Wednesday, December 31, 2008
As always... com'on inside and take a look; feel free to share those articles and op-eds you find of interest as well!
Oh... and btw...
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Read the column.
Bottom line... Tamney's right.
"With the Fed armed and eager to "create" economic growth while fighting a non-existent deflation, Americans will once again experience the stagflation of the 1970s."
Yep. Batten down the hatches folks, the U.S. Ship of State is steaming full speed ahead into the Bermuda Triangle during hurricane season.
Samuel P. Huntington, RIP.
America has lost a great man.
Excerpting from the above linked obituary...
Samuel Phillips Huntington was born on April 18, 1927... graduated from Stuyvesant High School, received his B.A. from Yale in 1946, served in the U.S. Army, earned an M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1948, and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1951, where he had taught nearly without a break since 1950... retired from active teaching in 2007, following 58 years of scholarly service at Harvard... Huntington, the father of two grown sons, lived in Boston and on Martha's Vineyard. He was the author, co-author, or editor of 17 books and over 90 scholarly articles. His principal areas of research and teaching were American government, democratization, military politics, strategy, and civil-military relations, comparative politics, and political development... graduated from Yale College at age 18 and who was teaching at Harvard by age 23... Huntington's first book, "The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations," published to great controversy in 1957 and now in its 15th printing, is today still considered a standard title on the topic of how military affairs intersect with the political realm... Huntington was a life-long Democrat, and served as foreign policy adviser to Vice President Hubert Humphrey in his 1968 presidential campaign. In the wake of that "bitter" campaign, she said, Huntington and Warren Manshel - "political opponents in the campaign but close friends" - co-founded the quarterly journal Foreign Policy (now a bimonthly magazine). He was co-editor until 1977... [Huntington's] 1969 book, "Political Order in Changing Societies," is widely regarded as a landmark analysis of political and economic development in the Third World... [Huntington's] 1991 book, "The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century" - another highly influential work - won the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, and "looked at similar questions from a different perspective, namely, that the form of the political regime - democracy or dictatorship - did matter," said Dominguez. "The metaphor in his title referred to the cascade of dictator-toppling democracy-creating episodes that peopled the world from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s, and he gave persuasive reasons for this turn of events well before the fall of the Berlin Wall." As early as the 1970s, Huntington warned against the risk of new governments becoming politically liberalized too rapidly. He proposed instead that governments prolong a transition to full democracy - a strand of ideas that began with an influential 1973 paper, "Approaches to Political Decompression." Huntington's most recent book was "Who Are We? The Challenges of America's National Identity" (2004), a scholarly reflection on America's cultural sense of itself.
Should you follow the above link and read the reviews posted on the Amazon.com page, you'll see that "Who We Are" was (and still is) a controversial work clearly not designed to win hosannas from the Left, Huntington's thesis clearly one which got under the skin of reviewers writing for liberal establishment organs such as Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post, and Booklist; but in a sense this supports my premise that Huntington's "Who We Are" is well worth reading. After all, the sort of folks who would dismissively (and falsely) refer to Huntington's exhaustively researched text as a "polemic" are the sort of folks one can count on to get it wrong far more often than they get it right. Their disdain should actually be looked upon as a a rousing endorsement for "Who We Are."
For more accurate, less ideologically skewed reviews of "Who We Are" I suggest you click upon this link and this link. To access reviews from Right, Left, and Center... I suggest you check out this link.
In any case... RIP Dr. Huntington.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Just a few of my favorites...
Bing and Bowie...
Snoopy and the Red Baron...
Something a bit more... err... contemporary...
And speaking of feliz navidad...
The real deal...
God Bless America...
Anyway, folks, I could spend all day doing this; fear not, though... I won't!
Merry Christmas! God bless us everyone...
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
This summer, following Joe’s retirement after 40 years working at the local plant, his wife decided that “together for better or worse” meant frequent joint shopping trips to the local Wal-Mart.
Turns out... “worse” won out.
Yesterday Joe's wife received the following letter from her local Wal-Mart:
Dear Mrs. Bloe,
Over the past six months, your husband has been causing quite a commotion in our store. Regretfully, we cannot tolerate this behavior any longer and must hereby and henceforth ban him from our establishment. Our complaints against your husband are listed below and are documented by our video surveillance cameras:
June 15 - Took 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in people's carts when they weren't looking.
July 2 - Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.
August 4 - Went to the Service Desk and tried to put a bag of M&M's on layaway.
August 19 - Moved a "CAUTION - WET FLOOR" sign to the carpeted area of our "Specials for Seniors" department.
September 14 - Looked right into the security camera and used it as a mirror while he picked his nose.
September 30 - While handling guns in the hunting department, he asked the sales associate in a quivering voice where the antidepressants were.
October 3 - Darted around the store suspiciously while loudly humming the "Mission Impossible" theme.
November 16 - In the auto department, practiced his "Madonna look" by using different sizes of funnels as... err... physical enhancement devices.
November 28 - Hid in a clothing rack and as customers browsed through randomly kept on thrusting his arm through the coats while yelling "PICK ME! PICK ME!"
December 9 - Whenever an announcement came over the loud speaker, he assumed a fetal position and screamed "OH NO! IT'S THOSE VOICES AGAIN!"
And last, but not least...
December 20 - Went into a fitting room, shut the door, waited awhile, and then yelled out very loudly, "Hey! There's no toilet paper in here!"
* Hat tip to Drunk'n Cousin Bernie from Philly
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Check inside this thread's Comments Section to see what I consider the latest news/opinion "must reads."
Oh... and as always... feel free to share your links and observations!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Doctor in question was Benjamin Franklin. The "got" in question referred to the question "a Republic or a Monarchy." Franklin's answer... "A Republic - if you can keep it!"
