Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vice President Biden: It's my birthday. Kindly wipe the floor with that innumerate little Koch-up Paul Ryan tonight.

Dear Vice-President Biden:

Tonight, I'm asking you to demand that Paul Ryan explain how someone can live on the average Social Security check of about $1,200 a month--and remember, that has to cover food; rent or mortgage; insurance; utilities (including water, garbage collection, electricity, and heating and/or cooling your residencw); clothes; car payments and/or car maintenance (and insurance for that) and/or train or bus expenses; and--here's a big one--needed medicines and services that Medicare doesn't cover--and not go straight over a "fiscal cliff" all his own.

Then, as a follow-up, ask Paul Ryan if, given that his Social Security check was swallowed up and then some by the above-described expenses, he would be okay with having a guy like Paul Ryan telling him, Here you go, here's a voucher for USD$8,000. Go out and get your own health insurance, old dude. Good luck with those no-pre-existing-conditions clauses!

Then ask Paul Ryan if he has any idea how much a defibrillator costs, should he need one of those when he's in his late sixties.

Ask him how, given that with his generous eight-thousand-dollar voucher, he'd only be able to afford the World's Shittiest Insurance Policy With Massive Co-pays and Deductibles, he would propose to pay for heart surgery. Or brain surgery. Or cancer surgery and followup chemotherapy. Or hell, even an uncomplicated hernia-repair, meaning things went without a hitch and the hospital wasn't required to keep him longer than a half-hour post-op.

Ask him if he will support requiring that all Ryan-Plan-advocating sociopaths in Congress give back (opt out of) their gold-plated, taxpayer-funded healthcare and, in its place, receive vouchers for eight thousand bucks. Oh, and they must also try to live on $1,200 a month, not their generous Congressional salaries (the ones they keep voting to raise, I'll add. Convenient!) and make up any healthcare shortfalls out of that.

Ask Paul Ryan if he knows how much a tin of tunafish costs today. How about a jar of peanut butter, Congressman? Store-brand fish-sticks? Ramen noodles?

Ask Paul Ryan how often he buys himself a new winter coat. From Goodwill.

Ask Paul Ryan if he's familiar with basic mathematics concepts.  Ask Paul Ryan if he's ever actually added and subtracted things on his own--no fair using the iPhone calculator app.

Ask Paul Ryan: If you, Joe Biden, were to walk over and place a stethoscope against his sternum right now, would you be able to hear anything beating?

Anything at all?

Thanks, Mr. Vice-President. Break a leg (among other things).

All Best,

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Bloggy thoughts

To anyone stopping by for the first time, Hello, and welcome.

I write about a lot of different things that interest me; my posts on national politics come from a viewpoint that's likely more leftward in orientation than that of many blogs you already read. If you're familiar with Northern Europe's successful social democracies, and you believe, as I do, as Albert Einstein did, that under the current system in the States:

There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

...or if, at the very least, you are interested in reading the thoughts and observations of someone whose worldview is thus--even as you may disagree with all or part of it--you'll appreciate at least some of what I write, and I'm glad you're here.

I sometimes swear. I rail against all manifestations of dishonesty, cruelty, fascist creep, police state drift, and institutional sociopathy. I adore Frank Zappa and think he was an American genius, one who received--and still receives--far too little acclaim in his own country.

All that said, if reading things here causes your eyes to bulge and your mouth to froth, you should probably go elsewhere. There are lots and lots of other blogs out there, and you can even start your own.

I don't accept any advertising and I derive no revenue from this blog whatsoever. It is, in short, a pastime. Other than notifying friends on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus that I've posted something new, I don't consciously drive traffic here; if my observations or ideas have that result, it is certainly not by design--as I said, I don't work for anyone but myself, and I do not make any money from this blog. If the pageviews for any one day total ten or ten thousand, it makes no difference to me, financially or even in terms of puffing up my chronically undersized ego.

Where it does make a difference, though, is in my comment sections and the amount of vitriol that fills my in-box. I suppose I am just one of those people who, despite often disagreeing vehemently with something a right-wing blogger has written, has never felt the urge to name-call in comments, or, worse, to send hateful, sexist, threatening, and even obscene e-mails to someone. Someone I've never even met. I cannot, for the life of me, wrap my head around that mindset. (Good grief, what is wrong with some people?)

That's why I've been tweaking the comments policy a bit this weekend. Obviously, accepting comments from anonymous people is out of the question, now and forever. Yikes.  Even having Open ID registration has its bugs and, of course, it does nothing to constrain people from name-calling under whatever pseudonym they've chosen at that moment, for that comment.  I turned off comments altogether this weekend because I am visiting my injured mother as she recovers from an accident that left her with a broken arm and leg: I have neither the time nor the inclination to deal with rude, nasty people who come here unbidden to beat up on the girl.

As I am wont to say, Fuck that noise.

Anyway, I've decided to try having comments open, but with moderation in place. I'd love to hear what you have to say, but for the love of crumb-cake, please play nice.  I'll approve and publish comments on a regular basis. Unless they are exceedingly mean-spirited, trollish, sexist, racist, or generally unacceptable.

And I get to decide what's mean-spirited, trollish, sexist, racist, and generally unacceptable.

I support free speech. Of course.  That said, this is not a government entity and therefore the First Amendment does not guarantee that you can say anything you want here and not realize any consequences for your words, including but not limited to having them altogether censored.  So don't even bother with that argument. I am, as I keep saying, a private, single-person, non-advertisement-accepting, non-revenue-generating blog that's been around since 2006.

One that's written by a human being, believe it or not.

Thank you.


