Monday, January 31, 2011

Arizona: Getting crazier by the day

Gun laws: Arizona is on the verge of becoming the second state in the nation to require universities and communities to allow guns on campus and one of 10 that permit guns inside public government buildings such as the state Capitol.  According to the Arizona Republic, the new omnibus gun law includes the following provisions:
·        Allow people to carry firearms into all government-run facilities and many public events. The only places or events that could ban firearms would be those that post the correct sign, provide firearm lockers and have armed security and a metal detector. The law would apply to university classrooms, city buses and community festivals that get government permits. It would not apply to K-12 schools.
·        Change the wording of last year's concealed-weapons law to require an individual to answer "truthfully" when a law-enforcement officer asks whether the person is carrying a concealed weapon. The current wording requires the person to answer "accurately." Law-enforcement officials say the change could give leeway to a person who, for example, forgets a gun in a bag and inaccurately tells an officer he or she isn't carrying one.
·        Change the wording of Shannon's Law to make it a crime to "knowingly" discharge a firearm within city limits. It's currently a crime for someone to discharge a firearm with "criminal negligence." Bill opponents said the change would mean people could be convicted of violating this law only if the prosecution could prove they knew that shooting the gun could result in someone's death or injury.
·        Allow people to sue if they feel they were illegally stopped from carrying a firearm into a government facility or event. If a person wins the lawsuit and the government agency doesn't pay within 72 hours, the person has the right to seize as payment "any municipal vehicles used or operated for the benefit of any elected office holder" in the relevant government agency.
The state already allows concealed weapons in bars and it is no longer a requirement to have a permit to carry conceal.  By increasing the ease of carrying weapons and the places where they can be carried, the state has created its own arms race. 
On the bright side, it was nice to see Mayor Bloomberg expose the ludicrous laws in the Arizona territory.  His undercover sting demonstrated how lax gun shows and how little the local authorities in Arizona care about enforcing the few laws remaining on the books. 
Gun advocates love to say that gun control laws do not reduce homicide rates.  Can’t say either way until the data is analyzed, what I can say is that the penalties for illegal forearm sales and ownership are lax.  Enforce the laws and make the punishment meaningful.  Heck in Arizona where the governor’s own staff are private prison lobbyists, you would think they would jump at the chance to increase the prison population.
Why do the places with the nicest weather end up being so messed up?

Maybe Tiger can buy a coal mine?

Plans for a Tiger Woods signature golf estate, with hotel and sheik-style palaces, have been shelved because of Dubai's financial downturn.   You know it’s bad for the world’s number three golfer when even Dubai pulls the plug on a deal.  No truth to the rumor that Tiger is building a putting green at the Chicken Ranch outside of Las Vegas.
Not even one week after The President said during his State of the Union address "We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair." Allen, Texas builds a $60million football stadium for its high school team.  In related news the Allen High School chemistry department just got a new periodic table.
Later this week, the January job numbers will come out.  The expected job gain is between 125,000 – 175,000, a range well below where we need to be to put a dent in the 9.4% unemployment rate.  To make matters worse, the High-wage sectors -- made up of jobs that pay between $17.43 and $31 an hour -- accounted for nearly half the jobs lost during the recession, but have produced only 5% of the new jobs since hiring resumed.
Where is the hidden secret factory that makes Republican lawmakers?  There evil lair must be found and destroyed; picked up this beauty from Mother Jones today.  Legislation introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) proposes that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible.  If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. As for the incest exception, the bill would only allow federally funded abortions if the woman is under 18.  Further, the term "forcible rape" is not defined in the criminal code, and the bill's authors don't offer their own definition. In some states, there is no legal definition of "forcible rape," making it unclear whether any abortions would be covered by the rape exemption in those jurisdictions. 
Someone needs to tell the NFL that the Pro Bowl died years ago. 
The leading oil companies are drawing up plans to set up an industry safety commission to rebuild public confidence.  Already there is a major disagreement whether the new commission should be part of the American Petroleum Institute, the organization that was ripped in the national commission’s report on the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  While I usually welcome industry oversight, the energy industry is right up there with the financial and pharmaceutical sectors in their absence of self control and their propensity to race to the bottom.
Alpha Natural Resources acquired Massey Energy for $7.1Billion in cash and stock.  Let’s hope the new owners have a better commitment to safety than Massey, the operator of the Upper Big Branch mine site of the explosion last year that killed 29 people
Watched The Kids Are Alright…ehhhh.  Next up Winter’s Bone and The Social Network.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Palin needs some Big Love

