Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Great Florida Disenfranchisement

Gov. Rick Scott is carrying on in the tradition of Brother Jeb and Katherine Harris.
Remember her? Her political corruption has made her so wealthy she is building a fucking castle in Sarasota.
Scott is purging the voter rolls of potential Democratic voters by the thousands in an open effort to suppress minority, mostly black, votes and rig the November election. The plan is to revoke the right to vote from 182,000 citizens and force them to jump through hoops to regain their legal rights.

Scott is relying on the US Supreme Court led by that noted defender of KKK rights, Antonin Scalia (see here and here), to protect Florida's efforts to purify the state's voting rolls of darkies.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Recurring Themes in '20s Jazz

I've taken a shine to ninety year old music - jazz from the 1920s and 1930s - and I've discovered several recurring themes.

Am I Blue?
Blue Moon
Blue Skies
Blue River
Blues In My Heart
My Blue Heaven

And the whole Blues genre which didn't go mainstream until the Roaring Twenties. You've got your sad blues, your happy blues, your "I should kill myself" blues, and your blues about things nobody should ever be blue about. For an era colored in black and white they were really into the color blue. My favorite is the vaudeville ditty  the "We Have No Bananas Blues" which is about freaking out over that other ditty, "Yes, We Have No Bananas."

Two songs. "Lulu's Back in Town" is the story of how "Mr. Otis" is frantically abandoning all of his friends, lovers, and businesses and intends spending every last dime he owns carousing with Lulu. And then there is the opinion expressed in "Don't Bring Lulu" that she is so damn freaking crazy that any woman is better than having her at a party.

Lots and lots of reflective songs about "my" this and "I" that.

I'll Get By
I'm Getting Sentimental Over You
I Ain't Get Nobody
I Got Rhythm

And there is an entire family of "My" songs:
My Kid
My Man
My Sin
My Heart Belongs to Daddy
My Yiddishe Momme

Not to mention the entire array of "you" songs that include:

You're the Cream in My Coffee
You Are My Lucky Star
You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me
You Remind Me Of A Naughty Springtime Cuckoo (gotta love that title)

Fascinating Rhymes
Tin Pan Alley circa 1920
In those days lyricists penned rhymes that nobody does today (although you may think that's a good thing).

Button Up Your Overcoat
Beware of frozen funds,
Stocks and bonds,
Dockside blondes,
You'll get a pain and ruin your bankroll!

Those Panama Mamas
They shook so much, I understand,
They caused the earthquake in Japan
Those Panama Mamas, there's ruining me.

Let's K-nock K-nees
My heart is so tick tock tickable
and your lips are so lipsticable.
you know your ABC's so let's knock knees.

Minnie the Moocher
She messed around with a bloke named Smoky
She loved him though he was cokey
He took her down to Chinatown
He showed her how to kick the gong around

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Donalding of America

Mitt Romney is palling around with The Donald like he's the only man in the country that Mitt can relate to what with them both getting erections when they fire people. According to Republicans, The Donald is the best billionaires have to offer. (Mitt's other billionaires are an ugly, disreputable bunch.)
  • He's handsome (well, maybe in a pig's eye)
  • He's beloved by the peasant class
  • Above all, he has charisma. ("You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
The point here is, of all 300 million people in this country the man Mitt feels most comfortable relating to in public has mastered the misuse of bankruptcy laws to stay wealthy while fucking his creditors.

Phony as a $3 Bill
While I'm on the topic, both campaigns are doing $3 lotteries for a meal with the candidate and his buddy (George Clooney for Obama). Has no one in either campaign heard of that old saying? I mean, really, what was wrong with four dollars?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Worst Decade Ever

Thinking about this is depressing. When thinking about the best decade only one (the Roaring Twenties) stands out. But when it comes to shitty decades a crapload of turds float to the top.

Also Rans
The 2000s may have had war, terrorism, Bin Laden, and George Bush but it just can't measure down to the competition.

The 1860s had the American Civil War which, granted, was bad. Antietam (1862) was the single bloodiest battle in American history (23,000 dead), before or since. But the rest of the world was, by and large, doing fine.

