Monday, January 27, 2020

News from Zontar: Republicans seek justice

Every so often, the Spy's Deep Space Desk receives a faint transmission from the planet Zontar, in the Remulac galaxy, millions of light years from Earth.  These transmissions indicate the presence of intelligent life in the far reaches of our universe, although of course the thoughts and actions of these alien beings are incomprehensible to rational humans like us. Nevertheless, to show the full diversity of life across the vast expanse of deep space, we present a transcription of the latest transmission . . . [They get the setup already – Ed.]

By Zaggie Haberman
The New Zork Times

The impeachment trial of President Donald Z. Trumpf has been thrown into disarray by the discovery of critical new evidence showing that the President committed the high crimes he has long denied.

First, the President was caught on videotape seeking the execution of his then-Ambassador to Zukraine, Marie Zovanovitch.  The videotape showed him commissioning her murder at a long friendly fund raising dinner conversing with Lev Parnaz, whom the President had falsely denied knowing.

John Zolton's blockbuster accusation is
shaking up the Nation's Capital
Later, The New Zork Times revealed that the President's former Galactic Security Advisor, John Zolton, had been told by the President that vitally-needed military aid to Zukraine would be held up until the Zukrainian Government announced a bogus corruption investigation into Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Ziden.

The new revelations follow a week of opening arguments in which the House impeachment Managers laid out a persuasive and fact-based case against the President.  Already there were signs that the strength of the case and the quality of the presentation were making an impression on Republican Senators, who were attentively taking it all in, as is their Constitutional duty.

“You don't have to be a graduate of Zale Law School like me to realize that the Democrats have carefully established each element of the high crime of abuse of power and obstruction, including admissions from the President himself and his Chief of Staff,” said Sen. Josh Zawley (R – Mizzouri).

“I've prosecuted an impeachment trial myself and I am floored by the carefully prepared case. I don't see how anyone could in good faith deny that the President had abused his power and obstructed a legitimate inquiry into that abuse, ” said Sen. Linzay Graham.  Sen. Graham said he would not be deterred by the President's threat to put the heads of anyone who voted to convict on a pike.  “I don't care what comes out about me; I'm only concerned about preserving our Republic, as are my constituents, who have learned their lesson and are no longer interested in committing mass treason,” he said.

But the Republican concerns about the strength of the case against the unpopular incumbent President have been magnified by the two bombshell developments over the weekend.

“I don't see how any trial could be conclude until we hear from Mr. Parnaz and Mr. Zolton,” said Sen. Zitt Romney (R – Zion).  “If the President is innocent, then their testimony will exonerate him.  Let the Twinkies fall where they may – we have a duty to our country to get to the bottom of this.”  He said that shutting down the trial without hearing from key fact witnesses would be as crazy as “tying your dog to the roof of your car.”

Senator Zuzan Collins, facing a tough re-election fight in her native Ice Planet Maine, said that she would demand sworn public testimony from these and other witnesses.  She said she did not fear retribution from the President and his legions of far-right supporters: “The important thing is to stand up for the truth and for my constituents on Ice Planet Maine.  My own political future is trivial by comparison.”

The increasingly firm views of Republican Senators seem to reflect the concerns of their constituents and Republican-leaning media, which up to now had been supportive of the President.

The head of Kanzaz Women for Trumpf said
her members demand a fair trial
The head of Kanzaz Women for Trumpf said that after an emergency meeting of their members on Sunday, “they overwhelmingly voted in favor of hearing more witnesses.  Although our organization supports conservative causes, we cannot let that blind us to the overarching need to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That would be stupid.”  She said most of her members were following the impeachment proceedings closely and making up their own minds.

Talking heads on the Republicans' favorite news channel, Schlox News, were also emphasizing the need for full and fair fact finding.  Pistol-packin' Zhon Hannity, a longtime confident of the President, told his millions of faithful viewers: “Let's not get sidetracked by irrelevant nonsense like Hillary Clinton's emails.  Let's focus on the evidence and the need for a thorough and searching inquiry into these charges.”

