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Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, June 14, 2007
Playing PoliticsPoliticians use standard phrases to protect themselves while throwing mud at someone else. For example, "bipartisanship" means one or two people from one side of the aisle joined the other side in defiance of their party's jackboot. Or "compromise", meaning: "This bill is too complex and rife with unrelated line items for anyone to agree with, but we held our noses and voted for it anyway." See immigration reform or campaign finance reform.
My favorite is "playing politics". Roberts Rules of Order requires all politicians to say this at least 10 times a day. Aside from the obvious irony - like accusing someone of playing politics while engaging in party-motivated politics themselves - the statement is actually an apology for doing their job. One definition of politics is, "The art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs."
Did I Miss Something?
Isn't that what politicians are supposed to do or did I miss something?
They took up this mantra to hornswaggle voters into thinking politicians are nothing but poor, downtrodden victims. "Those evil guys from the other side brought this up just to embarrass me. True, I feel the same way, but my responsibility to party government trumps my responsibility to govern the nation." There's not necessarily anything wrong with playing politics. It's the way our democracy works and is essential to get things done. The problem is when politicians use "playing politics" as a synonym for "obstruction", wherein a politician obstructs issues through pure spite or overwhelming party loyalty. See Gonzales no confidence vote or any debate about Iraq.
But perhaps the saddest thing about "playing politics" is the way voters are so accustomed to the stupid charge they no longer question it. If they do, they support the charge more often than not. Mitch McConnell's disingenuous condemnation of the Gonzales no confidence vote is a case in point. Democrats didn't introduce the bill solely to embarrass republicans. They introduced it because the AG from hell has palpable problems - something many republicans agree on. Democrats introduced it to counter-balance a recalcitrant president who refuses to admit he has a problem. That's not playing politics, that's firing a symbolic warning shot across Admiral Asshat's bow in an attempt to get him to sit up and take notice. There's scant evidence he will, but at least democrats can rightfully say they tried everything.
What About Harry?
And Harry Reid doesn't get off either. He's a serial repeater of the playing politics game. When Mitch pitched the round above, Harry was right there, bat in hand, ready to say the republicans were all rabid obstructionists, obfuscating the fact that at least some of them don't have a problem with Gonzo - although I'm at a loss to explain why.
So the next time you see El Jefe standing in front of a row of telegenic soldiers to charge democrats with playing politics with Iraq or Harry Reid giving a school master scolding to republicans for opposing something he wants - think. If you unquestionably accept these charges, you're being hornswaggled...
And I have a great used car to sell you...
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Google, My Heart Bleeds for TheeShameless Self-Promotion Note: I'm in the process of migrating The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! to it's own domain (omnipotentpoobah.com). I'd thought it about it for quite some time, but when their spambots locked me out of my account for nearly a week, I decided the time had come.
I should be ready for the change-over within the next few days. Meanwhile, you can continue to stop by this location, but watch for the redirect when the final move is afoot.
Feel free to drop in at the new place to see how things are coming together and leave your comments at either place.
Thanks for your continued support.
Google, my heart bleeds for thee. You're complaining about mean old Bill Gates and his Vista O/S anti-competitively keeping you from your plans for world domination. What a shame!
Not that you don't have a point. BillCo has done similar things for years and has been pinched by regulators here and abroad for doing it. Each time their response is, "who us?" and off to court they go. Lawyers are probably the biggest block in the Microsoft software development org chart. Just ask Netscape how that works out.
Who's Complaining About Who?
But your case is pretty weak. In fact, Bill might even make the same complaint about you. Your near-daily purchase of net-related companies looks an awful lot like Bill's strategy of buying your way into market dominance. You have a war chest amassed during the Dot Com boom when investors profligately threw money at anything that began with a small "e" - eAsshats.com for example - and you know how to use it. Despite your Gatesian talk of innovation, the innovating pretty much stops when the 22-year old wunderkind running the new shop takes his millions and goes on extended vacation to raise alpacas in Malibu.