Thank God we don't have national targeted issue referendums here in the United States. If we did, some person or group might well put the gist of the original question (originally posed by Dr. James McHenry, a Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787) on a modern ballot - and given recent expressions of American public opinion, at the very least the creation of a titled peerage might result!
Family dynasties, while not uncommon throughout American political history, are certainly the exception to the rule. As regards the American presidency, John Quincy Adams followed in his father John Adams' footsteps... Benjamin Harrison followed in his grandfather William Harrison's footsteps... the modern Bush dynasty began with the late Senator Prescott Bush, rose to the presidency with Prescott's son George Herbert Walker Bush, and a decade later returned to the Oval Office in the person of George W. Bush, son of George H.W. Bush, grandson of Prescott Bush.
I say enough - at least for now!
We're a Republic, people! Unfortunately... we're a star struck Republic. The election of 1960 begot the Kennedy dynasty. Absent the media age creation of "Camelot" and the tragedy of JFK's assassination would the dynasty have kept and retained power and influence for the past five decades? Perhaps... perhaps not. After all, when JFK was president his brother Robert was Attorney General of the United States and his brother Teddy was (due to JFK's political influence and family name recognition) elected to the United States Senate in a state of Massachusetts special election in 1962.
If politics is a team sport, both the Bush and the Kennedy "franchises" can be looked upon as "dream teams." Love 'em or loathe 'em, both "teams" have won more than their share of "rings" and "pennants."
How'bout Al Gore? The former Vice President (who won the popular presidential vote in 2000 while losing the presidency in the Electoral College) was a former Senator - and a former Senator's son.
At the state and municipal levels of government we have Romneys and the Daleys.
I could go on, but readers no doubt get the point. Whether we pejoratively refer to "nepotism" or lightheartedly talk of "the family business," the offspring and relatives of politicians clearly have a springboard to political power of their own should they chose to go that route.
Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? I ask you put that question aside and question instead... are we heading towards going too far along this route - heading towards oligarchy? Are the American People bound and determined to take this Republic our Forefathers left us as their bequest and transform it into something more resembling the monarchical system we declared independence from in 1776 than the Constitutional Republic Founded in 1789?
Caroline Kennedy. God bless her! She was a cute kid and I'm sure she's a wonderful human being. She's obviously no dummy and to be perfectly frank, honest to the detriment of my ideological interests, she's certainly "qualified" to be a U.S. Senator. Still... I'd be far more comfortable about the idea of her being appointed to Senator Clinton's soon to be vacant seat if Ms. Kennedy had "earned" her opportunity via hard work and paying her dues instead of via her last name.
Again... this isn't a partisan critique of Ms. Kennedy. Certainly I don't expect Governor Paterson to appoint a conservative Republican to serve out Senator Clinton's term, but if Caroline Kennedy gets the appointment over... say... Congresswoman Nita Lowey... what does that say about egalitarianism and basic fairness as it applies to modern day American society and politics?
And speaking of Senator Clinton...
Sticking with honesty being the best policy, let me admit - or at least posit on faith - that Hillary Rodham Clinton is neither the least intelligent nor most corrupt Senator serving on the 100 member body. By all accounts she's hard working and takes her duties quite seriously. All this being willingly stipulated...
Hillary Rodham Clinton was for all intents and purposes "given" a seat in the United States Senate by her husband, William Jefferson Clinton, who was at the time President of the United States and titular head of the Democratic Party.
No... granted... she wasn't appointed. By "given" I mean in the sense of the voters of New York State were given a Senatorial candidate everyone knew might win against Rudy Giuliani but WOULD win against any lesser Republican political light. In the case of a "name" Democrat running for a U.S. Senate seat from New York against a largely unknown Republican... it's the Party nomination itself that's the path to victory, not the actual Party vs. Party, candidate vs. candidate election campaign.
The fix was in from the beginning. Charlie Rangel... the aforementioned Nita Lowey... other New York "name" Democrats including most prominently Andrew Cuomo, Carl McCall, Carolyn Maloney... there would be no Empire State gladatorial combat battle of the New York City and State Democratic Political Titans all salivating to be the next junior Senator from Gotham; no, the only real question from the start was if the sitting Democratic President's WIFE wanted the nomination. Once she decided she did... everything else was window dressing. (Anyone remember Mark McMahon...??? Ha! Didn't think so!)
God help us! Not that I have anything against the kid, but the White House isn't Buckingham Palace - at least it's not supposed to be! We don't have princes and princesses in America - I for one would like to keep it that way.
Listen. Absent proof to the contrary, Barbara (the Elder), Laura, Jenna, and Barbara (the Younger) might all make more competent public officials than their son/husband/father George W. Bush, America's 43rd President. That said, I don't want any of them "given" a political career.
Anyway... this is how I feel.
George W. Bush is the Manchurian President.
US President George W. Bush said in an interview Tuesday he was forced to sacrifice free market principles to save the economy from collapse.
"I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system," Bush told CNN television, saying he had made the decision "to make sure the economy doesn't collapse."
So let me get this straight. According to our supposedly conservative Republican President, free-market principles - i.e. CAPITALISM - push economies towards collapse, whereas socialistic policies - i.e. ABANDONING FREE-MARKET PRINCIPLES - don't...???
(Is it me...?!?! Seriously... someone... anyone... is there any other reasonable inference to take away from Dubya's latest pronouncement from on high...???)
Not one to quit while he's behind, our Manchurian President sought to clarify his... err... thinking... via the following statement:
"I'm sorry to do it [but] I feel a sense of obligation to my successor to make sure that there is not a, you know, a huge economic crisis. Look, we're in a crisis now. I mean, this is - we're in a huge recession, but I don't want to make it even worse."
I don't even know where to start.
