Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bribery arrests? They’re only for the little people.


Public domain art from ClipArt ETC [etc.usf.edu]

Bits and pieces from a  Los Angeles Times story by David G. Savage. It concerns a former Republican (natch!) governor of Virginia, one Bob McDonnell:
McDonnell and his wife were deeply in debt. Jonnie Williams, a free-spending Virginia businessman, offered to improve their "financial situation" if they helped promote his tobacco-based dietary supplement. 
Over two years, he secretly gave the couple more than $175,000 in loans, vacations and gifts, including a New York shopping spree by McDonnell's wife and an engraved Rolex watch for the governor.
[SNIP]
Prosecutors showed evidence that within minutes of speaking to Williams about personal loans, the governor called or emailed aides and state health officials, asking them to come to the governor's mansion to hear more about the dietary supplement. McDonnell used the governor's mansion for a product launch for the new supplement. And he carried a bottle of pills in his pocket and suggested state employees might want to try them.
[SNIP]
McDonnell was charged with bribery and corruption, and a jury convicted him in 2014 on 11 counts. A U.S. appeals court upheld the convictions and said the governor had taken bribes in exchange for "using the power of his office to influence governmental decisions."
But now the good part — good, that is, if you’re either a government official on the take, or a rich individual who wants to buy the law for your own benefit.

McDonnell has appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court. He may  lose in the tied-up court now that Justice Scalia is dead. I sincerely hope so. But the sheer gall of his appeal is vomit-worthy. 

Moreover, the very fact that the Roberts Court would entertain such an appeal is worthy of a counter-appeal to God: “Dear Lord, don’t stop at Scalia. Please take Justice Roberts as well.” 

As the LA Times tells it:
"The possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner influence over or access to elected officials" is not evidence of bribery or corruption, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said two years ago in striking down the limits on how much in total a single donor may give to a field of candidates. "Ingratiation and access... are not corruption," he said, quoting from the Citizens United opinion
McDonnell's attorneys have latched on to that legal rationale to argue that doing small favors for big donors is protected under the 1st Amendment .
"Paying for 'access' — the ability to get a call answered or a meeting scheduled — is constitutionally protected and an intrinsic part of our political system," they said in their appeal. "If Gov. McDonnell can be imprisoned for giving routine access to a gift-giver, an official could equally be imprisoned for agreeing to answer a donor's phone call about a policy issue.”
Alas, McDonnell has been sentenced to a piddling two years for what has grown into an effort to subvert not only a bribery law, but the very basis of Democracy, which is that  government is not just for those who can afford to buy it. 

If it were up to me, McDonnell would spend his two years in solitary. Either that, or in a maximum security prison with other major felons, which he is.

And Justices Roberts, Alito, and Thomas would be in cells further down the solitary cell block.


Special thanks to “Comrade Misfit” at the Earthbound Misfit blog for taking note of this issue, which is how it came to my own cranky notice.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Great North Carolina Transgender Pee-In

Officer! Arrest that statue!

Call the guy I'm talking about “Agitprop Al.” I think he’d like that nickname, although I’ve never asked him. He’s the kind of a guy who, when he walks into a bar, all the muzz-muzz that begins with openers like, “How about those Yankees?” thuds to a halt. Al thinks in big, dramatic thoughts. Big, dramatic, and also crazy, but big all the same.

Agitprop Al made an entrance at a Manhattan saloon the other afternoon and the bartender didn’t even try to stop whatever would come next. Instead, he instantly reached up and turned off the TV. Never mind that the Yankees were getting clobbered by the Rays. That wasn’t the reason. Or maybe it was. 

“I’ve got a way to screw North Carolina good,” Al announced.

Al was referring to a new North Carolina law that requires transgendered people to use public bathrooms earmarked for the sex they were physically born with — regardless of what sex they are now, or what sexual equipment they currently do or do not happen to have.

It seems that North Carolina Grand Poobahs of Idiocy are spreading a panicky nonsense theory. They say that men will pretend to be transgendered, go out and buy a dress, some makeup, and falsies, put all that stuff on, and then charge into ladies’ rest rooms and rape the fairest examples of southern pulchritude. 

