Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spain's general strike shows first signs of rebellion against austerity

Spain's general strike shows first signs of rebellion against austerity
Austerity measures look set to become far more dramatic on Friday, when prime minister Mariano Rajoy delivers one of harshest budgets ever seen in Europe
Giles Tremlett, in The Guardian, March 29, 2012

With near-empty railway stations, shut factories, mass marches and occasional outbreaks of violence during a general strike on Thursday, Spaniards showed the first signs of rebellion against the reformist, austerity-preaching conservative government they voted in four months ago.

Police and pickets clashed in a handful of places, but it was a largely peaceful general strike in a country whose sinking economy, with 23% unemployment, has become the focus of worry about the future of the whole eurozone area.

Thousands of police officers remained on duty around the country on Thursday night as tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators flooded into city centres for protest marches against labour reform and austerity measures introduced by prime minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative People's party [PP].

Demonstrators brought the centres of Madrid, Barcelona and other cities to a standstill as trade unions claimed the strike was more widely supported than previous nationwide stoppages in 2010 and 2002. Rajoy's officials claimed, however, that the 2010 strike against a socialist government had received greater support.

Electricity consumption fell by 17%, suggesting the strike was impacting on major industries – though most shops appeared to be open in Madrid.

Street fires were set in both Madrid and Barcelona, where roads into the city were blocked, but there were few reports of serious violence.

The strike was most successful where Spain's big two unions, the General Workers Union and the Workers Commissions, are strongest – in large factories, the civil service and transport.

General Workers leader Cándido Méndez put average participation at midday at 77% but said that it was 97%in industry and construction.

"This strike has been an unquestionable success," he said.

Civilized protest looked unlikely to alter the determination of the government to drive on with reforms and austerity.

Rajoy has pledged not to backtrack on reform that has made it easier for employers to sack workers. And the austerity measures which strikers also demonstrated against looked set to become far more dramatic on Friday, when Rajoy is set to deliver one of the harshest budgets ever seen in Europe.

The general strike came on Rajoy's 100th day in power and at the end of a week that marks a watershed in political support for his party.

At the weekend he had seen support slip away in Spain's largest region, southern Andalucia, where the PP's share of the vote fell in a regional election from 46% to 41%.

The party also did badly in the northern region of Asturias, where it finished in third place in a Sunday vote.

Regional governments, which provide most welfare services and jointly failed to reduce their deficits at all last year, are seen as one of Spain's main problems.

The strike came amid growing concern about Spain in Brussels and the financial markets, which have put pressure on bond yields in recent weeks – though the Spanish government has had no trouble borrowing money to finance itself.

Yields remain below the levels at which bailed-out eurozone countries like Greece, Ireland and neighbouring Portugal were forced to seek help. Spain's national debt remains lower than in most eurozone countries.

Portugal's central bank cut its economic outlook on Thursday, warning the economy would be flat next year, where it had previously forecast a mild rebound of 0.3%. This year it expects a contraction of 3.4%.

With an economy that is twice the size of Greece, Portugal and Ireland put together, however, problems in Spain would have far-reaching consequences.

Rajoy held the budget back until Friday in order to avoid alienating voters in Andalucia, a strategy that has annoyed some commentators who believe he has wasted valuable time.

The European Union has set Spain a target of cutting its deficit from 8.5% of GDP to 5.3% this year, a net cut of some €34bn (£28.3bn).

As Spain falls back into a double-dip recession, however, economists say austerity measures will sharpen the fall. The government already predicts a 1.7% fall in GDP this year, with unemployment rising to 24%.

And with Spain entering a spiral of falling tax income, higher unemployment and recession, the real size of the cuts or tax hikes needed to meet the deficit target are much higher.

Economists have put the total adjustment needed to meet this year's target at between €52bn and €64bn – or well over €1,000 per Spaniard. The government has already covered €15bn of that with emergency measures announced in December.

Government sources said they were aware that Spain's credibility with the markets was on the line if it failed to meet the target, though some economists consider this impossible.

But Juan José Toribio, of Spain's IESE business school, said the country could no longer afford the welfare state built up during boom years and fuelled by a giant housing bubble that has since burst.

"We cannot sustain the current model of the welfare state," he said. "I am not saying we cannot have welfare, but we must seek a less expensive model."

