Friday, October 17, 2008

This Country is Sooooo Screwed, Part II...
There is a running argument between my mother and I, and it has to do with which jerk manages to scam his way into the White House this fall. My mother enthusiastically supports Barack Obama, and I, reluctantly, John McCain. There is an interesting dialectic at work here between the words 'enthusiastically' and 'reluctantly'.

My mother is enthused because Barack Obama claims to have the answers to her immediate needs; she is near retirement-age, has had her pension and retirement funds ravaged by the recent market turmoil, lives on disability insurance payments and requires expensive medication. Obama, basically, promises her the following;

a) More Social Security money than you can shake a stick at. The system will continue to pay out, even if we have to short-dick every cannibal on the Congo, and the longer you live (medical science is keeping us all alive longer than we perhaps have a right to), the more you will get. Don't worry about who has to pay for it so long as you don't have to, nor I, Barack Obama. Free money is yours for the taking.

b) You have a right to government-funded Claritin and Preparation H, and if you decide you want that abortion or breast enlargement for your 65th birthday, be our guest. Whatever your tiny ache or pain, whatever your fake Baby-Boomer malady (like Restless Leg Syndrome), or how many expensive prescription drugs you take to mask the side-effects of all the other expensive prescription drugs you're taking for your bunions and the other pitfalls of what used to be called Old Age, I will give you insurance for it. Even if I have to brazenly steal from the productive to give it to you.

c) Even though you pay next to nothing in taxes (since your disability payments are tax free), I'm still going to give you a tax cut (i.e. bribe paid for by someone else), even though you don't work!

Given that set of promises, I might be enthusiastic, too.

However, it is more than likely my generation of taxpayers (and my children's, if I ever have any) who will have to pay for it. We already are, in more than one way. I'll explain;

At the moment, this country is being run by the folks of my mother's generation. These are the folks who went to Woodstock. It is the generation that dodged the Draft. It is the generation who said 'if it feels good, do it' and who thought taking acid to 'expand your mind' was a good idea. It is the generation that believed (suckers!) that John F. Kennedy was the next best thing to God. It is the generation that invented Disco, the Pet Rock, and who thought bell-bottoms were cool. It is the generation that once boasted that it 'spoke truth to power' and 'challenged the status quo', until, of course, it became the status quo, and then truth took a backseat to power. It will be, even with the recent disasters on Wall Street, one of the two richest generations of retirees in the history of the world (their parents, the 'Greatest Generation', is the first).

In other words, the country is being run by self-indulgent, instant-gratification-is-our-motto, greedy, mollycoddled, infantile, selfish, retards who can't get over themselves. The Congress is full of them. The last two occupants of the White House have been counted amongst their members. They are the generation of managers who run the corporations, the media, academia, state and local government. They are incredibly narrow-minded, despite the pretense of education many of them display; every problem to a Baby Boomer, in my experience, is always examined in light of the two greatest experiences in their lives: The Vietnam War (remember how Iraq was another Vietnam, not only in 2003-8, but way back in 1991?) and the Sexual Revolution (all that hullabaloo about Hillary being 'cheated' because of her gender, and all the crap about Sarah Palin not truly representing the feminazi ideal because she's a pro-life republican?) . No matter what the topic, they keep coming back to these two events. They can't help themselves, as these were the defining moments of their existence, probably just as 9/11 will be the defining experience of mine. These are the people who elevated the art of hypocrisy to a fine art, the 'do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do' generation who has lived their life by a frightening creed; all ethics are situational, no truth is definitive and depends on your point-of-view-at-the-moment, the future will consist of an endless existence of living in the immediate present, tinged by nostalgia for the Summer of Love.

This is who runs America, folks, and they're about to retire. By the tens of millions. And they have a vested interest in keeping themselves comfortable, and in keeping themselves, and their worldview, relevant (by which we mean, the center of attention, particularly political attention). In the next decade, 'Senior Citizen' will be the new 'African-American' of government entitlement. Barack Obama promises to scratch these particular itches for them, come hell or high water, thus all the fainting and fawning over him. Thus, the enthusiastic support.

Now, for my reluctance.

