Saturday, August 25, 2012

It's always the comedians who speak the truth most plainly

Bill Maher is profane -- but he is also very funny, and he does speak truth, even if he uses a bit of hyperbole to make his point.   His latest blog essay is so good, I'm going to quote a lot of it here.    He's writing about Republicans and their magical thinking as solutions to all problems.
Republicans would like to pretend [that] Congressman Akin's substitution of superstition for science is a lone problem but it's not: they're all magical thinkers, on nearly every issue. They don't get their answers on climate change from climatologists, they get them from the Book of Genesis. Hence . . . global warming is a hoax.

Or take the issue that consumes the right these days, our sea of red ink: Republicans are united in their fervent desire to reduce the deficit, but they want to do it in some magical fashion that doesn't involve raising taxes . . .  That's like deciding to pay off your student loans by daydreaming.

Or as it's known on Capitol Hill, supply-side economics. . . .  The thing is, we tried it, and it doesn't work. Yet, Paul Ryan, who every shit-for-brains pundit in America keeps telling us is a "serious" guy, still believes in the supply-side theory. All the Republicans do. They all believe in something that both science and history have shown to be pure fantasy. The symbol for their party shouldn't be an elephant -- it should be a unicorn. . . .

It reminds me of health care. Republicans are for all the popular things, like covering people with pre-existing conditions, but they're not for the part where you pay for it, like the mandate. Just like they were for our recent wars, but not for paying for them. For the prescription drug bill, but not for paying for it. 

How do they get away with it? They know that, because we're already such a religious country, our minds are primed for magical, fantasy thinking. The gullibility comes factory-installed. They've learned that you appeal not to an American's head, but to his gut -- it's a much bigger target. . . .  The grown-up answer is: identify problems scientifically, prioritize and solve. The Republican answer is: there isn't a problem. And anyone who tells you different is a liar who hates America. . . .

Health care? Not a problem if you just keep repeating, "We have the greatest health care in the world." Even though the U.N. ranks it 37th. . . .  Republicans also believe that putting the word "clean" next to the word "coal" creates something called clean coal. . . .

Republicans also believe if they kick all the Mexicans out of the country, the strawberries will pick themselves, and that if they cut the safety net all the poor blacks are "resting" in, they will fall gently to the ground, stand up, dust themselves off, and get good-paying jobs as Olympic gymnasts.
Strong stuff.   But is he wrong?   I mean after you translate if out of the expressive hyperbole?   I say, no, he's right on target for what passes for "Republican" today, as the more reasonable and moderate Republicans cower in fear of four more Obama years. 

Let's show 'em they might as well have stood up and fought for their party's control, because they gonna lose anyway -- unless billions of dollars worth of tv ads and blocking the Democratic-inclined voters works.

If that happens, we're doomed for the next two decades.   This may turn out to be an even more historic election than 2008.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Priority differences #2

It's not just in the presidential election that we see this clash of values.   It happens throughout our political system, wherever policy decisions reflect our values.  Today's contrasting front page stories in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution bring this to stark attention.

One story is about payments for unpaid student loans being taken out of social security checks.   This was a policy decision in 1996.   Of course, debts should be paid, but it seems pretty cruel justice for those who are trying to subsist on their social security checks.

In contrast, on the same front page, is the controversy over whether the Georgia State government will uphold the agreement they previously made to provide some of the funding for a new $948 million stadium for the Atlanta Falcons professional football team.

True, the state's portion would mostly come not from sales taxes or property taxes, but from a hotel tax, which mostly targets visitors to the city.

Nevertheless, it seems a values clash when we can consider any kind of tax to pay for professional sports at the same time we're slashing budgets for food stamps and medical care for poor people because the state tax revenues are exhausted.

Why not a "visitors' tax" for the poor, sick, and homeless?


PS:   And, while I'm at my peak of outrage over this:   why are we so willing to support the money-making professional sports with subsidized multi-million dollar sports arenas, while maintaining one of the lowest levels of governmental support for the arts of any of the 50 states?

Why not a visitor's tax to help build a new symphony hall?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stark priority differences

The Romney campaign is going all out in North Carolina to blame Obama for job losses in that state -- because of the "devastating defense cuts that are set to have a massive impact on Fayetteville and the rest of North Carolina."

The big issue here is that the Republicans believe in stimulus spending by the government when it comes to defense contracts and military expenditures.  And they blame job losses on cuts in those sectors.

How is this different from the federal government creating or simply keeping jobs in the domestic sector -- like grants to states to keep from having to fire school teachers, fireman, and police officers?   Or to build roads and repair bridges?   The big unrecovering job losses at this point are in the public sector, where state and local governments have had to lay off workers because of falling revenues and slashed federal subsidies.

Both the defense contracts and federal grants to states are about money for jobs.

Well, of course, the big difference is not the worker-jobs.   It's that the defense contracts also line the pockets of fat cat defense contractors.   There is no big money to be made out of domestic job creation that can compare to contracts to build more fighter planes and ships.

