Atlantis Alumni

Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's A Depression Already!

From a front page article in today's New York Times:

Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics, sees a 20 percent chance of “a depressionlike possibility,” up from 15 percent a week ago. “In the housing market, the financial system and the stock market, we’re already there,” Mr. Sinai said. “It is a depression.”

Friday, February 27, 2009

Class Warfare And Socialism

Since the "Reagan Revolution" we've had class warfare directed at the middle and working class. Pre-Reagan, the top marginal tax rate was 70 percent (what the rich paid,) now it's 35 percent and they are griping.

We will all have to sacrifice and those able to afford to pay more in taxes will have to do so. Calling it socialism is disengenuous. We've had a form of socialism for the rich since Reagan as they have enjoyed the bounty that this country provides without having to pay in proportion to their great wealth to support it. We've also had plenty of "socialism" of late for the corporations, Wall Street, and the banks. It's high time some of that "socialism" benefits the poor, the working class, and the middle class.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Harvey Fierstein Counsels Obama On Gay RIghts

In an open letter to President Obama, Harvey notes that Lincoln "matured" into his full support of equal rights for African Americans. Obama, writes Harvey, needs to do likewise when it comes to gay rights:

America needs to hear you say, "We will no longer tolerate the oppression of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles. They are our family. They are we and we are they." The nation needs to hear you say, "We must prove ourselves worthy of the title Americans; protectors of the weak, standard bearers of freedom, and guarantors of equal rights for all." Mr President, history will record the day you say, "From this day forward no amendment, statute or law that seeks to deny full rights of citizenship on the basis of sexual preference will be tolerated. Hatred and bigotry are here forth banished to the dark recesses of small minds. Let the Pledge of Allegiance light our way to tomorrow as " nation, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all.'" That, dear son of Lincoln, is the grand gesture we need from you. We need a hero, and you have been elected.

Another Economic Casualty: A Liberal Arts Education

From an article today's New York Times:

As money tightens, the humanities may increasingly return to being what they were at the beginning of the last century, when only a minuscule portion of the population attended college: namely, the province of the wealthy.

It looks like the current depression will kill off once and for all the concept of a liberal arts education. How sad.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sean Penn Castigates The Anti-Gay Haters

Harvey would approve. Sean Penn, on accepting his best actor Oscar:

"For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, and, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone. "

Friday, February 20, 2009

I hate being afraid....

"Little Brains, it's what we like to call you people behind your back." That's a quote from one of my favorite films, "Defending Your Life". Essentially the movie is about Daniel; he is killed in a car accident. In the afterlife he finds that we are all judged by how much we fear. More often than not we don't use much of our brains (around 5% according to the movie) and that getting past fear makes us smarter.

This was one of the few movies I've seen in my life that actually has real practical application in the real world. This is especially true now, today with the seemingly impossible financial crisis we face.

I am angry, pissed off, and yes, a little bit afraid. I have a job however it is very clear (in my job and company) that I am viewed as a disposable asset. Basically a number on a spreadsheet that can be positive or negative. Perhaps looking at humans as figures, facts and yes, spreadsheet cells has put our economy, security and national personality in jeopardy.

What do I mean by "national personality"? Well, I seem to remember my parents pounding into my head that human beings; friends, family, even strangers are more important than money. Americans, at least in the past, cared equally about each other, the good of our country and the good of our neighbors. Now our pocketbooks seem to dictate our collective thinking.

It would be convenient to lay all of the blame for our current crisis at the doorstep of politicians. Or the Chinese. Or the oil companies. Or the Middle East.

However what I think makes all of us angry is that we did this to ourselves. Sure there's the errant asshole that thinks the whole world is out to get him. However the way I was brought up was to take responsbility for my actions. None of this bullshit of blaming others. We elected assholes to Congress (and the Whitehouse), we shopped at Big Box stores, consumed too much and all wanted to be "managers" and not workers. We are mad at ourselves. And if you aren't mad at yourself right now, you are in some serious denial.

My fear is that more people aren't angry. My fear is that more people are letting their neighbors fail. My fear is that as a society here in the United States, we are looking for quick fixes. My fear is that we're placing too much emphasis on the President fixing our problems. My fear is that we're still looking to solve our problems with a pill, a credit card or with pushing it to someone else. I have a distinct feeling that the "someone else" we are pushing our current fiscal crisis to will be my kids and yours. Really, even in our great democracy does anyone have any idea what it takes to fix a global problem? Or even just fix a problem with 300 million Americans?

