Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In The Rearview Mirror

The year is ending today. Please accept my best and fondest wishes for a healthy, and happy New Year. May your best day of 2008 be your worst day of 2009.
I think I suffer from Bush Fatigue. Eight years of a good President is wearing. Eight years of a bad President is exhausting. Knowing full well that he's leaving at the end January, one is tempted to ask if there's anyway he can hurry along.
I have hopes for Obama's presidency. They used to be high hopes, until the markets melted away and the economy went in the pan. Now, I just hope he can stop the bleeding and sew up a few of the bigger wounds. He should win a second term (it's hard to unelect a President. Just look at 2004.), by which we will have been firmly on the road to recovery.
I think. I hope. It would be hard to imagine a crisis so severe that it would outlast a President's term but there you have it.
Barring a major outbreak of amazing news-- it could happen!-- I should end 2009 about as well as 2008 ends. 2008 saw the collapse of several things in my life, from my health to some family issues that really need to be taken care of. The shocks are over, the regrouping has begun. I figure it will take about a year to recover. This is my time to praise my Jesus for keeping an eye on me, and giving me good friends who have not been afraid to stand up to me and question what I'm all about.
I've made it hard on a lot of you this year, and for that, I am sorry. I've purposely distanced myself in order to give myself some breathing room to examine all that's gone on in the world and in my world. I hope you'll understand. If our friendships cannot survive that, then perhaps we were not meant to be friends in the first place.
I started the year with some goals, and I think I've achieved a few of them. One was to make this blog a voice in Blogtopia (© Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo). I've added fifty new names to the mailing list (you can click the little button in the upper right hand corner if you want to join).
More important, I won the Weblog Award. I'm nominated again (I'll link the pages and such later this week). I hope to work my magic one more time.
I guest-blogged at Crooks and Liars for a week.
More important to me is not to watch my hit counter rack up points every day, but to see my ideas echo along the corridors of Blogtopia and the blogosphere from time to time. Every so often, I'll see someone quote a piece of mine (I can see the incoming links) and read a discussion about the idea. This is good. This is why I blog. I got this massive brain, the size of a planet, and it would be a damned shame to keep all of the thoughts inside. And for convincing me to do this, I have to thank Katrina. Again.  
I promise to work harder on this, to hone my writing and critical thinking (and to perfect my grammar and spelling) and make it easier to coalesce the way I see this world into things that can be talked about. I don't have the time, like a lot of the furry mammalian bloggers, to sit and think and read and edit. I write these posts sitting at my desk at work, and even MIS is getting antsy about that much time spent. It means I will have to work harder at making myself clear.
I want to do this without losing sight of something valuable to be: the transparent thought process. A careful reader of my work will notice every once in a while I'll post something disjointed. This simply means I haven't considered everything yet, but that I feel strongly one way already. I don't want to lose that, because in sharing my thoughts, I share a bit of myself with you.
Too, it gives my reader the opportunity to take his or her own journey with me. It's been fun sometimes to correspond, in comments or email, about a nugget of information and see where things go.
2009 projects to be a quiet year, from a blog standpoint. I don't see where Obama has many choices about what he can and cannot do, so I can't imagine he'll make any significantly controversial decisions. We've pretty much hashed out his policies for the first half ot the year, and I don't see him as having the courage to take a real risk with the economy as tattered as it is.
I hope I'm wrong, of course. I like watching my hit counter soar!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Year In Review

OK, so it's the penultimate day of 2008.
I wait all year to use that word, "penultimate". It reminds me of the Parker ballpoint I got for graduating from junior high school.
Careful readers of my blog might recall that, back on January 4, I ran a special "Nobody Asked Me, But..." in which I predicted the top ten stories of 2008.
Let's look at those predictions again:
1) Sub-Saharan Africa - What can be said about what I picked as the most important story of 2008 except that I hate being right. Cholera and ebola outbreaks in Zimbabwe and the Congo, a stolen election in Zimbabwe that's threatening to overrun South Africa, tribal warfare in Nigeria, Somalia in chaos again...did I mention the pirates?
2) Global Warming - Well, what can I say? Two devastating wildfires in Santa Barbara, tornadoes at Christmas (!?), Hurrican Ike and five other storms touching down in the US as well as Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (which killed 85,000 people, tho you never read about it), and 87 tornadoes on Super Tuesday. Apparently, God didn't like His choices much.
3) Oil - Crude futures averaged $100 a barrel this year, and that's with the high of $147 a barrel in June. This likely caused #7 below.
4) 2008 Elections - I'd say I was right about this being an important story. I'm tempted to say this should have been swapped with number 2 for importance. The Congressional races were, as I pointed out, the real story of the general election. Even now, the entire story has not been written, as Minnesota is taking its time announcing a new Senator.
5) Biotechnology - Believe it or not, this was a big year for biotech. For example, despite the cool Spring temperatures and June floods, the corn crop was the second largest ever produced in America, thanks to biotech. Soy had it's fourth largest crop. And who can forget the Gardasil battle? The genes for lung cancer were identified. And the crowning achievement: the transplant of a patient's windpipe grown from her own stem cells.
6) Beijing Olympics - Pictorial proof:
7) Economic disaster - Your 401(k) lost 40% of its value in 2008 alone, 50% since October 2007. The Bush administration, yet again, proved its inability to respond to any crisis that didn't involve sending troops in.
8) Nationalism - I put this forward as an economic issue, never imagining that when the US sneezed, the world might catch its flu. No one really stepped up to absorb weakened US companies. We saw Saudis invest heavily in Citigroup, but they already had sizable investments there. Nomura Holdings did buy Lehman Brothers, but any chance of GM or Ford being bought is in abeyance as the bailout program is rolled out. I'd take this one off the list.
9) Indonesia - Again, I focused on natural disaster in Indonesia. This was a bit of a gamble, to be frank. altho I couched it in terms of "near term". Java did suffer some landslides, and many other parts of the island chain had fires, floods and landslides as the year closed. Estimates are that some 500-1,000 people died as the result of these events. The prediction I made was for a catastrophic event to occur. These were mostly do to deforestation and bad land management practices.
10) Avian flu - Fewer human deaths this year than last, however the disease remains as virulent in the avian population as ever and is spreading farther afield now. However, this is pretty disturbing news.
I'll have my predictions for 2009 up on Friday. Tomorrow, I look back on the year passed with a bit more reflectivity.
That's right, I'll put on my tin foil hat!