John McCain is not my first choice for anything. I think I have made that abundantly clear in this screed. Given a choice between an enema and McCain, the enema looks like an interesting experience. However, Barack Obama is even less attractive, and potentially more destructive. Therefore, McCain is clearly the lesser of two evils (the two evils being that the American political landscape is so completely fucked up that these two are the best we could come up with; one guy who spent 30 years in a system that encourages and rewards either mediocrity or mendacity, and another who wouldn't have a thick enough resume to run your local PizzaHut).
Both men, despite what either says about themselves, represents anything new in American politics; McCain's 'maverick' reputation is little more than posturing and self-promotion, and Obama's 'transcendence' is little more than a slick marketing campaign designed to appeal to those who can't think and chew gum at the same time. McCain, if he stands for anything, at least stands as the Anti-Obama, and by extension, the Anti-Baby-Boomer. That is why I will support him, but unfortunately, he hasn't offered enough after that (although I do have high hopes for Sarah Palin...someone of both my generation and my political leanings. Obama might be of my generation, but his political leanings have their roots in the 1960's, and some harken back to Karl Marx). Therefore, my support is grudging, at best, reluctant at worst.

Well anyway, the greatest threat to American society in the foreseeable future is the Baby-Boomers, who are in charge at the moment -- and their numbers are legion. They will vote themselves a permanent place at the government teat if they aren't stopped. John McCain, even if he is one of them, at least represents some of the forces that will resist their further advance towards bankrupting their children and grandchildren for their own personal wants and needs. It has to be done now. It has to be done by my generation, as well, since I have absolutely no faith at all in the generation of slackers behind me; they are uniformly misinformed, typically just as short-sighted as their grandparents, and apparently happy to be both. But they care, you know. Ask them what they care about, and they can't explain it, but their earnestness is still touching (and hilarious).

If this country is to be saved (and by that I mean returned to constitutional government and common sense), it will have to be done by clear-thinking people who are not romantically-attached to a mythical past (for all their claims of achievement, the Flower children did very little -- they didn't stop a war, and they only accelerated the decay of moral and civil society), or who take it as an article of faith that they are entitled to everything by virtue of being alive. It will be done by people who know that you have only yourself to rely on...not your parents, not the government, not slick-talking politicians who couldn't lead a three year old to the crapper without cajolling a campaign contribution from him first. The greatest lesson ever taught to me by my mother's generation was that personal responsibility was something for other people to worry about. But then I grew up. They never did.

Until we return to those virtues of self-reliance, personal responsibility and constitutional government, and we begin to rebuild a culture where informed discourse -- not bribery, not the ability to survive within a crooked system, not You-Tube, DailyKos or FreeRepublic -- rules our political life, where American Idol and Sex With Mom and Dad are not the height of intellectual stimulation, we're fucked. We're fucked because our future is being dictated by an entire generation of wrong-thinking, self-absorbed, double-talking people who will do nothing but consume the fruits of other people's labor, are convinced they are entitled to it, and who will use the ballot box to secure it.
This Country is Sooooo Screwed, Part I...
I really didn't want to write about the economic crisis because I would simply be repeating many of the things I've already written here; the crisis was caused by the same triad of bugbears that is always at the bottom of any tragedy: greed, stupidity and appalling lack of oversight. Anyone who's followed this rant for any appreciable amount of time knows how I feel about Wall Street -- it's legalized gambling -- and how I feel about 'financial professionals' -- they're (mostly) self-inflated, egotistical crooks with inferiority complexes that can only be satiated by Pavlovian- reflexive acts of mere acquisition and accumulation, and the only differences between them and your neighborhood bookie are a federal license, and a better suit. Anything I would have to say on the subject would be tainted by this view, and would only present me with little more than an "I-told-you-so" opportunity which doesn't put me in the mood to do the Snoopy-happy-dance.

But, unfortunately, I can't ignore it any longer. Particularly not when the American government resorts to nationalization in order to (they think) correct a problem with supposedly-free markets (itself a misnomer to begin with), and decides the right tonic is the transfer of $700 billion from public coffers (you know, money that would have otherwise been wasted on something like, oh, national defense...) to the private sector to, in effect, save the financial whiz-kid's collective ass from their own stupidity. Why? Because without it there would economic turmoil, in which the earth might spin off it's axis and hurtle into the sun.

Of course, even though Wall Street got what it wanted (someone else to pay for their mistakes), the markets are still tanking because the same jerks who caused the meltdown are still at work. The markets are dominated by speculators and short-sellers, and fueled by easy-to-obtain credit. The government just handed them $700 billion to keep the credit markets afloat, and the Federal Reserve bank just lowered rates again to make borrowing almost free (I think the Fed rate now is 1.5% or something), and the markets still fluctuate wildly. Why? Because the lesson that has been learned is not 'make-a-serious-mistake-and-lose-your-job', it's 'make-a-boo-boo-of-galactic-proportions-and-some-idiot-with-the-title-Congressman-or-Senator-will-cover-your-losses'. Short selling is still going on, speculation is still rampant -- and it's still other people's money.

