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Silver Lining? [Oct. 15th, 2008|05:01 pm]
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So far, I've read six (count them) six articles by very smart people telling us why the current economic septic tank we're seeing is really a blessing in disguise. That is, we're being taught a lesson about saving money instead of spending it, exactly the opposite advice we got from George W. Bush who, you'll recall, told us after 9/11 not to save money but to "go shopping."

Far be it for a Bogus Economist to contradict so sage a man as our President, but I maintain there's another and more basic lesson to be learned from our local, national and global greed-mongers and the governments who are currently pumping trillions of dollars, euros, yen and whatevers to save the banks and restore borrowing to the level it should be. Briefly, we should all take out our notebooks and write in capital letters: "PEOPLE ARE NOT IMPORTANT. BANKS ARE IMPORTANT."

Now I am not insulting or condemning banks, mortgage companies, hedge funds or investment firms. All I'm pointing out is that the bailout of large financial companies contrasts sharply with the actions of the U.S. Congress tightening bankruptcy rules for individuals who found themselves unable to meet their payments. It was pointed out that some of these individuals took advantage of bankruptcy laws to get out of paying their bills - horrors!!! The feeling was to make going broke more painful and therefore, lowering the frequency of these sleazy people ducking their responsibilities.

Now let's look at Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae and Morgan Stanley, not to mention the unfortunate Lehman Brothers. Besides setting a record for inconsistency in the enforcement of the law, Treasury Secretary Paulson and what's left of the executive branch did everything except handstands to get their hands on almost a trillion bucks with which Mr., Paulson could do whatever he wanted without any review or limitations. Fortunately some of the members of Congress slipped out of their hypnotic state and crafted a more sensible plan whereby the taxpayers at least got something out of it, but the principle stood out loud and clear: If you're big enough and rich enough, you can't be allowed to go under. The only ones that go under the bus are those small enough not to tip the thing over.

Again, the argument about whether the world economy could survive without the huge investment banks will go on. I'm not as concerned about the economic question as I am about the human one: How important are people?

Under the present system, it seems Joe and Mary Sixpack (or the Blow family) only have worth for what they can spend and therefore keep the wheels of commerce turning at as fast a speed as possible. We might publicly urge people to go to church, go to school or go to the library, but where we really want them to go is where President Bush told us - shopping.

As the courts, with the enthusiastic backing of major businesses, more and more lean toward the concept of treating corporations as people, it has seemed to many that what were stressed involved corporations' rights, but not their responsibilities. In other words, if Mr. Sixpack (or Blow) has to meet certain standards, then make Bear Stearns meet the same standards. If Bear Stearns is too big to fail, then repossess it, much as the FHA can repossess a house.

As we wander through the maze of "The Market," let's remember its invisible hand is more than capable of giving us the finger. The Founding Fathers didn't mention corporations in the Constitution for a reason. People live, breathe and die. It is for them America was built.

The Bogus Economist (c) 2008
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It's the Simple, Economist. [Oct. 11th, 2008|10:35 am]
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[mood |cynicalcynical]

Most people in the profession of making people feel terrible, which is another description of economists, make their livings out of dissecting the manifold ins and outs of hedge funds, default swaps and stuff like that. They invariably discuss the current disasterous condition of our economy in similar terms, weaving elaborate arguments for and against more or less government and disregarding the glazed eyes of listeners or viewers.

This is,in short, the advantage of being a bogus economist: bogus economists can keep things simple. To me, the whole argument about the Bush Depression, as about the Bush Wars, the Bush Debt or the Bush Constitution-Shredding, comes down to the question of whether "the Market" should have more or less regulation and, if so, what kind. I have always maintained that, since the Market is described as "an invisible hand," it's natural not to see its upraised third finger. The Market is based upon greed - and I say that as a statement, not a condemnation. Nobody buys stock in order to get poorer. To see stock prices rise sometimes means having to close one's eyes to things that are borderline, if not illegal. In other words, if you can get away with something that is not prohibited by law, but might do damage to the environment, would a company decide to forego profit by doing the ethical thing and what would be the reaction of the stockholders?

