Archive for September, 2008

Suck it up…

The time has come for someone to show some guts.  Too many congressmen are so busy looking over their shoulders that they haven’t the time to remember why we sent them to that once venerable institution.

They’ve forgotten that their job is to analyze what’s being presented, decide whether it is good for the people they represent and then vote.  Instead, they spend most of their time looking at constituent e-mails and answering irate phone calls.  They forget that most of those contacts are coming from the fringe.  Not the crazy fringe.  It’s simply people who have the time and inclination to yell at their elected representatives…like me.

The Democrats were put in charge of the crazy house almost two years ago because we didn’t like what the other inmates were doing to us.  We expected great things to happen but have, for the most part, been disappointed.

A golden opportunity exists to show the country who’s in charge.  First, Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank should quit telling the Republicans to round up their stray cats.  If the Republicans are too frightened of what Joe Sixpack will say if the bailout doesn’t make sense to him then so be it.  Nobody much trusts them anyway.

Nancy and Barney should ask their fellow Democrats to get in line and suck it up.  Tell them that this is an opportunity to show some real leadership.  After all, that’s the problem in a nutshell…no leadership.  Bush is done.  McCain, after his failed parachute drop into Washington, is afraid to come out of the bunker.  And Obama is doing…well, maybe something.  Nancy should tell John Boehner that she intends to get her Democrats to vote for the next bill regardless of what his Republicans do.  If they want to sit it out, let ’em.

In case you think it’s a good idea to cast our lot with the Republicans, let me quote a few comments from the Sydney Morning Herald.  That’s right, we even look crazy to the Australians who are not generally praised for level headed thinking.

“I don’t know that we know the path forward at this point,” said a broken House minority leader, John Boehner. After the vote the Republican Virginia Foxx declared: “The market may be down, but the constitution is up.”

Another proud author of the defeat, the Georgian Republican Paul Broun, had an earthy perspective on the bill. “Madam Speaker, this is a huge cow patty with a piece of marshmallow stuck in the middle of it,” he declared. “I’m not going to eat that cow patty.”

A fellow Republican, Thaddeus McCotter, another opponent, found a precedent in Russian literature. “The choice is stark and it was put forth in the book by Dostoyevsky, in The Brothers Karamazov,” he said.

The Republican Todd Akin was a one-man crash of colliding metaphors as he invoked animal imagery (“the horns of a dilemma … two sharp, shiny points we could impale ourselves on”), meteorological imagery (“the sky was going to fall”) and weapons imagery (“it’s nice to take a bullet for the team”).

Supporters of the legislation, by contrast, had trouble mustering the same passion, although the Republican Dan Lungren did find a precedent for the bail-out in his long-ago job as a lifeguard.
His Wisconsin colleague Paul Ryan became entangled in logic as he argued: “This bill offends my principles, but I’m going to vote for this bill to preserve my principles.”
If we had a leader who would yell “damn the torpedoes” we’d all probably fall in line behind him or her.  We’re fed up with not understanding the bailout bill.  We’re scared about the market gyrations.  We’re waiting to find out that the FDIC has run out of money just before our bank failed.  We’re already cancelling trips, putting off buying new underwear, and actually changing the oil in our car before the engine falls out.  We’re ripe for a takeover by anyone who has the guts to actually get up there and say “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

So please, someone get up there and take me.  I’m yours.

There it is, in black and white

My good friend Myrna sent me a flattering note today.  She likes my blogs.  But she was a little concerned about my use of the term “the Muslim Guy” when I refer to Obama.  Being a rabid Democrat like me, she doesn’t seem quite as troubled when I refer to McCain as “the Old Guy” or Palin as “the Snow Queen.”

Myrna is understandably worried that referring to Obama as a Muslim might reinforce some ignoramus’s belief that he is.  Fortunately, my readership is limited in numbers.

Myrna goes on to say…

I feel that we need some pleasant word in the english language to describe someone of mixed heritage … becoming “black” first just because one is part African heritage and part “other” really bothers me … multiracial man, person of mixed heritage, coffee and cream man … there must be something out there … or should a new word be coined? … or perhaps the best solution is for the world and Americans to stop looking using color as a reference to people.

Good thought, Myrna.

Yesterday, Sweetie, Bert, Yoram and I drove down to Ventura to see a Richard Gere, Diane Lane tear jerker.  Lots of old people there to see a fairly decent soap opera.  On the way, we talked about the debate.  I said “you know, while watching the debate I didn’t think once about the color of that guy’s skin.”  It was a revelation.  Before this, I always had looked at Obama and noticed his color.

