Archive for the ‘Picking sides’ category

Donald Trump: Fascist

October 27, 2016

I can’t think of another way to describe him after this* [Politico link]:

Donald Trump suggested canceling the election Thursday and granting himself the presidency.

“What a difference. You know, what a difference this is,” Trump said during a rally in Toledo, Ohio, after comparing his tax plan with Hillary Clinton’s.

“And just thinking to myself right now, we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump, right? What are we even having it for? What are we having it for?” he asked. “Her policies are so bad. Boy, do we have a big difference.”

Because that’s how he rolls, and how the party that nominated him would, if they could.

I got nuthin’ beyond that.

640px-joseph_mallord_william_turner_-_the_decline_of_the_carthaginian_empire_-_wga23169

Except perhaps this:  the Republican party is a wholly owned Trump subsidiary now. It must be destroyed, its walls pulled down, its proud towers cast down, its fields sown with salt.

Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est

*Actually, I’ve been using that label for the Cheeto-faced Ferret-heedit Shitgibbon for some time.  But that’s neither here nor there.

Image: J. W. M. Turner, The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire1817.

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Gas Up Your Tumbrels

December 22, 2015

I think that this has already been discussed in a comment thread or two, but today (a) The New York Times reminded us that it can do essential, truly top-notch journalism and (b) exposed truly grotesque practices within a “justice” system that offers scant justice to anyone that doesn’t sport “Inc.” as a last name:

Encore and rival debt buyers are using the courts to sue consumers and collect debt, then preventing those same consumers from using the courts to challenge the companies’ tactics. Consumer lawyers said this strategy was the legal equivalent of debt collectors having their cake and eating it, too.

The use of arbitration by the companies is the latest frontier in a legal strategy orchestrated by corporations in recent years. By insertingarbitration clauses into the fine print of consumer contracts, they have found a way to block access to the courts and ban class-action lawsuits, the only realistic way to bring a case against a deep-pocketed corporation.

Their strategy traces to a pair of Supreme Court decisions in 2011 and 2013 that enshrined the use of class-action bans in arbitration clauses.

The result, The New York Times found in an investigation last month, is that banks, car dealers, online retailers, cellphone service providers and scores of other companies have insulated themselves from challenges to illegal or deceptive business practices. Once a class action was dismantled, court and arbitration records showed, few if any of the individual plaintiffs pursued arbitration.

Bottom feeders buy old debt.  They sue to collect.  Doesn’t matter if the debt is too old legally to collect.  Doesn’t matter if the sharks don’t have proper documentation. Doesn’t matter if they string up little old ladies by their big toes.  (Hyperbole alert).

Rembrandt_Christ_Driving_the_Money_Changers_from_the_Temple (1)

Crappy judges at the trial court level, insulated — guided — by crappy justices with robes, lifetime appointments, and no moral compasses whatsoever, make sure the Man gets his cash:

In the cases that The Times examined, judges routinely sided with debt collectors on forcing the disputes into arbitration.

In Mr. Cain’s case, Midland Funding, the unit of Encore Capital, persevered despite originally lacking a copy of a Citibank arbitration agreement they said he signed in 2003. Instead, the debt collector presented as evidence a Citibank contract that one of Encore’s lawyers signed when he opened an account.

In Mississippi, Midland Funding won a court judgment to compel Wanda Thompson to pay more than $4,700 on a debt that was too old to be collected under state law, court records show.

When Ms. Thompson filed a class-action suit on behalf of other state residents, Encore invoked an arbitration clause to have the lawsuit dismissed. Ms. Thompson’s lawyers argued that the company had clearly chosen court over arbitration when it sued her to collect the debt. By going to court, the lawyers said, Encore waived its right to compel arbitration.

Unpersuaded, the judge ruled that Encore’s lawsuit to collect the debt was separate from Ms. Thompson’s case accusing the company of violating the law.

