Arrogant ain’t in it! Where’s the outrage?

Pardon my Christmas spirit, but these bastards are despicable – DESPICABLE!

I say screw you – go under – but first, give us every damned penny back or go to jail!

I’m talking about those fat-cat jerks on Wall Street that are making the jerks running the car companies and flying their private jets to ask for handouts look like pillars of good sense and common decency.  As the Associated Press reported:

WASHINGTON — It’s something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where’s the money going? But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation’s largest banks say they can’t track exactly how they’re spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it.

“We’ve lent some of it. We’ve not lent some of it. We’ve not given any accounting of, ‘Here’s how we’re doing it,'” said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. “We have not disclosed that to the public. We’re declining to.”

Boy – I was angry yesterday – I’m past angry today. No kidding. I have a life. I enjoy it. And I’ll continue to enjoy it having gotten this off my chest. But any time I see a chance to open my mouth and deny these bastards anything, I’m taking it. Any time I can urge my Congressman and Senators to vote to regulate these people until their nuts are in a vice and being cracked, I’m taking it. They can’t take my money, then throw me a one finger salute as thanks! ANd if their too incompetent to know what they did with the money, then they sure as hell deserve to be out on the street corner selling pencils, and curling up on a park bench at night.

Hey – anyone watch the Giants/Panthers. Wow! One of the best games I saw this year. Loved the ending. Love running like that – brings me back to the days of the Green Bay Packers with their guards pulling out and leading the way for Paul Horning.  You know what – I sense ahuge irony building. The Giants almost beat the Pats at the end f the season – thenbeat them in the SUper Bowl. Bet the Giants meet the Panthers again inthe playoffs – and bet the Big Cats win.

Big cats – yeah – why am I talking about this? Just trying to lower my blood pressure. Get back to Christmas and building my astronomy Web site and taking the puppies for romps in the snow, and . . . Boy they’re lucky most people don’t look at the news at this time of year!

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Bah! Humbug! This makes me angry – very angry!

Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

So is this still going on after the bailouts? Not entirely clear, but it seems to be. Have any of them ever been asked to give any of it back? Are you kidding. These people aren’t repsonsible for anything they did!

I hate exorbitant pay for ceos. I hate it when they thought it was OK because it was “private” industry. Hey – there’s no such thing. We’re all interconnected, as we’re finding out so painfully. We always have been. Private industry is an illusion. People complain about public employees – and sometimes with good reason – but we need to keep in mind that public employees also pay taxes and most of the money the government spends goes to “private” companies which pay executives ridiculous salaries. Government spends roughly one-third of our tax dollars on public employees.

You say “more power to him” when a baseball player makes a ridiculous salary. I say bullshit! I don’t watch much baseball , but it doesn’t matter. I still pay for that salary.  I pay more for the bread I eat because my bread company thinks it has to advertise on the baseball games on TV. And they dish out more advertising dollars because the base owners contracting with the TV stations pay more to broadcast the games because the players – and owners – make more money.  We kid ourselves with this private vs. public crap. We’re all part of the same economic system – anyone rips off the system and we all end up paying. So whle I don’t drive a Chrysler, the salary of the Chrysler ceo still ha a small, but real impact on me.

Now it was hard to make that case before – but if the public can’t see it now, they’re blind, because your tax dollars are going directly into the overstuffed, obscene lifestyles of the rich and not so famous. Read this AP story and weep. My country club is my back yard.  I drive myself. My private plane has a wing span of 78-inches and I fly it with a radio control box – total cost? $150. Come on folks, why do you tolerate taking your hard-earned dollars and baling out these losers – these people who do nothing when they should do something and do something wrong when they eventually do make a decision. But they’re not losers. They’re stealing our tax dollars and using it to sustain their greedy lifetsyles having already made it more difficult for us to earn money by their incompetence.  Geeeesh! Grrrrrrrr.

No _ I am not complaining about bailouts per se. I understand that the survival of some companies may be critical yo you and I. But that is exactly because the economy is so interconnected. Pribvate business is really  public business. Hell, we’ve been bailing out certain farmers – those supposed rugged individualist types – for deacades. Stop kidding yourselves.

