Friday, December 16, 2011

Willis Hart Bunks Yet Another Conservative Myth

When conservatives rail in the media of the dangers of "returning to Smoot-Hawley, which created the Great Depression", all they do is reveal their ignorance of economics and history. ... Smoot-Hawley "protectionist" legislation did not cause the Great Depression, and while it may have had a slight short-term negative effect on the economy ("1.4 percent at most" according to many historians) its long-term effect was to bring American jobs back to America ~ Liberal Talk Radio host Thom Hartmann, 3/12/2994.

Alternate Post Title: On How Smoot-Hawley's Effect on the Great Depression was Negligible.

According to Conservatives, the protectionist legislation signed by president Herbert Hoover contributed greatly to making the Great Depression that much worse. The proprietors of Conservative blogs like Contra O'Reilly author literally dozens of posts claiming that Depression-era protectionist trade legislation negatively impacted the economy. In his latest post on the topic the Conservative blogger said...

Willis Hart: ...after the 1929 stock market crash, unemployment never reached double digits in any of the 12 months following that event, peaking at 9 percent, then drifting back downwards until it reached 6.3 percent in June 1930. It wasn't until Smoot-Hawley was passed that the unemployment rate started to skyrocket (12/14/2011 AT 7:13pm).

But according to Thom Hartmann...

The Smoot-Hawley tariff legislation, which increased taxes on some imported goods by a third to two-thirds to protect American industries, was signed into law on June 17, 1930, well into the Great Depression. In the following two years, international trade dropped from 6 percent of GNP to roughly 2 percent of GNP (between 1930 and 1932), but most of that was the result of the depression going worldwide, not Smoot-Hawley. The main result of Smoot-Hawley was that American businesses now had strong financial incentives to do business with other American companies, rather than bring in products made with cheaper foreign labor: Americans started trading with other Americans.

In other words, the depression and unemployment did get worse, but it had absolutely nothing to do with Smoot-Hawley, which was, in fact, a good thing. Because it encouraged American job growth. All one has to do is examine the actual data to see what utter baloney blaming Smoot Hawley for the Great Depression is.

As pointed out by a member of the Thom Hartmann message board, the official government figures from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis prove that "there is practically NO evidence that Smoot-Hawley hurt our economy".

The negative impact that Smoot-Hawley had on our economy (if any) was negligible, because as the author of "The Smoot-Hawley Fairy Tale" points out...

The US was already in a Depression when Smoot-Hawley was enacted. Prior to Smoot-Hawley, the 1929 Trade Surplus was +0.38% of our GDP. In other words, it contributed less than 1/200th to our economy.

During the Great Depression GDP declined 46 percent. Of that, the net trade loss (exports less imports) accounted for a total GDP loss of less than 1/2 of 1% ($0.2 billion). Does this sound like an amount that would cause, according to the Conservative blogger Will Hart, the unemployment rate to "skyrocket"? It's actually quite laughable.

The Conservative blogger points out that economists "from across the political spectrum" were against the passage of Smoot-Hawley, so that proves [1] that Smoot-Hawley did make the Depression worse, and [2] Smoot-Hawley making the Depression considerably worse isn't a "Conservative myth". In response I say [1] As the data shows the economists were clearly wrong, and [2] Smoot-Hawley making the depression worse is only a myth NOW - decades later. Of course Smoot-Hawley making the depression worse wasn't a myth BEFORE Herbert Hoover signed it! The amazing thing is that this guy doesn't even realize how dumb his argument is.

So, in conclusion, was Smoot-Hawley bad for the US economy? No, "protectionist" trade legislation is a GOOD thing. Smoot-Hawley may have had a minor negative impact, but that was because it takes time for manufacturers to ramp up production of goods in the US (using US labor). In the long run "protectionist" trade policies grow the US economy by encouraging manufacturers to create good paying jobs for US citizens. We need more of this kind of legislation.

YouTube Video Synopsis: Prominent economist Ha-Joon Chang is tearing a giant hole in the fabric of the free traders' universe by taking on the conventional wisdom that protectionism is detrimental to economies and the belief that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was responsible for deepening and prolonging the Great Depression.

SWTD #101, wDel #10.

Friday, November 25, 2011

William the Moderate Loses His Manhood (Suri's Revenge)

What do you call love, hate, charity, revenge, humanity, magnanimity, forgiveness? Different results of the one master impulse: the necessity of securing one's self-approval ~ Mark Twain (11/30/1835 to 4/21/1910) born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Twain was an American author and humorist. He is most noted for his novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "the Great American Novel".

The virtually nude female sat astride an enormous black panther, but it was no D&D fantasy. She had the face of a minotaur and a body to match. "Hey there handsome stranger", she snarled. "Who me?" William Hartenbaum replied. "Yea, you" she sneered. William didn't like the way the lady minotaur sneered at him. To him it appeared as though she was leering! William, having no desire to mate with an ugly, smelly half-cow, half-woman, turned and ran for his life.

The lady minotaur, still astride the giant panther, easily ran down poor William. The Dungeon Master rolled his 20-sided die and declared, "You failed your strength check (so it actually WAS a D&D fantasy). The lady minotaur successfully mates with you". "Damn you Slade!" William shouted, throwing down his dice in disgust.

"Our child will probably be uglier than Suri Cruise!" Suri Cruise the deformed female wizard was the character controlled by Joan Myste (and named after Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' daughter).

"Suri Cruise watches from afar in amusement" Joan Myste declared, snickering. "Why didn't you cast a spell to save me", William demanded, turning to Joan Myste. "My character laughs at your pain" Joan Myste responded. "She still harbors deep resentment over the incident during which your carelessness caused her facial disfigurement". "How was I to know giant panther urine is caustic?" William asked. "Who stomps on a cache of frozen panther urine?" Joan Myste retorted.

"OK", said the DM, "The lady minotaur has finished mating with you and now prepares to devour your dong, which is the custom with minotaurs. I mean this literally by the way. I'm not talking about a BJ". Looking quite frustrated, William exclaimed, "I remove the dagger I have hidden in my boot and gut the minotaur". Rolling his dice the DM says, "Sorry William, but you fail your dexterity check. The lady minotaur knocks the dagger from your hand and chomps down on your manhood, severing it completely. She proceeds to wolf it down". "Owe, that must hurt!" Joan Myste laughed.

"I cast a mass sleep spell centered on the minotaur" Joan Myste said. "So now you act, after I've been emasculated!" William shouted angrily. Slade rolled his dice and then announced, "the lady minotaur, the giant panther, and William the Moderate all fail their saving throws and fall fast asleep".

"I drag William's body to safety and leave the lady minotaur in peace. Then I sling William's limp body over the back of my horse and ride back to camp". "Thus the encounter ends, so sayeth Slade the DM. Evening arrives and William the Moderate continues to slumber. The next morning he awakens to a great pain in his groin. A strange man hovers over him. The man informs William that he is the local physician. William looks down and sees his private area (minus his dong) crudely stitched together".

Glaring angrily at Slade, William growled, "I jump to my feet and attack Suri with my broadsword". "Why would you do that?" the DM inquired. "Your character isn't aware that Suri could have saved you from being raped by the lady minotaur. As far as you know she arrived as quickly as she could". "That's right" Joan Myste agreed. "That's what I tell William's character. I came to his rescue as quickly as I could. He should be thanking Suri".

SWTD #100, PIF #12, WTM #1.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Famous Actress & The Scene Featuring Full Frontal Nudity

The initial idea was to make something cheap and marketable. Nudity is definitely marketable ~ Jon Gorman, director of the 2007 comedy Bikini Bloodbath.

"I did a small amount of acting many years ago", I said, explaining why the young woman had just asked for my autograph. The puzzled look on Janeane Garner's face remained. I took the DVD and a sharpie from the woman and signed it. She smiled, thanked me, and departed. "I didn't know you were an actor", Janeane exclaimed. "Not really" I replied. "I only had a few small non-speaking roles. There was however, one film where I actually had a few lines... but it ended up being shelved and was never released".

Janeane handed me my soda and cheeseburger, which she had just purchased inside the Burger King while I sat at an outside table. My head was spinning and I needed sit down for a short while to recover. The vertigo was a consequence of a brutal beating I had endured a few months ago. "Thanks", I said grabbing the soda and cheeseburger. "I take it this is a caffeine free soda?" I asked. "My doctor said that I shouldn't drink anything with caffeine in it".

"Yes, I remember" Janeane sighed. "Anyway, back to this acting thing. If the only film in which you had speaking role was never released, how is it that you have fans?" Janeane asked, obviously very interested. "It's actually not something I like to talk about", I protested. But I could tell from Janeane's expression that she wasn't going to leave me alone until I spilled the beans. "OK, I'll tell you" I said reluctantly, "but this stays strictly between you and I". Janeane nodded her head, indicating agreement.

