Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

Who gave these people the keys to the country?

I have a good friend who advised me some time ago that if you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything. Eventually what you’re supposed to do will show itself to you. I’ve tried to follow this strategy and it’s actually worked pretty well for me.

But my life is pretty simple. And my problems are equally simple. So me doing nothing usually has little downside. It’s not like the fate of the country is in my hands.

Unfortunately, it would seem that the people that are running the country have gotten the same advice. If they don’t know what to do, they do nothing.

It’s considerably more problematic than my doing nothing.

Case in point: Any number of government shutdowns and budget battles. The government has taken doing nothing to a whole new level. Their practice of procrastination could win Olympic medals.

We jumped over the fiscal cliff and now we’re being sequestered, apparently.

I’ve only been familiar with the term “sequester” as part of court cases until just recently. It usually means to keep a jury holed up in a hotel until they reach a verdict. Maybe that’s what we should do with Congress — lock them up in a room until they come up with a solution to current budget crisis.

The current budget crisis, for those who haven’t been paying attention, is a series of wide-ranging across-the-board budget cuts designed to be unpalatable to both parties. They focus on defense spending and domestic spending.

As is usual, the GOP is fine with the domestic spending cuts but wants the military cuts restored. And the Democrats want the domestic spending restored but isn’t as concerned about the military cuts. Democrats have suggested tax increases to offset the impending cuts. Republicans say no new taxes.

All this happens Friday unless someone does something to fix it. But all signs point to Congress following my friend’s advice of just doing nothing. Which, again, is fine for me. But not so fine for those with the keys to the country.

Of course, we’re the one’s who put them there.

See, you’d think that when choosing people to represent us in Washington, we’d pick the smartest people with the best ideas. But you’d be wrong. First of all, those who vote like to go with people who think like them as opposed to people who just think. Second, those who vote are frequently outnumbered by those who didn’t know what to do so they didn’t do anything.

Long story short: Pogo was right. We are our own worst enemies.

So as Friday draws near and nothing of any consequence is done in Washington, remember that we could have elected smarter people. But we chose not to.

Maybe we should all be sequestered before the next election.

Scott Leffler frequently does nothing. It’s for the best. But when he does anything mildly important, he tweets about it @scottleffler.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hard to float without a life vest

Last month, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.75. Not to be outdone, in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama suggested increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour and then indexing it to inflation.

Both men’s plans have been met with significant opposition from the Republican Party and small businesses, who claim that either plan would lead to higher business costs and result in higher unemployment.

It’s hard to argue that higher costs would ensue. Most companies’ highest expense is labor and benefits — and an increase of nearly 25 percent in their highest cost certainly wouldn’t help them.

That said, Cuomo and Obama have both made the point — and accurately so — that you can’t live on minimum wage. Someone working one minimum wage job at 40 hours a week makes $15,080 a year. That is — believe it or not — nearly $4,000 over the federal “poverty line.” If that person is married or has a child, (s)he makes less than the poverty level.

The oft-used argument, of course, is that minimum wage isn’t meant to support a family. Minimum wage jobs are supposed to go to high school kids and whatnot. Which makes sense to me. A 16-year-old can get by making $150 a week or whatever. Their parents pay the rent and electricity and major bills anyway.

That would be all well and good if mom and/or dad had their own good-paying jobs. But there seem to be less and less good paying jobs all the time. And the less good-paying jobs there are, the more companies dial down their wages and make what used to be $12- or $9-an-hour jobs into $7.25-an-hour jobs. Now 40-somethings who used to make a good living are competing with high school kids — just hoping to put food on their tables (or on their families, to quote President George W. Bush).

To make ends meet, people take two of those minimum wage jobs. Or three. Which, of course, leaves less jobs available for others to take, resulting in higher unemployment — and underemployment.

As those $12-an-hour jobs evaporate, people at the next tier — making $15-$20 an hour — see their wages drop as well. It’s “trickled-on economics.”

Typically, I’m in favor of telling government to keep out of our lives — including our businesses. Theoretically, I’d like to say, “If people are willing to work for $5 an hour, then so be it.” The problem with that, however, is that there are times when the balance of power shifts significantly away from the people and we end up being the equivalent of indentured servants. In my opinion that’s when government needs to step in.

Yes, raising the minimum wage will lead to higher costs for businesses. But what do businesses think people are going to do with that extra $70 a week? They’re going to spend it. Every penny of it. And that’s going to put that money back into those business owners’ pockets. And hopefully that rising tide will float all boats.

Scott Leffler made minimum wage once. He was grossly overpaid. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Anyone else see this?

Is it just me or did John Boehner remind anyone else of Pennywise during the State of the Union speech?

John Boehner (left) and Pennywise. Separated at birth?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sometimes ‘humor’ just isn’t that funny

People’s senses are different — Smell, taste, vision, and touch. We all perceive things differently. I can’t stand the smell of limburger cheese, for example. But I love the taste of a “good beer.”

My sense of style is probably different than yours. I like plain colors and I’m not a fan of patterns. Definitely no flowers.

