Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The TSA and Boob Bombs

Somehow I think that these stories are related.
The same security personnel who have been humiliating, feeling up, patting down, and using full body scanners to leer at good looking women have come up with a new excuse to get their hands on female travelers. No one has ever seen or found any bomb implanted in a woman's breasts, but that's not the point. The point is that now the TSA has another excuse to treat any well-endowed woman as a security risk.

Expect many more fondlings and possibly worse. The TSA has forcibly removed medical devices and body piercings. They certainly won't be above inserting needles into breasts to test them for explosives (AKA "tit torture"). It might not be so bad if the TSA had an impressive string of successes to point to. They don't.

The Transportation Security Administration: Where Every Pervert's Dreams Are Made Legal.

Other links: A brilliant piece from A Laywer's Mom
The TSA lies about their full-body scanners
Lady Gaga's body search
Looks like a terrorist to me.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Republicans Get Their Freak On, Again

Why are people so surprised that a group of Republican fundraisers went to a lesbian bondage bar on donor's money?
  • The current crop of Republicans are just about the kinkiest people I've every met.
  • Republicans are quite tolerant of homosexuals as long as there is nudity.
  • Sado-masochism has been an article of faith for Republicans for a long time.
A current Republican crop.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

On Recess Appointments

Republicans are angry about the recent recess appointments. So what? What are they going to do about it?
About the only petulant thing they haven't done is hold their breaths until they turn blue.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Republicans Clamoring to Claim HCR

By election day half the Republicans in Congress will claim to have supported Health Care Reform.

The first to flop their flip is Chuck Grassley. He voted against every iteration of the bill in the Senate. He campaigned against it with verve. Yet now, a mere three days after if passed the House with no Republican votes, Grassley is claiming credit for some of the provisions in the bill. Just wait, by October Republicans across the country will be fighting for space on the bandwagon.
Republicans on a bandwagon.
Grassley is the center clown.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tea Parties Turn to Kristallnacht

It's not terribly surprising that the racist arm of the Republican Party have resorted to Brown Shirt thuggery. Last night was a sort of mini- Kristallnacht where tea party Republicans threw bricks at Democratic windows.

While it is true they can't match the Nazis, yet, and are mostly pathetic vandals, it is not for lack of desire.

Being thugs they are afraid of public gaze. Hence the bricks thrown in the dark. Being extremists they can think only in terms of destruction and murder. Hence the death threats. Being fanatics they believe everyone who is not one of them (the majority of the country) are demonic.

They are not dangerous. Yet. They are not dangerous because they are a disorganized band of bullies. They can become dangerous if a state government, think Texas, formally sanctions them.

Embryonic Brown Shirts
The Original Kristallnacht

Waterloo and Health

If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. ~ Jim DeMint
And so it was. The Health Care Reform issue was President Obama's Waterloo and he played the role of the Duke of Wellington.

As with any great victory the follow up is more important that the battle itself. It is vital that Democrats sell the legislation to the public while cornering Republicans as obstructionists who know nothing beyond the word 'No.' Let Republicans campaign impotently for repeal while Democratic dragoons pitch the laws progress and advantages.

Looking at the polls clearly shows that a significant number only opposed the Health Care Reform bill because it wasn't radical enough. A season of Republicans in the Senate trying, and failing, to block improvements of the bill while Democrats trumpet the reforms they are bringing should make for an entertaining 2010. At least for us liberals.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Where's The Apocalypse?

When I woke up this morning I expected to see the skies on fire, the rivers running red, the stock market collapsed into ruins (I'm actually disappointed about this one, I had been hoping to buy into a Republican panic.), and gangs of patriots roaming the streets shooting liberals on sight. As apocalypses go this has been a major disappointment.

You see, I spent last night reading conservative blog reaction to the Health Care Reform victory. To hear them tell it that vote would destroy the US economy. The stock market is up this morning, meaning tea party conservatives are buying and not putting their money where their mouths are. They said that God would punish the United States with wraith not seen since the Chicxulub Impact (65 million years ago) or, if you don't believe in such things, since Noah's Flood (2304 BC). It seems, when God gets pissed his first thought is to kill millions of innocents. Yet this morning the sky is blue, the birds are singing and it looks like God is in a jolly mood.

Of course, the chubby, pink-faced tea partiers are pledging to lock and load their weapons and begin an armed revolution to preserve the right of insurance companies to deny coverage to anyone with preexisting conditions. Right up there with "Don't Tread on Me" as a revolutionary slogan. I get the feeling they won't be marching too far from their beer coolers.
Apocalypses are so much more fun in the movies.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Profiles In Courage

I want to write this before the vote because no matter the outcome I am impressed by fortitude of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi.

