Thursday, December 26, 2013

Macroeconomics for Dummies

If you believe -- as I do -- that Rutgers economic historian James Livingston and others are correct in postulating that consumer spending is what really drives the economy, you may also buy into my own modest econometric proposition.

It suggests that while economists may palaver at length about the multiplicity of economic indicators they rely upon to crystal-ball the economy, there is -- at bottom -- only one: the number of items-per-second sold by Amazon on Cyber Monday:

  • 2010 – 158
  • 2011 – 200
  • 2012 – 306
  • 2013 – 426


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Economics 2013

Reaganomics: Trickle-down good, demand-side bad.
Liberalonomics: Demand-side good, trickle-down bad.
GHWBushonomics: Trickle-down is “voodoo economics.”
GOPonomics: No new taxes!
Libertarianomics: No taxes.
Popeonomics: “This opinion [trickle-down]…has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
Limbaughnomics: “Pope is a Marxist”.
And, in conclusion,
LBJonomics: “…making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg, it seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.”

Monday, November 25, 2013

BYLINE: CBS News, November 22, 1963

It continues to astonish that, even after a half-century, the question: “Where were you when JFK was shot?” is still being asked. It tells us just how deeply the event has impinged on our national consciousness.

I remember vividly where I was when Lee Harvey Oswald fired those shots heard ‘round the world. Along with CBS News sidekick, Norm Gorin, I was returning from our ritual Friday lunch at a cheap Chinese restaurant on New York’s E. 44th Street. As we headed back to the newsroom in the nearby Graybar Building, a breathless colleague buttonholed us in the elevator and blurted, “They got Kennedy!” Unused as we were to presidential assassination attempts in that more innocent time, we asked him what he meant by “got”. As he was replying, the doors opened on a chaotic newsroom where Walter Cronkite was getting ready to take the air to begin his well-recalled reportorial countdown to Kennedy’s death at 2:00pm.

Within minutes, I was told to get myself on a plane to Washington, ASAP. As a special-events producer, I was used to being dispatched on open-ended assignments, but never before had it come been accompanied by such an aura of shock and urgency. Special events were usually planned events, like space shots and political conventions, but not this time. After a brief stop at home to grab an overnight bag, I was on the Eastern Shuttle to the Capital to assist our Bureau there with the coverage of whatever arrangements were being contemplated in the aftermath. Yeoman television director Gorin was to follow soon after.

The CBS News Washington bureau was no less chaotic than New York had been. I was quickly hustled into the office of bureau chief, Bill Small, where an editorial response team was scrambling to pull things together. Competing rumors and facts ping-ponged around the newsroom. Trying to get our arms around the deluge of information was like wrestling alligators. Information-sorting PC’s on the desks at news bureaus were unheard of in 1963.

Then, around dinnertime, came an urgent call from the White House. We were being summoned, along with the other networks and newsreels, to the office of White House Press secretary Pierre Salinger. Salinger had been halfway across the Pacific on an Air Force flight to the Far East when the news arrived from Dallas, and his plane had made an immediate U-turn back to Andrews AFB. Now, Salinger was huddled with top White House officials, staffers, and others, who were formulating plans for the lying-in-state at the Capitol on Saturday and the funeral on Sunday.

Try to imagine the cascade of not-always-compatible demands and suggestions -- political, logistical, and familial – that were pouring into the Executive offices from all quarters. All had to be considered and, where feasible, factored into the overall plan.

As that prospective plan was revealed to us, it became immediately obvious that no network had the resources to comprehensively cover, unilaterally, the start-to-finish of what was going to be a public event of gargantuan scope. We’d need as many cameras as we could scare up in 24 hours from around the country; along with shotgun microphones, telephoto lenses, lighting, cable, tape machines, generators, trans-oceanic satellites and all the accompanying technical paraphernalia, field-engineers, technicians, and other manpower required to mount to such an unprecedented effort on such impossibly short notice. Only by pooling their resources could the broadcasters begin to cope with what was being contemplated.

