mm484: Whiners, take back America from the crass

August 30, 2008
© Stephen Finn | Dreamstime.com

© Stephen Finn | Dreamstime.com

Mudge's musings

Seldom are the battle lines as clear as they are in election season 2008.

Establishment conservative versus up from the streets progressive.

Moneyed comfort (via marriage) vs. up from food stamps, self-made comfort.

Explosive, short-fused temper vs. articulate, Ivy League erudition.

Chiseled in stone libertarian capitalism vs. government as proper societal safety net capitalism.

Bomb first, ask questions later approach to foreign affairs vs. talk first, inclusive globalism.

Pandering to the women’s vote with a barely qualified vice presidential choice vs. persuading women that progressive positions trump empty symbols (Sarah Palin is this generation’s Dan Quayle) every time.

The marketplace is the proper solution to the crisis in health care vs. too many families forego medical care because health insurance is out of reach and this must end.

There’s no problem with the economy that ceasing whining won’t cure vs. the last eight years have been economically unpleasant for nearly everyone who has less than $5,000,000 a year in income, and downright catastrophic for far too many working people.

NYTimes economist Paul Krugman put it very well:

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mm482: Windy panacea? Not so fast!

August 28, 2008
© Damian Chung | Dreamstime.com

© Damian Chung | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Oops.

Turns out that all those ambitious windmill plans might be more worthy of Don Quixote than Michael Bloomberg.

Seems that generating power is only part of the equation, whether you use boring and dirty old technology (coal-fired) or exciting and clean new technology (wind turbines).

See, that power has to get from those lonesome windy landscapes to the nation’s factories (ah, an optimistic curmudgeon!), shopping malls and homes, and it won’t get there by wishing it so.

No, that generated power, sulfurously filthy or delightfully green, needs the national power grid to get from Windyvastwasteland, Texas to where it’s needed, and folks, the national power grid is a subtle but critical part of what one of my favorite amateur pundits calls, in a most memorable coinage, “this country’s infrastructure osteoporosis.”

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mm457: From the guys who helped put China in business

August 3, 2008

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© John Leaver | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Used to be, if you were annoyed by the antics of big business, you’d pick on General Motors, world’s biggest, most arrogant, automobile manufacturer.

Difficult to be anything but sorry for GM these days, as they Hummer their way into business oblivion.

No, these days if you want to vent your spleen regarding unpleasant aspects of big business, Wal-Mart is your most appropriate target.

After all, these are the guys who have rolled back prices so relentlessly that they’ve rolled up entire industries and sent the jobs and our treasure to China, at the expense of zillions of decent paying blue collar jobs in the U.S.

And, as an employer, they are infamous for poor pay, are niggardly with benefits, and have fought an equally relentless battle against unionization, lest their workers have any real means of changing their working conditions.

Those friendly greeters? Just minimum wage retirees who are really posted at the door not to smile weakly at you, but rather to make sure that shoplifters exiting the store are caught.

Just to be certain that their own underpaid and cowed staff stays that way, they have begun a campaign, documented by the Wall Street Journal, no less, to warn their managers and supervisors that a prospective Democratic presidential administration endangers Wal-Mart’s non-union status.

wallstreetjournal

Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win

By ANN ZIMMERMAN and KRIS MAHER | August 1, 2008; Page A1

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they’ll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies — including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.

Wal-Mart is far from the only employer that opposes the Employee Free Choice Act (co-sponsored, by the way, by a certain junior senator from Illinois), but as the largest private employer in the U.S. they certainly have the most to lose, and that largest body of private employees in the U.S. has the most to gain.

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mm454: It’s going to take a liberal quantity of BOLD

July 31, 2008

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© Michaeljung | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

We observe the first anniversary of the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis (August 1, 2007) with some sadness, and furious anger.

Sadness due to the thirteen lives lost, and 100+ injured.

Anger because the danger embodied in this country’s aging and dilapidated bridges, highways, levees and schools is criminally no closer to alleviation than 366 days ago.

Meanwhile, the economy is faltering: banks are failing, foreclosures are at record highs (three million empty houses!), the ranks of under- and unemployed growing apace.

What is it going to take to repair this country’s infrastructure osteoporosis?

What is it going to take to kick start the economy, to get people working and once again able to meet their mortgage obligations, perhaps even afford that $4.299/gallon gasoline?

It’s going to take a liberal quantity of bold.

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mm451: Goodbye, old blue, you’re worth more to me dead than alive

July 28, 2008

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© Mel Gama | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Old cars. If they’re old enough (in most states, more than 25 years old), they’re vintage, even antique, and perhaps worth the extra effort it takes to keep them running.

