Friday, May 21, 2010
In the recent primary elections, Kentuckians went for TEA Party favorite Rand Paul to be the GOP nominee to replace retiring Senator Jim Bunning. This was something of a surprise, because Kentucky's other Senator, Mitch McConnell, endorsed and campaigned for Paul's opponent Trent Grayson. Paul is the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Soon after his victory, Rand set about showing us that the nut doesn't fall far from the tree , and he holds the same certifiably loony Libertarian beliefs as his old man.
Hitting the TV/radio interview circuit, Rand told us that he's not a bigot but he thinks any private business should be allowed to discriminate and deny services for any reason and should be permitted to ignore all civil rights laws. He went on to call President Obama's criticism of BP "un-American" because all real American know it was nobody's fault and, hey, accidents happen. Whatever you say, Rand.
Kentucky hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate in a long time, but the more Rand Paul talks, the more the D's chances improve.
The Texas State Board Of Education is about to vote on their approved curriculum and textbook content. They do this every ten years. This time, the board is set to give the OK to a right-wing revision of history. It looks like the 5 million public school kids in Texas will for the next decade learn social studies, economics and history from textbooks running heavy on Christianity, capitalism and states rights. Here are some of the fear-laden, jingoistic, and amazingly nutty changes they propose:
In discussion of the Age Of Enlightenment, Thomas Jefferson has been dropped in favor of humorless churchman John Calvin (who's about as far from enlightened as you can get).
There is no Constitutional basis for the separation of church and state, says Texas.
Kids will be taught that Joseph McCarthy's 1950's witchhunts looking for Commie infiltrators were justified.
Capitalism will be referred to "free enterprise", which has a more positive connotation, says the Board.
The Civil War was not about slavery. It was about states rights.
There will be no mention of Tejanos fighting and dying at the Alamo alongside Col. Travis, Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett.
The U.S. government is prohibited from promoting any one religion over another. Texas schoolkids won't be hearing anything about that.
American History classes will emphasize the conservative movement of the 1980's and 1990's, specifically discussing Phyllis Schlafly, Newt Gingrich's Contract With America, Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association.
There will be no mention of the accomplishments and significance of Ted Kennedy or Sonia Sotomayor, but Texas students will become experts on Ronnie Reagan.
Of the 15 people on the Texas Board, not one is a teacher, economist, or historian. No shit. It shows.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
It's been a few weeks and BP's broken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico is still gushing shitloads of crude every second. The difficulty capping this leak reveals the lunacy of deep-sea oil drilling -- unlike a tanker with a finite capacity, or a dry-land well you can actually get to, an ocean floor leak could conceivably spew oil for years -- decades! -- before it peters out naturally. How long have they been pumping oil in Texas and Kuwait? Imagine all that gunk just flowing freely into oceans. Our world would be fucked for good.
So everyone agrees we gotta find some way to stop this thing in the Gulf, and we gotta find it now. Incredibly, BP never conceived of such a problem occurring and therefore had no response plan. They've admitted they're essentially just making up shit as they go along. Great! First, they tried a big concrete "hat", which didn't work. Neither did a second smaller hat. Now they've claimed a measure of success by inserting a small tube into the much larger broken line and syphoning off a tiny amount of the leaking crude. This is like trying to divert the course of the Mississippi with a soda straw! There have been thoughts of trying to seal it by dumping massive quantities of mud and concrete over the leak. Some have suggested the line could be plugged with chopped up tires and golf balls.
I may have hit upon a solution: As this situation is rapidly becoming a national emergency, I believe we should be able to rely on some of our greatest Americans and finest patriots to heed the call of duty and do whatever it takes, including the ultimate sacrifice, to stop this leak immediately. The break is in a big 20-inch pipe, so it will take some serious plugging to stem the flow.
Dick Cheneyand Sarah Palin have been two of the most vocal advocates for free and easy drillin', so I'm sure they wouldn't mind helping to clean up their own mess. We stuff them into the pipe first. Next we cram Glenn Beck in there and tamp him down good and tight with one his chalkboard pointers. He's always shedding tears of anxiety over the future of his beloved country. Now he can cry tears of joy doing something positive for the future. And we can finally close the thing off with that huge clot in the artery of common sense, Rush Limbaugh. We jam him in there mouth first so he can taste that deliciously natural mix of oil and water, while doing his patriotic duty and saving the Gulf from further devastation. If there are still any minor cracks or leaks, we'll seal them with Ann Coulter.
