Monday, August 31, 2015

Chris Christie's big idea

Chris Christie has announced that he would bring in the chief exec of FedEx to track Mexican immigrants the way he tracks packages.

Would it be a field day for the tattoo ink industry? Or does he just plan to surgically implant a microchip in the head of anybody with a Spanish accent?

Why I beg to differ with Charles M. Blow about Donald Trump

Exposing Trump's shenanigans and idiocy 
more often is good for Democrats
I’m a pretty steady reader of Charles M. Blow’s commentary in the New York Times. Not surprisingly, he is justifiably offended by Donald Trump’s bombastic racism, sexism, jingoism, and general effusions of hot air. 

But Blow, in an August 27th Times column, said that he was now so offended — the final offense was having Univision anchor Jorge Ramos escorted out of a press conference for asking questions Trump didn’t want to hear — that Blow would no longer cover Trump.  Blow wrote of Trump:
“We can’t say he’s not serious and then cover him in a way that actually demonstrates that we are not serious. 
“Is he an easy target for righteous criticism? Of course he is. But is he aware that criticism from the mainstream media is invaluable among certain segments of the political right? Of course he is. Is he also aware that he’s getting more free publicity for being outrageous than he would ever be willing to buy? Of course he is. 
“The media is being trolled on a massive scale and we look na├»ve and silly to have fallen for it, even if he draws readers and viewers. When people refer to the press as the fourth estate, it shouldn’t be confused with a Trump property.”
Here’s where I disagree about covering Donald Trump, even though he is nothing more than an odious gasbag, a buffoon with an overstuffed ego and a mouth that deserves to be washed out with soap.

The best thing that could happen for Democrats would be for Trump to somehow get the Republican nomination. The latest poll, taken in Iowa the day before I’m writing this, shows that Trump has 23 percent of the  vote, reports the Des Moines Register. Ben Carson, gaining support, has 18 percent. Everybody else in the Republican clown car is in single digit territory. 

Great. May the biggest clown win, shutting out the so-called “serious” and “conservative” candidates who, if they win the election, have the competence and political machinery to do the most damage to everything from race relations, to the American worker, to the middle class, and to working conditions in thousands of American workplaces. (See, for example: Scott Walker.)

True, Trump is repugnant. Trump is  not only repugnant to Democrats. He is repugnant to undecideds. He is evidently repugnant even to a substantial number of Republicans. His nomination for President on the Republican ticket would almost certainly assure a Democratic win. 

More, not less press exposure, may eventually get a majority of Republicans to nominate him and vote for him in the Presidential elections. But a mere majority of Republicans is still a minority of voters. And the same exposure that raises Trump's favorability rating among the far right will lower it everywhere else.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” said Justice Louis D. Brandeis. The best way to disinfect America is to shine a bright spotlight on Donald Trump.

Friday, August 21, 2015

News from the loose screw department of the flapping right wing

Dudley Brown thinks THEY
are coming from the UN to 
take your guns away

There must be some new screws loose out there on the leading edge of the far right wing. 

I mean, why else would they send me the news, some of it SHOUTING LIKE THIS IN CAPITAL LETTERS!  


The message is  that now there's not only an Obama plot to take away everybody's gun, but that it also happens to be an "international" plot. I gather that it's bubbling around somewhere in the bowels of the UN Building. Or some place that's international.

I mean, you can't make this stuff up. That is, you can't make it up unless you're Dudley Brown. I quote from an e-mail I've just received from his organization. It's called NAGR, the National Association of Gun Rights, and it warned me in a headline that this was a "Final Notice"

"International Gun Registry. 
"In our Friday staff briefing, NAGR President Dudley Brown painted a bone-chilling picture of what could be the new reality for gun owners.
"You see, the prospect of President Obama getting the last laugh on gun control grows ever more likely -- especially since the Obama administration has already signed the United States into the U.N.'s "Small Arms Treaty! 
"That's why in order to fight back, NAGR is launching a MASSIVE "BANNER BOMB" PROGRAM 
"If we can hit our goal of raising $150,437 by August 20th, NAGR staff will blanket the Internet with a hard-hitting digital ad campaign to put pressure on U.S. Senators to OPPOSE Obama's gun-globalist agenda 
"All across the country, your National Association for Gun Rights is gearing up to EXPOSE every horrific provision of the United Nations' "Small Arms Treaty." 
"Will you make an IMMEDIATE CONTRIBUTION of at least $11 right now to help NAGR put pressure on our targeted U.S. Senators? 
"With your help, we can reach our $150,437 goal and run our "Banner Bomb" program to TURN UP THE HEAT on our targeted U.S. Senators and flood their phone lines and town halls with patriots demanding them to support the Second Amendment and resist Obama's globalist deals. "

Oh well, I suppose it's hard to raise money from crazies when Donald Trump is sucking all the insanity out of the room. But hey, I've got an idea! How about a Trump-Brown third party ticket if Trump fails to get the Republican nomination? They could call it the Don't Grab My Gun Party. 

