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The Crude, The Sad, And The Crazy

May 7, 2013

Crude Sad and Crazy

In the “bad old days” before the promethean rise of the internet, the NRA could maintain a facade of respectability in public while privately courting insurrectionist lunatics to power their infernal clout machine. Just as the GOP has been overrun by their own mob, the NRA has been forced to publicly embrace their hoard of diluted, rage-drunk cowards they’ve had stewing in fear and loathing for the past couple decades.

Most of this is not new for the NRA. This is the same kind of paranoid, “Us vs. Them”, evil gubmint bullshit they were spewing back in the 90’s. That is until rescuers were recovering dead children from the ruins of a federal building in Oklahoma City that was cut in half by a Freedom Blast. That’s the unfortunate downside to the insurrection fantasies they’re  cultivating in their terrified members. Every once in a while one of them actually put’s their gun (or bomb) where their mouth is and kills people.

ALFRED MURRAH FEDERAL BUILDING

Running around a room full of powder kegs firing a blow torch will occasionally set one off.

At this point I’m just waiting to see where the next big one will happen. The threats coming  from the anti-government gun fetishists are starting to hit a fevered pitch, and it’s really only a matter of time until another one blows.

People who stockpile weapons to someday kill U.S. soldiers and cops are not “sportsmen”. They’re not “enthusiasts”. And they’re sure as shit not “patriots”. They’re cowards and fools, and the majority of them, when presented with the opportunity, will not stand their ground against tyranny to defend their arsenal. They’ll hand over their guns and lawyer up. Just like that “tactical shooting” instructor on YouTube. When they came to take his guns, he chose court over death. Because he’s a loudmouthed fraud. But some of them aren’t, and when they pop, people die.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, as gun sales soar, the number of “gun owning” households is dropping. Which means more and more guns are being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. And many of those fewer and fewer hands belong to unhinged nutbags.

These people are a public menace. Even those who don’t act on their tough guy rhetoric are inciting others to do so. Wayne LaPierre, Glenn Beck, Ted Nugent, and every other venom spewing, conspiracy peddling, fear mongering scumbag on the right has blood on their hands. And when the next building is bombed, or the next cop is shot, they’ll be complicit in that as well.

All we can hope for now is to not be in the wrong place when it happens.

I finished up this photoshop yesterday, and then saw this on the Daily Show.

Daily Show NRA-conventionIt was a great piece, but I still like mine better.

If We Let The Greedheads Win, We All Lose

March 25, 2013

Mankind has progressed enormously over the last century. Vaccines eradicated some of the worst diseases of the old world. Ingenuity and mass-production made the world smaller with automobiles, aircraft, computers, and eventually the internet. From a purely technological standpoint we’ve never been better. We have mastered the planet in ways our great-grandparents couldn’t conceive, and moved to the stars for our next conquest. It really is incredible how quickly it all happened.

In just 100 years we moved from steam-powered trains and horse-drawn buggies, to landing nuclear powered robots on Mars.

But in so many other ways we’ve completely failed.

Unprecedented wealth disparity, and all of the social ills that come with it, is suffocating us. Most of our biggest problems (sickness, starvation, violence, drug addiction, crime, terrorism, etc) are merely symptoms of a social breakdown caused by a select few hoarding the wealth and power of humanity to nourish their own monstrous greed.

Not to mention climate change, the poster boy for everything that is wrong with our broken political and economic system. An existential threat of our own creation that we are incapable of facing because our leaders are too money-drunk to care.

Banks fraudulently foreclose on millions of homes, lie about risky investment losses to regulators, illegally bet against their own investors, and launder billions of dollars for drug cartels. Yet not a single soul has been arrested or charged with any crime. The Attorney General admitted in sworn testimony to Congress that prosecuting bankers won’t happen because they would threaten the world economy. We are being mugged on a massive scale by incredibly powerful people who will pay zero consequences for it, but if you or I walked into a gas station with a squirt gun and took $25 out of the till, we’d get 5 to 10 for armed robbery.

This is how bloody revolutions start, and they usually end with a long walk to the guillotine for those at the top.

