Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Last Call

Looks like Wisconsin's new Tea Party Gov. Scott Walker is making friends.

Thousands of teachers, prison guards and students descended on the Wisconsin Capitol on Wednesday to try to preserve the union rights of public employees in the state that was the first to grant collective bargaining to government workers more than a half-century ago.

The new Republican governor, Scott Walker, is seeking passage of the nation's most aggressive anti-union proposal — a plan that would all but eliminate the bargaining process for most public employees.

The sweeping measure was moving swiftly through the GOP-led Legislature and would mark a dramatic shift for Wisconsin, which passed a comprehensive collective bargaining law in 1959 and was the birthplace of the national union representing all non-federal public employees.

The Statehouse filled with as many as 10,000 demonstrators, and many Madison teachers joined the protest by calling in sick in such numbers that the district had to cancel classes.

As protesters chanted outside his office door on the second consecutive day of demonstrations, Walker insisted he has the votes to pass the measure, which he says is needed to help balance a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall and avoid widespread layoffs.

Walker said he appreciated the concerns of protesters, but taxpayers "need to be heard as well." Although he said he was open to making changes, he promised not to do anything that would "fundamentally undermine the principles" of the bill.

"We're at a point of crisis," the governor said. 

It appears Wisconsin's government workers, teachers, firefighters, police, prison guards and more, are calling Walker's bluff on calling out the National Guard to go after demonstrators.  It seems the lessons of Egypt and Tunisia have not been lost on Americans after all. 

I can see why Walker is petulantly holding the line.  He can't change his mind now or the Tea Party will disown him and his term is over before it begins.  Having said that, it's pretty clear if this knucklehead's intransigence can get 10,000 plus Wisconsinites out to protest in February, it's serious.

It seems the lessons of the Tea Party haven't been lost on these folks, either...just lost on the Village who refuses to cover this.  I guess they need more badly spelled signage, Revolutionary War era costumes, Gadsden flags and concealed guns.  Instead, other than MSNBC, nobody seems to have noticed thousands of working class Americans fighting to keep their right to collectively bargain.

University Of Hard Knocks

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

UNLV President Neal Smatresk told a somber Faculty Senate on Tuesday that the administration was planning a kind of bankruptcy to deal with its budget crunch.

Under the "financial exigency" plan, tenured professors could be fired and whole departments and programs more easily closed down.

Earlier this month, the Board of Regents said it would be premature to consider such a move until the Legislature approved a final budget by June.

Smatresk told the faculty group that the cuts for UNLV would total $47.5 million and would need to be implemented by July 2012, so a plan for financial exigency would have to be prepared.

UNLV has had about $50 million in cuts over the last four years, mostly in non-academic areas and mostly avoiding large cuts for professor positions. If the cuts proposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval were approved, Smatresk said, academic cuts could not be avoided.

"We would have to declare financial exigency," Smatresk said. He added, "I believe the proposed cuts could materialize."

He and other officials would spend the next few weeks developing cutback plans with deans and faculty groups.

"It's very clear our state is approaching a state of fiscal collapse" when it comes to education, Smatresk said.

The cuts, Smatresk said, will lead to a "smaller, more expensive, more selective institution."

Universities, education and knowledge are for suckers, anyway.  Real Americans drop out of college and found multi-billion dollar companies in their garage and stuff.  Besides, clearly the answer here is to cut taxes for the wealthy more and eliminate the estate tax so that when one of them dies, they'll have extra money to endow to the school.

Tax cuts magically create more revenue than the cuts themselves cost, you know.  And you don't need one of them there fancy-pants college degrees to know that, by gum.

Rick Scott Rails Against Jobs

You have to wonder what Rick Scott is up to when he's throwing away jobs in this economy.

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott announced this morning that he's taking a pass on $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money President Obama's administration had earmarked for a high-speed train connecting Orlando and Tampa.

Scott made the announcement in a hastily called news conference where he denounced Obama's budget.

"You don't have to be an economic expert to know when you spend more money than you take in you will fail," Scott said.

The move likely means those dollars would be headed to California and other states investing in high-speed rail.

Scott had previously said he didn't want the state spending any money on the rail line, which requires $280 million in matching funds. But backers of the project have said that the consortiums of companies set to bid on the line had indicated willingness to put up their own money in return for a contract.

So these companies were willing to invest in Florida and put up their own funding and not stick taxpayers with the bill. Rick Scott killed the project anyway at a time when Florida's unemployment rate is 11.6% and the underemployment rate is approaching 20% plus. Again, this was all about Florida businesses that wanted to invest in infrastructure.

But infrastructure is evil. Can't have President Obama taking credit, you see. So Florida loses out on thousands of jobs. Same thing happened in Ohio and Wisconsin.

The only job these Republican governors care about is their own. The rest of you can go to hell if it means Obama might not look like the Antichrist.

Don't Try To Con The Con Man

Via Barry Ritholtz, convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff says in a NY Times interview that the banks knew he was ripping the planet off.  They were doing the same thing, you see.

Mr. Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence, seemed frail and a bit agitated compared with the stoic calm he maintained before his incarceration in 2009, perhaps burdened by sadness over the suicide of his son Mark in December.

