Monday, May 30, 2011

Who Will You Honor Today?

I think I will start with my grandfather who served as a combat engineer in the Pacific from 1942-1945. He lived from 1916 to 2008 and saw the country change and evolve in a dramatic way. He had more integrity than any person I have ever known. I'm thinking about you today, Pop. You will always be with me!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Between a Rock and a...Rock

In so many ways, the Republican Party is fucked. As I have wondered previously, what are they good at? And why do people vote for them? They don't really have any solutions for the myriad of challenges our country faces and seem to only be capable of harnessing fear, hate and anger. A recent article demonstrates the problem is much deeper than that.

I've been thinking along the same lines myself since Election Day 2008. In essence, the Republican Party is in the same disaster state today as it was nearly three years ago. I may have been naive back then when I predicted their demise (I must remember to never forget about paranoia, racism, and greed) and certainly premature but honestly, I think their days are numbered.

While it's true that they did win elections in 2010 which resulted in them taking back the House, the only reason they did was because of the Tea Party. Take them out of the equation and the Democrats win every election. Put them into the equation and they primary candidates that aren't far enough right...candidates that can't win a general election because the country simply isn't that far right. This is why I say the Republicans are fucked.

This problem was illustrated quite clearly in the recent special election in NY-26. A Democratic victory in a district that has been largely a Republican stronghold for over 150 years. How did this happen? Blame Paul Ryan and his plan to privatize Medicare which further illustrates the fucked-ness of the GOP. Ryan's plan has now become a litmus test for conservatives. If you don't support it, your ass is going to be primaried by the only reason the GOP has a pulse...the Tea Party. Yet if you do support it, say goodbye to 70 percent of the voters. So, it's not really a rock and a hard place. It's a rock and a rock. Because the only way out of their dilemma is to admit that their party is, quite literally, over.

And we all know their track record on admitting defeat.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Still More Epic Success

Further proof that our government bailing out GM worked beyond expectations was seen in April's sales figures. In fact, all three automakers in Detroit showed faster growth than Toyota and other Japanese brands. High gas prices helped GM which sold more of its hybrid vehicles.

In April, GM sold 18 percent more vehicles than Ford. GM's market share through four months this year is 19.6 percent, up from 18.7 percent last year while Ford's market share has fallen to 16.2 percent from 16.7 percent. Toyota's share is 14.1 percent, from 15.4 percent a year ago.

In addition to all of this good news for GM, the company has begun to hire back thousands of employees that it laid off with plans for expansion on the horizon. Check out this video.

Listen to the stories of the people in this piece. Not only does this demonstrate the remarkable comeback of GM but it shows why we did it in the first place. People's lives would've been ruined in an industry with so many interlocking mechanisms, not to mention that GM (from a PR standpoint) is the United States, that ordinary bankruptcy would've been colossally devastating. Considering that GM's GNI/Revenues rank higher than several countries in the world, bailing them out was a very smart thing to do.

And we see every day that it was an epic success.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Apocalypse Not

Whew. Another apocalypse has been averted.

Harold Camping, who--the media must point out in every article about him--was once a civil engineer, predicted that on May 21st at 6:00 PM the world would be inundated by earthquakes, floods and all manner of calamities, and that all the faithful would be assumed bodily into heaven by the Rapture.

The Rapture apparently didn't happen. A couple days after the appointed date, Camping explained that May 21st was actually an "invisible judgment day" to separate the faithful from the non-faithful, and that God had given us more time to prepare for the actual physical apocalypse that will really-really-really-no-doubt-about-it take place on October 21st.

All in all, a pretty lame explanation. Did Camping suddenly find a footnote in Revelations about invisible apocalypses that he missed the first thousand times he read the bible?

A better and more honest explanation would have been that the Rapture did take place, and that Camping and all his followers were left behind because of their hubris. But alas, that was one Revelation not forthcoming.

People like Camping have been around forever. And suckers have flocked to them. This time thousands of people spent their hard-earned dollars paying for billboards around the world announcing the apocalypse. Camping's radio ministry has taken in millions of dollars of donations in the run up to the non-apocalypse. When asked whether he would give back those donations Camping said he didn't see any reason why he should. I guess incorrect apocalypse predictions are non-refundable.

Camping expressed the same level of confidence in his October 21st prediction as he did in his May 21st prediction, and no doubt in his 1994 prediction. The question is, why do people fall for guys like this? And continue to fall for his nonsense even after he's been proved wrong multiple times?

How is Camping any different than Jim Jones, David Koresh or Marshall Applewhite? (Applewhite was the founder of the Heaven's Gate cult, and one of the 39 of who committed suicide in 1997 so that they could be assumed into heaven by the spaceship trailing after comet Hale-Bopp.) Sure, Camping doesn't advocate suicide. But many of his followers are despondent and out a lot of money. Camping has ruined many lives.

Camping's not the only prophet to outlive Judgment Day. The Jehovah's Witnesses have prophesied Armageddon numerous times. When Doomsday failed to arrive in 1914 the Witnesses said that they had screwed up, and what had really happened was that Christ had just become King of Heaven. I guess God wanted to retire and take it easy once WWI started?

We can be sure that come October 22nd Camping will have yet another lame excuse for why the world didn't end. Maybe he'll kick the can down the road 40 days, or five months, or another year and give us another solid date. But more likely, he will say that his calculations were flawed. That you can't accurately sync the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar and modern Gregorian solar calendar. That his leap months and leap days got messed up. That it's impossible to affix an actual date to Noah's flood. In the end, he will say that he doesn't know exactly when Armageddon will come, only that it'll be "soon" and only God can know the true date.

