Friday, May 28, 2010

Oil, Hurricanes and the Feds - Oh My

Here we sit well over a month after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and oil began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. And we are hearing an all too familiar refrain.

"What took so long?"

In this case, the slow and tepid response by the federal government is just amazing - and not in a good way. The decision to leave BP in charge for as long as they have is baffling, considering that BP has been dishonest from the start. The constant blind acceptance of whatever Hayward and his trained liars from BP said is angering. Overall, thus far, the federal government appears to have failed at almost every level.

While it is true that BP possesses the technology and equipment to stop the leak, the US government has the capacity and manpower to deal with the growing ecological, economic and human disaster playing out along the shoreline. Yet, for some unknowable reason, that was left to BP as well.

Obama claims they have been in charge from day one, while almost all of his people say the opposite. Salazar over at Interior talks about having BP by the throat. Yeah, Hayward looks really worried about that whole throat thing. Napolitano is a disaster just standing there. She has allowed the Coast Guard to lapse into a bureaucratic morass as part of Homeland Security.

In a largely unnoticed miscue by the administration, FEMA chief Craig Fugate was not even on scene. He was happily piddling away at a fairly pointless hurricane forecast conference. So why was he not in Louisiana? And why was this not a top question for the media to ask? More on Fugate below.

Bottom line on the spill is that the administration has not done a good job thus far. It is that simple. But it is not a new problem. In fact, federal response to disasters is almost always poor at best.

I live in South Florida. We know natural disasters. We call them hurricanes and they come often. Hurricane Andrew came through and pretty much wiped out a huge swath of Miami. The federal response was slow and not all that good at first. In fact, it took a local official yelling at the national media about where the cavalry was to get them moving. Local/state response and action was the real mover and fixer. The feds were late to the party and ended up following state directed efforts.

9/11 was as close the feds ever got to a good job, and even there it was the NYPD and NYFD that really stepped up. Again the feds came in and ultimately ended up following the local authorities' lead. It was only the nature of 9/11 - an enemy terrorist attack on America - that mobilized the feds quickly.

Hurricane Katrina is by now a legend among emergency managers. Setting aside the multi-level failure in New Orleans, look at Mississippi. They waited for the feds to step in. But only so long and then they took it upon themselves at the state level. The recovery of Biloxi is a testament to great local and state government and should be in a textbook.

New Orleans? Well, that is a story often told and I don't need to repeat it. We all know what happened and did not happen. The only thing I add to that is that Michael Brown got the shaft there. the record shows that he was on top of the disaster, but the bureaucratic morass at Homeland Security stopped his efforts cold. There is a big time lesson about big government there.

Florida. 9 major hurricanes in a 14 month period ending with Wilma, which visited a level of damage and destruction that was spread over the entire Southern half of the peninsula. This was after Dennis and Katrina hit us that same year. We already knew not to wait for or count on the feds. And Florida recovered quickly and stands ready for this year's storm season.

This is where I am amazed at Fugate's choice of the hurricane conference over the actual real disaster. See, it was Fugate and then governor Jeb Bush that got this state through. Not FEMA. Not the feds in any way. Oh sure, they came along and helped, but we did not wait for them. We knew the federal government is not good at this stuff. It is too big, too cumbersome, too rule bound, way too political and too bureaucratic to be effective at anything, let alone emergency relief. We knew they were not going to swoop in.

And they are still incapable of doing so. The Gulf oil spill proves it yet again. This one unfolded in slow motion compared to hurricanes and such, yet the feds were still slow off the mark and way too bureaucratic and political to be effective.

It has always somewhat amazed me that the media can get in and be broadcasting live from a disaster zone before the first FEMA person is there. Maybe the feds need to ask the networks how they do that. Wait, it is easy. They have one person that says, "Take 2 camera crews, get on a plane. I want you there by 6PM." Decision made, action starts.

The feds on the other hand first hold meetings and discussions. Managers for this crisis are appointed. Memos work their way up and down the government food chain.

A better model to follow would be to simply hand control over to the local authorities. They are already there. They probably know better what has to be done and who should do it. Give them the resources and let them go to work instead of the ludicrous exercise in bureaucratic butt covering that happens at the federal level.

I am fond of saying that I believe the National Hurricane Center on storm tracks. Why? Because they live here, too. Their homes and families are just like mine. Can't say that for Salazar or Napolitano or Obama. They are removed from the disaster by distance and staff. Not their families. Not their homes.

Overall, the grade on the federal handling of the Gulf oil spill is a big fat zero. No improvement over other disasters and no lessons learned. Sad. Because they just make it worse for those who are living it. For the record, this is a bipartisan failure. Republican and Democratic administrations are bad at this.

All I can close with is a hope and a prayer that the leak finally gets stopped and that those good folks on the Gulf Coast in Louisiana get some help and relief.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Meanwhile, Back at the Banks....

While the entire nation is rightfully engaged in the Gulf oil spill, Congress and their pals at the banks and on Wall Street have been cooking up the much talked about financial reform bill. The one with all the new regulations and agencies we don't really need. The one that was oh so urgent just last month, but is now able to wait a few weeks for a conference committee to be formed.

If ever there was a symbol of Congress' total failure, this piece of idiocy has to be the one. If we run the clock back to 2008 and the first TARP robbery, we see the Republican and Democratic leadership preaching that without $750 billion of our money, the entire financial world will cease to exist. We were told by both parties that there was no choice, we had to save the economy and so on. This is mostly history, so no need to restate all of it.

However, keep in mind as you read, that the leadership of both parties was on board with TARP and the rest of the secret Federal Reserve bailout orchestrated by Little Timmy Geithner and his cronies.

Now the much talked about financial reform bill has passed both houses of Congress. The versions are different, mandating a conference committee to resolve the differences and create a bill acceptable to both. And this is where the real problems will start.

First off, as I have said, we probably don't need new regulations. We have plenty. What we need are effective, honest regulators. We have none. Look at the cast of characters. Geithner, who as president of the New York Fed, was the principle regulator of the banks that led us to this mess and never once lifted a finger to challenge their actions. Bernanke, who as chairman of the Fed did everything he could to secretly prop up these bad practices. Hank Paulson is thankfully no longer in government, but never forget that this one time prince of Wall Street sat idly by while his pals were gaming the system and then turned into a scared old man begging for relief for his friends. The 3 of them hatched more closed door Sunday deals than anyone ever.

