Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Good and Dead: Billy Graham, charismatic expounder of ethics-free monotheism

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy
By Luke Recious
Obituary Editor

Billy Graham died at 99, known for his fierce moral clarity and his inspiring struggle, based on his deep Christian faith, to fight inequality and bigotry while insisting on the unity and dignity of all God's creatures, regardless of race, creed, color, sex, or sexual preference.

Nah, we're just sh*tting you again.

He was known for his curly blonde locks and mellow vaguely redneck voice, all of which made him an adornment to Presidents, late-night talk shows, Bob Hope specials, and other places where someone who said he was a man of God would boost the egos and ratings of the rich and famous who invited and flattered him.

He was also known for keeping up a round of appearances at big stadiums, during which he advocated for Christ and Christianity, although as for the Judeo-Christian values of respect for all humans and ameliorating the suffering of the poor and downtrodden – well, not so much.   He chose to call these events, with the exquisite sensitivity of one who seeks to reach out to all God's children other than Jews and Muslims, “Crusades.”  Different times.

For a guy who talked so much about Jesus,
he sure liked to hang around with Satan
His brand of Christianity was widely popular, apparently because it demanded nothing of its adherents other a one-sentence affirmation of Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Such an affirmation did not stop the Saved from committing unspeakable crimes (like George W. Bush) or require the Saved to practice what Jesus preached by sharing their gold with the wretched of the earth. 

Our friend Tom Kempis said that those who wish to walk in Christ's path must carry his cross, but Billy Graham dispensed with all of that unpleasantness and just said catch me on The Tonight Show with Jill St. John and Jack E. Leonard.

The siphoning of morality out of religion must have been the reason that Billy Graham was appreciated so deeply by the immediately preceding corrupt paranoid Republican President, who constantly leaned on Graham to provide a gloss of virtue on an administration of unparalleled (well, until January 20, 2017) vice and viciousness.

Oh, and there was one another thing that endeared Billy Graham to Dick Nixon: they disliked the same types of people, especially Jewy ones.  As The New York Times paused to recount in its obituary today:
Mr. Graham’s image was tainted in 2002 with the release of audiotapes that Nixon had secretly recorded in the White House three decades earlier. The two men were heard agreeing that liberal Jews controlled the media and were responsible for pornography.
“A lot of the Jews are great friends of mine,” Mr. Graham said at one point on the tapes. “They swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I’m friendly with Israel. But they don’t know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country.”
When his anti-Semitic drivel was outed, he, like a Harvey Weinstein in a clerical collar (which the Rev. Graham never wore), offered the usual lame apology of the rich and unassailable:
Mr. Graham issued a written apology and met with Jewish leaders. In the interview in 2005, he said of the conversation with Nixon: “I didn’t remember it, I still don’t remember it, but it was there. I guess I was sort of caught up in the conversation somehow.”
I wonder if that's what the Crusaders said about all the Jews they slaughtered in the Rhineland.

In fairness to Billy Graham, there is no evidence that he was either a bigot or sought to use Christianity to advance a hate-filled agenda of bigotry and discrimination.  Sadly the same can't be said of his son and inheritor of his Crusade, the loathsome Franklin Graham, who will carry on his father's work for entirely evil ends.

To which we can only say: Jesus H. Christ.

Monday, February 12, 2018

US fields strongest team of gasbag Olympians ever

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

Instead of wasting time watching teen-agers slide around bumpy slopes or dough-faced Canucks throw rocks down ice-covered alleyzzzz . . . .[Wake up! – Ed.], why not join the real excitement as the United States fields its strongest team ever at the Gasbag Olympics held this year in that mecca of world-class pontificators, Chevy Chase, Maryland?

Bret Stephens, headed straight downhill
Only the Spy gives you the dopes [Surely, the inside dope? – Ed.] on the most-watched events.  Let's start off with a perennial crowd pleaser, the Straight Downhill Pundit.  This year the favorite for the Gold Zeppelin has to be the New York Times's brilliant rookie downhill racer, Bret Stephens.  He was brought in by the powers that be at the Times to provide “balance,” which means the ruminations of a privileged white reactionary male who usually manages to avoid the most paranoid ethnic and racial slurs.

