Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Religion 2013

Yes, it's nice that Time named Pope Francis "Man of the Year," but it's hard to imagine that even a very charismatic religious leader can steer the world away from all the violent stupidity the practice of religion has  brought us this year.

Sunni Muslims, Shi'a Muslims, various Christians, Hindus, and even Buddhists and animists have been killing each other this past year. Iraq and Afghanistan, of course, continue to be torn apart, and Syria is worse.  Then there are Cambodia and the Central African Republic and Chad and Ethiopia and Lebanon and Ceylon and Burma and Uttar Pradesh and Bahrain and the Northern Caucasus and more places I can't remember right now.  Oh, yeah, and don't forget the Israeli ultra-orthodox zealously expanding the settlements, and the Palestinians who hate them.

Then there are the secularists and the Putinistas and the radical atheists and Kim Jong Un.  It's all religious craziness, even when there's not much obvious religion involved.  It's all religion.

There was a very long time before you were conceived, and there will be a very long time after you are dead.  We are very, very finite, and there are no angels nor virgins nor reincarnation awaiting us.  We occupy a finite space in time, the same space we always shall occupy.  Those who intentionally truncate that time — by volunteering as suicide bombers, for example — get no special consideration.

In the long run, of course, it doesn't make any difference.  It doesn't make any difference at all.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


This morning I read that Pope Francis has taken the brakes off the the beatification of Oscar Romero. I'm not entirely sure what the requirements are for martyrdom, but Romero certainly met my requirements.  Perhaps you are old enough to remember Pope John XXIII, and the Second Vatican Council.  Perhaps you are old enough to remember Liberation Theology.

Perhaps not, but every once in a while the Catholics remember what Jesus and Christianity once were all about.  Francis seems to have remembered it was about helping the poor, but  the rest of Christianity may take a long time to catch up.

In the meanwhile, Coptic Christians in Egypt are being exterminated by Salafists; Sunnis in Lebanon are being suicide-bombed by by Shi'ia; Muslims in India and Cambodia are being exterminated by Hindus; (who knows what kinds of) Christians and (who knows what kinds of) Muslims are exterminating each other in various former colonial fiefdoms of Africa; and the Sunni-Shi'ia conflict is playing itself out all over the Middle East.

One nice thing about the USofA is that we atheists are far less likely to be suicide bombed than in other parts of the world (unless we work at abortion clinics.)  Maybe it feels good to feel so fucking sure of yourself, but that's no excuse.

Tell your god to go fuck himself.  Take care of all those orphaned children, and all those refugees.  Probably there's no reward after you're dead, but that shouldn't matter.  Do it for now.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Income Inequality

Pundits and politicians are always going on about how improving education is the answer to income inequality.  They're wrong.

College graduates are significantly more likely to be employed than high school graduates  A lot of their jobs used to be performed perfectly well by high school graduates, but so what?  If you can get a slightly more intellectual waitperson to serve your yuppie clientele for the same price, you may as well do it.  Right?

Back in the old faculty room, it was pretty obvious to everybody that you can't make a silk purse out of sow's ear, nor a Rhodes Scholar out of a horse's ass.  Human aptitudes, sadly, tend to follow that old normal curve.  There are probable winners, possible winners,and certain losers.

This is not to say that we should not work very hard to improve education, especially to shove more of those nice kids in the middle of the normal curve towards the higher end of the "hump" — and certainly we have to lift a lot of poor kids out of the quicksand of poverty and failure, and give them all the opportunities that might help them.

None of that has anything to do with income inequality.

Nobody should work for poverty wages.  Every worker should earn a living wage.  Despite the insistence of Tea Party types, the real inequality problem is not a result of "government giveaways" to the poor (mostly children), but because people working full-time (albeit, at times, in several part-time jobs)  cannot make ends meet.

The answer is legislating a living wage — at this time, about fifteen bucks an hour — indexed for inflation.  Certain businesses will have to spend a lot more on labor.  Who will pay for those extra expenses?  Well, the rest of us, of course.  We won't be able to lay it all on the rich, as much as we might like to do so.  Just the same, we'd be spending a lot less to support programs like SNAP (aka food stamps) and Medicaid.

Also, when the people at the bottom get a boost, higher wages trickle up.  Okay, that will push prices up — but the people hurt most by inflation (apart from retirees like me) are the bankers.  You can be sure the bankers will find a way to deal with inflation, even if it means keeping a bit less of their wealth.

Nobody working full-time ever should have to depend on the social safety net for survival.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


According to the Times, the United States has discontinued non-lethal aid to the Syrian rebels after fighters for the Islamic Front grabbed up a couple of warehouses full of stuff we'd contributed to the Free Syrian Army, the administration's preferred rebel group.  I read the article twice, and a couple of things stood out.  First, it was suggested that no Free Syrian Army fighters were around to defend the warehouses.  Second, the Islamic Front has no relationship with ISIS or Al Qaeda.

The administration is "considering" support to the Islamic Front, but by the time consideration is over, you can bet the Islamic Front will have fragmented into a bunch of new militias, along with a bunch of other rebel groups.  The main motivation for a large majority of those groups, at this point, is to steal as much as possible.  Pity the refugees, and the countries to which they have fled.  There will be nothing left if they ever get to go home.


More schismatics:  Despite his "fiscal" dedication to taking food out the mouths of poor children, Paul Ryan is under attack by the very members of Congress (and outside organizations financed by such as the Koch brothers) who were kissing his ass a few years ago.  Then John Boehner came to his defense, displaying what might pass as genuine anger, but with no tears.

It seems there are a few Democrats in the House who genuinely like Ryan, or so they say.  Is he moving to the middle for the sake of the next presidential election?  Can he find the critical point that balances the true crazies against the traditional conservatives?  Can the Republican Party keep from ripping itself apart?

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Sometime back in the early 80s, too long ago for me to remember the exact year, I was at an American Federation of Teachers convention pushing a resolution to endorse divestment from South Africa.  Along with my commie friends in United Action Caucus, I was beating my head against a brick wall named Albert Shanker, president of the AFT, neo-liberal, and first union president to be invited to sit in on the Business Roundtable

Our guest of honor that year was Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Zulu chieftain and collaborator with the apartheid government.   Buthelezi addressed us, speaking against divestment.  His argument was that the poverty level jobs of black South African would be put in peril.

Personally, I am proud to have been red-baited by Shanker when I took the floor to argue for divestment that year.  It took six years for the AFT to join in the call for divestment, and by that time, almost everybody else had gone first.

Extraordinarily, though, when Mandela became the leader of South Africa, he took Buthelezi  into his government.  He was a very forgiving, very political man.  He never managed to bring real equality to South Africa, but you can't say he didn't try.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


They were out there again today, demanding fifteen bucks an hour to work in fast food.  The restaurant industry is violently against it, of course, claiming it will raise the price of our burgers and "destroy jobs."

Let's just take a closer look.  First of all, fast food workers, these days, probably are not high school students earning a little gas money.  Lots of them are adults.  Plenty are single mothers, fitting in whatever work they can while their kids are in school.  They qualify for food stamps (SNAP) and Medicaid.

That means taxpayers are subsidizing McDonald's, Domino's, Burger King, and other multibillion dollar corporations that contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other conditions that elevate health care costs.  If the dollar menu goes to a buck twenty-five, and that results in fewer sales to poor people, we all come out ahead.

Other retail workers are in the same situation.  Wal-Mart actually helps its "associates" apply for food stamps and Medicaid; and who's paying for it?  We are – the taxpayers.

I'm angry.  Are you?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Evangelii Gaudium

Here's a little something from the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, recently published by Pope Francis:

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion.

Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers."

Certainly, you don't have to be a Catholic to agree.  You don't even have to be a theist.  Francis is one of the good guys.  Here's a little more:

Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.

Read the whole exhortation here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Asshole of the month for November

Well, I was leaning towards Chuck Schumer for his total subservience to AIPAC, and faxed him (remember fax?) to tell him as much, but it is a big world, and Schumer (who is objecting to possible detente with Iran) was outdone.

The winner! : Hamid Karzai, of course.  Somebody on the radio suggested he was "off his meds."  Was he ever on his meds?  Do they even make meds for somebody so totally nuts?

First he called the loya jurga, totally stacked to support him, and then he ignored the loya jurga's demand that he sign the agreement with the USofA immediately.  (I guess those loya jurga guys understand that two billion bucks a year in military aid is not chump change.)  Now Hamid wants to put off signing until April, after the election of a new asshole, who is likely to be one of his brothers or cousins, given the endemic corruption.

Personally, I'd be happy to keep the two billion and tell Karzai to screw himself.  Al Qaeda is comfortably ensconced all over North Africa and the Arabian peninsula, so Afghanistan will hardly make a difference.

Friday, November 22, 2013

3 shots + 50 years

Like everybody else old enough to have been paying attention fifty years ago, I remember where I was when I heard JFK was dead.  I was in Dr. Jayne's Renaissance Literature class.  I hadn't voted for Kennedy — I was 17, and the voting age was 21 back then — but I certainly wouldn't have voted for Nixon.  Yes, I know, I've often identified Nixon as our last liberal president, but he didn't seem all that liberal back then.  Kennedy, in retrospect, was a hell of a lot like Obama — just more of a womanizer.

