Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Marriage And Its Discontents

Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina is the center of much unwanted attention lately for marital infidelity as well as for his attempts to cover it up. In the meantime, the brouhaha this case has engendered highlights that, even today, our culture has remarkably unsophisticated notions about the nature and realities of life inside marriage. I personally have no idea what has gone on between Mr. and Mrs. Sanford, and I don't much care. But for the sake of this discussion, which is about the realities of marital relationships, at least between a man and a woman, let's assume that Mrs. Sanford wasn't interested in sex with Mr. Sanford. And let us further assume that Mrs. Sanford's lack of interest wasn't due to finding Mr. Sanford, unattractive, let alone repulsive, she just didn't really fancy having sexual relations except very infrequently, too infrequently for Mr. Sanford. After all, some people do lose interest for perfectly healthy reasons.

What should this otherwise content couple have done? Well, of course they could have gone into marriage counseling, but to what end? They already know that they diverge in the sexual realm, and no one is suffering from depression and/or untreated neurosis of one sort or another. In short, this situation isn't really treatable as such.

Now, no one generally wants to break up an otherwise reasonably happy family because sexual relations between mom and dad are unsatisfactory, and yet, what are the alternatives sanctioned by our society? Absolutely none, zero, zilch, nada. So what to do? Well, one can slink off to the local massage parlor and/or hire a hooker, but those options have several, obvious, no pun intended, shortcomings. The other option is that one can have an affair and hopefully be successfully discrete while doing so. I hasten to add that I speak as someone with no experience in this area, and while I imagine that maintaining discretion in such a matter is always challenging, I must note that Governor Sanford was immediately on thin ice when he chose to have a dalliance with a woman who resided in Argentina.

I understand that now that he has been fully exposed, as it were, Governor Sanford is going through the ridiculous charade, or so it seems to me, of attending some sort of spiritual boot camp. To each his own, but if Mr. Sanford really believed that he was so spiritually wayward, perhaps he would have attended spiritual boot camp before he got in so deep. Pardon the double entendre. I'd give at least two to one odds that The Governor will wind up on Oprah any day now. In the meantime, residents of the U.S. who choose to tune in to the mainstream media will be treated to more pap and drivel about marriage than one can shake a stick at.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

L.A. Draws Down Its Icon Count

Granted, Johnny Carson's sidekick, Ed McMahon, wasn't the celebrity icon that Farrah Fawcett was, and, by the same token, neither was Farrah Fawcett as famous (or infamous) as the supremely weird "King of Pop," Michael Jackson. Still, one almost wonders if the universe isn't trying to tell us something about the state of the entertainment industry by snatching away these three well known multi-generational Hollyood icons within such a short period of time of one another. Almost certainly not. After all, the aforesaid were, collectively, way past their primes.

Arguably, the notoriety of, by far oldest of the three stars, Ed McMahon, would have been greatest in the sixties and seventies, before the age of cable, when McMahon's employer, The Tonight Show, was the staple of late night viewing. As for Farrah Fawcett, it would be hard to over state her celebrity status during about a three period in the mid to late seventies when she was a superstar of one of the era's cheesiest bits of television entertainment, Charlie's Angels. Fawcett Majors, as she was then known due to her relatively brief marriage to the far less celebrated T.V. star, Lee Majors, (he of the equally cheesy Six million Dollar Man) never came close to scaling her Charlie's Angels era heights, when she was absolutely ubiquitous on the cover of tabloid rags, and as a poster girl in the bedrooms of feverish adolescent American boys.

As for Jacko, perhaps more than enough has been said about the strange man child who waxed and waned as a mega star from the sixties all the way through to the mid nineties when his epic, ahem, idiosyncrasies, pretty much destroyed his career as well as his life. Apparently Jackson's death came three weeks before he was set to give a series of concerts in London that were intended to restart his career. We will never know to what extent, if any, the man who sang that "Billie Jean was not my lover" would have succeeded in his gambit to rekindle his career, though, in some ways, at least for erstwhile admirers, it is irrelevant since Jackson's best days were far behind him.

So, L.A. and its bevy of A, B, C, and D list stars will, after embarrassing displays of one sort or another, no doubt, move on, blissfully unaware of the fact that the area's entertainment industry, like so many aspects of American life, seems to be in something of a sclerotic state. And so, one contemplates, not altogether unhappily, the appearance in the not so distant future of a much grander and meaningful obituary than even the combined epitaphs of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fraud in Iranian Elections?

