Public Opinion of Dick Cheney
As the illustration shows, about 23 percent of those surveyed think Mr. Cheney is the "worst" Vice President, while another 41 percent rate him as "poor"; 34 percent judge him as "good," and one percent think he is the "best." The poll has a sampling error of approximately three percent.
The Dark Wraith will not bother to formally survey the readers here to see what they think of Mr. Cheney's performance in office (although a few comments on the man will surely issue forth, nonetheless).
How can you tell the difference between a drummer who is a conspiracy theorist and a drummer who is a cynic?
Answer: The cynic doesn’t show up.
Uh... why not?
Answer: The cynic already knows there won’t be an audience.
So, why does the conspiracy theorist show up?
Answer: He just pretends to play for the audience; he’s really there just to hear himself.
But the cynic could do that, too.
Answer: Yes, but if he’s really a cynic, he won’t even listen to himself.
At 6:00 p.m. on Friday, December 19, 2008, Michael Connell was killed when the single-engine Piper Saratoga he was piloting crashed on approach to the Akron-Canton Airport in northeastern Ohio. The plane was about 2.5 miles out when it went down, hitting the ground between two houses in the Stark County city of Uniontown, 10 miles southeast of Akron.
Michael Connell was the information technology expert some activists claim was the mastermind behind the rigging of the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004. Mr. Connell was about to testify in Ohio, where his consulting business is based, about aspects of his vote rigging work in the Buckeye State. The non-profit group Velvet Revolution claims that a "tipster close to the McCain campaign" warned an investigator for the group last Summer that Connell's life was in danger and that he should not fly his plane because of the possibility of sabotage.
In late October of 2002, the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air A100 carrying liberal Minnesota Democrat Paul Wellstone crashed on approach two miles from Eveleth-Virginia Airport in Minnesota, killing Sen. Wellstone, his wife Sheila, their 33-year-old daughter Marcia, and five others people. The 58-year-old Wellstone was campaigning for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat. His death paved the way for his Republican opponent, St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman, to win the election. The National Transportation Safety Board ultimately ruled that pilot error caused the plane crash that killed Wellstone.
On October 16, 2000, then-Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, his son, and an aide were killed when the plane in which they were flying, a Cessna 335, crashed just weeks ahead of the election in which Mr. Carnahan was vying for a U.S. Senate seat against the incumbent Senator, John Ashcroft. Although dead, Carnahan went on to win the election against Ashcroft, whom President George W. Bush would subsequently appoint as United States Attorney General. Jean Carnahan, Mel Carnahan's widow, was appointed to take her late husband's seat in the Senate until a special election in 2002. Carnahan's wife lost the special election to Republican Jim Talent. The National Transportation Safety Board ultimately ruled that the primary cause of the accident that killed Mel Carnahan was disorientation of the pilot, Carnahan's 44-year-old son Roger, who had not long before the crash taken special training to handle flight emergencies involving the Cessna 335.
How can the cynic still call himself a 'musician' if he hates what he does so much?
Answer: Because music is his life, man.
And now, for some audio levity:
The Dark Wraith encourages readers to always be prepared for the occasional interruption.
Macroeconomics Quiz 2: Monetary Policy, Fiscal Policy, and International Trade
The problems below are variations straight from a final exam I would give in a principles of macroeconomics course. I hand-selected 10 of the 100 multiple-choice questions just for you. These are all problems I would expect any economics student to know by the end of the semester. Even if you've never had a core macroeconomics course, if you have been following my articles here (and you can find a summary list of some of them by clicking here), you will ace this quiz.
Take this quiz, report your results in comments if you so desire, and then brag to your friends about having faced down a killer economics test given by a particularly ill-tempered economics professor.
Or, if things don't go so well, quietly send me a private e-mail message telling me that I'm ugly. I like getting e-mail from friends who care.
Lock and load, good people.
What Your Score Means
|100%:||You know economics too well to be a mainstream media pundit.|
|70%-90%:||You know economics too well to be an adviser to the President.|
|40-60%:||You know economics too well to work for the Democratic Party.|
|10-30%:||You know economics too well to work for the Republican Party.|
|0%:||Okay, it's time for you to get a job in Washington.|
The Dark Wraith awaits the results of this delightful little diversion.
To those who read the articles published here, I convey sincere and abiding gratitude.
As surely as the night of Empire still gathers before us, The Dark Wraith Forums will continue to chronicle the colors of our destiny as they fade to the shadows of our fate.
In the falling twilight of Empire, the Dark Wraith has spoken.
Obama and His Space Cadet
It is worth noting that Lori Garver used to be an Associate Administrator at NASA. Her stint at the space agency consisted for the most part of being nothing more than a "public affairs officer." She was not involved in engineering, planning, budgeting, or any other hands-on work there. Once she had done her time on Uncle Sam's tab, she started her own "consulting firm" called Capital Space LLC, which is rather hard to track down but seems to be involved in sucking up public funds for private entrepreneurial endeavors related to space transport. One of her consulting gigs involves DFI International, where her job is to "...assist DFI's senior management in strategic planning and business development activities related to the firm's corporate space practice."
Yes, Obama's Lori Garver is a corporate shill of the worst kind: she's a "consultant."
Read that: "lobbyist." Just like countless others, she parlayed a stint in public service to start a "consulting" business so she could rent her little Blackberry of access to government insiders; and given that she now makes her dime with paychecks from the private sector, she has every incentive to interfere with NASA's public space programs because she's a point person for private companies that want to take over what is going to be a hugely lucrative business for the rest of the 21st Century.
