Monday, December 26, 2011

We’re Outnumbered 1 to 99.

I was casting about for a blog topic. Then Peter Moskos pointed out an excellent topic on which to comment on his blog Cop in the Hood. After reading the article he referred to, I find Rolling Stone said everything I could think of.

As I commented on Peter’s blog, the more I learn of American history, the better I understand this is how America has functioned for well over a hundred years. Maybe from the start. The difference now is that the current one percenters, in addition to having a bigger piece of the pie than ever before, lack the civility, manners, class—call it what you want—to keep from flaunting it at every opportunity, then rubbing our noses in it if they don’t like the response.

I’m no communist. I looked up what true socialists believe in, and I’m not one of those, either. It’s still early. Jamie Dimon and his cohorts can still talk me into it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

More Christmas Wishes

Tim Hallinan, friend and superior author, has also found the poetry muse this Christmas. His is topical, and more generally entertaining.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays From The Home Office

Another pass around the sun
Is ending for us all
And I confess, the year that ebbs
Has held us all in thrall
With ups and downs and downs and ups,
Our heads we could but shake.
A hurricane was not enough;
We had our own earthquake.

The Sole Heir’s news is only good,
Her options she surveyed,
And changed her school from U of M
To down St. Mary’s way
At southern tip of Maryland,
A place she much prefers,
So strongly that, two hours away,
We still can hear her purr.

Her next year may be better still:
In May she’s off to France
Where studies medical will get
Their first prolonged glance.
She’ll stay six weeks in sunny Nice,
A Riviera clime,
She’ll learn, she’ll work, she’ll play, she’ll tour,
The time should be sublime.

The Spouse Beloved had a year
‘Twould rattle lesser souls
Her craft room’s devastation set
Her back on several goals.
The water of her discontent
Has seen its flow abate,
Its renovation’s tardiness
Is gone, no more she waits
For closet and for storage space,
More room to work her crafts,
It’s coming all together now
Despite some minor gaffes.

My year, it had a couple downs,
Though ups will far outlast,
Like surgery on both my eyes
Means they’re no longer glassed.
Twin cataracts their view had dimmed
Until both were removed,
Bionic lenses took their place;
My vision’s much improved.

A book has been produced, my first
To place in public view,
And though the sales have not been brisk,
I’ve good reviews in lieu.
Kind words from several writing peers
Describe success to me,
Wild Bill was first, two more next year,
How well they’ll do, we’ll see.

A lot of other stuff occurred
But, frankly, little good.
And mighty bored you all would be
If tell it all I would,
So I will pass, because we know
That bad times always fade
There’s no point to remember them,
To rest they should be laid.

Now once again a year will end
And all will celebrate
The winter solstice holidays
Of any faith you fete,
We hope you have a happy time,
Kick back or tie one on
That’s all for now, we’re signing off,
Till Twenty-Twelve is gone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Equality of American Justice

Barry Bonds has been sentenced for the obstruction of justice conviction he received from his perjury trial, where he was accused to lying to a grand jury about his steroid use. Two years probation, thirty days home incarceration, and a $4,000 fine. This is what it costs to give evasive answers calculated to mislead prosecutors.

The only real reason to prosecute people for perjury and obstruction is to deter others. If people start getting the idea they can swear on the Bible and then tell a court whatever they feel like without fear of retribution, what little justice we have in this country won’t be worth even the pittance it has become.

How much will this sentence deter Bonds, should he find himself in another similar situation. Two years probation is nothing. It means only that the judge doesn’t want to see you in court again for a little while. Even a santorum like Bonds should be able to go forty years at a stretch before his arrogance becomes criminal again. He made it that far once; he knows how it works.

Thirty days house arrest? Please. Barry Bonds made over $100 million dollars playing baseball. It’s not like he’s trapped in some fifth-floor walkup in the South Bronx where the rats are afraid to go because of the number and attitude of the roaches. Barry’s toughest decision might be to decide which house to be stuck in for a month.

Then there is the fine, which is insulting to any member of the 99% who has ever run afoul of the criminal justice system. At his prime, Barry Bonds made about $30,000 every time he stepped to the plate. He wouldn’t put pine tar on his bat for four grand.

How is this calculated to make someone think twice before they get cute in court? Not only will this not deter Bonds and his ilk; it won’t deter me. I’d like nothing better than to be kept home for thirty days, and The Home Office is a little to the left of anyplace Bonds might stay on the Palatial Scale. Two years probation. I’ve never had any more serious brushes with law enforcement than a speeding ticket in fifty-five years; I can go two at a stretch if I have to.

Four thousand dollar fine? I’m not one of the 1% (though I am probably part of the 5%), and I was able to maintain a rainy day account adequate to write a stress-free check for my share of The Sole Heir’s car last summer, which, coincidentally, was $4,000. If I had to testify in court, I’d tell the truth because that’s how I roll, not because a penalty the likes of Bonds’s means anything to me.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t people for whom that would be a serious penalty. How about a guy who’s working on a landscaping crew, or a day laborer making minimum wage (if that) by the time you average in the days he doesn’t get work? Tie him to his house for thirty days and he doesn’t make his rent or feed himself. Of course, he wouldn’t get thirty days home incarceration, he’d get longer time in a real jail because he also doesn’t have the four grand to pay the fine.

This is American justice at its finest, proving its equality by punishing the rich the same as the poor, except to the rich it’s not punishment. It’s bragging rights, so they can chat up their buddies and show how the system works for them. In our case, justice isn’t just blind; it’s stupid.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Magic Dollars

Okay, here's what I can't figure out: If government spending doesn't stimulate the economy, why will defense spending cuts hurt it? Is there something about defense spending dollars that circulate through the economy better than infrastructure spending dollars?
Republicans (and some Democrats) are lining up to find ways around the defense spending cuts that they themselves voted to implement should the Supercommittee fail, which it has. Funny, but I don't see the same ardor to preserve the domestic spending also set to be cut by the triggers. Is this because defense dollars are magic? Or is it because defense dollars have a different trickle-down effect: money goes into campaign coffers, then trickles down into defense contracts? Gee, I wonder where the money in the first half of that equation came from?
On a related note, why is it Republicans (and some Democrats) won't allow the payroll tax cut to be extended without offsetting spending cuts that will hurt a lot of the people who receive the payroll tax break? Could it be because this tax cut only affects those making $106,000 or less? I don't remember them being this aggressive about a tax cut being revenue neutral when the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy went into effect, or when they were extended last year.
Please correct me if I'm missing something.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Double or Nothing

Among the primary arguments put forth for minimizing or doing away with corporate and/or capital gains taxes is the concept of double taxation. “That money is taxed twice,” proponents say. “Once at the corporate level, then again at the personal or capital gains level.”

We all know the word that describes this: bullshit.

First, money cannot be taxed. Money is inanimate and abstract. It has no inherent value aside from what we agree it’s worth. (This includes gold, by the way, so let’s not start that bogus Gold Standard argument unless we want to include the world is flat, the sun revolves around the earth, and dinosaurs co-existed with people. Oh, wait…maybe I shouldn’t include that last one.)

People are taxed. Therefore, since the Supreme Court and Mitt “The Twenty Percent Solution” Romney have declared corporations to be people, corporations should pay taxes. If they are to have all the rights of people, let them shoulder the same responsibilities. For now, whenever a conservative complains about how many people don’t pay any income tax at all, it should be understood they include General Electric in their condemnation.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Ghost of Thanksgivings Yet to Come

It’s Thanksgiving in the United States, so blogs, Facebook, and any other communications medium you can think of is full of people telling you what they’re thankful for. That’s great, and I’m thankful for quite a few things myself. Fortunately for you, most of them are none of your damn business, and I’ll express my gratitude directly to those who should receive it instead of boring you with stories of how much I love my wife/daughter/parents/brother’s family, appreciate my health, or enjoy the NHL’s Center Ice package. (That’s Centre Ice for our Canuckistan readers.) I do all of those things, and make regular and sincere expressions where they matter, to the people involved. (Or by paying the extra charge on my cable bill.) You’ll see enough of that today. You don’t need me piling on. (This provides the obligatory Thanksgiving football reference.)

What I’d like to do this Thanksgiving is to provide something you can all be thankful for in years to come, so people will know to be aware of it, thus increasing its likelihood. So here—courtesy of PolitiFact—is a list of things everyone can stop forwarding in emails and on Facebook because, frankly, they’re pissing me off.

The messages in question are usually easy to identify through their heavy reliance of exclamation points and CAPITAL LETTERS!!!! Emails are most often sent by conservatives; liberals are more likely to use Facebook. The medium is less important than the bullshit quotient. PolitiFact has evaluated over one hundred of the most “popular” messages. Over 80% were rated either “False” or “Pants on Fire.” Only four percent earned a “True.” (The PolitiFact scale runs like this: True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, Pants on Fire.)

Without further ado, here is a partial list of things I don’t ever want to see again. Senders will be subject to retribution.

  • Obama complained that the troops were whiners (Pants on Fire)
  • He refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance (False)
  • He wants soldiers to take a loyalty oath to him rather than the Constitution (Pants on Fire).
  • Because of "Obamacare," monthly Medicare premiums will more than double by 2014 (Pants on Fire)
  • Home sales will be taxed 3.8 percent (Pants on Fire) to pay for the new health care law
  • Obama's finance team is seeking a 1 percent tax on all financial transactions (Pants on Fire).
  • Members of Congress get full retirement pay after one term (Pants on Fire)
  • Congressional staffers and members don't have to repay their student loans (Pants on Fire).
  • The public option for health care coverage would have required everyone to be implanted with data-storing microchips (Pants on Fire)
  • Government had mandated everyone must get rid of their existing light bulbs (Pants on Fire)
  • You must list your guns on your tax return (Pants on Fire)
  • One percent of Americans are millionaires compared with 47 percent of House members and 56 percent of senators.( Half True)
  • Republicans in Congress have introduced dozens of bills on religion, marriage, abortion and gun control, but zero bills on job creation. (Pants on Fire.)

As PolitiFact points out, these messages have one thing in common: they’re spread by people who are passionate about their political beliefs. Here’s the key thing to remember: “passionate” should not equal “stupid.” The same Internet that has increased the speed of stupid to almost light speed also has easily found and highly respected resources that can tell you how much bullshit you’re spreading before you make an ass of yourself and bore/incite your audience. PolitiFact is one. Snopes and Truth or Fiction are just as good.

Everyone would be thankful, and the whole country would be better off, if our passionately held beliefs had a basis in fact. Let’s see what we can do to improve the level of civil discourse by promising to be more discerning in what we pass off as facts. Then at least I won’t be such a prick all the time.

(Thanks to the Show Tunes Correspondent for pointing this article out to me.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pay Attention, Conservatives

Last Friday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made the following statement in the Senate Budget Committee:

“This country does in fact have a serious deficit problem. But the reality is that the deficit was caused by two wars—unpaid for. It was caused by huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country. It was caused by a recession as result of the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street. And if those are the causes of the deficit, I will be damned if we’re going to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor. That’s wrong.”

Sanders isn’t just right; he’s Right.

Something else to consider, seen after Occupy Wall Street was evicted from Zuccotti Park:

“If they enforced bank regulation like they do park rules, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.”

And the head shot, seen periodically on the Internet:

“Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR, and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401ks, took trillions in taxpayer-funded bailouts, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes?

Yeah, me neither…”

Yet those are the people—along with the previously mentioned elderly, children, sick, and poor—who are expected to make it right.

Lest Christian conservatives think their alleged moral high ground gives them special dispensation, here’s a quote attributed to Stephen Colbert, though its accuracy renders moot its source:

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

It’s way past time to pull your heads out of your asses, conservatives. Your mother was right: do it for too long and it will grow that way.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Political Nihilists

The Tea Party used to be a mildly sympathetic group, people short on facts who deserved empathy because everyone understands the frustrations of watching the country go down the shitter and feeling powerless to do anything about it. They brought an additional voice to the political debate in this country, one that was not parroting the same vague promises that brought us to the point where they felt the need to step up.

Their evolution has, however, been backward, moving back along the spectrum as though humans had devolved past monkeys toward more simple, mindless vertebrates. The Tea Party’s policy proposals have moved from conservative to reactionary to nihilistic.

What does the Tea Party propose to balance the budget? Eliminating the Department of Education, Energy, Commerce, and Housing; allowing opt-outs for Medicare and privatizing Social Security; letting people use gold-backed currency; and eliminating all federal student loans and farm subsidies.

These people aren’t stupid; they’re willfully stupid, reveling in the grotesqueness of their ignorance unlike anyone outside of Lyndon Larouche supporters. In a nation where upward mobility has fallen dramatically, they propose cuts bound to ensure things get even worse. They call themselves patriots, yet would erect barriers that can only make the pursuit of the vaunted American dream more difficult.

No compromise is permitted. Tea Party candidates negotiate only by backing off of their original positions to make them even more stringent. Democrats are complicit in their success rushing to meet them more than halfway, no matter where the halfway line has been moved.

Money has flowed to this “grassroots” movement like oil through a pipeline, much too fast, and in too large of chunks, to pass muster as a groundswell of support. The Tea Party exists now to harden the divisions that already exist, front line soldiers in maintaining the elements of the status quo that promise to reduce our stature even more than it has already. Their efforts to undermine the foundations of a developed society border on treason as they function as the shock troops of the 1%. It would be funny—many of their ardent supporters would be among the most to lose should their proposed reforms ever come to pass—if not for the fact they’ll take the rest of us down with them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Sole Heir Rides Again

Few things are more boring than listening to someone else go on at length about how his kid won the refrigerator drawing contest at Millard Fillmore Elementary School for the fourth week in a row, a new third grade record. Unless he shows you photographs of all the drawings on his iPhone. With that in mind, I don’t spend a lot of time promoting The Sole Heir. She knows what I think of her. Frankly, it’s none of your business.

Once in a while, though, she does something that merits special attention. A junior at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, she has been accepted into a five-week undergraduate pre-med program in Nice, France. She’ll stay with a nice Nice family, attend classes, observe doctors, and generally build on the experience she gained from watching her father get his eyes sliced open. She gets to do this while spending the late spring in the south of France, less than an hour’s drive from Cannes while the film festival is underway. (That’s less than an hour in kilometers, so it’s even closer than it sounds.)

As far as we know, TSH is the first St. Mary’s student to be accepted into this program. (This opinion is based largely on the fact the interviewer had never heard of the school before reading TSH’s application.) She’s excited, and the entire family couldn’t be prouder of her.

She’s already thinking of what she’ll need there. I have told her, no matter how prepared she thinks she is, something will come up she hadn’t expected. For example, in the immortal words of the poet-philosopher Steven Martin, in France a street is a rue; a hat is a chapeau; a house is a maison.

Those French have a different word for everything.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Final Comment on JoePa

This is from Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column in Sports Illustrated.

I asked Emily Kaplan, a friend of mine from New Jersey, a Penn State junior, and a writer for the campus paper the Daily Collegian, to write something about how the campus was dealing with the Sandusky/Paterno crisis. Her report, filed Sunday night from State College, Pa.:

The origin of the iconic "We Are ... Penn State" chant, the school's signature slogan on and off the football field, is believed to have occurred the same year Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. In the pre-Paterno year of 1947, SMU didn't want to play Penn State because of PSU's two African-American players and wanted to negotiate a compromise. "We are Penn State," said captain Steve Suhey. "There will be no meetings."

So began the battle cry of unity, as all Penn Staters, to this day, consider ourselves part of a special family. Suhey's son Matt starred at Penn State in the 1970s, and Matt's son Joe played fullback for the Lions Saturday against Nebraska. Walk into a crowded room and shout, "We are ... " and any Penn Stater would know how to respond. The chant represents pride, respect and tradition.

Today, we are Penn State ... but we are ashamed. We are ashamed that our leaders who preach doing the right thing and "success with honor" dishonored all of us with their inaction over an alleged child-abuse scandal. We are embarrassed by the way we are being portrayed, as a football-centric school that would let a child molester walk if that meant our name would stay clean. We read the grand jury report and we are just as disgusted as anyone -- if not more. We are praying for the victims and hopeful they will find justice. We are heartbroken that this could happen here.

But as a Penn State junior, I can tell you this: We are going to be OK. We are not going to let an assistant football coach, apparently a very sick one, or a few university suits define us. For a moment, we lost our identity. We felt sorry for ourselves. We sulked that we were the victims of media scrutiny and that this scandal tarnished our school. But we are not the victims. The children are. So we will move on, working on repairing our school, while honoring those kids along the way.

Already the scandal's ramifications are swirling around campus. Four students apparently lost their spring internships because companies didn't want to be associated with Penn State. Corporate sponsors are supposedly pulling out of THON, Penn State's annual dance marathon, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, which has raised more than $78 million for pediatric cancer. If all true, it's sad. If people don't want to wear their Penn State garb anymore, it's their decision. But this I know: We are a school with a glorious tradition, a school dedicated to doing things the right way. Our longtime father figure, Joe Paterno, taught us that.

Look, I'm no Penn State apologist. I can't condone the stupid tantrum some of my classmates threw Wednesday night after Paterno's dismissal. Nobody condones the arrogant decisions some of our leaders made. I've also heard the criticism against my school. Happy Valley is in a bubble. Penn State is too image-conscious. JoePa is too deified. The riots give some credence to that. So did the presence of 100 students at Joe Pa's modest off-campus home, many teary-eyed, waiting for him to come out Wednesday night so they could say goodbye and thank him. On the surface it seemed ridiculous. How could students still support this man who didn't do enough to help abused children?

Truth is, if not for Paterno's philanthropy and moral code (until his fatal lapse of judgment), I and thousands of others wouldn't be here right now. If not for Paterno and his grand experiment -- creating a national powerhouse football program with high academic standards -- Pennsylvania State might still be an agriculture school and State College might be lucky if there were a Wal-Mart within a 30-mile radius. Paterno made a huge mistake, but that doesn't mean he's not a good man. When he emerged from his house Wednesday night, I was there when he addressed the gathering. One of the first things he said was, "Go study."

So we will study at Paterno Library, a place Joe and his wife made happen, we will eat Peachy Paterno ice cream and we will remember the lessons he taught us about integrity and honor. We will also remember his mistake, and make sure we never repeat it.

We will fund raise harder than ever for THON, we will work harder than ever in the classroom. Our president, our athletic director, our football coach, will not be around anymore. But we will be, and we will start to rebuild our university's shattered image. Whoever our next football coach may be next season, we will stand behind him and our players. Because we are Penn State. And like the hundreds of thousands of alumni around the country, we always will be.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

JoePa, Part 2

Doug and Charlie are wearing me down; Paterno definitely should have done more. (See Charlie’s excellent piece on his blog, Temporary Knucksline.) What I'm still upset about is how institutions mete out justice today, in the interest of a politically correct vision of "fairness."

Right now there are five principals on the radar: Sandusky, Curley, Schultz, Paterno, and McQuery. (Fired President Spanier doesn't really enter into this part of the discussion.) Let’s see how things shake out with each of them.

At the risk of offending those who believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty, Sandusky is a piece of shit. Assuming he’s found guilty, put him in gen pop, make sure the rest of the cons know who he is, and let nature take its course.

McQuery was the only other person who could have done anything material. He not only failed to do so, he had to ask Daddy what he should do. I was willing to give him a pass because of his age at the time, until I remembered my own oft-spoken scorn for such arguments. We have men and women of the age McQuery was then making life and death decisions under fire on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a quarterback, he was trained in leadership skills. They didn’t take.

Paterno was summarily fired after 62 years of service that put Penn State on the map. This is not such a huge story if it happens at Coastal Carolina or Guilford. It’s a national sensation because it happened at Penn State, and Penn State is such a big deal because it’s one of the most successful programs in the country and graduates over 80% of its football players, with nary a hint of a recruiting violation. Why are all those things true? Joe Paterno. Penn State fired him for making the school look bad, when no one outside of State College would have cared about the school looking bad had not Paterno put it on the map in the first place.

Curley and Schultz had the same information as Paterno, and are under indictment for perjuring themselves before a grand jury that had no issue with Paterno’s testimony. Schultz was allowed to retire; Curley is on administrative leave while he defends himself against the charges. Should we assume he will get his old job back if he is found innocent? Let’s hope not. In that case, why not fire him now?

The reason that will rise immediately to the top is that you shouldn’t fire someone who has not been proven guilty. This is a bogus argument. Penn State has made it clear being under indictment is not a firing offense. Curley should be fired for the same reason Paterno was, for not doing more to stop Sandusky. His perjury is but a piece of that.

Now that I’ve had time to think about this, Paterno had to go. This happened on his watch. He as much as acknowledged that when he announced his retirement, effective at the end of the season. What still bothers me is how none of the good he’s done over the past 62 years seems to matter anymore.

Announcing his retirement after the season may have been a tactical error. He should have consulted with the Trustees first. Come to an agreement. At least then they would almost have to have had some kind of joint announcement of how and when he’d go. As it was, since he had already announced he’d leave, they were in a position where they had to show the media and PC Police they took this seriously. (Finally.) The result was a “don’t let the door hit you on the ass” firing.

Curley and Schultz—and even Sandusky—will get their days in court. Paterno—whose offense is not that he did too much wrong but not enough right—gets to fall on his sword. No one cares about his side of the story anymore. It is not a defense of child abuse to say that he deserves better.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Joe Paterno’s sixty-plus years at Penn State have come to an end. Like so many long tenures, it ended badly. Paterno, who has long resisted all attempts to retire him, announced he would leave at the end of this season and was not even allowed that, fired by the Board of Trustees last night.

Let us begin with what should be obvious: nothing that has happened, or will happen, to Paterno is in any way comparable to the damage that has been done to the young men molested by former assistant Jerry Sandusky. Assuming he is, in fact, guilty, there is no court with the authority to punish him severely enough. Athletic Director Tim Curley and University Vice President Gary Schultz have also earned their doses of infamy.

The preponderance of public invective has fallen on Paterno. Maybe that is as it should be; he is the leading public figure in this scandal. Still, the level of vitriol is surprising. Is it deserved? Unlike the vast majority of those who have heaped their scorn upon him via the internet today, I have actually read the grand jury report. I know using actual evidence violates the spirit of the web, but let’s give it a try.

Then graduate assistant (now assistant coach) Mike McQuery was in the Lasch Center (which houses the football offices) on a Friday evening to put new sneakers in his locker and pick up tapes for an upcoming game when he heard suspicious sounds coming from the shower. He took a look and saw former defensive coordinator Sandusky sodomizing a boy about ten years old. They saw each other, and everyone left.

McQuery, distraught, calls his father, then goes to his home, where his father tells him he has to tell Paterno. The next morning, McQuery goes to Paterno’s home and does so. Paterno said in his testimony McQuery was visibly upset. Paterno found his story credible enough to call Curley to his home Sunday morning and tell him what McQuery had seen. It also seems clear the language Paterno used was somewhat toned down from the description McQuery had given, though he definitely said Sandusky had been seen doing something of a sexual nature with a young boy. (Paterno at the time was in his mid-seventies. It is not surprising his language would not be as strong.)

Curley then contacted Schultz, under whose authority resided the university police force. They waited a week-and-a-half to speak to McQuery; Paterno was not present. Afterward they notified the police, but were apparently less than forthcoming. The grand jury summary says McQuery was “extremely credible.” Curley and Schultz were both described as “not credible.”

Could Paterno have done more? Absolutely. Should he have done more? Probably. Let’s look at what he did, and not what we’d all like to think we’d do in a similar situation.

McQuery played quarterback at Penn State, and obviously made enough of an impression on Paterno to be offered a graduate assistantship. He is entitled to a certain amount of credence. One Saturday morning, out of the blue, he tells Paterno he saw a man Paterno has worked closely with for over 30 years sodomizing a young boy. If I were Paterno, my first thought would be, “Kid, you’d better be pretty goddamned sure.” Paterno saw the McQuery was visibly upset, so he escalated it to his boss the next day. The grand jury finds no fault with this action.

The leading meme today has been, “Why didn’t Paterno call the police?” Let’s say he does. What does he tell them? “I have a grad student here who says he saw Jerry Sandusky buggering a small child.”

COP: Did you see anything?

JP: No.

COP: Send over the grad student.

They’re done with him. They need eyewitness testimony, and Paterno doesn’t have any.

The next argument I saw on a couple of comment threads was that Paterno should not only have gone to the police, he should have kept after them. These people watch too much television. I’ve made child abuse complaints twice, once when a woman shopping in a store where I worked refused to take her son for a free hospital exam after a nasty fall; the other occurred when child pornography appeared in my email. The police took my statement, got my contact information, and went on their way. They were clear that they’d call me if they needed me, but my role had ended. That’s what would have happened here. Police do not discuss open investigations with civilians. Period.

Another argument against insisting Paterno should have become a crusader for light and right is that State College PA is a small town. Its current population is listed at 39,898. Joe Paterno’s number is in the book. (Probably not anymore, but before this week it had always been.) Someone overhears on the police scanner that JoePa has called for cops, and what is still at that point an unsubstantiated claim is now public knowledge. He’s known Sandusky for a long time. He’s not likely to take the chance of ruining the guy’s life on one other person’s say so. What if it’s nothing? We know it wasn’t now, but Paterno wasn’t there when it happened; he didn’t see anything. He moved it up the chain, as he should have.

Put yourself in his position. You hear a similar story of a friend of thirty years. (For those who aren’t that old, think of a favorite uncle or mentor.) Is calling the police the first thing you do? Hasn’t that kind of relationship has earned the benefit of the doubt? Sure, you do something. Me, I’d urge the person who came to me to go to the police; he actually has evidence for them. If he’s afraid, then, yes, maybe I wander into the police station and make a statement. But maybe not, if I’m so high profile my appearance there–or the appearance of the police at my house–lets the toothpaste out of the tube.

I was then swatted with another argument, that the above statement only helps the guilty. We should go to the police with every such allegation we here. The presumption of innocence will protect against unfounded charges. Does anyone here remember Richard Jewell and the Atlanta Olympics? The Tawana Brawley case? McMartin pre-school? The toothpaste never quite gets put back into the tube, does it?

Maybe the worst thing I read today came from John Scalzi, a science fiction writer for whom I have had great respect. In the comment threads to his post demonizing Paterno, after a commenter said this:

“Meanwhile, all the rage at JoePa has taken the focus off the real monster.”

Scalzi’s reply:

“Alleged monster,” please. We should continue to remember that the alleged monster has yet to have his day in court.

Apparently for Paterno to get a fair hearing in the court of public opinion, he had not sinned enough; he needed to get himself indicted. Then a presumption of innocence would apply.

We all grieve for these children, and for Curley and Schultz to delay in their follow-up and then lie to the authorities is beneath contempt. What is disturbing is the levels of vitriol directed at someone who was not himself directly involved. It is true that all that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing; that does not make them evil themselves, or cowards. It makes them human. Let’s please just tone down this casting of first stones.

The most valuable thing I learned today? How glad I am the readers of John Scalzi’s blog are not my friends.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Game 6 Postponed

Brace yourselves. I'm about to say something nice about baseball commissioner Bud "Bud" Selig.Those who know me will appreciate this is not unlike me nominating Harry Reid for the Nobel Prize in Political Science, but fair is fair. (And I have said nice things about Reid, as well. Not too damned often, but I have.)

Selig has presided over many things I don't like about baseball: interleague play; second-place teams in the post-season and the resulting additional tier of playoffs; widening disparity in team payrolls; the Steroid Era, during which he placed his head in the sand deep enough to strike oil until the public and political outcry became so great he had to don his Crusader robe and take credit for both the outbreak of offense and stopping it; ever-lengthening games; a tied All-Star game, then changing the rules to make it "count." For a relative purist such as myself, who understands baseball is a business, but, Jesus Christ, enough already, Selig has been a train wreck looking for a crossing with a school bus of disabled kids on it.

Tonight Buddy gets his due. Game 6 of the World Series has been postponed well in advance. This was true of another playoff game in an earlier round, as well, even though the weather report for that game was incorrect and things cleared up nicely in time for the game. It was still the right thing to do, and the decision was made easier by another decision Selig made a few years ago: all post-season games will be played to their conclusion. If a game must be halted due to bad weather, it will resume from the place where it left off. Regular season rules concerning shortened or suspended games do not apply.

This is as it should be. I'm old enough to remember a 1978 National League Championship Series game between the Phillies and the Dodgers played in rain so heavy it was hard to see the pitched ball from the center field camera. Those conditions not only endanger the players, they risk making a travesty of the most important games of the season.

Trying to sneak the game in despite the forecast would have been a horrible idea for a potentially series-ending game, killing much of the sense of drama a Game 6 entails. Call the game now, tell FOX to calm the fuck down and reschedule their ads for the X Factor, and do it right.

For one day at least, this Bud's for all baseball fans.

Monday, October 24, 2011

How Can You Believe Anything These Guys Say?

From today's Washington Post:

It was a notable political misstep for Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain: in a CNN interview, he remarked that abortion ought to be “a choice that the family or mother has to make.” Those comments forced Cain to spend last week attempting to shore up his anti-abortion credentials—an effort that included endorsing a Constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

A week ago he believed abortion was a "choice that the family or mother has to make." A little blowback and he wants a Constitutional amendment to ban it outright. It doesn't matter what your views are on abortion; this guy will say anything.That fact that this tendency doesn't make him special among the contenders, on either side is what is so disturbing

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Complaint to Management

I sent this note to the White House today. There's not a soul in that building who gives a tenth of a shit what I think, but I did what I could. Maybe if enough of us do, it will matter.

I see by today's Washington Post online that the administration will stop implementing the CLASS Act, and that the Prevention and Public Health Fund may be in a tenuous position. Abandoning key provision of the ACA so quickly while extracting so little from its opponents in return doesn't say much for the administration's commitment to its own legislative "high points."

I was fooled in 2008; I'll not be fooled again next year.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hey, Ron Paul

How’s that whole gold standard idea looking right now?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Underpants School of Economics

The Beloved Spouse has reminded me of one of our favorite South Park episodes. In it, the boys’ friend Tweak is unable to sleep at night because of the Underpants Gnomes, who creep into his drawers and steal his, well, drawers.

Stan and Kyle and Cartman follow the Underpants Gnomes to their secret lair. (I forget whether Kenny was dead yet.) After a brief discussion, the head gnome shares his plan for wealth with the boys:

1. Underpants

2. ???

3. Profit

This is eerily like how the Republicans want to get the economy running again:

1. Austerity

2. ???

3. Prosperity (at least for some)

The Beloved Spouse wondered what George Carlin would think of this. (What other blog delivers such a wealth of cultural references?) She thinks it might go something like this:


The Worker

Out-of-work man.

Unskilled, no formal training. Construction. Warehouse work.

Married. Four kids. Wife works at low end department store.

Does odd jobs to keep the family afloat.

Rents a house.

Our Government

Is in charge of big projects that benefit the entire country.

Has lots of infrastructure that needs repair or replacement.

Has lots of new projects that need doing.

The Idea

Government hires this man to work on a project.

Government pays him a decent wage.

The man now has money to pay his bills, and  can now afford to buy more things for his family.

The family can go to the dentist, buy new shoes, have a vacation, buy a better car, buy a washing machine and dryer, go to the movies, etc.

Every time a dollar goes into this man's pocket, he probably spends all of it.

Every dollar that he spends goes to buy stuff or services.

That creates demand for stuff and services

Manufacturers make more stuff when there's demand for more stuff.

Service industries expand their services when there's more demand for services.

That means more jobs for folks in manufacturing, sales, services, etc.

Bonus! Our country now has safer roads, bridges, schools, etc.

The Outcome


This is such an elegant and obvious solution it’s hard to see how it can be argued with, except on the grounds of intellectual dishonesty (Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor) or severe mental impairment (Rick Perry, Michele Bachman). Trickle-Down economics hasn’t worked, and it’s not going to. Reagan’s economic Rasputin, David Stockman, knew it wouldn’t work when he implemented it, and admitted as much after he was safely out of government service. Trickle-Down economics is like standing a pyramid on its head; inherently unstable and unreliable.

What we need is Percolate Up economics. Give the above construction worker with four kids some money and he’ll spend it right now, on food or housing or car repairs. Give that money to someone in the highest earning one percent and he’ll either bank it, or, if he does buy something like a car, it will be a BMW. I’m all for free trade, but Germans have their economy better under control than we do. They’ll be fine.

Instead of giving a few people a lot of money through tax cuts, give a little money to each of a lot of people. Every dollar you give them will bring between 1.5 and two dollars back as it works its way through the economy after he buys a washing machine that allows Sears to order more, which allows whoever makes Kenmores (it’s not Sears, you know) to hire more washing machine builders n who can then fix their leaky roofs and basements, thus putting some construction guys to work. And on and on.

As for the alleged deficit hawks who think only government spending adds to the debt and tax cuts are somehow revenue neutral, look at your own finances. A dollar spent is no more damaging to the bottom line than a dollar not taken in.

I’ll talk about job creators another day.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Home Office Hath No Fury…

The Beloved Spouse was an early Obama adopter. Got on the bandwagon early and stuck with him through the first two years of his alleged presidency. So it was no surprise when she received a email from him yesterday.

Friend --
I'm writing to invite you to dinner.

Personally, I only invite people whose names I know to dinner, but this is politics. Maybe it’s different.

If that sounds familiar, it's because we've done this before. I've asked the campaign to organize small, five-person dinners with supporters like you as a regular thing.
These dinners are important to me. Not just because they help me stay connected to supporters like you who are doing the hard work of building this campaign, but because they set us apart.
No matter what our opponents do over the next 14 months, we have chosen to put people at the heart of our campaign -- and we're focused on building it one grassroots donation at a time.
I'm asking you to make one today.

Now I understand. He’s inviting her to buy dinner. If that’s not a politician, I don’t know what is.

Our focus on everyday Americans and their stories has always made our organization more than just a political campaign.
From the very beginning, we've set out to practice a different kind of politics -- proving that we don't need checks from Washington lobbyists or unlimited special-interest money to win an election.

He keeps talking about a different brand of politics. I never realized “different” is a synonym for “ineffective.”

This is all pretty lame, Barry doing his Audacity of Hope bit for Democrats who haven’t been paying attention. Well, The Beloved Spouse has been paying attention to him since before he won his first primary. Here is her reply (Used with her permission, of course):


I might donate later, after I see how long this fire in your belly for the American Jobs Act lasts. You're back on the campaign trail, so you're all fired up and ready to go. Where the heck have you been?

You, Barack, have disappointed me beyond words. You have shown no leadership, no spine, no determination, and no flippin' insight into what you are up against. You have underestimated your opponents time and time again. I am not a very happy Democrat at the moment.

You are going to get my vote. I'm pretty much resigned to that. But, honestly, if there was a viable Democratic challenger, I'd have to at least look at a choice.

Choice. Change. Pffft. Words.

Get serious, Barack. I don't want to live in the kind of world invisioned by Perry, Paul, Bachmann and Cain. I might be able to tolerate Romney or Huntsman, but only because they seem as weak-willed and spineless as you turned out to be.

Sorry. I had such high hopes for you, too.

Catch me later.

The Democrats had better get a handle on who their friends are damn quick. If they’ve lost TBS, they’re in big trouble.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

There He Goes Again

Barack Obama hit the campaign trail last week. He convened a joint session of Congress for an alleged speech about a jobs creation bill and used it as his kick-off speech. Symbolically, he gave it on the night the NFL season kicked off as well, though even his handlers knew he lacked the juice to compete with the game and moved an supposedly critical speech out of prime time to avoid getting trounced. (Green Bay beat New Orleans 42-34.)

Then Barry hit the campaign trail with a vengeance, traveling to three states (including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s home district) to taunt Republicans with his newly-discovered populist message. “Pass this bill!” is the sound bite. It will be about as effective as “Whip Inflation Now,” and “Just Say No,” but it sure did get the crowds fired up.

Where was this level of presidential involvement and emotion during the health care debate, when Tea Party savants taunted congressional town hall meetings with shouts of death squads? Barry spent most of that debate hunkered into the White House like Hitler in the Fuhrerbunker, making token appearances so people would know he was still alive. Same with financial reform. Pick any program he’d pledged to support and he was nowhere to be found.

Until now. Is it because people are hurting and jobs are still hard to come by? People were hurting and jobs were hard to come by during the stimulus debate, too. You didn’t see Air Force One zipping around the country so Barry could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with people who could no longer make their mortgage payments.

The difference now has no more to do with unemployment or foreclosures than the fact unemployed and foreclosed people vote, and the Republican debates are grabbing all the political headlines. He also needs to look presidential enough to forestall any primary challenges from his left. He’s running for office again, which is the only job he appears to be suited for, since his record after winning elections is sparse.

It will probably work. The Republican candidates are racing to see who can stake out the most untenable positions for the general election, with the exception of Mitt Romney, who doesn’t believe in anything except that he wants Mitt Romney to be president. The 2012 campaign is shaping up early as the epitome of a South Park election: a choice between a giant douche and a turd sandwich. Our political race to the bottom will be complete.

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Perfect End to the Perfect Week

The holiday was nice. I extended my weekend into Tuesday. That was nice.

Remember it. It won’t happen again.

Wednesday we had fourteen hours of more or less continuous violent thunderstorms. The power went out at 2:30 in the afternoon. Water started coming accumulating in the basement as 2:45. Your correspondent tried to hold back the tide with a sponge mop until I noticed whitecaps in the water. I gave up and waited for the power to come back on so the wet-vac would work.

At 7:30 our utility’s service line said our power would be restored by 9:00. By 9:15 the message had been changed to, “as soon as possible.” I dozed in a chair, ready to spring into action the instant the power came back on. At 12:15 I moved to the couch. The lights came on at 2:30. (Note the classical symmetry.)

By 2:32 I had the wet-vac humming. Done at 5:15, the only chore remaining to set up a floor fan that is usually kept upstairs to blow air across the mop-dry floor. Took off my Crocs (yes, I’m a 55-year-old man who wears Crocs in water-related emergencies) so I wouldn’t track wet footprints through the house. Slipped as I reached the bottom and drove my left big toe into a rack of shelves. Stomped around the basement doing my impersonation of George Carlin’s cat. (You get that joke or you don’t. ) Dragged the bloody stump upstairs to find the nail hanging on by individual atoms. All thoughts of a nap before work dead because, no matter how tired I was with ten functioning phalanges, I’m wide fucking awake with nine, so I signed in to work at 6:00. Worked until 4:30, when one of the broken toothpicks I’d been using to prop open my eyes slipped and embedded itself in my cheek. (This is the only exaggeration in the entire story. Swear to God.) Got something to eat and crashed on the couch until 8:00 this morning.

Today. Friday. Time to mellow out and ease into a weekend. A night of rest and elevation makes the toe look like it belongs to a human being, though not necessarily the human being it is attached to. Time for a little treat. I don’t drink worth mentioning. Don’t do drugs. Yo quiero Taco Bell.

One problem: they have a strict no zapatas, no camisa, no servicio policy. I slide a sock over the toe. Not too bad. Loosen the shoelaces as far as I can and it fits into a sneaker. Not happily, but it fits. I’m out the door.

I never realized how much your big toe is involved in working the clutch. (Note to aging people who remain clumsy: automatic transmissions are the way to go.) I coast through stop signs and never go above second gear all the way to the parking lot, where the pinnacle of my week awaits.

Taco Bell is on fire.

I shit you not. Nothing too dramatic. No flames shooting out of windows and telescoping ladders. At first all I saw was the emergency rescue vehicle and thought, “It’s Taco Bell. Maybe someone just got sick. No reason not to go in myself. The lines are probably non-existent.” Then I saw the five fire trucks from various jurisdictions, and people wearing Taco Bell jerseys walking away and figured maybe I should eat elsewhere.

Saturday can’t come soon enough.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Relative Value of Labor

Here’s a quote the Party of Lincoln might want to consider, since it was Lincoln who said it:
"Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."
(Credit to E.J. Dionne, via Carola Dunn.)

The Patriot Act: Keeping America Safe From Terrorism

There's an interesting chart in New York Magazine that shows what the Patriot Act is used for.

Delayed-notice search warrants issued under the expanded powers of the Patriot Act, 2006–2009:
For drugs: 1,618
For fraud: 122
For Terrorism: 15

(Thanks to Peter Moskos’s excellent blog, Cop in the Hood.)

A Peek Behind the Republican Curtain

This is a tad long, but Mike Lofgren, who worked as a Republican congressional staffer for thirty years, steps outside the tent and gives the inside scoop on Republican goals, motives, and strategy better than any fifty blog posts that could be written from the outside. Well worth the read.

(Thanks to Jon Loomis for pointing this out on Facebook.)

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Death of the Honest Businessman | Articles | Bill James Online

Bill James made his bones as a pioneer in the field of sabremetrics, the analysis of baseball statistics that threatens to drown us all. James's gift was not in his analysis of the stats--which was, and is, formidable--but in how he wrote up the analysis. Always entertaining, James broke ground where no one has really followed, detailed analysis described by exceptional writing. Those who may be better number crunchers can't write half as well; those who can write at his level can't handle the level of statistical detail.

He has his own website now, full of baseball analysis, but with other stuff, too. He's written a true crime book that focuses on crimes that caught popular attention, that has been well received. (Full disclosure: I haven't got to it yet, but I will.) He also goes off on tangents, sometimes political, that are always worth reading. Today he posted an article on "The Death of the Honest Businessman" that shows the same logic that makes his baseball analysis worth reading.

The article also touches on a few political hot buttons, notably red light camera and closing small post office. All can be read at the link below, but what interests me most here is his juxtaposition of common rhetoric versus what actually happens.

James writes:

Also as many of you know, I’m prone to rant about red-light cameras. Here’s a link to an extremely good article on the subject:

Having endorsed the article enthusiastically—I think this may be the first time I have used this platform to link to somebody else’s article—I now need to back away from it a little bit in several directions. The article says that "governments initially justified them under the rubric of public safety—the cameras were supposed to make intersections safer. . .but the fig leaf of safety frittered away as study after study showed that the cameras made little difference and in some cases actually made intersections less safe. Drivers, knowing cameras were watching, tended to jam on their brakes suddenly at yellow lights, causing accidents." I would prefer to believe that that’s true, and intuitively I have known from the first moment I heard of a red light camera that businessmen would promote them by doing specious studies that heroically overstated the safety value of their product, but by the same rough skepticism, I know that people who write polemics very often say things like "study after study has shown" no matter how muddled the evidence actually is.

The more serious issue is that parts of the article are stated in right-wing cant that is likely to drive a wedge between Red-Light camera opponents and those who should be our strongest allies. The article talks about Red Light cameras as a further intrusion of the Nanny State into our daily lives, which is code to portray Red-Light cameras as being foisted on the population from the left. The reality is that it isbusinessmen who are selling these things, in league with avaricious local politicians. In the 1980s, when businesses got a toehold running private prisons on contract from the government, who was it that took the lead in opposing that? It was, of course, the left.

Well, this is the same thing, isn’t it? It’s turning over a police function to private business—and it should be opposed on those grounds; police powers cannot be delegated to people who could misuse them to generate income. There is too much opportunity for abuse, and businessmen are not universally ethical. The real problem with Red Light cameras is not that they don’t promote safety—for all I actually know, they may promote safety—it is that they create a profound confusion between the goals of public safety and the pursuit of wealth.

Also in the 1980s, there was a period in which it was a popular idea that police should seize items used in a crime and sell them to raise money for police departments. A more terrifying concept would be difficult to come up with—and who was it that took the lead in opposing this? It was, again, the left—and these policies were in due course prohibited by the courts as a threat to civil liberties.

Well, this is the same thing, isn’t it? It creates the same terrifying confusion between what is being done in the broad interests of the public and what is being done in the financial interests of the state, thus allowing the government to shake money out of your pockets on the pretense that they are legitimately punishing you for violating laws that you never had the slightest intention of violating.

Governments should be fanatically careful as to when they punish and who they punish. A wise father does not indiscriminately punish his children. Educated and sophisticated people know that punishments backfire frequently and at a high cost. This is careless and indiscriminate punishment. It is both stupid and immoral, and we need to put a definite stop to it.

Read the entire article here, or by using the link below. It's worth your time, no matter which side of the political fence you're on.

The Death of the Honest Businessman | Articles | Bill James Online

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Deferring to my Betters

I was going to write about Obama’s latest disappointment, but Paul Krugman has done it better that I could in his NYT Blog:

I’ve actually been avoiding thinking about the latest Obama cave-in, on ozone regulation; these repeated retreats are getting painful to watch. For what it’s worth, I think it’s bad politics. The Obama political people seem to think that their route to victory is to avoid doing anything that the GOP might attack — but the GOP will call Obama a socialist job-killer no matter what they do. Meanwhile, they just keep reinforcing the perception of mush from the wimp, of a president who doesn’t stand for anything.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Class Warfare. Again.

Republicans have their kickers in knots because noted Socialist Warren Buffet has advocated raising taxes on the super-rich. “Class warfare!” is the rallying cry from Fox News and its ilk. (Is there any way for “ilk” to sound complimentary? Certainly not when used in conjunction with “Fox News” or “Tea Party” or “child molester.” Not saying Fox news and the Tea Party are child molesters. I just tried to think of the worst thing I could call someone, since “Fascist” lost all meaning when Obama was declared one by Lyndon Larouche’s acolytes.)

Apparently the Right believes class warfare can only happen by pitting one class against the rich. This is not true, though that is traditionally how it has been done, primarily because the poor do not have anything anyone else wants. Ah, but this is the Twenty-First Century, where Brave New World is as passé as “See Dick run” and Ayn Rand has replaced Thomas Jefferson as the paragon of rational political thought. Conservatives have found one thing the poor have that’s worth taking.


Taking money from people who don’t have any is not just hard to do, it’s hard to advocate. We’re not quite ready for the Al Swearengen approach of “hit them over the head, take their money, and throw their bodies in the creek,” though we’re headed down that slippery slope. No, for this we have to resort to a tried and true conservative meme: these people are screwing you, and we’re your only friend.

Conservatives have a revered tradition with this approach. For years blacks were the enemy, taking white jobs, sleeping with white women, and looking better with shaved heads than any white man. Immigrants had their day, but vilifying them has lost its sheen since the economy became so bad even Mexicans don’t want to come here anymore. Now it’s the poor’s turn, except no one can say “let’s take money from the poor” without invoking Dickensian images even from those who think a Dickensian is someone whose work pants aren’t Levis or Wranglers.

“How can we take money from the poor and get the middle class to think it’s a good idea?” Oh, how this must have tortured many a conservative soul late into many sleepless nights. Then some 60-watt bulb noticed that almost half of all Americans don’t pay income tax, and boom! Inspiration.

All real Americans hate freeloaders, and in tough times everyone (except the rich) are expected to contribute. Never mind that most of those non-taxpaying goldbricks are seniors living on Social Security who don’t draw enough benefits to pay tax. Most of the others either make so little money the standard deductions wipe out their Gross Adjusted Income, or programs like the Earned Income Credit or Child Tax Credit bring them under the line. (Note: Republicans repeatedly vote for these programs, and have expressed no interest in undoing them.)

While the poor don’t always pay income tax, they do pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. (If they’re lucky enough to have jobs.) These are regressive taxes, especially Social Security, thanks to the cap, which means there are poor people in this country who pay no income tax, yet still pay a higher percentage of their wages in overall taxes than do the rich.

Conservatives have no sense of irony. They fail to realize a flaw that is implicit in their argument: we now live in a country where almost half the people don’t make enough money to pay income tax.

Does that bother anyone but me? Of course, I’m one of those who still thinks the banks and financial institutions were responsible for the current mess, and refuses to blame the public workers and unions because it was their unreasonable salary demands and lack of work ethic that caused mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps to lose their (perceived) value and become exposed for the Ponzi schemes they always were, thus precipitating the Great Recession of 2008. Silly me.