Wednesday, August 24, 2011


can the ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil

                                                   jeremiah king james version

          Libya’s self appointed National Transitional Council, based in the city of Benghazi, is the official opposition body fighting to topple Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi. “Official”, not because it is has legitimacy, but because NATO and a reluctant United States have embraced this gaggle of opportunists. While the name is grandiose it does profess to represents all of society and has systematically excluded Bedouin and other factions. It is a bald usurpation of power. The name does not elicit high democratic hopes, nor does it purport to adhere to the ideals so dear to Western democracies. It is what it says it is: a transition from a one man dictatorship to an oligarchy of the chosen few, the opportunists.
          Just take a gander at the leaders of the so called Libyan Rebellion. We have Mahmoud Jibril, the “Head of Government”, who had been ensconced as Chairman of Qaddafi’s National Economic Board enjoying all the privileges and perquisites that that post afforded and oil money would buy. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, Chairman of the Council, was Muammar’s Minister of Justice, a minister who had turned a blind eye to justice for decades. Ali Tarhouni is listed as finance minister, a man who had abandoned his country and its people since 1974, now hell bent on unfreezing Libya’s billions and managing them in a time of turmoil. Will he hew to the straight and narrow or will he succumb to money’s siren song? Time will tell.
          Don’t forget Khalifa Hifter, another exile from the United States, a former top military officer in Qaddafi’s war in Chad who promptly appointed himself as the supreme rebel field commander. He opposed General Abdul Fattah Younes, Qaddafi’s fast friend and his Minster of the Interior, murdered under murky circumstances after being summoned to Benghazi by the Council.
          Last, but not least is Ali al-Essawi, the Executive Branch Deputy, a former Ambassador and Qaddafi’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Investment until 2007.
          From the safety of the sidelines cheering the rebels on are Ali Suleiman Aujali until recently Qaddafi’s Ambassador to the United States, now espousing the rebel cause, and Ibrahim Omar Al Dabashi, Libya’s Ambassador to the United Nations also serving two masters. 
          Leopards have white spots. Libya’s opportunistic leopards all have black spots, black evil spots galore. Do you readily believe that those who are accustomed to do evil will now do good? I, for one, do not.
Since this site embraces and supports on line gambling, we are accepting all bets, 10 to 1 odds, that Libya will have just another corrupt regime in place in six months, any takers?         

Friday, August 12, 2011


I complain often about the undemocratic state of our government where the Electoral College elects a President with less than a majority and where each state has two Senators irrespective of population. Wyoming’s two Senators representing 500,000 constituents have as much clout as Connecticut’s representing 3.500,000. The one man one vote principle has been hijacked and now legislation by elected representatives is being scuttled.
The latest affront to democracy is the recently formed Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, Harry Reid’s harebrained “Supper Committee”, tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in savings and deficit reductions. For the moment ignore the partisan, biased and self serving nature of those just nominated, about that later. Let’s just do the numbers[1], the actual raw numbers that these “super twelve” congress people represent and who will wield power over the rest of us, all 311,000,000 of us, accordingly to the latest Census figures:
          The “super twelve” represent 49,000,000 constituents, see below, and that is but a mere 15% of the population. What about 37,593,000 Californians, Texas’ 25,200,000 souls, New York’s 19,378,000 residents, or 18,800,000 Floridians? Just those four state have 100,171,000 in population, twice the number represented by the “super twelve”, but their voice or the voice of their elected representatives will not be heard.
          In the present scheme of things the legislation provides that just seven members are needed to decide on what cuts are to be made, what taxes and revenues are needed, who will wither and who will prosper. In other words the future fiscal policy of the United States is being decided by a minority, not a majority or even a plurality. If taken to the extreme seven congress people [six representatives and one senator] representing 5,031,000 constituents hold our economic future in their hands. That is less than 2%, 0.015% to be exact, of the population. That’s sheer madness.
          If there is no agreement to be had in the “Super Committee” then spending cuts will be automatically without regard to consequences. More madness.
          When you factor in the corrosive influence of campaign contributions, the outcome will be even more flawed. Washington State received $5.2 billion in defense contracts in Fiscal Year 2009 with Boeing, the state’s largest defense contractor, being Senator Patty Murray’s fourth biggest contributor to her political career. Max Baucus the Senator from Montana [population 968,000] has received “$5.2 million in campaign contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate industries since 2005”. Kerry’s Massachusetts has seen its defense industry triple since 2000.
          Do you expect that the general financial welfare of the whole country to be served in the face of parochial self interests? I do not. Yet you voted, and stand idly by, while this perversity of democracy unfolds.

