Kansas snapping out of it?

Republicans don’t like taxes. Or government. But they could tolerate government if it had no money to do anything, i..e. if taxes were cut.

Every Republican running at the state or national level in recent memory has repeated basically the same idea: if you cut taxes and reduce regulations, you will unlock the creativity and potential of America’s entrepreneurs and thus unleash the greatest job-creation engine the world has ever known.

And, yes, a few hard-working and visionary people will become incredibly rich, fulfilling the “American dream”, but the rising tide will lift all boats and the benefits of this unrestricted free-enterprise will be better living for all our citizens as the newly-created wealth “trickles down”.

This has been repeated so often that it has become accepted as actually true, at least to the people repeating it.  To them, the tax-and-spend Democrats are crippling the economy, killing jobs, and ruining America. Cut taxes on the rich and all will be well.

The problem is that there is absolutely no evidence that it works that way and plenty of evidence that it doesn’t. The only part that ever actually works as expected is that a few people become incredibly rich. The trickling down part has never happened, but that doesn’t seem to impact the message or the messengers.

Kansas elected Sam Brownback as governor in 2010, and he took office in 2011. He had represented Kansas’ second congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1994 to 1996, part of Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution, and then was elected to fill the Senate seat vacated by Bob Dole.

Brownback pursued deep reductions in tax rates early in his administration, calling them a “real live experiment” in conservative governance.

His Wikipedia entry sums him up this way:

He opposes same-sex marriage and describes himself as pro-life. As Governor, Brownback signed into law the largest income tax cut in Kansas’ history, eliminating state income taxes for business profits realized as non-wage income, affecting mainly IRS “S filers.” Brownback turned down a $31.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to set up an insurance exchange as part of the federal health care reform law, signed a bill that blocked tax breaks for abortion providers, banned sex-selection abortions, and declared that life begins at fertilization.

The income tax cut generated a substantial budget deficit, affecting core government service, particularly in education, and led many former and current Republican officials to criticize his leadership in the run-up to the 2014 gubernatorial election and endorse his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis. Polls taken in September 2016 gave Brownback an approval rating of 23%, the lowest rating of all 50 governors in the United States. Brownback was reelected in a close race with a plurality, a margin of 3.7%.

But life got better, right? Tons of new jobs were created by that entrepreneurial job-creation engine, right? The benefits trickled down as promised, didn’t they? The “real live experiment” showed that Republicans have been right all along, right?

No. Of course not.

From this WaPo article:

kansas economyThe legislature began this year’s session with the government in a deficit of $350 million, leaving lawmakers mulling more budget cuts. They have drained the state’s reserves of cash, diverting money meant for roads, delaying payments to pension funds and, in essence, forcing local agencies to make loans to the state government.

Last year, the governor pushed back the schedule for 25 construction projects planned around the state, the climax of delays intended to keep more cash on hand. In March, Kansas’s Supreme Court ruled that the lack of funding for public schools violated the state’s constitution, forcing lawmakers to act.

But Republican legislators in Kansas seem to be waking up a little bit.

In a decisive repudiation of conservative tax-cutting philosophy, Kansas Republicans voted this week to reverse deep tax cuts enacted by Gov. Sam Brownback (R), a move that lays bare the challenges of one-party control and the risks for Republicans in Washington pursuing a similar policy at the national level.

Kansas’s legislature is overwhelmingly Republican, but moderate GOP lawmakers joined with Democrats after it became clear that support for Brownback’s policies had become a major political liability. In last year’s election, a number of Brownback’s allies lost key races to Democrats or moderate Republicans opposed to the tax cuts. On Tuesday, 18 of the state’s 31 GOP senators and 49 of the 85 Republican members of the House voted against the governor.

If Republicans in Kansas are finally snapping out of this destructive trance, maybe there’s some hope for the rest of the country as well. Fingers crossed.

Trump women honor the fallen

The Trump women set an appropriately respectful tone over the Memorial Day weekend, honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. Each woman rose to the occasion in her own unique way.

Melania chose to set a somber example by donning a $51,000 jacket by Dolce & Gabbana in Sicily, where the average annual income is $23,400.

meljacket

I’m certain she was thinking of the Allied Invasion of Sicily the whole time, in which 2811 American soldiers lost their lives and 6471 were wounded. The loss of American life there exceeded the losses on D-Day, when the allies landed in Normandy. About 5000 Canadian and British troops were also killed in Sicily, or missing in action, and 6500 wounded.

