Sunday, April 27, 2008

Letting The Cat Out Of The (Gas) Bag.

If there were such a thing, it might be part of a course entitled, "Shakespearean Psychology 101". I am thinking specifically about the famous quote uttered by Queen Gertrude in Hamlet, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." The meaning of that line is simply that repetitious statements by anyone professing something, especially if the utterances come unprompted, are probably not to be taken at face value. A more modern analogue to Shakespeare's insightful bit of iambic pentameter might be Bismarck's, "Never believe a rumor until it has been officially denied."

One of the great official protestations of late, repeated too often for comfort, is that the financial crisis that has swirled about us for the better part of a year is well and truly behind us. There aren't any reasons put forward as to why this should be so, save flimsy ones that can be dismissed by the insertion into the argument of just a few facts. However, if one wants to undermine the "all is well" talk using a different approach, there is no better one I know of than the bullshit detectors provided by Monsieur's Shakespeare and Bismarck. They would have recognized the many protestations by officialdom that the worst is behind us as essentially untrustworthy on the face. Not being as artful as Shakespeare, I can only offer sarcastic rejoinders to constant assertions that "The Crisis is Contained" such as, "Say it again and I'll make a box set CD", or, "So sorry, Mr. CEO of Citibank, I didn't hear you the first twenty seven times, could you repeat that." Words are a bit like bank credit, they must be deployed carefully, or they can have the opposite effect to the one intended, if you get my meaning.

I Say It Here, And It Comes Out There.

When writing my post, "Hillary's Mania", I actually referenced Dr. Strangelove in the first draft. It seems the rest of the world has heard Mrs. Clinton's incendiary words, and are understandably alarmed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

President Bush Mails It In.

I almost fell off my chair this evening when I read the following comment from our feckless leader, "Bush says rebates going out Monday will boost economy." I suppose he had to say something, but really, who does he think he's fooling? First of all, rebates, a marketing scheme begun by auto manufacturers in the seventies, a scheme which has since mutated and multiplied far beyond the auto industry, are, to put it mildly, bullshit.

I bet you know the drill.

Seller: Offers "product" for $2,000 dollars.

Buyer: Ponies up to buy "product."

Seller: That will be $2,250 dollars please.

Buyer: I'm sorry, I thought the product cost $2,000 dollars.

Seller: It does! You just pay me $2,250 now, and then I'll give you the cash back in a little while, (at least a month).

Well, it's no different today. The government is simply sending us taxpayers money that was ours anyway. So many folks think it's free money, but a rebate is never free money, it's money that is yours, but for reasons that have nothing to do with enhancing your economic well being, resides temporarily in the account of another, in this case, the government. So how does the return of funds that should have always remained in your wallet boost the economy? And how does a mere three or four hundred debased greenbacks allow taxpayers to do much more than pay down a little more of their whopping debts? It will take a damn sight more than a few hundred bucks placed in the hands of over extended consumers to boost our massively debt laden, contracting economy, Mr. President. Oh, I forgot, you think we aren't in a recession, just a period of slower growth. It seems something besides a rebate is being mailed in these days.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Message to McCain: Thanks, But No Thanks.

You have to love the Republican's and their attempts to co-opt the old Democrat economic rescue programs in a manner that is the luncheon fare equivalent of two pieces of slightly moldy bread with nothing save a bit of mayonaise in the center. John McCain was in Kentucky today, clearly there to sooth destitute natives of coal country with echoes, very faint ones, of Lyndon Johnson. Here is a sampling of some of Senator McCain's sterling words:

"Government has a role to play in helping people who, through no fault of their own, are having a hard time, Government can't pay lost wages. It can't dig coal from the earth. It can't buy you a house or send all your kids to college. It can't do your work for you.''

Well, Senator, government may not do all your work for you, but it has managed quite ably to assist private industry's multi-decade program to move overseas all but a hollow remnant of what was once a thriving manufacturing base here in the U.S. In the halls of government, over approximately the same span of time you have served, your party, especially, has done a splendid job of making it harder for anyone who wanted a decent, reasonably well paying job to find one. If I were a resident of The Bluegrass State I would have brought a picket to your appearance that said, "Thanks, but no thanks, Senator, we don't need your kind of non-help, help."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hillary Clinton's Mania.