If it was just Camping and his brand of nuttiness, that would be one thing. But it's not. A large segment of the American population believes that the End Times are near. Many Republicans believe the founding of the modern Jewish state heralds the second coming of Christ and the destruction of the world as we know it. That's not just an odd quirk of faith.

These beliefs cause us to make foreign policy decisions in the Middle East that are not in the best interests of the United States, but instead further a misguided religious agenda. Believing that the world will end soon lets you ignore serious problems like global warming, environmental degradation, overpopulation, and declining natural resources. Because if God will kill all the non-believers and repopulate the cleansed earth with the newly resurrected Chosen Few, you don't need to worry about running out of oil, or poisoning our water supplies with toxic fracking compounds.

The thing is, people have always thought the world would end any day now. In some Christian teachings the world was originally supposed to end at the millennium. The first millennium, 1011 years ago. And you can be damned sure they thought the world was ending when the Black Death killed half the population of Europe in the 14th century. But, inexplicably, here we are, centuries later, still kicking.

Really, what's the difference between modern-day prophets like Camping and L. Ron Hubbard and relatively recent -- and still controversial -- religious figures like the Jehovah's Witnesses' Charles Taze Russell and the Mormons' Joseph Smith? And what's the difference between guys like Russell and Smith and venerated figures such as Mohammed, the writer of Revelations, Jesus, Siddhartha Gautama and Moses?

Between 1400 and 3000 years, give or take a few centuries.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Picking On Liz

I suppose it was inevitable that Elizabeth Warren, the defacto head of the new consumer protection agency in the government, would get attacked by Republicans. What I'm trying to figure out is why. Since I know many of you hate her immediately and the very idea of the CPFB, I am curious as to what I know will be your firm and unyielding convictions.

Now, I am already aware that some of you feel that she is going to come to your homes, take away your guns, and forcibly take the fruits of your labors to fund brown shirt factories and reeducation camps. No need to go over that point. What is perplexing me is this: after all that has come out about the massive amount of fraud that led directly to the 2008 financial crisis, why would you not want the government to regulate these guys? More importantly, why on earth would you vote for a republican (nose holding or not) like Patrick McHenry who seeks to continue this fraud? It makes no sense to me whatsoever.

The whole point of the CPFB is to streamline the regulatory process. It's the first step in undoing the Wall Street government that we currently have. It has to happen because we can't keep going through this cycle every few years. This is the global economy we are talking about not a fucking casino.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stopping the Next Bubble

Over the last couple of months my colleague has been writing about why the rich are different. That is, how they can make money in ways that are impossible for mere mortals based on their connections and preexisting -- often inherited -- wealth.

In a recent column, Joe Nocera gives a great example of one of those ways that Mark mentioned: stock IPOs. Nocera wrote about LinkedIn's recent IPO:

[LinkedIn] had hired Morgan Stanley and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch division to manage the I.P.O. process. After gauging market demand — which is what they’re paid to do — the investment bankers priced the shares at $45. The 7.84 million shares it sold raised $352 million for the company. For this, the bankers were paid 7 percent of the deal as their fee.

For a small company with less than $16 million in profits last year, $352 million in the bank sounds pretty wonderful, doesn’t it? But it really wasn’t wonderful at all. When LinkedIn’s shares started trading on the New York Stock Exchange, they opened not at $45, or anywhere near it. The opening price was $83 a share, some 84 percent higher than the I.P.O. price. By the time the clock had struck noon, the stock had vaulted to more than $120 a share, before settling down to $94.25 at the market’s close. The first-day gain was close to 110 percent.

Who was able to buy those shares at $45 and immediately turn around and sell them at $120? The rich and the powerful favored customers of Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. If you had $10,000 or $20,000 you wanted to invest in a block of LinkedIn stock you would have been out of luck--those brokers won't even consider giving you access to an IPO.

They actually have rules that supposedly protect small investors with insufficient assets from participating in such offerings because they are "risky." I know this because my wife and I have been in on IPOs in the past, and we had to be vetted in order to participate. It's all about who you know and how much money you spend with the broker.

This really calls into question the purpose and even the utility of the stock market. Ostensibly stock exists in order for companies to attract investors so that they can get money to grow their business and recoup their original investment costs.

But LinkedIn didn't make anywhere near as much money as some of the people who bought their stock for $45 and immediately flipped it, some for as much as three times what they paid for it. The people who do all the actual work are getting stiffed.

Once a share is sold the company never sees another nickel from it. Too often shareholders are only interested in driving the price up so that they can sell it: they don't give a whit about what the company is doing, or whether it is really viable. Shareholders often demand CEOs do things just to raise the stock price, even though they harm the ability of the company to do its work (like the ever-popular ritual laying off the employees). They just want to cash out as soon as possible to flip the next IPO.

For that reason stock market profits should be taxed at regular rates -- not the ultra-low capital gains rate -- unless you're selling IPO stock more than a year after you bought it. Buying stock from someone who just bought it from another guy is not a real investment--it's just flipping. However, income from dividends and bond interest really are investments and should get long-term capital gains treatment.

The worst thing about the LinkedIn deal is that this kind of stock trading causes bubbles, like the tech bubble that burst in the late nineties. Is LinkedIn stock worth anywhere near $94 or $120 a share? Of course not. Just like Yahoo was never worth what people paid for it, and most of the other tech stocks that traders ran the price up on in order to flip them. Google is another stock that's overvalued, but Google at least has some substance behind all the hype: its search engine business is legit and the Android operating system has become the foundation for millions of cell phones and tablets.

These days the bulk of stock trades are made by computers that make decisions based on minuscule fluctuations on the scale of microseconds. This computer trading was the cause of last year's flash crash.

