I acknowledge the grand importance of what he represents in American political and cultural life. He does represent the unfulfilled dreams of an entire race and does confirm the belief "anything is possible" in America.
Moving forward, any criticism I may have of him is not based on race or what he symbolizes (this should already be discounted in the minds of people) but through the prisms of decision and policy making as Commander-in-Chief.
-Well, I'm once again installed here in Montreal after a two-week trip to Washington D.C. and Delaware. What did I learn? For starters, I look smashing in a tan. Vain, vain, vain.
Aside from this, while walking and trolleying around D.C., I thought about Alexis de Tocqueville - that brilliant observer of 18th century America from France best known for his work in Democracy in America. Specifically, I wondered about how different political life was back then to what it is now. Was it "easier" to observe American politics and its connection to the people back then? In other words, were the two closely tied? When one reads speeches from that time, it feels as though there still was such a thing as "being responsive to the people." As I walked around, it was clear people still want to connect to the political heritage, but it was hard to pinpoint to what degree democracy was being practiced. Were they there to merely witness Lincoln in his chair or Jefferson standing both majestically looking towards the world? Or were they there to rediscover their sense of public and duty to the republic? As time goes on, as societies grow, as the government apparatus grows, the distant chord between the people and government gets wider and wider...and wider.
-I discovered on this trip that my daughter has a career in selling insurance policies waiting for her. Man, the gift of gab this chick has never ceases to amaze me. While we shopped for fresh food at a private farmer's market, she managed to hustle a free Italian ice from a oerson (I believe she was an owner) who had just purchased a container for her kids. My sister was watching over her and tried her best to manage etiquette with disbelief. Even after 45 years of life and three kids (one with Turrets), she was unsure how to handle 'Lil Bif. The lady told Lauren, "but this is for my kids, love." To which she quietly but firmly answered, "but I want it." The lady being of high character and knowing she wasn't going to dissuade a committed four year-old, smiled and asked, "Root beer or mango, hon?" The yung'un replied, "Mango."
On the drive back we stopped at Wendy's in Broome County, NY. As we approached the counter, my daughter, who has all the premium social skills and graces of her mother and none of her father, assertively walked up to the cash and began giving her order and an explanation as to why she was ordering it as a bonus. Just behind the cashier stood a man. He popped his head, listened to Lauren, smiled and disappeared once again. Generally, I let my daughter babble until I sense an awkward moment or she peters out - which ever comes first. She petered out on this occasion and gave my order. "$5.81 please." In my head, I knew the amount was too low for what I ordered so I retorted, "this includes the small chili?" "Yes" she replied. And then, "the manager paid for the kiddie meal."
Wow. I never experienced this at a fast food place. Ever. A manager with such a sense of class and touch of humanity? Never.
We were and are so grateful. The price of the meal meant nothing to us but the gesture was priceless. His name was Ron and we thanked him for his kind act. Lauren reminded him of his grand daughter "who never lets her grand parents snooze."
Note to Wendy's in Broome County: Promote Ron!
We took I-81 (through the picturesque Thousand Islands region, the 401 and eventually highway 40) back to Quebec. It never ceases to amaze me how highway safety signs are posted bilingually in parts of NY state, Vermont and Ontario. I've made mention of this in the past (and again here) because I feel this shows respect for Quebec motorists. Politics should not be above safety. It's a shame we don't return this sensible way of looking at it. Instead, the minute we hit Quebec the signs are unilingual. Safety is not above politics here.
One can counter, perhaps, the English language is not in jeopardy so posting French signs anywhere in North America is not an issue. By contrast, we believe, here in Quebec, give the English language an inch and it will take over the French language. I'm not heavily invested in the French language or of the opinion that language is a means to an end in defining a culture. I think we take it to extraordinary heights in being vigilant to protect a language- often at the expense of but one language. It's so aggressive it keeps me disconnected from it. Weird. I know but the truth.
Is this a sign of weakness? Strength? Reality? To me, by posting English signs projects confidence not the other way around. I believe French can survive being kind to English on important matters relating to law, health and highway safety. Alas, what do I know?
Paul Wilkinson left a comment in a previous post discussing politics about how a politician's tenure and whether it's successful or not can be "relative."