And Stephens didn't disappoint, heading downhill at lightning speed by defending Woody Allen from charges of sexual abuse of what what would have been his stepdaughter had he married the girl's mother.  Stephens raced past other defenders of white men behaving badly by pointing out that unlike Larry Nassar, Allen had not been accused of abusing 285 women.  Instead, Stephens pointed out that Allen had been accused of only one gruesome felony.  Like Leopold and Loeb.

Showing his tremendous talent for crashing into every tree on his epochal downhill run, Stephens claimed that the prosecutor had exonerated the aged creep.  When Tommy Vietor pointed out on Twitter that the prosecutor had in fact said there was probable cause to charge Allen, Stephens stepped on the gas and said he could no longer abide Twitter.  And who can blame him?  It's no fun to not have the last word.

But the Karolyi Institute of gold-medal gasbags that is the New York Times op-ed page has fielded other strong medal contenders.  In the 20,000-Word Marathon of Ignorance, both white male favorites hale from the TimesDavid “the Old Perfesser” Brooks and Ross Douthat.  Both have inveighed endlessly on matters utterly outside their comprehension, such as a woman's right to control her own body.  The Old Perfesser showed true gasbag Olympic form by purporting to tell Democrats that the way to win elections was to abandon their pro-choice platform, on the grounds that women in only 20 states or so would lose their access to safe, legal abortions.

Of course Monsignor Douthat has been railing against abortion rights since his altar boy days and has recently extended his maledictions to pornography on the entirely irrefutable ground that he doesn't like it.  Look for this team of ignoramuses to finish one-two.

Turning to the women on the Times team, the leading contender for the coveted Hillary Clinton Triple Pretzel has to be once again Maureen Dowd, who has taken the gold in this event in every Gasbag Olympics since 1992.  Tying every social ill to Hillary Clinton's decision not to divorce her horndog husband when Dowd told her to is a grueling technical challenge that no one has mistressed [Surely, mastered? – Ed.] like well-known marriage authority Dowd.

But lest you think that American's medal hopes rest solely on the Times editorial page, fear not!  In the Mansplaining Biathlon (combining patronizing women with sulking when such conduct is pointed out on set), MSNBC's two seasoned wrecks [Surely, vets? – Ed.], Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews, are expected to do extremely well, which means for the ladies out there that they will win.  Got it, gals?

The U.S. is also fielding a strong team in the 180 degree Republican backflip, in which former hacks and coatholders in the Reagan and Bush Administrations now claim to be shocked, shocked to discover that the Republican Party is nothing but a deplorable basket of grifters, wife beaters, and hatemongers.  Both the U.S. men (Steve Schmidt, David Frum, and Hot Air Force General Billy Kristol) and women (Nicole Wallace, Jennifer Rubin and Ana Navarro) are expected to be formidable, as long as no one looks at what they actually said and did from 2000 to 2012.

Piers Morgan goes for the brown [Surely, gold? – Ed.]
With such a strong U.S. team, can any other country expect to strike gold at the Gasbag Olympics?  Fortunately, the poor sad United Kingdom is expected to win in the the prestigious Anglo-Anal Tongue Wrestling event, due to Piers Morgan's epic performance on President U Bum's, um, bum, captured by the BBC here.

Just remember, in the Gasbag Olympics, it's never just about winning the medal, it's also about winning a seven-figure book deal and/or anchor slot.  So light the flaming gasbag and let the games begin!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Play to Wynn the Game of Casino Regulation

By Maria Boroaroma
Financial Columnist

What with all the healthy correcting going in the stock market (and everyone I know on Wall Street who makes a living selling stocks says it's a great buying opportunity!), you might have missed the slight hiccup in the fortunes of the Wynn Corporation, until yesterday helmed by Nora Ephron's BFF, Steve “the Ladies' Man” Wynn.

Mr. Wynn, whom I hear is one of the most charismatic and brilliant executives the world has ever known (according to his investor relations department), decided to step down as President and CEO of the Wynn Corporation, which owns and runs casinos in legendary gaming meccas like Las Vegas, Macau, and soon Everett, Massachusetts.

