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.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Nazis, political smears from The Oxford Club, and Bernie Sanders

Some years ago I began subscribing to a couple of publications from an organization called The Oxford Club. Their subscription mailings were terrific at massaging whatever organ it is that generates intensely overwhelming feelings of greed.

What their publications generally do is recommend stocks to invest in. I’m dredging up the numbers they touted from a faulty memory, but essentially their solicitation mailings were saying things like, “Earn profits of 200 percent, 300 percent, four hundred and eighty-seven percent!” 

Yes, yes, ye-e-e-essss! I thought, as my greed gland went orgasmic and my signature spurted across a check for my subscription.

“Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement,” declared Dr. Samuel Johnson back in the 18th Century. And this was nearly two centuries before the Oxford Club began promising me, without regularly delivering, humongous multiples of my money.

Well, for a while, The Oxford Club did reasonably well by me. No, they never generated 200 percent, much less six hundred and eighty-seven percent in profits. At least not for me. But a couple of their recommendations have increased significantly in value since I bought them, and the stocks recommend in their retirement income letter did, as promised, generate some income.

Of course, that was when the market was going up. Recently, the Oxford Club has been closing out quite a few positions, sometimes at a loss. I have still more beefs with their stock picks and their methods, but that’s for another day. What I’m here to tell you about is the not-so-subliminal message lurking just below the surface — or sometimes right on the surface — of the onslaught of e-mails they send me every week, in addition to my monthly newsletter subscriptions.

Turns out The Oxford Club is a right wing organization with right wing “friends” who spread political opinions, and sometimes considerable misinformation and paranoia among its subscribers. (Sample from a recent mailing that led off with the presidential election, "Your Bank Accounts Will Soon Be Confiscated Whoever Wins!")

I have no way of knowing whether issuing a screed against anything that doesn’t favor the one percent, tax cuts and hatred of government is required writing if you want to keep your job at the Oxford Club. But it seems that, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, nearly all their writers who regularly send me messages have at one time or another bashed the notion that the one percent are anything but God-dispatched saviors of our national economy. And that  — if I may continue a rather racy metaphor that I began some paragraphs back — taxes are the ejaculate of the devil.

But  the Oxford Club went more than a few paces two far last week when Alexander Green, the Oxford Club’s “Chief Investment Strategist” painted Bernie Sanders as the world’s biggest Nazi since Adolph and Eva romped joyfully at Berchtesgaden while Buchenwald gassed Europe’s Jews.

“How a Vote for Sanders Is Like a Vote for Hitler,” declared the headline on an e-mail from The Oxford Club written by Green. And the Oxford Club’s Green Slime ran downhill from there. Here’s what appears to be the nub of this disgusting argument, complete with Green's stereotyping:

Hitler convinced his people that Germany's troubles were caused by just 1% of the population: the Jews. 
In reality, of course, German Jews were a tremendous asset. They were hardworking and successful, particularly in business and finance. They were more highly educated, more affluent and more law-abiding than most, committing few crimes in relation to their numbers. 
Yet Hitler projected every fear, anxiety and frustration onto them. He scapegoated them so successfully, in fact, that ordinary Germans began to detest them, even those who had never met a Jew….
Hitler was a monster. But his fundamental flaw was that he was a deluded and unrepentant bigot. 
So is Bernie Sanders. 
Sanders does not scapegoat an ethnic or religious minority, however. He scapegoats a financial one. He dislikes rich people. 
Listen to a Sanders stump speech, and you'll discover
that folks with money are the bane of our existence. They
have "fixed" the economy, corrupted politics, denied
healthcare to millions, cheated the working class, shirked taxes, created shocking inequality and hoarded the wealth for themselves. 
I must live in an alternate universe.
Yes, Alexander, you very much must live in an alternate universe.
Hitler picked on people because of their ethnicity, arrested them, sent them to filthy concentration camps, turned them into slave laborers, starved them, and gassed them to death when they were;t forced them to dig their own graves before being shot. Whereas Bernie Sanders is mostly proposing to somewhat increase the taxes on the topmost part of the income that very rich people earn. 
There is no comparison. There is no parallel. What there is, it seems to me, is The Oxford Club baiting a Jewish candidate for wanting to make sure that people who work for the one percent receive fair and proportionate compensation to their own contributions to the economy. Calling a Jew a Nazi because of his economic principles and belief in fairness is tantamount to what Dr. Goebbels did — inventing and broadcasting a big , slanderous lie.
In the same e-mail, Green accused Sanders of “preaching class hatred.” No, Mr, Green, it is you and The Oxford Club who are attempting to disseminate hatred. Bernie Sanders is preaching class fairness.
Shame on The Oxford Club for enabling you with a platform to broadcast your trash.

Note: If the Oxford Club hasn’t been embarrassed yet into taking down Green’s vile e-mail, you can find the full text posted here, along with some mostly furious replies by Oxford Club members, many of whom, I hope, will cancel or not renew their subscriptions.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mitch McConnell, turtles, intransigent Republicans, and a Supreme Court "solution"

One of these head shots is of a turtle,the other is of Mitch  McConnell.
 I'm not sure which is which.

