Are you coming to grips with the fact that we live in a world where pondering the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency is no longer considered completely delusional?
I thought of posting three hours of the twelve hour long Norwegian fireplace video broadcast for these next few slow news days but decided against it. So here instead is a remarkably odd antique Christmas card from the 1800’s Victorian Era.
In January 2014, when a federal program extending unemployment benefits failed to be renewed in Congress, there was speculation about what might happen to those on unemployment. It is a popular idea with some that an unemployed individual isn’t motivated to seek out a job as long as a government check is coming in regularly. Experts weren’t sure and no reliable data was available. Now there is a report about some data.
A new pilot program from the Department of Homeland Security allows partial private funding to help expedite business across the border. Vermont businessman Bill Stenger is using the program to make crossing more efficient for his Canadian customers - but it benefits him in other ways.
At first glance, issuing debit cards instead of paychecks might seem like a helpful option for “underbanked” low-wage employees, who may not have bank or checking accounts. However, bank charges and fees are tacked on when workers use them. These charges take unwelcome bites out low-wage earners' already tiny income and add to the enormous bottom line of the banks.
There seems to be a steady stream of polls that show just how much the American public distrusts Congress, and today there is another example. Gallup found that Americans' confidence in Congress as an institution is down to just 10 percent.
Duncan Black, aka the blogger Atrios, made an observation yesterday and part of it may have relevance to recent arrival of super PACs here in Vermont. Atrios maintains that the Republican "noise machine,” while never all-powerful, always had a smooth routine that they were very competent at. He thinks the national Republican noise machine is floundering this year, but it is the well practiced routine that has relevance here in Vermont.
Here is the routine as practiced back in the day:
…Republicans would kick the soccer ball, the press would chase it and then coo, "oooo, pretty soccer ball."
[...] during the Kerry campaign it was enough for Karl [Rove] to suggest that they were going to run a REALLY SCARY AD SOON and then cable news would spend 3 days talking about JUST WHAT THAT SCARY AD MIGHT BE and HOW IT MIGHT AFFECT THE CAMPAIGN, and then they'd run the web-only "ad" 5 million times and spend the next 10 days talking about it.
So here’s what that routine looks like in Vermont scale. When the Republican super PAC hits airwaves Monday, will Randy Brock get any love? For about a week or so Vermonter’s have been reading about a scary new Republican super PAC lurking nearby that is coming to the state. First we were alerted to news that the Republican super PAC would spend at least $70,000 to run ads pushing conservative viewpoints. Speculation followed about what outside groups might be bankrolling the effort. This was quickly followed by speculation and hints about the content of the ad.
Then like clockwork, word followed that the ad might snub gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock and focus instead on Wendy Wilton, the Republican candidate for treasurer, and Republican Vince Illuzzi, who is running for State Auditor. This weekend the curtain was raised just a bit more for Monday’s opening show. Finally, close to breathless with anticipation, The Vermont Press Bureau story talks with Tayt Brooks, point man for the outfit “Vermonters First”.
The Illuzzi/Wilton spots are what’s known in the TV business as “bookends” – 15-second spots at the beginning and end of a commercial break.
According to documents on file at WCAX, those spots constitute only a portion of the $53,000 buy by Vermonters First, which includes plenty of 30-second ads as well. An approximately $15,000 buy on WPTZ won’t start until Sept. 17.
We asked Brooks whether we could expect to [see] Randy Brock’s face in those longer spots, but the former executive director of the Vermont Republican Party wouldn’t say. We’ll find out soon enough – the ads begin airing Monday morning.
And there it is, rolled into the Green Mountains: Vermonter's first soccer ball "oooo,pretty." Will the routine work in Vermont? We’ll find out soon enough – JUST WHAT MIGHT THAT SCARY AD BE and HOW IT MIGHT AFFECT THE CAMPAIGN.
And is it "Vermonters First" as in the wellbeing of our state takes priority, or "Vermonters First" as in the first time Green Mountain state residents will be exposed to this level of outside-financed negative campaigning?
Polls are enigmatic things, but even with all their flaws, we are told they supply a snapshot of where public attitudes are at a given moment. This recent Gallup poll, if I understand correctly, sampled non-unlikely, undecided non-committed voters and improbably independent voters between the ages of forty two. They did adjust for wind-speed and naturally the overall results have a possible credibility interval which was compensated for.