His decision follows revelations of what he termed “ridiculous” claims that he had sexually harassed multiple waitresses, masseuses, housekeepers and other no fun types who labor in his empire, claims that at least on one occasion he settled for a mere $7,500,000 out of his own pocket.

I mean, who among us hasn't had to settle ridiculous meritless litigation for $7.5 million?  It could happen to anyone!

Steve Wynn, shown here with his yoga instructor,
forcefully denies mistreating his employees
Insiders I spoke to privately said that Mr. Wynn's decision to step down at the youthful age of 78 was intended to avoid any problems with pesky casino regulators, especially those in Massachusetts, which, unlike Nevada, is not a wholly-owned subsidiary of the gambling industry.  Sources close to Mr. Wynn (but not too close I hope if you catch my drift!) say that his resignation should put to rest any concerns regulators may have about his influence over the casino now rising from the Everett wasteland.

And why shouldn't it?  After all, it's not as if he has any remaining influence over the corporation that bears his name.  According to Wynn's proxy materials, Steve Wynn owns a mere 11.8% of Wynn stock.  That's hardly enough to worry about, even though numerous different securities laws define an “affiliate” as someone who owns at least 10% of the voting securities of the company deemed to be under his control.

In case you might be worried that Wynn, even in retirement, might be able to exert significant influence over all matters requiring shareholder approval, the Company's annual report on Form 10-K should set your mind at ease:
As of December 31, 2016, Mr. Wynn and Elaine P. Wynn owned 12,000,000 shares and 9,611,927 shares, respectively, or in the aggregate approximately 21.2%, of our outstanding common stock. As a result, Mr. Wynn and Elaine P. Wynn, to the extent they vote their shares in a similar manner, may be able to exert significant influence over all matters requiring our stockholders' approval, including the approval of significant corporate transactions.

(It may be fair to note that recent events have perhaps lowered the chances that the former Mr. and Mrs. will see eye-to-eye on matters related to corporate governance, or anything else.)

And if the Massachusetts casino regulators have little to worry about, Wynn investors have even less.  It's not as if the company's stockholders depend on the Ladies' Man for creating significant long-term value.   As its proxy says:
Mr. Wynn is the founder, creator and name behind our brand. We believe that he brings extraordinary talent to our Company that is unrivaled in our industry. The Compensation Committee believes that Mr. Wynn’s contributions to our longstanding, consistent achievement over the last decade have been, and continue to be, instrumental in creating significant long-term value for our stockholders. These factors were key in the determination of Mr. Wynn’s compensation during fiscal 2016.
And that's why he trousered a mere $28,156,985 in 2016.

The good news for Wynn investors is that the company should be able to find equally lucrative ways to spend $28 mil in 2018.  My sources tell me that notwithstanding the reputation the Commonwealth enjoys for probity and honesty in all matters relating to its governance, you can buy or at least rent a goodly number of Massachusetts legislators for that kind of jack.  Those sources say that if you don't believe them, they've got a collapsed parking garage at UMass Boston to sell you, for a lot less than $28,156,985.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Meta-fact checking The New York Times: Both Sides Now

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

So the serial sex offender/traitor/bigot in the twilight of his Presidency embarrassed himself in front of the nation on Tuesday, according to the fact-checkers of The New York Times.  But, in the great tradition of “objective” journalism, the various Democrats who responded to the torrent of bullshit and bigotry must be fact-checked as well and their inaccuracies pointed out to the world.

Right?  Right.  So The Times duly published a long analysis of five different Democratic responses and concluded in aggregate that “Democrats mislead and leave out context about trade, health care and taxes in criticizing President Trump’s State of the Union speech.”

Let's fact check the fact checker and find out what Democratic whoppers merited that conclusion.  First in the barrel, our Congressman Joe Kennedy.  We thought he sounded a little tentative but unlike President U Bum, what he said made sense.  That wasn't good enough for the meticulous Times newsies.

What did that moron graduate of Harvard College and Stanford Law School screw up?  First, he said that “Top C.E.O.s making 300 times the average worker is not right.” After admitting that Kennedy had correctly referred to a study correctly reaching that conclusion, the Times then proceeded to offer what they called “context.”

