Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Who are the Real Jackasses?

On June 20, 2011, the entertainment world lost one of its most bizarre and beloved cultural icons when Ryan Dunn of "Jackass" fame died in a fiery car crash in Pennsylvania. The accident was apparently precipitated by high speeds after an afternoon of drinking.

Just as nobody was particularly surprised by the drug-related deaths of outlandish comedians John Belushi and Chris Farley, the circumstances surrounding Dunn's death are hardly surprising given his high-risk personality and profession. But that doesn't make his death --- and that of the companion who was with him --- any less tragic. Nor does Dunn's death give us less pause to ask a very pertinent question: Who is and who are the real jackasses in this world?

Ryan Dunn and the rest of the Jackass franchise were self-confessed jackasses. Their stunts made up a weird, often disgusting and egregiously stupid cocktail of Americana at its best worst. Viewers couldn't look away and couldn't stop laughing. While their idiotic and often downright dangerous buffoonery appalled viewers who considered themselves too well-grounded to be jackasses in this sense, there was always a secret part of them that admired the crew's guts and zest for flirting with senseless self-mutilation or even self-annihilation. Jackass certainly made better TV entertainment than insipid and demeaning "reality" shows like American Idol or The Apprentice. The Jackass crew took and dished out their lumps with great gusto and had fun in the process.

The Jackass franchise had plenty of detractors and opponents, the most formidable of which was Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Lieberman waged a campaign against the show after receiving a letter from the father of 13 year old Eric Lind who suffered severe burns after imitating one of the stunts performed on Jackass in 2001. Senator Joe Lieberman is described in some sources as a staunch opponent of media violence but these same sources also erroneously call him a Democrat. Joe Lieberman, besides not being a Democrat, is also not a Republican or an Independent. What he is, really, is a sanctimonious, backstabbing, hypocritical, self-centered, self-important, self-righteous piece of over-evolved amphibian crap masquerading as a public servant. Joe Lieberman, in short, is a real jackass. The sewage-spill of a letter he sent to MTV on behalf of poor Eric Lind's father perfectly illustrates what a hopelessly confused and disingenuous jackass Uncle Joe really is. He spins through the letter smugly assigning partial blame everywhere and nowhere for the incident, stating that while "the primary responsibility falls on parents," he opines that "ideally, I would encourage you [MTV's parent company Viacom] to either cancel this exploitive and degrading show or eliminate the stunts that could be dangerous if imitated by children," and suggests the show's time slot be pushed past nine in the evening. In other words, kill the show or turn it into a sleepy, late night version of Leave it to Beaver. Eventually, under continued pressure from this self-styled moralist and self-appointed public censor, Jackass was cancelled. We can be sure Joe Lieberman's good friend and fellow hypocrite John Hagee was thrilled.

While we mourn Dunn's passing and fondly remember his antics on Jackass, let us keep in mind who the real jackasses are in this world. Jackass Joe Lieberman is a hard act to follow but what about George W. Bush, that jackass of a forty-third president that nonchalantly committed the United States to two bloody wars in the Middle East under false pretexts, gleefully plundered the country for himself and his corporate cronies, and did his best to set planet Earth on a dangerous collision course with ecological disaster? We can't mention that jackass without mentioning former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was involved in all of the above, but definitely topped Bush and any of the stunts pulled by the Jackass crew when he blasted his pal with a shotgun during a hunting trip. By the way, both Bush and Cheney have drinking and driving records and Cheney has a drinking and blasting your pal with a shotgun past that was of course covered up. Doesn't drinking and operating vehicles or firearms qualify you as a real jackass? Some other real jackasses come to mind. How about aspiring presidential jackasses like Michelle Bachman, Donald Trump, Tim Pawlenty, or Jesse Ventura? Sarah Palin for President? Who knows? Yes, she’s also a bona fide jackass. We might as well include Jackass of the House John Boehner and all his jackass buddies who are rooting for that big overdressed, terrorist jackass in Libya, Mo'mar Qaddafi. The list can be expanded to include the CEOs of corporations that are making jackasses of us all by posting obscene profits and then refusing to invest any of this money into the American economy. We can't forget the jackass Republican party that supports these rapacious jackasses, nor the jackass rank and file Republican voters that empower them. Nor should we omit homage to all the executive jackasses at BP Deep Water Horizon that brought us massive ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year. That was a great stunt.

