Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ben Bernanke - Reappointed Without Enthusiasm

As predicted in these pages last week, Fed Chairman
Ben Bernanke was reappointed. The Senate, however
grudgingly and unethusiastically, did its duty and
re-appointed him by a vote of 70-30.

The much-anticipated filibuster on the nomination
failed to materialize, and the motion for cloture on
debate passed easily. From there, the re-appointment
was easy.

Helicopter Ben has another four-year lease on the

But, the re-nomination did not come without
warnings. Both Senate majority leader Harry Reid
and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell re-iterated
that we will be "keeping the Fed under close scrutiny"
as they voted for the re-nomination.

And, senator after senator stated their lack of enthusiasm
for the nomination during the vote. In fact, if you had
listened to the comments and nothing else, you would
have thought the nomination was headed for defeat.

But the reasons the nomination eventually sailed
through were fairly obvious.

First of all, there was no serious outside contender for
the job. "Boomlets" for Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman
and former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker failed to materialize.
Which meant, of course, that had the nomination failed,
the Fed would have been left in caretaker hands at a critical
moment in the nation's economic struggle, and the Senate
would have been held responsible.

Even more important, the people were not about to be
fooled. For as much as they might blame the Fed, the
Treasury Department, and Wall Street for the nation's
economic woes, they blame the Congress even more.

On issue after issue, The Congress has ducked, bobbed,
weaved, and otherwise completely abdicated its responsibilities.

On the bailouts for Wall Street and the
automakers, after the photo opportunities had faded,
Congress folded and gave these failed monstrosities
whatever they wanted.

On the "stimulus" package, The Congress so loaded
it up with pork and special favors that it surprised
exactly no one that it failed to accomplish its goals.
Saving the bloated paychecks and benefits of
overpaid state and local government employees
is not "saving or creating jobs" - neither is writing
in special favors and contracts for favored campaign

And on the Administration's signature Health Care
initiative, creating a package that does absolutely
nothing for expanding coverage or reducing costs
hasn't exactly thrilled the public either.

And voting down the Bernanke nomination wasn't
going to change matters any. No matter how you
spin it, no matter how much we voters detest
Wall Street, The Heath Care cartel, or the cynically
disloyal transnational corporations, we detest
you critters in the Congress even more.

And we're going to turn out in great numbers this
November to let you know that.

Don't say we didn't warn you.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The State of the Union Speech - Something For Everyone

It was the moment we've all been waiting for.

After what can only be described as a tumultuous first year,
President Obama delivered his first State Of The Union
Address, to what I am led to believe was a rapt national

Unfortunately, I missed the great occasion due to a prior
engagement (evening classes), and had to catch the repeat
on CNN later that evening. But by this time of course, both
the main stream media and the blogosphere were full of
commentary, running along the usual lines.

The Huffington Post, of course, was full of where The
Great One fell short addressing liberal causes du jour,
most especially health care and employment. Not to
be outdone of course, Human Events and the Fox
Network were also hitting the "too much big
government" and "not enough free market"

And I tend to agree with both sides. Not only
was there not enough emphasis on "traditional"
Democratic solutions, but there was almost no
mention of "free markets" or "free enterprise"
in the entire speech. And I found that somewhat
strange - every recent President, from Carter
through Reagan to both Bushes and Clinton has
paid ritual homage in the State Of The Union
address to the free market and free enterprise
miracle wrought by the American people.

But that's not what we heard from Barack Obama.
Rather, what we heard was what Arianna Huffington
called a "speech written by a focus group".

In other words, a little bit of Something for Everyone.

For those worried about jobs, there will be continuing
aid for those out of work, including assistance with
the COBRA program. Left out, of course, was any mention
of what would really help the unemployed - a national
jobs program coupled with real incentives to employers
to add to payrolls. Instead, there will be some money taken
out of the TARP program and re-directed to small business,
and some modest tax incentives for payroll increases - a
total of $30 billion.

Left out of the speech, of course, was that this is about
one-fifth the amount paid out by Wall Street in bonuses
this year.

For the "National Security" crowd, we will be out of Iraq
this year and we will pursue the Afghan effort until the
Afghans can be "responsible for their own security".
Nothing new there. And for the "Deficit Hawks" there
will be a three-year "budget freeze" on most discretionary
spending, beginning of course next year, "because that's
how budgeting is done".

On that one I'm underwhelmed. Defense, Medicare, Social
Security and Veteran's benefits are exempt, which means
that unless there's an economic miracle, everything that
the Administration will be relying on to "stimulate" the
economy will be frozen.

But, I'm willing to give the President credit for trying.
Austerity is about the only thing we haven't tried to
restart the stalled economy. However, I'm not optimistic.
It sounds to me as if the President is channeling Herbert
Hoover in 1931, or FDR in 1937.

That's the last time austerity was tried in the middle of a
recession or depression - and we all know how that turned

But in the main, the speech was a mainstream,
middle-of-the-road statement. No earthshaking
developments - no great new headlines, no
great new initiatives.

It sounded more like the speech a cool, modern,
technocratic CEO might have delivered to an
analyst's conference call, acknowledging a
decline in earnings but cautiously optimistic
about the upcoming year. And that characterization
admittedly fits in with Barack Obama's style.