Space transport? There's going to be way too much money in that business to let the public sector do it.
Anyway, the folks at NASA really shouldn't be worried about its future manned space program getting canned. The way Barack Obama is promising to spend money like there's no tomorrow, federal budget deficits that are already staggering thanks to years of Bush Administration madness will now go so high that we can just strap astronauts on them and make it to Mars in no time. As Buzz Lightyear would say, "To infinity and BEYOND!"
Oh, yes, one more thing. Obama and his people want NASA Administrator Griffin out. This is the same Obama cabal that has no problem with the likes of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and FBI Director Robert Mueller staying in their positions. Robert Gates, whose unbelievably appalling history is a disgrace to this nation, and Robert Mueller, a man who has shredded any right to privacy Americans might once have enjoyed, get to stay; but the head of NASA has to go.
Yeah. Right. That makes sense.
No, really, it does. But only if you stop thinking Obama's presidency is something other than the Bush Administration with every bit of the arrogance, a whole lot of the corruption, a good dose of the viciousness, more than a hint of the short-sightedness, but not one shred of the incompetence.
The 21st Century, Epilogue, will now continue.
The Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, is discussing how he will choose former Illinois Senator Barack Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate. The Democratic governor might want to consider naming himself to fill the now-vacant seat, and that's because the mob-sponsored little incompetent has an approval rating of just 13 percent in Illinois. That's about half of President George W. Bush's rating, and Bush is about as popular as a chastity belt at a house of ill repute.
If Blagojevich appoints himself to complete Obama's term in the Senate, he could then leave Illinois and rightly declare that he did so of his own free will and not because of a mob chasing him out with pitchforks and torches. The only downside to this deal is that Washington would then be saddled with the likes of a useless, incompetent legislator. Then again, in Washington, who would notice?
On December 9, 2008, federal authorities arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on charges related to his alleged efforts to trade cash and favors for his appointment of the person to complete President-elect Barack Obama's current term in the U.S. Senate.
The federal prosecutor overseeing the investigation is none other than Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, perhaps best known as the special prosecutor appointed under Attorney General John Ashcroft (who recused himself in the matter) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the leak of the name of the CIA non-cover operative Valerie Plame because of her husband's outspoken criticism of some of the Bush Administration's lies to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq. That work by Fitzgerald led to one individual, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, being indicted and convicted on five counts. None of Fitzgerald's charges against Libby were related to the leak: the indictment was not the result of what Scooter did, but instead about him lying to Fitzgerald about what he did. Libby, an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, did not serve his prison sentence; it was commuted by President George W. Bush.
U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald spent approximately one million dollars on the investigation. The concluding paragraphs of this article will revisit in a most unflattering way the matter of Patrick Fitzgerald; but the topic of the hour is Rod Blagojevich and the amazing crater he has just made of his career, and so it is to that grim but altogether fascinating spectacle that attention must first be turned.
Rumors abound about how Blagojevich's pay-to-play gambit was discovered by the feds. Although some of the Governor's more vociferous detractors simply declared in conversations (at least with me) that he was going to extract some benefit for the appointment of Obama's successor in the Senate, a relatively new theme centers around the role of President-elect Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, in ratting on the Governor. While this angle might be nothing more than spin from Obama operatives ensuring that no one hangs the corpse of Blagojevich around their guy's neck, it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that Emanuel did, indeed, tip off the feds. Rahm is a hard-ball player in the old Chicago tradition. Blagojevich is swirly bait in the old high school tradition. The eventual conclusion of their relationship has an almost Kant-like categorical imperative of final suffering for the twerp end of the incipient Hegelian dialectic.
To go anywhere in Illinois politics, a certain greater or lesser degree of association with shady characters (the word "mobsters" is harsh and archaic) is absolutely necessary, and both Rahm Emanuel and his new boss must exercise the time-honored skill of keeping a perfectly straight face when talking about ethics and other such matters dear to gooey New Age airheads who pontificate about business and public life. That having been noted, political corruption is an art: get it wrong and go to jail; do it right and rise to your level of incompetence. Getting it wrong involves one or more of the following: sloppiness, stupidity, and/or playing a hand without permission of major components of the rest of the machine. Blagojevich made all three mistakes.
Men like Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama stick pretty well to the rules. The gang to which they belong is seasoned, refined, and long on the genius of combining group wisdom with gut reactions. Those traits were and remain important qualifications Obama and Emanuel share, and their king makers knew that about both of them from the young men's early days in public life. They are smart, savvy, and generally careful.
Their styles differ vastly, however. Emanuel actually cultivates his bad-boy image: lest anyone forget his more famous forays into the outrageous, like bellowing "DEAD!" while stabbing a steak knife into a table as he named fellow Democrats he didn't like, Rahm will not be shy in offering a reminder. Obama, on the other hand, does his dirty work through proxies, as when he kept personal distance from the "scandal" involving his opponent Jack Ryan, who was politically destroyed during the 2006 senatorial campaign by stories that his ex-wife had accused him in divorce papers of soliciting her to go into swingers' nightclubs where women were known to publicly give their male partners oral sex. (For those not up on celebrity vitae, Ryan's ex-wife is Jeri Ryan, most famous for her role as "7 of 9" in the science fiction TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, wherein she played the role of an alien who wore a uniform that can be described as little more than a latex spray paint job on her generously endowed, exceptionally undulating body.) In Chicago gangland terms, Rahm Emanuel is a fist in the face (with his own ring's mark leaving the permanent scar), while Barack Obama is a knife in the back (with someone else's fingerprints on the handle still protruding from the kidney region). As a cautionary note, run like Hell from the successful bad boys living on the East Side; run even faster from the successful good boys living in the better part of town.
