Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Obama Blunder Coming Up

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Obama 1080iAccording to our calculations, Barak Obama is due to suffer a campaign-crippling mishap sometime in the next two weeks. It could be a spectacular misstatement or a subtle slur let slip almost unnoticed in tonight’s debate, a financial scandal emerging from the primordial Illinois ooze, or a snippet of video from a lost grad school weekend. However, its appearance is inevitable.

The question now is not whether to pull the plug on the Obama Golem, but rather when and how. The who should be obvious by now; Barak Obama is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Clinton Conglomerate, albeit through a convoluted series of cutouts and front companies, created and activated for just such a contingency as we have at hand.

The Clintons saw years ago (4? 8? 16? 32?) that eventually the race for the nomination would come down to Hillary vs. Some Guy. They have been pushing the pieces for a while now to make sure that that guy would be their guy, although obviously not obviously. WWF fans may be able to convieniently overlook the fact that The Undertaker and Hornswoggle both work for Vince McMahon, but the Professional Politics Federation demands a bit more discretion.

The question that has the brain trust losing sleep is how to finesse the endgame, so that it’s not so obvious when Obama takes his dive, and that Hillary comes out as the heroine of the show, which of course ends with Bill and Hillary and their whole crew living happily ever after in the White House.

There are basically two ways this thing could go. If Barak is a good boy and behaves himself, we will we a snafu which is unfortunate but not career ending, and leads to a gallant demurral on the part of the young challenger, culminating in an exquisite made-for-TV moment in which he kneels before his sovereign and pledges his sword to her service. We are certain he will be rewarded with a cushy Dukedom, say, Urban Development, Interior or even State, as well as a starring role in a future PPF production.

The other path, should Barak prove so intoxicated by the heady champaign of public adulation that he somehow forgets dark pacts forged in the winter of his fortunes, is not as pretty. The Clintons would not have let the Obama juggernaut build up such a head of steam unless Hillary had her twitchy finger on the cut-out button, and her other hand on the abort and destroy plunger.

What the Clintons’ had underestimated, we suspect, is the desperate intensity of the ABC movement in this country, and its ability to quickly mobilize behind even as unlikely a candidate as Barak Obama. Millions of Americans, it seems, have a viscereal repugnance to all things Hillary, and are willing to spend heavily in time, money and political capital to bring her down. ABC – Anybody But Clinton.

But the Dowbrigade has bottomless faith in the ability of the Clintons to dig down to whatever depths necessary to fix the system and undermine the opposition. Which is why our money is on Hill.

Time, however, is running out. The possibility exists, should the groundswell of Hillary-hating continue congealing around Barak, that he will actually accumulate enough pledged delegates before the convention to win the thing on the first ballot, before the professional pols can even recess to the back rooms, hotel bars and smoke-filled private suites. Hillary has to derail that train before it gets to the bridge, and the bridge is coming up around the next bend.

Which is why we expect a major break in this story in the next two weeks. After Obama reaches the magic number, things would get much messier, although not impossible. A health crisis, for example, could intervene. Put nothing past these folks.

We are convinced our whole Hillary-Owns-Obama theory will stand or fall on what happens in the next few weeks. When the Fall of the Knight Errant arrives, remember that you read it here first.

The Party’s Over

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The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies
Barak Obama is not a black version of John Kennedy. He is a pathetic but apparently successful attempt to repackage tired political hackery as this season’s hot new reality show. And yet, he is not what is wrong with American Politics.

Hillary Clinton is a nakedly ambitious, calculatingly manipulative career politician who wants to create a dynasty by keeping the presidency in the hands of two families for nearly 30 years. And yet, she is not what is wrong with American Politics.

John McCain is an authentic war hero who now wants to lead an American permanently at war with all who resist the American Way, for thousands of years if necessary, making the Hundred Year War flash by in comparison. And yet, he is not what is wrong with American Politics.

George Bush has been easily the most disastrous president in modern American History, squandering decades of goodwill and consensus building within and without our nation, shattering the emerging unity of progressive democracies and savaging the American economy for the enrichment of the narrow sliver of socio-economic stratum from which he hails. And yet, not even he is what is wrong with American Politics.

What is wrong with American politics is our outdated, terminally corrupt and putrefying political parties, which have grown like cancers within the body politic, choking the life from its once robust physique.

The enduring genius of our system of government is that it was established, and continues to operate, on a set of timeless principles embodied in the oldest functioning Constitution on the face of the planet. This document has withstood the test of time because it does not try to solve the issues of the day, or reflect current thinking on the inevitable conflicts of interest groups which occur within any authentic democracy.

Rather, it was intended to be an enduring paradigm for the peaceful interplay of interest groups which is at the heart of modern democracy. As times changed, the issues of the day and the interest groups involved in them would change, but the system, with its checks and balances, would endure.

When a group of individuals with common interests in one or a group of issues of the day, they band together in an orginazation to promote those interests. These groups are called political parties.