A regulatory agency is to a corporation what a cop is to the average citizen. What would be the reaction of the anti-regulation CEO to a suggestion that there be fewer police on the streets?
"No," he'd say, "We need someone to protect us from the crooks." Right.

To maintain corporate types are more moral than Joe SixPack is elitist and just plain dumb. Over the past few years, we've seen guys in $1000 suits who are more crooked than most of the burglars, junkies, pimps and con men one could round up on a Saturday night in Las Vegas. To say we shouldn't keep CEOs under the gun is insanity.

People tend to do whatever they think they can get away with, whether crossing against the light or fudging on their income tax. What makes anybody think this stops when a person's salary goes above a couple of million dollars a year - or a month?

Capitalism is a system that judges performance by only one standard - the bottom line. Lately, a person's human worth has been merged into his net worth. You are what you own. That's one reason, in my opinion, for the swamp we've allowed our economic system to become.

I'm sorry to contradict an icon, but Ronald Reagan had it all wrong. The government wasn't the problem just as it wasn't the solution. It was, is and should be our traffic cop. If you make the traffic cop political or cut him off at the knees, you deserve what you get - pardon me, got.

The Bogus Economist (c) 2008
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Blazing Saddle(back) [Aug. 18th, 2008|09:02 pm]
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August 18,2008

Now that our two major presidential candidates have dutifully bowed before the altar of Orange County's Saddleback Baptist Church in an effort to win the votes of Christian evangelicals, perhaps we can step back and ask a couple of pertinent questions about our political system. Pastor Rick Warren, by now even more of a household word than previously, hosted Barack Obama and John McCain in the first face-to-face comparison of views on abortion, the economy and lots of other matters important to Evengelicals, including those who supposedly agree that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.

There were lots more minutes taken up with the economy and abortion than with the war or, for that matter, God. This is understandable, since Christianity prohibits killing in no uncertain terms and mentions something about rich men and camels both having trouble getting through eyes of needles and/or into heaven. These topics are pertinent since Pastor Warren is under pressure to disavow one of his more well-off congregants, Rupert Murdoch, for his alleged ownership of a number of European porn channels (no comments) and everyone knows starting wars on doubtful grounds isn't as immoral as adultery. That said, we have to give the gold (and silver) medal to Mr. McCain for his ringing statement that life begins "at conception."

If I were a lawyer listening to the Saddleback Warren Report, I'd take my wife out to dinner and buy a new outfit for each of my kids. Nothing since Affirmative Action brought the promise of so much legal action as McCain's position on pro-life. Consider a couple of possible cases:

1. Joanne "Bubbles" Murphy and her new husband, Harold, celebrate their honeymoon by checking into the Hotel Hotshot. They reserve the Honeymoon Suite and order the finest dinner and breakfast package the hotel offers. The next morning, after a highly passionate night, they come down for their honeymoon champagne breakfast, which was served by George after being prepared by Charles. Unbeknownst to "Bubbles," she is pregnant.
Anyone who has hefted a bottle of champagne (or beer) knows what's written on the label. Drinking alcohol for pregnant women carries the risk of birth defects. Inside "Bubbles" is a human being who, because of the champagne, is at risk of being born deformed. Could Joanne be arrested for child abuse? How about endangerment? Was George an accomplice? How about Charles? Perhaps Harold could be taken in, too, for escorting her into the bar. Multiply something like this by millions. What a bonanza for the legal profession!!

2. A couple of months after the honeymoon, a group of women at Joanne's workplace decide to throw a baby shower. Ten of them get together with the mother-to-be for a couple of hours of festivity, hors d'oeuvres and gossip. Some of them are smokers and the weather is lousy, do they don't go out on the porch.
You know what's written on the pack. Cancer, emphysema and lots of other stuff. Oh, yes, there's something there about pregnant women. How many of the ladies should go to the hoosegow?

