Showing posts with label recession. Show all posts
Showing posts with label recession. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The unimportance of being earnest

The Pillsbury Doughmagogue strikes again.

Let me explain Gov. Dave Heineman's latest smoove move as Nebraska's chief executive: It's as if Poppin' Fresh had appointed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to the Confectioners Council a few years after the big guy got busted for spreading malicious lies about Mrs. Smith. And after he never got around to paying his fines for an unfortunate 1984 incident in Manhattan.

Of course, the press learns of the whole deal, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man abruptly withdraws, saying his dad had just been turned into a s'more. And Poppin' Fresh is left without even a hardy "Hoo hoo!" for curious reporters.

What the doughboy can't say is this, because it is true: "Who cares if the dude stinks up the kitchen? He's my kind of culinary hack!"

Or something like that.

I THINK you'll find my analogy reasonably close as you read about how terribly hard it is to be a D'oh!-magogue in a world where the press occasionally pays attention:
Bellevue businessman Patrick Shannon said Monday the governor knew about Shannon's state fines for campaign violations before appointing him last week to the Nebraska Legislature.
Shannon withdrew Friday several hours after questions surfaced about an anonymous smear campaign he orchestrated against an opponent in a 2004 legislative race. Shannon cited a family medical emergency as the reason for his withdrawal.

Gov. Dave Heineman declined to say Monday morning whether he knew about the $16,000 in state ethics fines levied against Shannon before appointing him to the vacant District 3 legislative seat.
Heineman: D'oh!
“He's withdrawn, and we're in the process of finding a new senator to appoint to District 3,” Heineman said. “That's the most important priority.”

Later Monday, The World-Herald contacted Shannon at his Bellevue tax and accounting business.

Shannon said the vetting process for the appointment lasted about three weeks. It included a private, in-person interview with Heineman that lasted about 40 minutes and “one or two” follow-up phone conversations with the governor.
Shannon said during the in-person interview that Heineman questioned him about the $16,000 in fines.

“He told me he knew (about the fines) and asked what did I learn from it,” Shannon said.

Shannon sent an email to the governor's office Friday, stating he couldn't fill the seat because his father had “just suffered a heart attack” in Oklahoma and it would be necessary for him to help provide care for his mother.

In an interview Monday from his Bellevue office, Shannon said the heart attack was mild and his father had been dismissed from an Oklahoma hospital and was recovering at home.
OBVIOUSLY, what Shannon learned from the ethics fines was that if you don't pay them, nobody notices . . . or cares. What he also learned is that the governor doesn't care if his appointments stink up the unicameral, just so long as it smells like Republican hackery.

What I love about Nebraska -- and what has been its saving grace since Boss Dennison's fall from power in Omaha -- is that Nebraska pols are just so bad at this stuff. Would that all politicians were so utterly incompetent at all the right things.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Go to L. ('S' and 'U' are getting pink slips)

Louisiana's governor, Huey P. Jindal, believes in robbing Peter's budget to tide Paul over until the magical thinking pays off.

Louisiana's House of Representatives believes in a meat-ax.

Louisiana's college administrators believe they're about to get screwed. Yet again. Really badly.

Etymologists, after considering the Gret Stet, believe they really need a more descriptive word than "clusterf****" to put in their Funk & Wagnalls.

Advocate's capitol-beat writers probably believe in a couple of pops before sitting down at the laptop to depress themselves and others:
LSU System Vice President Fred Cerise told the committee that additional cuts to the state’s public hospitals would result in reductions to the programs that train doctors and other health-care professionals.

He said an emergency room training program already is facing possible accreditation problems.

“We’re going to get back a list of things that’s going to be quite dramatic,” Cerise said.

The state’s public universities could lose more than $225 million in state funds next year. Those budget cuts would be on top of the $360 million hit higher education has taken since the decline in revenues to state government began four years ago.

“We will be on the brink of cataclysm,” said Interim LSU System President William Jenkins.

If the cuts stick, LSU will be in line to lose nearly $98 million in state funding next year including a $42 million loss for the main campus in Baton Rouge, according to numbers released by the Louisiana Board of Regents.

Jenkins estimated the LSU system would also have to furlough or lay off more than 1,300 employees.

The Southern System could see two more of its campuses declare exigency next year if changes aren’t made to the HB1, said Kevin Appleton, the system’s vice president of finance and business.