But, from the President of The United States, I'm
expecting a little more. I expect great themes and
great initiatives. They weren't there.

Maybe next time. After all, you've got three more years.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ben Bernanke: Reappointed By Default?

Things are getting dicey for Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

His re-appointment as Fed Chairman, once assured, now
may be in jeopardy largely through no fault of his own.

"Helicopter Ben", as he is widely referred to in the financial
press, has been the object of much criticism and derision
lately, mostly by scapegoat-seeking politicians on Capitol
Hill now suddenly worried about their re-election prospects.

While his unflattering sobriquet is rightly attributed to
his off-the-record comment that if his detractors didn't
like what he was doing he could just as well scatter dollars
from a helicopter, much of the recent criticism of Fed policy
should not be laid at his feet.

Rather, the blame should be laid at the feet of the politicians
who did so much to create our economic mess.

Remember, Ben didn't create the hated TARP - the Troubled
Asset Relief Program for the Banksters - the politicians did.

Neither did he create the moral-hazard enabling TLGP -
the Temporary Liquidity Guaranty Program. The politicians

For those of you who aren't economists, that's the "interest-free
discount window" program that has let the Banksters
recover to health at the expense of the taxpayer and the
Main Street economy.

And Dr. Bernanke didn't create the troubled asset
purchase program that allowed the TBTF banks to off load
their toxic mortgage waste onto the Fed's books and thus by
extension onto the taxpayer. The politicians- especially
Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank, are responsible for
that one as well.

In fact, every time you see a "Fed" problem, you'll find a
special-interest-beholden politician up to his neck in it.

Which to me makes the "outrage" against Dr. Bernanke on
Capitol Hill more than just a little hypocritical. In fact, if Dr.
Bernanke can be faulted for anything, it's for not standing up
to these Solons of Special Interest more frequently and forcefully.

And the Carter-like silence of President Obama on the matter
(until very recently) hasn't helped the situation any.

But, be that as it may, the Hand of both the Senate and the
Administration on Bernanke's re-appointment may
soon be forced.

It appears that no one else really wants the job.

In a recent editorial opposing Bernanke's re-appointment,
The New York Times proposed its own economic columnist
Paul Krugman for the position.

However, Krugman, an eminently qualified Nobel Laureate,
was quick to fire back the next day that while he was appreciative
of the compliment, he didn't want the job.

Like many others, Paul Krugman would rather be a critic
than a participant.

Another name that has been floated is former Fed Chairman
Paul Volcker - appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1979 and
re-appointed (though not without a struggle), by
Ronald Reagan in 1983.

But Mr. Volcker has one problem - at 83, he's well past
retirement age, and while still vigorous and active, he's
already come out of retirement to take a very necessary job;
that of Chairman of President Obama's Economic Recovery
Advisory Board.

As far as Team Obama is concerned, he needs to stay in place -
he's the only adult in the room on the President's economic team.

So, when all is said and done, it looks as if the job is Ben's - that
is, if he doesn't decide to say "F**k It" and chuck it altogether.

If he does, there are a couple of names I would put in nomination
for the position.

The first is Dr. Simon Johnson - a distinguished Professor of
Financial Economics and Entrepreneurship at MIT, and the
former Chief Economist of the IMF. Equally important, he
has been a longstanding and vociferous critic of the Banksters
and their control over the elected government.

Johnson's entertaining and informative blog, The Baseline
, can be read right here at the Thinking Nationalist.

Another possibility would be Dr. J. Bradford Delong,
distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of
Political Economy at the University of California Berkeley.

Dr. Delong has been a lifelong student of the interplay
of politics and economics, and is an authority on
"Crony Capitalism" as it has manifested itself in advanced

Although Dr. Delong is closely identified with Larry Summers
(the enfant terrible of Obama's economic team) in the
academic literature, and is in my opinion on the wrong
side of the issues of free trade, globalization, and outsourcing,
he would be a voice of moderation and maturity at the Fed,
who would also be well-known to the President's economic

His twice-weekly blog, Grasping Reality With Both Hands,
can also be read here at The Thinking Nationalist.

But, if no one else steps up and applies for the job, it's time
for the Senate to stand up, be counted, and do its duty.

Give Helicopter Ben another four-year lease on the Huey.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Supreme Court and Free Speech: Constitutional Common Sense.

As if the Massachusetts political earthquake wasn't enough,
another temblor struck Washington earlier this week.

In an historic 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down
the most odious provisions of the McCain-Feingold Campaign
Finance Act, which restricted the rights of corporations
and unions to endorse or oppose candidates for political office.

Even better, the Supreme Court decision effectively invalidated
the "corporate speech" laws of twenty-four states, many of which
were even more onerous and restrictive than the Federal law.

In the opinion of The Thinking Nationalist, this is a
long-overdue blow for Strict Constructionism, Free Speech,
and Constitutional Common Sense.

