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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Democrats like Scrooge? A Twisted GOP Christmas Carolization!

What are Republicans thinking when they watch Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? Thanks to Sen. Frank Lasee's holiday email, we now kind of know, although technically none of it makes any sense.

Never one to let a gift like this go unnoticed during the holidays, let’s unwrap this down-the-rabbit-hole present shall we.

Government is like greedy old Ebenezer Scrooge? Yes, according to Lasee (or whoever he plagiarized in his email update), government could learn a few lessons, just like Scrooge? It's a fascinating insight if anything, and head scratcher: 


The Great (Jim Doyle) Recession, was caused by tax increases and burdensome regulations? Please, my head is hurting. Forget those irresponsible Wall Street banks, Republican free market deregulation, and the resulting global economic collapse, it was all because of tightwad Scrooge Doyle's tax and spend policies, you know, like Fezziwig at Christmas (I just love the last highlighted line for being totally incoherent):
Wisconsin was in bad shape in 2009. With rising unemployment and a staggering decline in state revenues, experts advised us to brace for the worst. Wisconsin lost nearly 120,000 jobs that year and the state unemployment rate hit a 27-year high of 9.4%. Business morale was down and families were feeling the pinch. Democratic out of control spending by the Democrats and dubious budget accounting practices by the Doyle administration left Wisconsin with a $3.6 billion shortfall heading into 2011-2013 biennium, after a 5 billion dollar tax increase. These crippling tax increases and burdensome regulations hindered new investments and like Ebenezer Scrooge’s office, left Wisconsinites in the cold.
Huh...? Frank Lasee, not surprisingly, didn't bother to include Jacob Marley's foreshadowing message to Scrooge. Here's a reminder...:
(Marley) “My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house -- mark me! -- in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole.

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.  "Mankind was my business.  The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.  The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

The apparition walked backward from him; and at every step it took, the window raised itself a little, so that when the spectre reached it, it was wide open.  It beckoned Scrooge to approach, which he did.  Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity.  He looked out.

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and

moaning as they went.  Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free.  Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives.  He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step.  The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Big Oil not so powerful as gas prices fall, Consumers finally get a break.

I haven't seen the kind of analysis I thought I'd see regarding plummeting gas prices at the pump. I like it a lot, and consumers now have a little extra money to spend elsewhere. But we should also be doing whatever we can to decrease our use of oil once and for all.

The questions...so many questions, and the uneasy feeling that Big Oil has been playing us for complete idiots. Perhaps they didn't think the Middle East would try a stunt like this.
Vladimir Putin faces a catastrophic shortfall of at least $80bn (£51bn) in oil export revenue over the next year, after Opec kingpin Saudi Arabia signalled there will be no easing in the price war it has launched to recapture market share. Russia’s finance minister warned before Opec gathered on November 27 that the country faced an economic crisis from the loss of revenue incurred from falling oil prices.
But oil revenues are a big part of our economy now, and will become even bigger if we make it easier to export oil via the Gulf Coast, the whole reason behind building the Keystone XL Pipeline. This is an oil boom, not a switch over to green energy unfortunately. Not only will big oil lose money due to plummeting prices, but thousands of jobs will disappear as well, punching a hole in local state economies.

We're now getting used to plentiful gas supplies and low prices, as we supposedly become more energy independent. Sounds a like Russia's problem, a place we don't want to be. The energy shakedown is happening right now. For instance:
British Petroleum announced Wednesday it will cut thousands of jobs worldwide, in addition to a previously announced $2 billion cut in its operating budget and a fire sale of $43 billion worth of assets (most of them in the US fracking patch). BP disclosed that over the next 18 months it will spend a billion dollars on “restructuring.”   

