Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Way Things Work

Some years back, there was a wonderful book called "The Way Things Work". I seem to recall that it was very popular. Sadly, it didn't go into the way things really work. My case in point is the sad sad story of the young man in Florida who was shot to death by a a man who has been variously reported as being associated with, being the Captain of, or having no relationship with the local Neighborhood Watch of the gated community in which the event occurred.

Disclaimer: For the last several days I have been besieged by the grippe. Perhaps I'm just cranky from it. Perhaps it's the lack of sleep followed by sudden four hour naps. Whatever. Here's the story.

Late this afternoon, one of the web portals I use featured a news story at the top of its webpage. The headline read, "Public opinion shifts on Treyvon Martin case". It was the top item in a "News for You" section. The website/web portal involved is Yahoo. I read the story, which involved the shift of public opinion away from the idea of arresting the man who shot the kid (the kid obviously up to no good as he was wearing a hoodie and armed with a pack of Skittles). The basis for this news story was a study done by WPA Opinion Research two days after a CNN poll which showed most Americans thought the shooter should be arrested. CNN I had heard of. I decided to look up WPA Opinion Research. It turned out to be Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research. They have a website that is a little bit frightening, considering what I found in their own write ups:

"WPA's research is grounded in traditional research techniques but adds the latest behavioral science and communications science discoveries to show our clients how to change opinions and behaviors."

That was from their homepage. On one of their other pages, I found this:

 "Market research from Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research provides unmatched information that can make or break a politician, election, organization, lobbyist, or political objective."

Although their home page lists them as having been in business for a decade, it turns out that they've only been around for a year (formed March 2011). Previously, the company was known as Wilson Research Strategies. They used to have an entry on Wikipedia, but it was deleted by a user whose credentials are listed as being a translator of Portuguese to English.

The Wilson part of WPA turns out to be Chris Wilson. He used to be the Executive Director of the Republican Party of Texas back when George W. Bush was governor. According to his Wikipedia entry, he worked for Karl Rove. (Which he seems to have forgotten to list in his WPA company bio.) Interestingly enough, he was also the person who leaked the story of former candidate for the Presidency Herman Cain sexually harassing a female employee of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. It was the beginning of the end of Cain's candidacy. Wilson is elsewhere listed as a supporter of Texas governor Rick Perry. He did the polling for the Super PAC that supported Perry's presidential candidacy.

The Perkins part of WPA is Chris Perkins, who ran the "Independent Expenditure" unit of the Republican National Committee. Before that, he was director of the Americans for a Republican Majority PAC, which was created by and run for the benefit of Former House Speaker Tom Delay. It was fined and shut down by the Federal Elections Commission.  Delay was convicted on charges of money laundering.

Now look, let's be clear. I can't afford lawyers and what not, and since this information was turned up in web searches, I am not saying that WPA is comprised of shady characters, and I am most certainly not saying that because they worked for a couple of the known lairs and thieves of the Republican business trade that they themselves are tainted. Guilt by association is not the kind of pejorative reference that should be used. But these things should be noted, that's all. I'm just sayin'.

Oh, before I forget, if you're wondering about the A in WPA, it's for third partner Bryon Allen, who directed political polling projects for the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies.

Now, I use two other web portals, both based on their various news providers. Neither listed this story nor the poll results from WPA.

I looked at the story again. Aha! It wasn't from a news source at all (even though presented along with the news). It was from a political blog called "The Daily Caller", which has been referred to as the conservative answer to the Huffington Post. It is run by conservative Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, and Neil Patel, former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Now, while I like the idea that political blogs of various viewpoints are included in the telling of a news story, I do not like them being passed off as real news. Especially when there are so many "clues" from a bit of web research which point to manipulated opinion making news stories. Why on earth would Yahoo position this as a featured news story? Might it have something to do with the situation in which Yahoo has found itself? It's revenues and influence declining, its CEO was recently replaced with the guy who used to run Pay Pal. This was done after investors got a bit upset when the former CEO led the company to refuse a very lucrative offer to be bought out by (Oh, excuse me, I meant "merge with") Microsoft. One investment company which has a billion dollars in the Yahoo kitty is hedge fund Third Point. They started buying Yahoo last September. Their owner and CEO, Daniel Loeb (best known for writing publicly published letters critical of various businesses' management) insisted that Third Point get four new seats on the Yahoo Board. One of the seats would have been for Jeff Zucker, NBC-Universal's former CEO, who presided over that company's descent in ratings from first place to fourth. NBC-Universal has been bought by Comcast, who forced Zucker out.  One seat would have gone to a former MTV Networks executive. One of the seats would be for himself. Loeb, by the way, is a supporter of the presidentail candidacy of Mitt Romney.

So what I want to know now is why are these alleged movers and shakers of the Republican Party getting behind stories supporting the poor schmuck who did the shooting in this sad story down in Florida?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Have you heard the news, there's good rockin' tonight

The news is out, Dick Cheney has had a heart transplant.
My guess is that it won't help.
Considering how few people get heart transplants, out of a waiting list of thousands, I don't think it untoward to ask what part money, power and influence had in getting him a heart.  Especially when
there really isn't anything in that black bag for the rest of us.The rest of us includes anyone without healthcare, anyone struggling to make their bills due to the cost of healthcare, and etcetera.  The Health Care legislation that was the first priority of the Obama presidency, is about to have a hearing before the Supreme Court of the United States to determine if it is legal. The bill requires every citizen to have healthcare insurance, or to pay a penalty if not. It is based on a similar bill passed in the state of Massachusetts when Presidential wanna-be Mitt Romney was governor. The bill does not say how one is to afford the cost of such insurance. The bill does not create a low cost National Insurance policy. It does create business, and lots of it, for the insurance companies, who were big financial backers of Mr. Obama's campaign for the Presidency. And the rich get richer.

