Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Screw the poor and aged. Steal from pensioners and miserably paid employees. Rob the schools. Then use the money to subsidize millionaires and billionaires.

"Please sir, may I have another spoonful of thin gruel? For I am fiercely hungry." 
"Damn you, you accursed street urchin! Shut your whining mouth. Don't you know I have billionaires to feed?"

Quick – Go grab a pail so you’ll have something to puke into. Then go here and read the latest disgusting news about the Dickensian States of America.

Meanwhile, in more and more cities and states, being so poor you're homeless is now a crime.

And if you think you'd like to help the homeless poor by feeding them, have another think. In 50 cities, from Daytona Beach, Florida to Camden, New Jersey, feeding the homeless poor is now a crime, too. Just let 'em stand up (because it's against the law for them to sit or lie down) and starve.

By the way, who are those self-righteous bastards who keep smugly declaring that America is a Christian nation? Oh right, people like this guy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What big, really really big government spending did to the American economy

We’re approaching the 45th anniversary of Americans to be the first people to walk on the moon. The date is July 24. This seems like the perfect time to send a reminder to the nincompoops who want to slash government spending and leave economic development to the so-called “free market.” 

Here’s a partial –very partial – list of some of the profitable products they would have killed if they killed one of the biggest government spending programs in history.
  • Freeze dried food
  • Lightweight film space blankets
  • Cochlear implants
  • The dust buster you use to clean the crap off your car upholstery
  • Infrared ear thermometers – so much easier than the Tea Party temperature taking method of shoving a narrow tube of mercury-filled glass up your butt
  • New kinds of water purification systems.  (Your dentist may be using one to keep from squirting polluted gunk under your gums
  • Collision avoidance systems, soon to be applied to saving your butt when you fall asleep at the wheel
  • Better prosthetic limbs, one of the reason so many of our wondered war vets can walk, or even run, rather than hobble or spend their lives tethered to a wheel chair
  • Automatic insulin pumps, so that fat (and fat-headed) Tea Partiers can complain the gubmint has no business regulating what people put in our food while enjoying the benefits of Obamacare or Medicare

As I said, this was a very partial list.There are at least 1650 other space program spinoffs in the fields of computer technology, environment and agriculture, health and medicine, public safety, transportation, recreation, and industrial productivity. For more of these fascinating spinoffs of space science, go here.

The cost of the space program? Adjusted for inflation, it came to $851,000,000,000, according to one sourceq. It was money well spent because all the spinoffs not only made life better for Americans, they made jobs, by the hundreds of thousands and pretty much paid for themselves by growing and enriching the economy over time.

It’s time to put the government back in business again, before the tax-cutting, job-killing, progress-killing, technology-hating right wingers do more damage than that they already have turning the United States of America into a banana republic. 

P.S. My pal Garth Hallberg has taken the paranoid fantasies of the right wing – the ones that insist the whole moon shot happened in a TV studio and is part of a left wing plot to uh, you know, kill freedom – and had some fun with it in a delightful book called, “Boon Juster Or The Reason For Everything.” Take it to the beach with you while there’s still some summer left. And when you read it please remember that the numbskulls actually believe this stuff.

Monday, July 07, 2014

“Aching Hunger…Bliss Ineffable…Mad, Tender…Passion-wild, jealous…hungry…” Oh goody! Another Republican sex scandal, this one aged to perfection like a fine wine.

Warren G. Harding with his
starched color and awkward
pose was just another randy
 Republican crook

What is it about Republicans? They oppose birth control, oppose abortion, make dumb-bunny remarks about knees and aspirin to explain their favorite stupid birth control method – and then these moralizing oafs screw around on the side like March hares on an overdose of testosterone

Now, from the scandal-plagued, corruption-plagued  Warren Gamaliel Harding Administration of 1921-1923, the blathering Republican president whose language was described as, “an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea,” (Does that sound like anything Republicans do today?) comes the romantically smarmy love letters of the married prez to his married mistress.

The letters are about to released, and ought to be published under the title, “50 Shades of Republican.”

Read the piece in the Washington Post. Then go take a cold shower.

Hey, the one thing you can say about Republicans is that they’re consistent in their pompous idiocy and surprising affinity for sexual philandering, from Herman Caine, to Newt Gingrich, to Mark Sanford, to name just some of them.