There was already a framework in place for such cooperation. It was known as the White House Pool, and it became the basic structure for what was about to evolve. Responsibility for running the broadcasters’ pool rotated among the three networks, and, that month, it belonged to CBS. Once we had all agreed to a set of ground rules suitable to the particular challenge facing us, Bill Small, as the putative administrator of the agreement, turned to me and said [honest to God!], “It’s all yours, kid.” For his part, Bill had to go back to the bureau to keep CBS News up and running and to begin producing all the sidebar Washington film stories that were going to be needed when the network news went on air full time Saturday, pre-empting all entertainment programming. The Pool Agreement stipulated that each network could keep enough equipment and manpower to maintain its studio operations, and to mount a single sub-anchor position at some TBD point along the cortege route. Everything else moveable was to be turned over to the Pool.

Norm and I had partnered in running the joint-network television coverage of The March on Washington some 90 days earlier, so we both knew our way, logistically, around the institutions and infrastructure of the Capital. We headed out into the chilly night and proceeded to burn up gasoline and the telephone lines (no Smartphones in 1963), cobbling together the ad hoc network of ABC, CBS, and NBC equipment and personnel that would coalesce into an integrated whole over the next 48 hours. We woke up more people that night than I would even try to estimate (likely they were already awake awaiting a call, anyway) but nobody minded! It was because of the willingness on the part of hundreds of people to throw themselves so tirelessly into the effort, that the consequent broadcast coverage over the next two days was able to meet everyone’s hopes and expectations. But that’s another story.


This post originally appeared under my byline in the Cape Cod Times on 11/22/13

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Main Street Beat

My friend, the old curmudgeon, was at Staples buying printer ink when I ran into him late yesterday morning.

He was giving the sales clerk what for about the price. “Shades of [expletive] King Gillette”, he fulminated, “sell you the razor at cost, then bleed you to death for the blades.”

Quickly surmising that if he had a printer, he must have acquired a computer, I commented on his belated embrace of 20th Century technology. Brushing off my attempt at chummy sarcasm, he cocked his good eye at me, and declared, “Sonny, you don’t know the [expletive] half of it.”

As we inched forward in the checkout line, he enlightened me.

It seems that the sudden touch of wintery chill that had descended on the Cape had forced him indoors, abandoning his usual spot on the bench across from the statue of Iyannough on Main Street. That’s where he regularly holds forth, grousing about the sorry state of things to anyone unwary enough to pause for a chat.

He’d recently read about the Internet in a 1985 issue of Popular Science pulled from the dusty stack he keeps in a corner behind his tropical fish tank. Straightaway, he’d decided it was right up his alley.

“I’m starting a blog”,  he confided, looking furtively around lest anyone else become prematurely privy to this bombshell revelation. “I was going to call it Common Sense, but I was afraid people might confuse it with the book, so I decided to call it HorSense, whaddaya think?”

Without waiting for an answer, he went on to describe how his blog would enrich the social dialog. When I inquired as to how he planned to handle inappropriate comments, he replied that he would allow gratuitous insults, ad hominems, scatological references, and comparisons to Hitler/Nazis, but only when they were employed in support of his own viewpoint.

“When the blog goes viral, I reckon It’ll draw a bigger crowd than I get on a good day during tourist season between my park bench spot and my barstool at the 19th Hole combined

By this time, we were out in the parking lot, where we parted ways. I exited and headed for Tommy Doyle’s Pub where I could contemplate this unsettling cultural development over my customary midday pint, wondering whether I should have asked him for his URL.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Liberalese Endangered

Missing in all the hoo-ha attending Twitter’s NYSE coming-out ceremony last week, was any recognition that its trading debut edged liberal political dialog one notch closer to extinction.

We Liberals are fundamentally incapable of posing simple questions, giving simple answers, or responding to any conversational gambit –- written or verbal -- in as few as 140 words, much less 140 characters. It’s just not our nature. We don’t deal in crisp slogans, catchy sound-bites, or twitterverse exchanges. When -- for example -- did you last see an arresting Liberal bumper sticker?

