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Monday, February 28, 2011

On the movie "Up in the Air"

When this movie came out, I thought that, since George Clooney is in it, it must be good.  I was thinking I'd go see it.

I saw it this weekend, finally.

I've come to two conclusions on it,

First, I'm glad I didn't spend any money on it after all, even if it were just the $4.00 matinee' price.

Second, I'm sorry I spent the time this weekend on it, after all.

So you know, I am a big George Clooney fan.  I've enjoyed several of the movies he's been in.  I loved "Ocean's 11", for starters, and "Michael Clayton" was nearly pure enjoyment.  While not a perfect film, it was excellent in my view and I thought this "Up in the Air" might be another great one.

Was I mistaken.

This film is virtually completely unoriginal, uninspired, didactic, preachy and dull.

The only thing remotely creative about it is the shots from the air they gave of each city visited in his travels around the country and even that got old after a while.  "Okay, okay, we get it.  He travels a lot."

And the "moral of the story", the takeaway is so obvious, by the time you get to the end, it's just this huge disappointment.  This is one of those movies that, when you get to the end, you not only want your money back, you want to get the two hours of your life back, too.  It's that much of a waste of time.

Unless you're one of that group of self-absorbed, shallow, selfish people who are so impatient with the rest of humanity that you can only concentrate on other's idiosyncrasies instead of what they have to offer as a human being (and there are far too many of them out there in the world, that's for sure--they should come with warning labels), you're already going to know the jist of this movie.  To tell it here isn't even to spoil anything, it's that obvious and blatant.  Quoting Mr. Clooney's character, Ryan Bingham, "Life's better with company."

Oh, really?  No kidding.

And you were how old when you figured that out?

Seriously, can I get those 2 hours back now, please?

(I write the above to "get even" with the people who wrote and produced this stinker and to hopefully warn you, in case you haven't seen it, so you don't also waste your time.  For real fun and entertainment, read Mr. Cranky's review of the film at the link below).

Links:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1193138/
http://www.mrcranky.com/movies/air

What does it tell you when a media blog drops the local paper?

Fascinatingly enough, I saw this morning where the blog Bottom Line Communications is dropping their Kansas City Star subscription.

Yowza.

What's that tell you?

The Star is looking more and more like Blockbuster Video--a company that is old technology--and going down.

Just as BLC laments, I hate to see this happen.

They ask a great question over there:  "What business model features increased prices and reduced quality and hopes to survive?"

And the only answer to that question is the US Postal Service.

And we all know how that's going to turn out.

It really is sad.

I wrote about this earlier here.

I want to take the paper and I want it to be relevant but it has to be both relevant and a good value and it's just not.  As they point out over there at BLC, the price keeps going up, up, up and the content and quality of that same content keeps getting worse and worse.  I don't think anyone could deny that.  Well, they couldn't unless they're on the staff of the Star.

It does't portend good things for society, either.  We used to all have this base of information we began with, whether it was Walter Cronkite or the local newspaper or whatever.  Now, fewer and fewer people are even remotely aware of current events locally, regionally, nationally or internationally and if they do read or watch things, they are usually sources that merely reinforce their own preconceived opinions.

It doesn't bode well for us as a people and country.

There is an article out today at Alternet, pointing out that the Southern Poverty Law Center registered a 22% rise in "radical Right-wing hate, 'patriot' and militia groups" last year and a 40% rise the year before.  I would submit that there is at least a partial correlation between a lack of information and hard data, and the growth of these groups.  I don't think it's a coincidence.  Things are changing, radically in the US and people don't understand.  They want things back "like they used to be"--an old high school friend of mine said as much to me earlier this year, on Facebook.

We need, as a country and as a people, to be calm and informed.

Once again, I call out for a renewal of the "Fairness Doctrine" in our government over media.

And as soon as possible.

A media blog ending their subscription to the local newspaper.

It's nearly inconceivable.

Nearly.

Links:  http://www.bottomlinecom.com/kcnews/biddingadieutokcstar.html
http://www.alternet.org/rights/150069/number_of_radical_right-wing_hate,_patriot,_and_militia_groups_exploded_in_2010



Big fires in Texas?

Who knew?


One person dead, 120,000 acres burned in Texas wildfires

First Russia, last year, and now us.


Link to original post:  http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/02/28/texas.wildfires/index.html?eref=rss_topstories&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+rss/cnn_topstories+(RSS:+Top+Stories)

Spring?

All right, it's been dark and cold and snowy and icy and a really awful, old-fashioned January around here--in fact, over much of the US that gets a real winter--but the forecast for tomorrow is 55 degrees AND trout season officially opens tomorrow.


