Friday, April 25, 2014

Is Cliven Bundy in over his head? Or does he even have a head?

I really shouldn’t be taking the time to post this. After a week devoted to a personal health scare that turned out to be nada, I’m up to my eyeballs in neglected work that now has to get done.

But I feel sorry for Cliven Bundy, the Nevada Rancher who doesn’t want to pay the gub-mint for grazing his cattle on public lands, and who let slip enough overheated racist remarks to melt down a statue of Jefferson Davis.

No, I don’t feel sorry for him because he's getting skewered by the press and abandoned by many of his former "friends." I feel sorry for him because of his Neanderthal stupidity. Or am I insulting Neanderthals? Bundy is standing firm on his stubbornly unyielding ignorance, and I know there must still be some people, equally ignorant, who want to stand with him, but it’s time to straighten these fools out.

Look, Bundyites: The government owns those grazing lands in Nevada. It has owned them ever since the United States, backed by ithe U.S. Army, stole the territory from Mexico.

I think it was the late Senator Everett Dirkson who proudly declared of the land, “We stole it fair and square.” Or maybe he was talking about the Panama Canal Zone. Doesn't matter. Same idea.

Anyway that public land now belongs to every citizen of the United States, with the U.S. Government serving as our agent to preserve the space.

But you can use that space, Mr. Bundy. You can graze your cattle on it to your heart’s content, just so long as you pay the cheap price, relative to commercial land, that all of us American citizens are charging you. 

If you don’t want to pay, get the hell off our land and pay higher commercial rates somewhere else. It’s that simple.

You say private interests ought to have the right to buy the land? Do that, and there will be no public land left in the United States. In New York, private interests will buy up Central Park to build skyscrapers. They’ll turn Yellowstone  and Yosemite Parks into golf courses. Or into strip mines, for all I know.

So we can’t allow that, and we can’t allow wanton trespassing on our land. Pay up or get off. Just get the hell off.

As to your racist remarks, they are beneath contempt. I’ve used all of my contempt up on your crackpot legal theories of land use. So far as I’m concerned, the U.S. Marshals can remove you from our land – and empty out your bank account for the back payments you owe. And if this turns into another Ruby Ridge confrontation, you’ll be one roasted rancher I won’t lose any sleep about.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Crank’s brother out-cranks the Crank. And the laugh’s on Republican recruiters.

If a Republican recruiter calls you, don't
hang up. There are better ways to stick it
to them.
The Crank’s little brother, himself an old fogey these days – and with lots of time on his retired hands – called last night to tell me about his latest foray into politics.

He had joined the Republican Party, he told me, and for only forty bucks.

“Why would you give them a plugged nickel?” I asked him. “Why would you even join them for free?”

“It’s worth it in entertainment,” he assured me.

Seems a Republican lady called him from some call center and asked him if he’d be interested in joining the party. Before she could tell him why, he was telling her.

“Wow! That means I could pitch in and help the Republicans with all their good work!”

“Absolutely,” she said.

“Like we could abolish food stamps,” he enthused. “I’m sick and tired of people eating off the government dole. Let ‘em get a job, or if they say they can’t get a job, let ‘em starve to death in the street, wouldn’t you agree?”

His retort was clearly not in the Republican telemarketing script. The Republican lady sounded flustered. “Well, um, I’m not sure if…”

“And what about all those sluts who want us hardworking taxpayers to pay for their birth control so they can party at our expense? If they get pregnant and have babies, that’s their problem, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Um, well uh….”

“And if they do have the babies, let the babies starve to death. That’s not the government’s business, as long as they weren’t aborted, wouldn’t you agree?

“Err, well…”

“Also, this country needs a flat tax. A flat 20 percent on every penny of earned income, except for people making over $500,000 a year, because those are the job creators and we don’t want to slow down their important work, wouldn’t you agree?

At this point, the poor woman was getting overwhelmed.

“Also let’s do away with Social Security and Medicare. People ought to take care of their own damn selves. If they can’t, let ‘em die in the street, wouldn’t you agree?”

The recruiter tried to change the subject by getting down to brass tacks. She explained the virtues and benefits of a $70 membership as opposed to a $40 memberships.

“I’ll take the $40 membership,” he said. “There’s no way in hell I’m giving $70 as long as the Republican Party is infested with liberal pinkos like Mitt Romney and John McCain. Throw those lefties like that out and replace them with real Americans, like Ted Cruz and then I’ll pay $70. Did I mention how sick I am of people being deprived of their rights to stand their ground? If somebody plays loud music in your face, you should have a right to blow their faces off with a goddamn shot gun, wouldn’t you agree

And so poof, he’s a Republican. 

“I still don’t much like the idea of giving those guys $40,” I told him.

“Believe me, they’ll spend it all on postage and begging me for other things fore six months are up,” the Crank’s little brother said.

Personally, I would have left it at twenty minutes – or maybe with any luck, 60 minutes worth of fun. I say with luck because the object of my game whenever Republicans call, is to see how long I can keep them unproductively on the phone – unproductive, that is, except for my entertainment.

