Friday, January 30, 2015

Meanwhile, In Downtown Europa: Greece, Part VI

Playing Chicken In The Eurozone

 Some men see things as they are and ask, "Why?"
I see the same stuff and say, "Yeah, yeah; whatever:"

Bender Bender Bender / Bender Bender Bender...
-- Bender

Things are truly going on, out there in whatever you consider the Big World to be. And, dogs do pay attention to these things.

Yes; we know -- you think all we're interested in is food, elimination of bodily waste -- squirrel! -- your attention; food; other Dogs -- hey! another squirrel! -- being left outside the store; food; and dry-humping an available leg.   So wrong.

Greece has apparently said Γαμώτο λιτότητας. As we've noted many times in the past (like, 2010, and in 2011 and also 2012), since The Crash of 2008, Greece has suffered through a tragedy worthy of Sophocles.

It's economy was overextended when the Bankster class (led by America -- USA! USA!) set up the Crash. Greece's national debt was more than 200% of GDP. It had, like any country, sold bonds as investments -- and without loans from the EU (primarily, German banks), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF, the country might default on payments when the bonds came due.

 Circa 2012: Why Greek Debt Matters For Europe
(Click On Image To Enlarge: It's Easy and Fun!)

That could cause serious problems, and Greece was provided a series of four IMF/ECB loans -- "bailouts" -- but as a condition of receiving the money had to accept forced austerity measures to reduce the country's deficits and pay down their public debt.

This meant reductions in public services, massive layoffs of government workers, and cuts in pension payments to retirees. The economy contracted by one-quarter after 2008, and Greece's unemployment rate climbed steadily to 25% and has remained there. The lack of jobs meant few people had much discretionary spending power -- they were too busy trying to figure out how they would feed their families.

Greece's public electricity utility is state-owned -- so it was negotiated away to be sold to a "private consortium" (Read: Oligarchs), along with Piraeus, the country's largest port and shipping facility. There was even talk of selling some of Greece's national art treasures to museums and "private collectors".  The country was holding a Fire Sale: Our Misfortune Could Be Your Fortune! Everything Must Go!

Fortunately, Greece's cultural heritage remained in its museums. However, private individuals had to drain their savings accounts, and sell any private assets they had for whatever they could get -- art, land, jewelry; businesses.  "Private investors" (Read: Vultures) in Russia, Europe, and China all swooped down to pick up a few bargains. The wealthy were able to weather the storm, but by 2013 the majority of Greece's population was declared by the BBC to be "living in poverty".

None of this could have happened without the collusion active support of the Greek government, led by Center/Right politicians, who negotiated loans from the EU and tried to convince the Greek populous that austerity today would mean prosperity and security down the road. 

The problem was that austerity is a complete failure. Forcing a nation into high rates of unemployment doesn't stimulate economies; exactly the opposite -- though even a brain-dead chimpanzee would have known that), one bailout loan was followed by Greek inabilty to meet its loan payments, meaning another loan... which the EU, ECB and IMF would not provide without even more austerity measures.

2012, Athens: Happy Greeks Enthusiastically Embrace Austerity 
To Assist European Allies By Vowing To Live On Dog Food For
The Next Ten Years (Photo: Guardian UK / Milos Bicanski)

So it went for three years. The belt-tightening continued; strikes and riots occurred across the country. There were several changes of governments -- which involved penalties for anyone not supporting austerity (in February of 2012, members of Greece's parliament who voted against accepting the ECB/IMF's financing terms were thrown out of their political parties). The Center-Rightists always managed to maintain just enough of a majority in Greece's parliament to maintain their control... until this past weekend.

The election of a majority of Leftist Syriza party candidates for the Greek Parliament placed it in control of the Greek government -- which has announced it would 'renegotiate' the country's $240 Billion-Euro debt, shelved plans to sell its state utility and the port of Piraeus, and declared the 'era of humiliation' was over.

This sent a shiver through Brussels. It was, possibly, the beginning of a worst-case scenario which some peripheral EU nation has threatened to deliver for over five years -- and if not Greece, then Portugal, or Spain; Italy; even France. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, said he will meet with Greece's new Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, next week, for some "straight talking". 

New Prime Minister Tsipras stated earlier this week that the new government did not plan a "Grexit" from the EU or the Euro -- that Greece intends to honor its debt obligations and not default. However, he was clear that the terms of repayment would be theirs, and not the debtholders' -- that demands for austerity wouldn't continue. 

Today, the Eurogroup finance chief and Dutch politician, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, met with the new Syriza party Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, to discuss how Greece's new government planned to meet its loan obligations to the "troika" (EU banks, ECB and IMF) which Dijsselbloem representedDijsselbloem had appeared in typical business suit and tie; his eyebrows shot up when Varoufakis arrived wearing a shirt without a tie, and not even tucked into his trousers.  Things kind of went downhill from there.

After meeting privately for two hours, the men held a brief press conference. Varoufakis said flatly that Greece would no longer negotiate with the "troika".  Dijsselbloem  appeared surprised and said he was disappointed. 

After less than ten minutes, the men stood up -- Dijsselbloem shook hands with Varoufakis and whispered something in his ear, then walked off without looking back  (It was reported that Dijsselbloem had said, "You just killed the troika," and that Varoufakis simply responded, "Wow").  Dijsselbloem clearly felt dissed.