What I’m complaining about is a few, greedy individuals making exorbitant salaries for doing no more than anyone else and not doing it very well. Maybe we tolerate it because we think some day we’ll win  the lottery too – we’ll become the ripper rather thant he ripee. In that case, we’re trapped by our own greed – and pretty stupid to give in to fantasies that have little chance of fulfillment.

There are simple solutions to this. Just place upper limits on earnings. We cna do it with the tax code.  No one earns millions of dollars a year. No one has that much to contribute to society by what they do. And the people who do contribute significantly – people like cops on the beat, teachers in over-crowded classrooms, nurses in short-handed hospitals – don’t get paid for what they contribute while some guy playing games, manipulating paper, makes millions. Am I talking class warfare or communism? Of course not. There is plenty of room for salary differentials and legitmate reasons for them.

Some people work harder, some people work longer, some people require a ton of education before they can begin to earn – and some people simply do things better than others. I  have no objection to reasonable salary differentials. What do you think? Do you know someone who is worth ten of you? Do they do ten times the work? Have ten times the skill? Maybe.  But I don’t think there’s a person on this planet who is worth 400 average, hard-working people – or anything close to it.

Blame the greedy, blame the idiots, blame “The Decider”

Yeah, the buck stops at the top and the self-styled “Decider” had all the wrong ideas at all the wrong times for all the wrong reasons. Here’s how the NYT explains it in a beautiful analysis today:

From his earliest days in office, Mr. Bush paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own home with his conviction that markets do best when let alone.

He pushed hard to expand homeownership, especially among minorities, an initiative that dovetailed with his ambition to expand the Republican tent — and with the business interests of some of his biggest donors. But his housing policies and hands-off approach to regulation encouraged lax lending standards.

Mr. Bush did foresee the danger posed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage finance giants. The president spent years pushing a recalcitrant Congress to toughen regulation of the companies, but was unwilling to compromise when his former Treasury secretary wanted to cut a deal. And the regulator Mr. Bush chose to oversee them — an old prep school buddy — pronounced the companies sound even as they headed toward insolvency.

bush_homeHow could one affable, good ol’ boy from Texas screw up so many things so quickly? Good question. But he didn’t do it alone. He had a whole host of enablers who elected him to office twice without ever looking at his resume. If they had, they would have seen that what George Bush did as president is exactly what he has done all his life: Time and again he was elevated to a position he didn’t deserve by his father’s influence and money, screwed things up royally, then turned to his father’s buddies – including the bin Laden family – to bail him out. Only difference this time, is we’re the folks doing the bailing!

Hey – let’s look what else Texas has given us – I mean,  how about them Cowboys!? America’s team playing it’s last game in hole-in-the-roof stadium. (Yeah, so god can watch his team!)  Yeah – and in the last quarter they give up  back-to-back touchdown scampers of 77 and 82 yards from scrimmage?

Hey, how about them Lions?! Wonder if the Big Three Idiots fly in to watch their team? Does nothing good come out of Texas these days? Or Detroit? As the NFL teams go, so goes their states? Hmmmm . . . Maybe we need to root harder for the Pats.

See why I seek solace in the night sky, coming back to “reality” only  once in a while to look at a football game? Every time I look at the “real” news, I see something like the preceding. Yeah, I saw a lot of this coming. But there’s little comfort in knowing that the nightmares you had in 2000 were an accurate preview of the country in 2008!

Believe me – I hope that the Miracle Man can perform miracles. But he’s the ultimate version of the kid who is given a barn full of manure for Christmas and immediately grabs shovel and with a smile says – “There must be a pony here somewhere!”

Arghhhhhhh . . . and speaking of shovelling crap, I’m guessing his new chief of staff didn’t emerge from the Chicago sewer system without some of the smelly governor’s slime sticking to him. Damn!

ooops –  I forgot – major mood shift time Merry Christmas . . .

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I know, I know . . . some folks don't like snow. Sorry. I love it! Gives the world a major do over! Hmmm. . . maybe that's the derivation of "snow job?" Ah what the heck - grin and bear it 😉

BLAGOJEVICH – a criminal we can laugh at, but . . .

Boy is Frank Rich on target this morning! After pointing out what a sick clown Blagojevich is, he brings us back to reality.