I have to admit that until today I was totally taken in by the reports that election fraud had been perpetrated in Iran. There are, however, just a few problems with the too convenient story that things have gone horribly wrong in Iran's presidential election. The first and biggest problem is that there is no evidence that Mousavi was cheated out of the Iranian Presidency. The next big problem is that Mousavi is widely known to be Rafsanjani's man, and Rafsanjani was defeated by Ahmedinejad in the last election. With that in mind it is hardly surprising that Mousavi suffered defeat.

And then there is the following observation from former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts:

"Neoconservative Kenneth Timmerman let the cat out of the bag that there was an orchestrated "color revolution" in the works. Before the election, Timmerman wrote: "There's talk of a 'green revolution' in Tehran."

Roberts further observes:

"Why would protests be organized prior to a vote and announcement of the outcome? Organized protests waiting in the wings are not spontaneous responses to a stolen election."

Indeed, and yet that is exactly what we are now being led to believe, that the protests in Iran are spontaneous reactions to a corrupt election process.

And then there is this from a writer on pakalert.wordpress.com who, to quote Mr. Roberts, says,

"he was intrigued by the sudden appearance of tens of thousands of Twitter allegations that Ahmadinejad stole the Iranian election. He investigated, he says, and he reports that each of the new highly active accounts were created on Saturday, June 13th. "IranElection" is their most popular keyword. He narrowed the spammers to the most persistent: @StopAhmadi, @IranRiggedElect, and @Change_For_Iran. He researched further and found that On June 14 the Jerusalem Post already had an article on the new twitter."

He concludes that the new Twitter sites are propaganda operations.

And finally the piece de resistance: Our own President Obama is now dramatically hardening his response to the (alleged) voter fraud and the violence in Iran. I'll cut to the chase and simply say that I sense the fix may be in on an attempt to destabilize Iran. What is going on here in the west and in Iran smells of CIA Psy Ops which already has an infamous precedent in Iran with the undermining and subsequent removal of leader Mohammed Mossadegh some fifty six years ago.

Before I continue, let's establish a fact or two and hopefully create some context in the process. The first fact is that instead of diminishing the U.S. presence in the (not so) Middle East, President Obama has expanded it. U.S. military forces are now not only active in Iraq, at the same level of force as before the U.S. presidential election, but the U.S. military has also expanded its operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The second fact is that Iran has been, and continues to be, right at the top of the list of nations that the U.S. would like to take down a peg or two. There are at least two major reasons for this, first, Iran is a key player in the oil sweepstakes, and second, Iran is viewed by Israel as a great threat to their national security. Please don't misunderstand me, Ahmadenijad and his merry band of fundamentalist cleric controllers are hardly a sympathetic bunch, but that is beside the point. Iran is not now, nor are they going to be within the foreseeable future, a national security threat to the United States. It is also worth bearing in mind that Iran, as per their initiative to trade their petroleum in, for example, Euros, is diametrically opposed to the U.S. in the great geo-political struggle over the fate of the dollar's global reserve currency status.

What we may be witnessing is the first attempt to take down Iran internally. Should that fail, or at the very least amount to something less than a conclusively successful venture, then the military option would stand a very good choice of being employed. We shouldn't be overly surprised at this, as the Obama Administration will, much like its reviled predecessor administration, have serious need going forward of a major distraction from its failure to successfully contend with the egregiously deteriorating U.S. economy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Of Green Shoots and Gangrened Cities!

In order to save some of America's most moribund metropolises we must bulldoze them into the ground. That is the Obama Administration's newest proposal to deal with urban decay. Return cities like Flint, Michigan to the pristine state of nature as it were. Hmm. In the meantime, Goldman Sachs, who had a profitable first quarter made possible by The Treasury and dying insurance behemoth, AIG, handed out in excess of ten billion dollars in bonus money to its employees. Now, if you can be bothered, try and make a deep connection between the proffered idea of bulldozing dying U.S. cities into the ground with the engineered, of late, fat and happy state of uber Wall Street firm, Goldman Sachs.