Inflation with economic contraction = stagflation.  That is exactly where Britain finds itself as it attempts to tackle its high levels of public debt.  The massive austerity plan in Britain includes extensive spending cuts, increased taxes, and reductions in public services.  In America, our government has chosen a different approach of spending our way to economic growth, hopefully leading to increased government revenues and reduction in the deficit.  The question is how much pain you want to suffer because pain will hurt your electability.  And that is the rub.  At the end of the day, spending will be cut, government reduced, taxes increased, steady but unspectacular growth, and enough inflation to cut the size of the debt much to the chagrin of our debt holders. 
With all due respect to President Obama, innovation is not the problem in the U.S.  Our Universities, scientists, entrepreneurs, and the rest of the technical community still lead the world in invention and innovation.  The problem is when it comes time to industrialize and enter mass production, the business is moving offshore to places like India and China.  Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar originally benefited from $43 million in assistance from the state of Massachusetts becoming the third-largest maker of solar panels in the United States.  But now Evergreen Solar is closing its main American factory in Devens, Massachusetts, laying off the 800 workers, and shifting production to a joint venture with a Chinese company in China. The company cited the much higher government support available in China. How should the U.S. government intervene?  Does intervention mean that we are not believers in the free market?  Can we really be competitive without relying on subsidies or excessive tariffs?
According to TheAtlantic.com, 19% of children ages 2-5 can operate a smartphone app, but only 9% can tie their own shoelaces.  I don’t know if I am impressed or scared.
Sign of the times.  For the 1st time in its 102 year history, General Motors has sold more cars in China, 2.35 million, than it did in the USA, 2.21 million. That doesn’t do much for U.S. autoworkers.
I am getting tired of politicians telling us they must have an adult conversation with the American People about the state of our finances.  An adult conversation?  Really?  Pompous jerk offs treat us like children that need to be talked to.  Last time I checked, my finances were in much better order and my credit rating was better than Uncle Sam’s.
I know picking on Palin is like picking on chubby kids at summer camp.  But could she be any more obtuse?  Sputnik brought on the demise of the USSR because of the arms race?  Could she have possibly missed the point by a wider margin regarding the President’s reference to the ‘sputnik moment’?  I really hope both Palin and Bachmann enter the race for the GOP nomination.  The debates will be pure comedic gold.
Is it me or is the last season of Big Love tough to watch?  With over a dozen regular characters, there isn’t a single character I care about.  Don’t you need someone to root for in a show to enjoy it?  I think so.

In depth survey on the Affordable Care Act

Check out the attached article and results from the Kaiser Family Foundation survey on repeal, replace, don't touch the Affordable Care Act of 2010.  Surprise Surpise, Americans like what the law offers, but hate the individual mandate.  So can we replace the mandate with a tax credit for those that get insurance?  or are we now looking at a public option?  I warned the GOP not to overplay its hand and that's exactly what they did when voting to repeal the law with nothing to offer in its place.


The Economist analyzes Healthcare Repeal

America's Dilema: Democracy or National Interests

How will the Arab League and its 22 nations deal with the growing populist outrage against dictators, tyrants, and hegemonies that have dominated the Arab since the beginning of time?   What role will Islamic fundamentalists play in these transformations?  How will the U.S. balance the often conflicting goals between promoting democracy while protecting its interest?   Can a people who have never experienced life in a democracy create a democratic society when opposition parties are banned, imprisoned, uncoordinated, and equally corrupt? 
In Tunisia, the jasmine revolution has been both swift and unique in that it is has been a secular affair.  The impetus was the self-immolation of a college educated youth named Muhammad Bouazizi when he was harassed by security forces while trying to sell fruits and vegetables.  Mr. Bouazizi represented an entire nation’s educated middle class mired in 20%+ unemployment as a result of a corrupt government controlled by the ruling family.  With no organized opposition, the controlling RCD party has tried to form a new government and is being resisted by the populace (“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”).  Yesterday, Rashid Ghannouchi, the exiled leader of the banned Islamic party, Ennahda, returned to Tunisia.  Mr. Ghannouchi claims to be a pro democracy advocate preaching inclusion of all races, ideologies, genders, etc.  Time will tell, though I wouldn’t rule out a return of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali if the opposition is unable to bring any sense of order.
In Egypt, with a population of 80 Million people has rapidly descended into chaos as the state security forces have left the city and now the military has stepped in to provide some sense of order while looting spreads to the affluent suburbs.  President Mubarak must have used the same playbook as Tunisia’s deposed Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, first say you hear the protests, then sack your government, appoint a new heir apparent, and offer all sorts of concessions.  Sorry Hosni, that won’t fly when your first ever Vice President select is Omar Suleiman, your nation’s number one spy and a man associated with extreme renditions.   And just like the Tunisian situation, there is concern that the power void could be filled by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic organization that talks about helping the poor while still wishing Israel off the face of the earth.  Speaking of Israel, its defense forces will be on high alert as Hamas will no doubt take advantage of the crisis in Cairo and increase its smuggling operations through the Sinai.
Protests have also sparked in Yemen, Jordan, and Algeria, not to mention the internal strife in Lebanon with the collapse of the Hariri government and the rise of the Syria/Iran backed Hezbollah.  While we would love to see Democracy spread and flourish in the Arab World, the 22 nations that compromise the Arab League have not had a great track record in Democracy.  There are three democracies in the Arab world: Iraq, Palestinian territory, and Lebanon; none of which would be considered success stories.  The rest of the Arab world runs the gamut from tyrannies like Libya to benevolent autocracies like Qatar.  Be careful America what you wish for; just look at the elections we called for in the Palestinian territories and we ended up with Hamas controlling Gaza and now Hezbollah will be the majority party in Lebanon.
One thing that will definitely continue is the conflict between Democracy and our interests.  The sad thing: Twitter and social networking brought down Tunisian government and possibly Egypt.  On the other hand, we spent trillions of dollars at a cost of thousands of lives to bring democracy to Iraq.  Boy did we over spend.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Sampler