What’s really laughable is how bipartisan the Chicago criminals are. Blagojevich is a Democrat and Democrats should take their lumps for his criminal idiocy and hubris. But he campaigned on a “restore honor” policy, much as George Bush did, and both did as much damage to the office they sought as their predecessor – and in the case of Bush, far, far more. But you have to laugh at the absurdity of a Democratic governor being prosecuted for corruption while his predecessor, a Republican, watches the procedings from his jail cell.

The scary note in all this for me is Barach Obama. I love the guy, but if he waded through this cesspool and stayed clean he really does start to look like the Messiah. Walking on water is one thing – walking on crap and staying clean is quite another! But I digress. Back to the basic point of Frank Rich and the entertaining sideshow Blagojevich is providing:

But the entertainment is escapist only up to a point. What went down in the Land of Lincoln is just the reductio ad absurdum of an American era where both entitlement and corruption have been the calling cards of power. Blagojevich’s alleged crimes pale next to the larger scandals of Washington and Wall Street. Yet those who promoted and condoned the twin national catastrophes of reckless war in Iraq and reckless gambling in our markets have largely escaped the accountability that now seems to await the Chicago punk nabbed by the United States attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald.

Read the rest here.

Can you say Sarah Palin? Can you say Blagojevich?

I can say Palin – I still am trying to get the hang of Blagojevich. But I can say “hubris.”

What do these two have in common?

Well, they both live in the same fantasy land where they think that reality is what they say it is and they can look “black” in the eye and call it “white.”

Thus the BBC just reported:

The attorney-general of Illinois has told under-fire state Governor Rod Blagojevich to quit or she will take legal action against him.

Lisa Madigan said she could file a suit with the Illinois Supreme Court asking to declare him “unable to serve”.

Mr Blagojevich has been arrested for allegedly trying to “sell” the Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama.

He denies the charges but the perceived abuse of his role has led to calls from Mr Obama and others for him to quit.[My emphasis.]

It’s the last part that gets me! He’s caught red-handed and foul-mouthed seeking to abuse his power for money. It’s on tape. Remember Nixon. Tapes tell a painful truth. Which all reminded me of Sarah Palin having a taped phone interview with reporters after a legislative investigation found her guilty of ethics violations.

Here’s what the legislative report said:

“For the reasons explained in section IV of the report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.11(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. “

And here’s Palin talking to reporters after this came out. (“Meg” is her press secretary in Alaska.)

Palin: Hey, thank you so, Meg. Thank you so much. Thank you also to our local reporters up there in Alaska. Even hearing your names make me feel like I’m right there with you at home. It’s good to get to speak with you. Let me talk a little bit about the Tasergate issue if you guys would let me and, Meg, you want me to just jump right on in there?

Stapleton: Sure Governor, go ahead.

Palin: OK cool.

Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.

The above is not a slip of the tongue – it is actually repeated in slightly different words later in the conference call.

This isn’t a Democrat or Republican thing. It isn’t a liberal vs conservative thing. It’s a super hubris thing. It’s politicians, starting with Bush, who really believe that reality is what they say it is and the public is dumb enough to go along with it.

Uh oh – forget the bailout – Detroit already sat on its brains too long!

I read Friedman’s column this morning with that mixed feeling you get when you suddenly meet the future and find it both exciting and devastating because there is something here that feels right, big time, and makes the auto industry bailout feel wrong – big time – and that means we’re in for one of those painful life lessons.

Bailout foes have been focusing on the sense of moral outrage we all feel for salvaging the bastards who made a lot of money while sitting on their brains. That’s a mistake. They need to focus on the Ipod. The real future comes at you from directions you don’t anticipate, but when you see it, you know it, and Friedman sees it and describes it well. Here’s how he sums it all up at the outset after bemoaning Detroit’s lack of initiative.

Why do I bring this up? Because someone in the mobility business in Denmark and Tel Aviv is already developing a real-world alternative to Detroit’s business model. I don’t know if this alternative to gasoline-powered cars will work, but I do know that it can be done — and Detroit isn’t doing it. And therefore it will be done, and eventually, I bet, it will be done profitably.

And when it is, our bailout of Detroit will be remembered as the equivalent of pouring billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the mail-order-catalogue business on the eve of the birth of eBay. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into the CD music business on the eve of the birth of the iPod and iTunes. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into a book-store chain on the eve of the birth of Amazon.com and the Kindle. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into improving typewriters on the eve of the birth of the PC and the Internet.