Unlike the underlying structure of the US government, they were never meant to be permanent. Quite the contrary – by their very nature they were meant to be transitory. They were meant to be spontaneous and ad hoc, and as interests, demography and development changed, new parties would be born and old ones would wither away.

And thus it was during the early years of the Republic. Some of the most memorable parties in our nation’s past lasted only a few election cycles. The famosisimo Federalist Party, which was formed by Alexander Hamilton and controled the government until 1801, only really lasted 24 years (1792-1816).

At around the same time, the Democratic-Republican Party, also called the Republican Party, but not to be confused with the modern-day GOP, founded by Thomas Jefferson, outlived the Federalists by a few years (1792-1824) before it lost power, split, transformed, and changed its name.

Other notable names had even shorter existences. The Whig Party withered away after 22 years (1833-1856) and both the Know-Nothing (American) Party (1912-1916) and the Bull Moose (Progressive) Party (1912-1914) made it through a single election. The Liberal Republican Party (1872) and the Constitutional Union Party (1860) lasted less than a year.

Today newly formed parties don’t seem to stand a chance. They are short lived, puny and powerless compared to the major parties. Remember the Citizen’s Party (1979-1984), the Vegetarian Party (1948-1964) or the American Worker’s Party (1933-34)? Neither do we.

We do, however, remember the Natural Law Party (1992-2004), which we actually voted for in three presidential elections because their candidate, Dr. John Hagelin, a physics professor at Maharishi University and MIT, promised to deliver world peace through Transcendental Meditation and Yogic Flying, which we have always wanted to try.

This is what political parties should be all about. The excitement of forming something new, of sweeping away the old, of constant renewal through throwing out the soiled and patched-up plans of the previous generation, and starting from scratch with a fresh piece of paper on the political drawing board.

But for over 150 years the American political panorama has been dominated by just two behemoths, the Republicans (b. 1854) and the Democrats (b. 1820’s). They are now ancient, by historical standards, and have become much more of an impediment to than an implementation of a modern functioning Democracy.

Old parties are dominated by old men, and the adage that power corrupts holds just as true for political parties and their leaders as it does for kings.

The major American political parties have become institutionalized to the point that they are incapable of acting as agents for real change in the political system, which clearly is failing us in this, our hour of need. The insidious and incestuous coupling of political parties with centers of economic power has reached the point, after 150 years, where they cannot be separated.

Feeble efforts at campaign reform, like the McCain-Feingold Act, are doomed to failure because the clannish cadres at the cupolas of capitalism and the political parties have merged; they share the same values and interests, and they act in almost unconscious concert.

The fact that the two major party candidates in the last presidential election belonged to the same Yale University secret society 40 years ago, as did the heads of dozens of major American corporations, is NOT serendipity.

Because the cancer of Special Interests has spread too widely and penetrated too deeply into the major parties to be excised, these parties need to die. At present, they are staying alive thanks to transfusions of young, relatively uncorrupted blood. But they are capable of giving nothing in return, and will eventually and inevitably infect the donors, who will develop an antipathy or active antagonism to the political process as a result.

Barack Obama, we repeat, is NOT The One. He is a clever repackaging of the same tired old Democratic Party pseudo-populism, a political philosophy which should have died with the industrial revolution. Because he is young and good-looking, because, unlike most other candidates since JFK he can give a humdinger of a speech, and most of all because Democratic voters are so desperate for real live human alternative to the animatronic robots they keep foisting on us, he seems to be the front runner. Besides being a fraud and a cruel mirage, Barak Obama is a Republican wet dream.

But it really doesn’t matter who wins this election. We are more convinced than ever that The One will not emerge from either the Democratic or Republican parties. Whoever wins this election will be faced with intractable problems, and saddled with so many promises and debts that he or she will be unable to effect change on the level needed to right the course of the ship of state.

The American public, groping its way by instinct, is aware that the major parties are bankrupt. The 22% approval rating for Congress is a much better measure of the public esteem for the parties than the interest in the presidential race, which is powered by the vain hope that the victor will actually be able to change anything.

Unfortunately, things will have to deteriorate way past where they are now before a majority of Americans get desperate enough to abandon the doomed relics of parties past and start thinking about how to design a functional, transparent, participatory political party in the internet age.

Despite our curmudgeonly and cynical attitude, the Dowbrigade is a dreamer at heart, and a believer in the dream of democracy. To us, the Democratic and Republican parties are the most significant impediments to a rebirth of Democracy in this country. We truly believe that a better model is waiting to emerge, and that The One is waiting to lead it.

We just wish that he or she would hurry up.

The Old Man and the “C”

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So this is what American democracy has come down to. A national charade, made for TV, scripted years in advance, to entertain the public across the country and around the world with a professionally produced perversion of the democratic process posing as the gold standard of modern democracy.

