LESSONS LEARNED #11: “Before you condemn capitalism, imagine a world without professional sports, movies, cell phones and tampons.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 29th, 2010

AT THE END of the American Revolution the world said, “Okay.  Now what?”  We were a joke.  We were broke.  We were weak.  And now that the common enemy was no more, we weren’t very united any more.  Most assumed we would end up back with Great Britain.  And because of that many thought there was no sense rushing in to make treaties that will just have to be unmade.

It was complicated dealing with us.  In a confederacy of strong states, it was not easy making trade or treaties.  Multiple currencies, tariffs, laws, etc.  To enter the world of the European powers, America needed to put on her big boy pants and speak with one voice.  Some Founding Fathers saw this.  That’s why they met in Philadelphia and drafted the Constitution.  And with ratification, we had one voice.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON WAS a capitalist.  Thomas Jefferson was not.  Hamilton understood money and finance.  Jefferson did not.  Hamilton liked manufacturing and commerce.  Jefferson did not.  He thought everyone should be a simple farmer.  Everyone, that is, but him.

When elected president, people hailed Jefferson as the people’s president.  Simple, unassuming, the epitome of egalitarian republicanism.  Only thing was, there wasn’t anything simple, unassuming or egalitarian about him.  He attacked the nobility, the corruption of big cities and the evils of commerce and the ‘money’ men.  Yet he indulged in the good life like no other American.  He always lived beyond his means.  He lavished himself in the finest luxuries of the time.  And he absolutely loved Paris though it was everything he said he hated.

Hamilton put America’s financial house in order.  He helped give the new nation legitimacy.  He opened European credit to us.  Problem was that, in Jefferson’s eyes, America was becoming too much like Great Britain.  And worse, it was becoming less Virginian.  So they squared off and fought each other.  Tooth and nail.  They gave birth to America’s first political parties (Federalists and Republicans).  They viciously attacked each other in the press.  Yes, politics were nasty right from the beginning.

Then something happened that caused Jefferson to embrace much of what Hamilton did.  He fell ass-backwards into the Louisiana Purchase.

THERE WERE DREAMS of a French empire in North America.  But the slave uprising in Saint-Domingue (present day Haiti) put the kibosh on that.  With Saint-Domingue lost, there was no point in France keeping New Orleans or the Louisiana territory beyond.  And Napoleon needed money.  He was at war.  And that war was about to expand to include Great Britain.  So he offered it all to the Americans for about 15 million dollars.  Though a steal, 15 million was still a lot of money.  And then Jefferson embraced what that capitalistic bastard (we can call him that for Hamilton was the fruit of unmarried loins) created. 

(This sale was also strategic.  By expanding America’s western border, it kept that land from falling to the British.  America would grow and, in time, a stronger America would challenge Great Britain for all that sea-going commerce in the Atlantic.  If it couldn’t go to the French, better it go to the Americans.  And, in the process, it would really piss off the British.  Like I said, strategic.)

The deal included gold, bonds and some debt assumption.  Jefferson was adamantly opposed to Hamilton’s assumption of states’ debt back in Washington’s administration for it only aggrandized the central government.  And Jefferson absolutely hated banking (probably because he was forever in debt).  And though he was brilliant, he was not so brilliant when you put dollar signs in front of things.  Jefferson made the purchase, but the bond deal put together was pure Hamiltonian. 

France wanted cash.  We didn’t have it.  But we now had established credit in Europe.  We could issue bonds.  Because of our credit worthiness, the Dutch were willing to buy those bonds from France at a discount and give France the cash Napoleon wanted.  And, voilà, Hamilton’s capitalism allowed Jefferson to double the size of the United States while reducing the threat in North America from the competing European powers (Great Britain, France and Spain).  It also enabled Napoleon to cause further mischief in Europe (an unfortunate side affect).  Sorry about that, Europe.  It was an unintended consequence.

THE FREE FLOW of ideas and capital can define capitalism.  Some people have great ideas.  Others have lots of money and are willing to take a risk.  Separately, these two don’t do much to make life better.  But bring them together, though, and let the good times roll.

Venture capitalists are rich.  And they’re looking to get richer.  It’s what they’re good at.  They look for talent.  New start-up companies with a good idea.  An idea that may change the world.  They may not have that creative spark to create something new, but they can recognize that spark when they see it.  And when they see it, they want to finance it.  If they pick a winner, we may get that something that changes the world.  And they may make a dump truck full of money.  Everyone wins.

Venture capitalists bring in money.  And talent.  The entrepreneur spends his or her time creating.  The venture capitalist helps build the business.  Kind of like a mentor.  They can be demanding, though.  And impatient.  They expect a big profit on their investment.  And they don’t want to wait around forever to get it.  When things work, they can work well.  Very well.  The entrepreneurs create something new and remarkable that everyone must have.  They then take their company public.  Their initial public offering brings in gazillions.  And those initial investors (the entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists) get incredibly rich.

IN 1976, THREE guys had an idea.  They made an electronic device in a garage that they thought people would want to buy.  It was crude and ‘some’ assembly was required.  And by ‘some’ I mean a lot.  Initial financing was limited.  A car and a scientific calculator just didn’t sell for a lot.  Two of them (one had since left the company) approached a couple of venture capitalists who introduced them to a man by the name of Armas Clifford (Mike) Markkula Jr.  He, too, was a venture capitalist.  And an engineer to boot.

Markkula joined the company.  He was one of the driving forces behind a new product introduced in 1984.  Their Super Bowl ad was, is, a classic.  That product was the Macintosh computer.  Those two men introduced to Markkula were Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak.  That company is, of course, Apple.  Today, Apple’s iPhone dominates the market.  And they’re still innovating.  Thanks to a venture capitalist willing to take a risk.

CAPITALISM CAN DO remarkable things.  It can build a nation.  Or change a world.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #11: “Before you condemn capitalism, imagine a world without professional sports, movies, cell phones and tampons.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 27th, 2010

PEOPLE HAVE SOME strong opinions about capitalism.  Both good and bad.  So what is it?  What is capitalism?

Merriman Webster OnLine defines it as:

An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.

To explain this let’s start by explaining what it replaced.  In fact, let’s go further back.  A few hundred years when life truly sucked by our standards.  During the Middle Ages, people barely lived.  People worked very hard and had little time off.  When they did they usually spent it sleeping, being sick, dying or being dead.  You grew or killed what you ate.  You built your own house.  You made your own clothes.  You died probably no further than a short walk from where you were born.  And you worked your whole life somewhere in between.

