Sunday, September 07, 2014

Gone traveling. See you late-ish the week of September 15th.

I'm packed and all but outta here.

Where am I going?

Someplace nice.

Who am I going with?

Somebody nice.

Details please?

Fuhgeddaboudid. But maybe I'll tell you when I get back.

Or not.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Time to re-regulate the airlines

Ever since the Supreme Court decided that
money is "speech," airlines have been able to
"speak" to Congressmen in a language they
understand: Campaign payola for screwing
the passengers
The proliferation of “incidents” involving airline passengers arguing over reclining seats is growing. Over at Earthbound Misfit, "Comrade Misfit" has a few astute things to say about that, which I commend to your attention.

To my amazement, some commentators are blaming the passengers. Some blame the reclining passengers for reclining. Others blame the people who bring aboard anti-reclining apparatus and use it, or who simply go batcrap crazy when the passenger in front of them reclines into their space.

Who is to blame?

Let’s blame who is really at fault: 

The greedy airlines. 

It’s self evident that the more human beings the airlines can crowd into the same space, the richer they’ll get and the fatter their senior  officers’ pay checks and bonuses will grow. The principle of crowding human beings into spaces suitable for dead sardines was invented by the Nazis, who shoved human beings into cattle cars and transported them to concentration camps. When the cattle cars arrived at the camps, some of the passengers inside were already dead. The Nazis didn’t give a damn. Neither do the airlines. This isn't just a metaphor. Read the next paragraph.

Cramming so many people into tiny spaces for so long that their superegos explode isn’t the only danger. In case of a fire or emergency landing, more people will die – burning to death, or drowning – simply because they can’t get out of their seats, down the aisle, and out of the airplane in time.

There was a time when
we had a real government

The U.S. Government used to have regulations about things like that. Are you old enough to remember when the U.S. Government actually governed?  But then greedy lobbyists wormed their way into our completely corrupt Congress and convinced the lawmakers to heavily deregulate. The airlines were among the first to taste this new-found “freedom.” The promise to the rest of us was, when airlines could compete on matters like passenger comfort and perks, and prices, then the prices would get cheaper.

And so, to the best of my recollection, they did for a brief while. Prices got so cheap, in fact, that some airlines went broke, and others got swallowed up in mergers. Bye Bye Eastern. Bye Bye, Pan Am. Bye Bye, TWA. Bye Bye, Republic. Bye Bye Braniff. And on and on. And hello near-monopoly airlines who give less of a hoot for their passengers than they do for geese sucked into their jet engines.

Welcome to the Big Squeeze 

Now, with fewer choices of airlines, and with flight crews already squeezed for their once reasonable pay and benefits, the only people left to squeeze are the passengers. You and me. 

So unless you’re willing to pay a ransom well into the five figures for Business Class or First Class seats from A to B, you are squeezed, starved, screwed, and generally treated like something flushed out of the air toilet at 30,000 feet.

Regulations about minimum leg room, regulations about not imposing extra charges for “luxuries” like taking a bag or two while you travel (the unmitigated nerve of you!), not to mention regulations requiring edible food aboard flights lasting longer than four hours  – all these regulations need to be restored, and need to make sense.

Somebody is about to pipe up, “B-b-but that will raise the cost of air fares!”

Uh, yeah, probably. But the "cheap" fares currently advertised are total phonies. Consider:

By the time you factor in the extra charges for bringing baggage with you when you travel, the charges the airlines impose if you try to book a flight on the phone, or if you try to change or cancel a flight,  the the price of food you have to buy on your own, the price of losing precious hours when your plane is forced to land owing to a passenger dispute – not to mention the value of your life when you burn to death inside an airplane because there’s no way all the sardines can get out fast enough – you’re already paying far higher than advertised prices. If a single price covered matters like food and baggage that used to included automatically, and if Congress keeps an eye on fares, prices aren’t likely to rise so much that you’d wish you’d gambled your life instead.

Your spineless Congressmen who
regulate this stuff. Here's a list:

So who on the House Subcommittee on aviation has the spine to stand up and say, “Yes, let’s re-regulate the airlines so they can’t treat passengers like filthy cattle?” Who among them isn’t so corruptly in the pockets of the airlines they supposedly oversee? Let’s start with the Republican majority of 16, who could make it happen, if they wanted, without a single Democrat’s vote:

How about you, Chairman Frank A. LoBiondo, of New Jersey? How about you, Tom Petri,  of Wisconsin? How about you, Howard Coble,  of North Carolina? How about you, John J. Duncan, of Tennessee? How about you, Tom Graves, of Georgia? How about you, Blake Farenthold, of Texas? How about yo u, Larry Bucshon, of Indiana? How about you, Patrick Meehan, of Pennsylvania? How about you, Daniel Webster, of Florida? How about you, Jeff Denham, of California? How about you Reid Ribble, of Wisconsin? How about you, Thomas Massie, of Kentucky? How about you, Steve Daines, of Montana? How about you, Roger Williams, of Texas? How about you, Mark Meadows, of North Carolina? How about you, Rodney Davis, of Illinois?

