Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Just A Reminder.....

In the 1920s Congress banned private ownership of the Thompson sub-machine gun, and no, Capone and the other gangsters didn't turn in their Tommy guns.  But, in time, the Thompson disappeared from the American scene.  The police seized some when they arrested criminals.  Some got turned in or destroyed by their owners.  Others just got old and unusable.  If we were to ban large capacity clips, at first it wouldn't make a difference.  But in time, those clips would go the way of the Tommy gun.  It might take twenty years for them to go away, but sooner or latter, the thirty, forty, fifty and sixty shot clips would no longer be part of American gun culture.

Monday, December 3, 2012

More News From the Labor Front

Last week, the clerical workers at the Port of Los Angeles went out on strike.  So far, the longshoremen have honored their picket line.  As I'm writing this, I'm listening to KNX all news radio.  The station is running an unscientific text poll.  "Who do you blame for the strike? The clerical workers or their employers?"  So far, 80% of respondents blame the clerical workers and 20% blame the employers.

For the new labor movement to make real progress in its fight for social justice, it has to convince the general public that it makes sense to support labor over management.  Most of us look at the world around us and ask,  "How does this affect me now?"  Fewer cheap Chinese toys for Christmas may make the kids unhappy, but in the long run, higher wages and job security is good for everyone.  And sooner or latter, those kids will be out looking for work.    

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Did the Revolution Begin At Walmart?

I thought Ronald Reagan had destroyed his presidency.  The air traffic controllers had gone out on strike and Reagan had fired them.  I just assumed  the teamsters would not cross a picket line and the nations air transport system would be crippled if Reagan didn't back down.  The teamsters crossed, the air traffic controllers lost their jobs, and organized labor has been on the defensive ever since.

On black Friday, the biggest day of the year for America's retailers, a small number of Walmart employees walked off the job.  They wanted better wages, more hours, better working conditions, medical benefits, and the right to unionize.  Their numbers were small, the public crossed their lines, and Walmart had a record day.  (At least according to Walmart management.)  Well, it's a start.

This week, a number of fast food workers in New York City walked off the job for a day.  The employers were McDonald's, Wendy's, Dominos, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Taco Bell.  In New York, the average wage of a fast food employee is a little under $9 an hour.  Most get no benefits, and many have their hours limited to 20 or 30 hours a week.  In New York City, as in most of the country, that's poverty wages.  Unlike many other parts of the country, there aren't many low cost housing alternatives in New York City.  They come to work sick, because they can't afford to take a day off, let alone pay for health care.  Many would make the argument that fast food is a low wage job because it doesn't take a college education, or any difficult to master skills.  Perhaps, but it's also true that fast food companies are some of the most profitable business in the world.  That profit is made on the back of low wage workers.  In NYC, workers are asking for $15 an hour, medical, and forty hour weeks.  The big chains can afford it, without significantly raising prices, and still make a very healthy return.

The cult of Steve Jobs.  The late Apple exec has been held up as the great American success story.  Both political parties hold him up as an example of the perfect CEO.  Let's look at the record.  Jobs outsourced manufacturing to Foxxcon, actually Hon Hai Precision Co, Ltd. of Taiwan.  His great innovation was in finding a manufacturing partner willing to pioneer a new form of industrial slavery at it's mainland Chinese plants.  The typical American Apple employee is an Apple Store worker, who makes around $10 an hour, toils at irregular hours that doesn't allow for a decent standard of living, and doesn't get medical benefits.  Mostly young, with less to loose than a typical Walmart worker, it's time for the Apple Store Geniuses to hit the street, picket signs in hand.

Building a union and fighting for labor rights is not easy.  A quick glance at labor history shows years of struggle and sacrifice.  We gave up our union base along with our manufacturing base when we changed our tax structure to favor financial services rather than manufacturing.  But it is a fight worth waging.  If not, we'll end up living under Steve Job's new industrial slavery.  It won't just be in China.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Are We Listening To This Guy?

John McCain is an aging bully granted a relevance he no longer deserves.  How much longer can he milk the whole prisoner of war/war hero thing?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Egypt, Texas

Congratulations to the people of Egypt.  At least those who have taken to the streets in protest over President Mohamed Morsi's recent power grab.  Too many third world nations (And too many first world pundits.) equate democracy with an election.  While one can't have a democratic government without an election, an election does not a democracy make.  There also has to be the rule of law and the building of democratic institutions more important and more lasting than who ever happens to be in office.  I always cringe in embarrassment every time a fellow liberal praises Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.  Yes he was elected, and yes he gives money to the poor of his country.  But he also rules by decree and is nothing more than an elected dictator.

Meanwhile, the Texas secession movement grows.  And no, while it is unlikely to succeed, it's not a joke.  President Obama can no more allow Texas to leave the union than Abraham Lincoln could let the south leave more than a hundred years ago.  It's easy to make fun of Texans, but as the south left to protect slavery, some Texans want to leave because their state is becoming a majority minority state.  That is if it hasn't already become a state without a majority group.  Of course, many of the Hispanics in Texas aren't citizens (yet) and can't vote, but those who are citizens are growing.   Many (white) conservative Texans can't stand the idea of a black President,  and they hate the idea of  being a minority a whole lot more.  Funny thing is, lots of Mexicans supported the Texas revolution for the same reason that many Anglo Texans did.  Santa Ana was a dictator who ruled by decree.  Kind of what Mohamed Morsi wants to do in Egypt.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Biker Gang

My friend and I are at a bar.  We're watching football on the big screen.  A biker gang comes in and the leader shouts out, "Football.  We ain't watching no football.  We're watching ultimate fighting, and if anybody doesn't like it they can get their head kicked in."

My friend looks at me and says, "I'm going to walk over to that blowhard, call him a pussy and spit in his face."

Am I better friend if I tell him, "What ever you say.  I'll back your play to the end."  Or am I a better friend if I tell him, "What, are you nuts?"  and grab his arm and hustle him out of there before he gets himself, and a few others killed.?