In the “Democratic” ring of the circus, the heiress apparent shadow boxes with a sparring partner woven from whole cloth, a sham so transparent that only years of constant exposure to the alternate reality of the immersive medium of modern TV can explain the enthusiasm with which the electorate has suspended its disbelief.

As Bill so accurately foresaw years ago, it has come down to Hill and one guy. Luckily for the Clinton operation, it’s their guy. The rampant, desperate late success of the Obama campaign testifies to the visceral revulsion Hillary inspires in a sizable slice of the human race, a disadvantage she has been plotting to overcome since her undergraduate days.

The current farce in which our heroic heroine is challenged by a handsome but misdirected young knight in shining armor is being passed off as historic drama, and, in the absence of new episodes of “Heroes” the drama-starved public is eating it up. Now we know what all those talented Hollywood writers have been up to during their long, lonely strike.

Although rumbles of a tsunami of Obama’s monumental momentum are gathering in California, we remain confident that Hilliary holds a hidden trump card. She and the ex-Prez wouldn’t have created this political monster if they didn’t have a silver bullet to put it down in the penultimate act. Or at least get it to heel. Watch, the handsome knight will lay down his sword and kneel before the shining Princess, soon to be Queen, and pledge his allegiance. Great theater, coming soon to a screen near you.

Hillary is the ultimate in venal, ambitious, unscrupulous, Machievellian, power-mad politicos, and that is why the Dowbrigade is supporting her in this ill-fated race. The last two girly-men the Demos put up got their lunch money stolen on the way to school, and the country has been paying dearly ever since.

Maybe its time for a manly-girl who knows how to fight dirty and get even.

In the “Republican” ring of the circus it’s come down to a cantankerous war hero and a Mormon werewolf with perfect hair. Milquetoast Milt carries a lot of baggage onto the stage; the polygamous past, the Big Dig, the sit-com family. He seems blithely unawares that he’s about to be fragged by the McCain military machine.

It seems obvious that McCain has been scripted as the victor in this part of the play. After all, the man is a killer who spent five years in a bamboo cage. He’d be favored in a fair fight against Chuck Norris, and since Norris is supporting McCain, you’d be a fool to bet against them.

It’s going to come down to The Old Man and the “C”. In a fair fight, our money in on The Old Man against anybody. Which is why we voted for a Clinton this morning, for the first time ever. BTW, the headline is copyright db.

Barack’s Stardom a Clinton Production

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Somewhere in a well-appointed private suite in a major American downtown hotel, in late 2003, Bill and Hillary Clinton sat over a Pu Pu Platter and plotted out the drama which is currently unfolding on the great American political stage.

A television buzzed in the background, unwatched. “Hill,” the former President polished off a Spring Roll and paused to lick the duck sauce off his fingers, “I think we’ve figured out how to out spend or out maneuver all of the viable alternatives for the nomination. What worries me is the final phase, what with the primaries and all. Now, we both know, and don’t get me wrong darlin’ but you rub a certain percentage of the electorate the wrong way. Opposition is gonna coalesce. In the end it’s goin’ to come down to you and some guy. One guy.”

“So?” Hillary had on her tough and determined look, which intimidated everyone except Bill, “I’ve been shutting down guys since I locked Hugh and Tony in the closet playing hide and go seek.”

“I know Hun, and in a fair fight my money’s on you, But on top of all the people you rub the wrong way, a lot of Americans worry about going to war with a woman commander in chief. All it would take is one bellicose incident right before the convention, and you versus that guy wouldn’t be a fair fight anymore.”

“So that’s it?!” Hillary was as incredulous as she had been the first time she had let Bill score, “We’re going to give up on my half of the plan we swore ourselves to 30 years ago because a skirmish in some Godforsaken backwater is going to push America into the arms of some GUY?”

“Well, Hill,” Bill was simultaneously wiping up General Gao and scouting out the fortune cookies, “I been thinking about that, and I figure the only way we can weather that final stretch is to make sure that last guy is OUR guy. We get the right individual into that final mano a mano leading up to the convention, and you’re a lock. In the general election the Republicans’ll be luck to get out of town free of tar and feathers.”

“Well, what kind of guy do you think we could get? He’s got to be a credible candidate, but on a short leash. What kind of sucker did you have in mind.” Hillary was leaning forward, her breath coming quicker.

“Well, I been thinking about that.” Bill leaned back and fished a toothpick from an inside pocket. “What would you think about some good-looking guy about a 10 years younger than you, wet bejind the ears, with no experience in national politics or foreign relations. Maybe an African American or a dark-skinned Asian. It’d be great to use a foreigner, but then he couldn’t be President, so maybe someone who grew up outside the US.”

Hillary stopped goggling and started giggling. “Be serious!”

“I am serious. I think we could pull it off. Maybe someone with an Arabic-sounding name, and some Islamic family members. And it would be nice if he had some secret flaw only we knew about that we could use as a fail-safe in case our golem threatens to get out of control. Think you could beat up on a guy like that?”