Think of peasant or serf.  That’s what most were.  Tied to the land.  You had no choices.  If you were born on the land you worked the land.  Until you died.  The land owned you and someone owned the land.  You worked the land at the grace of the owner.  You helped produce his food and, in return, he let you have a small parcel of land to grow your food.  There was a bond of loyalty between landlord and tenant.  Land and protection in exchange for backbreaking, never-ending labor.  Doesn’t sound good until you consider the alternative.  Death by famine.  Or death by murder at the hands of roving bands of outlaws.

Improvements in farming led to more food production.  Eventually, there were food surpluses.  This meant not everyone had to farm.  Some could do other things.  And did.  They became specialists.  Artisans.  Craftsmen.  Cities grew in response to commerce.  People went to market to trade for things they wanted.  Then they started using money, which made getting the things they wanted easier (it’s easier to go to the market with a coin purse than with a sack of grain or a side of beef).  Life got better.  People enjoyed some of it.

THUS BEGAN THE rise of a middle class.  Those city folk making things or doing something.  They were good at what they did and people gladly paid for what they did.  These specialists then improved what they did and thought of new things to do.  They created things to make their work easier.  These individual specialists grew into manufacturing shops.  The cost of production only limited their output.  And banking solved that problem.

Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers, was a capitalist.  And he thought big.  Money is nice but what can it get you?  A few things for the home?  Something for the wife?  Maybe some new farm tools.  Good stuff, yes, but nothing big.  Lots of little sums of money all over the place can buy lots of little things.  But when you pool lots of little sums of money you get one big-ass pile of it.  That money is now capital.  And you can do big things with it.

And that’s what banking has given us.  People with ideas, entrepreneurs, could now borrow money to bring their ideas to market.  And this is, in a nutshell, capitalism.  The free flow of ideas and capital to make life better.  Making life better wasn’t necessarily the objective; it’s just the natural consequence of people mutually partaking in a free market.

BUT WHAT ABOUT the Soviet Union?  Didn’t they do big things, too?  They built jetliners.  They had a space program.  They had factories.  They did these and other things without capitalism.  They did these things for the good of the people, not for profits.  Isn’t that better?

Talk to someone who wiped their ass with Soviet-era toilet paper.  Let me save you the trouble.  It didn’t feel good.  Unless you enjoy the feel of sandpaper back there.  And to add insult to injury, you had to wait in line to get that toilet paper.  If it was available.

When you think of the Soviet economy you have to think of stores with empty shelves and warehouses full of stuff no one wants.  This is what a command economy does for you.  Some bureaucrat, not the consumer, determines what to sell.  And one person simply cannot figure out what a hundred million plus want.  To get an idea of how difficult this is, pick a movie that 4 of your friends would love to see.  Pick a couple of guys and a couple of girls.  For diversity.  And remove the possibility of sex completely from the equation.  Now pick.  Not so easy, is it?  Now try to pick a movie a hundred million people would love to see.  Can’t do it, can you?  No one can.  Because people are diverse.  One size doesn’t fit all.

Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev asked Margaret Thatcher how she made sure her people had enough food to eat.  The Soviets were having difficulty feeding theirs.  In fact, they were importing grain from their archenemy.  The United States.  The answer to Gorbachev’s answer was that Thatcher did nothing to feed her people.  The free market fed her people.  Capitalism.

As far as those other big things the Soviets did, they acquired a lot of the knowledge to do those things through an elaborate network of espionage.  They stole technology and copied it.  And they were the first into space because their captured Nazi rocket scientists did it before our captured Nazi rocket scientists did.  (The seed of the space industry was the Nazi V-2 rocket that reigned terror on London and other cities during World War II).

(Lest you think that I’m ripping on the Soviet/Russian people, I’m not.  Just their economic system during the Soviet era.  Their people have suffered.  And persevered.  It was them after all who first threw back Napoleon in Europe.  And it was them who first threw back the Nazis in Europe.  They gave us Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovolsky and, of course, Maria Sharapova to name just a few of the greats.  Good people.  Just sometimes bad government.  As in most nations.  Even in the U.S.)

SO WHAT IS the basic difference between capitalism and a command economy like that of the former Soviet Union?  Probably the freedom to take and accept risk.  Bankers take a risk in loaning money.  They analyze the risk.  If the return on the loan is greater than the risk, they’ll make the loan.  It’s their call.  And they’re pretty good.  Their successes are far greater than their failures.

Some loans are riskier than others.  There’s a greater chance of failure.  But it could also be the next, say, Microsoft.  Or Apple.  If so, even though there’s great risk, the potential of reward is so great that people will want to loan money.  They’ll buy junk bonds (high risk/high yield) or an initial public offering of stock.  They’ll risk their money for a greater return on their investment.  If it pays off.  And they don’t always do.  But good ideas with potential typically find financing.  And investors typically make more money than they lose.  It’s a pretty good system.  Capitalism.

WHEN YOU HAVE risk takers who choose to participate in the free flow of ideas and capital, great things happen.  Modern AC electrical power that we take for granted is invented (thank you Nikola Tesla for the genius and George Westinghouse for taking the risk).  You develop modern commercial jet aviation (thank you Boeing for the 707, 727, 737, 747, well, you get the picture).  You transform the world when you add impurities to semiconducting material and sandwich them together (thank you John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain and William B. Shockley for the transistor).

These great things, along with others, give us professional sports (stadiums, transportation to and from the stadium, jetliners to take teams to other stadiums, oil exploration and refining for jet and car fuel, etc.).  They give us movies (financing, cameras and production equipment, special effects, theaters, popcorn, DVDs for home viewing, etc.).  They give us cell phones (cellular towers, switching networks, compact and long lasting batteries, interactive handheld devices, voicemail, email, texting, etc.).  And they liberated women to do whatever they want wherever they want by making feminine hygiene protection portable and plentiful (mass production, rail and truck transport, retail and vending outlets, etc.) and by providing convenient privacy (public toilet facilities with vending machines and disposal bins). 

Imagine any of these things provided by the same people who renew our driver’s license.  Do you think any of it would be as good?  Or do you think it would be more like Soviet-era life?  There’s so much we take for granted in capitalism because we can.  It’s a system that works on basic human nature.  It doesn’t require sacrifice.  It doesn’t depend on consensus.  It just needs the free flow of ideas and capital.  And great things follow.