Besides that loss, his family also has faced stacks of lawsuits, the potential forfeiture of most of their assets, and relentless public suspicion and enmity that cut Mr. Madoff and his wife Ruth off from their children.

In many ways, however, Mr. Madoff seemed unchanged. He spoke with great intensity and fluency about his dealings with various banks and hedge funds, pointing to their “willful blindness” and their failure to examine discrepancies between his regulatory filings and other information available to them.

“They had to know,” Mr. Madoff said. “But the attitude was sort of, ‘If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know.’ ”

While he acknowledged his guilt in the interview and said nothing could excuse his crimes, he focused his comments laserlike on the big investors and giant institutions he dealt with, not on the financial pain he caused thousands of his more modest investors. In an e-mail written on Jan. 13, he observed that many long-term clients made more in legitimate profits from him in the years before the fraud than they could have elsewhere. “I would have loved for them to not lose anything, but that was a risk they were well aware of by investing in the market,” he wrote.

Mr. Madoff said he was startled to learn about some of the e-mails and messages raising doubts about his results — now emerging in lawsuits — that bankers were passing around before his scheme collapsed.

“I’m reading more now about how suspicious they were than I ever realized at the time,” he said with a faint smile. 

Never con a con man.   Hopefully he'll have company in prison for the next century.

The Worst Thing I've Heard All Year - I Quit Counting

Out of respect for the victim, the article was kept mercifully short.  In a rare exception, I am going to reprint it in its entirety.

On Friday, Feb. 11, the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a "60 Minutes" story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.

In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.

There will be no further comment from CBS News and correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.

This is a grim reminder, one of many in the news recently, that journalists face real danger when they travel abroad.  It's nice to see CBS huddle protectively around  Logan and take the high road.  My prayers are with her, and I hope she recovers as much as one can from something so terrible.

There's A Special Place In Hell For That

The 81-year-old Franciscan nun was friends with a man named Eliseo Ortiz. In fact, Ortiz went to her home Monday evening, deputies say, asking for some water.

The night ended with Sister Nora beaten badly and left on her living room floor. For some reason, sources say, 51-year-old Ortiz became violent.

So yeah, the next time a nun gives you water, try not to beat her up.  Holy cow, what a world we live in.

Rise Of The Monarch

Some good news on the environmental front involving the Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly colonies in Mexico more than doubled in size this winter after bad storms devastated their numbers a year ago, conservationists said on Monday although the migrating insect remains under threat.

Millions of butterflies make a 2,000-mile journey each year from Canada to winter in central Mexico's warmer weather but the size of that migration can vary wildly.

Fewer of the orange and black insects arrived in Mexico last year than ever before, researchers said, but the butterfly colonies increased by 109 percent this year to cover roughly 10 acres of forest. Researchers estimate the size of the butterfly colonies based on the area they occupy in a forest.

"Certainly this is good news and indicates a recovering trend," said Omar Vidal, director of the Mexico branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

But while the monarch colonies rebounded this winter, it is still the fourth-lowest year for the butterfly since researchers started census-taking in 1993.

Which goes to show you that even doubling their population from last year, the monarchs are still in pretty bad shape.   It's good to see them back forcefully this year, but they've still got a ways to go.

Mitt Romney Gets That Poll-Axed Look About Birthers

Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling finds an interesting correlation among Republican primary voters, their preferences for 2012's candidate right now, and...birthers, who now make up a majority of GOP primary voters.

Birthers make a majority among those voters who say they're likely to participate in a Republican primary next year. 51% say they don't think Barack Obama was born in the United States to just 28% who firmly believe that he was and 21% who are unsure. The GOP birther majority is a new development. The last time PPP tested this question nationally, in August of 2009, only 44% of Republicans said they thought Obama was born outside the country while 36% said that he definitely was born in the United States. If anything birtherism is on the rise.

How does this impact Romney? Well among the 49% of GOP primary voters who either think Obama was born in the United States or aren't sure, Romney's the first choice to be the 2012 nominee by a good amount, getting 23% to 16% for Mike Huckabee, 11% for Sarah Palin, and 10% for Newt Gingrich. But with the birther majority he's in a distant fourth place at 11%, with Mike Huckabee at 24%, Sarah Palin at 19%, and Newt Gingrich at 14% all ahead of him. That pushes him into a second place finish overall at 17% with Mike Huckabee again leading the way this month at 20%. Palin's third with 15%, followed by Gingrich at 12%, Ron Paul at 8%, Mitch Daniels and Tim Pawlenty at 4%, and John Thune at 1%.

So, Birthers love the Huckster and Moose Lady, while the rest of the party is behind Mittens.  Huck does fairly well among both groups, however, enough to be the overall leader in the poll.

It gets even more interesting.

There is really a remarkable divide in how the birther and non-birther wings of the GOP view Sarah Palin. With the birthers she is a beloved figure, scoring an 83/12 favorability rating. Non-birthers are almost evenly divided on her with 47% rating her positively and 40% unfavorably.

