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Monthly Archives: March 2009

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Ask the government for help and you might get more than you bargain for. Like a pink slip, for instance. If you happen to be the General Motors’ CEO you discover that you do not serve at the good pleasure of your board of directors, you serve at the displeasure of the President of the United States. And his wrath is a terrible swift sword. So this weekend President Obama played hatchet man and made 30-year veteran Rick Wagoner available for other opportunities. Maybe it’s  time for Jerry to trade down to a Ford.

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The Republicans have put forward their budget. Only one problem–– it has no numbers. That’s one way to shrink the size of government.

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Every President has made use of the so-called bully pulpit. Some like, Reagan, mastered it. Others like Dubya used it more sparingly. Obama has expanded the boundaries. Unlike previous Presidents, he has chosen to keep effective campaigning techniques alive post election: the rally, the town hall meeting, etc. He has even elected to show up on Leno. Relaxed, affable and ready with quips about American Idol and cute stories about Sasha, we can almost forget that the banks are failing, people losing jobs and we are in the middle of a global recession. It’s nice to have a President that pushes the envelop a bit. And a Vice President that no one thinks in their wildest dreams is running a shadow government (this guy Biden would be the first to tell us if he was). It’s also nice that we have a Democratic President that has bigger things on his plate than which intern to date.

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Arnold apparently has a man-crush on Obama. Just listen to him carry on:

“When have you ever seen a president be that out there?”

That was a mesmerized Arnold Schwarzenegger after Obama’s town hall meeting.

“I’ve never seen that,” Schwarzenegger said to a couple reporters as he and his wife, Maria Shriver, tried to make an exit. “Usually people are so guarded. The aides are always so guarded. They’re so afraid that you will blow it or that you will make news that’s unintended and all those things.”

Schwarzenegger continued to gush about Obama.

“But I think he’s so smart,” he said. “He’s so clear with his thinking and he’s so well informed and has been dealing with policy in all this and is also very philosophic it’s almost like. I think he’s just like – I think it’s beautiful.”

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Just a reminder that psycho mass murderers age more gracefully than Hollywood celebrities. Above: Charles Manson in his heyday and now at 74. Below: Joan Rivers when she was funny and now also at 74. I leave it up to you which person you find scarier.

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I am so glad to hear that the management of AIG feel honor-bound to reward their most incompetent employees with multi-million dollar bonuses. Who knew that AIG had such high ethical standards? But apparently, the attorney general of New York thinks the whole thing stinks. Roberty Scheer of Truthdig.com writes:

I’m not just referring to the swindlers in the Financial Products Subsidiary of AIG who devised and sold those insurance policies on derivatives that brought the world economy to its knees. They do seem deserving of a special place in hell, and presumably the same divine power that according to Scripture labeled usury a high moral crime and threw the money-changers out of the temple will consider that outcome.

However, the enablers are the AIG leaders who, as New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo revealed Tuesday, signed those bonus contracts a year ago to reward the very people “principally responsible for the firm’s meltdown.” That’s a cool $44 million divided among the top 10 shysters, even though the depth of their chicanery was well known to top management.

As Cuomo noted in a letter to Rep. Barney Frank: “The contracts shockingly contain a provision that required most individuals’ bonuses to be 100% of their 2007 bonuses. Thus, in the spring of last year, AIG chose to lock in bonuses for 2008 at 2007 levels despite obvious signs that 2008 performance would be disastrous in comparison to the year before.”

The lame argument that those bonus-baby employees needed to be retained in order to sort out the mess they had created was also shot down by Cuomo, who revealed after his office’s initial investigation had pierced AIG’s veil of secrecy that “[e]leven of the individuals who received `retention’ bonuses of $1 million or more are no longer working at AIG, including one who received $4.6 million.”

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I guess we should be grateful for 9-11 and Bush’s subsequent wars (plural) on terror (Iraq and Afghanistan).  Maybe they helped us somehow avoid a compassionate conservative agenda that included a radical plan to “rescue” Social Security. Bush’s pet plan sounded risky then. It sounds unconscionable today. If he had had his way, the former President would have had a revamped system that tied even more of our retirement savings to the whims of the stock market. Now, it appears that the unBushified Social Security program may be best thing we have going. Some even see it as a cornerstone to fixing our current pension-less society:

If this sounds a lot like the only functioning part of the current retirement system—Social Security—that’s because it is. If common sense were applied to the pension problem, we would find a way to use the current Social Security system—which already is mandatory, is portable between employers and has an administrative system for payroll deductions and benefits in place—and enrich its benefits. Logic, of course, rarely prevails.

“I don’t think I would be able to convince anybody that the only thing we should have is Social Security,” says Barbara Kennelly, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

But the prospects for a new, mandatory employer-based pension system are, at best, problematic. After all, employers didn’t shed their pension obligations over the past three decades only to take on new ones now. Most proposals on the table are merely attempts to patch the holes in the 401(k) and individual retirement account systems.

