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I’ll just let it explode

So what if the bridges are desperately in need of repair. I told them we would fix them if they named half of them after me and the other half after Yvanka. But they told me that wasn’t acceptable. So I’ll eliminate all the funding and wait until they start collapsing over the Mississippi River. Then they’ll come running to me to accept my deal.

Climate change is a fairy tale. But, ok, I told them I’d fund half of the needs of the National Institute of Health if they’d lift all the restrictions on coal mining and waive any claims made by miners with Black Lung disease. But they said that was cruel and unusual punishment. So I’ll eliminate all the NIH funding and wait until a tsunami hits New York. Then they’ll come running to me to accept my deal.

Obamacare will explode and the Democrats will own it. I offered them a deal where 24 million people would lose their healthcare coverage while the rich would get a hefty tax reduction. And they told me to stick it where the sun don’t shine. So I’ll just sit on my hands, do nothing to fix the problem and just wait until the current law of the land destructs. Then they’ll come running to me and bend to my will.

Which one of those three scenarios is the truth?

Can you imagine the president of a Fortune Five Hundred company who’d refuse to make product improvements while thousands of his customers were being injured by his defective but fixable product? Of course you can.

Can you believe that the President of the United States would sabotage a law that he had sworn to uphold? Just because it wasn’t his own law. Of course you can.

The president takes an oath. “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Clause 5 of the Constitution specifies that the president “must take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”   President George Washington interpreted this clause as imposing on him a unique duty to ensure the execution of federal law. Discussing a tax rebellion, Washington observed, “it is my duty to see the Laws executed: to permit them to be trampled upon with impunity would be repugnant to [that duty.]

But then, our current president hasn’t read the Constitution.

ReDemrocans

It was reliably reported this morning that Donald Trump has personally contacted Hillary Clinton to offer her a deal.

Smarting from what he perceives to be an unfair advantage gained by the Democrats at their Philadelphia convention, Mr. Trump believes that his only chance to make it to the Oval Office is to team up with Secretary Clinton. The details of the deal offered by Mr. Trump are sketchy but they are believed to include the following:

Both Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton would run together as “ReDemrocans”.

Following their victory in November, they would become “Co-Presidents” jointly occupying the White House. Due to the crowded quarters, the vice-presidency would be abolished.

Presidential decisions would be made by Mr. Trump on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Secretary Clinton would assume that responsibility on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. No decisions would be made or actions taken on Sundays.

Secretary Clinton is free to appoint her own cabinet. Mr. Trump does not want a cabinet.

Congress would be equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. The current imbalance will be resolved by coin flips. Future congressional elections will be unnecessary. Vacated positions would be filled by one or the other Co-President depending on the day of the week that the vacancy occurred. Ditto for the Supreme Court.

In the event that one of the Co-Presidents should die in office, the remaining Co-President will commit suicide.  The country can then figure out what to do after that.

When contacted by Fox News about the deal, Mr. Trump denied any knowledge of it and blamed Chelsea Clinton for leaking the story. “It must be her time of the month” he said.

Simple Pleasures

Did you ever listen to friends describe their latest adventures?

“Uzbekistan was amazing. So many things to see. The people were great. Can’t wait to do it again.”

“Our trip to New York was mind-blowing. Had to book tickets to Hamilton two years in advance…worth every penny. You should go.”

“The Falkland Islands were one of the top five events in my life. I’ll never forget the sheep in the road. Weather was perfect. Never knew there were so many ways to prepare mutton.”

Time was that I would think “Why aren’t I doing things like this?  I must be missing out on life.”

Probably so.

But things being what they are, Sweetie and I tend to find pleasure in simpler things. Things that don’t involve shleps to the airport, uncomfortable plane seats, annoying children and rude adults.

Like yesterday.

The library foundation bookstore is closing for a major rebuild. We wanted to sell lots of books so that we could avoid moving them to temporary storage while we build the new structure.  We volunteered for the 2:30 shift and arrived to find very little activity. One or two customers, much like a normal day. So since we weren’t really needed, we excused ourselves and went for a walk.

One of our favorite places is Rains department store. A venerable institution serving the community for over a hundred years. Weekends are pretty busy in the store but on most weekdays you can call the store your own. We hardly ever leave without buying something. Sort of like freshly marking our territory.

There’s a wooden bench just off the main aisle in the women’s department. I’m sure it’s intended to allow the ladies to sit and try on the shoes that are cloistered in the area around the bench. It looks uncomfortable but the bench’s shape sort of matches my fanny so I can sit for a while before I develop calluses or bone spurs. We often alight on that bench and stare at the dozen or so women’s shoes that beckon to be tried on.