First: Don't be "sorry." Be smart. Be effective. For God's sake, stop making things worse...!!!
Second: Worry about ME!!! Worry about the nation, the American People! Let Obama worry about Obama. The way this works, Mr. Bush, is that YOU SIR are still "Mr. President" and Mr. Obama... err... isn't. What you do is what YOU do. Period. For good or ill, YOU SIR are the President. If President-ELECT Obama wants to criticize your actions that's his prerogative. In the meantime, though... till HE is sworn in and HE becomes "Mr. President"... he's just 1 of 100 United States Senators. Man up, George. Stop trying to hide behind Senator Obama's coattails.
Third: Yes. We're in a recession. You've presided over it - you and the RINO Congress from 2001 thru 2006; you and the Democratic Congress since 2007. In fact, since the Democrats took over the House and Senate in 2007 things have only gotten worse - much worse.
(Sadly, indeed tragically, the phrases "The Blind Leading the Blind" and "Dumb and Dumber" pop into my head as I reflect upon 21st century American political reality.)
MEMO TO PRESIDENT BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA, AND TO EACH AND EVERY MEMBER OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE -
WE CAN'T SPEND OUR WAY OUT OF THIS MESS!!! Spending - over-spending... over-leveraging... ignoring basic economic reality - is what got us into this mess in the first place.
Stimulus packages and bailouts won't "save" the economy - irrational and counterproductive economic malpractice along these lines will only lead to further disasters. Don't believe me...??? How'd LBJ's "guns AND butter" policy work out? Nixon's "wage and price freeze?" Carter's "malaise" anyone - perhaps with a "side order" of stagflation...???
Folks... did last year's joint Republicrat/Dempublican "stimulus" package bring back the economic glory days of Kennedy or Reagan (take your pick)? How'bout this year's "bailouts" so far - a resounding success to anyone's way of thinking...???
Socialism and fiscal recklessness are not the solution to our nation's economic problems - they're the causes! Bush's low/loose dollar polices were what got us into this mess - with the Democrats main critique being that Bush's policies weren't pushing the dollar low enough fast enough and their main caveat regarding borrowing, spending, and lending being the government needed to do more, not less, of all three.
God help us. The good news... George W. Bush will soon be an American Ex-President. The bad news... come January 20, 2009 American gets what we voted for - a liberal Democratic President, a liberal Democratic House, and a liberal Democratic Senate whose initial policy actions are sure to make Bush's administration and the RINO Congress' of 2001 thru 2006 seem fiscal disciplinarians and prudent managers in comparison.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
...you read quite a lot.
At Christmas time - and other gift giving occasions as well - Amazon.com and Borders (their brick and mortar stores) are two of my "go to" gift source locations. Amazon.com merits my business based upon price and the convenience of being able to shop wearing only my skivvies (without risking arrest!); Borders based upon those 20%-50% off coupons I regularly receive as a Borders "Rewards" member and also rooted in my love of physical book stores where I can browse and then sit around for hours if such is my desire, reading whatever catches my fancy as I avail myself of fresh made gourmet coffee and perhaps even treating myself to a luscious dessert or other self-indulgent snack.
On a previous thread I expounded upon the books I'm presently reading. One of those books (shhh... it's a secret which one!) is now on order from Amazon.com to be given as a gift to my daughter Kim. I had thought about gifting another book from that list of my own current reading to my buddy Phil's son Sam, an extremely bright young man presently a junior in high school, but while browsing found an alternative that I believe may have a greater impact upon him given his interests and mindset. For Sam, young, sincere budding environmentalist and friend of the Earth that he is, I ordered... (shhh... this title too must be kept under raps in case Sam or his dad wanders by!).
For obvious reasons I'm being careful - no doubt overly cautious - in not giving away specifics of gifts where the soon to be recipients may stumble upon them and thus spoil the surprise. But as to any readers of this blog who are specifically cyber-friends and cyber-acquaintances, I pose this question: Which books, DVDs, and CDs are you giving as gifts this year?
I have a friend, Rob, who years ago shared one of his gift philosophies with me. Rob appreciates it when gift givers give him their favorite CDs. Yes. Their favorite CDs! His logic is unimpeachable. By receiving music CDs that others consider "best in class," Rob effortlessly expands his own musical horizons and, while doing so, honors the giver in advance for his assumed good taste! It's a win-win!
Expanding upon Rob's gift receiving philosophy, I often follow the same rule of thumb as a gift giver, especially when it comes to my nephews (both blood kin and "honorary"). In years past I've given everything from "Alakazam The Great" to the entire "Great Brain" series as gifts to various nieces and nephews. This year I'm introducing one of the kids to Robert A. Heinlein while another is receiving two books authored by the late Henry Winterfield.
The common theme...??? Books, movies, TV shows I loved as a kid. Oh, sure, today's hot "must haves" also make the Barker gift list, books like "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" and "Breaking Down (The Twilight Saga, Book 4)" have been ordered and will be gifted, but over the years and hopefully long into the future, I'll continue to share with younger generations the entertainment highlights of my own childhood.
So... how about the rest of you? As Christmas and Hanukkah draw ever nearer, what presents are you picking out for the children and young adults in your lives?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Paglia is a true public intellectual. Whether you agree or disagree with her on any particular topic is beside the point when you read her writings; in either case, chances are her arguments will lead you to consider her point of view and position and thus reconsider your own.
No, Ms. Paglia may not convince you she's right and you're wrong, but opening yourself to her interpretations and conclusions regarding an issue will likely give you an intellectual shove provoking a reexamination and rethinking of your own beliefs - which is never a bad thing.
Bottom line: I like Camille Paglia. To contrast, people who don't like her include Gloria Steinem, Molly Ivins, Betty Friedan, and Naomi Wolf. Make of this what you will.
