Wednesday, February 29, 2012

He's Back

David Horsey finally put up a new cartoon and post. Both went up yesterday before the results of the Michigan primary were gathered and it appears that Mr. Horsey is a bit prescient. Rick Santorum didn't quite beat Mitt Romney in the popular vote, which might slow his surge.

What fascinated me about Horsey's column was his comparison of Santorum to another conservative Christian's run for the presidency several decades ago, back when the Religious Reich had its first blossoming in the GOP. Pat Robertson didn't succeed back then, but he certainly plowed the field for such as Santorum.

The former Pennsylvania senator has been speaking in the kind of apocalyptic terms that have long been the mainstay of Robertson’s highly politicized ministry. Santorum has not quite matched Robertson’s most provocative statements -- blaming the 9/11 attacks on pagans, abortionists, feminists and gays; calling Hurricane Katrina a punishment from God for America’s abortion policy; and predicting the world would end in the autumn of 1982 -- but he’s getting close.

In recent weeks, Santorum has echoed Robertson's belief that a second term for Obama would be calamitous for Americans, especially for people of faith. He has condemned secularism and talked about how the French revolutionaries' humanist philosophy inevitably led to the guillotine. He has warned Americans not to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s when the malevolence of Adolf Hitler was not taken seriously. He has insisted that "radical environmentalism" is a pseudo theology that displaces humans as the biblical stewards of the Earth.

Of course, all of the pious talk aside, Santorum also has the benefit of modern technology and some seriously wealthy backers which enabled him to take a page out of Karl Rove's playbook. His campaign funded a last minute "robocall" to Democratic voters in the state, urging them to vote in the GOP primary "against Romney." The calls were designed to at least sound like it came from traditional Democratic supporters, but there was no doubt of the source. Santorum admitted as much. And the calls had the desired effect. Exit polls indicated that up to 10% of the voters were Democrats. Presumably Santorum got some of those votes.

Heckuva way to treat a fellow Republican, eh?

Romney's win was not decisive enough to seal the deal for him. Republican voters still are not thrilled by his candidacy and Mitt keeps sticking his foot in his mouth when he strays from the script. The race will continue to be a rocky one and an expensive one for him and the other candidates.

In the mean time, however, Santorum has been slowed, hopefully for the reason that Horsey leaves as his conclusion:

Right now, Santorum is appealing to a lot of people who see him as more genuine than Romney, more of a straight arrow than Newt Gingrich -- just a regular guy who believes in faith and family. Will they still love him when they discover he's as full of fevered ideas as kooky old Pat Robertson?

We'll see. Super Tuesday is the next test, and it's just around the corner.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Discomfort By A Thousand Cuts

(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published 2/27/12 in the Washington Post. Click on image to enlarge so that you can see what doggie has to say.)

David Horsey hasn't put up anything new at the Los Angeles Times, so I went with a mid-week Toles, who is certainly not a shabby replacement, to help make my point. The Republican race for the presidential nomination is getting both weird and boring at the same time.

GOP stalwarts are clearly uneasy at the choice of candidates, which has been whittled down to just two, but instead of quietly stepping in and giving guidance to either of the candidates, the party elders are just sitting back. Republican members of Congress and state legislatures , on the other hand, are busy tripping over themselves in introducing new and improved forms of culture war craziness which has to be turning off the highly prized moderate independent voters.

Libby Spencer has suggested all along that a brokered convention might be in the offing, but I fail to see how that's going to save the GOP this time around. August to November is really a short period of time to get a new candidate up and running, even if it is a really "attractive" candidate such as Jeb Bush or Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels or Marco Rubio or whoever. And the big money donors who've been pouring millions into the campaigns of Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney might not be so forthcoming if they get stiffed by the party at that point.

As a liberal, I suppose I ought to be thrilled: the GOP is making this look like a cake walk for the Democrats, but I'm not. This is where the doggie's comment in the Toles' cartoon comes in. "Our" candidate isn't exactly setting the electorate on fire. We still have unacceptably high unemployment. We're still seeing an expansion of the attack on civil liberties. We're still in Afghanistan and there hints in the press that more overt military action is possible in Syria and Iran. People are still losing their homes. Banksters who caused the financial meltdown in this country and the world are still walking around free and richer than ever before.

Even on issues that the two main GOP candidates are attacking Obama on are receiving rather muted responses. Santorum's charge that Obama is being a "snob" about wanting every child to have a shot at college got only a reminder that our job market requires better trained employees. The GOP's attack on birth control availability got only a meek compromise in requiring religious organizations to get their insurance carriers to provide a basic health care need for women on a free basis. I still haven't seen a response to Santorum's outrageous comment that there should be no separation of church and state, and that one should be a slam dunk (see Atrios's wise post here).

The danger in all of this is that people, all people regardless of political leanings, will be so turned off by all of this that they will simply stay home that first Tuesday in November because there is no reason to actually get off the couch. I'm not quite at the point where I believe that is the intention of all parties involved, but I'm getting there.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Elder Belle's Blessing: The Gold Coats

(Photo by Patrice Carlton and published by National Geographic.)

The winners for this edition of Elder Belle's Blessing, an award given from time to time to those who have enhanced the health and well-being of elders, are men who are in prison and who won the award because of the service and care they provide to other prisoners suffering from the various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease. I learned about these men from an article in the New York Times.

The setting for the story is the Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, California. Both the stricken and the care-givers are long term prisoners due to the nature of their crimes and/or the stiffening of penalties through such law-and-order mandates as the "Third Strike" law.

Dementia in prison is an underreported but fast-growing phenomenon, one that many prisons are desperately unprepared to handle. It is an unforeseen consequence of get-tough-on-crime policies — long sentences that have created a large population of aging prisoners. About 10 percent of the 1.6 million inmates in America’s prisons are serving life sentences; another 11 percent are serving over 20 years.

And more older people are being sent to prison. In 2010, 9,560 people 55 and older were sentenced, more than twice as many as in 1995. In that same period, inmates 55 and older almost quadrupled, to nearly 125,000, a Human Rights Watch report found. ...

With many prisons already overcrowded and understaffed, inmates with dementia present an especially difficult challenge. They are expensive — medical costs for older inmates range from three to nine times as much as those for younger inmates. They must be protected from predatory prisoners. And because dementia makes them paranoid or confused, feelings exacerbated by the confines of prison, some attack staff members or other inmates, or unwittingly provoke fights by wandering into someone else’s cell. ...

Realizing that California, with nearly 13,000 inmates 55 and older, could not adequately care for demented prisoners, Dr. Hodel, when she was starting the Gold Coat program, asked the regional chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to train inmates to help. The chapter’s area director, Sara Bartlett, worried that she and Arlene Stepputat, then the program director, would not be safe as “women in a man’s prison.” She doubted whether violent felons could provide sensitive care.

