Republicans is hurting the economy and the country. "We cannot function economically without supporting infrastructure, we are already falling behind where ought to be and that will prove costly over time, and we cannot allow externalities, particularly those associated with global warming, to run rampant. Conservatives used to understand that government had an important role to play in these areas, and opposition to government was based upon coherent reasoning rather than a knee-jerk rejection of government." I still hold that we will find Republicans love them some big government once they get back in power (see: Michigan) - but they still won't spend in the most critical areas that serve citizens long term needs such as education and health care - and that ends up costing us more money in the long run.

How the psychology of the monthly jobs report may make or break the economy - and the election. "Economic growth is, in part, driven by people and businesses feeling optimistic about the future. And after hearing how lousy the job sector looked over the last month, some consumers decide not to buy things, like a new house or even an extra appetizer. After hearing that so many of their customers are out of work, some companies decide there isn’t enough growth on the horizon to warrant hiring. Just like that, a bad initial jobs report (obsessed over by a frantic news media) might make a bad situation worse." Go read that too.

Bloomberg poll, whoa. At first, it screams outlier - but then I realized it was done by Selzer, who is a very reliable pollster. The poll shows Obama up 53-40, and this is due to the fact that Romney has a whopping 48 percent unfavorable rating as voters see him as "out of touch". Selzer warns it still comes down to turnout. Bloomberg also shows that Americans say they are better off now than the beginning of 2009 when Obama took office.

Mitt Romney, web traffic killer. Editors across the board report that stories about Romney are death for getting clicks. So, not creating any jobs on the internet, that's for sure.

On a related note, Politico's Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns have a story about how the presidential campaign of 2012 has been lacking in substance. Before you start laughing about journalists bitching about the state of journalism - really listen to what is being said here, because I've certainly felt it too. It's a runaway train: "There have been small-ball presidential campaigns before, but veteran strategists and observers agree this race is reaching a record degree of triviality. Nothing previously can compare with a race being fought hour by hour in 140-character Twitter increments and blink-and-you-miss-it cable segments. Not to mention an endless flood of caustic television ads. Blame the campaign strategist, blame the operatives, blame the reporters. They know it’s a drag. And they know they’re responsible. They would argue: We’re powerless to stop it." And they are. No one wants to give up that perceived advantage of winning the news cycle.

And with that, I'm off to feed the beast...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Catnip 6/19/12: Michigan Women Rock

potomac1464

The USS Potomac, FDR's "Floating White House". It's docked down at Jack London Square, in that homage to socialism we call Oakland.


How about them Michigan women? Give it up for my homegirls, people...

Lookit my Senator go. Debbie Stabenow is about to achieve the impossible and get the Farm Bill through the Senate. But first, we must have the nonsense: "In a major breakthrough, the Senate approved a sweeping consent agreement Monday night that clears the way for action on the farm bill this week after what promises to be a marathon series of votes on about 73 amendments — including several non-germane proposals demanded by Republicans." The words "geniune triumph" are used in the article. Chances are the House will totally mangle it when it hits that chamber, but still. Cheers to the Junior Senator from Michigan.

Lookit my state legislators and protesters go. So, so proud of the turnout for Eve Ensler and The Vagina Monologues down at the Capitol yesterday. And please don't forget the big picture here - this is not about the use of a word, this is about saving women's lives. Rochelle Riley at the Freep has a powerful piece from a woman who remembers the Dark Ages before abortion was legal, and she sums it up like this: "I watched women die." Voters, Remember this November. (Oh, and Mlive? Both Susan Tusa at the Freep and Dale Young at the News show you why it's important to keep professional still photographers on staff. Just an observation.)

It's official: GOP obstruction in Congress is hurting the economy. "Companies are starting to delay hiring and spending out of concern that Congress won’t reach a compromise in time to avoid automatic tax increases and budget cuts that would pull billions of dollars of purchasing power out of the economy. Faced with a so-called fiscal cliff of more than $600 billion in higher taxes and reductions in defense and other government programs in 2013, U.S. companies are pulling back, though the deadline for congressional action is more than six months away." Prepare for the cry that "it's Obama's fault" in 3... 2... 1...

Ezra Klein notices the obstruction problem, using the Republican DREAM Act (originally penned by Orrin Hatch) as an example: "When Democrats endorse ideas Republican pioneered, that doesn’t lead to bipartisanship. When they endorse ideas Republicans currently support, that doesn’t lead to bipartisanship. And when they act on their own, that’s too partisan. So what, exactly, are they supposed to do?" Good question. Maybe the media can point out that Republicans aren't interested in being "bipartisan", for starters.

The danger behind the "throw the bums out" political mentality - you get a bunch of rookies that don't know how to legislate during the worst economic crisis of our lifetime. New blood is always good, but... "Roughly half of the nation's 7,383 state legislators could have two years or less of experience after the 2012 elections, potentially making the next crop of lawmakers the greenest in a half-century, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures." And if those legislators are bought and sold by the likes of Grover (particularly Grover and his pledge) and Karl and the Koch Party? Do the words "public servant" mean anything anymore?

The EPI is coming out with a book that shows how this recession has hit the working stiffs of America: "Adjusted for inflation, the median hourly wage was lower in 2011 than it was a decade earlier, according to data from a forthcoming book by the Economic Policy Institute, 'The State of Working America, 12th Edition.' Good benefits are harder to come by, and people are staying longer in jobs that they want to leave, afraid that they will not be able to find something better. Only 2.1 million people quit their jobs in March, down from the 2.9 million people who quit in December 2007, the first month of the recession."

Why does Sen. James Inhofe want to poison our country? President says no. "The White House said Monday that it would likely veto a GOP-led plan to overturn Environmental Protection Agency regulations that require cuts in mercury and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants." That's why you vote Democratic.