So Mitch McConnell, in addition to resembling a turtle, now says that he will act like one and slow-walk to death any Obama nomination to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court.

And just about every Republican, including every Republican candidate for the presidency, agrees with him — the Constitution be damned.Well, I think I may have a solution, if President Obama has the chutzpah to try it.

Let the President make his nomination and wait a reasonable interval while McConnell keeps the nomination in the deep freeze. And then let the President announce that the Senate has abdicated its duty to advise and consent, but that the Constitution demands nine Supreme Court justices, a demand the Senate is contravening. Therefore, by executive order, the President is forced to declare that his nominee is now the next justice on the court.

This could either be a Bosch
painting of hell or a photograph
of a Republican Senate
 subcommittee meeting
The Republicans of course will howl. They'll scream. They'll bleat. They'll vomit up lizards and serpents like hellish characters in a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Let them. What are they going to do about Obama's appointment — complain to the Supreme Court?

What's that you say? They can get the Senate and House to impeach and remove him?

In that case, in the last days of this presidential term we'll have President Joe Biden. Which for Republicans will be the political equivalent of removing a stiletto from their left eye sockets and shoving it into their right eye sockets.

I am among the many who always feared the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times," and who have reason to believe we are living in such times now. But who would have believed that total political anarchy could be so entertaining? Not to mention Republican political debates.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hillary, Bernie, JFK, and the advantage of big ambitions over small potatoes

John F. Kennedy knew how to think big. Bernie Sanders' thinking
is closer to JFK's than Hillary's
The Clinton camp's beef with Bernie Sanders seems to be that Sanders is thinking too big, whereas Hillary is "pragmatic." But look closely and what you will find is that by "pragmatism," the Clinton camp means the hope for a few incremental fixes, achieved without the consent of a hostile Congress. 

Hillary will, um, “improve” the clunky camel of a cobbled together, better-than-nothing Obamacare system, rather than replace it with Medicare For All, as Sanders wants to do. She’ll help make college loans somewhat less onerous, as opposed to Sanders, who seeks to make them superfluous, with free tuition at public colleges.  And so on.

But make no mistake. Congress, or at least the Congress controlled by Republicans, hates Hillary with a vengeance. It has been ginning up hatred of her at least since she was seeking the nomination in opposition to Barack Obama eight years ago. Think about the Hillary-hating catch phrases of the past, and possibly of the future if Hillary gets the nomination. They will rise like zombies from the grave: "Whitewater." "Troopergate." “Vince Foster.” "Liberal." Any move Hillary makes will have to be in spite of Congress, rather than in concert with it.

But won’t Congress oppose Sanders, too? Yes, if it’s the same Congress we have now, they most certainly will. But the wave of the future — as evidenced by the enthusiastic turnout of young people for Sanders — demonstrates that he speaks for where America of the future wants to go, and not for tinkering cautiously with the rattletrap mechanism that is American government today. Inevitably, if enough people make demands, lawmakers will go along in order to keep their jobs. That's why the difference between Sanders and Clinton is so important.

Sanders will fight for change. Hillary, if the publicity is to believed, will fight only for incremental fixes. And that reflects a shameful lack of ambition for the future of our nation.

Can Bernie Sanders deliver all, or even most of what he promises? Probably not, at least not in the short run. But then, it’s also not a sure thing can Hillary can deliver even modest fixes.

Significant change will only come when a mass of voters stand up and shake the walls and the rafters with their demands for change. Yes, change will come slowly even after Americans demonstrate their passion for change. But that was always the case. To quote John F. Kennedy when he spoke of his own huge ambitions for America….

“All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin. “

And that’s why I’ll be voting for Sanders in my own state’s primary. If Hillary gets the nomination? Yes, I'll vote for her in the general election, because even her small potatoes ambitions for America are better than the unconscious Republican ambition to destroy America.

But make no mistake. If America is ever going to change for the better again, it will be Bernie leading the charge, and not Hillary fiddling with the lug nuts.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Lucrezia Borgia and Rick Snyder: separated at birth?

Lucrezia Borgia was likely involved in one, or perhaps
a handful of poisonings in her quest for power during
the 15th Century

Governor Rick Snyder was definitely involved in 
poisoning the entire city of Flint, Michigan in his 
own 21st Century quest for power — and then tried
to cover it up.

I don't know about you, but when I study the faces of Lucrezia Borgia and Rick Snyder, I seem to detect a clear family resemblance. I wonder if somewhere on the Italian boot there are preserved samples of Lucrerzia's DNA that can be compared to Rick's?

I say that because both seem to have (or to have had) a lust for power in their DNA. With Lucrezia, it manifested itself in the long and twisted history of the Borgia family's political machinations and her participation in the family's plotting. With Rick, allegiances seem to be to "conservatism" and moneyed interests. But the results seem to be the same whether we're talking Renaissance Italy or modern America:

The rich and powerful grow more rich and powerful, while fighting among themselves, about who is or will be the most rich and the most powerful. Meanwhile, the citizenry, no longer just robbed blind, gets to suffer in misery and agony, the latest victims of toxic ideas of government that directly caused the toxic drinking water supply of Flint.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Great Trump University Ripoff

I hate to do anything that might help Ted Cruz, but I cn't resist:

In case you missed this.