Monday, March 30, 2009


The title of this post sounds like a word Dubya may have pulled from his vast and jumbled lexicon. Don’t bother looking it up as it is not yet a word and probably never will be. I made it up for the purposes of this very brief journal entry. A month or so ago, in an effort to appear as if I was doing my part for the environment, I purchased a 12-pack of those weird new light bulbs for the lamps in our home. Two things became immediately apparent: there is a 2-second delay when you switch them on and the light they project is absurdly dim. (This latter issue is especially annoying for a 56 year-old who buys $1 reading glasses at Target.) Yesterday I used the last of these bulbs and was left holding the empty and sturdy cardboard container in which they were packaged. There is little doubt that the paper, water, glue, ink, printing, fuel and energy expended to create and now recycle this cardboard was considerably more than the energy saved by using its contents. I have decided to burn it in my back yard, roast some hot dogs and then do some reading in the rich glow of its flame – a light much brighter than the bulbs it contained.

The Dodge Geithner

Over this past weekend, while we watched the NCAA basketball Final Four take shape and Tiger Woods return to the winner’s circle, something most sinister was happening: our government was taking over the management of General Motors and threatening to do the same to Chrysler. Granted, we have loaned these huge corporations billions of dollars and they still havn’t developed a suitable scenario that would put them on the road to recovery. It must have appeared to those newly in charge of our Treasury that GM and Chrysler would continue to bleed billions of dollars in years to come. So they intervened. This arrogant brain trust – high-flying, derivative creating, slum lording, bad-mortgage supporting, no-tax-paying geniuses – that is about to put us in further debt to the tune of $4 trillion dollars, has determined that it can run these companies better than current management. Watch for the new models coming in spring 2010: the Dodge Geithner, the Buick Bernanke and the return of the Oldsmobile in the form of the Obamobile. (This is not the first time a national government has involved itself with the design and production of automobiles: think Volkswagen.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Too Small to Succeed

I am as disgusted as the next guy by the AIG bonus grabs. What’s not to hate? It’s despicable. And I am glad it made some headlines. Now, let’s turn back to the real thieves – the hollow-headed buffoons who gave them the money in the first place and have spent the last 2 weeks grand-standing about how enraged they are about these bonuses. This is utter bullshit and, in my humble opinion, much more despicable than the bonuses themselves. Let’s examine this. I’d start by highlighting the absurdity of this oft-repeated phrase, ‘They’re too big to fail.’ This asinine statement has crossed the lips and leaked from the pens of pundits, economists, ‘news’ reporters, spin doctors and politicians over and over again for the last 6 months. Let’s start simply with our analysis: they DID FAIL and they are STILL FAILING. Further, anyone who is capable of making such a bold statement must have certainly ‘done the math.’ Please show us those calculations. Show us what the difference would have been between any of these FAILED corporations going under in legal bankruptcy proceedings versus handing them one trillion dollars of our money to patch up their sinking ships. And, if these companies are ‘too big to fail’ that suggests that there are hundreds of thousands of employees – the same employees, one would presume, that worked for them as they were failing – that continue to work there. That’s troubling.
However, I find that there is something much more disturbing than this conclusion regarding failure. If one turns this phrase into a mirror I think it says: ‘They’re too small to succeed.’ And that is exactly what recent government and Fed actions have done to the environment for small business – they have greatly reduced margins for success. And you know what – I don’t think they give a rat’s ass about it. Do you really think Tim Geithner gives a damn about your local deli, dry cleaner, mechanic or plumber? Hell no! He’s too bright to be bothered with them. He needs to be with the big boys – you know, the ones who are too big to fail. That’s where the real money is – it’s in FAILURE.
But I digress; allow me to return to the real thieves – the 535 individuals (not all, but most) who took your money, threw it at failure and thereby ruined it. Folks, please understand that they have taken money out of your pocket, out of your checking accounts, out of your retirement savings and out of your social security account. Surely you have seen it and felt it and the worst has not yet arrived. Inflation – which will arrive like tens of thousands of dark horsemen – is about to deliver the next blow – and it will be a severe one.
Do something, please. Search your community for decent individuals who have the integrity and common sense to really represent you. I don’t care what party you are affiliated with; right now, for the most part, they are all bums. Let’s replace them as soon as possible. 2010 is right around the corner. And, while you’re at it, somebody tell me where The Fed gets its money, please. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Bell Jar Revisited

