MARCH 2020

MARCH   2020
The Lawyers Carve Up the Golden Goose


Friday, March 08, 2013


I can’t believe we are doing it again. We got along for nine thousand years without doing it, and now we do it twice a year. It was a dumb idea when we did it the first time and now that we’re doing it  twice a year? Why?! Doing a dumb thing twice does not make it smart. Why are we doing this again?! 
The persons to blame for this are the obsessive-compulsive bureaucrats who champion the so-called Daylight Saving Time – and there is no “s” at the end of “Saving” because it’s modifying time, not daylight – I told you these clock watchers were obsessive compulsives. But that dropped “s” should also give you a hint that this whole thing is one great fraud being perpetrated on each and every one of us. So on March 10th at 2:00 AM, we will all spring our clocks forward one hour because we’re all supposed to be happier getting up in the dark again. Do you feel happier being robbed of an hour of sleep? I sure don’t. This Sunday, do you think you will feel like springing anywhere, anytime soon? And the fact that the theft has occurred on a Sunday is, on this wintry March morning, damn cold comfort!
Experts assure me we’re going to save 10,000 barrels of oil a day, reduce crime and spend more time out of doors with our families in the evenings. Of course your iPad and your iPhone would start displaying some rare Lapland dialect if you tried to instruct it to ignore the whole thing. But why are we doing this again?! They first tried this half baked scheme back in World War One, and as soon as the war was over they dumped it. And now, every time some liberal one-world type comes up with another energy saving idea, we are all required to smile and call it "green:. But I wonder about all that extra fossil fuel we burn every morning to light our darkened bedrooms, not to mention run our TVs, hair dryers, water heaters and all those headlights. We used to say that people who rose early got up with the cows. Well, the cows are not getting up any earlier. Why the hell are we?
As everybody keeps pointing out, it was Ben Franklin who first purposed Daylight Saving in his essay “An Economical Project”, (but in French, of course) in which he suggested that if authorities were to “…Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, …it is probable he will go willingly to bed at eight in the evening." And if we set him on fire, it is probable he will not litter. It is an interesting idea from the eighteenth century’s second most famous reprobate, but it strikes me like accepting interior decorating suggestions from the Marque de Sade. How do we know that Ben wasn't  just joking? But if he was, then Congressman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who wrote the amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, missed the punch line. So the same Congress that refused to raise the minimum wage for 10 years found the time to steal an hour of your sleep every March. In the next election I suggest voting for Ben Franklin. It would make as much sense.
Ben was trying to save about 64 million pounds of candle wax a year. Well, look how much wax we saved by inventing electricity! And, didn't Ben have something to do with that? Kite, key, electrical storm: any of this sound familiar? Listen, didn't Ben see this whole electricity thing coming? And speaking of electricity, according to the New Jersey Public Service Enterprise Group, Daylight Saving has “no impact” on energy demands in their service area. And the government of Kazakhstan has already dropped the whole idea of “saving daylight”.
According to the University of California Energy Institute, daylight saving does not actually save energy, it just moves it around. And a recent study of electric bills in Indiana found that the time shifters are actually costing each Hoosier almost $3.00 a year MORE -  about $8.6 million a year in total, plus somewhere between $1.6 and $5.3 million in pollution costs for generating all that extra electricity for going to work in the dark!. And if that is what it costs Hoosiers (like me), think what it costing people in New Jersey! Just think about it. A little more energy conservation like this and we might as well just start burning wood for heat again.
And another problem with this bi-annual adjustment to our sense of reality is that our brains can’t adjust without being told to, while computers solve the problem without a hitch. So while our electronics no longer need a time   “patch” for our programs, humans require psychiatric assistance to adjust to our depression brought on by lost sleep!  And, to quote from Ken Fisher’s article for ARS,  “So while the US government pats itself on the back for at least looking busy, know that the main goal – energy conservation – has not been met….Isn’t arbitrary, mostly meaningless change, great?” Hell, no, it isn’t.
Still, I’m willing to be cooperative.  If we need more daylight then let’s move the clocks forward and be done with it. Why fall back in the fall? Listen, if the majority of the population decides that at noon tomorrow we should pretend that it is now 10:45 AM, I’d go along with that. But for heaven’s sake please stop moving the clocks back and forth and back and forth as if we were keeping time with Mexican jumping beans. Why are we doing this to ourselves? Pick a damn time and leave it the hell alone!
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Wednesday, March 06, 2013