So if I have one regret about my mortality, it’s that I won’t live to see what your great grandchildren find out about today’s Republicans and Tea Party oafs. But in my heart of hearts, I’m hoping that they’ll read something about Rick Santorum.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Supreme Court decision on contraception: Al Queda, Al Shebab, and ISIS must be joyfully shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

The crazy right-wing U.S. Supreme Court
has handed business owners who side with 
terrorists like this guy a precious gift
So the Supreme Court “Hobby Lobby” decision, allows family-owned corporations to decide that they can override the United States healthcare law on supplying insurance coverage for contraceptives – on the basis of personal religious belief.

They must be getting ready to set off fireworks in the fanatic world of terrorist extremism. 

Think of it. If a corporate owner can refuse to cover some kinds of contraceptives for his employees because he is morally opposed to them, other corporate owners can fire women for refusing to come to work veiled because the owners are morally opposed to unveiled women. 

Or the owners can fire women employees if they weren’t driven to work by a family member. 

Or the corporate owner can fire people who do not fast during Ramadan. Or – who knows? – perhaps even behead Christians in their employ for apostasy. 

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Thomas, Kennedy, Stevens and Roberts and Scalia have handed the world’s worst terrorists the greatest gift America could give them – a justification and a license for their violent behavior in the name of religion.

Nice work, Alito et al. What’s next? A justification for burning witches at the stake?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The New York Crank would like to award Arizona schools superintendent John Huppenthal a free hat.

Wear it, John. You earned it.
Hey John, it’s a free country. People can say what they think. But that doesn’t mean that if their thinking is sub-Neanderthal they should be in charge of a state’s school system.
When you call poor people “lazy pigs,” I begin to question your intellectual curiosity about why poor people are poor. Or your compassion for kids who come to school hungry. Or go to bed hungry.
When you compare Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood to Adolf Hitler, I begin to question your ability to reason, or to compare like things and unlike things. For example, John, an apple doesn't look like or taste like an asparagus. And offering women birth control bears no resemblance to rounding up eight million people in the dead of night, transporting them to concentration camps, or gassing them to death.
But I have to question even your long range political intelligence when you write stuff like this: "We all need to stomp out balkanization. No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv stations, no spanish newspapers…This is America, speak English.”
Did I mention, John, that in school systems that turn out educated people, students usually know to capitalize a proper noun like "Spanish" by the third grade?

You get an F in Education. Go put on your funny hat and sit in the corner, John.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Antioch College gets its groove back, while the town around it grows more delightfully quirky

The Antioch College campus a few minutes before
sunset. Is Antioch College golden again? I think yes.
Here’s some Ohio real estate news that brings joy to my cranky New York heart. 

A wealthy local land owner is building a $4.5 million, 28-room hotel in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The hotel will be near the center of this country town, population under 4,000. And several beds-and-breakfasts and a motel are already doing business here.

No, it’s not folly. It’s an indicator that somebody with money and business savvy is confident that the local college is about to start generating a lot of visitor traffic for the town.

The college is Antioch, once left for dead by the university of the same name that the college spawned. In fact, Antioch College was twice pronounced dead right here and here on this blog. I was wrong. My God, was I wrong!

Angry alumni save the day

College alumni and some of its faculty, enraged by past mismanagement , wrested Antioch College from the control of Antioch University and restarted its academic engines. New trustees installed a new president, Mark Roosevelt, a descendant of the rough-riding 26th President of the United States.

Antioch College’s President Roosevelt has been having a rough ride of his own, but he seems to be effectively leading the charge to restoration. I visited the campus last week. While a few buildings are closed thanks to the university’s neglect, and some have been torn down, its original Victorian spires and more than a couple of modern and renovated structures still stand. And they, as well as the lawns and foliage, look a damn sight spiffier than they did the last time I visited the campus, in 1986.

One of the worst things that happened when Antioch University attempted patricide of Antioch College was that with the college closed and its former faculty dismissed and dispersed, Antioch College lost its accreditation. And yet the college is recovering even from this stab in the heart.

Fast track progress toward re-accreditation

At a dinner for alumni who came back to the college to help fix up the college’s theater building, paint walls, build bicycle racks and do other manual labor in support of their alma mater, President Roosevelt made an announcement last week: After an arduous process, the college was expecting to gain“candidate status” for reaccreditation, which will give it and its students access to the federal grants and loans that every institution of higher learning needs to survive.

I had left town before the next announcement was made, but the Yellow Springs News is reporting that last Saturday the college was granted its candidacy – and put on an accelerated path toward full accreditation.

I chatted with several students while I was on campus, and managed to secure a copy of their student newspaper. The kids were sharp, upbeat, and charming. Their newspaper is a better one than I put out when I was its editor. Little wonder. Since Antioch has been, until now, granting its risk-taking students full tuition (a situation which may end for most new applicants) it was able to skim the cream. Great students in turn attract great faculty, and vice-versa. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, those are certainly good things for Antioch College’s future.