Quick Linkage

Roy Edroso writes a very funny summary of the top ten right wing nutbag stories of 2008.
I'll give you the bones. Go feast on the flesh.
#10: Fred Thompson, The Natural. "Though Thompson's campaign was somnolent and inept, his choir fluffed him frenetically. "
#9: The Cheapskate's Guide to Civil Disobedience. "Rightblogger Dr. Helen discussed undertipping waiters, maids, gardeners, etc. if Obama won as a way for rich people to express their displeasure."
#8: The Hoover Boom.  " 'This election year does look quite a bit like Hoover vs. Roosevelt (and given that choice, I'll take Hoover),' said National Review's Jonah Goldberg"
#7: And Robin is Tony Blair. "In the Wall Street Journal Andrew Klavan explained why The Dark Knight is 'a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war.' "
#6: The War on Starbucks. "For Michelle Malkin, even hot beverages are political."
#5: Rightwing Hillary Love. "As her star started to fade, Hillary Clinton won the applause of rightbloggers theretofore committed to her destruction. "
#4: Michelle Obama: The Lost Sessions. "We hold out hope for the discovery in a Chicago garage of Michelle's lost Millie Jackson collaborations."
#3: A Megan McArdle Christmas. Megan McArdle proves herself unworthy of the description "consistent" (there really was no way to quote Edroso without pulling the entire bit).
#2: A Late Defense of Richard Nixon. "Regrettably, Schiffren did not include DNA evidence."
#1: Obama the Savage Messiah. "When finally the worst came to pass, they declared that Obama would be just like Bush. That's as may be, but you have to wonder then why they went through all that trouble. "
For ratings, Roy, for ratings. Thank you for this marvelous reminder of why Obama won.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Captain Obvious! Your Story Is Up!

Well, I mean, duh!:

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

Now, look, I understood and could even support to an extent the concept behind virginity pledges: if you've raised a fairly obedient kid, and have lectured him or her about the evils of drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and sex (particularly any combination of the four), likely you can expect to raise a child who remains unmolested by at least one of the above.
If you are really really lucky. And I mean, "hit the lottery the same day that your rich uncle dies and Michelle Pfeiffer (or Pierce Brosnan) asks you on a date" lucky.
That lucky.
So hey, it could happen and hey, it's not a bad idea to reinforce your belief that a child shouldn't be having sex. Parents are supposed to set boundaries. Children are supposed to knock them down if they can.
Here's what is laughable about this whole trope, the way it's been rolled out in America: the exact people who SHOULDN'T be using this form of contraception ARE!
The only scenario in which this kind of paternalistic parenting approach works is a family environment where love, tolerance, acceptance and education prevail:
"DAD: You know I respect you and love you, but I want you to promise me something. Promise me that you won't have sex until you are married and that you will come talk to me and be honest with me if you decide to break this promise.
CHILD: Dad, because you've always been honest and open with me, and given me guidance, I will promise not to have sex until I am married, with the understanding that mistakes happen, and I may not always be in control of how a promise like this might be broken. When it happens, I will need your guidance and trust, rather than your anger and disappointment."
The kid's likely to fail. Take it as a given. However, this type of relationship is likely the ONLY one that will produce a marked record of success. The child is making the promise out of a sense of security and safety, not out of fear.
It is in the climate of fear, however, that this promise is usually made:
"DAD: Goddamit, don't you EVER have sex until you're married! I will not support you and some tramp/boy and your baby while you two figure out how to play house. Promise me, dammit, now!
CHILD: Um, OK, Dad, I promise. Can I go play with my, um, Wii now?"
You got the picture. Not only is the second kid less likely to keep the promise, but is more likely to be unprepared for when he or she does break it. After all, it's not likely that this kid is going to find birth control, and certainly unlikely that he or she will keep it on hand. Worse, this kid is going to work overtime to make sure that Dad never finds out, that Mom never finds out, and that means he or she will have to lie like an area rug when Mom and Dad begin the formal inquisition.
Anyone who believes this kind of program is going to make the excitement and stimulations of teenaged sex go away is deluding themselves. You can throw all the cold showers and church retreats and PG-rated activities you want, the simple fact is, kids will have sex, which will influence their friends to have sex, which will influence more friends to have sex, and so on.
You want to know what will stop kids from having sex? Nothing. You want to know what will make kids think responsibly about sex?
Thinking responsibly about kids.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) In case anyone wondered if the credit crisis and recession were anywhere near over...the answer is no.

2) Clearly, Bush really is concerned about his legacy.

3) Or maybe not.

4) This is why the religious right will never get anywhere in this world: they beat up on little kids.

5) Sometimes Santa takes away, rather than give.

6) I can tell you this much: NOT sleeping is not good for your heart.

7) One thought in this season of giving: blood. The weather and the economy is taking its toll on the nation's blood supply. If you have the chance, give a pint.

8) Given item 3, above, how does the Bush administration square their domestic policy with their foreign policy?

9) This is some guy's mug shot:

I'm thinking the only jobs he'll ever get include the words "Did you want fries with that?" or maybe as a stock broker.

10) A short history of Boxing Day. Happy Boxing day, all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twelve Days Of Christmas Music Blogging

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Boy, don't I know this feeling?

Merry Happy, everyone!

A Dead Meme

The good thing about Christmas Eve is no one has anything of import to write about. The bad thing about Christmas Eve is no one has anything important to write about:
the war on Christmas is a godless plot cooked up by a cabal of latte-sipping liberals, greedy retail tycoons, bearded ACLU communists and Ban Ki-moon acolytes who secretly gather in Bay Area synagogues to smoke pot, deface Bibles and perform abortions.

Or — maybe — the whole thing is just a canard, the backlash against a wave of political correctness that swept the U.S. in the late '90s, resulting in some strange new concessions to cultural sensitivity: cities insisting on calling the telltale conifers "holiday trees," efforts to ban the pleasantry "Merry Christmas" and crackdowns on the use of holiday nativity scenes and other religious iconography. But to many, the War on Christmas is a hyperbolic construct that blows the problem out of proportion. "There is no war on Santa," Michelle Goldberg wrote on in 2005. "What there is, rather, is the burgeoning myth of a war on Christmas, assembled out of old reactionary tropes, urban legends, exaggerated anecdotes and increasingly organized hostility to the American Civil Liberties Union." According to Max Blumenthal, who published a recent article on the topic, the trope's persistent popularity is fed by financial opportunism: "The Christmas kulturkampf is a growth industry in a shrinking economy, providing an effective boost for conservative fundraising and a ratings bonanza for right-wing media." O'Reilly himself has lent credence to this theory. "Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born," he said on Nov. 29, 2005. "Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable."