That barely might have worked as a somewhat shaky cinematic concept back in the time of Hitchcock movies.  I have a suspicion that in today's real world, the merest suggestion that they wear a dress and falsies would have most rapists gasping and gagging.

Mind you, this Idiot’s Law about where to pee is already having negative repercussions for which the people of North Carolina can thank their law makers. 

It has led to the cancellation of Ringo Starr, Pearl Jam and Ani DiFranco concerts in North Carolina. It has led to millions, if not billions of dollars worth of hotel reservations cancelled by tourists who were formerly planning to visit North Carolina. It has led to harsh criticism from corporate America, and to a negative travel advisory from the British Foreign Service to its own LGBT citizens. 

But that could be nothing compared to Agitprop Al’s Big Idea.

“We get busloads of former women who have transgendered into men. We put them through boot camp, during which they learn karate, Tae Kwon Do, and other martial arts. We put them through intensive body building regimes. And they all grow big beards.”

“Uh oh,” the bartender said.

“Then we send them down to North Carolina to use the ladies’ rooms in big, menacing-looking groups,” Al went on. “Hey, they look like men, they identify as men, they’ve got beards, and they’re a little bit scary looking. It should terrify the confederate panties off the women.”

“They’ll get busted,” somebody down at at the end of the bar said.

“For what?” asked Agitprop Al. “They’re all being completely legal, because they’re going into ladies’ rooms which is the sex they were assigned at birth. And that’s what North Carolina’s own law says they have to do. In fact, each transgendered male should use the ladies'  room while carrying a birth certificate that says he was born a she. It's like a get out of jail free card. And who knows — these guys might pick up some attractive women.”

The question then arose as to what could be done in Mississippi, where the law, in the name of religious freedom, allows anyone to discriminate against a member of the LGBT community if he feels the Bible tells him so.

“In that case,” Agitprop Al said without missing a beat, “we send in a bunch of goons who say it’s their religion to beat the crap out of Bible thumpers. You can't stop them if that's their sincere religious belief.”

He thought a minute, then he began to recite. “And lo, they came to a watering hole and they filled it with water. And they heard The Word, and The Word was, Ye shall pee as ye choose to pee, and neither men nor women, nor their sons nor their daughters, nor their menservants or their maidservants shall have dominion over the hole. And those who seek dominion, them shall ye smite.”

“What the hell is that supposed to be?” somebody asked.

“It’s from the Book of Al, Chapter Seven, Verse Six. You wanna hear what it says about pooping?”

“That’s it, Mister!” said the bartender, switching the TV back on. “Finish your drink and go.”

The Yankees lost to the Rays, 8 to 1.

Monday, April 11, 2016

ESCAPE FROM BONDAGE? NOT QUITE. Crazed American lobsters invade Swedish waters, but they’re hobbled by rubber bands on their claws.

"Å titta, en amerikansk. Partår du svenska?"
(Translation, "Oh look, an American. Do you speak Swedish?")


While Americans fret over whether we should build a wall between our southern border and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it, Sweden may be coming up with some wall problems of its own. Sea wall problems, that is.

Seems that 32 American lobsters have been caught swimming in Swedish waters, reports the AP. Precisely how they got there isn’t at all clear. Some believe they were “liberated” from a steamy death in a Swedish restaurant kitchen by animal rights activists. If so, the activists neglected to remove the rubber bands from the poor lobsters’ claws, thus sentencing the lobsters to a slow death by starvation rather than a quick end in a steaming pot.

Others wonder whether something else was involved. A sudden migration from the seacoasts of the Northern Hemisphere, perhaps? If so, the lobsters are receiving no warmer a welcome than Syrian refugees who are also trying to get into Sweden.

American lobsters, declared Gunvor Ericson, state secretary for the Swedish Ministry of Environment and Energy, are an “invasive species.” I’m not sure what that statement says about Syrian refugees. Nor the next thing Erickson said.

