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Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 12:13 PM PST

Rick Perry is Screwing America

by baikal

 Texas Governor Rick Perry has touted the state's seemingly low tax rate and "right to work" status as top reasons why employers are bringing jobs to Texas, and he is correct. The most common forms of rebate available to relocating businesses are tax abatements. Big corporations, the theory goes, are lured here by no state tax and a negligible property tax rate (after incentives).

Here's another piece of the puzzle: Texas is one of a handful of states prohibited from using sales records to assess property tax values on either residential or commercial property. As a result, commercial real estate is most grossly undervalued on the most valuable pieces of property in the State.  For instance, it is estimated, based on actual sales records, that average downtown Austin commercial property tax assessments are between 30-35% under-appraised.  That is a huge chunk of tax for which state property tycoons like Harry Wittington are off the hook.

There's little wonder why Texas is facing the worst budget deficit in the nation. But that budget deficit, as bad as it is, doesn't get much attention in the national media because a) many other states are in similar (though less dire) situations, and b) it doesn't fit the media's narrative of Texas being Ronald Reagan's utopia realized. Praise Jebus we're not yet to the point where we've had to start selling beer on Sunday morning, or opening up a godforsaken Casino, but evidently we are to the point where we're turning existing highways into toll roads, closing schools and firing our public teachers, already amongst the worst paid in the country.

What do other conservative Governors see when they look at Rick Perry? Do they see a competing Governor using cheap tactics to bring down the collective wages, rights and quality of life of a nation? No. Do they see a leech, sucking their employers away with unfair and unsustainable gimmicks? No. Do they see a polluter, who is fast-tracking old-technology coal-plants and ignoring the very EPA regulations with which they have to comply?

No. They see a role model.  They see a four-termer who can brag about job growth. So what if 90% of the jobs are low-wage and so what if the jobs are purchased through tax abatements and Perry's "rainy-day"-financed "Enterprise Fund"? Other Governor's don't see a disenfranchised populace or a polluted atmosphere. They see results.  I guess when you're Governor, it's a "game" like everything else in today's shell economy.

Just as NAFTA and free trade with China and India have sucked wealth and jobs from the United States as a whole, Rick Perry's cheap stunts are sucking wealth and jobs from the rest of the nation.  And unlike the world economy, there is no arguing this is a zero sum game, where there are defined winners and losers.  Scott Walker and Rick Perry are determined to be "winners" in what they see as a political "game"; also known to real people as "real life".

Are you gonna let these "playas" keep playing with us?

Represent this Saturday.

Discuss

Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 11:18 AM PST

Just a Matter of Degrees

by baikal

As the past month's events have aptly demonstrated, one match, literally a single wooden matchstick, was all it took to set the politics of the entire Middle East ablaze. The governments of Bahrain, Lybia, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and perhaps even North Korea are pooping in their Dictatorial Diapers as I type.

Egypt, a mammoth country approaching 100 million citizens, was directly inspired by it's tiny neighbor Tunisia, and more specifically the citizens of Tunis, a city about the size of Austin. This Austin-sized town was moved to riot in reaction to the self-immolation of 26 year-old street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi.

Americans look on satellite television and hope all people gain self-determination, presuming that we've already gained it here. We don't even question the presence or absence of our own self-determination, it is taken for granted, and why shouldn't it be? Our police are (mostly) honest, we hold what appear to be free and fair elections. We largely abide by a plucky "work-hard-and-you'll-achieve" work and lifestyle ethic, and for our first 200 years as a country that ethic was tried and true.  It was in fact the glue of our social cohesion.

Now, with the globalization of power and money and self-determination, more 21st century Americans are waking from our rather pleasant Ronald Reagan slumber, removing (or having ripped from us,) the blinders, and stepping into the harsh and unflattering light of a new reality.

As more of us enter or are forced into this period of national self-reflection, some are starting to critically ask: Besides different cultures and dominant God mythologies, how different are we, really, than the Egyptians and the Tunisians and the Bahrainis and the Syrians and the Iranians and all the other Children of the World?

Are we different because of a more equitable economic distribution?  Nope, we're not much different in this catagory.  The top 1% percent might be represented by Koch Bros. and investment bankers here instead of 4-star generals there, but regardless of occupation, Plutocracy runs the show all around.

Are we different because of our Democracy?  Yeah, sorta.  Of course we have national elections, but we live in a "managed democracy", a political form in which government is legitimated by elections that they themselves have learned to control.  

They have controlled elections in Iran and Egypt too. Their elections are more pre-determined and managed than ours, but the differences only vary by degrees.

In Egypt, corruption and 30% unemployment compelled a young man to burn himself alive. In the United States, we have 20% real unemployment, grotesque massive government corruption, and endless attempts to de-legitimize and control our workers. The evidence is all around us from Madison Wisconsin to the Supreme Court.

So far, our Conservative Kleptocracy has produced Jared Loughner instead of Mohammed Bouazizi.

But what does the future portend?

Discuss

Somehow over the past 40 or so years, the far political right has managed to subtly weave their philosophy into the fabric of mainstream America.  If our country is indeed a “Center-Right” nation as the right professes, it’s a testament to the success of propagandists from Ronald Reagan to Jerry Falwell to Lee Atwater to Karl Rove to Sarah Palin. They’ve told a tale, and have told it well.  And we’ve wanted to believe it.

Hell, I want to believe it.

