Six Degrees of Speculation: September 2008: Archives

September 23, 2008

Execs Get Golden Parachute; Taxpayers Get Golden Shower? genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The more I see and hear about the bail out of Wall Street, the more I oppose it. Here's the issue. Taxpayers are being asked to ante up for the good of the nation...and to do so with minimal information and even fewer details. At the same time, the White House is suggesting that any limitation on executive compensation may lead companies to decline participation in the program. I'm calling B.S. on this one.

From The Washington Post:

After 7 1/2 years of drift, President Bush has finally returned to his compassionate conservative roots with a heartfelt plea to Congress to help a needy and deserving group: those Wall Street CEOs who, for all their hard work, have been unable to lift themselves up by their wingtips.

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (R-Goldman Sachs) made the rounds of the talk shows on Sunday, pleading for financial executives to be allowed to keep their multimillion-dollar compensation packages even if their companies need to be rescued by the $700 billion federal bailout.

"If we design it so it's punitive and so institutions aren't going to participate, this won't work the way we need it to work," Paulson, whose net worth is said to be north of $600 million, told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

"To have this program work, we don't want to make it punitive and make it difficult," Paulson advised George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week."

It was a message of mercy and humanity -- who, after all, would be so cruel to deny executives their eight-figure bonuses merely because they drove their companies into insolvency? -- and administration officials and Republican lawmakers joined the cause of the unappreciated CEOs.

Give me a frickin' break...just how stupid does the Bush administration think we are. Further, if this isn't a ploy to manipulate voters, just how damn stupid is the Bush administration? Let's look at the logic.

First, if we assume that Wall Street is perilously close to collapse, then they need our help, right? Second, if they aren't willing to accept our demands for fair executive compensation, we have every right to deny them our help. Thirdly, if they have the ability to forego our help in favor of their huge compensation packages, then they aren't in that bad of shape, right? Fourth, if these companies can put their self-serving interests first, why in the hell should voters forego theirs in order to bail them out. Fifth, if the Bush administration can't reach these same logical conclusions, then they have no business managing a lemonade stand...let alone the largest bail out in U.S. history.

Honestly, it's time for voters to call the bluff of the administration that drug us into this mess. If we're going to get screwed, let's get screwed on our own terms. There is no plausible rationale to grant unlimited authority to the very people who pushed us into the financial abyss. Beyond that, there is absolutely no justification to take an unwanted screwing, write a huge check for it, and thank the Bush administration for putting it to us.

Truth be told, we have no assurances that this bail out will work. For two years, the Bush administration has told us the economy is sound and that we aren't in a recession. Two weeks ago they assured us that the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seizure was the answer to our problems. In short order, they bail out AIG after telling us the bail outs were over and these companies needed to seek their own solutions. Days later we're told the sky is falling and we need to bend over.

No how...I'm happy to let it burn to the ground before we give Wall Street a free pass. As they say, beggars can't be choosers. If they want more of our money, it's on our terms or to hell with them. Let's see who blinks first.


We're hearing a number of insiders suggest that homeowners bear some responsibility for this predicament. The argument contends that too many of us bit off more than we could chew. OK, I'll accept that there's some truth to that contention...but it isn't the whole story. The whole story needs to consider the fact that the average American has spent the last seven years working harder and producing more...for less money.

The fact of the matter is that millions of Americans gambled on the historical data that home prices will rise. When they did, many of them did so because they needed money and the only means available to obtain it was to borrow against the equity they thought they had in their homes.

Yes, that may have been shortsighted and imprudent...but so too is it detestable that our elected officials failed to be good stewards of the economy. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans didn't trickle down...and the few jobs that were created weren't enough and they weren't higher paying jobs. Instead, far too much of the Bush tax package was invested in high risk financial gimmicks designed to create easy profits.

If we're going to assess blame, then let's not forget where the bulk of it belongs. It belongs squarely on the backs of those who have promoted a morally bankrupt economic philosophy that concentrates wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the hard work of the many.

There's one additional saying that applies to the current situation of our greedy cash chasing countrymen..."bet 'em high and sleep in the streets". All that's left to be said to our Wall Street friends is, "Welcome to Main Street...and don't forget to bring some cardboard boxes and a warm blanket".