My view is that the bulldozing of that which is deemed a blight on the U.S. landscape needs to start in D.C. and Wall Street. But rather than deal with an utterly corrupt political sphere and a desperately mendacious financial complex, both of which are inextricable, team Obama would prefer to ignore these enormous problems. Their hope is that by doing so the good ship U.S.S. lollipop can be steered away from the shoals of its own self destructiveness into a calm and sunny lagoon. In the meantime, what isn't being reported is that the rest of the world, or at least the part that systematically buys U.S. sovereign debt, has decided that team Obama is enacting a charade, and is responding accordingly. This is playing out in a fashion that can be described in two words, capital flight. That's right, sports fans, the furriners are pulling out their money from these shores at an annualized rate in excess of six hundred billion dollars. Such a turnabout has profound consequences for U.S. currency and the bond market, which by now I'm sure you know is a game changer of orpic perpitions.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Honeymoon Over!

Harper's most recent issue features a worthwhile article that asserts that President Barack Obama's Presidency, some one hundred days in, more resembles Herbert Hoover's than FDR's. While I don't by any means agree with the entirety of the author's analysis, I wholeheartedly endorse his conclusion. Barack Obama, his personal appeal aside, and his Vice President, Joe Biden, are most assuredly not ready for the unique challenges facing the nation.

And speaking of Biden, who more and more appears to play the role of the administration's chief disseminator of absolute bullshit, one wonders who he thinks he he's fooling with his assertion "that everyone guessed wrong" on the impact of the economic stimulus." Please define everyone, Mr. Vice President, because I know there were plenty of people who publicly and privately picked the pork filled stimulus package apart when it was first proposed and then passed? Now that the stimulus rubbish has been revealed as a failure what do you and the Commander in Chief have up your sleeve?

I see you want to give the Fed massive oversight powers. I'll tell you what, when you seriously push for the Fed to be thoroughly and completely audited by an independent entity, and when The Fed passes such an audit, we will talk about granting The Fed broad regulatory powers. However, until then, I must respectfully offer that you are out of your cotton picking mind if you think The Fed, what with their absolutely abysmal track record of staying on top of, ahem, adverse developments, should be given expanded control over the television remote, much less the workings of the banking and financial services industry.

Oh, and in case you hadn't deduced the following, the honeymoon's over for this voter. The Obama administration look worse than clueless, you appear to be in someone's pocket, figuratively speaking that is. I smell one term.

P.S. In the meantime, citizens of Iran are putting we denizens of "Freedoms Land" to shame with their righteous displays of protest over what appears to be a fraudulent national election. Wake up America, and take to the streets, there's more than enough reason to do so and has been for quite a while.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The 2009 Irving Fisher Award...

goes to, drum roll please, economist Paul Krugman. Every age has smart stupid men, and Paul Krugman, what with his recent pronouncement that the economy will, in time, be seen to have come out of recession sometime this summer, is my top choice to emulate Depression era economist, Irving Fisher, who said shortly before the onset of The Great Depression that, and here I slightly paraphrase, "We have reached a permanent plateau of prosperity". From where I humbly sit, Professor Krugman, a man of undoubted erudition and high achievement, is very much prone to amazing blindspots about the economic state of play. A Keynesian, Paul Krugman may forever be known (by me at least) as the man who mistook the eye of a category five hurricane for the beginning of a sunny and pleasant summer afternoon.

One can't help but think that Professor Krugman must not merely have witnessed the sprouting of green shoots, but the budding of whole beds of roses. Or has he? Where, after all, is the (undoctored) evidence? A decrease in the steep slope with which unemployment has heretofore risen, for example, is no more evidence that the economic downturn is about to reverse course than finding out that no new tumor growth has been detected is evidence that a cancer is now in remission. There are, after all, such things as lulls that do occur within well established trends. And when there is no unambiguous contrary evidence, lulls or respites are far from reliable signals of a change in trend. Recall from your history that after war was declared in Europe in late 1939, for a number of months very little seemed to transpire. A "phony war" had broken out it was said, and the panic about a general military conflagration abated in favor of the idea that armed hostilities would be averted. We now know just how fanciful that notion that was.

I posit that we are exactly in the same position now. However, Instead of finding ourselves in a phony war, we are ensconced in a bogus economic recovery. The frightening metrics and plummeting production data of '08 have, for now, merely slowed their rate of descent. So, rather than behaving as if the big bad storm is spent, we should instead be prepared for another leg down in a global Depression that is probably, at best, only half way through doing its worst.