Monday, July 30, 2012

New York is “Fine City," unless you recklessly kill somebody with a car. In that case, there’s no arrest, not even a fine. Have a nice day.

Mad King Ludwig
Michael Bloombrg

Above, portraits of two crazy people who might almost have been separated at birth. I’m not going into crazy Ludwig’s history of off-kilter activities. You can get an executive summary right here

Suffice it to say it’s a coin toss whether Ludwig or Mad Michael Bloomberg is the crazier of the two. 

Today’s case in point – enforcement of petty violations vs. inforcement of vehicular homicide in New York.

If you were a sane mayor, which would you focus on enforcing? Well get this:

The city's Public Advocate, Bill DeBlasio, is resorting to suing the mayor for information that city hall won't release about who’s getting fined, how often, where, and for how much.

It seems overzealous enforcement of petty regulations is a Bloomberg-directed attempt to make up for the city's income shortfall. The zeal comes “without regard for the impact this policy is having on the city’s small-business owners,” according to De Blasio

“Stonewall” Bloomberg

DeBlasio, an elected public official, says the city is stonewalling him in his quest to find out how municipal income for fines have managed to double from less than a half a billion dollars to nearly a whole billion since Bloomberg became mayor.

Meanwhile, according to the city’s elected Public Advocate, small business owners…

“…have been forced to pay thousands of dollars in fines for nuisance violations that could be easily addressed through education. By levying hidden taxes and increasing the cost of doing business, the City is undercutting New York’s small businesses and making it more difficult for them to grow and create jobs. 
 “For example, small business owners in the Bronx provided the Public Advocate with a letter from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene regarding fines, that warns (a) if one contests the fine, the business may have to pay more and (b) if one contests the fine, the small business owner may have to wait around for hours before a hearing is granted. This letter is a strong message to small business owners to simply pay fines without asking questions, instead of seeking to resolve legitimate misunderstandings.’ 
What kinds of terrible offenses have these fined small business owners committed? Well, according to the Public Advocate's website:

Owners of a family-run grocery store in Flatbush, Brooklyn thought they were going above and beyond what the law required by printing their return policy on every receipt, but regulations require return policies to be posted on signs next to each cash register. During an August inspection, the store was unexpectedly hit with three $250 fines—one for each of the cash registers lacking a return policy sign.
• In Manhattan, “when a health-department inspector visited XES Lounge in Chelsea ... he gave general manager Tony Juliano a ticket for having unwrapped straws on the bar. [The] straws [had] been there for nearly eight years, but this time it was deemed a $400 violation.”

“If you snitch, we’ll break your bank account”

Don't get any smart ideas, either, about secretly recording the outrageous visits of Bloomberg’s “inspectors” in search of an out-of-place sign or an unwrapped straw, all in an effort to get you socked with a brutal fine. If you get caught recording evidence of how unreasonable the mayor’s shakedown racket is, you’re really in deep doo-doo. Says the elected Public Advocate's website...

The owner of the popular downtown diner George’s — where Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have dined — wound up in hot water after he tried to skewer a city health inspector by recording his visit on an iPhone. When the inspector spotted owner Bill Koulmentas’ cellphone scheme, he quickly hit George’s with a slew of violations — totaling 65 points. Koulmentas was accused of everything from having cracked eggs to keeping cold food too hot and hot food too cold .... Having experienced a similarly overzealous inspection a month earlier, Koulmentas said he decided to document what was happening

But hey, killing people with a car? That's OK!

One of the reasons I bring this up is that every year in New York, approximately two thousand people, on foot or on bicycles, get run over, crashed into, crushed, slammed into the air, and sometimes killed by recklessly-driven automobiles, trucks and taxis. 

And what does Mayor Bloomberg, his Popeye-lookalike police commission Ray Kelley, and the rest of the city's bureaucracy do about it?

You were right when you guessed they do next to nothing.

