Sunday, March 28, 2010

Air Piracy

by Rich Miles

If Congress wants to do something for the American people (and there is no firm assurance that they do), what they should do is pass a law making it illegal for airlines to advertise one price, and then tack on multiple taxes and fees to jack the price way up by the time the whole tariff is revealed.

Example: I go to Scotland every late summer or early fall. I've done this for the past 10 years now. Each year it's gotten a little more expensive, and when it was only a few dollars increase per year, I grumbled about it, but paid the tab and made my trip.

However, this year, the base rates have increased several hundred dollars, and on top of that are all these stinkin' taxes and fees. One flight advertises at $816, but by the time we add on all the add-ons, it's $1358, or $542 in additional charges. Not too many years ago, the entire fare was not much more than the fees are today.

But seriously, that is the worst example I can find easily, but it's routine for the add-ons to be $100 to $175. And that's enough to piss off most flyers who are responsible for their own fares, sted being paid for by their workplaces.

And as near as one can tell, the absolute only reason this is being done by airlines is the same reason a dog licks his balls: because they can. And perhaps the worst part, or the second-worst part, is that they don't REALLY tell you what the fees are for. They say at least part is "taxes", but I suspect that's at least partly made-up, since most passengers will just assume that taxes are unavoidable, and won't complain too awfully much. As for the fees, not quite so much. These fees used to be routinely included without comment in the main advertised fares. Which were MUCH lower across the board in years past. I just checked my records from 2005, and I flew over and back for a TOTAL of $562.

The fact that at least some of these fees are for baggage is, you'll pardon the expression, a fuckin' outrage.

So Congress needs to put a stop to this - because it's a sure bet that the airlines are not going to cut it out voluntarily.

Do you ever have the feeling that you're being screwed by pretty much everyone?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Sins of the Repugs catalogued

I don't usually reprint other people's stuff on this blog - link to it sometimes, yes, but not direct reprints. But this one I have to do. The following is what the Internet is for - and I find it a thing of beauty. It was composed by someone named Russell King, whose work I don't know whether I should or not, and here is the original address.

My guess is that there will be no retaliatory repug version of this same piece. Partly because it would be hard to come up with this many counter-claims, but mostly because there is no one on the repug side of the aisle with this kind of intelligence.

There are about a jillion substantiating links with the piece, that wouldn't transfer to this blog. Go see what I'm talking about. It's the creation of a lifetime:

An open letter to conservatives
March 22, 2010, 3:16PM

Dear Conservative Americans,

The years have not been kind to you. I grew up in a profoundly Republican home, so I can remember when you wore a very different face than the one we see now. You've lost me and you've lost most of America. Because I believe having responsible choices is important to democracy, I'd like to give you some advice and an invitation.

First, the invitation: Come back to us.

Now the advice. You're going to have to come up with a platform that isn't built on a foundation of cowardice: fear of people with colors, religions, cultures and sex lives that differ from your own; fear of reform in banking, health care, energy; fantasy fears of America being transformed into an Islamic nation, into social/commun/fasc-ism, into a disarmed populace put in internment camps; and more. But you have work to do even before you take on that task.

Your party -- the GOP -- and the conservative end of the American political spectrum has become irresponsible and irrational. Worse, it's tolerating, promoting and celebrating prejudice and hatred. Let me provide some expamples -- by no means an exhaustive list -- of where the Right as gotten itself stuck in a swamp of hypocrisy, hyperbole, historical inaccuracy and hatred.

If you're going to regain your stature as a party of rational, responsible people, you'll have to start by draining this swamp:


You can't flip out -- and threaten impeachment - when Dems use a prlimentary procedure (deem and pass) that you used repeatedly (more than 35 times in just one session and more than 100 times in all!), that's centuries old and which the courts have supported. Especially when your leaders admit it all.

You can't vote and scream against the stimulus package and then take credit for the good it's done in your own district (happily handing out enormous checks representing money that you voted against, is especially ugly) -- 114 of you (at last count) did just that -- and it's even worse when you secretly beg for more.

You can't fight against your own ideas just because the Dem president endorses your proposal.

You can't call for a pay-as-you-go policy, and then vote against your own ideas.

Are they "unlawful enemy combatants" or are they "prisoners of war" at Gitmo? You can't have it both ways.

You can't carry on about the evils of government spending when your family has accepted more than a quarter-million dollars in government handouts.

