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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Want smaller government?

You/we are most surely going to get it, one way or another.

Check this out: "Government methodology for reporting retail sales is based on sampling stores in existence. It does not factor in stores not in existence but recently were. Nor does it handle closed stores when the chain is still doing business. Government reporting of retail sales is fatally flawed."

Here's the deal--states and the Federal Government are reporting sales tax collections down and considerably so and, as you know, the states can't operate on deficits so they're all slashing budgets, programs and staff, etc.

But the reports from the feds in Washington are based on same-store sales from the previous year.

What it doesn't take into account is that so many stores have closed doors and/or gone bankrupt.

So sure, same store retail sales are up.

But tax revenues? The money they get in to spend on you and I?

Down. And big time.

So yeah, with the exception of Washington, DC, you and I are going to get smaller government, no doubt about it.

So if you're Conservative or Independent or Libertarian or just a Liberal like me who wants to see government shrink a bit, stay tuned. You're going to get what you wish for.

(You should maybe check out that link above, to see both how much less the States have in tax revenues and the rather long list of companies whose stores closed).

Let's have a great week.

Speaking volumes

 
Posted by Picasa
I saw this cyclist on the Plaza today and knew I wanted to get a shot of him. I thought he looked interesting. Unique, for sure. Then, when I looked at the few shots of him I got, I found this and knew immediately I loved it. I love the contrasts. It's so simple. It's just a comparison. It's us. It's the United States. It's Kansas City.

Again, have a great week.

Political solutions the country needs

Steve Kraske's column, as usual, is a good one in the paper today.

In it, he puts forth some observations on problems we have right now in the country and possible solutions and why we aren't likely to enact them.

Darn shame but great column.

There were 2 solutions he didn't mention that, had he had the benefit of a larger column, it would have been good to see.

The first possible additonal political solution for the country would have been campaign finance reform.

We need it horribly.

We need to get money out of our government and out of politics and it isn't going to happen unless and until we get the corporations, their lobbyists and all their money out of both.

The way to do that is with true, stringent, loophole-free campaign finance reform.

And talk about something that isn't going to happen.

It won't ever happen unless and until the American people raise bloody hell and demand it of all their representatives.

In the meantime, what time does NASCAR start today?

The other solution that would have been nice to see in Mr. Kraske's column would have been reinstituting the "Fairness Doctrine" so both sides of political issues would have to be discussed in media.

It's been my contention for years that the elimination of this Fairness Doctrine by the Republicans has helped divide the country and polarize us as nothing else. It is certainly what has given rise to the Fox "News" network, with it's blatant, one-sided Republican/Conservative diatribes and outright misrepresentations of political and other situations in the country and on their programs.

If we could get this doctrine back in our government and enforce it, I believe it would make for far calmer and much more intelligent discussion of our problems. In the meantime, we will just get vitriole and lopsided, ignorant, emotional rants like those from Glenn Beck and Company.

But this, too, won't happen, sadly, tragically.

The "genie" is "out of the bottle" and we don't have the will or intelligence or insight to put it back in.

Thoughts from a Sunday morning

--Weekends are the best. But I state the obvious.

--The warning I wrote of a couple of times, about the Supreme Court ruling in favor of corporations and their ability to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns has just gotten increasingly worse, as if I thought that were possible.

There is an article on page A4 of The Star today, explaining that the one thing that was said to be in the people's favor about this insane ruling was that the corporations would have to announce they were backing--paying for--whatever advertising they put out.

Surprise!

There's apparently a loophole big enough to drive a truck through, giving them the ability to remain anonymous after all.

Get ready, folks.

The elections this Fall will be the ugliest, most advertised, most bitter and divisive and finally, most expensive this country has ever known.

And the Roberts court made sure of it.

--Lightning has struck 3 times. I agree with Right-wing, Conservative Thomas McLanahan's column today for the 3rd time.

The $50 million "given" back to the Kansas City area last week, announced by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Representatives Emanuel Cleaver and Dennis Moore for--sidewalks?--is almost silly.

We need to stop borrowing from the Chinese for this kind of nonsense.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of things we need taken care of and paid for for our infrastructure but sidewalks? Are you kidding me?

--Why doesn't some enterprising, admittedly opportunistic Senator or Representative propose a bill making financial "earmarks" to run our country and
come out of Congress illegal?

It would make huge news and a big benefit to the name of the person who did this. They'd likely be popular to all the American voting public
(except contruction company owners and employees), and virtually all people who consider themselves Progressive, Conservatives, Libertarians
especially Libertarians), Republicans, Democrats and, yes, even Liberals (socially liberal), like myself.

Demagoguic?

Yes, absolutely. But in a good way, for once.

--I'm a supporter, mostly, of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi--especially in her fight for us for health care reform--but I have to say one thing and that is, Can you really trust anyone who can keep a huge, frozen, seemingly artificial smile plastered on their face? (I don't think so).

And how in the heck does she do it?

(Her "people" should tell her to stop it).

--Charlie Rangel should step down.

Now.

--The Sunday morning news programs were "lily white" this morning, I believe, and that shouldn't be.

With the exception of Clarence Page of The Chicago Tribune on "The McLaughlin Group" on KCPT/PBS, there wasn't one minority represented on these programs today. (I have to note, I didn't see NBC's "Meet the Press" but the guests did include Marc Moral of the National Urban League and Nancy-Ann DeParle, White House Health Reform Director but these were guests, they weren't moderators and that's my point and issue/beef here).

And Clarence Page's presence doesn't even technically count because this is a rerun of the show, which is always originally done of Fridays, of course.

It's shameful.

ABC needs to get Donna Brazile on the show weekly, along with other minorities--certainly African-Americans but also Latinos, etc.

This country was never "all white" and certainly isn't now.

All the news needs to be covered and it will more likely be so if people of different backgrounds are there, reporting on us.

--Finally, it was so nice to not see or hear Monica Crowley's white, Right-wing, Conservative, Republican whining and ranting today, on "The McLaughlin Group."

It made a sunny, slightly warmer Sunday at the end of February all the more pleasant.

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone and have a great week.

Friday, February 26, 2010

At what point will elected politicians understand?

First, we get a report from The Kansas City Star, just earlier this week, that a bunch of our elected pols took a pretty good deal of corporate paid-for trips--junkets--and that they also, illegally, didn't report and now comes word--as if we're surprised--that "The House Ethics Committee says 20-term Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel repeatedly violated ethics rules by accepting corporate money for lavish trips to the Caribbean."

And this is just the latest for Charlie Rangel: "Rangel, chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, also faces investigations into his use of office resources to raise money for a college center bearing his name and his failure to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets and income."

It's so frustrating.

All these people feel as though, apparently, that as long as the American people don't raise cane (cain?) about it, it's okay--that if they just "get by with it," even though it's illegal, that all will be well.

I assume they figure "If everyone else is doing it, I can, too."

How else can you explain such blatant disregard for ethics, the appearance of really poor judgement and virtually total disregard for law?

If a business or business person is paying for your trip to New York City or the Masters tournament or Japan (which is what Missouri representatives all did) or, as in the case of Charlie Rangel, a trip (trips?) to the Carribbean, how do you accept that trip as an elected representative and not know it's at least unethical, if not downright illegal?

What, are you stupid?

And we're sick of it.

It's not as though this is anything new, certainly, and we all know that but it just seems the graft and appearance of graft and unethical behavior is going beyond the pale in an atmosphere that, otherwise, needs a great deal of attention.

As taxpayers, as voters, as citizens, we are sick of our representatives taking care of themselves first, last and foremost, and then, incidentally doing a little of the public's business by voting on this or that, almost as a sideline.

They have fantastic health care, as elected officials--at least in the US Congress.

We certainly don't.

They have wildly lavish pensions to take care of them later in life, once they're off the public dole.

Again, corporate America has seen to it we don't have that option.

They have travel and franking (postage), both, budgets we don't have.

And in the meantime, America is kind of going to heck in a handbasket, economically and financially, in case they haven't noticed but who are they taking care of?

Themselves.

It's time for this party to be stopped.

We need to raise hell and get the kind of representatives and government we deserve.

Let's start by throwing Charlie Rangel out of Congress.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Our own history sheds light on facts from today

"We cannot be content, no matter how high the general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people -- whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth -- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed and insecure." --Franklin D. Roosevelt

And yet:

--At least 50 million people are ill-fed -- up from 37 million just a year ago -- including 17 million children. Hunger in America is now at an all-time high, and there are currently entire national geographic regions -- the very large 15-state 'South' being one of them -- where more than half of all public school students are poor and ill-fed.

--30% of the nation's 50 million homeowners own a home whose value is below its mortgage balance, and this number could rise to an almost unbelievable 50% by year-end 2011. It would cost about $745 billion, more than the size of the original 2008 bank bailout, to restore these borrowers to the point where they were breaking even, which there is no obvious political will to find right now.