The town is  magnet for foodies and fun lovers

Meanwhile, the town of Yellow Springs is revving up for the prosperity that comes with a soon-to-be-thriving college. I counted at least five restaurants during my downtown strolls and managed to eat at two of them, despite the college’s attempt to feed its alumni volunteers each night. I was especially taken with The Winds Cafe, where I enjoyed a dinner worthy of an upmarket New York restaurant (with prices nearly to match.)

And the night I breezed into town, a bit late thanks to United Airlines, a place called HaHa Pizza stayed open a half hour beyond closing time to let me eat. Moreover, they fed me one hell of a healthy pizza, thanks to an option for a whole wheat crust. And I enjoyed the atmosphere provided by the spacious interior and well-spaced booths and tables.

Moreover, while Amazon may be killing off bookstores around America, you’d never know it in Yellow Springs. Its downtown boasts three shops that sell books.

The town does a strong “local tourist” business – with people driving from places like Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, Ohio to gape a bit at the counterculture types who were attracted to live in town by the progressive college. Visitors poke through offbeat shops ( pictures of some of the storefronts below) and use the state bicycle path which goes through both Yellow Springs and the edge of the college campus.

But the college needs business
and engineering departments

I have wishes for the college that aren’t likely to be fulfilled anytime soon. I wish, for example, that the college would establish a business major among its offerings. Antioch's work-study plan might create an opportunity for career-launching co-op jobs at institutions like Goldman Sachs and KKR. Hey, a hedge fund billionaire or three on the alumni roster could go a long way toward enriching Antioch’s thin endowment.

A fellow alum expressed a similar wish for the restoration of the once-pretty-good engineering department. It’s the engineers, he pointed out, who have won as many victories for humanity – with creations ranging from bridges to computers – as artists, authors and political activists. Moreover, many engineers become financially enriched by their pursuits, and might be tempted to share their good fortunes with the college.

I buttonholed President Roosevelt on the beautiful campus one night and told him about my wish for a business department. His reaction? He, uh, listened patiently. Well, he has other matters on his mind right now, but I do hope the alums will push him for broader course offerings, including business and engineering, in the years to come.

Meanwhile, the college stands, grows and shines, like a butterfly shimmying out of its chrysalis. Toward sunset, when the light is just right, the old red brick and copper turrets of the college’s 19th Century main building catch the sun and turn a honey gold, glowing against the sky. I’ll take that as a good omen.

Meanwhile, here's some of what you'll see while window shopping in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Farewell. I’m going to a far, far better (and a whole lot quirkier) place. But only for a week.

This photograph was stolen from the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce via the web.
I’ve written about the wonderfully eccentric and usually delightful town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, more than a few times during the life of this blog. You can read some samples here, and here, and also here.

Please note that in one of these posts, several years ago, I declared that  Antioch College was dead. I blamed this on the machinations of the evil university by the same name that the college spawned, a university that attempted academic patricide.  For a while, the university appeared to have succeeded.

Now Antioch is risen from its own ashes. It has escaped the thrall of the evil university and is an independent college again. It appears to be flourishing,while coming closer to what everybody hopes will be the accreditation it lost when the  university closed it. The college is building a new faculty and attracting first rate students, thanks in part to a temporary tuition-free program that led the cream of the crop to apply. 

My week in Yellow Springs will be mostly devoted to trying to do some good for Antioch College, but I do hope to spend my free time in downtown Yellow Springs, sampling its restaurants, introducing myself to its newspaper staff (many of whom weren’t born yet when the Yellow Springs News job printed the college newspaper I edited) and see what has changed since I got my education in those parts back in the mid-Twentieth Century.

I won’t be taking a computer with me and I don’t do smart phones. Therefore I don't tweet, twitter, or text. But maybe, with any luck, I’ll be able to put up another blog post about Yellow Springs some time the week of June 16th, when I get back.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Suddenly, the NRA goes all politically correct on us. And don’t you ever – ever! – dare call a mass murderer who kills people with a firearm a “shooter.”