No, I didn’t think so.

While the Republicans on the committee outnumber the Democrats 16-13, rendering Democratic votes impotent, there are still things the Democrats can do. Your Republican colleagues most assuredly have pet airport projects and other goodies they’d like to secure for the patrons who pay them off. So by delaying and obstructing expenditures for their pets as long as you can, you might be able to get their attention and the attention of the nation.

So how about a minority member revolt, Democrats Rick Larsen of Washington, Peter A. DeFazio, of Oregon; Eleanore Holmes Norton of DC; Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas; Michael E. Capuano of Massashusetts. Dan Lipinski of Illinois; Steve Cohen of Tennessee; Andre Carson of Indiana; Rick Nolan of Minnesota; Dina Titus of Nevada; Sean Patrick Maloney of New York; Cheri Bustos of Illinois; or Corrine Brown of Florida?

No, I didn’t think so, either.

But maybe we can give all these corrupt and near-corrupt Congressloafers a kick in the butt. You might start by copying this piece into an e-mail and addressing it to one of the committee members in your own state.  You can find their e-mail address here

Meanwhile, for your delectation, a performance I've embedded once before in this blog. Enjoy it again:

Friday, August 29, 2014

The river, the bike path, the nation, and the dead piano on the beach – an essay about a bad omen

Found on the bank of the East River, in lower Manhattan, at low tide.
The East River isn’t really a river. It’s a natural salt water canal between Long Island and the Island of Manhattan, fed by tidal movements from both its north and south ends. The river sometimes flows north to south, sometimes south to north, and, oddly, sometimes in both directions at once, with the direction of shore currents contradicting currents in the center of the river.

There’s a bicycle path along some of that River in New York. It starts a few blocks away from my home and ends near Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan. It’s not much of a ride for serious cyclists – a bit short of ten miles to the end and back  – but that’s enough during the summer, when days are long and warm, for an old fogey like me to burn off some tension at the end of the work day and get my heart re-started before dinner.

When the tide recedes, the river reveals a few feet of sandy beach in lower Manhattan, along with whatever jetsam the tide has dragged in, or passers-by have thrown in. About six weeks ago I noticed something that was out of the ordinary. Sometimes it’s plainly there. Other times, when the tide is very high, it vanishes for a while under the water.

Yeah, that’s it in the picture. A dead piano. Its legs are gone. Some of its keys are gone. Much of its sounding board is gone. Its strings are gone. I’m sure barnacles and sea worms are gnawing at its wooden belly. But part of the sounding board, and just about all of its pins, and its case minus the lid are still there. The only sound coming from the piano these days is the shushing of waves picking their way among the remaining pieces.

I don’t know how the dead piano got there, unless somebody dropped it off the Brooklyn Bridge, which is nearly overhead. Or unless someone threw it off a boat at high tide. Nor do I know what music the piano once played. Did it accompany a symphony orchestra? Did little girls in linen dresses sit in a parlor a century ago, practicing scales on it? Did a dilettante pick out popular tunes of the day on it? Was it a talented jazz musician’s piano? Did it accompany a violinist or a vocalist? Was it used, once upon a time, to play ragtime tunes in a whorehouse?

What’s with the unusual color of the paint on its case? Why were its legs amputated, like a diabetic’s near the end of his life?  And most of all, why would some vandal  want to take a valuable instrument, a thing beautiful to the eye and capable of delighting the ear, and toss it in a river, as if it were a Styrofoam cup or a worn out tire?

Forgive me now while I leap aboard a metaphor. I admit, it’s a complex and perhaps gravely shaky metaphor. It could crash and kill the essay. All the same, I’ll try to ride it. 

We – you, and I, and also greedy business owners, and judges, and lobbyists, and politicians, and public affairs strategists, and inert or brain dead voters, and lazy administrators and terrified employees and civil servants – we are allowing the United States to become a dead piano. 

We had a functioning, prosperous democracy here for a couple of centuries. It had its ups and downs,. It had grave faults. It often played discordant notes. But was also capable of great societal harmony, and  over time its performances were slowly but increasingly in tune with human decency and the pursuit of happiness. 