I would call Jimmy Kennedy a lyrical genius. Thank God he turned down a job offer from the English Foreign Service in Nigeria, otherwise we would have been cheated out of such evocative lyrics as, “South of the bor-der, down Mexico way. That’s where I fell in love when the stars came out to play. And now as I wander, my thoughts ever stray, south of the bor-der, down Mexico way”. Jimmy wrote that, in classic Tin Pan Alley fashion, after seeing a post card of Tijuana.
Jimmy was an Irishman, and so English was a second language to him: which may help explain his lyrics for... “Every gal in Cons-tan-tinople, lives in Istanbul not Con-stan-tinople. So if you've got a date in Cons-tan-tinople, she'll be waiting in Istanbul.” (The name was officially changed in 1930, at the behest of the Turkish Post Office.)
But my favorite Jimmy Kennedy lyric remains the vaguely ominous drumbeat of... “If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise. If you go down to the woods today you better go in disguise. For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain because, today’s the day the teddy bears have their pi-cnic.”
I have a long held the image of the “Teddy Bears Picnic” being sung by that looming giant of economists, John Maynard Keynes. Can’t you just hear him croaking in his perfectly correct Eton English? “If you go down to the woods today you better not go alone. It’s lovely down in the woods today, but safer to stay at home.” I can.
And by woods, I mean "Bretton Woods", the New England ski resort invaded in June-July of 1944 by 730 of the best economic brains in the world, of which Mr. Keynes was the very best. The American economists were the bears and they were there to picnic upon the corpse of the British Empire, and John Maynard Keynes had the unenviable (for an Englishman) assignment to act as the America's maƮtre d'.
Would you like to know what kind of an economist Keynes was? He was married to a ballarina (above), that's what kind of an economist he was. He was attracted to drama, which was unusuaul for a student of "the dismal science" of economics.
Amongst the things settled at Bretton Woods was how to structure the world’s economy after World War II. It was clear to everyone that the lead would have to be taken by the United States, because we were the only nation that ended the war with more gold than we had started with. It’s the golden rule; he who has the gold makes the rules. But it just seemed less tacky that the idea would be put forward by a Brit rather than by an American.
So the Bretton Woods accords, presided over by Keynes, tied all of the world’s monetary systems (the pound, the franc, the yen) to the American dollar, because each and every ounce of gold in America’s vaults was officially represented by 35 dollars . And nobody else in the world could make that claim in post WWII. But all things change over time, and eventually we Americans were feeling so rich and all powerful that we tried to pay for our “Great Society” and our Vietnam War both at the same time, and both without raising taxes. You know what? You can’t do that, not in 1969 and not in 2004, no matter how many voters may want to believe that you can, you can’t.
Newly elected President Richard Nixon tried to close the budget deficit Johnson created by shutting down many of the anti-poverty programs started by the Democrats. But those programs were far too small a fraction of the Federal budget to stop the bleeding of dollars. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study done in 1971 calculated the real cost of the Vietnam War (in 1971 dollars) was about $750 billion, equal to the first Wall Street bailout thirty-five years later which caused all fiscal conservatives to flinch.(“Vietnam; Past and Present” by D.R. SarDeasai).
The pressure by 1970 was for Nixon to increase taxes to pay for the war. But that would have made the war even more unpopular than it already was. Nixon didn't yet have a way to meet his pledge of ending the war “with honor”, so he continued the war, and he did not raise taxes. Instead he borrowed to pay for the war. Businesses couldn’t expand because the government had sucked up all the credit. Wages were stuck while prices inflated. And, as I recall, that was when hamburger jumped from 35 cents a pound to something closer to a $1.25 a pound. It is was an untenable situation. But “Tricky Dick” eventually found a way to make it "tenable".
Nixon took America off the gold standard. In the stroke of a pen the dollar was no longer backed by gold. That’s when the treasury stopped issuing real dollars and started issuing “silver certificates” - read your dollar sometime. With out the limit of gold reserves on the treasury we could afford any war we wanted, and all the oil we wanted. Economists call the economy Nixon placed us on a “Floating Currency” but I call it the “Trust or "Good Faith Economy". There is no longer any gold behind your dollar, and, really, there is no silver, either. You trust that your dollar will provide you with goods and services of value because of the economic strength of the American middle class. But that trust depends upon the bankers and the investors and the politicians not destroying the middle class and being worthy of that trust.
I don’t blame Nixon for our economic mess. Politicians are not hired to create perfect systems, just systems that function for the time being. But what the sub-prime mortgage fiasco has proven, and the dot-com bubble proved before that, and the Savings & Loan debacle proved before that, is that without regulation there can be no trust. To quote Ronald Regan; “Trust and verify.” And to quote French President Sarkozy, “We must rethink the financial system from scratch, as at Bretton Woods”. And this time we (the United States) ain’t got the gold, so we ain’t making the rules. Those days are past.
Or as Jimmy Kennedy put it, “No, you can't go back to Con-stan-tinople, been a long time gone, Con-stan-tinople, Why did Con-tan-tinople get the works? That’s nobody's business but the Turks.” Words of wisdom to ponder as we enter the woods again.
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Sunday, March 03, 2013