If an  NRA spokesman has his way,  
there will be a press gag on calling a 
shooter a shooter
The NRA can’t control the fact that, with unrelenting regularity in this country, somebody who thinks he has a grievance picks up a gun and blows away innocent women, men and children. So the NRA is trying to do the next best thing.
They want to make sure you don’t know that the shooter was a shooter. Maybe he slaughtered all those elementary school children…or wiped out a bunch of kids on or near a college campus…or offed a guy in a neighboring movie seat and put a bullet hole through the man’s wife’s hand…with a series of deft karate chops.
In a video on an NRA website, the, uh, commentator Dom Raso complains that those ‘biased” news media keep referring to people who shoot other people with firearms as “shooters.” Think how outrageous that is! Imagine calling a spade a spade! That, he says, is propaganda.
You don’t believe me? Go watch this person yourself.
He claims that calling a shooter a shooter exposes the “inaccuracy” of the media. Innacurate? How? Well, he says, calling them “shooters” makes us think of the “tool” they used rather than the nature of their crime, which was murder. “Evil is the problem. The tool is irrelevant,” he declares
Y’see, shooting somebody dead is just incidental. The “inaccurate” press ought to call those tool-wielding folks “murders,” he insists.
Well, then, if we can’t refer to the murderers’ tools, we’ll have to start rewriting history. Because, really, if a gun-wielding thug’s weaponry is subject to a cloak of anonymity, the same should apply to any murderer’s methods.
So the Boston Strangler? Sorry folks. He’s now “The Boston Murderer.” 
“Jack the Ripper?” I’m afraid that gets a bit to graphic about what he did to women’s bodies with his knife, taking our minds away from the crime. So he’s “Jack the Murderer,” from now on, too. 
Lizzie Borden, who took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks? Sorry, she’s no longer the “Axe murderer, Lizzie Borden.” She’s now merely the garden-variety “Lizzie the Murderer.”
The accused marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? He's now demoted to an accused marathon murderer.

What’s really getting murdered in Raso’s commentary is common sense.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Doing the White House Waffle

This diagram portrays the strategic direction
of theWhite House on key issues of importance
 to Democrats
More and more, I am disappointed with President Obama.
He started out like a house on fire. He was going to give us affordable health care with a public option. He was going to provide a solution to the immigration problem that didn’t involve breaking up families. He was going to restore prosperity with economic stability. He was….g-g-g-g-gagggg!
Yes, we have affordable healthcare. But at the point where the Democrats still had clout in Congress and the Senate, and the President was in a position to twist arms, he instead pulled his own leg. He convinced himself that if only he gave in to Republicans here and there, not to mention there and here…well, things would work out more smoothly. Hah!
That they worked out at all is a miracle. But we have no public option. This country would have been best off with Medicare for All. Instead we have what we have. Yes, it’s a darn sight better than we used to have. If somebody cuts off all five of my fingers and the doctor sews three back on, I’m better off than I was. But not good enough.
Immigration? The Obama presidency has deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president in history – Republican or Democrat As to a solution…well, don’t hold your breath.
The financial crisis? The President was right to save the banks. He was wrong not to save each of them into fifty different corporations, each chartered to do business in only one state. Now the banks are slowly resuming their old tricks again.
Afghanistan? We were going to be out by 2014. Now we’ll be more or less out, except where we aren’t out. But in 2015 we’ll  be even more more-or-less out. Except that we still won't be out.
Wasn't is Bear Bryant who said nice guys  finish last? But that doesn't apply to guys who can’t figure out whether to be nice, or not nice. They finish going around in circles.
Aren’t the Republicans and the Tea Party to blame? They sure as hell are. But so is the sheriff, on Pennsylvania Avenue, who instead of busting all those crazy outlaws, ambled out in the street and said, “Boys, in lieu of distrupting your lives by tossing you all in the pokey, suppose I sing a chorus of Kum-ba- ya and call it a day?”
In the end, what could have been a great administration is likely to go down as just so-so. That would be worthy of a great big “So what?” from anyone who isn’t Barack Obama except for one thing. 
We are now a nation of might-have-beens.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The VA mess, bonuses, greed, and the hopeless situation of our veterans

Resigned VA Chief Shinseki: his 
resignation is called for, but it won't
solve anything

So, Erick Shinseki has resigned. He had to go. He seemed, until almost the last millisecond, blind to the problems of veterans waiting for months for appointments. Or not getting them at all. Or dying while waiting to see a doctor.

How did he miss the scandal going on under his nose? Was he blind? Couldn't he at least read a newspaper in the morning?

Alas, like any good General, Shinseki listened to his field commanders. (in this case their equivalent are Veterans Administration managers) when he wanted field intelligence. That’s normally a good practice, based on the assumption that the field commanders are telling the truth. But when they start turning in false intelligence, a good practice becomes a terrible one.

