mm457: From the guys who helped put China in business

August 3, 2008

dreamstime_2236000

© 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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mm440: The real straight talker speaks out

July 15, 2008
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© Joshua Wanyama | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

A bit lost in the top of the week media frenzy: the failure and resulting run on IndyMac Bank; serious troubles at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; extreme umbrage over the satirical The New Yorker cover; a certain presidential candidate delivered a compelling essay on national topic 1a, Iraq.

This pointless and criminally mismanaged war in Iraq was, for several agonizing years, national topic 1, until the not quite official recession took over honors as the new leading source of voter anxiety.

Meanwhile, Senator Obama has taken some heat from what one writer last week described as the “Republic of Portland,” the extreme left wing of his party, concerned about a candidacy that, once the primaries were completed, seemed to veer toward the center.

Time then to begin to flesh out a keystone promise, to “left” the ship, as it were: ending the U.S. war in Iraq.

My Plan for Iraq

Op-Ed Contributor | By BARACK OBAMA | Published: July 14, 2008

CHICAGO — The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

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mm434: Live by the sword…

July 9, 2008
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© Misty Pfeil | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

We wrote last post about John McCain’s electoral vulnerability. In the spirit of equal time, we cannot overlook Barack Obama’s slips, slides and stumbles in the month since he triumphed over Hillary Clinton and became his party’s presumptive candidate.

McCain’s crippled party knew what they were getting, and settled. Obama, though, raised up by the multitude of starry-eyed idealists and their grass-roots web sites and donations, has run into an on-line buzz saw as his passionate fans observe him taking positions that seem disappointingly like politics as usual.

So, they’ve struck back.

chitrib

Obama’s online muscle flexes against him

Fans use his Web site to rip shifts in policy

By John McCormick | Chicago Tribune reporter | 11:48 PM CDT, July 8, 2008

The same Internet-fueled power that led to historic gains in organizing and fundraising for Sen. Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign is now providing a platform for fiery dissent in a most unlikely place: his own Web site.

Amid criticism from the left that he has eased toward the center on a number of issues in recent weeks, the presumptive Democratic nominee has angered some of his most ardent supporters while triggering something of an online mutiny. Thousands are using MyBarackObama.com to angrily organize against him because of a changed position on terrorist wiretap legislation that awaits Senate action as early as Wednesday.

The dispute has forced Obama to respond in ways never before seen in a presidential campaign, demonstrating the Internet’s growing role in the democratic process and the live-by-the-click, die-by-the-click potential it holds for politicians.

The last straw was the vote in the Senate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which threatens the privacy of millions of innocent citizens in an attempt to expand the government’s ability to monitor suspected terrorists, and indemnify communications carriers from the legal fallout.

While Obama promised to fight against the bill during the primary season, he has changed tack, and joined 68 of his colleagues approving it today.

For many, who bought into the hope for the end to politics as usual, at least from their candidate, this is shockingly disillusioning, and many are not taking it lying down.

Obama’s online muscle flexes against him — chicagotribune.com

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mm427: Obama’s restless summer

July 2, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Barack Obama, the black Will Smith, has been, is and will be in the news permanently, or at least until Nov. 5, 2008 should John McCain’s wet dream (of somehow overcoming the horrendous legacy of his good buddy, George III) become reality.

So there’s no shortage of worthwhile reading on all things Obama. Here are four of the most intriguing.

1) Fundraising expertise

David Brooks has spent some useful time poring over the campaign finance statements.

nytimes

Obama’s Money Class

Op-Ed Columnist | By DAVID BROOKS | Published: July 1, 2008

Barack Obama sells the Democratic Party short. He talks about his fund-raising success as if his donors were part of a spontaneous movement of small-money enthusiasts who cohered around himself. In fact, Democrats have spent years building their donor network. Obama’s fund-raising base is bigger than John Kerry’s, Howard Dean’s and Al Gore’s, but it’s not different.

As in other recent campaigns, lawyers account for the biggest chunk of Democratic donations. They have donated about $18 million to Obama, compared with about $5 million to John McCain, according to data released on June 2 and available at OpenSecrets.org.

People who work at securities and investment companies have given Obama about $8 million, compared with $4.5 for McCain. People who work in communications and electronics have given Obama about $10 million, compared with $2 million for McCain. Professors and other people who work in education have given Obama roughly $7 million, compared with $700,000 for McCain.

So, Senator Obama, as has every presidential candidate in history, a rhetoric/reality gap.

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mm420: Thanks so much, WordPress.com!

June 25, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© averages roughly 50 hits a day. As reading L-HC indicates that faithful reader indubitably has exquisitely refined taste, I’m not unhappy with that number, exactly. It’s about 50 more people than ever read whatever I might have written before taking up blogging.

Today, 96 hits.

Wow, did my latest post, on web conferencing, hit a nerve?

Not exactly.

50 people clicked on a link from last August, a story about Barack Obama. And I have WordPress.com to thank.

It seems recently they added a delightful feature when one publishes a post: Possibly related posts: (automatically generated) wherein the system pulls out three or four stories that share a tag or category with the article just posted. It’s a handy resource, one small example of the feature-rich service that WordPress.com provides (in my case, nearly cost-free) to nearly 3.5million blogs.

Turns out that FoxNews.com, of all sites, is the source of today’s doubled traffic.

