Another Milepost on the Road to Hell

On this the fourth anniversary of the Citizen’s United decision we note that these eye popping stories of the symptoms of inequality are starting to pile up. Just how much money has been hoovered up by the wealthiest people in the world should be disturbing to anybody with a pulse and two synapses to rub together. Worker productivity keeps going up and the proceeds of that created wealth keep filtering up to the elite .01%.

The World’s 85 richest worth as much as 3.5 poorest

400 families in America have as much wealth as the bottom 150 million.

Had a political discussion with a young nephew and a brother-in-law recently where the nephew’s inchoate political view was decidedly anarchist – we need a revolution. My brother-in-law is a DLC Democrat who was horrified that a young person would advocate anarchy. I was more neutral on the anarchy, warning that it doesn’t always work out the way you hope. But stories like the above make me wonder if a little anarchy might not be what we need to rebalance our human portfolio.

It sure doesn’t seem like another great progressive era is in the offing. It’s needed today as much as it was in the 1893-1910 period, and the bell was answered by some unlikely figures like Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft. One cannot imagine today’s GOP, or their corporate and finance masters, tolerating the needed reforms in the Citizen’s United age. Even with the reforms of the Progressive Age we still could not prevent the Great Depression of the 30s. That financial conflagration spawned even more desperate regulatory and safety net reforms that were successful in preventing further economic tumult for 40 years. But those improvements have been eroded for the last 30 years and here we stand – with more overall wealth, innovation, technology, etc. but more insecurity for more people than since 1929. The meltdown of 2007-2010 has not been met by even the minimum legislative reaction that the so-called Progressive Age enacted. Nope, we are whistling through the middle classes’ grave yard.

In the early part of the 20th century there were enough fair minded men in both parties to act, even minimally, to protect their own system from itself, if nothing else. Unfortunately, today one of the major parties has been taken over by such medieval know-nothing moralization of economics that the idea any fair minded core of that party could emerge, like Roosevelt and Taft, and work to reform the inequities, seems farfetched. I do not see the change we need coming except for the one party rule that has come about in California and brought the Golden State back from the brink.

In my darkest moments I do have gleeful thoughts of marauding hordes going over the fences of gated communities while these super wealthy pashas of self-congratulatory indulgence have pathetically locked themselves in their panic rooms.

Quoting former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis—“We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both”
A slum in Mumbai, India

Christie Corruptapalooza – when heroes fall it’s always hardest on the kids

Until this weekend, nobody knew who the hell Kim Guardagno, the heretofore completely anonymous Lt. Governor of NJ was. Even Kim Whatsername’s mother probably didn’t know who she was until Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer brought her daughter out of Christie’s long dark shadows. Welcome to the party Kim! It was quite a coming out, wasn’t it?

‘Tis a shame. Cause Kim Whosiwhatsis may have been the Luckiest Woman in New Jersey. Every vote for Christie for re-election last Nov. was a vote for Kim Mysterioso to be the next governor! It’s not a secret, but NOBODY – nobody besides Polislice, anyway –  talked about the fact that because of NJ law, Christie (f/k/a the Luckiest Man in America) would have had to resign his cushy office in Trenton in order to fulfill his sacred destiny and run for the presidency. So Kim Thingamajiggy would have inherited Christie’s bully pulpit (and key to the Cheetos cabinet) sometime in 2015 at the latest. People would have woken up one day to find a complete stranger was the incumbent governor, able to run for the office on her own in 2017. So fortunato.

Even if Christie’s once golden ship completely crashes and burns on the shoals of Fort Lee, Kimmy Questionmark could still have won Trenton Idol upon his forced resignation, should that tragedy befall NJ, God have mercy on our souls. Could have. Until it came out that she, allegedly, is a part of the Christie administration because she’s just as comfortable with strong arm tactics and disingenuous self-boosterism as everybody else in Christie’s powerful gravitational orbit.

So pity poor Kim. She thought she was going to be moving on up the ladder to a better job and brighter horizons pretty soon. Now her absolute BEST case scenario is she stays Lt. Gov. for 4 more years. WORST case scenario: um, jail.