Seriously, it does appear Obama got a bounce, however small in his approval rating:
Gallup’s daily tracking poll for Friday put Obama's job approval rating at 52 percent, the highest it’s been since the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama has also moved to a three-point lead over Mitt Romney among registered voters (48-45 percent), up from Obama's one-point margin over the last nine days.
Gallup cautions that up-ticks are often fleeting and may be short-lived, but they say if Obama built on his lead this could signal a possible “resetting” of the race. So results may vary and contents may settle during transit.
Romney/Ryan and the difficult “negative bounce”
Some polling done shortly after the Republican Convention found that Romney and Ryan experienced hardly any bounce at all. Incredibly The Princeton Election Consortium found that team Romney may have created for themselves a “negative bounce":
” Basically, their convention appears to have helped…Obama. […] From an analytical perspective, a negative bounce is quite remarkable because all the talk in recent weeks has been of bounces being smaller or zero, but always in the hosting party’s favor.
The Consortium suggests two factors that may have created this unusual situation for Romney/Ryan:
(1) The Ryan-VP bounce effectively used up whatever room there was for a bounce. This year, opinion seems to be fluctuating in a very narrow range: Obama up by 1.0-5.0%. Maybe there was no room for improvement.
(2) The GOP convention was not particularly inspiring. Indeed, the most notable event was Clint Eastwood’s empty-chair routine, which overshadowed Romney’s acceptance speech.
So explore the numbers behind the Romney/Ryan “negative bounce” phenomena.
Where they really shot in the feet from an empty chair?
The State Health Department and Department of Agriculture announced this past week that it has begun aerial spraying the pesticide Anvil 10 + 10 to kill mosquitoes, some of which may be carrying West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). An 87year old man from Brandon died from West Nile and a Salisbury man has been hospitalized suffering from the virus.
Parts of Rutland and Addison county were chosen for spraying with the pesticide Anvil (not this Anvil) after the state found traces of EEE in mosquitoes in that area. The pesticide is neither benign nor guaranteed to work VTDigger reports. The Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture noted
“There’s a 10 to 90 percent rate of efficacy,”
so Anvil may not always crush its intended target. Therefore providing funds for careful and routine monitoring of the mosquito population is a key part of managing this growing health problem.
there is more
With federal funds for monitoring sharply cut back a difficult public health and safety issue for Vermont has been made more complicated. This is what starving the beast style budget cutting looks like at the state and local level.
To assess the effects of the spraying, the state will need to heavily survey the mosquito populations of those areas. Funds for such surveillance, however, are shriveling up.
Erica Berl, Vermont infectious disease epidemiologist, said that the state mosquito surveillance program is working with nearly a quarter of the federal funds it had a year ago.
“We received $190,000 last year, and we got $50,000 this year,” she said about cuts to the federal “arbovirus” surveillance program, which is administered by the CDC. Arbovirus stands for arthropod-borne virus.
In 2006 when the state of Massachusetts 2006 first used the pesticide Governor Mitt Romney had to declare a health emergency. Aerial Spraying of Anvil for mosquito control is much more common now yet it carries warning that exposure can cause vomiting, central nervous system failure and tremors. Anvil can also effect bee populations. Objections have been raised in New York City over spraying and recently a Massachusetts environmental group has is claimed spraying violated the Federal Clean Water Act.
From news reports it would seem that Vermont health or agriculture officials and not the governor ordered spraying but who exactly signed off on it and under what authority isn’t spelled out. Governor Shumlin was out of the state for much of the week which I assume left Lt. Gov Scott as acting governor.
This coming week candidate for Auditor Doug Hoffer will be at VTNEA, AFL-CIO events and campaign with Bernie Sanders.Which is another in a series of busy weeks on the road campaigning for Hoffer as JV's diary below shows.
So then, here is Republican candidate for Auditor Vince Illuzzi pictured on his Facebook page with Steve Forbes and at a Romney event with John Sununu. What message is self proclaimed independent Vermont Republican Illuzzi dog whistling when he is pictured with partisan Republican Party guys like Forbes and Sununu?
More on GOP after the jump
Steve Forbes wrote this not long ago about President Obama
I’m going to be blunt here. We have a president, unlike any other, who is truly a hardcore socialist who truly believes in massive government domination.
