September 2008

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This bill failed because the American People were calling their representatives at least 99-1 against this bailout.

Any bailout.

And it’s simply because they don’t quite understand this. Neither the problem, nor the proposed solutions.

And it’s not surprising. I watch CNBC all day, read the Economist every week, and I still don’t understand all of it.

It’s not the public’s fault.

Wall Street has been feeding them a string of lies for years now, and so has DC. It is a classic Chicken Little situation.

They’ve been saying for weeks that if we don’t act tomorrow, the Universe will implode.

But it hasn’t.

If it was so important, the Democrats should’ve passed this bill by themselves.

But they didn’t.

If it was so urgent, they could’ve worked over the Jewish Holiday.

But they couldn’t.

So it’s not crazy that the American People aren’t quite grasping the import, here.

Despite the distrust of DC, the individual, respective representatives could be of help explaining this.

Because, of course, everyone hates every politician… except for their politician.

But it seems they’re too busy insulting each other.

It is undeniable that McCain and Obama missed a chance to win this election when they refused, for some reason, to even half-heartedly address this issue in the debates. They could’ve explained at least a bit of it. They could’ve at least imparted a sense of urgency.

But it seems they were too busy not losing the debate.

You know, it’s not the political ineptitude that’s so surprising here. It’s how long it continues to go on.

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Heal thyself

Right now fingers are being pointed, wagged, and extended in all directions.
Angry fingers. Righteous fingers.

Who knew what, when?!
Who said something?!
Who actually tried to do something?!

Well, in all directions except one.


Turns out the very people who are currently trying to “fix” this financial clusterfuck… are the very ones that caused this financial clusterfuck.

And can we really expect the Government and their benefactors to investigate themselves?

Sure, they’ll pretend to. But it’s all empty gesture. Sans substance. Theatre.

But the truth is out there. And we can thank our meth addict of a 24-7 news cycle for that.

So where are the clips?
Where are the told-ya-so soundbytes?
Where’s the proof?

Don’t hold your breath.

The emperor has no clothes, a small dick and a bad herpes outbreak.

The Government teed it up, and Wall Street knocked it out of the park.

But let’s not waste time by pointing fingers.
It doesn’t matter how this happened, it only matters what we do next.
Let’s just agree that everyone screwed up, and move forward.

It would be almost funny if it weren’t the exact polar opposite of funny.

Government changed the rules, and then acts surprised as the market finds ways to stay in business, and even profit.

But, really. Can a white knight in shining armor really save the princess if he was the one kidnapped her, raped her, stole her money, and left her for dead?

He’ll sure try.

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Like many if not most New Yorkers I tend to breeze through the city “in the zone”.

Laser-focused on finding the path of least resistance to my destination.

Blocking out the city itself with shades on my face.

Deadening it’s uglier sounds via my trusty little white iPod noise-canceling headphones, tucked firmly in my ears.

So why, out of all the people to choose from, do tourists constantly choose ME to ask directions from?

Yanked from my zen-zone by a tap on the shoulder, I’ll turn to see an unfamiliar face, earnestly mouthing… something… important?

I deliberately remove one of my earphones, and say “wha?”

What I don’t say is “…have you NEVER seen an iPod ad? With the dark silhouette with the stark white IV infusing it with all-consuming audio loveliness?”

It’s all good. I don’t mind. And I always help.

But, why me?

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Campaign slogans are sometimes powerful things. And at their most powerful, they sometimes even decide whole elections.

For instance,

“It’s the economy, stupid” – 19942 Clinton/Gore

Simply brilliant. And it wasn’t even their “official” slogan, but it stuck. And to this day is more memorable than whatever their “official” one was.

Like that, the best ones in history are succinct. They are are sufficiently chant-able. And above all they are true.

They also tend to fall into certain categories. Such as:

“Change you can believe in” – 2008, Obama/Biden

“Back to normalcy” – 1920, Harding/Coolidge

“A chicken in every pot. A car in every garage.” – 1928 Hoover/Curtis

“Grandfather’s hat fits Ben” – 1888 Harrison/Morton

“Grant us another term” – 1872 Grant/Colfax

“Remember Hoover!” – 1936 Roosevelt/Garner

And… finally… SEXUAL:
“We Polked you in ’44, We shall Pierce you in ’52” – 1982 Pierce/King

So, what category does that put McCain/Palin’s seemingly simple, yet all-of-a-sudden-everywhere “Country First?”

Of course, it takes you to John McCain’s military service. As it is intended to do.

But look closer. It does something else, too. And to explain what, exactly, that is, we will let the unassuming woman I recently met in a rural Utah Bed and Breakfast, while watching McCain’s Convention keynote, clarify.

HER: “Hmmm. Country First… I like that slogan.”
ME: “Really? What do you think it means?”
HER: “Well, that John McCain thinks of his Country first, before other things.”
ME: “Before other things? Like what?”
HER: “Ego.”

Sometimes the most powerful things, are the simple things.


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Was it greed? Was it capitalism? Was it super-greedy uber-capitalism?

Well, one thing’s for sure, we wouldn’t find ourselves having to bail out AIG, Freddie & Fannie, Bear Stearns, and the millions of flippers and defaulters if the real estate bubble hadn’t burst.

And, of course, the real estate bubble wouldn’t have burst if all the foreclosures and mortgage defaults hadn’t happened.

And all those people wouldn’t have defaulted and gotten foreclosed on if they hadn’t tried to buy too much house to begin with, via those vile subprime and other “predatory” (even “racist”) loans.