I’m bringing this up because today is the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, of which I wrote about two years ago on the centennial anniversary.

One hundred years later we’re still fighting the same fight.  Multinational corporations have sent millions of factory jobs overseas to avoid even the most basic safety and wage requirements.  In order to “compete” they undercut our middle class workers by depressing wages down to near poverty level, gutting pension plans, and providing only high-deductible junk insurance to their already struggling families.  It’s a criminal enterprise bankrolled by the blood of average workers who feel they have nowhere else to go.  And now they want to destroy the right to Unionize all together.

The Triangle Fire would have changed nothing without the actions of “radical” union members and leaders demanding justice and reform.  That is why the Republican party has been working so hard to destroy the power of unions, because they are the last source of true political power that average people have.

This is what the Republican Party stands for.  They are the champions of despicably rich sociopaths who would trade the lives of a thousand workers for a bigger swimming pool or a new limo, and now they’re on the verge of winning the class war they’ve been waging for well over a hundred years.

I wish I could say we had progressed just a little bit, but we haven’t. Just this morning there was news of another factory fire in India.

BangaloreSix people were burnt to death early on Monday in a massive fire that gutted a seat-making and furniture factory in the Magadi industrial area on the city’s outskirts, police said.

“The victims were said to be asleep when the fire occurred in the factory, which had inflammable material such as foam, thermocol, wooden panels and ready-made chairs,” Ramangara’s Superintendent of Police Anupam Agarwal said in Mumbai.

Though police registered a complaint of criminal negligence against the officials of the factory – SK Seating Systems Ltd – which makes foam seats for auditoriums and cinema theatres, no arrest has been made so far.

And a whole rash of fires over the last couple years.

Another garment factory has burned in Bangladesh and killed seven more workers sewing clothes for Western customers, according to groups that monitor working conditions there.

It is the latest in a rash of deadly fires in the high-rise factories that have made Bangladesh the second largest exporter of clothing to the United States behind China. More than 700 workers have died in factory fires in the past five years. Two months ago, a ferocious blaze at a factory making clothes for major U.S. retailers killed an estimated 112 workers there.

This latest deadly fire occurred in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka at a factory called Smart Export Garments Ltd., which was believed to be manufacturing clothes for the Spanish parent company of the American retailer Zara, as well as several European brands, worker rights groups told ABC News overnight.

“After more than two decades of the apparel industry knowing about the risks to these workers, nothing substantial has changed,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum, one of several groups advocating for a fire safety overhaul in the country.

“Brands still keep their audit results secret; they still walk away when it suits them; and trade unions are still marginalized, weakening workers’ ability to speak up when they are at risk,” Gearhart said.

But what really got me thinking about this again was this Washington Post piece regarding US manufacturing jobs.

One of the hottest trend stories in recent years has been the idea that U.S. manufacturing is on the verge of a large, permanent comeback. Labor costs in China are rising, while U.S. energy costs are dropping. So, the logic goes, companies will return home. Charles Fishman dubbed it “The Insourcing Boom.”

The only problem? This boom hasn’t really shown up in the data — at least not yet. Yes, U.S. manufacturing has expanded and added jobs since 2009 as the sector recovers from the recession. But that appears to be a cyclical bounce-back and not any sort of long-term shift.

At least, that’s Jan Hatzius’s conclusion in a new research note for Goldman Sachs. “Evidence for a structural renaissance is scant so far,” he writes.

Sam Ro digs out a bunch of charts from Hatzius’s note over at Business Insider. This first one shows that U.S. exports — a good proxy for manufacturing strength — have risen modestly in response to a falling U.S. dollar since 2009, as expected, but that’s about it. There’s nothing to suggest a sustained structural improvement beyond that:

Meanwhile, Hatzius isn’t very impressed by the oft-repeated notion that America’s newfound glut of cheap natural gas will give U.S. manufacturers an edge.