Both women were surprised that inmates seemed more receptive, with less-complicated emotional ties to the patients than many of the people they trained to care for relatives at home. “They were much easier to work with,” Ms. Stepputat said.

Heriberto G. Sanchez, chief psychologist of the California Men’s Colony, said prisoners “were appreciative that someone from the outside world thought they could do this.” One wrote in an evaluation, “Thank you for allowing me to feel human.”

The prison requires that Gold Coats have “a clean behavior record for about 5 to 10 years,” Dr. Steed said. So far, only one Gold Coat has been removed, because “he had problems” with dementia patients’ messy eating and other behaviors, Dr. Hodel said.

I urge you to read the entire article so that you can see just what the Gold Coats do for their charges, what they are subjected to from other inmates, and how they cope through it all.

In terms of disclosure, Alzheimer's is a big deal in my family. Both my father and my brother died from complications of that disease. I have been diagnosed with the earliest opening stages. So far, beyond staying physically active and making an effort to interact socially (I am a hermit by nature), I have not had a need for any extra care, but that is likely in the years to come.

Additionally, and perhaps just as important, I am a Christian, something which frequently drives my lefty friends crazy. I believe in redemption and I much prefer mercy to justice because I've lived long enough to know the difference. And I am committed to the words of that Jewish carpenter's son who reminded us that "Even as you have done to the least of these, my brethren, you have done unto me."

So, I think the Gold Coats, whatever their past, deserve this award and much more.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Poetry: James Weldon Johnson

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

--James Weldon Johnson

Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (February 23, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Preying Mantis

(Photo by Gina (Regina) Viani and published at National Geographic. Click on image to enlarge.)

Home Grown Terrorists

The FBI has been in the news a lot this past year for its efforts in quashing the plans of would-be terrorists here in the US. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times had a a front-page article on one such successful arrest, but the suspect this time didn't actually fit the profile of those busted recently. This time the alleged perpetrator was a white conservative American with ties to a right-wing group.

But it wasn't Rice's alleged offense alone that prompted the FBI's interest.

According to court papers, Rice was involved in the "sovereign citizen" movement, a group that has attracted little national media attention but which the FBI classifies as an "extremist antigovernment group." So-called sovereign citizens argue that they are not subject to local, state or federal laws, and some refuse to recognize the authority of courts or police.

Since 2000, members of the movement have killed six police officers, and clashes with law enforcement are on the rise, according to the FBI. The deadliest incident came in 2010, when a shootout with a member left four people dead, including two police officers, during what began as a routine traffic stop in West Memphis, Ark. ...

In two recent unpublished studies, the Homeland Security Department and the National Counterterrorism Center ranked the sovereign citizen movement as a major threat, along with Islamic extremists and white supremacists. The FBI assigned a supervisor to coordinate investigations of the movement last year. ...

Until recently, federal officials had steered clear of any extensive focus on right-wing extremist groups. In 2009, some members of Congress complained after a Homeland Security Department report warned that such groups might seek to recruit disaffected military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as others. The report highlighted several groups, including the sovereign citizen movement.

Bowing to the criticism, Homeland Security officials gutted the office that had focused on right-wing extremism. They also canceled planned presentations and shelved a reference guide that the office had produced to inform local police about the movement.
[Emphasis added]

Lives were lost because some Republicans were unhappy that some of their fringies were targeted and because the DHS caved into those complaints. Nice, eh?

I guess the GOP prefers that we only go after brown-skinned jihadis, those with unAmerican names.

For more information on the sovereign citizens movement, see the report prepared by the Southern Poverty Law Center.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Bundle Of Joy

We've heard a lot about the effect of Citizens United on the current election cycle. SuperPACS have been dropping tons of money in the various campaigns, and that will continue at least until the November election. But there are other sources of campaign revenue, including small donations and those donations collected by "bundlers." Up until the superPACs, bundlers were among the most important sources of revenue for candidates, especially at the national level.

I dropped by Open Secrets and discovered something I did not know about them.

...On the Democratic side, 444 bundlers have been collecting money for the re-election committee of President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee, up from 357 at the end of September.

On the Republican side...well, we really don't know. To date, no Republican presidential hopefuls have released the identities of their bundlers beyond the names of those who are lobbyists, which is required by federal law.

Bundlers, well-connected people who encourage their networks of friends and associates to donate to a particular candidate, gather those contributions and deliver them to the campaign. In return, they are often rewarded with access, influence, or even posts within the administration.
[Emphasis added]

That's right: the identities of bundlers don't have to be reported unless they are lobbyists. In the past, the GOP candidates have generally released that information (most recently John McCain did so in 2008 election). Not this time. As a result, the Open Secrets report is woefully incomplete. There is nothing to compare.

I always wonder about things like this. Are the GOP candidates just being coy? Are they protecting their backers in the "unlikely event" they lose? For whatever reason, I am pretty disappointed.


Thursday, February 23, 2012


(Image snagged from here. Click on image to enlarge.)

Nearly two years ago, 29 men died in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. As I pointed out back then, the cause of this disaster was ultimately the decision by the mine operator, Massey Energy, that mine safety was less important than high production.

We haven't heard too much since then, so my assumption was that the operator would get fined, would appeal that fine, would settle the issue for a few bucks, and that would be that. Apparently I was wrong. The federal government has continued the investigation and has filed criminal charges. Not only that, but those charged are not low-level underlings chosen to take the fall but mid-level managers and they are cooperating with the feds to go after higher-ups.

The superintendent of the West Virginia coal mine where an explosion killed 29 men was charged Wednesday with conspiracy to defraud the federal government, becoming the highest-ranking Massey Energy employee to face criminal prosecution so far over the deadly blast.

Former Upper Big Branch mine boss Gary May, 43, of Bloomingrose, W.Va., is named in a federal information, a document that signals a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors. He is the second Massey employee to face prosecution in the case. ...

The information filed in U.S. District Court in Beckley accuses May of conspiring with others to conceal many dangers in the mine through an elaborate scheme that included code words to alert miners underground when inspectors were on the property, the deliberate alteration of approved ventilation plans and the deliberate disabling of a methane gas monitor on the continuous mining machine.

May allegedly ordered the wiring to be altered in February 2010 so the automatic shut-off mechanism was disabled, allowing the machine to function for several hours without a methane monitor. ...

The information says Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Co. and its managers routinely violated a host of federal mine safety laws for fear that violations would cut into production time.
[Emphasis added]

Well, what do you know: our federal government actually can get it right, if it has a mind to. Justice can be served by looking backward so that as we go forward this kind of egregious miscreant behavior can be discouraged.

See, Eric Holder: it really isn't that hard a concept.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Questionable Strategy

(Editorial cartoon by Lee Judge / The Kansas City Star (February 20, 2012)and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Political cartoon by David Horsey (2/20/12) and published by the Los Angeles Times. Click on image to enlarge.)