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LESSONS LEARNED #10: “Conservatives like the Rule of Law whereas Liberals prefer militant, radical change.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 22nd, 2010

WHEN IT COMES to change, conservatives prefer gradual change within the established institutions.  They like things done within the Rule of Law.  Peacefully and quietly.  Everything has a place and everything should be in its place.  Including change.  If they don’t understand an issue, they study it.  Rationally.  They control their passions.  Some say too much.  Always so prim and proper, it’s like they have a stick up their butt.  They wouldn’t know fun if it bit them in the ass.  Or some would say.

A radical likes to excite the masses.  They like anarchy.  They like to get into the faces of their opposition.  They’re loud and angry and do radical things.  Throw a punch.  Blow things up.  And anyone who disagrees with them had better watch out.  They live by their passions.  Act first, think later.

TIMOTHY McVEIGH WAS a radical.  He wasn’t a conservative.  By definition.  Conservatives don’t blow things up.  Radicals do.  And it was indeed a radical that blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.  And he didn’t do this because of a conservative agenda.  He did it because he was pissed off about what happened at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco Texas in 1993.   This upset a lot of people.  Only one bombed something, though.  One radical.

The Clinton administration tried to blame McVeigh’s actions on conservative talk radio.   As conservatism does not endorse radicalism, this makes no sense.  Conservatives, in general, are about as threatening as a box of kittens.  They’re law-abiding people.  And you don’t show your support for the Rule of Law by violating the Rule of Law.

THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND was a radical, leftist organization.  They hated America.  They were anti-capitalists.  Their movement grew from the anti-war movements on college campuses in the sixties.   Their goal was similar to the communists in 1969 Vietnam.  Coordinated attacks in South Vietnam, known as the Tet Offensive, had the goal of causing rebellion in the south.  If successful, the dictatorship of the proletariat of the north would spread throughout Vietnam.  The Weather Underground tried to do the same in America.  They wanted to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat in America.  Both failed.  The communists in Vietnam would prove successful, though, some 7 years later due in part to the anti-war movement in America.  But I digress.

The Tet Offensive was defeated in bloody combat.  The Underground’s offensive was far from the Tet Offensive military campaign, but its ultimate goal was the same.  Their bombing campaign, though, had little effect.  Instead of stirring rebellion, it forced their members further underground. 

Though they committed sedition against the United States government, the feds dropped most charges or reduced them.  A Supreme Court decision regarding wiretaps made the wiretaps used to collect evidence illegal.   And inadmissible.  And a trial would have required revelations that would have damaged ongoing and future operations.  So most of them skated and reintegrated into ‘normal’ life.  One would even go on to associate with a presidential candidate.  Bill Ayers.  He was one of the ‘radical associates’ noted by some media outlets of then candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election.

THE REAGAN REVOLUTION was a conservative revolution.  And, as revolutions go, it was pretty benign.  There were no mobs.  No gunfire.  No bombings.  In typical conservative fashion, it was a revolution of ideas.

Reagan campaigned as a conservative.  He governed as a conservative.  His message was consistent.  And this consistency led to stability.  You knew what you got with him.  Voters returned him to office with an overwhelming majority; he carried 49 of 50 states.

Reagan’s popularity indicates the power of conservatism.  When debated in the arena of ideas, conservatism wins.  Not by intimidating voters.  Not by redrawing congressional districts.  Not by voter fraud.  Not by hiding your true political beliefs.  Not by misleading voters.  No.  Conservatism wins by honest debate.  The Reagan Democrats are proof of this.  These Democrats voted for Reagan because they supported his conservative platform.  And when you vote against your own party, you don’t do that lightly.  There’s conviction behind that vote.  And that conviction comes from listening intently to that debate in the arena of ideas.

THERE IS ANOTHER conservative revolution underway.  And it’s a peaceful one, too.  As conservative movements are wont to be.  Because true conservatives respect the Rule of Law.  These conservatives gather in peaceful assemblies called Tea Parties.  And the Left hates them.

The Left knows its history.  They know that they lose in the arena of ideas.  And they don’t want another Reagan Revolution on their hands.  So they are attacking this peaceful movement and are calling them every name in the book.  One in particular refers to a crude sexual act.  And this name originated in the Mainstream Media.  This would have been unthinkable in the days of Cronkite and Brinkley.  But, then again, today’s media is not the media of Cronkite and Brinkley.

On the anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, the Left is warning of parallels between the ‘group’ that produced a Timothy McVeigh and the Tea Party movement.  But there was no ‘group’ that produced McVeigh.  He was a radical who was angry at the federal government for what he saw in Waco Texas.  He didn’t think.  He acted.  Much like the Weather Underground. 

Rational thinking about the possible outcomes of both their actions likely would have prevented their actions.  But radicals don’t think about the consequences of their actions.  At least, not before they act.  Conservatives do.  And the Tea Party people are conservatives.  That’s why they choose peaceful assembly to change public opinion over militant, radical action.  Because true change follows when you win hearts and minds.  Not by bullying.

THERE MAY BE individual radicals in the Tea Party movement.  Most groups have their radicals.  But the group as a whole is not radical.  And not a threat.  They’re like a box full of kittens.  But with an agenda.  A peaceful agenda.  And that agenda?  To engage in debate in the arena of ideas.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #10: “Conservatives like the Rule of Law whereas Liberals prefer militant, radical change.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 20th, 2010

CONSERVATIVES LIKE THE way things were.  They like things that have proven track records.  Liberals, on the other hand, don’t.  If it’s the old way then it’s the wrong way.  For no matter what history has proven, they want to tinker.  They want to change things.  Stir the pot.  Mix it up.  Raise a little hell.

A lot of people don’t really understand what a conservative is.  They think Big Business.  They think rich fat cats.  They think of people who step into their horse-drawn carriage on the back of a poor person down on his hands and knees.  They think racist.  They think segregationist.  They think warmonger.  They think militant anti-government reactionary.  They think Nazi.  And they think wrong.

A conservative practices conservatism.  And Merriam-Webster OnLine defines conservatism as:

a: disposition in politics to preserve what is established b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)

Conservatism, then, reflects the principles of the Founding Fathers.  After the Revolution, of course.

OUR FOUNDING FATHERS were not conservatives when they broke from Great Britain.  They were liberals.  Progressive.  Looking for a new way that was different from the established, conservative ways of Great Britain.  They were the culmination of the enlightenment.  Of a new way.  Where rank did not matter.  Where who your father was didn’t matter.  All that mattered was you.  And what you did.

Before they became conservatives, then, they were radical liberals.  They took up arms against the government.  There were many reasons for this.  The Stamp Act.  The Intolerable Acts.  The Quebec Act.  These and other issues raised tensions between the mother country and her colony.

