Monday, April 4, 2011

Last Call

Looking like the end game for both Ivory Coast and Libya this week.  First, with French and UN forces in Ivory Coast, embattled strongman Laurent Gbagbo looks like he's cornered.

Forces loyal to President Alassane Ouattara have surrounded the residence of rival Laurent Gbagbo, a spokesman for Ouattara told CNN Monday night.

Patrick Achi said he is about 80% sure that Gbagbo is still inside the presidential palace and will be captured by Tuesday.

"We do not see why he shall not surrender," Achi said, adding the new government may seek to have Gbagbo tried by the International Court of Justice.

Second, looks like there's a possible deal for Qaddafi's surrender in Libya.

The envoy sent by Moammar Gadhafi to the West is testing foreign governments' willingness to accept one of the embattled Libyan leader's sons as his successor, a source close to the Libyan leadership said Monday.

Under the proposal, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, 38, would take over from his father and help to usher in swift reform, the source said.

Once thought to be a leading reformer inside the Libyan government, Saif has emerged as one of his father's most visible defenders since the start of the unrest.

To avoid instability, the transition must "be a gradual handover of power," the source said.

The source also stressed the need to negotiate a "respectful solution" so that the elder Gadhafi is not seen as being forced out. Moammar Gadhafi has led Libya for 42 years.

We'll see.  But even if both strongmen are deposed peacefully and the fighting stops, it doesn't mean all the problems are over.  If anything, the last nine years have taught us that the problems truly start when the war stops.

Burnt Orange Julius

If these supposed excerpts from Matt Taibbi's upcoming Rolling Stone interview with GOP House Speaker John Boehner are typical, then he's in a lot of trouble.  Orange Julius unloads on the middle class, unions, college kids, the works.  And his complete disgust for anyone who isn't like him is so evident, the only thing really shocking is that he forgot he wasn't off the record with Matt Taibbi.

Boehner: "Can't pay your student loan? Face it your parents were lazy and you couldn't afford college. The world needs ditch diggers and you were born into a family of them. Can't pay your mortgage? Your house was too expensive and you couldn't afford it. Your taxes going up too much? That's what you get for electing a democrat president. Never had a job after you got a degree? You learned nothing in school and you're lazy. I didn't get to be a congressman by watching jersey shore or playing xbox. You think there's no jobs for you? There used to be. There was when I was your age. You don't have fee time because you have to work all days of the week for 16 hours a day and you don't get paid hourly? Thank the unions. They made decent jobs so out of price range of the average American company that they can't hire anymore people and the works' gotta get done. These unions... I tell you they won't be happy till no one in America has a job. And health care? Don't get me started on health care- doctors study their entire lives and they barely make enough to live and yet Obama, who had his entire life handed to him on a silver plate wants to cut their pay. You know that's gonna do? Increase costs- the average persons going to have to work even harder just to see a doctor. "

Taibbi: "With mounting unemployment what do you think is the possibility that we'll see an Egyptian style uprising of the youth? Should we be worried?"
Boehner: "It's not going to happen in the US. The kids here are too fat, too lazy, to addicted to TV, fast food, cheap credit, and facebook. I have news for you- there are plenty of jobs out there- the unemployed don't want them. Today's college student feels entitled to make at least $24 right after college. When they find out they can collect unemployment they would rather do that. You know the average college educated unemployed person is collecting $60k a year? The CATO institute did a study- and I mean, you and me we're hard workers we could just sit around and live, but these kids today- that's all they've been doing their entire lives. I'm not worried for this country- there are a few of them who actually want to work, take Mark Zucker(sic). You don't build a site like facebook out of thin air- it takes talent and hard work. I went to a community college and all I saw were people sitting in front of computers typing away, their eyes were fixed. Probably just facebooking away."

Taibbi has said he'll publish Boehner's full interview in the June edition of Rolling Stone which will feature actor Jake Gyllenhaal.

