Thursday, December 20

Darden Restaurants, purveyor of mediocre food, in trouble as more customers see the company in its true light

Customers continue to realize that Darden is more interested in producing net income than quality food: the company's sales are dropping. And it doesn't help that they're making moves to avoid providing health benefits to their employees:
"In cutting its forecast for the year earlier on Dec. 4, Darden also said that it was hit by a publicity backlash from tests intended to gauge how it could limit costs for workers' health care. Starting in 2014, big employers such as Darden will be required to provide health insurance to full-time workers. The company had tested hiring more part-time workers and replacing full-time workers who left with part-time workers in select markets to gauge how it could mitigate those costs."
Darden Restaurants Profit Plunges 37 Percent After Bad Publicity Over Attempt To Skirt Obamacare

Wednesday, December 19

The Correlation Between Gun Availability and Homicide

During the current national discussion on gun control in the wake of the Newtown, CT tragedy, I have found two articles particularly informative. First, a statistical review from the Harvard School of Public Health:
  • Where there are more guns there is more homicide
  • Across high-income nations, more guns = more homicide
  • Across states, more guns = more homicide
Second, an article in the Atlantic on Japan's gun-less culture, and its near total absence of homicide:
"Of the world's 23 'rich' countries, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. With almost one privately owned firearm per person, America's ownership rate is the highest in the world..." ... 
"In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally."

Tuesday, December 18

Monday, December 17

The Great American Streetcar Scandal

Have you ever heard of "The Great American Streetcar Scandal", the theory that General Motors bought-up all of the United States' streetcar systems in order to make the nation dependent on the automobile? It's something that I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time.
"During the period from 1936 to 1950, National City Lines and Pacific City Lines—with investment from GM, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California, Phillips Petroleum, Mack Trucks, and the Federal Engineering Corporation—bought over 100 electric surface-traction systems in 45 cities including Baltimore, Newark, Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland and San Diego and converted them into bus operation. 
"In 1946, Edwin J. Quinby, a retired naval lieutenant commander, alerted transportation officials across the country to what he called 'a careful, deliberately planned campaign to swindle you out of your most important and valuable public utilities—your Electric Railway System'. GM and other companies were subsequently convicted in 1949 of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses and related products via a complex network of linked holding companies including National City Lines and Pacific City Lines. They were also indicted, but acquitted of conspiring to monopolize the ownership of these companies."
This is one conspiracy theory that I lean toward believing. (Wikipedia Article)

Thursday, December 13

Fox News, desperate for a story, decides to pull out the 'Emergency Muslims'

We really need to reduce government spending. Here are a few ideas for military cuts.

I'm just going to pull out a few interesting bullet points from the linked article:
  • "The Pentagon…runs a staggering 234 golf courses around the world, at a cost that is undisclosed."
  • "A New York Times analysis showed that simply the staff provided to top generals and admirals can top $1 million — per general. That’s not even including their own salaries — which are relatively modest due to congressional legislation — and the free housing, which has been described as 'palatial.'"
  • "According to William Hartung, a defense analyst at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., about 70 percent of recently retired three- and four-star generals went straight to work for industry giants like Lockheed Martin.... This type of government-to-industry pipeline, which he said was comparable to the odious Wall Street-to-Washington revolving door, drives up the prices of weapons and prevents effective oversight of weapon manufacturing companies — all of which ends up costing taxpayers more and more each year."
Also, maybe we could lose just a couple of our 10 in-service aircraft carriers.

The Republican Party is viewed as "too protective of the wealthy"

"A majority of Americans say the Republican Party needs a major overhaul after electoral losses revealed demographic, messaging and technological shortfalls compared with Democrats, a Bloomberg National Poll shows.
"Even among Republicans, just 16 percent say their party is fine and doesn’t need to change. The survey also shows the party is viewed as too protective of the wealthy..." 
Republicans Deemed Too Pro-Rich, 57% in Poll Want Change (Bloomberg)

Tuesday, December 11

Remarks that make one question the sanity of Antonin Scalia

"Speaking at Princeton University, Scalia was asked by a gay student why he equates laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder. ...
"'If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?'"
I could not possibly respond better than Reddit user Oscar_Wilde_Ride:
"There is a clear moral difference. Murder infringes on the domain of autonomy of another; homosexuality does not. In fact, legislating against homosexuality infringes on that other person's domain of autonomy making it more akin to murder than the act of homosexuality."

