Category Archives: almighty dollah

When will now be then?


As a word of explanation: on either side of my family, I’m the eldest of my generation.  My mother’s sister got in the next three, and then there’s a gap of eight years or more between me and my brother.  From there, the various cousins and siblings range well younger than myself.  As a result, sometimes I tend to lapse into “get off my lawn” mode with the youngsters, a situation that annoys all parties, and one I take pains to avoid when I can.

Still, I notice even when I manage to keep it to myself, and what I primarily noticed in the Czar’s Monday missive is the uncanny resemblance to many of my generation.  This meant that I wasn’t keeping it to myself this time.  The Czar kindly let me ramble, but even that was cut down.  My interest was more than abstract.  What got me where I live is the part I’m putting after the jump.

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Meet the New Year

same as the old year.

In his remarks Tuesday, Obama issued a stern forewarning on the upcoming debates, and reiterated that he will not negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling.

“As I’ve demonstrated throughout the past several weeks, I am very open to compromise,” he said. “But we cannot simply cut our way to prosperity.”

“While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills they have already racked up,” Obama said. “We cannot not pay bills that we have already incurred.”

So… yeah.  Three points:

1. When your guy refuses to have a discussion, it’s “principle.”  When the other guy refuses, it’s “obstruction.”  He may as well stick to saying “DO IT MY WAY.”

2. Why can’t you cut your way to prosperity? If I save $2000 a year, does it matter if I’ve made $30K or $50K?  I’m still $2000 to the good in case of an emergency.

2½. OK, that $2000 won’t make me wealthy, but it will keep me solvent… and you have to be solvent before you can prosper.  So what’s wrong with a little solvency?  Can’t we just start there, and then see if we can take the step to prosperity when we’re sure we’re not just going bust?

3. :::facepalm:::

Not to troll or anything, but sometimes you just have to shout: WE KNOW YOU HAVE TO PAY YOUR BILLS – THAT’S WHY WE DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SPEND SO DAMNED MUCH IN THE FIRST PLACE.

You see, Obama is, as far as it goes, a child.  I don’t mean in the Gospel “lighthearted, trusting, teachable, open to joy” sense, either, but in the Epistolary “thinks like a child and acts like a child” sense.  He’s not a child at heart, but at mind.  An adult would realize the all-cap bolded part beforehand, and thus avoid racking up trillions in unpaid debts in four years. An adult would say, as Obama himself said in the presser, “The fact is, the deficit is still too high,” and then go on to consider any possible way to avoid incurring another one.  An adult would admit, at bare minimum to himself, that what has gone on when he was in charge of things was at least partly his fault, and he’s learned his lesson.  And above all, an adult would actually learn the lesson.

Obama, mentally, is not that adult.  When I hear what comes from his mouth, I can close my eyes and hear the same form of argument coming from a child trying to lie his way out of being caught raiding the cookie jar.

We gotta pay our bills… but we wanted it NOW.

The deficit is too high… but I won’t spend less to reduce it.

Yeah, well, see… it was Congress’ fault!

This last, in fact, is somewhat true, which is the mark of a skillful liar.  Toss in a true statement, and then cry foul when it is dismissed as either irrelevant to what’s under discussion or put into its real context.  This is especially effective for squeezing free a few drops of sympathy: But it IS true, you’re not fair! followed by some well-meaning dolt saying, “Aw, the poor kid, cut him a break.”

Congress HAS spent far too much.  But how?  Primarily by refusing to pass a budget of any kind for three years… and that failure originated in the Senate, controlled by Obama’s party, and not in the House, controlled by the GOP.  And why?  Whose vision were they seeing?  Whose policy were they enacting?  Whose example were they following?  Same answer each time: Obama.  He was the “Bush’s deficits are terrible” guy who promptly doubled and tripled them; the “shovel-ready projects” guy who found only after spending $800 billion or so that there weren’t any such projects; the guy whose party was actually in charge of the House for the first two years and the Senate the entire four.  Most importantly, he’s the guy who could have been saying “How about a balanced budget?” during this entire time – instead he was the guys whose budget proposals were so much worse than the stuff he’s complaining about that they couldn’t garner a single vote of support in either chamber of Congress for an entire term.

This isn’t a grown-up discussion – it’s a child who is running roughshod over his (at best) tween babysitter (namely, the Congress).  Gimme, the Kid President says, and the Congress says no – that’s what any babysitter is primarily paid to do, after all – and the Kid promptly goes off on a snit and threatens to tell his folks (us).  The sitter wavers, then caves… and then the Kid reports back that it wasn’t his fault, the sitter let him do it!*

A good parent would fire the sitter and punish the child.  The result ought to be a better and more reliable sitter in charge of a better-behaved kid.  We have just proven ourselves to be little better than reality-show parents, however, absently mumbling “You knock that off” and threatening dire conquences that never happen.  Obama’s contempt for the voting public and their livelihoods and freedoms ought to have been met with a resounding initial defeat in 2006, when he was first elected to the Senate – far less two Presidential terms.  At this point, I’m beginning to think that the Kid, irresponsible liar that he is, has a shrewd grasp of things from his own limited point of view: we deserve the contempt.  By our actions we’ve proven that we’re more than willing to give in to the Kid just to have a little peace and quiet to ourselves, instead of buckling down to our work.  So why should the Kid, or the sitters, bother with their own work?

