What’s Up: November 21, 2012?

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· Rubio Makes his Iowa Debut as Possible ‘Future’ of the Republican Party

ALTOONA, Iowa – As the Republican Party regroups after Mitt Romney’s defeat, the message Saturday night at Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s birthday fundraiser was “turn the page” and “look to the future” — and what that future apparently holds is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the event’s featured speaker.

Rubio was invited to speak at the event around Sept. 1, Branstad told The Daily Caller, and had Romney won, the atmosphere might have been a bit different.

But only 11 days after voters went to the polls and Republicans came up short, Rubio was speaking to a crowd that had trained its sights squarely on 2016. In his speech, Rubio weaved together the personal and the economic. He discussed the importance of a stable family life to a stable economy, and how critical the success of the middle class is not just to the country’s financial situation, but also to its place in the world. American exceptionalism, Rubio said, is important to every nation, not just the United States.

“The way to turn our economy around is not by making rich people poorer; it’s by making poor people richer,” Rubio said.

The Florida senator talked about the need to improve the country’s immigration system and develop a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. He also emphasized the importance of education reform, which he said is necessary to ensure that future generations are competitive in the global economy.

“People understand that we need to do something to address those issues, and they want to do that in a reasonable and responsible way,” Rubio told the crowd.

Rubio also talked about his personal history. He reminded attendees that his parents immigrated to the United States and gave him the opportunity to attend college and become a senator. Story Continued:

· THOUSANDS OF CHINESE PROTEST, SMASH POLICE CARS – Thousands of residents protested in a southeastern Chinese city after a traffic accident, smashing police cars and overturning three police vans, police and residents said.

The reason for the protest in Fuan city in Fujian province was unclear. Police said it was instigated by “a handful of lawless people.” One resident said people became angry because police and paramedics took nearly an hour to arrive to help the injured, while a Hong Kong-based human rights group said it was to do with corruption.

But such protests have become increasingly common in China, and Saturday’s violence is another reminder that the country’s new leadership has to deal with underlying social discontent that often boils over. People are fed up with corruption and high-handed officialdom, pensions that have not kept pace with inflation, and families being forced from their homes to make way for developments.

Residents said police were stopping cars and checking people for driving after drinking on Saturday evening when the accident happened on a main road in Fuan.

Wanting to avoid being tested, a driver in a sedan accelerated away and police started chasing the car, said a resident, who would give only his surname, Lin. About three motorcycles were hit during the chase, said Lin, adding he wasn’t sure who hit them.

“About 10,000 to 20,000 onlookers became angry because police officers and paramedics took nearly one hour to arrive,” said Lin.

He estimated that 1,000 to 2,000 people clashed with police and overturned three police vans.

Photos carried by online southeastern news sites showed hundreds of people swarming across a wide street with two vans thrown onto their sides. In one photo, three people stood on top of an overturned van.

The official Fuan city police micro-blog said Sunday that a sedan had collided with a car and three motorcycles just before 8 p.m. Saturday, leaving five people injured.

“The accident made a small number of local people dissatisfied, so they smashed police vehicles and overturned three police vans,” said the statement.

An initial investigation found that a person with no driving license surnamed Jiang had caused the accident and was in police detention, it said. It said the driver wasn’t drunk but had accelerated to avoid a patrol vehicle and aroused attention.

It said four of the injured were in stable condition and the other one had been discharged from hospital.

Later Sunday, the propaganda department of Fuan’s Communist Party committee put out a statement countering accusations police and paramedics had been slow to respond.

It said police had immediately called paramedics and traffic police after the collisions, and a patrol car drove to a hospital to pick up three doctors. The five injured were taken to hospital 40 minutes after the accident happened, it said.

“As the rescue work was going on, some relatives of the injured people and onlookers got out of control,” said the statement. “They started to push and shove the doctors and knock the ambulance and so the ambulance left the scene under police escort.”

It said “a handful of lawless people misled some people who didn’t know the truth” and they began targeting police vehicles.

The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said about 10,000 people clashed with police, and that 10 police vehicles had been smashed, three overturned and 20 people injured.

The scenes were triggered by the local police corruption, the center said in a faxed statement that didn’t cite any sources.

It alleged that Fuan’s traffic police were illegally registering license plates to vehicles from outside their jurisdiction for 50,000 yuan ($8,000) and that local residents suspected the sedan had such a license.

Calls to Fuan’s transport bureau rang unanswered. A man at Fuan’s local government propaganda department didn’t answer questions but referred to a press release on a local news portal which said the same as the Fuan police micro-blog. Story Continued:

· The Twinkie Manifesto – By PAUL KRUGMAN

The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.

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Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich.

Consider the question of tax rates on the wealthy. The modern American right, and much of the alleged center, is obsessed with the notion that low tax rates at the top are essential to growth. Remember that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson charged with producing a plan to curb deficits, nonetheless somehow ended up listing “lower tax rates” as a “guiding principle.”

