Monday, July 22, 2013

Detroit as a parable for what Republicans want to do to Social Security

The financial mess that is happening in Detroit right now is terrible. A lot of people are probably going to lose their pensions. But there is a bigger picture that I would like you to consider about this - that this is a micro-cosmic example of what the Republican Party wants to do to Social Security and the country as a whole. It would be a disaster for us all and the parallels are easy to draw.

You see, government employees in Detroit and many other cities in Michigan don't get Social Security. Instead of paying into Social Security like the rest of us do they paid into a pension fund and this fund is where their retirement monies come from. The average payout per year is $19K. Some people make more, but most of the ones who do have earned it. Policemen. Firemen. One retired police captain makes $90K in his pension but he got shot at 6 times and stabbed twice. I think he earned it.

Let's be clear about this - the only pensions what are subject to being slashed are those who belong to city employees and retired city employees. No one else. These people paid into the system, many times treating the monies as deferred income - taking a pay cut in the now to have the money later, and that money is going to be gone.

The city of Detroit has been badly mismanaged. No doubt about it. It was once the 4th largest city in the U.S. and now has a population of about 700,000. Many parts of the city look like a ghost town. Sure, there are external factors like a terrible economy and an auto industry on the skids for a while, but ultimately the job of the city managers is to anticipate for these events and ride out the hard times. They failed, and now these people have nothing.

The Republican party talks about vouchers and retirement funds as a replacement to Social Security. They talk about using the stock market to bring about a better return on your money than putting your money aside in Social Security would provide. And done right it can work. So do you think the managers of Detroit thought they were doing it wrong when they invested the pension plans and lost so much money?

That's the real problem - while it can be done right and you can be made rich by investing the truth of the matter is that a lot of people don't. A lot of funds lose money and many experts get it wrong as to how each will perform. Remember when the analysts on CNBC predicted that people's money at Bear-Stearns was safe and they collapsed the SAME DAY? A lot of people who play in the stock market these days are looking for a get rich quick return and most of those people lose money. Investing is for the long haul and if you try to do anything else all you are doing is gambling.

This, among other things, is what happened in Detroit and why 91,000 people are going to find themselves in poverty or worse because their pensions have been taken away from them. Because they used a system other than Social Security and it got screwed up. No one, not ever, has lost their savings because of Social Security. Despite what you hear, until people fuck with it, Social Security is doing fine and doing what it is supposed to do.

Nothing else can make that claim when it comes to pensions. Or private accounts. Or anything like what has happened to the people who relied on the city of Detroit for their retirements. Next time you consider alternatives to what has happened here, really take a closer look at Detroit.

I handle money for a living. I know this.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hillary, please don't run.

Dear Ms. Clinton:

I am addressing you as such because you’ve held so many titles over the years I don’t really know which to use. Madame Senator? Madame Secretary? Hillary? I’ll stick to what I’d use if I were writing a letter, which coincidentally is what I am doing. I am here to urge you NOT to run for President.

Don’t get me wrong – I think you’d be a good president. I’d vote for you. I think that Bill Clinton would make a great first lady. I’m just not sure that you or anyone else could survive what you will have to go through to become President and to run the country effectively. You’re a good campaigner and 2008 showed that. You put in one hell of a race and the Democratic Party loves you. If you were to run you could probably get the nomination without too much trouble.

That’s not the problem. It’s the general election that will be bruising. It will be the ugliest Presidential election in the history of this country. Much uglier than when the opposition were just trying to stop the black kid.

For starters, let’s remember that there are people in the Republican Party who believe in all their hearts that you murdered a man. All the crap you had to put up with on Benghazi is nothing compared to the movies that will come out regarding the death of Vince Foster. Hell, they’ve been ready for eight years for this one.

Because you’re a woman, and a smart woman, you will have to face things that the Kenyan-Muslim-Marxist black boy never had to face. Come across too strong and you’re a bitch. Come across too week and you’re a soap opera. Come across too smart and you’re ugly. Come across too dumb and you’re a Fox News anchor. It’s a very fine line and most women with your skill set don’t have to deal with it because they don’t need to be liked by huge segments of the population – but you would have to. It’s not fair. It’s horribly unfair. But it is what it is.

Remember that campaign stop in 2008 where you did a shot and a beer with the locals? That’s going to be used against you. You’ll be portrayed as a “Girls Gone Wild” cautionary tale.

