Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grab Grab Grab (What I Just Gave You)

You can always count on Tea Party types to make arguments in defense of the U.S. Constitution that fundamentally misunderstand the U.S. Constitution.

Here's the latest from Fox News spokes idiot Sarah P, as quoted in Salon. Her beef is with "power grabs" by the federal government.

What we're seeing today is the inevitable result of national leaders who have forgotten the fundamental wisdom of the Tenth Amendment [which provides for America's federalist system]. Just as Mr. Jefferson warned us, as soon as we as a country disregarded the fact that the federal government's powers are limited, and that we as states and individuals hold the balance of the power, the floodgates were opened to the torrent of federal power grabs we're seeing today. Take the federal income tax, for example. We tend to think there are two constants in life: death and taxes. But America hasn't always had an income tax. The first federal income tax on individuals was imposed in 1861 to help pay for the Civil War. But the tax was never meant to be permanent, and Congress repealed it ten years after it was enacted. It wasn't until 1913 that the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and the individual federal income tax that we know today was created.

What is most dangerous about these power grabs is that they're usually done in the name of a good cause--insuring the uninsured, for example--and have a big wad of cash attached to them.

Hilarious, as usual. She's right on some things. Of course we haven't always had an income tax. And the original tax she cites was not permanent. But once you make an amendment to the constitution, that's pretty much meant to be permanent. (18th Amendment, we didn't mean you.) And that's what we did.

What's dumb about this, on first glance, is a typical case of 10th Amendment confusion, which is sadly prevalent in the TP. Here's what the 10th says.

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Okay. And the 16th Amendment was...in the constitution. The constitution can't be unconstitutional, lady. Oy.

But the dumbest thing about Mrs. P's complaint is that any time the constitution is amended -- and I'd love to know, as I would with most of her pronouncements, whether she doesn't know this or she's just conveniently ignoring it -- it has to be ratified by 75% of the states. In other words, a constitutional amendment cannot, by definition, be a federal power grab. At least 38 of our 50 states have to say yes for it to take effect. And 42 of the then-48 states said cool to the 16th Amendment. (Three rejected it and three more never took it up.) Assuming that Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia's silence on the matter equalled consent, that's 93% approval from the states from whom power was being "grabbed". Nice.

This nitwit continues to say dumb shit on a regular basis. And our media continue to quote her dumb shit. Please stop. Or at least have the common decency to say, "Hey, that is some dumb shit right there. And here's why." It isn't all that difficult. What are you people going to do when you come up against an actual skilled sophist (like, say, Karl Rove)?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Barbara Billingsley

I wasn't completely sure she was still around. But man, this lady was a champ.

Although it was already a bit long in the tooth by the time I was a kid, "Leave It to Beaver" was a huge part of my childhood. Can I tell you how much I love(d) this show? In the past year or so I had been combing through the archives, available for streaming on Netflix. It has not lost any of its charm. In fact, it may be better than I remember.

"Beaver" is constantly held up as a paradigm of cold war squeaky clean America, old fashioned and conservative. Well, kinda. Nuclear families. Bed on time. Wash behind your ears. Blah blah blah. But watching clusters of episodes recently made me rethink this.

Although Ward and June had rules for Wally and The Beave, they weren't total hardasses. They were always loving and understanding with the boys, even when they did really dumb shit. And when they lied, covered it up and -- inevitably -- were found out, Ward and June were usually more disappointed than angry. And they sat the kids down and spoke with them calmly about what they did and why they did it and exhorted them to come to the 'rents and talk to them whenever anything of the sort dealt with in that particular episode arose again.

The elder Cleavers weren't the type to say "In my day, kids had respect for their elders!" They knew that they weren't much different when they were kids and that boys will be boys. They knew that, ultimately, most of what Wally and Beaver learned, they'd learn it through experience, not by listening to a lecture. And as long as no one got hurt, it was all good. They never yelled. They never hit. It was, dare I say it, a pretty liberal show. And not just for its time.

Wholesome? Oh yes. But hardly the hoary cliche of Eisenhower America it's often made out to be. Yes, Ward went to the office and June stayed home and took care of the house, always immaculately dressed and coiffed. But the Cleavers were both active participants in their children's lives. And they discussed matters of discipline and the kids' well-being together. Ward never put his foot down and said "Because I said so!" or "I'm the man of the house, and what I say goes!" Ward and June both knew that even they didn't always know best and admitted when they were wrong. And not just between the two of them. To their kids.

I could fill up an entire post about the language on the show, which is utterly brilliant in its own right. Ward and June spoke perfect standard American English but the youngsters on the show had a patois all their own. I wasn't around when the show aired, so I can't tell you how accurate it was to the time. But there never was then and never was after that a show that had "goofy" and "crummy" and "hunka" and "hollerin' at" and "little creep" and dozens of other nuggets of linguistic awesomeness as part of its arsenal. The writing was only nominated for an Emmy once (and didn't win). This is criminal.

At the heart of the show, though, was the lady that just passed. She was filled with love for her family and a wisdom that is stereotypical of mid- to late- 20th century TV motherhood. But it all began with her. She was the mom you wish you had.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Higher Taxes Make You Work Less, Because You Don't Like Money

Does anyone still believe this? Former GWB advisor Greg Mankiw has taken the time to compose an article reiterating the old line that taxes make people not want to work. And I took the time to read it. Call me a masochist.

Oh boy. Here we go.

You wanna read it first? Here it is. Knock yourself out.

There are a few completely dishonest calculations in the piece. And a few assumptions that rankle. But the basic concept is one that's always irked me. That is, "I'd rather have nothing than have something of which I have to give part away."