“Once the American lobster is established, it will be impossible to eradicate,” the AP quotes Ericson as saying. “This poses a severe threat to the native European lobster, as well as to other native crustacean species.”

Now lobster nativist Sweden is calling for an import ban on live American lobsters among all 28 nations in the European Union. This of course would be good for the Scandinavian fishermen who net smaller and not-nearly-so-meaty European lobsters.

Moreover, it’s only time before someone decides that the answer to this unwelcome invasion of red shelled Americans may be a wall — a sea wall surrounding Sweden at the 12 mile limit. 

Sooner or later, some Swede is even bound to suggest that America could be made to pay for it. You don’t think so? Then how come all the alarm from the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association? They’re attempting to dragoon members of the Maine congressional delegation, the State Department and the White House to their cause. Their cause is to block the lobster ban. 

“This ban is unnecessary,” said Beth Cassoni of the Lobstermen’s Association. She then asked a question considerably more insightful than what American journalists typically ask U.S. presidential candidates during debates of national importance. “Is this an invasion of species or an invasion of economics?”

And some, like me, are wondering what happened to the original 32 escaped lobsters? Have they been deported and shipped home? Have they been set free in Swedish waters again, this time without constricting rubber bands? Or have they ended up in some Swedish pot prior to getting devoured by self-righteous Swedish protectionists? This warrants an investigation.

And I’m not even going to get within a mile of any Trump-ish suggestions that, come to think of it, North Americans could simply skip an expensive wall at the Mexican border and the costly deportations of 11 million people, and instead steam undocumented immigrants and eat them. No no, Donald! Don’t you go there, either! Nor you, Ted.

Whatever happens, scientists are going all political over this. In America, the director of the U of Maine Lobster Institute (yes really there is such a thing) is declaring that lobster shell diseases aren’t contagious and that red-tail disease is virtually extinct. This presumably dismisses one of the Swedish concerns ["They're not only rapists of European lobsters, they also carry disease, and I suppose some of them are good lobsters..."] that could lead to a sea wall.

Another American scientist is poo-poohing the Swedish concern that American lobsters will breed with Swedish lobsters to create a race of mongrel crustaceans that will be at best halfbreed Europeans. 

The Swedes are naturally concerned about this because if they get stuck with an ocean full of  Swedish-speaking American lobsters, or vice-versa, then where will Sweden be?

But “attempts to introduce American lobsters elsewhere have failed,” tush-tushes Rick Whale. (I swear, that's his name. I suppose that if his name had been "Cow" or "Lamb" he would have gone into agricultural science.) Whale does research at the University of Maine’s marine science school. 

Wait a second Mr. Whale, you mean somebody actually has  deliberately introduced American lobsters into foreign waters? Sweden’s perhaps? Maybe the Swedes are right. Maybe the introduction failures occurred because nobody, anywhere, has thought to take off the rubber bands.

Personally, I like the lobsterman in Port Clyde, Maine, a guy named Gerry Cushman who was quoted by the AP as saying, “If they ban Maine lobsters, are we going to ban selling Volvos in Maine?”

I don’t think we have to, Gerry. We can just take all those Volvos and boil them.

Friday, April 08, 2016

The Washington Post takes a shamefully slippery slide off the path to truth, dragging Democratic civility with it

Before this controversy gets drowned out by whatever the next controversy turns out to be, I need to say something cranky about Bernie Sanders’ attack on Hillary Clinton’s qualifications, which was prompted by a headline in the Washington Post.

Here’s the headline: “Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president.”

What’s that sound like to you? To me, it sounds as if Hillary, by “questioning” Sanders qualifications, is saying he isn’t qualified. If I do think somebody is qualified, I wouldn’t question their qualifications.

The misleading headline was exacerbated by the Washington Post's lede, which repeated and thus reinforced the false claim. It said, “Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton on Wednesday questioned whether her rival in the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) is qualified to be president.”