"More than two decades ago I was in a direct-to-video movie. My scene, which involved some nudity, was deemed gratuitous and cut. But the film ended up not being released anyway. The woman who asked for my autograph asked me to sign - and I don't know how it got out there - a bootleg copy of the original cut of the movie".

"Wait a minute - you're not saying that it was YOU who did a nude scene, are you?" Janeane asked incredulously. "Yes, I was nude in that scene, but so was the female lead, a famous actress you've probably heard of. I played a man she met in a bar and took home for a one night stand. The director decided to cut the scene to avoid an NC-17 rating. The movie still would have been rated R, however, due to the excessive violence and profanity. From what I've heard, that is why it ended up not being released. Just as the film was being finished, the independent studio was sold to a large corporation, and it was the bigwigs there that decided to shelve it".

"Who was the famous actress" Janeane naturally inquired. "It was Geena Davis", someone who was not me answered. Apparently some jerk had been listening in on our conversation. I turned around and was shocked to see Smurf Jones, a detective with the local police department (although not really). "Jones, why the hell are you still following me" I demanded to know.

"I didn't get the Soros funding, so, mission accomplished". This was the a*shole who, along with his partner, had administered the beating. Although it was the pistol-whipping I received from Tony Hawkins which was the cause of my vertigo.

"I have investigated you thoroughly, Dervish" Smurf Jones responded with a creepy smile on his face. "I own a copy of that bootleg DVD, and I must say I find the scene in question very stimulating, if you get my drift". "Eeewww. That's sick" Janeane exclaimed.

"That reminds me", Jones continued. "I heard about another movie that Davis appears topless in. It's called There Will be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis. He's the dude, as I understand it, who won an award portraying a crippled spaz who can do artsy-fartsy things with his left foot. While I have no interest in gay Liberal movies, I'm willing to give this one a shot for the nudity alone".

"I was just on my way to rent it when I spotted you sitting here. So, to answer your question, no, I'm not following you, this is just a chance encounter. Today is my day off".

While Jones had been talking I fumbled to find a certain item in my jacket pocket. "First of all", I said "you're a bigot, and secondly, Geena Davis isn't in that movie. I've seen it, and it contains no nudity what-so-ever. I know what blog you're talking about, and that guy doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. And lastly", I said, withdrawing the item from my pocket and holding it up for Jones to see, "...this is the Stun Master. At 4.5 million volts, it's one of the most powerful stun guns available. I won't hesitate to use it if you make a move to assault me again".

Jones did not look intimidated. "I'd put that away if I were you" he cautioned. "Simply threatening a officer of the law is an arrestable offense. I won't warn you again. And, by the way, I was going to swing by your office tomorrow. You still need to pay the court costs associated with your failed lawsuit. If you don't pay up soon I'm going to have to inform the judge. Either he'll order your arrest, or have your wages garnished. I favor doing both".

Jones was referring to the lawsuit I had filed against him, his partner Tony Hawkins, and Tannis Protection (the private security firm the Emergency Financial Manager hired when he privatized the local police department). The judge cited a lack of evidence and dismissed the lawsuit. And then he ordered me to pay all costs associated with the case. Which meant I currently owed Tannis Protection three thousand dollars! This was in addition to my mounting medical bills.

"Screw you Jones", I sputtered angrily. "Luckily Hawkins' pistol whipping just resulted in post-traumatic vertigo. My doctor said he thinks I'll gradually recover over the next couple of months. But I'm not taking the chance of your next assault killing me. I'll drop you, damn the consequences. I'm not taking any chances with my life. And, regarding your plans to visit my office - you're banned from the building".

"I'm sorry Dervish, but you're wrong regarding that point, and you know it. Your lawyer brought this up during the trial and the judge told him and you that your employers must grant Tannis Protection access your workplace. Although I don't know how the hell anyone can earn a living working (if you want to call it that) at a Liberal think tank. But, you'll probably be out of a job after that clueless community organizer is bounced out of office in 2012. Thanks to your party's running up of the national debt which has held back an economic recovery... the American people will vote overwhelmingly for whoever the Republican nominee is. My bet's on Perry".

"But don't worry", Jones assured me. "I won't be stopping by your office tomorrow. You've been warned. You have until the end of the week to pay the bill sent to you by the court". With that, Jones rose from his seat and walked away, leaving me seething with anger.

SWTD #99, PIF #11.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Moderate Crazies

Moderate strategies in the past had moderate results ~ Marc Johnson, state appeals court judge, Kenner LA.

They turn Liberals into the "far left" and label them "the crazies". They turn themselves into "Liberals", even though they supported the illegal war with Afghanistan, eliminating the corporate income tax*, and call themselves "free traders".

When I first starting blogging five (and change) years ago, I firmly considered myself a Liberal. I was an anti-war, for the middle class, in favor of increasing taxes on the wealthy, opposed to unfettered free trade, anti-Fox Nooz Liberal. Now, though, I'd probably have to say that I'm more Liberal.

But I've not really changed all that much. Just shifted a little further to the Left. I think the real question here is, seeing as a certain Independent Moderate Blue Dog Democrat Libertarian (and others) consider me to be on the "far left", instead of simply a normal Progressive, how is is that the Moderate crazies think they can hijack the term "Progressive", move the goalposts, and get away with it? I'm positive it's because that's the MO of the Right and their accomplices in the so-called Middle.

The Right has been so successful at moving the goalposts that they shifted a large portion of the Democratic Party to the Right. That's how we got Bill Clinton and the Third Way Democrats! I actually argued with a Conservative/Libertarian on a blog recently about whether or not Bill Clinton was a Liberal. This Con/Libertarian insisted that Clinton was Leftist/Liberal and that "a large number of Liberals embraced the Third Way"! Un-freaking believable, huh?

Note: This post is a rebuttal to a commentary on the Contra O'Reilly blog. Above I state that the proprietor of this other blog is in favor of eliminating the corporate income tax. This is true, but he also wants to increase the top personal income tax rate to be set at 40 percent 39.6 percent 37-38 percent 25 percent and tax capital gains at the same rate as regular income. According to him this will result in more taxes being collected.

I bring this up because I was accused of being a partisan liar for "leaving out" this information. But this post wasn't meant to be a rebuttal of Willis Hart's position on the elimination of the corporate income tax, and I included a link that anyone could read themselves. Perhaps I'm just not that good of a deceiver? Anyway, I've added this note to eliminate any confusion. No "deception" was intended with this post.

SWTD #98, wDel #9.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Republican Hacks Responsible for Manufactured Solyndra Scandal

I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks ~ Darrell Issa (dob 11/1/1953) Representative from California's 49th congressional district and head of the House Oversight Committee, announcing his plans to go on a witch hunt against the Obama Administration ("Darrell Issa plans hundreds of hearings", Politico 11/8/2010).

The following report is an excerpt from the Thom Hartmann Radio Program, 9/19/2011, which I edited for brevity and clarity. This report from the "news" segment of the program concerns Republican attempts to use the Solyndra scandal to paint the Obama Administration as incompetent.

Thom Hartmann: Last week the media jumped on the Obama Administration over a loan to solar company Solyndra that went bust, in what was dubbed Solyndra-gate. It was suggested that the loan was granted for political reasons and that the whole deal reeked of crony capitalism. But, as we are getting used to these days, the media dropped the ball.

Not only does Solyndra represent just 1.3 percent of the department of energy's entire loan portfolio and is the only company receiving loans to fail, but former president George W bush has more prints on the Solyndra loan then does President Obama. It was bush who created the program and spent two years urging the department of energy to approve the Solyndra loan, which it finally did only two months into President Obama's term.

Not only that, but regarding the accusation that the Obama Administration granted the loan in return for campaign contributions... one of Solyndra's top investors gets their money from the Walton family, a notorious contributor to the Republican Party... not exactly fans of the Obama presidency.

So here we have another scandal manufactured by Republican hacks for the media, when the media should be looking into the greatest crime of all, which is the destruction of the American Middle Class at the hands of the Republicans and the oligarchs who own them.

My Commentary: A 9/23/2011 New York Times article, titled "The Phony Solyndra Scandal" says, "The company's recent bankruptcy... was largely brought on by a stunning collapse in the price of solar panels over the past year or so". I was actually duped into believing there might be something to this scandal by an Obama-hating Conservative commenter on the blog of Willis Hart. According to the doofus Rusty Shackelford, the Solyndra "scandal" is going to cause BIG problems for Barack Obama, because it's going to prove to people just how incompetent and in over his head "Obie" the community organizer is.