The individual mandate works. Ask Massachusetts. And two-thirds of the people there approve of their health care law.

Tea Party Hypocrites. Wait, is that redundant? "Back in the heady days of the 2010 election, tea-party-backed GOP candidates loved to rail against their incumbent foes’ use of Congressional mailing privileges as a symbol of the fiscal dysfunction of Congress and the need for sweeping reforms. So it might come as a surprise to some of their conservative supporters that once safely ensconced in their Congressional offices, many of those same critics have become the biggest users of the House’s taxpayer-funded mailing system." No, no surprise at all. Just check the states where Republican governors have raised taxes, and suddenly the people who were threatening revolution against Democratic governors for the same thing are as quiet as church mice.

OK, off to another day...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Catnip 6/18/12: Live and Let Die




Happy 70th to Sir Paul. This must have been one helluva show. My kingdom for a time machine to go back and see Wings in their heyday.


Monday moanin' news...

How would Romney pay for his massive tax cuts for the wealthy? How would he increase military spending and slash revenue at the same time? He won't tell you right now, reminiscent of the gubernatorial campaigns of 2010 from Walker, Snyder, Kasich, Scott, and others. How did they pay for their tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy, when they reached office? They raised taxes on the middle class and slashed spending on education and other vital state services. Make a note. The only difference here is that Romney may not be able to get away with not presenting a plan by election time.

Another big clue about Romney's ultimate plan - his embrace of Paul Ryan and the unpopular House Republicans. Kissy-face on the campaign trail with the likes of Boehner, Ryan, Portman and others. From the WSJ and Sargent: "Many observers expected Romney to work hard to achieve separation from the House GOP, but the real story turned out to be the degree to which Romney’s and Ryan’s broad economic visions are in sync with one another." Ding ding ding, we have a winnah.

Energy Etch-A-Sketch. Don't miss this important editorial on the massive flip-flop Romney has done on energy to please the Koch Party. "Mr. Romney has plainly decided that satisfying his party’s antiregulatory base is essential to his political future. But the policies he espouses would be devastating for the country and the planet. If there are doubts on that point, the most recent findings from the International Energy Agency should dispel them: the agency reports an alarming one-year increase in global greenhouse gas emissions, largely because of increasing coal use around the world." Can't get any clearer than that.

Chicken. Romney changed a campaign location Saturday to avoid the voters protesters. They were waiting for him on Sunday though.

Two weeks left to fix the student loan issue. Word has it that the transportation bill is going to fail. The farm bill is being held up by certain Senators who want to attack the EPA with amendments. Ah yes, that unpopular Congress is back this week, God help us all.

All things Europe with Ezra. He has the latest on the elections, check out today's Wonkbook if you're looking for that news.

Bloomberg has the rundown on what to expect from the Supreme Court. Health care fallout is going to rule the news cycle, so we'll burn that bridge when we come to it.

Bringing Moneyball theories to politics. It's crazy enough that it just might work.

Must run. Have a great week.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Father's Day!



For my Pop - I finally processed all those Lake Merritt Bonsai pictures, enjoy the slideshow. (Hit pause if it moves too fast.)

Thank you for everything, and I hope you have an excellent day today. Love you and miss you!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Catnip 6/15/12: From The Ashes

ashes3114

I can remember one of the first random thoughts I had about this construction as I rode by: "Gee, I feel sorry for whoever is going to live or work here, because it's awfully close to the tracks." Yeah, it was.

Not the prettiest of pictures, as it was shot through a dirty BART window as we were rolling by last night, but just thought I'd show you the aftermath of my 3 1/2 hour morning commute yesterday. Going home was great though - no one on the trains, as they had made other arrangements.


And there was some news...

Loved this speech. Hope people are paying attention, because that is the whole election, right there. Compare and contrast to this...

If you liked George Bush, you'll love what the people who pull Mitt Romney's strings have in mind. "The difference between Romney’s vision, rather than Obama’s, would be many fewer people with health insurance, into the tens of millions; less money for a variety of federal programs, including ones that help young people pay for college, enable poor people to get food, and provide public safety; fewer dollars for repairing broken down bridges, upgrading public transportation and other infrastructure investments; and much, much lower taxes for wealthy Americans." Speaking of wealthy Americans...

The Koch Brothers are their own political party. That should be obvious by now. And they will be in charge if you elect the Republicans. End of story.

Public sector austerity doesn't work. We have lots of evidence.

Michigan, my Michigan. Enjoying your turn in the national spotlight? Going to do something about it this year? And talk about insulting - Laura Berman admits that she wasn't paying attention to the "war on women", and that reveals something very important: Maybe it's not the politicians that are out of touch with the electorate. Maybe it's the media that blows off harmful policy that hurts people as simple "politics" that is the biggest part of the problem. And maybe they need to wake the f___ up too. But you knew that already, didn't you.

And by the way Michigan, don't think that you are unique. Virginia is poised to sign into law "the most restrictive" laws against choice in the nation, read and find out what that entails. So, Michigan Republicans, you've failed at being the biggest jerks, too.

Applause for Senator Stabenow, who is quietly negotiating the farm bill through the Senate. Seeing as how they plan on grinding progress to a halt on most everything else (annoucing yesterday that judical appointments will be blocked until after the election), it will be some sort of miracle if something this big actually gets done.

Soot. Get it out of the air. The Koch Party won't be happy about that though.

Breaking as I write this: The Obama administration will stop deporting immigrants who were brought here as children and have been living and working in America. Not citizenship, but work permits that will remove the threat of deportation. GOP heads are exploding as I type.

With that, I'm off to deal with the last day of this crazy week...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Catnip 6/14/12: Perfection

sfchairs6595

Keep it up kid, and maybe you'll have your own chair someday...

In honor of Matt Cain's perfect game last night. That was big fun to watch.