Now comes news that JP Morgan and its sainted CEO Jamie Dimon squeezed billions out of Lehman Brothers just days before it failed. Billions. In fact, according to reports, Dimon and his gang of thieves took the last liquidity out of Lehman with the blessing of Bernanke and Paulson. The bankruptcy estate of Lehman is suing for this money back. Since JP Morgan was and is a New York bank, you can safely assume that Geithner was party to this. This was after Dimon was gifted an almost debt free Bear Stearns by Geithner (on a Sunday) and gifted a cleaned up Washington Mutual over a weekend. Apparently, that was not enough and the wizards running the government economic management team felt he deserved another $8 billion or so from Lehman as it was failing.

In fact, it is quite plausible to determine that this sanctioned robbery was the final straw for Lehman. All accounts reveal a secret meeting between Dimon, Bernanke and Paulson to make sure Jamie got his money and that Lehman would fail. In effect, they pretty much tipped the Lehman piggy bank over and poured it into JP Morgan's coffers.

Of course, JP Morgan strongly denies this, pledging to fight in court and prove that Lehman was simply poorly run and the billions were justified somehow, even though they would cause the failure that JP Morgan wanted the billions to protect itself from.

But wait, there's more!

While all of that was going on, it has been reported and verified that Lehman was hiding massive debt by creating new companies and then selling the debt just before the books closed for the quarter to enhance their financial health and then taking it back once the reports were filed. All evidence says that the CEO, the auditors and the government "regulators" knew about this and looked the other way. Even though this is exactly what took Enron down and sent people to jail.

Now comes news that the biggest welfare baby banks - Citi and Bank of America - were doing the same thing. And again with the blessing of Bernanke, Geithner and the rest of the already failed economic team. Apparently, not one of the regulators thought duplicating Enron's failure was a problem. Not one auditor dared complain. Yet, we gave them literally hundreds of billions to cover this stuff without any penalty or enforcement.

In the aftermath of TARP and the rest of the trillions to Wall Street and friends, these new revelations would seem to scream for harsh regulations and restrictions. The problem is, we don't need that. We have plenty of regulations and oversight. What we have is a wildly corrupt system of Wall Street firms/big banks and government regulators that effectively shuts down meaningful oversight.

Perhaps if a fresh crew had been hired by the administration or if the Republicans had possibly presented a cogent argument against any of these pre-failed people, then we might at least get a new group to look at the situation. But we had the same tired old crew in Congress as well. They are just as beholden to the big money folks as the regulators, if not more so. I did not hear the GOP raise a lot of objections to Geithner over his role in the crisis. They did point out his inability to do a proper tax form, but not his inability to perform his duties as a regulator at the Fed.

After Obama inexplicably reappointed Bernanke, the Republicans griped about secrecy and his refusal to release information he had promised, but not a lot about his abject failure in his role as principal regulator for the banks. Not a word about the endless back door deal making on Sundays.

When they had a chance to bring in a new team, both parties took the easy way out. They just moved the same players around on the field. Geithner to Treasury, Schapiro to SEC and so on.

Then the regulation fight began. Needless to say, it immediately got folded into the partisan food fight along with everything else. Here Congress - and especially the Republicans - had a chance to make a serious and thoughtful argument and they chose to go with their more comfortable and partisan game of just say no. The Democrats had an opportunity to actually pass a meaningful law that might have added enforcement power to existing agencies. They went with the predictable and easier solution of new agencies to compound the old.

In fact, the only thing in that bill worth squat is the mandated public audit of the Federal Reserve - something Bernanke objects to almost hysterically. The rest of it can be trashed tomorrow. That provision passed as an amendment in both houses with overwhelming bipartisan support.

It is almost impossible to justify new regulation and agencies when all evidence suggest that the existing laws are simply not being enforced to the fullest. That the already legislated oversight is not being performed. And to take the word of the same band of failures that got us here is just ludicrous.

Congress no longer represents us or our needs. Our best interest is just a cute catch phrase to them. It is their own selfish interests that they serve. Their endless game of power grabbing. The wasteful and always counterproductive "blame the other guy" game. The needless and pointless sniping. The cowardly attack from behind a friendly media (both sides!).

That is what our once amazing representative government has devolved to. A sandbox of kicking and screaming bullies who desperately need a time out. Well, I say, let's give them a long time out.

Come November, send the existing Congress home for a long time out. Vote against the lot of them. They are lying to us all day every day only to serve themselves and their corrupt political parties' need for power.

Come November, throw them all out.

I am selling shirts with this campaign slogan to make my point and hopefully move some votes back to the reality side of the ledger.
As a capitalist and a free market person, I am selling them for both profit and with the intent of donating to those candidates that are willing to step outside the parties and declare a concern for the Constitution and the people.

You can order them here:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Twisting in the Oil

So, over a month later, the ruptured well in the Gulf continues to spew oil at an unknown rate, slicks are washing onshore in Louisiana, BP turns out to be less honest than your average politician (which is quite the accomplishment), partisan sniping has increased to open assault and the administration looks to be passing the buck in every direction.

In other words, business as usual.

Republicans have taken to using this disaster for political gain by pointing out (validly - more on this below) the failure of the administration to act quickly and decisively. Democrats have taken to using this as an excuse to forward their agenda of no drilling for oil. Both sides now point at each other. Neither side points towards an actual solution or idea. Just using the misery and suffering of an entire coastline for political games.

Here in Florida, candidates from both sides are criticizing Charlie Crist for not doing enough or not doing it fast enough. Oddly, this is incorrect. Charlie got $25 million from BP for tourism when the other states only got $15 million. He has put the National Guard on alert status and ordered them to gear up for a rapid response if any oil approaches Florida.

Candidates from both sides whined that the the BP money did not arrive soon enough - even as it was being wired into the state's accounts. That having proved ineffective, they criticized the actual ads as if any governor ever writes them. The phrase "not doing enough" is commonly pointed at Charlie, but he has done everything possible to prepare. And that is all anyone can do.

