GOP 2012 Convention Supports Strip Clubs

Strip Club Sign

When Republicans hit Tampa, Florida, for their 2012 presidential convention in late August, they will drop their hard earned money on the strip clubs, spending three times more than Democrats—$150 USD vs. $50 USD, respectively—for lap dances. According to one club owner, the biggest spenders were from the Christian evangelical  groups like the Promise Keepers.

This isn’t surprising. When you’re in the business of telling people how to live, the rules applies everyone else—except you, of course. While everyone else has to live the straight and narrow Christian life, you can end a long night at the convention by blowing your money at the strip clubs and maybe bringing back a sweet young thing to your hotel room. These are small businesses and less fortunate women who need the financial support that a big convention brings to town. If there anything that Republicans support, it’s business and hypocrisy.

Remember Senator Larry Craig? The Republican from Idaho got arrested for picking up an uncover cop for gay sex in an Minneapolis airport bathroom. Now he’s claiming that he was on official Senate business in the bathroom to avoid being busted by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for using campaign funds to defend himself in court. (He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.) In particular, he was traveling from Idaho to Washington when he inadvertently foot tapped himself into a sex sting operation.

The Republican Party of California is on the verge of becoming a minor—if not, entirely third-rate—political party. The southern strategy that put Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan from California into the White House doesn’t work anymore. Being holier than thou and far-right of Barry Goldwater isn’t popular here since white folks are now the minority. The Democrats can bankrupt the state government and California can slide into the Pacific Ocean after an earthquake, but no one will remember the Republican Party.

Perhaps Professor Arnold Schwarzenegger can help the Republicans become a moderate political party—or bang the maid without having a love child.

Making Policy With Professor Schwarzenegger

California’s favorite maid-banging action hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger, turns up at a new gig to make policy at the Sol Price School of Public Policy with the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy. If you’re a University of Southern California student interested in learning “post-partisan” policy, Professor Schwarzenegger—he earned an honorary degree from USC in 2009—will pontificate on his views of body building, acting, entrepreneurialism, governing and maid-banging. And let’s not the forget the fine art of leaving a hidden F-bomb in a public policy statement.


The Las Vegas High Speed Rail Connection

Although the California high speed rail project looks like Governor Jerry Brown’s last attempt at establishing his legacy (or another boondoggle, it’s hard to tell), there’s a surprising new twist in the tracks: travel from San Francisco to Las Vegas in four hours. With a connection at Palm Springs, you can transfer to the privately-funded XpressWest high-speed rail train to speed across the desert to the City of Sin. The four-hour train trip will set you back $140 USD in today’s dollars. Or you could spend $80 USD on a ninety-minute airplane trip, if you’re not afraid of flying.

As reported in The San Jose Mercury News article:

Renamed last month from DesertXpress to XpressWest, the private venture eight years in the making is bankrolled chiefly by Vegas hotel developer Tony Marnell and supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Southern California politicians. One day, they dream of extending the line to Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver.

It’s at least a decade away for the Bay Area, however. First, California, which received $8 billion in tax funds Wednesday to begin construction on a separate, government-owned bullet train line, hopes to find the full $69 billion to send trains between San Francisco and Los Angeles by 2029. Meanwhile, the Vegas train developers must secure several billion dollars to build a rail line to connect to the state project at the desert city of Palmdale.

The California high-speed rail has the making of a very expensive boondoggle. If you look at the map, the most direct route between Los Angeles and San Francisco would be to run the tracks straight down the middle of the I-5 and make whatever connections needed to tie in the outlying communities. Unfortunately, politics came into play. The most indirect route was chosen to go east through all the towns in the Central Valley before coming back over west to connect with the San Francisco Bay Area.

Subsequently, the first section of the high-speed rail tracks will be laid in the Central Valley to connect Nowhere A to Nowhere B.

This reminds me of the compromise that Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority made for building the main light rail line. The objective was to move people from the bedroom communities in the south to the jobs in the north. Unfortunately, politics came into play. The main light rail line went through downtown San Jose, which reduced the light rail train speed from 65MPH to 35MPH and added an extra 30 to 45 minutes to the rush hour commute. A more direct route would have bypassed the downtown area and sent the line passing by the San Jose International Airport. If you’re heading to the airport, you can get off at the Metro station on North First Street and take a ten-minute shuttle bus into the airport.

