Friday, May 24, 2013

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1)    Chick and kids and gays better hurry

            When I'm writing bills in a hurry

            When I'm writing bills in a hurry

            That infringe on rights

2) Speaking of gays, I'm slightly prouder of my Scouting roots today. It's six of one, but half a dozen of the other, so we must view it as a step forward, not a leap. One thing I take great comfort in from this decision is that polling of Scouts themselves indicates that 61% favored overturning the ban. As worried as I am about the future, I think the world could be in better hands than ours.

3) By the way, I'm still offering this for sale. I remember attending the festivities for the 100th anniversary. The fireworks show was phenomenal.

4) Someone should tell Bynes a) possession of small amounts of marijuana in private is decriminalized in New York City and b) the wig? Don't. Just don't.

5) He's very very sorry and promises never to do it again, until the next drone strike.

6) On a related note, Medea? Your fifteen minutes are officially over. Not that she was wrong…well, maybe in the case of al-Awlaki she was, but her larger point is spot on, and it would be nice if Obama sat down with a reporter (paging Chris Hayes) who would ask him the same question, but her tactics have to stop. In the long run, the Occupy movement will accomplish more towards her goal than she ever will. This was a sad grasp for attention and funding.

7) Clearly, President Obama is a socialist tool who will destroy the US economy.

8) If you've seen the catalogues, or even the advertisements, you can't possibly be surprised by the CEO.

9) Oooh! Donuts…..

10) Now SHE knows how to party!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Anthony Weiner's Rise

(I promise, that’s the only dick joke in the post)

Anthony Weiner has officially announced his candidacy for mayor of the city of New York, to replace three term gadabout-with-nothing-better-to-do-than-trash-my-city Michael Bloomberg.

I’ll probably end up voting for him in the primary.

That speaks less of Weiner, who has always come off in my book as a bit of a dick (ok, sorry, my bad), than it does about the other candidates running in the Democratic primary, which is essentially the coronation of the next mayor. Weiner polls second currently at 15%, and that poll was taken before he formally announced. Christine Quinn, the “frontrunner” polls at 25%, which speaks volumes about a woman who has been Council Speaker for twelve years.

Quinn should be the presumptive nominee, but at 25% she’s polling very weakly for someone with as much visibility as she’s forced upon New Yorkers, and with good reason: she’s really pretty shitty, unless you live in the West Village or happen to be gay. For those constituents, she’s about as progressive as they come.

For working and middle class New Yorkers, not so much.

We can start with the fact that she flipped on term limits, likely to get access to Bloomberg’s Rolodex of campaign contributors. She was against them before she was for them, and the cynical calculation that went on in her head must have made her dizzy. We can move onto the fact that she aided Bloomberg in defunding program after program designed to help the poor and middle class families of New York, all to help her get some tax breaks for close friends who dabbles in real estate, most notably the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital in the Village which was rezoned to a residential property and is being developed by Rudin Management.

I wonder how much money and through what trust Rudin has contributed to Quinn, her campaign, and to political organizations that assist Quinn? He’s not clumsy enough to have given money in his own name to her campaign directly. One way to get around this is to have an entity controlled by Rudin but not directly owned by him contribute money, possibly to the city or state Democratic party, which will then spend it on Quinn. Happens all the time in New York, which purportedly has the cleanest campaign finance laws in the country.

It’s been sad watching Quinn come down from her moral high ground, where she protested the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, over the exclusion of gays and lesbians from the march.

And now, she’s just another politico. Very, very sad.


Happy World Turtle Day

Turtles are a species threatened with extinction, and humans are to blame. We leave nets and trash lying about in the environment where they feed, encroach upon their nesting grounds and upset the delicate birthing process, and are destroying the coral reefs where they live and sleep.

Please, today, give a thought to a turtle (and I don't mean Mitch McConnell!)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Apple of My Eye

Long-time readers of my blog and friends of Team Actor212 know I’m in the tank for Apple products. By my count, I’ve either purchased for myself or as gifts about two dozen Apple products over the years. Without getting into a Windows v. Mac debate here, I find Apple’s technology and ease of use, combined with its sophistication to be far superior to anything MicroSoft has had a hand in. I use a PC at work, so it’s not like I’m a Luddite.

Well, I am, but an informed Luddite.

Which is why the developments over the past twelve months in the Apple universe have been so distressing:

The Irish government on Tuesday denied it shelters some of the world’s largest corporations, such as Apple, from paying taxes, saying its long-standing low corporation tax regime is transparent and doesn’t make it a tax haven.