At home, each generation would do better economically than its predecessors. Each was a generation of pioneers – not only in terms of exploring territory, but in terms of exploring knowledge. Life expectancies were extended. “Impossible” marvels were achieved, from building bridges with foundations in the deep and swiftly-moving rivers of New York, to putting people on the moon. The nation’s educational level rose. Colleges and universities sprouted across the nation. College, for a while, became not an impossible dream but a commonplace achievement for the many. A simple working family, possibly for the first time in history, could live comfortably, eat well, own its own home, and possess a few of the luxuries of life. The nation invented new art forms, from the Broadway musical to the cinema. And I’m only scratching at the surface of American achievement.

True, in  some matters of social justice, most notably racial justice, we lagged seriously. Nevertheless, we eliminated, slavery. We eliminated, at least for a while, Jim Crow laws like those that imposed a poll tax on voters and that segregated accommodations and schools. 

For a while.

And then the vandals began to mass against us. For some reason, they didn’t like the music of a high-achieving Democratic republic. They began changing the tune. 

Prosperity? The vandals decided that the wrong people had it. The most prosperous people could never get enough of wealth – so our nation, in defiance of logic and justice and simple decency, began to give it all to them.

Science? Medicine? The arts? Even critical infrastructure? They cost money. We put a lid on them.

The vandals are on the march. They control the Supreme Court. They control one house of Congress and have rendered the second house inharmonious and nearly dysfunctional. The vandals infest our state capitals. Their mission is not to create but to destroy. Destroy health care. Destroy public education. Destroy justice. Destroy social equity. Destroy the environment. Destroy even the smooth functioning of government. 

The vandals, the barbarians, the thugs are sawing off the legs of the piano. And once the legs are off off, they want to throw the legless body off  the boat or the bridge. And far too many of us either accept this passively, or cheer them on.

How much longer before America itself becomes another dead piano on the beach?                       

Perhaps, if I’m lucky, I won’t live to see it. Things like the condition of America make me glad to be an old man.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog

Monday, August 25, 2014

Attention "You can't make this S#*T Up" Department: here's yet another justification for a global excess wealth tax

She's amazingly lifelike. I'm referring to the zombie-ish white-gloved blonde who lovingly and sensuously strokes a sleek coffin while she models what may well be the latest way for a one-percenter to bury wealth where it can do no one any good.

It's a coffin-installed sound system that plays music to moldering corpses six feet underground. It claims to do so "forever." Family and friends can program and re-program the music from the present life, if they choose.

One hopes a mischievous nephew won't program in whatever kind of music the deceased hated. Think of the late Richard Nixon being forced to listen to 24 hours a day of Snoop Dog.

The cost of keeping the dead entertained during their long, long sleep underground? 23,000 Euros, or in excess of $36 thousand American. Per corpse.

Listen, you can buy into life after death, or your can declare it's all a primitively superstitious myth (I know, I know, I'm getting redundant here) but in either case, six feet under is not where your loved one's soul, if there is one, resides.

However, some people will have 36 grand to throw away without so much as noticing it's missing. Other less fortunate marks will really not be able to afford the price, but will buy the contraption anyway, while still in a state of shock or vulnerability over their loss.

The United States was a rich country when we had marginal tax rates in the very, very high double digits for the very, very rich. Today, we tax, starve, oppress and milk the poor to bring the top tax rates down for the wealthy. All so they can have options like this.

If there actually turns out to be a hell, more than a few people will burn in it for this. With or without music.

P.S. Listen, Smartypants, at first, I thought this was a sendup, too. But it's not. Next time you're in Stockholm, you can drop in for a demonstration of this coffin sound system, just to the right of the Hollywood "aperitif" store,  here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Greed, news networks, getting stiffed, getting screwed, whose ox got, uh, gored – and al that jazeera

Is Al Gore the screw-er or the screw-we?
Don't answer until you read this  post
Infuriating as the events currently occurring in Ferguson, Missouri are, I simply can’t bear to write anything more about them just now. If you’re keeping your eye on the unfolding horror story and you need to sate yourself on commonsense outrage, go here.

Meanwhile, I want to turn my attention to money, greed, Gore, and a news network. 

Despite the likelihood that the contretemps between Al Gore and Al Jazeera may be the most pun-worthy story of the year, I’ll lay off further punning, now that I’ve had my fun with headline of this piece. The story and facts of the dispute between Al G and Al J are fun enough

Seems that Al Gore is suing Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network, owned by Arab high oil mucky-mucks. Gore is fighting for money he says Al Jazeera stiffed him and his stockholders for .

See, according to a law suit filed by someone named John Terenzio, a suit since dismissed, Terenzio went to Gore and proposed that he sell Current TV, a news and commentary cable outlet that was owned by a group of investors including Gore.

Gore wouldn’t go for it. He was, said Terenzio, “adamant” that he wouldn’t peddle his pet news station to a bunch of Qataris. 