Not surprisingly, Sanders struck back against what appeared to be a deliberate kick to the groin. His counterattack left no room for doubt that if Hillary takes the low road, he can do so too. If you can bear a few seconds of intrusive advertising before the newsclip, here’s what Sanders said:



Now someone at the Post has gotten defensively self-righteous about what was, at the very least, a reporting mistake exacerbated by a sloppy editing oversight. I’m not saying the Post is deliberately misleading its readers. I’ll leave that conclusion, or its opposite, to you.

A new Washington Post headline announces, “Sanders’s incorrect claim that Clinton called him ‘not qualified’ for the Presidency.” 

Notice, it doesn't say the Post was incorrect. It says that Sanders was incorrect for believing the Post's false headline and story copy. And that's what gets my goat.

The basis for the Post's perfidious  self-absolution is a lengthy, tangled, argumentative attempt to parse its own copy, along with he-said she-said quotes and a self-pitying whine that writing and displaying an accurate news story is hard. Oh, boo hoo!

“Headline writing is an imperfect art,” the Post sniveled. “The editor often has to summarize the meaning of a complex and nuanced article in just a few words. Many Washington-based reporters have experienced the frustration of having an accurate article denied by an agency spokesman because of a headline that went a little far off the mark.”

In other words, to echo what Barbie Doll was once crucified for saying about math when you pulled the string in her back, newspaper editing is hard.

You can try, if you’re courageous enough and you’ve taken your Ritalin today, to read the Post's whole convoluted self-justification for having committed the political equivalent of throwing a lighted match into a can of gasoline here

Frankly, I’m not buying the Post’s unapologetic apologia.  The headline could simply have said something like, “Clinton criticizes Sanders for lack of preparation,” which is what the story was really about once you get past the lede.

But that wouldn’t have made a sensational, newspaper-selling  story.

So now we have mud flying back and forth between the Clinton and the Sanders camps. Less civility, but more raw meat for the Washington Post, sparked by the sloths or dissemblers (take your pick) who write and edit stories there. 

Sadly, the ultimate victims are the American public, including those of us who live far from the Post's circulation zone. We are interested in learning about differences in policy, not in hearing the slosh of mud. That interest has been demonstrated by, among other things, the slow fall from favor of Donald Trump, the mudpie champion of the world.
The entire Washington Post staff, starting at the top, needs to be sent to bed without its supper.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and the adult coloring book craze

My father can out-scribble your father.
And so can my President.
Too much attention to political punditry makes Crank a dull boy. An entire trend almost escaped my notice until I went on a wildly haphazard surf across the Internet and discovered the Adult Coloring Book craze.

If you haven’t heard of it until now either, then both of us need to crawl out from under our rocks and take a look at what’s going on around this planet.

I know this may sound crazy, but adult coloring books are the newest new thing. This is bigger than world hunger. Bigger that global climate change. Bigger than nuclear catastrophes. Bigger than a sackfull of rattlesnakes and another one chock full of squirming and wriggling ISIS agents.  Or as an online publication called Publishing Perspectives puts it, “It’s Springtime for Crayola.”

And not only Crayola. Another online publication called The Independent is reporting that a German manufacturer of colored pencils, Faber-Castell, is huffing and puffing to keep up with the demand for its products.
“Currently, we are running more shifts than usual in our factory in Stein, Bavaria in order to satisfy the global needs for artists pencils related to the colouring trend for adults,” reports Sandra Suppa, the pencil-pushing manufacturer’s spokesperson.
But wait, there’s more!

London’s Telegraph reveals:
Colouring books have become a surprising feature of many bookshops’ bestsellers lists in recent years, with Waterstones previously noticing a 300 per cent rise in sales in just one year. 
Melissa Cox, head of children’s buying at Waterstones, told the paper: “Colouring books are doing really well at the moment, which initially surprised us… and we realised adults were buying them for themselves.”
And right there, ladies and gentlemen, you have it: the Ultimate Explanation for Everything. The windows through which you can peer to see why so many people are taking Donald Trump and Ted Cruz so seriously and civilization is going down the crapper. 

It explains why Trump and Marco Rubio were able to get into a nose thumbing match over whose fingers (and presumably, therefore, whose penis) is smaller. Or bigger. It explains why Trump, and Fiorina, and Palin, and others, thought, or still think they’re qualified for public office.

