Archive for January, 2013

Eight years is enough

President Obama took the oath of office today, beginning his second term as President of the United States.

Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, immediately denounced the event as “leading to four more years of wild-assed spending, confiscation of everyone’s guns and further degradation of the White House by the presence of a black guy who had stolen the election from whatever his name was.”

McConnell also vowed to make sure that Mr. Obama would not serve a third term as President. Promising to introduce a Constitutional amendment to limit the president to two terms, he said “No one, especially someone born in Kenya, should be able to serve more than eight years in the Oval Office.”

When reporters at the scene noted that there already was such a limitation in the Constitution, Mr. McConnell responded “Never mind.”

McConnell’s statement went viral and prompted a number of supportive responses by prominent Republicans. Donald Trump agreed with the need for a Constitutional amendment by insisting that the current provision doesn’t go far enough and may, in fact, be a forgery. He demanded to see the original document and immediately appointed his long-time friend and financial guru, Bernie Madoff , to conduct an investigation.

Michele Bachmann, a leading member of the House Intelligence Committee, took time out from drafting her thirty-fourth legislative proposal to repeal Obamacare and promised to introduce the two-term limitation in the House. Supported by twenty-seven Tea Party congressmen wearing tri-cornered hats and carrying muskets, she said “I don’t really care if there already is a Constitutional provision. My goal is to make sure we don’t forget about it. After all what’s more important, reminding people about the limit or doing things that actually improve people’s lives?” Refusing to take further questions, she rushed off to her Committee to re-open an investigation of the Lincoln assassination.

Glenn Beck took time out from building his libertarian-utopia theme park called Independence, USA where, for a price, you can live out his dream of America The Way It Should Be. “I don’t really give a rat’s ass about Obama serving a third term. Independence, USA will be a sovereign country governed by no one. On the other hand, I’d be happy to promote the Constitutional amendment as a visiting scholar and world ambassador. It’s the least I can do for my former country.”

Rick Perry, fresh from arguing that anyone licensed to carry a gun should be able to bring it into a school, insisted that his first order of business on Monday will be to bring the two-term limit to a vote in the Texas Legislature. When reporters reminded him that the amendment had to be first approved by Congress he said, “I must have missed that when I went to school. But then I was too busy learning my ABD’s.”

Former President George Bush said “What’s the Constitution?”

If I’d only had a gun

It was a little after midnight.

I’d been sleeping soundly when I was roused by a noise at our front door.  Not yet fully coherent, I left my warm bed without looking for my glasses, stumbled into a semi-lit hallway and caught a fuzzy glimpse of three men.

“What do you want?” I half yelled at the men.  “What are you doing here?” I said while growing more frightened.

After what seemed like an eternity, one of them said “Dad, it’s me, David.”

Our son had made a surprise visit with two his buddies.  They had driven most of the night from their UC Berkeley digs and decided that our house would be a good place to sack out.  Wouldn’t Mom and Dad be surprised.

I could have killed my son.  If I’d had a gun.

That was thirty years ago and I’m still frightened by the experience.  Thirty years later and I still don’t have a gun.  Thirty years later and most of the country has at least one gun.  By some estimates, 350.000,000 guns.  Waiting to kill their sons.  Or for someone else to do it.

The only thing that’s changed in all those years is that killing has been made more efficient.  Requiring less thought.  Requiring less time.  It’s part of the mainstream.  Soon to be as commonplace as the horrific daily carnage in Baghdad or Kabul.  Ho hum.  Let’s see what Lindsay Lohan is up to.

I thought that Sandy Hook was a watershed moment.  Twenty little kids gunned down in their first grade schoolroom.  Gunned down with the current stylish weapon of choice.  Slaughtered by the weapon promoted by gun manufacturers for its appearance, attractiveness and, most of all, its profit potential.  Protected by the NRA from any limitation that might otherwise lead down the slippery path of gun control.

I had watched the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre stare vacantly at those attending his news conference.  Semi-glazed, he seemed to be a recent escapee from the asylum featured in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Reliance on more guns in schools was Wayne’s answer to protecting tots.  Only an armed guard policing every institution of learning could be relied upon to avert another Sandy Hook.

I said “What a nut.  He’s toast.  The NRA is headed down the Tea Party path.  Happy days are here again.”

Flash forward less than a month.  An eternity for short-term memory-challenged Americans.  According to the Washington Post and ABC News, more than half the people in the country think armed guards in kindergarten is a good idea…including half of the Democrats polled.  So much for thinking Wayne is out of touch.

Harry Reid, the Senate Democrats’ major domo, and a recipient of NRA largess along with a B rating,  wonders why he should push gun control.  According to Reuters, Harry is more concerned about Democrats, including himself, getting re-elected than in bringing legislation to the Senate floor that is sure to be rejected by House Republicans.

An American University poll of students throughout the country reports that about half intend to purchase a gun when they graduate.  So much for ” And a child shall lead them.”