With this report, you see that life is a series of "relative" moments. For example, one person said he was happy for "how far he'd come" from the point he was (a soldier). While what he had wouldn't even make the poverty line here, it was progress for him.
It's hard to make a case against Abraham Lincoln being America's greatest President. His speeches alone were and are something to behold.
Over the next little while I'll be posting excerpts from his greatest speeches as well as links to their entire texts.
The following was one his earlier speeches: The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions. Barely making it as an attorney he spoke at the Young Men's Lyceum debating society in passionate defense of the rule of law in 1838 following the rise of violence against black slaves and their sympathizers:
"I know the American People are much attached to their Government;—I know they would suffer much for its sake;—I know they would endure evils long and patiently, before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come.
Here then, is one point at which danger may be expected.
The question recurs "how shall we fortify against it?" The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;—let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap—let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges;—let it be written in Primmers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;—let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars."Questions: Did Lincoln aid in hastening the growth of American government? If so, was his idea of what the role of government was different than our idea of it?
"...They were the pillars of the temple of liberty; and now, that they have crumbled away, that temple must fall, unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason. Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence. Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality and, in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws; and, that we improved to the last; that we remained free to the last; that we revered his name to the last; that, during his long sleep, we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place; shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our WASHINGTON.
Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, " the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
It's interesting to note back in the 19th century Americans were worried about the state of the Republic.
Conservatives are going stir crazy while liberals are putting a predictable spin on things. The American Thinker is taking it one step further by tackling his intelligence.
Did Obama forget how valuable "I don't have all the facts therefore I can't comment" can be?
July has been a pitiful month for most cities/states/provinces on the east coast and mid-west. Not so for parts of the west coast and south.
July in Montreal is notorious for hot humidity. The average is 30 degrees c but we're nowhere near these temperatures this year.
There's also been an overall drop in temperatures globally.
How this fits into the global warming thingy is not for me to say. But it's interesting nonetheless.
I heard about the following story a couple of weeks back but never got a chance to post about it. It's the story about how United Airlines refused to take responsibility for breaking the guitar of Canadian musician Dave Carroll. His Byzantine-like trials and tribulations with the unresponsive airline is something most people can relate to. I know I've had to deal with irresponsible indifference when it came to customer/company problems. Incompetent workers are a reflection of a bad company - plain and simple.
What made this story all the more stunning is that United decided to do the right thing...only after Carroll's creativity led him to post a music video on youtube. The video is up to 4 million hits and not wanting to face bad publicity the company decided to act.
If only they had shown initiative one year ago when all this happened!
Seriously, how hard can it be to do the right thing? How arrogant and daft does one have to be to not handle this case properly? My how low our standards have dropped! It doesn't take a genius, a management degree or 10 years experience to know how to deal with such problems. You just have to have some empathy and match it as best you could with company policy.
These are the sort of stories that angered me during my years at the bank. The same type of bullocks happened there when managers (in title only) consistently made assholic decisions that ran contrary to their hypocritical "customer is first" rhetoric.
Reason Online has this to say:
The irony is that people who demanded citizens be critical of Bush have decided to abandon this wise advice when it comes to Obama.
It's annoying because Canada ain't exactly a model for healthy diets and exercising. Quebec in particular does a great job pointing its fingers at everyone else except itself on a myriad of issues.
Quebec, truth be told, has chronic high unemployment, among the highest high school drop out rates, highest number of smokers, lowest number of people who exercise, highest union membership, high poverty, and yes, a weight problem not just in Canada but in North America.
But go ahead. Blame 'la federale' and the evil Americans for our social ills.
Read a Parliamentary Information and Research Study titled, "The Obesity Epidemic in Canada" report here.
As you know, I'm dancing my way 'round Delaware. Reheboth Beach to be exact. Even crossed the long Cheseapeake Bay bridge to get here. Interesting state this Delaware. One thing it has, like all states, is its wonderful assortment of wines and spirits (I won't even get into the gorcery stores). I mention this because in Quebec (not Alberta from what I hear) alcohol is controlled by the government through the SAQ. They determine (and not the market) what we get to drink. Clearly, our selection is inferiour to anything I've seen in the U.S. over the years - and yes, we pay too much for our wines.
