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.