“Of course, silly. But where are you ever going to find someone that perfect, and more to the point, how are we ever going to convince the electorate to take him seriously.”

Bill unbuttoned his vest and put his feet up on the table, earning a scowl from Hillary. “Oh, you never know….”

For over a year the Dowbrigade has been convinced that Barack Obama is a creature and a creation of the Clintons, manufactured from whole cloth to be a straw candidate, a tar baby for contributions and support, a black hole drawing in energy and attention and eclipsing the other real alternatives to Hillary’s inevitability.

Bill Clinton, for all of his flaws and foibles, needs to be recognized as the preeminent political genius of his generation. Hillary may be smarter, in raw mental horsepower, but Bill has the kind of survival instincts and perfect political pitch that can change history. Bill and Hillary forged some kind of Satanic Pact back even before they got married, which is only now playing out on the trail to the Oval Office.

Around the time of our fictional conversation between Bill and Hillary, Barack’s life suddenly became charmed. He was plucked from obscurity in the Illinois State Senate and invited to address the Democratic National Convention and a national, prime time audience. Out of nowhere, the State party super structure selected him to run for US Senate. Like a bolt from the blue his multi-millionaire primary opponent was rocked by a series of scandals. Then, in the general election, his Republican rival, state attorney general Jack Ryan, was swift-boated by charges of sexual cruelty leveled by his photogenic actress ex-wife.

Suddenly, Barack Obama was in the Senate, and instantly a viable Presidential candidate. Do they really expect us to believe this stuff? If the striking writers came up with a plot line like that, they’d never get their jobs back. And yet everybody in the country except the Dowbrigade seemed to eat it right up!

Get real, people! This is all political theater. Barack belongs to the Clintons, he may have already agreed to accept a cabinet position; he’s young, his time will come. In the meantime, he’s playing his role perfectly. He prevented anyone else from gaining traction, his movie star mug attracted all the attention, press coverage and volunteer energy, not to mention money. When it’s time for him to exit, stage left, we are sure he’ll stage a memorable, tear-stained final scene.

The only real danger in the whole scheme is that all this fake success will go to the boy’s head, that he’ll start to think he’s really doing it on his own, and seek to slip the leash. However, we have enough respect for Bill’s foresight and perspicacity to know he kept a hole card for just such an eventuality, a self-destruct button he can press if his sacrificial stalking horse gets out of control.

So enjoy the show, folks, but don’t get carried away. Barack Obama is a figment of our collect imagination and deep seated need for an alternative we aren’t going to get. He is a spunky sparring partner for our girl Hill, making her sweat and look good, foisting some fake suspense onto a foregone, scripted scenario. He is a Republican wet dream. If the Clintons can pull off this masterpiece of political prestidigitation, they deserve a return trip to the White House.

Market Hits High – What Are They Smoking?

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The Dow Jones industrial average opened the fourth quarter by soaring more than 200 points at one point, putting the index well above its previous high set in July. At the close, the Dow was up 191.92 points, or 1.4 percent, at 14,087.55. The Standard and Poor’s 500-stock index rose 1.3 percent to 1,547.04, trading just beneath record levels, and the Nasdaq rose 1.5 percent, to 2,740.99.

from the New York Times

They were the best of times, they were the worst of times. The fact that the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the single most watched measure of the US economy, has hit an all time high at this particular moment defies all of our obviously imperfect understanding of hte underlying economic imperatives in operation.

As we constantly tell our business students, especially those questioning their choice of concentration, an understanding of the principles of business and economics is essential today for every thinking adult, regardless of their vocation or profession. For that reason our focus in grad school at the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas, many long years ago, was International Economics.

We must have been sleeping in class the day they explained how huge deficits, a credit crisis and the collapse of the almighty dollar are good for America’s businesses. Everything we thought we understood about living beyond one’s means, the balance of trade, the strength of the dollar, the flood of foreclosures, the dangerous exposure of US banks and financial institutions, the decline in real wages, the wanton accumulation of consumer debt as a motor for consumption, the effects of quadrupling the price of a barrel of oil and the transformation of consumer confidence into consumer cynicism is daily being proven a Casandrean fantasy or evidence of brain damage.

The New York Times article quoted above goes on to say, in the very next paragraph, “The advances came as Citigroup and UBS, two of the world’s largest banks, predicted steep declines in third-quarter earnings and announced billions of dollars in losses and write-downs related to subprime mortgage-backed securities and loans.”

Not to worry. It now costs EIGHT dollars to get on the subway in London. No problem, stay at home. From our RSS stream: “More Banks may join red-flag parade” Hey, my deposits are guaranteed by FDIC; “Toll mounts as more LBOs crater” Who needs leverage?; “Beware Big Oil stocks” They’re only making more than anyone else in the history of money; “Bye bye easy money” There’s always Tony Soprano. And the market loves it.