What is Jansenism? See for yourself here
Quick teaser here:
"A school that developed in the Catholic church during the 1600's and 1700's analogous, oddly enough, to Calvinism. The movement took its name from Cornelius Otto Jansen (1585-1638). The Jesuits fiercely opposed Jansenism and eventually it was dissolved."
He speaks my language.
There's no way for me to summarize it here (I hope it will end up on youtube soon) but his point was 1) the slow, quiet growth of bureaucracy is destroying freedom 2) bailouts without prudent follow ups amount to stealing from the people and 3) fraud, corruption and inefficient behavior is rampant at the government level. Some of the figures he cited from public records include:
- Medicare fraud: $80billion
- Social security disability fraud: 2.5 billion
- Spoke about GAO contract frauds.
- UN peacekeeping fraud. $2 billion and the lack of transparency with the UN.
- Total fraud he cited: $184 billion - on a conservative estimate.
He wonders if Federal programs are in the red why in the world take on a massive project like health care without first cleaning up what's already there?
I've always looked at life that way. Before embarking on a new project, make sure you have your shit together.
There it was. An American politician standing up and speaking out. Calling out the spending madness.
I wish Canada had the guts to tracks its own corruption and fraud. There's no doubt in my mind our government mismanagement would be a cause for shame.
There's not enough transparency here. It makes it hard for citizens to be vigilant; a necessity if our democracies are to be functional, and fiscally responsible.
I found of couple of minutes to write this post.
I'm currently soaking in the beaches of Delaware, but prior to arriving here, we visited Washington D.C. for a couple of days.
The perception of Washington, naturally, is that it's a government town. True enough, but it's also what I regard as a world class town. It reminded me of Boston but with a southern twist. The amount of amazing things and places to see puts it right up there with any of the great cities in the world.
Driving in D.C. is not easy, something about the state of Virginia confusing things thus dividing the town into northeast and northwest divisions. It takes some getting used to. Which is why, if you're visiting for the first time as we were, take the trolley around to get a sense of things.
We stayed in Georgetown so we were a little far from all the main monuments and the trolley, though a tad expensive ($35 per adult, $18 per child over three) well worth it. Two trolley's (the one we chose anyway - I forget the name) take you through two different routes.
Two days in Washington is simply not enough. I couldn't get to most of the monuments and had to settle for the more popular ones. Next time I visit, I plan to hit, among others, any of the Smithsonian museums, the Library of Congress, Arlington Cemetery, Capitol Hill which was closed and Jefferson Memorial.
From what I was told, Washington underwent quite the face lift. For example, the area around Ford's Theater (where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth) was run down once upon a time. Now, it's been re-done and is decorated with hip cafes and the sort. Though it makes you wonder about what we lose in terms of a rustic heritage when we clean things up.
For our first stop, we decided to get off at Union Station. Not knowing the city, and being close to lunch, we figured why not just eat at the Union Station food court? Next, we went to Lincoln Memorial. It was quite the majestic experience walking up the stairs towards a marble sculpture of Abraham Lincoln sitting in his chair. To the left and right of him are two of his famous speeches engraved on the walls; The Gettysburg Address and Emancipation Proclamation. Like people around me, I simply absorbed the Lincoln legacy; the man who saved the union.
With time working against us, we visited both the Vietnam and Korean memorials.
If one wants to get a human feel for the toll Vietnam exacted on the American psyche, a visit to the memorial is a must. As I walked along staring at the names with no faces; of people I didn't know, the sheer numbers slowly began to overwhelm. You could tell who were the family members of a lost one as they stood in front of a name or placed their hands on it with their heads down or laid down a wreath.
At one point, a discreet crew were filming a lady and I over heard her say, "he was my mother's first cousin. I used to play with him when I was a kid." Right then and there, it hit me about the lasting memories and scars wars leave on people. Imagine the stories left behind the Great Wars!
Fully entrenched in American political folklore, we hopped on the trolley and headed to The White House (we applied to visit it over five weeks ago but our embassy never heard back from the TWH) and hung around Lafayette Square and watched people engaging in their various causes.
It was nice to see people do still believe in democracy.