I didn’t read anything about a visit to the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery where 7861 of our dead are buried, but she must have gone there, right?

sicily

To add a bit more perspective to Melania’s wardrobe choices, consider that the CBO scoring of the revised Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act mentions some interesting figures:

Older Americans who make little money and buy individual insurance would see their premiums climb far beyond what they would be under Obamacare. A 64-year-old making $26,500 would pay $1,700 in premiums annually under Obamacare. In a state making those “moderate” changes to its market, that 64-year-old would pay $13,600, and in a state with no waivers, the cost would be $16,100. That’s more than nine times that person’s premium under the Affordable Care Act.

Ivanka, too, got into the right spirit over the weekend. Her blog suggested these activities as a way to honor the fallen:

Pack your basket with summer noodles and watermelon coolers

Heed Jamie Oliver’s ten tips for grilling the perfect feast

Wear all white. If we’re following the rules, it’s the first day we can wear it

Blast some tunes with this road-trip playlist

Cap the night off with a champagne popsicle.

popsicle

The champagne popsicle is a Memorial Day tradition here at GOML, the perfect way to respect and remember.

Meanwhile, the ever-sincere and never-exploitive Kellyanne Conway just about broke the internet with this tweet:

tweet1

Lots of appropriate responses to this in the above link, including,

“Our brave @POTUS got 5 draft deferments, attacked a gold star family, took a vet’s Purple Heart, and sent men to die in Yemen over dinner.”

“Grossly grossly embarrassing and disrespectful hearing this from conway Disgusting.”

“No it isn’t, if that were true you and @Potus would feel some sense of shame when denigrating one of their ranks.”

“Gold Star families are very special & I will never forget how rude and disgusting @realDonaldTrump @POTUS was to Khizr Khan and wife.”

 

 

 

Bird in a gilded cage

I generally have no sympathy for Melania Trump. Like the other Trump wives, she’s made her choices and can now live with them. She actually seems to have things pretty much her way, though, so no tears for her in any case. Doesn’t have to go to that backwater, D.C., doesn’t have to live with the man-baby, shops and gets her hair done at will.

I’m not aware if she has any “interests” beyond that, but that’s probably because I pay as much attention to Melania as I do Pippa Middleton, whoever that is.  All I know about Pippa is that he or she is in today’s Google news feed, and has something to do with being “royal” or whatever. It’s therefore probably not fair for me to have too many opinions about either of them – though being on everyone’s radar does seem like part of their shtick.

I do think it’s strange that on the one or two occasions that Trump has returned to New York since inauguration, he has actually stayed at his golf club in New Jersey, rather than Trump Tower with his lovely wife. Saving the taxpayers money, he explains. By creating yet another security nightmare at yet another location. Well, I guess he knows what he’s doing.

This picture is a bit sad, though. Even I have to admit that.

bird in a gilded cage

We’re used to seeing The First Lady walking dutifully behind The First Man-Baby, but Jesus Christ! Can’t these effing Saudis find one person who will talk to her? Or walk next to her? Or look at her? Isn’t there some American diplomat somewhere that could make this a little easier on her? How about a little dab of multiculturalism for the visiting dignitaries?

No. The women must remain as invisible as possible in the Kingdom. This is achieved in part by refusing to look at them when the infidels bring them along.

For the evening’s entertainment, the man-baby took part in a male-only traditional sword dance. So much fun.

sword

I’m not clear on where Melania spent the evening. Comparing nail polish with some of the wives somewhere out of sight? Couldn’t say.

Melania seems to me to be a bird in a gilded cage. I don’t know why anyone would aspire to this life or envy anyone in her position. Unlike the Saudi wives, however, it’s a role she chose for herself.

Mazel tov, fegelah.

Why no one is reading this

Spoiler Alert: it’s not because the content is less than brilliant 😉

Yesterday, I had an errand to do which required me to take a short subway ride on the Red Line during the morning rush. I went from Harvard to Charles/M.G.H. – in other words from one of the world’s most elite institutions to another, stopping at a third (M.I.T.) on the way.

I started thinking that more than a few people in the car were certainly involved in solving the problems of the present, and also predicting and solving the problems of the future. And then I thought about what a lousy job of predicting things the “futurists” have done in the past.

