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“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents...” --James Madison
“Any alleged ‘right’ of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.” — Ayn Rand
“Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.” --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, Query 19, “Manufactures” 
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” – H.L. Mencken
“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning, but without understanding.” — Judge Louis D. Brandeis
1/28/2010: Pictured below is a young physician by the name of Dr. Starner Jones. His short two-paragraph letter to the White House accurately puts the blame on a “Culture Crisis” instead of a “Health Care Crisis”. It’s worth a quick read:
Dear Mr. President:
During my shift in the Emergency Room last night, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient whose smile revealed an expensive shiny gold tooth, whose body was adorned with a wide assortment of elaborate and costly tattoos, who wore a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and who chatted on a new cellular telephone equipped with a popular R&B ringtone.
While glancing over her patient chart, I happened to notice that her payer status was listed as “Medicaid!” During my examination of her, the patient informed me that she smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and somehow still has money to buy pretzels and beer.
And you and our Congress expect me to pay for this woman’s health care? I contend that our nation’s “health care crisis” is not the result of a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. Rather, it is the result of a “crisis of culture,” a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on luxuries and vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. It is a culture based on the irresponsible credo that “I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me.”
Once you fix this “culture crisis” that rewards irresponsibility and dependency, you’ll be amazed at how quickly our nation’s health care difficulties will disappear.
How Did Jefferson Know We Would Screw It Up?
“It has been said the greatest volume of sheer brainpower in one place occurred when Jefferson dined alone...” John Kennedy
“When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.” —Thomas Jefferson
“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” —Thomas Jefferson
“It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.” —Thomas Jefferson
“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” —Thomas Jefferson
“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” —Thomas Jefferson
“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” —Thomas Jefferson
“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” —Thomas Jefferson
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants0.” —Thomas Jefferson
“To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” —Thomas Jefferson
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” —Thomas Jefferson
1/28/2010: “Frankly, I don’t know what it is about California, but we seem to have a strange urge to elect really obnoxious women to high office. I’m not bragging, you understand, but no other state, including Maine, even comes close. When it comes to sending left-wing dingbats to Washington, we’re number one. There’s no getting around the fact that the last time anyone saw the likes of Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi, they were stirring a cauldron when the curtain went up on ‘Macbeth’. The three of them are like jackasses who happen to possess the gift of blab. You don’t know if you should condemn them for their stupidity or simply marvel at their ability to form words.” — columnist Burt Prelutsky, LA Times
1/27/2010: “State of the Union” Bingo Card
1/26/2010: “President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday…. But it would exempt security-related budgets for the Pentagon, foreign aid, the Veterans Administration and homeland security, as well as the entitlement programs that make up the biggest and fastest-growing part of the federal budget: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.” (New York Times, Tuesday)
A really modest proposal.
1/25/2010: Theism and Belief by Mike Adams
Help! The People for the American Way are after me! A Marxist professor at my university recently wrote a letter to the far left organization asking for help to stop me from ridiculing her in my nationally published column. She adheres to the belief that many liberals have today: liberals have a right to say stupid things in public settings without being ridiculed in a public setting.
This all leads to my belief that I’ve been wrongly defining liberalism for years. I think a new definition of the liberal is in order: A liberal is someone who only wants to be free from the consequences of freedom. This tendency to seek freedom from the consequences of one’s free choices is seen in a lot of areas of liberal policy making. Here are some of the more obvious areas:
Abortion: Liberals support abortion not because they anticipate needing an abortion in the wake of an incident of rape or incest. They overwhelmingly want to escape the natural consequences (pregnancy) of a freely chosen decision to engage in sex outside of marriage.
Social Security: Saving money is difficult and it requires a lot of patience and a general willingness to delay gratification. Social security is nice for those who never get around to investing and saving money on their own. When the government does it for you, it insulates you, in part, from the consequences of your bad financial decisions.
National Health Care: A lot of people complain that you shouldn’t lose your health insurance just because you lose your job. What they really mean is that they don’t like their job and they only keep it because it provides a decent medical plan. One of the unanticipated consequences of the kind of single-payer national health insurance plan that Obama supports – and lies about not supporting – would be an increase in unemployment among able bodied individuals.
Separation of Church and State: Our Founders thought it would be a bad idea to have a national religion. But since the Warren Court era political liberals have been using this notion of a “wall of separation” to exclude from the public square all kinds of constitutionally protected religious speech. In reality, liberals don’t want a “wall” they want a partition – something they can take down and put back up in order to attack religion while banning close scrutiny of their ideas.
I see this all the time in higher education. Liberals teach courses in the Old Testament and harshly criticize the Judeo-Christian tradition as steeped in racism and patriarchal oppression. They teach courses in the New Testament, which try to paint the Apostle Paul as a great defender of both the patriarchy and the institution of slavery. One of the professors on my campus teaches that Paul was a paranoid schizophrenic and, hence, cannot be trusted on any subject whatsoever.
Ultimately, these folks hope that they can convert people away from antiquated religions like Judaism and Christianity and towards newer, hipper religions like multi-culturalism and diversity.
1/24/2010: Too Much of a Bad Thing
So what went wrong? According to Barack Obama, the problem is he overestimated you dumb rubes’ ability to appreciate what he’s been doing for you. “That I do think is a mistake of mine,” the president told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “I think the assumption was if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on this provision or that law or if we’re making a good rational decision here, then people will get it.”
But you schlubs aren’t that smart. You didn’t get it. And Barack Obama is determined to see that you do. So the president has decided that he needs to start “speaking directly to the American people.”
Wait, wait! Come back! Don’t all stampede for the hills! He only gave (according to CBS News’s Mark Knoller) 158 interviews and 411 speeches in his first year. That’s more than any previous president — and maybe more than all of them put together. But there may still be some show out there that didn’t get its exclusive Obama interview — I believe the top-rated Grain & Livestock Prices Report — 4 a.m. Update with Herb Torpormeister on WZZZ-AM Dead Buzzard Gulch Junction’s Newstalk Leader is still waiting to hear back from the White House.
But what will the president be saying in all these extra interviews? In that interview about how he hadn’t given enough interviews, he also explained to George Stephanopoulos what that wacky Massachusetts election was all about:
“The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office,” said Obama. “People are angry and they’re frustrated, not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years but what’s happened over the last eight years.”
Got it. People are so angry and frustrated at George W. Bush that they’re voting for Republicans. In Massachusetts. Boy, I can’t wait for that 159th interview.
Presumably, the president isn’t stupid enough actually to believe what he said. But it’s dispiriting to discover he’s stupid enough to think we’re stupid enough to believe it.
So who’s panting for that 412th speech? Not the American Left. As Paul Krugman, the New York Times’s “Conscience of a Liberal,” put it: “He Wasn’t The One We’ve Been Waiting For.”
Not the once-delirious Europeans, either. As the headline in Der Spiegel put it: “The World Bids Farewell to Obama.”
And not any beleaguered Democratic candidates trying to turn things around in volatile swing states like, er, Massachusetts. The Barack Obama who showed up last Sunday to help out Martha Coakley was a sad and diminished figure from the colossus of a year ago. He had nothing to say, but he said it anyway. As he did with his Copenhagen pitch for the Olympics, he put his personal prestige on the line, raised the stakes, and then failed to deliver. All those cool kids on his speechwriting team bogged him down in the usual leaden sludge. He went to the trouble of flying in to phone it in.