Fifty years is a hell of a long time.  I've gone from being a teenager to an old man, and America has gone from being an aspirational, hopeful place to a sad, embittered old man like me — or, maybe, that's just my old man's perspective.

Vietnam notwithstanding, I still think LBJ was the best president we've had since FDR.  Bill Clinton was not the "first black president."  Lyndon Johnson was.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stock bubble?

Hell, I don't know if it's what you call a "bubble," but I think I know why stock prices are so high.  As I've said over and over, some people just have too much money, and they have to put it someplace.  Bonds are paying close to zero, and thanks to a serious paucity of consumer demand, nobody is particularly interested in expanding real domestic business investment.

So, unless American companies seriously expect to sell a whole lot of crap they don't manufacture anymore to the Chinese and the Indians (unlikely), the run-up in stock prices is due more to "market forces" than anybody's intellect. Will stock prices drop again?  Uh huh.  Does that make it a bubble?

Maybe not.  Depends on what you call a bubble.  Anyway, who cares what you call it?  To most of us, with just a little bit of stock market money in a TSA, who cares?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Warren v. Cruz?

I first developed my giant crush on Elizabeth Warren in 2007, when she was on TV plugging the book she co-wrote with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tiagi, "The Two Income Trap."  She just made so much sense, and conveyed my point of view so much better than I ever could (and was pretty good-looking as well), I was captured.  Needless to say, I bought the book, and I loved it.

Time has passed, and Elizabeth Warren has attracted a lot more attention for her development of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and her election to the Senate.  Although we still are a mighty long way from the 2016 election, and all kinds of stuff can happen between now and then, I'm still hoping for Warren.

So far, we've had thirteen years of Clintonistas — to wit, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — and another four or eight years of Hillary does not much entice me.  It really is time for Bob Rubin to have his heart attack and fucking get out of the way.

I figure if Elizabeth Warren can get the Democratic nomination, Ted Cruz ought to be able to get the Republican nomination.  America will be faced with a real choice.  Wouldn't that be something?!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Just how rich do you have to be?

Evan Spiegel, 23, and Bobby Murphy, 25, have turned down a 3 billion dollar offer from Facebook to buy their start-up, SnapChat.  For those unfamiliar with SnapChat (like me), it enables you to send dirty pics of yourself to your perverted boyfriend — pictures that will disappear after he has seen them, so he cannot save them and paste them all over the internet after you've figured out he's an asshole and dump him.

It was a pretty good idea, I figure — but why isn't 3 billion dollars enough?  If you have a shot at 1.5 billion dollars, why the fuck do you need more?  World domination?

Needless to say, SnapChat (just like Facebook and Twitter) never turns a profit, but there seem to be unplumbed limits of greed these days, and people willing to take on a hell of a lot of risk for essentially unattainable world domination.

Silly little boys.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Some Brief Thoughts


What can you do but cry and send money?  I sent an extra hundred bucks to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), because I've vetted them, and know they're efficient and low overhead.  With corpses rotting on the streets and little safe water, the need for medical care only can increase.  Be careful about who gets your money.  When CEOs of charities are paid like CEOs of megabanks, find another place to contribute.

$142 million?

Mind you, I like Francis Bacon's tryptych of Julian Freud, albeit I would be unlikely to hang a print in my living room — but the price indicates only that some people just have too much goddamned money.

Record Afghan Opium Crop

I don't know how many recall this, but the lowest opium production by Afghanistan was in the last year of Taliban control.  The Taliban had moral problems with opium, and the total output was zero.  Now, we're told, they're profiting from the trade.  So much for morality.


What can you do but cry and send money?  Sadly, the people sending money live in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and they're sending it to Al Nusra and other Al Qaeda linked groups.  With allies like that, who needs enemies?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Affordable Care Act

The worst thing about Obamacare is not that the website doesn't work, nor that women (and men) in their fifties are required to buy policies with maternity and pediatric coverage, nor that the President out and out lied about how people could "keep" their coverage if they "like" it.

The worst thing about Obamacare is that private insurance companies are in charge, which, in many markets, means there is essentially, no competition.  If only one or two companies want to get into a market (and why they're allowed to do it by county instead of by state is beyond me), premiums necessarily will be high.  This is the state of affairs in many rural areas.

When Obama punked out on the public option, thinking he might get some "bipartisan" support (he didn't), he blew a hole in the side of "health care for all."  If the Affordable Care Act is his "signature" achievement (along with strenuous persecution of whistleblowers), he's been a pretty crappy President.

It's unlikely the Democrats can take back the House in 2014, no matter how crazy the Tea Party has been and may be.  Districts are too well gerrymandered.  Even if they do, though, I don't think single payer would stand a chance.  Robert Rubin Democrats will stand in its way.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Clinton v. Christie? Oh, crap!

It's more than two years until the Iowa conventions, but the pundits, of course, have to say something.  Chuck Schumer, the senator from Wall Street, also has weighed in, along with a bunch of Hollywood assholes on  behalf of Hillary.  Christie is not yet endorsed by any big shot Republican PACs, which demonstrates that big shot Republican PACs are not quite so dumb as Hollywood assholes, but the pundits don't much care.

We've already had another Clinton, a slightly darker complected "first Black president" by the name of Barack Obama.  We certainly don't need another.  This time around, we need a liberal.

Christie, on the other hand, is just another opportunist with a gigantic ego and a tendency to dissemble.  I would like it, of course, if the Red States advanced Ted Cruz, but only if the Democrats had somebody who was a real Democrat to oppose him.

Yes, I dream of Elizabeth Warren, but that probably won't happen this time around.  Too bad.  Warren v. Cruz would offer voters a real choice — kind of like DeBlasio v. Lhota.  Okay, I apologize.  Lhota is not nearly so bad as Cruz.  If he ran against Hillary, I just might vote for him.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Terry McAuliffe

In "purple" state Virginia, Clintonista Terry McAuliffe looks likely to defeat TPA (Tea Party Asshole) Ken Cuccinelli.  McAuliffe is kind of a turd, but I guess he's better than the TPA.  Albeit I preferred Hillary to Barack, I think we've had more than enough Clinton administration.  Surely, the Dems can find somebody better that Hillary to run against whatever TPA the party in decline nominates in 2016.  Jeez, I hope it's Cruz!

Charlie Crist

Now the former Republican governor of Florida intends to run as a Democrat against TPA Rick Scott.  Can a moderate Republican reinvented as a (probably Clintonista) Democrat make a comeback?  Granted, Florida is in the dumb zone of the USofA, but not all of those old northern retirees are senile yet.  Go Charlie!

Bill DeBlasio

DeBlasio, whom I kind of endorsed back in early August, when everybody thought Christine Quinn was a shoe-in, is being viewed as the great hope of the Left these days.  Some of the asshole commentators think DeBlasio is the anti-TPA, but DeBlasio and I were supporting the likes of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, not to mention Daniel Ortega, for many years before the Tea Party figured out the government was not on their side.

Too bad tax changes in New York City require approval from the insanely corrupt New York State Legislature.  DeBlasio's goals, sad to say, may be unattainable.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

War Crimes?

Amnesty International, in Pakistan, and Human Rights Watch, in Yemen, have spent some time documenting civilian casualties from US drone strikes.  According to those two well respected organizations, there have been many, despite Obama administration claims of "pinpoint precision."  You probably heard about the old lady picking okra in the middle of a field and minding her grandchildren who was blown away with "pinpoint precision."  Obviously, she must have been a dangerous terrorist.

Amnesty says some drone attacks amount to war crimes.  I disagree.  I think war crimes require intent, whereas the "collateral damage" done by our drones is more like criminal negligence — albeit, that's bad enough.  What we really need at this point is a Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden with access to the drone program, because the administration's lips are all zipped tight.

Americans have a right to know what kind of damage is being done in their names.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Assorted Stuff for October

That Unfortunate Website

Well, the federal ACA website has bombed big-time.  The O is taking the heat, but we should remember he's not personally responsible for everything.  On the other hand, his people did sign the contracts with the private sector contractors who screwed it all up.

Unfortunately, we no longer are allowed to create federal agencies to take care of such major efforts.  We have to divvy up the money to be made on such projects among private sector contractors, probably because the public sector doesn't have enough lobbyists.

Holderman v. Dimon

It appears that J.P.Morgan-Chase will be paying 13 billion bucks to resolve most of its liabilities from the mortgage crisis.  Maybe it's not entirely fair, because Dimon's bank didn't own WaMu or Morgan-Stanley when they racked up lots of the losses.

What the hell.  J.P.Morgan-Chase picked up WaMu and Morgan-Stanley at bargain basement prices.  Dimon didn't have to be goosed along too hard, and at the moment, it seems that his farts still don't stink.

The whole thing is making Holderman look better than usual — to wit, he's doing something other than chasing down leakers.  Is 13 billion enough?  Who knows?


As in Iraq, we're having problems leaving troops behind after the scheduled "withdrawal," because we want our troops to be immune from local and national law.  Murder?  Rape?  Really, we'd rather try them back home.