The United States needs a major infrastructure project to connect far flung areas in the West, but I’m not sure if the high-speed rail as configured in California is the way to go.

WTF?! Canadians Are Richer Than Americans

U.S.A. / Canada BorderBloomberg News is reporting that Canadians are richer than Americans for the first time in recent history. The Canadian government has pursued a fiscally conservative form of socialism that cut back on social programs while resisting the world-wide trend to deregulate the financial industry. The Great Recession has been relatively mild as a stable housing market and banking system helped Canadians maintain their overall net worth as Americans watch their net worth decline lower and lower.

Policy has played a significant part as well, though. Both liberals and conservatives in the U.S. have tried to use the Canadian example to promote their arguments: The left says Canada shows the rewards of financial regulation and socialism, while the right likes to vaunt the brutal cuts made to Canadian social programs in the 1990s, which set the stage for economic recovery.

The truth is that both sides are right. Since the 1990s, Canada has pursued a hardheaded (even ruthless), fiscally conservative form of socialism. Its originator was Paul Martin, who was finance minister for most of the ’90s, and served a stint as prime minister from 2003 to 2006. Alone among finance ministers in the Group of Eight nations, he “resisted the siren call of deregulation,” in his words, and insisted that the banks tighten their loan-loss and reserve requirements. He also made a courageous decision not to allow Canadian banks to merge, even though their chief executives claimed they would never be globally competitive unless they did. The stability of Canadian banks and the concomitant stability in the housing market provide the clearest explanation for why Canadians are richer than Americans today.

Will the Democrats and Republicans stop pissing, moaning and groaning about every little petty political grievance in Washington, D.C., to do what is right for the country?

Oh, hell no. That would be… Canadian.

Strange Bedfellows In The Supreme Court Health Care Decision

US Supreme CourtSome people were surprised that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts would abandon the conservative wing to uphold the health care decision. It shouldn’t. If you ever studied supreme court history, the chief justice will almost always try to be on the “correct” side of a major court case that has significant implications for the country. Although still young for a chief justice, and this probably won’t be his last big decision, Chief Justice Roberts has an obligation to protect the Supreme Court as an institution even if the other two branches of the government choose to go to political hell.

Did Chief Justice Roberts throw a gift-wrapped bone to conservatives by declaring the individual mandate penalty to be a tax? Maybe, maybe not. With politicians being afraid of raising taxes, everyone is scrambling to figure out where they stand tax-wise to the health care decision. Interestingly, the Mitt Romney campaign is having a harder time with this issue than the Barak Obama campaign: denying that it’s a tax, acknowledging that it’s a tax, and fending off calls from Rupert Murdoch and Jack Welch to shake up campaign staff.

We live in a strange world where a moderate conservative president for the liberal party can introduce a health care proposal that embraces many ideas from the conservative party, have it enacted into law by the liberals on a party line vote, be repudiated everywhere by the conservatives as unholy, and uphold as constitutional by a conservative chief justice on the nation’s highest court. Something to think about on America’s 236th birthday.

Get Quick Cash With 299% APR RIGHT NOW!

Plain Green Loan LetterI thought getting donation requests from the Mitt Romney campaign in the mail was bad enough. A letter promising $1,000 USD made me rolled my eyes. After filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to wipe out my credit card debt last year, these types of letters and credit card offers flooded my mailbox. The credit card industry wants my business again because they know I can’t file bankruptcy for ten years. Before I fed the letter to the shredder, I glanced at the small print to see what the catch was. The typical APR was 36% or so. The 299% APR made my eyes bulged out.

Plain Green, LLC is a tribal lending entity wholly owned by the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, Montana, a sovereign nation located within the United States of America, and is operating with the Tribe’s Reservation. Maximum loan amount for initial loan is $1,000. Refer to Loan Cost & Terms for additional details. Complete disclosures of APR, fees and payment terms are provided within the Loan Agreement. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for an example loan of $1,000 is 299.17% with 24 bi-weekly payments of $124.16; pricing in effect as June 11, 2012. See for more information.

That can’t be legal, I thought. A quick internet search confirmed that high APRs are legal for short term loans, especially payday loans in some states that have no APR cap. However, since this particular offer is from Plain Green, there is concern that the online payday lenders and Indian tribes are using tribal sovereignty to evade consumer protection laws to make money off of those who can least afford it. The entire financial industry is in the business of fleecing suckers (i.e., taxpayers), its perfectly legal as the political system is bought and owned by Wall Street, and Congressional leaders often engaged in inside trading to benefit themselves.

