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.