Anyway, I'm about to close down for the weekend. It's too nice out there to sit in front of a window banging on my computer. Besides,  I have some cuckoo clocks that need working on, down in the safe room, next to the canned goods and the 20,000 rounds of ammo.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Is there any hope for Bernie Sanders?

Don't give up on Bernie just yet
Over at the Washington Monthly blog, Ed Kilgore administers a fairly severe beating to the
so-called Republican moderates who think they will eventually put the likes of a “Jeb” Bush  on the ticket — and thus whack The Donald back to the third hole on one of his golf courses.

Says Kilgore:
At this particular moment, Donald Trump is running better than Jeb Bush in trial general election match-ups with Hillary Clinton. You heard that right: Trump is pulling 45% to HRC’s 51%, while Jebbie’s at 43% compared to Clinton’s 52%.
The numbers don’t line up nearly as nicely for Bernie Sanders as they do for Trump. Not yet, anyway. But  the same rules that apply to Trump might apply to Sanders if the probes into “Servergate,” or whatever Republican opposition research is concocting against Hillary, have their intended effect.

It’s popular among the  press and punditocracy to say that a Sanders presidency is a laughable lost cause. All those huge crowds he draws, with minimal publicity and little campaign money? Oh, those don’t count, because, umm, Bernie can’t win. 

This may be why, unless a Black Lives Matter activist nearly grabs Bernie’s microphone from his hands, there’s so little coverage of what Bernie actually says at his hugely well-attended rallies. And why gaffers like Joe Biden (I like him, but talk about self-destructive foot-in-mouth disease!) or nonentities like Governor Whatzisname of, (is it Maryland?) get mentioned by the oh so thoughtful press, but not Sanders, whenever it looks like Hillary might go under.

But don’t write off Bernie so fast. If Hillary flounders, his momentum will pick up. And given that this could be a populist vs. populist race, Bernie just might make more sense to populist voters.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The art of the deal, Jeb Bush Style

"I'll tell you, though, taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a good deal.” — Jeb Bush recently on CNN
Some of the things Jeb Bush says 
makes you wonder whether he had 
to pay someone to take his Critical
Thinking 101 exam for him when he 
was an undergraduate at the University 
of Texas

Such a deal! 

Here are some of the details of the cost to “take out” Saddam Hussein and then attempt to cope with the aftermath:

American soldiers who died in Iraq 4,486

American soldiers wounded in combat in Iraq: 32,226 
 exluding "injuries or death due to the elements, self-inflicted wounds, combat fatigue" -- and also excluding "cumulative psychological and physiological strain or many of the other wounds, maladies and losses that are most common among Iraq veterans.”]

 Iraqi civilians killed: 134,000 (minimum estimate)

Dollar cost to date: over $2 trillion ($2,000,000,000,000)

Eventual interest payable by U.S. taxpayers for money borrowed on the Bush Administration’s “credit card” for the war:  $4 trillion  ($4,000,000,000,000)

Fringe benefits: Reinvigoration of Islamic militants. Establishment  of ISIS in Iraq. Destruction of the Iraqi healthcare system, much of $212 billion in U.S. Taxpayer’s contribution to Iraqi reconstruction “largely” blown, “with most of that money spent on security, or lost to waste and fraud.”

P.S. In 1992, Mother Jones magazine examined the Bush family’s business dealings. With respect to Jeb, after detailing several shady deals, it spoke to a prosecutor who dealt with Jeb’s association with Miguel Recarey. He told them that in considering whether Jeb was a crook, or merely stupid, he concluded that Jeb was stupid.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Advice to Miss Piggy and Kermit: Watch out! Those sharks in the water aren’t ordinary Muppets. They’re matrimonial lawyers.

Miss Piggy and Kermit in happier times. Now they're food for sharks.
So I was brushing my teeth after breakfast  with the TV in the next room tuned to the CBS This Morning show. Suddenly I heard somebody — was it Norah O’Donnell or Gayle King? — announce that Miss Piggy and Kermit The Frog were calling it splitsville after 39 years of marriage.

So to hell with the work on my schedule. As soon as I sat down at my  desk, I  googled the big news of the day. Good Lord! “About 3,860,000 results,” in .51 seconds, Google informed me, rolling out an overwhelming list of publications carrying the nearly identical story, from Newsweek to Jewish Business News

Of course, when so many of the stories are just about word-for-word the identical, you begin to wonder whether our trusted news media these days are simply printing press releases instead of actually reporting the news. But that’s a matter for a different blog post.

The last long goodbye kiss isn't to each other.
It's to the money you've worked and scrimped for.

I think I’d better warn Kermit and Miss P: the minute the lawyers take over, you can kiss a substantial portion of your fortunes goodbye. Both of you.