For the record, I thought that the owners of the company may have done something untoward, not the President or his administration. But it turns out I was way wrong. The reason for Solyndra's failure is due to the fact that "the Chinese government is investing in solar production [and that] has led to a burst in production that has boosted supplies and forced down product prices worldwide". Turns out there is absolutely no scandal here what-so-ever, just a failure to accurately predict future market conditions.

Don't tell the Republicans this, however. Expect them to make as much hay as possible over this non-scandal. The corrupt Representative from California, sleazeball Darrell Issa, announced that he's launching an investigation. Regarding the function of the Oversight Committee under Issa, a 11/8/2010 Politico article says Issa enlisted "Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio... to chair some of his subcommittees". Politico refers to these two representatives as "aggressive partisans". I think it's clear what Issa's agenda is.

I'm with Thom Hartmann on this one, the Republican Party is totally owned by the wealthy elites and this bogus scandal is nothing more than a distraction while they continue their destruction of the middle class. And they're also miffed because George bush was SO incredibly incompetent and corrupt... and now they're desperate to get the same labels attached to Obama... but nothing is sticking. Hint: It's because Obama is an extremely intelligent, competent and honest man, not to mention an substantially superior POTUS when compared to the previous doofus who held the office.

SWTD #97, wDel #8.

Friday, September 23, 2011

They Made an Exceedingly Bad Decision, As I'm Sure Everyone Who Isn't an Idiot Agrees

The very first law in advertising is to avoid the concrete promise and cultivate the delightfully vague ~ Stuart Chase (3/8/1888 to 11/16/1985) an American economist (MIT), social theorist and writer.

They made an exceedingly bad decision, as I'm sure anyone with an ounce of common sense will agree. Clearly these chaps didn't take the long-range ramifications into account, because, if they had, they would have made a decision that was the exact opposite of the decision they made. Now I ask you, is it any surprise that a recent Gallup poll showed that a majority of the American people are outraged?

For the record, I'm in agreement with the vast majority of Americans who believe repealing the law was a bad idea. Obviously the solution (and I'm positive you'll agree with me) is to change the law back to what it was. Perhaps we should even make the law stricter. One thing is crystal clear though, and that is that this never should have been permitted in the first place!

So, the question I'm posing to you is, are you one of the majority of Americans who think this was not a good idea, or an idiot in the minority who thinks it was just what we needed? Even after the fallout of that bad decision and the subsequent attempt to make things right with new legislation, some people seem to still not get it. They think the new legislation should be repealed! They think it's bad for the economy! They think the reason for the bad things that happened was that the original law went too far!

I say these people are blaming the wrong parties; they blame one group when they should actually be blaming another. Can you believe it? I certainly cannot. Obviously these people have only the interests of the other group in mind when making their absurd accusations. Obviously the citizens should align ourselves with first group. Why? Because this group is us; that is, we are all part of this group. Our objectives are, or should at least, be harmonious. But that has not been the case as of late. Actually, it hasn't been the case for quite some time, but the disharmony became a LOT more pronounced following the last election.

What do we do about it? I don't know. The subgroup of the group of people that should be on our side has been aligning itself with the second group to an increasing extent over the years. Personally, I think only a sub-sub group of the first group is our only hope. If only an individual of this group could get him or herself elected to a particular office. You know which one I mean. Personally I think they all suck, but, more on that in a later post. Stay tuned. In the meantime, why not let me know what you think?

Note: Do you have any idea what the hell I'm talking about? This post was purposefully written using a style (that is decidedly NOT "delighful") employed by a certain Moderate-Libertarian blogger I've mentioned here before. When this guy writes something incredibly vague and you say you don't know what he's talking about... he'll blame YOU for not knowing what the hell he's talking about! The latest charge was that I didn't know what he was referring to because I watch too much of a certain Left-leaning news channel. No, I don't think that was what was at issue. The issue was that his post included too few fricking details!

SWTD #96, wDel #7.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

President Obama's Jobs Bill Failure Would be a Success For Republicans

This plan is the plan that dare not speak it's name. It's real name is stimulus, but that word has been banned from politics in Washington ~ Lawrence O'Donnell (b. 11/7/1951) on the 9/8/2011 broadcast of his MSNBC program "The Last Word".

Note: The following discussion is an excerpt from the The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 9/8/2011, which I edited for brevity and clarity. Lawrence asks Representative Barney Frank of MA if the President's proposed American Jobs Act has a chance of passing the House.

Lawrence O'Donnell: What are the prospects in the House of Representatives for this bill?

Rep Barney Frank: I'm afraid they're not very good. As I'm standing here I'm hearing one of the younger Republicans proclaim loudly that government can't do anything. These are people who believe we have no capacity to come together to do anything. I am afraid that the [radical] Right-wing that has the Republican Party by the throat is going to block anything. I think the president did a very good job of making it clear that he was compromising. This isn't everything I would like him to do. It isn't everything he would like to do.

But I think he correctly said, look, I want to get results. And the only chance of getting results is to say to Republicans, I'm giving you some of the things you want. I am afraid that it is not going to be helpful. I credit the president for trying. I don't know what more he could have done. You are dealing with people who... let's be very clear about the Tea Party and their patron Grover Norquist who's made them all sign these pledges... these are people who do not understand that government has an important role. That there are things that we can only do if we come together to do them. To build bridges... to provide for the elderly in their retirement if they aren't otherwise wealthy.

These are people who don't believe in that. Frankly, sadly I have to say, and I've had to conclude this... they don't want the economy to get better. Because if the economy gets better, Barack Obama's chances to win get better. These are people for whom the major goal is to defeat Barack Obama. Secondarily to discredit government. They don't want people to think there are things we can do. They are ideologically committed to the idea that there shouldn't be any government, so they are not trying for success. They don't want Obama to succeed and they don't want us to show that government can work in the public interest.

My Commentary: The Republicans won't agree to another 447 billion dollar stimulus bill regardless of whether or not it is "paid for". President Obama proposes paying for this bill by increasing the cuts the so-called "Super Congress" will be making. Does this mean that if no agreement can be reached and the automatic cuts are triggered... the jobs bill is dead? I agree with Barney Frank, I do not see this legislation going anywhere.

Further Reading
[1] Obama Jobs Plan: $447 Billion, More Than Half In Tax Cuts, To Be Paid For By Super Committee by Sam Stein, The Huffington Post 9/8/2011.
[2] Text: Obama's Jobs Speech: There are Steps We Can Take Right Now by National Journal staff, The National Journal 9/8/2011.

Video: Obama's 9/8/2011 Jobs Speech To Congress, Full Video (32:58).

SWTD #95

The News Wasn't Always Reported for Profit

With all the mass media concentrated in a few hands, the ancient faith in the competition of ideas in the free market seems like a hollow echo of a much simpler day ~ Kingman Brewster, Jr. (6/17/1919 to 11/8/1988) an educator, president of Yale University, and American diplomat.

The following monologue is an excerpt from the Thom Hartmann Radio Program, 8/11/2011, which I edited for brevity and clarity. Thom's rant concerns reporting the news for profit, the Fairness Doctrine and Republican attempts to distort what the consequences of it were...

Thom Hartmann: The fact of the matter is, in 1987 when Reagan stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine. The core of the Fairness Doctrine was not, if you put an hour of Rush Limbaugh on you've got to put an hour of Thom Hartmann on. It had nothing to do with that. There were talk shows, in fact Alan Berg's talk show was on the air back in the 70s out of Denver, and he was blowing a signal into 20-some-odd states. He was the most popular talk show host in America. He was a Liberal. He was gunned down by a couple of neo-Nazis. The next big talk radio guy to come along was Rush Limbaugh in 1987.

When Reagan stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine, the core piece of it was that, in order to own a broadcast license... in order to have the right to broadcast over the air (radio or television), you had to be broadcasting in the public interest. That was interpreted by the FCC as meaning you had to actually present news. The news had to be unbiased, and it had to be disconnected from any commercial interests of the station or the advertisers of the station.

Back in the 70s I worked in news for 7 years... and I could have gotten fired for hanging out with the sales people. You just didn't do it. The news divisions were separate. The news divisions of all the networks lost money. The fairness doctrine ceasing to be enforced in 1987 was the first chink in the armor, then in 1997, after Bill Clinton signed the telecommunications act... this really put the nail in the coffin.

I was driving down the street and I heard a news report that said that CBS news, the storied home of Walter Cronkite, had just put their news division under the control of the Vice President of Entertainment at CBS... which meant that the news division was now a profit center... which meant that instead of getting news, you were now going to be getting infotainment.

You were now going to get the stuff that was profitable to the network and the stuff that flattered the advertisers. You wouldn't get the stuff that was hurtful to the advertisers. If they had part ownership in a movie studio, suddenly we're going to see those movie stars on their news programs. If they have part ownership in a publishing company you're going to see those authors being profiled, you know, whatever. And I remember thinking; this is really a sad day for America. Not just for journalism but for America.

