Friday, April 20, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Happy 420, everbody! Which leads me to rant number one of the day.
President Obama has pretty much flatly denied any move on the part of the Federal government to either legalize or even decriminalize marijuana, saying he welcomes a debate on the matter, but not legalization.
We all know the arguments, so I won't recap them here except to make two observations: prohibitions never work, and the only reason alcohol is legal and pot is not-- despite pot having a millenia head start in terms of use among humans-- is that pot is a tool to control the minority population in this country and to extend paramilitary operations overseas.
It's so useful in that regards that the US has gone hard after nations that have even thought about legalization, like Portugal and the Netherlands, and persuaded them to keep their drug laws in line with the rest of the world.
It's possible that Obama's recent comments are a smoke-screen in an election year when, while he holds a lead, it's early enough that major policy announcements could shift the ground. If you recall, in 2008 he mentioned he thought drug laws were antiquated.
It's also possible that four years of having the ear of the FBI, CIA, and DoD that Obama has bene persuaded of the value of keeping drugs illegal.
It is interesting to note that while marijuana and heroin are completely illegal under Federal law-- Class 1 drugs, which means research only and only then under very strict controls-- cocaine remains perfectly legal for its legitimate medical uses, like anesthesia, particularly in dentistry (Class 2 drug.)
Fairness and even logic dictates that the cost of the war on drugs, particularly marijuana, is too high when compared to the skimpy benefit obtained.
2) Since I'm talking about Obama's second term, let me rant again for a moment: President Obama could make a major statement about the economics of this country and usher in a whole new business model AND shut the Republicans up about tax cuts.
Here's what I'm thinking: in his Second Inaugural Address, he can announce that he will propose a tax rate of ten percent on corporations with under $5 million in revenue.
Wait for it.
This tax rate would be targeted at small companies (that's why the $5 million cap) with this condition: at least half of the board of directors or ownership group must be comprised of people who work in the company.
He doesn't have to say this, but this would be a stealthy way of introducing socialism, REAL socialism, into the American corporate system. You know, workers own the means of production, that sort of thing. By introducing this proposal, it would establish an incubator where people would see that worker-owned companies can not only be competitive with traditional companies, but in many cases outstrip them.
For instance, would a company owned by you and your fellow employees ever let the CEO make hundreds of times your salary? Or move jobs to China? Or use your pension plan to turn a profit? Or pollute your neighborhood? No, because they'd have to deal with the fallout of all those decisions from their friends and relatives.
Too, you'd have a real say in what happens in your firm: what you make, where you sell it, for how much, and what to do with the money you earn.
Think about it: democracy in the work place! Today, you wake up and your first thoughts are to get to work, you work until you leave and come home to your evening meal. That's close to half a day, five days a week, and 75% of your waking hours.
And in there, you are someone else's wage slave, earning a fat little profit for some rich guy while you get the crumbs. In the enterprise I imagine, you'll still make about as much as you do now, but you'll benefit in other ways: paid healthcare, more time off to attend to the things you need to, whatever the firm decides is in everyone's benefit and not tailored to the 800 pound gorilla at the conference table.
An example: the company I work for has healthcare coverage that's partially paid for. Employees have to kick in hundreds of dollars a month for coverage. Why? Because the patriarch of the company a) is 75 and b) refuses to use only in-network doctors.
Mind you, this plan is the cheapest coverage we could get, and to do so, our deductible is $3,000 per family and our benefits are capped at what I believe are dangerously low levels (people have bumped up against them in the past.) It's such a poor plan that I opted out and decided to buy a plan through one of my unions. I pay slightly more but have no deductible and the cap is a generous one.
You think that decision would be made if the workers had a say in it?
We need this, President Obama. We need to move beyond what we can euphemistically call "American capitalism."
3) I'm ashamed to admit that I started to read this book. The good news is, I put it down after four pages, when I realized the author is a fucking idiot who couldn't even see a glaring plot hole that I could drive a truck through. A "reporter" has to sub in for a regular reporter and interview a titan of industry. She ponders how old he could be. She meets him, realizes he's rather young, pulls out the list of questions and right there is a question that asks what it feels like to be so young and so rich.
Really? Umm, you're interviewing one of the most powerful men in the world and YOU DON'T EVEN READ THE FUCKING QUESTIONS?????
That told me the rest of the book was going to be horribly written, which means I'd spend the sex scenes imagining how I would have written them better.
4) Perhaps the single most ridiculous question ever asked on a state-wide reading comprehension test...for the second time!
5) Keep it real, Green Monster!
6) Errrrrrrrrrr, that's, um, interesting?
7) Greenpeace makes an interesting point: why can't the servers that create the "cloud" operate on renewable energy sources?
8) Ron Paul will have his own video game this summer. RON PAUL
9) Apple's next iPhone: The T-1000.
10) Remember: Earth Day is Sunday. Go hug a tree.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