Computer trading has a lot in common with the "quantitative analysis" that brought us the credit default swaps and other crazy investment vehicles that tanked the economy in 2008. These schemes use mathematics and computer programming to take responsibility, human decision making and common sense out of the equation in order to make money ever faster out of thin air.

That's why a transaction fee should be levied on every stock trade. Republicans in Congress are complaining about high taxes and are threatening to cut funding to the very regulatory agencies that should have stopped the banks' foolhardy investment vehicles. These agencies were already understaffed during the Bush administration; cutting back on them now would be a colossal error.

A transaction fee would be the best way to put the expense of regulation on the companies that are most likely to cause the next crash, as well as put a damper on the riskiest and most egregious financial transactions.

High-speed computer trading has the potential to bring the entire world economy crashing down in an outright depression. This is one technological innovation best nipped in the bud before it gets out of control.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes...

I have found quite a few of your statements regarding the Constitution of the United States, the quality of public school education and general U.S. civics matters to be factually incorrect, inaccurately applied or grossly distorted.

The above statement is a perfect illustration of why I no longer post on Kevin Baker's site nor (for the most part) engage people who seek to have their paranoid fantasies legitimized. Kevin, along with his merry band of sycophants, are completely and utterly defined by the statement above. The fact that it was made by a tenth grade girl in a letter addressed to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann makes it terribly ironic considering Kevin's one note samba about our nation's schools.

Sadly, though, where Amy Myers (the author of the statement above) has failed in her educational pursuits is what the people who she is criticizing are capable of doing. Take a look at this.

"A lot of them are calling me a whore," 16-year-old Amy Myers said, referring to anonymous comments reacting to online news reports about her challenge to the 55-year-old Minnesota congresswoman.

Amy and Wayne Myers said the comments on conservative websites alarmed them most. Several commenters threatened to publish the Myers' home address.

Others threatened violence, including rape, they said.

"I got a call from the principal that the main office received threatening mail," said the computer programmer and single father.

I wish I could say I'm surprised but I'm not. This is the place you go to when you are a True Believer. Amy, like many students across the country, represent what the right fears the most: critical thinkers. She needs to understand that they will react like this because it threatens their continued relevancy. This is why the drumbeat from the right has continually been that education is filled with socialists/communists/fascists that want to brainwash our children (B to the W-I wonder if any of them can tell the difference any more between the three).

Because the truth is that the right is attempting to do their own version of brainwashing which naturally leads them to the perception bias that current educators are doing the same. Further (and Kevin is fantastic example of this), they never stop to think and reflect that maybe many children like Amy won't listen to their warped view of history, civics, and education because it's simply "factually incorrect, inaccurately applied, or grossly distorted." Why are they incapable of seeing this? Because when you strip all the paranoia, hate, and anger away all the only conviction they truly have is their own vanity.

I hope that Amy realizes all of this as she moves forward in her life. Although being a confident and intelligent student of history, she need only look at the threats of intimidation and violence that occurred in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s for insight as to what happens when you challenge the Tea Party "goddess" (also ironic when you consider the cries about Obama's brown shirts but that's just another example of perception bias again).

Oh, and no response as of yet from Congresswoman Bachmann's office as to whether or not she will accept Amy's challenge.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Prayers

Well, things were certainly interesting at the State Capital on Friday. Bradlee Dean, a controversial pastor from our state, delivered the morning prayer. In it, he said that "Jesus Christ was the head of his denomination as every president up until 2008 has acknowledged. And we pray it in Jesus' name." Dean has also been known to say that homosexuals should be jailed and/or executed.

First of all let me say that anyone named Brad who spells their name like that should be completely ignored. Last in Line and I have often wondered why parents choose to spell their children's names in the most ridiculous ways. Can't they just let their personality's demonstrate how different they are from the other Brads, Toms, Janes, and Marys? Imagine if my name were spelled Mahrq. Or Nmarc...with the silent "N" at the beginning. What the fuck is the matter with people? And I thought hyphenating last names was bad.

Dean's prayer couldn't have come at a better time, though. I think our state needs to see how truly despicable the supporters are of the gay marriage ban amendment. The amendment did pass today and will be on the ballot in 2012. I say...FANTASTIC! Polls in the state have shown that more will vote against it and polls nation wide have flipped over the years to show that most people support the right for gay people to marry than do not. Honestly, this is just a political stunt to get the fag haters out to vote against President Obama next year.

The election is a ways off but the trend shows that more and more people are supporting gay couples marrying every day. The political and economic power behind the support for gay marriage is going to build over the next 17 months and I think the supporters of the ban are going to be in for a very rude awakening come election time.

Perhaps at that time we can dispense with this bull shit and focus on more important matters like...oh...I don't know....the economy, education, climate change, security, know, the little things...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thoughts On The Speech?

President Obama certainly stirred up a shit storm this week with his "Arab Spring" speech. Israel denounced his call to return to the pre 1967 borders for land swaps as detrimental to its security even though Netanyahu (currently heavily engaged in the finest example of the two level game I have seen in a while) said the same thing himself earlier this week in a speech to the Knesset. Both Hamas and the PLO denounced it as "throwing dust in the eyes of Palestinians" and a slap in the face to their people.

All of this tells me he's basically on the right track:)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Newt's Swan Song?

When New Gingrich first appeared on the national scene in the early Nineties I kind of liked him. He was a proponent of space exploration at a time when the nation on the whole was backing away from it, and that endeared him to me. He wasn't your typical nitwit concerned with only mundane political and economic matters: he could see a bigger picture.

