Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You're Doing It Wrong

Things have been too serious recently.

Here's a compilation of people from infomercials screwing up easy tasks:

Say Hello To The New Guy

This new guy seems like he will be a force for good:
As President Obama just announced, Princeton Professor Alan Krueger is his pick to be the next Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Will Krueger’s background in labor bring a fresh perspective to the table? Or will he too be stymied by business as usual? Roosevelt Institute Fellows weigh in.

“At a time when the economic and political hurricane in Washington appeared to cause all people with any economic training or talent to evacuate the administration, it is welcome news to see that Princeton economist Alan Krueger has joined as the head of the Council of Economic Advisers. He is a fine economist with government experience at the Treasury and the Labor Department and he should be very familiar with the people and practices of government. There are no issues more important to address than the persistent and devastating high levels of unemployment, and Krueger’s academic strengths are ideally suited to meet the challenge. Dr. Krueger has also done a great deal of work on the economics of popular music. One hopes that he can change the tune of austerity that is currently a hit in Washington D.C. and refocus our nation on the need to eliminate the tolerance of so many idle resources.” -Senior Fellow Rob Johnson

“I think the choice of Krueger is great, but a little too late. He’s well respected across the ideological spectrum within the mainstream economic discipline, and he’s generally a liberal economist, concerned about issues of economic and racial inequality, and not zealously anti-labor. (In fact, he’s probably slightly pro-labor.) He’s not a Krugman or Stiglitz or Sachs politically, but he’s not far behind them. His work has been important in debunking right-wing ideology about the effect of the minimum wage. In fact, one of the most important studies of his career may be a highly influential paper and book he wrote with David Card using a ‘natural experiment’ of a minimum wage increase in New Jersey and not Pennsylvania to empirically assess whether or not an increase in the minimum wage had an adverse affect on unemployment, finding it did not. The method and evidence used were of the highest and most cutting-edge within the discipline, forever changing the debate. -Fellow Dorian Warren

“It’s good to have a highly competent labor economist running the place. He has long been concerned with unemployment, wage stagnation, and inequality. Whether he can break through the political wall at the White House is another question.” -Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick
There have been other non fuck up economists in the administration, but they were never in actual positions of power and were shut down by those above them (Summers and Geithner). Since it seems increasingly clear that Geithner is running the show I'm skeptical he can make much of an impact, but at least Obama hired someone who seems to understand that propping up insolvent banks isn't the solution to our economic problems.

What Exactly Are We Doing There?

Does anyone know?
KABUL, Afghanistan -- August has become the deadliest month for U.S. troops in the nearly 10-year-old war in Afghanistan, where international forces have started to go home and let Afghan forces take charge of securing their country.

A record 66 U.S. troops have died so far this month, eclipsing the 65 killed in July 2010, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

This month's death toll soared when 30 Americans – most of them elite Navy SEALs – were killed in a helicopter crash Aug. 6. They were aboard a Chinook shot down as it was flying in to help Army Rangers who had come under fire in Wardak province. It was the single deadliest incident of war being waged by Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces and insurgents.
Bin Laden is dead. Declare victory, get the fuck out.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"What They Lack Is The Richness Of Spirit"

This Jon Stewart bit from last week was pretty amazing:

However, even more incredible... might be the response of the Fox Host Stuart Varney:

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. A large number of conservatives think that "The poor having it too good" is major problem facing our country.

That is all.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fuck Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney should be in prison.

Instead, he released a memoir bragging about the acts that should have put him in jail.

Chris Hayes and Glenn Greenwald addressed it brilliantly last night:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Social Insurance "Weakened us as a People"

Since their agenda to dismantle the two most popular government programs in existance is extremely unpopular, most conservatives are smart enough to lie and keep their actual beliefs to themselves.