[1]       joint select committee on deficit reduction

representatives                  state                         CONSTITUENTS
Jeb Hensaling [r]         Texas 5th District                               704,000
Dave Camp [r]             Michigan 4th District                           676,000
Fred Upton [r]             Michigan 6th District                           672,000
James E. Clyburn [d]    South Carolina 6th District                  666,500
Xavier Becerra [d]        California 31st District                        635,000
Chris Van Hollen [d]     Maryland 8th District                          709,500
John Kyl [r]                Arizona                                          6,500,000
Rob Portman [r]          Ohio                                            11,528,000
Pat Toomey [r]           Pennsylvania                                  12,842,000
John Kerry [d]            Massachusetts                                 6,534,000
Max Baucus [d]            Montana                                           968,000
Patty Murray [d]          Washington                                     6,566,000               

                                                                total CONSTITUENTS   49,001,000

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


          Back in the sixties I had a job with Retail Credit, a company based in Atlanta, Georgia with offices all over the Eastern United States. It was a primitive version of our consumer credit agencies rating individuals for employment, insurance and department store credit.
          Every morning I would show up for work and get a list of some 35 prospective applicants. It was piece work and you were paid for each completed investigation, $1.50 for auto insurance, $2.00 for store credit and $10.00 for life insurance. You would drive out to the applicant’s home, eyeball the neighborhood, gossip with the neighbors and speak to the applicant or the spouse. I had no training whatsoever. It beats the hell out me how I was supposed to assess risk or credit. Sometimes, when all information sources proved dry, you fudged and made up the information. In other words you lied. Not very scientific or fair, was it?
          This prehistoric method soon evolved into “sophisticated” information and credit driven models run by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Their credit reports now dominate and terrorize the consumer. The reporting models are based on the theory that the more facts you garner, no matter whether they are false, dated or inapplicable, when fed into a computer will generate a true and accurate consumer history and give an accurate forecast of the consumer’s future performance.
          You know that this is not true. Anyone who has requested a copy of a credit score or report knows it is are full of false and misleading information. You are confused with someone with a similar name. A misposted payment made in a due and timely manner is reported as late. A dispute with a car leasing company over an overcharge is reported as default and repossession. A lifetime of financial probity can easily be destroyed making you a deadbeat, to be avoided at all cost. I am paraphrasing, but these credit agencies are “idiot savants with less than a full command of math, and with no idea on how to apply it”.
          The government has done little to stem the abuses visited upon us by these yahoos of the information age. Sure there are rules and regulations in place to protect the consumers. But these are toothless paper tigers. The government agencies meant to protect the consumer engage in endless bureaucratic paper shuffles. Complain, engage in protracted correspondence, wait endlessly to speak to a human being, and ultimately you give up, in frustration. 
          After abandoning us, now it’s the Government’s turn to sing the credit rating blues. Last Friday, Standard & Poor’s, one of the sovereign credit rating firms, downgraded our credit rating from AAA to AA+. Moody’s and Fitch have stood, so far, by their triple “A” recommendations. But the report angered the Administration, prompting the President to deem the action ill advised and “ill informed”. On Monday President Obama proclaimed that “America will always be a triple-A country”. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner did him one better declaring that Standard & Poor’s showed “terrible judgment” showing “a stunning lack of knowledge about basic U. S. fiscal budget math”.
          Yet why in the world do we, and for that matter the world, give a fig or even lend credence to Standard & Poor’s opinion. Its public persona is John Chambers, a “chartered financial analyst” and Chairman of S&P’s “Sovereign Rating Committee”. These seemingly impressive credentials are tarnished by reality. Chambers graduated Grinnell College, a fine institution, with a bachelor of arts in literature and philosophy, not fields usually associated with sovereign debt. He also attended Columbia University, another supper place, leaving with a master’s degree in English literature. He does speak and write the English well, especially at press conferences defending the downgrade. But for a financial background he only has “chartering” in becoming a “financial analyst”, and that’s just three written exams, that’s it. Would you buy sovereign recommendations from this guy? Not me.
          S&P’s track record ain’t much better. Remember Enron, that multibillion dollar financial blood bath that left thousands of employees and investors destitute? On October 29, 2001, S&P’s idiot savants rated its bonds and commercial paper BBB+. That’s exactly one month before Enron filed for bankruptcy on November 29, 2001. S&P’s bad calls extend over decades. For years S&P gave Lehman Brothers an “A” rating, until a month before its collapse [with the help of Tim Geitner, see above] bringing on the financial mess that we find ourselves in. S&P actively assisted in the collapse by giving “AAA” ratings to mortgage backed derivatives [whatever those may be] so that Goldman Sachs, the banks and AIG could book insane profits.
By the way, the present downgrade was based on an error in math, a $2 trillion dollar error in the 10 year deficit projection. No matter, small potatoes, said John Chambers, the downgrade stands.
          You want to take advice from these bozoos? Not me. That is not to say that we are not in a mess made worse by the recent stupidity of Congress, a Congress that has an 82% disapproval rating. Before I forget, the disapproving 82% of the country voted for the very Congress they now disapprove of.
Do I have a solution? No, but I ain’t taking S&P’s flawed advice. As much as I hate to admit it, I agree with Obama, we are triple “A”, S&P notwithstanding.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011


