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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene is drowning Vermont

by folkbum

I drove on this bridge last week Wednesday. It's between the main road and the house where Norman Rockwell did many of his most famous Post covers. It's historic and iconic.



I couldn't find any additional news, but I can't believe that in the hours since this was taken, the water hasn't completely washed it out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jobs

By 3rd Way

A good rant is one of the most satisfying reads you can find. I wanted to post this support for the culture that helped to create one of the best businesses in the history of business after I read it. After learning that Jobs is again leaving Apple I had to post it. I hope he will again return to lead the company he created.

He's a non-Christian, arugula-eating, drug-using follower of unabashedly old-fashioned liberal teachings from the hippies and folk music stars of the 60s. And he believes in science, in things that science can demonstrate like climate change and Pi having a value more specific than "3", and in extending responsible benefits to his employees while encouraging his company to lead by being environmentally responsible.

Every single person who'd attack Steve Jobs on any of these grounds is, demonstrably, worse at business than Jobs. They're unqualified to assert that liberal values are bad for business, when the demonstrable, factual, obvious evidence contradicts those assertions.

It's a choice whether you, or anyone else, wants to accept the falsehood that liberal values are somehow in contradiction with business success at a global scale. Indeed, it would seem that many who claim to be pro-business are trying to "save" us from exactly the inclusive, creative, tolerant values that have made America's most successful company possible. I side with the makers, the creators, and the inventors, and it's about time that the pack of clamoring would-be politicians be put on the defensive for attacking the values of those of us on this side.


This really smart dude has some smart things to say about Apple's recent performance.

Apple Inc, already among the largest companies in the world in terms of market cap, announced yesterday that the company's "revenue [is] up 82 percent and profits [are] up 125 percent" over the same quarter last year. That level of growth in such a big company...that's just astounding. And much of the revenue and profit are from products that didn't exist even five years ago...the iPad alone was a ~$5 billion business in Q3 (for comparison, Google had $9 billion in total revenues in Q2). If that's not unprecedented, it's damn close.

We hope you get better Steve.

Monday, August 22, 2011

180° backwards

by folkbum

Yglesias, today, cites a deal the Financial Times wants progressives to take on another stimulus:
In broad terms, the needed elements are plain: further short-term stimulus combined with credible longer-term fiscal restraint. Cut the payroll tax, extend jobless benefits and subsidise new jobs; then curb entitlement spending by raising the retirement age.
No! You want an immediate, effective stimulus and curb to rising unemployment? Lower the retirement age.

Right now, offer anyone over 60 an early out to Medicare and Social Security. Make it temporary--people would have to pull the trigger by, say, December 31--but offer it.

With millions dropping out of the workforce (and likely, high wage earners too), unemployment falls, labor costs fall, consumer spending rises, and, boom, stimulus.

Short-term it creates additional cost; but short-term borrowing is cheap right now and all of those new retirees would have been entering the system in the next five years anyway.

Not Liked

By Keith R. Schmitz

One thing you have to say about the right wing, they are active on social media, even if their policies are not too sociable. Sarah Palin comes to mind.

Scott Walker is one big Facebook friend, commenting multiple times a day to his fawning legion of supporters, who are seemingly afflicted big time with Stockholm Syndrome.

So interesting to note that since the bad jobless numbers came out last week Thursday, Walker has been strangely mute on Facebook. Not a peep since Friday.

Which is too bad when you think of it because you have to wonder where his friends are from the WMC? You would think that after Walker showered them with numerous goodies in the state budget and whacking public employee unions that they hate so much, his buddies would have reciprocated by at least bringing on some new employees to soften these numbers.

After all, these major companies are no doubt among those US firms that are sitting on $1.2T in cash. You would think that here in Wisconsin they would have used some of that to buy Walker some credibility.

But it looks like they are casting their lot in making the President look bad, which may result in collateral damage here in Wisconsin.

With friends like this...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Picking off the Rogues Gallery

by folkbum

Osama bin Laden, Bush's unfinished business, is done. Gaddaffi, Reagan's thorn, is falling. Next, it'll be Castro--I predict a poison dart.

Any chance there's a Kruschev still kicking somewhere?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

With all recalls done, Dems real winners

by folkbum

When Democrats failed to retake the state senate last week, the GOP declared victory. Why, I don't know, because the results show a pretty dim picture for the party of Scott Walker here in Wisconsin.