But Newt Gingrich's personal life and career have been a long, sad story of deceit and distortion. He presented his first wife with divorce papers when she was in the hospital. He carried on a full-blown affair with an aide during the Clinton impeachment hearings. He engineered the Republican resurgence in the House during the Clinton administration, in part by providing careful advice on how best to smear your opponent in speeches and commercials.

Recently he justified cheating on his second wife by claiming that he was working so hard and so patriotically that he was practically forced to have sex with his aide. I suppose it was patriotism that forced him to help prop up the economy by buying between quarter and half a million dollars worth of jewelry from Tiffany's.

And then this twice-divorced weasel had the gall to convert to Catholicism. I would give almost any other person the benefit of the doubt on this one. But I know that this was just another cynical political ploy for Newt. The man seems to be a psychopath -- very intelligent, but without any shame or empathy for other human beings.

So it's rather ironic that a man who has spent his entire life lying, cheating and smearing should be taken down by telling the truth. According to this CBS News report, when Gingrich appeared on Meet the Press he said:
"I'm against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change," Gingrich told NBC's David Gregory. "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering... I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate."
The reaction from Republican quarters has been scathing. But Newt quickly returned to form, saying:
Any ad which quotes what I said Sunday is a falsehood. I have said publicly those words were inaccurate and unfortunate. And I'm prepared to stand up, when I make a mistake – and I'm going to on occasion – I want to stand up and share with the American people that was a mistake, because that way we can have an honest conversation.
In essence, Newt is saying, "I screwed up -- I told the truth." He wants a complete do-over, to take back everything he said, as if he could put another quarter in a video game and get three more lives.

Newt is a smart guy. That's why his particular brand of hypocrisy galls me more than most Republicans. When Michele Bachmann says something stupid and mendacious, it's because she doesn't really know what she's talking about.

But when Newt says something stupid and mendacious, he knows full well he's lying. You can see it in his face and his body language. He has that coy little smile, like a ten-year-old kid who thinks he just got away with shoplifting a copy of Playboy.

Why was Newt so uncharacteristically candid and honest on Meet the Press? Perhaps he thought he could attract the political center and the elderly, who have been reacting very negatively to the Ryan plan. Newt needs those voters desperately, because any evangelical family-values Republican could not possibly support this two- and three-timing cheater with a clear conscience.

Why was the Republican reaction to Newt's sudden burst of honesty so vitriolic? They know the Ryan plan for Medicare is a non-starter and will cost them big in the next election if they continue to push it . But like any organized criminal enterprise, the whole thing falls apart if there is no loyalty. As soon as one member of a gang starts spilling the beans, the whole thing falls apart. The Republican Party has been built on a scaffolding of lies for decades now (trickle-down economics, WMDs in Iraq, all regulation and all government is bad).

We can only hope that other Republicans will finally admit what Newt has really been all along, and that he will drop out of the race as precipitously as that other self-promoting, lying hypocrite, Donald Trump.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More Of This

Check out this story.

Don't you think we need a lot more of this in our country today?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Will It Happen?

Well, now it's up to government prosecutors. The case has been perfectly laid out by the Senate subcommittee on Investigations in their 650 report entitled Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse. As Matt Taibbi recently put it in his latest magnum opus,

We now know exactly what Goldman Sachs executives like Lloyd Blankfein and Daniel Sparks lied about. We know exactly how they and other top Goldman executives, including David Viniar and Thomas Montag, defrauded their clients. America has been waiting for a case to bring against Wall Street. Here it is, and the evidence has been gift-wrapped and left at the doorstep of federal prosecutors, evidence that doesn't leave much doubt: Goldman Sachs should stand trial.

Their unusually scathing bipartisan report also includes case studies of Washington Mutual and Deutsche Bank, providing a panoramic portrait of a bubble era that produced the most destructive crime spree in our history — "a million fraud cases a year" is how one former regulator puts it.

They broke the law. They should all go to fucking jail. Period. They are the reason why we have the economy we do today. For those of you who are still in doubt, the links I have provided have detailed information. I understand if you don't have the time to read the entire 650 page report but the executive summary is only 15 pages long. And Taibi's piece is a great wrap up to his work on this story-one of the biggest in our country's history.

The question now is...will anyone do anything about it? Or will we continue to worship the financial sector of this country and let them get away with it?

Being the cynic and sad pessimist that I am, I'm not holding out any hope. Our government's neutering may be too far gone thanks to the true believers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More Than A Toe

Last week, President Obama stuck his toe into the water of the immigration debate. Not much happened largely because he needs to stick in more than a toe. I realize that there are other things going on in our country that, on the surface, appear to require more of his attention but this issue relates to many important aspects of our society.

As Jim Manzi wrote in his epic piece, "Keeping America's Edge," we need to look at the immigration issue from the standpoint of human capital. To begin with, we can't simply deport millions of undocumented workers and their children. It would be crushing to our economy (particularly the food industry) not to mention the really awful PR. Imagine train loads of Mexicans being shipped back to a country that already has crushing poverty and violence. Truly, a terrible idea.

But granting them amnesty, however, could increase revenue without raising taxes on most Americans. More importantly, making it easier for people to immigrate to this country means we can stay competitive in the global economy. As of right now, we are in a unipolar world with America being the central power. But that is changing and part of the reason for this is valuable human capital living elsewhere in the world (see: India and China). We need to encourage them to stay here.

All of this starts, however, with protecting and securing the borders, right? Let's take a look at how President Obama has done on that since he took office.

As of April 9, 2011, we have 20,759 border patrol agents in this country with 17, 659 stationed in the southwest. That's up from 17,499 border patrol agents at the end of September 2008, four months before Obama took office (an 18 percent increase).Singling out just the border patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border, the number has increased from 15,422 to 17,659 (a 14 percent increase).