Is this Miss Piggy's divorce lawyer?
I’ve seen it happen to far too many friends. And to me, personally. The lawyers aren’t there to get you quickly and economically divorced, with a fair deal for both of you. The lawyers are there to milk you dry.

They’ll play with your emotions. They’ll get you worked up by telling you what rotten things your spouse is doing to screw you. Between you and me, they know this because both lawyers are doing the same thing.

As for your hapless spouse, she or he is  simply trusting his or her matrimonial lawyer, who is also orchestrating as much conflict into the situation as possible. And the lawyers play the same games with regularity. In fact, they’ll probably have a good laugh about you over martinis at the next convention of the Matrimonial Lawyers Association. 

“From Day One, both lawyers usually know to the penny what a case should settle for,” an attorney in my family once confided. “Then they keep the case going for as long as they can, because as long as it goes, it’s generating $400, or $500, or $650 an hour for them, or whatever they’re charging.”

Let the skinning alive begin

And rest assured, the lawyers will get their money. If they fight as fiercely as they know how, it won’t be for you. It’ll be for the right to skin you alive. A case in point, from the New York Times some years ago:
Broad guidelines intended to protect divorcing clients from being exploited by their lawyers have set off an acrimonious debate in New York State over whether lawyers should be held to the kind of consumer regulations that other businesses must abide by. 
Lawyers and bar associations have expressed such anger over the rules that Judge E. Leo Milonas, the state's top administrative judge, has modified some of them and put off implementation till the end of this month. Even with the changes, the rules still amount to the toughest in the country. 
A client, for example, is to be given written guidelines that explain new rights like binding arbitration in fee disputes. Divorce lawyers are banned from having sex with clients, from demanding nonrefundable retainers, and from foreclosing on mortgages to get paid. In one hard-won modification, however, lawyers no longer have to advise a client how to file a grievance against them.
…the matrimonial bar was vociferous in its opposition to the rules. Indeed the matrimonial law committee of the Nassau County Bar Association voted to file a lawsuit if major provisions were not changed.
There you go. I mean, heaven forbid lawyers should be banned from having sex with their vulnerable and emotionally fragile clients in a time of personal crisis. Or from foreclosing on your house. How the hell is a matrimonial lawyer supposed to get laid? Or get overpaid? Maybe he should slip something into his client's drink.

But back to that Times story. It turns out that matrimonial lawyers don't pity you, their clients. They pity themselves.
"What other kind of lawyer regularly gets this kind of aggravation?" said Sanford S. Dranoff, president of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "One Christmas morning I got called to the police station because my client refused to take the bowl of spaghetti off his head till I walked in.”
O, the poor baby! In the first place, Dranoff , now deceased, was Jewish, so Christmas wasn’t such a big deal for him. In the second place, there was no law compelling him to come to the police station. (But do you suppose he billed his client for it?)  In the third place, the story is totally irrelevant to the issue of lawyers treating their own clients unethically. But it does tell us a lot about a matrimonial attorney's willingness to mock his own client.

For years, matrimonial lawyers were signing up female clients, then slapping liens on their homes. And the best defense Dranoff could come up with was that a male client of his had a bowl of spaghetti on his head?

Heed this warning

Miss Piggy, you seem to have been the initiator of this case. So I think I’d better warn you, Miss Moi, that you're about to get financially slaughtered for money.  Plus be very careful of your attorney’s sympathetic arm around your shoulder. 

Kermit, poor guy, if you think it isn’t easy being green, wait until you see how it is when the matrimonial lawyers skin the green right off your back.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A modest proposal concerning big game hunting, income sources for third world nations, and dentists


From: The National Ministry of Tourism, Sacred Republic of Aq'aboon
To:  The American Association of Deluxe Adventure Travel Agents
Re:  Hunting vacations in the Sacred Republic of Aq'aboon

Kind Sirs and Mesdames,

It has come to the attention of our Beloved President For Life By Popular Acclaim that certain of your American citizens have been spending prodigious sums of money to go to wildlife preserves in African nations to kill animals of endangered species for sport. These useless creatures are later skinned and turned into den rugs, or beheaded so that their heads eventually can be mounted on walls.

Extraordinary opportunity: Although the Sacred Republic of Aq'aboon has no such wildlife resources and is unjustly classified as an impoverished island nation, we believe there is an even better hunting opportunity in our Sacred Republic.  Our Beloved President For Life By Popular Acclaim cordially invites Americans to come to our island to hunt, shoot, skin, and behead actual people. Bows and arrows, rifles, shotguns and pistols are all acceptable weapons. For a slight extra fee, the hunters may also use machine guns and flame throwers, or clubs and spears.

Sustainable industry: After careful investigation, our National Ministry of Tourism has concluded that this is a sustainable sport, that would help us control our soaring population, bring needed U.S. Dollars and other foreign currencies into our economy, and increase the average per capita income of Aq'aboonian citizens.

