Ned Pepper's Outrages

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ned's Sky Club Adventure

Ned is posting this from his favorite Sky Club, that in SLC. He is surrounded by Cell Phone Shouters, persons sharing their innermost secrets with total strangers, persons wasting other people's time by yakking on their cell phones on banal topics because they have some time to kill, persons swilling alcohol as quickly as they can, and persons looking in vain for unhealthy food. Here, one has the choice of hummous, carrot sticks, nuts, olives and Tillamook cheese, an amazing selection, and meatless too, for an American audience. Ned will next head to his Sky Club in PDX where, alas, there is only wine to drink, served by his favorite Eritrean emigre with a marginal command of the English language. Ned will have outrages galore for his friends beginning tomorrow.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Ned has been on assignment for several days in his Undisclosed Location and today was required to visit Tombstome Arizona where he watched as three oafish miscreants were shot down by white-hatted agents of Law and Order. He also witnessed numerous Border Patrol agents in apparent pursuit of illegals, although their lethargic behavior led him to believe that they were more interested in their pensions than protecting America.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gated communities

Ned's friends know that he has had some caustic things to say about the philosophy of gated communities, but he may have to change his mind, after staying in a gated community in an Undisclosed Location in a southern Arizona large city (not Phoenix). After all, weren't the towns of medieval England essentially gated communities? And it does help to control traffic as well, and naturally, keeps out the riff raff. More later. Ned wishes his friends a happy Thanksgiving, and reminds them to get as much exercise as they can, and don't eat the dressing or any conventional turkey or ham.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Unemployed

Ned is, as we speak, acting in an undercover capacity at the Delta Sky Club at Portland OR airport. He was just served by a very friendly woman of Eritrean origin, whose English was a bit challenged. In fact, she just poured Ned a mixture of pinot noir and cabernet based on a linguistic misunderstanding. Ned will be interested in sampling such an unusual blend. His question, however, is with all the Americans out of work, how did this amiable person get this cushy job, pouring wine and beer for relatively affluent travelers? Aren't there Americans who need work? Ned only asks, he offers no critique. And now he will return to sampling his very unusual wine blend, and wish his friends well.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

413 Billion and counting

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the continuing "war against terror" in Afghanistan could cost the US an additional $413 billion if troops are not withdrawn by 2014. If they are withdrawn by 2014 it could "only" cost $288 billion more. Now, Ned's readers know that one of his budget proposals has been to cut US military spending, now an obscene $800 billion a year, down to a level equal to the amount spent by the next biggest spender globally. In fact, the US, at a time when we cant afford to fix our water systems, our roads, provide decent jobs for everyone who wants one, or send our kids to college, spends more on war (please don't call it 'defense') than the next ten biggest global spenders COMBINED.
Ned finds this so preposterous and insulting that he cannot find mere words to describe it. We talk about cutting Social Security and Medicare because we "can't afford it." We whine about the "national debt" but our solution is to "cut earmarks."
Ned reviles the morons who dominate public discourse today and the idiots who determine public policy and only wishes they would get what he wishes for them, and of course let's throw in the sneering plutocrats to boot, always sticking their hands out for more tax cuts.
Where will we be in ten years? Ned recalls Macbeth's musing: "If we could look into the seeds of time and see which grain will grow and which will not..."

Bell, California and the Sneering Plutocracy

Ned's readers may be familiar with the scandal over salaries city officials of the small town of Bell, CA paid to themselves, as exposed in a series of articles in the LA Times and Long Beach Examiner this past July. Here's one snippet: "The residents of Bell, CA almost rioted today when they discovered that city officials were bilking them of hundreds of thousands on trumped up salaries. City manager Robert Rizzo was getting almost $800,000 per year while other officials also took huge sums." Two other city officials had salaries of nearly $500k and nearly $400k a year, and the council was paying itself $100k for part time work. The city has about 38k people, mostly Hispanic and predominantly functionally illiterate. Their average pay is maybe $25k a year.
At first, the officials became indignant and professed to be astonished that ANYONE would even dare claim that they weren't worth 'every penny' that they made, even though their salaries were far higher than comparable officials in Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Since then, those officials have resigned, and in some cases faced legal charges, but following their resignation was a flap over the pensions they were "entitled to" as a result of their membership in CALPERS, the giant state pension plan amounting to several hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Now the point of this it twofold:
first, state pension plans in many cases are out of control. States can simply no longer afford to allow state and city workers to retire at nearly full pay after only twenty years "work."
Or can they?
Ned's readers will recall his tirades against the sneering plutocracy, consisting largely of the upper echelons of corporate officials and members of Boards of Directors, who engage in the same sort of legalized theft every day that the pathetic plutocrat wannabes of Bell tried to pull off. The difference is, the plutocrats get way with it, and in fact the Republicans and some Democrats defend their rights to rape and pillage corporate coffers, much of it taken from the backs of their own workers, to pay themselves obscene salaries, arguing that it is only "just compensation" because, after all, "look what CEO Smith over there is making."
Ned hopes indeed that these thieving Bell city officials get what is coming to them, but how much more does he wish that we lived in a just, sane world where the members of the Sneering Plutocracy got what was coming to them as well.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Readers may recall that Ned occasionally edits and re-posts entries from long ago, to see how he did. Here's one from June 29 on the nature of religion in this country, especially relevant since many 'born again' evangelicals and know-nothings were elected to Congress.

