Saturday Night Live or SNL for short, has been a mainstay of American comedic television for over 30 years. Best known for its inventive original skits superb cast of all star comedic acting talent, it is often remarked that the show quality ebbs and flows over time, an undisputed mainstay throughout its years has been the its political satire sketch comedy such as weekend update . Thus naturally come election years or major news stories they often hit proverbial comedic gold! The mixture of wonderful writing, quality actors, and dialogue typically so close to the real thing it is both frightening to contemplate how poignant the parody but also so funny the audience is left in stitches.

SNL has hit in the past—recall Dana Carvey’s impression of Bush I—but most recently notable have been the instant classic sketches featuringTina Fey portraying Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin in an impression that can only be called ‘uncanny’ in a Palin-Clinton Speech, a Palin-Couric Interview, and the Biden-Palin VP debate (complete with Queen Latifa playing Gwen Ifill). Thus far all three sketches have been major headline news on every network come the following Monday morning, drawing many viewers back to SNL again. Fueling this surge is the high accessibility of recent SNL skits on the internet placed there directly by NBC itself.

On Saturday October 4, 2008 SNL presented a skit titled “Washington Approves the Bailout” focusing on many of the ludicrous aspects of the current economic situation. The sketch instantly became a hit with links to the official NBC posting of the video appearing all over the web almost immediately. Then suddenly chaos ensued. Withing a matter of hours on a lazy Sunday mid-day as citizens awoke and checked their digital communications, countless numbers clicked on links sent by a friend, family member, or co-worked promising a hilarious video, only to be met with a cryptic message that the sketch was no longer available and apologizing for the inconvenience. Instantly as the so commonly do, conspiracy theories began to run wild. For two days one in the know would hear every theory from space aliens to the illuminati. Then finally on Tuesday afternoon the truth broke and a now far less funny, edited version was put back up on the internet by NBC. Unfortunately for the American public, the truth was far more sinister than Martians or Free Mason wannabes. The truth was that NBC lawyers had pulled the sketch. Though NBC officially did not mention this in their statement:

“Upon review, we caught certain elements in the sketch that didn’t meet our standards. We took it down and made some minor changes and it will be back online soon.”

Apparently the sketch’s portrayal of Herb and Marion Sandler was considered a liability since it pointed out their acts of corrupting US Government officials and their severe culpability in the current financial meltdown affecting the US. Additionally as a faux C-SPAN video SNL had a chyron on-screen text shown below the Sandler lookalikes that would normally serve to identify the subject on-screen stating: “Herbert & Marion Sandler: People who should be shot”. Supposedly this is to be part of the basis of the video edit, as it may be misconstrued as a death threat to some people and/or offensive.

Now this is not the first time that SNL has turned against one of its funniest components. Norm MacDonald was fired from his stellar and unparalleled stint as the anchor of the weekend update sketch for making too many side splitting hilarious OJ Simpson jokes. Do not worry if you are confused, you are not alone. Many fans and casual watchers alike have asked themselves why a comedian would be fired for raising a dieing show’s ratings by making hysterical jokes at the expense of a public figure who is himself, well…. a joke. The answer was unfortunately the same then as it is in now in the case of the Bailout Sketch: NBC Cronyism and Politically Correct Cowardice.

Thus an entire American populace is left one step closer to an Orwellian Nightmare in which our right to speech and thought even as basic as humor is subject to regulation by the State at the whims of the ruling oligarchical elite. That is unless a line is drawn in the proverbial sand, saying “This far and no further”. For those looking to stand up and fight back by saying “NO!” to the tyranny of the minority, by saying “NO!” to those who would tell you how to think and how to laugh; stand up and wave the banner of Free Thought high in the sky. Spread the UNEDITED VERSION as far and wide as you can. Show it to your parents, siblings, spouse, grandparents, cousins, friends, co-workers, and to anyone you possibly can. The sketch is downright hilarious to anyone with a single drop of a sense of humor in their entire body, and (based on the talk of the town prior to the pulling and editing of the video) the quote “people who should be shot” is one of the most memorable gems of the bit. So much so in fact that to one who has seen the original, the edited version leaves one feeling quite dissatisfied. Make sure that the memories of original version Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night! Together it is possible to prevent NBC from pulling a Lucas on this classic!