And shouldn’t Illuzzi put some distance between himself and Romney surrogate former NH Governor John Sununu who lately has all four of his partisan wheels off the road. During the Republican Convention Sununu managed to make headlines when he angrily yelled at CNN’s Soledad O’Brien suggesting she
“put an Obama bumper sticker on your forehead when you do this,”
if she were to continue to question him about Medicare.
About a day later Sununu again jumped the curb again during an interview with On the Media’s Brook Gladstone. Sununu became agitated while defending his claim that fact checking will throw a campaign off message, growled about biased fact checking. With that he abruptly ended the interview and hung up. All this comes months after saying this about Obama:
“I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”
After the public outcry over that one Sununu offered a weak apology.
Senator Illuzzi seems to be constantly publically flirting with the idea of running as an Independent. So numerous have his own stories been of unnamed colleagues begging him to run as Democrat or Independent I would assume he needs to spend large parts of every day simply fending off such pleas.
Independent or Republican in the mold of Republicans Ernest Gibson, Franklin Billings, George Aiken and Jim Jeffords it says on Illuzzi’s webpage.Well, Gibson, Billings and Aiken are long gone and it’s over decade since Jim Jeffords bolted the Republican Party that had grown too crazy for a real independent Vermonter. But through it all Illuzzi remains a Republican Party man.
While we celebrate the contribution of American workers on Labor Day and ponder a Romney business-based presidency, here is a little report from the twin departments of rewarding-corporate-failures and they-always-land-on-their-feet.
On April 20 2010 BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion killed 11 workers and injured 17 more; the damaged underwater well head leaked 53,000 barrels of oil per day (estimates and rates vary) before it was finally capped on July 15th. Reportedly 1,100,000 gallons of chemical dispersants were injected at the well head 5,000 feet under the ocean surface. Millions of workers in coastal towns – shrimpers and fishermen, boat mechanics, service workers at resorts, hotels, and restaurants, gas station attendants, and more saw their jobs go up in smoke as fisheries shut down and incomes disappeared.
Even so it seems that after a mere 30 months the Deepwater disaster is fading into memory. Considering that growing emotional and cognitive distance, it may have been easier here in the US for former BP oil executive Tony Hayward to be granted a friendly rehabilitation from the New York Times, “[Hayward] … looking his elfin, curly-haired self”
At the height of the spill the tone-deaf and/or arrogant Hayward, the corporate face of the disaster, said to a UK newspaper that the Gulf is a “very big ocean,” and on US TV famously remarked that “I’d like my life back.” Then – with the damaged well still spewing tens of thousands of barrels of oil per day, and just two days after being questioned by members of Congress about the damage – he flew away and took part sailing in a regatta off the Isle of Wight. Within about a year of the spill the man MSNBC named one of the ten biggest CEO screw-ups in 2010 was out at BP.
[…] looking his elfin, curly-haired self and sounding more upbeat than he has in a long time, Mr. Hayward, it turns out, has his life back.
Offering no hint at any regrets or second thoughts, Hayward will not discuss the Deepwater disaster, and:
[…] associates say privately that he remains embittered by how he was vilified and then pushed out at BP.
Maybe he was pushed out, but shortly afterward Hayward had been appointed by BP to the board of TNK-BP, a joint venture with three Russian oligarchs.
Using his connections Tony Hayward quickly cobbled together enough big investors to enter into high-risk energy deals in war-torn Kurdistan and Iraq.
It might be surprising to Americans who watched the gulf spill unfold on TV, but Mr. Hayward's new investors tend to shrug off the disaster and his inglorious end at BP. NYTimes
In addition to investor Rothschild, a former Goldman Sachs executive, and two Turkish tycoons, he landed support from the successful New York hedge fund Paulson & Company, run by John A. Paulson. Hayward’s investment partner Paulson seems to be afflicted with the same type of ego-centric arrogance/tone-deafness disease.
Paulson made millions from credit-default swaps (essentially betting that owners of bubble-hyped properties financed with sub-par mortgages which companies like his were selling as investment-worthy instruments would default) when the housing market crashed and many Americans lost their homes. Yet he complained bitterly when Occupy movement protestors had the nerve to picket one of his many houses: a 28,500 sq ft Upper East Side townhouse (purchased in 2004 for $14.7 million).
“I think it’s somewhat misguided,” he says, growing agitated. “We pay a lot of taxes, especially living in New York – there’s an almost 13 percent city and state tax rate.
