Monday, February 28, 2011

Last Call

The Tea Party honeymoon in Wisconsin is officially over.

We'll have our full poll on the Wisconsin conflict out tomorrow but here's the most interesting finding: if voters in the state could do it over today they'd support defeated Democratic nominee Tom Barrett over Scott Walker by a a 52-45 margin.

The difference between how folks would vote now and how they voted in November can almost all be attributed to shifts within union households. Voters who are not part of union households have barely shifted at all- they report having voted for Walker by 7 points last fall and they still say they would vote for Walker by a 4 point margin. But in households where there is a union member voters now say they'd go for Barrett by a 31 point margin, up quite a bit from the 14 point advantage they report having given him in November.

It's actually Republicans, more so than Democrats or independents, whose shifting away from Walker would allow Barrett to win a rematch if there was one today. Only 3% of the Republicans we surveyed said they voted for Barrett last fall but now 10% say they would if they could do it over again. That's an instance of Republican union voters who might have voted for the GOP based on social issues or something else last fall trending back toward Democrats because they're putting pocketbook concerns back at the forefront and see their party as at odds with them on those because of what's happened in the last month.

That's right folks...not every union employee is a die-hard Democratic party operative.  Plenty of blue collar workers and public employees like cops, firefighters and teachers have Republican party registrations, and they belong to unions.  It's these folks who are feeling burned by Walker the most.

Does anyone think patrolling a city beat, running into a bruning building, or dealing with 35 fourth-graders all day is an easy job?  These folks work damn hard and they know it, and now folks are discovering the Tea Party message of "work hard and keep what you earn" doesn't apply to workers in jobs a generation ago we called heroes.  They're the ones being made to sacrifice, far more than the CEOs and corporate types.

They're figuring out what Democrats and and increasing number of independents already know:  Republicans don't give a damn about workers.

What's Next In Libya

No matter what happens in Libya, odds are extremely good that the situation there will deteriorate very quickly from civil war into humanitarian nightmare.

Rebel-held eastern Libya will start to experience serious food and medical shortages within three weeks, a public health volunteer said on Monday.

East Libya has fallen to protesters against leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who is clinging to power in the face of mounting protests in Tripoli in the west of the country.

The unrest is disrupting imports, the local supply of fresh food and domestic manufacturing, people in Libya's second city of Benghazi say, with many shops and factories there still closed since the city fell to protesters a week ago.

"We will have serious shortages of food, drink, medicine and medical equipment in two weeks, three weeks maximum. We need outside help," said Khalifa el-Faituri, a volunteer with qualifications in public health and pharmacology.

It's already bad enough that thousands have been killed, but many more could die before Libya's conflict is resolved.  Meanwhile, the instability continues to spread.   Imagine what a supply disruption like this could do to people in the desert Middle East.

There is a growing sense of unease in Benghazi over food supplies, and some people complained of not being able to find bread and other goods.

"I'm struggling to find basics for my family. Bread, vegetables. Prices have gone up by 75 percent," said restaurant waiter Ayman Ahmed, 50.

It was the same story outside the city.

"Since the uprising there's been no sugar, no pasta, no rice, no fruit. We've got enough to keep us going for a week, but God knows after that," said shopkeeper Naji Othman, in the village of Sultan. His shelves were poorly stocked with mainly packet and tinned food, the fresh produce corner empty.

Things will get worse before they get better.  International aid organizations need to be ready to react now.

Bad For Business, My Butt

3M CEO George Buckley is furious with what he sees as President Obama's "anti-business" practices.

The head of industrial conglomerate 3M (MMM, Fortune 500) blasted the president as being "anti-business," claiming Obama has not done anything to improve the White House's relationship with Corporate America.

3M CEO George Buckley called Obama's policies "Robin Hood-esque" and told the Financial Times that manufacturers like 3M may have to shift production to other countries in order to stay competitive.

"We know what his instincts are ... he is anti business," Buckley said in an interview that ran late Sunday.