America, is a runaway democracy in that it's getting farther and farther away from the reach of the people. Of course, they're not alone. Europe (and Canada) has essentially given up on freedom and individual liberty opting for a massive government structure to watch over their lives. Interestingly, most of the comments I heard over and over by almost everyone was their concern about where American democracy is heading. The expansion of government, it turns out, isn't just a concern of this blog but of people close to the pulse of the world's most powerful nation.
The Commentator you've all come to "lub and 'ate" will be back bigger and better than ever shortly. Like I said, if I get internet connection where I am I will post. Wait, I didn't say that in the previous paragraph. See? I'm tired. Mind you, I just ran 6ks (3.8 miles).
Anyway, where I'll be remains a mystery. Scooby-Yabba-Dabba-Doo!
Hurls computer over head and yells "The internet shall be mine!"
Sensitive guy, that Guy. He forgot "frog" and "Joe Louis" and "pepper" and "mangeurs d'hot dog."
Let's see. What about when it's reversed? French-Canadians are masters of coming up with racial slurs. Just ask an Italian or Jews who had to face Quebec-style antisemitism or any other minority. I wonder what he thinks about "maudits importees," "wops" and "tetes carres." The very idea of labeling citizens as "francophone," "anglophone" and "allophone" is a Quebecois invention and is filled with pathetic racial overtones. I reject those titles outright. I also reject all Quebec laws - designed to protect one segment of a population at the expense of others - that trample on civil liberties.
All we've done is justify and tolerate subtle racism in the name of cultural nationalism.
What specious (and brave I might add) logic asserted by this man. At some point, he has to get over it. I don't mean to demean what he faced (nor do I think he speaks for all Quebecers), but my point is we've all had to confront such ignorance.
And if this is the general intellectual make up of the sovereignist or independiste (or whatever they call it) movement it's no wonder it's a failure and has no real merit to it. If people who keep looking back, they can never look forward.
I would also like to recall: He who lives in glass houses shouldn't hurl stones.
As I've written in the past, both Quebec and Canada have some growing up to do.
They're unaccountable to the people and they're a menace to liberty.
The head of this unelected body is Jennifer Lynch. I have no idea who she is but I know I did not and would never support such a person.
Ms. Lynch stand up and face the people. I demand that you step down and leave never to bother the Canadian people again.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper. You speak of leadership. Now is the time to show it. It's necessary, sir, you step in and put an end to this immoral, intellectually bankrupt and illegitimate organization and the people who litter it with taxpayer money.
From Standford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy on one of the Enlightenment's greatest thinkers: A discussion on Baron de Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws:
"Democracies can be corrupted in two ways: by what Montesquieu calls "the spirit of inequality" and "the spirit of extreme equality" (SL 8.2). The spirit of inequality arises when citizens no longer identify their interests with the interests of their country, and therefore seek both to advance their own private interests at the expense of their fellow citizens, and to acquire political power over them. The spirit of extreme equality arises when the people are no longer content to be equal as citizens, but want to be equal in every respect. In a functioning democracy, the people choose magistrates to exercise executive power, and they respect and obey the magistrates they have chosen. If those magistrates forfeit their respect, they replace them. When the spirit of extreme equality takes root, however, the citizens neither respect nor obey any magistrate. They "want to manage everything themselves, to debate for the senate, to execute for the magistrate, and to decide for the judges" (SL 8.2). Eventually the government will cease to function, the last remnants of virtue will disappear, and democracy will be replaced by despotism."
"Montesquieu believes that the climate and geography of Asia explain why despotism flourishes there. Asia, he thinks, has two features that distinguish it from Europe. First, Asia has virtually no temperate zone. While the mountains of Scandinavia shelter Europe from arctic winds, Asia has no such buffer; for this reason its frigid northern zone extends much further south than in Europe, and there is a relatively quick transition from it to the tropical south. For this reason "the warlike, brave, and active people touch immediately upon those who are indolent, effeminate and timorous; the one must, therefore, conquer, and the other be conquered" (SL 17.3). In Europe, by contrast, the climate changes gradually from cold to hot; therefore "strong nations are opposed to the strong; and those who join each other have nearly the same courage" (SL 17.3). Second, Asia has larger plains than Europe. Its mountain ranges lie further apart, and its rivers are not such formidable barriers to invasion. Since Europe is naturally divided into smaller regions, it is more difficult for any one power to conquer them all; this means that Europe will tend to have more and smaller states. Asia, by contrast, tends to have much larger empires, which predisposes it to despotism."