And my sense of humor is unique to say the least. But I can usually find humor where people try to project it.

Not funny, however, is a late-night “comedian” offering $5 million to charity if a public figure will prove that he’s not “spawn of his mother having sex with orangutan.” Less funny is when the public figure provides his birth certificate the following day and asks for the $5 million to be donated to a charity of his choosing — and the “comedian” says it was just a joke and the public figure should “suck it up.”

To be clear, I think Donald Trump is a buffoon. Not a baboon, mind you, but a buffoon. You could make an argument that Bill Maher dished out exactly what Trump deserved in his “Real Time” tirade since Trump made such a big deal about Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

Normally it’s conservative talk show hosts’ sense of “humor” that I don’t get. I find that the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck say crude, rude and dispicable things and then later claim them to have been “jokes” when they’re called out for being the poor examples of humanity that they are. But that phenomenon isn’t reserved for conservatives. Case in point, I really didn’t find the suggestion that Trump was the offspring of an orangutan to be all that funny. It was low brow humor at its worst — a few steps down from The Three Stooges.

But whether or not it was funny, it seemed to me to be a legitimate offer: “Show me your birth certificate and I’ll give your charity $5 million” — just like Trump had done with Obama. Maybe it was all for ratings or the sense of sensationalism. But it sounded like a legitimate offer to me.

Now that Maher welched on the “deal,” Trump has decided to sue him for breach of contract. Who’s laughing now?

Truth is, I don’t know who will win this lawsuit. And I don’t honestly care. They’re both kind of despicable people — and they deserve each other. Maybe if we’re lucky they’ll both be found in contempt or something and have some sort of gag order imposed preventing them from ever speaking publicly again.

Then I don’t have to listen to Donald Trump talk about what a “loser” Karl Rove is. Not that I’m a fan of Rove either. But he’s funnier than Trump any day.

Scott Leffler is not a comedian. But he knows funny when he hears it. Sometimes he’s even funny on Twitter @scottleffler.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Brewing 020613

Topics included no mail on Saturdays and the Boy Scouts anti-gay policy. Plus some Assemblyman called Andrew Cuomo "Hitler." And a judge in Florida overstepped his bounds. +Al Gritzmacher joined in although he didn't have a camera, so he's just a blue square.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Brewing 020513

The USPS claims immunity to state and local laws. And the feds claim they can kill Americans overseas who pose and "imminent threat."

Monday, February 04, 2013

Republican circus has big (crazy) tent

I’ve long mocked the birther movement — you know, that group of people who claim that President Barack Obama is a Muslim communist born in Kenya and then smuggled into Hawaii just days later so his parents could get a birth announcement in the local newspaper, thereby allowing that nearly 50 years later Obama could be elected the nation’s first African American president. Yeah. Those people.

The entire premise of the birther movement is based on some pretty huge leaps in faith. But it’s also based on incredibly huge doses of distrust and disbelief in anything that’s not proven to them. It’s this sort of scenario by which people ask others to prove that God doesn’t exist. And when they can’t, use that as proof of God himself.

By the birthers’ accounts, Obama is guilty (of being a foreign-born commie Muslim set out to destroy the U.S. from the inside by becoming president while personally going door-to-door confiscating firearms from law-abiding citizens) until proven innocent (of all those crazy things).

Funny thing is, once Obama released his “long-form” birth certificate, the crazies attacked it, saying it was fake and part of the liberal conspiracy to promote abortion and forced bi-racial gay weddings — or whatever. I’ve learned to tune them out. No amount of proof in the world is good enough for people who want to believe something else.

Stephen Colbert defined this phenomenon as “truthiness” — the act of believing in something based not on the facts you’re presented, but rather what your gut tells you.

Well move over, birthers, now there’s something crazier.

At the end of December, the president — in an interview with the New Republic — mentioned that he routinely shoots skeet at Camp David. This came in response to whether he’s ever fired a gun — no doubt in response to his ongoing efforts at gun control.

You wouldn’t think that a simple answer to a simple question would cause such a ruckus, but it did. Immediately, the whacko machine went into overdrive, asserting that there’s no way a commie like Obammie has ever fired a gun.

The White House did what any rational spin control group would do. They ignored the crazies — including Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn — who had challenged the president to a shooting contest.

But the din of the “skeeters” (or “skeet birthers” as Obama senior advisor David Plouffe referred to them on Twitter) continued to grow. And grow.

Finally, the White House decided that the only way to make the skeeters go away was to placate them with a photo of the president firing a gun. Which they provided on Saturday.

In typical tinfoil hat reaction, the photo was denounced as a fake, Photoshopped to make it look like the president was firing a gun when he was really … um … that part’s not clear. But obviously, they claimed, it’s fake. And if it’s real, it proves that he doesn’t know how to fire a gun. Or something.

Then they got into their spaceship with Elvis and went to planet Crazyville.

Scott Leffler an equal opportunity offender who likes hats — just not tinfoil ones. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Brewing 020413

Birthers have company in the crazy wing of the GOP. Not everyone wants women in combat. And random facts.