Spring can't be that far away now, right?

Enjoy the sunshine, y'all.

Links:  http://www.kansascity.com/2011/02/26/2684492/outdoors-digest-missouri-trout.html

On the Oscars last night

A couple notes.

First, whoever came up with the idea for pairing James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts is being pilloried this morning, at least in the press, if not in reality.  What an awful matchup that was.  I can't be sure if it was the writing or their respective deliveries and I think it may well be both but that was really awful.  The writing tried so hard to make them funny by being cute, it ended up painful.  The writers should be dismissed immediately and forever, at minimum.  (As an example, the review below, at the link, is rather scathing.  And entertaining.  And, I think, largely, if not completely on target).

Second, no surprise, "The King's Speech" swept the night.  That was both predicted and expected.

But "True Grit" getting 10 nominations and zilch by the end of the night?  Yikes.

Fortunately, it's not important.  At least, it's not important to most of the world.

Back to reality.

Enjoy the sunshine, y'all.

Link:  http://oscars.movies.yahoo.com/blog/111-franco-hathaway-pairing-disappoints-at-oscars?nc

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Quote of the day--on good and evil

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it for religious conviction."  --Pascal


Enjoy your Sunday, y'all.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The craziness in the Star--and our world--today

First item:  Moammar Qaddaffi.

Or however you spell it.

The guy's a lunatic, that's all there is to it.

Next up:  Kansas lawmakers have come to the conclusion that Kansans--and visitors on their freeways--don't go fast enough (yeah, right) so they're considering raising the speed limit to 75 mph.

Yahoo.

Naturally, this goes right along with the "guns everywhere" philosophy.  Forget that it's more dangerous driving at higher speeds and that it burns more gasoline (from the Middle East).  Forget all that.  All that matters is that we go ever faster, right, representatives?

Knuckleheads.

Third on our list of Saturday lunacy (or idiocy, whatever applies):   It seems in New York, "Candles ringing a bed in a voodoo ceremony that included sex ignited sheets and clothing strewn nearby and cause a fatal Brooklyn apartment fire last weekend, a city official said Friday."

I don't even need to comment on that one.

Fourth:  This one really has me.  It seems some young guy--a 19 year old from Holt, Missouri had been involved in a rollover car accident near Kearney.

No big deal so far, right?

But wait:

"Staff members found marijuana, assorted pills, drug paraphernalia and an apparent explosive device in the man's clothing."

Yikes.

"They moved the items to the ambulance bay and called police."  Okay, sure.  Makes sense.

They checked it out and the young man and then---here's the crazy part---released said young man "pending further investigation."

Wait a minute.

He had pot, assorted pills, drug paraphernalia and an apparent explosive device but wasn't taken to jail on suspicion?

And you don't think he's going to maybe leave the area?  I thought pot was a felony.

Now that seems crazy but hey, what do I know?

Fifth and finally on the brief list of crazy today is this and I'm going to quote this one completely:

"INCITING HATRED:  Italian police Friday arrested six Moroccan men suspected of inciting hatred against Pope Benedict XVI for converting a Muslim journalist to Catholicism."

Guys, you gotta' get a job.

Have a great, sane weekend, y'all.

Teacher's pay in perspective

Are you sick of highly paid teachers?  Aren't we all?

Teachers' hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - babysit!

We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That's right. Let's give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 minutes off for lunch and planning-- that equals 6 1/2 hours).

Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day...maybe 30? So that's $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.

However, remember they only work 180 days a year--we shouldn't pay them for any vacations!
LET'S SEE....

That's $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master's degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 x 6 1/2 hours x 0 children x180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute -- there's something wrong here!

There sure is...

The average teacher's salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days= $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student--a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!)   WHAT A DEAL!!!!

Make a teacher smile; repost this to show appreciation for all educators.

Update: I'm glad that many people have shown their support for teachers by reposting this note, but I am not the original author. I received this as an anonymous chain letter email, and I wanted to share it to support the public workers of Wisconsin.

(Thanks and a hat tip to my friend, Andrew L. for this, from his FB page.  And yes, he's a teacher.)

Quote of the day--on rich v everyone else

"You can’t fight something with nothing. But as long as Democrats refuse to talk about the almost unprecedented buildup of income, wealth, and power at the top – and the refusal of the super-rich to pay their fair share of the nation’s bills – Republicans will convince people it’s all about government and unions."


--Robert Reich,  Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, author,  former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, etc.


