Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cogitations from Today's Paper

One of the good things about getting older is the sense of perspective you get for news and events; being older also tends to develop a healthy level of skepticism for what you read -- and don't read -- in the news. Here's some examples.

Pay to Play

The first item is this article from today's WSJ on the looming bankruptcy of commercial lender CIT: "CIT Staked All on Government Aid". What caught my eye was this sentence:
CIT had been trying for months to improve its connections in Washington. It spent close to $90,000 last year on lobbying, and $60,000 in the first quarter of 2009. It brought onto its board of directors former Congressman Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican.
I see a couple of troubling things here. It used to be that for a business to be successful, it needed to do a couple of things -- like provide a product or service people were willing to buy, provide good customer service, maybe do a little advertising to develop awareness of their brand and their product or service.

No more. Now, in order to be successful, a company has to have the *blessing* of who knows how many beauracrats running the plethora of various governmental agencies in Washington. It's one thing to need licenses, permits, and permissions from the government to run a nuclear power plant; it's another to require the permission of numerous government agencies to run a small business.

What's even more offensive here is that the government does not confer their *blessings* equally. No, you need to have the right "connections" in Washington. To do that, you need to spend obscene amounts of money on lobbyists who can provide you access to lawmakers who (in exchange for ... ?) then confer those blessings.

We call people who require payoffs in exchange for permission to conduct business mobsters, and their business is called a "protection racket". But, in Washington it's called "connections" and the payoffs are called "campaign contributions".

Guess the Political Party

The next story that caught my eye was this one about the financial problems in yet another big city: "Philadelphia Halts Payments in Crunch".

What makes this story intersting is not what's said in the story, but what's not said. The story is about Philly Mayor Michael Nutter's whining that the Pennsylvania legislature hasn't raised taxes to help bail him out of the City's financial mess.

Hmm. It's not mentioned in the story, but I wonder what political party this mayor might belong to? Let's check wikipedia.

Gosh -- he's a Democrat! In fact, so was his predecessor (John Street), and so was Street's predecessor (Ed Rendel), and so on and so on. In fact, there have been an uninterrupted line of Democrats as Mayor in Philadelphia back to 1952.

That's almost a sixty year legacy -- of failure. You can see this track record in just about every other large American city. But the mainstream media very conveniently ignores it. But facts are facts and, as John Adams said, "facts are stubborn things".

The stubborn fact here is that Democrats have been in charge of a lot of major American cities for the past 50 years and have largely managed to turn them into crime-infested, business-hostile, crumbling wastelands.

Think I'm exaggerating? Let's look at a couple of others (in no particular order):

Chicago: Exclusively Democrat Mayors since 1931 (78 years)

Detroit: Exclusively Democrat Mayors since 1962 (47 years)

Boston: Exclusively Democrat Mayors since 1934 (75 years)

Pittsburgh: Exclusively Democrat Mayors since 1934 (75 years)

Washington D.C.: Exclusively Democrat Mayors since 1975* (34 years)
* before '75, D.C. was administered by the a board appointed by the President of the U.S.

A Tragic Combination: Dangerous Pets and Human Stupidity

In the News Briefs section, there was a blurb about a new effort in Florida to track and eliminate non-native snakes (like pythons) from the Everglades. It seems that these snakes are becoming a threat to native species and humans. The tragedy that triggered this scrutiny occurred earlier this month when a pet Burmese python *escaped* from its cage and killed a two-year-old girl.

I use the word escape loosely though. Many stories simply reported like this:
Lt. Bobby Caruthers of Sumter County Sheriff's Office said the python was a family pet that apparently broke free from inside a glass aquarium in the home's living room.

The snake then made its way into the girl's bedroom and apparently strangled her in the middle of the night, according to authorities.
I looked at a couple of places though and found the background to be much more disturbing. This 12-foot long python was "secured" in its enclosure with a quilt laid over the top which was tied down. How hard could it be for a 12-foot snake to push its way past a blanket?

"Escape" implies some effort was necessary to effect the release. In this case, it took no effort for this snake to "escape" its enclosure thanks to the galactically stupid owner; unfortunately, his stupid led to the death of a little girl.

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