Ultimately it is a matter of “How dare NBC!?!”. How DARE they back off from calling a spade a spade? How dare they a non-news organization try to hold themselves to a journalistic standard when speaking about the rich and powerful whom have destroyed people’s lives (some figuratively others literally)? How dare they back down from vilifying scumbags who wrecked the entire world economy so that they could glean a few extra shiny nickels! To paraphrase from one SNL’s own skits, I invite them to grow a pair, and if they can’t, I will lend you mine. So in case anyone else is looking to make a bumper sticker or t-shirt:

...because NBC doesn't have the juevos!

...because NBC doesn't have the juevos!

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Goodnight Moon Goodnight Bush

One fine Thursday night I was browsing a local bookstore and came across a new version of the venerable Goodnight Moon, a children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown. As is the case when you have absolute familiarity with a thing, at first glance I scanned right past the book to others on the new publications shelf. My wife, however, redirected my attention back to the book. It, in fact, was not by Margaret Wise Brown, but a publication by Gan Golen and Erich Origen. The first few pages in were enough to see that this was the Bush hater’s parody dreambook.

I can still probably quote the entire original version from memory having read it to my two daughters at least a thousand times when they were two through five years old. It was one of their favorite books. While I in general support Bush and find the “Bush lied, people died” crowd tedius and annoying, this parody had me almost rolling on the floor laughing. The book is full of subtle anti-Bush sentiments and barely hidden jokes.

At the begining of the book, a stuffed elephant and donkey toy are sitting demurely on the shelf. In the middle of the book, the elephant is humping the donkey and at the end the donkey is reaming the elephant. (Hopeful thinking, I guess.) A miniature Bin Laden is skulking around, and a puppet theatre evolves gradually throughout the book. The room’s bookcase shelves numerous titles. Reading carefully you can see both “The Prince” and “The Art of War” (both of which I own multiple copies), as well as less well known titles such as “No Chad Left Behind”.

A Halliburton “H” adorns the refinery flag, hidden microphones are placed on the walls and behind the pictures and a truely tasteless “Goodnight towers” page shows two towers of alphabet blocks knocked down by a model 757 with the words “911” and “blowback” spelt out. Clearly the authors attribute the entire 911 event to Bush even though he had been president for less than a single year.

I would have bought the book except for the knowledge that my money would be in part going to these scurrilous authors. It’s sad that nothing is sacred and a children’s classic is now being used as a political tool. I will however donate my money to any lawyers who might want to sue the authors for copyright violation.

Nancy Pelosi Hugo Chavez
Speaker of the House
Nancy Pelosi
Venezuelan President & Dictator
Hugo Chavez

 

Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, refused to allow an up-down vote on the passage of the Columbian Free-Trade Agreement (HR 5724) as authorized under the Presidential Fast Track Authority. Speaker Pelosi has instead modified House rules, ex post facto, so that the vote required by the fast-track provisions can be circumvented.

This despite the fact that the House Democrats have repeatedly, through more than 250 consultations with Columbia, insisted on and won additional language in the trade agreement forcing Columbia to provide more protection for trade unionists in the country — in the past it has been open season on organizers, though through no fault of Alvaro Uribe, the President of Columbia. Thank FARC. President Uribe has, in fact, worked to reduce this violence and has delivered impressive initial results, reducing violence by more than 80% since 2002. This is also an agreement which Charles Rangel, Chairman of the House Ways and Means, and Bill Clinton support, as does President Bush. It is good for the United States and good for Columbia. Even Hillary Clinton’s staffer Mark Penn is^H^H was working towards this bill’s passage.