My Commentary: On 8/18/2011 a commenter on a Conservative blog I frequent said, "Even news has to be a profit center in today's world". The comment was in response to the Conservative blogger's post about women he finds attractive hosting news programs. Obviously the goal of these news programs is to draw men in to oggle the beauties. It obviously works for the Conservative blogger Willis Hart who watches Fox Nooz programs for this reason. This is an individual I've discussed before. He calls himself a moderate but is really a moderate to liberal Republican.

But the Conservative/Moderate blogger isn't the reason for this post. The reason for this post is because I wanted to respond to what a Conservative commenter said about the news being a profit center in today's world. In response to that comment an individual who calls himself dmarks said, "It's always been that way. Go back to the days of Uncle Walter, and beyond to Benjamin Franklin's original Saturday Evening Post".

I'm not positive what "Uncle Walter" dmarks is referring to, but Wikipedia says Uncle Walter is "a nickname for broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite". During Walter Cronkite's time the news was not reported for profit. The news wasn't reported for profit from 1949 when the Fairness doctrine was introduced until August of 1987, when the FCC abolished the doctrine by a 4-0 vote (38 years).

The above comments by Thom Hartmann reflect the world as it actually was, a reality I thought even a conservative would acknowledge, simply because nobody would believe a rewriting of history so severe. But clearly Conservatives left the reality based community long ago and have never looked back.

Note: If you are a subscriber to the Thom Hartmann program podcast, the location of the quoted segment of audio can be found at 31:10 to 33:58 of Hour 3 on Thursday 8/11/2011.

Further Reading
[1] Fairness Doctrine: Secret Republican Agenda Exposed! by Craig Aaron, The Huffington Post 1/8/2009.
[2] The Fairness Doctrine How We Lost it, and Why We Need it Back by Steve Rendall, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) 2/12/2005.

Video: Thom Hartmann asks "should the Fairness Doctrine death be taken off the books?"

SWTD #94

Monday, September 05, 2011

Means Testing Is An Insidious Plan to Destroy Social Security & Medicare

The notion that the benefits are an earned right separates Social Security from means-tested income-support programs. ... Means testing is a feature of taxpayer-funded welfare programs designed to help the poor. A means test would inevitably erode the universal and contributory nature of Social Security and some of the popular support that has sustained it for nearly 75 years ~ John Rother; an excerpt from his 1/29/2010 article "Don't Means Test Social Security" from the "political opinion" section of US News & World Report.

The following discussion/rant is an excerpt from the Thom Hartmann Radio Program, 8/11/2011, which I edited for brevity and clarity. Thom answers a caller's question regarding means testing programs like Social Security and Medicare...

Caller: Wouldn't it make sense to put the people in the program that actually need the assistance, and leave the people who don't need to be in the program out of it? Putting everyone under one umbrella is going to be a lot more inefficient and a lot more expensive? Take care of the people who need taking care of and leave the rest of the people out.

Thom Hartmann: You just brought up my favorite Republican talking point. This is probably one of the most sick and twisted Republican talking points that's out there. This is the Republican plan to destroy Social Security and Medicare... through something called means testing. There are 132 thousand people in the United States who make over a million dollars a year. And so they're saying why are those people getting a social security check? Why does Warren Buffett who's 80 years old... why is he eligible for Medicare?

Well, here's why... it's very simple. When you start means testing a program, when you say that anyone who has "means", anyone who is rich shouldn't get that program, only the people who need the program, who don't have means should be in the program... then that programs becomes what's called Welfare. Now, when Bill Clinton came into office... of the people who lived below the poverty line - 57 percent were eligible for Welfare.

After Clinton's Welfare reform, which sold well to the American people, because we were in the middle of the dot-com bubble... everybody, Democrats and Republicans looked and said there aren't that many poor people anymore... so let's cut the Welfare programs. Let's make it harder for people to stay on Welfare for extended periods of time. Now it's down to 27 percent. Only 27 percent of people who are actually in poverty can get Welfare.

Because, in large part, because of the changes that were made during the Clinton administration. Although there were changes made before and after... this isn't a bash Bill Clinton screed. The point here is that when something is only available to poor people... poor people don't make campaign contributions. Poor people do not have lobbyists in Washington DC. And so the first thing that goes on the chopping block are programs only for poor people. If you want to destroy Social Security and Medicare, the first thing you do is get all the rich people out of it by means testing.

That way it's no longer an insurance program that covers everybody. Then, once you get them out of it in terms of it in terms of benefits. Then you can say why are they paying into it, because they're getting nothing out of it? Then you can cut even more money out of it, and now you've got a program that's really in a crisis.

This is the Republican strategy... to sound very reasonable... whether it's in an editorial that they're writing for the newspaper, or it's in a phone call to a radio show... This is one of the slickest, sneakiest, most slimy and disgusting strategy going. Saying we need to means test Social Security and Medicare and turn them into Welfare programs.

Note: If you are a subscriber to the Thom Hartmann program podcast, the location of this segment of audio can be found at 13:02 to 16:54 of Hour 3 on Wednesday August 24 of 2011.

See Also: [Contra O'Reilly, 4/24/2015] On the Fact that Means-Testing Social Security and Medicare Used to Be a Liberal Position (Jimmy Carter, to His Credit, Has Advocated it) but Because that Idiot, Thom Hartmann, Came Up with Some Paranoiac Theory that this Would Lead to the Program's Total Demise, it Isn't Any Longer.

SWTD #93

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reading Sleeping with The Devil Leads To Great Bliss & Complete Knowledge

Pain and foolishness lead to great bliss and complete knowledge, for Eternal Wisdom created nothing under the sun in vain ~ Kahlil Gibran (1/6/1883 to 4/10/1931) a Lebanese American artist, poet, and writer chiefly known in the English speaking world for his 1923 book "The Prophet", an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose.

The head of the Progressive Ideology Foundation Laura Fawkes smiled and embraced me. "Welcome back Dervish", she said warmly. "We were genuinely worried about you when you disappeared and it appeared to be foul play". "Actually", I said, "I've been back at work for more than four months now. Although, according to what I've heard, nobody really cared that I'd disappeared or that foul play may have been involved. My research assistant Janeane told me that the tip line our security man Rusty Farber set up received zero calls. And I heard that you alerted the news media but they declined to cover the story".

"We suspected the two officers from Tannis Protection who have been hanging around here were responsible, but when we called their office they denied it", Laura responded. "It was Smurf Jones and Tony Hawkins, acting under the direction of Emergency Financial Manager Reginald Kingston who kidnapped me, held me for several days, and then released me".

"Thank goodness they released you", Laura Fawkes interjected. "Actually, I don't feel that lucky", I replied. "They beat me savagely... and caused me to miss my appointment with the representative of George Soros. An appointment I had hoped would allow me to obtain additional funding for my blog. I tried to set up another appointment but the representative said all the money that Mr. Soros had set aside to support Liberal bloggers had been allocated for the year".

I saw a look of genuine concern cross Laura's face when I mentioned my failure to secure the funding from George Soros. That had, in fact, been the reason why the Tannis goons had nabbed me. They wanted me to miss the meeting and lose the Soros funding. Also, after I returned from my three days of imprisonment and torture I found that the entirety of my investigative staff - almost a dozen people, had been reassigned to other, more successful bloggers.

Budget cuts at the Foundation were why I sought the funding from Soros to begin with. Laura told me awhile ago that the Liberal think tank (also known as "PIF" or informally as "Liberal Headquarters") could no longer pay for my investigative staff. My Senior Fellow position with PIF was safe, as was Janeane's (since she had been assigned to be my research assistant in my pre-blogging days), but the Foundation would no longer subsidize work on my blog.

As a Senior Fellow I was a success, but as a blogger I was a failure. I considered shuttering the blog, but decided to keep it open and update it only occasionally, on my own time. So, "Sleeping with the Devil" was not going to become successful like "The Daily Kos" or "The Huffington Post". My plans were initially that it would, but clearly that was now out of the question. Unless I could obtain funding from another source. But perhaps it was for the best. I probably wouldn't have been approved for the Soros funding even if I had kept that meeting... which made me wonder, why were Jones and Hawkins so keen to keep me from it?

"In any case, I'm glad to hear you've decided to refocus your energies on your research here at the Foundation", Laura Fawks said, interrupting my train of thought. "Yes, I won't be wasting any more of my time here at work with that foolishness" I fibbed.

What I did on my own time didn't concern the division chief. Clearly she didn't read my blog anyway, or pay attention to the expense reports I submitted. Janeane wasn't supposed to attend the conference in DC with me back in May, but when I submitted my request for reimbursement for two plane tickets and two rooms at the Capitol Hill Suites, her office approved it.