We all know that race is an issue in this election.  If it wasn’t, the Old Guy would have conceded it by now and we could all go back to worrying about Bush doing something stupid in the last four months of his tenancy in the Oval Office.

I felt a bit elated by the absence, at least in my mind, of the black/white comparison during the debate.  And I thought “if I felt that way, I wonder if others did too?  Wouldn’t it be nice if the election were to be decided on the issues, not skin tone?”    I am not so naive to assume that race is no longer an issue.  But maybe it’s becoming less of an issue.  Not gone, but less noticeable.  Not eradicated, but enough to swing things our way.

So dear Myrna, let’s not search for a new word.  And let’s not worry about my calling him “the Muslim Guy”.  Maybe we can live with the words we have…and not judge people by the color of their skin.  Even if the Old Guy is white.

Miss Congeniality

John McCain was right about two things last night.  He is not Miss Congeniality, and you don’t really need much experience to be Vice-President…or even President of the United States.

His grumpy side (actually all his sides are pretty grumpy) held sway through much of the evening.  As Sweetie and I watched his performance with about fifty other Democrats at the Ojai Obama headquarters, I kept thinking about the Queen of Hearts in the Walt Disney version of Alice in Wonderland.  I had a vision of the Old Guy sitting in the Oval Office with that worn-out Sharpie marking pen vetoing every bill put before him while yelling “off with their heads.”

Even Grizzly Bears don’t stand a chance when the Sharpie is wielded.  His old rant about government misspending a couple million bucks looking at bear DNA in Montana took center stage.  While the benefits of intruding on the bears can be argued, the NY Times says…

…he fails to mention that the project was sponsored by Conrad Burns, a former Republican senator from Montana who chairs the McCain campaign in that state.  Mr. McCain never explains why, if it was such a waste, he didn’t try to curtail it on the Senate floor.

Back to grumpiness though.  I really don’t want a grumpy warrior as president.  We’ve tried a warrior for the last eight years and look where that got us.  If we throw grumpy into the mix we end up with something that looks like Conan the Barbarian with hemmorhoids.

Perhaps the most telling part of the evening was how well the Muslim guy stood up under the test.  With less than one-quarter of the experience of the Old Guy, the CBS and CNN polls report that he still managed to come out ahead on foreign policy, McCain’s presumed strong suit.

It was also interesting to hear both candidates rattle off the names of tongue-twisting geographic areas and their leaders.  John clearly won that contest by naming Waziristan, an area of Pakistan best known for the production of terrorists.  That more than made up for incorrectly naming of the leader of that country.  In addition, McCain won big points when he waived his passport at the camera, clearly showing that he had more stamps in it than Obama.

Given the Muslim guy’s skill at foreign affairs with less than one-quarter of McCain’s tenure in Congress, I have changed my mind about the Snow Queen’s readiness to be vice-president.  I don’t care anymore whether she has a passport, is unable to complete a full sentence, worries about Putin in our airspace, believes dinosaurs are only 6,000 years old, or keeps earmarked money after the mark is erased.

Anyway, if I’m wrong about her, we can always keep her busy collecting Polar Bear DNA.

Crash and burn

That takes care of settling the bailout bill, now it’s on to the debate.

The Old Guy says “I’m putting my campaign on hold and postponing the debate so I can show some leadership in resolving the bailout.”  So, the Screwup-in-Chief schedules a high level meeting at the White House to showcase the Old Guy and his management skills.  A bunch of politicians show up for the photo op and the bailout crashes and burns.  Nice move.

What a mess.  As more than one pundit has already told us, inserting presidential politics into a process that is best served by taking the usual route to legislation has resulted in a non-solution and the movement of the doomsday clock forward by a few ticks.

Now we have about a hundred House Republicans revolting against a Republican president.  And Democrats are expected to pull their asses out of the fire.  Well, tell you what.  Let ’em stew.  If the Republicans want to hold out and refuse to address the problem that was amplified by their lack of regulation and oversight, so be it.

John McCain, instead of being a uniter, turned into a spoiler.  He came to the White House, sat mostly silent and watched the agreement burn.  If he merely stayed in Mississippi, we probably would have had an agreement and he could have gone on with the debate.  Instead, he looks like a jerk.  Earlier in the week he said he wasn’t sure if he supported the Paulson plan.  Said he hadn’t had a chance to read it.  Not being a speed reader probably accounts for why he didn’t have time to read all of three pages…and also explains why he can’t do more than one thing at a time.