Marco Rubio apparently didn't get that memo:
With a tone that suggested he spoke more in sorrow than in anger, Rubio said that though the creation of a welfare state "was well-intentioned, it was doomed to fail from the start."
"These programs actually weakened us as a people. You see, almost forever, it was institutions in society that assumed the role of taking care of one another. If someone was sick in your family, you took care of them. If a neighbor met misfortune, you took care of them. You saved for your retirement and your future because you had to. We took these things upon ourselves in our communities, our families, and our homes, and our churches and our synagogues. But all that changed when the government began to assume those responsibilities."
Of course, one might argue that the reason welfare programs were created -- with great popular demand -- was precisely because in all too many cases "communities," "families," and "churches" weren't doing an adequate job.
For starters, Rubio's vision of America where people care for each other and think things other than themselves and amassing sounds a wee bit different than the Galtian paradise that his followers seem to endorse.

But putting that aside, does anyone think that people care for each other less than they did before the time of big government when women and non-white people knew their place? I don't. In fact these days I feel like quite a few people depend more on their church's food bank, live in the house of a family member, or some use form of community assistance more than they did a few years ago.

Why is that?

Well, this thing happened where the masters of the universe crashed our economy without asking us first. Tons of people lost their jobs and houses through absolutely no fault of their own.

So how exactly does this mean Social Security and Medicare "weakened" us as a people? Honestly I don't know, but the last few years seems to be a reminder exactly why we have these programs, rather than an excuse to destroy them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New URL! For Real This Time!

As you may have noticed from the autoredereict, we've moved our site to www.thetrainofthought.org.

There were serious efforts through go daddy to buy the old domain, but the buyer simply didn't respond, and if that happens there is really not much you can do. Go daddy will continue to contact him, but I'm not exactly optimistic. A special thanks to commenter WB (my dad) for making that effort possible.

Anyway, moving forward you don't even need to reset your bookmarks, because our blogger address should automatically redirect here, but we're have this snazzy url from here on out. If you're having any issues, send me an email or let me know in the comments.

Thanks to everyone for sticking with us during our hosting issues, and as always for your continued support of the train.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

R.I.P. Jack Layton

I saw Jack Layton speak live at the Campaign for America's Future conference a few years back. I really liked his speech, and thought it was cool that our Canadian friends had a real progressive leader in their midst. He spoke amazingly about NAFTA, and was really impressive. Sadly he died of cancer earlier this week, after a career of leading his New Democratic party to historic wins and making them the official opposition party of the ruling conservatives.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I found the speech he gave at that conference. Check it out:

Imagine that, a left of center politician who uses his power to grow a liberal political movement!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Eric Schneiderman Remains a Beast

It's increasingly difficult to find politicians that don't suck, but Eric Schneiderman continues to prove that it's actually possible to take on the biggest financial interests in the United States. Unsurprisingly, this does not make you popular among the rich and powerful. His actions have put him under fire not only from the banks themselves, but from people who are carrying their water, in this case, the Obama Administration.
Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices, according to people briefed on discussions about the deal.

In recent weeks, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade the attorney general to support the settlement, said the people briefed on the talks.

Mr. Schneiderman and top prosecutors in some other states have objected to the proposed settlement with major banks, saying it would restrict their ability to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing in a variety of areas, including the bundling of loans in mortgage securities.

But Mr. Donovan and others in the administration have been contacting not only Mr. Schneiderman but his allies, including consumer groups and advocates for borrowers, seeking help to secure the attorney general’s participation in the deal, these people said. One recipient described the calls from Mr. Donovan, but asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