Goodrich Petroleum announced Wednesday it is exploring the sale of “some or all” of its shale-oil assets in the Eagle Ford play in Texas, the second-largest contributor to the country’s shale oil “boom.” Goodrich also said it will make a drastic cut in 2015 capital expenditures.
 According to Bloomberg News, the industry now expects 400 of the 1848 US onshore oil rigs now operating to be idled by next year. Another 200 new rigs, under construction for delivery next year, are now expected to have nothing to do. North Dakota state officials said Friday that oil production in October declined by about 4,000 barrels per day. Oasis Petroleum, one of the large operators in North Dakota, announced Wednesday that it would drop from 16 drilling rigs to six rigs. On Friday, stock prices for the 10 largest publicly traded oil companies with North Dakota operations were down by an average of 51 percent over three months.

Rigs targeting oil in the U.S. will drop below 1,100 for the first time in three years as drillers pull out of fields made unprofitable by a 43 percent plunge in crude prices. According to the energy data and analytics company Genscape, the oil count is set to drop by almost 600 rigs over the next eight months, bottoming out at 1,073 in August.
And what of Wall Street? Possible problems are rising up:
Also vulnerable are highly leveraged North American oil and gas producers. Energy companies issued junk debt with abandon in recent years. Strained financial conditions may force weak energy producers and service companies to divest properties or sell themselves, yet buyers are likely to be scarce until energy prices stabilize. Since June, they have pulled $22 billion from junk-bond funds as they begin to realize they were further out on the risk curve than they wanted. 

If a full-blown global financial crisis unfolds, along with an accompanying worldwide recession, investment strategy will no doubt shift from the current “risk on” stance to “risk off.” In that scenario, you would expect to see a rush into the safety of Treasury bonds and the U.S. dollar and a stampede out of commodities and stocks globally.

Walker projected deficits getting more national criticism than from his base of supposed "fiscal conservatives" in Wisconsin.

Because the holidays for me have been a bit on the frantic side, I will news dump this Bloomberg story about Scott Walker's inability to manage state revenues. The criticism is self contained, so add this to the list of negative national coverage Walker has managed to accumulate over the past few months. The only ones not yet taking notice...Republican constituents, who are giving new meaning to the term "low information voter:"
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has his eye on the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and as he tries to boost his national poll numbers, there are numbers at home that also bear watching -- his state’s finances.

Tax cuts and Medicaid spending are contributing to a projected budget deficit that may reach $2.2 billion in the two-year period starting in July 2015, according to his administration’s analysts …  Walker aides call the projections premature … Last week, he called for more property-tax cuts.

Tax collections for this fiscal year through November were 2.1 percent below the same period last year, according to state figures. The Department of Administration had forecast that collections for the year through June 2015 would be up 5 percent. Investors in the $3.6 trillion municipal-bond market have yet to penalize the state.

One of Walker’s primary campaign themes, that he eliminated a $3.6 billion deficit inherited in 2011 from his predecessor, Democratic Governor Jim Doyle, now has the potential to work against him. Estimates of the next budget shortfall range from about $800 million from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, to the $2.2 billion forecast from Walker’s own analysts.

“We’re in a big pickle right now,” said Democratic state Representative Peter Barca … “at a time of relative prosperity.”

The fiscal volatility is familiar to Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, “Wisconsin is politically incapable, with a fulltime, professional and highly partisan legislature, to do anything that looks at finances over the long-term,” Berry said. Medicaid spending is adding to budget pressures. The health-care program for the poor, covering about one in five Wisconsin residents, represents about $760 million in proposed new spending in the 2016-2017 spending plan, Berry said.

Total expenditures this fiscal year are expected to exceed revenue by about $650 million, according to Walker’s budget analysts. “The problem is they’ve cut revenue permanently, with tax cuts, but not cut spending permanently,” Berry said. 

State to be renamed Wisgop!

Look, I've never claimed to know everything about politics, but I feel like I should have known this; inauguration donations are no longer going to charities like they did under the Democrats, they're going instead to prop up our one political authority, Republicans, whether we like it or not.