He was followed by former gangster moll Jeannie Zirro, who said that in all her years as a prosecutor in New Zork she had never seen a case as strong as the one presented by the House Managers.

Also notable was the absence of some of the President's most stalwart defendants.  Former New Zork mayor Rudi Zuliani was unavailable for comment and said to be recuperating in an undisclosed detox facility in Zouthampton.  And Alan Dershowitz, said to be suffering from a chronic case of red light fever, also refused to return phone calls.  His office said he was busy getting a “massage.”

Monday, January 20, 2020

Do Not Forget the Greediest!

How Can Dems Reach Out to the Key
Demo of Whiny Billionaire Plutocrats?

By Samuel Insull
Financial Editor
with David Bloviator in Washington

We don't get out much any more, but when we do it always ends badly.  Recently we were invited to a dinner where the host told us he had been meeting with private equity types in New York.  Despite their eight-figure Park Avenue co-ops, Vineyard mansions, Aspen ranches, and grisly trophy wives, they told him their feelings were hurt.

Sanders and Warren are wiping the grin off his face
When we stopped crying we asked why. Apparently they are paying attention to the 2020 election and are very upset about progressive Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Is it the specter of modestly higher taxes that might cause them to keep flying their Gulfstream IV for another year instead of upgrading to a new 650?

They claim not.  They claim they are willing to pay higher taxes (although they continue to spend hundreds of millions renting out the Congress to make sure that their outrageous unearned tax breaks not only survive but are extended into new scams, like tax-destroying “opportunity zones.”)

What's really chapping their saggy butts is their sense that they are being unfairly criticized for their cruel rapacious greed.  And they are so stung by what sounds to us like entirely justified and fact-based criticism that they would vote for a corrupt bigoted Russian-owned sex offender over Senators Warren or Sanders.

Once the plutocrat express left Whinesburg and pulled into Crazytown, we got off.  Or, more precisely, we pushed the self-pitying finaglers off the f**in' train and headed back to reality.

At a time when the Republic is hanging by a thread, or perhaps a comb-over, if you are such a delicate flower that you would vote for the destroyer of American democracy because his opponent said mean things about you, you have forfeited any claim to being taken seriously or really even listened to.

My host's report from the fast-flowing money rivers of New York is all too consistent with what they are telling their fawning bootlickers, um, financial news sources, like CNBC:

 Who are these Susan Sarandons of the monied class?  Surprisingly, lots of them are too shy to say:

In recent weeks, CNBC spoke to several high-dollar Democratic donors and fundraisers in the business community and found that this opinion was becoming widely shared as Warren, an outspoken critic of big banks and corporations, gains momentum against Joe Biden in the 2020 race.

“You’re in a box because you’re a Democrat and you’re thinking, ‘I want to help the party, but she’s going to hurt me, so I’m going to help President Trump,’” said a senior private equity executive,

That checks out – if you spout this dumb s**t under your real name, you could find yourself next summer in Chilmark reduced to dining with Alan Dershowitz.

Other whining anonymous fat cats admitted to New York magazine it's not just the money, it's the effrontery:

What agitates them instead is — in a replay of the alienation they felt during the Obama presidency thanks to a few stray “fat cats” comments — how Democratic rhetoric threatens their sense of status. 

Remember how real President Obama used to tee off on Wall Street fat-cats, subjecting them to a constant torrent of abuse?  Of course you don't because it never happened.

But it shows that Wall Street plutocrats, who are happily silent when a deranged President threatens to lock up political opponents, mocks physically disabled reporters, and insults elected Democrats as “crazy,” “corrupt” and “low-IQ,” decompensate when Democrats, unlike the coatholders they buy and pay for and the parade of schnorrers seeking pelf for good works, either charitable or political, do not swoon over their greatness, brilliance, and generosity.

We suspect that's the root of the problem: if you're a rich finagler, every day is schnorrer's day.  And any good schnorrer knows that the best way to get Richie Rich to open his wallet is to flatter his brilliance, judgment, kindness, vision, rugged good looks, taste in furniture, trophy wife, or whatever it takes to get the dough.