"Commerce, by contrast, has no such disadvantages. It does not require vast armies, or the continued subjugation of other peoples. It does not undermine itself, as the extraction of gold from colonial mines does, and it rewards domestic industry. It therefore sustains itself, and nations which engage in it, over time. While it does not produce all the virtues -- hospitality, Montesquieu thinks, is more often found among the poor than among commercial peoples -- it does produce some: "the spirit of commerce is naturally attended with that of frugality, economy, moderation, labor, prudence, tranquility, order, and rule" (SL 5.6). In addition, it "is a cure for the most destructive prejudices" (SL 20.1), improves manners, and leads to peace among nations."
"Montesquieu describes commerce as an activity that cannot be confined or controlled by any individual government or monarch. This, in his view, has always been true: "Commerce is sometimes destroyed by conquerors, sometimes cramped by monarchs; it traverses the earth, flies from the places where it is oppressed, and stays where it has liberty to breathe" (SL 21.5)."
-It is not the young people that degenerate; they are not spoiled till those of mature age are already sunk into corruption.
-Liberty is the right to do what the law permits.
-Luxury ruins republics; poverty, monarchies.
-The reason the Romans built their great paved highways was because they had such inconvenient footwear.
I'm not one for conspiracies but sometimes I wonder where there's smoke there's fire. Did John Fitzgerald Kennedy pose a threat to the "establishment?"
I'm one of those guys who walks right past the blockbuster releases in a video store and into the mercurial world of independent flicks and B-movies. I look for the diamonds in the rough so to speak.
In the past, I would just go to a repertoire video but parking in the city is annoying and Montreal's traffic has become unbearable. It's "Guess which street we closed down!" every time I get behind the wheel. A place that normally takes 20 minutes to get to can now reach 35.
Still. I should renew the membership as regular places like Blockbuster don't always cut it for me.
With all this useless backdrop firmly planted in your minds, I can now get to my point. I rented a film called "Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long blog." Man, woohaa, it was entertaining stuff. While most would not think of Neil Patrick Harris as being funny, lemme just say he's brilliant. Dare I say under rated in the comedy genre?
The film was made during the WGA writers' strike in 2008 and was distributed to an internet audience. Amazing what can be produced in times of uncertainty, eh?
I enjoyed the scene with Penny and Doc at the 'Coin Wash.'
The magic number used to be 44 million a couple of years back but I digress. Whenever I'm confronted with blanket "there are X-amount" of this and that not doing that and this, I generally skim off 50% off the figure right off the top. I then go out and look at the source of who or which organization pushes a particular agenda. In other words, follow the yellow brick road.
Here in Canada, naturally, we cling on to that 47 million figure without thought because it serves our nationalist impulse just fine. It's a way to prove we're a more compassionate society - which is nonsense to me.
If the Canadian system was smooth, efficient and truly offered the best care in the world, then I'd suggest the Americans look at us. But it doesn't.
Why not just tailor the system to that portion of society without insurance rather than creating a whole one-size fits all bureaucratic mess?
Then again, I'm bias since I'm not a fan of the "one-size" fits all strategy/option in clothing. I have a slender, thin frame and never benefit from those things.
And good for him I say. He left everything on the ice, game in and game out. Which is more than you can say than some Habs players over the years including Alex Kovalev who fans obsess over for some reason.
The way parts of the media treated this guy he's better off on a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. I will be pulling for Anaheim this year. Well, I do have three Ducks in my keeper pool so...
I haven't been impressed with the Montreal Canadiens (classiest organization in hockey my foot. They know how to throw a good ceremony though) all that much in recent years. For me, the best sports organization in Montreal are the Montreal Alouettes. The Als are like the Texas Rangers (the top organization according to Baseball America. Reminds me of the Montreal Expos) and Detroit Red Wings combined in that they're proactive and always properly develop, scout and sign the right players.
Speaking of signing the right players, it remains to be seen if the bold 360 Bob Gainey has pulled will pay off.
We tend to under estimate the importance of libraries in society. So I snooped around for more information about libraries. This link talks about "The 7 Most Impressive Libraries Throughout History." Naturally, Alexandria is included as are the Library of Congress, Celsus and Sankore.