Which wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t all thought real estate was a “good investment” and “always goes up”, and is “The American Dream” (which it’s not, “opportunity” is).

And, it’s important to note, Real Estate wouldn’t have “always gone up” (for 5 meager years) if the tech bubble hadn’t burst and Sir Alan Greenspan hadn’t depressed interest rates for way, way, way too long.

And those securitized rotten mortgages wouldn’t have been peddled so aggressively if Sir Alan Greenspan hadn’t depressed the interest rates for way, way, way too long, either.


Alan Greenspan wouldn’t have depressed interest rates for so damn long if the country wasn’t heading into recession after the demise of the tech bubble.

Of course the tech bubble burst because people finally realized that tech stocks don’t “always go up”.

(end interlude)

All those bad, securitized mortgages wouldn’t have (couldn’t have) been securitized if the banks, along with Freddie & Fannie, hadn’t lobbied for Republican Senators Phil Graham and James Leach to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act (a post-Great Depression law that banned banks and brokerage houses from intermingling their finances) which was passed 90-8-1, and signed by Bill Clinton.

The banks, along with Freddie & Fannie, wouldn’t have lobbied for Glass-Steagall to be repealed if the banks, along Freddie & Fannie, hadn’t been suddenly handling an ever-increasing amount of really stupid, bad mortgages.

Freddie & Fannie wouldn’t have been able to “revamp” themselves and “back” all those idiotic loans if Clinton hadn’t installed his buddy Jim Johnson and former budget director Franklin Raines (both of whom are currently high-level Obama campaign principals).

Clinton wouldn’t have installed his cronies to head up F&F (and change their rules) if the banks hadn’t cried bloody murder (lobbied) about how dangerous, and risky all these mortgages, now sitting heavily on their books, were.

And, finally, the banks would never have partaken in these super-risky mortgages in the first place had the office of Housing and Urban Development, at Clinton’s direction, not drastically increased the home ownership quotas for “minorities” and other, “less fortunate” citizens.

And Clinton would have never demanded that “minorities” and other, “less fortunate” citizens, had it not sounded so darn good. In theory. Politically.

And, well, that’s it. That is exactly what happened.

All of this with the obvious and important fact that throughout all of this the Government willfully failed to enforce laws already on the books, like you can’t loan money to someone who can’t prove their income (bank fraud) and you can’t give junk-rate securities a AAA rating when you know full well they’re junk (securities fraud).


By the way, it’s not too late to enforce these laws, and even collect money from the monumental assholes that perpetuated this mess. Both in Government and in the private sector. From Congressmen, to Fed Chairmen and Presidents. From wannabe BoilerRoom Mortgage Brokers to Wall Street CEOs. These jerks owe us money, and jail time.

(end interlude)

You know what they say about good intentions?

Whoever they are, they’re right.

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Well, well, well. They folded.

About 5 weeks ago I got this 3-page note from my New York State Attorney General:

(original diatribe here, legal documents here, and follow-up here)

And I must say… As a very, very anti-government guy (to a point) I was a little torn with using this State “service” to do my dirty work. But the fact of the matter was that TMobile essentially dared me to hire a lawyer. And a lawyer is a lot more expensive than their get-out-of-contract fee of $300+. And, well, I pay taxes. So it sortof made sense.

And again, the main (and very specific) reason I decided to involve the New York State Attorney General is to answer the question:

“if they can’t produce a copy of a SIGNED contract, is it TRUE they can only hold me to 1-year?” –a tactic listed on just about every “Get Out Of That Pesky Cellphone Contract!” webpost.

And that answer is… well, I still don’t know. Because even though TMobile quickly relinquished it’s dominion over me, and mine (even though they tried to enforce the “handset upgrade” which they had promised me wouldn’t extend my contract), it’s still NOT clear whether it was because:

a) they couldn’t produce the signed contract, or…

b) simply because I had Big Brother as my bodyguard.

The reason this update has taken 5 weeks is when I initially received the good news I immediately wrote my SAG back, asking them to clarify the main point (that pesky signed contract thing).

And only yesterday they called me back, and said: “Sorry, but we don’t provide legal advice”.


(Apparently they only provide tax-payer-funded bullying services).

Oh well.

I can’t say I’m totally disappointed. I did manage to wiggle out of TMobile’s clutches, and I’m happily on AT&T with my awesome new iPhone 3G (review forthcoming).

But the question still remains: does this “signed contract” argument hold any water?

In lieu of hiring a lawyer, I’m putting the question right back out there, into teh internets, into the ether…

Well, does it?


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Today @ 5:00 pm.

Myself and about a thousand other sweaty would-be commuters peering down the track at the 34th Street Stop of the A train.

For 20 minutes. No train.

And then there was one. Only it was the local, E, on the other side of the tracks.

15 more minutes. No train.

And then another train on the local side. This time it was an A.

So along with just 15 others, I darted down the stairs, under and through the tunnel, up the other stairs (bursting through some poor tourists with luggage) to barely squeeze on the train.

Is this the A train?


So, let me get this straight MTA: you run the A on the local track, and for some reason don’t announce it?


But it gets slightly better.

We run local ’till 59th Street. But then we run express to 125, and then 145. For some unannounced reason. At 145 we pull alongside another A train, which everyone teams into. “Why?” I asked the conductor. “Because that one might leave first.” Then he shrugged.

Very fitting for the MTA. A shrug.

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