But then the Qataris (or maybe Terenzio) waved $500 million worth of oil moola  under Gore’s nose and guess what? Yeah, you guessed it.

The transaction closed. Current TV is no more. You can find Al Jazeera, and with it some of current TV’s former inmates, among many of the cable news offerings available in our great nation. But now Gore claims, on behalf of his stockholders of course, that Al Jazeera stiffed his people, including himself, for the escrow money.

That would be after Gore successfully fought off Terenzio, who claimed Gore stiffed him for a kind of finder’s fee for suggesting the deal.

What happens next? What am I, a seer? All I can tell you is that you are entitled to draw morals to this story where you can find them. For example:

  • Beware of big oil sheiks bearing $500 million gifts
  • In America, the stiff-er and the stiff-ee are often the same person. 
  • Middle men who see themselves as Lucky Pierre may get less luckily screwed.
  • People who go to Washington idealistically hoping to make laws will instead sooner or later turn their attention to making money.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The great Missouri police homicide whitewash

I generally loathe the Nancy Graces and Jeanine Pirros of this world – former prosecutors who begin their own one-sided prosecutions on TV, often before any jury has had an opportunity to begin weighing evidence against accused individuals. The Graces and Pirros stir up public sentiments that may not be justified. They poison the atmosphere, thwarting the likelihood of a fair trial – all for the sake of television ratings and their own enrichment and self aggrandizement.
That said, the investigating of the shooting of young Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, is beginning to stink of coverup. 
I’m not yet critical of the refusal of the local police to release the name and picture of the cop who evidently fired more than once at the unarmed young man, killing him while, according to witnesses, his empty hands were raised in the air and he begged the cop not to shoot.
(On the other hand, while the police concern for the well-being of the cop and his family may be justifiable, why doesn’t the same concern apply to all other persons who are arrested or simply declared “persons of interest” with their photographs and names published – before any jury has established their guilt or innocence, and in some cases before police have even enough evidence for an arrest?)
No details released – unless they favor accused cop
What bugs me in the Ferguson case is the growing appearance of a coverup that only begins with the hiding of the accused police officer’s name and likeness. Although the county police have admitted the autopsy shows Brown died “of gunshot wounds” (what a surprise!) they’re not releasing “any further details.”
Well, actually both Ferguson and St. Louis County police have released details. Those would be details prejudicial against the dead shooting victim. 
The cops claim the victim reached into the police car and tried to grab the officer’s gun. Nice trick of you can do that. He’d have to reach deep and low into the car, across the torso of the police officer, find the gun in a holster  by feeling around for it, and yank the pistol out of a holster fastened to the officer’s right hip. 
That unlikely series of events, had they actually happened, could have been thwarted simply by the police officer raising the window on Michael Brown’s arm, or bending back Brown’s fingers – had Brown’s arm actually been in the car.
And even if Brown had reached into the cop car, why did that justify shooting Brown multiple times? Clearly, the gun was in the possession and under the control of the cop. Otherwise he couldn’t have shot Brown.
How many bullets? And why is that a secret?
Among  the further details that would interest me is the question of how many bullets struck Brown. If it was more than one or two, or if the cop emptied his gun into Brown’s body, that would call for some seriously detailed explaining, don’tcha think?
I’d also like to know whether the nature of the wounds indicated that the unnamed cop was close enough to be struggling with Brown, as the cops are claiming (evidently based on the unnamed officer’s say-so) or whether the young man was some distance away where presumably he would have posed little or no threat.
This matters because at least two witnesses, (see here, here, and here) watching the event from at at least two different vantage points, reported that the shooting victim raised his hands and called out, “I don’t have a gun,” a declaration that the civilian witnesses say was  answered with a hail of bullets.
As of nine a.m. this morning, the cops hadn’t even spoken to one of the witnesses, Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown when he was gunned down.  The Huffington Post reports that Johnson’s attorney, a former St. Louis mayor is declaring, “They didn’t even want to talk to him [Johnson]. They don’t want the facts. What they want is to justify what happened.” The cops claim they can’t find Johnson, which is odd considering that he has appeared in television interviews on several media outlets.
A desperate attempt to blame the victim?
As for more details of the autopsy report, such as how many times Brown was shot, cops say the delay is because they are waiting for blood toxicology reports. Why the delay in details not related to toxicology? Well, it smells like – pardon me, stinks like – the cops, desperate to exonerate one of their own, are hoping and praying that somebody will find traces of alcohol or marijuana, or some pharmaceutical in Brown’s blood. And that meanwhile, news attention will turn to something else and the furor will quiet down.
But even if the toxicologist does find evidence that Brown had alcohol in his blood, that finding would not justify shooting Brown to death. All it could do is help besmirch the victim.
I do hope that Brown family will obtain an outside medical examiner to do an independent autopsy. The stench of police and prosecutorial collusion is so thick, and the “blue wall” of silence, appears to be built so high, I’m not sure even the local medical examiner and toxicology lab can be trusted.
I fear this may turn out to be yet another case where a rogue cop, aided and abetted by the entire police establishment, gets away with murder.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tobacco, packaging, “property rights,” the Underwear Bomber, and the “right” to entice kids to smoke