After the Massachusetts senate debacle most political pundits were advising Democrats to give up the notion of health care reform. It would have been easy to have surrendered the fight as unwinnable and slink off to lick their wounds. Certainly that is what Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats expected. Instead they decided to fight.

In politics, as in warfare, it takes courage to engage in battle when the outcome is not assured. For example, no bravery was needed to invade Iran in 2003 since victory was inevitable. The Battle of Midway, however, required guts. No one would have criticized Adm. Nimitz if he had retreated from the Midway Atoll rather than risk his Pacific Fleet against the vastly stronger Japanese armada. Most historians agree the victory at Midway turned around the fate of the Pacific War in a single stroke.

Nimitz had balls of steel. So does President Obama and Pelosi has the female equivalent. They engaged in this health care battle whose success was problematic because it was the right thing to do and because if they didn't engage now they would never got a better chance later. (To use the Nimitz analogy, if he hadn't fought at Midway the US would have had to fall back to Hawaii and victory in the Pacific would have been distant hope.) They decided it was better to fight the good fight and risk losing rather than surrendering to a slow but certain defeat.

I don't believe the health care reform before Congress is the best of all possible bills but I do believe it is the best bill possible today. And I have profound respect for President Obama and Nancy Pelosi for having the courage to take up the fight.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Three Rs of Political Blogging

Since I was a tyke, politically speaking, I've sought out rightwing opinion so I could understand what the enemy was thinking and how they were expressing themselves so as to be able to fight them. I was quite the fan of William F. Buckley back in the day even though I never agreed with a single word he said. Currently, It's become hard to find any coherent voice of conservative thought.

Reading & 'Riting
A few years ago, RedState was a great site for vibrant conservative debate. But their frequent purges of the ideological impure has neutered it. Now it is just Erick Erickson's opinion and people loyally parroting Erickson's opinions back at him. Because Erickson himself is a shallow thinker it has been years since I have found an original thought at Redstate.

Right Wing News is somewhat better, although it is just a links site and even then only links the the same half dozen people echoing party lines back and forth between each other. John Hawkins' unhealthy obsession with tits makes the site partly porn.

The Corner, from National Review, is worthless. William F. Buckley is still by far the best writer at National Review and he's been dead for years. Also worthless are the crazies, like Debbie Schlussel. It's really hard to make sense of the ramblings of paranoid schizophrenics.

Probably the best of the lot is Tigerhawk. He doesn't just repeat party lines like a puppet but puts some thought into his postings. He's wrong but at least he thinks.

'Rithmatic
One of the biggest problems with tracking conservative thought is their ability to be raging hypocrites without a sorry shred of shame. They criticize earmarks yet are the most active writing them. Anti-abortion firebrand Bob Barr helped his second wife get an abortion. They don't want to fund abortions unless it is for they own staffers. "Family Values Conservative" has come to mean only one mistress at a time. Yet they still claim to be holier than God.

Certainly the most raging hypocrisy has been over stimulus spending. On the one hand Republicans condemn every effort of the federal government to stimulate the economy. Yet, on the other hand they are taking full credit for every penny spent and are begging for more. The hypocrisy has been so epidemic that even other Republicans have noticed.

Their problems with simple math makes it nearly impossible to understand Republicans these days.
Joe Riggs: I can add two and two together.
Bret Maverick: It'll never come out four... not the way you deal.
~ "Maverick" According to Hoyle

Thursday, March 18, 2010

California Politics

There are a couple of recent polls that suggest Democrats are in trouble this November. Not so fast.

Senate Race
Barbara Boxer's unfavorable rating shot up according to the Field Poll. When I see big swings like this I wonder why. There is no denying this could be a harbinger of political death but there are other possibilities.

The Field Poll only contacted 748 likely voters, about 20% below their norm. With such small numbers statistical anomalies are always possible. There was a big swing in the numbers for non-partisans and a lesser, but still substantial swing among Democrats who like Boxer. Since Health Care Reform was the big issue before the Senate the past two months it is important to judge these swings in light of what the state thinks about HCR.