I'm tellin' ya, it'll work, and it'll be a hell of a public service to boot.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
President Obama has nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, to fill the seat of the retiring John Paul Stevens. She's the current Solicitor General, representing the U.S. government in cases before the Court. She got her law degree from Harvard, clerked for Thurgood Marshall, worked in the Clinton White House, taught at the University of Chicago Law School, and then was the first female dean at Harvard Law. She is said to be a brilliant legal scholar who plays well with others and is open to all viewpoints, a sort of MENSA mensch. If confirmed, Kagan would be the third woman on the current court. (Perfect proportion would be four and a half women!)
Because Kagan's the nominee of Obama the Anti-Christ and is obviously not a card-carrying member of the John Birch Society, Senate Republicans are duty bound to find some sort of fault with her, however lame. Here's what they've come up with:
1. She's "inexperienced", meaning she's never been a sitting judge. So we should discount all her credentials, forget that she's the country's preeminent Constitutional expert, and give her the thumbs-down because she's never been a judge. Neither had Felix Frankfurter, William Rehnquist, and many others, but forget that too. If it's experience we must have, there are tens of thousands of experienced judges in America. Pick one. How about the traffic court judge from Kokomo? How about Harry Anderson from Night Court?
2. She's an academic who couldn't possibly understand ordinary people in the real world. This is the "Ivy League smarty-pants" argument, which ignores the fact that all the other current justices graduated from either the Harvard or Yale law schools. So it's OK for those eight, but not OK for her? Don't recall anyone bitching about Sam Alito's Ivy League background. And being a smart and educated person is a good thing, especially for a Supreme Court Justice. We've suffered through a whole bunch of dumb in recent years. Right now, I'll take all the smart I can get. But if you really believe the Court should save a seat for the ordinary common man, how about Calvin Borel for the Supreme Court? The Ragin' Cajun jockey is an illiterate eigth-grade dropout, but he can ride horses and count money. Calvin is common as dirt. He'd be a wondermous Justice, I guar-ron-tee!
3. She's a lesbian. Maybe, maybe not, but so what if she is? Who fucking cares? What does that have to do with anything? I hope she is a lesbian. She can do it with donkeys for all I care. Imagine this exchange at her confirmation hearing:
Douchebag Sen. Jeff Sessions (R, Ala.): "Now Ms. Kagan, you're unmarried, is that correct?"
Kagan: "That's right, Senator Sessions. I'm a lesbian and I'm unmarried because assholes like you won't let me. How about you, Jeffy? You married? You like women or men? I bet you go for little boys, you fuckstick!"
That won't happen, of course, but one these days it ought to!
Anyhow, I like the academic smarty-pants lesbian who hasn't been a judge . . . yet. Need more like her.
Monday, May 17, 2010
The Cavs were bounced from the playoffs in six games by the Celtics. This was supposed to that championship season. Instead, they didn't even make it to the conference finals. We were all witnesses alright -- witnesses to an inexplicably listless finish to an otherwise great season. LeBron's elbow was hurting more than he let on, and Game 5 was a throw-in-the-towel stinker. The next day, there was Sports Illustrated in my mailbox with Shaq on the cover, which asked if he could "deliver a ring to the King?" That question was answered soon enough.
So now, whither Bron Bron? Will he be content as a super-wealthy but loyal homey in mid-market Cleveland, or will he pursue the obscene riches and sky-high profile of New York or Chicago?
As Steven Wright once quipped, "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" Think about what you already have, LeBron. You already have more money than you'll ever need. You're already known world-wide. You're the league's best player on a very good, fun-lovin' team -- a team that would again be a favorite to win it all if you return. Re-up with the Cavs and you're a huge hero in Ohio. Win us a title and you're a god. Stay, LBJ, stay.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
(Thanks to my sister Jan for sharing this story with me. I merely repeat it.)
Not long ago, my nephew Chris and his girlfriend Megan returned to the states after 6 months or so living and working on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, a French protectorate. They both speak French and were there to help teach English to the locals. To do this, Chris had taken a leave of absence from his job, and Megan quit hers. The government of Guadeloupe paid them (a little) and they found a place to stay (which for a time was a cute little house literally on the beach). What a deal! Getting paid to live in a tropical paradise, drink rum, and teach your native language. How come I never stumbled into a sweet gig like that?
Guadeloupe has friendly people, beautiful countryside, gorgeous beaches, and is very "picturesque". An old college professor once taught me that when the travel brochures refer to a place as picturesque, what they mean is poor. And many things in Guadeloupe are, uh, basic -- like spotty electricity, phone service, medical facilities, etc.