Yup. A history of the war on Christmas!
(Long time readers of my blog may recall I bothered to write a little ditty a few years back on the topic. Feel free to read it again.)
It's this last quote from Bill O'Reilly (the model for my novela) that got my attention.
Bill-O, really...have you forgotten Matthew 21?
12And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

 13And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

(emphases added)
Bill-O, you old Ferengi! "A good lie is easier to believe than the truth," indeed! That was Westbury, NY, right? ;-)
Christmas, in my eyes, has become nothing more than an excuse to exploit and manipulate the feelings of people, to watch those feelings manifest themselves in a spending spree.
Now, on the face of it, there's nothing wrong with that: people ought to acknowledge the folks around them who have supported and otherwise stuck by them throughout the year and the end of the years is as good a time as any to do so. By codifying the recognition of this relationship, we don't find ourselves in the embarassing circumstance of "forgetting" to get a present. It's hard to forget Christmas.
Or Hannukah. Or Kwanzaa. Or Festivus. Or the Solstice.
See where I'm going with this, Bill-O? Does it really fucking matter to Wal-Mart or Target which holiday gets celebrated?
Does it even matter to you? My suspicion based on your wholly Unchristian attitude towards people is the next time you set foot in a church, it will be feet first in a pine box.
I, for one, was glad this year that we had better things to focus on than the rantings of the O'Reillys and The John Gibsons of the world regarding the lack of piety in our secular world surrounding the birth of Our Lord (no offense, atheists, Ceiling Catists, or FSM believers, much less Jews or Muslims or Hindus and Buddhists). If this article is any indication, this is a meme that has outlasted its fifteen minutes.
It is Christmas Eve. We're told it is a time to gather round your family and celebrate another year older (and deeper in debt). I like to think differently.
To me, Christmas is a time to look back on your year, your life, and ask if you could have done it better. Jews have a week-long celebration of their religious new year: the time from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Indeed, the entire last month, Elul, is a time of reflection, to ask and to wish to be inscribed in the Book of Life.
What a marvelous concept! If only certain faux-Christian commentators would have that much humility!
Christmas is my Father's reminder of His great gift to the world: His Son, a gift I accepted a long time ago. We may disagree about this idea, but it comforts me, and gives me strength when the world around me seems darkest. He is my candle in the night. He reminds me there is a larger world out there, one that is filled with people who have earned just as much respect for their beliefs and knowledge as I do.
After all, we're all still here. That alone is enough.
My problems, my concerns, are important to me, but in the larger picture, mean nothing. And if I had a soapbox as big as Bill-O's, I'd find something more important to talk about than a petty insignificant created crisis like The War On Christmas.
It is to mock the waste of resource that is Bill O'Reilly. Long may he stumble over his own two feet, telling me about the speck in my eye, while ignoring the log in his own.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Twelve Days Of Christmas Music Blogging

Pretenders - 2000 Miles

This always reminds me of someone special.

Under the Radar News

Hey, kids! Here are a few items you may find interesting:
This dude took his finals and then went and saved part of the planet.

Then, there's this guy. He made a deal with the devil and died.
In a plane crash.
Hopefully, democracy didn't die with him, but we'll see............

You can find more info about this at
and at and at and at

Echoes Down The Corridor

The first of many disconstitutional dismantlings is now coming back to haunt us:

The Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore, issued eight years ago this month, was widely understood to work like that tape recorder in "Mission: Impossible." It was meant to produce a president and then self-destruct.

"Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances," the majority famously said, "for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities."

That sentence, translated from high legal jargon into English, was often taken to mean this: The decision was a ticket for one ride only. It was not a precedent. It was a ruling, yes, but it was not law.

But now, as the petitioner leaves the national stage, Bush v. Gore is turning out to have lasting value after all. "You're starting to see courts invoke it," said Samuel Issacharoff, a law professor at New York University, "and you're starting to see briefs cite it."

Indeed, rumblings of the damage the Bush administration has so gleefully inflicted on the Constitution echo everywhere. That sound you here is the foundation of the nation quivering. And just as it was unlikely that a major Supreme Court obstruction of justice eight years ago would not now be used by candidates great and small, Democratic and Republican, so is it unlikely that the massive gaping holes in due process and the law will go long ignored.

We elected Barack Obama with the understanding that he would likely close some of these holes, and perhaps ignore others, but asking a President to completely ignore convenient precedents is like asking a man to not use his left arm for four or eight years. It's simply not going to happen so long as they are available.
And assuming that Barack Obama is as much a mensch as we might hope he is, there's no guarantee that a president down the road would not reopen these old wounds. After all, even as great a man as Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. But then, so did as wretchedly pitiful and miserably twisted a man as George W Bush.
Our freedoms, such as they are, are at stake here. This is more important than any controversy over any pastor or proposition might be, for what is, say, gay marriage or the right to an abortion when there is no freedom to speak of? Nothing but a gaudy bauble glued to the ratty carpet of America.  
If I had the means, I would do this: When Barack Obama gets to the bit at his inauguration that says "preserve, protect and defend the Constituion of the United States of America," I would ask Chief Justice Roberts to pause, and say "We are holding you to this, Mr President."
A reminder that a free people is only as free as the government allows them to be, and until we the people control the government again, we the people rely on those in power to share our vision of freedom.
It pains me to think that in the past fifty years I've been on this planet, I've seen freedom dwindle, rather than flourish. Freedom should be an unprunable bush, one that you can nip a little here or there, but never be able to cut back to its roots. Freedom should be spreading, not contracting.
Even as we've made strides to insure freedom to all people in the nation-- black, white, male, female, gay, straight--  we've simultaneously watched our freedom winnow and starve as a whole. This must stop. This must reverse. The center cannot hold for long.
The impetus in this country has long been towards safety. I'm not sure specifically when that occured, my guess would be during the Great Depression. Government does solve problems, but those solutions need to be put away unless necessary as soon as the problem begins to resolve itself.
Similarly, a confluence of morality, religion, and fear has created an atmosphere that makes security take precedence over liberty. Scary gay men might ruin our marriages! Scary Latina women might do work that American women will not! Jesus is coming and he's carrying an M-16 rifle!
We must, as a nation, grow up a little. Coddled by our ministrations and administrations for too long, we must stand on our own two feet and work our own way through the world. Only then will we understand that it is through liberty, through freedom from oppression not only of our government, but of the majorities and minorities around us, that we can achieve security and safety. Respect is a two-way street, not a dumpster in a blind alley that we might duck behind when we need protection.
Freedom, Mr. President-Elect, is what got you where you are. Please keep that in mind when you take your oath next month. We've missed it for so long here in America.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Twelve Days Of Christmas Music Blogging

Andy Williams - The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year


Paul Krugman won his Nobel honestly, to say the least. Today, he puts forth the following proposition:
A few months ago a headline in the satirical newspaper The Onion, on point as always, offered one possible answer: “Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble to Invest In.” Something new could come along to fuel private demand, perhaps by generating a boom in business investment.