The most recent Field Poll report on HCR was in October. While the public option was not specifically polled this report shows Democrats and non-partisans strongly in favor of significant reform. The Senate, as we all know, handled their share of the HCR debate like ill-mannered five year-olds. This suggest Boxer's most recent polling decline may be the result of the failure of the Senate to deliver a strong HCR bill. If Republicans run on a platform of repealing HCR, as they promise, it will kill their chances in California.

Governor Race
Similarly, the Field Poll shows Jerry Brown narrowly behind Meg Whitman.

First, Jerry Brown is not the strongest candidate the Democrats could have sent. He's past his prime and is going to get the nomination by default because in Sacramento it is considered "his turn." (An aside: "His Turn" candidates have an annoying habit of being weak. Witness John McCain, Bob Dole, and Walter Mondale.) For the past two months Brown has been virtually invisible as he keeps his power dry for the general election.

Meg Whitman, on the other hand, is a billionaire determined to buy the governor's chair like it were an eBay tchotchke. Whitman burned through $20 million last year and she has promised to spend at least $150 million this year. Even if she matches Schwarzenegger 2006 vote total (unlikely) she will be spending over $30 for every vote she receives.

You can't turn on the television without being flooded with Whitman ads and we are still eight months from the election. She paid top dollar for saturation advertising during the Winter Olympics. All this advertising, and her opponent Poizner has been trying to match her, leads to the impression that Brown doesn't exist. Hence his lower polling numbers.

The obvious campaign strategy, once Brown starts, is to hit her profligate spending hard so that every Whitman TV ad reinforces the notion that she is a wild spendthrift. But, that's for October.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Criminalizing Failure

I've been obsessing about yesterday's posting (below) complaining that prosecuting Lehman Brothers executives for breaking the law is just criminalizing failure. They lied, cheated, and committed fraud to make their company successful and they only reason they face prosecution is that they failed and the company went bankrupt anyhow. The criminal corporate executive defrauds stock and bond holders by falsifying accounting reports (AKA lying).

The prisons are full of people who failed at their criminal enterprises. Successful bank robbers vacation in Cancun, only the failures are in Folsom. Successful drug dealers live in posh mansions in Tampa, often next to successful investment bankers.

The only difference between the bank robber and the criminal corporate executive is that there is an entire class of government employees (police) actively looking to expose the bank robber's crimes and "bring him to justice." The criminal corporate executive has a cozy relationship with local law enforcement (the SEC, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve) who habitually avert their eyes.

Think Chicago in the 1920's. The Chicago police wouldn't go after Al Capone's gang for their basic gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging. Not unless they did something infamously unpopular like shooting up a candy store with children in it would the police act. It was mostly a live and let live arrangement with bribes. So too today with the corporate criminal class only now the bribes are a lot bigger.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Business Insider In Brief

They are all criminals, Lehman Brothers just got caught.
Business Insider took a lot of words to say that it's just unfair to prosecute Lehman Brothers executives. The only reason they got caught breaking the law was because their company went bankrupt. Executives, BI says, don't worry about being caught fudging their accounting because they will only be found out if the business goes belly up (It goes without saying that all those 'What, Me Worry' executives are also crooks). Prosecuting Lehman Brothers just criminalizes failure. Instead, rigging the books should be considered what it is, normal behavior.

Besides, former Lehman CEO Richard Fuld should not be prosecuted because he has been punished enough since his company is kaput. Why, he's probably living out of a cardboard box somewhere. Or, maybe not.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Clarence Thomas Is Corrupt

In January, Clarence Thomas was one of five votes to allow unfettered corporate donations to political campaigns (Citizens United v. FEC). Also in January, Thomas' wife founded a lobbying group designed to profit from the above decision. It takes a particularly gullible chump to believe these two events are not connected.

This is straight up corruption. Thomas voted his own pocketbook. He has perverted the rule of law for his own profit. In the history of the United States never before was there a Supreme Court where a majority viewed their votes as marketable commodities. Scalia, Alito, Roberts, and Thomas have all made decisions that have either benefited themselves directly or benefited their friends. I am not as certain of Anthony Kennedy, I tend to believe that Kennedy is mostly a senile dupe.

But clearly, Thomas and Scalia are the most criminally venal individuals ever to sit on the Supreme Court.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good

Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien. ~ Voltaire
For what it's worth, I agree with Dennis Kucinich that Health Care Reform is best with a public option. However, if he believes that killing this flawed best effort will somehow result in the perfect bill he longs for then Dennis Kucinich is a fool. Kucinich is trying to sound like a martyr willing to suffer on behalf of a single-payer plan but his is not the life at risk if health care reform fails.