Link to original post:  http://robertreich.org/post/3476451774

Friday, February 25, 2011

Quote of the day--on "safety nets"

 "This is what I mean by my constant insistence on ‘moderation’ in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."  -- Dwight Eisenhower

And yet this is now precisely what some Republican leaders are attempting.

Link to original post:  http://mattpayton.tumblr.com/post/3464786643
http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2011/02/quote-9.html

Thursday, February 24, 2011

US thinking (greed?) vs. Scandinavian countries

There's an article out today about a new Major League Baseball pitcher who's 7 ft., 1" tall and what prospects he may have for the game, etc.


The fact that he's likely to be the tallest MLB player ever is interesting in its own way, to baseball fans but it's something buried in the story that was far more interesting to me:


Money is something else most people consider essential but Van Mil doesn’t. When he breaks into the majors – Angels coaches say a midseason call-up is a realistic goal – he’ll be paid the major league minimum of $410,000.


And here's the real story:


“It’s a Dutch way of thinking,” he said. “I don’t need $400,000 a year; $200,000 would be good. And I don’t mind paying more in taxes. I can still live a very good life.”

When was the last time you heard anything remotely similar to that from an American pro sports player?
I don't listen to sports interviews much, if ever, but I have to say, I don't think there's very many times, if, again, ever, any player ever said anything remotely similar or close to this young man's statement.
No greed?  No money-grubbing?  No "going for all you can get"?
That is one smart young man.
He must come from one good family.
And likely a great culture.


Maybe that's why they can have universal health care that works and doctors that don't have to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, along with pharmaceuticals and hospitals and other corporations bilking patients--sick people and their families--of billions of dollars.  

The virtually-inevitable subject Jabulani Leffall maybe needs to cover

I heard that today Jabulani Leffall is having a show on "A look at race in American Sport" on his show "Central Standard on KCUR asking "what is the role of race in sport?" with author and Professor of English Thabiti Lewis.

Good for him.  I'm sure it will be a good show.  If I weren't working at the office, I'd listen in.

But having seen a recent documentary on Pierce City, Missouri, a small town outside of Springfield, and Harrisonville, Arkansas and both of those towns racial situations in the last century, it made me think about African-Americans request for reparations here in the US.

First, a definition:  In jurisprudencereparation is replenishment of a previously inflicted loss by the criminal to the victim.

Of course, we gave reparations to the Japanese who were interred during World War II.  (Interred:  a nice word for rounded up and imprisoned, involuntarily) and countries have been giving reparations to other countries going way back, from the loser of a war, for instance, to the winner.

So when I saw this TV program last week and once again saw how horribly Americans treated these other Americans, WAY after the Civil War--1901, to be exact, for the Pierce City incident where the white people just stood up and started shooting their guns at the Black people's homes so the Black people all left the area, it made me think.

There was that one isolated incident.  And then there was the much broader situation of all the slave's situations after the Civil War when "Reconstruction" was used against them and the new president after Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, was such a hateful old racist in the White House and the list goes on and on of transgressions made by Whites against African-Americans (or Blacks, if that's how you want to say it).

The author Douglas A. Blackmon wrote what is supposed to be a fantastic book on the horrors perpetrated by this country and the people in it on African-Americans when he penned "Slavery by Another Name:  The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II".  

In it, Mr. Blackmon apparently tells of many, many situations where Blacks were discriminated against decidedly and even repeatedly in the US and for decades after the Civil War, frequently with the imprimatur of our own laws and courts.  (The book is being made into a PBS documentary, too, so watch for that in time to come).

From Mr. Blackmon's book:

  In Alabama alone, hundreds of thousands of pages of public documents attest to the arrests, subsequent sale, and delivery of thousands of African Americans into mines, lumber camps, quarries, farms, and factories. More than thirty thousand pages related to debt slavery cases sit in the files of the Department of Justice at the National Archives. Altogether, millions of mostly obscure entries in the public record offer details of a forced labor system of monotonous enormity.


More:


Revenues from the neo-slavery poured the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars into the treasuries of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina—where more than 75 percent of the black population in the United States then lived.

Finally, at least for these examples here, today,  there are the widely-known cases of discrimination which have been proven to have occurred in the US Department of Agriculture, where the department ruled against Black farmers and in some instances, took their farms from them.

So where am I headed with this?

First, with all this information and evidence, doesn't it seem odd that so many White people--and others, too, certainly--have such deep-seated hostility towards Blacks and African-Americans and what they refer to as their "culture" in this country when we--the US--have been so instrumental in what was done to them, in creating their situations?  Maybe if we hadn't put them in servitude and taken their lands away and lynched them and held them down and used our lending institutions against them with higher, tougher interest rates (because that happened, too, don't doubt it), etc., etc., maybe they wouldn't, so many of them, be poor?

