Friday, August 28, 2015

The Donald's First Campaign Ad

From the Washington Post, This fake Donald Trump campaign ad is just about perfect:

"By now, Donald Trump has taken plenty of heat for not really, you know, taking positions on issues. And in true Trump form, he doesn't really see the need to do that. He'd rather just say that he'll Make America Great Again and call it a day. And heck, it's working so far.

But how might that translate into his campaign ads? Below, 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' imagines what Trump's first commercial might look like -- and to quote Trump, it's pretty great."


Monday, August 24, 2015

Tea Party Hypocrisy

Ten different government organizations -- including the U.S. Forest Service, Okanogan County Emergency Management, the Air Force (whose Fairchild base is being used as a mobilization center), The Washington state government, whose governor requested a federal emergency declaration to help facilitate firefighting, The Obama administration, which issued that declaration, and Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and California that are contributing resources for use in Washington -- mounted a "large-scale coordinated response" to fight a fire that threatened homes.  That effort saved the home of a Okanogan, Washington man named Brad Craig.

He thanked them wearing a t-shirt that said "Lower Taxes + Less Government = More Freedom."

 Can you say hypocrite!

Read Slate, Washington Man Wearing Anti-Government T-Shirt Thanks Firefighters for Saving His Home.  

Friday, August 21, 2015

America's Addicition to Oil, and Support of Middle East Dictators

UPDATE II:  Now would be a good time to increase the federal gas tax by $1/gallon, so that we don't become complacent about the real cost of oil.

"We are witnessing a historic fall in the price of oil, down more than 50 percent in less than a year. When a similar drop happened in the 1980s, the Soviet Union collapsed. What will it mean now? . .

Many American experts and commentators have hoped for low oil prices as a way to deprive unsavory regimes around the globe of easy money. Now it’s happening, but at a speed that might produce enormous turmoil and uncertainty in an already anxious world."

Read the Washington Post, From Russia to Iran, the consequences of the global oil bust.  

UPDATE: Why not increase the federal gas tax by $1/gallon?

"The beauty of the tax — as a substitute for a high world price — is that the incentive for fuel efficiency remains, but the extra money collected at the pump goes right back into the U.S. economy (and to the citizenry through the revenue-neutral FICA rebate) instead of being shipped overseas to Russia, Venezuela, Iran and other unsavories.

Which is a geopolitical coup. Cheap oil is the most effective and efficient instrument known to man for weakening these oil-dependent miscreants.

And finally, lower consumption reduces pollution and greenhouse gases. The reduction of traditional pollutants, though relatively minor, is an undeniable gain. And even for global warming skeptics, there’s no reason not to welcome a benign measure that induces prudential reductions in CO2 emissions.

The unexpected and unpredicted collapse of oil prices gives us a unique opportunity to maintain our good luck through a simple, revenue-neutral measure to help prevent the perennial price spikes that follow the fool’s paradise of ultra-cheap oil.

We’ve blown this chance at least three times since the 1980s. As former French foreign minister Jean Fran├žois-Poncet said a quarter-century ago, 'It’s hard to take seriously that a nation has deep problems if they can be fixed with a 50-cent-a-gallon' — 90 cents in today’s money — 'gasoline tax.' Let’s not blow it again."

Read the Washington Post, Raise the gas tax. A lot.

Would you support a $4/gallon gas tax?

Read the Washington Post, Can Americans handle the truth about gas prices?

I Have a Question!

From an email:

Why isn't the number 11 pronounced onety-one?

If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea...does that mean that one out of five enjoys it?

Why do croutons come in airtight packages? Aren't they just stale bread to begin with?

If people from Poland are called Poles, then why aren't people from Holland called Holes?

If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?

Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist, but a person who drives a race car is not called a racist?

If it's true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the others here for?

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, then doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?

Do Lipton Tea employees take 'coffee breaks?'

What hair color do they put on the driver's licenses of bald men?

I thought about how mothers feed their babies with tiny little spoons and forks, so I wondered what do Chinese mothers use, toothpicks?

Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post Office? What are we supposed to do, write to them? Why don't they just put their pictures on the postage stamps so the mailmen can look for them while they deliver the mail?

Is it true that you never really learn to swear until you learn to drive?

If a cow laughed, would milk come out of her nose?

Whatever happened to Preparations A through G?

Why, Why, Why do we press harder on the remote control when we know the batteries are getting weak?

Why do banks charge a fee due to insufficient funds; when they already know you're broke?