The futurists of the 1950’s completely whiffed on so many of the things they figured we’d have by now: flying cars made out of Saran-Wrap, elegant dinners consisting of a steak pill and a potato pill and a vintage wine pill, jet-packs we’d strap on for a short trip, a geodesic dome over the city ensuring clean air and perfect climate for all, and a million other things. But, OK, it was the 1950’s – of course they were wrong. Everyone then thought DDT, radium-dial watches, and a carton of Lucky Strikes would make life better for everyone, so you couldn’t really expect much accuracy from their predictions.

But the people who were predicting how the future would be just ten years ago completely missed the most important, pervasive, and life changing development of all: the “smart phone”.  On my brief subway ride, there were, I don’t know, maybe 150-200 people in the car I rode in, give or take.  Not one was reading a book or (gasp!) a newspaper, and not one was just looking blankly at nothing or taking a nap. Every one of them was absorbed in viewing a 5″ screen one foot from  their face.  Every. Single. Person.

phones

Get Off My Lawn is not very phone-friendly. Yes, you can read it on your phone and I know some of you do – but the format is different from what you’d see on a laptop or desktop. You may not see the “categories” links and you may not see the list of day-by day entries. There’s not much opportunity to select another article if you want to keep reading.

It’s rare for anyone to follow any of the links included in many GOML pieces. Clicking on links while using a phone is more cumbersome, and would take you to a different site from which it might not be that easy to return, rather just opening another tab or window as would happen on a desktop screen. And if you like what you’re reading, you are much less likely to email someone a link or forward it using the phone – cutting and pasting is out of the question, and even the usual “share” options are too much trouble. The “comments” that the regulars leave may not be seen on a phone without some determined effort, and you might not even think of leaving your own comment when using the phone.

But the real problem is the “long-form” nature of GOML. The reason people prefer Twitter to anything longer is partly that their attention span has been eroded by all the stimuli of our connected world, and partly because they’re busy and only read stuff on their phone while on the go. Long form + smart phone = meh.

Hell, I get bored just writing this stuff half the time – I totally understand why someone wouldn’t take the time to read it on a larger screen, much less a hand-held.

I had lunch the other day with an old friend from school days who said he’d been reading the blog and enjoyed it (Hey, Mouse, that’s you!).  I asked him if he shared any of it with his wife and he said she was so busy that she hardly had time even to talk to him, and that something like GOML just wouldn’t fit in. It’s too much of a commitment for most people.

I’ve had people tell me “I don’t read much any more” when I’ve tried to interest them in GOML. I suppose that could just be a polite way of saying they don’t really care about my particular take on things, but I’d rather blame smartphones.

Anyway, I’m sick of writing this now – I think I’ll go flip through Twitter for five minutes.

 

Immortal art and confirmed bachelors

It would be nice to live in a world where someone’s gender or sexual orientation was unremarkable and didn’t come up in workplace matters or in courtrooms – where it would actually be odd to refer to it.

But that’s not the world we live in now. Homosexuality, for example, is regarded very differently depending on where in the world you find yourself. In Iran, there is none, if you believe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Or in Chechnya, either.

The map below comes from this site, where you can find a breakdown of how gay people stand. There are ten countries were homosexuality now is punishable by death.

rightsmap

In general, North America and Western Europe are on the right side of history here and seem to be illuminating the path forward. But it’s a daily struggle.

Yesterday, Trump signed his  “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” order, saying, “For too long the federal government has used the state as a weapon against people of faith.” The long national nightmare of persecution of Christians may be coming to an end. But many Evangelicals are not happy about it. They’re pretty miffed, in fact.

See, they were expecting Trump to include language that he had promised, and that had appeared in earlier drafts of the order, which would allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT employees based on faith beliefs. Slate commented on the original language:

“a homophobic government employee could refuse to process a same-sex couple’s tax returns or Social Security benefits; federally funded religious charities could refuse to serve transgender people or women who’ve had abortions; and government contractors could fire all LGBTQ employees, as well as any workers who’ve had sex outside of marriage. Meanwhile, a homeless shelter or drug treatment program that receives federal funding could reject LGBTQ people at the door, citing religious beliefs.”