But who do I feel even sorrier for than Kimmy G? Poor Mika and Joe (a/k/a Squint & the Meat Puppet). The power couple hosts of the weekday morning gasbagfest on MSNBC drool over Chris Christie in ways that probably even make Mary Pat a little nauseous. But the romance is supposedly over.

An on-air romance blossomed, forged over chummy strolls along the Jersey Shore and heart-to-hearts in the studio about everything from overeating to education, embodying the aisle-crossing aspirations of this partisan era.

Now, as anybody who actually watches MSNBC knows, Morning Joe is completely untethered to the MSNBC mothership piloted by Captain Maddow in prime time. Morning Joe is Fox and Friends Lite with a heavy dose of very serious centrist sauce. So I’m sure nobody is more hurt than Squint and the Meat Puppet about the Governor taking his ball and not playing with MSNBC.

They were going to make him President of the United States and he would have made them First Morning Show. Every smart centrist policy announcement to demolish the middle class and bring the poor to full indentured servitude could have been on their show. They could have been Leni Riefenstahl to Christie’s…um, that guy she cinematically fluffed. But now they are stuck in the middle not knowing whether to stay with Daddy despite his cratering ambitions, or go with Mommy, their employer that Daddy is no longer having relations with.

One could criticize Christie for inappropriately putting Blondie and the Blow Dry in the middle. But they usually love the middle so very much.

Update: Apparently the kids chose Daddy. Oy.

In the comments Sharksbreath asks:

When Christie does his perp walk. Will they wear T shirts that say “Free Christie”

Inquiring mInds want to know.

If Poverty is Because of Immorality is Wealth Evidence of Morality?

And that’s how you can easily dismiss the poverty/immorality connection. Clearly any examination of the wealthy would make an exaltation of their moral superiority an exercise in extreme hilarity. Is wealth really a reward for virtuous living? Are the rich more moral than the rest of us? Commence laughter.

The moral frailty of the 1% is equivalent to 80 year old women in South Florida being stripped of their fur coats to shiver in the frigid 65 degree night. We don’t even have to discuss the issues of Dickensian economic inequality – tax policy, regulatory issues, Wall Street predation, etc. – that the left views as issues of morality and the right sees as liberty and freedom, fuck yeah! No, we can just look at the issues of good and evil that the right cites as moral chaos that creates poverty – divorce, single motherhood, infidelity, abortion, homosexuality, watching Broadway musicals, etc.

How do you explain the legion of stories of marriage, divorce, drug and alcohol abuse, the sexual amusement park that is the playground of the rich and powerful? Not to mention their blessed progeny, who themselves are rich and powerful, without having done any of the virtuous things that conveyed their parents or grandparents to wealthtown. Even if you could ignore the multiple marriages, infidelity, out of wedlock births, homosexuality of the elder generation that earned the money, how do you answer for the Paris Hilton’s that the right fights against estate taxes for? Single motherhood is a an inexcusable failing but making sex tapes is more a gray area? 

Whether it’s royal families, titans of industry, the investment community, NBA superstars, CEOs or reality TV stars, the 1% cannot under any circumstances be considered moral paragons. So can we really believe that Jesus (and his father who brought him into the business) has smiled upon these people and made them rich because of their moral worthiness?

For every Warren Buffett who was married to his late first wife for 52 years with no hint of scandal for him or his children, there’s Donald Trump. The Donald. Seriously? Three marriages, numerous stories of mistresses and infidelity, and a bankruptcy or fraud scandal for every woman willing to sleep with the orange haired birther king.   

But the right would have you believe that Buffett and Trump are financially secure because of their virtuousness. So were the Borgias, William Randolph Hearst and Kim Kardashian. David D. Rockefeller is in heaven creating cloud monopolies along with every Pope and King of England, even the ones that had their wives beheaded because divorce was unacceptable.

If we are to believe the religious right that issues of poverty can only be addressed by dealing with the moral degradation of modern society – which they’ve been saying for 200 years going back to the Calvinists – then don’t we have to believe the inverse, that the rich are the annointed due to their worthiness? We would be hypocrites otherwise.