Friday, December 7

"A King is fine, so long as he’s one of us"

"If you ever find yourself mystified by the tolerance people across history or the world have for giving their rulers great discretion, just because they are charismatic or part of the same cultural group, just look around and you’ll see the same instinct remains all around us today."

FedEx CEO: Tax hikes on top 2% as job killer is ‘mythology’

Another highly-visible business leader talking sense:
"On Tuesday, FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith, an adviser to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, said that the notion that tax hikes on the richest Americans would kill jobs was simply 'mythology.'"
Let me just remind everyone of something: Businesses thrive when CUSTOMERS WANT THEIR PRODUCTS. That is the one and only requirement for a business to be successful (assuming they are competent). The more purchasing power that consumers have, the more they will demand goods and services, the more the economy will grow. It's as simple as that.

Previously on Opensewer, on this topic.

Top Two Percent To GOP: Tax Us (Huffington Post)

Thursday, December 6

In support of a higher minimum wage: A report from the National Employment Law Project

Key findings in the report:
  • The majority of America’s lowest‐paid workers are employed by large corporations, not small businesses, and most of the largest low‐wage employers have recovered from the recession and are in a strong financial position.
  • Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is decades out of date.  In terms of purchasing power, its value is 30 percent lower today than it was in 1968.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 7 out of the top 10 top growth occupations over the next decade are low‐wage ones.
  • From 2010-2012, total U.S. employment has grown by 2.3%, whereas low-wage food service jobs have grown by 5.1%.
  • The three largest low‐wage employers in the United States – Wal‐Mart, Yum! Brands (the operator of fast food chains Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC), and McDonald’s – were profitable during all of the last three fiscal years, and each of them now earns profits that are substantially higher than their pre‐recession levels.

Wednesday, December 5

Senate Republicans act like frightened animals with new Disabilities law

"...this underscores how far out of the mainstream the GOP has moved over the last 20 years. While the ADA has proven to be a rousing success, it was at least possible for conservatives in 1990 to raise non-paranoid concerns about it, mainly relating to the burdens it would place on businesses and the potential for a lawsuit bonanza. In fact, these types of concerns were raised as the law was debated, and some changes were made in response to them – which explains why most of the conservative senators of 1990 were ultimately willing to go along with the law. 
"By contrast, the U.N. treaty raises none of the concerns about business and lawsuits that the ADA did; it simply seeks to hold up existing U.S. law as a model for the world. And yet the vast majority of Republicans in the U.S. Senate sided with the arguments of the paranoid far right and voted against it anyway. This doesn’t mean that every Republican senator who voted against the treaty actually believes these arguments. For all we know, Lindsey Graham (for instance) was treating the vote as a chance to shore up his standing with the right in advance of a potential 2014 primary fight. But that’s still telling: In the GOP of 2012, the “safe” vote is against something as noncontroversial as an international treaty based on American law and championed by a Republican icon from another era." (Emphasis mine.)
What the Republican Party has become (Salon)

Tuesday, December 4

Just a few key statistics on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces: 6,622
Israelis killed by Palestinians: 1,097

These numbers (from 2000-2012), along with the following map, tell quite a story (notice the Israeli settlement locations);

Monday, December 3

Republicans seem to be quite good at complaining, but unable to come up with their own proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner:
"'What we're going to do is continue to look for ways we can solve this problem. But ultimately, they have to come to us and tell us what they think they need,' Mr Geithner told ABC’s This Week. 'What we can’t do is to keep guessing about what works,' he said in an interview broadcast on Sunday."
Geithner takes hard line on fiscal cliff (Financial Times)