Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tribune

tribtower1328

No notes today, got busy this morning.

Another shot of the Tribune Tower, a landmark in downtown Oakland. The paper moved out long ago, but recently moved back to the downtown area into smaller digs - so that's cool. They have workshops on journalism and all sorts of community engagement; if I ever find time, I may check them out and see what they have in the way of photojournalism instruction.

Have a great day~

Monday, July 30, 2012

Romney, Republicans to Iowa: "Drop Dead"

I do believe that we may be able to cross Iowa off the swing-state list pretty soon. Not only are the House Republicans delaying the farm bill and being stingy on drought relief because the Club for Growth is calling the shots...

"House Republican leadership should promise fiscal conservatives that they will not use a short-term extension as a vehicle to get to conference on a massive new farm bill,” said the group’s president, Chris Chocola. “Last month, leadership pulled a similar trick with the highway bill. Republicans should be fighting to cut spending and limit government, not compromising with Democrats to spend billions of dollars on farm subsidies and food stamps.”

... Romney came out against the wind production tax credit today - which is a Really Big Deal for the folks in the Hawkeye state. It was Chuck Grassley who wrote the thing in the first place.

Top GOP leaders in Iowa — including Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and the entire congressional delegation — champion the tax break as a vital economic development tool.

Monday evening, U.S. Rep. Tom Latham said the position Team Romney laid out “shows a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation. It’s the wrong decision.” Latham called for Romney to re-evaluate.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Monday he considers the tax credit he authored to be a tremendous success, but he has been talking with wind backers “about options that include a multi-year phase-out along with tax reform.”

This is going to cost Iowa jobs, as plans for new development on now on hold because House Republicans will not extend the credit in time to plan for 2013.

But it would undoubtedly put a damper on future economic development in Iowa, Prior said. If more wind farms are built here, it would mean more capital investment, an increase in the property tax base, more people hired to operate and maintain the turbines, and more money paid to Iowans in land lease payments, he said.

Without the tax credit, there’s no guarantee that $6 billion or $7 billion in additional wind farms planned for northwest Iowa will be built, Prior said.

And although Iowa manufacturers are bulking up on overseas orders (good for them), eventually the domestic loss will hit them too.

Iowa has five major manufacturers: Acciona in West Branch, Clipper in Cedar Rapids, Siemens in Fort Madison and TPI and Trinity in Newton. Together they employ around 2,300 people. Counting suppliers and other wind-related smaller businesses, the job count is 6,000 to 7,000, industry representatives said.

The uncertainty of the wind tax credit’s fate has already caused orders for turbine production for next year to drop steeply. When Congress delayed extension of the tax break twice in the past, wind projects faltered and workers were laid off. Clipper laid off 90 people in 2009 when projected orders for turbines fell from 450 to about 200.

Mitt Romney and the House Republicans - officially killing jobs in Iowa. Time to crank out some ads, Democrats...

Catnip 7/30/12: Hitchin' A Ride

pelicanwharf0109

A pelican waits for a ride on a fishing boat at the Wharf. Birds there have absolutely no fear of humans.

They haven't met Paul Ryan yet though....

Gambling at Rick's? Very interesting poll question from Gallup, probably one of the first times this term has been tested, has "corruption" 2nd on the list of the priorities of voters. Note the caveat though: "Eighty-seven percent of respondents said that reducing corruption in the federal government is an “extremely important” or “very important” priority for the next president, compared with 92 percent who said the same about creating good jobs... Gallup notes that corruption ranks highly when respondents are asked specifically about it, but isn’t as 'top-of-mind' when respondents are asked to volunteer priorities." "Corruption" beats budget, terrorism, and SS and Medicare by the slimmest of percentage points.

While we are on the subject of corruption, let's take a look at what the House Republicans have in store for the tax code this week. While Dave Camp's bill to fast-track the tax changes that the Romney-Ryan budget prescribes will go nowhere in the Senate, keep in mind that once again the GOP prescription for what ails us is massive tax cuts for the rich, increased taxes for the middle class, and the offshoring of jobs. "In a series of meetings, the chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee gently explained that lowering rates would explode the budget deficit unless Republicans also proposed pruning back expensive credits and deductions that benefit millions of ordinary people. The break for home mortgage interest, for example, or the $1,000 child credit. Or that stalwart of GOP orthodoxy, the 15 percent rate for capital gains." Be aware this is happening; it's a preview of our future if the Republicans win. CNN has more.

At least they aren't being shy about it. Republicans may not tell you the specifics of their plans, but they are giving us enough of an outline to make a judgment - painting anything outside their extreme right-wing economic policy as "socialism". E.J. Dionne: "For conservatives, this is a go-for-broke election. They and a Republican Party now under their control hope to eke out a narrow victory in November on the basis of a quite radical program that includes more tax cuts for the rich, deep reductions in domestic spending, big increases in military spending and a sharp rollback in government regulation." In other words, wave good-bye to America as we know it and get ready for the regime that will make George Bush look like a flaming liberal. You have been warned.

Preview of what happens when you cut government spending as described above. We've seen it in the red states, and it's happening at the federal level as well. Behind the WSJ paywall but excerpted in Wonkbook: "Falling military spending and the end of federal stimulus programs are further slowing the already weak U.S. economic recovery... Recent economic data show that long before the fiscal cliff hits, federal spending already is falling–and taking a toll on the recovery. Federal spending and investment fell at an annual rate of 0.4% in the second quarter and has fallen 3.3% in the past year. Federal employment has fallen by more than 52,000 jobs in the past year and for the first time is lower than when the recovery began."

The DCCC isn't being shy about the tax argument either, hitting 23 specific House Republicans over their vote to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich. The ads tell it like it is. Class warfare? Bring it on.