We've heard it before. Taxes are a disincentive to work. Really? I can see how people might not like paying their taxes. I can see how people may argue over how much is too much. (Is 30% too much? How about 50%?) But I cannot understand people saying that because any amount is taxed, they won't bother making any money because it just isn't worth it to them.

Mankiw begins by saying that he's doing just fine, thank you very much. But what should he do if someone asks him if he'd like to make a few bucks at a speaking engagement? Apparently the answer is to turn it down. Not because he doesn't need the money. (He doesn't. Remember?) But because he wouldn't be able to leave as much of it for his children as he would if there were no taxes of any kind. Not lower taxes, mind you. No taxes. Oh. Okay.

Here's his logic, such as it is.

"Suppose that some editor offered me $1,000 to write an article. If there were no taxes of any kind, this $1,000 of income would translate into $1,000 in extra saving. If I invested it in the stock of a company that earned, say, 8 percent a year on its capital, then 30 years from now, when I pass on, my children would inherit about $10,000. That is simply the miracle of compounding."
That is simply the miracle of bullshit. Because the no-tax scenario does not exist, why are we talking about it?

But now we're not just talking about taxes here, it seems. He has now invested his money in a company that is doing very well and his $1000 has magically transformed, 30 years from now, into $10,000. Nice. But what's wrong with just having the $1000 you earned in the first place? Well, nothing. Unless your aim is to make the point that $1000 is really $10,000 and you need a benchmark with which to whip that original sum. So find a way to make it $10,000.

"Now let’s put taxes into the calculus. First, assuming that the Bush tax cuts expire, I would pay 39.6 percent in federal income taxes on that extra income. Beyond that, the phaseout of deductions adds 1.2 percentage points to my effective marginal tax rate. I also pay Medicare tax, which the recent health care bill is raising to 3.8 percent, starting in 2013. And in Massachusetts, I pay 5.3 percent in state income taxes, part of which I get back as a federal deduction. Putting all those taxes together, that $1,000 of pretax income becomes only $523 of saving."

It must be true. It's calculus! Okay. Now we're down to $523 after taxes. But hold on. We're assuming the top marginal rate, and we're assuming the GWB cuts expire. (Should we really assume that?) And we're also assuming a tax rate (Medicare) that doesn't begin for another three years. Still, even so, you have $523 left, right? That's something. Oh, wait. More horrible horrible taxes that make making money just not worth it.

"And that saving no longer earns 8 percent. First, the corporation in which I have invested pays a 35 percent corporate tax on its earnings. So I get only 5.2 percent in dividends and capital gains. Then, on that income, I pay taxes at the federal and state level. As a result, I earn about 4 percent after taxes, and the $523 in saving grows to $1,700 after 30 years."
Okay, so now he's comparing a theoretical 8% return on an investment with only 5.2%, which is still pretty damn solid, particularly in today's economy. But now we're down from the completely untaxed and wisely invested $1000 becoming a nice fat $10,000 (in 30 years) to it being only $1700. A mere pittance. Oh, but he's giving it to his kids, right? I think we know where we're going next.

"Then, when my children inherit the money, the estate tax will kick in. The marginal estate tax rate is scheduled to go as high as 55 percent next year, but Congress may reduce it a bit. Most likely, when that $1,700 enters my estate, my kids will get, at most, $1,000 of it."

Ah, yes. The estate tax. Again, we're assuming the top rate here. Which doesn't yet exist. So, Mankiw's horrible horrible scenario comes down to working for $1000 and having his kids inherit $1000. In the absolute worst-case scenario. Which doesn't exist. I'm crying here. Hey, Greg. Tell your kids to get a job instead of waiting 30 years to get that lousy $1700.

"HERE’S the bottom line: Without any taxes, accepting that editor’s assignment would have yielded my children an extra $10,000. With taxes, it yields only $1,000. In effect, once the entire tax system is taken into account, my family’s marginal tax rate is about 90 percent. Is it any wonder that I turn down most of the money-making opportunities I am offered?"

No. But not for the reasons he states. He doesn't work because he has enough money already. If he needed more, he'd take the assignment. If he didn't have any money at all, would he not take it? Would he rather have the $523 or $0? Has he never worked in his life? Because he's paid taxes at these rates already, presumably, if he has. But why? He says he has no incentive. And yet...he's worked. And continues to do so. This article's existence is proof.

Mankiw's argument seems to boil down to not wanting to pay any taxes. So apparently if someone said to Mankiw, "Hey, I'll give you 1000 bucks to do something" he'd say yes. But if they said, "Hey, I'll give you 2000 bucks but after tax it will end up being 1000 bucks" he'd say no. This makes absolutely no sense.

The equation shouldn't be "how much is going to the government". It should be "how much is going to me". If the answer to the last question is more than zero, then you have an incentive to work. If you don't, it's just spite.

Let's kick Mankiw out of this scenario and pop in an actual person, Joe Schmo. Joe isn't in the top tax bracket. Joe has rent to pay. And food to buy. Joe gets an offer of $1000 to write an article. Joe knows that he'll probably only take home about $750 of it. (Because he isn't in Mankiw's bracket.) So, Joe can a) take the job and have $750 towards paying his rent or b) not take the job because the taxes have taken away his incentive to work. Gee, what do you think he does? His incentive to work is paying his fucking rent.

And another thing: Joe isn't going to invest his money (which, contrary to what Mankiw says, could result in him ultimately getting nothing, if the company goes under). He's going to spend it. So the "miracle of compounding" never plays into it. And the evil estate tax is immaterial. Even if he did have $1000 to leave to his kids 30 years from now, unless he had another $1,999,000 to add to it, there would be no estate tax for his kids to worry about. None.