I can’t put into words my revulsion for the people who steal from the weakest in our system, except to note that my loathing of those who enable these pen-armed robbers is far greater.  The GOP  hopes most people will be too scared of Syrians, gun-grabbers, and the Kenyan in the White House to notice who’s doing what to whom.  There’s an opening here for our side — and an obligation to take it.

Image:  Rembrandt van Rijn, Christ driving the money changers from the temple, 1626.

Up Next: The General

April 30, 2013

So — we know what’s coming up next in Massachusetts: Ed Markey vs. Gabriel Gomez.  Markey’s a 36 year veteran in the House; Gomez is an alledgedly “pure” non politician with all the attributes the national Republican Party wants to see — Latino, a former Seal, private-equity “job creating” vampire.

We’ve seen how this can play out even in not-as-liberal-as-our-rep Massachusetts.  Remember Senator Coakley?

There are real, big differences this time of course.  No Obamacare debate, nor teabagger summer of 2o09.  We’ve seen the Republican party in its howling glory a lot in the last two and half years, and Massachusetts Democrats are profoundly committed to not seeing Scott Brown II play at any multiplexes next year.  Not to mention Ed Markey isn’t Martha Coakley, for which I’m grateful indeed.  But I’m deeply mindful of what about a dozen of us heading out to canvass for Markey on Sunday heard from this guy:

Dukakis crop

Mike Dukakis was a damn good governor, and he would have made a much better president than Bush the elder.  Dukakis is particularly admirable because, in the tradition of the good guys, he hasn’t dropped out of public life or public service just because he’s not running for anything anymore.  And boy does he know his home town.

I’d never met him before, and so after we chatted for a while, he asked me where in Brookline I live.  I’m on a truly minor one block long street which boasts a grand total of, I think, seven houses that actually have addresses on our road (we’ve got a couple more on the corners that the larger through streets claim).  I said the street name and started to explain where it was and he stopped me.  “I know them all,” he said, and I believe the man.

So what did he say?  He told us to get out and knock on every door — not just Sunday, but as much as we could before today, and then again, as much as we can, over and over again between now and June 25th, the day of the general election.  We’ve seen what happens when we don’t, he reminded us — and the he said not to pay any attention to the numbers.  “I’m the guy who was 40% ahead of Ed King with five weeks to go and lost that election.”  (Quoting from memory, backed up by this interview.)

The point is obvious, right?

Ed Markey is a hard core, old fashioned liberal.  The kind of senator we need right now, in ever greater numbers.  He’s going to start out with a substantial lead.  About three times as many Democrats as Republicans voted in this primary.  Markey’s vote total alone exceeds the GOP vote for all three of their candidates.  And he can lose.  If he doesn’t campaign better than Martha Coakley did, he may well lose.  He won’t, both because I think it is actually physically impossible to do a worse job in an election than Coakley did, and because he’s not stupid.  He’s not a charismatic guy at all, but he works and works and works.  Which is all good.

But there are no guarantees.

So my wife and I will be handing over a few more bucks, and we’ll be hitting the phones and knocking on doors.  The state party’s a lot smarter than it was when it let Brown blindside everyone three years ago, and the national party isn’t going to let this one slip either.  But if any of y’all are in the area, we could use your help.  Ask Mike Dukakis.  He’ll tell you.

Why Mitt Will Lose…Or Your Modern GOP In One Line Of Arithmetic

August 2, 2012

Ezra Klein sums up the entire GOP policy approach in one ‘graf:

The reason Romney’s plan doesn’t work is very simple. The size of the tax cut he’s proposing for the rich is larger than all of the tax expenditures that go to the rich put together. As such, it is mathematically impossible for him to keep his promise to make sure the top one percent keeps paying the same or more. [bold in the original]

You can’t get simpler than that.  Mitt Romney wants to cut his taxes so much that he has only two choices left for the rest of his budget:  raise taxes on everyone else and/or allow the deficit to balloon.

