Thursday, August 4, 2011

Last Call

Without stimulus, and now with Republicans repeatedly blocking federal money to extend unemployment benefits, states are cutting back on UI and leaving more and more jobless Americans with no safety net to turn to, according the National Employment Law Project.

The group, which tracks labor issues, found six states in 2011 shortened the amount of time the unemployed can collect insurance payments. For 50 years, states offered at least 26 weeks of benefits, with the federal government recently helping to cover additional weeks.

Other states altered the formulas for determining the amount of benefits people can receive or tightened eligibility in order to reduce spending on the program.

"Most states that addressed solvency concerns this year favored policies that limit the amount of benefits ... by cutting them absolutely or by reducing the number of workers they may reach," the group found.

States are cutting back in order to pay their bills, and the first people on the chopping block are people who lose their jobs in 2011.

The group said Florida has enacted changes that are "among the deepest and most sweeping cuts." Starting in January, the number of weeks a person can collect benefits will be based on a sliding scale, with a maximum of 23 weeks.

In Michigan, Missouri, and South Carolina claimants will only be able to take 20 weeks of benefits.

Forget the 99'ers falling off the cliff.  Now it's people who have to find a job in just 20 weeks or else.  Never mind that the average length of unemployment in the US is now twice that level, an all-time high, 39.9 weeks is the average as of June.


So yes, when Americans need unemployment benefits the most and need jobs even more, Republicans are making sure we cut back and leave millions in a deep pit.

They figure you'll reward them for doing so. In fact, they're absolutely sure you will.

Cantor's Buried Tales

Steve Benen makes this nice little find as GOP House majority leader Eric Cantor all but promises that the Republican goal is to end Social Security and Medicare for my generation.

“What we have to be, I think, focused on is truth in budgeting here,” Cantor told The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal. He said “the better way” for Americans is to “get the fiscal house in order” and “come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many.”

Wow.  Came right out and said it, that the promise won't be kept.  The GOP plan to end Medicare and replace it with a privatization scheme is still the Republican party's top legislative priority...that and cutting taxes for the rich.

"When we came out with our budget, we said, look, let's at least put people on notice, but preserve those who are 55 and older," Cantor said, referring to a Republican-written budget plan that would turn Medicare, now a fee-for-service program, into a program that subsidizes private health insurance. "The rest of us have got ample time to try and plan our lives so that we can adjust to reality here when you look at the numbers. Again the math doesn't lie."

So the Baby Boomers get Medicare.  Anyone younger than 55?  Forget it.  Sure hope you've been investing in your company's 401(k) for a while.  Oh wait, 29% of Americans don't have any money saved up, but they pay Social Security and Medicare taxes still.  Too bad Republicans want to take that away for good.  And those of us who do have an account?  Over a third of US businesses have stopped matching contributions to 401(k) plans.  As it is right now, some 25% of Boomers have no retirement savings.  At all.

Here's the reality, folks. Republicans want to eliminate these programs and leave tens of millions of us unable to retire.  It's difficult to save up for your retirement when you owe $120,000 in student loans and have a mortgage/rent and other bills to pay for.  And hey, those of us who are left will get to see their benefits rise and fall on the stock market.  How much damage has your 401(k) taken in the last two weeks?

Republicans want to take the money and run and leave anyone under 40 left holding the bag.  Cantor's come right out and said it.  Still think staying home in 2012 is a good idea to "show the Democrats" a thing or two about "not defending" programs like Medicare and SS?

What do you think is going to happen when as a result the Republicans get in control?

Takeoff, You Hosers

Looks like the GOP has given in on the FAA...for now.

Senate Majority Leader Reid says he and House Republicans have reached a compromise on FAA funding that will end a partial shutdown, which threatened to drag through the month of August.

"I am pleased to announce that we have been able to broker a bipartisan compromise between the House and the Senate to put 74,000 transportation and construction workers back to work," Reid noted in a Thursday statement. "This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain. But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that."

The deal amounts to a clean extension of FAA rules, but only temporarily.  Once the House comes back in September, this fight will be on once again.

However, it does put 74,000 Americans back to work this month.  Not even the GOP it seems wants that over their heads...especially after today's market meltdown.

How You Like Me Dow?