[…] “We choose to stay here and then, you know, get yelled at. I think that’s misdirecting their anger at the wrong place.”
But Tony Hayward has his life back and is armed with a dream team of Russian oligarchs, US hedge-funders and Kurdish tycoon investors. Yup, with the shadow of the recent unpleasantness now fading behind him, the man that ran the company responsible for one monstrous ecological disaster appears set up to have another go, half a world away. Spill baby, spill.
The other day Sen. Lindsey Graham said this about the demographic challenges of Republican Party:
"The demographics race we're losing badly. We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."
So this morning after enjoying a self-imposed a news blackout last night to avoid listening to Mitt Romney’s Republican festival of lies (turned off the radio, TV, and laptop) I find the Republicans have embarked on a counter-intuitive outreach effort. Eighty-two-year-old Clint Eastwood and an empty chair upstaged Mitt Romney’s make-or-break acceptance speech. The aging star posed leading questions to a chair in which sat an imaginary President Obama. Obama "chair" replied with suggested obscenities and was rebuked by Eastwood.
More damagingly, perhaps, this most controlled of candidates risked being overshadowed by a bizarre, meandering performance from veteran actor Clint Eastwood.
Eastwood used up roughly 10 minutes of network TV primetime with a soft-spoken, ad-libbed address that involved him talking to an empty chair that purported to represent President Obama. TheHill.com
It is hard to imagine a more perfect illustration of Lindsey Graham’s worries about over-reliance on angry white guys than to have angry-white-guy Clint Eastwood ramble at an empty chair for 10 minutes. Guess Romney-Ryan are just going for the “Get-off-my-lawn” voter. Big tent?
Various chemicals used in many things from hydro fracking, bug spray to the road deicer “brine” sprayed over Vermont highways each winter are covered by rules protecting corporate proprietary trade secrets. Set aside whether the secret compounds are or aren’t harmful and think about how ridiculously difficult it has become to answer a simple question: What is in this stuff ?
Vermont compost has had a bad season. Earlier in the summer leaves on vegetable plants in gardens that used Green Mountain Compost began to twist yellow and turn brown. It became evident that some herbicide had made its way into their compost. Chittenden Solid Waste District which operates Green Mountain Compost reacted quickly and arranged for specialized laboratory testing of the suspect compost.
But is it two herbicides or three?
A problem arose when tests by different labs conducted for the state of Vermont on contaminated compost found a third herbicide and could not confirm the original findings. Trace amounts of two herbicides ,Picoram and Clopyralid were found in the original tests. These compounds are in very small amounts and apparently will not harm people, but the state and Chittenden Waste tests have run head first into the problem of how to test conclusively for proprietary chemical compounds. The frustrated manager at CSWD Tom Moreau suggested methods to identify compounds found in corporate secret formulas should be available.
He [Moreau] wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement a national standard for testing. Moreau says the testing methods his agency and the state have to rely on are proprietary - meaning they are owned by the companies involved.
"Isn't it funny that the state has to call DuPont and Dow saying, ‘How do you test for these compounds?'" Moreau asks. "Sure, they're the authors and they're the originators and they're the patent holders of those. But, don't you think that when they're registered, that we would have a universal methodology to test for them in residuals?"
Yes,you would think universal testing methodologies should be available for public safety testing. But,no it isn’t funny, that for the sake of protecting corporate trade secrets we have little idea what is in secret proprietary formulas of “stuff” that get sprayed, dumped and spread all over roads, fields and even us each year.
Vermont has been saving pennies by closing Interstate highway rest areas, and for years the state has not provided sufficient funds to properly upgrade and maintain those that have remained. So pennywise and pounds foolish, it seems the state must be searching for schemes to keep rest areas available. One scheme apparently not under consideration is, you know actual proper funding of the facilities.
Now if you owned a large industrial park near an interstate and were offered a state backed monopoly business deal at the nearest highway exit, would you jump at the deal? How about if the state guaranteed no competition for many miles north and south?
From VPR News: So the Shumlin Administration has backed a plan by developer Jesse "Sam" Sammis to build a rest area and visitors' center off I-89 Exit 4 in Randolph. Said Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding […]"If it goes forward it seems like a good opportunity for the Vermont taxpayer, the traveling public and for Vermont producers to have a place to display their products," he said.
