Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Redefining Shopping Spree

I suppose most people have already heard about the raving lunatic from my current home town pepper spraying fellow shoppers at Wal*Mart to cut in line for a discounted X-box game console: Slate. Apparently she was not the only shopper redefining the phrase "shopping spree." Among the others was a grandfather charged with shoplifting trying to save his grandson from being trampled by onrushing shoppers, a family that refused robbers in a parking lot leading to the father being shot, two people shooting guns in the air in North Carolina before rushing into a store that didn't even close and there was a brawl at an electronics counter in Rome, New York (at another Wal*Mart, which has often been the site of violence on this sacred shopping day). Of course, this isn't the first year for this deal-infused lunacy: Ranker.com

What has happened to America? It appears we have completely lost our minds. But who is to blame? Could it be retailers who create this frenzy by hyping up the shoppers? Is it an economy that makes finding deals imperative? Or is it just a public that really will fall for any hype? The thing that has always bothered me about Black Friday is the fact that Thanksgiving is a four day holiday where people get together with friends and family to take a break from their regular lives and spend quality time together. Yet retailers took that Friday and made it the biggest shopping day of the year, thus cajoling people to abandon family and friends to engage in the real American past time -- shopping (often for crap you don't need and might never use). But this is the trend for all long weekends now from Memorial Day Sales to post-Christmas sales to Labor Day discounts (in maybe the biggest irony of all). I would love to believe that America could one day take a break from their shopping addiction and actually challenge corporations to show a modicum of concern for the average citizen, but that seems even crazier than pepper-spraying your shopping rivals, right?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Weekend in the EPL

Well, just returned from a majestic weekend in Yosemite National Park and caught a couple games and the highlight reels from the weekend. A tough 1-1 draw for Arsenal, who had a flat first half performance but looked poised to steal back all three before settling for the point. It was a tough game, as I expected the full three and would have liked to move up the table, but again showed that there might be something in this team missing in the past few years -- a will to win and the fortitude to make it happen. Vermaelen, whose return has really shored up the defense, appears to be a threat on the offensive end as well and his 82nd minute goal saved the day after his flubbed clearance gave Fulham a 1-0 lead against the run of play. But the bad news from the match is that we need to find others who can score. Gervinho really needs to figure out how to finish, Walcott should maybe be shooting more, given his form of late (it should be noted  that he had the great cross that led to the equalizer) and Ramsey has to turn those near goals into the net more often. It was an extraordinary performance by Fulham goalie Schwarzer, but I still think Arsenal should have put in at least one more. Other than that, we luckily saw a weekend of draws except Chelsea's win, and now need to turn our attention to the Carling and winning out through Christmas (except maybe that other little match away against Man City).

In other action, Liverpool really looks like a top quality club except for one thing -- they don't put the ball in the net enough. Look at these telling statistics from their quality draw (that should have been a win) against Man City: Shots - 17 to 6, Shots on Target - 7 to 3 and 29 crosses to 10. With those numbers you expect a 3-1 game, no another 1-1 draw. This is not the first team the team has dominated only to secure one point: the same happened against Manchester United and Swansea. Liverpool, like Arsenal with Van Persie, needs to find someone besides Sanchez to score. On the flip side, Man City is starting to look like a squad that is vulnerable. The loss to Napoli was devastating for their European ambitions, they should have lost to Liverpool and QPR gave them a game a couple of weeks ago. Maybe it's wishful thinking on the cusp of our Carling Cup quarter Tuesday, but the European letdown could still be affecting the squad. 

Manchester United is in different territory and it's hard to gauge what this team is made of this year. They probably should have had yet another 1-0 victory, over Newcastle, but had to settle for a point. The squad is younger than it has been in years and there appears to be a drop in form from Ashley Young -- who started so brightly. But Chicharito just keeps finding the back of the net and any team with Rooney, Nani, Hernandez, Young, Cleverley and Welbeck will always put pressure on their opponents. The question is on the defensive side and it will be interesting to see if they can continue to concede so few goals in the League going forward (apparently David De Gea has more saves than any other goalkeeper in the League so far this year -- which is not a good statistic!)

