27 November 2008


By Andy Weddington
Thursday, 27 November 2008—Thanksgiving Day

Reader submitted front-runners to consider for comment include real estate, stock market, American auto industry, bailouts, etc., etc. As to these topics, the wisdom to exercise restraint while angry has kept me from writing and posting anything to the world I’d later regret. Our tenuous economy is serious business but I have to half-heartedly laugh—to vent the anger—at the sheer absurdity of it all. I, like many experts who believe in competitive markets and survival of the fittest, have no tolerance for sloppy monetary policy and fiscal dealings—irresponsible or malicious. That intolerance extends to government’s decision to bailout the culpable—the weak—thereby rewarding bad behavior by citizen, businessman, and politician alike. Ironically, and inevitably, it is the innocent—the good boys and girls—who are and will continue to be punished. This week, bundled money matters are the target in a frank albeit lighter comment. Laughter is good, healing medicine—especially in hard, challenging times. And these are hard, challenging times. Whatever your sentiments, may you chuckle—at least once.

Tomorrow marks the official start of the Christmas season—shopping, Christmas trees, candy canes, lights, carolers, concerts, parties, crisp weather, eggnog, baked goods, icebox fruitcake, nativity scenes, anxious children, and traditional black & white favorites on TV ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ to mention a couple. But, it’s going to be a meager Yule for many—from retailer to E-tailer to tiny tot—this year. Even the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and cantankerous Mr. Potter of charming Bedford Falls couldn’t begin to dream up this season’s financial mess. And you can bet your last weak dollar both curmudgeons would scoff and devilishly howl at the mere suggestion of bailouts—especially the ornery, wheelchair-bound old man Potter. No, there would be no comfort and joy from these two shrewd, opportunistic capitalists whose favorite year-round, two-note carol is “Cha ching.” Not surprisingly, Dr. Seuss’s mean one—the almost heartless Grinch—would be quick to offer an high arching eyebrow, smirking, slow nod of approval—while tapping his chin with his long, skinny, green index finger—paying homage to his like-minded miscreant’s dastardly efforts to not only steal Christmas in Whoville but terrorize the American and world economy and spirit. Forget George Bailey, Jim Dandy, Superman, or the U.S. Marines coming to the rescue. Nor will there be a ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ this year. This mother of all global goat ropes is even beyond our new found king’s power to lasso; even if inaugurated tomorrow and crowned with Frosty’s magic top hat. All indicators are it’s going to be a ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ and slip-sliding into the New Year does not look much better. Cash flow woes are creeping into every sector of our economy—investment firms, insurance groups, auto companies, banks, small businesses, and even states, with more sure to come—creating bailout queues reminiscent of 1929 soup lines. It’s going to take oodles of good boys and girls—big and small, Santa Claus, a whole lot of faith, Obama leading the way, and a great deal of time and effort to clean up this calamity.

Because of our dire economic times—sinfully orchestrated to be an incomprehensible quagmire by the corrupt and criminal who scored big exploiting the selfish, greedy, and irresponsible—the Democrats, recalling “God is a Republican, and Santa Claus is a Democrat.”1, had to cajole Santa into leaving the toasty comforts of his polar playland to help with the U.S. bailout. Hark; is that a Herald angel singing? Nope. It’s a town crier from the Boston Globe proclaiming: “Hear Ye, Hear Ye, $700 billion equates to a stack of $100 bills that reaches 54 miles high. I say again, 54 miles of stacked $100 bills.” With $700B already in the works and hundreds of billions, perhaps even trillions, more inevitably to go—arguably down the drain, the U.S. Mint simply could not handle the gargantuan printing job without the only qualified sub-contractor on the planet. Not accustomed to rewarding naughty boys and girls, Santa found himself in a quandary. But ever loyal to good boys and girls and well-intended though misguided Democrats, he stabled his eight high fliers, stowed the sleigh, and bare-backed his famous red-nosed, chair-side companion—Rudolph—down from the north. He and his happy-go-lucky, ever-cheerful, non-union posse of productive elves (ol’ Santa knows something about efficient labor) are in country to execute a bureaucratic two-word Statement of Work—“Print Greenbacks.” Thankfully, the wee ones have decades of experience—printing Monopoly boardgame cash and lots of it.

Cash presses have been rolling non-stop at blurring speed for weeks and gouge amongst Washington insiders is Santa’s, uncharacteristically, as cranky as a constipated 6th term Senator. Noisy machinery is running 24/7; an unstoppable piped-in, looped recording of a squeaky, off-key Pelosi singing “I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas” and “Wait For Me Under the Mistletoe” (run for your life) is grating the nerves; green ink has stained his beard and suit; no snow; and Mrs. Claus is not due in for another few weeks are collectively causing the obese one’s indigestion and blood pressure to spike. Most distressing, he’s not overseeing his life’s joy—the making of Tinker Toys; Erector Sets; ipods, bipods, and tripods; Whoopee Cushions; solar-powered Obama bobbleheads that stutter “Change” and “Yes We Can;” and what was to be this year’s ‘Tickle Me Elmo’ craze—Sarah Palin dolls; sporting a blaze orange parka and armed with a rifle in one hand and a skinning knife in the other. A Versace dress, matching ruby slippers, tube of peppermint-scented red lipstick, hockey stick, and a “Sarah 2012—You Go Girl” bumper sticker were to complete the optional accessory package. Maybe next year. Though out of his element and a tad discombobulated, Santa’s not complaining—he’s employed; did not have to furlough nary an elf; and, though not the least bit interested, heard from a winking, white-haired political ally and former Oval Office frolicker where to find the Beltway’s cutest and hottest pixies—the ones you won’t find strolling Santa Claus Lane. Santa, ever the gentleman, sent his admiring tipster—a faithful believer from child to adulthood—tidings of token thanks attached to a 42-count box of his favorite stogies and a Palin doll prototype.

The unethical brats, cry babies, snivelers, whiners, and chicken-littles of Wall Street and elsewhere who master-minded this far-reaching, complicated catastrophe of epic proportions, have already started to get their slice of the $700B pork—which they have tabbed the ‘Christmas ham’—and they are shouting out with glee. Never mind missing the annual reindeer games, these folks are hi-jinks’in once again and life is good. Unable to restrain themselves, their euphoric hootin’ and hollerin’ coupled with snickering, giggling, and crystal champagne glass clinking at pricey spa resorts—all the while offering digital (just “1s” no 0s) ‘Season’s Greetings’ to the rest of us—did not escape the eyes and ears of their conniving toy-making cohorts in Detroit. Following suit, the Motor City boys are doing their best to get their itchy hands on a few billion—a measly $25B or a little less than a 2 mile-high stack of our “Benjis.” To the chagrin of the suits from Michigan, whose state ironically stakes claim to the slogan “Getting the Upper Hand,” their first pathetic attempt at hood-winking—make that snowballing—Congress quickly melted last week when they arrived in Washington on toy planes more lavishly appointed than Congressional limos and Santa’s now garaged sleigh. How dare them. Traveling in the style of to-remain-nameless Wall Street snobs did not set well with the tenders of our collective pocketbook. Well, my goodness—finally. The panel’s ‘bah humbug’ response to the pompous and smug, plan-less plea for help was a shocking if not welcomed pleasant surprise to all good boys and girls who have steadfastly played by the rules and are sidelined helplessly watching this bumbling fiasco with slumped shoulders, tears, mouths agape in disbelief, and shattered piggy banks.

The shameless auto kingpins would have gotten off to a far better start had they opted to transport themselves in a futuristic prototype vehicle for a persuasive Show-and-Tell. After all, according to Rand-McNally, it’s only 534 miles from Detroit to D.C.—a scenic 7 or 8 hour trip, at best, on the asphalt rainbow. With gas prices back in the realm of sanity (and alternative energy sources even less)—less than half of what they were only a few months ago—it would have been a very inexpensive trip; a trip demonstrating sound leadership while delivering a true message of need. Toss in a handful of meal and Christmas shopping stops at homey Cracker Barrel and it’s still a shoestring budget junket along the order of a Clarke Griswold family vacation. On their upcoming return trip to D.C.—scheduled for next week—they’d be well-advised to forego the less than 90 minute air jaunt and wait until the District’s first substantial snowfall to whisk into town ‘dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh’ with their great big Congressional-directed, Christmas bow adorned plan in tow. The stunt would definitely be an attention-getter and make a better impression—and a lasting one. As for their plan, it had better be a dandy. A minor “retooling” around the edges is the wrong answer. Unless the makers of American rollers offer a sweeping “we’re starting from scratch” remedy—from product to business practices to labor, blue and white collar, and more—they had better be summarily dismissed with a heartfelt “good luck” and an ‘oh, by the way’ suggestion that calamine—for external use only—may temporarily soothe the itch. There’s nothing like failure to discover the real leaders. Santa and the rest of us will be watching closely to ensure there are no discreetly delivered “gifts” to any “vulnerable” member(s) of the panel to influence a sympathetic ear and baseless favorable vote. But why should it not be lobbying as usual in the District? After all, “tis the Season.” Ain’t it always?