To a simpleton like the Dowbrigade, its enough to make our head spin. Our logic AND our gut tell us this can’t go on for long. It violates too many basic laws of economics and common sense. Of course, there is no denying the sheer size and dynamism of the American Economy. Its huge motors of production and consumption, and the incredibly complex capital prestidigitation needed to grease its gears, may keep gobbling up resources and excreting consumer goods for years on sheer momentum and inertia. It is the greatest, most complex system ever created by man, and it continues to set new records and reach new highs even as some of the basic assumptions which form its superstructure come into question.

It appears to us that the current continuing expansion of the domestic US economy and the stratospheric levels of US stocks are founded on five factors:

  • The enduring paradigm of capitalism in which rich, powerful nations dominate the global exchange system, extracting raw materials and, increasingly, manual labor, from the poor countries and producing financial derivatives. As the richest and most powerful player at the table, the US is shooting craps with loaded dice.
  • Authentic, technology-driven increases in productivity. Innovation and creativity in pursuit of profit produces results. This is the only honest and real improvement among the five.
  • The increasing laborial treadmill on which the American worker is being drawn and quartered. Two, even three jobs per couple is becoming the norm. More workers are working more hours, with less vacation and less benefits, just to keep up with modern lifestyle demands. This is true throughout the econony, from the boardrooms of successful executives to the Yemeni immigrant down at the Quiki-Mart.
  • As mentioned above, financial prestidigitation. The global economy is so gigantic and complex that it is rife with opportunities for local manipulations to create “investment opportunities” so arcane and opaque (see: derivatives) as to be impenetrable to common civilians. To most of us, these “opportunities” are as understandable and accessible as a David Blaine escape act or Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s Gyro Ball. Perhaps because of our primitive belief that anything beyond our comprehension must be magic, and therefore evil, the entire financial sector smells of smoke and mirrors, and sulpher smoke at that.
  • Finally, and most significantly, America’s economic miracle is built and based on debt. National debt. Corporate debt. Consumer debt. Mortgage debt. Credit card debt. Leveraged debt. Personal debt. Public debt. Bonds, promissory notes, derivatives. Most of the people in the country owe money to the government, and the government owes money to most of the rest of the world. As well as bad business, this is a vast moral morass, which will be treated in a separate posting as soon as we get sufficiently outraged.

In the meantime, our advice is as follows: enjoy the good economic times and borrow as much money as possible. After all, the dollars you need to pay them back may be worth only half as much as the ones they give you, by the time the loan comes due.

Deval Wimps Out on Gaming

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TonyGovernor Deval Patrick expressed reservations yesterday about licensing a casino in any Massachusetts city, clouding the prospects for hotly debated proposals to build resort-style gambling complexes in Boston and New Bedford.


“I have some misgivings about a casino in any city, because I think the whole point is to create a resort destination,” Patrick said during an hourlong appearance on WBUR-FM, a local public radio affiliate. “And I don’t think there is a city in Massachusetts that has enough space for that kind of facility, with the entertainment and the meeting venues and maybe a golf course, the restaurants, a hotel – the whole resort complex.”

The statement appeared to be a shift for the governor, who opened the door to an urban casino when he announced last week that he wanted to license casinos in Southeastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and metropolitan Boston.

from the Boston Globe

Suddenly our bold, free-thinking Guv is having second thoughts about letting Atlantic City into the East Boston waterfront. Could it be a case of NIMBY? Too close for comfort? Keeping the rhuemy rummies, hacks, touts and two-bit pony players camped out on the fringes of the city has worked for decades, but modern gambling is a far cry from the daily double and a coffee-stained Racing Form, and won’t be so easy to overlook.

Wake up, Guv, it’s the wave of the future. Quit the wimpy whining and grab the bull by the horns! Multiple casinos in Southeastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and metropolitan Boston is a good start, but let’s not forget the Cape, the Blue Hills and the New York State border!

We can see long rows of slot machines at Logan, welcoming vacationers and entertaining business travelers caught waiting for overbooked flights or lost luggage. Whole families could enjoy the facilities if you would just sponsor a very reasonable law allowing children into the casinos, as long as they didn’t actually bet, and were accompanied by their families.

Then we could allow a limited number of slot machines, 4 or 5 say, into convenience stores and gas station Quiki-Marts, so that people who feel that gaming itch at odd hours or on the road can get relief right away. After all, lottery tickets are already on sale at all those spots! Why should they have a monopoly?

Hotels and bars would also be natural spots for a few slot machines, or maybe a roulette wheel or two. Keno and March Madness have already proven the inevitability of betting in bars and in hotels, and especially in hotel bars. Lonely traveling salesmen, rich foreign tourists and honest working folk would all be lining up to try their luck.

Actually, we feel that the present plan, to build a few mega-resort casinos with indoor waterfalls and golf courses is a bit discriminatory, to say the least. Not everybody is a Donald Trump or an O.J. Simpson who can just saunter into one of those places and do as they please. Some of us like our vices with a bit less luxury and closer to home.