Yet in the 1950s incomes in the top bracket faced a marginal tax rate of 91, that’s right, 91 percent, while taxes on corporate profits were twice as large, relative to national income, as in recent years. The best estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today.

Nor were high taxes the only burden wealthy businessmen had to bear. They also faced a labor force with a degree of bargaining power hard to imagine today. In 1955 roughly a third of American workers were union members. In the biggest companies, management and labor bargained as equals, so much so that it was common to talk about corporations serving an array of “stakeholders” as opposed to merely serving stockholders.

Squeezed between high taxes and empowered workers, executives were relatively impoverished by the standards of either earlier or later generations. In 1955 Fortune magazine published an essay, “How top executives live,” which emphasized how modest their lifestyles had become compared with days of yore. The vast mansions, armies of servants, and huge yachts of the 1920s were no more; by 1955 the typical executive, Fortune claimed, lived in a smallish suburban house, relied on part-time help and skippered his own relatively small boat.

The data confirm Fortune’s impressions. Between the 1920s and the 1950s real incomes for the richest Americans fell sharply, not just compared with the middle class but in absolute terms. According to estimates by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, in 1955 the real incomes of the top 0.01 percent of Americans were less than half what they had been in the late 1920s, and their share of total income was down by three-quarters.

Today, of course, the mansions, armies of servants and yachts are back, bigger than ever — and any hint of policies that might crimp plutocrats’ style is met with cries of “socialism.” Indeed, the whole Romney campaign was based on the premise that President Obama’s threat to modestly raise taxes on top incomes, plus his temerity in suggesting that some bankers had behaved badly, were crippling the economy. Surely, then, the far less plutocrat-friendly environment of the 1950s must have been an economic disaster, right?

Actually, some people thought so at the time. Paul Ryan and many other modern conservatives are devotees of Ayn Rand. Well, the collapsing, moocher-infested nation she portrayed in “Atlas Shrugged,” published in 1957, was basically Dwight Eisenhower’s America.

Strange to say, however, the oppressed executives Fortune portrayed in 1955 didn’t go Galt and deprive the nation of their talents. On the contrary, if Fortune is to be believed, they were working harder than ever. And the high-tax, strong-union decades after World War II were in fact marked by spectacular, widely shared economic growth: nothing before or since has matched the doubling of median family income between 1947 and 1973.

Which brings us back to the nostalgia thing.

There are, let’s face it, some people in our political life who pine for the days when minorities and women knew their place, gays stayed firmly in the closet and congressmen asked, “Are you now or have you ever been?” The rest of us, however, are very glad those days are gone. We are, morally, a much better nation than we were. Oh, and the food has improved a lot, too.

Along the way, however, we’ve forgotten something important — namely, that economic justice and economic growth aren’t incompatible. America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again. Story Continued:

· Why are retailers ruining Thanksgiving?

JENNIFER WATERS’S CONSUMER CONFIDENTIAL, Commentary: Customers want Black Friday to start on Thursday

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CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — Say goodbye to Thanksgiving — and Black Friday while you’re at it. Retailers are wrecking holiday time for shoppers and shop workers alike.

This year will see an unprecedented move by the big boys of retail to open their stores earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day, putting pressure on the traditions — from indulging in an oversize dinner to loafing around watching football — that many families hold sacred.

“Retailers have basically ruined every holiday,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, a retail research consultant. “They have commercialized every single holiday by creating a good reason to promote something and drive traffic.”

They do it for the simple reason that, well, they can. It follows that adage from “Field of Dreams” that if you build it, they will come. If you open the store earlier, they will shop.

We’ve seen the creep into Thanksgiving Day grow more aggressive each year but never getting this close to family time. Bold steps have been taken over the last three to five years as retailers first encroached on the day with online teasers for midnight Black Friday sales at the bricks-and-mortar stores to online sales during Thanksgiving Day to just opening the stores while many are still just getting to the turkey.

Bill Tancer, the general manager of global retail for Experian, sees it as a confluence of sophisticated retailing and consumer boredom, thanks to the swelling population of cyber-deal surfers on Thanksgiving. He’s been following for the past decade a growing group of restless consumers who turn to the Internet for entertainment and holiday shopping on the holiday. From 2003 to 2011, the No. 1 online shopping day has been Thanksgiving, according to his findings. Last year was the first that the so-called Cyber Monday, the Monday after the holiday, eclipsed Thanksgiving Day in online sales.

It makes sense then for retailers to just open the doors. They wouldn’t if we didn’t walk through them.

Though shoppers have been grousing for the past couple of years about Black Friday keeps creeping into Thanksgiving Day, it’s shareholders who are giving Target grief over the decision to kick off its sales at 9 p.m. on the holiday.

“Retailers are getting savvy to the fact that Thanksgiving Day is such a busy online shopping day that they’re now keeping their bricks-and-mortar stores open on Thanksgiving,” Tancer says. Among those making early plays for customers this year are Sears, Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Toys “R” Us and Gap.