See what I mean? Lawyers of the world, unite! There's a gold mine here. If life begins at conception, there's no way of knowing how many people should be charged when a lady gets on the bus. Are all children free or only those who have been born? Where's the cut-off age? Some places charge for all children. Does a person have an obligation to declare her pregnancy before going through the turnstile?

I know some of this sounds pretty silly, but have you checked out some of the laws we have on the books? In Cedar City, Utah, it's against the law to drink beer if your shoelace is untied. You need a hunting license in Cleveland to catch mice. You can't tie a giraffe to a streetlight or telegraph pole in Atlanta. And you think people won't go crazy if Uncle John's ideas catch on?

Frankly, I'm a little tired of all the dancing about what people believe in God-wise. That's their own business. If evangelicals want to invite McCain or Obama to answer questions, let them have the candidates make a CD and distribute it at Sunday services. It would be a hell of a lot cheaper.

I'm more interested in what these guys are going to do about the skyrocketing cost of food, the colossal rip-offs by tax cheats and the insane foreign policies that are passing for leadership. I have a great idea. How about rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's?

God knows that would be a relief.

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Hope May Not Spring Eternal [Aug. 13th, 2008|12:00 pm]
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I've had it.

Eery four years, I arouse myself and try to imagine we're going to have an intelligent debate about the leadership of the free world and every four years I get shot down. This time, I was actually beginning to believe Barack Obama would be different - really different - and at last we would have someone with enough guts to tell us that not only is the holiday over, but we're going to have to stop kidding ourselves about who we are. Mr. O is still holding back. I'm seeing expediency sliding into the campaign driver's seat and the bold initiatives moving to the back of the bus.

Sure, telling the truth might not be the way to get elected, but we've seen what happens when a candidate chooses the opposite. The last eight years should have taught us a lot.

Look, everybody, we're not the epitome of civilization, nor are we the only hope of the world. Our way is not the only way, nor is it even the best way for some people. We're citizens of a country that used to be based on something besides the almighty power of "business," and that's what made us great. Under the wreckage of 9/11, some of us discovered gold. Under perhaps the most benighted leadership we've ever had, we seem to have forgotten almost every moral and ethical principle we owned and abandoned the lot to the likes of Halliburton and Blackwater. The number of people who have suffered due to the weakening of governmental regulation are astronomical, including the folks who've lost their houses because of the tentacles of the banking "business," the people who have been screwed by the phamaceutical "business" and the possible extinction of human life through the manipulation of the energy "business."

Now we find out by courtesy of the General Accounting Office (GAO) that two-thirds of large corporations with sales revenues of more than two trillion dollars didn't pay income taxes every year and some didn't pay them at all. Here's what the GAO said:

"In 2005, after collectively making $2.5 trillion in sales, corporations gave a variety of reasons on their tax returns to account for the absence of taxable revenue. The most frequently listed included the cost of producing their goods, salary expenses and interest payments on their debt, the report said. The GAO did not analyze whether the firms had profits that should have been taxed."

The report went on that probably none of this was illegal. That burns me up more than the theft. The reason it's legal is that our legislators put "good business" ahead of the welfare of the United States ppopulation.

Reminder: If the corporations don't pay taxes, guess who does? Or is borrowing better?

Mr. Obama is now experiencing what most Republican candidates knew very well: you can talk about being a voice of the people, but it's the big boys who call the shots. Contributions to the Obama campaign, most of which used to come in dribs and drabs from Charlie and Mike, are now coming in large globs from Mr.Jones or Dr. Smith. More and more names have "CEO" after them.

If "the chief business of the United States is business," as president Calvin Coolidge once said, then it seems the sacrifices we're making are really a waste of human life. The people who identify the American Dream in terms of the size of their flat screen have bought into this and shame on them.

Reading about the billions of profits being made out of American lives doesn't do much for the phrase, "Business as usual." Dammit, it's business as usual that got us into the war to begin with. Putting profits ahead of principle runs against everything this nation is supposed to be.

