Archive for January, 2008

Economic Stimulus Proposal Gets Funnier And Funnier As America Starts To Burn
January 31, 2008

The headline about the Federal tax rebates in the Globe today reads “Stimulus package swells in Senate“. The Lion suggests that the Senators have always overstated their packages.

Be that as it may, this one has taken a decidedly Republican cast. The leading cast member is Republican Senator Chuckie Grassley of Iowa. Remember the Chuckie movies? This Chuckie doesn’t have near as much charisma and charm. He is ably enabled by the Democratic lead, Senator Max Baucus of Montana, who, predictably, since he is a Democrat, caved in to Republican demands.

The original plan, as envisioned by that man of immense vision living in the White Castle at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, was to hand out $600 to individuals making $75,000 or less, and $1200 to families making $150,000 or less. With a bounty of $300 for each kid too. And naturally businesses would get some incentives to tool up and invest in the coming bonanza, though nothing is said about what they will do with their investments when the money is spent and the country is right back where the mess started.

That wasn’t good enough for the Republicans.

Baucus originally proposed to let even the richest taxpayers share in the rebates, saying that would attract Republican support for his measure. Grassley said that lifting what some Republicans deemed “suffocating income limits” in the House plan was a key reason he was backing the bill.

Suffocating income limits?

Baucus popped the limits to $150,000 to $300,000. But showing that he has a conscience, Baucus’s bill expressly forbids members of Congress from getting any of the loot. Boy, those Democrats are really considerate of the feelings of the working class, eh?

What in hell does someone making 150 grand need with a few hundred more dollars? For that matter why does someone making 75 grand need a rebate of a few hundred bucks?

Working people are doing without, are struggling to pay gasoline and heating bills, are losing their homes, can’t get good, if any, medical care. Poor people are doing without heat, food, and medical care. But Republican contributors just get richer and richer.

And these pucker-faced Republicans like Grassley want to make sure the well-off contributors to their campaigns get to suck up the bucks. And never mind the bullcrap about the money being a rebate of their own money. Society is crumbling but the well-off have no responsibility to contribute to preventing that?

This bill is just more trickle-down nonsense from the Republicans. And Republican trickle is corroding everything it touches, from collapsing bridges, deteriorating highways, education – the entire social compact is being eaten away by the greed and ideological blindness of these people.

The capper to this whole mess comes in the last paragraph:

Some Republicans criticized the package, saying that only a permanent tax cut would stimulate the economy.

That’s the Republican answer to everything.

Bridges falling down? Roads crumbling?

Cut taxes and spend money on a war.

Rich people complaining about paying taxes?

Cut taxes, spend money on a war, give the rich a free ride.

Health care collapsing? People can’t get care?

Cut taxes, spend money on a war, give the insurance companies free reign to steal from the people.

Military falling apart?

Cut taxes, spend money on a war, start another war, blame the generals.

Economy crashing?

Cut taxes, borrow money, spend it on a war.

Wealthy financial firms commit fraud, act incompetently, threaten the world’s economy because of their greed?

Cut taxes, spend money on a war, borrow some more and bail out the wealthy CEOs.

Children falling behind in education?

Cut taxes, spend money on a war, tell the states to spend money on bogus educational programs.

That’s the Republican way. Cut taxes, create wars, and borrow money to pay for the free ride the rich people get from Republican politicians. Crush the poor, crush the unions, crush the workers. Debilitate the judiciary. Blame the resulting mess on the blacks, the Jews, the Muslims, the French, the Russians, the Liberals, the Progressives, the Democrats. And never, ever take responsibility for the disasters created and fostered by Republicans.

The Lion can smell those gated communities on the hills of America starting to burn.

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What Makes The Lion Weep?
January 30, 2008

Jacob Bronowski,  in The Ascent of Man, at the pond in Auschwitz prison camp, squeezing the mud between his fingers…

“It is said that science will dehumanise people and turn them into numbers. That is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

“Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: ‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken’.

“I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.”

In-Depth Commentary On The State Of The Union Address By President George W. Bush
January 29, 2008

B

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Deep enough for ya?

 

World Economy A Mysterious Black Box? Oooooh, It’s Magic!!
January 27, 2008

If you’re wondering what in hell is going on with the economy, there’s a good piece in today’s Globe about the complex schemes dreamed up by the banks to avoid Federal regulation, and how they now and may affect the world.

While the article doesn’t state it bluntly, it’s more of the same old ‘The rich get richer, the rest of us get screwed’.

The article is here, titled The Black Box Economy.

Valium, anyone?

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Quickies Before Lunch…
January 26, 2008

On the economy and the recession…

The clever ones among The Lion’s readers will have noticed yesterday’s long post on the economy and the recession bearing down on us.