--Despite the truly dismal 'real unemployment' figures with which most everyone now agrees -- a staggering 30 million workers and 19% of the labor force -- very little attention is being paid to the particularly adverse effects the recession is having on people of color, recent immigrants, and out-of school youth. And almost no one is acknowledging the sad reality that even the nation's 130 million full-time workers have had an average economic loss of 15% just since December 2007 -- an average effective work week of 34 hours rather than 40 -- which means that the number of unemployed workers, measured economically, is actually as high as 50 million.
The overwhelming problem today for most workers isn't this recession, as horrible as it is -- it's the fact that for every earned income level except the top 10%, average household income hasn't changed a bit for 10 years, and that for the bottom 60% of wage earners it hasn't changed for more than 20 years. Through economic expansions and recessions -- and bull and bear markets -- alike, 90% of workers in America have been standing still earnings-wise.

--And 100 million people, fully one-third of the entire U.S. population, are at or below "200% of the federal poverty line of $21,834 for a family of four", which is a needs-measure made lame by the fact that no family of four can actually comfortably live on such a low annual income.



Let's live up to our own historical standards.

That's not much to ask of ourselves, I shouldn't think.

Or are we not "One nation..."?

Link to original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leo-hindery-jr/americas-dirty-little-sec_b_473026.html

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kudos to The Star

Once again, the area's "fourth estate"--our newspaper media, in this case--did what it should do and so well. The Kansas City Star reported today that our legislators down in Jefferson City have been accepting trips--some to foreign countries--without reporting them.

And this is against the law, folks. They should know that.

"Lawmaker trips that lobbyists paid for included such destinations as New York City, Boston, Seattle, San Diego, Montreal and Saskatchewan, Canada, and even Japan."

One of the trips was for two representatives to go to the Masters tournament.

Yeah, like they're doing our work there and then.

If you're with a corporate representative of any kind, and they're taking you on one of these trips, isn't it just assumed there's a quid pro quo, once you're back in the office, especially since you're a legistor.

And don't tell me the answer is no.

These people should be summarily thrown out of office. The article names several of the representatives who took the trips and where they went. And that's just some of them.

So cheers to The Kansas City Star for the reporting.

Jeers to our legislators who've done this.

Cheers also to Jason Kander for helping to push for ethics reform out of the Capital City.

Let's make sure we get it.

An indictment of the Mayor, his wife and the City Council

Kansas City is up to 26 homicides for the year at present--11 of them in KCMO.

That's bad enough but the latest victim "was gunned down in front of her three children -- an 8- and 9-year-old were getting on a school bus and a child said to be between 1 and 2-years-old was standing in the doorway of the home -- after a brief struggle in her driveway around 8:30 a.m."

The murder itself is horrible.

The other shootings and murders in town that have led up to this one are equally awful and unacceptable.

And it's still February.

If we do not/cannot get a handle on the killings and shootings in Kansas City before the warmer weather starts, they will likely escalate wildly.

What are Mayor Funkhouser and his wife Gloria Squitiro doing to change this?

I think nothing.

What is the City of Kansas City City Council doing or proposing to reduce the killings?

Again, I think nothing.

The Mayor said he wants to do away with the e-tax.

The Council wants to pass a fatcat developer's dream of building hundreds of homes North of the city--25 miles from the core--but on this? Silence. Utter silence.

My entry today is an indictment of this Mayor Funkhouser, his wife Gloria Squitiro (because she insists on being involved) and the entire City Council of Kansas City, Missouri.

The murder rate in Kansas City should be all these people's highest priority but they are doing nothing. They are ignoring the most serious and possibly disintegrating situation for and in the city.

We should stand for this no longer.

We must demand action from them, at minimum.

You are to be used---and discarded

Guest post on labor and corporations in the US today:

Boycott FedEx

Posted on Feb 22, 2010

By Chris Hedges

Dean Henderson’s career with FedEx ended abruptly when a reckless driver plowed into his company truck and mangled his leg. His doctor will decide this week if it needs to be amputated. No longer able to drive, stripped of value in our commodity culture, he was tossed aside by the company. He became human refuse. He spends most of his days, because of the swelling and the pain, with his leg raised on a recliner in the tiny apartment in Fairfax, Va., he shares with his stepsister. He struggles without an income and medical insurance, and he fears his future.

Henderson is not alone. Workers in our corporate state earn little when they work—Henderson made $18 an hour—and they are abandoned when they can no longer contribute to corporate profits. It is the ethic of the free market. It is the cost of unfettered capitalism. And it is plunging tens of millions of discarded workers into a collective misery and rage that is beginning to manifest itself in a dangerous right-wing backlash.

“This happened while I was wearing their uniform and driving one of their company vehicles,” Henderson, a 40-year-old military veteran, told me. “My foot is destroyed. I have a fused ankle. I have had over a dozen surgeries. It hurts to wear a sock. I was limping pretty badly, but in the spring of 2008 FedEx said I had to come back to work and sit in a chair. It saved them money on workers’ compensation payments. I worked a call center job and answered telephones. I did that for three months. I had my ankle fused in January 2009, and then FedEx fired me. I was discarded. They washed their hands of me and none of this was my fault.”

Our destitute working class is beginning to grasp that Barack Obama and other elected officials in Washington, who speak in a cloying feel-your-pain language, are liars. They are not attempting to prevent wages from sinking, unemployment from mounting, foreclosures from ripping apart communities, banks from looting the U.S. Treasury or jobs from being exported. The gap between our stark reality and the happy illusions peddled by smarmy television news personalities and fatuous academic and financial experts, as well as oily bureaucrats and politicians, is becoming too wide to ignore. Those cast aside are reaching out to anyone, no matter how buffoonish or ignorant, who promises that the parasites and courtiers who serve the corporate state will disappear. Right-wing rage is being fused with right-wing populism. And once this takes hold, a protofascism will sweep across our blighted landscape fueled by a mounting personal and economic despair. Take a look at Sinclair Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here.” It is a good window into what awaits us.

“One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out,” the philosopher Richard Rorty warns in his book “Achieving Our Country.” “Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words ‘nigger’ and ‘kike’ will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”

Whoever rides to power on the back of this rage will swiftly broker a deal with corporations and corporate overlords. But by then it will be too late. Dissent will become a form of treason. The security state will be quickly cemented in place. The bankrupt liberal class, which abandoned the working class and the fight for basic civil liberties, will be reviled, discredited and impotent. America will develop its own peculiar form of Christian fascism.

Obama, entranced with power and prestige, is more interested in courting the elite than saving the disenfranchised. The president, when asked to name a business executive he admires, cited Frederick Smith of FedEx, although Smith is a union-busting Republican. Smith, who was a member of Yale’s secret Skull & Bones Society along with George W. Bush, served as John McCain’s finance chair. I guess Obama is hoping for some cash. And Smith has a lot of it. He founded FedEx in 1971, and the company had more than $35 billion in revenue in the fiscal year that ended in May. Smith is rich and powerful, but there is no ethical system, religious or secular, that would hold him up as a man worthy of emulation. Those who make vast profits at the expense of workers and the common good are not moral. They are not worthy of adulation. They build fortunes and little monuments to themselves off the pain and suffering of people like Henderson. Jesus called them “vipers.”

“He’s an example of somebody who is thinking long term,” the president said of Smith in an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, adding that he “really enjoyed talking” with him at a Feb. 4 White House luncheon.

Smith does think in the long term. His company lavished money on members of Congress in 1996 so they would vote for an ad hoc change in the law banning the Teamsters Union from organizing workers at Federal Express. A few stalwarts in the Senate, including Edward Kennedy (in a speech reprinted in the Congressional Record on Oct. 1, 1996) and his then-colleague Paul Simon, denounced the obvious. The company had bought its legislative exemption. Most members of Congress, then as now, had become corporate employees.

“I think we have to honestly ask ourselves, why is Federal Express being given preferential treatment in this body now?” Sen. Simon said at the time. “I think the honest answer is Federal Express has been very generous in their campaign contributions.”

Following the Senate vote, a company spokesman was quoted as saying, “We played political hardball, and we won.”

What happened to our historical memory? How did we forget that those who built our democracy and protected American workers were not men like Smith, who use power and money to further the parochial and selfish interests of the elite, but the legions of embattled strikers in the coal fields, on factory floors and in steel mills that gave us unions, decent wages and the 40-hour workweek. How was it possible in 1947 to pass the Taft-Hartley Labor Act, which, in one deft move, emasculated the labor movement? How is it possible that it remains in force? Union workers, who at times paid with their lives, halted the country’s enslavement to the rich and the greedy. And now that unions have been broken, rapacious corporations like FedEx and toadies in Congress and the White House are turning workers into serfs.