Most of all, it explains why our nation is going to hell in a garishly embroidered hand basket.

We, and evidently the rest of the world, have regressed into a state of complete and utter infantilism. Our pastimes have devolved — from building furniture in the garage, or souping up hotrods, or feeding the homeless, or translating Cicero from the original Latin, to coloring within the outlines someone else has created for us in coloring books, just the way we used to when we were kids.

Speaking of kids, in must be scary has hell to a nine year old to see see your parents acting more like children than you are. And don’t try to defend this by saying that the coloring books are on “adult themes," which some of them most certainly are. That just proves my point. And scares the kids even more.

The planet — I suspect led by the likes of Trump, Cruz, Palin and other Americans, not to mention Marine LePen in France  — is eagerly, no voraciously seeking to dumb the culture down. That may be because reality is just too tough to conjure with. 

The planet is overheating. The seas are rising, yet water shortages are growing. The global  economy is finally colliding against its Malthusian limits as once fertile farms turn into deserts, forests into housing subdivisions, oceans into garage dumps, and fresh air into carbon dioxide. There are no simple answers to all of this, only complex, difficult and costly puzzles.

So let’s skip all that and instead go into denial by acting like children. My father can beat up your father. My fingers  are longer than your fingers and therefore guess what else of mine is longer. My wife is prettier than Ted’s wife.  My president can nuke the puke out of your president.

Where is this leading? What should we do about it? 

I know not what course others may take, but as for me…..hand me that box of crayons.          

Monday, March 28, 2016

Guns, Trump, Cruz, open carry petitions, and a surefire (no pun intended)…a surefire way to insure peace among Republicans.

Imagine the Republican presidential convention if every
attendee carries one of these
I note, admittedly not without a slight frisson of sangfroid coursing through my veins, that there’s a move afoot to allow open carry weapons at the forthcoming Republican convention, and that people are petitioning for it.

Now it happens that there are also some rascally folks who have openly and unscrupulously theorized that the petitioners are trolls. Imagine that! They say the petition is there to embarrass the Republicans into opposing one of the sacred principles of their own platform — specifically, support of an unfettered, unregulated, unpoliced, unlicensed Second Amendment right to, uh, blast bad guys off the face of the earth for, uh, self-defense.

According to that theory of trolling, the Republicans will be such silly sissies that they will be terrified of all those guns in their midst and oppose open carry even as Republican legislators and judges try to force it on schools and other places where the hoi polloi and their young children mingle

Nonsense! Republicans are red-blooded Americans who were given their right to open carry firearms by God Himself. I know they will get behind this petition — which will fill their convention hall with good guys with guns, thus rendering themselves safe from terrorist, communist, gay activist, socialist and possibly even dadaist, surrealist, and impressionist attacks. With so many Republicans openly carrying, the convention can’t be anything but completely peaceable. 

Little wonder that as of this posting, over 41,000 red blooded Americans have already signed the petition.

And little wonder Donald Trump says he is seriously studying the proposal. In fact, before you read the next paragraph, you should sign the Republican Convention open carry petition, here.

You’ve done that? Good for you. But before you go away, let me make a modest proposal concerning history, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr. That’s Burr on the left. You can find Hamilton on any of the $10 bills in your wallet. Or at right.
Aaron Burr. He knew how
solve a dispute between
high-ranking politicians
Alexander Hamilton.
During his duel with Burr
he missed. Burr didn't.

Both men had a dislike for each other that rivaled, or came close to
rivaling, anything festering between Trump and Cruz today.

In the end, Hamilton and Burr settled their differences the conservatively manly way — and remember, you Federalist Originalists, both dudes were founding fathers. In 1807, Hamilton and Burr fought a pistol duel. Burr won. Hamilton lost. And if two consenting founding fathers did it, it had to be constitutionally protected.

Given the dispute between Trump and Cruz over whose wife is uglier and who did or did not have a little tart — or a few little tarts — baking on the side, not to mention something about spilled beans, I think there’s only one way to settle their dispute so that the rest of us can get some sleep. Yes, I’m talking about the old-fashioned way. With a firearms duel.

