Thursday, July 29, 2010
Tick, tick, tick. Nine years and counting, and what have we accomplished?
In 2001, in an understandable but ill-conceived response to the 9/11 tragedy, Dubya took us charging into Afghanistan so we could catch that bastard Osama Bin Laden and drop a bomb on his head. Just missed him! Damn! But hey, while we're in the neighborhood, let's mess with Iraq!
Now it's 2010, Iraq has been liberated into a pile of rubble, Bin Laden is long gone, but we're still traipsing around in Afghanistan trying to find Al Qaeda bad guys.
General McCrystal is out for saying some stupid shit to a reporter and General Petraeus is back in. This will make absolutely no difference whatsoever.
An online outfit called Wikileaks released a bunch of classified documents that boil down to (1.) Most of our military personnel realize how hopeless our Afghan mission is, and (2.) Most of them feel that the Taliban, despite their penchant for cutting off noses, are far more trustworthy and far less corrupt than President Karzai. No surprises.
President Obama is sticking to his guns and will begin withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. For that, I give him credit. But I have to discredit his decision to not pull out even sooner. What good is another year in this fucking dump?
Look, Afghanistan is literally the planet's rectum, the end of the earth. It has no strategic value to anyone. It's a good place to hide, and that's about it. It's primitive, lawless, undeveloped, and brutal, and destined to stay that way. It's the one place in the world where people use the words "war lord" and they're not talking about a goddam video game. At the height of their power, both the British Empire and the Soviet Empire made military forays into Afghanistan and got their asses kicked. And we think we're gonna do better? The last guy who had any success at an Afghan conquest was Genghis Khan, but after a short stay, he got out too. After sampling the myriad pleasures of Afghanistan, Khan and his Hordes decided they preferred burning yak turds for heat back home in Mongolia, and so they split.
Our "war" in Afghanistan is unwinnable, and there's nothing to win anyway. Bring 'em home. Now.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
(Excerpted from Nothing's Sacred by Lewis Black, Simon & Schuster, 2005)
[George W. Bush] decided that a $350 billion tax cut would stimulate the economy. Well, it turned out to be a load of crap because they never know what stimulates the economy. The economy is an entity in and of itself. It goes up and down and up and down and up and down and nobody -- and I mean nobody -- knows why. I know this to be a fact because I took economics in college.
I would take this opportunity to explain it to you, but the truth is, I flunked economics. . . . But I do have an answer to why a $350 billion tax cut couldn't work at that time. Because every city and every state in the country was broke. And, due to a lack of cash reserves, essential services were cut from sea to shining sea. Services like policemen -- 'cause you really don't need 'em. Services like firemen -- 'cause it's actually much more fun to watch stuff burn down. And, in my hometown of New York City, services like after-school programming. And, you have to trust me on this, if anybody needed to be distracted, it was those little pricks.
If you were a parent at that time, however, you had reason to count your blessings because, as part of the tax cut package, you would receive a check from the feds for $400 for every child you had. Which really paid off for those couples who had, say, a thousand kids.
Personally, I found the $400-per-child rebate kind of mean. After all, all $400 does is remind people just how fucked they are. Parents would have been better off if their congressmen came to their doors and pissed on their shoes. At least that would have been a distraction.
Think about it -- as a yearly tax break, $400 breaks down to less than $1.10 a day. You read that right: less than $1.10 a day! My advice to parents was to stretch that windfall by putting your kid in a box and shipping him off to one of those Sally Struthers countries where a buck ten could really do some damage. Sure, the conditions might be a little questionable, but at least your precious little ones can have all the dried milk they can choke down.
Instead of that tax cut, I thought the government should have initiated a public works project. In other words, pay people to build something. You see, when you employ people, they get money -- and then they spend that money, and that stimulates the economy. There were -- and still are -- so many choices, so many places that could've used a boost. Take, for instance, Mississippi. That's a state truly in need. Be honest, have you ever heard anyone say, "Son of a bitch, I've got two weeks vacation coming and I can't wait to see Biloxi!" I rest my case.
So all the government needed to do was send someone down there with a bag full of money, have him get off the plane, and let him walk in any direction, and he would've found a place to use it. And all he had to do was build a big fucking thing. It didn't matter what it was as long as it was big and it was a a fucking thing. And then, when it was done, everybody would've been excited and said, "Honey, pack up the kids, we're going to see The Big Fucking Thing!"
Before you knew it, The Big Fucking Thing Restaurant and The Big Fucking Thing Hotel & Casino, and The Big Fucking Thing Spa all would have sprung up around it. And then, because all of these people would have flocked to see The Big Fucking Thing, the economy would have grown.
It's not so hard to figure out. Which is why I'm thinking of running for something. Nothing local, of course. I need to run for a big fucking thing.
Fairly soon, some of George W. Bush's "temporary" income tax cuts are due to expire, which would of course mean that some tax rates for some folks would go back up a couple points. President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner have both said that the cuts should expire, at least for the upper bracket (taxable incomes over $375,000 -- there's not a lot of those people). At this suggestion, Republicans promptly blew a gasket and harrumphed that this would be a tax "increase" which would of course "kill jobs".
This is boilerplate bullshit. Dubya's cuts were temporary, not permanent. This means they come to an end. Can we get you a dictionary? The planned return of a tax rate to its original level can hardly be called an "increase". And the temporary lower rates of the Bush years were not exactly a bonanza for job growth, now were they?
Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if there were no such thing as taxes? Nobody likes to pay taxes of any sort. Nobody really wants to pay higher taxes. But everybody wants and enjoys and expects a certain level of the stuff and services that governments -- city, state, federal -- provide. And that takes money. Unfortunately, the Reaganites and the TEA-Baggers and other conservative douchebags have done a good job of demonizing the very word "tax", to the point that some dimbulb citizens get ugly and violent about it, and some pandering politicians campaign on eliminating certain taxes and opposing any and all tax increases of any sort for any purpose. (See Kasich, Portman, Stivers, et al.) This is idiocy.
As individuals, we each need funds so that we can get the stuff and services we need and want. In the same fashion, government needs funding to do its job and provide us with its share of stuff and services. So in a way, a tax cut is to government what a pay cut would be to you and me. Ever had your salary slashed or your pay grade reduced? Not fun. You survive, but something's gotta give and you make do with less. Not much different when government funding is slashed. So, if you really believe that tax cuts are a panacea that will automagically make everything peachy-keen, ask yourself: When revenue falls, what exactly am I willing to give up? How much of it am I willing to give up?
Tax cuts are not a cure-all. You don't bring prosperity by reducing funding. Trickle-down is a crock. Reagan was wrong. The TEA Party is stupid.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The other day, Sarah Palin said that "peaceful Muslims" should "refudiate" the building of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. Now, you know, I know, and even Dan Quayle knows that there is no such word as refudiate. Sarah laughed off her gaffe and even compared herself to William Shakespeare, remarking that he too liked to "invent new words".
Somewhere in England, the Bard's skeleton is spinning furiously.
With Arizona's anti-Mexican immigration law set to go into effect in a day or so, Buster offers the following public service announcement to all those jingoistic Simon-pure Americans out there across this great land of ours:
We're all immigrants! This is a nation of immigrants. We all came from somewhere else. Unless your name is Sitting Bull or Nanook, you came from immigrants. Today's Mexican immigrants aren't doing anything different than your ancestors did. Think about it.
At long last, BP succeeded in capping its blown out oil rig in the Gulf. Hooray! It had been about three months and a bajillion barrels of crude puking out into the ocean. The cap is a temporary fix. Work continues on the permanent fix of a relief well. Should be good to go fairly soon.
Speaking of going, Tony Hayward is now the former CEO of BP. Reportedly, the PR-challenged Hayward will be reassigned to BP of Russia. Seriously. BP officials maintain that this is an important job and a plum assignment for Tony, but I'm not buyin' it. One minute, you're in London running one of the largest corporations in the world, and the next you're transferred to fucking Siberia! You have your life back, Tony. It's just frozen.
Andrew Breitbart is a right-wing blogger and columnist, a TEA Party favorite, and a frequent guest on Fox News. In certain circles, he's considered "influential" for spewing his particular brand of hate and ignorance. And of course he recently gained some publicity for himself by posting an intentionally misleading video snippet on his website showing USDA employee Shirley Sherrod appearing to make a racist comment.
As a sign of the times, the video went instantly viral. Fox News was, naturally, the first to air it, followed promptly by every other news outlet on the planet. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack saw it, and immediately fired Sherrod.
But Breitbart's video was only 10 seconds of a 20 minute speech, and it now stands as the dictionary definition of "out of context". Sherrod made her speech a couple years ago and, in their entirety, her words were the opposite of racist. They were about racial reconciliation and tolerance and helping those in need, no matter what.
Well, oops! Suddenly, everyone from Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to Fox-wad Bill O'Reilly was falling over themselves apologizing to Sherrod for not bothering to check whether this red-hot news-making blog post was, you know, actually true.
The only person who didn't apologize was Breitbart. He accomplished what he set out to do. He was pissed when NAACP President Ben Jealous said that the TEA Party had racist elements (which it does), and if the TEA Partiers had any scruples (which they don't), they should acknowledge this and disavow racism (don't hold your breath). Breitbart wanted to show that black people could be racist too, and if his method of demonstrating it turned out to be a total crock of shit, he didn't care, and still doesn't. He just wanted to make his point, and to hell with honesty.
Sherrod says she's considering suing him. You go, girl!
And the next time you want a reliable, trustworthy blog, forget that slimy huckster Andrew Breitbart. For a more satisfying blog experience, I humbly suggest Buster's Blog.
Those fun folks in the Palmetto State apparently have no intention of relinquishing their "Goofiest State" title to the nutjobs in Arizona. In the Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate, South Carolina D's amused themselves by electing a complete unknown by the name of Alvin Greene, who'll now oppose incumbent Republican Jim DeMint in November. Greene is unemployed, has has legal issues, and has no money. The only explanation for his winning the primary was that his name appeared first on a long list of candidates. In his only public appearance so far, the stone-faced Greene exhibited a pretty good case of stage fright, and a tendency to wander off on a verbal tangent and never come back. His chances of defeating the ultra-conservative dipshit DeMint are less than zero.
But wouldn't it be just fan-fucking-tastic if somehow he did?
Pardon my absence. Man does not live by blog alone.
Back from the annual sojourn to the South Carolina shore. 'Twas lovely and relaxing, as usual. We were without Jim and Tish for the first time in . . . forever! Throwing caution to the wind, we ate oysters and survived. (Limbaugh's right -- crude oil is delicious!)
And I'll also make my annual post-vacation observation on beach bodies: Some are beautiful, but many are straight out of "People Of Wal-Mart". Gawd!