The most striking aspect of his performance was how unhappy he looked, as if he doesn’t enjoy the job. You can understand why. He ran as something he’s not, and never has been: a post-partisan, centrist, transformative healer. That’d be a difficult trick to pull off even for somebody with any prior executive experience, someone who’d actually run something, like a state, or even a town, or even a commercial fishing operation, like that poor chillbilly boob Sarah Palin. At one point late in the 2008 campaign, when someone suggested that if Governor Palin was “unqualified” then surely he was too, Obama pointed out as evidence to the contrary his ability to run such an effective campaign. In other words, running for president was his main qualification for being president.
That was the story of his life: Wow! Look at this guy! Wouldn’t it be great to have him . . . as community organizer, as state representative, as state senator, as United States senator. He was wafted ever upwards, staying just long enough in each “job” to get another notch on the escutcheon, but never long enough to leave any trace.
The defining moment of his doomed attempt to prop up Martha Coakley was his peculiar obsession with Scott Brown’s five-year-old pickup:
“Forget the ads. Everybody can run slick ads,” the president told an audience of out-of-state students at a private school. “Forget the truck. Everybody can buy a truck.”
How they laughed! But what was striking was the thinking behind Obama’s line: that anyone can buy a truck for a slick ad, that Brown’s pickup was a prop — like the herd of cows Al Gore rented for a pastoral backdrop when he launched his first presidential campaign. Or the Iron Chef TV episode featuring delicious, healthy recipes made with produce direct from Michelle Obama’s “kitchen garden”: The cameras filmed the various chefs meeting the first lady and then picking choice organic delicacies from the White House crop, and then for the actual cooking the show sent out for stunt-double vegetables from a grocery back in New York. Viewed from Obama’s perspective, why wouldn’t you assume the truck’s just part of the set? “In his world,” wrote The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, “everything is political and everything is about appearances.”
Howard Fineman, the increasingly loopy editor of the increasingly doomed Newsweek, took it a step further. The truck wasn’t just any old prop but a very particular kind: “In some places, there are codes, there are images,” he told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. “You know, there are pickup trucks, you could say there was a racial aspect to it one way or another.”
Ah, yes. Scott Brown has over 200,000 miles on his odometer. Man, he’s racked up a lot of coded racism on that rig. But that’s easy to do in notorious cross-burning KKK swamps like suburban Massachusetts.
Whenever aspiring writers ask me for advice, I usually tell ‘em this:
Don’t just write there, do something. Learn how to shingle a roof, or tap-dance, or raise sled dogs. Because if you don’t do anything, you wind up like Obama and Fineman — men for whom words are props and codes and metaphors but no longer expressive of anything real.
America is becoming a bilingual society, divided between those who think a pickup is a rugged vehicle useful for transporting heavy-duty items from A to B and those who think a pickup is coded racism.
Unfortunately, the latter group forms most of the Democrat-media one-party state currently running the country. Can you imagine Bill Clinton being so stupid as to put down pickup trucks while standing next to John Kerry? And what’s even more extraordinary is that those lines were written for Obama by paid professionals.
But fine, have it your way. Tuesday’s vote was really a plea by a desperate people for even more Obama. We’re going to need even more Obama teleprompters, even more Obama speeches, even more sonorous banalities unrelated to action, even more “Let me be clears” prefacing even more tinny generalities, on even more reams of even more double-spaced paper. And we’re gonna need a really heavy-duty rig to carry all that verbiage.
Maybe Scott Brown can sell ‘em his truck.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2010 Mark Steyn
1/24/2010: ‘The freedom to think for ourselves’ by Jeff Jacoby
The Supreme Court’s ruling last week in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a triumph for the First Amendment. In clear and cogent language, five justices swept away the caste system under which some groups of citizens have been free to engage in vigorous and unfettered political speech while other groups face criminal penalties for doing the same thing. Overturning two of its precedents and much of the 2002 McCain-Feingold act, the court called their sweeping restrictions on corporate spending during election campaigns by the name they merit: censorship. When the government dictates “where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority, “it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”
Not surprisingly, some of the formerly privileged groups are reacting angrily to the court’s blow for free speech. The New York Times, for example, promptly excoriated what it termed a “disastrous” decision, declaring that it that will “thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century” by freeing corporations to deploy “their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.”
In truth, the decision simply extends to all corporations the same First Amendment freedoms that media corporations -- such as The New York Times Co. -- take for granted. For-profit corporations that happen to be in the business of publishing or broadcasting are free to spend money supporting or opposing political candidates. Why shouldn’t corporations in every other industry be equally free?
1/23/2010: Some more fraud on Global “Warming” scam
This graph compares the unadjusted historical raw temperature data (blue line) with the “adjusted historical” data (red line) for one set of temperature monitoring stations at Darwin Airport. The “adjustment” [manipulation] changes the cooling trend of 0.7 degrees per century to a warming trend of 1.2 degrees per century.
After watching Democrats lose Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, Reason magazine’s Matt Welch and Reason.com’s Nick Gillespie detail what voters are looking for: “The way back to voters’ hearts is not through boosting the size and scope of government (something else that Obama and the Dems simply filched from the Bush-era GOP) but by unmistakably trimming some sails. Health care reform, such as it is, should consist of giving individuals more options via a deregulated, non-job-based marketplace where costs are made more transparent rather than less so. It works everywhere else in the economy and will work in health care. Regarding government spending, it means freezes all around and reductions in staff sizes at all levels of government. It means starting (and winning) a debate over ridiculous public-sector retirement packages that bankrupt whole polities for the benefit of a privileged few. With foreign policy, it means thinking through a coherent set of principles that will guide our interactions, and not just our reactions, in the world, focusing on trade rather than aid and warfare. It means fighting terrorism with amply-funded intelligence services rather than the misbegotten occupation of whole troubled regions.”
1/20/2010: from the Daily Reckoning
The government can spend money. The government can inflate the currency. But it’s neither government spending nor inflation of the currency that makes an economy healthy. If inflating the currency could make an economy prosper, where did Zimbabwe go wrong? And if government spending could boost an economy, what did Cuba do wrong? Or Venezuela? The two-bit, banana republic economies are almost all burdened by too much government stimulus. The feds tax too much, spend too much, borrow too much and inflate too much. Instead of doing their jobs - enforcing property rights, protecting people from crime, and staying out of the way - they meddle and spend. The president gets a fancy house and lots of security guards. And the economy rots.
from the Daily Reckoning
Two more reasons to sell US Treasury bonds: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
These two giant mortgage lenders are poster children for the dangers of wrapping government guarantees around the credit markets. With help from the state-sponsored banking system, these two government-sponsored entities (GSEs) perverted the process of credit intermediation and artificially suppressed the cost of mortgage loans over many decades.
This perversion of mortgage finance explains why house prices grew faster than household incomes for roughly a decade ending in 2006. With the broad recognition that the GSEs were insolvent in late 2008, the artificial suppression of mortgage rates was about to come to an end. That is, until the Treasury and Federal Reserve doubled down on their commitments to throw good money after bad. Now, permanent manipulation of mortgage interest rates has become official government policy. The cost of this policy will be even higher federal deficits in the future.
