Belaboring the Obvious

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A long time ago...

... I was wandering around in a nice suburb of Honolulu, looking for things to photograph. I ran across a Lincoln Continental parked in the driveway of a fairly nice house, and on the rear bumper, there was a small, orange square bumper sticker that read, "Hire the Morally Handicapped."

Y'know, I think that bumper sticker came from Wall Street....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Well, yeah, if being a duplicitous, lying asshole...

... and a whore for votes while in an electoral death match with an insane person is the same as being a "great American," then, I guess you are, John.

Some of us might differ about that equivalency of yours.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

If at first you don't succeed in destroying...

... the country, just change a preposition and try, try again....

That's right! We now have a "Contract From America," a sorta spiffed-up, but trimmed-down version of Newticles' last major debacle, recently introduced by those concerned citizens, the Teabaggers.

Now, if they'd been honest, and called it "Contract Written By Multinational Fatcat Industry For Multinational Fatcat Industry," I might have been a little less inclined to pee on their parade, but, they keep insisting, in so many words, that this is the honest-to-goodness real thing that comes straight from the minds, mouths and asses of the great unwashed masses, reeling though they are from noxious gases.

Let's have a quick perusal of the document that has left us itchy and anxious for its long-overdue arrival:

1. Protect the Constitution: Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.

Uh, what? "... gives Congress the power to do what the bill does?" How long, exactly, did the great, incisive minds of the Tea Party movement work on that odd bit of doggerel? First of all, nothing in the Constitution allows the Congress to do what's in the bills it passes. Its job is to legislate, and it is the job (done increasingly poorly, I might add) of the Executive to carry out the laws enacted by Congress.

Umm, but, lessee, if we can find something in the Constitution which says something about whether or not Congress can make laws. How about Article 1, Section 1: "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives?" That one's pretty good. And, our Constitutionally-minded friends might stroll through the language of Article 1, Section 8, just to sort of reacquaint themselves with it after many decades of thinking that "Constitution = latter half of the 2nd Amendment + what very little we think we know about the 10th Amendment."

2. Reject Cap & Trade: Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.

This one sounds like it's gonna cause a war between the dirtiest energy producers and the Wall Street traders who are just licking their chops at the prospect of all those carbon credits to be sliced and diced into ever more incomprehensible tranches and converted into derivatives that even extraterrestrial investors can't figure out. But, hey, I give the Koch brothers an A for effort getting that one in. Of course, their motive in doing so is to be the only people on the planet in twenty years with heavy-duty air conditioning.

3. Demand a Balanced Budget: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike.

And, of course, we've all seen how wonderfully well California is doing with precisely the same system, controlled from the minority by people equally batshit insane as the people who wrote this manifesto. There's an odd little group of billionaires in this country who think that reducing the budget to just military expenditures and interest on the debt, and then getting the poor and middle class to pay for it would be just peachy for them. There's a name for what they want: feudalism.

Now, I'm all for sensible spending, so, to balance that budget, let's stop the multiple wars, close hundreds of our nearly 1000 bases around the world, tell the military to concentrate on our territorial defense (at which they failed miserably on a certain day in September nearly a decade ago) instead of trying to run the world, end the privatization of government functions and trim that military budget back to true peacetime levels, say, $140 billion a year. That'll get that budget looking smart again. Then let's put taxation levels back to where they were in the 1950s, adjusted for inflation and start paying off some of that accumulated national debt, building a rainy day fund to carry us through difficult economic times and enjoy life a little. Maybe then we'll talk about your silly amendment. If you get what you want right now, you've just locked in decades of continuing misery.

4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform: Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution.

Of course, this appeals to the knuckleheads on the far right whose math skills barely reach 2nd grade level, and then only if they're on tiptoes. It's a giveaway to the already filthy rich, and it won't pay for nearly the amount of government handouts that all those Red States have been getting since the `30s. There's a damned good reason why somebody like Steve Forbes is pushing this. He's rich, and you're not, and he wants himself richer, and you poorer. It's not hard to figure out. If you bozos really want to simplify the tax code, tell your representatives to eliminate all the subsidies to mature industries and all the tax breaks of which only the rich and prosperous corporations can take advantage.

5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington: Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities, or ripe for wholesale reform or elimination due to our efforts to restore limited government consistent with the US Constitution’s meaning.