Combine that with the investment bankers, consultants, and other bottom-feeders trying to do business with these titans, not to mention a horde of underlings whose life is entirely dependent on the good will of their bosses, and you understand that these clowns are bathed daily in a warm tub of flattery and brown-nosing.  After a while, this environment is like water to a fish: it's not even recognized as a thing; it's just how life is.

And when you consider that these titans tend to be grandiose narcissists perpetually dissatisfied because all the billions they have extracted from workers and consumers do not in fact fill the ego hole left by mommy and daddy who didn't love them enough (and honestly can you blame their parents?), you find that these titans of greed and crapulence can be deflated by what they see as cruel attacks and what the rest of see as simple truth: in exchange for no societal benefit, we have directed all rewards of the American economy to a handful of self-serving leeches, with a few crumbs left over for those who minister to them.

Maybe this coffee-shop psychiatry is too elaborate. Maybe there's a simpler explanation:

In any case, the point is that Wall Street billionaires, even more than billionaires in general, seem to be snowflakes, emotionally unable to handle criticism.

I’m not sure why that should be the case, but it may be that in their hearts they suspect that the critics have a point.
What, after all, does modern finance actually do for the economy? Unlike the robber barons of yore, today’s Wall Street tycoons don’t build anything tangible. They don’t even direct money to the people who actually are building the industries of the future. The vast expansion of credit in America after around 1980 basically involved a surge in consumer debt rather than new money for business investment.
What irresponsible ignorant rabble-rousing Communist know-nothing dares question the economic case for private equity investing?  And how did he get his Nobel Prize for Economics anyway?  And who is he to tell the private-equity billionaires that leveraging, plundering, and then abandoning great American enterprises like the Chicago Tribune or Gannett while, in the case of manufacturing companies, closing down U.S. factories and shipping jobs to overseas sweatshops isn't doing anything for the American polity?

By the way, when they tell you they're not really opposed to higher taxes, they're telling compliant professional dispensers of conventional wisdom like Axios something different:

Private equity firms will rush the exits if they believe that a Democrat is likely to defeat President Trump, investors tell me.

The exits to what?  Will they flee the country, the political system, or any pretension of putting public good above their private gain?  Actually, it turns out they will liquidate their holdings in 2020 rather than pay higher Warren/Sanders tax rates in later years.  Well, wouldn't you?  Of course, if they would prematurely walk away from successful investments rather than pay higher taxes on their winnings, they might not be telling us the gospel truth when they say they will end their practice of nobbling Congress to carve out unjustified tax breaks for themselves.

At least he wasn't a whiner
It makes you nostalgic for the days of the Robber Barons.  Vanderbilt Junior said “the public be damned.” He didn't say the public should admire me for my wonderful railroads or I'll vote for a corrupt subversive stooge.  He didn't write pisspoor books in which he attempted to rehabilitate himself by passing himself off as a business sage or a historian.  He just made tons of money and dared the government he bought and paid for to stop him.

And he never whined.  Which puts him in our estimation miles ahead of today's too-sensitive plutocrats, who should remember the wise words of Max Bialystock.  When asked by Leo Blum what will people say when he flaunted his ill-gotten gains, Max replied, “They'll say wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha.”

Maybe the Democrats should listen less to their insufferable Wall Street moneybags and more to the voters who have paid the price for the vast transfer of wealth and power to a few thousand overpaid white men.  Those voters tend to live in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia.  In 2016 the Democrats ran a candidate who was, partly unfairly, perceived as too close to Wall Street (but not nearly as corrupt and venal as her opponent).  Our recollection was that it turned out to be, as they say on Wall Street, a bad trade.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Hot Air Force: Will It Fly Again?

Dispatches from the Imminent War Fronts

By Douglas MacArthur
War Correspondent with A.J. Liebling
Meta-content Generator

Nothing get the blood racing faster than a jolly war somewhere in the Middle East.  The shock and awe!  The crisis diplomacy!  Joe Lieberman!