Anyway... today allow me to critique Ms. Paglia's most recent column, "What Do The Clinton's Have On Obama," which can be found on Salon.com -
Last week's announcement by President-elect Barack Obama of his massive public works initiative to stimulate the economy won loud applause from me. Not only does the decaying U.S. infrastructure need emergency attention but construction commissions will be far more substantive and enduring than the half-mythical 5 million "green" jobs that Obama was airily promising before the election.
I disagree. Strongly. Indeed, I expect that in addition to much of the spending no doubt destined to be misdirected, squandered and even stolen, even under the most optimistic scenario regarding the ravages of waste, dishonesty, and simple human error the sheer amount of deficit spending likely to be proposed (and added to by Congressional proclivity to "sweeten the pot," to add parochial pork) will lead to further weakening of domestic and overseas trust in the "full faith and credit" of the United States government which will in turn lead to downgraded credit rating, weakening of the dollar, inflation, and eventually stagflation.
Yes. Plenty of U.S. infrastructure needs attention and upgrade, but just as man does not live on bread alone, neither does a first world economy live - let alone prosper - on borrowed money flowing into union construction and little else.
If Obama was borrowing the money in order to start a crash nationwide program of nuclear power plant construction I'd say "short term pain for long term gain," but that's not what he's proposing. He's proposing "same old, same old." He's proposing the same sort of policies that couldn't get this nation out of the Great Depression when FDR tried them. Obama's proposing the same old "guns and butter" policies favored by LBJ that set the stage for the economic turmoil of the Nixon, Ford, and Carter years.
I know... I know... some of you don't believe me. You'll see though.
I know... I know... some of you are thinking right now that Obama's gonna trim the "guns" portion of the federal budget at least. We'll see. Even if he does, though, it won't be enough to counterbalance the increased social spending and capital spending he's been talking about. No. Not nearly enough.
But Paglia also writes...
But then I gulped when Obama also pledged educational reform by putting state-of-the-art computers in every classroom. Groan. Computers alone will never solve the educational crisis in this country: They are tools and facilitators, not primary conveyors of knowledge. Packing his team with shiny Harvard retreads, Obama missed a golden opportunity to link his public works project with a national revalorization of the trades. Practical training in hands-on vocational skills is desperately needed in this country, where liberal arts education has become a soggy boondoggle, obscenely expensive and diluted by propaganda and groupthink.
Bravo! See... I told you she was worth reading! "Practical training..." "Vocational skills..." Pardon the pun, but Ms. Paglia hits the nail on the head!
(Hmm... I wonder if Ms. Paglia shares my appreciation for the works of Charles Murray and if she's also reading, or has already read, Murray's latest, "Real Education: Four Simple Truths For Bringing America's Schools Back To Reality"?)
(If only President-Elect Obama would read the book...)
The plurality of moderates and conservatives on Obama's appointments list didn't surprise me, because I never thought he was the flaming radical socialist portrayed on right-wing talk radio (which I listen to and enjoy even when I disagree).
Again... pardon the pun, but... DITTO!
I've been very gratified by [Obama's] dignified deportment and steadiness at the helm to date. But I must admit to puzzled disappointment with his recycling of Clinton era veterans, who reek of déjà vu. Surely we might have expected a better mix of fresh faces and progressive voices? Obama's team may have underestimated the labyrinthine personal interconnections and habit-worn loyalties of that cliquish crew.
Yep. No doubt a new president - especially one with as flimsy a federal government resume as Obama's - requires experienced hands to help him steer the Ship of State through treacherous seas, but as Paglia points out, there are potential negatives to sailing with a seasoned crew whose ultimate allegiance may still be to the former "owners" of the "ship."
In all candor I can't say I'm all that worried by the prospect of a successful future Clinton "mutiny" against Obama. I have faith that if push comes to shove our new President-Elect will be able to "out Clinton" the Clintons from behind his desk in the Oval Office just as easily as he did while competing against them for the right to sit behind that desk in the first place.
As for Obama's appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, what sense does that make except within parochial Democratic politics? Awarding such a prize plum to Hillary may be a sop to her aggrieved fan base, but what exactly are her credentials for that position? Aside from being a mediocre senator (who, contrary to press reports, did very little for upstate New York), Hillary has a poor track record as both a negotiator and a manager. And of course both Clintons constantly view the world through the milky lens of their own self-interest. Well, it's time for Hillary to put up or shut up. If she gets as little traction in world affairs as Condoleezza Rice has, Hillary will be flushed down the rabbit hole with her feckless husband and effectively neutralized as a future presidential contender. If that's Obama's clever plan, is it worth the gamble?
Yep. That's Obama's plan. And it's a good one too! If soon to be Secretary Clinton is seen as a successful Secretary of State... her success reflects upon President Obama. If she fails... her failing reflects upon her.
Given Obama's elaborate deference to the Clintons, beginning with his over-accommodation of them at the Democratic convention in August, a nagging question has floated around the Web: What do the Clintons have on him?
Nothing. To take a page (or rather paraphrase a sentence) from the late Gertrude Stein, there's simply no there there.
Anyway... that's all from me. To read the rest of Paglia's most recent column, follow the link I provide up above.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Picked up the following...
1) Just How Stupid Are We? Facing The Truth About The American Voter, by Rick Shenkman.
2) Getting Russia Right, by Dmitri V. Trenin.
3) Real Education: Four Simple Truths For Bringing America's Schools Back To Reality, by Charles Murray.
4) The Coming China Wars (Revised and Extended Edition), by Peter Navarro.
5) The Dumbest Generation: How The Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans And Jeopardizes Our Future, by Mark Bauerlein.