Just as hypocritical as if anybody had ever said something like “It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven” and assuming the rich were all immoral while we strive to emulate them – if only financially.

And yes, sex tapes are a gray area – they depend on production values. Maybe that’s just me.

They Have the $$ But Also the Stupid, so There’s That

Christie (f/k/a The Luckiest Man in America) had a steep hill to climb even before Bridgegate because despite the support of his most loyal base on the panel of Morning Joe, a lot of the GOP hates the guy’s guts.

This weekend he’s in Florida raising money for Rs such as Rick Scott (R-Voldemort), but shhhhh, he’s doing it behind closed doors now because of his (toxic) popularity.

Brian Ballard, a top FL Romney supporter vomits on “horrific” Christie before visit.

 “The guy, as a person, is horrific,” said Ballard, a top lobbyist and finance chair of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Like other Romney insiders, Ballard deeply resents Christie for the way the governor sidled up to, and gushed about, President Barack Obama in the 2012 campaign’s final days just after Tropical Storm Sandy ruined parts of the Northeast’s coastline.

“Charlie Crist got a lot of grief for what was called a hug of Obama. But what Christie did to Obama isn’t suitable to say in a family newspaper,” Ballard said. “I firmly believe he helped swing that election in Obama’s favor just to help himself. I busted my ass for two years raising money and supporting Romney and this guy Christie just wiped his hands of us when we were no longer useful to him.”

For every Romney lover that hates Christie I can also find a tea party/Palinite who didn’t much like Romney… and hates Christie. Even without Bridgegate he wasn’t getting a sniff at the GOP nomination. 

The weak GOP bench will create an opening for Scott Walker. But overall, with the lack of quality and depth, and the mortality of deep pocket GOP donors (three of the biggest TX R donors died recently) who generally are in the 65-rigor mortus age group, 2016 might turn out to be quite a disappointment to the media.

If Hilary runs, Hilary wins and the media will have to bust both nuts to make it look interesting for 2 years.

Short Movie Reviews – Awards Season

Because in a previous life, something something, I receive in the mail (and through download, which is really cool) DVDs of the films the studios hope to receive prestigious (cough, cough) award nominations, so this time of year I actually watch Hollywood films in the comfy of the Polislice living room. As a public service I offer these comments on the films they sent me for my approval:

American Hustle – Good film, not great. David O. Russell made a Marty Scorcese film. 

Nebraska – A gem. Laid back and stark like its namesake and in black and white, but don’t let that stop you. It’s quite a perfect little comic gem. Probably the best screenplay of the year.  

12 Years a Slave – Powerful. Surprisingly well done. The kind of reminder many seem to need (I’m looking at everybody who compare anything to slavery) that slavery wasn’t some abstract historical event that can be white washed. Hard to watch in a good way.

Gravity – Hard to watch in a bad way. Technologically stunning because you will believe Sandra Bullock is in space. But dark, harrowing, bleak and without any respite. James Bond can face death 20 times a film and after each time there’s a scene in an office where he’s having a martini and you can breathe. This film offers no martinis. Not enjoyable even if admirable.

Dallas Buyers Club – Very good, but probably should have been an HBO film. McConaughey surprised me.

The Butler – Snubbed for a best picture nomination for extremely good reason. It is awful. Embarrassingly bad dialogue to go along with the wrong headed scenes of badly cast actors trying to be well known historic figures (with the exception of Jane Fonda as Mrs. Reagan, she looked like her and was good).

Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen’s rumination on what Ruth Madoff must be going through. Cate Blanchett is excellent and the film was surprisingly entertaining. 

August: Osage County – Meryl is Meryl. But when it was over I didn’t know anything about the people I had just spent almost 2 hours with. Researched the original play and saw that it was 3 hours long. They evidently cut the hour that made the play good.

They sent me Captain Phillips but I have not watched yet. Sorry Tom, may be unfair but I was pretty sure I was voting for someone else for best actor anyway.