The $42 million in cuts the state’s community and technical colleges are facing — $3 million at Baton Rouge Community College — means the difference between putting medical equipment in their nursing classrooms or not, Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Joe May said.
I BELIEVE that Louisiana should put up state-line road signs that warn "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

America'$ 13th Amendment workaround

Mother Jones writer Mac McClelland took a job in a megawarehouse that serves up all the crap we buy off the Internet.

What she saw and what she lived isn't pretty. What it is, increasingly, is a pillar of our economy. Kind of like King Cotton was for the antebellum South.

When that much money's at stake, you can justify a lot of shit. And you will.

And we have.

The days blend into each other. But it's near the end of my third day that I get written up. I sent two of some product down the conveyor line when my scanner was only asking for one; the product was boxed in twos, so I should've opened the box and separated them, but I didn't notice because I was in a hurry. With an hour left in the day, I've already picked 800 items. Despite moving fast enough to get sloppy, my scanner tells me that means I'm fulfilling only 52 percent of my goal. A supervisor who is a genuinely nice person comes by with a clipboard listing my numbers. Like the rest of the supervisors, she tries to create a friendly work environment and doesn't want to enforce the policies that make this job so unpleasant. But her hands are tied. She needs this job, too, so she has no choice but to tell me something I have never been told in 19 years of school or at any of some dozen workplaces."You're doing really bad," she says.

I'll admit that I did start crying a little. Not at work, thankfully, since that's evidently frowned upon, but later, when I explained to someone over Skype that it hurts, oh, how my body hurts after failing to make my goals despite speed-walking or flat-out jogging and pausing every 20 or 30 seconds to reach on my tiptoes or bend or drop to the floor for 10.5 hours, and isn't it awful that they fired Brian because he had a baby, and, in fact, when I was hired I signed off on something acknowledging that anyone who leaves without at least a week's notice—whether because they're a journalist who will just walk off or because they miss a day for having a baby and are terminated—has their hours paid out not at their hired rate but at the legal minimum. Which in this state, like in lots of states, is about $7 an hour. Thank God that I (unlike Brian, probably) didn't need to pay for opting into Amalgamated's "limited" health insurance program. Because in my 10.5-hour day I'll make about $60 after taxes.

"This is America?" my Skype pal asks, because often I'm abroad.

Indeed, and I'm working for a gigantic, immensely profitable company. Or for the staffing company that works for that company, anyway. Which is a nice arrangement, because temporary-staffing agencies keep the stink of unacceptable labor conditions off the companies whose names you know. When temps working at a Walmart warehouse sued for not getting paid for all their hours, and for then getting sent home without pay for complaining, Walmart—not technically their employer—wasn't named as a defendant. (Though Amazon has been named in a similar suit.) Temporary staffers aren't legally entitled to decent health care because they are just short-term "contractors" no matter how long they keep the same job. They aren't entitled to raises, either, and they don't get vacation and they'd have a hell of a time unionizing and they don't have the privilege of knowing if they'll have work on a particular day or for how long they'll have a job. And that is how you slash prices and deliver products superfast and offer free shipping and still post profits in the millions or billions.

"This really doesn't have to be this awful," I shake my head over Skype. But it is. And this job is just about the only game in town, like it is in lots of towns, and eventually will be in more towns, with US internet retail sales projected to grow 10 percent every year to $279 billion in 2015 and with Amazon, the largest of the online retailers, seeing revenues rise 30 to 40 percent year after year and already having 69 giant warehouses, 17 of which came online in 2011 alone. So butch up, Sally.

"You look way too happy," an Amalgamated supervisor says to me. He has appeared next to me as I work, and in the silence of the vast warehouse, his presence catches me by surprise. His comment, even more so.

"Really?" I ask.

I don't really feel happy. By the fourth morning that I drag myself out of bed long before dawn, my self-pity has turned into actual concern. There's a screaming pain running across the back of my shoulders. "You need to take 800 milligrams of Advil a day," a woman in her late 50s or early 60s advised me when we all congregated in the break room before work. When I arrived, I stashed my lunch on a bottom ledge of the cheap metal shelving lining the break room walls, then hesitated before walking away. I cursed myself. I forgot something in the bag, but there was no way to get at it without crouching or bending over, and any extra times of doing that today were times I couldn't really afford. The unhappy-looking guy I always make a point of smiling at told me, as we were hustling to our stations, that this is actually the second time he's worked here: A few weeks back he missed some time for doctors' appointments when his arthritis flared up, and though he had notes for the absences, he was fired; he had to start the application process over again, which cost him an extra week and a half of work. "Zoom zoom! Pick it up! Pickers' pace, guys!" we were prodded this morning. Since we already felt like we were moving pretty fast, I'm quite dispirited, in fact.

