Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dumb Letters: Still Not Paying for That

Rarely is such a clear distillation of a simple-minded mindset presented to us. I can't even call it an ideology because it doesn't even rise to that level.

From today's LA Times.

I am not so worried about the employee retirement program that will reduce the city of Los Angeles' civilian workforce at least 9%. It all boils down to priorities. In order of importance:

1. Tax cuts.

2. Tax cuts.

3. Tax cuts . . .

26. Tax cuts.

27. Make sure the city can be a reasonable place to live.

There is always fat and waste to cut.

Yep. The myopia about tax cuts is just mind-boggling to me. It says a lot about the anti-government forces that they have nothing else to add to the discussion other than "I don't want to be taxed so much." There is never a discussion about where the tax funds are going, whether the assessment is progressive enough or whether anything worthwhile is being done with those funds. All that matters is their personal bottom line.

It's most hilarious when they tack on to their "list" that the only other thing anyone should do is "make sure the city is a reasonable place to live". Yes, we'll do that by cutting taxes. Which pay for roads, parks, police, sanitation and schools. Smart.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Arnold Stang

Remember how on MTV's "Remote Control" they had a category called "Alive or Dead"? Always loved that one. We've had two people shuffle off on us this week, neither of whom I realized was still alive. One was a complete charlatan and another was a comic treasure.

Guess which one Oral Roberts was.

Never mind him, I'm here to write about Arnold Stang. You may not recognize his face, although it was a great one. But the voice is unmistakable.

Here he is as the Bilko ripoff "Top Cat", using his slightly more cool voice.

But the total nerd voice was his real stock-in-trade. Even when he was in live action he was a cartoon. Here he is as one of the gas station attendants (he's the skinny one) in a priceless scene from "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World", fleeing in terror as Jonathan Winters wrecks the joint. The real mayhem starts about 4:30 in.

"Irwin, we're gonna have to kill him!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Taxation of My Patience

Remember this quote from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"?

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

It was about a newspaper man refusing to print the truth because...oh, what the hell, let's mix our aphorisms, "A lie gets half way around the world before the truth gets its boots on." In this case, the lie was all the way around the world and it just wasn't worth chasing.

Words matter. Spin works. And the Republicans have been calling the estate tax "the death tax" for so long that even mainstream media outlets have no problem calling it that. It looks like the LA Times has flat-out given up. Check out the title of this editorial.

You read that right. Just in case you didn't, here it is again.

The Taxation of Death

We can argue until we're blue in the face about whether the estate tax is a nice thing or the end of civilization as we know it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But they aren't entitled to their own facts. In this case, death is not taxed. Death never has been taxed. What is being taxed is inheritance. And, more importantly, the estate tax is not actually called "the death tax". Never has been, never will be.

The fact that the word "estate" implies a lot of money is one of the reasons it's never used by its opponents. Taxing estates? What could be wrong with that? But taxing death? Unfair! 98% of beneficiaries or heirs (more words they don't use) will never be subject to it. And the ones who are subject to it should consider themselves fortunate. Even after Uncle Sam takes his bite, they're still inheriting at least a million bucks. Oh no! Poor them!

This is not a tax on death, it's a tax on income. Income which was not earned by the person receiving it. Unless the tax goes up to 100%, then the argument that people want to leave something to their children and can't just doesn't fly.

But, as I mentioned, the real issue I have here is not the merits of the tax but the use of language. The LA Times has succumbed to the right-wing spin machine by adopting their terminology, which is entirely unofficial and entirely inaccurate.

Here's the opening line:
The old saw about the only certainties in life being death and taxes isn't quite right: We'll also always be arguing about the taxation of death.

Now, the editorial actually raises some valid points about some upper-middle-class folks getting socked with a wee bit of pain. And they do use the word "heirs", to their credit. This is all good. But to promote the canard that the thing being taxed here is death and not non-earned income is inexcusable.

Please, LA Times editors. Stop.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Everyone Complains About the Weatherman but Nobody Ever Does Anything About Him

Has it really been nearly a month since I've posted something here? Yikes. It's not like there hasn't been anything to talk about. The health care fiasco continues, Tiger Woods gets more attention than anything like that deserves, Joe Lieberman bravely soldiers on in his attempt to become the biggest asshole of this young century. (And trust me, that's a mighty high bar set by The Idiot and The Dark Lord.)

So what am I concerned with today? The weather. Well, not really the weather, but with weatherpeople. This includes both actual meteorologists and the smiling knuckleheads who point at maps on the teevee because they're better looking than the actual meteorologists.

I'm not going to go into a rant about how they're always wrong and they ruined my day. I'm going to go into a rant about the people who always go into rants about how they're always wrong and ruined their day. These people have problems. And the weatherpeople are the least of it.

Listen, people. Predicting the weather is not simple. There are a ton of variables involved and almost all of them are subject to change on a moment's notice. Given the broad range of things that could change between the time you get your forecast and the time you leave your man-cave for your place of employment or enjoyment it's pretty amazing that we get weather predictions as accurate as we do. It's like predicting what a cat is going to do. You may have a good sense of it and get it most of the time but it keeps surprising you.

And yet, this is the kind of thing I see and hear in my everyday life and on places like the Facebooks:

"The weather report called for about a foot of snow. We didn't even get an inch!"

"Being a weatherman must be the easiest job in the world."

"There will be weather today. Could be 80, could snow. Can I have my paycheck now?"

"People won't let me be wrong as often in my job as weathermen. "

"They're predicting [fill in the blank] but they're always wrong."

I'm guessing the penultimate person's job involves something like holding a scanner up to a barcode and then pressing the enter button. So no, dear person, if you were wrong as often as the weatherman you would not only be fired but you would be in the state hospital.

And there are plenty of other jobs where the failure rate is even higher and nobody seems to complain about them. And some of them involve predictions too. How often has Bill Kristol been right about anything? People still pay him to blather about things he obviously either doesn't understand or is being dishonest about. And all of those guys on ESPN who tell you who's going to win every game in the NFL this week? About 60% on target, if they're pretty good at it. But they're "experts" and the weatherpeople are complete idiots.

I would invite all of the people who complain about the weatherpeople "always" being wrong to do three things.

Thing 1: Mark on your calendar every day how close to accurate the weatherperson's forecast was. I'm guessing that for every day you screamed about them "always" being wrong, there were 9 or 10 days when it was pretty much on target. And when it wasn't quite on it didn't have any tangible effect on your life. "They said it was going to be 70 but it only got up to 65. Those bastards!"

Thing 2: Go try to predict the weather yourself. Really. I'm not kidding. Go try it. Tell me how you do. You wouldn't even know where to begin, I'm sure. I know, I know, you're not paid to do it. Trust me, you never will be.

Thing 3: If you really have no confidence in these people who are ignoramuses at best and hostile disseminators of bad information specifically designed to make you angry at worst, then please just stop reading/watching/listening to your local forecast. You already know it's always wrong. So why bother? Or is it more important to you to have something to complain about?

Predicting the weather is always always always an educated guess. Quit complaining about it and get a life. There are plenty of other things more worthy of your bile.