advice from a fake consultant

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On Living With Idiots, Or, An Open Letter To Islam September 9, 2010

Dear Islam,

You know, it seems like every time I write a letter I have to begin by apologizing for not having written in so long, and that’s the case again today.

We only get a few days of real summer up here every year, and I was out having fun at golf tournaments and doing a bit of climbing around the local hills—and you know, I do love doing a bit of nothing at all from time to time—but while I was away, things have gotten even crazier than usual around here…and I’m sorry to say, you’ve been on the pointy end of the crazy stick, which is something that never should have happened.

Things have been so nutty that you’re probably thinking America has something against Islam—in fact, you might be wondering if we have something against our own Constitution.

Well, we don’t, most of us, and I’ll take a few minutes today to help y’all understand just what is going on in this country.

So you’re going to be hearing a lot about this disturbed guy in Florida who thinks that he can save the world by burning Qu’rans on September 11th—and you’re going to be asking yourselves: “Why would America allow anyone to do that?”

Well, the answer’s kind of paradoxical, and it has everything to do with the same Constitution that protects freedom of religion in the first place.

You see, it also protects the concept of freedom of speech…which, in itself, probably requires a bit of an explanation.

Freedom of speech, as you can imagine, isn’t absolutely free (for example, there is the famous “yelling fire in a crowded room” example), but to a far greater extent than you might think, we really are able to say things that would shock most of you not living here.

At the moment, just to illustrate the point, we have all kinds of people suggesting the President is taking the country in the wrong direction, or a secret Muslim (as if that were somehow bad)…or even that he’s some sort of weird mixture of Stalin and Hitler and Satan Himself who was born in Kenya…and every one of them is free to stand on any street corner and hold a sign proclaiming exactly that, just as much as they want.

Matter of fact, those are the same people that are mad at you, Islam, for the moment, even if they know nothing about Islam…and that brings me right to the next thing I need to tell you.

The only reason a lot of Americans are mad at you, Islam…is because there’s an election on, and the only way Republicans can win elections is to try to scare Americans into thinking that the United States will instantly collapse from whatever useful threat they think up—unless enough of us vote Republican.

Now in normal times, Islam, Republicans would be trying to scare us about gay people trying to eat our babies, or something equally stupid, but that hasn’t been working as well as it used to lately—and what they would really like to say this election cycle, they can’t (“Those Jesus-hating liberals elected a nigger and now they’re gonna impregnate your daughters and gay marry your sons!”)…and that leaves you, Islam, as the next most desirable overt target for Republican fear-spreading professionals.

(You and, of course, those “illegal aliens” who are busily beheading people in the Arizona desert every night.)

Now there is no doubt that a portion of our population is entirely ready to jump on this bandwagon with no encouragement at all, and that’s where we get the fools who think having a Qur’an BBQ party somehow makes some kind of sense.

My guess is that about 20% of us are that stupid—and based on our current population, that means about 60,000,000 fools are bumping and stumbling their way across the American landscape on any given day, struggling, as Aimee Mann says, “with the undertaking of simple thought”.

Apparently because it’s just hanging there, many of them sort of slide down and congregate in Florida, and sure enough, a few of them did gather together in that particular State to form into the human blood clot that planned this little 9/11 protest, and that’s how we got to where we are today.

Now I’m sorry that we can’t just bring this to a stop, but we do allow idiots to say their piece in this country, whether it’s a good idea or not…so they do, even if the Government and The Not Blindingly Stupid Among The Population don’t like it…and all I can really tell you by way of consolation is that as soon as Election Day is past, much of this will come to an end—unless it works so well that Republicans keep it up for a few more election cycles, until it fails to work any more.

Anyway, Islam, try not to let it upset you too much, try to keep in mind that this is really about American electoral politics and the desperate need to create fear (which is all the Republicans have left)…and most importantly, try to keep in mind that if good old-fashioned American racial segregation was back in style then no one would even be talking about you—instead, the same people that are on your back today would all be doing their best Dr. Laura impressions 60 or 70 times a day, and they’d go right back to assuming Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs are all the same people, just like they did in happier times.

