Friday, May 29, 2015


I broke down and signed up for a twitter account: @vicworld_org. It probably won't last long — there's not much I can say in less than 140 characters.  Here are some recent tweets:

How many more altar boys must be diddled before #Ireland legalizes #abortion?

#Robert_Gates to #Boy_Scouts: eventually, you'll have to accept #gay leaders. (Note: #pedophile quotient will be unchanged.)

How did the #Justice_Department get interested in #FIFA? Is the #NFL worried about competition?

Re: #FIFA scandal - Will money laundering US bankers be prosecuted too?

#Bernie! deserves more major media attention.  #Hillary's move to the left remains suspect.

From my perspective, there never can be too many #Republican #candidates! The more, the loonier!

Congratulations to the people of #El_Salvador on the beatification of my longtime hero, #Oscar_Romero. Thank you, Pope Frank!

#Brelo stood on the hood shooting through the windshield. Is that the action of someone afraid of "great bodily harm"? I don't think so!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

On the home front...

Opting Out
Opposition is growing to Arne Duncan's "data based" approach to "saving" American education by obsessively testing schoolchildren and using their scores to "evaluate" teachers and schools.  Hooray for all those parents choosing to "opt out" of the testcapades for their kids. The children of poverty who are supposed to be the chief beneficiaries of the testing regimen will continue to score poorly, no matter how many "failing" schools are closed and no matter how many "incompetent" teachers are fired.  The most important key to educational achievement is the security and predictability of a middle-class lifestyle, a lifestyle denied to more and more children as more and more Americans are pushed out of what used to be the American middle class.

Minimum Wage
More Americans can enjoy "middle-class" lives when more Americans are able to live comfortably on their earnings.  Right now, our low-wage workers — even those lucky enough to have steady, full-time jobs — have to depend on food stamps and Medicaid just to scrape by.  Too many are only one or two unpaid sick days away from financial catastrophe, and they know it.  They and their children need and deserve real security.  Raising the minimum wage to $15/hr is not enough to restore the American middle class, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

As I've said before, raising the minimum wage will not lead to lay-offs, because employers know they maximize profits by employing the smallest work force needed to get the job done.  If forced to pay their workers more, employers must either accept lower profits or raise the prices of their products.  The affluent will scarcely notice any price increases, and better paid workers will have more money to spend.  Only the most poorly conceived and managed businesses will fail.

To the extent it exists in the USofA, democracy doesn't work very well.  People struggling to earn a living, or to claw their way to the next level of economic success, don't have a lot of time to peruse the "important issues" that are supposed to determine the outcomes of elections.  Candidates win elections when they have the financing and skills to promulgate sufficiently convincing lies, or to distract our attention from political decisions that actually might have an impact on our lives.

The classic Clinton approach, "polling over principle," is endemic in our current system.  We expect political candidates to say the things we want to hear.  What they actually do once in office is unlikely to have more than cosmetic resemblance to what they say in order to win.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Fast-Track and the TPP

I don't know if the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement will or will not benefit most Americans, although I suspect that they will be much better for the banks and the multinationals than for you and me.  The reason I'm limited to suspicion is that the terms of the agreement, most of which already have been decided, are secret.  I don't get to see them.  Unless you are a US Senator or one of the corporate leaders and lobbyists who designed the deal, you don't know either.  We commoners are not allowed in on the secret, and when our Senators get to have a peek, they're not allowed to take notes.

What I do understand, just by the nature of such agreements, is that the TPP is likely to have provisions that facilitate violations of our local, state, and federal laws — that is, the ability of business interests to sue governments to overturn laws that the corporations just don't like.  Among those laws might be regulations bearing on health, safety, environmental protection, labor rights, banking, and more.  To me, that sounds like a real danger.

More dangerous than the agreement itself is granting the President six years of fast-track authority to enter into trade deals — that is, the authority to agree to a deal with only 51 votes for approval in the Senate.  If the next president (or, perhaps, the current president) decides to negotiate a treaty that castrates Dodd-Frank, for example, 51 votes would do the trick — not the 60 required to overcome a filibuster.

