Friday, December 31, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Darn. I bet he was counting on it, too!

2) Flooding. Blizzards. Earthquakes in Indiana. The surest sign of the apocalypse? UConn lost in women's basketball!

3) He won't be boch.


TO Texas

Get a fucking clue, already, will ya?

5) Neo-Cons will soon get a taste of their own medicine. Foaming up anti-Islam hate will always backfire.

6) It's hard to believe Haley Barbour is actually getting praise for this.

7) It's funny how she hasn't been able to conjure up proof of her non-denial denials.

8) Cenk Uygur: troublemaker. God bless him.

9) What a fucking idiot.

10) This may be taking the green debate to a whole new level. It's really shaving off nits.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Quick Hits

1) Since when do three unnamed "sources" who, if they exist, have a clear axe to grind, become a major news item? Since the conservatives in America want to rape the working guy. Again.
2) Did I just blow your mind? DID I??????
3) How ridiculous are the folks protesting the Ground Zero cultural center? They've targeted Justin Bieber!
5) Two women have served a total of 32 years for stealing $11. Gov. Haley Barbour has magnanimously granted them clemency. So long as one donates a kidney.

The Year In Rearview

Look, for my part, the year 2010 cannot go away fast or far enough.
Between the crappy cynical pandering by Teabaggers to the lowest common denominator of a minority of the American electorate to the health issues I dealt with to the fact that my mom is racing the end of the year to end first, this has been a pretty shitty ride.
So in my inimitable fashion, fuck the bad, let's focus on the good stuff!
1) Healthcare reform -- it was nasty business, it was exceedingly poorly handled, a blind kindergartener could have done a better job of promoting the benefits, but America joined the civilized world.
Sort of. There's a lot of room for improvement there, and one hopes in 2013, we will see it roll in.
2) The laughable joke that passes for "populism" -- From The Wicked Witch Of The West(ern Delaware) to Sharon Angle, the Teabaggers, while generally successful in electing minor candidates to federal posts, had an epic fail in terms of persuading the population that they are a serious political force to be reckoned with. My suspicion is they have blown their only real chance, however it's possible they may end up shooting the GOP in the foot. Sarah Palin, while moderately successful with her carefully chosen endorsements, was not the game changed she hoped to be and her final throes in 2010, trying to refudiate saying "refudiate" while gobs of tape proved her a self-involved liar, only served to nail the coffin shut on her presidential aspirations, such as they were.
3) Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert and The Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear -- A more delightful event could not have been planned by anyone else. While remaining strictly-- perhaps frustratingly-- non-partisan and entertaining...maybe the opening performance by The Roots could have been shorter, but there was probably some stuff going on that we didn't know about...Stewart and to an extent Colbert brought to the near-undivided attention of Americans the, um, divide that presents itself upon the electorate.
Some of this was necessary. Some of it smacked of patronization and even condescension (the attempt to make an equivalence between the teeth-bared partisanship of FOX with the balance of MSNBC was a little discomfiting from Stewart) but the entire event was at once eye-opening, refreshing and reassuring. We are America. We are Americans. From the Muslim selling the newspaper to the Sikh running the dry cleaner to the Korean driving the taxi to the Jewish doctor and Presbyterian lawyer, to the bald guy in the SUV with the gun rack driving next to the soccer mom in her Volvo in the Holland Tunnel, what unites us is truly more important than what divides us, and we ought to honor that.
4) The San Francisco Giants -- I don't plug baseball on my blog much but I am an huge fan of the game, and the Giants were a real American story: cast-offs and has-beens let go by other teams for a song played above their heads and collectively went from mutts to pedigrees. That they play for the gayest city in America is just a plus. 
5) The repeal of DADT -- Well, what can I say? Harry Reid found his balls, and gave thousands of soldiers back theirs. And those are just the women!
6) Chilean Mine Rescue -- Really, why did it take a "third world" nation to show us in America how it's done? Good grief, it's CHILE! I know, I know, Chile is actually one of the most progressive nations on the planet, nevermind South America, and has much to show for themselves, but come ON!
7) The World Cup -- South Africa, indeed the entire African continent, deserves high marks for hosting the quadrennial meeting of men in shorts. Not only were the games held safely and securely, not only were old animosities put aside...I'm looking at you, Portugal and Spain!...not only were the Americans embarassed once again in a sport that the rest of the world deems "it", but the energy of the audiences and the nation were stunning enough that you could safely ignore the vuvuzelas.
From time to time.
Y'know, the temptation to round this out to a Top Ten list is strong, so I think story number 8 for good news this year is that I stopped the list at story number 7.
Have a Happy New Year, my friends, my readers!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some Shorters

If America was a Muslim state, Muslims would still suck.
Shorter Tucker Carlson...seriously, can you GET shorter than TC? Anyway...
A President who supports dogkillers like Michael Vick ought to get the dogkiller killed. Right? But it's OK when I fuck up because I'm a Christian. Like Michael Vick.