Personally, I don't see the problem.  Afghanistan is so corrupt, it should be fairly inexpensive to bail the naughty boys out of their trouble, not that I necessarily approve.  On the other hand, some Special Forces asshole could wind up being a political asset for whoever happens to replace Karzai.

If we don't leave any troops behind, it is quite likely that Congress will decide to stop financing the Afghan military.  That's okay by me.  They hate us and our imperialism pretty much all over the world, so Afghanistan should not be especially "special."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What next?

Assuming both Houses of Congress vote to approve the temporary Republican capitulation and send the bill to the President before midnight, we've squeaked through again.  The interesting part, this time, was that Obama finally drew a "red line" and didn't move it — but I suspect the thanks for a resolution should go to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, Wall Street lobbying firms, and a bunch of other essentially Republican organizations.

The question now is, "Have they learned anything?"  Keep your fingers crossed.

So called "moderate" Republicans — that is, not the ones Devin Nunes (R-CA) described as "lemmings with suicide vests" — just might get some more corporate support.  Yes, a lot of those "moderates" are afraid of primary challenges from the Tea Party lemmings, but wouldn't it be nice if some of those corporate interests got into those safe, perfectly gerrymandered Republican districts and financed primary challenges against right wing radicals by Republicans a little closer to the center?

Friday, October 11, 2013


Please try to explain this one: after closing down the government and furloughing 800,000 "non-essential" workers (now down to around 500,000 because Chuck Hagel redefined "essential" for the Defense Department), the House Republicans voted to pay those furloughed workers for the time they are not working.


If government is bloated and overfunded, why in the hell would they want to pay people for work they haven't done?  Yes, it makes perfect sense to give the "essential" workers, slogging on without paychecks during the shutdown, back pay when the idiotic "crisis" is over — but why do they want to pay, say, the labor statistics people who were unable to produce a report for September, or the food inspectors who aren't finding the bacterial infections that might be in our lettuce?  Isn't that kind of like — umm — welfare?

Okay, it looks like a debt default will be pushed back by six weeks — but goddamn it, they're still idiots.

. . . . .

(By the way, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and even the Koch brothers are feeling the red-hot poker of Tea Party craziness sliding up their asses.  They really should have known better,  along with scores of other pro-business lobbyists, but they put anti-regulatory enthusiasm above common sense.  Too bad, assholes.  You were idiots too.)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Boehner and the bomb throwers

It's Boehner's responsibility, if not necessarily his fault.  He can call for a House vote on the Senate's continuing resolution whenever he gets up the testosterone to face down Ted Cruz and the Crazies (not a heavy metal band) but he's so terribly afraid of losing the Speakership, he won't do it.

And what I want to know is what's the point of being Speaker if you can't lead?

According to sources to the Times, Boehner says he won't let us default on the debt, albeit he will not make any public statements to that effect.  I believe it, though.  I think he cares more about the full faith and credit of the United States (not to mention the economy of the rest of the world) than for his status with the people Harry Reid calls "Tea Party anarchists."

Honestly, I suspect John Boehner just might be some kind of patriot.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why they do it

Okay, the government is somewhat defunded, and it probably doesn't make that big a difference except to the 800,000 or so who won't be paid for a while.  The rest of us can live without the Lincoln Memorial for however long it takes — which is to say, no later than October 17, when the debt ceiling comes down on us.

So, we look at those involved in the current "crisis," seeking their motivation.  Sometimes it's obvious.  Some. like Michelle Bachman, Louis Gohmert, and Steve King, are just idiots.  John Boehner is afraid of losing his beloved Speakership, even though he knows better.  Ted Cruz is a self-promoting little piece of crap.  Others are from "safe" (gerrymandered) Republican districts where they just hate Obama (and all the other uppity niggers as well.)

Then, there are the funders.  Some say the Koch brothers are motivated by having read Ayn Rand back when they were in high school — but, clearly, it's just greed.  They're super-rich, and certainly don't want to pay their fair share of taxes.  They're oil men, and have little tolerance for environmental regulation.  They have extraordinary senses of entitlement.

It's possible that the idiots, the self-promoters, and the greedy will push Boehner into pushing the USofA into default.  I sincerely hope he is willing to throw himself on his sword, and save us by calling for an up-down vote when the time comes.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Short subjects


Don't worry about Ted Cruz ever becoming your president.  Just look at him.  He was the kind of kid who got jammed into his locker over and over, and was voted "biggest brown-noser" in his high school yearbook.  Yesterday and today, he was brown-nosing the Tea Party idiots with his idiotically long speech that was not a "Mr. Smith" filibuster.

Personally, I'm not really sure the ACA will work.  The probable premiums released by the exec today seem kind of high to me.  Really, we need single payer — and Obama, as we've observed, is not on board.


How happy I am with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff!  She basically ripped Our President a new asshole.

I recently finished Mark Leibovich's "This Town," a book that helps you understand how it doesn't much matter who allegedly is "in control," but how the "Club" remains in control no matter what you think.

I guess the NSA will have to find ways to invade our privacy without leaving tracks.  Fuck them all.  Fuck the NSA, fuck Obama, and viva Dilma!


As you know, I couldn't care less whether or not Iran gets the bomb.  Being of a certain age, I tend to believe in MAD (mutually assured destruction).  If the Iranians are willing to limit their nuclear enrichment programs to ease the US led sanctions that are destroying their economy and their currency, that's fine too, of course.

US officials like to say that "humanitarian" goods like medicines are not blocked, but that's actually not true.  Since Iran has little or no access to foreign currencies now, it is unable to buy such goods abroad.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The "Train Wreck"

John Boehner really, really, really wants to keep his job as Speaker.  He's not stupid, and I'm sure he doesn't want to shut down the government, but he had to go along with the radical crazies in his caucus for fear of losing his job.  That's why he supported the House bill to defund Obamacare, referring to the ACA as a "train wreck."

The real train wreck will come at the end of the month, when government shuts down.  Unlike the catastrophic Congress Clinton had to deal with back in the nineties, which had enacted a fair number of appropriations bills before digging in its heels, the current Congress had not passed any appropriations bills at all.

Not long after, of course, we come up against the debt ceiling.  Will the crazies carry through on their threat to let the USofA default on its debts?  Are they really that crazy?

I guess all we can do is wait and see.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Summers drops out! Hooray!

Just this morning, I sent a message to Chuck Schumer, reminding him that Larry Summers bore significant responsibility for the crisis of 2008.  Summers was one of the great champions of bank deregulation during the Clinton administration, and we all know where that got us.

Thanks to a few Democratic senators not attached by an umbilicus to Wall Street (Schumer not among them), it seems Larry got a little nervous.  He's not accustomed to rejection, and doesn't handle it well.  Anyway, I'm especially glad the next Fed chair is likely to be Janet Yellen.  According to Larry, girls don't do math.

If Barack picks that other "potential," whose name I can't remember now, I hope Michelle gets Barack alone in some remote room in the White House (the Fillmore room?) and beats his ass.  I don't support Yellen because she's a woman, but because she will provide the kind of continuity we need to get out of our current mess.  I hope she will lead in establishing some regulations Bernanke thought were out of reach, without throwing everything out of kilter.

Can the Fed address income inequality?  Really, I don't see how.  That's Congress's job, and the "People's House," like the people, are mostly assholes.  (By the way, the three most assaholic members of the House were in Egypt last week, blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for 9/11.  The people who vote for Louie Gohmert, Michelle Bachman, and Steven King, in my opinion, are excellent arguments against representative democracy.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Putin Editorial

I don't have a clue who wrote the Putin editorial in today's Times, but whoever it was did a great job.  The editorial stresses the importance of the UN Security Council — because that is where Russia still enjoys real (veto) power — but that is easy enough to get past.

True, as "Putin" said, a USofA attack on Syria would violate international law.  That, of course, never stopped us before, at least since the Reagan invasion of Grenada.  Well, we can forget most of it.  Let's just get on to the good part.
It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.  There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy.  Their policies differ too.
(I left out the part about "the Lord's blessings," and how "God created us equal."  Coming from the alleged Putin, you know that's pure bullshit.)

Anyway, we're not "exceptional," except, if by "exceptional," you mean exceptionally under the thumbs of the military-industrial and finance industries.  Americans should just stop feeling so goddamned "exceptional," because we're just the same stupid grunts who live everywhere else.

Friday, September 6, 2013


Latest NSA revelations

Today's Times article, published despite NSA objections, confirms many more of our "paranoia is heightened awareness" suspicions.  I think it was especially interesting that Our Government coerced some companies into installing backdoors in their privacy software.  I'm pretty sure that GnuPG encryption still is safe, though, and it's not as hard to use as some would have you believe.  Anyway, if you want to discuss your secret terrorist plans without NSA interference, try it — but remember to do your composition and encryption offline, and to securely delete your original before you go back online.  Your hardware might be hacked.

Obama and Syria

It seems Our President did not have much success lining up support for his proposed attack on Syria at the G-20, and he's having even less success at home.  Americans, you see, are just not into it, and the ones against it for reasons more substantial than just hating Obama have some questions to ask, like, what if you bomb them now and they do it again later?  What if you make it easier for Al Nusra to come out on top?  What makes you think that sending missiles against Syria will have any impact at all on Iran, except to make nuclear negotiations more difficult for Hassan Rowhani?  Let's hope Congress, for whatever stupid reasons, says no.