In Florida, both parties are far more interested in seeing that Charlie fails at everything just so they can maintain their iron grip on Florida politics and continue to ignore the people. They are more afraid of a fair election based on facts then they are of the oil or hurricanes. And they have proven it by the endless blaming and finger pointing. Neither of the party candidates for governor (both currently in high ranking elective office) has any new or useful ideas. They just have criticisms.

Both parties know one thing for sure - it is safer to do nothing and criticize the other side than to take action and risk being criticized. And in Florida the parties run everything. Solidly. Without any challenge until now.

At the federal level, the volume is even louder and less productive. Congress is now fully engaged in a partisan spitball contest looking to blame someone other than themselves. Republicans point to slow response, little regulation, no enforcement and so on. They are right on some of that stuff, but also guilty of the same thing themselves.

Democrats point to the drilling itself and seek to end offshore drilling with zero regard to the economic havoc that would cause. They also are desperately trying to make this Bush's fault, which is just plain dumb.

And the pundocracy? Well use your imagination. Everything from Palin questioning oil company campaign contributions to the kids at MSNBC avoiding reporting the obvious failure of government to protect the people. Both are hypocritical and totally off base, but they get to be. They have chosen to sit on the sidelines and snark away. And that is why I tend to ignore the pundocracy. They are as the lilies of the field. They toil not, nor do they weep.

Normally, I try to be balanced here. Criticize both parties. But in this case, I have to say, the real heaping mass of criticism and blame goes straight to Obama. It is impossible to find a way to balance that against the Republicans sniping from the sidelines.

One of the major valid criticisms of the Obama administration has been their predilection towards blaming most stuff on the prior administration with the phrase, "We inherited....." For the first thirty days in office, this works, but after that it is just an excuse. Whether it is the economy, wars or any other issue, after a month the previous administration is no longer a good crutch to fall back on.

The Gulf oil mess is one where they have no such excuse.

This entire mess happened on Obama's watch. All off it. And thus far, the response has been tepid, inconsistent and, frankly, poor.

Right off the top, will someone please send Janet Napolitano to a quiet office with no microphones. Her inability to manage this mess is glaring and frightening. Just this week, she pledged that, "...we will not rest until the leak is plugged and all of the oil is cleaned up." Well, that sounds like a forever proposition since nobody will even talk about how much oil there is to clean up. She also told us that BP is taking the lead on this since it is their problem. Wrong. It is BP's fault, but their mess is now everyone's problem.

And why is Homeland Security in the lead here anyway? She is already out of her league with terrorism. Who put her in charge?

The Coast guard admiral on scene told us the situation was in hand. Let's see - an unknown amount of oil in a slick measured in the thousands of square miles, hundreds of feet deep. How is that in anyone's hand? They don't even know the scope of the problem, yet they declare it to be "in hand." Seriously, we are not that stupid.

The cabinet department that should be in charge - Interior led by Ken Salazar - is relegated to a secondary role. Which is odd, since the scandal plagued MMS works for Salazar. Or at least they use his offices. They appear to actually work for the oil companies, based on new reports that they took gift cards, travel and such. Not to mention using government computers to view porn instead of using government computers to view minerals and mining.

Salazar tells us that, "We are keeping our boot on BP's throat." What exactly does that mean? He should be worried about his own employees at MMS who apparently have no boots or throats. Needless to say, the administration is hasty to bring up the earlier MMS scandal during the Bush administration. Well that is just pure nonsense. They had an opportunity to flush the lot of them at MMS and bring in new folks. They did not.

Just like Obama's pre-failed economic team, they stayed with the pre-failed MMS team. No new procedures. No new rules. No new anything. Same old story.

In the meantime, BP has been allowed to try multiple methods to contain the leak rather than being ordered to stop the leak totally. Why would BP try containment first? Well, to keep the well producing of course. Look at the first 3 attempts. All of them resulted in oil coming to the surface for processing and sale. None of those actually plugged the leak. And the administration let that go on.

In fact, over the first 30 days, the administration's major accomplishment has been to get us a live video feed of the leak itself. Big whoop. They got it on TV. All PR, no real substance.

And there is the problem with this administration on this issue - all PR. It is all about the press opportunities. All about the spin. Looking good for the cameras.

Well, to the Gulf coast, it is all about the oil and the destruction. About the end of the fishing industry and the damage to tourism.

To the people, it is about government tending itself first and the people last. We can't vote for president for another 2 years, but come November, we can send a message by simply turning out every single incumbent. All of them. The only way we get a government that listens and cares is to get a totally new one.

In that vein, I am offering T-Shirts with this message.

As a capitalist and a free market person, I am selling them for both profit and with the intent of donating to those candidates that are willing to step outside the parties and declare a concern for the Constitution and the people.

You can order them here:

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Problem with Incumbents

Sometimes actual events provide the best illustration. In the case of the Arkansas Democratic Senate run-off, this is more evident that ever. Blanche Lincoln faces Bill Halter in the first serious challenge to her extended incumbency. And she is reacting exactly the way incumbents react, with arrogance and hubris.

I recently heard an interview with both candidates on the radio. What immediately struck me was that Lincoln talked about "knowing what the American People want..." and "Americans know me..." Halter on the other hand talked about what Arkansans want.

With zero regard to party and the GOP candidate, Halter is right. Lincoln's endless proselytizing about "The American People," is disingenuous at best. like almost every incumbent in Congress, she has become - in her own mind - too important to just deal with the people that elected her. Like every incumbent in Congress, she has forgotten what it is constituency means.

For Lincoln and the other 530 shameless politicians slowly destroying our country, it is all about the "game." Not about the people of her state or the job she promised to do when she ran over and over. It is all about winning to keep the sacred majority intact. It is a game to her. It is a game to Reid and Pelosi and Boehner and McConnell. All they care about is winning for the sale of winning.

Lincoln typifies this because she is obviously not bright enough to have figured out that the only "American People" that can vote for her are citizens of Arkansas. She is so all consumed with her belief that she had her party know "What America Wants," that she totally ignores what Arkansas need. I think I can safely say that Blanche Lincoln has no clue what Florida needs or what New York wants or what Alabama is worried about.