No news this morning, have to rush to catch a bus across the Bay as the BART trains have been shut down due to a fire. This promises to be an adventure, wish me luck.

Have a great day everyone.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Catnip 6/13/12: Stuff

stuff6372

Another boatload of stuff enters the SF Bay, coming to your house as soon as you fork over the money at your local store.


Yes, news stuff too.

Republican obstructionism. It's not just for screaming bloggers anymore. The NY Times has noticed: "What’s needed now is even more support, including federal spending on education and public-works projects to create jobs, targeted tax credits for hiring, programs to deliver mortgage relief that supports house prices by keeping Americans in their homes, as well as a renewed commitment to financial regulation to ensure that the system doesn’t melt down again. The Republicans — for reasons of ideology and self-serving election-year politics — are determined to block all of these necessary programs."

Hat tip to Georgia Logothetis at Kos, who highlights Dick Polman at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, who says, "Sabotaging Obama: The GOP's job-killing political strategy is working just fine." Please, go on. "Yes, sabotage was required. Republicans knew their prospects for beating Mr. Obama would be damaged if they signed on to a plan that got more Americans working again. They're far too invested in economic misery to let that happen." So glad more people are noticing this and speaking up about it.

Wall Street money is supporting Romney this time around. And if that is the case, the President should step up the message and run against Wall Street. Last I heard, they weren't very popular with the American people. So tie them right around Mitt Romney's neck and make sure the image is burned into the national psyche. That oughta wake up those independents.

Hurray for Ron Barber, who won Gabby Gifford's seat in convincing fashion yesterday. He gets to turn around and run for the seat again in the fall; tea-bag candidate Jesse Kelly will too - but the GOP is starting to sour on him after three losses in a row. Challengers have already filed.

Look beyond the sympathy vote in Arizona to the messaging, and take note, Democrats. Kelly had made statements on overhauling Social Security and Medicare, and that didn't play well with the voting public. Kelly was forced to run ads defending the programs, a sure sign that they had him set back on his heels on those issues. Time to bring up the Ryan plan again. And again. And again. Need more proof? Rove's minions at Crossroads are using Medicare cuts against Tim Kaine in Virginia.

Mr. Gorbachev's wall is still being torn down. The Senate will move to normalize trade relations with Russia soon, disagreements over Syria still pose a problem though.

The U.S. solar market is having a boom year, says a story behind the WSJ paywall. "The U.S. market for solar panels is likely to double in 2012, thanks to government policies and falling prices, although new tariffs on panels imported from China could contribute to slower growth in 2013, according to a new study. U.S. developers are likely to install about 3,300 megawatts of solar panels this year, nearly double the amount installed in 2011, according to the study released Wednesday by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research." Look for this news to be available other places today.

Mother Jones shows us how the SuperPacs avoid the taxman. Worth a read if you want to know how they get around the so-called rules on campaign financing.

Mining on the moon. Soon to be reality, if a couple of private firms have their way. Could make for some interesting international drama, seeing as how there really aren't any rules surrounding that property. So to speak.

And with that, I'm off...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Catnip 6/12/12: You Can Look Inside Another World



hasfwaybill2685

Fee Waybill of The Tubes. Forgot they were a SF band. Hey, the 80s were a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away....


Some news:

Flip-flop alert. Mitt Romney, after having his surrogates double-down yesterday on cutting "teachers, cops and firefighters", is now walking the whole thing back. "That’s a very strange accusation. Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn’t pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen. So obviously that’s completely absurd." Actually, the federal government does pay for teachers, cops and firefighters in the form of federal money to the states, so Mitt is the one who is being "completely absurd" in this latest statement. And he meant what he said in the first place. (see: Ryan budget embraced)

And for more on the "completely absurd" front, we have Republicans like Bobby Jindal saying things like "I suspect that many in the Obama administration really don’t believe in private enterprise. At best, they see business as something to be endured so that that it can provide tax money for government programs." Which is over-the-top utter bullshit, of course. Ezra Klein calls him out on it.

Stiglitz. Nail. Head. "Economic inequality feeds into inequalities of political power, leading to still more economic inequality. The U.S. is headed down the path that so many dysfunctional societies have traveled — divided societies in which the rich and poor live in different worlds. The rich residing in gated communities, with their own parks and schools. We know what happens to these societies. It’s not something to which we should aspire. There is an alternative. But will our politics allow it? Will those at the top come to realize that a house divided against itself cannot stand — that this level of inequality is not in their enlightened self-interest?" I dunno, have they ever?

49%. That's the number that think Republicans are deliberately stalling the economy to defeat President Obama. They would be right.

Voting. It's happening today Arizona, Maine, Virginia, Nevada, North Dakota and South Carolina. All eyes are on Arizona as the election to fill Gabby Gifford's seat takes place; a recent poll shows Democrat Ron Barber up big.

The NGA and the State Budget folks are going to release a survey today that shows Medicare costs are eating the recovery in state budgets. "The biggest culprit has been Medicaid. State spending on the joint federal-state health-care program for the poor surged by 20 percent this year, following a rise of 23 percent in fiscal 2011." That's what happens when people can't afford health care. They also put off visits to the doctor and dentist, too.

The rabid followers at FOX really, really, really want to see a witch-hunt over Eric Holder. The Justice Department is not amused. Neither is the rest of America, because this story just can't seem to get any traction, no matter how loud the crazies scream about it. Funny how House Republicans have time for this, but no time for job creation legislation...

Batteries are hanging in there. A123 has a big announcement today on a new technology: "The advance uses a new chemistry that could permit the creation of a simpler, lighter, longer-lasting battery pack that does not require a system to cool or heat it. The success or failure of the new technology may well determine the fate of A123. It will also render an early verdict on Mr. Obama’s broader push to promote electric cars and build a domestic industry to develop and manufacture advanced batteries to run them." The industry is developing in fits and starts as all industries do. A123 announced they plan to hire 400 new workers just the other day as business on grid operations and mass transit options picks up.

