Illiterate Howard Jarvis

Howard Jarvis

This came in the mail today. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association is a vile organization started by a really vile and ignorant man—a man who has done more to hurt my home state than anyone other than maybe Ronald Reagan. And usually, these mailings that come every couple of weeks offend me because of their content. Here is a sample:

For the first time since the passage of Proposition 13, tax-and-spenders have a supermajority in Sacramento—all the votes they need to weaken Proposition 13 and raise property taxes on you and every homeowner!

Oh my! First note that they aren’t talking about repealing Proposition 13, because they can’t do that. They are talking about trivial changes that mean nothing. But also, if this is the first time that there is any threat to Proposition 13, then why does the HJTA send me a letter every two weeks begging for money? Even if you are a fan of Proposition 13, you must understand that the purpose of the HJTA is only to continue its own existence. Jarvis himself has been dead for over 25 years!

But the reason I’m talking about it now is that alert, “PETITION ENCLOSED Response Requested By: 48 hours!” If you can’t get your titles right, you are hopeless. “48 hours” is not an event. It is a time period. You may request a response in 48 hours, but you simply cannot request a response by 48 hours.

I know this is pedantic. But this isn’t some small church or something. The HJTA is a big organization. Its president, Jon Coupal, is paid more than a quarter million dollars per year. And not a dollar for copy editors? Of course not! And they are probably right. The people they prey upon probably don’t even notice. But they do notice killer sentences like, “Please sign that Petition right now, Mr. Francis P. Moraes, and return it with a donation of at least $20.” They don’t even need to add, “And it won’t be wasted on any writers or editors!”

Bush Self-Portrait

Bush Self-PortraitGuccifer hacked the Bush family email server and all I got was this stupid painting! Okay, not stupid. Let me backtrack, because this hasn’t exactly been well covered. Earlier this week, The Smoking Gun reported a hacker by the name of Guccifer got into six email accounts of Bush family members and friends.

The information included some things that are quite poignant. The most notable of these involved an “emergency meeting” regarding funeral plans for Bush Sr in December when the family feared he would die. The email sent to the Bush children explicitly stated to not tell their mother. I’m torn about this revelation. On the one hand, no one has a right to know such personal family details. On the other, I’ve never felt so empathetic toward the Bush family.

What caught my eye, however, were images of two Bush Jr self-portraits. Apparently, the younger Bush has taken up painting quite recently. The one that is at the start of this article is rather interesting. I’m not very inspired by the color pallet, but the composition is quite interesting. I really like the surreal use of the shaving mirror. I could really get a rant on about that: the public man who can only show his true self when he is turned away; the little boy still stuck with seeing the world from a small porthole; the disconnected public face of the man he wanted to be.

In fact, I think there is something tragic about the life of George W. Bush. Many of my liberal friends hate it when I say that he wasn’t that bad a Republican President—for the two years he was president. I still think of the first six years as the Cheney years. These were the years when Cheney let Bush “decide” between the 1-3 options Cheney liked. But in those last two years, I got the impression Bush took control—maybe just because Cheney’s work was done. But during those two years, Bush was as good a president as a Republican ever is. And I can’t help but imagine that Bush realizes that his legacy is not only not his, but that it is counter to what he ever wanted.

Many critics are taking a stab at the young Bush’s paintings. Other than Jerry Saltz, everyone tends to agree that Bush is not all that talented. I won’t go along with Saltz; his critique is typical of the masturbatory ravings of an intellectual. But I think it is wrong to be harsh with Bush. Unlike with L. Paul Bremer, Bush isn’t selling his art. We should all applaud people making art for its own sake. (But I won’t be at all surprised if Bush starts selling it. At that point, I will revisit his work!)

Reich on What Obama Should Focus on

Robert ReichDespite what it says on the right there, I don’t read Robert Reich that much. The reason is that generally I agree too much with him. We see politics very similarly. But given that he isn’t a blogger, he doesn’t have to write about things that aren’t his focus. Plus, he never writes about music, film, or literature. Nonetheless, I try to keep up on what is on his mind. And yesterday, he wrote, Tuesday’s State of the Union’s Economy.