Not surprising, the large banks, which are eager to reach a settlement, have grown increasingly frustrated with Mr. Schneiderman. Bank officials recently discussed asking Mr. Donovan for help in changing the attorney general’s mind, according to a person briefed on those talks.
He's currently refusing to sign on to a deal that would give the big banks immunity from prosecuting their fraud. He doesn't want a deal because unlike Geithner or any of the people pushing for a quick settlement, Schneiderman ACTUALLY WANTS TO PROSECUTE THEIR FRAUD. This difference isn't made particularly clear in the story and is extremely important. One side wants to prosecute the massive fraud that occured at the big banks, one side doesn't. It's essential to remember that when those defending the banks spout of BS like this:
“Eric and I agree on a tremendous amount here,” Mr. Donovan said. “The disagreement is around whether we should wait to settle and resolve the issues around the servicing practices for him — and potentially other A.G.’s and other federal agencies — to complete investigations on the securitization side. He might argue that he has more leverage that way, but our view is we have the immediate opportunity to help a huge number of borrowers to stay in their homes, to help their neighborhoods and the housing market.”

And Alisa Finelli, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department. said: “The Justice Department, along with our federal agency partners and state attorneys general, are committed to achieving a resolution that will hold servicers accountable for the harm they have done consumers and bring billions of dollars of relief to struggling homeowners — and bring relief swiftly because homeowners continue to suffer more each day that these issues are not resolved.”
The idea any of these people care about keeping people in their homes would be laughable if we weren't talking about people being kicked out of their homes. Marcy Wheeler:
You see, the Administration has an “immediate opportunity to help a huge number of borrowers stay in their homes,” without any action from Eric Schneiderman. They have a way to do so more swiftly, in such a way the servicers actually would be held accountable. It would involve offering refis with principal reductions to all the underwater homeowners whose loans are owned by Fannie and Freddie. That would not only help a huge number of borrowers stay in their home, but it would be massive stimulus.
That, along with HAMP, a program that was designed to prop up the banks rather than helping homeowners, doesn't give the Administration a leg to stand on when it comes to their credibility about "helping people stay in their homes". Their actions speak for themselves, and show that they see the foreclosure crisis as a problem in terms of the solvency of the megabanks, but don't really give a shit about the human/economic toll of mass foreclosures. Instead, they're spending their time going after one of the few people who isn't following the marching orders of the banking industry.

I've said it before, I'll say it again, Eric Schneiderman for president.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Last Non Crazy Person Speaks

Literally, the last one. Jon Huntsman:
To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.
Oh don't worry Jon, they'll call you crazy. And it's not like you had the slightest chance of winning the Republican nomination, but well, yeah, that prayer is gone too.

On the plus side, maybe another job will open up with the Muslim usurper if he wins a second term?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Giving Crazy People the Populist Ground

Earlier this week Rick Perry said something kind of violent, kind of strange about Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke:
"If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas," said Perry."
Now outside of the "ugly" things Rick Perry wants to do to Bernanke, Matt Taibbi points out the problem here:
Lots of stuff going on this week, including many dire predictions about the economy, but the most interesting thing I saw in the last days was the sudden appearance of Quantitative Easing as a campaign issue. For those who don’t remember QE, this is a magical money-printing program the Fed has been using two years in a row to artificially prop up the economy (well, parts of it, anyway). “Helicopter Ben” Bernanke has printed a couple of trillion dollars, just waved a wand and invented them, then used those funds to buy things like mortgages and t-bills.

That this is a terrible idea ought to be self-evident. The irritating thing is that this ought naturally to be a campaign issue for progressives, because the most direct consequence of QE is to magnify the income inequality problem, as this study of the British version of QE  (decried by our witty friends at Zero Hedge as the winner of the “real men of captain obvious genius award”) concluded. The study by Dhaval Joseph of BCA research concluded that QE might have been a factor leading to the British riots.

