Thursday, August 30, 2012

Republican Wrap-up

Well, this is a lot of of posts for one month, but it's been kind of a special month.

I couldn't even be bothered to comment on Paul Ryan's tissue of lies last night, albeit I might blow my nose into it.  (What's with the "tissue" analogy anyway?  I guess I'll have to go to,)

Clint Eastwood was very entertaining tonight, and he remains somebody whose work I admire, whatever his political views.  Marco Rubio is looking a lot like a future presidential candidate.  When it comes to Latinos, Republicans seem to be especially fond of Cubans. Uh huh.

Anyway, Mitt's speech tonight was another attempt at "humanizing," and it wasn't too bad except when he was scripted to smile.  I guess there wasn't enough time to teach him to smile convincingly.  Just the same, I guess he managed to appear a little more human — but if you were watching him going down the rope line before his speech, he was the same old rod-up-his-ass Romney we know so well.

I counted less than a minute of totally vague policy talk, and maybe a minute and a half of Obama bashing.  Nevertheless, I guess it will give him a "convention bump" for a week or so — until the Dems launch their infomercial.

Blah blah blah.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Who actually built it?

So, I'm watching the Republican convention.  It was supposed to be so well scripted, you know.  So far, I don't see it.  I guess they forgot to hand out scripts to the delegates, few of whom seem especially enthusiastic.  Even when you hear a greater than usual cheer, or whatever, the camera panning the convention shows just a scattering of desultory applause.  (Canned cheers?)

In Boehner's opening speech, nearly every line began with "A man walks into a bar."  Nobody seemed to have a clue what in hell he was talking about.  He'd have done better with "A duck walks into a bar," or "A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar..."  Reince Priebus was no better.

(John Kasich just said, "It's not just because I don't like the Black Eyed Peas."  What the hell was that about?)

Anyway, the main theme seems to be, "We built it," based on a distortion of an Obama comment about how business needs government provided infrastructure.  "Entrepreneurs," we are told, are everything.

Well, in the megacorporations that are behind the Romney campaign, it's not the government that built that business (unless you count the subsidies, tax breaks, and deregulation.)  On the other hand, it's not the fat cats, who steal more value than they ever create.

It's the labor, motherfuckers!  You are not fucking blacksmiths or grocers or subsistence farmers!  You are the "lucky duckies," and you would be nowhere without those underpaid, overworked workers who have been lining your pockets while their families somehow survive on the "dollar menu."

Shit.  I think I've seen enough for one night.

Y'know, I strongly advise that the Democrats leave the funny hats at home.  A little dignity is not a bad thing.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Patent Wars

Unless the news reports got it wrong, a California jury upheld Apple's patent of the rounded rectangle.  Frankly, I think patent law is getting a little too weird these days.

This is not to say that I don't believe in intellectual property rights, but granting patents to common shapes, naturally occurring DNA sequences, and traditional medicines used for centuries in non-western cultures takes patent rights entirely too far.

Monsanto's patents of genetically modified corn and soybeans give the company a virtual monopoly over the foundations of our food supply.  Farmers who prefer not to use Monsanto's seed are sued if their crops happen to be cross-pollenated by Monsanto plants upwind.

And don't even get me started on the changes made to copyright law over the past few decades!  The abuse of intellectual property rights continues to get worse and worse, and the end result is to give monopolistic power to the mega-corporations which own those "rights."  All hail the plutocrats, yet again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Trouble with Todd

Todd Akin — yes, that Todd Akin, the Missouri Congressman and Senatorial candidate — has not withdrawn his candidacy despite great pressure from everyone in the Republican establishment from Karl Rove (or is it really Mitt Romney at the top?) on down.  Okay, Akin said some very misguided things about how women's bodies respond to rape — but would a substitute candidate drawn from his primary challengers take a more "moderate" stand on abortion?