And while we are all focused on AK47 assault rifles and inexhaustible ammo clips, we should remember that you are 17 times more likely to be killed by a handgun than a rifle. And who’s even talking about that ubiquitous weapon?

Yes, I listened to the Obama press conference where he announce the actions he was prepared to take to curb the insanity. At times I felt like he was an actor, playing his role until the curtain came down. Then it would be back to business as usual.

A trip to the Brady Gun Control website will reward you with a peek at a graphic in the upper right corner of the home page.  It announces, in real time, the number of today’s gun deaths in the U.S.   At noon on January 18, the daily total stood at 176.  That’s nearly double the number of gun deaths in the U.K. for an entire year.  More people die in English soccer riots.

So head on over to the Brady site.  Look at the graphic.  And be grateful that your son is not part of that statistic.

guns

Chutzpah

There are three crosswalks on Ojai Avenue in one itsy-bitsy block between Signal and Montgomery streets.  For some people this abundance of traffic clogging, accident waiting to happen, laughingly named safety zones is not nearly enough.  So they create their own personal spaces by stepping into traffic wherever their little hearts desire.

Sweetie and I were cruising down the Avenue yesterday when a thirtyish woman, cardboard coffee cup in hand,  invited great bodily harm by forging an angular path between the Coffee Roasting Company and Rains department store.  Bristling with indignation, I was tempted to maintain my usual snails pace and come as close as possible to her comely derriere.  Weighing my options,  I took the coward’s way out and merely honked.  She paid not a whit of attention to my muted reproach and slithered her selfish way to the curb.

Sweetie and I then exchanged our usual “what a bozo, big jerk, some people’s children, may she rot in hell” expressions of pique.  We continued our remonstrations by sharing the customary “she must be very lonely and in need of attention.”  Ending with “I hope someone does that to her the next time the bitch is behind the wheel”, we went on our merry way.

Not to be outdone by the jaywalking sphinx, I marveled at the next bit of chutzpah to share itself with my otherwise boring day.  AIG, the multi-gazillion dollar financial behemoth, sought to establish itself as the champion ingrate of all time.

You remember AIG.  When the markets tanked in 2008 and Lehman Brothers was thrown to the wolves for not being big enough to fling the Earth off its axis, AIG came crawling on its knees, pencils in hat, apples on pushcart, and begged for a handout.  Since no one knew what AIG stood for or what they really did for a living, the U.S. Government (i.e. Joe Taxpayer) shoveled  $182 billion into AIG’s sidewalk cigar box.  Well over the amount needed to buy a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of Thunderbird, I wonder if Tim Geithner, Henry Paulson and ninety-nine percent of Congress had any idea what AIG was going to do with the leftover change.

No matter that AIG’s problems stemmed from its own greed in participating in the credit default swaps market (whatever that was.)  The end of America as we knew it would take place as surely as Columbus would fall over the edge of the earth if we didn’t reward private greed with a public handout.  So bailout we did.

Probably more as a result of the improving economy, less hysteria among the general public, and to little if any credit of their own, AIG mended its fences, guillotined the old execs and hired new folks who promised to never do that again.  And they paid back the $182 billion with interest.  And AIG started running TV ads thanking us for our largess.  And everyone lived happily ever after.

Sort of.  Today, Wednesday, AIG’s board of directors meets to consider joining other destitute investors who are suing the U.S. government for $25 billion.  Maurice Greenberg, former CEO of AIG, filed the suit last year on behalf of himself and other AIG investors.  Simply put, Maurice claims that the terms of the bailout were so skewed in the government’s favor that they constituted an unlawful taking of personal property, a no-no frowned upon by the   Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the taking of private property for “public use, without just compensation.”

Mr. Greenberg doesn’t claim that the bailout wasn’t needed.  Just that it was like an armed robbery of a drowning person headed down for the third time.  What Maurice fails to highlight is that without the $182 billion, all of us today would be saying “AIG, who?”

Maurice ran AIG for nearly forty years before resigning in 2005 amid accusations of fudging the books.  The lawsuit against the government has already cost us the time of a legion of U.S. attorneys.  Obviously in need of more recreational reading, Maurice as part of the suit has asked for 16 million pages of government documents.

So you wonder.  Why is AIG even considering being a party to this sham?  As AIG spokesman Jon Diat said… “The A.I.G. board of directors takes its fiduciary duties and business judgment responsibilities seriously,”  Maybe except when there’s a buck to made in the credit default swaps market.

While I was writing this diatribe, the AIG board did meet  this morning and decided not to be a party to the suit.  As the Times noted… Lawmakers in recent days have warned the company not to side with Mr. Greenberg, which would make it “the poster company for corporate ingratitude and chutzpah.”

The jaywalking sphinx is gonna be hard to beat.  But I bet Maurice will keep trying.

Maurice Greenberg


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