But this boom would have to be enormous, raising business investment to a historically unprecedented percentage of G.D.P., to fill the hole left by the consumer and housing pullback. While that could happen, it doesn’t seem like something to count on.

A more plausible route to sustained recovery would be a drastic reduction in the U.S. trade deficit, which soared at the same time the housing bubble was inflating. By selling more to other countries and spending more of our own income on U.S.-produced goods, we could get to full employment without a boom in either consumption or investment spending.
I agree. I think the largest concern for the American economy over the past decade or so has been the transnationalization of our debt.

Think about it: the Chinese, British, and Saudis (as well as other nations swimming in new-found cash) basically have funded not only our national debt, but in turn, our personal indebtedness, including our mortgages.

Our foreign policy has followed suit, you might have noticed. The Iraq invasion was as much a pretext for getting money from the House of Saud as it was for "protecting America from terrorism".

Too, once these foreign governments found themselves swimming in American paper, the more risk-tolerant governments began buying up American private instruments: corporate bonds, securitized mortgages, credit and auto loans, things like that. Better return
for only slightly higher risk.

I'd got so far as to make the observation that the change in bankruptucy laws that made it nearly impossible for Americans to walk away from debt was less about the banking lobby and more about not knifing our allies in the back.

Once this house of cards began to topple (and this really is only the beginning), much effort was put not into prevention, as in financing Americans directly, but in staving off the collapse of the mediators: the banks and brokerages.

You see, we're stuck paying these bastards off for stuffing our mailboxes full of solicitations, egged on by a president who's idea of sacrifice is to take our credit cards out and spend, spend, spend! Financing us just brings the problems the institutions have to a head.

What we as a nation need to do, therefore, is to repatriate our owings, if we are to reclaim a recovery of any length and note. You'll notice the last time we had a truly healthy recovery, we were paying down our budget deficits and even making inroads into what was now-laughably called a crisis national debt of $3.8 trillion (it is now over $10 trillion and climbing fast).

The trouble, of course, is that other nations may not take kindly to this domestication of resources and money. China, for example, lives by our imports of their goods. It would be a bit irritating if we suddenly opened factories all across America, and paid people a living wage to make goods that China can produce far cheaper than we can.

Which brings me to some linkage, something that Barack Obama had already proposed on the campaign trail for other purposes, but which can make us a manufacturing powerhouse again without really upsetting our trade with China among others.

To put it in a phrase: green energy.

Right now, we have a nascent renewable resources manufacturing industry. We have the innovative American mind, the entreprenurial spirit with which to create, and the structure to manage and distribute this kind of knowledge around the nation.

More important, we have the idle capacities in terms of both plants and labor. There's not much reason not to insitute this program of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, weaning ourselves off the notion of "brand, spanking, new", and weaning ourselves of the notion that this kind of work, manufacturing and fabrication, is somehow a dead art in America, that Americans find this work beneath them somehow.

Ultimately, this technology would become an export, and a lion-sized one to boot. We'd be able to balance our trade and budget deficits, and make some paydowns of our national debt, probably just in time for the next recession.

Friday, December 19, 2008

C'mon, Al!

Who cares if your blogstaff was a bunch of whiny little shits who were more interested in padding their resumes than in backing a brother up?

Win this fucker!

Twelve Days Of Christmas Music Blogging

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - What's So Funny Bout Peace, Love, And Understanding

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) It's not surprising that they stopped, what will surprise me is if they start up again anytime soon.

2) Somehow, it warms my heart to hear all those Obombers who stood there defending Rev. Wright whine about this. I don't like Warren, either, I think the choice is a dumb, pandering move, but then I thought Wright was wrong to damn America, too.

3) With all that this nation has gone thru, Zimbabwe's bout with cholera is a tragedy beyond words.

4) There are few companies whose image is so closely linked with its founder. Apple is one of them and now that Steve Jobs seems to be in his last laps as CEO, one wonders what's next?

5) There's 2,900 pages of donors. I don't think a handful like this will be a problem for Hillary.

6) MEMO to George Bush: Half-assed efforts end in half-assed results.

7) Why do I think this is not nearing its end?

8) Uhhhh, oops!

9) OK, this is REALLY jumping the shark!

10) Nurse Chapel, we hardly knew ye.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Twelve Days Of Christmas Music Blogging

Frickin A - Merry Merry Frickin Christmas

Arguably The Stupidest Liberal Of The Week

As the last person on earth to write about Caroline Kennedy, I too am pretty strongly against handing her a Senate seat. Nothing personal -- but I'm anti-dynasty, and feel that a Senate appointment requires at least some minimum threshold of experience and engagement.

It's worth emphasizing though how unseemly the whole thing is, particularly in the age of Blago. The Blago pay-for-play raises some interesting line-drawing challenges. Legislators seek favors all the time -- that's a huge part of what legislating is. But where is the line?

The key I think is to focus one the purpose of the benefit sought. If it's for some plausibly public benefit, then fine. If it's for private benefit, then that's where things start getting smelly. If Blago, for instance, had said "I demand that you push for universal health care. If you do, I'll appoint your preferred candidate." That's pay-for-play in a sense -- it's demanding a "payment" of sorts -- but that's perfectly acceptable in our current system.