Hamilton and Burr used front-loading pistols. But technology has advanced, and as the NRA will tell you, there’s no reason the average joe shouldn’t be walking, or driving around, or lazing on the couch with an automatic or semi-automatic assault weapon equipped with a 30 bullet magazine.

So that’s what I propose for the Trump vs. Cruz duel to the death. And both guys are so brave and macho, I’m sure neither of them will wimp out of the contest. 


Afterwards, the winner can go to the Republican nominating convention, openly carrying a firearm. Because with so many good guys armed to the teeth, just as the Republican party has been advocating, nothing can possibly go wrong.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tighten your wing nuts, folks! Here come five mega-Tuesday nightmares, pipe dreams, and paranoid fantasies for the nation’s wing-iest Americans.

Have you notice the resemblance
between wing nuts and Mickey
Mouse hats? Only asking.
Tonight, the Ides of March, could turn out to be the best night of Donald Trump’s life, if he wins the big primaries in Florida, Illinois and Ohio. 

On the other hand, maybe not. He could lose some or all of this day’s big three. Or any of the following five nightmare could happen:

1. Melania Trump turns out to be a Russian spy. Please understand, I’m not saying it’s so. I’m not even saying I think it might perhaps be ever-so-slightly possibly so. I’m just saying that given America’s paranoid style of thinking recently, any nutball could make an accusation like this:

Zealous investigators (perhaps newly-enlightened Breitbart reporters?) discover that Melania Trump, born in a formerly communist country, is actually a concoction of Russian intelligence. They set out looking for beautiful women in communist and former communist lands to comes to America and undermine American democracy. 

The mission of these women will be to marry American men, encourage their husbands to run for the presidency, and thus infiltrate the White House. Why do you think there are so many websites where you can meet and maybe marry Russian women, for example? (And look, I know that Slovenia, where Melania comes from, isn't Russia, sort of. But it's geographically close. Besides, any place with a name like Slovenia...well, you know.)

Using psychographic projections based on a careful study of The Trumpster’s behavior, the Russkies, or at least the commies, figured out exactly which feminine traits are likely to appeal to The Donald. There was the slight inconvenience of Marla Marples, but maybe the Russkies paid her off to walk out on Trump. The rest is history. The plot is working in more ways than one. I mean, why do you think so many people are saying that Trump and Putin love each other

2. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are actually Cuban espionage agents. I mean, I’m not even trying to suggest that they really are, but consider. They both come from Cuban  immigrant parents, right? And by some strange coincidence, both Cuban-Americans are running for President. Coincidence? Do you think so? 

Obviously, the only reason there could be two of them is so that if one gets knocked out of the race, the other can jump in. Which is exactly what may happen if Marco doesn’t get enough votes in Florida by tonight. 

But why would Cuba do this to us? Obviously, Castro has been really teed off, ever since Russia stopped supporting the Cuban economy. That’s probably why he’s ailing. So now, with a Russian agent dangerously close to putting her head inches from the President’s pillow, the Cubans feel that this Russian plot must be stopped, since their relations with the United States are warming up and they don’t want to see any Russian agent messing up the flow of money to Cuba. 

I know that all sounds complicated. But if you twist the wings on your wing nut two turns to the right, it all makes perfect sense.

3. Those people getting punched in the nose by Trump fans? They’re actually part of a plot to murder Trump voters. See, they’ve got really, really dangerous blood-borne diseases. They’ve been planted deliberately in Trump audiences for the sole purpose of getting punched.  When you punch them in the nose, they bleed on you and a few weeks later, you die mysteriously of something like AIDS or Zika. 

How do you think AIDS and Zika even got to our shores in the first place? We didn’t have those problems 50 years ago. If we had a wall, we could keep them out. By the way, have you heard a rumor that Donald Trump wants to put a mosquito net on top of the wall? That should do the trick, at least when it comes to Zika. And we can make the flying insects pay for it.