“Exhibit 7 shows that we have not yet seen a material pickup in output in the parts of the manufacturing sector that should benefit most from low natural gas prices, such as aluminum, steel, plastics, basic chemicals, and fertilizer and other agricultural products,” he writes. “At least so far, the benefits from the increase in U.S. energy production seem to have been confined to the direct effects on output and income.”

Of course manufacturing companies aren’t returning to the US. Why would they? Americans won’t accept nickles a day for tedious, often dangerous jobs, in death trap sweat shops with zero benefits or job security. Not yet anyway.

The few manufacturing jobs that are coming back tend to be low wage, non-union jobs, which are driving salaries down even further.

U.S. manufacturers have added a half-million new workers since the end of 2009, making the sector one of the few bright spots in an otherwise weak recovery. And yet there were 4 percent fewer union factory workers in 2012 than there were in 2010, according to federal survey data. On balance, all of the job gains in manufacturing have been non-union.

The trend underscores a central conundrum in the “manufacturing renaissance” that President Obama loves to tout as an economic accomplishment: The new manufacturing jobs are different from the ones that delivered millions of American workers a ticket to the middle class over the past half-century.

It used to be that factory jobs paid substantially better than other jobs in the private sector, particularly for workers who didn’t go to college. That’s less true today, especially for non-union workers in the industry, who earn salaries that are about 7 percent lower than similar workers who are represented by a union.

By one measure — average hourly earnings — a typical manufacturing worker now earns less than a typical private-sector worker of any industry. Throughout the 30 years before the recession, the reverse was the case.

Our captains of industry have forgotten Henry Ford’s one rule for the Industrialist: “Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.” Or in other words; pay your workers enough to buy your products.

Ford understood that without a strong customer base, it didn’t matter how good his cars were, he wouldn’t sell any.

The ongoing Corporate war on unions and decent wages is effectively cannibalizing their own consumer base. It’s only a matter of time until they won’t be able to sell even the shittiest products made in the worst foreign sweat shops, because there won’t be a middle class left in America to pay for them. It’s self-destructive insanity brought on by unchecked greed.

They have reduced every human aspect of their businesses down to numbers on a spreadsheet. Their worker’s lives and safety are an expensive line-item to be cut in the name of bigger profits, and executive bonuses. Environmental concerns are obstacles to be side-stepped, and taxes are easily dodged with teams of accountants and lawyers.

The Greedheads running this world are killing us. Quite literally. Regardless of our technological progress over the last century, if we don’t catch up socially and economically, humanity is in for a very rough century to come. And we may not survive it.

Mola Rand, High Priest Of Galt: The “Takers” Must Be Purged!

March 12, 2013

Mola Rand

I know I’ve said this over and over and over and over and over again….

Paul Ryan is an Ayn Rand Cult Leader and a goddamned fraud.

His “new” budget proposal is yet another retread of the same worn out radials he’s merrily rolled around on since he halfheartedly swore to uphold and defend the Constitution. The fact that anyone in D.C. gives this buffoon the time of day, let alone a place in the fiscal debate is one of the most damning indictments of the Village press.

This gibbering fool spent his entire 2012 Vice-Presidential campaign accusing the President of gutting Medicare, and now puts out a budget that maintains those very cuts while doing away with every benefit the law provided in order to pay for tax cuts for billionaires. Yet he will still be invited to the Sunday talkies to play the “Serious Person” making “Hard Choices”.

It’s a fucking scam.

Just like last time, and the time before.

Once again he’s peddling Ayn Rand Cultist, “Makers vs. Takers” class warfare.

Let’s hope that just a few more journalists, outside of MSNBC, will realize they’re being played. Again.

I’m not gonna hold my breath.

 

The Technicians Are Hard At Work

February 20, 2013

Reassembling the Mitt Romney Bot…

Synthetic Romney

I can’t think of a better metaphor for Romney than a soulless android that’s programmed to protect his corporate masters interests over the safety and well-being of actual humans.

No wonder the rage-drunk mouth breathers at CPAC are so excited to hear from him.

“This is an opportunity for him to express his appreciation to supporters and friends,” a senior Romney aide said.