I bring this up because near the end of their time there, Megan found herself at one of those medical facilities for an emergency appendectomy! Just what everybody wants -- a picturesque Caribbean operation! The procedure was a success and she's fine, but I'm told the "hospital" was an open-air place, a big tent with gurneys and scalpels. Jesus! ("No problem, mon!")
What's also interesting is that because she was in a French territory with that God-awful, single-payer, Socialized Frog universal health care, her bill was $0. ("Dat doctor, he got de powerful mojo, mon!") Timing is everything. Had Megan's appendicitis occurred after her return to the good old USA, it would have caught her unemployed and uninsured. My sister guesses it would have been a $10,000 procedure here, with billing 100% to Megan. Coulda been a real sucky welcome-home gift!
It's a good example of polar opposites in the world of health care:
In French Guadeloupe, the government pays the witch doctor, and the government pays the hospital tent. These payments are relatively modest compared to American fees, but are the accepted norm. The service is provided, and the patient pays nothing.
In America, the government is not involved (unless you're old or poor). Profit-driven doctors and hospitals provide great service at the highest prices in the world. For most people, most of those costs are covered by some sort of health insurance, but there can still be substantial out-of-pocket costs to the individual. To keep pace with our ever-increasing medical costs, health insurance premiums keep going up, up, up as well. It's a real quid pro quo arrangement. If you're unlucky enough to be uninsured at your moment of medical need, well, those good doctors and hospitals will fix you up and then send you a bill that's even higher than the bill they'd submit for insurance reimbursement. That's right, the uninsured are the only ones asked to pay no-discount sticker price. And many of 'em take one look at that unholy invoice and head straight to bankruptcy court.
Which system is simpler and more sensible? Paraphrasing W.C. Fields, "All things considered, I'd rather be in French Guadeloupe."
All by herself, Sarah Palin is supplying the Book Of The Month Club with a steady stream of material. My favorite moose-gutter has written another book already. This one's called America By Heart: Reflections On Family, Faith And Flag, and it's due out in November. Lovely title, isn't it? Warm, fuzzy, and basically meaningless -- straight out of the beauty queen playbook. And if you seriously believe that Sarah has spent much time reflecting on anything other than a mirror, you're the only one.
The best comment on this so far has come from Bob Borowitz, who said, "It's official: Sarah Palin has now written more books than she's read."
(The photo doesn't really have much to do with this post, but I love it and I couldn't resist!)
A new book claims that President Obama refused to play golf with conservative talk radio star Rush Limbaugh.
In "Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One," which is due out later this month, author Zev Chafets reports that the President rebuffed a suggestion to meet his nemesis on the links. From the New York Post's Page Six:
When President Obama was asked if he would play a round of golf with his talk-radio nemesis Rush Limbaugh, the response, relayed by a top Democrat, was: "Limbaugh can play with himself."
And from the looks of those snappy shorts, Rush is ready to do just that!
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Appearing today before a Senate panel investigating the disastrous oil leak in the Gulf, BP America's Chairman Lamar McKay was asked, essentially, "Who screwed up here?" McKay summoned up all of his business ethics, channeled the Family Circus cartoon, and replied, "Not me!" He said it was the fault of TransOcean, which owns the oil rig and did the drilling. For their part, TransOcean blames Halliburton for poor installation of the blowout valve, a safety feature which went kaput.
Nice try, Mr. McKay, but your kite won't fly. BP is the operator of the well and owns the rights to the oil. Like any manufacturer subcontracting this part or that, BP may have farmed out certain portions of its operation, but it's still by far the biggest turd in this particular punch bowl. They're gonna pay. Probably will need to sue the shit out of 'em to get 'em to do it, but they're gonna pay.
Anybody else for a moratorium on off-shore drilling?
USA Today reported that, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the total tax burden on the average American in 2009 was the lowest since 1950. Total tax means income tax, property tax, sales tax, etc., net of all deductions and credits. It does not include Social Security taxes. Certainly, it's a different world today than in Harry Truman's time, but the BEA said last year's total tax of 9.2% of income is well below the historical average of 12%, and has been falling for the past 2 years. Some of this recent decrease results from stimulus bill tax cuts, drops in personal incomes, and fewer retail sales, so the BEA report is not all beer and skittles. Still, it ain't all bad either. So tell me again what those idiot TEA Baggers are so fuckin' mad about?
Saturday, May 8, 2010
On Real Time this week, Bill Maher took on conservatives for dismissing the Gulf oil spill and the climate change movement.