Romney makes a total lie the centerpiece of his campaign. Fascinating, in a way. Kessler destroys the "build it" ad in today's WaPo: "In any case, the Romney campaign clearly ripped these words out of context, leaving them untethered from their original meaning — in order to score political points in a highly misleading way." Another four Pinocchios for Romney. Think he is going for the record.

Geoff Feiger weighs in on Romney's prep school bullying. Good ad. No word so far on how much he is spending, but apparently it's only running in Michigan.

The Commerce Department has had enough of under-cost Chinese and Vietnamese wind turbine towers, and is taking action. "Chinese manufacturers have been illegally selling steel towers for wind turbines below the cost of production and will have to pay duties of 20.85 to 72.69 percent on imports, the United States Commerce Department said Friday in a preliminary ruling in an antidumping case brought by four American tower manufacturers." Potential problem looms though - the expiration of the production tax credit at the end of this year already has developers and American manufacturers laying off employees because they cannot plan for 2013. Will the tariffs be blamed?

A positive consequence of the drought: Less runoff into the Mississippi River is reducing the amount of chemicals that hit the Gulf of Mexico, and the "dead zone" that is usually created from such waste will be the fourth smallest since 1985. NOAA has the explanation.

Out of time, gotta go...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Catnip 7/27/12: Muir Beach Overlook

muirbeachol9459

The Muir Beach Overlook as the fog advances on the coast. It overtook us about 20 minutes later. The overlook is beautiful (1000 px), with trails and trees and WWII base end stations that kept an eye out for Japanese ships when SF was thought to be a target. See picture of them below.


News you can use:

The Great Recession wasn't as Great as advertised. "Real gross domestic product shrank 4.7% between late 2007 and the middle of 2009 — not the 5.1% initially estimated, the Commerce Department says. In 2009, America’s economy contracted 3.1%, much less than the earlier estimate of 3.5%." How can that be? Turns out that cash sent to the states kept the bottom from falling out, and that policy actually fueled growth in construction and other areas. Go figure.

There is a case to be made that today's GDP numbers would be better if Republicans in Congress had not blocked the Jobs Act or other economic stimulus measures. See above. We have had 12 consecutive quarters of growth, so that's something.

More on the GDP from the WH that advances the argument. "Over the last three years, the economy has expanded by 6.7 percent overall, and the private components of GDP have grown by 9.9 percent... Since the Recovery Act funds have been phasing out, however, declining State and local government activity has subtracted from GDP. Indeed, today’s report indicates that State and local government purchases have declined for 11 straight quarters, the longest streak ever recorded since the official record of quarterly data began in 1947." Translation: Red states and Republican governors cutting spending has hurt the overall economy, as was reported by The Nation early this year. More money in the original stimulus package was needed, and who insisted that be smaller?

I read the news today, oh boy, and "Mitt the Twit", the headlines read. "Do we have another Palin on our hands?" asked a popular British commentator. No, it doesn't mean a thing to voters in the swing states, but geez, how embarrassing for a country that is a supposed "world leader". Obama wins on foreign policy polling hands down, and it doesn't look like this trip is going to improve Romney's numbers.

GOP outspending Obama across the nation. Too soon? Probably not, because the billionaires have no intention of letting up. This is chump change to them. "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his conservative allies are outspending President Obama in every swing state except Pennsylvania this week, dropping nearly $8 million more on television advertising than the incumbent, according to sources watching the TV market." And guess what, it's expected to "surge" after Labor Day.

Obama is running a positive ad during the Olympics. Interesting choice, as it is said that positive ads don't work - but perhaps a ray of light through all the mud that has been this campaign will stand out more and be the exception to the rule.

Congress is working on a six-month stopgap spending bill to avoid a shutdown fight on September 30th. No surprise there. But buried in the story is this curious detail - the GOP is refusing to address the various business tax credits that expire at the end of the year, which has the big-buck buddies that are fueling Republican campaign coffers rather nervous. Items like R & D and renewable energy breaks are on the line. "A series of Ways and Means Committee hearings this week, which included testimony from lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum, demonstrated little GOP unity over which of the more than 100 provisions should be extended, throwing into serious doubt any ability to pass a package that’s coveted by business lobbyists." Turns out the Tea Party is bad for business.

Republicans are playing cover-your-ass on the farm bill, and may agree to a one-year deal that contains drought relief so they don't have to face the pitchforks at the county fairs when they go home in August. Why the Dems don't use this bill as leverage is beyond me.

Strong summer storms are threatening the ozone layer. Throw another log on the climate change fire. So to speak.

On the subject of climate change, Big Fossil Fuel Mitt told a crowd in London last night that the EPA "has to see itself as being responsible for our air and water and not take action which can prevent us from taking advantage of the extraordinary energy resources we have, such as coal, oil, natural gas." Um, it's oil and coal and to a certain extent natural gas that are mucking up the clean air and water, dufus. In other words, Romney won't do a thing to mitigate the human element contributing to the destruction of our environment.

The Brits are vowing to run the greenest Olympic games ever, although pollution levels are high in the country and may hinder long-distance athletes and events. The UK is in the midst of a summer heat wave.

One more day until the weekend...

muirbeachol9376

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Catnip 7/26/12: Dream The Impossible Dream

ingesign5133

Great story in the DNews about Brandon Inge and the upstart A's. Everybody is having fun, and it shows. The A's moved into second place in their division yesterday (by a mere silver of a percentage point) and are only 5 games out of first right now. Dare to dream!



So many absurdities, so little time...

Mitt Romney. Better than you. Not only is he running around America questioning whether President Obama is in over his head (and by extension, whether the voters made a competent decision when we hired him), now he has taken his smarter-than-thou act on the road and insulted the host country of the Olympics. Mittens questioned whether the security is adequate, and pondered whether or not the British are "enthused" enough for the games. "Mr Romney questioned the enthusiasm of the British public. 'Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment?' he asked. 'That's something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.' However, the presidential challenger later back-tracked on the comments at a press conference on Thursday morning." Good show, chap!