UPS is unionized. It is the largest employer of the Teamsters. Labor costs, because of the union, account for almost two-thirds of its operating expenses. But Smith spends only a third of his costs on labor. There is something very wrong with a country that leaves a worker like Henderson sitting most of the day in a tiny apartment in excruciating pain and fighting off depression while his billionaire former boss is feted as a man of vision and invited to lunch at the White House. A country that stops taking care of its own, that loses the capacity for empathy and compassion, that crumples up human beings and throws them away when it is done with them, feeds dark ideological monsters that inevitably rise to devour the body politic.

FedEx is busy making sure Congress keeps unions out of its shops. It has lavished $17 million, double its 2008 total, on Congress to fight off an effort by UPS and the Teamsters to revoke Smith’s tailor-made ban on unions. Smith, again thinking “long term,” plans to continue to hire thousands of full-time employees and list them as independent contractors. If his workers are listed as independent contractors he does not have to pay Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance taxes. And when they get sick or injured or old he can push them onto the street. Henderson says FedEx treats its equipment as shabbily as its employees. There’s no difference between trucks and people to corporations that view everything as a commodity. Corporations exploit human beings and equipment and natural resources until exhaustion or collapse. They are cannibals.

“The trucks are a liability,” Henderson said. “They are junk. The tires are bald. The engines cut out. There are a lot of mechanical problems. The roofs leak. They wobble and pull to one side or the other. The heating does not work. And the company pushes its employees in the same way. The first Christmas I was there I worked 13 hours without a break and without anything to eat. It is dangerous. I could have fallen asleep at the wheel and injured someone.”

If you have to send packages do not be a scab. Send it with UPS or the U.S. Postal Service. They have unions. Every step, however tiny, we take to thwart the corporate rape of the country and protect workers counts. We would have to do more, much more, but this would be a small start. Like Smith, our politicians have sold their souls. They will not help us. We must help ourselves. And the longer we stand by and permit the Democrats and the Republicans to strip American workers of their jobs and their dignity the less we will have to say when the day of angry retribution arrives.

Link to original post:
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/boycott_fedex_20100222/

No one "needs to die"

Let's be clear about this--no one "needs" to be killed.

With the one, possible exception of a person who has been found guilty of murder, our society--and most of the rest of humankind--has come to the conclusion and agreed that no one should be killed for any reason.

Ugly people, filled with either hate or that same ugliness but surely ignorance may say or wish such a thing but it's not true and it's not the case.

It seems one Lauren Ashley, Miss Beverly Hills 2010, "who will compete in the Miss California pageant in November...told Fox News that not only is she against same-sex marriage, but that she thinks it is divine law that gays should be put to death..."

This is unimaginable and unacceptable ugliness from a young woman in a public forum espousing homosexuality be punishable with death.

And the fact that she cites as her source, the Bible, is stunning.

I'm not going to rant and rave on this or say anything more than that churches nationwide and 'round the world should announce that they are, in fact, blatantly against this kind of thought and feeling.

Thinking that gays may be killed for being gay de facto makes it "okay" for gay beatings and bashings, let alone killing, as Ms. Ashley suggests.

Since when was Jesus Christ ever about murdering someone?

Oh, look--he didn't need a gun

I just saw this headline and story:

"Teacher tackles gunman supected in school shooting"

As soon as I read it, I had to laugh, internally.

Upon checking it out, I found that some 32 year old chucklehead in Littleton, Colorado--not far from Columbine, it should be noted--was going through a high school's parking lot, shooting students at the end of their school day.

He had already wounded two and was reloading when this teacher, one David Benke, tackled the gunman and shut him down.

The story reported the shooter "...has an arrest record in Colorado dating back to 1996 for menacing, assault, domestic violence and driving under the influence, and he is believed to have a history of mental issues."

Another case that, maybe, possibly, if we had to register all weapons in the country, this shooting might not have happened. I doubt it but it could be.

Also, thank goodness he had a bolt action rifle and not a stupidly, sadly legal semi-automatic or he could wreaked far more damage, far faster, and possibly/likely killed students and/or teachers.

But yes, I had to laugh.

Just think, Mr. Benke stopped a gunman, a shooter, and to do it, he didn't need a gun himself.

Imagine that.

Some job sectors likely to continue to shrink

There is a report out just now, showing sectors of our economy that expect to lose still more jobs, even if/when there is an economic upswing or recovery.

It's interesting because some there are areas you wouldn't expect there to be job losses in.

Sure, I can see losing more jobs in retail department stores, motor vehicle parts manjufacturing and the postal service--absolutely on that last one, as we move to email, etc.

But semiconductor manufacturing? To lose jobs?

I assume this is a matter of increased productivity through machines and computers.

And the other one is "wired telecom".

They didn't give a firm definition of what they mean by the term but because it's "wired" and telecom, both, I would have assumed there would be, if anything, an increase or even just a stabilizing effect on these jobs, but no loss.

One thing they didn't mention was the loss of Blockbuster Video jobs.

I guess it was just too obvious.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The new normal

There is another article out right now--and lots of data--about how this "Great Recession", if we can call it that, is hurting individuals and families across the country.

I just don't think enough people are aware of it unless it's happening to them or a loved one or friend.

So let's start here--there are a lot of people without jobs or who are severely under-employed and it's hurting. Statisically, there are a lot of people who used to be solidly middle class are falling from those ranks.

But what the column shows and what's concerning everyone involved--especially the ones hurting--is the fear of any economic recovery being either jobless or low on job creation.

From the article:

"Some labor experts say the basic functioning of the American economy has changed in ways that make jobs scarce -- particularly for older, less-educated people like Ms. Eisen, who has only a high school diploma."

"Large companies are increasingly owned by institutional investors who crave swift profits, a feat often achieved by cutting payroll. The declining influence of unions has made it easier for employers to shift work to part-time and temporary employees. Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 -- the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks."

"'American business is about maximizing shareholder value,' said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics. 'You basically don't want workers. You hire less, and you try to find capital equipment to replace them.'"

So millions of people have been laid off, there are concerns about how few will be rehired, there are fewer social/financial protections now than there used to be and it all results in more and more of us falling out of the middle class.

And I don't think the average person on the street is giving this whole economic picture the total consideration it's due. If you still have your job, you just go on.

So for all the Conservatives out there who think we should not/cannot spend to get us out of this recession, I'd have to say there are enough warnings out there to say that we do have to "prime the pump" with dollars, in order to create jobs. Sure, we have to do it somewhat carefully and always wisely but this is no time to cut worthwhile spending.

It would be nice to get back to a nice, healthy "normal" economy. It won't be whatever the old normal was, that's likely certain, but we need jobs and income and growth right now in this country and economy and slashing spending is no way to do it.

For now, I think it may get worse--possibly a lot worse--before it gets better.

I hope I'm wrong.

Warnings should come with this kid's sudden good fortune

News out today tells of a 26-year old Southeast Missouri man who just won $200,00.00 a year for the rest of his life.

It seems one Aaron Cantrell of Advance, Missouri (I've never heard of it) put $20.00 down on a "scratchers" game and made his big win.

Good for him.

If I knew him, I'd certainly congratulate him.

But since I don't know him and can't congratulate him, I would give him the following warnings and words of unsolicited advice:

First, you probably shouldn't have released your name, if that was an option. You've probably already been accosted for all kinds of money from family and friends. You also should have disconnected your phone and got a new, unlisted number. If you didn't, that could still be a good idea.

Second, stay grounded. Stay focused. Don't lose touch with what's important in life and in the world. You're still just a schlub, like the rest of us. You've won a fortune, really, but you aren't any more important now, after the win, than you were before. Stay with good family and friends. Don't lose touch of them or, again, of what's important in life and the world.

Third, when/if you can, help people but let that be a bit later, after the wonderment and shock of this has subsided. If you go crazy giving things or money away now a few bad things could happen: 1) More people might hear about it and head your way with requests and 2) you could end up bankrupt, unbelievably. But believe it.

Fourth, if you do want to keep your job, as the article I read says, good for you. It could help you stay grounded. But be careful and wary of co-workers, even your boss. Your win could go to their heads. Be careful.

Fifth, don't give half away to a girlfriend. Seriously. A guy did that in Wisconsin and she ended up taking it and leaving him, shortly thereafter. Good people are good but money can change things.

Finally, you were wise in taking this $200,000 series of payments over your entire lifetime, rather than a lump sum payment. You're much less likely to get or be screwed-up by this large amount, spread over your lifetime, rather than one big payout of some millions of dollars. Again, good for you. It shows wisdom on your part. A lot of people don't show such intelligence.

Now, if you can just get through and past this current rush of attention from your family, friends, strangers and some media, and through the first year without any big problems, you could likely be headed for a far easier and wonderful life with a lot less stress and difficulties than if you hadn't won it.

But this first year--and right now--are crucial. You'll need more good luck getting through this.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thoughts on a Sunday morning

It happened again. Thomas McClanahan and I agree on something.

Whenever that happens, I'm a little stunned. This is the 2nd time I can think it's happened.

