Monthly Archives: March 2015

Well, at least Obama gets points for answering the WaPo’s question promptly…

Yesterday, the Washington Post posed the question: Has Obama delivered the most transparent administration in history?  That’s a reasonable question given that the President promised to meet this mark when he was sworn in and this promise is prominently displayed on the White House web site. The Post does a nice job examining the evidence and, after some mealy-mouthed qualifications, determines that the answer is “No, but they’ve been better than most.”

Apparently, the President read this article and decided to forcefully respond only hours later….by summarily rejecting all FOIA requests of the executive branch and deleting them. Now, the President may well be acting within the bounds of the law on this, but if memory serves, he made kind of a big deal out of saying that there should be a presumption of openness with regards to all requests. In fact, I don’t have to rely on memory: Here’s the “Presidential Document.”

The WaPo gives him a bit of a pass, noting that the government is big and the bureaucracy is tough to wrangle, but you know what? President Obama knew that when he made the promise. And besides, if there’s any branch he can wrangle, it’s the executive. While I’m pleased to see him respond to the charges so quickly, I rather wish he hadn’t responded with two middle fingers extended.

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Today’s Double-Feature: Privilged Jerks and Redneck Pandering

Phew.

Reading the news does not put one in a good mood, does it? Today’s post is going to be all about racism and won’t have anything to do with the deeply disturbing about institutional racism in police forces. Ta da?

Instead, today I’m writing about how racism truly knows no bounds. You can be an atheist or a Christian, a liberal or a conservative, a celebrity or a, well, non-celebrity, and in this, the land of the free, you can create a stir by being a racist asshole.

We’ll start with Sean Penn. I know the Oscars were a few weeks ago, but he recently went on Bill Maher’s show to, well, basically to talk shit about anyone who said his joke was racist. Of course, his joke was racist: When the joke is about a person’s race (or nationality or religion or whatever) and not about the person, it’s a racist joke.

What really made my day was the way Bill Maher made Penn (and himself) out to be The Real Victim ™:

“I just feel we’re living in this country now where no one can make a joke. No one can have any nuance to what they say. We are just constantly hounded by the politically correct a*sholes out there who want to turn this country into a place that I don’t want to live in…”

Yeah, no…it’s not that “no one can make a joke;” it’s that, when you make a racist joke, people are going to react to it. You used to be able to get away with it, but that like sliver of privilege is slipping away. This is one of those asinine first amendment arguments where the guy wants his free speech and wants to silence the people who criticize his speech.

Speaking of people who can’t keep their arguments straight, have you heard about Arkansas internet country music sensation Jamie Jones? He recorded a song called “Pissed Off Rednecks” which is basically a laundry list of Tea Party gripes set to a country blues melody.

I’m not going to go too deeply into the lyrics. This isn’t a polemic designed to sway opinions or even a heartfelt declaration of beliefs; it’s an angry, incoherent, ditty designed to get clicks for a largely-unknown artist by pandering to a demographic that eats this stuff up. He wants his kids to be able to pray however they want, but if you’re a Muslim, you can just go home. He has the authority to say this because he’s a “real American.” He makes it clear that he doesn’t consider anyone who thinks differently him a member of that club.

On the off chance you want to see it for yourself, here ya go: Pissed Of Rednecks, the video!

Have you ever noticed how many people who call themselves “real Americans” really, really love America but can’t stand Americans?

 

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Why Stop at a Flat Tax?

Ah, the Flat Tax! The panacea of Libertarians and the Extremely Wealthy everywhere! So seductive in its simplicity: A single tax rate for all tax payers, regardless of income. Believe it or not, even I support a slightly modified version of the Flat Tax*. There’s no question that it would reduce the tax-related infrastructure (and tax-evasion infrastructure). Besides, isn’t the Flat Tax more fair (ask the people who, for every other matter of finance or law, insist that “fairness” isn’t a valid consideration)?

So, yeah, the Flat Tax has some attractive features. But then, I read this article about a very wealthy individual in Finland, where they scale fines to the offender’s income. What a brilliant idea! However, I don’t think the folks in Helsinki go nearly far enough. If we’re going to have a Flat Tax, let’s base every cost on the income of the purchaser. Instead of costing, say, $20,000 dollars, the car would cost 35% of your annual income. When it comes to food, of course, you get to some pretty small percentages, but hey, that’s just an incentive to learn math, right?

I get it. I really do. Folks want the benefits of wealth without the costs scaling along with them. I can’t blame ’em for trying. But if you expect me to take that kind of one-sided proposal seriously, you’re going to have to do a better job than the Flat Tax folks have managed thus far.

* In my version, the first quarter million is exempt. After that, there’s a flat rate. Call me a dreamer…

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