The reason QE is “good for the rich and bad for the poor” is obvious: by pouring trillions in jet-fuel cash into the inequity engine that is the banking sector, we’ve seen massive increases in share prices and corporate profits, without any resulting increases in wages. As the Joseph study concludes:
Real wages – adjusted for inflation – have fallen in both the US and UK, where QE has been a key tool for boosting growth. In Germany, meanwhile, where there has been no quantitative easing, real wages have risen.
It should be obvious to anyone that printing two trillion new dollars and handing it to the corrupt financial sector to play with will not result in higher wages for ordinary people. This ought to be an issue for the left/progressives, but thanks to Barack Obama’s ownership of the program, it’s now turning into a campaign issue for Republicans.
He sums up the major problem that this creates for both his campaign and our debate on these issues going forward:
To me this whole issue encapsulates the basic failure of the Obama administration. It has surrendered to Wall Street interests, and in doing so has allowed lunatics like Rick Perry to step into legitimate roles as critics of corrupt policy.
People are angry, and rightly so! It doesn't matter that a lot of these conservative ideas are completely insane because they're showing the anger that people feel on the economy. Obama isn't. He's so tone def right now he's on a tour through the manufacturing wasteland of the mid-west TOUTING THE VIRTUES OF FREE TRADE.

Beating up Ben Bernanke isn't the solution, but replacing him with someone who actually cares about our unemployment rate is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fuck Your Leadership Brand

Oh noes! Obama's precious brand is tanking! : (from Americablog)
It's particularly interesting that this news comes from Marc Ambinder. Ambinder is often the go-to guy when the White House wants to get their story out there. That means we can reliably trust that Ambinder's story is true. Here are two salient grafs:
The decline in what one White House aide called “the leadership brand” is clear from the polling. In April 2009, Gallup found 73 percent of Americans who said that Obama was a “strong leader.” In May 2010, that had declined to 60 percent. In March 2011, Gallup had it down to 52 percent. There has been no more recent polling on that issue, but aides fear that after Libya and the debt-ceiling debate, the number almost certainly has dropped again.

According to the two senior officials, the plan to arrest that decline is for Obama to no longer be seen as above the fray. While they believe Republicans were both wrong and unfair to claim the president had no plan to bring down the deficit, they know it hurt him. So they will try to show the president as having specific plans and then show him fighting for them. No more will the president be focusing primarily on issues that can attract bipartisan support and appeal to a Republican House. And no longer will he be so willing to let Congress work out the details on its own.
All of that is great, and laudable. But part of what still concerns me is this:
To an important degree, this change in strategy is made easier by the deterioration of the president’s trust in House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Three White House officials said the debt debate left that relationship in tatters, with the president deeply disappointed in Boehner’s refusal to try to deliver Republican votes for a “grand bargain.” The president saw himself as willing to challenge his party’s activists and was dismayed when Boehner wouldn’t, in the words of one official, “man-up” and take on his.
The President trusted Boehner?  Particularly during election season?  It's the same way he trusted the Republicans during health care, and paid for it dearly. At this late date, it's troubling that the President still had a pollyanna view of the GOP. And it's difficult to see how he turns all of this around when he's been the problem from the beginning. This is who he is.  He's 50 years old.  He doesn't have a stomach for the fight.  I'm not sure how you just flip a switch and change all of that.
I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but you know another reason Obama's "leadership brand" might not be selling that well?

Because he's a shitty leader. Because instead of tackling real issues in our actual economy, he's dedicated the last year of his presidency to grandstanding about a non-existent problem.

You know what I call that? Awful fucking leadership. Unspeakably bad.

Maybe you if had spent the last year telling the American people about ways to actually improve the economy rather than trying to pump up your brand's approval ratings, you wouldn't have to worry about your fucking brand in the first place.

Leadership Brand!!!

His advisers are worried about his fucking LEADERSHIP BRAND!!!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Economy, Stupid, Et cetera

So we all know the famous quote... but this graph from Jon Walker is pretty breathtaking:

The bottom blue line is the % of people who approve of Obama's job performance. The top red line is the % of people who think the economy is getting worse.

People rate Obama's job performance almost in sync with how they view the economy.

This is going to get reeeeeeeal ugly.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Courage To Quit

In honor of Tim Pawlenty's disastrous run for president, here is campaign's longest lasting contribution to the internets.