Finally, I just want to touch on Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham. Chelsea is not out of the hot water as far as I'm concerned, as AVB appears to be contributing to Torres' lack of confidence by keeping him on the bench for two games running. Mata is in great form and Sturridge appears to grow in stature with each passing week, but there are serious questions with everyone else on the pitch, including seasoned veterans Terry and even Lampard. On top of this are serious questions about AVB potentially feeling the pressure and making some questionable decisions and the general age of the squad (as well as their surprising frailty in the back). I feel like Newcastle is going to come back to earth and probably finish outside the top four, though I suppose you never know. And Tottenham appears to be a solid side that could even challenge for the title (ugh, did I just write that). Arsenal are going to need to keep on winning, beat the other "Top 6" clubs and hope that a few of these squads drop in form, or the top four does seem like a serious challenge this season. Go Gunners!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Champions League

A crazy couple of days in the Champions League. Arsenal pulled off a nice 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund (more below), but the rest of the EPL did not fair nearly as well. In a huge upset, Napoli took down Man City 2-1 in Napoli yesterday, all but eliminating what some thought might be the new "best club in the world" (they will need to beat Bayern Munich and hope Napoli loses to a Villareal team that hasn't earned a single point in 5 matches; and been outscored 12-2). Man U (2-2 draw against Benefica) and Chelsea also suffered upsets, though Chelsea (2-1 losers to Leverkusen) will advance with a victory over Valencia at the Bridge. Man U. simply needs a draw at Basil to advance, though it should be remembers that Basil came back for a draw at Old Trafford and looked very dangerous at times. One assumes Chelsea and Man U. will wake up and advance, but I think Man City is all but dead here -- which might actually be bad news for Arsenal, who face them in the Carling Cup. 

Now to a quick rundown of the Arsenal win. A very nice performance by the Gunners, who played very strong defense for most of the match, until a late slip up at the end let in a last gasp goal. That last goal again showed Mertesackers frailty to me, though it was Song trying to dribble out of trouble rather than clearing his line that really caused the trouble to begin with. Rather than a full scorecard, I just want to highlight a few performances. Van Persie was extraordinary, as usual, though really good service played a huge role in both his goals with a truly special cross from Alex Song, after getting around three defenders, and his second goal coming on a great back header by Vermaelen (who has been dangerous on set pieces since his return). Santos is a really talented player on the ball and his passes were really good today, but I still worry that he thinks he is an attacking midfielder and sometimes leaves it to others to cover up his forward adventures when the ball is given away. Gervinho needs to refind his finishing touch as he has missed relatively open goals two matches in a row -- after getting around the goalie in both. He has a tendency toward predictability, dribbles into defenders (or goalees) and just takes too long to make up his mind. On the other hand, the guy I've been on most of the season, along with a host of other gooners, has really shut us up as far as I'm concerned. That is Theo Walcott who has shown in the past few weeks those "football skills" we thought he lacked, regularly getting by defenders, showing some nice skill on the ball, sending in dangerous crosses and almost scoring on a number of occasions. We were very strong defensively again, with a few minor slip ups and can now turn our attention back to the League and our march up to the top four (hopefully) in the coming weeks, as the other top teams all play each other. Go Gunners!

And happy thanksgiving to everyone! I'll be back Sunday or Monday ...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fox News Makes You Stupid

Yet another study has found that those who rely on Fox News as their primary source of news tend to be the least informed on what’s actually going on in the world: Slate. In fact, this study found that not paying attention to the news at all was superior to using Fox as your primary source. The study controlled for partisanship, education and other demographic factors, finding that Fox News watchers knew substantially less about contemporary issues like the Egyptian and Syrian revolts than those who watched the Daily Show, read a newspaper or watched Sunday talk shows.

Fox News responded by claiming the new study is not “fair and balanced” and will treat it like they do reports on global warming, anything negative said about Republican presidential candidates and any claim that President Obama isn’t to blame for the financial crisis, growing poverty or the war in Iraq.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Man Sues U.S. Gov't ... For Saving Economy

In further signs that the business world has completely evacuated its sense of both responsibility and sanity, a former AIG executive, Maurice Greenberg now in charge of a company called Starr International Co. is suing the federal government for $25 billion dollars, claiming the U.S. takeover of AIG was unconstitutional: Yahoo News. "The government's actions were ostensibly designed to protect the United States economy and rescue the country's financial system," the complaint said. "Although this might be a laudable goal, as a matter of basic law, the ends could not and did not justify the unlawful means employed."  Um, so we should have let the entire U.S., and by extension global, economy collapse, because ... wait, why?