"Texas Governor Rick Perry says it was an act of God. I think it was an act of Dick Cheney," Maher said, referring to the Bush administration's energy task force. "And it shows the disastrous results of having lobbyists write laws."
Later in the program, he slammed Rush Limbaugh for dismissing the oil spill as "natural."
Said Maher, "Here's Limbaugh's quote about the oil spill 'The ocean will take care of this. It's as natural [the oil] as the ocean water is.' That's right, a petrochemical stew is very natural to wetlands. You know what, you dipshit? Mercury's natural too -- you don't put it in your Cheerios."
Friday, May 7, 2010
by Robert Reich
Former Secretary of Labor
Professor of Economics, UC Berkeley
posted 5/7/10 on the Huffington Post
Ninety minutes before the end of the trading day Thursday, the U.S. stock market almost melted down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 1,000 points. The market regained ground before the end, like a giant 747 narrowly averting a crash landing, but the questions of the day are: What happened? And what does it mean?
At this point no one knows why. Some say it was sudden burst of worries about Greece's debt and the increasing possibility of a default that might cause a run by global investors. Others point to a "trading error." Giant high-speed computers generate millions of trades based on instructions embedded in computer programs designed to move fast enough to beat everyone else. So when there's a glitch in one of them it can immediately spread to all the other programs designed to move just as fast. Some say it was an erroneous trade entered by someone at a big Wall Street bank who mistyped an order to sell a large block of stock, and that the big drop in that stock's price (Procter & Gamble?) triggered "sell" orders across the market.
Regardless of why it happened, it's further evidence that the nation's and the world's capital markets have become a vast out-of-control casino in which fortunes can be made or lost in an instant -- which would be fine except for the fact that most of us have put our life savings there. Pension funds, mutual funds, school endowments -- the value of all of this depends on a mechanism that can lose a trillion dollars in minutes without anyone having a clear idea why. So much of the market now depends on computer programs and mathematical models that no one fully understands, so much trading is in the hands of a few people whose fat thumbs or momentary carelessness might sink the economy, so much of global wealth now depends on who can move their money quickest at the slightest provocation -- that we are toying with financial disaster every day. The luck or foolishness of a few traders, and inside knowledge and information that some possess and others don't, combined with ultra high-speed computers, put us all at the whim of a system whose risk is way out of proportion to any public benefits.
The financial reforms being considered on Capitol Hill are steps in the right direction. But the "systemic risk" now embedded in our capital markets is higher than ever, and will require far greater understanding and vigilance than now being considered.
Cross-posted from RobertReich.org.
Monday, May 3, 2010
(Hold the presses and get me Re-write, quick! What follows is a greatly abridged version of the original ill-conceived post, which was published for about 5 minutes before I took it down. One of the many benefits of having a good wife is that she's not shy about calling me out when I'm really out of line. Thank you, dear!)
Man, I love the internet more and more all the time. There is literally nothing you can't find out there somewhere on the web. Of course, this includes a lot of rumor, legend, and outright lying. And some of this misinformation goes viral (and is occasionally shared and spread by people I know). Facebook speeds the process along.
Regarding two current internet rumors that are seemingly everywhere all of a sudden, it's Mythbuster time, True or False-style:
TRUE or FALSE? President Obama has allowed Islamic prayers to be read to open the daily proceedings in the U.S. Senate. FALSE. Just hasn't happened. Wouldn't hurt a doggone thing if it had happened, but it hasn't. And it isn't the President's call anyway. The Senate Chaplain does organize regular prayer meetings for a variety of faiths, including Christian, Jewish and, yes, Muslim. These groups meet in the Senate office building and other government offices. Nobody's kneeling and facing Mecca on the floor of the Senate. Now, back in July 2007 the Senate opened its day on one occasion with a Hindu prayer, and some redneck Christian soldiers got all chap-assed about it. That was when Dubya was top dog, not Obama. And by the way, the U.S. has no official religion.
TRUE or FALSE? President Obama has cancelled National Prayer Day. FALSE. This internet legend popped up last year and it's back again. National Prayer Day was started in the late 1940's by Harry Truman, as a symbolic gesture. It's traditionally in early May. This year it will be May 6th. Since Truman, all Presidents have acknowledged the day in some small way. Until George W. Bush, that is. Dubya saw fit to turn it into a big White House ceremony -- a dog and pony show for the religious right celebrating (endorsing?) conservative, fundamentalist, Evangelical Christianity. Holy shit, it was a wonder they didn't start handling snakes and speaking in tongues! All Obama did was end the White House ceremony and return the thing to the way it always was before -- we'll note the day and then let everybody be as spiritual as they care to be in their own personal fashion, privately. Nothing was cancelled.