Mankiw's article is the most elitist piece of crap I've seen in the NYT, or any media outlet, in some time. And here's how he ends it.

"But don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that when the government taxes the rich, only the rich bear the burden."

So, if what he's saying is true and he won't take that writing job because he doesn't need the money and he's disincented anyway because of his tax burden, then guess who gets the job. It's Joe Schmo! So Mankiw's last statement is, by his own logic, false. Because Joe now has $750 that he wouldn't have had if we didn't tax Greg Mankiw. Who is a schmuck.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Free Mountain Dew for Everyone!

Really? This is a controversy? People are actually up in arms about restricting food stamps so they can't be used to buy soda? Oh no! They're "playing God"!

This is the kind of crap that gives welfare a bad name.

People, listen. It is not "playing God" to say that government money that is given to people to keep children from starving should actually be used to keep children from starving and not just loading them with sugar and empty calories.

Holy crap. Not a controversy. Really. Not a controversy. Thanks, ABC News, for pretending it is.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bernard Schwartz

Okay, it's Tony Curtis. But Bernard Schwartz was just way too jewy for Hollywood.

And besides, he wouldn't have been known as Stony Curtis if he hadn't changed his name. I mean, come on. Stony Curtis. Now that's a name for a rock star.

Ahem. Sorry.

I was never a big fan of Mr. Curtis. Even in his best movies ("Spartacus", "The Sweet Smell of Success") he seemed like window dressing. Or worse.

I think I liked him best in "Some Like It Hot". He seemed to let loose a bit more there. But even then, I found myself wishing for someone a bit less...I don't know. Unsettling, maybe. Maybe it was those icy blue eyes. Expressionless. He never seemed like he belonged in any of the movies I've seen him in. Except maybe "Sweet Smell". His "I think I'd just as soon be someplace else" manner made the most sense in that creepy world.

At any rate, he's out of here. Maybe he's going to the castle of his faddah. Which lies over yonder.

And if he hadn't changed his name? Why then, Fred would have been the stunt double for (wait for it)...

Bernie Quartz!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chasing the Road Runner on an ACME Segway

I'm always torn. Death shouldn't ever be funny. Not real death, anyway. Cartoon death is funny. But real life death happens to real people. With real family that loved them. Even Richard Nixon had family that loved him. Nixon! Imagine that.

So I'll just have to take a deep breath, walk in a circle three times and ask forgiveness of the universe for THINKING THIS IS REALLY FREAKING FUNNY.

Don't want to click through? Here's the headline.

Owner of Segway Company Dies in a Segway Accident

Ha! Sorry. It's just funny. And (it gets better) he plunged off a cliff! Like Wile E. Coyote! Maybe it was a cartoon death after all.


No, really. Sorry.

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's Sex With Someone I Love

Okay, so the Tea Party has just handed another seat back to the Democrats. Thank you, Delaware Republicans.

Two things about Christine O'Donnell.

Thing 1: What the hell is this?

Why are you in the picture? Honey, let me explain something to you. Your husband wasn't masturbating all these years because he was trying to perfect the sexual experience flying solo. He was doing it because there didn't happen to be anyone else in the room with him. He didn't have a vagina to stick his thing into so he improvised with whatever was handy. Now that he does, if you really think he's going to prefer masturbation to that sweet sweet part-of-God's-plan vagina that you're sporting, then yes, I would question why you are in the picture. But not for the reason you think. It's either because your husband is gay or that you're just really terrible at the nasty. Any straight guy would prefer a female body that is sleeping, lethargic or outright dead to their own hand. Maybe you should have practiced a bit yourself.

Thing 2: The folks on the news are talking about this like it's some kind of tidal wave that's sweeping the nation. But look at the numbers here. No, really. Look at them. They're right here.



325 of 325 Districts Reported

MICHAEL N. CASTLE262018202702146 . 9 %
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL298826793056153 . 1 %

30,000 votes. That's it. A nation of over 300 million. A state of about 885,000.

She got 53% of the votes cast in the primary. But overall, only 3% of the people in her very dinky state voted for her. 1/100 of 1% of the nation. And it's being treated as a historic event and a triumph for the nutjobs in this country. Please.

Some more perspective? There are slightly fewer than 30,000 people in the town of my birth. And nobody pays any freaking attention when those people vote on anything. Staten Island has almost half a million people, not much less than the whole state of Delaware. And they're considered irrelevant not just in the country, not just in the state, but in New York City, where they account for less than 1/16 of the city's population.

Enjoy playing the masturbation videos and having another Palinesque nitwit to focus on for a little while, American media. But don't kid yourself that this is a significant event. All it is is the fringe forfeiting another decent shot at Republicans gaining another seat.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dumb Letters: Stem Cells Are People Too

See if you can spot the flaw in this argument from today's NYT letters section. We're talking stem cells here.

I commend Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth for issuing a ruling on Monday preventing the Obama administration from carrying out its embryonic stem cell research. The American people should not be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life.

Human life begins at conception with the formation of a genetically complete, self-directing human entity, the embryo.

Human beings are not raw materials that can be exploited or commodities that can be bought and sold. We must help those who are suffering, but we may not use a good end to justify an evil means. The respect for every human life is an essential condition of our society.

Any method of genetic manipulation that involves the alteration or destruction of human embryos is nothing more than Frankenstein science.

Did you catch it? It's a bit clever.

My first question to this letter writer would be "Where do the embryos in question come from?" I'm guessing they aren't yanking them out of women's bodies after they have been heteronormatively inseminated by their lawfully wedded husbands. These embryos, for the most part, have been created in petri dishes with the express purpose of being selected for their health and desirability and then placed into women's wombs with "scientific" implements, after choosing among several of them so that the customers can keep the best one(s) and discard the rest.

