Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last Call

Well, Wednesday ought to be interesting.

In a speech Wednesday, Mr. Obama will propose cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and changes to Social Security, a discussion he has largely left to Democrats and Republicans in Congress. He also will call for tax increases for people making over $250,000 a year, a proposal contained in his 2012 budget, and changing parts of the tax code he thinks benefit the wealthy.

"Every corner of the federal government has to be looked at here," David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser, said Sunday in one of multiple television appearances. "Revenues are going to have to be part of this," he said, referring to tax increases.

But all the Very Serious people in Washington are now in agreement:  Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security have to be cut.  I'm very interested to see where the numbers fall on the President's plan as opposed to the Ryan Unicorn Plan and the Catfood Commission.  The Obama plan will have uncomfortable cuts in it.  It has to be, you see...or it's not "serious" enough.

Yes, the plan calls on ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.  That alone assures the plan will be ignored by the Very Serious, since the GOP will make the same play they did at the end of last year, and will win.

Still, hey, let's look at the details, supposedly out in the next 48 hours or so.  Obama might surprise us.  It's not like the Republican plan is going anywhere, and Obama has to release a plan of his own.

So, let's see your cards, Mr. President.

News Of The World In A World Of Trouble

LONDON (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch's British news arm faces a rush of fresh compensation claims and could be exposed to criminal prosecution after admitting its role in a long-running phone hacking scandal, lawyers said on Saturday.

"There will be a massive flood of people contacting lawyers," said lawyer Charlotte Harris of law firm Mishcon de Reya.

Though this was breaking news and many details haven't been confirmed, this is a serious breach of security.  To cover the span of time and targets the article implies, this may be a massive scandal that implicates many.  From famous actresses to politicians, it appears reporters were helping themselves to private conversations, a serious no-no in any country.

Google Gets Scrappy

Google suffered the same symptoms as many other giant businesses: overgrowth that created great profit but gummed up the works.  What was once the leader in ideas and implementation became sluggish and bloated.

It appears with the change of management, including the new CEO Larry Page, the company is taking a fresh direction and reducing some clutter.  In a nod to the streamlined way they became famous for, Page has eliminated levels of management and expedited development.  If his plans are successful, the giant can once again take the lead and leave their stamp on how long-term technology advances.  Simply put, it's the difference between winning a battle and winning the war.

Older Than The Kentucky Hills

LEXINGTON, Ky. – A miner has found a fossil from a shark jawbone deep in a central Kentucky mine and now it is on display at the University of Kentucky.

The fossil was found in February in Webster County, Ky., where 25-year-old miner Jay Wright was working to bolt a roof 700 feet underground. The 300-million-year-old black jawbone is believed to be from a shark from the Edestus genus that once swam the seas over what is now Kentucky.

That's a once in a lifetime sort of find, and if you read the article you even get the Best Shark Jaw Finding Quote Ever.

Common Sense Wins... Who Knew?

Long before the age of gene therapy and miracle medical treatments, the secrets of long life were being gathered and revealed in a unique study of 1,500 children born about 1910. By studying these people throughout their lives, successive generations of researchers collected nearly 10 million pieces of observable data and have been able to produce solid insights into human longevity.
"The best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness--the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well organized person," according to the two professors (he at the University of California--Riverside, and she at La Sierra University). "Conscientiousness . . . also turned out to be the best personality predictor of long life when measured in adulthood."
I am not surprised about the results, they make complete sense.  But I'm surprised I had not heard of this study, which went on for so long and went across so many individual researchers.  Now that we have scientific proof that using moderation and common sense will help us live longer, I wonder how many will change their habits.

By The People, For The People

As the Sunday talk shows tell millions of Americans what they should be thinking about the deal that was brokered this weekend, let's keep in mind that a grand total of zero people you'll see on TV today proclaiming winners and losers will be truly negatively impacted by the results of the "debate" our Washington Very Serious People are having.

