Monthly Archives: October 2008

Barney Frank Strikes Again

House Republicans want an investigation as to why Democrats haven’t investigated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  You gotta love Rep. Barney Frank’s reply, proving again that with his sense of humor, he can be one of the most effective Democratic spokesmen on the economy or any other subject.  Humor is effective in political discourse, a fact I wish more Democrats would learn.

“In an unusual event, even by this year’s standards, House Republicans appear to be demanding a criminal investigation of their failure to legislate,” said Frank in a statement.

“The Republican demand that their legislative record of non-action be investigated appears to be the political equivalent of the note left to the police by serial offenders: stop me before I do not legislate again.”

Campbell Brown

[CNN host Campbell] Brown says she operates on a case-by-case basis. “You’re never going to hear me say, ‘Well, I’ve been critical of Obama five times so now I need to be critical of McCain five times.’ That is a false equivalence, and that’s what I think is wrong with journalism.”


German Engineering

A capital idea!

The German Cabinet on Monday approved terms that banks will have to accept in order to benefit from its 500 billion euro ($675 billion) bailout plan — including a strict salary cap of 500,000 euros ($675,000) for top bank managers.

Those managers would also be obliged to forgo bonuses and dividend payments as long as their banks are indebted to the government.

Too bad the U.S. didn’t demand these terms.

Do You Live in a "Pro-America Area of This Great Nation"?

We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C…. We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and growing our food and are fighting our wars for us. Those who are protecting us in uniform. Those who are protecting the virtues of freedom.”

–Sarah Palin, Oct. 17, 2008

I read this and panicked.  Did I live in an anti-American part of the country?  Being so close to the nation’s capital, I had reason for concern. 

More important, was I born in a pro-American part of the country, because if not, could I be congenitally — and irreversibly — anti-American?  I called my hometown mayor’s office.  The woman who answered had not been asked the question before, so she said she’d need to do some research and call me back.  It took only 10 minutes before she called.  I knew that was a bad sign.  It’s an older town. I expected it to take awhile to review the records.  A quick call suggested she found bad news without much trouble. 

I was right.  Seems there were records of civil disturbances against the government there that slowly grew over time and eventually spun out of control.  My hometown had a distinct history of outright rebellion and armed insurrection.  Philadelphia is clearly not a pro-American part of the country.  I sure hope the Phillies play the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.  I hear it’s equally anti-American.  That way, not everyone in the pro-American areas of the country would root against the Phils.

I then conducted research to find out how else I might tell if an area of the U.S. was pro-American or anti-American.  I talked not just to people at city halls across the country.  I talked to regular people.  No elites.  In fact, I tried in most cases to limit my interviews to plumbers, or at least guys who revealed more than we care to see when they lean over. I also asked Congresswoman Michele Bachman of Minnesota.  On “Chris Matthews’ Hardball” yesterday she seemed to be an expert and had a good antenna for what makes an anti-American American. 


Here are the results of my research.  To make it easy for you stupid “leftist liberals” (as opposed to you right-wing liberals or left wing conservatives), I’ve put the differences in a simple chart, figuring that this narrative has already overtaxed your limited powers of comprehension.

Pro-American Areas Anti-American Areas
Flags are everywhere Flags only used as curtains or seat covers on old VW buses
All restaurants have fluorescent lights Not only have but list Middle Eastern restaurants in the phone book
Are proud of their “Negro boy” who is the tailback on the state championship football team Allow African Americans to play quarterback
Cars park front in on Main St. People ride busses — and everyone can sit anywhere they want
Folks at city hall are helpful and friendly City hall signs are in English and Spanish
People are hard working and play by the rules People trade derivatives and credit default swaps
Women always wear lipstick Only put lipstick on pigs
Drink Pabst Blue Ribbon Drink Pinot Noir and wash it down with valium
Overweight only means “the more tread on the tire, the smoother the ride” Go to gyms after they graduate high school
Marge can give you a wash and a perm Kim Nguyen does your nails
Guys at the hardware store know a hammer from a nail Guys at Home Depot don’t know their left from their right
Admire those who are “protecting the virtues of freedom” Want to actually practice freedom of thought
Love those who are “teaching our kids” Allow their kids to think about what they are taught
Love “everyday Americans” Have a mild appreciation and some tolerance for all kinds of Americans…in the next neighborhood
Appreciate the one-on-one battle of wits between wild animals and a 12 gauge shotgun Never even try to shoot a wolf from a helicopter
Elect beauty queens to public office if they can play the flute Elect Barney Frank
Can talk real good and don’t need no newspaper…also Read the Times then The Post every day, and for a different viewpoint they read The Post first
Plumbers make $250,000 a year Plumbers haven’t worked since Watergate