In Case You Thought Ted Nugent Was The Fucking Loon....


And So It Begins

The silly season, of polling and speculation and outright lunacy, starts.
Altho I have to admit, the most intriguing name popped up on the trial balloon the Romney campaign floated yesterday: Condoleeza Rice.
She's actually not a bad choice for Romney: it would mitigate his problems with women, or at least give him some political cover, she has experience in the White House, and she's a bright and articulate person.
There are, however, enormous downsides too, not least of which is it will remind everyone of the name you will never hear in convention at Tampa: George W. Bush.
The biggest upside for Romney is she might actually say yes, where someone like Marco Rubio or Chris Christie would probably prefer to maintain their Presidential aspirations and not be associated with a cause that will be clobbered in November. Romney having to go at least three deep down the list to find a running mate would be embarassing for his campaign, which from day one has to appear at least as competent as the Obama machine.

The Day The Music Died

What to say about Dick Clark that hasn't been echoed and amplified over the past 60 years.
If The Ed Sullivan Show was the major leagues of rock and roll, then Dick Clark's American Bandstand was the entry draft. And in many ways, his was the better show for musicphiles.
Not that his taste was perfect: in 1963, he was offered the American rights to The Beatles' music and turned it down, saying they'd never amount to much. In case you were wondering why the Beatles never appeared on AB except in videos and a solitary taped telephone interview, that's why. Heck, even She Loves You scored badly on his segment Rate-A-Record, but it was undanceable, to be sure.  
But the list of acts that did appear on Bandstand is pretty impressive (Public Image, Ltd????) For many, it was the first national exposure (I hesitate to say that just after mentioning PiL.)
Clark's influence spread well beyond music, too, with his game and bloopers shows, both of which spawned an entire subset of entertainment programming that had laid dormant for years.
For me, Clark "died" when he had his stroke in 2004. His subsequent appearances-- particularly at New Year's Eve-- took great courage, but ultimately it only served to point up his former preternaturally youthful appearance and in many ways, parody it. He probably should have been one-and-done with that show, and retired gracefully.
Still, 60-odd years is a long time to stick around and still be relevant and he managed to pull it off. Godspeed, Dick.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Not That I Would Wish Death On Anyone

Least of all Warren Buffett, a man I admire, but wouldn't it be an interesting exercise if he skipped his top-flight medical care and chose instead to illustrate the lack of access to treatments that he can afford by undergoing the kinds of therapy the average American has to?

Is This Really Necessary?

I'm no fan of Ted Nugent (never was) and certainly don't support his words or even his right to say what he said-- it's akin to shouting fire in a crowded theatre-- but really? An investigation? Sounds like overkill to me.

The Failures Of Capitalist Mitt

We've all seen how...ugly...Mitt Romney is as a Presidential candidate, so it's no surprise this same EPIC FAIL! trope is to be found in a close examination of his career as a parasite capitalist:

In the midst of that 1994 campaign, one of Romney's companies, American Pad & Paper, bought a plant in Marion, Indiana. At the time, it was prosperous enough to be running three shifts.

Bain's first move was to fire all 258 workers, then invite them to reapply for their jobs at lower wages and a 50 percent cut in health care benefits.

"They came in and said, 'You're all fired,'" employee Randy Johnson told the Los Angeles Times. "'If you want to work for us, here's an application.' We had insurance until the end of the week. That was it. It was brutal."

But instead of reapplying, the workers went on strike. They also decided the good people of Massachusetts should know what kind of man wanted to be their senator. Suddenly, Indiana accents were showing up in Kennedy TV ads, offering tales of Romney's villainy. He was sketched as a corporate Lucifer, one who wouldn't blink at crushing little people if it meant prettying his portfolio.