"Great! That's all I wanted to talk to you about... I just wanted to be sure the blogging issue was settled", Laura said, dismissing me. I left, shutting the door to her office behind me. Out in the hall I spotted Barry. He was standing there, apparently waiting for me. In his hands he held a small wrapped package topped with a bow. When he saw me Barry smiled and said, "So, Dervish, I'm guessing Laura lowered the hammer?". "Barry, I have no idea what you're talking about" I answered; then I started down the hall at a brisk pace, not wanting to know what Barry was talking about.

"Wait up", Barry said, trotting after me. "This is for you", he said, handing me the package. "It's a parting gift; something to say, sorry to see you go, if you will". "Barry, I'm not going anywhere, except away from you", I said, swatting the package away. "What the hell?", Barry exclaimed. "I know you've never liked me Dervish, but I like you. And I'm genuinely sad you got canned".

But Barry didn't look sad; in fact he was still grinning. What Barry didn't know was, being a Senior Fellow, I couldn't be fired except by the board of directors. Laura Fawkes wasn't on the board, and thus had no power to terminate my employment. But I didn't tell Barry that. I grabbed his present and walked away. Finally I lost Barry when I sprinted up a flight of stairs on my way to my office on the second floor. But shortly after I closed and locked my door I heard Barry knocking. I ignored the thumping and tossed Barry's unopened gift in the trash.

SWTD #92, PIF #10.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Figures Don't Lie, But Rick Perry Figures

Definition of Statistics: The science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures ~ Evan Esar (1899 to 1995) an American humorist who wrote Esar's Comic Dictionary 1943, "Humorous English" in 1961, and 20,000 Quips and Quotes in 1968.

The following monologue is an excerpt from the Thom Hartmann Radio Program, 8/17/2011, which I edited for brevity and clarity. Thom's rant concerns Texas Governor (and 2012 presidential candidate) Rick Perry's claims of job creation in his state...

Thom Hartmann: Rick Perry is running around saying, quote, "Since June of 2009, Texas is responsible for more than 40 percent of all of the new jobs created in America. Now think about that. We’re home to less than 10 percent of the population in America, but 40 percent of all the new jobs were created in that state". End of quote.

Now, notice that he says since the end of June 2009. If you go back to 2008, jobs actually grew faster in Massachusetts (a classic example of "figures don't lie, but liars can figure"). And secondly, Texas has actually done worse than the rest of the country in increasing rates of unemployment. In fact they are the worst in the country, in terms of how rapidly unemployment has increased in the state.

Why? For the exact same reason why they have created more jobs than any other state - because over 437 thousand people of working age people (it's probably over a million when you consider their spouses and children) have moved into Texas. Many of them from Mexico. Many of them from surrounding states. But because Texas by-and-large doesn't enforce anti-immigration laws like Arizona, a lot of illegal immigrants are moving out of Arizona into Texas, and because Texas hasn't a higher minimum wage than any other state, you've got a lot of cheap labor in that state. A lot of cheap labor.

So, 437 thousand people moved into the state, and the state only created 126 thousand jobs. So, Texas has seen an explosion in unemployment. Over 300 thousand people - the most rapid explosion of unemployment in the entire United States. At the same time they created more jobs.

I would submit, that probably the major factor, is that because of Senate bill 1070 in Arizona, people who are in Arizona illegally... or simply people who are in Arizona and committing the crime of walking down the street while being Hispanic, even if they're American citizens... those people are saying screw this hostile atmosphere, I'll go to Texas, where people are actually, in many parts of Texas, proud of the fact that they're bilingual, and a lot of people have Mexican heritage. People who are 5th generation American Texans, are proud of their Mexican heritage.

So you've got a lot of people moving out of Arizona and into Texas. But while 126 thousand of them found a job, 300 thousand of them didn't. It turns out Rick Perry is really wrong. But expect him to repeat it... it's his lie.

Note: If you are a subscriber to the Thom Hartmann program podcast, the location of this segment of audio can be found at 13:30 to 17:03 of Hour 2 on Wednesday August 17 of 2011.

SWTD #91

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Hard Left Progressive Who Lost Faith in President Obama's Vision

I'm going to vote NO. I think this proposal is extraordinarily unfair. It's going to make devastating cuts to programs that working families and low-income people desperately need. At the same time it is not going to ask the wealthiest people in this country or the largest corporations to contribute one nickel to deficit reduction. It is not only grotesquely immoral; it is very bad economic policy that will cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs ~ Bernie Sanders (dob 9/8/1941) responding to a question asked by guest host Al Sharpton on MSBC's 8/1/2011 airing of the Ed Show. Bernie Sanders is the junior United States Senator from Vermont.

In the end the President blinked ~ Lawrence O'Donnell (b. 11/7/1951) on the 8/1/2011 broadcast of his MSNBC program "The Last Word".

I've lost faith in President Obama's vision, or, more accurately, I've lost faith that his vision is what I used to believe (or hoped) it was. Also, when I suggested (in my previous post) that Social Security Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that benefit the poor are back on the chopping block I was wrong. Not only was I wrong, but I was implying that the President is a liar. This is what a self-described "good 'ole hippie liberal" who is now disappointed with the "hard left" progressives says.

I'm sorry to disappoint a fellow Liberal, but I believe Glenn Greenwald who says Obama wants to "cut entitlement programs long cherished by liberals [because it] will increase his appeal to independents and restore his image of trans-partisan conciliator that he so covets". I also believe Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks who says Obama is "eager" to cut entitlements (see the video at the bottom of this post).

For the record I do NOT believe the President is a liar. He just didn't say any of these programs are protected from cuts. The super committee CAN cut anything. Everything IS on the table. I'm going by what it says in the "Bipartisan Debt Deal: A Win for the Economy and Budget Discipline" fact sheet on the White House website.

Specifically the fact sheet says, "The President did not agree to any entitlement reforms OUTSIDE OF THE CONTEXT of a bipartisan committee process where tax reform WILL be on the table and the President will insist on shared sacrifice from the most well-off and those with the most indefensible tax breaks".

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that benefit low income folks are safe from any cuts ONLY if the super committee can't reach an agreement, or the recommendations of the super committee are voted down by either house of Congress, or if they are vetoed by the president.

In regards to that possibility Robert Greenstein, founder of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (and a guest on the 8/1/2011 airing of MSNBC's "The Last Word") said, "the super committee could raise revenue but it will not [because] Boehner will not appoint a single Republican who will approve any tax increases". And he concluded that "it is a FOREGONE CONCLUSION that the super committee will fail".

But I'm not so sure the super committee will fail. The members of the super committee will consist of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans (who haven't been selected yet), and if this committee is anything like the Simpson-Bowles committee, they WILL recommend cutting entitlements. For all we know the 3 Democrats appointed could be Blue Dogs and EAGER to cut entitlements.

If a second deficit reduction package that includes entitlement reforms is agreed to by the super committee and passes Congress - I think Obama will sign it.

Also, contrary to what the hippie Liberal believes, the president didn't promise to let the bush tax cuts expire. What he promised is that he wouldn't extend them for the wealthy a second time. HOWEVER, this is the same promise he broke when he said he was initially going to let them expire. I see another excuse similar to the first one coming.

Remember the first time he extended them he said he didn't have a choice because the Republicans were holding tax cuts for the middle class hostage? The same thing is going to happen again... and Lawrence O'Donnell (a progressive pundit both I and the hippie Liberal watch) agrees... or, it is my impression he does.

Last night (8/1/2011) Lawrence O'Donnell said (not an exact quote), "The Republicans will always win in the fight to extend the bush tax cuts UNLESS the President is willing to let all the tax cuts expire, including tax cuts for the middle class and working poor - and extending these cuts was something Obama campaigned on".

I think the super committee will recommend cutting entitlements. I think the Super Committee will NOT recommend, "shared sacrifice from the most well-off and those with the most indefensible tax breaks". I think Congress will pass the super committee's debt reduction package, and I think Obama will sign it. Or, this is what I FEAR will happen.

The only way I see this not happening is if either - Robert Greenstein is right and, "it is a foregone conclusion that the super committee will fail", or if Progressive Democrats block the package - and every time in the past when they said they might block something... they did not. They said they'd block the Affordable Care Act if it didn't include a public option. They said they'd block the deal that extended the bush tax cuts. They said they'd block the deficit reduction deal that included the raising of the debt ceiling if it didn't involve "shared sacrifice".

The President, I'm afraid, WILL sign a deficit reduction package that cuts entitlements and contains ZERO "shared sacrifice from the most well-off and those with the most indefensible tax breaks". I hope I'm wrong and the hippie Liberal is right, but being part of the "hard left" I'm inclined to believe (even though I can think for myself) other "hard lefties" like Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, Robert Greenwald, Cenk Uygur and Bernie Sanders.