Perhaps Mitt is just disappointed that the Games didn't outsource more of the jobs and material to China, just like he did for the Salt Lake Games. "Like the uniforms in 2012 and in 2002, when Mitt Romney ran the Salt Lake Olympics much of its official memorabilia was manufactured overseas, including a 9/11 commemorative pin and another fashioned in the shape of Romney’s head." Mitt even outsourced the patron-purchased commemorative granite bricks used to build a plaza in SLC, even though there was plenty of home-grown granite nearby. "It’s extraordinary,” Romney told the paper, "but it’s cheaper to get it from China." Give Mitt a chance, and he will sell the entire country to the lowest bidder.

Alec MacGillis makes a great point about how the Romney campaign is essentially built around willfully distorting Obama's words and record, and how the MSM is not taking the time to take them to task for these blatant... well, lies. At this point, Romney's campaign boils down to "Obama sucks", while Mitt evades being definitive about his policy positions. The only question now is: Can attacks carry the duration of this contest? My guess is no. At some point, policy comparisons will be made, and it will become obvious that Romney is Bush on steriods and that Republican economic policy does not work - and if it still sells to the American public...

The impact of the auto industry. If anyone ever doubted how big the sector is and how important it is to our economy, keep in mind the Labor Department has based an employment model around the usual summer shutdowns for retooling to figure their statistics. A sharp drop in new unemployment claims this week can probably be attributed to this: "This year, automakers are carrying out fewer temporary plant shutdowns, throwing off the model the department uses to smooth the data for typical seasonal patterns." So where are we at? Probably sluggish but steady.

From Politico Pro, subscription only, the House will be taking a look at electric cars and battery development: "THINGS ARE LOOKING UP FOR EVS, Hogan will tell the subcommittee. "Plug-in electric vehicle sales continue to increase, with sales growth outpacing that of gasoline hybrid electric vehicles when they were first introduced. We expect to see this trend continue, as several new vehicle models were introduced earlier this year, providing additional choices for consumers considering electric drive vehicles." Looking forward to hearing more about this one.

House Republicans made the first move at killing America's investment in clean energy yesterday, even though the DOE has a better record at picking winners than most in the "private sector", even though the industry is creating thousands of jobs in America, even though the public wants to see us continue to invest in this area. Somewhere the Koch Brothers and all those who make money on oil are smiling.

Mike Pence is just in the starting blocks of consideration for becoming the governor in Indiana, and already he is exploiting loopholes in the law to benefit himself. Hoosiers, you've been warned. Got a feeling this guy will make Mitch Daniels look like a saint.

Gotta catch a train...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dance With Me


 

 Toss-up as to whether I would post "Dance With Me" or "Still The One", both huge favorites of mine. 

  RIP Larry Hoppen, "the voice" of the band Orleans.

Catnip 7/25/12: The Games Have Already Begun

morejellyfish9988

More jellyfish from the Aquarium. Strange creatures they are...


Games? We are knee-deep in the games already:

Problem with the latest bogus attack from the Romney campaign? A big backdrop that says "WE did build it!" Even if he means the highlight the singular, it doesn't come across that way. "We" assumes more than one. Big message fail. And it's a huge lie, too, but when has that stopped them before?

And yes, Romney was still at Bain past 1999. Does this guy ever tell the truth?

Obama will hit Romney and the rest of the GOP on the wind production tax credit and the farm bill in Iowa. Pay attention to this one, for politics is local, and those folks in Iowa love both farming and wind energy production. "Obama strategists are seeking to elevate wind energy to one of the central focal points of the presidential election in Iowa. Wind is popular with Iowans, partly because the industry is thriving here. And Democratic strategists consider it a weak spot for Romney, who has so far been non-committal about a wind tax credit that other GOP leaders here champion." Targeted, swing-state specific policy attacks - what a great idea.

Another day, another threat from the House GOP to shutdown the government unless they get to repeal Obamacare. And since this would happen right before the election, please, do so, House. Shut 'er down. America would love to see you keep ignoring the economy for your obstructionist crap right before they decide whether or not you keep your job.

Dilema for the GOP: If they shut down the government, how will they raise taxes on the poor?

More bad behavior: The House will also vote to shut down the entire regulatory system. Yes, you read that right. From The Hill: "The bill prohibits not just the issuance of new standards and safeguards but any action that “is expected to lead to” their being proposed. The legislation might as well just directly order the agencies that were created to protect the public to close up shop (except for enforcement actions) for the next few years. Unhappy that it has been unable to provoke a government shutdown over spending battles or a default on the nation’s debt, the right wing has now come up with a more subtle way to make sure the government can’t do its job."

Remember how Europe had a hard time recovering after WWII because they didn't have any factories or infrastructure? Well, what do you think is happening here in America today? Tom Ridge sends the word of warning: "An increasing reliance on imports, combined with the fraying of the nation’s power grid, highways and rail lines, leaves the United States more vulnerable to the damage of natural disasters and terrorist attacks, according to a report to be released Wednesday by former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge. The report, which Ridge shared with homeland security officials Tuesday morning, warns that the offshoring of U.S. factories means that rebounding from a catastrophe will be more difficult because so many critical supplies would have to come from overseas."

Speaking of Europe, they are looking to slap tariffs on Chinese solar panels too. So far the tariffs haven't made much of a difference here in the US as the Chinese have simply shifted production to Taiwan to avoid the new fees, and the price on panels has continued to fall. Still early days though.

Summary of Romney's foreign policy: HUGE increase in defense spending. "Present a clearer military threat" with Iran. "More military capabilities in the Pacific" to challenge China. Mess with the Russians by "helping Central Asian states and European countries reliant on Russian energy", and review START treaties. Yup, America can go back to being hated around the world for our aggressive behavior, just like we were with Bush. Won't that be fun?

