Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A short ode to Ted Cruz

Of all the obstreperous, bloviating gas bags in Washington, Senator Ted Cruz (Republican, naturally) has just taken the cake with his filibuster to logjam the government. So this is for you, Senator:

I do not like you, Mr. Cruz
I do not like you in the news
Your babbling mouth is full of spam
I do not like you, Cruz-I-am

I do not like you in the news
With your ripoff of Dr. Seuss
You cannot stop Obamacare
So just shut up
And sit  — right there!

Cranky explanatory note: Try as I could, I was unable to find a way to make Cruz rhyme with asshole. I just want you to know that I wasn't denying the obvious.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Note to House Republicans, Wayne LaPierre, House Democrats and President Obama about America’s future. There’s a lesson for all of you in this film clip.

You most assuredly must remember this famous scene from that great 1981 movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones is running through an Arab marketplace, vanquishing attackers with his bullwhip. Thug after thug attacks him. Thug after thug is whipped into submission.

Finally, along comes some ultra-thuggish sword-waving cuthroat, making fancy movies with his flashing piece of cutlery, and Ford has had enough. He simply pulls out is pistol and blows the sucker away with a single shot.

There’s a story behind this scene, which was filmed in Tunisia. Ford, and most of the film crew, had come down with what has been alternately described as a “horrible stomach flu”  and as “food poisoning.” Harrison was gamely shooting his scenes, feeling sick as a dog. Finally, the effort became too much and sick-to-his-gut Harrison suggested blowing away the last thug instead of more efforts at bullwhip gymnastics.

The scene is a classic because it resonates with Americans who can take just so much of a posturing pain in the butt before they do something the other side doesn’t expect. In the Senate, the Democratic majority has bullwhipped down loony bill after loony bill defunding Obamacare, allowing innocent Americans to get murdered in the name of gun “rights,” cutting food stamps, short-circuiting the economy with short-term debt ceilings, and more. At some point, enough will be enough.

No, we can’t go around shooting Congressman, nor should anyone advocate that. But if the bullwhip can be a symbol for the Democratic Senate overturning Republican mischief, than the pistol can be a symbol for the power of the Presidency.

President Obama needs to get his political shooting iron out and start blasting away. Does some obstreperous Congressman have earmark money going to a beloved constituent or campaign contributor? Slow the money down. Let the check get lost in the works. When the constituents and contributors call to complain, answer that due to your Congressman’s impossible behavior, the administrative machinery is so clogged that the President and various civil service departments won’t even be able to look into it for a while.

Congressmen and their families handle a lot of money. Some of it from PAC contributions. Evidently tons of it from the NRA. Some of it from speaking engagements. Some of it from inside investments. Mmm, sounds to me like grounds for an audit, even if it means sending some good guys with guns to Wayne Lapierre's home and office to go over the books. Eh, Mr. LaPierre?

Finally, there’s the power of the mouth. Mr. President, no more shilly-shally speechifying like this: to what are essentially congregations of the converted:
“This is an interesting thing to ponder, that your top agenda is making sure 20 million people don’t have health insurance,” he said of House GOP lawmakers.

Agreed, but too damn gentle. We need for Mr. Obama to pull out his presidential shooting iron, the verbal one, and start blasting away.

Let’s call Republican obstreperousness what it is. Mr. President, I submit this passage for your next speech:
If an Al Queda agent put Anthrax in a city reservoir and hundreds of people died as a consequence, with a total of 20 million in danger, America would rightfully demand military action, to take out these saboteurs before they take any more American lives.

But Republicans in the House have been killing thousands of Americans, by preventing them from getting the healthcare they need, and by spreading lying propaganda that helps block the path to saving lives. This is no longer politics. This is an act of war against the American people.

Speaker Boehner, I accused you of an act of war against the American people. Congressman Eric Cantor, I accused you of an act of war against the American people. Senator Ted Cruz, by your false propaganda against affordable healthcare, you also are guilty of an act of war against the American people…[The list would continue from here.]
 Would this j’accuse rhetoric create a huge hullabaloo? You betcha. Would there be lots of rage on the Republican side? Frightened people are always rageful. Would President Obama take intense heat for a speech like this? Tons of it. But…

But the conversation in America would change, from whether we should have Obamacare and gun control, to whether the anti-Obamacare and 2nd Amendment crazies  are guilty of treason. Believe me, theTea Party legislators would not enjoy it. But they would learn to fear the president, perhaps (or probably) enough to fund Obamacare, put some sane controls on the proliferation of real guns and consequent real murders, and raising the budget ceiling for more than a few months at a time.

