At least there's no Archduke Ferdinand...yet.
Politico thinks that Americans are addicted to riot porn...are we?
There's a reason that Gordon Gekko's famous speech scene in "Wall Street" -- "The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works" -- won Michael Douglas an Academy Award and is considered one of the more memorable movie scenes of the (relatively) modern era. It's because it didn't just happen in a vacuum -- it happened in a special time and a special place, Ronald Reagan's America.
The simplified version of the 1980s is that the Gipper restored confidence to the U.S.A., but in the same fell swoop Reagan also unleashed the hounds of American greed. It's no accident that today when you see a chart of income inequality in America, it starts in 1980, the year that Reagan was elected to his first term. His steep reduction in top income rates sparked the huge gaps between CEO pay and what the average worker makes, his crushing of the air traffic controllers union launched an era of declining fortunes for blue-collar workers, his deregulation of the savings and loan industry was a multi-billion-dollar boondoggle, and his similar laizzez-faire attitude toward Wall Street inspired some great movies but marked the dawn of an era of insider trading and swindles that went largely unchecked until it finally took America to the brink in 2008.
Holy (bleep)! What the hell is going on over in the Ukraine:
KIEV, Ukraine — Mayhem gripped the center of the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday evening as riot police officers moved on protesters massed behind barriers raised throughout Independence Square, the focal point of more than two months of protests against President Viktor F. Yanukovych.
We lump too many folks together these days. All conservatives are not created equal, and neither are all liberals. Even better...consider unions. In their heyday and to the extent they can today, good unions ensure a safe workplace (remember how safe coal mines were before miners organized?) and can bring a living wage for the middle class. Look at how powerful America's economy was when unions are at their peak, and look at how income inequality has festered during labor's long decline.
But -- as I've said in this space before -- there are good unions and good union activities..and there are bad ones. For me, it's all about power. When unions prevent large corporations from running amok over the average working man and woman, they're awesome. But some unions accumulate power and use it to "punch down" -- intimidate small business people, that's reprehensible (These same unions are the ones that tend to enrich their inner circle, and not the rank and file.)
With the 9th anniversary of Attytood (!!) some day (I'm too lazy to look it up) later this month, there's one tradition that we've always observed here at the ol' weblog -- and that's ripping the incumbent president a new one every year on Presidents' Day. Whether it's President Obama or that guy before him, it's usually a matter of picking from multiple-choice inadequacies. (If you missed my longer take on five years of Obama, this was it.)
With POTUS 44, there's nothing more galling than his shattered promises to make his the most transparent presidency in history, to cherish the public service offered by whistleblowers and to enshrine the American ideal of a free and unfettered press. It was all a lie, and now the people who compile the World Press Freedom Index have made it official: Our 1st Amendment rights are only a monument to American exceptionalism if you mean that we're barely more exceptional than Haiti:
Last Tuesday, the residents of the small rural community of Bobtown in the far southwestern corner of Pennsylvania woke up to a horrible shock -- the sound of a massive explosion in their backyards. The source of the blast and the intensely hot fire that followed was a Chevron fracking well that had been set to begin production, but instead shot orange flames high into the air and gave off loud hissing sounds that could be heard hundreds of yards away.
John Kuis, 57, of nearby Dilliner told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that at 6:45 a.m., his dog growled, then the earth rumbled, and finally: "Then the house just sort of shook and there was a big loud bang." Another neighbor told the paper that the fracking explosion "sounded like a jet engine going 5 feet above your house."
I'm not a daily driver of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but like many people in the Philadelphia region I drive it fairly often, enough that I wonder why I'm too lazy to get E-Z-Pass. And since I don't have E-Z Pass, it's hard not to notice how many Benjamins it now takes to drive across Franklin's former stomping group. Indeed, it takes a village ATM to drive from King of Prussia to the Ohio border as I did a couple of summers ago. This isn't my imagination: Last month, cash tolls increased again by 12 percent and they've roughly doubled since 2007 -- the year a state law tapped the Turnpike tollbooths to pay for other highway projects -- with E-Z Pass customers also seeing increases, albeit much more gentle ones.
So you'd have to think with all this cash flowing in, the Pennsylvania Turnpike ought to be the best damn highway in America, maybe in the world. But after Friday morning, you'd have to wonder. The entire Eastern Seaboard has been blitzkrieged with the worst winter weather in years, but with dozens of superhighways dotting our populous region, only one managed to have an 100-car pileup last week. It was the same one that lifted all speed restrictions on a heavily traveled stretch of road even though that stretch was covered with a sheet of ice.
Luckily no one was killed on the Turnpike between Willow Grove and Bensalem...this time. Maybe I'm becoming soft in my old age, but I'n not ready to declare that heads need to roll at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission...yet. However, I am hoping that the proper legislative committees and anyone else with jurisdiction does a full investigation of what happened Friday, that changes are made so this never happens again and that the humans who screwed up -- and clearly there were screw-ups -- are punished.