"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Good Idea

This is a good idea, White House:

Keep practicing this, work it, and have the President go all Ross Perot on mofos. Throw this up against Glenn Beck's blackboard, and you have a chance of winning.

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Noblesse Oblige

Paul Krugman, my dog:

So: I support tax increases that will reduce my own after-tax income; I worry greatly about unemployment, even though my own living is secure; I warn about growing inequality, even though I’m of the class that has gained from rising disparities; I’m upset about the direction this country is going, even though my own life is comfortable. And this is supposed to cast doubt on my motives?

This is what I jokingly refer to as being a "class traitor." But it's not all patriotism or Noblesse Oblige, it's also the proverbial enlightened self interest. To wit, none of my prosperity is possible in a world without a vibrant, literate, educated middle class. As a creative/enrepreneur, I have no desire to end up as a toady to some 21st Century DiMedici. However, without a rich economic infrastructure to draw, on, it's that or back to the land for me.

Also, as people much more well off than I have pointed out, being Brazil kinda sucks for them. Helicoptering everywhere sounds like fun, until you remember you're doing it to avoid being kidnapped for ransom. That's no way to live even for a rich person.

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Politics 101: How To Throw A Punch

As will surprise no-one, I'm perennially upset with the Democratic party for it's weak and waffling nature. I think a fair amount of this is just plain mediocrity, and certainly a non-trivial portion is a way of covering establishment ass without overtly stabbing your alleged "constituencies" in the back; but fundamentally it really feels to me like most of these people don't know how to (rhetorically) throw a punch.

Here's a hint:

Effective ads have been run that morphed a triple-amputee vietnam veteran (Max Cleland) into the face of Osama, without actually having the thematic tie of religious extremism or dominion over women. The "Taliban" moniker is provocative, but that's not a bad thing. Let's talk about this issue, and how scuzzo's "Submit to Me" mentality is really very different from that of the erstwhile rulers of Afghanistan.

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Atrios Summarizes My Experience in Politics

Quite pithy, that Duncan Black:

I'm someone who used to have a bit of respect and deference for The People In Charge. You know, Senators and such. Now I think most of them truly suck and worry that elites are going to destroy the country.

That's pretty much my story too. I don't like/respect authority figures, but when it all got started I sort of assumed that most of the People In Charge (or "P.I.C."'s as we used to call them back at Oasis Natural Food Store) were probably smart, decent and hardworking. I don't believe that anymore. It really is an aristocracy, and it sucks wind on both style and substance.

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In Which I Personally Respond To Republican Legislative Leaders

I am a small business owner, and (so far) a successful one at that. I'm rather proud of that fact. I look forward to the day when my prosperity is cemented and I can be a new kind of class traitor.

Anyway, the entrepreneur tip is what I'm on right now, and I heard this on NPR and it got me mad enough to yell at the radio. I want to give a big, personal "I Lived Through 9/11 And You Didn't" Scranton-style dick-punch to both John Bohner and Mitch McConnel — and really anyone parroting the GOP party line — for turning people like me ("small businesses") into some GOP hump-fetish to defend the notion that we really need now are tax cuts for the top bracket of earners, those pocketing more than $250k a year.

Let's be clear. It is not many small businesses, or even good ones, that will be affected by these cuts. And those that are, that means the owners are making $250,000 or more, which regardless of your perception, makes you a wealthy individual here in Estados Unidos. Count your blessings. I do.

I'll break it down for you in bare brass tack terms. You only pay taxes on profits, not revenue. This is basic accounting, which I know they don't teach in the Senate, but it's something you learn if you stay in business more than a year: gross is not net, and you need to learn to tell the difference. A small business with six or ten employees may turn over around a million dollars in a year, but most of that is spent before year end.

This is how you roll in real life as you stack that cheese. Here's what I know:

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There's a War Goin' on That the Poor Can't Win

It's been this way for a while, but finally we're seeing the massive obviousness of it all:

When it comes to cutting benefits for poor and middle-class seniors, or cutting the pay of our military personnel while forcing our veterans to pay more of their own health care costs — much of which likely resulted from illness due to their service in two long wars — what we hear from Washington elites is the great need for “shared sacrifice” to bring down the deficit. Yet, when debating the idea of allowing taxes on millionaires (and here it might be good to remember that two-thirds of the members of Congress are themselves millionaires) to return to what they were under Bill Clinton, it is all “damn the deficit we can’t let the wealthy suffer during this economic downturn!”