Now, I'm not 100% sure about if these are Boehner's words or not until the interview is published, but if they are, he's screwed.  And believe me when I say this is absolutely what every Republican lawmaker, national, state and local (and more than a few Democrats) thinks of anyone under 40 who isn't working for Wall Street.  They think you are a fat, stupid, lazy cancer on this great country of theirs, and they want to be rid of you.

The unvarnished truth of John Boehner's worldview is a terrible thing.

The New McEconomy

Good news, America!  McDonalds is hiring 50,000 American employees on April 19!

The global restaurant chain said it plans to hire as many as 50,000 new U.S. employees -- ranging from restaurant crew to managers -- on April 19. The move would increase the hamburger company's U.S. workforce by 7.7 percent to 700,000, but such hiring is typical in the lead up to the busy summer months.

"Our total hires are similar to past years, but the goal of hiring 50,000 people in one day across the U.S. is unique," McDonald's spokeswoman Ashlee Yingling told Reuters.

The April hiring event is preparation for the busy summer months. "But these are not just seasonal jobs. It's a mix of permanent and temporary jobs," Yingling said.

She added that McDonald's hourly employees typically make more than minimum wage, often more than $8 per hour.

Hmm, $8 an hour.  For a temporary, part-time summer job.  Hey, wait a minute...

Janney Capital Markets analyst Mark Kalinowski told Reuters that the announcement "certainly seems like a way to attract some favorable publicity around something it was more or less going to do anyway."

McDonald's said it and its franchisees would be spending an extra $518 million on wages and salaries for the 50,000 new workers it plans to hire.

Little math here says if all those 50,000 jobs were full-time, that would be $10 grand a year and about $5 an hour...less than minimum wage.

In other words, the vast majority of these jobs are part-time summer gigs, which McDonald's would normally hire anyway...and fire in September.  The full-time jobs?  Turnover.

PS, Some 25,000 Toyota plant workers here in the US are about to get laid off for an "unspecified amount of time" due to parts shortages and inventory problems due to the Sendai earthquake.  No fear, the Golden Arches are hiring at $8 an hour.  I'm sure that will be comparable to what they were making at Toyota.


Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Here's why Republicans simply cannot be taken seriously on economic issues, period.  Senate Republicans have put forth a Balanced Budget bill that caps government spending at 18% GDP.  Here's the problem with that....they never told the House GOP geniuses this.

It is unclear if anyone has given serious thought to how annual spending cuts ranging from $1.1 trillion to $1.7 trillion could be achieved. The balanced budget amendment itself does not detail any savings.

The most specific Republican long-term budget proposal, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s future—which like the balanced budget amendment also places the entire burden of deficit reduction on spending cuts—would not come close to meeting this spending cap for at least half a century.

Ryan’s Roadmap—a draconian but detailed plan to partially privatize Social Security, voucherize Medicare, block grant Medicaid, and eliminate the Children’s Health Insurance Program—would not meet the 18% of GDP spending cap for more than half a century. According to CBO, primary spending under the Ryan Roadmap would total 19.3% in 2040, with total spending at 23.5%. (This CBO calculation assumes that the accompanying tax policies would generate revenue of 19.0% of GDP, whereas the Tax Policy Center estimates that revenue under the Ryan Roadmap would average only 16.3% of GDP over 2011-20). Again ignoring the regressive, budget-breaking tax policies in the Ryan Roadmap, total spending would equal 19.5% of GDP by 2060—a full 1.5 percentage points above the global spending cap in the balanced budget amendment.

In short, not even eviscerating Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security would generate adequate savings to meet the balanced budget amendment global spending cap within 50 years.

In other words, the Republican budget proposal in the House would fail to meet the requirements of the Republicans' own balanced budget amendment bill in the Senate.

And it would fail spectacularly.

They are a complete joke.

Helping The Homeless Find Themselves

There is no universal answer to helping the homeless get their lives back, but this is one solution that is working, and has made a difference in the life of many people.

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- An art studio doesn't usually make anyone's list of what the homeless need.

