Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Three Random Observations

The Wisdom of Silence
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you're an idiot than open it and remove any doubt. ~ Mark Twain
MSNBC has the "Famous Last Words" on the economy for 2008, proving again what idiots have risen to the top of our government and businesses.

Count the Pages
The pictures are fun to look at, Mr. Giles, but one really ought to read the nice words as well. ~ Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
So Karl Rove wrote a bit for the Wall Street Journal about how he keeps beating George Bush in their reading contests. They would count the pages they had read and used a ruler to measure the "Total Lateral Area" of their reads. Now, bragging about beating George Bush in a reading contest is like pinning a three year-old in a wrestling match, not much of an accomplishment. I would have been more impressed if they had been paying more attention to the words on the pages than to counting the pages.

Help Not Wanted
Here I sit broken hearted
I came to shit but only farted.~ written on stall #3
The Help Wanted section of the print edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper for December 31, 2008 measures less than twenty square inches, barely larger than a single sheet of toilet tissue. That is so much a metaphor for both the economy and the business of newspapers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

War in the Gaza Ghetto

In 1967, both before and after the Six Days War, I had nothing but respect and admiration for Israel. A small country surrounded by hostile neighbors fighting for its very survival. Because of this I researched the Holocaust, WWII's Warsaw Uprising, Czarist Russia's pogroms, and the Inquisition. I read as much as I could about the long history of Christian persecution of the Jewish people. While I still have a gentile's love of the idea of Israel I find the execution of that idea brutally flawed these past decades.

Today, the small country surrounded by a hostile neighbor is Gaza. The savage pogroms are inflicted by Jewish tanks and bombers against Palestinian homes. The walled ghetto is not in Warsaw holding in a beleaguered population of Jews fighting against the ruthless Nazi war machine. Today, the walled ghetto is Gaza. Today, it is Arab youths fighting tanks with stones. Today, the ruthless war machine is the IDF.

I have no love for Hamas. They hide their mortar launchers behind women and children, daring the Israelis to attack. Hamas has begged for this war on the strange theory that Hamas would win the propaganda war following a holocaust. But Israel has lost the moral high ground gained by two millennia of persecution. Israel has become their own enemy. I pity the helpless people trapped in the Gaza Ghetto, trapped as much by their Hamas leadership as by their Israeli oppressors.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bush's Empty Library

I felt they belonged here, I really did
Those books with no pages,
Those ink stained fingers, that left no traces,
The gift of those voices, which had no faces
That I learned to treasure so. ~ Empty Bookshelves by Morning Song
It seems so appropriate, the lasting legacy of a presidency that was devoid of thought will be a presidential library that is devoid of papers. An empty building for an empty mind.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Winter Wonderland of Pain

Ah, winter. The air is crisp and cold. And my sinuses are trying to break their boundaries and explore the seasonal joy of splattering my brains on the walls.

Sinusitis - my constant winter companion.

Monday, December 22, 2008

TARP Is Going to Make Bernie Madoff Look Like a Piker

If the mess that is Hank Paulsen's TARP is ever unraveled it will go down in the annals of crime as the greatest theft in history. Nobody knows, least of all the banks, where the money went. Nobody cares, least of all the banks, less still the Federal Government, where it went.

It's a secret, you know (We don't want the terrorists to find out). We know, generally, which banks copped the biggest share of the pie (Citigroup and AIG got $90 billion between them).We know a hefty chunk of that money went to the bank's executives in the form of bonuses (and still more went into throwing lavish parties). We know that banks are using the money to buy up other banks (Because nothing helps Americans struggling to keep their businesses running than knowing that Bank of America used taxpayers money to buy a Chinese bank). We know the hedge fund millionaires conned by Madoff and a white middle-class suburban Cleveland school district wants some of the TARP money (Ya gotta have chutzpah).

What we don't know, and will never know, is whether a single penny of the TARP billions went to the intended goal of freeing up the credit markets for businesses and individuals. I could list the CEOs of every bank receiving money from TARP and feel confident that two-thirds are knowingly (and enthusiastically) defrauding the Federal Government through TARP. I am even more confident that not a single one of them will even be indicted for their crimes.

It is making me long for a revolution where we round up the bankers (and Hank Paulsen), line them up against a wall, and shoot the lot of them.
In a just nation, the last bonus for American bankers.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Poisoning the Wells

Those of us who live in desert climates know, or should know, that the most valuable resource in the world is water. It is more valuable than oil, more valuable than any ore, even gold. Water is life.

Seven states, plus Mexico, draw water from the river and several major cities including Phoenix, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles are dependent upon that river for their survival. As the San Diego Union-Tribune writes, the Bush Administration's emphasis placed mineral extraction ahead of people and has led to the increased poisoning of the Colorado River.

Natural Gas Drilling
Oil Drilling Waste Pits Spills
Uranium Tailings Pollution
Oil Shale Madness

As a rule, upstream resource extractors in Colorado and Utah don't care if they poison the water drunk by those downstream sinners in Nevada and California. My principal concern about Obama's Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, is that he is an upstreamer. In the past he has shown a general disinterest in the concerns of downstreamers. When he has opposed resource development it has been over the impact on local wildlife and ranches. He has never worried about poisoning the water flowing downstream. I am waiting expectantly for him to address the issue.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On Rick Warren

I didn't care about Rev. Wright and I don't care about Rick Warren. I don't judge Barack Obama, or any other politician, on such acquaintances. That said....

Rick Warren may be more open-minded than most fundamentalists but that is like saying the red-haired prostitute is more chaste than the other girls in the brothel. He still preaches the religion of intolerance, he still practices a faith defined mostly by its hatreds. Rick Warren's religion is more closely aligned to the dictates of the Iranian mullahs than it is to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Never Steal Anything Small - Madoff Edition

I have the greatest respect for thieves. Every man born to wealth has a good thief amongst his ancestors, somewhere. ~ Ming Tzu, Xena (episode, The Debt)
Bernard Madoff is very lucky that the Ponzi Scheme already has a name or it would be named after him. My prediction is he will never see the inside of a prison cell.

Connected Up the Wazoo
I'm very close with the regulators...As a matter of fact my niece just married one. ~ Bernard Madoff
Bernie (Can I call you Bernie? I feel like I know you.) was connected. You can't throw a stone in the corridors of power without hitting a Madoff family member or a friend of old Bernie. Attorney General Michael Mukasey's son is one of Bernie's lawyers. His niece, Shana, was married to a senior inspections and examinations official at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Bernie's two sons, Mark and Andrew, allegedly squealed on their pop to the Feds. Mark and Andrew were codirectors of trading at the Madoff investment firm. Yet, allegedly, didn't figure out the fraud until well after the stock market began tanking (re: Andy). Mary Schapiro, Barack Obama's choice to head the SEC, thought so much of Mark Madoff's judgment she appointed him the board of the National Adjudicatory Council in 2001. Heck, the entire Madoff firm was a family affair.

