Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving or, as American Indians know it, National Day of Mourning.

To those who chastise me for being a relativist, I like to point out that absolutism is a matter of lack of perspective.

Have a happy one, anyway.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Diplomat I Am Not

My letter to the White House on the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Dear President Obama:

Your first two years in office have been truly dsappointing for progressives. A watered-down health care reform that leaves predatory insurance companies and health care providers in charge, relief for Wall Street and not Main Street (like many Americans, my mortgage is under water, why not allow me to write off my loss, as a one-time measure?), the Afghan War surge, and overall timid policies that have contributed to the resounding Demoratic losses in the mid-terms.

Don't you think it's time to mobilize your base, by sending them the signal that you are working for them and not for the ├╝ber-rich and powerful?

If the GOP insists that the condition for the Bush tax cuts to be extended for the middle-class is also to extend them for the richest 1-2%, then I am willing to give my tax cuts up. Let all tax cuts expire, then let the Senate introduce a bill to give the middle-class even bigger tax cuts, and let the GOP. vote against such a bill. Let the American people understand who the GOP really works for, and maybe, just maybe, Americans will vote for you and Democrats in 2012. As the lesser of two evils, obviously, but an easy choice nonetheless.

Sincerely,

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Goes Around, Comes Around

This is really funny news in the "law of unintended consequences" department.

It's what happens when people are so cocksure about their superiority and blinded by their prejudice and hatred that they end up shooting themselves in the foot.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Paul Krugman's Take On The Hijacked Commission

Known by many as "The Catfood Commission" for the rather drastic effects it would have on the the middle-class and the poor in this country, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (also known as the Deficit Reduction Commission), an ill-conceived creation of the increasingly disappointing and overrated mind of President Obama, has released its findings/proposals earlier this week.

Paul Krugman has a rather fierce dissection of the commission's work in today's NYT op-ed. Consider this excerpt: "[H]ow, exactly, did a deficit-cutting commission become a commission whose first priority is cutting tax rates, with deficit reduction literally at the bottom of the list?" Good question, Prof. Krugman.

You can find the complete answer in Krugman's op-ed, The Hijacked Commission.

Stupid Poll

From CNN's home page, this has to be one of the stupidest polls ever published:

Would you support a 15 cent per gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax to help rein in the U.S. debt? [Emphasis added.]

Think about that: Someone is pushing the idea that "to help rein in U.S. debt" we should add a 15 cent per gallon tax to gasoline? I'll give CNN the benefit of the doubt and assume that this proposal was advanced by someone outside of CNN, and that CNN is simply reporting it as a poll to gauge popular sentiment.

Whichever the case, is that the most idiotic proposal you ever heard to help rein in the U.S. debt?

At a time when Congress is pushing for an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% in America, someone thinks that we should be increasing gasoline taxes by 15 cents per gallon.

The problem with this country is that few understand the concept of regressive taxation v progressive taxation. Taxes that apply indiscriminately to everybody take a bigger toll on the poorest amongs us. They should never be implemented as a means to primarily increase revenue.

Use of regressive taxation should be limited to cases in which the government (local, state or federal) is trying to discourage a particular elective behavior, for example a cigarette tax aimed at discouraging smoking is still regressive (it impairs the ability of the poor to smoke more than it does the very rich) but it is an understandable compromise to discourage an undesirable behavior. Likewise, a gasoline tax aimed at discouraging gasoline usage for environmental purposes, while hitting the poor harder than the rich, is an acceptable use of regressive taxation IF the region where it is implemented already has adequate transportation alternatives.

Note that the key for acceptable uses of regressive taxation should be directed not only at undesirable behaviors, but elective ones. In other words, you can choose to smoke but don't have to, and you can choose to drive everywhere but don't have to. On the other hand, taxing milk, toothpaste or bread should never be entertained (and in fact sales taxes does not apply to certain basic items in most states), because such items are not elective in nature, but basic needs of human beings in a civilized society.