Second and finally, maybe the US DOES, in fact owe reparations to African-Americans?

Anyway, it seems like an excellent program Mr. Leffall maybe ought to have on his show one day with two excellent "pro" and "con" guests who could and would calmly and intelligently debate the subject.

I'm not saying or suggesting Mr. Leffall's program "Central Standard" is or should be exclusively about Black or African-American issues, either, by any means.  It just seems this would be an excellent and timely topic for him and his show.

Food for thought.

Enjoy your day, y'all.

(Oh, and if you have the stomach for it, you might read this excerpt from Mr. Blackmon's book:  http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/the-book/excerpt/.  It's an excellent and surprising, brief read.)

As one last note, too, associated with this, I have to say that the coming special on PBS that I mention here, above, on Mr. Blackmon's book will, no doubt, be yet one more reason wealthy white people, "Conservatives", Republicans and Corporate America want to de-fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), PBS and NPR.  It's just too much ugly, inconvenient truth for these people.

Links:  http://www.kcur.org/centralstandard.html#Thursday
http://www.kcur.org/
http://namethatshow.wordpress.com/about/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acts_of_reparation
http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/

The tragic and costly mistake that is the last Iraq War

I just saw the list below at Mish's Global Economic Trends and had to pass it along.

I don't always agree with Mish Sedlock, the author of the blog, on economics and economic policies but he's dead-on with these points about the Iraq War:


  • US policy of "Nation Building" has been a total and complete failure.
  • US had no business invading Iraq.
  • It is up to the people of these nations, not outsiders to force change at gunpoint.
  • US "intelligence" operations are useless.
  • US "intelligence" failed to predict any of these uprisings. One likely cause is so much useless "intelligence data" is gathered both in the US and abroad that no one has time to look at it all. 

  • With democracy breaking out in the Middle East, it seems important to point out that these people are--as any student of history would tell you--bringing it to themselves.  The idea from George W. Bush and Company that they could go blow up Iraq and "give them" democracy was a huge, monumental and classic mistake and it was a mistake a lot of us around the country warned them of.  Lots of us protested the beginning of the Iraq War and the attack of Iraq but they would hear nothing of it.  

    Mish closes his entry here with the following and I don't think it could be said any better:

    Thankfully, and at long last, the citizens of many nations have taken matters into their own hands. Not all of these revolts will be viewed as a success to US interests. Some may not be viewed as a success by anyone.

    However, the results in aggregate, no matter what they are, will be far better than results of successive, misguided US policy missions in Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.


    Link to original post:  http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2011/02/reflections-on-revolutions-shoe.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+MishsGlobalEconomicTrendAnalysis+(Mish's+Global+Economic+Trend+Analysis)

    Quote of the day--on war and peace

    "I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war".         --Albert Einstein

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    You know, governments fall when there is too much imbalance

    It's a lesson from history and humankind learns it again and again, down through time.

    The Romanovs were removed from rule in Russia because of it.

    Marie Antoinette and her crew were removed likewise.

    There is turmoil in Libya and Egypt right now because there are the few people with much and the many with "not much."

    And it's certainly true here in America.

    The imbalance between the rich--and really rich--and so many of the rest of us was wide and it has gotten much wider.  There is a report out right now, showing these very statistics:

    Mother Jones magazine has crunched the data on inequality, and put together a group of stunning new charts. Taken together, they offer a dramatic visual illustration of who's doing well and who's doing badly in modern America.

    This chart shows that the poorest 90 percent of Americans make an average of $31,244 a year, while the top 1 percent make over $1.1 million:



    • According to this chart, most income groups have barely grown richer since 1979. But the top 1 percent has seen its income nearly quadruple:





    • And this chart suggests most Americans have little idea of just how unequal income distribution is. And that they'd like things to be divvied up a lot more equitably:

    Chart showing US attitudes on wealth inequality

    To see the rest of the charts, click on over to Mother Jones


    It's a matter of a system that rewards the wealthy and very wealthy grossly improportionately.


    And it's not healthy for the country, folks.


    Link to original posts:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110223/ts_yblog_thelookout/separate-but-unequal-charts-show-growing-rich-poor-gap

    On Texas and guns on their college campuses




    Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

    Thanks and a hat tip to Daniel for sending this link.  I think the students speak very well for the lack of sense it takes to add more guns to college and university campuses.

    But that's me.

    Have a great day, y'all.

    On Republican leadership

    What Republicans say: 

    "We want small, unobtrusive government that will stay out of people's personal lives, forever and ever, amen."