Clear conscience killing: Americans could hunt the people we choose for them with clear consciences, because those individuals tagged for hunting would be known criminals, duly tried in our courts for their crimes and condemned to death. Thus, your valued clients would simply be aiding our nation's law enforcement and administration of justice. They could return home with their heads and their human skin area rugs feeling not only guilt-free, but also virtuous. If requested, we will supply your client, upon departure from our sacred nation. with a Certificate of Appreciation, certifying that the individual he or she shot and killed had already been scheduled for execution by our Government.

Ample human supplies: Moreover, there is no need to fear that we will run out of criminals. Our very efficient National Ministry of Justice, and our Internal Administration of Law Enforcement, is capable of identifying, trying and condemning criminals as fast as you can come here to kill them. Justice here is swift. We accuse, we arrest, we try and we condemn as needed. We can provide 24-hour turnarounds from the moment we receive an order for criminals until the moment we deliver them for shooting.

Complete marketing support: The Ministry of Tourism's marketing department has developed a preliminary marketing program, of which you may also avail yourself. Please bear in mind that we pay travel agents a generous commission. Here are some other points to note:

1. We will provide you with a list of potential clients in your marketing area. Our market research has determined that, due to a quirk in the American health care system, a large percentage of these individuals are dentists. Their fees are not regulated and have been escalating to whatever the traffic can bear. Unlike medical costs, there is no cost-containment movement for dentistry in the United Sates. Consequently, dentists are a group with plenty of disposable income and, given the routine nature of their work, a high boredom factor which can be leveraged to sell offbeat vacations such as ours.  Moreover, dentists tend to be self-employed, work regular hours and can easily arrange for the vacation time to come to Aq'aboon and hunt. 

2. While there is no air transport from United States airports to the Sacred Republic of Aq'aboon, there are connecting flights from five other nations in our nation's hemisphere. Air Aq'aboon pays generous travel agent commissions.

3. Several new deluxe hotels are under construction in Aq'aboon City, which is conveniently close to the hunting grounds via ground transport or helicopter. We will be happy assist in arranging package vacations which include air fare, hotel stay, meals, local transport, guide, and one trophy Aq'aboonian criminal. (Additional trophies will be available at additional charge.)

4. There is a sliding scale of charges depending on whether your client wishes to a) hunt and kill a free-range criminal in the wild b) hunt and kill the criminal in an enclosed space, such as a stadium, while the criminal either is or is not handcuffed c) simply execute the criminal, either as part of a firing squad, or as a hangman, garrotier, or by other means.

5. We are excited to report that we are developing a "create your own style of execution" program, enabling your dentists and other clients to devise a means of their own invention for executions.

For further details: Contact your nearest Sacred Republic of Aq'aboon consular office and ask to speak with the chief local tourism officer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Donald Trump, pots pointing fingers at kettles, lightweights, heavyweights, and private cell phone numbers

People who point fingers and call others idiots shouldn't call kettles...oh never mind!
I notice that Politico is reporting that Donald Trump recently began a “rambling diatribe” by calling Lindsey Graham a “lightweight” and “an idiot.”

Well, he came close to getting that right. But then he had to go and ruin it.

Trump next gave out Graham's private cell phone number, proving that instead of being a lightweight idiot, what Trump can be for America is a heavyweight asshole.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mysterious Headline From The Inscrutable Copy Desk At Reuters

The headline below  appeared today, July 15, at the Reuters website.

Wall Street dips after Fed's Yellen as energy weighs
3:26pm EDT

I know the Reuters management is probably trying to save money by editing its copy in some Third World hell hole, and that the headline's author probably hasn't completed his English as a Second Language course yet, but can anyone hazard a guess as to what this headline is trying to tell us?

Please note: I"m perfectly well aware that if you click on the headline you'll learn from the the story what the headline means.  But that would be cheating. All the same, you can take solace in the fact that at least the reporter can write in English.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Rand Paul: "Oh boo hoo! They're attacking me. They're being so mean to me! They're asking me gotcha questions that I'm too ill informed or unprepared to answer. Oh, boo hoo, boo hoohoo!"

Uh, I dunno much about ophthalmic surgery, but why is Rand
Paul operating on a man's eye through the poor guy's nose?
Could it be Rand spent so much time counting "smears" by
the Democratic National Committee that he no longer knows
an eyeball from a nostril? Just asking.

From an e-mail received by the New York Crank in one of my blind mail drops, designed to monitor the activities of The Dark Side:

Crank,  from the day I announced my candidacy for President the left hurled one smear after another. 

In the last year, the Democratic National Committee attacked me 203 times on social media and in press releases. 

In fact, in April they targeted me 71 times! 

That was the highest number of any candidate in any month. 