-        Swiss banker Rudolph Elmer, former chief of the office of the Julius Baer Bank in the Cayman Islands, is facing charges for disclosing confidential offshore client information.  Elmer also provided two discs containing information on 2,000 clients to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who said he will spend a few weeks reviewing the information before deciding to whether to release the confidential information.  Funny, I don’t hear the same outcry from commentators about this possible disclosure compared to his previous release of US cables.  Illegal is illegal, though I guess fat cat tax avoiding multimillionaires shouldn’t expect much sympathy.
-        Holy Morgan Spurlock.  I think Taco Bell’s decision to pull its advertising from MTV’s Skins won’t have much of an impact on the company’s real PR problem.  Last week a class action suit was filed claiming the fast food company falsely advertised its product, labeled "seasoned beef.", when in reality it uses a meat mixture with binders and extenders that don't meet requirements to be called beef.  Drop the chalupa.
-        The U.S. has abandoned its plans to deploy a virtual fence along the border with Mexico. The $1 billion Boeing run project was designed to pull together video cameras, radar, sensors and other technologies to catch illegal immigrants and smugglers trying to cross the border.  On the other side of the border Mexican officials confiscated a medieval-style catapult used to hurl bales of marijuana across the border.  We waste $1Billion on a high tech disaster, while the drug smugglers use about $50 worth of Home Depot materials to circumvent our Maginot Line.  Brilliant.
-        Just read that Craig T. Nelson turned the offer to play Jay Pritchett on Modern Family because he was insulted by the pay offered.  Hard to see anybody but Ed O’Neill in that role now.  While Nelson did receive higher salary for his role in soon-to-be cancelled NBC’s Parenthood, he also traded sidling up next to the super sexy Sofia Vergara for being the estranged husband of Bonnie Bedilia.  Can you say lose-lose.
-        Marriott announced it will be eliminating its skin flicks from its in room entertainment offering.  The Mormon faith Marriott family may be trying to establish itself as a family values hotel chain.  The good news, it is one less thing to skeeve, now can we win the bedbug battle?
-        In a widely under-reported news story, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the START Treaty on January 28th.  Yes the same START Treaty that Jon Kyl and his GOP cronies tried to kill in December.
-        George Soros would be proud.  It seems some enterprising Vietnamese have found a nice arbitrage opportunity by crossing the border into Cambodia and withdrawing dollars and then returning to Vietnam and selling the greenbacks for Vietnamese dongs at the 5% premium black market rate.  In a childish way I also think it’s funny that the Vietnamese currency is the dong; “Dong, where is Grandpa’s automobile?”
-        Watching 2004’s Garden State.  Natalie Portman was great in that film also.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mohels, Social D, Snookie, Egypt, and Gecko