The United States, it went on, "is not empowered to trample shareholder and property rights even in the midst of a financial emergency." Of course! So although it's nice that the government actually saved the economy on the cusp of its collapse, imminent domain clearly doesn't apply here. The needs of the few and the one clearly outweigh the needs of the many, right? Maybe Greenberg should watch Star Trek II or Casablanca or read some of John Stuart Mills' writings on utilitarianism. Or maybe he should just go jump in a lake ...

Supercommittee's Pocket Full of Kryptonite

So the supercommittee has put up the white flag and admitted defeat, on the eve of their deadline: Slate. What does this mean? It is still too early to know, but the reality is $1.2 Trillion in cuts need to be found in the next ten years, with compulsary ones starting in 2013. Now debate moves to Obama's jobs bill. Incredibly, the party that hates tax increases of any kind when it comes to the rich are less sanguine about the 2% payroll tax cut people are receiving at present and are hoping to rescind it. What? That's right, the party that refused to even discuss tax increases for our richest citizens or corporations are the same party arguing for a veritable tax increase for everyone who earns a paycheck in America (including the working and middle class). How is this possible, you ask. It appears the party that once helped free the slaves is now slaves themselves to corporations and the power elite. Even as the U.S. economy could be irreparably harmed, they continue to play submissive to anything and everything the dom corporate America and Wall Street want. As I have asked on so many occasions of late, can democracy work if one party is unwilling to compromise on anything? The answer is their 3-year running mantra. 

Galaxy Win! Galaxy Win!

LA residents say who?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chelsea 1 Liverpool 2

First, what a game! Chance after chance for both teams and a well-played game overall. At some level, a game of two halves, as Liverpool dominated the opening 45 and Chelsea looked constantly menacing in the second until Glen Johnson’s brilliant run and finish. Yet watching the game I became increasingly hopeful that Arsenal could be on the cusp of reaffirming their spot in the top four. And in a surprising turn of events, it could be at Chelsea’s expense. A lot of people will call me crazy, and it must be remembered that they had a terrible run of form around this time last season before rebounding, but this team really looks old and creaky even with the second half rebound that came up a little short.   

One could argue that if they don’t figure out the problems with their back line, they might be in for a prolonging of what’s becoming a tough stretch. A team that was among the best defensive squads in the premiership last year is just too prone to errors, a step or two slow and often quite average on set pieces. The reality is that John Terry has lost a step (and committed surprising errors under pressure), Ashley Young is getting older, David Luis seems like a lost child (Alex the much better choice in my opinion) and even Cech not the same goalkeeper he’s been for so long. Going forward, this is also not the team of the past few years who had a beautiful flow that could get the ball seamlessly from one end to the other for open crosses and shots. Yes, they were more menacing in the second, but based primarily on getting in good crosses on slow builds.

So what is the problem? Well, it appears to be the age of the team more than anything. Drogba and Malouda are both a step slower, Lampard is on a good run of form but certainly getting up there, the aforementioned age of the back line troubling and a host of other starters and supporters closer to the end of their career than the beginning -- all adding up to potential trouble. Mata is a great young player that might be the heart of a rebuilt squad, Meireles has played really well lately (and one wonders why he didn’t start), Sturridge shows real quality and a bright future and one assumes that Torres will again find the form that made him one of the best strikers in the world (even as the question “when” becomes more dire with each passing week), but after that I think there are as many questions as answers. Given the mercurial nature of Abramovich, one wonders if the wunderkind coach might be feeling real pressure of a looming sack, particularly as serious tactical and selection choices can be asked this week. Among them, why not start the two ex-Liverpool players that might shine against their old squads? Why wait so long to bring Torres in? For a guy that appears to have serious confidence problems, not starting him here can’t help. Villa-Boas might have been moved to a pressure cooker too soon – particularly with a number of older players that have already tasted success (and maybe the best living coach).

Obviously a great win, pulling them even with the Blues (and us). One issue for this team appears to be putting the ball in the back of the net if your name isn’t Suarez (remember it looked like a goalless draw against Arsenal until Frimpong was sent off). But the forgotten man, Maxi Rodriguez, slotted in the first goal, the rejuvenated Glen Johnson (after an injury) the second and the quality going forward for this team is unquestionable. Oddly Liverpool appears to play best against quality opponents and really drops in form against the lesser opponents of the Premiership (Swansea and Norwich to name two). I’ve also noticed them dropping in form in the second half of several games, letting other teams get back into it (even as they then sometimes grab the winner late). This is a dangerous team that probably should secure a sport in the top four, though you never know.

What is clearly the case is that the competition for the top four is more open this year than in a long time. The two Manchesters seem secure (even as Man Poo just doesn’t seem that great), but no one else has firmly ensconced themselves at the top. In fact, we are tied on points for fourth (only behind on goal differential with the 8-2 loss in the mix) and I sense Newcastle is about to come back to reality. It’s heartening to see the Gunners form in the past two months, but it is clear we have to keep on winning to find our way back to the Champions League next year. The really good news is Wilshire, Gibbs and Sagna should be back in January and that maybe the youngsters Oxlade and Ryo will have a chance to shine with the first squad soon (particularly in January when we lose several players to the African Cup). The other good news is the top squads are all playing each other in the coming weeks and our only remaining game in the first half against a top club is Man City.

Following up on my post from yesterday, I think one challenge for Arsene and Arsenal this winter will be convincing players to join with Van Persie’s future still in question. We have already been rebuffed by a number of players including Mata (though that appeared to be partially related to our unwillingness to pay a fair price), but many including long term targets Hazard and M’Villa are uncertain of whether they want to take a chance with a team that hasn’t won silverware in six long years or go the Spain or big spender route. Arsenal used to be the go-to place for young talent, but now the money and allure of instant success seems to be stronger. So are we in a Catch-22? I don’t think so, really. We might not bring in the top prospects in Europe (which would be a pity), but we have so many players on our radar, I hope we bring in a few of them. Ideally for me, it would be two Germans (Goetze and Podolski), a Belgian (Verhoeven – who, by the way, is very versatile and can play in the centre, right wing or as a defensive midfielder) and a Frenchman (M’Villa). I also wouldn’t find a few other names being bandied about including the “Russian Messi” or Pato (though that seems less likely than Podolski). The chance we might have with the top players is the guarantee of first team play, which is harder to come by at Real Madrid or other top clubs. On a related note, rumors of Song going to Barcelona seem absurdly exaggerated and one wonders what he is really holding out for. I am not convinced that Coquelin and/or Frimpong wouldn’t be better long term prospects and/or that M’Villa would add an element moving forward that Song doesn’t always deliver. Don’t get me wrong, he has played quite well for us this year; it’s just the number of passes he doesn’t complete going forward that bothers me (the assist yesterday was lovely). Go Gunners!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Five Straight!

Arsenal has won its fifth in a row in the Premiership, taking down Norwich City 2-1. The score really should have been at least 4 or 5-1 and the one goal allowed was pretty poor defending from Mertesacker, but we look increasingly dangerous going forward and have started to shore up our defense more and more each week. First to the scorecard and then some thoughts ...

Van Persie: is it really surprising to see Van Persie score a brace these days? He already has 13 this year and has just become the 3rd player in Premier history to score over 30 in a calendar year. 

Walcott: had a really active and impressive game. Maybe should have put one in the net, but had one taken off the line by the defender and another hit the post. He seems to have found a new level in the past few weeks (particularly against Chelsea and today) and is answering his critics, who include me, on the field.

Gervinho: really should have had a hat trick. He has got to get more clinical in his  finish and final third passing. He had a tap in after a nice turn past the goalie and then found the one spot that was not a goal (namely in the diving backwards goalee’s hands). I like him as a player, but sometimes seems too predictable.

Arteta & Ramsey: solid games for both, but magic from neither. They controlled the midfield for much of the game and Ramsey looked dangerous at times, though his passing in the final third was occasionally suspect.