Government guarantees temporarily hide risks, which results in foolish capital allocation throughout the economy. This game can last until the activity collapses under its own weight (like housing in 2007), or until the government itself runs out of financing options at affordable interest rates.
Just like Medicare policies influence the practices of health insurance companies, Fannie and Freddie mortgage-backed security (MBS) guaranty policies influenced the underwriting behavior at mortgage brokers. Therefore, no one should be surprised that mortgage brokers fudged numbers to shoehorn borrowers into “conforming” mortgages. These brokers generated huge profits by unloading massive amounts of underpriced credit risk into the Fannie and Freddie MBS pipeline.
Mortgage expert Mark Hanson described the triumph of automated mortgage underwriting over prudence in a December 2009 issue of the Mortgage Pages:
During the bubble years, the GSEs looked at [debt-to-income ratios] secondarily to credit score, [loan-to-value ratios], and cash reserves as measured by liquid cash and 70% of retirement [assets]... During the bubble years, if the LTV was low enough and/or score and cash reserves high enough, the system would approve virtually anything.
Many lenders, especially the big banks, had...underwriting “trainers” that would go around to the various mortgage branches and teach underwriters how to “trip” the systems in order to achieve automated loan approvals when a declination was certain, or simply get fewer approval conditions on a loan that was borderline. Getting a loan approval out of...a borrower with a 100% [debt-to-income ratio] - with limited documentation required on the automated findings - was not uncommon.
The poorer-than-expected quality of the mortgages inside of the MBS that Fannie and Freddie guarantee will lead to hundreds of billions in credit losses. The frequency and severity of these credit losses over the next few years will take Wall Street by surprise.
These credit losses will blow huge holes into the GSEs’ balance sheets, overwhelming their thin slices of capital several times over. When this capital vanishes, the US Treasury Department will float more government debt and use the proceeds to refill the capital shortfalls.
On Christmas Eve, the Treasury delivered a lump of coal to US taxpayers: It eliminated caps on future equity injections into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Let’s not kid ourselves. These capital injections are not “investments.” No rational investor would be injecting equity into the GSEs right now. Rather than demand a reasonable risk-adjusted return, these injections will just keep the GSEs’ loss-plagued balance sheets solvent.
Consider the situation by visualizing Fannie’s and Freddie’s balance sheets. Since the beginning of the financial crisis, the Treasury and Federal Reserve have teamed up to reinflate the assets and equity of these institutions. The Treasury pumped new equity (in the form of preferred stock) into them as needed, while the Fed used newly printed money to buy up the GSEs’ debt and the mortgage-backed securities that the GSEs guarantee. Thanks to these shenanigans, the market prices of the assets on the GSE balance sheets appear to be holding up. But make no mistake; despite the Fed’s actions, the real underlying value of these is being eaten away by credit losses.
On Jan. 12, Amherst Securities published a study on the estimated losses Fannie and Freddie will absorb as foreclosures flow through the credit loss pipeline in the coming years. Using a database of 29 million active prime mortgages from First American CoreLogic, Amherst estimates that the GSEs will ultimately suffer $448 billion in cumulative credit losses. Amherst explains the likely distribution of these losses:
These gross losses will be distributed across four categories - write- downs already taken by Fannie and Freddie and reflected in their loan loss provisions, future credit losses to be taken by Fannie and Freddie, losses absorbed by mortgage insurers, and losses absorbed by originators through put backs. Fannie’s loan loss reserves total $66 billion: $57 billion for MBS guaranty losses, $9 billion for loan losses. Freddie’s loan loss reserves total $30 billion: $29 billion for MBS guaranty losses, $1 billion for loan losses. The remaining $352 billion of losses will show up across the other three categories (Fannie and Freddie future losses, mortgage insurers, and originator put backs) over time.
If Amherst is accurate in its projections - which I expect, given the quality and independence of its research - then Fannie and Freddie have built allowances to cover a mere 21% ($96 billion divided by $448 billion) of the losses they’ll ultimately have to absorb from the housing bubble.
It’s no wonder the Treasury Department lifted the bailout caps on Christmas Eve; it’ll be the only entity willing to plug the GSEs’ deepening capital holes.
What does this mean for the markets? It translates into very bad news for complacent stock market bulls and junk bond junkies.
The lifting of the GSE bailout limits strengthens the case for rising Treasury yields in 2010. Rising Treasury yields are bearish for the stock market because higher yields offer better competition for investors’ dollars. Rising Treasury rates also increase the cost of capital for all companies.
The elimination of limits on Treasury’s capital infusion into Fannie and Freddie is a de facto nationalization. We’ll see a gradual transformation of these hollow zombies into new branches of government. They’ll implement the official agenda for housing, with little regard for prudent lending standards. This could severely degrade the creditworthiness of US Treasury securities.
The government will probably stick to its dishonest, Enron-style accounting; it won’t officially consolidate Fannie and Freddie assets and liabilities onto the federal balance sheet, but many foreign creditors will. These creditors will demand higher rates to compensate for the rising risks of investing in US Treasuries...and that means bond prices will fall...eventually.
from the Daily Reckoning:
Inflation is a hidden tax, an insidious crime against the public. It is the easiest way for any government to confiscate the savings of the public and for generations, wealth has been transferred in this manner.
Remember, money is supposed to be a store of value, however due to reckless central bank-sponsored inflation, it can no longer fulfill this critical role. Unfortunately, nobody questions the inexplicable loss of the purchasing power of their savings, thus, central banks get away with financial murder.
Inflation distorts the economy, it brings great harm to the public and it encourages speculation and mindless risk-taking. In fact, inflation acts as a poison for retired people since they are no longer able to earn more money in order to maintain their standard of living. So, thanks to inflation, most senior citizens are unable to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Before we delve further, we want to make it absolutely clear that inflation is defined as the increase in the quantity of money and debt within an economy. And contrary to what the governments want you to believe, inflation is certainly not an increase in the general price level within an economy. Instead, an increase in the general price level within an economy is a consequence of inflation. Allow us to explain this subtle yet critical difference:
For the sake of simplicity, let us assume that America’s money-supply is US$100 and this is the amount available to buy the five oranges its economy produces. Common-sense dictates that under this situation, each orange will cost US$20. Now, let us introduce a banking-cartel called the Federal Reserve, which is able to extend credit (via its debt-based fractional reserve banking system); thereby inflating the supply of money within America to US$1,000. Under this scenario, with a 10-fold increase in money available to purchase the same amount of produce, each of the five oranges will now cost a whopping US$200! An orange is still an orange; it does not change. What changes is the purchasing power of the paper money that is used to buy that orange.
Hopefully, you can see from the above-simplified example, how an inflation in the supply of money and debt causes prices to increase within an economy.
Furthermore, in its attempt to manipulate the masses, the establishment does everything in its power to suppress the official ‘inflation barometer’. Governments achieve this goal by shamelessly doctoring their Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Producer Price Index (PPI) calculations via various seasonal and hedonistic adjustments. The chart below highlights the discrepancy between the CPI-U published by America’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and the SGS Alternate CPI, which is calculated by Shadow Government Statistics using the old methodology. As you can see, over the past 20 years, prices have been rising much faster than the officials would have you believe.