Off to make sure that doesn't happen....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Catnip 7/24/12: Out Foxed



opdobama1012

The OPD films protesters at the Obama event in Oakland last night. Maybe about 100 or so by the time I got home, no big problems...


Short one today, been really busy:

Must read from Daniel Altman at FP, who picks apart trickle-down with precision. "How Republicans Sabotaged the Recovery: With their economic philosophy based on so many mere myths, perhaps it isn't surprising that the Republicans have a dismal economic record. In the past six decades, economic growth was highest -- 3.9 percent annually, adjusted for changes in prices -- when Democrats controlled the House, Senate, and presidency. When the Republicans controlled all three, growth averaged only 3.0 percent."

The reverse Robin Hood Republican agenda is about to be exposed in the Senate. "Senate Republicans will press this week to extend tax cuts for affluent families scheduled to expire Jan. 1, but the same Republican tax plan would allow a series of tax cuts for the working poor and the middle class to end next year." This. In an ad. Swing state. Now.

The SuperPacs are buying the airwaves for Romney in the swing states. Jaw-dropping numbers: "Republican-aligned super PACs and other outside conservative groups have spent more than $144 million on general election ads in swing presidential states..... Roughly 80 percent of all ad spending by Republicans on the general election has come from these super PACs, as Romney has expended a relatively meager $35 million to date on ads in swing states, according to ad buy figures provided to the Fix by a GOP media buyer." And keep in mind that Republican SuperPacs are funded by a handful of very wealthy men. The billionaires intend to buy our government, plain and simple.

Why is Debbie Stabenow smiling? Pete Hoekstra must have really pissed off someone in the Republican money/power echelon in Michigan *coughDeVoscough*, as a new SuperPac is running ads for Durant in GR - who doesn't have a chance in hell in taking out Stabenow. Are Republicans simply conceding this race just to take down Turtle Pete once and for all?

The Republican governors who opt-out of Medicaid because of "spending" will cost the government a fortune. "The American Action Forum Tuesday morning released a report that looks at how states opting out of the Medicaid expansion could impact the federal budget. It predicts, if states decline to participate, the federal government would be on the hook for higher spending — even as the health-care law extended coverage to fewer people." Nice chart at the WaPo. Check it out.

Off to work....

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sweep!

sweep0865

Got rather hot at the Coliseum yesterday during the A's - Yankees game, so I wandered out to the outfield section to take advantage of the spacious cavern of concrete that resides under the luxury boxes that had been built for football. Emerging up a left-field staircase, and here comes Brandon Inge up to bat.

"Hit it out here, Brandon!" I said to no one in particular... and he did. Another 20 feet and the ball would have hit me. Here it is in the well, after landing and rolling down the steps.

A's sweep the Yankees for the first time ever at the Coliseum - what a fun week of baseball it has been.

No notes today as I am real busy and gotta run... but had to share this one with you.


Friday, July 20, 2012

hmilk4757

From the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Catnip 7/19/12: Altered States

rightfileddiehards7554

Let's-go Oak-land. Right field bleacher diehards wave their flags. Today, the A's start a four game series with the Yankees as they have won 10 out of their last 12 and the people around here are muttering "playoffs". Now, don't hold your breath on that because the A's have ZERO offense, but stranger things have happened...


Back to the real(?) world:

How bad will the propaganda get? Really bad. It's only July, and the Romney team is altering reality to make attack ads. Regarding the "you didn't build it" campaign of deception that's starting now: "However, there is no question that this edit is highly misleading. It deliberately removes multiple sentences about the broader theme of Obama’s speech that preceeded the 'you didn’t build that' quote in order to deprive it of its actual meaning as Obama plainly intended that. And it creates the false impression of a seamless transition from the first sentences about successful business people into the key line about them — a recontextualization that turns it into a direct insult." Mitt Romney, pathological liar. And if the MSM doesn't call this sort of thing out with investigation and revulsion, look for it to continue. And get worse.

Cognitive dissonance in polling. From the NYT/CBS poll yesterday, check out the disconnect here - Romney leads Obama on "jobs and the economy", 49-41. But when it comes to whose policies will "help the middle class", it's Obama 52-38. And you can't tell me the electorate is discerning enough to note the nuance between the two - but I can believe it is all in the wording of the question.

Bain was started with foreign investors using tax-sheltered money from shell companies in Panama. Shocked not.

Obama is doing what the Democrats should have been doing all along - building a network in the red states. From the Boston Globe: "The chances are exceedingly slim that such efforts will flip a state like Alabama into the blue column come Election Day. But the work here is part of a longer term “50-state strategy” put in motion by the Democratic Party last decade. The objective is to build the party apparatus in states that have been traditionally Republican and make them eventually winnable for Democrats." Duh.

The sequester deal is going to take a huge bite out of domestic programs - far more than it will hit defense spending. Politico: "Among those cuts: the elimination of 2,300 National Institutes of Health research grants; nearly 100,000 children losing Head Start services; and no more child care assistance for 80,000 kids. Not to mention 12,150 fewer patients with access to AIDS Drug Assistance Program benefits and 169,000 people who would not get access to substance-abuse treatment programs." The consequences of kicking the can down the road will fall on the most vulnerable. Again.

And those House Republicans who were all about "cutting spending?" Seems they got a case of cold feet, and now they want the President take the fall for it and lay out his details. No dice.

The House is also back on the "drill, baby, drill" kick, insisting that we open up more coastal areas to leases that will shore up the oil companies' bottom line (leases are counted as assets) and use to play on the market. Nothing like using our natural resources to reap those on-paper-only profits.

I run across a lot of bizarre stories in my travels, but this one made me stop and laugh: What in the world could anyone want with 550 David Hasselhoff stand-up cardboard displays? Can't see them fetching a big price on e-Bay or anything. Or can they?