Mr. McClanahan points out that eliminating the e-tax would be irresponsible if it's not replaced with some other tax of some kind, so the $200 million raised by this tax is done away with.

But his bigger point is that a "land tax" would make much more sense because it rewards development in the city, instead of pushing people out of the city, like the e-tax, and the property tax, which punishes and disincentivizes (I think that's a word) even the purchase of property, let alone development of it.

Good on Mr. McClanahan. This is a really eye-opening and educational column.

It would be great if a representative or better yet, some representatives in Jeff city would study this land tax option.

--Donna Brazile is terrfic.

She's most usually seen and heard, if at all, on ABC's "This Week" news program on Sunday morning.

She's smart and gives terrific, intelligent insights on American politics and society.

What's sad and unfortunate is that she's also one of very few people of color who are on the weekly sunday morning news shows. To my knowledge, she may be the only one.

--John McLaughlin (of The McLaughlin Group on PBS) is losing it, it seems.

Out of the blue this week, when they were discussing the Tiger Woods' apology this week, he asked his guests if they thought Tiger might one day run for political office.

Wth?

Seriously, John?

His guests paused at first, then laughed off the question.

Oh, and his show covered Tiger's apology before addressing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statement from earlier in the week that suggested Iran is becoming a military dictatorship.

Great priorities, Mr. McLaughlin.

Not.

--The Tiger Woods apology this week is the biggest non-story of the week, at least, if not the year.

The interest in it stuns me.

Other than his family, friends, golfers and people in the golfing industry, why the interest? It seems clearly purient.

--I was watching the Sunday morning news shows, obviously, with its scroll at the bottom, given our ice/snow storm, when I was reminded of one of my favorite abbreviations.

It's COGIC or Church of God in Christ.

I've always thought that was cute, downright funny and a great counterpoint of simple, clear, unemotional and rational thinking or

LOGIC.



Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.

More damage from all this winter precipitation

 
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This wall fell today, apparently in the middle of the day, around noon, on Belleview, just off the Plaza at 48th Street, around the corner from JJ's Restaurant.

Just too much winter precipitation for the wall to take.

Stay warm, safe and dry out there, folks.

Unconscionable taxation

There is a terrific article in The Star today, showing what our representatives passed this week for legislation regarding taxes on pleasure crafts--boats--in Missouri:

"Cash-strapped legislators have recommended spending cuts for Missouri schools and shelters for battered women, but so far the yachting class can enjoy another season of clear sailing."

Read: paying no taxes on their large boat purchases.

No taxes.

It's so obviously hypocritical it's difficult to believe.

The article points out that the people who enjoy these large boats--yachts, truly, as the paper refers to them--are the people who are closest to the representatives. They are the lobbyists and corporate
wealhty who can no doubt purchase the tax cuts from the friends, these same representatives.

But what is most telling to me was The Star'schart, showing what the taxes would be for these watercraft, should this proposal pass.

Want to buy a 55 foot yacht?

Zero taxes.

45 foot boat?

Same--zero tax paid.

32 foot?

you're clear.

But buy a 22 foot pontoon? (Which, mind you, I'm not saying is "cheap" but it truly can't be compared in cost to the huge ships above).

$2315.00 in taxes.

That is stunning.

How about a 17 foot boat?

$1390.00

Then there's a 12 foot rowboat?

You'll pay $115.00 in taxes, sucker.

The poor schlub who pays $1500.00 for a rowboat pays $115.00 more in taxes that the guy who can and does pay nearly a million dollars for his yacht.

This is revolting. Disgusting. Shameful. Really unscionable.

Let there be no doubt, NOT STEVE WONDER said it best when he said, "Them that has, gets."

Apparently these fatcats and their representative friends are completely unfamiliar with the term "noblesse oblige."

Robins during the "slush storm" today

 
I shot this on the Plaza today.

A reminder, surely, that Spring is truly nearly here.

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

A little entertainment today

Frankly, there's plenty of things to write about right now--rights, wrongs, injustices, truths, even funny and/or stupid things but it's been a busy week. I'll write this weekend.

In the meantime, some entertainment--a refresher.

Enjoy.

And have a great weekend.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vancouver Olympics: So many things going wrong

This Winter Olympics started out on such a bad foot, what with the young luge competitor being killed in trials, the day before it opened.

Horrible.

And from there, it hasn't gotten worse, certainly, but it's definitely gone badly.

In the opening ceremonies, the fourth pillar of the Olympic cauldron failed to lift, screwing up the all-important introduction to it all.

Then, the rest of the world seems covered in snow--including Dallas, Texas, for pity's sake--but Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada didn't have enough snow for the games for a while.

Does that make any sense?

China has too much snow. Washington, DC, the list goes on.

What a bad break.

Let's see, what else has gone wrong?

Yesterday I heard a report about the mountainsides being groomed by people with shoes (wth?), which made the course rough, uneven and slow.

Then, the Alpine race schedule for the Vancouver Olympics had been revised--again--after the postponement of Tuesday’s men’s super combined and the women’s events were rearranged last week (though there were no new revisions to the women’s schedule this week).

Next, check this out--first, not enough snow, then this: "Tuesday’s Olympic men’s super combined has been postponed because of heavy snow on the top of the Whistler Creekside racecourse and soft snow conditions brought on by snowfall at the bottom of the mountain. The cold temperatures that helped bring about a smooth men’s downhill on Monday after two days of weather delays turned what had been a forecast of light rain for Tuesday into a significant snowstorm overnight. Tuesday’s women’s downhill training was also canceled."

I don't think I ever remember an Olympics with such problems.

But wait. There's more. This from last week:

"Vancouver Olympic organizers announced Tuesday that 20,000 tickets would be canceled for events at Cypress Mountain, including high-profile sports like men’s and women’s halfpipe and ski cross. Warm weather and rain have created unstable conditions in some spectator areas at Cypress, organizers said. They previously had canceled 8,000 tickets for snowboard cross events this week."

Finally, yesterday, it seems the Zamboni-type machine on the men's speedskating course broke down . (I say Zamboni-type because it wasn't a Zamboni. Somebody thought they'd save money by getting a cheaper one from another company. Anyone ever hear of "you get what you pay for"?).

How embarassing.

It seems the officials "stood looking sheepish as a small technical crew scratched their heads and tried to solve the problems."

Not good.

If this doesn't change, these may go down as the "bumbling, non-working, Socialist Olympics."

Man, let's hope not.

Which military dictatorship?

Okay, so first Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made big news for a couple of days with her quote and claim that maybe Iran was becoming a military dictatorship .

After I heard that, I thought (I may have said aloud), "Well, shoot, they could claim that of us."

And of course they did : "'They themselves' (the US) 'are involved in a sort of military dictatorship and have practically ignored the realities and the truths in the region,' Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, according to ISNA news agency."

And you know what?

They have a point, just not in the way they went at it.

Actually, they have a few points.

Look at the facts :

--The US outspends the entire world in military weapons, offensive and defensive. We spend 41.5% of all military outlays in the entire world ($607 billion);

--China (5.8% or $84.9 billion), France and the UK (each at 4.5%) and Russia (4.0%) make for 18.8% of the world's total defense spending;

--The next 10 countries combined, after our spending, only comprise 21.1% of the world total;

--The rest of the world's countries, again, combined, spend 18.6% of the world's total on defense spending and arms

Sure, we have a government that is "in charge" of our military so we're not officially a true military dictatorship.

Yet, anyway.

But the fact is, we don't seem capable of cutting back on our defense spending in any way. Our government leaders want the military/industrial complex firms booming in their districts to keep up their employment rolls.

Further, no one leader or political party wants to be seen as the one person or group who "weakened" our country, even if it just means wisely cutting back on defense spending that is far out of control.

It seems that the military corporations are the leaders of our country. They're the ones who are "in charge" of controlling our military. The Department of Defense works closely together with them to insure that they're budgets--and so, our spending--is high.

And no one dare ask if all this spending--deficits be damned--makes any sense for the future and well-being of the country.

Additional link on worldwide military spending:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

Monday, February 15, 2010

Maybe the EU can do what we can't

I've written here a bit on how corrupt Goldman Sachs has been in the last few years--at least--and how they're at least partly culpable for the financial crash of the last few years, the mess we're in now and for the collapse of AIG and the taking of millions (billions?) of government tax dollars over that collapse. (See Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail" , among others).

If you haven't read anything about it, it makes terrific, though depressing, important information and reading. You should check it out.

Now, word comes out of Europe just today that "former IMF man Simon Johnson wrote that he thinks the EU will indeed ban Goldman."

According to Mr. Johnson: "Goldman made some $300 million over a short period of time setting up swaps constructions intended to fool Europe -and investors- about Greece's real financial situation, and it continued such efforts as late in the game as three months ago. It's all certainly immoral, if not downright illegal.

This on top of the wholescale theft they've made of the US markets in the last few years, at minimum.