"Really?" I ask.

"Well," the supervisor qualifies. "Just everybody else is usually really sad or mad by the time they've been working here this long."

It's my 28th hour as an employee.
MAKE SURE you go and read the whole thing. Sleep tight tonight, America, as we all contemplate the possibility that, yes, there is a God and, yes, He is a just one.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cut them taxes! Fill that cash reserve!

The Pillsbury Doughmagogue is at it yet again.

The man who proposes to cut Nebraska inheritance and income taxes some $130.8 million a year is peeing all over a $91 million construction proposal from the University of Nebraska because the state's highest priority in the whole wide universe is . . . that $130.8 million tax cut. That and
rebuilding the state's cash reserves.

Being a Republican governor who's obviously running for something else means never having to admit you make no sense. Or that you're contradicting yourself.

Or that your thinking might be a little . . . magical?

I DON'T KNOW whether the Omaha World Herald's political writers ought to be getting hazard pay or have to pay the city's entertainment tax. (And would the Omaha entertainment tax even be an issue for Lincoln-bureau peeps, anyway?)
The University of Nebraska will have to overcome opposition from Gov. Dave Heineman to win approval for its four-part construction initiative.

The governor said Thursday the state's highest priority should be passing tax cuts, followed by rebuilding the cash reserve fund.

"The university may have some good ideas about some future projects, but their request is very bad timing," Heineman said. "It would be fiscally imprudent to steal money out of the cash reserve."

University officials have said they plan to seek $91 million from the cash reserve for the projects. A University of Nebraska Medical Center initiative to build a cancer center is the main component of the NU legislative proposal, which also includes a $17 million nursing facility in Lincoln, a $19 million health care training facility based at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and $5 million to plan a veterinary diagnostic center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The governor's position adds to the difficulties that the university plan faces in winning approval from the Nebraska Legislature, where it will have to battle myriad other ideas for state spending or tax reduction.
THIS IS the point in the blog post where I usually ask "How stupid does he think we are?" But that seems pretty unnecessary whenever the political subject is Gov. Dave.

I fear I know
exactly how stupid the Pillsbury Doughmagogue thinks we are.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Pat's always the last to hear

Actually, God told Paul Krugman this long ago, the economic collapse thing.

Or. . . .

Great googly moogly, can you imagine how pissed Republicans would be if it turned out Paul Krugman were the Almighty?! Naw, I'm just spitballing here.

Then again, maybe God just got on the Internets, did a little crowdsourcing and then decided He would mess with the mind of a doddering old man by repeating memes and musing about the logical consequences of present sociopolitical trends.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Hooterville to Omaha: Drop dead

The Pillsbury Doughmagogue must have made it his life mission to wage war on Nebraska's largest city.

It's something of a primal compulsion for Gov. Dave Ziffel Heineman -- kind of like a rural-state governor's version of pon farr. I suppose the Doughmagogue theoretically has, under extraordinary circumstances, the option to forgo screwing over Omaha -- the Cornhusker State's big, bad Sin City, home of hipsters, Democrats and the chaotic Inner City -- but first he would have to fight Attorney General Jon Bruning to the death.

Anyway, if you read today's story in the
Omaha World-Herald, you'd never guess that this holy apostle of fiscal discipline is the north-central Plains' hypocrite king . . . the pontificating poobah of Do as I Say, Not as I Do. In fact, Ziffel Heineman achieved such efficiency by privatizing Nebraska's child-welfare services that it's costing state taxpayers a mere 27 percent more to accomplish a whole lot less.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said Tuesday that Omaha needs to cut spending because he won't support legislation to raise sales tax as a way to solve the city's budgetary problems.

During a press conference Tuesday, the day before the 2012 Nebraska Legislature convenes, the governor was asked about a bill carried over from last session that would allow cities to increase sales taxes by a half-cent with voter approval. Legislative Bill 357 represented a top priority for the City of Omaha.