So with war in the air with Iran, we thought it was time to see if the Channel 651 Hot Air Force, that ragtag gang of radio talk show hosts, media gasbags, Op-Ed Pundits and similarly underemployed white men, were ready to man their microphones and keyboards to once again send other people's children into harm's way, this time against a well-armed nation of 80,000,000 souls, Iran.

Let's start with the grizzled veterans of the Hot Air Force's last campaign, the thrilling 2003-today war of choice against Iraq.  That turned out great, unless you were one of the several hundred thousand dead, missing, wounded, or maimed or a taxpayer stuck with the $3,000,000,000,000 bill or really anyone on Earth other than the valiant 651 Hot Air Force itself.

So has Generalissimo Freddie Hiatt '76 ordered your children into combat from his vantage point high about The Washington Post editorial page, as he did in 2002, when he declared ridiculously that we had to invade Iraq because of 9/11, a calamity in which Iraq was . . .  not involved?

His editorial page said last week: “Mr. Trump ought to embrace the pause in hostilities as an opportunity to begin serious negotiations with the Islamic republic.”  Negotiations?  But Freddie said in 2002 that in the ruins of the World Trade Center we see the futility of attempting to appease dictators who might get their mitts on nuclear weapons.  So Generalissimo Freddie seems to be AWOL on the new war.  Very disappointing.

How about the brains behind the 651 Hot Air Force – Billy Kristol?  He must be ready to saddle up!   Apparently not so much:

A useful cautionary thread?  Where were all these useful cautionary threads when Billy was shilling for invading Iraq and torturing detainees?  Maybe they hadn't been spun yet?  Well, the Hot Air Force isn't going to fly again with commanders like that!

How about Major General Thomas “Six Months” Friedman?  Surely he's ready to go, albeit in six month increments (which he back in the day used to buy time to demonstrate the wisdom of the invasion of Iraq).  The fight to rid the world of the dangerous terrorist den that is Iran and restore peace and security to Zion, uh, the Middle East must be worth another $3 trillion and 5,000 American lives (not to mention the thousands more wounded and crippled in body and mind), eh Tom?
[W]hen I hear Fox News’ flag-waving commentators claiming that those who don’t support Trump in his careening around the Middle East are being unpatriotic, I want to burst out laughing, because it is so pathetic. 
Wait, what?  General Tom wasn't laughing in 2002 when he said every so often we had to throw some tyrant against the wall and beat the crap out of him.  Or maybe he was but we just didn't get the joke.

And what about ol' Axis of Evil himself, Toronto Dave Frum?  He flacked endlessly for the Iraq debacle as a speechwriter for poor clueless George W. Bush, but now he responds very differently when asked by his fellow Canadian journalists about war with Iran:
You supported at the time the invasion of Iraq, but now you're writing that if the Iraq war is repeated in Iran, that it would terrify you. What's so terrifying?

DF: Well let's look at the difference in the process. With the Iraq war, George W. Bush put in place a lot of important pieces. He had an operating war plan.  [He did?  What was it? – Ed.]
And with all that, it was still less than a complete success, to put it mildly. Now what if you don't do any of those things?

You're going to try to change the regime there with no plan to do it.
Yeah, not a good idea he realizes 18 years later.

Maybe the answer is the old generals of the 2002-03 651 Hot Air Force have simply retired from the field of combat.  Is there a new generation of incoherent warmongers ready to step in and fill the breach?

Hell, yeah.  Let's strike up the brass band for Lt. Colonel Pete Hegseth, former Army National Guard but now clearly ready to take command of the 651 Hot Air Force.  In the best traditions of the HAF, he's ready for war crimes:
The morning after Iran launched missile attacks against several Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops, Fox News host Pete Hegseth suggested the U.S. may need to “rewrite the rules” of war in engaging Iran. And that might include bombing cultural sites and hospitals, he said.
Hot Air Force Lt. Col. Pete Hegseth reporting
for short arm inspection!
That's more like it!  Let's bomb Iranian hospitals!  Victory would be assured.  Unless, of course, the Iranians responded by unleashing their large if poorly aimed battery of missiles at – I don't know – oil refineries anywhere in the Middle East or tankers transiting the Strait of Hormuz (through which U.S. aircraft carriers already refuse to pass due to their vulnerability to short-range Iranian missiles and coastal patrol boats).   But nothing could be more glorious than ruined hospitals and murdered patients!  Just like Bataan, except of course there we were the victims of war crimes.