I was stricken with a sense of dread yesterday when reading the account of the suicide of Nicholas Hughes, son of poet and author Sylvia Plath. The empty harshness of such a decisive act – whether by a friend, family member or stranger - has always transported me to a cold and fractured state of mind. It is difficult – if not impossible – to find any value in such a sad and final event. I have yet to read or hear any sage or preacher offer a satisfying response to these dark mysteries. Some say suicide is the ultimate act of courage and others that it is the ultimate act of cowardice. Some claim it to be the unpardonable sin and others that God awaits these broken ones with His Merciful Arms. I, of course, offer no answer here. When I experienced this type of loss within my own family I noticed that we were all suffering from a peculiar heartache – a form of grief associated with this kind of ending that was somehow inexpressible; we were oppressed by a veil of darkness that had its own, unique weight. None of us, it seemed, was capable of rising up out of this deep valley. It was at that moment I concluded that our beloved and troubled soul had succumbed to a form of illness no less devastating than cancer, heart disease or leukemia. The illness struck deeply and did not let go. Our beloved chose a radical and most disturbing cure.  The pieces of our lives that laid fractured on the ground following that event seemed to be different from the sadness of other losses.  They were not.
This sense of dread with the Hughes case is compounded by its shadowed history. Mr. Hughes’ final choice was preceded by the deaths of his mother and stepmother by their own hands. These were lives spent in self-examination, entangled in infidelity and despair, exposed through literature. One wonders at the power of such a dark legacy and the impact it had on the soul of Mr. Hughes. He was 47 years of age and had no wife or children. Could it be that Mr. Hughes made another choice along the way – a choice to break the chain? Rest In Peace, Nicholas. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Public-Private Initiatives

I had a telephone conversation last week with a dear pal in another state who will remain anonymous. He is in the banking business – not a big, broke, international bank – a local, community bank that helps real people buy homes and cars, pay tuitions and start businesses; you know, the banking sector that serves the people and makes a little profit every year; the kind of business upon which America is founded; you know, the kind of business that our government is rendering obsolete. He was despairing because the small fleet of corner banks with which he is employed was pretty much forced into taking a small share of TARP cash from our government. Without going into detail I now understand that the interest on that ‘helpful’ government loan will demand and destroy 50% of the profits of this small banking concern in 2009. 
This is a simple snapshot of reality that is duplicated across all 50 states. We hear that President Obama is angry that states, local governments and companies are pushing away from the good will table. So be it. Let it all come down. Keep on pushing back – hard.
If you need an example of good people cutting a deal with our government I suggest you travel to an American Indian Reservation. 

My Toxic Assets

I have something to sell you that has no value. Actually, the truth is that I want to sell you something that has negative value – it’s actually worth less than nothing. I’ll put it another way: if you pay me ten dollars for this thing you will actually have to pay me another ten dollars very soon and quite possibly another ten dollars after that. But, before you start thinking that this is not a good deal for you I’ll throw a happy spin on it: I will loan you the money to buy it from me at a reasonable rate of interest – let’s say 5%. I don’t actually have the money to loan you but that’s another story and should not be a concern of yours. I’m good for it and all you have to do is begin paying me the 5% interest next month and then you can own this thing I have that has no value – negative value that is. I don’t really know what it is. It seems to be a bundle of something that nobody wants that was derived through a series of intricate maneuvers that no one really understands and then sold off in smaller sectors of insured assets and packaged into contracts sold through brokers on a global basis under the heading ’risk deferred.’ Everybody’s got one. What do you say?

Samson: Then and Now

I encountered a portion of the story of Samson in The Book of Judges this morning. The circumstances of his life were most peculiar; his epic encounters read much more like myth and fantasy than reality. You may recall how he killed a lion with his bare hands and, months later, came upon the carcass of that lion in which bees had built a hive. Samson, fearless and undeterred, reached into the carcass, pulled out the honey and made a meal of it. He also ensured that his foes would go hungry by tying torches to the tails of foxes and setting them loose in their fields of corn and wheat. And of course, the legend of Samson’s strength – mysteriously related to the length of his hair - is the part of this story that seems to have found its way permanently into our culture; again, an odd twist in a most bizarre story. However, there is one aspect of Samson’s biography that I find to be most relatable. It is told that he killed 1,000 enemies with the jawbone of an ass. That may seem a very rudimentary form of weaponry and warfare but I beg to differ. There are 535 such weapons in daily combat with our freedom and liberty: Congress.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

At This Point

This has the potential of sounding like so much stuff you heard in high school or a Khalil Gibran book. Nonetheless, I make this assessment of life from the perspective of 56 years. In this order, given the opportunity to do it all over again, I would have made these my faultless pursuits: a loving and involved father; an affectionate husband; a committed believer and a faithful friend. In all of these I have both succeeded and failed. I have also found that money and success are nice to have and I have also found that they are very unfaithful lovers. They will leave you in a minute. Do not pursue them – they are harlots.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Forks in the Road