Let there be no doubt, inflation is a total disaster and our world will be a better place without this reckless money-creation. Contrary to official dogma, our world experienced tremendous progress during the 19th century, and there was no inflation during that period. The chart below shows the changes in America’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the past two centuries. As you will observe, the CPI fell for most of the 19th century as the purchasing power of the American currency rose. However, since the formation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, the CPI has exploded causing the purchasing power of the US dollar to spiral downwards.
Given the fiat-based monetary system and banks’ vested interest in expanding credit, we have no doubt that most nations will experience very high inflation over the coming decade. Accordingly, we suggest that long-term investors protect their purchasing power by allocating capital to precious metals, commodity producers and fast-growing businesses in the developing world.
Joel’s Note: Puru Saxena publishes Money Matters, a monthly economic report, which highlights extraordinary investment opportunities in all major markets. In addition to the monthly report, subscribers also receive “Weekly Updates” covering the recent market action. Money Matters is available by subscription from www.purusaxena.com.
Puru is also the founder of Puru Saxena Wealth Management, his Hong Kong based firm, which manages investment portfolios for individuals and corporate clients. He is a highly showcased investment manager and a regular guest on CNN, BBC World, CNBC, Bloomberg, NDTV and various radio programs.
Copyright (c) 2005-2009 Puru Saxena Limited. All rights reserved.
1/18/2010: Are Republicans “Due”? by Thomas Sowell
When a baseball player has come to bat after failing to get a hit twenty times in a row, some fans say he is “due” for a hit. But statisticians say he is no more likely to get a hit in this at bat than at any other time. In other words, there is no such thing as being “due.”
After the Republicans went from being the dominant party, at both the state and national levels, just a few years ago, and got clobbered at the polls by the Democrats two elections in a row, some people think the Republicans are “due” to make a comeback in this fall’s elections.
Maybe it will happen. The polls show that the voting public is getting more and more fed up with the Obama administration and with both houses of Congress that are dominated by Democrats. But, when election day comes, nobody can vote for polls. It still takes a candidate to beat a candidate-- and the question is whether the Republicans come up with the kinds of candidates that can win.
Those of us who are not Republicans nevertheless have a huge stake in this fall’s elections, because the current administration in Washington is not merely deficient but dangerous, both at home and abroad.
In just one year in power, the Obama administration has not merely tripled the deficit and circumvented the Constitution with their “czars” who rule by decree, but have moved to dictate the medical treatment of all Americans-- which is to say, they are moving toward getting the power of life and death, to add to all the other powers they have seized.
Increasing numbers of Americans are saying that they are having trouble recognizing the country in which they were born and grew up. They will have even more trouble recognizing America if the Washington juggernaut does not lose a substantial part of its power in this year’s election.
The dangers are not only in domestic policy but even more so in the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Their diddling around while fanatical leaders of a terrorist-sponsoring nation like Iran are moving toward producing nuclear bombs can take us and the world to a point of no return.
No nation on earth will let three of its cities be annihilated by nuclear bombs without surrendering. The fact that the United States has never surrendered may make it difficult for Americans even to imagine that it could happen, much less what a horror it would be to live under hate-filled fanatics like the current Iranian leaders. But Japan had likewise never surrendered in its entire history until it was hit with two nuclear bombs.
Unlike us, Iranian leaders -- going back to the Ayatollah Khomeini-- have said plainly that they are willing to see their country destroyed as the price of destroying the enemies of Islam-- which, in their view of the world, includes the United States.
Perhaps serious sanctions might have been enough to stop the Iranian nuclear program a few years ago, by crippling their economy. But nobody in the West had the stomach for that.
The longer we wait, the higher the price goes-- the price of either action or inaction.
Just three years ago, the people currently at the top in Washington-- including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton-- were ready to turn tail and run in Iraq.
Former Ambassador John Bolton has written a book titled “Surrender is Not an Option.” But that is an option for the kind of people at the top in the Obama administration.
It would take a leader with extraordinary courage, pride in America and dedication to the values, traditions and the people of America, to stand up to enemies who could annihilate Los Angeles, Chicago and New York with nuclear weapons.
Does this sound anything like the president who has gone around the world apologizing for this country and literally bowing to foreign leaders?
The stakes in this fall’s elections go far beyond the fate of either the Republican party or the Democratic party. The fate of America is on the line. The Republicans need to understand that-- and to understand that they are not simply “due” because of polls.
They have a job to do, and what will happen to our children and grandchildren will depend on how well they do it.
American Thinker: Voting Democrat Causes Cancer
by Randall Hoven
Voting Democrat is associated with over 150,000 cancer deaths every year, according to the Hoven Institute for Studies: Just as Valid as Studies Cited by Democrats.
...the 0.594 correlation coefficient indicates that about 35% of cancer mortality is “explained” by voting Democrat. (The amount of explanation is the square of the correlation coefficient.) Thus, not all cancers are caused by voting Democrat.
The Hoven study concluded that “[v]oting Democrat is associated with cancer mortality.” This is similar to the conclusion of the study “Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults,” cited by Democrats in support of their version of health care reform. That latter study concluded that “[u]ninsurance is associated with mortality.”
However, one of the co-authors of that latter study, Dr. David Himmelstein, went farther in an interview with CNN. He said that if a person is uninsured, “it means that you’re at mortal risk.” As CNN summed it up, “45,000 deaths per year in the United States are associated with the lack of health insurance.” The implication from both Dr. Himmelstein and CNN is that not only is there correlation between insurance and mortality, but also causation: Not having insurance causes you to die.
[As an explanation, it has often been shown that poverty is strongly associated with higher mortality. It is reasonable to suggest that poor people are less likely to buy expensive health insurance (especially since it has been shown that, at least in the United States, they mostly get health care anyway). Therefore, there is a strong correlation between lack of health insurance and higher mortality. However, none of this says anything about causation. The proponents of government-controlled health care want you to believe that they will reduce or even eliminate this disparity in mortality. It will not happen; nothing will change for the better. In fact, the higher (and no doubt faster growing) cost of government-controlled health care will create an environment where the economy grows more slowly, there are fewer jobs, and therefore, more poverty; mortality is almost certain to increase, not decrease.]
From the Hoven study, the mortality rate could be reduced by 1.24 deaths per 100,000 person-years for every percentage of the vote not going Democrat. Barack Obama won with 53% of the vote, which means the cancer mortality rate could be reduced by almost 66 -- or from the current U.S. average of 209 to about 143 deaths per 100,000 person-years -- if everyone refused to vote Democrat. That is a reduction of over 30% in cancer deaths. Given that there are over 500,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. every year, over 150,000 cancer deaths could be averted by not voting Democrat.
By applying the same logic in interpreting both studies, three times as many lives could be saved by no one voting Democrat as by providing universal health insurance.
Harry Reid said, “On average, an American dies from lack of health insurance every ten minutes.” If he can say that, then I can say, “On average, an American dies from voting Democrat every 3.5 minutes.” Both statements are equally valid...
1/10/2010: Golden No Longer by George Will
WASHINGTON -- Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) was a hero to the American left, partly because of his 1939 anti-war novel “Johnny Got His Gun.” Trumbo’s title modified the lyric “Johnny get your gun” from the World War I song “Over There.” Trumbo’s “Johnny” is horribly maimed in that war. Now we need a novel titled “Berkeley Got Its Liberalism.” Pending that, we have Tad Friend’s report, in the Jan. 4 New Yorker, on maimed Berkeley.