All she really knows is what the party needs and wants. Same for Republicans who only care about regaining the majority in Congress this year and the White House in 2012. All either party knows is gaining the power. Not using it for the greater good. Not using it to improve America or the lives of Americans. Just getting it. Once they have it, they then begin to scheme to hold on to it. If they lose it, all focus is on regaining it.

No Democrat or Republican has a plan beyond election day. Beyond winning. While we have to plan for all eventualities in life ranging from a flat tire to a hurricane, these clowns in donkey and elephant suits only need to plan the next fund raiser of lobbyist shakedown. Their ability to have a forward looking vision extends to the next election and not one second past.

Well, if they want short sighted, I say let's give it to them. Come November 2, end their time in office and spare them the pressure of looking ahead and having to make choices. Save them the anguish of having to actually take a stand on something or have a plan.

In other words, vote the incumbents out.

In that vein, I am offering T-Shirts with this message.

As a capitalist and a free market person, I am selling them for both profit and with the intent of donating to those candidates that are willing to step outside the parties and declare a concern for the Constitution and the people.

You can order them here:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What Tuesday Really Meant

Between travel and the slew of messages I have not had a chance to weigh in on Tuesday's primary elections. Since literally everyone has now jumped on the results of the specific elections, I have noticed that very few have actually gotten the real message here.

Needless to say, Democrats claim victory and Republicans claim victory. Both are wrong, lying and scared. Neither wants to freely admit that the old agenda driven, ideological, party first mentality failed. Neither side wants to admit that they no longer have a handle on "their" voters.

What we saw was that the hand picked favorites in both parties lost. Be it Pennsylvania or Kentucky, the old guard lost their ability to use false loyalty as a campaign tool. This scares the grape juice right out of them.

So who won? Well, at the end of the day, the people did. By tossing aside the hacks and whores that both parties wanted in the general election, the people made it clear that it is time to end the partisan games and end the nonsense and get back to fair governance. While the Tea party Movement did score victories, these are being mischaracterized by both sides. The thought of the reality is too much for the Democrats and Republicans.

Why? Well the real core of the Tea Party movement is non-partisan, contrary to the braying on both sides. The real message from the Tea Parties is simple - smaller government, less spending and lower taxes. A return to Constitutional rule and not this semi-imperial system the 2 parties have created.

For too long, the parties have been able to select primary candidates and choke off the people's ability to choose. Their control of the ballot in most states is absolute and tyrannical. Regardless of what you think about past primaries, they were almost always decided well before any of us cast an actual vote. Lately, the parties have become blatantly brazen in their approach.

Here in Florida, the hand picked Republican was Charlie Crist until it looked like he might lose in the primary, and then the Florida GOP pretended it had never supported Crist and threw him off the bus in favor of the ever untrustworthy Rubio. The Democrats here are no better. They are now hedging their bets on their hand picked candidate - Kendrick Meek - ever since it was revealed he has issues related to money, developers and earmarks.

Pennsylvania is an interesting primary on the Dem side. The incumbent, Arlen Spector - had changed parties last year claiming he could not win as a Republican and was really more of a Democrat all the time. To be fair, Spector had served well and mostly with honor, but for a very long time. Both sides claim they beat Spector. Not really. He beat himself by trying to play the partisan game from the fence. And he had been there way too long.

In Kentucky, the hand picked candidate of Senate top Republican McConnell was trounced. McConnell is a veritable institution in Kentucky and the Republican electorate ignored his wishes and picked the other candidate. Good for them. All McConnell wanted was to assure his continued power and reach. That he was unable to influence the primary of his own party tells a big story.

As I have been saying, it is time to throw all of them out. The entire Congress. Both parties. As if there is a hair of difference between them. There is not. Both are corrupt, lazy and ignore the people almost all of the time. It is time to let both tired old parties know that they are no longer effective or relevant.

In that vein, I am offering T-Shirts with this message.

As a capitalist and a free market person, I am selling them for both profit and with the intent of donating to those candidates that are willing to step outside the parties and declare a concern for the Constitution and the people.

You can order them here:

Let them know that we are tired of the old 2 party system, the blind ideology, the bitter partisan sniping and the throwing away of our money. Vote them out. It is the ultimate power, and one that we have.

Come November, cast a vote for us and throw them all out.

Monday, May 17, 2010

On Boycotts

I am catching up on my blogging at the airport again. Travel always throws me.

I meant to post this a few days ago about the series of Arizona boycotts related to their new immigration law. The trend/fad (you pick the word) seems to be to boycott Arizona to protest the new law. This is just wrong.

I believe that boycotts, no matter how well intended do not have the intended affect and indeed punish the exact wrong people. Let's look at the Arizona thing.

Cities, states and companies are lining up to join in on the fad of boycotting the state of Arizona to protest the new law. I have previously opined on the law ans stand by that opinion. As the boycott snowball rolls on, the stated intent is to somehow punish the Arizona legislature for passing this law. Well, that is just goofy.

The boycotts, if they take real effect, will only punish the good working folks of Arizona. Be assured that not one state legislator or the governor will miss a paycheck or benefit. But, the people that do real jobs to feed their real families will suffer. From the hotels, restaurants, airports and such, the employees will be the ones to suffer.

If the boycotts have the intended effect of curtailing tourism and out of state business, who do you think will lose their job or have their pay cut? Not the executives or politicians, that's for sure. It will be the single mother trying to pay the rent and feed the kids or the family just barely making their mortgage payment that will suffer. It will be the young folks just getting into the world of working for a living that will find themselves hurting.

Nobody would dare cut the politicians or executives. They are virtually immune. What makes these boycotts even more hypocritical and wrong-headed is that they purport to be aimed at helping the working people. The politicians in California and the execs at the big companies are all trying to score political and PR points with the immigrant and Hispanic communities in their locales. Well, guess who pays for that superficialness? Right. The immigrants and other folks that need their paychecks. The very people these short sighted politicians and executives pretend to care about.