So Lt. Col. Hegseth is locked and loaded for Nuremberg.  Anyone care to join him?  At least one old warhorse of the Hot Air Force, John “Once the rockets go up/Who cares where the come down/That's not my department” Bolton, is ready to saddle up: “Bolton has been calling for the U.S. to bomb Iran for years. Critics fear that his recent rhetoric will intensify an already fragile situation.”

F**in-A it would!  Bomb Iran and then what happens?  Bolton hasn't a clue and doesn't much care.  Bomb today and the rest will take care of itself, says this not-very-happy-looking warrior.  But it's that kind of inspiring lack of leadership that has always marked the 651 Hot Air Force as one of this century's most effective engines of death and destruction.

Fortunately, no one would be stupid enough to make decisions about war and peace based on what ignorant bloviating talking heads say, amirite?  According to Media Matters:
That said, the fact that commentators are discussing the impact of Fox commentators on Trump’s state of mind and decision-making process is a sign of the abnormality of this administration.

It is bad that the president takes advice from his television. 
Bad for our men and women in uniform being sent into harm's way maybe.  But it's another great victory for the new and improved high-definition 651 Hot Air Force, which has made an unopposed landing in the empty orange skull of President U Bum.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

That's Entertainment!

“GHENT, Belgium — The NTGent theater here was out of step with its surroundings last weekend. As the bustling, family-friendly Christmas market of this handsome port city was still going strong, with craft and jewelry stalls half framing the theater’s doors, inside a somber audience gathered for a new stage production about a family’s collective suicide.

Under the circumstances, the bleak subject matter could easily have felt gratuitous. Yet that sense of detachment from the world is at the heart of the play, Milo Rau’s “Familie,” which links suicide to a sense of contemporary hopelessness.

Different family response to sick, broken world
The production was inspired by the story of a family of four, the Demesteers, who killed themselves in Calais, France, in 2007. Rau, a Swiss-born theater director who has been at the helm of NTGent since 2018, enlisted another real family to imagine what might have happened on their last night: the married couple An Miller and Filip Peeters, who are stage and TV actors, and their daughters, Leonce and Louisa.

Most directors would probably draw the line at asking amateur teenage actors to simulate their own suicide, but Rau loves an ethical minefield. Last year, he made work in a former war zone in Iraq and cast former migrant workers in a cinematic retelling of the life of Jesus in Italy.

 “Familie” completes a trilogy about violent episodes in modern Europe, starting in 2016 with “Five Easy Pieces,” about a child abuser in Belgium, and followed by “La Reprise — Histoire(s) du Théâtre (I),” a stunning exploration of the murder of a gay man.

All of these productions have invited controversy, and not always with a clear payoff. I found Rau’s recent “Orestes in Mosul,” which asked Iraqi war victims to re-enact traumatic events for the benefit of European audiences, exploitative in practice, for instance.

And while “Familie” is a smaller-scale project, its explicit staging of the protagonists’ suicide led the Flemish Center of Expertise in Suicide Prevention to express concern before the premiere in the Belgian newspaper De Morgen that the play might inspire copycat attempts.

On opening night, for the first half-hour or so, “Familie” left me cold. The Miller-Peeters are shown performing everyday tasks — pinning photos to a wall, cooking — inside a glass-walled house. In voice-over, they list their favorite things: Peeters, the father, likes to walk naked on the beach, we learn, and one of his daughters enjoys Harry Potter and dogs.

Soon enough, 15-year-old Louisa sits down in front of a video camera outside the house to tell us about the genesis of the production, using one of Rau’s favorite directorial tricks. She looks reticent as she shares that a friend killed himself; suggests that she, too, has contemplated suicide; and tells how she discovered the Demesteers’ story.