In 2004, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created, reorganizing several federal agencies under a single roof. That year, the agency had 10,500 agents to patrol land borders. That number now stands at nearly 21,000. In the aftermath of 9-11, President Bush beefed up security along the border so he deserves the credit for starting this increase. President Obama continued it and, in the proposed 2012 budget calls for increasing the the number of border patrol agents to 21,370.

President Obama has also increased the number of deportation of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. Deportation has to be a focused effort as President Obama has detailed.

But I want to emphasize we’re not doing it haphazardly. We’re focusing our limited resources and people on violent offenders and people convicted of crimes -- not just families, not just folks who are just looking to scrape together an income. And as a result, we’ve increased the removal of criminals by 70 percent.

That's where the complexity of this issue needs to be managed and he is doing a great job of it.
According to data provided by the Department of Homeland Security, the number of illegal immigrants "removed" rose about 6 percent -- from 369,221 to 392,862 -- between the end of September 2008 (four months before Obama took office) and the end of September 2010. But a much larger percentage of those deported were convicted criminals. In 2008, 31 percent were criminals; but by 2010, the percentage jumped to 50 percent. The raw number of convicted criminals who were deported went from 114,415 in 2008 to 195,772 in 2010. That's 71 percent. 

Data for the first half of the 2011 fiscal year (which began at the end of September) suggests that trend is continuing, with about 52 percent of the deportations involving convicted criminals. And that's just where the focus should be-the violent offenders. On securing and protecting the borders, we are doing a better job and that is because of President Obama's policies.

So what does that leave? We need to embrace the the people we have here who are not violent offenders and integrate them into our economy, The DREAM act is a good start but we need to go further. There are 11 million undocumented workers in this country-the vast majority of which are simply trying to live a better life. If we grant them amnesty and put these people into our economy, we'd help ourselves out in a number of ways.We'd strengthen businesses and add revenue to city, state and federal governments.

More importantly, the "soft power" aspect of this policy would attract Manzi's much needed human capital from the rest of the world so we can keep pace with China and India-the two countries who are showing us every day that we are heading towards a multipolar world.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fucking. Brilliant.

Many of us, at one time or another, has had a person come up to them on the street and say something crazy. "The universe is white" was something I got recently. I made the silly mistake of engaging that person and asking how exactly the universe was white. About five minutes of gibberish later, I quickly extracted myself from the situation and moved on to the pub.

As I began to sip my first pint moments later, I realized that what had just happened was a perfect illustration of a major fault of nearly all on the left. When they engage the paranoid fantasies of the right, they elevate the insanity to the point of relevance and, more importantly, the mainstream. And most of it these days isn't fucking relevant. Hell, it isn't even factual and is quite often infantile. Yet Democrats feel the need to respond, playing constant defense, and somehow whatever bit of bullshit was squirted out becomes part of the lexicon.

"Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme" is one of such example of this childish dishonesty. "Mark =Brave Sir Robin" is another. Obviously, the next step after the former statement is "Social Security is responsible for 90 percent of the abortions that go on in this country." The latter statement, after a recent review of the Back to the Future movies, reminded me of the exchanges between Needles and Marty. Classic adolescent bullying.

So what does the left need to do? This:

Dear Representative Bachmann,
My name is Amy Myers. I am a Cherry Hill, New Jersey sophomore attending Cherry Hill High School East. As a typical high school student, I have found quite a few of your statements regarding The Constitution of the United States, the quality of public school education and general U.S. civics matters to be factually incorrect, inaccurately applied or grossly distorted. The frequency and scope of these comments prompted me to write this letter.

Though I am not in your home district, or even your home state, you are a United States Representative of some prominence who is subject to national media coverage. News outlets and websites across this country profile your causes and viewpoints on a regular basis. As one of a handful of women in Congress, you hold a distinct privilege and responsibility to better represent your gender nationally. The statements you make help to serve an injustice to not only the position of Congresswoman, but women everywhere. Though politically expedient, incorrect comments cast a shadow on your person and by unfortunate proxy, both your supporters and detractors alike often generalize this shadow to women as a whole.

Rep. Bachmann, the frequent inability you have shown to accurately and factually present even the most basic information about the United States led me to submit the follow challenge, pitting my public education against your advanced legal education:

I, Amy Myers, do hereby challenge Representative Michele Bachmann to a Public Forum Debate and/or Fact Test on The Constitution of the United States, United States History and United States Civics.

Hopefully, we will be able to meet for such an event, as it would prove to be enlightening.

Sincerely yours,
Amy Myers

Way to go, Amy! First of all, I'd like to congratulate her civics instructor. Whoever they are, they are fucking brilliant and clearly did a good job on the enduring understanding front. Second, this is an excellent illustration of playing offense AND not managing fantasies. It's straight to the point and puts a direct challenge out there in a public forum. Can you imagine what this debate would be like?

Obviously, it's never going to happen. Ms. Bachmann would be destroyed if she did it. By not doing it, she'll have to put up with that childish gnawing from her own ideological camp of being "chicken" but that's an easier pill to swallow. Better that than have your entire psychotic narrative be displayed for all its falsehood.

As is often the case with me, I stand humbled by a student's brilliance. I think I'm going to take a page out of Amy's book as should we all. In fact, I'm hoping that Amy engages the many Constitutional fantasists on the right in whatever career she chooses. But none of this is even the best part...

Students like Amy prove that our eduction system, though flawed and in need of improvement, does actually produce people that are very skilled in knowledgeable in matters of civics and much so that they are willing to take on a sitting US Congress person on the subject of the United States Constitution. The example of Amy essentially torpedoes the Bircher notion that communists have taken over our school system. Her letter is demonstrative of the many students who won't coddle paranoia.