The question is, does Mr. Obama have the courage to put down that silly bullwhip and stage a rhetorical gunfight?

Friday, September 20, 2013

The not-so-fine Republican art of speaking about Obamacare in self-contradictory gobbledygook

Gobbledygooker Tom Graves

In their desperate attempt to kill something they know the American public will love once they can enjoy it, Republicans resort to a brain-busting mockery of logic. Here's a glaring case in point of their gobbledygook:
"All of us are united in understanding that once you start enrollment [in Obamacare], it becomes a totally different dynamic even though they're not receiving benefits. When somebody enrolls in something, they assume they will be getting them. That's why the American people are expecting us to fight now, not delay the fight until next year some time." — Georgia Republican Congressman Tom Graves
 They must be putting massive doses of Stupid in the water down in Ranger, Georgia, where Congressman Tom Graves hails from. Just read the paragraph above carefully, trying hard not to let your eyes cross.

In that short paragraph, a formidable example of how to deny what you’re saying while you’re still in the process of saying it, Graves is declaring that the American people are begging him to fight Obamacare now, because they’re afraid they’ll like it and won’t want it taken away.
Right. And we all need to wear blindfolds starting daybreak today, because comes a dark night and a blackout, we won’t be able to see what we’re doing.
But what can you expect of a former sandwich shop operator turned Congressman who makes a side business  of selling American flags on his website ($9 and up) where he feels compelled to explain, “The American flag, which is affectionately referred to as “The Stars and Stripes” or “Old Glory is a symbol of freedom and democracy…”
Wow! I guess he bets you didn’t know that.

Monday, September 16, 2013

How to tell if you are a New York cop

Just take this simple 3-question quiz:

1. The photograph below shows clearly and self-evidently:
A. A loaded pistol
B.  A hand with a cocked thumb and pointed finger

2. On a crowded New York City street, when you are in pursuit of a perpetrator who may be guilty of something or other, the proper thing to do is:
A. Block off the streets and wait for backup
B. Start firing your weapon wildly at the guy, even if you hit a bunch of innocent passers-by in the street
C. Let the guy go, or follow him to a location where, if necessary, you can fire your weapon without hitting nine innocent people

3. You heard from a guy, who heard from some other guy, that somebody or other threatened to pull a gun on somebody else in a nightclub. So when a bunch of people get out of that nightclub and head for an SUV, the appropriate police technique should be to
A. Intercept the people and question them before they get into a vehicle.
B. Wait until they get into their SUV, then pump 50 bullets into the vehicle, killing or injuring its occupants, including innocent passengers (not to mention the innocent driver).
C. Go into the nightclub and ask the manager there for a bribe not to shut the place down.

Correct answers:
1 (A) 2 (B) 3(B)

If you correctly answered even one question correctly, you already are, or have the makings of a New York Cop. If you answered two question correctly, you are a police genius. If you answered three questions correctly your attitude marks you as having makings of a police commissioner or billionaire mayor.

Civilian Solution: Since cops think pointed fingers with cocked thumbs are dangerous weapons, and legitimate reasons to kill anyone who points a finger that way are you, as well as hapless people on the street, take firearms away from police. Instead, when confronting dangerous or presumed dangerous suspects, police should be instructed to point their fingers at the suspect and yell in a very loud voice, "Bang Bang!" Repeat until suspect either surrenders or falls down dead.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The man who’d literally run over kittens with a train (and his far-right-wing billionaire backers) gear up in New York to smash liberal mayoral candidate Bill DeBlasio

Joe Lhota said he'd have no problem
running them over with a train
New York City is about to become a proxy battleground between the progressive wing of the Democrats and far right wing Republicans.

I hope the nation is paying attention, because ultra-conservative, union-smashing, tax-the-poor, enrich-the-billionaires individuals like the Koch brothers certainly are.

The story so far

In case you’re either a New Yorker who just got home from a six months vacation on Mars, or an out-of-towner who understandably pays less than full attention to New York politics, here’s the story – a story notably worthy of your attention.

Bill DeBlasio, a progressive Democrat with an interesting background (he has a black wife and two mixed race kids) appears to have won the Democratic nomination for mayor. (There are complications, but you can mortgage the farm to put money on the likelihood of his candidacy.)