Apparently, Publius has decided that Caroline Kennedy is George Rod Blagojevich in drag.
Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a certain...affinity for the Kennedys. It comes from having been acquaintances, I suppose. People of the same age on the Upper East Side tended to gravitate to one another, especially in the clubs and boites that served us.
But even ignoring that for a moment, Publius, if I'm reading this semi-literate drivel correctly, is saying that a Kennedy, offering to serve out the two years mandated by state law of Hillary Clinton's term, is somehow the same thing as Jesse Jackson, Jr. being held up for ransom.
Unseemly? To say it's insulting is an understatement. Let's deconstruct this for a moment.
Caroline Kennedy has shown across the course of her life-- adult and child-- nothing but good judgement. She has served admirably in any number of compassionate, charitable roles and offices. Indeed, I often wondered why she allowed her brother John to serve as the political face of the JFK legacy. She was clearly the brains of the outfit.
Again, I can make that comment based on immediate observations, not Publius' sackcloth-and-ashes assumptions. Boots on the ground, as it were.
And it's not like Caroline was sitting at the kiddies' table for the past thirty Thanksgivings at Hyannisport. I wager she learned quite a bit about politics and legislating from Uncles Teddy and Sargent, and Cousins Ahnuld, Patrick, Bobby Jr, Andrew Cuomo...not to mention the assorted lieutenant governors and state legislators.
Caroline chose a path that saw her be a full-time mother and a part-time activist, and yet Publius, who I'm presuming is a man and perhaps has a certain bias towards the glass ceiling, holds her lack of notoriety and "achievement" against her.
This is much like claiming Hillary Clinton did nothing for children all her life, despite the fact that she served as an organizing advisor to the Children's Defense Fund and raised Chelsea.
Indeed, Caroline Kennedy has been what Barack Obama ran as and what Sarah Palin and John McCain and the other rapacious Republican reptiles mocked: a community organizer. After all, she serves on the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, helped create the Profiles In Courage award, worked as director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships for the the New York City Department of Education, vice-chair of the board of directors of The Fund for Public Schools. Hell, she's got better education creds than the jackass Obama nominated at Secretary of Education!
Et tu, Publius? Es vos iunctio lacerta?
The bit that got under my skin, however, was the "dynasty" comment. How idiotic do you have to be to think that dynasties have not been, are not, and will not be the primary means of achieving political office in America for the future? Seriously!
Barack Obama and John McCain ALONE spent nearly $1 billion dollars to in this past election cycle, and all candidates in total spent nearly two billion. Two years ago, I had written that we might be looking at the first election cycle where candidates in total spent over a billion, primaries and general.
So, Pubby, you may not like it, but deal with it: you aren't going to get campaign finance reform that levels the playing field anytime soon and apart from Barack Obama, it's unlikely that enough people will coalesce around enough different candidates that the playing field will tilt away from dynasties.
In fact, how many years will it be before Michelle Obama runs for office? I'm surprised her name hasn't been touted for the open seat in Illinois! All Obama has done is add one more family to the aristocracy of this nation that began with Adamses, then Harrisons, then Roosevelts, then Bushes, Kennedys, Clintons, Bidens, Gores, et al!
So if we're going to have to allow for dynasties, and we have a perfectly useful dynasty in the Kennedys, one that has a track record of putting the people first, then why not slip one more into the Senate?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Quick Favor

I just want to get a sense of who actually reads this blog, so please take my Blog Reader Project survey.

If you've already taken this survey elsewhere, then please click this link anyway, so that your information can be included in my results.

Twelve Days of Christmas Music Blogging

Johnny Cash - Twelve Days of Christmas

World's Shortest Meeting

WASHINGTON — The White House has prepared more than a dozen contingency plans to help guide President-elect Barack Obama if an international crisis erupts in the opening days of his administration, part of an elaborate operation devised to smooth the first transition of power since Sept. 11, 2001.

[...]Mr. Bush said Tuesday that a top priority in his final days in office is to help Mr. Obama get ready to govern. "We care about him," he said in an interview with CNN. "We want him to be successful, and we want the transition to work."

The subtitle should read "Everything I Know About What's Going On In The World." It should be written on a fucking gum wrapper.
Seriously, can anyone think of a President who, after eight fucking years in office, is so embarassingly unprepared for the job???? 
When Bill Clinton handed the reins of power over to George W Bush, his staff spent weeks alerting Bush's staff to the troubles they perceived in the world: Al Qaeda, a coming recession, Korea, China, the rise of Russia.
Bush played golf. He cleared brush. And his staff took their cues from the Moron-In-Chief and likewise ignored nearly every single warning-- rumour has it that Condi Rice perked up only when Russia and China were mentioned. The hubris exhibited in the following eight years was on display before the Oval Office phone was cold.
We could play the "if only" game for years with Bush: if only he had listened to warnings about Al Qaeda, if only he had listened to his dad about Iraq, if only he had realized that Saddam Hussein was contained under the embargo, if only...
If only 8,000 Americans, roughly half of them civilians, could be alive today, and another 100,000 soldiers uninjured, rather tahn providing an object lesson in the foolishness of war in general and invasions in particular.
If only the SCOTUS had selected Al Gore.
If I was Barack Obama, I'd give Chimpy fifteen minutes...squeeze him in between smokes and a game of let him explain what he thinks the consequences of what he has wrought upon the world will be. Yes, he publicly says that in the end, a free and democratic Iraq will yaddayaddayadda, but I call bullshit. I suspect Bush has sat up nights in the second term thinking, "Holy shit, what have I done?"
Maybe not many, but even if he did that even once, it would be enough for me.
It seems clear from Obama's picks and the rapidity of them that he's aware that he has to hit the ground boots running. It's a scary world out there and the economic crisis is a megaphone for terrorists and unrest, which means the violence in the world is only going to increase.
In case the lesson of Mumbai was lost on you. Poverty breeds contempt and fear and anger. Imagine what famine and pestilence will breed.
So goodbye, George. You are the weakest link.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas Music Blogging