Well, shit, you guys can start on the fiscal responsibility thing by not reelecting the creeps you've been sending to Washington, D.C., who've caused the major part of the problem. They scream about gay marriage and you elect `em, and then they spend 95% of their time trying to figure out ways to give your tax money away to the wealthiest people in the country, so the fatcats will give an infinitesimally small percentage back to those same legislators in the form of election donations. Three Republican Presidents, Reagan and Bushes I & II, are responsible for $9 trillion of that national debt you're worried about. It was that lame psychopathic idiot, Dick Cheney, who said--and all you pinheads believed it as long as Republicans ran things--that "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." Where were your outraged shouts about the deficit then?

Oh, and by the way, if you had actually read that Constitution you're always gleefully waving around, you'd understand that the Constitution already defines the limits on government.

6. End Runaway Government Spending: Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.

Isn't this pretty much the same intent as Items 3, 4 & 5? Oh, and y'all are going to hate this--how do you find out the population growth percentage without doing a census every year? You guys hate the census. Michele Bachmann told me so.

Now, let's imagine that a giant sinkhole opens up and swallows your particular Red State (don't laugh--it's happening all over Florida right now) and you need some help from the federal government. But, oh so sad, the spending cap prevents the rest of us from giving you any help. Or, that climate change that none of you believe is happening spawns a series of giant hurricanes that run right up your cracker asses on the Gulf Coast? Oops, too bad. You'll just have to bail yourselves out, and good luck finding government-backed flood insurance.

7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care: Defund, repeal and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries.

Oh, yeah, that wonderful "free-market" health care system. You mean the one that's caused the mess we're in? Lessee, those same insurers don't want to lose their exemption from anti-trust law (which is supposed to make for more competition), so you guys don't mention that. But, you do want any insurer to take advantage of the least restrictive and most profitable laws in any state they choose, no matter where they actually do business, which is really a backhanded slap at those states' rights you're always nattering on about, eh? Guess we know who wrote this one for you....

8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs.

To really address this one, I'd certainly have to go into some of the details of foreign policy and geopolitics that there's just not enough space to do. But, geniuses, here's a clue. Virtually all of our imported energy is coming from countries you rocket scientists think are unstable. Hell, you don't even like Canada because they have a health care system that you think is communist.

Second, "proven reserves" have already been explored--that's how we know they're "proven." And all of those--offshore, in ANWR, the oil shale in Colorado--won't change the ratio of imported oil to domestic oil by more than a few percent. The oil companies aren't interested in reducing the amount of imports (not when they have our military to go into places like Iraq for them, where the extraction costs are next to nothing once there's no one left to kill). They're interested in their stock prices (which go up if their reserves under control go up) and in getting the government subsidies and tax breaks that come from drilling (let's put it this way--without those breaks, no one in his right mind would say, "I'd really like to spend my company's money extracting oil from above the Arctic Circle in winter--I love doing business in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet").

As for those regulatory barriers, I guess you would mean, oh, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act, and not drilling in national parks, and having the freedom to dump drilling and toxic wastes wherever a company pleases, right? Gee, I know who wrote this clause for you, because even you're not that stupid and greedy.

9. Stop the Pork Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.

Pork Place? That's right next to Boardwalk, isn't it? This is fine, actually. Except that the people you've been electing are the power pork producers to beat `em all. The Democrats certainly have been trying in this regard, but remember this one name: Jack Abramoff. He dealt exclusively with Republicans, and that was his job--to get pork and beneficial legislation for his clients. And he's in jail. And so are some of his legislator friends.

Moreover, what is your legislator going to say about not being able to bring home any government projects and dollars to your district. Are you then going to complain that the government isn't being fair to you? Or are you going suffer silently, or, more likely, blame it on the Democrats? As I say, I'm fine with no earmarks--they're a way of directing money around normal oversight procedures and open bidding rules, and that's wrong. But, keep in mind, it was your friends in government who turned the process into an art form.

10. Stop the Tax Hikes: Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011.

All you want to talk about is taxes. Sheesh. Metaphorically, 99 and 44/100ths of a percent of you aren't affected by any of these rate changes. And they're not "tax hikes." Those are changes that expire from previous rates. The only people affected by these are very well-to-do, maybe the top one percent of earners. In the case of income tax changes, if you're of average income, your income taxes have already gone down further than with the Bush-era tax cuts, and aren't going to go up.

Most people don't own stock that's affected by capital gains. You may indirectly have some stock in an IRA or a mutual fund, but, because that's mostly deferred income, you pay income taxes on it as it's withdrawn during retirement. If you're like most people, you have a primary home, and if you sell it, there's an exemption from capital gains if you buy another house in a given period of time.