June 29, 2010
Ned does not consider himself a person who adheres to any particular cult or belief system, but he is not so arrogant as to deny the existence of a higher power. That said, Ned believes one of the greatest enlightenments humans have ever attained was the promulgation of the teachings of Jesus.
And one of the greatest tragedies of humanity has been the abject failure of most of those calling themselves Christians to make the slightest attempt to live up to those teachings.
* Think of those who, professing to be Christians, deny equal rights and dignity to all of their fellows.
* Think of those calling themselves Christians who support murderous wars instigated by "Christian" politicians and carried out by mercenaries in the pay of this country mainly against persons of color.
* Think of those who, amassing filthy lucre like the Dragon of the Nibelung, justify their own colossal greed and selfishness by appealing to Christianity, saying, as did one of the Wall Street sneering plutocrats, that they were "doing God's work."
* Think of those who support the wanton destruction of the country and the planet in pursuit of material excess, smugly justifying it either as James Watt, Reagan's notorious Secretary of the Interior, who said it didn't matter what happened to the environment since Jesus was coming soon and he would fix it, or as those who say that since the Old Testament gave "man" "Dominion" over the Earth, that we can do damn well what we please to it, and that "God won't allow it to be destroyed."
* Think of those who happily and aggressively embrace ignorance when it comes to science, but expect "scientists" to provide them with the latest video game and other technological trifle so they can idle away their increasingly pathetic and meaningless existence.
* And think of those who treat their bodies, the "temple of the spirit", with contempt, becoming morbidly obese, alcoholics, and chronic cigarette smokers, and expect "society" to provide them with as many drugs as necessary to "cure" their addition to sloth, filth, and gluttony.
No, friends, Ned can think of no higher road map than the teachings of jesus. He wishes there were more followers of these teachings than there are 'Christianist' opportunists, prostituting those sacred teachings for their own gain and political power.

Chinese "Goods" and Air Pollution

Reports today surface yet again of the dreadful and dangerous air pollution levels in Beijing, the Chinese capitol. Horrified American diplomats described it, with pictures, in "tweets" (whatever they are) to associates back in the USA. Now, this is not a surprise, as the air pollution in many Chinese cities is among the worst and most dangerous in the world. Indeed, coupled with the epidemic of cigarette smoking in China, aided and abetted by the central government no doubt, up to 400,000 Chinese a year die from smoking and air pollution. Ned finds this reprehensible not the least because the Chinese take in hundreds of billions in foreign exchange from Americans purchasing Chinese-made goods, at the expense of American jobs. They could use some of this fortune to purchase anti-pollution equipment from American manufacturers, or they could mandate low-sulfur coal, or they could demand a switch from coal to natural gas as a bridge to a gas, nuclear, and renewables future. Or they could order the end to open coal fires in Chinese homes in lieu of central heating, like the British did as a result of the "Killer Smog" of 1953.
But the fact is, they are doing little or nothing, content to have their people suffer needlessly from the effects of these levels of air pollution that would not be tolerated for a moment anywhere in the West.
Ned's point is this: the Chinese government behaves this way because we buy their goods. Let's stop buying their goods until they start requiring air-pollution controls at least as stringent as AMERICAN UTILITIES AND BUSINESSES HAVE TO COMPLY WITH.

New Contempt Citation(s)

Ned has occasion to award two Contempt Citations today.
To Roger Ailes, chief of Fox "News" and a Crown Prince of the Sneering Plutocracy, for his vulgar and intemperate remarks likening that Poor Old Grandmother, PBS, to a bunch of Nazis hell-bent on squelching free speech in the US. Of all the pathetic and preposterous remarks, especially from a person who has presided over the most one-sided presentation of reactionary opinion since Father Coughlin ranted on the radio in the '30s. Called them "left-wing Nazis" to boot, a towering absurdity if there ever was one, but of course, to his followers, this "black is white" rant will be taken as confirmation of what they suspected all along.
To Sarah Palin (Like shooting fish in a barrel of course, but what are ya gonna do? If the shoe fits...) for her vulgar and condescending remarks about the First Lady in her latest "book", implying yet again that the Obamas 'hate white people' because they were subjected to 'anti-whitey rants' as younger people. This is especially delectable from someone as anti-intellectual as Palin, whose followers, mostly ignoramuses, have no doubt had their hatred of "liberals" and closet hatred of people of color shaped by what Ned imagines to have been constant exposure to hate talk on the part of their friends and family, not to mention the Hate-O-Sphere of reactionary talk radio. Ned is seriously concerned for the future of this country if someone like this continues to bask in the 24/7 media coverage she has enjoyed so far.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