California, a laboratory of liberalism, is spiraling downward, driven by a huge budget deficit. So the University of California system’s budget was cut 20 percent. Then the system increased in-state student fees 32 percent to ... $10,302. But that is still 70 percent below student costs at Stanford and other private institutions in California that Berkeley considers no better than it is.
Last September, Friend reports, 5,000 Berkeley employees and students rallied in Sproul Plaza, scene of protests that ignited the 1960s and helped make Ronald Reagan governor. Some protesters, says Friend, were “naked except for signs that read ‘BUDGET TRANSPARENCY.’” At an indoor meeting, a “student facilitator” used a projection screen to summarize proposals, which included: “rolling strikes”; “nationalize all universities”; “socialist revolution”; “a tent city in Sacramento”; “create a shadow Board of Regents”; “occupy Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Oakland”; “worker-student control of the university”; “strike in March”; “act now, f--- March”; “capitalism is bad.” Toward the end of the seven-hour meeting, participants shouted “General strike! General strike!”
In its impact on the institution, and on students trying to grip the lower rungs of the ladder of social mobility, the UC system’s crisis is sad. This academic year, only one-sixth of the normal number of new faculty have been hired at Berkeley. The Cal State system -- a cut below the UC campuses -- will enroll 40,000 fewer students this year than last. But because the professoriate is overwhelmingly liberal, there is rough justice in its having to live with liberalism’s consequences, which include this:
Kevin Starr, author of an eight-volume -- so far -- history of the (formerly) Golden State, says California is “on the verge” of becoming something without an American precedent -- “a failed state.” William Voegeli, writing in the Claremont Review of Books, tartly says that “Rome wasn’t sacked in a day, and California didn’t become Argentina overnight.” Indeed.
It took years for liberalism’s redistributive itch to create an income tax so steeply progressive that it prompts the flight from the state of wealth-creators: “Between 1990 and 2007,” Voegeli writes, “some 3.4 million more Americans moved from California to one of the other 49 states than moved to California from another state.”
And the state’s income tax -- liberalism codified -- intensifies the effects of business cycles on the state’s revenue stream: During booms, the stream surges and stimulates government spending; during contractions, revenues dwindle but the new government spending continues. Voegeli says that if California’s spending had grown no faster than population growth and inflation from 1992 to 2006, it would have been $65 billion less in 2006, and per capita government outlays then would have equaled not those of Somalia or Mississippi but of Oregon, which is hardly “a hellish paradigm of Social Darwinism.”
It took years for liberalism’s mania for micromanaging life with entangling regulations to make California’s once creative economy resemble Gulliver immobilized by the Lilliputians’ many threads. The state, which between 1990 and 2007 lost 26 percent of its factory jobs and 35 percent of its high-tech manufacturing jobs, ranks behind only New York, another of liberalism’s laboratories, in the number of outward-bound moving vans.
It took years for compassionate liberalism to make California’s welfare menu contribute to the state becoming an importer of Mexico’s poverty. It took years for servile liberalism to turn the state into what Voegeli calls a “unionocracy,” run by and for unionized public employees, such as public safety employees who can retire at 50 and receive 90 percent of the final year’s pay for life.
Friend reports that when the seven-hour meeting ended, the protest moved to the UC president’s house. Two buses carried “some hundred Berkeley students and members of AFSCME.” Perfect.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is one reason why California’s government employees -- their numbers grew 24 percent between 1997 and 2007 -- are the nation’s most highly compensated. And why California’s economy is being suffocated by the weight of government. And why the state’s budget has little left over for Berkeley.
1/10/2010: Liberty Magazine, November 2009, page 14:
“The nature of politics is so conducive to corruption and the abuse of power that every politician — in any position, from any party — should be regarded, at best, with unflagging skepticism. We may be stuck with such people littering the public sphere, but we should save any inclination toward hero worship for people who’ve earned it outside the realm of the parasitic class [e.g. Obama et al]. More than anything, we should teach the nation’s children to doubt the motives and promises of people who wield power, and in the rare case in which a politician proves their suspicions wrong, they can be pleasantly surprised.” —Eric D. Dixon
1/9/2010: Gail Lightfoot Libertarian Candidate for US Senate from California
“Do you think it might be possible to convince our elected officials that now is the time to cut back on spending and let the market solutions emerge? Maybe shutting down most of the regulating agencies would save enough money for the real tasks the state is responsible for to be funded properly.
“Let private companies provide inspections before an insurance company insures a building; let car manufacturers ‘sell’ us on gas saving automobiles; let solar companies sell us energy saving devices according to our needs; the list goes on and on and includes research of all sorts, medical or otherwise.
“With a financial crisis around the world, why can’t we just send all the elected officials home, shut down unconstitutional agencies at the federal level and ask that all govt service be self funded and allow competition.
“With competition, the efficient will succeed and the costly or inefficient will fail and we, the taxpayers, will get what we need, when we need it and not before or by govt edict. Simple enough. Why not try it?”
1/6/2010: Willie’s World (1/3/2010) [...and who would better know?]
...If we as a state want to make a New Year’s resolution, I suggest taking a good look at the California we have created. From our out-of-sync tax system to our out-of-control civil service, it’s time for politicians to begin an honest dialogue about what we’ve become.
Take the civil service.
The system was set up so politicians like me couldn’t come in and fire the people (relatives) hired by the guy they beat and replace them with their own friends and relatives.
Over the years, however, the civil service system has changed from one that protects jobs to one that runs the show.
The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life.
But we politicians, pushed by our friends in labor, gradually expanded pay and benefits to private-sector levels while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages that pay ex-workers almost as much as current workers.
Talking about this is politically unpopular and potentially even career suicide for most officeholders. But at some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact that 80 percent of the state, county and city budget deficits are due to employee costs.
Either we do something about it at the ballot box, or a judge will do something about in Bankruptcy Court. And if you think I’m kidding, just look at Vallejo...
[Willie Lewis Brown, Jr. (born March 20, 1934) is an American politician of the Democratic Party. He served over thirty years in the California State Assembly, spending fifteen years as its Speaker, and afterward served as mayor of San Francisco...]
1/4/2010: US Weather Bureau Report:
The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer, and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from Consul Ifft, at Bergen, Norway. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and heretofor unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone.
Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared... Very few seals and no whitefish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds.
Oops…sorry, I forgot to mention, this report was from November 2, 1922, as reported by the AP and published in The Washington Post.
1/2/2010: Global Cooling Alert...
1/1/2010: Happy New Year from the Hypocrite-in-Chief
12/31/2009: Libertarians release top 10 disasters of 2009 Obama administration. Note the similarities to the Bush administration.
