Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan appeared on Friday’s Morning Joe to flog his new book. Greenspan, who presided over the deregulation orgy that gave us the crash in 2008, said that he assumed “too much rationality” and it’s not that hard to tell when you are in an economic bubble, but virtually impossible to tell when it will burst. (Translation: when you will run out of suckers.) I wondered why anybody would listen to Greenspan? My Cousin Ray Sixkiller asked, “Wouldn’t you talk to the skipper of the Titanic about icebergs?”
The Wall Street Journal reported that movie receipts over Christmas were the second best in all of recorded history, leading Cousin Ray to taunt, “I bet they can’t make a hobbit of it!”
After the horse trading was done, the funding bill for the Department of Defense passed without granting President Obama the power to close the prison at Guantánamo and without Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) provision to quit allowing commanders to turn loose convicted rapists. “Another example,” Cousin Ray remarked, “of what happens when you fight with the US Army.”
Saturday’s New York Times reported that A&E Network backed off their non-existent “suspension” of Phil Robertson, the star of their most highly rated show, Duck Dynasty. The Christmas album, Duck the Halls, has sold 700,000 copies. Cousin Ray explained, “Money quacks!”
The Times also did an investigative report on the professors who offer their expert opinions against regulating commodities trading, finding they and their universities had taken in boatloads of cash from commodities speculators. Cousin Ray reminded me that the Republicans claimed the same thing about academics who relate climate change to human activity. “Everybody knows,” he said with a wink, “that polar bears give more money than Exxon.”
Timothy Egan published a hilarious op-ed in the Sunday Times, “Words for the Dumpster.” “Artisan” as an adjective. “Brand” as a verb. “Gluten-free” as anything. Cousin Ray was partial to Egan’s remark, “Red Bull boasts of being gluten-free. So is paint thinner.”
Alicia Banks reported in the Chicago Tribune that Oscar-winner and Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence received a congratulatory bottle of champagne and flowers from 76-year-old fellow Oscar winner Jack Nicholson. I thought Cousin Ray was about to exclaim “Go, Jack!” but he piped down when his wife gave him The Look.
The Washington Post reported that while the federal government remains gridlocked, three-quarters of state governments are controlled by one party. Republican states are cutting taxes, rejecting marriage equality, making it harder to vote or to get an abortion, and obstructing Obamacare. Democratic states are raising taxes to fund education and infrastructure, as well as embracing marriage equality and Obamacare. Cousin Ray was puzzled. “The Democrats want you to pay and the Republicans want you to do without. Where are the states with free lunches?”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings got 15,238 shares of stock as compensation on Dec. 30, which he sold the same day for $5.8 million. Noting the rise of Netflix stock on Hastings’ watch, Cousin Ray wondered what would happen to the $174,000 Congressional salary if it were based on the value Congress created recently? “Could we make Congress pay us?”
The Monday Tampa Tribune reported that Jonathan Charles Stevens, 24, got arrested for a second offense of impersonating an officer when he used red and blue lights to stop a marked patrol car and approached it with an unlicensed Glock and a fake Homeland Security badge. Cousin Ray said stopping a cop “cut out the middleman. No need to call the police—just hand over the Glock and get in the back seat.”
On New Year’s Eve, Vanity Fair reproduced a photo tweeted by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX, opposing John Cornyn in the GOP primary) showing an automatic weapon being cleaned by “liberal tears.” Cousin Ray suggested it was really Texas Democratic saliva.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor became the first Supreme Court justice to drop the ball in Times Square to mark New Year. “So what’s new,” Cousin Ray asked? “The Supreme Court has been dropping the ball in Indian law cases for over 200 years.”
Lawyers for the United Auto Workers Retiree Benefits Trust and Fiat apparently worked over the New Years’ holiday. The Detroit Free Press reported that day Fiat bought the last outstanding Chrysler stock from the UAW, completing Fiat’s takeover. Since the federal bailout, Chrysler profits have kept Fiat afloat rather than the other way around and Chrysler has added to the 2.6 million jobs saved by the bailout.
Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Chrysler and GM bailouts cost the taxpayers $13.7 billion and saved taxpayers $105.3 billion in transfer payments not required and tax revenues collected. Cousin Ray commented “If you think arithmetic is going to touch political talking points, you probably think most rez cars are Fiats.”
A new law kicked in this year that bans the manufacture of incandescent light bulbs. Cousin Ray stocked up, figuring it’s OK to “take advantage of freedom-loving electricity wasters.” I reminded him of the cases of Freon in his garage since 1989, but he was not deterred.
The New York Times reported that two documentary films subject to Oscar buzz, Russia’s Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer and Egypt’s The Square, cannot legally be shown in the countries they portray. “They should give the Oscar to the film facing the highest penalties,” Cousin Ray suggested.
Recreational marijuana sales kicked off in Colorado, where the state song is Rocky Mountain High.
The Orlando Sentinel reported on Thursday that a federal judge has overturned Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) signature political accomplishment, a law requiring welfare recipients to submit to suspicionless drug testing. Scott’s claim to fame before being elected Governor was heading the company that paid $1.7 billion in penalties for Medicare fraud, the highest in history. Next election, Scott will face political shapeshifter Charlie Christ, now a Democrat, after being run out of the GOP for publicly hugging the Kenyan socialist Barack Obama. Cousin Ray was not amused, suggesting that if welfare recipients could cheat government by the billions of dollars rather than the hundreds, “they would be running the government rather than peeing in a jar.”
USAToday reported that Snapchat and Skype have been hacked. It appears hackers of the former were good Samaritans trying to close security breaches by public embarrassment and the latter was another attack by the Syrian Electronic Army. USAToday quoted tech experts who believe customers of Snapchat and Skype should beware of phishing attacks. Cousin Ray bragged that he does so little on line he could go fishing rather than worry about phishing.
The New York Times did an investigative report on the Benghazi tragedy from on the ground in Libya, concluding that the major security breakdown was caused by an overemphasis on chasing Al Qaeda to the exclusion of other threats, a conclusion that undermined the GOP talking point that the Obama administration failed to keep an eye on Al Qaeda. That is, what Obama did wrong in hindsight is precisely what the GOP has been attacking him for not doing.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told Meet the Press the same day that he’s sticking by the Al Qaeda connection. Cousin Ray recounted the story that Al Qaeda agent Barack Obama killed Chris Stevens (Chinook) and Hillary Clinton covered it up, which fact Susan Rice covered up. “Do you realize,” he asked, “that Darrell Issa only makes $174,000 a year? Compare that with other people in California nowhere near as creative.”
The Washington Post sports blog announced the game the Washington team played with the lowest attendance in the history of FedExField was against the Kansas City Chiefs. “Maybe they would have done better,” Cousin Ray laughed, “if the NFL had a team called the Cavalry?”
As predicted in this space, the Washington team has fired Coach Mike Shanahan. Cousin Ray has sent his résumé.
Citing reports from the left-wing ThinkProgress and the right-wing Spectator, Foreign Policy makes a persuasive case that 2013 was the best year to be born in human history. There is less war, less disease and—outside the US—less income inequality. Cousin Ray suggested that Foreign Policy send free samples to Pine Ridge and see how many subscriptions result.
Italy, the nation with the most gambling in Europe and fourth most in the world, is experiencing a backlash against slot machines, with critics blaming them for “debt, bankruptcies, depression, domestic violence and broken homes,” according to the New York Times. Cousin Ray pointed out that with rez unemployment in double digits, “that sounds a lot like Indian country before slot machines.”
New York/Jersey is having a rough football year in spite of hosting the Super Bowl. The Giants have line problems and the Jets have a quarterback problem. “There is no truth to the rumor,” Cousin Ray said, “that the Jets will trade their name to the Washington team in exchange for RGIII.”