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Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:51 AM PST

How Long Will China Take Us Seriously?

by baikal

Tune in today to the 10-year Treasury Auction at 1:00 PM Eastern Time.  It doesn’t sound exciting, but it could be an important telltale for our future. It will be interesting to see what the 10 year T-Bill does on news of the new $1 Trillion dollars in new debt we’ll be issuing to fund our latest round of tax cuts. We’re blowing out $34 Billion in 10yr and 30yr treasury notes today alone.

Fingers crossed, it should go okay. Good thing China still thinks we’re “too big to fail”…for now.  

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Well, it looks like the Piggish Pugs will get their stick-it-in-the-bank tax extensions for the phattest, flyest, flossin'est, biggest ballers in our country: The top 2% percent, baby! Mo money! Congrats LeBron James and Warren Buffett.  Play on Playas!

Poll

What's the best way to spend $60 Billion a year?

7%8 votes
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| 111 votes | Vote | Results

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A scant six years after his death and the image of the Gipper grows ever burnished. In death as in life, Reagan seems inoculated from the books upon books which have catalogued and documented his pathological lies.

Some lies were large, and some were small and seemingly unimportant.  What is certain is that Reagan had no qualms about lying, even when the truth would’ve served his purpose. These books have, more or less, fallen upon deaf ears, tuned-out and out-of-synch with our national mood.  Meanwhile there is an ever louder drumbeat to canonize Reagan as our nation’s "greatest" leader.
 

Poll

what POTUS has most harmed this nation?

34%64 votes
4%8 votes
1%2 votes
49%91 votes
3%6 votes
1%3 votes
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| 184 votes | Vote | Results

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Fri Nov 26, 2010 at 08:05 AM PST

Christopher Hitchens' Selflessness

by baikal

Tonight, before a sold-out crowd in Toronto, Ontario, international best-selling author, polemicist and atheist Christopher Hitchens will debate former  British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  The topic of debate: "Be it Resolved: Religion is Force for Good in the World".  One can watch the live stream here http://www.munkdebates.com/...
for $4.99, but I think it’s free after the debate finishes.  I’m greatly looking forward to watching this.  This is Baikal’s UFC or WWF Raw, and I’m paying for the simulcast.

Just one week ago Hitchens was in a very different place:  Exurban North Texas.  Specifically, the Prestonwood Baptist Academy in Plano.  He was here to debate Intelligent Design proponent William Dempski  before a smallish audience of Evangelical 7th Graders.  

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Wed Nov 24, 2010 at 05:49 AM PST

Holiday Road

by baikal

Over the River, Up Eye-Thirty-Five

To grandmother’s house we go.  

Baikal knows the way, to carry the sleigh,

...through this goddamn, insufferable traffic...

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Tue Nov 23, 2010 at 10:31 AM PST

"Affordable Luxury"

by baikal

I’ve written previously on the "pendulum" phenomenon as it pertains to American politics: (e.g. 1992 - Clinton trounces Pubs...1994 - Pubs trounce Dems with phony "Contract with America"...2000 - W enters, vowing to restore "honor and dignity"...2006 - a thorough reFudiation of W and a corrupt Congress...2010 - 161,000 anti-Pelosi ads and a Tea Party later, the 'Pubs reclaim the House.) Each time, some wild-eyed  spin doctor from the winning party proclaims a paradigm shift; immediately convinced that Americans will now change our fickle ways, and decide to finally establish, once and for all, "a permanent majority".........Balderdash.

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Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 09:35 AM PST

People Are Cows

by baikal

Okay, a couple of things re: the TSA controversy.

#1, I feel really awful for the front-line TSA staff at the airport.  They are bearing the brunt of crappy policy.  

"Molester, pervert, disgusting, an embarrassment, creep. These are all words I have heard today at work describing me, said in my presence as I patted passengers down. These comments are painful and demoralizing, one day is bad enough, but I have to come back tomorrow, the next day and the day after that to keep hearing these comments. If something doesn’t change in the next two weeks I don’t know how much longer I can withstand this taunting. I go home and I cry. I am serving my country, I should not have to go home and cry after a day of honorably serving my country." See a ton more like this here: http://boardingarea.com/...

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Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 08:42 AM PST

Hatin' on Your Enemy: So 2001

by baikal

It’s 2010, hate on your fellow American!

In my quest to grow an audience for the blog that I am already considering abandoning, www.dadinleftfield.com, I’ve made an interesting observation: we usually reserve our nastiest, most visceral ugliness for our literal allies.  We hurt the ones we "love the most". Wanna see some ugliness?  Go check out the infighting and backbiting at stereotypically homogeneous message boards like www.newsbusters.org or www.dailykos.com.  

I wish I read Arabic. There’s got to be some highly entertaining opinions floating out there in Islamic cyberspace that we’re missing out on.  Those CIA cyber-spooks have a pretty amusing job.

It is intuitive to presume a positive relationship between shared community/geography and empathy, but that’s 20th century thinking, dude.  In the 2010’s, you won’t see more flaming zingers of ideological purity than between a Saudi Wahhabist and a Saudi corporatist; or between social progressives and social anarchists over at the www.DailyKos.com, or between the old white Evangelical Palin lovers versus the old-white Evangelical Palin haters over at www.newsbuster.org.

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Wed Nov 17, 2010 at 10:32 AM PST

Folks Implosion

by baikal

Pardon my stale, recycled pop culture references. The best ones resonate over and over, like a broken record:

"And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
You may find yourself in another part of the world
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself: well... how did I get here?"

Well, America, how did we get here?  At least figuratively, we’ve made it, baby. Free to buy that large automobile and that beautiful (plus-sized) house and that beautiful (plus-sized) wife.  And don’t forget to rock your "life is good® baseball cap, onesie or T-shirt, because, after all, we all need reminding from time to time.......right? ?......

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