No, I haven't gone off the rails with my obsession for political cartoons. It's just that nearly every one I checked out the past couple of days had essentially the same theme and the same mocking tone. These two were the best and both got published on the same day.

Apparently the Republicans have decided that campaigning on the economy isn't real viable right now because the economy is beginning to improve. Corporate profits are up and unemployment is down, if only a little bit. So, instead, they've settled on "social issues." It appears to be working for Rick Santorum right now, and the rest of the party has decided to get on board.

David Horsey thinks that's a dangerous strategy, and I happen to agree with him. His focus, as the cartoon illustrates, is on Rep. Issa's poorly designed House hearing on the birth control issue.

Republicans are trying hard to play this dispute to their advantage and win over religious voters, but they are not playing it smart. President Obama has already blunted most of the impact this issue might have among Catholic voters by compromising on the coverage requirement. As a result, Republicans do not seem to be gaining much traction with their accusations of an attack on religion, except among voters who are already on their side. But they are succeeding in scaring off independent females who are beginning to believe the real Republican agenda is to turn back the clock and limit access to contraceptives. [Emphasis added]

I think the Republicans are scaring off moderates of both sexes who have come to accept and appreciate contraceptives as part of their intimate lives. And it might also be scaring off the libertarian and Tea Party wings who don't want the government in their lives, much less their bedrooms.

But, hey! Have at it GOP. Ignore Mr. Horsey's very sage suggestion:

Republicans should check their calendars and take note that the year is 2012, not 1912.

Some lessons just never get learned.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cafeteria Catholic

Today is the Seventh Anniversary of this blog. I had thought about taking the day off and just posting a birthday cake, but I've found a story (thanks to Gomez, a fellow Atriot) that is just too damned much fun to delay, even by one day.

Rick Santorum is having himself a real ball right now, running his mouth as the "front runner" in the GOP nomination battle. Besides taking a few potshots at his closest competitor, Mitt Romney, he's issued a couple of guided missiles in President Obama's direction. One of his recent attacks was on the president's religious beliefs, which he quickly back-tracked from when confronted on national television, and claimed that he just disagreed with the president's misguided "theology."

From the Los Angeles Times:

"I accept the fact that the president's a Christian," he said. "I just said that when you have a worldview that elevates the Earth above man, and says that, you know, we can't take those resources because we're going to harm the Earth by things that frankly are just not scientifically proven, like for example that politicization of the whole global warming debate, this is just all an attempt to centralize power, to give more power to the government."

Little Ricky was appalled that Obama would put animals and plants ahead of humans when it comes to the environment. After all, that would contradict scripture, not to mention the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

Or does it?

What Santorum was obviously referring to was a statement made by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007:

The German-born Pontiff said that while some concerns may be valid it was vital that the international community based its policies on science rather than the dogma of the environmentalist movement. ...

The 80-year-old Pope said the world needed to care for the environment but not to the point where the welfare of animals and plants was given a greater priority than that of mankind.

Policies based on science, eh? Little Ricky doesn't think there's any science behind climate change assertions. The Vatican, however, didn't let things rest there. A scientific commission was called within the Vatican and invited scientists issued a report. The Pope's position has changed a bit since that report was received. In May, 2011, the Vatican issued a statement from the Pope:

In a statement on the Vatican website, Pope Benedict XVI made a bold “call to action” for “all people in all nations.”

"We are committed to ensuring that all inhabitants of this planet receive their daily bread, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink, as we are aware that, if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us. The believers among us ask God to grant us this wish."
[Emphasis added]

Then, in November, 2011 as nations met on extending the Kyoto agreement, the Pope had more to say:

“I hope that all members of the international community agree on a responsible and credible response to this worrisome and complex phenomenon, taking into account the needs of the poorest and future generations,” he said during his traditional Sunday blessing from his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square this week.

Benedict denounced the failure of world leaders to agree to a successor treaty to Kyoto during a 2009 U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen. He said then that world peace depends on safeguarding God’s creation.
[Emphasis added]

It looks to me like the Pope has moved from his original position in 2007 based on the science that Santorum refuses to acknowledge. Santorum, however, doesn't seem to care. People who cherry-pick the tenets they will follow and those they will ignore are called "cafeteria Catholics." In this case, it looks like Little Ricky is being a "capitalist cafeteria Catholic." He will follow the dictates of his faith as long as they don't interfere with his drive to be president.

Shame on him.

So, it's been, for the most part, a fun seven years doing this blogging thing. If you've enjoyed the ride and you've a mind to, don't hesitate dropping a few coins in the PayPal tip jar up top at the right. Donations are always welcome.

And thanks for the company.

Labels: , ,

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Little Slice of Good News

The other day at Eschaton, Atrios posted on a move by the city of Philadelphia to stop charitable groups from feeding the homeless out on the street. The city fathers wanted to move such laudatory efforts indoors and the primary reason given was "food safety." The fact that such activities were taking place in a part of the city which was being upgraded to attract more tourists had nothing to do with it. Nope not at all.

The discussion by the Atriots was pretty lively (as usual) and we all pretty much agreed that the city fathers wanted to "hide" the homeless because they were poor, because they were crazies, druggies, and drunks, because they were "other." We also agreed that most, if not all, cities tended to treat the homeless in the same way. Governments just don't want to be bothered by the existence of a class of "losers." That certainly doesn't say much for us as a nation.

Sacramento, California's state capital, is just like those cities. It too has what appears to be an intractable homeless problem, one that has gotten worse as the economy has gotten worse. Local groups have had to step in and provide "stop-gap" measures. Usually that involves feeding and sheltering away from the city center to places where "decent people" wouldn't have to be confronted with the underclass. And that's why this article in the Sacramento Bee is such a stunner.

It involves a man named Mark Bell who became homeless when his roommate died and he couldn't afford any place to live. He eventually wound up at the tent city located along side the American River Parkway. He also became one of the drunks. But with a little bit of help he crawled out of the bottle and began writing poetry and essays about his experiences. When people began noticing him writing, things began to take off. The Bee published a story about him and the real decent people stepped forward to help.

Bee readers responded to his poetry and his interest in publishing with the Sacramento Public Library's Espresso Book Machine.

Sande Parker, a Lincoln photographer, gave him a used laptop computer so he could type his poems when he wasn't working at Loaves & Fishes. ...

Another person offered to pay for printing. The library put up an upgrade in his printing package.

A group of local writers and artists volunteered to help him prepare his manuscript for printing.

He met with Larry Fox and Maryellen Burns-Dabaghian Friday to discuss formatting – size of the book, borders, order of material and size of type. ...

Burns-Dabaghian and Fox loaded Bell's files onto a flash drive.

Alison Givens, who runs the Espresso book machine for the library, loaded the text and cover design from the drive into the machine.