One of DeBlasio’s campaign promises is that he’ll try his darndest (the odds of succeeding are daunting) to raise the marginal tax rate by half a percent on the incomes of city residents who earn over half a million dollars annually. The money would be used to pay for a desperately needed pre-school program.

For your average, run-the-mill New York rich guy (there are 27,000 thousand of them earning between $500,000 and $1,000,000 a year) the average tax increase would come to $973 a year – which is less than a pair of imported tan summer loafers or a new frock for his wife would cost in a neighborhood Madison Avenue boutique on the Upper East Side.

Holy crap! You’d think DeBlasio was proposing mass extermination of anyone with more than two dollars in his pocket.

Joe Lhota's head explodes

Class warfare!” exploded Joe Lhota, the Republican nominee for mayor in his acceptance speech — reviving a favorite whine of the greedy one-percent.

Only in America could the formidably rich declare financial war on the poor and middle class, and  then complain about "class warfare" when the poor and middle class push back.

The one percent crashed the financial system, got a bailout from the 99 percent of American taxpayers who never see much, if any financial security, and now grumble about “class warfare” when asked to chip in an hour’s pay or less for the benefit of the people they milk dry.

Not surprising that Joe (“Mr. Warmth”) Lhota is so kindly, so empathetic, that when — during the primary campaign, yet! — some stray kittens were found wandering the city’s subway tracks, Lhota favored crushing them with a train rather than stopping the subway to save them.

Bloomberg fires up desperate
(but empty) charges of "racism"

Michael Bloomberg took another tack. He accused DeBlasio of “racism” for showing his multi-racial family in television campaign spots. As if no political candidate has ever shown his family in campaign advertising! (I guess it’s okay if they’re all lily-white, like Mitt Romney’s family.) What did Bloomberg want DeBlasio to do — put whiteface on his wife and kids? Did he want them to wear mime suits, too?

Most ominous of all, the multi-billionaire Koch family has contributed more thusfar to Lhota's campaign than they’d pay in a good part of a century if Deblasio’s tax increase should ever come through.

A popular movement?

And that’s what it’s really about. New York could be the beginning of a popular voter movement, at long last — of the average working stiff, the under-employed recent graduate, the squeezed middle class and the strangled poor — against the one percent.

Billionaires like the Koches and Bloombergs are afraid it’ll spread and that, given enough time, voters might restore the financial equilibrium of the 1950s and 1960s, and the rich will have to pay their fair share again. O, the horror of it all!

Expect to see mountains of right wing dollars poured in to make that right wing iceberg Lhota look good, and to cover up what he really stands for.

Here in New York, the election is really a proxy battle of the super-rich against everybody else. What happens here may not stay here. And that’s what’s terrifying the billionaires and the corrupt politicians who live off them.

And now this:

Monday, September 09, 2013

The President,the Premise, the Problem, the Syrians, and the Economy

Let’s start off with a basic premise here, shall we? Because if you don’t agree with that, there’s no point
in reading on.
Premise: Any Democrat, including Barack Obama, is better than just about any Republican who might be in office today instead — Mitt Romney and even John McCain not excepted.
 However, Barack Obama came into office propelled by a slogan (“Yes we can,”) and experience that essentially consisted of less than a full term in the Senate. Not exactly a long resume for somebody who would sit in the White House and make sink-or-swim decisions for the United States – and then lead us to support those decisions.

During the first Obama primaries, I supported Obama over Hillary Clinton, although I did not, to the best of my recollection, blog about it. My fear about Hillary was that, given all the hate for her that had been generated by the Republican propaganda machine over the years, she might lose a national election, whereas Obama could win. I was right, or at least right enough about Obama there. The Republican machine didn’t generate the ongoing deluge of anti-Obama bile until they realized they were going to be stuck with him for a while.

However, Barack Obama has proved to be an inordinately inept president. Most of what he has done wrong could be summed up with the phrase “bargaining with himself,”  and the rest by the verb "dither" Bargaining and dithering led to a weaker Obamacare plan than we might have had otherwise.

Perhaps the President’s biggest mistake vis-à-vis Obamacare was to allow years to go by before implementation, giving the right wing a world of opportunity to stir up a hornet’s nest of opposition and weaken the plan. They have done both.