I used to like John McCain.  And then I hated him.  Now I feel sorry for him.  Think what you may of him, but can you imagine his reaction when his aides came to him yesterday and said Sarah implied to a crowd that some parts of the country were anti-American?  He’s dying a political death of a thousand cuts, some self-inflicted, some self-induced and many from the little lady a heartbeat away.  If there is a God, McCain will go back to the Senate a tragic figure of American politics. 

And Sarah will go back to Alaska wondering what the fuss was all about.

Joe the Plumber

Not only he doesn’t have a plumber’s license and he owes back taxes, but he’d get a tax cut under Obama’s tax plan.

Speaking of taxes, when accused by McCain of trying to “spread the wealth around” to deride Obama’s tax plan, why doesn’t Obama say,

Sen. McCain, it was you and the rest of the Republican elite who have redistributed wealth from the middle class to your rich friends for the past eight years.  Now, I understand you may have felt sorry for them because they only own four or five houses when the Bush tax redistribution plan was enacted.  I’m only trying to level the playing field, to say where it was when your hero Ronald Reagan was president.  So don’t tell me about redistributing wealth.  That’s what you Republicans have been doing for eight years.  Redistributing it from the middle class to the rich.

Where Did We Go Wrong?

You are beside yourself when they’re born.  You love watching them grow, even when they’re next to impossible teenagers.  You’re there to cheer their achievements and console them in their disappointments.  You spend countless hours watching them compete in sports.  You guide their life choices as best you can.   You give them everything.  You have such high hopes, and when they go off to college, you think they’ve made it.  They’ve found their way.  But what do they do?

They become rugby players.

Now I’ll admit to some hypocrisy here.  I once played the game.  Well, not exactly. I went to the first practices, one spring about 35 years ago, where it was all conditioning.  As a runner, I sprinted uphill first.  These rugby guys lacked my lung power.  Then lithe, I left those lugs in the lurch. 

Alas, lung power isn’t what makes a great rugger.  You need to be a little crazy.  No, a lot crazy, and not only appreciate, but enjoy pain.  We started to scrimmage.  What made me think I wanted to play a game where they hit each other without benefit of helmets, shoulder pads and commonsense?  Getting hit – or worse trying to hit someone weighing 75 lbs. more than you coming at full speed and with a demonic look in his eye – was bad enough.  But then being on the bottom of a pile not only crushed but suffocated?  No, it wasn’t worth the camaraderie later.  I returned, broken and battered, to the loneliness of the long distance runner.

But there my wife and I were this spring on fields in western Pennsylvania watching our middle child, Hunter, putting her surgically repaired shoulder into some 200-pounder and getting crushed, while we wondered where we went wrong?

Lady ruggers are, well, first, they’re not ladies. Ladies don’t play a game where key features are “scrums,” “rucks” and “mauls.” At the half of one match, as a team came off, the bits of conversation I heard as they passed by would not be called lady like.

“Did you see the shit that ass hole was doing?” queried one dainty damsel.

“I just punched her fuckin’ face,” demurred another. 

No, they’re not ladies.

But they certainly like each other.  Yes, women rugby teams are comprised of a number of lesbians.  Which is fine for the men’s team members, waiting for their match and cheering from they sidelines .  Although judging from the guys’ comments, which they being ruggers, were more like grunts, I wasn’t sure if they found the ladies sexy or cute — like watching puppies play, compared to the men’s dog fight. 

But absent the sexual intrigue, it was just like watching our daughter when she played basketball or soccer.  And she made us proud when she scored on the team’s first possession.  But it wasn’t a goal.  It was a try. 