In just raw numbers, nine senators were recalled, and though two-thirds were GOP incumbents, Democrats took five of those elections. Moreover, every single Democrat outperformed Walker and Prosser--the two most recent Republican (supreme court is non-partisan, but who are we kidding) winners.

There is no sense that momentum has slowed. The volunteers and organizers who have been spearheading these recall efforts, and maintaining the strength of the #wiunion movement, seem at this point indefatigable.

So, congratulations to Senators Wirch and Holperin for tonight's win, and to everyone who worked had to make this happen.

Don't let anyone tell you this was a win for Republicans. Period.

Recalls, etc.

by folkbum

Today is the last day of recalls in Wisconsin, at least for the foreseeable future. There's still time to support Wirch and Holperin if you haven't yet.

And then I can finally retire the "2011 Elections" tag from this blog, which has had a remarkably long shelf-life.

Realted, I: A recent This American Life covered the recalls, and did it very well. Listen here; it's the first segment after the introduction.

Related, II: I will be on WISN, channel 12, in their evening news (haven't done the interview yet, so I assume it's evening news). Tune it and gasp in awe at my face made for blogging! Interview cancelled. It may happen tomorrow, though--stay tuned!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Buffet Buzz

By Keith R. Schmitz

Warren Buffet's op-ed in this morning's New York Times -- Stop Coddling the Super Rich -- has been burning up twitter since it appeared last night on-line, being tweeted 37,000 times. This makes both the title and its author trending topics all day long.

Looks like the Tea Party and anyone else who supports sacrifices on the altar of trickle down economics have run out of arguments, except of course this guy who has no idea about what he's talking about.

My Bachmann question

by folkbum

If you think back to 2008--I know! it was forever ago!--one of the biggest knocks against Barack Obama from the leading intellectual (and militantly incandescent) lights on the conservative side was that he was a "community organizer" with a thin political resumé. That was A) bunk and B) immaterial; people with thinner resumés have served admirably and life-long politicians (*cough*ScottWalker*cough*) can easily blow it.

So here's Michele Bachmann, who is, depending on who you ask, either the current frontrunner for the GOP nomination or a close second or third. Either way, conservatives, notably the tea-partiers who blasted Obama's lack of experience, love her.

But what's Bachmann's life story? She was, of course, a community organizer in Minnesota, organizing a group of paranoiacs afraid of UN domination against Minnesota's state educational standards. (Before taking up a life of anti-gubmint activism, she was a revenuer at the IRS). She has but 11 years in elected politics, in the Minnesota state senate and the US House.

I bring this up, of course, because that's actually a thinner resumé than Obama had. Though Obama's years in elected politics were identical to Bachmann's (depending on whether you count the US Senate as greater than the House), Obama's law degree is from a real school (Harvard, where he was on Law Review), not Oral Roberts U. And Obama taught constitutional law at one of the nation's top law schools among all of his community organizing. And yet, A) no one who now loves Bachmann but blasted Obama's supposedly-skimpy background seems now to care about such things, and B) it is not a line of attack taken by anyone on the serious (or fringe, that I can see) Left against Bachmann (proving, again, that we on the left are the more reasonable people).

So here's my Bachmann question: Will the GOP and the tea party turn on Bachmann for her inexperience, which would be the consistent with their previous arguments? Or will they finally admit that Obama was qualified to be president?

I'm going to go out on a limb and say the answer to both is no, but I would be happy to be proven wrong.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Iowa Straw Poll

by folkbum

Just moments ago, President Romney called Michele Bachmann to congratulate her on her straw poll win.

Now on to the important stuff: How many games ahead in their division will the Brewers be at the end of the season?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Vote Today!

by folkbum

Assuming you live in one of the affected areas. Best of luck to Pasch, King, Schilling, Clark, Moore, and Nusbaum!

Monday, August 08, 2011

The 39,000 Jobs Hoax

By Keith R. Schmitz

The Walker administration and the six Republican state senators involved in this week’s recall election are throwing out the claim that the changes they have brought to state government have led to the creation of 39,000 new jobs. The media is allowing them to make that brag as well.

The six GOP targets have to sell this idea. Their jobs are on the line and if there is a metric people are looking at for all politicians right now, it is job creation. During last week’s debate in Menomonee Falls hardly ten minutes went by without Alberta Darling bringing up these job numbers and how wonderful their programs are.

For this discussion, let’s not talk about the quality of these jobs. After all, Walker chased away what would have been 5,000 good paying jobs with a future connected with extending the high-speed rail line before he even took office.