Madoff was one of the founders of NASDAQ and was a former chairman of NASDAQ. Take a second to get your mind around that concept. One of the major stock trading floors in the world was founded, in part, by a man trying to facilitate his criminal enterprise.

You've Got to Spend Money to Make Money
Bernie understood this basic maxim. He was generous giving to charities and damn sure everybody knew how generous he was. It was part of marketing his fraud. That generosity allowed him to kiss up to wealthy people. They trusted him because a crook wouldn't be so charitable. Or, so they thought. They forgot that Al Capone was a charitable man too.

O What a Tangled Web He Wove

As Slate points out, even people who caught a whiff of the rotting flesh and got their money out of Madoff's clutches years ago will not escape the effects of his crimes. According to how courts had treated previous Ponzi Schemes, people who benefited from a Ponzi, even if they got out years and decades ago, will be required to return their profits. The $50 billion in the headlines is just the beginning. That will be small change after they go back to the beginning and sluice out all of the early investor profits.

About Never Seeing the Inside of a Prison
Madoff is 70 years old. The Feds are going to need his cooperation to sort through the twisted entrails of his investment schemes. It will be years, maybe decades, before any criminal trial could even begin. Bernie Madoff will be long dead before he can ever be tried for his crimes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Free Money
(and other economic folderol)

The Federal Reserve has set the prime interest rate somewhere between zero and 0.25%. Pretty much that means that when a bank wants to borrow money from the Fed the money is free. It is even better news for those people who have Prime Minus home equity loans. If I understand basic math correctly, Pittsford Federal Credit Union, for example, is going to be paying people to borrow money from them.

Consumer prices fell 1.7% in the month of November. That is an annual deflation rate of 20%. That means, pretty much, that if you had a thousand dollars in cash (not in the stock market, you dolt) on October 31, it would be worth an extra $17 on December 1. That means the wisest thing to do is invest your money in a buried shoe box, you'll get a better rate of return than anywhere else.

The Fed has reached to point where if what they do isn't working they have nothing left to try. It not working is actually the good alternative. If the Fed's actions succeed in stimulating the economy they will have pumped so much liquidity into the economy that the 20% deflation rate will turn into a 100% inflation rate in the blink of an eye. To prevent runaway, Zimbabwe-like, inflation at the first signs of recovery the Fed is going to have to stomp on the breaks so hard they will throw the economy into a still deeper recession than we are in now.

Shit. Deep shit. Deeper shit. Deepest shit. Take your pick.

Siemens = Evil

If ever there was a company that deserves to be shut down forever it is Siemens AG.

Nazi Favorites
Siemens AG manufactured many of the items used by the Nazis to kill. They made great profit from this by using slave labor from concentration camps, most notoriously at the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Slaves would build electric switches for Siemens manufactured V-2 rockets in the morning and be murders in Siemens built gas chambers in the afternoon.

Heartless Marketers
In 2002 Siemens wanted to build gas ovens for the home using the trademark name Zyklon. That just happens also to be the name of the poison used in concentration camp gas chambers. Siemens continues to use that horrid name to market a line of vacuum cleaners in Germany.

Bribers Extraordinaire
As if to prove that time has not diminished Siemens AG's skill in immoral enterprises, it has engaged in a wide spread enterprise of bribery. This has led to the largest ever fine, $1.6 billion. Yet, the truth is that Siemens is getting off easy. The fine is small enough that Siemens has still made a good profit from their illegal activities. Also, they get to keep all of their government contracts and retain the right to go after still more government contracts. If Siemens has learned any lesson at all it is to disguise their bribery better.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A: Bundling Up and Pretending It's Warm

I live in Southern California where rain and winter are rare visitors and snow is something you only find up in them thar' mountains. So I'm looking at to find out when out current rain storm is going to end (It has been raining one whole day!) when I spy this little poll they are doing asking about my favorite cold weather activity.
  • Checking out the fall foliage - 28.7%
  • Watching/attending football games - 40.0%
  • Fall festivals and hayrides -13.0%
  • Making a snowman -18.0%
They didn't even list my favorite winter pass time (see title).

A Penny for Your Loafer

Random thoughts on shoes

Throwing Shoes
Remember how we learned shortly after Baghdad fell that hitting someone with a shoe is a major insult among Arabs. It is like flinging feces, it is a symbol of disrespect, of contempt. Below is film of an emotional Iraqi showing his hatred of Saddam Hussein in the worst way he could imagine.

Word Origin: Sabotage derives from the French word sabot, meaning wooden shoe. While the exact way that a wooden shoe came to describe an act of deliberate destruction is lost in the mists of etymology there is no escaping the fact that even in Europe/America a shoe is a bad thing.

Shoe Bomb
Where was the Secret Service? In the United States if you travel by airplane you have to remove your shoes lest your Florsheims blow up, destroying a 747. Yet, in Baghdad an Arab journalist was able to boldly sneak a pair of shoes into a press conference and heave them at President Bush. What if they exploded? From now on, George Bush's security force should require everyone coming into contact with Bush to be bare foot. Hell, they should be naked, someone could have a bra bomb.

Shoe Phone
Do you realize that the cell phone was invented by the television program, Get Smart in the 1960's?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Barack Obama is a Man and Nothing Else

Give fools their silks and knaves their wine;
a man's a man for all that.
For all that and all that.
Their tinsel, show and all that.
The honest man though e're so poor
is king of men for all that. ~ Robert Burns
The silliest discussion in the country is the still persistent question whether Barack Obama is black, or not black, or just not black enough. It does not matter a whit what are the levels of melanin in Barack's skin. It matters even less what were the melanin content of his ancestors.

Barack Obama is a man composed of his intelligence and his compassion, his creativity and his capacity to accept the creativity of others. He is a man forged by his life experience and his beliefs of what is right for himself and others. While his skin tone has shaped his experience it does not define him any more than he is defined as a man by the unique swirls of his fingerprint.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Worst Alternative Is to Let Them Fail

My disrespect for auto industry executives knows no floor. Collectively, they have the combined wisdom of a drunken hamster. Last generation capitalists, they are neither builders nor designers, thinkers nor dreamers. The polar opposite of men like Henry Ford, they are incapable of vision beyond the latest quarterly report. All they are good for is counting jelly beans in a jar.

With that as a given, the worst alternative for the nation is to let the corporations they head - GM, Chrysler, and Ford - disappear into the economic quicksand. The ripples of their bankruptcy will quickly build into a tidal wave that will sweep across thousands of companies and millions of jobs leaving burned out hulks (I love mixing my disaster metaphors). Since Republicans seem determined to be obstructionists, again, maybe it is time to get really radical.