It may not be fair, it may not be right, and the Israelis may not like it, but Israel's survival is dependent on them coming to some sort of accommodation with their neighbors.  If we, the United States, are true friends to Israel, it's time to tell Bibi Netanyahu and the other leaders of the Israeli right wing, that it's time to go to the table and make some concessions.  It's time to pull down the settlements,  time to tear down the walls, and end the economic blockades.  It's also time to make it clear that we will not follow Israel into a regional war in the Middle East, and we will not help start World War 3.

Any nation that lives in a state of perpetual war will eventually loose a war.  We did in Vietnam, and we're a whole lot tougher than Israel.  We survived our loss, Israel might not.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I may be naive, but I don' think there are many American military officers who can be blackmailed over an affair.  I don't care that former general and former CIA head David Petraeus was having an affair.  I do care that so many people have been worshiping top military commanders.  So in a strange way, it's a good thing that Patraeus was caught doing the deed with one and perhaps two women other than his wife.  In the 2008 election, John McCain invoked the general's name every chance he got.  He literally said, if elected, he'd do what ever Petraeus told him to do.  I want a president who can tell a general no, and that's a lot easier if the American public views top military commanders as flawed people who are prone to mistakes.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

With hurricane Sandy about to take out a good sized portion of the east coast, I thought I make this timely reminder:  During the GOP debates, candidate Mitt Romney advocated turning disaster response back to the states.  No more FEMA, just an unfounded faith that each individual state would be able to take care of it's people and rebuild after a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado.

But that's always the con answer.  Let's get rid of the federal government and hope that the states, or better yet, the private sector,  can take over.  Which brings me back to this whole timely reminder thing.  Hey, conservative states, the rest of us have a habit of bailing you out.  Remember when Texas Governor Rick Perry cut funding for state fire services?  Remember when Texas caught fire?  Remember when the federal government sent in federal fire fighters to save your state?  I doubt it.  Conservatives have very, very bad memories.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Post Debate Blues

This should be the fun blog for me.  I've always been political, and opinionated, to my detriment.  I get to be cynical, sarcastic or sincere as the mood dictates, and done anonymously, with out reproach.  Not a benefit I've had in the real world.   Sadly, my life has been dominated by personal problems of the financial kind, and I spend more time thinking about money than I do about politics, or any of the other things that interest me.

Alrighty then.....debates are a terrible way to pick a President.  Don't get me wrong.  I may have been way too young to vote against Richard Nixon in 1960, and I'm glad he lost (If only he would have lost eight years latter.) but really.  Disqualified because of a sweaty upper lip.  All because he was too vain to wear makeup.  And the whole "There you go again." line.  Clever theater, but not a reason to elect the fount of all of our current troubles.

I think I know why Barack Obama did so poorly in the first debate.  I don't think he was prepared to argue with a ten year old.  Walk in to any room with a ten year old and a broken lamp for an example.  The lamp is broken, in pieces on the floor, and the kid will tell you he didn't do it.  Point out the obvious, that as the only person in the room when the lamp was broken,  he has to be responsible, and it will be something like this.  "I didn't throw my football across the room."  Doesn't have anything to do with the smashed lamp, but he will stick with it.  Point out to Romney that cutting taxes on the wealthy, making the Bush tax cuts permanent, and increasing defense spending will not lead to a balanced budget, and he just denied he ever said that.  Oh no, closed loop holes, the rich will still pay the same, strong military can be paid for with cutting other things.  Nonsense, but if it's said enough it must be true.  Poor Barack, he brought facts to a fantasy fest.

The second debate was better.  It helped that the aging Jim Lehrer was replaced by a moderator this side of ninety.   Candy Crowley was still walked on, but at least she was able to impose the slightest bit of order.  Mitt Romney, AKA the Lyin' King, continued to say what ever came to mind with no regard for any past statements.  That brings us to the big question.   Does Mittens have an ideological bone in his body?  I think so.  I think he has the ideology of the marketeer.  If one line doesn't work, move on to something else.  The customer forgets.  Of course the moneyed interests don't forget, so keep that in mind.  Just don't say it too loud.  Or say it behind closed doors you 47% you.  Still, it was nice to see Obama engaged and willing to fight back.  I know both guys, at one time or another, talked over the other one, but really.  Must Romney keep saying, "I'm talking know."  If he's going to stand up to Russia, China, Iran, and all of his other enemies, both imagined and real....Well, I doubt Putin will shut up when told.  Is it just me or have others noted a tendency of Mittens to chant when painted into a corner?  "Government does not create jobs. Government does not create jobs. Government does not create jobs."  I thought I was at a social Darwinist ashram.

I was just checking out some of the instant polling for the final Pres. debate, and I was surprised to see a clear win for Obama.  Now, I thought Obama won too, but I'm very partisan.  Looking at things objectively, Mitt didn't do all that bad.  How could he.  He endorsed the Obama foreign policy.  Of course, he then went on to decry a lack of leadership, even though he agreed with almost everything that O has done.  And then we got back to the mythical apology tour.  Once again, the Repugs embrace the idea that people will believe anything that's repeated enough.  Sadly, many do.  Bit those people were probably voting Repug anyway.  At least O got the chance to look the Lyin' King in the eye and, politely, call him a liar.  And the best line of all three debates, the one about not having as many horses and bayonets as we used to.  Romney keeps making this point about how we don't have as many ships as we did before World War 1.  The President pointed out the obvious.  One aircraft carrier, one nuclear submarine, is worth whole navies from 1916.  So what does the instant polling signify?  Perhaps the American people are seeing the empty suit, and wondering why they should vote for a guy who doesn't believe in anything beyond making money.

Oh, and least we forget, Joe Biden mopped the floor with Paul Ryan-Rand.  AKA, Kid Fraudster.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

First and Goal

 Wow, what a lousy call.  I didn't actually see the game, but on replay, it was pretty obvious that the Seattle Seahawks did not win the game on a last second hail-Mary pass.  And if the Green Bay Packers miss the play-offs by one game.  Ouch.

So what's a good fan to do?  Well, I'm a fan, though admittedly not a die hard, every Sunday parked in front of the big screen, come hell or high water kind of fan.  I'm the kind of fan who doesn't support scab labor.  Yes, fellow football followers, it's time you join me in boycotting the National Football League until the referee lockout is over.