Sting - I Saw Three Ships

Tip Of The Iceberg

I've spent a few days catching up with the Bernard Madoff story (as well as the smaller but no less spectacular Marc Dreier tale of woe). I have a couple of thoughts and observations to make.
First, this is just the beginning. As with all things financial, the first shock is never the last, as things like this ripple through the interconnected financial world. Look at how the "contained" (to use Henry Paulson's term) subprime mortgage meltdown took over the entire commercial banking system.
Before we go much further, I need to do a quick primer on what Madoff and Dreier did. It involves a term you might have heard called a "hedge fund". A hedge fund is nothing more than a pool of money that places sophisticated bets on individual companies and/or stock indices. Usually, because the chance for profit is much higher, they will bet against a company or market by "shorting" the stock or borrowing shares from someone with the promise to pay for them later, turning around and selling them, then buying other shares back when the price drops and "paying" back the original loan. There are other, even more complex arrangements that hedge funds engage in, like derivatives and leverage, and I might cover those in later articles.
There are plenty of complications to short selling, not least of which is the possibility of unlimited losses: if the shares never go down below the "sales" price, the borrower can't earn any return. The upside is, it's about the only way to make money in a down market. 
Hedge funds, therefore, spend an extraordinary amount of time looking for companies that are about to fail in some respect: revenues off, profits down, dividends cancelled. Obviously, they try to do this before the rest of the market finds out.
Hedge funds are also exempt from the very tight oversight rules of the SEC that apply to brokerages by dint of the fact that one has to be a "qualifed" or "accredited" investor (the rules are a bit complex, but suffice it to say to be either of these, you gotta have bucks). These are in effect private, invitation-only investments, and the investors are expected to have some financial sophistication, as evidenced by the fact they have $1 million or more.  
As the Madoff case shows, not so much.
While the grunt work of a hedge fund relies on quantitative analysis (number crunching), the marketing work of a hedge fund relies primarily on the qualitative properties of the fund manager.
Which leads me to observation number two: there's no accounting for greed. By all accounts, Madoff should have been a successful manager. He was a chairman of the NASDAQ, which means he had an awful lot of success investing, and had credentials and contacts out the wazoo.
Time will tell us how he failed so miserably, but the clear lesson from Madoff's point of view is, he got greedy.
You see, fund managers are generally entitled to a percentage take of the profits (normally 20%) as well as a percentage of the assets in play (usually 1%) to cover administrative expenses (salaries, normally). Obviously, the higher the nut, the larger the percentage take is in real dollars. If you manage actual assets of $15 billion, as Madoff did, but can leverage these to three or four times their size, as Madoff did, you can claim $50 billion in assets and ignore the liabilities, because hey, they're going to be paid back! On paper, you've just earned $7 billion in bonuses and can claim $500 million in expenses.
Not bad, eh? So you can understand why Madoff didn't just toss the keys on the desk when his investments went sour.
Which brings me to point number three: there's no accounting for greed. (What?)
How he sold these stakes in his fund is simple: he dummied up numbers, attracted the right kind of attention and was able to practically hand out stakes in his fund. He all but promised a 12% return each year, allowing people to fill in the "promise" bit on their own. So long as he was able to expand his investment pool, the sky was the limit in terms of how much money he would control but also how long he could pay out 12% returns. 
This is why hedge funds are run on the rule that the investors have to have sophistication, because the opportuinity to bilk people is too juicy. You're supposed to know to ask questions, the right questions. Apparently, enough people didn't, dazzled by doubling their money eveery six years. 
Clearly, the SEC, which has nominal oversight over hedge funds, gave Madoff a pass, which brings me to point number four: too often, we are led by authority and don't question it. We saw it after Obama took the nomination, the number of liberals who creid foul as Obama correctly shifted to more centrist positions. We see it in the Madoff case. Hey, the guy was chairman of NASDAQ just ahead of the tech boom! 
Point number five (and echoing point number one) is that hedge funds have already been responsible for the collapse of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Indeed, some speculation has it that hedge funds are responsible for the year long collapse of the global stock market.
Now, take that bit of information and add this bit of information: in America alone, hedge funds control 3/4's of a trillion dollars in assets. That's roughly half of the assets under management worldwide.
Put it this way: hedge funds as a nation would rank 8th, just ahead of Spain and just behind Germany.
Suddenly, you see that Madoff is peanuts, the tip of the iceberg, the first crack in the veneer of ice over the abyss. We're a long way from bailing out this boat.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas Music Blogging

Luciano Pavarotti - O Holy Night

Godspeed, signore.

Shoes For Industry! Shoes For The Dead!

Despite the igominy of suffering the worst insult an Iraqi can afford, short of shooting him, George W. Bush managed to steal some of Obama's thunder and theme today, and showed that he is still going to either extricate his legacy or go down whining:

The most recent draft stipulates that American forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 2009 and from the country by the end of 2011, and contains amendments made by the Americans in response to Iraqi demands made last month.

"The deliberations are continuing in the cabinet in order to ascertain the scope of the amendments that have been added in order to reach a clear agreement and to see if it is acceptable to parliament," Safaldin al-Safi said. "The American response contained many positive elements, but at the same time it contained clauses that require more discussion," the head of Iraq's parliamentary affairs committee said in a statement Tuesday.

Many would say that this is Bush trying to steal Obama's thunder, and I'm sure there's some element to it. After all, Obama ran directly against the Bush invasion record, a point magnified by Senator John McCain's famous comment that Obama should have run against Bush in 2004 if he felt that strongly about it.
The November election was a clear and direct repudiation of Bush's tactics over the past 8 years and the wrong-headed decision to invade Iraq in the first place. That has to sting any man, but a man like Bush, whose entire Presidency seems to have been predicated on the "Look what I can do, Daddy!" tactics of a four year old, it must be a very deeply felt rebuke.
Which is why I'm not convinced this is entirely the attempt on Bush's part to leave a "Fuck You" card on the Oval Office desk.
I think Bush, a young man, is facing up to decades of trying to repair not his image, but his self-esteem. It hit that deeply.
In recent interviews that I've watched, Bush seems more introspective, more appreciative of the fact that he made a mess of things-- even if he'll deny the majesty of his bungles and blunders. I attribute this to the November 4 slap in the face. Rightly or wrongly placed as Bush's surrogate, had McCain made it close-- a tight race in the electoral college or the popular vote-- Bush would walk away with his head held high and his self-perceived dignity intact.
But that didn't happen, did it? And despite some of the right wing's most egregious fanbois claiming that Bush is still loved and cherished, well, let's just say that the parties who love and cherish him are not the kind of people I'd invite to dinner.
It is on this landscape that Bush surveys the damage he has done to American credibility and economic and military strength, and tries to repair the damage he has wrought.
If that is the case, if indeed Bush walks away from the past eight years a man broken of his hubris and braggadoccio, then this tiny baby step, too little and far too late, should be credited to him. A nip in his hide against the huge hole he has left in the flesh of humanity.
And if it is not the case, then it should be credited to Obama for forcing Bush's hand. We will not know, but history will be the final arbiter of that judgement.
I'm a liberal, and compassionate, and willing to believe the best in a man no matter how badly he's behaved. I'd like to believe Bush has learned his lesson.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas Music Blogging

David Bowie & Bing Crosby - Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth

Arguably the weirdest collaboration ever staged. Bing looks a little uncomfortable at times.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

From the Thumbper Files

I haz a sadd to riport dat Socks, fourmr Wite Haus prez-cat an' Buddy ovrloard, iz cloz to a meting wit CeilingCat. He'z berry admrbl fur hiz gud werks an' luvbl naychrs.

Twelve Days of Christmas Music Blogging

Bob Marley - Christmas Reggae

Friday, December 12, 2008

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Irony of ironies, the contractor who is being held accountable for the fire at the Deutsche Bank building that killed two firefighters in 2007 is the John Galt company. Yet another nail in Ayn Rand's coffin.

2) Notice who is the general opposition to the bailout: Republicans from Southern states. Why? Simple: Who benefits from the bankruptcy of GM and the reorganization? The south. How? Right-to-work states which are openly hostile to unions. GM, Ford, and Chrysler would be free to move their operations down south and save gobs of money on union salaries. Disgraceful!