You can't refuse to go to a scheduled meeting, to which you were invited, and then blame the Dems because they didn't meet with you.

You can't rail against using teleprompters while using teleprompters. Repeatedly.

You can't rail against the bank bailouts when you supported them as they were happening.

You can't be for immigration reform, then against it .

You can't enjoy socialized medicine while condemning it.

You can't flip out when the black president puts his feet on the presidential desk when you were silent about white presidents doing the same. Bush. Ford.

You can't complain that the president hasn't closed Gitmo yet when you've campaigned to keep Gitmo open.

You can't flip out when the black president bows to foreign dignitaries, as appropriate for their culture, when you were silent when the white presidents did the same. Bush. Nixon. Ike. You didn't even make a peep when Bush held hands and kissed (on the mouth) leaders of countries that are not on "kissing terms" with the US.

You can't complain that the undies bomber was read his Miranda rights under Obama when the shoe bomber was read his Miranda rights under Bush and you remained silent. (And, no, Newt -- the shoe bomber was not a US citizen either, so there is no difference.)

You can't attack the Dem president for not personally* publicly condemning a terrorist event for 72 hourswhen you said nothing about the Rep president waiting 6 days in an eerily similar incident (and, even then, he didn't issue any condemnation). *Obama administration did the day of the event.

You can't throw a hissy fit, sound alarms and cry that Obama freed Gitmo prisoners who later helped plan the Christmas Day undie bombing, when -- in fact -- only one former Gitmo detainee, released by Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, helped to plan the failed attack.

You can't condemn blaming the Republican president for an attempted terror attack on his watch, then blame the Dem president for an attemted terror attack on his.

You can't mount a boycott against singers who say they're ashamed of the president for starting a war, but remain silent when another singer says he's ashamed of the president and falsely calls him a Moaist who makes him want to throw up and says he ought to be in jail.

You can't cry that the health care bill is too long, then cry that it's too short.

You can't support the individual mandate for health insurance, then call it unconstitutional when Dems propose it and campaign against your own ideas.

You can't demand television coverage, then whine about it when you get it. Repeatedly.

You can't praise criminal trials in US courts for terror suspects under a Rep president, then call it "treasonous" under a Dem president.

You can't propose ideas to create jobs, and then work against them when the Dems put your ideas in a bill.

You can't be both pro-choice and anti-choice.

You can't damn someone for failing to pay $900 in taxes when you've paid nearly $20,000 in IRS fines.

You can't condemn critizising the president when US troops are in harms way, then attack the president when US troops are in harms way , the only difference being the president's party affiliation (and, by the way, armed conflict does NOT remove our right and our duty as Americans to speak up).

You can't be both for cap-and-trade policy and against it.

You can't vote to block debate on a bill, then bemoan the lack of 'open debate'.

If you push anti-gay legislation and make anti-gay speeches, you should probably take a pass on having gay sex, regardless of whether it's 2004 or 2010. This is true, too, if you're taking GOP money and giving anti-gay rants on CNN. Taking right-wing money and GOP favors to write anti-gay stories for news sites while working as a gay prostitute, doubles down on both the hypocrisy and the prostitution. This is especially true if you claim your anti-gay stand is God's stand, too.

When you chair the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, you can't send sexy emails to 16-year-old boys (illegal anyway, but you made it hypocritical as well).

You can't criticize Dems for not doing something you didn't do while you held power over the past 16 years, especially when the Dems have done more in one year than you did in 16.

You can't decry "name calling" when you've been the most consistent and outrageous at it. And the most vile.

You can't spend more than 40 years hating, cutting and trying to kill Medicare, and then pretend to be the defenders of Medicare

You can't praise the Congressional Budget Office when it's analysis produces numbers that fit your political agenda, then claim it's unreliable when it comes up with numbers that don't.

You can't vote for X under a Republican president, then vote against X under a Democratic president. Either you support X or you don't. And it makes it worse when you change your position merely for the sake obstructionism.

You can't call a reconcilliation out of bounds when you used it repeatedly.

You can't spend tax-payer money on ads against spending tax-payer money.

You can't condemn individual health insurance mandates in a Dem bill, when the madates were your idea.

You can't demand everyone listen to the generals when they say what fits your agenda, and then ignore them when they don't.