Mr. Obama started off as a candidate who seemed to understand this. Now I'm starting to wonder.
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A Great Occasion [Aug. 1st, 2008|10:47 am]
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[mood |pissed offpissed off]


August 1, 2008

January 20, 2009 will be a great day for the United States, not to mention the world.

Not only will George W. Borrow finally leave the White House, but we'll actually get a president who can speak coherent English, listen to ideas that don't emerge solely from (Dead Eye) Dick Cheney and actually consider taxing corporations as if they were people (which the law considers them to be). Good news, indeed. But how will we (and the world) mark the occasion?

One suggestion is a sober day of thanksgiving in which we express our gratitude to God that the country we love has actually survived eight years of avarice, corruption and constitutional destruction. True, we're in a recession, our fifth year of war and seeing increasing inflation and a housing crisis, but at least we're still reasonably sane with the exception of some of our lawmakers and a couple of our Supreme Court justices. This kind of solution would satisfy the religious Left and perhaps be a rallying point for those who were seeking a good reason to return to the Fold. I, being less of a religious mind set, have an alternative.

I propose January 20th, 2009 be set aside for the world's biggest party. The name of the celebration would be the Global Goodbye Bush Bash (GGBB). In it, people from the four corners of the earth would be invited to guzzle beer, kill chickens, dance, sing or otherwise mark in their own unique cultural manner the end of the Bush era. We might see camel races in parts of the Middle East, pasta contests in Italy, wine-drinking sprees in France or bull fights in Spain. All over the world people would have a chance to rejoice in the end of Bushiness and, hopefully, the start of new era of political sanity in the leadershp of the Free World.

It's clear that not everyone is going to be happy with the GGBB. Republicans who don't remember what conservatism used to be may shed a tear or two, CEOs at firms like Halliburton may try to drown their sorrows, dictators who have been propped up by U.S. taxpayers in the name of the War on Terror aren't going to be pleased and Ann Coulter will be absolutely miserable, but that's the way the ball bounces. Some countries may not participate out of genuine confusion. China won't know whether to tell its people to be happy or sad and may settle for just telling them to shut up. Pakistan will really have a problem as will Egypt.
India may not notice since they will be too busy making money and grooming themselves for world leadership, aided by American companies who are making out like bandits thanks to India's low wages.

In America, the Bush Bash should be a real occasion. Since less than 25% of the people like the way their president is running things and even fewer approve of his VIce-president ("So?"), we should see some genuine whing-dings. It's an open question whether Texas, the home of tailgate barbeques, will join in, but there are encouraging signs. It's agreed that Tom DeLay won't participate, nor will Harriet Myers. Karl Rove isn't expected to show up, either.
In other states, we probably won't get much response from Michael ("Heck of a job, Brownie") Brown, Alberto Gonzales may stay at home and Donald Rumsfeld isn't expected to show, even though everyone knows he's the life of the party.

All together, it should be a humongous thing. Tell your friends about it. Write to people overseas, have a Goodbye Bush Bash house party, write letters to editors. Just remember something like this doesn't happen often.

Only when we get sick and tired of second-rate leadership, tired platitudes and lies.

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I've got it!!! [Jul. 20th, 2008|04:49 pm]
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[mood |nauseatednauseated]

July 19, 2008

I'v been trying to figure out the Bush/Cheney mindset for the last eight years. To label Cheney as Machiavelli and Bush as Alfred E. Newman seemed to explain it at first, but as we took troops away from a war with something to win (hearts and minds- Afghanistan) and sent them to a war we started because we might have something to lose (oil reserves- Iraq), I began to suspect I was being much too simplistic. I became totally convinced when Mr. Bush began to use the phrase "vital American interests."