Let's Communize GM
So here's my plan: The government takes over General Motors in exchange for its debt - all $45 billion of it. Everything from the factories to the gold fixtures in the executive washrooms is turned over to the employees. The workers own the means of production. The fate of the company will be in the hands of the people who have an interest in the success of the company. The workers, the United Autoworkers Union, will decide if salaries are too high (as Republicans claim). The people who know cars best, the employees, will decide what car lines to manufacture. Dividends will go to the people who actually earned the money with their work and sacrifice. Ford and Chrysler will be offered the same deal.

But, once the deal is done and the employees are running GM they are on their own. No second chances. Success or failure is up to the employees. I think they will succeed. They certainly can't do any worse than Richard Wagoner has.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blagojevich Will Try to Hurt Obama

As assholes go, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is about as dingleberry as they get. He will also be a major problem for President Obama. Blago will try to blackmail a pardon out of the President by threatening to implicate Obama in Blago's corrupt practices. Obama, most certainly, will tell Blago to go to hell so expect Blago to go down loud.

The Illinois legislature is right to strip Blagojevich of his appointment power and the United States Senate should make it clear that the Senate will refuse to swear in any person Blagojevich might appoint before the Illinois legislature acts. The Illinois legislature should make quick work of an impeachment.

Finally, Blagojevich isn't just corrupt, he is stupid. I don't want to get into Blagojevich's head, it is surely a dark and scary place with lots of empty space where brains ought to be. He knew he was being investigated. I knew he was being investigated and I didn't even know the guy. Everybody knew he was being investigated. Common Sense 101 teaches that when the cops are looking, play nice. It was beyond stupid to try to run a game like he did.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Navy Jet Crash [Corrected]

[Corrections: It was a Marine Corps jet and pilot, not Navy. I was overly optimistic regarding casualties; four civilians died in their home - a mother, her two children, and their grandmother. The body of one of the children has not been found. The Marine pilot survived nicely.]

A Navy Jet crashed into a residential neighborhood in San Diego today. Apparently, nobody was killed.

San Diego is a military town so it happens periodically but it is still amazing how blase we have become about military flyers crashing around us. It is true that many of the pilots, having lost control of their multi-million dollar toy, heroically stay with their crippled craft long enough to steer it to where its crash will be harmless before they bail out. This time, for whatever reason, the pilot bailed out safely while his plane crashed into homes and barely missed a school. It is only a miracle that no one was killed by the F-18.

We may never know why this plane crashed, "national security" can hide any number of sins. The pilot may have been ill-trained, the plane poorly manufactured or maintained. Or the pilot may have been a thrill seeking flathatter. It's been known to happen.

A few of the many San Diego military air crashes:
2007 - helicopter, four killed
2006 - no fatalities
2004 - no fatalities
2004 - four killed
2004 - helicopter, four killed
2003 - no fatalities
1998 - no fatalities
1991 - two planes collide, 27 killed

Saturday, December 06, 2008

My Last Palin Post (I hope)

What must Sarah Palin have looked like before? She spent $150,000 to gussy up her duds. She spent even more money, $165,000, to prettify her head. It boggles the mind.

Sarah Palin pre-makeover (best guess)

Friday, December 05, 2008

It Has Only Just Begun

The November jobs loss numbers (533,000) are only the beginning.
They will be worse in December and worse still in January. And that is without the Big Three automakers all going belly up together. The official unemployment rate will certainly breach 10% during this depression and possible approach 15%. The real unemployment rate, the U-6, will likely exceed 20%.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Republican Fears - Obama Division

Continuing a theme this week without having to do any writing myself. Cracked has the Four Craziest Right Wing Fears About Obama.

As a taste, #4 is He Shall Outlaw All Thine Weapons, and Probably Also Eat Thine Babies.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Three Conspiracies I Actually Believe

While I love a good conspiracy theory most are, in fact, bunk. There are three, however, that I do believe.

The JFK Assassination
I was nine years old when I read the Warren Commission Report. I didn't believe it then and I don't believe it now. The key for me was the unbelievable "magic bullet" theory. Simply put, the only way that Lee Harvey Oswald could have been the lone assassin was if one of his bullets entered the back of Kennedy's neck, exited from his throat, changed directions so it could then enter Texas Governor John Connally's back, impact his ribs changing direction again, exit Connally's torso striking his wrist leaving behind bullet fragments and changing direction again, entering Connally's leg where it lodged only to fall out onto the stretcher at Parkland Hospital in near pristine condition. The "magic bullet" was conceived by Arlen Spector, now senator from Pennsylvania. Lots of effort in the past decades has gone into proving the "magic bullet" is, theoretically possible. I have not found them convincing.

I understand why the Warren Commission wanted their conclusion to match the lone gunman theory. A conclusion that there was a conspiracy to murder Kennedy would have roiled the nation, certainly would have brought down the government and perhaps even endangered the democracy. Lee Harvey Oswald was conveniently dead; let his corpse take all of the blame.

What do I think happened? I think there was a conspiracy. Whether Oswald was involved or set up as a patsy is unknowable. My chief suspects are:
  1. The CIA. They had screwed the pooch with the Bay of Pigs. Then as now, the CIA had deep ties to organized crime. And Kennedy was prepared to break the agency's power. This was the plot of the Oliver Stone movie.
  2. J. Edgar Hoover. My personal favorite assumes that Hoover's attempt to blackmail Kennedy had failed so he had him killed. While this is my favorite I have to admit that I can't see how Hoover would have failed in a blackmail attempt of JFK.
  3. Lyndon Johnson. This was my childhood theory. I was suspicious that Kennedy was killed in Johnson's home state where there were plenty of people willing to help Johnson get the top job.
Additional Links: John McAdams who believes every dot and tittle of the Warren Commission; an academic compendium of JFK assassination research by Prof. Kenneth Rahn; E. Howard Hunt put the blame on Johnson and the CIA; Washington Post (2001) on a second gunman; interesting information; and more interesting information. I could go on and on.

Bush has protected Bin Laden
Remember back in December 2001 when Osama Bin Laden was trapped in the Tora Bora Mountains? What you may not remember is how he escaped. It didn't take a military genius to know that Bin Laden was trying to get into Pakistan. He was being chased up the mountain by Afghan and American troops. The 10th Mountain Division was standing ready to be air lifted to Tora Bora where they would have closed the passes. It would have been a classic hammer and anvil strategy.

Bush grounded the 10th Mountain Division and ordered the US troops to let Afghan fighters take the lead in pushing up the mountain. This resulted in Bin Laden, the entire al-Qaeda leadership, and two-thirds of Bin Laden's 1000 man force escaping to the safety of the Pakistani tribal lands. From that time to this there have been a few token moves but no concerted effort to attack Bin Laden's bases in Pakistan.