Owned and Operated by Google
But the most frightening thing is the personal intrusions you impose on your users. You already track us from space with photos detailed enough to count the shingles on our roofs and you're introducing 360º views of individual streets clearly showing faces and almost capable of peeking into bedrooms to see who's into anal sex or man-on-dog porn. You've already built massive databases of Google users to drive marketing schemes and search results. You've even attempted to scan the entire Library of Congress and all the public records from every segment of government. Bill only wanted to dominate the desktop. You want to see the sky imprinted with a "Welcome to Earth, Owned and Operated by Google" banner.
Google, my heart bleeds for thee. Maybe the public could form an alliance with Bill to protect us from you.
We'd certainly be screwed, but it might be preferable to being Googled.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Anybody Seen My Yacht?The rich are different than you and me. Bill Gates once bragged the IRS needed two computers to process his taxes and argued that the city of Redmond, WA should value his Taj Mahal of a home completely worthless because it's so big and personally customized no one would ever want to buy the place.
I'm not against a person making a buck - or in CEO's, athlete's, and movie star's cases - a lot of bucks. When they perform well they can make a lot of money for others. That's not necessarily bad, that's capitalism. But without a reasonable limit to the largess, everyone loses. Inflated movie star salaries drive ticket prices to $10 a pop. Athlete salaries frequently make sport facilities unprofitable and drive ticket prices so high, you have to mortgage your home for a sunny afternoon of baseball.
But CEOs? They've gone over the top.
The Dark Suits
According to a recent Editor & Publisher article, Yahoo - whose profit and stock performance has been in the toilet lately - paid CEO Terry Semel $71.7 million last year. Many people argue giant-sized compensation packages are justified for what the dark-suits do for the company, but Semel's performance seems more a question of what he does to the company. Unless Semel makes money soon, many people - considerably less able to afford it - will lose their jobs and investors will lose on investments. However, if past corporate decision-making is any indication, Semel's pay will go up despite the facts. Even if his compensation didn't change a penny, returning $71.7 million would go a long way toward improving the company's bottom line.
Financial analysts have predicted a compensation downturn for quite awhile but it just keeps rising. Federal reporting rules now require more robust explanations in corporate financial statements, but because of the unbelievably complex nature of compensation plans it's almost impossible to tell how much a CEO makes. The analysts, many of whom advocated these plump salaries in the go-go 90s, grossly under-estimated how little boards would do to reign in the costs. That seems a short-sighted view that ignores boards of hand-picked sycophants who also receive lots of butter on their bread.
Funny, that sounds a lot like Congress.
Are these salaries fair? No, but that doesn't matter. There is lots of unfairness in the world. Are people jealous of them? Yes, but that doesn't matter either. Are they justified? Eh. Some people believe in the trickle-down theory, which suggests the wads of cash grow a more robust economy. However, trickle-down seems like an inefficient way to do that - and I'm not alone in that belief. But the final analysis begs the question, is it common sense to lavish that much money on one individual? I emphatically believe, no.
Can a person really live any better on $71.7 million than say $10 million? Is the best way to stimulate trickle down through yacht and bizjet sales? Hardly. Would employees and investors fare better and gain greater returns on their investments of sweat equity and money is CEO salaries were trimmed? Yes. It would be nice if more CEOs had common sense and actually plowed as much money as possible back into the companies they run.
It is, after all, what they're hired - and lavishly paid - to do.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, June 11, 2007
A Tough Job Someone Has to DoWe've kicked off another needlessly prolonged Presidential campaign season with a series of gimmicky, pointless debates. With a candidate field of somewhere between a dozen and 16 million, many Americans are wondering - if America has roughly 350 million people why are these lunkheads the best candidates we can field?
Pundits no longer hold forth on who won and who didn't because it doesn't matter. All of the candidates come off as over-polished morons with the scruples of weasels. Their answers to empty-headed softball questions are fit for nothing other than the gag reels shown nightly on the Daily Show. It's clear that hyperactive PR machines have finally honed their dubious craft to the point where candidates now have all the appeal - and apparently the intelligence - of a box of Tide detergent.