Why is any of this important? If the Troika of lenders and the new Greek government can't reach an agreement on repaying the loans they already have, there will be trouble -- European finances are tight, and if some lenders aren't repaid on time ( It's been noted already that the Greek debt most at risk is in loans from German banks), it can unbalance a whole house of cards.  

And, there's always the worst-case: Greece pulls out of the EU or removes itself from the Euro, which would send financial markets into a nose-dive.  That probably won't happen -- and Paul Krugman, Very Smart Human (smarter than you and me; that's for sure), will explain it all for you here.

Of course, if he's wrong, we'll have our own brand of Fun in the not-too-distant future:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Live With Less, Little People

Kleiner Leute; Was Nun?

This just in from Davos, via Bloomberg:
Billionaire Jeff Greene, who amassed a multibillion dollar fortune betting against subprime mortgage securities, says the U.S. faces a jobs crisis that will cause social unrest and radical politics.

“America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,” Greene said in an interview today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”

...Greene, who flew his wife, children and two nannies on a private jet plane to Davos for the week, said he’s planning a conference in Palm Beach, Florida, at the Tideline Hotel called “Closing the Gap.” 
I'm in favor of a society less entranced by possessing and amassing wealth -- of being defined by income, possessions and lineage. It's what I thought America became a country for (though our history certainly wouldn't support that view, now would it). But to me, a movement towards a more collectivized culture means it would by definition be more egalitarian.

However, I don't think that's Jeffy's Big Vision. What I imagine he's on about is that the "Common Person" will be the ones to lower their expectations -- to accept pay cuts, after years of flat wages, and thereby reduce our possessions. To live more simply, as befits our station.

How this can support an alleged Free Market society by reducing the amount of things made, and purchased, and so eliminate jobs, income... I don't believe Jeffy has thought this through. Perhaps we're going back to a Pre-Downton Abbey, Lord-and-Peasant society for real, and all of us Little Folk will till the soil on the estates of the Masters? Sort of a 'Tom Jones', landed Gentry sort of thing?

The Oligarchs, who already have such expectations of their world, will love it.  And those at the top of the pile will not, of course, have to lower any expectations, as they are the "job creators" and all.

Das wir sagen kann, "Hopla -- Wir Leben!" nicht genug ist.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

It's Amazing At The Grit You Can Come Back From When You Have To

Livebogging the SOTU, Again

(Courtesy That Invasive Google Street View Van)

(In Davos, the drinking game for watching the SOTU is, "Every time this idiot says, 'I believe America _____', then we have shots of Japanese single-malt, 20 years old, at $900 a glass ! We've already bought most of the politicians in that room, so who cares what he wants?")

6:20 PM PDST -- (The Rethugs sit, hands folded, as the Democrats cheer.They are solemn. They are dressed in housecoats, jeans and windbreakers, like they don't plan to stay long. One is wearing a Chicken hat. Okay; maybe not.)

Everyone can drive fuel-inefficient vehicles because gasoline is so cheap. $750 saved at the pump. "That's real, people (wink)". I will mention 'the economy' 28 times tonight and 'work' 35 times. 

 But it is all about Middle-Class economics. There's this couple who wrote me a letter -- "We're a tough family that has gritty times", or something like that. "It's amazing the shit you have to put up with every day." The usual. And they were this couple falling in love; O to be young and in love in America. 

6:32 PM PDST -- President Boner remains seated on the podium wile Joe Biden stands to applaud The Guy. Why? Hemorrhoids bothering him?

6:33 PM PDST -- Let's make community colleges free to all, so they can learn a skill, be hired by a company which is the property of rich Owners. This helps the Middle Class in some way.

"To every CEO in America, let me repeat: You want to hire somebody who will get the job done and do the job right -- hire a veteran."

It's not the job of government to make everyone better financially. So we must have good jobs at good wages. America has put more people back to work than Eurp and Evr'ybody. We want jobs here in America.

21st century businesses need to sell more 'Muraka overseas, but Chinee wants to write the rules. We should write the rules, and The Guy wants Trade Rules -- that will rully keep Chinese hackers and thieves of intellectual property in their place. And cyberbullies.

6:39 PM PDST -- I want America that was first in so many things to be first in other things. "I intend to protect a free and open Internet" so the next generations of entrepreneurs can flourish -- because that creates jobs. And -- Mars, Bitches!

6:45 PM PDST -- Tonight I ask this Congress to authorize force against Ruh-Roh bad people (tiny applause). Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions, Mr. Putin's  aggressive stance was looked at as a masterstroke, now Sad Vlad's fucked (Right; tell that to the Ukrainian troops around the airport).

6:39 PM PDST --As his Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, "Step Small". We are overjoyed Alan is home, and that generations of wealthy families yet unborn will return to the Jewel of the Caribbean as their private playground.

 Obligatory Cute Larger Animal Photo In Middle Of SOTU

And, don't alienate America from people and things to sanction Iran again, so I'll vote "no". Americans expect us to go to war as a last retort -- no foreign powers should be allowed to cyber-screw with us, especially our kids -- who may be hackers themselves; we don't know! But our children's information is bipartisan. Think of the children, generations of consumers who will pay money to the folks what bought us.

6:39 PM PDST --  Ebola, like a small round ball, has been rolled back, We must invest and eradicate, as we make sure other nations play by the rules -- this is just like the old days when people cared about what the U.S. said and don't anymore.