And in case any of you are wondering about the relevant
Constitutional provision, let me quote it for you:

Bill Of Rights, Article 1, better known as The First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law restricting either Freedom of Speech
or of The Press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble
for the redress of grievances shall not be infringed"

And in a string of court decisions going back almost two
hundred years, the Supreme Court and the courts of the
several states have found this right to be applicable to
the states and their subordinate political subdivisions as well.

In short, it's about as close to an Absolute Right as exists
in this country.

And in my opinion, McCain-Feingold, with its myriad
exceptions, provisions, and exclusions, is about as close
to a censor's dream as could possibly have been put forth
in America. And with its exclusions and exceptions
for "the media", it has in fact and deed functioned as a
bar to all independent political speech except that which
may be permitted by, say, The New York Times or
The Washington Post.

And that's what liberals are loudly complaining about. With
"corporations" free to donate directly and publicly to
candidates, they are worried that "other voices will
be silenced" and "the people won't be heard".

But the reality is, as David Broder said in today's
New York Times, that liberals and Democrats
fear this will lead to a tidal wave of direct corporate
contributions to the Republican party in particular
and conservatives in general.

Sorry Liberals. Your biases are showing. To you, it's
all about "Free Speech for Me ... but not for Thee".

You know only too well that a big part of hard-ball
politics is making sure your voice gets heard and the
opposition gets silenced, all in the name of "fairness",
"good government", and "reform". And if you can use the
legal system to do this for you, so much the better.
After all, liberals have been in the forefront of using
the campaign-finance laws to silence those with whom
they disagree, to their everlasting discredit.
That's not right - and they know it - but restricting
the speech rights of those with whom they disagree
has been a liberal strategy for decades.

To me, Goldie Hawn and Goldman Sachs should
have the same right to directly donate as much as
they wish to the party, candidate, or cause of their

And if this historic decision leads to the fading away
of PAC's, "501(c)3 Organizations" and other so-called
"citizen groups" (which are no more than lobbyist-created
fronts for special interests), so much the better.

It's called Democracy, folks.

So, let's get everything out in the open. If, for example, a
candidate for the House or Senate in my state is funded
directly and entirely by Goldman Sachs, The Teamsters,
and the public employee unions, that's probably a pretty
strong signal that I need to consider voting for the other guy.

And for Presidential elections, a open tabulation of which
special interests support whom will be hugely helpful.
That way, if we elect another shameless corporate shill who
bails out Wall Street, cuts taxes for the rich, and helps
Corporate America outsource our jobs, we'll have no one
to blame but ourselves, and vice versa.

Bottom line - this decision will be less of a boost to special
interests than you might imagine and more of a cure for
corruption than you might hope.

When it comes to corruption and special interest influence,
Sunlight and Exposure are the best, indeed the only sure cures.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scott Brown: The Massachusetts Wake-Up Call

On Tuesday, the "Mother of All Political Earthquakes" hit

It what can only be described as an 8.0 Richter scale
political event, Democratic Senate candidate Martha
Coakley went down to defeat at the hands of Republican
insurgent Senate candidate Scott Brown.

And, unlike other unforeseen upsets, this one wasn't
a squeaker. Rather, it was a convincing 53% to 47%
win, with Brown carrying not only conservative
rural districts but liberal precincts such as
Andover, Brookline and Cambridge as well.

And the world's press is having a field day with the story.
London's Daily Telegraph hinted at "The end of the Obama
era", saying that "there will be many more Scott Browns"
before the year is out. Agence France-Presse blamed the
"inept and incompetent" campaign run by Coakley. And
the New York Times, in a slew of front-page articles and
multiple Op-Eds, stated that Obama needs to "radically
change course to the Center", to avoid a repeat of the
"disaster of 1994". That, of course, was the wholesale
repudiation of the Democratic Party engineered by
Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America".

But in reading through the stories, four items
stand out. First, Tip O'Neill's dictum that "All
Politics is Local". Second, for an establishment-selected
candidate, Martha Coakley ran an incredibly inept and
tone-deaf campaign, an ineptitude reflected by the Democratic
National Committee in its lack of attention to the race.
Third, Scott Brown successfully positioned himself as a
fresh-faced, independent-minded outsider, downplaying
the fact that in real life he is a prominent attorney,
a former three-term State Assemblyman and an
incumbent third-term State Senator. And finally, Brown's
election may be read as the Triumph of the Independent Voter ,
whose numbers in Massachusetts exceed those of registered
Democrats and Republicans combined.

On "All Politics is Local" , Scott Brown did all the right things
the right way. He went door-to-door in neighborhoods with yard
signs in hand, worked the local diners and taverns, and famously
criss-crossed the state in his pickup truck, asking ordinary folks
for their support at every opportunity. As he later put it, he did
nothing other than what he had done previously in his runs for
the State House and Senate.

Martha Coakley, on the other hand, was almost invisible
to the voting public - unless it was at an assembly of
high-ranking insiders with assured media coverage.
Incredibly, when asked about this by a TV reporter,
she retorted, "What do you expect me to do? Stand
outside Fenway Park in the cold and shake hands?".

That TV snippet was replayed endlessly by the Brown
campaign, and the very next day Scott Brown was standing
outside Fenway Park shaking hands, with Boston sports icons
Curt Schilling and Doug Flutie in tow.