The dictionary defines a maniac as someone with an ungovernable enthusiasm for just about anything from investing in tulip bulbs, playing video games, collecting dead butterflies, or classic cars, even, heaven forfend, Star Trek memorabilia. A drive to world conquest, ala certain Roman Emperors, Napoleon, and most infamously from the last century, Adolph Hitler, is, of course, megalomania. Which brings me to Hillary Clinton. I know, it's hard not to chuckle when thinking of Hillary Clinton in the same breath as, oh, say, Julius Ceasar, or Bonaparte, but despite the ostensible differences, there is just something about H.R.C. that smacks of those megalomaniacal despots of yore.

Perhaps it is her penchant to utterly abandon moral scruple in the form of her comment that the U.S. "could totally obilterate Iran," that draws me to such uneasy comparisons. It would be simple to dismiss Hillary Clinton's statement as merely pandering to the Israel lobby- she was pandering- but her comment is just plain disturbing removed from that context altogether. When asked on CNN to clarify her words, she admitted "it was a terrible thing to say", but offered that she meant it as a deterrent. At best that was disingenuous, and given who is meant to be deterred, one can hardly be sure her words won't instead act as a severe provocation.

Perhaps I have grown disgusted and a tad alarmed by the seemingly cavalier manner in which some of our elected officals bring up the subject of obliterating others with our over stretched but still fearsome military. And for me, Mrs. Clinton's profile suffers in that some of the worst examples of her take no prisoners/scorched earth campaign have dovetailed too closely in time to her remarks about obliterating Iran. I sense not just something hard and ruthless in her nature, but something that smacks of bloodlust. But then manias have a way of causing us to abandon decency as we get lost in the haze of desire. And while certain voices are always very quick to remind us that a race for President isn't tea time, those same voices forget to note that history's better leaders, whether they were democratically elected or installed by other means, generally eschew the sort of talk that Hillary Clinton has engaged in. Those who possess real strength and are wise, know they needn't brandish their sabers and threaten mayhem, that is a game for, dare I say it, the maniac.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Obama Was Right!

When Barack Obama described the character of the poorer classes in the great American swindle as displaying a tendency to “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” as compensation for their generally unfortunate socio-economic circumstances, who could reasonably deny that such an assertion was, however unflattering, more on the mark than not? Were Obama's remarks, as have been claimed by some of our most notable elites, elitist? Perhaps, but as Jim Kunstler points out so deliciously in his most recent blog, there was more than a soupcon of hypocrisy from some quarters that took umbrage at Senator Obama's incisive remarks.

"The evermore loathsome and odious Hillary Clinton, co-owner of a $100 million personal wealth portfolio, seized the moment to remind voters what a normal, everyday gal she is -- who would never look down on the small-town folk of Pennsylvania the way her "elitist" opponent had, forgetting, apparently, that the Clinton family's consigliere, James Carville, famously described the Keystone State as a kind of redneck sandwich with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia as the bread, and Alabama as the lunch meat in between."

Putative elitism aside, no one, with the exception of Kunstler, is acknowledging the obvious, which is, to repeat, that Obama was more on target than off. The pity rests in Obama's quick disavowal of his remarks, since his attempts to convince the gun loving, Nascar worshipping, religious wing nuts inhabiting large sections of the nation that he didn't really mean it, are unlikely to convince.

A Little Truth For Ya!

Dear Jay:

The problem with ever taking you seriously in these matters is that you are anything BUT a dispassionate observer. You so desperately want Obama to lose, and lose badly, that it clouds your judgement regarding what is likely to be a wildly unpredictable general election. Equally importantly, you are so frantic to be seen as prophetic, as especially insightful, that you can't even wait until the Democratic nominating process is over before you call the general election. Once again, even if you turn out to be correct, your approach is unsound.

One thing these interminable elections have taught (some of) us, is there are far too many twists and turns to call the game well in advance. Did you have Barack Obama taking the nomination from Clinton after she won The New Hampshire Primary? Did you have Mike Hickabee lasting longer than your darling, phony fat cat Mitt Romney. I, for one, am fascinated to see who the voting public chooses once they have seen McCain and Obama in debate. Imagine a tall, youthful and unflappable Obama juxtaposed against a short, aged and cantankerous, McCain. Who is going to be the most attractive to the voter just based on physical presentation? Recall that Kennedy outperformed Nixon in the televised debate but lost on radio.

