The Talking Dog

April 30, 2011, Loop-chasms

I hope that the smoldering wreck of a country around him will somehow tug at the conscience of my college classmate Pres. Barack Obama when, in two or six years... probably six... he gets his real dream job, with Goldman Sacks or J.P. Morgan or B of A or Citi...or perhaps some hedge fund... because, well... you know... things like good old errand-boy-to-the-man, now SecTreas Timmy "the Tax-Dodger" Geithner has intervened to prevent regulation of foreign exchange derivatives, a $30 trillion market, whose problems led to a multi-trillion dollar bailout by the federal government in the last financial crisis... on the simple ground that the particular Goldman Sacks rigged casino "market" at issue... just don't need no stinking regulation.

Those of you who still insist that the inter-partisan kabuki we are subjected to day-in and day-out matters at all, understand that this is Goldman Sacks's Barack Obama's Treasury Department... note all the "hope and change" out there, as in the most important portfolios in a country racked by economic problems and multiple wars, Obama retained (Republican) Ben Bernanke at the Fed, brought in Bernanke's New York deputy Tim Geithner to Treasury, and retained (Republican) Bob Gates at Defense... although now, Gates has "retired" to spend more time with his portfolio family, and so, Leon Panetta moves over from CIA to Defense (hope and change), Generalissimo David Petraeus moves to CIA, Ryan Crocker goes to Afghanistan and General somebody or other goes to take Petraeus's job.... later, rinse, change you can believe in, repeat... [Update: It seems one of the killer-robots, or perhaps Maverick or somebody else flying a NATO misslion managed to kill Qaddaffi Qaddaffi's youngest son. ]

Boys and girls, the inter-partisan thing is a miserably bad show... on what matters-- murdering swarthy foreign people (preferably by flying killer robots, which Petraeus now takes over directly), and murdering non-connected-to-the-financial-industry-or-otherwise-fabulously rich Americans' life-savings, home values, social safety nets, and futures so that Goldman Sacks, et als. can steal more money... both parties are in full and complete agreement. While everything else is cleverly calculated to get our blood boiling... it's calculated as a distraction.

Boys and girls, I'll repeat: with the blood in the streets from the financial crisis of barely 2 to 2 1/2 years ago not cleaned up, the Obama Administration is allowing one of the most abusive and potentially disastrous trading operations in the world to proceed totally unregulated... because, you know... no reason, just Goldman Sacks told us to policy. This has been "Loop-chasms."

April 30, 2011, Royal flush [it]

I defer to the Onion for its coverage of the coverage surrounding the Medieval pageantry of an atavistic feudal throwback institution royal wedding of Prince William and commoner (so much fun to use that word!) Kate Middleton.

April 25, 2011, We know nothing...

Another day, another big Wikileaks document dump, in this case, as reported by the great Carol Rosenberg of McClatchy News Service (just about our last reliable domestic print source), everything we have been publicly told about Guantanamo detainees is wrong.

As most of those familiar with matters GTMO will tell you, not too much of this is much of a surprise-- so-called "intel" was mostly a load of crap, entirely unsupported, or the result of snitches at GTMO ratting on their friends (and many of the snitches have been released, despite being purportedly "high risk," while others, presenting "no risk"... are still there... and so forth.)

Despite Uncle's best efforts... for those of you who might want to peruse the documents yourselves: Wikileaks is still out there...

One wonders what indignities will be foist on Bradley Manning now... "American exceptionalism" is a wonderful thing... in places like Tunisia or Palestine, learning about the malfeasance of their own government has been enough to get untold numbers of people to take to the streets demanding action... here... it will be barely noticed, and the only way it could even be measured might be in [slightly] increased prozac and ambien sales.

The thing is that, as exceptional as we fancy ourselves, our self-imposed ignorance, along with continued belief in our twin national patron saints [Santa Claus... and Ronald Reagan Ayn Rand] also render this nation more irrelevant by the day...

So click your heels together and just keep saying "worst of the worst"... close your eyes, and it will all [probably] go away.

April 24, 2011, Wolf crying

This comprehensive WaPo report on why the "close GTMO within one year" exec order didn't (and ain't gonna) happen is well worth your time. My particular favorite detail concerns the central failure of not closing GTMO, the inability to move a single detainee stateside, of which the fate of the Chinese Uighur detainees is front and center, primarily because the Obama Administration thought it could "surprise" everyone, including local Congressman Frank Wolf:

“They were going to show up here, and we were going to announce it,” said one senior official, describing the swift, secretive operation that was designed by the administration to preempt any political outcry that could prevent the transfer.

But before the plane could leave Cuba, word leaked to Rep. Frank R. Wolf that Guantanamo detainees were on their way to his district in Northern Virginia. Wolf, a Republican, had not been briefed on the matter by the White House, despite his history of defending the Uighur community in his district, and was infuriated by the move.

He faxed a letter to the Obama administration and released it to the news media, declaring that the “American people cannot afford to simply take your word that these detainees, who were captured training in terrorist camps, are not a threat if released into our communities.”