Why not allow storefront mini-casinos in lots of the nooks and crannies of our bustling metropolis? Especially in economically distressed areas, where empty storefronts are endemic, a few thriving new businesses like mini-casinos could invigorate the economy, revitalize the street life, and encourage ancillary businesses like pawn shops and massage parlors.

Why, with the bursting of the real estate bubble, there must be hundreds of prefect properties, warehouses down on the waterfront, empty stores in suburban malls, bankrupt boutiques in the trendier sections.

Bowling alleys, retirement communities and fitness centers are other possible sites for gaming centers. Some spots might not merit a permanent presence, and so mobile mini-casinos, housed in two or three brightly painted semi-trucks, capable of being unloaded and set up as a complete gaming complex in an hour could be moved from place to place. This would allow the state to set up shop in Lowell on Cinco de Mayo, for example, or outside housing projects the days the benefit checks arrive.

It’s this kind of bold thinking that we need if we want to hit the jackpot with this whole gambling thing. The opportunities are so immense an immediate that even we are unable to imagine all the marvelous things that will come to pass once the door has been opened to gambling. In fact, we’d be willing to bet on it.

Why We’re Not Worried

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mikeRecently, the news has been full of the intestinal ruminations of US Secretary of Homeland Security, who abruptly announced last week that he had a “gut feeling” that the US was about to be attacked by foreign terrorists.

The major media outlets and the blogosphere alike immediately ramped up an uproar, insinuating darkly that if anyone knows when its time to be very afraid it’s Michael Chertoff.

Well, let us go on the record as saying that the Dowbrigade isn’t worried. And we can say that with some degree of confidence, as we have , if memory serves, some experience with Michael Chertoff’s “gut feelings”.

For, you see, if we remember correctly, the Dowbrigade and Secretary Chertoff were at Harvard together (class of ’75), although in different departments and circles of friends. Chertoff, we seem to recall, majored in history and political science, while the Dowbrigade was engrossed in psychophysiology and shamanism.

If we remember correctly, Michael Chertoff was that skinny kid with the cadaverous skull who wore ratty sleeveless sweaters and argyle socks, and who we called “Jerk-off” behind his back.

We seem to recall an incident at a regular Friday wine and cheese reception at the Lowell House Master’s residence one November evening before the Harvard-Yale game our junior year (1973), when, after perhaps one too many glasses of Beaujolais, Michael, after removing his penny loafers to reveal subtly stained argyles, stood on one of the House Master’s living room chairs and announced that he had a gut feeling that Harvard would attack and overcome Yale’s formidable defenses the following day.

1973 Harvard-Yale final score from the Yale Bowl : Yale 35-Harvard 0.

At that point, if memory serves, Chertoff’s predictions were already well-known due to a oral report he delivered on October 4 of that same year to a Pollysci seminar called “Deciphering the Middle East”, in which he announced that he had “a gut feeling that there would be no further fighting in the area for at least a decade” while the Arab world waited to coalesce around a new generation of leaders.

Two days later Syria and Egypt simultaneously invaded Israel, setting off the desperate, bloody Yom Kippur War.

And to top it all off, if our memory holds, the following summer Michael was stuck in Cambridge for the summer, doing unpaid research for some professor’s book on Democracy. Late one night, legend has it, at Chiang Kai-shek’s Chicken Shack in Boston’s Chinatown, on the night of August 7, following a somber meeting of the Young Republicans Club, the future Terror Tsar made a heart-felt attempt to animate the crowd by proclaiming his “gut feeling that the President was going to come through his crisis and show up the Senate Democrats for the heel-snapping hyenas they were.”

The next day, of course. Richard Nixon announced his resignation, and Michael Chertoff was admitted to Stillman Infirmary with an acute case of food poisoning. If memory serves.

Of course, our memory is pretty hazy these days, especially of those days, which were pretty hazy themselves, come to think of it. But even if we have some of the details mixed up, we aren’t canceling any plans due to the Secretary’s sensitive gut.

His track record simply doesn’t merit it.

He Just Doesn’t Get It!

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U.S. President George W. Bush holds the hand of four year-old Baron Mosima Loyiso Tantoh after presenting the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington May 30, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)

Ah, the blindness of privilege. Even when he tries to show the compassionate side of his Compasionist Fascist persona, he pick a member of Africa’s colonial-relic royalty – and a Baron no less, to show off his “common” touch!

Meanwhile, as our President hobnobs with Princes and Barons and Queens, us authentically common folk have to figure out what to do about gas, both kinds.

Pope Ratso Called Out on Indian Genocide

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huchavezCARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez demanded Pope Benedict apologize to Indians in Latin America for saying this month in Brazil that the Roman Catholic Church purified them.

Chavez, who regularly clashes with the Catholic Church in Venezuela but had not directly criticized the Pope before, accused the Pontiff on Friday of ignoring the “holocaust” that followed Christopher Columbus’s 1492 landing in the Americas.