Second Runner Up - 1910s
World War I brought a whole new efficiency to warfare. The favorite offensive tactic of mass infantry charges was countered by machine guns with mass killings. The war bogged down into spending scores of thousands of lives trying to capture a few hundred yards of worthless mud. Chemical weapons were perfected and liberally used that are still banned a century later. The war caused 30 million casualties. The worst part of the war was that it was a useless exercise. It started because the Austrians wanted to punish the Serbs. All the other countries joined in because they thought it might be fun.

The Turks didn't invent genocide but they did practice it on a grand scale.The Armenian Genocide killed or exiled over a million people. Some 250,000 Assyrian Christians were slaughtered during the decade by Turks in present day Iraq and Syria. The Turks also killed three to four hundred thousand ethnic Greeks within the Ottoman Empire

Then there was famine and disease. The flu pandemic of 1918 alone killed 50 million people worldwide. Typhus and malaria killed millions more. By the end of the decade between 10% and 17% of able-bodied European men had died. Still, this was the lesser war.

First Runner Up - 1940s
The wedding ring collection from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp
A horrible decade. Just the H's (Hitler, Holocaust, Hirohito, Hiroshima) are horrendous. Twenty-five percent of all Russians were killed or wounded by the war. Ten million Chinese civilians were murdered by their Japanese occupiers. Six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust as well as another six million Poles, Gypsies, gays, and other "unworthies." Another 12 million Europeans were impressed by the Nazis into slavery.

As bad of this decade was it loses out on the Devil's prize because just about every evil was simply carried over from the previous decade.

The Decade From Hell - 1930's
During the Great Depression unemployment peaked at over 25% and stayed over 15% for the entire decade. For comparison, that's twice the current rate of joblessness.

Hitler rose to power in 1933 and before the end of the decade he would start World War II. The Nazis created their first concentration camp near Dachau just two months later. In 1935 the Nuremberg Race Laws were enacted. Kristallnacht came in 1938, Jews were fined for the damages done by the Nazi rioters.

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was marked by the slaughter of thousands of innocents by the fascist general Francisco Franco. The Chinese Civil War between Nationalist and Communists had begun in 1927 but major combat didn't begin until the 1930s. It was postponed by the Japanese invasion of 1937. The Japanese atrocities in China (Rape of Nanking) were so ghastly the Nazis would have to work hard to exceed them.

Stalin in Russia was not fiddling during this decade. He used famine as a weapon of genocide in the Ukraine, killing some six million people slowly, by starvation.

In 1935, Mussolini began a colonial conquest of Ethiopia which by wars of the decade was minor but did include his use of poison gas while the Ethiopians castrated their Italian prisoners.

And in non-war disasters there was also the American Dust Bowl that blew "black blizzards" across the Plains states.

Special Prize - 1340s
Although if you really want a shitty decade there was nothing like the 1340's. The Bubonic Plague killed half the population of Europe in just four years.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Political Fictions

One of the problems with an election season is that people from politicians to pundits stop saying what they think on public issues and begin only saying what they think other people ought to hear.

Some people (Donald Trump) will say bizarre things because they have TV shows to sell. Most settle into an unsettling mix of pablum and slander - not saying anything controversial (or even understandable) while simultaneously accusing your opponent of fucking sheep in a Mexican brothel. They honestly believe that honesty is a losing proposition on the theory that if they don't lie grandly the other guy's grand lies will win.

It becomes impossible to pick out the tiny nuggets of truth from all the regurgitated mendacity. It has always been so.

Compare text from the 1864 pamphlet "Abraham Africanus I"

I hereby pledge to elevate Abraham Lincoln to a life Presidency of the United States of America, and to stand by him and assist him to subvert the liberties of the American people and debauch their civic aspirations
to today's politics, an article about David Horowitz.
President Barack Obama is the most dangerous president of modern times, intent on turning the country into a second-rate power because “he basically despises America,”
As I get older I lose more and more the patience to pick through the absurd lies. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wisconsin Silence

Josh Marshall at TPM is surprised by the near silence of the campaigns in Wisconsin's recall election. Why, he wonders, isn't the Barrett campaign holding rallies to let people know there is a special election is less than two weeks?

