27 November 2011


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Without comment

26 November 2011

The Self-Absorbed Americans

TOTALLY self absorbed.

At least according to the editors of Time Magazine, USA edition.

I really, really wish I didn't believe this...


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24 November 2011

Question of the week

That last post was too nice. So here.

From Crack Skull Square Space. Link

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Thanksgiving. The Unbelievable

Gabby Giffords. A hero just for being more than merely alive.


23 November 2011

Brother-in-law joke.

A simple question from Pat Robertson. Carmen will understand.

at least he is not appearing in the Republican debates this time.

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22 November 2011

Do they have ethics?

Little dogs, that is. Or is loyalty an instinct rather than an ethic? And besides, the dog is Chinese so it is inscrutable in any case.

In other words, I don't know.


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Sometime you get what you asked for ...

... and don't like it. Really don't like.

The state of Alabama has spent millions on attracting foreign auto companies to come to their state, mostly in tax incentives. It has been so successful at this that Mercedes Benz and other foreign companies hire almost 7% of the state's workforce.

So then Alabama passes one of the harshest anti-illegal immigrant law in the country.

An Alabama police officer snags himself a real live undocumented alien driving a rented car who is immediately hauled off to the nearest jail. He was booked for violating the new immigration law.

They had arrested a German executive of Mercedes Benz who had left his passport in his hotel room.

As the local police chief said of the arrest: "I'm not surprised at the amount of attention this has drawn. I expected it would take something like this to get attention." Keep in mind that most police forces were opposed to the new law.

But there is an upside to this story. There is now evidence that at least one Alabama state senator is not a complete fool. State Senator Slade Blackwell told the New York Times:

"The longer the bill has been out, the more unintended consequences we have found," he told the paper. "All of us realize we need to change it."

no word yet about what the Germans think of this.


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21 November 2011

Schadenfreude: foreclosure edition

Remember the Steven J. Baum P.C. firm that specialized in foreclosures? The one whose employees mocked the folks they foreclosed on at the Halloween party? This one.

It had to go out of business. Something about that rotten no good Nocera writing a column about them resulting in lost business.

Of course, the legal hassles over the years with the federal gov't and the NY AG's office may not have helped.

Nocera seems unrepentant.

I need to seriously work on my Christian charity.

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A Republican speaks

Well, self-defined Republican. He, like a few others, have been read out of the Republican Party as surely as Buckley got rid of the Birchers (premature Tea Partiers).

Of course, I am talking about David Frum. Here is a squib from his latest.
America desperately needs a responsible and compassionate alternative to the Obama administration’s path of bigger government at higher cost. And yet: This past summer, the GOP nearly forced America to the verge of default just to score a point in a budget debate. In the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Republican politicians demand massive budget cuts and shrug off the concerns of the unemployed. In the face of evidence of dwindling upward mobility and long-stagnating middle-class wages, my party’s economic ideas sometimes seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners. When I entered Republican politics, during an earlier period of malaise, in the late seventies and early eighties, the movement got most of the big questions—crime, inflation, the Cold War—right. This time, the party is getting the big questions disastrously wrong.

You should read the rest of it, but I warn you: the photo in bright red tones that will open on your screen is not fit for children or small animals.

well, he should know.

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NASCAR and Southern Hospitality

Now that Michelle Obama has been booed during an event honoring our troops some folks are wondering whatever happened to southern hospitality.

Any 62 year old southern white who is honest knows the answer.

It was for whites only.

And even then, only for a certain class.

And, I have to point out, it was at Homestead-Miami in that unnamed state to our south. Making the homefolks proud.

maybe I could move back to Minnesota.


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Without Comment

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17 November 2011

The Bank of America saga continues...

We started off talking about a few mistakes the Bank of America, the once well regarded bank from North Carolina (it was actually Nations Bank which acquired B of A). That was right after they wanted to charge everyone a $5 bank card fee.