I should know. I see them every day.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Coming Back Gently

I'm going to put up some smaller posts until I feel comfortable that Blogger has its head out of its buttocks. Here's a story that from file of links that I save for post ideas.

Six Most Generous Nations: US Ties For Fifth

Really? I thought we were the most generous nation on Earth helping everyone else out while running up our debt. Turns out we aren't. Switzerland is tied with us with Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia rounding out the Top Five. Ireland strikes me as an odd one. With all of their financial problems, more people donate there than they do here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

WTF, Blogger?

As most of you already know, Blogger has been down for the better part of two days. I'm just throwing this post up to see if things go well with comments etc and then (hopefully) we can be back to regular posting again soon. Feel free to use this post for anything you want to bitch about or cheerlead.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Check out this article in the latest CSM.

Arizona's conservative politics – and Phoenix's dominant role – lead some in Tucson to call for secession. It's a divide that dates back to the 1800s.

Isn't that where Kevin Baker, the "classically liberal" steward of The Smallest Minority lives?

While I see nothing actually coming from this, I can't help but chuckle at the tiniest possibility that it might happen. He'd be trapped!! In a sea of  Democrats...with all those warm and wonderful laws that once comforted him like the best blankie ever a mere county away in Maricopa...

(Jim Kirk voice)....Poison Gas....(gasp)...Can't breathe....

Folks, we just might have to place a call to JSOC for an extraction.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This Guy Is the Shiznit

I found a new blog I plan on making a daily stop. Jim Wright is money. Period.

The part about this post that struck me was this:

Blowhard: Yeah. Whatever. We got him. It only took twenty years, it’s time for Barry to quit grandstanding. Gas is five dollars out in the Valley! (speaking of football, who just moved the goalposts? Zoinks! It’s weird old Mr Jenkins, the airport maintenance man!)

Dude: Exactly! It’s five dollars! When’s Oblamo going to do something about that? (And I’d have gotten away with it to, if it wasn’t for you rotten kids!)

Me: So, you guys are communists then?

Dude: (looks at me like I said “gay” instead of “communist”)

Blowhard: (looks at me like I just said “gay liberal vegetarian tree-hugging evolutionist who gives $5 hummers at the truck stop” instead of commie.”)

Me: Because, you know, that’s what it is when the government controls the price of stuff. Marxism. (Rut roe, Shaggy!)

Blowhard: The president can lower the price of gas if he wants to! He just doesn’t want to.

Me: Again, I don’t think you understand the concept of a free market. You’re saying that the president sets the price of commodities like gasoline? I’m pretty sure that’s not how capitalism works.

Yep, that's not how it works. Yet, President Obama is still getting the blame for high gas prices. My question is why. As has been said many times on here, the president and the government should not be running the economy. That's the job of the free market, right? To take care of itself. But when it doesn't, do the oil companies get the blame? The financial sector? Nope. The government does. It always gets the blame and rarely gets the credit. What a load of shit.

I've also been told several times on here that the president can't do much about the economy. If that's the case as well, again, why is he getting the blame? Why should we even talk about his economic policies?


I'm nearly certain this is how some see it!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Well Done, Sir!

This is my state representative, Steve Simon. I have never been prouder of an elected official in my life. Sexuality and sexual orientation are indeed gifts from God. VERY well done, Steve!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

What Are You Good At and Why?

Starting today, I'm going to ask two questions. These questions will continue to be asked for quite some time I imagine because I'm fairly certain the responses will be childishly dishonest.

For those of you who are Republican, what exactly are you good at and why are you a Republican? As the clip below demonstrates, I think the people of America deserve an answer. Now, I know that some of my regular readers are not Republicans and loathe them as much as they loathe Democrats (although they still vote Republican which makes me question their integrity). I'm not necessarily asking you. I'm asking the card carrying members of the GOP. If your two main strengths are fiscal responsibility and national security and you have demonstrated incompetence in both, why should people vote Republican?

My initial thought was abortion but the GOP had the presidency and both houses of Congress from 2003-2007 and did nothing except pass a law protecting Teri Schiavo. I suppose the GOP is doing a great job of restraining us from moving forward on alternative forms of energy so, if you are a big oil person, that would be a reason. And, as Bill says below, paranoia, greed and racism are all fun so there's that...

But really, I don't get it. Seriously. I'm not trying to be obnoxious. In looking at what the GOP has done for the last ten years, can one truly say that they even been competent? Bill Clinton left office with a budget surplus. The spending and tax cuts of the Bush years coupled with the lack of attention to Wall Street nearly brought us to fiscal ruin. It's the reason why our debt is so high today. Related to that is their failure on issues of national security which not only cost us trillions of dollars but ultimately didn't really do the job.

So, watch this clip and try to help me understand what Republicans are good at and why people are still Republicans.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Putting Some Things To Bed

Let's put a few things to bed on this beautiful Friday, shall we?

First, let's examine the information we have thus far as to whether waterboarding led to Osama bin Laden.

Hassan Ghul, a Pakistani born detainee, was subjected to some EITs (sleep deprivation, slapping, nudity) and gave up the name of the courier. He was not waterboarded.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi gave false information about the courier after they were waterboarded repeatedly. Months later, during routine questioning, KSM still gave false information about the courier. It was these lies that raised the suspicions of the investigators and set them on a course towards doing the bulk of the effort which was (ahem) police work. Thank you, John Kerry.

I know you guys simply must win the argument on every discussion and continually be "right" but, as of this moment, I see nothing to convince me that "waterboarding worked and that's why we caught bin Laden." Grow the fuck up.