“Omaha needs to do what state government has done: Tighten your belts,” the governor said. “That's what Nebraska families and businesses have done.”

The governor said he “strongly and adamantly” opposes the bill because it represents a tax increase that could lead to more local government spending in Omaha and other communities.

“If it gets to my desk, I will veto it,” he said.
OF COURSE he will. One thing is clear, though.

Either Ziffel Heineman doesn't know or really doesn't care that without Omaha, Nebraska is just North Dakota without the oil reserves. Personally, I'm betting on the latter.

I'm also betting that this means the term-limited governor is about to run for U.S. Senate. Oh, joy.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

I'll bet they stomp puppies, too

I don't believe in torture. I am willing, however, to consider an exception to this for certain multinational bankers after watching the above WSB-TV report.

Others well to my right, though, might think the real problem down in Georgia is that Fulton County sheriff's deputies are a bunch of squishy-soft socialists. For refusing to throw a 103-year-old woman and her 83-year-old daughter out of their house and onto the street after Deutsche Bank AG and JPMorgan Chase foreclosed on them, with the blessing of a local judge.

Chase, which services the loan for Deutsche Bank, took $25 billion in TARP money from the American taxpayer after investment bankers blew up the U.S. economy. And those who received much financial mercy from the American government and people showed none to two little old ladies in the dead of winter.

That is, until the TV cameras showed up, and the cops discovered that sometimes the law is no fit thing for a just man to enforce.

THERE'S EVEN a scripture for this. Let us turn to Matthew, Chapter 18:
21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.

When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.

Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.

At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’

Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.

When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’

29 Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.

Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.

His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.

Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’

34 Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.

35 So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
WATERBOARDING: It's not just for Muslim "enemy combatants."

I wonder whether the present crop of publicly God-fearing Republican presidential candidates -- some of whom are chomping at the bit to torture somebody . . .
anybody -- are willing to go there with the very folks the Bible says have it coming. Their pals the bankers.

Something tells me the answer is no.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pigs fly. Europe over. End nigh.

Germany is the only country in Europe that can act to save the eurozone and the wider European Union from “a crisis of apocalyptic proportions”, the Polish foreign minister warned on Monday in a passionate call for more drastic action to prevent the collapse of the European monetary union.

The extraordinary appeal by Radoslaw Sikorski, delivered in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate in the German capital, came as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development called on European leaders to provide “credible and large enough firepower” to halt the sell-off in the eurozone sovereign debt market, or risk a severe recession.

The OECD’s comments came as the organisation slashed its half-yearly forecasts for growth in the world’s richest countries, warning that economic activity in Europe would grind to a near-halt.

Yet their calls were met by a stubborn insistence in Berlin that only EU treaty change to forge a “stability union” in the eurozone would revive confidence in the markets.

In a startling comment for a senior Polish minister, Mr Sikorski declared that the biggest threat to his nation’s security was not terrorism, or German tanks, or even Russian missiles, but “the collapse of the eurozone”.

“I demand of Germany that, for your own sake and for ours, you help it survive and prosper,” he said. “You know full well that nobody else can do it. I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity. You have become Europe’s indispensable nation.

-- The Financial Times,
Nov. 28, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

He didn't see that one coming

Noted trends forecaster Gerald Celente, a favorite of Russia Today and American conspiracy theorists, thought he was being prudent by investing in gold futures.

After getting waylaid by a trend called Jon Corzine and MF Global, Celente tells the RT anchorette exactly what he thinks the "MF" now stands for. I wonder what that is in Russian.

Hang on. . . .

мать ублюдок. Thanks, Google.

HERE'S a trends forecast that I think Celente might sign off on -- and, I think, already has. Occupy Wall Street is just the first wave, the rash bunch of weirdos, freakazoids, hippies, eccentrics, commies, anarchists . . . and a few normal people.

They're being dealt with by the state security forces -- something the Russia Today producers might know a little bit about.

But if and when the next big economic shock hits -- maybe a financial tsunami of sovereign defaults rolling across the Atlantic from the Eurozone -- people just might be back in the streets. And it won't be the hippies and freaks and weirdos and other unserious folk.

Goodnight America, wherever you've gone.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The left calls out Obama

This is about to get big. As if it weren't already, this whole Occupy Wall Street thing.