Running late, gotta go.... one parting shot of Prairie Prince of The Tubes, still one of the best drummers around.



hasfprince2636

Monday, June 11, 2012

Catnip 6/11/12: Standing On Ashbury


hasf2551

Ever wonder what the corner of Haight and Ashbury looks like today? Here it is, as pictured during the 2012 Street Fair, bubbles and all. There's a Ben & Jerry's, retro clothing, other stores and restaurants. And it's like that for blocks; pretty cool, but in the end just a nice shopping district that takes advantage of the history of the area. The Street Fair was awesome, great food, bands, and nifty baubles - but also hot, crowded, and commercialized. Imagine my disappointment at seeing a booth for Amway.

Ahh well, what can you do. The revolution moved on long ago.


Just a spot of news:

Crisis? What crisis? Vacation! ABC News reports on the House schedule, and they don't seem so concerned about getting any work done anytime soon. "The House was off the week of May 21 and the first two days of the following week. They came back for seven work days and now they are gone again for another week. When they come back from this break, they will have eight work days before their one-week recess to celebrate July 4th. Then comes their five week August summer vacation, starting August 3 and extending through the first week of September."

But that's the GOP playbook, and even the Guardian sees it. "In the end, that might be the worst part of all – one of two major political parties in America is engaging in scorched-earth economic policies that are undercutting the economic recovery, possibly on purpose, and is forcing job-killing austerity measures on the states. And they have paid absolutely no political price for doing so." Time to make the case, Democrats.

E.J. Dionne Jr. asks the question that has always burned in my mind: Why don't the Democrats stick up for the good, job-creating aspects of government? "Let’s turn Ronald Reagan’s declaration on its head: Opposition to government isn’t the solution. Opposition to government was and remains the problem. It is past time that we affirm government’s ability to heal the economy, and its responsibility for doing so." Cheers. Let's go.

The highway bill is a prime example of how the Republicans are holding back job creation. Talks are at a standstill again, and a multi-year deal looks out of reach. What a shock.

Michigan, my Michigan. The Obama campaign is headed for the state to trumpet the success of the auto industry - not just the automakers, but the rest of the state economy as well. A "weeklong spotlight on other manufacturers, restaurants, tourist spots and firms that benefitted from the auto recovery, according to campaign," and Carl Levin kicks off the event with a presser today. Did the EPIC poll spook them? Gongwer tweets this morning that Romney will pull a "me too!" and visit the state June 19th.

Exports are dropping again, but still up overall. "U.S. exports declined in April for the first time since November, dropping $1.5 billion from March, or 0.8%, to $182.9 billion, the government said Friday. Imports also sagged, suggesting Europe's economic turmoil and slowing in China are affecting U.S. trade. In the first four months of the year, U.S. exports of goods to the 27-member European Union grew just 3.5% from the same period a year ago." But Spain fixes things, right? Right?

Romney's energy policy is all over the board - but the things he highlights spell potential catastrophe as far as fossil fuel use and climate change regulations go. "The Republican presidential candidate talks about building nuclear plants, opening up virtually every part of U.S. land and waters to oil and gas drilling, exploiting coal and stripping the EPA of much of its authority, especially when it comes to regulating greenhouse gases." So basically the Republican plan is: Use as much as the earth as we can and let it pollute our environment as we do so. To hell with job creation, and climate problems, and future generations - we want it all, right now.

Running behind this morning, so that's it for now...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Game of Drones



gameofdrones2086


The latest from Chalkupy at Ogawa. Timely.

If the use of drones is increasingly disturbing on the international level, well, the Republicans got a nice surprise in store for you American troublemakers.

First of all, Rep. Peter King of New York sees a never-ending war against the "terrorists", and if innocent civilians get killed along the way, that's just too darn bad.

"I am not concerned. My belief is when you're in war, and we are in war, you want to kill as many of the enemy as you can with the minimal risk of life to your own people," King said.

If that wasn't bad enough, here's the real eyebrow raiser...

King also said he would support the use of drones in domestic law enforcement action as long as reasonable steps were taken to ensure privacy.

"If you're talking about people out in the open, there's no expectation of privacy," King said.

Um, excuse me? Are we really discussing the use of drones on American soil?

Pay attention people. This is the face of what a Republican-controlled government would look like, and they would have no qualms about squashing domestic "threats" with military force.

Better think long and hard about that one.

Update: Silly me, we are already using drones on American soil. What was I thinking. Here's a great article from Mother Jones that shows how they are creeping into domestic law enforcement activities.



Saturday, June 09, 2012

Teachers Matter





Amazing stroke of luck for the White House to be able to draw this difference between the candidates.

Obama: "The point is: teachers matter. One study found that a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can change the course of a child’s life. So the last thing our country needs is to have fewer teachers in our schools."
Romney: "He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people."

In the eyes of the Republican right-wing, teachers are not the leaders that will shape the future of this nation and the key to our prosperity, they are "government" that must be cut. So, if you want more cuts to education, if you want our schools to turn into a voucher system, vote for Mitt and watch America continue its decline.

And about that "message from Wisconsin". In the last poll before the election, Marquette University, the people who called the final tally right, also came up with another interesting message from the Badger state:

29% favor cuts in education while 67% oppose cuts.

Could be why the President is still leading the state overall. Let's keep it that way.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Private Sector IS Doing Fine. You Aren't the Private Sector.

Just a little note about the bullshit story du jour. American companies and executive pay? Laughing all the way to the bank.

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.

And the big bosses?

For the average C.E.O., however, the good times have returned. 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.

But what about the workers?