-        Archer is back and as funny as ever. 
-        Speaking of being back, Social Distortion’s new release “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” is a great album as Mike Ness and the boys are back with their first new music in six years. 
-        The downside of comebacks, Boy George and Culture Club are reuniting.
-        Shocking development from the federal investigation looking into the financial crisis.  The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded “…that this crisis was avoidable. It found widespread failures in financial regulation; dramatic breakdowns in corporate governance; excessive borrowing and risk-taking by households and Wall Street; policy makers who were ill prepared for the crisis; and systemic breaches in accountability and ethics at all levels.” Sorry Gecko greed isn’t good, it’s dangerous.  Side note: the republican members of the panel are issuing two different dissenting opinions, both which soften the blame aimed at Wall Street.
-        If Americans in Italy hasn’t already been a rocky relationship with the Amanda Knox story, The Jersey Shore is going to film season 4 in the land of Michelangelo.  Mingya
-        Arizona State Senate President and #1 Bigot Russell Pearce is facing a potential recall campaign.  If 7,756 petition signatures can be compiled by May 27th, Pearce must either resign or face an open election against as many residents who file papers to run.
-        But to prove that other Arizona lawmakers are as bigoted and clueless, Republican Rep John Kavanaugh is introducing a bill to eliminate the citizenship rights of children born to illegal immigrants.  State is underwater and these clowns want to play illogical ideological games.
-        Jesse Ventura has filed a lawsuit against the TSA for illegal search and seizure.  Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes and a shitload of nut jobs.
-        Glenn Beck may have gone too far this time.  His off-the-mark criticism of George Soros and continued use of Nazism and the Holocaust imagery may have reached the breaking point.  400 rabbis have taken out a full page ad criticizing Beck and his boss Rupert Murdoch.    Fox will likely respond in its usual flippant manner, which may not be the best approach else Beck and Murdoch may become the guests of honor at a bris.  Hope they serve lox.
-        In other Beckerhead related news, the Kook of Mormon’s ratings are down about 40% since he peaked in August 2009 with 3million viewers.  Today, he struggles to get 1.6 – 1.8 million family members to tune in.  With Olbermann of the air at MSNBC, could we be seeing the demise of the polarizing talk show host?  No more wingnuts?  Is this the work of Jon Stewart and his rally?
-        Watch events in Egypt very closely this weekend.  The survival of the 30 year Mubarak reign could be in jeopardy and that will scare the crap out of the Jordanian, Saudi, Kuwaiti, and Bahrainian leaders as well as everybody in DC.  This is huge.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guns by the Numbers

2 In its ordinal form, second, amendment of the constitution giving citizens the right to bear arms
6 People killed by gunfire on January 8th at the Safeway in Tucson
9 The ages of Arizonans Christina-Taylor Green and Brisenia Flores, both killed by gunfire in Arizona
13 people killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999
14 People wounded by gunfire on January 8th at the Safeway in Tucson
18 Years from 1979 to 1997 when more Americans were killed by gunfire than died in all of America’s foreign wars
18 Rate of gun deaths per 100,000 people in Arizona (5th highest) which has a 60.6% gun ownership rate.
20 People arrested in Arizona for trying to illegally buy 700 weapons for the Sinaola Mexican drug cartel
31 Rounds Jared Lee Loughner’s magazine held when he shot Gabriella Giffords in Tucson
32 People killed at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007.
59 Federal, state, and local law enforcement officers killed by gunfire in 2010
1994 The year when assault weapons were banned, only to expire by congressional inaction in 2004
6,600 Gun shops along the US-Mexico border
30,000 Deaths per year in America from gun fire
62,000 Guns missing from gun shop inventories over the last 3 years
10,000,000 Dollars spent by the NRA during the 2008 Presidential election
300,000,000 Guns in America
I have always been rather ambivalent with regards to gun rights and gun control.  The Chuck Heston “from my cold, dead hands” 2nd Amendment zealotry cut too close to his Colonel George Taylor “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” that I laughed at its absurdity. Similarly I shook my head in disbelief when liberals believed gun control solved all violent crime problems.  But recently, I have become rather concerned about the rationale being used by gun rights proponents to protect their 2nd Amendment rights.  In the last two years the justification and constitutional explanation has moved from the right for self-defense to the right to overthrow the government.  America has had this love affair with guns, being the hero, shooting the bad guy, and loving Dirty Harry Callahan.  Little boys played, before video games, cops and robbers, army, and cowboys and Indians.  I get that, but I don’t get the need to own 12 handguns or feel you need to own an assault weapon.  At the time of the Gunfight at the OK Corral in late 1880 Tombstone strengthened its existing ban on concealed weapons to outlaw the carrying of any deadly weapons within the town limits. The Earps (who were Republicans) and Doc Holliday were sworn officers whose jobs included enforcement of Tombstone’s gun laws.  It would not be hyperbole to state that the Arizona of 2011 is wilder and more dangerous than the Arizona of 1880.  I hope the President  addresses the growing problems of gun violence and the continuous erosion of common sense controls.  Sadly poor Ralphie Parker’s mom’s warning “You’ll shoot your eye out” won’t seem so funny anymore.  I hope I am wrong about that but right about the President.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Want to know how to keep Tom Cruise away?