As often with Rau, it’s impossible to tell whether all of this is true or whether it’s part of the director’s intentional blurring of the lines between reality and fiction. [Maybe he should run for President – Ed.]

We learn from Louisa that there was no suspicion of foul play after the Demeester family’s deaths, and that there was no history of illness or trauma. The note they left behind simply read, “We messed up, sorry.” Their story doesn’t fit neatly into any patterns, as specialists noted after the event, which makes it initially hard to reconcile on an intellectual level with the ordinary lives that “Familie” depicts.

As “Familie” progresses, however, that ambiguity allows Rau’s superb cast to imagine how their own final night might unfold.

They have dinner and watch home movies in near silence. Afterward, they clean up and dress up in fancy clothes in preparation for the end. On a screen above the stage, we see their faces up close, filmed by a discrete [Did our deep-thinking critic mean 'discreet', as anyone not in a family filming them would be discrete by definition? – Ed.] crew, with minuscule cracks occasionally appearing in their composure.

Before she was the Times Belgian theater critic,
she was an art student
The family’s decision is never discussed directly. Internal monologues are the only clue to each person’s thinking. “I don’t know what’s good or bad anymore,” the mother, Miller, says wistfully. [Maybe she could become a theater critic for the Times – Ed.]

Near the end, though, Louisa breaks the fourth wall again. “While rehearsing this play, we discussed the meaning of life, but no one had an answer that convinced me,” she says, before briefly alluding to global leaders’ inaction on climate change: “The world is broken, sick.”

On opening night, her speech rang true. Suddenly, I recognized a kind of despair that I’ve seen in many people around me recently.

Émile Durkheim, the 19th-century French sociologist, coined the term “anomic suicide” to describe the phenomenon of people ending their lives because they feel disconnected from a rapidly changing, chaotic society. That may or may not have applied to the Demesteers, but in 2020, the Miller-Peeters’ subdued anomie is all too recognizable.

“Familie” is hardly for everyone. Some may find it dangerously triggering — especially the unnecessarily realistic final scene — and the play’s publicity material is peppered with warnings and help-line numbers.

But the chill it casts isn’t mysterious or extraordinary, if you can bear it. In the end, Rau hits presciently close to home.”

The New York Times, January 6, 2020.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

In Memoriam: What didn't survive 2019 (besides the Constitution)

In Memoriam

The Spy's Obituary Page takes a loving look back at the people, institutions, and ideas that left us in 2019, for better or worse.

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

Boeing, Boeing, Gone

It was the greatest manufacturing success story of the 20th Century and still going strong in the 21st.  Its passenger planes ushered in the Jet Age (the 707) and the era of mass air transport (the 747).  It crushed or bought all competitors.  It offered high-paying jobs to tens of thousands of workers.  And it was the epitome of engineering excellence, producing safe, fast, efficient, reliable planes by the thousands.

What happened?  Short answer: one Chief Executive Officer, aided and abetted by the insane and falsified myth of the Godlike CEO, created by Ayn Rand and made flesh in American capitalism over the past thirty years.

The CEO in question is one Dennis Muilenberg, a Boeing lifer who successfully internalized the lesson for success of a modern CEO: maximize short term profit and ignore anyone or anything standing in the way.  According to The Daily Beast, Muilenburg had a “reputation as a man who delivered record profits to stockholders as fast as he delivered airplanes to the airlines.”  That performance netted him $23,000,000 in 2018 compensation but it lead to the avoidable deaths of 346 passengers, none of whom however were as well paid as he was.

The Boeing 707 was a success once engineers
realized the specs were in feet, not inches 
He inherited the decision to compete with Airbus by stretching the competitive Boeing model, the 737, to create what would essentially be a new plane but somehow would not require retraining existing 737 pilots.  This was done to satisfy customers such as Southwest, which only flies 737's.  The only problem was that such a plane was unflyable under the laws of aerodynamics, so Boeing engineers added an automated control system, unknown to the pilots actually flying the damn thing, which would avoid unsafe conditions.  Our guess is that Southwest might have wanted to know about that tidbit, too.