This incredible tone-deafness by Coakley the candidate was
matched by the ineptness of Coakley the campaigner. While
her pollster and chief adviser Celia Lake was pleading with
the DNC for more support and attention to the campaign,
warning that Brown was a far more formidable opponent
than anyone realized, Coakley took a two-week Caribbean
vacation to "escape the cold weather".

This studious lack of campaign effort did not go unnoticed,
either in the White House or elsewhere in Washington.

And, on the campaign stump, Coakley looked and sounded
every bit the frumpy, shopworn Democratic Party
that Brown made her out to be. Her
standard stump speech was one of " Preserving a
Democratic Senate Seat", combined with a recitation
of the long list of parasitic special interests and public
employee unions that supported her.

Brown, on the other hand, reminded her that the
seat belonged not to the Democratic Party but to
the people of Massachusetts, and invited his audiences
to compare their well-being with those of the special
interests (particularly the unions) in the Coakley

In desperation, Coakley responded by committing gaffe
after misstep after gaffe. Calling Brown supporter and
Red Sox icon Curt Schilling a "closet Yankee fan" alienated
male voters, who regardless of social or economic status
take their Boston sports teams seriously. Her retort that
Massachusetts voters should be "grateful" for the
"sacrifices" of its unionized public sector fell on deaf ears.
Trumpeting Massachusetts' mandated health care
plan as a model for the nation was a particular laugher,
as the plan is famous for its high costs, coverage gaps and
exclusions, and lack of support by both doctors and the
public. And telling Massachusetts Catholics that if they
could not support abortion on demand they shouldn't
be working in health care was a gratuitous insult to many
Irish Catholic Democratic voters, many of whom promptly
abandoned her.

The end result of all this soon became apparent to
Democratic Party professionals. On December 1st of
last year, Coakley had a 21-point lead over Brown. By
the first week of January, that lead had shrunk to four.
By the middle of January, Brown had taken a four-point
lead. And the weekend before the election, Rahm Emanuel
and David Axelrod were telling President Obama that,
absent a miracle, Coakley was a confirmed loser.

But it took more than just Coakley gaffes and Brown's
right moves to make a victory. From the start, Brown
courted Independents - a plurality among Massachusetts
voters and a growing force nationwide. And Independents
increasingly believe the following:

1) Incumbents of both parties, particularly the Democrats,
are happy, even eager, to do the bidding of moneyed
special interests against the interests of the people;

2) The Pelosi-Reid-Obama Health Care plan is dead
in the water and should be either completely overhauled
or scrapped;

3) On jobs and the economy, "free trade" and "globalization",
long supported by incumbents of both parties, have saddled
us with permanently high unemployment and a permanent
trade deficit;

4) Spending and the Deficit are totally out of control
and need to be reined in before disaster strikes;

5) On terrorism and National Defense, no "civil rights" for
terrorists, and no more permanent no-win wars.

On all these issues and more, Brown sounded the right notes,
while Coakley remained silent. But, Coakley's loss is not the
end of the world, just a wake-up call. There's still time for
Team Obama and the Democrats to get it right.

But, if the call isn't heeded, Obama and the Democrats are
going to be dealing with many more losing Martha Coakleys
and winning Scott Browns.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Banksters: Clueless and In Denial

This has been a very interesting week for news.

Flipping back and forth from CNN to C-SPAN, I
am watching America deal with the fallout from
two of the greatest disasters of our time.

Of course, I am referring to the Haitian earthquake
and the Great Recession. Two 7.0 magnitude disasters -
one natural, the other man-made.

With the earthquake, I and many other people are
gratified to see the United States re-assume its traditional
role as "World's First Responder" when a natural disaster
strikes. Slow though it may seem, aid is getting through,
more is on the way, and it appears that it will be there for
the long haul.

In my mind, the contrast between our response to this
disaster and the second-most destructive disaster in
Western Hemisphere history - Hurricane Katrina in 2005 -
couldn't be starker. Obviously, there have been lessons
learned since then.

Which brings me to the hearings on the Great Man-Made
7.0 Disaster of our time - the Great Meltdown of 2008 and the
ensuing recession/depression.

It appears no lessons have been learned.

To be sure, Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission chairman
Phil Angelides is not playing a good hand. His commission
has limited subpoena authority, a limited budget and staff,
and the scope and nature of his questioning has been similarly
limited, by quiet private agreement beforehand.

In other words, the fix is already in. And the Banksters know this.

How else to explain the answers of the "witnesses" - I mean "The
Guilty Parties" in front of the commission?

On bonuses, Chief Squid Lloyd Blankfein said: "We earned 'em.
We made money. And, we have to hold on to our talent, otherwise
they'll go elsewhere."

Uh, excuse me, Lloyd. Talent? What sort of "talent" deliberately
drives an entire world economy over the cliff in pursuit of
private profit? That's not talent - that's not even smart crime.

And Jamie Dimon and John Mack (JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley
respectively) on the housing debacle:

"We didn't see it coming. No one did. There was no reason to not
believe it couldn't go on forever."

And on risk management? "Our risks were insured and covered.
We saw no problems with what we did."