"It's a perverse system," said Councilmember Greenfield today. "Currently, we're saying to the drivers of New York City: Be reckless, drive drunk, unlicensed, run people over, and nothing is going to happen to you. On many nights there is one AIS police officer in the entire city conducting investigations. God forbid you have two accidents in one night! The NYPD has a budget of $4.5 billion a year. If the NYPD wants to put more people on the ground to hold reckless drivers accountable, they can do it." 

So by all means, feel free to drive into New York drunk and run over the first little old lady or  cyclist you see. Or if you’re blind drunk, you don’t even have to see them. We won’t hold any of that against you here. But do you plan on doing business in New York?

Then have a fine day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is this the greatest dadblasted nation on the face of the freakin’ planet, or what?

Despite the latest mass murder in Colorado, where mass murders seem to flourish, it’s clearly futile to rail against the gun-toting thugs whose defenders see every attempt at keeping weapons out of the hands of psychopaths as an assault on the constitution. 

New York’s mayor is trying to go the anti-gun route anyway. He declares before the news cameras that both presidential candidates ought to take a stand against the insane gun culture that’s getting thousands of Americans blasted into oblivion, or crippled for life, for no reason at all. He is even calling for a police strike, which is only slightly nuts. It's on the nutty side because, with the police off the job, guess what class of lowlife will work overtime? And guess what will be coming out of bureau drawers and gun closets all over America? 

All the same, I am in harmony with the mayor’s sentiments for once, if not with his remedy. But it’s easy for him to say what he’s saying. He’s not running for a national office. He doesn’t have to worry about showing up – no pun intended – in the National Rifle Association’s sights. What he's really saying is, Hey Obama, hey Romney, go take some heat even thought it's futile.

Remarkably, although there aren’t all that that many gun thugs,  they’ve got a ton of money behind them, with all the necessary lobbying tools. So woe to any official seeking re-election if he doesn’t score high on the NRA Gunometer.

In fact, the NRA has been doing its job so well, that with many states adapting shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later laws, also known as Stand Your Ground, that there’s hardly anything left for the NRA to do. Except maybe to make sure every six year old in kindergarten is wearing a fully loaded Glock on his belt, even when he's feeling a tad cranky. And maybe the NRA plans to demand a law mandating that every bartender give every drunk at his bar a loaded shotgun.

I mean, in what other civilized (or even uncivilized) nation on the face of the earth can a psychopath with mass murder on his mind drive to the local mall and pick up a gallon of milk, a six pack of beer,  a pound of American cheese, a bag of tortilla chips, an automatic assault rifle with a magazine capable of holding 100 rounds of ammo, and a thousand round box of spare hollow-nosed bullets, just in case he runs low while blowing away little kids, college students, elderly women and congressional representatives?

Is this a great freaking country or what?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why I hate, hate, hate gurus and motivational speakers – and what this has to do with the way so many idiots vote

Generally speaking, I believe in mercy. I believe in kindness. I believe that if a person is injured, you, and I and all of society should come to that person's rescue. I believe injured people should not be the subject of derision.

But I draw the line at dumbass idiots who blindly put their faith  in some jerk motivational speaker and try to walk across hot coals.

Take the case of the stupid suckers who let a motivational speaker named Tony Robbins persuade them to do just that – the hot coal walk.

Robbins must have known they were going to get burned, if you believe the account of the event in The New York Times. He had a medical staff standing by. But his audience drank his  Kool Aid.
Walking across hot coals on lanes measuring 10 feet long and heated to between 1,200 to 2,000 degrees provides attendees an opportunity to “understand that there is absolutely nothing you can’t overcome,” according to the motivational speaker’s website. 
Yeah, I guess if you happen to be first or second in a line that's filling up the emergency room and putting stress on overtaxed doctors and burn clinics, you can overcome third degree burns on your feet. You might even avoid amputation.
What the hell did those morons think was going to happen when they went for a promenade across a pit of hot coals? One witness told the Associated Press:

“I just heard these screams of agony. People were in pain. It sounded like people were being tortured.”
Hey, you wanna know why people, against their own self-interest, will vote for Willard Romney in the coming presidential election? You wanna know why Michelle Bachmann hasn't been laughed into oblivion by her own constituents? You wanna know why batshit crazies believe global warming doesn't exist and dinosaurs walked the earth with people a mere 4,000 years ago?
Just fill a pit with burning coals and invite some gullible nincompoops out for a stroll.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Will Willard or won't Willard reveal his tax returns? Now there's more speculation on what they contain.