This really is an election about major differences in values, morals, and what we think the function of government should be.   Is it to help the rich get richer and enjoy that life?

I don't think so.


Not about politics . . . . for a change

Believe it or not, there is other craziness out there in the world besides the U. S. political news.    This one also brings a note of wry, head-scratching wonder at the encroachment of modern technology.

Here it is as reported in today's Atlanta Journal Constitution:
Biblical Park Outfits Donkeys with Wi-Fi.

An Israeli attraction meant to immerse tourists in an authentic, ancient biblical experience has outfitted its donkeys with wireless routers.  At the historical park of Kfar Kedem, visitors decked out in biblical robes and headdresses ride donkeys through the rolling hills of the Galilee, learning how people lived in Old Testament times.  Now they can also surf the Web while touring the land of the Bible on one of the oldest forms of transportation.  A device slung around the donkey's neck like a feed-bag is actually a Wi-Fi router.
The audacity of this proves that our addiction to technology is nearly complete.   Is there nothing that can be left to historical authenticity without the taint of technology?


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Other ways GOP reps think you can't get pregnant

I would like to say that this is just a joke.   It's not -- unless you think, as I do, that the current Republican party is a cruel, hideous, and destructive joke.

One of the most conservative members of the House,  Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has topped even Todd Akin for ignorance about female reproductive physiology.    Realize, please, that these are the very men who are dictating what choices women can make about their own reproductive health.

They're also the ones who don't want schools to provide scientific sex education.  What a great recommendation they are for that !!!

King said today that he had never heard of a girl getting pregnant from "statutory rape" or "incest."  Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.   He obviously doesn't even know what statutory rape is.

Statutory rape is a legal term -- and a crime -- that refers to sex between an adult and a sexually mature minor under the age of consent.   If the person is not sexually mature, it is called child abuse.  It is a crime in most states whether the underage person agrees to the sex or not.   In short, it is a crime to have sex with a person under the age of consent, period.

Surely he's heard of men having sex with 14 year old girls and getting sent to prison.  That's statutory rape.  Even the 14 year old girl's boyfriend could be arrested for having sex with her if he is at least 3 years older, i.e. 17.

As for not getting pregnant through incest?    Surely he's joking.

And as for his and Akin's belief in the contraceptive powers of rape, read this:

A 1996 report in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that there are about 32,000 unwanted pregnancies caused by rape every year in the United States.



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Big contrast

The political parties' convention platforms could hardly be starker:

Republicans support a constitutional amendment to ban abortions

Democrats support marriage equality, including same-sex couples.


Romney's taxes: a whole new look

Here's a totally new possibility I had not considered until today, when an article on Huffington Post tipped me off to think about another explanation of Romney's reluctance to release his tax returns.

It could explain how it could be true (1) that he had never paid less than 13% in taxes, which he said last week; and (2) that he had paid no taxes at all in some years, as Harry Reid said a couple of weeks ago.

He said, I never paid less than 13% in taxes. 

He did not say "to the IRS."

What the article said was that in 2008 Romney "sought and received $787,455 in foreign tax credits from the U.S. Treasury to cover his tax payments to other nations."   This means he could subtract that much as a credit from the taxes that would otherwise be owed to the IRS, meaning he paid that much less to the IRS.

Wooaaahhh !!!!

I never thought:  maybe his total taxes paid was "not less than 13%" but a big chunk of it went to other countries.    In effect, he took money from US to pay THEM.

Now that would be even less popular than using tax loopholes to subtract losses in one year from capital gains in another, winding up with zero taxes in some years.   Apparently it's perfectly legal -- it means they don't pay taxes on the same income in two different countries.  But it definitely shifts tax money from us to other countries.    This probably applies to stocks in companies that are incorporated overseas -- the off shore stuff.  So you pay taxes in those countries, even though much of their business is done in the U.S.

Perfectly legal, perhaps, but a big embarrassment on the campaign trail.   How do you think a young family struggling to make ends meet, and paying their taxes, would like knowing that he took credits against his taxes owed for his foreign tax payments -- and then counted them as part of the "at least 13%?

Stay tuned.  Let's see if this could be true as another reason Romney's not showing us his tax returns.


Monday, August 20, 2012

GOP Senate candidate: "legitimate rape" doesn't result in pregnancy

Sometimes I wonder how the House Republicans could pass the draconian laws and make the statements they do.  And then we see who makes up that bunch, and it's quite clear.   The combination of ignorance and prejudice, topped off with the money from the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, managed by Karl Rove -- and it's not surprising.

Incumbant Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) was lagging behind her as-yet-unnamed Republican opponent until the recent GOP primary.  She may have lucked out since Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO) won the nomination to oppose her.

It looks like he may have just given Sen. McCaskill the election.