I've worked with enough professional political consultants to know that one of their hard and fast rules is that they don't want people they don't know voting. It's a dumb rule, but political consultants are all about "identifying your voters and only turning them out." Consultants believe it is gambling to just encourage people willy-nilly to vote.

There are no big rallies, on either side, in Wisconsin because both of their pollsters are telling them that the undecideds could break either way so both campaigns are narrow focusing, turning out just their supporters while hoping everyone else stays home.

Political consultants prefer to lose while confirming the accuracy of their polling data than roll the dice with unpredictable high turnout elections. That's why, when upsets happen, it is usually campaigns run by amateurs.

This is a particularly dumb idea for an insurgent election like the Scott Walker recall election. The Barrett campaign should be shouting from the rooftops to get people voting. Sure, lots of the people who turn out will vote for Walker but a big turnout is the only chance of victory for Barrett.

But Barrett is a professional advised by professionals. Which is why he is losing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Man Without a Country

The story of Eduardo Saverin reminds me of the 19th century short story about a man accused of treason who renounced his American citizenship. He was sentenced to live out the rest of his life on board a ship, never to set foot on American soil again.

Saverin will not suffer as the character in the story for his decision to abandon the country of his youth. By all accounts, Saverin is an asshole but he can use the money saved in dodging taxes to buy scores of "friends."

The interesting bit of the story is Republican reaction. There was a time not too long ago when Republicans would have leapt to the patriotic side of the story. But this is Mitt Romney's Republican Party where oligarchs are valued above patriots.

When Democrats proposed the common sense response (You are free to renounced your citizenship for filthy lucre but don't bother coming back. Ever. You or your stinking money.) Republicans started shouting "Nazis!" Sen. Schumer's bill, the Ex-Patriot Act," doesn't take a dime of Saverin's current wealth, it simply takes a healthy slice of any more capital gains he acquires inside the United States. Basically, if he wants to be a non-American he can make his money in non-America.

To Mitt-publicans, inconveniencing billionaires is equal to gassing children.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Facebook Faceplant

It couldn't happen to a more deserving company given that one of it's founders has become a tax refugee.
The Facebook IPO has flopped. NASDAQ screwed the pooch electronically. Morgan Stanley, the investment bank that hoped to defraud the public with the IPO had, instead, to artificially pump up the stock price with their own money (money that will, almost certainly, be reimbursed by the Federal Reserve). This morning, as I type this, Facebook has crashed and is selling at $33.64, 20% below its IPO opening.

Like most dotcoms from the 1990's, Facebook only went public after they maxed out their growth and ran out of legitimate revenue streams. Sure, the big players who are sitting on worth less Facebook stock are promoting the hell out of the stock, predicting a price above $45 any second now - hoping to pump and dump the stock.

The fact is, Facebook will never be a legitimate, dividend paying, income producing stock. It's just another slot on the NASDAQ roulette wheel.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Different Rules for Oligarchs

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. ~ Anatole France
The newest fad among Republicans is forcing welfare recipients to take drug tests for their $134 checks. You just know when millionaire ex-ballplayer Curt Shilling got a $75 million subsidy from Rhode Island for his changing his PO Box address from Massachusetts he didn't have to pee in a cup. Not that he would have passed if he had.

Cargill is a big backer of anti-government Republican candidates. They profit from billions in ag subsidies. Their team of "small government" Republicans write scores of laws designed to force family farms to sell out cheap to Cargill.

When billionaire Jerry Jones wanted to build a new rumpus room (for his pro football team) the City of Arlington ponied up $325 million ($1,000 for every man, woman, and child in the city) to help him build it. When a regular person adds a room to his house the city increases his property taxes.

When bankers lose at roulette (derivative trading) the government bails them out to the tune of $600 billion. When a man falls behind on his bills because he lost his job and his child got sick, the very same government who wrote those big checks to the bank sends a sheriff to steal the man's home and give it to the bank.