I'm not sure when the United States became an anti-union country.  When I was growing up in western Pennsylvania smart people didn't attack the steel workers, the auto workers, the teamsters or the miners.  It wasn't because of any  threat of violence.  Attacking unionism was a good way to become very isolated in the community.   It was understood that as long as union members made a good wage, they'd buy cars, new clothes, they'd go out to eat in restaurants and go to the local movie house.  In short, union wages drove the local economy and the more money  blue collared workers made, the more they spent.  And the more they spent, the more money was made by everyone else, including the much lauded small business man.

So it's baby step time on the long road back to a strong American labor movement.  If the union refs aren't back this weekend, turn off the TV.  Don't go to the games.  Don't make the wealthy plutocrats who own the teams even richer.  Make it clear that the continued success of the National Football League is contingent on union referees calling the shots.  And after we all back a union that we need to preserve the integrity of our much loved football, we can transfer that allegiance to the UMW, or the UAW, or here's a radical notion your local teacher's union.  Union workers and good union wages make us all better off.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fountain Pen

I turned on the noon news hoping for coverage of the violence in Libya but L. A.'s status as the car chase capitol of the world stymied my efforts.  Yes, once again TV coverage was all car chase all the time.  Today's version had a couple of guys who had robbed a Bank of America making a last run through the streets of south central, a  neighborhood south of downtown Los Angeles.

What was different about this one was that the two suspects threw their loot out the car window.  I have no idea whether they thought that crowds would block streets allowing them to escape, or whether they just figured, "What the hell, we're going to jail anyway, so why not spread the wealth".  Of course, the TV commentators did the whole morality thing and condemned those who were scooping up money, but the way I see it....why not?  The American financial industry lobbied congress to legalize behavior that is little more than grand theft on a planetary scale, so why not get a little of our own back.

 During the great depression, there was a wide held belief that bankers had destroyed the American economy and impoverished the majority of ordinary citizens.  Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, and John Dillinger were viewed as folk heroes.  I'm actually surprised that bombs haven't gone off on Wall Street and bank presidents haven't been assassinated.

There is a great line form an old Woody Guthrie song, "some will rob you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen."  Jury nullification, anyone?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Rubio Vs Castro, More than One Castro

Now that we've seen both conventions, there is one thing we can be certain of: Both parities are trying to present an Hispanic face.

The Republicans are pinning their hopes on Marco Rubio, while Democrats are going with the far more telegenic  Julian Castro.  Castro, despite his last name, is of Mexican descent while Rubio has Cuban roots, and on the surface, with  far greater numbers of Mexican immigrants, that would seem like a bad bet for the Republicans.

I agree with that, but for different reasons.  Rubio isn't just Cuban, he is a throwback to a community that defines itself as anti-communist and distrusting of government, while Mexican-Americans  are far more likely to look to government as a fair arbiter for full integration into the American mainstream.  And let's face it, with its embrace of Jan Brewer and the politics of anti-immigration hatred, the Repugs aren't exactly endearing themselves to the far larger Mexican American demographic.

But it goes beyond that.  Rubio is a really, really,  big throwback.  Today's younger Cuban-Americans may agree with their grandfathers that Fidel Castro is an evil man and that Cuba should be free and democratic,  (I'm a white, liberal Democrat and I think that too.)  but those young Cuban Americans have never know Cuba and communist oppression.  What they know is increasing college tuition, and high youth unemployment.  And those are issues that are far stronger for Democrats than Republicans.

I found it telling that Cuban-American talk show host Cristina Saralegui chose to endorse President Barack Obama for reelection.  In theory, she should be a Republican.  Unlike Marco Rubio, she was born in Cuba, and she does have memories of Fidel and the revolution.  But in her world view, we look forward to the future, not back to the past.  I'm sure she would love to see a fair and free election in Havana, but she'd also like to see social progress, a progress built on economic justice and opportunity for all, in the United States.

One other note.  In 2004 Illinois State Senator Barack Obama gave the key note address at the Democratic National Convention, and after he was done, many people, myself included, said to themselves. "I've just seen the first African-American president."  How many people said that Rubio will be the first Hispanic-American president?  How many thought that of Castro?  .  Pay attention.  I don't often agree with George W. Bush or brother Jeb.  Their contention that pissing off Hispanics is a good way to destroy the Republican Party is dead on.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thick As A Brick

A few thoughts on Mitt's speech.

Mitt brought up his father, former governor and Republican candidate for president, George Romney.   Papa Romney was most famous for his principled stand against Goldwater/Miller extremism.  Mitt's political career has been, like his father's, one of moderation, but he has shown a lack of principal in embracing Tea Party extremism.

Would someone please tell anti-government Repugs to stop praising the Apollo program and the greatest generation.  The Apollo program was one of the biggest government programs in history.  The greatest generation was the generation of Franklin Roosevelt and big, really big, government.

The Republican party is not the party of small business.  It's the party of transnational corporations and big finance.  Someone opening a store has more to worry about from financial markets and Walmart than they do from government.  Mr. Bain isn't likely to regulate big banks, or enforce anti-trust law.  Given the power by congress, President Obama might.  A good reason to vote Democratic in congressional races.

Mittens wasn't a business man, he was an investor.  Big difference.

Is Romney a nice guy or a bully?  It's possible to be both.  The general public might prefer a nice guy but the Repug base likes a kick ass bully.  While the elephants are criticizing the Obama campaign for fighting dirty, O has nothing on the Romney super pacs.

Maybe, just maybe, Mitt could overcome his character defects, but not if he continues with stiff performances like we saw tonight.


I admire Clint Eastwood the film director.  I think he has made some of the best film of the past several decades.  I admire Clint Eastwood the actor.  I'm looking forward to seeing his new film, Trouble With the Curve, and would be quite happy if he were to finally win a much deserved acting Academy Award to go with his directing Oscars.  I do background work in the movies and spent some time on the set of Million Dollar Baby and found him to be a gracious and thoughtful person.