So this is great. Maybe something can come from all this. Perhaps the EU can and will do what we haven't done on this and that is do an in-depth study of their actions, see if anything was blatantly illegal and then, if so, pursue legal action against them and, as the article states, maybe throw them out of the EU.

As I so frequently say, here's hoping.

But what really galls me is the Goldman Sachs people have been in--and still are--our own government for years, writing policy and policies that directly benefit them and the entire banking community.

And the American people stand for it.

Remember Hank Paulson, the guy who originally came up with the $700 billion TARP fund to save the banker's backsides?

Straight out of Goldman.

Current Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner?

Same thing.

The simple fact is, we need to get and keep Goldman Sachs--and other company and people like them--out of the White House and our government.

We need to get these foxes out of our chicken coops.

God, guts and guns

In the news today , it seems "three young men walked into the New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ and opened fire, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday."

It used to be we were safe in America, without getting too hyperbolic about this.

Then you used to be safe--mostly--in your neighborhoods.

Then you were safe in your home.

Now you aren't even safe in your church.

Maybe these shooters learned this from the nutcase who went on shooting spree 5 years ago in suburban Milwaukee when the church member left the service, only to return with his 9mm handgun and unload 22 shots, killing the pastor, the pastor's son and five other members and then himself. "Neighbors said he was quiet and devout...", the story said.

Maybe they learned this tactic from this shooting from last year in March when "An Illinois pastor was shot and killed, and two parishioners injured after an unknown gunman opened fire during Sunday services at the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill."

Or maybe they learned the technique from "pro-lifer" Scott Roeder who assassinated Dr. George Tiller, gun to his temple, in Dr. Tiller's own church in downtown Wichita, Kansas last May 31 on what was otherwise, no doubt, a beautiful Sunday morning when Dr. Tiller was volunteering, as he repeatedly did, at his own church.

Could be.

And besides the insanity of shooting someone in their own church, there is the additional craziness of the 2 victims in this most recent shooting, yesterday, of not assisting the police in their search for the shooters.

So much for law and order.

Bring on the anarchy.

So let's have it, folks, bring it on. It really has become "God, guts and guns!" in America, hasn't it?

And in our own churches.

But that's what we need--more and more guns.

Can I get an "Amen!"?

The next line of thinking?

"That's why we need to make it okay to bring our guns to church ..."

"Thank you, Ms. Davis. Now, sit down and shut up."

Coming together

With any luck, maybe we're coming together, as a city, to fight the shootings and killings in the area.

First it was Alonzo Washinton, frankly, who set up his blog and has been meeting around town to fight crime.

Then the organization CeaseFire came to town, trying to reduce the number of killings.

That's been followed, as I understand, by the AIM4Peace group that also, apparently, needs money and is hoping to get some from City Hall itself.

Now, there's a local man, a Father, whose son and nephew were killed by some of these same shootings who is trying to get the community to come together to fight the crime. He's setting up a group he's called "Operation Promise Land" , to create 'an agressive door-to-door assault on the 'Stop Snitchin' campaign."

Maybe with all this and involvement by more people and churches and other community organizations, we could get a handle on this and reduce the number of senseless, tragic killing this year.

Here's hoping.

In the meantime, is anyone paying attention at City Hall?


Additional links:

http://www.kansascity.com/news/columnists/steve_penn/story/1215899.html

http://www.kansascity.com/news/breaking_news/story/1727682.html

Local weather forecasters and Dick Cheney

They should both just shut up.

Yesterday, on the front page of the Star, there was an article asking local meteorologists about global warming/climate change and whether or not they thought this winter proved or disproved anything.

Really.

That's liking asking the guy who just fixed your brakes about the international automobile market.

It makes no sense.

Sure, he has an opinion but it likely isn't an informed one.

How about let's ask the scientists who are studying the planet and not the guy who's watching a cold front coming in from Canada?

The fact is, snow or no snow in Dallas, the glaciers--around the world, mind you--are melting.

The ice caps are melting.

The oceans are rising, due to that melt-off.

Islands are shrinking and disappearing.

And we just had our warmest year ever, on record, and a whole lot more, but sure, let's focus on a few isolated snow storms.

The fact is, there is also a strong likelihood that, with the warming oceans, there is more moisture in the air and that this is what's causing the snow storms.

Insanity.

And then there was Dick Cheney on the television news shows yesterday morning, shooting off his mouth, too, on what this current Presidential administration in Washington is doing wrong.

Whatever happened to Vice Presidents who got out of the White House and did the respectable and respectful thing of shutting up and going on with their lives?

I don't ever remember a more troublesome or mouthy ex-Vice President than this one.

So yeah, guys, do us all a favor and shut yer pie holes, k?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

On KCMO School District budget and the KC Star

So The Star covered Superintendent Covington's meeting yesterday and plans for the KCMO School District.

And it was pretty informative, to a point. Fortunately, they didn't really put a "spin" on it--they just covered it very matter-of-factly. Good for them.

But there's a couple of things here that needs to be further pointed out that they didn't report--some shortcomings.

First, I was just told that, if the District doesn't do this and cut these schools, the 285 teachers and the 40 to 50 million dollars in expenses these cutbacks involve, this same District would be
financially bankrupt by next year.

That's pretty big, obviously, and that just can't happen.

But it wasn't mentioned in the paper.

Further, secondly, should that happen, Jeff City would have to take over.

And no one wants that.

No one.

Third, the good news is that, supposedly there are lots of teachers who are in line for retirement so they'll be asked to do just that. From what I understand a lot of them abe bailing already.

Fourth, note the date the Superintendent gave for everyone to respond and vote. He wants this ready for a vote at the Board's next meeting--Feb. 24--ten days from now.

Wow. That's a bit of a whirlwind schedule.

But these people have done the research and tried their best to come up with a plan to address the big budget problems.

It looks as though it's going to sail through.

Finally, if anyone does come out against this, really, they'll have a huge challenge to come up with any other options. How else, exactly, do you cut 40 to 50 million dollars in expenses from the budget
without closing these approximately 20 schools and slashing employment roles?

If you're out there and have any better ideas, you'd better speak up quickly.

It seems as though Superintendent Covington is the right man, doing the right things--the things that need to happen--at just the right time.

Stay tuned.

The meetings this week should be interesting.

Friday, February 12, 2010

US shut out of "Top 10 Cities" ranking

US "the best"?

The Economist Intelligence Unit doesn't think so.

Their survey "ranked 140 cities on 30 factors such as healthcare, culture and environment, and education and personal safety, using research involving resident experts and its own analysts" and decided the US doesn't have one city in the top ten.

Ouch.

Following is a list of the top 10 most liveable cities as ranked by The Economist:

1. Vancouver, Canada

2. Vienna, Austria

3. Melbourne, Australia

4. Toronto, Canada

5. Calgary, Canada

6. Helsinki, Finland

7. Sydney, Australia

8. Perth, Australia

9. Adelaide, Australia

10. Auckland, New Zealand

Neighbor Canada, however (you know the one--"Socialist Canada", the one with mass transit and national health care for all?) has 3 cities in the "top ten."

More ouch.

Between this and health care (we rank 37th in mortality rates, internationally, folks), we just keep getting put in our place, so to speak, don't we? So much for that "we're number one!" crap, huh?

The good news?

We didn't have any cities in the "bottom 10", either.

Thank goodness for that silver lining.

Notes on a Mayor

I have to say, I think the Mayor has this one right.

You'll have to see the Star this morning (Pg. A4) and its article about the mayor saying that $2 million of the city's money should no longer go to the Truman Sports Complex.

Yeah. You bet. He is right. (for once?).

And for a lot of good reasons:

First, it's not contractual. This was never set in stone anywhere and we've been doing it just to be "nice guys."

But you know what? This is in the midst of the worst recession in 80 years, since the Great Depression. Times are difficult, to say the least, and that's the 2nd reason.

Third, we really could use that money on our infrastructure like roads and bridges and sewers and who knows what all. We just hope the mayor can keep his mouth shut the rest of the time he's in office so it doesn't go to settle more lawsuits against him. (Seriously, have you ever known a Mayor to have had more public lawsuits against him because he's mayor? I can't think of any. I wonder what this clown has cost us so far. Good question. Note to self: possible additional blog entry).

Fourth and finally, both the Chiefs and Royals have taken millions and millions of dollars in taxes from the citizens of Jackson County, Kansas City (and for that matter, from Johnson County and Kansas), even though they are extremely profitable monopoly businesses. They'd have a lot of chutzpah complaining about missing this $2million. (Not that they won't complain about it, it wouldn't be surprising).

Now let's hope that, if they go through with this, the city really does spend the $2 million on street repair.

Coincidentally, there's a campaign being put on right now by the area's Heavy Construction Association to the tune of $110,000 (and possibly more) that starts soon and goes for the next year.

It seems the big boys are starting this "Stop the Nonsense" PR campaing "to pressure the" city "council to spend more general fund money for capital maintenance projects such as roads and bridges."