Incredibly, Brian Moynihan and Jamie Dimon also said that,
yes, while the crisis did negatively affect Main Street, "these
sorts of things happen every five to seven years or so. It's
NO BIG DEAL." (Jamie Dimons' actual words).

Really? No Big Deal? You're not just clueless - I'll bet you
also think Denial is just a river in Egypt.

But, I know where you're coming from. Hey, "s**t happens.
We just have to work through it."

Right - uh-huh, sure. Those of us without jobs, homes or
savings can take real comfort in that.

But you can take some comfort too, that despite the
gravest provocations, we still believe in The Presumption
Of Innocence until Proven Guilty.

In that regard, let me spell out for you just what would have
happened to you if you had pulled your caper somewhere else.

If you had pulled this off in the UK for example, you'd be on
your first anniversary of "Investigative Detention", with your
banks in receivership or administration while armies of
investigators pored over the records.

Pretty much the same would have happened elsewhere in
Europe, where the rule is "Presumed Guilty until Proven
Innocent." In the EU, investigating magistrates can hold
you indefinitely on mere suspicion of crimes of this magnitude.

And Her Majesty's Newgate Prison is no cushy "Club Fed".

And Russia? You tank the world economy from over there,
and after a delightful stay in Lefortovo or Lubyanka,
you'll find that the Gulag under Vladimir Putin is very
much alive and well. And in China? After a public show
trial, a very public execution by gunfire.

So guys, you've got it good over here - for now.

But I wouldn't be so sure about that if the people have their

The next time you appear before an investigating committee,
you won't be wearing matching blue suits, white shirts, and
muted blue ties (a nice collective sartorial touch, BTW).

Rather, you'll all be wearing Orange Jumpsuits with "Federal
Detention Center" stamped all over them, with perfectly
accessorized waistchains and handcuffs.

Given the scope of what we are talking about,
I think that's just so much nicer and appropriate for the

And I think most Americans would agree with me on that.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Disaster In Haiti - and an urgent appeal

On Tuesday ,January 12, one of the worst natural disasters
in modern history struck one of the world's poorest nations.

At 8:23 am, a 7.0 Magnitude earthquake struck the Haitian
Capital of Port-Au-Prince and the nearby city of Petionville.

Just in a quick overview, the numbers are staggering.
The most recent figures are fifty thousand confirmed
dead, over two hundred thousand missing, seven hundred
fifty thousand injured, and over two and a half million

And if precedent for natural disasters in the
third world is any guide, all of these numbers will go up.
If that happens, the loss of life could exceed that of the
2004 Asian tsunami, until now the worst natural
disaster in modern history.

The images coming in over CNN are staggering. Only
10% of all buildings in the capital are still standing.
The legislature and Presidential palace are just rubble.
So is Port-Au-Prince's cathedral. And worst of all, all
of the hospitals and relief facilities are down as well.

In a nation so wretchedly poor it makes Afghanistan
and Somalia look "developed" by comparison, the
need is overwhelming.

But, in an inspiring example of what the world can
do when it decides to work together, aid is already
on the ground and much more is coming.

The United States has already advanced $100 million
to help. The 82nd Airborne, freshly returned from
Iraq, is there now. The carrier USS Carl Vinson, with
over 2,000 additional aid personnel embarked, arrived
yesterday. The hospital ship USNS Comfort will arrive
today. And five thousand Marines, trained for the
civil reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, are en route,
with the expectation that they will be there for quite some
time. And yet more from the U.S. is on the way.

The rest of the world is pitching in too. Already contingents
from some forty nations are on the ground, with personnel
from many more expected. Over one hundred nations have
either pledged or advanced official aid. Even the poorer
nations of the Western hemisphere - Cuba, El Salvador,
and Haiti's neighbor the Dominican Republic, are there
with money, supplies and volunteers. Even bad boy
Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is pledging medicine and fuel.

Yesterday on CNN I saw U.S. troops unloading supplies
from a Venezuelan C-130. And, we also saw a team from
the New York City Fire Department - the "heroes of 9/11"
working alongside Cuban and Salvadoran volunteers
to pull people from the rubble, who were then taken
to a Nicaraguan Army field hospital, to be treated
by Dutch and Swedish doctors.

But much more needs to be done - both now, and in
the coming weeks and months. And, as you might
expect, the American people are stepping up.

As of this morning, $ 37 million has been raised
for Haitian relief by the American Red Cross, almost
all in small donations. Another $17 million has been
pledged by American business. And President Obama
has enlisted former Presidents Bill Clinton and
George W. Bush to help raise money. And that's
where you come in. Haiti needs your help.

It's easy to donate. Use your cell phone and
text the word "Haiti" to 90999. Ten dollars will
automatically be donated to Haitian relief and
added to your cell phone bill. Or go to to donate.
Or just pick up the phone and call the Red Cross
or United Way in your community.

Be assured, operators in communities both large
and small all across America are waiting for your call.

The need is large - and there isn't a lot of time left
for many of these poor folks.

So please help - I've donated by cell phone - won't you?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Eye On Las Vegas - The Consumer Electronics Show

Yes, it's finally here, as it is every January.