-        Big Twitter battle between Glee creator Ryan Murphy and the Kings of Leon.  Apparently Murphy was upset when KOL front man Caleb Followill rejected Murphy’s request to license their song ‘Use Somebody’.  Murphy tweated "F--- you, Kings of Leon, They're self-centered a--holes and they missed the big picture."   KOL drummer Nathan Followill then chimed in with "Dear Ryan Murphy, let it go, see a therapist, get a manicure, buy a new bra. Zip your lip and focus on educating 7 yr olds how to say f--k."   Cooler heads will prevail, but Mr. Murphy needs to understand his show is NOT the center of the universe Golden Globe or not. 
-        Ed Schultz, is a liberal blowhard who needs to go away (sorry mom).   He is simply the leftist version of Rush Limbaugh.  Schultz cannot see the connection between high corporate tax rates and job outsourcing.  He needs to stop screaming and talk to a corporate tax specialist.
-        While you’re at it, take Lawrence O’Donnell with you.  I have seen lawn furniture that have more charisma.
-        Did anyone else notice that Judge Ginsburg looked like she had fallen asleep last night during the SOTU.  Must have been past her bed time.
-        As predicted in this space in December, Lebanon is heading towards civil war as a Hezbollah backed minister is likely to become the new Prime Minister.    What wasn’t predicted was the potential domino effect in North Africa following the collapse of the Tunisian government, and now Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt are now experiencing civil unrest.  If you thought Hillary Clinton looked tired Tuesday night, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  She will earn her salary like no other federal employee.    Keep up the good work Madame Secretary.
-        Received a chain email with the cheery picked recent events blaming Islamists for all murders and mass attacks dating back to the assassination for RFK.  While I will be the first to condemn Islamic fundamentalists, I think it is bigoted if these emailers fail to include: assassins Jared Lee Loughner, Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, Mark David Chapman, John Hinckley, Dan White, and Larry Layton, mass murderers Tim McVeigh, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Richard Poplawski, Charles Whitman, Arthur Shawcross, and John Wayne Gacy.  Not to mention the biggest murderers for the last 200 years: Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mugabe, Milosovic, etc.  Call it me being fair and balanced.  Oh and if you want to learn some history, read about the terrorist attacks in this country back in the 1920’s specifically the 1920 Wall Street Bombing.  There were no Muslims involved.
-        Former Speaker of the House and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is calling to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the Environmental Solutions Agency (ESA).  Gingrich believes "What you have is a very expensive bureaucracy that across the board makes it harder to solve problems, slows down the development of new innovations.”  Sounds like he wants to replace the regulators with the Chamber of Commerce. 
-        I hear Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are boycotting the Oscars because they are upset with Oscar co-host Anne Hathaway for her portrayal of Holmes during her appearance on Saturday Night Live last year.   I guess after Ricky Gervais’ opening at the Golden Globes, we can scratch the couple from that award show and The Office too.
-        Chad Ochicinco is going back to calling himself Chad Johnson.  In a related story, the Bengals still suck.
-        Stay tuned for an expose on guns.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

POTUS SOTU REDUX

President Obama’s State of the Union address was a balanced speech that may have lacked inspiration but did cover many of the Diggapedia recommended talking points from Monday.  Of equal importance, the speech did not offer any glaring opportunities for the Republicans and others on the right to aggressively attack the President.  While I prefer the aggressive Social Distortion type of address, the President’s Jimmy Eat World version set the appropriate tone.
So the plusses:
1)      Reminded us of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.  Already polling indicates the public does not want repeal.
2)      Acknowledged DADT repeal.  An American achievement, not just a gay and lesbian achievement
3)      Fired the first salvo in the deficit reduction battle with his announced spending freeze on top of SecDef Gates’ $78Billion defense cuts.
4)      Highlighted success stories in the heartland
5)      Talked about leaning out waste in government agencies…great salmon story
6)      Success in the START Treaty and Korean free trade agreement
7)      Talk about lowering tax rates, while removing subsidies for the evil emoire that is the oil industry.
8)      Announced openness to nuclear, coal, and gas along with wind, and solar development.
Liberals will not be happy because he came across as too centrist and did not mention gun control.  Conservatives will not be happy because, well their conservatives. 
At the end of the day, it’s just a speech and will soon be forgotten.  What will be lasting  will be good economic news, increasing consumer confidence, solid corporate earnings, and winning the perception public relations battles with the right and its pundits.