But his performance at the Republican National Convention was just sad and strange.  The interview with the empty chair, standing in for President Obama, full of  sarcasm and at lest two allusions to an obscenity was beneath him.  One of Eastwood's strengths as an actor and director is an eye to a good script.  I don't know who wrote Clint's convention words, but he doesn't have a future in Hollywood.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Repug Convention Night 1.5

I've been watching the Repug convention on PBS (Slated to be defunded by a Romney administration.) and I've got a few  quick thoughts.

Ann Romney gave a great speech.  It was one of the best arguments for big government  I've ever heard.  She also painted her husband as a big government activist.  To bad Mittens isn't a Democrat.  It would have really put him in a good light.

Why didn't Chris Christie talk about Mitt?  I know he managed to squeeze in a bit about the hair piece towards the end, but mostly it was about what a wonderful guy Chris Christie is.  Talk about ego.  Too, he brought in the whole greatest generation thing.  Shouldn't someone tell the Repugs that the greatest generation was the ultimate big government generation.  The WPA, the CCC, the arsenal of democracy.  And of course the G.I. Bill that sent Chris's dad to Rutgers.  Once again we have Franklin Roosevelt to thank for the American century.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mr. Shrimshock

When I heard Missouri representative Todd Akin's remarks about legitimate rape and a woman's magical ability to shut down pregnancy, my first thought was of my junior high school gym and boy's health teacher, Mr. Shrimshock.

When we were in the eighth grade, we had the lecture.  It was about mid year, we all filed into class,  Mr. Shrimshock pulled down the door blind, handed us a brochure and told us to read it and keep our mouths shut.  As I remember it, the pamphlet was three or four pages long, it had a couple of not very well executed illustrations, and gave a very brief explanation about sperm, eggs and pregnancy.   After we were done reading Mr. S gave us a brief talk.

Women, he told us, would only have sex with us so they could get pregnant, force us into marriage and bind us to a lifetime of labor so that they could stay home, watch soaps, and eat chocolate.  And if that was all that happened to us we would be lucky, since women were all filthy and would give us a disease that would make our penises fall off.  Even at thirteen, I knew that Mr. Shrimshock was a sick man who hated women.

Since Todd Akin delivered his opinion on legitimate rape, I've heard a lot about the Republican war on women.  I think that's wrong.  I think it's a conservative, fundamentalist Christian war on secular values.  The Christian right has become very quick to label disagreement with it's agenda as a war on religion.  If we think a woman has a right to choose, that we all should have access to contraception, if we believe in gay rights or that organized prayer has no place in a public school the Christian conservatives start in on how we are trying to trample on their religious values.  I don't see it that way.  I would never tell a fundamentalist woman that she should have an abortion, or use an IUD.  I would never tell a conservative Christian that he or she should    associate with gays or not pray when ever they feel the need.  But the right wing fundamentalist would gladly take away my right to live a life apart from religion.

I think those of on the left feel very uncomfortable standing up to the religious.  Our belief  in tolerance is so strong that we shrink from fighting back against those on the religious right who have no tolerance for any religious beliefs different from theirs.  I'm an atheist, and even I have trouble with push back.  But if we don't get a back bone and start telling the fundamentalist crowd to keep their belief system out of government, someday we'll wake up to an American Taliban, and that won't be a pleasant world.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Robes of Office

I was up late last night (Reading a book, I can't afford a social life) so I was still in bed this morning when the weekly Republican radio address came on.  I'd say I couldn't believe what I heard, but there's not much the Repugs can say or do that would shock me anymore.  Dear old Rand Paul, Senator from Tennessee, asked if we wanted to swap out our constitution for South Africa's.  Come on Repugs.  There must be a subtler method to remind us that President Obama is black.  Perhaps they could talk about the dusky sunset, no that's not it.  The tribal approach....no, that doesn't work either.  Oh hell, just be honest, break out the elephant embroidered robes and burn a cross or two.

Was Rand Paul named for this years co Vice Presidential nominee Ayn Rand?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Victory For Working Women

In 2002, Martha Burk of The National Council Of Women's Organizations began urging Augusta National Golf Club, site of The Master's Tournament,  to admit women members.  This week, Augusta proffered membership invitations to former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and businesswoman Darla Moore.  Both women have accepted membership.  In a short interview on the PBS News Hour, Burk proclaimed it a victory for working women.

Really?  A victory for working women would be a unionized work force.  I'm sure there must be a few women employees at Augusta.  A victory for them would be higher wages and a union to stand up for their rights.  A victory for working women would be an equal pay for equal work law, and mandatory paid maternity leave.  

Hey, if the one percent are going to have their own little club house, then why not admit the dress wearing elite.  But let's not fool ourselves.  A victory for the new American oligarchy is not a victory for working women, working men, or the growing number of working children.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Outrage In Chains

The Repugs are outraged at recent comments by Vice President Joe Biden.  Poor Joe.  He does have a habit of stirring the Republican bouillabaisse.  How dare he suggest that Romney/Ryan/Rand would push an economic agenda that might, just might, further hamper the long term prospects of the middle class all so the very wealthy can have a few more tax breaks.  And a slavery analogy to boot.  Bad Joe, Bad!

Just for the hell of it, let's turn back the clock a bit.  When Bill Clinton was prez, the elephants said he was a cocaine dealer, that he killed Vince Foster, perpetrated a real estate fraud, and while the whole impeachment was technically about lying under oath, let's be honest, it was pretty much an excuse to talk about his sex life.  Clinton remained above the fray.  

Al Gore runs for the top spot, and the Repugs make him out as a pathological liar incapable of telling the truth.  If Gore had said it was sunny at noon, the Rove squad would have claimed an eclipse had blocked out the sun.  Gore took the high ground and didn't fight back.

John Kerry, a decorated war hero was portrayed as a coward who had falsified his military records.  The senator responded with reason and facts.

Barack Obama runs and....let's recount the lies.  He was born In Kenya.  He is a secret Muslim.  He is a socialist.  He wants to impose sharia law on America.  He wants to take  guns away so that the United Nations can take over the country.  That he went on an apology tour,  and blamed the United States for all the ills of the world.  That he wants to drive the cost of energy up to the point that the national economy will fail.  And it goes on and on.