The result is a spoiled Kid.  A child often innocently hurts his parents as a toddler, not understanding the connection between his tiny fists and nails and the adult’s pain.  It’s just fun.  But as anyone who’s seen a brat knows, once the connection is made, the toddler will often keep doing it, all with that giggly imp’s smile.  They quickly learn the fun of wrecking things and getting away with it.  (Heck, most modern revenge-fantasy movies and TV shows are just this impulse writ large.)  It has to be stopped at once or the child becomes a bully who comes to enjoy causing harm, and possibly ending up as someone who can’t enjoy anything else BUT others’ pain.

* Adding to this problem is the snot-nosed crowd that the Kid hangs with, whom we call The Media.  We like to think that they’re a terrible influence on him, when in he’s really the ringleader and they’re the toadies; and their terrible influence is over US.

(tip of the wings to Ace.)

Processed thought-like substance

You’re no doubt familiar with the wonders of those little plastic cheese slices.

Nowadays, people tend to just buy actual cheese.  In my childhood, my parents bought those plastic-wrapped singles.  If we were really splurging maybe there would be Velveeta – same company, differently-wrapped slightly-different-flavored product.  But it was what I thought of as “cheese” because if there was cheese in my sandwhich at lunch, this crayon-orange stuff was it.

Years later, having assumed control over my own cheese procurement and consumption, I noticed of course that this was “processed cheese food.”  It was not cheese as commonly understood by humans, but was close enough in taste and texture to be permitted a label that called it a food resembling cheese.

In a similar fashion, many of us grow up being taught something that’s called thinking, but isn’t.  And for a child, well, that’s good enough.  Who wants to blow nine bucks for a pound of the really good stuff when you can drop $1.79 on sixteen slices of “cheese food” and the kid’s none the wiser?  Likewise, children need to be able to get up to speed quickly on all sorts of topics as they begin their school years, and it’s a lot faster to give them the basics without bogging their brains down in the process of acquiring and testing information.  They’re beginners, so we streamline it for them.

The problem is that too many of them stroll about all day long getting by on that old, streamlined process.  They test what they know by seeing if it satisfies an emotional need or confirms what they already concluded.  Instead of going out and learning, they accept what they’re told from certain pre-approved sources.  When difficulties arrive, they frequently assume that it’s someone else’s doing, and blame the person who points out the problem as if that person caused it, rather than just noticed it.

It’s a poor way to live, of course.  If I screw up and give up a bad goal in one of my games, it is superficially correct, for example, to blame the shooter – if he didn’t shoot, or if he had missed the net, I wouldn’t have looked like a terrible goalie!  But you’ll notice that this approach doesn’t make me a better goalie.  And the ones who pay the price are my put-upon teammates, forever working half the game to scrape out a goal, only to see it given back in fifteen seconds.

The irony is – and for all their love of irony, the standard-issue unthinking hipster misses this constantly – is that they notice this instantly in everyone else.  To take the example I started with, if they went into a bistro and were served a sandwich with locally-sourced field greens on artisan bread, topped with a gooey slice of Kraft, they would flip their organic gourds over it.  And imagine what they would do to their fellow who sheepishly admitted that he actually preferred the chemical approximation to actual cheddar!

They wouldn’t be caught dead doing that in every unimportant pursuit of life, but the important stuff, requiring actual thinking instead of processed, thought-like substance?  Hm.  There’s a quandry.  Just where quality would last forever, they get a false sense of economy.  Case in point, uncovered by the good Professor, after the jump…

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Shut up, they explained – it’s for your own good

So, it’s law.

The local paper ran a two-color headline: YES IT’S CONSTITUTIONAL.  I wouldn’t go quite that far.  “Yes, It Stands,” maybe, or “Sure, Why the Hell Not?” or “Yes, It’s As Bad As You Feared and If You Don’t Like It, Scrap It Yourselves.”  But constitutional?  Even though the Supreme Court refused to strike down the ACA, I think that I’d stop short of saying that they gave it the Constitutional imprimatur.

For one thing, the decision basically outlines every last way in which this statute is bad law, and Constitutionally sketchy… which seems quite odd in an affirmation.  For another, it’s quite possible for a very smart person to make mistakes that no average or middling intellect could ever.   Justice Roberts’ reasoning in this decision is nearly a textbook example thereof.  It’s almost as if he were searching frantically for a legal reason to avoid scrapping this monstrosity.