If you follow the legal reasoning of 
Philip Morris to  its logical conclusion, 
property rights trump all other laws. 
Maybe including murder
Hey, guess what! I’ve just invented a machine for slowly skinning kids alive. Yes yes, of course they eventually get killed by the process. And yes, yes, they feel pain before they die. Even so, nobody can contest that the machine is my intellectual property. Right? 

But I have a problem.

Every time I try to use my intellectual property to skin somebody alive, the government steps in and tries to stop me. The nerve of them! So I’m gonna sue the government. What for? For depriving me of my intellectual property by not allowing me to torture and kill people with it.

Is that completely crazy? 
Not to cigarette companies.

My argument in favor of allowing me to kill kids with my skinning-alive machine appears to be precisely the argument that a tobacco company is are now making to head off laws in various countries that would force them to make packaging changes the company doesn't like.

Turns out, the government of the UK discovered that “plain packaging” – no brand name on the pack, but graphic health warnings instead – reduces the rate at which kids decide to try smoking. And of course, the fewer who try smoking, the fewer who will die of it. O, the horror of it all!

The Philip Morris company is outraged. I mean, I get the feeling they couldn't be in higher dudgeon if you dropped a decaying rat carcass in their soup.

According to a Reuters report,“‘Standardized packaging’ is a euphemism for government-mandated destruction of property,” the tobacco company grumbles. In fact, they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take in any more. Instead, the company is “prepared to protect its rights in the court and to seek fair compensation for the value of its property.”

If it’s my intellectual property
I have the right to kill you with it

Hey, if Philip Morris wins, I think the same principle of law will allow me to skin people alive, as long as I own the design rights to the machine that does the deed. The new definition of property, as proffered by Philip Morris, would permit inventors and designers not only have the right to their conceptions, but also the right to use them free of government regulation. Any government action to the contrary would be unfair confiscation of property.

Why, if some terrorist were to design a new and unique way to build a bigger, better, and more powerful bomb, the Philip Morris Principle would give him the right to try it out in a crowded stadium.

And of course, the same “legal principle” that Philip Morris espouses can be used to free the Underwear Bomber. I mean, if he and his Al Queda buddies thought it up and patented it, it’s their intellectual property, right?

Thursday, August 07, 2014

A gun that it’s pointless for bad guys to steal from good guys to use on innocent people? Or that keeps toddlers from killing infants? This must be stopped!

Photo stolen from the online pages of the
Worcester County Examiner in Massachusetts, 

which reports the pic is in the public domaine 

From The Washington Post comes news of a new “smart gun” that shoots killer bullets, same as ordinary pistols, but that is all but useless in the hands of anyone who might try to steal one for nefarious purposes. For that matter it’s also nearly harmless in the hands of toddlers who play with a parent’s gun and by accident off a young sibling.

The three year old who fiddles with Dad’s gun and accidentally shoots her little brother? Won’t likely happen with the Armatix iP1, as the new smart weapon is called.

Nor will a dead toddler case like this happen. Or like this one. Or like a whole bunch of cases that seem to occur with alarming regularity in our life-cherishing nation.

The reason? The new Armatix smart gun “can be personalized so it only fires if the gun’s rightful owner is wearing a special watch connected wirelessly to the weapon,” reports the Washington Post.

The gun lobby folks are fuming. Gunsmoke is coming out of their ears. They’re frothing at the mouth like rabid dogs. It’s a wonder their heads don’t explode! The nerve – the unmitigated, unpatriotic, un-American (well, the gun was invented in Germany), and maybe even un-Constitutional nerve of the  furriner who’s peddling that subversive piece of evil.

Little wonder the Gun Nuts of America, or whatever they’re called, organized an enraged boycott of a gun store that dared to offer the weapon for sale.

Little wonder, in fact, that they didn’t converge on the store with pitchforks raised and guns blazing, and blow the place to kingdom come. (Well, since the store backed off and decided to stop selling the gun after all, I guess the gun crazies won’t have to shoot the proprietor and clerks to death this time.)

Also little wonder, the news has resulted in thoughtful, logical, completely balanced expressions of alarm about the gun’s inventor, Eric Mauch and his evil weapon, which was no doubt ejaculated by Satan during perverted sex with a liberal.