Off to enjoy more of life's great mysteries...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Catnip 7/18/12: Tsunami Warning

tsunami0131

If you live in a swing state, you may need to put one of these near your television...


Here now some news:

Big guns. The man who whines incessantly about being attacked is pulling out the wallet to assault your ears and eyeballs in a major way - if you live in a swing state, that is. Romney has released four - count 'em four - attack ads in the past week, and has made a huge ad buy to peddle his distorted view of Obama's record to the masses. Check out these numbers: "According to a Republican media buyer he is spending $1,417,645 in Ohio, $1,207,210 in Virginia, $679,465 in North Carolina, $642,417 in Colorado, $551,540 in Iowa, $473,425 in Nevada and $82,750 in New Hampshire over the next week." Is the constant propaganda enough to sway this race? We will find out.

So far, Americans are taking a pass on the Romney campaign. ABC/WaPo finds that most view Mitten's tactics in a negative light, but neither candidate is on anyone's Christmas card list as of now: "46% of Americans viewed Obama's campaign favorably, compared to only 38% who viewed Romney's. On the flip side, 45% viewed Obama's effort as unfavorably and 49% said they had an unfavorable impression of Romney's campaign." Key stat: One in four Republicans dislike the Romney campaign, compared to only 18% of Democrats disliking the Obama campaign.

Is Obama attacking success? Are you high?, asks Jonathan Chait. "It is actually the confluence of a series of delusions. Let’s count them." Chait points out that you cannot find an instance where Obama has "attacked success", unless asking people to pay their fair share to support the society they live in is considered an attack. To the Republicans, it is. Anything short of worshiping our wealthy overlords is heresy in their eyes, and that's their problem. The Bush tax cuts are still in place, the wealthy are doing better than ever, and the only thing Republicans are pissed about is that they can't steal it all as long as Obama's in office.

"The Safety Net Now Supports the Middle Class," reports Taegan Goddard, citing stats from Greg Mankiw. It's complicated, tax paid in as opposed to transfer payments out, but here is the bottom line: "According to the CBO data, this number was +14 percent in 1979 (when the data begin) and remained positive through 2007. It was negative 0.5 percent in 2008, and negative 5 percent in 2009. That is, the middle class, having long been a net contributor to the funding of government, is now a net recipient of government largess." Well, we will take care of that, say the House Republicans...

... as they move to make deep cuts to HHS spending. Once again, they are going to defund Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, slash consumer protections and cost savings programs in Medicaid and Medicare, and whack all sorts of stuff that benefits you, citizen of American society, as they break the budget agreement yet again. Just another day with the House GOP.

John McCain had a really bad day yesterday. Time for Senator Crankypants to take a nap, perhaps? Say, has anyone invited the "better candidate" to the RNC yet? Ha. Has to be a living hell to be one of the few that knows what is in Romney's tax returns, and not be able to come clean about it.

The words "fiscal cliff" are about to become part of the American lexicon. The WaPo has a post that tells you everything you need to know; here is the pertinent fact: "The CBO estimates that the total effect of these provisions is a 3.9 percent reduction in the growth rate of GDP next year — enough to make the year’s total growth rate negative, plunging the country back into recession." Lots of doom and gloom being bandied about, we will see what happens over the next few months, but don't expect Congress to address this with any sort of responsible action.

Department of Energy loans programs a failure? No, they are a "remarkable" success. Politico's Morning Energy reports: "Former DOE loan program Executive Director Jonathan Silver, who stepped down last year, is making a rare public appearance to talk about the program. "While not every investment will succeed, the portfolio is in good shape. The funds represented by investments that have failed represent less than 3 percent of the total portfolio. This is a record the private sector would consider remarkable, but is particularly impressive for a portfolio of technologically innovative projects being built at a commercials scale for the first time anywhere. The expected loss on the Abound transaction, which we are here to discuss today, represents less than four one-thousandths of 1 percent of the total financings." Here is his testimony.

Hope to hear more about this later....

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Catnip 7/17/12: There's No Crying in Vulture Capitalism

pointreyespelican9411

Pelicans. They are everywhere. This shot is not as clear as I'd like it to be, but he was waaaay down the cliff at Muir Beach and moving pretty fast. Have some close-ups from the Wharf that I will post eventually.


Some thoughts...

What is Mitt hiding, besides the common sense to know that his campaign was going to get attacked on the Bain/tax return front? Good question, and, because Romney doesn't have an answer and won't come forth with any details, the ads and the pundits are going to continue to speculate. And please, spare us the faux indignation at being asked these questions. Republicans have accused Obama of being responsible for everything but the Lindbergh kidnapping at this point - just because the Bain ads ring true and are hitting home doesn't mean Obama is being "mean". Man up already.

Ezra. Nail. Head. "There is an increasing sense in the United States that the rich play by different rules than the poor or the middle class — rules that make it easier for them to get even richer. Romney’s problem is that he seems to have taken unusually aggressive advantage of those different rules." Klein points out that Romney himself is risk-adverse, always covering his personal wealth and life, but yet asks the rest of us to live (and die) by the rules of vulture capitalism - and that is what is creating the cognitive dissonance out there. It's not that people are jealous of business success; it's that Romney seemed to risk very little to earn it, while others paid the price of their jobs and homes as he made his millions.

Jonathan Cohn has more: "Remember, Romney’s economic policy is to weaken the safety net, to reduce regulations on what corporations can do, and to give the wealthiest Americans huge tax breaks. The theory behind this is that, by eliminating government meddling in the market and letting the rich keep more of their money, the economy as a whole will grow faster. But experience, here and abroad, suggests otherwise. In the end, the issue with Romney isn’t his business practices. It’s his governing strategy, which fails to blunt the harsh impact those business practices have on ordinary Americans." In other words, Romney would Bain America. That sound like a good idea?