Las Vegas' biggest extravaganza, The Consumer Electronics
Show, kicked off today and will go on through Sunday.

And this year it's bigger and better than ever - two thousand
exhibitors spread out over all three of Las Vegas's biggest
Convention Centers, and over two hundred thousand
industry insiders getting a firsthand look and comparing
notes on what will soon be coming to "An Electronics
Store Near You".

Now, if you've heard about this show and you're thinking
about coming up to Vegas to get a look, let me give you
some advice - don't.

This trade show is rigorously "insiders only" - and media
and visitor passes to this event are harder to come by
(and more eagerly sought after), than Super Bowl tickets.

And that means your technologically-challenged
correspondent was, like most of us, on the outside looking
in. But, like any good Vegas guy, I've got a card up my

In my case, it's The Las Vegas Insider - a Thinking
Nationalist reader who in real life is a PR maven for one
of Las Vegas' largest Casino operators. And, as part of his
job, he gets a few of these priceless ducats to the show,
and he attends himself.

So, earlier this evening, I met him for cocktails on the
Strip and got his take on some of the hot new electronic
items you'll be shopping for later this year.

Here are his top picks:

1) High-Definition flat-panel 3-D TV, and the first
true HD flat-panel computer monitors;

2) 3-D projection TV. If you've ever watched a sporting
event on TV, you haven't seen anything until you've
seen the game projected onto a tabletop with realistic 3-D
avatars of the players, along with the regular play-by-play
network broadcast . It will almost be better than being

3) Fourth and Fifth-generation Smartphones, of which
Google's Android is only the beginning. Almost all of the
applications now available only for Apple's iPhone will
be available for these also. Plus, Yahoo, Google, and
many others are creating thousands of additional
applications for these devices that are truly amazing.
By this time next year, you'll be able to start your car,
open the garage door, and order your coffee from
Starbucks (among many other things), just by hitting
a few buttons on your phone's touch screen;

4) Mobile text-to-speech and speech-to-text for your car,
eliminating "texting while driving";

5) Ford's new "Mobile Wi-Fi". If you buy any late-2010
or 2011 model year Ford, whether it's a Focus or a top-of-
the-line Lincoln Navigator, your days of searching for
a Wi-Fi hot spot for your laptop are over. Simply engage
wi-fi from your car's touch screen, plug the USB adapter
into the car's port, and you've got wireless internet up
to 100 yards away from your parked car. No more
crowding the tables at Starbucks or Borders;

6) A whole new generation of e-book readers. If you
have an Amazon Kindle or a Borders Nook, you have
bought e-reader 1.0 technology. The new readers
have larger screens, full color rather than grayscale,
and can also read newspapers and magazines as well
as books (in fact, says my friend, in his opinion that
will be their biggest use). While the new e-reader
companies (Liquid Plastic, enTourage, as well as CE
giants Samsung, Toshiba and LG) do not yet have
the content libraries of market leader Amazon (who is NOT
exhibiting), that will change as content providers,
who have never been exclusive, rush to take advantage
of the latest and greatest . Prediction here: to
compete, Amazon, the market leader, will make
Kindle an application for these readers, as well as for
compatible laptops, netbooks, and other devices.

All well and good, you might say. But, to be a completely
modern e-citizen, I've got to carry a backpack full of
devices - a smartphone, a laptop, an e-reader, maybe even
a fourth generation digital assistant just to make sense of it
all. Couldn't all of these functions, which are just applications,
be combined into one lightweight, powerful, user-friendly,
wireless, internet-enabled device?

Well, your wish has been granted. Enter the slate ,
or second-generation tablet computer.

About the size of a 17" flat-panel monitor and thinner
than a smartphone, these revolutionary devices combine
a fully-functional wi-fi or wireless mobile PC,
a book and magazine reader, TV over wireless
broadband (with 150 channels including ESPN,
HBO, and all the others) Sirius/XM satellite
radio, bluetooth links to your smartphone, and
a port for your iPod or MP3 player as well. If
you're more comfortable with the layout of
a traditional PC or laptop, there are dozens
of wireless keyboards, mice and "docking stations"
to go with them. Of the major manufacturers, HP and
Dell exhibited their offerings at the show, with
shipments to begin later this year.

But the biggest news of the show is what wasn't there,
a device which is rumored to be as revolutionary
as the original PC itself. And that is Apple's iSlate,
which will have all the above capabilities plus
additional content, applications and capabilities
available nowhere else. And, like all Apple products,
it will work seamlessly with your present iPhone,
iPod, or Macbook, sharing data and applications.
It is rumored to be such a game-changer that
Steve Jobs himself decided not to take it to
CES but rather to have his own expo
devoted to iSlate and the 3rd-generation iPhone
later this year.

And all of this is good. It is a re-affirmation of
faith in what this country can do, in just one
area of technology. While it is true that most of
the manufacturing takes place in China, Japan,
Taiwan and Korea, much of the technology and almost
all of the content and applications come from the

So much for this country being "past its prime"

And what will they think of next?

According to my friend, the word in the Consumer
Electonics industry is that if you thought this year
was remarkable, just wait until next year.