When someone does a better job than you, give them credit where credit is justly due.
Four hours after posting my latest blog I came across a Salon article that predated my thoughts by a full month. I strongly suggest that you read the clearly better written and more thoroughly researched article:


          Fairy tales are stories with no foundation in fact designed to entertain and educate gullible children. A Thousand and One Arabian Nights is the adult version. It’s a series of adult tales set in the Middle East full of murder, magic, love, lust, erotic couplings as told by Scheherazade, the beautiful daughter of a Sultan’s vizier. These tall tails kept that sucker of a Sultan enthralled and Scheherazade alive, alive to live another day and spin another tale.

          Speaking of fairy tales I am enthralled by the one now being peddled by our very own State Department from the banks of the Tigris River deep in Baghdad’s “Green Zone”. Our modern day Scheherazade is none other than our Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who wants us to abandon reason and buy her version of reality.

          It should not come as a surprise that after having invaded Iraq we have an Embassy in Baghdad. What does surprise is that this “embassy” is the largest and most expensive embassy in the world. It is built on 0.44 square kilometers, that’s 104 acres to you and me, with 21 buildings including six huge apartment house complexes. The total construction costs have not been disclosed but we do not know that the President made two “emergency supplemental funding requests” of Congress, one for $1.3 billion and one for $592 million both in 2005. Now that’s spending with class.

          We now veer from the sublime to the ridiculous. Our Ambassador James Jeffrey announced on Saturday July 2 that, on the very eve of Independence Day, and at the very beginning of the month that the debt ceiling will be debated and decided, he has requested $6.2 billion for the Embassy’s 2012 budget. That’s $6.2 billion. That comes on the heels of the April 27 confirmation that “the number of employees in the US Embassy in Baghdad will be reduced to less that 20 thousand after US Forces withdrawal from Iraq.” That’s 20,000 employees, including 16,000 Americans.

          The State Department [] claims that it employs 11,500 Foreign Service employees; 7,400 Civil Service employees; and 31,000 Foreign Service National employees, for a total of 53,000. If you believe the published and announced figures almost 40% of the State Department’s work force will be employed and deployed in Baghdad.
          You got to be either kidding me or lying. I for one do not believe in fairy tales especially ones that are being spun by Hilary. Perhaps marijuana has been legalized in Foggy Bottom and Hilary is smoking pot or the United States, having invaded and conquered Iraq plans to run that country as a colony for the foreseeable future. 

           What is your take on this seven billion dollar, and counting, embassy?