No, Americans want tax hikes on the rich. By a 2-1 margin.

And on the subject of attack ads and what not, as Republicans block the DISCLOSE act in the Senate again, their big money allies are about to launch more hit campaigns on the House and Senate races. The US Chamber of Commerce is going after the Senate in Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and North Dakota, and the Boehner-funded, Norm Coleman-run American Action Netwrok SuperPac has announced another $6 million ad buy for key House races. I'm sure those ads will play fair, right?

Don't worry folks, Dick Cheney is flying in to set those Republicans straight.

George W. Bush has his own Institute? Really? Who thought that was a good idea?

Canada. Richer than you. How did they do it? "Fiscally conservative socialism." Yes, you read that right. Less people and lots of oil helps, too.


That's all I have time for right now - have a great day.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Catnip 7/16/12: The Baining of America


mtdiablo8189

The summit of Mount Diablo. Pretty. 1000 px here.



Bain, Bain, Bain, taxes, Bain....

Bain timeline. Mother Jones went all out on this one, take a look. The New York Times also has a nice write-up on the story so far. And we haven't even gotten to the campaign bundlers yet.

CNN reports that Romney once called on his 2002 gubernatorial opponent Shannon O'Brien to release tax information when it served his campaign purposes, but at the same time refused to release his own. Different set of rules for Mitt, that's just how he rolls.

Bain privatized profits and socialized losses. "He did so, in large part, through heavy use of tax-deductible debt, usually to finance outsized dividends for the firm’s partners and investors. When some of the investments went bad, workers and creditors felt most of the pain. Romney privatized the gains and socialized the losses." It's the Republican Way.

35 Questions Romney needs to answer about Bain before it goes away. Nice thought (for Mitt) about "going away", but something tells me those answers will only lead to more questions, so don't hold your breath waiting for answers.

Shiny VP object! Coming this week! And rumor has it that it's going to be Pawlenty or Portman, and then America will be so bored they will just fall asleep and forget all about the Bain issue. Good luck with that.

Thomas Edsall takes on the meritocratic elite in the New York Times, explaining how the wealthy have already gamed the system for their benefit, and how Mitt Romney is their man to continue (and enhance!) those policies. Nugget: "Not only would Romney’s tax, regulatory and spending proposals reinforce the leverage over public policy now exercised by the affluent, but he would leave untouched the post-Citizens United campaign finance regime that gives corporations, unions and billionaires unlimited opportunities to shape election outcomes." Unions? Don't be silly. The numbers so far: Romney and conservative groups have spent $125 million, liberal groups, $35.2 million.

Comparing tax plans. Call it "The Baining of America." Krugman has a great column showing how the personal reflects the policy, ties in with the story above. After pulling out a chart over the weekend that was drawn up in March that shows how Romney would slash taxes for the wealthiest among us and increase taxes on the poor, the professor comes to this conclusion: "Thus the entirely true charge that Mr. Romney wants to slash historically low tax rates on the rich even further dovetails perfectly with his own record of extraordinary tax avoidance — so extraordinary that he’s evidently afraid to let voters see his tax returns from before 2010." Greg Sargent takes a look at Obama's tax plan in a pretty chart, and shows it barely makes a dent in the wealth of the 1%.

Dems are ready to play hardball on taxes and the "fiscal cliff." No, really.

American voters want to cut defense spending, even when it benefits their own districts. Neither party wants to go as far as the public on this one.

Turns out those GOP governors aren't opposed to more government spending for Medicaid - they just want the money up front in unmarked bills so they can decide which one of their rich campaign contributors will benefit from those federal tax dollars. "Block grants" has become code for "no accountability" - just give them the cash, whether or not they spend it on what it is intended for is none of your taxpayer business.

Says a lot about the state of the Republican Party when they are afraid to let their rising stars speak at their own convention for fear of all the crazy coming out at once and parading around in front of the American people.


Are we having fun yet? Off to face the world...


mtdiablo8150

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunset on Mount Diablo



mtdiablo8742

Did the big sort yesterday, thought I'd share this with you. 1000 px here.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Deja Vu All Over Again






Seems to me I've seen shots of the Caymans somewhere before...

Heh.

And as the old saying goes, it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. This one is not going away.



Friday, July 13, 2012

Catnip 7/13/12: Cows in the Fog





pointreyescow8871


A cow grazes below the fog line on Point Reyes. There are designated historic ranches that started in the 1850s on that land - you're expecting the whole thing to be mountains and trees... no, it's farm land. At one point they wander right up and into the road and stare at your car.


Just some random stuff while we savor the Bain fallout...

New from Ezra: "13 reasons why this is the worst Congress ever." The thing I love the most about this is he made a chart that shows the drop-off in productivity caused by constant R obstruction - same thing I did with our Legislature back in 'da day. And he's got much, much more. Take a look. "The 112th Congress has been an embarrassment — and its members know it." That's exactly how the "we hate government" Republicans wanted it.

Headlines you gotta love: "Mitt Romney's 'big lie' on Bain: 6 ways it hurts him." I can think of more the six, but start there.

"Did the Republicans forget to vet Romney?" Another great headline. The answer is no, but a) they are just so arrogant that they think they can get away with everything, and b) who else do they have? You saw the runner-ups, and they would have been a lot worse. Romney was the best of a very sorry lot of contenders.

"Do Bain SEC documents suggest Mitt Romney is a criminal?" Greg Kessler comes to the conclusion that the answer is "no" (darn it), but the headline is pure gold.