Of course, it's not restricted to these as the world (from Persia to Athens to Rome; from Islam to the Middle Ages in Europe) has had its share of famous and/or important libraries.
"Helmets would also protect drivers and passengers in cars. There are many more head-injury victims from car accidents than bike accidents. We could save many more people if helmets were required in cars and trucks."
Is this person for real?
While you're at it (and assuming you're not an NDP supporter), lend your support to the CTF.
Check out the federal debt clock. (You need flash plug-in version 6 to make it work.)
Heck, he's even an asshole.
Let's settle for an ignorant douche asshole just for thinking like he does and having the balls to make it public.
With that out of the way, sadly his recent retarded statements about Hitler having done some good (or something to that effect) is not restricted to the Eccle-creep.
I've read similar comments on blogs and letters to the editors or heard on radio shows people assert the same type of garbage when claiming "Hussein kept Iraq under control." Somehow, claiming some good can come of something so evil is considered critical thinking. Look, it's simple people: NOTHING GOOD (for humankind) came from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany - or Maoist China or Stalinist Russia or Franco's Spain or Castro's Cuba for that matter.
I still can't get around the fact people actually believe Mussolini made the "trains run on time."
Hitler was evil. Defending him is reprehensible on moral, intellectual and legal grounds.
Always ask yourself when you dare defend the actions of deadbeat murderous thugs: Would you live under such a regime?
Remember the hijacking of the Achille Lauro and the subsequent murder of American passenger Leon Klinghoffer? I do and I was barely a teenager and the image of that terrorist act still remain with me. The principal mastermind behind the attack was Youssef Magied al-Molqui and he's being expelled to Syria after serving 23 of his 30-year sentence in an Italian prison.
The Americans should indeed demand he be sent to face justic in the United States for killing an American citizen.
He had the misfortune of dying right at the height of the Michael Jackson death-craze. It's a shame because through him, one can learn a lot not just about American culture and political history but what it's become.
I first learned about McNamara in the amazing documentary "The Fog of War." I don't think I've ever seen any public figure be so emotionally candid as he was in that significant film. I don't carry the emotional baggage that is Vietnam, but there's no doubt to McNamara, who was hired by JFK and later worked under LBJ, being a controversial figure.
Here are some links discussing his legacy here and here.
Everything is about "systems" now. In sports, the "in" coaches build systems in which players are forced to comply with its designs. The individuality of the athlete is often rooted out. The smart coaches remain fluid and flexible. They learn everything about their athletes on a personal level and find a way to fit them into their overall strategy.
I've met a few Robert McNamara types in my life. Pegged as "geniuses" yet when you sat and listened you wondered what the fuss was all about.
We have a technocratic society that's lost its sense of individual flair and ability to critically think about issues.
Here's a list of other famous Ponzi schemes.
Social security is a form of Ponzi scheme too:
"Well, not exactly, but Social Security does have a few similarities to a Ponzi scheme. But first, a little about Social Security. In 1935, President Roosevelt introduced a controversial "social insurance" to prevent the crushing poverty that hit many Americans in their old age during the Great Depression. As part of his New Deal, Social Security provided benefits to retirees and the unemployed, financed by taxes on current worker's wages. The details have changed over the years, but the basics remain the same: just like in a Ponzi scheme, money from new investors (taxpayer) is used as payout to older investors (retirees). From 1937 to 2005, Social Security has taken in more than $10.7 trillion in taxes and other income. In the same time period, it has given out more than $8.9 trillion (Source). The program is actually taking in more in taxes than it gives out in benefits (and invested it in Treasurys - this in itself is a complicated issue because it's akin to the government giving itself an IOU)."
And in moments of great embarrassment masterpieces are written as was the case with President Ulysses S. Grant, himself a victim of a pyramid scheme, who left an important piece of work with his memoirs.
Which brings me to a story about my experiences with scams. The question usually asked whenever someone "so smart" can be scammed is, well, how could a person so smart get scammed?
A buddy of mine considers himself a swift and street smart individual. More than a few years back a few of us went down to post-Bernard Goetz but pre-Rudy Giuliani New York City. So the Goetz-Giuliani axiom had yet to have a positive effect on the crime rate in NYC which at the time was still a rough place to visit.