What we have here (above) is a pretty damned effective piece of propaganda -- one with at least a grain of truth to it. It's on a forum and featured on the organization's home page.

In other words, the left is calling out its own man, President Obama, juxtaposing administration rhetoric about the rights of Middle Eastern protesters with footage of New York's finest beating the crap out of peaceful Americans "occupying Wall Street."

AND NOW, later this morning, New York cops aim to evict all the protesters from the park they use as a home base. All hell is going to break loose, barring one side or the other blinking first.

MoveOn has raised the stakes here, giving its de-facto imprimatur to the notion that Cairo's Tahrir Square equals New York's Zuccotti Park.

Does that make Michael Bloomberg our very own Hosni Mubarak? And what does that make Obama, according to his own erstwhile supporters? Something even worse . . . or just the feckless hypocrite in charge?

TUNE IN in a few hours. The country in which we lay us down to sleep may not be the same one where we wake up in the morning.

Pleasant dreams . . . because our American reality has become nightmare enough.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Copping a feel

Because they're just a bunch of young anti- Americancommunistdirtysmellyweirdoanarcho-socialistdope-smokinghippiepinkofags, we can just do what we want to them, right?

Because, after all, they deserve it and are a threat to the American way of life. (No, look here, not at what's going on in corporate boardrooms. Tattoos! Look! Freak! Un-American!)

They're just a bunch of outside agitators, is what they are! Give the cops that 007 license to kill!

Police brutality good! Liberal wackos bad!

Let them eat cake! Or pepper spray. Whatever.

Corporations now! Corporations tomorrow! Corporations forever!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

They were expendable

This about covers the entire category of America Today.

It has brought me to my Jeremiah Wright moment.

If this posting doesn't hit you where you live. . . .

A few days ago, my mother was told she was going to be laid off. She’s a receptionist at a medical office. She’s been there for 16 years.

It was out of the blue, and as she sat on my couch in shock and sobbing, and as I sat there in the rare reversed role of comforter, I began to realize what she was most upset about was not how she would pay her bills, though that is big concern, but rather, how hurt she was.

She saw them as her family. New doctors, multiple office managers, ever-changing policies, she had been there through it all—not for the money—but because she cared.

She may not look as important on paper as a doctor or a nurse or a medical assistant, but she knew the name of every patient and drug rep who came through that door.

She wasn’t just a receptionist, she was an advocate.

She was the one who fit you into a jammed schedule when you were too sick to wait, the one who got you the paperwork you needed, the one who got you in with the specialist during the scariest moment of your life, the one who saw you struggling with a newborn baby in a waiting room full of illness and shuffled you into a room, no questions asked.

And she came home that day with the very hard realization that the very people she loved and devoted 16 years of her life to saw her as disposable. It broke her heart.

It got me thinking about my parent’s generation. I come from an honest-to-goodness blue-collar family, my father working for the Ohio Turnpike for over 30 years. Come December, he too, will be laid off, replaced by a machine that takes quarters through a slot over a smile and a hello.
IF THIS is the totality of our future as a country . . . may we not have one as a country. If this is how we roll, if this is how expendable we consider ourselves and others, then may God damn America.

In that eventuality, may God damn America, because America will have become an empire of things -- rank utilitarianism . . . societal objectification . . . callousness . . . dehumanization -- not a country of free men and women, one nation under God, indivisible,
yadda yadda yadda.

Once upon a time, we fought wars against empires kind of like us, that thought kind of like what now is in vogue here.

Enough is enough, and humans are not things -- no matter how hard we try to make them so. Occupy Wall Street.

And K Street.

And Main Street.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

American unexceptionalism

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

-- Declaration of Independence,
July 4, 1776

Throughout its 235 years as a nation-state, the United States of America has done many remarkable things.

Amid that exceptionality stands the glaring absence of something that would be exceptional, indeed. Living up to our foundational principles . . . and our advertising.

From the scourge of slavery to the near-genocide of the American Indian, from Jim Crow to the Japanese internment, from the excesses of the Gilded Age of the late 19th century to the excesses of the Jazz Age of the 1920s . . . and now the massive societal inequality and Wall Street thievery of today, one thing we Americans have been remarkably consistent about is our rank hypocrisy. And that's not exceptional at all -- that's remarkably ordinary.

