## Friday, January 31, 2014

It's been a while since I've felt the need to state the obvious, rather than just restating what others before have said better and sooner. But as we say in east Tennessee, even a blind sow finds an acorn once in a while, and if the acorn is right there shoved up against her nose, what could be easier? Nevertheless, I have not seen anyone add up 2 of the bigger political stories of the first month of 2014 to see what happens. I refer of course to the Republicans' successful (last month) scuttling of extended unemployment benefits and their current intentions of keeping them scuttled; and President Obama's meeting today with business bosses to ask them to consider hiring people who have been out of work since -- oh, let's not shillyshally -- since the Bush crash. What Obama, who is unfailingly polite to these idiots because they are rich, powerful idiots, did not (at least publicly) point out to them is the shocking (shocking, not surprising) study by Rand Ghayad of Northeastern U. As the Washington Post summarizes:
He sent out 4,800 fake resumes at random for 600 job openings. And what he found is that employers would rather call back someone with no relevant experience who's only been out of work for a few months than someone with more relevant experience who's been out of work for longer than six months.
Like every other part of Republican economic theory (and especially Tea Party theory), their version of life collapses at the first application of reality. According to them -- and I am not going to bother with links; if you've stayed this long, you've heard the phony story many, many times -- "paying people not to work" discourages them from going out and taking whatever jobs there are. Except, 1) there aren't jobs; and 2) even where there are, the geniuses who run American business will not hire them. As I have said before, when you strip away all the foofaraw from Reaganomics, it's just David Ricardo's Iron Law of Wages:
The clear and direct tendency of the poor laws is in direct opposition to these obvious principles: it is not, as the legislature benevolently intended, to amend the condition of the poor, but to deteriorate the condition of both poor and rich; instead of making the poor rich, they are calculated to make the rich poor; and whilst the present laws are in force, it is quite in the natural order of things that the fund for the maintenance of the poor should progressively increase till it has absorbed all the net revenue of the country, or at least so much of it as the state shall leave to us, after satisfying its own never-failing demands for the public expenditure.
When I was in college, a long time ago, a teaching assistant in ECON 101 summarized it more bleakly: Wages will always be set at just above the point where the worker starves to death. And, just to put the cherry on top, Ricardo wrote when the "never-failing demands for the public expenditure" were going to pay for the war against Napoleon. Just like today except that England won her war, and the Republicans lost both of theirs.

## Wednesday, January 29, 2014

### Hey, look! Democrat vote fraud

To balance out all the bad stuff about Republicans, RtO is pleased to present a real live, jury-certified case of voter fraud featuring a Democrat, and an African-American Democrat at that. Republicans have been so alarmed about voter fraud that they have caused several state legislatures to pass laws to prevent it, although courts have frequently found the laws unacceptable on one ground or another. It has also been a bit of an embarrassment that the panic about voter fraud is, in every investigation, imaginary. But here, for the GOP to treasure and bring up every time some skeptic wonders if shortening voting periods or making it more difficult to register is just a scheme to reduce voting by real citizens, is a gen-u-wine case of rampant voter fraud. California State Senator Roderick Wright
said he thought he was following the law when he arranged to rent a room in a home he owns that is occupied by his common-law stepmother to establish a legal residence in Inglewood. The city is in the district he wanted to represent.
But he had another pad in another community. Renting a room from yourself sounds pretty fishy, we admit. According to the Los Angeles Times, Wright could potentially go into the slammer for 8 years. Whether that is likely or not, we don't know, but, by golly, for all their liberal ways those Californians take residency requirements seriously. An election hardly ever passes in Maui County without some candidate being suspected -- often on pretty solid evidence -- of carpetbagging, but with only two exceptions we can think of -- Sol Kaho'ohalahala and that guy from Canada whose name we forget -- nobody seems to mind.

### Maternity french leave

And, no, RtO did not mean to say "French maternity leave," which we hear is a pretty good deal for moms and babies. Word apparently has not filtered out to the scablands of eastern Washington state that if you stand tall for 'Murrica, the Internets are going to scrutinize you. Thus we have Rep. Cathy Rodgers who, despite being the highest-ranking woman Republican in the House leadership team is not so well known at large. She gave the response to the State of the Union last night, and it was the most vapid political speech I have ever heard. I speak as someone who was paid to listen to political speeches for 45 years and spent many long hours listening to Wayne Nishiki. Apparently, the Republicans could not find any one willing to go public on policy ideas. But that is just by way of a setup. Rep. Rodgers is fecund, and while her party has not usually been favorable toward funny 'Yurpeean ideas about family leave, Rep. Rodgers got a sweet deal. It appears that during her pregnancies and new motherhoods, she just quit going to work. She missed
41% of House votes during the time span of having babby number 1, 77% during the time span of having babby number 2, and 21% when she brought babby the third into the world.