Boycotts simply do not work. Here is a clear example of why. I live in South Florida, where we are watching the oil spill in the Gulf nervously. There is a growing sentiment to not buy gas from BP stations as a protest. A boycott, if you will. Guess who won't even notice. BP executives won't notice, that's who. Who will notice? The father that depends on those gasoline sales to feed his family and pay his employees. The CEO of BP won't miss one meal, but the gas station owner/operator might lose his entire business. He has never once drilled a hole for oil, yet he will bear the brunt of the protest.

And so it is for the Arizona boycotts. The legislature and governor won't miss a single overpriced dinner, but the man that runs the restaurant in Phoenix or the people that staff the hotels might lose everything. They will bear the so-called punishment for something they did not do. They will be the victims of these boycotts.

Boycotts simply don't work as intended. No matter how noble or silly, they always punish the wrong folks and leave unscathed those that created the situation.

Do not boycott Arizona. Do not boycott BP. Remember, no matter how sincere you think you are, it is the little guy that pays the price. It is the very person the boycott organizers profess to care about that pays for their PR/political grandstanding.

Boycott boycotts.

Sampling the Anger

I am getting ready to head home from the NRA Convention in Charlotte. Full disclosure: I do advertising/marketing for several companies in the industry, so I was working at the convention.

The convention gave me the opportunity to speak to literally thousands of people. Obviously, these were mostly conservative folks, but my experience over the years has been that these are fair minded people who are not blind ideologues like the partisan loons on Capitol Hill or the ever more shrill pundocracy.

What I found was a very strong anger at the Congress and the administration. Both parties almost without exception. Interestingly, there were very few members of Congress in attendance. Very few. Normally, you can't walk 10 feet without seeing one, but not this time. Wonder why? Because they know. They know the people are fed up and like the cowards that they are, they stayed away rather than face the people.

Needless to say, the Obama administration and Democratic majority in Congress drew the most anger. Not a surprise. What was a surprise was the level of anger at the Republicans as well. These folks want a whole new Congress. One that is responsive and listens. One that is not beholden to the fat cat lobbyists and money people.

They are tired of the partisan bickering and game playing on our dime. Quoting one person, "I wish I could just up and fire the lot of them. They are bad employees." Well, that pretty much summed it up neatly. Congress is bad employees getting worse.

The good folks that I spoke to all shared the belief that Congress has little or no interest in the public good. I heard anger at Democrats for ramming legislation through and anger at the Republicans for refusing to even try to negotiate fairly.

Most of all, I heard anger at the endless spending and endless game playing. The endless posturing and primping. Serious anger at the bailouts. A lot of the people I spoke to are small businesses like myself. They (like me) are livid at the use of our hard earned dollars to help businesses that simply ran themselves into the ground. The sense of entitlement by Congress to send tax dollars to banks, auto companies, Wall Street and now Europe.

To them and me it seems like we the taxpayers are last on the list. There was not a lot of the name calling. Things like socialism and such were not the words used. Overall the sentiment was pretty common. Our government has put us aside to tend to their pals in limos. Congress has pretty much forgotten who sent them there. The parties are all about the parties and not the people or even a political philosophy.

While it was good to hear that my opinion is widely shared, it was also dismaying to hear this level of anger and antipathy. If I was in Congress right now, I would start packing up my desk. The real people - the ones that vote and care about America - are in the mood to toss every incumbent out and start fresh.

I heard over and over that fresh faces in Congress would at least listen to those that sent them. I heard that multiple decades in Congress is too long and not good for anyone. I heard over and over a disdain for the now standard "permanent campaign."

But what I heard loudest and most was that we just want them to stop playing their sad little game with our country and get back to the basics of the Constitution and their oath of office. We want them to stop posturing for the next election and start legislating for the good of all the people. I heard a lack of faith in the current Congress' ability to do that. I heard the desire for a fresh batch.

Come November, the most endangered species (figuratively!) will be incumbents on the ballot. They have failed us over and over and perhaps for the last time. Come November, we take America back from the fat cats, lobbyists and corrupt Congress. Come November, we use the ballot to regain control of our nation. The game ends November 2, 2010. The people, acting as the ultimate umpires, will simply toss the bums out.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Units of Measure

It is tangent Tuesday and I am going off on one. Since I am at the airport awaiting my flight, I thought this would be a great chance to hit a pet peeve. And that is the newest and seriously goofy unit of measure in use by the media - the football field.

The oil spill in the Gulf has prompted all manner of measurements to be reported. And somehow almost all of them come down to the number of football fields involved. My favorite has to be CNN's reporting that the spill was "over 50 football fields deep." That would be around one mile. As if a mile was not an adequately descriptive term.

We have been told that the failed containment tower is 2 to 3 football fields away from the gushing well on the floor of the Gulf. Because 650 meters was to much to explain. The amount of boom laid out has been described in football field lengths.

It is not just the spill that has fallen prey to this newest assumption of American's stupidity by the media. Literally everything that requires a description of distance now is expressed in football fields. I understand that we rejected the metric system in favor of our feet and inches. However, we have apparently now come to the point of rejecting that in favor of the football field as the penultimate unit of measure.

One of my favorites was an early description of the oil slick as 10 football fields wide. Is that the length or width of the field. Are we including the end zones?

Not to be topped in efforts to use football measurements, The Weather Channel reported that the debris from the flooding in Tennessee and Kentucky would fill Dallas Cowboy Stadium 542 times. This is past silly. Is that a new measure of volume?

Why does this bother me? Well, it is rather obvious. The media treats Americans as incapable of using a simple ruler. They think we are too addled to understand the measurements we grew up with.

Time to catch my flight. I am just over 2 first downs from the gate.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Supreme Court Confirmations

Today, the president announced the appointment of US Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the court. Now the process moves to the Senate. And that is where it can either work or not.

Let me first say that I do not know enough about this nominee to venture an opinion. I suspect nobody does. We have a lot to learn about her before anyone can actually have an opinion.

Oh, the pundits on both sides will yammer and clamor. Most of them are reading from index cards provided from the rapidly failing Republican and Democratic parties. The good news - Limbaugh, Olbermann and the rest of the clown squad don't matter here. They are background noise that needs to be ignored. I don't care what Matthews or Hannity think on this. Not at all.