We stayed at the Chelsea Hotel in the room where Madonna photographed one of her useless erotica books. None of us gave a shit. The hotel agent obviously had to use it as a selling point but we were desperate since the hotel we originally booked was disgustingly dirty. Chelsea wasn't that much better but for two nights it was passable. To us suburban realists, cleanliness was far more important than Madonna or anybody else who happened to inhabit the famous halls and rooms of the Chelsea.
Anyway, during those days, the streets of Manhattan had its share of hustlers. One type of operation prevalent on many street corners was the one where a guy set up a game on a pathetic looking table (that closed up quickly to help avoid the cops) with three coconut looking cups. The name of the game was to simply choose the right cup with the tiny "ball." Of course, this wasn't a one man operation.
We split up in two groups of two and agreed to meet up later on. My friend and I walked around with our ears and eyes open while enjoying the marvel that is NYC. Getting back to the game, we observed and determined it often involved at least three people. The person moving the cups around, the person in front of the them pretending to be a client laying down cash (and winning), and a lookout person.
It was clearly a scam.
We took it for granted what seemed painfully obvious to us was so for others of likemind. As agreed, we met up with the boys but one of them was missing. "Where's Fishmonkey?" I asked. "He's playing a game," my friend answered.
Note: Name has been changed to protect the gullible.
Next thing we knew, Fishmonkey (the smart guy I mentioned off the top of this story) came at us in a panic, more like a raving gambling degenerate, demanding 80 bucks.
"What are you fucking burnt?" I said.
"Come on! I have this game figured out! I lost 160 but can get it back!"
"Get the fuck outta here, Fishmonkey!" my buddy said.
Now Fishmonkey is really in a rage.
"Come on, guys! I only have 40 left!"
"Don't worry. I'll spot you," I replied hoping to shut him up and move on with his life.
"Fuck it, I have my ATM card."
"So what are you worried about?"
"I can beat them!"
"They're laughing at you!"
"No they're not!"
"I can see his gold tooth from here."
"Fishmonkey, listen. Take your loss and run. You were hustled. And if you think I'm going to give you MY* money to lose you're not the person I thought you were."
And so the conversation went on a NYC street corner. We eventually convinced my buddy to walk away with his bruised ego and lighter pockets.
I don't remember what he did for cash (it's not like he was poor or anything. He made good cash as a pro tennis instructor) for the rest of the trip.
"I can't believe I got hosed that way" my friend later said in a moment of quiet reflection on the drive home.
I just thought I should share that story.
*This would be a form of bail out. It would reward irresponsible stupidity.
Has there been an honest discussion reflecting on Ronald Reagan's Presidency? Not as thorough as it should according to Matthew Dallek in an essay published in The American Scholar titled, "Not Ready for Mt. Rushmore."
To most who follow political history closely, the article is standard stuff and it does make an overall important point. The anger and love on both sides of the Reagan story should be somewhat calmed so as to allow a sober assessment of Ronald Reagan.
I will only add that much is made of "deregulation" destroying our economy. In fact, the real culprit is over-regulation. The problem with Reaganomics and the offshoots that may have followed was it never truly was "free-enterprise." As far as I can tell, it was deregulating a small portion of an entire governmental apparatus. Look at it this way, it's not deregulation if other parts of the economy are tightly regulated and burdened with bureaucratic red tape. It's not surprising trying to deregulate was doomed to fail if it was operating in a sea of red tape. All we had was a system by which renegade capitalist were in cahoots with government officials. The criss-crossing of the worst of both worlds.
I could say I'm taking the easy way out by linking away but not really since I wrote the fricken pieces of junk.
Hey, would have thought Bob Gainey is a degenerate gambler! Inside joke to hockey fans. For his recent moves I honor the Gamblin' Ramblin' Man with:
The Nation, not surprisingly, takes a different view.
Personally, it grrrrates me to no end to read a writer assert that because one supports "free markets" they're labeled "free-market ideologues".
Rasmussen Reports, erm reports, in their daily polls that 33% of American disapprove of Obama's performance to 31% who approve. Overall however, 54% somewhat approve to 46% - but he seems to be losing traction.