Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The remarkable thing about the ubiquitous corruption of American politicians is not that they can be bought, but how cheaply you can buy them

19 Century politicians would have blushed in shame if they were
caught stuffing their pockets with as little as California politicos will
take to be bought by Mitt Romney
So Mitt Romney wants to tear down a house in La Jolla, California, to build a bigger, fancier home. You know, the kind of a house a man who has an elevator for his automobiles might build while thumbing his nose at the world. The kind that says to everybody else, "in your-face-you-worthless-moocher." 

Small problem: he needs zoning regulations, permits, that sort of annoying stuff. City officials don’t like to give them to out-of-character palaces like the one Mitt has in mind. They mess up the neighborhood for everybody else.

But that’s no problem for Mitt Romney. He just buys the politicians. As reported by Matt Potter in the San Diego Reader:
The saga started almost four years ago when, as first noted here in December 2010, the ex–Massachusetts governor and wife Ann paid $1000 to La Jolla’s Island Architects to lobby city hall for approval of a coastal development permit at the exclusive oceanfront address, according to a disclosure form filed by Island’s Tony Crisafi that November 1. 
In addition, La Jolla-based lobbyist Matthew Peterson, a ubiquitous presence at both planning meetings and political fundraisers, has so far received at least $61,025 to grease the skids for the mansion with local politicos, lobbyist disclosure filings say. 
Campaign disclosure records show that Peterson and members of his firm, Peterson and Price, have given a total of $29,098 to city candidates since 2006, including $2000 to Democrat Bob Filner's mayoral bid and $1250 to the GOP Lincoln Club. 
Republican current mayor Kevin Faulconer's 2014 campaign got the most: $4950.
That’s right folks. Evidently not a single politician needed as much as $5,000 to sell out. Even the local Republican political club was bought for a piffling $1,250. 

You oldsters who thought the day of the $2 whore ended in 1902 can have another think, especially when the whore is a politician. Or am I verging on redundancy here?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"I am mad as hell (we'll, I'm not showing it but trust me) and I'm not gonna take it any more."

Used to be, Paddy Chayfesky had to make up stuff like this for the script of his movie, "Network."

Not any more, folks.

This'll is spreading all over the Internet faster than the Ebola virus can create an epidemic in Liberia, but heck, I want my blog in on it, too. So here's another source of an about-to-be-famous TV resignation for your delectation, in which Anchorage, Alaska TV reporter Charlo Greene quits her job to sell marijuana.

My favorite bit comes at the end, when the anchor woman is simply Too Flustered for Prime Time.


New York Times columnist David Brooks returns from Mars and reports everything there is hunky-dory

These folks took David Brooks aboard
their space ship and convinced him he 
was really visiting New York. New 
Yorkers woke up feeling strangely 
David Brooks, who I think spends too much time propping his head up in front of television cameras and wagging his jaw, has just reported on the state of things in New York. His verdict, “The city has never been better.”
Uh David, are you sure you are writing about New York City, USA, Planet Earth? Sounds to me like the science fiction City of NuuuNuuuNuu Yorxxx, on the Planet Mars. I’m tempted to go line by line,  but that would lead to the longest blog post I’ve ever written. So let’s just take, a few highlights of your piece.
“There has never been a time when there were so many interesting places to visit, shop and eat….”
Really, David? Y’mean, all those little neighborhood mom-and-pop stores, the hardware stores, and knitting stores, the kosher delis, the appetizing places, the Polish ,and Hungarian, and Chinese hole-in-the-wall restaurants that served affordable eats to people who inevitably lived around the corner, the toy stores and the paint stores and the …well, you get the idea. Do you mean to tell me David, that those were less interesting than the ubiquitous storefronts of three banking chains, three supermarket chains, and sixty zillion manicure parlors – more and more the only enterprises that can afford the increasingly oppressive commercial rents?
“Our global enemies are not exactly impressive. We have the Islamic State, a bunch of barbarians riding around in pickup trucks, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, a lone thug sitting atop a failing regime. These folks thrive only because of the failed states and vacuums around them.”
Well, David, I don’t care whether the cause of terrorism is a vacuum or a vacuum cleaner.  I don’t find the ability to destroy the World Trade Center and take 3,000 lives with the winged equivalent of a bomb “not exactly impressive.” Unfortunately, 9-11 has left an indelible impression on almost everyone I know.  
 I imagine the loss was even more indelible for those who lost loved ones. Moreover, the fact that its perpetrators are bunch of barbarians is exactly what makes life unpleasant for other New Yorkers and me, whether I’m noticing what appears to be an abandoned package on the subway, or trying to board an airplane. 
As for Valdimir Putin, tell me please how we can force him out of the Ukraine without risking a nuclear World War III.
"Of course there are the problems of inequality and poverty that we all know about…
Right. More homeless people sleeping on the streets than ever before in New York and probably in America. Inadequate housing for middle and low-income people. The few pathetic attempts at “affordable housing” literally shame their occupants with “poor doors.” But let’s brush off all that David, because it doesn’t conform to your thesis. Where’s Charles Dickens now that we need him?
“We’re seeing a decline in civil wars and warfare generally.”
David, David, David! Are you writing for the same New York Times I’m reading? The one with stories about what’s going on and has gone in recently in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Crimea, Ukraine. Not to mention wars that don’t make the Times front page very often, in as many as 15 other African nations? Did I mention the hawks in the Senate, including Lindsey Graham and John  (“Bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran”) McCain who keep pumping for war, war and more war, with just about any one, at any price? While we're at it, have I mentioned Ebola?
“We don’t suffer from an abuse of power so much as a nonuse of power. It’s been years since a major piece of legislation was passed, and there’s little prospect that one will be passed in the next year or two.”
How right you are, David. One little matter, though. The “nonuse” of power is an abusive act of power itself. It is being committed by those in power in the House and Senate, a claque of obstructionists on the right.They would bring America to its economic knees and inflict immeasurable human misery on their fellow citizens rather than allow legislation out of committee and abandon their insane Ayn Randian notions of how things ought to be.  Inaction doesn’t just happen. And it can be a political act of violence.