The standard media drivel is that this is the work of the labor unions in the United States, but, as with all things political, the phrase ‘cui bono’ comes to mind. 90% of Columbian goods arriving in the United States are duty free and the balance are subjected to very minimum tariff. US goods in Columbia are assessed a 35% tariff, which would be eliminated as part of the Trade Agreement. This means that companies producing goods for Columbia would be more price competitive, be able to sell more goods (in what apparently is a pending recession), and would be able to hire more union labor to produce the goods. In other words, this trade agreement is a good thing for the labor unions. The unions do, however, make a good smoke screen. What is going on under the smoke should give any American a case of the chills.

Nancy Pelosi, acting in her persona as Secretary of State, visited Damascus last year and presented the House position on national policy. It was argued at the time that this was technically treason and in fact has been previously prosecuted as such under the Logan Act of 1798. Clearly, Speaker Pelosi feels that it is in the interest of the House to establish foreign policy.

In light of the evidence of other Democrats (Kennedy D-MA) making arrangements with Hugo Chavez, perhaps more is going on here than meets the eye. Could it be that the real reason for dumping the Columbia Trade Agreement is that Pelosi has made a deal with Chavez to attempt to weaken Columbian President Uribe. It’s no secret, since a suitcase full of money and computer files revealed that Chavez is bankrolling and providing strategic intelligence to FARC.

Should all this be suprising? No. The anti-war left did it to Cambodia, stiffing our Cambodian allies after we pulled out of Vietnam, at a cost of about 1.7 million deaths at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. They are seeking to do the same in Iraq when we know Iran is actively seeking to destabilize the Iraqi government. What consequence is Columbia against sad examples of this magnitude?

Not supporting Columbia, especially when President Uribe has compromised so much at the request of the Democrats in the House, is as shameful an act as been seen in a decade.

After the big kerfuffle at Columbia over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit, the issue of Iran’s nuclear program has once again come to the fore of media attention (though it hasn’t seemed to make in onto Mr. Ahmadinejad’s blog recently). Besides the utterly bankrupt position of hiding your head in the sand and pretending it isn’t so (much like Mr. Cline on Obama’s run for the presidency), the number of options remaining on Iran have dwindled tremendously. Here they are, as I see them and why they’re all bad. In our long standing tradition of multi-part series on complicated issues, I’ll be looking at America’s options in four parts. Unfortunately for us in America, they range from bad to worse…

Option #2: Invade Iran.

The neo-conservative blowhards like Norman Podhoretz have their own solution for Iran: invasion. We can repeat invasion of Iraq, only this time Iran really has WMDs! Wait a minute, the National Intelligence Estimate says they probably don’t. Nevermind. As the Angry Political Optimist pointed out, the NIE can be conveniently ignored because we know Iran’s history as a bunch of very bad people.

The irony is that the neo-conservatives aren’t the only one to be rattling their sabers. Even Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister and avoid socialist (and founder of Doctors Without Borders) has come out in favor of preparing for war with Iran. Mr. Kouchner said, “We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war.” His boss French president Nicholas “Look-at-my-supermodel-mistress” Sarkozy, noted that the world faces a choice between “an Iranian bomb or the bombardment of Iran.” You know, when Mr. Sarkozy isn’t hitting the bottle at the G8 summit. Over in London, the ex-prime minister Tony Blair has refused to take the option of invasion off the table.

The problem is that this option is a non-starter. Since it’s suspected that Iran has a secret nuclear program and we have no idea where those facilities are (assuming they exist at all), there’s no way a Israeli-style air campaign could eliminate Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Likewise, no matter how bad-ass the British SAS is compared to those pussies in the US Army Rangers (so the Brits’ claim), without accurate intelligence on the location of Iranian SNM (that’s special nuclear material), all of the Richard Marcinko’s in the world aren’t worth a hill of beans.