As more and more intellectually-challenged persons decry the slide towards SOCIALISM! in this country, Ned decided to have a look at the issue. He hypothesized that most people who screamed the loudest didn't know what socialism was. Moreover, if they did have a firm idea, it was probably wrong.
Ned believes socialism is a state of national organization under which the government owns the means of production, but he thinks that most of the Unwashed who use the term refer to some idea that the government is taxing people to death, or taking money from white people to give it to colored people. Or taxing the successful to give to the lazy, shiftless no-accounts who don't want to work for a living, or being in favor of a One World Government, or maybe just people who ride around in black helicopters making dogs bark at night.
With that Preamble, Ned suggests that this country is certainly NOT socialist if one means that the government controls the means of production (quite apart from the bailouts of GM and the financial industries that were brought about by avarice and greed on the part of the very sneering plutocracy that were bailed out).
Moreover, it is not socialist if one means it is taxing people to death. Taxes today are as low as they have been since before the Great Depression, especially on the sneering plutocracy.
If they mean socialist in the sense of redistributing wealth, then perhaps they are on to something, but of course not in the way they think.
In fact, the Great Unwashed have the stick by the wrong end.
The greatest redistribution of wealth the country has ever seen has in fact taken place since 1986. What has happened is, the working classes and the middle classes have seen their meager wealth transferred to the top one percent of people in this benighted country. That's right, friends, the very top of the sneering plutocracy, the top 1% of wage and salaried persons, takes home 23% of the wages.
And the top 1% of "households" has about one-third of the net worth of the entire country, more than the BOTTOM 90%. This is worse than France, worse than England, worse in fact than any developed country on the face of the earth. It is even worse than the Banana Republics of past fame. In fact, the ambassador of one of the former banana republics wrote an indignant letter to the NYT demanding that their country not be slandered in this fashion any more, given the wealth distribution in the US.
And finally, this country is not taking money from white people and giving it to "the coloreds", unless one refers to salaries paid to prison guards to keep in custody the millions of black men in jails, many on trumped-up charges.
Maybe wealth is in fact going to the secretive Organization to Promote Black Helicopters (OPBH) after all.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Consecration of the House

This overture by Beethoven has in the first two minutes one of the great themes of Romantic music. But there is another reason to view it. If Ned's friends go to Google videos and select the version by the Hungarian Philharmonic Orchestra, Zoltán Kocsis conducting, they will not only be treated to a great work, but they will see a conductor who seems to Ned for all the world like George Bush trying to teach his ratlike dog Barney a new trick!

Ned's Ideal Candidate

The recent election debacle has led Ned to think about the attributes his "ideal" candidate would possess. Whether such an individual could be elected is, of course, another matter entirely.

* His candidate would support a freeze on immigration. In future, this country would not accept immigrants when our own unemployment rate was over 6%, and it would only accept immigrants, up to 200k a year, from countries which had replacement-level birth rates. No more subsidizing global population growth and its associated environmental impacts.
* His candidate would immediately initiate an investigation of federal "disability" policy and require all persons on disability to become re-certified as disabled by independent medical experts.
* The candidate would tie future social security payments partly to income, such that members of the sneering plutocracy would get little or no cost-of-living increases. The salary level subject to payroll taxes would rise to $1 million per year.
* The candidate would immediately call for a National Single-Payer Health Service modeled on some mutant of the Great Britain or Canadian system. Any medical practitioner who chose would be included into the system as an upper level cvil servant. Any person accepted as a medical practitioner would have medical school debt repaid on an annual basis depending on years of service. There would be no more expensive lawyer-enhancing lawsuits arising out of poor medical care. Any practitioner who so chose could opt out of the system, but would then have to arrange payment with patients individually, or could go to Botswana, where they need doctors and dentists. Dental care would be included.
* The candidate would initiate an immediate investigation into military spending, and would cut military spending to a level equal to the single highest spender globally. Right now the US spends more than the next ten countries combined.
* The candidate would immediately declare the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act, passed in the 1940s, to be the law of the land. Any citizen who wanted a job but couldn't find one could be employed by the federal, state or local government.
* The candidate would increase gasoline taxes by 25 cents per year, indexed for inflation, annually, and apply the proceeds to environmental remediation and the reduction of fossil fuel use, mainly coal.
Mountaintop removal as a coal mining technique would be immediately banned.
* The candidate would initiate an immediate campaign to rebuild the Nation's infrastructure, including water and sewage systems, the Amtrak Eastern Seaboard rail system, and high-speed rail between all cities of 50,000 population or greater, the conditions designated for the Interstate Highway system.
* The candidate would support a revision of the income tax structure, lowering corporate rates and eliminating deductions, and raising the sneering plutocrat top rate to 90% on any income of any kind over $10 million. The rate would be 50% on amounts over $1 million. Interest deductions for housing would be limited to $10k per year phased in over 10 years. Capital gains would be free of tax for the first $5k, and would ramp up to the income tax rate as capital gains increased.
* The candidate would immediately notify the Israeli government that the US would no longer tolerate further occupation of Palestine, and Israeli troops and "settlers" must leave within 6 months. The US would immediately notify the Arab states that it would no longer tolerate attacks on Israel from their territory. The US and the UN would guarantee the borders of the Israeli and Palestinian states.
* The candidate would apologize to the States of Iraq, Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Vietnam, Panama and any other state in which the US had intervened in its internal affairs. if that were to have been found to be contrary to international law.
* The candidate would declare that the US does not support torture and declares its intention to close the Naval Base at Guantanamo, Cuba, illegally held against the wishes of the Cuban people. The Cuban embargo would immediately be repealed. A War Crimes Tribunal would be installed with mandate to investigate the Iraq war and hold miscreants accountable.
* The US would declare that it no longer offers Most Favored Nation trade deals to countries that do not enforce environmental or labor laws at least as strict as those in the US.
* The US would initiate measures to lower carbon emissions drastically to deal with the proven fact of climate change.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Angry white geezers