In my last post I speculated on ten reasons why Willard ("Mitt") Romney won't reveal his tax returns to the American public. They ranged from deductions for extra wives and children stashed away somewhere in Utah, to possible investments in a Nevada bordello. Oh, and shorting a key element in the American economy.

Turns out I'm not the only one. My friend Buce at Underbelly calls my attention to a somewhat different round of speculation at the Atlantic Wire.

Meanwhile, twirling the TV dial with my remote last night, I found a small slew of talking heads speculating on whether the increasing drumbeat of outrage will finally force Willard to reveal what he's been up to with his bank accounts in Switzerland, the Grand Caymans, and Bermuda (or wherever) or whether he will stick to his guns, even though he's pointing them at his own head.

Will he or won't he? Beats me, bro. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The top ten reasons Willard (“Mitt”) Romney won’t show his tax returns

Listen, folks, politics are pretty rough and tumble affairs. I know, I know, you're fatigued with awareness of that already. I’m just saying.

The expected rough and tumble may be why Barack Obama didn’t complain too hard when Republican presidential candidate Willard Romney palled around with Donald Trump, who keeps demanding to see President Obama’s birth certificate even though Obama has already produced it. 

More recently, Trump has been demanding the President’s college transcripts, and sooner or later he’ll insist we need the President’s kindergarten report card.

So it’s a bit surprising that Romney is wailing – like the bully who finally gets what’s coming to him in the schoolyard – because we Democrats are demanding to see his tax returns for the last ten years.

Why do I think that if had nothing to hide, Romney would, just to make the issue go away, produce his tax returns faster than you can say “Blitz, Blots, Blatts, Blutts, Bloomquist Blueblubber, and Cohen, Tax Planners and Certified Public Accountants?”

The question is, what is Romney hiding? Because he refuses produce the tax returns which would clear the air, he’s fair game for speculation. This, then, is purely just me speculating, but, ahem, allow me the following submissions for the top ten reasons Willard won’t come clean:

10. Willard secretly gave up his U.S. Citizenship (or obtained dual citizenship) some years ago to avoid taxation that American citizens face. His tax returns for some years say he is declaring immunity from taxes because he's a foreign citizen. Of course, the reason Willard doesn’t want to let this out is, if he’s a foreigner he’s not eligible to run for president.

9. Willard secretly owns a coffee plantation and a distillery and fears that bringing this out will cost him his Mormon base.

8. Willard invested in diamond mines in Zimbabwe where human rights abuses, even murder, run rampant. Bane Capital supported Robert Mugable when Mugable murdered his fellow citizens. h

7. Willard, about ten years ago, did an immensely profitable arms deal selling automatic weapons to Osama bin Laden, who later used the arms against Americans.

6. Willard invested in a foreign tobacco company that is selling cigarettes to young kids.

5.  Willard tried to short General Motors, and would have made a fortune had President Obama not saved the company.

4. Willard invested in a bordello in Nevada.

3.  Willard was involved in a baby smuggling business involved in taking babies away from poor mothers to give to rich mothers. That’s also why he opposes abortion. He needs to keep selling the babies.

2. Whenever he took over a company, Willard would play droight de seigneur  with his female employees.

1. Willard took tax deductions for his other three wives and their children by him, all secretly tucked away in a fundamentalist Mormon commune in the mountains of Utah.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

“Frack you!” Republican Governor John Kasich tells a tiny village in his state. ­ It’s a David and Goliath story in the making.