Yeah.  Major corporations threatening to send US jobs overseas, knowing full well Obama will take the blame for that because the media continues the "Obama is anti-business" schtick.

Meanwhile 3M stock since Obama took office has more than doubled from a March 2009 low of $42 a share to $90 a share now.  Boy, Obama's policies sure have been absolutely awful for this company.

Funny how that works.  Most people would call that blackmail.  Not our corporate owned media.

A Tantastic Problem

For Hessel, appearance was important. "I wanted to look good and have that darker skin color," said the student at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. "I think society makes you feel being tanned is prettier than being pasty white."

Hessel, who has porcelain features, started tanning during her freshman year of high school. By the time she was a freshman in college, Hessel had melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer.

"It felt so surreal," she said. "I'm healthy. I was 19. I couldn't understand. How could I be so young and deal with this?"

We have our usual circus because of cases similar to this.  We have people trying to ban tanning for minors.  We have young adults blaming society, while they endorse the very behavior they denounce in the next breath.  We have parents saying they heard once upon a time that tanning helps with vitamin D.  Okay, they heard that but missed the ten gazillion warnings that tanning is linked to skin cancer?  The kids they are trying to indulge are going to pay a hefty price later, and nobody is speaking up.  I see high school seniors who look like they are in their 30s because they are tanned to leather.

My heart goes out to anyone who is diagnosed with cancer, or finds themselves fighting for their life.  I do not mean to diminish that.  I'm just saying there is a time to teach our kids common sense and priorities, and how to weigh risks.  Denial is not the answer, or you end up with a four inch scar that you are grateful to have.

Up In Smoke: I Couldn't Say It Better Myself

In my local newspaper, I read an editorial from Roger Ray, a pastor who regularly contributes to the Opinion section.  It pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter, and set off the predictable rant one would expect from a Midwest city discussing legalization of marijuana.

I am referring to the growing practice of selling cocaine and methamphetamine substitutes as plant fertilizers and bath salts. A tiny package of bath salts, clearly marked, "Not for Human Consumption," can pack the wallop of street quality cocaine and even though it sells for the same price as street cocaine this ruse goes on in Springfield with no legal impediment. Arresting pot smokers while allowing businesses to legally sell meth under the guise of plant food is a nearly insane misdirection of resources.

Through a loophole, K2 and other drugs are legally destroying people, while we clog our jails with people who smoke a joint.  It doesn't make sense, and the change has to stop somewhere.

Tomb Raider: Peruvian Style

LIMA (AFP) – Archeologists have discovered a group of ancient tombs in the mountainous jungle of southeastern Peru they say is as important as the discovery of the lost city of Machu Picchu.
"It is an impressive Wari find in the Cuzco jungle that opens a new chapter on archaeological research and forces us to re-write history," said Juan Garcia, the cultural director for the Cuzco region, as he announced the discovery late Wednesday.

"The discovery is one of the most important ever, and is comparable to Machu Picchu... and the Lord of Sipan," said Garcia, referring to the 1987 discovery of the tomb of an ancient Moche lord.

Archaeology has seen several advances in the past few years, and we are constantly updating our knowledge of ancient peoples.  In the scope of human history, five hundred years doesn't seem like long enough for entire cultures to go from flourishing to forgotten.  We seem to have vastly underestimated the people of history, and it's interesting to watch the changes.  These discoveries are exciting, and I hope that this yields answers and new information about our ancestors.  

Shutdown Countdown, Part 10

With news that Republicans may agree to a two-week extension of government funding, a new poll at The Hill shows 43% of Americans would equally blame both parties if there was a shutdown.

The Hill’s survey, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, comes as lawmakers are heading into high-stakes spending negotiations that will seek to avert a shutdown.

Republicans have a substantial edge among independents: Thirty-four percent would blame Democrats, while only 19 percent would blame the GOP.