And mark my words, by the time the general election comes around the economy will be in far worse shape then it is now. Who do you suppose, if anyone, benefits from that? Who loses? Have you considered that whoever gets elected is probably the greatest political bagholder of our time, since that smuck you voted for, not once, but twice, has things royally FUBAR?

Friday, April 11, 2008


Interesting day today, Jay.

You fell all over yourself to the point of obsequiousness apologizing for your use of the word retarded. For all of your railing against PC you were as timid as a mouse when confronted by someone who clearly has a politically correct posture, at least where the term retarded is concerned. It's interesting to see how fast your allegiance to certain principles diminishes when one of the not so bright amongst the best and brightest gets in a flap over admittedly a loaded term.

But the most interesting part of the entire exchange was that in explaining yourself you managed to demean gays.

Jay: (paraphrase) "When I use the term faggot with one of my friends, I don't mean it literally, I just mean they are being a pussy" Great, so" faggot" means being a a pussy. You give with one hand, Jay, and take away with the other. You, sir, are good at what you do.

And when it comes to your attitude towards black folks, your animus is equally obvious, because though you never actually employ any derogatory terms, you just can't stop talking about that which you find obnoxious in some segment, any segment, of the black community. If you gave equal time to putative offenses from other quarters of the American ethnic/cultural scene that would be one thing, but as I listen to you to the point of nausea, and I only listen to you when I'm in my car, you don't. This coupled with your embarrassing tendency to periodic mockery of black speech, gives you away as someone with a "problem."

Now, please, you and that gnat who is not worth squashing, Michael Graham, tell us all for the umpteenth time how Barack Obama, even though he's half white, is where he is today because he's black.

How Evil Are They?

The Washington Post reports that Dick Cheney, along with several other members of President Bush's cabinet, including Condoleeza Rice and an apparently reluctant John Ashcroft, were involved in "micro-managing", from The White House, torture sessions of captured and suspected Al Queda operatives. It's more than a little creepy, macabre might be a better word, and one has to wonder why the need for that sort of engagement in the process. Isn't that sort of interrogation best left to the professionals? And if there are certain tactics that are on or off the table isn't that a simple matter of someone below the level of Vice President saying yes or no, in code, to, say, waterboarding, and then hanging up the phone.

Then again, if one has more than a soupcon of sadism running through their oh so patriotic veins, then perhaps not. To the armchair interrogator with a lust for inflicting pain, getting right in there on the play by play would be just the thing. Apparently, Hitler spent many a happy hour watching films of his would be assassins being executed. I know it's not exactly the same thing, but the comparison is instructive. Perhaps a comparison to Nixon-Cheney worked in the Nixon administration- would be more apt, since Nixon was famously interested in the sordid details of escapades as varied as bombing runs over Cambodia to the felonious hijinks of certain "plumbers."

My contention, for the last six years or so, is that The Bush Cheney cabal would ultimately be seen as the most corrupt and depraved U.S. executive in U.S. history. But truly, how evil are they? One increasingly gets the sense, even as the ghastly saga has yet to run its course, that the record of wretchedness has depths that will never be adequately explored. There's a lot of work, probably a lifetime's work, for some intrepid soul or souls to do in getting even close to the murky bottom of the crimes of The Bush Administration. Here's hoping they get started on it, pronto.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Letter to My Senator(s)

Feel Free to use it.

Dear Senator Kennedy,

I am writing to you about financial and economic circumstances that will almost certainly rival, if not surpass, the most serious in living memory. As you are undoubtedly aware, our financial system is under severe strain and the general economy is almost certainly now experiencing a recession that will likely be amongst the worst this nation has ever experienced. As one who has followed and admired your career for decades, I recognize your tremendously generous nature and applaud your tireless instinct to assist those in need. However, in the interest of allowing the present financial and economic difficulties to subside and repair as soon as possible, I implore you to eschew all efforts to have the government assume the private liabilities individuals and/or institutions have incurred as a result of problems in the banking and real estate sectors.

As a nation with tenuous, even fragile federal finances, we absolutely can not afford to make public, private liabilities. To do so would cause even greater pain and upheaval than we are already destined to experience. It is a certainty that if we continue to head down such a path that our credit markets will, in a word, revolt, and savagely so, causing borrowing costs to increase to a degree that will crush whatever chances the economy has to recover.

I am not suggesting that nothing be done to alleviate the fallout from the banking and real estate debacles, only that certain specific courses of action, such as taxpayer funded bailouts, will only make far worse our prospects for recovery.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Charlton Heston, The Black Man's Best Friend.