Okay, David, I’ve said enough. I do think that you and your cousin Pollyanna ought to call up Dr. Pangloss and ask that he reduce the dosage of those pills he’s prescribing for you. Meanwhile, rejoice that you and I are not among the Americans sleeping in cardboard boxes or in a car, or searching fruitlessly for a job, or wondering where the next meal – or the next lone wolf bomber– is coming from.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I just got back from Paris and the news makes me want to puke

This is what comes from what I see in
the newspapers, not from French food.
Hey, I had a perfectly nice time in Paris. I ate runny, stinky cheese. I ate deliciously creamy butter. I ate baguettes by the basketful. I ate pommes frites. I ate extremely fatty liver with the consistency of velvet. I ate  meat that was doing the butterfly stroke in deep pools of obscenely rich sauces. 

And yet I came home weighing two pounds less than when I left. You can chalk that one up to alluring Parisian streets that almost grab you by the collar and demand to be strolled, and to nearly perfect weather that made the strolling easier. 

Walking around looking for the next place to eat evidently works off more calories than living on dry chicken breasts, or blowing a couple of hours every week in a stinking, sweaty health club. Call it the Crank Diet.

But when I get home, what do I find?

Thanks, Lindsey Graham, for ruining everything

I found the same old same old. Let’s start with Republicans like John McCain and  Lindsey Graham frothing at the mouth to demand we put “boots on the ground” in Syria to “defeat” a bunch of thugs in ISIL. 

Unfortunately, what “boots on the ground” is really code for is “American dead bodies on the ground.” You don’t commit troops to combat without significant numbers of them getting killed, some of them getting gravely wounded, some of them sustaining lifetime psychological wounds. 

None of those troops will be Lindsey Graham. And guaranteed, with the kinds of wars we’re fighting these days, there’s no victory at the end of the conflict

Personally, I’d rather see the U.S. track down and capture the sick-o who did the beheadings of their innocent victims. President Obama took out Osama bin Laden. We can take out this creep, too. Evidently, we and the Brits already have a good idea of who the hooded man with the knife is

So sniff him out. Hunt him down. And while I usually oppose capital punishment strenuously, I wouldn’t go into paroxysms of grief if, in the course of some special forces operation to capture the sick bastard, his own head should accidentally happen to fall off. The same goes for his bosses.

A nation of busybodies

Then there’s the business of throwing people off athletic teams for abusing their significant others and their kids, and spending hours of television time discussing it. Hey, don’t get me wrong. I am strongly – very strongly – opposed to either spousal abuse or child abuse. But we seem to be enlisting the wrong people to do the law enforcement. 

Spousal abuse, child abuse, and rape for that matter, are felonies. They should be investigated by the police. 

When credible evidence of who perpetrated such crimes is found, the police should make arrests and prosecutors should prosecute. The guilty would lose their player status simply by virtue of being in prison. 

The same, by the way, goes for college campus sexual abusers. It’s not the business of private institutions, whether sports franchises, or sports leagues, or universities,  to investigate, try, prosecute and punish felonies. When you get amateurs doing this work – and make no mistake, college panels and football commissioners are amateurs – they’re bound, sooner or later, to get it wrong, hurt innocent people, and probably exacerbate the problem. Let’s stop being a nation of busybodies and just call the cops whenever an assault happens.

Justice delayed is, uh…
Who said anything about justice?

Speaking of cops, what’s with the cop who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9th? I’m writing this on September 19th, for the love of Mike! If anybody but a cop went to Ferguson and shot somebody dead, the case would be investigated, an arrest made, the perp charged with the crime and bail set, all likely before sunset. In this case, you’ve got the city of Ferguson dealing with the problem by handing out comment cards. So here’s my own comment:  I want to vomit a second time.

Okay, okay, a small hurrah

If there’s any good news, it’s that Scotland voted not to secede from the Brits. Hip hurrah. Listen, the first I heard of this was two days before the voting began. I have no brief either for or against either the Scots or the rest of the Brits on this. My concern was, and still is, that secession might be contagious. That concern wasn’t at all mitigated when Reuters ran a story saying that one in four Americans are open to their own secession.

I thought we fought a civil war over this. Now what? Do we have to put “boots on the ground” in Texas, too? 

Or maybe we should just go ahead and let Texas secede. But at the same time, we should build a wall on their border with us, impose a tariff on their imports, strictly limit or even prohibit immigration of Texans to America, cut Texas out of the U.S. power grid, and in general treat them with the hostility we generally reserve for, say, Cuba.

Okay, so I’m feeling cranky to be home from Paris and back in the office. You got a problem with that?

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: