Friday, May 31, 2013

Oh, For God's Sake

Consumer spending dropped in April, after increasing less than expected in March. Unemployment claims rose in April, after being essentially flat in March. And bless the American public's little heart, consumer confidence rose in April, to its highest level in several years because home prices increased by 20% in one year and the stock market topped $15,000. My God, we are a stupid country.

Update, Friday evening: From Crain's New York Business news comes this, "The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose and an initial estimate of first-quarter economic growth was revised slightly lower." The article goes on to say that, "The stock market rose Thursday after a pair of lackluster economic reports convinced traders that the U.S. central bank will continue to boost the economy with its stimulus program."

Aside from the insanity of the stock market being "encouraged" by "lackluster economic reports," consider the moronic conclusion that such bad news will assure that the Fed will "continue to boost the economy." What idoit puts "lackluster economic reports" and "continue to boost the economy" in the same sentence?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

More Empty Words

Just four days after Obama gave a grand speech outlining his new policy that drones would be used so carefully that no civilians would be killed or injured, we used a Hellfire missile to kill a Taliban leader in Pakistan and in the process killed six other people who happened to be nearby. We do not know who all of those people were.

Obama’s claim that Hellfire missiles fired from unmanned drones will only be used when there is “near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set,” is another case of him giving us nice words and assuming that we are really stupid. If the Hellfire missile could be used with sufficient precision to meet that asinine criteria, it would not bear the name “Hellfire” missile. In this case the missile killed the target and six other people, several of whom are unknown to us.

Does that meet the standard that Obama set just four days previously?

Of course not. There were six other people around the target, and we did not know who they were. Either that, or we had such a poor view of the target that we did not know who was around him. In either case was there a “near certainty that no civilians would be killed” when that missile was fired? On the contrary, it pretty much had to be assumed that innocent people would die, and the missile was fired anyway.

Again, why do we assume that anything that Obama says has any actual meaning? In the words of Glenn Greenwald, “Few things are as unreliable as Obama's speeches and rhetoric.”

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

False Economic Recovery

Heidi Moore at The Guardian has an article today titled “Don't be fooled by the false economic recovery,” which rather makes me think she has been reading my mind. She talks about “the power of illusion, to mask reality” and relates that to the actual meaninglessness of consumer confidence and housing prices as a measure of economic recovery, when unemployment is still persistently high, the number of people in poverty and on food stamps is still rising, and wages for the working class remain stagnant at best.

She makes good points. The people of this nation are prone to being taken by illusion, such as the one that a war in Iraq would make us safe from terrorism, followed by the idea that continuance and escalation of the war in Afghanistan would do likewise by “denying them space in which to plan their attacks.” Economically, people look at a soaring stock market and rising home prices and need no other evidence that the economy is booming.

Buoyed by such “confidence” they rush out and buy cars with nothing down and four year loans and bid $100,000 above the asking price for houses, and think that doing that sort of thing constitutes rational behavior. Confidence based on an utterly irrational stock market and the fact that other irrational actors are also buying houses at ridiculous prices.

My parents used to ask me, “If everyone else jumped off of a five story building, would you do so too?” Today's American answer economically is clearly, “Yes.”

Notice that the booming portion of the economy is in two areas. One is cars and houses, both of which are bought on credit and means the nation is once again piling up debt at a furious rate. The other is the stock market, which as it functions today is not actually part of the economy at all, but is a parasite which sucks money out of the economy.

Europe is doing a slow motion economic implosion, and it is only a matter of time before the Euro is a thing of the past. Japan is circling the drain as it frantically devalues its currency an a last ditch effort to survive. China is slowing down, no matter how often it releases fancy numbers in an effort to disguise that fact. And yet this country, having apparently decoupled economically from the rest of the world, is entering an economic boom.

Hurry, get your reservation in for the unicorns that are coming.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

War On Terror Speech

I haven’t had much to say about President Obama’s “War On Terror” speech, mostly because I’m still trying to figure out what the hell he actually said. What do you make of a speech filled with such inconsistent cliches as, “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us,” followed by the same tired old one about how we must, in Afghanistan, “sustain a counter-terrorism force which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe-haven to launch attacks against us.”

Further complicating my confusion is the downright schizophrenic reactions to it. Every warhawk who loves the war on terror was absolutely thrilled by Obama’s speech and drew from it the deepest reassurance that Obama intends to continue the war until the end of time, while progressives almost without exception were equally thrilled and drew from the speech an assurance that the last bomb will have fallen in no more than a week or two.

Except, that is, for those who will attack Obama no matter what he says, who are saying, of course, that Obama is himself a secret Muslim and is trying to leave the country so unguarded that Islamic jihadists will be able to make their way in and create Sharia law throughout the nation.

Anyway, progressives are hanging their hats on the concept that he is the first president in history to actually ask that presidential authority be reduced because he called for the “eventual repeal of the AUMF.” Yes, and he said that he would filibuster against immunity for the telecom industry, too, and then voted in favor of it. He said that he would not sign a bill extending the Bush tax cuts, and then extended them for two years. Why do we keep assuming that Obama will actually do anything that he says he will do?

Glenn Greenwald goes into this at much greater length and with his usual insight and eloquence, pointing out that Obama typically makes speeches that use a lot of words that say nothing. I recommend his piece to you. I particularly like the part where he compares the Bush WOT approach to that of Obama, saying that the only difference between the two is that Bush did it with a cowboy swagger while Obama is anguished and inwardly tortured by it.

He doesn’t point out that, anguished and inwardly tortured or not, Obama has said that ordering the killing of an American citizen was “the easiest decision” he ever made as president. When killing is an easy decision, how likely are you to end wars?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day 2013

There was a discussion on another venue about the meaning of Memorial Day, which started when the original poster said that it is a day “that we thank those who served in the military.” After I and some others argued that it is a day that we remember those who have died in the armed service of their country he did change that to “we thank those who served in the military, especially those who served in combat and lost their lives.”

Which is, of course, still wrong and makes him invincibly ignorant.

Today is a day to watch auto races; one which will probably be exciting and another, later in the day, which will almost certainly be about as exciting as watching sewage ooze out of an overfull septic tank.

Tomorrow is a day to remember, and honor, those who have gone to war, in the words of Kenneth Roberts, “not to die for their country, but to place themselves, their precious lives, between their home and the forces which would destroy it.” Men like the crew of the USS Thresher, some of whom were close friends, the USS Scorpion, and all of the submarines “on eternal patrol.”

If there is a National Cemetery near you, go there tomorrow and take a look at all of the uniform white markers, aligned in neat rows no matter in which direction you view them. Note the little flags in front of each one, placed there in remembrance, and you will know the meaning of “Memorial Day” through its original name, which was “Decoration Day.”

Take a walk and read some names. No need to thank them. No ceremonies or grand gestures required. The military has a code that they do not leave their dead behind. We as a people should have the same code. Don’t leave them behind. Remember who they are.

Every year on 9/11 we read the names of those who were victims of that day. Why do we never read the names of those who fell in Fallujah? Why is there never a reading of the names of those who lost their lives on Iwo Jima, or at Chosin Resevoir?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Restoring What Constitution?

Obama will, in the future, assassinate American citizens without due process of law only if they present a “continuing and imminent threat.” No more killing them by accident, apparently, but still no actual evidence required, merely a departure from American soil and the decision by Well, he doesn’t say who makes that decision. We knew before his speech that he was the “decider” of who would be executed by drones, but his speech sort of muddied those waters.

The constitution says that conviction of treason (although he never used that word) requires “the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act,” which seems to require a trial in a court of law, and Obama sort of acknowledges that while dismissing it at the same time by saying that, “Of course, the targeting of any Americans raises constitutional issues that are not present in other strikes – which is why my Administration submitted information about Awlaki to the Department of Justice months before Awlaki was killed,” Apparently he shares Holder’s rather loose definition of “due process.” Due process means we tell a bunch of lawyers about it before we do it.

He also seems to think that citizenship is conditional on good behavior, using his common tactic of saying something that sounds really good unless you actually think about it, in which case it makes no sense.

But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team.

Really? A sniper in the act of firing on a crowd is a “clear and present danger” against whom lethal force is justified. However, Obama’s “swat team” can only use lethal force to meet lethal force. They cannot use lethal force unless their lives or the lives of others are endangered by the present actions of the person they are engaging.

Nor, if the police know that a person is planning to act as a “sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd” can they preemptively kill him, or even arrest him simply for his intention. They go to the place where he is planning to commit the crime, prevent him from doing so and arrest him in the act. We do not arrest people for thought crimes in this country, but Obama does execute people for them. In Obama’s world, planning to do something bad is a capital offense.

He has a vastly different definition of “justice” than I do.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Absurdity Abounds

Commentary on the Oklahoma tornado is entirely predictable. The same people who passionately claim when there is a blizzard that “one weather event proves nothing” are using this tornado as proof that civilization as we know it is doomed as a result of impending climate change.

Major Speech Today

President Obama is going to make an “important” speech today about “national security” in which he will once again issue high sounding phrases about the importance of closing Guantanamo, which we have heard before, and about “the dangers that the nation still faces.”

I can’t wait. I suspect this one is going to set a new record for bullshit.

He has paved the way by announcing yesterday that four Americans have been killed by Hellfire missiles fired from drones, but that only one was on purpose. So that’s okay then, we can all rest easy. If our president kills us it will be by accident, which will make our families feel so much better.

That answers the question I asked about legitimacy a few days ago, too. Legitimacy, it seems, is only lost if you are “killing your own people” deliberately. Accidents don’t count, so Obama retains his “legitimacy to govern.” Assuming, that is, that that’s what he’s doing.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Odd Statement

CBS Evening News was reporting on the Oklahoma tornado this evening and commented that, while early reports said that 51 deaths had been reported, it has now been confirmed that only 24 deaths were caused by the storm because "some bodies were counted twice." Actually, with those numbers it wasn't "some bodies" that were counted twoce, it had to have been all of the bodies, with three of them counted three times. The miscount is happy news certainly, but their explanation seems entirely bogus to me.

Spurious Defense

Obama loyalists are defending him regarding the three “scandals” of Benghazi, the IRS affair and the AP telephone surveillance by claiming that there is no scandal involved and/or that no harm was done. They may be right on the first, but the other two are silly, in that if they want to defend Obama himself they have far better defenses.

I’ve already given my take on the Benghazi nonsense. I don’t think for a moment that Obama or any of his people were “covering up” anything; they were just a bunch of politicians more interested in looking good than they were in being informative. That’s hardly flattering, but it’s not unusual for politicians of either party. In fact it’s so routine that it would be freakishly remarkable if they didn’t take such an approach.

As to the IRS business, the most common defense is that no harm was done. No groups were denied the 501(c)(4) status, they were merely delayed, and in any case, so what if a few conservative groups were minimally harmed, they were just conservative assholes anyway. Obamabots only believe in equal treatment under the law when it is liberals who are getting the short end. When conservatives get the short end of unequal treatment that is merely justice because conservatives are evil.

A better argument, if defending Obama is one’s goal, is to admit that the IRS action was illegal and reprehensible, but that to suggest that it was done at Obama’s direction is utterly absurd, and that there is absolutely no evidence or suggestion that it was. Obama supporters are so accustomed to giving Obama credit for everything and claiming that their man can do no wrong that the “he didn’t do it” defense never occurs to them.

On the AP telephone records Obama defenders are just hilarious. Their defense consists of bashing the media, citing what a horrible job it does and reminding us that it is corrupted by corporate greed. Not sure than I can argue with much of that, but all of it is entirely beside the point. Good or bad, they are still the “press.”

If one walks up to a child pornographer who is unarmed and shoots them in the head, it is murder. It was a very bad person who was killed, but it is still murder. I’m not comparing AP to a child pornographer, but My point is that it doesn’t matter how well the press is doing it’s job, it is still entitled to freedom from interference by government.

It never fails to amaze me the way Obama loyalists will defend everything Obama does, even when it wasn’t him who did it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Legitimate Much?

President Obama held a press conference Thursday in which he said that Assad had “lost his legitimacy to govern” and that “he needs to step down.” He did not spell out what gives him the authority to dictate the actions of other heads of state, but he does so as a matter of course.

He went on to say that Assad had “lost his legitimacy when he began killing his own people,” which is an interesting thought. Just a couple of years ago Obama said that giving the order to kill an American citizen, and his son, was “one of the easiest decisions” he’s made since he became president, so, what does that say about Obama’s legitimacy?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The "Danica Rule"

In addition to the winner of today's "Showdown" race, one car voted on by the fans will be promoted to the "All Star" race this evening. Last year, and most previous years, only cars finishing on the lead lap were eligible for that voting, but this year any car that "finishes in racing condition" is eligible.

There are those with nasty, dirty little minds who think that the rule change was made to assure that Danica, with her proclivity for not finishing on the lead lap, would be eligible for the fan vote. The race is 40 laps and she lost her first lap after 27 laps last week, and after 38 laps the week before. All of which would suggest she'll go a lap down on lap 18 or so this week.

Actually, though, I'm predicting she'll stay on the lead lap. Charlotte is a high speed track with wide turns, and drivers pretty much keep the gas pedal on the floor all the way around the track. The more similar to Daytona a track is the better Danica does. It's this braking, accelerating and steering all at the same time that stumps her. Walking and chewing gum at the same time is tricky for her, too. Merely steering alone she can handle reasonably well.

Talking to a reporter without a prepared script, bye the way, is utterly beyond her. She knits her brows, looks very serious, and produces absolute gibberish, leaving the reporter to walk away shaking his head.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Intellectual Honesty

I have been waiting to see how Paul Krugman would respond to the CBO report on the future of the national debt, the one that says it will shrink in the future, and that this year’s deficit estimate has been reduced to a trivial $642 billion. That’s for those of you who think that anything below $1 trillion is trivial.

The report does not, of course, say that the debt will shrink. What it says is that the debt will become smaller as a ratio of GDP, because it assumes that the GDP will increase by leaps and bounds since we will not have another recession and the economy will soon resume a nice healthy 5% growth rate. There are people who think that. They also think that unicorns live on the other side of every rainbow.

It also mentions, just casually in passing, that this year’s deficit reduction is due to “higher-than-expected revenues and an increase in payments to the Treasury by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” due in no small part to the resumption of trading in mortgage backed securities. Related to that is that home values in San Diego just increased a whopping 20% in just one year. All of this is not actually good news, or won’t be when 2008 happens again.

Paul Krugman exhibits his usual degree of intellectual honesty by mentioning none of this, and merely says gleefully that everyone predicting gloom and doom about the national debt were wrong. He breezily admits that, “Yes, there are longer-term issues of health costs and demographics,” but dismisses them as irrelevant to what we should be doing now “in the face of economic crisis,” even while everyone including him is saying that the recession is over and that the recovery is proceeding nicely.

And certainly now is not the time to address long term problems. If a bridge is burning, it is certainly stupid to think about putting the fire out before it is time to cross the bridge. It would be silly to worry about the bridge being gone when you get there.

Now, how’s that for mixing some metaphors?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Preparing The Response

Bloomberg, discussing the various ramifications of Washington “scandals,” “The White House also released 100 e-mails Wednesday detailing discussions among administration officials on how to respond to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.”

They don’t seem to think that it’s remarkable that the administration needed over 100 emails to decide how to respond to an event. How about a simple “tell people, truthfully, what you know” approach? How long and how many emails does that require?

For me the problem is not so much what the response was, or what it was not, but that it needed to be so carefully and laboriously prepared. As Judge Judy says, “When you tell the truth you don’t need to have a good memory.”

Monday, May 13, 2013


Andrew Leonard at introduces us to something which he calls “sheer genius” and “true smartphone brilliance” in a technology article, “App of the Week.” Yes, I still read Salon, but I have no real idea why. It goes back to when they paid their writers and had people like Glenn Greenwald, but now all of their writers work for free and the articles are worth exactly what Salon pays for them.

Anyway, back to the “true smartphone brilliance” that Mr. Leonard has discovered. It turns out that it’s an app that makes your phone sound like the shower is running, and is intended to be used to cover up the sound of you going to the bathroom.

He describes the horror he has felt over the idea that someone might hear him performing either of two basic bodily functions, and how he turns on the shower to prevent that from happening. Apparently he has the idea that this social anxiety afflicts virtually everyone, and that turning on the shower while using the bathroom is causing millions of gallons of water to be wasted every week.

I have to say that never in my life of seventy years have I turned on the shower to hide the sound of me going to the bathroom. It has just never occurred to me to do that. I’ve never imagined that anyone who knew me would think that I don’t...

I’ve never known anyone else to do it either. In fact if someone did do it I would think something weird was going on. Someone asks if they can use my bathroom; I tell them it’s the first door on the left and pay no more attention, unless I hear the shower running, which I would notice. Wtf? They’re taking a shower?

Tell me, if a visitor uses your bathroom, do you go listen at the door?

Besides which, only a portion of the sound of a shower comes from the shower head and water in the bath; how is a cell phone successfully going to sound like water running through the pipes in your house? Weird.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Stock Cars This Week

There has always been debate as to whether or not NASCAR race drivers are or are not athletes. I have no opinion on the subject, and don’t really care, but am not swayed by many of the arguments I hear from proponents of either point of view.

Pete Pistone at Motor Racing Network, who probably cannot be accused of being impartial on the subject, points to the return of Denny Hamlin to the Darlington 500 last night, six weeks after having surgery for stress fractures on several vertebrae in his lower back. “Anyone that doubts NASCAR drivers are athletes need only to look at Hamlin’s effort to see how wrong they are on the subject,” he says.

That’s one way to look at it, I guess. Another point of view might be that driving a stock car is so physically undemanding that it can be done even with a broken back. I’m not taking that position, you understand, I’m just saying that sometimes what you think is proof…

Danica Patrick Watch: She started 40th and finished 28th, gaining 12 positions because 11 cars ahead of her wrecked. She was 5 laps down to the leader, needing to be only 27 laps into the race this week to lose her first lap, which I think is a new record for her.

Question for Fox Sports: How many people would watch a football game if the television only showed one player at a time? Right, then why do you think that people watching an auto race only want to see one car at a time?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

My Benghazi Question

I think that all this Benghazi nonsense is just that; nonsense, political posturing and hot air. The exhibition discredits Congress more than it does the Obama administration.

That being said, to some degree Obama’s people walked into this mess by being politicians and using more words in their “talking points” than were needed. Instead of saying “we have no indication that it was a terrorist attack,” which sounded like and was interpreted as a denial, simply say, “we don’t know the cause and are investigating.”

If a reporter goads you by asking, “Was it a terrorist attack?,” merely repeat your original statement that “we do not presently know the cause.”

There is a certain arrogance in trying to avoid saying that one does not know an answer, and that leads politicians into talking around the answer rather than simply giving the answer. Almost never does that really turn out well, and this is a case of that arrogance backfiring rather badly. You spend all that time carefully tailoring “talking points” to assure that you are going to sound good, and the result is this.

In my opinion, this "Benghazi-gate" affair is about nothing more than the typical political habit of talking with a greater concern for sounding good than for being informative.

The one point in all of this that bothers me, and that no one else seems to be paying any attention to, is the interaction between the State Department and the CIA in the Benghazi mission. It appears that the only person stationed in that mission who was not a member of the CIA, or a private contractor working for the CIA, was Ambassador Stevens, and I for one would like to know what he was doing there. Why was he with the CIA and why he was assigned to what appears to have been a CIA operation?

Friday, May 10, 2013


I was reading an article last night that referred to our modern military as a "professional military caste of mercenaries."  A bit harsh, perhaps, but more accurate than an "all volunteer military."  Volunteering is not a career, and volunteers do not work for salary, benefits and a retirement plan.

Perceptions Count?

President Obama is still talking big on Syria, even though John Kerry is in Russia agreeing with Putin that we will join Russia in hosting peace talks between Assad and the rebels. Obama is still pounding the pulpit and saying that “Assad must go,” so there seems to be the usual lack of communication within the Obama Administration. Perhaps they need to learn how to use email.

Obama was asked about his “red line” statement during a press conference with the president of South Korea and told the questioner not to worry, that he was definitely going to bring Assad to justice. I'm not quoting there, because what he actually said was, “in the end, whether it's bin Laden or Qaddafi, if we say we're taking a position, I would think at this point the international community has a pretty good sense that we typically follow through on our commitments,” which is a clear implication that he is merely waiting for a convenient opportunity to assassinate Assad.

Well, given the shaky grammar and convoluted sentence structure, it's not really a clear indication of anything. If you make your sentences long enough and complicated enough no one can figure out what the hell you are talking about, but you'll sound intelligent and they'll think it's their failure.

He also got rather Clintonesque with another the “red line” questioner, saying that, “The operative word there, I guess, Stephen, is ‘perceived.’” Apparently everyone else is convinced on the chemical weapons thing, but he is not and, “I don't make decisions based on “perceived.’” Indeed. And it depends on “what ‘is’ is,” too.

Not to mention that the decision as to whether or not to go to war in Syria is for him to make, not Congress. Screw the constitution.

The international community may have “a pretty good sense that we typically follow through on our commitments,” but the domestic community is somewhat less sure according to recent polls which show that only 49% believe that he is “able to get things done.” They didn’t ask about whether or not he even wants to get things done.

As to his claim about “typically following through on our commitments,” I guess that doesn’t apply to closing prison gulags on Caribbean islands, or keeping campaign promises not to raise taxes on middle class. The latter might be back to the “operative word perceived,” however, as when Republicans let tax cuts expire it counts as a tax increase but when a Democrat lets the payroll tax cut expire it doesn't count as a tax increase. It’s all in how you “perceive” it, you see.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Policy Redefined

I have certainly not been alone in being baffled by Obama’s incoherent and inconsistent positions on foreign policy. Why, for instance, make didactic statements about how “Assad must go,” when we have neither the means or the influence to make that happen? Why the list of fifteen reasons why we are in Afghanistan, none of which make any sense whatever? The list of questions is almost endless.

Then a blog commenter made a remark which lit the lightbulb. He said that Obama regards foreign policy as an extension of domestic policy. That made very little sense to me until his amplification revealed that by “policy” he meant “the means by which Obama pursues his own political success.” Ah, yes. That’s when the light dawned.

That’s what “policy” has come to mean in today’s political arena. It is no longer a set of principles which guide governance, it is a series of actions by which individual politicians advance their own political success. This is by no means limited to Obama, but as the Chief Executive of our nation, his practice of it is the most damaging.

As the commenter pointed out, “Obama's trip to Israel, for example, accomplished nothing internationally. However, it did quiet the daily attacks by the Israel Firsters in the US.” Which is exactly what it was intended to accomplish and is the point being made by the commenter.

Guantanamo is another case in point. So long as it was not damaging him politically, Obama did not care that it remained open and served as a severe blot on our national escutcheon. He did not care that, in his words, “it is not who we are.” He did not care that it was serving as a rally cry for the recruiting of soldiers in the “holy war” against us. But when the hunger strike called attention to the gulag which he had promised more than four years ago to close, he suddenly became overwhelmed with a passion to close it. What changed? The risk of it damaging his political success changed.

Republicans are “serious about cutting spending,” until it becomes politically risky to do so. They are opposed to Obama’s proposal to reduce the Social Security COLA, for instance. They oppose defense spending cuts that “will make America weaker,” which strikes me as silly, but is supported by many who are terrified of… You get my point.

We are no longer governed in the best interest of the nation as a whole, and certainly not in the interest of the common man. We are governed in the interest of assuring the political success of the people who are governing us, which is a form of government that is hard to define. It most certainly is not democracy.

Bogus Award

Brave catTrust me, this cat does not do "brave."  Seriously, does that look like a brave cat to you? It's just getting your teeth cleaned, Molly. As of today she's still barely speaking to us.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The More Things Change...

I haven’t written in a while because I am finding the whole thing just too depressing. The stock market is over 14,000 again, home prices are rising 10% and more per year, with buyers bidding against each other and condo builders holding lotteries, consumer confidence is soaring and pundits are crowing about recovery. We’ve been here before, remember? It was in 2007 and we were on top of the world.

It’s all different this time, we are told. The fundamentals of the stock market are different and the housing market is not a bubble this time. Right, exactly how is it different?

The only difference I can see is that fewer people are supporting this garish display of greed and excess, given that the lowest percentage of our population is employed since 1980, and more of those who are employed are working in jobs that produce nothing. The bulk of our employment today is retail, entertainment and financial services; jobs supporting and catering to a lifestyle of consumption.

Government no longer even pretends to be anything but utterly corrupt; openly displays that it is controlled by corporate and special interest money, and nobody cares enough to vote them out of office.

We are still at war or threatening war against several nations who are no threat to us, and practicing assassination as an instrument of foreign policy; killing others in the name of preventing the possibility of a smaller number of American casualties. And nobody cares enough to even hold up a sign asking for it to stop.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We don’t care what the oligarchy does or what happens to the rest of the world, so long as we have our “bread and circuses.” Hail Caesar.