Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Last Call


The Barack Obama you voted for has been there the entire time, folks.

The Kroog Versus The Publishing Houses Of Austerity

Always a great day whenever I have an excuse to use this:


The Kroog's new book, "End This Depression Now!", hits on April 30.

How bad have things gotten? How did we get stuck in what now can only be called a depression? And above all, how do we free ourselves? Krugman pursues these questions with his characteristic lucidity and insight. He has a powerful message for anyone who has suffered over these past four years—a quick, strong recovery is just one step away, if our leaders can find the "intellectual clarity and political will" to end this depression now. 

Well, anyone who had read his column or this blog know Krugman's solution economically, it's the political part that's not working. I may have to check this one out.

More Both Sides Did It Nonsense

With Republicans saying they would have let the auto industry fail and take hundreds of thousands of jobs with it, Bloomberg's editorial page this morning wants Republicans to admit the plan to bail out the auto industry was absolutely the right thing to do...but the editors can't help but put nearly all of the blame for conditions that necessitated the bailout squarely on the shoulders of those evil, evil auto unions.

Under the circumstances, the combination of bailout and bankruptcy was right. Bankruptcy without public money would have meant destruction rather than restructuring. If conditions in financial markets had been normal, new private creditors might have forced radical, desperately needed changes on GM and Chrysler as part of ordinary bankruptcy proceedings. In 2008 and 2009, this was not possible; private lenders were too distressed even to think about supporting auto companies on the necessary scale.

Either the government had to put money on the table or the companies would be liquidated -- not easy to contemplate in Chrysler’s case and all but inviting disaster in GM’s. Job losses on that scale would have hammered an economy already on its knees. Bush took this view, and so did Obama weeks after being sworn in. The crucial thing was forcing real change on Detroit -- and Obama’s team did so.

The concessions demanded of shareholders, management, creditors and the UAW were severe. Obama has chosen not to mention the role the union played in bringing the industry so low in the first place, and likes to portray the terms extracted from it as a kind of noble sacrifice.

Nobly or otherwise, the union gave up a lot of ground. Although the UAW got shares in both companies, this was in exchange for payments owed to workers’ health-care benefit funds. The union wanted cash, not shares, for those obligations. The bankruptcies shut down inefficient plants, forced out tens of thousands of workers and cut wages for new hires. Some treasured union work rules, including overtime payments after working less than 40 hours a week and the “jobs banks” that paid idled workers for doing nothing, are a thing of the past. 

So the bailout was a good thing, but nearly all the concessions made were made by the unions.  As a result, one of the major paths forward into the middle class through manufacturing jobs was dismantled in a state that badly needed it.  It wasn't the unions who made GM's bad management and design decisions for 20 years, selling nothing but expensive trucks and SUVs at the expense of giving the smaller car market away to Japan and Korea.  It wasn't the unions who refused to jump onto the electric car bandwagon until it was nearly too late.

If anyone actually thought auto unions had too much power in America compared to corporations today, they're the reason why wages have been stagnant, if not falling now for decades.

LibreOffice: Check And Mate

Intel is now on board supporting LibreOffice, the freeware answer to Microsoft Office. While LibreOffice has many supporters, including Google, every major supporting act is a nail in the coffin of Microsoft domination. Microsoft Office has long been the common choice for businesses, with Excel and Word creating an industry standard that locked out competition. Then the freeware community began chipping away at the compatibility issues and sneaky Microsoft tricks to keep the .doc file format protected.

What this means for both businesses and common folks is that there is an acceptable and completely free office suite that is compatible with Microsoft Office and has a similar look and feel. For the most part, the same shortcuts and options exist and an average user can hop on and find their way around with minimum digging. It also means Microsoft is going to struggle to find a niche in this brave new world. Their attempt to enter the mobile phone market has been an epic fail, their software domination is at an end, and their bad PR among customers and the geek community has left them in the cold.

The long-term problem has been Power Point compatibility and performance. I have heard rumors of drastic improvement on the way, but I have yet to test that out. However, according to the site over 80% of readers felt LibreOffice has everything they need in an office suite. Based on the site and the geeky audience, that is pretty compelling. As more businesses adopt LibreOffice and save on licensing fees, that will become the last point of competition between the two. If LibreOffice follows their own trend, they will come out strong and give users what they want.

