Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The United States of Goldman Sachs

Reversing course yet again, Secretary of the Treasury and former head of Goldman Sachs, Henry Paulson, announced today his intention to scrap his $700 billion bailout plan for the financial services industry, and instead ceded the government’s power to print money directly to his former employers. Said Paulson, “everybody knows Goldman owns the government. Who’s kidding whom? Let’s just make it official.”

Reaction has been swift. Senator Barack Obama’s top financial advisor, former Clinton Treasury Secretary and former Goldman head himself, Robert Rubin, proclaimed the proposal “full of merit,” and “a meaningful improvement over the current system.” Said Rubin, “although the credit default swap market was pretty much a license to print money, this should streamline the process, and I think markets will react positively to this innovative new approach from Treasury.”

Famed deregulator and top economic advisor to Senator John McCain (at least until the “Whiner-gate” dust-up) Phil Gramm announced from his marbled offices at Swiss Investment Bank UBS that he “believed the fundamentals of the plan are sound, but a few of the details of sharing the currency printing power among major investment banks remain to be worked out.”

Markets were up sharply, with its 11,000 point gain being both the single biggest one day percentage and point gain in the Dow’s history. Similar increases were seen on both the Nasdaq and S& P 500.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi buoyed markets with her comments that “I am so tired of writing a blank check for George Bush’s pointless wars that I am seriously entertaining the idea of at least writing a blank check for someone else, and, after all, they own our party.”

Some dark clouds did loom on the horizon. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd expressed substantial pique that none of the 4,742 text messages he had sent to Secretary Paulson in the past week had been responded to. Said Dodd, “ I know we’re an irrelevance, but couldn’t he at least have the common courtesy not to rub it in?”

Asked for comment McCain running mate Sarah Palin said she was fed up with economic distractions from the real issues of the day and challenged either Senators Joe Biden or Barack Obama to a “moose dressing competition,” saying “that’s what the American people really care about.”

Alan Greenspan, the legendary former head of the Federal Reserve was wildly enthusiastic, saying “at last we can begin to pull back on the underperforming aspects of the economy and focus on only the most productive sectors.” Said Greenspan, “by focusing on the printing of money we will be able to prune, substantially, unproductive activities, like agriculture, manufacturing, medical care, transportation, education, and construction.”

Congressman and two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich expressed outrage: “They are selling out our country. They are betraying our country. George Bush, and Henry Paulson could not have done more damage to our economy if they had handed it over to Osama bin Laden.”

Reached for comment in his remarkably palatial residence in a hidden location in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden begged to disagree. “What I did to the Twin Towers of your World Trade Center, Bush, and Paulson, and Clinton, and Rubin, and McCain and Gramm, that is what they have done to the economy of the whole planet. Even I couldn’t begin to compete with that.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"American conservatives are a bunch of liberal sissies"

So one conservative says to another conservative:

“In my country there is a wonderful new conservative candidate running for the vice presidency.”

And the second conservative responds to the first, “That is wonderful. What is his name?”

And the first conservative says, “Her name, actually. It is a woman, and her name is Sarah Palin.”

Second Conservative: “I thought you said it was a conservative candidate.”

First Conservative: “Oh, she is, she is. She has the most wonderful conservative positions on all the issues.”

Second Conservative: “In my country, a true conservative would not allow a woman to run for government office. It is a contradiction in, how you say it, oxymorons. It is a contradiction to say that a woman is a conservative candidate.”

F.C.: “Ah, well, your country is just backwards when it comes to women. In our country a woman can aspire to the highest office in the land.”

S.C.: “But this is not a conservative idea. This is some liberal heresy. Even in your own country it was illegal for women to vote not that long ago, and a true conservative would not allow his woman to vote, much less to run for office.”

F.C.: “I’m a conservative, but I’m not a Neanderthal. In our country women are entitled to all of the same rights as men.”

S.C.:”So in your country it is possible to believe in evolution and to call yourself a conservative.”

F.C.: “Say what?”

S.C.: “Neanderthal. Where does it mention Neanderthal in the holy written word of God?”

F.C.: “It’s just an expression.”

S.C.: “An expression that came into being because of evolution, because of the idea that humans are descended from apes, and that Neanderthals were a step in the evolution of modern man. In our country, God created man, and that is final. God said so in his book. Only a heretic would believe in Darwinian evolution. This is the total opposite of what it means to be a true conservative.”

F.C.: “Well of course no true conservative believes in evolution.”
S.C.:”And so no true conservative believes in letting women vote. No true conservative believes in letting women hold political office.”

F.C. “But that just seems backwards.”

S.C.: “You cannot have it both ways. You cannot call yourself conservative and say that a woman can hold political office.”

F.C.: “But what about Margaret Thatcher? Everyone called Margaret Thatcher conservative.”

S.C.:”This is merely advertizing and public relations. Mrs. Thatcher did not believe that abortion should be illegal.”

F.C.: “She what?”

S.C.: “She believed that government had no business intervening in a fundamentally personal decision like abortion. Can you believe that such a woman would be called a conservative. Would you call such a woman a conservative in your country? Would you call anyone a conservative in your country who did not believe that abortion is murder?” (http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=103793).