And they're not "death taxes." Boy, what a fuckin' sucker you are to believe that one. It's inheritance tax, and, IIRC, it was first employed by Lincoln to pay the costs of war (which, by the way, is one of the huge current reasons for that deficit that you're always goin' on about). And, unless you're very lucky and hit the lottery, it's highly unlikely to affect you, especially if you're married, because it doesn't apply to estates under $2 million for married couples. And, hey, what do you care anyway? You're dead (and contrary to popular belief, you just can't take it with you).

Your 2.1 kids get it. And even if you're not obscenely wealthy, they'll get plenty enough to behave badly with your money, if that's what you're looking forward to in life.

Each and every one of these demands are those of very wealthy, greedy people, because they'll have no effect whatsoever on you, except, no matter what you put in your little manifesto, if the rich get tax breaks, you or your descendants will have to pick up the slack, one way or another.

The very, very rich want you, very, very determinedly, to think you'll benefit from such a demand. They tell you that the mean, ol' nasty government will get smaller if you insist on it. It won't. It got bigger during Reagan's term, bigger still during Bush I's years, somewhat bigger under Clinton, and hugely bigger during Bush II's eight years. You should know by now that every time a rich jerk like Pete Peterson tells you to be scared of something, or that you've got to do something for your own good, he's lying to you. He wants you to do something for his good.

So, let's sum it all up, teabaggers. Your manifesto is a collection of buzz words and slogans, which have been fed to you by right-wing news and opinion outlets controlled by very, very wealthy people, who need you to do their bidding, and it's very apparent that you've given virtually no thought to the ramifications of any of this. Second, you're being hustled by experts. They've convinced you that these are your ideas, when, in fact, they are theirs. How can I be sure of that? Because all of these things will screw you and further enrich them.

You've not done the policy work to sustain any of this. How big is the government now, and how much smaller do you think it should be? How big should the government be to handle international affairs in a complex world and live up to its Constitutional requirements to more than 300 million people? Have you considered that a flat tax might harm you, rather than help you, or your relatives? Cui bono? Who really benefits? If you live in a state where the federal dollars coming in are greater than those being paid out (most of the so-called Red States), eliminating earmarks, for example, will cause your local economy to suffer. You and your neighbors will be worse off, not better.

Most importantly, let's say you get everything you want. Will you be happier? I doubt it. In fact, I think you'll be fuckin' miserable, if only because you'll be living in a country measurably worse off than it is even now. And, you'll blame it on someone else, because that's what you've been trained to do by the same people that put you up to this nonsense. You're trying to live in an imaginary time and an imaginary place that sort of looks like what you remember the idyllic 1950s to be, as seen through a gauzy, nostalgic lens (which, by the way, was when the top nominal income tax rate was 91%, the capital gains tax was almost double what it is now and union membership was fully a third of the workforce).

If the last thirty years are any indication, the deficit will grow ever larger, regardless of your grand demand to balance the budget, the country will become progressively under greater control of the very same banks that caused the recent meltdown, the trade deficit will mushroom, your children will fight more wars, and the amount of money that will go to richest 1/10th of a percent of the people will skyrocket. And you'll be out of fuel in thirty years and shivering in the winter and sweating your ass off in the summer and wondering why the government didn't do something about that. And you'll have a lot of time to think about it, because you'll have to walk everywhere you want to go.

And, if you get what you want, it will be entirely your own fault.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Well, maybe, we're all just fucked...

... beyond repair.

The latest horrors released by WikiLeaks are just beyond description. And yet, both left and right are trying, desperately, to say that our soldiers are good, noble, and perennially the good guys.

Lies. Abject, horrible lies.

Finally, finally, finally, I've come to the conclusion that this country is a criminal enterprise, and that even my military service in the Vietnam era was in furtherance of criminal activity.

Our nation--by many different measures--is consumed by corruption, and I do not know how to fix that problem, have no means of effecting any positive change.

Frankly, I wish I could escape to some neutral country and make some honorable life for myself and forget the United States forever, and yet, I don't even have the money to do that after a lifetime of living in this rigged game.

It's crummy to say it, but, it's true. The poor--no matter how honest and sensible they may be--cannot win in a nation in which the rich are able to use their much greater money to their own advantage.

The Founders could never have anticipated what has happened to their dream. It's just plain fuckin' dead, and the Tea Partiers don't have a clue as to why. They're stooges.

I feel stupid and used and used up. Like a whole helluva lot of other people.