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July 26th, 2009

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ADULTEROUS POLITICIANS

June 21st, 2009

ADULTEROUS  POLITICIANS
(I don’t have time to provide references, so you will have to Google.)

Politician                                                      “Offense”

President Warren G. Harding         had mistress living in the White House. Evidently they sent her on a long trip to the Orient during the presidential campaign.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt     several long term mistresses (mitigating factor: Eleanor)

Pres. candidate Wendell Willkie     living with mistress before running for president

President Dwight Eisenhower                     Had an affair with (female) driver during WWII.   General George  Marshall wouldn’t let him divorce  Mamie.

President John F. Kennedy         Sex maniac. Multiple affairs and one night stands.  At one point he shared a mistress with Mafia Don Sam  Giancana.
President Lyndon Johnson              Played around

Pres. candidate Nelson Rockefeller  Multiple affairs, including Angie Dickenson.  Second wife, “Happy”, gave birth to their child one day before 1964 California primary. Bad timing!  Nelson died en flagrante in 1979.

Pres. candidate Robert Kennedy     Multiple affairs, including one with Marilyn Monroe.   (There is some question about what involvement, if any, he and JFK had with Monroe’s death by accidental drug overdose in August, 1962.)

President Richard Nixon                 No affairs that I know of. Rather, he screwed the  entire country.

President Ronald Reagan                Active sex life after divorce from Jane Wyman and  before marrying Nancy.  (Said he often didn’t remember the name of the woman he woke up in bed with. )  Their daughter Patti was born eight months after their wedding.

President George H. W. Bush          Supposedly had affair with State Dept. staffer named Jennifer. Never confirmed.

Senator Bob Packwood (R-OR)        Multiple shenanigans with staff members and others. Forced to resign in 1993.

Pres. candidate Bob Dole                  Divorced first wife in 1975. Shortly thereafter married Elizabeth Hanford.

President Bill Clinton               Sexual predator. Possible rapes and sexual assaults. Getting blow job in Oval Office besmirched the presidency, but it was not an impeachable offense.

Vice Pres. candidate Joe Lieberman    Divorced first wife in 1981. Met his second wife,  Hadassah Tucker, in 1982.

Pres, candidate Al Gore                 No offense, Tipper.

Pres. candidate John Kerry          Divorced first wife. Second wife Theresa is widow of  Senator John Heinz, a fact she doesn’t let anyone  forget.

Pres. candidate John Edwards        Had affair with staffer, which produced a baby.  She  snared him by saying “You’re so hot!”

Pres. candidate John McCain       Divorced first wife after returning from Vietnam, where he was a POW.  Then married beer distributor heiress Cindy Hensley.

Pres. candidate Rudy Giuliani     Peccadilloes too numerous to mention, including  shopping while dressed in drag.  Announced divorce  from wife Donna Hanover at press conference.  She  later pitched him out of Gracie Mansion, and he stayed with some gay friends.

Pres. hopeful Newt Gingrich         Multiple infidelities.  Served first wife with divorce  papers in hospital room where she was being treated for cancer.  Had affair with future third wife while married to the second, (and during Clinton  impeachment proceedings.)  Recently converted to  Catholicism.

Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL)   Busted up first marriage of his second wife at age 41.  He called it a “youthful indiscretion.”

Senator David Vitter (R-La)         Relationship with hooker while in the House. An “adult entertainer” may challenge him for his senate seat.

Senator Larry Craig (R-ID).            anonymous gay sex in public restrooms.

Senator John Ensign (R-NV)          Affair with staffer whose husband was also on his staff.

Gov. Elliot Spitzer  (D-NY)            Relationship with hooker.

So did (or does) any of the above affect these politicians’ ability to govern or serve?

JFK: Who was watching the “nuclear button”?
Clinton:  Could have been subject to blackmail (by the Israelis?) Fighting impeachment was a great distraction.

In general, the answer is “no”, except when they are breaking the law, or the hypocrisy factor.  (Family values, fighting prostitution, my wife is an integral part of my campaign, etc.)

Barack Obama benefited from two marital scandals while running for the US  Senate in 2004, one during the Democratic primary and one which removed his probable Republican opponent. So, such scandals can sometimes have a very positive effect!

So why aren’t there any women on my list?

Eleanor Roosevelt.  Some say she was a lesbian.  (Especially lesbians!)
Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra?  Only on Saturday Night ,Live.
Hillary Clinton and Vince Foster?  She certainly was justified.

Well, enough of this salacious political gossip.  After all, it’s Fathers  day

Update (6/27):  Now you can add Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) to the list. He wants to stay on as governor to set a good example to his sons.  A strange reason!  Anyway, it won’t cancel out his bad example. His wife is great! (Born and raised in the Chicago area.)

Jeffrey Toobin‘s Omission.

June 18th, 2009

In his article in the New Yorker about the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, Jeffrey Toobin fails to mention Arthur Goldberg in his list of Jewish Justices.  Here is the letter I sent to the New Yorker.

Jeffrey Toobin (Talk of the Town, June 8th-15th) left out Arthur Goldberg, who served between Felix Frankfurter and Abe Fortas, in his list of Jewish Supreme Court Justices.  In 1965, LBJ famously strong-armed Goldberg off the court to be U.N. ambassador and nominated Fortas to replace him.  Neither man desired this, and in the end it turned out to be a bad career move for both, especially Fortas, who resigned his seat in 1969 over an ethics scandal.
(end of letter)

Toobin also fails to mention the claim by some that Benjamin Cardozo was actually the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.  While he was a Sephardic Jew whose origins (way back) were  Portuguese,  there is no indication that he identified himself as Hispanic-American. (In fact, did anyone back then?)

Getting back to Goldberg-Fortas , Toobin omitted one of the more dramatic Supreme Court nomination processes, one which illustrates once again how good LBJ was at arm-twisting , for better or worse. This also illustrates how weak Toobin is on his history, but hey, he writes for the New Yorker, and I’m just an old, washed-up mathematician.  Enough said!

My Tom-Swifties

June 8th, 2009

“Schott’s Vocab” is a column in the New York Times. This past weekend, there was a contest for readers to submit “Tom Swifties“, with extra credit for those that dealt with current events. I seem to have made the finals, with

It’s D-Day, said Ike to Norm and Dee.

Mine was the only winner that dealt with current events. Here are my other entries. Some are in rather bad taste, I say raunchily.

Sonia’s sort of my oar, said Tom as he rowed along.

The Obamas stiffed the French President, said Sartre rather cozily.

Obama visited Buchenwald, said Tom concentratedly.

It was pro-life to kill Tiller, Tom said rather tackily.

Obama made demands on Israel, Tom said unsettlingly.

Barack met Mubarak, Tom said redundantly

Quit Torturing Me About Torture

April 18th, 2009

(This is a less inflammatory version of the original.)

In recent days we have seen such a proliferation of news about torture, the torture memos and so forth, that I need not recount it here. To me, here are the salient points, in my humble opinion.

 

 

1) Abu Ghraib: Has been over-hyped.  The acts were atrocious, but hardly the worst thing to happen to anybody, unless one considers humiliation worse than death, as some Muslims apparently do. In extreme cases, torture is even worse than death.

 

2) Guantanamo: A necessary evil, in my opinion. Even though the ‘war on terror” appears to have no end, you can’t keep people there forever without charging them with something. Granted, some of those who have been released have embraced (or re-embraced) terrorism, just as some criminals who are released from prison return to a life of crime.

 

3) Water boarding: I don’t intend to dwell on what was done to Khalid Sheik Mohammed and a few others. Apparently some good information was obtained, along with some nonsense.

 

4) Geneva Conventions.  This is one to be seriously worried about.  To the extent we abrogated them, the people who participated in this may face prosecution in foreign countries, and our soldiers and civilians may be put at risk in the future if they are captured. 

 

5) Rendition of prisoners; Atrocious, but probably necessary in a few cases.

 

I am not defending torture, or trying to minimize its horrible effects, but it should be viewed in context.  Remember 9/11?  I am dismayed by all this holier-than-thou posturing about our values. If you believe we are in a war which sometimes requires extra-legal measures, then let’s recount some atrocities that far eclipse those of the “war on terror”, and which we had something to do with or could have helped prevent or minimize.

 

1) The Holocaust

2) Hiroshima

3) Nagasaki
4) Firebombing of Japan and Germany during WWII.
5) The Vietnam War
6) The Guatemalan Civil War (1960-96)
7) The Cultural Revolution (1966-76)
8) Chile (1973-74) after Augusto Pinochet’s overthrow of Salvador Allende
9) The “disappeared” in Argentina (1975-83)
10) The Iran-Iraq War (1980-88)
11) The Salvadoran Civil War (1980-92)
12) Genocides in various places, including Indonesia (1965), Nigeria-Biafra (1966-70), Bangladesh (1971-72), Cambodia (1975-79), Iraq (1987-88 and 1991), Rwanda, and Darfur.

The question is not whether or not we should commit atrocities, but rather which ones are justified by realpolitik. (Excuse me for sounding like Henry Kissinger. A lot of his criminal endeavors were not justified, in my opinion.) So let’s get real!

Admittedly, Cheney and Rumsfeld seemed to take particular delight in pushing torture, and the “First Cowboy“, George W. Bush, was thoroughly disgusting with his “bring ’em on”, “us versus them”, and “dead or alive” comments. (These are about the only things he has apologized for.)

Well, can’t we move beyond all this and stick to our values? Sure. As long as the rest of the world buys into this.

I conclude with some humor. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, there was a big debate about whether the Soviet missiles in Cuba were offensive or defensive in nature.
As I recall, the humorist Art Buchwald wrote that the difference between an offensive weapon and a defensive weapon is that an offensive weapon is a defensive weapon with your name on it.

References:

Argentina
Bangladesh
Cambodia
Chile 

Cultural Revolution

El Salvador
Guatemala
Indonesia
Iran-Iraq War
Iraq (1987-88)
Iraq (1991)
Nigeria-Biafra

The Pew Poll About Obama’s Polarized Early Job Approval Ratings, and The Trouble with Percentages

April 9th, 2009

First, the statement at the Pew website.

Partisan Gap in Obama Job Approval Widest in Modern Era
April 2, 2009

For all of his hopes about bipartisanship, Barack Obama has the most polarized early job approval ratings of any president in the past four decades. The 61-point partisan gap in opinions about Obama’s job performance is the result of a combination of high Democratic ratings for the president — 88% job approval among Democrats — and relatively low approval ratings among Republicans (27%).
By comparison, there was a somewhat smaller 51-point partisan gap in views of George W. Bush’s job performance in April 2001, a few months into his first term. At that time, Republican enthusiasm for Bush was comparable to how Democrats feel about Obama today, but there was substantially less criticism from members of the opposition party. Among Democrats, 36% approved of Bush’s job performance in April 2001; that compares with a 27% job approval rating for Obama among Republicans today.
1178-1
The partisan gap in Bill Clinton’s early days was also substantially smaller than what Obama faces, largely because Democrats were less enthusiastic about Clinton. In early April 1993, 71% of Democrats approved of Clinton’s job performance, which is 17 points lower than Obama’s current job approval among Democrats. Republican ratings of Clinton at that point (26%) are comparable to their current ratings of Obama today (27%).
The growing partisan divide in presidential approval ratings is part of a long-term trend. Going back in time, partisanship was far less evident in the early job approval ratings for both Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon. In fact, a majority of Republicans (56%) approved of Carter’s job performance in late March 1977, and a majority of Democrats (55%) approved of Nixon’s performance at a comparable point in his first term.
***************************

This item has been picked up on by right-wing demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, but also by serious conservative columnists like Michael Gerson, whose column , “The Most Polarizing President,” is in today’s Washington Post.

There are a few problems with the Pew Research Center statement. First of all, its conclusion ignores the approval rating by Independents, which is 57%. Second, and more importantly, all the results are stated in percentages, or differences in percentage points, with no mention of the underlying numbers

For example, we need to know the number of people of voting age who consider themselves Republicans, as a percentage of the total voting age population (TVAP). Let me give an example to illustrate my point

Suppose that, in 2001 the TVAP was 40% Rep., 20% Ind., and 40% Dem. Suppose further that since then, there has been a migration of Republicans to Independent status,(and there is reason to believe this), so that now the TVAP is 30% Rep. 30% Ind. and 40% Dem. Assume, for lack of anything better, that the 2009 approval rating of Republicans turned Independents is the same as all the Independents, 57%. Thus, since ¼ of 2001 Republicans are now Independents, the correct figure from 2009 to compare with 2001 is the weighted average of 27% and 57%, (¾)27% + (¼)57% = 34.5%. So the difference in the approval ratings, R+(R turned I) – D = 34.5 -88 = -53.5%, which is much closer, in absolute value, to the 2001 R – D = 51%.

The situation is even more stark if there has been migration from Independents to Democrats since 2001, which is probably also the case. We need all the relevant facts, and Pew hasn’t supplied them.

AIG and GM: A Double Standard

March 30th, 2009

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. We bail out AIG and they use the money to make good on the credit default swaps they insured. (Although they didn’t call it insurance!) A lot of this money has gone to banks in foreign countries.

When it comes to GM, we want to force them into bankruptcy, which means a massive loss of jobs for blue and white collar workers, losses for bond holders and retirees, not to mention loss of market share.

Was Rick Wagoner, now GM’s ex-president and ex-CEO, guilty of risky practices, skirting the law, in order to make more money? No.

I’ve lived in the Detroit area for 38 years, and for as long as I can remember, the Big Three have been the favorite whipping boy of the liberal elite, with Al Gore being the number one “whipper“.

Sure, the Big Three didn’t adapt, and they and the unions negotiated contracts with big legacy costs, but ask yourself. Who suffers the most if they go under? Answer: The workers on the assembly line and automotive engineers. Not the likes of Rick Wagoner.

But hey, most of these people live in the Middle-West, which used to be America’s heartland, but is fast becoming a wasteland.

How can we be socialists if at the same time we are doing away with the proletariat?

The Property Tax Casino

March 26th, 2009
Americans love to gamble. In casinos or online. They throw money on the roulette table, where the odds would be fair except for that pesky 0 and 00. They love to buy lottery tickets; never mind that the expected return is about 50 cents on the dollar. But if property tax rates are raised, even by a miniscule amount, they are ready to man the barricades. Here in Michigan we now have a particularly perverse situation where, for many, property taxes (which can only go up by 5% per year) are continuing to go up even while property values are coming down. So I have a modest proposal. The state should establish a PROPERTY TAX CASINO.

Here’s how it would work. The state builds a casino, with all the games but poker and blackjack, and all the bells and whistles, scantily clad waitresses, croupiers. and so forth. They then set up the slot machines and other games so that their expected return is, say 50%. This means that a person willing to gamble $2000 can expect to lose 50%, or $1000, on average. The law of large numbers works for casinos, since everyone is betting against them, so the state will get its 50% return. (I assume that operating expenses will be offset by gamblers’ purchases.)

So, say your property tax is $1,000. You go to the casino and pony up your $1000 + 100% =$2000, and you are given $2000 in chips. You must gamble the chips. Your winnings are paid in script and chips cannot be redeemed. So you have an entertaining and enjoyable time, you lose on average $1000, and the state in the end gets all the property tax money it is owed.

Oh, and one more thing. Perhaps we should call it the PT Casino, since “tax” is indeed a four letter word. 

Added (3/27): Alternate plan. You must gamble away at least half your chips, that is, your property tax.

That would work too, and it would be fairer.

On OctoRush. The March 23rd Cover of The New Yorker.

March 26th, 2009
The cover:

CV1_TNY_3_23_09_09.indd

The letter I sent:

I was wondering if you had satirical covers back in the 1930’s depicting Josef Goebbels or Father Coughlin in a humorous light, because that’s the group Rush Limbaugh belongs to. He is not a crybaby or even a big crybaby, nor even an entertainer, as he claims. He is a master at spreading the “big lie”, and the more publicity he gets – good or bad – the worse he gets, and the worse we all are for it, even his admiring ditto-heads. Cheney as Halloween pumpkin? Fine. After all, he was the Vice-President. But Limbaugh? He should be ostracized as the pariah he truly is. His ego needs a diet even more than he does.

 

We Should Have A “Which” Hunt Instead of A Witch-Hunt

March 25th, 2009

 

 

I told you so. One has to be selective about whom at AIG to direct our “bonus anger”. As “Exhibit A” I give you the resignation letter of Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president of AIG’s Financial Products unit, to AIG president Edward Liddy, which appears as an op-ed in today’s New York Times. Quoting from his letter:

“I started at this company in 1998 as an equity trader, became the head of equity and commodity trading and, a couple of years before A.I.G.’s meltdown last September, was named the head of business development for commodities. Over this period the equity and commodity units were consistently profitable — in most years generating net profits of well over $100 million. Most recently, during the dismantling of A.I.G.-F.P., I was an integral player in the pending sale of its well-regarded commodity index business to UBS. As you know, business unit sales like this are crucial to A.I.G.’s effort to repay the American taxpayer.

The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation. I never received any pay resulting from the credit default swaps that are now losing so much money. I did, however, like many others here, lose a significant portion of my life savings in the form of deferred compensation invested in the capital of A.I.G.-F.P. because of those losses. In this way I have personally suffered from this controversial activity — directly as well as indirectly with the rest of the taxpayers.”

And later:

“… I have decided to donate 100 percent of the effective after-tax proceeds of my retention payment directly to organizations that are helping people who are suffering from the global downturn. This is not a tax-deduction gimmick; I simply believe that I at least deserve to dictate how my earnings are spent, and do not want to see them disappear back into the obscurity of A.I.G.’s or the federal government’s budget. Our earnings have caused such a distraction for so many from the more pressing issues our country faces, and I would like to see my share of it benefit those truly in need.

On March 16 I received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes. In light of the uncertainty over the ultimate taxation and legal status of this payment, the actual amount I donate may be less — in fact, it may end up being far less if the recent House bill raising the tax on the retention payments to 90 percent stands. Once all the money is donated, you will immediately receive a list of all recipients.”

It’s clear from his letter that he’s not headed toward the poor house, but it’s also clear – if you believe him, and I do – that he had nothing to do with the generation of toxic assets within his division.

As for the title of this post, we have to be careful about which people to be angry at. A lot of people made a lot of money in the Financial Services Industry. No doubt too much. However, that does not mean they were all in the driver’s seat, or able to apply the brakes, as our economy went off a cliff. According to the (London) Times Online, the hunt is now focusing on executives in the London AIG-FP office, some of whom have been called to testify in Hartford, Conn. tomorrow. Will they wear masks or what?

As I’ve said before, we should be more concerned about which companies are being paid off by AIG at taxpayers’ expense, especially those in foreign countries.*

*See for example a recent article in the WSJ.