I know.  Facts have a liberal bias, and numbers are f**king commies.  This is the GOP reality folks; now we get to decide if we choose to live within it.

Not much else needs saying, really, and I see that the Obama campaign is already on this one like barnacles on Romney’s yacht.  Do read the rest of Klein’s post, by the way.  It lays out the full failure of the whole Romney tax fiasco with admirable clarity. (h/t GOS)

Image:  Paul Klee, Red Balloon, 1922

Sex vs. Money: Sex Makes The Front Page; Money Counts.

December 20, 2011

So another Republican “family values” stalwart turns up gay as a goose. (h/t yuriwho at GOS)

My first reaction was that the seemingly endless GOP of sexual-bigotry-fail is becoming regular enough to resemble how I remember the what the DJ back home in the Bay Area  said about the weather for six months at a time:  “Coastal fog, extending inland night and morning, clearing by midday.”*  And then the announcer would continue,  “Oh, and you can tell its spring:  Mr. and Mr. Joe and James Doe called in this A.M. to report the first sighting of a Republican politician up in the Castro in full seasonal plumage:  chaps, suspenders and not much else.”

OK — I made that last part up, but you get the idea.

Which is to say that I’ve almost completely stopped paying attention to GOP “family values” guys’ same-sex stumbles.  Mayor Greg Davis (R) of Southaven, Miss is certainly in a heap of trouble, all of it of his own making.  The hypocrisy involved is nauseating, but surplus to requirements.  The actual governance of those involved so often contains more than ample evidence of the gap between rhetoric and action that one’s outrage circuits should trip long before we get to the queston of where the parties of the second part place their genitals.

I can’t say I’m entirely immune to the joys of schadenfreude, though.  When those most determined to crush the everyday happiness of others get caught, I do chortle a bit.  It’s not kind, I know:  all sorts of folks get hurt by the toxic collision of the closet and ambitions at odds with one’s self.  But still, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t break out a malicious grin.

This latest case, though, reminds me why that’s such a treacherously easy response.  There’s a reason I don’t care about politician’s sex  lives.  It lies hidden in plain sight in this fact in the report on Mayor Davis:

Greg Davis, the Republican mayor of Southaven, Miss., is embroiled in a spending scandal after state auditors requested receipts for $170,000 (U.S.) in improper charges he made to the city.

That’s the nub of the story.  Mississippi state officials found that Davis stole a ton of money from a town of fewer than 50,000 people.

That his spending spree included “a $67 charge at a store called Priape, which bills itself as “Canada’s premiere gay lifestyle store and sex shop,”  is hardly the point.  Rather, it is that this politician used his power to rob the citizens he allegedly served.  His friends and those from whom he derived power got to share in some fine meals. (Davis is reported to be a good tipper, which I suppose is a mark in his favor, even if it was OPM that fueled his generosity.)  There was  mention of pineapple mojitos — an aesthetic error I might forgive in a friend, but not here.

And, oh yeah, one register slip for some sex toy that set him (or rather Southaven) back about .04% of the total he misappropriated.

Politicians of all parties get caught up in this sort of thievery, of course; it’s only the gay/family values thing that is distinctively a trope for the modern GOP.  But I’ll go all partisan and mean here and say that the belief that government exists not to govern, but to transfer wealth from public to private hands is clearly a GOP crusade these days.

So if simple corruption knows no party — and it doesn’t, I’ll say again — this case reminds me that the legal corruption of our politics these days does make that distinction.  Democrats are hardly blameless — not when you look at the inadequacy of the assignment of risk and loss in the banking and housing crisis, for example. But their sins are venial to the mortal ones with which the Republican party seems bent on for just one example, raising middle class taxes to preserve the tax advantages of the rich.

So, yeah, I’m still grinning about the petard explosion that has lifted the miserable Mayor Davis off the deck.  But it’s a distraction, and as such more useful to the GOP than to those fighting to reclaim even a sliver of public space from those who would rob my son of what his father enjoyed as if by right.