There are lot of political issues that I care about a little. It is important that same sex couples be given the right to marry. But we have to have our priorities. And my biggest complain about the Democratic Party is that they celebrate minor policy victories while not even fighting for the really big issues. Consider the gun control debate. If things go well, we will end up with an assault weapon and high-capacity magazine ban. But this legislation will not get rid of the tens of millions of these things already around. And even if it did, the legislation really only attacks the margins of the problem. But you can depend upon Rachel Maddow and company proclaiming this as a great liberal victory. Food stamps can be taken away from kids. Adults can’t find jobs. Income inequality continues to skyrocket. But 30-round magazines can’t be bought at gun stores! It’s party time in liberal land!

Robert Reich agrees with me, although he puts it in a more staid manner:

President Obama has been focusing his (and therefore America’s) attention on immigration, guns, and the environment. All are important. But in my view none of these should be the central theme of his address Tuesday evening.

His focus should be on the joblessness, falling real wages, economic insecurity, and widening inequality that continue to dog the nation. These are the overriding concerns of most Americans. All will grow worse if the deficit hawks, austerity mavens, trickle-down charlatans, and government-haters who have commanded center stage for too long continue to get their way.

There is a more cynical take on Democratic priorities, of course. I’m not quite ready to go there, but more and more I think that when it comes to economic issues, the two parties are the same. They are both dependent on the same donor class. It is certainly the case that the main difference between the parties is in social issues. I still think there is some difference between the parties on economic issues, but it isn’t nearly as big as it ought to be.

I’m proud that now gay people can serve openly in the armed forces. But that doesn’t compensate for my fear that soon gay people will have to serve in the military, because there are no other employment options.

Solar’s a Joke (on Fox)

Shibani JoshiI don’t have much occasion to watch Fox News, and that’s probably a bad thing. Just like shingles, it is easy to forget just how bad it is if you aren’t actively suffering from it. Luckily, Media Matters suffers for us all by continuously monitoring this vile institution. Most of the articles they provide are of the “no comment” form: just a video that speaks for itself. On Thursday, Max Greenberg presented a video that could have gone without comment, Fox Cedes Solar Industry To Germany.

He focuses on the remarkable statement by Fox Business reporter Shibani Joshi that Germany has a better solar energy industry because “they’ve got a lot more sun than we do.” Then she seems to realize that a claim that outrageous mightn’t even fly with the idiots on Fox & Friends, so she adds, “In California, it’s a great solution, but here on the East Coast it’s just not going to work.” Just on its face, this makes no sense. If California (not to mention Arizona and New Mexico) is such a great place for solar, why don’t we have booming solar industries there?

But it is far worse than that. On the East Coast where “it’s just not going to work” they get about 1500 kWhr per square meter per year. In Germany, they get about two-thirds of that: 1000 kWhr per square meter per year. Here is the video:

What I found even more distressing in this clip is the claim that solar has not proven that it can take the “training wheels off.” The truth is that solar has gotten more and more cost effective over the years. In fact, according to Scientific American:

The cost of solar, in the average location in the U.S., will cross the current average retail electricity price of 12 cents per kilowatt hour in around 2020, or 9 years from now. In fact, given that retail electricity prices are currently rising by a few percent per year, prices will probably cross earlier, around 2018 for the country as a whole, and as early as 2015 for the sunniest parts of America.

In addition to this, after over 50 years of nuclear power facilities in the United States, it is far from clear that they are cost effective. And if externalities were included in the price of coal and other fossil fuels, solar would be competitive now. The conservative hatred of solar power really shows how much political ideology comes down to culture. There is no reason to dislike solar power, except that it is associated with those long hairs. And as a result, you get the Fox News treatment of the issue that has no content and a lot of ridicule, because, hey, everyone knows solar is a joke—at least everyone at Fox.

H/T: The Brad Blog