The cleverer ones might have noticed that The Lion missed a key concept. The Lion accepts your forgiveness for his sloppiness. Sometimes cynicism blinds one to the truth.

Does anyone think that just possibly our dear friend The President could be pushing money to the masses, not for the stated purpose of averting a recession, but for the usual purpose of skewing the November elections?

Consider that the money will arrive, if the Senate goes along with the Bush Push, in May, or thereabouts. Spending will occur pretty quickly, if the money doesn’t go to Bush’s base of money-grubbers, so by the time November rolls around the Democrats will have spent a goodly amount of time explaining why the sudden burst in the economy is nothing but a puppet show in a puppet theatre about to go up in flames. The Republicans will crow about how they saved the country, conveniently ignoring that the reason the country is in its latest in a long line of Republican catastrophes is because the Republicans screwed up massively. Again.

And the people, bless their nescient little hearts, will have no idea what’s going on. Bread and circuses, bread and circuses. Gets them every time.

Romney pledges to give U.S. the business…

Lately Willard ‘The Mitten’ Romney has been promising to use his vast experience in the business world to save the United States from its own government, apparently by treating government as if it were a business.

The Lion notes some flaws in the Mitten’s argument.

One is that the government is not a business. It does not exist to generate a profit and answer to shareholders. Unless one wishes to argue that the Republican’s wealthy friends are indeed shareholders in the government, since they seem to own much of it, along with owning the vast majority of Republican politicians, and that the Republican government does indeed answer to them rather than to the people.

Another is that the Mitten’s experience largely consisted of buying companies, stripping them of employees, trashing the employees, and selling what’s left to line his pockets with cash.

If the Mitten applies that sort of thinking to the government, then we can expect to see the sick, the poor, the lame, the halt, and that whole crew out on the street looking for a cardboard box to sleep in, or a bridge to sleep under, if they can elbow aside the military veterans already there.

After all, those kinds of people don’t really contribute anything to the bottom line, do they? And the Mitten and his ilk are all about the bottom line.

A legitimate government is a compact among all the people to provide for all the people the opportunity to live in freedom and dignity. That’s not business. And that’s not the Republican way.

George doesn’t look back…

The Lion noticed somewhere in the paper today a comment that George Bush doesn’t like to look back, in the sense that he’s a forward-looking person.

Of course he doesn’t look back. What’s to see? The seeds of a crashing economy. A brutal, illegal war in which he is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. The brutal incompetence visited on the Gulf Coast by his deadly and deliberate destruction of FEMA before Katrina and Rita. The politicization of the Justice Department and its destruction as a legitimate and effective instrument of law. The crippling of department after department in the government by putting the regulated in charge of regulating. The wanton destruction of the environment. And so on and so forth.

The Lion suggests that perhaps our nescient President doesn’t look back because he’s afraid he might see the posse building up to hunt him and drag him off to a richly deserved jail cell. A padded cell, no doubt. Not too far from the gallows.

Team player? Not this Lion…

The Lion noted in the local rag that a selectman, while interviewing a candidate for a position on a town board or committee, asked if the fellow was a ‘team player’. Apparently none of the other candidates were asked about their proclivity for teaminess.

Once upon a time, when The Lion was engaged in the world of work and other people, he interviewed for a job in a local management consulting firm, one with an international reputation. The boss put the question to The Lion, who immediately responded, “No, no way. I come in, I do the work the best I can, whatever it takes, I get the money, I go home,” got the job. Smart boss!

Once the ‘team’ concept is woven into a business, the door is open to all kinds of chicanery. If you don’t go along with the team in all things, and after playing on the team for some length of time one will go along with just about anything, then one is always vulnerable to the threat of being shunned, if not disemployed.

A team is little more than a small mob, albeit more disciplined.

Work together towards a goal, sure. Join the ‘team’? No. And team play in government creates the worst of the mob mentality, as is evident from the current government of the United States. The constant reinforcement among team members of destructive, if not outright stupid, and illegal actions and policies has got the country into the slimy pit of sleaze it occupies with pride today.

As for our erstwhile selectman, he presides over a town government that is known for its ‘go along to get along’ mentality. Not too many dissident voices down there at town hall. The Lion would feel much better if they were fighting tooth and nail all the time on the important issues, instead of pissing away their political capital on petty personality issues.

(The Lion is still waiting for someone to bring up rising sea levels in a discussion of the half billion dollars the town wants to spend on sewers.)

Save The Economy! Buy Toys From China With Money Borrowed From China!
January 25, 2008

The Lion has watched bemusedly the politicians in Washington twisting and turning as they struggle with the economy’s labyrinthine twistings and turnings.

The only certainty in the whole mess is that the politicians and their economist friends are walking around with dirty underwear as they watch the country’s finances plummet and their chance of keeping their jobs evaporate.

Their solution? Hand out money to citizens.