It seems the budget for these projects is down $7 million and they want it back, at minimum.

Hmmmm. Isn't that what the Mayor said he would do in his campaign for the job he has, make us "The City that Works"?

"An early draft of the group's campaign...shows plans for a broad-based critique of the mayor and council on radio, in newspaper ads, billboards and direct mail to residents."

The mayor will most assuredly bear the brunt of this negative campaign, too. To criticize "the council" is too vague. I'll bet most Kansas Citians can't even name one council member.

So here's one more group aligned against the mayor and our current local government.

It would be nice if those folks would wake up down there and give us the kind of efficient government the mayor promised and that we should, rightly, have, instead of things like Ed Ford's boneheaded idea of expanding the city North with his Tomahawke Ridge boondoggle.

Here's hoping.

Have a great weekend, y'all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What the Mayor could do and should have done

There's a terrific article right now up on an Oklahoma blog, pointing out how our very own Negro League's Museum is in trouble and needs money and more.

What a cool thing that is, this guy, Barry Tramel, pointing out how it's one of his "favorite places on Earth".

Good on ya', Barry. Thanks. It is a cool place and we appreciate the mention.

And you know what?

This is the kind of thing our own Mayor should have been working on the last--what is it? 15 years?--he's been in office. (exaggeration for effect, folks).

Here's this potential gold mine for the city's tourism trade and I don't remember the Funk pushing or working for it much, if at all, in all the time he's supposed to have been in charge.

Now that I think about it, here's another thing he could have been working on at the same time, in the same vein: attendance at and the success of our Union Station.

Both of those tasks could have kept him busy all these years he's been in office.

Those would have been terrific endeavors and they both need help.

Instead, he and his wife wanted to throw their little tantrums and retreat back to Brookside, but that's another matter.

(And what was up with that weinie "phone-in" session he had the other day with Kansas Citians, instead of having a meeting where we'd really talk with him, face to face. To repeat, what a weinie).

And now, for something to divert attention, he's come up with a "school plan", to improve the schools in Kansas City.

Of course, he's about a day late and a dollar short but at least he came up with something, right?

Except what he came up with suggests that he thinks he ought to do what the Mayor should have been doing all along--fixing our streets and sidewalks, etc. (read: infrastructure) around the KCMO schools so they have less problems.

WTF?

Are you kidding me?

Don't you think that's what we elected you for years ago, you big clown?

What do you think you were put in that office for, anyway?

We're glad you've finally gotten a clue and realized that's what Mayors are for and that's what you're supposed to be doing.

Not get busy with it.

And while you're at it, look into doing something for the Negro League Museum and Union Station.

Maybe if you do these things you won't get our city any additonal, costly lawsuits we have to pay.

A challenge for Tony and a question for intelligent men and women in town

I'll only address this issue once and that issue is the sexist, stupid, infantile pictures Tony at Tony's KC Blog puts up on that same blog.

My question:

Why?

He's addressed it before on his blog, at least a couple of times but seriously, I don't think people read it because he puts those things up there.

He insists it gets him notice. Or "readership" or something.

But why, too, are local women not saying anything about this?

Is this pathetic, high school age sexism so pervasive that you just put up with it?

Is it so rampant that it makes it okay?

I don't get it.

I'd think intelligent, educated, sophisticated women in town--bloggers and non-bloggers, both, would rail against it and request he--Tony--refrain from posting those really childish, insulting things as soon as possible.

On the one hand, he writes mostly about serious things that are going on in the area, however snarkly.

But on the other, he thinks he needs these pictures of buxom young women, barely dressed, so people will read his blog?

No.

Huh-uh.

It doesn't make sense.

There's a total disconnect there.

And he doesn't have any more self-respect, or respect for his column or respect for his readers to do otherwise.

Tony serves a good purpose---most of the time. He writes okay to good stuff lots of times.

But the pictures, too frequently.

That is some kind of sad.

Sure, it's a reflection on him but it's a reflection on the city, too.

So here's the challenge ladies: challenge Tony to, as I put in his comments on his blog, come to the "adults table" and take down the stupid pictures.

Any takers?

(For the record, I'm hopeful. Think of it as a Quixotic dream. Also, again, I will only bring this up this once. I have no interest in some of silly "blog war", if there is such a thing. I wish Tony well. I just wish he'd get and stay more professional--and adult).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We were right--the world DID want us to get rid of "W"

From Gallup , the polling organization, just now:

"Perceptions of U.S. leadership worldwide improved significantly from 2008 to 2009. The U.S.-Global Leadership Project, a partnership between the Meridian International Center and Gallup, finds that a median of 51% of the world approves of the job performance of the current leadership of the U.S., up from a median of 34% in 2008."

"Gallup has asked residents worldwide to rate the leadership of the U.S. since 2005, which enables a comparison of how perceptions of U.S. leadership have changed from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. The global median approval of U.S. leadership remained relatively steady from 2005 to 2008. In 2009, a bare median majority approves of the job performance of U.S. leadership (51%) -- a first since Gallup began asking the question worldwide in 2005."

"Significant improvements in sentiment toward U.S. leadership are evident in all four major global regions, with the largest year-over-year increase in approval measured in Europe. Median approval of U.S. leadership increased by 28 percentage points between 2008 and 2009 in this region. A median of 47% approves and a median of 20% disapproves -- the first time disapproval has dropped below 50% in Europe since Gallup first asked the question."

"Among the Group of Twenty (G-20) members, approval of U.S. leadership changed significantly in 16 of 17 countries where Gallup collected data before and after the Obama administration took office early last year. In 15 of these countries, approval ratings increased substantially, with increases of 39 points or more in Canada, France, and the United Kingdom. Although sentiment improved significantly in Turkey and Saudi Arabia from 2008 to 2009, majorities in these two countries still disapprove of the job performance of U.S. leadership."

So besides the fact that he's much more intelligent than "W" and the fact that he's not as completely, totally and utterly "in the pocket" of corporations and the wealthy, it seems the world, along with us, approves far more of the job President Obama is doing than we were used to for the previous 8 tortuous (no pun intended) years.

Now if this current President would only throw the health insurance companies and bankers out of the White House, we might achieve something for the average American, instead of the average American corporation.

Thankfully, Roeder just won't shut up

Scott Roeder is back, this time on radio , rambling with his thoughts on his situation. Fortunately for us all, he keeps admitting he cold bloodedly shot and killed Dr. George Tiller in Tiller's church on a Sunday morning, while the Doctor was volunteering for the church. ("Tell me, Mr. Roeder, who would Jesus kill, anyway?").

Since the question about Roeder is whether or not he killed Dr. Tiller and nothing else, he keeps assuring his own life sentence.

Good on ya', Scott. Thanks.

Roeder's attorneys have petitioned for a retrial, of course.

Nope. No, I don't think so but thanks for trying anyway, boys.

Another, new reason we shouldn't have invaded Iraq

We're coming up on the 6th anniversary of invading Iraq and fighting and dying there ever since.

And the reasons we shouldn't have invaded have been spelled out before:

--It's against our own national law;

--It's against international law;

--The UN inspectors weren't finding any WMD's;

--Saddam Hussein was cooperating;

--Our invasion of Iraq was totally, completely and utterly unprovoked;

--Our own intelligence agencies--13 of them--advised against the invasion and attack;

--Former President George H. W. Bush himself was against attacking Iraq;

--We had to do it unilaterally and without the world community which made it both costly--in terms of soldiers and materiel--and we didn't have world opinion on our side so it cost us our image, which is not to be dismissed;

--We were all for Saddam Hussein earlier in his career and we traded with him, no problem, while he was gassing his people. We didn't have any problem with it then. It was only later, with George W. Bush and Dick "Lemme at 'em" Cheney that we arbitrarily decided we should attack them without provocation.

And the list goes on.

But here's the real, new beauty today.

Did you hear on NPR this morning that there is a common feeling and thought of Iraqis actually missing Saddam Hussein and the days of his rule in Iraq?

Yeah, and here's why:

--they don't have any jobs

--they can't count on basic services like electricity (ever since we blew them up)

--there's less safety and security

--in Anbar Province, they're disillusioned with "the current Shiite-led government and the local Sunni provincial council"

and more.

Some quotes from Iraqis:

"It is only now that we have discovered how valuable Saddam was to us. People have compared the situation before to the situation now. And then was better."

"Saddam's popularity is back because Saddam gave Iraqis dignity. Now, Iraqis have no dignity whatsoever."

"At the mobile phone shop in Ramadi, owner Abu Mohammed says at least when Saddam was in power, people knew what to expect."

Again, this is another case of the Americans absolutely not being "greeted in the streets with flowers, as liberators", as the Bush Administration promised.

In the meantime, let me mention two statistics, not including what the war is costing us in materiel and dollars:

--The US has suffered 4375 casualties in American Soldiers, men and women and

--We have suffered 31,639 wounded American Soldiers, total, to date

And for what?