2014 was the warmest year on the planet and some people are going to Dodge. I'm not a scientist, but the best ones in the world say unless we act strongly, the Pentagon will look at national security. We've done more to act in favor of the environment; that's why we like the idea of cheap oil and gas.

In Beijing we made a dramatic announcement about the environment -- we will be good, and the Chinese will promise to think about considering doing something too maybe.

6:57 PM PDST -- As Americans we have prohibited torture and used drones only when there are women and lesbians and political prisoners to be defended -- and this will make us safer.  It's time to close Gitmo because I said so, long ago.

While some have moved on about our surveillance programs, but not me. We will keep our country safe while protecting and leading with the example of our values. We must keep striving to hold on to ourselves and the highest of standards.

I still believe in long odds. Over and over, I have seen the hopeful graduates and at West Point and mourned in Boston and have watched Americans beat back adversity. I've seen 7 of 10 of us be legal.

7:05 PM PDST -- So I know the good, big-hearted generosity of the American people. How can we better reflect the Americans? I know many of you are on both sides of what you signed up for. Imagine if you weren't selfish, narrow, bigoted and fearful politicos, and instead were as rich as the people who buy you.  We can stay in the gutter or pull young people around.

If we're going to have are guments, let's have guments. Shirley can see something of ourselves in all we uphold as a nation of immigrant laws. I've talked to Rethugs and Demos about that and the right to vote is sacred. And hey, we're officially overtime.

For the first time, the crime rate has come down to protecting and serving all of us. (Applause). That's a better politics. It's what the American people deserve.

I have no more campaign strategies -- I know, 'cause I won both of 'em (laughter).  My only agenda is the only one I have, which is if you disagree with parts of it, I hope you'll work with me -- because I didn't learn from the last time you bait-and-switched me and lied and allowed the Tea Partei to lead and I was sad. And President Boner's hairpiece.

But, you know.  Middle Class economics!

7:10 PM PDST --I want our actions to tell children in America to know we are a people who see our differences in every citizen, black and white, gay, and mental; everybody -- we still know we are more than a collection of red stakes and blue steaks. That we are the United States Of America.

I want them to grow up where a political aide can bring an amazing story from a woman's letter as the place where this speech jumped off and may have gotten badly obscured, because we winged it -- "We are a strong, tight-knit family who have made it through some pretty hard times.. It's amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to". Speak Englich, troop!

We have picked ourselves up and laid a new foundation. A new chapter to work, right now.  I feel your pain, and the Rethugs have picked some Person to deliver their narcissistic response to my vision of The Good.

God Blez you, and Gobbelz 'th United States of America. You've been a tough house.

The Rethug Response

Joanie Ernst (R - Tea Parteish): On The Importance Of Being Ernst

Rather than respond to the President, I'm going to say in a Chamber Of Commerce way how great the Republican Congress is and the Republican Congress feels your pain in that little way it does, and let me tell you about that small town in Iowa, where I worked construction and was raised to be in the Republican Congress.

You see, when growing up, I wore bags on my shoes along with young Iowans who worked hard, and many families today feel they're working harder and getting less of those bags. We see the hurt, in the Republican Congress -- in cancelled health care plans and everyone more fearful. And less bags. America is hurting -- but when the Republican Congress demanded, there were failed plans like Obamacare.

The Republican Congress will make Congress function again. We want the Keystone "Jobs" bill -- the President, despite being wrong, hasn't done it. It will have minimal environmental damage. Will he sign a bill, or block good American jobs? Let's go over there to Eurp so the Republican Congress can boost simplified tax codes for the well-connected -- flat tax!  Flat tax! Tax the rich even less and all boats will rise, all bags will float!

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Whatever

We're calling on the President now in the Republican Congress. Some of it will occur where I stand tonight, in my Republican cloth coat, mispronouncing 'Al Qaeda', and our hearts can only imagine the two decades I spent in the Iowa National Garde. The innocent are not comprehensive in the Republican Congress.

Bonus Marchers must be prevented by the Republican Congress. The Republican Congress will address things. We will replace a healthcare law that has hurt so many HMOs. We'll do everything! We'll defend and protect because we in the Republican Congress measure our society with coffee-spoons.

America faces big challenges, but look at my parents, who had dirt to call their own. They sacrificed -- and now I am here, truly extraordinary. You just need the freedom to dream big and hard work -- the Republican Congress will do that dirt, with little help from the President. And I can't shut up, I must go on about this great nation and it's veterans and women and the Republican Congress. Thank you thank you thank you.

Republican Congress. You elected us (Smiles).

Monday, January 19, 2015

And No One Is Surprised

 Via the New York Times online. Oxfam's reports can be found here.

It's all about frogs, and slowly heated water. For an additional look at How The Future Will Be, see the frightening I Was An Amazon Chew Toy, which involves dogs.

Any questions?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Little Rupert's Fox: The Taste Of Goebbel's Underwear

We Are So Sorry We Have Lied Again 

Rightist commentators behave very much like a variety of sad, aging former Hollywood actors and actresses, trying for another thirty seconds of limelight.

Whatever the reasons, these actors engage in bad behavior or make a remark resulting in some level of media focus (depending on circumstances, generally as "filler"), and for a while, their name is back in the news.