Speaking of growing up, bin Lade is dead. It has now been confirmed by the people who lived at the compound AND Al Qaeda. We don't need to see his body nor use it as a warning. The Navy Seals were warning enough. The last thing I would want to do is tell the father, mother, wife, husband, son, daughter of a member of our armed forces that their loved one was killed because of an attack resulting from release of the death photo.

More importantly, the non release of the death photo does not mean he is secretly alive. If he was, don't you think he'd be making us look foolish by parading around the airwaves? In addition, he hasn't been secretly dead since 2001 either. President Bush would not have kept that a secret as it would've certainly helped him during his administration.

So, enough with the silliness, folks. Let's focus on using the intel that we now have to hunt down the rest of these guys. It looks to me like they wanted to attempt something on the tenth anniversary this year with trains. I wonder what else bin Laden's hard drive will reveal?:)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

He Won

The more I think about it, the more I realize that those of you who say that it's not President Obama's skin that is the problem are actually right. It's not the fact that he's black. It's that he won. And continues to win.

Take a look at two recent Facebook cut-and-pastes that have been making the rounds.

Let's be clear on this: OBAMA did NOT kill Bin Laden. An American soldier, who Obama just a few weeks ago was debating on whether or not to PAY, did. Obama just happened to be the one in office when our soldiers finally found Bin Laden and took him out. This is NOT an Obama victory, but an AMERICAN victory.


A HUGE THANK YOU to our military, who have sacrificed, died, suffered, and worked hard, to fight people like Osama Bin Laden. YOU are the ones we thank. YOU are the ones who deserve ALL CREDIT. Thank a soldier for bringing due justice for those lost on 9/11 and all the victims around the world who suffered from his commands. Copy and paste if you agree....

Ah, childish dishonesty. There really is no finer example. Peel this back a layer (wafer thin) and one can easily see that they are pissed off that he succeeded.

When you tout yourself as the party of fiscal responsibility and national security and then go on to fail miserably at both, this is what you are left with in the end.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Drill Baby Dr-hey, waitaminute!

Yeah, it's great that we got bin Laden but how about those gas prices? Not allowing any sort of victory for the Obama administration, the GOP and pundits are moving on to the soaring gas prices we see around our country. They are right about one thing: gas prices are high. After that, they are pretty much wrong about the rest of it.

Their solution is domestic drilling and they fault the Democrats for not allowing it to happen. If we drilled more here, they say, prices would go down and all would be well and good. As is often the case, they are completely full of shit. Here's why.

Take a look at this graph.

The blue line shows the average price of gas in the United States. The red line shows the average price of gas in Canada. The green line is the price of crude oil. Canada is a net exporter of oil meaning they export more oil than they consume. They export around 3.3 million barrels a day and consume 2.2 million barrels a day. So, even with their abundance of oil and smaller population, they still have higher prices than we do. In other words, drilling and keeping more of their own oil hasn't helped them at all. They still pay more for gas.

So why are gas prices so high and why can't drilling help us? To put it simply, that's the marketplace for oil. Whatever extra we would produce would be insignificant in comparison to what the world consumes. In addition, OPEC would likely cut production to match what we were producing.

"This drill drill drill thing is tired," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, which calculates gas prices for the motorist organization AAA. "It's a simplistic way of looking for a solution that doesn't exist."

Simplistic indeed...almost as if a child came up with it.

It's pretty clear to me what needs to happen. The first thing we need to do is unshackle ourselves from the global marketplace. This can be done with new forms of energy. Unfortunately, one party is stomping their feet and acting like a red faced bully on this one. The second thing we need to do is reveal that the oil industry is gauging prices. That's why I'm happy to report that President Obama is looking into this issue. In fact, I think this investigation should be on the same level as Harry Truman's quest to eliminate fraud and price gauging in the defense industry. Ending oil subsidies for oil companies should also be part of this.

Finally, we need to simply stop buying gas. Easier said than done, I know, but it is a way that the free market can fix this with less demand. I've made a conscious effort to not use as much gas. So has Last In Line. People need to adjust their behavior and maybe bike, walk or take a bus. Lord knows there are many Americans who could use the exercise.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

bin Laden Potpourri

I have several thoughts on the bin Laden story so I thought I would put them all into one post.

Pakistan-What up, bitch?

As I have been saying for several years on this blog, Pakistan is not our friend. Of course, this doesn't mean that we have to go off and attack them but this is a major embarrassment. Osama living in the lap of luxury for possibly 6 years? And right down the road from the military academy? I call bullshit.

If we want to seriously damage Al Qaeda, we need to get up Pakistan's ass with a fucking tweezers. No more aid, no more good times, no more pally-wally shit. It's clear that top Al Qaeda leaders are there. No doubt, this is where we will find Ayman al Zawahari who is now at the top of the most wanted list.

Treasure Chest!

More important than the killing of bin Laden is the intel that we gathered from the scene. We have Osama's hard drive and papers. Wow. This is an intelligence slam dunk. I wonder what information we will glean from it. This is the victory inside of the victory. Speaking of which...

"Obamateur" meme=Torpedoed.

Well, now what, ass hats? I guess my guy proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is all that. This was an extremely gutsy call. He could've just bombed the crap out of the base but opted for the high risk, high reward choice and succeeded brilliantly. Not only that, he managed to put the final pieces in place for this mission AND tour Alabama as well as visit the Cape.

He also showed he is a man of his word.

If We Have Actionable Intelligence About High-Value Terrorist Targets And President Musharraf Won't Act, We Will. (1 August 2007)


If the United States has al Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out. Now, I think that's the right strategy; I think that's the right policy. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority."(7 October 2008)

And done.