And since my first week on the trail, Hillary's allies in the liberal media threw "gotcha" questions at me to destroy my campaign and select our party's nominee. 

So I need your help to fight back. 

You and I can't allow attacks by the Democrats and their pals in the press to pick our nominee. 

Another tired establishment candidate is a recipe for defeat. 

Americans are hungering for a candidate to upend the Big Government status quo.

I proved when I forced President Obama's illegal NSA spying to expire I was serious about defeating the Washington Machine. 

And just recently I proposed driving a stake through the heart of the IRS with my 14.5% Fair and Flat tax plan – which will return over $2 trillion to the paychecks of American workers and kick start our stagnant economy. 

The American people recognize I mean business and the polls prove I'm the Republican best positioned to defeat Hillary Clinton. 

So the left's attack dogs are pointed in my direction. 

The more they smear me, the more I know our movement to take our country back is growing. 

But I need your help to fight back right away. 

Please chip in a contribution of $ 20.16 so my campaign has the resources necessary to combat the Democrats attack on email, social media and online ads.

Rand, Rand, I get that this is all a come-on to shake me up, rattle my bones, and make me cough up money. And I also know you don't have diddley-squat to fire me up, except the empty claim of being smeared. If the smears were really smears, not simply folks pointing out the truth about you, you'd refute them. I even know you want me to remember you're running for President in 2016, and that's why you want $20.16. But what the hell are you going to do with the sixteen cents?

Monday, July 06, 2015

“Known thespians,” “blatant masticators,” and Senator Claire McCaskill’s ridiculous rap against Bernie Sanders

I’ve been exploring the Internet this morning to track down the story I heard as a kid, about the senator from one of our more backward states who wowed and shocked the rubes in a stump speech declaring, “It is a known fact that my opponenent’s own sister is an admitted thespian. Not only that, but he himself was seen blatantly masticating in front of innocent children during a visit to one of our local schools cafeterias. In broad daylight!”

The best source I can come up places the blame not on a rural demagogue, but a slick Boston politician and former Boston Mayor, who also declared, no doubt in a tone of utter shock, that his opponent “practices nepotism with a maiden aunt.”

In all, it has been a delightful romp through Google, done to demonstrate a point. Politicians are champions at the sport of defaming their political opponents by leveling meaningless but ominous-sounding accusations at them. 

The latest offender is Senator Claire McCaskill, a Hillary Clinton supporter. McCaskill is trying to horrify us out of voting for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party primaries by declaring that he is —oh, horrors! — a Socialist. That's a label Sanders would hardly deny.

“Socialist” is a dirty word in American politics, although only God knows why. Social Security? That’s a socialist idea. Medicare? Another socialist concept.  Overtime pay for overtime work? Pure socialism. Taxing people according to their ability to pay rather than supporting a tax structure that afflicts the poor but comforts the comfortable? Also socialism.

I don’t fault McCaskill for supporting Hillary Clinton. I assume that Clinton will beat Sanders for the nomination, in which case I, too, will support her. But let’s not belittle the Sanders candidacy. The better Sanders does in the primaries — even though he’s ultimately likely to lose to Hillary — the greater the pressure on Hillary to commit less to her corporate backers and more to ideas that will benefit the vast majority of Americans.

That’s why I support Sanders’ candidacy for the Democratic Party’s nomination even if he doesn't have a prayer of getting it. I think you ought to, too.

As for Senator McCaskill’s pathetic defamation of Sanders, I’d blame that on her shocking habit of prognosticating in public, and her scandalous oral perorations. Yes, she actually perorates orally! In full public view!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Death by Irritable Judge

Part of the latest Supreme Court decision allowing executions to resume in Oklahoma says, in effect, "So what if it hurts." Evidently Justice Scalia and his right wing court bench pals wouldn't mind going back to the good old days, when people were executed like this.
 Just when you thought it was safe to assume again that reason will somehow prevail at the United States Supreme Court, we have a ruling with the usual 5-4 split that torturing people to death with a chemical cocktail that sometimes seems to inflict searing pain is just hunky-dory. 

So we’re back to the 12th Century, unless frying condemned prisoners from the inside out and letting them die in agony over many minutes — including some prisoners who may turn out to be innocent — is your idea of justice.

Justice Sotomayor, one of the four Supreme Court dissenters, summed up my sentiments exactly:
Petitioners contend that Oklahoma’s current protocol is a barbarous method of punishment — the chemical equivalent of being burned alive,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “But under the court’s new rule, it would not matter whether the state intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death or actually burned at the stake.”
The right wing majority seems to want death at any cost, whether the condemned person is innocent or guilty. Pain? So what’s a little pain? Or a lot of pain? Even people who aren’t executed sometimes die in pain,  Justice Alito argued, according to the New York Times. And besides, who says that a man, supposedly anesthetized and in the midst of his own execution, is feeling pain just because, while supposedly unconscious and paralyzed, he tries to sit up, writhing and gasping, his face contorted?