The President missed a great teaching moment, at the very beginning of his first term, when he failed to indict – or at least impugn – George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et al for lying us into a war in Iraq that cost a still-mounting-and-being-calculated fortune in American lives and treasure – and also weakening our resolve to engage in legitimate wars, when called for. Mr. Obama wanted to make nice-nice with thugs and crazy people. Did it work? As you may have noticed, nobody in Washington has sat around the camp fire singing kumbaya since the President was elected. Or before then, for that matter.

Since late in the 20th Century, effective presidents have had the courage, or perhaps the unmitigated gall, to seize initiatives first and ask for authorizations later. Certainly in an age of missile technology and surprise attack warfare – from Pearl Harbor to 9-11 – a U.S. President who admirably but foolishly stands in the middle of the highway and calls for a Congressional consensus before taking action is likely to get knocked down, run over and squashed flat by the onrush of history. Such is the case with Mr. Obama.

Moreover, he speaks and acts authentically, from his heart rather than from cold calculations. This is an admirable trait in a friend but a liability for an American president. If an enemy is using poison gas and you want to destroy that capability, do so without dithering, and without making fruitless appeals to the UN and then to Congress. Fussing and diddling with the niceties only gives the enemy an opportunity to bury or otherwise hide the offending goods. This makes the attempt to destroy the enemy’s poison gas capabilities – if the effort ever comes – more of an exercise in futility.

In retrospect, had Mr. Obama spent eight or a dozen years in the Congress, preferably on committees related to defense and diplomacy, and eight or so years in a senior government administration job – Secretary of State, governor of a state, mayor of a major city – he would have been better prepared for what faces the Presidency in every administration.

As for domestic policy, the president has compromised the nation’s economic future, not with his admirable push for healthcare, but by his compromising on a national economic stimulus when it was needed; and by his acquiescence to financial austerity, which is still not needed. We could have full employment and a growing middle class in America again if the Preisdent were willing to fight Congress tooth-and-nail and pour the bucks into the economy.

Instead, we have a president dithering while the world burns and the American economy coughs and sputters. His inexperience has cost him – and all of us – prestige and power in the world, and social advances at home.

His push for national healthcare was a great and important thing, and bore some fruit, albeit shriveled fruit. His halfway measures on the economy were better than nothing. This is not a failed presidency. It is a well-intentioned but mediocre one. The greatest mark Barack Obama  will leave will be for becoming the first Afro-American president of the United States. That achievement is certainly not to be belittled. Nor is Obamacare, no matter how wanting.

But how sad that he has been able to achieve so little beyond that.

September 10th addendum: The news late last night and this morning has Russia offering to act as sort of an intermediary in an attempt to secure Syria's gaseous WMD. If that works — and it's a very iffy if — the nation will perhaps have been spared direct military intervention in Syria and President Obama will look like a hero. Interestingly, if that works out, Vladimir Putin will be holding a huge chit from Barack Obama. One wonders how he'll cash it in. This is one of those times when I yearn for the ability to see into the future.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

"Screw you! I'm all right, Jack."

"It’s my business whether I sign it or not.” -Ken Burkhardt, Long Beach Township, New Jersey,  as quoted in The New York Times.

What the irate Mr. Burkhardt was huffing about was a request by the state of New Jersey to sign an easement that would allow dune construction on his property, to keep back floodwaters from a steadily rising ocean, protecting not only him, but also all his neighbors on the barrier island where he lives.

But no, Mr. Burkhardt, it's not just your own business. If you want to lose your home, feel free to call in a bulldozer and knock it down. But you have no right to knock down your neighbors' homes, and that is what you are tacitly doing when you try to prevent a dune wall that could save everyone from a flood.

This isn't just conjecture. The Times reports in the same article:
On the two barrier islands, the corps completed some dunes before Hurricane Sandy hit, and where there were dunes, the storm left relatively minor damage. Where there were not, homes — even many seemingly safely inland — were destroyed.
There was a time, Mr. Burkhardt, when neighbors looked out for neighbors. There was a time, Mr. Burkhardt, when Americans had a sense of decency that, among other things, placed the lives and property of their fellow citizens above your right to enjoy an unobstructed view of the ocean until such time as the ocean comes in and washes your home away – along with the homes of your hapless neighbors, who would would be better protected if you allowed the dune to be constructed.

Eventually, Mr. Burkhardt, the state will come in and exercise the right of eminent domain over your damned precious view. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy being a social pariah as much as you enjoy the sight of a breaking wave.

You are precisely what is wrong with this nation.