Final comments before the SOTU

Jersey Shore or State of the Union Address?  One features an orangy looking emotional train wreck who smokes and drinks too much, and the other one has Snookie.
Going to watch the SOTU in 3D:  Deficits, Debt, and D-bags.
Too bad the Republicans control the house for tonight’s new approach to the mix and match seating plan at the SOTU.  Why?  Imagine Anthony Weiner, John Boehner, and John Kyl sitting together: A weiner, a boner, and a dick.
There will be two responses to the President’s speech tonight.  The Republican response by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) which will no doubt focus on fiscal matters and the Tea Party response  by Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) which will no doubt focus on crop circles, alien abductions, and Kenyan sleeper cells out to control the oval office.
Just got done watching Fox News.  Hannity, O’Reilley, and Beck have all said the President’s address was awful…two hrs before he gave it.  In a related story, Keith Olbermann is still fired.

Monday, January 24, 2011

POTUS SOTU

A lot has been said about how President Obama needs to move to the center by adopting a pro- business stance during Tuesday’s State of the Union (SOTU) address because that’s what he needs to do for reelection.  The conventional wisdom from many pundits and politicians on the right and left says this shift is necessary is because of the message sent by the voters in November during the shellacking.  Well, shockingly I will take a slightly different approach.
For the 1st quarter of his administration, the President enjoyed healthy majorities in the House and Senate that enabled him to pass the tough legislation including healthcare reform, financial regulation reform, DADT repeal, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization, Stimulus 1, and Credit Card Protection Act to name just a few.  Knowing that he was going to lose seats in both chambers and potentially one or both of his majorities, President Obama had to push through his progressive agenda while he could.  What he didn’t push at all was the pro-union card check bill to make it easier for employees to unionize.  Why?  Because he never planned to because he knew that would not help business or the economic recovery.  Instead the right made it a big red herring.
Those that say the President’s words during the 1st quarter often demonized businesses, especially Wall Street, were all indications of his anti-business socialistic leftist beliefs fail to grasp the notion that perhaps he was stoking the flames of the populace to help financial regulation pass and put the GOP on the wrong side of the argument.  The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act will adversely impact bank earnings in the short term due to higher capital reserves.  And regulations may impede some job growth in the financial sectors.  But it’s the long term structural enhancements that will make banks healthier in the long term.
So what does President Obama say Tuesday night?  For starters, he should avoid jumping on the bash Jay Cutler bandwagon.  Seriously, here is a brief list:
1.      Remind us that regulations are not job killing.  We have witnessed the 8.5million impacts as a result of the lack of regulation.
2.      Reinforce the benefits of the Affordable Care Act that are already and will soon be in effect.
3.      Celebrate DADT repeal and how this country stands for all of its citizens.
4.      Deficit reduction is important and that like all successful enterprises, pruning in one area and feeding another is not only common, but prudent. 
5.      Reinforce that deficit reduction must be done as a program not as a series unconnected random piecemeal decisions.
6.      Highlight success stories in the heartland such as the auto industry recovery and strength of farm exports.
7.      Remind us that capitalism is the greatest economic system, but that the capital markets (Wall Street) are to here to drive industrial innovation, not financial innovation.
8.      Remind us of what he promised one year ago during the 2010 SOTU and click off what he delivered including many of the things listed above and START Treaty.
9.      Call for tax reform to lower rates and eliminate loop holes.
10.   Take a stand on an energy policy that includes off shore drilling WITH proper reforms, nuclear energy, SAFE natural gas exploration and drilling, and new technology development.
11.   Sound hopeful.  Inspire a shared vision where America returns to making things.
12.   Share with us your successes with Europe, Russia, and China in dealing with Iran.  Talk about how the START Treaty enables us to work with Russia and not against her. 
13.   Tell us not to fear a growing China.  We have heard the threats of our imminent downfall at the hands of the Russians and Japanese before.  And like those times rumors or our demise are premature.
14.   Don’t talk about Social Security and Medicare.  Let Paul Ryan and the GOP fire the first salvo there and you just counterpunch.

It’s a snap. 