“The thousands gathered at CPAC this year are eager to hear from the former 2012 GOP presidential candidate at his first public appearance since the elections,” said American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas in a statement. “We look forward to hearing Governor Romney’s comments on the current state of affairs in America and the world, and his perspective on the future of the conservative movement.”

That GOP re-branding effort is really going well.

If You Can’t Beat Em…

January 28, 2013

GOP Democracy Poster

Fuck em.

This seems to be the new GOP mantra. They simply will not concede that the American people disagree with them on nearly every important issue of our time. They have so fully closed the door on any dissenting voice, or inconvenient facts, that they’ve lost all touch with reality. Which is why we see their party leadership saying things like this.

“It’s not the platform of the party that’s the issue,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Friday after being easily reelected to a second, two-year term. “In many cases, it’s how we communicate about it. It is a couple dumb things that people have said.”

A slide presented during a closed-press strategy session said that Mitt Romney might be president if he had won fewer than 400,000 more votes in key swing states.

We don’t need a new pair of shoes; we just need to shine our shoes,” said West Virginia national committeewoman Melody Potter.

It’s always bumper-stickers with those folks.

So what was it in their AWESOME platform that was such a hard sell? Was it the part about forcing women and girls to bear children conceived through rape and incest? Or was it the part about turning Medicare into a worthless voucher system? What about the section dedicated to repealing the Affordable Care Act and throwing sick people to the wolves of the “free market”?

Most of the policy positions in that document are grossly unpopular, completely unworkable, or full of vague nonsense like “free-market solutions”. It’s hard to market a low-grade turd heap as a truck load of tulips.

Which is why they’ve now decided that since American voters won’t open the gates to their looting hordes disguised as “Patriots”, then they’ll just dig under walls and burn the place to the ground.

Basically, Republicans who have control of states that went for President Obama in the 2012 election are pushing for their states to change how they award electoral votes. While almost every state awards electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, Republicans want these states to instead award one vote to the winner of each congressional district.

The other two electoral votes that each state has likely would be given to the statewide winner, as they are in the two states that currently employ this method: Maine and Nebraska.

The new system would allow Republicans to consistently win electoral votes (and quite possibly a majority of electoral votes) from states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Virginia, regardless of whether they win the statewide vote.

All five of these states went for Obama in 2012. Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have consistently gone blue at the presidential level, and Virginia is tilting in that direction, which would make winning any electoral votes in these states a victory for the GOP.

The Republican party has decided that our elections are a game of Dumb and Dumber tag.

All jokes aside, this is a naked power grab designed to circumvent the will of the electorate. It’s nullification by gerrymandering.

The GOP, and conservatives in general, have openly called for nullification of federal laws they don’t like. They have abused the filibuster in the Senate to nullify the power of progressives on the federal courts, and the functionality of regulatory agencies, most notably the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the ATF. GOP Governors and Legislatures across the nation are refusing to implement whole portions of the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives in State and local governments have passed cruelly oppressive laws against abortion providers making it nearly impossible for women to find Constitutionally protected abortion services, with some States having only one such provider left.

This is a huge problem. It’s one thing to attack laws and agencies they don’t agree with, but it’s quite another to nullify the will of  American voters. If conservatives in rural Virginia don’t like being out-voted by the cities, then they need to convince people to vote differently. If they can’t sell forced-birth theocracy and climate change denial to the more liberal leaning city folk,  then tough shit. Just because you think you’re right doesn’t mean you get to win every time. Lord knows liberals don’t win every time, hell we don’t win even a quarter of the time. But we don’t try to rig the rules to win regardless of the vote count.

Fascists do that.

Fascists and the Republican Party.

Or is that being redundant?

 

Renewed Vision

January 22, 2013

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.  For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.  Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.  Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.  Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.  Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

Like most liberals, I’m still basking in the glow of yesterday’s Inaugural Address. It was the finest speech of President Obama’s career, and one the best inaugural speeches of the last century, on par with Roosevelt and Kennedy. It was historic in its inclusion of Gay Rights as the civil rights issue of our generation, and in its strong call to action on climate change. It was a clear and forceful defense of progressive values and government. It was exactly what the President needed to say.

And it is exactly what we all hope his actions will reflect, because we’ve been waiting a long time.

Seventy years ago there was a progressive vision of America that foresaw a nation of true opportunity and equality. Where the common man would hold economic and political power. A nation of innovators that would focus technology for the good of society. Where trade and commerce would build wealth for all.

That vision lived in FDR’s Vice President, Henry A. Wallace.

Henry A. Wallace

“We all want jobs, health, security, freedom, business opportunity, good education and peace. We can sum this all up in one word and say that what America wants is pursuit of happiness. Each individual American before he dies wants to express all that is in him. He wants to work hard. He wants to play hard. He wants the pleasures of a good home with education for his children. He wants to travel and on occasion to rest and enjoy the finer things of life. The common man thinks he is entitled to the opportunity of earning these things. He wants all the physical resources of the nation transformed by human energy and human knowledge into the good things of life, the sum total of which spells peace and happiness. He knows he cannot have such peace and happiness if the means of earning peace and happiness are denied to any man on the basis of race or creed.

We have the materials to work with. We have the science and technical skills to direct our work. We have innumerable desires for goods and services that we are able to supply. All we need is good management and harmony, less grabbing for ourselves, and more cooperation for the general welfare. Legitimate self-interest can be realized in no other way. By working together for victory in war we have made a resounding success. By working together for the common good in peace we can get results beyond what most Americans have dared to hope.”

Vice President Henry A. Wallace

And that vision withered in 1944 when anti-union party bosses replaced Henry Wallace on the ballot with a hack from Missouri named Harry Truman.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Wallace was a fierce defender of the common man. Though eccentric and idealistic, he was a powerful liberal voice working tirelessly to implement social programs and demanding more equality and access to democracy for all citizens. Had he become President, our nation would be a very different place today.

Wallace’s vision did not die, nor did liberals stop fighting for it. We had some huge successes here at home, though our foreign policy was a disaster. It wasn’t until 1980 that the lights went out, and we’ve been struggling in the dark for the last thirty years.

Now after all this time, seeing a Democratic President stand and defend that vision, as clouded as it is, is like a warm fire on a frigid dawn.

For any of you who haven’t had the opportunity to watch any of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, you should really watch it. It’s fascinating, and well worth your time.

Fire Up The Mint

January 10, 2013

And hand out the smelling salts. It’s time to mint The Coin.

So why not?

It’s easy to make sententious remarks to the effect that we shouldn’t look for gimmicks, we should sit down like serious people and deal with our problems realistically. That may sound reasonable — if you’ve been living in a cave for the past four years.Given the realities of our political situation, and in particular the mixture of ruthlessness and craziness that now characterizes House Republicans, it’s just ridiculous — far more ridiculous than the notion of the coin.

So if the 14th amendment solution — simply declaring that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional — isn’t workable, go with the coin.

This still leaves the question of whose face goes on the coin — but that’s easy: John Boehner. Because without him and his colleagues, this wouldn’t be necessary.

Here’s my own rough design for our very first Trillion Dollar coin.

platinum coin

Now mint the damn thing.

And if you’re tempted to deny this diagnosis, I have to ask, what would it take to convince you? The other side of this debate has been predicting runaway inflation for more than four years, as the monetary base has tripled. The same people predicted soaring interest rates from government borrowing. Meanwhile, the liquidity-trap people like me predicted what would actually happen: low inflation and low rates. This has to be the most decisive real-world test of opposing theories ever.

So minting the coin would be undignified, but so what? At the same time, it would be economically harmless — and would both avoid catastrophic economic developments and help head off government by blackmail.

What we all hope, of course, is that the prospect of the coin or some equivalent strategy will simply take the debt ceiling off the table. But if not, mint the darn coin.

This seems pretty simple to me. If the GOP is willing to destroy our nation to maintain power, then the President should do whatever is within his legal authority to thwart them. The coin is a quick fix that is harmless and legal. Mint it and then go to court over the 14th amendment to end the debt ceiling charade once and for all.

And in the interest of public service, this is how coins are made:

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