Starry-eyed good kiddies—big and small—that have been on their best behavior (at least since Halloween) with visions of sugar plums and bright and shiny things dancing in their head, sadly, need not send their wish list letters to the North Pole. Direct them to Washington, D.C. marked: “Santa Claus, U.S. Mint.” But don’t be surprised to see them a week or so later unopened and stamped "Return to Sender" in the only ink available--green (though red would be normal and apropos). No reply letters this year and far, far fewer, if any, Christmas Eve visits as the jolly old soul—with hat and coat doffed and sleeves rolled up—will otherwise be engaged in round-the-clock disaster relief operations—printing, shoveling, and delivering piles of cash. So just forget the letter. This Christmas season we’ll bear witness to a genuine paradigm shift (not two thin Roosevelts—“pair a dime”—mockingly shifted, by a shyster, from one hand to the other): The big, bad boys and girls—the undeserving—will garner “Santa’s” full attention. Sorry good boys and girls, you are going to pay and pay big. In fact, pay until it hurts.

With or without the bailouts, we are victim to the age old word-rigged coin toss: heads, they—the bad boys and girls—win, and tails, we—the good boys and girls—lose. But, “keep the faith”—on November 4th we opted to entrust a man named Barak with the responsibility of leading our country. President-elect Obama and his team of wise men and women are brainstorming—soon to be barnstorming—promising new directions and better times for the stars and stripes and especially for all good boys and girls. As in Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy blindly believing sometimes results in outcomes that are completely contrary to realistic or anticipated expectations, defy logic, and are simply inexplicable head-scratchers. They deserve a chance—they earned it. It’s the American way. Rest assured there will be no shortage of opponents and critics watching with scrutinizing eyes. That too is the American way. We shall see. As for the self-absorbed bad boys and girls, driven by lust for life’s superfluous, responsible for this cosmic mess—“Stand By”—lumps and coal are in your future. For when justice prevails, and it had certainly better, neither Santa nor any of the rest of us cares to hear blubbering nonsensical alibis—for that you will need a lawyer and possibly a clergyman.

Tongue-in-cheek aside…
Though facing tough economic times, this land—this incredible country of ours, despite its flaws, remains the globe’s beacon of hope. One needs to look no further than illegal immigration testing our patience and straining our resources to see the draw of the shining light. People do not risk life and limb nor stand in line to join a loser—hordes are streaming in; following the beam. But that beam will dim and eventually die if we do not return to our roots and demand newcomers adopt the “American” way of life—that which built this unique, melting pot of a Republic. Welcome all--cater to no one. Yes, we do have an enviable way of life—the many envious seeking entry and many jealous trying to destroy it are testament to such. With open arms we have, throughout our brief history, embraced those seeking a better life and the cherished title: “American.” To confront and defeat those determined to topple us, millions of our selfless, brave countrymen have donned a uniform and forward-deployed—‘yesterday,’ today, and ‘tomorrow’—at great personal sacrifice to protect the “American” way of life. Remember them—always. Regardless of country of origin, political beliefs, and religious persuasion—we are all first and foremost “Americans.” Today is time to pause, reflect, be ever mindful of need before want—and give thanks for what we have. God Bless America.

“Merry Christmas!”

1 Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956): American journalist, humorist, and critic of American life and culture who was considered among the most influential of American writers and prose stylists during the first fifty years of the 20th century.

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