Today, one of Ned's valued associates mentioned in passing that 'a lot of old white men are angry.'
Ned nodded and went on with his business, but after a bit stopped, said "'alf a mo!" and wondered just why , if indeed true, this is.
Aren't most of these angry old white men retired on social security and Medicare? And isn't Medicare free for Part A and only a hundred bucks a month for Part B? Haven't a lot of them also managed to get certified as 'disabled', as 18 million people have, thus qualifying for still more sucks at the Great Public Teat?
Don't a lot of them also get defined pensions from some government or business? Don't many of them get military pensions as well? Don't at least some of them have working spouses?
Now, if they are under 62 and out of a job, well, yes, they have a right to be MAD AS HELL, because Ned knows all too well how difficult it is for anyone over 50, male or female, who isn't a member of the sneering plutocracy to get work. But it appears to Ned that the people who are the angriest, those at "Tea Party" rallies, for example, are also those who are obviously eligible for all the goodies that this society showers on anyone over 65.
So Ned wonders again why they are so angry. Are they afraid of "socialism?" The "socialism" that is represented by their essentially free health care and social security? Their discounts every place in town because they're over 60? Their free or cheap bus rides? Their ability to call a bus or car in many localities like Ned's and be chauffeured anyplace in town for peanuts?
Or are they just mad because a black man is in the White House?

Jobs and the deficit

The Washington Monthly has a great web site. Today they report on a Gallup poll that asks Americans what the main problems are today. Here's what they found.
When asked, 'What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?' "JOBS was the top issue, mentioned by 33%, followed by 'the economy in general,' at 31%. In other words, using the CBS poll's phrasing, a combined 64% of the country cited "economy/jobs" as the top issue.
The deficit came in fifth in Gallup's poll at 9%."
Nobody but Republican hysterics really gives a damn about the deficit.
Now, what does Ned take from this? Assuming polls mean anything at all, it is obvious that people think if we have more jobs the economy will fix itself, as probably will most of the deficit. Why? As people get work, they drop off unemployment, cancel their food stamps, and start paying taxes, their rent or mortgage on time, and their credit card bills. They also start spending money, thus allowing business to hire still more people. Ned figures that if ten million people suddenly got jobs, it would unleash such a mass of joy and optimism that the stock market would go up a thousand points, and the stores would be filled with people, Delta would fill all its flights, and the Club Rooms would fill with happy drinking travelers.
This happy and OBVIOUS thought apparently never occurs to those grinches who always rabbit on about balanced budgets. So, the next time you hear someone say the most important thing in the whole world is balancing the federal budget, refrain from the impulse to slap their foolish face and patiently explain that when people have jobs, they pay taxes, spend money and get health care.

Monday, November 15, 2010

99.6% pure

Who wouldn't love 99.6% pure? Well, friends, today comes a report over Bloomberg News that NOAA has re-opened 99.6% of federal waters in the GOM to commercial fishing. Given the hysteria over the Transocean/Halliburton/BP/Cameron oil spill, you can bet the feds were in no hurry to reopen the Gulf if there had been the SLIGHTEST CHANCE of any adverse effect on public health. In fact, buried in the report was this little chestnut: there had been no report of an oil slick or any surface oil in the GOM since July. Since. July.
Ned wonders if the Gulf fisherpersons will be quick to rush back into the reopened areas to carry out more backbreaking labor for meager pay, or if they will try to squeeze a few months additional free leisure out of BP, claiming the waters are still "too dangerous" to go back to, or if they will simply apply for "disability" from Social Security, and take the rest of their lives off, filling up their idle hours with zydeco concerts, hootch, and crawfish-eating contests, as Ned would.
OTOH, the bluefin tuna may have been harmed by the spill, since the GOM is one of its spawning grounds and it was threatened with extinction already due to high catch "limits."
But those "killer plumes"--the ones with oil concentrations of one teaspoon in a swimming pool--? We aren't hearing much about those these days, are we?
Stay tuned.

Disability redux

On June 20 Ned posted on the scandal imminent in the country's lax "disability" rules for Social Security at the national level. He pointed out that more than 18 million people "qualify" for monthly disability payments from the Social Security Trust Fund, and he learns that includes Medicare as well.
Now (Monday) comes a report published in today's NYT from Andrew Biggs, former principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

"The fastest rising cost for Social Security isn’t retiring baby boomers, but skyrocketing Disability Insurance benefits. Disability benefits now make up 18 percent of all Social Security costs, up from only 10 percent in 1990. This year, the federal government will spend $125 billion for disability benefits. Including the Medicare benefits that are paid to D.I. recipients, total expenditures approach $200 billion."

Biggs goes on to describe how the system is rigged in favor of disability claimants, and would benefit by allowing SS to challenge disability claims in court. Ned finds it ironic that claimants, often painted as destitute and having no where else to turn than disability, are commonly represented by lawyers aggressively stating their case after having been denied by the SS Administration.
$200 billion a year sucking at the public teat. And Medicare for life. Can anyone wonder why the masses are so incensed?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gulf Update Redux

From time to time Ned will reprint edited posts from months ago to see where he got things right and where he was wrong. This post was published on July 19.