The wannabe Michael Bay produced campaign commercial: The Courage to Stand

Friday, August 12, 2011

Austerity Survival Guide

Funny Comic via @ritholtz on twitter:

Click to embiggen.


This quote via L'Hote:
"It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard."

- Martin Luther King

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Strike and Ready to Go

45,000 Verizon workers went out on strike last week in response to the company's refusal to bargain in good faith. Sensing the anti worker climate in our country right now, Verizon's demands seek to erase the benefits these workers have gained through decades of collective bargaining. From Laura Clawson at Dkos labor:
Verizon's demands include:
  • Continued contracting out of work to low-wage contractors, which means more outsourcing of good jobs overseas.
  • Eliminating disability benefits for workers injured while on the job.
  • Elimination of all job security provisions.
  • Eliminating paid sick days for new hires and limiting them to no more than five for any workers.
  • Freezing pensions for current workers and eliminating them for future employees.
  • Replacing the current high-quality health care plan with a high-deductible plan requiring up to $6,800 in additional costs.
Meanwhile, Verizon is doing just fine:
  • 2011 annualized revenues are $108 billion and annualized net profits are $6 billion.
  • Verizon Wireless just paid its parent company and Vodaphone a $10 billion dividend.
  • Verizon’s top five executives received compensation of $258 million over the past four years.
This is not a company that is struggling. This is a company that sees an opportunity to inflict pain on the very people who brought them prosperity, and they're going to take it.

This the class war we've seen in Wisconsin, moved to the private sector. Check out this site to see what you can do to help their efforts.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Breaking Apart the Social Contract

Austerity often leads to violence because it is at it's core, a breakdown of the social contract. A really great article by Matt Stoller:
There’s a big problem in destroying these entitlement programs, however. It’s not just the increase in poverty and suffering. These programs, which people have paid for with payroll taxes for their entire lives, give Americans a sense of why it’s useful to support the government as legitimate. To see what happens when a social contract falls apart, look at the massive rioting in London.

Middle-class incomes are down radically in the U.S. since 2007, as much as 15 percent according to new Internal Revenue Service data. Home equity is still falling. If cherished entitlement programs are also savaged by the politicians who destroyed our life savings, citizens might begin to question whether this whole constitutional democracy thing is worth it.
Read the whole thing, it's a very interesting article.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wisconsin Recall Returns

Follow along the results here, I'll update the post with results when they become official.

Also, on elections I follow Chris Bowers on Twitter, and he's more right than most. Check him out for analysis rather than updates.

Update #1 (10:30): So far three races appear to be over, according to Bowers:

Shilling (D) over Kapanke (R)

Cowles (R) over Nusbaum (D)

Harsdorf (R) over Moore (D)

Two for the bad guys, one for the good guys, we need 3 to take control of the Senate.

Update #2 (11:05):

Two more races gone final:

Shilling (D) over Kapanke (R)

Olsen (R) over Clarke (D)

4 Races down, the Democrats need to win the remaining 2 to take control of the senate.

According to the Bowers and others watching the numbers and looking at where they are coming from, these will go down to the wire. Potentially a long night, get ready!

Update #3 (11:55): One more down, the last one will go down to the wire:

King (D) over Hopper (R)

All down to Pasch (D) vs. Darling (R)

There was all kinds of shady business in this district during the supreme court race last month, when the Democrat was declared the winner and one Republican precinct "found" 14,000 votes, enough to flip the results in favor of the Republican. Tonight, that very same precinct is THE ONLY one yet to report votes. Beyond shady, but hey, this is the same Wisconsin Republican party that ran fake democratic candidates to cause havoc in the primary and waste resources.

More updates on that last race when they come in...

Update #4 (12:50): Looks like we're gonna come up just short.

Thanks for following the coverage, see you in the morning.

Look Into My Eyes

I had thought Bachmann's tea party address staring into the wrong camera was the perfect illustration of her insanity, but then this picture came into existence:

It's going to be very upsetting if she gets elected president.