This means that any invasion of Iran would need to involve lots and lots of ground troops. According to our friends over at globalsecurity.org Iran has about 350k troops in their army. Now granted, 200k of those are conscripts who probably can’t fight for shit, but that leaves them with about 150k serious professional soldiers. This is no third world bunch of thugs with guns like in Somalia, the Iranians are well-trained and outfit with *lots* of kit — medium tanks, main battle tanks, sophisticated anti-tank weapons, missiles combat helicopters and aircraft. Most frightening is that the upper ranks of the Iranian officer corps knows how to conduct a serious fight — after all, they were all junior officers in the war against Iraq. Any ground invasion of Iran will be very, very messy, and lots of young men will be coming home in flag-draped coffins.

So, despite the saber rattling that’s been coming out of London and Paris, the UK and France cannot credibly threaten Iran by themselves (especially with the British forces tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan). US involvement is required to invade Iran. And with the US Army and Marine Corps also tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the only way the US can invade Iran is to abandon Iraq to the militias, insurgents and al-Qaeda. While the irony of the neo-conservative Iraq hawks endorsing “cut and run” for the purpose of throwing down with Iran is amusing, the utter chaos that would be unleashed on Iraq as a result of such a policy would not be.

After the big kerfuffle at Columbia over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit, the issue of Iran’s nuclear program has once again come to the fore of media attention (though it hasn’t seemed to make in onto Mr. Ahmadinejad’s blog recently). Besides the utterly bankrupt position of hiding your head in the sand and pretending it isn’t so (much like Mr. Cline on Obama’s run for the presidency), the number of options remaining on Iran have dwindled tremendously. Here they are, as I see them and why they’re all bad. In our long standing tradition of multi-part series on complicated issues, I’ll be looking at America’s options in four parts. Unfortunately for us in America, they range from bad to worse…

Option #1: Accept the inevitability of Iran becoming a nuclear weapons state.

This is, largely, the position of Gen. John Abizaid [ret]. The argument here is that we’ve dealt with nuclear states who don’t like America before (the USSR and China) come to mind, and things have worked out alright. Like the Soviets and Chinese, the Iranian regime doesn’t desire it’s own annihilation, and would be incredibly unlikely to use the weapon unless directly threatened with their own destruction. The big problem with Gen. Abizaid’s approach is that it will tear a very large hole in the non-proliferation regime (though after Bush’s devil’s deal with India, there might not be much worth saving).

You see, a Persian bomb gives Iran the #1 spot in the middle east and will exacerbate the Arab world’s already overgrown inferiority complex (because, you see, the hated Persians, who also happen to be Shiite heretics, are now provably “better” than Arabs). This means that there will be serious pressure to develop an Arab-controlled nuclear weapon. My money is on Egypt doing the dirty deed, since they actually have the technical expertise for it, though I’d wager that the Saudis’ would be quietly helping to foot the bill. Syria, who has never been Iran’s patsy (no matter what the news media and the Bush administration would have you believe), would also need a weapon to rebalance their relationship with Iran (witness the recent Israeli airstrike inside Syria shortly after a North Korean ship off-loaded it’s cargo). They’d probably try to buy a weapon off Pakistan or North Korea (good luck with that) or try to buy they’re way into the Egyptian/Saudi project. Either way this puts us at 2-3 new weapons states in addition to Iran, all run by non-Democratic strongmen. This will not end well. To make matter worse, all these bombs will have the nasty side effect of increasing the price of oil even more. This is bad for everyone (now even the House of Saud has to worry about getting nuked), except perhaps Hugo Chavez (where the increased oil prices might give him a better shot at staying in power).

