Wednesday, September 24, 2008

“You should think of that as unthinkable.”

W's deputy press secretary, Tony Fratto, told reporters, when asked what would happen if Congress does not pass some sort of economic bailout of Bear Sterns, AIG, Freddie Mac, Fanny May, and other companies that are failing or contracting this week, “You should think of that as unthinkable.” What an idea! The reasoning of Mr. Fratto presupposes a contradiction -- something that has clearly been thought of is deemed unthinkable.  Funny thing about that is from a contradiction all propositions including other contradictions become provable.

As it turns out, the week is not yet over and a rescue the rich plan has not been agreed to by the Congress, and we come close to the unthinkable not only being thinkable but being a fact.  One of the really troubling things about the efforts of Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Ben S. Bernanke to persuade Congress to approve their bailout plan is their arrogant presumption that their plan is the only workable one.  In fact, insisting, as many Democrats have, that the executives that have driven their companies into this dire situation be stopped from profiting in any way from the bailout, is not a part of their plan but would have no impact on the workability of their plan.But Bush didn't want it.  He thought it would be punitive.  What a dolt!  The American people want these bastards punished and punished good.  Some Congress(wo)men have advocated putting a ceiling of $400,000 per year for CEO's of bailed out companies.  Usually people who fail as they have are simply fired so $400,000, far from being punitive, is generous.

There are other approaches that have as much credibility as W's boys' plan. According to the Washington Post, which sketches three alternatives to the plan of Paulson and Bernanke, Simon Johnson, a former chief economist for the IMF and current MIT professor, drives a stake in the heart of the Administration plan when he claims that the plan P & B have put forward is neither comprehensive nor decisive.  This last concern should trouble everyone.  If this bailout fails to stop the collapse of these companies, then this could mean that we do slide into a national economic crisis affecting us all.  

I have my own solution which is predicated on the most basic principle of free enterprise, the "Upward Percolation Principle" according to which capitol is formed from the profit of the sale to consumers of goods and services.  I just coined this principle but I bet you could find it in some economic text.  

My plan is to provide to mortgage investment companies the funds to cover all mortgage obligations that have not been paid for all homes in foreclosure or headed that way due to the failure of home owners to make a payment or two.  This gives an immediate influx of cash to these companies and makes the home owners "whole."  Then we convert all ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages) to fixed rate mortgages at some reasonable rate close to that which homeowners had once been able to pay. This will provide a continuous influx of money to these failing compaies but will result in another shortfall for them since they depend on rises in rates of ARMs when interest rates rise.  My plan is that the government provide loans to these banks at a rate lower than what they can charge consumers and businesses for new loans.  This is the single bailout they get.  It seems just since we are also bailing out the persons that obtained ARM mortages they cannot pay due to rises in rates.

I, of course, have no idea what I am talking about.  But, does anyone else?  The solution to the current economic crisis may itself be unthinkable.  This is not like a math problem for which a solution is guaranteed if you can only find it.  This is a problem that may have no single solution and we could end up chasing our economic tails for years.  The great irony in all of this is the AIG ads that had children expressing their fears about how their parents are handling their finances which conclude with a smug little brat who announces that his parents are with AIG, that, apparently, being enough said.  I have not seen an AIG ad recently.  I don't expect one.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Al Queda #2 Has Alzheimers

I base my claim that Ayman al-Zawahiri is suffering Alzheimer's or some other form of senility for he has recently charged that Iran is a "collaborator" with the United States in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.  That is just one piece of evidence but it is probative.  In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I have no medical degree nor any competence in physical and mental health.

There are two alternatives to this psychiatric diagnosis.  One is that he is simply mentally ill, suffering from the delusion that Iran and the United States have important interests in common.  The only evidence I can think of for that is both want a compliant Iraq.  However, Iran wants Iraq to be subservient to them and we, or rather our government, wants Iraq to be subservient to us. Therefore, I say al-Zawahiiri has a paranoid personality and suffers from serious political delusions.  In support of that analysis is the fact that al-Zawahiri lives in caves.  Only crazy people live in caves these days.

The third possibility is that al-Zawahiri is so cut off from news that he has no idea what is going on.  However, if his cave has all mod cons, these would include electricity and a satellite dish and receiver and a monitor.  His claim is that the US and Iran both support the "hireling governments" of Iraq and Afghanistan but this similarity is like the other one.  They both support the government because the US can leave only, so it says, if the government can run the country and Iraq can't fall into a state of anarchy until we leave, a state that Iran will find it easy to exploit, at least for awhile.  Iran might suffer the same fate as the US has.  We liberated them from Saddam (and from fresh pure  running water, electricity, sewage treatment, etc. ) but the day after we were unwelcome.  Iran is a Muslim theocracy, which ought to please the Iraqis, but they are the wrong kind of Muslims for the Sunnis and the Kurds (who really don't count since they already have set up an independent Kurdish state), and much more important, they aren't Arabs.