Speaking of the elite and reactions against them, the folks behind the "Occupy" movements (at least I think it is them) have called for a national/international strike on May the 1st. Mayday. A term with more than one implication.

Meanwhile, down in Florida, the case of the black teenager who was gunned down dead has stoked a new fire this time of righteous anger, and brought up old resentments. The usual suspects, leaders quick to find the closest network camera, were a little slow on the uptake, but are now busy fanning the flames. Protests are growing. So is an insane and reprehensible response as in this graphic found on Facebook:
Also found were claims that this skinny 17 year old was seen on top of the much heavier shooter as he was beating the shooter with his fists. And that the voice crying out in pain or fear on the tape of the 911 call was actually the shooter, not the dying 17 year old. Which doesn't explain why there is a witness who says that they saw the 17 year old, face down on the ground, with the shooter on top of the kid, knee pressed into the kid's back. The shooter only moved away when he realized there was a witness. The kid was found face down on the ground when the police got there, by the way. People are also pointing out media "bias", not just by using a 'less threatening' picture of the kid at 14, but in using a mugshot of the shooter. And there is a report that a new version of what was represented as the Black Panther party has offered a $10,000.00 reward for the capture and arrest of the shooter, who has gone into hiding.

The Associated Press reported last week that it is becoming commonplace for prospective employers to demand job seeker's passwords to their Facebook accounts so the prospective employer can rummage around in the job seeker's personal life. If denied their request, some prospective employers then ask the job seeker to "friend" the employers' personnel department, which gives access to anything someone might have restricted from mass availability viewing to just their 'friends'..

This past week, a Supreme Court decision found that workers in government jobs (federal or state) can not cite the Family and Medical Leave Act in lawsuits against their public employers. This means that anyone needing medical leave - or pregnancy or childbirth leave - has no recourse if they are then dismissed from their jobs. And, as a case which came up a couple of weeks ago in New Mexico made evident, there doesn't seem to be any protections from teachers publicly humiliating an 8th grade student for being pregnant and kicking her out of school.

How much more can or will people take? Especially when the flames are being fanned by the self righteous? We must understand that there is a war on in the United States. It is most definitely a class war. Over the last several years, we have had an economic restructuring which reduced the size of the middle class while enlarging the size of the poor and underclass. There are now more workers available for desperation wages, and the pool of National Guard soldiers and potential volunteer army recruits is larger for those bigger and better wars to come. I guess that's better than having so many folks forever on the public dole. Speaking of which, in 2011, around 36 states had some form of proposed legislation requiring any person receiving any form of public assistance to undergo drug testing. Better have a prescription for that pill there. If you smoke a little pot (which leaves a little traceable residual chemical something in your body for several months after smoking), no food stamps for you.
Forget assistance you out of work mothers of fatherless children. 
Silly sheeple - drugs, and their use, are for the rich who can afford them. 

On New Year's Eve 2011, at 9pm or so (when there would be little notice taken) , President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act. It authorizes $662 Billion Dollars (I guess they were worried about the deficit) for the defense of the country at home and abroad. This includes the arrest and military detention of any US citizen - without charge or trial - if suspected of terrorist leanings. That part really isn't new, it goes back to the 2001 version if I remember correctly. But I think the part including arrests of citizens on US soil is new. There doesn't seem to be a part where what constitutes proper terror accusations are clearly defined. To a bank, say one of the banks bailed out at taxpayer expense, protesters demanding repayment of the government 'loan', or maybe the jailing of thieving executives, could be terrorism interfering in the country's business. When the President signed the act, he also released a lengthy signing statement disagreeing with provisions in it. But he still signed it. A few days ago, on March the 16th, he also signed the National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order of 2012. It's an update of what is allowed in times of National Emergency, which has been around since pre WWII days. Most presidents have updated it. One of the changes is that the responsibility for many of its provisions have changed from FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to National Security agencies - like the Department of Defense, as well as the Secretaries of the Department of Commerce, of Transportation, of Agriculture, of Energy, and of Health and Human Services. So, what does all this mean? Not much. Unless there is war with Iran. Or North Korea. Or disturbances with civil unrest here at home. I wonder if that includes protests over a dead teenager, Mayday strikes, or demands to treat women as something other than chattel?

This post had been intended to be a reminiscence of the country wide Moratoriums against the Vietnam War in which I participated in the late 1960's, contrasted with the hopeful signs of mass protests and the call for Mayday 2012 strikes.  Like so many things today, things got a little out of hand. I started thinking, and I should have known better. Thinking, say, about all the unused trailers in camps FEMA has sitting in out of the way (i.e.otherwise inhospitable to human life and human habitation?) locations. And how it seems like forces are pushing the country to huge mass protests, which God (whose, one wonders?) knows are needed for various reasons. And how these executive orders are there for use by any president of any party, those currently in power, or those yet to be elected. I shouldn't think about these things, I guess. Because then I begin to wonder how long it will be before a leader of the people, not of the government, gets openly assassinated and turned into a martyr.
Or Poland gets annexed.