"I said it's a good idea, but how am I going to make this thing work financially? I've got to pay to build the buildings, put the infrastructure in," he said. Sammis said he plans to use a site next door to showcase Vermont products. He would charge companies rent to display their goods.
How well would this possibly work financially? How on earth could an exclusive State of Vermont deal at a heavily trafficked interstate highway interchange benefit financially someone that owns the surrounding 170-acre office/industrial park?
State studies from an earlier 2010 effort at this project by Sammis showed that by closing the existing rest areas combined with installing Vermont promtional signage on the Interstate, 500,000 travelers would "be put on the doorstep" of a commercialized area annually.
Getting the centers off the Interstates, [Department of Buildings and General Services Commissioner Gerald Myers] added, would make it possible to have retail sales on-site, something prohibited on federally-owned land.
No mention has been made of any remuneration to the state for its guarantee of non-competition or its promotional signs directing weary, rest-room-needy travelers to the privately owned commercial venture at Exit 4.
It's beginning to sound like our Granite State neighbors to the East, where they sell liquor at the rest areas, just in case there aren't enough drunk drivers on the road. But then again, selling liquor is exclusively a state prerogative over there.
So there you go, Sammis is the first to potentially have a state-blessed but otherwise unregulated monopoly with zero accountability. You want one? The key is on the hook. It's around back. (Psst, don't tell WalMart!)
There is still plenty of need for improvement but how could such a thing happen in Vermont, a state often claimed to be one of the most unfriendly business states? Vt. has one of lowest jobless rates in nation
“While the survey of Vermont households reported some economic weakness, we were still encouraged by Vermont businesses reporting increases in the employment numbers,” Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan said in a statement. With the state adding 2,500 jobs in July, Noonan said that points to the “strength and diversity of the state's economy.”
The national unemployment rate for July was 8.3 and Vermont at 5 percent unemployment is the fifth lowest in the country. Here in New England the average is 7.1. Vermont’s 5 percent unemployment rate was up .3 of a percent point from the last report but is the lowest in New England. Rhode Island can be found at the top with 10.8 percent, Connecticut 8.5 percent Maine at 7.6 percent and New Hampshire
These rates have to improve soon but the Vermont rate appears to be at odds with the doom and gloomsters (I am thinking Randy Brock and Bruce Lisman) suggestions that Vermont is an unfriendly state for businesses.
Oh, by the way big ol’ Texas, the state that is often at the top of the most business friendly lists-their unemployment rate is up for the second consecutive month at 7.2 percent.
Not too long ago VtDigger had a great piece on Bruce Lisman, and now they report on a wee bit o’puffery about him in Fortune Magazine. Appropriately enough the piece is a feature called Second Acts and titled: A moneyman goes from Wall Street to Main Street. Though, Main and 501(c)(4) Street might be a more accurate address.
Fortune outlines Lisman’s early career his return to Vermont, the start of the (so-called) 'Campaign for Vermont,' and the ongoing 'informational advertising' campaign. While the piece quotes his constantly repeated desire for "common sense ideas" to improve the state's economy, it offers few new insights into his real goals. So it’s basically same-old, same-old stuff to anyone familiar with the Campaign for Vermont.
A couple of new items do surface though.
First, he tells Fortune that he's writing a book about his 'listening tour' that will focus on Vermont entrepreneurs. Second, he is having fun.
Man, is this fun, engaging with people who want to engage in debate or ask why one thing works and one doesn't. In the world to come, which seems pretty unpredictable, citizens need to help each other.
So in an unpredictable world citizens can count on the 'Campaign for Vermont' ads. It is all his money (apparently) and we're glad he’s having fun ... but other than $200,000 worth of ad buys that boosted the local media outlets' bottom lines, where’s this going, Bruce?
The article links to CNN's assertion that Vermont is now one of the top ten most entrepreneurial states. So then, what does Burlington lawyer Barbara O'Connor quoted by Fortune have in mind when she suggests:
"hopeful Lisman's private-sector experience will make Vermont a place where new businesses are welcome."
The 'Campaign for Vermont' ads have been critical of the (Democratic) status quo on property taxes, energy policy and the state health care plan. Thus it is hardly surprising that
Fortune reports: Some Vermonters question the group's true purpose, and local press has portrayed Lisman as a fiscal conservative looking to take on the state's incumbent Democrats. But Lisman insists CFV is nonpolitical (though its structure is the same one used by Karl Rove and others) [sure quacks like a duck] and that he does not plan to run for office.