To be fair, this isn't the precise position of "all our political leaders", but it is in fact the pervading cultural norm among the power elite: the concerns of the wealthy are given much more attention than those of the middle class, and forget the poor. It is also the principle philosophy of a non-trivial number of individual elected officials who will go to the mat specifically to protect elite interests (Joementum, I'm lookin' at your jowls; Liebermania is just another word for being a sold-out hack).

It isn't this way all over the world. As we become more and more "like Brazil" in massive inequity and increasingly entrenched social underclass, the Brazillians are making steady progress in the opposite direction: decreasing inequality, lifting up more and more people into literacy and nurturing a small but growing middle class of entrepreneurs and social stake-holders. Estados Unidos is still a better place to live, sure, but if these trends continue...

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#ActualBestFeeling

In a rare and unalloyed real win for The Good Guys, a scummy local politician in the Bronx was upset and housed by a do-gooding up-and-comer who I'm one degree of social separation from. It is, indeed, a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Last time I was in NYC I remember @Baratunde coming by Rina's place with a crew after canvassing for Rivera. Tired and sweaty but real. Reminded me what it was like to actually work for a campaign for a hot minute. It's frackin' great they made it over the top — the guy they beat was a scumbag — and I was subsequently inspired to tithe, and opened my wallet for some other deserving efforts.

This November's election is going to be weird. Obama and team D are blowin' it, but the Tea Bag Express is also pulling back the curtain and exposing the massive insanity which boils beneath the robotic biege surface of the Republican party. My great fear is that the Republicans don't gain control of anything — remaining an effective petulant minority — but make inevitable numerical gains, which leads to even more timidity and watered-down-ness from the Democrats, which means nothing gets done, which mean shit still sucks, which means a real possibility for President Palin.

Which would be pretty bad, yo.

So here's hoping the Democrats lose some weak sheep, hold majorities, have a "learning moment" about how to function in an oppositional system, and start actually getting shit done and making a clear case as to why they're better. You know, the whole "There's a war going on and the poor can't win" thing. For serious.

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"Patriot Day"

A quick look backward. Nine years gone. What a fracked up time that was. I still take it somewhat personally, viscerally, being in New York City and living through it first-hand. So, for the day, some old links of what was in my mind then.

I still feel the stinging injustice of what our leaders ended up doing with via the manipulation of that raw emotional wound. I still believe what the day taught me about the fundamentals of life. I'm still grateful to have sparked a political awareness as a result.

And I honestly hoped we'd get over ourselves and see "9/11 the Musical Comedy" rather than it becoming an anniversary for pumping up hatred and intolerance. But that wasn't in the cards, I guess.

In many ways watching how Estados Unidos has processed the past decade has been an embittering and disillusioning experience, doubly so as a participant. I thought we were better than this. On a good day — and today is definitely a good day — I still hope we can be.

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Have A Little, Want More

What to say.

Shit is crazy out there. People wanna go back to burning books, and the dominance of wealth is increasingly too obvious to ignore. It puts me in a mind to consider what, in this context, the proverbial "have a little, want more" might really want more of.

Now, truth be told most people just want to hold on to what they've got. When fear of the foreign devil fails, just threaten someone's livelihood or straight up cast them into penury. Up to a point, this'll keep the proles in line.

But what of the rest? What of all the people who are still making it, but aren't actually members of the power elite. Say, people like me (socioeconomically, anyway), or even people who are more well off, simple (and fucking powerless) millionaires, for instance. What do these people want our of their lives?

I see a lot of decadence. There's a lot of fun shit out there to do and buy and eat and drink, and hell if I'm not a part of that scene from time to time. But ultimately I think there's an end to the gratification you can get from toys.

What I hope is that people start tuning in to the fact that what they want more of is not so much a bigger piece of the pie, but a better meal to begin with. There's a non-trivial connection between inequality and intolerance, between an increasingly brutal and dumb society and the neo-aristocracy that's growing up around us.

What I hope the have-a-little's want more of is civilization. I don't mean that in some refined haughty sense, but in the sense of a productive, vibrant, effective, lively, awesome society, one that produces truly great culture, that can pilot spaceship earth with honor and distinction.

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More On Elitism

It sounds very much like there is a storm a-brewin' designed to start cutting into Social Security. I helped fight this off back in 2005, and it's a real pity to see the same basic bullpucky return under Prez. Obama. Cutting Social Security is both unnecessary and cruel.

For the reasoned economic analysis, keep up with Dr. Krugman.

For a more colorful take, you can't do much better than George Carlin:

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