The outrage from a single congressman was enough to spook the Obama administration, which quickly shelved its Uighur plan. Craig as well as a current senior official and a former senior official said they don’t know who stopped the transfer.

“They did not reconvene the principals,” Craig said. “They did not have a meeting in the Oval Office to discuss this and change the direction. It just happened: ‘We’re not doing it.’ ”

In fact, the transfer was stopped by Emanuel, according to officials familiar with Emanuel’s thinking. They said he and other senior West Wing aides did not think they could overcome congressional opposition after hearing Wolf’s outcry.

Others argued that the White House was simply not prepared to wage full battle

It all goes downhill from there, I'm afraid... the rest, I'm afraid, is history... But this is what happens when two kinds of bullying get together-- the classic in-your-face kind of bullying of Rahm Emmanuel, and the more insidious I-want-everyone-to-like-me-but-I-won't-lift-a-finger-to-make-it-happen-and-you're-dead-if-you-cross-me-or-make-me-look-bad kind of behind the scenes bullying coming from the President himself. The unspoken subtext of the lengthy WaPo piece is the Administration simply didn't try very hard to get GTMO closed... unlike say, "health care reform" or the bank bailouts, which resulted in the right people making lots of money (of course).

Go figure.

April 23, 2011, Juxtapositions

Familia TD took a brief sojourn to our local museum, where I was blown away by the conceit of this exhibit. The visual concept of Brooklyn artist Lorna Simpson is to juxtapose vintage images with poses intended to duplicate them, in order to deliberately create a false dichotomy, to make an artistic point.

I juxtapose this with Dmitry Orlov's piece on an interview involving Michael Betancourt, noting that our planet's entire economy is based on semiosis, rather than anything, you know, real. (Think about it: electronic impulses stand in for pieces of paper that stand in for pieces of metal that stand in ultimately for claims on the products of industrial production which may or may not actually come into existence... a system that could be gamed at every level... and has been...)

I'll then juxtapose this absurd piece of right-wing agit-prop that it's just not fair to tax the rich from WaPo, based as it is on some kind of anecdotal games-play, as opposed to Krugman's giving us the actual distribution of tax payments by income levels in the United States (hint: we don't need no stinking flat tax-- if you count all taxes-- sales, social security, state/local as well as income, the tax burden is shockingly flat at each level of income).

We'll shift over to the Middle East, where it would appear that Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh has accepted an agreement "in principle" which would have him resigning within 30 days in exchange for a blanket immunity from prosecution. Yemeni protests have been quite strident (and beaten back quite violently)... despite not being particularly well-covered stateside. We'll note that Saleh is a wily player, very much "our guy." The category of "our guys" is very much in play when talking about Bahrain (home of the US Navy 5th Fleet, and protests which have also been strident, and violently beaten back)... the UN is calling for an investigation into the death-by-torture-while-in-government-custody of one of the country's leading opposition newspaper-men. The United States, it seems, is much more... reticent. Saudi wants us to be that way, of course. We're a tad more vocal about goings-on in... Syria, for example. And Libya... well. we're just not going to talk about that.

Of course, the instability in the Middle East will have some oil-price impact, though not nearly as much as fundamental supply/demand dynamics (hint: we use a lot of the black stuff, and there ain't as much as we think there is left to drill-baby-drill)... and so, the President tells us there is no magic silver bullet to bring down gasoline prices, though he is investigating price-gouging, speculation, etc. Well, the thing is... oil prices are a component of food prices and really of the price not just of heating your home and fueling your car, but really, of all goods and services in an industrial economy. The point being that there is some level of oil price at which a financial trip-wire is crossed, and the world's still-not-quite-stable banks and financial houses (and arguably worse, because now we have even bigger too-big-to-fail institutions)... simply melt down... again.

The ultimate point is... everything is connected to each other, and yet, at the same time, nothing is really connected to much of anything. And so... while people in the Middle East continue to take to the streets and risk their lives at this very moment when the crackdowns intensify... while here, much of our "political debate" is now devoted to a failed real-estate huckster and charlatan (whose very hair is fake, for God's sake) and his lunatic ramblings that the President is illegitmate because he's Black alleged to be foreign born... and Lindsay Lohan is jailed and released and...

I know I had a point in there somewhere; discuss. This has been, "Juxtapositions."

April 21, 2011, Passing of greatness

In these already depressing times, it saddens me (perhaps more than it otherwise might) to see one of my genuine heroes succumb, in this case, the great Grete Weitz, who passed away this week at 57, from cancer. Grete, of course, was an unprecedented nine time champion at the New York Marathon (including three in a row in world record time, a multiple Olympian (taking a silver medal in the 1984 marathon) for her native Norway, and had numerous other distance running accolades.

Every October, the New York Road Runners Club stages their annual "Norway Festival" in Central Park, featuring a half marathon called "Grete's Great Gallop," typically spaced about four weeks before the NYC Marathon. Grete herself was usually there, and would high-five those running it, including on at least one occasion I recall, me.

Here is a piece from 2008 including her own reflection on perhaps her most famous finish, a 5 1/2 hour victory lap in 1988 run next to legendary NYC Marathon director Fred Lebow, who was himself then dying of cancer... in what would be both of their final marathons. Grete's husband Jack Weitz gave us Grete's watchwords, which may be the best advice I can give myself, or anyone else as we try to do what needs to be done in ever more pressing times: IF YOU GIVE UP, YOU LOSE.

Simple as that. R.I.P., Grete.

April 16, 2011, Yes, but...

The usually sober and sensible business writer,Joe Nocera, writing in the Grey Lady's op ed pages, suggests that the destruction of remaining potable water supplies in the Northeast United States iddy biddy "alleged environmental problems" associated with gas-extraction-by-fracturing, or "fracking" (presumably referring to the term for "garbage" from Battlestar Galactica) is really quite minor and can be easily solved with proper first-rate drilling methods and robust local regulation.

I simply wonder what Joe is smoking country Nocera is living in... surely, it is not the USA of 2011, where every corner will be cut and every regulator will be bought (or if not bought, their superiors will be bought, or theirs...)

We can simply no longer trust American industry, especially the extraction industry (see Gulf Coast) with anything, let alone something "novel" with a proven record of environmental disaster. BTW, let me disclose my bias: I live in New York City, and I drink water, and use it for other things like cooking, bathing, watering plants and putting out the occasional fire.

I fully understand that natural gas whose extraction will destroy my city's potable water will be immensely profitable for someone, and hence, business writers are supposed to like it. But enough already. Our electrical grid and delivery systems are insanely antiquated, and things like wind power were held up for years because they would interfere with the view from Ted Kennedy's yacht. Plus, the internet, which is usually touted as "green"... which did not exist just two decades ago... uses around three per cent of American electricity... and we think up new ways to waste energy all the time! And Japan just showed us what a good idea nuclear energy is.

So... it's about time we changed the game... greed is NOT good. Growth is NOT the answer... as if we were actually going to have any. Making due and making better quality lives with what we have already... or better still, more with less... that should be the goal. Really-- the problem is mind-set-- that of the kind Nocera is advocating, that somehow we must always have MORE, damn the cost-- in a world where we have hit peak oil, and the limits of the natural world have come crashing against the insatiable appetite of industrial capitalism. And NO-- natural gas that has even a possibility of destroying the nation's largest city's most important water-shed cannot be defined as the answer to any question other than "how do you commit mass suicide?"

Honestly... Katrina... Fukushima... Deepwater Horizon... Bhopal... Chernobyl... ENOUGH. We are just not good enough at making sure things work right to trust profit-driven fiends hellbent on making money with our very drinking water.

This isn't a hard one.

April 15, 2011, Birthday greetings

Well, it's one of them milestone birthdays for our old friend, the Unseen Editor, one of the prime movers of this here blog (not to mention, our fellow college classmate.. along with those n'er do wells Miguel Estrada and Barack Obama.) Happy half-century, big guy!

In other news, we're still at war with Eurasia Eastasia Iraq and Afghanistan, and now... Libya, the national political debate has shifted to which party can dismantle Medicare the fastest, and my soundest political and financial advice remains grow your own vegetables, stock up on bicycle tools and parts, and maybe make friends with some well-armed persons. And maybe having a small boat around might be good.

April 1, 2011, April Fool's Day edition

Although the April 1 edition is a traditional favorite here at TTD, this year I'm having a particularly hard time keeping a straight face with this year's entry... I warn you... DO NOT be drinking soda or anything that might come out of your nose. OK-- you've been warned.

Beloved President of the United States B.H. Obama is actually a Black man

Wait for it... B.H. Obama, that beloved all-American guy we elected President because we loved his God-fearing red-blooded White grandparents (his grandpa fought in the Battle of the Bulge with Patton for Chrissakes)... is actually a Black man. And... this might even be harder to believe... the "B.H." actually stands for (oh man, this is too funny)... "Barack Hussein" and his father was from... Kenya.

And B.H. Obama, who campaigned on a plucky traditionally Democratic campaign of "hope and change" and railed against everything that awful G.W. Bush did when he was President... again, please spit out any liquids in your mouth... continued Bush's policies on Guantanamo Bay, civil liberties, surveillance, tax cuts for the affluent, bailing out banks and big business, subsidies for large oil companies, wars against the Muslim world (and he even stepped up the war in Afghanistan, and started a new war in Libya!), and otherwise propping up the military-industrial (what we have left of industry, anyway) complex.

Notwithstanding the beloved President's seamless adopting of his predecessor's extremely unpopular programs, as soon as word became public that the fiscally orthodox and foreign-policy-reactionary socially conservative President was actually a Black man, Fox News and the Republican National Committee issued a joint press-release denouncing the war-mongering tax cutter as a Kenyan-born, Muslim socialist.

This has been... "April Fool's Day edition."