The unemployment rate is down to 7.3%, almost entirely because the labor-force participation rate is so low.  The new jobs being "created" by the "job creators" are nearly all "McJobs," and median family income remains roughly $4000 less than it was in 2008.  Sadly, the government we have is not going to do anything about it.  Some people just have too much goddamned money, and much too much of it goes to 501(c)(4)s, and from there to our "representatives" in Congress.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Share the Blame

Our President appears to have decided that it in his best interest to get Congressional approval for military action against the Assad regime in Syria.  If it turns out to be a total screw-up, which appears to be increasingly likely if he goes ahead with it, it won't be only his fault.  If Congress turns him down, as Parliament turned down David Cameron, he can breathe a sigh of relief and back down.  The cowards in Congress will be responsible for their failure to avenge those dead children.  Politically, it's the smartest thing he could have done.

The Syrian civil war, essentially, is the most recent outbreak of a regional conflict between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims that began back in the seventh century.  We can't solve it, and the smartest thing to do is not try.  It comes down to Iran (where the US is "the Great Satan") v. Saudi Arabia (the home of Al Qaeda.)

Furthermore, no multinational corporations seem very involved in Syria, so why should the Army of the Multinationals (ours) get involved?  Let's wait for a real threat to the bankers, the arms merchants, the commodities traders, et al.

I'm kind of glad August is over.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Representative democracy!!!

Granted, David Cameron is a prime minister leading a coalition government, but it still was something of a triumph for representative democracy when Cameron actually felt the need to go to Parliament for approval before joining Obama in military action in Syria.  Granted, the vote opposing involvement in Syria was non-binding, but one suspects Cameron feels pretty much bound.

Now it's time for Obama to go to Congress.  Unless my admittedly deteriorating memory totally has failed me,  Obama ran, in 2008, against the imperial presidency claimed by his excellency the W.  Ah, how soon he forgets.

We cannot know how Congress might vote.  Knee-jerk opposition to Obama in the House might hurt him, but those same oppositional assholes really hate those Muslim types, and don't care very much which bunch we bomb.  Which prejudice will prevail?

Personally, I'm horrified by what the Syrians (not to mention the Iraqis and Afghans) are inclined to do to each other, but I don't think lobbing a few missiles would make much difference, and I'd lay odds a couple of missiles would be less accurate than currently claimed, and blow up a bunch of women and children.

Go to Congress, Barack.  Share the blame.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria: So where do we bomb?

It seems pretty clear that the Assad regime was responsible for the nerve gas attack on that Damascus suburb controlled by the "rebels."  Our President, as you are aware, drew a "red line" regarding use of chemical weapons.  Now, it seems, the USofA must do something.  It sounds like that something involves sending Cruise missiles to blow up carefully selected segments of Syria.

Most Americans would be very happy if one Cruise missile could blow up Bashir al Assad — and a few of his chief lieutenants — and that would be that.  Well, while the NSA probably has enough data to know where to blow up you or me by tracking our cell phones, I suspect that Bashir al Assad is a bit more careful than we are.

If we really know where the chemical weapon stockpiles are stockpiled, blowing them away would be a very good thing — but, you know, they just may have been moved.

Does the NSA know more about me and you than about Bashir al Assad?

Maybe.  Maybe not.  They're not telling.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


The Prez has called for an increase in the minimum wage.  Good for him, even if it's just a meaningless gesture to garner a drop of positive feeling from real liberals who are nauseated by his security state.  Unless he has a secret plan to win back the House in 2014, it ain't gonna happen.

Anyway, what's really been pissing me off are those so-called "economists" (not to mention so called "job creators") blabbing about how raising the minimum wage will constrict the job market.  No matter what low wage labor costs, employers always will employ the bare minimum number of workers they need to get the job done.  They don't spend more than they have to on labor just because the labor is cheap... and don't even get me started on unpaid interns.

The argument that low wages mean more jobs sounds good if you're an idiot, I suppose.  Also, I suppose there are a good number of idiots out there.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Courts martial

Bradley Manning

35 years, maybe paroled in nine or ten?  To me, it sounds like a pretty stiff term for, essentially, embarrassing the USofA.  It's way beyond terms given to previous leakers, especially considering that the vast majority of them never were prosecuted — and, no, I don't expect Clinton in blackface to issue a pardon.

On the bright side, if he can convince a psychiatrist (and based on previous case law), Manning may be able to get the military to provide and pay for sex reassignment treatment and surgery while he's incarcerated, and leave the brig as a thirty-something woman.  I'd love that.

Robert Bales

Bales had to be extremely fucked up when he massacred all those villagers in Afghanistan.  PTSD is kind of assumed for combat soldiers, so I guess the plea bargain that let him escape the death penalty makes sense.  On the other hand, I really would like to know who was providing the steroids that pushed him over the edge.

Somehow, I don't see Biogenesis (of Alex Rodriquez fame) running a clinic in Afghanistan.  Was it the military getting the troops more thoroughly amped?  We need more Bradley Mannings.

Nidal Malik Hasan

The Army psychiatrist who shot up Fort Hood rested his case today, offering no defense.  The lawyers assigned to help him represent himself believe he is aiming for a death penalty so he can become a "martyr."  His motive for the shootings, it seems, was that he didn't want to be deployed to Afghanistan to take part in the slaughter of other Muslims.

If they sentence him to life without parole, rather than death, he'll still be a "martyr."  A paraplegic living out his life in a military prison is likely  to suffer a lot more than a man who gets to die with reasonable dispatch.

And so...

I feel sympathy for all three of these poor bastards.  All three, as I see it, probably were brain-fucked by the USofA.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Egypt is a mess, but what should the USofA do about it?

A better question would be, what can the USofA do about it?

I suspect the answer to both questions is, nothing.  I suppose we could, shall we say, postpone our planned joint military exercises with the Egyptian army.  We could call a coup a coup, and discontinue military aid.  Whatever we do, though, we lose.

There is a perception in the Muslim world that the USofA might even have had a hand in instigating the coup, and who knows? — that perception might be right.  It's always been easier for us to deal with autocrats and military dictatorships than with the messiness of emerging democracies.  Kings and Shahs and Generalissimos are better for business.

Anyway, I'm sure we'll "support" whoever comes out on top, although it's likely to take a while before we find out just who that will be.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Law 'n' awduh

"You don't get the amount of law enforcement we can afford, you get the amount of law enforcement we can tolerate."
Sid Heal, Technology Consultant

Sid, who appeared on the PBS Newshour tonight, is a pretty bright guy.  I guess he was supposed to come in and defend police use of high speed license plate scanners, but the guy has a talent for nuance.  The woman from the ACLU, to her surprise, wound up kind of agreeing with him.

There was more law 'n' awduh news tonight.  Whitey Bulger was convicted on all but one count, still claiming the FBI hadn't been protecting him for the past couple of decades.  Well, they sure as hell were not looking for him, at least until the involved agents were retired or dead.

Then, again, AG Eric Holder gave a speech to the ABA suggesting that low level drug offenders might be diverted from mandatory minimum sentences.  It's a nice idea, and might divert attention from Holder's (to wit, Obama's) war on leakers and whistleblowers, but the administration assumes Congress will bog down trying to change the law.  Probably, that's entirely correct.

It seems the USofA has 5% of the world's population and 25% of its prisoners but, what the hell?  It appears we can tolerate a whole lot of law enforcement.

Finally, a federal court decided that New York City's "stop and frisk" program is pretty much racist.  I agree.  New York City's next mayor definitely should get rid of Kelly, but really ought to revisit the idea of congestion pricing.  Congestion pricing doesn't have much to do with law 'n' awduh, but I still think it's a good idea.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Are you "comfortable" now?

At yesterday's news conference, Our President suggested we all should feel "comfortable" with the NSA's collection of vast amounts of our personal data.  Needless to say, he blamed Edward Snowden for our discomfort.  Well, that's true, I suppose.  If we'd never found out how extreme our surveillance state had become, I guess we wouldn't have been all that bothered by it.

Under current circumstances, though, I am bothered by it — and the president's promise to jiggle the system a little to achieve a better "balance" between security and privacy doesn't reassure me at all.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

More shorties

"An excess of caution"

Needless to say, Obama didn't want another Benghazi, but how do you get another Benghazi if you're forewarned?  Wouldn't it make more sense to wait for the attack and crush it?  Some extra security, especially in Sana, should have done the trick.

On the other hand, some idiots might get the idea that the NSA "security" offensive against the American public (and the rest of the world) made "saving" our embassies and consulates possible.  It's bullshit, of course.  Nobody found out about upcoming events in Yemen by logging American phone data.

Crap.  Pure crap.


We're out of there, thankfully.  What we left behind is a civil war.  The real shame is that most of the dead people are just poor suckers, including a lot of children, who never did a bit of harm to anybody.  I don't suppose taking out Maliki would help, but it would help me feel happier.

Fannie and Freddie

Let's not forget that Fannie and Freddie weren't privatized until Lyndon Johnson needed some extra cash to blow in Vietnam.  Now that they're nationalized again, and starting to turn a profit, why not just keep them nationalized and use the money they're bringing in for, say, infrastructure or education?