This is the mechanism which is at the root of the current financial crisis; money was too easy to come by when times were good, and it's still too easy to come by when you screw the pooch. If we had a truly free market, which was run by people who were truly held accountable (like being taken out and hung in the public square, instead of being just fired with Golden Parachutes totalling millions in cash and perks), this could not have happened. Not in a million years. If the rules which prevailed in American markets before the 1990's were still in place, this could not have happened. The American government has catered to business for far too long. Government gave business what it said it wanted; it removed regulations, it made credit easy to come by with Fed policies, it has allowed business to ship jobs and capital safely out of the country without any stigma or penalty, it has bribed and bought politicians (allegedly) to run interference for them with the media and the regulatory bodies. In short, it has gotten every advantage (other people's) money could buy, and what did it do with those advantages?

A few at the top enriched themselves, got arrogant, and then engaged in risky behavior that defied logic and the immutable laws of basic economics. And look where it got us. The next time I hear a CEO complain on the idiot box that American corporations 'can't compete in the global marketplace' because of some law or regulation or somesuch, I'm going to personally shove his gold-plated Blackberry down his throat. Instead of worrying about whether the Chinese or Ethiopians can afford American goods and products, perhaps they should start worrying about whether Americans can afford them now. There's no point in being able to 'compete globally' if the price is poverty at home, and particularly when that poverty is caused by business policies that eliminate jobs, encourage crippling debt, allow stupid and unscrupulous people to rise to the top, and then destroy the wealth of the people who aren't fortunate enough to have the option of resigning (therefore dodging the consequences attendant with responsibility) with a 'two-comma' severance package which some other sucker has to pay for.

Another lesson Americans will learn, painfully, in the next few years is this: the American government, despite what it says or the mystical powers granted to it by a mostly-ignorant populace, does *not* run 'the Economy'. The President of the United States does not run it, the Congress does not run it. The Fed doesn't either. True, they have the ability to affect it with regulations, tax and monetary policy, but they don't have a handle on it. When people demand that government 'do something about the economy' there is very little that any individual, or even a collective group like Congress, can do. The primary reason is because economic activity often takes place in a realm outside the political. True, political factors may condition the practice of capitalism, but capitalism takes place no matter who is in charge or what policies they espouse. One need only need to note that drug dealing, prostitution, illicit gambling, and other criminal behaviors still continue, despite legal sanction -- because there's money to be made in them for the individual who is willing to take the risks associated with making his/her money in those endeavors. Despite the dictates and policies of government, these trades still flourish, proving that government is often irrelevant when it comes to economic activity. That such activity takes place 'under the radar' and with the general acceptance of many in government, only futher bolsters the case; they can't stop it, regulate it or tax it, for a variety or reasons (mostly sloth), so they pretty much leave it alone. Much of the 'legitimate' market operates on the same prinicples, whether anyone likes to admit so openly or not.

And for those who might argue the analogy; pimps, whores, pushers, and organized crime are all words that can be used to adequately, and accurately, describe any aspect of what has just transpired in the markets, the people who caused it, and the people who purportedly 'addressed' this issue by obligating the taxpayer to pay for someone else's bad bets. The comparison, I think, is appropos. But I digress.

The second reason is that collective, effective (key word), action is mostly impossible because of a dazzling array of personal and political factors in play (like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd trying to avoid jail time, and the Congressional Republicans trying to score points with the so-called Freemarketeers). These often-petty turf, perquisite and ideological battles conspire to ensure that no one side of the poltical-ecenomic debate is dominated by any one view which might further prejudice the system. It also ensures that when Congress does take up collective action, it's eventual scope is, hopefully, constrained.

Americans are about to learn that the government couldn't organize a gang-bang in a whorehouse, let alone run the American economy. And run the economy it shall attempt to do: it now owns (or will soon assume responsibility for) major stakes in banks, mortgage markets, insurance and brokerage firms, and it's tentacles will sink deeper into the economic soil as that $700 billion begins to get disbursed. We're about to find out that we were probably better off, in the long run, letting AIG and Morgan-Stanley, and the rest fail on their own (de-)merits than have the Federal Government throw good money after bad and then take control of many institutions in the process.