Then we had  Justice Scalia, playing the new conservative game of co-opting the liberal point of view and then claiming that such a point of view should result in a conservative outcome.
We federal judges,” Justice Scalia continued, “live in a world apart from the vast majority of Americans. After work, we retire to homes in placid suburbia or to high-rise co-ops with guards at the door. We are not confronted with the threat of violence that is ever present in many Americans’ everyday lives. The suggestion that the incremental deterrent effect of capital punishment does not seem ‘significant’ reflects, it seems to me, a let-them-eat-cake obliviousness to the needs of others. Let the people decide how much incremental deterrence is appropriate.”
The trouble with Scalia’s argument is that people who have been subject to violence in their everyday lives, don’t think “incremental deterrence” like capital punishment is appropriate. Take the survivors of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. When members of their congregation  were murdered by the white racist thug Dylann Roof (who was taking advantage of the right wing Supreme Court ruling on the meaning of the Second Amendment) they forgave their assailant. It’s Justice Scalia, living in his own protected real estate, who wants to see a body hanging from a tree. Or tortured to death on a gurney. Or however it is he wants the execution to be committed.

But I’ll give nearly the last word to a letter writer to the Times who observed:
The countries that practice the death penalty are (in order of the number of executions: 1. China, 2. Iran, 3. Saudi Arabia, 4. United States, 5. Pakistan,
6, Yemen, 7, North Korea, 8. Vietnam and 9. Libya. Distinguished company eh? And hey, we're number 4!

If Sharia Law ever arrives in this country, Justices Scalia, Alito, Thomas and maybe even Kennedy will probably welcome it with open arms. Well actually, they already have.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What you can do with your so-called gun rights. Not to mention the constitutional amendment it rode in on.

I’ve had it. From the Texas Tower sniper back in the 1960s (16 dead, 32 wounded) to the most recent Charleston church incident (9 dead, I’m not sure how many wounded) casual mass murders by some nut, or pathological hater who had no trouble getting his hands on a gun has become as American as the Fourth of July. Well, actually a lot more so. The Fourth of July only happens once a year.

And every time somebody tries to do something about the mass shootings — for example, gun licensing, background checks to eliminate criminals and mental cases, limits on magazine sizes, — the gun lobby, and all the people who suckle and snarf and drool at its toxic teat, go into meltdown mode. Because it’s all about Freedom. It’s all about Our Way of Life. It’s all about Defenses Against Tyranny. It’s all about Crazed Agitators Grabbing Our Guns. And so on.

Well, I’ve had it. I’m fed up. I’m disgusted. I’m outraged. So I’m about to say something terribly rude to the gun rights people — the NRA, the so-called sportsmen, the bought- and-paid-for legislators, the alleged purist strict constructionists, the self-defensers, the stand-your-grounders, the corrupt lobbyists who corrupt the lawmakers and manipulate the suckers. And so on.

Screw you. 

No, I take that back. I apologize. I didn’t mean to say that. That was too tame.

What I meant to say was fuck you. And fuck the Second Amendment. I’m tired of seeing apologists and lawmakers, even liberal ones, twist themselves intro knots that a Boy Scout couldn’t untie in order to kowtow to you. You know the kind of sniveling crap I’m talking about.

 “Yes, I’m 100 percent for gun rights, except I’d want to make sure the buyer has never spent idle days and nights counting his toenails clippings in the looney bin.” 

“Yes, I want to take guns away from criminals. Not sportsmen. Just criminals. I’m a hunter too.”

“I just want to keep guns out of the hands of felons. Well, out of the hands of convicted felons. Well, only out of the hands of convicted felons who’ve already killed somebody. Well…”

Well screw that. You take these baby steps and the NRA and the gun nuts foam at the mouth, and saliva drips from their jaws while they quote a literally demented actor who babbled about taking a gun from his cold dead hands. 

Next, the lobbyists threaten spineless lawmakers. The lawmakers back off. Another week or so goes by. And then another two, or five, or nine, or twenty innocent people get mowed down again, like weeds in front of a lawn tractor, by yet another enraged boyfriend, or blood lusting hater, or paranoid schizophrenic with an easy-to-get gun.

It’s time to stop that the only way that most assuredly will work. It’s a method based on the simple principle that if you don’t have access to a gun, you can't kill anybody with it.

So it’s time we gave the gun nuts something they could really foam at the mouth about. Let’s make their worst paranoid nightmares come true. Let’s actually  grab their guns.  Grab them and take them away forever. Let’s do it by building, however long it takes, a movement to repeal the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment made sense when most armies had precious few weapons more powerful than a blunderbuss or a front-loading single ball rifle. Yeah, sometimes they also had a few brass cannon, if they could truck those extremely heavy objects by horse drawn vehicle through the roadless woods  that made up most of what is now the United States of America. Most of the time they just made do with lead shot and powder horns. So if  anybody invaded us, the scales were balanced. A militia of soldier-farmers hiding behind trees, could easily poke the invaders’ pretty red coats full of ugly black holes. The Second Amendment made sense then.