    "Well, except for that abortion thing. We think we should be able to tell women what to do with their bodies and babies and everything, even though abortion has been legal since 1973."

    "Oh, one more thing. Those gays. We don't like that or them, either. We think gubmint should be able to reach into their houses--their bedrooms, even--and we don't care if it is two consenting adults not bothering anyone else, we don't think they should have equal rights, US Constitution be damned."

    "If we think of anything else, we'll get back to you and let you know. Stay tuned
    ."



    "Other than that, yeah, we like small government."

    A KC "Convention Hotel"?

    Oh, please.

    I mean, even I want a brand new C-Class Mercedes Benz sedan, just like some here in KCMO want a convention hotel in downtown KC that would add 1000 rooms to the city so we could hold larger conventions but we just have way too many things going against us right now.

    First, we simply don't have the money.  In spite of what the outgoing mayor said or says, we are not in some great financial situation where we can pull money out and help pay for the thing.

    Second, check this out from The Kansas City Business Journal:

    Fitch downgrades KC bond rating because of threat to earnings tax

    Kansas City Business Journal
    Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2011


    The specter of Kansas City losing its earnings tax revenue caused a major ratings agency to downgrade its score on the city’s general obligation bonds.
    Fitch Ratings assigned a AA rating Kansas City’s general obligation bonds, down from the previous AA+ score.
    Fitch’s report on Tuesday attributed its downgrade to the unstable future of 1 percent Kansas City’s earnings tax, which provides about $200 million a year in revenue.
    “The downgrade reflects the greater inherent risks to the city’s financial performance and overall vitality created by the new initiative requiring voter approval of the continuation of the city’s principal revenue source every five years,” the Fitch Ratings report said.
    The downgrade could make the cost of issuing and financing bonds more expensive.
    So we don't have the money and we don't, likely, have the credit or credit rating to do it, either.


    Added to this situation is that this is the worst economy in literally 80 years, since the Great Depression of the 30's and you just don't have the scenario to make a large convention hotel in downtown KCMO happen right now.  Maybe in years to come.  Maybe.  If the economy locally, state-wide and nationally comes back but no one foresees that happening anytime too soon.
    As a few people wrote over on the TKC blog, this should put an end to the whole erasure of the e-tax but the way voters are and the way this issue is, who can say what will happen come election day?  
    One thing is certain--election day is going to be fascinating if for no other reason than the vote on the e-tax.  Let's hope it's "good fascinating" and not "depressing fascinating."

    Ding, dong, the dork is done

    Wow.

    It's nice that's finally over.

    We're finally going to get rid of the mistake that became Mayor Mark Funkhouser.

    Funk, you were too expensive, what with all the lawsuits you and your wife cost us and you didn't get along and work well with others.  Those are two big and costly issues.  We just couldn't go on like that any longer.  It was a sick, twisted relationship that had to end.

    Looking forward, the thing is, we're set up as a city in the same position as the last mayoral election with one African-American and one Caucasian and that's fine.  In fact, it's great.

    Sly James and Mike Burke are both lawyers and friends of one another.  Both are, apparently, intelligent and well-spoken people who do, in fact, work well with others, know how to lead and can hopefully get things done for the city so either should be good for Kansas Citians.

    The ONLY reason I bring up the issue of race here is because, like that last mayoral election when Alvin Brooks and the Funk ran, two things need to be pointed out.   As I recall, the Funk won by a slim margin, first, and second, I also recall the Star running coverage after the election showing voter turnout for African-Americans in the city was low.

    If African-Americans have any real interest in this upcoming mayoral election and want to see Sly James get this office, they will need to organize and get out and vote in strong numbers, clearly, as didn't happen last time.

    Let the best man win.

    Quote of the day--on government and the "delclaration of rights"

    "By a declaration of rights, I mean one which shall stipulate freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of commerce against monopolies, trial by juries in all cases, no suspensions of the habeas corpus, no standing armies. These are fetters against doing evil which no honest government should decline." ..........Thomas Jefferson to Alexander Donald, February 7, 1788, Papers, 12:571

    As the Beach Boys used to sing:  "Wouldn't it be nice?"

    Oh, and Mr. Obama, we really would like that habeas corpus back.

    Permanently.