IN FACT, those who govern the affairs of the United States -- unelected capitalists and the elected officials they rent -- have come to resemble more a "Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant" than they do the rebellious colonials of 1776.

Today's tea partiers have considered this and decided, in the name of "liberty," that somebody "is unfit to be the ruler of a free people." Unfortunately, their ill-willed and often grammatically challenged rebellion takes dead aim at the "life" and "the pursuit of happiness" of a supermajority of Americans.

I hold these truths to be self-evident. If you do not, you might yet if you look at the data and past the self-delusion of American exceptionalism, a Hypocrite's Gospel preached by some for all they're worth and believed by others because it's less challenging than the one preached long ago by some pinko Nazarean hippie freak.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Miami Vice 77, America's Future 0

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The good news is the United States has all the money it needs to slash the national debt.

It has all the money it needs to maintain critical social services, too.

And to stimulate a sick economy.

It has all the cash necessary for rebuilding our crumbling national infrastructure.

We also have all the money we need to help poor children and their families.

The bad news is that we'd rather spend it all on s*** like this instead of stuff like that:

A University of Miami booster, incarcerated for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, has told Yahoo! Sports he provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010.

In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

Also among the revelations were damning details of Shapiro’s co-ownership of a sports agency – Axcess Sports & Entertainment – for nearly his entire tenure as a Hurricanes booster. The same agency that signed two first-round picks from Miami, Vince Wilfork and Jon Beason, and recruited dozens of others while Shapiro was allegedly providing cash and benefits to players. In interviews with federal prosecutors, Shapiro said many of those same players were also being funneled cash and benefits by his partner at Axcess, then-NFL agent and current UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue. Shapiro said he also made payments on behalf of Axcess, including a $50,000 lump sum to Wilfork, as a recruiting tool for the agency.
ALSO, there's this to consider:
While there may not be many boosters with such an over-the-top story, Shapiro knows he wasn’t the only fan doling out the under-the-table money. Maybe most damning for the sport is the fact that while he took care of current players, he says Miami coaches never asked him to buy a football recruit. Mainly because they felt it was fruitless.

“Miami is not the school where payouts are made to prospective student athletes,” Shapiro said. “Miami is a private institution, it’s in a transient city. We didn’t have the money to pay recruits. There is so much more money in big public universities. In the SEC, the money is an endless river.

“If Miami relied on cash payoffs for players to come to Miami, they’d be out of business. They’d lose every bidding war.

SO, YOU SEE the problem isn't, per the Republican Party, that poor little rich people couldn't possibly afford to be "job creators" any longer if they had to pay a tax rate commensurate with Joe Six-Pack's.

No, the problem is that the priorities of well-to-do Americans are, too often, completely f***ed up. Come to think of it, so are ours.

We get the leadership we deserve, and we get the society we tolerate. Boosters, hookers, football gods, rogue "collegiate" athletic programs and all the rest.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This . . . is London

Somewhere in hell, Adolf Hitler is kicking himself right now for wasting all that time and effort on the Blitz.

This works just about as well and proves to be much more demoralizing for the British public than Luftwaffe air raids.

FOLKS, THIS IS what it looks like when people have no morals, no taboos and no hope for the future. The Brits are no more or no less virtuous than we in the States, and now we're entering the Age of Austerity, too, with fewer jobs, fewer social services, less welfare, less hopefulness, more materialism and more nihilism.

Take a hard look. This is the next new thing, coming soon from Austerity Britain to Tea Party America.

P.S.: I agree with the British public. Mark Stone has two of them.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The next big thing

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

When I was young, the wave of the future rolled in from the east across the North Atlantic.

The British Invasion, it was called. First, the Beatles . . . then everybody and everything. That's where we got "mod." That's where we got New Wave, too.

Now, from
NBC News' World Blog is a foreshadowing from Austerity Britain about what may well be coming to Austerity America.

As political and social protests grip the Middle East, are growing in Europe and a riot exploded in north London this weekend, here's a sad truth, expressed by a Londoner when asked by a television reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?

"Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?"

The TV reporter from Britain's ITV had no response. So the young man pressed his advantage. "Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."

Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere.

The truth is that discontent has been simmering among Britain's urban poor for years, and few have paid attention. Social activists say one out of two children in Tottenham live in poverty. It's one of the poorest areas of Britain. Britain's worst riots in decades took place here in 1985. A policeman was hacked to death. After these riots, the same young man pointed out, "They built us a swimming pool."