I have been conspicuously silent in recent weeks – a posture I have embraced for a number of reasons. First of all, I have become tired of myself and burdened by the weight of my own perspectives. Secondly, after 4 years of posting I had finally been verbally roughed-up by a few not-so-like-minded visitors who are philosophically and politically positioned on the other side of the Jordan. Frankly, for the most part, I enjoyed the duels and have spent some of the previous weeks fighting the good fight for that which I believe. However, at this juncture, no matter how much common ground I have attempted to establish, I have concluded that neither side has given an inch – other than the fact that my adversaries think I’m a reasonable guy because I have often expressed my distaste for and rejection of Rush Limbaugh as one who speaks for me. But on larger issues of social challenges, cultural woes, economics, the direction of our country and the myriad reasons for our current position in the world, I have confronted little but harshness, anger, finger pointing, outrage, blame-placing screamers – on both sides of the issues. One gentleman who has engaged me in civil debate goes by the initials CJP and has a blog entitled ‘Conservatives are the Real Terrorists.’ If you are a right-leaning person and wish to keep your blood pressure in a good place I suggest you refrain from visiting this site. I happen to like CJP but I’ve yet to agree with anything he has posted – except that he was one of the folks who seemed titillated by my disdain for The Loud Mouth. CJP will not give an inch to conservatism. Everything he states is leftist propaganda, but I know he believes it. If CJP is correct in his view of our country then these things are accurate: all conservatives are racist, Obama is the new FDR, spending our way out of this current economic crisis is the appropriate response, the GOP is in suicide mode, Obama is the Messiah, Affirmative Action is to be praised, anyone who uses the name Hussein in association with our president should be shunned and Obama will be re-elected in a landslide in 2012 (exit polls show.) This is just scratching the surface. I have responded with pounding heart to many of CJP’s posts. He has friends and detractors. I do not wish to promote his blog site here; I simply cite it as a reason for the direction I choose to take for the future – assuming there is a future for this Journal.
I can no longer participate in the street fight. There is more outrage in our country that I ever imagined. There is no coming together. Lines are drawn and people are absolutely fed up, pissed off, hard-hearted, ready to fight, unmoving and prepared to take it to the streets. Some form of revolution is brewing. In a civilized society it is difficult to predict how long patience will resist the inevitable. But I choose to move away.
In some profound and sincere reaction to all of this I have heard my soul say, ‘This is not your place. Move out of the fray.’ I know that sounds bizarre but no more bizarre than that which I am reading and hearing in the blogosphere. It’s crazy out there, folks. Crazy.
Finally, I think I am running fast back to faith; faith that promises a good ending; faith that tells me humankind will not work it out themselves – a fact I wish to reject but cannot, based on reality; a faith that suggests there is, indeed, good and evil; a faith that beckons me to not be anxious or concerned about tomorrow; a faith based on peace that passes all understanding.
What you read here in the future will have a different tone. I will continue fighting the good fight but my weapons shall be swords beaten into plowshares. I trust I shall be enjoined in the battle. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Follow the Money - If You Can

I have posted many words on these Journal pages regarding my total mistrust of The Federal Reserve System. To sum up my prior posts I would say this: the establishment of The Federal Reserve Act in 1913 was the beginning of the end of The United States of America and it should be abolished immediately. Given the financial sleight-of-hand over the past 6 months I believe my stern comments were delivered far too late – it’s over. America is over. Oh my, oh my.
$4,000,000,000,000 – that’s four trillion dollars. Add $780,000,000,000 to that and you will have the total cost of living in these United States at this moment in time. This is not about placing blame. If you choose to lay this at the feet of George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan or the Democrat Congress be my guest. This twisted mess is the culmination of dozens of greedy dipshits from every side of the aisle. The question is this: where is this money coming from and where did half of your savings go over the past year? Well, it went to a handful of ancient, conniving bastards who parade themselves in public as the Great Savior: The Fed. 
The Fed is a very mysterious thing, cloaked in shadows and possessed of cloven tongues that spew double-speak in its most elegant form. Federal Reserve Banks (so-called central banks) ‘back’ the issuance of money by any government in times of financial crisis. (We are not the only country that has a central bank.) What they do is encourage governments to print money regardless of the assets that government has (or, more appropriately, doesn’t have) as collateral. At the same time they begin to collect interest on the money the government has printed. So, let’s say the USA needs 4 trillion dollars. The Fed says, ‘Yes, we agree with this assessment. Go ahead and print it. We’ll back it.’ That’s all they do. And so it happens. Meanwhile, The Fed begins collecting a negotiated percentage on that money. Let’s be benevolent and suggest that The Fed negotiates a very favorable deal with the USA – an annual rate of 3%. The Fed will receive 120 Billion dollars per year in interest – no capital reduction. Who the hell are these people and why are we not finding out? This is your money, friends!
Is anyone listening? I’m going to find out. Please come to my funeral. 