You really have to stop with the "Chuck was in with the civil rights movement in the fifties" piffle.

By his own account, Charlton Heston wasn't involved in the civil rights movement until much later.

"I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963 -- and long before Hollywood found it acceptable, I may say."

Nothing about the fifties in there, Jay. Now why would anyone pick a date in the sixties if they were out there marching in the fifties? They wouldn't. So stop fibbing about Chuck's time in the civil rights movement. He didn't make up the dates, so you shouldn't either.

Now on to a very different and infinitely more pressing matter, namely, why we are in Iraq.

Oil, of course. It always been about oil and maintaining, as much as possible, the energy status quo in a post peak oil world. Think of the war in Iraq as The Bush Cheney energy policy, Jay, the same one you voted for, not once, but twice.

The War in Iraq was never, not for a fraction of a New York minute, about WMDs, and all the cherry picked, spun to within an inch of its life bogus "evidence" that the shameless Bush junta proffered was simply a massive smokescreen. Had the truth been on offer there would have been an epic international backlash-for starters, a dollar dump and then capital flight- the likes of which one can hardly imagine.

A self styled political expert such as yourself should know (better than he does his own name. And which is it by the way, Severin or Severino) that certain political agendas can never be openly admitted by those holding much, but not all of, the power. In fact, they must be lied about and grandly so. Remember Joseph Goebbels dictum about lies? I'm sure you do, but I digress.

When governing, if one's core agenda runs the risk of sparking severe opposition, one must, by necessity, mask it. Deceit, Jay, has been the stock and trade of leaders through the ages. Here in Freedom's Land, such diverse political figures as F.D.R. and your hero, Ronald Reagan, practiced it to perfection. Roosevelt never discussed The New Deal before he was elected, but only a fool would deny that something like the New Deal was part of his agenda even in the early days of his campaign.

The Gipper told a massive lie when he claimed that the centerpiece of his Presidency would be balancing the Federal budget. He did just the opposite, turning deficit spending into a way of life that we can now never escape.

I dare you not to delete this

Patriot Games!

I've been censored! Dear me, it's seems a certain buzz cut wearing, crapulous, right wing radio blowhard is only a free speech proponent in, at best, the abstract. This should come as no shock to anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the self aggrandizing, megalomaniacal, oleogenous character of whom I speak.

The latest bull shit from one of the region's worst bloviators was the attempt to cast the late Charlton "From my cold, dead hands" Heston as some sort of Civil Rights Pioneer. Um, Jay, sorry to pop your propaganda dirigible, but Chuck didn't start showing solidarity with the Civil Right's movement until the 1960s, not the 1950s as you put forth with typical righteous indignation. I pointed out Mr. Severin's deviation from fact, and several more, uh, confusions by the mad bloviator, and quel surprise! my cogent comments were stricken from the record, again. That's all right, Max, you can run, but you can't hide."

Joe Louis

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Flogging a Fellow public service

The following are my responses to a post by another blogger, who also happens to be "right wing" radio talk show host, Jay Severin.

ON POLITICS (in which I am expert)

-Perhaps, but the following statements do not buttress your claim.

1. KEY THEMES OF THIS ELECTION: The appalling absence of ultimate choice.

-False choice has been the norm in national politics for decades due to the longstanding republicrat duoply. Neither party operates substantially differently from the other as they are both bought and paid for by the same powerful interests. Having said that, the Bush administration is easily the most corrupt executive in modern times and possibly in the nation's history.

2. THE AFFECT OF A CLOSE RACE ON THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: As of May 1, Ralph Nader - whom everybody dismissed, but on my show we recognized as prospectively lethal - is polling at 5%!! That is likely a wider margin than the ultimate general election margin of victory/defeat. Political ignoramus believe Nader's impact is "unpredictable" or "hurts both major candidates". Demonstrable Twaddle. 99% of Nader's vote would otherwise go Dem. Thus, so long as Nader support runs at even 1%, he can be huge (i.e. decisive, Dem-killer) factor. Run Ralphie! Run!!

-That should be effect, not affect, affect has to do with emotions, as in, did Mr. Bush display any affect when he said he grieved over every soldier's death? For someone who decries the lack of choice in national elections, you ought to be encouraging Nader to run so as to broaden the debate, as it were, instead of cheering on his candidacy in the service of tawdry partisanship.