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mm417: Sunny promises collide with black thunderclouds

June 21, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Outside the rarefied world of election campaigns, real life grinds on relentlessly.

washingtonpost

Big Promises Bump Into Budget Realities

New President Won’t Have an Easy Time Paying for New Initiatives, Fiscal Experts Say

By Lori Montgomery | Washington Post Staff Writer | Saturday, June 21, 2008; Page A01

On the presidential campaign trail, Democrat Barack Obama promises to “completely eliminate” income taxes for millions of Americans, from low-income working families to senior citizens who earn less than $50,000 a year.

Republican John McCain vows to double the exemption for dependents and slash the corporate income tax.

To which the folks who monitor the nation’s financial situation can only say: Good luck. Because, back in Washington, tax collections are slowing, the budget deficit is rising, and the national debt is approaching $10 trillion. Whoever wins the White House this fall, fiscal experts say, is likely to have a tough time enacting expensive new initiatives, be they tax cuts or health care reform. …

President Bush, who seems to be spending his last year in office trying to create a legacy, has already done so, indelibly. He’s going to leave the nation with greater fiscal obligations, and fewer means with which to meet them, mainly due to his Iraq needless nightmare, than ever before.

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mm416: Obama a pragmatic politician – we’re shocked, shocked

June 20, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Barack Obama announced Thursday that he would reject public financing for his campaign, after claiming this primary season that he would follow the lead of his Republican opponent. McCain had already announced (he had no choice, that well is pretty dried up for him) that he would rely on public campaign finance for the general election.

Obama is taking much heat from all sides for this change of position. For example,

nytimes

The Two Obamas

Op-Ed Columnist | By DAVID BROOKS | Published: June 20, 2008

God, Republicans are saps. They think that they’re running against some academic liberal who wouldn’t wear flag pins on his lapel, whose wife isn’t proud of America and who went to some liberationist church where the pastor damned his own country. They think they’re running against some naïve university-town dreamer, the second coming of Adlai Stevenson….

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mm396: It’s an oil spill!

May 30, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Oil prices. A very hot, very sticky, very crude topic. We’ll look at four versions of reality.

MUDGE‘s reality: $4.259/gallon at his neighborhood Shell.

From the mosaic, we can hope that some kind of truth emerges.

No question that we are living in interesting times.

“May you live in interesting times”

mm381: Crime’s up. Economy’s down. Next question?
mm380: The return of cheap gasoline
mm370: How can you tell our president is lying?
mm347: It’s official, we’re depressed — er, recessed
mm344: Welcome to interesting times
mm337: Dare we trust the guys who got us into this mess?
mm335: Are you prepared for interesting times?
mm334: Rearranging deck chairs
mm333: “Great people shouldn’t have a resume”
mm331: Obama at Cooper Union: Lincoln?
mm328: Today’s economics lesson: Depression 101
mm309: The news Bush really hates you to hear
mm289: Recession: Paying the price for our power
mm285: Mayor Mike tells some hard truths
mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger…
mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show
mm256: I don’t hate big corporations, either

Oil spill no. 1. How high is up?

$200 a barrel petroleum. If you think your world is changing around you, buckle up.

theamerican[4]

Will Oil Really Hit $200 a Barrel?

By Desmond Lachman | Friday, May 30, 2008

Rudi Dornbusch, the renowned economist, once said that he did not understand how Mexico’s central bank board members could make the same mistakes time after time. Looking at the ongoing frenzy in the global oil market, one appreciates what Dornbusch meant. Once again, many market participants appear to believe that oil prices can only go up. It seems that the painful lessons of the 2001 dot-com bust have been forgotten, as have the lessons of the much more recent U.S. housing crash.

In their state of forgetfulness, many pension funds and insurance companies have built up very large open positions in the oil futures market. These positions are now estimated to total over $200 billion, roughly the equivalent of a full year of Chinese oil demand. They have contributed to the recent spectacular run-up in oil prices.

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mm349: What’s Mike really going to do next?

April 16, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Thought I was done with Michael Bloomberg.

Not so fast, tiger.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NYC for U.S. President 2008

mm024: Bloomberg?
mm038.1: Jews Sorta Like Bloomberg Even Though…
mm051: Bloomberg.com: Bloomberg’s Money, Visibility…
mm054: Chicago Tribune news: An Idea for Bloomberg
mm057: Bloomberg for President?
mm058: What Kind of President would Michael Bloomberg?
mm064: How to take down plutocrat Michael Bloomberg…
mm066: Michael Bloomberg’s Knightly Ambitions
mm069: The Votes Are In for New York’s Mayor Mike
mm086: Bloomberg Takes School Plan… to Midwest
mm110: Grading Mayoral Control
mm117: The cure for the Electoral College is worse…
mm208: Overdue a Bloomberg post
mm238: Bloomberg’s candidacy — closer to real?
mm248: Political Potpourri
mm254: Bloomberg – just won’t go away…
mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger
mm280: Bloomberg for Vice President? Take 2
mm285: Mayor Mike tells some hard truths
mm290: Gassing ’bout birds and supermen
mm300: Bloomberg: I’m not running, but…
mm301: Sorry, Mudge, the answer is no!
mm304: Mike, now I’m done!

This is all good sport in New York City, where, after all, Bloomberg is the two-term mayor, in a term-limit district. What’s a billionaire to do? Next?

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