But, at least Tide has the virtue of cleaning your clothes.
The lack of marginally credible candidates has ushered in a voting rate lower than a rigged contest in a war-torn Third World dictatorship. In view of the razor-thin margins in 2000 and 2004, voting promotion groups remind people that "every vote counts more than ever". However, it's not the quantity of votes that count, it's the quality of the candidates and the intelligence of the votes that do.
We've devolved into Hobson's Choice elections where Pat Paulson is as good a choice as any of the top "real" contenders - and he's dead. Make no mistake. Had Al Gore or John Kerry won, their own brands of ineptitude and dubious achievement would have been small only in comparison to the truly world-class, stunning incompetence of the mellonhead who won. Winning is not the same thing as being qualified. In fact, sometimes winning isn't even the same thing as winning.
On the rare occasions when voters admit to voting, non-voters laugh at them as uneducated rubes who don't understand the futility of suffrage. And when their measly vote is stacked alongside a mound of corporate cash, they're not entirely wrong. In our current system, wealth makes right and the meek (and disenfranchised) will inherit the Earth only when the sun begins to rise in the west. It's no wonder cynicism abounds.
Do qualified candidates exist? In a theoretical sense - not unlike the theory that life exists on other planets - there do. How do we find them, an Earthbound SETI-style search perhaps? Once found, how do we encourage them to run? If they run, how can we be assured they won't morph into the same indecisive and conniving con-men so popular already?
The political scene is rife with imponderables like these and I certainly don't know how to fix things. The only thing I can think of is to do what I do now. Pick a poopbag, hold my nose, and cast my vote into the ether to be stolen by someone who can afford private access to voting records and has the technical expertise to change enough votes to put his own crapweasel over the top.
It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Saturday, June 09, 2007
Randomness: Head Meets Wall Edition
Smelliness is Next to Godliness - A new fragrance directly from the Deity that brought you Intelligent Design. Ah, the smell of it!
The Answer to That Would be Yes - New Yorkers have always thought of the Hudson river as a cesspool, but it's a shimmering vision of loveliness compared to this.
Baby Food Jars From Hell - Everyone keeps a few jars around the house of storing those odds and ends. I think I'm going to rethink that though.
Their Other Blog is a First Aid Blog - Combine a wet cat with and short-sleeved shirt and injuries will ensue.
Cussing in Esperanto - Now this is a useful site you poephols.
Eeeeew! - Dude, isn't picking them up for your significant other embarrassing enough?
Hiding In Plain Sight - Hey! Isn't that whatsisname? You know...that guy. Oh man, I SO know that guy's name...
And Down at the NASCAR Patisserie - Having your cake and driving it too.
Why Couldn't It Have Been Air Guitar - Clearly, people in Kansas City have too much time on their hands...and bad taste in music too.
Smell the Marketing - These ad guys have been smelling a little something more than the rainbow.
MyHouse - This whole MySpace thing is getting out of hand. (HT to The Churning).
Error 000 - The page at the end of the marketing internet.
Music Soothes the Washing Beast - I want an iWasher for my birthday...as long as it doesn't play Smoke on the Water.
Somehow, I'm Not Surprised - How the hell did they get that thing up there?
Spy vs. Spy - I'm glad to see that our spy agencies are keeping up with the latest technology after 9/11. (HT to Cap'n Dyke)
Support the Troops - Throw a few of these out on the front lines and those pesky terrorists will get such a bruise. Bring it on baby, bring it on.
Yo, Jake and Elwood - A food fight gets out of hand. These kids today don't know how to do anything properly.
Does it Come in Seaweed? - Those clever Japanese are always coming up with something new. I reckon they'll be releasing heroin Sugar Smacks next.
Cut Off From Reality...Him? - George hears voices...now filmed proof.