As a result, there are a number of thoughts within his reasoning that make sense in isolation.  For example, there’s the statement that a bad policy isn’t de facto unconstitutional; also, the thought that the Courts don’t exist to spare us the consequences of sending morons to Congress to write dumb laws.  Both eminently true.  Alas, neither of these is the point at hand.  The point at hand is, does Congress have the authority to force us to do what this bill requires?  And a very simple reading of the list contained in the US Constitution of things Congress can do reveals that, No, they really can’t, not no way, not no how.

But they ARE allowed to tax us, right?  OK, so fine, this is a tax and they’re allowed to do it!  Splitting the judicial baby, as it were.  Poor kid, he never stood a chance.

There’s a huge flaw in that thinking.  I’m sure a cleverer mind than mine could paper over it, explain it away, much as today there are many clever minds explaining all the silver linings in this cloud that’s currently set to deluge us in another layer of unbearable government busybodery.  In this case, let’s just look at the cloud, OK?  Sure, the Congress can levy taxes – but why are they taxing us this time?  That’s exactly what the decision refuses to examine, with a firmness and determination that I wish had been applied towards actually deciding the issue instead of punting it. 

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Too much

If there’s been a drumbeat to the current political discussion over the past four years – the 4/4 time signature underneath all the repetitive power chords and dull, droning bass lines – it’s been the idea that our success really belongs to someone else.

Elizabeth Warren actually slipped that one into the lyrics of the tune a while back, as you might remember.

You built a factory out there? Good for you.  But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Ms. Warren has overlooked an important, two-step* amendment to her “we paid for the infrastructure” idea – first and foremost, that the factory owner is part of that group that paid via taxes for roads and cops and etc.  There is no “rest of us,” just an “all of us.”  In fact, the factory owner probably paid a lot more in aboslute dollars for those roads, a point that Warren and the rest of the band have been blaring at us for a while now.

The funny thing is, they don’t notice that they’re doing it.  They think they’re harping on income inequality, when in fact the other side of that coin is that it results in a much larger tax bill.  Q. Hypothetical Tycoon III, Esq., cut the state and the Feds a much larger check at the end of the day than any of us thousandaires.  On top of that, all the salaries he pays to his workers are themselves taxed, as is all the stuff he sells.  If QHT3 decided to close it all up and build a factory overseas, everyone would take a big hit, including the public treasury.

The second step is perhaps not as obvious, but no less vital.  Why, exactly, did “the rest of us” agree on paying for that infrastructure in such a manner?  Why are police and firefighters and roads (and a lot of education) taxpayer-funded?  Is it not because they are meant to be equally-available to all citizens, impartially, regardless of social status?  And doesn’t that neatly self-contradict the laughable idea that QHT3 owes more than the rest of us to use those things, or to enjoy the benefits of them?

*And not that we need a third step, but “You built a factory- good for you” raises an obvious retort: “And you didn’t. I’m the one going above and beyond ‘the work we did.’ You’re welcome.”

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When 53 > 99

For a few weeks now, folks have been occupying Wall Street, and I’ve been doing my darndest to ignore the whole pathetic spectacle.  I actually have a day job, and wish to keep it, as there has been a lot of fat-trimming.  Besides, I thought that the high percentage of hipsters and wannabes and hangers-on would eventually cause it all to collapse under the weight of its own absurdity: “I was fighting the Man before it was cool.  Once we started getting on TV it became waaaaay too commercial.”

In a way, that would have been a more authentic result for a specifically “down-with-corporate-people” movement.  What we have now has bent irony back on itself in a manner more Star Trek than Starbucks:

  • An anti-corporate movement bankrolled by corporations;
  • A populist movement advocating complete top-down management of our economy and, by extension, the rest of our society;
  • Union officials and special interests whose actions are partly to blame for the problem, agitating for a solution;
  • A group of  self-descrbied decent and hard-working adults with educations spending weeks directing an extended tantrum at folks who are themselves well-educated and trying to work hard;
  • People decrying “violent rhetoric” and “uncivil public discourse” brawling with police, carrying “Behead the Rich” signs, and threatening to actually march on the homes of business executives;
  • Freeloaders coming to the organizer’s park to mooch off the original protestors, causing them to protest that people are, like, totally stealing all their stuff that other people worked to produce and then gave to them.

It’s a Möbius strip of lunacy.  Trying to grab one end of it and work it out to a conclusion seemed like a trap.  That was before the movement spread to “thousands of countries,” according to multi-millionaire corporate employee Diane Sawyer.  I can’t fault the math, since a few thousand agitators (ranks swelled by professional protestors recruited and paid for the occasion) are calling themselves “The 99%.”  Meanwhile, others have taken to calling themselves the 53% – as in, the estimated percentage of people who actually pay into the government’s coffers through taxes on their income.