    I took this quote, too, from that blog of which I just became aware:  http://www.nocorprule.blogspot.com/

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Notes on last Sunday's morning news shows

    1)  The consensus of virtually everyone on the shows is that President Obama isn't leading strongly on this whole budget cutting mess.  It's apparently at least Washington's opinion.  I have to say, leaving it up to Congress can't be called leading, that's for sure while cutting energy assistance for the poor in his own budget seems a very real betrayal;

    2)  Only 3 people on any of the programs I saw seemed to address the fact that political leaders seem to be making clear that they want to balance their books and cut their spending on the backs of the middle- and lower-classes while letting the wealthy and the crooks in the banking industry that nearly wrecked the American and world economies off the hook entirely.  Matt Taibbi and Bill Maher on "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO and Donna Brazile on "This Week with Christiane Amanpour" on ABC were those people;

    3)  Our US State Department now has a Twitter account, I hear, to counter any viewpoints not truly our own, according to Sec. of State Hillary Clinton;

    4)   Secretary of State Hillary Clinton doesn't look well.

    Collective bargaining for teachers a horrible thing?

    Only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores are as follows:


    South Carolina -50th

    North Carolina -49th

    Georgia -48th

    Texas -47th

    Virginia -44th

    Wisconsin, on the other hand, with its collective bargaining for teachers, is ranked 2nd in the country.

    What's all this tell you, folks?
     
    (Thanks and a hat tip to friend Andrew L. for this information).

    The corporation vs. littlest of "little guys"

    So we're clear, too, the Fourteenth Amendment grants citizenship to everyone born in the US and subject to its jurisdiction and protects civil and political rights  

    Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), which held that blacks could not be citizens of the United States.
    Its Due Process Clause prohibits state and local governments from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without certain steps being taken to ensure fairness. This clause has been used to make most of the Bill of Rights applicable to the states, as well as to recognize substantive and proceduralrights.
    Its Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction. This clause was the basis for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court decision which precipitated the dismantling of racial segregation in the United States.


    Ain't America great?  We don't try to extend the Constitution's 14th Amendment rights to citizens--in this case, African-Americans--hardly a lick but we crawl all over ourselves to advance those same rights to non-entity, really, corporations, just because of their big bucks.

    As the old song goes, "It's money that matters, in the USA..."

    Thanks and a hat tip to the following blogging colleagues for this political cartoon:
    http://www.nocorprule.blogspot.com/;  
    http://www.poclad.org/?pg=Art&show=wuerker04.jpg

    Link to Wikipedia definition/description of the 14th Amendment:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

    Your (humorous) Quote of the Day

    If the people over at Spell Check had their way, the president's name would be "Bareback Alabama".  

    --Tom Degan, at his blog "The Rant", http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/

    "Most Liveable Cities": US still not in top 10

    The Economist's "Most Livable Cities" rankings are just out and guess what "Superpower" country doesn't have one city--not one--in the top 10?

    Yeah.  You guessed it.  Little old US of A.

    How's that "we're number one!" thing going for you?

    This year's "top ten":



    Some background from the report:
    Cities that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density. This often fosters a broad range of recreational availability without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure. Seven of the top ten scoring cities are in Australia and Canada, where population densities of 2.88 and 3.40 people per sq km respectively compare with a global (land) average of 45.65 and a US average of 32.
    The bad news?  We're not in the top 10.
    The good news?  We're not in the bottom 10. 
    Note that Canada and Australia, the two countries with more cities in the top rankings than any other, have far less guns per capita than the US of A.  
    Coincidence?  
    I don't think so.  It's at least a factor.
    More:
    Somewhere between the extremes sit London and New York in 53rd and 56th places. They are let down by stability scores of 75 and 70, the result in turn of poor scores for the perceived threat of terror and the rates of petty and violent crime.
    I'm certainly not saying the US isn't a desirable place to live and I refuse to trash either the city or country where I reside but I think it's worthwhile to point out there are things--many, really--we can and should do to improve these places we live and so, our lives.
    Final, side note:  Apparently the Economist is using this ranking as a way to keep their media afloat since they very publicly and internationally announced the above and it's hitting all kinds of outlets--radio, TV, newspapers, etc. and they are, at present, shown charging $500.00 if you want this current, full issue with all the data.  

    Corporate plagiarism


    You have to hand it to those Hyundai people.
    They couldn't have copied the Mercedes Benz S-Class Sedan any more completely unless they had a transporter from Star Trek do it for them.

    First it was the Lexus people.  Now, Hyundai.

    Important?  No, surely not.  It just amused me.


    Have a great day, y'all.