An Abject Lesson

There's a follow up to the Northeastern Blizzard of 2010: cuts in services followed by deep unhappiness over, um, services:

With no snowplows in sight, stranded passengers vented their rage at Mayor Bloomberg.

"He should have gotten those plows out here," said Cynthia Jones, 43, a nurse unable to get to work. "The mayor may not need his paycheck, but we need ours. I lost two days' pay."

Sharon Tahir, 40, shivered at Archer Ave. and Sutphin Blvd. in Jamaica, Queens, because her Q60 bus route was shortened before her normal stop. The home health aide was waiting for her son to pick her up.

"It's too cold to walk the rest of the way," she said. "Many sidewalks aren't shoveled. My feet are cold."

Transit executives also expressed frustration with the city's street-clearing efforts.

"I've never seen it this bad," one executive said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "They left us in the lurch."

MTA Chairman Jay Walder said the agency would do a full review of how it handled the blizzard. Officials want to probe why heavier hybrid buses struggled in the snow, whether buses had appropriate tires and whether more tires should have been covered in chains.

Now, before I get to the meat of my point, let me dispense with a few conditional factors involved. The storm hit the Sunday after what was pretty much a universal three day holiday weekend with many drivers on the road to visit family or celebrate Christmas. Many people who were coming home were racing to beat the storm, assuming that there would be a work day, albeit a difficult one, the next morning. In addition, many of those people were the very people who would be manning the snow removal efforts, the emergency services, and other vital functions required to get a city the size of New York up on its feet.

Too, I noted an unusual number of cars abandoned in the middle of the street. It's hard to get a plow down a street with a ton of metal between the plow and the other end. We citizens only have our fellow citizens to blame for those.

As I pointed out the other day, the timing of this storm could not have been much worse. Had it happened on Christmas day, a Saturday and a day typical for heavy snowfalls in the city for some odd reason (I blame HAARP, myself), there would have been another 24 hours prep time for the opening curtain to the work week.


Well, to sum up my point in a nutshell, we asked for lower taxes, we got lower taxes, and here's the price we pay. Mayor Bloomberg has been at the forefront of cutting property taxes, business income taxes, lowering city revenues as far as he possibly can, and cutting services to compensate. 300 Department of Sanitation drivers were "retired" during this recent budget slashing to help cover the shortfall. That's 150 snowplows that could have been on the street.

Ironically, the people who benefited the least from the tax cuts are the ones who suffered the most from the budget cuts: the poor and working classes. Just as with the inevitable health complications of this storm...imagine triaging in a major city? It happened!...the people who will suffer the most are the most disenfranchised.

In fairness to Mayor Mike, NYC is under a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, a leftover from the dark days of the 1970s, when NYC teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. Instead of restoring some of the tax cuts, since NYC was not as hard hit by the real estate meltdown as other areas of the country, Bloomberg opted for the coward's way out, trying to right-wing the budget into balance.

There's plenty of blame to go around, of course. The MTA, the folks running the trains and buses, probably could have been more proactive in clearing the tracks, although the blizzard conditions during and after the snowfall made any effort troublesome. People who live here could have take that tax cut and bought a snowblower or invested in a private plowing service for their sidewalks and curbs, and maybe thrown a little extra in the kitty for the street to be cleared.

After all, the function of a government is, according to the Teabaggers, as minimalist as possible, meaning protection of its citizenry and that's it. You may recall the uproar over the fire department that refused to put out a blaze for a house where the residents hadn't paid a stinking $50 annual bill. This is that story, writ large, except we're talking streets plowed, not buildings burned.

The next, obvious step up the ladder will be a statewide crisis. Maybe the levees in California, after all the storming and stuff there, will fill with salt water, depriving 25 million people of drinking water. And after that, we face a national crisis that could have been prevented if taxes weren't so goddamn low...


Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Buried in this article is a very interesting line of thought for liberals:

Compare these circumstances to those of 1911, a century ago. Even in the wealthier countries, the average person had little formal education, worked six days a week or more, often at hard physical labor, never took vacations, and could not access most of the world’s culture. The living standards of Carnegie and Rockefeller towered above those of typical Americans, not just in terms of money but also in terms of comfort. Most people today may not articulate this truth to themselves in so many words, but they sense it keenly enough. So when average people read about or see income inequality, they don’t feel the moral outrage that radiates from the more passionate egalitarian quarters of society. Instead, they think their lives are pretty good and that they either earned through hard work or lucked into a healthy share of the American dream. (The persistently unemployed, of course, are a different matter, and I will return to them later.) It is pretty easy to convince a lot of Americans that unemployment and poverty are social problems because discrete examples of both are visible on the evening news, or maybe even in or at the periphery of one’s own life. It’s much harder to get those same people worked up about generalized measures of inequality.

This is why, for example, large numbers of Americans oppose the idea of an estate tax even though the current form of the tax, slated to return in 2011, is very unlikely to affect them or their estates. In narrowly self-interested terms, that view may be irrational, but most Americans are unwilling to frame national issues in terms of rich versus poor. There’s a great deal of hostility toward various government bailouts, but the idea of “undeserving” recipients is the key factor in those feelings. Resentment against Wall Street gamesters hasn’t spilled over much into resentment against the wealthy more generally. The bailout for General Motors’ labor unions wasn’t so popular either—again, obviously not because of any bias against the wealthy but because a basic sense of fairness was violated. As of November 2010, congressional Democrats are of a mixed mind as to whether the Bush tax cuts should expire for those whose annual income exceeds $250,000; that is in large part because their constituents bear no animus toward rich people, only toward undeservedly rich people.

The question is, what is "undeservedly rich"?

Warren Buffet and United For a Fair Economy posit that all wealth is derived from society, and indeed, there is much truth there. A business cannot sell unless there is a collection of consumers ready to buy. That business relies on the population for its workers. It relies on the resources of that society, the infrastructure, and the raw materials that it or its suppliers need to produce goods which ultimately are provided for free by Mother Earth...indeed, it is estimated that a fair price for those raw materials, like air and water and minerals, would equal the cumulative gross domestic product of every economy on the planet, thus making world net profit precisely zero. 

Clearly, one can make the case that between the raw materials and labor pool, society should devolve the majority of revenues from any business (the value-added tax is an attempt to put this into practice, however marginally). In practice, the individual entrepreneur is the one who stands to most benefit from commerce. In truth, he risks an awful lot too, but that's a different article. We're talking here about the ones who succeed.

I think we'd all agree that a guy who opens up a shoe repair shop and works long hard hours for little money building his business is entitled to some kind of payoff for his hard work. In practice, the truth is very different: success usually occurs more from sheer blind luck than from hard work. You can work really hard and make nothing of a company, but add a little luck, and you have success.  

And I think we'd all agree that the guy who makes megamillions from his raw talent at hitting a ball with a bat is probably less deserving. Except we forget he had to work really hard and yes, he plays a game but he plays it well enough to attract fans who pay the club even more money than he pays (here we're back to society as customer), and the money would either go to him or the even richer fellow (or woman) who owns the club.
In truth, both the shoe mogul and the ballplayer owe us a debt, and it is when they do not pay that debt that we get angry. Bailout a banker and we get mad, especially when a banker pays that loan back in a much shorter time that expected. Why did he need bailing out?
And yet, there's this curious construct that has us blaming the guy next door for taking a chance similar to the banker and biting off more than he could chew. The homeowner with the ubermortgage doesn't have the ability to take a loss on his house (like the banker, he can deduct interest off his bottom line, however). If the banker sells a house for less than he mortgaged it out, he can deduct that loss. If a homeowner sells a house for less than his mortgage, not only is he still in hock to the lender, but he can't even deduct the loss off his taxes.
Yet, we blame the homeowner and rant about bailing him out, but the banker may get our contempt, but we still enrich him with the use of his bank and his credit cards!
Tyler Cowen, the author of the article cited above, posits that the people who should be getting our contempt are the people who play with other people's money, and yet we tend to cut them slack because they are more removed from our day-to-day perspectives, yet they make enormous sums of money off our backs with very little risk.
From the mergermania of the 1980s to the recent housing bubble, these speculators have made trillions of dollars doing nothing but playing with our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honors.
You say you want a revolution? I know where to begin.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Joke