But when Anita Beaty decided to start painting in the storefront window of a homeless shelter, people were soon looking in and asking to join.

 A creative solution was born, which allows people to have free studio space if they adhere to certain rules.  There are more success stories than failures, and some hardworking people who ante up the effort get a second chance.  That's a win win, folks.  Not only does it give me the warm fuzzies, but it gives me hope.  When faced with some hard times, we have our epic fails but we also occasionally get it right.  This is one of those times.

Why Bon Is Always Right

Okay, maybe not always, but I was right about this:

OTTAWA (AFP) – Researchers have identified compounds in maple syrup with similar anti-inflammatory or anti-oxidant properties as blueberries, green tea and other "superfoods."

"In our laboratory research we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses," said lead researcher Navindra Seeram, assistant professor of pharmacognosy at the University of Rhode Island.

Honey and syrup both have an extremely high sugar content.  I have noticed when I use them in moderation, my blood sugar levels are more consistent.  If I find myself surfing from 70 to 350 on my readings, I have always gone for those two and they have never failed.

In my book, syrup is nectar from heaven even if it isn't full of healthy compounds.  I now have science to back that statement up, however.

All Oiled Up, Bend Over...Yet Again

Oil shot up to $108 a barrel today on continued unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (the new acronym for the region is MENA) as this time Yemen looks like it's on the brink of government collapse, and on Friday's job numbers here in the US.

Oil climbed for a third day in New York as signs of a strengthening U.S. economy stoked bets fuel demand will rise in the world’s largest crude user.

Futures advanced as much as 0.7 percent to a 30-month high after an April 1 report showed the U.S. added more jobs than economists forecast last month. Prices advanced 2.4 percent last week as fighting in Libya between rebels and forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi threatened to prolong supply cuts from Africa’s third-largest producer.

“The U.S. data paints a positive picture,” Jonathan Barratt, managing director of Commodity Broking Services Pty in Sydney, said by telephone today. “People are still concerned about Libya, but not overly. If Qaddafi decides to call it a day, then there will be a short, sharp sell-off.”

Crude for May delivery gained as much as 80 cents to $108.74 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest since Sept. 24, 2008, and was at $108.52 at 3:13 p.m. Singapore time. Prices are up 25 percent from a year ago.

Payrolls advanced by 216,000 workers in March compared with a 190,000 gain projected by economists in a Bloomberg News survey. The jobless rate dropped to 8.8 percent from 8.9 percent, the fourth straight decrease, the Labor Department said. The unemployment rate was projected to hold at 8.9 percent, according to the median forecast in the survey.

As the summer driving season gets closer, we've seen gas prices jump 60-70 cents a gallon in roughly six weeks.   Now that there's open war in Libya, that's only going to go up.  We're only another 60-70 cents per gallon away from record nominal highs in gas prices, too..and I'm fairly sure we will break that this summer.

Gambling On Newt In 2012

Newt Gingrich has more problems to deal with, and this time it's of the legal kind.

As former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich explores the possibility of a presidential bid, he "is counting on the backing of an unusually powerful behind-the-scenes donor," Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

According to investigative journalist Michael Isikoff, Adelson -- who has a net worth estimated at over $23 billion and was recently ranked as the fifth wealthiest man in America --, "has personally pumped $7 million over the past five years into Gingrich’s main political advocacy organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future. His contributions account for more than 10 percent of all the organization's funds."

Republican sources told Isikoff that Adelson is part of Gingrich's "kitchen cabinet" and is expected to be a key fundraiser among "two lucrative groups with whom he has influence — Las Vegas casino executives and wealthy Republican Jewish donors."

As Isikoff points out, however, Adelson's support may present ethical issues for a Gingrich campaign. His Las Vegas Sands Corp. is currently under investigation by the Justice Department and the SEC for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act -- which prohibits American companies from paying off foreign officials -- arising from the operations of its casino in Macau.