Akin, who is a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, appalled everyone yesterday by his outrageous anti-abortion statement.  Defending the inclusion of the term "legitimate rape," as opposed simply to "rape" in his sponsored bill, he said he had been told by a doctor that it was rare for rape to result in pregnancy.   Most women who claim rape are faking it, you see.  They had sex and now want to claim they were raped.   No, he didn't say all that on TV, but that's what he means.  He just referred to "legitimate" rape.
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. . . .  But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."
I see.  So, even though you decry abortion because it kills an innocent life, that's ok if it occurred in a "legitimate" rape, but not if it was "illegitimate"?   It's ok to "punish" those innocent babies whose mother faked the rape but not the ones who were legitimately raped?

Why is it that people, who view all abortions as murder, lose their conviction when the pregnancy results from (legitimate) rape or incest?   If it's murder, then is it any less a murder if the baby is the result of rape or incest?   And is that more important than if the fetus is so abnormally formed that it could not possibly live, but the mother must endure carrying a doomed "life" through term, rather than have an intervention?

To me, if they have the courage of their convictions, then the only justification for abortion would be to save the life of the mother long enough for the fetus to develop to the point of viability outside the womb.  Otherwise the mother would die and the baby too.  That should be the only justification for someone who truly believes it is murder.

But back to the extra-stupidity of the "legitimate" rape crowd.  This is the same gang that also gave us "forceful rape" as a qualifier for "legitimate rape."  This gang included Paul Ryan, by the way.   Would psychological terrorism qualify?   What about threatening to kill your other child if you don't submit?   Does one actually have to be physically damaged to claim "legitimacy" of rape?

You see, this is why our Congress is held is such low esteem.   Recent polls put it at the all-time low of 10% approval.

And Akin is a member of the House Science Team, no less.

My God !!!!   This is a national scandal.   I don't mean this one stupid statement.   I mean that we are being government by ignorant people whose stupidity is exceeded only by their mendacity and their obscene financial advantages.

And they could win the White House and the Senate in November.


Krugman says Ryan budget plan is a "con"

Nobel Prize winning economist and Princeton professor, Paul Krugman is reliably liberal/progressive in his interpretation of economic matters, which is why I read and respect him.   So consider that his is not your main-stream opinion, and that's why I read and respect his writings.    In my opinion, he speaks truth.

So now we have the Washington Post saying Romney's budget plan is garbage, and Krugman saying Ryan's budget plan is and always has been "a con."

Why a con?   Because he claims in headlines what he refuses to back up with details and data.   He proposes $4.3 trillion in tax cuts (the super-wealthy get the most, of course) over 10 years.   He will offset it partially with $1.7 trillion by cutting expenses and deductions -- but still increase the deficit by a lot.

But what expenses and deductions?   Well, a lot will come from Medicare, which he will move toward privatization and Medicaid, which he will shift to the states (won't they have to increase their taxes to pay for their greater share?).  And he won't specify what deductions would be eliminated.    Most analysts say the home mortgage is the only one that could significantly matter, and that would throw a lot of the middle class into bankruptcy or loss of their homes.

Oh, yes, and also "close loopholes," but these he refuses to specify.   And he will definitely hold dear those conservative holy grails of cutting capital gains and eliminating estate taxes.

So there you have . . . something.

Bottom line:   billionaires will benefit;   working people will suffer

Once again, "Trust Me."   No wonder Romney chose him.   He speaks Romney-speak.

Krugman says the pundits like him because they thought he was the "Honest, Serious Conservative."   But Krugman concludes:  "Mr. Ryan isn’t a serious man — he just plays one on TV."


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Washington Post blasts Romney's budget plan

The Washington Post in recent years has moved to the right from its vaunted days as a liberal-leaning, investigative paper under Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham.   Remember "deep throat" and the expose on Watergate.

Are they seeking to return to those days?   Today, an editorial has called the Romney budget plan "garbage," saying that his plan to cut taxes and lower the deficit is unfeasible.

The non-partisan Tax Policy Center has concluded that, as presented, the Romney plan would have to raise taxes for lower and middle income Americans if it is to remain revenue-neutral, as Romney claims.   Romney disputes that, but offers no data to back it up.

This is like everything else about Romney -- and now he's trying to trim Paul Ryan to fit the same mold.   You make bold claims and promises -- and give no details to back them up.   It's "trust me" -- which can go only so far.   All he has offered as how he would make up the loss of revenue is "closing loopholes;"   but he refuses to say what loopholes.   The same ones that allowed him to pay such low taxes himself?   Hardly, since he wants to preserve the low tax rates for capital gains and dividends and end the estate tax.

Whether it's not releasing his tax returns or such wild promises as lower taxes and the deficit at the same time -- it's just not going to keep working from now until November.   He has to give some details that make sense -- but, if he does, he will lose the election.

Or will he?   Are the American people really so gullible that they will buy what he's selling?  Can Paul Ryan's sizzle last all the way to November 6th?