I can hardly wait.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Heading Bravely Into 2010 - Changes and A Manifesto

The New Year has arrived here at The Thinking Nationalist.

The Holiday decorations have all been taken down
and put away, the leftovers from New Year's have been
cleaned up. and everyone has returned to a normal
routine, more or less.

With that in mind, I have considered and am making
a few changes to The Thinking Nationalist, many of which
were suggested by you, the readers.

To begin with, we are going to a format of more frequent
and shorter posts, to focus more on topical news items
and less on relatively abstract and cerebral topics.

To be sure, we will still cover the interplay of politics
and economics, as I believe that this will become even more
important as the economy continues to lag and the nation
heads into what may be a definitive Mid-Term election.
In this regard, I will still be commenting "pundit-style"
on issues I believe to be important. But, we will add
some "human interest" stories to the mix.

After all, "human interest" is the tie that binds us all
together; whether we are political or apolitical,
liberal or conservative.

Second, as I am based in Las Vegas, and as Las Vegas
in and of itself is a topic of wide interest, I will be covering
events here more frequently. I will have a regular
"Eye On Las Vegas" feature, in conjunction with
a contributor I will be introducing to these pages.

As this person is "connected" to the local power
structure, for the present he will have to remain
anonymous (his request). Even so, his trenchant ,
irreverent, and very original takes
on the Las Vegas scene will be sure to
entertain many of you.

Another change I will be making is is to cross-post
selected material from other blogs and websites,
especially in the economic sphere. Sites such as

Calculated Risk
, The Big Picture, and Naked Capitalism are
full of useful insights on economics and finance that
will become more important as we struggle
to emerge from The Great Recession. Other well-known
blogs and columnists such as Mish Shedlock,
Brad DeLong, Ed Harrison (
Credit Writedowns) and
the always readable
Zero Hedge will be featured here
on a frequent basis.

One change I don't anticipate making is becoming
more "partisan". Readers both on the Left and the
Right have repeatedly asked me to come down on
one side of the fence or the other.

To be sure, much of what I've written thus far has
come down on the "moderate" or even "liberal" side
of the fence. Affordable, comprehensive, universal,
government-sponsored or government-funded Health
Care is to this writer a national must-have.

It is one of those advanced-nation hallmarks that
distinguish a First-World nation from a Third-World nation.
It is the solution that has been chosen, to a greater or lesser
degree, by almost all of our First-World allies and trading
partners. And, with the exception of a few folks at the top
of the income heap and their bought-and-paid-for lackeys
in the Congress, almost no one believes that our present
Health Care Cartel is doing a good job in terms of access,
costs, coverage, or outcomes.

That having been said, I am no friend of the Leviathan
Nanny-State, as Socialism has never delivered the goods
anywhere its been tried. Even the Chinese and Russians
think so. But that is not to conclude that the "Free-Market"
alternative has to be an ever-greater concentration of wealth
and power in the hands of unregulated and unaccountable
transnational elites.

"Elite Influence" has led directly to the financialization
of our economy, the wholesale dismantling of our productive
industrial base, and the concentration of wealth and income
in the hands of an elite, well-connected few to an extent
unprecedented in our history.

The bailout of Wall Street and the slow starvation of
Main Street, to the exclusive benefit of a corrupt
Oligarchy, threaten to make "Capitalism" and
"Free Markets" Two Bright, Shining Lies in the eyes
of the people.

Free Men interacting with each other in a system of
Free Markets and Property Rights, on a level playing field
created by The Rule of Law, have made the United States
the envy of the world. This is far too precious a heritage
to squander for the short-term benefit of a undeserving
few at the top.

Thus, this journal will continue to oppose Predatory
Plutocracy in all its forms. But, we also oppose the
Predatory State, which in the name of "equality",
would despotically reduce us to grinding poverty
and the meanest possible existence.

And the best antidote to either is the vigilance of
Free Men informing and persuading each other through
a Free Press. Whether that press is
The New York Times
The Thinking Nationalist, we serve the same function -
to let those in power know that We Are Watching You
and that we will hold you to account for both your
mistakes and your misdeeds.

As we enter 2010, therefore , I present the following
to our Political and Economic elites for their

"The Declaration and Manifesto of The Thinking

"To Our Political and Financial Elites:

"You have done little to earn our confidence,
and much to merit our suspicion. If you wish
to keep your exalted places, this must change.
And you don't want to think about the alternative.
You would not find that very pleasant to contemplate.

"You might think that this is still open to discussion,
that given your positions of great power and wealth,
we the people should know what we are up against.
That when confronted with the financial and political
power of your social class, we the people should be
reasonable and discuss the matter, on your terms.

"However, we feel that the time for our respectful
consideration of your situation has come - and gone.
Rather, it is you who need to be made aware of a few
things that just might affect the continuation of
your privileged status.

"First, there are many more of us than there are of you.
And many of us are armed. Failing to disarm the
ordinary people and heaping elitist scorn on the
Police and Military could be your fatal mistake.
And the "tipping point" is coming. You are running
out of time - and out of options.