The colonists fell into two camps: the Patriots (Whigs) and Loyalists (Tories).  The Loyalists were the conservatives.  They wanted to keep British America British.  The Patriots were the radical liberals.  They wanted independence.  And, of course, there were a lot of undecided that fell in between.

As the American-British breech widened, many wanted to remain British.  They wanted reconciliation.  Even Benjamin Franklin.  In fact, he was seeking a royal appointment in the colonies.  He was a conservative.  He fit the Merriam-Webster OnLine definition.  But he would eventually change.  As many others did.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

THE FOUNDING FATHERS who made this country were conservatives.  They were conservatives before the break from Great Britain.  They became liberal progressives during the Revolution.  Then became conservative again.  The Constitution created a government so conservatively British that Thomas Jefferson would attack the Washington and Adams administration vehemently, even though he was a member of those administrations.

The lesson here is this.  Conservatives live under the Rule of Law.  They like to do things the way their parents did.  Liberals, on the other hand, don’t.  They want to break from the established way of doing things.  And they have no problem with breaking the law to do so.  Or overthrowing a government.

WHEN IN COLLEGE, liberals didn’t spend a lot of time in history or economics classes.  Had they, they would have learned the lessons of history.  And probably have become conservatives.  But radical liberal professors can influence young, influential minds spending their first time away from home.

Most parents raise their children conservatively.  They teach them right from wrong.  To obey the law.  They give them curfews.  They meet the boys dating their daughters.  They tell them to ‘say no to drugs’.  And tell them not to drink until they are legally old enough to do so.

But when kids go to college, things change.  Their kids break the law (there’s underage drinking and drug use).  Yes, they were doing some of this before college, but before college, it was more difficult to do.  Because of their parents.  Their parents aren’t at college, though.  So some of these kids stray.  They become liberal.  Part in protest against their parents.  Part because it’s more fun to be a liberal in college.

Of course, when these kids become parents, they tend to move towards conservatism.  Something about being a parent.  In fact, they become their parents.  It’s what having kids does.

FOR MANY BEING a liberal is a period in their life.  For some, though, it’s a journey from which there is no returning.

In the sixties, during the Vietnam War, conservatives obeyed the law and served when called.  It was liberals who burnt their draft cards and went to Canada.  It was liberals who were militant, anti-war protesters.  It was liberals who made up the Weather Underground who wanted to overthrow the U.S. government and establish a proletarian dictatorship.

Eco-terrorists are liberals.  The Unabomber mailed bombs to protest industrial society.  EarthFirst! began the practice of spiking trees (which damages saws and maims lumberjacks).  The Earth Liberation Front burns down new housing developments and SUV dealerships.  Greenpeace commits piracy on the high seas.

ONE OF THE DEFINING differences between liberals and conservatives is how they act in respect to the Rule of Law.  Conservatives are law-abiding.  Liberals are too.  Unless they don’t like a law. 

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LESSONS LEARNED #9: “Liberal politicians have more fun because their licentious behavior is more readily forgiven.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 15th, 2010

THOSE WHO LIVE in glass houses shouldn’t through stones.  And as far as the Democrats are concerned, the Republicans live in glass houses.  Especially those associated with the Religious Right.  They don’t like these people.  At all.

The Left likes to bring the fun in.  The Right tries to keep it out.  Since the sixties, the Left has been liberalizing their behavior.  Drugs and free love came from the sixties.  And the uptight, sexually repressed Right has been dogging them ever since.  The Right will point at the rise in crime rates and venereal diseases this liberalization gave us.  The Left will then say something derogatory about Ronald Reagan and call your mother a whore.

So there’s a little animosity between the Left and the Right.  The Left doesn’t like moral crusaders.  The Right doesn’t like Sodom and Gomorrah.  And when someone on the Right is caught doing something they say the Left shouldn’t be doing, look out.  It’s payback time.  And payback is a bitch.  Especially if you dwell in a glass house.

BARNEY FRANK ADMITTED to paying a male prostitute for sex.  He later hired this man as a personal assistant.  While Frank was away, his assistant may have used Frank’s apartment to see clients while plying his trade. 

Frank wrote letters to his assistant’s parole board (he had a record).  He fixed some parking tickets, too.   The House reprimanded him for that.  But he remained in office.  There were those who tried to censure him and expel him from the House.  That didn’t happen.  Ethics-wise, it just wasn’t that big of a deal.  I mean, paying for sex.  Who hasn’t done that?  And fixing a parking ticket or two.  In Washington?  Come on.  It’s Washington.

One Republican was especially earnest in trying to remove Frank from office.  Larry Craig. 

FAST FORWARD A couple of decades.  Larry Craig was in an airport men’s room.   There had been complaints about gay men using the public toilets to hook up with each other to have sex.  This is not something you necessarily want to be around when you take your son into the men’s room.  Hence the complaints.  So there Craig was, apparently using the signals to initiate a hook-up.  And the guy on the next toilet turns out to be a cop.

Now, instead of compassion for a man struggling with his sexuality (if in fact he was trying to engage in homosexual behavior), there was no love shown to Craig.  Even within his own party.  They gave him a choice.  Either resign.  Or resign.  Which he did.  Then he changed his mind.  He finished his term but didn’t run for reelection.  His political career was over.  Lewd behavior with a consenting adult (albeit in an inappropriate place) is apparently worse than buying sex from a prostitute.  And worse than fixing tickets.  At least, as far as Congress is concerned.

Instead of embracing him for letting loose and exploring his sexuality, the Left pilloried him.  Called him a hypocrite.  Didn’t care about the turmoil of emotions he was feeling.  Gay or not he was a bad man.  They remembered his role in the Barney Frank affair.  And it was time for a little payback.

BARNEY FRANK ENTERED into a relationship with Herb Moses.  It lasted approximately from 1987 until 1998.  This is interesting.  Do you know where Moses worked from 1991 until 1998?  I’ll give you a hint.  Think subprime mortgage crisis.

Moses was an executive at Fannie Mae.  Guess what he did there.  He worked on programs to help credit-challenged people buy new homes.  Now guess what Barney Frank was doing during this time.  He worked on the House Banking Committee.   It was his committee’s job to keep Fannie Mae (and Freddie Mac) from doing anything stupid.  But he didn’t.  Frank pushed to loosen regulations.  In fact, he fought against Republican attempts to strengthen regulations on Fannie and Freddie.