Why is it that when someone tells you that there are one billion stars in the universe you believe them, but if they tell you there is wet paint you have to touch it to check?

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but he ducks when you throw a revolver at him?

Why did Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Whose cruel idea was it to put an "s" in the word "lisp"?

If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

Why is it that, no matter what color bubble bath you use, the bubbles are always white?

Is there ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?

Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?

Why do people run over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it and then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?

How do those dead bugs get into the enclosed light fixtures?

Why is it that whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table you always manage to knock something else over?

Why, in winter, do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?

The statistics on sanity say that one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're OK..? (then it's you!)

REMEMBER, A day without a smile is like a day without sunshine!

Go, The Donald, Go!, Cont.

UPDATE IX:  The articles say it well.

Read the Washington Post, Donald Trump and the Cattle Car Caucus and GOP candidates tiptoe around Donald Trump’s xenophobic demagoguery.

Then read Vox, Donald Trump’s appalling reaction to a hate crime committed in his name.

UPDATE VIII:  "There’s a certain demographic in this country — it’s unseemly to mention the specific population by name — that has no sense of personal responsibility.

I don’t know whether their problem is cultural or biological. But these people refuse to acknowledge any bad decisions they have ever made, or the many times others have bailed them out. They want everyone else to pay for their failures, and sometimes even their successes.

By now I think you know which deadbeats I’m talking about: the people running for president.

I’m not saying they’re all bad; there are a few personally responsible outliers to cherry-pick from an otherwise mooch-y bunch. But, as a whole, this group is unusually adept at ducking deserved blame, claiming unearned credit and hoovering up O.P.M. (Other People’s Money). . .

[B]y far, the leader of the personal responsibility deadbeats is Donald Trump, a welfare queen if there ever was one.

This is a man who has proudly “used the laws of the country to [his] advantage.” That means racking up hundreds of millions of dollars in tax abatements — that is, government subsidies — to finance his real estate empire. That means using “government’s incompetence as a wedge to increase his private fortune,” as one former New York City tax auditor put it. It means borrowing lots of money that he never paid back, because it was discharged in four (corporate) bankruptcies, which he now looks back on with pride.

That means trying to use eminent domain to seize an elderly widow’s property so he could build a limousine parking lot, or pressuring a city to condemn several businesses so he could buy the land on the cheap to build a 'combined amusement park, shipping terminal and seaport village and office complex.' That means slapping his name on all sorts of other projects he had relatively little involvement in and then swooping in to take credit when things went well — or suing to have his name removed when things went badly.

None of this is illegal, of course. But it’s also maybe not the track record of someone who wants to lead the party that has fashioned itself the party of personal responsibility, of freedom from government dependence, of the makers rather than the takers. Yes, Trump’s been 'making,' but that making has been enabled by a fair amount of taking, too. . .

To be sure, there’s a long and storied American tradition of shunting responsibilities, and costs, onto other parties (most creatively, though not exclusively, through the tax code). So maybe this crop of candidates is just what we deserve — if not exactly what we need. "

Read the Washington Post,  The 2016 field is full of deadbeats — and maybe it’s just what America deserves.

Again I ask, why are Republi-cons such suckers for snake oil salesmen?

UPDATE VII:  The appeal of politicians such as Trump and Putin "is partly their brash self-confidence. They don’t explain the mundane details of national revival; they just assert it. Think of the character Harold Hill in 'The Music Man.' He promised to give River City a marching band, even though he couldn’t play music.

Putin, like Trump, seems to understand that power and showmanship are inseparable, especially for a nation that is traumatized by military and economic losses. It’s a confidence game. 'Within the system, Mr. Putin has developed his own idealized view of himself as CEO of 'Russia, Inc.' In reality, his leadership style is more like that of a mafia family Don,” write Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy in their book, 'Mr.?Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.' . .

Trump is more nakedly self-promoting than Putin, with a vanity and braggadocio that would embarrass a Russian (or, indeed, almost anyone). Trump’s Web site promotes him as “the very definition of the American success story,” gliding over his four corporate bankruptcies. He seems to enjoy it when commentators deride him as an uncouth lout and rabble-rouser, underestimating the power of his message. His blunt comments speak to a nation that’s sick of political double-talk. . .

What’s surprising about Trump is that he has attracted such a wide following. He’s Reagan without Reaganism, running a campaign nearly devoid of ideas. Americans have had flirtations with demagogues, from Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. But the bullying authoritarian personality — the Putin style — usually doesn’t work here. This summer has been an exception, but history suggests that it won’t last."