Top 10 disasters of the 2009 Obama Administration (in no particular order):
1. Cash for Clunkers
2. War escalation in Afghanistan
3. Giant government health care expansion bill
4. Post office loses money hand over fist
5. Stimulus package
6. Expansion of “state secrets” doctrine
7. Big increase in unemployment
8. “Bailout” Geithner as Treasury Secretary
9. Skyrocketing federal spending
10. Huge federal deficits
Top 10 disasters of the 2001-2008 Bush administration:
1. Cash for Car Companies
2. War in Iraq
3. Giant Medicare expansion bill
4. Post office loses money hand over fist
5. Stimulus “rebate” checks
6. PATRIOT Act
7. Big increase in unemployment
8. “Bailout” Paulson as Treasury Secretary
9. Skyrocketing federal spending
10. Huge federal deficits
Wes Benedict, Libertarian Party Executive Director, commented, “Republicans and Democrats keep expanding government and creating more and more problems. We’re encouraging as many Libertarians as possible to run for Congress in 2010. In Texas, the state with the earliest filing deadline, Libertarians have already filed for 31 of 32 Congressional seats.”
12/31/2009: Lowlights of a Downer Year: Dave Barry on the money, madness and misery of 2009 by Dave Barry
It was a year of Hope -- at first in the sense of “I feel hopeful!” and later in the sense of “I hope this year ends soon!”
It was also a year of Change, especially in Washington, where the tired old hacks of yesteryear finally yielded the reins of power to a group of fresh, young, idealistic, new-idea outsiders such as Nancy Pelosi. As a result, Washington, rejecting “business as usual,” finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it, and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillions of taxpayer dollars at it.
To be sure, it was a year that saw plenty of bad news. But in almost every instance, there was offsetting good news:
Bad news: The economy remained critically weak, with rising unemployment, a severely depressed real-estate market, the near-collapse of the domestic automobile industry and the steep decline of the dollar.
Good news: Windows 7 sucked less than Vista.
Bad news: The downward spiral of the newspaper industry continued, resulting in the firings of thousands of experienced reporters and an apparently permanent deterioration in the quality of American journalism.
Good news: A lot more people were tweeting.
Bad news: Ominous problems loomed abroad as -- among other difficulties -- the Afghanistan war went sour, and Iran threatened to plunge the Middle East and beyond into nuclear war.
Good news: They finally got Roman Polanski.
In short, it was a year that we will be happy to put behind us. But before we do, let’s swallow our anti-nausea medication and take one last look back, starting with ...
January... during which history is made in Washington, where a crowd estimated by the Congressional Estimating Office at 217 billion people gathers to watch Barack Obama be inaugurated as the first American president ever to come after George W. Bush. There is a minor glitch in the ceremony when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., attempting to administer the oath of office, becomes confused and instead reads the side-effect warnings for his decongestant pills, causing the new president to swear that he will consult his physician if he experiences a sudden loss of sensation in his feet. President Obama then delivers an upbeat inaugural address, ushering in a new era of cooperation, civility and bipartisanship in a galaxy far, far away. Here on Earth, everything stays pretty much the same.
The No. 1 item on the agenda is fixing the economy, so the new administration immediately sets about the daunting task of trying to nominate somebody -- anybody -- to a high-level government post who actually remembered to pay his or her taxes. Among those who forgot this pesky chore is Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, who sheepishly admits that he failed to pay $35,000 in federal self-employment taxes. He says that the error was a result of his using TurboTax, which he also blames for his involvement in an eight-state spree of bank robberies. He is confirmed after the Obama administration explains that it inherited the U.S. Tax Code from the Bush administration.
Elsewhere in politics, a team of specially trained wildlife agents equipped with nets and tranquilizer darts manages, after a six-hour struggle, to remove Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office. He is transported to an undisclosed swamp, where he is released into the wild and quickly bonds with the native ferret population.
On a more upbeat note, the nation finds a new hero in US Airways Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, who in an astonishing feat of aviation manages to land a passenger jet safely in the Hudson River after it loses power shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia airport. Incredibly, all 155 people on board survive, although they are immediately taken hostage by Somali pirates.
In entertainment news, an unemployed California mother of six uses in-vitro fertilization to give birth to eight more children, an achievement that immediately catapults her to a celebrity status equivalent to that of a minor Kardashian sister. But even this joyous event is not enough to cheer up a nation worried about the worsening economy, which becomes so bad in ...
February... that Congress passes, without reading it and without actually finishing writing it, a stimulus package totaling $787 billion. The money is immediately turned over to American taxpayers so they can use it to stimulate the economy.
No! What a crazy idea THAT would be! The money is to be doled out over the next decade or so by members of Congress on projects deemed vital by members of Congress, such as constructing buildings that will be named after members of Congress. This will stimulate the economy by creating millions of jobs, according to estimates provided by the Congressional Estimating Office’s Magical Estimating 8-Ball.
Despite this heroic effort, the economy continues to stumble. General Motors, which has sold only one car in the past year -- a Buick LaCrosse mistakenly purchased by an 87-year-old man who thought he was buying a power scooter -- announces a new four-part business plan, consisting of (1) dealership closings; (2) factory shutdowns; (3) worker layoffs; and (4) traveling backward through time to 1955. The stock market hits its lowest level since 1997; this is hailed as a great investment opportunity by all the financial wizards who failed to let us know last year that the market was going to tank. California goes bankrupt and is forced to raise $800 million by pawning Angelina Jolie.
The Obama administration’s confirmation woes continue as Thomas A. Daschle is forced to withdraw as nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services following the disclosure that he, too, failed to pay all of his federal taxes. He blames this oversight on the fact that his tax returns were prepared by Treasury Secretary Geithner.
The Academy Awards are a triumph for “Slumdog Millionaire,” which wins eight Oscars, only to have them stolen by Somali pirates.
In sports, the Pittsburgh Steelers win the Super Bowl, defeating some team in a game that we have all completely forgotten. Michael Phelps is suspended from competitive swimming following publication of a photograph clearly showing that he has gills. Baseball star Alex Rodriguez admits that from 2001 through 2003 he used steroids, which he claims he got from Treasury Secretary Geithner.
And speaking of shocking disclosures, in ...
March... an angry nation learns that the giant insurance company AIG, which received $170 billion in taxpayer bailouts and posted a $61 billion loss, is paying executive bonuses totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. This news shocks and outrages Obama and members of Congress, who happen to be the very people who passed the legislation that authorized both the bailouts and the bonuses, but of course they did that during a crisis and thus had no time to find out what the hell they were voting for. To correct this situation, some congresspersons propose a 90 percent tax on the bonuses, followed by beheadings, followed by the passage of tough new financial legislation that nobody in Congress will read or understand.
In other economic news, the chief executive of GM resigns under pressure from the White House, which notes that it inherited the automobile crisis from the Bush administration. GM is now essentially a subsidiary of the federal government, which promises to use its legendary business and marketing savvy to get the crippled auto giant back on its feet, starting with an exciting new lineup of cars such as the Chevrolet Consensus, a “green” car featuring a compressed-soybean chassis, the world’s first engine powered entirely by dew, and a 14,500-page owner’s manual, accompanied by nearly 6,000 pages of amendments.
Businessman Bernard Madoff pleads guilty to bilking investors out of $65 billion in a Ponzi scheme, forcing the Obama administration to withdraw his nomination for secretary of commerce.
The annual observance of Earth Hour is observed with one hour of symbolic energy conservation as hundreds of millions of nonessential lights and appliances are turned off. And that’s just in Al Gore’s house.
In sports and entertainment news, former NFL great Lawrence Taylor, appearing on “Dancing with the Stars,” accidentally rips off his partner’s arms during the cha-cha competition. The judges award Taylor 453 points out of a possible 30, citing his “energy” and “proximity.”