Yes, we can and should punish the VA managers who lied about appointment times and did other egregious forms of book keeping to make themselves look good so they could get bonuses, even as American heroes died awaiting medical care. But simply jailing them all won’t fix the problem, which lies not in the VA but in America's tight-fisted, politically doctrinaire, fact-blind, self-aggrandizing Congress

The real reason vets weren’t getting the medical care to which they’re entitled, and which they’ve surely earned, is that the VA doesn’t have enough medical staff to treat them all in a timely manner. And the reason for that is that Congress won’t appropriate enough money to hire more medical staff.

Until Congress is willing to pay for medical care what medical care needs to cost, we’ll have VA managers without bonuses and we’ll still have American heroes dying waiting for a doctor's appointment.

The people who should really be punished at the penny-pinching agents of the Koch Brothers’ (and other political campaign “donors”) greed.

Yeah, that’ll be the day.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Edgar Allen Poe, Abu Dhabi, beating the crap out of cheated workers, and more about the horrid legacy of New York University President John Sexton

Compared to supporting what is virtually slave
labor, you could say that the disrespect of Edgar
Allen Poe's legacy is a piffling trifle among the
transgressions of New York University.
Dr. John Sexton, the president of New York University, will retire in 2015 with benefits of roughly $800,000 a year. That should let him land softly after years of collecting a salary currently at $1.5 million a year, and a $2.5 million “length of service bonus,” according to The Wire.

Sexton deserves the money, said  a university spokesman (and therefore an employee of Sexton), in part because Sexton raises about a million bucks a day for the university.

Staggering tuition 

All those millions accruing to Sexton will come as little comfort to the university’s students and their parents, who don’t seem to be the primary beneficiaries of Sexton’s bucks. 

This year, according to the university’s own brochure “Financial Facts,” students will need to cough up $64,067 a year, if they’re from out of town. If they’re New Yorkers who live at home and take the subway to classes each day, they can get away with a piffling $49,936 a year, says the same brochure.

So where does the money go? Some of it goes into ambitious building programs in New York, where the university likes to build its buildings tall and ugly, in sharp contrast to the relatively low-rise profile of mostly 19th Century Greenwich Village.

And some of it seems to go to ambitious building programs abroad, where the university has set up satellites, 12 of them so far, where one NYU faculty member says it’s “just about people paying an NYU New York tuition and then being shipped off to Prague where you can house and educate the kids for a fraction of the cost that it takes in New York and then NYU pockets the difference.”

Care for a little anti-semitism or
imprisonment with your education?

One of those foreign outposts helping to line Sexton’s pockets is in Abu Dhabi. Yup, the very oily Arab Emirate that also played host to a symposium that  “challenged the reality of the Holocaust; a speaker called Jews ‘the enemies of all nations.’”

“I would be concerned about young people from Connecticut or from anywhere else in the country, for that matter, heading off to Abu Dhabi to get an education,” a Connecticut state legislator, Andrew Flesichmann, told a reporter from New York Magazine. Little wonder. If your son or daughter is caught while being gay in Abu Dhabi, the penalty is up to 10 years in a United Arab Emirates prison, or possibly the death penalty. It's unclear to me whether, if your child is executed in the middle of the academic year, you will still be liable for the next term's tuition.

Near slave-labor construction

Equally concerning is that the imported workers who are constructing the middle eastern NYU outpost are virtual slave laborers who get cheated, underpaid, housed in slum conditions and who also get beaten up and deported – owing substantial debts to the recruiters who brought them to Abu Dhabi – if they protest.

A report in the New York Times describes their plight, which includes getting paid half of what they were promised before they left home, working 12 hours a day, six days a week, living 15 men to a miserable hovel of a room, and having their passports confiscated by their employers, who directly or indirectly are working for NYU. That way, they can’t even get out of the country without the permission of their enslaving employers, even if they can somehow raise the air fare on their own.

Moral fiber at other universities,
but not at NYU

American universities with more moral fiber than NYU have told Abu Dhabi in effect to go jump in an oil well when approached about arrangements similar to NYU’s. 

Harvard sent back a $2.5 million donation from the president of the United Arab Emirates. And the University of Connecticut cut off negotiations with Abu Dhabi for is own campus there, “in part because of its concerns about human-rights violations, as well as the realization that the country’s restrictions against Israelis and homosexuals would violate the school’s nondiscrimination clause,” said New York Magazine.

But NYU under John Sexton, has had no such qualms. Heck, even historic landmarks get no respect. Some years ago, the university decided to demolish the home of the great American poet and author Edgar Allen Poe to make way for a nondescript building, 170,000 square feet of it,  for the university’s expanding law school. 