I don't believe the 9-11 conspiracy theory. Bush's disorganized and fearful reaction proved to me that he didn't know about the attack ahead of time. But it didn't take him long to realize the opportunity Bin Laden had given him. Republicans had been floundering since the fall of Communism. They needed a new boogeyman and Bin Laden was ideal. But it is important to keep your boogeyman alive. With a couple of thousand al-Qaeda soldiers it would only take a couple regiment of US rangers to wipe them out to the last man.

Bush didn't want a quick victory. He wanted this war to last. There had to be a show. The army had to be seen to be attacking al-Qaeda. But they had to fail. With Bin Laden alive and safe and al-Qaeda wounded but mostly intact Bush had his boogeyman. He had his excuse to violate the Constitution at will. He had his excuse for the war he wanted, his revenge attack upon Saddam Hussein. For four years, long enough to win reelection, whenever Bush wanted anything all he had to do was wave the bloody shirt of 9-11 and point out that Osama Bin Laden was still out there. It is with pride in my fellow Americans I note that when John McCain tried to wave that bloody flag yet again nobody listened.

Additional Links: McCain on the subject (before he converted to a Bushite), Washington Post April 17, 2002 article

Bush Stole the Florida Election
On election night, 2000, I heard a brief report that the Bush family, George father and son and Jeb were together when word came down that Al Gore was winning Florida. Jeb, according to the report, left the table saying he would fix it. At this point the polls were closed and there was nothing he should have been able to do. Following that report things happened:
Add to this was what had happened before the election with a systemic program to disenfranchise Democratic voters.

Jeb Bush, who now want to be a United States Senator, orchestrated a criminal conspiracy to rig the vote and the vote count in a presidential election and probably two. I firmly believe he committed acts which are both federal and state felonies.

Additional Links: Lies of Bush, Stealing the Presidency

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I Love a Good Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy theories are fun. They are a wonderful blend of history, science fiction, science fact, and wild-ass crazy thinking. The very best conspiracy theories have gobs of research. They have scores of photos with hand drawn arrows and circles pointing out some random array of pixels while concluding the resulting indistinct blotch is conclusive evidence. They scour historical documents looking for some telling details that most people have overlooked because it is totally meaningless. The conclusions, in those immortal words of Tommy Magliozzi, are "unencumbered by the thought process." Some favorites.

A Half-Million Coffins
Oddly, I got exactly 500,000 hits on Google for this (certainly a conspiracy in itself). The story is that FEMA has stored a half-million cheap plastic coffins in central Georgia preparing for some mass death event. Exactly what event is vague and ranges from terror attack to pandemic. This story is often matched with...

FEMA Concentration Camps
Going by the code name Rex 84, this is a government plan for the mass internment of millions of Americans. According to the theory there are some 800 (some moderates say 600) camps complete with barbed wire, rail access, and machine gun towers. Halliburton allegedly got $385 million to build some of these camps. Some include a story about 102,000 prison boxcars (photo) having been ordered by FEMA (actually, these are automobile transport boxcars). This was a fear among liberals (like me) during the early years of the Bush II reign. Now, conservatives have resurrected it as part of the Obama-fear.

North American Union
Most of the nuttier mainstream conservative pundits subscribe to this. They claim there is a conspiracy to unite Canada, Mexico, and the United States into a single country. NAFTA, they say, was the first step of this plot. A cute twist to this plot is the 1000 foot wide superhighway that is allegedly supposed to be built from Larado, Texas to Winnipeg.

The New World Order
Drawn from a 1990 speech from George Bush I, this is the Holy Grail of right wing conspiracy theorists. It joins everything from the Protocol of the Elders of Zion to Communism to the Illuminati and Masons into a Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory. One world government, destroying Christianity, and the Anti-Christ, NWO has it all.

Barack Obama's Birth
This is the newest conspiracy theory. This theory contents that Obama's mother faked his birth location while he was an infant so Barack would be eligible to run for president 45 years later. Beyond that belief in prescience, the theory relies on computer analyses of microscopic kerning differences between Obama's birth certificate and others to prove that Obama was actually born in Kenya to an American citizen which would have still have made him a natural-born American citizen by law. Then there is the alternative theory that Obama is actually the illegitmate son of Malcom X. Note: the same blogger manages to hold both these theories to be true which shows an open mindedness so wide her brain may fall out.

Monday, December 01, 2008

U.S. Arming Mexican Drug Warlords

There is a war going on in Mexico and the United States is supplying arms to the bad guys. American gun dealers are profiting by selling guns to Mexican criminals.
Mexico is losing its war against the drug cartels. The United States has been financing the drug warlords for a generation. U.S. enforcement policy has been to strive for quantity and not quality. Agencies go after street corner dealers and leave the cartels to operate in peace. Well, not peace really, more like freedom. It would be like Eliot Ness going after basement stills while leaving Al Capone free to build his empire.

Peace is the last thing the cartels want. They are at war with each other over the best smuggling routes. They are at war with the Mexican government which is nobly trying to protect its citizens. The cartels are also at war with the Mexican people because the drug cartels have become full service criminal enterprises now engaged in robbery, kidnapping, extortion, protection, and murder for hire. inexorably, the war is spreading north of the border.

Into this maelstrom have come entrepreneurial Houston gun dealers. Hiding behind the Second Amendment these gun dealers have been gleefully selling enough weapons and ammunition to arm an army. A popular gun for the cartels is the Bushmaster as it can shoot armor piercing bullets.
The example is taken from Jim Pruett's gun shop located on Huffmeister Road in Houston. It is purely for the purposes of an example. I am accusing him of nothing other than being a Houston gun dealer.

Also, I would never suggest, even in jest, that gun dealers are spreading the rumor that the election of Barack Obama has caused a boom in the legal sales of assault rifles to cover their increased sales to the Mexican cartels. I am certain they would never do such a thing.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Will a COL increase Prevent Clinton from becoming Sec. of State?

A Republican story line that is getting noise is the notion that Hillary Clinton is Constitutionally ineligible to be Secretary of State because the position received a cost of living salary increase during her term in the Senate.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; ~ U.S. Constitution - Article I, Section 6, Clause 2
A cursory review found six prior Secretary of States who fell into Clinton's situation. In descending order they were Edmund Muskie, Philander Knox, James G. Blaine, Daniel Webster (twice), James Buchanan, and Martin Van Buren. I am sure there are several additional examples with other cabinet posts.

Both Webster and Van Buren resigned from the Senate several weeks before being nominated for the cabinet position. I'm no Constitutional law professor and I have no intention of doing the historical digging necessary to confirm this, but I suspect way back in the early 19th century, when the Constitution was still new, resigning from the Senate prior to being nominated was sufficient to meet this clause's requirement.