F.C.: “Well that’s one place where Sarah Palin has shining conservative credentials. She had a baby with Down’s Syndrome despite knowing the baby had Down’s Syndrome. And her 17 year old daughter is going ahead with her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and intends to marry the father.”

S.C.: “Her out-of-wedlock pregnancy?”

F.C.:”But she intends to marry the...”

S.C.: “In my country a true conservative does not have an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. In my country we do not elect such people; we stone them. We bury them alive. But we do not elect them.”

F.C.: “That’s inhuman. That’s immoral. She’s only a 17 year old girl.”

S.C.: “No, it’s conservative. That’s what it means to be a true conservative. There has been a right way to do things, and a wrong way to do things for all of time. They never change. That is what a conservative believes. A true conservative.

You, with your woman’s right to vote, your woman’s right to rule a government, your woman’s right to engage in sex outside of marriage, you are nothing but, nothing but, I hate to say this, but you are nothing but a liberal.”

F.C.: “What?”

S.C.: “I am afraid so. A liberal. You may flatter yourselves that you are pit bulls with lipstick. I see the lipstick, but not the pit bull. American conservatives are a bunch of liberal sissies.

In my country an unmarried girl who is pregnant is stoned to death.

That is a pit bull. That is a person who is unafraid to execute the will of God.”

F.C.: “I’m glad we’re bombing your countries.”

S.C.: “And now your true character comes out. You are bombing us for our conservative beliefs. You are bombing us because we are conservatives. You call yourselves conservatives, and bomb the true conservatives. You call yourselves conservatives and are ruled by whatever liberal principles are convenient for your ruling classes, and you then call these conservative.

This is true hypocrisy.

But who here is true to the word of God?

Who really has the courage, to execute God’s will?”

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Someone is Stealing My Television Set

Someone is stealing my television set.

In the global scheme of things (11 million children dying each year of easily preventable illnesses for example), this is not a big affair. But still, a television is a television.

I remember after the levees failed in New Orleans, stealing a television set seemed to mean something. It seemed to count for something. It seemed to signify the demise of Civilization-as-we-know-it. It seemed to merit coverage on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News. Saturation coverage.

But then the term was “looting”, and people of the wrong complexion were observed with televisions that did not belong to them. In the aftermath of a “natural disaster” people were preying on their fellow man. Not for food. Not for survival. But for profit. It was, “horrible”.

The main problem with this picture of course is that it was not a natural disaster. The failure of the levees in New Orleans was a man-made disaster, caused by negligence, incompetence, and corruption: a failure of governance on an epic scale. It was not Katrina, but misrule that savaged the city, and subjected it to a kind of meteor-ideo-logical waterboarding. As thousands of people, (almost all black people) outside the New Orleans Convention Center chanted for “help, help, help, help,” and the man in charge of disaster relief asked “where is the convention center,” major news media found time for saturation coverage of a television being stolen.

But if the problem here was an abandonment of governmental responsibility, if the problem here is misrule, then stealing a television set is an entirely appropriate reaction (you do what you can to survive, I’ll trade you a television for a ticket out of the city). After decades of rule by an ‘every man for himself’ philosophy, it is hardly a surprise to find the occasional everyman acting for himself.

Which brings me back to my television set.

The same government that waterboarded the people of New Orleans has ordained that my television will stop working on or about February 2009. Whereas you may say this is not stealing in the technical sense, preventing the proper functioning of my television set by changing the broadcast standards amounts to theft just as much. You could say they are stealing the function of my television set, not the set itself. But I never would have bought the television in the first place if it wasn’t going to function.

Of course there are converter boxes. There are subsidies for buying converter boxes. But these are sops to try and make me less angry that my television set is being stolen.

But my real point is how amazing it is that no one calls this theft.

Not just one or two televisions are being taken in an environment of emergency, up to your ass in water-moccasins as the case may be, but millions, tens of millions of television sets being looted by the same people whose negligence caused the New Orleans flooding in the first place, and so far as I know not a single word of protest or objection is being raised anywhere.

When I was a child my parents would often tell a tale from Konrad Lorenz’s book “On Aggression.”

If a low ranking monkey was trained to operate a machine that gave out bananas, other members of the monkey tribe would go to that monkey and demand a banana from the machine. But if a high ranking monkey was trained, he would teach other monkeys to operate the machine for themselves. Which is to say that whether or not something is “theft” depends on the social rank of the people doing the stealing.

For over a decade now we as a society have been planning the development and delivery of HDTV, and the biggest of big players have been sharpening their cleavers for an appropriately-sized share of the action. When large corporations with names like Sony, and GE, and Panasonic, and Philips get together and agree on a schedule to reallocate the nation’s bandwidth resources, the result, whatever it is, is not theft.

Certainly it will not be reported as such in the news media that are owned by Sony, and GE.

And so on the third anniversary of the waterboarding of New Orleans, watching the faith-based coverage of the faith-based political conventions that amount to democratic thought in our soon to be HD world, I am not much worried about my television being stolen. It has been a long time since there was anything on worth watching. Come next year there will be nothing but noise, and static, fuzz and blur.

Over all, a big improvement.