Steal a loaf of bread to feed a starving child and you will go to prison. Buy enough politicians and judges and you can defraud thousands, not just with impunity but with honors.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Best Decade Ever

Looking back over the past 150 years there are really only two decades worth talking about, the 1990's and the Roaring Twenties. The Gay Nineties were only gay for rich folk while the rest suffered through a long, withering depression. The 1950's were okay but not as idyllic as conservatives think - there was the Korean War and the beginning of the Vietnam War, but mostly it was just a very dull decade.

Judging the 1990's and  1920's you have to admit the Twenties were better if only because they got named.

The Roaring Twenties
Singer Helen Kane (l), cartoon character Betty Boop (m), and Actress Clara Bow (r).
Bracketed by World War I and the Great Depression, the 1920's were a time of peace, raging prosperity, flourishing art, and personal freedom.

There were remarkably few wars, the biggest was the Turkish War of Independence that followed the British, French, and Greek partition of the Ottoman Empire.

The transportation revolution caused by the auto industry added with the stock market bubble caused by Republican laissez-faire policies (that would result in the Great Depression) made everyone feel free and rich.

Never was there an more exciting time for art in the United States than the 1920's. Jazz exploded out of New Orleans to become the dominate music of the decade and an enduring American legacy. The Harlem Renaissance (then called the New Negro Art Movement) saw a flowering of black writers, painters, poets, and musicians that has never been repeated in this country.

Writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway were at the top of a literary revolution unparalleled in the English language since. Radio began a completely new art form in the decade.

The decade began by granting half the population of the United States (women) the right to vote. Fashion freed women from the prison stiff Edwardian dresses and thick, Gibson Girl hair. In was the flapper bob haircut and short skirts.

The automobile granted everybody the freedom to leave the farms or the half dozen blocks of the neighborhood and see the world. Even Prohibition, the only amendment to the Constitution intended to restrict freedom had the opposite effect where drinking alcohol ceased to be a sin and started being an act of rebellion.

The Downside
Not everything was rosy in the decade. The Ku Klux Klan became a force in the 1920's. The freedom of the Harlem Renaissance was balanced by Jim Crow laws and lynchings in the South. Fascists took power in Italy. And those same Republican policies that caused the prosperity of the 1920's led to the economic collapse of the Great Depression.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

JP Morgan and the Truth

  • Whatever was said last week is different from what is being said now.
  • Whatever is being said now is different from what will be said next week.
  • Things will always be actually worse than they say.
  • The actual truth, while known, will never be made public.
  • CEO Jamie Dimon made $1.3 million in 2009 and $23 million 2011 specifically because of the crooked trades the bank was making.
  • Dimon's membership on the Federal Reserve Board of Directors makes any Fed investigation of JP Morgan a farce before it begins.
  • There will be no official bailout but the Federal Reserve will quietly bailout JP Morgan.
The oligarch class will always take care of their own at the expense of everyone else.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mitt Is Selling Despair

FDR's campaign theme was "Happy Days Are Here Again." Mitt Romney's should be "Hard Time Killing Floor."
Mitt's message is austerity. He preaches fire and brimstone gloom that has to be met with hard scrabble suffering. He sells a melancholy misery that will be dealt with through cutting and slashing. And there will be no help for the downtrodden who must struggle through his hardships alone.

However, to the oligarch class Romney is pledging a $5 trillion gift and free reign to defraud the hoi-polloi with abandon, unfettered by government oversight. They would have a different song, one that inspires their cutthroat capitalism. Probably "Mack the Knife."
Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
And he keeps it, ah, out of sight

Monday, May 14, 2012

South Carolina Election Purge

In Iran the Guardian Council has the right to approve all legislative candidates prior to any elections. They routinely disqualify scores of candidates they disapprove of.

South Carolina has the same system run by their version of the Guardian Council mullahs - the South Carolina Supreme Court. Those five mullahs on the court recently disqualified 179 candidates for office in the state on an obscure technicality.
They wore robes, like any self-respecting cabal.