    Quote of the day--on corporate power

    "Few would argue that corporations today are not only ubiquitous but have enormous power over our lives. Was it always like this? How did it get to be this way? And what are the implications of this situation for democracy? … Indeed, so much power and wealth has been amassed by corporations that they can be said to govern, presenting a mortal threat to our body politic. To use a medical analogy, when a surgeon cuts out a cancer, it's not to punish the cancer, it's to save the body. If we wish to prevent the total demise of democracy - rule by the people - then we must return corporations to their subservient role."    – Women's International League for Peace and Freedom


    Quote appropriated here from a blog of which I've just become aware:   http://www.nocorprule.blogspot.com/

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Texans: Not very bright but not hypocrites, anyway

    News out yesterday:

    Texas poised to pass bill allowing guns on campus

    State budgets and the insane war in Afghanistan

    Wisconsin Governor Scott "Walker’s slash-and-burn attack on the unions in his state would save $150 million per year for two years. But if Wisconsin is truly in a state of fiscal emergency, as Walker claims, why is he not demanding the president withdraw troops from Afghanistan and make the savings available as fiscal aid to states? Every troop deployed in Afghanistan costs the U.S. $1 million per year, so simply bringing home 151 troops would save more money than his plan. And, with fiscal 2011 Afghanistan War spending alone to top $1.7 billion for Wisconsin taxpayers, an end to the war would free up more than ten times his plan’s cash, which the president could use for state fiscal aid.  --Robert Greenwald, from the blog Rethink Afghanistan

    Link to original post here:  http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog/2011/02/bringing-home-150-troops-from-afghanistan-would-fix-wisconsins-budget-crisis/

    On President's Day

    Some history on our first president I found today that I think fascinating:


    Along with land, George inherited 10 human beings from his father. He gained more through his marriage to a wealthy widow, and purchased still more enslaved blacks to work the lands he aggressively amassed. But over the decades, as he recognized slavery's contradiction with the freedoms of the new nation, Washington grew opposed to human bondage.
    Yet "slaves were the basis of his fortune," and he would not part with them, Chernow said in an interview.
    Washington was not a harsh slaveowner by the standards of the time. He provided good food and medical care. He recognized marriages and refused to sell off individual family members. Later in life he resolved not to purchase any more black people.
    But he also worked his slaves quite hard, and under difficult conditions. As president, he shuttled them between his Philadelphia residence and Virginia estate to evade a law that freed any slave residing in Pennsylvania for six months.
    While in Philadelphia, Oney Judge, Martha Washington's maid, moved about the city and met many free blacks. Upon learning Martha was planning one day to give her to an ill-tempered granddaughter, Judge disappeared.
    According to Chernow's book, Washington abused his presidential powers and asked the Treasury Department to kidnap Judge from her new life in New Hampshire. The plot was unsuccessful.
    "Washington was leading this schizoid life," Chernow said in the interview. "In theory and on paper he was opposed to slavery, but he was still zealously tracking and seeking to recover his slaves who escaped."
    The original article, here, above, is highly recommended as it's full of good information about President Washington and the country.

    The Wealthy, The Republicans and Power in America

    Besides the power play that's being fought in Wisconsin right now that I posted on earlier, the other power play that's also being fought right now in Washington and across the country, is the Republican leaders' attempts to take all money away from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and so, NPR (formerly National Public Radio) and PBS (formerly the Public Broadcasting System).

    And the reasoning and examples proving it are easy and obvious.

    One of the most obvious "burrs" in the side of Corporate America and so, their underlings, the Republican leadership, used to be Bill Moyers, his writing and his TV shows, specifically "Bill Moyers Journal" that used to run on PBS.

    That program routinely exposed both Corporate America's worst transgressions, but also government's, so the American people knew what we were up against and possibly, likely what we had to work for and be aware of.

    Friday evening, I saw another PBS program, this one ProPublica's Abraham Lustgarden on Congress's Fracking Report.

    First, a quick definition:  Fracking is an abbreviation for hydraulic fracturing, which energy companies have created and use for getting more oil and gas out of the ground.  It "is a process that results in the creation of fractures in rocks. The most important industrial use is in stimulating oil and gas wells, where hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 60 years in more than one million wells.  The fracturing is done from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations to increase the rate and ultimate recovery of oil and natural gas."

    The fracturing forces water and chemicals into the ground, in order to force out the oil or gas. 

    The problem lies in that there are chemicals used in the process and a) they seem to be making large groups of us Americans sick who live within proximity of these wells and b) the corporations won't disclose what these chemicals are to the government and the American people.  They've already bought off enough government legislators, so far, so they don't have to report what's in the process.  In the meantime, as I said, it seems to be making whole groups of Americans sick.

    So you see, it is this kind of reporting, given to us by and through PBS, that, as but one easy, current example, the oil industry, with all their millions of dollars, don't want the people of America to be aware of.  You can see how and why it would be in the energy companies' interests to then give campaign contribution money---read:  bribes---to their Congressmen to shut off the spigot of information that comes to us via the CPB. 