Hopefully we're all wrong and what the president negotiated is "a win for the economy and budget discipline". Or perhaps, as Lawrence O'Donnell said on his program, the largest deficit reduction package in history is actually the "the most ill-conceived deficit reduction package in history" and "the stupidest deficit reduction package in history".

SWTD #90

Monday, August 01, 2011

An Age of Austerity & Plutocracy

Historians will look back on tonight and this week as the beginning of the age of austerity in America ~ Jonathan Alter (b. 10/6/1957) speaking in his role as an MSNBC contributor on 7/31/2011 and referring to the debt-ceiling deal. Alter is a journalist and author who has written books on Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Alter was the senior editor for Newsweek magazine from 1983 until 2011, and is currently a lead columnist for Bloomberg Review.

One of the final nails is close to be hammered into the coffin. Yesterday (7/31/2011) the President and Republican leadership reached an agreement to withdraw life support from a dying economy. There may be something to Lawrence O'Donnell's claim that President Obama won the debate by appearing to be the only reasonable party amongst the negotiators, and that could very well help him win Independent and Moderate votes in 2012, but at what cost?

The economy will not recover nor will jobless numbers drop by any significant amount. Unemployment figures are likely to start rising again once the cutting begins and we'll head into a double-dip (or a prolonged period of stagnation). Will Independent voters still go for Obama in November of 2012 because 16 month previously he capitulated to Republican demands for zero tax increases (or even elimination of loopholes) for the wealthy? Or will they cast their votes for Willard Romney?

The title of economist Paul Krugman's 7/31/2011 New York Times article is The President surrenders. Krugman says that when the deal goes though, "many commentators will declare that disaster was avoided. But they will be wrong". The entire package may turn out to be a wash anyway, since slashing spending will further depress the economy and thus tax receipts. Krugman compares spending cuts to "medieval doctors who treated the sick by bleeding them, and thereby made them even sicker".

This is the lesson the Republicans learned when they forced the president to agree to the very bad deal back in December of 2010 when the bush tax cuts were extended. Paul Krugmann says that this is when the President should have "demanded an increase in the debt ceiling".

Krugman calls the deal a "catastrophe", pointing out that "just a few weeks ago [Democrats] seemed to have Republicans on the run over their plan to dismantle Medicare [but] now Mr. Obama has thrown all that away". Because this deal creates (another) comission that will recommend (by November) an additional 1.5 trillion in cuts (in addition to the 1 trillion in cuts already agreed to). The big three, says the president, will again be "on the table".

According to Robert Reich's article, "Ransom Paid", "Anyone who characterizes the deal... as a victory for the American people over partisanship understands neither economics nor politics". In his absolutely correct assessment of the situation, Reich says, "biggest economic challenge we face is restoring jobs and wages and economic growth". Mr. Reich also makes the point that cutting spending will cause the economy to contract (therefore if you think this is a good deal you do not understand economics). Also, the deal was arrived at not through negotiations but through brinkmanship and hostage taking, which isn't how the political process is supposed to work.

This is a very bad deal for the Democrats and for the country - and the Republicans know it. In fact, I say they are banking on it. When the cuts are enacted and the economy predictably contracts - the Republicans will be quick to blame the president. The worsening economy will help the presidential campaigns of Willard Romney and (for certain) Michele Bachmann (who didn't want to raise the debt ceiling at all). I've heard it suggested that we could see a Romney-Palin ticket in 2012. With Michele as VP the problem some Republicans who may have a problem voting for a Mormon will be overcome.

First on the agenda for President Romney will be the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, followed by passage of Cut, Cap, and Balance. Although, even if all three branches of government were controlled by the Republicans, I doubt 3/4ths of state legislatures would pass a balanced budget Constitutional amendment. But even without a Constitutional amendment, a Republican-controlled government could institute a lot of harsh austerity measures, even over the objections of the people (austerity measures have been passed in Greece, despite the fact that Greek citizens are demonstrating against them).

Is this the beginning of an age of austerity and plutocracy to coincide with depression and decline? Contrary to the hypothesis put forward by Lawrence O'Donnell who believes the President prevailed in the debt ceiling negotiations, I think Barack Obama may have set himself up for defeat in 2012. I'm worried that the bush recession will lead to the Romney depression.

This is the second half of the very bad deal and, in my opinion, should be rejected by Democrats (or all non-Blue Dog Democrats, at least). I've included a list of petitions below. It is my strong belief that Barack Obama should reject any deal that does not include tax increases and invoke the 14th amendment if necessary.

Petitions to Reject President Obama's Capitulation
->Tell Congress: Kill The Bill a petition from
->Dennis Kuchinich's petition to tell President Obama that Social Security is not a Pawn.

SWTD #89

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Toasting Cantor Shorts With Norquist Bubbly

The time is fast approaching when to call a man a patriot will be the deepest insult you can offer him. Patriotism now means advocating plunder in the interest of the privileged classes of the particular State system into which we have happened to be born ~ Leo Tolstoy (9/9/1828 to 11/20/1910) a Russian writer known primarily for his novels "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina".

"Relax, it's just a tax write off", Slade Leeds assured his friend William Hartenbaum. "By the way, I heard you've been hanging out with those two assholes Russ Teafeur and Vincent Vanderschmit lately". "You heard wrong Slade, I haven't seen either of them for months", William lied. Slade continued, "it's a premium charity, not a lemon as you have suggested. Anyway, I was thinking of donating some money to Johnny MooMoo's homeless shelter, but when I called him this morning I was told he hadn't been seen since yesterday".

"That's strange", William lied again. "Indeed" agreed Slade. "In any case, these friends of yours insulted me when I asked if they'd like to donate to my charity. Russ called me a bleeding heart Liberal ass-wipe, and Vincent told me to do something nasty to myself. And he called me a do-gooder. But, as I explained, the charity is just a tax write off. Those shitheads know we both belong to the same Moderate organization, so I don't know where they get off calling me a Liberal".

"I love Russ, you know that. He wasn't serious. He's just a provocateur. Slade, you just can't let him get under your skin". "Look William, I'm sick of you making excuses for Teafeur's bad behavior. You know, before I knew he was such a dick I actually invited him over to my place for a cocktail party". "This story again!" William laughed, cutting his friend off. "You've told it a million times. Yes, he took a dump right next to the hors d'oeuvre AND the glass swan. Like I said, he's a provocateur. He knew some of your Liberal donors were in attendance. Specifically that miscreant Cliff Thesage".

"That is total nonsense, my friend", Slade retorted. "You don't have to be able to read between the tea leaves to figure out Russ Teafeur is a major league a-hole".

Just then a slight Asian woman entered the room from a doorway behind the bar. "Here is the bottle of Champagne you requested my dear", she intoned. Slade's wife Sassy Leeds was originally from Beijing, and although her native language was Mandarin, she spoke English with only a slight accent.

"Thank you Sassy" said Slade, popping the cork and pouring himself and William a glass of bubbly. "This is a $700 bottle of the finest Champagne from the South of France. Sassy just received a case from a client as a thank you". Sassy was an interior designer who decorates the homes of the wealthy and powerful in the DC area.

"The client was Samah Norquist. This Champagne is compliments of Grover himself", Sassy explained, laughing. She knew how much Moderates like her husband and his friend disliked the man. "His money, and his Champaign are as good as anyone's, even if he is a right-wing radical", Slade said, draining his glass and quickly pooring himself another.

"In any case, I've instructed my broker to invest in the same fund as Eric Cantor, the one that's betting against United States debt. If the US defaults or is downgraded we both stand to make a pile of money!".<,/p>

William mulled that over for a while, downed his Champagne and then responded, "Some may say Cantor has a conflict of interest, or that because of his investment in such a fund he'd deliberately sabotage the negotiations. While I do not agree with his actions during the debt ceiling negotiations, I think his bet against US debt indicates he is a prudent investor. I'm sure conspiracy theorists on the Left are having a field day with this revelation. Myself, I'm going to take your advice and also invest in the fund".

Sassy reminded her husband she needed to get to work and exited the room. "Goodbye" she said, giving her husband a firm handshake. It was an inside joke William had never inquired about, even though he had seen the "goodbye handshake" numerous times before. Perhaps it had something to do with Slade's irrational fear of protocol.

Slade then explained the situation as he saw it, "Of course neither of us wants the credit rating of the United States to be downgraded, but anyone investing in treasuries would stand to make more on their investment with a increase in interest rates". "I'm in complete agreement" William concurred. "As is often the case, what is not beneficial to the middle class and poor is often beneficial to the wealthy. I'd thank the gods if any existed that I was born one of the productive members of society".