Now, we can’t be certain what was happening between Frank and Moses.  But we do know this.  During their relationship, Fannie Mae prospered.  They did this by growth.  Much of that growth came from the subprime mortgage business.  Despite high default percentages, Congress allowed Fannie and Freddie to buy riskier mortgages.  The Frank-Moses relationship ended in 1998, a few months AFTER Moses left Fannie Mae.  The cause of the financial meltdown in 2008 resulted from all those high-risk subprime loans that Frank and Moses made possible in the previous decade.

Some would say it would be reckless and irresponsible to draw any conclusions from this.  Others would say, “What are you?  Blind?”

FEW DISPUTE THAT Fannie and Freddie caused the financial crash.  But few blamed Frank.  And Frank blamed Republicans.  And Wall Street.  No one questioned Frank’s actions on the House Banking Committee.  No one questioned the very obvious conflict of interest between the legislator writing the law and the Fannie Mae executive profiting from the law.  No ethics investigation.  Why?

That’s easy.  Just ask yourself this.  What do you think would have happened if Larry Craig had played the role of Barney Frank?

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #9: “Liberal politicians have more fun because their licentious behavior is more readily forgiven.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 13th, 2010

LORD ACTON SAID, “Power tends to corrupt.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  And it’s true.  When you’ve acquired god-like powers, it is very difficult to restrain the use of that power. 

In Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I, French King Louis the XVI said it was good to be king as he fondled and made love to any woman he pleased.  Though perhaps a little light on historical accuracy, the French monarchy was an absolute monarchy (whereas Great Britain’s was a constitutional monarchy with a Parliament to check the king’s power).  The French king could in theory do anything he wanted to.  Well, until the sans-culottes stormed the Bastille.  This was the point of no return in the French Revolution.  And we all know what happened next.  (The revolutionaries beheaded King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette).

America didn’t have any kings.  But we did have a royal family.  And a royal court.  Camelot.  Our queen was Jackie.  Her king, JFK, enjoyed the trappings of court life.  For it was good to be king. 

The hottest, sexiest and most voluptuous woman in America was the blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe.  Every man fantasized about having sex with her.  JFK didn’t have to, though.  He was boinking her.  Yes, he cheated on his queen, America’s most perfect wife in the most perfect family.  Monroe would later commit suicide.  No one knows if that had anything to do with the affair she was having with the unavailable JFK.  Whatever the sad truth is, posterity has forgiven this Democrat.  And JFK remains a Democrat icon.

Bill Clinton had a political hero.  JFK.  He even met him.  A highlight of his nascent political career.  He worshipped him.  Wanted to be like him.  And he was to an extent.  He couldn’t keep it in his pants either.  He, too, found it was good to be king.  The fun you can have with interns.  Not sex, mind you.  Just oral-genital stimulation to, um, issue.  And that was his undoing.  That…issue…landed on a blue dress.  It proved he committed perjury during grand jury testimony.  This led to impeachment.  But he survived the Senate vote and remained president.  Clinton supporters derided the whole episode as ‘just sex’.  They didn’t need to forgive this Democrat.  Few found any fault in his actions.  People liked Clinton.  He was cool.  Why, he even talked about his underwear on MTV.

WHEN WE TALK about politicians, it is important to note that there are two kinds.  There are the decent, honest, trustworthy, selfless representatives of the people and the ones with an ‘r’ next to their name.  At least, that’s the common misperception.  Apparently, power does tend to corrupt.  And, apparently, absolute power does corrupt absolutely.  But only if you’re a Republican.

We often attack Republicans for trying to force their morality on us.  Live and let live, we say.  The Democrats, on the other hand, have the reputation of being nonjudgmental.  Anything goes.  Because they don’t judge us for any of our social behavior we don’t judge them.  And are quick to forgive them.  And always ready to pounce on any moral lapse of anyone who dares to criticize our own social behavior.

What does this mean?  The Left has carte blanche on licentious behavior and can pretty much do whatever the hell they please.  If they get caught all they have to say is, “Sorry.”  And then it’s like it never happened.

TED KENNEDY HAD a ‘d’ following his name.  He was a big time liberal.  So liberal that his ‘brand’ of Catholicism had no problem with abortion.  A member of Camelot, he enjoyed some king-like behavior.  He didn’t preach morality to anyone and no one preached it to him.  He lived life.  And his partying lifestyle brought him one day to a small island near Martha’s Vineyard in 1969.   His pregnant wife was home in bed.

Chappaquiddick.  We all know what happened there.  A young woman would die.  And a presidential hopeful would be hopeful no more.

Mary Jo Kopechne left a party with Ted Kennedy who was ‘driving her back to her hotel’.  About midnight.  Kennedy could have had his chauffeur drive her.  But he didn’t.  He drove her himself.  So there they were, the two of them, alone, driving on unlit, deserted roads.  They stopped on one road.  Someone approached.  The car backed up and sped away.  Towards a narrow bridge with no guardrails.  A bridge that veered slightly left from the path of the road approaching it.  Kennedy didn’t.  He tried to stop but it was too late. 

The car skidded off into the water, coming to rest upside down.  Kennedy got out.  He didn’t contact authorities until the following morning.  That’s when they removed Kopechne.  Some reports stated her body was in a position with her head bent backwards with her mouth reaching up to what may have been an air pocket in the upturned car.  She may have been breathing until her exhaled carbon dioxide eventually suffocated her.

Authorities didn’t file charges.  They did suspend his driver’s license for 6 months.  He paid Kopechne’s family about $100,000.  His insurance company paid them another $50,000.  Kennedy’s wife miscarried.  And he remained in the Senate for another 40 years.  We forgave this Democrat.

HOUSE DEMOCRATS FILED eighty four ethics violations against Republican Newt Gingrich in 1997.  Only one held.  The House of Representatives fined the Speaker of the House $300,000 for ethical wrongdoing.  This was over the tax-exempt status of a college course that he was involved with that had ‘political purposes’.  The IRS found no tax violations. 

The fallout from this helped push him out of his Speaker position by pressure from within his own party.  They saw his public image as too much of a liability.  He ultimately resigned.  We did not forgive this Republican.

THE KENNEDY FAMILY has a reputation.  There’s talk about a curse.  But is there a curse or is it just a reckless lifestyle by people who feel they can do whatever they want?  Imagine if someone else was driving that car that night.  Do you think it would have ended differently?  Do you think there would have been some criminal charges?  Negligent homicide?  Probably.

Newt Gingrich didn’t commit tax fraud.  But there were questions about the tax-exempt status he claimed which violated House rules.  And that reckless disregard of House rules could not stand.  Gingrich’s political career was over. 