And where do they get the money? Given the economic, ethical, moral, and legal devastation that George Bush and his clever conservative clowns have wreaked on the United States, they’ll likely borrow it from China, or some other Asian country that actually understands money and national economies.

And what do they expect the citizens to do with the money? Why, spend it, of course. Run right out and buy some of those great Chinese toys. Everyone remembers those bargains.

The Lion would rudely remind the government that for years economists have expressed trepidation about the savings rate of Americans. It’s been a negative number for quite some time. Apparently that’s a bad sign. But at the first sign of trouble, what’s the word from Bush? Go out and shop. Spend everything you’ve got. “Bail out my rich friends,” he says. Shades of 9/11! That’s George’s answer to everything.

“The incentives in this package will lead to higher consumer spending and increased business investment this year,” Bush said at a White House news conference. “Our economy is structurally sound, but it is dealing with short-term disruptions in the housing market and the impact of higher energy prices.”

The Lion believes that no one can be quite sure what George means by ‘structurally sound’, given his pitiful relationship with the English language and his continuing failure to understand and apply critical thinking to his actions, not to mention that he chooses to live in a bubble of delusion and hallucination.

But anybody working for a living would likely dispute Bush’s take on what comprises an economically sound structure. They may not understand the details, but they know what they see in their paycheck and what they see their money buying, which in both cases amounts to less and less.

The Globe did talk to a real economist:

Since taxpayers won’t start getting checks until May, the rebates will be too late to have an impact on the current period of turmoil, said Argus Research economist Richard Yamarone.

“Anytime you wake up and there’s a check in your mailbox, that’s a good thing,” Yamarone said. “But households aren’t going to go on a sustained spending spree” because of it, he said.

Assuming that the sheeplike denizens of the United States take their little windfall to the local mall, then what? By the time they get the money, we will have been in recession for five or six months, according to the experts. If one assumes stupidity on the part of citizens, they’ll buy televisions and DVD players and a variety of non-essentials. And then the money will be gone. What then? Borrow more from Asia?

On the other hand, if we assume intelligent citizens looking at bad times, perhaps The Lion could be pardoned for thinking that the money will go to enrich the coffers of the already obscenely wealthy energy corporations, who have their dirty little fingers dug well into George Bush and Dick Cheney and the Congress, as well as into our pockets. Some of the money will go for food. Some will go for whatever necessities a family needs. And then it will be gone, and the economy will continue to totter, as it must, given the incompetence and mismanagement by Republicans.

A clue as to the thinking of Democrats and Republicans lies in this bit from the story in today’s Globe by Ross Kerber:

To make the deal, Democratic House leaders set aside demands for extra food stamps and unemployment benefits while Republicans agreed to extend rebates to those who don’t make enough to pay taxes – anyone who earned at least $3,000 last year will receive a check of at least $300.

Let’s not put any money in the hands of those who may need it the most, and who will spend it quickly because they need to live in an economy deliberately designed by Republican management to crush them. That’s the Republican way. Aided and abetted by the Democrats, of course.

The other half of the plan to rescue us from Republican incompetence includes giving tax breaks to business and tax incentives to encourage them to go out and spend, spend, spend.

But wait! Hark! In June the consumers will have spent the money. Businesses, having benefited from the splurge, will find the stream of Republican lucre has dried up. And we’ll all be back in the same boat, except, and here’s the devilish imp in the details, business will still have the tax breaks and incentives. But no customers.

The Lion has to pinch himself and remember that the country is in the gutter in good part because of unscrupulous businessmen and businesses, as well as because of the Republican attachment to garnering wealth for themselves and their friends by ripping it from the pockets of the citizenry. Wealthy people don’t pay taxes under Republican theories of government, nor does business.

One way to make that work, of course, is to slash government services, primarily by turning over regulation and enforcement to the very people government is supposed to regulate and stop from destroying the country with their greed for money and lust for power. Are you enjoying those Chinese toys? The contaminated food? The gas wells sprouting like mushrooms in the West? The untested beef you ate for lunch? The high property taxes you pay? The gouging at the gas pump? How about those tax breaks and incentives going to Exxon and friends, already obscenely fat with profits ripped from your paycheck?  That’s the Republican way.

And when the little bonus the government’s going to hand out is gone, the country will have been plunged deeper into debt to the rest of the world, which, with the unerring eye for the jugular that has always characterized Yankee businessmen, will continue to buy up American assets.

Watching the politicians line up at the local laundromat to get their underwear cleaned doesn’t inspire The Lion to confidence in their so-called fix. The Lion is reminded of the bridge in Minneapolis and the Big Dig in Boston. And the Hindenberg. Let’s not leave out the Titanic. And any Tinkertoy set that happens to be lying around.

The Lion Wins A Battle With Technology!
January 22, 2008

Alright! The new machine is turned on and beautiful (The Lion had a girl like that, back when).