You can't whine that it's unfair when people accuse you of exploiting racism for political gain, when your party's former leader admits you've been doing it for decades.

You can't portray yourself as fighting terrorists when you openly and passionately support terrorists.

You can't complain about a lack of bipartisanship when you've routinely obstructed for the sake of political gain -- threatening to filibuster at least 100 pieces of legislation in one session, far more than any other since the procedural tactic was invented -- and admitted it. Some admissions are unintentional, others are made proudly. This is especially true when the bill is the result of decades of compromise between the two parties and is filled with your own ideas.

You can't question the loyalty of Department of Justice lawyers when you didn't object when your own Republican president appointed them.

You can't preach and try to legislate "Family Values" when you: take nude hot tub dips with teenagers (and pay them hush money); cheat on your wife with a secret lover and lie about it to the world; cheat with a staffer's wife (and pay them off with a new job); pay hookers for sex while wearing a diaper and cheatingon your wife; or just enjoying an old fashioned non-kinky cheating on your wife; try to have gay sex in a public toilet; authorize the rape of children in Iraqi prisons to coherce their parents into providing information; seek, look at or have sex with children; replace a guy who cheats on his wife with a guy who cheats on his pregnant wife with his wife's mother;


You really need to dissassociate with those among you who:

•assert that people making a quarter-million dollars a year can barely make ends meet or that $1 million "isn't a lot of money";
•say that "Comrade" Obama is a "Bolshevik" who is "taking cues from Lenin";
•ignore the many times your buddies use a term that offends you and complain only when a Dem says it;
•liken political opponents to murderers, rapists, and "this Muslim guy" that "offed his wife's head" or call then "un-American";
•say Obama "wants his plan to that he can make the case for bank nationalization and vindicate his dream of a socialist economy";
•equate putting the good of the people ahead of your personal fortunes with terrorism;
•smear an entire major religion with the actions of a few fanatics;
•say that the president wants to "annihilate us";
•compare health care reform with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a Bolshevik plot the attack on 9/11,or reviving the ghosts of communist dictators (update: it's also not Armageddon);
•equate our disease-fighting stem cell research with "what the Nazis did";
•call a bill passed by the majority of both houses of Congress, by members of Congress each elected by a majority in their districts, an unconscionable abuse of power, a violation of the presidential oath or "the end of representative government";
•shout "baby killer" at a member of Congress on the floor of the House, especially one who so fought against abortion rights that he nearly killed health care reform (in fact, a little decorum, a little respect for our national institutions and the people and the values they represent, would be refreshing -- cut out the shouting, the swearing and the obscenities);
•prove your machismo by claiming your going to "crash a party" to which you're officially invited;
•claim that Obama is pushing America's "submission to Shariah";
•question the patriotism of people upholding cherished American values and the rule of law;
•claim the president is making us less safe without a hint of evidence;
•call a majority vote the "tyranny of the minority," even if you meant to call it tyranny of the majority -- it's democracy, not tyranny;
•call the president's support of a criminal trial for a terror suspect "treasonous" (especially when you supported the same thing when the president shared your party);
•call the Pope the anti-Christ;
•assert that the constitutionally mandated census is an attempt to enslave us;
•accuse opponents of being backed by Arab slave-drivers, drunk and suicidal;
•equate family planing with eugenics or Nazism;
•accuse the president of changing the missile defense program's logo to match his campaign logo and reflect what you say is his secret Muslim identity;
•accuse political opponents of being totalitarians, socialists, communists, fascists, Marxists; terrorist sympathizers, McCarthy-like, Nazis or drug pushers; and
•advocate a traitors act like seccession, violent revolution , military coup or civil war (just so we're clear: sedition is a bad thing).

If you're going to use words like socialism, communism and fascism, you must have at least a basic understanding of what those words mean (hint: they're NOT synonymous!)

You can't cut a leading Founding Father out the history books because you've decided you don't like his ideas.

You cant repeatedly assert that the president refuses to say the word "terrorism" or say we're at war with terror when we have an awful lot of videotape showing him repeatedly assailing terrorism and using those exact words.

If you're going to invoke the names of historical figures, it does not serve you well to whitewash them. Especially this one.

You can't just pretend historical events didn't happen in an effort to make a political opponent look dishonest or to make your side look better. Especially these events. (And, no, repeating it doesn't make it better.)

