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Presidency with no Responsibility!

Mark Twain once proposed that human kings and queens should be replaced with feline monarchs. Cats are easy to worship and obey, but they don’t cause major problems like most human sovereigns.

Ironically, a couple of weeks ago, Jordan Klepper from The Daily Show went to a Donald Trump rally in Iowa. He interviewed quite a few of the attendees, and they seem to buy into a similar kind of leader. They believe that Trump is actually our president, but that he is singularly not responsible for anything bad that has happened to us. For example, the withdrawal from Afghanistan isn’t his fault, even though they believe that Trump is actually in power. Even worse, Trump was responsible for agreeing to remove all US troops from there, even though he didn’t actually do anything about it.

Who knows, maybe Trump is a cat. After all, he is orange!

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Cue the Gladiators!

This map has been making the rounds, showing the highest paid public employee in each state. And in 80% of the states, that employee, who is often pulling down multiple million dollars a year, is a football or basketball coach at a public university.

Now here’s the kicker. Just who is paying for the salaries of these coaches? If you’re reading this, it is probably you. It sure as heck isn’t the ultra-wealthy in this country.

Pro-Publica has obtained a trove of IRS data about the taxes paid by the richest people, who are able to severely reduce the taxes they pay using tax dodges that are available to virtually all of us. For example, the 25 most affluent paid an average 3.4% of their income in taxes. In many years, they paid nothing at all. How much did you pay?

Here’s a table showing the numbers for four of the most moneyed people:

Ironically, Warren Buffet’s true tax rate is only 0.1% of his income, even though he is a proponent of raising taxes on the rich. Compare that to what middle-class wage earners pay:

It’s a completely different picture for middle-class Americans, for example, wage earners in their early 40s who have amassed a typical amount of wealth for people their age. From 2014 to 2018, such households saw their net worth expand by about $65,000 after taxes on average, mostly due to the rise in value of their homes. But because the vast bulk of their earnings were salaries, their tax bills were almost as much, nearly $62,000, over that five-year period.

© Joel Pett
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This is the way the world ends…

With a bang and a whimper. I just can’t get enough of this little animation. It concisely wraps up all my fears for this country.

© KAL

Axios says about the 2024 Republican nomination:

Almost every top Republican we talk to said it would take a severe illness, death — or criminal charges sticking — to stop Trump from walking away with the race before it even begins.

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There IS Voter Fraud!

A few days after the presidential election when Joe Biden was declared the winner, the Lt. Gov. of Texas, Republican Dan Patrick, offered a bounty of up to $1 million to anyone who could supply proof of voter fraud, and a minimum of $25,000 to anyone who provided information that led to a conviction.

This offer wasn’t limited to Texas, it was for anywhere in the country. Patrick specifically called out the large (and heavily Democratic) cities of Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Atlanta. After all, if your goal is to overturn the election to install Donald Trump as the rightful president, you have to find a lot of Democratic votes to invalidate.

Well, it has been just under a year, but Patrick finally made his first payout, cutting a check for the minimum $25,000. As reported by the Dallas Morning News (paywall):

Nearly a year after offering up a hefty bounty for evidence of voter fraud in the wake of Donald Trump’s loss, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has handed out his first reward. But instead of going to an informant who smoked out fraud by Democrats, Patrick’s five-figure payout went to a progressive poll worker in Pennsylvania whose tip led to a single conviction of illegal voting by a registered Republican.

So there was voter fraud, but it was committed by a Republican who tried to cast an extra vote in his son’s name. And there is more fraud. Just in Pennsylvania alone, there are two other cases where Republicans tried to vote for their dead mothers. In Ohio, a local Republican official forged his dead father’s signature on an absentee ballot, and then voted again himself.

What is even worse, is that most of these people got what amounts to a slap on the wrist for their intentional voter fraud. The Republican in Pennsylvania who tried to vote for his son was put on probation. The Republican in Ohio was sentenced to three days in jail and a $500 fine.

Compare this to Crystal Mason, a black woman in Texas who was out on supervised release due to a federal conviction for tax fraud (for which she had already spent almost three years in jail). Mason cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election. She didn’t know she wasn’t allowed to vote, and her vote was never counted. But the mother of three was sentenced to five years in prison for illegal voting.

And as a side note, I’m wondering if Donald Trump will spend any time in jail for all of his tax fraud.