"We don't need no stinkin' culture"

The neighbors protested, of course that the university was destroying a cultural artifact while uglifying the neighborhood, but hey, NYU is one university that don’t need no stinkin’ culture. It finally relented enough to agree to "preserve" the facade of the original building. Hah! The  “preservation” was moved half a block from its original site, uses none of the original brickwork,  and has been denounced as “a facade, literally and figuratively,” by the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Oh yes, and one more thing. Like Abu Dhabi, the university doesn’t seem to treat dissent kindly. To protest the destruction of the Poe House back in 2000, a speaker stood in front of the spot with over 100 Greenwich Village residents, reading Poe’s poem, "The Raven" into a hand-held microphone. Poetry on the street in front of a university building? Horrors! No wonder somebody called the cops!  I wonder who?  Next thing you know, in this nation of free speech, the man was arrested for reciting poetry while not having a permit to use a microphone.

Seems as if, wherever NYU builds, it’s a midnight dreary.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Thomas Piketty Thomas schmiketty! The New York Crank has been advocating an excess wealth tax since 2007. Where’s my effin’ footnote and share of the royalties, Tommy?

The New York Crank came out
for an excess wealth tax even
before a 2007 post on the topic
that included this picture, stolen
from the former Billionaires for
Bush website.
Listen, I hate to say I was there first.

I don’t want to thump my chest and hoot and holler and say I’m the inventor of the newest new thing. 

I don’t want to make plagiarism accusations about Thomas Piketty, whose hot “new” idea (a perfectly valid one) is to fix many of society’s economic and social justice ills with a huge tax on wealth. 

But let’s face the facts, Tommy Boy. The New York Crank was there first. Which makes the idea mine while it makes you merely one of my word-multiplying camp followers.

This cranky blog was advocating a humongous tax on wealth since June 29, 2007, when a post in this space was headlined, “Rich people behaving badly, or why America may need an ‘excess personal wealth’ tax. Read these tales and retch.”

I stated the case for taxing excess wealth again, only a few weeks later, on June 18, 2007, in a New York Crank post headlined, “Still not convinced America needs and excess wealth tax on multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires? Check out this hair-curling super-rich dude.”

I drove home the point still another time on Valentine’s Day, 2008, with a post entitled, “Does America need an excess wealth tax? Don’t even dare thinking about renting another yacht until you read this.”

On September 7th, 2010, this blog bore the headline, “Filthy rich people behaving like swine–still more reason for a 90 percent tax bracket.” (I know, I know, Piketty is advocating a tax just on accumulated wealth, not incomes, but c’mon. How do you think wealth gets accumulated in the first place? Even if you say wealth is generated by property, the wealth initially comes in the form of income.)

There were also some blog posts that referred to the idea, without spelling it out in the headline. One, way back on July 03, 2007 featured the photograph above and the headline, “No comments needed, but I’ll give you a few anyway.”

Another post, on July 18 of last year, over a photograph of a guillotine said, “Here’s more evidence that America desperately needs an excess wealth tax – unless we want to see a return of this contraption.”

Speaking of head-severing contraptions, I’ve suggested here more than once that sooner or later, if the rich keep greedily holding to their “Let-‘em-eat-cake” mentality, they might indeed suffer the fate of Marie Antoinette. Or something like her fate. Personally, I’m charmed by the idea of a guillotine at the corner of Wall and Broad, directly in front of the New York Stock Exchange, simply for its symbolic eloquence in that spot.

If you haven’t read Piketty’s book, find out why it’s important that you do in Paul Krugman’s article, “Why We’re in a New Gilded Age.” I’m generously recommending you read Krugman’s piece even though Krugman never thought for a millisecond of recommending The New York Crank, but hey, I play fair, even among people who pander purloined ideas.

And then go buy the book that expands on the original purloined Cranky idea. Trust me, this book will do more to very slowly but eventually change the course of economic history than 50 Occupy Wall Street mobs of kids who vanished when  couldn’t figure out what they stood for in the long run.

It's in our DNA, so shut up and eat it!

"In striking down the statute on aggravated harassment dealing with speech that was merely annoying or alarming, the judges unanimously ruled that the law was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. They cited another court’s ruling that “any proscription of pure speech must be sharply limited to words which, by their utterance alone, inflict injury or tend naturally to evoke immediate violence.” Mere annoying speech, the lingua franca of many New Yorkers, was not enough."
     From an article in The New York Times. Boldfacing my own.