I never understood why our government only is allowed to own losers.  Hell, let's nationalize the oil and gas companies!


Corruption is endemic, worldwide, and the United States certainly is no exception.  I think it was Mark Twain who said we have "the best Congress money can buy," and he hadn't even seen the Congress we have now.

Is there a way to get the money out of politics?  If there is, I wouldn't even have a clue where to start.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Odds (against us) and Ends

Edward Snowden

Congratulations to Edward Snowden on getting out of the goddamned airport.  I hate airports, and I don't suppose Russian airports are any better than American airports.  Five weeks at an airport just might cause PTSD.

Weiner and his weiner

Frankly, I never understood the allure of "virtual" sex — but, to each his (or her) own.  Weiner says a lot of the right things, but on the other hand, Weiner's sleazy reputation might make him a weaker mayor than he otherwise might have been.  Also, as I recall, he didn't accomplish jack shit while he was in Congress.  I don't get to vote in NYC, but I kind of like Bill DeBlasio.  The super-rich have had a good run under Bloomberg, but it's time for the poor to have a turn.

Scraping away at abortion rights

Are the "scientists" claiming that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks the same "scientists" denying climate change, or just their close (and inbred) cousins?  It would be very nice indeed if scarcely any women needed to seek abortions, but that's not in our immediate future.  Let's hope that the free availability of Plan B will change that equation.

Bradley Manning

Army Colonel/Judge Denise Lind, I suppose, kind of "compromised" when she found the kid not guilty of aiding the enemy but still guilty of violating the WWI Espionage Act, one of the most atrocious pieces of legislation ever enacted in the United States but, sadly, never repealed.  Even more sadly, Our President likes it.  How did he ever get a degree in Constitutional law?

Eliot Spitzer

Okay, back to NYC — Wall Street, women's groups, and city unions are ganging up in a couple of superPACS to defeat Spitzer's run for Comptroller.  Wall Street is understandable — he messed them up big time when he was the state AG.  The women, I guess, just don't like men who patronize top shelf call girls.  As for the unions, I'm not certain — but since they endorsed Scott Stringer before Spitzer got in the race, it may be they're hoping that loyalty will bring rewards.

The Corporate Income Tax

Obama isn't saying which corporate tax loopholes he would close to make cutting the top corporate income tax rate from 35% to 28% revenue neutral, but we can be pretty sure few if any of those changes would be enacted into law, and that a bunch of new loopholes would be added in short order.  Was this Larry Summers' idea?  I wouldn't be surprised.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Yellen or Summers?

In a front page article, today's Times suggests there are "some gender overtones" stirring in Obama's choice to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve.  Personally, I'm pulling for Janet Yellen, but not because I think it's time for a woman to be at the helm.  It's because I think Lawrence Summers is a terrible choice.

Back in the Clinton administration, Summers, along with his guru Robert Rubin, was instrumental in talking Clinton into signing the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act into law.  In case you've forgotten, that's the one that overturned Glass-Steagle, encouraged already large financial firms to transform themselves into too-big-to-fail behemoths, and made the 2008 financial crisis inevitable.

Why oh why would Obama want to install one of the architects of too-big-to-fail as the single most important regulator of the fat cat firms?  Could it be because Wall Street wants him there?

Janet Yellen, we are told, was an important voice in Bernanke's ear, encouraging expansionary monetary policy.  As head of the Fed, she is unlikely to tighten up too soon — and it's pretty clear that she would continue quantitative easing and low interest rates for as long as they're needed.  Well, they're still needed.

The last thing we need is the return of the Rubinites.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

George and Trayvon

Why did George Zimmerman continue to follow Trayvon Martin after the police told him to stay back and let them do the investigating?  Simple.  George had a handgun and a concealed carry permit, so no matter how scary the little black boy looked to him, he figured he could blow the kid away.

Why did George Zimmerman decide Trayvon Martin was "suspicious" enough to be followed?  Just as simple.  The little black boy was, well, kind of black — and then, there was that hoodie.  Black parents across the United States, as I write this, are tossing their sons' hoodies into Salvation Army clothing collection bags.  It probably won't help.

Zimmerman likes to call himself "Hispanic" because his mother is Bolivian.   Incidentally, Bolivia is among the Latin American nations offering political asylum to Edward Snowden.  The Zimmerman side of the family, though, most likely calls Trayvon "that schwartze."  Go be Hispanic, George.

I'm not at all angry with the jury — except for that stupid bitch who arrived anonymously on CNN and told the country how her racism influenced the decision.  The problem in Florida — and in too many other states — is the law.  The law should not let vigilantes wander around with guns in their pockets and kill kids carrying Skittles and Coke.

You don't want to die over a bag of Skittles.  If Trayvon attacked George, as the prosecution maintained, Trayvon must have been very very afraid.

Very, very, very afraid.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Farm Bill

Some people are just evil, and a lot of those evil people "serve" in the House of Representatives.

The radical effort by right-wing Republicans to separate SNAP (food stamps) from farm subsidies turns my stomach.  Clearly, their intent is to secure the benefits corporate agriculture is accustomed to while setting up an opportunity to "compromise" on severe cuts to SNAP.  Apparently, they think the best approach to dealing with poverty is to let the poor starve.

Isn't it time for Our President to get out there and say he will veto any Farm Bill that does not include SNAP, maintained at least at its current level?  It won't happen.  (As you may have noticed, I have absolutely no confidence in Obama.  Maybe, someday, we'll get a president who really is black, or a Latino who isn't a son of the Cuban plutocracy from the Batista era.  Okay, I'm not holding my breath.)

It's just evil.  If the right-wing Republican Old Testament god were real, and not a piece of shit like his admirers, he'd be striking them down with boils and toads and the Angel of Death.  If Jesus is out there watching, he's most likely puking his guts.

Like me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Odds and Ends

Lac Megantic

For those of you who like conspiracy theories, here's a sweet one:  the oil/rail "accident" at Lac Megantic, Quebec, was engineered by supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline.  Transporting crude oil by rail, some will start saying pretty soon, is just too dangerous.  We have to have that pipeline!

How did an experienced railroad engineer and his staff happen to walk away from a train stopped at the top of a hill while leaving the brakes unlocked?  Well, maybe they all were drunk.  Or, maybe, not.  Needless to say, the oil companies will claim "mechanical failures."

I have no evidence to support this conjecture, of course, but you conspiracy theorists usually don't need what they call "evidence."  You understand (believe) that "evidence" is easily suppressed.

Weiner and Spitzer

I have not lived in New York City since 1970, but I try to stay in touch.  I am entertained by the Weiner campaign, and don't think his election would make things any worse than they would be under Christine Quinn, John Liu, Bill Thompson, or even Bill DiBlasio (who is a pretty good guy.)

On the other hand, I think Eliot Spitzer is a hell of a good candidate for Comptroller.  He's totally overqualified, and just might dig out the corruption that everybody assumes is part and parcel of City government.  Who cares about a few hookers, as long as they weren't paid on the public dime?


Of course, it was a coup!

I don't agree with McCain too often, but this time he's right.  It was a coup, and all that military aid — the vast majority of the aid the USofA sends to Egypt — should be cut off.  Hell, they've already got most of this year's aid, so "officially" cutting it off won't make a difference until next year.

Maybe, next year, the military will restore something resembling  "democracy," and we can go back to bribing Egypt to continue maintaining the alleged "peace" with Israel.  In reality, the so-called "peace" between Egypt and Israel is not likely to be broached by either party, even without USofA funding.

War is too damned expensive, unless you're the official military protector of the multinational corporate establishment.


Maybe, someday, we'll have a black president.  Some say Clinton was "the first black president," but black Americans haven't had a real champion since Lyndon Johnson — and our last noticeably liberal president was Richard Nixon.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Well, at the moment, it appears that Mohamed Morsi's gone.  Yes, it was another military coup, and we still can't be sure how it will turn out.  Since it's the Middle East, there's a high probability that it will turn out badly.

Look at the component parts.  Up there on the podium with General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi were a bunch on non-Brotherhood Muslim clerics, some Coptic Christians, and the ever ambitious Nobel laureate, Mohamed el-Baradei.   I suppose there may have been a couple of populist secularists up there too, but I'm betting they were way off in the wings.

There were a few major problems with Morsi, the foremost of which was that he is incompetent.  Another was that he moved entirely too fast to implement Islamist ideology, and cuddled up way too close to the Salafists.  Moreover, I don't recall that he ever had an economic policy.

So we're back to two years ago, waiting to see what the military will do.  They've cancelled the Islamist Constitution the Brotherhood pushed through, put a Mubarak era judge in charge of the executive, and are telling us they plan for early presidential elections.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Supremes

When you stop to think about it, John Roberts was right, in a way.  Times have changed.  Back in the 1960s, southerners wanted to keep blacks from voting because they were black.  Now, they want to keep blacks (and Latinos) from voting because they vote for Democrats.