Now he’s not even telling whether he likes any version of a bailout plan.  No sense committing when you’re not sure which way the wind is blowing.  Some maverick.

And the Snow Queen, ever ready to help, had these incisive words about the bailout to offer to Katie Couric

 ” . . . where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh — it’s got to be all about job creation too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade, we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing, but 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.”

Now why didn’t she attend the White House meeting?

The hero arrives, where’s the crowd?

Helloooooo….is anyone there?

That’s what the Old Guy is asking this morning.  After declaring that presidential politics should be set aside until the bail-out was bailed-in,  John is shocked that his own party isn’t cheering his arrival in Washington to solve the problem.

Maybe it has something to do with the way he did it.  Or maybe it’s because it makes them look like they are incompetent, obstructionist or both.  That’s not a good thing in an election year when it’s tough enough to be a Republican.

John was the kick-off speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative conference and took the initiative by promoting himself as the savior of the bailout plan…as long as it included some things that had already been agreed to by both parties and the White House.  “I’m an old fighter pilot and in a time of crisis it’s all hands on deck.”

Parachuting in when the deal was almost resolved not only injects presidential politics into the crisis but it risks undoing what already has been agreed to.  Bush’s accomodation to the Old Guy by scheduling a photo-op at the White House is the final gasp of a unpopular president that is intended to improve the Old Guy’s standing in the polls.

Obama says to McCain “let’s issue a joint statement urging the parties to do the right thing.”  McCain decides to leapfrog Obama, puts on his flying goggles and says “you need me in Washington…I’m a uniter.”  Right…and some folks will probably buy into that fantasy.

In a worst case situation, McCain shows up at the White House and says he doesn’t like the plan.  Not because of it’s content.  But because he wants to drag it out until he thinks he’s made enough political points to justify his presence in Washington.  If I was behind in the polls and didn’t care about anything except getting elected I might give serious consideration to that ploy.

Flailing about trying to change the Old Guy’s negative poll trends does not bode well for him.  Not coming to the first debate would only cause Rome to burn faster.  My prediction is that the debate will go on with McCain filling a chair.  He may be a flip-flopper and a down in the dirt campaigner but he’s not stupid.

No not stupid, but certainly rash and another example of shooting from the hip.  Jonathan Alter in the current Newsweek reminds us of the Old Guy’s explosive temper.

“The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine”, Republican Sen. Thad Cochran told The Boston Globe in January.  “He is erratic.  He is hotheaded.  He loses his temper and he worries me.” Cochran, a McCain supporter, now says McCain has learned to control his emotions better. But I’ve spoken to four senators and two former senators in recent weeks who believe Cochran’s concerns are widely shared in the Senate. Five of the six think that McCain is temperamentally unsuited to the presidency. None would speak for the record.

Quite a combination.  A thirst for the presidency, rashness, and a hipshooter.  Sound familiar?

P.S….Does he think we’re stupid?

So Obama calls McCain…

“John, for the good of the country, why don’t we issue a joint statement about the bailout plan?”

McCain says…

“I’ll think about it and get right back to you.”

A couple of hours go by, McCain fixes his comb-over, and gets up in front of the cameras…

“My fellow Americans, I know I said that the fundamentals of the economy were sound.  But I was shitting you.  So, because I’m behind in the polls, I’m going to tell you that Obama’s idea about a joint statement was really my own.  And, because I’m running out of money, I will suspend my campaign.  And, furthermore, because I didn’t study my debate book last night due to fooling around with the Snow Queen,  I will postpone the first debate with that Muslim guy.”

Then the Muslim guy gets up in front of the cameras…

“I called John McCain and he said he would call me back.  Instead he stabbed me in the back.  But you know what, he’s a nasty guy and I’m not.”

Then the Screwup-in-Chief goes on national TV…

“Because I have an MBA I’m going to tell you how I got you into this mess and why my bailout plan is the only way out of it.  And by the way, if Congress doesn’t pass it by midnight, you will all turn into pumpkins.

Oh, yes, I’ve invited the McCain and the Muslim guy to the White House tomorrow so that John will look good if he comes and the Muslim will look bad if he doesn’t.  And then, when Congress passes any plan at all,  I’ll thank John for making it happen.  Then he can go screw around with the Snow Queen and stop bothering me.”

Maybe we are stupid.

To debate or not to debate

As Andrew Sullivan said today, does John McCain think that his postponing this Friday’s debate and putting his campaign on hold will calm the financial markets?  Or is his entire campaign collapsing?