So the Iraqis could lament the days they had their own leader, however brutal and barbaric, and we hadn't yet blown them up, put our own soldiers lives at risk and spent trillions of dollars to do all the above.

Do you suppose there are still people out there who think George W. Bush and his administration are going to be thought of in a positive light one day, in retrospect, in the history books?

One expensive snowstorm

Have you been keeping up with the snow storms on the East coast --specifically, the ones going through Washington, DC?

It seems a 2nd big one is going through now so the nation's capital--our seat of government is shut down for the 3rd day. No one's been in their government offices all week, save the President, since he can walk there from upstairs.

Normally, Washington can count on about 10 inches of snow per year.

This year? They've gotten 45 inches.

Holy cow.

That's a lot of shoveling.

Anyway, I understand they will likely be shut out of their offices all week--five full days.

It's estimated this is costing us $100 million dollars per day in lost productivity.

Once you do the simple math, you see that the total, then, hits $500 million dollars, give or take.

And that's one thing but then think about it--$500 million dollars spent.

And nothing's getting done.

Dang.

One-half billion dollars and nothing's getting done.

It's as now-deceased Senator Everett Dirksen is reported to have said once:

" A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."

Try to think good, happy, positive thoughts.

Great insights

If you haven't read Midtown Miscreant's latest post , you need to.

Go.

Do it.

Now.

Then, read his Part 1 of this thought process from yesterday .

And thank him.

This from a "liberal" who's supposed to want people to "get off easy", right?

On the launch of a "solar dynamics observatory"

In case you missed it, there is a solar dynamics observatory going up into space today, thanks to NASA--and our tax dollars--that is going to study the sun for the next 5 years, inside and out, literally.

And while I find this fascinating, I can't help but also think that, between this new instrument, the Hubble telescope already looking into the far reaches of space and the Hadron collider in Switerland, looking back to the original, creating "big bang" that made us all, the universe, really, that somewhere we don't have one hell of a lot of information out there on this crazy universe of ours.

I mean, think of it. The Hubble alone is collecting so much data NASA said they can't keep up with it.

What if they found there was no God?

Or what if they found there was--but she/he was unlike what anyone had proposed to date? (Which, after all, is highly possible and even likely).

So it makes me want to propose two thoughts:

1) What if the US government learned something particularly incredible about us, about the universe--and then could not/would not tell us?

I think it makes a great story line.

Which brings me to my 2nd point:

2) Wouldn't this make a terrific sci-fi movie?

If only Rod Serling were alive.

"Calling Mr. Spielberg..."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Republicans on the wrong side of public opinion

Too good not to post so here's a "guest posting". For the sake of brevity, there is a good, quick summary at bottom:

Republicans -- Not Obama -- More Often on Wrong Side of Public Opinion

by Nate Silver

One of the more commonplace assertions among pundits on the center-right -- made rather carelessly by Victor Davis Hanson and more thoughtfully by Jay Cost, is that agenda put forward by Obama and the Democrats is overwhelmingly unpopular and that Democrats are simply getting their comeuppance for having pushed such a liberal set of reforms forward. These claims, however, rely on selective evidence, invariably citing policies like health care and the GM bailouts which are indeed unpopular (strongly so, in some cases), while ignoring many other issues on which Obama has been on the right side of public opinion.

In fact, a more objective and equivocal evaluation of public opinion on more than two dozen specific issues finds that the Republican Congress has far more often been on the wrong side of it. Attempting to be as comprehensive as possible, I've identified 25 issues that Obama and the Democrats have made an affirmative effort to push forward since taking office a year ago, and summarized public opinion on each of them. Most of the numbers that I've cited come from PollingReport.com.

Afghanistan Troop Escalation. An average of seven polls taken since President Obama's speech on Afghanistan in December show a 54-41 majority of the public in favor of escalating troop commitments. However, Obama appeared to get a bump from his speech, as an average of four polls conducted in November, prior to the speech, had shown a 49-46 plurality opposed to greater troop commitments.

Bank Tax. An NPR poll found a 57-39 majority in favor of the bank tax proposal, which the Congress has yet to consider, after being read arguments both for and against the program. (An ABC/Post poll found a 73-26 majority in favor of taxing financial sector bonuses over $1 million dollars, although the White House has not advocated for that measure.)

Ben Bernanke. The only poll on Ben Bernanke, from NBC/WSJ, found a 37-34 plurality opposed to his reappointment; Bernanke was approved by 22 of 40 Senate Republicans and 48 of 60 Senate Democrats.

Bush Tax Cuts. Although this polling is somewhat out of date, a CBS/NYT poll in April found 74 percent in favor, and 23 percent opposed, to raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 per year, as Obama's budget would do. A Newsweek poll in March, with somewhat different phrasing, found 49 percent in favor of letting the tax cuts on the wealthy expire and 42 percent opposed.

Campaign Finance. The only poll to have asked directly about the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision is from FOX News, which found voters disapproving of the decision 53-27. A Gallup poll conducted last month found that, while most Americans consider campaign finance to be a form of free speech, they nevertheless by a 52-41 margin felt that the ability to place limits on political contributions was the higher priority.

Cap-and-Trade. The last five organizations to release polls on cap-and-trade (AP/Stanford, ABC/Post, CNN, Pew, Rasmussen) actually show it favored by the public by a 51-40 margin, on average. It is likely that a significant fraction of the public does not understand what cap-and-trade is; nevertheless most of these polls provided descriptions of the bill's contents. Eight House Republicans voted for the climate bill in June; the Senate has yet to consider the measure.

Cash-for-Clunkers. The only organization to poll on this was Rasmussen, which found voters opposed to the program 35-54 in June, but a 44-38 plurality favoring the program in retrospect after it had been implemented.

Credit Card Protections. 77 percent of respondents favored the Credit Card Protection Act, according to a poll by Open Congress. The bill was approved 90-5 by the Senate in May, as well as by a 105-69 majority of House Republicans.

D.C. Voting Rights. 58 percent of the public favored, and 35 percent opposed, giving an a House seat to D.C. in a nationwide Washington Post poll conducted last February. The Senate approved D.C. voting rights by a 61-37 margin last February, with 6 Republicans voting in favor and 2 Democrats voting against, although the measure subsequently died in the House.

Fair Pay. Congress approved the Liddy Ledbetter Fair Pay Act last January; it received the support of 3 Republicans in the House and 5 in the Senate. A Rasmussen poll conducted shortly after the legislation passed found that Americans by a 66-24 majority do not believe that women earn equal pay for equal work, although it did not ask about the legislation specifically.

Financial Regulation. A Time/SRBI poll in October found that 59 percent of the public favors more regulation of Wall Street versus 13 percent favoring less and 22 percent the same amount. A CNN poll two weeks ago found 62 percent in favor of greater regulations and 35 percent opposed. House Republicans opposed the financial regulation bill unanimously.

Gays in the Military. Four organizations -- FOX, Gallup, Quinnipiac, and CNN -- have released polls on Don't Ask Don't Tell since Obama's inauguration. They show an average of 58 percent saying that Don't Ask Don't Tell should be repealed and that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, and 35 percent opposed. No votes have yet occurred on DADT in either the House or the Senate, although the House's repeal legislation has just one Republican co-sponsor.

GM/Chrysler Bailout. Quite unpopular: an NBC/WSJ poll in early June showed 39 percent of the public in favor and 52 percent opposed to the bailout, and a CNN poll in April found that 22 percent of the public favored additional assistance to GM and Chrysler while 76 percent would have preferred to let them go bankrupt. (There was no specific vote on GM in this Congress; instead, its funds came by way of the TARP program.)

Guantanamo Bay. Four organizations to release polls on Gutantanamo Bay between last February and last June found an average 55 percent of Americans opposed to closing the detention facility and 39 percent in favor, with the number of those opposed tending to increase over time.

Hate Crimes. Although there have been no recent polls on the subject, a Gallup survey in May 2007 found a 68-27 majority in favor of expanding hate crimes statues to include sexual and gender identity. The Matthew Shepard act, a hate crimes measure, passed the Congress last year, receiving the support of 18 House Republicans and 5 Senate Republicans.

Health Care. It has clearly become unpopular; the latest Pollster.com trendlines show 38 percent in favor of the bill and 55 percent opposed. One Republican voted for the health care bill in the House and none did in the Senate.

Jobs Bill. A CNN poll in December found 74 percent thought Obama should concentrate on creating more jobs "even if it means less deficit reduction." A Bloomberg/Selzer poll, also in December, asked about specific measures that might be undertaken as part of a jobs bill and found 68 percent in favor (and 28 percent opposed) to tax credits, and 66 percent in favor (versus 32 percent opposed) of spending on public works projects, although just 48 percent were in favor of additional assistance to state and local governments. House Republicans unanimously opposed a $100 billion jobs bill in December.