The most sinister part of this plot by the rightwing court is the ruling is deliberately designed to protect incumbents as it only applies to challengers in a race. Incumbents are immune from the ruling.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Artery Gunk

Cholesterol. We've all heard about it but nobody, not even many doctors, know what it is.
Cholesterol, outside the body.
Chemically, cholesterol is a fatty alcohol (C27H46O). Biologically, it is the chemical that allows cells to regulate permeability, without it our cells would be dried up kernels and we'd all be dead.

Cholesterol is not soluble in blood so it has to be hauled hither and thither by a trucking fleet called lipoproteins. It's the size of the trucking fleet that is measured in a blood test. Bad cholesterol (LDL) are huge tractor-trailer rigs that haul the cholesterol from the liver to the cells. Good cholesterol (HDL) are the small panel trucks that takes the excess cholesterol back to the liver for disposal.

When there is too much cholesterol the LDL rigs just dump their loads (picture that 20 ton mayonnaise spill in Missouri last year) and the gunk accumulates in the walls of our arteries. When that happens the result is like a grease build up in your kitchen sink drain and just as disgusting.

I mention this because my blood test came back today and my LDL is low (64mg/dL), my HDL is average (46mg/dL), and my ratio of good to total cholesterol (3.0) is sweet. Yeah, I know I'm bragging.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Romney the Bore

Matt Taibbi, America's best living journalist, recently wrote that this may the be most boring presidential campaign in history. He right, why else would I have been reduced to writing about my pet peeves last week? The reason, of course, is Mitt Romney.
If Romney were a football coach his halftime speech would go something like this. He's start by describing how inspirational he finds the school fight song. He would then recite the words, including the entire second verse that absolutely nobody even knew existed. He would continue by saying that he always considered their home field to be his real home, that even the goalposts are just the right height.  He would conclude by pointing out how inspiring it was when he attended the Super Bowl in 2002, that while he sat in the stands watching the players he was inspired by the inspirational inspiration and how he knew that his mere presence had inspired the players to even more inspirationiousness.

Mitt Romney believes that you become conservative by repeating the word and you become inspirational by saying it repeatedly.

There is still hope. Obama is not a boring campaigner and Romney will probably nominate some insane person as his Vice-President. For now, I'm going back to sleep.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Romney the Chicken Heart

Mitt Romney is a coward. A woman in his crowd denounced President Obama for treason and Romney tacitly agreed. When asked if he did, in fact, agree Romney shook his head and mumbled incoherently while an aide desperately shouted to get moving. Romney lacked the courage to correct the woman (John McCain), agree with her (Sarah Palin), or speak in an audible voice about the topic later (every other human on the planet). As Melinda Henneberger points out, Romney's default position on every topic is to cravenly go along with whatever the most recent person has said.
Then there was the time last week when Romney had neither the balls to defend an aide attacked for homosexuality nor the courage to openly side with the religious fundamentalists against the aide. Romney just threw the aide under the bus and declared the "flap" to have "blown over."

Romney's milquetoast-ism includes his attacking Obama for taking credit what what he did do (authorize the Bin Laden raid) and in the next breath trying to take credit for something he had nothing to do with (the auto bailout).

There is also Romney's incessent whining about everything from reporters questions to his opponents campaign tactics to people noticing that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Nothing bespeaks a wuss more than a tendency to bellyache.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Republican Veepology

There has been speculation about who Mitt Romney will anoint his Vice President. History gives some guidance.

Democratic Veepology is simple. With one exception (Ferraro, 1984) Democrats pick a man (always a man) who is boringly competent. No thought is given to philosophy or regional balance, the candidate must simply be extremely dull yet capable. Republican Veepology is more complex.

Assassination Insurance Theory
Invented by Richard Nixon in 1968, it is by far the most common theory practiced. The theory is to nominate someone so bizarrely frightening that even the most insane anarchist would be terrified by the possibility of that person actually becoming President.