Nude photos of you exist. You know this because of the college you went to – they took photos of everyone as part of a study conducted. Those photos are going to come out. So will many many fake ones. Women who look like you are going to get paid a lot of money to pretend to be you in porn.

You are going to be portrayed as an old hag. Face it, you’re going to celebrate your 69th birthday in the middle of the campaign (Full disclosure – I will be celebrating my 52nd). The last three Presidents, including your husband, were young men with a penchant for appearing virile in public. After a quarter century of young men in the job being an older woman is a disadvantage in a country that dropped Brooke Shields from magazine covers shortly after she graduated high school. Notice that the men being groomed on the Republican side for 2016 are all young – this is no accident. Again, it’s not fair but it is what it is.

You’re going to be portrayed as out of touch because you’re not holding public office currently. Yes, it will have only been for a short time and others have done it successfully, including Bill Clinton, but it’s still going to happen.

You’re going to be portrayed as an ultra-liberal. You’re not one (Full disclosure – I know this because I AM one and you are very little like me) but it’s still going to happen. It takes a village? Health Care Reform? All of the child advocacy work you’ve done in your life?

You’re going to be portrayed as a war-mongering reactionary. You’ve supported wars and military actions over the past 15 years that Republicans have also supported, but have only done so half-heartedly when someone in the opposition also supports it. Drones became a part of foreign policy under your watch and they’re going to hang that around your neck, especially if Rand Paul becomes the Republican nominee.

You’re going to be pilloried because you have been a successful lawyer. If there is anything that the Republican party has shown public disdain for, it’s a litigator and you’ve been a very successful one. Never mind the fact that there are many successful litigators in office who are Republicans. Remember, trial lawyers are the problem with the legal system and the huge awards that get handed out when a corporation gets caught doing wrong.

Whitewater. It’s coming back and Darryl Issa will be leading the charge. Or something.

The ghost of Monica Lewinski will make a comeback. Not Ms. Lewinski herself but the specter of what she meant and the damage done to your marriage. It will be used as character assassination and people will use the fact that your husband strayed as a judgment on you. It’s not fair, but it is what it is. Women get blamed for their husband’s infidelities all the time. Ever see a movie?

Your re-shaping of the role of First Lady will be examined in minute detail. So will the anticipated role of your husband as First Dude. Who will be in charge, Bill or Hillary? You will be portrayed as a vessel and a puppet of the master manipulator that is your husband. You will be portrayed as nothing more than a shadow and the instrument of Bill Clinton running the country again.

Your hairstyle, whatever that will be and whatever it was, will be a campaign issue.

Dick Morris’ head will explode, and you’re going to be blamed. Okay, that one’s a positive. I have to grant that.

You are a smarter person than any of the men being groomed to run on the Republican side for 2016. How do men react when confronted with a woman who is smarter than they are? Do they accept it graciously? Hell no. They lash out and find any method of attack they can. Men in general do not have a great track record in reacting to the words of a woman who is smarter than they are. Men don’t want women to be smarter than they are. It’s horribly unfair, but it is what it is.

If you win the nomination the Republicans are going to try to resurrect Mike Huckabee. Mike Huckabee would be the worst thing this country could have as a President. He’s a misogynistic jackass who knows how to portray himself as likeable, has a history in the same state you have, and like any other preacher has no business running this country. But he could win – he’s very good at public appearances and has more charisma than you do.

All kinds of bullshit is going to climb out of the woodwork. In an age where a college dropout can edit video together so that it means whatever he wants it to mean and forces a charity to close their doors the level of meanness that will come out will be unprecedented. You are going to have to deal with things far worse than I have written about here – things even I haven’t imagined. It’s going to be ugly as all hell and more expensive than any election prior.

We need a Democrat to follow up the Obama administration. If that doesn’t happen, all of the good works he has accomplished will be dismantled. That is what the Republicans are going to run on in 2016, do not doubt that. You are the front-runner right now. But I’m not certain the country can take a situation WORSE than one where half of congress thinks of the President of The United States as “that boy who doesn’t know his place.” If the next President is someone that an entire branch of government thinks of as a person who “doesn’t know their place” the obstructionism we are experiencing now will look like the good old days.

Having said all of that, I want to be wrong. I will happily be wrong. I also don’t see anyone else in the party stepping up or even being capable of stepping up. I don’t have a better solution. Also, listening to me would only prove that you have no business running anything – I should not be your advisor under any circumstances.

So I guess we wait and see if I’m wrong or not.