“I don’t know if it’s stealing our time from us, since consumers have shown a strong interest in searching for those deals and making purchases on Thanksgiving,” he says. “There’s a lot of dead time while that turkey is in the oven. It’s a good time to shop.”

So we have no one but ourselves — or our neighbors — to blame. Cohen claims that retailers who bucked tradition for revenue potential last year were rewarded with a 22% hike in Black Friday weekend business over those who didn’t open shop. That means there were lots of folks willing to forgo food and football to shop.”

Miro Copic, who sees this trend turning into the “new normal” for Thanksgiving within five years, says it’s not about stealing time from our families but giving us alternatives. (Wait! Not everyone watches football?)

“There will be a lot of backlash on blogs and such, on family values and how we’re becoming too commercial,” says the San Diego State University marketing professor. “But at the end of the day, it’s a choice. If I’m a retailer and I’m open, I’m telling you that you don’t have to come, but I’m giving you a convenience if you want to come.”

Retailing is a lot like herding, experts say. “If one store opens on Thanksgiving Day, competitors will follow — since it is a battle over market share,” says Chris Christopher, an economist for IHS Global Insight. Story Continued:

· House Intel Chair: ‘Appointees from Administration’ Changed Rice’s Talking Points – Who changed the CIA talking points to minimize the fact that terrorists were behind the attack on the U.S. outposts in Benghazi?

When Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., went on five Sunday talk shows five days later, she was still blaming the attack on a spontaneous protest over an obscure anti-Islam video.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, says the unclassified talking points put together by the CIA changed when they got to administration appointees:

“[T]here was not an intelligence failure,” Rogers told “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“The intelligence community had it right, and they had it right early. What happened was it worked its way up through the system of the so-called talking points, which everyone refers to, and then it went up to what’s called a deputy’s committee…It went to the so-called deputy’s committee, that’s populated by appointees from the administration. That’s where the narrative changed. And so how that thing got back to (Susan) Rice, I think, is probably another question.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate intelligence committee, appeared with Rogers on “Meet the Press.” She was asked why the CIA called the attack terrorism from the beginning — but Rice did not:

“Because she could speak publicly only on unclassified speaking points,” Feinstein said. There was concern about naming a terrorist group “until we had some certainty,” Feinstein explained.

“Now, with the allegation that the White House changed those talking points, that is false,” Feinstein said. “There is only one thing that was changed, and I’ve checked into this. I believe it to be absolute fact. And that was the word ‘consulate’ was changed to ‘mission’. That’s the only change that anyone in the White House made, and I have checked this out.”

Asked why the reference to terrorism was removed from the unclassified talking points, Feinstein said, “That is something we’re going to find out.”

“Well, where — where this went awry is anybody that brings weapons and mortars and RPGs and breaks into an asset of the United States is a terrorist in my view. I mean, that’s pretty — pretty clear. Also the other point was, once the video was put together, it was clear there was no demonstration. This should have been known much earlier. It also raises the concern of talking points by committee. And I have some concern about that.”

“We are going to find out who made changes in the original statement,” Feinstein said. “Until we do, I really think it’s unwarranted to make accusations.”

‘References to al Qaeda were removed by somebody’

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the vice chair of the Senate intelligence committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that he tried to find out who changed the talking points:

“At the hearing we had on Thursday and Friday, we had every leader of the intelligence community there, including folks from the State Department, the FBI — everybody there was asked, ‘Do you know who made these changes?’ And nobody knew. The only entity that reviewed the talking points that was not there was the White House.

“So, you know, I don’t know whether — what they said yesterday is exactly right or not. But, what I do know is that every member of the intelligence community says that references to al Qaeda were removed by somebody, and they don’t know who. And references to attacks versus demonstrations were removed by somebody.”

Asked if the Senate Intelligence Committee will call Rice to testify, Chambliss said, “I don’t know the answer to that question right now.” He said he’ll discuss it with committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein. He also said Rice is “going to have to come in and testify at some point, whether it’s in a closed hearing or an open hearing.”

At some point, Chambliss added, “She needs to come in and say what the president or the White House directed her to say.”

Sen. Feinstein said she’s read transcripts of every one of the five Sunday talk show interviews Susan Rice gave on Sept. 16 — when Rice insisted the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous demonstration against a video.

Feinstein said Rice was “within the context” of the talking points put together by the intelligence community, Feinstein said. “And for this, she has been pilloried for two months.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said the talking points changed after they left the CIA: “[S]omewhere after it left the intelligence community, somewhere in the administration, there was very vital language taken out.”

King said when the unclassified talking points were sent to the administration — “we don’t know whether it was the White House, the National Security Council, the Justice Department or the Defense Department — that language was changed. That was not the language that was sent over by the intelligence community.” Story Continued:

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