Uncle Ben Stirs the Pot - Whoa, what a radical dude he is. Move over Malcolm X.
Plugs for Holes - What a selection! Always Aroused Girl (NSFW), are you reviewing these anytime soon? Or, how about this?
OOOOO! That Tickles - “I am not attempting this record for the money,” he said. I should hope not.
Asshats on Parade - But if you burned it, they'd be all over your ass.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, June 07, 2007
Scooter Hoist by His Own Petard
The judicial shoe dropped on Scooter Libby yesterday to the tune of 30 months in jail and a $250K fine. Not surprisingly, there's plenty of caterwauling about the fairness of the sentence and whether he deserves - or will get - a Presidential pardon. People are apt to frame Scooter's sentence through the window of Clinton's impeachment and in some ways the comparison is fair, in others, not so much.
The Humidor Honey
Clinton lied about his humidor honey, Monica Lewinsky. You could argue that he should've been charged and convicted of that felony offense, but he wasn't. The justice system made a legal decision not to prosecute - end of story. From a legal point of view, it doesn't matter whether you believe he's guilty. As they should, the legal system made that determination on our behalf. After all, I believe that OJ did it, but that isn't what the court found and I'm not a judge. So, I respect the decision even though I believe it is wrong. Such is the true rule of law.
However, a republican congress disagreed with the legal decision and attacked Clinton's case via a legislative process. I personally believe that was the wrong decision, but they carried it out properly under congressional rules, so I respect it. It doesn't matter which is worse, a lie about a BJ or a lie about outing a spy. Both are actionable crimes and both men payed for their transgressions. It's a little disingenuous for Libby supporters to split that hair now and charge the prosecutor played politics at Scooter's expense when a similar argument could be made about Clinton's impeachment.
Scooter's supporters think he should get off because he wasn't convicted of the original "crime" the feds investigated, but that's also true of Clinton's imbroglio. Whitewater had zero to do with blowjobs. Lying and obstruction are crimes in of themselves - not withstanding the still unproven republican claims that Plame wasn't outed. Scooter's supporters also claim he should get off because of his long and honorable government service. That argument just don't hold water. One could say Clinton served his government equally well.
It seems that on the "rightness scale" both cases are more or less equal. But a pardon is another matter entirely.
Clinton had little recourse in defending against impeachment. There was no one to pardon him. He may have lied to the grand jury, but once the affair was out he allowed the process to go forward with little whining. His supporters complained loudly, just as Scooter's do now. But at the end of the day, both men deserve punishment and are getting it.
However, Scooter does potentially have a get out of jail free card. Unlike Clinton, there is someone to pardon him. It's true other Presidents have made dubious pardons, but that shouldn't be a precedent or excuse for a Bush pardon. A pardon would highlight Bush's evident disdain for the judicial process and the rule of law he so often cites. It would also be true to form. He's often skirted the Constitution and angled to prevent legal challenges to those decisions and that is neither fair nor right. If Bush pardons Scooter, it will be an injustice.
And perhaps that, would be the biggest crime of all.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Laissez Faire is Less Than FairThere are some positive things about deregulated markets. They're capable of producing higher profits and more efficiently propagating technological improvements. Free marketers would argue that open markets create more jobs and lower prices and they wouldn't be completely wrong. They'd argue that a self-regulating marketplace is a much more efficient and correct arbiter of market needs and balances. But, free markets are also volatile things where more benefits flow to business rather than the other way around - not withstanding business lobbyists' attempts to spin poor customer service and higher prices as a benefit to consumers.
Deregulation frequently causes unintended blow back too. Unscrupulous businesses quickly find ways to game the system and without someone looking over their shoulder, they often spin off in completely unexpected - and frequently anti-consumer - directions. For example, banks were once places where you could talk to actual human beings and get help solving problems. In the old days, you knew exactly what fees were and how they would apply them to your account. If you needed to call them, you could do it without voice mail systems to nowhere and sometimes they even gave you a toaster for your patronage. Today? Nada.