World's Largest Prison

Walled in by the Israelis, held captive by Hamas, the people of the Gaza Strip live in the world's largest prison. For most it is a life sentence with no chance of parole. For most, their only crime was being born on the wrong patch of land.
Gaza has rightly been called a concentration camp. The Israeli blockade keeps the occupants impoverished. The Hamas jailers keep the occupants terrorized. Photo is of Hamas militia beating Palestinians in Gaza City in 2007 (source).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Never Steal Anything Small

Let's say you are CEO of a mid-sized community bank with $3 or $4 billion in assets. You have always been a prudent manager yet your bank is suffering. Hell, everyone is. To survive you have eliminated the year-end bonuses, including your own, and are going to cut the dividend. It is the frugal thing to do.

Now, let's imagine you are Charles Prince, the former CEO of Citigroup. You have been running Citigroup for four years and, frankly, you have run it into the ground. Your principle contribution to management has been to tell those whiny little twerps at Risk Management to shut the fuck up and let you party in peace. In four years you snatched over $50 million in salary (not counting all of the unbooked freebees) and you generated uncountable billions of dollars in losses. In leaving you took an additional $22 million severance, the Golden Parachute. You get a free office, secretary, and car with driver for the next five years because, Lord knows, you can't afford that shit now that you're unemployed. You're bank is getting a second $20 billion gift (bailout) from the Feds because the first one, for $25 billion, disappeared into the fetid swamp that is the Citigroup accounts.

In a just world, Charles Prince and a lot of other CEOs would be wearing prison denim and turning big rocks into small rocks for the rest of their lives. But the world is not just. If you steal a donut and you go to jail. If you steal millions they will pay you millions more just to leave.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Some Things Are Just Too Good to Be True

Anne Coulter's mouth is wired shut.

Things I'm Thankful For

In no particular order
  • George Bush seems to have decided to waste away the final two months of his presidency in a stupor rather than going out in a thermonuclear bang. From him, nothing is better than anything.
  • The American people put aside their accumulated prejudices to elect someone with dark skin and a Muslim name because he was the best man for the job.
  • CBC's Hockey Night in Canada is available on the NHL Network because Canadians know how to do hockey right.
  • Tina Fey and Sandra Bullock because both are very talented and cute as buttons.
  • Lucy Lawless - just because.
  • Groovelily for making their own kind of music.
  • Joan Baez - after all these years she still sings like a lark and means what she sings.
  • John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Peter Sagel, and Sandi Toksvig for bringing a needed perspective to the news. Without them the past eight years would have been completely unbearable.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss - their music never gets old.
  • The next generation of my family which has turned out to be very sweet and intelligent and, frankly, better people than I am.
  • Yoga - without which I don't think I'd be thankful for much of anything else.

Monday, November 24, 2008

$7.4 Trillion

A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money. ~ Everett Dirksen (adjusted for inflation)
The Bush/Paulson bailout package is now estimated to be $7.4 trillion. That is a lot of money.
  • 7.4 trillion seconds is 233,440 years
  • 7.4 trillion days is longer than the universe has existed (14 billion years)
  • a stack of 7.4 trillion one dollar bills would reach from the Earth to the moon, and back
  • $7.4 trillion would pay for two Iraq Wars and a border skirmish somewhere
  • It is more than half of the Gross Domestic Product of the United States ($14 trillion in 2007)
  • Over $1100 for every man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth (Earth's population 6.7 billion)
  • $25,000 for every man, woman, and child in the United States (US population 300 million)
  • $7.4 trillion is more than the current market capitalization of the entire S&P 500
  • And, as long as we are being silly, a stack of pennies worth $7.4 trillion would reach from the Sun to Jupiter and half way to Saturn
Bush trillion dollar bill

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Life Lessons from San Diego Sports

There are certain truisms about life you can discover by being a San Diego sports fan.

There is so an 'I' in 'Team'
At the start of the season the San Diego Chargers football team was one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl. They are currently more pathetic than their 4-6 record shows all because they lost just two players.
Linebacker Shawne Merriman is out for the season with knee injury. With him the Chargers had the most fearsome pass rush in football. Without him the Chargers have gone entire games without laying a finger on the opposing quarterback. Literally. No sacks, no hits, no hurries. Forget intimidating a quarterback, defenders aren't getting close enough to muss his hair. Also, when Merriman played opposing tight ends had to stay on the line and try to help block him. Without Merriman tight ends are roaming freely in the Charger secondary. Even no-talent bums are looking like Kellen Winslow (senior, the good one).
Lorenzo Neal (#41 at left) is a fullback. He seldom touches a football. His job is to block. Throughout LaDainian Tomlinson's incredible career Neal has been in front of him making holes. Until this year. The Chargers let Neal get away and replaced him with a rookie who is more often getting in the way than getting the block. As a result, Tomlinson is having his worst year of his career.

The Sanctity of Marriage is Important
No, not that one-man, one-woman silliness. I'm talking about the "what God has joined together let no man put asunder" part. The owner of the San Diego Padres, John Moores, is getting a messy divorce and the only child to be tormented by it is the baseball team. You see, Moores is trying to depress the value of the team before the divorce property settlement.
In the 40-year history of the San Diego Padres Trevor Hoffman is second only to the great Tony Gwynn in both longevity and the love of the fans. While he is past his prime the love has not diminished. This post season the Padres have cut Trevor loose for, well, nothing at all. And they did it with a rude slap to his face.

To make matters worse, the Padres are trying to trade another fan favorite, Khalil Greene, and their only legitimate star, Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy. The Padres aren't asking for much, just a few cheap rookies. The fly in this ointment is that Peavy has a guaranteed contract with a no-trade clause and he kind of likes living in San Diego.

A Quality Education is Only Important for the Sports
San Diego State has a rotten football team. They have for years. They are 2-10 this season and were lucky to be that good. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is horrible the San Diego State Aztecs are somewhere in negative numbers. SDSU President Stephen Weber is proposing to hike student fees to $350 annually to fund the athletic program. To put this in perspective, the student fee in 2004 was $30, that is a 1167% increase in just four years.

It is not like the college is begging for this. In 2004 Weber had to overturn a student body referendum that had rejected a fee increase from $30 to $190. This year he isn't bothering with a vote and will impose another fee increase with token consultation. In addition, Weber has thrown millions of dollars in discretionary funds at the sports program. Money that could have been spent on, gee I don't know, like education.

As an academic institution San Diego State is stagnant in large part because the football program is a financial Black Hole. If you don't know what a Black Hole is maybe its because you got a degree in physics at San Diego State.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Killed Capitalism

Republicans are using words like Communism and Socialism to denounce the Obama Administration even before it takes office and that his election will lead to the Death of Capitalism. Capitalism has already died. It was killed the casino mentality that has infected the nation's economy.

Buying shares in a business and being rewarded with periodic dividends from the profits is such as 19th Century notion. Today its all about capital gains - stock is bought to be sold for a profit (or sold to be bought later for a profit if you are a short-seller). It doesn't matter if the stock market goes up or down, gamblers can make money in both directions. What the business does, or whether it does any business at all, is a meaningless distraction.