Compassion appears to be the rule when a Democrat falters.  Vengeance appears to be the rule when a Republican falters.  There are exceptions, of course.  But, in general, if you really want to have fun while in Congress, it would be prudent to have a ‘d’ next to your name.

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LESSONS LEARNED #8: “Of course Social Security will fail; that’s what Ponzi Schemes do.” –Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 8th, 2010

IT’S ONE OF the oldest scams in the book.  The Ponzi scheme.  It takes some creative lying.  Or a cold heart that can stab trusted friends in the back.  Like Bernie Madoff did.

When it comes to investing large sums of money, people would rather do so with someone they know and trust.  And so it is in the Jewish community.  Madoff’s investment funds were very profitable.  And hard to get into.  So when he worked his Jewish circles, the response was favorable.  Everyone wanted in.

Madoff targeted Jewish charities.  Not for the philanthropy in his heart, but for something characteristic about charities who invest.  Charities work on the interest earned on the principal of their investments.  The principal is parked and rarely withdrawn.  And this is ideal for a Ponzi scheme. 

With all that ‘parked’ money it was easy to sustain the lie.  It was easy to write small checks; the payouts for the returns on investment were only a fraction of the total fund.  When an individual wanted to withdraw his money, it was easy to write that check, too.  Those big investments could sustain the fraud for years without worry.  Madoff was happy.  The investors were happy.

MADOFF CONFOUNDED ANALYSTS who could not understand how he could be so consistently profitable, even when other investment funds were showing losses in bad economic times.  Of course, when you have nothing invested, it is easy to avoid market fluctuations.  As long as your pile of money doesn’t run out.

But with the financial crisis kicked off by the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, that pile of money did run out.  Madoff’s investors were losing money elsewhere and needed to withdraw their money from his fund to cover those losses.  And when people start withdrawing their principal from a Ponzi scheme the house of cards comes crashing down.

And that’s what happened.  Madoff went to jail.  This is usually how a Ponzi scheme ends.  In case you’re thinking about trying this.  First crash.  Then jail.  It’s just a matter of time.  Eventually people start pulling out their principal.  For whatever reason.  Even if you got about as perfect a group of investors as possible.  As in Madoff’s case.  If you don’t believe me, you can ask Bernie.  During visiting hours.

AND SPEAKING OF the subprime mortgage crisis, there were elements in that crisis that were very Ponzie-like.  At the heart of this crisis was affordable housing for people with sh*tty credit. 

HUD was pressuring lenders to loan to people who could not qualify for loans.  Advocacy groups representing various ethnic groups and nationalities sued.  But no advocacy representing those who had no chance in hell of repaying a loan sued.  Funny, for the banks did discriminate against these people.

Anyway, new laws and regulatory pressure as well as lawsuits (and threats of lawsuits) eventually forced lenders to lend to the unqualified.  Then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bought the risky, subprime loans.  Problem solved.  All of them.  Right?

Wrong.  They used some creative financing to approve the unqualified.  The one thing to really come back and bite us in the ass was the Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM).  You can’t afford to make recurring mortgage payments?  Okay, no problem.  We’ll just make those payments smaller.  We’ll use an ARM which gives you a lower interest rate as well as a lower payment.  You just refinance later when rates go up.  After you’ve built up some equity in your home.

I’m approved?!?  Great!  Thank you!  Refinance?  What?

They may not have understood that part but they signed on the dotted line.  Interest rates at the time were very low.  As were their monthly payment.  They could just squeak by.  Everything was cool.  Until the interest rates went up.

ALL THIS PRESSURE to loan money to the unqualified and the low interest rates caused a housing boom.  The boom became a bubble.  Then the bubble burst.  House values fell.  Interest rates went up.  Then the interest rate on AMRs went up. 

With a lower house value, a new mortgage would have lower collateral (i.e., the house).  So even if they could qualify, they couldn’t borrow enough to pay off the original mortgage.  So they were stuck with a mortgage payment they could no longer afford.  And they couldn’t refinance.  Their only choice was to default.  And default they did.  Lots of them.  Perhaps most of them.  And the subprime mortgage industry imploded.

Why is this like a Ponzi scheme?  Well, looking back at it with hindsight, there was no other possible outcome of these governmental policies.  When you force institutions to loan money to people who don’t qualify for a loan chances are that they will default.  If two people ask you for a loan and one had good credit and the other did not, who are you going to loan your money too?  If it’s your money you’re going to be very careful.  If it’s not your money, you going to do what is politically expedient and give the money to people who will vote for you.

THE SUBPRIME MORTGAGE crisis resulted from governmental policies in place to raise political capital.  The unqualified got the houses so government got the political capital.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were buying those subprime mortgages, repackaging them and reselling them.  They were making money and could make political contributions.  Everybody was getting something.  Before the house of cards fell, that is.

And all of this was based on the lie that people who couldn’t qualify to buy a house could somehow buy a house.  In other words, it was a fraudulent investment.  Like a Ponzi scheme, it would work as long as there was a net cash flow into the system.  A rising interest rate, though, changed all that. 

SWINDLERS OFTEN GET tripped up by things beyond their control.  The subprime mortgage crisis was the undoing of Bernie Madoff.  A rising interest rate was the undoing of the subprime mortgage scheme.  And a declining population growth rate will be the undoing of Social Security.  In time.  Because, in time, all Ponzi schemes fail.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #8: “Of course Social Security will fail; that’s what Ponzi schemes do.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 6th, 2010

A PONZI SCHEME is a scam.  A ‘get rich quick’ scam.  A great ‘investment’.  One that seems too good to be true.  And is.  Charles Ponzi didn’t invent it, but he was so good at it that they named it after him.

In a nutshell, here’s what it is.  Say I’m a swindler and I approach ten people.  I say to them, “Give me $100 each and I’ll get you a 50% return on your investment.  In only 45 days.”  They’re skeptical but interested.  Sure, it sounds too good to be true, but what if it’s legit?  That’s a helluva return.  Surely that’s worth the risk of a $100 investment.  So they make the investment.  Wouldn’t you? 

45 days later, I give each and every one $50.  Just like I promised.  They’re so shocked at their good fortune that they all but crap their pants.  They don’t know what the investment is and they don’t care.  When asked if they want their principal back they ask, “Why?!?  Where else can I earn 50%?”  So they keep their money invested.  And they give back the $50 so I can reinvest that, too.  This is just too good of a sure thing.

Am I a financial genius?  Perhaps.  But that’s irrelevant.  Even a financial genius can’t earn 50% with such certainty.  Not legally.

So how did I do it?

THE SECRET IS that I didn’t do anything.  They gave me $1,000 ($100 X 10).  And, 45 days later, I pulled that $1000 from my wallet and paid out $500 ($50 X 10), leaving $500 in my wallet.  There was no investment.  It’s just an illusion.  I just gave them some of their money back.  And kept the rest.

Money comes in.  Some of it goes out as a ‘return on investment’.  But there is no investment.  There is no principal earning anything anywhere.  This is how the Ponzi scheme works.  A lot of money comes in.  A little of it goes out.  The swindler keeps the rest.  And it keeps working as long as the investors believe the lie.

As word spreads about these crazy returns on investments people are falling over each other to give you their money.   You can see how it grows.  And it’s lucrative.  If the total amount people invested is, say, 30 million dollars, you make yourself 15 million dollars at the low end.  More if people reinvest their earnings.  And, of course, they will.  I mean, what else is paying 50%? 

Eventually the house of cards falls.  Over time, the amount of money going out gets closer and closer to the amount of money coming in.  Until, one day, more goes out than comes in.  It always does.  People may close their accounts because they need the money to buy a home or build a business.  Enough people do this and the cash flow will reverse.  And when it does, something has to change. 

You lower the ‘return on investment’.  Your investors, of course, won’t like that.  They may invest less and stop reinvesting their earnings.  This compounds the problem.  You try to find more investors.  Of course, this isn’t going to happen with declining returns.  No one wants to get in on the downward slope of a good thing. 

You then ‘cook the books’, using creative accounting practices to sustain the lie.  But that just delays the inevitable.  And it makes the financial hole deeper in the process, ensuring the crash will be even bigger.  Then it does crash.  And people start going to jail.

SOCIAL SECURITY IS very similar to a Ponzi scheme.  It’s cash flow.  The money coming in goes right back out in Social Security benefits.  There is no investment.  There’s no principal somewhere earning something.  It’s a pure transfer payment from one group of people to another.

Today’s recipients are making obscene profits on their initial social security ‘investment’.  When working, they contributed a pittance compared to what they have and will collect.  You see, when FDR set up Social Security, old people weren’t living as long.  But people are living longer today.  About 20 years longer.  That’s 20 years or so of benefits that the actuaries never banked on. 

But it gets worse.  As the benefits grew the birthrate declined.  There was a rise in the use of birth control and abortion.   This resulted in a population ‘shock’ as the average family size quickly shrunk.  Put the two together and you’ve got a big problem.  The rate the older/retired population is growing is greater than the rate the working population is growing.  That means fewer people are supporting more people in retirement.  This translates into more money going out than coming in.

A DECLINING RATE of population growth is a HUGE problem for government.  Government expands.  It never contracts.  (Sad but that’s just the way it is.)  It needs the population to expand at least at the same rate to pay for that massive government spending.  When it doesn’t, something has to change. 

You increase social security taxes.  You reduce the amount of the monthly benefit check.  You increase the eligibility age for social security benefits.  You fight to grant illegal aliens citizenship to increase the tax base.  You make people work until they die so you never have to pay any benefits.  You cook the books and talk about a ‘trust fund’ and send out statements showing the growing value of your ‘retirement account’ and your ‘projected’ benefits.

But this just delays the inevitable.  And it makes the financial hole deeper in the process, ensuring the crash will be even bigger.

AND WHAT ABOUT that Social Security Trust Fund?  It’s a myth.  It doesn’t exist.  It’s like a unicorn that only exists in fairy tales.  It entertains and lets you escape reality.  But it’s just a fantasy.  All the money you paid into the system via payroll taxes is not sitting in a pile someplace earning interest.  They spent it.  Confused?  Think of the trust fund as that briefcase in the movie Dumb and Dumber. 

Lloyd/Jim Carey tries to return a ‘lost’ briefcase (unknown to him it’s full of ransom money) to a beautiful woman across the country.  His best friend, Harry/Jeff Daniels, travels cross country with him.  Broke, cold and destitute in Aspen, the briefcase opens and they see all that money.  They use it to get some essentials: a suite at an expensive hotel, some new clothing and, of course, reliable transportation.  A Lamborghini Diablo.  But, every time that they took money out of that briefcase, they put in an I.O.U. for the amount taken.  Responsible, yes, but the kidnappers would rather have had the money.  As good and as decent as Lloyd and Harry are, the prospect of them honoring all of those I.O.U.s just wasn’t good.  They’re a couple of idiots, after all, as the name of the movie suggests.

This is the Social Security trust fund.  There’s no money in it.  It’s full of government I.O.U.s.  They’re promises to repay your money…with money they will take from you at a later date. 

A PONZI SCHEME will work until the point when people begin to withdraw their principal.  Without any real asset tied to the investment, it can’t refund any principal AND maintain the ‘return on investment’ payments.  It survives on cash flow.  If too much cash is going out (i.e., people pulling out their principal), the direction of the net cash flow reverses and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

The same thing is happening with Social Security.  There is no real asset tied to the Social Security system.  It survives on cash flow.  And the direction of net cash flow is pretty darn close to reversing.  A smaller working population is now paying for a larger retirement population.  The house of cards is teetering.  It will either fall or there will be big, unpleasant changes in our future.  Or both.

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LESSONS LEARNED #7: “High on the endangered species list is the objective journalist.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2010

WHEN YOU HEAR the words ‘Tet Offensive’, what do you think of?  The Battle of Hue?  The Siege of Khe Sanh?  Dead American soldiers in the U.S. Embassy compound?  The biggest American victory to date in Vietnam?  I’m guessing you’re probably thinking yes, yes, yes and no.  Or you’re asking yourself, “Vietnam?”

Tet was an all out gamble by the communists to end the war.  The war by 1967 had grown into a military stalemate with the communists unable to win any significant battlefield wins.  The bombing of North Vietnam was taking its toll.  They needed a new plan.  What plan, though, was a matter for debate.

Without going into specifics (unless you want to – I don’t mind), there was no unity of opinion in the North.  Three groups had three different plans raging from large-scale military action to negotiated peace.  The Soviet Union favored a negotiated peace.  The Chinese said screw that.  So after much discussion, debate and arrests, they adopted the Tet plan.

Briefly, Tet called for attacks on cities throughout South Vietnam to encourage the people to rise in rebellion and join the communists.  Once they did the war would be over.  Or so went the plan.  Which failed miserably.  There were no rebellions.  There were no military victories.  Just huge communist losses.  The leaders would later vow never to undertake such a plan again.  As they licked their wounds they pondered what to do in the wake of the catastrophe known as the Tet Offensive.  Then something happened.  In the United States.

