Sunday, January 27, 2008

Choosing Our President? Part I

As a group, I'm afraid that we the electorate are every bit as insufferable as our leaders. One suspects it is why we have the leaders we do. To wit: we voters avail ourselves of every opportunity to assert how desperately we want candidates who will tell it like it is, but when one actually emerges who offers even a smidgen of truth, we tend to shun him or her in favor of numberless gloss merchants who offer nothing but vacuity instead. I am sympathetic to an aversion to seeing things as they are; the unvarnished truth is rarely either flattering or comforting. But even so it is just a tad tragic to witness a country that fomented a revolution that shook the world a mere two hundred and thirty two years ago so hidebound in its functioning, and status quo in its outlook.

Each election cycle masses of voters listen with rapt attention to candidates who, while occasionally admitting that affairs have gone rather badly off track, are incapable or unwilling to honestly and intelligently analyze how and why, and instead bluster on instead about our nation's indomitability and its present and future greatness. To that end we are treated to a litany of inane slogans from both parties such as "Together we can", "Our best days lie ahead." or "Campaign of hope." Rather than being summarily dismissed from the stage, the purveyors of sub-Disneyland nonsense instead receive respectful attention from our media, and not infrequently, enthusiastic applause from the electorate.

Is it possible that a majority of voters subscribe to such swill? Given the sheer tonnage of ignorance and general idiocy about the land, I have to conclude that yes, more voters than not do find value in much of the absolute pap and puffery to which they are served. I must admit, that I too am occasionally captivated by the exhortations of dynamic word merchants such as Barrack Obama. However, when I step back for a second from the palpable earnestness he projects, when I, for one moment, stop bending my ear to Obama's mellifluously delivered oratory, I notice a distinct lack of substance. I do not mean to pick on Mr. Obama as such, as his colleagues are equally ripe for criticism. I bring him and his candidacy up as an excellent example of...of what?

A false investment. Perhaps the substance that does not seem in evidence will emerge, but why should I trust that such will be the case? Obama, who styles himself as an "agent of (as yet unspecified) change", has a track record that argues against such self description. He is not alone in this regard, but to repeat, as his star appears to be shining more brightly than most of his competitors, and by virtue of the fact that he so resolutely gives voice to what seems to me to be a rather grand, yet hoary abstraction, namely, change, I choose him as a sort of launching pad for my own somewhat grand thesis which I will explore in my next blog entry later this week.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Cavalry Showed Up...

all bedraggled six of them. Unfortunately, their adversaries, a very hostile and well armed group of native warrriors, numbered in the hundreds. After careful consideration and a bit of research, it's probably about the best that Congress can do to hand back a measly eight hundred dollars to each taxpayer. After all, if the government were to do something as dumb as to try and bail out a few of the nation's more desperately sick financial institutions by making their private liabilities public, the bond market would spike so high that we would be right at Dante's Eighth Circle of Hell (the one reserved for fraudsters) in a New York minute.

So Congress and The Executive will instead apply a superficial tonic to a profound ailment which is what they generally do. It's sad and scary to contemplate how bad things are likely to get from this moment forward, but something like Hurricane Katrina on a national scale comes to mind.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Politics '08: Who Are The Real Agents of Change?

First of all, let's define what is meant by change when that freighted term is uttered, as it is ad nauseum, by political candidates of all persuasions. In the present political climate, change is always, and without exception, meant to imply the freshest of starts, a decided, even bold move away from a dreadful status quo that is assumed to already be firmly, if not hopelessly, entrenched. In my survey of candidates on both sides of the aisle, it is axiomatic that the more a candidate employs the word change, the more they tout themselves as, in so many words, "an agent of change", the odds strongly favor that they are anything but. To know this is not simply a matter of possessing good, old fashioned, horse sense, or donning a mentality of deep cynicism, or even realizing that the excessive expression of a particular sentiment is evidence that one is protesting too much. No, no such modes of insight, if that is indeed what they are, are required.

The most important thing one needs to know, perhaps the only thing, is that when a genuine agent of change is in one's midst, one can tell because such a person has a record to back it up. It's that simple. What is also worthwhile to recognize is that an authentic agent of change doesn't use the word change, except sparingly, because the very essence of their campaign from soup to nuts, represents a challenge to orthodoxy and the status quo. Words tend to be employed when deeds are not sufficiently abundant to make the point. Last, and by no means least, a sure sign that one is in the presence of someone who genuinely wants to shake things up, is that such candidates, without fail, receive unfair and/or insufficient coverage even when they have proven themselves worthy of respect and attention.