Back when capitalism was alive the leaders of businesses were visionaries. Creative men who made things. Today most businesses are run by accountants. Creativity is reserved for ever more exotic debt instruments and derivatives. For every Bill Gates and Steve Jobs there are a thousand G. Richard Wagoners.

The Chairman and CEO of General Motors is the quintessential bean counter. A bookkeeper who reached the top. In his entire life he has never built anything, designed anything, thought of anything. He achieved his status by being a loyal company man and playing the politics of advancement well. Having no history in his life of creating anything of value his effect on GM was predictable.

Wagoner took his post at the head of GM in 2000. That year GM's market cap reached $50 billion. In the eight years of his tenure GM has lost 95% of its value and is now worth $1.7 billion. During that time Wagoner has made multiple millions of dollars. He is not unique. Look at the leadership of most American corporations and you find Richard Wagoners, men of no imagination but who have a penchant for gambling.

Capitalism is dead. It was killed by oligarchical corporatism. A handful of CEOs gambled with the world's economy for their private gain. They served on each others boards and always their first priority was grow each others wealth. Whether the businesses thrived or collapsed was meaningless so long as their bonuses and golden parachutes grew. And while the world has lost, those CEOs are still extremely wealthy. They won.

Sarah Palin's Media Savvy

Any Republicans who cling to the belief that Sarah Palin's problems during the campaign (see the famous Katie Couric interview) were the fault of mishandling by McCain staffers should watch this clip picked up by HuffPost.

Palin is doing a meaningless interview following a routine Thanksgiving photo op where she pardoned a turkey. She still has her Gomer-Pylesque speaking style, I had mercifully forgotten how painful it was to listen to her stumble through an unscripted sentence. But the interesting part of the interview is happening behind her. A man is hauling live turkeys up to a blood covered table and slaughtering them in full view of the camera. Poor Sarah is clueless.

I've worked with politicians way below the level of Veep candidate. They all are aware of their surroundings. I don't know anyone who wouldn't have walked the interviewer a little left or right to insure a decent background. Afterwards they all would have fired their media aide for having positioned the camera badly to begin with. It isn't even Media Management 101, high schoolers know better than this.

I've never seen the likes of Sarah. She has less media savvy than a rotten turnip. I've never met a politician at any level so incognizant. And to think she came within nine million votes and a wayward blood clot of becoming President.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Big Three Troubles - a Petite History

Back in the heyday of General Motors the life expectancy of a new car was about 100,000 miles. It was a big deal when the first 5 year-50,000 mile warranty was announced. Today, 10 year-100,000 mile warranties are not uncommon and cars survive a half-million miles of use. It is is curse of Japanese (and to a lesser extent German) engineering.

When GM was king, planned obsolescence was a profitable business model. The customer could be counted on to return every couple of years for a new car because the old one kept breaking down. Auto dealers actually counted of repeat business. Then the Japanese began flooding the market with cars that routinely ran well for decades. To compete, American automakers had to manufacture cars that didn't break down after a handful of summers. The reason truck sales became a large and large percentage of American automakers books is because people who bought pickup trucks and SUVs were the last of a dying breed. They still needed to have the best and newest each year regardless of the need, regardless of the price. Call is psychological obsolescence.

With this epic economic downturn people are not only deciding they are going to have to keep their current car for a decade or longer, they have realized that they can. The cars are built to last that long. So people have stopped buying new cars and will probably not buy another car until the economy recovers sometime in the 2020's.

The resulting inventory glut is massive. Every manufacturing plant producing cars for the American market could shut its doors tomorrow and keep them closed until 2010 and it would still not be enough time to completely draw down the inventory backlog. There are big SUVs sitting on lots today that will probably never sell at any price. Some automakers will certainly survive but I can't see any of the American Big Three being among the survivors.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


So, Senate Democrats have seen fit to forgive Joe Lieberman his many trespasses. So be it. Skilled back-stabber that he is I'm sure they will regret that decision.

Joe Lieberman is a treasonous little weasel. He will repay the magnanimity he has received with betrayal. He always has.

Bailing Out the Buggy Whip Makers

The Big Three automakers have been bleeding cash for years now. The chart below shows the stock action for General Motors over the past 15 years. The current stock price is $2.90, a level not seen since WWII.
The current economic collapse has exacerbated their troubles but it didn't cause them. The economy could turn rosy tomorrow and the automakers would still be in a peck of trouble.
At one time there must've been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I'll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. ~ Danny DeVito, Other People's Money
Take the new Ford F-150 pickup truck. They advertise it has a computerized entertainment system that would be the envy of many homes. It comes with "black sports-leather captain's chairs," wi-fi connectivity, and a rear-view camera for those people who never mastered using a mirror. Ford hasn't been able to sell enough of the previous versions of this truck to make a profit so they have made a truck with so many bells and whistles it is hard to find the truck. But, it's a hell of a good buggy whip.

I understand why politicians want to bail out the American auto industry. When it goes belly up it will take a million-plus jobs with it. But the American auto industry has been a dying industry for over a decade. They have been behind the Asian automakers on every practical innovation. Their refusal to retool for hybrid technology until very recently has left them hopelessly trailing. They have fought CAFE standards at every turn. They have been devoid of ideas. Even bad ideas would have been better than their total lack of ideas. They business models have been, "don't mess with failure."

It will probably be necessary, this year, to bailout American automakers. Their failure just now will ripple through the economy at a time when it cannot stand another major shock. But don't be deluded, it is simply throwing money down a rat hole. There is not enough value left in those companies for Toyota, Honda, or Amalgamated Buggy Whip to want to buy them out.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Giving Both Ways on Christmas

More than ever before, this year I am going to stretch my Christmas giving by buying gifts from people who deserve my patronage. I'm going to look to artisans and craftsmen, non-profits, and deserving small businesses as the sources for most of my gift buying. That way my gift buying won't funnel profits into some corporate balance sheet. Rather, I will be helping the people I am buying from more than those I am giving to.

I won't be perfect. I'm sure a book or two from Barnes & Noble and a DVD from Best Buy will find their way under the tree. But as far as I can within the scope of my imagination I shall ignore the corporate giants and buy from people my own size.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Beyond Panic

When in danger,
When in doubt,

Run in circles,

Scream and shout.
— Old Sailor's Proverb
I've been scanning my thesaurus looking for a word to describe Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson during the current economic disaster. Panic no longer suffices, he passed that emotion a month ago. Hysteria is closer to the mark but is still lacking. We may have to invent a new word, "Hank has gotten throughly paulsony."
Paulsony (adj) - characterized by wild gyrations during a difficult circumstance. Being decisively indecisive. Moving helter-skelter from one radical position to another, the positions often being wildly inconstant with each other.
While George Bush continues the blithe detachment that has been his principle character trait since sobering up, Paulson has been anything but blithe. Tune into MSNBC and look into his eyes. He looks like someone who has been run over by a stampeding herd of elephants.