Kathleen Brooks, research director at, warned that the sight of protesters on the streets of several Spanish cities will prompts fears that the government might relax its fiscal plans, making sovereign debt a less attractive purchase.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's a GOP Race of Two and a Half Candidates

It's a GOP Race of Two and a Half Candidates

Shouldn't it be obvious by now? This is a race of two and a half candidates. Much as former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum would like it to be a two-candidate competition for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, it is not. And while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich believes that it is a three person race, it is not that either.

Scroll down - Santorum threat to Romney ahead with Etch-a-Sketch gaffe & Romney flip-lops -See flip-flop video links

Gingrich --besides the Alabama and Mississippi races, has been stuck in the seven to 15 percentage zone. His returns in all the other recent primaries bear that out:
14.4 percent in Kansas
10.9 percent in Hawaii
8.0 percent in Illinois
(Remember that Gingrich did not even have the organization for getting into the Missouri contest; and Puerto Rico saw Gingrich getting an even weaker return, two percent.)

The former Confederate states provide the exception to the rule of Gingrich mired below 15 percent in the primaries or caucuses. The Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi contests were in the to 23.9 to 31.2 percent range. So, with Gingrich's 15.9 percent share of the vote in yesterday's Louisiana primary, this was a precipitous defeat.
Crushing defeat for Romney
Furthermore, the Louisiana results were terrific for Santorum and terrible for Romney. Santorum took the entire state, save for one county, Orleans County, the one with the state's largest city, New Orleans. With Santorum's win of 49.0 percent of the vote, the Louisiana win was his third greatest victory yet since the Missouri contests with 55.2 percent of the vote. and Kansas with 51.2 percent. Romney was over 20 percentage points behind Santorum in Louisiana with 27.0 percent.
With either reference click on the state contests on the 2012 table for the links to the addresses for the 2012 primary returns.

One cannot help but think that longtime Romney campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom's Wednesday March 21 gaffe that Romney will switch his positions in the general election campaign with President Obama like Etch-a--Sketch will play poorly with authentic conservative voters.
The quote:
“Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”
4/3, a Tuesday: Wisconsin primary
4/24, a Tuesday: Pennsylvania, aside from the northeastern (Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island) primaries losses to Romney
(And Romney's victories in New York, Connecticut and Delaware will not be that total. For upstate New York is much like the conservative regions of Pennsylvania and unlike any area in New England. See maps of these results from 2002 or 2004; and Connecticut is the state in which Republicans ion 2010 chose flaky World Wrestling Entertainment entrepreneur Linda McMahon for their Senatorial nominee, and Delaware is the state that gave us even flakier not ready for prime time Christine O'Donnell as its 2010 Senatorial nominee. So there will be big percentages for Santorum in those states. With the proportional distribution of delegates in these states the Romney victories will not mean a thorough sweep of the delegates, for Santorum will take his fair share with the proportionality rules.
This statement, combined with Romney's record of flip-flops in transitioning from Massachusetts to the national stage, will further caste doubt on his real plans for governing. See this set of videos of Romney's public statements on issues ranging from abortion to Contract for America, gay marriage and gun control. Youtube video of Romney speaking in support of Massachusetts' gun control laws. Youtube compilation of Romney flip-flops, "Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush." "That's what we did in Massachusetts. That is, we put together an [health care insurance] exchange. The president's copying that idea. I'm glad to hear that." On global warming: "I believe that the world is getting warmer. I believe that humans are contribute to that.")
5/8, a Tuesday: Indiana, West Virginia primaries
5/15, a Tuesday: Nebraska primary

*Multiple choice exam on Mitt Romney positions on social and economic issues:
5/22, a Tuesday: Arkansas, Kentucky primaries

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Table of liberal cartoonists and their newspapers

Please scroll down. Tricky html pushed the thing down.

Washington Post: Tom Toles
Los Angeles Times: Jeff Danziger, David Horsey (hired away from Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Philadlphia Inquirer:Tony Auth
Philadelphia Daily News: Signe Wilkinson, one of few women cartoonists
Atlanta Journal Constitution:Mike Lukovich
*Austin: Ben Sargent
Boston Globe: Dan Wasserman
(Dallas Morning News: no seeming staff cartoonist)
Miami Herald: Jim Morin
Chattanooga Times-Free Press:Clay Bennett
Cleveland Plain-Dealer:Jeff Darcy
Denver Post:Mike Keefe
*Hartford Courant:Bob Englehart
Houston Chronicle:Nick Anderson (centrist)
Kansas City Star:Lee Judge
*Lexington Herald-Leader:Joel Pett
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:Rob Rogers
(San Jose Mercury News:no seeming staff cartoonist)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:R.J. Matson
Seattle Times:Eric Devericks (centrist)
(Chicago cartoonists are pro-Republican; except Sun-Times, which runs Margulies cartoons)
*Not in top 50 circulation papers
Syndicated: Jimmy Margulies, Tom Tomorrow

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How Smart Is It to Have a SmartPhone? --Theft of Photos and iPhone User Account Info Rampant

Much news on smartphones is cause for serious concern.
Sharing and inter-connectivity have their risks. I have long had this concern, and I early noticed that security problems, including vulnerability to viruses, malware are abundant in Microsoft Office products, especially Microsoft Outlook.