Diggavision the Critic

H. Jon Benjamin is the funniest guy on TV you’ve never heard of.  Who is HJB?  He is the voice of both Sterling Archer from FX’s Archer and Bob Belcher from Fox’s Bob’s Burgers.  Now you’re saying what shows is he talking about?
Speaking of FX, I believe I am attracted to their shows because the protagonists are flawed and morally ambiguous.  What’s that say about me?  Whether it is drunk fireman Tommy Gavin from Rescue Me, crooked cop Vic Mackey from The Shield, gypsy turned identify thief Wayne Malloy from The Riches, unscrupulous attorney Patty Hewes from Damages, gun running dope dealing biker Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy, misogynistic  narcissistic plastic surgeon Christian Troy from Nip/Tuck, the anachronistic angry lawman Raylon Givens from Justified, and most recently punch drunk ex-champ turned thug Patrick Leary from Lights Out these characters have depth and complexity not seen on TV since Tony Soprano.
Compare the above to USA Network’s Burn Notice, White Collar, In Plain Sight, Royal Pains, Covert Affairs, and Fairly Legal all feature traditional good guys/gals with nice smiles and hearts of 18 carat gold.  Now guess how many USA Network shows I watch?
Thumbs down to NBC and David E. Kelley for wasting Kathy Bates in the awful Harry’s Law.  Co-stars that make the USA network stars look interesting, dialog from 1980’s LA Law episodes, and overacting that would shame John Lithgow from his 3rd Rock from the Sun days.
Big thumbs up to Episodes and Shameless on Showtime, the former actually makes Matt LeBlanc interesting and the latter has created an entire cast with depth albeit with hard to believe storylines.  On the downside it is time to retire Californication, the Hank Moody chronicles have become tired.
Suggestion to local station’s news broadcasts: ditch the weather person.  I don’t need someone to read off the monitor that is 73 in Phoenix, 72 in Scottsdale, 72 in Tempe, 71 in Fountain Hills, 70 in Carefree, 68 in Wickenburg, 73 in Avondale, 72 in Glendale….when it is on the screen I am watching.  I also don’t need your graphics department to tell me via a big sun and thermometer that 110F is HOT.
Finally, weekend political talk show roundup: ABC continues to tinker with This Week with Christiane Amanpour as the show continues to underperform.   Next tinker should be to replace George “So dreary perhaps it’s time to the read the” Will.  David Gregory will never replace Tim Russert on Meet The Press, but recently he has apparently grown a pair.  Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer is typically like an episode of Murder She Wrote or Diagnosis Murder.  As much as I try to watch Fox News Sunday, I can’t seem to do it.  Looking at Charles Krauthammer’s mug gives me night terrors.   This leaves The Chris Matthews Show and its fast paced often witty banter amongst his four guests often including Norah O’Donnell.  Didn’t see that coming did you?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Strong Regulations Need Strong Regulators

Which brings me to the Republican Party’s perpetual prose about ‘job killing’ regulation. 
So we don’t need financial reform?  Yes it may stunt some financial sector profits, but last time I checked the banks of Canada and Israel, to name a few, are profitable sans bailout; but have we already forgotten the 8.5 million jobs lost just a few years ago in the most recent recession?  I know most Americans have long forgotten about the two S&L disasters decades ago and the fall of Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) in the 1990’s.  But when financial company corporate boards need tutorials on Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO), a $38million subprime mortgage bond ends up in over 30 debt pools and leads to $280million in losses, when banks are placing its depositors savings at risk as a result of uneducated bets, when financial institutions could pick what agency would regulate their businesses, when banks can create off-balance sheet Structured Investment Vehicles (SIV) to hide risky debt, when investment banks under guidance from fund managers can pick and choose CDO’s and Asset Backed Securities (ABS) so that the fund manager can make a windfall shorting the CDO, when ratings agencies simply rubber stamp securities and bonds without knowing what is really in the vehicle, when….you get the point.
As for our oil and gas industries, one need not look any further than the recent Deepwater Horizon disaster.  The presidential commission investigating the oil spill called on Congress, the Obama administration, and the oil and gas industries to make sweeping changes.  These changes were based on policies and practices in other industries and other oil and gas producing countries.  The panel's recommendations were driven from conclusions including "systemic failure'' and a "culture of complacency'' among the oil industry and government regulators.  The panel included stinging criticisms of the actions and reactions of BP, Transocean and Halliburton, the three primary participants working on the rig.  ‘Systemic failure’ that means the problems are in the DNA of the industry especially when considering these three players are involved in all aspects of the industry.  Just as heinous is the complete absence of regulation and oversight in the natural gas exploration industry where firms like Chesapeake Gas, Exxon, and Halliburton (them again) are free to destroy the environment and physically harm our citizens.  How?  A provision of a law proposed by the Bush administration and passed by Congress in 2005 , aka the Halliburton loophole, stripped the EPA of its ability to regulate "fracking”, the process of blasting under high pressure  millions of gallons of water, sand deep underground  forcing cracks in the shale and freeing natural gas for collection.  Without the EPA to get in their way, the gas industry is left only to be supervised by the cash-strapped, undermanned state agencies.
The solutions to these problems call for stricter regulations and regulators with less cozy relationships with the same industries they are supposed to oversee.  Dedicated regulators like Brooksley Born, Sheila Bair, Prentiss Cox, and Michael Greenberger need to be listened to and supported, not vilified when they uncover improprieties and inconsistencies.