Anyway... I'll post my thoughts and reactions to this self-assigned reading list as the month goes on.
Feel free, folks, to use the comment box attached to this thread to share what you're reading this month!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I'm against any proposed Big Three bailout. Period. As far as I'm concerning, bankruptcy - a modified, pre-packaged Chapter 11 reorganization filing - is the way to go.
Unfortunately, chances are the Democrats - supported in the end no doubt by more than a few Republican (in name only) Members of the House and Senate - will, when push comes to shove, give the car company executives, stockholders, and unions what they want... a bailout.
Faced with a bailout scenario, what should be the terms? What concessions - what give-backs - should both management and labor be required to accept in order to ink a deal that will ultimately pick the pocket of every American taxpayer forced to "invest" in a bailout scheme?
Well... here's one idea...
According to the most current U.S. Census data, real median earnings of men who worked full time, year-round in 2007 was $45,113.
What does this have to do with the bailout you might ask? Simple. I propose that as a stipulation for any proposed bailout of the Big Three no worker - union or management, "worker" or executive - may be paid more than $45,113.
Would this mean pay cuts - huge pay cuts for some? Damn straight. Assembly line workers with 20 years on the job... the new salary is $45,113. Period. Executive vice presidents who started out as management trainees 20 years ago... the new salary is $45,113. No bonus. No stock options. Take it or leave it.
Understand... by definition fully half of American full time, year round working adults make less than this median individual income of $45,113. In fact, when you throw adult women working full time, year round into the statistical mix, median individual income is even lower. Still... for the sake of discussion I chose to use the higher figure - think of it as a rounding up to the benefit of the bailout recipients.
What could be more fair...? What could be more just...? Sure, we're talking pay cuts - no doubt in many cases drastic pay cuts - for those who make their livelihoods off of the Big Three. But folks... the Big Three will no longer be paying the tab - we, the taxpayers, are now being asked... begged... to "rescue" both workers and management of the Big Three. Well, so be it. If Congress decides that this is something they "need" to do, so be it. But by God, if Congress walks this road... there's simply no justification for them to add insult to injury by forcing the half of American taxpayers who make less than $45,113 themselves to subsidize higher salaries than those they make themselves for those they're bailing out! The very idea is ridiculous!
So there you have it. My "Liberal" Bailout Proposal! I can't imagine a fairer, more rational, more liberal proposal. Talk about representing the interests of the working man, the common man, the have nots (or to be fair the have less') against those who would otherwise exploit them - this plan ensures that no exploitation will take place.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Seriously! What in God's name is he thinking...???
No, Ben! We don't need LOWER interest rates... we need HIGHER interest rates - or at least STABLE interest rates. The artificially low interest rate policy of the Bush administration coupled with dangerously loose lending standards, coupled with the administration's bailout policies are what got us into our present economic predicament in the first place!
No, Ben! We don't need a WEAKER dollar... we need a STRONGER dollar - or at least a STABLE dollar. Lower interest rates will put downward pressure on the dollar. A lower dollar is inflationary. Oh... and since we're in a recession... such flawed policy could well lead to stagflation. (Does anyone care to relive the days of the Misery Index?)
From a monetary perspective, it was the weak dollar policy of the Bush administration which served as the underpinning for the world oil prices increases we've seen over the past four years. Oh, certainly, production capacity and refining capacity bottlenecks - basic supply vs. demand issues - had and have a large part to play in the oil price equation, but the fundamental monetary phenomenon at play was and is that when you have a dollar denominated commodity and a falling dollar and at the same time a tight supply vs. demand balance... sellers must ask higher prices (and get them!) just in order to stay even when it comes to purchasing power as measured in incoming dollars.
(Jeez... I hesitate to actually post the above "proposal" here on a public blog; one of these clowns in Washington might stumble across the posting and think it's a great idea!)
Oh, my God... I'm not so far off the mark...! Check this additional Barnanke brainstorm out...
"Buy?" With what...?!?! We're deficit spending already!!! We're deeply in debt! The federal government - not to mention states, cities, other municipalities - presently has unfunded future liabilities on the books approaching $50 trillion dollars!!! It's not enough that we owe China approximately $585,000,000,000... yes... five hundred and eighty-five billion dollars already?!?!
"Spur demand?" Demand for what...?!?! Yet more debt...?!?! More unfunded liabilities...?!?! My God... Bernanke is out of his mind!!!
We're in trouble folks. The inmates are running the asylum. And let's not forget... while I damn the Bush administration to Hell for their fiscal mismanagement, what we're seeing is the ultimate in "bipartisanship." Bush, Reid and Pelosi - all on the same page with regard to "stimulus" checks and bailouts. McCain and Obama - likewise. If anything the Democrats favor even higher spending, more programs, larger government.
I see troubled waters ahead - perhaps a return to stagflation, at "best" a long lasting recession. Stipulating that in many ways Bush and the Republicans steered the Ship of State into dangerous waters, I'm afraid Obama and the Democrats are going to order "ahead, full speed" and ram us straight into a metaphorical iceberg.
I pray I'm wrong...
As I stumble upon news, opinion, studies, and such that I feel others should be exposed to I'll post the links within the Comment Section of this thread.
Enjoy! Feel free to add your own links of interest.
Friday, November 28, 2008
At the same time, though I'm not a regular church-goer, I sure as heck want to "keep the Christ in Christmas." While Christmas is "secular" in the sense that it's effectively a national holiday via its status as a federal holiday officially observed by all 50 states, beyond Frosty and Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas," there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that "Jesus is the reason for the season."
My favorite part of Christmas? Christmas Eve Mass. I've been attending Christmas Eve Mass (7:00 p.m. sharp for the caroling, service begins promptly at 7:30 p.m) at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Pearl River, NY with my best friend, Carl, and his family for the past 30 years. We - Carl and his family, me and mine - take the front pew, right in front of the hand carved eagle lectern, and Carl and I belt out the Hymns at the top of our lungs, giving the choir a run for their money!