For reasons I cannot quite explain, I had the feeling in reading this that I had on listening to the Weather Underground back in the late 60's.  As I listened to the latter (in teach ins that I ran at the University of Illinois) it became clear to me that being against the war wasn't good enough for the Weather Underground.  One had to be against it for the right reasons, that is their reasons. The WU was promoting revolution so one had to see the Vietnam War as  a colonial war and see the government as fascist.  Their arguments would play out better today in connection with the Iraq War since the Bush government is much more interested in suppressing our legal rights than were the governments of Johnson and Nixon.

So, al-Zawahiri is pissed at the Iranians for making nice with the Iraq government even though Iran is as close what bin Laden wants for S. Arabia as any other large Muslim country, namely it is a state run by religious zealots.  A more rational course might be to applaud Iran and bitch at, say, Jordan or S. Arabia or the Gulf States for collaborating with us. 

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Mr. 85

Mr. Chad Johnson is, perhaps, the most infamous attention seeker in American professional sports if Mr. Terrell Owens is not.  In fact, since Mr. Owens went to the Dallas Cowboys, he has dropped out the sports headlines, perhaps because he feels appreciated by the management and his team mates.  He has, it seems, abandoned the field to Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Johnson is nothing if not inventive.  Last season, he engaged in an unneeded leap into the air to catch a 3 yard touchdown pass which in the words of the Commissioner of the league,represented a "flagrant display of athletic ability was 'gaudy' and 'went beyond the bounds of good taste.'  Certain actions on scoring a touch down have ling been regarded as unwanted such as doing flips into the endzone, diving into the endzone when it was not done to evade being tackled, and making gestures of various sorts that are seen as instances of one upmanship that are regarded as taunting.  However, Mr. Johnson's action was performed while engaged in doing what he was supposed to do, namely catch footballs, preferably in the end zone.  The odds are that this was a premeditated action waiting for an opportunity to be performed, as so many of Mr. Johnson's actions have been.

Johnson's unnecessary leap might be viewed as the football equivalent of dunking a basketball in some elaborate manner.  If it goes in, not too many people will complain at the athleticism displayed in dunking a ball. The football commissioner's reference to Mr. Johnson's display of "bad taste" is comical, as it seems to situate football in the same social space as, say, a tea party where someones engaging in an staged loud fart would be said to be in bad taste.  Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but it is a funny choice of language by the commissioner.

Mr. Johnson makes the most of the few props available to him.  Once he pulled up an endzone pylon and used it to putt the football he had carried into the endzone.  In another case he pulled out a sharpy and signed the football and gave it to a fan (if I recall correctly).  The problem many have with Mr. Johnson is that football is a quintessential team game.  Mr. Johnson is drawing attention to himself on a touchdown reception without regard for the fact that the quarterback had to throw the ball he caught, the other receivers ran routes that drew defensive backs away from him, and sundry linemen and running backs will have blocked attackers trying to sack the quarterback before he could throw the ball.  From this perspective, Mr. Johnson's antics are deplorably self-promoting however entertaining they may be.  The commissioner knows that if he does not fine the man, his opponents on the field will one day display their unhappiness by taking out one of his knees.

I have long watched the NFL fight against touchdown displays and such things as dances made by linebackers around a quarterback they have sacked.  Initially, the celebrations were pretty mild, but were never liked by old white guys.  In my opinion, African Americans and White people take a different view of what is a reasonable public celebration.  And in sports, where once Whites, but not African Americans were allowed to play, a very rigid code of sportsmanship emerged, too rigid for the tastes of the African Americans who began to be allowed to play such games.  I think there is a real cultural difference between Whites and Blacks in regard to what is acceptable behavior on the field of play and what is not, which is not to say that there is not a great deal of variation in attitudes within both groups.   The first quarterback sack dance was done by a White guy, for instance.  The first "high five" was done by a Black person. Interestingly, as the "high five" has evolved, Whites have chased after each variation of celebratory hand gestures that has emerged as Blacks keep changing them to stay ahead of Whites (in my opinion).

This is a long-winded path to my title, "Mr. 85."  The most recent "antic" by Mr. Johnson has been to legally change his name to "Chad Ocho Cinco."  Someone seems to have told Mr. Johnson that the number of the back of his jersey would be pronounced "ocho cinco" in Spanish. His first effort to get "Ocho Cinco" on the back of his uniform was nixed by his coach I believe. In this case, it was easy for Mr. 85 to comply for it was a tear off addition to his uniform.  But having changed his name legally, there is nothing anyone cand do to stop him.  However, the joke is on Mr. Ocho Cinco.  The English phrase "eighty five" is translated into "ochenta cinco." Moreover, "85" in Spanish is, well, "85."  So, I propose that the sporting world begin calling Mr. 85 by either "Mr. 85" or "Mr. Ochenta Cinco" in the interests of language correctness.

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