Or as Barney Frank said (I love to hear him talk…he sounds like he really means it)

…McCain’s move was “the longest ‘Hail Mary’ in the history of either football or Marys.” The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which was holding a hearing on the bailout, added “I’m not particularly focused on Senator McCain. I guess if I wanted expertise there [from the GOP ticket], I’d ask Sarah Palin.”

And speaking of the Snow Queen, she met with a few more heads of state on Wednesday to garner additional foreign policy expertise.  Worn out by that exercise, she skipped her economics class.  Instead, as reported by the Associated Press, she warned whoever would listen that if the bailout wasn’t settled lickety-split we were probably headed for a depression.  Comforting.

The same Associated Press article reveals that the Snow Queen’s positive poll numbers appear to be melting.  Come on, admit it, you knew they would.

Earlier this month, an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll showed more people viewing Palin favorably than unfavorably, 47 percent to 28 percent. But an ABC News-Washington Post poll released Wednesday showed that in a two-week period, the number seeing Palin positively dropped 6 percentage points while 10 points more see her unfavorably. On Monday, a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll said her favorable rating dropped 4 points and her unfavorable rating rose 8 points over two weeks.

As Obama put it, now is the time when the people of this country should hear from the two candidates about their economic policies and what they might do about them as president.  There are close to six hundred elected representatives in Washington and a gazillion administration employees who can probably muddle through the bailout mess with just a couple of kind words from each of the candidates.  Showboating, one-upsmanship, and giving yourself more credit than you deserve isn’t really needed or appreciated.

I’m sure I can help.  I was talking to my buddy Harry last night and I casually offered a suggestion that Congress should consider doling out the $700 billion to Mr. Paulson in installments rather than shoveling all that money into the fire at once.  But then I said they must have already thought about that and rejected the idea due to some advanced Keynsian theory of economics that I couldn’t possibly fathom.  After all, Paulson was head of Goldman Sachs and made a gazillion dollars.  Bernanke was chairman of Princeton’s economics department before heading up the Federal Reserve.  These guys must know what’s best for us.

Then, while shlepping into downtown Ojai this morning, I practically drove off the road when I heard that the installment plan was being discussed in the Congressional mens room.  I’m a genius.  Somebody please tell my wife.

Cram course

Ready for the big time now.  Bring on Joe Biden.  The Snow Queen has met and conquered the titans of foreign policy.

In roughly four hours Tuesday afternoon Sarah met with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan,  President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, and the sexy Henry Kissinger.  Actually, at the time of this writing, she may still be with that sly old devil.

Of course meeting with those three guys pales in comparison with being able to see Russia from Alaska.  Taking time out to get from one office to another, pee breaks and snowshoe cleaning, she must have spent well over 120 minutes sharing foreign policies quips with them.  We’ll probably never know what really happened since the sexist, demeaning and unappreciative print media were excluded.  Photos were permitted as noted in this Associated Press bulletin

John McCain’s presidential campaign has shielded the first-term Alaska governor for weeks from spontaneous questions from voters and reporters, and went to striking lengths Tuesday to maintain that distance as Palin made her diplomatic debut.

The GOP campaign, applying more restrictive rules on access than even President Bush uses in the White House, banned reporters from the start of the meetings, so as not to risk a question being asked of Palin.

McCain aides relented after news organizations objected and CNN, which was supplying TV footage to a variety of networks, decided to pull its TV crew from Palin’s meeting with Karzai.

Overheard: small talk.

Undoubtedly reacting to Charlie Gibson’s recent ABC interview where Sarah admitted to never having met a head of state, the campaign set up the meetings while these guys were at the UN.  Since George Bush was also making a speech at the UN, it’s a bit surprising that the Snow Queen didn’t stop by for a visit the Screwup-in-Chief.  It would have looked good on her resume.  Then again, the Republicans are avoiding him like he was a suicide bomber.

On Wednesday she plans to speak with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko. She then will meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

When she is finished, and I hope that is very soon, she will probably have met more heads of state than the Old Guy.  But seriously, if the Snow Queen not only remembers but also pronounces their names correctly she will be well on her way to adequately filling the Oval Office after the Old Guy’s first stroke.  Which is more than I can say for the current renter.

Trust me.

I haven’t read all of the provisions of the Bush Administration’s $700 billion bailout proposal but I did run across this one…

“Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

In other words, trust me.

Right, just like we trusted them when they said we better get our asses over to Iraq before they kill us in our beds with weapons of mass destruction.  And, they added, don’t ask any questions or it will be on your heads when the first stink bomb falls.