First they pointed out that in updated data, the gap had shrunk to a measly 271 times.  Smarten up, Joe!  Then the Times turned to a comparison of cash compensation only.  Why?  Who the f*** knows?  No CEO gives a toss about cash compensation excluding his (and 99% of the time it's his) sweet options, restricted stock, and other finagles, except to make sure that he's got enough cash to pay taxes on his haul.  Amazingly, when all the good stuff is taken out, the 271 times shrinks.  That would also be the case if you excluded the ransom CEO's make from Tuesday to Friday, and would be just as meaningful.

Having reduced Kennedy to rubble, the fact checkers then turned their big guns to a Virginia state rep who gave a speech in Spanish.  And what did this Demo kingpin louse up?  She said: “He also wanted to destroy protections for people with pre-existing health conditions, and to punish the people in advanced age with a cruel tax just because they’re this age.”

After acknowledging that President U Bum has in fact worked to undermine protection for those sick bastards (which might therefore make the claim accurate to those ignoramuses not smart enough to work for the the Times), the fact-checker then said the claim was inaccurate because the Grifter-in-Chief has said falsely he wants to protect those individuals.

So the claim that I am the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl may be false but anyone so saying should provide the context that I said I plan to start and feel real good about my team.

As for the claim that the Grifter-in-Chief's plans would make old people pay a ton more for health care, the Times conceded that was true too, but it wasn't a tax because the money would not go to the government.  It would be trousered by health insurers, which makes all the difference to old people who can't afford their premiums thanks to President U Bum.  Maybe Ms. Guzman meant tax in the metaphorical sense of an extra financial burden.  Maybe the Times fact checkers could take this one up with Michi Kakutani.

Next up: Bernie Sanders.  He can be a little hyperbolic, so what whoppers were caught by the Times?   How about this one? “Last year, he [U Bum] supported legislation that would have thrown up to 32 million people off of the health care they had while, at the same time, substantially raising premiums for older Americans.”

First, the Times admitted that the 32,000,000 figure was, um, accurate.  (Is there a pattern developing here?)  Then, however, the Times rubbished Sanders because some of that multitude would be people dropping insurance due to repeal of the individual mandate.  Leaving aside the importance of that mandate to a universal private insurance system, the reason that people don't buy insurance we suspect is because they can't afford it.  Apparently, that's OK to President U Bum and the Times.

Fourth, Donna Edwards.  She's not even a Democrat, according to the Times.  But let's she how she did.  She said: “As President Trump said tonight, this is an administration whose proudest accomplishment is the Republican tax scam. Which is more than a scam really — it’s a heist that benefits some of the richest people who have ever lived.”

And this was wrong, why? Because she didn't mention that some poor people will get a measly temporary tax cut.  But she never claimed otherwise – she claimed that the plan overall is a scam.  Tiny temporary tax cuts for working families are part of the scam.

Both Sides Now
The last prevaricator in the Times' gunsights was California Rep. Maxine Waters, a well-known bad-ass.  She must have let something fly, right?  Hope you're sitting down for this one: “He’s isolating us with his inept trade policies, withdrawing the United States from trade agreements without negotiating viable alternatives.”

And that was off the mark because – ?  According to the Times, that was a whopper because the United States had not ratified the Trans-Pacific Partnership before the Grifter-in-Chief withdrew from it.

And who said the United States was withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership?  Well, if you click on the handy link in the fact-check piece itself you get to this report in a well-regarded Eastern newspaper:
Although the Trans-Pacific Partnership had not been approved by Congress, Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw not only doomed former President Barack Obama’s signature trade achievement, but also carried broad geopolitical implications in a fast-growing region. 
The New York Times, January 27, 2018. Ffs.

So let's see.  Five accurate speeches, none in need of correction, with the possible exception of changing 300 times to 271 times greater.  Why did the Times publish this ridiculous niggling drivel?  It can only be a case of, in the words of Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now.  If the Times fact-checks a serial liar, it damn well better find something, anything, to question in the speeches of his opponents.  It's the same principle that led the Times to balance its pre-election reports of the Tangerine-Faced Grifter's numerous lies and felonies with equally hard-hitting coverage of Hillary Clinton's private email server.  And that turned out pretty well.

To paraphrase the great Joni Mitchell, “So many things we could have done but the Times got in our way.”