Sure, most people understood that the most "vital" thing about the war was black and sticky, but when we killed Saddam's kids and finally hung their dad, a lot of Americans were ready to be convinced we were really after a democratic form of government in Iraq and the oil was going to pay us back for the billions we spent seeing that statue go down. As the war dragged on and our casualties went into the thousands and Iraqi civilians were getting mowed down by the hundred thousands, we got tired of waiting for the guys we were helping to stop shooting at us, even if they really meant to shoot each other.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney continued to lead the cheering section for the war, even after the stories of graft, corruption, "collateral damage," Abu Graib and general moral decay began appearing in the papers. Our leaders continued to say that we were sacrificing our troops to bring "democracy" to Iraq. They're still saying it after the democratically-elected president of Iraq said he wants us out.

The only answer I can find for this seemingly endless stupidity and cupidity is that Bush and Cheney are sincerely trying to bring their idea of democracy to Iraq. The problem is they don't have the faintest idea what it is.

The confusion between capitalism and democracy is almost as old as the country itself. The extermination of the Indian tribes, slavery and almost every war we fought could be traced to a desire to make people rich, not free. A by-product of this, of course, was to build a powerhouse of production and a people who believed money was a symbol of success, which, of course, it is. Eventually, money came to be THE symbol of success.

When the Soviet Union emerged as a threat, we didn't use the word "dictatorship" to describe it. The leaders of the USSR were just as much dictators as the German one had been. The word used to describe the Soviet threat wasn't their political system, but their economic one - communism. In other words, we were told not to be as worried about how the Russians were governed as who owned their factories.

If you should ask a hundred Americans - even today - what the opposite of democracy is, I'd bet ninety-eight of them would reply, "Communism." Wrong. Russia could have a free election tomorrow and the Communist Party would win in a landslide. They'd have a democratic communism.

Bush and Cheney identify our country with the system that made them rich - capitalism. As capitalists, they realize that the more shares of stock you have, the more votes you get. This explains Cheney's response to a statemen that a majority of Americans oppose the war in Iraq. I'm sure you remember his answer: "So?" We see an extension of what Charles Wilson, CEO of General Motors and later Secretary of Defense, said more than fifty years ago - "What's good for General Motors is good for the country." America means business- to some, literally.

The only two explanations I can come up with for the attempted demolition of the Constitution in pursuit of oil, power and private profit (see Halliburton, Blackwater, etc.) is either Bush and Cheney are traitors to our country and should be brought to trial or they really honest-to-God don't understand what this country was intended to represent.

When you're raised in a penthouse, you don't understand the tenement. When you never have understood the concept of equality under the law, you don't strain yourself to enforce it. If the end justifies the means in business, why not make it national policy.

This doesn't mean I like these guys. It just means I understand a little more why I dislike them so much.
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(no subject) [Jul. 12th, 2008|07:35 pm]
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[mood |worriedworried]

July 12, 2008
The Big Conspiracy

I've always loved conspiracies. They're always so exciting and fraught with intrigue. The Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy, for instance, can be presented in so many different lights that we can see villains no matter where we look. The CIA is always good. Lyndon Johnson looks a little villainous. Castro, the Mob and the Miami Cubans come in for a share of suspicion and everyone has a great time and goes to bed convinced SOMEBODY HAD IT IN FOR JACK. It's pretty obvious Lee Harvey Owswald did, but the rest is just wheel-spinning, good old American conjecture.

The Iraq War Conspiracy was too simple. Bush was an idiot. Cheney was a power-mad fanatic, Rumsfeld was – Rumsfeld, and the Congress was too frightened of being thought guilty of original thinking to do any investigating on its own. This conspiracy idea barely lasted eight years before settling down to a dull pain in the butt of democracy. Now, frighteningly, the Bogus Economist has envisioned a scenario that, if it actually occurred, could keep us wondering for decades. I want to make it clear that I earnestly hope I'm so full of it my eyes turn brown, but I can't get the thought out of my mind.

When Barack Obama goes to Iraq, it will be an historic occasion to which the whole world will be tuned. For the first time in almost a decade, someone will be going to the Middle East to present something besides bombast and baloney. After eight years of Bush, millions of people may begin to get the idea that America stands for something besides Big Oil and Getting More. Furthermore, present and future enemies – who are convinced the U.S. is an enemy not only of Islam, but anyone and anything that differs from its own notion of the world as it should be, may be drawn into dialog.