Did you get that – my emphasis added – the thing about the “mobility business.” Now that’s what I mean. People get all wrapped up in the technology. They mistake the artifacts for the art. Librarians got all in a tizzy a decade ago as the web came on the scene. They thought they were in the book business. They were in the information business. Information storage and retrieval. That’s the skill they brought to the table. The technology used is secondary. Same with traditional paper media. Newspapers are not about printing presses and turning trees into pulp. They’re about filtering information and presenting it in digestible – meaningful – chunks. And the auto industry? it’s a misnomer. It’s the mobility business. it’s about freedom of movement at low cost.

Friedman’s examples are beautiful, his column on target – if I were investing in such things I’d put my money on “Better Place.” I’m not into speculative investing these days – haven’t been for some years – but this new company has the kind of thinking that is so far beyond anything coming out of Detroit these days it’s laughable. And the whole show is a prime example of how the fatcats are their own worst enemies – and ours, too, when we let them hold our future up for ransom this way. Congress and the white House are about to invest in the printing press.

I keep remembering a good friend telling me over and over again about a decade ago when I tirelessly promoted the Web that yes, it sounds like a good idea, but no one knows how to make money off it. Don’t worry – they’ll find a way, I said, and they did – ways like Amazon and Ebay and others most of us never dreamed of at the outset. And Better Place sounds like the outfit that may have found the way to make money off of the electric car – not by inventing a better, more efficient battery, but by coming up with a whole new business model. Ipod indeed!

Yes the failure of the auto industry will hurt a lot of people a whole lot – and all of us a little – but throwing good money after bad doesn’t solves anything. You can get them to cut salaries and end ridiculous perks, but you can’t get them to think tomorrow because that thinking had to be done yesterday and it wasn’t.

Hey Joe & Palin, my dog has written a book too – but then, she’s cute and knows English!

OMG!

Here’s Palin’s response, after Matt Lauer asked her when she knew the election was lost:

“I had great faith that, you know, perhaps when that voter entered that voting booth and closed that curtain that what would kick in for them was, perhaps, a bold step that would have to be taken in casting a vote for us, but having to put a lot of faith in that commitment we tried to articulate that we were the true change agent that would progress this nation.”

I missed that one. Discovered it in this wonderful update by Timothy Egan – Typing Without a Clue – in the NYT today on Joe the non-plumber and Sarah the PalinDrone and their publishing venture. It begins:

The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?

I didn’t think so. And I don’t want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor’s gate.

Bravo! Well put! And there’s more, much more.

i like this, but . . .

Most of the writers I know work every day, in obscurity and close to poverty, trying to say one thing well and true. Day in, day out, they labor to find their voice, to learn their trade, to understand nuance and pace. And then, facing a sea of rejections, they hear about something like Barbara Bush’s dog getting a book deal.

Writing is hard, even for the best wordsmiths. Ernest Hemingway said the most frightening thing he ever encountered was “a blank sheet of paper.” And Winston Churchill called the act of writing a book “a horrible, exhaustive struggle, like a long bout of painful illness.”

. . . well, it’s not that hard! I found writing a novel great fun. (Yeah, I know, I didn’t publish it and it probably isn’t publishable, but I did write it and I did have fun and some of my family seemed to like it. 😉 Oh yes, and for 10 years I did write every day for a living and after that I published many articles in high-circulation magazines, so I think I can call myself a writer. But I do share Egan’s frustration with how notoriety seems to be the main credential for too many non-writing “authors” today. One big exception is Obama, as he notes, and one of my other heroes, Teddy Roosevelt. (BTW – I voted for Obama because he can think – not because he is black and not because he is a liberal.)

The idea that someone who stumbled into a sound bite can be published, and charge $24.95 for said words, makes so many real writers think the world is unfair.

Our next president is a writer, which may do something to elevate standards in the book industry. The last time a true writer occupied the White House was a hundred years ago, with Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote 13 books before his 40th birthday.

Oh yes – about the headline – Eliza has written a book on her experiences as a pet therapy dog and she writes very well – though she gets some help from Bren – and a few people actually asked for – and bought – copies of it. But she hasn’t gotten a big advance from a publisher yet, though Bren is still trying to give her some help on that task as well. Anyway, I get the feeling she contributes more to our society than Joe or that Alaskan mangler of the English language.