Yea, I oldie but very appropriate today.
By now, you no doubt are aware that NYC woke this morning under a blanket of snow. It's not the most snow we've ever had, not even the worst snow we've had in the past three years, but it was, by far, the worst storm we've had in the past decade.
Not so much the snowfall amounts. A foot, foot and a half was the average around the area, with one or two places checking in with closer to two feet.
It wasn't the cold. In fact, it was practically balmy during the day. I was wearing a sweatshirt and jeans to shovel.
It wasn't even so much the wind, which while sustained and gusts averaged into the 40 mph range, was not the worst we've had during a snow storm in this century.
The worst part?
The timing.
It started Sunday afternoon. The day after Christmas, a time when people were hunkered down in holiday hangover, watching football or making a hot meal for the family. The snow started in the late morning, slowly, maybe an inch every two hours. That was easy to keep up with, no problem.
It wasn't until later in the afternoon that the worst of the snow started, coupled with the wind. By five PM, the snowfall rates had doubled and even tripled. I had been trying to stay ahead of the storm by shoveling every two hours. By nine PM, I threw in the towel (you can visit my Flickr account for photos from last night and this morning), literally.
I had already shoveled about six inches of snow, the very fine sugar powder that we rarely get on the east coast during a coastal storm.
I went to bed, confident that I had tackled sufficient amounts of snow to make Monday morning a lot easier.
Fool that I am.
I woke up around 4:30, and looked out the window.
Or rather, I tried. The window was coated with wind-blown snow. I put on some slippers and walked down to the sidewalk. I opened the front door to the building.
There was about a foot and a half of snow piled up against it, drifted in from the vicious wind that was still howling outside.
I closed the door and shuddered, walked back upstairs, had a hot coffee and got dressed. By five I was in my shoveling gear. The tempratures were much colder, well below freezing, and the wind was unabated.
I stepped into the fray. Another eighteen inches had, in fact, drifted onto the sidewalk, and the curious rules of NYC snow removal is, sidewalks have to be clear (that's to the curb, by definition) by eleven AM. Worse, my office had not closed, despite my fervent wishes and frequent curses. I had to go to work. And to add a note of comedy, there was a gas leak in the street, Con Ed had been working on it until the crew deemed it was too dangerous to finish, and so the stench of gas permeated the air around me.
The comedy bit? Some asshat had tried to drive down the street and gotten stuck, preventing the plows from getting thru, preventing Con Ed from returning. I kept thinking it was a good thing I won't need an ambulance, and if there is a God, that driver will get arrested for some crime or other.
So there I am, sniffing air that smelled like it belonged in a fraternity house, shoveling enough snow that I created a mound seven feet high, and still had barely done half the job. In two hours. I was going to be late for work. And I hadn't tackled the really tough job of digging out my garage.
See, in NYC, garage space is hard to come by, and expensive. Landlords know they have it over the renters and are under no obligations to provide snow removal (private-yet-communal driveways off-street). A driver has to dig his own car out if he rents a garage. To top that off, none of the communal landlords ever had the birght idea to pool money and get a plowing service to just sweep thru, thus making what would be a commonsense but free market decision to take care of the problem in one fell swoop.
By eight I had finished the sidewalk. By nine I had another hot coffee and grabbed my shoveling gear and headed to the garage. I was going to be late for work, of course, and called in to let them know. I left a voicemail.
As I climbed over snowbank after snowbank to get to the garage, I had the sinking feeling that, in fact, no one had shoveled any of the garages out, which means even if I did clear mine, I'd never get my car out until spring thaw. Sadly, this was true, but more sadly, I needed to dig my garage out anyway, because it will only get worse as the week drags out, as asshat after asshat drives over the snow (if they even can!) reducing it to solid ice. I won't need a shovel. I'll need a chisel.
By ten thirty, I had finished my work. By noon, I was in the office, doped on oxycodone and still without breakfast.
All for want of a boss with a heart, a storm with a better sense of timing, and me, without the good sense to have moved to the tropics.