Needless to say, this wasn't a proper leading man's role for a labor state like Massachusetts. Taking just 41 percent of the vote, Romney was pounded in the election. Meanwhile, the Marion plant closed just six months after Bain's purchase. The jobs were shipped to Mexico.

Curiously, Romney had been touting himself as a job creator and a savvy businessman, yet as Kotz points out, all Romney ever did was take already-profitable companies and blindly stab at making them more profitable.

In fairness to Romney, the article does point to a few successes he achieved in his tenure at Bain, but Romney created not one job at any company that he personally managed, and the firms he had been touting, like Staples, went on hiring sprees after Romney left to run the Salt Lake City Olympics in 1999.

Which, by the way, was rocked by an huge bribery scandal, but that was why Mitt was brought on board.

Mostly, the companies Bain purchased were uniformly more profitable afterwards...for Romney.

The devastation left in the wake of Bain under Romney is staggering: the Associated Press analyzed some 45 deals Romney was directly involved with in his first decade at Bain and found 4,000 workers laid off, but this figure does not take into account plant and store closings, and bankruptcies.

The Wall Street Journal did an even deeper analysis of 77 investments Bain made under Romney and discovered that one in three formerly profitable companies suffered financial troubles, and 20% ended up in bankruptcy court.

Armco Steel of Kansas City, MO, is illustrative here:

Romney purchased Armco with just $8 million down and borrowed the rest of the $75 million price tag. Then he issued bonds—basically IOUs—to borrow even more to pay himself and his investors $36 million.

Within a year, he'd already made four times his initial investment while barely lifting a finger. But he'd also run up a staggering $378 million in debt on GSI's tab.

[...]Yet the smartest guys in the room thought they could run the plant better than the people setting production records.

It would take a few more years of bleeding, but GSI eventually fell to bankruptcy.

The Kansas City mill closed for good; 750 people lost their jobs. Worse, Romney had shorted their pension fund by $44 million. The feds were forced to cover the difference, while workers saw their benefits slashed in bankruptcy court.

So as not to risk further copyright infringement, I urge you to click through and read the entire article. It is a primer on modern American economics.

What this all points out is what is summed up in Romney's infamous "Seamus" story: a man so obsessed with efficiency and profit that he can blindly and blitheringly ignore the human element, and will go about fixing what ain't broke.

In effect, what Romney has done is relive the Bush administration but writ large: taking a healthy situation (we were running a large surplus at the end of the Clinton years) and run it into the ground at the expense of the backbone of the nation (or company) while rewarding his pay-grade cronies.

Is this really what we want to go back to?




Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Obama's Hypocratic Oath


Obama turned his call for middle-income tax breaks into law within a month of taking office, incorporating a $400-a-person tax credit for workers into the 2009 stimulus law. In late 2010, with the economy still weak and Republicans gaining political clout, Obama agreed to an $858 billion tax cut that extended all of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for two years.

"The tax policy has been substantially in the conservative direction whereas the rhetoric has gone in the exact opposite direction," said Don Susswein, a tax aide to former Republican Senator Bob Dole who said he supported Obama in 2008.

[...] "The tax system is not hugely different from what it was in 2008," said Leonard Burman, a professor at Syracuse University in New York who worked in the Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton. "The tax system is still too complicated, still unfair and still doesn't raise enough money to pay for the government."

The recession and Obama's tax cuts pushed federal revenue as a share of the economy to a 60-year low. Income tax rates haven't changed. The estate tax affects fewer people and at a lower rate than when Obama took office. Workers' payroll taxes were reduced during 2011 and 2012.

Many of the major tax provisions of the 2010 health law haven't taken effect. Tax credits to help people purchase health insurance begin in 2014 and tax increases on the wages and investment income of the highest earners start in 2013.

In fact, once Obama allows the Bush tax cuts to expire...and he will...the budget deficit miraculously becomes a fraction of what it was, even with healthcare reform. We'll have a fairer tax system, more revenue for the government to pay its bills and service the existing debt, and after Afghanistan concludes, we could conceivably run a surplus, something Bush never did even though he cheated by running two wars "off the books," a stunt Obama has been forthright enough not to try to pull.