Who does matter is the US Senate. In an earlier post, I pointed out that the Republicans in the Senate were handling the vacancy with appropriate dignity and fairness. I also pointed out that Democrats have historically been far less civilized about Supreme Court nominees.

For the Senate, this is one of their most important and significant functions. Whoever ascends to the court will be there for life and will hold sway over many key issues during their tenure. A Supreme Court nomination should always be handled with the dignity and respect due the position.

This means that no Senator should fall on party line nonsense. This is more of a hazard to Democrats than Republicans, but all should be aware that they need to take this Constitutional duty seriously and not in the context of the next election cycle.

Thus far, Republicans have said, (and I think it is fair for them to say) that their support for Ms. Kagan as Solicitor General should not be assumed for her court nomination. Congratulations to them for honesty and careful speech. They are making it clear that they see the difference between lead litigator for the administration and final decider on the court. They are correct in their statements and cautious to not predecide this.

And Democrats...well, they are trying to be cautious while supportive. This is not the action of a person that takes it seriously. Until she testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, any promise of support (or promise of opposition) is wrong and inappropriate. Some Democrats have already promised support without the benefit of any testimony. They are wrong.

Both sides need to respect that she is not going to give issue based opinions. Nor should she. If she offered an opinion on any matter that might come before her on the court, than she is wrong and should be turned away. Again, historically, Republicans understand that while Democrats do not.

What she deserves and we the people are due is a fair hearing and review of her experience and writings. An examination of her temperament and how she sees the role of the courts on our government. This is not a matter of false diversity or leanings. Nor is it about politics and such. It is about deciding if Kagan is qualified to join what is arguably the most powerful branch of government.

All we can ask is that the Senate turn off the pundits, hang up on the party apparatchiks, ignore the pollsters and disregard the lobbyists. This process - the vetting and confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice - is their chance to prove they are actual adults with respect for the system and the people. Possibly their last chance.

Those that choose to follow the ongoing partisan lunacy do so at their own peril. Everything else may be fair fodder for this, but a Supreme Court nominee is not. Reid and McConnell should take heed here. This is not the time for their endless vote counting games. Allow the hearings to proceed and then bring the nomination to the Senate floor. Without head counts and the rest of the tired games those 2 play. As leaders, Reid and McConnell are offensive on a good day. This would be a great time for Reid and McConnell to take a long vacation. Or at least stop talking.

The coming weeks will tell the tale of the Senate. Are they serious about their duties or just playing for the next election? We will know soon enough.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bernanke's Folly or Hiding Maiden Lane

Today the Senate, in a rare but refreshing bipartisan move, received an amendment to the Financial Reform bill that would require the Federal Reserve to be audited regularly. Ben "I want transparency" Bernanke fired off letters and made phone calls to oppose this.

His reasoning: "Such amendments, if enacted, would seriously threaten monetary policy independence, increase inflation fears and market interest rates, and damage economic stability and job creation."

Huh? I thought he has testified many times that all of his actions were directed towards preventing such things. So why the obvious fear of a public look under the hood of the Fed? Could there be stuff he was not supposed to do? Maybe trillions of our dollars to his pals?

There is his steadfast refusal to identify the banks that took zero percent loans on the grounds that it is not our business and we might question those banks' stability. Why does he want to hide these transactions? Perhaps there is more there than normal business? Or perhaps he is far more interested in protecting his Wall Street pals than in protecting the American people.

And let's not forget Maiden Lane, LLC. All 3 of them.

What's Maiden Lane? Well, that is the dirty little secret Bernanke and Geithner have struggled to hide. Remember how TARP was going to take all those nasty 'toxic assets' off the banks' hands so they could free up capital for lending? Remember how Paulson, Bernanke and Geithner gifted Bear Stearns to Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan without the bad assets on the books? Remember how AIG suddenly had none of those?

Well, it is because the New York Fed under Geithner, with Bernanke's blessing created Maiden Lane. Actually they created 3 of them. The first took to $30 billion in garbage off of Bear's hands so that Dimon wouldn't have to take any losses on buying a losing company. Those assets have lost at least $2 billion thus far.

Maiden Lane 2 took the assets off of the books of AIG. Almost $200 billion there and Maiden Lane 3 another $30 billion off of AIG. That last $30 billion had credit default swaps against it. The same credit default swaps that AIG paid Goldman Sachs $13 billion - of our money! - to satisfy at 100 cents on the dollar when nobody else was getting par.

The assets held by Maiden Lane are all mortgages. Some have defaulted. Maiden Lane (and therefore the Fed) now owns a shopping mall and holds the defaulting mortgages of several resort hotels - some outside the US. I am pretty sure that this is way outside the Fed's charter. This is only some of what Bernanke does not want you to know he did with our money.

Seeing the pattern here? Things they don't want you to know. But, wait! Bernanke's Folly gets better. In the name of saving American jobs and businesses, Maiden Lane hired CT Corporation as its registered agent. CT is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wolters Kluwer, a multi-national information services company based in the Netherlands. Yep, the Netherlands. As in not a US company. Why take this offshore? Perhaps Bernanke will be asked that at some point, but I would not hold my breath.

Regardless of his tough talk about transparency, the harsh truth is that Bernanke has perverted the intent of the Fed from central bank to a huge off balance sheet hidey hole for his pals on Wall Street. Geithner knows this since he was there. And they are terrified that we will get to see just how corrupt and disingenuous this little empire is.

Which brings me to the president. Obama renominated this guy. And he made Geithner Treasury Secretary. This is like putting Tattaglia and Corleone in charge of the FBI. The 2 guys most responsible for hiding the misuse of trillions of our dollars are put in charge of our dollars. I am not saying Obama knew this. I am saying that he chose the same tired, failed folks to fix the system they broke. And in that he failed us. The only change evident are the new business cards everyone got.

And now, faced with audits and transparency, Bernanke has obviously broken into a cold sweat. And even more so because there is huge bipartisan support for this. If only there was a way we could dump Bernanke in November.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fun Facts About Financial Reform

With the financial reform bill wending its way to a Senate vote, I decided to actually read the thing. Needless to say, it is - like most legislation - a difficult read. However, there are some little nuggets in there that have yet to be mentioned in the partisan spitball fight.