The debate now is basically not "what role should government play in the lives of the American people" but "at what rate should government transfer the remaining wealth that the middle class has in this country to the top 1% and how can we benefit from that?"

Republicans, with a large assist from the media giants, have gone from the "compassionate conservatism" of the Bush era straight to openly talking about how to dismantle the social safety net this country has depended on for 70 years.  We're being told that sacrifice is now the only option, and yet it's the people telling us we have to sacrifice who will be just fine.

This week the guests are especially egregious.  Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Tony Blair and even Jim Cramer will be telling you that a rising tide lifts all boats.  That's all fine and good if you have a boat in this economy, a means to take advantage of the growth and improve your lot with it.  But a vast majority of Americans don't.  At some point in their lives, they will need help from the government in some fashion.

And in this economy, right now, that point has been reached for tens of millions of us.  Some 44 million Americans are on food assistance just to eat, and yet we're told that the reason these folks are all on SNAP is that they must be lazy, and more importantly, must be jettisoned from society.  We are told "we cannot afford this" and yet the people who can afford it are getting the lion's share of the benefits over the last two years.  So our social betters tell us to tighten our belts and say things like this:

At least if we had a shutdown, we'd all have gotten to see just how nonessential most of government actually is.

Anyone who has ever said that has never given up a meal to have enough left over to feed a child.  Anyone who has ever said that has never been in a situation where their insurance benefits haven't kicked in at their job yet and need to see a doctor.  Anyone who has ever said that has never had to find a way to get to work 25 miles away because they can't afford to repair their car for the next month.   Anyone who has ever said that hasn't lost their job and been made to choose what to cut out of the budget this month.

Anyone who has ever said that has enough money and resources to have the luxury of simply not caring about anyone else.  And the guys who destroyed it for the rest of us?  Are they making any shared sacrifices, let alone facing justice?

Naah.  They're now making more money than ever.

How about you?

Signs Of Spring

With record high temperatures of 85 forecast here in the Cincy area today, it's time to look towards that other sign of spring in the Midwest in the 21st century:  tornado season.

Emergency crews early Sunday sifted through the wreckage left behind by a wave of tornadoes that swept across Iowa before midnight.
One of the twisters caused enough damage to prompt Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad to issue a disaster proclamation in Monona County, according to a statement released by the governor's office.

The proclamation allows officials to use state funds to help.

Authorities said the extent of the damage is unclear because the twister struck at night. Stefanie Bond, a public information officer for the state's Homeland Security & Emergency Management Division, said the National Guard is in Mapleton. Bond also said that natural gas service has temporarily been shut off in the city.

Amateur video recorded by storm chasers shows a large funnel cloud spinning across a flat terrain outside Mapleton.

In the background, a passenger can be heard exclaiming, "It's going to hit that town! ... Mapleton's in big trouble!"

Bruce Spence, a Red Cross government liaison, told CNN that as of Sunday morning there had been no reports of deaths or injuries in Mapleton. However, the damage to the town was "extensive," Spence said.

"The whole town is without power. Main Street is a disaster," Spence said. "They've shut down the town. As we speak, I'm looking down one of the residential streets. There's debris all over, trees are down."

"This isn't going to get fixed soon," Spence said.

You know, just saying one of those essential government functions in Tornado Alley are NOAA weather forecasting, emergency communications of impending tornadoes, first responders after the storm, and infrastructure repair and clean up in the short, medium, and long term.  Gov Branstad, a Republican, is ready to activate state funds for these services.  Should the folks who do these jobs make a fair wage?

Gov. Branstad doesn't think so.  Luckily there were enough Democrats in Iowa's Senate to stop him from going Scott Walker or John Kasich on Iowa's public employees.

This time.  State public employees are "non-essential" and "living off the taxpayer dime" and have to bear the brunt of budget cuts...until you need them to say, risk their lives trying to save people or rebuild a town destroyed by a tornado.  Then it's "Why didn't the state respond fast enough to this disaster?"
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