Concerning bad behavior by public officials, rumors, accusations, and even the occasional brush with law enforcement personnel will always be necessary annoyances on the up-hill climb. For political survivors, nothing will stick, friends will outnumber enemies, and the majority of people who matter in one way or another will be clueless, understanding, or less than willing to engage in a pissing contest with a water-swilling rhino.
Although once part of a strong, understated Chicago gang that featured his wife's father, Richard Mell, Rod Blagojevich cast his lot with the wrong side of the dirt track, aligning himself ever deeper with now-convicted money man Tony Rezko. That relationship, along with other things, alienated Mell. Blagojevich's wife, Patricia, got heavily involved with Rezko, too, earning considerable percentages of her annual income through business relationships with Tony and his operations. Had the Blagojeviches stayed in the good graces Patricia's dad, Rod would have had a better chance of a solid, long career that would have been more than adequately rewarding financially. He chose otherwise, though, and by the end he had no one to do his dirty work for him; that's why he, himself, was on the horn hustling that Senate seat instead of keeping personal distance from the sleazy work of hawking his merchandise. In one conversation the feds taped, Patricia can be heard harping obscenity-laced encouragement to egg Rod on as he did his hustle. From up-and-coming insider backed by heavy-hitters of the Chicago Democratic Machine, Rod Blagojevich had, in his final days of glory, been reduced to a phone salesman with a foul-mouthed harpy serving as his quality control manager.
Blagojevich became the Governor of Illinois like most have in the past: "downstate" voters (those not in Chicago, its suburbs, and its exurbs), do not have much of a say in what happens, even though the state capitol is in Springfield, more than halfway from Chicago to St. Louis. Downstate, conservative and Right-wing values are far stronger as a rule, and Blagojevich was, to some extent, nothing more than the most recent pick of people the downstaters knew little about, although he did come into office on a wave of annoyance with his immediate predecessor, George Ryan, Sr. (no relation to Jack Ryan), who was convicted in 2006 of corruption in office. Interestingly, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald spearheaded that investigation, too, but that is no indication whatsoever that Fitzgerald is politically ambiguous. George Ryan was so incompetent that even Right-wingers and conservatives at the Chicago Tribune were glad to see him taken out like the trash. That's the way it is in Chicago: politics is politics, but trash removal is an essential public service.
On a more personal, professional level as a college teacher, I became aware of Rod Blagojevich when he used his new office as Governor of a Midwestern state to score political points with a public speech about education, making a spectacle of himself by waving around an enormous stack of what he described as rules and regulations created by the Illinois Department of Education, declaring, "This is a nightmare of biblical proportions," as he made his case for some kind of take-over of the state regulatory agency that oversees elementary and secondary education. His speech immediately generated controversy because, for one thing, the huge stack of papers he had in his hand apparently included many that were either blank or had only a few lines of print. A little more substantively, while serving as a legislator, he supported the abomination of No Child Left Behind and similar "reforms" that were the well spring that had forced states to build the detailed, complex, and voluminous operational regulations that consumed so many pages of bureaucratic paperwork. Moreover, conservative observers made a valid point in claiming that Blagojevich's demand for a take-over of the state's education agency was nothing other than a means by which he could have control of an agency into which he could insert incompetents, academic theoreticians, and other useless sorts from the teachers' union that had helped him become Governor.
By the time "Blago" (as newspapers came to label him in width-restricted headlines) was pounding the phones like a caffeine-gulping boiler room telemarketer, he had few supporters and no prospects for a long political career, even if he were to have appointed himself to complete Obama's term in the Senate. He was disliked with an unusual intensity in the downstate (which, as mentioned above, does not really matter all that much most of the time), and he had outlived any usefulness to Illinois power brokers, considering they now have an enormously more worthy and worthwhile friend about to move into a big white house in Washington, D.C.
In his own way, though, with no prospect for a notable life in public service, Rod Blagojevich did the one and only one thing he could: he played a high, risky card for his own, personal welfare; and, in the process, he pole-vaulted over just about every other corrupt politician cranked out of the Chicago Democratic Machine to claim the title of The Most-Stupidly-Corrupt Politician in Illinois History. The prison term he will eventually serve is a modest price for such a distinction. In an era when just about anyone with any sense at all knows that law enforcement agencies are watching everyone with the passion of old church ladies peeking out their windows at 10 o'clock, a Democrat in Chicago thinking he could use regular phone lines over and over again to hawk an illegal deal on the scale of selling a United States Senate appointment is simply mind-boggling. The feds do thousands of sneak-and-peek hits with virtually no probable cause other than phony "tips" they make up, themselves; those feds, as well as adventuresome local police, set up all kinds of phony al-Qa'ida-type recruitment Websites to catch idiots just wandering around the Internet surfing for something weird, and they pose as under-aged tarts to bring out the latent pervert in not-so-latent losers; the feds have legal license to use creepy technology to look at the naked body of anyone who wants to ride in an airplane; the feds even have technology to look through solid walls of buildings so they can see what's going on without having to go through the inconvenience of obtaining a warrant from a court. Furthermore, Blagojevich was working in the jurisdiction of a U.S. Attorney appointed by the most ideologically driven presidency in modern American history. What could possibly have possessed the Governor of Illinois to think he was somehow not subject to this nation's brutal dismissal of rights to privacy that used to be afforded the innocent and the mendacious alike?