3. WHO WILL WIN THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION??? I predicted in national print, radio, TV in 1998 and with somewhat obnoxious regularity ever since HRC's exact route/timing/location of her Pres ambitions. I was right in 1998 and since - but now, owing to her deeply flawed campaign and understandable negatives, I place her nomination prospects at 1-10. Which is a pity for Dems, because she could beat McCain. Obama, who CANNOT BE ELECTED will win Dem nomination and lose to McCain. And there will be riots.

-Let me see if I understand you, are you saying there will be riots if/when Obama loses to McCain? Riots under any circumstances?


-What's a "conservative" Republican? Please exclude
questionable criteria, such as favoring secure borders, as definitive of conservatism, since the desire for secure borders doesn't ipso facto define a political creed.

5. WHO WILL WIN IN NOVEMBER AND WHY? Contrary to conventional wisdom (always conventional, rarely wise) America IS prepared to elect an African-American (see: Condi Rice, Colin Powell, et. al.) but Not a Leftist African American, period. The combination of (1) backlash by Dems who refuse to vote if their candidate loses nomination, hence Dem under-voting (2) Dems who vote for McCain (3) underperformance (vis population % of eligible voters) by African-Americans (4) underperformance of young 'voters' (5) attraction by McCain of exceptional numbers of Independents and Dems (5) Ralph Nader..will elect John McCain.

-We'll see. Part of the agony of this interminable election season, which among other things, is a massive waste of money and an equally enormous distraction from the real work of governing, is that because the entire process is so absurdly drawn out, there are many unexpected twists and turns-as we have already seen- before the drama concludes.

ON THE ECONOMY (in which I am, decidedly, Not an expert)

-Here you vastly overstate your credentials.

1. HOW DO YOU COPE WITH RISING EVERYDAY COSTS? Vote against all Democrats.

-That is beyond ignorant. The exploding price of energy and commodities in general has vanishingly little to do with anything Democrats have done, and they are no more likely to exacerbate the situation than Republicans who have shown a general fiscal and financial idiocy over the years that is unsurpassed.

3. HOW COULD A BANKING INDUSTRY COLLAPSE AFFECT WORKING PEOPLE? I recall in the 1980s first seeing/hearing "we are an equal-opportunity lender". I and many of us, instantly recognized there has never been, and is not, and can never be, any such thing. Some people are qualified buyers (i.e. they can pay loan back), some less so - and the difference is discernable, even obvious. "Equal opportunity lender" meant/means "we will substitute political judgement for fiscal judgment and lend lots of money to people we know in advance cannot possibly re-pay it...and pass the burden onto the gov't (i.e. all the other people who are re-paying their own loans). The banking/mortgage collapse is not complicated it is welfare write large.

-This is more than a little silly. Bankers, mortgage lenders, and their ilk are in the business of earning a fat profit like any other going concern. They do not, as you so blithely suggest, plan to become insolvent so that they can be "rescued" by government. No, to the extent they even thought that far ahead, what they had in mind was that the inevitable collapse would not be nearly so nasty as it has become, and they would be able to foreclose on some percentage of insolvent borrowers and subsequently repossess and resell the homes for a respectable profit.

-Parenthetically I will add that had the financial services industry been properly regulated, had longstanding and worthy legislation like Glass Steagall not been eviscerated with glee by the likes of Republican Phil Graham, much of the multi-generational carnage in the financial services industry, carnage that now threatens the general economy to a degree equal to or greater than The Great Depression, would not have occurred. And by the way you never really answered the question you posed. Hint: One major bank failure, we have not had one yet, would (now that The FED is stretched tighter than the strings in Roger Federer's racket) likely be the straw that broke the camel's back.

4. IS THE WORST OF ECONOMIC TIMES BEHIND US OR YET TO COME? As we are evidently unwilling to apply standards that are strictly Fiscal - as opposed to Politically Correct, "Humanitarian" - i.e. fantastic), so long as we pretend, and actually practice as policy, that "everybody" "deserves" (X) - e.g. big car(s), a bigger house than they can possibly afford, etc. - we are yet to have even a Taste of how devastating this could be.

-Putting aside the fact that our present predicament has nothing to do with "PC", but rather with unchecked and unbridled greed synergizing with a sense of entitlement on the part of a majority of the citizenry, I agree. But even that analysis is superficial, at best. These are complex matters that can not be reduced in the manner you