Between 2007 and 2010, working-class people -- those in nonprofessional occupations who lack college degrees -- saw their median earnings fall 4.6 percent, according to a study of U.S. census data prepared for Bloomberg News by Sentier Research of Annapolis, Maryland. Over the same period, earnings for college-educated professionals or managers rose 1.9 percent.

Working-class males were especially hard hit, with median annual earnings falling 6.6 percent, more than three times the 1.9 percent loss suffered by all employees, according to the study, an effort to quantify the recession’s impact on labor.

And yet...

For Romney, mobilizing blue-collar victims of the recession is essential to victory in November. In 2008, non-college- educated whites -- key players in every successful Republican presidential campaign for four decades -- accounted for 39 percent of the electorate, exit polls showed. And white working- class voters potentially make up more than half the electorate in states such as Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

“This is his base. He needs to turn them out in large numbers,” says Henry Olsen, a political analyst at the Republican-leaning American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “He needs large numbers and large margins.”

Honestly folks, we need to learn the lesson. And if Bush didn't teach us, I shudder to think what it will take...

Catnip 6/8/12: Baby, It's Hot Outside

giantsvsas6662

The top of the AT&T ramps to the upper deck. If I have one complaint about the place, it's the long and twisting path you have to take to get to the top - but once you get there... WOW. The view is amazing. Worth the climb.


One more day until the weekend getaway...

My hero Steve Benen nails the latest Romney lie - and believe it or not, Mitt keeps raising the bar higher on just how far he can push these falsehoods. Check out this absurdity: "America is on the cusp of having a government-run economy. President Obama is transforming America into something very different than the land of the free and the land of opportunity." Um, no. Not even close. Benen: "But Romney is creating a twisted fantasy land, ascribing views to Obama that are simply made up. Government is not poised to control the American economy; the free-enterprise system is not at risk. I care that Romney is trying to deceive the public, but I care even more about how he's trying to deceive the public -- in this case, by peddling incoherent nonsense." I would describe it as a pernicious and deliberate attempt to mislead the American public and hurt the American economy. And once again, not a peep from the mainstream press about this insanity.

Fareed Zakaria weighs in on Romney this morning, and comes to the same conclusion that all sane people do: Mitt's prescription for what will jump-start the economy, as in, "more tax cuts", is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong: "Why can we be sure of this? Because that is what we have done for the past three years. For those who think President Obama’s policies have done little to produce growth, keep in mind that the single largest piece of his policies — in dollar terms — has been tax cuts." Zakaria proceeds to list all the tax cuts we have had going back to Bush, reports the results, "The years 2000 to 2007 were the period of the weakest job growth in the United States since the Great Depression," AND we ballooned the deficit. Why does anyone think "more of the same" will work? That includes you too, Mr. President. And certain Democratic Senators.

"This Week in Dark Money", a must-read from Mother Jones. See how much these guys hauled in, which charts and everything.

Nate Silver works his magic on the presidential race and the electoral college, and comes up with what could be the overlooked state that might hold the fate of the nation in its hands. Sure, Ohio and Virginia can make or break either candidate. But if things go as expected.... "If there is an unheralded state that could be in play this year, it might be Oregon. Oregon has been sparsely polled, but the most recent survey found a tight race there, and the state has been extremely competitive in the past — like in 2000 when Al Gore won it by less than a full percentage point." Interesting.

Fortunately for Oregon, they are not being bombarded with the never-ending propaganda machine, but pity the nine states that are getting blasted. The NY Times takes a look at the media markets that the campaigns figure are key, and comes to this conclusion: "With so many resources focused on persuading an ever-shrinking pool of swing voters like those here in Nevada, the 2012 election is likely to go down in history as the one in which the most money was spent reaching the fewest people." We should give those people a medal for their endurance.

You want to compare President Obama's recovery now with President Reagan's recovery back in 1984? Well, we are going to need to do a lot more of that "government spending" to catch up with Ronnie. "Under one president, real per capita government spending at that point was 14.4 percent higher than four years previously; under the other, less than half as much, just 6.4 percent. O.K., by now many readers have probably figured out the trick here: Reagan, not Obama, was the big spender." Ahh, but as we know by now, the myth has always trumped the reality that was "the 80s", but those of us who lived it remember it well.

Happy Birthday today to Gabby Giffords. Looks like she may start a PAC of her own.

What climate change? The U.S. is having the warmest year on record. HuffPo had a scary story yesterday from a couple of scientists published in Nature, about how we may be close to the tipping point, and there may be no turning back very soon. "Barnosky and his colleagues reviewed research on climate change, ecology and Earth's tipping points that break the camel's back, so to speak. At certain thresholds, putting more pressure on the environment leads to a point of no return, Barnosky said. Suddenly, the planet responds in unpredictable ways, triggering major global transitions." Well, then. Enjoy today.

With that, I'm off to the world that awaits...

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Future Games



This song, this album, is definitely in my Top Ten of all time.

RIP Bob Welch. Thank you so much for this music.


Catnip 6/7/12: Back to Making Stuff Up

citycenter1671

Oakland's City Center in the twilight. It's a fancy little strip downtown, with sculptures and waterfalls and tables for outdoor eating and such. Obviously new construction (compared to older brick buildings in the city) and built to serve all the office folks down there, because for the most part it's closed up nights and weekends - which is unfortunate for me, because there are a lot of cute shops and restaurants I would like to try...


News. Is Wisconsin over yet? Hope so.

"Romney Just Making Stuff Up Now." You mean there was a time when he wasn't? The latest Romney lie, based on a line in a book that Mitt has totally twisted around, is that Obama slowed down the recovery on purpose to pass Obamacare. Yeah, it's that incredibly stupid: "Not only is it false for Romney to say Obama 'knowingly slowed down our recovery,' it’s not even true that Obama knowingly passed up a chance to accelerate the recovery. The notion that anybody in the administration believed that the health care law would actually slow down the recovery is complete fiction. It does not appear in the book anywhere and it’s pretty obviously untrue." We need the mass media to start pointing out that Romney lies all the time. About everything.