The Second Amendment also made sense out on the Great Plains, when you couldn’t call the cops because there was no such thing as a cop, or a telephone, or a cell phone, or a radio car — and by the time your nearest neighbors from two miles over the hill found you bleeding on the dirt floor of your cabin, the victim of a wayfaring psychopath or a pissed off tribe of Native Americans who didn’t like trespassers like you on their land, it would have been too late to defend yourself.

But now it makes no sense. You’re afraid of tyranny? You’re going to hold off invading tyrants, or a suddenly run amok United States Government with your AR-15? Or your Glock? Gimme a break. 

They’ll roll over you with a tank. They’ll bomb you from a drone. They’ll blow you apart with a howitzer before you can see the whites of  their eyes —  or the bellies of their airplanes. You’re helpless against invading armies, whether they’re armies of local revolutionaries, or armies of an invading nation, or armies of a self-declared tribe of rapists and robbers under the control of a mad warlord. That’s why we have police departments. And sheriffs departments. And the National Guard. And the United States Army.

If defense had to be conducted by individuals with guns today, the United States of America would turn into another Syria before you could shout “Second Amendment” from your outhouse. There’d be roaming bands of armed private militias mowing down anybody they didn’t like. Not to mention cutting off heads and disemboweling babies. There’d be chaos, and anarchy, and disruption, and whole towns turned to rubble.

Fortunately, we’ve got one of the biggest armed protective establishments in the history of the world. And we need that in part because you’ve still got your weapons and therefore you're a public menace that has to be kept under control.

All those pistols and rifles are good for only one purpose. And that purpose is to kill  something or more likely, somebody. Moreover we have to spend a huge part of the national treasure trying to keep you from doing that. And yet, every week, or two, or three, somebody slips through the net and does it again anyway.

So go shove it. If you have a deep, emotional need for a gun or a rifle, it’s because at some level you have a deep, emotional need to kill something or somebody. Which means you’re a psychopath. You’re not fit for civilized society. You need to be locked in a concrete hole behind barbed wire and left there to rot.

The people need to take your gun away from you before you kill some innocent person with it. Or even somebody’s dog. If you still feel an abiding need to kill, take a fly swatter and go to a garbage dump and swat flies. Or pull their wings off, if it takes that to make you feel virile and powerful. Tell you what. You can even eat them.

It’s time to  grab guns. It’s time to grow a movement to repeal the Second Amendment.. Like the Divine Right of Kings, the Second Amendment is a relic of an era that went away and will never come back. Good riddance to the era. And now, let’s start saying good riddance to the guns left over from it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

AIG, a Federal judge, a bad decision, the Bible, unbridled greed — and the difference between a wise man, a sadist, and a nincompoop

The difference between King Solomon and 
Federa lJudge Thomas C. Wheeler is that 
when Solomon ran a courtroom, the 
baby would survive.
So let us begin this tale of contemporary idiocy with a considerably older tale of wisdom, from the Bible. 

You’re probably familiar with it. Two women are disputing  who is the true mother of a baby. And just for some gratuitous fun and speculation, the Bible mentions that both women are hookers.  The hooker moms go to the top guy in Jerusalem, King Solomon, to settle their dispute. Solomon, known for his extraordinary wisdom, listens to their stories.

Two hookers and a sword

It’s the kind of he-said, she-said arguing — and probably screaming, and glaring, and interrupting, and spitting, and unbridled rage — that would give Judge Judy a headache, never mind Solomon. 

Finally the kingly decider has had enough. He calls for his sword. Solomon tells the women, that’s it! He’s had it! He’s going to be fair. He’s going to chop the baby in half and give each woman an equal share. I don't need to point out that Solomon made a formidably sadistic declaration. Imagine the suffering of a real mother, thinking the all-powerful king is going to kill her infant child.

The real mother is naturally distraught. She doesn’t want her baby sliced up for the human equivalent of lamb chops. She begs King Solomon to give the baby to the other woman. At that point, Solomon decides that a woman who’d rather give the baby away than see it slaughtered must be the real mother. And while it’s several thousand years too late to read Solomon’s mind, it’s possible he thought that even if she wasn’t the real mother, she’d be a better mom to the kid than a woman who says, in effect, “Go ahead, slice him up. Fair is fair, as long as I get half the body parts.” 

Mortgage meltdown madness

So now let us jump ahead to the first decade of the 21st Century. The United States has suffered a mortgage meltdown that threatens the entire U.S. economy and the funds that every depositor has in just about every bank. At the center of this mess is securitized mortgage derivative insurance. This kind of insurance is essentially a wildly irresponsible abstraction of an abstraction. It has been invented by AIG, a greedy insurance company, to rake in bucks — on the theory that guhzillions of securitized subprime mortgages are going to get paid off and the insurance that AIG is charging for will never be needed.