Irony alert. "What Citizens United failed to account for, however, is that a significant portion of the money that corporations are spending on politics is financed by equity capital provided by public pension funds – capital contributions that the government requires public employees to finance with their paychecks. This consequence of Citizens United is perverse: requiring public employees to finance corporate electoral spending amounts to compelled political speech and association, something the First Amendment flatly forbids." (sigh)

Economists are predicting slow but steady growth in the economy for the rest of the year. One major reason for optimism: "Economists pointed to surging new car sales as a good economic indicator: a sign that households are confident enough to make a major purchase and that they are accessing the credit markets. It is also a boon for auto businesses — the auto industry reported a 22 percent jump in sales in June, with some carmakers reporting that revenue increased as much as 60 percent year-on-year." Add in lower gas prices and waa laa... re-election? That would be sweet to see the auto industry put the President over the top.

WaPo picks up on my guy. I'll tell you the story someday. And it was a thrill to see Ellen Burstyn again last night.

Yea, it's Friday. I'm off to face the day...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Catnip 7/12/12: Making Mountains Out of Mountains


diablointhedistance4572


Trying to give some perspective on Mount Diablo for the folks back home - this shot was taken from Twin Peaks in the middle of SF. That's Oakland across the Bay. If the Peaks are in Grand Rapids, Mt. Diablo is in Holland, roughly 30 miles away. 1000 px here.

Speaking of mountains, seems Mitt Romney has a few we need to talk about...

The Boston Globe reports that Mitt was indeed lying about the dates of his tenure at Bain - and it's being suggested this morning that is a felony offense. Interesting, to say the least. Jonathan Chait has a nice run-down on the entire story that you should read, and ends it with this: "So now factcheck.org seems locked in to claiming that Mitt Romney is a felon. That could really make for some fun ads this year." Um, yup.

David Corn at Mother Jones was (one of) the original reporters that broke the news about Romney's timeline at Bain, so all kudos go to him for following the felon trail. Last night, he filed a new story that deserves just as much attention - "Romney Invested Millions in Chinese Firm That Profited on US Outsourcing." Don't act so surprised, you knew this was coming. "This previously unreported deal runs counter to Romney's tough talk on the campaign trail regarding China. 'We will not let China continue to steal jobs from the United States of America,' Romney declared in February. But with this investment, Romney sought to make money off a foreign company that banked on American firms outsourcing manufacturing overseas."


I used to think Mitt was just a doufus. Now I'm starting to think he truly is a pathological liar, and perhaps a criminal as well.

Justice, anyone?

Gotta run. Maybe Mitt should too. Might want to yank his passport, Your Honor.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Catnip 7/10/12: 33 Times is the Charm

mtdiablo8470


Road through the grass on Mt. Diablo. You get inland this time of year and the mountains are covered in brown - and you understand why they have these wildfires. No rain, ever. Coastal areas seem to stay green though, along with the trees.


You say you wanted affordable health care? Speak louder, because John Boehner isn't listening...

Nothing like telling it like it is. "GOP to the uninsured: Drop dead." As the House wastes our time with the 33rd vote to repeal health care coverage for millions of Americans, some of us out here understand the bottom line. "Fifty million uninsured Americans would be the immediate casualties of the GOP’s 'let them eat the emergency room' mentality. But all of us would be at risk. In America — alone among wealthy nations — everyone is a pink slip or job change or new illness away from finding they’ve lost coverage or are uninsurable. This is the shameful reality behind the GOP’s rhetoric on health care. Republicans don’t want to spend a penny to insure the uninsured." It's the ultimate line where their faux-libertarian bluster falls apart - unless you want to live in a third-world country.

"They're not even pretending to govern." Read about how Congress will become one big political attack ad for the foreseeable future. Or, spare yourself the ulcer and don't. You're going to live it soon enough.

Those GOP governors that are making a big show of refusing Medicaid? They are putting their existing health care systems at risk of collapse and turning down new jobs and economic growth. Besides asking their sick to physically suffer and face huge financial losses in illness. History will not be kind.

Greg Sargent does a round-up of the recent polls and finds a brutal truth for the GOP: Americans don't want a full repeal of Obamacare. ABC, 18%. Gallup, 31%. Kaiser, 38%, and the question included the word "replace". Seems America wants a solution to the problem of unaffordable health care, and the Republican non-answer of "freedom" just isn't cutting it.

The new attack from Romney and the Republicans on Obama as outsoucerer is - surprise! - another lie. "In fact, several of the companies cited on the new site said the Republican characterizations of their activities were far from accurate." Try and contain your shock, and let's hope this classic Rove swift-boat move falls flat this time.

Scathing editorial from the NY Times on Romney's lack of disclosure of his finances and tax avoidance. Ouch. Chuck Grassley and Mike Huckabee step right up and help throw Mitt under the yacht parked at the Cayman dock.

In 2009, Americans paid the lowest tax rates in 30 years. "At the very moment anti-tax protesters were emerging as the most powerful force in American politics, handing Republicans landslide control of the U.S. House, the data show that people were sending the smallest portion of their income to the federal government since 1979." Call them the Free Lunch Republicans. They want an "exceptional" country, they just don't want to pay the bill for it. And it leaves you to wonder: Why aren't we swimming in jobs if "more tax cuts" is the answer to every question?

House Republicans move to cut-off loans for renewable energy companies, beating the dead Solyndra horse into the ground. Need someone to poll renewables and see how that flies nowadays. They also want to take away food from poor children, which threatens to scuttle the entire farm bill the Senate worked so hard on. Women shouldn't have contraception, either. That about wrap it up? Any more demands from the crazy base they need to fulfill? (See: "They're not even pretending to govern" above.)

Off to the races....

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Catnip 7/10/12: Against the Wind

pointreyes9103


Tree at Point Reyes Lighthouse. The fog was coming in at about 50 miles an hour at the time I was there, so I didn't get many pictures. Quite the experience though - fog blizzard! You go from 80s and sunny to low 60s and a windy white-out in the space of 2 miles.