*I swear.  I thought the scene in L.A. Story where the Steve Martin character pre-records the weather report was, in fact, industry practice in my part of the world.  Boston, as they say, is different.

Image:  John James Audubon, American Robin c. 1832.

Sanity in Texas!

August 30, 2011

Dallas, even! Home of Mark Cuban

Now, Cuban’s politics are generally a bit bonkers, to put it excessively kindly — he is, (wait for it) a Randian, seemingly of the high-functioning sort, and endorsed Michael Bloomberg in the 2008 election (sic!)  This time around, he’s signed on to one of those centrist third party rich-guys’ playgrounds so beloved of Thomas Friedman.

At the same time, he isn’t frothing at the mouth about the current President.  He complains that the Obama administration has been insufficiently transparent, which may be true, but would be a low-on-my-list concern given what’s happening in, you know, reality.

But, even if Cuban were born at night, it wasn’t last night.  None of the GOPsters running impress him, he says, because “all of them are just spouting ‘doctrine'”….

That’s one word for it, but at least he noticed.

What caught my eye in that interview, though, wasn’t the horse-race stuff, nor his transparent (and justified) pleasure in his Dallas Mavericks’ defeat of “the Evil Empire,” Miami. (Pat Riley = Sauron — works for me.)

Rather, here’s the guy who became the supermodel-on-the-wall of every dot-com geek when in 1999, he sold his company, Broadcast.com, with all of its mighty $13.5 million in quarterly revenue sales, to Yahoo, in exchange for $6.5 billion in stock.  And then he took the necessary next step, turning a ton of that stock into cash fast.

So, lucky, good, and filthy rich.  And he wants to pay his share to the country in which his success could occur:

Cuban did say he agrees with Warren Buffett’s recent assertion that the wealthiest Americans should pay more taxes.

“He’s right,” Cuban said. “Not only should we pay more taxes . . . there should not be a differentiation between capital gains and regular income.”

Well yeah.  More of this please — backed by lobbying money to defend the principle.

Image:  Francisco de Goya, Las Gigantillas, 1791-1792

August 4, 2011

So, just to follow up last night’s post, here’s my first attempt to be heard on what might come of the Catfood Commission redux the new joint Congressional committee on debt reduction:

Dear Senator Reid,

I write to ask you to commit to appointing as members of the so-called “Super Congress” committee on debt reduction only Democrats committed to revenue raising and tax reform as an essential, non-negotiable part of the deal.

We’ve already heard from your counterparts in the GOP:  they will appoint only those who oppose any tax revenue in the final package.  That’s both bad (disastrous) policy and bad politics for any Democrat.  We need to counter with strength the other side’s scorched-earth approach to every political dispute.  Right now, that means a committee composed of people who will not give on what both our country and our party desperately needs:  powerful voices defending the idea that when our country needs help, everyone, including (especially) the richest and most fortunate among us must rise to the occasion.

Don’t treat this as business as it used to be usual, where you could sit down with your counterparts and cut a reasonably equitable deal.  If the events of the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that those days are gone.

Act accordingly, or the country and our political fortunes as Democrats in 2012 will suffer terribly.

I don’t say it’s great prose, but of course, anyone who wants to grab any of it is more than welcome.  Reid’s contact page is here.  The GOS’s piece on this, from which I got that contact, is here.

Volume counts, both in decibels and amount.  So in your copious spare time, write the notes — to your own senators (Democrats on this issue, of course), representatives, the leadership, the White House, your local newspapers and so on.

A last thought:  several commenters in the thread from last night expressed some variation on the “it-doesn’t-matter because either the two parties are functionally the same, or the Democrats must necessarily cave/lose” theme.

Maybe so, but if ever there was a self-fulfilling prediction, that is one.

Image:  Gerard von Honthorst, Solon and Croesus, 1624.