Classic Rummy

Reading up a lot on risk management and the lack thereof on Wall Street and I had to go back and review one of my favorite quotes on the unforeseen risks our armed forces encountered when invading Iraq.  This classic comes from at-that-time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld doing his best Green Eggs and Ham improvisation: “As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not now. But there are also unknown unknowns.  The ones we don't know we don't know.”  Dr. Seuss would be proud.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spiderman the Muscial Opens in Wasilla

David Chaytor, the former Labor MP, faces up to seven years in jail after pleading guilty to three charges of fraud over his expenses as part of the 2009 UK Parliametary expenses scandal.  Meanwhile in the US, former Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Charlie Rangel (D-NY) was found guilty on 11 of 13 House ethics charges.   His punishment: he got a public reprimand.  Gee, and Congress wonders why the American people hold it in such a low esteem. 
How are Sarah Palin and Spiderman the Musical alike?  Both started with great potential, both showed a CBS interview could portend bad things, their every missteps and disasters are front page news, and both have joined NASCAR, cagefighting, and shark week in the pantheon of things people watch hoping for something bad to happen.
Memo to Mark Harris of Entertainment Weekly: STFU.  Your criticism of Ricky Gervais’ performance as Golden Globes host only proved further that Hollywood feels it is above biting jokes.  While he criticizes Gervais for going after easy targets like Charlie Sheen and Tom Cruise, he then criticizes him for going after the untouchable Hollywood Foreign Press, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, etc.  Really, THFP?  The same organization that is embroiled in a lawsuit about bribes for nominations?  Yep STFU.
Edgar Bronfman Jr., grandson of bootlegger turned distillery magnate Sam Bronfman, and chairman of Warner Music Group, was convicted of insider trading in a Paris trial court.  All that family wealth and this dipshit needed to get involved in insider trading.
We have entered music bizarro world in Diggaland.  Mrs. Digg has expressed how much she likes Mumford & Sons, Two Door Cinema Club, and the Black Keys while I downloaded Rihanna, Timbaland, and Cascada.  Yep, up is down, black is white, and Republicans like the poor.
Not too broken up about the end of Olbermann’s Countdown on MSNBC, the shark had been jumped long ago when he went on his anti-Scott Brown tirade last year.  My real disappointment is once again Norah O’Donnell does not get her own show.  A true crime.
My iPhone is awesome, now only if AT&T could realize that Cell Phone Service Provider means you actually provide cell service.  AT&T = Awful Terrible & Tragic.  Verizon on the Horizon
How quaint that some Democrats and Republicans have agreed to part with tradition and sit together during the President’s State of the Union Address Tuesday.  In one year we have gone from ‘You Lie’ to the equivalence of boy/girl/ boy/girl seating at a Junior High Dance.

Somebody get me Alex Trebek

Who Am I two point ohhhh?
·        I wanted a world without nuclear weapons and called out the world’s other superpower to do the same.
·        I increased spending by 60% compared to my two predecessors.
·        I more than doubled Federal entitlements programs, farm subsidies, and the budgets of the departments of energy and education, and foreign aid.
·        My spending increased Gross federal debt threefold
·        I approved the nation’s biggest tax decrease in history only to follow up with tax increases that basically offset the previous cuts
·        I increased the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards promoting the production of smaller fuel efficient cars.
·        I created new federal agencies
·        I was criticized and nearly subpoenaed by Congress for my handling of a dicey situation involving Iran
·        I cut and run out of Lebanon after we got our nose bloodied.
·        I did not get behind deregulations in the environment, safety and drug industries.
·        I appointed pro gay rights justices to the Supreme Court

Who am I?
a)      President Carter
b)      President Johnson
c)      President G HW Bush (dad)
d)      President Reagan
e)      President Clinton

The answer is (d), President Reagan; The staunch archconservative and bastion of the free market, the man most often mentioned during Republican debates as the hero of conservatism, the man who would be labeled a RINO, Republican In Name Only, by today’s ultra right wing controlled GOP.
As newspaper man Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young) says in the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”