Hence my point. I hate being afraid. And I bet every single person out there that has lost their house, is in foreclosure or has not $5 in their pocket for lunch is dealing with the same fear. According to our society I make a pretty good living. How come I can't afford my diabetes medication this week? I hate being afraid.


Obama: Not Enough And Not The Right Stuff

The falling stock market is affecting just about everyone (with the exception of the very wealthy.) The "stimulus" and the housing bailout plan, etc. will not help those of us on fixed incomes that have seen our pension payments fall and fall and then fall some more. Obama seems to be missing in action when it comes to a plan to help average Americans. This is beginning to become evident as in the one commentators explosion on TV yesterday as he railed against the proposed mortgage bailout. Obama had better start addressing the plight of average people who are struggling to keep afloat. This photo was taken at Macy's Phila. yesterday. It is promoting a museum in Baltimore that houses famous African Americans in wax.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Obama Disappoints On Chuch/State Separation

The New York Times notices Obama's broken pledge in regard to "Faith-Based initiatives:"

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama made clear that he would extend the faith-based initiative started by former President George Bush to help social service programs run by religious and other charitable groups obtain federal grants and contracts. But he also pledged that unlike Mr. Bush, he would provide meaningful safeguards to avoid the blurring of church-state boundaries, including a firm rule barring discrimination on the basis of religion. The rule is notably missing from his new decree.

Federal money will flow to religious groups who will be able to discriminate against gay people, just like under Bush Junior. This is yet another slap in the face to the Gay community from the new president.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bipartisan - Who gives a fuck?

It's hard for me to tell you how tired I am of the whole concept of "Bipartisan". It's a concept that has been largely corrupted by both political parties.

A bipartisan bill from Phil Graham (Gramm-Leach) gutted the financial regulations that would have prevented the financial industry from playing lotto with people's mortgages and savings created much of our current mess. Incidentally, quite a few Dems voted for it as well. Remember something though; Phil's wife was the big beneficiary of the deregulation at Enron. You know, the company that was as crooked as a 3 dollar bill and tanked the California power grid?

Congress has been mostly partisan for the last 8 years in favor of the fantasy-based Republican Party including Senator McCain. So when I saw Senator McCain come out today hammering President Obama for a lack of a bipartisan approach to the fiscal stimulus, I had to laugh. After I laughed I felt that burning sensation rolling up my throat; like my job was going to be paving roads a year from now.

Didn't McCain's party vote to send everyone $400 and $800 checks so they could go spend more money in Walmart? Didn't they sign us up for a no-bid war that cost $1 billion/a week? No-bid means by the way that they gave contractors like Haliburton contracts with no competition and the deals they created were sealed in secrecy. Shall I go on? How about an $800 billion give away to the banks for bonus's and new corporate jets. Zero accountability, none whatsoever, nor any oversight or prayer of a payback.

Hence when I hear John McCain and the Republican party express righeous indignation about the current stimulus bill the "I don't give a shit-o-meter" goes right off the scale.

Americans seem to be addicted to fast answers to questions that have yet to be asked. Hell, we don't even know what kind of pile of dog shit we're stepping in and already the Republicans are crying fowl and the Democrats are trying to spend as fast as they can.
I look at politicians like they are my employees. My puny paycheck gets taxed and they work for me. They'd better go find some smart people that can start asking the right questions and cut out this "get fixed quick" scam artist nonsense. If all of these people worked for me directly they'd have a boatload of explaining to do.
1) What legislation are they going to put in place t prevent this kind of gambling?
2) What is the real dollar scope of the current debacle?
3) What are our allies doing around the world?
4) Give us some short term and long term options.
5) Show me some people that came up with the ideas and have them explain why they will work.
By the way, I happen to believe much of this debacle could be solved by people working. How about some legislation that makes the good American managers at Walmart, Target, GAP and every other major coroporation buy American? Hell, 90% of the items in these stores is imported from slave labor in some other part of the world most Americans have never heard of.
Buy American.
Sound reasonable? Ya, I thought so. Good questions don't have anything to do with bipartisan bullshit. Thus my original question still stands, bipartisan - who gives a fuck?

PS Please, for God sakes, stop caring about what George Will, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Kokie Roberts, George Stephanopolous and the rest of them think. Newsflash: TV news and radio shitheads are not news, they are entertainment.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama's First Few Weeks: Ugh!

Obama's first few weeks have not exactly thrilled me.

