Sunday, August 21, 2011

Last Call

I gotta go with Steve M. on this one:  this NY Times editorial begging the nation's corporate leaders to throw a leash on the Tea Party shows a lack of situational awareness bordering on self-parody.

Business leaders had reason to worry. Unlike many Republican politicians who saw the standoff as political theater, or a chance to bring “big government” to its knees, they knew what default would mean for their bottom lines. But just avoiding that cataclysm is not enough. The economy is in profound trouble, and the political system is in desperate need of responsible voices promoting sound ideas for both growth and deficit reduction.

This is not the time for the usual demands by business for fewer regulations and lower taxes. The economy is too fragile and the deficit too high — in no small part because the George W. Bush administration spent eight years giving business and the wealthy exactly what they asked for.

Instead, business leaders should be pushing Washington for what is needed to avoid another recession: more near-term spending to stimulate the economy, more revenue to help pay for it, and a balanced approach to the long-term deficit by reducing health care costs and strengthening the tax base.

If Republicans continue to obstruct President Obama’s proposals to coax the economy back to life, it will not be just the unemployed who will suffer — it will be corporate bottom lines as well. 

I don't use strong language around here much, but that's complete bullshit.   Steve M. sums it up beautifully:

Money rules American politics. If rich business establishmentarians really wanted to, they could decimate the tea party caucus in one election cycle.

Instead they are doing everything they can to get back to Bush, throwing their support behind Mitt Romney.  They don't want a Tea Party president, but they sure as hell want to get rid of Barack Obama before they have to pay a single dime in more taxes.  They liked the Bush years.  They liked the trillions of dollars given to them after the Bush crash.  They want more "leadership" like that because it meant record corporate profits and wealth inequality here that now outpaces the Gilded Age of the 20's.  They don't care about jobs here, or growth here, or anything here.  They've got China and India and Russia and Brazil to pillage now.  We don't matter anymore.

The Tea Party was created by the rich to make Bushenomics look good.  Mission accomplished.

Liberating Libya

In Libya this weekend the battle for Tripoli has begun in earnest as rebels have claimed several neighborhoods in the city from Qaddafi's forces and are tightening the noose.

Rebel leaders in Tripoli said Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s compound was effectively surrounded, the rebel flag is now flying from many buildings across the capital and that the opposition is now only waiting for rebel reinforcements to arrive before beginning a final assault.

But with communications to the capital sporadic and journalists confined to their hotel, the reports of opposition gains within Tripoli could not be independently confirmed, and some experts cautioned that a tough urban battle may yet lie ahead between the lightly armed and untrained rebels and the elite government forces kept in reserve for the defense of the capital.

There were nonetheless many reports suggesting Gaddafi’s defenses were melting away faster than had been expected, with reports of entire units fleeing as rebel forces converged on the capital from the east and the west, and his supporters in the city also taking flight.

After consolidating control of the strategic western town of Zawiyah on Thursday, the rebels pushed rapidly east toward the gates of the capital, capturing on the way a major military base that was home to the Khamis Brigade, an elite force led by Gaddafi’s son, Khamis.

Celebrating rebels seized weapons from the base and were seen carrying away boxes of brand-new Belgian munitions, as others raced by in trucks filled to the brim with other weaponry.

By nightfall, rebel forces had reached Janzour on the edge of the city, where eyewitnesses claimed government forces had abandoned their posts earlier in the day. An Associated Press reporter traveling with the fighters described scenes of jubilation as residents poured onto the streets to celebrate. 

It seems to be only a matter of time now as the rebels close in.  All kinds of reports are coming in, unconfirmed, that Qaddafi has fled the city or is dead, or that rebels are being pushed back, that the city may fall in days or even hours.  But it does look like the final paragraphs of this chapter are being written as we speak.

What will come after in Libya?  Nobody's sure, frankly.  I'm hoping the international community will stand ready to assist when the smoke clears.  One has to wonder if this works, why it wasn't tried in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Then again, it wasn't bringing down the regime that was the hard part, it was the years of power vacuum that came after.

We'll see.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Haven't heard this trope in a while, but you can count on Don Surber to bring it back:  Democrats raising the minimum wage destroyed the economy...and Don has proof this time!