This may be followed by talk show appearances, coverage of court proceedings, even 'Celebrity Rehab'. Depending upon how their personal issues resolve, a book could result, or even film or television work. America is supposed to be the land of reinvention and second acts.
But among certain Rightist pundits in our culture, the cycle is familiar:  The 'commentator' (or, 'entertainer'), already known for making incendiary comments, delivers yet another over-the-top public remark which seems calculated to drive an average human to ask, what, exactly, is wrong with this person?

Depending upon how incendiary the comment, for a few news cycles the Rightist pundit has captured the public's attention. They're still capable of 'motivating the base' and provoking a nation whose population, they believe, is generally misled and stupid, and which rejects their superior values.

This is followed by talk-show appearances, another book (these incidents generally seem to occur just as the pundit is about to release one), more paid speaking engagements, etc., etc.

It's about getting attention by "acting out", a formula known to the ancients, and most two-year olds. In this case, it's also connected with "making money".

Not long after the Parisian terror attacks ended in a hail of gunfire, Little Rupert Murdoch's Fox 'News' broadcast interview segments with  Fox commentator Steven Emerson declaring that the English midlands city of Birmingham was a "totally Muslim city", where sharia law was enforced and non-Muslims were unwelcome.
 “In Britain, it's not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don't go in... Parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn't dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire.”
Emerson added there were sharia courts in Birmingham “where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don't go in, and where it's basically a separate country almost, a country within a country”. He said that the British government did not “exercise any sovereignty” there.  The Fox fembot anchor, Jeanine Pirro, responded that "it sounds like a caliphate within a particular country".

Having shat upon the British, Emerson moved on to the French. The city of Paris, he claimed, had similar "no-go zones", Muslim ghettos which resembled parts of Afghanistan or Iraq and where sharia law was supreme. They also claimed that a poll taken of French Muslims showed 69% of them supported ISIS.

French television immediately reported, and responded to, these broadcasts. The 'no-go' zones were all in relatively upper-middle class and even exclusive Paris districts; the popular French cable program, Le Petit Journal (a satirical critique of news and current events), sent film crews into these areas to interview people on the street.

Those interviewed were asked whether the neighborhood they stood in was like Afghanistan or Iraq; whether it was under the control of Sharia law, etc.  In almost every case, the people paused for a moment before responding -- as if to say, Are you kidding me? Is this a trick question? Told about Fox's claims for their neighborhood, several interviewees (God love them) immediately responded, 'What? That is stupid.'

Le Petit Journal turned Fox's claims into a joke. Responses from others -- the British Prime Minister and French Foreign Minister primary among them -- forced Fox to issue retractions and apologize four separate times for broadcasting so huge and obvious a set of lies.

Last week, Rupert treated the world at large to his opinions after the terrorist attacks in Paris -- which were no different in spirit from these broadcasts:  Maybe most Moslems [sic] peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible. And, Big jihadist danger looming everywhere from Philippines to Africa to Europe to US. Political correctness makes for denial and hypocrisy --  an appeal to the lowest common denominators of suspicion, fear, racism and intolerance.

The Fox broadcasts about Birmingham as a separate, "Muslim only" city and no-go zones in Paris are perfectly aligned with the worldview Murdoch pushed via Twitter. The fact that they were lies doesn't appear to bother him in the least.

And, these lies were being pushed as police raids this past week in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and elsewhere disrupted what was reported as a series of planned attacks by an apparently extensive terror network across Europe.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant

It's not the first time Little Rupert's media has broadcast something they knew was false. It's One Dog's Opinion, but Fox News is just a cartoon network, a parody of the truth rather than fact, and any of his News Corporation media properties only outlets for popular forms of right-wing sewage.

We have a choice, as citizens and individuals, over how we respond to questions of our security, and of freedom of expression and religious belief.  Murdoch and his media empire want us to be frightened of the future, suspicious of each other, and to reach for a weapon at the slightest provocation -- or, vote for right-wing politicians as surrogates who will do that for us.

Murdoch and his media will push lies to support that agenda. That's what just happened this week, in case you were wondering.

One other thing I wonder: what about News Corporation's shareholders? Do they care that the product their investment produces is essentially bullshit? Does truth matter to them? Or do they think, so long as they can make a dollar out of it all, who cares?

I've said before: You can consume whatever it is Little Rupert wants to sell. Just don't blame anyone but yourself if it tastes like you're sucking on Josef Goebbels' underwear.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Reprint Heaven: Mongo Thinks About Chuck Again

For Chuck (1942 - 2014)
(Originally posted December 30, 2012)

Chaplin: Final Speech From The Great Dictator (1940)
I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an Emperor. That's not my business.

I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible -- Jew, gentile; black man, white. We all want to help one another; human beings are like that.

We all want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in -- machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little; More than machinery we need humanity; more than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness.

Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost...

You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure!

Then, in the name of democracy, let's use that power; let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie!

They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness...

Look up! Look up! The clouds are lifting, the sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world. A kind new world where men will rise above their hate and brutality.

The soul of man has been given wings, and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow, into the light of hope, into the future, that glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up. Look up.
Even Dogs dream, man.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Reprint Heaven: True Colors

[Given the sudden amount of reanimated interest in the reappearance of Mitzy as a potential Republican candidate for President, again... it's important to remember exactly what he and the rest of the Rethug front-runners are about -- this, from September, 2012:]

To Mitzy, Chances Are ~ 50% That You're Lazy, Irresponsible, And Don't Matter

When the now-infamous Cellphone Video surfaced a week ago, I wasn't at all surprised by Mitzy's comments (You can read the full transcript at Mother Jones online).   After all, he was speaking to a crowd of his people. They all share the same perspectives on America, its population, and what should be done to ensure a top-down, trickle-down vision dominates the future.  Aber natürlich he didn't bother to censor himself.