Dow Jones closed down 512 points today as the Greek Fire finally burned all the way through Italy's bond market, setting off a massive chain reaction thank pretty much sank everyone.

Bond yields – interest rates – in Italy remained stuck above the critical level of 6% while Italian shares plunged amid confusion about the moves in the main stock market index which was experiencing pricing difficulties.

Amid the rout, it emerged that police acting on orders from the prosecutors of Trani, a port on Italy's Adriatic coast, had raided the Milan offices of the rating agencies, Moody's and Standard & Poor's, as part of continuing investigations into their role in recent financial turmoil. The chief prosecutor in Trani told Reuters his office was checking to see whether the ratings agencies "respect regulations".

The Italian stock market blew up, which blew up the entire Eurozone, which blew up the Dow and US markets.  The culprit?  "Technical issues" with the Borsa Italiana and the NYSE Euronext exchanges, which were hit by "glitches".

At NYSE Euronext, an afternoon outage on its derivatives arm Liffe lasted for more than an hour, which hit instruments such as Euribor, Eurodollar, and some FTSE index futures. Prices on the Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Lisbon equity markets were also affected. The group said trading on its derivatives platform resumed for a 20-minute period to finish at 5.30pm, after the close of Europe’s main cash equities markets.

Borsa Italiana, owned by the London Stock Exchange, suspended its MIB 30 index 30 minutes before the close but the Milan bourse did not give a reason. Although owned by the LSE, it uses a different trading platform to London. The bourse also temporarily suspended several of Italy’s largest companies because of the high volatility, including UniCredit, Fiat, Pirelli and Mediolanum.

Some multilateral trading facilities – alternative trading venues – including BATS Europe and Chi-X Europe took Italy market data out of their feeds.

That pretty much melted down everyone else as everyone realized these weren't glitches, but Italy's market burning a hole through the containment vessel.  Oh, and short term interest rates went negative there for a bit.  Asia opens in a couple hours.  Should be lots of fun.

Remember, Orange Julius got 98% of what he wanted.


StupidiMoose! I Can't Believe She's Still Talking Edition

(CNN) – Sarah Palin responded to unsubstantiated accusations that Joe Biden called the tea party "terrorists" over their role in the debt ceiling negotiation, saying President Obama should look into his own past with Bill Ayers if he wants to see "domestic terrorists."
"He didn't have a problem palling around with Bill Ayers back in the day when he kicked off his political career in Bill Ayers' apartment," the former Alaska governor said Tuesday night on Fox News. "You know, shaking hands with Chavez and saying he doesn't need any preconditions with dictators … wanting to read U.S. Miranda rights to alleged, suspected foreign terrorists."
If she and Fox host Sean Hannity were "real domestic terrorists," Palin said "heck, shoot, President Obama would be wanting to pal around with us, wouldn't he?"
Political Barbie is at it again.  Heck, shoot, she should just figure out the more she says the worse she looks.  She wants all the by-golly gosh-danged power to trample rights herself, but when it's convenient she flips like a coin and blows a single (unsubstantiated) quote out out of proportion to grab headlines. Perhaps she should look into her own past and pay more attention to what she is saying, because her failure rate is off the charts.  I bet Obama can list some magazines he has read and can refer to Supreme Court rulings outside of Roe vs. Wade.

SomeBunny's Creeped The Hell Out

You can't make something like this up, you'd feel ridiculous even trying:

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Police in Idaho Falls said on Tuesday they have told a 34-year-old man to stop wearing a bunny suit in public after residents complained that he has been frightening children.
Police warned Idaho Falls resident William Falkingham after a woman said she saw him dressed in the costume, peeking at her young son from behind a tree and pointing his finger like a gun, according to a police report.
An investigation of the sighting led officers to question other neighbors, "who expressed that they were greatly disturbed by Falkingham and his bunny suit," the report said.
Neighbors also reported that Falkingham occasionally wears a tutu with the bunny suit, police said in a statement.
I couldn't not share that. I hope you understand.

Card Carrying Member Of The Jagoff Club

Remember when credit card companies complained that when President Obama signed the Credit CARD Act into law in 2009 that they were going to suffer as a result?  Not only are credit card companies not suffering, by going around the law and implementing new fees and charges they're making more money than ever.

MasterCard Inc said second-quarter profit jumped 33 percent, as inflation in the United States lifted spending volume and more international consumers used debit and credit cards.