It is a strikingly effective strategy. There was no thought of impeaching Richard Nixon until after Spiro Agnew was forced to resign in 1973 due to his own corruption and was replaced by the reassuringly dull Gerald Ford. Al-Qaeda never once tried to kill George Bush Junior because as much as they hated Americans even they didn't want to inflict Dick Cheney on us. Conversely, whenever Republicans ignore this theory they put their lives at risk. The list of insurance policies have also included Dan Quayle and, of course, Sarah Palin.

Appeasement Theory
Like Mitt Romney, most Republican presidential candidates are way less radical than the party base that believes half the country are gay Communist atheist Muslim elites who are trying to destroy the country because we hate Mondays. This base needs to be appeased by a Veep candidate that speaks their language.
I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that. ~ Sarah Palin
Reagan is the only Republican who could ignore the Appeasement Theory but that was because he was a charter member of the radical wing of the Republican Party.

Who Will Romney Pick?
Lots of names have been mentioned. Most (Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Rob Portman and others) fail both theories. The best bets are:
  1. Rand Paul - Crazy scary and crazier radical.
  2. Chris Christie - Agnew-like SOB.
  3. Paul Ryan - Mathematical imbecile which has made him the Party's budget leader and a radical hero, unqualified to be city manager of Pacoma.
  4. Marco Rubio - Cuban. Republicans consider that Hispanic although Hispanics outside of Florida don't. With vague Mormon connections, I doubt Romney will have the courage to pick him.
  5. Bobby Jindel - Long the Great Brown Hope of Republicans who are convinced that Obama's popularity is entirely because of his skin color. Sarah Palin smart.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Supermoon Terror

One of my biggest disappointments is that tonight's "supermoon" has not started an internet rumor that the moon has fallen out of its orbit and is going to collide with Earth and scientists are just lying to us with all the perigee crap.
Why even the SyFy Channel hasn't produced a cheap CGI "original movie" on the subject with a giant mutant shark.

So when you go out tonight to look at the biggest, brightest full moon you have ever seen try not to think about how it means you are all going to die a fiery death. I mean, guys, it's 2012!!!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Pet Peeves

Things that set my curmudgeonly blood boiling.

There is a guy in my neighborhood who has erected a six-foot tall cross in his front yard. That's not too annoying (it's his own property and he can do what he wants there) because he has not yet tried to shove his bible down my throat. What really ticks me off is people who try to use the government to spread their religious beliefs or, more often, their religious hatreds.

Monster Trucks
They are an urban hillbilly thing owned by young men with insufficiently sized penises and an overwhelming fear they might be gay. Their elevated suspension puts their front bumper at just the right height to smash through the side windows and kill anyone in a normal sized car.

I've long ago decided that if I ever became a terrorist it would be an eco-terrorist and I would dedicate me crazy to firebombing the businesses that sell these evil devises. They are pure, unadulterated recreational vandalism that is approved by government because it is middle-class Republican recreational vandalism.

Leaf Blowers
If I ever go postal and become a mass murderer I would shoot people with leaf blowers. They are ear splitting, jet engine noisy and they are completely worthless. All they do is blow the leaves into the neighbor's yard. He, in turn, has to hire landscapers to blow them into his neighbor's yard. And so on, around the block the leaves go until they end up back in the first guy's yard again so his landscapers can renew the circuit.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Afghanistan: Then and Now

A half century ago, Afghanistan was a poor, peaceful, relatively happy place to live. The capital of Kabul was a modern metropolis.
Paghman Gardens near Kabul in the 1960s.
Then the super powers of the US and USSR decided to play with Afghanistan. There was endless war, the rise of religious fanatics, and more endless war.
Same view of Paghman Gardens in 2007.
The West has spent a half trillion dollars during the past decade of war to blow up Afghanistan and another $100 billion on reconstruction. Before that the Soviets spent a decade destroying things. And then there were the Taliban who destroyed shit because, well, God.

In 1880, a woman named Malalai was a leader in the defense of the Afghan village of Maiwand against a British invasion. In 1962, women studied science along side men in Kabul University.
Today the literacy rate for women is 15% (for men about 50%) and in Kabul most women do not feel safe walking the streets without wearing a burka.

I feel sorry for the Afghans. They had a decent little country before the rest of the world took an interest in them.