Top of my list is the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. This would be created as part of the Federal Reserve. Excuse me? The Fed? The ubersecretive Fed? The same one that sees transparency and secrecy as synonymous? That Fed? They would be given the responsibility to protect consumers?

Am I the only one that sees the literal idiocy of handing this task to a semi-independent organization that is currently hiding bank information to protect the banks from their own customers? I am not making that one up. Bernanke made it clear that he was hiding the names of which bank borrowed how much from the Fed to "protect the banks' images." Apparently he thinks telling the customers the truth about the financial stability of a bank might cause them to move their accounts to a more stable bank. Well, duh.

Yet Dodd, Shelby and company want to hand this group the responsibility to protect consumers from the banks. Are they kidding? Bernanke and Geithner (as New York Fed president) may have set an all time record for closed door Sunday deals to protect the banks and shield them. This is the same group that made Goldman and GMAC commercial banks overnight with zero investigation and verification. And they are expected to protect us? The Federal Reserve wouldn't know a consumer if they ran one over. They have never dealt with consumer issues and have, in fact, avoided them.

But, for some unknowable reason, Dodd, Shelby and the the rest of the corrupt Democrat/Republican lie machine want to hand more power to the Fed. And that is in the face of Bernanke's ongoing opposition to any kind of transparency at the Fed. This alone is enough to scuttle the bill if any member of the Senate was honest of genuinely interested in anything except the next election.

Obama has endorsed this idiocy. Geithner, Schapiro and the rest of his pre-failed financial team all love the idea. Why? Why do they want to hand consumer protection to the one agency that specifically does not deal with consumers? We can all speculate as tot he reasons. I firmly beleive it is to make sure that nothing changes.

Once I got past that in my reading, I found a very interesting little piece. One that stopped me in my tracks.

This bill would repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act prohibition against the regulation of security-based swaps. For those who don't know, Gramm-Leach was the 1999 Clinton endorsed act that lifted the Glass-Steagal 1932 prohibition on commercial banks engaging in investment bank activities. The idea in 1932 was to prevent banks from gambling with depositors' money.

Since the meltdown of 2008, it has become apparent that securities swaps were a large part of the problem. Lots of feckless politicians are demanding prosecution for this. Except for one problem. Lots of those same politicians passed a law prohibiting any regulation.

In an earlier post, I posited that Goldman most likely did not violate and criminal statutes. As it turns out, there weren't any to violate. See, the kids at Goldman, Lehman, Bear and the rest knew that swaps were unregulated. They knew that the law prohibited regulation and by extension, government intervention. They knew this because they had a hand in making it so.

Democrats and Republicans acting indecently in a bipartisan way. It was Bill Clinton's Treasury whiz kid Bob "I got me a corner office waiting on Wall Street" Rubin that pushed Gramm-Leach along with Republican Gramm. Once that law was signed it was off to the races in a totally legal way. Put bluntly, they could not break a law that did not and could not exist. Even if the lazy pencil pushers at SEC and the Fed wanted to get involved, they could not.

One cannot help but wonder why this has not been more of a topic the last couple of years. After countless hearings, the protestations of 2 presidents (Bush and Obama), the nonsense from Paulson, Geithner and Bernanke, not one of them mentioned this little fact. None wanted to admit that they set the table for what happened. Not one time was this mentioned. Not even by the kids from Wall Street trying to defend their activities.

I am not sure what will happen with the financial reform bill. But I do know one thing. None of them are telling us the truth here. Not Obama and his economic team of super-failures. Not Dodd or Shelby. Not Barney Frank.

And that is a automatic firing offense. Come November, I suggest we fire the lot of them. All of them. The entire House and those Senators up for re-election. By failing to mention their own contribution to the mess, they have failed us all and - in my opinion - are more responsible for the meltdown than Goldman and the rest.

As much as it pains me to say this again, I do not think the Wall Street gang broke the law. Stretched, pushed and loopholed, yes. But violated, no. And Congress knew this. Obama and Bush knew this. The economic advisors both administration used (and they are actually the same failures) knew this.

As they say in baseball, toss the bums out.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Following Up With a Sigh of Relief

Following up on my last post, I just watched Eric Bolling on Happy Hour and he did not repeat the Limbaugh lie even though Democratic strategist Mark Levine gave him numerous openings. I am relieved that Bolling proved me right.

In fact, Bolling was exactly what I had hoped and have come to trust him for - honest. He pointed out that the president is holding BP responsible despite Levine's ravings (and they were ravings.)

Levine charged that BP was only going to pay $75 million even though both Obama and the CEO of BP said otherwise. In fact, Levine was exactly the opportunistic type I mentioned in the past post. A Democrat seizing on a massive disaster to score political points and somehow create a new tax from this.

The only thing Levine was missing was foaming at the mouth. He shouted amazing inaccuracies, all designed to inflame. Bolling never once took the bait and stuck to the facts.

Levine advocated stopping all offshore drilling - an unrealistic position at best. Bolling calmly explained the economic impact of that. Levine wen on and on about the evil oil companies. Again, Bolling stuck to reality and not the fantasy nonsense.

I would say that Levine is one of those looking to score points from the disaster. One of those totally unacceptable political drones that has no care or worry for actual people. One of those that I dislike and have zero respect for.

In a day and age when very few in the media are fair or balanced or even all that honest, it is good to know that some are.


Spinning the Spill

I have resisted commenting on the oil mess in the Gulf of Mexico mainly because I (unlike the folks at The Weather Channel) do not enjoy commenting on the misery of others.

It took a little longer than I had thought, but the political spin on the Gulf oil disaster is now in full go mode. Let me make it clear that anyone that uses a disaster of this scope for political nonsense is wrong. 11 people are dead and the entire Gulf coast is threatened with a long term mess. Three-fourths of the US shrimping industry is out of business. Uncounted coastal cities and towns are facing the end of their tourism business for years to come.