Read the Washington Post, Is Donald Trump an American Putin?

P.S.  I don't agree with the final conclusion that Trump is a demagogues like Coughlin or McCarthy because, as noted before, unlike most politicians Trump doesn't need to win the election, he has a real life.

UPDATE VI:  Love him or hate him, The Donald understands "the way really life works" and how to negotiate and deal.

A "key advantage that Trump has is that he is unconstrained by the norms of running for office. He doesn't need to spend time raising money because, however much he actually has, it's in the billions -- hundreds of millions of which are liquid and with millions more coming in regularly. He doesn't need to actually win, because he's already accomplished -- and employed. He doesn't need to worry about what he says because so much of his appeal to voters is centered on his not caring what the repercussions are.

All of which means that he's unconstrained by campaigning. He doesn't have to prove his chops to you; he's a billionaire. . .

Trump is also introducing something else new to the campaign process: An explicit reliance on personality. Much of what we do when we choose a candidate is to try to use past actions to predict future behavior. But we're bad at that, both because we can't help but blend our desired outcome into our analysis, and because past action is actually a bad way to predict the future."

Read the Washington Post, Donald Trump’s surprisingly savvy analysis of American politics.  which also notes that "[w]hen people are considering candidates, most will review top-line policy positions, if they compare policies at all. This is why we have political parties: so that we can have a cheat sheet for what people stand for without having to do a lot of reading and becoming experts in particular issues."

UPDATE V:  "If you’re a Republican, you may be telling yourself that this will get sorted out eventually, and your party will get itself a real nominee. And you’d be right. But by the time that happens, the party will have spent months tying itself in knots. The voters Trump represents will be only more convinced that their party is, in the words Trump himself might use, a bunch of total losers."

Read the Washington Post, Bad news, Republicans: Donald Trump is practically bulletproof.

UPDATE IV:  Can the Republi-cons "keep the crowded field from turning into a Trump-incited mob" tonight?!

Read Politico, How Jeb and the GOP Got Trumped.

UPDATE III:  Scott "Walker’s [recent] encouragement of the Muslim myth was another case of a dynamic that could be problematic for the eventual Republican presidential nominee: Saying zany things is rational strategy.

Chris Christie talking about his wish to punch a teachers union in its collective face? Ted Cruz saying the Obama administration is becoming the 'world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorists'? Mike Huckabee talking about Obama marching Israelis to the 'door of the oven'? Rand Paul declaring that highly taxed people are 'half-slave'? Or Donald Trump, who still doesn’t know whether Obama was born in America, insulting everything from Mexican immigrants to John McCain’s war record?

They may sound crazy — but they’re crazy like a Fox.

Paul, the libertarian candidate in the GOP field, explained the Trump appeal on CNN: 'This is a temporary sort of loss of sanity, but we’re going to come back to our senses and look for somebody serious to lead the country at some point.'

He’s right about the insanity part. But it may not be temporary. The gap between those who vote in GOP primaries and the rest of the electorate is growing.

This Republican sliver of the electorate, growing isolated and angry, is inclined toward exotic views. Trump, rather than causing the insanity Paul speaks of, is exploiting it."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP field’s calculated crazy talk.

UPDATE II:  "Trump’s appeal is pure style. His emptiness makes him a perfect vehicle for rage. He is angry about everything that makes you angry — because that is why he chose his views. He is a megaphone of resentment against elites and foreigners who are ruining our country, taking our jobs, raping our women or eating our lunch. And he promises to fix it all.

'I don’t care what his actual positions are,' says supporter Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. 'I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers.'

This is the cult of spontaneity taken to its logical conclusion. In choosing a president, policy positions are held to be irrelevant. Only authenticity matters. And Trump, who has changed his entire political worldview to capture the political moment, represents the brand of authenticity. Whatever his opinions, he delivers a very genuine Blank You .

The Trump candidacy has revealed a huge attitudinal division in American life. Some of us have found it appalling that he should gain any traction in presidential politics. It seems as if World Wrestling Entertainment has conducted a hostile takeover of CNN. . .

I know that incivility is immoral and dangerous to democracy. People of faith in particular are called to speak and act on the assumption of shared human dignity. This does not rule out vigorous disagreement, but it forbids the cultivation of contempt and the issuing of threats.