You might wonder why I don’t mention the possibility of Iran selling the bomb to the likes of al Qaida. I feel this is unlikely because the Iranians know that should al Qaida get the bomb, Persian Shiites are up on their hit list right after the US and Israel (witness the sectarian killings perpetrated by al Qaida in Iraq). From my perspective, this makes Iran very unlikely to share the technology with al Qaida. Besides, if you’ve got the biggest bomb on the block, the last thing you do is give it to your neighbors.

President Bush’s new (and DOA at the House) $3.1 trillion dollar budget projects that, by September 30, 2008 — the end of the current Federal fiscal year — the shortfall over revenues will be $410 billion. The House majority party is salivating over the choice chops of political fodder this provides in an election year, while at the same time patting themselves on the back for delivering a $150 billion stimulus package to the economy, which does nothing to stimulate the economy. Because this stimulus spending is short term, the package outlay translates dollar for dollar directly to the deficit. (To be fair, the President has signed off on this package also in the spirit of true bipartisanship — lookout taxpayer!)

I consider myself somewhat prudent in that while I have a mortgage, the P&I seldom exceeds $1000 a month (it’s an ARM and thus varies with LIBOR); I don’t have any outstanding credit card debt — I am a transactor rather than a revolver; and I have some investments and savings.

The Federal Reserve has reduced interest rates in the last few months by almost 2 points. This is to bolster the economy (as perceived through the lens of the equities and bond markets). The markets have rallied, and then sunk as the impact is absorbed and evaluated. Democrats in Congress are talking about not being able to ‘afford extending the Bush tax cuts‘ and not being able to ‘afford the revocation of the AMT‘. They are also talking about expanding many programs.

What does this all mean to me?

My ARM resets every February based on the preceding six months LIBOR so the reduction of the Fed rate is likely to have little impact on my P&I. Additionally, since the LIBOR has lately decoupled from the Fed rate there is no guarantee that any Fed action will lower LIBOR. Credit card issuers adjust their loan rates monthly, usually based on 10-12% over the Fed rate, so that they can maintain a good net interest margin. However, since I am prudent and have no revolving card debt, I obtain no benefit from this. Since the rate goes down, so does the interest accrued to my meager savings and money market accounts. Current savings rates are less than the CPI so in terms of dollar denominated spending power, the value of my savings actually decreases.

One effect of the cuts manifests in the dollar’s value compared with other currencies. The dollar has achieved new lows. As a result, dollar denominated commodities such as oil and grain, have increased in terms of price. The value of a barrel of oil is the same or slightly rising (due to demand) but the value of the dollar is falling meaning that you need more of them to buy that barrel. Consequently, gasoline is hovering near $3.00 per gallon and can only rise as demand picks up again. Consequence to me: I have to pay more to get to work and back to buy fuel. I have to spend more of my pay to keep my house heated in the winter and to pay for electricity.

Policy decisions in Congress, particularly with the ethanol alternative fuel initiative, have also had their effect. These efforts are a derivative effect to mitigate the higher oil prices. Subsidies to ethanol producers — again an expense supported by taxes — have driven corn prices higher. Basic grain products have increased in price, cattle feed and thus meat has increased in price, and since corn syrup is used in about everything, most other processed foods have increased in price. Consequences to me: inflation.

One of the reasons that is used to support the package is that the liquidity of the financial markets is being reduced. The reason for that is simple — bankers don’t have a good feel anymore for what an asset is worth, and consequently are reluctant to lend money against that asset. Multiple levels of risk diversification haven’t quite worked out as planned. While I am a fan of and support securitization, the packaging of asset and mortgage backed securities with credit enhancements and credit default swaps constituted building a house of cards. Young financial engineers with little experience in the downside of things spun up an edifice of risk that is still in the process of toppling. But the Fed has already provided an answer to the liquidity problem through its discount window where banks are assured of obtaining the capital they need. The stimulus package doesn’t affect this. By viewing the economy entirely through the lens of the financial market, rate cuts only reinforces risky behavior. The Fed action is predicated on the premise (unsubstantiated) that whatever affects the markets eventually affects the general economy.