It seems the folks at the Bank of America are still covering themselves with glory. Even while they face layoffs of 36,000 employees they can still make little mistakes. Like these:

Konstantinos Alexopoulos opened up an account at Barnett Bank -- which was ultimately acquired by BofA -- in 1992 when he came to the United States for college, the Tampa Tribune reports. He returned to Greece in 1997 and continued making deposits to the account totaling $59,000 in 2003, but when he checked his balance in 2005, it had dwindled to $1,400.

Alexopoulos alleges that's because the bank mixed up his account with that of another man of the same name, who subsequently withdrew the money, according to the Tribune.

If Alexopoulos' claims hold up in court, it would be far from the first BofA mix-up. The bank also gave the same 10-digit account number to two customers in Riverside, California, according to a July report by the Los Angeles Times. One of the customers -- an 88-year old World War II veteran -- ended up losing out on $30,000 worth of social security payments as a result. After an investigation by the San Bernardino County district attorney's office, he ultimately got the money back.

In September it was reported that a Hawaiian woman sued BofA after she received computer-generated calls as often as every 15 minutes from the bank over a missed mortgage payment, while she was grieving for her recently deceased husband.

BofA has also had some notable blunders issuing foreclosures. The bank threatened to foreclose on a Utah couple's home earlier this month, after they had already sold it. The bank also tried to foreclose on a home last month that was destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008. In addition, the bank asked a Massachusetts man in August to pay a $0.00 balance to stave off foreclosure.

You will note that since Mr Alexopoulos is having to sue the bank, the good folks of BofA have no intention of making good his losses. It's not their fault they gave away his money to someone else. It's HIS fault for having the same name as another customer (and presumably the same account number, and the same Social Security number, etc.)

BTW, this was after you and I put up a LOT of money to save their asses not that many months ago. Gives me an especially warm feeling when I see their giant headquarters building when I drive to Charlotte.

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15 November 2011

O'Reilly. That didn't take long

As Maire predicted, O'Reilly insists that his book about Lincoln is being savaged by 'enemies.'

Like historians.

My favorite quote:
"We well understand our enemies are full of rage at that success," he said. "We also know the media lies at will these days with little accountability."

I think we can all agree with that last bit.

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14 November 2011

America the Meritocracy

News item:

Chelsea Clinton has been hired by NBC News, joining George W. Bush’s daughter, Ronald Reagan’s son, John McCain’s daughter, and Tim Russert’s son.

I am really tempted to make an unforgivably snide and rude comment ...

... but I'll wait til next time.

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The Elites have failed

I know, it is something I have been harping on for some time. But I believe it is true and important to recognize. It could be the start of an epic civilizational change a la Toynbee, or the alarm bell that sparks some genuine reform. Or both? I'm not sure, but it should be an interesting time.

Every now and then I see something Steve Pearlstein has written that I like, partly because he hits the Democrats as hard as the Republicans in a logical honest way that pulls me back towards a more centered universe. I have a positively Hellenic passion for the Golden Mean.

Today's column by Pearlstein is a case in point. Just the title deserves a place on Sententiae. "The Epic Global Leadership Fail." Love it. The content is even more pointed:
The global financial system teeters on the edge of collapse because European politicians refused to tell citizens of their crumbling economies that they could no longer guarantee them “la dolce vita” - the sweet life - they had come to expect.

Top executives at Olympus, one of Japan’s leading companies, resign in shame after acknowledging that for nearly 20 years they used a complex accounting scheme to hide billions of dollars in speculative trading losses.

A revered coach and a respected president at Penn State are fired because they were more concerned about protecting their own reputations, and that of their school, than protecting young boys from an alleged sexual predator.

And a former governor, senator and head of Goldman Sachs resigns as chief executive of MF Global after bankrupting the broker-dealer with overleveraged bets on European sovereign bonds.

Welcome to this week’s exciting episode of “Failures in Leadership.”

Read the whole thing. Unlike most of the stipendiary punditocracy he offers some solutions. Let's hope he is as realistic as I think.

me, as an historian: I'd just as soon miss a civilizational change.


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Greatest headline. Ever.

This morning as I scrolled through the Washington Post web page I saw an article with this headline:

"The Story You Are Looking For Was Inadvertently Published."

A few minutes later when I scrolled back to click on it - it was gone!



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13 November 2011

Without comment

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06 November 2011

New phrase alert

Actually, it is an old phrase but one I only heard for the first time a few years ago and still find interesting. It economically implies a host of things economic.

And political. From Wikipedia:

The simplest definition of rent-seeking is the expenditure of resources attempting to enrich oneself by increasing one's share of a fixed amount of wealth rather than trying to create wealth. Since resources are expended but no new wealth is created, the net effect of rent-seeking is to reduce the sum of social wealth.

Rent-seeking generally implies the extraction of uncompensated value from others without making any contribution to productivity. The origin of the term refers to the gaining control of land or other pre-existing natural resources. In the modern economy, a more common example of rent-seeking is political lobbying to receive a government transfer payment, or to impose burdensome regulations on one's competitors in order to increase one's market share


Of course, it is more complex than this. Much more complex than poor Clemens can figure out. So I think I will go lay down to think about it.

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Why you are not needed

By the big banks anyway. This is why 5 November for the big boys was simply an opportunity to shed a lot of individual little customers who are more of a nuisance than a revenue source. It is the big bucks that count, not your little piddly accounts. So get thee to a Credit Union! Unless, of course, you are someone I am not aware of personally knowing.

Someone who is ready to invest in the new Wells Fargo bank. Unless you have $50 million or more you aren't wanted. What do they focus on for the folks who pass the entrance exam?

Abbott Downing is named after a 19th century custom carriage builder who catered to the wealthy, according to UPI. The firm has $27.5 billion in client assets and about 300 people on staff -- including psychologists and staff dedicated to building family genealogies, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

"Abbot Downing goes beyond traditional wealth planning analysis by focusing on clients' values, goals and vision," James Steiner, who will run Abbot Downing, said in a statement. "Our advisors and Family Dynamics consultants focus not only on traditional wealth planning, such as cash flow, investments and wealth transfer, but also on human dimensions, such as family legacy, governance, leadership transition, family education and risk management."

Sounds good. Values beyond traditional wealth planning. Human dimensions. Good. Let's see, family legacy, governance, leadership transition, family education and risk management.

In other words, for the truly rich, "values, goals and vision" are all about ... "Me, myself, and my family." Hence the family genealogies, which at first I thought were strange in this context. Charity, community, giving, the public weal, none of that is on the list. I am not sure but I think that 'governance' here means lobbying and rent taking rather than public service.

Even the notoriously socially inept, long suspected aspergers child Bill Gates learned to do better than this. Much better. No sarcasm intended on that - Gates deserves great respect for his public giving. These Abbot Downing folks and their ilk, not so much.

the me generation with money. great.

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It's academic now...

This morning which should have been afternoon except for the blessing of daylight savings time Carmen asked me a question that I am sure comes up around your breakfast table from time to time.

"Where did the expression "Ye gods and little fishes come from?"

I pondered this for a moment and replied, as is my wont, "How the %^$& should I know!"

Then we both ran off to the Machine and googled it.

No definitive answer. But there is a very British, and VERY academic article on the Oxford Journal web page. I read it out loud to Carmen in my plummiest voice and we discovered that it is also howlingly funny.

Just read it.

bloody scholars

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Where do they find these idiots?

I am not just talking about Republicans, but this time it is one: this idiot. I'll put his original comments aside. They are not a question of stupidity but of his apparently sincere religious beliefs. The issue of stupidity is when he insults everyone who is a Hindu and THEN DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THEY COULD BE OFFENDED.

The director of the Hindu American Foundation talked to him and sent him this reply:
“It is difficult to understand how an individual of your education, experience and position would think that calling ‘gods’ of another religion ‘false’ and its practices ‘idolatry, and stating that your hope was that ‘Hindus open their eyes and receive Jesus as their Savior’ would not be taken as offensive…. While you say that you did not intend to offend Hindus, it is apparent that you did. Still, I appreciate the time you personally took to clarify your perspective.”

After reading about this impenetrably smug doofus I can only imagine someone like, say, Christ, walking out of the thoroughly disrupted money changers' section of the Temple and wondering "Was it something I said?"

When you think your religious views are so mainstream that calling anyone else on their religion is simple common sense you have wondered far from the Gospels. What sacrifice, what burden, what cross have you picked up if you are that smug and self-satisfied.

Is there something we have been feeding politicians lately? Is it the water?

money changers. that would be ancient bankers. another remarkably smug lot.


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05 November 2011

What books to a desert island?

Ever considered that question? If you were to be abandoned on a desert island, what books would you want with you? One of my favorite historians was faced with exactly that choice.

I came away with no more than half a dozen books in my suitcase -- not knowing, when I left Ganthorpe in August, whether it was for three days or three years, and not packing a heavier load than I could carry myself at a pinch. As it turned out, it may, I suppose, be three years. Among what I did bring were Saint Augustine's Confessions, Pilgrim's Progress, Saint Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Imitatio Christi.
Arnold J. Toynbee to Father Columba Cary-Elwes, monk of Ampleforth. 19 October 1939, shortly after he left his home to do war work at the start of World War II.

Neither he nor anyone else knew how long the war would last nor how destructive it would be. He and his correspondent judged the war would be a disaster for Western society if it lasted for as long as three years. It lasted for twice three years.

You might wonder why he didn't just take the Bible. He'd memorized it when a kid. I am listening to Confessions on my commute. It's complex on many levels. Don't share his enthusiasm for Pilgrim's Progress though I once listened to a recorded version by John Gilgud which by itself was almost a religious experience. Toynbee was, of course, absolutely right about the Book of Common Prayer. I should start reading it again daily.

or maybe not. I am already reading 4-6 pages of Study of History almost every day.

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Light at the end of our tunnel?

"Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow."
Steve Jobs upon dying.


AND ..... just before Midnight of 5 November!

"Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."

Taught to me many years ago by English Will.

Barely got that one in on time.

I know. The story of my life.

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I haven't done anything with movies for awhile...

.... so, since I am taking today off here it is.

The 15 worst movie titles of all time. In English anyway.

Who can forget "Santa Clause Conquers the Martians."
Who knew the jolly old elf was an imperialist warmonger.

Or "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies."
Apparently, a musical.

And "Freddy Got Fingered."
With a subtitle of "This Time You Can't Change the Channel," which sounds like a threat. Once you are in the theatre - you're stuck!

Last night Carmen and I saw "Puss n Boots" with Miggs, Maeraed and Murty. It was fun. Miggs especially liked the sword fights. I liked the flamenco dancing. Maire was off in Charlotte doing wild things like drinking whiskey and visiting museum gift shops.

Enjoy your next movie.

no matter how bad the title.

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Truth or Consequences, political edition

The Washington Post fact checks Republican candidates.

Of course, one Republican pol is on record as admitting that one of his statements was "not intended as a factual statement." Maybe they meant the same.

And for what it's worth, to be a politician is to be dishonest. It's a Darwinian process.

By that measure Romney turns out to be the most-nearly- getting warm- might-one-day- be -honest of the candidates. The Post gives him a Pinocchio almost reflexively for "some shading of the facts."

but there are no consequences anymore. Welcome to the post-modern world where what you want to believe is exactly the same as what you have to believe.

But I exaggerate, I believe.


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Bank of America, the home state bank

Once North Carolinians were proud to call Bank of America a Tarheel bank. It seemed well run and actually avoided many of the moral and professional lapses of most other banks. The ones that nearly destroyed the world economy and put paid to Western Civilization.

That was then.

Now - they are an embarrassment. This is just the latest installment of the Bank that can't shot straight.

not only too big too fail, too big to run efficiently: Clemens' First Law of Bureaucratic Growth.

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