“With all due respect your Holiness, apologize because there was a real genocide here and, if we were to deny it, we would be denying our very selves,” Chavez said at an event on freedom of expression.

In a speech to Latin American and Caribbean bishops at the end of a visit to Venezuela’s neighbor Brazil, the Pope said the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Indian leaders in the region were outraged by the comments.

Millions of tribal Indians are believed to have died as a result of European colonization backed by the Church, through slaughter, disease or enslavement.

from Reuters

The majority of our Venezuelan students would hate us for saying so, but you gotta hand it to that Hugo Chavez. Besides, we teach at one of the most expensive and exclusive universities in the world, so do the math. While it is undeniable that Chavez is an eccentric egotist and that he has seriously infringed on the percs and privaledges of the traditional ruling class in the Latin petro-Democracy, it is certainly refreshing to have someone on the world scene who isn’t beyond noting that the Emperor has no clothes.

Gone are the days that Nikita Khrushchev, Idi Amin, Yasir Arafat and Haile Selassie regularly railed at the mega-powers that control our world. Shot down like Jaime Roldos, shot up like Salvador Allende, overthrown like Jean-Bertrand Aristide emasculated like Qadaffi, their voices have been silenced one by one. Some of them were truly bad men, some not so bad, but they had a style and charisma that are rare today, and none of them were afraid to stand up and call out the most powerful men on the planet, including the President of the United States, and the Pope.

The European genocide of native Americans, in large part sponsored, paid for and carried out by the Catholic Church remains the Original Sin of the Founding Fathers of all of the American states and everything that came after. Because honestly facing it will require a comprehensive reevaluation of our most sacred myths and legends, we are all in a sort of Disney denial of where our origin truly lies and exactly whose blood and how much of it nurtured the roots of our democracies.

But this process must begin, and must include not only reexamination and redress but also reintegration. Only by honoring and tapping the accumulated wisdom of the original continental caretakers can we avoid the ultimately distructive and death-centered religions, philosophies and -isms of Europe and the Middle East.

They say that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. We know all too well, we carry in our blood, the history of our European ancestors. But the history of this land exists only in the native peoples it nurtured, and we are dangerously close to losing those voices forever.

We would be willing to bet that the name Hugo Chavez will before too long be added to the list of silenced voices above. In the meantime, let us enjoy his candor.

ICE Melts Under Potential Case Load

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icerrrWASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators and President Bush agreed yesterday to a potentially historic deal on an immigration bill that would give 12 million undocumented residents the chance to become legal Americans while beefing up border security and cracking down on employers who hire illegal workers.

The measure would also lift an immigration backlog currently stretching up to 22 years, which has delayed the applications of an estimated 4 million people seeking to become legal permanent immigrants — including thousands of high-skilled workers in the biotech and high-tech industries in Massachusetts.

from the Boston Globe

Of all the news reports we’ve read on this topic (and it led most of the newscasts and papers in the nation) the Globe was the only one that hit the key claim in the lead – that this bill will clear up the ICE backlog of up to 22 YEARS!

But first an aside on acronyms. The US Immigration authorities, faceless bureaucrats who change lives in snap decisions and subjective evaluations, since time immemorial were known as the immigration and naturalization service, or INS. As opposed to the OUTS, who were their supplicants. Seemingly immune to the angst and tragedies unfolding daily in their anterooms and interview cubicals, it is uneasily appropriate that they have been re-branded as ICE, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Trading “Service” for “Enforcement” is the Republican Way.

But back to our exception to the assumption. Those people who have been waiting 22 years for their visas, refugees from the wars in Central America in the 1980’s, are still waiting. INS was abysmally understaffed and overworked, on top of being legendary for it’s inefficiency and bureaucratic obfuscation, BEFORE 9/11, back when they were issuing tourist and student visas as fast as they could fill out the forms and collect the fees. Now that they are actually investigating people before issuing visas, the time lag for applicants has tripled.

Having to spend so much time dealing with visa applications from people wanting to enter the country has left the ICE men and women almost no time to deal with the supplicants already here. Millions of aliens are mired in a legal limbo as their applications languish or wallow in windowless repositories.

To think that this already dysfunctional organization is up to processing 12 MILLION new applicants, fingerprinting, photographing, running background checks, giving English exams, evaluating academic records, taking employer testimony and issuing decisions is so ludicrous it would be high comedy were it not high tragedy. Lift the backlog, my ass. Not without hiring a million new ICE agents. Hmmmm…….

Weep for the Scholars of Palestine

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islamicuGAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Israeli planes pounded Hamas targets and rival Palestinian factions exchanged bursts of automatic weapons fire outside Gaza City‘s Islamic University on Friday, as a volatile mix of Israeli strikes and Palestinian infighting plunged Gaza deeper into chaos.