## Saturday, January 18, 2014

### D-I-V-O-R-C-E

If you are a Southerner, you know that divorce is routine, despite -- as this study notes -- the religious disapproval of the majority of the sectaries. The study understates the dogma. A number of rightwing Christian cults -- including the fastest-growing one, Calvary Chapel -- either forbid divorce or counsel women to stay with their husbands no matter how violent or drunken they are. Yet, and I have run into this reaction from such believers many times, if you observe that divorce is most common among Baptists and the like, they will strenuously deny it. What's the deal, they never heard of Tammy Wynette? Or looked around their own congregations? In statistical fact, the holy roller divorce rate is around twice the national average.
The study asks, is it because of domestic violence (no), early marriage (only partly) or low income (correlated but not regarded as a cause). I would have fingered early marriage, but that seems not to be the whole story. It's early marriage allied with little schooling (and consequent low income), combined with a habit of divorce -- even among non-sectaries in the same community. Well, I have some doubts about the "non-sectaries." A great many Southerners who do not go to church were indoctrinated young and maintain the same religious orientation as the church-goers. That's not something that sociological surveys can catch, but if you grew up among Baptists, as I did, you know it. I would like to know if the habit of divorce -- I regard it as a habit, at least in the peckerwoods -- shows up in the rates of second, third and fourth divorces. I suspect it would. I knew an awful lot of serial divorcers.

## Monday, January 13, 2014

### Gun nut memo is out

Here it surfaces in Texas. When I was in Florida over Christmas, I heard rightwing radio nitwit Neal Boortz say the same thing about southwest Florida. He said, over and over, that he could go out and shoot pythons but not "northeastern liberals," who are "more dangerous." Boortz is about my age but he was snorking and chortling like a 9-year-old telling his first dirty joke. It's like there's a central registry where rightwingers go to get things to say. Possibly the Texas jerk heard Boortz (who was subbing for Sean Hannity on his show), but it happens often enough to leave a boiler room that provides stupid political commentary as a more likely explanation. Apparently, nobody walked out, showing that there were no decent people in the audience. Just recently, for the several hundredth time, a rightwing racist was caught sending an email blast to -- well, everybody, it was a blast -- of crude racial intent, which he (once he was found out) described as "humor." Not many decent people would find it so, but there are a few defending it as not merely satirical but realistic. The point is not that there are individual gun nuts in Texas or individual racists in the GOP. The point is that they think they are the norm -- you don't send crude racist emails to everybody if you think not everybody is a crude racist like you -- but that they keep demonstrating that they are, indeed, the norm of the 21st century rightwing. Crude rightwing racism is what I grew up surrounded by. I know it when I see it. I had thought, some years ago, that we had got beyond that, or, at least, people who hadn't changed had learned to keep their attitudes hidden except among trusted likeminded acquaintances. It was, as recently as the 1990s, a social faux-pas to warm up an audience at a public meeting with a few coon jokes, in a way that had been common up to the '70s. Not any more. Making contact with today's rightwing is like picking up one of Irvin S. Cobb's annual joke books from the '20s. Uggh.