My second favorite Christmas tradition? It's when we get home after the socializing following the Church service and the local "rounds" we make afterward - we usually arrive back home around midnight. My daughter Kim heads right to bed and my wife Mary retires soon after. Me? I pour myself a scotch, sit myself down in "my" chair, turn off all the lights except for the Christmas tree lights and lighted window decorations, and turn on the TV to watch His Holiness the Pope conduct Midnight Mass from St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
I respect Pope Benedict. He's a brilliant man and intellectually honest. Still... I miss John Paul II and I know I always will. He was "my" Pope even though I'm not Catholic. Between the two Masses, all my religious "bases" are covered. St. Stephen's is about family and friendship and singing and joy. I can feel God there... I visualize God looking down upon us with a smile on his face. The Pope's Mass from Vatican City... watching it gives me a feeling of comfort - I feel the Grace of The Father upon me and upon the world - upon All of Us.
But I digress...
This thread is titled Christmas Shopping. The above sentiments are meant to place the following thoughts in context, the greater context of Christmas being a secular celebration of materialism as well as the religious celebration of the birth of our Christian Lord Jesus.
Today marks the "official" start of the Christmas shopping season, Black Friday. Three days hence... Cyber Monday.
BUY! BUY!! BUY!!! That's the economic message of the Christmas Season. SPEND! SPEND!! SPEND!!! Those are the marching orders. While some buck the "Shop Till You Drop" mentality, others insist "Shopping Is Patriotic."
Well... it seems to me there's a reasonable, rational, patriotic middle ground:
No... seriously... BUY AMERICAN!!!
A few more links? Sure. My pleasure!!! BUY AMERICAN!!! BUY AMERICAN!!! BUY AMERICAN!!!
More links? They're out there. Whether you enter "American Made Products" into your preferred search engine or whether you narrow down your search to find specific goods, there's no lack of info on the internet. And speaking of specifics...
Here's a gift I bought for a friend's twin ten year old girls last year - Patriot Challenge.
The kids loved it. The parents loved it. Instead of sending our hard earned dollars overseas, instead of selling countries like China the rope they may one day use to hang us with, we'd be wise to instead support American companies, American workers, and the American economy via supporting American entrepreneurs such as Christine Nelson.
Other ideas? Com'on... from boardgames to books to beer and booze... we can all Buy American if we try. Have a whiskey drinker on your list? If he's anything like me, he'd love one of these American single malts. Beer? A great gift for American micro-brew lover on your list, and whether it's a single bottle, a four-pack, six-pack, twelve-pack, or case, who doesn't like opening something heavy?!?!
Seriously... whether it's wine or widgets, you can find American made gifts if you're willing to do a bit of research, ask a few questions, and last but not least, tell American merchants that you WANT to be able to find American made products at their stores and websites.
Call Wal-Mart at 1-800-925-6278 - Tell the customer service representative that Wal-Mart should be taking the lead in stocking more American-made products - featuring more American-made products - identifying American-made products as such for your shopping convenience. And tell them... politely but firmly... if they don't start do so you'll start shopping elsewhere.
Call Sears at 1-800-549-4505 ext. 5 - Ditto!
You folks get the idea! BJ's, Costco, J.C. Penny, Macy's, Home Depot, big box giants and your local mom and pops retailers... it's time consumers send this message: WE WANT TO BUY AMERICAN!!!
Folks, it's time - past time - to make a fuss, kick up a rumpus. Make telephone calls. Send emails. While shopping ask for the store manager and tell him or her that the more American-made products they carry the more of your business they'll get. Talk to friends and family - ask them to do the same!
The American People CAN and MUST support each other. Christmas is the perfect time to do so. Target your spending. Stick to your budget. Support local businesses such as owner-operated restaurants by purchasing gift certificates and urging the recipient(s) to use the gift card(s) sooner rather than later so as to spur economic growth sooner rather than later.
And on that note... MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!
O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!
O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man's avail
Men lavished precious life!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!
Monday, November 24, 2008
...if we do not act swiftly and boldly, most experts now believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year.
And if the swift and bold "action" relies upon false premises and faulty advice - what then? What if the new administration steers the American Ship of State in the WRONG DIRECTION, full speed ahead?
This is not random speculation, fear-mongering, or adversarial partisanship. Obama supported the first "stimulus package" pushed by Bush, Reid, and Pelosi last year. How'd that work out? Obama supported the original bailout. Same question - how's that worked out so far?
...move forward in a new direction to create new jobs, reform our financial system, and fuel long-term economic growth.
What new direction? Serious question. WHAT new direction...??? If by "creating jobs" the President-Elect is referring to throwing piles of borrowed (at interest!) and printed (allowed via increasing the debt ceiling) money at the construction unions and fulfilling the Christmas wish lists of America's top corporate executives for corporate welfare then all I can do is point out to liberals, moderates, and conservatives alike that there's nothing "new" down that road.
...we know that rebuilding our economy will require action on a great variety of fronts: from education and health care to energy and Social Security. Without sound policies in these areas...
Again. What action? If the highway to hell is paved with good intentions and the devil is in the details... well... Beelzebub is probably hitching along the Washington D.C. Loop at this very moment looking for some poor sucker to offer him a ride into town.
...my administration will honor the public commitments made by the current administration to address this crisis.
Meaning spending. Meaning debt.
Folks. Again. Especially any liberals reading this. If you hated Bush's economic policies, you might want to consider... Obama's economic policies sound uncomfortably like Bush's economic policies on steroids. If you critiqued (with good reason!) the spendthrift ways of the two preceeding Republican Congresses, fasten your seatbelts... you ain't seen nothing yet!