In minutes, Bell was holding a bound proof copy of "The Hobo Speaks." ...

Bell's backers are funding an ISBN number and Library of Congress catalog number, which will make it more available.

Burns-Dabaghian also plans to help him connect with bookstores, online sales and possible funders for two additional books he has planned.

I know, I know.

It's just one guy who got lucky. There's still lots of people living on the streets and in tent cities and one guy getting a break isn't even going to dent those numbers. But it's at least something, a little ray of life, a tiny green shoot.

And sometimes that's enough to get things moving in the right direction.

And I'll tell you what: as soon as the Bee updates the story with information on where Bell's book is available, I intend to buy a copy.

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Poetry: Maya Angelou

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

--Maya Angelou

Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (February 17, 2012)and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Tiniest Chameleon Known

(Photograph courtesy Frank Glaw [unknown] and published at National Geographic. Click on link to learn more about these tiny creatures and current theories about them. No, really. Click on the link.)

Tone Deaf

(Click on image to enlarge.)

The Michigan and Arizona primaries are coming up for the GOP candidates, and Mitt Romney is counting on winning Michigan, the state he grew up in. Or is he? David Horsey questioned Romney's tactics for winning that state in his Friday post.

One more thing can’t be helping Romney in Michigan: his opposition to the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009. On Thursday, GM announced the company posted its biggest profits in history, which undermines Romney’s argument that bankruptcy would have been a better way to go for the auto companies.

Bankruptcy is good for stockholders and creditors, not so good for workers, and that leads to one more reason it’s tough for Romney to connect in Michigan: Blue-collar Republicans have a much greater affinity for Santorum, with his working-class roots and plan for boosting American manufacturing, than for the boss of Bain Capital.

In Rick Perry’s memorable phrase, Romney is a “vulture capitalist,” a guy who made his fortune by taking apart companies and putting them back together in ways that protected rich investors while putting lots of workers out on the street. If anyone is the Wall Street candidate in this election year, it is Mitt Romney.

It's hard to figure out just what Romney's overall strategy is for Michigan. It's possible that he's counting on the Tea Party and libertarian wings of the party to come around to his side because of the anti-government message that he's delivering with respect to the bailouts, but in Michigan? Home of the Big Three? A state which still has horrendous unemployment rates? I suspect there are more conservative blue collar workers than there are libertarians. There might even be more unemployed conservative blue collar workers than there are conservatives who are uncomfortable with government intrusion into the market place.

If Mitt and his staff haven't figured this out yet, he may very well lose Michigan to Santorum. And that means he may very well lose the state in November should he prevail in his quest for the nomination, as Horsey points out in his conclusion:

If Romney can’t persuade Michigan Republicans to vote for him in a primary, it will be doubly hard for him to win the state in a general election. All those autoworkers might vote for a Republican if he was standing tall for blue-collar guys the way Clint Eastwood did in that famous Super Bowl ad. But Mitt isn't Clint. Working folks are more likely to remember that Romney was the man who would have put them in the unemployment line back in 2009.

Even the party elders have to be nervous about that possibility at this point.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Friday Homily

Meghan Daum's current column does a pretty good job in distilling the uneasiness many of us feel with Rick Santorum's candidacy. Apparently she got a lot of flak for a prior column which referred to Santorum as a "weird, pious wackadoo" (that column can be found here), and I suspect Thursday's effort was written in response.

She reiterates Santorum's stands on homosexuality, abortion, and birth control and rather deftly reminds us of the low brow humor that has evolved from those stands (Google "Santorum" for openers). Then, however, she pivots nicely into a serious discussion of those stands and what we ought to be doing about them.

As much as I'm no Santorum fan, I think it's time to declare a moratorium on the innuendo, the grossed-out laughter and invective. Not just because it's unseemly but because much of it is intellectually dishonest. The act of sleeping with a baby's corpse, or deciding not to have sex unless you want to paint the nursery again, or changing your mind about what you're looking for in a boyfriend, doesn't always deserve political scrutiny or public judgment — even if the Santorums bring it up.

And that's the point. Santorum's opponents should respect the difference between private life and public policy for this obvious reason: He himself does not. Though few doubt the sincerity of his personal beliefs, nearly everything that passes his lips is cause for doubting his understanding of basic democratic principles — the ones that honor differences, respect privacy and protect individual liberty.
[Emphasis added]

That is indeed the point. Right now the national "debate" is over government intrusion into the affairs of church when it comes to birth control and abortion, two key areas of women's health. I also don't want government intrusion into matters of faith, but I also don't want a church, any church, intruding into my government. I don't want any government intrusion into my bedroom, nor do I want any intrusion into my uterus or vagina (I'm looking at you, Virginia state government) because some "weird, pious wackadoos" want to force their religious beliefs down my throat by hijacking my government.

It's time that the debate got framed in those terms, which is actually what the First Amendment is really about.


Labels: ,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Granny Bird Award: Johnson & Johnson

The winner of this edition of the Granny Bird Award, an award given from time to time to those who go out of their way to harm the health and welfare of elders, goes to a large health care provider for its distribution of a hip replacement device that the company had to have known was was unsafe.

From the New York Times:

The health care products giant Johnson & Johnson continued to market an artificial hip in Europe and elsewhere overseas after the Food and Drug Administration rejected its sale in the United States based on a review of company safety studies.

During that period, the company also continued to sell in this country a related model, which earlier went on the market using a regulatory loophole that did not require a similar safety review. ...

...During some eight years on the market, the two implants were used in about 93,000 patients worldwide, about one-third of them in the United States. Both models were based on the same component, an all-metal hip socket cup that experts say was faulty in design.
[Emphasis added]

Johnson & Johnson behaved despicably in two separate ways. The first is the company went ahead and sold the device in other countries even after the FDA rejected it for safety reasons. What, people (mostly elders) in other countries aren't entitled to a safe hip replacement?

The second is that the company used a regulatory loophole to get a related device on the US market and continued to sell it even after the FDA disapproved the other device for safety reasons. The designs of a crucial part were the same.

What is particularly galling is that the company did nothing illegal, nothing which would bring the wrath of the federal government down on it. The recipients of the device, however, do have standing for some pretty hefty product liability suits. I hope those affected lawyer-up with the best lawyers in the nation to smack the hell out a company which showed such total disregard for the health and safety of its consumers.

Ah, the joys of unfettered capitalism, where all that matters is making money anyway one can.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mitt Haz A Sad

Mitt Romney has to be a little dispirited these days as the latest not-Romney seems to be getting all the love. David Horsey imagined Valentine's Day was especially difficult for Mitt.

Desperate for the love of conservatives, Mitt Romney must be heartbroken to see all the flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries going to Rick Santorum.