(For the uninitiated and (un)unwashed, the term “try” comes from the early rugby rules, when putting the ball down over the goal scored no points.  It merely gave you the opportunity to try to kick it through the goal posts for a score.  I’m not sure when the rules changed so that the scoring was more like American football.  But I’m pretty sure I know why:  to completely confound newcomers as to why they use such an understated term for several points, more than for the kick afterward. I’m not even sure how many points a try gets you.  Then again, you’ll recall I never got passed the conditioning.)

The rules are mystifying.  Being a college club team, it must have a chaperone. For Hunter’s team it’s a woman who looks like she could have played the game herself.  Might even still.  I asked her about the rules, and she claimed ignorance.  She’s been the chaperone for many years, she said, but still didn’t know most of the rules.  Must be a good paying job to completely dissolve your sense of the least bit of curiosity.

In any case, it was a glorious day.  Brisk, but sunny.  Hunter did well, and she survived.  This was the third trip we planned to see her play.  The first one we drove in a pouring rain to Philadelphia, my home town, where both physically and mentally, most of the guys are qualified to play.  And about 40 percent of the gals, too.  When we arrived, one girl was on her knees in the middle of the mud puddle that once was a rugby field.  It was Hunter with her first separated shoulder.  Yes, there is a reason I had to number it.  I did mention it was surgically repaired?  The second trip was canceled when in a scrimmage where they were short players, she tried to tackle a 210 lb. guy who volunteered to fill in.  (Guys don’t care if it’s gay ass or not, they’ll volunteer for the chance to grab it – and it’s within the rules!)  Separation number 2.  So at least the day was successful for what it was not followed by — a trip to the emergency room.

Her shoulder repaired, she’s still at it and considering joining one of the local amateur teams to keep playing when she graduates next year.  We saw another game this month.  They lost, but it was successful in that she suffered only a broken nose.  Surgery was less painful and there’s no physical therapy involved.  How do you exercise a nose?

Because rugby matches must be followed by much more beer than I can hold these days, we bypass the post-match celebrations.  Hunter has found her first community of friends she truly trusts.  They play hard, both during and after the match.  Some of her teammates have traveled abroad as missionaries and have inspired Hunter to consider the Peace Corp or Teach for America.  Her grades are good.  She’s only been arrested once.  Maybe we did good after all.

Then why does she play rugby?

CNBC: Unreliable

One of the downsides of my foray into stock trading has been that I have CNBC on all day.  It, along with Bloomberg News, is the business news network of the economic elite.  Its average audience is about 250,000 viewers, but they represent the cream of the recently rotten crop. 

The network lacks journalistic objectivity.  With few exceptions, the on-air anchors especially, they are a right-wing lot, infusing their reporting with opinions that sometimes have little relationship to reality and frequently they act as apologists for Wall St. miscreants.  They are, of course, welcome to their opinions.  But when we know how they feel — and how rabid they are — can we really trust their reporting?

One particularly egregious example is a thug named Charlie Gasparino.  He is now pushing the idea that the financial crisis is a result of Obama’s leadership

No one can blame the faltering stock market solely on Obama’s tax plans or McCain’s own inanity on economic issues. But stock prices reflect current market conditions plus best guesses of what’s coming down the road. And I keep hearing nervous traders and investors talk about “a lack of leadership from Washington.”

Of course, as is often the case, Gasparino allows his politics to infuse his reporting, as Portfolio writer Felix Salmon attests.

This is bensteinery of the first order: not only is it ill-argued, it’s also utterly wrongheaded. Yes, it’s a good idea for the government to spend money in a recession. Yes, it’s a good idea to target that money at the poorest members of society, where it will do the most good and have the highest velocity. And no, with stocks down 40%, there really isn’t an enormous number of people worried about capital gains taxes.

Still, one could forgive the litany of GOP talking points on a right-wing op-ed page were it not for the fact that Gasparino styles himself a working reporter. The more you set down your opinions in black and white, the less open-minded you become; this is true of everyone, and especially of stubborn, bull-headed types like Gasparino.