One of these numbers is much smaller than claimed.  To slather another thick goopy layer of irony on, the country would be healthier if that 53% were larger – a taxpayer is someone who is earning a living and thus not whinging on their blog about having no living to earn.  The 99%, however, want that 1% – the top earners in the country – to relieve them of the burden of ever moving from the 99% to the 53%.

How did it get to this?

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Bush did it

Only this time, the White House is keeping that part hush-hush

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is crediting its anti-recession stimulus plan with creating up to 50,000 jobs on dozens of wind farms, even though many of those wind farms were built before the stimulus money began to flow or even before President Barack Obama was inaugurated.

Which investigative journalist broke this for MSNBC?  Maddow?  Matthews?  Olbermann?

Heh.  Russ Choma is your huckleberry – he works at American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop, and has been on this case a few times, as shown by this long list, from May, of all the grants awarded for renewable energy under the Spendthrift Act of 2010.*

* I’m almost certain this was the official name.

Highlights from that list include corporations like WalMart (five grants for $4,171,471) and Kohl’s (TEN grants at least, totalling $4,757,070) for solar electricity installations; a Staples here in New Jersey getting over $3,000,000 for the same (dwarfing the $821,217 given to a local Marshalls, the quarter-mil poured into a TJ Maxx, and the $149,135 given to the “Patel Family LLC,” making me wonder why I’m not an LLC myself); and roughly $6.2 million to a company called Ameresco for three landfill-gas productions: Stafford VA, Keller Canyon Landfill in California (possibly for this project, but you never know), and Jefferson City, Missouri (scroll to the end on that last link – that $2.3 mil  created approximately TEN whole, entire jobs).

Now – I did talk about getting away from the political side, and I’m sorry for going to that well so quickly after the reboot – but to me this isn’t really about the politics of it, but the lying about it.  Like the President was recently heard to say, there aren’t that many “shovel-ready projects” just lying around.  You can’t just up and toss money into the air and have it sprout new jobs wherever it lands, much the same way as you can’t scatter pumpkin seeds on Labor Day and expect full-grown Jack-o-Lanterns by Halloween.  It takes time.  Almost everything that was going to be ready to start had to be planned and in progress well before anyone in the current administration got to Washington – and to judge by the long list of corporations on that grant list, a good portion of that planning and progress was taking place in the private sector.

So, if the economy was the point, rather than who got credit for the economy, why not just say so?  Why not spin this as “This stuff was just sitting around, not helping anyone, until we got to town and paid for it.”  That would still be debatable (both for truth and for utility), but it would have the advantage of being at least plausible.  But it would also acknowledge that the Republicans and the private sector were actually trying to improve the economy, instead of sitting around lighting cigars with the hundred-dollar bills pilfered from folks’ pensions.  (And who’s trying to actually pilfer our 401 (k) accounts, again?  Oh, yeah, the current Congress.)  Can’t have that.

That’s probably why they choose to lie about it.  As has been recently and superbly described, this sort of “give away everyone else’s money” game just doesn’t work .  It can’t.  As the saying goes, eventually you run out of other people’s money.  So they try to make it out like it’s their money to begin with, and they give you a portion to amuse yourself, like parents giving out allowances to their kids.  The big difference is, the parents are actually working to earn that money, so A) they’re producing real value in exchange; and B) they can’t just expand that allowance indefinitely without first earning more.  The government has this all backwards – they produce little or nothing, and love to spend far more than they have.  They have long forgotten that in this analogy, it is THEY who are the kids getting an allowance from US, the adults of the relationship – we are the producers, no we can’t just give you more, and if you don’t start doing your chores, we are cutting you off and grounding you.

So naturally, I’m not too keen on the idea that enormous piles of our money should be shoveled to corporations through the auspices of the government, even (or especially) when the government then has ownership of the corporation.  That stuff’s supposed to pay for roads, schools, the armed forces, etc. ( Congress said they wanted it to save up for a car and instead they’re blowing it at the mall, on gadgets and games and weed – or else lending to their equally-vapid buddies and then crying that they need more from us, like, nobody ever pays them back, it’s so unfair.)  If WalMart wants another $4,000,000 (which is like a rounding error to them anyway) to spend on solar panels, they can sell more stuff and buy the panels themselves.  (At least that kid HAS a job!)  That way I can choose whether or not to contribute my portion of it.

Ultimately, that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?  Not politics, in the end, but choices in general – are you free to earn your own living, or are you merely a thrall, a battery powering the vast machine state with your labors, while it swaths you in a numb, false security, and doles out comforts and necessities according to its whim?

Time to break out the red pills.