In Praise of Sin Taxes

The world’s best example of the evils of unearned wealth argues against it. Of course, it should read “…discourage them from working and achieving…” but, hey, if he could speak the language he wouldn’t be who he is. Whom?

In the 1970s, Republicans discovered they could reliably win elections by pronouncing taxes to be anathema, which is to say, evil, irredeemable, on a par with the seven deadly sins. Henceforward, they declared, there would be no new taxes and no tax increases. Also henceforward, members of the other party  would be referred to exclusively as “tax-and-spend” Democrats.  It worked so well that now, Republicans are in control of everything. Continue reading

On Being President Chance the Gardener

[NOTE: Promotion of this post was rejected by Facebook. No reason given.]

In his 1971 novel Being There, Jerzy Kosinski told the story of Chance the Gardener, a simple-minded laborer cloistered his whole life in the townhouse of the wealthy man for whom he worked. When, on the death of his employer, Chance is cast into the world, people insist on mistaking his profound ignorance — he can’t read or write, knows only what he has seen on TV or in the garden — as Zen-like wisdom.

In the novel, virtually everyone who encounters Chance refuses to accept that he could be as limited as he seems, and imagines for him an alternate reality of profound wisdom, which they then manage to see confirmed in the real world. Before long, Chance is advising the President of the Unites States on economic policy. This scene demonstrates how it works:: Continue reading

Antidote to Civil War? Or Precursor?

New York attorney Gregory Locke boarded the subway last Friday night and was appalled by what he saw. Every window in the car, every advertisement and map, had been defaced with a swastika. And there were slogans, such as “Jews belong in the oven.”

“The train was silent,” he said in his Facebook post about it, “as everyone stared at each other, uncomfortable and unsure what to do. One guy got up and said, ‘Hand sanitizer gets rid of Sharpie. We need alcohol.’ He found some tissues and got to work. I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously reach into their bags and pockets looking for tissues and Purel. Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone.

 “Nazi symbolism. On a public train. In New York City. In 2017.

 “I guess this is Trump’s America,” said one passenger. No sir, it’s not. Not tonight and not ever. Not as long as stubborn New Yorkers have anything to say about it.”

Two Americas. Using the same subway car in close succession on a Friday night in February, each leaving their mark. Each with something very important to say to us. Continue reading

No News is Good News

An early adopter of manipulating masses with fake news.

Fake news has been with us for a very long time. Has anyone heard about (I won’t ask if you remember it, because nobody is that old) the Gulf of Tonkin attack on U.S. ships that never happened, but that caused Congress to validate the Vietnam War? Anyone remember Saddam Hussein’s fictional weapons of mass destruction? If we stop and think about it, a large proportion of all news is, and always has been, fake. But then, if we stopped and thought about it, it would be a victimless crime.

There is much less going on here than meets the eye. Continue reading

Five Days and Counting Down

trump[Dear reader: If you have just come to this website for the fiftieth time to see if I have finally got off my ass and written something, I apologize to you. I created the expectation that I would have content here for your consideration with reasonable frequency, and I have not delivered. Mea culpa. Moreover, this is the second long, unexplained, absence in less than a year. Mea culpa maxima.

I don’t know the right label for the syndrome — depression, writer’s block, burnout, Deep Ennui, aggravated laziness or what. I don’t know if, or when, or for how long, it will come for me again. But today, it has let me out of my dungeon to frolic in the sun and spread cheer and good will. Carpe diem. — Tom Lewis]

Five days into the Trump Administration and there can be no doubt about what to expect for the next four years. Any delusions we may have had that he is not delusional, any benefits of doubt we were willing to grant that he is not a thin-skinned egomaniac, any hope we had that he will not destroy what is left of our poor country, all of that was stood up against a wall and shot, by Trump himself, doing what he has always done but doing it now as President.