Police and local leaders in Tottenham made real progress in improving community relations in the intervening years and that's true about all of Britain. The best way to prevent crime, the theory goes, is to improve the lot of the people, then they won't need to commit crimes. But caught in a poverty and joblessness cycle, young people in many British urban areas have little hope of a better life.

So when a local 29-year-old father, described by police as a gangster, was shot dead by an officer, the response came quickly.
AS AN ANCIENT GREEK philosopher once wrote, "When the people lose hope, the fit hits the shan . . . but good."

Sadly, causing the people to lose hope is something American government and society have learned to do very, very well.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Rome, sweet Rome

I am half of a Waltons family.

My wife and I both were devotees back during the television series' first-run days in the 1970s and early '80s, and we try never to miss our daily, syndicated trip back to Waltons Mountain today.

The only trouble is this: The channel where we get our nightly fix of Mama and Daddy, John-Boy and Mary Ellen, Jason and Erin, and Ben, Jim-Bob, and Elizabeth also features some of the worst low-budget commercials to ever curse a television screen. The only ray of light is that the faith-based INSP channel doesn't air Enzyte ads.

So, during commercials, I flip over to CNN or MSNBC. And something has become clear to me during these word-from-our-pathetic-sponsors interludes -- The Waltons represents programming far more serious and intelligent than anything on the cable-news channels.

TONIGHT, I kept cutting away from Jason fighting the Nazis in Germany in the run-up to VE Day to talking heads speaking in grave tones about Rep. Anthony Weiner's wiener. More precisely, I kept dropping in on Lawrence and Rachel and Eliot seeing the Republicans' attacks on a Democratic congressman and his junk, then raising them Sen. David Vitter's hooker problem and Newt Gingrich's scandal of the day from back in the day.

Then I would return to The Waltons and a world of homefront sacrifice and battlefield tragedy, circa 1945.

Ike and Corabeth struggling with keeping their customers in food and gas in the age of wartime rationing. Jason trying to hold a shellshocked soldier together as they hunted German holdouts. The shellshocked soldier coming to himself not in the service of killing, but in risking his life to avoid killing a young German infantryman who didn't believe the war was over. John-Boy, meantime, was falling in love with the prettiest woman in France, but ended up torn away from her when the war in the Pacific intruded, landing brother Ben in a Japanese POW camp and calling the first-born son back to Waltons Mountain . . . to his family.

MEANWHILE, on Piers Morgan Tonight, the worldly travails of Sarah Ferguson -- one of which was, apparently, being injected with so much Botox that the upper half of her face has ceased to move whenever she talks . . . which, as it turns out, is much too often.

Of course, one doesn't have to retreat to Waltons Mountain, 1945, to encounter ample tragedy, human drama, and existential gravitas. There's plenty of that today.

Americans find themselves at war, one way or another, in no less than four Middle Eastern countries. In fact, young Americans junior-high age and younger have no memory of a time when this nation was not at war in that region.

Those wars, during that time, have played no small role in bringing the United States to the edge of insolvency. So has a decade of living beyond our means. So has several more years of dealing with the economic collapse Wall Street's (and our) excesses precipitated.

Tens of millions of Americans now owe more on mortgages than their homes are worth. Tens of millions more are out of work. The economy continues to tap dance along the edge of a bottomless chasm.

Not that any of that matters when there are Republicans to bash and Democrats to paint as enemies of God and man. Not when we have Anthony Weiner's wiener to wield as an X-rated weapon in political combat -- which just happens to double as kinky infotainment in a country as polarized as it's been since 1865.

I WONDER how many of those condemning the congressman from New York are guilty of the same thing. I wonder how many of those defending him truly don't see what the big deal is, anyway.

I wonder how many see the whole sordid mess as just another excuse to engage in tribal warfare -- not over any grand principle, but just because they hate Them.

While Americans were otherwise occupied, we stumbled so far off track into decadence and internecine warfare that even columnists for London's left-leaning Guardian newspaper openly wonder whether their American cousins are standing at the crossroads of Britain, 1914 and Rome, A.D. 200. And still we cannot see the forest for the . . . well, never mind.