But the pattern seems to be changing.  President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and V.P. Biden are fighting back.  Of course the Repugs are outraged.  Democrats are supposed to be reasoned and too pure for the hard fight of modern politics.   Mittens might actually have to defend himself against Democratic counter attacks. How unexpected.  Democrats willing to meet Republican smears with something other than polite rejoinders.  And by the way, co-nominee Ayn Rand was not born in the United States.  Bad Democrats. Bad!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I wasn't going to write anything about Gore Vidal, but after some thought....well, what the hell.  why not?

Gore Vidal was one of the more interesting second raters.  I haven't read all his fiction, but I have read the historical novels and Myra Breckinridge.  As Edward Abbey pointed out, it's the democracy of time that decides what is and isn't great writing.  As much as I enjoyed some of Vidal's novels, I don't think any of them stand with the best of his age.  Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Henry Roth, James Jones, and Jack Kerouac all wrote better novels than Gore Vidal.  And as far as his political essays....Let's just say that they had a shelf life.  Of course, I could be wrong about Vidal.  Time will tell.

The Three Rs

In my last post I wrote that Mitt Romney marginalized himself with the choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate.  That he made the election a choice between the vision of Barack Obama and Ryan, rather than between Obama and himself.  I found it telling that when Romney introduced Paul Ryan as his Veep choice, he referred to him as the next President of the United States.  Of course, Mittens walked that back, something  he does quite well.

About twenty five years ago I violated my one romantic rule.  I fell for a woman who didn't share my values.  While a certain compatibility of interests is nice, it's having the same moral compass that's important.  Looking back after all these years, I find it strange to think that the only woman I ever wanted to marry was a conservative Republican.  Trying to understand the way she thought, I read her favorite author, also the favorite author of Paul Ryan.  Hard as it is to believe, I read The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Anthem by Ayn Rand.   The third R on this years Repug ticket.

While Rand liked to think of her self as a philosopher and intellectual, I have to say, I didn't see it.  Objectivism, the catch all name that she invented to label her creed, was far from an actual philosophy.  Mostly it was a wet dream for sociopaths, with the occasional rape fantasy thrown in for lurid affect.  Far from rejecting authoritarianism and embracing individual freedom, as the Randites suppose, she merely argued for an authoritarianism of the rich and powerful rather than the Soviet model of her native Russia.

I think one of the things that Rand understood, and that Paul Ryan may or may not understand, is that governments and economic systems do not exist in a state of nature; that they are things we create in order to get us to a desired end.  The world that Rand, Ryan, and Romney wish to live in is a harsh and cruel world, where the vast majority of people are ruled by a sociopathic elite of  rich and powerful laissez-faire capitalists, where the sick, the elderly, and the less fortunate are left to fend for themselves.  That's not the world I want to live in.

Paul Ryan, whose father died when he was a teenager, who was supported by government entitlements, joins the long list of those who hate the very system that made their success possible.  Ayn Rand, who signed up for Medicare in the last years of her life, would have been proud.

And worst of all, Ayn Rand wasn't even a very good writer.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Hail Mary

I'm assuming that the Paul Ryan rumors are not some ill conceived feint on the part of Mitt Romney.  I'm assuming that when I wake up tomorrow, the Wisconsin representative will have been named to the Republican ticket as Mitt Romney's running mate.

A long time ago a vice presidential pick was about balance.  If the top of the ticket was from New England, it was a pretty sure bet that the Presidential nominee would be an unknown quantity in California.  Therefore it made sense to put a westerner in the second slot.  And then along came television.  In our age, the Presidential nominee goes on the talk show circuit, buys ad time, and in the end, not only do we know him, we're sick of the guy.

Now, the choice of a veep is seen as a candidate's first important decision.  John McCain chose Sarah Palin and was viewed as foolish and unreliable for a pick that was so obviously out of her league, and with out the intelligence to grow into the position.

So what does Mitt's choice of Paul Ryan say about him?  What Romney has done is change the whole dynamic of the race.  Starting tomorrow this race will be about the Ryan plan, the cutting of government, getting rid of Medicare as we know it, and eliminating as much of the social safety net as possible.  Mitt Romney has marginalized himself.  He might as well step aside and put Ryan in the top spot on the Republican ticket because know it's about Barack Obama's vision versus Paul Ryan's vision.  Mitt is like the last guy chosen in the NFL draft; Mr. Irrelevant.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bang Bang, Shoot 'em Up

Let me get this straight.  Jared Lee Loughner strolls into a super market parking lot with his legally acquired arsenal,  opens fire, kills six and wounds thirteen including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  He gets hauled up before Judge Larry Burns who decides he's too bat shit crazy to stand trail.  So Burns orders Loughner to a federal prison hospital to be forcibly medicated.  A couple of years latter, with his schizophrenia under control, he returns to the Burns court, now cured, so that he can plead guilty and avoid a death sentence.

Okay, I admit it.  I'm not a big time lawyer or a distinguished judge.  But shouldn't the issue be whether or not Loughner was nuts when he pulled the trigger rather than now, after two years of forced treatment?  Ah, but we have to worry about the feelings of the victims.  If feelings are what's important, than perhaps we should just take a poll.  Thumbs up, treatment and release when no longer a danger to society.  Hand held on a level plane, then life in prison and hope the guy doesn't get shived in the shower.  Thumbs down, then a quick visit from the needle.  Ah Rome, what we can learn form your barbaric ways.

Once again, I'm making the unpopular point that the insane should be treated rather than imprisoned for their crimes.  I ran across an interesting study from the U.S. Justice Department in 2006.  (From the Bush Justice Dept, not those socialist hippy Obama guys.)  It seems that over half of  the prison population was suffering from some sort of mental illness a way back in '06.   Forty-five percent in the federal system.  Come on guys, wouldn't it be cheaper to treat people with mental illness before they end up in jail?  Goodness, that might require a national health care system.  Can't have that.