Now look at a couple of troubling factors as Mr. Obama is getting ready to go to the Middle East:
1.Anyone with more intelligence than a doorknob knows there are those in this Administration who are after Iran's oil just as they were after Iraq's.
2.People who are betting on the Republicans to avoid an election disaster are also receiving weekly visitors with the permission of their doctors.. They are forbidden to have sharp objects, but can receive candy and flowers. They also cut out paper dolls.
With these in mind, what single event could turn the situation around, prep the American people for war and assure a Democratic defeat in November? How about this?

As Obama is addressing an Iraqi crowd, as he well might do, some semi-deranged nutcase tries to shoot him. Perhaps a bomb goes off. Panic ensues. The President makes a speech bewailing the attempt and broadly hints that it was Iran, not Iraq, behind the action. The fleet, which has been staging maneuvers in the Gulf, steams into position and begins preparations for military action. Vice-president Cheney gears up his propaganda machine, bringing Karl Rove back from Fox News, and, with the help of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and other non-combatant war buffs, stirs up the American people with a rehash of the Axis of Evil theory. Only people who understand the nature of bad people can save the United States from the Iranian Menace. This is no time for appeasement. This is the time for Republican leadership.

If anyone thinks no one in Washington is capable of something so rotten, think again. Recall the Bush primary campaign of 2000, where McCain, running strongly against Bush, was accused of having fathered an illegitimate black baby and of showing cowardice while in enemy hands. Remember Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in combat, but was defeated for a Senate seat by a Republican who accused him of not showing sufficient patriotism. Who turned Swift Boat into a verb? The long shadow of Richard Nixon is still present in White House halls. A little trick like this could be a piece of cake.

What happened to Mr. Obama would not be as important to the schemers as what could be done with the resultant rage of the American people. And nobody is capable of manipulating that rage better than the crew that has turned doublespeak into an art where it's bad to pay for things, but fine to borrow; where tax breaks for the wealthy are good for the economy, but better working conditions and better health benefits are inflationary.

This is what I meant when I wrote that I've never wanted more to be wrong. I don't like thinking like this. As someone who loves his country, I've seen what can happen when a bunch of tunnel-visioned would-be despots believe the end justifies the means. I don't think many of the people who have been active in despoiling our democracy are even aware of what they're doing. They probably think it's just part of doing business. It's a kind of Bottom Line.

I'm old enough to remember a group of gangsters who staged a fire in the German Reichstag which they blamed on communists, resulting in the rise of a strong leader who would put things right. I want my country to be better than that. I wish I could forget the stories about Weapons of Mass Destruction and an alliance between Saddam Hussein and Al Queda that got us into the longest war in our history. I wish I could believe again.

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Give me.......whatever. [Jun. 29th, 2008|05:35 pm]
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[mood |aggravatedaggravated]

June 28, 2008

On Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden sprang a surprise on America which resulted in the deaths of over 3000 innocent people and spelled the beginning of the end of Patrick Henry's immortal (?) phrase, "Give me liberty or give me death."

As George W. Fierce demonstrated his determination to exterminate Osama by pulling troops out of Afghanistan to start a war in Iraq, he also revealed his revision of Henry's thoughts - "To hell with liberty, give me safety."

Somehow, under Bush, the whole principle of sacrifice for a noble cause turned into an undignified scramble for shelter in the face of a possible attack by a religious fundamentalist who confesses a genuine hatred of a civilization that features sex and luxury rather than prayer and asceticism. Fundamentalists on our side rushed into the fray with their own recipe for getting into heaven and outlined why their side was evil while ours was good.

Finally, with more dead in Iraq and Afghanistan than perished in the World Trade Center, Americans began clamoring for a little more logic and a little less rhetoric in how to articulate our principles to the world (the good side), which did not include murder and torture, which were weapons of the bad guys (the evil side).