I suppose it is ever thus in societies a lot nearer The End than they think.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No. He won't. Hewon'thewon'thewon'thewon't!

You have this little creature that only knows one word -- "No!"

Anything you say, anything you propose to the urchin is met with the reflexive, instantaneous rebuke. "No!"

Do you want to go out and play?


Eat your peas.


Pick up your toys.


Play nice with your friends.


Don't call Juan names.


Cut off Glenn Beck. He's rotting your brain.


Ditto for Rush Limbaugh.


Leave Jim Suttle alone. He's got his hands full.


Clean up your child-welfare system. It's a damned mess.


Your cities are broke. Let them raise sales taxes if they have to.


WHAT WE'RE dealing with here is not your average 2-year-old. Unfortunately, Nebraska, what we're dealing with here is your governor.

And little Davey Heineman only has one answer for anything anymore -- "No!"

It's right here in black and white in the Omaha World-Herald:
Gov. Dave Heineman left little doubt Wednesday morning about his distaste for a bill that would allow Omaha and other Nebraska cities to hike local sales tax rates by a half-cent if approved by voters.It's a tax increase measure, Heineman said during a call with reporters, and the 27 state senators who now favor the idea are enabling higher taxes.

“Cities ought to be cutting spending rather than raising taxes,” the governor said.

When asked if city voters shouldn't be allowed to choose whether to raise their own taxes, Heineman countered that voters should be allowed to decide something else — whether to lower their property taxes.

“Put that on the ballot and let's see what happens,” he said.
I SWEAR TO GOD, that's the only thing the man-child knows how to say -- “Cities ought to be cutting spending rather than raising taxes.” And when cities like Omaha cut the last dollar -- when all the social services are gone, the streets turned to mud and rubble, the last cop and firefighter fired, all the businesses long gone, public schools defeated, the state's tax base decimated and the 'hood descended into real chaos and not average, everyday chaos . . . when Nebraska's economy has been destroyed -- "Baby Dave" Heineman will be reduced to rocking back and forth in a corner of the state capitol, babbling incoherently to his doting press secretary.

"No! Cut spending, don't raise taxes! Cut spending, don't raise taxes! Wubbie! Wubbie! No! NoNoNoNoNoNoNo! Cut spending! Want Wubbie!"

Damn fine governor you got there, Red.

Naw, I think I'll stick with the 2-year-olds. At least 2-year-olds don't run the joint, and you can give them a time out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just between you and me, 'Mr. Koch' . . . .

Punking a governor like Wisconsin's Scott Walker -- not to mention exposing his real agenda -- is about as good as it gets.

Maybe not as good as punking Fidel Castro (definitely not "one of us" in the Walkerian continuum of "us" and "not us."), but pretty dang good.

From the Chicago Tribune:

On a prank call that quickly spread across the Internet, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was duped into discussing his strategy to cripple public employee unions, promising never to give in and joking that he would use a baseball bat in his office to go after political opponents.

Walker believed the caller was a conservative billionaire named David Koch, but it was actually a liberal blogger.

The two talked for at least 20 minutes a conversation in which the governor described several potential ways to pressure Democrats to return to the Statehouse and revealed that his supporters had considered secretly planting people in pro-union protest crowds to stir up trouble.

The call also revealed Walker's cozy relationship with two billionaire brothers who have poured millions of dollars into conservative political causes, including Walker's campaign last year.

Walker compared his stand to that taken by President Ronald Reagan when he fired the nation's air-traffic controllers during a labor dispute in 1981.

"That was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and led to the fall of the Soviets," Walker said on the recording.

The audio was posted on the Buffalo Beast, a Web site in New York, and quickly went viral.

Editor Ian Murphy told The Associated Press he carried out the prank to show how candidly Walker would speak with Koch even though, according to Democrats, he refuses to return their calls.

AT ONE POINT during his conversation with Not Koch, the cheesehead-in-chief was sounding quite the revolutionary, in an aristocratic, send-in-the-Pinkerton-agents-to-bust-some-union-heads Andrew Carnegie kind of way:

On the call, Walker said he expected the anti-union movement to spread across the country and he had spoken with the governors of Ohio and Nevada. The man pretending to be Koch seemed to agree, telling Walker, "You're the first domino."

"Yep, this is our moment," Walker responded.

YEP, it's your moment, all right, governor. A great big "OOPS!" moment.