"Your fellow citizens, whom you foolishly believe to
be of n0 consequence, are a patient and resilient people.
We have watched stoically as you have shipped our
jobs to China, India and Mexico for your private
benefit, destroying whole communities in the process.
We were patient when you decided not to enforce our
immigration laws, importing crime, poverty and
terrorism into our midst under the guises of
"multiculturalism" and "political correctness".
And we were patient when you rewarded yourselves
with bailouts and bonuses while we faced bankruptcy
and foreclosure.

"As the Declaration of Independence stated, we are
more inclined to suffer evils, while they are sufferable,
than to right things by changing the forms to which we
are accustomed. But that is now changing.
We are now slowly becoming aware of your evident
desire to reduce us, finally and absolutely, under
degradation and despotism for the financial benefit
of a private and exclusive Oligarchy.

"And whenever and wherever that happens, you get
revolutions. But this one won't look like 1776.
It will look more like France 1789 and be all the
more ghastly because of modern weapons and
technology - on both sides.

" The difference? In 1776, the elites of our nation
pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor"
in an all-out death struggle against the most
dominant financial, economic and military
power of that time. You, on the other hand,
are thinking of Swiss banks and private islands
and how quickly you can slink away if things
get rough. Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, you
will scurry away from the coming chaos and disorder
you have done so much to create.

" And that's why, if it comes to that "Struggle
both Grim and Great", we, not you, will win.
Having moved "offshore", you'll no longer have
any skin in this game. No friends, no allies, nothing -
because no one here or abroad will risk his life to
save yours. And once we've secured things here, we'll come
for you. There will be no place on Earth either you or
your money will be able to hide. You'll find that
the Intelligence and Law Enforcement services
of the Second American Republic are more relentless
than the Mossad and more pitiless than the KGB
when it comes to hunting you down. And the military?
Once freed of the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan,
they'll eagerly put the nuclear pistol to the head of any nation
rash enough to protect you or your ill-gotten loot.

"But, you say, the Military and Law Enforcement are
on our side - and they are constitutionally bound to
protect us. And the courts and Congress will
make sure of that - just wait and see.

"You might have a point there. But, you need to realize
that the Military and Law Enforcement have changed.
The uniformed leadership of the military is more diverse
and less "elite" than at any time in our history. The same
goes for Law Enforcement. You took care of that by throwing
ROTC out of the Ivy League and by making military service
and law enforcement two of the few stable career choices left
for the working and middle classes you have fought so hard
to undermine.

"And the uniformed leadership of our military, even if
not "elite" (as in Harvard-educated), is not stupid. They
study history and politics as part of Professional Military
Education, not as a GPA-padder to get into Harvard Law.
And they know that Ancient Rome deliberately kept
its legions fighting permanent, indecisive wars on the
fringes of Empire, so that elites at home could plunder
the nation more easily. But when the money ran out,
the armies returned, the Empire collapsed, and
that was that for Rome. And they see the same thing
happening with our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"And Afghanistan is a special case. It wasn't too long ago
that the Soviet Union, beaten down militarily and financially
in Afghanistan, had to conclude a humiliating cease-fire
with the Taliban and withdraw. Two years later, the Soviet
Union ceased to exist. The reason? While its armies were
occupied elsewhere, the Soviet Nomenklatura literally
looted the country bankrupt - even more brazenly than you
looted ours. The only reason it didn't turn violent is that
Russians - unlike Americans - are used to despotism and
corruption and over the years, had developed means of
coping. And, unlike Americans, they never had a decent,
middle-class lifestyle suddenly yanked out from under
them - as you have done to so many of our people in your
pursuit of "globalization" and "emerging markets".

"No, if I were you, I wouldn't count on the Army or the
Marines to protect me if things get rough. And I wouldn't
trust the police or the FBI either. They are not of your social
class -
and they don't share any of your other beliefs either.
As a general rule, they are religious, socially conservative,
and fiercely patriotic, even downright nationalistic - all
traits and beliefs that both publicly and privately you go
out of your way to disparage.

"And this "cultural divide" is something you'll need to keep
in mind when the riots and open insurrections start and you
start hollering for the 82nd Airborne to protect you in the
Hamptons or Greenwich. Indeed, you might well find that the
military has "gone over" to our side - as they are far more
likely to have family unemployed, dispossessed, or bankrupted
by your "fairy-tale finance" economy than you are. And the
police will be of no help - since many of them are losing
their jobs or having their pay and benefits cut, they'll
compare their families' situation with yours and then
decide whom to "Protect and Serve".

" Not a pretty picture, is it? But you've got escape plans, right?
The G-IV all gassed up and ready to go - but where? Dubai?
Switzerland? China? Trust me, you don't want to think
about China. After we default on our foreign debt, that'll
be the last place you'll want to go. Over there, they shoot
corrupt executives and politicians - in public, to make
sure the message gets through. Thinking about what they
might do if they got their hands on you brings joy to my
heart and a tear to my eye.

"But, if in the meantime some Patriot in this country
metes out a rough and deserved retribution to you, don't
say I didn't warn you. And I will have neither sympathy nor
compassion for you or your fellows if you get a taste
of "People's Justice". You had it coming.

" So, Elite America, you have much to think about -
and much to answer for. And you don't have a lot of time.

"Think it over and get back to me, will you?"