That question's easy to answer: Rod was dumb. If evolution really were an unassailable theory, he would have been removed from the human gene pool before he bred. As it is, his two little daughters, 10 and 4 years of age, will have to live not just with the humiliation of a convicted felon for a dad, but also with the legacy of what could very well be hereditary stupidity. Thankfully, President-elect Obama supports stem cell research that may one day give them hope of gene rectification therapy.
And now, this story would not be complete were Patrick Fitzgerald not brought forth as the object of unmitigated castigation, scorn, ridicule, and disrespect. Among other articles I have written, some of which I cite below, is "One Thousand Fifteen," published in late April of 2006, in which I take the opportunity to provide a link between the fortunes and follies of Blagojevich and Fitzgerald; as such, the current article is something of a fulfillment of my version of fair and balanced disdain for and disgust with just about everything about the public norms of our times and the political figures who exemplify the various faces of those disgraceful norms.
The U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, like every U.S. Attorney who has served under the Bush Administration, is nothing other than a partisan hack, notwithstanding the perennial drum of PR casting Mr. Fitzgerald as some kind of square-jawed Man O' Law. The ranks of the U.S. Attorneys under the Bush Administration were filled under the strict watch of ideologically obsessed people like Monica Goodling, who virtually single-handedly vetted every federal prosecutor, judicial nominee, and significant Justice Department job applicant on grounds that even the Justice Department, itself, later concluded were beyond the pale. Only "loyal Bushies" (as Goodling was alleged to have called them) were drawn to the cause of "justice." The toxic results in federal law enforcement efforts across the nation have been staggering: from 2001 to 2006, the Bush Administration's Justice Department prosecuted seven times as many Democrats as Republicans at the local level; anti-terrorism legislation like the Patriot Act, especially Section 213 (the "sneak and peak" provision), and its successors have been pressed into contorted service in matters ranging from drug trafficking to pornography; so-called National Security Letters administrative subpoenas prosecutors can use to gather evidence with no judicial oversight have become so abusively over-used that the Office of Inspector General of the Justice Department, itself, finally criticized the Bureau for its actions.
Patrick Fitzgerald is the fruit of a poison tree, and that poison cannot be ignored and most certainly cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to any given federal prosecution effort. Fitzgerald led a worthless, transparently outrageous investigation into the outing of a CIA spy by White House officials. He did not even compel President George W. Bush to testify under oath before a grand jury; instead, he conducted a private "interview" with Mr. Bush and allowed Vice President Dick Cheney, the man at the very center of the outing of the spy, to be right there beside the President during the conversation. Furthermore, Fitzgerald did not seem at all perturbed that his own Department of Justice obstructed efforts by Congress to obtain a transcript of the interview.
Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation totaled somewhere around a million dollars maybe two by the time the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is added in. Compare that with the staggering sums of tens of millions of dollars congressional Republicans spent on prosecutorial witch hunts of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, those wild goose chases ending up with nothing more than a single incidence of backing Clinton into a corner to get him to lie under oath about a chunky bimbo playing "Hail to the Chief on his flute made of beef."
While liberal and Leftist bloggers were virtually squealing with delight as they chanted "Go Fitzy!" during his investigation, I was already tearing the man up one side and down the other for his prosecutorial record, his prosecutorial conduct in the outing of Valerie Plame, and his history of prosecutorial bullying that was so over the top that he once went after a sitting judge who dared to rule against him.
The whole investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame, which I covered in Parts 1, 2, and 3 of my series "The Valerie Plame Scandal," got so bizarre that, at one point, a "journalist" named Jason Leopold, who had been kicked out at The Wall Street Journal, popped up at a Leftist news site called truthout, unabashedly claiming that Fitzgerald had secured a secret indictment against White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. I quickly wrote and published "The Gaming Game" in which I thoroughly dismissed Leopold's gullible delusions. In a subsequent article, "The Woodshed," I sharply criticized those who had believed in con men like Jason Leopold and Patrick Fitzgerald. Finally, in my last two major pieces on the Valerie Plame scandal and the investigation, "The Color of Whitewash" and "A Brief Reminder about the Color of Whitewash," I again made my best effort to point out the utter folly of believing that the rule of law has anything whatsoever to do with the era of the Bush Administration and its law enforcers and administrators of "justice."
Subsequent to the investigation led by Patrick Fitzgerald, he warned that he would have little to offer Congress were he called to testify about what he had found, despite the fact that he eventually disclosed some stunning things he had discovered, like the fact that millions of e-mail messages from the White House had been deleted or destroyed, and that many of those messages, some of which might have been incriminating, had gone through private servers of the Republican Party, in direct violation of federal law. Although members of the Senate Judiciary Committee rumbled mightily about getting Fitzgerald under oath to tell the American people everything he had discovered, in the end the legislators knew very well that the square-jawed Man O' Law was not going to give them what they wanted, and he had told them as much when he indicated that it would be the job of Congress to pursue any charges of criminal wrongdoing by the Bush Administration. Presumably, that meant congressional investigators would have to gather their own evidence since Fitzgerald and his DoJ were not about to show the Senators the fruits of what taxpayer money had been used to find.
