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The Velveteen Ocelot

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Hometown: Minnesota
Member since: Sun Oct 26, 2003, 11:54 PM
Number of posts: 76,393

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I think, quite a lot. Before the Airline Deregulation Act,

passed in 1978, airlines were treated pretty much like public utilities. Before that, the Civil Aeronautics Board regulated all interstate airline routes by setting fares, routes, and schedules. Airlines had their fares and routes approved by the CAB, and were able to charge enough to make a profit but prevented from overcharging - pretty much the way your electric company is regulated by your state utilities commission. If you're old enough to remember air travel before 1978, it was fairly expensive but it was also reasonably pleasant. The seats were wide enough; there was leg room; the food was decent; and passengers weren't treated like cattle.

But then some free-market enthusiasts decided it would be a good idea to get rid of the CAB and let the airlines compete among themselves, which, it was thought, would result in more airlines and lower fares. For awhile this was true. A lot of low-fare, minimum service new airlines were created, like People's Express and ValuJet (unfortunately some of these new airlines were also low-safety). Eventually and inevitably, however, the big ones started eating the little ones, and there went most of the competition the ADA was intended to create. Because of the need to keep fares low, most of the amenities were discontinued.

The basic reason the ADA was a flop is that airlines are very expensive to run and their profit margin is tiny. Their fixed operating costs - mainly fuel, equipment and maintenance - are very high (labor costs are also high, but when fuel and maintenance get too expensive and the airline isn't making money, guess who gets screwed, thanks in no small part to the Railway Labor Act, which grossly favors airline/railroad management over labor). So, now airlines are "free" to compete for passengers, but passengers have become used to low fares. In order to compete with the other airlines by keeping fares low, airlines started ordering planes with smaller seats in order to carry more passengers; they started charging more for baggage; there were no blankets, little or no food; etc. (to reduce weight). Most of the things (other than the TSA) that make air travel unpleasant these days are a result, directly or indirectly, of the ADA.

And before the ADA they didn't overbook because they didn't have to. The rationale for overbooking is that the airline's "product" is seats on the plane, and once the airplane takes off with empty seats, those "products" have become worthless. So they calculate the historical number of no-shows for any given flight, and if the expected number of people don't show up they can either re-sell those seats or accommodate standby passengers. (Note: I'm not defending this practice; I'm merely explaining it.)

So, I'd be in favor of repealing the ADA, reinstating the Civil Aeronautics Board and re-regulating airline fares and routes. I think air travel is sort of like health care: there is no "free-market" solution that actually works. It would be more expensive again but might incidentally encourage the development of better ground transportation, like high-speed rail. Not that the GOP would ever let any of this happen...
Posted by The Velveteen Ocelot | Mon Apr 10, 2017, 04:58 PM (0 replies)

I don't agree with Lawrence O'Donnell's theory

that Putin planned and arranged the whole thing. Putin would be taking an enormous risk by intentionally setting up a scenario that would operate as justification (for domestic purposes, mostly) for any kind of military action. I'm sure Putin realizes that Trump is unpredictable and acts, without thought or analysis, in a fashion he believes will offer him the most benefit. If Putin had told Assad to go ahead with the sarin attack so Trump would retaliate and thereby provide cover for his connections with Russia, Putin could not be sure what Trump would actually do, since he's completely unreliable. Military people might have talked him out of the missile strike, or maybe he could have decided to do something far more damaging than the strike that did occur. Putin couldn't count on his erratic puppet to do exactly what he wanted. Furthermore, Putin has other, more pressing interests than merely helping Trump deflect suspicion in the US. The money connections are sufficient to keep Trump obedient, and Putin has already succeeded in his efforts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of our election and generally sow chaos.

I think Trump acted exactly as he always does: he saw an opportunity to make himself look good and he took it. The fact that it was completely opposite to the position he took when Obama was president was not important to him, because facts don't matter. Consistency doesn't matter. Policies don't matter. He does what he wants to do at a particular moment because he thinks it will benefit him, period. He does not think ahead. He does not understand or appreciate complexity. This was an opportunity for a twofer: deflect from the Russia investigation (temporarily) and look strong and manly and mighty. And, of course, our stupid media ate it up.

It won't last, thought. Everybody thought Bush was the bee's knees at the beginning of Shock 'n' Awe; but that all went to hell, along with W's popularity, tout suite. I just hope smarter people will take SCROTUS' missiles away from him before we get Iraq Redux.
Posted by The Velveteen Ocelot | Sun Apr 9, 2017, 05:38 PM (0 replies)

The Russian government is basically a criminal enterprise.