I know that the King of Egypt, Akhenaten, AKA Amenhotep IV, died around 1336 B.C.E., at about 50 years of age, in the 17th year of his reign, possibly of a heart attack. It is hard to speak with certainty after 4, 000 years, and until 2010 the only evidence we had were faint hints carved on the walls of ancient monuments and tombs. But using DNA his mummy has been identified with a “distinctive, egg-shaped skull, slight spinal scoliosis, impacted wisdom teeth... (and a) cleft palate”. These physical characteristics hint at Homocystinuria, an inherited disorder which also often produces glaucoma, which blinds its sufferers. This is what comes from sleeping with your siblings, as the gene causing this disorder is recessive and develops only when you inherit two copies. But intermarriage was something the Ancient Egyptian nobility often did, keeping the crown and their property in the family, along with other things.
If Akhenaten's son had been his co-ruler, then the boy's mother would have been the regent, ruling the nation until the new Pharaoh grew. But his son (by a “lesser” wife) was not the co-ruler, Nefertiti was. So on the death of the King, the Queen became the Pharaoh, playing her new role under the name Smenkhkare and/or Neferneferuaten. She was even depicted in the very un-Queenly activity of wield a killing mallet (above), dispatching prisoners under the rays of Aten, as other Pharaohs were. This had happened before, when the queen Hatsheput had put on a fake beard and governed for 22 years. But her Egypt had been unified, while Nefertiti's was a land divided by religion.
Three of her daughters were dead, killed by a plague that had ravaged Egypt for three years. The followers of Amun Ra saw this as divine punishment for the Aten heresy, but Nefertiti had been devoted to her husband, and was determined to protect his legacy, her family and his faith. Her problem was she had few allies in Egypt. And so she appealed to the only other power that could resist the nobility and the Priesthoods, the mortal enemies of the Egyptian Empire, the Hittites.
The only copy we have of the this extraordinary appeal appears in the history compiled by the Hittite King Mursili II. He says the Egyptian Queen dispatched an ambassador to his father, King Suppiluliuma I, with the following plea. “My husband is dead and I have no son. People say that you have many grown sons. If you send me one of your sons he will become my husband for it is repugnant to me to take one of my subjects as a husband.” The letter did not suggest the Hittite Prince would become Pharaoh, but the offer was unique in history. It would have been as if, during the Cold War, the American President had offered to appoint a Soviet diplomat as Vice President. The ruling Hittite Council was suspicious and sent the chamberlain Hattu-Zittish to see of it was a trap.
Neffertiti's response to this envoy was almost frantic. “Why do you say 'They are trying to deceive me?' If I had a son, should I write to a foreign country in a manner humiliating to me and to my country? You do not believe me and you even say so to me!...I have written to no other country, I have written to you. They say that you have many sons. Give me one of your sons and he will be my husband and lord of the land of Egypt.” There it was, the offer to make a Hittite prince the King of Egypt. And that clinched the deal. Mursili II records, “Because my father was generous, he granted the lady's request and decided to send his son.” What a nice guy.
However, the transaction was never consummated. Shortly after arriving on Egyptian soil the Hittite Prince, Zannanza, was murdered. Suppililiuma I demanded an explanation. “What have you done with my son?...the blood spilled between us is not right.” But the new Egyptian King could give no explanation. It appears another revolution had occurred in Egypt.
During this counter revolution, Nefertiti, Queen of the Nile, Lady of Grace, She Who Comes With Beauty, Great King's Wife, His Beloved, Lady of All Women, Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt, Pharaoh of Egypt, simply disappeared. Her tomb was never occupied. Her mummy, if she ever had one, has never been found. Her name was scratched off almost all of the temples and her legend was systematically smashed. It appears they even broke into the workshop of Thutmose the Royal Sculptor, to smash and destroy all images of this woman. After even the bricks from the walls of Aketaten were scavenged, the broken images of Nefertiti were left behind, to be swallowed by the desert sands.
Her death was just the beginning. Nefertiti's record as a ruler was wiped clean, almost impossible to reconstruct. Some Egyptologists are still arguing about whether she had died years before. But she did not. The effort to abolish her memory seems too complete to have been merely punishment for a despot. Even a Stalin is remembered with reverence by some. But Queen Nefertiti, Pharaoh Neferneferuaten, seems to have committed a crime far worse than mere tyranny. She was a traitor, to the faith of her people, to the land of her people, to her role which was to produce sons for her King.
The casket of Akhenaten, the Pharaoh who betrayed the faith, was defaced (above). But it was also persevered, probably by his son, the boy King Tutankhamen .Some of the grave goods prepared for Nefertit's tomb were re-gifted and found in Tutankhamen tomb instead. But the woman Akhenaten loved more than any other, she received no casket, she received no monument, her memory was scratched off, discarded, condemning her to three thousand years of silent death.
And then, out of the darkness of seemingly endless time came a wonk, a German nerd, a Teutonic bookworm, to rescue Nefertiti from obscurity. And for this he was branded a thief.
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