You can't say things that are simply and demonstrably false: health care reform will not push people out of their private insurance and into a government-run program ; health care reform (which contains a good many of your ideas and very few from the Left) is a long way from "socialist utopia"; health care reform is not "reparations"; nor does health care reform create "death panels".


You have to condemn those among you who:

•call members of Congress n*gger and f*ggot;
•elected leaders who say "I'm a proud racist";
•state that America has been built by white people;
•say that poor people are poor because they're rotten people, call them "parasitic garbage" or say they shouldn't be allowed to vote;
•call women bitches and prostitutes just because you don't like their politics ( re - pea -ted - ly );
•assert that the women who are serving our nation in uniform are hookers;
•mock and celebrate the death of a grandmother because you disagree with her son's politics;
•declare that those who disagree with you are shown by that disagreement to be not just "Marxist radicals" but also monsters and a deadly disease killing the nation (this would fit in the hyperbole and history categories, too);
•joke about blindness;
•advocate euthanizing the wife of your political opponent;
•taunt people with incurable, life-threatening diseases -- especially if you do it on a syndicated broadcast;
•equate gay love with bestiality -- involving horses or dogs or turtles or ducks -- or polygamy, child molestation, pedophilia;
•casually assume that only white males look "like a real American";
•assert presidential power to authorize torture, torture a child by having his testacles crushed in front of his parents to get them to talk, order the massacre of a civilian village and launch a nuclear attack without the consent of Congress;
•attack children whose mothers have died;
•call people racists without producing a shred of evidence that they've said or done something that would even smell like racism -- same for invoking racially charged "dog whistle" words (repeatedly);
•condemn the one thing that every major religion agrees on;
•complain that we no longer employ the tactics we once used to disenfranchise millions of Americansbecause of their race;
•blame the victims of natural disasters and terrorist attacks for their suffering and losses;
•celebrate violence , joke about violence, prepare for violence or use violent imagery, "fun" politicalviolence, hints of violence, threats of violence (this one is rather explicit), suggestions of violence oractual violence (and, really, suggesting anal rape wth a hot piece of metal is beyond the pale); and
•incite insurrection telling people to get their guns ready for a "bloody battle" with the president of the United States.
Oh, and I'm not alone: One of your most respected and decorated leaders agrees with me.

So, dear conservatives, get to work. Drain the swamp of the conspiracy nuts, the bold-faced liars undeterred by demonstrable facts, the overt hypocrisy and the hatred. Then offer us a calm, responsible, grownup agenda based on your values and your vision for America. We may or may not agree with your values and vision, but we'll certainly welcome you back to the American mainstream with open arms. We need you.

(Anticipating your initial response: No there is nothing that even comes close to this level of wingnuttery on the American Left.)

Written by Russell King

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coupla Things

by Rich Miles

First, when is someone going to call Mitch McConnell's bluff, and tell him that the American people DO want health care reform, and DO agree with much of what is in the existing bill? I mean, for him to say, as he has at least 5 times that I know of, that the American people don't want this bill is a completely fabricated lie, based on no known truth. As near as I can tell, the percentage of Americans who do want this legislation is somewhere around 67-70 percent. So when is someone going to call his bluff, and tell him he's fulla shit to his face? I would happily do it myself, but I don't have Secret Service clearance.

And second, when is anyone going to acknowledge that the ONLY reason, the ONLY EFFIN' REASON why America started a war in Iraq was to get George W. Bush re-elected in 2004. I mean, does it take that much brainpower to figure this out? As far as I could learn from admittedly quick research, NO U.S. president has EVER been beaten in a re-election bid in wartime. Lyndon Johnson quit, didn't stand for re-election. Richard Nixon won by an unprecedented margin. There are numerous other examples. But I think it's true that no president has ever been turned out of office in wartime, and Bush and his planners knew this. I mean, how else to explain the fact that he took the country to war despite massive public opposition to it, and massive logical opposition to it. Pundits may want to offer reason after reason why we went to war, and accuse the Bush admin of lying to us, which they did, but the real reason was to get Bush re-elected. And nothing else.

And third, when is the insanity going to stop? And I'm not talking about dieting. I'm talking about the madness in Washington. To explicate this remark would take reams and reams. But you know what I'm talking about anyway, don't you?

Just had these thoughts floating around in my head, and wanted to express them to you. And by the way, if I have misstated myself, and there WAS a president voted out in wartime, please let me know.