"Conception", in this case, takes place in the lab. And the embryos in question are "commodities" that are being bought and sold already. That's why they exist in the first place. The fact that the ones being used for research were going to be thrown away doesn't seem to affect the writer. How is this evil? Sounds like the creation of these embryos should be classified as evil, if the writer wants to be consistent. Either that or we need to keep every single one we create frozen forever. We can keep them with Ted Williams's head, I guess.

Oh, and "self-directing"? Not sure what that's supposed to mean. But I'm sure it's some kind of religious code.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Now Fewer Americans Than Ever Believe in Facts

Just when I think we can't get any dumber.

I had always thought that polls were supposed to be about people's opinions. I mean, they used to call them, more descriptively, opinion polls. "Who do you think should be president?" "What do you think about the bottle bill?" "Who's hotter, Megan Fox or Newt Gingrich?"

Apparently, we've added a new subsection of polling...fact polling. We ask people if they believe if something factual is actually factual. No, I'm not talking about asking whether people believe in God. I'm talking about this poll.

Holy crap.

We have reduced facts to nothing more than one more thing we can have opinions about. "Is the president a muslim? What's your opinion?"

The only value a poll like this has is to show just how fucking stupid we are. What's possibly worse than the 18% of people who believe (based on what?) that Obama is a muslim is the 43% of people who "don't know", more than the number who think he's a christian. This could just be chalked up to inattention. I mean, I don't know what religion some people are. (But we're usually not talking about the president of a religion-obsessed nation here.) But the same poll last year showed only 34% who didn't know. Huh? Did they forget? Or did they get stupider?

Let's have some more polls, shall we?

"Is Dick Cheney bald? What's your opinion?"

"Do the New York Yankees play in Yankee Stadium? What's your opinion?"

"Is the moon orbiting the earth? What's your opinion?"

"What's the name of that thing pumping blood through your body right now? What's your opinion?"

"Does the F train stop at Broadway-Lafayette? What's your opinion?"

Next week, only 53% of Americans think that the "heart" is what pumps their blood, down from 57% last year.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dr. Laura Jumps the Shark (Again, But This Time She Gets Eaten on Purpose)

Okay, this is puzzling.

So Dr. Laura spends 30 years insulting people on the radio and basically being just a nasty bigoted person. Then one day recently, a black woman calls and complains about some mildly racist things said by her white husband's friends. Dr. Laura responds by ranting about why it's okay for some people to use a certain word while it isn't okay for others to use it. Some people criticize Dr. Laura. (Nothing new here.) Dr. Laura then apologizes. (Definitely something new there.) Then Dr. Laura quits her show.

Wait. What? She quits her show? What the hell for?

It isn't like this is the first time she's pissed people off. She didn't quit then.

Frankly, I don't think that what she said was all that controversial, in the grand scheme of things and in relation to some of the other crap that's come out of her mouth. Certain black comics do use that particular word a lot. And the rules can be confusing. (Tip to Dr. L and everyone else: When in doubt, don't use it.) She was just basically an insensitive ass about it. Which is the norm for her. Even if her viewpoint has some validity, she still wasn't sensitive to other people's views of the word, regardless of how it's used by certain entertainers (and people in my neighborhood). And she particularly wasn't sensitive to her caller, who asked her to refrain before Dr. Laura used the word several more times.

But she did apologize. And her apology was startlingly coherent and (it seemed) sincere. I thought she'd just go back to being this horrible...person (I refrained from using another word that people find offensive here) on the radio with a niche audience and that would be that.

But she quit. Okay, fine. she quit. But here's the problem. Why did she quit, according to her? (Do you want to wait for it? No? Okay.) Her First Amendment rights are being violated.

Oy. Presumably this is what she was talking about. Not sure how it applies, but whatever.

Dr. Laura, this is an honest question for you. Did the government come in and tell you that you couldn't say what you said? Did they shut down your show? Did they threaten to? Because that's how your First Amendment rights get violated. Not by other people exercising those same rights to tell you that you're full of shit and a bunch of sponsors siding with them. You don't have a constitutional right to have a bunch of corporations pay you for being a bigot.

I don't think the First Amendment is the problem here. I think it's you. I think you were sick of doing your show and wanted a way out that could be used to paint other people as the problem. Sorry, no. I actually had a bit of sympathy for you for a few seconds there. You're welcome to go away now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Bedbugs? Really? These things were supposed to have been eradicated during World War II.

What the crap?

And at the movies, no less. And in office buildings. And, by the way, not just here in New Bug City. They've even gone international.

I haven't seen them in my building yet (although I've heard rumors of them being dangerously close). But just thinking about it is making me itchy.

No matter what you think you've done, you just cannot eliminate something that's been around for 40 million years. They were here long before us and they'll be here long after we're gone.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Freedom of Religion*

* Some restrictions may apply. Not valid for muslims within a two-block radius of specific construction sites.

Oh no! The president has stated matter-of-factly that our constitution means more than the paranoid ramblings of Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and everyone else who thinks that allowing a muslim community center to be built (and really, do they need our permission?) is tantamount to treason.
"As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable."
Really, in a sane society this would be about the most non-controversial thing a president could say. And all of you "strict constructionists" out there may want to stop and think how you feel about this. But, as much as a non-issue this should be, the people on the news seem to have another thing that they can milk for ratings. Controversy!