So what's this Wall Street moneyman’s 501 (c)(4) duck up to? Or What are the moneyman and his duck running for? No one is letting on knows but "Man this is fun" says Bruce.
Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor Cassandra Gekas will formally kick off her campaign this Thursday in Burlington. Gekas stepped forward to challenge Lt. Governor Phil Scott when it looked like he would just drive across the finish line to his second term unopposed. Speaking to the Bennington Banner last week Gekas said this about why she entered the race:
"For me, this is about issues and Vermonters’ values. It’s true that our current lieutenant governor is a nice guy and has a lot solid friendships across the state, but that’s different from being a policy leader and an elected official.”
The Burlington kick off at Union Station will feature her campaign treasurer Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s as host and among others in attendance will be Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell and State Senator Hinda Miller who is leaving the legislature. It appears that the governor will not be there . A glance at Governor Peter Shumlin’s public schedule for the day of the rally (August 16) notes only that it is state holiday and shows no appointments or appearences for that day.
In between the lines a VtDigger article may hint diplomatically at why the governor could be taking Bennington Battle Day off from campaigning.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, who encouraged Gekas to run against popular incumbent Republican Phil Scott, will endorse her race. Scott is close to the governor, and he participates in Shumlin’s Cabinet meetings. At a press conference in July, the governor said he would back all Democratic contenders in statewide races, including Gekas and Doug Hoffer, the Democrat running for state auditor.
However, it is good to read about Senators Miller and Campbell stepping up and giving a helping hand to a fellow Democratic candidate. Earlier an image and flattering quote from the Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell (D-Windsor) had graced Lt.Governor Scott’s facebook re-election campaign page. And Miller was one of several Democrats to attend a fund raiser for Republican candidate for State Auditor Vince Illuzzi who is running against Democratic candidate Doug Hoffer.
Now, whether this showing up would've happened without blog and press attention to the prior incidents of campaign-and-fundraising-related cross-party "amity" is anyone's guess. And whether their presence at Thursday's Democratic Lt. Governor's campaign kick-off event amounts to anything more than face-saving window-dressing won't become clear, even in the best crystal balls, until after the next round of campaign finance reports.
A recent Woodshop News article reported a legal settlement between the U.S. Justice Dept. and Gibson Guitars. It’s unusual but not totally unheard of to find an article in a peaceful woodworking trade publication that easily leads back into complex environmental import regulations, musical instruments, and right wing conspiracy theories.
Gibson Guitar Corp. entered into a criminal enforcement agreement with the United States, resolving a criminal investigation into allegations that the company violated the Lacey Act by illegally purchasing and importing ebony wood from Madagascar and rosewood and ebony from India.
[…] The agreement defers prosecution for criminal violations of the Lacey Act and requires Gibson to pay a penalty amount of $300,000 and a community service payment of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Gibson also relinquished any claim to the illegally obtained shipments of ebony valued at $261,844. Some supporters of the updated Lacey Act’s intent to protect endangered natural resources thought the raid might have been un-needed. But Gibson’s anti-regulation supporters blamed the imaginary hand of George Soros for instigating the legal action and federal raids that preceded the recent settlement.
Back in the Bush administration, beginning in May 2008, under the updated Lacey Act of 1900, it became illegal to import plants and plant products (trees of course are plants and lumber is a plant product) harvested and exported in violation of the laws of another country.
Gibson Guitars purchased ebony lumber that was already sawn into “blanks” for guitar fingerboards from a supplier. The Gibson supplier had been receiving the ebony “blanks” from a Madagascar exporter after a 2006 ban and did not have authority to export this product.
In 2008, an employee from Gibson traveled to Madagascar and was told of the 2006 law and that it in fact banned ebony fingerboard “blank” exports. The Gibson employee informed his superiors yet Gibson Guitars still received four shipments of the Madagascar ebony between October 2008 and September 2009.
The Justice Department raided and seized the wood from Gibson’s Nashville facility in two separate raids. This action was quickly seized on by Republican Speaker John Boehner, who had the Gibson CEO by his side at a State of the Union speech as a walking, talking victim of alleged over-regulation. Tea Partiers howled and cried about “Government jackboots kicking down doors, etc. …” Republican legislation was soon in the works in Congress limiting the Bush era amendments to the Lacy Act.