In essence, then, without saying it in so many words, Mr. Fitzgerald told the Senate, which had by that time come under nominal control of the Democrats, "Not only are you spineless Democrats too gutless to force my full and complete testimony, but you're too gutless, involved, culpable, and weak to go after Bush and his inner circle, yourselves, you pathetic cowards."
He was right, of course.
Unlike Rod Blagojevich, Patrick Fitzgerald is the real deal: whereas corruption in public office will lead to ruin of the stupid servant, corruption of public purpose will take the mendacious servant to new heights of praise and admiration. Blago served the master of his own intemperate greed. The master Fitzy serves, if no more admirable, is certainly far riskier to condemn and considerably more dangerous to stop in its capricious, politically tainted path of destruction born of ideological extremists and fed by the simpering cowardice of worthless legislators.
President-elect Obama should take heed, just in case Rod Blagojevich was nothing more than U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald's warm-up act on the gangs of Chicago. It's one thing for the Chicago boys to see to it that one of their own failed nerds gets taken out; it's quite another to shut down a racket like the Bush Administration's version of "justice."
Feast of Famine
Last year, the head of the division at my college suggested that I attend with the other economics professor, who always goes to these annual events. Fortunately, the subject of my going this year did not come up when the registration period was open. I would have declined the opportunity, and that would have led to an uncomfortable exchange about matters I would rather not discuss anymore within the halls of academia.
You see, I cannot afford to drive clear to St. Louis, much less can I afford a hotel room. I am sure the school would have offered to pay my way, but I find that untenable: I would be taking money from taxpayers who finance the school; and, far worse, I would be taking money from tuition and other fees students pay. Having the school foot the bill for "professional" trips and other benefits doesn't seem to bother any college teacher I know, but the very thought deeply offends me. I am paid about $24,000 a year to teach courses at a level of quality that won me recognition as Faculty Member of the Year a few years back. My salary is the direct and fair compensation for what I do, and that salary already comes from the wallets of taxpayers and students. I feed at the bloated hog trough of public funds, which come from people who produce goods and services of great and small incremental values to the economy. I provide a derivative service, and I choose to do that where I am protected from the harsh pricing-for-value of free and private markets. That I would expect even greater rewards from the public treasure is, in my judgment, not just unethical, it is immoral. My academic colleagues who have no problem with taking a little extra here and there from department funds might want to take a good look in the parking lots at their schools to see the oceans of beat-up, barely drivable cars kids have; or maybe my fellow professors might want to try the mass transit system some students have to use so they can stand in the freezing cold or the sweltering heat just for the privilege of getting packed into rocking, nauseating buses with all manner of people by day or with the assortment of gang-bangers and mental cases that roam the aisles or sit in menacing silence on the buses at night.
Money for "professional development" comes from somewhere, and that somewhere is mostly from the pockets of people who can ill afford to pay for the fun masquerading as professional expenses of self-indulgent academics whose contributions to society are marginal at best.
Besides, were I to have gone to the meeting in St. Louis, I would have been compelled to cancel two days of classes. I need not watch the Weather Channel to know that Hell is not going to freeze over, so I'm not going to cancel a single class, much less two days of them. As I have told my students on many occasions, even if the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, were to return in a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning, I would tell Him to shut up and sit down until class was over. His rapture can wait; my lecture cannot.
Having taken that much-needed aside to storm about the hog trough of public higher education, my fellow economics professor, a conservative fellow still ranting about the outcome of the presidential election, assured me that I would be in his thoughts while he was in St. Louis. I told him that I would like to go because I had some questions for the people at the Fed. He told me that's why, if I did go, he would be sitting on the other side of the room. Although he and other conservative economists frequently tell me I just don't "get it," he avoids discussing economics with me. He knows very well that I am a fierce critic of the Federal Reserve Board and its monetary policy wing, the Federal Open Market Committee. He does not dispute my basis of criticism, although his reserve might be evidence of nothing more than his unwillingness to have me start whipping out charts showing how the Fed single-handedly created the so-called "credit crisis" by trying to prop up the failing economic policies of Bush and his Republican Congresses. I think he also doesn't want to hear me tear down one of his favorite icons, Alan Greenspan, a man so obsessed with politicizing his chairmanship of the Fed that he tried to derail President Clinton's successful economic policies and cover for Bush's catastrophically failed ones before they even began to fail, just to protect the Federal Reserve's power to manipulate the economy through open market operations that had been rendered impossible to carry out when the government stopped running budget deficits.
The Federal Reserve uses Treasury debt securities as the instruments to move money into and out of the banking system to alter the money supply. No Treasury debt securities being issued means no effective instruments the Fed can trade for money with banks. That means the end of the Federal Reserve as a source of economic policy, which it should not have, anyway, considering it comprises a body of unelected, unaccountable individuals who should be dedicated only to the tasks of maintaining aggregate price level stability (preventing inflations and deflations) and regulating and supervising member banks. In his day, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan bitched to Congress in the 1990s about "irrational exuberance" of the stock markets so he would have an excuse to start ratcheting up interest rates to kill the economic boom. He was convinced that the federal budget deficits were narrowing largely because of enhanced tax revenues from capital gains earned in the stock markets (a theme even some of my more astute friends seem to take as gospel, these days), so he figured that killing the stock market boom with a historically unprecedented string of discount rate increases would do the trick. All it did, instead, was kill the dot-com boom. Once George W. Bush got into office, Greenspan jumped on board a huge Republican-led tax cut package to deal with a "recession" that actually was not a recession by technical measures (see my article, "The Gospel for Impending Doom" about this and other points I make in this article). That one did the trick: federal tax revenues plunged under government expenditures, and so the Bush era of massive federal budget deficits was born, and that meant the U.S. Treasury was once again pouring out hundreds of billions of dollars in debt securities that the Federal Reserve could then buy up by printing money like there was no tomorrow to cart to the Treasury auctions. Thus was the Federal Reserve back in business as an unelected body with more short-term and long-term control over the U.S. economy than the President and the Congress put together.