3) Santa Kitty is going to leave coal in his litterbox!

4) Not pretty. Not at all.

5) I think this may be a dead cat bounce.

6) How many of you skipped this year's shot?

7) Either this guy is a lousy kisser or a great one, I'm not sure.

8) This is one of the more bizarre "terrorists" around. Not deadly, yet, but more of a nuisance. Yet, he or she always manages to show up at the oddest places.

9) This is one of my greatest fears when I am performing.

10) Free trip to London? Plus a Fish Slapping Dance? AWRIGHT!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

So How Bad Is It, Really?


In the market equivalent of shoveling cash under the mattress, hordes of buyers were so eager on Tuesday to park money in the world's safest investment, United States government debt, that they agreed to accept a zero percent rate of return.

The news sent a sobering signal: in these troubled economic times, when people have lost vast amounts on stocks, bonds and real estate, making an investment that offers security but no gain is tantamount to coming out ahead. This extremely cautious approach reflects concerns that a global recession could deepen next year, and continue to jeopardize all types of investments.

A quick finance lesson for those of you who didn't attend B-school. Interest is essentially the cost of borrowing money (there's a lot more and that's very simplistic, but I digress). If you borrow $100 from me, that's $100 I don't have. I charge you $2 interest, because I can make at least that much in another investment.
Let's assume inflation is a factor, for a second, and inflation would eat up $1 of the $100. I still come out ahead. Presumably, you being a rational person, use the $100 to make a quick $3 or more. You come out ahead.
If I lend you the money at zero interest, it means that I lose money over time. I don't recapture that $1 that inflation has eaten up. I effectively get $99 for lending you $100. Under what scenario does this arrangement work.
When inflation is a negative, or economic growth is contracting.
So in other words, the global financial markets have factored in the entire world economy. They've taken into account China, and India and Russia. And they've decided that, for the next thirty days (which includes the last two weeks of Christmas shopping), the economy is going to go south like nobody's business. They're not worried about making money: they're worried about losing more money than they already have.
Too, some global investors are scared enough that the Treaasury auctioned off some 3-month notes for zer percent, meaning those pessimists believe things won't get better before next Spring.
Personally, I would have taken zero on 12 month notes.
It's a very weird world out there. The dollar, which had hit some recent historic lows against the euro and pound, is suddenly the place to invest, primarily because oil prices, tied to the dollar, have collapsed, making dollars more freely available on the market. You'd think this would be good news to stock markets, but you'd be wrong.
The dollar being strong and the US Treasury being able to float zero interest debt actually caused the market to drop. My guess is this is mopre pyschological than economic: I see this as the last stand of the American government. For too long, we've lived on borrowed money, buoyed only be the fact that we've been able to see the private sector, similarly buoyed, scratch out some economic growth in this decade.
Despite Bush's tax cuts, which have done nothing for the real economy and only helped speed up the shuffling of paper in the fantasy economy.
The bailouts of so many businesses in so many key economic sectors (wait till the airlines start lobbying) has Wall Street worried, and rightly so.
When does the spigot turn off? What companies will be left standing when the music stops and the chairs are full? What happens when Uncle Sam himself turns empty pockets inside out?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Well, I figured there would be some fallout from the whole Illinois corruption thing, going back to the Rezko trial, but this?
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges.

Blagojevich and Harris were accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy that included Blagojevich conspiring to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. The governor was also accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.


Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North Side home this morning.

Ouch. Naturally, Obama's sainthood is tarnished just a little by this revelation, but it doesn't touch him beyond that, as far as anyone is saying. Too, it would have to take a mistake of monumental proportions for this to somehow get tied back to Obama. I suspect he was purposely left completely out of the loop in any way, shape or form. At worst, someone lower-level in his campaign organization will take a fall for even discussing Obama's noninvolvement.
However, it is unlikely that Obama became such a powerful force in Illinois politics without having to dip his hand into this barrel of slime at some point, and that will likely come back to haunt him.
Blagojevich is a particularly unctious little creep, judging by the various investigations that he is or has been the subject of, but Illinois has a long history of people like this, from former governor George Ryan to the infamous Daley machine. It's not pretty.
It's possible that Obama's fast rise was predicated on keeping him out of the muck in this machine, much like Harry Truman managed to win the Presidency despite being a member of the Pendergast machine of the 40s and 50s in Missouri. Truman had a few brow-raising favors traded with Pendergast, but much of the dirty work seemed to take place around him but avoiding him directly.
Or he avoiding it.
Either way, the rest is history, and one can hope that the same can be said for Obama.
The difference, of course, is the Republican party today plays a far nastier and unctious game themselves and it's not out of the question that this shadow will hang over and hamper the Obama first term almost as much as the Lewinski affair nearly defined the Clinton legacy.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Point Of Posting Order

I'm still working out the shortcomings of being forced by circumstance to post to Simply Left Behind via e-mail.
For example, in this morning's post, I had to post the same thing twice since for some reason, Blogger decided to truncate the original post at the quote from Hildebrand.
There were links and everything!
I copied it to a new e-mail, posted it again and then deleted the original post. Unfortunately, the links and formatting did not copy over. I will fix these tonight.
Please bear with me as I try to figure out a better way and please accept my apologies for the confusion. It was a really good post, and I hate that it was confounded by slopping editing on my part.


Goodness gracious! A politician allowed the delusional to maintain their delusions just long enough to get him elected!

I could go on and on. The point I'm making here is that our new president, the Congress and all Americans must come together to solve these problems. This is not a time for the left wing of our Party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-Elect Obama is making. Some believe the appointments generally aren't progressive enough. Having worked with former Senator Obama for the last two years, I can tell you, that isn't the way he thinks and it's not likely the way he will lead. The problems I mentioned above and the many I didn't, suggest that our president surround himself with the most qualified people to address these challenges. After all, he was elected to be the president of all the people - not just those on the left.
As a liberal member of our Party, I hope and expect our new president to address those issues that will benefit the vast majority of Americans first and foremost. That's his job. Over time, there will be many, many issues that come before him. But first let's get our economy moving, bring our troops home safely, fix health care, end climate change and restore our place in the world. What a great president Barack Obama will be if he can work with Congress and the American people to make great strides in these very difficult times.