Almost as rapidly, a charge blaming George Soros was in the works too. The unsupported accusation was that the Environmental Investigation Agency (a self-described independent organization committed to bringing about change that protects the natural world from environmental crime and abuse), under influence of George Soros, had exerted pressure on the Justice Department to raid Gibson because of Gibson's Republican ties. This rumor went into heavy rotation. Everyone suddenly knew the imaginary hand of Soros was at work behind the scenes, secretly lobbying and organizing the government takeover of innocent fingerboard “blanks”.
After the raids but prior to the settlement Gibson decided that it would partner with the Heritage Foundation and sponsor a VIP bus at a music event at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. A Justice Department official points out that as of now
"Gibson has acknowledged that it failed to act on information that the Madagascar ebony it was purchasing may have violated laws intended to limit over-harvesting and conserve valuable wood species from Madagascar, a country which has been severely impacted by deforestation."
However it appears Gibson Guitars will continue to leverage their political alliance to weaken a law they fell afoul of. This leaves hanging the question a woodworking industry blog posed: Will Gibson Guitars come away from this venture with its reputation intact?
Ya gotta wonder, is it worth the risk of alienating the many left-wing guitarists who might buy Gibsons? Will Gibson Guitars become the next Chick-fil-A?
Or is Gibson trolling for new customers to join Ted Nugent (who plays a Gibson Byrdland)?
The RNC National chairman Reince Preibus recently announced some of the headline speakers that will be appearing at the Romney Republican nominating convention in Tampa Florida. Chairman Preibus calls the speakers
"some of our party's brightest stars, who have governed and led effectively and admirably in their respective roles."
And, warming up to the task of snake-oil salesman, he continues
"Ours will be a world-class convention, worthy of the next president of the United States, and these speakers – and those that will be announced later – will help make it a truly memorable and momentous event."
But Blogger Charlie Pierce peeks under the side of the circus tent and looks at three of the RNC convention’s stars. He finds these “effective and admirable” Republican governors are, um, under-appreciated, to say the least, in their respective home-state roles.
Brightest star Governor Nikki Haley enjoys an approval rating of 38 percent in her home state of South Carolina.
And fellow bright star and Medicare-scamster Rick Scott’s most recent approval rating comes in at a memorable 31 percent. The Romney campaign reportedly has hesitated to even appear with Scott at campaign events in Florida.
Ohio’s John Kasich weighs in at cool 47% percent approval rating and actually is kind of a rising star on this list, as his rating recently surged up from a low of 41percent.
Other speakers will be Mike Huckabee the Governor from Chick-fil-A and Republican elder statesman Senator John McCain, who looked at Sarah Palin and saw a Vice President of the U S.
Tickets good for one ride. Keep your seats while the machine is motion. And eat more kale.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s statement this week that he had been told by unnamed Bain Capital investors that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid any taxes in ten years has caused him some grief. Republican Senator Mitch “our single most important job is defeating Obama” McConnell sniffed that it was “below the dignity of his office” even Jon Stewart tweaked him on the TV. However Reid stuck with this bit all week.
Although I am not not particularly a fan one way or the other of Senator Reid, his judgment on some things doesn’t seem all that bad. Reid is one of the few national figures I can think of that called George W. Bush a liar and in the 2008 campaign he frankly stated “I can’t stand John McCain.” Here are some other punches he has thrown over the years that the New York Times thoughtfully dug up.
In 2005, Mr. Reid said of President George W. Bush: “This guy is a loser.” He later apologized for that remark, but stood by another claim that Mr. Bush had been “a liar” while in office. Mr. Reid called Senator Bill Frist, the Republican leader from 2003 to 2007, “amateurish."
[…]Reid once said that Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was “one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington.”
Romney issued a “put up or shut up” challenge to Reid over the tax accusation. Wonder if Mitten’s macho challenge wasn’t made with the “wimp” label in mind that Newsweek Magazine (yes, there still is Newsweek mag.) placed on him last week. After all “Put up or shut up” is an odd challenge given that he appears determined both to not put up his tax returns and to stonewall on the issue regardless of the political price. It all keeps the scofflaw issue alive and won’t get him out from under the tax issue. That’s if anybody is paying attention in August.