The problem with Akin is not that he's too conservative.  The problem is that he's a moron.  His potential replacements, on the other hand, just never had the opportunity to put their feet so far into their mouths that those feet emerged through their respective assholes.

Okay, maybe that's wrong.  Maybe they were better trained to stick to the approved talking points.

I don't think much of Clair McCaskill (remember Corker-McCaskill?), but I'd hate to see the Democrats lose their Senate majority — and I suppose it ought to be easier to beat a moron like Akin than somebody with a few brains.  Still, I don't believe for a minute that the "withdrawal" of funding for Akin's campaign is real.  Yet another well-funded SuperPac will fill the breach in short order.

Morons For American Prosperity?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunday Devotions

I just heard on the radio that both Obama and Romney held back on campaigning yesterday and went to church.  Isn't that nice?!

I'm assuming Obama still is going nowhere near the nefarious Reverend Wright, and has found some less controversial place for photo-ops with his lovely family.  Romney's lovely family took some press along for photo ops at a Mormon temple near his lake house in New Hampshire, and stopped off afterwards for a scoop of  ice cream.  Good humanizing, Mitt!

Now, I'm sure Mitt is sincere in his religious beliefs.  Mormons are especially good at imbuing their children with their religion — far better than Catholics and mainstream Protestants, and probably better, even, than Evangelicals.

Barack, on the other hand, was raised by an anthropologist.  I have no doubt he was imbibing cross-cultural relativism with his mother's milk.  Clearly, he would have an understanding of religion as a social force — but an anthropologist is the least likely person I can think of to believe that any one of the hundreds of world religions has any particular claim on truth.

Still, you can't be elected to any national office in the United States without espousing religious beliefs.  (The main reason Barack selected Wright's church in Chicago, I believe, was because of Wright's political muscle.)

Is a sceptic currently occupying the White House?  Don't ask.  Don't tell.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Battleground States"

I am sick and tired of hearing about "swing" states and "battleground" states.  I live in New York, one of the 32 states considered 100% predictable.  Ten other states are "leaning," which means that only a very desperate campaign will try to push them away from their existing preferences.  Just eight states remain genuinely "in play."

Okay — the presidential candidates swing by New York every so often, but the only New Yorkers who get to hear them in person (along with a contingent from Connecticut and New Jersey) are those willing to spend the equivalent of America's median annual income on a rubber chicken dinner.  My vote doesn't count.  Neither do the votes of my half-sisters in Maryland, Texas, and Washington.  All we hear from the candidates are phone calls asking for money.

I suppose you're aware that if we didn't have the electoral college system (and a politicized Supreme Court), we wouldn't have had the Iraq war — but why cry over spilt milk (and blood) after the fact?  What's done is done.  Anyway, the Constitutional amendments needed to achieve something closer to "One person, one vote" would require a new constitutional convention, and convert the USofA to a parliamentary system.  That, as they say, ain't gonna happen.

In the meanwhile, my local House seat is hotly contested — New York is a safe state, but Congressional districts are less so — so, as always, I'll vote.  As for the office of president, I'll probably pick some very very dark horse.  Will Buddy Roehmer or Roseann Barr make it onto my state's ballot?  It would be nice.

Those of you whose political opinions tend to be anti-government, and who live in "safe" states, might want to vote libertarian.  Maybe you'll have a chance to vote for Tom Stevens, candidate of the Objectivist Party.  Make a statement!  What the hell!

A lot of journalists have been quoting (and misquoting) Mark Hanna (1837-1908), onetime Republican senator from Ohio.  As close as we can get it, what he said was, “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”

This time around, we'll find out if he nailed it.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Romney and Ryan

I don't know how many they were, but I suspect there were a fair number of voters who convinced themselves that Romney's recent right wing extremism was just for the sake of placating Tea Party activists and winning the Republican nomination.  They comforted themselves by predicting that, if he became president, he would drift back to the moderate to liberal Republicanism of his gubernatorial days.