The most vile face of the future was shown to us all on Saturday night, when an obviously rattled Trump functionary, under orders from his furious boss, summoned the White House press corps to a tonguelashing. Looking in his ill fitting suit like a cross between Beaker the Muppet and a KGB interrogator, Press Secretary Sean Spicer harangued the press corps for daring to spread the truth — that there were fewer people at Trump’s inauguration than at Obama’s, or at the Womens’ March the next day. Never mind the objective and conclusive photographic evidence, he told them, they should instead be reporting that Trump’s ascension was watched by “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.” Continue reading

Hillary Hallucinates Energy Independence

we-can-do-it

Wait, we don’t have to do it! Just roll up our sleeves and imagine it’s already done!

Just when we were beginning to accept that the lesser evil in this batshit-crazy, un-presidential election was also the safer option, we get confirmation that Hillary Clinton is almost as delusional as Donald Trump. In last night’s debate, minutes after scornfully describing Trump as “living in an alternative [sic] universe,” Mrs. Clinton emailed a dispatch from her private planet, announcing for the first time anywhere that in the United States, “We are now, for the first time ever, energy independent.”

Now, among English speakers, the words “energy” and “independence,” used together, have a specific meaning. (I know, it’s quaint of me to suggest that words have meaning independently of who is using them, but you can have my dictionary when you pry it from my cold, dead hands…) A country is energy independent if, and only if, it produces all the energy it needs. Continue reading

We Must be Mushrooms

mushrooms

When you’re a mushroom, you don’t expect anybody to tell you the truth.

We must be mushrooms, because they keep us in the dark and feed us nothing but crap. The dominant media, the government, needless to say the politicians — they all lie to us, all the time, when it matters and when it doesn’t, in big things and small.

Take a small thing. The other day, all the websites and channels were vibrating to a version of the headline: “Driverless Uber Cars Debut in Pittsburgh.” It was, to read the headlines and the first two-thirds of the articles, the dawning of the age of the driverless. That’s the “narrative” right now, that a day after tomorrow the highways will be gorged with cars driving themselves while happy commuters take drugs and watch movies, or whatever. Continue reading

Let Them Eat Twinkies

let them eat twinkies

A change in food stamp benefits for up to a million people such as this one is affecting WalMart’s profits. Something must be done. (Photo by FaceMePLS/Flickr)

In this, the eighth successful year of our Glorious Recovery from the Great Recession, things are really looking up for the American Lower Class, formerly known as Middle. The unemployment rate as calculated by the U.S. Government (adjusted for inflation, seasonally adjusted, smoothed, combed and curried) is down to a piddling five per cent, which is regarded by the country-club set as better-than-full employment, because, they suspect, thousands of people are working against their will. Moreover, the number of able-bodied adults capable of working, but not working, classified as “not in the labor pool” and therefore not unemployed (and thus not included in the calculation of the unemployment rate) is only up to 95 million people.

Continue reading

The Bonfire of the Banalities

You can watch the fires break out and spread only for so long before you, too, are involved.

You can watch the fires break out and spread only for so long before you, too, are involved.

There is, it seems, something of a disconnect between the world in which you and I live, and that inhabited by those who want to be our Great Leader for the next four years.

In our world, this will be the hottest year the earth has ever experienced. It will break the previous record, set last year. Which broke the previous record, set the year before. Arctic sea ice has shrunk to a smaller area than ever recorded, with massive, yet-to-be-calculated effect on the world’s weather and oceans. The glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica are disappearing at rates far exceeding the worst-case scientific scenarios of just a few years ago. All of this because of the air pollution from burning fossil fuels. Continue reading

Brexit Brokit. Now Trumpit?

Scorpion and Tortoise

“All we need to do to get safely through this,” said the scorpion to the tortoise and the tortoise to the scorpion, “is be true to ourselves.” (Wikipedia Image)

It was unthinkable that voters in the United Kingdom would elect to leave the European Union. And indeed, thinking was apparently not involved, because the very ones who did it are running around today screaming “WTF?WTF?” and asking please, sir, could they have a do-over? It is unthinkable that voters in the United States would ever, likewise, place their country in the hands of a President Donald Trump. Go ahead, take a minute and try. See? You cannot think it. Doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen. Continue reading