4. John Kasich is actually a secret agent for the Democrats. Think about it. He doesn’t shout. He doesn’t curse. He doesn’t sneer. He doesn’t make remarks about women, or ugly people, or the length of various appendages on Donald Trump. Just like the Democrats. This can't be a mere accident. 

So obviously, he’s there to take the election away from True Conservatives and turn the Presidency into a Hillary agenda. Or maybe even a Bernie agenda.Or maybe it’s not an “agenda.” Maybe it’s “a gender." Only thinking aloud here.


5. If Bernie Sanders becomes President, he’ll force sick people to get well, against their will. That’s what his whole so-called “Medicare for All” program is all about. People will be cured against their will. Poor people will get hip transplants and liver transplants and dental implants and eyeglasses, just like the one percent. After that comes vaccinations. And there goes freedom! What’s more, all those people living longer will bankrupt the Social Security system and you and I won’t get a nickel when we retire, which is what that crazy socialist is really up to.

Phew! Glad I got all that stuff off my chest.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

“We haf ways to make you relent, heh heh heh!” No longer content to “think small” as it did in the 1960s, Volkswagen now thinks evil.

Forget that honest little car with an honest
message, Volkswagen is now making big
threats against workers' jobs if the U.S. levels
a punitive fine for cheating on pollution. Cute.
Volkswagen, the lying, conniving car company that put a cheater in its cars to help foil U.S. anti-pollution regulations, and that still hasn’t come up with a fix for the problem, isn’t merely content to have screwed thousands of its American customers.

Now it’s also threatening to screw not only workers in its American facilities, but also to enrage its German workers against the United States by threatening their jobs, too.

Reuters reports:
Volkswagen may have to cut jobs in the United States as well as Europe and other countries depending on how big a fine has to be paid for its manipulation of diesel emissions tests, the carmaker's top labor official told a meeting of 20,000 workers at its German headquarters on Tuesday. [snip] 
The extent to which VW may be forced to cut jobs to help meet the costs of 'Dieselgate' depends "decisively" on the level of fines, VW's works councils chairman Bernd Osterloh said on Tuesday at the meeting of workers in Wolfsburg which was also attended by the carmaker's top managers. [snip] 
"Should the future viability of Volkswagen be endangered by an unprecedented financial penalty, this will have dramatic social consequences," said Osterloh, who also sits on VW's 20-member supervisory board.
This is not very different from the old SS policy in Belgium, France, and elsewhere of putting ten innocent hostages up against the wall and shooting them every time one German soldier was killed by a sniper.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Napoleon Bonparte, Russia, and why a liberal Democrat like me is rooting for Trump to win the Republican nomination

Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated when his
Russian enemies followed his advice. My 
fellow Democrats should follow it, too.
It all boils down to something Napoleon Bonparte once said:

“Never interrupt the enemy when he is making a grave mistake."

Today, Super Tuesday, March 1, 2016, at 4:30 in the afternoon, it looks very much as if Donald Trump will emerge from today's voting with enough strength to win the Republican nomination.

Some of my fellow Democrats are tearing their hair out in despair. I say, let Trump win.  In fact, I sincerely hope he wins.

Trump seems to be hitting his head against the ceiling at roughly 49 percent of the Republican vote. The other half of Republicans support Cruz, Rubio, Carson, and Kasich.

No doubt, if  Trump wins the nomination, he’ll pull in even more Republicans. But most of these will be grudging Republicans. Let’s say he gets half of the balance. That brings him to 75 percent of people who call themselves Republicans.

Only 39 percent of Americans say they are either Republicans or lean toward  voting Republican. So if Trump wins 75 percent of those 39 percent, he gets the votes of less than 30 percent of the people. 

And that leaves slightly over 69 percent for the Democratic nominee. Which means it will be the most disastrous thing that happened to the Republican party in its history — a triumph of arithmetic over political insanity.

P.S. A little over  200 years ago, Napoleon’s enemies followed his advice, and destroyed him by failing to interrupt him. Early in the 19th Century, he marched bravely into Russia. The Russians had neither the army, nor the military skills, not the ordnance that Napoleon had. They couldn't interrupt him.

