Tuesday Reads

The reaction Obama should have to the unemployment numbers

Good Morning!! I wrote about Obama’s three-state bus tour last night, so I won’t go on and on about it; but I watched the speech at the Decorah town hall late last night. I just had to share this excerpt:

“We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, gotten the economy moving again. But over the last six months we’ve had a run of bad luck. Some things that we could not control.” He mentioned the Arab Spring, which led to higher gas prices, the tsunami in Japan, and the European debt crises.

“All those things have been headwinds for our economy….Now, those are things that we can’t completely control. The question is, how do we manage these challenging times and do the right things when it comes to those things that we can control?”

“The problem is that we’ve got the kind of partisan brinksmanship that is willing to put party ahead of country, that is more interested in seeing their political opponents lose than seeing the country win. Nowhere was that more evident than in this recent debt ceiling debacle.”

So nothing was wrong with the administration’s policies? If it hadn’t been for those uncontrollable events, everything would have been just fine? Excuse me, but wasn’t there a report a last week that showed there basically has never been a real recovery?

Have you been following the Anonymous protests against the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) authority in San Francisco? The protests were in response to the shooting of a homeless man by BART police–the second such shooting in the past couple of years.

After a white BART police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man shortly after New Year’s 2009, the transit agency agreed to 127 policy changes recommended by an independent auditor. They included arming officers with Tasers and providing crisis-intervention training for the BART police force.

Eighteen months after the auditor issued its final report, BART has fulfilled only a fraction of those recommendations. By last month, barely a quarter of all officers possessed Tasers, even though the agency had purchased enough for each one. Just 10 percent had received training in how to defuse potentially violent situations involving the mentally ill.

On July 3, a BART officer shot and killed Charles Hill, a homeless man, at the Civic Center station in San Francisco. Transit police said Mr. Hill, appearing inebriated, was armed with a bottle and two knives and acted aggressively when two officers confronted him. After a minute-long confrontation, one of the officers shot Mr. Hill.

Last week, the hacktivist organization attempted to shut down BART with a ddos attack, which failed. Next,

participants took to raiding databases and leaking the personal information of 2,000 people.

On Thursday, BART switched off access to voice and data services, from all of the major cellular carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. The shutdown was in response to plans to use mobile devices to coordinate protests during the evening commute.

“[The protest organizers]…stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police….BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform,” a statement from BART said.

“Cell phone service was not interrupted outside BART stations. In addition, numerous BART Police officers and other BART personnel with radios were present during the planned protest, and train intercoms and white courtesy telephones remained available for customers seeking assistance or reporting suspicious activity.”

When I heard about this yesterday, I wondered if the U.S. was beginning to turn into Egypt, with authorities attempting to keep people from using social networking sites.

The digital interruption caused the protests to be cancelled, but enraged protesters. Thus, the stage was set for a confrontation today. And the confrontation came, with all four downtown SF BART stations forced to shut down.

BART temporarily closed all four downtown San Francisco stations tonight – Civic Center, Powell, Montgomery and Embarcadero – a crowd gathered to protest the transit agency’s decision to cut underground cellular phone service for three hours Thursday evening in an effort to quell a protest.

As of 6:45 p.m., the Civic Center and Montgomery stations were open. At the Powell and Embarcadero stations, passengers could exit trains but not board them.

The closures began at 5:25 p.m., when protesters were kicked out of the Civic Center station, then began marching toward the other stations. That prompted BART to close them, one by one.

The Muni Metro stations at the same locations were closed in tandem with the BART stations. Trains continued to run through the stations, only allowing passengers to exit.

In addition, the FCC has begun an investigation of BART’s actions in shutting down cell phone service. So I guess we’re not Egypt quite yet.

Remember the story about David Prosser, the Wisconsin Supreme Court judge who allegedly choked a female colleague, Anne Walsh Bradley? A special prosecutor has now been named to investigate the incident.

Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett will serve as special prosecutor in the investigation of a physical altercation between two state Supreme Court justices.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has said Justice David Prosser put her in a “chokehold” during a June argument over a case in her chambers. Others have said Bradley came at Prosser with fists raised and he put up his hands to block her or push her back.