Song: a really average game for him. I’m sure it will show a higher pass completion percentage than he deserves, given some pit-pat passes toward the end, and did come up with the assist on the second RVP goal, but far too many errant passes and one almost cost us a goal going the other way.

Santos: really strong on the ball and had a decent shot that swung wide, but has to be careful coming forward, as he too often appears to leave a hole in the back. Did have some nice interceptions though and a relatively strong game.

Vermaelen: strong as usual in the back. The heart of our defense.

Koscielny: moved to right back for a game and seemed to comport himself well. Good forward movement at times and generally held Norwich in check.

Mertesacker: I am becoming increasingly worried that he will not be a top defender in the Premiership. I heard that Arsene just said he won’t go for Cahill in the January, which is disappointing, but I’m hoping he does put in a bid for Belgian Jan Verhoeven. Mertesacker is just too slow coming back at times and his failure to clear gave Norwich an unlikely 1-0 lead. Needs to do better – and I do have to say I think Vermaelen Koscielny appears to be the best option at present (I guess with Djourou or Jenkinson on the right).

I think the team is really coming together at present and needs to keep the momentum going. But I still believe we need to be active in the winter transfer window if we are to keep the forward movement going in the second half; and have a better chance of extending RVP’s contract. Walcott appears to be really picking up his game, Gervinho just needs to work on that final pass and putting in good shots, Ramsey needs to be a little stronger on the ball in the box (he has a great shot) and we still have to eliminate the defensive mistakes.

Looking at that window, I think we should focus on adding a central defender and/or right back, a creative midfielder that is a scoring threat and a striker (who ideally could play on the wing as well). Let’s hope we go into January continuing this form and moving into the top four. Go Gunners!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Deep Spending Cuts Could Pose Threats to Economy

It appears that if the Supercommittee fails in coming to an agreement, it could have important (and potentially dire) ramifications for the stock market, U.S. credit rating and the economy in general: Yahoo News. Most of the GOP's response: who cares? I might be exaggerating, but it does appear that serious problems could emerge if some deal isn't reached by next week. In news that Americans seem to care a lot more about: Demi Moore is divorcing Ashton Kutcher: Yahoo News.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Corporate America in Repose

As the OWS protests are broken apart by mayors and the courts, the economy continues to mire in recession and crisis, the middle class feels increasingly squeezed with the holiday season looming, debt heaps and the world around us seems ready to implode, corporate America goes on undaunted by any nod to reality. A few stories just today highlight the depths of their tone deafness to anything except the bottom line:

1. America has always prided itself on Freedom of Speech, even as we have plenty of examples of its limitations. The Internet has largely remained unscathed by attempts to censor it ... until now! Congress is currently considering a bill that would allow the government to force Internet providers to block sites "on suspicion" of copyright infringement. Not for inciting violence, not for providing information on doctor's who work at abortion center's personal addresses, not for providing completely false or incendiary information -- no, just copyright infringement, which, of course, can hurt business (and gov't). The law, if enacted, could not only block access to Wikileaks, but much of Web 2.0, including You Tube and many progressive sites: Why is Justin Bieber So Pissed Off?. Essentially, it allows corporations to serve as judge, jury and executioner of the Web for not only the U.S. but much of the world (also see the Center for Democracy & Technology: CDT).

2. Two bills before Congress right now appear aimed at undermining much of the regulation already on the books: Citizenvox. The first, the REINS Act, would require Congressional approval of all rules within 70 days. Yet the obvious question is whether Congress can do anything in 70 days and why we need a silly bill like this in the first place. The second, the Regulatory Reform Act, while sold as a positive attempt to reform the rulemaking process, would in fact make regulation of any kind even harder to enact. The argument is, of course, that Corporate America is saddled by unnecessary regulations (like limiting pollution, not imperiling employees or citizens, that products actually contain what they say they contain, that they provide ample warnings, that they not openly lie or mislead the public, etc.) that undermines their profitability and willingness or ability to hire new workers. The problem is profit are up; it's just that they aren't hiring. And the other problem is that there is little evidence that regulation undermines profitability to begin with (particularly given the sustained economic growth that followed the "regulation-happy" New Deal).