Liberals are conditioned from birth to spend their unexciting lives engaged in long, boring, richly nuanced exposition, propounded with rigor and exactitude. Excepted from this rule are arch comebacks, as when Judge Julius Hoffman at the Chicago 7 trial admonished Liberal manqué Norman Mailer to “stick with the facts”, and Mailer replied, “Facts are nothing without their nuance, sir.”

As Ray Penning wrote in COMMENT, “political practice is reductionist by nature,” which fact leaves Liberals at a distinct disadvantage. Conservatives bury us at sloganeering. Only one historical Democratic presidential campaign slogan makes it onto my personal Hit Parade, FDR’s Happy Days Are Here Again (and he had to poach it from Tin Pan Alley); all the rest are Republican or Whig.

Liberals and Progressives had better get cracking and start raising a generation of verbal-shorthand virtuosos or our ideas are going to be left in the dustbin of history (no mean phrasemaker, Comrade Trotsky), as political discourse falls victim to shorter and shorter attention spans, and the microchip gradually replaces the neuron.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cruz Control

Fresh from his triumph of talking to himself on the Senate floor for a non record-setting 21 hours (thereby giving new meaning to the phrase, “Capital punishment”), Sen. Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz (R-TX) got into the weeds by venturing that he wouldn’t be willing to give up his paycheck should the GOP force a government shutdown.

That quote became politically toxic when Pentagon sources disclosed that the Armed Forces would have to forego getting paid for the interregnum should the GOP persist in its suicidal efforts to defund a bill that –- according to a CNBC poll -- 40% of the public does not want to see defunded and another 30% might well support if only they could understand it.

Had he not been enervated by his self- aggrandizing fauxlibuster, the Senator might have recalled that U.S. Senators are statutorily exempt from any such payroll cutbacks, so he could better have said (however cynically) “of course I’d be happy to give up my paycheck if our brave service-members are also to be so penalized”.

I suggest that the senator is capable of such irony in view of his assertion, some 17 hours into his self-absorbed monolog, that he would be perfectly happy if his speech got no press coverage whatsoever.

One is therefore led to speculate that, should Boehner & Co. succeed in gutting Obamacare, and a new, GOP-written chimera were to rise phoenix-like from its ashes, the Senator would be perfectly happy to see it tagged, CruzCare.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hail, Britannia!

In an exceptionally long, 1200-word, tweet, our London correspondent (@oldblighty) has broken the exclusive story that  Buckingham Palace has dispatched the 74-gun ironclad, HMS Thatcher, a frigate of the Queen’s Own Royal Household Naval Squadron, on a punitive expedition to Syria.

The Palace announced that, by January, if the wind and tides are favorable, the ship will be in position to blockade Tripoli, which is quite near to Syria.

England’s notoriously contrarian Queen Elizabeth has outmaneuvered Parliament by citing a heretofore obscure clause of the Magna Carta, known as “Catch-1215”, which stipulates that “The Royal Navy can go wherever it f***ing well wants, whenever it “f***ing well wants to.

French president Hollande welcomed the news, saying, “The rosbifs have pulled off a tour de force* as rare as it is well done. Vache sacrée!**”

The White House, in a state of barely-contained glee, issued a press release that read, in part: “We will reserve comment until the ship passes the Red Line”.

The U.N. Security Council was in turmoil, issuing the following statement: “We are in turmoil; so what else is new?”

Follow #operationsaveface for further developments.
*English: tour de force
**English: Holy cow!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Barnstable Beat

Ran into my friend the Old Curmudgeon last week at at Jim Ellis’ blacksmith shop in Barnstable where he was having his edge honed.

The Ellis family have been forgers for a century or so, whereas  the curmudgeon has been crabbing full-time only since he retired, back at the turn of the century.

The mudge (as we call him when his hearing aids are turned off), likes to keep his edge keen, lest he be out-kvetched by one of the legions of arriviste curmudgeons being minted as the population ages.

“Those whippersnappers”, he fulminated, “where were they when the country started going to H-E-double toothpicks back in ‘63? …in pantywaists, that’s where!”

World-class curmudgeons like my friend know that there are guidelines for virtuoso grousing. First off, it helps to be a bit mossy; those who agree with you will think you a canny old geezer, while those who disagree will be unlikely to resort to actual mayhem lest they run afoul of Elder Abuse statutes.

Furthermore, old curmudgeon decidedly out trumps young curmudgeon, an oxymoron connoting mere peevishness and an annoying tendency to whine about nits**t.

I usually like to stick around to hear the Mudge’s gripe-du-jour, but when I realized that the sun had gone over the yardarm and the siren call of a frosty Beach Blonde reached my ears from the Dolphin down the street, I beat a hasty retreat to more convivial surroundings.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Protest-Coverage Guidelines

Our managing editor has issued the following guidelines for reporters regarding interviews conducted in connection with this publication’s dedicated, 24/7, non-partisan coverage of newsworthy (or not) protest marches:

Remember to have your iPhone, iPad and (if female) your iLiner with you at all times.

Refrain from undertaking interviews with prospects manifestly unlikely to advance the dialog; for example:

  • Anyone whose response starts off with OMG or who pantomimes an “L” on their forehead with  thumb and index finger.
  • Anyone wearing more than one nose ring.
  • Anyone who is following Fox News tweets of the demonstration.
  • Rep. Peter King.
  • Anyone named after a constellation or other celestial body.
  • Any adorable children (or animals) in costume, whether or not accompanied by an adult.
  • Anyone wearing camo.
  • Keith Olbermann
  • Anyone wearing an aluminum-foil hat.
  • Anyone au naturel.
  • Wayne LaPierre

In sum, just exercise your usual discerning reportorial chops which, while having failed so far to garner us any distinguished journalism awards or attract any advertisers, have nevertheless won us a lasting place in the Pantheon of the terminally facetious.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Tom Brokaw, In his 2007 History Channel documentary, “1968”, starts off by reminding us that to understand what happened in that epochal year, you have to know what came before.

What came before was 1963.

As we observe the 50th Anniversary of The March on Washington, we vividly recall that 1963 spawned events that not only set the stage for 1968, but for pretty much everything that’s happened since.

Many of us news-media veterans of that era cut our professional teeth on the journalistic and related technological challenges of 1963, and “The Atlantic” takes us back to that initiation via this evocative photo gallery.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Incongruous Occupations

Ran into my friend the Old Curmudgeon the other day, occupying his regular bar stool at The Pub and looking even more peevish than usual.

Rashly, I inquired as to his well-being.

“Dog-tired”, he snarled. “Can’t sleep-in anymore. Guy who delivers my morning newspaper has a [expletive] hole in his [expletive] muffler.”

“How” he asked, “could they possibly have hired this clown?  Probably ran an ad reading: WANTED--reliable go-getter to deliver newspapers in residential area early in morning; must have car with ear-splittingly defective muffler. Congenital sociopaths will receive preference.”

“Next thing you know, they’ll be advertising for  agoraphobic mimes, squeamish vivisectionists, butterfingered wide-receivers, ingenuous politicians, and Lord knows what other [expletive] misfits this [expletive] society is producing nowadays!”

As he paused for breath, I hastily bade my adieux, slid off my stool and headed for the parking lot, where the surly attendant grudgingly brought around my car, hurling a string of colorful invectives after me as I drove away without tipping him.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Climatic ClipArt


Gravity exists


The earth is round


Climate Change is happening



Time is running out!


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Ichthyological Ruminations

Has anyone else noticed how the Great White is gradually replacing the codfish as the graphic emblem of Cape Cod?

Not sure if this is an unwitting social commentary or a reflection of the effects of global climate change.