So that’s what’s been up around here, and I hope to hear from you soon as well—and of course, if you’re in the neighborhood sometime, drop me a note and we’ll go grab a coffee and laugh as the fools walk by.

Your friend,

fake

 

On Saving 319,000 Jobs, Or, Legislation Keeps Teachers Teaching August 10, 2010

As I pick up the pace of work again, coming into the midterms, I have to get some stories cleared off the desk in order to make room for some others, and that’s what we’re about today.

We’ll be talking about saving more than 300,000 of this country’s most important jobs, and paying for it in a way that is not only good policy, but is a real problem for Republicans who are yelling “no new taxes!” once again while pretending they care about actually paying for actual spending and actually want to cut actual unemployment.

We have a bit of work to do today, but we want to keep it somewhat short…so let’s get going.

So across my desk have come documents that report how many jobs will be saved by the House coming back into session to vote out H.R. 1586 and send it to the President for his signature.

Long story short, after all the commemorative pens have been distributed about 319,000 more people will be working, including 161,000 more teachers who will be in class this year then there would have been there if it wasn’t for this bill…and as it happens, that many teachers is actually about 25,000 more people than the total number of workers in all of America’s coal mines combined.

It’s going to cost $10 billion for the “save the teacher’s jobs” part of the bill; another $16.1 billion will be paid to states to help them pay for their share of Medicare expenses this fiscal year, that will allow them to avoid laying off the remaining 158,000 workers, many of whom are working for someone like Child Protective Services or are State Troopers or are working for your State’s Department of Corrections…and about 80,000 of those jobs are private sector jobs, as contractors who work for the various states are also kept on the job.

To give you an idea of just how many teachers we’re talking about, Florida will have 9200 more this fall than they would have otherwise, Illinois will have 5700 more, Kentucky, 2200 more, and in California there’ll be about 16,500 more teachers in the classrooms this fall than if this bill wasn’t going to pass.

You can look up how many more teachers your State is estimated to have this fall at a handy page on the House Committee on Education and Labor’s website.

I don’t have a handy chart for the remaining workers, but if those jobs are more or less distributed the same way you could expect California, as an example, to save a total of about 33,000 jobs with just this one bill, and Florida to save about 18,000.

How badly do states need the money?

By an amazing coincidence, as I’m putting this story together I’m watching tonight’s “The Rachel Maddow Show”, and sure as life, she’s working the same story…and she’s reporting that Paul Krugman’s reporting that several states are literally unpaving their roads because they can’t afford to maintain them any more.

So here’s the best part: it’s all paid for by closing a variety of tax loopholes and recovering money that wasn’t being used from other programs, so no new deficit spending or additions to debt are required.

The tax loopholes?

They take aim at the various methods multinational companies are using to shield US income from US tax collectors; these mostly involve getting a Post Office box in the Cayman Islands, or something similar, and more or less claiming all your US business is derived from your new “regional office”, or that you believe you paid all your income taxes on your US income to some other government.

Our Republican friends are going nutty about this, claiming, as John Boehner just did on “Meet The Press”, that: “…they want to raise the taxes on the American people .”

This is particularly tough for Republicans because they’re dying to save The Bush Tax Cuts For The Really, Really Rich, all $800 billion worth of ‘em, without explaining how they would be paid for, all the while complaining about the much, much, lower cost of paying for saving these 300,000 jobs—and, in the very next sentence, saying they hate deficits…and if you check out the transcript from that “Meet the Press” interview, you’ll see that David Gregory asked Boehner about how he planned on paying for the $800 billion in tax cuts he wants, three different times, and he wouldn’t give a straight answer once.

So when people ask you: “What’s Washington doing about jobs?”, you can tell them they’re not only saving about a third of a million of the jobs that fight fires, and put criminals in jail, and teach your kids this fall—and paying for it, to boot—but those smaller classrooms are also making it more likely that your kids will have better jobs when they grow up; all of that without much help from our Republican friends, who’s biggest job right now seems to be figuring out how to borrow another $800 billion from you and China to give away to their wealthiest friends.

Which is its own special kind of job…and I’m pretty sure the word “snow” is somehow involved in the job description.