MasterCard's U.S. market chief Chris McWilton said the company would institute a two-tiered fee structure by October 1, with fees varying according to the size of the merchant. McWilton did not comment on how the new system relates to the Durbin amendment, or how it would affect revenue.

Last week, Visa said it would introduce a flat network participation fee, and lowered the per-transaction rate for processing all U.S. transactions.

MasterCard's U.S. payment volumes were boosted by a spike in food and energy prices that fanned inflation earlier in the year, undercutting consumer spending and economic growth. But with gasoline prices off their peak of $4.02 a gallon in early May, inflation pressures are subsiding.

Consumer prices fell 0.2 percent in June, the largest drop in a year. Economists expect prices to moderate further in the months ahead amid sluggish demand.

MasterCard's revenue increased 22 percent to $1.7 billion as its cross-border and overseas business grew.

So credit card companies are making big money overseas too and are tapping out their cards more as the economy worsens.  That's just fine for the credit card companies, it seems.  Not so good for the consumer, especially those with less than perfect credit.  Even though interest rates are ridiculously low, credit card rates have jumped as card issuers try to lock in maximum rate hikes before the rest of the law kicks in after January 1 capping fees.

A 33% jump in profits in this economy?  Seems like somebody is picking up the tab alright.

Science Unfair Project

A new study finds that women only hold 24% of US jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and there are a number of reasons why:

Women currently hold fewer than a quarter of all STEM jobs, according to the commerce department. Their low numbers seem to start from college campuses, where women are less likely to study the sciences. In 2009, women graduated with only 27 percent of science, math, and engineering degrees awarded that year.

But getting the degree seems to be only part of the equation for women, who, even with a STEM degree, are nevertheless less likely to pursue an occupation in the sciences than are their male counterparts.

While 40 percent of men with a STEM degree will use it, only 26 percent of women do.

And the gender pay gap in the US still exists even in STEM jobs:

Compared to men holding STEM jobs, women with similar positions earn 14 percent less. In contrast, women generally earn 21 percent less than men in fields outside of science, according to the commerce department.

But where is the greatest disparity? Not between the sexes but within the ranks of women themselves, where women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than women who choose other industries

Slightly more enlightened, but it's still there.  Republicans will tell you however the gender pay gap isn't an issue in America going forward, when STEM jobs are the source of most of our innovation and competitive technology.

Even the Commerce department finds this is an issue, folks.

Sherman, Set The Wayback Machine For September 2001

Mike Huckabee's wacky Harry Turtledove-like alternate American history rewrite cartoons take on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

In a new "history" cartoon aimed at children, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, now a Fox News personality, spins an animated, less-than-nuanced retelling of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., with a distinctly pro-Bush, pro-torture spin.

In his "Learn Our History," the former Republican presidential candidate puts forward a version of 9/11 that depicts America "coming together" in the wake of the attacks and rallying behind their leader's plan to "take down al Qaeda."

It closes with a montage showing alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- who was waterboarded 183 times in a single month -- an image of Osama bin Laden with the word "deceased" superimposed over his FBI profile, and former President George W. Bush telling U.S. first responders at the World Trade Center site that the terrorists would soon be punished.

Huckabee's "Learn Our History" series faced its first controversy after he blasted public schools for allegedly teaching children political bias in history class, only to release an episode which glamorized President Ronald Reagan and his anti-labor economic policies.

"In this important film, the time traveling teenagers learn about America’s heroic response to the tragic events of 9/11," Huckabee's website explains. "They strive to understand why Al-Qaeda attacked us and how the ongoing War on Terror protects Americans at home and American ideals abroad."

Cause you know in the rest of the cartoon Bush heroically captured Khalid Sheik Muhammad with his bullhorn's sonic stun attack in order to get information out of him in the Justice Chair Of Truth, with the assist from Starry The Talking Bald Eagle and Friendly Robot Dick Cheney.  Then once Dubya and Robot Cheney knew where Bin Laden was, they busted in with their Awesome Team Six buddies and Bush knocked out Bin Laden with DUBYA PUNCH(tm).  That whole invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq?  Eh, somebody else was responsible for that, I'm sure.  Probably that black guy.

What, Mike Huckabee has a cartoon time machine, how are you going to beat that with your slimy liberal facts.


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