Mortgage Relief. Senate Republican unanimously voted against the Durbin Amendment to provide mortgage relief in April, as did 12 Senate Democrats. However, four organizations which polled on mortgage relief in February through April found an average of 60 percent of Americans in support of additional assistance versus 34 percent opposed.

PAYGO. There is no specific polling on Congressional pay-go rules, which Senate Republicans recently voted against 40-0., but in the abstract moves toward balancing the budget are almost always popular, such as a CNN poll in November which found 67 percent preferring balanced budgets to deficits "even when the country is in a recession and is at war."

SCHIP. Although there have been no recent polls on SCHIP (children's health care), an ABC/Post poll in September, 2007 found it supported 72-25 by the public, and a CNN poll in October, 2007 found that the public wanted by a 61-35 margin for the Congress to override President Bush's veto of the program. Nine Republican Senators voted to extend SCHIP in February as did 40 House Republicans.

Sonia Sotomayor. The last five polls to be released on Sonia Sotmayor in advance of her confirmation showed 52 percent in favor of her confirmation and 30 percent opposed, on average. Senate Republicans opposed her confirmation 31-9.

Stimulus. The stimulus has become somewhat unpopular now -- although most individual elements of the program remain popular. However, the stimulus was somewhat popular at the time of its passage. An average of the last five organizations to release polls in advance of the Senate's vote on the stimulus on 2/9/09 showed 50 percent in favor of the bill and 38 percent opposed. House Republicans opposed the stimulus unanimously; Senate Republicans gave it 3 votes.

TARP. The TARP program began under Bush and was extended before Obama took office, but Obama nevertheless actively lobbied Democrats for its extension. TARP was unpopular from the get-go, and Americans opposed its extension 56-32 last January, according to a poll then from Diageo/Hotline. All but 6 Senate Republicans voted not to extend TARP.

Terrorist Trials. An average of two recent polls from Rasmussen and CBS had 38 percent of the public in favor of terror trials in civilian courts, but 55 percent opposed.

Torture Memos and Investigations. Four polls conducted in April showed an average of 43 percent of Americans in favor and 51 percent opposed into an investigation of Bush-era torture policies. The only poll to ask about the release of the Bush torture memos, from ABC/Post, found 53 percent in favor and 44 percent opposed.


Of these 25 issues, Obama's position appears to be on the right side of public opinion on 14: the bank tax, repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, campaign finance, the credit card bill, D.C. voting rights, fair pay, financial regulation, gays in the military, hate crimes, the jobs bill, mortgage relief, PAYGO, SCHIP, and Sotomayor. It would appear to be on the wrong side of public opinion on five issues: the GM/Chrysler bailout, Guantanamo Bay, health care, the extension of the TARP program, and terrorist trials. On the other six issues, the polling is probably too ambiguous to render a clear verdict.

Republicans, on the other hand, have been overwhelmingly opposed to almost all of these measures with the exception of Ben Bernanke and Afghanistan troops, both of which poll ambiguously, and the credit card bill, which polled well.

Obviously, this analysis is superficial in certain ways. All issues are by no means created equal, and health care in particular, which is unpopular, has weighed heavily upon the public's perception of the Democrats. In addition, there is probably another layer of 'meta-argument' that goes beyond specific issues, and at which the GOP has tended to excel.

Nevertheless, it runs in contrast to the objective evidence when one asserts, as Hanson does, that "On every issue ... the Obama position polls 5-15 points below 50 percent." Rather, the votes taken by the Republican Congress have far more often been out of step with those of the median voter.

This is not to give a mulligan to the White House or to the Democrats -- as I've written before, their meta-strategy has necessarily had to be somewhat terrible so as to take what has been a fairly popular and centrist agenda and have it regarded as overwhelmingly contentious and partisan by so much of the public.

EDIT: What about EFCA/card check? I didn't forget about it; rather, I excluded it because it's something which the Democrats abandoned early on and which the White House never lifted a finger for. Obviously, there are a lot of policies that the Democrats theoretically have in their arsenal -- card check, legalizing pot, gay marriage, nationalizing the banks, a radically more progressive tax code, etc. -- which are both quite liberal and (with one or two possible exceptions) quite unpopular. But the Congressional Democrats didn't spend much of any effort on those issues, and the White House spent essentially none. The agenda they've spent their political capital on, rather, has been quite centrist -- which is sort of the whole point of this article.

If you did include card check, by the way, the verdict would be rather ambiguous. Ignoring some amazingly crappy (and contradictory) partisan polling on both sides of the topic, the closest we have to a neutral poll is this one from Gallup, which shows 53 percent in favor of a "new law that would make it easier for labor unions to organize workers" but which is probably too vague to be useful. To be clear, my hunch is that card check would indeed prove to become unpopular if it were debated more vigorously -- but that's just a hunch, and we're trying to rely on the objective evidence for this exercise.

What you've experienced, individually, doesn't make it so for the rest of the world

Note to football player Tim Tebow, his Mom and to everyone else out there in the world:

Just because you experienced something and have found something to be true for you, doesn't make it so, universally, for everyone else in the world.

In fact, this point drives me wild.

So many people going through life judging others based on what they think and believe is "universally true" when, in fact, whatever rules or ideas they're using may well not be at all. It's true for so many things.

So many people think that, just because their life has proven some idea or thought to be true, that this is the way it is for the rest of the world.

It just ain't so.

To wit: apparently, Mrs. Tebow was told, we are told, she should seriously consider terminating her pregancy (read: have an abortion) when her son, Tim, was coming along.

She decided against it. Good for her. Yahoo.

She went ahead, carried Matt to term, gave birth and we're all living happily ever after.

That's her story.

And just because that's true for her absolutely does not, then, as I said above, make this the same case for the rest of humanity.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not crazy for abortions. It's not like I think we need or want lots of these things in the world.

But we do, unfortunately--humankind's history has proven it--"need" the option of abortion.

There, I said it.

They're legal. And they've been legal since 1973.

And get this--some women really need them, for their own personal, serious, legitimate reasons.

But if some women can be assisted in some ways, whether with financial assistance or counseling or whatever so that she could either keep the child or have her/him adopted, terrific! That's great, of course.

Government, especially "conservative" and non-intrusive government shouldn't rule her options and make her have the child.

And to this, I offer a wonderful, simple, intelligent solution for all the "Right to Lifers" out there and that is this: stop fighting RU486 and other new medicines/drugs that could end a possible pregnancy within 24 hours of the possible conception.

Then people could stop having abortions.

Of course, you'd lose your one issue but that's what's really important anyway, isn't it?

You want to have your one issue you can rail about and judge others on.

A challenge to our city leaders

Questions that should be asked and answered by our Mayor, City Council, City Manager and all other leaders in the area, in case we could reduce the number of shootings and murders in town:

1) What are the organizations CeaseFire and Aim4Peace? What do they do?

2) Who is involved in the organizations?

3) Are they working effectively in town to reduce shootings and murders and possibly to otherwise improve our city?

4) What do they do? What are they doing in town?

5) What is their budget?

6) From where have they gotten their present, previous budget, to date?

7) Aim4Peace says they are short on funds. Is CeaseFire short, also?

8) If they are short on funds, are there good reasons for that?

9) If they are effective, would transferring city funds to either or both organizations help Kansas City reduce the number of shootings and murders in the area and/or otherwise improve life in Kansas City for a good number of our citizens?

Let's see if it happens.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Republicans and Conservatives really don't want this President to succeed

You have to understand, Republicans and Conservatives really don't want this President, Obama, to succeed.

In fact, his being successful scares the daylights out of them--and for several big reasons.

First, we're experiencing the biggest financial recession and difficulties in the last 80 years, since the Great Depression.

The last time we had a really ugly downturn in the economy like the one we're facing now--the Great Depression--a Democrat, Franklin Delano Roosevelt--came along with solutions and spending and lots of government in the form of programs and because of it he's credited by most all historians and Americans with having saved the Republic.

That's bad enough for the Republicans.

But then you know what happened?

For the next 40 years, approximately, the Democrats were in power in Washington and across the land.

And that scares the hell out of all those Republicans and Conservatives out there.

The last thing they want this President, President Obama, to be is successful.

So they bring it all out--they call him "Socialist" and "Liberal" and "tax and spend" and every ugly, true and untrue thing they can think of, to rail against him and his plans.

When you put their fragmentation, at minimum, and lack of leadership in their Party, in addition, to this mess and situation they're in, they're scared as hell he may be successful.

So fight this President?

You bet they do.

You bet they will.

Be the "Party of 'no'"? Oh, yeah.

It's all they've got.

They're desperate.

The trouble is, so is the US. So is our country. So are most of us out here in America.

But the Republicans would rather have the country fail on this President's watch--and then blame it on him--than have the US succeed.

And if that doesn't scare you, no matter who you are or what your politics, then you aren't thinking out the entire situation and what it could possibly mean for this country, as a whole and all of us, individually.