"Make the U.S. a tax shelter". Yeah, that'll work.

Via Mother Jones comes yet more evidence of Paul Ryan's scary innumeracy, not to mention his ignorance of basic macroeconomics and geopolitics:

In 2010, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), now Mitt Romney's running mate, called the Cayman Islands "the place you hide your money," arguing that the United States needs to slash tax rates below those of other countries in order to make this country "a haven for capital formation." But in previously unreported comments, from an interview with American Business Magazine in August 2011, Ryan went even further on the same topic, saying, "let's make this country a tax shelter for other countries instead of having other countries be a tax shelter for America."

Approximately 55,000 people comprise the entire population of the Cayman Islands; in fact, there are more corporations in the Caymans than there are people. There is no income tax, capital gains tax, or corporate tax. The only source of revenue for the country--in order that it can run essential government operations--is indirect taxation, which is to say, an import tax (or duty) on virtually everything that comes into the islands. Since little manufacturing occurs there, that means a tremendous amount of goods are imported, many of which (like some automobiles) are taxed with a duty rate as high as 100%.

Here's another important thing to remember about the Caymans: they are still a British overseas territory, and their national defense, as well as internal security, is provided by the United Kingdom.

The United States population is over 300 million. Its defense budget is staggeringly large: more than twice the combined defense-spending totals of China, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia.

While the Cayman Islands imports virtually everything, the US maintains a significant manufacturing base (if not as large a manufacturing base as we could and should have). Imagine what would happen to the economy if we did away with income tax, capital gains tax, and corporate taxes the way the Cayman Islands did and had to impose import taxes commensurate with the amount of money required to maintain US defense spending alone (lets set aside all other essential government programs for the time being). Imagine what the cost of a television or cell phone would be; imagine the price tags on everything from t-shirts to teapots; imagine how utterly unaffordable life itself would become.

One begins to see the problem. When things are that expensive--and mark my word, they would be incalculably expensive under Ryan's ridiculous scheme to do away with all the aforementioned taxes and turn the US into a "tax haven", thanks to the monster duty slapped on them--no-one buys anything.  Our economy in large part depends on consumption--on people buying things.

Sure, we could make almost everything here: that would cut imports from all our trading partners by an enormous amount.  (They're going to love that.)  And if we did--if we manufactured everything here so as to avoid having to slap massive import taxes on the goods--well, where is the revenue for our jaw-dropping defense budget going to come from?  Remember, we've done away with income, capital gains, and corporate taxes so we can be just like the Caymans.

I don't think Paul Ryan--or, for that matter, his wide-eyed acolytes--would be too thrilled about the United States reverting to being a British overseas territory so as to have the United Kingdom provide defense for it.

I don't think Britain would be too thrilled about having to provide defense services for America, either.

Honestly, Paul Ryan ought to read a few books before he makes such ridiculous proposals as this. The man whom the GOP touts as being their economics whiz-kid and wonk can't even think his way to the second move.

He'd be great fun to play chess with--I bet I could beat him in a matter of minutes while blindfolded and blind-drunk.

Come on--ten thousand bucks.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

A letter to a friend

Good Morning, my friend.

I have to apologize for being so snippy to you on Twitter (although in my defense, Twitter-writing can be snippy practically by definition, more so when one has been attacked all day).  I am, as you know, a writer and poet, not a journalist, and the need to see truth pursued and justice served tend to occupy a significantly larger part of my nature than trivial matters like, oh, concern for what others think of me, to name just one casualty.

I knew a few guys like Mitt Romney when I was at UF. Hell, I went out with one--just once. He drove beautiful, expensive German cars--a new one every semester, it seemed--and had his own plane, at age 20. He paid people to write his term papers for him. He was utterly unconcerned about the rights of others, or the laws by which everyone else's lives are constrained. The phrase "moral imperative" might just as well have been written or spoken in Swahili, it was that foreign to him. In fact, what interested him--what seemed to be the only things that made him happy, however temporarily--were "getting" a girl away from another young man, and breaking rules. In other words, generally doing the opposite of what everyone else did regardless of it being mean-spirited, dumb, dangerous, or illegal. Or all of those things.

I may have been very young, and I was admittedly intrigued with the notion of being swept off my feet by someone who could take me to the nicest places in town for dinner when I mainly existed on peanut butter and wore a lot of thrift-shop clothes (albeit very stylish ones, I'd add, in the days before we called them "vintage"). But thank God, I was both sickened and quite unnerved by his utter lack of care for other people during the time I spent with him. I'm sure it bothered him not one bit that I didn't return his calls for a second date. There were thousands of pretty middle-class girls at that school.

This morning, I accept that people are happier believing that the final candidates for the country's highest office are, by default, decent, ethical sorts who would never stoop so low. We all know how well it goes when someone unethical is given outsized amounts of power (and firepower).

So, you're right: I have to let it go sometimes, because it's probably impossible to convince others to assign the same weight to a potential leader's core morality that I do. It's actually kind of scary to contemplate a Greg Stillson (from The Dead Zone) character having access to the nuclear codes--no-one wants to leave his or her comfort zones that way. And of course, no-one wants to be ridiculed as a crackpot conspiracy theorist, which is often the first epithet hurled when someone says, This is not quite right…something is off.

Come to think of it, eyewitness reports are themselves often dismissed as having been "seen wrong" anyway; or, worse: people who commit wrongdoings, like the pepper-spraying cops at U.C. Davis, are not held accountable for things that everyone saw and even recorded on video.  Because in some twisted version of modern jurisprudence it's considered unhealthy for the system--or something--to set a precedent of going after authority figures.)

My very best to you.