This kind of reasoning touches on a larger topic, that of flat taxes. I have a couple of very good friends who say they support a flat tax. I doubt that they understand the basic unfairness of a flat tax system (one in which everybody pays the same tax rate, regardless of income level), and I strive to explain it to them every time we discuss the subject. One of the most underappreciated effects of a regressive tax system, such as a flat tax system, by those who support it is the rise in income inequality, the level of which has already reached unseen proportion in over one hundred years.

FYI, the NOs are prevailing on the YESes by a 23% margin (63 to 37%). But the fact that 37% of the people support the regressive proposal suggests that a fairly large portion of the American public has accepted as valid a rhetoric that rewards interests opposed to its own (the super rich v. the poor's). Therefore, educating the public should be the top priority of progressives in this country.

If progressives spent as much time educating the public on important issues such as the unfairness of flat or regressive taxes as they spend on making and counting get-out-the-vote calls before election day (not to mention the time they spend patting each other on the back), we may see a public opinion shift in battles that we should be winning resoundingly, and which we are losing instead.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One Pseudo-Democratic Senator I Would Gladly Lose

Even if it meant losing the Senate, Kent Conrad's is one pseudo-Democrat who needs to go in 2012. Hopefully he will be ousted by a better Democrat, but if he loses his re-election bid to a Republican, little or nothing would be lost. (He already fought agains the Public Option and now he is fighting for the Deficit Commission's draconian cuts to services.)

Read Barbara Morrill's Daily Kos post on Veterans' Day rhetoric and you will understand why.

Dumb and Dumber

This just in from David Axelrod, about the fact that the Obama administration will "have to" cave in to Republicans pushing for the Bush tax cuts to be extended for those making over $250,000.

"There are concerns," [Axelrod] added, that Congress will continue to kick the can down the road in the future by passing temporary extensions for the wealthy time and time again. "But I don't want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point." [via Huffington Post]

Axelrod's logic is appalling because it fails to recognize that the security of the middle-class which he and the President are so concerned about (in words) depends to a large degree on increasing revenues by repealing the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy 2%. Now I do understand that passing tax cuts for the middle-class will be harder if the administration chooses not to appease Republicans, but let Republicans show the nation whose interest they are truly working for. Eventually, if they don't want to be "repealed" themselves two years from now, they would have to cave in themselves.

The problem with Obama is not that he governs from the center or that he is a pragmatist. The problem is that he has no principles strong enough to endure assault, no balls, and no fire within.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

They Won't Be Happy Until They Have Completely Repealed The New Deal

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post titled They Won't Be Happy Until They Have Completely Destroyed The Middle-Class, in which--among other things--I wished for the death (of natural causes) of Rush Limbaugh, spewer of hatred, peddler of deceit, and enemy of every American who thinks America should belong to the people and not to corporations.

I have to admit, a couple of days on, that wishing evil people dead may be a human and understandable gut-reaction to hatred directed at us, but it does not solve the problem, simply because the number of people who should drop dead for things to improve is so large it would boggle the mind.

Unfortunately, thought, it seems that wishful thinking is the last recourse of the sane man in America, because the powers at work to literally destroy what remains of a middle-class that made American and the world great are relentless, well-financed, and overwhelmingly represented in the rooms where decisions are made. In other words, the little people (whereby I am not referring to people of modest physical stature, but of insignificant economic means) are going to be hopelessly crushed by those who profess to act in the interest of Main Street but are acting on behalf or on the orders of Wall Street.

Latest among the despicable schemes to repeal the accomplishments of the New Deal (and the Great Society) is the drive to privatize Social Security, and to axe the benefits that working Americans of all beliefs, political convictions and walks of life, were promised by people greater than the current ilk.

This push to cut benefits, which has the ultimate goal of moving the bulk of Social Security savings into the rapacious hands of Wall Stree investment fund managers, is particularly insane because it comes in the wake of a worldwide financial crisis that has crippled the savings of people the world over. Imagine if, instead of being deposited into a guaranted Social Security benefit fund, you had been forced to invest your lifetime savings into stock or any kind of fund subject to the fluctations of a market managed by greediest, soulless, immoral people on the planet.