This was taken from an article in today's (7/19) NYT: "The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be dissolving far more rapidly than anyone expected."
Now, Ned's followers will savor this line and recall Ned's earlier posts decrying the media-induced hysteria over the effects of the Transocean rig disaster. Ned cautioned against over-reacting, for the following reasons:
* He described the chances of any measurable oil getting into the Florida Keys as miniscule, quoting NOAA Administrator (and no BP stooge) Jane Lubchenco to that exact effect.
* He explained the Loop Current and said the chances of large amounts of un-degraded oil getting into the Loop Current to be small.
* He described the claim of a lawyer quoted in the NYT to the effect that "hypothetically" oil could contaminate the Atlantic and Mediterranean and bankrupt BP as preposterous. Hypothetically, there is a planet where people like Sharron Angle, Sarah Palin and Rand Paul make perfect sense.
* He pointed out that the high temperatures in the GOM made the spill there wholly un-comparable to the Valdez Alaska spill, where oil continues to degrade Prince William Sound today. The reason? Mainly that the water temp in PW Sound is close to 40 degrees, resulting in low evaporation and degradation rates, compared to a typical summer surface temp of the GOM closer to 90 degrees.
* He pointed out that the GOM has thousands of natural and man-made oil and methane seeps, which has allowed vast communities of oil-eating microbes to flourish.
*And finally, he decried the hysteria of the media and some left-wing bloggers who saw disaster and catastrophe at every turn, from exploding sea-floor wells, to destroyed beaches, to mass extinctions.
Now, the hysterics have destroyed the career of hapless former sneering plutocrat BP CEO Tony Hayward, cost innocent BP shareholders billions in lost income, cost state, local, and federal governments billions in tax revenue, cost Gulf businesses billions in lost economic activity, and cost pension funds in the UK and here tens of billions in losses as BP's share price tanked.
But why listen to scientists when we can listen to bloggers and the MSM, eh? Just think of the Republicans and climate change.

A Bribe for Israel with Borrowed $$$

Today's LAT has a disquieting report that the Obama people have offered the right-wing Israeli government essentially a $3 billion bribe to freeze "settlement" construction in the illegally occupied West Bank. Here's the quote:
"The package includes 20 stealth fighter jets worth $3 billion and a promise to veto anti-Israel proposals raised in the U.N. Security Council during the next year, including a potential Palestinian bid to seek international support for a unilateral declaration of statehood. In return, Israel would renew its partial West Bank construction moratorium for 90 days."
Ned is appalled that the US would resort to such a pathetic bribe at a time when world opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to further Israeli occupation of Palestine, in violation of UN resolution after UN resolution. Furthermore, that the US would agree to veto the UN support of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence is unworthy of a Great Power that sells itself as the arbiter of Global Morality, or a nation that is, in the words of Republican lawmakers, "the greatest country that has ever existed in the history of the world or anywhere else."
Furthermore, while serious proposals to ease the US budget deficit include a 50% cut in foreign aid, it is beyond outrageous that the US would use so much of it to provide obscenely expensive toys for the Israeli military that could only realistically be used for a nuclear strike against Iran, which would probably precipitate a global crisis unlike anything seen since the Cuban Blockade.
Obama is rapidly wearing out his welcome to Ned. Moreover, the fact that neither political party has the fortitude to challenge the out-of-control right-wing Israeli government simply fuels the flames of the Tea Party, already prepared to light its torches and carry pitchforks to the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave on the subject of illegal immigration.
Ned might just join them if invited, under cover of course.

Balancing the Budget

Ned encourages his many friends and sycophants to go to and take the 'budget balancing quiz' in the Outlook Section. Ned took it and found it to have been ridiculously easy to cut $500 billion and add $800 billion in revenue, without harming anyone but the plutocracy and the warmongers, and this without even slashing those sacred cows that Ned would love to eviscerate, namely war (please don't call it defense) spending. Certainly it involves some new taxes, mainly trivial ones on the sneering plutocracy, but Ned reminds his followers that these same sneering plutocrats have had their taxes slashed since 1960, over and over again. And shed no tears for the rich who die and leave their fortunes to their heirs. Ned's choice still exempts the first $1 million of assets.
Given how easy it is to bring the federal budget into balance, Ned predicts that if Obama caves in to the sneering, crumb-throwing plutocracy and extends their tax cuts for even one moment, there will be a tsunami of outrage that will make the Tea Party protests look like Norman Rockwell Thanksgivings.
Finally, let us never forget that the top 1% of "earners" take home 23% of all the salary in this benighted country, and the average faceless functionary and working class stiff has actually seen their income fall over the past 20 years.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Look Back

On June 21 Ned began this series of epistles with a posting on the BP/Transocean/Halliburton/Cameron oil spill disaster. It's worth looking a again to see where we've come since then.
June 21:
The Gulf blowout seems to have brought out the worst in everybody except, of all people, BP and Haley Barbour, the self-proclaimed "fat redneck" governor of Mississippi, and long time Republican operative. Barbour was gracious with the President and patient with BP.
President Obama, on the other hand, has been petulant, insulting, and unpresidential. And when Joe Barton apologized to Tony Hayward for the "shakedown" BP had just undergone at the hands of Obama and his Attorney General, Ned found humself agreeing with Joe for the first time in his life. After all, BP had accepted responsibility from the first and had agreed to waive the $75 million legal cap on liability. They had set out to compensate residents for financial losses. At first, as Ned understands it, they were asking those who claimed financial loss to document that loss with tax records.
What a novel idea! Document a claim! That apparently didn't sit well with claimants, most of whom preferred to have been paid by their employer in cash.
Then of all things, Hayward actually said the 'top kill' method to stop the oil flow had a "60 to 70% chance" of success. Ned groaned inwardly at such foolishness, and sure enough, it didn't work.
That basically set the stage for what was to follow: a series of misstatements and cock-ups in which BP was aided and abetted by the feds. And Plyush "Bobby" Jindal, governor of Louisiana, covered himself with slime when he according to press reports vehemently opposed a federal disaster declaration which would have made aid instantly available to the Gulf, because he wanted BP to have to pay every cent. Or did he just not want Obama to get any credit? Who knows.
But the greatest outrage was the conduct of the press towards the spill, hysterically exaggerating every impact, and frantically predicting one imminent disaster after another to Florida, the Atlantic, and even Europe.
Filling newspaper columns with dreadful reports of poisonous "oil plumes" deep underwater bringing death and destruction, even though oil concentration was at most 500 parts per billion. And never once did they give a background hydrocarbon value for the Gulf, with its hundreds of natural oil seeps.
Obama demonizing BP didn't help matters. It's not as though they were a tobacco company, killing 5 million people a year while paying up to $10 billion in dividends annually. So who is paying for the disaster? So far, BP shareholders, many of whom are retired, middle-class Americans and American and British pension plans.
But if BP goes belly-up, Obama and his minions will rue the day they set out to destroy what was left of the company's reputation.
So much outrage. So little time.