He has sent signals that he is going to delay his promise to repeal "Don't Ask, Don' t Tell" until yet another study is done. We don't need another study.

He has embraced the Bush administration's secrecy policy to the dismay of the ACLU.

I think his plan to reach out to Republicans and fashion a bi-partisan stimulus bill is misguided. The problem is that, as Barney Frank said recently in a TV round table, there are two competing political ideologies in this country.

The conservative ideology championed by Republicans is characterized by a blind and complete faith in the free market, hatred of government, taxes, and a "let them eat cake" attitude toward the less fortunate. On the other hand, "liberal" Democrats are more inclined toward government regulation of the markets, they favor progressive taxation, and they favor social programs designed to help the less fortunate.

There really is no way to smush these two ideologies together in a bi-partisan way. That's why no Republicans in the House voted for Obama's stimulus plan, and only three "moderate" Republican senators voted for the senate version, and then only after many worthy programs were cut from it. Obama seems to be naive in his desire for bi-partisanship. Now he's on the road doing the hard sell after the failure of his efforts to attract Republicans to support his stimulus bill.

He has already failed Presidency 101.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Baldwin On McCain

Alec Baldwin:

Another rich Republican market shill who can only deal with spending bills
that stimulate the Dow. You gotta shut up, John McCain.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Stimulus Bill: On Both Sides I Think It's Garbage

Harvard economist Robert Barro on the 900 billion dollar stimulus bill now in congress:

On both sides I think it's garbage.

He wants to focus on the financial and housing sectors...or find a nice war to spend on where presumably people don't get hurt. Not Iran.

CEO Calls For A Return To Tax Fairness

In today's New York Times, Reed Hastings, the CEO of NetFlix, says don't cap executive salaries, rather, tax them at 50 percent like we used to do before Saint Ronald Reagan gutted our progressive tax structure:

Perhaps a starting place for “tax, not shame” would be creating a top federal marginal tax rate of 50 percent on all income above $1 million per year. Some will tell you that would reduce the incentive to earn but I don’t see that as likely. Besides, half of a giant compensation package is still pretty huge, and most of our motivation is the sheer challenge of the job anyway.

Wow! A corporate exec who really understands economic fairness, income inequality, and the need for progressive taxation. Make him Treasury Secretary!


Obama: Get Tough With The Republicans

As usual, Krugman has it right:

Count me among those who think that the president made a big mistake in his initial approach, that his attempts to transcend partisanship ended up empowering politicians who take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh. What matters now, however, is what he does next. It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

City Park In The Snow

Usually in the city when it snows things get slushy and dirty pretty fast and it's not really pretty. But last night we got three inches of really nice, light, powdery snow that blanketed the trees in the park across the street from our house. This is the start of a short trail that me and the dog take every morning.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Obama And The Gays: Rhetoric But No Action

I have very low expectations for Obama and his administration and gay rights. I hope I'm wrong but I really see lots of rhetoric and no action, well actually, negative things have happened already, like with Bishop Robinson's invisibility at the inauguration. Another example, Mrs. Clinton telling career State Department employees that she will review the policy that treats them unfairly. Review it? What about ending it? We continue to be America's only minority that it's OK to dump on, even now.

Obama And The Republicans

While Obama plays nice with the Republicans, America burns. Bi-partisan, my ass. When was Bush Junior ever bi-partisan? New era? Obama can't do that by himself. He'd better get going on the economy or the Republicans he's trying to woo will bury his ass in the mid-term elections and he'll end up being a one term wonder four years from now. Better to go down fighting than get creamed trying to please people who hate what you stand for.

Millionaire Crooks

I am really disgusted with the Tom Daschles of the country...fat cat, millionaire politicians who can't seem to manage to play by the rules. The fact that Obama sticks by the nomination of two of them who didn't pay their taxes makes my blood boil. They should be thrown in jail like we would if we didn't pay our taxes.

The Economy Will Reset, Not Recover

According to some pundits, the economy will not recover in the sense that we will return to stock market levels and other economic conditions that existed pre-last Fall. Instead, what we will see is the establishment of a new, lower level overall economy. This will mean a lower standard of living for most of us. The uber-wealthy are immune.

Think about the reset that happened when the Internet bubble burst almost ten years ago. The Nasdaq was at about 5,000 pre-burst. Well, it never recovered to that point in the years since. I don't think it even made it back to 2,000. A reset happened.

It may be that we're going to have to get used to a new set of economic realities that will not be pleasant for most of us.