In the last couple of days, Santorum has caught or overtaken Romney in key polls. In Michigan, the state where Romney grew up and where his dad was governor, Santorum is favored among primary voters by 39% to Romney's 24%. In the latest national poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, Santorum edges Romney, 30% to 28%. ...

So, it's a sad Valentine's Day for Romney. He's not feeling the love, he's feeling the pressure.

I'm not certain that at this point Romney is devastated, but I'm sure he's surprised and disappointed at the failure to have the nomination pretty well sewn up at this point. February was supposed to be an easy month, but because of the confluence of the various social issues and waning interest in Newt Gingrich by conservatives in the recent caucus states, Santorum is making some serious inroads. He may continue that run in Arizona and Michigan, which makes Super Tuesday March 6 crucial for Romney to cool him down.

In the mean time, Romney has had to expend a lot of money and a lot energy on the campaign I'm sure he was hoping to save for the general election. While at this point he and his various supporters appear to have immeasurably deep pockets, that may not be the case in August and September.

Which brings us to Horsey's conclusion, one with which I agree:

It's a pretty good day for another politician, though -- and I don't mean Santorum. The nasty fight on the right is scaring away independent voters and they are shifting their very fickle affections back to President Obama. He now leads Romney among independents by nine percentage points. He is also well ahead of both Republicans in the Pew survey of all registered voters, topping Romney 52% to 44% and Santorum 53% to 43%.

In the race to be America's political sweetheart, eveything's coming up roses for Obama on this Valentine's Day.

Still, November is a long way down the road. I intend to stock up on more popcorn.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Damned Facts

At my usual daily visit to Suburban Guerrilla, I came upon this post. It's based on a post at Huffington Post, a place I don't visit very often. Nonetheless, I decided to click on over because Susie Madrak thought it was worthwhile. Susie was right.

It's on a very interesting study when it comes to health care costs, especially in the long run.

The concept of support for universal health care is taboo among Republicans who scrutinize the Affordable Care Act -- dubbing it the "Job-Killing Health Care Law Act" -- and call for its repeal. But a new UC Irvine study challenges the GOP argument that the health care law is too costly, with data illustrating that health care costs on the whole fall when poorer, uninsured patients are provided with insurance.

"In a case study involving low-income people enrolled in a community-based health insurance program, we found that use of primary care increased but use of emergency services fell, and -- over time -- total health care costs declined," David Neumark, a co-author of the study, said in a release accompanying the findings. ...

Health care spending in the U.S. has been on the rise for years. Americans spent more than three times on health care in 2008 than they spent in the 18 years before, according to a Kaiser report.

Low-income, uninsured individuals tend to rack up exorbitant health-care bills because they often rely on emergency room visits instead of primary care. In the long run, these bills are paid by taxpayers. The Affordable Care Act "is set to extend Medicaid benefits to about 16 million uninsured, low-income adults and children by the end of 2014," according to the study.
[Emphasis added]

While I am not totally pleased by the rather cowardly mess that we got in the ACA because I think the correct answer was Medicare for All, or at the very least a public option, I do admit that some parts of what emerged from Congress have turned out to provide some real healthcare reform. Elimination of "pre-existing conditions" from coverage, extending coverage to children up to age 26, the eventual elimination of that horrendous doughnut hole in Medicare prescription coverage are all good things which put us on the road to decent healthcare for everyone.

Now we have a study which shows that extending insurance coverage to the poor via expanding Medicaid will ultimately save the government money, not drive it into bankruptcy. Of course we won't be hearing about this study from the GOP: it's Obamacare, and that means it is totally evil.

Damned facts.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 13, 2012

Things That Make You Go Yes!

And now for a little good news.

The state of Minnesota has decided to do something to promote early childhood education. A multifaceted program to enhance literacy, starting with the preschool, is being introduced with funding from multiple sources.

Early literacy is emerging as the new front in the battle to narrow Minnesota's academic achievement gap between white and nonwhite students -- which persists as one of the largest gaps in the nation. From policymakers to schools and businesses, the urgency to ramp up reading has intensified as Minnesota schools grow increasingly diverse, particularly with more non-native English speakers. ...

Like states from Iowa to Florida, Minnesota's literacy push is centered on ensuring reading well by third grade -- a critical year when children shift from "learning to read" to "reading to learn." In 2011, about one in five Minnesota third-graders failed to read at basic levels, or nearly 13,000 students. Emerging research on brain development, a stronger reliance on student test scores and the state's latest goal to narrow the achievement gap to half by 2018 are further driving efforts.
[Emphasis added]

Being able to read is a critical skill for students, which is (I know) stating the obvious, yet in these years of "No Child Left Behind" and teaching to the test this skill is too often ignored. The place to start then is early in children's lives. Somebody finally gets it.

A child who isn't proficient in reading by third grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school than a proficient reader, according to a 2011 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. ...

Legislators have taken note. Starting this fall, schools have to report reading scores to their communities and have a specific literacy plan. They will receive $85 for each third-grader who passes the state reading test or shows growth in reading -- part of up to $48 million in literacy incentive aid. Legislators also dedicated $5.5 million more to the Minnesota Reading Corps, a nine-year-old AmeriCorps program whose literacy tutors work with struggling 3-year-olds through third-graders.

What is such stunning good news is that it's not just the state government which is willing to put money where it counts, so are the Minnesota business and nonprofit communities:

The growing momentum is prompting state agencies, nonprofits, businesses and schools to collaborate more than ever.

Leaders of three state agencies are teaming up in the Children's Cabinet, a collaboration that helped the state score a competitive $45 million Race to the Top early education grant announced in December. Target, Cargill, General Mills and Medtronic combined last year to give $13 million to Minneapolis schools over three years, with Target's $6 million going toward reading initiatives.

Go read the entire, rather lengthy article and discover what a little common sense and a lot of dedication can accomplish. Then match it with the education efforts in your community and state. If your schools aren't matching up, do the right thing and ask your school board and state legislators to do something about it.

Hillary Clinton was right: it does take a village to raise a child.

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sundy Poetry: Langston Hughes


Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

--Langston Hughes

Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 2/7/12 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Crab Eater Seal

(Photograph by Mary Beth Young, Your Shot, and published by National Geographic.)

The Cave Of The Culture Warrior

David Horsey's latest effort gives a pretty good summary of not only the current state of the GOP race for the nomination, but also of this week in the news.

Proposition 8! Catholics and birth control! Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood! Could Rick Santorum have asked for a better confluence of controversies? ...

...While Mitt Romney has oozed his way through multiple contortions on gay rights, abortion and limits on religious freedom over the years, Santorum has been solid. He has said abortion doctors should be jailed. He insists birth control is bad. He vehemently opposes gay marriage. He firmly believes religion has a central place in government.