The question here is how can Walker, Darling, et al tell you that they helped create these jobs, when the realities of business tell you otherwise.

He Swears the Jobs are His

So we are to believe that the moment Scott Walker raised his right hand to take the oath of office for Governor, those jobs started popping up like mushrooms?

Usually businesses look for new hires when they have something for them to do. It would be mind stretching to think that just because someone is a fanatical Walker supporter that they would be bringing people on just because Scottie is at the helm. Not these hardnosed captains of industry.

For existing businesses, new faces generally start appearing only after a business sees a rise in revenue thanks to customers walking through the door or the sales force putting orders on the books. The evaluation process often takes months for a number of reasons and even then it’s not like people just start popping up, because recruitment takes some time.

Sure there can be new businesses opening their doors but even the planning for those is months in the works.

Origin of the Jobs?

The point is that the Walker/Darling/GOP assertion of creating 39,000 new jobs since January is ludicrous, given the way business works. It is also ludicrous because an administration has to do something to earn the credit for job creation.

A couple of times during the debates, Darling mentioned that 85% of Wisconsin business leaders said that Wisconsin is heading in the right direction. Make that 85% of the membership of WMC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party.

Now if anyone would be hiring because of giddiness over having Walker in office, it would be them. It would be interesting to find out how many of these companies have brought on new employees since they are among the state’s very largest companies, though we would never know when they actually started to think about adding these jobs.

Where Credit Is Due

The GOP crowd may not like to see this, but just about all these jobs probably began their gestation period back during the Doyle administration, with a big help from the Obama stimulus. There are in fact several companies here in Milwaukee that were able to launch new ventures thanks to stimulus funds, ventures that included high paying jobs.

Again, raising your right hand doesn’t count. In reality there was nothing Walker and the GOP did until he signed the budget back in late June. So even then, the clock didn’t start ticking until ink hits paper, so we are still many months out before we know if the plan works.

In between was the signing of the so-called budget repair bill, not a big booster to business. In fact it could be argued the other way. State employees make up 18% of the state work force, and with this large of population saying good bye to a large part of their salary; a number of stores, restaurants and other businesses will see a significant drop off in sales, especially in cities that have large concentrations of public employees such as university towns and places the have correctional facilities.

Let’s get back to the timeline. Walker signs the budget in late June, and any job creation they could take credit for would be legitimately in Fall.

May Not Be a Merry Christmas

But even with the holidays coming, the job picture may not be so rosy. In fact there are reports that this year parents have not let loose with back to school spending.

By then the recalls will be history, but we have some big events to look forward, mostly the prospect of a Walker recall, and his buddies in Congress have not been too helpful.

With the new Congress sworn in, there was as some pundits put it, “a lack of interest for more stimulus.” For many like our US Senator Ron Johnson who proclaimed that “the stimulus didn’t create a single job”, the country is finding out what the real impact of the stimulus is by its very absence. Johnson and his cohort ripped the tubes out of the patient just as the economy was recovering.

Most recently there is the horrible debt ceiling agreement. The right wing loves to assert that government jobs are not real jobs. The problem is that these people are being paid real money, which flows into the real economy and cut off that flow, the economy suffers. Many economists are predicting the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs once the debt ceiling agreement kicks into action.

Many of these economists are saying that extreme cutting is the last thing this economy needs. And we will soon find out if they are right. That may be by the end of the year, and that’s not good news for Walker.

There is speculation about when the long anticipated recall of Walker kicks into gear, ranging from around the end of 2011 to the 2012 general election. Either way, if the double dip recession hits, probably nothing Walker has done will avert it. Worse, Walker’s budget shredded the social safety net in Wisconsin, amplifying the misery – and heightening the anger against him.

If things play out, it will be Walker who will be joining the ranks of the unemployed, needing to get his first real job since college.

This is of course known in the trade as poetic justice, except we will be the ones paying the price.

Friday, August 05, 2011

FriTunes

by folkbum

Been a while since I did one of these.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Alberta Darling: $250,000 a year is not rich

by folkbum

She said that. Really!

This is the same woman who said teachers should be grateful for last spring's budget repair bill, which for most teachers meant a 6-12% cut in pay.

For her reference, people earning $250,000 a year are in the top 1% of households in this country, and in the top 1/2 of 1% in this state. It is five times Wisconsin's median household income (which itself is already higher than an average teacher's salary) and ten times Wisconsin's per capita income. I worked as a teacher for seven years before my lifetime salary first topped $250,000.