Given the dismal state of Congress, the chance of it "fixing" Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act anytime soon is very unlikely.  Personally, I think Section 5 should apply to all states and counties, because you don't have to be a racist to take an interest in voter suppression.  Also, considering how clever our programmers are, wouldn't it be possible to develop computer algorithms to create rational (rather than politicized) voting districts in every state?  (Perhaps the criteria could be crowd-sourced.)

As for the Defense of Marriage Act, I was hoping for something better than the usual five-four split, but you take what you can get.  The California marriage case, which turned on the litigant's standing to sue, was more a matter of ducking the issue than a statement about marital rights.  I wonder if the nine of them got together and negotiated which of them would vote on one side or the other?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Myth of the Two-state Solution

John Kerry is headed back to the Middle East, trying to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Since Bibi Netanyahu just visited a West Bank settlement to cut the ribbon on a new school that just happened to be named after his father, the symbolic handwriting is on the wall.  Maybe it wasn't as bad as when he announced 1000 new units of settlement housing while Joe Biden was in Israel trying to restart talks in 2010, but Bibi seems unable to resist tweaking America's nose.

There never will be an independent Palestinian state, because there is no way to make it happen — not as long as American politicians are so terrified of AIPAC, Americans are convinced that "Arab" and "terrorist" are synonymous, and the region remains in an uproar everywhere from Mali to Afghanistan.  Even in the unlikely event that the "Arab Spring" turns out to be something positive, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank will continue to live under apartheid.

Personally, I favor a one-state solution — end the apartheid, give the Palestinians Israeli citizenship, and integrate them into the Israeli economy and society.  Oops!  I forgot!  Israel is a "Jewish State," and its existing Arab citizens have never been fully integrated.

Well, if Jews can have their own state, why not Sunnis, Alawites, Druse, Maronite Christians, and Kurds?  But don't stop there!  Why not let every little sect, wherever in the world it happens to be concentrated, have its own state?  Before we knew what hit us, Vatican City could be a superpower.

I understand that Jews had special circumstances following World War II, because, in truth, nobody really wanted them anywhere.  Well, that was over sixty years ago.  Israel really is no longer a "Jewish" state, it is a secular state, finally taking steps to integrate its ultraorthodox Jews and Arab citizens into the mainstream.

Maybe the notion of a Jewish state should be a thing of the past.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Have a look at Robert Reich's blog post, What We Need Now: A National Economic Strategy for Better JobsWhat a shame that we live in a world where such rational recommendations sound so radical.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Chemical weapons

I don't get it.  Why is killing people with sarin gas any worse than killing them with bombs or guns or artillery?  From what I've read, just a tiny fraction of dead Syrians were lost to chemical weapons.  How did those come to be the "red line?"

My guess is that when a President of the USofA shoots off his mouth, he's kind of stuck putting our money where his mouth was — so now we'll be shipping unspecified weapons to unspecified SLA units, with no idea of where they'll finally find a home.  Best bet for final destination is the guys with the beards.

There are times you just can't win.  Like now.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

... and a couple more

Immigration and Border Security

Why are Republicans so insistent on "sealing" the southern border of the USofA?  As usual, it's less a matter of xenophobia (although there's plenty of that in their base) so much as money.  As was noted in a Times article on June 6, military contractors are looking at declining revenue streams with the decline of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Further militarizing our southern border will help plug the holes in their profits.

Greatly expanding the number of "guest workers" and making it impossible for those workers to change jobs will make another batch of Republican contributors quite happy.  If Democrats are willing to go along — and since they share many of the same contributors, many will — the "amnesty" argument just may fade away.

The Farm Bill

Farm bill?  What farm bill?

I don't see much likelihood of an "compromise" between Senate and House versions of a new farm bill, but I guess the inept assholes will manage to extend the 2008 bill for another year.  For poor families that depend on SNAP (still commonly referred to as "food stamps"), that might be a good outcome.  Both Senate and House versions would toss even more of the poor into food insecurity, and the House proposal would help eliminate poverty by the simple means of starvation and death.

The Senate bill would cut federal crop insurance subsidies for big agriculture by about 15%, which would not do much to curtail the incomes of Representatives Stephen Fincher (R-TN) or Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), both major recipients of farm subsidies and vocal proponents of slashing SNAP.  Hell, they could go without insurance, considering how both are filthy rich and also deniers of climate change.  What do they have to worry about?  Nevertheless, they want their subsidies maintained or enlarged, mostly because of something else they have in common.  They're scumbags.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Some short subjects for June

Edward Snowden

The President, confronted with Snowden's leaks and questions about the formerly "top secret" programs, said "I welcome this debate."  Needless to say, had it not been for Snowden's leaks, no "debate" ever would have ensued, and a warrant was issued for Snowden today so he can be extradited from wherever they eventually find him.  He'd better stay off the phone, and the internet.

Snowden reminds me of those internet wunderkinder — brilliant, alienated — only he's missing the self-serving psychopathy.  How many people his age would give up 200 grand a year for the sake of conscience?  That was his motivation, you know — conscience.


Syria is a mess — but then so are Iraq and Afghanistan, so it seems very unlikely that American intervention there would help in any way.  Being the world's foremost "superpower" doesn't necessarily mean the USofA can do anything to impose its questionable hegemony anyplace else.

As for the "Arab Spring," it doesn't look too springy.  Egypt and Libya are falling apart, and then there's that prime example of Muslim "democracy," to wit...


Ergogan, Turkey's Islamist leader, is more than a little bit out of control, and moving towards "democratic autocracy" (as opposed to our much preferable "democratic plutocracy.")  Had the Biblical God allowed the Biblical Abraham to go through with the sacrifice of the Biblical Isaac, resulting in no Judaic based religions, the world might be a better place today.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Surveillance State

If the FISA court approved a warrant for the FBI and NSA to obtain all of Verizon's "metadata," I think it's safe to assume it approved warrants for all the other major carriers as well.  I am certain that neither my friend Prudi not my friend Judy are terrorists — they just don't have the skills, much less the motivation — and they're my primary telephone correspondents.  Yes, my kids call every week or two, and they're not terrorists either, so I guess I won't be scooped up in some anti-terror dragnet.

On the other hand, I do get fairly frequent calls from other parties who must also be calling terrorists.  You probably get the robo-call that begins, "This is an important message about your current credit card account..."  I'm betting that the real terrorists get more calls from that outfit than from any of their terrorist buddies, and I'm calling on the FBI to shut them down.  They might even be calling from outside the USA — who knows?  Maybe they are terrorists, trying to drive us so crazy we go out and start killing each other.

Seriously, though, Barack Obama and his administration have been a total disappointment with regard to Fourth Amendment rights and with regard to transparency.  "Oh," exclaim the administration hacks, "but the things we do are for the sake of national security — to protect your safety.  And if it weren't for those horrible leakers letting you know they're happening, they wouldn't bother you at all!"

Once again, it's time to quote Jefferson:  "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bradley Manning

I am certain that Bradley Manning's intentions were pure.  I do not think that the Obama administration is persecuting him any more vociferously than any other administration would.  I just think he's getting a raw deal.

It's unlikely that anybody except Manning actually read all the documents he released.  I have seen no evidence presented that anybody in the CIA or any other government agency actually was put in danger by the voluminous pile of mostly unsurprising "secrets" Manning released to Wikileaks.  Yes, some agencies were embarrassed.  Big deal.

The kid is willing to go to jail for ten to twenty, which still seems so totally wrong to me.  Sadly, that's not good enough for the prosecutors/persecutors of Manning.  The kid does not deserve life in prison.  He deserves a parade.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

More Pigmeat for China

Smithfield Farms, a company whose mediocre kielbasa I have eaten from time to time after grilling with lots of chili-garlic sauce, seems ready to sell itself to Shuanghui International.  Maybe I'm prejudiced, but I have a feeling that Shuanghui treats its workers pretty much the same way Smithfield treats its hogs.  Well, if they're planning to import preprocessed Smithfield products, I guess that might be a step up for the average animal rights index for both Smithfield and Shuanghui, counting humans as the animals we are.

I'm sorry, America, but I just can't do it all.  The closest I've ever been to a Wal-Mart was passing out leaflets in one of their parking lots, but still, I can't figure out how to do the animal rights thing.  If there were local markets in my area where some vendors claimed that their pigs had been scratched behind the ears on a daily basis and encouraged to wallow in mud and got laid on a regular basis, how do I know they're telling me the truth?

Mind you, I like and respect pigs; but, also, I like pork.  Anyway, in keeping with what Obama flacks refer to as the "chained CPI," I already am substituting a lot more pork for beef, meaning my Social Security check must be going a hell of a lot further!  And, no, I will not switch further down to chicken.

As the punchline to the old joke about the hillbilly on trial for bestiality put it, "Chickens?  Yich!"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Trickle Up

No, it's not money trickling up.  Money is rushing up with an audible whoosh.

What's trickling up are jobs — crappy jobs.  All those asshole talking heads telling you how what young people need today is "more education" to qualify for "so many jobs" employers "can't fill" because they can't find "qualified" workers are, pretty much, full of shit.  These days, jobs that used to require a high school diploma — secretaries, sales reps, waiters and waitresses at upscale restaurants — are going to young people with four year college degrees.  Why?  Because they can't get anything better.

