Perhaps it would be good, from time to time, to drop the grandiloquence and the witty turn of phrase and do more close-in legal analysis of some things which are in the public realm of discussion these days. Such as, gay rights & gay marriage, two issues given higher visibility by the nomination of Rick Warren as the Communicator with our Invisible Friend as the religious start of a secular proceeding next month. (First question: why are we praying at a state function? It's unConstitutional in the extreme.)
December 26, 2008
December 25, 2008
The story surrounding the birth of Jesus on December 25 in Bethlehem is occasionally worth a second look, as part of one's own maturation process, because so much of what we take for granted about the story is based on childhood impressions that, for one reason or another, we never bother to disturb with later reading. The birth is described in what Christians call the "New Testament" and what Jewish scholars call "Mishagoss."
December 24, 2008
In our new Gilded Age it seems that only the Robber Barons really make out. Reading about the pathetic saga of Bernard Madoff and his Ponzi scheme, one is led to think that in our society, where probably 99% of the populace go about their personal and wage-earning lives with integrity and a naive, trusting faith, that the Little Guy just doesn't have a chance anymore. Add up all the cons, frauds, schemes, deregulation over the last twenty years or so and you must come to the conclusion that in modern American society, only crime pays. Enron, the mutual fund scandals (inside dope to big investors, which Spitzer prosecuted - it's why he had to go), Martha Stewart, the subprime/Moody's/Big Investment Bank conspiracy -- these are headlines, but they barely scratch the surface. The truth is that the entire financial system in the United States, including these vaunted "markets" that Bush/Paulson want to prop up, are all absolutely rotten to their core. And in a decadent system where everyone has abandoned the idea of true productivity, the only people who are going to make money are the short-sell players (like John Paulson's hedge fund) and the crooks.
December 22, 2008
Habitual Swimmers at the Pond are aware of my contention that Paul Krugman, ace economics columnist for the stately New York Times, is occasionally displaced by his Doppelganger, a guy who's not too bright and uses Krugman's byline. Recently, I'm fairly sure the DG was in residence when Krugman wrote that the public debt was less important than people usually think because "it's basically money we owe ourselves." I appreciate that the man won the Nobel Prize, but unless he means by "public debt" only that part of the national debt which the U.S. Treasury owes to the various trust funds (e.g., Social Security) which have been systematically looted in order to run the military industrial complex over the last 30 years or so, then his remark makes absolutely no sense. At least 50% of the national debt is in the form of Treasury obligations (bills & bonds) of various maturities owed to private U.S. citizens and foreign citizens, banks and sovereign wealth funds. It's just - well, stupid to say anything else. And we're talking over $5 trillion, and of that amount over half is owed to foreigners. That is not money "owed to ourselves;" it is very real debt, and the obligation exists against a backdrop of the Obama Administration's determination to invest in a recovery plan which will cost, initially, at least one trillion dollars. And because of the many bailouts, TARP projects, promises to shore up the auto industry, etc., the deficit for fiscal year 2009 (which we're currently in) is clearly going to exceed a trillion dollars, by far the largest deficit (by a factor of two) in U.S. history, and almost all of that deficit is going to add to the real debt the country owes to real creditors. The recovery plan of Obama's first year will clearly result in a deficit for fiscal 2010 at least as large, which means the nationald debt at the end of 2010 will exceed $12 trillion, pushing $13 trillion, and almost all of the new debt will take the "real" form as opposed to the DG's idealized notion of illusory debt. Thus, we're looking at $8 trillion as the non-owed-to-ourselves part of the national debt, and that's difficult to laugh off the way Herr Krugman does.
Whatever the new administration does, we’re in for months, perhaps even a year, of economic hell. After that, things should get better, as President Obama’s stimulus plan — O.K., I’m told that the politically correct term is now “economic recovery plan” — begins to gain traction. Late next year the economy should begin to stabilize, and I’m fairly optimistic about 2010.
December 21, 2008
Somewhat more than a year ago my cousin, oft-published writer, musician, philosopher, wit and alumnus of the same demented Fundie denomination that so scrambled my early cognitive development, had the idea that we should attend a "reunion" of the 17th Street congregation of this very church. The 17th Street in question is on the western edge of the Mission District, not far east of Eureka Valley, and just a few blocks away from the heart of the Castro District, all of these locations in San Francisco. Trusting my older cousin's judgment, and not wanting him to go through such an experience alone, I tagged along. The congregation that used to meet at 17th Street now meets out at Lake Merced, along Brotherhood Way, in a soulless building, a giant A-frame, with an accompanying, depressing multi-purpose building. It was a foggy, cold day, which is to say: a day in San Francisco. The reunion started out with a Continental breakfast, a long table laden with the usual victuals typical of the denomination's Southern roots: ham, potato salad, fried chicken, strawberry cream pie. Looking at this array, my cousin said, sotto voce, "What Continent?" I told you he was a witty guy.