On the iPhone your photos can be remotely captured by another user. This is of concern for people concerned for their privacy and their families' security. It also is of concern for people that want to have proprietary control over their photographs, lest they want to sell such photos.
From at Suzanne Choney at MSNBC, undated: "iPhone photos can be seen by others: report"

And Android has other problems with apps and security:
From Kevin Fogarty at IT World, March 2, 2012, "Google threatens to ban insecure apps on Android: News: Google to ban all Android apps: Google threatens apps that exploit excessive access rights; not security system that allowed them"

Missouri Caucus Confusion, Arrests; Broader Implications

March 17, 2012 turned out to be a day of complexity for the Republican presidential contest in Missouri. 5:00 Eastern time and we do not have clear results.
However, we do have impressionistic reactions. Of course, the impression is that Rick Santorum did well. Interesting are the reports from the ABC-TV News blog that this was one of Ron Paul's best days. Also, news supports contentions that there is some level of coordination or at least strategic peace between the Mitt Romney and Ron Paul campaigns.
See ABC's "Missouri Caucus Anecdotes: Arguments, Arrests, and a Good Day for Ron Paul", March 17, 2012.

Actually, this story will not resolve this weekend, for the last results do not get released until March 24, 2012. Many locales, including St. Louis, will not hold their caucuses until the 24th.
From UPI:
So the winner of Missouri's 52 electoral votes for the GOP presidential nomination will not be known until a round of meetings in April, weeks after most of the county-level caucuses are conducted.

And reports on the political infighting and arrests: These are not a good development, for if these things were happening on the Democratic, or a third, progressive side, the Left would be crying, state control:
From Des Moines Register: Contention, confusion mar Missouri caucuses,|newswell|text|Iowa%20Politics%20Insider|s
From STLive:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Celeb gone psycho: Russell Brand in snatch and toss of photog's phone, in police custody

New Orleans, March 15, 2012, from TMZ:
British TV and film Actor Russell Brand, the one with the sinister or at least moody glare, the one that recently separated from famed pop singer wife Katy Perry, the one famous for his roles in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the 2011 remake of Arthur, is alleged to have snatched a photographer's cellphone and is further alleged to have tossed it out a window.
The celebrity gossip site, TMZ, gave the news flash in the last hour: "Arrested for Cell Phone Snatch and Smash".
Apparently, there is little dispute over the facts at hand. Also, it has taken a while for the matter to reach the stage of the New Orleans police's arresting Brand. The incident happened on Monday night. However, the retrieval of the phone and Brand's offer to pay for the broken law office window in question was not enough. Police and prosecutors nonetheless have moved against Brand.
The New Orleans Police Department issued an arrest warrant for Brand; and he turned himself in. reports that Brand is in the Big Easy for making a movie.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Super Tuesday Analysis: Santorum's Victory

Conservatives love to make hay of the liberal bent of MSNBC.
Romney's victories
NBC News is a different story: David Gregory of Meet the Press is in steady pro-Mitt Romney mode, speaking with a cheery tone about Romney's victories:
and Virginia (which doesn't count as a competitive model, as only Romney and Paul appeared on the ballot).
(BREAKING: By 11:15 PM, television network news announced that the Ohio margin had reversed, from Santorum with a narrow lead, to Romney with a narrow lead. The margin remains less than 5,000 votes.)
The Wyoming caucus results are at first indications leaning towards Romney.
Santorum's greater number of victories: Super Tuesday true big story
Rick Santorum has won Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Since about 9:00 PM Eastern, all the returns have Santorum leading over Romney.
NBC just reported that the North Dakota caucus went to Santorum.
Ginrich's sole victory
New Gingrich has won his home state, Georgia, probably what will be his last victory of the campaign.
(The Idaho caucuses seem too early to call, but are strongly leading to Romney at 10:50 PM.)
Santorum in the coming contests
This Saturday, March 10, the Kansas caucuses will probably go to Santorum. All of Kansas' surrounding contests, to date have gone to Santorum: Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado and Iowa.
And the same holds for next Tuesday's main contests will go to Santorum: Alabama and Mississippi. (Hawaii will probably go to Romney.)