The Secret Congress. Word is that a dozen in the Senate's brain trust (stop laughing) will be meeting to put together a deal on the budget that won't be announced or introduced until after the election. Which kind of defeats the purpose of elections, but anyway... "Above all else, they say, these summer talks must be done secretly and never be made public for fear that any new proposals could get swept into the highly toxic partisan atmosphere ahead of a historic presidential election. The secret talks might allow Democrats to entertain deeper cuts to entitlements than they usually would, and Republicans could talk more candidly about increasing tax revenues — without either side getting blasted in the political arena." Courage!

The stimulus worked, says the CBO and the vast majority of economists, but never let the facts get in the way of good Republican attack spin. "Most economists not only think it should have worked; they think it did work, Elmendorf replied. CBO’s own analysis found that the package added as many as 3.3 million jobs to the economy during the second quarter of 2010, and may have prevented the nation from lapsing back into recession." Will the Democrats grab that number and flaunt it around? Any guesses?

House Republicans. Energy bills. All sorts of weirdness going on there. Once again they refused to cut funding, this time for nuclear and fossil fuel research, just as they refused to cut renewable energy funding last week. Then, they introduced another drill, baby, drill, proposal that will go nowhere. Yesterday, they actually passed the $32 billion Energy and Water Bill with increased spending - but asks for cuts elsewhere that the WH will not accept. And on we go.

Europe, Europe, Europe. What would you like to know about Europe? Ezra has a huge rundown today in Wonkbook, and points the finger right at Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank. Go read. And apparently Krugman has started a war with Estonia, but I'm guessing we already won 'cause I'm not hearing anything about it on the TV.

With labor being tremendously outmatched monetarily in Wisconsin, can we now stop comparing labor money for the Democrats as being equal to Super Pac money for the Republicans? We are going to find out, and chances are the Republicans will continue on with their big, bad, bogeyman labor mantra, but here's the reality: "No, the real underlying story is that unions are losing their institutional legitimacy in modern America. The problem isn’t that most people hate unions. The problem for unions is that most people don’t care about them, or think about them, at all." The Jedi are all but extinct...

Can small donors make up the difference? Not likely, but it is rather heartening (and revealing) that once again Obama is pulling the donations from the average Joe at a bigger clip than Moneybags Mitt. It's a sign of enthusiasm - the base for Obama has it, the base (other than the billionaries) for Romney doesn't. "As of the end of April, 43 percent of the donors who contributed to the Obama campaign gave $200 or less, generating a total of $88.5 million, according to the Campaign Finance Institute, a nonpartisan Washington research group. By contrast, only 10 percent of those who gave to former governor Mitt Romney’s campaign had made donations of $200 or less, accounting for $9.8 million."

That's all for now...

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Michigan's Largest Wind Farm Begins Operations

This brought a big smile.

Michigan's largest wind farm started operations Wednesday, DTE Energy said in a statement.

The 212.8-megawatt Gratiot County Wind Project has 133 General Electric Co. turbines — 64 owned by Detroit-based DTE Energy and 69 by Chicago-based Invenergy Wind LLC. The wind park generates enough renewable energy to power more than 50,000 Michigan homes when the wind is blowing, DTE Energy said.

DTE is buying all the power from the wind farm under a 20-year contract.

"This investment proves that Michigan's existing renewable energy law is working and the state is aggressively implementing its renewable commitment," said Steve Kurmas, Detroit Edison president and chief operating officer, referring to Michigan's requirement that utilities generate 10 percent renewable energy by 2015.

That is great. Whaddaya say we go for 25 by '25?

Make it happen, people.


Catnip 6/6/12: Thank You All

embarcbart1642

The Embarcadero BART station last night, as I waited for a train that was delayed "due to police action in San Francisco." I have no idea what that was about, too busy trying to keep up with the flood of national news about yesterday's election results.

Haven't had time to put together a post this morning - but I do have this great quote from Ezra Klein: "Last night, Scott Walker successfully resisted the recall effort in Wisconsin. And so, today, pundits everywhere are mining the election results for insight into the 2012 election. Ignore them."

OK. I'll try. But I will add this perfect summary from Jamelle Bouie, posting at Plum Line: "More than anything, the GOP is working to destroy the infrastructure of the Democratic Party, and so far — with the assault on public sector unions — it’s been a tremendous success."

First they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak up.... the slow destruction of unions in America, and the Democrats lack of support for them (among other constituencies, see: gay, poor, liberal, environmentalists, etc.) will be the eventual undoing of the D's. It's slow, it's insidious, but it's happening. There is hope in the youth who still trend to the left, but....

Dems better get off the mat and start fighting as hard as the Republicans do, or they won't matter as a force in policy or politics. As governors like Walker and Snyder and Kasich and Scott have made so clear, "bipartisanship" means you don't get a voice at the table when the R's have total power.


And on a personal note, I would like to thank everyone who reached out to me on this day - I miss you guys like crazy, and I sure wish I was going to a Whitecaps game tonight. :-)

Thanks again. I'm blessed to have so many that care.

Have a beautiful day. I'm off to face the aftermath...


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Catnip 6/5/12: To Be in Alaska Now

londoncabin1395

Jack London's cabin from Alaska. They actually found this thing, hauled it back to Oakland, and re-assembled it here. Sparse living, to be sure.


It's only Tuesday, and we got a whole lotta crazy to talk about already. Plus, actual voting and stuff! Let's get to a few notes...

Ezra goes right off the rails today, suggesting that maybe a Romney presidency would be best because the Republicans will crash the economy out of spite if they lose. Apparently Klein is simply going to ignore that Republican economic policy is batshit insane - huge tax cuts for the wealthy, and they will keep spending and explode the deficit. So, we reward the hostage-takers for their bad behavior, and end up in a bigger mess than we are now - and hurt a whole lot of people along the way with the Ryan budget. What part of that makes any sense?