    It's also why these same energy companies pay for advertising like I've seen recently, telling us how safe and wonderful this fracking is, so we can get energy from here in the US.  Naturally, in the ads, they don't call it fracking.  They use much gentler, far more acceptable terms.

    But back to my point.

    First, I believe, it was Bill Moyers and his show "Bill Moyers' Journal" that no doubt rankled Corporate America. 

    Now it is the PBS show "Need to Know" which replaced Mr. Moyers.

    With knowledge for the American people, too frequently comes action, particularly in really egregious cases of misplacement of trust or misuse of power and/ or money and the CPB, PBS and NPR are, at times, good sources of information for us, the American people.

    Corporate America wants nothing of that, clearly.

    And Corporate America will do all they can to see to it that is shut down, if possible. 

    Fortunately for them but unfortunately for us, it is far too easy--and cheap--to do since all they have to do is give campaign contributions (read, again:  bribes)  to their government representatives.  Then they get whatever legislation they, the corporations, want.  We see it time and again.

    It got so bad here in Missouri, on a more local level, that the Republican leaders did away with ALL campaign contribution limits, of course.  It's open season on legislators and legislation for them now, until we get that changed back. 

    And the only way that will change, either in Jefferson City for our local politics or Washington, D.C. and the national level, is for the American people to demand the changes, unequivocally.

    We have to care.  And work on it.

    I say again:  We need true, stringent, tough and verifiable campaign finance reform in this country.  It's way overdue.

    We also need legally-required campaign seasons that are only 3 to 6 months long, at most, like the British require, so we can, again, get the big money out of our campaigns.

    It's in these ways we can be more sure of getting our government back working for us, the American people, instead of virtually exclusively for the wealthy and Corporate America.

    Links:  http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/video/video-propublicas-abrahm-lustgarten-on-congresss-fracking-report/7501/
    http://www.propublica.org/article/questions-for-congress-and-hollywood-about-fracking
    http://www.propublica.org/series/buried-secrets-gas-drillings-environmental-threat
    http://www.propublica.org/article/drilling-industry-says-diesel-use-was-legal
    http://www.propublica.org/article/opponents-to-fracking-disclosure-take-big-money-from-industry
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/index-flash.html
    http://www.npr.org/

    Quote of the day--on Wisconsin and our oligarchy

    What Mr. Walker (Governor of Wisconsin) and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.

    In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

    Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions. 

    You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

    And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.

    There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

    So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t.

    --Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist, author and columnist for The New York Times

    Link to original post:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/opinion/21krugman.html?_r=2&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    Your belly laugh for the day from yesterday's STAR

    Did you read the article yesterday, in the Star, about the two guys who tried to hold up---wait for it---A GUN STORE??


    Wait, too.  It gets better.  Much better.

    Not only did these two rocket scientists think it was a great idea to try to rob A GUN STORE because,  you know, those guys in there WON'T HAVE ANY GUNS... they also tried to ROB A GUN STORE when the CLERK WAS VERY VISIBLY ARMED.

    But wait, as Dan Akroyd would say....   there's still more!

    They went in to rob the place WITH AN EMPTY GUN.  'Cuz, again, you know... the guys in gun stores won't notice that, RIGHT?


    The man pulled a blue .357 revolver with a 4-inch barrel from his waistband, pointed it at the clerk and said, “Give me your money!”

    The clerk had practiced for just such an occasion. He was ready.
    He zeroed in on the robber’s cylinder and saw it was empty as he reached for his own gun and pulled it from its holster.
    So, okay, all that goes down, but there's one last huge piece of stupid on this thing because at the beginning of the hold-up, the "customer" put down 2 twenty dollar bills on the counter.


    Once the ARMED SALES CLERK pulled out his own gun, to thwart their robbery attempt, the two little clowns promptly high-tailed it out the door.  From the article:


    “His eyes got as big as two dinner plates,” the clerk said. “Before I got mine pointed at him, he ran to the door at, like, 95 mph. I’m surprised he didn’t bust the glass out of the door.”

    The clerk, who had started to squeeze his trigger, relaxed his finger as the robbers fled, leaving behind the two $20 bills.
    “I was going to shoot him,” the clerk said. “Everything that could have gone wrong could have, but didn’t.”
    The robbers were last seen running south.
    You just can't write stuff--stupid stuff and funny stuff, anyway--any better than that.


    Enjoy your Sunday, y'all.  I'm still wiping the tears from my eyes.


    Link to original story:  
    http://www.kansascity.com/2011/02/18/2666368/would-be-robbers-end-up-losing.html