In the past, he has been considered extreme on social issues, but, with the other Republican candidates now echoing his positions, Santorum seems to be in the mainstream of his party. Could this, at last, be his moment? Conventional wisdom has been wrong so often in this campaign that it is worth contemplating the possibility that the expected debate over economic issues between Romney and Obama may not come to pass. Instead, the campaign of 2012 may bring to a boil the culture war that has been simmering for years.

If so, we may finally get a clearer answer to a big question that lies at the center of our political life: Is America essentially a conservative, religiously-oriented country that cherishes small-town values and traditions, or have we reached a tipping point where tolerance and even celebration of alternative lifestyles, cultures and ethnicities has become our dominant ethic?

If the Republicans nominate Rick Santorum, the nation will be having that debate and it won’t be quiet or comfortable.

There are a couple of pretty big "ifs" in the section cited, but "if" all of this comes to pass and Rick Santorum does get the nomination, Horsey will be right in his assessment. The problem is that in all likelihood Santorum's movement to the top of the "not-Romney" list is just another candidacy du jour.

At Eschaton yesterday the issue of the fractured Republican Party was discussed. We all pretty much agreed that there are three factions existing within the GOP: the economic conservatives (the 1% supporters), the social conservatives (led by the Religious Reich), and the anti-government conservatives (the Libertarians). There is some overlap among the factions, but there isn't much, not enough at this point to ensure any kind of unity when it comes to selecting a candidate overwhelmingly.

Yes, it's still early and the really big gauge will be Super Tuesday, but if some kind of magic doesn't happen for Romney at that point, it's going to be a rough slog to the convention. Libby Spencer's theory of a brokered convention becomes more than a theory, more than a slight possibility.

In the mean time, lots and lots of money will be spent by the candidates on travel and on commercials, money that none of them want to spend on just getting to the convention.

Oh well, that's politics these days.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

(Thanks again to Gimlet for sharing his stash of funny cat pictures.)

Mud Central

Yesterday, I posted on Rick Santorum's surprising weekend victories and the signal being sent by the GOP faithful. Doyle McManus' latest column also looked at the results and he noted the mudslinging which Santorum will face and will apparently engage in with his opponents as the trudge to the nomination continues.

At this point, the GOP looks more like a collection of warring tribes than a cohesive political force. Fiscal conservatives don't have much use for social conservatives. Libertarians and moderates don't get along with either camp. "We are factionalized now as a party," lamented Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). "We have to come together."

She's right. Why? Because the long and relentlessly negative campaign is making all the GOP candidates less likable to independent voters, who will probably determine the outcome of this fall's general election. ...

Now, in the wake of his victories, Santorum will be on the receiving end of some serious hazing at the hands of the Romney campaign.

It's already begun. In recent days, the Romney campaign dispatched one of its spokesmen, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, to warn GOP voters that Santorum is a Washington insider who liked the place so much that after he lost his Senate seat, he stayed in the hated capital as a lobbyist.

But Santorum, whose choirboy demeanor doesn't conceal his taste for bare-knuckled combat, struck right back. "Gov. Romney — 'Mr. Outsider' — was for government takeover in healthcare, was for government takeover of the private sector in the Wall Street bailout," Santorum said Wednesday on CNN. "So Mr. Private Sector was Mr. Big Government."
[Emphasis added]

Politics as usual? Not exactly. One of the hallmarks of the Republican Party has been its capacity to avoid unnecessary squabbling by adhering to Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment to not speak ill of another Republican. That seems to be an attribute of the past as the remaining candidates for the Republican nomination to face President Obama snipe and gripe about each other via sound bites and full-blown commercials. As I've said before, the candidates are doing the Obama campaign's work for it when it comes to opposition research. The results might very well result in a failed drive for the White House, but also one for down-ballot candidates for Congress and state offices.

Republican strategists, weighing the candidates' strengths on the map, in campaign organization and in funding, believe Romney is still likely to outlast his opponents. But it will take him longer, cost him more and do more damage to his standing than a short campaign would have.

Millions of independent voters are tuning in to this campaign and learning about the potential Republican nominees — in some cases, for the first time. And many of them don't like what they see.
[Emphasis added]

It's hard for me to agree with Michele Bachmann on anything, but I must admit that she is right this time in her assessment of the behavior of the current field and their supporters from each of the parts of the GOP party. That said, I also recognize that November is still just under nine months away. There's still plenty of time for the Democrats to screw things up.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Little Ricky

It was a busy Saturday for Republicans in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. At the end of the day, Rick Santorum surprised a lot of people by solidly trouncing Mitt Romney and the other GOP candidates in all three contests. I expected Santorum to do well, but I didn't expect such a strong showing.

In a column written before the voting, David Horsey had a pretty solid take on Santorum's appeal in those three states, and even beyond.

A new GOP-leaning Rasmussen poll posits a general-election match-up in which Santorum beats the president by 1 percentage point, 45% to 44%, while Romney falls short by 4 percentage points and Newt Gingrich trails by eight. More immediately, other polls suggest that the former Pennsylvania senator may do well in today’s Minnesota caucuses and the nonbinding primary in Missouri.

National likeability surveys among independent voters, who are less driven by ideology and more inclined toward someone they’d want as fishing buddy, also favor Santorum, especially in swing states such as Ohio and Missouri. Among the same folks, Romney’s favorability rating is dropping fast, though it hasn’t reached the level of loathing independent voters have for Gingrich.

Santorum has also picked up quite a few endorsements from right-leaning opinion leaders and aging activists such as Pat Boone and Phyllis Schlafly (not exactly the voices of a new generation, but icons, nevertheless, among Christian conservatives).

While Rick Santorum usually comes across as a "nice guy" with strong family values, he also has something else going for him: he isn't Mitt Romney. Romney just isn't persuading a lot of voters right now, whether conservative Republicans or independents, that he's the man who can beat Barack Obama in November.

In fact, there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm across the board, whether it's Romney or any of the not-Romneys under consideration. Phoenix Woman did some number crunching on two of the three contests from Saturday, and notes the drop in voter turnout from 2008. When 20%-33% fewer people show up at a caucus, there are some real danger signals being flashed and the national party has got to be a little nervous about that, Rasmussen Poll be damned.

That said, there are still plenty of contests left. Maine's next this month, and the big "Super Tuesday" comes up the first Tuesday in March. November is still a long ways off.

Lots of popcorn awaits consumption.


Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Elder Belle's Blessing: Barack Obama

(Photograph by Patrice Carlton and published at National Geographic.)

I do a lot of kvetching about President Obama, but it's only fair to acknowledge when he gets something right. He is the recipient of Elder Belle's Blessing, an award given to those who enhance the health and well-being of elders, for his commitment to additional federal funding for Alzheimer's research.

The Obama administration is increasing spending on Alzheimer's research — planning to surpass half a billion dollars next year — as part of a quest to find effective treatments for the brain-destroying disease by 2025.