With under 4,000 people, give or take a few, little Yellow Springs, Ohio (that’s its two-blocks-long main street in the photograph) wouldn’t seem to have much clout in Columbus, the state capitol. Or even in Xenia, the seat of Greene County, where Yellow Springs – which inevitably votes with Democrats and other progressives – is surrounded by hostile Republicans.

But hey, this is a little town with a lot of quirkiness, as I’ve reported before, and a hell of a lot of gumption and stubbornness.

And they’re concerned. Oil company interests, hellbent on fracking Ohio into little pieces, are moving into the area. We’re talking about the possibility that natural gas, or at least the brine-y, chemical laden water used in underground fracking, could poison the soil and the porous limestone under it in and around Yellow Springs. That’s important because rainwater percolates through that limestone into the wells that supply the drinking water for Yellow Springs.

So, before the frackmeiseters could get to town and drill-baby-dr…I mean frack-baby-frack…the village passed a resolution asking the state to put a moratorium on fracking.  What was the response of Ohio Governor John Kasich, a greed-based Republican and (why am I not surprised?) former Fox News Commentator?

Well I can only imagine it was something like this: “Geraldine, would you please come into my office for a moment honey, and take this resolution from Yellow Springs, and flush it down the toilet?”

As for Kasich’s actual response to Yellow Springs, it was, according to the weekly Yellow Springs News, nothing but silence. Hell, a village in his state called on him to do something. Why should he give them so much as the courtesy of a reply?

Meanwhile, reports the Yellow Springs News, one oil company called West Bay Exploration has already received permits to drill in two different nearby Greene County locations and has already struck oil in neighboring Clark County.

You’d think the Republicans, who wail and moan incessantly that big government is bad and that power ought to be returned to local government…you’d think they would let little villages like Yellow Springs determine for themselves whether they want fracking in and adjacent to their town limits. No way, bub. Recent state law preempts them. Guess what party dominates the state’s lawmaking bodies? (Hint: Republican House Speaker John Boehner is from Ohio.)

But the folks in Yellow Springs aren’t giving up. They’re a determined lot. The town’s newspaper reports that a drilling awareness group organizer said, “It’s important to establish that we have a right to be in charge of our own health and welfare.”

That sounds as if it could almost be a Republican opinion. Unless, of course, some friend or contributor to Republican causes could make a buck by making sure people have no control over their own health.

How big will the frackfight get?

• Will Yellow Springs and several other Ohio municipalities that had their anti-fracking laws squashed by the state join together and fight this fracking sucker in court?

• Will the case get up to the U.S. Supreme Court?

• Will the court decide that big government is bad unless it’s Republican and give the finger to Ohioans who don’t want to be poisoned through their faucets?

• Or will there be another Roberts surprise?

But I’m getting years ahead of myself. The story is just beginning to percolate up, even as oil companies prepare to percolate poison down into the local drinking water. Go read the account, here. I’d say this David and Goliath story is worthy of attention from the national news media. Or of a Hollywood movie starring some spiritual successor to Jimmy Stewart.

But what the hell do I know? 

Friday, July 06, 2012

Oh shut up with that nitpicking blather that a healthcare mandate is a tax. Just shut up, will yuh, Willard?

Of all the dissembling horse crap I’ve ever witnessed falling out of a Republican’s mouth, the biggest lump of it came when I watched Willard (aka “Mitt”) Romney talking about the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare (which as you may recall, is almost exactly the same thing as Romneycare. Or at least it’s the same as what Romneycare used to be before Willard etch-a-sketched his own brain.) 

What the Supreme Court ruled is that the penalty that a few people who refuse to buy health insurance will be charged is a tax. And they damn well deserve to be taxed, since by not jumping into the health insurance pool, they’re driving up costs for the rest of us.

But Willard “Mitt” Romney is insisting that the whole bill is a tax, the largest tax in history. He says the Supreme Court says so. He knows that’s not true. Not to mince words, he’s a liar. That’s spelled l-i-a-r.