“I love Ernst, and his contributions to firearms are incredible,” said Jim Schatz, a gun industry consultant who worked for Mauch at Heckler & Koch. “But he doesn’t understand that the anti-gunners will use this to infringe on a constitutional right. They don’t have a Second Amendment in Germany.”

I mean yeah, I know this thought is getting old already, but while right wing folks want to preserve fetuses in the womb, once they’re born – hell, they should enjoy the God-given right to get blasted into smithereens by their siblings, because The Sacred Right To Bear Arms, and of course, also because Freedom.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog

Monday, August 04, 2014

HSBC, crooked doings, and the self-pity of psychopaths

Google “Sociopath + self-pity” and you’ll get in excess of 39,000 hits. It turns out that sociopaths – people who lack empathy for the pain and suffering they inflict on others – are pretty sensitive and self-serving when it comes to pain that others inflict on them.
Which brings us to HSBC, the big international bank.

Reuters this morning reports that HSBC’s chairman, Douglas Flint, is bleating pitifully about the pain he and his fellow bankers at HSBC are currently feeling.

The bank, uh, “warned” “that a growing body of international regulations was putting its staff under unprecedented pressure and discouraging them from taking risks,” according to Reuters. The report goes on to say Flint whines that the poor banking staff is “fearful of retribution.” 

O, the pitiful buggers! This is the same bank that according to another Reuters story, paid a $10 million settlement “ to settle U.S. government charges that it defrauded taxpayers by submitting inflated bills to process residential foreclosures.”

It’s the same bank that a Mexican drug lord – you know, Mexico, where the drug lords decapitate people they don’t approve of and leave headless bodies in the street? – a Mexican drug lord endorses HSBC as “the place to launder money.”

In fact, it’s the same bank that pisses off its own shareholders (Disclosure: I'm one of those shareholders) by paying fat bonuses for failure that costs the shareholders money. “More than a fifth of HSBC's shareholders opposed the bank's pay policy on Friday in the latest show of anger that banks have not reined in bonuses enough in the wake of the financial crisis,” Reuters reported back in May.

And the bankers are now outraged that government regulation is making them fearful? They ought to be grateful – grateful that they’re not doing time.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog

Monday, July 28, 2014

Groucho Marx and the Tea Party Glee and Klown Klub sing the sacred Republican anthem

You had to know the permanent opposition to getting anything done in Congress was getting its inspiration from somewhere.

Now we know where.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Screw the poor and aged. Steal from pensioners and miserably paid employees. Rob the schools. Then use the money to subsidize millionaires and billionaires.

"Please sir, may I have another spoonful of thin gruel? For I am fiercely hungry." 
"Damn you, you accursed street urchin! Shut your whining mouth. Don't you know I have billionaires to feed?"

Quick – Go grab a pail so you’ll have something to puke into. Then go here and read the latest disgusting news about the Dickensian States of America.

Meanwhile, in more and more cities and states, being so poor you're homeless is now a crime.

And if you think you'd like to help the homeless poor by feeding them, have another think. In 50 cities, from Daytona Beach, Florida to Camden, New Jersey, feeding the homeless poor is now a crime, too. Just let 'em stand up (because it's against the law for them to sit or lie down) and starve.

By the way, who are those self-righteous bastards who keep smugly declaring that America is a Christian nation? Oh right, people like this guy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What big, really really big government spending did to the American economy

We’re approaching the 45th anniversary of Americans to be the first people to walk on the moon. The date is July 24. This seems like the perfect time to send a reminder to the nincompoops who want to slash government spending and leave economic development to the so-called “free market.” 

Here’s a partial –very partial – list of some of the profitable products they would have killed if they killed one of the biggest government spending programs in history.
  • Freeze dried food
  • Lightweight film space blankets
  • Cochlear implants
  • The dust buster you use to clean the crap off your car upholstery
  • Infrared ear thermometers – so much easier than the Tea Party temperature taking method of shoving a narrow tube of mercury-filled glass up your butt
  • New kinds of water purification systems.  (Your dentist may be using one to keep from squirting polluted gunk under your gums
  • Collision avoidance systems, soon to be applied to saving your butt when you fall asleep at the wheel
  • Better prosthetic limbs, one of the reason so many of our wondered war vets can walk, or even run, rather than hobble or spend their lives tethered to a wheel chair
  • Automatic insulin pumps, so that fat (and fat-headed) Tea Partiers can complain the gubmint has no business regulating what people put in our food while enjoying the benefits of Obamacare or Medicare

As I said, this was a very partial list.There are at least 1650 other space program spinoffs in the fields of computer technology, environment and agriculture, health and medicine, public safety, transportation, recreation, and industrial productivity. For more of these fascinating spinoffs of space science, go here.