The trouble is, the protection these savings plans were supposed to provide has never been enough. Research by Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution shows, for example, that even if a worker invested 4 percent of earnings over 40 years in a mix of stocks and bonds, the employee would be able to replace only a quarter of his or her pre-retirement earnings in retirement.

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The best I tell, there is only one group of Americans who are not upset about AIG paying their executives $165 million in bonuses right after crying poor mouth and siphoning off $170 billion in taxpayer dollars. The AIG executives themselves. What is AIG? the Eddie Haskell of financial institutions? Can I borrow five dollars for lunch money, Mrs. Cleaver? for I have foolishly squandered away my allowance. Oh thank you, Mrs. Cleaver, you are just as generous as young Wallace says you are. Okay, Wally I got the money from your dumbass mom, let’s go buy a hooker. Sorry, bad analogy. Hookers are at least competent at their jobs. What have any AIG executive done but contribute to this trainwrecked global nightmare?

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So the GOP romance of the century is off. Bristol has made up her mind. And mom respects her choice. Just like she respected her daughter’s choice when she chose to have her baby instead of a nice, private abortion. It’s just the right to choose that she opposes. Which makes Sarah Palin more complicated than people give her credit for. But maybe Bristol’s choices aren’t always the wisest. Like not giving her baby the benefits of a two-parent household. In spite of all our modern ideas, statistics still indicate that kids raised in a two-parent household perform better in school and in life. The prisons are full of kids from one-parent households. The rest are in therapy. So how about it, Sarah? Where is all that small-town values stuff when it counts? Either hand over that child to an adoptive family that will love it. Or break out the twelve gauge. Afterall, this is Wasilla not Hollywood.

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Republican chairman Michael Steele has let the cat out of the bag. He is pro-choice. Seriously? The official head of the party of smaller, non-invasive government––the party that says government should butt out of our lives and choices––actually thinks that the US government should not interfere with an individual woman’s private choice. How oddly consistent. Who vetted this guy, anyway? Now, if we can just get the party of the little guy to fight for the littlest of guys. Good luck with that one.

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John McCain’s daughter Meghan is not signing on to the Michael Steele plan to energize the GOP by making it more “hip hop.” Ms. McCain tries to decipher the GOP party leader’s youth-focused lingo:

If you’re saying I want people from the hip-hop community — I don’t even know what that means exactly — I guess people that are in the music industry could become more closer and you know try and become Republicans (sic). I just don’t think that is going to work. I think they need to rely on a message that is going to really stick with people of my generation.

A message? Really? I thought the kids just wanted something with a nice beat. Of course, Ms. McCain doesn’t get Ann Coulter, either. Gee! What’s on Meghan’s iPod anyway? Neil Diamond?

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People on both ends of the political spectrum attempt to morph Jesus Christ into a poster boy for their cause. Liberals dumb down the Master into a do-gooder who is all about liberating the “least of these” from economic poverty. Conservatives spin the Lord into a hardnose champion of small, non-invasive government. In fact, there are even a few Bible-thumping Libertarians who imagine a Jesus who taught his disciples not to pay their taxes. Hold the phone, you say. What about when the gentle Gallilean was asked if it was lawful to pay taxes to Rome. Wasn’t his answer an unequivocal “Yes”?  O ye of little faith,  Jesus couldn’t possibily have condoned taxation. That would be blasphemy. Yes, the good thing about a plastic Jesus is that he is small enough to fit on any dashboard and his legs bend to bow at any altar. No wonder we love him so.

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I’m not sure how to interpret the Republican position on stem cell research:

Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, said the focus should be on the economy, not on a long-simmering debate over stem cells.

“Frankly, federal funding of embryonic stem cell research can bring on embryo harvesting, perhaps even human cloning that occurs,” he said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We don’t want that. … And certainly that is something that we ought to be talking about, but let’s take care of business first. People are out of jobs.”

So is the slippery slope the fear stem cell research might lead to a brave new world of human cloning? Or is the slippery slope “Hey, the economy is in the crapper who wants to waste valuable time to debating metaphysics, ethics and morality!!”?

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Funny enough, all the secret documents of the Bush administration have a new caretaker: the Obama White House. So when are they going to reveal all Bush’s dirty little secrets? Umm, they aren’t.

Meanwhile, the administration clings to its bizarre decision to hold fast to the Bush administration’s all-encompassing view of the “state secrets” privilege, and the Nixonian view of executive power deployed to justify it. The Obama administration has also been quick to embrace the Bush view of secrecy in cases involving the disclosure of Bush era e-mails and has dragged its feet in various other cases seeking Bush-era records. If there is a coherent disclosure principle at work here, I have yet to discern it.