Friday, February 27, 2009

A little information for the tax-cutting true believers out there. It has been reported that the tax increases proposed by Obama and the sunsetting of the tax cuts from the Bush years will affect 80% of small business.
In fact, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, the Tax Policy Center has estimated that a mere 2 percent of tax returns reporting small business income in 2007 earned enough income to be affected by the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on individuals earning more than $200,000 per year and families earning more than $250,000 per year -- not 80 percent.
Of those income tax filers in 2007 who reported small business income -- and there were over 24 million of them -- only 481,000 of them reported net income in the highest two tax brackets. It isn't the guy who owns the small restaurant, or the woman with the knitting store, or the electrician who works out of the back of his truck, who nets that kind of money (at least not as a rule). It takes a lot to get to over $200 in income. Having been there until 2008, I know how much work is involved. With my income in 2005, I received a notice from my former employer that I was eligible for their special Deferred Comp program, which was only available for the top 2% of earners for the whole company. That meant that I was in rare territory. So I can only assume that the same holds true for a lot of people in this country. Plenty of business owners will make $250,000 in gross income, but what they report as net income -- what will be taxed -- is usually somewhere far less than that.

Mayor of Los Alamitos, CA Resigns

Under pressure for his sending an email photo depicting a watermelon patch at the White House, Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grouse is resigning, the LA Times reported today.

Grouse sent the email from his personal account. It was a photo of the White House with a watermelon patch superimposed over the lawn. The caption read, "No Easter egg hunt this year."

Well, a truly tasteless joke, to be sure, but should it have cost him his job? Are we at the point where our politicians can't do anything stupid or tasteless without it resulting in their immediate unemployment? I didn't think the photo was funny: it was a crass depiction of a racial stereotype. But was it hate speech? I heard my share of jokes from Don Rickles and Bobby Slayton when I was younger (not to mention repeats of those jokes from my dad ad nauseum), but we have got to stop thinking that telling such jokes is a sign that a person actually believes the sentiments expressed in the jokes.

It's not like my "monkey lovers" example from my previous post. After my post I saw additional posts of hers on Facebook that confirm for me that she truly hates black people.

"Monkey Lovers"

Facebook has become a guilty pleasure. Old high school, elementary school, summer camp friends popping up all over the place. Occasionally I get a glimpse into how they've turned out.

One ex-co-worker - I'll call him "L" - is from the great state of Texas, where the steaks are big and the personalities are bigger. Yesterday he posted on Facebook that he had become a supporter of Sarah Palin. Well, fine, didn't know he was a Republican, but he's from Texas, so odds are that he is one.

As anyone who reads my blog knows that I'm a huge critic of Sarah Palin, I couldn't resist the temptation to gently chide him for his choice. But hey, to each his own. I wrote:
Oh, L -- some points off the board for you! But hey, g'head and support her till someone better comes along, like maybe tomorrow.
One of his other FB friends replied this morning:
Thats alright L, I like her too. And thats all that is important!!! Don't let the monkey lovers get you down.
Now, I tend to be cautious when interpreting the comments of a total stranger. This could mean that I'm a believer in Evolution, which I would then take as a compliment, even as it showcases the utter ignorance of the writer. But it could also mean that as a supporter of Barack Obama, I'm somehow a "monkey lover" in the eyes of someone peering through a pointy white hood. Either way, this person's a moron for making that comment, especially when accompanied by a photograph of her face while holding what I presume to be her child. I think of the poison that child's mind is being forced to absorb way down there in oil-land and I just get sad.

As for other Texans, there are some who read this blog from that great state. Please don't go thinking I'm down on the state or its people. Just this one idiot, OK?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

How to "Retain" Senior Executives

We've all read or heard about lavish corporate outings like the AIG retreats in San Diego last year. Today comes this ABC News account of how the CEO of Bank of America, Ken Lewis, knew about the payout of $3.6 billion in bonuses to Merrill Lynch employees and executives at the end of 2008. That's eight percent of the $45 billion bailout money the giant bank got from the Feds. Lewis claimed while under oath before Congress that he had "no authority" over the bonuses, but corporate merger documents between B of A and Merrill state that the bonuses would be awarded "in consultation" with B of A. Uh, that means Lewis had authority, in case you were wondering. All this while Merrill lost $25 billion last year after receiving $50 billion in the sale to B of A. That means that it would have lost $75 billion without the sale.

Embedded in the story, however, was a little tidbit about how Lewis flew to New York to meet with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (the story incorrectly refers to him as Anthony Cuomo) in a $50 million private jet, one of nine corporate jets owned by the bank. Funny, the bank's spokesperson justified the excess by claiming that "timing and efficiency" dictated the use of the corporate jet, which probably runs $50,000 a pop. (As if Lewis couldn't have rode his limo to the Charlotte airport and flown coach for about 1/100th the cost, and made conversation with the nice lady with the moustache on his left while they sipped Diet Sprites.)

With the bank's stock down to $5.50 a share, you would think that they would try at least to create the impression that they were concerned about the money they were spending.

Well, at least they say they're going to sell three of their jets now.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Brilliant Use of Language

Poet Demetri Martin has penned Dammit, I'm Mad, a 224-word Palindrome.

I'm damn impressed.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mind of Gonzales

Former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales feels the heat of a possible Patrick Leahy-led truth commission investigating his activities as White House Counsel and AG.
I think only a fool would be unconcerned about any kind of commission or investigation in this political town and in this political climate. Having said that, again, because I feel like I’ve got nothing to hide and I’ve done nothing wrong, I’m not worried about the truth, so long as what we’re talking about is the truth and things don’t become politicized.
My italics. This is the kind of stuff that makes me laugh. I'm sure the guy believes that everything heading his way is politicized. Question is: does he have the balls to tell the truth?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Obama Opposes Fairness Doctrine Revival

My conservative friends should be happy, but certainly it removes an arrow from their quiver.