...we need to restore both confidence in the markets...
And you believe decoupling "income" - revenue - from spending will do the trick? You believe out of control deficit spending and debt creation, piled on top of unfunded liabilities approaching $92.2 TRILLION on Social Security and Medicare alone are the stuff "confidence" is made out of? God help us.
Our families can't afford to keep on waiting and hoping for a solution. They can't afford to watch another month of unpaid bills pile up, another semester of tuition slip out of reach, another month where, instead of saving for retirement, they're dipping into their savings just to get by.
But... but... but... (*SCRATCHING MY HEAD*)
But that's what you're proposing as federal government policy under the Obama administration! You're talking new financial commitments when there's not enough money coming in to pay for old and existing financial commitments! You're talking borrowing more and more money with no prospect of ever being able to pay the principle back and as for the interest... as time goes by interest payments just to sustain the unrepayable debt will crowd out other spending priorities.
And to make the investments we need...
"Investments...?!?!" Governments do not "invest;" they SPEND! An "investment" is supposed to garner a return - a concrete financial return. Interest. Dividends. Capital gains.
You invest in a private company. Your profit - if any - is based upon that business' profit. They have to make money with your money - make enough money, enough profit, to not only pay back your principle, but pay it back with interest, all while having also made a profit themselves.
This isn't the way government "investments" work. Not on either end. The government doesn't make an actual financial "profit" on the money it borrows via T-Bill, bond issuances, etc. Thus, when the government "repays" these loans, they're not repaying the loans via a percentage of the profit they themselves made utilizing the loan to make a profit; rather, they're repaying interest and principle via their taxing authority, via new borrowing, and/or via simply printing currency.
...we have a consensus, which is pretty rare, between conservative economists and liberal economists, that we need a big stimulus package...
No. No we don't. Not so fast there, Mr. President-Elect. Bill Barker votes "no." Anyone else?
...the 2.5 million jobs that I intend to create during the first part of my administration. We have to put people back to work.
Entrepreneurs create jobs - politicians don't; not even presidents. People like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates create jobs. People like Barak Obama - or John McCain if you'd rather - don't. What people like these do is spend our money and take the credit if there's success and duck the responsibility if there's failure.
...across the board, people believe that this stimulus is critical.
Again... putting aside how much the average American knows about Keynesian economics... (*SMILE*)... the average American puts his or her own money directly on the line when he or she believes "stimulus" is warranted. No, Mr. President-Elect, I'm not so sure that the average American is enamored with borrow and spend credit rating destroying economic policies... print and spend inflationary smoke and mirrors... (*SIGH*). The average American wants government to spend within its means - our means - not beyond them. That's what I believe.
...the first job of my economic team is to shape that economic stimulus package so that it is delivering on the 2.5 million jobs that we talked about and is also providing a down payment on the long-term strategies we need in terms of making this economy work for all Americans.
Hold it!!! In order to have a "down payment" aren't... err... savings... usually the first step? In other words, you have to have something in the first place in order to have something to put down. (*SHRUG*) Again... deficits... debts... future liabilities. Obama's "plan" sounds a lot like the "plans" of all those folks who leased Mercedes and Lexus' while buying McMansions they couldn't afford on zero down payment, five-year initial fixed rate plans. (*FROWN*)
That means we have to invest in clean energy. We're going to have to invest in the systems in our — in health care that can reduce costs for families and for businesses.
So Obama is going to support, push through, and begin construction of 50-100 nuclear power plants spread throughout the nation, and they'll all be completed and online by 2016? FANTASTIC!!! Why didn't he say so before?!?!
(Oh... you mean that's NOT the plan...??? You mean that's the furthest thing from the President-Elect's mind? No new nuclear plants? How'bout refineries - government built and owned refineries - a logical extension of the strategic petroleum reserve concept - that the government would lease out to for-profit American companies on a "need basis" so as to better be able to quickly react to sudden future shortages of refined petroleum products so as to blunt price increases which would otherwise be shouldered by the American consumer? No? That's not gonna happen either? Well... he's in favor of digging, right? Dig here, dig now...? No?!?! No drilling either? I'm NOT getting a good feeling about the future.)
It means that we're going to have to invest in the education system...
(*SNORT*) He's kidding - right...? That's all we do is "invest" in the education system! What about reform? What about accountability? What about coming up with "a plan" that amounts to more than throwing money (money we don't have!) at the problem? How about instead of starting with the question "How do our kids afford four years of college?" we ask the following two questions instead: "Why isn't an American high school education of sufficient quality to prepare our young people for entering the work force?" and "Why a FOUR year college undergraduate degree - why not refocus our efforts into offering a useful and meaningful college undergraduate education that can be completed in three or even two years of full-time study - saving a year or two of tuition and housing?"
(You want CHANGE...?!?! Now THAT'S a proposal for change!)
I said during the campaign that my plan represented a net tax cut. And that's important to remember: 95 percent of workers in this country would receive a net tax cut under my plan.
More spending... less taxes. (*SHRUG*) What's the Obama diet - eat more, weigh less...??? Seriously... who knew, who would have thunk it, after all these years... the Democratic Party has apparently come to the conclusion that 95% of Americans are overtaxed!
(Hmm... what ever happened to PayGo?)
We're going to be putting money into people's pockets so that they can spend on buying a new computer for their kid's school, so that they can, you know, make sure that they are able to deal with heat and groceries and all the other strains on family budgets.