Now they’re singing the same song about bailing out those big, bad, dumb banks who lent money to people who, as my father would say, didn’t have a pot to piss in.  And if we don’t do it right now, the whole economy will be in the shitter and Joe Sixpack will blame congress for not falling into line.

To give you some idea of how much $700 billion is, the Iraq war according to Zfacts.com has cost us just over $580 billion.  Some people…those who think the Iraq war is a good thing…can now point to it as a bargain.

Congress is taking some heat on their procrastination.  But most of it seems to be coming from the White House.  George has reminded us what a fine fellow Henry Paulson is and how much confidence he has in him to do the right thing.  But as Paul Krugman, that commie NY Times columnist reminds us…

…he is a smart guy, but what, exactly, in the experience of the past year and a half — a period during which Mr. Paulson repeatedly declared the financial crisis “contained,” and then offered a series of unsuccessful fixes — justifies the belief that he knows what he’s doing? He’s making it up as he goes along, just like the rest of us.

Even conservative Republican columnists wonder why we should give the Administration what they want.  William Kristol, not my favorite drinking partner, had this to offer in his column.

…based on conversations with economists, Wall Street types, businessmen and public officials — I’m doubtful that the only thing standing between us and a financial panic is for Congress to sign this week, on behalf of the American taxpayer, a $700 billion check over to the Treasury.

When I was involved in auditing hospital Medicare cost reports, we visited a tiny hospital in god-knows-where.  We spent several weeks reviewing it and then calculating the overpayments that they owed us.  Turned out the cost of the audit was more than the cost of our time.  The auditor’s final workpaper comment was “next year, instead of auditing this place, why don’t we just buy it.”

And maybe that’s what we should do with the $700 billion.  Buy the banks instead of their worthless paper.  At least that way I can get a pen of my choosing almost anywhere.

 

…pants are on fire

Sometimes I wonder if anyone is paying attention.  Then I compose myself and realize that we only hear what we want to hear and block out the things we would rather not listen to.  Or in a best case situation, we hear the things we don’t agree with and dismiss them as media bias, sexist language, sour grapes or downright lies.  I do it.  So do you.

We reached a milestone this week.  The Road to Nowhere was completed.  That’s the one up in Alaska that was supposed to take folks to the Bridge to Nowhere.  Now why would Alaska want to build a Road to Nowhere when the Bridge to Nowhere was nowhere to be found?

Some of you have probably been studying the details of the $700 billion mortgage bailout bill.  Others have been puzzling over how the California legislature managed to pass a budget that doesn’t solve anything.  So you probably need to be brought up to date on road building.

The Road to Nowhere is 3.2 miles long and runs from an airport on Gravina Island, home to 50 people, to a cul-de-sac near the beach.  That’s it.  You could lie down in the middle of the road and not be hit by anything worse than poop from a passing seagull.

The $26 million road was supposed to connect to the $398 million bridge that Sarah Palin says she canned because she never met an earmark she liked.  But wait, if the Snow Queen canned the bridge, why did she build the road?

Sarah’s famous boast at the Republican convention was that she told Congress that Alaska didn’t want the bridge money that had been earmarked by that other champion of the people, Senator Ted Stevens.  So where did the $26 million come from to build the road?

In the beginning (no, this is not a bible story), the Snow Queen thought the bridge was a great idea.  In 2006 she told the those 50 folks thirsting for their own bridge that they deserved it.  After all, every vote counts in a state with fewer people than the number of tourists flocking to Ojai on an average weekend.

It was only after the Bridge to Nowhere uproar in Congress that Sarah decided that the folks on Gravina Island would have to keep rowing to the mainland.  Great, the earmark was unappropriated, you say.  Not quite.  The Snow Queen, never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, kept the $223 million earmark for other purposes such as the Gravina Road to Nowhere.

I guess Sarah wasn’t telling an absolute lie when she said she didn’t keep the money for the bridge.  She was telling a half-truth (or half-lie depending on your party affiliation.)  No bridge would be built.  But neither would the money be returned.  As reported by the Anchorage Daily News, there’s nothing like adding a little pocket change to the $5 billion state surplus that Alaska will generate in the next two years.  For those of you paying $4 a gallon for fossil fuel most, if not all, of that surplus results from the $100+ price of a barrel of oil.

I suppose you might say that Sarah didn’t take the earmarked money.  She just took the money without the earmark.

P.S.

My good friend, and Hillary supporter, Linda Z pleaded with me to give you a link to one of those videos that highlights the Old Guy struggling to make people understand that he didn’t mean what he said when he said it.  So here it is…for you, Linda.


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