While I respect the voices on the far far left....sheesh, and all this time I thought I was the wild-eyed idealist who wanted sparkle ponies for the poor and edible rainbows...Hildebrand's got it right: We are Democrats. We are not Republicans who will lead by ignoring the larger issues of the nation for the sake of focusing down narrowly.
We tried that for six of the past eight years and look where it got us. We should, as Jesus teaches, turn the other cheek, and welcome our rivals, enemies, loyal opposition, into the fold to help us guide this nation forward.
No one in this country, with the possible exception of me, has all the right answers at his fingertips, cross-referenced and readily vetted. If the other side has answers, like we had under Bush, then we ought to know about them and take them seriously into consideration, if such ideas warrant serious consideration.
And if not, we're free to ignore them on merit, but let it never be said that we ignored them out of spite.
Too, with all the frou-frouing over Obama's Cabinet appointments and advisors, the left loses sight of the single most important fact of all:
That's President Barack Obama.
Had any of the panty-wetters pondered the possibility that President Obama has chosen these people to counterweight his own more liberal tendencies? After all, what's the point in having "yes men" all around you? What do you learn that you didn't know already? And hasn't the past eight years proven how dangerous it is to have an intellectually uncurious mind occupying the Oval Office?
I doubt it, based on what I'm reading, which seems to be some Bizarro-world warping of reality. It's almost as if these folks expected Barack Obama to somehow morph into a Dennis Kucinich/Bernie Sanders clone, replete with left-wing policies, and now they're claiming that Obama isn't listening enough to them.
So really, fellow libs, to echo Hildebrand (by way of Hamsher): STFU.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) I guess Ileanna punk'd herself.

2) Senator Chris Matthews. It sounds about as appealing as sock soup.

3) There may be more to come from India.

4) Zimbabwe really is falling apart.

5) Last month, it hurt to be a retailer.

6) Maybe we should ask for a recount for McCain after all? "Change" means "think different," Mr President-Elect.

7) Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh! You'll wake the neighbors!

8) I may move to Australia just to run for office!

9) The worst hotel in the world.

10) This historical figure would hate Sarah Palin.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Another Day Older And Deeper In Debt

It really does feel like toting sixteen tons, this past year.
My thanks to Katrina for noting that, indeed, today is my birthday. I got the greatest birthday present I could have imagined..well, almost but it was very close...precisely a month ago:
So thank you all for that.
It's been an odd year, to put it very mildly: skin cancer, plastic surgery, a crazed mother, MRSA, an economic collapse, an election, and 2009 has already thrown down its marker to try to top this past year.
It's not going to be pretty, not for all of us, not for the world, and not for me personally. That's not to say all news is bad, of course. We did elect Barack Obama, which tells me people across the country are waking up after the Bush years and realizing we just threw a party we could neither afford nor could keep away from the punch bowl. Now comes the hangover, but in hangovers can come some good, like making a note not to do that again.
And we won't. For a while. I hope the next time we do something this stupid, I will have shuffled off the mortal coil. It seems pretty certain that will be the case. I recall growing up with stories of the Depression, so the generation after mine probably skipped those stories and now they'll have their own to tell their children and grandchildren. Figure at least a half century before we allow human avarice to overcome our sense of mortality.
Most news, good or bad, is an illusion. As the saying goes, it's never as good or bad as it seems. In all good news, there are the seeds of its own demise, likewise in bad news the seeds of new hope. All births result in death. All deaths, in births.
Forgive me. I'm a bit melancholy at the moment, but as I face a few facts-- I have more days behind me than in front, we have elected a President who is younger than me for the first time-- I'm struck by how lingering and looming my mortality is, and how little I truly have accomplished.
I've not finished writing a book yet...started a dozen or so and even have one outlined to completion, but never finished one. I've not run for public office to truly try to help people who need it. I could, but I won't because I have too many skeletons.
I feel underappreciated.
Not by you guys, no way. Not even by the trolls who fester and pop up every so often here and in other places online. My "family" here is wonderful, and I love you all for that.
I feel underappreciated by myself. At my very core is this interior monologue that's saying to me "you can do better, so why won't you?"
Indeed, why not? To quote RFK: "Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?"
I dream the dream. I ask the question. Yet I find myself lacking the strength to carry out the answer.
Funny thing about it is, I'm a hypercompetitive person. I was the kid on the other team you never wanted to play against, because I would find a way to beat you for my team's sake. I was the goalie who could lose his mask and glove and risk breaking his wrist to catch a puck, or the quarterback who limped out on a bad knee or broken toe, all of which I've done and all of which I'm paying the price for now. So why not for me?
Enough introspection. Where's my fucking cake????

Happy Birthday, Actor212!

May you be Healthier, Wealthier, and Wiser!
Or at Least Two Out of Three.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Controlling cat is controlling

Worse Than Anticipated

There are some eye-opening tidbits in the latest private sector jobs report:

NEW YORK ( -- The U.S. economy shed a quarter-million private-sector jobs in November, according to a payroll processor's report that was worse than economists expected.

Non-farm private employment fell by 250,000 jobs from the previous month on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the ADP National Employment Report.

The report was expected to show a decline of 200,000 jobs in November, according to a consensus of economist projections compiled by

The goods-producing sector lost 158,000 jobs last month, its 24th consecutive month of decline, according to the report. This includes 118,000 positions in manufacturing and 44,000 construction jobs.

The service industry shed 92,000 jobs, its second month of losses since the ADP reports began tracking employment in 2002.  

So you can see, this recession has been a long time coming and very slow to develop, like a really really bad flu. And it will take a long time to work its way through the system.
It's very unusual for a jobs report to be 25% understated from predictions, in either direction. These folks usually have a pretty good idea what's going on in the marketplace. My suspicion is a lot of business-owners just tossed the keys on the bank manager's desk and said, "Here, you deal with this."
It's not a whole lot different walking away from a business than it is walking away from a house, to be sure.
Note too that for seven years, the service sector has added jobs every month except one (have to look that up), until last month. And keep in mind that this is just ahead of the Christmas season, when retailers normally hire both temps and permanent workers. The fourth quarter is when retailers justify their 2009 budgets.
This report differs from the "official" jobs report, because it ignores government jobs. When Bush expanded the Department of Homeland Security, in effect, he created a mask for the really horrendous employment numbers of the manufacturing sector of private industry, banking heavily on the snapshot reporting of not only the network news organizations, but of the business channels as well.
After all, when was the last time you heard Brian or Katie or Charlie say anything more than "The jobs report came out today and the unemployment rate is..."?
Possibly someone on CNBC (forget FOX Business News) will invite a contrarian on to discuss the numbers who will point out that private sector hiring is lagging. Maybe. And that's usually in the middle of the day when everyone is watching the ticker.
So when someone tells you this recession is a product of the subprime meltdown and the credit crisis, keep this article in mind. This thing has been a long time coming and is developing very slowly, and will take a long time to work its way thru the belly of the beast.