The late George Carlin observed that God and places like heaven and hell are fictitious, man-made inventions and that people, when they died, were most likely not doing dumb things in the afterlife like smiling down at us from heaven or interceding on our behalf of the living. On the off chance that Carlin was wrong, I like to think of Ryan Dunn in heaven now, pulling all kinds of crazy stunts that would ordinarily land him in lots of trouble but he was such a nice, likeable guy that I'm sure the Old Man or the Old Lady Upstairs won’t have the heart to kick him out. As for the other jackasses mentioned, the real jackasses, I sincerely hope the old-fashioned pitchforks and blazing fires will be awaiting them at the end of their miserable existences.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

just another brick in the wall

as pink floyd said, 'all in all, we're just another brick in the wall.'  okay, so that was a youth anthem, but i'm referring here to another argument to raise taxes on the wealthy in this  country.  the huffington post highlights a study done by the center for american progress that highlights our historically low tax burden - especially at the rich/super-rich and corporate level.  i won't go into detail, as the study speaks for itself, but i will say that it is just another strong argument on raising taxes to spur investment in infrastructure, which is failing fast, as noted by this washington post article from may 16.  and of course, this investment could spur jobs, etc., more effectively in a REAL way than giving continued and growing tax cuts to uber-wealthy bastards who will just pocket it with no way to "trickle down" to anyone but their accountant or financial advisor.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

tiny tim's economic absurdity

well, here's another interesting opinion piece from "liberal rag", the washington post.  being a minnesota native, it hurts me to know that future bastians of the idiot right are from our great state - michelle bachman and tim pawlenty.  the former is so absurd that even i don't want to waste my time with her, but the latter is much more dangerous, since he has an actual chance to be the republican nominee in 2012 - and as history has shown, the country is willing to vote in a republican no matter HOW bad he/she is for the country (see bush in 2004). 

so on to tiny tim - it's staggering what he's trying to propose here - continued aggressive tax cuts "spurring" economic growth north of 5% annually (see my piece on ronnie reagan's economic advisor shooting down that theory summarily) despite the historical and common-sensical inconsistencies.  much/most of what he proposes is either absurd or flat-out wrong.  i won't go into why (this is covered in the afore-mentioned piece), but the more interesting aspect of this is how it will shape the race.  will this, as the author of the piece speculates, really push the other candidates to ante up further on their tax-cutting rhetoric?  if so, an interesting question to pose to these idiots is - "how much taxes IS enough?"  but i'm afraid to hear the answer.  seriously.  well, timmy didn't leave our state in good shape, so obviously, he doesn't know the answer - but that's not the point in today's political climate - all you need to do is make the argument - no matter how absurd - and blame it on other factors ("over-reaching regulations", the "welfare state", etc.) when it doesn't work out. 

B&b prediction - tim pawlenty will be the vice presidential candidate for the republican ticket and will provide mit romney - at the top of the ticket - the  political cover on fiscal policies.  and both will be beaten summarily by obama/biden.  god, i sure hope we're right on that.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

reagan spinning in his grave and palin's growing nose

lots o' news since the last posting - the yemen situation is looking scary, libyan officials keep on defecting but still moamar hangs on, the economy is shakey, republicans are still playing 'chicken' on the debt ceiling, a mormon entered the republican presidential field, and the list could go on.  but in my mind, the biggest "news" is an article by bruce bartlett, a former economic advisor for the reagan administration, which focused on the tax rate being too LOW.  yes, folks, that's too LOW - and from a reagan official - that's pretty telling, in and of itself.  here's an excerpt:

The postwar annual average is about 18.5 percent of G.D.P. Revenues averaged 18.2 percent of G.D.P. during Ronald Reagan’s administration; the lowest percentage during that administration was 17.3 percent of G.D.P. in 1984.