All the talk about loss of jobs is of little importance — but it's easier for ordinary Americans to understand than the far more virulent threats to regulation of banking, oil exploration and production, food and drug markets, and more.  Fast-track makes the current plutocratic domination of American politics exponentially worse.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Meanwhile, in Texas...

Word is out that Obama is sending the US military to invade Texas and confiscate all the guns.  Some Texans are dense enough to believe this.  Needless to say, one expects America's Stupidest Congressman, Louis Gohmert, to go along with the conspiracy theory, but Texas governor Greg Abbott's assurance that the Texas National Guard would be out there protecting the weaponry leads one to believe that the Texan lunatic fringe must be a lot more lunatic and a lot less fringe than previously supposed.  Ted Cruz, by the way, says he has "no reason to doubt" the US military when it says it has no plans to invade.

Also in Texas, America's two most incompetent amateur terrorists managed to get themselves killed by a traffic cop, despite their body armor and automatic weaponry, while attempting to attack Pamela Geller's "Draw Mohammed" cartoon contest.  What I really can't understand is why Islamic State decided to take the "credit" for their almost laughable failure.  (The only thing that makes it slightly less than laughable is that they managed to shoot a school security guard in the foot.)  Surely, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi can't believe those two clowns will inspire others to try their luck.

I will take this opportunity to announce my new "Draw Pamela Geller" contest.  Please make all submissions as offensive as possible.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Where's Hillary?

Hillary has been making some of the right (actually, left) noises lately, but it's hard to tell what connection there is between what she says, what she will do when elected, and what she actually believes (which probably doesn't much matter.)  If nothing else, the Clintons have been consummate politicians, defined as saying and doing whatever is likely to bring the greatest political advantage.

When Bill's pollsters told him that American voters had swallowed Reagan's "welfare queen" routine hook, line, and sinker, Bill decided it would be advantageous to "end welfare as we know it." Sadly, though, just satisfying voters is not nearly enough to guarantee political advantage.  Bill also signed on to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which freed the big banks first to loot and then to collapse the American economy.  Political expediency does not, by any means, guarantee good outcomes.

Can we use Bill as a guide to how Hillary might act if she becomes president?  No, not if we expect her to do the kinds of things her husband did (pandering to the so-called "centrists" as a "New Democrat.")  On the other hand, I think it is entirely reasonable to expect that she will do and/or say whatever seems most likely to ensure her victory in the Fall — and then, as president, do or say whatever seems likely to ensure her re-election.

Big money is bigger than ever.  Can we believe anything politicians say, ever?  I'm with most of America on that, and the consensus opinion is negative.  On the other hand, if she feels it is necessary to commit herself to some more progressive positions, she just might feel obliged to carry through.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Brief Takes

Cops across the USofA are all in a huff (or, maybe, soiling their underpants) thanks to that indictment of six Baltimore cops in the Freddie Gray killing.  Nobody should be surprised that three are black, and one is a woman — the police mentality/culture is not necessarily racist.  Many cops are people who enjoy having and exercising power over others, and the weaker their victims, the more they enjoy it.  Since poor blacks are, as a group, extraordinarily weak in terms of political power and public support, they make perfect victims.  Maybe smacking down some abusive cops will encourage some of the typical bullies to seek different career paths.

I'm not all that worried about the Trans-Pacific Partnership sucking more jobs out of the American economy.  I suspect most of the jobs that people worry about losing already have been transferred overseas.  Mostly, I'm concerned about loss of sovereignty.  I don't want multinational corporations suing state and local governments to overturn health and safety regulations that might have negative impact on corporate bottom lines — and since the people negotiating the treaty on "our" behalf are drawn largely from corporate board rooms, it would be nice to know what they've negotiated before giving our corporate-beholden president fast-track authority.

I really would like it if Bernie Sanders actually could become our next president, but, at the very least, he's likely to get Hillary discussing some left/populist issues she'd rather ignore.  Mind you, any commitment a candidate makes on the campaign trail should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.  (I'm still waiting for Obama to close Guantanamo, for example.)  As the old joke goes:
      Q: How do you know if a politician is lying?
      A: His lips are moving.