A 2-year degree might give you an edge up for a job at Hooters, provided your hooters make the grade, but you'll still be living on sub-minimum wage plus tips.  Unless your hooters are fantastic, don't expect the tips to be too great unless you can get those drooling bastards really drunk.

Then there are the famous "STEM" jobs — science, technology, engineering, and math.  Recently, I met a young man with a four-year degree in physics, but he couldn't even find a teaching job at a high school.  He had attended a well respected state university, and his grade point index was better than 3.5.  Yes, if he'd earned a 4.0 from an Ivy, he might have been recruited by Wall Street.  Too bad, kid.

As for all those "STEM" jobs, expect most of them go to immigrants with H-1B visas, who are accustomed to earning a lot less than native born "STEM" workers.  The main reason there is so much "bipartisan" enthusiasm for immigration reform is to keep wages low.

Will there be some young people who do well?  Of course, if their pedigree is sufficiently correct.  As Billie Holiday sang, "them that's got shall get..."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Read this one!!! Now!!!

Don't waste a minute!  Go here and read Celebrating Inequality, by George Packer, of the New Yorker.  I guess Krugman is on vacation, so the Times has been filling in with other leftist types, but Krugman's been writing pretty much the same editorial for months.  Packer gives us something new.

You don't often get a lot of enthusiasm from me, which might imply an admission that somebody else is significantly smarter or more inspired or more connected than I am,  but I'm not just implying here — I'm admitting.  It's brilliant.  Read it.

All three links go to the same article, but that's just my enthusiasm.  The column is no less than extraordinary.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Usually, I would have called this "Short Subjects," but modern life being what it is, I guess I'll just do what bloggers do.  I mean, something is bound to be scandalous?  Right?

If you have to figure out who was most responsible for the death of J. Christopher Stevens and three of his staff, the most likely offender was J. Christopher Stevens.  Hell,  he was the ambassador, and should have known the country better than anybody else.  Yes, it's a shame he's dead, but I guess he put a little too much faith in the Islamist assholes who were supposed to be protecting him.  Bad call, but I don't think certain shrill members of Congress can blame it on either Hillary or the big O.

IRS agents in Cincinnati targeted local Tea Party groups for special scrutiny, albeit most of those groups had about as much "pull" as arthritic chickens.  The IRS was afraid to go after the big boys, like Obama's "Organizing for Action," or Karl Rove's "Crossroads GPS."  Okay, maybe they wanted to do more harm to conservative groups but, really, they didn't harm anybody.  It's mostly bullshit, which is why Our President felt free to tell us how awful it was.

Raiding the AP
I can't recall anybody ever referring to the Obama administration as a champion of civil liberties, and that seems to be mostly because it never was.  Attorney General Eric Holder, recently of Wall Street, never brings suits against big money, but he is not hesitant to persecute the press for releasing information we all really ought to know.  If we lose our free press (to the extent that it is free and not bought), we lose whatever is left of our democracy.

I am so nostalgic for the Nixon administration, which was the last time we had something resembling democracy rather than plutocracy in this country.  We will continue to move in the direction of austerity, no matter how much evidence arises to tell us it is the wrong direction.  The "starve the beast" assholes prevail, in both parties.

Here, in the USofA, it's not any "beast" being starved.  It's people.  Ordinary, everyday people.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Immigration Reform

Two or three time a year, I get mail from the IRS addressed to unknown Latina women who seemed to have used my address for one reason or another.  Since my neighborhood is less than lily white, I suppose my address must attract less suspicion from the IRS than, say,  Chevy Chase.

I don't open those misaddressed envelopes, so i don't know what they are about.  Maybe, one of these days, I'll succumb to curiosity.  In the meanwhile, all I can do is guess.

Maybe I'm entirely wrong, but I'm guessing the women who use my address are paying deductions to the IRS and to FICA, and thereafter impossible to find.  Whatever they pay is lost to them.  Since I'm collecting Social Security and receiving Medicare benefits, I guess their loss is my gain.

Now we seem to be about to give them a shot at a fair shake.  Their gain will be my loss.

That's OK with me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Karzai, stoned

A rather large portrait of Hamid Karzai, affixed to a wall in some dusty town in Kumar province, Afghanistan, was the target of a few stones thrown by an American soldier.  The portrait was large enough so that the stone thrower could not have missed, according to the New York Times.  Local officials, who heard of the stone throwing, were upset.

Karzai is thoroughly corrupt, and my guess is that the local officials who complained about the stone throwing are as well.  It is fitting, I suppose, that we are leaving behind a kleptocracy in Afghanistan, shaped in our own image, but with a bit less subtlety.  I sincerely hope the stone throwing soldier is on his way back home now, and never again will have to participate in "training" the Afghan "police" in methods of suppressing popular anger against their president.

If our government gives that soldier a hard time for exercising a little free speech, then we are no better than Afghanistan — or China, or Russia.  Barack Obama has not been, exactly, the civil liberties president.

There is a movement in the British Labour Party to get back to its socialist roots.  Wouldn't it be nice if there were a movement in our own Democratic party to get back to its liberal roots?

(I guess the real liberals just don't have enough money.)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Israel bombs Syria

Okay, so what in hell was that about?

Given government secrecy, we may never know, but that just leaves more room for conjecture.  The Obama administration has elevated secrecy to a new high, so we can guess whatever we goddamned please.

Israel bombs Syria.  The standard explanation is that they mean to keep Syrian weapons out of the hands of Hezbollah militants — because that's what they say.  Well, if they say it, it's not too crazy to assume it's a lie.  There were a few different targets, but only one seemed to be significant.  It was the weapons development site where most of the chemical weapons originated.  Was it Obama who called in the hit?  And, if so, was it a good or a bad move?

Most of us, I think, are glad we are not President.

There is some dispute over whether it was the Assad regime or the rebels who might have used a little sarin gas, but neither side is too friendly to the Israelis — nor the United States.  The biggest reason not to get involved in Syria is that the USofA is a loser, either way.

Let's face it.  The Middle East is a mess.  The Islamists are on the ascendant, everywhere.  Reason and good sense shall not prevail.  Hell, reason and good sense seem entirely absent.  How could anybody espousing reason and good sense possibly win?

And, no, I don't have any solutions.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Those Guantanameros, Again

I guess the hunger strike makes it a lot harder for Obama to ignore what's going on in George W.'s jail.  Well, dealing with it will not be that hard.  If every last one of the 166 inmates (most of whom probably wound up in Cuba because somebody in Afghanistan thought it would be nice to collect a bounty) becomes a violent terrorist, it will not make a big difference.

Another 166 terrorists (and those who have not been radicalized surely ought to have been by now) will not especially shift the world balance of terrorists to non-terrorists.  It will be statistically insignificant.  Pretty clearly, they won't get into the United States, nor Europe.  Iraq and Afghanistan already are totally fucked up, so, really, who cares?

Lindsay Graham and John McCain will jump up and down, and the Heritage Foundation and similar groups will spurt diarrhea all over the talk radio stations, but really, who cares?  That's what they do, so we ought to be used to it by now.

Let's just put an end to it.  Maybe some of us will regain a little respect for Our President.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Short Subjects for Later April

Guantanamo is a military installation.  Our President is Commander in Chief.  He can Command the military to transport the remaining inmates elsewhere, and all Congress can do is jump up and down and fart loudly, as usual.  At the very least, the Yemenis should be sent back to Yemen, where we seem to have a puppet president in charge.

As for the "dangerous" ones we cannot bring to trial because all the evidence we have against them is circumstantial or confessions elicited by torture, we can just drop them off in Iraq or Afghanistan.  They'll just get involved in the inevitable civil wars, and we won't have to think about them anymore.  It's time for Obama to make good on his promise.

Reinhart and Rogoff were on the Times editorial page today, doing a "homina-homina" on their Excel error, and backing away from all the right-wingers who used their "research" to demand more and more austerity.  Meanwhile, in Europe, pretty much everybody except Angela Merkel was suggesting that, perhaps, there had been just a little too much.

After the German elections, I suspect even Merkel will come around, especially after Germany follows the rest of Europe into recession.  As for the UK, I think it could be doing at least as anemically well as the USofA were it not for the Cameron government.  Well, perhaps that might change.

I'm pretty sure, at this point, that the younger Tsarnaev kid just followed along after his big brother.  If I had to make a prediction, which I don't do anymore, I'd predict Dzhokar will wind up in a SuperMax forever and forever.  Maybe he's too cute to execute.  (Hey, rap artists! 2cute 2execute!  Go for it!)  If it were me, I might prefer to be executed — kind of like Ted Kaczynski, who still is sitting in that supermax in Colorado.  How in the hell do you sort these guys out?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Tsarnaev Brothers

All the media are blah-blahing about how the two young ethnic Chechens were "radicalized."  One of the memes I've been hearing is "self-radicalization," which is how they discuss Muslims who behave badly but never received indoctrination or training from an organization of religious radicals, an FBI informer, or the Pakistani ISI.  We're meant to think they just find it on the internet, and soon a haze of blood drifts across their eyes.

It's true that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was back in Dagestan for six months in 2012 but, as best we can tell, all he did there was mope around his aunt and uncle's house.  Tamerlan arrived in the United States at the age of 15.  His little brother Dzhokar was eight when he arrived, and never visited Chechnya or Dagestan afterwards.  If they genuinely were "radicalized," it didn't happen in the Caucasus, or over the internet.  It happened in the United States.