This is why Clinton, Obama, Romney, McCain, Giuliani, and to a lesser extent, Huckabee, all fail the test of authenticity as agents of change. In the case of Hillary Clinton, who seems to use the term change more frequently than any other candidate, she has voted to support such modern day abominations as The War in Iraq and Homeland Security to a degree that one can only understand her as an agent of change in the direction of, among other deeply unsavory trends, shredding The Constitution. Next to someone like Ron Paul, Clinton and the rest of the aforementioned candidates appear like nothing but a cadre of presidential wannabees whose slogans should read," Meet the new boss, same as the old boss"

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hybrid Nonsense!

AFS Trinity, remember that name if you want to buy a plug in Hybrid that will cost you only about eight or nine thousand more than what is presently available. Purported to get extraordinary mileage, notice I didn't say fuel mileage, it is, by my lights, no solution to our transportation/energy challenges since a large part of the "extraordinary mileage" comes as the result of plugging in. Why is that a problem you may well ask? Well, where does electricity come from, class? Please don't say hydro-electric. That's right, fossil fuels. Do you see the problem? Just because I, a virtuous driver of a new super hybrid am not visiting the pump as often as I once did, does not mean the pump, as it were, isn't being visited. What's more, the electricity that I'm tapping into from the grid doesn't come to me free, let alone cheap. As I don't wish to be a total wet blanket, (really I don't) I'll allow that while the AFS Trinity represents something of an improvement, a far better innovation would be a car that could recharge from a source that is truly inexhaustible, like the sun.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bank of America Weds Countrywide!

The fun in the financial sector and general economy took the proverbial quantum leap today with Bank of America's arranged marriage to Countrywide Mortgage. I say arranged because you can bet your bottom dollar that The Fed and/or The Treasury were pushing hard for this one since the CEO of BAC had long since been on record as saying that in order to make a deal in the mortgage industry he would have "to eat about seven years of my words." Let the eating begin. To paraphrase one financial analyst, the deal might not work out immediately, but could long term. And while the analyst didn't define long term, recall Keynes observation that in the long run we're all dead.

These sorts of deals are meant to inspire confidence-speaking of which, consumer confidence has, surprise, surprise, plummeted once again to new lows- but how much confidence can one feel when a virus spreads. That is essentially what happens when an outfit like Countrywide is taken on by a major bank, though the powers that be would like you to feel that this move represents a containment, or a save. But that remains to be seen. We are, after all, in the midst of the greatest housing bust since The Great Depression, and while there is always a bottom in crashes, there is no guarantee that there will be a rise of any consequence off the bottom (likely a number of years away) when it is reached. Thanks goodness the deal for Countrywide only cost Bank of America four billion dollars. Whew!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bermuda attacks U.S.

That's about how much sense claims of U.S. naval vessels being attacked by Iran makes. Of course it could be true, but remember that in the size department the U.S. is GOLIATH, and the Iranians are itty bitty David. Oh yes, I know, we here in the U.S. are for apple pie, motherhood, and general goodness, and the Iranians are just a bunch of jihadist monsters, but think for a nanosecond about what the Iranians risk by provoking an attack against themselves versus what the U.S. might gain by launching an attack? The U.S. could come away with control of Iran's southern oil fields, while the Iranians get what, smoking ruins? Even a knee jerk jingo who has swallowed every bit of toxic Kool-Aid about the WOT and the war in Iraq ought to see that there is something wrong with the story as it is presently being told.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Hampshire Feels Hillary's Pain...and Rewards Her.

Tomorrow, the world, well our corner of it, will be all abuzz at Hillary Clinton's victory in New Hampshire. On the ropes after the Iowa Caucuses, where Senator Clinton lost handily to Barack Obama, she has restored herself to front runner status, if only just, by defeating Senator Obama in The Granite State. Hillary's tears may have saved her, for now, allowing her to capture that crucial sucker vote that the pollsters never seem to take. And whether Clinton's tears were real or fake seems to be the question du jour, but what ought to be investigated instead is what kind of a person allows their tear ducts to fill in full view of the voters. Crying didn't work for Ed Muskie back in the seventies, but then he actually wept, whereas Hillary just welled up. Shrewd, eh. We'll probably never know if HRC's piquant display of vulnerability was real or faked, (recall the old adage which applies equally well to both acting and politics, "if you can fake sincerity, you've got it made.") but let's face it, after Tuesday night's-what would one call it- I know, "non debate speakathon", where it was revealed to Hillary by the event's moderator that voters found Senator Clinton less likeable than either John Edwards or Obama, the temporal correlation between that moment and Clinton's public emotional display is, well, of interest.