The films that didn’t care what I thought were Her and The Wolf of Wall Street. Not a big Spike Jonze/Charlie Kauffman fan so I’ll skip that. I may actually pay to see Wolf out of respect for Marty. I think I’ve written that I had my own run in with the subject of Wolf when he was in Hollywood briefly trying to be a movie mogul. He should have gone to jail for Santa with Muscles starring Hulk Hogan.

75 Economists Tell Congress Raise the Minimum Wage – GOP Knows Better

And again, there’s the difference with today’s know nothing party. They don’t need facts. They have faith. Faith in their simplistic understanding of economics that says raising the price of labor creates inflation, costs jobs. They can ignore the centuries of  experience and peer reviewed studies represented by 75 pointy headed Eastern elitists because they know…  ahem, have faith… that what makes sense to them must be right. The truthiness of it is in their gut.

In fact, Republicans like Joe Barton of Texas know that the minimum wage is bad economics, besides being unconstitutional, and should be repealed.

The suggestion to abolish the minimum wage altogether is more rare to come by, but Barton isn’t alone. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Senate’s labor committee, also declared in June that he didn’t believe in the concept of minimum wage and would support its repeal.

Think about how many more people we could employ for $5.00 an hour? Or $3.00? Let’s undercut China and Malaysia and get those jobs back to America for a dollar a day.

They might need food stamps to eat at the paltry wages offered, but we’ll be gutting that too. ‘Cause it’s food stamps that cause hunger. Or something.

Baseball Approves Expanded Instant Replay

It may be the toy department of life but I can tells ya as a lifelong Mets and Jets fan that sports can take a lot of your emotional energy. I can’t fathom any argument against instant replay. Against trying to get the calls right, as much as humanly possible. So I applaud MLB for this move to expand the use of instant replay

“I am very pleased that instant replay will expand to include additional impactful plays,” Selig said in a statement. “The new system will give managers valuable recourse in potentially game-changing situations. The opportunity for our fans to see more replays in our ballparks is also an important modification that the clubs and I favored.”

Thank you!

You Should Have Such Socialism

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We have enormous structural problems with our economy that no President could address without the cooperation of Congress. Considering the tons of concrete roadblock put in front of Obama in the form of the GOP Congress and abuse of the filibuster in the Senate, the positive signs in the economy are a frigging miracle.

Now just end the austerity nonsense and let us get on with it, please.

Who Said It?

“It is of benefit to them and to the public that laborers should unite in their common interest and for lawful purposes… if they stand together, they are often able, all of them, to command better prices for their labor than when dealing singly with rich employers.”

Who said it?  Some wild eyed Democrat? It was William Howard Taft – Republican President. The quote is from an opinion he wrote while he was a Justice on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (1894). So if you can’t imagine a Republican politician or judge saying that today, or agreeing with its sentiment, it’s because today’s Republican Party is not your father’s, grandfather’s or great grandfather’s Republican Party.

3D Printing, Solar Power – Can People Relate?

The next technology to make us feel old and separate one generation from another is the burgeoning 3D printing craze. in my lifetime we’ve gone from the hula hoop to 3-D printing and I’m still working on the concept behind the hula hoop.

So much of the 3D printing stuff I read is fairly impenetrable and I can’t relate to it except for the gun printing (which scares the crap out of me) and this story about Hershey experimenting with the technology to manufacture their confections.

In other Hershey news the company is moving into spreads and will create a new product called Hershey’s Spreads to which the only response will be “that’s what I’ve heard, so the rumors are true?” (tee hee hee)

Segue: I’m wondering if the conservative reluctance to embrace renewable sources of energy is that they just can’t fathom that solar power or wind power could possibly be real. They’re too simple to be able to provide the kind of energy that you get from carbon, that you have to work for, you have to dig a well for it or blow up a mountain for it. Maybe the sneering is because they can’t imagine that sun or wind could provide enough energy to run a factory on it or a city. Sure, you can run a refrigerator light on wind power, when the wind blows, but not real machinery. You have to have coal or oil or nuclear to run society.

I understand the old line energy companies and their lobbying to keep every penny their old technologies create for them, despite dire consequences for the economy and the environment. Afterall,

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” – Upton Sinclair

But why does the rank and file average conservative consumer sneer about renewable energy unless they just don’t understand how it could work?