Story of the day: Jonathan Gruber in the New Republic, telling us that the Affordable Care Act is not a job-killer as the Republicans like to claim. Once again, Congress is about to embark on yet another massive waste of your time by taking their 31st vote for repeal. Yawn.

In sum, we know that the ACA will increase jobs in the medical sector in the short run, above and beyond any partial offsets from new excise taxes on that sector. We know that the ACA will improve the functioning of our labor market in the medium run, by allowing workers to move to the positions in which they are most productive and satisfied. We know that there will be little economic drag from taxes on the wealthy or the small equity payments imposed on employers. And there is a good chance that the ACA will greatly improve the economy in the long run by controlling the rate of health care cost increase. The choice between protecting our most vulnerable citizens and improving our economy is a false one—fully implementing the ACA will make both our citizens and our economy more secure.

Need some other news? Check Ezra as usual - I'm off to the store this morning, so I gotta run.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Catnip 7/9/12: Defining the Mitt


ivernessboat9215


OK, I'm back. Spent a few days exploring the great outdoors that is Northern California; pictured above is a grounded boat on Tomales Bay right outside of Iverness on the Point Reyes peninsula. Interesting to note, besides the bank of fog that was making its way inland: That boat is sitting right on top of the San Andreas Fault. The bay is the dividing line that will eventually tear that peninsula off and keep moving it up the coast. Millions of years in the making, so you can still make plans to visit. Do so.

Oh look, the campaign is still happening...

The definition of the Mitt begins now. While Romney supporters lunch in Hamptons and fret that the little people just don't understand why they are soooo disappointed that corporate profits are higher than ever and CEO salaries continue to soar, President Obama will play the middle-class tax cut card today to push both Mitt and the Congressional Republicans into a corner. Not thrilled with "more tax cuts" myself because it reinforces the policy that created the problem in the first place, but like the line in the sand it provides because it makes the Republicans cry.

And, if us uneducated dolts "don't understand how it works", well, why don't you show us, Mr. Romney? Let's see those tax returns that tell us exactly how we should structure our IRA accounts so we too can offshore tens (hundreds?) of millions in the Cayman Islands! How are we supposed to learn otherwise?

Oops, too late. The battle of definition seems to be working on the undecided in the swing states, as a new poll from USA Today shows that "among swing-state voters who say the ads have changed their minds about a candidate, rather than just confirmed what they already thought, 76% now support the president, vs. 16% favoring Romney."

Congress still hasn't approved the extension of the production tax credit for the wind energy industry, and it looks like it may be too late to salvage projects for 2013. As producers rush to a record year of installation in 2012 to take advantage of the credit, manufacturers in the supply chain are laying off workers as future orders dry up. "'In some way, it's too late to save 2013 build,' said Matthew Kaplan of consultancy IHS Emerging Energy Research." Can we call them "job-killers" now?

While Congress ignores those jobs, Republicans are going to work feverishly this week to make sure the millions of Americans don't receive affordable health care now or in the near future. Why? A bunch of nonsense excuses about uncertainty (that the Republicans are creating), and other things such as this: "'Moreover, the law effectively forces millions of individuals to personally pay a separate abortion premium in violation of their sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs," the bill states.'" Well, as long as we focus on what's important here.

Besides refusing Medicaid in the future, some states are using the Supreme Court ruling to justify cutting Medicaid now. Maine wants to throw 20,000 people out of health care; Wisconsin and Alabama have thousands of citizens of their own that they want to dump in hospital emergency rooms. And by the way, since the ACA cuts the money that the federal government gave to hospitals to pay for that uncompensated care, the bill for those folks will be showing up on the premiums of businesses and those already insured. Now, who was it that was raising health care costs again?

Elizabeth Warren lays out exactly what the Republicans want to take away from people concerning health care in an op-ed today. See, was that so hard? Take note, Democrats.


Have to get ready to re-join the rat race now... have a great day.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Sweep!

sweep7631

Serious fans out in the bleachers of the Coliseum - this happy A's fan celebrates Oakland's sweep of the BoSox with a 3-2 victory today. Brandon Inge hit a double to tie the game in the 6th, and Jemiele Weeks singled in the winner an inning later. David Ortiz hit his 400th homer of his career, unfortunately I was in the bathroom at the time. Oh well.

Fun day. Bleachers are the place to be. :-)


America the Beautiful



Cool video featuring Keb' Mo', from the folks at WhiteHouse.gov. Enjoy, and Happy 4th.

Increasing Voltage

sfvolt4121


Sure happy to see this story today.

General Motors Co. said it sold 1,760 plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt vehicles in June, double what it sold in June 2011.

In the first half of 2012, GM sold 8,817 Volts, more than triple the 2,745 it sold in the same period last year. It already has topped Volt sales for all of 2011, which were about 7,600.

Volt sales have been boosted by California granting solo drivers of the extended-range electric vehicle access to carpool lanes. GM spokesman Jim Cain said 1 in 5 Volts are sold in the Golden State.

GM had 5,300 Volts in stock at the end of June, an 82-day-supply. About 12 percent of Volts this year have been sold to commercial and government fleets.

June sales were up over the 1,680 Volts sold in May.

I'm here to testify - I'm seeing more around the Bay area. Pictured above is a random shot of one that was parked in front of work a couple weeks ago. I saw two today on the way home, and a high of four in one day about a month ago. There are Leafs around too, including one that lives in my neighborhood.

And kudos to Chevy for showing up at the A's games and letting people test drive their products. They are working it out here with customer service and hands-on experience, best way to sell the cars. I got to drive a Volt and it was slick. Handles tight, great acceleration, nice weight that gives it a solid ride. Maybe someday...

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Good Day


goodday7118

From a bookstore in San Francisco. Getting ready for a 5-day break, although I will have to do some work during that time. It never ends, does it? 

 Happy getaway day, drive safe if you are going somewhere, and to my friends and family in the heat of the new desert in the Midwest - stay cool!