This One Per Cent notion of our country and culture was highlighted in a short Los Angeles Times article this past July about a traffic jam of wealthy donors, making their way to a gated estate in the Hamptons (don't know about the Hamptons? Go here) where Little Mitt Romney was going to speak to them -- and, oh yes; take their checks.
A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. “I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach  permits.“Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them. We’ve got the message,” she added. “But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies — everybody who’s got the right to vote — they don’t understand what’s going on. I just think if you’re lower income — one, they’re not as educated; two, they don’t understand how it works, they don’t understand how the systems work, they don’t understand the impact.”
Mitzy made his remarks on May 17th at the Boca Raton, Fla., home of Marc Leder, co-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, founder and co-CEO of Sun Capital Partners, a Boca Raton-based private investment firm which (according to the company’s website) focuses on leveraged buyouts -- the tactic, along with outsourcing, that made Bain Capital under Romney so successful (for workers in the impacted companies Bain took over... not so much).  Leder's estimated net worth is $400 million.

This is the same Marc Leder who rented a home in the Hamptons  last season, for one month, to throw a long string of "parties" -- real Roman-style, sybaritic, public sexyorgytime, and apparently quite popular with the moneyed set.  Marvelous Marc's rental cost of the house for that 30 days was $500,000 (I don't know if this included the hookers).

That's $16,000 per day -- and  $16K per year is just a little more than the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, about the mean average wage (according to Wikipedia) of Farmworkers, Laborers; Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse workers; Ushers, Lobby Attendants, and Ticket Takers; Cafeteria, Food Concession, and Coffee Shop attendants -- Gardeners, and 'Personal Grooming' attendants.  That is, the Nails Ladies. 

So Markie's 30 Days Of Fuckpad cost him the annual salary of thirty Americans, working in what usually gets referred to as the 'service industry'. I've had a few of these jobs, and relative to what I do now, I can tell you the work is hard. But, you know; those are the 'lower income' types who "don't understand".

(Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant)

And. the minimum wage is one of the legacies of FDR's New Deal -- which the One Per Cent would like to drown in a bathtub, with the help of Little Grover. That, and replacing Social Security with a Stock Market Casino and Medicare with Vouchers For All, would be part of Austerity For America -- what Little Paulie Ryan likes to call the "sacrifice", the "pain" that they intend to force on the American people. But not on the One Per Cent, aber natürlich.

So, Romney told people in Boca Raton what they already believe:  47% are Liberals -- lazy, stupid, wanting nothing but government handouts, taking no personal responsibility for their lives. They're serfs,. They lie; they steal and they smell. You have to keep them in line and watch what they're doing every minute.
Audience member: For the last three years, all everybody's been told [by the Obama administration, i.e., 'the government] is, "Don't worry, we'll take care of you." How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody, "You've got to take care of yourself"?

Romney: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. 

And they will vote for this president no matter what... These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. And [Obama will] be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years. 

And so my job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents...
Also, one attendee at the soiree told Mitzy:
The debates are gonna be coming, and I hope at the right moment you can turn to President Obama, look at the American people, and say, "If you vote to reelect President Obama, you're voting to bankrupt the United States." I hope you keep that in your quiver because that's what gonna happen. 
 Mitzy replied, "Yeah, it's interesting," then proceeded to tell the room that the Federal Reserve is keping the economy afloat by printing money, "just making it up. The Federal Reserve is just ...saying, 'Here, we're giving it.'  It's just made up money."
[A]s soon as the Fed stops buying all the debt that we’re issuing—which they’ve been doing, the Fed’s buying like three-quarters of the debt that America issues. He said, once that’s over, he said we’re going to have a failed Treasury auction, interest rates are going to have to go up. We’re living in this borrowed fantasy world, where the government keeps on borrowing money.
 Paul Krugman, one of the smartest people on Earth when it comes to economics (certainly smarter than Mitzy), posted on Thursday in the New York Times that Romney was as usual spouting nonsense that had stuck in his head. If you follow the link, The Krug Man will explain why this is so, but the short version is, Mitzy is spewing an urban myth; the Fed purchased large amounts of Treasuries from Q2 of 2008 through Q1, 2009 -- and interest rates still went down.

 I was half-watching Washington Week In Review this evening, but my ears perked up when I heard one of the Beltway guest journalists mentioned that a complaint about Romney, even from people who support him, is that as a person Mitzy is an awkward, hazy cypher: People "just don't know him", or he "doesn't connect" easily with others.

 What the cellphone video showcased, the reporter said, was the real and unvarnished Romney, with all upper-class prejudices and crippled vision on display. His crowd of one-per-centers see the world in near-feudal terms -- it belongs to them, and the unwashed peasantry of "nail ladies", gardeners and salespersons which populates it are lazy good-for-nothings who don't work as hard as the Owners and Makers, like Little Mitt.

And other reporters are seeing the same thing, as Mitzy travels the country, endlessly fundraising as he attempts to bury the Obama and the Democrats under a sea of SuperPAC cash (In fact, some of his Romney's advisors have told him to stop raising money and concentrate in the last six weeks before the election on 'connecting' with voters).