Stiglitz takes a different view, arguing the odds of another recession grow under Romney due to the Ryan austerity budget cuts. The question comes down to whether or not you believe the Republicans are serious about cutting spending - my guess is they will keep spending for their campaign contributors and force austerity on the poor and middle class, and on programs such as education, environment, etc. Since there are more poor and middle class people who benefit from government spending, I tend to give the nod to Stiglitz here. Plus, tax cuts explode the deficit, which will make the confidence fairies nervous, right? That is the argument, isn't it? Or does that all go away when Republicans take back power?

Joe Nocera notes that Tim Noah notes that the decline in American wages came with the decline of American unions. Now the liberals lament their own union-bashing. "The result is that today unions represent 12 percent of the work force. 'Draw one line on a graph charting the decline in union membership, then superimpose a second line charting the decline in middle-class income share,' writes Noah, 'and you will find that the two lines are nearly identical.' Richard Freeman, a Harvard economist, has estimated that the decline of unions explains about 20 percent of the income gap." Some of us have been pointing this out for a while now, and we aren't even Harvard economists.

Here comes the farm bill. The Senate grapples with Republicans who want bigger subsidies for farmers (yes, Republicans want "spending" for their supporters, imagine that), the Democrats fight off cuts to food stamps, the House crazies aren't going to put up with any of it, and good luck to you, Senator Stabenow, as you try to herd this monster into some sort of coherent legislation.

Very interesting California primary today, as party lines are obliterated in the state's new "top-two finishers compete in November" vote. While chances are the Democrat and Republican on any ballot will still have the money and name recognition to put them in the "top two" of any given race, it could make for some very interesting results in those contests where it isn't so clear who is who, or there are two popular Dems on the ballot, etc. and so on. Might be fun to watch. It is of national import as the key to the Democrats taking back the House in Congress runs through California, as they are looking to pick-up a substantial number of seats here in November.

Greg Sargent has a great round-up of the stories coming out of Wisconsin. Dems are already talking recount, Walker is already muttering about "voter fraud". This one is coming down to the wire. Polls close at 9ET/6PT, which means I'm in for an interesting day.

Mitt Romney continues to lie about the auto industry bailout. This alone should disqualify him from the presidency. Bottom line: If the automakers hadn't received the money in December of '08, they wouldn't have survived. Period. The dude put companies into bankruptcy for a living. He knows the score, and he continues to lie anyway. That's enough now, Mitt. Just stop.

We are looking at an $8 billion dollar election cycle in '12. Holy shit. Can you imagine what '16 will be like?

Off to my very busy day.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Catnip 6/4/12: Message of the Chalk

share1301

More Ogawa Plaza chalk art. They put one up, the city power-washes it off, the process starts again. One of these days I will get all the pictures together - at this point, they are scattered in folders as I have taken the random shot walking by, but there have been quite a few of them now, and they are very good. You'll see.


A bit 'o news.

Ezra tells us not to read too much into those jobs numbers; one report does not an economy make. So sayeth the people in the know: "We don't view the deceleration in employment over the past couple of months as the leading edge of a more pronounced and general weakness as it follows several months of stronger growth; some of the deceleration likely reflects payback from weather effects that boosted employment last winter," they wrote. And while they see substantial risks for the economy over the next few months, they think "the negative effects from these developments are offset, in part, by sharp reductions in energy prices that are boosting growth of real disposable personal income and adding support to our forecast for real consumer spending." Someone clue the media in, k?

And as Krugman tells us, if you are going to freak about the economy, then maybe we stop following the Republican prescription of more tax cuts and deregulation, and start applying some more stimulus. "So the Republican electoral strategy is, in effect, a gigantic con game: it depends on convincing voters that the bad economy is the result of big-spending policies that President Obama hasn’t followed (in large part because the G.O.P. wouldn’t let him), and that our woes can be cured by pursuing more of the same policies that have already failed." Dear God that's a frightening prospect, isn't it. Krugman also provides a very interesting chart on government spending and starts talking about 1937... seems we've seen this movie before.

Polling numbers on the economy hold the key, and ABC News has the goods on the latest. This is important, pay attention: "Americans who are more hopeful than anxious about the economy’s prospects pick Obama 59 percent to 37 percent for Romney. By contrast, those who are more anxious about the economy flock to Romney over Obama by a 61 percent to 33 percent margin. In our most recent poll, 57 percent of registered voters described themselves as 'more hopeful' compared to 39 percent who said they were 'more anxious' about the economy." So, it all comes down to whether or not America has a big anxiety attack over the economy at the end of October. Swell.

House Republicans reject cuts to energy programs. Yes, you read that right. An effort to eliminate the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy account at the Department of Energy went down to defeat last week. "Like other Republicans, McClintock argued that this account needlessly spends money on questionable private investments that have not led to any measurable returns. But the House rejected McClintock's amendment in a 113-275 vote, in which 113 Republicans voted for it but 107 Republicans joined every Democrat in opposition." Other amendments that sought huge cuts failed as well. But... but... but... Solyndra! Yeah, well, even Republicans like them some spending on energy efforts, so that makes Romney's line of attack a bunch of nonsense. Surprise!

House Republicans have set the highway bill on a crash-and-burn course though, denying construction jobs and much-needed repair to our infrastructure by trying to push the Keystone issue, which they recently said they would drop. Or something. Who knows at this point, it's all about the gridlock as a campaign weapon. Cantor promises to have it done, probably by taking it to the last minute (June 30th) and forcing the Democrats hand with a bad bill.

The final poll on Wisconsin: Walker 50, Barrett 47. This one is going to come down to turnout, period. From Sargent and PPP: "If the turnout operation Dems and labor insist are superior to that of Walker can make up the difference, and can replicate 2008 Dem turnout, Walker — who’s trailing among core Dem constituencies like women, minorities, and young voters — will be recalled. If not, his lead among men, whites, seniors and Milwaukee suburbanities will enable him to survive." Which very much parallels what may happen this November, demographically speaking.

Some interesting campaign advertising stats. Starting at April 10th, when Romney became the de facto nominee, "70 percent of all Democratic ads were positive, while a slightly greater percentage of Republican ads were negative. … Democratic presidential advertisers aired 35,936 ads. Of these, 70 percent (25,092) were positive and 30 percent (10,844) were negative. … Republican presidential advertisers aired 27,857 ads. Of these, 27 percent (7,584) were positive and 73 percent (20,273) were negative."

There's more, but I gotta run for now...

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Maggs

Magglio Ordonez 7300

The ever-sharp Amy Chapman got me with a tweet today:

"Wouldn't it be funny if instead of a retirement ceremony, Ordonez came out in a Tigers uniform and started to play?"

Thank you, Magglio, for all the great memories, and happy trails to you now and always.


Saturday, June 02, 2012

Meanwhile, in the Civilized World...

As we quibble over the manufactured outrage that is Solyndra and watch as the Titans of Oil and their anti-tax minions try to roll back progress on renewable energy standards, Germany is proving to the world that solar is a viable alternative to dangerous and expensive energy sources. Hat tip to this diary at Kos for pointing out this story:

German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour - equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity - through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.

On Friday, the output was enough to meet a third of the country's "midday electricity needs", and on Saturday, when offices and factories were closed, it met nearly half. Germany already gets 20% of its power from renewable energy sources. They also have more installed solar power that "the rest of the world combined" and are looking to cut greenhouse emissions by 40% by 2020.

There are issues. It is expensive, adding a few pennies per kilowatt hour with a feed-in tariff that will be in place until parity is reached with fossil fuel energy production. There are also fluctuations in output that need to be dealt with - but both of those things will work themselves out over time, and hey, no Chernobyls!

It can be done. It will be done. The only question now is how far America wants to fall behind in both the race to create jobs AND a healthy, sustainable environment.

Vote accordingly.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Catnip 6/1/12: Don't Panic

sealion0538


Sea lions at Pier 39. They jump up on the tethered docks to nap in the sun as the tourists snap pictures. Every once in a while, a wet one will join the pack, which brings honks of protest from the others that are sleeping. Fun to watch.

Other than that - Hello June. Yee-hah.

Everybody freakout. Jobs number not what we want to hear, unemployment rises as people rejoin the workforce. And as Greg Sargent so masterfully points out, this not-great news dovetails nicely with the new Romney "feel good" ad that essentially says that you should act on your frustrations and just vote Obama out. The Republicans are going for that "morning in America" meme once again, and it just may work as long as the media refuses to take a critical look at position and policy. Never any mention of how Romney would take us right back to the same track that got us feeling bad in the first place.

If these numbers stay the same, and the Democrats don't start showing some fight and passion in their message, we may be in trouble here. I didn't feel that way a month ago, but, in the face of $1 billion in slick ads that are going to promise you that feel-good instant crack high that the R's are famous for - I'm starting to think that this country may fall for it again. And then they are going to be really sorry.

Moving on...

Message to Bill, Cory, and Deval. Look guys, people don't get nuance. You aren't helping when you try to play both sides of the Bain card. Just stop. Talk about something else.

House Republicans are still trying to screw around with the student loan rate bill. Now, they want to take the money from federal employees, or take money from Medicaid providers, or "coordinate with the states to stop overpayment on Social Security claims." Whatever. Anything to protect their campaign contributors. You know who they are. The WSJ reports this morning that student debt rose 8% last year - up to $904 billion dollars, far more than the $679 billion Americans owe on credit cards.

Krugman calls "austerity" for what it is - disaster capitalism. In other words, create a crisis, and use that crisis for further cuts to social programs. Comparing the countries and policy in Europe as an example, Krugman comes to this conclusion; "So the austerity drive in Britain isn’t really about debt and deficits at all; it’s about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs. And this is, of course, exactly the same thing that has been happening in America." Yup. That about sums it up. And it won't work, unless you enjoy masses of people in poverty.

Wisconsin takes center stage. $62 million dollars has been spent in the state on the recall election; a lot of that coming from out-of-state special interests that have a stake in how the effort to bust unions comes out. And union busting has worked. David Dayen at Firedoglake points out that AFSCME members have dropped by nearly half in the past year, from 62,000 members to 28,000 since March of 2011. "The goal of Walker’s anti-worker bill was to decimate public sector unions, to ruin the funding base for Democrats in Wisconsin elections. In other words, the bill was designed to deal with close races like this, to give Republican candidates an advantage." Take out the unions, take out the Democrats - which is exactly what the Republicans have in mind.

One good economic sign, retail sales grew in May. From the Financial Times via Wonkbook: "American shoppers increased their spending in May, despite uncertainty over US economic growth and the jobs market, according to monthly sales figures from some of the country’s largest retail chains. Total sales at stores open for at least a year rose 4 per cent last month, according to Retail Metrics, the research group."

Another good economic sign - car sales at the Big Three are up big. Ford 13%, Chrysler 30%, and "GM says US sales up 11% in May for best monthly total since August 2009 (Cash for Clunkers); GM retail sales up 14%" according to a tweet from David Shepardson. David also reports "GM says it sold 1,680 Volts -- up over April's 1,462 -- and has now sold 7,057 for the year -- almost as many as all of 2011". All that will be in print later, I'm sure.

With that, enjoy your weekend - and get ready for the knockdown, dragout fight that is going to be the summer silly season...