3. Worried that the price of providing food to our children in public schools will increase, Republicans are reduxing one of Reagan's infamous food redefinition initiatives. In the previous case, Reagan famously called ketchup a vegetable. Now Republicans want to call Pizza a vegetable. Pizza? Are you serious? Well, who cares that are kids are suffering from a major obesity problem? We need to keep prices down and make sure companies can continue to supply junk food to our kids. 

When insanity is the norm; jesters become kings.

A Foolish Consistency

One of the many oddities in contemporary American politics is the notion that consistency is among the highest attributes a politician can abide. Actually changing with the times or figuring out that you were wrong just smacks of lack of character and resolve, even if the times have changed and, well, you were wrong. Mitt Romney is suffering under the very weight relative to some of his more "liberal" policies as governor of Massachusetts. And charges of flip-flopping have marred many a campaign for higher office; arguably costing John Kerry the 2004 election (along with the Swiftboat Veterans for "something that might have marginally connected at some tangential level to an ort that was sitting in relatively close proximity to an uncle who once knew the" Truth). Consistency in politics, as foolish as it may be, has apparently never heard the oft-misquoted Emerson bon mot. So as some Republicans actually contemplate the unthinkable, many others have come forward to right the ship and remind them that changing your mind is almost as bad as reaching your hand under a bathroom stall. 

The not-so-foolish consistency being debated in recent days is the three-decade long Republican stance on taxes. With the deadline looming for the substantially- slower-than-a-speeding-bullet "supercommittee" to come to a deal that cuts $1.2 trillion from the government debt, some GOP members are, gasp, actually calling for tax increases: Washington Post. The response, as one could guess, has been apoplectic. Representative Patrick McHenry from North Caroline, for example, made the following bold claim:

 “We’ve not had a conversation like this within the party in two decades." He then went on to argue that any tax increase is "irresponsible and dangerous to the health of the United States.”  

Vice President of Americans for Properity added, "“The most important part of the Republican brand is that they won’t raise taxes. Some say this is a unique situation. Well, people won’t get the nuances. They’ll just see both parties are willing to raise taxes.”

This is the position that has been relentlessly been driven home by Reagan, his many acolytes and Grover Norquist for so long that it has become orthodoxy for any serious Republican candidate. All taxes are bad and even restoring previous taxes that were supposedly cut short-term is anathema (except, of course, for taxes for the poor and working class (see previous post)). Now that it is becoming increasingly obvious that tax hikes are the only reasonable way to cut the deficit, some rational minds are actually calling for the unthinkable. Yet the party has apparently ignored the issue for two decades (since the original flip-flopper forgot to read his own lips)? One question to ask is if this is really something to be proud of? Has so little changed in two decades that the issue is beyond the fold of discussion and debate? And do we really want a party that talks about their "brand" while more and more Americans suffer every day? At the broader level is the relevant but so infrequently asked question of whether tax increases at the very top of the income and corporate ladder are really a "threat to the health of the U.S." Actually, there is little evidence to support the claim, so the GOP ignores proof and just repeats their mantra over and over again to help establish it as common sense (at least among their constituents and corporate stewards) It's sort of like saying Sadaam Hussein and 911 in consecutive sentences so often that the ADD American public only half listening starts to think it is one sentence with some meaningless words between the two. 

In any case, one wonders if the GOP has it within themselves to actually support a tax increase. In this case, the proposal is actually for a slight decrease in rates but also an elimination of some loopholes and deductions -- thus increasing the amount the government actually collects. If they do, maybe we can lay to bed one of the most absurd arguments in recent memory. Not the ridiculous one about all taxes being bad but the almost equally ridiculous one about holding steadfast to an idea whose time has passed. I, for one, would much rather have a representative that is willing to actually pay attention to what's going on around them, admit when they are wrong and, gasp, change their mind. I know this makes me a weak-minded, liberal, anti-American, flip-flopper, socialist, class-warfare bastard -- but hey, maybe that's a compliment these days ...

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Best and the Brightest?