The cost of the space program? Adjusted for inflation, it came to $851,000,000,000, according to one sourceq. It was money well spent because all the spinoffs not only made life better for Americans, they made jobs, by the hundreds of thousands and pretty much paid for themselves by growing and enriching the economy over time.

It’s time to put the government back in business again, before the tax-cutting, job-killing, progress-killing, technology-hating right wingers do more damage than that they already have turning the United States of America into a banana republic. 

P.S. My pal Garth Hallberg has taken the paranoid fantasies of the right wing – the ones that insist the whole moon shot happened in a TV studio and is part of a left wing plot to uh, you know, kill freedom – and had some fun with it in a delightful book called, “Boon Juster Or The Reason For Everything.” Take it to the beach with you while there’s still some summer left. And when you read it please remember that the numbskulls actually believe this stuff.

Monday, July 07, 2014

“Aching Hunger…Bliss Ineffable…Mad, Tender…Passion-wild, jealous…hungry…” Oh goody! Another Republican sex scandal, this one aged to perfection like a fine wine.

Warren G. Harding with his
starched color and awkward
pose was just another randy
 Republican crook

What is it about Republicans? They oppose birth control, oppose abortion, make dumb-bunny remarks about knees and aspirin to explain their favorite stupid birth control method – and then these moralizing oafs screw around on the side like March hares on an overdose of testosterone

Now, from the scandal-plagued, corruption-plagued  Warren Gamaliel Harding Administration of 1921-1923, the blathering Republican president whose language was described as, “an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea,” (Does that sound like anything Republicans do today?) comes the romantically smarmy love letters of the married prez to his married mistress.

The letters are about to released, and ought to be published under the title, “50 Shades of Republican.”

Read the piece in the Washington Post. Then go take a cold shower.

Hey, the one thing you can say about Republicans is that they’re consistent in their pompous idiocy and surprising affinity for sexual philandering, from Herman Caine, to Newt Gingrich, to Mark Sanford, to name just some of them.

So if I have one regret about my mortality, it’s that I won’t live to see what your great grandchildren find out about today’s Republicans and Tea Party oafs. But in my heart of hearts, I’m hoping that they’ll read something about Rick Santorum.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Supreme Court decision on contraception: Al Queda, Al Shebab, and ISIS must be joyfully shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

The crazy right-wing U.S. Supreme Court
has handed business owners who side with 
terrorists like this guy a precious gift
So the Supreme Court “Hobby Lobby” decision, allows family-owned corporations to decide that they can override the United States healthcare law on supplying insurance coverage for contraceptives – on the basis of personal religious belief.

They must be getting ready to set off fireworks in the fanatic world of terrorist extremism. 

Think of it. If a corporate owner can refuse to cover some kinds of contraceptives for his employees because he is morally opposed to them, other corporate owners can fire women for refusing to come to work veiled because the owners are morally opposed to unveiled women. 

Or the owners can fire women employees if they weren’t driven to work by a family member. 

Or the corporate owner can fire people who do not fast during Ramadan. Or – who knows? – perhaps even behead Christians in their employ for apostasy. 

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Thomas, Kennedy, Stevens and Roberts and Scalia have handed the world’s worst terrorists the greatest gift America could give them – a justification and a license for their violent behavior in the name of religion.

Nice work, Alito et al. What’s next? A justification for burning witches at the stake?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The New York Crank would like to award Arizona schools superintendent John Huppenthal a free hat.

Wear it, John. You earned it.
Hey John, it’s a free country. People can say what they think. But that doesn’t mean that if their thinking is sub-Neanderthal they should be in charge of a state’s school system.
When you call poor people “lazy pigs,” I begin to question your intellectual curiosity about why poor people are poor. Or your compassion for kids who come to school hungry. Or go to bed hungry.
When you compare Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood to Adolf Hitler, I begin to question your ability to reason, or to compare like things and unlike things. For example, John, an apple doesn't look like or taste like an asparagus. And offering women birth control bears no resemblance to rounding up eight million people in the dead of night, transporting them to concentration camps, or gassing them to death.
But I have to question even your long range political intelligence when you write stuff like this: "We all need to stomp out balkanization. No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv stations, no spanish newspapers…This is America, speak English.”
Did I mention, John, that in school systems that turn out educated people, students usually know to capitalize a proper noun like "Spanish" by the third grade?

You get an F in Education. Go put on your funny hat and sit in the corner, John.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Antioch College gets its groove back, while the town around it grows more delightfully quirky

The Antioch College campus a few minutes before
sunset. Is Antioch College golden again? I think yes.
Here’s some Ohio real estate news that brings joy to my cranky New York heart. 