 

On Really Padding The Résumé, Or, “Vote For Me! I Died In Viet Nam” June 27, 2010

We have already seen some impressive efforts in this campaign season to do a bit of résumé padding, particularly as it regards things military; so far Illinois’ Mark Kirk has managed to turn himself into a kind of camouflage Austin Powers, while Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal’s trying to catch up with some “Vietnam” service of his own that no one else in the theater of operations exactly knew about.

But now, in the race for Alabama Governor, we may have seen something that takes us to a whole new level of “inflation”: the Republican candidate is running an ad that not only suggests that he served in Vietnam…it seems to imply that he actually died there, and has now come back to save the State.

Which is some serious irony indeed, considering that the candidate is actually a medical doctor.

And with that, let me introduce you to the either living…or undead…Dr. Robert J. Bentley.

“I have fought for Queen and Faith like a valiant man and true;
I have done my duty as a man is bound to do;
With a joyful spirit I Sir Richard Greenville die!”
And he fell upon their decks, and he died.

–From The Revenge, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Now as regular readers know, I post far and wide, including at Left in Alabama, where our friend mooncat has been running with this story, which is how I became aware of the events we’ll be talking about today.

On Thursday, she was up with a post I particularly want you to see, and I’ll explain why in just a second, but before I do, I just wanted to acknowledge her excellent work.

So here’s the deal: the Bentley for Governor Campaign has been running an ad called “A Man’s Word”, which is one of two ads that give the impression that Bentley served in Vietnam, even though he did not serve there.

In this ad, a list of names appears about six seconds in, and remains visible for about three seconds, along with an image of a fighter aircraft and a banner that says: “Hospital Commander Vietnam War”; a reference to his three-month stint as the interim commander of the base hospital at Pope Air Force Base, in North Carolina.

Here’s the ad, for your perusal:

Now if you go and check out mooncat’s Left in Alabama posting, she’s gone to the time and trouble to do a screen grab of the “list”, along with pointing you to the second questionable ad.

It needs to be addressed further, but I’m going to ignore that other ad, for today…and that’s because, to me, the list of names, including the font, the background, and the method of writing branch of service and “conflict served” all looks just a little too much like either the panels used at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall or the design of a US military gravestone.

“If you want to use issues to define people as to where they stand on the issues, that’s fine,” Bentley said. “But you shouldn’t distort the facts.”

–Robert Bentley, to Michael Tomberlin of The Birmingham News, May 17, 2010

So if Bentley did actually die in Vietnam…could he still be elected?

As it happens, there is some precedent here. Mel Carnahan, who was dead at the time, put the whup on John Ashcroft pretty good in their 2000 Senate contest; unfortunately Missouri’s closed-minded Acting Governor Roger Wilson was not willing to let Carnahan actually serve in the office, appointing his wife instead.

Which brings us to the final question: could the undead actually serve in office?

Have you ever met my Congressman, Dave Reichert?
Steve King?
Louie Gohmert?
Michelle Bachmann?
Arizona Governor Ann Brewer?

Any one of those people could have appeared in Zombieland, and I’ll let you decide which is your favorite later.

They’re also all serving in elected positions today, suggesting the undead can in fact hold high office—and if you need an even better example, Dick Cheney has been undead at least a couple of times, which didn’t keep him from serving as the 43rd President of the United States.

And with that, we come to the “let’s wrap it up” part of the deal:

Dr. Robert J. Bentley, the Republican nominee for Governor of Alabama, is running ads that either intentionally or “accidentally” inflate his military record by making you think he served in Vietnam…or he actually died there and he’s now walking the Earth as one of the undead and a medical doctor, bringing his unique perspective on end-of-life issues to the People in the best way he knows how.

I wish I knew which it was; my efforts to obtain some sort of comment about any of this from the Bentley Campaign were unsuccessful…which is probably a good idea if you’re running ads that suggest you were in Vietnam, when you really weren’t, and you know you’ll eventually be facing some incoming fire of your own.

It’s already been a pretty hot summer in Alabama.

Let’s see if we can’t spread this story around and make it even hotter for Dr. Bentley…because if anybody deserves to be in a warm place, it’s someone who tries to take advantage of the way we feel about those who die for this country.