Alas, I have no faith in the American people to rise against these evil raiders of the social good, as they should if this was a country populated by rational human beings, and not fattened, mesmerized, lifeless drones. If this were France, England, Germany, or anywhere where people understand that unity is what wins these battles against pure evil, people would have taken to the streets at the first whiff of cuts to Social Security, present or future. Unfortunately, this is the country where people like Rand Paul get elected, who feel no shame in declaring that there are no rich and poor, that we are all united in the economic bloodstream of the nation and that taxing the least of us more (in proportional terms) than those who have amassedd huge wealth in no small part thanks to idiots like Rand Paul is the logical thing to do.

Who will help us if we cannot help ourselves?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Let Texas Secede

If any Tea-Partying state wants to secede, let Texas lead the way. My friends in Texas can always come and stay with us in Colorado. Until Colorado finally joins the secessionists and we regularly-brained people have moved to Germany.

They Won't Be Happy Until They Have Completely Destroyed The Middle-Class

When Al Franken wrote "Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot", still recommended after all these years, he left one adjective out: evil.

How else would you explain this?



You heard right: On Rush's daily ode to Mammon, pre-existing conditions are welfare.

My wife tells me that it is not good to wish for people to die, but I will take Rush Limbaugh as my mulligan.

Let's be unequivocally clear: I am not advocating for anyone to kill him, but an oxycontin overdose? All I am saying that if karma did its job, sooner rather than later, it would be better for Americans, particularly those with a pre-existing condition known as life.

And let's be clear about something else: Rush Limbaugh is not Hitler, nor Stalin, nor Pol Pot. But the ideas and policies he pushes and advocates for, such as the idea that pre-existing conditions are welfare (an idea that taps an unprecedented level of idiocy and evil even for Rush Limbaugh) are truly evil. And by the time he is done spewing evil on the airwaves he and many of the Republican shills in Congress will have a great number of dead Americans on their conscience. If they had one.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Oxy-Morons

About Faux News reporting on the supposed costs of President Obama's trip to India.



'nuff said.

If President Obama Keeps Ignoring Nobel Winning Economists, Why Do We Keep Saying He Is A Really Smart Guy?

It seems to me that when a smart lawyer gets advice from Nobel-prize winning economists to change course on many of his ill-advised policies (the advisors being foxes in the henhouse like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner), he should take it. President Obama is such a lawyer and Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman are two such economists. He routinely ignores these top world economists' advice. Either he is not smart, or he is taking us for a ride.

America, Land of the Free to Be Stupid

I think the title of Elizabeth Wurtzel's op-ed for the Guardian is a bit ingenerous and not totally accurate. It should be: America, Land of the Free to Be Manipulated, Duped, AND Stupid. As it were, it is just America, Land of the Free to Be Stupid. (via Common Dreams)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

FAIR, on Keith Olbermann's Suspension

As you may know, Keith Olbermann has been suspended by MSNBC for making political contributions that he failed to disclose to MSNBC.

The issue, in my opinion, is not whether Olbermann's suspension is justified or not (it probably is, as many corporations have specific disclosure rules about political contributions). The issue is the hypocrisy in this case, so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting points out that NBC and General Electric have an obvious hypocrisy problem.

The Greatest Banana Republic The World Has Ever Seen

The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof penned an op-ed titled Our Banana Republic. It seems to me the that Tea Party and the Republican Party, true to the American tradition of leadership, are hell-bent on making the United States "number one!" Among Banana Republics, that is.

P.S. If you are wondering why I used corruption as a label, it goes without saying that you do not become a true Banana Republic without a corrupt political system. It's just that here we call it "lobbying" Congress.

Once Again, On False Equivalences

Bill Maher hits the nail on the head on the subject of the left-wing V right-wing media (false) equivalence. (Forgive his mispronunciation of retired Gen. Antonio Taguba's name.)