No. You're going to BORROW money from the Chinese and others at interest, indebting us, our children, and our grandchildren. You're going to simply print money too, and I don't care how many economists are presently throwing around the word "deflation," what I see is stagflation coming back full swing in 2009/2010. Bush's policies did a job on the dollar; we ain't seen nothing yet though. (*SIGH*)
Seriously... if just throwing money at people is such a great idea, why not just cut every American - each man, woman, and child - a check for $1,000,000. I mean... if it's that simple and if it makes that much sense, why can't we all be instant millionaires?!?!
Oh... and by the way, Mr. President-Elect... that new computer you want that family to buy - chances are it's made in China. The factory is in China. The workers are Chinese. The profits are going overseas.
...if we're going to help pay for some of these expenditures that are absolutely necessary to get our economy back on track, that those who are in a position to pay a little bit more do so.
Oh! Great! You're interesting in paying for "some" of these expenditures! Outstanding!!! As to increasing taxes on "the rich"... I'll believe it when I see it. Forget issues such as "fairness." I'm simply talking nuts and bolts cause and effect. The truly rich have teams of accountants, tax attorneys and financial planners ready to "deal" with anything you can throw at them. Worse case, they'll move overseas. As for those making $150,000/$200,000/$250,000 a year... how much is enough, how much is too much, how much is too little? Anyway... we'll see how things work out in the real world I suppose.
I want to emphasize is that there is a consensus among across the political spectrum that we need a stimulus...
Nope. Sorry. No consensus here! (By the way... wasn't there a consensus back in 2002/2003 that Saddam definitely had chemical weapons, probably had biological weapons or at least the capability to create them in short order upon demand, and that he had a secret viable nuclear weapons development program or at least could start one up at any time...??? Forgive me if the word "consensus" doesn't overly impress me.)
...we can't allow the auto industry simply to — to vanish.
I agree. BUT... this doesn't mean I'm in favor of a federal bailout nor of the federal government taking a managerial role in the auto industry. Bankruptcy and structured reorganization is the ticket. It's the legal/economic framework we as a society have created for such situations and I see no need to FORCE American taxpayers to "invest" in private companies via their tax dollars.
A so-called "pre-packaged" bankruptcy. That's the ticket. As I understand it, this is what President-Elect Obama is leaning towards and if this is indeed the case he'll have my support.
And on that note... (*WINK*)
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Enter the Comments Section of this thread and you'll find links to what I've been reading. Some links will stand alone - perhaps with a brief teaser description - others will be followed by commentary, my reaction and hopefully the reaction of other readers.
Think of this as an Open Thread. Perhaps you'll comment on an issue I've brought up. Maybe you'll provide your own link recommendation. The point is, I'm posting this thread as a general clearing house for news and information linkage which I believe is worth being aware of.
And so... ON TO THE BLOGGING!!!
Drudge is also a one-stop source for media related bookmarks. Newspapers, magazines, columnists, pundits... Drudge provides the links - categorized and alphabetized! All inclusive? No. Pretty damned impressive...? As Gov. Sarah Palin would say, "You betcha!"
Yep. Bottom line, even if you don't set Drudge as your homepage, make sure you bookmark the site for ease of multiple daily visits.
What do I read? I start each day with the Wall Street Journal. Though most of the daily content as well as the archives are "subscriber only," the online editorial page, Opinion Journal, is a freebie and I say Amen to that. I've been reading the WSJ since high school - graduating Pearl River (NY) High, class of '81. It is my firm belief that if every American took a half hour or 45-minutes a day to browse/read the WSJ, this democracy of ours, this Republic, might stand a chance of surviving this century intact and indeed prosper and fulfill the Founders' dreams rather than decline and retract as I fear we will. (But that's a subject for another thread...)
Other than the WSJ, my daily browsing consists of The Financial Times (also in large part subscriber only), Investor's Business Daily Editorials, Real Clear Politics, and a whole host of other newspapers, magazines, and straight cyber-publications. I also spend a fair amount of time browsing/reading various Think Tank white papers and opinion pieces. With all due respect to journalism, whenever possible I bypass reporters, editors, and columnists and go straight to original source material. I urge others to do the same.
This brings me to the "informational" aspect of this thread posting:
Unlike many bloggers, I'll be utilizing the COMMENT SECTIONS of my various threads to advance my "messages" far more than I'll be using the blog's front page thread posts. As I noted in my previous thread, "Hmm... I've Never Been A Bloghost," I intend this site to be a place where ideas and information are shared. To my way of thinking, the best way to encourage this is to give people a reason to visit this blog other than just to see what new threads are posted.
We'll see! Either this technique will work or it won't. Let's give it a try!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I suppose my next move should be to notify friends, family, and acquaintances with whom I often chat with about politics, economics, and frankly, just about every topic under the sun, that I have my own blog.
With this in mind, and having decided to take "baby steps" with regard to this blog hosting business, I'm going to invite you folks to consider this thread to be an Open Thread for general commentary, thoughts, and questions (if any) and topic submissions.
Tomorrow I'll hit the ground running with a few additional threads. Note, though, just in terms of general Usually Right format, my goal is not simply to pontificate. I want my submissions and those of others who blog here to inform, educate, and spur debate. With this in mind, while obviously since this is my blog I'll be posting threads, I'm anticipating that the vast majority of my commentary to be found on within the comment areas of the various threads.
For the last couple years I've been quite happy to pontificate via Mr. George's (RAG's) blog, http://raggedthots.blogspot.com, but after the Great Man banned me...
Yep. That's what it took to get my lazy, technophobic butt in gear.
So thanks, RAG. Sincerely. Thanks for giving me the kick I needed.
And thanks also to Robert Dakin, aka Rodak, aka Rob. He's a guy I met over at RT whom I sincerely hope will not be a stranger here at Usually Right.
Anyway... (*DRUM ROLL*)
And now... for the very first time as a bloghost...
(*CLICKING "PUBLISH POST"*)