The U.S. Senate investigation report, published on Monday by the Senate’s Permanent Committee on Investigations, said that in Ireland, Apple “has negotiated a special corporate tax rate of less than 2%.”

Ireland’s Prime Minster Enda Kenny told lawmakers Tuesday that: “Ireland does not do, let me repeat, does not do special tax [relief] for companies, ” but that companies do exploit loopholes that arise from the interaction of different national tax systems.

To be clear, the issue isn’t confined to Apple. Last week Google was in front of the U.K. Parliament’s Public Affairs Committee to discuss its tax arrangements in the U.K.

Couple this with the ongoing Foxconn controversy, and Apple is starting to become less of an attractive technology supplier to me.

I want to stress something here: none of what Apple has done is either illegal or unique to Apple. And I am not going to go full Rand Paul and demand an apology to Apple.

Apple has taken advantage of perfectly legal tax loopholes written into our tax code by the corporate overlords through their Orc minions, Republicans, Inc. and Corporatist sympathizer Democrats. Likewise, Apple has exploited the fact that Chinese workers in many instances are willing to work as cheaply as American prison inmates.

They still suck for doing so. Let me illustrate with an analogy.

Say I’m walking along the street, and I find a purse or a wallet. Looking inside, I see many thousands of dollars, some unsigned debit cards, and a winning lottery ticket.

The right thing to do is to find the owner’s phone number, call him or her and return the item whole.

Apple has rummaged through the wallet, taken all the cash and cash equivalents, and oh yes, checked the cellphone for the phone numbers of hot women and any naked photos the owner may have had.

It’s one thing to do what is legal, it’s another thing to do what is right.

Now, Senator…and I can’t believe he actually has that title…Senator Paul would claim that Apple did do the right thing. For the investors in Apple, the only audience it needs to please.

Senator… and I can’t believe he actually has that title…Senator Paul is right. But also very wrong.

You see, Apple shareholders are just a small piece of what many economic theorists call “stakeholders.” These are people to whom Apple must also demonstrate what business lingo would call “core competencies.” Stakeholders would include its employees (many of whom even in the US make less than minimum wage,) its landlords, its suppliers – and most important, its customers and the government. All of these groups, along with others, have a “stake” in Apple’s future and its operations.

GM closing a plant in Flint, MI and opening in Mexico may please the shareholders in the short term, but Flint residents losing the income and being unable to purchase GM cars makes GM vulnerable in the longer term, as an examination of the gas crises of the 70s implies: people had less money, so they bought cheaper, more fuel efficient cars. Take the income from their pockets and you can guarantee they won’t buy your cars ever again.

Eventually, your shareholders are impacted by this. It might get lost in the shuffle, but you’ve stopped operating at maximum efficiency by trying to operate at maximum efficiency.

You can sum this up by saying the perfect is the enemy of the excellent. And I want Apple to be excellent.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

You Wanna Get Pissed Off? Here's Your Daily Blood Boiler

Inside this rather boring if frightening story about the problems at hedge fund SAC Capital, lies this sentence (highlighted):

A legal deadline looms for prosecutors to bring a criminal case against Mr. Cohen related to charges against Mathew Martoma, a former SAC portfolio manager accused of illegally trading in the shares of two drug companies, Elan and Wyeth. The Martoma case is the first time that Mr. Cohen was linked to questionable trades, which occurred in late July 2008. Under the five-year statute of limitations for insider trading crimes, the government must charge Mr. Cohen by July.

Yet the eliciting of Mr. Cohen’s grand jury testimony is not entirely bad news for the hedge fund manager, at least as it relates to his criminal exposure, legal experts say. A grand jury subpoena seeking Mr. Cohen’s testimony suggests that the government is pursuing a case against SAC, but not Mr. Cohen himself. It is highly unusual for prosecutors to issue a grand jury subpoena to the target of an investigation, indicating that they want to interview Mr. Cohen broadly about his fund’s activities.

But bringing criminal charges against SAC would also be an unusual move by the government. Over the last decade, the Justice Department has moved away from indicting companies after the 2002 indictment of Arthur Andersen was widely seen as having put the accounting giant out of business.

Excuse me?