Most of the on-air personalities on CNBC fancy themselves working journalists.  But they are journalists in the mold of Bill O’Reilly, which is to say they are not journalists at all, at least not reporters who can be trusted.

CNBC needs less screaming and extremism, and more sobriety and trustworthiness. Even if Gasparino’s political views don’t influence his reporting — which is doubtful — they will reinforce in his viewers’ minds the idea that he’s unreliable. I just can’t see the upside of Gasparino writing a column like this, and I’m surprised that his superiors at CNBC let him get away with it — especially since the Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, CNBC’s fiercest competitor.

In fact, CNBC risks NBC’s news reputation.  Often, program segments consist of four or five talking heads, usually consisting of a few of the aforementioned  anchors, one conservative, one right-wing commentator, and an Attila the Hun wannabe.  CNBC will tell you that’s the breadth of economic opinion.  The interviewing is clearly biased.  The anchors often ask leading questions to those they sympathize with and attack relentlessly those who they disagree with.  (Yes, they occasionally have progressive voices as guests.)  Once, while interviewing a son of the Johnson & Johnson clan who had made a movie critical of the rich, Maria Bartiromo, another of the right wing anchors, asked not once, but twice, “What ax do yo have to grind?”  Keep in mind, the guy is an heir to fortune.  An ax to grind?  If he were poor he’d have an ax to grind.

While most working families never watch CNBC, it is a leader in promulgating the elite Wall St. opinion.  While there are exceptions who seem to try to be neutral, most of the on-air staff are hurting the reputation of the mother network and ill-serve the national discussion of the current financial crisis.

Mother of Phillies Manager Dies

June Manuel, the mother of Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie, died this morning.  The Phil’s skipper is managing his team in the second game of the National League Champion Series this evening. 

What struck me about this brief story was a paragraph that speaks to the humanity of the games’ players.  It would have happened around water coolers or work sites anywhere in this country.  But with all the hate that has infused our political season and the fear of financial loss that threatens many, it’s welcome on a Friday afternoon to recognize our commonalities.  If only politics were like baseball.

Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez, whom Manuel managed in Cleveland, was among the players and coaches who stopped to offer condolences. Dodgers manager Joe Torre put a hand on Manuel’s shoulder as the two chatted, and former Phillies closer Mitch Williams also dropped by behind the cage.

And if only there wasn’t mention of Mitch “Wild Man” Williams.  He was the pitcher who gave up the winning home run to Joe Carter that cost the Phillies the 1993 World Series.

If McCain Says It to his Face, What Will Obama Say?

Sen. Barack Obama told Charlie Gibson that he doesn’t know why Sen. John McCain didn’t say to his face what McCain has been telling his campaign crowds.  Should McCain gather enough courage to say it at the next debate, here’s what he should say.

Sen. McCain, you once said you wanted a respectful campaign about the issues facing the American people.  Those issues are much more critical than they were when you said that.  Since then, our economy is imploding and Americans’ retirement accounts have shrunk dramatically. 

But that’s not the campaign you’re running now.  Instead, you have sunk to repeated character assassination with charges you know to be false.

Mr. Ayers committed his acts when I was 8 years old.  I’ve condemned them.  Now — I admit — I admit that I didn’t condemn them when I was 8 years old. So if you want to criticize me for not condemning him right away, I guess I’ll have to accept that criticism.  But I have unequivocally condemned his acts.  And as has been reported all across this country, Mr. Ayers and I are not friends.  He does live in my neighborhood and we both served on boards of organizations that looked to improve education and relieve poverty.  You may think that’s a crime. I’ll let the American people be my judge.

Are you, Sen. McCain, willing to be condemned by the actions of any of the people who have supported you?  Would that include Charles Keating?  Would that include Pastor John Hagee?  Do you, Sen. McCain, want to be judged by members of groups you’ve been associated with?  Maybe John Singlaub, the leader of a group linked to Nazi collaborators?

Let’s stop this nonsense of trying to find ways to divide the American people over manufactured controversies?  Let’s discuss how we want to lead this country. Shame on you, John.

And by the way, if this line of attack continues, I think Obama should bring it up at the next debate, accusing McCain of being two-faced and a coward.