Finally, it seems as if Congress doesn’t learn anything. If anything was clearly demonstrated by the Bush tax cuts, it was Laffer’s theorem that there is an optimum taxation rate to provide maximum revenue. Since the stimulus package will increase the deficit, the inevitable result will be a call for an increase in taxes. The result of that will be a slowdown of the economy, a decrease in tax revenue, which will result is still higher deficits. Plus, the effect will flow down to the States and their revenue streams. All of the ‘good’ and ‘beneficial’ programs will be strained and States and Cities will attempt to make up the shortfall. Consequence to me: My take-home pay decreases as my fed taxes increase. My property tax component which is now slightly less than my P&I amount will exceed it and I will absorb more of the burden of government.

The reason that the market has blipped higher and then reset is that investors collectively know these things. This non-stimulus stimulus package offers no long term market or economic benefit. This package and the rate cut itself is a profligate renunciation of fiscal prudence. The current set of policies rewards the behavior the current Congress rails about: the lack of savings of US citizens; an excessive burden of credit card debt; highly leveraged mortgages; overreliance on oil.

Here is my table of consequences:

Result/Effect Prudent Man Profligate Consumer
Gasoline Prices Screwed Screwed
Leveraged Mortgage Not Applicable Bailout
Savings Reduced Value Say What?
Food Prices Higher Higher
Credit Card Payments No Effect Lower
Risky Financial Behavior No Effect Rewarded
Income Taxes Increased Likely Exempt
Property Taxes Increased Dude! I rent.

So!

Never one to bitch without offering a solution, here is what we need to do:

  • Actually limit federal and state spending. Cut agency staff and eliminate costly programs which do not perform. Insure each agency has a performance metric upon which future funding is based.
  • Stop adding new entitlement classes to existing entitlements of Medicare and Social Security. Take a close look at the implementation to insure that the program is not driving UP the cost of health care.
  • Eliminate tax deductions on corporate contributions for employee health care.
  • Increase the Fed Rate by 3 full points. The market will take a dive. So the next day …
  • Announce the elimination of the AMT (and follow through) and make a permanent tax rate of 10% ($20,000 < Income < $250,000) and 22% (Income > $250,000).
  • Completely eliminate capital gains tax.
  • Eliminate corporate income tax. (This is just another tax on the consumer , since it’s passed through).

Basically, fix the tax problem and all other problems will fall into line. There is a reason why formerly Communist countries have gone to flat taxes and low rates.

It’s now official: Republicans really do hate brown people. When Hispanic (14.5% of population) and African-American (12.1% of the population) groups felt the need to hold debates among the would-be Presidents, the Democrats were all over themselves to participate. You’d think that the Republicans, following Karl Rove‘s plan for a Permanent Republican Majority would’ve followed suit. But alas for the brothers and mis amigos — only Señor McCain agreed to attend Univision’s event, and none of the Republican candidates agreed to attend the event at Morgan State. They cited “scheduling conflicts.” And if you believe that, I have a wonderful bridge to sell you… it’s in Brooklyn, I believe. What it comes down to is that the Republican candidates only care about the votes of white people and are willing to drop a full quarter of the electorate in the “D” column come the next presidential election. Given the rates of population increase among minorities (45% of children under five are minorities) it appears that the Republican party intends to rush headlong lemming-style into political oblivion. Let’s pause for a moment and see what what states are going to be switching columns.

Combine this with the fact that California (55), New York (31), New Jersey (15), Connecticut (7), DC (3), Illinois (21), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Michigan(17), Vermont (3), and Rhode Island are already quite blue, and you have 259 electoral votes solidly in the “D” Column. Former Congressman Jack Kemp (R-NY) notes, “We sound like we don’t want immigration; we sound like we don’t want black people to vote for us.” That’s right, Representative Kemp, it really sounds like your party doesn’t. Which I imagine, makes the Democrats, very, very happy.