"Excuse me dear friend, but you inherited your money. I earned mine. If either of us is one of the so-called productive members of society that would be me". This was a disagreement they had before. It caused William to wonder if his friend was Society material. "Sometimes I wonder if the Higher Ordered Person's Society is a good fit for you", William wondered out loud. "Next you'll be telling me capitalism is a rigged system that works to the benefit of the wealthy and to the detriment of the poor".

"That is a truthful observation", Slade answered his friend. "But, don't get me wrong, I'm a true believer in capitalism. It may not be perfect but it's a hell of a lot better than the European Socialism pushed by the radical Leftists". William nodded his head in agreement, mollified that his friend and he shared similar worldviews. There was no place in the Society for radical Leftists or radical Right-wingers. HOPS members traveled the morally superior middle path. They agreed with the Left on some social issues, but more strongly with the Right when it came to fiscal matters.

"Us capitalists shall be magnanimous in our treatment of the less fortunate. So long as they put forth an effort. Let them toil in our factories and service industries and we will see they receive the bare minimum needed to survive, even if that entails some government welfare". Slade, who was in total agreement with his friend, added, "The greedy Left with their tin-cups always seek to steal our wealth, threatening the use of force if necessary".

"I've said it before and I'll say it again", William concurred, "A frigging bum off the streets can do that. Extend their tin cups, that is. Which reminds me of what you said earlier... I can't believe you're considering donating money to Johnny MooMoo's homeless shelter. You do realize all the vagrants he's attracting are depressing the property values in the area? Why, just yesterday Voltron, um Vincent Vanderschmit told me that he might lose some of the tenants in an office building he owns nearby".

"That is sad", Slade mocked his friend. "I know how much you loathe bums, but I think some of them, at least, are redeemable. They just need a leg up". "Perhaps some are redeemable", William reluctantly agreed, "but the majority are not. They'll just take whatever money you give them and spend it on rot-gut. I strongly contend that any money spent trying to save a worthless bum is money wasted. The dregs of society don't deserve, and have not earned, our compassion".

"And your buddies Vincent and Russ agree with you on that, I presume?" William's friend queried him. "It just so happens they do", William responded. Then he thought better of his answer, adding, "Or at least I presume they do, it's been awhile since I last spoke with either of them, if you recall".

SWTD #88, PIF #9.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Rage of The Plundered Affluents (A Randian Tale)

Arresting a single drunk or a single vagrant who has harmed no identifiable person seems unjust, and in a sense it is. But failing to do anything about a score of drunks or a hundred vagrants may destroy an entire community ~ James Q. Wilson (b. 5/27/1931) an American academic, political scientist and leading conservative scholar, Wilson is a professor and senior fellow at the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston College and holds an advisory position with the American Enterprise Institute.

Three friends sat around a campfire in the middle of the woods in the dead of night. The party had been going on for hours. Each of the three friends were quite buzzed from all the alcohol consumed and all the pot smoked. Finally the sky turned crimson as the sun began to rise. The three friends fell silent for several minutes as they contemplated packing up and driving back to the city.

Finally William Hartenbaum spoke. "Excuse me, Voltron" he said, addressing his friend Vincent Vanderschmit by his nickname. "I do not think it fair that you claim 10 points for snuffing out Johnny MooMoo. The group never agreed to additional points for high value kills".

"Listen up William" Voltron said, raising his voice. "I took out Johnny MooMoo with a single knife thrust to the kidney. You never saw anything sweeter. And, seeing as he was wealthy like us, I think ten points is entirely justified". "He wasn't that wealthy", William objected. "I doubt he had more than a few hundred K in his bank account".

"Chump change, in other words", Russ Teafeur interjected. "That may be so, but he was no worthless bum, which was my point", Voltron countered. "Anyway I had no choice but to off the punk after he saw William bash that bum in the head with his baseball bat".

"That was the second one of the night for me", William reminded his friend. "Two points". "Yes, William, you have two points, Russ has three, and I now have twelve. Johnny MooMoo was definitely worth ten. The cops are going to be investigating the disappearance of that do-gooder for certain. Ten points is entirely justified. Ten points for anyone of significance, five points for an ordinary schmo, and one point for a worthless bum. It might not have been agreed to before, but I'm telling you now that's how it's going to be".

"Volt, I think you've lost it" said Russ. "Snuffing out worthless bums is one thing, but Johnny MooMoo is entirely different. It can't happen again or the cops will start to take notice. You ain't getting no ten points either".

"I agree" William said, interrupting his friend. "By the way I find it incredibly convenient for Volt that Johnny MooMoo just happened to see me smash that bum's skull. He's been griping about Johnny's homeless shelter constantly since it opened two months ago".

"That's right William", Voltron responded. "That do-gooder lowered property values by attracting dozens of worthless vagrants to the area. I own an office building a block away, and the actions of this evil bastard had some of my tenants speaking of moving out. But you didn't like the guy either William".

"You've got that right" William agreed. "Johnny MooMoo was a tax and spend Liberal. Although, Johnny was at least calling for taxes that would apply to him. Most Liberal soak the rich types are ordinary schmos who wouldn't be affected by the tax hikes they're calling for. I've said it before, but it's the easiest thing in the world to call for tax increases that don't apply to you. A frigging bum off the streets can do that".

"Bums and Liberals with their tin cups, both think we OWE them!" an outraged Russ suddenly yelled. "What Liberals fail to realize is that the last thing the productive people need is to be harassed all the time". "Russ, I could not agree with you more" William clapped his friend on the back, then stood. "If there is one thing I can absolutely not abide, it's alcoholic panhandlers who spend whatever you give them on rot-gut. I can stand them no more than you Volt".

"And the Liberal thieves like Johnny MooMoo who want the government to redistribute our money" Voltron added. Then William declared, "it's the plundering of the affluents, and it's got to stop". William picked up a large stick and stuck it into the fire, stirring up the embers. "Johnny MooMoo is now nothing but ash and charred bone".

Grabbing a shovel from the back of his nearby pickup truck William began digging a hole directly next to the smoldering fire. "Well, let's get to it. Help me bury what's left of Johnny MooMoo so we can go home" William ordered his friends. Voltron and Russ took up shovels and soon they were scraping the contents of the fire into the hole they had dug.

"I spit on your grave" Voltron declared, hawking a loogie onto the freshly packed earth. Then, after throwing their shovels and other gear into the back of the truck, the three friends departed. "Don't worry about it guys" Voltron assured his companions. "William's buddy Slade Leeds owns this property, and he's personal friends with the mayor. Nobody will ever find MooMoo's grave".

SWTD #87, PIF #8, Murder Club #1.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Story That Makes No Sense What-So-Ever

In battling evil, excess is good; for he who is moderate in announcing the truth is presenting half-truth. He conceals the other half out of fear of the people's wrath ~ Kahlil Gibran (1/6/1883 to 4/10/1931) a Lebanese American artist, poet, and writer chiefly known in the English speaking world for his 1923 book "The Prophet", an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose.

"A story that makes no sense what-so-ever? You've got some nerve! I've sent you lamebrains dozens of short-story masterpieces and you've failed to publish a single one! Screw you, I'm done! You won't have William Hartenbaum to laugh at any longer!". The man finished screaming and slammed down the phone. "Can you believe those nimrods?" he said to no one in particular. "Refuse to recognize my genius!".

William was still feeling quite high, as earlier in the day his buddy Slade had offered him a few tokes on his bong that he couldn't refuse. That was before the basilisk had turned his poor friend to stone. One minute he was stoned, and the next he was literally a stone statue.

William tried to put the horror of the events that transpired only a few hours ago out of his mind and get back to work. "Please send my next appointment in", William said, pressing one of the buttons on the device sitting on his desk. "Yes sir, I'll send Mr. Leeds right in", a disembodied female voice replied (it was actually his secretary Lynda). "Whoa, that is weird", William giggled. "She's out there, but I can hear her in here!".

Then William nearly jumped out of his chair when he realized what name had come from the box on his desk. Lynda said she was sending in his dead friend Slade Leeds! How could that be possible?, William wondered. But before he could reason it through the door opened and in walked Slade Leeds in the flesh, or possibly a doppelganger. William readied the pistol he kept in a right-hand drawer just in case, aiming it at the look-alike from under his desk. He placed his finger on the trigger and almost fired, deciding at the last millisecond to see if he could deduce what this stranger's game was.

"Hello Slade, if that IS your name", William said, greeting the man he had presumed dead. He removed his finger from the trigger. "Hello William", the disheveled man who could clearly not even dress himself replied. William surmised he was a sorcerer of some kind. He probably had cast some kind of spell, reversing the stoning that had killed his friend, then stripped him down and donned his clothing. The man's pants were on inside out, and the buttons of his blazer were in the wrong buttonholes!