Oklahoma Bans Sharia Law And Other Idiocies

I picked this up on the Daily Kos, and it's a true gem.
"[In] Oklahoma, voters overwhelmingly approved state question 755 [to ban Islamic Sharia law], one of the most important initiatives in their state's history. This is great news. Just because something doesn’t exist doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ban it. That's why I have long fought for ballot measures to ban cat pilots, baby curling, and man-futon marriage."
---Stephen Colbert

There are, believe it or not, those who praise the wisdom and foresight of Oklahomans. And I cringe at the thought that it will be the Roberts Court that rules on the obvious unconstitutionality of such a ban once the issue gets to the Nine. (You should also know that the referendum, which voters passed, sought to ban courts from considering or using international law, which is obviously unconstitutional per Article VI of the United States Constitution, which teabaggers looooooove!)

Personally, I welcome any and all referenda that seek to ban the undue influence of religion on the lives of U.S. residents (citizens or non-citizens). Oh, wait: Shouldn't the First Amendment already do that? Oh, but you are right, the concept of the separation of church and state appears nowhere in the Constitution. If you are a dim-witted teabagger senatorial candidate, that is.

But really, in a country where supposedly intelligent, loving, and reasonable Christians want Intelligent Design taught in schools alongside the Theory of Evolution, where they believe that stem cell research should be banned on religious grounds, where they feel comfortable analogizing homosexuality to alcoholism on national TV, where they view global warming as a hoax or a conspiracy perpetrated on the American public for the monetary gain of a few, why should Oklahomans busy themselves with banning Sharia Law instead of their own science-averse and discriminatory beliefs?

Incidentally, the Sharia Ban is not the only likely unconstitutional referendum that Oklahoma's voters approved of: They also approved of a requirement that would allow residents to opt out of any federal health care mandates (in a pretty clear contravention of the Commerce Clause.)

I am curious to see what Christians can come up with in the way of an intelligent response.

Rick Perry Advocates Ending Social Security As We Know It

Rick Perry, the guy who will run to become fear-mongerer in-chief (i.e. the Republican nominee for the White House) in 2012 wants to end Social Security as we know it. Think Progress points out the insanity of the plan. This guy is truly, truly dangerous for the future of this country.

Maddow On Point

As usual, Rachel Maddow shines for clarity and accuracy on the MSNBC v. Olbermann fiasco (re: political contributions).

Watch.

How Great A President Was Ronald Reagan? This Great!

For those who regard Ronald Reagan as an example for our young people to follow (and conversely consider Jimmy Carter's presidency a failure), I offer this picture...



Circled in the photo are the solar panels that President Carter had installed on the roof of the West Wing in 1977, and that President Reagan chose to have removed in 1986. Here's how:
Then came “a clear, calculated campaign by the [Department of Energy] in the years of the Reagan administration to crush the solar energy program of the federal government” according to Denis Hayes, an expert on solar energy who worked for the government at the time. According to another expert involved in Carter’s original solar panel installation, Reagan’s Administration “felt that the equipment was just a joke… and he had it taken down.” [From The Forgotten History Blog]

President Carter, regarded as a failure of a president by many Americans, promoted renewable energy in 1977. Germany, now the world leader in solar energy technology, lit up to the idea of solar panels 24 years later, in 2001. China has overtaken the U.S. in the production and adoption of solar technology. In the United States we have a class of ignorant, idiotic, and dangerous politicians who spend their time pushing for new oil exploration in ANWR and right outside of Arches and Canyonlands in Utah, and who allow fracking in their states.

That is the legacy to our generation of that revered president, Ronald Reagan. Without him, who knows, the United States may well have been on the road to less and less dependence from foreign oil, and the manufacturing sector could have benefited from substantial public investments in renewable energy. Why, there may even have been no 9/11.

And the right wants him carved on the face of Mt. Rushmore?