Meanwhile back in the cesspool, also Known as Texas justice.  The lone star state has executed a man with the lofty I.Q. of 61.  Didn't the Supreme Court rule that you can't execute the mentally retarded.  Ah shoot.  He weren't no retard, he was fakin' it.  Remind me to avoid Texas if I can ever afford another vacation.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Free Pussy Riot!

Hooliganism! Religious Hatred!. Proving once again that Russia has made some progress, but not enough, from it's Soviet past, Russian prosecutors are asking for three years in prison for members of Russian punk band, Pussy Riot.  So what did the three girls do?  Goodness gracious great balls of fire, they linked the Russian Orthodox Church to Mad Putz Putin, the semi-elected leader of all the Russias.  Specifically they sang and danced their protest tune in Moscow's Orthodox Cathedral.  Okay, maybe in bad taste.  I've read about, but have never seen the band in action, so I don't have an opinion on that.  But come on, a threat to public safety, implied by hooliganism?  And why shouldn't religion be mocked?  Putz Putin is one sensitive autocrat.  The truth of the matter.

And then there is Westboro Baptist, the completely vile quasi-church that seems obsessed with the nonexistent homosexual threat.  I've got this problem.  I think that we give privileges to those we like, or at least tolerate.  What makes something a right is when we extend those privileges to those we despise.  A veteran's benefit bill just signed into law by President Obama, does a lot of good things for our veterans, but also restricts some of the more disgusting activities of Westboro Baptist.  Now the stupid members of this group have been showing up at funerals of Iraq and Afghanistan war dead claiming that it's the judgement of God on America for tolerating homosexuality.  Stupid, stupid, stupid. But, when is it the place of the government to rule on the stupidity of it's citizens?  When is it the place of the government to decide who or what should be protected from offensive speech?  I like it when the opponents of the sick people of Westboro Baptist show up and block their protests.  Protest, counter protest, that's a good way to handle these things.  But the idea of federal prosecutors showing up and stopping people from saying stupid, vile things....well, what if those same prosecutors decide that the occupy movement is stupid?  Those poor, harassed, billionaires shouldn't have to be subjected to offensive speech.  I'm just saying.  If Westboro Baptist can be limited in it's activities, then it moves the line.  Another group will be the fringe, and it's always easy to go after those of the far edges of debate.  Sooner or latter, no opposition, no idea, no movement will be safe.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Top Ten

Every ten years, Sight & Sound, a British film magazine polls critics and film historians and comes up with a list of the ten best movies of all time. The big news from this decade's poll is that Vertigo has upset perennial winner Citizen Kane to move into the top spot.  Too, Man With a Movie Camera has knocked Potemkin off  the list.

Interesting....Okay, let's start with the obvious point.  Beyond a certain level of quality, we're really dealing with preferences here.  Still, it's fun and I need a break from Mitt Romney, mass shootings, rumors of war, and my own, ongoing financial problems.  So, let's start with the Sight & Sound list.

1. Vertigo (1958) directed by Alfred Hitchcock
2. Citizen Kane  (1941)  directed by Orson Welles
3.  Tokyo Story  (1953)  directed by Yasujiro Ozu
4.  La Regle du jeu (1939) directed by Jean Renoir, and for those who prefer the English translation, Rules of the Game
5.  Sunrise: A Story of Two Humans  (1927)  directed by F.W. Murnau
6.  2001: A Space Odyssey  (1968)  directed by Stanley Kubrick
7.  The Searchers  (1956)  directed by John Ford
8.  Man With a Movie Camera  (1929)  directed by Dziga Vertov
9.  The Passion of Joan of Arc  (1927)  directed by Carl Theodore Dryer
10.  8 1/2  (1963)  directed by Federico Fellini

And now for my top ten.

1.  Sunrise: A Story of Two Humans
2. The Searchers
3.  Pandora's Box  (1929)  directed by G. W. Pabst
4.  Rules of the Game
5.  2001: A Space Odyssey
6.   Titticut Follies  (1967)  directed by Frederick Wiseman
7.  Red River  (1948)  directed by Howard Hawks
8.  Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler  (1922)  directed by Fritz Lang
9.  Pather Panchali  (1955)  directed by Satyijat Ray
10  Casablanca  (1942)  directed by Michael Curtiz

First of all, I set a rule for myself; Only one movie per director.  If not, Fort Apache and They Were Expendable both directed by John Ford could have made the list.  Also, Nosferatu by Murnau, Barry Lyndon and A Clockwork Orange by Kubrick, Grand Illusion by Renoir, and Metropolis and M by Lang could have all made the list.  Too, these are all about preferences, and mine might be different on another day.  Citizen Kane and Veritgo both belong on a top ten, that is if a top ten had twenty or more entries.  Although, I have to confess, I prefer Hitchcock's Notorious to Vertigo.  And then there are Modern Times, City Lights, and The Circus all by Chaplin.  In Titticut Follies, I had one documentary on the list, but why not Grass or Nanook of the North.  And a few shorts like D.W. Griffith's A Corner In Wheat.  And why doesn't Casablanca make these lists?  Snob factor I suspect, and I'm not exactly snobbish.  And a final confession, with the exception of Tokyo Story, I've seen every movie on the Sight & Sound list and I don't have a problem with any of the films.  They're all great movies and anyone would be foolish not to get the DVD and take a look.

One last thing.  I am a huge movie buff.  I know a lot of other movie buffs.  Most of us are under employed, perpetually broke with too much time on our hands.  A few years ago, some of us decided that we were going to start great movie list blogs.  The idea was that we could go on line and check each others tastes.  To put it mildly, most of us got bored with the chore after awhile and let it slide.  My list is still on line at www.greatmovieslist.blogspot.com  Who knows.  If I start getting visits, I might go back and add some more movies.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Did I Call It?

A few posts ago, I opined that Mitt Romney wasn't trying to hide any illegalities in refusing to release more than two years worth of tax returns.  I thought he was trying to hide the fact that he hadn't paid any taxes at all.  Well, according to Senator Harry Reid, an investor from inside Bain called up his office and told him that Mittens hadn't paid any taxes for a decade.  Now, I admit it.  Without any names, without a verifiable source, it's nothing but rumor.  But, it makes sense.  Reid also said that Romney couldn't be confirmed for a cabinet post because of his refusal to provide tax records for more than two years.