Naturally there had to be a hitch, and naturally it had to be with the Internet. Couldn’t connect (hmmmm, that’s a problem with the women these days for The Lion).

However, after half an hour with a Comcast tech we figured out the cable was a little hinky (damn! what was her name…?)

Fixed that and have been immersed in Vista ever since.

The computer is gorgeous. All black and brushed chrome an intense little blue lights. And fast! O my isitfast! (Had a girl like that too.)

And quiet too. The old one was noisy. (Ummmm…. can’t decide.)

The Lion hopes to develop a beautiful relationship with this machine. (Might as well. Can’t get a date.) And of course there’s always the router to look forward to…

The Lion Challenges Technology, Or Vice Versa…
January 21, 2008

The Lion has purchased a new computer, a very nice Dell, with bells and whistles, lots of memory, and Vista.

So far, The Lion has managed to hook up all the wires, with very little thanks to the basically crummy Dell documentation, and The Lion has managed to make room on his crowded desk to put the new hardware alongside the old computer, which still runs well, thank you.

The next step will be to plug everything in to the electric outlet feeding the surge suppressor. And then the tricky part – switching the cable modem to the new machine before firing everything up and hoping it all works.

And then dealing with Vista. The Lion invested in a whole thick O’Reilly book to cover anything that might be a thorn in the paw.

And then… hooking up a wired Linksys router so that both machines can talk to the internet, and possibly, if The Lion understands what he’s read so far, talk to each other.

The Lion finds all of this quite anxiety provoking, especially since it’s been six years since he had to go through this ordeal by cable. In keeping with his typical approach to life, The Lion is procrastinating, though for the sake of his reputation he calls it ‘gathering information’.

In any event, The Lion apologizes for not posting his usual enlightening and stunningly provocative posts (the ones with the naked women…), and hopes within a few days to be able to assuage his public’s (the six of you know who you are) addiction.

And does anybody out there know how to hook up a router….?

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And The First Fangie Goes To…
January 17, 2008

The Lion did not expect to announce a Fangie award for a while, but today he stumbled on a post he considers worthy. A sample:

If you can’t imagine Hillary Clinton invading Afghanistan and Iraq, then have a look at her voting record. Bill Clinton managed to, needlessly and without provocation, bomb countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. He even bombed a Chinese embassy. If Monica Lewinsky had a heart, she’d have bitten it off. The differences between Clinton and both Bushes as Presidents, was more a difference in style than substance – ideologically, they’re on the same page.

And on the 20th of this month, the Bush-Clinton dynasty will enter its 28th year (George H. W. Bush served two terms as Vice President before being elected President). If Hillary Clinton was elected (God forbid) we would have at least another four years of that dynasty. It’s a surprise that Jeb Bush Jnr hasn’t done his duty and married Chelsea Clinton, and sired a heir and spare.

See the entire post here: Steph’s Blog

The Fangie is awarded to Steph, whose passion and ire match that of The Lion himself. Possibly surpass him. Very high pungency factor.

(The Lion denies completely that the award to Steph is in any way influenced by his mad passion and lust for her. Such rumors will simply not be countenanced. Never met the woman. Don’t know what you’re talking about.)

 

The Lion Offers The Fang And Claw Awards
January 17, 2008

The Lion, not wanting to be left out of the entire sordid award business, and not being a member of the Writers’ Guild, thus under no constraints, will offer two awards from time to time, if he remembers.

The Claw Award, affectionately referred to as the Clawdie, will go to civilians. A civilian is a non-blogger, or at least someone not known to dirty his keyboard in the blogosphere with the rest of us, who has made his presence known in the press through a letter to the editor or through a quote in a news story, and who makes an ethically, politically, or morally significant and pungent comment of which The Lion approves.

The Fang Award, or, naturally, the Fangie, will go to a blogger from time to time who in any given post performs the ‘Stick it to ’em’ maneuver in an excellent and eloquent manner; or who makes an ethically, politically, or morally significant and pungent comment of which The Lion approves.

Other criteria for either award may be added or subtracted as The Lion sees fit, possibly depending on how much or how little coffee he has had, what his blood pressure is on any given day, and whether or not he is bored with the whole idea of giving awards. It should be noted that The Lion is always willing to receive awards praising his intelligence, his writing skills, his wit and humor, his manhood, his good looks, and his general, all-around beneficent influence on the world around him.

And now, the first Clawdie ever goes to C. J. Banfield, a person of indeterminate sex who, in a letter to the Globe today, wrote:

“How many Iraqi civilians is the United States justified in killing so that Americans feel safe? At what point does our appetite for security break our ethical budget?”

Criticism doesn’t get much closer to the heart of the matter than that. Congratulations, C. J. (Nothing is in the mail.)