Friday, November 05, 2010

Obama v FDR's Majorities

I stumbled across a really interesting comparison of Obama and FDR's presidencies, and I completely agree with the writer of this post, who says: "So the point isn’t about the size of majorities. It isn’t clear Obama would have been in any better shape had he had FDR’s majorities." You have to read the post to find out the rest of the compelling opinion.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Fire Tim Kaine

Tim Kaine has been a disastrous replacement for Howard Dean as head of the DNC, and that's another failure we have the President to thank for. It's hard to imagine that Dean would have failed to knock off a few weak Republicans in this election cycle, and that he would not have held some seats (like Grayson, Feingold and Perriello, for example) that were lost last night.

Kaine's gotta go. And unless Obama changes his tune in the next two years, he's gotta go too (and it won't be a problem).

Time To Give Up?

After a night like tonight (last night, already?) the urge to give up is great. I cannot really say that I am disappointed with election results. I am disappointed with what happens in between elections.

This time I am particularly disappointed, because Democrats held the legislature whole, and the executive, and they still managed to fuck things up. Democrats squandered a once in a lifetime opportunity to accomplish meaningful reform. They did everything too timidly, like--for example--they way the handled so-called health care reform: they compromised everything desirable away, and the remaining meaningful provisions, like insurance exchanges, will not kick in until 2014. Are you kidding me?

For a couple of weeks leading up to the elections, the President scuttled around the nation saying "Lookee here! Look at all we have done!" People must not have been impressed, if the results of the elections are to be believed. Rightly so, I might add.

We were promised health care reform. We got an expansion of the current, morally and financially bankrupt(-ing) insurance system.

We were promised Guantanamo would be closed. It's still open.

We were promised the end of war, and all that happened was that more troops were sent to Afghanistan and the soldiers who remain in Iraq were simply re-classified as non-combat troops. Go tell the Iraqi insurgents who routinely attack them.

We were promised financial reform. We bailed out the people that ruined us with hardly any consequences for them.

We were promised help to the middle class. Ask the middle-class folks who lost their job, their home, their savings.

What's worse, pundits will tell us that the mid-terms show that progressivism is the big loser, because Feingold lost his Senate seat and Alan Grayson and Tom Perriello lost their first-term House seats. And I am afraid they might be right, because those who say that progressives stayed home because they felt betrayed cannot apply to Grayson and Perriello. It simply looks like fear won once again, as it does so often.

We were promised hope. No promise was ever betrayed more egregiously.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Today's Vote

Hold your noses and go vote.

Here are a couple of commentaries that should shed light on what happens if you do not.

Today is the day.




To which I would add: I know that calling yourself an independent makes you feel all grown-up, but it assumes that there are Republicans who have your best interest at heart. There aren't.

Don't kid yourself: Republicans are, generally-speaking, the party of the one-percenters, the unspeakably wealthy seeking to get wealthier to your detriment, the regressives, those who would love nothing more than the uncontested rule of moneyed interests, the party of the Bushes, the Scalias, the Roberts and the Thomases. The party of those who love to say that they love to love (opportunity for all Americans), whereas in fact the opportunity they conceive of does not include health care for all, a minimum wage (let alone a living wage), the choice not to carry a pregnancy to term even when the baby's daddy is the mummy's daddy or drunk uncle, or a rapist, where blacks and minorities are only included in photo-ops, not in real discussions about their future. They are the party of people who will trivialize anything (Clinton's indiscretions, Obama's birth certificate) in order to get everything they don't already have.

Republicans are the party that spent millions of dollars on astro-turfing, the practice of enlisting angry folks under the banner of rage, by making them believe that they were part of a grass-root effort, when in fact they were being co-opted only to stop clean energy from replacing a slice of the fossil-fuel cake with something that will slow down the killing of the environment, or to privatize that grand and evil socialist scheme, Social Security, thanks to which your grandparents live at home instead of roasting in your attic or sinking in your basement. Imagine the glee with which Wall Street would have incinerated your parent's lifetime savings in one of the many financial crises that have occurred or will follow these times.

If you still want to go out and vote Republicans, hey! it's a free country, not in name only. Not yet.
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