His selection of Paul Ryan as a running mate dashes whatever tiny chance there was of that happening.  The billionaires who dictate contemporary Republican radicalism had their way.  True, I don't believe Romney is an ideologue like his new running mate.  He's just a weaselly opportunist, totally willing to take whatever orders the plutocrats care to issue if that's what it takes to win.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Short Subjects for August

Just a few thoughts on some recent items in the news:
  • Sheldon Adelson — Shelly was in the front row while Mitt compared Israeli and Palestinian "culture," which doubtless inspired even more tens of millions in campaign contributions.  The money, of course, comes from Shelly's gambling empire (which may or may not include tolerance for prostitution at the hotel/casino in Macao.)  Didn't somebody tell me Mormons are morally opposed to gambling?  Didn't somebody tell Mitt?
  • High Frequency Trading — Program traders have rapidly pushed ordinary retail investors out of the market.  How can a human being compete with a machine?  To bring back the kinds of investors who buy and hold, and make the markets less senselessly volatile, we truly need a Tobin tax— a tiny tax on transactions that would eliminate the profit margin when software, in microseconds, buys and sells stock to profit on miniscule changes in price.
  • Bloomberg and the Big Gulp —  Most of us were taught to eat whatever was put in front of us, whether or not we really wanted it.  Put less in front of us, and we consume less, with no loss of liberty but maybe a little loss of weight.  If you really need 48 ounces, you can always buy three 16s.
  • Welfare Reform — Sometimes a state has special circumstances, or maybe just a better idea on how to administer welfare.  Giving it an exemption from the letter of the law provided it can put 20% more people in jobs cannot possibly be construed as removing the work requirement from the Clinton welfare reforms... unless, of course, you can't, won't, or just don't read.  Republicans, of course, like non-readers.  Non-readers are much easier to fool.
  • Monoculture — It's pretty clear by now that this year's drought is doing a lot more damage because corn has short roots, and because it's pretty much all we grow anymore.  What the hell.  Most of it goes to feed lots and ethanol anyway, so you won't have to pass up that enormous bucket of grease soaked popcorn when you go to the movies.  (HeyBloomberg!)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mitt's Taxes

Harry Reid has been pissing off Willard M. Romney in a big way by suggesting he did not pay any taxes at all in some or all of those years for which he won't release his returns.  Harry was selected to make the effort, of course, because he's a fellow Mormon.  Nobody can claim religious discrimination.

Romney says he obeyed all the laws, etc., and I'm sure he did.  Probably he did pay some taxes in some of those years.  It's not Romney's personal taxes that cannot be revealed, however.  More generally, it's just what the taxes the super-rich tend to look like.  You can't have your ordinary American getting a gander at that, after all.

Somebody might notice how the rest of us are being screwed.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Too Big to Fail, Again...

A few days ago, Sandy Weill, the architect of the Citi explosion into TBTF status, came out in favor of Glass-Steagle.  Then former Obama adviser Steven Rattner (in the Times) told him he was, shall we say, wrong?

Personally, I wouldn't trust either of them as far as I could throw Bernie Madoff, but you have to admit: a return to Glass-Steagle would sharply reduce the likelihood of certain risk-addicted psychopaths gambling with federally insured deposits.  On the other hand, straightforward investment banks, as Goldman-Sachs was before it became a "holding company" to take advantage of government bailouts funds, were "too big to fail" even without government guarantees.  (Also, let us not forget AIG.)

Rattner is right when he says that Glass-Steagle would not have prevented the recent banking crisis and the current economic malaise — but he is wrong when he suggests more and better regulation could keep the banking industry under control.  The only regulation that might work would be to put strict limits on the sizes of all banks, both commercial and investment.  No commercial bank should be so large that it cannot be efficiently unwound by the FDIC, and no investment bank should be so large that allowing it and its investors to go broke would have a major impact on the whole economy.

So, how do you get from here to there?  Beats me.