I know that Trump is encouraging political fantasies. He is not preparing people for difficult choices, on, say, entitlements; he is assuring them that our problems could be easily solved if elites were not so corrupt. And he is wrong. Our problems are not easy."

Read the Washington Post, A GOP led by Donald Trump will fail, and deserve it.

UPDATE:  "How could Thursday night in Cleveland fail to be one of the most entertaining political spectacles we’ve seen in a long time? . .

Maybe Trump will somehow self-destruct in the debate. But who among his rivals is more skilled at projecting a persona on television? Trump knows how to filibuster and won’t hesitate to turn an inconvenient question back on the questioner. Even if he brings nothing to the lectern but bombast, he might emerge unscathed. 

The question becomes whether the others go after him. Perry, if he makes it to the big dance, surely will. But what about the rest? Will they throw proper punches, legal under Marquess of Queensberry rules, against an opponent who kicks, bites and gouges?

And how will the non-Trump candidates seek to present themselves in the most positive light? Will Walker refute Trump’s allegation that Wisconsin is 'doing terribly,' or will he just brag about his victories over organized labor? Will Bush break into Spanish? Will Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), drowned out of late, try to crank up the volume? Will retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson again compare the Affordable Care Act to slavery?

Can Mike Huckabee come up with an even more offensive Holocaust analogy for the Iran nuclear deal? Can Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) remind voters that, you know, he’s still in the race? Will Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) help Mr. Trump with his jacket and ask if he’d like a glass of water? Will Kasich make himself the flavor of the month? Will New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie punch somebody?

Going out on a limb here: This promises to be fun."

Read the Washington Post, Christmas comes early this year — the gift of a Trump-fueled GOP debate.

So how does The Donald do it?

He play "to people’s fantasies."

Read the Washington Post, I just binge-read eight books by Donald Trump. Here’s what I learned.

In other words, he's a con man, ergo, he is the lead Republi-con candidate.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Did You Know That Early Christians Were Communists?

In "a practice of early Christians, reported in the Book of Acts in the New Testament . . . people in a community handed the church ownership of all their possessions. The church then gave each member of the community the use of enough property to provide for the needs of their families.

It was, in effect, a religious form of communism."

Read the Washington Post, Someone once tried Ben Carson’s Biblical tax plan

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fear, Anger, and Hatred = Violence, Again, Cont.

UPDATE II:  "Three men were arrested in Gaston County, North Carolina after allegedly amassing an arsenal and making their own bombs out of fear that the government was about to enact martial law, the Asheville Citizen Times reported.

Federal investigators said two of the suspects, 50-year-old Walter Eugene Litteral and 30-year-old Christopher Todd Campbell, voiced their skepticism regarding the Operation Jade Helm military training exercises, which conspiracy theorists believe is the prelude to a military takeover. . .

Reports of the arrest came on the same day that two men allegedly opened fire on a “Jade Helm 15 training site in Mississippi."

Read Raw Story, Anti-‘Jade Helm 15' nuts arrested in North Carolina after hoarding weapons and making bombs

Read also the Washington Post, How federal agents foiled a murderous Jade Helm 15 retaliation plot, which notes:

"The men had a deadly plot to lure government forces into a trap, federal officials say, and were amassing a stockpile fit for war.

There were Kevlar helmets and body armor, pipe bombs and handmade grenades, large amounts of gunpowder and dozens of rounds of ammunition for a military-grade sniper rifle. . .

Specifically, they told the informant that the Jade Helm exercises planned in five states were a cover for the government’s plot to impose martial law."

UPDATE:  "On one level, the affair in Bunkerville can be seen as a vestige of Old West range-war mentality, opportunistically remixed with overtones of the militia movements of the early 1990s and an identity-politics firestorm that’s very 2014. But as a transaction between the state and citizens decided not by rule of law, nor by vote or debate, but rather by the simple presence of arms, Bunkerville is deeply troubling. Guns publicly brandished by private individuals decided the outcome. For all Bundy’s appeals to constitutional justification, what mattered at the end of the day was who was willing to take the threat of gunplay the furthest.

Bunkerville is simply the next step in a trend that has been ramping up for some time. Since the election of Barack Obama, guns have appeared in the public square in a way unprecedented since the turbulent 1960s and ’70s — carried alongside signs and on their own since before the Tea Party elections, in a growing phenomenon of 'open carry' rallies organized by groups like the Modern American Revolution and, and in the efforts by gun rights activists to carry assault weapons into the Capitol buildings in New Mexico and Texas . . .