Recall Day In Wisconsin

A huge day for progressive politics and the labor movement.

Read a great preview of the 6 races here, and I'll have a post later tonight that will be updating the results.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Tim Geithner Experience Rolls On

Not surprised by this, but it's depressing regardless:
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is staying put, the Obama administration announced Sunday.

"Secretary Geithner has let the president know that he plans to stay on in his position at Treasury," a Treasury spokeswoman said in a statement.

Geithner plans to stay at least into the fall of 2012, an administration official told CNN.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the president had asked Geithner to stay and "welcomes his decision."
So what are the Secretary's priorities? Here is what he said when discussing the debt ceiling fight:
Check the transcript of Geithner's interview about the GOP hostage crisis.  The word "Republican" is said once, and only by the interviewer.  In fact, when Geithern is asked whether the GOP did this,  he demurs.
JOHN HARWOOD: You said a moment ago that Congress owns the credit rating. John Kerry, Democratic Senator, said today, "This is the Tea Party downgrade." Is that right?

TIM GEITHNER: Well, I wouldn't-- I'm not going to do politics, John. And I think if we've learned anything these last few months it's-- it's time to put the economy ahead of politics. Again, these are challenges facing the country of the United States, not-- not facing one party or the other. We both have some responsibility for coming together to dig our way out of this stuff.

And, again, this was-- you know, it's a big down payment on our fiscal challenges. Very strong bipartisan support for it. Our challenge is to build on that support and try to take the next steps that make some longer term progress. You know, we need to reform our tax system to help the middle class make this a stronger place to invest. Obviously we need to reform entitlement to secure Medicare for the next generation. And we've got to do some additional things to make the economy strong.
Obviously we need to "reforming entitlements"! "Obviously"!

You know what would make the economy strong? People having jobs.

You know what would make the economy worse? Pretending there's a "dficit" crisis with 9% unemployment!

Thanks, Tim! So glad you're sticking around!

Friday, August 5, 2011


It's Fox News, but even for them this is a bit more blatant that usual. (via @owillis)

In unrelated news, our next party will be a Hip-Hop BBQ.

A Hostage Worth Ransoming

The usual people who cheer on wars and drone bombings without missing a beat because no one supporting them ever said the word "fuck" were all up in arms last week because some congressman said the Republicans acted like terrorists holding the economy hostage or something. I'll admit that I may not have all my facts on this story, and I honestly don't care. The point of this post is that earlier in the week, GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said this:
"I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting," he said. "Most of us didn't think that. What we did learn is this - it's a hostage that's worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done."
So sorry if I don't care that much that someone called someone a terrorist. I'm a bit more concerned that the leader of a major political party admitted that they were willing to use the potential default of the United States to ram through their insane agenda.

I think that admission is a weeeee bit more important.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Luke Russert = Stunned

Someone didn't give Dylan Ratigan the memo that you're not allowed to talk to America's Most Trusted Frat Boy about issues of any substance: (via crooks and liars)

I also like that all it takes to "throw him off his game" is reference something of substance about the issues being discussed, rather than to repeat mindless platitudes about who won and lost today's game of politics. I don't want to repeat myself, but I don't think much has changed since I wrote this two years ago:
The traditional way to preform crappy journalism is to have a basic idea of what's going on, and then craft a story using cliches and baseless assumptions. The beauty of Luke Russert is that he skips the step of having even the most tenuous grip of what's going on, and bases the entire story on buzz words and cliches.