Friday, June 3, 2011


          They finally arrested General Ratko Mladic last week, todays Monster of the Week. There will be others, tomorrow, next week and next year. These “monsters to be” will be Libyan, Somali, Egyptian, Israeli or even Americans, depending how events unfold and how the world media perceives the truth. It is easy to demonize a person, accuse him of war crimes, ascribe to him horrible acts of insane violence, and condemn him but never the roots, the causes of the conflicts that precipitated them to the world stage.
          It makes us feel good. Another criminal behind bars waiting for justice to be done. We all collectively breathe a sigh of relief. Civilization has been saved. But then another war, another revolution erupts and the cycle repeats itself. Mass graves abound and they all look alike, year in and year out.
          And then there are conflicts, wars, Iraq and Afghanistan being but two that make the news day in day out, yet somehow escape being tainted by accusations of war crimes, of genocide or simply the murder of civilians. Those deaths, those murders fly under the radar of international scrutiny. They are simply ignored while we smugly congratulate ourselves on our moral hypocrisy.   
          I do not like Ratko Mladic much. I met him twice back in 1994 during the wars in Bosnia, ex-Yugoslavia. He was an arrogant, ignorant blowhard son of a bitch. He was, and remains, a dumb Bosnian peasant, who just happened to be a Serb. He proudly wore his ignorance as a badge of honor as stupid as that First World War military cap of his, sporting a “kokarda”, an insignia of some sort or another. He was at home in a dump of a café in Han Pijesak, a small decrepit town in Eastern Bosnia close to Sarajevo, where I met him, surrounded by a fawning retinue of like jerks. He was sitting on the terrace of the café, the very image of a war lord, beefy and loud, full of himself. The colorful red and white umbrellas kept us cool and in the shade. There was a lull in the war. The war didn’t seem real.
          Srebrenica, the massacre of 8,373 Bosnian men and boys, was to be a year later in July, 1995. Mladic is accused of ordering this tragedy. As in any war there are deaths in the thousands. Many are soldiers but most probably many more are just innocent civilians. Dresden, a declared “safe haven” at the end of World War II, had 600,000 refugees, and a population 350 times larger than Srebrenica. We, the Allies, fire bombed it and between 150,000 and 200,000 civilians died. In 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki accounted for at least a quarter of a million civilian deaths [150,000 for Hiroshima; 75,000 for Nagasaki; with another 500,000 dead from radiation, starvation and cancer.] Extenuating circumstances were claimed, save our fighting boys, better them than us.
There are always claims of extenuating and mitigating circumstances if you want to justify your war crimes. Naser Oric, a common street thug no better than Mladic, was the Muslim military commander in Srebrenica. He abused the United Nations “safe area” by launching attacks against the Serb population resulting in some 1,800 deaths. But that does condone or excuse Mladic’s actions, nor anyone else.
          Eight thousand deaths is an appalling number, yet insignificant if taken in the context of the civilian casualties of the Iraq War. People disagree as to the actual numbers of deaths, but they all agree that the deaths are in the hundreds of thousands.
          The Iraq Family Health Service, whatever that entity may be, pegs the deaths at 151,000 from March, 2003 to June, 2006. The Lancet, the respected British medical journal dedicated to world health, estimates 601,027 deaths for the same period. Opinion Research weighs in at 1,033,000 deaths as a result of the conflict from 2003 to 2007. The Associated Press reports in at 110,600 deaths for 2003 to 2009. The Iraq Body Count Project claims either 98,170 or 107,152 civilian deaths for the same period. WikiLeaks, leaking official United States classified Iraq war cables reports 104,924 Iraqi deaths, including 66,081 civilians. And so it goes.
          So now we have that dumb, stupid Ratko Mladic in the dock accused of 8,000 deaths, with the world braying for human sacrifice, for justice. So who stands accused for the hundred thousands of dead Iraqis?  Any one? No one? Whatever!      

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


On a beautiful spring afternoon I was in the local DMV office waiting to re-register my car. I was sitting on a hard green plastic chair clutching my papers: the insurance card [FS-20], the Connecticut Title Certificate [MVCWA-348], the New York State registration application form [MV-82], the current Connecticut Registration Certificate [F1307A], the New York State Sales Tax Exemption form [DTF-803], my paid Out of State Sales Tax form [DTF-804], my Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin [MCO], my driver’s license and other pieces of paper dear to bureaucratic hearts. I was waiting for my number to come up so I could see the next available attendant in this state sponsored insane asylum.
          Sitting next to me was an overweight housewife bulging out of her purple tube top and green slacks sporting pink flip flops, accompanied by her daughter, likewise color challenged. The girl was clutching a pair of sneakers while wearing another variation of her mother’s flip flops. I overheard their conversation.
          The gist of it was that the daughter had not prepared or practiced for the test. The mother assured her daughter that the test what a “no brainer”, that she really didn’t have to practice, that anybody, I mean anybody can pass the test. By the way, wear sneakers when taking the test. The cavalier attitude to this rite of passage startled me. 
          Their appointed time came and off they went to the parking lot to take the driver’s test. I watched through the window. Some twenty or so teenagers of all shapes and sizes were standing by these huge SUV’s, pick ups and just plain cars, ready to pass the test and hit the road.
As I drove home I passed the campus of the local high school. Dusk was falling but the kids were still out there practicing. The soccer moms were all sitting in their SUV’s or sitting in the bleachers. On the field the kids were practicing, and practicing, and practicing.
          Parents encourage their kids to spend hundred of hours practicing passes for that fleeting minute of football fame and the love a of a pretty cheerleader. Life goes on and they graduate from high school and all those hours are out the window, wasted.
Now back to that driver’s test. New York State requires you to take but a five hour course before taking the driving test. Connecticut mandates an eight hour course. For teenagers, the requirements are greater but not at all commensurate to the task.
We are lulled into a false sense of security. Cars are safer they tell us. You even have air bags in your doors. Your rear view mirror is now a TV. Traffic fatalities are down.
But the facts are horrifying. In 2009 there were 32,788 deaths on our roads as a result of motor vehicle accidents. Compare that figure to the 4,454 deaths in Iraq since March, 2003, an 8 year long war, with people shooting at you and trying to blow you up. There were 5,587,000 reported traffic accidents that year. Statistically 1 out of 50 Americans was involved in a reported motor vehicle accident that year.
So we send out our youngsters unschooled, unprepared and unpracticed to wreak havoc out on the open road. What a deadly rite of passage for these kids, including the girl with the flip flops.