Were I to have gone to St. Louis and participated in that very exciting question-and-answer session with the top Fed economists there, I would probably have prefaced my first question with the narrative of that last paragraph, above. It's not that those economists don't know exactly what's been going on, it's just that I would want to make sure they did not think I was too stupid to know how ugly the politicization of the Fed had become during the Bush era. In fact, a former fellow grad student who now works for one of the Federal Reserve district banks told me a few years back that the name "John Maynard Keynes" is not to be mentioned at his office. I thought the guy was joking, but he assured me that he was not. I asked him if he grasped the irony of a cabal of economists who all want to pretend they're conservative, strict monetarists when they're working under a Federal Reserve Board that has turned the Keynesian economics of aggregate demand management into a train wreck exercise in monetary stimulus gone mad. He did, indeed, see the irony, but he's not a man given to humor, so he didn't think it was nearly as funny as I did.
Were I to have been at that question-and-answer session at the St. Louis Fed, having made it past the formalities and preface as outlined above, I think I would have restricted myself to one, albeit multi-part and long-winded, question:
Sir, you let the broad monetary aggregate M3 grow at an increasing rate ever since you declared an end in mid-2004 to accommodative monetary policy. In fact, that measure of money, which includes M2 and M1, grew at such an alarming rate that, by the end of February of this year, it was approaching 20 percent growth on an annual basis. You were doing this in the very same period that you were holding the M1 monetary aggregate the kind of money everyday people and businesses use at a growth rate virtually indistinguishable from zero. In other words, the real economy of working people and productive enterprises was slowly being strangled for actual cash-money to conduct transactions because the real economy was growing at maybe around three percent, which was faster than the growth rate of the money they needed to provide liquidity for their transactions. Yet, at the same time, the monetary aggregate M3, which includes highly illiquid money that only huge financial institutions can turn into liquidity, was skyrocketing. (And, of course, M3 includes both M1 and M2, meaning that the top-end money Eurodollars, massive time deposits, and all of that pseudo-money was growing at a rate even faster than M3, itself, indicates.) So that means, not only was the base economy of the United States being starved of liquidity, but the very top end of the banking system was veritably swimming in a highly illiquid form of it.
So, then, how could all those inordinately large, very sophisticated financial institutions use that highly illiquid form of money that was growing at such a breath-taking rate? Ah, yes: they would have to use it as collateral for something more liquid, sort of like using the title on a car (something very illiquid) as collateral for a cash loan (something very liquid) at one of those quick-and-easy loan stores on the bad side of town. Right? Yes, right.
Oh, my goodness! So, that's why we had this sudden "crisis" in the credit markets with all those bad, bad derivative instruments! Those were the means by which the financial institutions could turn that sea of highly illiquid pseudo-money into real cash-money! And there the Federal Reserve was, letting M3 just grow and grow and grow at an accelerating rate.
And how did you people deal with this madness? Why, you stopped publishing the M3 monetary aggregate numbers in early March of 2006! You stopped publishing M3! By the Spring of this year, the situation was so ridiculous that a few rogue economists, myself included, were screaming our bloody heads off that this madness was about to take the economy down into a death spiral of inflation and recession. Shortly after that well, lo and behold! you Fed folks started ratcheting down the M3 growth rate and started pumping up M1. M3 is still growing at a rate well above 10 percent, though; but hey, at least you answered the phone call from Clueville. Unfortunately, by the time you started to stir from your let-the-banks-have-fun slumber, it was too late: now, we have a full-blown credit crisis in the financial services industry; we have a notional value of maybe $63 trillion in credit derivatives in the toilet that hardly anyone has even mentioned, yet; we have trillions of dollars in greenback overhang that will inevitably come back to bite us as rampant inflation; and now we're going to have a new President who will want the Fed to print money at an even more wildly out-of-control rate to pay for his New-and-Improved New Deal plans.
And as if all of this weren't enough, that President-elect has named the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as his Secretary of the Treasury, and we all know that the Empire Bank is the only district bank with a permanent voting seat on the Federal Open Market Committee, and it's that same New York district bank where the Domestic Trading Desk resides, the DTC being the actual place where the Fed executes its open market operations to alter the nation's money supply. That means our President-elect has put in charge of the United States Treasury the Federal Reserve Board's very own bagman!
Okay, so here's my question, sir: Are you guys cool or WHAT?