With "His" people, he easily tosses off comments like those in Boca Raton -- however, the problem in Florida is that he was caught on video. This was Mitzy's "Macaca" moment, so politically harmful because it confirmed everything people already knew or suspected about him.

At 10PM Eastern time on Monday night, over a day after the video was released by Mother Jones, Mitzy gave what was referred to as a "shotgun presser".   Romney's campaign had already been hit earlier in the day by a story at Politico, reporting on confusion and disarray. It was expected Romney would offer some explanation or to apologize a seriously embarrassing gaffe.

Romney didn't. As a campaign reporter noted afterwards, 
[I]t would have helped if Romney had said something that… helped.  [A]ll he really did was say the same thing that got him in trouble, but in a wordier fashion, and with a Church Lady delivery. Even given the chance to explain what he meant, Romney still equated unemployment with a deficit of personal responsibility.
 He did not apologize or retract a single word captured on the video. He didn't attempt to address it's real message about the twisted values and lack of principle which define his candidacy -- it's as if he had said  I represent personal wealth, influence and interest, and if elected will do all I can to aid wealth and people like myself.  

We own or control everything. The rest of you are serfs who don't matter a damn; you all work for us, one way or another. When I'm elected, you can shift for yourselves. If you can't pull yourself up, when it gets too tough, you can hang yourself by your own bootstraps. Life is for those who have, and those who don't shall lose.

What he actually said was:
Well, you know, it [Romney's message in the video]'s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I’m speaking off-the-cuff in response to a question, and I'm sure I could state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that. And so I’m sure I’ll point that out as time goes on...

But it’s a message which I’m going to carry and continue to carry, which is, look, the President’s approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes because, frankly, my discussion about lowering taxes isn’t as attractive to them, and therefore I’m unlikely to draw them into my campaign as effective[ly] as those in the middle. This is really about the political process of winning the election. Of course, I want to help all Americans, all Americans, have a bright and prosperous future and I’m convinced the President’s approach has not done that, and will not do that.

 Any questions?

January 16, 2015 (Tim Reid / Reuters) - Mitt Romney's declaration that he is considering a third shot at the White House after being a two-time Republican presidential loser was widely greeted with disdain at a national gathering of Republican activists on Thursday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Random Barking

Just Because We Can

And, because it doesn't have anything to do with terror, funerals, sagging Oligarchs, rioting Kiddies™, children empowered with canned vegetables, and endless garbage from the paid servants of the Owner Class, all saying "Fear the future! Fear It ! Be afraid and vote for Meeeeeeeeeeeeee !!"

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Rupert & Le Front National Ne Est Pas Charlie

 Marianne Statue, Place de la République, Paris, January 11 (Stephanie Mahe / Reuters)

This week, nineteen human beings died in the capital of a great European nation: twelve journalists and cartoonists, four hostages and three police officers (one of them, Ahmed Merabet, himself a Muslim), all murdered in Paris.

The attacks targeted artists in their offices and Jews in a kosher market. They were meant to create maximum public impact and fear.

Hours after the attack on the offices of Charlie Hedbo, Parisians spontaneously gathered in the streets -- more than thirty thousand of them around the statue of Marianne, the symbol of France, in Paris' Place de la République. Many held signs with the phrase: Je Suis Charlie -- I Am Charlie.  The next day, marches sprung up across the country -- tens of thousands in major cities across France.

JeSuisCharlie has become the most used hashtag in the relatively brief history of social media. 

Spontaneous Rally On January 8, Place de la République, Paris (Getty/via CNN)

A mass rally and march took place in Paris today, a memorial for the victims and an opportunity to reject beliefs which use violence and repression as their primary tool and creed -- and to affirm that tolerance, freedom of religious worship and the right to freedom of expression are what France and Europe stand for. 

1.5 million people showed up in the streets -- more than at any time since the city's liberation from nazi occupation in the summer of 1944.  Attendees marching arm-in-arm included the French, German, British, Turkish and Italian Prime Ministers, the Israeli Prime Minister and President of the Palestinians, and a host of other world leaders.

President Obama sent the outgoing U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder.

An intended byproduct of the Paris terror attacks was to increase tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims.  A heavy-handed response by the French government, an increase in casual discrimination against Muslims in the wake of the attacks, would be gifts to jihadists.

America's invasion of Iraq following the September 11th attacks allowed a simmering conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims to explode into an endless, blood-feud war. The Israelis and Palestinians, and Hezbollah, have had five major confrontations after 2000. Arabic emigration to Europe increased; after the 2008 economic crash, the 'Arab Spring', with high unemployment and cuts in social services in EU countries -- a long string of events which contributed to the resurgence of Europe's nationalist, right-wing political parties.

The message of these parties sounds too familiar to many Europeans: Fear The Other. Radical Islam, the Rightists say, is an infestation, and any Muslim could be infected. They accuse the Left and Center political parties of being too politically correct, too weak to understand the threat, and to act. From the Netherlands to Greece, these parties are relatively small but growing -- only in France are they a serious political force; the National Front could actually take control of the government in the next election.

Anti-Muslim Rally In Lyon, One Day After The Charlie Hedbo Attack (UK Guardian)

One positive note in all this -- Europe has been down this road before and there are people still living who remember it. Many Europeans are determined that 'Never Again' is not only a slogan.