Spending thirty minutes or so sitting on a wood bench in Rains’ shoe department may not sound very exciting. And it’s not. So to lighten things up, we sometimes pretend that we are on a cruise. At other times we pretend that we are waiting for a city bus to come rolling down the department store aisle. In either case, we must look odd to the sales people and to the customers. But, being old, most observers simply assume we’ve got nothing better to do and ignore us.

Yesterday was special, though. I began staring at the array of shoe boxes stacked directly ahead of me.  About thirty of them in about six stacks.  All the same brand. I zeroed in on the 3×5 stickers glued to the end of each box that announced the style number and shoe size of the contents. I wondered “Are all those labels glued to the box by hand or is there some clever piece of machinery that does it?” I compared the placement of each label and the amount of empty space surrounding each. My suspicion was that they were hand applied. But I couldn’t be certain. So I asked Sweetie for her wise counsel. Recognizing a unique opportunity, she smiled and immediately bought into the adventure. Carefully eyeballing the boxes and measuring her response, she said that she was certain beyond a reasonable doubt that a machine was doing the deed. Good enough for me.

Having some time remaining in our busy schedule, I then focused on the boxes themselves. I was surprised that each shoe size seemed to have a box whose dimensions were tailored to the size of the contents. What a revelation! Sweetie was not nearly as excited as me since she claimed to already be aware of the shoe box size protocol. Probably because she has more shoes than I do.

So there you are. A relatively inexpensive adventure that did not require a plane trip, questionable accommodations, tickets bought two years in advance, or the need to learn a foreign language.

Now won’t that be an amazing story to tell our friends when they return from the Galapagos?

Stick me up!

Watching the circus run in the House by ringmaster Boehner, I was reminded of the Mel Brooks movie, Blazing Saddles.

The basic plotline of the movie is that a bunch of villains want to get rid of the citizens of Rock Ridge so that the chief bad guy played by Harvey Korman can take over the town’s land through which the railroad wants a right of way.  Harvey sends in a gang of thugs which prompts the townsfolk to plead with the governor, played by Mel Brooks, to send a new sheriff to save their hides.

Harvey convinces Mel to pick Bart, played by the black actor Cleavon Little, a railroad worker about to be hanged, as the new sheriff in the hope that the blatantly racist townsfolk, all named Johnson,  will either abandon the town or lynch the new sheriff.

Arriving in town, Cleavon is confronted by an angry mob who he holds at bay as he points his own gun at his head and threatens to “kill the sheriff” if they don’t back off.  The seriously mentally disadvantaged townsfolk give up.

Speaker Boehner, a big fan of the movie, has apparently taken its message to heart as he hurtles through the corridors of Congress pointing a loaded gun at his own head hoping that this will bring his Tea Party inspired colleagues to heel.

What should have turned out to be a no-brainer for the party in charge has instead become a Punch and Judy show replete with pratfalls and nonsense.  I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t enjoying the performance. As an extra added attraction, Boehner has upped the ante by inviting the always delightful Bibi Netanyahu to rally the troops with stories of death and destruction while embarrassing the black guy in the Oval Office.

Boehner, during his extended time in the tanning booth, could and probably did conjure up a reasonable going forward scenario following the GOP’s crushing November victory.  Something like “we won’t shut down the government again…we’ll show the townsfolk that we can manage things…we’ll keep the heat on the black guy…we’ll take over the town in two years…and then we can do whatever we want.”

In other words, create a humble, helping and kindly diversion for two years and wait for the ultimate goal to be realized…replacing the black guy with a white one who looks and talks like a real American.  One who loves America.  Really.

Sort of like what Cleavon did in the movie. In order to misguide the villains, the sheriff creates a fake Rock Ridge, complete with replica dummies of the townsfolk. And to delay the villains arrival, he installs a toll booth on the road to the faux town that the villains need to get through. Arriving at the booth they stop and send someone back to “Get a shitload of dimes”, as the villains have neither the change to go through it, nor enough common sense to simply ride around it. Stupidity costs them as they are easily defeated just short of ultimate victory.

I can’t wait to see the sequel.

Cleavon Little

Obama Gives In…Willing to Negotiate

News Flash…Obama willing to negotiate.

NBC News reported this morning that President Obama is willing to negotiate both the government shutdown and the federal debt limit.  In a concession speech delivered at the national headquarters of the Tea Party, Obama admitted that his grievous error in allowing Harry Reid to push him to the fiscal cliff and his own wrong-headed intransigence to come to the negotiating table have brought us to a near collapse of the country’s fiscal system and the impoverishment of millions.

He graciously apologized to the leaders of the Tea Party who, he admitted, had been right all the time about the need to cut government spending and substantially reduce the tax burden on millionaires who, he said, were the true patriots of this country toiling day and night to create jobs while foregoing their own personal needs.  He also asked for the forgiveness of  the American public for the havoc, job loss and increased mortality rates that he had wreaked on the nation because of his single-minded insistence that the Affordable Care Act be implemented.