In a two-part plan announced Tuesday, the National Institutes of Health immediately will devote an extra $50 million dementia research, on top of the $450 million a year it currently spends. The boost opens the possibility that at least one stalled study of a possible therapy might get to start soon.

Next week, President Barack Obama will ask Congress for $80 million in new money to spend for Alzheimer's research in 2013.

Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are a scourge for a rapidly growing proportion of the population of this country. While we probably won't see any short term results, at least we will be preparing for the future.

And President Obama appears to be aware of the need for assistance now for elders currently diagnosed with these conditions and their families:

...More than 5 million people already have Alzheimer's or related dementias, a number that, barring a medical breakthrough, is expected to more than double by 2050 because of the aging population. By then, the medical and nursing home bills are projected to cost $1 trillion annually. ...

The move is part of the administration's development of the first National Alzheimer's Plan, to combine research toward better treatments — the goal is to have some by 2025 — along with steps to help overwhelmed families better cope today. In addition to the biomedical research, the administration said it will propose spending $26 million for other goals of the still-to-be-finalized plan, including caregiver support.

Bravo, Mr. President!

For more information on this disease, including assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, I recommend going to the Alzheimer Organization web site. It's a good place to get started, especially if you suspect that an elder in your family may be showing signs of Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

It wasn't a great year for Super Bowl commercials. Most were insipid, boring, or just, well, stupid. Companies dropped the usual bundle for advertising during the premier sporting event in America (over 111 million sets of eyes were watching) and they delivered some pretty disappointing content for all the money spent.

The people of Michigan got an extra "treat." Just prior to the game, a candidate for the Republican nomination to run against Senator Debbie Stabenow ran an ad, and it was a howler. Pete Hoekstra's commercial managed to insult all sorts of people.

U.S. Senate hopeful Pete Hoekstra’s Super Bowl ad is drawing attention. Just not the kind, perhaps, that he had hoped.

The ad features a woman of Asian descent thanking Debbie “Spend-it-now” for her help in driving up what is presumably the Chinese economy.

“Thank you Michigan Senator Debbie Spend-it-now. Debbie spends so much American money,” she says. “You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you Debbie Spend-it-now.”

The ad manages to hit just about every ugly stereotype of Asians imaginable: the broken English, riding a bicycle around rice paddies with a straw hat dangling on her back. (The video of the ad is available at the link.) It got people's attention, all right.

The reaction was fast, furious and from varying quarters — including a few unlikely places.

Nick DeLeeuw, a conservative activist from the western part of the state, wrote that: “Racism and xenophobia aren’t any way to get things done.”
[Emphasis added]

By that evening, the You Tube of the ad had gone viral and the comments had to be cleaned up. Outrage at the overt racism seemed to be the general consensus from every segment of the targeted audience. Hoekstra promised to respond to the complaints and he did so yesterday. It was a typical response from politicians of his stripe:

In a conference call with reported Monday morning, Hoekstra, a former congressman, denied that the ad is racially insensitive.

"The ad is only insensitive to Debbie Stabenow and her spending," Hoekstra said, adding that "it doesn't criticize the Chinese at all."

Hoekstra said the ad illustrates the fact that China benefits from the "recklessness" of U.S. economic policy. He said the response has been "overwhelmingly positive" and said he is "excited" because "it has jumpstarted the debate" about what he cast as Stabinow's support for reckless spending.

"It's about stopping spending in Washington, and this ad starts the debate," he told reporters.

Right, and Newt Gingrich's dog whistle about the poor children learning the value of work by replacing their school's custodians wasn't about African Americans. Chinese women, including those who live and vote in the US, speak broken English and go around in their silk pajamas wearing straw hats all the time.

What's next? An ad featuring a minstrel show?

What a racist moron.

Labels: ,

Monday, February 06, 2012

A Question Of Priorities

On Saturday I posted about the difference between those such as Donald Trump and Mitt Romney and the rest of us. Consider this a continuation of sorts on that theme.

Meg Whitman, who failed in her attempt to buy the California governorship in 2010, returned to the field where she made her money. She was named CEO of Hewlitt-Packard and was given a potentially astronomical salary by that company's board of directors (on which Whitman now also sits, but in a non-executive position).

Hewlett-Packard Co. ushered in Meg Whitman as its CEO with a $16.5 million compensation package that hinges on the one-time politician's ability to lift the stumbling technology company's stock price during the next two years. ...

The company, which is based in Palo Alto, also had previously disclosed Whitman's salary would be limited to $1 while she tries to rebuild the momentum that HP lost after ousting Mark Hurd as its CEO in a titillating scandal in 2010.
[Emphasis added]

On its surface, this looks like a good deal for the company. Whitman performs and she is rewarded more than handsomely. She fails to perform and she gets a buck for her trouble. It's not quite that simple, however.

Whitman, 55, also received more than $372,000 in additional compensation that stemmed from cash and stock grants that she received last year while she was a non-executive director on HP's board.

What I found somewhat intriguing, however, are the benchmarks involved in the calculations for her salary. As emphasized above, they involve stock prices. Not improved market share in the computer industry (which can also be measured) by producing and selling better computers and printers, not by breakthrough innovations by the employees, but by improving the price of a share of stock. In other words, improve the finances of the shareholders, which doesn't necessarily mean improve the health of the company. All that matters is the bottom line of the corporation's financial statement.

And that can be accomplished in all sorts of ways, including selling assets and reducing the work force or moving the manufacturing to offshore sweatshops.

Sweet deal, that.


Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sunday Poetry: Gwendolyn Brooks

the sonnet-ballad

Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?
They took my lover's tallness off to war,
Left me lamenting. Now I cannot guess
What I can use an empty heart-cup for.
He won't be coming back here any more.
Some day the war will end, but, oh, I knew
When he went walking grandly out that door
That my sweet love would have to be untrue.
Would have to be untrue. Would have to court
Coquettish death, whose impudent and strange
Possessive arms and beauty (of a sort)
Can make a hard man hesitate--and change.
And he will be the one to stammer, "Yes."
Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?

--Gwendolyn Brooks

Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (February 1, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, February 04, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Gray Wolf

(Photograph by Mukul Soman, Your Shot, and published at National Geographic.)

A Different America

(Click on the image to enlarge and then come back.)

David Horsey's latest column is titled "Donald Trump and Mitt Romney live in a different America," and he makes his point both in the cartoon and the post accompanying it.

Mitt Romney is not heartless, he's merely clueless when it comes to understanding the precarious position of the poor or even the beleaguered middle class. He’s never been there and, unlike the wealthy Bobby Kennedy, he has never shown much interest in finding out what it’s like.

The poor need more than a thin safety net and they need more than the false dream of a job somewhere down the line when the tax breaks of the rich trickle down to their level. They need a president intensely engaged in breaking the cycle of poverty, poor education, fractured families and criminal activity that has created a permanent American underclass.