On the weekend before the Paris attacks, Germany's 'Pegida' movement held well-attended anti-Muslim marches in major German cities.  However, they immediately triggered anti-Pegida marches across Germany which were even more heavily attended. Germany, as well as France, remembers its history.

On this Friday's installment of his cable program, 'Real Time', satirist Bill Maher said flatly, “Hundreds of millions of [Muslims] support an attack like that [i.e., on the staff of Charlie Hebdo].” His guests (including author Salman Rushdie, once targeted by an Iranian death sentence for 'insults to Islam' in a novel), echoed the same sentiments, more or less.

And yesterday, Rupert Murdoch deigned to provide the world with his opinion via Twitter:
Maybe most Moslems [sic] peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible. — January 10, 2015 (@rupertmurdoch)
The majority of responses disagreed (Michael Monan [@MichaelMonan1] asked, "In the same way that you must be held responsible for ordering the hacking of the voicemails of dead school children?").  Undeterred, Little Rupert poured a little more gasoline on the fire:
Big jihadist danger looming everywhere from Philippines to Africa to Europe to US. Political correctness makes for denial and hypocrisy. 

Murdoch owns one of the largest media conglomerates on earth, a billionaire Oligarch who organized and manages the largest media factory of right-wing distortions and lies ever created -- ranking with Tass and Pravda of the Stalinist era, the national media of modern Communist China, and the media of the nazi state created by Joey Goebbels.

When it was founded, CNN's news format blurred the lines between news as fact, and as entertainment. In developing his own cable news network, Murdoch could have rejected that and created a higher standard in how information is gathered and news presented. He could have treated viewers with the basic assumption that they were intelligent adults, a public that deserved to be given facts about events -- not distortions or editorializing presented as 'news'. Instead, Rupert raced Ted Turner to the bottom.
Our Business Was Founded On The Idea That A Free And Open Press
Should Be A Positive Force In Society.
-- Rupert Murdoch, July 14, 2011
 Rupert's media 'properties' push a huckster's blend of both "Tits 'n Tattle" entertainment and right-wing propaganda. It's a business model that holds people in contempt -- gullible, easily-led children; lowest common denominators. You don't lie to and manipulate people that you respect.

NewsCorp is the unacknowledged, shadow media arm of the political Right, and Rupert revels in having so much power -- in America, waiting to see which right-wing politician will receive his approval (and media support) as the Republican candidate for President is known as "the Murdoch Primary"

And to ordinary people, the news Rupert's machine pumps out seems grim, even without political spin -- environmental and political crises; regional wars that are blood feuds which can only end with the extermination of one side; the murderous fanaticism of an ISIS or Boko Harum.

The response of Western governments to these crises (e.g., military action against ISIS; aid to stem the spread of Ebola) frequently seem too hesitant, because finding consensus is hard, and finding money to support that consensus may be even harder; the effects of the 2008 Crash our Masters Of The Universe created are still with us.

So, Murdoch's messages (The future is to be feared; Muslims are enemies, and the throwaway reference to 'political correctness' -- Leftist politicians are spineless; they will not Act Decisively to save you) can seem attractive, to some.

Murdoch's opinions are those of a first-generation Oligarch who wants his family's wealth and influence preserved. His media and his messages reflect his vision of the world -- myopic, fearful, suspicious and conspiratorial. Competitors and detractors must be manipulated and dominated, by brute force if necessary, to maintain control and market share ... a very similar worldview, oddly enough, to that of the jihadists.

What happened in Paris earlier this week is a reminder of how precarious things in the larger world can be. We live with that awareness; it's part of the legacy of being human -- having no real answer to What Is all This? Why Am I Here? but getting up each day and tending to our lives, not knowing when it all may end, and hoping to find some sweetness, moment to moment.

And we each hold a hope that, in that larger world, some positive direction will begin to take shape -- that the people we recognize as leaders will find a way towards Peace, Security; Purpose and Completion; Rest; Love. We don't talk about this directly, or often -- who wants to appear too sentimental, soft, impractical? But that shared hope is who we are, and it shines through in our moods; in a shared glance; in the pauses between parts of conversations with friends.

Most 'ordinary' people understand, in the larger world, that the fix is in, that we're manipulated and lied to as consumers, citizens and voters. We focus on the day-to-day because we don't believe 'ordinary' people have real power in that larger world. Then, something happens (usually, a tragedy) and we realize that the political and social structures we have to live in are less important than our essential humanity -- and that simply being human is a powerful thing.

For a time, we realize that is what matters -- and, we know the moment is fleeting, that we'll dissolve back into separate tribes and camps and that awareness won't last. But while it does, we can smile wildly at each other and link arms and lift our voices, happy as children. Only later will smaller hearts and minds try to make that moment, that recognition between us, into an embarrassment or a joke.

Have you ever been in a crowd which starts to sing the Marseille? The French Revolution was terrible, in many ways, expressions of the best and worst humankind could offer -- Liberté, égalité, fraternité, and the Terror.

For me, the Marseille (and the 'Internationale', and The Star-Spangled Banner) have always expressed that shared recognition -- our desire for real justice, real peace, and not the illusions we're fed by corporate interests or business-as-usual politics. It's a song of solidarity and courage in the face of not knowing where we will all end. 