AIG probably could have done better shooting craps in Las Vegas. The whole mortgage market melts down. AIG can't pay the insured banks. So now the banks are teetering on the edge of failure.

Having made a considerable contribution to wrecking the economy, AIG has also wrecked itself and is about to go bankrupt. This will leave AIG’s customers, the banks who’ve spent their depositors’ money on worthless derivative securities, with nothing to collect on their insurance policies. Ditto AIG’s own shareholders, who now own essentially worthless AIG stock. 

Who will get stuck with the multi-billion dollar bill for replenishing the money that the banks have lost because their AIG derivative insurance  didn't work? Why poor citizens like you and me, of course. The “little people.” That’s because our deposits are insured by a reliable insurance company, the FDIC, and the government through FDIC will now will have to spend our tax money put back into the busted bank accounts. If deposits weren’t insured, nobody would ever deposit a nickel in a bank.

Fortunately the United States Federal Reserve  rides to the rescue. It seizes control of  nearly 80 percent of the worthless insurance company. Your bank deposits and mine are saved as the government shells out tons of money to cover meltdown lossses. The AIG shareholders end up slightly less screwed than they were before the Feds took over their vcompany. They get back 20 cents on the dollar.  Actually, that’s a pretty good deal. As one adviser to AIG put it, “20 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing.”

AIG gets reorganized and survives. The U.S. taxpayers get back all the money they spent to rescue AIG, plus a $20 billion profit – proving that governments taking over businesses not only don’t create a bottomless hole, but can actually do the taxpayers a favor. And also that sometimes government is a whole lot smarter about running a business than private enterprise.

The economy recovers. AIG is back in business. So are the banks that AIG only pretended to insure. AIG’s greedy  executives reward themselves for being saved by the government from their own incompetence and greed  by paying themselves fat, juicy bonuses.

The Ace of Greed

But then Maurice Greenberg — “Ace” Greenberg as he’s known on Wall Street – feels the sap rising in own his bloated greed gland. Big sums of money have been involved in the death and rebirth of AIG, and he, as former AIG chief exec, wants more of it. He sues “on behalf of the shareholders” among whom he was a very big one, for more money. Remember, had the government not seized AIG, he’d have gotten nothing, nothing, nothing. Ditto the investors. That’s gratitude among the one percent for you. I jump into a raging whirlpool where you're drowning and pull you to safety. You then turn around and sue me for pulling your hair.

Greenberg's case gets tried before a judge at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims named Thomas C. Wheeler. Wheeler must be from Mars, or someplace else in outer space.  Wheeler rules that the 20 percent on the dollar the U.S. gave the bankrupt stockholders was “draconian.” In exchange for not letting the stockholders go bankrupt, the Feds should have given the stockholders even more money, says the judge. Therefore, the takeover was illegal, the judge somehow decides.

K want to know what the Judge was smoking. Maybe he was crushing stupid pills and smoking them in a crack pipe. But perhaps he was only sniffing eau d'Ayn Rand. Hey, what can you expect? He was appointed by Jeb Bush's brother, George Bush.

Now, to quote the Dealbook Column in the New York Times earlier this week:
The judge’s decision could have far-reaching consequences should another financial crisis occur — and if history is any guide, one will. Legal experts say that the ruling, coupled with certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law enacted after the crisis, makes it unlikely the government would ever rescue a failing institution, even if an intervention was warranted.
What all that boils down to is, the next time we have a meltdown, the entire United States economy could end up looking like 12th Century Yemen.

Blood, guts, dead babies, and 
 judicial nincompoopery

In fact, even the judge must have realized, at some level, that his call was worthy of a nincompoop. So then, to appear more fair minded, he went and cut the baby in half. He awarded The Ace of Greed and his fellow shareholders the good news that they’d won on principle. The nasty old government should have rewarded their failure with even more money.Then, to balance things out, he gave them the bad news that they weren’t getting any more money anyway. 

The difference between King Solomonm and Judge Wheeler is that Wheeler actually did cut the baby in half. And all that  baby blood and baby guts, spilling all over the courtroom, are what was once the future economic stability of the United States.

So Judge Wheeler is a nincompoop, the economy is in peril, and the case may eventually wend its way all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court where, considering the court’s recent history, a court majority that sounds like a musical ensemble called The Scalia Five will pull the plug on what was once a great nation.

You’d think that an economy once as big and as burgeoning as ours would be so strong that it would be idiot proof. But as somebody — I don’t remember who — once said, “Nothing is idiot proof. The idiots are too damn clever.”

Hey, hand me a sword and one of those babies. I’m feeling hungry.