"Will this be an issue for Obama and the Democrats in the fall?" Crikey, I hope so. Let's have them point out just how bigoted and non-strict-constructionist the knuckleheads on the right are being here. Can we please please please have this debate with the tea party people who are soooo in love with our constitution? I'd love to see them attempt to defend their position on constitutional grounds. That'd make a fine and tasty pretzel, I'm sure.

Listen, people. There is nothing remotely controversial about saying we should follow the law and let private citizens build a legal building on a site that they own. And do not bring up the sensitivity thing. It shouldn't come into play. That's not a legal argument. If we need to be sensitive then should we knock down the existing mosque (not community center, like this new "controversial" thing, but an actual mosque) that sits just four blocks from the "sacred ground"? And what should the sacred perimeter be? Ten blocks? Twenty? Slippery slope, anyone?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dumb Letters: That Robe Is Sooooo Gay

Shall we do a dumb letter? Yeah, it's been a while. We've missed several months of sheer idiocy. Back to the grind.

Here's a lulu from the Boston Globe. I love the title: Judge's Decision on Prop. 8 Tears at Throat of Democracy

It isn't just bad. It tears at the throat of democracy. Ow! Stop! You're tearing at my throat! And I'm wearing white! I have to give them props for the vivid language, as dumb as I think the sentiment is.

Let's just reprint the whole damn thing, shall we?
THE DECISION by chief US district judge Vaughn Walker, who is openly gay, to overturn the voter-approved Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman in California, slices at the jugular of true democracy. His 138-page ruling is nothing more than an exercise in rationalizing without thinking rationally.
Actually, it was one of the most rationally argued decisions I've ever heard, legally, morally culturally and logically. And hey, he's openly gay? (Well, he isn't exactly open, but that's another story.) Two problems with that. First, if he were not gay and he decided the other way, would we then be able to say "A straight man passed this judgment! How dare he!" Second, the "openly" part. Would it be better or worse if he were a closeted gay? I'm not sure. Tell me, please, dear rational letter writer.
Walker bases his conclusion primarily on his ability to divine the “discriminatory intent’’ of California voters when they cast their votes for Proposition 8, but leaves out the possibility of his own preconceived bias as a gay man.
No, he didn't base his conclusion primarily, secondarily or tertiarily on discriminatory intent, although that was certainly in the bill and in its mostly out-of-state pimpers. (Does people in Utah pushing a bill in California "tear at the throat" of democracy?) He based it on equality before the law. Read it. No, really, read the fucking thing. It's about equality and whether the state has a compelling interest in discriminating. And his "preconceived bias" as a gay man seems to pale in comparison to your own, which you are about to show us.
Walker’s ruling illustrates that he does not understand the essential public purpose of marriage, which is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another. He replaces this public purpose with private purposes of adults’ feelings and desires.
Do I even need to respond to this? Really? The public purpose of marriage is as a legal contract between two parties. And this is where equal protection comes in. The private purpose is whatever the crap you or your preferred religious institution want it to be. My dad remarried well after he or his wife had any intention of having children. Not married, they? I have two other sets of friends my age that have no intention of reproducing. Not married, they? My uncle has been divorced twice and widowed twice. He just married Lucky Lady #5. Why? He doesn't want to be alone. Not married, he? He got married for an "adult feeling", perhaps even a "desire". You wanna tell him? And how about people who can't conceive? Not married, they? I feel stupid even writing this, it's so obvious.
It’s time to put a stop to judges who redefine our most fundamental social institutions and use liberal courts to obtain political goals they cannot obtain at the ballot box.
Okay, let's just quit now. Why have judges if they don't have the power to overturn laws? Really, what purpose do they serve if we cannot sue what we consider to be an unjust law? Why even argue the decision on its merits if the ballot box is supposed to be the end of the story?

Howzabout we pass a law saying no one past child-bearing age can get married? Okay? Or maybe no one who has had a letter published in the Boston Globe? Sound good? If we did, I'd support your right to sue to have that law overturned. Because the people don't always know what's best. And they rarely know what's constitutional.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Newt World Odor

I actually agree with Richard Cohen about something.

Well, that isn't that crazy. He's one of those people that makes me nuts by often making sense but just as often being a complete nitwit. (Which, of course, is another way of saying that I agree with him half of the time. You know how that works.)

Anyway, he often blindly defends the Israeli government/military in a manner that I find off-putting. But he's making a play for tolerance here, which is buying him a few benefit-of-the-doubt points in my carefully maintained ledger.

The big issue here is the election-year xenophobia and downright racism being trotted out to get cheap airtime and press and to secure the votes of xenophobes, racists, racist xenophobes and xenophobic racists.

I'll find you some dumb letters about this soon, but New Gingrich is dumb enough for everybody. Well, that's not true. He isn't dumb. He's very smart. Which means that he's lying most of the time. Because he says the same things the dumb people say.

Cohen's column, from the WaPo, is here. One of my favorite bits is how he calls out the use of the scary and ill-defined "they". You know who "they" are. Well, you don't, really. But you do know that "they" are out to getcha. And they will, unless you help to get them first. Or at least vote Republican. You can read that bit for yourself, but here's a nice bit about cultural relativism.

Gingrich noted that there "are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." True enough. However, it is not the government of Saudi Arabia that seeks to open a mosque in Lower Manhattan, but a private group. In addition, and just for the record, Saudi Arabia does not represent all of Islam and, also just for the record, the al-Qaeda terrorists who murdered nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, would gladly have added the vast Saudi royal family to the list of victims. In recompense, the Saudis would just as gladly apply some dull swords to the necks of al-Qaeda's leaders. It is the way of the desert, or something like that.