And Republican voters will think nothing of it:
WaPo-Wonkette: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got re-elected somehow — mandate of heaven, we guess — and he’s putting together plans for a big inaugural hootenanny. Now, in years past, inaugural events in Wisconsin used to also double as fundraisers for charities, like Boys and Girls Clubs or other worthy causes. But that was merely a tradition, and an apparently outmoded one, so with his 2011 inauguration, Walker turned the admission fees for inaugural events into a Scott Walker/Republican Party of Wisconsin fundraiser, which raised quite a bit of campaign cash and not a few eyebrows. So it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that for 2015, he’s doing the same thing, raising money for a great Wisconsin charity: Scott Walker. Tell us more, Saul Newton of One Wisconsin Now:
For $20, the public can go ice-skating with the Scott Walker. [sic] For $50, the public is allowed to listen to music with Scott Walker. For anyone who wants to pray with Scott Walker, the cost is $25. The money raised from these events goes to Walker’s campaign and the Republican Party of Wisconsin. The Boys and Girls Club recently received their consolation prize: a photo opportunity with the Governor himself.
Again, I didn't know this, but it fits into the rightwing authoritarian movement. Everything is centralized and funneled into maintaining the GOP's grip on power.
One Wisconsin Now's Scott Ross: "The Republican Party of Wisconsin isn't being inaugurated and the idea Wisconsinites have to donate to a political party to participate in activities like this is another disgraceful example of a governor whose only concern is partisan political politics." Ross said it was "reprehensible" that Walker recently had a "photo op" with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County when the group won't receive any inaugural celebration proceeds.
Walker's decision exposes our "pay-to-play" corporate Wisconsin marketplace, not that it seems to matter anymore to conservative voters. This is the natural way of things:
Walker's decision to give funds to the state GOP comes after a court ruling in September that lifted limits on contributions from political action committees and blocked the portion of the law that puts limits on the amount a candidate can receive from political parties and legislative campaign committees.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Educated Workforce? Forget it, GOP austerity forces UW Superior to sheds programs and four positions.

I’d like to make a prediction; Republicans will make another cut to the UW system over some drummed up “problem,” just like they've done in every other budget.

And this will only make things worse. With the continuation of the tuition freeze, without any promise of additional state aid and possible cuts, the UW-Superior is the first domino positioned to fall.
UW-Superior it’s suspending five academic programs: Educational Specialist Degree; Applied Discrete Mathematics concentration; French minor; French education minor; German education minor … will save the university $260,000 by eliminating four positions.

The university is receiving roughly $2 million from UW System to offset cuts in state funding, tuition freezes and low enrollment. Williams said the university needs to save $2 million by June 2016. 26 out of their 94 undergraduate major and minor programs will remain under review, including programs for music, theatre and computer science … they don’t know what further cuts may be made, or when that might happen.
Former Sen. Dale Schultz described what was really going on this way on WPR's morning show:

Santa came early this year....


Let's hope we can have an even happier New Year...

Fox News viewers being duped, as the network seeks to raise customer Dish prices: It appears Fox News is increasing fees so much so, that Dish will have to charge more for their service. Viewers lose.  
"It's like we're about to close on a house and the realtor is trying to make us buy a new car as well," Warren Schlichting, Dish's senior vice president of programming, said in a statement. "Fox blacked out two of its news channels, using them as leverage to triple rates on sports and entertainment channels that are not in this contract." Dish said it offered a short-term contract extension to keep the channels in its lineup, but Fox countered that Dish disconnected the channels "in an attempt to intimidate and sway our negotiations."
Suckers…Fox News has a much different take, one I'm sure their viewers will believe instantly, hook, line, and sinker:
"It is unfortunate that the millions of Fox News viewers on Dish were used as pawns by their provider," Tim Carry, executive vice president of distribution at Fox News Channel, said in a statement. "Hopefully they will vote with their hard earned money and seek another one of our other valued distributors immediately."

Who knows how to spin a yarn better than those at the upside down propaganda network, Fox News. Of course they would love to send you to the cable networks, who are paying the triple rates.