The original Paulson bailout, the one sold to Congress, was intended to buy illiquid securities from banks. That never got off the ground. The next plan was to give money to banks (for preferred stock) on the understanding the banks would in turn loan the money to the public. The banks took the money with no strings attached and used it to gobble up smaller companies and pay their executives hefty bonuses. The current Paulson plan junks the original purpose entirely. He now proposed to fritter the money away on an indistinct, disjointed hodge-podge of programs. I'm not too interested in the details because I'm sure there will be another policy shift next week.

We are aboard a ship at sea on a moonless night. The captain is running around the ship, naked, screaming about icebergs and goblins. But, that's okay because the ship is steaming confidently at flank speed in a tight circle. We may not get out of this alive but at least we'll die dizzy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thoughts on Veteran's Day

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Long time ago

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Gone to graveyards every one

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?
~ Where Have All the Flowers Gone by Pete Seeger
War is sometimes a necessary evil. Soldiers deserve our sympathy. We, as a nation-state, have demanded so much of them. Amidst the bravery and sacrifice they are compelled by us to commit acts of evil and depravity. For what else is the deliberate killing of another human being than evil and depraved?

Remember this always and never forget - whatever else war is, war is always evil.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thank You, Howard

Howard Dean is stepping down as DNC chair. He deserves our thanks. It was Dean's 50-state strategy and it was Dean's energy that made the Democratic Party victory this year possible. Without him we might have fought, and lost, another close election.

Before Howard Dean, the Democratic Party believed in a 50 percent plus one strategy. There were states, like North Carolina and Indiana, where it was thought impossible for Democrats to win and we should abandon them to their fate. By shrinking the campaigns down to a handful of "battleground" states the Democratic Party played to Republican Party strengths. The Republican's top down campaign structure needs a small, narrowly focused campaign battle front. In essence, since 1992 national elections were a coin flip. We win half, they win half.

Dean's 50-state strategy was taken and perfected by David Axlerod and Barack Obama into their "Broad Battlefield" concept. Republicans were confronted with a truly national campaign that their tactics of microtargeting was wholly incapable of fighting.

Oddly, those with a knowledge of military history will recognize this. The German strategy of Blitzkrieg was microtargeting, concentrating overwhelming force on a few weak points. It was trumped by Eisenhower's "broad front" strategy that didn't allowed the Germans to focus on a counterattack.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Coleman (R)-MN - Don't Count the Votes!

Things have not changed one iota from 2000, Republicans still hate counting the votes. Norm Coleman has gone to court (and lost) to stop the state of Minnesota from counting the remaining votes in the senatorial campaign.
Lest we forget, the photo is of the Florida "Stop the Count" riot in 2000.

Friday, November 07, 2008

There Will Be No Economic Miracle

There are many more leaden shoes left to fall on this economy.
President Obama will not be able to wave a magic wand and repair in a few weeks the damage George Bush took eight years to generate. It will take time.
Don't ask what your country can do for you. Ask how you can help your neighbor. There is little the government can do to help quickly although we will do everything we can and probably a little more. In this year of crisis we Americans have to work together. We have to help each other. Let us show ourselves and the world, let us show the doubters and the cynics, that it is now that the best of America comes out. We can rise out of this morass by helping each other. We can do that and we will do that.
If I were a speechwriter for President Obama this is what I would have him say.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Whither Joe the Lieberman?
In the last row, in the last seat

You've made your bed, now lie in it. ~ my mother
Sign the petition.
  • Joe Lieberman wants to be forgiven for supporting and actively campaigning for the Republican candidate for president. He wants to be forgiven for attacking the Democratic candidate for president. He wants to be forgiven for openly campaigning against Democratic senatorial candidates. Okay, I can be magnanimous.
  • Joe Lieberman wants to caucus with the majority party in the incoming Senate. Fine, I understand he doesn't want to be in an insignificant minority.
  • Joe Lieberman wants to keep the chairmanship of an important Senate committee. No way in Hell.
There will be at least 55 Democratic Senators, plus independent Bernie Sanders, who did none of the above during the past campaign. Each and every one of them has a better case for the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.

Joe Lieberman made his bed, he chose to lie down with the Republicans during the past election. His pride or greed or envy, I'm not quite sure which of the Deadly Sins motivates Lieberman, has him begging to be allowed to caucus with the majority he abandoned during the campaign. He doesn't want to pay a price for his disloyalty.

If Joe Lieberman sits with the Democratic caucus it should be in the very last row in the very last seat. Give him the sub-committee on Taxation and IRS Oversight or something of similar station. Tell him honestly that he has to re-earn the respect of his colleagues.

And if he chooses to caucus with the Republicans give Joe a fruit basket and a firm handshake goodbye.

(a note: I think I know why Lieberman is so dismayed at the prospect of caucusing with the Republicans he supported in the campaign. The Republicans who like Jews only like them as cannon fodder for the coming Tribulation. Every day the majority of his Republican colleagues would look at him thinking that he is going to Hell for refusing to accept Jesus as his lord and savior. Joe would not be very comfortable.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Deferred No Longer

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

Now What?

Some general advice for our new president and congress from someone who has seen several come and go.
  1. Don't sweat the small stuff. Work on the big issues that matter - improving the economy, ending the occupation of Iraq. The easiest way to squander the election is to get bogged down in trivialities.
  2. Be open and communicate often. People don't like secretive government. FDRs Fireside Chats calmed a nation nervous about its future. Ronald Reagan was not popular because of his policies (which always polled poorly), he was popular and mostly successful because he was a highly skilled pitchman.
  3. It's all about others. Barack, don't build a cult of personality around the President. Richard Nixon did it, Ronald Reagan did it, Bill Clinton did it, George Bush fils did it. This is where each failed. Be the community organizer. You will help yourself most by helping others succeed.
  4. Focus on 2010. This election is not the end but the beginning. The biggest possible success is to grow the Democratic Party for the next election cycle. That all means...
  5. Keep your field organization. The biggest mistake political parties make is they disband the army after the war. Keep in touch with your supporters. Maintain a standing corps of field offices to mobilize the infantry (phonebankers and the like) should it be necessary to suppress Republican opposition to an important program. Don't overuse it but don't let it go moribund.
  6. Be positive, be upbeat, be hopeful. Don't pretend the nation's problems don't exist. Face them with certainty. Together we can climb any mountain. Together we are better. Together we will succeed. Together we will make this a better nation and a better world. Keep hope alive!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dixville Notch

Barack Obama - 15
John McCain --- 6

Since I was a child (1960) the tiny hamlet of Dixville Notch, NH has gathered at midnight to vote for president. They invariably vote Republican, often overwhelmingly. This result is an encouraging note to go to sleep on. (The one exception was 1968 when they preferred Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon, which is scary and I won't sleep well.)