I would also note that women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Applying Gingrichian logic, it follows that no Muslim women should be allowed to drive in the United States and its possessions and territories -- or, for that matter, use a BlackBerry, since the United Arab Emirates is about to block some of its key functions. I'm sure Gingrich would agree.

The truth here is not that some racist and/or xenophobic people ("they", perhaps?) are afraid of The Terrorists opening up shop near Ground Zero. It's that they're afraid that a center which is meant to promote dialogue and understanding will actually do so. They're afraid that once we see that they are just like us (only, like, different) that we won't be able to call them "they". We need "they" because we are defined by having enemies. And if we don't, then they won't have anything with which to frighten people into doing Newt Gingrich's bidding.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Where Does the Time Go? or, Race to the Bottom

Okay, I'm back. What did I miss?

Seriously, I just went for a bathroom break.


How many months ago?


Oh. Well...sorry. I'm here now. Oh, and by the way, you do NOT want to go in there.

Anyway, I'm attempting to re-enter this stupid blogosphere again after a major (and unannounced) sabbatical. I'll try to keep this one short, so as not to tax my little noggin or the patience of those who may have stumbled onto this item. Want to know how my brain works? Check the archive. You'll get the picture. More to come soon.

So, what I'm incensed about this week is the coverage of the Shirley Sherrod story. You know the deal. Right-wing media lies about something, Obama administration employee gets axed to avoid further recrimination from right-wing media, no one apologizes, and we talk about something completely irrelevant for a few weeks.

Now you're saying, "Hey, MAB. This is totally relevant. We should be talking about this." To which I would say, "Shut up. This is my stinking blog." But what I would really say is, "No, we aren't talking about it. The conversation is about something else entirely."

Watch last week's Sunday talk shows. Both CBS's "Face the Nation" and ABC's "This Week" had as their big fat topics "race". Great. A fine topic. And one we probably should talk about more. But this isn't what the story is. The story is, and let's gather around close here so we don't miss it, the right-wing media lied about something and got someone fired on purpose.

Really, people. Race was just the tool that was used. But the real issue here is not how we talk about race. It's that we were told something that was untrue and we were told it deliberately in order to make someone look bad. Why are we talking about anything else? Is it so commonplace for bottom-feeders like Faux News and Andrew Breitbart to propagate this sort of disgraceful bullshit that it isn't even a story anymore? If this is so, what the hell have we become as a nation?

Please please please, American media. Can the race talk for a bit and concentrate on the real story.

Oh, and thanks for waiting for me, readers. And for not knocking on the bathroom door the whole time. It only makes me nervous.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Dumb Letters: Whatever It Is, I'm Against It

Some of them just leave you scratching your heads. This one is almost entirely incoherent. I have no idea what the writer is really getting at, other than "I'm a concerned citizen and I have something to say." Although the Globe editorial board tried to give it some focus in its title.

I am an unenrolled voter. President Obama did not say anything in his State of the Union address that he should not have said long before, and he could not list a single achievement.

Um, okay. So would he have been better off not saying it at all, then? So you could then complain about how he never said it? And if he had listed his achievements, I'm guessing you would have complained that the speech was self-congratulatory and called him an arrogant narcissist. Right?
He chided the Republicans in attendance, and made a misguided attack on the Supreme Court of the United States, by calling for legislation around its recent ruling on campaign spending.

Some of us don't consider this misguided. In fact, most of us don't. The Supreme Court has a long history of making bad decisions. And Congress has a long history of passing laws to mitigate the effects of Supreme Court decisions, most recently the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay act. Often the Supreme Court makes a ruling in a certain way because Congress has not been clear on what the law should be and so the court reverts to the closest constituional interpretation they can make. If this doesn't sit well with Congress, they clarify the law. If the court doesn't like this, they strike the new law down when a case comes before them. It's called checks and balances. Don't like it? Get a new country.

Oh, and if anyone ever deserved a good chiding, it was the Republicans in attendance. He said nothing out of line about them. In fact, under the circumstances, he was downright charitable towards them. He's done nothing but reach out to them to try and work with the minority party. He's received nothing but scorn (and zero votes) for his efforts. It takes two to tango. And one party isn't dancing. GWB was much much worse when it came to chiding the opposition party over not following his demands.
He promised to open up the rolls in the military to special interests, which
should be the military’s call.

And who is the commander-in-chief of the military? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? And how much do like that "special interests" business? Exactly which "special interest" are we discussing here? The oil lobby?

President Obama has a long way to go, and continuing to put down traditional
American values will not get him far.

If anyone can point to a single instance of Obama doing anything of the sort I haven't seen it. Exactly what "traditional American values" are we talking about here? Fairness? Equality? (Whiteness, maybe?) This dude is making this up. And I'm not sure how "far" he wants to go, but right now he's the POTUS. And he didn't get there by being anything other than what he is right now.
The nation has woken up, but the current leadership has not.

When did this happen? Woken up from what? The implication here is that the 2008 election happened in some kind of drunken stupor and that cute flight attendant has turned out to be, in the harsh light of day, not only 15-20 years older than we thought but also of dubious gender. And married to a member of the Gambino family. Now that we're all right and sane we don't like what we really liked just a year ago. Okay, bud. Whatever you say.
There is still time for the president to lead and prosper. However, his State of the Union address was unconvincing as to his willingness to put country first.
What the hell is that supposed to mean? Which country was he talking about when he said "my fellow Americans" and "God bless the United States of America"? Slovenia? This was the McCain campaign's slogan and they proved how country-first they were by picking an uneducated spokesmodel to be one rather irregular heartbeat away from the presidency. If Obama isn't putting country first, then what exactly is he doing? Is there some agenda that we don't know about that is ahead of the country's? The writer doesn't say. Which is par for the course.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Free Speech = $$$$$

Here's Mitch McConnell on "Meet the Press" regarding this week's Supreme Court decision, giving corporations carte blanche to spend as much as they want to smear candidates they don't like. (Transcript here.) Host David Gregory has just asked McConnell if he thinks this will benefit Democrats or Republicans.