If I, a normal citizen, were to have caused hundreds of trillions of dollars of irreparable damage to something I was in charge of protecting; if I, a normal citizen, were to have then tried to cover it up; and if I, a normal citizen, were to have then gone to Congress and said that what I had been responsible for protecting that I instead wrecked must be rescued and that I must be trusted with all the power I had before and more on top of that; if I, a normal citizen, had done all that, I would be sent to prison for the rest of my natural life. In fact, any normal citizen can do a couple thousand dollars worth of damage and go to prison under federal minimum sentencing guidelines. But you guys! you can blow away hundreds of trillions of dollars of economic value by letting huge financial institutions go bananas with pseudo-money you allowed to grow like a wildfire, and here you are sitting pretty down here in old St. Louie preaching your gospel of Federal Reserve propaganda to a bunch of fat-assed, over-paid, academic economists who got their trip here paid for by students and taxpayers.
Again, sir, I ask you: Are you guys cool or WHAT?
Given that security in the Federal Reserve district banks is top-notch, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten halfway through that rant before big men with lots of weaponry would have been called. These are all civilized people, and there's really no room for some malcontent who obviously doesn't understand the Big Picture, much less who's in charge when it comes to managing the U.S. economy.
The economist who went without me came back with all kinds of glowing stories about how great the whole affair was. He said that the chief economist looked like the very epitome of dork, and he said that the Bank President's speech was inspiring. He also said that the Fed economists who spoke were all very honest and had a lot to say about how much better the Fed has reacted to the current economic crisis than it did to the one that started in 1929.
That sort of got my attention. The Fed economists were comparing the economic crisis happening right now to the events that heralded the coming of the Great Depression?! That's sort of like going to my doctor about a headache and having the fellow start talking about my condition relative to having brain-eating worms. I wouldn't care if he had a favorable prognosis for me: he's finding his basis for assessing my problem in terms of worms eating my brain, for God's sake!
That point escaped my fellow economist. He was intent on telling me about the all-you-can-eat smorgasboard of incredible food the Fed provided for all the attendees at that conference. Apparently, it was simply awesome. They even had a huge selection of alcoholic beverages, including some of the great beers brewed right there in St. Louis. Food and booze for every economist there; and all the back-slapping camaraderie any academic could possibly hope to get with the big dogs of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
How could any self-respecting economist come away from a deal like that with anything other than glowing praise for the Federal Reserve system and the dedicated men and women who serve it?
My colleagues are right: I really don't get it. I certainly didn't get the food, the booze, and the free trip to St. Louis; and, most importantly, I didn't get my chance to rip those incompetent, self-serving, destructive Federal Reserve automatons up one side and down the other.
I should have gotten the money together to go to that conference. I could have used my car to get a quick title loan at one of those quick-and-easy loan stores on the bad side of town. Maybe the government would have bailed me out when I couldn't repay. Then again, I think that $700 billion isn't supposed to go to irresponsible people like me.
After all, I can't even afford to drive to St. Louis for an all-you-can eat buffet of delicious food and fabulous propaganda. That makes me irrelevant.
Just like all of you who have read this article.
Welcome to the 21st Century. It's going to be a lot like the 20th Century, except that it's going to get bad a lot faster before it doesn't get any better a lot sooner.
The Dark Wraith will now go to the kitchen to prepare an all-you-can-eat buffet of Ramen noodles with fried Spam. Bon appétit.
A Comment to David Sirota
While few would mistake Norquist for anything other than an opportunist who uses the worn out cry for "tax relief" as an excuse to eviscerate the federal government of its capacity to function as anything other than a military and law enforcement agency serving the wealthy and powerful, David Sirota offers little more from an opposing ideological base. Watching the two of them argue economics principles was downright painful for me, an economist who has little patience for stupidity of any political stripe.
Sirota's article quoting a detractor's e-mail message was something of an exercise in running home to tell one's family about what a mean bully had said. Sadly, the e-mail message Sirota received, although relatively well written, really was little more than a bully's mean words. Sirota's subtext was that this critic's lack of specifics somehow establishes the superiority of Sirota's own economic analysis.
Of course, it does not, and I wanted to say as much in the comments section for Sirota's article. Unfortunately, I could not. When I was writing as a harsh critic of the Bush Administration, I was a registered commenter in good standing at Campaign for America's Future. Sometime over the course of the past few months, I lost my good standing there. Perhaps it was a technical matter, although I received no response when I requested a resolution of the login problem.
It is better, though, that my message to David Sirota be published here, anyway. While Mr. Sirota would certainly not read, much less benefit from, my comment to him, the content of the message is intended for a much larger audience, particularly those who continue to support the policies of President-elect Barack Obama even as he lays in a presidential administration laced with troubling appointments and Bush hold-overs, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Eric Holder, Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, to name just a few of his neo-cons, has-beens, and otherwise unseemly choices.
Without further belaboring in preface this or that minor aside, the following is my comment to David Sirota on his article of November 25, 2008, published at Campaign for America's Future.
Good evening, Mr. Sirota.
Yes, the gentleman who wrote to you was certainly thin on details concerning why your analysis contained "absurd comments," but that does nothing to establish your credentials as someone well enough informed about economics to be pontificating about marginal tax rates (or much of anything else in theoretical economics, for that matter).
You really do not have sufficient formal training in economics to inform your representations about economic matters. You are, as that writer noted, a political hack, a propagandist just like those who endlessly touted the absurdly wrong economics of the Bush Administration. Truth be told, you strike me as the kind of student I see in my econ classes until right around the week of the first exam, when those who cannot cut the rigor beat a hasty path to the drop window at the registrar's office before heading over to hang out with their equally dull friends at the campus coffee house to talk about how much more they know than their profs.