OK, that's two internet myths shot down, and about two hundred million to go. Stay tuned.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Remember the old TV show Hogan's Heroes? It was a comedy set in a German POW camp. It featured Bob Crain as Colonel Hogan and Werner Klemperer as Commandant Klink. Richard Dawson played one of the prisoners. It was a good show and ran for several years. It was one of my favorites when I was a kid.
Evidently John Kasich watched a lot of Hogan's Heroes too. Because when he was recently asked about what role he may have played in the failure of his former employer, Lehman Brothers, Kasich immediately went into Sgt. Schultz mode:
"Nein! Nein! I know nothing! I hear nothing! I see nothing!"
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Campaign Advertising: Where Truth Goes To Die. This has always been the case across the political spectrum, but it's especially prevalent these days among Republicans trying to curry favor from the TEA Partiers:
Steve Stivers is again running against Mary Jo Kilroy for a seat in Congress. A Stivers flyer stuck in my door informed me that Kilroy still "isn't listening to us." This is a big theme with the far right: "They don't get it. They aren't listening." This refrain confuses listening with agreeing. We're listening. We hear you just fine. It's just that we think you're full of shit and we disagree with all your crackpot ideas. The flyer goes on to tell me that Stivers is "our only hope to stop the radicals in Washington" (radicals?), that he'll work to stop Nancy Pelosi (oh, that radical 70-year old grandmother), and to stop "job-killing" measures like health care mandates and environmental legislation, and he'll cut taxes, repeal taxes, and vote no to taxes. So I guess he wants us to be uninsured, sick, with an underfunded government, but somehow we'll all be magically working and polluting our way to prosperity. Sounds like a plan, Steve-O!
Then we have the Jon Husted TV ad in his campaign to be be Ohio Secretary of State. He's currently a State Congressman and Speaker of the Ohio House. His original TV spot was a meaningless puke-up of boilerplate buzzwords: He's a "Conservative family man" (good job on the sperm donation, Stud!) and a "fighter" (everybody's a fighter) who "took on Liberal ACORN for election fraud." (Timeout. Husted is himself the very embodiment of election fraud. He represents Ohio's 6th District, where a vacant house in Kettering serves as his "residence". Meanwhile, he and his wife and kids live most conveniently in Upper Arlington.) He worked to "preserve Statehouse prayer because our rights are God-given." (Our rights are what? Well then, fuck the Constitution and the Amendments and the Ohio Revised Code. Who needs 'em? We can just check with God. Got his phone number?) If elected, Jon-Boy will also "stop immoral government debt to protect our children's liberty." (Wow! Where to begin? I don't think the Secretary of State has much influence on debt levels. Debt is not a person or a belief, it's a noun, a condition. As such, it's neither moral nor immoral. And what the hell does it have to with our children's liberty? Is debt going to throw our kids in jail? A big load of B.S. in one short sentence!) These days, Husted's ad has been trimmed to just the last part about debt and liberty. Amazingly, this is not enough for the TEA Partiers. In the more-conservative-than-thou contest, the TEA Baggers actually prefer some unknown named Sandra O'Brien.
And the most dangerous douchebag of the bunch and the country's craziest football coach? It's Dave Daubenmire! Years ago, it was my misfortune to attend Otterbein College at the same time as Daubenmire. He was a self-important little pissant then, and has gotten nothing but worse ever since. He's now a full-blown religious zealot running on the TEA Party ticket for U.S. Congress in Ohio's 18th District. Do a web search on him, and you'll find a whole bunch of crazy-scary shit. He first gained notoriety as the football coach at London High (where he ran the wing-nut formation!). He required that his players kneel and pray before, during and after all practices and games. As a public school, London told him to quit this shit. He refused and was fired in 1999. He's now coaching at the private Fairfield Christian Academy where he can preach and pray and proselytize with wild-eyed abandon. He's been a staunch defender of Marysville teacher John Freshwater's right to burn crosses into the arms of his students. Little Dave's "Man Of God" persona did not prevent his son from being arrested and charged with possession of child pornography a while ago. Little Dave's websites have articles and links with titles like Hollywood's War On God and Have You Received God's Mercy?, together with his political rant which is always cast in religious terms. Daubie The Dipshit is running as a TEA Partier because the Republicans are far too liberal for his tastes and we don't have an American Christian Taliban . . . yet. Happily, he has no money and a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected.