9-27-2008 Socialize the losses, privatize the gains

I watched part of the presidential debate last night. I knew better, but I watched anyway. Wifey was taking in some whacked show counting down the top 40 reality television moments, and I figured that lame-ass nonsense would be the better choice of the two. Still, I sauntered on out to my outdated video advertising box and settled in.

First of all, based solely on his threadbare resume, being chastised about policies and such by Barack Obama is akin to being forcefully corrected by a 10-year-old. And his penchant for pointing that finger of his while explaining how he and only he can see the truth makes me want to invite him into the back alley for a go-round with the sleeves pulled up. His, not mine. I donít do sleeves.

Put very bluntly, heís an annoyingly arrogant trainee and I think he actually believes he deserves to be where he is right now. And as this drawn-out electoral process has been playing out, I keep wondering to myself why so many people would be so fired-up about electing a guy based on nothing. Yeah, I know. I know. As the current, laughable, totally partisan swill goes, community organizing is next to godliness. Community organizing is proof of superiority. There is nothing so exulted on the face of Allahís great earth as that prince of all known resume enhancements: Community organizing. What-effing-ever.

Anyway, there did come that point when John McCain was pointing out that he actually has a track record whereas foreign policy and inserting troops into Harmís Way is concerned. And a rather lengthy one at that. He made mention of the bracelet given to him by the grieving mother of a fallen soldier. And he listed some of the voting decisions he made when Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq (1991), Afghanistan, Beirut and Iraq (2003-2008) had the sabers all a rattling.

Thankfully, he made no mention of his experiences in Vietnam, since, the folks on the other side of the political aisle seem to groan in unison when confronted by the reality that McCain actually served his country, while his all-knowing, all-seeing opponent lectures us about the pressing need to serve our country.

So, in response to McCainís litany of past votes in which lives, races of people and entire countries were on the line, Obamaís immediate retort was: ďIíve got a bracelet, too.Ē

Exactly. A bracelet. Thatís what youíve got. No worthwhile experience to speak of. Youíve got what Corruption Inc. in Chicago told you to pretend to be. After the beer shot out of my nose, I cut the power to the aged television and joined Wifey in watching perfect idiots perfect reality television idiocy.

I got no time for trainees pretending to be something they are not. I got no time for people who abruptly change their religions and drop their preferred sexual preferences in the name of political expediency. And I got no time for the guy who mocks his opponents advanced age, but who got a tit-for-tat debating go of it from him. Barack Obama is so much adieu about nothing, Iím finding it more and more difficult to watch anymore. I can no longer stand the know-it-all from nowhere, the know-it-all do-nothing with nothing of note from which to draw from.

Heís got a bracelet, too.

I still canít believe he said that.

From the e-mail inbox Good morning,

Thirty years ago, Jimmy Carter was condemned for economic conditions during his administration caused by his refusal to take the easy way out and increase the deficit.

Ronald Reagan was sold on a new economic policy, dubbed "voodoo economics" by George Bush Sr. The idea was that deficits don't matter, we'll "grow our way out of them";and bank regulations were stifling the mortgage market and anti-trust rules were old-fashioned.

Today we are reaping the bitter rewards of this economic policy. We see Alan Greenspan for the idiot he is. The government has been forced to bail out both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to protect the Chinese investments in these agencies. We think of ourselves as a "super-power" and yet we now stand before the world, nine and a half trillion dollars in debt with more than one hundred and fifty trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities desperately hoping some foreign country will come to our aid.
As my late grandmother used to say, "the cows have come home to roost".

Unlike the rest of the folks opining away on the internet day-in and day-out, I have been on a glorious fantasy football hiatus of sorts and have not commented at all on the financial meltdown and corresponding financial gridlock currently threatening what little remains of the republic. Here goes.

Iíve read everything I could find on the subject while this nightmare scenario has been unfolding. And very long, convoluted story short, I donít know what the fu>k to think. Sure, weíve got bloggers pretending to know who to blame. Namely, the political party said bloggers do not subscribe to. Bloggers as economists. Useless pap.

The Democrats are blaming the Republicans, while the Republicans likewise blame the Democrats. In short, you have to throw all of that useless partisan twaddle out while in search of some usable facts. You can read what the economic boys have to say. This one says it started with Jimmy Carter and the next pins it on George W. Bush. Still another claims itís Bill Clintonís fault, while the next swears Ronald Reagan did it. Itís all more confusing than it is helpful.

Thing is, pinning blame on some entity or one person is not going to get the mess fixed. Although, it sure would go a long way to fixing it if someone would just honestly pinpoint the crux of the problem, and then suggest what needs to be done in response. Ah, but itís an election year. So, while we teeter on the edge of the proverbial abyss, partisan politics rules the day. Figures.

I read intently the opinion of Kayak Dude, since heís been toiling away in the banking, or financial services industry for some time now. Whatever you call it. He's like an enviro-banking dude.

I dunno.

I know him to be a no-nonsense, common sense sort of guy, so his opinion mattered to me. And heís saying Ďno way, no howí to the proposed $700 billion bailout plan. Interesting. No way, no how. Very interesting.

As someone recently wrote, ďÖsocialize the losses, privatize the gains.Ē

Yet, the latest news includes the largest bank failure in history, that of Wamu, or Washington Mutual. And now thereís a report signaling that depositors have developed a sudden lack of faith in Wachovia Bank and the price of itís stock is plummeting. And to that sort of further troubling stuff I say: Dude, are you sure? Víger wants to know.

Is PNC Bank next? Need I head down to the basement and find that ancient, oversized Charles Chips can of ours for the purposes of depositing our rapidly dwindling assets in the back yard? Should I up and quit my job and snatch my fast-disappearing 401K from the jaws of defeat? Or do we stand pat, and make high-minded statements about how we believe in America and how we believe in the American people? Because at this point, I really donít know what to think. And I really, really, really donít feel like wasting my days away standing in any soup or bread line.

You know who to blame? You know where that blame lies? Yeah, right! As if that helps. What we need is less partisanship, less rancor and more problem solving. We need capable leadership and we need it now. In all honesty, we might need it by Monday morning.

But the sad fact is, thereís a national election looming, and I seriously doubt that either party has forgotten that their clear priority is winning that election. (See Barney Frank.) Therefore, I have no faith in anyone. I doubt that what weíll get will be little more than a stop-gap solution that will do little more than stave off the calamity, while the underlying financial problems and shortcomings continue to fester and eat away at our financial vitality and underpinnings.

And remember this one, kiddies. While Barack Obama and John McCain go back and forth about where to and how best to deploy our vast military might, history reminds us that economic decline necessitates a proportionate military decline. And as of this very moment, that probably should be the one distinct possibility that scares us the most.

And they wonder why we drink.

True story. When we first got on the internet with our Web TV Plus unit back in 1998, I watched as the stock market soared higher and higher, and as the then enormous internet bubble made millionaires and billionaires of the CEOs of internet companies that were yet to turn a dime of profit at that point. Huh?

Being a voracious reader, but never once having been confused with any economist, I eventually came to the conclusion that there had to be a ton of playing fast and loose with the rules going on. Seriously, how do you lose gobs and gobs of money for years on end and get filthy rich in the process? Accounting tricks? Got me. Economically, Iím not much further advanced than Mongo, but I know hocus pocus when I see it.

Reminds of when, years before, a representative from AFLAC appeared before our employees and made his pitch. Itís easy, really. You get all of these wonderful, extra health benefits and absolutely free. How? Well, they deduct the cost of the added benefits from our paycheck pre-tax. And the net result is the added benefits, but your paycheck goes up because of the pre-tax hocus pocus. Huh?

I was beyond skeptical, but there we were standing in line to sign up. And the result? I got the supposed benefits, but my next paycheck shrunk. I bitched to my higher-up and a clarification that was not understandable to me came down form on high. Huh? And then my next paycheck shrunk even more, at which point I instructed the human resources people to get my name off of that AFLAC list. Then, that sales rep guy contacted me directly and explained it to me all over again. And I have to tell you, he made it sound far superior to the 77 virgins routine. Still, huh? I dumped AFLAC.

Call me old-fashioned beyond all repair, but I just donít see how you get something from nothing. I donít understand how you create wealth without making a tangible investment in the first place. Last I heard, you had to pay for lottery tickets. They donít hand them out free of charge.

Anyway, there did come this day some ten years ago when I had me this epiphany. It was clear as day and painfully simple. Being that the elected upper class seems to think they are entitled to that which I earn, and since they were encouraging me at every turn to invest whatever I could into my 401K plan, I figured weíd be lucky if that money was actually there when we arrived at retirement age. Yep, with that that fast and loose showing up practically everywhere, I figured that either something would come about that would wreak havoc on those funds. Or that at some point, Congress would figure that forking over 20% when the time came to draw on my funds was far, far to low. Yup, I envisioned a tax rate much higher when the time finally came. 30%. 50%. Who knows. And stay tuned on all of that, assuming weíll even have anything left in those shrinking accounts by as soon as next Friday.

Nope, I explained it to Wifey this way. Hope that when we retire we have all of this money to draw upon. But, being realistic in this greed-fueled, fast and loose economic environment of ours, expect it not to be there and donít be shocked if we end up shopping for used shoes at the local thrift outlet when weíre 65.

Thatís how I felt then, and recent events are making me feel smarter and smarter about myself all of a sudden. Itís simple. Iíve got a little bit of money, and both Congress and Wall Street are busily conspiring as to how they can take a hold of it. Always have been, always will. So, depending on how things go in the immediate future, perhaps Iíll see you at the local thrift store in about 15 years.

Then again, Paul Kanjorski will save us.

15 years? Oh, yeah. That reminds me. Get this, I turned 50 a little more than a week ago.

Doesnít bother me none. Iím not in denial or anything. I mean to say, I still do the same things I did when I was 17. And in most cases, even better than I did them when I was 17. If I suddenly need to be put out to pasture, so be it. So try and lead me out to pasture and weíll find out if the work on the heavy bag still pays off huge dividends.

My niece couldnít resist smiling wryly and calling me an ďold man.Ē So, I politely asked her what sheíd think of me punching the snot out of her right after I raped her boyfriend. She quickly changed the subject.

Old? Me? Whatever. I know NEPAís foremost feminist, Steve Rodham Corbett, would seriously frown upon this sort of machismo guy talk, but here goes anyway. When your 50th birthday arrives and your son is still afraid of you, youíre not that bad off.

And if youíre still passionate about all that self-professed chicks like Rodham Corbett disdain, NASCAR, the NFL, MLB and swilling beers too numerous to count and interspersed with major league foul language, youíre certainly not dead yet. When it becomes obvious that I no longer care about the Blue Wall--the New York Football Giants--drop me a line and correctly point out that things have definitely gotten behind me. But until then, pipe down.

The way I see it, Iím already enjoying the bonus plan. My sister died in her infancy. My other sister has a multitude of health problems and has had them for years. My mother didnít make it to 50. Hell, my brother didnít even make it to 40.

So, at 50, who am I to bitch?

LetĎs see here. A local township commissioner has been arrested for using a township-supplied debit card for personal use, while one of our county commissioners and his in-the-loop underlings were not arrested for doing pretty much the same thing. Makes you wonder.

Mayor Tom Leighton held a press conference in which he came out in full support of Barack Obama and lambasted John McCain for his questionable economic policies and the like.

On itís face, it smacks of partisan politics. But, at second glance, Tom Leighton has always gravitated to what he thought was best for Wilkes-Barreís economic chances.

I believe he believes in what heís said.

Commissioner Greg Skrepenak is toast. By pushing for a delay of the long overdue reassessment, he is pandering for the votes of senior citizens and being shortsighted beyond all belief. Local politics being what they may, the local business community as well as the movers and shakers all know full well that flawed as it is, the reassessment must go forward.

Whatever. I didnít vote for him. You did.

The City of Wilkes-Barre denied former tower Bob Kadluboski his civil rights when they terminated his towing contract? I am certainly not privy to the innermost details on this one. But I donít want the city solicitors doing their best impersonations of the local meteorologists by rarely if ever getting it right.


Former firehouse activist, Denise Carey, is seeking access to Mayor Tom Leightonís personal tax records. Can you sayÖvendetta?

Speaking of firehouses, Steve Rodham Corbett went and invited his listeners to call WILK radio and bash Wilkes-Barre last week, while saying of Tom Leighton, ďYouíve got probably the worst elected mayor in the United States.Ē

So some hapless boob called in and noted that since East Station was closed, the folks in the Heights have suffered through 21-minute response times from the now more centrally located fire department. The only problem is, thatís a bald-faced lie. A bald-faced lie easily provable of being a bald-faced lie by simply accessing the archived call logs at the 911 center. Sez me and the police scanner.

Sorry there, Rodham Corbett, but the police scanner doesnít lie. As for your rambling, vacuous show and your dimwitted legion of howling callers, thatís an entirely different story.

Worst elected mayor, heh? Yeah, how about Scranton going deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper into debt? And how about Scranton needing yet another loan to pay off the previous unpaid loan and then proposing to spread that new debt out over 18 years? It all sounds eerily familiar.

Oh, I know. It sounds exactly like the ruinous modus operandi of our former mayor, Mr. Tax Anticipation Note, himself.

Leighton sucks? You got a perpetual hard-on for Tom Leighton? Itís personal for you, but you wonít tell us why. Whatís the matter? The phony baloney, huffing and puffing karate persona didnít scare him? Did he threaten to kick your ass before you split the United States for California? Did he piss in your wheat germ and tofu shake?

What gives, sister?

Fantasy football update:

So far, so good. 3 games--3 wins. One of only 2 undefeated teams. Best yet, the Pogrom Sonics are easily leading the league in scoring. Plus, my bye week player losses are spread out over the weeks very evenly, meaning there should be no precipitous drop in scoring on my part. Not that my opponents can say the very same thing. They canít. Some serious match-up problems are heading their way, coming as early as tomorrow.

What writing on the internet has taught me over the years is that exhaustive research pays off. It not only makes you right more often than not, it can make you downright infallible when you invest the time necessary to become as much.

Now, in fantasy football you are always susceptible to unforeseen injuries, suspensions and/or suddenly under performing players. But this year, I did away with the writing on the internet nonsense and delved heavily into the player research. And a superlative, almost clairvoyant draft was the direct result. Basically, I did my homework and then some.

Who knew that QB Jay Cutler was about set to explode? Who knew that RB Frank Gore would thrive in the new Mike Martz offense the 49ers installed? Who knew that RB Reggie Bush, for the first time, devoted his entire off-season to strengthening his lower body? Who knew that WR Brandon Marshall led the entire NFL in yards-after-catch last season, and who had 55 receptions in his last regular season 7 games? Who knew that WR Greg Jennings was a pass-receiving stud in the making?

Who knew? That would be me, I knew.

And my point? Is there one? When youíre dead set on winning at fantasy football as well as writing on the internet, do your homework first. Because, in my swirling vortex of a troubled mind, anything less is foolhardy and not worth the effort.

So, tomorrow the 2 undefeated teams in our league are on a head-to-head collision course. And in this match-up, I am supremely confident of escaping with my unblemished record intact.

Actually, Iím thinking rout. And if some of my opponents ever get around to exploring the bye week adjustments they will need to make in the coming weeks, while I wonít need to, they might even get to suspecting that a season-long rout just might be afoot.

Do your homework, kiddies.

Sez me.