Tagged as: AIG, Bail Out, Economy, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, George Bush, Hank Paulson, Wall Street

Daniel DiRito | September 23, 2008 | 2:45 PM | link | Comments (4)
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September 17, 2008

McGaffe: Oy Mon Caramba! genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation


Today, Barack Obama accused John McCain of being a member of the old boys club. If reports in the Spanish press are accurate, McCain demonstrated his bona fides as a founding least as far as the "old" part is concerned.

While the details are sketchy, it seems that the senator grouped Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero in with the likes of Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro, and other foreign leaders he would not meet with...based upon their country's rogue status.

From Talking Points Memo:

Our review of the audio suggests the same conclusion. In the interview, McCain is asked about Hugo Chavez, the situation in Bolivia and then about Raul Castro. He responds to each of these with expected answers about standing up to America's enemies, etc. Then the interviewer switches gears and asks about Zapatero, the Spanish Prime Minister. And McCain replies -- very loose translation -- that he'll establish close relations with our friends and stand up to those who want to do us harm. The interviewer has a double take and seems to think McCain might be confused. So she asks it again. But McCain sticks to the same evasive answer.

Obviously, Spain is an American ally and would never be viewed as the equivalent of Cuba or Venezuela. To be fair, it's clear that anyone can make a mistake or find themselves confused in the heat of an interview. Unfortunately, in this instance, it appears that the reporter reiterated her question multiple times upon hearing the puzzling response from McCain. Undaunted, he reiterates his apparent rebuke each time.

The problem, as I see it, centers on a pattern of the Arizona senator repeating gaffes...seemingly failing to make the cognitive connections and recognitions needed to correct himself. Anecdotal as this may be, it's a pattern I've seen in those elderly folks I encounter on a regular basis. While it certainly doesn't disqualify their mental capacity, it does raise questions as to their functional fitness...especially in situations of a critical nature with far reaching consequences.

While McCain has been in government for years, I get the sense that there are situations that garner his interest, and there are others that hold little weight in his overall awareness. Granted, we're all guilty of the same, but it is reminiscent of the casualness that seemed to typify the Bush presidency from time to time. Rather than focus on the factual considerations of each situation, there appears to be a tendency to rely on overarching ideologies. Couple that with an air of unchallenged confidence, a predisposition to neoconservatism, and a suspect temper, and one can quickly become alarmed.

Perhaps I'm simply showing my own bias. On the other hand, under the shadow of eight years of observing the patterns of George Bush's governance, I still believe McCain's gaffes, coupled with everything else, should leave us with reason for concern. Needless to say, the interview is drawing ample attention in Spain.


Here's the actual untranslated English version of the interview.

Tagged as: Cuba, Hugo Chavez, John McCain, Prime Minister Zapatero, Raul Castro, Spain, Venezuela

Daniel DiRito | September 17, 2008 | 8:42 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Uncovering The Reckless Ambitions Of John McCain genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation


On the one hand, I understand the calls for ignoring Sarah Palin and focusing instead upon John McCain. On the other hand, the choice of Palin is so utterly astounding that it cannot be ignored...and it most certainly reflects upon the judgment of John McCain and his assertion that he puts country first. As such, the prevailing reason to expose the real Sarah Palin is to demonstrate the cynical calculations driving the ambitions of John McCain's candidacy.

As you read the following account of Sarah Palin's belief that the prayers of a Kenyan witchhunter may have helped propel her to the governorship of Alaska, ask yourself what could possibly lead John McCain to place such a person only a heartbeat away from the presidency? There are few plausible explanations; none of which are sufficient.

I've touched upon the first above in suggesting her selection was a matter of political effort by McCain to appease the far right and perhaps draw the support of disenchanted Clinton supporters. Another would suggest that, on the heels of George W. Bush's belief that a higher power guided his decisions in the White House, John McCain's recent reconciliation with evangelical leaders was more than a political calculation; it was also a religious catharsis...much like that of his predecessor.

From The Times Online:

The pastor whose prayer Sarah Palin says helped her to become governor of Alaska founded his ministry with a witchhunt against a Kenyan woman who he accused of causing car accidents through demonic spells.

At a speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God on June 8 this year, Mrs Palin described how Thomas Muthee had laid his hands on her when he visited the church as a guest preacher in late 2005, prior to her successful gubernatorial bid.

In video footage of the speech, she is seen saying: "As I was mayor and Pastor Muthee was here and he was praying over me, and you know how he speaks and he's so bold. And he was praying "Lord make a way, Lord make a way."

"And I'm thinking, this guy's really bold, he doesn't even know what I'm going to do, he doesn't know what my plans are. And he's praying not "oh Lord if it be your will may she become governor," no, he just prayed for it. He said "Lord make a way and let her do this next step. And that's exactly what happened."

She then adds: "So, again, very very powerful, coming from this church," before the presiding pastor comments on the "prophetic power" of the event.

An African evangelist, Pastor Muthee has given guest sermons at the Wasilla Assembly of God on at least 10 occasions in his role as the founder of the Word of Faith Church, also known as the Prayer Cave.

Pastor Muthee founded the Prayer Cave in 1989 in Kiambu, Kenya after "God spoke" to him and his late wife Margaret and called him to the country, according to the church's website.

The pastor speaks of his offensive against a demonic presence in the town in a trailer for the evangelical video "Transformations", made by Sentinel Group, a Christian research and information agency.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, six months of fervent prayer and research identified the source of the witchcraft as a local woman called Mama Jane, who ran a "divination" centre called the Emmanuel Clinic.

Her alleged involvement in fortune-telling and the fact that she lived near the site of a number of fatal car accidents led Pastor Muthee to publicly declare her a witch responsible for the town's ills, and order her to offer her up her soul for salvation or leave Kiambu.

According to accounts of the witchhunt circulated on evangelical websites such as Prayer Links Ministries, after Pastor Muthee declared Mama Jane a witch, the townspeople became suspicious and began to turn on her, demanding that she be stoned. Public outrage eventually led the police to raid her home, where they fired gunshots, killing a pet python which they believed to be a demon.

After Mama Jane was questioned by police - and released - she decided it was time to leave town, the account says.

Pastor Muthee has frequently referred to this witchhunt in his sermons as an example of the power of "spiritual warfare". In October 2005, he delivered ten sermons at the Wasilla Assembly of God, the audio of which was available on the church's website until it was removed around the time Mrs Palin's candidacy was announced. The blog Irregular Times has listings and screen grabs of the sermons.

It was during that these sermons that Mrs Palin, who was then preparing for her gubernatorial run, was anointed by Pastor Muthee. His intercession, she says, was "awesome".

Look, if Sarah Palin is at all willing to consider attributing her election, as governor of Alaska, to the incantations of a witch doctor, what would prevent her from acting similarly with regards to her actions and decisions as vice president or president of the United States?

Let me be clear...I have no way of knowing if Sarah Palin truly believes Pastor Muthee's prayers influenced her election or if she states as much because it furthers her political ambitions by ingratiating herself to an important voter constituency. Either way, it raises serious doubts about the prudence of granting her further power. If we can't be sure that the leader of the free world will prosecute her position with reason and rationality, how on earth could we ever expect accountability?

If an individual can invoke the influence or guidance of a deity as justification for their actions...and therefore claiming it cannot be contested...we are effectively subjecting national policy to the same mystical ideations that led Pastor Murthee to apply an arbitrary target to an innocent woman.

If that target were to be similarly applied to Iran or Russia or any other nation state by those leading the United States, the implications are unfathomable. The fact that George Bush seemingly stated as much with regards to the invasion of Iraq makes it frighteningly tangible. The prospect that the ambitions of a McCain-Palin victory could lead to more of the same must be soundly rejected.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Alaska, George W. Bush, Iraq, John McCain, Pastor Thomas Muthee, Sarah Palin, Wasilla Assembly of God

Daniel DiRito | September 17, 2008 | 10:16 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 14, 2008

Straight Talk Express = A Slick Mac Attack + Mac & Sleaze genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

I remember John McCain when he was a straight talker...that John McCain was an honorable man...the John McCain running for president is neither.


In this election, the only thing being offered, by the shell that used to be the Straight Talk Express, is a Mac attack...served up with two all B.S. candidates wrapped in a slick new bundle. If that doesn't leave a bad enough taste in your mouth, they're happy to toss in a barrage of fact-challenged Mac & sleaze. And if, by some stretch of the imagination, you think that's putting country first, I hope you enjoy the whopper you just swallowed.

In the interest of setting the record straight (since the new John McCain can't be), the following video is making the rounds on the internet. The video dissects the many falsehoods being mouthed in McCain campaign advertisements.

Here's the deal. The goal is to get this video in front of as many people as possible...allowing viewers to see just how far off the track the McCain misinformation-mobile has now traveled. At the moment, the video has been viewed nearly 700,000 times. I'm adding a slight twist to the mix...I'm asking each viewer to watch the video and then head over to the Obama website and invest $72.72 in the future...and help Barack Obama send the McSame McBush team into retirement.

This election matters...get involved, give money, vote, tell your friends to vote...and be one of the millions of Americans who stood up to change the future.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Advertisements, Barack Obama, Campaign, Honor, Joe Biden, John McCain, Lies, Sarah Palin

Daniel DiRito | September 14, 2008 | 4:22 PM | link | Comments (0)
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September 10, 2008

Pig In A Poke - Don't Forget November 2, 2006 genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

It's easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment...and it's also easy to question the judgment of Barack Obama and his campaign in light of the constant unfounded GOP attacks.

While I share the same concerns, the current moment made me recall a similar moment prior to the 2006 election that drew gasps from virtually every Democrat. At the time, the fear (something we Democrats embrace too easily) led many to speculate that the untimely words of the man swiftboated in 2004 had inadvertently handed the midterm election to our adversaries.

Take a look at the Washington Post's reporting at the time.

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) issued two apologies for remarks that seemed to impugn U.S. troops and abandoned his public schedule yesterday, but he denounced what he called the "campaign of smear and fear" against him as the surreal sequel to the 2004 presidential election echoed across the campaign trail.

The White House and Republican allies orchestrated a cascade of denunciations throughout the day to keep the once and possibly future presidential candidate on the defensive and force other Democrats to distance themselves. Kerry canceled plans to appear with several candidates and returned home to avoid becoming "a distraction to these campaigns."

Republican strategists appeared almost gleeful over the contretemps because it revived a favorite target at a time they need to motivate core supporters to vote in Tuesday's midterm elections. GOP officials have tried to make the elections not a referendum on President Bush but a choice between two parties with competing visions over taxes, terrorism and Iraq, but they have struggled to find a symbol for Democrats. Kerry's comments have allowed Republicans to make him again the face of his party and cast 2006 as a rerun of Bush vs. Kerry.

Democrats were irritated to lose two days in the homestretch that they would rather have devoted to Bush's troubled Iraq policy, and they pressed Kerry to apologize and get out of sight. Hoping to change the subject, Democrats seized on comments by Bush, who told reporters he wants Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to remain in their jobs for the final two years of his administration.

Speaking to an audience in California on Monday, Kerry said: "Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

Kerry said yesterday that he meant it as a dig at Bush, and his office released a copy of the prepared remarks he was supposed to deliver: "I can't overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush."

Rejecting the explanation, Republicans quickly developed a Web ad demanding that he apologize and issued statement after statement attacking and mocking him. One released by House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) included a picture that appeared to show soldiers in the desert holding up a banner: "Halp Us Jon Carry -- We R Stuck Hear N Irak."

Kerry's apology did not satisfy critics, so by day's end, he issued a written apology: "I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform and I personally apologize to any service member, family member or American who was offended."

So what can we take away from this event? Two things jump off of the page. One, Senator Kerry's decision to apologize (no doubt implored by numerous fellow Democrats) led to calls for a better apology...which led to a second apology...which simply allowed the GOP to put an exclamation point on their accusations.

Secondly, the effort to manufacture controversy out of clumsy conversation failed miserably for the GOP. Voters, in their awareness of the underlying issues, proceeded to deliver "a whooping" to the party responsible for leading the nation for the prior six years.

As such, Democrats need to steel themselves against the aspersions, refuse to apologize for drawing fully accurate metaphors to describe the McCain-Palin affiliation with the policies of George W. Bush, continue to discuss the issues that matter to voters, and allow the GOP to continue to portray themselves as the distractors they have become...running feverishly from the sheer weight of eight years of mismanagement.

In the end, the GOP can do whatever they want to try to disguise the pig Barack Obama described. They can use lipstick as a distraction...or they can continue trying to white wash their own pathetic record. One thing is certain...the pig Barack Obama spoke of wasn't Sarah Palin; it was clearly a reference to the possibility that we could be stuck with four more years of a pig in a poke.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, John McCain, Lipstick, Sarah Palin

Daniel DiRito | September 10, 2008 | 3:54 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Dans La Rue! C'est Juste Le Dèbut...Le Combat Continue! genre: Nouveau Thoughts & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation


Call me a dreamer. The title of this posting is from the Bertolucci movie...The Dreamers...a film set in Paris during the tumultuous 60's. Bertolucci, a master at exploring every facet of his character's psyches, tackles the lives of three friends seeking meaning in a complex world...a world undergoing rapid changes...a world where some seek refuge in the safety of the past and others are pulled by the promise of a new tomorrow.

Theo and Isabelle, twins who reside in France while living in a make believe world built around lines they've embraced from the countless films they've watched at the cinema, befriend Matthew, an American student. As the lives of the three become increasingly intertwined, Matthew comes to realize that his friends, inviting as they are, remain enmeshed in an unbreakable bond that shields them from the world they so deftly discuss...a world they find too frightening to face.

So by now, you must be saying to yourself, what on earth does this have to do with the world in which we live. Well, it's the vehicle by which one can understand the gravity of the brouhaha over the utterance of "lipstick on a pig" by Barack Obama. I'll attempt an explanation.

In each of our lives, the trajectory of the society in which we reside influences the identities we adopt as individuals and shapes the standing we hold in the larger world. America has long been a bastion of reason amidst the brazen blustering of banal bullies intent upon exporting their ideologies...without consideration of the carnage that will be left in the wake of their wanton ways.

Unfortunately, the desire to lead America (an oxymoron of sorts) little more than the act of amassing power for profit...has deteriorated into deliberate attempts to distract voters. Like Theo and Isabelle, the average voter, traumatized by the inconsistency of daily lives that teeter between acts of terror and episodes of temerity, is increasingly drawn in by the lines uttered by actors propped up in front of us. While the strings that manipulate these partisan puppets are often in full view, the ability to discern fact from fiction becomes an abstraction on the order of kabuki theater.

Just as The Manchurian Candidate was remade to reflect the conflicts of a modern world, so too has Sarah Palin been recast as the protagonist in a plot designed to jumble the images we see when we look in the mirror...earnestly seeking to understand the essence of our nation's collective identity. This production, while a palpable parsing of words and an attempt to depict Palin as the pilloried govern-ess, is ultimately as unpalatable as the hemlock poured into the cup of the classic character, Romeo, who, like the voting public, was the victim of misdirection and misinformation.

Sarah Palin is an individual possessed of the same traits that make us all human...a mix of good and bad...but nonetheless fully human. Unfortunately, she has been tactically transformed into something else...ground zero for an ideological illusion designed to order to divide and pull victory from the jaws of defeat.

Sarah Palin is adept at repeating her lines. She recites the divisive rhetoric, of those who chose her to transpose the trajectory of a nation desperately in search of a reasoned dialogue, with great ease. Her reference to lipstick, translated in literary terms, is apt to be the foreshadowing of a foreboding finale.

While this luminous lubricant has allowed her handlers to highlight her as something delicate and different...and someone to be protected from examination...their actions to cast her as victim serve to open wounds that have festered for years under the salve of a seemingly superficial commitment to civility.

As with all dreams, there is the possibility that this election will send us tumbling into the darkness we've come to know through nightmares. November will undoubtedly bring this election of esoteric interest to its inevitable end...but it may also ignite the same awakening that led Theo and Isabelle to cast aside their convoluted caricatures and enter the world they flirted with from afar.

When "the street came flying into the room", they recognized that their oasis of denial could no longer isolate them from the river of rancor racing through a fractured society. As they join the angry masses on the street, Matthew pleads with his friends to choose a different route. Despite his rational recitations, it is clear that Theo and Isabelle, damaged as they were, could no longer retreat to the confines of complacency. Their lives could no longer be reduced to clever lines cleaved from the cinema.

Life must be about choosing to and from the shackles of subterfuge...unencumbered by the ostentatiousness of gaudy gimmickry and manufactured memes. Come November 5th., America will have chosen its course. I, for one, will either be renewed by the refusal of voters to retreat under the weight of reckless rhetoric, or I will be exiting my cocoon of comfort...shouting..."Dans la rue! Dans la rue! C'est juste le dèbut. Le combat continue!"

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Bertolucci, John McCain, Lipstick, Politics, Sarah Palin, The Dreamers

Daniel DiRito | September 10, 2008 | 8:47 AM | link | Comments (0)
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