In the meantime, the U.S. economy continues to fall apart as reflected in the orderly but savage decline in share prices. Gold is another canary in the coal mine as it slices towards $900 dollars an ounce like the proverbial hot knife though butter. Trouble is brewing big time and if something doesn't change soon, and there's no real reason it should, something besides
Hillary's tears, something far more real and meaningful, will be grabbing the headlines away from the latest primary victor.

Friday, January 4, 2008

So Much To Hate and So Little Time...

to sufficiently rant and rave about it. I seem to be on something of a tear of late with this blog, but that's the way it goes. I write when the spirit moves me, and lately I'm rather moved. I'm pretty sure it's the result of watching the economy go down the toilet, too much weather of the sort which keeps one indoors, and the political silly season, where one has to listen to so much drivel from so many fatuous twits it almost defies belief.

Today, I had the misfortune of hearing a former Senator from Oklahoma, David Boren, tell me what the American people are tired of. Personally I have no idea what they are (sick and) tired of, though I could hazard an educated guess or two. In any case, I doubt Boren knows anymore than I do about the pet peeves of the average voting citizen. Where Boren went off track by my lights was when he asserted that the citizenry are tired of the two parties spending all their time blocking each other's legislative initiatives. We Americans want Congress to work together to solve all our pressing problems or so Boren would have it. I fairly gagged when the shibboleth of bi-partisanship was hauled out. If Boren is correct and Americans operate on the premise that the problem with government is one of non co-operation, then I am afraid a reality adjustment is in serious order.

The very idea that Congress is full of obstructionists on both sides of the aisle is, not to put too fine a point on it, rubbish, and provably so. Democrat Boren should know better than to suggest that both parties have been equally obstructive if not destructive to legislating. Please know that I say that as someone who feels that the average Democratic denizen of Congress isn't worth a bucket of warm spit. But facts are facts, as The Gipper liked to point out, and the facts are that the Republicans have had, until very recently, control of the Executive and The Legislative branches of government for many years and have managed to make an absolute hash out of virtually everything they have touched. The Republicans more so than the Democrats, who certainly deserve a a strong measure of opprobrium for being feckless chumps, have had their way with government, and if Americans are fed up, the lion's share of their discontent ought to begin and end with Republican legislative malfeasance.

This is why the Democrats in the form of Barack Obama-who I now sense is going to beat Hillary like a red headed step child- will wipe the floor with whoever the Republicans put up, whether it's the slick Reagan lover Romney, or folksy Jesus freak, Mike Huckabee.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Obama and The Hick.

Well, well, well, with this evening's Iowa Caucus projections in, Hillary looks to actually have a race on her hands. Why depending on the outcome in New Hampshire, HRC could conceivably even come up short in her drive for the nomination. As for the Republicans, slickster Mitt Romney just had his counterfeit ass handed to him in Iowa by no less than Mike Hick, er Huckle... uh, Huckabee. I would just love to see Mittstake get drubbed in N.H. too (don't count on it) because, well, he sucks... big time. I was rather disappointed to see Ron Paul come in behind that pompous, fat head, Fred Thompson. If ever a candidate deserved to get not one single vote, it would have to be old Fog Horn Leg Horn from Tennessee. In general, anything from the South, other than barbecue, sucks donkey dicks. The region is a cancer on the nation, and should it ever decide to secede, the rest of the country would do well to enthusiastically let them. Besides, it's about to turn into a dust bowl anyway. But I digress.

This election season is shaping up to be the sort where the unexpected becomes commonplace. And who should be surprised? After all, the nation is heading into a recession, probably one so severe that it stands excellent odds of morphing into a full scale Depression. Just give it time. Between Congress and The Executive, collectively the most corrupt bunch Washington has seen in many generations, the odds are high that nothing will get done to arrest the ongoing and widespread financial and economic disintegration. In the meantime, enjoy the political games, they promise to be wild, woolly, and increasingly desperate if the front runner campaigns start to seriously falter.