But they did have winters like Napoleon had never seen.

So when Napoleon marched into Russia, they let him come. Well, not literally. They initially fought fierce battles with him and lost every one of them, which turned out to be a good thing.  What the Russians couldn’t defeat, the weather and the vastness of Russia did.

And so Napoleon marched on while the Russians pulled back. Napoleon took Vilna. He took Vitebsk. He took Smolensk. After a bloody battle, the Russians abandoned Borodino, which Napoleon also took. Next he took Moscow, which the Russians set fired to before they fled, leaving him with a burned out shell of a city. Then it began to snow.

I skip over many subsequent details, but what it boils down to is this: Napoleon’s army, starved for supplies, freezing, sick, hampered by impossibly long supply lines, and harassed by Russian guerilla actions, was nearly wiped out.

From there on it was all downhill for him. Not long afterward he was an exile on Elba.

Go Trump, go!

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Republican Cage Match: next time could they at least do it with clubs and maces? Or could a referee cut their tongues out when they lie?

The Republican debate was kind of like
this. Only there were more people
brawling at once
.
I know, I know — by the time you read this, the Thursday, February 25th Republican “debate” over who gets to be that party’s presidential nominee will be as old as George Washington’s false teeth.

All the same, now that I’ve had  time to digest the debate, I gotta say something.

The Republican Party is a national embarrassment. The so-called debate was like watching a bunch of street brawlers, stripped to the waist, locked in a cage, and trying to rip each others’ heads off.

All that was missing were strings of obscenities to go with the cross talking — no, come to think of it, that was cross-shouting — as the rude louts on stage tried their best to drown one-another out.

There was only one moment of levity amidst all the brutish brawling. That was when Ben Carson, noting that the only people getting questions, and therefore attention, were the ones who had been attacked, begged rather plaintively for someone to attack him.

But the most egregious actor was Wolf Blitzer, the CNN moderator, who could control neither the shouting, nor the cross-yelling, nor the spewing of falsehoods that flowed like projectile vomit from the dubious assortment of thugs and boors who would be president.

The most outrageous uncorrected statement came, of course, from Donald Trump, who claimed that taxes in this country were the highest in the world. Compared to what nation in what other world, Donald? If you were counting on Wolf Blitzer to ask a followup question to that statement, you were counting on the wrong so-called journalist. Nor was Trump challenged by his opponents, who also want you to believe that particular lie.

Some facts: When it comes to personal income tax, the maximum personal income tax rate on super rich individuals like Donald Trump (who won’t release his income tax forms to show whether he’s paying up) is 39.6 percent. That’s in the United States. In Great Britain, it’s 45 percent. In Spain it’s 41 percent. In Holland it’s 56 percent. In Luxembourg, it’s 52 percent. In Israel, it’s 50 percent. In France it’s 45 percent. In Canada it’s 50 percent. In Denmark it’s just under 52 percent. And in Sweden it’s a whopping 59.78 percent.

Yet people in those nations live better than Americans, get healthcare with better outcomes at lower prices, have more ready access to affordable university educations, retire more comfortably, and can afford better vacations.

Interestingly, a good many of the low-tax or no-tax nations are scary places where you probably wouldn’t want to live. In Egypt, if you’re not imprisoned and sentenced to death for your political opinions, it’s only 20 percent. In Brunei the Sultan allows it to be zero percent. In Russia it’s 13 percent. In Kazakhstan it’s 10 percent. In Saudi Arabia, where you can get whipped or your head cut off in the street by the authorities for heresy and other crimes against Sharia law, it’s zero percent.

Deep down in their hearts, the so-called conservative Republicans would like to de-conserve the values that made American great and turn this nation into another Kazakhstan. Or into Russia, where the 13 percent income tax is a flat tax.

But of course, the outrageous statements simply floated out of the candidates mouths and out into America as if they were the truth. And the CNN team of interviewers just sat there like the duds that I now must sadly assume they are.

I wish CNN had a Donald who would tell Wolf Blitzer he’s fired.