Of course, we are already hearing the cries that it was waterboarding that ultimately got bin Laden. Ah, the eight year old bullies who can never be wrong. There is not a shred of evidence to support this claim. Further, it was KSM duplicity (some time after being waterboarded) that led us to the name of the courier. After that, it was simply patience, dedication, and good intelligence work. I know you are trying desperately to find ways to be right and win the argument but you can't. Go peddle your masturbation snuff fantasies elsewhere.

Weird, dude.

Let's see...Hitler shot himself in his bunker on May 1, 1945....George Bush shot himself politically and declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq on May 1, 2003....Osama bin Laden was shot and killed (on the orders of President Obama) on May 1, 2011...


I'd say it's time that we let the adults handle the country for awhile...say another five years?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Got Him!

This blog started as an email list back in the days immediately following the September 11th attacks as a result of trying to make sense of them. Eventually, it became this blog in May of 2005. Throughout those times, I expressed a great deal of frustration at how Osama bin Laden got away at Tora Bora and was never caught.

Yesterday, thanks to our special forces under the direction of our president, we finally got him. Osama bin Laden is dead.

Man, I've waited a long time to write that sentence. Words cannot express how I feel right now. It's been a long ten years and in so many ways I am relieved.

One of the main reasons why I supported President Obama during the election of 2008 were his assertions that he would refocus efforts on Afghanistan and Pakistan. We saw that right away with the increased drone attacks inside of Pakistan. Now, we have seen that his strategy has paid off.

Apparently, the US received intelligence that bin Laden was at a compound outside of Islamabad last August. On Friday, that intelligence was confirmed and President Obama gave the go order. Late yesterday, our time, bin Laden was shot in the head and killed along with a couple of bodyguards. His body was secured and buried at sea.

The impromptu celebrations at the White House, Times Square, and the site of the World Trade Center warmed my heart. Although we quibble often in this country, at times like this we can see how united we truly are.

This is a major victory for all of us, folks. We should all be proud!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Republican Jesus

Most of you don't know this but I spent a fair amount of time avoiding Christianity. From about my sophomore year in high school until 20 years after that, I considered myself more of a polytheist. Right around 8 years ago, however, I realized that I didn't have to worship the Jesus that was being peddled to me by the right as being the "One True Jesus."

In other words, I stopped believing in Republican Jesus and believed in the one that the Bible states (clearly!) is for everyone.

A few days ago, I put up some Republican Jesus cartoons. The source of those was this fantastic column by a new fave of mine, Justin Rosario. This post is perfectly illustrative of a number of things that I think are really important.

First, it shows the journey of a man that was similar to mine.

Somewhere in there, I learned that we don’t have a national religion and people were free to practice whatever religion they wanted.

That's what I learned in school as well. He also saw what I saw during that time with the right.

Even with the Young Republicans during that first Bush presidency, I wasn’t assaulted with any kind of religious politics. I did find a good deal of racism which gave me a big clue about how Republicans see the world.

Yep. Same here.These Republicans are still around, though, and represent the business wing of the party.

But during Bush’s tenure, I started hearing the more than occasional remark about how not believing in God makes you a bad American and if you were a LIBERAL that didn’t believe in God? Scum of the Earth! Wait a minute. Not believing in God (or, more precisely, not believing in a very specific version of God) makes me a bad American? How does that even work? This country was founded on religious freedom and the explicit separation of Church and State, wasn’t it? 

This was right around the time I decided that I didn't have to believe in their warped version of Jesus Christ. Sadly, folks, Republican Jesus is an awful lot like Al Qaeda Mohammed. What's happened is the lines between civil religion and Christianity have blurred together with a whole lot of hate, anger, and fear to give us what we have today....Republican Jesus.

Republican Jesus™ is very different than the Jesus you and I are familiar with. First off, he is White. Not just white, but White. Republican Jesus™ has a special place in his heart for America. Specifically, White America. Do you doubt this? Ask yourself why anyone who believes in a colorblind Jesus would even conceive of praying for the death of Obama? No, only those who follow Republican Jesus™ would even think that such a prayer could, or should, be answered. If you are currently thinking that racism has nothing to do with the unprecedented hatred of Obama, go away, I’m talking to the grownups.

Oh, if only more liberals talked this way.

Republican Jesus™ loves the rich. Ignore that whole “camel through the eye of a needle” garbage. Republican Jesus™ wants you to be prosperous! It’s called “prosperity theology” and it percolates throughout the conservative religious fervor. God rewards the faithful with material wealth. Very spiritual stuff. If your idea of spiritual is a McMansion.

Sooner or later, this whole hypocrisy is going to come to a head. You can't worship the unregulated free market and Jesus Christ at the same time.

Republican Jesus™ hates the poor. This is the flip side of “prosperity theology”. If God rewards the faithful with riches, than the poor are obviously NOT of the faith and deserve what they get. This is, in part, why conservatives hate the social safety nets of welfare, food stamps and Medicaid. Those (and by “those” I mean those) people don’t worship Republican Jesus™ and are unworthy of being helped. Besides if you feed them, they’ll just breed!

Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer of South Carolina actually said that. And he meant it.

Yep. He did. And that brings us to where we are today. Rosario has very accurately defined the real motive behind the "War on Spending" that we see being carried out with such vehemence. Of course, they may talk a good game but over two thirds of the Tea Partiers don't want Social Security or Medicare touched. Why? Because they are all fucking old and using the system themselves.

Thankfully, no one really has to worship Republican Jesus. He, like many of the beliefs of conservatives around the world, is a fairy tale distorted on purpose to serve a need by extremely weak minded people.