## Sunday, January 12, 2014

What I don't know about cosmetics would fill a boxcar, and until today I would have said I didn't care. But Arts & Letters Daily led me to this article by Sasha Archibald about the unexpectedly exciting life and strange death of Max Factor. An immigrant success story if there ever was one, Max Faktorowicz had more impact on even my life than I had any idea of. One factoid that Archibald leaves out is that, according to Hemingway, Max Factor had a contract to supply makeup to the Romanian Army. Hemingway was making his point that no general could be sure of victory unless he was fighting the Romanians. This was true enough, as the Battle of Stalingrad demonstrated, but probably had more to do with the resentments of peasant soldiers than the vanity of their officers. I have not checked Hemingway's claim but while he could not be trusted to tell the truth about himself, he was always scrupulous about such other-directed statements, a legacy of his newspaper days. It makes you think, though. What if Richard Nixon had retained the Max Factor company (Max himself was by then dead) before he went on teevee in 1960? We could have cheap tropical holidays in Cuba instead of spending $500 a night to drink on Maui. ### Memory hole One thing I look forward to every Sunday morning (besides the newspaper) is Doktor Zoom's continuing serial review of two home-school American history books, called "Sundays with the Christianists." I hope that when he finishes -- he's been at it for about a year and a half and isn't up to 1940 yet -- he will collect his essays in a book, although also including the valuable comments (which must number nearly 10,000 by now) might be a challenge. I have been waiting for a good opportunity to recommend RtO's readers to this funny, accurate, insightful and vicious takedown of rightwing religious nonsense, and today's episode is it. Dok takes on the books' take on the Great Depression, noting: Now that grandparents who lived through the Depression are no longer around to pollute the kids’ awareness with any firsthand accounts, it’s relatively easy to feed them a straight diet of rightwing revisionist bullshit. Read more at http://wonkette.com/538922/sundays-with-the-christianists-american-history-books-that-expose-fdrs-socialist-agenda#28QGDIgbIWyaTPxQ.99 True for 13-year-olds in 8th grade, but I am 67 years old and my Mom just marked her 90th birthday last week and is happy to remember how things were. (She is also writing some of it down, something every great-grandparent or grandparent should do for his grandchildren.) So I can endorse Dok Zoom's viewpoint with independent evidence of my own. Although this remark by Dok far understates the reality of today's rightwing nuts: Land I Love, on the other hand, stops just short of saying Franklin Roosevelt was a commie, and certainly reminds kids at every turn that the New Deal should be seen as “a big step into socialism” and that FDR’s policies were unnecessary interference in an economy that wasn’t really all that bad anyway. Read more at http://wonkette.com/538922/sundays-with-the-christianists-american-history-books-that-expose-fdrs-socialist-agenda#28QGDIgbIWyaTPxQ.99 Many -- some I know who actually lived though the Roosevelt presidencies and ought to know better -- are happy to claim that FDR was not merely a communist but under direct orders of the Kremlin. Possibly the preachers at Pensacola Bible College (producer of the book under discussion) are aware that there are some things a preteen will not swallow. Who knows? Anyway, when you hear people bitch about the public schools and praise home-schooling, be aware that -- for a largish fraction of these victims -- this is the kind of idiocy they are being taught. Since Dok is already mining nuggets from the books, I will not try to chip off smaller nuggets but recommend that you read the whole thing. The comments, always nasty and usually insightful, are particularly good this week, too. ### More adversity for Ireland In the New York Times, a devastating look at how austerity failed in Ireland. Fintan O'Toole uses both observation . . .: There’s always been a simple way to measure how well Ireland is doing: Go to the ports and airports after the Christmas vacation and count the young people waving goodbye to their parents as they head off to the United States, Canada, Australia or Britain, where they have gone to find work and opportunity. Other people protest in bad times; the Irish leave. And they’ve been doing so in numbers that haven’t been recorded since the 1980s. Nearly 90,000 people emigrated between April 2012 and April 2013 and close to 400,000 have left since the 2008 crisis. For a country with a population about the size of Kentucky’s (about 4.5 million), that’s a lot of people. . . . and numbers: This is why, in the end, the austerity program has not succeeded even in its basic aim of bringing down Ireland’s sovereign debt, which actually rose sharply over the last five years. In 2009, it was 64 percent of G.D.P. Last year, it peaked at 125 percent. The debt has doubled while public spending has been slashed. No kiddin'. O'Toole happens to live in an advanced, culturally familiar country, where the disasters of finance capitalism and policies that give credence only to money, not people, is more easily comprehended. But Joseph Stiglitz, based on his experience as top economist at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, was saying the same thing about what finance capitalism was doing to distant, poorer, more exotic and obscure Third World countries long before the Panic of '08 brought the lesson home to the places where the modern exploitation of labor was refined. There actually is a counterexample of how to deal with a failure of markets by giving due weight to the contributions of both capital and labor, and it's right here at home. It is also a source of endless grievance-theater from the money-worshipping American rightwing. It's the American auto industry. When endlessly incompetent management finally left the Big 3 unable to pay their bills, the government stepped in. Instead of paying off the bondholders first, second and last; it gave due weight to the contributions of labor and diverted some of the assets to workers. It was not fair (the workers were shortchanged) but it was sensible, and it had the obvious knock-on attraction of not destroying the lives of auto pensioners and workers and pensioners in allied segments of the economy. The rightwingers are still whinging