Abroad, North Korea, in what many observers view as a deliberate act of provocation, calls Domino’s and, posing as the United States, orders 23 million pizzas delivered to Japan.
International problems continue to dominate in ...
April... as leaders of the world’s powers, looking for a way out of the worsening world economic crisis, gather in London for the G-20 summit, which ends abruptly in a violent argument over the bill for the welcoming dinner. A short while later, in what many economists see as a troubling development, the International Monetary Fund moves into a refrigerator carton.
In other international bad news, North Korea launches a test missile that experts say is capable of hitting Hawaii, based on the fact that it actually hits Hawaii. The United States swiftly pledges to issue a strongly worded condemnation containing “even stronger words than last time.”
On the domestic front, the struggling Chrysler Corp. declares bankruptcy, but its chief executive confidently predicts that the company will come back “bigger, better and stronger than ever,” thanks to its 2010 product line, spearheaded by the all-new Dodge Despair.
The big health story in April is the rapid spread of swine flu, a dangerous new virus strain developed by the makers of Purell. Public anxiety over the flu increases when Vice President Biden, demonstrating his gift for emitting statements, declares on the “Today” show that he would not recommend traveling by commercial airplane or subway. A short while later, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs assures reporters that he is “not aware of any ‘Vice President Biden.’ “ In another embarrassment for the White House, New York is temporarily thrown into a panic when Air Force One flies low over Manhattan for a publicity photo shoot. Responding to widespread criticism, Gibbs notes that Obama inherited Air Force One from the Bush administration.
On a more positive note, an American ship captain is dramatically rescued from Somali pirates by a team of Navy SEAL sharpshooters, who are immediately hired by “Dancing with the Stars” to assist with the judging of Lawrence Taylor.
Speaking of drama, in ...
May... the finale of “American Idol” produces a shocking outcome that sends shock waves of shock reverberating around the planet when the winner turns out to be -- incredibly -- that guy singer, what’shisname, despite the fact that the overwhelming favorite was that OTHER guy singer. Congress vows to hold hearings after reports surface that, of the nearly 100 million votes, 73 million were phoned in by ACORN.
But the big political drama takes place in Washington, where Justice David Souter announces that he is retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court because he is tired of getting noogies from Chief Justice Roberts. To replace Souter, Obama nominates Sonia Sotomayor, setting off the traditional Washington performance of Konfirmation Kabuki, in which the Democrats portray the nominee as basically a cross between Abraham Lincoln and the Virgin Mary, and the Republicans portray her more as Ursula the Sea Witch with a law degree. Sotomayor will eventually be confirmed but only after undergoing the traditional Senate Judiciary Committee hazing ritual, during which she must talk for four straight days without expressing an opinion.
In crippled U.S. auto giant news, General Motors announces a new business plan under which it will fire everybody but Howie Long, who will continue to make what GM calls “some of the most popular commercials on the market.” Meanwhile, Chrysler, looking to the future, invests $114 million in an Amway distributorship.
On the international-tension front, a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss possible sanctions against North Korea is forced to adjourn hastily when the council chamber is penetrated by a missile.
In sports, Helio Castroneves wins the Indianapolis 500, although his victory is somewhat tainted by the fact that all 32 of the other cars were hijacked by Somali pirates. Major League Baseball suspends Dodger slugger Manny Ramirez for 50 games after his urine sample explodes.
But all of these stories suddenly seem unimportant in ...
June... when pop superstar Michael Jackson dies, setting off an orgy of frowny-face, TV-newsperson fake somberness the likes of which has not been seen since the Princess Diana Grief-a-Palooza. At one point, experts estimate that the major networks are using the word “icon” a combined total of 850 times an hour. Larry King devotes several weeks to in-depth coverage of this story, during which he conducts what is believed to be the first-ever in-casket interview; this triumph is marred only slightly by the fact that the venerable TV personality apparently believes he is talking to Bette Midler.
On the economic front, California is caught on videotape attempting to shoplift 17,000 taxpayers from Nevada. General Motors files for bankruptcy and announces a new sales strategy under which it will go around at night leaving cars in people’s driveways, then sprint away.
In political news, the Minnesota Supreme Court, clearly exhausted by months of legal wrangling, declares Al Franken the winner of “American Idol.” Meanwhile, the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, goes missing for six days; his spokesperson tells the media that the governor is “hiking the Appalachian Trail,” which turns out to be a slang term meaning “engaging in acts of an explicitly non-gubernatorial nature with a woman in Argentina.” The state legislature ultimately considers impeaching Sanford but changes its mind upon discovering that the lieutenant governor, who got into office through some slick legal maneuvering when nobody was paying attention, is Eliot Spitzer.
Political news continues to dominate in ...
July... when Sarah Palin unexpectedly announces that she will not complete her term as elected governor of Alaska, explaining, in a prepared statement, that she has a hair appointment. Asked by reporters if she plans to seek the Republican presidential nomination, she replies, “You leave my personal life out of this.” Elsewhere in state politics, the FBI arrests pretty much every elected official in New Jersey on suspicion of being New Jersey elected officials.
On Independence Day, the nation takes a welcome break from its worries to celebrate in traditional fashion with barbecues, parades and -- as night falls -- spectacular aerial North Korean missile detonations.
In government news, top Washington thinkers, looking for a way to goose the economy along, come up with the “Cash for Clunkers” program, under which the federal government provides a financial inducement for people to take functional cars, which are mostly American-made, to car dealers, who deliberately destroy these cars and sell the people new replacement cars, which are mostly foreign-made. This program, which was budgeted for $1 billion, ends up costing $3 billion and is halted after a month. The administration declares that it has been a huge success, which everybody understands to mean that it will never, ever be repeated. With this mission accomplished, the top Washington thinkers are free to train all of their brainpower on the nation’s health-care system.
Obama becomes embroiled in controversy when, commenting on the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley, he states that the police “acted stupidly.” This comment angers many in the law-enforcement community, as the president discovers the next day when his motorcade is cited for more than 3,000 moving violations. To resolve the situation, the president invites both Gates and Crowley to the White House for a “beer summit,” which is described later by White House spokesperson Gibbs as “very amicable” except for some “minor tasering.”
Speaking of conflict, in ...
August... Obama, in the first serious test of his presidency, announces that he will send U.S. troops to rescue Democratic members of Congress pinned down in town hall meetings by constituents firing hostile questions concerning the administration’s health-care plan, which turns out not to be wildly popular outside of the immediate Capitol Hill area. The president dismisses concerns that his health-care agenda is in trouble, observing, “There’s something about August going into September where everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed up.” White House spokesperson Gibbs explains that the “vast majority” of the wee-wee was inherited from the Bush administration.
In foreign affairs, former president Bill Clinton goes to North Korea to secure the release of two detained American journalists who purely by coincidence happen to be women. Fidel Castro, after nearly a year out of the public eye, appears on the popular Cuban television show “Bailando con Cadáveres” (“Dancing With Corpses”).
California, in a move apparently intended to evade creditors, has its name legally changed to South Oregon.