SEN. McCONNELL: Well, I don't know who it benefits, but it's an important victory for the First Amendment. Right now if you're General Electric and you own NBC, you can say anything you want to about any candidate right up to the day of the election. But if you're a corporation or a union that doesn't own a media outlet, you haven't been able to. So you've had this big gap in the First Amendment applying one standard to media-owned corporations, another standard to unions and corporations that don't own media outlets. Now the Supreme Court has said the First Amendment is for everyone. I think that's a step in the right direction.

Say what?

This isn't bullshit but it is serious spin. He makes a fair point about some corporations owning media outlets and others not owning them. (They just give to the candidates directly.) But the issue here isn't corporation vs. corporation. It's corporation vs. common citizen, the former a legal construct created by the state and the latter the subject of all of those supposed protections in the Constitution.

McConnell is basically saying that everything is fair now because Exxon/Mobil can now spend as much as GE to get its message out. But can I spend that much?

Well, I suppose I can. All I need is several billion dollars and I can have the same rights as Exxon/Mobil or GE. "Saying something", which is protected under the First Amendment, has now officially been equated with "spending buttloads of cash to influence an election".

David Gregory, of course, just lets the statement stand and doesn't once mention the effect on regular people.

Thanks, David, for your hard-hitting journalism. No wonder McConnell is like a barnacle on your freaking show.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Supremely Undemocratic

I was going to post something on the unbelievably damaging Supreme Court decision on corporate money in politics. Then I read this bit from Erwin Chemerinsky of UC Irvine's law school in the LA Times. He's got it covered and he saved me some typing.

Some of the more important points (although this is really a no-brainer for anyone who's been paying attention):

[T]he conservative justices have demonstrated that decades of conservative criticism of judicial activism was nonsense. Conservative justices are happy to be activists when it serves their ideological agenda.


To conservatives...the phrase "judicial activism" has come to mean any decision with a liberal outcome.


For decades, conservatives have argued that judicial restraint requires that courts protect rights only if they are stated in the text of the Constitution or were clearly intended by the document's framers. This, for example, is the core of the conservative attack on Roe vs. Wade. But there is not the slightest shred of evidence that the framers of the 1st Amendment meant to protect the rights of corporations to spend money in election campaigns. The conservatives were glad to abandon the "original meaning" when it served their purposes.

The conservative majority, which in recent years has dramatically limited free speech in other areas -- such as for government employees and for students -- was willing to expand the free speech of corporations. There is no way to see this other than as the conservative justices using judicial review to advance the traditional
conservative ideological agenda.

Almost 10 years ago, in Bush vs. Gore, the five conservative justices for the first time decided a presidential election. One would have thought that decision would have laid to rest the notion that judicial activism is a tool of liberal judges and revealed that the real judicial activism today is from the right. Perhaps Thursday's decision will finally reveal the truth.

Let's all say it together, people. "Judicial activism" is complete bullshit.

I will add two other notes that Chemerinsky doesn't go into, although I understand why nobody's talking about the second one.

1. Roberts, Scalia and Co. have also touted judicial restraint as meaning narrow rulings on the case at hand and not broad, sweeping, legislating-from-the-bench type decisions. They used this to justify claiming that Bush v. Gore could not even be used as precedent, which is laughable for obvious reasons. And yet, they could have made a narrow ruling on the case at hand, which was whether a certain group could play a Hillary-bashing movie on TV right before an election. Instead, the court opened it up to let in corporations who weren't even making a claim and gave them rights that they didn't need and shouldn't have. Judicial activism of the highest order.

2. The group Citizens United, the original claimant in the case, was originally called, get this, Citizens United Not Timid. Ha! Clever. Like the logo? Just in case you didn't get it. You can understand why there's no reference to this on their current website. The old URL doesn't even redirect. But I can't imagine why Keith Olbermann, at least, isn't bringing it up.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Karen Hughes Lies to Us ... Again

It's astonishing to me what some people think other people will believe. Not because I don't think they'll believe it. The Tea Party "movement" is a prime example of being able to get people really fired up about something that doesn't exist. I mean, after all, I'm even impressed that there's a bunch of angry people complaining about how their taxes have gone up and are out of control (Taxed Enough Already, if you buy that) when 95% of them, assuming a representative sample of the tax base makes up the movement, are seeing a tax reduction under this crazy socialist re-distributor of wealth. The re-distribution is going your way, people. Quit complaining. Unless this is really about something else that they don't care to confess. Which it probably is. No, what gets me is how people can spew complete crap like that with a straight face. And get paid big bucks to do so.

Today's jaw-dropper came from Karen Hughes on NBC's "Meet the Press" this Sunday. (Watch it here. Read it here.) The roundtable was discussing how BO has done in his first year and Ms. Hughes, former aide to guess-who, had something really dumb to say. And this is after, by the way, defending Dick Cheney's inappropriate and hypocritical criticisms and calling for criminals to be unilaterally declared enemy combatants and stripped of their rights, which we won't get into.

Bob Woodward had just put the lie to the idea that Obama is some kind of European-style socialist. (Thanks for that, Bob, by the way.) I'll give you the full context.