Whichever idiot takes the White House next January has to consider this, and has to make it a centerpiece of his administration: that bailout package has to be reworked, and it has to be done in such a way as to:

a) Ensure that $700 billion gets paid back, with interest
b) Ensure that $700 billion gets paid back as quickly as possible so that the institutions rescued can get the government out of it's offices ASAP.
c) Scrutiny of corporate activities must be intensified. Particularly executive compensation and the practice of tying compensation to stock prices -- this not only invites fraud, it actively encourages it, not to mention having a corporation use common-sense accounting and reporting tools, and the demand for transparency to the public and shareholders.
d) True and effective reform of Social Security and Medicare, because $1 trillion dollars of retirement wealth just got wiped out. This means taking a peek at every item int he Fed'ral budget, top to bottom, and taking both the hatchet and the scalpel to it.
Democracy, indeed...
Just came in on FoxNews: the Supreme Court has ruled today that the Ohio Secretary of State does *not* have to a) turn over a list of 200,000 suspected fraudulent voter registrations, and b) comply with Federal Election law and tie her voter registration database to both the Ohio DMV and the Social Security Administration in order to verify the eligibility of Ohio's voters.

In effect, The Supreme Court has just ruled that Federal Election law, passed by duly-elected representatives, which has passed Constitutional muster, somehow does not matter.

This is significant because of recent (apparently true!) complaints about fraudulent voter registrations submitted by ACORN, a left-oriented organization dedicated to sucking at the government teat and providing a permanent jobs program for those who wouldn't get one otherwise, in the state of Ohio. The Secretary of State in Ohio, Jennifer Brunner (a democrat, it goes without saying) refused to abide by Fed'ral law and use the Social Security and DMV databases in order to verify residence in the State of Ohio, or other requirements for eligibility for voting, on approximately 200,000 applications. Note: in the last two elections, GW Bush carried Ohio by a margin of less than 100,000 votes. Two-hundred thousand fraudulent votes, left unchecked by the officials and system charged with protecting the electoral system against them, might very well decide the contest. That Brunner reportedly has willfully ignored election law by ordering the disconnect between the DMV/SS systems and her own voter registration database, apparently does not matter.

This smells to the heavens.

For those of you who cried that the Supreme Court stole an election for George W. Bush, it just might have allowed the supporters of Barack Obama to steal another one.
John Murtha is a Big, Fat Idiot...
Congresscritter John Murtha (Gasbag - Penn.) called the inhabitants of the western portion of his state racists the other day. The implication being that Barack Obama may lose in Western Penn, and the reason will be all them hillbillies a-clingin' to their guns and religion, just as St. Barack said they would all them months ago. Murtha went on to say that while the problem (i.e. racism) wasn't as pronounced now as it had been in the past, it still existed, and then mumbled some pablum about old folks being resistant to change, etc, etc, and then he gave every indication of being personally disgusted and appropriately affronted.

Of course, once the resulting uproar began (people don't exactly like being called racists, and they tend to disagree with sweeping generalizations that imply that they may be the worst thing since Ebola, and that tend to call their intelligence and character into question), Murtha ran to take back his comments. Well, not exactly. He did what all politicians do these days, and issued a non-apology which included the words "if anyone was offended..." (I think), and then added some fuel to the fire by 're-framing' his original argument with less-inflammatory language that reiterated the original point -- only with softer, more obscure words.

This is the second time I've heard this sort of thing from a democrat in recent weeks (see Gov. Sebelius' -- "Barak will lose because we're a racist country..." meme). That it comes with less than three weeks left to go before the election is disgusting. That it comes from Murtha is appalling. This is the man who wanted the Marines charged with war crimes at Haditha (all of whom, incidentally, were found innocent of the charges made against them by Iraqi provacateurs) all but drawn-and-quartered. John Murtha is not a good man; John Murtha is a self-serving parasite, and political sycophant, who will say anything, do anything which he believes is required by the dictates of party loyalty, or made necessary by political opportunism.

We'll hear much more of the "America is a racist country, and therefore, Barack Obama lost the election" nonsense in the coming weeks. And it won't matter if he does manage to win, either; any opposition to Obama's disasterous policies will be framed in racist terms; there can be no doubt about this, since democrats seem ready to play the race card whenever the man is questioned or challenged, usually fairly. The politician who is supposed to have transcended race will, in fact, widen the racial divisions in this country. This will be because democrats can't think except in terms of grievance groups and identity politics, and because Obama has done nothing but tap into the racial sympathy and guilt of his liberal supporters from the day he announced his candidacy.

As for John Murtha, the sooner Alzheimers or clogged arteries takes this aging Baby-Boomer, crap-speaking loudmouth, the better off this country will be.