A fascinating, and rather unflattering story about Mitt Romney was published by the New York Times on Saturday (which many of my conspiracy theory friends from New York used to argue was the day when the most important stories often came out, because that is the day the paper is read by the fewest people): Link. The article details Romney's career prior to entering the fray of politics, working at his company Bain Capital, which appeared to be a bane to the existence of any company it came in contact with. The company left a trail of job losses, wage and benefits cuts, employee (and even ex-employee) harassment, growing debt and, of course, a windfall profit for he and his partners in its wake. Just like Bloomberg in New York, Corzine in New Jersey and a host of other business leaders from around the country (anyone remember that cat Rasputin, I mean, Cheney), we have allowed those who succeed in business to move relatively seamlessly into the world of politics (and obviously viceversa) -- arguably at our own peril. 

In fact, many argued before Bush look office that he would be the first "CEO President," given his MBA degree. I would argue he was, but that the nod to efficiency, bottom line and instrumental rationality had rather unfortunate results. The reality that Romney could be the next President is quite troubling, given his history of having little regard for those who became the fodder for his wealth and prosperity. Its not really an indictment of him, to me, as much as a recognition that the sociopathological nature of business today is not a good stepping stone mentality to serve the citizens of any democracy. In a world where people are treated as objects, the objectives of democracy and freedom are lost ...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Adieu, Adieu to You and You and Who?

The Republican debate yesterday appeared to be yet another display of how pathetic the party has become and how far to the right they have moved. Top of the list for, as he himself claimed, "putting his foot in it," was Rick Perry, who couldn't remember the third agency he planned to end when he became president. Here is the actual quote:

“It is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone,” he said, beginning to lay out one of the staples of his stump speech. “Commerce, Education, and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see,” Perry said.“Commerce and, let’s see,” he continued. “I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.” (Washington Post).

After the debate, he acknowledged his blunder but added, “Yeah, it was embarrassing. Of course it was. But here’s what’s more important: People understand that our principles, our conservative principles, are what matter, not a litany of agencies that I think we need to get rid of.” Actually, doesn't it matter just a little? Getting rid of the commerce committee, of course, is an attempt to eliminate a huge power the federal government has over state policy and interstate trade. The education department stands as a key agency in the attempt of America to stay competitive in the global economy -- which apparently isn't that important to "core conservative principles." And the third is so unimportant Perry can't seem to remember it -- maybe it's homeland security of the EPA? The error might very well be the final nail in the coffin of a campaign that seemed ambitious from the start. 

Another leading candidate suffering through a turn of fortunes soon after rising to the top of the polls is, of course, Herman Cain. More and more allegations seem to emerge every day that he harassed another women. But Cain has the perfect rhetorical strategy to allay our concerns, "For every one person that comes forward with a false accusation, there are probably thousands who will say that none of that sort of activity ever came from Herman Cain" (Talking Point Memo). This sort of tautology would be laughable if it wasn't so endemic to conservative discourse today. The argument is essentially the same as a murderer saying, for every person I killed there are millions of others I haven't (okay, not exactly, but pretty damn close). Would we reward a fallen priest for the boys he didn't bugger or a husband for only abusing one of his seven wives? It is certainly plausible that Cain is innocent of the charges, but arguments like these do little to alleviate our concerns. Onward and downward for the GOP!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mario Batali Speaks Out!

A rather extraordinary comment from famed celebrity chef Mario Batali at a Time Person of the year event:

"But I would have to say that who has had the largest effect on the whole planet without us really paying attention across the board and everywhere is the entire banking industry and their disregard for the people that they’re supposed to be working for… the ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys…They’re not heroes, but they are people that had a really huge effect on the way the world is operating." 

Bankers responded indignantly to the comments, claiming they will now boycott his upscale restaurants. Interestingly, it is yet another example of Godwin's Law, that online conversations that go on for too long are bound to reference Hitler or Nazis at some point. It's too bad that he diluted a very powerful argument with those references, but it is exciting to see the public at large, and some celebrities, start to take on the institution that wields more power behind closed doors (with little to no accountability) than any other. Lest we forget that all attempts to reign in their behavior in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis have failed. Speaking back to power and waking the public up to the truth could be the first step to actually changing things.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The American Dream?

Or is it the American nightmare? Actually, that's a bit harsh, but a new study by Katharine Bradbury of the Boston Fed provides strong evidence that income mobility has decreased over the past four decades, particularly since the 90s (Mother Jones). In fact, one could argue that it is now truer than ever that the rich are staying rich and the poor poor. This chart provides strong evidence of the trend: