Frontier Former Editor

March 17, 2009

Here’s another reason to major in history, or at least read it more than once every few years . . .

The Credit Mobilier scandal of 1872 – a good reason to hold big business’ s and elected government’s collective feet to the fire on a regular basis.

“Crédit Mobilier of America was formed by George Francis Train, the vice-president in charge of publicity for the Union Pacific Railroad. Crédit Mobilier of America was designed to limit the liability of stockholders and maximize profits from construction with the hefty fees being paid by federal subsidies. The company also gave cheap shares of stock to members of Congress who agreed to support additional funding  . . .

“It was claimed that the $72 million in contracts had been given to Crédit Mobilier for building a rail only worth $53 million. Union Pacific and other investors were left nearly bankrupt.”

Okay folks, and that was 57 years before the 1929 crash. Dubya, let’s go over the success of the “No Child Left Behind Act” again, shall we?

October 1, 2008

A depression is like a . . . . .

I’ve just about had it with analogies today.

For the last 24 hours, it seems that damn near every congressman and senator who can walk and chew gum at the same time, every pundit, and half the people I spend time with at work have uttered most possible variations of the phrase, “The financial crisis is like a . . . .” Just before I started typing this, I heard former Tennessee Governor and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander enlighten me by saying “The financial crisis is like a car wreck.”

Lamar, pal. The financial crisis is not like a car wreck. A car wreck involves state police, ambulances, tow trucks, body bags . . . wait, if you’re on sidewalk level in the New York financial district, maybe it is like a car wreck, but not in the way Lamar meant.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post (thanks, Sledpress!) still has my eternal admiration for dressing up like Elmer Fudd when he appeared on MSNBC’s ‘Countdown’ after the Cheney lawyer-shootin’ scandal broke. And, like me, Milbank also seems bemused if not addled at the range of analogy and metaphor emanating from Congressional mouths (or sphincters – it’s really hard to tell even on HD TV).

“The verbal misfires ricocheted across the chamber: Asleep at the switch!. . . The worm turns! . . . Russian roulette . . A financial gun to the head. . . Pull the trigger!. . .Take the bullets! . . Jumping off this precipice. . . Get our house in order.”

Not to mention the fecal sandwich analogies I’ve heard ad nauseum.

Someone at work said, “This is just like the Great Depression!”

She was 19. What the f**k does she know about the Great Depression? I’m 46, a history major and have read about the Great Depression in historical and economic contexts and I don’t know what the f**k it was like during the Great Depression. I’ve got a fair idea what it might have been like, based on stories from my grandparents, but I know some ways in which it wasn’t like the Great Depression.

  • A. Herbert Hoover was smart and had experience in humanitarian disaster and food relief after World War One.
  • B. You can’t hardly buy stocks on margin anymore, unlike 1929.
  • C. A dumbass of the astrophysical magnitude of George W. Bush hadn’t been created yet, although a megalomaniacal putz exceeding Dick Cheney’s mathematical quantification was on work release in Munich.
  • D. Al Jolson a fraction less repulsive in blackface than was Ted Danson.

Being a fundamentally mean person at heart, I joined the “It’s like a . . .” bandwagon when prompted, merrily spouting, “No, it’s like the South Sea Bubble or the Dutch tulip depression!”

There’s nothing I enjoy more than an uncomprehending look from someone half my age.

Anyway, if you have to listen to every Tom, Dick and hairless tell you what the current financial crisis is like, at least relieve yourself by this bit of creative analogy:

September 24, 2008

Wonder why Bush begged for public support on the bank bailout Wednesday night?

I knew there was something up when Bush’s deer-in-the-headlights look was more stunned than usual. Here’s a hint:

BEIJING, Sept 25 (Reuters) – Chinese regulators have told domestic banks to stop interbank lending to U.S. financial institutions to prevent possible losses during the financial crisis, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.

 

The Hong Kong newspaper cited unidentified industry sources as saying the instruction from the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) applied to interbank lending of all currencies to U.S. banks but not to banks from other countries.

 

“The decree appears to be Beijing’s first attempt to erect defences against the deepening U.S. financial meltdown after the mainland’s major lenders reported billions of U.S. dollars in exposure to the credit crisis,” the SCMP said.

 

A spokesman for the CBRC had no immediate comment. (Reporting by Alan Wheatley and Langi Chiang; editing by Ken Wills)

They didn’t sell us the rope. They merely bought the paper funding the rope. And now, let’s hear Sarah Palin tell us this one is a task from God . . .

September 7, 2008

Great news from the U.S. Treasury Department!

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=auCiw0BP4Fyk&refer=home

“Sept. 7 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. government will take control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after the biggest surge in mortgage defaults in at least three decades threatened to bring down the companies making up almost half the U.S. home-loan market.

“It is necessary to take action,” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who engineered the takeover along with Federal Housing Finance Agency Director James Lockhart, said in a statement today. “Our economy and our markets will not recover until the bulk of this housing correction is behind us. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are critical to turning the corner on housing.”

The FHFA will take over Fannie and Freddie under a so-called conservatorship, replacing their chief executives and eliminating their dividends. The Treasury will purchase up to $100 billion of senior-preferred stock in each company as needed to maintain a positive net worth. It will also provide secured short-term funding to Fannie, Freddie and 12 federal home-loan banks, and purchase mortgage-backed debt in the open market.

The takeover of Fannie and Freddie is the biggest step yet in officials’ efforts to grapple with a yearlong credit crisis that has caused more than $500 billion of losses and writedowns. The government is taking an increasing role in financial markets, after the Federal Reserve six months ago provided $29 billion of financing to prevent Bear Stearns & Cos.’s collapse.”

Sucks to be those who didn’t own senior preferred stock or who are U.S. taxpayers, but George W. Bush thanks you for your sacrifice for the greatest nation in the world!

June 9, 2008

Something more freakish than living-dead dog heads

 

namely, the man who would think he has even a snowball’s chance in the jet blast of an F-15 in afterburner of becoming Virginia’s junior U.S. senator. I give you . . . . . James Gilmore.

Yes, James Gilmore, whose administration gave me more than enough to do during my career as a reporter.

James Gilmore, whose political bright idea was to phase out Virginia’s local personal property tax on personal automobiles. It sounds good, until one realized that:

A) Gilmore’s bright idea included having Virginia replace the phased-out revenue with state tax revenues, so we could all pay for our lower car tax with our own state tax monies.

B) Gilmore slightly underestimated the cost to state coffers – he said $40 million in state revenue annually to pay for the phase-out. The actual cost? Try more than $100 million annually.

C) Gilmore’s vision of lowering the local tax burden on Virginia citizens would have qualified as legal blindness, since localities found themselves raising real estate tazes and other fees to meet the shortfall. Ergo, more local taxes on the hard-working Virginia taxpayer.

D) Less available state tax revenue meant less funding for things like education, transportation, public health, and teacher and state employee raises. (The last item always gives me a big chuckle, since one of my relatives goes on about how Gilmore’s Democrat successors as governor screwed deputies and corrections staff out of their raises. News flash: Gilmore spent damn near all the money on your raises on his goofy pyramid scheme to lower your car taxes).

And, to round out a fun-filled four years of Big Jim the Car Tax King, he managed to make enough of his own party mad enough at him so that two major Republican legislators came out today to support the Democratic candidate for Virginia’s U.S. Senate candidate, Mark Warner.

Yep, it’s in the Washington Post and the Roanoke Times

Warner, incidentally, succeeded Gilmore as Virginia governor and managed to work with most state Republican legislators to rescue basic services and the state’s bond ratings. The two Republicans – Delegate Vince Callahan and state Senator John Chichester – were the top overseers of the state budget legislative process and enjoyed the distinction of having Gilmore veto the budget plan they crafted in an attempt to clean up the mess he helped bring about.

I had the interesting experience of interviewing Gilmore and of observing his arithmetic skills. When asked to explain why he didn’t apply more of his own discretionary economic development fund to seducing businesses to southwest Virginia. Gilmore promptly countered with the fact that he had spent several tens of millions in that fund west of Marion – even after I gave him the out of asking if he meant Marion.

After a little fact checking with the state’s economic development arm, it turns out that he spent more like less than $10 million west of Roanoke. Roanoke, incidentally, is about 100 miles east of Marion.

This – among several other chapters in Gilmore’s four-year success story – leads me to believe that Gilmore’s map of Virginia west of Roanoke consists of a blank area captioned with “Thar be sea monsters beyond!”

It’s not that Gilmore is a Republican and his opponent is a Democrat. It’s that Jim Gilmore has to be one of the dumbest, out-of-touch people ever to be governor of Virginia. I could name three Republican governors of this state who, in their worst ever days each could show without effort the decency, grace and intelligence that would turn James Gilmore into a pillar of salt.

Please, Jim, take the advice of Biff from “Back to the Future” and just make like a tree and GET OUTTA HERE!

November 18, 2007

Collected observations

Filed under: bald white guys, economy, food, Joan Crawford, Michael Mukasey, music, Nigella Lawson, observations — Frontier Former Editor @ 12:26 pm

Sorry for the disappearance, but I’ve had various family and professional matters to handle.

I won’t engage you in tedium about those, especially since I have other tedium to provide here today. It’s amazing what dumb stuff bubbles to the surface, so here’s a collection from the last two weeks.

* After careful consideration. I think the most emblematic song of the 1980’s is . . . .

  (more…)

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