A wealthy local land owner is building a $4.5 million, 28-room hotel in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The hotel will be near the center of this country town, population under 4,000. And several beds-and-breakfasts and a motel are already doing business here.

No, it’s not folly. It’s an indicator that somebody with money and business savvy is confident that the local college is about to start generating a lot of visitor traffic for the town.

The college is Antioch, once left for dead by the university of the same name that the college spawned. In fact, Antioch College was twice pronounced dead right here and here on this blog. I was wrong. My God, was I wrong!

Angry alumni save the day

College alumni and some of its faculty, enraged by past mismanagement , wrested Antioch College from the control of Antioch University and restarted its academic engines. New trustees installed a new president, Mark Roosevelt, a descendant of the rough-riding 26th President of the United States.

Antioch College’s President Roosevelt has been having a rough ride of his own, but he seems to be effectively leading the charge to restoration. I visited the campus last week. While a few buildings are closed thanks to the university’s neglect, and some have been torn down, its original Victorian spires and more than a couple of modern and renovated structures still stand. And they, as well as the lawns and foliage, look a damn sight spiffier than they did the last time I visited the campus, in 1986.

One of the worst things that happened when Antioch University attempted patricide of Antioch College was that with the college closed and its former faculty dismissed and dispersed, Antioch College lost its accreditation. And yet the college is recovering even from this stab in the heart.

Fast track progress toward re-accreditation

At a dinner for alumni who came back to the college to help fix up the college’s theater building, paint walls, build bicycle racks and do other manual labor in support of their alma mater, President Roosevelt made an announcement last week: After an arduous process, the college was expecting to gain“candidate status” for reaccreditation, which will give it and its students access to the federal grants and loans that every institution of higher learning needs to survive.

I had left town before the next announcement was made, but the Yellow Springs News is reporting that last Saturday the college was granted its candidacy – and put on an accelerated path toward full accreditation.

I chatted with several students while I was on campus, and managed to secure a copy of their student newspaper. The kids were sharp, upbeat, and charming. Their newspaper is a better one than I put out when I was its editor. Little wonder. Since Antioch has been, until now, granting its risk-taking students full tuition (a situation which may end for most new applicants) it was able to skim the cream. Great students in turn attract great faculty, and vice-versa. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, those are certainly good things for Antioch College’s future.

The town is  magnet for foodies and fun lovers

Meanwhile, the town of Yellow Springs is revving up for the prosperity that comes with a soon-to-be-thriving college. I counted at least five restaurants during my downtown strolls and managed to eat at two of them, despite the college’s attempt to feed its alumni volunteers each night. I was especially taken with The Winds Cafe, where I enjoyed a dinner worthy of an upmarket New York restaurant (with prices nearly to match.)

And the night I breezed into town, a bit late thanks to United Airlines, a place called HaHa Pizza stayed open a half hour beyond closing time to let me eat. Moreover, they fed me one hell of a healthy pizza, thanks to an option for a whole wheat crust. And I enjoyed the atmosphere provided by the spacious interior and well-spaced booths and tables.

Moreover, while Amazon may be killing off bookstores around America, you’d never know it in Yellow Springs. Its downtown boasts three shops that sell books.

The town does a strong “local tourist” business – with people driving from places like Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, Ohio to gape a bit at the counterculture types who were attracted to live in town by the progressive college. Visitors poke through offbeat shops ( pictures of some of the storefronts below) and use the state bicycle path which goes through both Yellow Springs and the edge of the college campus.

But the college needs business
and engineering departments

I have wishes for the college that aren’t likely to be fulfilled anytime soon. I wish, for example, that the college would establish a business major among its offerings. Antioch's work-study plan might create an opportunity for career-launching co-op jobs at institutions like Goldman Sachs and KKR. Hey, a hedge fund billionaire or three on the alumni roster could go a long way toward enriching Antioch’s thin endowment.

A fellow alum expressed a similar wish for the restoration of the once-pretty-good engineering department. It’s the engineers, he pointed out, who have won as many victories for humanity – with creations ranging from bridges to computers – as artists, authors and political activists. Moreover, many engineers become financially enriched by their pursuits, and might be tempted to share their good fortunes with the college.

I buttonholed President Roosevelt on the beautiful campus one night and told him about my wish for a business department. His reaction? He, uh, listened patiently. Well, he has other matters on his mind right now, but I do hope the alums will push him for broader course offerings, including business and engineering, in the years to come.

Meanwhile, the college stands, grows and shines, like a butterfly shimmying out of its chrysalis. Toward sunset, when the light is just right, the old red brick and copper turrets of the college’s 19th Century main building catch the sun and turn a honey gold, glowing against the sky. I’ll take that as a good omen.

Meanwhile, here's some of what you'll see while window shopping in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.