By 2016, Boeing's test pilots reported that the system, called MCAS, was creating mass casualties in the flight simulator.  In response, Boeing did nothing other than hide the report from the supine Government agency nominally charged with protecting the flying public, the FAA.

So the 737 Max was sent into service without pilot training or a properly-informed government assessment of a key safety system.  You know what happened next: “That software was implicated in the 737 Max crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia after it received faulty information from a sensor and pushed the planes’ noses down into a fatal dive.”  In other words, it took faulty data from one of the two sensors on the plane and instead of cross checking the bad data, Boeing's software sent two planes to their doom.

Finally, even Boeing's dozing Board of Directors had had enough of their CEO's endless misrepresentations and cutting corners on safety.  As a result, Muilenberg is out on the street with as little as $26.5 million (but as much as $58.5 million) in severance pay for a job badly done.  Nice work if you can get it but if you can't you really should vote Democratic.

The fate of Boeing's genius CEO is just another point in the endless line of self-important white men whose supposed mastery of the universe has made former business schools idols like ITT and GE what they are today (gone and almost gone, respectively).

You might think that the theory of the übermensch white CEO, having been repeatedly falsified, would be on the way out, but don't forget there's a lot riding on it.  In the case of “Crash and Burn” Muilenberg, up to $58,500,000, to be precise.



The Russian Menace

From 1917 through 1990, with a short break for World War II and Uncle Joe Stalin, the United States was consumed by the fear of (Godless) Russian Communism.  Remember Dean Acheson's College of Cowardly Communist Containment?  Remember Curtis LeMay trying to start a nuclear war in Cuba in 1962?  You probably don't, but that's why we have history books.

Indeed there was much to dislike about Soviet Communism.  It ignored basic human rights, like a free press.  It squashed dissent by monopolizing mass media and imprisoning or neutralizing political adversaries with at best trumped-up criminal charges and at worst an ice pick.  It invaded and occupied other sovereign states.  It tried to subvert freedom and democracy in other countries by interfering in their elections and bribing or blackmailing their leaders.  It passed off lies as truth and dismissed the truth as lies.  It broke up Lara and Dr. Zhivago.

Fortunately, as Alexandr Navalny, Pussy Riot, and the people of Ukraine, Crimea, Georgia, and Moldova can attest, at gunpoint, those kinds of things don't happen anymore.

Ukrainian language version not available
All it took was replacing the American political leadership that had maintained a consistent bipartisan consensus to oppose Russian nastiness with a Russian-paid stooge willing to live and let live as long as the payments from Kremlin-backed oligarchs and blackmail tapes remain well hidden.

So now we have peace in our time on the Eastern Front.  Better yet, we've replaced bipartisan consensus with a corrupt and decadent political party that refuses to condemn Presidential subversion of American foreign policy while quietly nibbling around the edges to send a few crappy bullets (but not effective and scary anti-aircraft missiles) to our beleaguered Ukrainian allies.

Even better, at least if you're Putin or his BTangerine-FacedFF, you've succeeded in fulfilling the long-held Russian strategic goal of cleaving the United States from its Western Allies, and ousting it from influence across a wide expanse of the Middle East.

So let's raise a memorial bucket of fried chicken to the death of the Russian Menace and cheer our new policy, which can be described in one word: winning!



The National Debt

Next to the Red Menace (see supra), the most dangerous adversary this Republic faced, at least during the Clinton and Obama Administrations, was the national debt, representing the aggregate of all money borrowed by the United States Government to fund its operations, including the huge military expenses once needed to deter said Red Menace.

The fear of the debt consumed all right-thinking individuals across a surprisingly wide spectrum of the American polity.  The supposedly exploding debt was so terrifying that we had to starve grandma to bring it under control.  Don't believe me?  Just ask Alan Garber's famous classmate, Freddie Hiatt '76, who, from his perch atop the Washington Post editorial page, thundered about a menace second only to Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction. Here's a representative sample from 2006: “If entitlement programs [by which Freddie meant Social Security and Medicare] are not reformed, they will squeeze out other spending programs that Democrats care about; they will create a budget crunch that no responsible party could want. But some Democrats do not appear to understand this.”