It is no doubt purely coincidental that just a few weeks ago the US Chamber of Commerce hired former Attorney General Michael Mukasey to lobby Congress to amend the act in order to "reduce its 'onerous' impact on U.S. businesses."

Yes, what's important to Republicans like Newt?  Job creation?  Helping the American worker?  Nope.  Getting rid of laws that stop US companies from paying off foreign officials so they can continue to offshore jobs more efficiently.  It's the cost of business that Newtie there believes in.

Sure, Republicans are all about job creation.

In countries other than America.

Republicans Understand The Voting Lessons Of 2008 All Too Well

In 2008, Democrats saw unprecedented voter turnout among minorities, students, and first-time voters and won big, controlling the White House, both chambers of Congress, and a number of governor's mansions.  In 2010, Republicans sought to depress enthusiasm among those groups, convincing them that their vote didn't matter, and as a result they stayed home.  Republicans won huge at the state level and retook the House at the national.

The lesson for Republicans?  With dozens of Republican-controlled state legislatures ready to roll out tough "anti-voter fraud" laws,  keep young and minority voters from voting with Voter ID laws that target them, and you win.

"It's unbelievable, probably half the states in the country have bills in play and more than a dozen are seriously in the pipeline," Tova Wang of the left-leaning think tank Demos told TPM in an interview.

"It's really unprecedented in terms of geographic scope. I've never seen anything like it certainly since I've been working on voting rights issues that voter suppression bills would be introduced in so many places at the same time."

"Definitely students are a target here. It's totally clear to me that you saw in 2008 this unprecedented historic turnout among African-Americans, Latinos and young people -- and those happen to be the exact groups of people that are being targeted by these laws to disenfranchise them, and that's really sad," Wang said.

Wang said the most restrictive bills are in Ohio and Wisconsin, which Wang said require identification issued by the DMV. "Perhaps most interestingly, it doesn't even include student ID even from schools that are public universities," she said.

"This apparently concerted effort on the part of Republicans in state legislatures nationwide to effectively suppress voting is as disturbing as it is un-democratic," said Carolyn Fiddler, spokesperson for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, an arm of the Democratic Party charged with boosting the number of Democrats in state governments. "Additionally, these restrictive measures are often costly and do nothing to balance state budgets and create jobs, which are the top priorities in statehouses across the country right now."

So with Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, could a federal bill be far off? That's what Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) indicated in an interview with KTXS News. But Neugebauer spokesman Matt Crow told TPM the congressman "misspoke" and that there was "no such bill on the horizon."

Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), chairman of House Subcommittee on Elections, held a hearing this week to examine reports of voting by non-citizens and raised the specter of voter fraud.

"Congress often focuses on increasing access to voter registration -- making it easier for everyone to participate in elections," Harper said in a statement. "And that is a goal that we must continuously pursue; however, we must also ensure that easing access to voter registration isn't also, inadvertently, increasing vulnerabilities to voter fraud."

The bottom line is that whenever you hear Republicans complain about "voter fraud", they are complaining that it's too easy for groups that tend to vote more Democratic to vote and want to put in additional hoops to jump through in order to place financial or bureaucratic barriers to voting in front of the poor, minorities, students, and the elderly.

By restricting acceptable voters only to those who have current state issued drivers licenses or IDs, passports, or military IDs, Republicans are protecting America's voting system from those who don't have the money to pay for these IDs.  That would be violating poll tax laws, but the voter ID bills get around these by providing for waivers for the fee to purchase state putting the burden of proof that the fee should be waived on the prospective voter and not the state.

It's very clever, and very much designed to eliminate as many provisional ballots, student ballots, low-income elderly ballots, and minority ballots as possible.  Combined with continued disenfranchising efforts like limiting voting equipment in minority precincts, Republicans are setting up long-term disenfranchisement of traditional Democratic voter groups.

They know if they do this, and concentrate campaign efforts on winning the vote of the remaining electorate, they win huge victories.  The plan for 2012 is to make it as difficult as possible for the poor and the young to vote.

The 50 state southern strategy continues.


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