However, there are dangers for both parties, the poll indicates. A plurality of voters, 43 percent, would blame both Republicans and Democrats if the lights go out at midnight on March 5. Forty-five percent of respondents said neither party would benefit politically from a shutdown.

This compares to 14 percent who think Democrats would benefit and 18 percent who said Republicans would.

These numbers are fairly consistent when just Republicans, Democrats or independents are asked. Forty-seven percent of Republicans think that neither party would benefit, while 42 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents agree.

Some 29% of voters would blame solely the Democrats and 23% solely the Republicans if a shutdown happened.   That seems to indicate that whichever party looks like the adult in the room wins, and whichever party (or parties) look like spoiled kids will lose big time heading into 2012.  That situation favors Obama initially, but he's going to have to make his case instead of trying to stay out of the fight and leaving it to Dems in Congress without any backup.

It also indicates that the GOP's message that it's "Washington's fault" is clearly winning, unlike 1995-1996 where it quickly became the Republican's fault, specifically through Newt Gingrich.

But the bigger issue is that the forces of austerity have clearly won here.  Deep draconian cuts are coming in the federal budget, ones that will have a maximum impact on the poor and the elderly, and have minimum impact on the deficit.  If both sides get blamed for that, Obama's in real trouble.

Going Off Hacked Koch In Wisconsin

Hacker group Anonymous is focusing its firepower on the Koch Brothers think-tank arm, Americans For Prosperity.

It has come to our attention that the brothers, David and Charles Koch--the billionaire owners of Koch Industries--have long attempted to usurp American Democracy. Their actions to undermine the legitimate political process in Wisconsin are the final straw. Starting today we fight back.

...Anonymous cannot ignore the plight of the citizen-workers of Wisconsin, or the opportunity to fight for the people in America's broken political system. For these reasons, we feel that the Koch brothers threaten the United States democratic system and, by extension, all freedom-loving individuals everywhere. As such, we have no choice but to spread the word of the Koch brothers' political manipulation, their single-minded intent and the insidious truth of their actions in Wisconsin, for all to witness.

...Anonymous hears the voice of the downtrodden American people, whose rights and liberties are being systematically removed one by one, even when their own government refuses to listen or worse - is complicit in these attacks. We are actively seeking vulnerabilities, but in the mean time we are calling for all supporters of true Democracy, and Freedom of The People, to boycott all Koch Industries' paper products. We welcome unions across the globe to join us in this boycott to show that you will not allow big business to dictate your freedom.

More power to them. Indeed, they took down the AFP website with denial of service attacks and I'm sure this is just the beginning of this fight.  The fight in Wisconsin is spreading across the country and the internet now, and a whole hell of a lot is at stake here.

Stay tuned.  The revolution will be hyperlinked.

It's A Gas Gas Gas In Ohio

Gas prices have jumped nationwide, but here in the Midwest they have skyrocketed in the last week.  Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana have seen gas prices jump more than a quarter a gallon in five days.

Ohio gasoline prices have shot up nearly 30 cents in the last week due to a jump in oil prices sparked by the violent power struggle in Libya.

A survey from auto club AAA, the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express puts the state's average price for regular-grade gas at about $3.38 a gallon, up from $3.09 last Monday. The year-ago average of $2.62 for regular now seems like a relative bargain.

Gasoline nationwide rose 4% last week to an average $3.29 per gallon. That's the highest level ever for this time of year, when prices are typically low.

Analysts say it's likely pump prices will go even higher as the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa raises questions about the stability of oil supplies.

Which is to say "Libya! Boo!  Scared you!" and jack up gas prices ten percent in a week, even though A) the United States gets precisely zero oil from Libya and B) we were at a 20-year high of gasoline stockpiles in the country last week.  Nope.  "Supply concerns" enough to cause a ten percent spike in gas prices.

ExxonMobil and BP are laughing all the way to the bank, and every driver around here just got $5-10 added to the cost of filling up the tank.


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