Cheap Shots (remember to drink a shot for every curse word. I’m drinking rum today):

Hey, guess what! Tell the truth about the consequences of fucking and teen pregnancy drops by HUGE numbers!

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I may never be able to visit Virginia again. That blows (drink!)

I haven't been to Detroit since I was a kid. This is sad, but it's been engineered.

If your congresscritter is one of the people who voted this down, you should hunt them down and tase them.

Really? This guy? Please please please please please make him the nominee. On another note what the HELL happened to Someone turned off their bullshit detectors...

Well, since I started writing Detroit went un-bankrupt. Mostly because a federal judge called bullshit on how it was done.

And because I love you, Daft Punk featuring Paul Williams.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Desire to be The Greater Fool

Hey there kids! Did you miss me? I haven't ranted in more than 9 months. Not that I haven't wanted to and believe you me there has been plenty to talk about. It's just that I don't find this as much fun as I used to. I'm also busy as all hell these days.

We have reached a point in American discourse and politics where parody and sarcasm can't keep up with reality. As a nation we are whipping ourselves into a lather over things that mean very little if anything at all, and are just sitting in complacency as our political system becomes so fractured that it can't put together more than a dozen laws in 6 months. And two of those name office buildings. One calls for national peanut butter month.

I honestly wish I knew what to do about it. What concerns me is that I'm starting to think we've bypassed the point where it can be fixed. Are you aware that there is a massive protest going on right now because a beer company, trying to sell beer, didn't mention "God" in an ad? Are you aware that the current approach to pass the farm bill in the house of representatives includes repealing the law that says they have to pass the law? Are you aware that an 18 year-old kid is facing terrorism charges because he was sarcastic on the internet? Are you aware that the owners of the plant in West, Texas that blew up a couple of months ago were just awarded a NEW tax break in Texas?

Are you aware that the government of Florida may have accidentally banned the internet (to my friends in Florida - viva la revolucion!)? Are you aware that the current government shakeup in Egypt is even more profound than the one covered two years ago by all the news networks? Are you aware that there are thousands of servicemen, all discharged under don't ask don't tell, who cannot find work because in some states their discharges are considered felonies? Are you aware that it is illegal for a man to buy more than 3 drinks at a time in Nevada?

Are you aware that fracking caused an explosion yesterday that killed 4 people? Are you aware of the tanker explosion in Canada that killed 40 this past weekend? Are you aware that Pearl Jam just announced a North American tour? Are you aware that Randy Travis may be drinking himself to death? Are you aware that a bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives that would allow you to legally record conversations between you and your government without notice?

Are you aware that the sequester is still in effect? Are you aware that California has a balanced budget and a monetary surplus?

How does one even respond to all of the bullshit flying through the air around you? You can only hang your head to the side and shrug saying "you're kidding" under muted breath for so long before you strain something aside from incredulity.

For a long time now I have fought against those who would promote stupidity believing that they were in the minority. That no longer appears to be true. Stupidity is taking over at such a pace that most no longer recognize it as such. This is a trend that goes back 50 years, but the people who were bit-by-bit eroded of the ability to get an education are now the people in charge and they're all saying "well, if it worked for me!" without recognizing the fact that it DIDN'T WORK FOR THEM EITHER. But alas, again, stupidity reigns.

I have said from my earliest days that we need to fight the stupid, and I have come to the realization that I'm not smart enough to know how. Colonel Kurtz is muttering "the irony, the irony" under his breath just as Martin Sheen hacks off his head.

But, I do consider myself one of the Greater Fools, so I'm probably not going to shut up and you would be wise not to bet on it. I don't know how often I will rant in the upcoming days/weeks/parsecs. But it will be a number greater than zero. I will at least try.

Cheap shots (take a drink for every swear word - my elected poison is gin):

Doesn't this essentially amount to fraud?

Face it, the Supreme Courts is just making shit up at this point.

So the Russians beat us with a Seagull.

I move that the political lexicon be changed. It's not pro-life. It's pro-birth. If you're pro-life then you give a shit after the child is born as well. Otherwise you should be forced to scream into the newborn's face, "This is SPARTA!!!"

Mos Def goes someplace you would never want to go. If you don't find it disturbing then shoot yourself in the head - you won't feel that either.

Rand, I hate your fucking guts, but I have to admit, this is a damned good burn.

16 innings and they still couldn't win the damned game.

And because I love you, Boys Club (in two parts):