It's like the Mafia, only way bigger and richer. The "oligarchs" (dictionary definition: "a person who belongs to a small group of people who govern or control a country" in Russia are extremely wealthy business people who are rich because of their connections to the government - and government officials like Putin and Medvedev are rich because of their connections with the oligarchy. It's really all part of the same system. It's safe to say that the wealthiest people in Russia did not become wealthy because of their business acumen but because they were in bed with Putin et al. For years they have been siphoning off the money generated by Russia's oil and gas production, the only significant source of wealth in Russia.

So: If you are doing business in Russia that involves any substantial financial transactions, you can be pretty damn sure that your business partners are criminals, and that by doing business with them you are becoming part of their enterprise. I'd bet kroner to kruggerands that what SCROTUS and his minions are trying so hard to cover up is not just the Russians' attempts at electronic election-rigging, but the underlying financial crimes that are likely part of the quid pro quo - or blackmail. Putin wants to help Trump win because he thinks Trump will lift the sanctions, but he has leverage as well. Far more damaging than the golden showers kompromat is what the Russians probably have on him related to to financial matters. The answer to just about any complex investigation can be found if you follow the money - this was also true of Watergate. The financial crimes are likely to be along the lines of tax evasion, money laundering and racketeering. Why doesn't SCROTUS want to disclose his tax returns? Probably as much on account of what's not in them as what is.

Tie up the relationships among Manafort, Carter Page, Flynn, etc., and now Kushner, the bankers in Cyprus, Russia and Ukraine, Ambassador Kislyak....
Posted by The Velveteen Ocelot | Tue Mar 28, 2017, 05:11 PM (7 replies)

It's that "free-market" ideology they are so fanatical about.

GOPers, especially those of the Ryan ilk, believe in the "free market" to the point of fanaticism. It's like a religion to them. They believe that every aspect of society should be subject to the "free market," and they believe this as absolutely as Christians believe in the Resurrection. The Resurrection can't be proved scientifically, but Christians believe it anyhow, as an article of faith. In fact, the fact that it can't be explained and that it happened only that one time sort of proves its miraculous nature, which in a rather circular manner supports that faith.

Likewise, Ryanites believe in the unprovable miracle of the free market. But while the Resurrection can't be proved, it hasn't ever actually been disproved either (although its extreme unlikelihood, given the basic rules of biology and physics, is certainly demonstrable). The claimed absolute perfection of free-market economics, in contrast, has been regularly disproved. Reagan's "trickle-down" economics doesn't work. We've seen proof of that over and over. For one thing, there's no such thing as a free market; the marketplace has rules that even Ryanites accept, such as the court system. Most federal litigation involves businesses vs. businesses in which a party is seeking, for example, to enforce or avoid a contract or protect intellectual property. The free market has its own acknowledged rules, so it's not really "free."

And some things can't be managed by a free market at all. No sane insurance executive would go into the business of insuring sick old people because it would be too expensive to provide coverage, and therefore nobody could afford to pay the premiums. This is precisely why we have Medicare. The alternative of just letting people go broke and/or die was, at least for some, completely unacceptable, but because this group of people is effectively uninsurable in a free insurance market, the government stepped in. The ACA was an attempt to remain within a free-ish market system (because it was politically impossible to get a far-superior single-payer system past the GOP) but still make insurance affordable for most people, using government subsidies.

There is simply no way for Ryan's free market to make affordable health insurance available to everyone who needs it. Insurance, by its very nature, is pure socialism: Everybody pays into a pool for the future possible needs of everyone, but some people will never need the benefits while others will. It is this very un-free-market nature of universal coverage that the Ryanites hate because it contradicts their deeply held religious belief in the free market that doesn't exist. The cruel results of this rigid belief as applied to health insurance is unimportant because, like so many religions, adherence to the core belief is more important than anything else.
Posted by The Velveteen Ocelot | Sun Mar 12, 2017, 12:40 PM (1 replies)


"Trump is taking all the fun out of haunting," said Nixon at the next poker game. "Do you know what he just did?"

"I'm afraid to even ask," said Harding.

"So you guys have been keeping up with all this new stuff, right? Like computers and smart phones?" Nixon said. "Amazing things. I could have managed Watergate so much better if... Anyhow, I know you've been watching television. I had television too, but not as good as this. And porn. Whenever Trump watches porn I know you guys are watching. Bet you never had porn like that in your day."

"All we ever had was naughty postcards," said Buchanan. "The world has come a long way since I became dead."

"So true," said Fillmore.

"Anyhow," Nixon continued, "there's this thing called Twitter. You've seen that? Anybody can send their own little brain farts all over the world, as if the world gave a shit. But when you're the president people pay attention. I wish I'd had Twitter. 'I am not a crook,' I'd have Tweeted. Maybe I'd have been believed if I'd said it on Twitter. People always said I looked too shifty on television."