"I was worried for your safety my friend", the disingenuous impostor said. William put his finger back on the trigger and prepared to fire. "You were SO high when you left the Quarry", Slade commented. The Quarry was the name of the bar Slade owned, William remembered. Now it was coming back to him. His buddy and he had been up all night playing Dungeons & Dragons and getting wasted drinking and taking bong hits!

"I'm going to need that check back I gave you last night" Slade said. "You dented my Ferrari with your pickup when you left this morning. Pay my HOPS dues out of your pocket and we'll call it even", Slade explained, sticking out his hand. "Wait a second", William protested. "The Higher Ordered Person's Society yearly dues are scheduled to be collected today. The manager from the head office will be here shortly and any member who isn't paid up will be assessed a late fee. I can't get the money to replace your check for at least a few hours".

"You're suggesting I drive around in a dented Ferrari?", Slade scoffed incredulously. "Of course not Slade, that would be unseemly. I just need to get to the bank and make a withdrawal from my trust fund. I'll have the money for you when I drop by the Quarry later today", William assured his friend. "Very well", Slade replied, "but I thought you were meeting up with Mark after work today".

"You may be right", William said, flipping through his day planner. There it was penciled in for 3pm. He was supposed to meet Mark downtown where they would hand out HOPS fliers. "Can it wait until tomorrow?" William asked his friend. "My dedication to the Society comes first. We've got to convince as many people as possible to call Democrat Congresspersons and urge them to concede as much as necessary to get the debt ceiling raised".

Slade really admired his friend when he spoke with such metaphysical certainty about the Moderate organization they had both dedicated their lives to. "Of course buddy. I'll drop the Ferrari off at the shop today, take a cab home, and drive the Hummer until the damage is repaired. I'll send you a bill and you can pay it whenever". "Sure", William agreed. What the hell did he care? His dearly departed father had left him almost a billion dollars when he died, but his friend Slade was just a lowly millionaire.

"To the Society", Slade declared, extending his arm again. William stood and extended his arm. They performed the secret handshake and William echoed his friend's sentiments, "to the Society!" he declared.

SWTD #86, PIF #7.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tea Party Stupid A Liability for Republicans

President Obama continues to outsmart, out-strategize and out-talk the Republicans in the debt-ceiling standoff ... Vice President Biden spent weeks entertaining discussions of massive spending cuts - as much as 3 trillion dollars in spending - that is now clear that the White House had no intention of ever actually agreeing to in the end - because the White House always knew that the Republicans would never agree to the White House tax revenue proposals ~ Lawrence O'Donnell (b. 11/7/1951) on the 7/13/2011 broadcast of his MSNBC program "The Last Word".

Critics of the president denigrate him by referring to him as a community organizer. For some it's an insult to his intelligence, meant to imply that he is in over his head. He isn't qualified to be president and does not know what he is doing. For others the term "community organizer" is a political dog whistle used to disguise their racism to individuals not hip to the most current code words.

"Community organizer" is code for, according to a 9/13/2011 Daily Kos blog post, "N-Word Lover". A certain individual who posts on a supposed Moderate blog I frequent uses the term quite often. He also refers to the president as "Obie". My guess was that "Obie" is code for "boy" (see the first comment here for an example of what I'm talking about).

The Right-wing Obama-haters also frequently refer to the president's use of teleprompters, even though Reagan and both bushes used them. The blog Pensito Review suggests that "racism is at the heart of rightwing disbelief that a black man would be as stunningly brilliant and yes, articulate, as Barack Obama". That sounds very probable to me.

I have posted on the subject of the teabag racists in the past. I agreed then (and still do now) with President Jimmy Carter who described the bigots as a "radical fringe element". But whether or not any particular Tea Partier is racist or not, there is one thing that is certain, which is Community Organizer smart trumps Tea Party stupid.

In the debt ceiling negotiations President Obama offered a four trillion dollar "grand bargain" which was to consist of 1 trillion in tax revenues and 3 trillion in cuts (including cuts to Social Security and Medicare), but as the president himself pointed out, "nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to". He was signaling to Congressional Democrats and his base that they should not worry about cuts to our social safety net programs because the Republicans would not agree to everything ("everything being the 25% of the deal that was revenue increases). The purpose of offering so much was to appear reasonable to Moderates and Independents (which he needs to win re-election).

"The president's superior strategic maneuvering" is how Lawrence O'Donnell characterized the president's plan to gain the upper hand by appearing reasonable ("The Last Word" 7/13/2011). The Republican leadership knows they have no choice but to raise the debt ceiling, but are afraid of angering the Tea Party elements within their party which does not.

I propose we call this lack of ability to compromise and general ignorance regarding the workings of government "Tea Party Stupid". Absent the stupid the Republicans COULD have extracted some serious concessions from the President, but instead the question is who is going to capitulate and give the other side exactly what they want (which, in the president's case, would be an increase in the debt with zero other stipulations).

Acknowledging Republican Party leadership had been duped, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell characterized the three options offered by the president as "smoke and mirrors, take hikes, or default". Then he added, "Republicans choose none of the above". So, if they can accept no deal (not the "smoke and mirrors" deal and not the deal they proposed) AND since the debt ceiling MUST be raised - then raising the ceiling with no conditions is the only option left.

"I refuse to help Barack Obama get re-elected by marching Republicans into a position where we have co-ownership of a bad economy" McConnell said when explaining his party's idiotic refusal to accept ANY deal (even the one which handed Republicans virtually everything they want). The truth of the matter, however, is that they are scared of the stupid.

But the Republican leadership still needs to figure out how they can concede and still claim victory, or place all the blame on the president. They also need to convince House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (who, unlike Boehner and McConnell, is still saying "no deal, no way") to get with the program. If they fail to do this they risk bringing down the wrath of the Tea Party on their heads.

Mitch McConnell proposed allowing the President to pass three debt ceiling hikes (through the end of his term) which the Republicans could disapprove of - but then the president could veto (Youtube video). A clueless Boehner voiced his approval for the McConnell plan saying, "frankly I think Mitch has done good work".

McConnell and Boehner were hoping that, given Tea Party Stupid was the reason they were in this quandary, Tea Party Stupid could get them out of it. Unfortunately even the Tea Party was not quite dumb enough to fall for McConnell's copout. They knew McConnell was looking for a way to give the President exactly what he wants and still be able to claim the Republicans voted against it.

Conservative commentators were not fooled either. Michael Medved, writing for The Daily Beast on 7/14/2011, called the McConnell proposal "cowardly", although his article also uses the word "cunning" (cowardly but cunning). Personally I fail to see how such a transparent deceit could possibly be called "cunning".

This is a victory for Barack Obama no matter what happens next. In addition to using the Tea Party Stupid against the Republicans, he used the stupid to APPEAR reasonable and fool Moderates and Independents. Can the blog of a certain so-called Moderate be taken as proof that the President's ploy was successful? "I try and call it down the middle as often as possible... [and] I've totally got the scars to prove it" the self-described Moderate claims. These Blue Dog dopes praised Obama for placing entitlement cuts on the table. A 1/11/2011 blog post says "he's the one who's being serious and taking on his base".

But the offer was never genuine. If you recall these same types of rumors were flying around just prior to the President's 2011 State of the Union address. A 1/21/2011 CBS News article says "voters have approved of the president's recent moderate moves" and, as a result, "Obama's job approval rating stands at 49 percent, up from 45 percent in October". So, again, the president said things to appear Moderate, but didn't actually follow through. The takeaway lesson is that "nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to".

In conclusion... I'm happy the President is kicking Republican ass in the negotiations, and that the 3 trillion in cuts, and the placing of entitlement reform on the table is all just a bluff. The good news is that the Tea Party loses and the Moderates are fooled (which will help the president get re-elected). The bad news is that AT BEST the only the only thing the Democrats will get will be a clean bill raising the debt ceiling. Maybe we'll get some tax revenues through the elimination of loophole and subsidies. If possible I'd really, really like to see the subsidies for the oil industry go. But I still think the President should have pushed for the elimination of the bush tax cuts the MINUTE he assumed office, and should have NEVER agreed to extend them. I pray that the next time they expire that this is it, and THEY ARE GONE FOR GOOD.

Republican Congresspersons Who Are Reconsidering Their Stance Re the Debt Ceiling

Maybe the debt ceiling was the wrong place to pick a fight, as it related to trying to get our country's house in order ~ Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee speaking on the Senate floor, 7/14/2011

Our problem is, we made a big deal about this for three months. How many Republicans have been on TV saying, "I am not going to raise the debt limit". We have no one to blame but ourselves ~ Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, as quoted in a 7/13/2011 New York Times article.

SWTD #85