Fiddling Around

I love me some fiddle music, and I wanted to share a couple of songs that I hold dear to my heart.  If you enjoy music, please give these two a minute, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

First, we have the reason I switched to Celtic fiddle music.  For those of you who don't recognize her, Mairead Nesbitt tours with Celtic Woman (if you watch PBS I bet you recognize her).  Her style, her grace and the energy she brings to her playing is exactly what I like to feel and make my audience feel. I can't imagine not getting a shiver down my spine at the two minute mark. If obsessing over her sound is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

Then we have Leonard Smith, a one-armed fiddler who puts most players I know to shame. For those who don't play, I cannot describe how much attention must be paid to the bow. You are constantly measuring and changing the speed, pressure on the strings, and a dozen other factors. Eventually the hand on the violin is working without a lot of thought, like a good typist doesn't think when they get on a roll. But no matter how long you play, how good you get, you are always focused on your bow. Old Leonard reminds me that you can do it if you are willing to work to find a way. When I want to throw my fiddle down and call it quits, I play this video and it reminds me that love will find a way.

Fire Walker Chronicles: Think Of The Kids!

And suddenly, after cutting millions to Wisconsin schools and social safety net programs, GOP Gov. Scott Walker wants voters to think of how this awful recall fight is hurting kids and old people.

MSNBC’s Willie Geist asked Walker: “You find yourself in the middle of this, mired in a recall election. The latest Marquette poll has you 47 approve, 47 percent disapproves, split right down the middle in the state of Wisconsin. This could be a long fight for you — a special election scheduled to take place in June, a primary in May. How distracted are you from doing the business of Wisconsin by trying to essentially win re-election in the middle of your term?” (Note: The May and June dates are not yet officially declared by state election officials, but are the likely outcome of the administrative process.)
“Well, we’re focused,” Walker responded, “but it’s a huge distraction, not just for me, for the legislature. I mean, it’s $9 million of taxpayers’ money just to run this. Think about the number of kids we could help, think of the number of seniors we could help in our state with $9 million that we didn’t have to waste on this — this frivolous recall election.

And after taking big money from the Koch Brothers to save his bacon, who have sworn to help Walker destroy the state's public unions,  he has this to say about outside money:

“But really, I mean, in the end, I think it’s amazing, after a year of being attacked by out of state special interests, the tens of millions of dollars that were poured in, the fact that we’re ahead of any of the Democrats in the race I think bodes well for the election."

Yes, because there's no outside money coming to help Walker.  Not a dime, right?  Hey, you know what?  That $9 million Walker's complaining about?  That's about what he's gotten from Koch to run ads in the state so far.  Funny how that works.

Mendacious ass.

Stuck In The Middle With Chris

The reason I don't watch Sunday shows is that they are basically 2 hours of silly, mendacious false equivalences used to bash President Obama.  Up With Chris Hayes is a nice change of pace most of the time, but there are still segments where Chris tries to impress his right-leaning panelists by feeding them red meat.  Sunday's final half-hour was a prime cut of this, as Deaniac83 notes over at The People's View:

At a time when the entire GOP is busy constructing a fictional Barack Obama that doesn't actually exist, some on the "Left" have their own construction of yet another fictional Barack Obama. As opposed to the peacenik terrorist-loving Barack Obama constructed by the Right, the Left's fictional version of the president presides over a police state America. On his MSNBC show "Up with Chris Hayes," Chris Hayes launches a fresh attack on President Obama's "national security state." In this version, President Obama commits Syrian-style journalist-killing atrocities by... drum rolls please... prosecuting irresponsible leaks under specific, legally defined - with fully protected defendants' rights - circumstances. 

Yeah, Chris Hayes went there, equating the prosecution of leakers like Bradley Manning with the brutal and bloody deaths of journalists covering Syria's deadly al-Assad regime crackdown. Look Chris, I like your show. It's still head and shoulders above the pablum served up by your sister network, NBC.  But as much as you pride yourself on journalistic accuracy and deep drilling on subjects that cable news doesn't otherwise touch, you blew this one.

It is one thing to rigorously pursue disclosure in government business, and work within a framework of law and democracy to expand that framework in the public interest. It's quite another - and more than irresponsible - to equate the leak-prosecutions of individuals with their right to defend themselves in a court of law secured with open war on citizens and journalists in the cross-hairs of totalitarian regimes. It dishonors the memory and the sacrifice of the brave journalists who risk and give their lives in those regions by comparing their difficulties with a reporter sitting in a fancy press briefing room throwing out questions at the president's press secretary. It makes a mockery of the injustice facing those journalists on the frontlines there to equate it with legal prosecutions of leakers here. Perhaps more sadly, it harms the very effort to make our government more open when comparisons are taken to the level of the absurd.

And if there's anyone in the cable news business who should know better, it's Hayes. Sadly, this isn't his first slip, especially when it comes to guests like Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald.  There's a reason I've been glued to 4 hours of Melissa Harris-Perry, and ambivalent at best about Up With Chris Hayes.  There's no contesting that the former is worth your time, as the professor does an admirable job of flagging down such notions.   The latter, however, could stand to take a few notes on the subject.


Related Posts with Thumbnails