Why I'm Nervous

By this point in a campaign I am usually calm. There is little more than can happen. Maybe we will win, maybe we'll lose, maybe it will be a long night of vote counting. I'm not calm this year. I fear the criminal conspiracy that is the modern Republican Party.

Since the year 2000 I have believed that for a progressive to win a bare majority of the vote count he needs to have a five percent lead in the votes cast (Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004). Five percent is the practical limit of vote count fraud beyond which the fraud becomes so apparent as to be unbelievable. Barack Obama far exceeds that threshold. I should be able to relax but I can't.

For John McCain to win will require a level of election fraud so blatant, so outrageous, that the entire nation, the entire world will notice. Yet, I can't help believing Republicans will try. I can't help fearing they will openly steal the election. The world's hand will be stayed by McCain's finger on the nuclear button and the real risk he will use it. American street protests will be ended by gunfire from Palinite skinheads.

I fervently pray my vision is paranoid fantasy.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Better Comic Than a Politician

Poor John McCain. As a politician he is stiff and erratic. He overplays bad hands and repeatedly injures himself with overreaching attacks. His debate skills are nonexistent.

McCain's SNL skits prove he does, however, have pretty fair comic timing. From a political point of view it was a waste of time. The SNL audience consists of stoned out kids and unreconstructed liberal hippies. There is nary a vote to be had there for an elderly Republican. I can think of a couple hundred better ways to spend a Saturday night three and half days before the election than hanging out in Manhatten. Sleep comes to mind.

Mostly the appearance proves that McCain missed his calling. With just a little work McCain could be a successful comedian, the new George Burns. Instead he has chosen to be a politican, a joke of a different kind.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Rumor Ambitions

I'd like to start a political rumor, see it go viral, and see it change the election. It would be fun in a psychopathically insane kind of way. I like weird rumors. I even fell for the Sarah Palin's child is really her grandchild rumor. The problem is that I just don't have the wild imagination necessary for rumormongering.

Yes, I've written some fiction. Yes, I written grant applications for new projects and had to imagineer budgets for them. But these things have to be rooted is reality. Really good rumormongers are not governed by the rules of time, physics, or common sense.

Take Pam Geller at Atlas Shrugs. She has created a fantastic rumor that Barack Obama is really the lovechild of Malcom X. It's a tour de'force of rumor creation. In her barely lucid screed Pam uses the rumor to tie Obama to both 60's radicals and Black Muslims. She even uses a photo showing the physical similarities between Obama and actor Denzel Washington (who played Malcom X in a movie) to prove paternity.

I am in awe. Acknowledgements to Never Yet Melted and Sadly No! for their initial discovery.

Friday, October 31, 2008


McCain's Hail Mary
McCain is concentrating his money on media buys at the expense of GOTV (get out the vote) efforts. My knee jerk reaction was that this a stupid move. The very best use of money at the end of a campaign is insuring your voters cast their ballots. GOTV in vital for down ballot races. A strong GOTV program is the makings of presidential coattails, it brings voters to the polls who will also vote for congressman, senator, and dog catcher. Upon further consideration I understand why McCain is doing this.

McCain's campaign has realized that even if every one of their supporters vote they will still lose. A 100% effective GOTV program will still fall short. Even now, they need to concentrate on finding new votes and hope their supporters find the polls on their own. It's a gamble that can't hope to succeed. They will lose more votes by not having an organized GOTV than they could possibly gain through still more advertising and they are sacrificing dozens of House and Senate seats in the process.

Obama in the Desert

Obama is spending money advertising in Arizona. This seems like a waste of money. Going after Arizona's 10 electoral votes is a senseless extravagance. There is a method to this tactic.

The battleground states are already saturated with campaign commercials to the point of diminishing return - one more ad in Cleveland won't make a bit of difference. Moving a little money into Arizona forces the McCain camp to react at no practical cost to Obama's campaign.

More than most politicians, which is saying a lot, John McCain is driven by his ego. The thought of losing his home state to Obama stings worse than losing the whole election. The smart move for McCain is to ignore Obama's move into Arizona. But can McCain resist the compulsion to defend his home turf? If McCain reacts, the diversion of time and resources will hurt McCain's campaign.

This is how chess players defeat poker players.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What the Gamblers Think

I refuse to predict the outcome of the election. I have an idea but I refuse to write it down lest I jinks the result. I don't mind looking at where the professional gamblers are placing their bets.

1 - 8 .... Barack Obama
9 - 2 .... John McCain
If you wager $80 on Obama they will pay off only $10. They predict an 89% chance of an Obama victory and an 18% chance of a McCain win (the difference is the bookmaker's vigorish).

Paddy Power
1 - 9 .... Barack Obama
5 - 1 .... John McCain
This Irish bookmaker announced he was closed his book two weeks ago and paid off his bets assuming an Obama victory. His website is still accepting bets giving Obama a 90% chance to win and McCain 16%.

Blue Square
1 - 16 .... Barack Obama
7 - 1 ..... John McCain
These are the longest odds I can find. Obama is given a 94% chance while McCain has a 12% victory chance.

1 - 5 ... Barack Obama
5 - 1 ... John McCain
No vigorish on this site so the odds come out even. Obama has an 84% chance; McCain a 16% chance.

Conservatives convinced McCain will win easily should get their money down now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I've Known Politicians Like Palin and McCain

ABC News has a number of interesting little facts about Sarah Palin. I won't name names because one of them is a suer but I have known politicians that remind me of Palin.

One guy who ran for mayor of San Diego and a plethora of other seats (he's currently, thankfully, out of politics) has Sarah's lack of integrity. He is a consummate backstabber. He sat on an initiative campaign committee with me once and used that position to undercut our fund raising efforts. He told big donors wishing to contribute to our campaign to write the checks to a different campaign fund that he personally controlled.

Then there is a sitting Democratic congressman. He held a different office when I was a politically influential leader of the Sierra Club chapter. I was also at the time a personal friend of a different elected official. He sent a staffer to threaten me - if I didn't do as I was told he would destroy the career of my friend. The funny thing is I probably would have done it if asked nicely but his default action is to threaten people.

There is a sitting Republican congressman. (Okay, I'll name this one, Brian Bilbray.) To say he is as dumb as a post would be to insult posts. There is no issue where he is even marginally conversant. Unlike Sarah, Brian knows he's stupid. He is a shameless toady to anyone able to help him. His current master is Congressman Duncan Hunter.

And then there is John McCain. A sitting Republican member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors I know is just about the nicest person you'll want to mean unless he suspects you of something. While this guy was on the San Diego City Council I bumped into his Chief of Staff on the street. We were having a meaningless, pleasant, hey-how-ya-doin' conversation when his boss drove by. The CofS turned white. He told me he was afraid he had just been seen by his boss talking to a known Democrat. His boss is known to have a thin skin and a violent temper towards anyone he perceives is a traitor.