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The Profit Motive

Lobbyist Grover Norquist famously said that he wanted to “Starve the Beast” to reduce the size of government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

There’s just one problem. Not everything can be done by private enterprise. Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer in capitalism and private enterprise. But common sense makes it obvious that capitalism requires a profit, and not everything worth doing generates profit. Would you want the military to be run as a profit-making enterprise? Or streets and roads in your town? Or the local police or fire departments? Or keeping your food, water, and air safe and clean?

Climate change is exactly one of those externalities that requires government intervention.

© Ruben Bolling

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Why we have Fallen

The Atlantic has an interesting article about the fact that the US — despite being the world leader in developing and manufacturing Covid vaccines — is falling way behind in actually getting our citizens vaccinated.

The U.S. is no longer in the top five in national vaccine rates. We’re not in the top 10, or the top 20, or top 30. By one count, we’re 36th—countries as varied as Malta, Canada, Mongolia, and Ecuador have all surpassed us. If the European Union or the G7 were countries, they would be ahead of us too. With about 66 percent of Americans over 18 fully vaccinated, some might be impressed that it’s possible to get two-thirds of the country to agree on anything. But America still seems to suffer from an internationally unique reluctance.

Why did we fall behind?

The data point to three key reasons the United States is 36th and falling: It is unusually uninsured, unusually contrarian, and unusually polarized. These are three familiar—even defining—attributes of American life.

Not just attributes of American life, but now of American death.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the only way for Americans to avoid catching Covid is to move out of America? The NY Times has a tracker for which countries are the most vaccinated against Covid. The top 3 countries, all three with 84% fully vaccinated, are Portugal, U.A.E., and Malta. Coincidentally (?) all three of these have large and thriving expat populations.

© Ruben Bolling
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Herman Cain Award

A subreddit — r/HermanCainAward — chronicles people who were against vaccinations and masks, but succumbed to the coronavirus. Slate has posted an article about the subreddit, which is also a must-read.

I’ve noticed that people I talk to are becoming more and more angry over those who refuse to get vaccinated. One big fear is that by prolonging the pandemic, we are flirting with having a new variant evolve that will resist vaccination, and thus put everyone at risk, with horrific consequences.

We know how to get rid of Covid-19. We just aren’t willing to do it. What the fuck is wrong with us?

© Walt Handelsman
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The BIG Vaccine Stories

Stephen Colbert gives you the big news about Nicky Minaj’s Cousin’s Friend’s Testicles:

But wait, there’s more!

Joe Biden recently encouraged private companies, government agencies, and other organizations to implement vaccine mandates. But some of these mandates include a religious exemption. Unfortunately for nut-jobs looking for a way to escape getting vaccinated, all major religions support vaccination, so a number of fly-by-night religions have sprung up just to fleece support anti-vaxxers.

Which raises the question of just what is a religion, which brings up the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Naturally, the Church isn’t against vaccination, they are against people who don’t get vaccinated.

Many people have asked what is the Church’s stance on vaccinations and vaccination mandates.

Many have asked if we provide exemption letters.

I find it weird that religious exemptions are an accepted thing in general, seems like it would be best to leave public health policy to the most knowledgeable, not religious leadership. But if Churches must take a position on the issue …

I am happy to announce that we are offering Official letters for those Pastafarians who would like to be exempt from working in proximity to the unvaxxed.

The unvaccinated may emit harmful virus particles which are forbidden to devout Pastafarians, therefore we expect all reasonable measures to be taken to help us avoid these virus particles. Please respect our religious liberty.

Here’s the letter they will give you. You can get your own through a handy form.

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Stupid Is, as Stupid Does

The California recall election shows dramatically that you can only cry wolf so many times before people stop believing you. Trump-loving Larry Elder spent most of the election day claiming that he had discovered patterns of fraud in the vote tallies. There’s just one problem — as most of us know, vote tallies are not released until the election is over.

The final tallies won’t be in for almost a week, but it is clear that Newsom won in a landslide, with record turnout especially by democrats.

But some people believed the Republicans anyway. I wonder who that might have been. Maybe this comparison of two graphics can shed some light.

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Colbert Reports Biden

Stephen Colbert cheers on Biden’s speech, getting tough on requiring people to get vaccinated.

Electoral-Vote also has a good story about the hypocrisy of people who think the President doesn’t have the legal power to require people to get vaccinated.

© Nick Anderson
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Naked Mask Avenger!