Monday, July 30, 2012

America's Ongoing War On the Poor

The city of Costa Mesa, California has banned bicycle parking on public property except at city provided bike racks.  As an example of just how few city owned bike racks there are, drum roll please, there are a grand total of 38 legal, approved spots in the city's 30 public parks.   As a cyclist, my first reaction on hearing this bit of insane news was that some bike hating city councilman was having his own against an imaginary spandex clad, two wheeled communist threat.  But, it's a bit more than that.  The ordinance has come out of Costa Mesa's Homeless Task Force.  It seems that many of the homeless have traded their shopping carts for old bikes; loaded down with all their possessions, more often pushed than ridden.  Why deal with poverty and homelessness when it's so much easier to harass the down and out.  With any luck, they'll head over the city line and become another town's  problem.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Boy and His Gun

Every so often, circumstances require us to ask a very simple question about our judicial system:  Is it about vengeance or is it about justice?

There is not doubt that James Holmes opened fire in a crowded movie theater, and that he did kill twelve people.  There is no doubt that he booby trapped his apartment to kill the first person to enter.  If our system is about vengeance, then why even the pretense of a trial.  Pass the necessary amendments, and take him out behind the building and put a bullet in his head.

If our system is about justice, however, then like it or not, we have to accept the possibility that he is not guilty by reason of insanity.  It is a long established concept in both English and American law that a person has to be sane to be responsible for his or her actions.  We know that Holmes has been under the care of a psychiatrist and that Dr. Lynne Fenton has done research on schizophrenia.  She has also been part of a team that analyzes students at the University of Colorado who might be a danger to others because of mental illness.  Dr. Fenton may have been off the mark in regard to Holmes, but that doesn't mean he wasn't insane.

I'm writing this because the chorus of those who say Holmes is trying to get away with murder by pretending to be crazy is getting louder.  And not just among law and order types on the right.  There are lots of liberals who are saying the same thing.  I admit my prejudice.  I believe Holmes is mentally incompetent.  I don't want him to walk free  with a  prescription and best wishes, although I also think that one day in the future that could and should happen.  What I want is a fair trail where his possible insanity is taken seriously.

But what about the families of the victims?  Shouldn't they have closure?  Shouldn't they feel the relief of knowing that the killer of their loved ones is punished?  No, they shouldn't.  The justice system should not be about the feelings of victims and their families.  The justice system should be about the arrival at an objective  truth, (Or at least as close as we can get.) followed by an appropriate action by the courts system.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Quick Note on Blogger Ads

Like a lot of people, I'm trying everything I can to make a little, much needed, extra money.  One of the ways I do that is by  allowing ads on my various blogs.  The way it works, Bloggger does data mining, picking out key words, and placing an advertisement that seems to go with an individual blog.  Because I write about how bad Mitt Romney and conservatives are, ads for Willard and conservative causes have a tendency to end up on The New Common Sense.  Let me make this crystal clear.  I DO NOT IN ANY WAY SUPPORT MITTENS OR ANY OTHER CONSERVATIVE CAUSE.   THE REPUGS WILL BE THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR NATION!  VOTE OBAMA, VOTE DEMOCRATIC, VOTE LIBERAL!

Please Sir, Some More Info With That Food

KABC, Channel 7, Los Angeles, is spearheading a food drive for the hungry.  Very admirable, and I'm glad they're doing it.  But, I'd be more impressed if they'd also do some stories on why there are people going without food in the richest nation on earth.  Perhaps because of the upward migration of national wealth?  Who says wealth redistribution is a bad thing?

Please Sir, Some More Info

Why won't Mitt Romney release more of his tax returns?  Irregularities, financial malfeasance, deductions for strange bizarre habits,  child support for fourteen illegitimate kids, that his real first name is Willard?  I think it's because one of the richer men in America had a number of years where he paid no taxes at all.  And I'll bet he did it legally.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

All Sports! All The Time!

"We are Penn State!"  I suspect the fans in Happy Valley won't be chanting that one for awhile.  Do I really need to write this?  Yes, I think child sexual abuse is wrong.  Yes, I think punishment is in order.  But a 60 million dollar fine paid to the NCAA?  Come on folks, get real.  In this day and age of budget cuts, big time college sports helps pay the bills. (My old home state has fallen under the evil influence of the Tea Party, so that money is needed now more than ever.)  A fine that large is about more than punishing the football program.  It's about shorter library hours, closed labs, staff cuts and tuition increases.  Tell the biology major that it's going to take an extra year to graduate because the NCAA wanted it's pound of flesh, and to get it, there aren't enough lab hours available anymore.  Oh, and by the way, that's another year of student loans.  Jerry Sandusky has gone to prison, and I suspect others will follow.  Penn State will be paying out even more millions in law suits for the foreseeable future. This should have all been left to the courts.   File this one under, doing something without thinking it through.

And they suck me back in.  With all this Lance Armstrong stuff, I swore I'd walk away from pro cycling.  Armstrong has been out of the pro ranks for almost a decade now, he's never tested positive, but the movers and shakers of cycling have decided to go back and destroy his legacy.  There's something about that sport that wants to self destruct.  I suspect it's because it's a professional sport run by an Olympics federation, and those are run by a bunch of silly old Europeans who don't understand why the French revolution happened.  Too, to return to a point I've made before.  Cycling has become a big time, worldwide sport because of television.  The TV people want hard climbs,. fast technical descents, and crash filled bunch sprints.  Really, it's making the sport worse.  The UCI wants the major teams in every major race, and the number of those races is increasing every year.  The sponsors want their corporate logos on the podium, the team owners are desperate to get those victories, and team managers are desperate to keep their jobs.  Basically, a system where it's almost impossible to survive without some help, but it's only the riders that take the blame.  To be honest, I don't even care if Lance Armstrong doped. More than likely every rider in the top twenty was on something. Yes, I swore to give up the sport, but then the Tour de France came along and I fell into line.  Oh well.