Little Romney pick-up soon
And it will be until March 20 and the Illinois primary that Romney will have a victory.
Another big night for Romney will probably be April 24, with friendly primary contests in Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Rhode Island.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mere Cracks in Democrat Leadership or Will Emanuel, Obama Attacks Lead Teachers, Other Public Workers to Sit Out 2012 Presidential Race?

On the one hand, we have this story that hints to cracks in Democratic leadership, suggesting that some Democratic Party leaders, or elites, are disgusted with Rahm Emanuel's fight against Chicago schools and teachers. (Chicago Mayor Emanuel is continuing predecessor Richard Daley's school closing program.) Rev. Jesse Jackson has called Rahm Emanuel's school policies, "educational apartheid." Mike Klonsky's SmallTalk Blog reports that Nance Pelosi will appear this morning at Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition headquarters, where she is expected to endorse son Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s reelection bid to Congress to the 2nd Congressional District of Illinois.

But don't hold your breath for open breaches in the Democratic Party elite. The wind is blowing in the direction of more of the same public sector austerity. Take note:
In New York there is Governor Mario Cuomo who is on a holy war crusade against organized labor, government employees and their pensions: from Bloomberg Business Week, January 27, 2011: "Cuomo’s New York Budget Faces Union Fight on Pensions, Teachers".
Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a $132.5 billion budget that links an increase in education spending to a new teacher-evaluation system and raises the retirement age for future workers, a move already drawing opposition from unions.

Cuomo’s spending plan for fiscal 2013 closes a $2 billion deficit with no new taxes in part by finding $1.14 billion in savings from consolidating purchasing and human resources, he said yesterday in Albany, the capital. A tax deal reached last month that raised rates on those earning $2 million or more added $1.5 billion in revenue.

The proposal follows through on Cuomo’s pledge to raise spending on Medicaid and education by about 4 percent. The boost in school aid will be tied to compliance with a new statewide teacher-evaluation system, a plan similar to one proposed last week by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The governor suggested he expects opposition from the teachers’ unions.
One wonders what is driving Cuomo to do this. Most likely is a pandering to middle class voters wincing at taxes, and willing to cut living and retirement standards of public employees.

From public employee unions we do not hear much, but Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, the state’s largest public-workers union said,
“The proposal for a new public employee pension tier is an assault on the middle class and a cheap shot at public employees . . . . It will provide no short-term savings and will mean people will have to work longer, pay more and gain less benefit.
. . . . . . . . .

Then we have Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, who apparently is now beginning to pursue a war against teachers. (This is an about-face to his pandering to teachers in his 2010 election campaign: "Malloy’s pitch to teachers: pensions to stay, binding arbitration a right, Foley would slash funds," from the Raising Hale site, September 22, 2010.) In his February 8, 2012 State of the State he said, “…only thing you have to do is show up for four years.” (No, he was not talking about being governor, he was speaking about teachers.) He is the state's first Democratic governor since 1991 and he is making this anti-tenure statement?
Malloy further said,
“Since 2009, 31 states have enacted tenure reform, including our neighboring states of New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. It’s time for Connecticut to act. ”
Jonathan Pelto's "wait, what?" blog pointed out that Malloy conveniently skipped over the fact that Connecticut with its four year probation length is one of the nine states with the longest probationary period for new teachers.

Democratic Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, "Quinn looks to shift teacher pension funding to local school districts", February 4, 2012.

And in Maryland, with Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley and Democratic-led Senate and House, we are seeing the impact of the kind of shift of pension funding to local districts. The effect is local layoffs, cuts to libraries: from CBS Baltimore, February 29, 2012, "Counties Warn Of Cuts If They Pay Md. Pensions,"
Montgomery County school officials say they would have to cut 600 teachers and increase class sizes if lawmakers in Annapolis approve Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to shift teacher pension costs to the counties.

Board of Education President Shirley Brandman told the County Council on Tuesday that class sizes could increase by an average of 2.4 students per class. She says that would be the result if the school system has to pay $38 million in pension costs in the 2013 fiscal year.

Prince George’s County officials say they’re also worried the shift would lead to cuts in the workforce and services.

Politicians, Democratic and Republican, love to use the words, "cut," "trim." But they are skipping over the fact that those things mean the diminishing of the quality of life for public workers AND for the USERS of public services (schools, police, libraries, medical facilities).