Shouldn’t be too many years before we have to change our name to Cape Shark, unless we sink back into the Atlantic first.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Arms Treaty, the NRA, and a little Common Sense

On April 2, the AP reported that “the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved an arms [trade] Treaty [ATT] intended to keep weapons out of the hands of ‘terrorists, insurgents, organized crime figures, and human rights violators.’”

Three countries voted against the Treaty (are you ready?): Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Uncounted was a fourth hegemony, the NRA, whose EVP, Wayne LaPierre, had addressed the Assembly’s drafting committee in July of 2011 in an attempt to abort the Treaty in utero.

The U.S. signed on to the Treaty after ensuring that -- among other things -- it would not be binding on any domestic arms trade, or in any way contravene the provisions of the Second Amendment. Now, it must go to the Senate for ratification, and the ether is already abuzz with negative static from the NRA and its abettors which will no doubt at some point devolve into sowing fear among conspiracy theorists about jackbooted U.N. mercenaries in black helicopters coming to take our guns away from us, like the British tried to do in 1775.

I write this as a lifetime long-gun owner, target shooter, hunter, and former member of the NRA, who hopes to persuade his fellow enthusiasts that the NRA is in thrall to constituencies other than its general membership, e.g., powerful economic interests like the National Shooting Sports Federation, a trade association that fronts for the firearms industry. How else to account for the fact that Republican pollster, Frank Luntz, found – in July of last year – that “most NRA members and gun owners support more restrictive measures on gun ownership,” including 74% of NRA members who support (among other “common sense” issues) background checks, a measure that the NRA leadership is currently fighting tooth and nail on Capitol Hill.

I wish I had more confidence that the background check issue about to be debated by the Senate will survive (undiluted) its passage through Congress, but one always hopes that common sense will in fact prevail, even against such formidable odds.

UPDATE: The Senate ratified my lack of confidence in its rationality by voting down enhanced background checks.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fail of Biblical Proportions: Leviticus vs. Psalm 23

Arriving in good time to make it onto my  personal “Best Parodies of the 20th Century” list, came Ian Frazier’s incomparable 1997 Atlantic Monthly essay, “Lamentations of the Father”.

As Atlantic editor, Robert Vare, wrote, it is “a comedic tour de force -- a pitch-perfect application of the fire-and-brimstone injunctions of the Pentateuch to the mundane travails of middle-class parenting”.

One parodies the Bible at one’s peril. Any such effort had not only better be better than good, but must circumspectly navigate the narrow path between satire and sacrilege.  

Frazier aced those hurdles.

In stark contrast, we come to Mark Helprin’s jape in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, an attempt at biblical parody that gives new meaning to the phrase, heavy-handed.

Helprin is a gifted author whose arresting novelette, “Ellis Island”, and his luminous novel, “Winter’s Tale”, did much to inform my perception of the heights to which imaginative literature could aspire. But neither imagination nor gift for pasquinade is to be found in his op-ed piece, “Psalm 23, Newly Revised According to to Modern Principles”, an aimless hodgepodge of formulaic Obama bashing awkwardly interlaced with biblical locutions.

Helprin’s present-tense reference to Hillary Rodham [stet] as a member of “his [Obama’s] staff” leaves us wondering whether he’s been reading the papers or -- more likely -- whether his piece had been spiked by the editors awaiting a slow Saturday to foist it upon a less captious weekend readership. Furthermore, shoehorning the Amalekites between “the President” and “the EPA” as presumed fiscal profligates, fatally challenges one’s willingness to suspend belief for the sake of a good story.

I would respectfully remind Mr. Helprin and the editors that skewering the powerful is a skill best practiced with a rapier, not a cleaver.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Second Amendment Under Fire

The self-proclaimed “American Military’s Most-Trusted News Source”, The Duffle Blog, has scooped the MSM with its chilling revelation that the military has been drawing up plans for nation-wide gun confiscation.

Prominent Democratic gun-control opponents, senators Harry Reid, Joe Manchin and Mark Warner, issued a terse, but puissant, press release consisting of only three words: “We warned you!”, leaving the reader to guess whether they were referring to sequestration, jack-booted U.N. mercenaries, or global climate change.