Friday, March 06, 2009

An Open Letter To The Governor of Pennsylvania

My very modest childhood home still stands less than a mile from one of the casinos-under-construction you have mandated in Bethlehem, PA. I return to my hometown often and have noticed the building of those gaming rooms and hotels. The site of the most aggressive building is where my Uncle Tommy ran the ore cranes for the once mighty Bethlehem Steel Corporation. He was most proud of his job and his skills. Soon thousands of hapless citizens will be slipping quarters into slots on this hallowed ground with the hopeless hope of getting rich. This will come back to haunt them – and you. 
The Bethlehem Steel Corporation – once a mighty force in the world – no longer exists. This is the result of arrogant management and outrageous union demands. I side with neither. It is a sad chapter in the history of our country – and our state.
Atop South Mountain there is a star that has shined for decades. It is in keeping with the deep and spiritual history of an old, American town. Founded by Moravian missionaries on Christmas Eve, 1735, Bethlehem has always stood for light in the darkness and a beacon of hope. Your aggressive and unilateral actions with slot machine taxation are akin to the Children of Israel when Moses returned from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments and they were worshipping a Golden Calf. All hell broke loose. This incident, one may assert, was the beginning of the history of repentance. 
My elderly mother now resides in a high-rise building under-written (thank goodness) by the Keystone State. Admittedly, her rent and cost of prescription drugs has been made affordable by the decades-old Pennsylvania lottery – another form of voluntary taxation. I would be a liar if I didn’t acknowledge that this has been a blessing to my family and the families of thousands of other elderly Keystoners. However, there is, I believe, a gap the size of our universe separating the environment created by installing lottery machines in convenience stores and opening grand casinos in once stable neighborhoods. Certainly there have been instances of robberies and hold-ups at the lottery sites. But thugs, drugs, prostitution, homelessness, drifters, thieves and all other manner of the dark side of our society will soon be overtaking the streets of Bethlehem. 
Good people fought very hard to push back against your hollow plans. It is a good thing they are still around and will be around when the inevitable and sinister results of your decisions come home to roost. They will be there to help the many who will suffer from these developments. I doubt that you will be. 

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Paul Begala, The Joker and The Messiah

I was surfing the wasteland of 400 cable television stations last night after having watched some college basketball. I landed on Anderson Cooper’s 360 show who was about to embark on one of those screaming heads segments, the topic being the recent furor regarding Rush Limbaugh’s perceived rank at the top of the Republican Party. To my dismay Paul Begala was one of the two guests spewing forth his party line, liberal drivel with that perpetual shit-eating grin on his face. I’ve noticed that the punks Bill Clinton hired to work for his administration – like Bill himself – refuse to go away. Perhaps the issue that irks me the most – especially evident in Congressional hearings and on nightly screaming head debates – is the inability for any of these people to simply say yes or no. Yes, I understand they are Spin Doctors but that moniker itself is spin. The truth is they are Deceivers if not Liars. And they seem to enjoy it. Clearly, Paul Begala was having the time of his life last night during this little exchange. Cooper asked him if he and others had orchestrated a scenario with The Obama White House to undermine the impact of Rush Limbaugh and pronounce him acting head of the GOP. He said everything but yes or no, the whole while with that dipshit grin that, when broadened to its full extent, makes him look like The Joker as portrayed by Jack Nicholson in Batman. Then, as if a self-proclaimed Messiah, Begala made these two references (paraphrased:) ‘Wherever two people are gathered…I preach against Limbaugh and the conservative agenda;’ and, ‘The President has more important things to do than have a running debate with Rush. That is why God made me.’ And all this time I thought God made Paul Begala just to irritate me.

Monday, March 02, 2009

He Speaketh Not For Me

The press would have the world believe that conservative Americans are in a panicked frenzy to identify a mouthpiece for their principles, ideas and agendas. Since the election of Barack Obama and the perceived rejection of Dubya’s policies there are daily updates regarding the bungling, confused, unorganized and rudderless state of the GOP. A few thoughts come to mind when I am accosted by this ‘reporting.’ President Obama’s stimulus package was supported by 3 Republican senators and received zero Republican votes in House. President Obama’s recently delivered budget – although poised to pass both Senate and House scrutiny because of the number of Democrat members – will certainly be exposed to considerable pushback by the GOP members. And finally, I’d like to go on record as stating that Rush Limbaugh – the loud-mouthed, arrogant, self-loving, unkind, abrasive, anti-intellectual celebrity radio talk show host – is ill-equipped to qualify as a spokesperson for anything or anyone other than Rush Limbaugh. So, to review: Republicans may certainly be in a mode of reorganization and transition and they need to be. This party process goes on in every democracy and REPUBLIC. Secondly, even in their transition the GOP has acted with great unity and shall continue to do so. And finally, again, please do not acquiesce to the press’s (or the president’s) assertion that Rush Limbaugh is the new centerpiece of the Republican Party. This is untrue; at least I pray that it is. He is a road hazard to the progress of the GOP.