In an alarming technological development, hackers shut down Twitter, leaving a desperate and suddenly vulnerable America with no way to find out what the Kardashian sisters are having for lunch. The Federal Emergency Management Agency urges the nation to “remain calm” and “use Facebook if you can.” Twitter service is eventually restored, but most of the estimated 875 million thoughts that went untweeted during the outage will never be recovered, making it the nation’s worst social-networking disaster ever.
Speaking of disruptions, in ...
September... Obama, speaking on health care before a joint session of Congress, is rudely interrupted by Kanye West, who grabs the microphone and declares that Beyoncé has a better health-care plan. No, wait, sorry: The president is rudely interrupted by Republican congressman Joe Wilson, who shouts, “You lie!” Wilson later apologizes for his breach of congressional etiquette, saying, “I should have just mooned him.”
With public support for the administration’s health-care plan continuing to slip, the president orders U.S. troops into Fox News, then goes on a media blitz, appearing, in a three-day span, on “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation,” “Meet the Nation,” “Face the Press,” “Press Your Face Against the Nation,” Letterman, Leno, Judge Judy, Iron Chef and “Dog the Bounty Hunter.” The president also delivers a back-to-school speech to the nation’s students, telling them to work hard and get a good education. Fortunately, thanks to the vigilance of the talk-radio community, many parents realize that this is some kind of secret socialist code message and are able to prevent their children from being exposed to it.
In international news, Iran shocks the world by revealing the existence of a previously secret uranium enrichment facility. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists that the uranium will be used only for “parties.” U.N. nuclear inspectors note, however, that “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” can be rearranged to spell “Had Jammed a Humanoid” and “Hounded a Jihad Mamma.”
On the international-finance front, leaders of the world’s economic powers gather for the G-20 summit meeting in Pittsburgh, where, in a rare display of unity, they vote unanimously to fire whomever is responsible for selecting their meeting sites.
Speaking of questionable site selection, in ...
October... the International Olympic Committee meets in Copenhagen to decide whether Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo or Madrid will host the 2016 summer games. Chicago is considered a strong candidate, but despite personal appeals for the city from Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Oprah Winfrey and the late Al Capone, the committee, in an unexpected decision, votes to hold the games in Pyongyang, North Korea. The head of the IOC insists that the decision was “made freely and without coercion,” adding, “for the love of God, please abort the launch.”
On a happier note for the White House, President Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize, narrowly edging out Beyoncé.
In the Middle East, hopes for peace soar when Iran announces that it will allow U.N. inspectors to visit its nuclear-enrichment facility. Hopes plunge soon after when the inspectors report that they were taken to what appears to be a hastily abandoned kebab stand with a hand-painted sign that says “NUCLEAR ENRICHMENT,” as well as what the inspectors describe as “numerous health-code violations.”
In Afghanistan, U.N. investigators raise questions about the recent national election, noting that a third of the votes cast for President Hamid Karzai came from Palm Beach County.
On the celebrity front, a remorseful David Letterman confessed to his stunned audience that he has been hiking the Appalachian Trail with female staff members.
But the big story in October, the story that grips the nation the way a dog grips a rancid squirrel, is the mesmerizing drama of a silver balloon racing through the blue skies above central Colorado, desperately pursued by police, aviation and rescue personnel who have been led to believe that the balloon contains O.J. Simpson.
No, that would have been great, but the authorities in fact have been led to believe that the balloon contains 6-year-old Falcon Heene, the son of exactly the kind of parents you would expect to name a child Falcon. It quickly becomes clear that the boy is not in the balloon, and the whole thing is a hoax perpetrated by attention-seeking reality-show-wannabe idiots. In other words, nothing really happened, so naturally the media go into a week-long Category 5 frenzy so intensive that Larry King is forced to temporarily interrupt his ongoing postmortem coverage of the Michael Jackson funeral.
Speaking of attention-seeking reality-show-wannabe idiots, in ...
November... a Washington couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, penetrate heavy security and enter the White House, a feat that Joe Biden has yet to manage. As details of the incident emerge, an embarrassed Secret Service is forced to admit that not only did the couple crash a state dinner, but they also met and shook hands with the president, and they “may have served briefly in the Cabinet.”
In other White House news, the president, in a much-debated post-Thanksgiving decision, announces that he is sending U.S. troops into the electronics departments of 1,400 Best Buy stores to prevent Black Friday shoppers from killing one another over flat-screen TVs. Hours later, the president withdraws the troops, calling the situation “hopeless.” Press Secretary Gibbs notes that the president inherited Black Friday from the Bush administration.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announces that, to maintain the principle of due legal process, alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried in federal court in New York City, but as a precaution, “he will be executed first.”
In sports, the New York Yankees, after an eight-year drought, purchase the World Series. But the month’s big sports story involves Tiger Woods, who, plagued by tabloid reports that he has been hiking the Appalachian Trail with a nightclub hostess, is injured in a bizarre late-night incident near his Florida home when his SUV is attacked by golf-club-wielding Somali pirates.
In science news:
The Large Hadron Collider is restarted after a 14-month delay caused by squirrels stealing the particles.
Elated NASA scientists announce that they have discovered ice on the moon, although their excitement fades when they calculate that getting it back to Earth will cost $185 million per cube.
Researchers from MIT and Harvard announce that they have sequenced the genome of a horse. They are arrested when police discover that “sequencing the genome” is the scientific slang equivalent of “hiking the Appalachian Trail.”
In a troubling economic development, the U.S. dollar, for the first time in history, falls below the lentil.
Speaking of troubling, in ...
December... Obama, after weeks of pondering what to do about the pesky war situation he inherited, announces a decision -- widely viewed as a compromise -- in which he will send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan but will name their mission “Operation Gentle Butterfly.”
On the economic front, the nation’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly high as it becomes clear that the $787 billion stimulus package has created a total of only eight jobs, all in the field of highway-construction flagperson. Looking for solutions, the president hosts a White House “jobs summit” attended by political, business and labor leaders, as well as 23 Portuguese tourists who got lost while trying to visit the Washington Monument and somehow penetrated White House security. Meanwhile, in what is believed to be the largest Craigslist transaction ever, California sells San Diego to Mexico.
On the environmental front, Copenhagen hosts a massive international conference aimed at halting manmade global warming, attended by thousands of delegates who flew to Denmark on magical carbon-free unicorns.
In the Middle East, U.N. nuclear inspectors become suspicious when Iran attempts to ship to Israel, via UPS, a large crate labeled “HARMLESS ITEMS -- DELIVER BEFORE TIMER REACHES 00:00.”
There are other troubling year-end developments:
In a setback for U.S. interests in Central America, voters in Honduras elect, as their new president, Rod Blagojevich.
The international space station is taken over by Somali pirates.
In sports, roughly 40 percent of the U.S. bimbo population announces that it has at one time or another hiked the Appalachian Trail with Tiger Woods.
Also, as the year draws to a close, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases an urgent bulletin warning of a new, fast-spreading epidemic consisting of severe, and in some cases life-threatening, arm infections caused by “people constantly sneezing into their elbow pits.”
But despite all the gloomy news, the holiday season brings at least temporary relief to a troubled nation -- especially the children, millions of whom go to sleep on Christmas Eve with visions of Santa in his reindeer-powered sleigh flying high overhead, spreading joy around the world.
With a North Korean missile flying right behind.
Try not to think about it. And Happy New Year.
Dave Barry is making most of this up. But not all. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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