Toting a weapon in a demonstration changes the stakes, transforming a protest from just another heated transaction in the marketplace of ideas into something else entirely. It’s bringing a gun to an idea-fight, gesturing as close as possible to outright violence while still technically remaining within the domain of speech. Like a military 'show of force,' this gesture stays on the near side of an actual declaration of war while remaining indisputably hostile. The commitment to civil disagreement is merely provisional: I feel so strongly about this issue, the gun says, that if I don’t get my way, I am willing to kill for it. As Mao understood, the formal niceties of political persuasion are underwritten by the very real threat of harm. 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.'

On the contemporary stage, those bearing guns in protest are most likely to be white, right-leaning, and rural. As the historian Adam Winkler has documented, this represents a more or less direct reversal of the upheavals of the late ’60s and ’70s, when Republican politicians pursued new gun control legislation in response to armed protests by urban African-American leftists. Today, it is those most sheltered from actual state violence — from the day-to-day reality of police brutality — who also feel most threatened by the state, most free to threaten violence against hypothetical violations, and most entitled to opt out of civil discourse by reaching for their weapons. Our racial double standards for who can safely gesture at political violence are enormous. At least before his racism became public, Bundy and his supporters could point assault weapons at federal agents and be lionized as 'patriots' by a United States senator and celebrated on Fox, whereas a single New Black Panther standing near a polling station while holding a billy club prompted calls on that same network for former Navy SEALs to show up in force and 'fight back.'"

Read The New York Times, What Do Guns Say?

"On Sunday, Jerad and Amanda Miller, a married couple, allegedly killed two police officers in an ambush at a Las Vegas pizza restaurant and then murdered another person in an adjacent Walmart. During the attack, the couple reportedly stated that their attack was part of a "revolution," according to Second Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill.

The Millers appear to have been motivated by extreme far-right views. The couple left a flag at the scene of the crime with the words "Don't Tread on Me," a Revolutionary War symbol used by some anti-government extremists.

They also left a swastika at the scene, though McMahill cautioned to reporters, 'We don't necessary believe that they are white supremacists or associated with the Nazi movement. We believe that they equate government and law enforcement ...with Nazis.' . .

The attack in Vegas is far from the only incident of violence by the American far right. According to data collected by the New America Foundation, right-wing extremists have killed 37 people in 16 violent incidents, in the United States since the 9/11 attacks. That number is more than the 21 people killed by militants motivated by al-Qaeda's ideology in the United States in the post-9/11 era.

Although a variety of left wing militants and environmental extremists have carried out violent attacks for political reasons against property and individuals since 9/11, none have been linked to a lethal attack. . .

Countering violent extremism cannot simply be a demand placed on Muslim communities to prevent jihadist violence. In the decade since 9/11 right-wing extremists have demonstrated their ability to be just as deadly as their homegrown jihadist counterparts.

Moreover, killings like the ones of the two police officers in Las Vegas on Sunday demonstrate the need to move beyond the view that the only threat of terrorism or extremist violence comes from radicalized Muslims."

Read CNN, Right-wing extremists strike again.

Read also Mother Jones, The Chilling Anti-Government, Cliven Bundy-Loving Facebook Posts of the Alleged Las Vegas Shooters.

Without fear, anger and hatred, where would the Republi-cons be.

Mensa Puzzle

From an email:

Here's a puzzle that has confounded even the brightest among us.

You are on a Horse, galloping at a constant speed.

On your right side is a sharp drop off.

And on your left side is an Elephant traveling at the same speed as you.

Directly in front of you is a galloping Kangaroo and your horse is unable to overtake it.

Behind you is a Lion running at the same speed as you and the Kangaroo.

What must you do to safely get out of this highly dangerous situation?

See the comments for the answer.

Now take time to think it through.  Don’t jump to the answer just yet.  You can figure it out.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Cost of a Living Wage

"A new study explores what kind of sacrifice it would take to help some of the country's lowest paid workers. The answer? Not much."

Read the Washington Post, What paying fast food workers a living wage would do to the price of a Big Mac.

Read also, the Washington Post, Americans are spending $153 billion a year to subsidize McDonald’s and Wal-Mart’s low wage workers.

And watch Slate, Would Walmart’s Prices Spike if They Paid Their Employees More?:

So how much would prices rise if workers were paid a living wage?

At Walmart, 1.4%.  And that Big Mac would cost .17 cent more.