Remember when rich sh*ts used to whine
about the National Debt?
Real economists like Paul Krugman, who went beyond Ec 10, pointed out repeatedly over the years (and as recently as today) that starving granny (or otherwise stinting on programs to help the unfortunate) to reduce the not-so-crushing debt was a counterproductive load of bollocks: 

In 2010, however, policy discourse was taken over by people insisting, on one side, that we needed to cut deficits immediately or we would all turn into Greece and, on the other side, that spending cuts wouldn’t hurt the economy because they would increase confidence. 

The intellectual basis for these claims was always flimsy; the handful of academic papers purporting to make the case for austerity quickly collapsed under scrutiny. And events soon confirmed Macroeconomics 101: America didn’t turn into Greece, and countries that imposed harsh austerity suffered severe economic downturns.
In any event concern about the National Debt was holed below the waterline by last year's Republican tax cut for the rich – 100% paid for with borrowed money.  Have you heard Republicans or very serious pundits like those financed by Pete Petersen's ill-gotten gains say boo about the exploding debt?

So leave a stone on the grave of fake concern about the debt, and come back to visit when and if a Democratic Administration attempts to fix our crumbling infrastructure, succor the poor and ill, and postpone climate catastrophe and the Republicans and Freddie Hiatt once more starts whining about the national debt.



The New York Times Op-Ed Page, RIP

Although it had been failing for many years, it nonetheless came as a shock to learn of the death of The New York Times Op-Ed page in December, at the not at all ripe age of 53.  [Get an intern to check this before we post – Ed.]

The fatal blow was struck by Bretbug Stephens in a column so rancid that it had to be citechecked and rewritten after publication by the Op-Ed Page in its death throes.  The ostensible subject of the column was that not-at-all dubious bit about how smart Ashkenazi Jews are, based on, wait for it, the number of chess champions of that ethnic persuasion (probably totally unrelated to the prevalence of Russians in the field of chess), and an insane study claiming that such Jews, unlike their Middle Eastern brethren, who are apparently regarded by Bretbug as morons, are smarter than the rest of us.  When the study was revealed to have been an integrity-free product of racist pseudo-science, the Times dropped the reference to the study but kept the rest of the horsesh*t about Jews.

Jews – they're so smart!
The Times [no link; you can look up racist crap for yourself] emasculated the column on line, dropping the references to Ashkenazim, and told its credulous readers that Bretbug “was not endorsing the study or its authors’ views, but it was a mistake to cite it uncritically.”  So he was citing a study he didn't agree with in support of his argument just for sh**ts and giggles?

At that point, the credibility of the Op-Ed Page breathed its last.

At the funeral, consider what's left of Bretbug's argument.  To help you, our editors made a few modest edits to clarify why here on Planet Earth in the 21st Century he and his bosses are so appalling:

How is it that men, who never amounted to more than one-half of the world’s population contributed so seminally to so many of its most pathbreaking ideas and innovations?  The common answer is that men are, or tend to be, smart. But the “men are smart” explanation obscures more than it illuminates. Aside from perennial nature-or-nurture questions, there is the more difficult question of why that intelligence was so often matched by such bracing originality and high-minded purpose.

Notice that even from the grave the Op-Ed page continues to give credence to the theory that intelligence is genetic (that's the “perennial nature-or-nurture question”), a theory propounded for years in places as supposedly respectable as The Atlantic, The New Republic, and the Harvard Department of Psychology until the one piece of research supposedly validating the hypothesis – Burt's twin study – was proven to be a fraud.

We expect that Bretbug will continue to grace the deceased Op-Ed page.  In fact, we hear he's already working on his next column, in which he claims that those who criticize his dangerous and fact-free views are no better than Joseph Goebbels.  Hey, he's done it before.