In short, by the broadest measure of the tax rate, the current level is unusually low and has been for some time. Revenues were 14.9 percent of G.D.P. in both 2009 and 2010.

he goes on to explain that the case made by "disingenuous" arguments from the right focus on the "statutory tax rate", which he notes is a not a fair or relevant metric to use compared to the rates expressed as percentage of GDP, as listed above. 

but wait, the fun doesn't stop there - the republicans insist on reducing corporate taxes further, even though the U.S. has the LOWEST CORPORATE TAX RATE IN THE OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) - which is to say, the lowest of modern western democracies with a basically free market/capitalist economic system (i.e., everyone).  again, the corporate statutory tax rate is cited by reps, which inflates the rate to an absurdly high rate compared to reality, to make their arguments. 

the question is, are the reps just evil or stupid?  well, that's a long and complicated argument we've had for years and will continue to have for years, but i think it's a little of both (see w. bush (stupid) vs. cheney (evil)) with a bit of lazy thinking and convenience in rhetorical argument on their part.  if they're evil, they knowingly are distorting the facts.  if they're stupid, they just don't know (or don't care to look?).  either way, you have to ask yourself - why?  well, my answer is that it feeds into their world view - the a priori argument that lower taxes ALWAYS leads to economic growth (and therefore increased tax receipts).  as a former and recovering conservative who wasted too many hours being brainwashed by rush limog, i can tell you that reps often harken back to jack kennedy's action to cut tax rates in the early 60's that led to strong economic growth as an argument (wow, a democrat cutting taxes?  really?).  this, of course, is an argument that is simplified and presented without any/much context by a self-proclaimed "entertainer" who knows as much about economic theory as i do about the history of the russian ballet (not much).  the early 60's were a post-war time - and of course, during WWII the tax rates were extremely high to pay for the war - unlike today - so the rates had nowhere to go but down anyway.  and there are other factors to account for - increased productivity, the baby boom generation getting kick started, the birth of aggressive american consumerism, etc.  but let's forget ALL of those factors and just focus in one aspect - taxes.  just goes to show, the more you water down an argument, the more dangerous you become.

so today, the reps continue to claim that increased tax cuts will lead to more jobs, etc.  but even THEY have to understand that there is a concept known as "diminishing return", right?  are all tax cuts at all times and rates the same?  of course not - and not that our tax burden is the LOWEST IN 60 YEARS - the argument that further cuts (either person or corporate) will lead to economic growth is just wrong.  period.  or as bruce bartlett states, "The truth of the matter is that federal taxes in the United States are very low. There is no reason to believe that reducing them further will do anything to raise growth or reduce unemployment."  some would say that ronnie reagan would be spinning in his grave, but not if he knew that his own people are making these statements.  hopefully, there will be some truth and sanity brought to this argument before the continiuing chasm between rich and poor grows and the middle class is increasingly marginalized economically by the machinations of the elite super-rich.  and this bring us to the next article...

this is more of a fun piece about palin's recent bus tour, where she makes a host of false and incorrect statements, in a seemingly fast-paced and efficient fashion.  what's interesting about her is that she really does seem to represent the redneck middle/lower-middle class voters who continue to vote against their own best interest by supporting rich a-holes who espouse "freedom" as being "lower taxes on the rich".  i mean, her arguments are very simplified and completely without nuance - which reflects the arguments made by the group she represents.  i think THIS is her genius, personally.  she literally channels the views of "folks" in this group, hence she is "folksy" to them, i guess.  but it's dangerous to have someone like this making policy (or wanting to make policy).  very dangerous.  the "founding fathers" didn't envision "professional politicians", perhaps, but the certaintly didn't want to opt for idiots running the place, i'm sure.  she seems to fit the bill perfectly for this good-looking, down-home, in-your-face, watered-down, black-and-white, redneck candidate that gets the powerless right wingers fired up and, well, empowered.  and don't get me started about michelle bachman.  that's just a race to the bottom.