Murdoch's message, or that of the political Right in Europe, or in America, is not the spirit of the Marseille.  Murdoch's message was not that of the crowds in Paris today. Theirs was about community, not division, and about the courage to demand a larger world where what we hope for will become the birthrights of every human being -- and that today's recognition that we are part of a common humanity, united against fear and resignation, won't  fade away. 
Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you off your feet
Better recognize your brothers
Everyone you meet
Why in the world are we here
Surely not to live in pain and fear
Why on earth are you there
When you're everywhere
Come and get your share

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah we all shine on

John Lennon /
Instant Karma (And We All Shine On) [1969]

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Nous Sommes Tous Charlie

They Came For The Cartoonists
 Candles Before French Embassy In Vienna (AAP Photo)

I am both sad and angry at the news from Paris: Two murderous imbecilic whoresons individuals killed over a dozen people, and wounded others, using automatic weapons in what French authorities described as a "military-style attack" on the Paris editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper.

The attack occured as the paper was holding its weekly editorial meeting , as the entire staff was gathered in one place. Among the dead were Stéphane Charbonnier, the newspaper's editorial director and one of France's best-known editorial cartoonists (aka 'Charb'); other artists Jean Cabut (known as 'Cabu') and Bernard Verlhac ('Tignous'); and Georges Wolinski, one of Charlie's original founders. The deranged sociopathic bottomfeeding fuckwads masked gunmen also murdered the paper's receptionist and other staff members, and two French policemen. 

A number of residents in the same building as the Charlie Hebdo offices apparently heard gunshots and immediately escaped up to their roof ; several took cellphone videos of the gunmen, including images as they machine-gunned a French policeman (who had responded to a call about the initial attack) as he lay wounded on a sidewalk, begging not to be killed [Ironically, the man was not only a Flic, but also a Muslim himself -- a Tweet sent from France said, "I Am Ahmed The Cop, and I died defending the right of free speech"]. One of the pathetic excuses for sentient life murderers could be heard, even on a cellphone video taken from a distance away, shouting that they had "avenged the prophet". 

The French believe that the freedom of expression -- to speak, write, or draw anything, even if it offends -- is a basic human right. There is a very old tradition for this style of editorializing and illustration, in France and across Europe, and on all sides of the political spectrum -- and the French see no difference between an offensive cartoon satirizing President Hollande in 2014, and Emil Zola publishing J'Accuse! in 1898 during the height of the Dreyfus Affair.

Zola's Famous Editorial, 1898

Charlie Hebdo was a publication with a small press run, financially always on the edge (this, too, part of a tradition of self-expression on the margins). But, it was internationally known for its no-holds-barred, nothing-sacred commentary and cartoons regarding the politics and cultural collisions in Europe and the larger world. They went for the jugular, and acerbic views included various currents of the Islamic world, and after republishing Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006 and poking fun at Islamists generally, Charlie's offices in a quiet Paris suburb were firebombed.

In 2012, the paper published a number of its own cartoons of the prophet, forcing the French government to close embassies and other offices abroad in the face of threatened retaliation from unnamed Islamist groups. Within the last year, as Charlie mocked the brutality and savagery of ISIS's assault on the Middle East, threats against the paper escalated and several members of its editorial board began using bodyguards. Within the past few weeks, French intelligence had received information that some form of terrorist action was coming, but had no details.

The French are correct: The ability to freely speak, write, or draw one's opinion -- to create and to express that opinion even if it offends -- is a basic human right. The things persons who committed murder in Paris yesterday, and the murderous ideology they serve, are an obscenity on the face of the Earth. They deserve to be exposed, ridiculed, reviled, and ultimately brought to justice.

The forces of ignorance, intolerance, degradation and hatred not only use fighter-bombers, drop cluster munitions or use drones. Their leaders don't only speak in parliaments or congresses, wear expensive suits, manage corporations from boardrooms, or are part of families with great hereditary wealth. Darkness and real evil are not limited to that sort of trash.

They are no better than the people, or ideologies, they claim to oppose. They can create nothing; all they can do is destroy, and kill -- and it was demonstrated in the streets of Paris yesterday.  It's demonstrated around the world on a daily basis. And the only comfort we can take from any of it is: What goes around comes around, and there's a certain kind of person who acts as if that particular truth doesn't exist.

In a not-so-great 2013 film, Monuments Men, there's one good scene: Frank Stokes, an art curator-turned-army officer during WW2 (played by George Clooney), questions a captured SS officer about the whereabouts of art which the nazis had stolen from every corner of Europe they could get their hands on. Other works, paintings and sculpture which 'offended' them, were simply burned in the streets, like books. Or like people.

The SS officer smugly declines to help; Clooney smiles a little, then delivers a not-so-bad line (which I'll have to paraphrase from memory, but I think the point is clear):
... I'm going home soon. I've got a nice apartment in New York on the Upper West Side. There's a deli down the street, called Sid's. Every morning when I go to work at the Met, I walk to Sid's, get a cup of coffee and a bagel, and I read the New York Times .
One day, about a year or so from now, on some nice morning in springtime -- you know, when everything just starts to warm up? I'll be sitting there, reading the paper -- and I'll come across this tiny article. It won't be on the front page, but way in the back... and I'll read that you've been hanged for crimes against humanity.
Then I'll finish my coffee, and go to work.  Sid will use the paper to wrap some fish in. And I'll never think about you again for the rest of my life.
What goes around comes around. Some tend to forget that.