Today's Contempt Citation!

Today's well-deserved Contempt Citation goes to Rep John Shimkus, Republican (naturally) of Illinois. He was quoted by the Toronto Star as follows: I am "uniquely qualified... to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee" -- and "climate change should not concern us since God has already promised not to destroy the Earth." And, "I believe the word of God to be infallible."
Having an anti-intellectual, know-nothing cultist as chair of the Energy Committee seems to Ned's irony-loving mind to be entirely appropriate in post-Reagan America, because, after all, the Energy Department is headed by pointy-headed intellectual Nobel Laureate physicist James Chu. Ned's friends may recall one of The Gipper's most notable appointments to have been James Watt, Secretary of the Interior, who said 'we don't have to worry about protecting species because Christ was coming back soon and He'd take care of it.'
Now, let's ignore the obvious ignorance expressed in Shimkus's remarks -- climate change will not of course "destroy the earth", it will simply change it in ways that will render parts of it less habitable to humans, for example, by placing it under several meters of sea water.
In all, Ned rejoices at the idea of the Village Idiots being awarded positions of authority, as even terminally and contemptibly ignorant people have rights in America.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Caving on Taxes?

Ned hears with growing anger and dismay reports that the Obama people are signaling their intention to cave in to the Republican lickspittles and agree to extend the plutocrat tax cuts. If this is true, the last bit of principle will have vanished from this ill-starred administration like so much dust in a Nevada wind storm. What principles have the Obama people stuck to? Where have they drawn any lines in the sand? Where is any sign of bedrock philosophy and integrity to counter the sanctimonious hypocritical cant on the part of the modern Republican Party? What do Democrats stand for? Ned concludes with disgust and sadness they will agree to any indignity to stay in power, like Neville Chamberlain during the 1930s who would do anything Hitler wanted to preserve "peace in our time" but who was played by Hitler for the fool that he was.
Have the Republicans not publicly said they intend to do whatever it takes to destroy his presidency?
In the end of course Chamberlain got war, not peace, and had he had a spine, he could at least have had war on his terms and not on the terms of the Nazis.
There is the lesson for Obama, but it seems he is too spineless and "pragmatic" to take it.
Ned predicts that if Obama does cave on taxes he will face powerful opposition in the 2012 primaries, and Ned intends to support anyone who will display a spine towards the sneering plutocracy and their toady enablers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Contempt Citation!

Today's Contempt Citation goes to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a classic right-wing empty suit if there ever was one. This is what he reportedly said (h/t politicalwire):
"There isn't a single candidate running for president who can claim to be a tea party candidate."
(Leave aside the rejoinder that anyone can CLAIM anything.) "The people involved in the movement weren't involved in politics, and were only activated by what they saw in Washington. I qualify. I was out, content to be out, but now I feel compelled to come back."
For Santorum to say he was "compelled" to come "back" like some latter-day Cincinnatus called to service by the citizens of Rome is too preposterous for serious comment. It simply further illustrates the intellectual bankruptcy of today's right-wing Republican politician.

Privatized "higher" education

Ned's friends are no doubt familiar with a disturbing trend in learning, namely, that of privatizing it in the form of for-profit "institutions of higher education." His friends no doubt will also be aware that controversy and scandal swirl around the student loan default rates that are reportedly much higher at such places than at genuine colleges and universities.
Now comes a report that last year the "executives" at such "industrial education" companies took home a cool $2 billion in salaries while the students there racked up ruinous debt, much of it financed by the taxpayers. Now, Ned realizes that presidents and other officials at state-run institutions often make what seem to be exorbitant salaries, but at least these are subject to taxpayer review.
Truly, excoriating the amoral, rapacious, and viciously greedy plutocracy at times takes on all the aspects of a whack-a-mole game. Whack one somewhere and another one pops up farther off. (Here Ned can only sigh and wish his followers well.)

Plutocrat liberals?