Is it just me?  Are there others out there who hope that the London branch of the occupy movement disrupts the Olympics?  For all the fine talk about pure sport the Olympics are a rich mans vanity event.  Only the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics has turned a profit.  If London ends up another money loser, it's the lower middle classes and the poor who will pay in the form of even more cuts in services.  Too, the land for all those bright and shiny new venues had to come from somewhere.  No rich people were harmed for the London Olympics.  No, it was the homes and businesses of the lower middle classes and poor that were sacrificed.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Just a bit of history.  Twenty years ago the tobacco lobby was considered to be so powerful as to be unassailable.  Tobacco companies marketed their products to children, they targeted minorities, women and college students as the next wave of smokers.  Tobacco company executives went to capitol hill, swore an oath, and then perjured themselves by saying that cigarettes were not addictive.  All with impunity.

After the Aurora theater massacre, we're now saying that the NRA and the gun lobby are so powerful that nothing can be done.  Republican senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has said that the possession of large ammunition magazines  is a constitutionally protected right.  And within a week, we'll probably all be hearing the tired old mantras that guns don't kill people, people kill people, that the actions of a single disturbed individual has nothing to do with the dangers of unfettered gun ownership.

Meanwhile, many of us on the left are saying the sensitive thing; that we should not politicize this tragedy.  That the families of the dead, wounded and damaged should not be drawn into a political campaign on the whole gun control debate.

This is wrong.  We politicize issues that need addressed, and the lightly regulated, absolute right to own any type of weapon is an issue that needs to be hammered in the public forge.  As long as we show sensitivity for the dead of this horrific shooting, the shootings in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, and others, the gun lobby and the NRA will rule the debate.  Their voices will not go challenged, and it will only be a matter of time before another crazy with a credit card and a deranged sense of self will buy an arsenal and gun down more people.

Twenty years ago big tobacco had it good.  But things change.  Joe Camel is gone, smoking in the workplace has disappeared from many states, and tobacco company execs consult with lawyers, fearing what they say may come back to haunt them.  It won't be easy, but gun lobbyists can be put on the defensive with enough pressure.  The first step should be a ban on large magazines.  A one hundred round clip isn't needed for hunting or self defense.  After that, a return to the full assault weapons ban.  But it won't happen if we are sensitive.  The twelve deaths in Aurora, Colorado should be the rallying cry for a new movement, no matter how cruel it may seem.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Quick Thought on John Edwards

I'm not trying to defend John Edwards.  I'm not trying to attack Elizabeth Edwards.  But, my father cheated on my mother.  My mother was a horrible person.  What we can know of any marriage is what is seen from the outside.  What we know of the Edwards marriage is clearly not all there is to know.  Maybe John Edwards was just a garden variety bastard.  Perhaps things were far more complex.  The fact is, we can never know for sure.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two of a Kind

Is it just me, or are there others out there who have noticed the parallels between Mitt Romney and George Herbert Walker Bush? AKA Poppy.

Both men are the sons of fathers who walked away from business success to enter politics. George Romney was the self made man who ended up running American Motors and being very well paid for it. Prescott Bush, with help from a father, uncle, and father-in-law, was a big deal on wall street. George would end up as a three term governor of Michigan, while Prescott was a two term U.S. Senator from Connecticut.

While I find little to praise in the political philosophy of either parent, both George Romney and Prescott Bush did have a core set of beliefs. Neither man played the race card to get elected, and Bush was willing to vote to censure Joe McCarthy when he was very popular among Republican voters in his home state. Both men seemed to have a sense that they owed something back to their states and to their country.

The sons, however, are both cut from a very different cloth. Neither George H. W. Bush nor Mitt Romney have any discernible core belief system. They both blow in the wind, taking whatever political course that will lead to electoral success. The famous wimp factor that dodged H.W. had more to do with a perception that he was Ronald Reagan yapping little lap dog, coming whenever he was called, rather than any perceived lack of personal bravery. Both men seem to have a sense of entitlement. They were born to politics, are wealthy, get what they want, and so they should be president in the natural course of events. It's a right they were born to. Both are willing to go the smear and hate route to get elected. So far, that's only worked for H.W. The clocks still ticking for Mittens.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Anyone But Streep

Let me start off with a confession. I am quite able to put aside my political beliefs and praise a great movie, play or novel that I consider to be on the wrong side of the moral divide. As a silent movie fan, I admire Birth of a Nation despite it's racism. I own a DVD of both Triumph of the Will and The Dark Knight. But, The Iron Lady is not a great movie. It's not even a good movie, so it doesn't get a pass. And now that awards season is upon us, neither does it's star, Meryl Streep.

For almost two excruciating hours, this film, a conservative's wet dream, ignores the true legacy of Margret Thatcher. Dame Maggie was a supporter of the far right government of Augusto Pinochet, a friend to President Botha of South African apartheid fame, and an enemy of those fighting for their freedom from right wing oppression. (Why is it that conservatives love to yammer about lose of freedom when liberals talk about banking regulation but get all misty eyed about third world, right wing dictators?) She hated the idea that poor people in her own country should get a helping hand from their government. Cut education, of course. Housing for the homeless, what an absurd idea. Worker's rights, how communistic.

Despite my hatred of all things Thatcher, I concede that a good movie could be made of her life. Thanks to post World War 2 left wing policies, the daughter of a small grocer could go to one of the world's great universities. Why not a movie about how she came to hate the very policies that allowed her the social mobility that the traditional British class system would have denied her just a few decades earlier? Instead, The Iron Lady is all about praising her rise to power, with the opposition to Thatcherism presented as liberal sexism that opposed her because she was a woman, (Talk about getting history backwards.) and the timidity of conservative men who didn't have the backbone to shift the tax burden from the wealthy, to where it belonged, the lower middle class, and poor. Margret Thatcher is portrayed as a lone defender of western civilization, standing against the dark hordes of the unwashed and their unreasonable demands for social justice. How brutish.

As great an actress as Meryl Streep is, she should not be rewarded for this white-wash of a truly despicable person. There are other equally worthy performances that can be given SAG awards and Oscars. Why not Viola Davis for The Help, or the long over due Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs? Please, anyone but Streep.