The incident occurred June 13, a day before the deeply divided court issued a 4-3 ruling upholding Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation curtailing collective bargaining for public employees. That case started when Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne brought a lawsuit claiming a legislative committee violated the state’s open meetings law in March in forwarding the legislation to the state Senate. Ozanne sought to invalidate the law, and implementing it was delayed for months while the case was pending.

The high court ultimately ruled key parts of the meetings law do not apply to lawmakers.

We’ll have to keep an eye on this story. Also in Wisconsin, today three Democrats face recall votes.

The Wisconsin recall fight ends Tuesday, and while the state Senate is no longer in play, Republicans could cut into the gains Democrats made last week. One Democratic seat in tomorrow’s election is probably safe; the race for the other one is very close.

“Here we’re fighting on our turf,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”

State Sen. Jim Holperin appears to have the slight edge in the hotly-contested 12th district as a well-liked incumbent, but increased Republican enthusiasm in this GOP-leaning territory makes it basically a toss-up.

Right now, Republicans have a 17-to-16 majority in the state Senate, thanks to the Democratic victories in last Tuesday’s recalls, when six Republicans faced challenges and two lost.

If you haven’t read it yet, please try to get through the Texas Monthly cover story on Rick Perry’s very bizarre religious beliefs. I can’t really do the story justice in a short excerpt, but just the same, I’ll give you a sample to get you started. Two pastors, Tom Schlueter of Arlington, TX and Bob Long of San Marcos, TX had come to see Perry at the Governor’s office in order to inform him of some prophecies that involved him (Perry). They explained that Texas is the “prophet state,” and will lead the U.S. toward “Godly rule.”

At the end of their meeting, Perry asked the two pastors to pray over him. As the pastors would later recount, the Lord spoke prophetically as Schlueter laid his hands on Perry, their heads bowed before a painting of the Battle of the Alamo. Schlueter “declared over [Perry] that there was a leadership role beyond Texas and that Texas had a role beyond what people understand,” Long later told his congregation.

[….]

At the end of their meeting, Perry asked the two pastors to pray over him. As the pastors would later recount, the Lord spoke prophetically as Schlueter laid his hands on Perry, their heads bowed before a painting of the Battle of the Alamo. Schlueter “declared over [Perry] that there was a leadership role beyond Texas and that Texas had a role beyond what people understand,” Long later told his congregation.

So you have to wonder: Is Rick Perry God’s man for president?

Schlueter, Long and other prayer warriors in a little-known but increasingly influential movement at the periphery of American Christianity seem to think so. The movement is called the New Apostolic Reformation. Believers fashion themselves modern-day prophets and apostles. They have taken Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on ecstatic worship and the supernatural, and given it an adrenaline shot.

The movement’s top prophets and apostles believe they have a direct line to God. Through them, they say, He communicates specific instructions and warnings. When mankind fails to heed the prophecies, the results can be catastrophic: earthquakes in Japan, terrorist attacks in New York, and economic collapse. On the other hand, they believe their God-given decrees have ended mad cow disease in Germany and produced rain in drought-stricken Texas.

Their beliefs can tend toward the bizarre. Some consider Freemasonry a “demonic stronghold” tantamount to witchcraft. The Democratic Party, one prominent member believes, is controlled by Jezebel and three lesser demons. Some prophets even claim to have seen demons at public meetings. They’ve taken biblical literalism to an extreme. In Texas, they engage in elaborate ceremonies involving branding irons, plumb lines and stakes inscribed with biblical passages driven into the earth of every Texas county.

Yikes!

Here’s another disturbing article, posted at The Institute for Southern Studies. Next low-wage haven: USA. This one is long too, but here’s just a bit of it.

For years advisers like the Boston Consulting Group got paid big bucks to tell their clients to produce in China. Now, they say, rising wages there, fueled by worker unrest, and low wages in Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina mean that soon it won’t be worth the hassle of locating overseas.

Wages for China’s factory workers certainly aren’t going to rise to U.S. levels soon. BCG estimates they will be 17 percent of the projected U.S. manufacturing average — $26 an hour for wages and benefits — by 2015.

But because American workers have higher productivity, and since rising fuel prices are making it even more expensive to ship goods half way around the world, costs in the two countries are converging fast.

Dan Luria, research director of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, says many of the big-name consultancies, which until a year ago were advising their clients to “Asiafy their footprints,” are now telling companies to think twice.