Indeed, all we need is a little economic growth that provides jobs for the middle class again, and particularly our young. Employment levels for the 18-24 age group in America is about 54%, the lowest it has ever been, lower even than during the Vietnam era draft. College attendance probably accounts for another 5%, so the total percentage of our first time working pool that are currently un- or underemployed is about 40%.

And then people wonder why Occupy Wall Street is so pervasive and so angry.


Apparently... addition to making one an expert at macroeconomics, being a stay-at-home mom makes you become The Dog Whisperer.

You Might Not Follow Hockey, But...

...Please root for the Washington Capitals on the strength of this fan demonstration last night:

Capitals fans ensured that Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas finally came face to face with the President in Washington on Monday night.

Thomas famously boycotted his team's visit to the White House in January after last year's Stanley Cup victory, in protest at Barack Obama's stewardship of the federal government.

But he could not avoid him when he took to the ice Monday at Verizon Center after the home crowd plastered the boards with images of Obama's head and donned masks with the President's face.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Lesson To Be Learned Here Is


Uranus Inflamed


Not News: Life Discovered On Mars

News: We had the evidence 36 years ago and missed it.

Today's Eerie Coincidence

(creeps courtesy)

So Who's Really Anti-Jobs?

Could it be, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I don't know....the MORMON?????????


So you want to know how badly the Buffet Rule would impact the American economy?

Only around 210,000 taxpayers — a bit over 1 of every 1,000 — would face higher federal taxes if the measure were enacted, according to an estimate by one respected bipartisan research group.

In addition, while Republicans say the plan would be a job killer, only a small proportion of businesses would potentially be subject to the tax, according to data from a 2011 Treasury Department study. These firms make disproportionately large amounts of money, but many of them don't employ any workers.

Which if you think about it makes sense: 95% of jobs created in America are created by small businesses and 90% of those jobs are created by firms whose owners earn less than $50,000 from their companies.

30% does not seem like a whole lot to pay in order to enjoy the fruits of the freest country on the planet.


Talk About Body Men!

Well, no surprise here. I bet Bush's White House hired most of these clowns:

President Barack Obama came to Colombia seeking to erase an image of the U.S. in Latin America as overassertive Yankees who exploit the region at will. He left with the stereotype reinforced.

The sixth Summit of the Americas that concluded yesterday in the Caribbean city of Cartagena was supposed to focus on trade in the Western Hemisphere. Instead, 11 U.S. Secret Service agents became the center of attention after they were sent home for allegations of misconduct involving a prostitute.

The agents’ behavior was an embarrassment for Obama, obscuring what should have been an opportunity to trumpet a free-trade agreement with host Colombia and expanding trade to fast-growing economies like Brazil, said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas in Washington. Leaders from Latin America also took aim at Obama for the U.S.’s refusal to invite Cuba to the next such regional gathering.

Way to fuck up foreign policy, asshats!

An already-tempestuous meeting-- personified by the absence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (nominally for cancer treatments, but also because Raul Castro was not invited), Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa (also in support of Castro), Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega (yes, he's back), and the early departure of Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, humiliated by the lack of support for her appeal on a referendum asking Great Britain to return the Falkland Islands-- could have turned into a modified success with some of the work Obama did with Colombia and Brazil. 

But no. 

Indeed, that a US President could go to Cartagena with civilian protection instead at the head of an armed military incursion force speaks volumes about the progress the United States has made in the region, particularly Obama, trying to persuade South Americans that we aren't just about exploiting their resources and leaving a mess behind. 

Mind you, none of this rumoured mess happened with the agents on duty while President Obama was in the country insofar as anyone knows. The scandal occured prior to his arrival and involved members of his advance team.

A side note about the Falklands issue: I happened to watch The Iron Lady over the weekend and of course, the Falklands War took stage as an attempt to highlight Margaret Thatcher's iron will.
According to the film, her own advisors suggested letting the islands go: it was costly to defend them-- Thatcher herself had scaled down British defense forces on the islands out of budgetary concerns-- and they were so very far away.
It's rather surprising that cooler heads haven't prevailed in the decades since. They really ought to be returned to Argentina. Occupying them might have made sense in the days of a British empire as a staging ground for Africa, but now? They're rather supercilious as a possession.