So shut up and eat it, jerk!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Political fashionistas, Nazis in the municipal building, botched executions, and a prayer to shove down the Supreme Court Justices’ throats. Or maybe up some other part of them.

Mr. Adolph Schickelgruber is
is one of several evil people
mentioned in this post. Read on.

I know, I know, I’ve been gone so long you were wondering if I was…hors du combat as the French say.

No such luck, dudes. After a long dry spell, a brief gush of income-producing work bashed down the door of my cranky office and demanded – demanded! that I immediately stop whatever else I was doing, and instead do my thing for them.

Hey, as the U.S. Supreme Court perfectly well knows, money talks, and it talks one hell of a lot louder than words. Loud enough, in fact, to drown out any real speech.  So I temporarily abandoned my cranky blog. But now, while I wait for the people who hired me for thruppence ha'penny to pay up…and wait…and wait, I have a few moments to try to play catch up here in Blogistan.

And so, I went through the old and the new news this morning, and discovered more than a few items fighting for my attention.

Let’s deal with the frivolously weird stuff first. High fashion is is about to get highly political. First Cosmopolitan Magazine announces that it’s going to have a mink-coated person covering hard news and politics. Not even two weeks later, Marie Claire announces that it is going to have a political beat, too. Isn’t that a little ill-fittingly weird? You know, sort of like The Wall Street Journal having a rock and roll reporter, complete with his own Twitter feed, to keep its readers at bond law firms and hedge funds au courant? Oh, wait.

“Happy birthday dear Schickelgruber” Back during WWII, there was a campaign to hurt Adolph Hitler’s feelings while we fought a war to the death with him. “Call him by his real name, Adolph Schickelgruber,” said posters, and ads, and little squibs in magazines. In fact, Adolph’s father actually  had changed the family name from Schickelgruber to Hitler, but who cared? Well, now Schickelgruber’s ghost is stirring up the local nincompoops in the tiny French-Alsatian town of Oltingue, population something like 700. Or are the nincompoops local?

Seems a group of people went to the little town’s mayor and asked to rent out a room in town hall for a birthday party. You know, a little Alsatian wine, like a nice cold, crisp Gewirtztraminer perhaps, a tempting wedge of cake, some friendly folks wishing grandma well, that sort of thing? Hah!

Instead, somewhere between 150 and 200 neo-Nazis held a 125th (that’s one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth) birthday party for their beloved Schickelgruber, using his stage name, Adolph Hitler. Was there local outrage? For bien sur, and deservedly so. But now some people are wondering if the troublemakers didn’t actually come from Germany, which is right across the border from Alsace, a French province where they speak both French and German. 

Mein Gott and Mon Dieu, das ist une grande scandale!

Rat Poison Mary. Don't let her serve
you dinner in the Governor's mansion.
Rat Poison Mary investigates herself. You couldn’t possibly have missed this one: Oklahoma last week botched an execution, thanks in part to the Governor Mary (call her Rat Poison Mary) Fallin. She overruled  her own state’s Supreme Court –or perhaps defied is a better word – to speed up the execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett, refusing to say what chemicals he’d be injected with to kill him, where they came from, or why separation of powers, a principle upon which our nation was founded, doesn’t seem to hold any water in Oklahoma.

Well, you know the story. Lockett died a slow and agonizing death. So slow and agonizing that finally officials drew the curtain around the death chamber so that the press and other witnesses couldn’t observe what ghastly stuff was going on. They say Locket died of a heart attack after the execution was called off. Maybe. Or maybe they switched over to rat poison and kept pumping it into him until every last one of his blood vessels hemorrhaged. Or maybe somebody put a pillow over his face and smothered him. Or clubbed him to death with a ball peen hammer.

We may never know, because Rat Poison Mary arranged for a so-called “independent investigation,” to be conducted by a department that reports directly to herself, and to be led by a man who is a former Oklahoma Department of Corrections employee who was present at the execution. He was there because…uh…well. they’ll probably tell you it’s none of your business. Can you say "coverup?"

Until somebody incontrovertibly proves otherwise, using completely independent experts rather than political hacks, I’m going to stick with my rat poison theory. Moreover, I’m going to start calling the Oklahoma governor Rat Poison Mary every chance I get. I wish you would, too.

May God keep the five right wing members of the U.S. Supreme Court – preferably in a dark cell in Guantanamo.  Freedom of religion used to mean you also had freedom from religion. You wouldn’t want somebody walking into your home, uninvited by you, to tell you that Satan, or Zoroaster, or Zeus is the only true God. So why should anybody have to put up with it in a town meeting of the pathetic little backwater dump of a usually-freezing-cold burg called Greece, N.Y.?