Willard is lying to confuse enough gullible voters to maybe swing some electoral votes his way in swing states. But there’s no tax increase coming. What is coming is a reduction in the rate at which healthcare costs are growing.

Here Willard. Here’s a firefly in a jar. Or maybe it’s a God particle taken from a horse's bowel. Go swallow it and shut up.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Obama seems to be losing his grip on the newest generation of voters. But they’re committing protest by economic suicide.

Alas, the New York Times this morning ran with a front page article headlined, “Stung by Recession, Young Voters Shed Image as Obama Brigade.”

The kids, recently out of high school or just out of college, at best feel ambivalent to the President, and some feel worse toward Obama than that. They’re leaning either undecided or Republican – an alarmingly far cry from the youthful enthusiasm four years ago that help sweep Obama into office.

Who can blame them? So many are unable to find work, see a grim future for themselves, and emerge at voting age bereft of delivery on a bucketful of Obama’s election campaign promises.

Well, I blame them, not that they don’t have a point, or a quiver full of points. One letter to the Time from Dave K of Cleveland, Ohio, that is appended to the New York Times article sums up the indictment of young voters:
As one of the younger voters who has been disappointed with Obama, let me give you an idea as to what candidate Obama promised that president Obama hasn't come even remotely close to doing:
     - Close Gitmo and give those imprisoned there a fair trial (or release them).
     - End large no-bid contracts. He didn't even need Congress for this.
     - Increase taxes on those making over $250K a year, including eliminating the payroll tax cap and increasing top-bracket capital gains taxes.
     - Increase the minimum wage to $9.50.
     - Work with the states to give same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples.
     - Make polluting companies pay for cleaning up their mess.
     - A public option for health care.
     - End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
     Iraq is kinda over, but with several thousand troops still there. Afghanistan is no closer to ending than it was 10 years ago.

That's why I'm strongly considering voting for Jill Stein (Green Party) this year. Not because I want Mitt Romney, but because for many of the things I care about Obama has done exactly what I'd expect Mitt Romney to do.
               Obama's strategy, pulled straight from the Clinton playbook, is to just flat out ignore the liberal wing of his party assuming they'll just hold their nose and vote for the Democrats as the lesser-of-two-evils. Well, I'm not playing that game. 
While David's bitterness is not without merit, some of the campaign promises sailed far out of Obama’s political reach after the first two years. More gravely, David also represents a line of thinking that would make matters so much worse if Romney wins or the Senate turns Republican that I shudder to contemplate them. I’m talking about matters such as:

-  Killing off unions that fight to establish reasonable standards for working conditions, pay and benefits. Not to mention the only significant funding there is to put up against the Republican money machine that in effect buys legislative votes for right wing purposes.

-       Gutting Medicare, Social Security and Medicare.

-       Making health care a “privilege” which only the privileged rich will be able to afford.

-       “Permission to poison” the air, sea, land, and municipal water supplies of America by gutting government regulation.

The list goes on, but I’m certain you get the idea.

Obama bears some blame for allowing these dangers to come so close. He rejected the advice of economists like Paul Krugman who told him his job stimulus bill and budget were too puny to do the job. He kow-towed to Republicans, in effect, as the papers put it a few years ago, “negotiating with himself.”

Instead of drawing a line in the sand and telling Republicans and a few recalcitrant Democrats, “step over this and I’ll gut you politically,”Obama compromised, and then compromised many of the compromises with Republicans who clearly were out to make him fail.

Nevertheless, and at the risk of repeating myself, if voters, most especially including the youngest voters, fail to support Obama and the Democratic Party, a nightmare future is lurking just over the hill we’ll arrive at on election day.

My cranky advice: Hold your nose. Vote for Obama and for every Democrat on the ticket, and then make the President’s political life utterly miserable if he shilly-shallies on delivering on last election’s promises as well as this election’s promises.

Occupy the White House and Congress if necessary. But first vote in the November for the only President and for a Democratic congress that is likelier to listen to you.