While Horsey makes the point that the current president doesn't exactly fit the bill either, at least Obama doesn't go around freely making amazingly tone-deaf statements on the issue. Still, we do have two Americas: one for the 1% and the other for the rest of us. Citizens United certainly is adding to that divide, although the events of the last year do give me at least a little hope.

The OWS movement has given us the vocabulary to talk about the divide and has energized not only the young people who are doing much of the heavy lifting, but also older people from the entire economic range who are tired of having no representation. It may be winter, but Occupy! is still showing up, and shows no signs of disappearing.

Even before, OWS, however, there was Wisconsin. Thousands showed up in a literal blizzard to protest Governor Walker's blatant union busting and safety net shredding in that state. Recently, over a million voters signed petitions to recall Walker and that election is coming up. Taking the lead of Wisconsin, voters in Ohio voted to repeal similar legislation pushed by their governor.

But elected officials haven't been the only targets. Thousands of Bank of America customers, outraged by the addition of yet another bank charge, pulled their money out and put it into credit unions or community banks. People angered by the blatant attempt by entertainment industry to curtail file sharing and the right wing's attempt to set up a mechanism for closing down the internet when it became convenient bombarded their senators with petitions, emails, faxes, and telephone calls. The Senate backed off and canceled the vote on PIPA.

And this past week, the Komen Foundation faced the wrath of decent people who were outraged by its clumsy attempt to defund Planned Parenthood's program of breast exams and mammogram referrals as a way to finally close down the one place poor women could count on for reproductive health services. Once again, the powerful were humbled by the sheer numbers of people who weren't having any of that crap.

We're still a long way from a just America, but it does appear that large numbers of people are waking up to the fact that they do have power, a great deal of it and that when they mobilize that power with their neighbors they can make an astounding difference. We could actually have an American Spring.

I am still only cautiously optimistic, but that is something. And for that I am grateful.

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 03, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

(Photo snagged from Presto Change-0. Click on the link for more pictures of Curly and his brother Larry Elvis.)

Another Reason To Hate B of A

Marcos Breton has a gut-wrenching commentary featured at McClatchy DC. It's about an undocumented worker who came to the US as a teenager, got a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant. He worked hard and gradually worked his way up in that kitchen. He paid taxes, opened a bank account, saved his money, married and had children born in this country. He bought a house. And then things went horribly wrong.

Martinez had been a Bank of America customer since 1996. One day 11 months ago, he got a call to go to his branch in Marysville, where he now lives after residing for years in Sacramento, to discuss his accounts.

It was so routine, Martinez took his 6-year-old daughter with him.

When he arrived, the police were called. He was detained in an office at the bank branch, he said. ...

During a routine background check, his undocumented status was discovered and he soon found himself in a federal immigration jail in New Mexico.

He spent two weeks in jail, and his deportation case, so huge is the backlog, is set for June 2013.

Mr. Martinez, who committed no crime after arriving in this country, got ratted out by his own bank. Because he was unable to contact his employer about the arrest, he was fired for absenteeism. His house went into foreclosure, which was stopped only when a couple of lawyers stepped up for him and filed suit to stop those proceedings, but because of the long wait before his case gets heard, it is unlikely that Martinez will be able to work to support his family.

But wait, it gets even worse:

Oh, and according to Martinez's lawyers, Bank of America is still holding his money.

Go read the whole column. Then, after the nausea passes, if you still have a B of A account, seriously consider whether you want to enrich those leeches further.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Nattering Nabob Of Negatism

David Horsey's latest column focuses on the successful use of negative campaigning by the Romney camp the last few days before the Florida primary. The target of most of the attack ads was, of course, Newt Gingrich.

Mitt Romney won the Florida Republican presidential primary in the nastiest way.

From the beginning of the year to primary election day, the Romney campaign and super PACs allied with Romney paid millions of dollars for 12,768 television ads. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, 99% of them were attacks on Newt Gingrich. In the same period, Gingrich and his supporters bought just 210 TV ads. While the majority of them slammed Romney, at least some were positive advertisements for Gingrich.

CMAG concluded that, with 92% of the total TV ads going on the attack, the Florida promary set a new record for negativity.

What does it say about a candidate who wins this way? Did people really vote for Romney or simply against a monster created from distortions, misrepresentations and mendacity? ...

At least Florida has given us clarity about one thing concerning the man most likely to be the Republican nominee: If he cannot win by swaying our hearts and minds, he'll win by making us fear and loathe whoever stands in his way.

Without going into the issue of who started it, or who provoked it, it's clear that Romney did suddenly shift from the urbane and genial robo-candidate to the swamp monster pictured in the cartoon Horsey used to illustrate his point. And it apparently worked, which wasn't difficult to predict, given Gingrich's rather juicy history. Of course, the press helped the process along by reporting on some of the more inflammatory ads rather extensively, thereby giving those commercials additional and free airtime.

One thing that the burst of attack ads reminded us of is that they generally are successful. People tend to remember the negative message more easily than the positive one, and are influenced accordingly. In this case, the message went to the issue of electability, but it just as easily have gone to the issue of "flip-flopping" on key issues, which appeared to be the subject of most of the Romney opponents' ads. I guess Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment doesn't apply during nomination campaigns.

And, given what appears to be the bottomless pockets of both Romney and Gingrich at this point (thanks to Citizens United), we can expect the attack ads to continue. Gingrich claims he will stay in the race to the convention, or at least for another six months. Whether Gingrich will last after Super Tuesday (March 7) remains to be seen.

So, it's off to Nevada.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Granny Bird Award: Komen Foundation

This edition of the Granny Bird Award, given from time to time to those who in some impair the rights or welfare of the elders, goes to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization for their weak-kneed yanking of grants to Planned Parenthood.

From an AP report:

The nation's leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates — creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women.

The change will mean a cutoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.

Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen says the key reason is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress — a probe launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.
[Emphasis added]

As even the anti-choice people must know, abortions comprise a very small portion of the services which Planned Parenthood provides. One of the services provided which is key to women's health is breast exams and access to mammograms to women who could not otherwise afford them. This, of course, includes elders who do not have health insurance and who do qualify for Medicare for any number of reasons, including the fact they have not yet reached age 65.

The Komen Foundation claims that under a newly adopted rule that forbids grants to organizations under investigation by authorities. Planned Parenthood, a favorite target of the Religious Reich, is currently being investigated by a House Committee to see if it illegally has provided abortions with federal money. Launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., the investigation is just a little grandstanding by the right in its attempt to roll back women's rights. That a foundation which claims to be deeply concerned with an important health issue for women -- breast cancer -- would cave in to such a despicable ploy is both astounding and shameful.

It is also worthy of the Granny Bird Award.

Labels: , , ,