Three months after I filed for bankruptcy I got a secured credit card, where I put up a small deposit and paid a yearly fee for a small credit line to help rebuild my credit. My reoccurring expenses are charged to this credit card that I paid off in full each month. I applied for another credit card with a much bigger credit line to purchase an Apple iPad 2 earlier this year. I should have the balance paid off by the end of summer. Ironically, these two credit cards—both have a 23% APR—are from the same companies that I previously had accounts with before I filed for bankruptcy.

If I get another donation request from the Mitt Romney campaign again, I’ll give them the address for Plain Green. Perhaps the the online payday lenders and Indian tribes will want to make a political donation, if they haven’t already.

New California Cigarette Tax Fails At The Ballot

Cigarette Tax

I voted for Proposition 29, a new $1.00 USD per pack cigarette tax, which was narrowly defeated after being too close to call for two weeks after the election. Being a non-smoker who grew up in a family of smokers in California, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain if society has fewer smokers. Not surprisingly, the tobacco industry spent $47 million USD to defeat the proposition. (That’s $11 million USD more than what Governor Jerry Brown spent on his campaign in 2010.) Don’t be surprised to see another cigarette tax on the ballot again in the near future.

The first election after I turned 18-years-old had Proposition 88, a $0.25 USD per pack cigarette tax, on the ballot in November 1988. I voted yes because I wanted my father to quit smoking. He started smoking when he was 15-years-old and smoked for the next 30 years. (He and his brothers used to drive from Idaho to buy untaxed cigarettes in Oregon and sell them out of the trunk of their car in Southern California during the 1950’s.) After Proposition 88 passed and the new cigarette tax went into effect, he couldn’t see himself paying $20+ USD per cartoon every other week. (It’s $40 to $50 USD per cartoon today.) So he quit smoking and chewed gum until he kicked the habit, living another 30 years before he died from lung cancer last month.

Perhaps it was good thing that the cigarette tax was defeated. Our enlightened leaders in the legislature borrowed money against the tobacco settlement fund to plug the holes in the state budget in 2003. Higher cigarette taxes mean lower cigarette revenues, which means that the state will have to cover the bond repayments out of the general fund. Another ticking time bomb in the state budget that will hit taxpayers sooner or later. Seems like you can’t improve public health without shooting yourself in the foot at the same time.

Mitt Romney’s Desperate Campaign Fundraiser

Mitt Romney June 2012 Contribution LetterMitt Romney and the Republican National Committee must be running out of the big donors to keep their 2012 presidential campaign running. I got three campaign solicitations in the mail last week to contribute $25 USD or more. Perhaps no one had told them that I belong to the bottom 1% crowd that can’t afford to give $25 USD or more, and a moderate conservative (i.e., Reagan Democrat) in California. If they’re hitting me up for money, they must be scraping the bottom of the contribution barrel in desperation.

Although I’m a registered Republican, I haven’t renewed my membership in the RNC since John McCain stopped being a maverick to pander to the right wing extremists in the 2008 presidential election. With Mitt Romney doubling down on the failed economic policies of the George W. Bush Administration, whom half of Republicans blame for the current state of the economy, I voted for NONE OF THE ABOVE in the primary election this month and may do so again in the general election in November.

I still want to know if Mitt Romney is a closet unicorn or not. If he can’t provide his birth certificate to prove he’s not a unicorn, another reason not to vote for him.

The California Lottery Black Scratcher Lady Luck Video Revisited

As I waited for the movie trailers and “Prometheus” to start at AMC Mercado 20 in Santa Clara this past weekend, the California Lottery black scratcher video, where Lady Luck slaps some clueless idiot to let him know that he won, came up on the big screen. I sat back to enjoy this video but it wasn’t the video I was expecting. This video had Lady Lucky blowing air on the clueless idiot.

Seriously, W-T-F?!

The original ad was too violent for the moral sensibilities of elected officials in Sacramento that the lottery commission replaced it with a different version. Never mind that the new ad was shown before the showing of an R-rated movie—SPOILER ALERT!—where Noomi Rapace gives herself a violent C-section to abort an unwanted alien fetus.