To be fair, this is exactly the type of reporting you'd expect when you give a not so bright frat boy a microphone and unlimited access, but thanks to the last name Russert, it's good to see that he qualifies as a political analyst for NBC.
It's easy to pick on Luke Russert, and in fairness he's far from the only one who can say the right words but have no idea what they're talking about. But between clips like this and his unfiltered twitter observations, I just think he's shittier at hiding it than most.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"It Takes Balls To Execute An Innocent Man"

Buried in a story about Texas governor Rick Perry's potential White House run is a quote of the year nominee:
Veterans of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s unsuccessful 2010 primary challenge to Perry recalled being stunned at the way attacks bounced off the governor in a strongly conservative state gripped by tea party fever. Multiple former Hutchison advisers recalled asking a focus group about the charge that Perry may have presided over the execution of an innocent man – Cameron Todd Willingham – and got this response from a primary voter: “It takes balls to execute an innocent man.”
That's some powerful madness right there. If nothing else, I think Rick Perry's found himself a campaign slogan.

Worker Safety is a Matter of Life and Death

Some of you may have seen this story the other day during our summer long heat wave: (Via WPP)
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The heat index Thursday was in the neighborhood of 115 degrees, but 12 local union workers said they were fired because they were not willing to spend 10 hours in it.

"I have been part of the union for 16 years and I have never seen anything like this, ever," said Randy Lucas.

Lucas said three weeks ago Iron Workers Local 22 signed a contract with Columbus, Ohio-based Columbus Steel Erectors.

The agreement said the crew would work 10 hours a day, 4 days a week. Lucas said because of the heat Wednesday, the group agreed to only work 8 hours.

He said when the workers showed up Thursday at 6:30 a.m., they were told they had been fired.

NewsChannel 18 was kicked off the property, but our camera was rolling as the crew was escorted off the job site.

"Someone is going to have to drop and be taken out in an ambulance before they are going to realize we were right,” said Lucas. “It is too hot."
Days later, in the same state:
COLUMBUS, Ind. -- A southern Indiana man who collapsed while working at a foundry died of a heart attack complicated by extreme heat, the Bartholomew County Coroner's Office said.

Charles Hulse, 50, of North Vernon, collapsed while at his work station at CE Systems Inc. in Columbus on Thursday.

Bartholomew County Chief Deputy Coroner Larry Fisher said Hulse was on medication for hypertension and high cholesterol. He had started feeling overwhelmed by the heat, but had taken a break in a cool room before returning to work.
When people bash things like "regulations" and "unions" in the abstract, they often forget that this is one of the most basic purposes of both collective bargaining and government regulations: To make sure people can go to work every day without worrying that doing their job will kill or maim them.

That's not too much to ask, and these situation are all too common:
In 2009, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,340 workers were killed on the job—an average of 12 workers every day—and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases. More than 4.1 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported, but this number understates the problem. The true toll of job injuries is two to three times greater—about 8 million to12 million job injuries and illnesses each year.
If those numbers seem high, it's because it's not in the company's financial interest to care if their employees are dying at their workplace:
The number of workplace inspectors is woefully inadequate. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the state OSHA plans have a total of 2,218 inspectors (925 federal and 1,293 state inspectors) to inspect the 8 million workplaces under the OSH Act’s jurisdiction. Federal OSHA can inspect workplaces on average once every 129 years; the state OSHA plans can inspect them once every 67 years. The current level of federal and state OSHA inspectors provides one inspector for every 57,984 workers.

OSHA penalties are too low to deter violations. The average penalty for a serious violation of the law in FY 2010 was $1,052 for federal OSHA and $858 for the state plans. Even in cases of worker fatalities, penalties are incredibly weak. For FY 2010, the median initial total penalty in fatality cases investigated by federal OSHA was $7,000, with a median penalty after settlement of $5,600. For the OSHA state plans, the initial median total penalty was $5,188, reduced to $4,543 after settlement. Oregon had the lowest median current penalty for fatality investigations, with $1,500 in penalties assessed, followed by Wyoming ($2,063) and Kentucky ($2,275). New Hampshire had the highest median current penalty ($142,000), followed by Minnesota ($26,050) and Missouri ($21,000).

Criminal penalties under the OSHA law are weak. They are limited to cases in which a willful violation results in a worker death and are misdemeanors. Since 1970, only 84 cases have been prosecuted, with defendants serving a total of 89 months in jail. During this time there were more than 360,000 worker deaths. By comparison, in FY 2010 there were 346 criminal enforcement cases initiated under federal environmental laws and 289 defendants charged, resulting in 72 years of jail time and $41 million in penalties—more cases, fines and jail time in one year than during OSHA’s entire history.

Eight years of neglect and inaction by the Bush administration seriously eroded safety and health protections. Standards were repealed, withdrawn or blocked. Major hazards were not addressed. The job safety budget was cut. Voluntary compliance replaced strong enforcement. In the absence of strong government oversight and enforcement, many employers cut back their workplace safety and health efforts.
As long as the penalties remain negligible and workers are routinely denied the right to collectively negotiate their working conditions, it's hard to see this situation getting any better.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

They Genuinely Don't Care About The Economy

Kent Conrad is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee. Sunday he said this:
On Sunday, after he'd been schooled by leaders on the automatic cuts that could make a debt deal possible, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., talked to reporters. He was tight-lipped on the details but broadly optimistic about the bargain. There was one nagging question I wanted to ask: All the discretionary spending cuts in the plan—did they threaten to slow down growth, to drive up unemployment?

"Sure they do," he answered. "Now, what we don't know is: What will the offset be of improved certainty and confidence? And we'll just have to see."
Will austerity fuck up the economy? Maybe, says one of it's chief proponents.

They aren't blind to the facts, they just don't care.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Obama Gets His Grand Bargain

Not good:
WASHINGTON -- Congressional leaders and President Obama on Sunday night announced they've cut a deal to avert a historic U.S. default, saying they have assembled a framework that cuts some spending immediately and uses a "super Congress" to slash more in the future.

The deal calls for a first round of cuts that would total $917 billion over 10 years and allows the president to hike the debt cap -- now at $14.3 trillion -- by $900 billion, according to a presentation that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made to his members. Democrats reported those first cuts at a figure closer to $1 trillion. It was unclear Sunday night why those two estimates varied.

The federal government could begin to default on its obligations on Aug. 2 if the measure is not passed.

The next round of $1.5 trillion in cuts would be decided by a committee of 12 lawmakers evenly divided between the two parties and two chambers. This so-called super Congress would have to present its cuts by Thanksgiving, and the rest of Congress could not amend or filibuster the recommendations.

But if the super Congress somehow failed to enact savings, the measure requires automatic cuts worth at least $1.2 trillion. Those cuts would be split equally between military and domestic programs. Social Security, Medicaid and programs for the poor would be spared, but Medicare providers -- not beneficiaries -- would take a hit.

White House officials confirmed that there would not be an extension of unemployment benefits as part of the final package. The administration had insisted that an extension be part of the grand bargain it was negotiating with Boehner. But when those discussions fell apart, so too did efforts to ensure that unemployment insurance was part of a final package. A senior administration aide added that the president would push for an extension in the months, if not weeks, ahead.
Your obligatory reminder that this "deficit crisis" is 100% made up:

Putting aside the fact that this type of austerity is completely unnecessary and will hurt the economy, this new Catfood Commission on steroids scares the shit out of me.

"Supercongress" will include 12 politicians (6 Rs, 6 Ds), who will be no doubt taken from the Catfood Commission alums, all share a deep desire to cut social security and medicare.

And... unlike the rest of our broken government these recommendations will be given a simple up/down vote with no filibuster in the senate. Even if there wasn't a threat of a trigger, I still think this commission's recommendations have a very good chance of passing both houses of congress.

People don't like being blamed for cuts to social security and medicare... but if it can done in this type of bipartisan love fest where no one is to blame? I like those odds.

Using the threat of default to impose austerity? The shock doctrine lives on. Anyone who hasn't read the book should really consider doing so, it's become the rule of our politics more than I could have ever imagined in a post Bush world.