To refresh your memory, the CPA firm of Arthur Andersen voluntarily surrendered its license to practice in the United States after multiple felony convictions in connection with its audits of Enron. Yes, the Supreme Court of the United States later vacated the convictions, but not on the facts: documents relevant to the Enron investigation by the Justice Department were shredded. The case was thrown out for bad jury instructions. The facts were never at issue.

So an auditing firm, charged with making sure its client abided by what is known as GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) lies to people who are relying on their opinion that the firm is operating above board, but then destroys any proof otherwise? They deserved to be put out of business. Enron’s bankruptcy revealed not only the massive greed of conservative “capitalists” and the overwhelming hubris of people who treated customers, clients and shareholders like ants under a magnifying glass, AND warned Andersen (or rather should have) there were irregularities big enough to clog a pipeline, and yet did nothing to stop them.

And if Enron didn’t warn Andersen, they certainly could have dug a bit deeper than they did. Obviously, there was something they were trying to hide in shredding documents, if it was only how badly they were hoodwinked. Nonetheless, they were in deep and deserved to be shut down.

So if you’re wondering why the banksters were never put on trial after the subprime mortgage scandal, there’s your answer: our government is too scared to upset an apple cart or two.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Here’s the thing: the best strategy for Republicans is to just let it go:

WASHINGTON — The scandals dogging President Barack Obama are a political gift to Republicans, who could use some good luck after recent election losses. It’s not clear, however, how Republicans can best capitalize on Democrats’ woes, legislatively or politically.

Last November’s election dynamics complicate the picture on both fronts. Republican leaders are urging a bit of restraint in exploiting the White House’s new weaknesses.

Taken together, Republicans say, these three controversies portray a rapaciously political and inept administration. That could be a powerful message in next year’s congressional and gubernatorial elections, and perhaps in the 2016 presidential race.


[Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla, a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner], however, said Boehner and other party leaders are keenly aware that Republicans can overdo their attacks, and even build sympathy for Obama, if their criticisms appear nakedly political or not supported by facts.

“We’ve actually had a lot of discussions about that,” Cole said.

Since the “scandals,” however factually based one of them actually is, are pretty much made up of spit and chewing gum, there’s not a lot of worry that Republicans, Inc won’t overplay their hands. They will and spectacularly.

Take the AP phone records “scandal”. The government has had the right for over 40 years, ever since Watergate, to target individual reporter’s notes and records (longer, really, but it was rarely used.) Ten years ago, Congress, a Republican Congress, expanded that right under the USA PATRIOT Act to obtain the cooperation of telecos in rooting out suspected terrorism in the nation. And don’t think for one minute the Bush administration didn’t use this power and frequently.

Now, I agree that what the Obama administration did was wrong, but then I protested when the PATRIOT Act was introduced, unlike, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, nearly every fucking right winger who’s up in arms about it now, and every single Republican, Inc. Congresscritter who voted for it. I was against government snooping before I was even more against it. It was wrong when a Republican could do it, and it’s still wrong now that a Democrat sits in the Oval Office.

But don’t whine to me, Bushites. You made the bed you’re sleeping in.

Likewise, the IRS/Teabagger “scandal.” First, there’s very little evidence either the White House or Treasury department knew or authorized the vetting of Teabaggers. S. E. “Sippy” Cupp of MSNBC (yuck, really guys? This was the best you could do?) and the NY Daily News whined on Bill Maher about a “he said this and so he had to know” chain of illogic that she has yet to verify in any way, shape, or form. This is tantamount to the 9/11 Truthers, Sippy.

Second, the IRS was tasked with vetting and vetting quickly a whole slew of 501(c)4 groups created in the wake of the Citizens United decision. Of course they were going to look for shortcuts!

Third, the only group that hasn’t survived that vetting process was a liberal group. This despite the fact that it is universally acknowledged that the Federal Election and tax laws are being raped by big money lobbyists.

Finally, there’s Benghazi. Already, Republicans, Inc. have been proven to have altered and even made up evidence somehow “proving” the administration had enough time to intervene, when the truth is, Ambassador Hayes was dead before Obama even knew about the situation. Claims of a cover-up hold no water. Period. This is precisely why no one is paying attention.

So there you have it: after a first term of crying “WOLF!,” Republicans, Inc. have had three legitimate scandals, and because they shot their credibility in the foot before 2012, with the birth certificate and the Muslim nonsense, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, they’ve had to already overplay their hands in order to keep their minions in line.

Meanwhile Democrats keep garnering more and more votes and more and more seats.

How’s that working out for ya, Weaker Boener?