Meanwhile, while continuing to pee on Henry's sentiments, the President and the Congress kept dreaming up new ways to keep us safe. We had our nail clippers confiscated. We took our shoes off. We let the government open our mail and intercept our electronic conversations. When the Bush boys wanted to tap our phones in order to see if any of us were talking to the Nasty People, we said O.K. Keep us safe, we begged. Nero fiddled while the Constitution burned.

Only one thing was exempt from this rush to safety. Guns. Everybody knows a nail clipper or a pair of cuticle scissors was far more dangerous than a .357 Magnum. Besides, the clippers and scissors people didn't have several million dollars to "influence" legislators to keep anti-gun laws off the books.

Liberty, then, could best be retained by letting us have our firearms because the Second Amendment said we should. So while we bowed to the Second, the First was going to hell in a handbasket.

Maybe it's because I'm old, but I think I'd rather die free than live constrained. I've lived long enough to know that once people have power, they don't like to let go of it and once citizens get used to being told "It's for your own good," they tend to get used to that, too.

I'm ready for more than change in presidents, although that will be pretty good all by itself. I'm ready for an America that's ready to pay higher taxes, cut back on consumption and even risk another 9/11 if it means keeping our head up and showing the world what we showed them during WW II. It's not just a vote against the policies of George W.

It's a vote for Patrick.

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The Glories of Competition [May. 17th, 2008|12:44 pm]
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[mood |cynicalcynical]

The news story about the couple from Mumbai, India, who were planning their dream home, a 400,000 square foot skyscraper costing about two billion dollars and employing a staff of six hundred, precipitated huge screams of protest from the Left and vast approval from the Right. The Bogus Economist finds himself, as usual, somewhere in the middle.

Sure, there is a somewhat gritty taste in the mouth at the thought of something like this in the midst of some of the most crashing poverty in the world, but everyone knows India is profiting mightily as the Best and the Brightest, having gotten a fine education at American colleges and universities, journey back to the Land of the Ganges to make some serious money at companies that have deserted the U.S. for even lower taxes and even cheaper labor.

One of the more serious consequences of the George W. Borrow presidency has been the upending of the traditional world view of America as the land of innovation and experimentation. As we relied more and more on foreign banks to prop up our unending pursuit of profit, we have employed less and less of the priceless "American Know-How" that once set the pace for the world. Whereas we once relied on the competitive spirit to produce products that could change and improve the lives of our citizens, we now prooduce carbon copies of what has already proven successful, adding only the phrase "all-new" to the ad copy.

Consider our automobiles, once the standard of the world. When I was a kid, I prided myself on being able to tell the make and year of almost anything on the road. Now, they all look basically alike, primarily because they're mostly made in the same place - somewhere else - and/or owned by multinational corporations who are scared crapless to do anything new until polls have assured them the public will buy what they're selling. Next, they have to buy enough legilators to make sure that the government (taxpayers) will reimburse them if they make a mistake and lose money. The easiest way to get this done is to pursuade the lawmakers to consider alll those poor workers who won't be able to support their families if, for example, Bear Stearns is allowed to go under. Considering the poor CEO, who walks away with a few million dollars worth of golden parachute, doesn't enter into it.

Competition, except among the super-large corporations, is mortally ill and in danger of extinction. This is why the two billion dollar home in Mumbai is just what the system needs. Think of it this way:
We seem to be living in a society where there's a one-to-one relationship between human worth and net worth. The more you have, the better you must be. The guy with the Bentley wants the Rolls. If my car costs $150,000, it must be better than yours at $125,000. Yachts keep getting bigger since 150 feet is better than 100. Therefore, when word of the two-billion buck pad starts spreading, the old competitive juices start flowing. If Man A is the fifth richest person in the country and builds a 400,000 square-foot house, the guy who is the fourth richest starts thinking, "Four hundred thousand? That's a doghouse! He wants big, I'll show him big!" Whereupon he assembles his architects to start designing the 600,000 square-foot residence across from the Taj Mahal in the shape of a gigantic "I."