While Ned gleefully excoriates the plutocracy for its rapaciousness, amorality and greed, he is not prejudiced, and if a positive report of plutocratic doings reaches his keen ears he will report it, and let the chips fall where they may.
So yesterday's NYT brought a report which Ned found so astonishing he had to let it cool, so to speak, before acting on it. Seems that some corporate leaders have decided that their higher-paid employees will pay more for their health "care" than their more lowly-paid functionary brothers and sisters. Thus, GE, for example, makes its plutocrats and plutocrat wannabes pay more for health care, as much as 14% more next year, while some folks get a cost decrease, even though they see their deductibles increase. Now, Ned expected that universities would have taken the lead in this and sure enough Vanderbilt U. requires its over 50k employees to pay a higher increase next year than those below 50k.
Who says capitalism can't have a smiley face now and then? Now, if Ned's friends and associates can just get jobs so they can even QUALIFY for plutocrat-subsidized health care, it may indeed be Morning In America.
(Smiley face here.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More plutocrat outrages

Across Ned's figurative desk comes yet another outrage from the sneering plutocracy. Not content to have stolen billions from patients and providers, the health care industry is on the verge of a titanic outrage so monstrous that Ned dare not name it, but it goes like this: Health care "provider" HCA is considering floating a $2 billion junk bond offering and using the proceeds to--wait for it-- NOT increase services to the sick, NOT increase payments to doctors, NOT provide nutrition counseling to fat people, nor to investigate ways to make their 20-30% administrative overhead more efficient--nor to increase salaries to their faceless functionaries; no friends, they propose to use the proceeds from the bond sale to pay two capitalist groups of sneering plutocrats, KKR and Bain (or some such nonsense) a $2 billion DIVIDEND.
Ned is relatively speechless at this outrage and can only say he wishes these plutocrats would get what Ned believes is due to them.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lawyers gone wild?

By now most of Ned's literate followers are aware of the lawsuit filed in New York (of course! He hears from his audience) by the family members of an 87-year-old woman run down by a 4-year-old on a training bike. The unfortunate victim died sometime thereafter of "unrelated" causes.
Now the first responses from Ned's more libertarian readers will no doubt consist of an intemporate tirade against lawyers and trigger-happy liberals. Some timid souls, however, may dare to suggest that children should not be allowed to careen out of control down sidewalks and paths, riding bicycles, tricycles and, worst of all, skateboards and variants thereof, running into innocent elderly bystanders without some consequences to some responsible adults.
After careful meditation, Ned comes down on the latter side, considering the issue to be intertwined with a damnable Culture of Youth pervasive in this society. He is sick of parents and caregivers who abdicate responsibility for the behavior of their offspring or their charges. While the idea of suing a 4-year-old has its absurd dimensions, Ned feels somebody ought to be held responsible, and be forced to do time or pay up, and that is what insurance, or a libertarian philosophy, is for.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why people don't vote

Ned reckons the reason the Republicans won so big on Tuesday was because so many erstwhile Obama supporters didn't bother to vote. And so he returned to the reddish Eastern Seaboard to an Undisclosed Location to interview a (non-statistical) cross-section of disaffected and disinterested "voters." What he found astonished and saddened him.
He heard "they are all the same", meaning politicians, and "they are just in it for the money", again meaning politicians. Ned discerned much animosity towards politicians making large salaries and awarding themselves pay raises while the bulk of working America is in fear of losing their job or their health insurance (if they have it) and hasn't had a raise in years.
Ned feels that the Democrats will have to show these voters that they are on their side and not just feathering their own nests or looking out for their rich friends. Moreover, Ned has found that there is great animosity towards the system of constantly raising money for getting re-elected. He even heard that politicians should be "volunteers" and maybe it wasn't so bad if only the rich went into public office, on the hypothesis that at least they couldn't be bought.
Unless this system changes, it will continue to play into the hands of the plutocracy, which is getting ever more obscenely rich while encouraging ever more disillusionment on the part of working middle-and working-class Americans.
Ned encourages the Democrats to propose pay freezes for all public employees until the country is once again at nearly "full" employment, for a start, and that includes geezers (like Ned) on pensions and social security. He also feels that persons who have money should start spending it, but not running up debt. He feels that there are trillions of dollars sitting in money market funds getting no interest, and some of that should be spent.
He will have more to say as his researches mature.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ned's Election Winners and Losers

Ned has already, in an earlier submission, provided his election analysis: now he will provide his Winners and Losers.
First his winners, and they are few:
***The State of Oregon which avoided being submerged in the 'Tea Party' (read, Plutocrat funded know-nothings) sewage. Even though Oregonians have among the worst unemployment in the nation they rose above stupidity and returned mostly sane persons, whether Democrat, like Ron Wyden or Pete DeFazio, or Republicans like Frank Morse (even though Ned supported Morse's opponent).
***California, which denied Halfbright Fellow Carly Fiorina the senate seat, and Plutocrat Meg Whitman the governorship, after she wasted $150 million of her "own" (read, the workers) money in an attempt to buy it.
***Colorado, which overcame millions in attack ads from Karl Rove and his band of slime merchants to elect Bennett over the Republican kook that the 'Tea Partiers' had selected.
***Hawaii, which avoided the Tea Party/Republican slime assault just like Oregon.