"You did look shifty," said Pierce. "You still look shifty even though you're dead and barely visible."

"Fuck you," Nixon said, as his wraith vibrated slightly, making him look even more shifty than usual. "What I was going to say is that Trump uses this Twitter thing all the time to say stupid and crazy things that millions of people actually believe. Like I said, I wish I'd had it. So you know what he said early this morning?"

"Do tell," said Harding.

Nixon pulled an iPhone out of his pocket and poked at it. "How can you make that work? And how does a dead guy get a Twitter account?" Buchanan asked.

"I think it has to do with electromagnetism. Anyhow, here's what he said: 'I am being haunted by the ghosts of some very bad presidents. Obama's fault! SAD!'"

All the ghosts laughed uproariously. "Well, that should do it," Harding chuckled. "They'll haul him out of here in a white coat in no time."

"Afraid not," Nixon sighed. His ectoplasm faded slightly, emphasizing his five-o-clock shadow. "Millions of people believed him. Now he's calling for a Congressional investigation into Democratic-sponsored haunting."

The ghosts rolled their dead eyes. "Deal," said Fillmore.

Posted by The Velveteen Ocelot | Fri Mar 10, 2017, 03:54 PM (1 replies)

Late at night, in the bowels of the White House,

a spectral meeting is taking place. It's the weekly poker game of the ghosts of James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, Warren Harding and Richard Nixon. The Worst Presidents Ever.

"What do you think, gentlemen?" said Buchanan as he cut the cards. "Do you think this new fellow will be joining us, whenever...?"

"I figured we'd be saving a place for the younger Bush," said Nixon.

"He'll join the club eventually," said Harding. "But this new guy, Trump... Man, I've been getting grief now for almost a hundred years for my corrupt administration but we were a bunch of Boy Scouts compared to him. It'll be nice to finally move down a couple notches on the Worst Presidents list."

Nixon lit an ectoplasmic cigar. "You know, when I lived here I had a few problems. It's nice to come back and haunt the place but I hate to see it occupied by such a bunch of grifters. I never made a nickel off Watergate."

Buchanan dealt the cards. Pierce looked at his hand and shook his head. "I never had much luck with this game when I was alive, either."

"I got impeached," Johnson said. "I didn't deserve it and I was acquitted. You think they'll get Trump? He's been here only a few weeks and he's already committed more impeachable offenses than I ever even thought of. Hell, all I did was try to fire Edwin Stanton. I kind of fucked up Reconstruction, too, but..."

"You were a terrible bigot," said Nixon.

"You should talk," Johnson replied. "I heard those tapes of yours. I wish I'd had tapes in those days."

Fillmore sipped his spectral whiskey and remarked, "Harry Truman once said I was a 'weak, trivial thumb-twaddler who would do nothing to offend anyone.' I'm still not speaking to him. But at least I was never a fucking Russian spy."

Nixon said, "We were all shitty presidents. But when Trump arrives I don't think I want him in this game. He'll cheat, for one thing. And he's an asshole."

Buchanan said, "Not only that, but he'll bluster and brag. The man has no class. I don't mind if that little Bush fella joins us; he's dumb and he's probably a terrible poker player but he knows some good jokes. By the way, Dick, you were an asshole, too."

"When Bush comes maybe I'll get to win once in awhile," said Pierce.

"I'm just looking forward to the day when I'm no longer considered the worst president in American history," said Buchanan.

"I fold," said Pierce. "And I don't think you'll have to wait until Trump is dead. He's already turning out to be way worse than any of us ever were. We just sucked. He's....."

Nixon said, "That fat fucker is a disgrace even to us, the worst presidents ever. I don't want to wait until he's dead and I don't want to play poker with him when he is. Let's haunt him."

Harding replied, "Brilliant! Let's do it!" He tried to fist-bump Nixon, but as he was made of ectoplasm the gesture was ineffective.

And so the ghosts of the Worst American Presidents started appearing to Trump in various places in the White House. Pierce tried to moon him but because he was transparent the gesture was not very effective. Although they enjoyed slipping through walls and making obscene gestures, after awhile the ghosts gave up and went back to their poker game because Trump was going mad without their help.
Posted by The Velveteen Ocelot | Fri Mar 10, 2017, 12:24 PM (6 replies)

Good-looking cat. He looks pretty healthy.

I'll bet he settles down pretty fast when he figures out what a good deal he's walked into.
Posted by The Velveteen Ocelot | Sun Nov 1, 2015, 06:53 PM (0 replies)

McCain's dickishness has reached new heights.

He and his BFF Lindsay are really starting to piss me off.
Posted by The Velveteen Ocelot | Wed Nov 14, 2012, 11:27 PM (0 replies)
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