BCG bluntly praises Mississippi’s “flexible unions/workers, minimal wage growth, and high worker productivity,” estimating that in four years, workers in China’s fast-growing Yangtze River Delta will cost only 31 percent less than Mississippi workers.

That’s before you figure in shipping, duties, and possible quality issues. Add it all up, says BCG, and “China will no longer be the default low-cost manufacturing location.”

Serfdom, here we come!

Last night I wrote about the suspicious suitcase that were left outside John Boehner’s Ohio office. A similar event happened in Beverly Hills today.

Beverly Hills police blew up an aspiring screenwriter’s laptop and script when investigating a suspicious package Thursday morning on Rodeo Drive.

The screenwriter, who was not identified, apparently left his briefcase — with the computer and script inside — unattended at a talent agency office.

Beverly Hills Police Lt. Tony Lee said police, not knowing what was inside the briefcase, detonated it as safety precaution.

Lee said the owner was distraught when he learned what happened to briefcase.

I hope his laptop wasn’t in the briefcase too.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


When Obama Said, “Be the Change,” Did He Mean, “Do It Yourself?”

This morning, President Obama set out on a three-day “bus tour” of five tiny towns in three Midwestern states before he returns to his comfort zone among the wealthy elites on Martha’s Vineyard for a ten-day vacation.

According to the National Journal, each of the towns on the tour is in an area that is doing very well economically.

The best part about these towns? They’re doing darn well in the face of the country’s worst economic decline since the Great Depression.

Where the country faces an unemployment rate stubbornly stuck in the 9-point range, the four counties Obama will visit top out at 7.7 percent in Henry County, Ill. The lowest, in Winnishiek County, Iowa, is a mere 5.9 percent.

Part of the reason the town mayors all said they escaped the perils of the recession is that none relied heavily on hard-hit industries like construction. Most have diverse industries, split between a small amount of manufacturing and typical Midwestern agriculture. So when Obama goes to “discuss ways to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and accelerate hiring in communities and towns across the nation,” he’ll be talking to success stories. As cameras flood in, they won’t find closed-down plants or houses with foreclosure signs; they’ll find picturesque small farms, and, in Alpha, Ill., an 8-acre corn maze.

However, a difficult issue for the Obama is that the towns he will visit are

overwhelmingly white; so white that 2010 census figures suggest Obama will be the only black person in Atkinson, Ill., when he visits on Wednesday. That image may be neutral among, say, white, working-class voters, with whom Obama has struggled in recent elections. It won’t look as good to the African-American community, which has been particularly hard hit by the recession.

African-American unemployment hovers at 16.2 percent, the highest for any ethnic group and double the rate of unemployment for whites. While Obama spends the beginning of the week in three cities with white populations over 93 percent, the Congressional Black Caucus will be hosting job fairs, seminars and job readiness workshops in struggling cities over the August recess, hoping to connect unemployed African-Americans with employers in Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The bus tour may not sit well with the CBC, either: Obama will not be attending any of the Congressional Black Caucus events.

That’s pretty troubling, although not surprising. You’d think if the taxpayers are covering the expenses, the President could at least talk to some people who are suffering the worst consequences of the Great Recession.

Jay Leno got off a couple of middling-funny cracks about the trip and the U.S. economy last night.

Leno: President Obama is off on his three-state bus tour this week. I believe the three states are Confusion, Delusion and Desperation.

Leno: More fallout from that Standard & Poor’s credit downgrading of the U.S.. Today England, France and Germany unfriended us on Facebook.

Leno: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will stay on with President Obama and not join the private sector. Thanks to his economic policies there are no private sector jobs.

Okay, I thought you could use a little comic relief. Now back to Obama’s road trip.

The head of the RNC Reince Priebus followed Obama to his first stop, Cannon Falls, MN, where he made his own failed attempt at humor, referring to the President’s trip as “Obama’s Debt-End Tour.” Frankly, I don’t get it. But Mitt Romney had a better one, the “Magical Misery Tour.”

None of the articles I’ve read say whether the President will actually ride on a bus from place to place, but I did learn that the Secret Service recently purchased two buses that will be used on the trip. The White House insists this is not a campaign swing, but an “official trip,” so we taxpayers will be picking up the tab.

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