Tamerlan arrived dealing with a very different culture, a new language, conflict between his parents, and what often is the very worst year of adolescence.  He was an outsider, and the Islamophobia so soon after 9-11 almost certainly made him feel even more of a stranger.  Encouraged by his mother, he joined a mosque, but eventually denounced the imam for being too secular.  The imam thought it was okay for American Muslims to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Isolation is hell, and people in hell do desperate things to escape.  I'm pretty sure Tamerlan committed "suicide by cop."  I guess he thought he was accomplishing the will of Allah, but I can't see him as a religious radical.  I see only a fucked-up, overgrown boy.

Dzhokar made a better adjustment to the United States, as one might expect because of his age and his good looks.  He did well in what, for him, was the very accepting and nurturing community of the Cambridge schools.  When he went on to college, though, he was tossed out of the nest.  He was flunking out, and I guess he was spending more time with his brother.  Maybe we'll learn more as he recovers.

I feel for those boys — and, really, they were just boys, trying to be men.  This does not in any way detract from my grief for the victims of their crime — and, yes, it was a crime, not a political statement — but sometimes everybody involved is a victim.  Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were victims too, and maybe even Ted Kacynski.  They were tortured souls.

Call me crazy.  Call me a bleeding heart liberal.  I don't care.  I think we do it to ourselves.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Cap on FICA Contributions

One December in the earlier 1990s — while I still was getting paper paychecks instead of direct deposits — I looked at my paper paycheck and discovered my net salary was higher than expected.  When I received my second December paycheck, my net was even higher.  I pulled out some earlier pay stubs, and discovered the difference resulted from reduced FICA contributions.  Thanks to a good union, years on the job, and earning enough extra post-graduate credits, I'd gone past the cap on Social Security contributions.

January came around, and my net pay went down again.  I remember thinking, back then, that if my pay hadn't gone up in December, I wouldn't have noticed.  So why was there a cap on FICA contributions?  Frankly, it didn't seem fair.  It was a regressive tax.

Right now, the FICA cap is a bit over $114,000.  To me, that sounds like a pretty high income for one worker, and I doubt that if those making $120,000 didn't get their December "bonus," nor if those making over $250,000 didn't get their October through December bonuses, they really would have paid much attention.  I guess those making seven million would notice because the $434,000 they owed all would come out of their first paychecks of the year, so they'd get only about 150 grand for January, and to which I say, tough shit.

Eliminating the cap would make Social Security solvent, with no "chained CPI" needed.  Even if we increased maximum Social Security payments to those who paid more, it would work.  A "sliding scale" for the super-rich would make it work even better.  If Jaimie Dimon collected five or six grand a month in Social Security payments, it wouldn't make a hell of a lot of difference to the rest of us — nor to Jamie Dimon.

Will somebody please slap Obama upside the head and knock a little sense into him?  Michelle?

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Chained CPI

Here's an excerpt from a fax I sent to my Congressman, Tim Bishop (D-NY), on April 3.  I never get any answers, so I'm beginning to think he never loads any paper in his fax machine.

I write to enlist your opposition to use of the chained consumer price index for calculating Social Security and Veterans' benefits.  I taught economics for many years, so I understand the substitution effect, but for many of our older and disabled citizens, there is not a lot of substitution left to be done.
The beef industry is suffering because so many already have substituted pork and poultry for beef, to keep grocery bills down.  I suppose we could substitute further, for a while, but I suspect some seniors and veterans already are substituting white rice for green vegetables, and cat food for chicken.
Since you represent the foreskin of Long Island, I don't suppose you have a lot of access to Our President, but perhaps you still might pass along this message.  You also might pass it along to Chuck Schumer, with a note that Wall Street is doing just fine, and he might get back to representing the rest of New York one of these days.
Since I wrote that, of course, Our President presented his budget proposal, and that proposal included chained CPI.  I sincerely hope it was just a political ploy on his part, working on the assumption that Republicans never would accept the revenue increases he wants.

Another idea out there is means testing Social Security benefits.  Pretty clearly, that would be the end of Social Security, because large numbers of the more affluent — most notably, those currently paying into the system — would think it not worth their while to keep Granny living in a shack rather than a ditch.

(Okay, I couldn't resist that "foreskin of Long Island" line, but I'm really tired of not getting any answers to my communications.  I think, maybe, that gives me a right to be a bit offensive.)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Maggie Thatcher is (finally) gone

Two famous women died yesterday.  I'll discuss the other one on my other blog.  On this one, though, I'll just share my memories of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  She made it to 87, but her intellect departed years ago.  Dementia did her in.  She lived too long.  (So did her partner in crime, Ronald Reagan.)

I think Thatcher might have had more native intelligence than Reagan, but they were equals when it came to working a crowd.  Both were heroes to the narrow minded, anal retentive types who resented anybody except themselves getting a hand up.

Along with Reagan, she was a major contributor to the deregulation boom that led to "too big to fail" financial entities.  It's conceivable that, fifty years from now, both Reagan and Thatcher will be remembered as the monumental failures they truly were.  I'm sorry I'll have to miss that.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Short Subjects for Early April

The National School Shield
The NRA's idea for putting armed guards into every school is, of course, absurd.  The organization, sponsored by gun manufacturers, had to come up with something — and, needless to say, their solution had to involve more guns.  The NRA has offered to "train volunteers," but the cost of just insuring against the risks of some yahoo with a semi-automatic wandering around a school building probably would have to be offset by firing two teachers.

Marriage Equality
While we wait for the Supremes to act, here's a thought: I've always been in favor of Civil Unions.  If you want your marriage recognized by the state, go to a judge or a JP or some other state official.  If you want to get married by a religious personage, well, go do it — but don't expect the state to recognize that personage's authority.  On the other hand, if you think religious leaders should have the right to approve marriages, just let them decide who can get married — gay, straight, or interspecies.  As an ordained minister, I would hesitate to marry a man to a sheep, but if it looked like they really were in love...

North Korea
Well, it looks like Kim Jong Un is striving to outdo both his daddy and his granddaddy in the craziness category, but I suspect his real problem is nobody takes the North Koreans all that seriously these days.  The boy king with the bad haircut can beat his chest like Kim Kong, and nobody pays much attention.  "Okay," say the Americans, the South Koreans, the Japanese and, increasingly, the Chinese, "let him rant.  If the need arises, we can blow his ass right off the peninsula, and we're pretty sure he knows that."  On the other hand, I think we have kind of a moral obligation to keep some of those undernourished kids alive.

Atlanta Cheaters
Okay, the bail seemed kind of high to me for a batch of school administrators — I mean, where in hell are they supposed to go?  Will they join the Colombian rebels, or the Taliban?  Can they drain the "vast" profits from their administrator bonuses to flee?  I don't think so.  It is no secret that I'm not at all a fan of school administrators, but I suspect the main failure of the cheating assholes was less cheating skill and a little more hubris than other cheating assholes who are doing it in the white neighborhoods.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What actually happened in Cyprus?

What happened?   It's hard to say.  One big bank saved, one on its way to dissolution.  The smaller banks, it seems, will be left to their own devices.  Did the Teutons get their way?  Partly.  Are the Cypriots actually saved?  Not likely.  Greek style depression looks inevitable

Here's the good stuff: the insured deposits remain insured.  Those with up to €100,000 will not suffer losses, but those with larger (some very much larger) accounts will take a hit.  The Russians, needless to say, are not happy.  Amusingly enough, they are talking about starting their own bank, someplace in Asia, where they can avoid paying (presumably Russian) taxes.

What we never hear, though, are what (if any) consequences accrue to the bankers who created the mess, and the bureaucrats who facilitated their activities.  Is it cynical of me to think they might have kept their own wealth someplace other than Cyprus — someplace where the banks were not gambling on long shots like Greek bonds?

Eric Holder seems to believe that American bankers are "too big to jail," and hasn't pursued any prosecutions for malfeasance — but somehow, someplace in the world, I'd like to see some bankers behind bars.

Friday, March 22, 2013


The chained consumer price index, as a measure of inflation, makes a certain amount of sense.  It certainly is true that consumers will substitute cheaper goods for more expensive goods when prices increase.  Old people like me, whose Social Security payments are not the greatest part of our income, can cut back from shell steak to pork tenderloin; or from 85% lean chopped meat to 70% lean chopped meat; or from fresh asparagus to canned string beans.

The substitution effect makes sense, up to a point.  If you're already eating cat food as your primary source of protein, what in hell do you substitute?  People actually trying to live on Social Security cannot survive a chained consumer price index.

If Social Security were means tested, I could survive it — but if it were means tested, Social Security would be eroded down to nothing.  Nobody really gives a shit about the people who depend on it for their survival.  The most important thing about Social Security is that everybody gets it, so even rich people get it (and generally more than poor people do.)

So, if a "grand bargain" comes about, and it includes a chained consumer price index, you should be aware that Obama has sold you out to the fucking plutocrats.  Okay, he's looking for a deal.  I don't care.  We don't need a grand bargain.  We need justice.