Never hang up on a Republican. Keep them on. Keep them talking. Keep them wasting their time. Make them hang up on you.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The $250 hamburger: yet another demonstration of why we need an excess wealth tax for the greedy one percent

While homeless folks sleep on the streets only a few blocks away, the One Percent,
who will bribe a Congressman with "campaign contributions" to stop a nickel's
worth of extra taxes on their own fortunes but love to see Congress tax the poor
and cut food stamps, can indulge in a $250 "B&;B Indulgence" hamburger at
the Court Hotel in New York City.
Squint at the picture if you must but note, you're reading it right. At the Court Hotel on Lexington Avenue and 39th Street in Manhattan, you now can blow $250 on a hamburger, if you have that kind of money to blow on a hamburger.

Sure, I have no doubt it's better than a fast food joint burger. It's made with kobe beef, not gray slime. Plus it's made with the liver of a force-fed goose sautéed in Sauternes, plus fresh truffles and Beluga caviar. And it's served on a "homemade" "artisinal" bun. Natch. For $250 you get all the gastronomic buzzwords they can stuff into your mouth.

Is it worth it? Probably, in terms of the cost of its ingredients. But remember, only a few blocks up Lexington Avenue, at the side of Grand Central Station, homeless people with home made signs and worn paper coffee cups beg for quarters to they can get a few scraps to eat.

Meanwhile, Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican lackey of the One Percent, resists raising taxes so much as a nickel on the rich, while proposing a budget that would cut food stamps for the poor.

What's that you say? The one percent are job creators, so they're entitled to eat obscenely expensive trifles while others starve? Yeah, maybe they've created a job for one minimum wage worker from Ecuador to pat the Kobe beef into $250 patties and slice the truffles. But that isn't going to change our economy one iota.

However, I cannot resist pointing out that even on her last day on earth, Queen Marie Antoinette (of "let them eat cake" fame) was a job creator, too.

The job she created for one of her subjects, however unintentionally, was Guillotine Operator.

Cross-Posted at No More Mister Nice Blog

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Technology has come to collect its pound of flesh. Start coughing up the cash, sucker.

This is the Silicon Valley business model
I am now the not-particularly-proud owner of four Mac computers. Please note that I am a guy who lives alone in a small apartment and works mostly alone in a small office. All I need is two computers. I could get away with only one, if I had to. All I’d need to do is slip a laptop into my briefcase at the end of the day, and slip it back in at the start of the next.

So why four computers, especially when there’s nothing physically wrong with any of them? As best I can tell, they all still work up to the manufacturers original specifications. The problem is, manufacturers specs are moving goal posts these days, and you have to move with ‘em or die. Maybe even literally die.

My old Mac “clamshell” laptop still writes and reads the Microsoft Office and Quark Express programs I installed on them the first day I owned them. But both Mac and Microsoft– and for that matter Quark Express – have had digital behavior changes since I bought those two oldies.

In the case of the Year 2000 Mac clamshell, document written in the latest Microsoft Word, the one that labels all its documents “.docx” instead of “.doc”, will not open with the current operating system. Nor can you buy an electronic update that will let you convert incoming .docs to .docx. Nor can it deal with the oodles of changes to the way the Internet works. Nor will it work with the latest versions of Quark.

So my old nearly $2,000 clamshell is now essentially an expensive old typewriter.

My 2004 machine is not much better. The old Microsoft and new Microsoft office programs still work on it, as does my 2004 version of Quark Express. But Apple has decided it will no longer support the operating system with security upgrades and other fixes, not even if you or I will pay for them. 

Which means that, if I turn it on, pirates somewhere out there on the Internet can jump into my wi-fi, board the computer, steal my address book and passwords, and stuff their pockets with my bank and brokerage accounts. For a geezer whose earning capacity and savings capacity is now limited, that’s not even a near-death experience. That is death, unless I can figure out how to live on Social Security.

Mind you, most of the changes don’t make the computer do anything I need it to do., or anything most of us need it to do. Nor is this like the “planned obsolescence” that scandalized the public in the 1950s. That kind of obsolescence was merely psychological. If you wanted to drive an old car, you could still get by with your old Studebaker.

The changes in computer technology today exist, I suspect, almost entirely to make sure that people have to go out and buy the new stuff, or else. And the “upgrades” affect Windows users as well as Mac users.

Apple is now sending out warnings that I need to upgrade my third computer, which used to be my office computer until my old home computer became too dangerous to my financial security to plug in. Meanwhile, to avoid lugging a computer to and from the office each day, I’ve gone out and bought the fourth Mac.

Each time this happens, I pay Apple and Microsoft a combined Right-To-Live-In-The-Modern-World Tax of between $2,300 and $3,000. 

If a street thug walked up to you, pointed a gun at your head, and demanded $3,000 to let you live, he’d be guilty of armed robbery. But although corporations are now legally people when it comes to funding multi-million dollar campaigns to support their pet lapdog politicians, they’re not people when it comes to highway robbery.

You see, when Apple and Microsoft demand your money or else – well hey, that’s the way it is sucker. Stand and deliver. Pay up or die.