And let's not even get started with deregulated telephone systems.
Consumer Benefits...Bah Humbug
There are many dubious examples of deregulation "benefits". Our deregulated airlines can barely get you from point A to point B with predictability. Along the way, they lose your baggage and charge for everything short of the very air you breathe. The flight crews are grumpy, the airplanes are filthy, and a seat that doesn't fold anyone under 5' into a human road map are non-existent. Deregulation introduced artificially low prices as airlines unwisely flew 747s in direct competition to cars burning relatively cheap gas. Those economic pressures drove nearly every airline into bankruptcy at least once. While personal bankruptcy became more legally difficult, the opposite became true for businesses. Today, we have fewer major airlines than before deregulation, their operations are chaotic, and they've turned once-pleasant airline travel into a loathsome experience worthy of Greyhound service between Detroit and Hoboken.
However, there's a case to be made for regulation with a little "r" and as little of it as is appropriate. But sometimes, poorly deregulated companies do incredibly dishonest things. Take compUSA's handling of a customer named Terry Heaton.
Left Holding the Empty Box
Heaton bought a camera during a compUSA liquidation sale. When he got his camera home, he found his "camera" was actually a $269 empty camera box. He went back to the store and quite reasonably asked for a camera or his money back. The store manager told him "all sales are final", refused. They said he should have checked the box before leaving the store. While that may be legally true, it's a poor way to treat anyone - customer or fellow human being. Would you require a post-operative ex-ray to prove your surgeon removed your appendix as proof he actually had? "Sorry, you didn't check and you already left the hospital, I guess you're out of luck."
After the store's refusal, Heaton went to compUSA CEO, Roman Ross. Ross essentially replied "piss up a rope you inconvenient customer". It's responses like his that caused the shuttered stores and attendant liquidation sales to begin with.
Greed is Good...for Business
Retail is largely regulated by toothless consumer protection laws and have deep pockets to outlast occasional challenges to unfair and unscrupulous business practices. Heaton has pledged to badmouth compUSA at every opportunity in retaliation. I wish him luck, but he's fighting an uphill battle that will cost him considerably more than $269 if he follows through. I'd not be the least bit surprised if he never sees camera or money again and compUSA might conceivably sue him for harassment.
Conservatives frequently bemoan onerous regulation as an unnecessary intrusion into the workings of capitalism. On the surface that seems plausible and I'd believe the government should as little regulation as necessary, but only if companies and industries adequately regulate themselves. If they don't I say regulate them to within an inch of their existence. But because administrations like the current one often allow lobbyists to write regulatory law, you can bet that any regulations that do come down will be, at best weak, and at worst, will benefit business. This applies equally to large and small business and comes at the expense of consumers who want what they paid for and some reasonable recourse if they don't get it.
Even though I try to be a caveat emptor kind of consumer, I've gotten my share of empty boxes too. The hard-earned money fiscal conservatives promise will trickle back to me in the form of lower taxes and prices is inevitably offset by corporations that sell empty boxes whenever they can get away with it. You can bet that as long as the CEO and his cabal get their Wolfowitz-style "performance" bonuses, consumer protection will be the farthest thing from their minds and consumers will be left holding the empty box.
Unfortunately, capitalism is an economic model designed around greed and without appropriate regulation, screwees will be tasked with rewarding the screwers.
It seems laissez faire capitalism brings a "less is fair" result for consumers.
A Special Omnipotent Note
Excuse the short interruption in my postings. Evil bots from Larry Page and Sergey Brin's rapidly growing Empire of Googlevania classified me as a spam blog and locked me out of my account. Greatly offended and inconvenienced by my classification as a spam blog, I've made a decision about something I've been considering for quite some time.
I'll be moving the blog as soon as I can get the time to set up accounts and work out new templates. I will, of course, keep all of you posted.
Fight the good fight against the Evil Empire...I mean Google, not Bush.
Oh, what the hell, fight Bush too.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, June 05, 2007