and demanding the head of Obama for not giving them their pound of flesh, but the outcome was rather good. Incompetent management was replaced (at too high a cost) with at least slightly competent management; hundreds of thousands, if not millions of working families were saved from financial disaster; and the sector is expanding again. The scorched earth tactic of the free-market tub thumpers, on the other hand, leaves behind only scorched earth. ## Saturday, January 11, 2014 ### Stuffed Turkey Following on the post about whether Islam is compatible with democracy comes this factoid about Turkey, always held up by the easily impressed as an example of a Muslim majority state that is also a secular democracy: More journalists are in jail in Turkey than anywhere else in the world, including China and Iran. Their crimes, needless to say, are political. One of my daughters visited Stamboul last year and observed that "nobody prays," although government-paid muezzins issue the call. Easy to believe. Istanbul has a long history as a big city, one of the most diverse in history. The countryside, however, was never secularized, despite the savage religious repression of Ataturk (who had men who would not wear hats with brims executed, something to think about when discussions of forcing women to cover up today arise). The phenomenon is hardly unique to Turkey. Something similar can be seen between Beirut and the rest of Lebanon, Cairo and Egypt and even (believe it or not) Riyadh and Saudi Arabia. Turkey was actually the harbinger of the Arab Spring, because a decade ago a more or less free election was held, and the result was a move away from secularism. It was a slow-motion crash, and I took a lot of abuse from people who considered themselves friends of Turkey (all liberals) for pointing it out. The Jan. 5 post might just as well have been titled "Is Islam compatible with secular despotism?" and the answer also would have been no. Muslim citizens, when given the chance to choose, almost always choose religion. ### The first woman president Did a Republican woman in New Jersey just engineer the election of Hillary Clinton as president? If she can get the nomination, yes. The Chris Christie bridge collapse has finished off the best (or only) chance the Republicans had to nominate someone who can collect votes from the center. Nobody can win with only firm partisan votes, and the number of Republicans who can run against the Tea Party crazies who have taken control is tiny. Mitt Romney couldn't run to the center. Two kinds of candidates might manage it: an Eisenhower, who managed, although just barely, to evade the McCarthy crazies in '52; or a hard-nosed SOB who manages to combine broad appeal with a damn-your-eyes attitude to troublemakers in his own party, which Christie might be. He's finished now, thanks to his deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly. Commenter Sue McAndrew at the New York Times summarizes Christie's failure perfectly: Mr. Christie's personality and way of doing business are well known. So ask yourself, 1. If a major event impacting NJ residents occurred, would Mr. Christie withdraw quietly and say nothing or would he put himself front and center to be seen as the hero who fixed it all? 2. If an event occurred that smelled of political retribution. possibly retribution against NJ by NY, would Mr. Christie say "no biggie, whatever, I'm not curious" or would Mr. Christie make sure he knew exactly what was going on. Assuming Mr. Christie did not know what was happening at 6:00 Monday morning, there is no chance that Mr. Christie would not have demanded facts by 10:00 am. There is no way Mr. Christie would stand by quietly out of sight as NJ residents were harmed unless he personally approved of the harm. In all other scenarios, he would have been all over this like flies on honey. McAndrew neatly sidesteps the question whether Christie was in on the plot. Doesn't matter. She also provides a framework for the reason Christie's apology won't matter. Sincere and heartbroken he may have been, but he wasn't being Chris Christie. ## Tuesday, January 7, 2014 ### Well, that seems responsible, doesn't it? Another day, another kid blown away by a responsible gun owner, this one a cop. STILL MORE Well, there's been a wealth of examples of responsible gun ownership since this post went up a few hours ago, but I like this one. Dumb quote: she stressed that she was following safety procedures. "I was going through the process as I have been trained to do." Gun safety procedures. You gotta love 'em. What other safety procedures have a kill rate? ### The police can't do that Every now and then, I crosspost an item from my commercial blog, Kamaaina Loan blog, to RtO. The interests of the two blogs don't overlap much, but here is one that does. ### Gun nut ethics There was a short version of this story yesterday in The Maui News. The longer version -- and the comments following -- fail to capture the irony. In summary, a Utah company refused to sell$15 million worth of man-killing firearms to Pakistan because they might be used to kill Americans. This was presented as an ethical stand. The company, Desert Tech, will be happy, however, to sell its guns to Americans so they can shoot other Americans. Let's be clear. That's the sole purpose of these weapons. Nobody is buying them to hunt rabbits or to shoot paper targets. They are mankillers, first and last, and nothing else:
The SRS Covert sniper rifle was purpose-designed for Police and Military snipers needing ultimate concealability and maneuverability.
I'll let the gun nuts among RtO's readers explain why police would need a sniper rifle with a silencer.

## Monday, January 6, 2014

### Creative spelling

OK, I've been an editor for half a century, and I take a small pride in doping out what people mean to write, even if they didn't come very close to the standard form. But the following threw me. Even though I knew the context, I had to read it three times to figure it out.
One time I was looking for a socket toremove a spark plug on my weed eater we dug true the bends for five minuets are more .
"true the bends" is "through the bins," but without the context I never would have figured that out. The author identifies himself as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.

## Sunday, January 5, 2014

### Where are the paragraphs?

Durned if I know. RtO was quiescent over the holidays and now when I post, blogger won't make paragraphs. Dunno what went on while I was away.