Saturday, April 30, 2016

Fear and Loathing

If this has become a battle between fear and loathing, it appears that Republicans who know both candidates are deciding they’d rather be afraid. — Gail Collins
It's true.  Ted Cr*z is making Donald Tr*mp look reasonable by comparison, and that's extremely problematic.  Cr*z, after all, is despicable, genuinely despicable.  Even John Boehner — not the world's cuddliest man — calls Cr*z "Lucifer incarnate."  The danger of a Tr*mp who appears "reasonable," of course, is the possibility of President Tr*mp in 2017.

Hillary is hard to like, even now that Bernie has pulled her far enough to the left to be significantly out of her comfort zone.  She's the consummate politician, and we don't like politicians.  People just don't trust her.  (I don't.  Maybe I'm wrong to tar her with the same brush as that lying, plutocrat pandering husband of hers, but I can't forget Bill promising us "Two for the price of one."  Two of him?  Just kill me now.)

Anyway, I'll be reaching out to any young, idealistic Bernie supporters I encounter, and trying to teach them the hardest lesson of politics: sometimes you just have to hold your nose and swallow.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Is this offensive?

Say, has there ever been a man
With thinner skin than Erdogan?
With unabashed capriciousness
He jails his critics from the press,
And lately, the Sultanic Turk
Left Merkel looking like a jerk.
What motivates this lunatic?
(A teeny-tiny little dick.)

Okay.  So sue me.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Some women in the news

By comparison with those impeaching her, Dilma Rousseff is not especially corrupt.  It seems that even while she was head of Petrobras, the national oil company, she didn't steal.  Granted, I'm somewhat prejudiced in favor of trained economists who once fought in socialist-inspired guerilla armies, but I still think she's getting a raw deal.

Nobody is terribly surprised that Hillary Clinton seems certain to win the Democratic nomination, and I expect to hold my nose and vote for her in November, but I'm still having a hard time figuring out just what kind of economic policy she might pursue in office.  She's muddied the waters by claiming over 200 economic advisors, including Joseph Stiglitz (great), Gary Gensler (okay), and Alan Blinder (eh), but I can't help thinking that some Robert Rubin protégés are lurking in the wings.

Elizabeth II
Happy 90th birthday to her nibs, who has juggled the British crown jewels with noteworthy skill for over sixty years.  As a national symbol, she has a much tougher job than the bald eagle.

Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty, which is a nice gesture, and some feminist leaders will find a place on the back of the ten.  Too soon for Margaret Sanger?  Duh.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Many years ago, a woman sat in her car outside the apartment building where he ex-husband's parents lived.  Her only previous claim to fame was as president of an Engelbert Humperdinck fan club.  When the elderly couple emerges from the building, she ran them down, killing both.  It didn't occur to anybody to hold General Motors (nor Engelbert Humperdinck) responsible.

At around the same time, though, gun control advocates were suing gun makers because their products had been used to kill people.  It seemed illogical, but in the United States anybody is allowed to sue anybody about anything — and given the right juries, some of the suits might have been successful.  In 2005, Congress gave gun sellers immunity from most such lawsuits.

This does not provide total immunity.  If your gun, due to some manufacturing error, blows up in your hand when you are trying to kill somebody, you can sue the manufacturer.  If an individual goes to a gun dealer and says, "I want to buy a gun to kill my inlaws," the dealer is responsible.  Just lawfully providing a gun to somebody who later uses it to commit a crime is not punishable — and it seems to me that that is the way it should be.

Guns are designed to kill.  When a product does what it is designed to do, it's hard to fault the manufacturer or the seller.  If we want to eliminate gun deaths, the logical thing to do is eliminate guns —  but it's much too late to do that, if ever there was a time when it was possible.  It's probably too late, even, to reinstitute the expired ban on assault weapons.  Too many already are out there.

So what can be done?  I don't think background checks will do much good — but if all guns must be registered (including rifles and shotguns), and the last registered owner of the gun is held responsible for any crimes committed with that gun, people may be more careful with their weapons.  It also could help to limit the quantity of guns any individual can register, to reduce the problem of "straw buyers."

Of course, that won't ever happen.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A walk in the park

I was walking my dog in the park yesterday when I noticed a message scratched into the dirt pathway.  After examining it from several angles, I saw that it read:
Needless to say, I immediately thought of counter-scratching, "Aaaarghh! Your hate speech has damaged my delicate infant psyche!"  I didn't, though, for several reasons.

For one thing, I don't have a delicate infant psyche.  Another is that I do have a delicate lower back, which would have been the worse for wear had I attempted to bend over to pick up a stick and write a fairly long message.  Also, the closest I come to scratching messages in the dirt is this blog.

Most important, though, is that I strongly believe in a person's right to be offensive.  We can't have freedom of expression if we permit restrictions — any restrictions at all.  I am willing to defend the release of "threats to our national security," every kind of pornography, and all varieties of out and out lies.  We can choose to punish the consequences of such expression if it is shown to have caused harm, but we cannot allow anybody to decide in advance what kinds of expression might do so.

I'm not a censor, so I didn't kick away the message in the dirt.  Others may have wanted to read it, either as an affirmation of their own beliefs, or for the giddy pleasure of feeling offended.  Me, I didn't experience either of those.  I just shrugged and walked on.

Monday, April 4, 2016


The Mossack Fonseca leaks have shed some much needed light on a problem we cynics always assumed to be rampant, and the unknown leaker may be a greater hero than Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden combined.  It no longer can be denied that corruption among the rich and well-connected is endemic, and largely impervious to control.

Nobody is especially surprised that Sergei Roldugin, banker-buddy of Vladimir Putin, and Ukrainian president Petro O. Poroshenko are on the roster of the corrupt; nor Chinese Politburo members and other supposed "communists."  The involvement of the prime minister of Iceland and (sigh!) Jackie Chan is a bit more surprising.  Altogether, that one Panamanian law firm helped to hide over three trillion dollars, much of it illegal, the rest of it merely unethical.

Yes, some heads will roll, but there are a hell of a lot of other firms providing the same services as Mossack Fonseca.  I doubt there are a sufficient number of disgruntled employees out there to make a significant dent in the overall problem.  Oh, well...