NRA stalwart, Wayne LaPierre, had no comment, having gone into catatonic shock upon reading today’s (actual) story in the The New York Times that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has ruled that “permits allowing people to carry concealed weapons are not protected by the Second Amendment”.

And the beat goes on…

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

There’ll Always Be An England

Is there anything more wryly British than that the remains of one of its most infamous (to Shakespeare, anyway) rulers, Richard III, the last English monarch to die in combat (in 1485), should have been found buried under a parking lot?

Monday, February 4, 2013

One For the Road(s)

If there is any sentient person out there who retains even the slightest illusions about the greed, cronyism, and self-interest of all too many of our politicians, he/she needs only to read this article in the McClatchy newspapers about the deplorable state of the nationwide roads and bridges infrastructure to be disabused of any such Panglossian view.

Civic planners have been beating their collective heads against the wall about this appalling neglect for a decade or more, but don’t seem able to attract much concern from Washington or the Statehouses.

If this ingrained kick-it-down-the-road attitude continues in the ascendency much longer, we won’t have to wait for climate change to bring down the social and economic order; we’ll have self-destructed long before.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Méritocratie Oblige

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Howler of the Week (so far)

“…we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party.
“And let me just tell you, I do believe that is their goal — to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”
                                          --John Boehner 1/23/13
Seems to this observer that the GOP is doing quite a good job of annihilating itself without any help from the Administration.
Let us not forget that this is the party whose Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, said early in 2012: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

To hear Boehner quoting Trotsky (!!!) on “the dustbin of history” can’t help but call to mind another political ideology that self-destructed in the late 20th Century.

TR and Abe, where are you when they need you?

Read more:
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

The Deficit: Max-ed Out

An ironic testimony to the bi-partisan moral perfidy of the current Congress is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had to name Montana’s Democratic Senator (and chairman of the Senate finance committee) Max Baucus (NRA RATING: A+) to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Talk about the fox in the henhouse! Baucus has been on Big Pharma’s payroll since early in his Senate career, having taken in almost $4,000,000 in contributions from it and other healthcare interests before declaring a moratorium (out of shame?) in 2009.
He then proceeded to violate his own moratorium, only to get caught at it and forced to give the money back (not, of course, including any of the original $4M).
And now this outrageous giveaway to Amgen (one of whose 74 Washington lobbyists is Baucus’ former chief of staff), nauseatingly detailed in today’s New York Times.
Too bad the 17th Amendment didn’t call for national direct election of senators, or public revulsion might have enabled us to deep six people like Baucus who survives politically because he brings back such a large slice of federal bacon to his constituents in Montana (pop. 989K, roughly 1/300th of the U.S.).

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Annals of Journalism

Dan Kennedy, in his blog, Media Nation, chortlingly cited this truthy maxim from an old book on newspaper design:

Research indicates that readers classify information in the paper into two areas: information that is interesting and/or useful; and information that is not interesting and/or useful.

To this old TV newsmonger, the problem with cable news is way too little of the former and far too much of the latter.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cliff Notes

Regular readers of this column are well aware that its writer is a blooded -- if not bleeding -- Liberal, hence it will come as no surprise that I found the arguments advanced by the president at today’s press conference to have been not only adroit, but irrefutable as well.

I draw your particular attention to the following quotes from Politico:

“,,,America cannot afford another debate with this Congress over how to pay the bills they’ve already racked up,” Obama said in the East Room of the White House at what aides have billed as the final news conference of his first term. “To even entertain the idea of this happening, of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It’s absurd.”

“They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy,” Obama said. “The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip.”

Read more:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Seasonal Afterglow

Not sure whether to file this under Consumerism Run Amok or Capitalism Triumphant, but I just stumbled across the stat that on a single day -- Cyber Monday -- Amazon sold 26.5 million items; a rate of 306 items per second. 2012 was their best year ever; walking away.