Monday, February 28, 2005

Feb 25027m 2005

Weak-End Edition

I guess it would be safe to say that most people, who read my daily rants, at least more than once, are of the liberal persuasion. And, as we know liberals can be somewhat “humor-challenged.” So I often get in more trouble when I try to be funny than when I write something serious. To wit:

Hi Steve,
I was disappointed in your crude comments about the royal couple. Did you really want to compete with Rush Limbaugh in having no class? I am 57 years old and should have realized everybody has feet of clay, but it hurts to find out you do.

Bill B.
Downers Grove, IL

Well, I do have feet of clay, everyone does. But especially so when it comes to those embarrassing, anachronistic, self-indulgent, royal hillbillies, the Windsors. What a waste of skin. What a massive waste of money. If I had my way I would turn Windsor Castle into a daycare center for the poor, retire the Queen and her husband – who dresses like an over-decorated bus driver – to a modest home next door to some aspiring hip hop band. And I would make Charles get a real job, maybe master of ceremonies for the international Eukanuba Dog Show. As for the now-sainted Princess Diana, gag me with a backhoe. The woman was a ditz. She may be dead but she is still with us and being channeled by Paris Hilton.

Oh, and Bill, I have two years on you. So that may account for me being such a clay-footed curmudgeon. See what you have to look forward to? And you thought it was just hemorrhoids.

Anyway, clearly Dave Barry does not have to worry about me grabbing his job during his sabbatical.

Queer Eye for the Straight Shooter

I read a story the other day about how military discharges under the “Don’t ask. Don’t Tell,” policy had dropped like a rock since the war started. With the military finding it increasingly difficult to get people to sign up to be shot at it seems they decided to – at least for now -- let gay soldiers die for their country after all.

Up until the shooting started they had been weeding gays out by the thousands, 10,000 to be precise, since 1993. The program has proven costly. The US military – (that would be taxpayers) has had to spend around $200 million to replace service members bounced for having too much fruit in the loom.

Seems that a lot of those tossed out were a lot more skilled than the run of the mill heterosexuals they let stay in. Many gays discharged were skilled in – for example – foreign languages, like Arabic, Farsi and Korean. Of those discharged, 757 were in critical occupations such as interpreters and intelligence analysts. Some 322 had proficiency in strategically important languages that the Pentagon has said are in short supply.
But that was then, and this is now. With the Army and Marines missing their annual recruitment targets, “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” has been temporarily modified to just, “Don’t scoot, just shoot.” (“Oh, and by the way, just love what you’ve done with the barracks!”)

Punting With Putin
Well, our Johnny Appleseed of Democracy, Pres. GW Bush, met Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Once again George looked into Validmir’s soul, and once again he saw his own reflection.

Yes, even though Putin has busied himself for the past two years strangling Russia’s free media in its crib, expropriating private assets, canceling elections for regional governors, trying to fix the election in neighboring Ukraine and abetting the attempted murder of the leading candidate in that election, George W. Bush still saw a fellow democrat in Putin.

Imagine if George W. Bush announced that there would be no more need for the states to elect governors. What a bother. In the future he would just appoint them. It’s ever so much cheaper and efficient that way.

And, what if the Bush folks didn’t just try to bully major broadcast media or lie to them, or plant phony reporters in their midst, but put CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC under direct government control? (FOX has already volunteered.)

And, citing the high fuel cost oil, what if Bush took over Exxon and Standard Oil?
Well, Putin has done all that, and more. So it turns out that Bush’s commitment to democracy is the same as his commitment to “clear skies,” and “no child left behind,” and Social Security “reform.” It’s rhetorical --- more Theater of the Right.

We can only imagine what George said to Vlad in private. But I suspect he could not resist smirking, “guy to guy,” remarks like, “Man, I wish I could get away with dropping the hammer on a few of our reporters. They really chaff my ass.” Or, “How did you pull off getting that Yukos big shot locked up for giving money to your opponents? I’ve one just like him, Soros. I’d love to put that little bastard out of circulation.”

Wink, wink. Nod, nod.

Bush assured us after the closed-door meeting that Putin had “gotten the message.”

That, at least, we can be sure of.

Deadbeat Nation

I know – I sound like a broken record with my constant hand wringing about our national debt, trade deficits and out of control consumer borrowing. But, now that Alan Greenspan has become a member of Bush’s see-no-evil economic team, someone has to sound the alarm, because we are headed for the mother of all reality checks.

Here is another clue. Have you noticed how hot the mortgage lending business is right now? How could you not with all the DiTech ads? (BTW, that little fat man in the DiTech ads is even more annoying than Mr. Whipple was in the “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin," ads.)

The reason mortgage and home refinance money is so plentiful and cheap is because foreign investors, largely Korean and Chinese, are buying up every securities US mortgage they can get their hands on. That means if you recently refinanced your home they, not the bank, were your real lenders.

Demand for these securities by foreign investors is great because they are looking for something besides US bonds into which to salt away all the money they are making selling cheap goods to US consumers.

While on the surface that might look like a fair trade, cheap loans in return for a higher trade deficit, it’s trouble in the making, because, it only adds to this nation’s already massive foreign debt. (And just wait until the US housing market cools and those foreign buyers start buying Euro Bonds instead.)

The ballooning U.S. trade deficit soared 24 percent in 2004, to $617.7 billion. The dollars spent by Americans on Japanese cars, Chinese televisions and other imported goods end up in the hands of foreigners, who plow them into U.S. bonds and securities.

As the deficit mounts, so does America's overall indebtedness to foreigners, which now totals about $3 trillion. Now, there’s good debt and there’s bad debt. Good debt is money borrowed to build infrastructure and other capital investments that will make the nation more efficient and competitive in the world markets. Bad debt is going into hock in order to roll over old existing debt rather than paying it off, and borrowing to pay for things like war, that do nothing to improve a nation’s competitiveness.

And, all our borrowing since G.W. Bush blew the Clinton surplus has been bad debt. Three trillion bucks worth, and counting.

Clinton Treasury Secretary, Lawrence H. Summers, -- who clearly understands the economy better than he does women – recently spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, warning that, "If you look behind the 6 percent of GDP deficit, there's a lot to make you worry," because foreign money "is financing consumption, not investment" in plants and equipment.

You might want to take a cue from the Koreans and move some of your 401K money out of long term US securities and into I-Bonds.. Inflation protected bonds. Because when this puppy lights up it’s going to burn hot.

Putting the NO back in Novak

We need to get a campaign going to convince CNN to kick quisling Robert Novak off the air. While two real reporters face jail for refusing to divulge their source for a story Novak broke, he faces no such fate. CNN needs to ask – why.

Of course there can be only one reason. Novak told, squealed, spilled the bean, and ratted out his source, to save his own rightwing skin. How can CNN keep such a despicable person on the air while two real reporters are dragged through the courts and may have go to jail just for doing their job and keeping their word?

Will CNN come to stand for the Cowardly News Network?

Instead, since one of those “Ns” in CNN stand for “News” CNN should treat Novak, not as a “pundit,” but rather a key subject in the Valerie Plame scandal -- because he is. CNN needs to put a crack reporter on Novak’s trail, the same way they did Jeff Gannon, and the same way FOX went after Dan Rather.

Novak and Gannon… birds of a feather. And neither belongs on CNN.

CNN… put the NO back in Novak. No airtime. No paid punditry. No mercy. No way.

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