The fighting largely died down later in the day after Fatah and Hamas fighters took up positions around the university. Earlier, the office of the university’s president, Kamelen Shaath, was attacked by rocket- propelled grenades, according to Hamas.

from AP

Will this madness never end? You shoot rockets at people long enough, they’re gonna shoot rockets back at you. What do you expect? And considering the Israeli rockets are high-impact, laser guided missiles fired from supersonic fighter jets, they are going to kill some innocent people. Turning their friends and family into the kind of people who would shoot rockets at you. What do you expect? Someone has to bust the chain before it drags them all down the drain, and us with ’em.

As a college Joe from the get go it particularly pains us to read of the use of a UNIVERSITY CAMPUS as a “stronghold” and a battleground! What sacrilege! Can you imagine Massachusetts Hall, built in 1720 and home office of octogenarian President Derek Bok, being attacked by ROCKET-PROPELLED GRENADES! Even at the height of student protests, late 60’s-early 70’s, when Massachusetts hall was surrounded, occupied, the President (Derek Bok, coincidentally) trapped for days in his office, we never DREAMMMMED of rocket-propelled grenades. But time marches on, and Cambridge is not Gaza City. At least, not yet.

For this kind of madness, if not contained, can infect us anywhere. The global information and transportation revolution constitute the central nervous and circulatory systems, respectively, of the emerging global body politic, . Which, unfortunately, opens the doors to a host of new diseases, infections, breakdowns and modes of transmission. Rocket-propelled grenades, IED’s and suicide bombers are only a six-hour flight, or maybe a two-hour drive, from where you are sitting right now. Who can break the chain? How do we protect ourselves?

Sending Colombians to Afghanistan – Brilliant!

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According to the New York Times, the US is trying to turn Afghanistan into another Colombia – that is, convert a warlord based, heavily armed narco-insurgency into a warlord-based, heavily armed narco-democracy. They have even imported Colombian troops and advisers into Kabul to show them how it’s done. From the front page of the Times….

opiumKABUL, Afghanistan — In a walled compound outside Kabul, two members of Colombia’s counternarcotics police force are trying to teach raw Afghan recruits how to wage close-quarters combat.

It is a measure of this country’s virulent opium trade, which has helped revive the Taliban while corroding the credibility of the Afghan government, that American officials hope that Afghanistan’s drug problem will someday be only as bad as that of Colombia.

While the Latin American nation remains the world’s cocaine capital and is still plagued by drug-related violence, American officials argue that decades of American counter-narcotics efforts there have at least helped stabilize the country.

“I wanted the Colombians to come here to give the Afghans something to aspire to,” Mr. Balbo said. “To instill the fact that they have been doing this for years, and it has worked.”

Apparently we want them to aspire to government-sanctioned and sometimes even organized terror, trafficking, subversion of democracy, gross violations of human rights, death squads and mass murder. From page six of the front section of the same paper, under the wonderfully alliterative headline “Death Squad Scandal Circles Closer to Colombian President“:

cokeCALI, Colombia, May 15 — President Álvaro Uribe, the Bush administration’s closest ally in Latin America, faces an intensifying scandal after a jailed former commander of paramilitary death squads testified Tuesday that Mr. Uribe’s defense minister had tried to plot with the outlawed private militias to upset the rule of a former president.

Mr. Mancuso also said that Vice President Francisco Santos had met with paramilitary leaders in 1997 to discuss taking their operations to the capital, Bogotá.

The paramilitaries, which are largely demobilized but regrouping in some areas, committed some of the worst atrocities in a long internal war. Prosecutors ordered the arrest on Monday of five legislators for entering into a secret pact with the paramilitaries in 2001, bringing to 14 the total number of legislators implicated in such ties.

We guess the attitude of the US Government is that since we gotta get our drugs from somewhere, we might as well get them from a right-wing, death-squad democracy rather than from a left-wing death-squad insurgency. This fits neatly into the present US compulsion to support athoritarian, conservative, business-dominated regiemes and combat left-leaning, anti-government insurgencies, wherever they may be found.

It’s like a police informer who figures it’s OK to be an addict because he’s getting his drugs from the cops.

Paradoxically, both drug users and law and order fans across the country should be celebrating this initiative. If we can convert Afghanistan into a stable narco-Democracy, or rather crypto-Democracy, with some sort of passable pretense of free elections, the United States will be assured of a uninterrupted and reasonably priced supply of heroin and other opiates for decades to come. And a right-wing, military/paramilitary government in geographically crucial Afghanistan will insure us of a staunch ally in the war on terror and extremism.

Of course, the tourist industry tends to take a hit when hand grenades are more common than pineapples and carbines than canapes, but who wants to go to Afghanistan as a tourist anyway? (Actually, the Dowbrigade would love to visit if we could be assured that the danger level was no higher than that in, say, Washington, D.C…)

All kidding aside, the lesson of Colombia is that helping the government get a handle on drug trafficking hasn’t eliminated or even reduced the supply of coke on the streets of America, which according to reports is as robust and cheap as ever. It just puts the trade into the hands of the type of guys our guys consider to be more reliable in their dealings and more reasonable in their investment of the proceeds.