The third richest, looking on with interest, decides building something that big takes too long, so he simply purchases the Los Angeles Colliseum and has it shipped.

The second richest, sensing that he's in danger of being eclipsed, buys Australia and has a dome put up over it.

By the time the contest is finished, hundreds of thousands of people are employed by some of the richest people in the world whose main desire is only to get richer than the next guy. The system benefits immensely since an entirely new layer is constructed over the old, tired labels of "millionaire," "dekamillionaire," "centimillionaire" and "billionaire." Now we can have "mansionnaire," "chateauner," "palacite," "skyscrapian" and "trumper."

As for the richest guy, he has to think a lot, but finally comes up with his own solution. Above the entrance to his own, private city-state, he puts up a sign:

"Let Them Eat Cake."

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Random notes before leaving.... [Apr. 3rd, 2008|10:32 pm]
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I've been sort of overwhelmed by the e-mail since I was politely canned by the News-Times. As I told you all, I was told it was for "belt-tightening," of which I am in favor. Lately, we're seeing a lot of belts being pulled in, especially people whose name is not Bear or Stearns. This latest in corporate bail-outs by the taxpayers is a bit different from the usual run of corporate welfare schemes in that this one was truly necessary to prevent our whole economic system from going bye-bye. The interesting question is WHY it was truly necessary.

You'll remember our great actor-president Ronald Reagan telling us that government was not the solution, but the problem. Getting rid of the problem was easy - fire the regulators and let "The Market" take care of things. Well, Mr. Reagan did and he was followed by G.H.W. Bush, who carried on the good work. Bill Clinton tightened things up a little just in time for good old George W. to untie all the knots and let The Market loose upon the high seas. We're seeing some results of this in the drifting hulk of the U.S.S. Bear Stearns.

To the great surprise of the Free Marketeers, industry is only good at regulating itself when it can't make a pile of dough by not regulating itself. As the lure of the trough beckoned in the guise of millions of gullible and hopeful people who were never shown how to read fine print, banks loaned money, designed all kinds of clever ways to collect as much interest as possible, sold the loans - some of which smelled like dead eels - to investment banks which were just as greedy as they were and they, in turn, designed even more clever packages of loans that were peddled to large houses like Bear Stearns. I want to emphasize the word "large."

When a Bear Stearns gets as many loans as it had, any doubts about its being able to come up with cash on demand can trigger a panic. Put politely, the Bear was not exactly a model of good financial practice. People wanted their money and what they got was BS, which didn't stand for Bear Stearns. As stocks tumbled, the vultures gathered, among which was the J.P.Morgan firm, who smelled a bargain. They, however, realized that a dead Bear Stearns could cause a huge Bear Market, which the country couldn't afford. In a true patriotic gesture, they offered to buy Bear Stearns, but only if Uncle Sam made sure they couldn't lose money on the deal by guaranteeing the loan with taxpayer dollars, which the Federal Reserve did.

So what we have is an administration that let banks get away with murder, did nothing to regulate them while the clouds gathered, watched while the housing slump took down home values and put the people who bought them in the soup and finally, when the really big boys started to go down, bailed them out with tax money. I know this isn't what Mr. Reagan meant by the government being the problem, but by God, he was right!

The absence of regulation showed up again this week with the reports of the cozy relationships between airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration. We saw it in the footsies being played between legislators and the major drug companies, major oil companies, major insurance companies and major almost everything else. Meanwhile, the money is pouring into the political campaigns of the next batch of lawmakers.

So while it's true that we had to save Bear Stearns if we were going to save our rear ends, it was our elected government that allowed the situation to get that way. Our ELECTED government. The same people who are going to ask for your vote in November. And if you don't get on sites like ProjectVoteSmart.org and find out where their money is coming from, the same thing is going to happen again.

Bet on it.

The Bogus Economist
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