That's harsh, isn't it? You're a flak for an incoming President who's getting way too much slack cut for him by the mainstream media, which has for the past eight years magnificently demonstrated what happens when journalists cut Presidents way too much slack.
Fair is fair, however: the so-called conservatives had their opportunity to wreck the economy, and they did so with the all the efficiency and every bit of the grace of a hail of cluster bombs; now, it is the turn of the liberals to further imperil the long-term stability of the American economy, although my hope that Democrats would be innovative in their approach has been taken asunder. I am now convinced that President-elect Obama will do just what his predecessor did: he will spend money like there's no tomorrow, and it will be money we simply do not have. Just like the Republicans during the reign of George W. Bush, the Democrats will borrow from foreigners, and what they cannot raise through external debt they will acquire through accommodative monetary policy pursued by the Federal Reserve. ("Accommodative monetary policy," by the way, is a fancy means of saying that the Federal Reserve will simply print money and use it to buy government debt at the regular auctions held by the United States Treasury.)
This is exactly what the Bush Administration did, and it has led to disaster. Barack Obama will do the same thing, except that the federal budget deficits his Congresses will run are going to make those of the Bush era look pale by comparison.
Moreover, the same promises of tax cuts as far as the eye can see that propelled Bush's overall economic policy implosion are right there on Mr. Obama's table of solutions that pander to the greed of this or that constituency. For Republicans, it has always been the wealthy to whom the tax cut song must be howled; for Democrats, it has been the so-called "middle class" and "working poor" who were one campaign after another's intended audience. Same product, different target market. Same results, too: underfunded government that will have to rely on huge trade deficits to accumulate greenbacks in foreign central banks that will then lend those dollars back to the fiscally reckless leaders in Washington who do not know how to control themselves when it comes to either taxation policies or spending priorities.
Candy for everyone; and what the Chinese, the Arabs, the Japanese, and other lenders cannot cover, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke will, just like he did for the Bush Administration. In the end, that massive overhang of money that continues to grow far in excess of the real growth rate of the economy will lead to one and only one end: inflation. And it will not be some mild little rise in the aggregate price level; it will instead be a raging fire that will take an ever more draconian contractionary monetary policy regime to rectify the longer the irresponsible over-printing of money continues.
Rock-solid economics training really does matter. I deal in it every day as a college teacher. I cannot let fantasies, hopes, wishes, ideology, and philosophy stand in the stead of applying the well-understood principles of economics to the problems, proposals, and policies of any given President, political party, or era. It is because I have no stake in the sentimentalities of politics that I can state with a fair degree of objectivity that George W. Bush has been the worst President in American history, bar none, and his economic policies have been what I described in no uncertain terms as "The Economics of Wreckage" in my series by that title.
However, until President-elect Obama stops talking the same language of Keynesian economics gone wild, he will garner no more favorable coverage by me than did his failed predecessor.
I shall leave trust in a new President's judgment to those who cannot see past their party affiliation; I shall leave fantasy economics to poli-sci and journalism majors of the Right and the Left; and I shall certainly leave reserve in judgment and understatement in tone about a new President's economics policies to those who still think the American experience may continue with platitudes, promises, and money we have not earned and very likely do not deserve.
Now, let me quickly address one more matter. During the time when my analytical articles and editorials were taking sharp, harsh, and unrelenting aim at Republicans, I got my fair share of hateful, often irrational, e-mail messages from extremist, disturbed thugs on the Right, and I even took a few shots from Right-wingers on blogs. Ever since I turned my analytical attention to Mr. Obama, I have enjoyed the equally low viciousness that underlies the "Hope and Change" rhetoric of Obama's Leftist supporters. Whereas the Right-wingers use a rather eclectic assemblage of nonsense words for name-calling, the Obamabots are pretty much stuck on the word "racist" to describe anyone who does not crawl with sufficient fealty to their messiah. I certainly did not support John McCain, but because I did not have any more use for Barack Obama, I was a racist. I lost a few Leftist friends who could not bring themselves to stand up to their fellow Leftists who spewed venomous hate. I must stipulate, however, that those fellow bloggers chose correctly: silly claims to the contrary notwithstanding, far more battles will be won in alliance with a violent mob than with a lone dissenter.
To be quite honest with you, Mr. Sirota, my concern with the Right-wingers has always been that I consider them generally at least somewhat informed about quality firearms; my concern with Leftists is more along the lines that I fear they will go tell their mommy Democrats in Washington, who will then, instead of seeing to it that dozens of Bush Administration officials go to prison, propose another bonanza of "economic stimulus" just to make that pain radiate down my left arm again.
On the other hand, maybe Mr. Obama really would send some of his friends from Chicago to kick my butt. At four feet eleven inches, Obama's thuggish chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, probably couldn't reach much higher even with his best Zionist cheerleader kick.
I think I'm going to like the Obama era. I can use the same economics principles to accurately predict the disaster of the new President's policies, and I have a whole new crowd of knuckle-draggers to infuriate. Not that I've given up entirely on the Right-wing authoritarian followers, mind you; it's just that Obama apologists like you, Mr. Sirota, are just so darned worthy of disrespect, especially when you get that smirk of superiority as you talk about economics with ignorance every bit as thunderous as that of Mr. Bush and his cabal of imbeciles.
Be well, Mr. Sirota.
The Dark Wraith will be seeing you around the Internets.