“It’s no longer a case of who’s right and who’s wrong.  It’s abundantly clear that we Democrats took the wrong road and we deserve the blame.” he said.

Obama pointed to John Boehner and the Republican led congress as a shining example of doing things the right way as they continually offered time and again to work with him and the Democrat led senate but were mindlessly rejected by Harry Reid and other left-wing zealots.  He praised the way Speaker Boehner had carefully selected those particular budget items that the Speaker believed were the most essential ones to get this country back on track.

Obama particularly cited the Smithsonian National Zoo Panda Cam as a shining example of urgently needed funds.  He agreed with Speaker Boehner that America indeed has a god given right to relentlessly observe every moment of panda antics.  The President specifically praised New Gingrich for his generous offer to fund the Panda Cam while deliberations over food stamps, immigration and education took a back seat.

To get things rolling President Obama agreed to repeal, not just delay,  the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.  As an added incentive to begin negotiations forthwith, he proposed the elimination of all federal subsidies for Medicaid which would effectively shut down that mindless, corrupt, debilitating program in all fifty states and, in the bargain, save three trillion dollars over the next hundred years.

Finally, and as a sign of good faith and willingness to quickly reopen the government without the selective, cumbersome, convoluted multitude of self-serving budget amendments proposed by the Republican House of Representatives, he proposed the immediate enrollment of all 350 million U.S. citizens in the federal Medicare program.

President Obama closed his presentation by expressing his heartfelt thanks to Speaker Boehner, majority whip Eric Cantor and Senators Mitch McConnell and Ron Paul for their patience and fortitude in leading us from the abyss created by his own misguided ignorance and obstinacy.  The President also expressed a special thanks and undying admiration to Senator Ted Cruz for his thoughtful insights and words that were largely accountable for resolving the predicament that we had faced, and designing a clear, equitable pathway to lasting resolution.

Contacted by NBC following Mr. Obama’s remarks, Speaker Boehner said  “What a guy.  Let’s move ahead.”

obama gives up

Republican Poster Children

My good friend Ralph, in a somewhat inebriated state, once said “I don’t like so many things that I don’t even know what I don’t like anymore.”  Over the years Ralph and I have joked about his half-serious declaration that, for some people, is the center point of their lives.

I was reminded of it again when I read the sobering rant aired by Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) who told The Washington Examiner  “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Marlin was of course referring to the current budget crisis and the Republican crusade to banish Obamacare  before anyone can find out that it actually helps people.  A major brain fart was obviously gassing Marlin’s ability to reason, evaluate the consequences of his actions, and to speak without the intervention of serious drugs.

But to be fair, Marlin was probably just relying on those in his party who were feeding him a constant barrage of one-liners, manufactured facts, and u-turns in their twisted road to sway government opinion that would seriously challenge a Barnum and Bailey contortionist.

After shutting down the government because they couldn’t deep-six Obamacare, Republicans have taken the high road by picking those government programs that deserve to be reopened (like parks) and keeping other less important ones shut down (like the National Institute of Health and OSHA.)

Marlin’s good friend, Texas Republican congressman Randy Neugebauer, also had his facts somewhat mixed when he berated a  National Park Ranger at the Washington WWII memorial for doing her job.  Carrying an oversized American flag in his breast pocket, Randy objected to the Ranger’s attempt to keep people out of the facility which had been officially closed due to the government shutdown provoked by you know who.   “The Park Service should be ashamed” Randy declared as his flag began to wilt.

A near-by bicyclist shouted  “This woman is doing her job, just like me. I’m a 30-year federal veteran — I’m out of work.”  The man at this point was face to face with the Congressman who was perhaps irritated by being delayed from cashing his U.S. Government paycheck.

“Well, the reason you are is because Mr. Reid decided to shut down the government,” responded Neugebauer, no doubt restraining himself from calling the Senate Democrat a Commie bastard.

“No, it’s because the government won’t do its job and pass a budget” said the 30 year federal veteran.

Having wilted completely, both the flag and Congressman Neugebauer returned to the House floor where he proudly proposed an end to the National Park Service and the opening of Yosemite to oil exploration.

So to Marlin Stutzman I say, your disrespect is well deserved.  You’re lucky enough to still be employed even though you’ve refused to perform the functions required of your position.  Namely, to better the lives of those who look to you for leadership.  Not to make their lot more difficult.

And to Randy Neugebauer.  You should be greatly ashamed for displaying the symbol of our country while doing your best to destroy the thing it has most stood for.  Protecting and helping those less fortunate than you.

But I will grant both of you this.  You are the ideal poster-children of the Party to which we owe our current state of affairs.  Keep up the good work.

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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