MR. WOODWARD: But, you know, what's interesting from, who is Barack Obama as president? And, and, and there are people who tried--there was a column The Washington Post Friday in which Charles Krauthammer tried to essentially say he is a European-style socialist because of health care and he's trying to do these other things. Now, I'm trying to do a book on President Obama, and calling him a European socialist is just not even in the ballpark. It's like taking and calling President Bush, because he arranged and worked with Teddy Kennedy on No Child Left Behind, or a prescription drug plan for the elderly, calling George Bush a European socialist, which would be absurd.

MS. HUGHES: Well, I'm not in the name-calling game...

MR. WOODWARD: Barack Obama is not that.

MS. HUGHES: ...but, Bob, would you, would you admit that he has governed far to the left of the way he campaigned? He campaigned as a centrist and has not governed that way.

WHAT? To the left? Far to the left? What the hell are you smoking? You people were all complaining about how left-wing his campaign was. Now, when it's convenient to do so, you act like you all liked him way back when and he's so disappointed you by not being that person you met and fell in love with not so long ago. Come on.

I've noted many times that there is spin and then there is utter bullshit. This falls squarely on the bullshit side, particularly as she states it as if it's just common knowledge and poor Bob Woodward has to just come out and admit it.

Let's review.

Campaigner Obama pledges to end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

President Obama has talked about pulling troops out of Iraq but hasn't done so. And he has severely escalated the war in Afghanistan.

MOVEMENT: To the right.

Campaigner Obama pledges to cut taxes for folks making under $250,000 per annum and raise them a little for folks making more.

President Obama does just this.


Campaigner Obama pledges to shut down Gitmo within a year, end torture, release those held without charges and prosecute terrorists the old-fashioned way, through our highly useful legal system that we used to be so proud of.

President Obama has not yet shut down Gitmo. He has made the decision to prosecute some, but not all, suspected terrorists in the courts. Many more are still being held without charge or sent to military tribunals. And we'll just have to take his word that they aren't being tortured. Let's hope not.

MOVEMENT: To the right.

Campaigner Obama pledged to fight for universal health care.

President Obama not only didn't put universal health care forth as the starting point (with an expectation that compromise would be necessary) but he started with a simple public option, which was then jettisoned along with almost every thing else worthy of the word "reform". And the bill is still in danger of not passing. And he doesn't seem all that concerned about the situation.

MOVEMENT: To the right.

That's most of what anybody gives a crap about these days. He's moved the country slightly to the left. (It was already so far right under the Bushies that this is not even an accomplishment.) But to even make the suggestion that he's governed to the left, let alone the far left, of what he campaigned on is the most ridiculous nonsense one could possibly hope to spout. He's either done exactly what he said he would or he's gone to the right. If anyone can tell me one area where he's gone left of what he campaigned on, I'm all ears. But I'm not seeing it.

Good to see you, Karen. (Not.) You haven't changed a bit.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Art Clokey

Geez, this dude was still alive? Apparently so. But not anymore.

Art Clokey was responsible for one of the most oddly beloved of animated characters, Gumby.

I used to watch Gumby when I was a kid, just like everybody else. And I can still sing the song, which is pretty whimsical. But the animations themselves were often really really messed up. I'm talking about the stuff of nightmares here.

This is one of the earliest Gumby shorts. Check it out. The visuals, the soundtrack, the plot (such as it is). Terrifying. This is better suited for college kids on dope than children.

Clokey talked about his scientific background and how he tried to make things realistic, like with a rotating module to create artificial gravity. (Kubrick had the same thing in "2001". Nice.) And yet how do they get Gumby down from the moon? With the effing firetruck!

And nobody ever asks how Gumby got there or why. They just look through the telescope and say "Oh, there he is" as if they had already checked the bathroom and the crystal meth lab and this was the next logical place to look.

And how do you like those little triangle creatures with the eyes that pop out. Eyes that get blown clear off one creature's head by Gumby's dad, by the way. Without even checking to see if the little fuckers just wanted to play. Did they really look that threatening? Did they have weapons?

Thanks for the nightmares, Art.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dumb Letters: It's All So Simple If You're Not Nuts

From today's LA Times:

So U.S. border security officials learned enough about alleged Nigerian bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab while Flight 253 was airborne that they planned to question him when he landed. I guess they wanted to be sure the horses were well clear of the barn.

Had a sky marshal been aboard this high-risk flight, as we were promised by our government after 9/11, it would have been a simple matter to have the airline send the flight crew a data message while en route, whereupon the sky marshal could have handcuffed the suspect, then searched him -- while the horses were still safely in the barn.

Is this administration nuts, or is it me?

It's you.

It's always a simple matter, isn't it? That 20/20 hindsight sure makes things nice and clear, doesn't it? Damn, if I ran the circus we'd have some awesome shit.

There are over 30,000 commerical flights in the air every day in this country. Let's just say one air marshal can handle being on two a day. That means we'd need 15,000 trained air marshals in action every day. So, taking weekends, vacations and personal days into account, we really need about 25,000 air marshals.

How much does an air marshal make? If answer.com is to be believed, between $36,400 and $83,900. You can do the math. Nah, I will. If we take a pure average, we're looking at $1,503,750,000 a year. I suppose that's chump change when you compare it to the bank bailout or, heck, any of our foreign wars. But do we really want to add this to our already anxiety-ridden flights?

So, after sending everyone through a full body scan, removing their shoes, digging through all of their bags and making them sit quietly in their seats for at least the last hour of the flight with no book to read, no iPod to listen to and no snacks, stress-reducing grippy things or barf bags we'll have a sky marshal in there to whom we can send a text message so he'll know which dude got through all of the other stuff. Oh, and rather than watch the dude like a hawk, he'll just cuff him. 'Cause that's how we roll now.

Yep, it's you.