Turns out, the town governing body had been starting out with a prayer to Jesus, which is fine if you believe that’s who God is and if you also believe in God, and if you’re religious enough to pray about it. But some folks were offended, one thing led to another, and the whole matter was before the other kind of supreme beings, the old dudes in black robes.

Chief Justice Kennedy: "What Constitution?"
Sure enough, justices Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito did the expectable, and voted in favor of the establishment of an official religion, in direct violation of what the U.S. Constitution says “shall not” happen. 

Listen, I don’t want to knock religion. It brings many people comfort when nothing else can. And while I would argue that you can’t possible know if there is a God, I believe the same logic dictates that you can’t possibly know there isn’t, regardless of my own opinions on the subject.

So what should we do about imposed Christianity, just legalized by the five right wing  court totalitarians? Well, since the court’s position is that you can’t “censor” religious speech, let’s have more of it. I urge every appointed or self-appointed member of religious and quasi-religious sects to go up there to Greece and demand equal praying time.

How about a prayer that begins, “Oh beloved Satan, sworn enemy of  the false gods of the west…
The goddess of Lust. Put her
in your church and pray to it,
Mr. Justice Kennedy.

How about an invocation calling for the imposition of Sharia Law in the town of Greece?

How about prayers to Zoroaster, and Zeus, and Dionysus? Or to Tlazolteotl, the Aztec goddess of lust, carnality and sexual misdeeds? In concert with deeply held religious beliefs, the minister or shaman could name various body parts that might concern Tlazolteotl, and what should be done with them, and by whom, and for how long, and in whose bed.

Of course, the five Supreme Court justices would rule against that sort of prayer, using whatever excuse they could think up, once Greece bounces back to court with them. But at least, the justices would clearly put their own preferential religious politics on display.

However, I think we could work on the preferential bit, too. How about a national day of mass prayers, to the diety of your choice, calling for the Sacred One of your choice to either strike justices Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito dead or, better yet. to afflict them with a stroke that robs them of their own speech, not to mention the ability to flee from church once the next round of prayers to Zoroaster and Tlazolteotl begin.

Hey, it's all just an exercise of your freedom of speech.Right Supreme Courtiers?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Is Cliven Bundy in over his head? Or does he even have a head?

I really shouldn’t be taking the time to post this. After a week devoted to a personal health scare that turned out to be nada, I’m up to my eyeballs in neglected work that now has to get done.

But I feel sorry for Cliven Bundy, the Nevada Rancher who doesn’t want to pay the gub-mint for grazing his cattle on public lands, and who let slip enough overheated racist remarks to melt down a statue of Jefferson Davis.

No, I don’t feel sorry for him because he's getting skewered by the press and abandoned by many of his former "friends." I feel sorry for him because of his Neanderthal stupidity. Or am I insulting Neanderthals? Bundy is standing firm on his stubbornly unyielding ignorance, and I know there must still be some people, equally ignorant, who want to stand with him, but it’s time to straighten these fools out.

Look, Bundyites: The government owns those grazing lands in Nevada. It has owned them ever since the United States, backed by ithe U.S. Army, stole the territory from Mexico.

I think it was the late Senator Everett Dirkson who proudly declared of the land, “We stole it fair and square.” Or maybe he was talking about the Panama Canal Zone. Doesn't matter. Same idea.

Anyway that public land now belongs to every citizen of the United States, with the U.S. Government serving as our agent to preserve the space.

But you can use that space, Mr. Bundy. You can graze your cattle on it to your heart’s content, just so long as you pay the cheap price, relative to commercial land, that all of us American citizens are charging you. 

If you don’t want to pay, get the hell off our land and pay higher commercial rates somewhere else. It’s that simple.

You say private interests ought to have the right to buy the land? Do that, and there will be no public land left in the United States. In New York, private interests will buy up Central Park to build skyscrapers. They’ll turn Yellowstone  and Yosemite Parks into golf courses. Or into strip mines, for all I know.

So we can’t allow that, and we can’t allow wanton trespassing on our land. Pay up or get off. Just get the hell off.

As to your racist remarks, they are beneath contempt. I’ve used all of my contempt up on your crackpot legal theories of land use. So far as I’m concerned, the U.S. Marshals can remove you from our land – and empty out your bank account for the back payments you owe. And if this turns into another Ruby Ridge confrontation, you’ll be one roasted rancher I won’t lose any sleep about.