One could also say Kucinich wants to...
das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten. ~ Throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lehman Was Not Alone

Anyone who thinks that Lehman Brothers was alone among investment banks with their accounting gimmickry is a naive fool. They were all playing fast and loose with the numbers and, here's the secret, they still are.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What Use Are Modern Bankers?

Consider the lilies of the field how they grow? they toil not, neither do they spin? ~ Matthew 6:28
In a sane world bankers serve a very important function, they provide for the smooth flow of capital enabling people to buy, manufacture, and sell products. Today, small banks and credit unions continue to fulfill this function.

The great megabanks of our times - Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citi, and their ilk - contribute nothing to society.
Senator Ted Kaufman puts the case well. Some, it is true, keep a toe in their traditional roles (Goldman Sachs is an exception), but the bulk of their activities is in the casino gambling of megabanks where the global economy is their roulette table.
  • Credit Default Swaps are a wager that debtors will default, essentially insuring debt. A favored maneuver of megabanks is to bundle CDSs so it is impossible to judge the actual risk and then load up on debts certain to default. It the same as buying 100 life insurance policies on 100 different groups of five people. Each of those 100 groups has the same wino with TB and AIDS. It doesn't matter what happens to the other 400 people, when that wino dies he'll pay off 100 times.
  • Shadow Banking, from which CDSs came, is a debt-investor barter system designed to circumvent banking regulations and common sense. As with CDSs, shadow banks were created to disguise risk. Highly leveraged, leveraged beyond the risk any sane compulsive gambler could tolerate, shadow banking made great profits by converting AAA rated debt into lower than junk bond. And keep it all in the dark.

  • Too Big To Fail is key component for the success of the megabank gambler strategy. It is really straight-up extortion of a kind Al Capone would have been proud. Megabank success means making billions on insane casino gambling risks. Megabank failure brings the threat of imploding the entire economy, hence the government pays the megabanks billions more for their failures. It's a win-win in that no matter what a megabank does, it wins.
Like the lilies of the field, modern bankers neither toil nor reap. They do spin, though, like a mad dervish. They produce nothing but senseless risk and provide no service that cannot be provided better at no risk. Like a cancer they have infused their tentacles into every aspect of government so that no amount of skilled surgery will remove them.
Let's kill all the bankers. ~ Alan Shore, Boston Legal
And start from scratch.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chief Justice Whiny-Pants

Chief Justice John Roberts is troubled that a political decision he made destined to aid the political party he supports have been criticized by the President. As far as I can tell, Roberts doesn't mind if some law professor, in class, questions some minor point of scholarship. What he objects to is having to sit there and have some senator or president criticize him to his face.

Roberts should count himself lucky. If he gets his panties in a twist over one sentence in an hour-long speech I can only imagine how soiled he would get if things get really down and dirty like they have in the past.

Supreme Court Justice Impeached for Political Decisions
Federalist Samuel Chase was appointed to the Supreme Court by President George Washington. Like Roberts and Scalia, Chase believed in a strong federal government run by an elite. He thought citizen democracy, as Roberts might say, lacked the proper decorum; Chase called it mobocracy. He believed that only men of property should be allowed to vote. Like Scalia and Roberts, Chase was highly partisan while on the Court.

In 1805 Democratic-Republicans were fed up with Chase and the House of Representatives voted articles of impeachment. Chase was acquitted in the Senate trial but kept his big mouth shut for the remainder of his life.

Andrew Jackson Ignores the Court
On a scale of 1 to 10, Andrew Jackson is off the scale when it comes to being a vicious asshole. In the 1830s Georgia wanted to drive every single Cherokee out of the state. Not because Georgians were particularly racist (although they are particularly racist) but because gold had been discovered on Indian land.

The Cherokee Nation went to court and won. The Supreme Court ruled that Georgia had no right to remove the Cherokee from their lands. Now, under the proper order of things, it is up to the Federal Government to enforce Supreme Court rulings. President Jackson told the Supreme Court to "go to hell." (Not in those exact words but everybody got the message.)

In 1838 the Cherokee were driven to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears so Georgians could mine their gold without being pestered by those uppity injuns.

Outnumber the Bastards
You are a Democratic President trying to drag the nation out of a horrendous economic collapse and you have a Supreme Court loaded with Republican troglodytes determined to block every attempt to help the people. What do you do?

Franklin Roosevelt looked at the Constitution and looked at his big majorities in Congress and thought, "let's make the Court bigger." Simply put, the President would get to appoint one additional justice, up to six, for each of the old farts mucking up the works.