Now, his losers:
***Pennsylvania, which apparently elected 'Club For Growth' derivatives trader, ideologue, and perennial also-ran Pat Toomey over Admiral Joe Sestak, a truly fine American.
***Florida, which has a governor who presided over a 'health care' company which, Ned is given to understand, was fined the most for 'irregularities' ever by Medicare, and which elected a right-wing one-issue ideologue to the senate seat, Mario Rubio.
***Alaska, the national laughingstock, with Sarah Palin, Joe Miller and now a disputed election involving Lisa Murkowski, who was given her senate seat by her daddy Frank, but who was defeated in the Republican primary by the 'Tea Party' guy. Ned tempers his scorn by realizing that the rest of the country provides Alaska with enough money in royalties for North Slope oil that they don't pay any taxes.
***Nevada, with perhaps the two worst candidates in recent memory in the persons of Harry Reid and Sharron Angle. To its credit, however, it held its collective nose and re-elected Reid, whom Ned hopes will be shown the door out of the Majority Leader's office by his senate Democratic colleagues.
**Kentucky, with its new senator Rand Paul joining that other Luminary Mitch McConnell. These two worthies may be challengers to Oklahoma, which as of now has the honor of having the worst two senators in the senate today.
Right-wing neo-segregationist candidates who won in benighted places like Louisiana and South Carolina are beneath Ned's contempt.
***But the biggest loser? Jesus. Everybody abused that guy.
(Smiley face here.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ned's election analysis

For the benefit of his many followers, Ned will provide his election analysis in advance of the actual results, following standard procedure.
The voters are apparently set to administer a stinging rebuke to Democrats after giving them enormous power in 2008. The Dems had overwhelming control of the House, the Senate and of course the Presidency. And what, given that the country was mired in a devastating "Recession" (for working class and middle class persons only of course--plutocrats exempt), did they do with this power? They engaged in a catfight over "cap and trade" that divided the party and emboldened the know-nothing, anti-intellectual, room-temperature IQ crowd. Not content with that, they came up with a "health care" reform bill that nobody understood due to its complexity, and that rewarded health "insurance" companies with billions, the same group that had brought health care to its knees. The bill that finally passed, over overwhelming Republican objection, doesn't even start to take effect seriously until 2014.
And what did they do about the 10% unemployment rate? Bugger f***ing all. Good students still can't get jobs to pay off their crushing student loans, and hard working people are being laid off by the thousands by the sneering plutocracy, which is then rewarded by the slobbering sycophants on corporate boards with even more obscene amounts of cash stolen from the very same workers laid off.
So the voters response? To turn out the Dems, and reward the people who GOT US INTO THIS MESS IN THE FIRST PLACE, the Republicans, who will, no doubt spend the next two years trying to blame Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and even Jimmy Carter for every ill that befalls this benighted country.
We already have it from Mitch McConnell that his goal as Senate Minority Leader is to--wait for it--not work to end the recession, not work to enhance the middle class, nor to provide jobs for the jobless, CERTAINLY not to deal with the 50 million people who can't afford health care, and not to deal with climate change, but to "do everything we can to see to it that Barack Obama is a one-term president."
Such civic-mindedness imparts unimaginable awe in Ned's worshipful eyes when he beholds such a man.
And those voters? Ned can only say that he wishes each and every one would get what he would give them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Public employees

Ned has a confession to make and unlike those of St Augustine or J-J Rousseau, his confession will be brief and to the point.
For months now, his resentment--yes, call it resentment--against the employees in his local school district has been festering and fermenting like some diabolical pot of kimchee. He has read of their "outrageous" pension deals, benefits and salaries. Their work schedule he had already determined to be, well, perhaps 'liberal' would be the most nonjudgmental term. His taxes crept ever higher while the assessed valuation on his Version of the American Dream resolutely declined. Anger, which forces out logic and reason, began to prevail in his most benevolent, logical and reasonable of minds.
His resentment had been stirred by a focus on the retirement ages for "safety" workers in California, which can be 95% of their last year's salary--FOR LIFE, and if it could be determined that they were in some way "disabled", much of their pension was tax-free. Let it be known that "safety" workers does not include just the usual suspects--police, fire and what-have-you, but it also can include milk inspectors in California. Add to this, the fact that public employees in many school districts have their health care entirely paid for, as well as most if not all of their pension contribution, and you have an explosion of resentment ready to happen.
But then, as if from a dream, Ned woke up, wiped the orc-dust from his eyes and realized that he had been the victim of a nefarious plot. Ned has been drinking the Sneering Plutocrat-financed "Tea Party" foolery concerning public employees. Why shouldn't ALL workers in this "greatest country in the world" enjoy universal health care? Why shouldn't ALL workers enjoy decent vacations and working conditions and a pension that allows them to live in reasonable comfort after a life of contributory work? Why should this sort of life be limited to sneering plutocrats who got their jobs by a life of backstabbing, or through connections through the "old boy" network, or through some quota system that calls for some percentage of upper management to consist of persons of alternative lifestyles, genders or differing racial persuasions?
When Ned thinks of the rewards showered on these sneering elitists through the legal thievery of the "corporate, capitalist" system, when Boards of Directors, selected by the same sneering CEO that benefits from their "competitive" salary decisions, award salaries in the tens of millions of dollars while piling even more onerous work on the employees still left after the latest round of 'rightsizing', when he realizes that these same conspirators have engendered through their political bribes and payoffs tax rates that should make any Christian soul blush with shame and mortification,he feels a sense of white-hot anger and shame that makes any token resentment he may have felt towards some miserable functionary making 60 grand a year seem as a squashed flea egg on the back of a snarling dog.
When the sneering plutocracy has their greedy grasping blood-dripping, outsourcing paws slapped away from the obscene piles of lucre that were formerly theirs for any mediocre achievement, then Ned will agree to rein in the modest functionaries of his local or state government. Until then, Ned only wishes the plutocracy would have the rewards that he would gladly give them.