If every crackpot political aspirant wants to be heard, let them buy time just like Lyndon LaRouche and Ross Perot did.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Politics As Usual From the GOP

President Obama nominates a well-regarded conservative Republican to the post of Commerce Secretary. After a few weeks, however, Senator Judd Gregg just couldn't step out of line with his party and withdrew his name from consideration.

Well, here and here there is strong sense that Gregg bowed to pressure from his party to thwart the president's attempt at bipartisanship. No surprise there, really. Just as they did with Bill Clinton, the Republican Party will stop at nothing to bring down an immensely popular president not of their own party. They are the Alexis Carringtons of politics.

(Hat Tip: Sullivan)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Musings of a Yankee Hater

Warning: this piece by Jim Moore is strictly non-partisan. Choice tidbit:
You can't even ask the question "What the hell's wrong with us?" because the answer requires decades of explanation. An increasing number of Americans wonder if our country will even survive and a scary proportion of those have asked the troubling follow up question as to whether we deserve to survive and have entered our final decline.

So Crazy I'd Like to Try It

A very radical idea on how to fix the banking sector, one sure to send my libertarian leaning friends into a tizzy. Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan. Money quote:

First, strip out all the toxic assets and put them into a holding tank inside the Treasury. Then inject $300 billion in fresh equity for both Citi and Bank of America. Create 10 billion new shares of each of the companies to replace the old ones. The book value of each share could be $30. Very quickly, a new board of directors should be created and a new management team hired. Here's the tricky part: Who owns the shares? Politics will kill a nationalized bank. So spin them out immediately.

Some $6 trillion in income taxes were paid by individuals in 2006, 2007 and 2008. On a pro-forma basis, send out those 10 billion shares of each bank to taxpayers. They paid for the recapitalization.

Each taxpayer would get about $100 worth of stock for each $1,000 of taxes paid. Of course, each taxpayer has the ability to sell these shares on the open market, maybe at $40, maybe $20, maybe $80. It depends on management, their vision, how much additional capital they are willing to raise, the dividend they declare, etc. Meanwhile, the toxic assets sitting inside the Treasury will have residual value and the proceeds from their eventual sale, I believe, will more than offset the capital injected. That would benefit all citizens, not the managements and shareholders who blew up the banking system in the first place.

From the Wall Street Journal, no less. Who woulda thunk it? If only to send Ken Lewis and the rest of them out on their asses.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"Truth and Reconciliation"

Senator Leahy jumps on the bandwagon.

This is "not to humiliate people or punish people, but to get the truth out, so we don't make the same mistakes again," Leahy said later during the question and answer session. "We fought Revolution in this country so we could protest the actions of government. We should protect that."

Prosecutions must be a part of any effort to get at the truth. No one from either side of the aisle should be allowed to circumvent the Constitution.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bill O'Reilly, Racist

Starting with Andrew Sullivan's link to a detailed Crooks and Liars piece about O'Reilly's declared "war" against the New York Times for a recent editorial on immigration and "nativism," I was led to this piece on Blogger where Bill reveals his ugly, racist foundation as a "journalist" or "commentator." In the piece, O'Reilly is interviewing a demographer at the Brookings Institution:
O'REILLY: Now, Doctor, the Census Bureau really doesn't tell us how this is going to affect the country. Do you have any theories on it?

WILLIAM FREY, PH.D., BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I really think what's happening is going to be this phasing out or fading out of the white baby boom population. It is a 50-year time period we're talking about...

O'REILLY: Yes. We'll all be dead. Thank God, right?
My italics.

Now, call me paranoid (and you'd be partially right), but when a national public figure like O'Reilly makes a comment like this on national TV, it's of course clear evidence of his own racism and xenophobia, but it's also evidence that there is a huge segment of the American populace that agrees with him. It's unfortunately something that the New York Times editorial merely glosses over. This is what the editorial stated:

It is easy to mock white-supremacist views as pathetic and to assume that nativism in the age of Obama is on the way out. The country has, of course, made considerable progress since the days of Know-Nothings and the Klan. But racism has a nasty habit of never going away, no matter how much we may want it to, and thus the perpetual need for vigilance.

It is all around us. Much was made of the Republican mailing of the parody song “Barack the Magic Negro,” but the same notorious CD included “The Star Spanglish Banner,” a puerile bit of Latino-baiting. It is easily found on YouTube. Google the words “Bill O’Reilly” and “white, Christian male power structure” for another YouTube taste of the Fox News host assailing the immigration views of “the far left” (including The Times) as racially traitorous.
The last paragraph is what set O'Reilly off, conflating him with white supremacist ideology. Well if the foo shits... y'all know what I'm saying?

For the record, I do not support open borders and unlimited access to citizenship for anyone who crosses this border. As a Californian, I saw first hand what happened to my beloved Los Angeles after the last amnesty campaign in the late 1980s. Life did change for the white majority in Los Angeles, and not always for the better. I believe in a secure border to keep out gang members, career criminals, and those who take advantage of public health care and an all-too-willing employer community willing to hire undocumented workers in order to keep wages low and avoid paying for Worker's Comp insurance.

But I also see the futility in expelling those who are already here, as well as the need for unskilled workers who will perform the jobs that many Americans deem beneath them. We need large numbers of workers at this level in order for our society to function properly. In much of the country there is a definite need for immigrant workers. Since there already are millions of them here, why not change the way we treat them and give them a way to become legal citizens of this country?

For racists like O'Reilly and others, however, this is completely about the loss of power -- white, male power -- that has dominated politics, industry, and thought in this country for centuries.

To twist O'Reilly's own words, someday they'll all be dead, thank God.