While it is true that the "court packing" plan failed it is also true that the threat had its intended effect. One justice, oddly enough named Roberts, switched sides and started voting with the Progressives. Another resigned. The end result was the Supreme Court ceased being an evil force bedeviling the nation.

Of course, if Chief Justice John Roberts hadn't slept through large parts of his legal education he would already know this history.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Barack and the Bully Pulpit

It's taken a year for him to find it and I hope President Obama doesn't hesitate to return to the political salesmanship he does so well. All of the memorable presidents (Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK, Reagan) from the last century knew how to use the well turned phrase in the well timed speech to set his agenda.

For the past year, President Obama strove to be the Great Compromiser against a Republican minority that would oppose him if he said the sun rose in the east. Compromisers might make useful Senators (see Henry Clay) but they make for wholly forgettable presidents (see Millard Fillmore). Trying to compromise with an aggressive, even hateful, and unified opposition is a fool's errand. You weaken your own position while gaining nothing in return.

Finally, President Obama has set his oratorical skills to the battle for Health Care Reform. It is better being the Great Communicator. Only through the bully pulpit of the presidency, used more than once, can he gain the political high ground that will lead to possible victory.

The Best Argument for Passing Health Care Reform
Is Rush Limbaugh's promise to leave the country if it passes. Come on, congressional Democrats, who could possible vote against THAT.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

H. L. Mencken Is Rolling Over

There are so many ways to headline the story that the front page of the Los Angeles Times is a full page ad for a Disney movie. I could have gone with...
  • Times Merges With The Onion
  • Times Editorial Staff Resigns En-mass (Editor-In-Chief says he's rather collect garbage than work on it.)
  • Times Editorial Staff Commits Mass Suicide ("Can't live with the shame," they said.)
  • Los Angeles Residents Ride Times Publisher Out of Town on a Rail
  • Obituary - The American institution of The Press died today at the age of 306.
To call the LA Times a joke is an insult to comics. To call publisher Eddy Hartenstein inane is to understate the dead air between his ears. The Los Angeles Times has become a waste of living trees. I had been looking forward to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, now I doubt I'll see it because I can't get past this perversion of a once great newspaper.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Symmetrical Recessions

This chart is all over and there is little new to say about it.
However, you may notice that the curves of these employment recessions tend to be symmetrical, meaning it takes about as long to recover as it did to reach the nadir.

We are 26 months into this employment recession (it started, remember, in December 2007) and the curve is flattening out, hopefully meaning we are nearing the bottom. But that still means we are more than two years away from full recovery. With luck, things might start looking rosy around the summer of 2012.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Sarah Palin Does Stand-Up

Usually, when a totally unfunny friend says they want to become a stand-up comic you put your arm around their shoulder and tell them, "Don't quit your day job."

Well, Sister Sarah already quit her day job as governor of Alaska and she's nowhere near a friend so....

You go girl, make a fool of yourself. Again.

Recognition Clues

One of the surest signs that someone is a closet homosexual is how homophobic he is. Consider:
Whether the homophobe is trying to hide his orientation by attacking his own kind or he is terrified of his sexual urges, homophobia is a certain sign of homosexuality. Listen to them, they believe that homosexuality is the more preferable orientation. They believe that if a child is exposed to a gay lifestyle they will immediately abandon heterosexuality, finding it the boring alternative. Straight people, secure in their sexuality, have nothing to fear from homosexuals and frankly can't understand what all the fuss is about.

Whenever I see someone attacking homosexuality I think, how gay is that.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Heroes of the Revolution

The Tea Party Movement has a pantheon of heroes. A partial list includes:

Joe Stack
Stack is the lifetime screwup who could never figure out why the IRS would get a little peeved by his habit of not paying his taxes. Stack, burned down his house, stole a plane, and flew it into a building killing an innocent man. He is being called a martyr, his anti-tax statement (murder) noble. Republican politicians like Senator Scott Brown think his actions were understandable.

Charles Dyer
Universally known within the Tea Party Movement as "the first POW of the Second American Revolution." He is being called a "political prisoner." The political act for which he has been imprisoned? Child rape.

Timothy McVeigh
While most people who worship the 1995 Oklahoma City bomber do so quietly, Ann Coulter is the exception.
My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building. ~ Ann Coulter
There is a lot of love out there for this ultimate of government protesters. It takes very little to find Tea Party folk echoing McVeigh's philosophies.