This is yet another poll where we find Palin with the highest favorability among Republican primary voters but still lagging in the horse race. 65% have a positive opinion of her compared to 58% for Huckabee and 55% for Romney and Gingrich. Her problem is that even though they like her, few GOP voters think Palin's qualified to be President. Asked whether she's more qualified to be President or Vice President, only 29% of voters place her in the top spot compared to 46% who say she'd be a more appropriate number 2.

On the President/Vice President qualification question only Romney reaches a majority on the qualified to be President card with 50% saying he's most equipped for that position to 24% who think he'd make a better Vice President. Huckabee has 44% who think he's suited to be President to 28% who think he'd fit more in the VP slot, and Gingrich has 27% who consider him more Presidential to 37% that think he's more Vice Presidential.

So the Birthers looooooove Sarah Palin.  They just don't think she'd make a good President.  Only Romney hits the 50% mark.

The really disturbing part continues to be the vast majority of Republican primary voters  who don't believe the President was born in Hawaii, a whopping 72% say he wasn't or they are unsure if he was, including now a majority that say for sure he's not a US citizen.

Pretty sad if you think about it.  I agree with Steve M, who says:

But as for me, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't believe the vast majority of birthers mean exactly what they're saying and absolutely believe that Obama has become president through deliberate deceit.

There's a method to the "repeal the Obama presidency" madness that the GOP leadership is pushing, and there's a reason why people, especially Republicans, hate "Obamacare" but are fine with many of its individual provisions and protections.  If the bills were signed into law by somebody who's not actually President, then they can ignore and nullify and repeal and defund everything he's done.  They're so cranked up about doing this that nobody has really explored why, and the answer is simple.

If Obama wasn't born in the US, he was never really President, and we've therefore always had white Presidents.  Savvy?

Red State Brand Pork

Via Barefoot and Progressive, at the Daily Beast CNN's Paul Begala takes my Senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, to the woodshed for Kentucky's massive amount of earmark pork.

Take Kentucky, please. Kentucky has given us Makers Mark bourbon, Churchill Downs, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Kentucky has also given us Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, tea party favorite Sen. Rand Paul and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers. While Rogers was once dubbed the "Prince of Pork" and McConnell has hauled so much pork he's at risk for trichinosis, they are now converts to Sen. Paul's anti-government gospel.  McConnell says President Obama's new budget is "unserious" and "irresponsible" because it merely cuts projected deficits by $1.1 trillion.  “The people who voted for a new direction in November have a five-word response," McConnell said, "We don’t have the money.”

Fair enough.  So here's my two-word response: Defund Kentucky. Cut it off the federal dole. Kentucky is a welfare state to begin with. The conservative Tax Foundation says the Bluegrass State received $1.51 back from Washington for every dollar it paid in federal taxes in 2005 (the most recent data I could find on the Tax Foundation's website.)  We need to listen to the people of Kentucky. They don't want any more federal spending in their state—and they certainly must be appalled by the notion that they're a bunch of welfare queens, living off the taxes paid by blue states like California (which only gets 81 cents back on the dollar), Connecticut (69 cents), Illinois (75 cents) and New York (79 cents).

A report in the Lexington Herald-Leader says 80 percent of Kentucky's Medicaid bill is paid by Washington and more than one in five Kentuckians receives a monthly check from the Social Security System, totaling $8.5 billion a year. Washington also spends over $2 billion a year on flood insurance for Kentuckians, $667 million in crop insurance, and $877 million in mortgage insurance.  Plus the Bluegrass State is home to federal facilities ranging from Ft. Knox to the Department of Energy's Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah. 

And yet Kentucky has a long history of sending "fiscally responsible Republicans" to the House and Senate.  Oh, Kentucky is far from alone in the Red State Porkfest.  Our neighbors, Indiana, Ohio (both get $1.05 for every tax dollar), Missouri ($1.32), Virginia (also like KY at $1.51), West Virginia ($1.76), and Tennessee ($1.27) are all on the federal dole too.  Only Illinois, a blue state that's having a massive deficit problem in part because it gets only 75 cents for every federal tax dollar it sends to Washington, is paying its way (and it's paying dearly for it.)

In fact the states that are having the largest deficit problems are blue states that pay far more in federal taxes than they get in federal programs.  Meanwhile, Republicans in red states collecting fat sacks of pork say California and Illinois have nobody to blame but themselves.  Hey, Texas and New Jersey are facing financial problems under Republican governors too...and you know what?  They pay more in taxes than they get, too.  New Jersey has the worst deal in the country at that respect, they get only 61 cents on the federal tax dollar, Texas 94.  I bet both Chris Christie and Rick Perry would like to get Kentucky's $1.51, huh?

And as much as Rep. Paul Ryan's fiscal nonsense annoys me, he at least has the grace to be representing a district in Wisconsin, a state that gets only 86 cents on the federal tax dollar.  No wonder Gov. Scott Walker wants to take it out of the hides and paychecks of state workers there.  He should start by taking it out of neighboring Iowa's $1.10 per federal tax dollar and Rep. Steve King.

Lot of Red States on the welfare rolls, folks.  And they're the ones complaining loudest that we have to cut spending...for everyone but themselves.


Related Posts with Thumbnails