Apparently, Trump was somehow made to understand that in pleasing the evangelicals on this point, he would be displeasing a larger segment of voters, so his “core principles” kicked in, and he decided in favor of getting more “likes” and “re-tweets” with the new version, leaving the LGBT community alone, at least for now.

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about the Italian Renaissance (bet you didn’t see that coming!), because it’s pretty clear that it produced some of the most beautiful and enduring works of art mankind has ever seen, and many if not most of these works were produced by homosexuals. Moreover, the principal patrons and beneficiaries of this torrent of creativity were churches and other religious institutions, including and especially the very center of Christendom itself, the Vatican.

In Florence, where Lorenzo the Magnificent was amping up the patronage and philanthropy exemplified by his grandfather Cosimo de Medici, you had a raft of “confirmed bachelors”, working more-or-less contemporaneously, producing art that can only be called immortal.

Lorenzo death mask

Death Mask of Lorenzo de Medici, 1492 

Here’s an interesting read that explains the official attitude towards homosexuality at the time,

During the Renaissance, Florence developed a reputation for being pervaded with homosexuality – “sodomy” in the language of the time. Smarting from this reputation, reeling from population loss suffered during the Black Death, and pressured by homophobic clerics, in 1432 the city government set up a judicial panel called “The Office of the Night” exclusively to solicit and investigate charges of sodomy.

It goes on to say that although the population of Florence at the time was about 40,000, there were 17,000 arrests for sodomy during the 70-year tenure of the Office of the Night. That’s a lot – nearly half the male population for two generations.

But in the meantime, in the studios and palaces of the wealthy, the guys were hard at work.

The model for Verrocchio’s “David” is thought to be the fourteen-year-old Leonardo da Vinci:

david-verocchio

Donatello’s “David” really speaks for itself, n’est-ce pas?

david-donatello

Michelangelo’s “David” is the most famous and perhaps most beautiful:

Michelangelo-David

All these bachelors worked for the Medicis, as did lots of others, including Sandro Botticelli:

sandro-botticelli

Birth of Venus

When it was time to decorate St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Lorenzo lent out a few of his guys to the popes. Michelangelo and Botticelli painted the Sistine Chapel.

Botticelli’s frescoes:

botticelli frescoes

Michelangelo’s ceiling:

ceiling

Out in the main part of the Basilica you can find Michelangelo’s Pieta, perhaps the most beautiful single object ever created by human hands, done at age 24.

michelangelo_pieta_grt

Anyway, this is not the place to summarize the brilliant body of contributions made by “confirmed bachelors” to the world in general, and to the church in particular.

Today’s point is that it would be nice not to have to reference anything about the personal lives of these geniuses and to let their art stand on its own. Maybe we’ll all get to that point some day. But today I think it’s useful to point out to the National Association of Evangelicals that employing gay people is not something they need to promote laws against.

The GOML Bicentennial is here!

Yup, this is the 200th blog, post, column, article, bloviation, rant, or whatever that I’ve “published” here since “Get Off My Lawn” began in October.

Stewie’s been going at full speed without a break.

Kurt's dog

To the few of you that have been with us from the beginning and have read every word: thanks, and you may take the rest of the day off!

For those who have joined us more recently and may have missed some of the early ruminations, here are a few pieces selected randomly from the archives for you to sample. Some are from the days before GOML was open to comments, so it would be cool if anyone was moved to say something about any of them now.

Stewie votes in the Massachusetts Primary

Baseball and War: Parallel worlds in 1941

Revisit Stewie’s crystal ball from Inauguration Day

Privatizing public spaces in Boston

On the death of Castro

On the Trump campaign taking responsibility for incitement

On the anniversary of Pearl Harbor

Bernie voters have some responsibility

Climate change and Team Trump

 

Manspreading for Trump

There was a piece on the CBS Evening News last night that had some some college kids explaining why they like Trump. I wasn’t listening to them, so I have no idea what their reasons were, but I’m sure they were just brilliant.

Anyway, glancing at the screen, I was struck by how the younger generation, at least those who like Trump, appeared to be oblivious to the concept of “Manspreading”.

I snapped this pic of the TV:

manspreading

According to the internet (is there any other source of information now?), Trump is a well-known manspreader and takes great pride in his manspreading skills.  He’s the best and provides a great role model for his young supporters.

Trump

Historical note:

elvis