If they are 15-25 years old, they are usually just basic transportation, and a basic pain.

The body parts not rusted are crumpled. The driver’s window no longer winds down (maybe the entire door is rusted shut), so paying a toll, or dining at a drive-through fast food establishment, is yet another hassle.

You prefer to drive at night, because the black exhaust cloud isn’t as obvious.

And then the usual litany:

Will it start?

Will it stop??

What’s it going to cost me to fix it for the third time this year???

And the planet shares your pain.

How sensitive of the planet!

Princeton University economist Alan Blinder, whom I fondly remember as a columnist for Business Week years ago, a side job while vice-chairing the Federal Reserve and holding down the Princeton gig, would like to take that beast off of your hands.

Because that black cloud trailing behind you isn’t unique. The state of California estimates that cars 13 years and older account for 25% of miles driven overall, but an astonishing 75% of all passenger automobile generated pollution.

nytimes

A Modest Proposal: Eco-Friendly Stimulus

Economic View | By ALAN S. BLINDER | Published: July 27, 2008

ECONOMISTS and members of Congress are now on the prowl for new ways to stimulate spending in our dreary economy. Here’s my humble suggestion: “Cash for Clunkers,” the best stimulus idea you’ve never heard of.

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mm438: Post Bush administration destination – jail?

July 13, 2008
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© Enruta | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

Those looking for the smoking guns on torture and the mishandled war on terrorism within the Bush administration seem to have found them.

Frank Rich has a must read column in today’s NYTimes, reviewing “The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer, to be published July 15.

thedarksidejanemayer

Seems like the book is going to be a must read, also.

nytimes

The Real-Life ‘24’ of Summer 2008

Op-Ed Columnist | By FRANK RICH | Published: July 13, 2008

WE know what a criminal White House looks like from “The Final Days,” Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s classic account of Richard Nixon’s unraveling. The cauldron of lies, paranoia and illegal surveillance boiled over, until it was finally every man for himself as desperate courtiers scrambled to save their reputations and, in a few patriotic instances, their country.

“The Final Days” was published in 1976, two years after Nixon abdicated in disgrace. With the Bush presidency, no journalist (or turncoat White House memoirist) is waiting for the corpse to be carted away. The latest and perhaps most chilling example arrives this week from Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, long a relentless journalist on the war-on-terror torture beat. Her book “The Dark Side” connects the dots of her own past reporting and that of her top-tier colleagues (including James Risen and Scott Shane of The New York Times) to portray a White House that, like its prototype, savaged its enemies within almost as ferociously as it did the Constitution….

In the name of defending against terrorism, the Bush administration has systematically violated the law, and the evidence is finally exposed to the light of day.

Nixon parallels take us only so far, however. “The Dark Side” is scarier than “The Final Days” because these final days aren’t over yet and because the stakes are much higher. Watergate was all about a paranoid president’s narcissistic determination to cling to power at any cost. In Ms. Mayer’s portrayal of the Bush White House, the president is a secondary, even passive, figure, and the motives invoked by Mr. Cheney to restore Nixon-style executive powers are theoretically selfless. Possessed by the ticking-bomb scenarios of television’s “24,” all they want to do is protect America from further terrorist strikes.

So what if they cut corners, the administration’s last defenders argue. While prissy lawyers insist on habeas corpus and court-issued wiretap warrants, the rest of us are being kept safe by the Cheney posse.

But are we safe? As Al Qaeda and the Taliban surge this summer, that single question is even more urgent than the moral and legal issues attending torture.

Thus the illustration at the top of this post. In fact, some top administration officials, past or present, have been warned publicly not to travel outside the U.S., due to international war crimes court exposure!

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mm437: Life’s a bitch, and then you fly

July 12, 2008
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© Kathy Wynn | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

Among the most popular posts here in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© are the occasions when we call attention to Patrick Smith, the airline pilot who writes the Ask the Pilot column for Salon.com.

In fact, one such column was especially popular with Salon’s lawyers, as this then newbie was called to account for exceeding the amount of quoted text allowed by their copyright. Oh, well, live and learn.

But that hasn’t stopped me from reading and appreciating Patrick Smith. His was the first writing to explain specifically why the air travel system in the U.S. is the frenetic mess that it is: more people flying in smaller and smaller aircraft. MSM picked up on the story only after his eye-opening analysis.

Since he’s back flying regularly for one of the big airlines (he keeps which one to himself), his weekly columns have become generally biweekly, but they’re always worth waiting for. He writes like a writer who happens to fly airplanes for a living, rather than the other way around.

This week, he tells of his travails dealing with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Yes, even pilots are subject to carry-on luggage search and body scanning.

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