At a school district board meeting in Texas on Monday, a father used irony and sarcasm to make the point that there are rules that we all should follow for the good of our country and our fellow citizens. He mocked the current crazy psuedo libertarian mindset against wearing masks and getting vaccinated with several examples:

On the way over here, I ran three stop signs and four red lights. I almost killed somebody out there, but by God, it’s my roads too. So I have every right to drive as fast as I want to, make the turns that I want to. I got over here to the school today and the parking lot’s full, and I decided I was going to park wherever the hell I want to. Which in this case happened to be handicapped.

While he was saying this, he stripped down to his underwear, saying he “hates clothes”. Watch the video:

He made an excellent point. Ain’t it the naked truth!

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Happy Labor Day

How ironic is it that today is the day that just under 9 million Americans lost their unemployment benefits. On “Labor Day”. These are special benefits enacted because of the Covid pandemic, going to people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

During the Great Recession, jobless benefits were extended from when the recession started in 2008-2009, all the way until 2013. The current pandemic is more severe, and isn’t even over with new variants appearing, and yet the benefits were killed in less than 2 years after the pandemic started.

Some (mostly Republican) states ended their jobless benefits even earlier, but multiple studies have shown that ending benefits had almost no effect on increasing the number of people looking for work. Some states ended benefits because of a false belief that the benefits were encouraging lazy people to not work.

Instead, with less money being spent by people who are unemployed, it is believed that ending the previous unemployment benefits will actually hurt the economy, and lead to additional job losses.

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The Pandemic is Pandemic

I’m getting convinced that unless a significant portion of the people who believe the coronavirus is a hoax suddenly wake up and decide to get vaccinated and wear a mask, the pandemic will never end, and will just be something we live with (or die with).

© Tom Tomorrow

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Tuckered Out

There have been a couple of really good opinion pieces in the Washington Post recently about Tucker Carlson and his trip to Hungary (or was it Mordor?).

For example, Michael Gerson writes under the headline of “Tucker Carlson’s Hungarian adventure gives right-wing populists a new tagline: Disdain America first“. Here’s a little taste:

Tucker Carlson and the right-wing populists’ weird fascination with Viktor Orban’s Hungary — revealed during Carlson’s recent valentine visit to the country — is slightly less weird when you consider the context.

The country such populists leave behind when flying to Budapest — in their telling — is in pretty dismal shape. The United States is a nation in which the valiantly unvaccinated are assaulted by disease-ridden border violators and subject (in Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s words) to “a biomedical security state.” It is a nation in which the most recent presidential election was stolen by a nationwide conspiracy of Republican state election officials, Black mayors and Communist Chinese hackers. It is a nation in which pedophile socialists comprise a “deep state” dedicated to the confiscation of guns and Bibles. It is a nation in which Marxist advocates of critical race theory teach children to disdain America for all the wrong reasons — things such as slavery and segregation — rather than for the right reasons, such as the removal of Confederate statues and the very existence of Drag Queen Story Hour.

What’s a right-wing populist to do? Why, trade all that they hate about America for a two-bit authoritarian regime. Especially one that is racist. And especially one in which they don’t have to live:

All but the most committed political pilgrims will eventually fly home to the United States from Hungary. And what a disappointing return that will be — to a diverse, colorful country of gloriously varied traditions. But at least MAGA World now has an easily summarized foreign policy: Disdain America first.

But wait, there’s more! And there’s satire, which always gets my attention! Alexandra Petri headlinesForget Hungary. Tucker Carlson is all about Mordor now.” (You knew I’d get back to that Mordor quip eventually!)

I certainly did enjoy my fun speaking engagements in Hungary and quality time with Viktor Orbán […] But that is all behind me now.

I am honored to announce I will be speaking next week at the Mordor Summit in Barad-dur at the invitation of Dark Lord Sauron! This is the future of conservatism, and I’m excited to throw open the Overton Window and let in the nazguls.

God, what a difference from America. Honestly, my country makes me sick, and I look forward to croaking that out next week before a rapt audience of trolls and, if I’m lucky, a balrog. A pluralistic democracy founded on free and fair elections in which what binds us is not ethnicity or the shared fear of the watchful, unblinking eye of Sauron, but an idea? Disgusting.

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Tuck Frump

According to a few sources, Donald Trump has decided to run for president again in 2024.

Is it time to start planning a move to another, more sane country?

Of course, this is probably one of Trump’s trial balloons — he sends out rumors that he is going to do something controversial, just to see how the public (especially his base) responds to it (and to feed his ego, of course). So this could just be more noise.

I pray it is.

In other Trump news, I saw someone refer to him as “Pobrecheetoh” — I love it!

© Tom Tomorrow
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