Walter Cronkite gave his opinion on the air.  There is some debate whether this turned public opinion on the war.  When he said we couldn’t win the war, though, it stunned President Johnson.  He said if he lost Cronkite he lost the American people. 

The anti-war movement spread following Tet.  The communists saw this.  And they learned something.  They didn’t need to defeat the Americans in a decisive battle (which they couldn’t).  All they had to do was to wait.  And wait they did.  For 7 years.

The opinion of the most trusted man in America may have not influenced public opinion.  But when you are the most trusted man in America, your opinion probably does influence people.  A shame, really.  The world changed in 1968. 

Tet was a glorious opportunity.  The North was reeling.  If the response to Tet was an all out, no holds bar, counterattack, the U.S. could have been negotiating from a position of strength.  Great strength.  Vietnam may have ended like the Korean War.  Maybe we could have avoided another 7 years or so of war.  And, if the war did end earlier, the currency inflation (to pay for both the Great Society and the war) may not have been so bad.  Maybe Nixon wouldn’t have decoupled the dollar from gold, igniting double-digit inflation and interest rates.  Maybe Carter wouldn’t have given us malaise and stagflation.  Perhaps a group of radical students wouldn’t have stormed our embassy and taken hostages because they saw us as a ‘paper tiger’. 

Would’ve, should’ve, could’ve, yes, but you have to ask yourself.  What would have happened if the most trusted man in America didn’t say we couldn’t win the war in Vietnam?

EARLY VIETNAM STRATEGY revolved around the body count.  You counted the enemy dead.  You killed more of theirs than they killed of yours, you won the battle.  Kill enough of them and they can’t fight anymore.  And then you win the war.  Or so went the strategy. 

Counting dead bodies is kinda cold and callous.  People didn’t like it.  Among the changes in policy following Tet, the military stopped the big search and destroy operations and counting the dead for ledger columns.  But the body count lived on.

Flash-forward to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  During the Bush (Republican) administration, the mainstream media (MSM) included body counts in their broadcasts – of American dead.  They didn’t just give numbers, they identified them by name.  They wanted to film returning coffins at Andrews Air Force Base.  Remember that?  Maybe not.  It’s hard to remember something that isn’t happening anymore.  During the Obama (Democrat) administration, the MSM appears to have suspended the body count policy.  Once the Republican was gone, apparently it was no longer fashionable to politicize dead soldiers.

IF YOU WANT to hear evidence of talking points in the MSM, you can tune into the Rush Limbaugh program on almost any day.  Limbaugh edits sound bites together and plays them on his program.  It’s a lot easier to hear the pattern in a montage than if you’re only watching one or two of the MSM’s outlets.  Even if you don’t like Limbaugh, give a listen.  They’re pretty interesting.  And entertaining.

Here’s an old montage featuring an unusual word: gravitas.  A portion of the transcript copied from his website follows.

Begin transcript.

RUSH:  This goes back to the year 2000. It’s one of the all-time great montages, this happened within a day of President Bush selecting Dick Cheney to be his vice presidential running mate.  You’re going to hear Al Hunt, Juan Williams, Claire Shipman, Steve Roberts, Vic Fazio, Jeff Greenfield, Jonathan Alter, former Senator Bob Kerrey, Margaret Carlson, Mike McCurry, Sam Donaldson, Eleanor Clift, Walter Isaacson, Mark Shields, Judy Woodruff, and Sam Donaldson — and none of these are repeated.

HUNT:  He is a man who meets all George W.’s weaknesses: lack of foreign policy experience, lack of gravitas.  I think now when Gore is trying to make the case of lack of gravitas against George W….

WILLIAMS:  Now we look and we see the son, who is seeking some gravitas, to say to people that he is an intelligent man…

SHIPMAN:  There is a lot talk they are looking at older candidates, candidates with gravitas.

ROBERTS:  He’s had health problems, uh, he’s worked for a Big Oil company, but he has the gravitas.  You can sum it up in one word: stature.

FAZIO:  I really believe that George W. Bush needed that perhaps more than anyone in recent memory because, if there is a rap about him, it may go to the gravitas issue.

GREENFIELD:  If the question about Governor Bush was one of the weight, or to use the favorite phrase of the moment, “gravitas”…

ALTER:  What he gets here is grav-i-tas, a sense of weight, competence, and administrative ability.

KERREY:  I’ve gotta strengthen it in some fashion. I’ve gotta bring gravitas to the ticket.

KERREY:  He does not need anybody to give him gravitas!

CARLSON:  It means that Bush, you know, Gore has experience and gravitas.

McCURRY:  I think he also needs to demonstrate some gravitas, too.

DONALDSON:  …that he was put on the ticket, but by former President Bush, to give gravitas to the ticket.

CLIFT:  Well, Dick Cheney brings congeniality and he brings gravitas.

ISAACSON:  He does seem to bring some vigor as well as gravitas and stature to the ticket.

HUNT:  It’s called “gravitas.”

NOVAK: Right.

SHIELDS A little gravitas!

WOODRUFF:  You certainly have gravitas tonight.

DONALDSON:  Displayed tonight a certain gravitas.

RUSH:  Now, I don’t care. I don’t care how it happens. I don’t care whether they all got together and decided, or one person used it and they all decided to mimic. They are who they are, and that montage is a good illustration.  

End transcript.

George W. Bush has a B.A. in history from Yale.  An MBA from Harvard.  Military experience (though no combat experience).  He was a businessman.  He worked in the energy industry.  Owned part of the Texas Rangers.  Was governor of Texas.  And won reelection to a second 4-year term. 

Obama has a law degree.  Was a community organizer.  State senator for 7 years.  U.S. senator for 3 years.  No executive experience.  No business experience.  No military experience. 

Perhaps both candidates needed to add ‘gravitas’ to their ticket.  In comparing the experience, though, one appears to be lighter than the other.  But when they talked about Joe Biden adding gravitas to the ticket, they didn’t make it sound like Obama was an incompetent boob.  Why?  Probably because it wasn’t in the talking points.

A BLIND MAN can see it.  There’s bias.  Opinion and political activism is taking over objective journalism in the MSM.  It’s been a gradual process.  It started in the 60s.  And continues to grow.  When will it stop?  Hard to say.  Until it does, there is one objective voice left in the crowd.  FOX News.  Which is why the political Left (and the MSM) attacks it so vehemently.

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