First, my proof. In June 2007, minimum wage was $5.15 an hour and employment was at 146,140,000. Only July 1, 2007, the government raised the minimum wage to $5.85 an hour and employment fell by 30,000 in July. Employment would rise again, of course, peaking at 146,647,000 in November 2007, but the wheels were set in motion to reduce employment in a nation that had added 27 million jobs in the previous 14 years (nearly 2 million new jobs a year).

In June 2008, employment was at 145,891,000. On July 1, 2008, the government raised the minimum wage to $6.55 and employment fell by 72,000 in July.

In June 2009, employment was at 140,570,000. On July 1, 2009, the government raised the minimum wage to $7.25 and employment fell by 155,000 in July.

Now then, employment has stabilized. We have 139,296,000 people employed nationally — roughly where we were in July 2004 when 139,660,000 people had jobs. Raising the minimum wage wiped out 7 years of progress.

University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan has been screaming about this for a while now, in fact Donny here seems to be pulling most of Mulligan's article from June on cutting the minimum wage.  Mulligan goes on to say that cutting the minimum wage back to $5.15 an hour would create 800,000 new jobs, and I laugh.  A minimum wage job at $5.15 an hour would be $10,700 a year, minus payroll taxes.  Instant poverty level.

It's amazing.  Supply-siders truly seem to think that the root of America's economic problems is that we pay fast food fry cooks too much money rather than we created bubble economy after bubble economy and they all burst at the same time.  The reason businesses aren't hiring right now isn't because labor is too expensive, they're not hiring because people don't have money to buy things.  We are a consumer economy and consumption is down, period.

Besides, in 2009 only about 5% of workers in the US were earning less than $7.25 an hour when the minimum wage was raised to that level.  It certainly didn't explain the layoffs at big companies and non-service industries.

If the problem is demand for product leading to layoffs, what will reducing the minimum wage do to increase demand?  It'll increase the bottom line for McDonald's and Starbucks, but that won't exactly help the people working there.

Big Bit Of Fun

Sometimes a single good deed sparks off another, and suddenly you have goodness coming out of nowhere.  That happened when a boy saved a kitten from freezing to death.  He continued to love the cat, but his heart broke when kitty got outside and ran away.  A reporter caught wind of the story and gave greatly discounted ad space and people began to call in and offer to help.  The father of the family sums it up nicely, "Honestly, I just saw the best in people that month."

Finally, boy and cat were reunited.  For one final bit of goodness, because nobody would accept the $60 reward money it was donated to the local Humane Society.

And the scales that weigh cosmic goodness just tipped a little bit towards the good.  

Little Bit Of Fun

Click here for the "Where is Wall-E?" that has all my nerd friends laughing and reminiscing about all their old robot friends.

Found on Fark, where all nonsensical goodness comes together.  Thank you, Fark.

Your Political Cartoon Of The Moment

Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Can't say he's too far off the mark, either.

Cheeseburger In Paradise...Well, Ohio At Any Rate

If you're looking for something to do today in the Buckeye State, swing by Akron for the National Hamburger Festival and grab a deep-fried cheeseburger.

The country's first deep-fried cheeseburger is making its debut among at least 30 other varieties of hamburgers served by 15 different vendors at the National Hamburger Festival in Akron, Ohio, this weekend.

"We cook the cheeseburger, put it on a bun and dip it in batter before dropping it in a deep fryer," said Drew Cerza, the festival's founder.

Cerza came up with the idea for a deep-fried burger alongside a chef at a local burger restaurant. He wanted to combine two of his favorite things -- hamburgers and chicken wings. Cerza said the special batter is a cross between funnel-cake batter and pancake batter, making the deep-fried cheeseburger both sweet and savory.

"We'll serve it with a side of Lipitor," Cerza said with a laugh.

The Hamburger Festival started six years ago in Akron, one of at least four places that claim to be the birthplace of the burger. Local lore has it that in 1885, Akron natives Frank and Charles Menches created the sandwich after they ran out of pork and were forced to use ground beef while serving concessions at the Buffalo Fair.

"I just said, 'Let's just do it (in Akron) and stake the claim,'" Cerza said.

Hey, why not?   Leave it up to Americans to invent a way to deep fry a burger and turn a couple bucks worth of meat, bread and cheese into a vacation.  New, long overdue tag:  Foodies!
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