The administration has appropriately ordered inspections of existing drilling to ensure the proper safety measures are in place. No leases have been canceled. No exploration stopped. They have slowed things down a little to see what happened and why. That makes sense. Look for the real cause and try to find a way to prevent it in the future. Common sense.

This should not be another political spitball game.

For some, sadly, it is.

The Democrats were first out of the gate with the predictable demand to stop all drilling. Several Senators including Bil Nelson of Florida have legislation pending. Environmental groups are screaming that this proves them right and so on. The Democrats shamelessly sought villains in the oil industry, the Republican party, Congress and so on. Lawsuits have already been filed. Some have gone as far as to suggest shutting down the entire oil industry with no thought to the overall economic impact.

The Democrats are as wrong as it gets. The first thing to do is deal with the immediate problem - shutting off the flow of oil. Not enough for these folks. They want a head on a platter. Any head on any platter. And they are using this disaster to forward their agenda. An agenda that has zero basis in the real world. One that would ultimately lead to extremely expensive gasoline and other energy as well.

Their agenda is what I call the "magic ball of energy," as seen on Star Trek. In other words, something that does not yet exist. They think that by simply making existing energy more expensive and difficult to purchase, their magic solution will simply materialize. Keep in mind, most of these folks not only dislike oil. They dislike nuclear, coal, natural gas, wind farms, hydro-electric and even fire. In other words, no reality present.

In the one, the Democrats deserve the "Knee Jerk Idiot Award" for their haste to politicize this. In this one, they were the first to try to use it. Thus, the first to be wrong, wrong, wrong. But they are not alone at the wrong way cafe.

Republicans took a little longer and at first, had the anticipated shouting back at Democrats with the tired and inappropriate 'Drill, baby, drill." There were the expected Katrina analogies and accusations of slow response. This even though most already knew this was not true. In fact, serious conservatives were taking a very cautious wait and see perspective.

Until today. Today it was put forth that the Obama administration may have let the well go for a while to create this disaster for political purposes. This first came from Limbaugh. Well, it was ignored because Limbaugh is a fat, stupid, pasty faced loudmouth paid to say fat stupid things to agitate people for the purpose of ratings. Much the same as Howard Stern. Pointless, but profitable.

Limbaugh ignores the acknowledged fact that BP pretty much lied about the severity of the problem, first reporting no oil spilled, then 1,000 barrels per day, then 5,000 barrels per day and now refusing to give any estimates. He boldly ignores the simple fact that the Coast Guard was on scene immediately and that the government has been working with BP from the start. It was just another ludicrous Limbaugh lie designed to agitate.

But then it got picked up by - of all people - Eric Bolling. In the traditional Republican "just something to think about" method, this got tossed out there for folks. I always thought Bolling was smarter than this. Sure, he is a conservative, but he has always been fair and honest about it. Until he passed along this Limbaugh lie.

For perspective, this is the same as the "9/11 Truthers" who claim the Bush administration was behind the terror attacks. In this regard, Limbaugh and Rosie O'Donnell are one and the same - fat, stupid loudmouths just making noise to get noticed.

Here is where the line gets drawn on this stuff. The spitball game of tossing hate at each other over politics as usual, well, that is the nature of the partisan nightmare we are trapped in. However, when the lives of millions are affected by a disaster of this scope, it is time to put down the flaming spitballs and look for the real problem, the real cause. And some real solutions not involving the next election.

In the case of 9/11 the real problem and the real cause is known. Radical Moslem terrorists who want to kill us simply because we exist. Not Bush or Cheney. As a Jew, I can tell you all about groups wanting us dead for no reason beyond our existence. This is real and it is now. Blaming President Bush was disgusting political opportunism at its absolute worst. Those who did (and some still do) need their mouths washed out with soap.

Same with the Gulf oil mess. Trying to find a way to blame President Obama is using the misery of millions for political gain. This is the same Obama that - despite his own party not wanting it - agreed to open up limited offshore exploration. And even though supporters of offshore drilling said it was not enough, it was more than they expected to get from him. In other words, he looked at the situation and realized that there was a way to move forward and was willing to publicly change his mind on the subject.

Now, those same supporters, sensing an opening for political opportunity are doing exactly what they lambasted O'Donnell and Michael Moore for doing. Exactly the same thing. And you know what - it is just as ugly on them as it was on O'Donnell. I tried to give O'Donnell a break on her comments, but she not only persisted, she got stupid (fire doesn't melt metal) and stubborn. So I consigned her to my moron shelf.

I am willing and and really trying to give Bolling the benefit of the doubt here. While I am typing, I am recording his regular show on Fox Business (Happy Hour; 5-6PM Eastern time weekdays) to see what he has to say. I really, really hope he will rethink this statement. In the interest of full disclosure, I like Bolling. I do not know him personally, and I think it is safe to say he and I disagree on many things. Bt he usually calls them honestly and based on fact.

This is how we are supposed to treat each other. I heard Bolling's comments earlier today and thought "Huh?" But I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and hear him out before slamming him around. In my opinion, he is a good guy who might have taken the Limbaugh lie at face value without any fact. Hopefully, he will rethink that.

That is what is missing these days. Nobody stops to actually listen and hear facts. It is all about innuendo and political spitballs. All about the next election.

The Limbaughs and Olbermanns do this all the time. While it is well within their rights to do so it is also wrong. It is irresponsible and intellectually dishonest. Yes, the First Amendment guarantees this right and I defend it, even though they are simply disgusting people. Olbermann is another stupid fat liar. Just like Rush. They are opposite sides of the same coin.

Both use explosive language and fiery rhetoric to literally demonize the other side. Olbermann and his ridiculous "Worst person" stuff is a prime example. In a world where people are brutally murdered for their tennis shoes, the worst person Olbermann has is one that disagrees with him. I guess in his universe the sun only rises at his command. One cannot help but wonder what color the sky is on his home planet.

Limbaugh the same. Just making it up and spouting it out.

I hope Bolling rethinks this and goes back to actual facts and not political sensationalism spouted from a lazy fat man hiding behind a microphone.

More than that I keep hoping that someone, somewhere will break this silly and ever more destructive cycle of political hatemongering. Me, I hope it is Eric.